Sundrifter Premiere “Till You Come Down”; New Album in Progress

Posted in audiObelisk on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter-photo-Mario-Forgione

“Till You Come Down” is the second track to be released ahead of Boston trio Sundrifter‘s sophomore full-length. The yet-unnamed follow-up to 2016’s Not Coming Back is still being put together, but listening to the spacious riffing and rampant melody at work in this cut and in “Death March,” which preceded it earlier this year, as well as yet-to-surface rough mixes of stompers like the eight-minute “Fire in the Sky” or the Torche-style thrust of “Light Worker,” one can get an immediate sense of why they’d be eager to start getting their material out there. Fueled by catchy structures and the soaring vocals of guitarist Craig Puera, who is joined in the band by bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, the affect of Sundrifter is to blend grounded craftsmanship with otherworldly themes, outward-reaching echoes, and a rhythmic push that remains fervent despite the pace of an individual song.

For example, Gaughran‘s bass-heavy intro to “Till You Come Down,” matched soon with Queenan‘s thudding toms and the opening riff from Puera, doesn’t seem to be in any hurry, but within 30 seconds, the three-piece are digging into the first verse, and in short order from there, Puera is delivering the title-line in a hook that’s derived in part from Soundgarden-style soul but still retains a thicker underpinning in its tonality. “Death March,” which is perhaps fuzzier in the guitar and dreamier in its transitions through sustained echoes, carries a like-minded modernity-in-a-blender feel, but even in unfinished form, it’s clear Sundrifter put a decided emphasis on songwriting and creating a sense of place in their tracks — even if that place is only intended to be “somewhere else.”

Like Not Coming Back before it, Sundrifter‘s new offering was recorded by Dan Schwartz at Futura Productions in Massachusetts. The band is currently seeking a label to get behind the release and it’s hard to imagine they’ll have trouble finding one once the record is completed, given a title, artwork, and so on. What we can know right now from hearing pieces like “Till You Come Down,” “Death March,” the more desert-minded “Hammer Burn” and others is that the songs are there, and that’s the best starting point a band could ask for going into any new release. Once that’s down, the rest tends to take care of itself.

On the player below, you’ll find the premiere of “Till You Come Down,” as well as some comment from the band. I’ve also gone ahead and included an embed for “Death March” at the bottom of this post in case you’d like to dig further and get a side-by-side from one single to the next. “Death March” can be downloaded name-your-price-style and I wouldn’t be surprised if sooner or later Sundrifter posted “Till You Come Down” in similar fashion, so keep an eye out. And when I hear more about the album coming together, I’ll post accordingly.

In the meantime, please enjoy:

Sundrifter on “Till You Come Down” & New Album:

“Till You Come Down” is our second single released from our coming full-length album. The album is still in the final mixing and mastering phases of the recording process and is expected to be released this Fall 2017. “Till You Come Down” is a song about contacting and connecting with beings or entities from different dimensions, worlds or time periods.

The track is a part of the greater whole of the album that covers topics of ancient theories about extraterrestrials, spiritual and psychedelic subjects. With this album we made a slight shift up in heaviness from our previous release, Not Coming Back. Our first album has a lot more desert vibes but this follow-up will be like if you lost yourself in the desert and you begin to lose your mind and next thing you know cruising through space fighting alien scum. We also self-released the first single back in June titled “Death March” found at www.sundrifter.bandcamp.com. The track was recorded mixed and mastered by Dan Schwarts at Futura Productions, Roslindale, Massachusetts.

Sundrifter is:
Craig Peura – Vocals/Guitar
Paul Gaughran – Bass
Patrick Queenan – Drums

Sundrifer, “Death March”

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Twitter

Sundrifter on Instagram

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

Sundrifter website

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Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on August 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cortez

Let’s face it: a new Cortez outing doesn’t come along every day. The Boston heavy rockers offered up their first release in 2007’s Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP through Buzzville Records. It would be five years before they’d answer with their 2012 Bilocation Records self-titled debut full-length (review here), and five more beyond that for the recently-landed second album, The Depths Below (review here), to make its mark this year as their first domestically-backed collection, issued via the Connecticut-based imprint Salt of the Earth Records. They had a 2014 split with Borracho (review here) and a 2016 digital single covering Deep Purple‘s “Stormbringer” (posted here), but still, they’re not exactly what you’d call prolific.

But, when a new Cortez outing does arrive, it’s all the more of an occasion worth marking. The last half-decade has brought some significant changes in the band, as seen in the departure of longtime drummer Jeremy Hemond (who still plays on The Depths Below) and his replacement with Alexei Rodriguez and the addition of second guitarist Alasdair Swan alongside founding six-stringer Scott O’Dowd, bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo and frontman Matt Harrington, but one thing that has remained central to the band is their songwriting. The Depths Below, from the opening aggro thrust of “All Gone Wrong” through the three-part storytelling of “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs,” and the Life of Agony-esque “Dead Channel” late in the tracklisting, is a shining example of how Cortez are and seem to have always been underrated for the quality of their craft and the purpose of their execution. A well-kept secret known to denizens of smaller Boston-area venues and European labels, it would seem, but primed nonetheless for a wider reach.

As they have been all along. Maybe on that level the lessons of The Depths Below are a refresher course in the kind of straightforward righteousness Cortez have honed since they got their start more than a decade ago, but if check-ins from them are to be so periodic in their nature, then attention and appreciation for the band’s work on its own terms are no less duly earned than they might be if they busted out a new record every eight months. In the interview that follows, O’Dowd and Harrington talk about making The Depths Below and the shifts in lineup Cortez have undergone since the self-titled, as well as the work that’s already begun on their next outing, which is set to arrive whenever the hell they decide it’s good and ready to arrive.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

cortez the depths below

Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

A lot has changed for Cortez since the self-titled. How do you feel about everything that’s gone down with the band in the last five years? Tell me about bringing in Alasdair on guitar and Alexei on drums. How do you feel about where the band is at now?

Scott O’Dowd: In the five years since the release of our self-titled album, quite a lot has happened. Not the least of which was adding Alasdair on second guitar. We’ve always envisioned ourselves as a two-guitar band, but after Tony (our original second guitarist) left the band in 2008, we continued on as a four-piece. This was only because we didn’t have anyone else in mind to fill the position. We’re big believers in chemistry, both musically and personally, so rather than adding someone that we didn’t know, we decided to continue with the four remaining members until we found the right fifth member. Alasdair (who happens to be married to my wife’s cousin) had recently moved to the US from Scotland and we really hit it off on a musical and personal level. I told the rest of the guys about him and he came down to rehearsal. He was a perfect fit and has been with us ever since (2012).

We parted ways with our long time drummer Jeremy [Hemond] in November of 2016 when he moved back to Vermont. As might be expected, devoting time to the band had become an issue because of the distance. We decided to move on and look for another drummer. In a complete stroke of luck, Alexei came across an ad we placed and came down to audition. After trying out a handful of drummers who weren’t right for us, we knew Alexei was our guy from the first song. He fit right in and we all feel a renewed sense of purpose.

We’re really happy, looking forward to working on new material, and playing shows.

How did the writing process work out for The Depths Below? When did you start thinking about a follow-up for the self-titled and how did the material come together? Was there anything in particular you wanted to do coming off the first album?

SO: The writing process worked pretty much the same way it always does, except for Alasdair contributing to the songs, and Matt having even more input this time around. We very rarely stop and say, “OK, it’s time to write for the new album.” Instead, we are always working on ideas whenever we have a chance or are feeling inspired. It’s a perpetual thing for us. Sometimes songs will come together rather quickly, such as “Johnny” from the self-titled. Other times we may have a couple of parts and not be able to finish the song. When that happens we tend to put that particular idea on the back burner and come back to it at a later date. Sometimes even years later. We work on a particular idea until we feel it’s finished, however long that takes. It’s not enough for us to throw a few riffs together and call it done. It’s important that a song has a flow and makes sense. We work democratically and listen to each other’s input and tweak parts until we are satisfied. We’re our own toughest critics.

Some of the material written shortly after the self-titled was in the process of being recorded. Some of the other ideas were fleshed out later on. As I mentioned above, it’s an ongoing thing.

When did you know that “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs” would tie together? How did that come about, and what is the narrative uniting the songs?

SO: I’m going to defer to Matt on this one.

Matt Harrington: If I’m remembering correctly, “The Citadel” was the first song we completed of the three. “Walk Through Fire” is in a different tuning, but I must have heard it right before “The Citadel” on a practice recording because I remember really liking the way they led into one another. I also knew I wanted to tell a little more of the story when I finished “The Citadel,” which also plays into the lyrical why of “Blood of Heirs.”

“In the Shadows of Ancients” is a loose adaptation of a story I wrote. “Walk Through Fire” is the radicalization of the disenfranchised, “The Citadel” is the execution of the oath by the faithful with a little familial revenge thrown in, and “Blood of Heirs” is a homecoming of sorts with the backdrop of a battle.

How about the recording? Was the album done in one shot or over multiple sessions? It seems like there’s a more aggressive sound this time around. Was that something you were looking to bring out purposefully, or just how it worked out in the writing and production?

SO: We recorded the whole album with Benny Grotto. I give him major credit for understanding exactly what we wanted and helping us capture it in the recording. The album was recorded in a few different sessions. The basic tracks (drums, bass, and some guitars) were recorded at Q Division in Somerville, MA, in December of 2014. We recorded most of the rest of the rhythm guitar tracks at Mad Oak in Allston, MA. We finished up leads and vocals at Moontower (R.I.P.) in Somerville. The actual recording was finished in June of 2015. From there we mixed with Benny and sent it off for mastering to Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless Mastering.

As for the more aggressive sound, I think partly it just had to do with some of the songs themselves. We’ve always listened to all sorts of music, and I know I tried to bring some more of my metallic influences to the forefront on a few songs. “Walk Through Fire” for example, was a song that had a bit of a NWOBHM feel to me when I came up with the main riff. “Blood of Heirs” has more of an oldschool thrash-metal-meets-Bathory sort of feel to the main riff. I know we made a conscious effort to have a lot of variation in tempo and feel. I’m sure that directly contributed to the genesis of those two songs. Aside from wanting a good amount of variety, there were no strict “rules.” We like to write riffs and songs we enjoy and try not to worry too much about something being a stylistic outlier or odd man out sort of thing. If we like it, we go with it.

What’s the story behind “Dead Channel?”

MH: I’ve always loved dystopias. I never expected to live in one, but that’s a whole other thing.

The name is a nod to the first line of William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk book, Neuromancer: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

That line drew a young me in instantly, and the visual is a favorite of mine. Pretty soon, someone who picks up that book for the first time won’t know what that is without checking Google, if they even bother to. Isn’t it sort of weird, uncomfortable, and exciting all at once that culture and technology change so completely and frequently now?

Lyrically, this song is a companion of sorts to “Poor and Devoid,” in that they both touch on the idea that we are both consumer and product everywhere we go physically and virtually, and what is presented to us (and sometimes what we present) isn’t always genuine or real.

I watched online communities go from USENET and dialing into BBSs to message boards/forums to where we stand now in both the more mainstream and less accessible parts of a vast internet. These communities have become global cultures and I think this sort of connection without boundaries or borders has power, both positive and negative. The optimist in me likes to think that interconnectivity, community, and freedom are ultimately a good thing.

Do we want to live in a dying world or die knowing we built something that lives on? Maybe we find a better us together, and find better ways to communicate and collaborate without the noise, ideologies, or agendas. Maybe we take a look at the old and say… you know what, it’s okay that isn’t a thing anymore. Maybe we decide to tear every last vestige of those old things down completely. Sometimes it takes weird, uncomfortable, and/or exciting to make something new. Nostalgia and fear shouldn’t prevent people from building things. My hope is that the new things we create are real and genuine and not born from the distractions that are all around us now.

You did the release show earlier this month for The Depths Below, so what’s next for you guys? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

SO: To be honest, there was a great sense of relief in releasing The Depths Below and playing the actual release show. The record had been a long time in the “gestation” period (which seems to be our pattern at this point), and it was our first Boston show with Alexei on drums. We wanted to pick up right where we left off and, at the same time, state our intent to continue progressing as a band. It was a packed house at our favorite club, with some of our favorite folks. We couldn’t have been happier.

As for what’s next, we’re working on new material, getting Alexei up to speed on some choice older tunes, and looking forward to the demo process for the new stuff. We’re already pretty booked up for the Fall with a bunch of regional shows. We also have a split 12″ in the works; that will hopefully be released late this year/early next year. We’re just looking to keep it rolling, wherever it takes us.

Our album is available from our Bandcamp page, or at shows.

Cortez, The Depths Below (2017)

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Cortez website

Cortez on Bandcamp

Cortez on Twitter

Salt of the Earth Records website

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Death Pesos Release New Single “Drug Worship”

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

death pesos

There’s a decided haze that’s settled over the newly-posted single from Boston three-piece Death Pesos, and perhaps that’s true to the name of the recorded-to-tape four-and-a-half-minute “Drug Worship,” but the song is no less catchy for it. “Drug Worship” is the first piece of new material Death Pesos have put out since a reformation last year and the first since their 2014 short-LP debut, Moon Violence, and it brings a marked turn in sound. Where the album was more uptempo and dug into a kind of basement-dwelling boogie rock, “Drug Worship” is, well, druggier, less given to shuffle and more to languid flow. What it and the preceding release have in common is a propensity for hooks.

Whether or not “Drug Worship” is indicative of some greater change of approach on the part of Death Pesos, I’ve no idea, but presumably we’ll find out when they release their new vinyl come Fall. In the meantime, the rougher edge in the recording here suits them well and if you’ve got under five minutes and/or a will to name your own price for a cool track you otherwise might not have heard, dig the following:

death pesos drug worship

Death Pesos – “Drug Worship” single release

The band formed in Burlington, VT in 2012, when the founding members (Pete Schluter – guitar, Larry Frisoli – bass, and Chris Egner – drums) met at college. Death Pesos released a full-length, ‘Moon Violence’, in 2014, and played extensively in New England. Geographical separation paused the band from 2014-2016, but Death Pesos rose from a premature burial in 2016 when Mike Reed (drums) joined the band. Since then, we’ve been playing dates in New England (with Endless Boogie / Stephen Malkmus, Black Helicopter, Dyr Faser, Sundrifter). We recently recorded with Alex Garcia-Rivera (of Piebald, Give up the Ghost / American Nightmare, Chrome over Brass, Ascend / Descend) and will release that session on vinyl this fall.

Drug Worship tells the tale of a man who makes a deal with the devil, but experiences no consequences due to his already-woeful life. It was recorded by guitarist Pete Schluter, entirely to tape, and bares the audible stamp of tape compression & saturated tubes.

Death Pesos is:
Larry Frisoli: Bass, Vocals
Pete Schluter: Guitar, Echoplex
Chris Egner: Drums

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Death Pesos, “Drug Worship”

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Live Review: Primus and Clutch in Boston, 07.23.17

Posted in Reviews on July 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

primus photo jj koczan

Primus and Clutch both played new material. Their tour together hit Boston’s let’s-make-this-all-artisanal-condos waterfront on a breezy Sunday night and the semi-open-air venue Blue Hills Bank Pavilion, with its sprawling white canvas over top, seats, high stage and crisp sound, was a suitable enough place to host them, if somewhat staid in a corporate-venue kind of way.

The crowd? Awesome. An eclectic mix of rockers, hippies, headbangers, couples, young and old. Parents were there with their kids — saw a dad and his son in matching Clutch work shirts, Grateful Dead tye-dye, the usual local-fahkin’-spoahts-khed logos representing, along with t-shirts for Inquisition, Slayer, a Meshuggah hoodie and so on. One dude brought his blankie and wrapped himself in it, another had hippie Hammerpants tucked into his Doc Martens because it’s 1994 all over again and not one fucking moment too soon. Brilliant vibe. Amazing to see all these people agree they were in the right pace.

And to be sure, they were. Early start with Clutch on at 7:45, but that worked for my old ass just fine. I had The Patient Mrs. along, and therefore The Pecan as well — he goes where she goes, what with that whole in-the-womb thing and whatnot — and was counting this as my son’s first rock show. He could hardly ask for a better warm-up gig to, you know, life.

The tour started July 17 and this was show number six, so Clutch were on form but still plainly getting settled in. The long-running Marylander foursome of vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster are now two years removed from their most recent album, Psychic Warfare (review here), and though the set featured several cuts from that record — “Firebirds!,” “Noble Savage,” “Sucker for the Witch,” “A Quick Death in Texas” and “X-Ray Visions” — they seemed ready to move forward. From the stage, Fallon said their plan was to record in January and before they launched into the new song “How to Shake Hands,” he noted, “You don’t know the material, I don’t know the material,” which got a good chuckle out of the assembled masses. Then, of course, he and the whole band completely killed it.

Because that’s what Clutch do. At this point in their career, fans know what they’re getting when they show up to a Clutch gig, and while it was somewhat odd to see them opening for another act instead of headlining, and that showed itself in some of the tempos they worked with — that was easily the fastest incarnation of “Spacegrass” I’ve ever witnessed; it was like it was playing on 45RPM — their presence and their delivery are undeniable. Opening with “Cyborg Bette” and “Crucial Velocity” from 2013’s most righteous Earth Rocker (review here), they wanted nothing for momentum, and while speed would be the order of their time onstage, as emphasized with a one-two punch of Earth Rocker‘s title-track and “Noble Savage,” both proselytizing the same message of rock-liferdom, they wanted nothing for groove.

Along with the aforementioned “Spacegrass,” which always feels like something special when they break it out, “Escape from the Prison Planet” from 1995’s landmark self-titled was well placed in a multi-song nod to older-school fans — there were a few on hand, to be sure — that was excellently interrupted by a rendition of “D.C. Sound Attack” that snuck in a cowbell-laden jam at the end like it was sliding numbers facedown across a table: smooth and casual. “Passive Restraints,” which followed, might have pushed it on going way back, but you won’t hear me complain.

Fallon demands and rightly gets a lot of the focus in the band, and Sult‘s funk-infused riffing is second to none, but what an absolute joy it was to watch Maines and Gaster in the rhythm section. They don’t even have to look at each other. I don’t know if it’s possible to call them underrated, since Clutch has reaped plenty of acclaim in their time, but they might be anyway, and with Les Claypool and Tim Alexander in Primus still to follow, the evening-with wasn’t short on quality rhythm sections. Kind of the running theme of the night. But still. Whether it was “The Mob Goes Wild” and “Profits of Doom” early in the set or the tight transitions in “Electric Worry” near the end, they were on point to a frightening degree, and even a little flub in “Escape from the Prison Planet” became all-part-of-the-show-folks. The kind of bass and drums you would watch all night, even if there were no guitar and vocals to go with them.

So what about that new song? Well, despite Fallon‘s saying otherwise, they’ve been playing the politically-themed “How to Shake Hands” for at least a couple months now, and they all seemed to know it pretty well. Some of the lyrics felt tentative — a bridge about being born to be president reused the word “born” in a way that felt awkward and one expects will be revised before the track is final — but there was zero screwing with the hook:

“First thing I’m gonna do is go for ride in a UFO
Put Jimi Hendrix on the 20 dollar bill and Bill Hicks on a five note
Hot damn, the democratic process — what a time to be alive
I’m ready to give the people what they want
And what they want is straight talk, and no jive”

Needless to say, it was stuck in the head of all parties involved by its second runthrough in the relatively short, upbeat song. One to look forward to, to be sure. They’ve also been playing a song called “We Love a Good Fire,” but it wasn’t aired in Boston. Instead, they placed “X-Ray Visions” in the spot usually reserved for “One-Eyed Dollar” coming directly out of “Electric Worry.” A bit of a bumpy transition there, but credit to them for changing that up anyhow after years of doing it the other way. It was dark out by the time they were done, and Boston — hopped up as ever on lobster, beers and Chris Sale’s strikeout total for the season — was no less raucous than they might’ve been otherwise for it being Sunday.

I suspect my narrative as regards Primus is like many who showed up to see them. I’ve been a fan since I was 10 years old. I’ll be 36 in a couple months. One of the first CDs I ever owned was 1991’s Sailing the Seas of Cheese and I still have both that copy and my cassette and beat-to-crap digipak version of 1993’s Pork Soda as well. I remember staying up late to watch the video of “Mr. Krinkle” on Headbanger’s Ball — because Primus were no less unclassifiable by MTV back then than they are by anyone now — to the point that when they played it with the clip playing on the backing screens behind them, I had flashbacks. It had been more than a decade since the last time I saw them; I still knew “Sgt. Baker” by heart.

My central question going into their set was how jammed out it would be. Les ClaypoolTim Alexander and guitarist Larry LaLonde are gods to the jam-band contingent, and since Primus came back with the 2003 Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People EP — and really before that with Claypool side-projects like Colonel Claypool’s Fearless Flying Frog BrigadeOysterheadColonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, as well as the more recent The Claypool Lennon Delirium and Duo de Twang — they’ve very much worked toward that audience. Still, in partnering with Clutch for this tour, the weirdo stalwarts were embracing an entirely different crowd, so would they expand their songs with improv or cut back toward a more straightforward delivery?

I’ve long been of the conviction that if the language of “heavy rock” had existed at the time Primus were commercially flourishing in the way it does now, they never would’ve even been considered a heavy metal band. They never were one; even at their heaviest and despite LaLonde‘s roots playing in Possessed, they didn’t have the aggression behind the slapped-string punch of Claypool‘s bass or Alexander‘s drumming to be metal. Nor, I think, did they ever want to be. “Heavy rock,” as a concept, is more of a catch-all, and while I think it undersells both the unique nature of their approach and its progressive aspects, the path of their career and their turn toward jam-band affiliations might’ve worked out much differently had they not been so wrongly tagged for so long.

Was I thinking about this at the show? A little bit. They opened with a medley of “Too Many Puppies” sandwiched around “Sgt. Baker” before going into “Last Salmon Man,” which was a highlight of 2011’s Green Naugahyde, so a somewhat less jammy start had me thinking early they’d keep to basic structures, but as they moved through the 1995 mega-single “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Southbound Pachyderm” — also from that year’s Tales from the Punchbowl — they began to unfold more of an open mood, and that would continue to flourish through a drum solo by Alexander that filled time while Claypool swapped to a stand-up bass to lead through Primus‘ take on “Candyman” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, a film the entire soundtrack of which the band took on in 2014 on Primus and the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble.

That was probably the only moment of their set that left me cold, but I was in a clear minority in that regard. The druggy overtones were laid on thick and I guess if that’s your thing, fair enough, but as soon as I saw Claypool in his pig mask, I was waiting for “Mr. Krinkle,” and that came next, followed by “The Toys Go Winding Down” and the new song listed as “Seven,” which will reportedly be the title-track of their impending ninth album to be recorded sometime after this tour, presumably for release in 2018. By way of stating the obvious and offering the most critical insight one might hope to conjure as regards Primus more than 30 years on from their first getting together, I’ll say it sounded like Primus. That should be considered high praise as well.

A mellow and bizarro deep-dive followed with “On the Tweek Again” and “Mrs. Blaileen,” both again from Tales from the Punchbowl, but the Pork Soda monument “My Name is Mud” brought everyone back to ground and as the three-piece extended the jabs at the end before launching into “Jerry was a Race Car Driver” from Sailing the Seas of Cheese — another delightfully creepy video to remember while it played behind them — it was obvious they were coming around to the finale. And at that point, fair enough. They’d jammed, they’d rocked, they’d spaced out, been heavy, showed off a new song, gone obscure and dug into classics, all the while offering unparalleled performance and personality from the stage. Fucking Primus. They do not, contrary to any and all sloganeering otherwise, suck.

The residual high-school-stoner in me delighted in the nod to 1997’s Brown Album that came in “Golden Boy,” which started a three-song encore that rounded out with “Mr. Knowitall” — he is so eloquent; perfection is his middle name and… whatever rhymes with “eloquent” — and the march of “Here Come the Bastards,” Claypool taking the opportunity work in some last-minute shred in a bass solo before they finished out a couple minutes ahead of what was likely an 11PM curfew and the lights came up. People had been quite literally dancing in the aisles, a kind of friendly mosh took shape a few rows back, dudes jumping up and down and bumping into each other rather than throwing punches or kicks.

All in good fun, in other words — and that was the emergent spirit of the night. During either Clutch or Primus, one couldn’t help but smile at the proceedings, the surroundings, the weather, whatever. It all worked excellently and the two bands fed off each other’s strengths in a manner that, even thinking “hell yeah, this is gonna be a great show” beforehand, was a surprise. I expect as this tour rolls on for the better part of the next month, that complementary aspect is only going to grow more prevalent, and right on. If only they’d made a t-shirt with both logos. I’d have been all over it, and maybe even gotten one for my unborn son to grow into as well. Next time.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Rozamov Premiere “Surrounded by Wolves” from New Live Album Adaptations

Posted in audiObelisk on July 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ROZAMOV

If it seems like a quick turnaround for Boston trio Rozamov to have new material ready to roll out just a couple months after releasing their much-awaited debut album, This Mortal Road (review here), this Spring on Battleground Records and Dullest Records, well, it kind of is. But consider that the band had the material for that five-track long-player in the can for about a year before it came out, and that guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli and bassist/vocalist Tom Corino had added drummer Jeff Landry to the lineup in the meantime post-recording, and it makes sense to think they might want to flex a bit of songwriting. Whether it’s to see where they’re at sound-wise after the record, feel out the new dynamic with Landry or just keep themselves busy while waiting for the release or what was then their next stint on the road, it’s not like writing is going to hurt.

Thus we get “Surrounded by Wolves” on a new live release out July 21 called Adaptations. Captured in Chicago on the coast-to-coast tour the band undertook to mark This Mortal Road‘s arrival, it’s the first track to be put together with Landry in the group, and as it plods out its full course in just over three minutes, it stands as a significant change from the longer-form approach of the debut. I wouldn’t speculate any major shift in direction or method overall based on one initial live track, but the shortest of This Mortal Road‘s non-interlude cuts was the seven-minute “Serpent Cult,” so as “Surrounded by Wolves” checks in at less than half of that, it’s noteworthy either way.

One can’t argue, however, that Rozamov don’t state their case in that time. With a full tonal breadth even in this live version and harsh vocals cutting through the lumbering wash of low end, crashing cymbals and overarching push of its rhythm, “Surrounded by Wolves” champions an efficiency that well earns the quick exclamations audible from the crowd when it chugs to its conclusion. And in kind with the record preceding it, not only is “Surrounded by Wolves” this heavy, brutally-minded shove of lung-filling sludge extremity, but its pummel is also richly atmospheric, and its mix — again, even in this live version — brings a depth in which the listener feels likely to get consumed permanently. Easy to imagine that it made the lights at the Livewire Lounge seem just a bit darker by the time it was done.

You can check out the track on the player below, followed by some comment from Landry — who also did the artwork for Adaptations — on the song in what looks suspiciously in-part like a tour diary, and upcoming live dates, including the run Rozamov will do next month with Battleground labelmates The Ditch and the Delta that wraps with a slot Sept. 2 at Crucialfest.

Behold:

Jeff Landry on “Surrounded by Wolves”:

We are all really excited to release Adaptations. Essentially, it is a live take on our first LP, This Mortal Road, as well as a new track “Surrounded by Wolves.” With the addition of myself on drums, I was able to have a different take on the music. I’m grateful that Matt and Tom allowed me to explore that. We are definitely evolving right now and Adaptations is a little window into what we have going on.

As for the show we recorded this at, we had about 20 nights of shows under our belts going into this set. It was day three of rain. Matt had family come out. We hung out at Wrigley and Tom convinced a pizza spot to deliver to the van. I got locked in the venue’s basement for a while. Solid day. It wasn’t a packed show but people were definitely into the set and we had a great night afterwards too. That was basically the M.O. of that whole tour. We’d show up to the city early, tourist what we could, get to the show, have people sort of stare at us and wonder who we were, crush a set, people chat our ears off after we play, load out and drive to the hotel, sleep, repeat.

I think at that point in March we were about halfway through writing for the new record, so we started peeking out a few each night. We opened up this show with “Surrounded by Wolve.s. After listening to it, we knew we wanted to get it out there for people to listen ASAP. We went the friends route and had our bud Chris Johnson from who plays in a rad band mix it and Alec Rodriguez who also plays in a rad band master it. We are really stoked to get this out there. We’re hitting the road this weekend with our Syracuse homies in Blood Sun Circle and doing a week of dates in Pacific Northwest to Crucialfest this August with our boys The Ditch and The Delta. Jam this new record on Spotify and check out a show!

Rozamov live:
rozamov ditch and the delta tour7/21 – Wallingford, CT @ Cherry Street Station +
7/22 – Rochester, NY @ Photo City Improv +
7/28 – Somerville, MA @ ONCE ^

8/24 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott *
8/25 – Columbus OH @ Cafe Bourbon Street *
8/26 – Indianapolis, IN @ TBA
8/27 – St. Paul, MN @ TBA
8/30 – Seattle, WA @ Funhouse *
8/31 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark *
9/1 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder *
9/2 – Salt Lake City @ Crucial Fest *

+ w/ Blood Sun Circle
^ w/ Author & Punisher
*w/ The Ditch and The Delta

Adaptations was recorded live at Live Wire in Chicago, mixed by Chris Johnson at The Electric Bunker in Brighton, MA, and Mastered by Alec Rodriguez at New Alliance in Cambridge, MA. The full recording will be available for free download via Bandcamp and streaming via Spotify on July 21.

Adaptations tracklisting:
1. Surrounded By Wolves (Live)
2. Ghost Divine (Live)
3. Serpent Cult (Live)
4. Inhumation (Live)

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Quarterly Review: Harvestman, Beastmaker, Endless Boogie, Troubled Horse, Come to Grief, Holy Rivals, Mountain God, Dr. Space, Dirty Grave, Summoned by Giants

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

Bonus round! I don’t know if you’re stoked on having a sixth Quarterly Review day, but I sure am. Basically this is me doing myself favors. In terms of what’s being covered and how I’m covering it, today might be the high point for me personally of the entire Summer 2017 Quarterly Review. Some of this stuff I’m more behind on than others, but it’s all releases that I’ve wanted desperately to write about that I haven’t been able to make happen so far and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be able to do so at last. It’s a load off my mind in the best way possible, and as this is the final day of the Quarterly Review, before I dig in I’ll just say one more time thank you for reading and I hope you found something in the past week that really speaks to you, because that’s what makes it all worthwhile in the first place. One more go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Harvestman, Music for Megaliths

harvestman-music-for-megaliths

A new Harvestman album, like a harvest itself, is an occasion. Distinct entirely from the solo output released by Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till under his own name, Harvestman’s guitar-led experimentalism and ritualized psychedelia don’t happen every day – the last album was 2009’s In a Dark Tongue (review here) – and with the resonance of “Oak Drone” and the layered, drummed and vocalized textures of “Levitation,” the new collection, Music for Megaliths (on Neurot, of course), lives up to the project’s high standards of the unexpected. Pulsations beneath opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Forest is Our Temple” offer some initial threat, but the electronic beat behind the howling notes of “Ring of Sentinels” and the Vangelis-esque centerpiece “Cromlech” find more soothing ground, and though “Sundown” seems to be speaking to Neurosis “Bleeding the Pigs” from 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) in its atmosphere, the spoken word that tops closer “White Horse” provides a last-minute human connection before all is brought to a quick fadeout. If you told me Music for Megaliths was assembled over a period of years, I’d believe you given its breadth, but whether it was or not, Harvestman’s latest should provide a worthy feast for a long time to come.

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Neurot Recordings webstore

 

Beastmaker, Inside the Skull

beastmaker-inside-the-skull

Los Angeles three-piece Beastmaker continue their ascent with their second album for Rise Above Records, the unflinchingly cohesive Inside the Skull. Like its predecessor, 2016’s Lusus Naturae (review here), the quick-turnaround sophomore outing executes a modern garage doom aesthetic and unfuckwithably tight songwriting, this time bringing 10 new tracks that reimagine classic vibes – witness the Witchcraft “No Angel or Demon”-style riff of opener “Evil One” (video posted here) – and touch on some of the same ground pioneered by Uncle Acid without actually sounding like that UK band or sounding like anyone for that matter so much as themselves. They make darkened highlights of “Now Howls the Beast,” “Of Gods Creation,” the crashing “Psychic Visions,” closer “Sick Sick Demon” and the preceding “Night Bird,” which offers some welcome departure into drift prior to the solo in its final minute – all impeccably crisp in structure despite a dirt-caked production – but resonant, memorable hooks abound, and the trio affirm the potential their debut showed and offer a quick step forward that one can only imagine will find them turning more heads toward their growing cult following. They’re still growing, but Inside the Skull is confirmation Beastmaker on a path to becoming something really special.

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Beastmaker at Rise Above Records

 

Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer

endless-boogie-vibe-killer

One can’t help but think there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheekery at play in the inaccuracy of Endless Boogie titling their latest album Vibe Killer. The seven-track/51-minute No Quarter release follows 2013’s Long Island (review here) and is, of course, doing everything but killing the vibe, as the New York-based outfit proffer their nestled-in raw songs crafted out of and on top of improvised jams, the semi-spoken gutturalisms of guitarist Paul “Top Dollar” Major a defining element from the laid back opening title-track onward. Moody rock classicism persists through “High Drag, Hard Doin’” and the more active “Back in ’74,” but the true peak of Vibe Killer comes in the 11-minute “Jefferson Country,” which unfolds hypnotic drone experimentation that’s as willfully ungraceful as it winds up being flowing. Bottom line: dudes know what’s up. Endless Boogie’s languid roll is second to nobody and Vibe Killer is a vision of cool jazz reinvented to feel as much at home in rock clubs of the basement and of the chic see-and-be-seen variety. Very New York, in that, but not at all given to elitism. Everyone’s invited to dig, and dig they should.

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Troubled Horse, Revolution on Repeat

troubled-horse-revolution-on-repeat

There were a few minutes there where one probably wouldn’t have been wrong to wonder if Örebro, Sweden’s Troubled Horse would have a follow-up at all to back 2012’s Step Inside (review here), but with Revolution on Repeat (out via Rise Above), the four-piece led by dynamic vocalist Martin Heppich prove among the most vital of the many heavy rock acts to emerge from their hometown, known for the likes of Witchcraft, Graveyard, Truckfighters and countless others. Heppich, lead guitarist Mikael Linder (also bass on the recording), guitarist Tom and drummer Jonas start with the boogie-fied opening salvo “Hurricane” (video premiere here) and “The Filthy Ones,” and run madcap through the memorable hooks of “Which Way to the Mob” and “Peasants” en route to the mid-paced “The Haunted” and into a second half marked by the semi-balladry of “Desperation” and “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Soon, the standout chorus of “Track 7” (yup, that’s the title) and the penultimate funk of “Let Bastards Know” lead to a nine-minute epic finish in “Bleeding” – and all the while Troubled Horse hold firm to groove, momentum, poise, crisp production and songwriting as they tie varied landmarks together with an overarching sense of motion, Heppich’s charismatic soulfulness and deceptively subtle flourishes of arrangement to make an absolutely welcome return.

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Rise Above Records website

 

Come to Grief, The Worst of Times

come-to-grief-the-worst-of-times

Sometimes you just have to toss up your hands and say, “Well, that’s some of the nastiest shit I’ve ever heard.” To step back and consider them at some distance, Come to Grief aren’t near the most abrasive band on the planet, but when you’re actually listening to their debut EP, The Worst of Times, that’s much harder to believe. Launching with “Killed by Life,” the four-tracker finds the Boston outfit led by former Grief guitarist Terry Savastano – here joined by drummer Chuck Conlon, bassist Justin Christian and vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Hebert – plodding out scream-topped filth that’s actually fuller-sounding than anything Grief did back in their day and all the more devastating for its thickness. The seven-minute “No Savior” is excruciating, and though shorter, “Futility of Humanity” and even the slightly-faster closer “Junklove” bring no letup whatsoever from the onslaught. Think accessible, then go the complete other way, then bludgeon yourself. It’s kind of like that. Absolute brutality delivered by expert and unkind hands.

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Holy Rivals, Holy Rivals

holy rivals holy rivals

The question of whether noise rock and sludge can coexist is largely one of tempo and tone, and recently-signed-to-BlackseedRecords Pittsburgh trio Holy Rivals’ self-titled debut answers in forceful fashion. Amid more aggro punch of opener “Locked Inn” comes the crust-laden grunge of “Voices,” and whether they’re rolling out the more spacious “Sleep” or sprinting through the post-Bleach raw punkery of “Dead Ender” on their way to the more ambient and patient seven-minute finale “Into Dust,” guitarist/vocalist Jason Orr (also T-Tops), bassist Aaron Orr (whose tone features well on the closer) and drummer Matt Langille – whose adaptability is essential to the Helmet-style starts and stops of “Loathe” that emerge from the preceding roll of “Sleep” – Holy Rivals put a superficial harshness to use as a cover for what’s actually a diverse songwriting process. They’ll reportedly have a new record out in Fall 2017, so this 2016 self-release may soon be in hindsight, but in setting the foundation for growth, it offers exciting prospects caked in an abidingly raw presentation.

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Mountain God, Bread Solstice

mountain god bread solstice

Around what would seem to be the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi and bassist/keyboardist Nikhil Kamineni, Brooklyn psychedelic post-sludgers Mountain God have undergone numerous lineup shifts en route to and through the release of their debut album, Bread Solstice (on Artificial Head Records). To wit, drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), who appears on the dark, unrelenting and abyss-crafting 40-minute six-tracker, has already been replaced by Gabriel Cruz, and there have been other changes in vocalist, keyboardist and drummer positions even since they offered their 2015 EP, Forest of the Lost (review here) to set the stage for this deeply-atmospheric, it’s-acid-rock-but-with-sulfuric-acid first long-player. In light of that tumult and the overarching commitment to abrasive noise Mountain God make in pieces like the 11-minute “Nazca Lines,” “Junglenaut” or even the brooding tension of airy instrumental “Unknown Ascent,” it’s all the more impressive that Bread Solstice is as cohesive in its cerebral horror as it is, constructing a harsh and churning vision of doom as something worthy of post-apocalyptic revelry. Far from easy listening, but of marked purpose. They should play exclusively in art galleries, no matter who winds up in the band.

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Artificial Head Records on Bandcamp

 

Dr. Space, Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1

dr-space-dr-spaces-alien-planet-trip-vol-1

Perhaps best known for his work in spearheading the improvisational Denmark-based Øresund Space Collective, modular synth wizard Scott “Dr. Space” Heller weirds out across four cuts on the solo release Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1, which both underscores in its scope how essential he is to the aforementioned outfit and oozes beyond that group’s parameters into electronic beatmaking and waves of synthesizer drone. Pulling influence from classic progadelia, Heller unfurls longform tripping on 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “5 Dimensions of the Universe” and veers into and out of somewhat abrasive swirl on “Rising Sun on Mars” before landing in the more steady atmosphere of “In Search of Life on Io” and launching once more outward with the five-minute finale “Alien Improv 2.” Just how many alien planet trips the good doctor will be undertaking remains as yet a mystery, but the breadth of this first one makes it plain to the listener that Heller’s sonic universe is wide open and, seemingly, ever-expanding.

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Dirty Grave, So Fall and Crawl Away

dirty-grave-so-fall-and-crawl-away

Brazilian doomers Dirty Grave issue the three-song single/EP So Fall and Crawl Away (bonus points for the Alice in Chains reference) ahead of making their full-length debut reportedly any minute now with an album called Evil Desire. Comprised of two studio tracks in the eight-minute “The Black Cloud Comes” and the four-minute Howlin’ Wolf cover “Evil (Is Going On)” and with the live cut “Unholy Son – Live” as a kind of bonus track, it’s a sampling behind two similar short releases, 2014’s Vol. II and 2013’s Dirty Grave (which featured a studio version of “Unholy Son”), that sleeks through eerie doom loosely tinged with psychedelia and smoked-out vibing. “Evil (Is Going On)” is more uptempo, perhaps unsurprisingly, but is giving a likewise treatment all the same, its final solo shredding into oblivion with stoned abandon. “Unholy Son – Live” is rawer but still carries through its melody in the vocals amid a prevalent crash, and if it’s a portend of things to come on Evil Desire, then So Fall and Crawl Away serves as a warning worth heeding.

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Summoned by Giants, Stone Wind

summoned-by-giants-stone-wind

If you have a convenient narrative for what West Coast heavy rock has become over the last decade, Summoned by Giants’ debut album, Stone Wind, is probably too aggressive on the whole to fit it neatly. Their cleaner parts, the rolling second cut “Diamond Head” and samples throughout have aspects of that post-Red Fang party vibe, but to listen to the rawness of the bass tone that starts “Return” or closer “I Hate it When You Breathe,” or even the slurring “come at me, bro”-style rant sampled at the seven-track/27-minute album’s launch, a will toward violence is never far off. Couple that with the thickened noise punk of “Saturn” and the Weedeater sludge of the penultimate “Dying Wish,” and Summoned by Giants – guitarist/vocalist Sean Delaney, guitarist Jordan Sattelmair, bassist/vocalist Patrick Moening and drummer Mel Burris – seem more interested in doling out punishment than kicking back, making a silly video and having a good time. Well, maybe they’re having a good time, but they’re doing so while kicking your ass.

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Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury

ecstatic-vision-raw-rock-fury

Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

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Norska, Too Many Winters

norska-too-many-winters

Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

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Norska at Brutal Panda Records website

 

Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient

bison-you-are-not-the-ocean-you-are-the-patient

Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

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Bison at Pelagic Records website

 

Valborg, Endstrand

valborg-endstrand

With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

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Valborg at Prophecy Productions website

 

Obelyskkh, The Providence

obelyskkh-the-providence

Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

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Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar

earth-electric-vol-1-solar

Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

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Earth Electric at Season of Mist website

 

Olde, Temple

olde-temple

After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

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STB Records webstore

 

Deaf Radio, Alarm

deaf radio alarm

Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

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Deaf Radio on Bandcamp

 

Saturndust, RLC

saturndust rlc

The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

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Saturndust on Bandcamp

 

Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

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Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

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Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Loss, BardSpec, Sinner Sinners, Cavra, Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Supersonic Blues, Masterhand, Green Lung, Benthic Realm, Lâmina

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

Day two of the Quarterly Review and all is chugging along. I was on the road for part of the day yesterday and will be again today, so there’s some chaos underlying what I’m sure on the surface seems like an outwardly smooth process — ha. — but yeah, things are moving forward. Today is a good mix of stuff, which makes getting through it somewhat easier on my end, as opposed to trying to find 50 different ways to say “riffy,” so I hope you take the time to sample some audio as you make your way through, to get a feel for where these bands are coming from. A couple highlights of the week in here, as always. We go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Loss, Horizonless

loss horizonless

Horizonless (on Profound Lore) marks a welcome if excruciating return from Nashville death-doomers Loss, who debuted six years ago with 2011’s Despond (review here) and who, much to their credit, waste no time in making up for their absence with 64 soul-crushing minutes across nine slabs of hyperbole-ready atmospheric misery. The longer, rumble-caked, slow-motion lumbering of “The Joy of all Who Sorrow,” “All Grows on Tears,” “Naught,” the title-track and closer “When Death is All” (which boasts guests spots from Leviathan’s Wrest, Dark Castle’s Stevie Floyd and producer Billy Anderson) are companioned by shorter ambient works like the creepy horror soundtrack “I.O.” and the hum of “Moved Beyond Murder,” but the deeper it goes, the more Horizonless lives up to its name in creating a sense of unremitting, skyline-engulfing darkness. That doesn’t mean it’s without an emotional center. As Loss demonstrate throughout, there’s nothing that escapes their consumptive scope, and as they shift through the organ-laced “The End Steps Forth,” “Horizonless,” “Banishment” and the long-fading wash of the finale, the album seems as much about eating its own heart as yours. A process both gorgeous and brutal.

Loss on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

BardSpec, Hydrogen

bardspec hydrogen

It’s only fair to call Hydrogen an experimentalist work, but don’t necessarily take that to mean that Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson doesn’t have an overarching vision for what his BardSpec project is. With contributions along the way from Today is the Day’s Steve Austin and former Trinacria compatriot Iver Sandøy (also Manngard), Bjørnson crafts extended pieces of ambient guitar and electronica-infused beats on works like “Fire Tongue” and the thumping “Salt,” resulting in two kinds of interwoven progressive otherworldlinesses not so much battling it out as exploring the spaces around each other. Hydrogen veers toward the hypnotic even through the more manic-churning bonus track “Teeth,” but from the psych-dance transience of “Bone” (video posted here) to the unfolding wash of “Gamma,” BardSpec is engaged in creating its own aesthetic that’s not only apart from what Bjørnson is most known for in Enslaved, but apart even from its influences in modern atmospherics and classic, electronics-infused prog.

BardSpec on Thee Facebooks

ByNorse Music website

 

Sinner Sinners, Optimism Disorder

There’s a current of rawer punk running beneath Sinner Sinners’ songwriting – or on the surface of it if you happen to be listening to “California” or “Outsider” or “Hate Yourself” or “Preachers,” etc. – but especially when the L.A. outfit draw back on the push a bit, their Last Hurrah Records and Cadavra Records full-length Optimism Disorder bears the hallmarks of Rancho de la Luna, the studio where it was recorded. To wit, the core duo of Steve and Sam Thill lead the way through the Queens of the Stone Age-style drive of opener “Last Drop” (video posted here), “Desperation Saved Me (Out of Desperation)” and though finale “Celexa Blues” is more aggressive, its tones and overall hue, particularly in the context of the bounce of “Together We Stand” and “Too Much to Dream” earlier, still have that desert-heavy aspect working for them. It’s a line that Sinner Sinners don’t so much straddle as crash through and stomp all over, but I’m not sure Optimism Disorder would work any other way.

Sinner Sinners on Thee Facebooks

Sinner Sinners on Bandcamp

Last Hurrah Records website

 

Cavra, Cavra

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The five-song/52-minute self-titled debut from Argentina trio Cavra was first offered digitally name-your-price-style late in 2016 and picked up subsequently by South American Sludge. There’s little reason to wonder why. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Cristian Kocak, bassist/vocalist Fernando Caminal and drummer Matias Gallipoli, the Buenos Aires three-piece place themselves squarely in the sphere of their home country’s rich heritage in heavy rock and psychedelic fluidity, with earthy tones, a resounding spaciousness in longer cuts like the all-15-minutes-plus “2010,” “Montaña” and “Torquemada.” My mind went immediately to early and mid-period Los Natas as a reference point for how the vocals cut through the density of “Montaña,” but even as Cavra show punkier and more straightforward thrust on the shorter “Dos Soles” (4:10) and “Librianna” (2:45) – the latter also carrying a marked grunge feel – they seem to keep one foot in lysergism. Perhaps less settled than it wants to be in its quiet parts, Cavra’s Cavra nonetheless reaches out with a tonal warmth and organic approach that mark a welcome arrival.

Cavra on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Split

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One has to wonder if whichever of the involved parties – be it the two acts or either of the labels, Sunmask Records or Hypnotic Dirge – had in mind a land-and-sea kind of pairing in putting together Saskatoon’s Black Tremor or Nova Scotia’s Sea Witch for this split release, because that’s basically where they wound up. Black Tremor, who issued their debut EP in 2016’s Impending (review here), answer the post-Earth vibes with more bass/drums/cello instrumental exploration on the two-part “Hexus,” while the massive tonality of duo Sea Witch answers back – though not literally; they’re also instrumental – with three cuts, “Green Tide,” “As the Crow Flies Part One” and “As the Crow Flies Part Two.” The two outfits have plenty in common atmospherically, but where Black Tremor seem to seek open spaces in their sound, Sea Witch prefer lung-crushing heft, and, well, there isn’t really a wrong answer to that question. Two distinct intentions complementing each other in fluidity and a mood that goes from grim and contemplative to deathly and bleak.

Black Tremor on Thee Facebooks

Sea Witch on Thee Facebooks

Hypnotic Dirge Records webstore

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul

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It takes Den Haag trio Supersonic Blues no more than eight minutes to bust out one of 2017’s best short releases in their Who Can You Trust? Records debut single, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul. Yes, I mean it. The young three-piece of guitarist Timothy, bassist Gianni and drummer Lennart absolutely nail a classic boogie-rock vibe on the two-tracker, and from the gotta-hear low end that starts “Curses on My Soul,” the unabashed hook of “Supersonic Blues Theme” and the blown-out garage vocals that top both, the two-tracker demonstrates clearly not only that there’s still life to be had in heavy ‘70s loyalism when brought to bear with the right kind of energy, but that Supersonic Blues are on it like fuzz on tone. Killer feel all the way and shows an exceeding amount of potential for a full-length that one can only hope won’t follow too far behind. Bonus points for recording with Guy Tavares at Motorwolf. Hopefully they do the same when it comes time for the LP.

Supersonic Blues on Thee Facebooks

Who Can You Trust? Records webstore

 

Masterhand, Mind Drifter

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A neo-psych trio from Oklahoma City, Masterhand seem like the kind of group who might at a moment’s notice pack their gear and go join the legions of freaks tripping out on the West Coast. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t find welcome among that I-see-colors-everywhere underground set – at least if their debut long-player, Mind Drifter, is anything to go by. Fuzz like Fuzz, acid like Uncle, and a quick, raw energy that underlies and propels the proceedings through quick tracks like “Fear Monger” and “Lucifer’s Dream” – tense bass and drums behind more languid wah and surf guitar before a return to full-on fuzz – yeah, they make a solid grab for upstart imprint King Volume Records, which has gotten behind Mind Drifter for a cassette issue. There’s some growing to do, but the psych-garage feel of “Chocolate Cake” is right on, “Heavy Feels” is a party, and when they want, they make even quick cuts like “Paranoia Destroyer” feel expansive. That, along with the rest of the release, bodes remarkably well.

Masterhand on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records webstore

 

Green Lung, Green Man Rising

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Groove-rolling four-piece Green Lung boast former members of Oak and Tomb King, among others, and Green Man Rising, their first digital single, is the means by which they make their entry into London’s crowded underground sphere. Aside from the apparent nod to Type O Negative in the title – and the plenty of more-than-apparent nod in guitarist Scott Masson’s riffing – “Green Man Rising” and “Freak on a Peak” bask in post-Church of Misery blown-out cymbals from drummer Matt Wiseman, corresponding tones, while also engaging a sense of space via rich low end from bassist Andrew Cave and the echoing vocals of Tom Killingbeck. There’s an aesthetic identity taking shape in part around nature worship, and a burgeoning melodicism that one imagines will do likewise more over time, but they’ve got stonerly hooks in the spirit of Acrimony working in their favor and in a million years that’s never going to be a bad place to start. Cool vibe; makes it easy to look forward to more from them.

Green Lung on Thee Facebooks

Green Lung on Bandcamp

 

Benthic Realm, Benthic Realm

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In 2016, Massachusetts-based doom metallers Second Grave issued one of the best debut albums of the year in their long-awaited Blacken the Sky (review here)… and then, quite literally days later, unexpectedly called it quits. It was like a cruel joke, teasing their potential and then cutting it short of full realization. The self-titled debut EP from Benthic Realm, which features Second Grave guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (also ex-Warhorse) and bassist Maureen Murphy alongside drummer Brian Banfield (The Scimitar), would seem to continue the mission of that prior outfit if perhaps in an even more metallic direction, drawing back on some of Second Grave’s lumber in favor of a mid-paced thrust while holding firm to the melodic sensibility that worked so well across Blacken the Sky’s span. For those familiar with Second Grave, Benthic Realm is faster, not as dark, and perhaps somewhat less given to outward sonic extremity, but it’s worth remembering that “Awakening,” “Don’t Fall in Line” and “Where Serpents Dwell” are just an introduction and that van Guilder and Murphy might go on a completely different direction over the longer term after going back to square one as they do here.

Benthic Realm website

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp

 

Lâmina, Lilith

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Smack dab in the middle of Lilith, the debut album from Lisbon-based doom/heavy rockers Lâmina, sits the 20-minute aberration “Maze.” It’s a curious track in a curious place on the record, surrounded by the chugging “Evil Rising” and bass-led rocker bounce of “Psychodevil,” but though it’s almost a full-length unto itself (at least an EP), Lâmina make the most of its extended and largely linear course, building on the tonal weight already shown in the earlier “Cold Blood” and “Big Black Angel” and setting up the tension of “Education for Death” and the nine-minute semi-title-track finale “In the Warmth of Lilith,” which feels a world away from the modern stonerism of “Psychodevil” in its slower and thoroughly doomed rollout. There’s a subtle play of scope happening across Lilith, drawn together by post-grunge tonal clarity and vocal melodies, and Lâmina establish themselves as potentially able to pursue any number of paths going forward from here. If they can correspondingly develop the penchant for songwriting they already show in these cuts as well, all the better.

Lâmina on Thee Facebooks

Lâmina on Bandcamp

 

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