The Ruiner Self-Titled Debut Due Sept. 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-ruiner

Preorders are up now for the self-titled debut from Melbourne sludge rockers The Ruiner, which comes out Sept. 26 on Desert Highways. The band have a couple tracks streaming on their Bandcamp from prior digital singles, and as it seems like both those cuts will be featured on the album as well with their aggressive take underscoring the band’s more extreme origins and early-Crowbar-style push, I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded or from the original sessions in 2013, but either way, there’s a whole bunch of others that have never with them because, you know, that’s how it works with albums and whatnot.

The PR wire had this to say about it:

the-ruiner-the-ruiner

THE RUINER Self-Titled Debut Album OUT MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26

Established in 2013, The Ruiner were originally brought together to play a one-off show as a tribute to legendary death / grind / stoner band Christbait (1989-1996). They appeared under the moniker Dirtypunkmutha, the name of Christbait’s 1996 release. Somehow, amid much arm-twisting and promises of fame and fortune, two of Christbait’s original members decided to get the project off the ground as a proper band.

Featuring Craig Westwood (guitar – Christbait, Dern Rutlidge, Budd), Jason Vassallo (vocals – Christbait, Dread), Jason PC (bass – Blood Duster, Dern Rutlidge, Birdcage) and brothers Adam Stokes (guitar – Legends Of Motorsport, Pillow) and Ben Stokes (drums – Pillow, Tailbone, Piggy). The Ruiner blends heavy and dark doom riffs with hard stoner grooves; they’re a cross between Isis, Goatsnake and the band you always wanted to join, super heavy while not being afraid of a song.

The Ruiner’s intensity and strength live didn’t take long for them to impress. Having all played together in their numerous projects, The Ruiner boys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and fit together well. They’ve released two digital singles to date with their debut album set for release Monday 26 Sept 2016 through Desert Highways, with tracks being recorded between Goatsound by Jason PC (Witchskull, Watchtower, Broozer, I Exist) and Toyland by Adam Calaitzis (Blood Duster, Damaged, Dern Rutlidge), with mixing duties between Jason PC and Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sick Of It All, High On Fire, Cathedral, Sleep).

The Ruiner:
Jason V- Vocals
Craig Westwood- Guitar
Jason PC- Bass
Adam Stokes- Guitar
Ben Stokes- Drums

https://www.facebook.com/theruinerband
https://theruiner.bandcamp.com/
http://deserthighways.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertHighwaysMusic
https://deserthighways.bandcamp.com/album/the-ruiner

The Ruiner, The Ruiner sample tracks

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Ahkmed, The Inland Sea: Bliss and Water

Posted in Reviews on September 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

ahkmed-the-inland-sea

Marked out by their tonal warmth and immersive progressions, the long-form fluidity of Melbourne trio Ahkmed makes a welcome return with The Inland Sea, the band’s first full-length since 2009’s Distance (review here). That outing was also released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten — which, if you know the label run by Stefan Koglek of Colour Haze, should be about as far as you need to read in this review to let you know you should get on board.

After seven years, there have been some notable shifts in Ahkmed‘s sound, veering away from post-rock more pure heavy psych jamming, here presented in raw, mostly-instrumental form across five extended tracks — “Kaleidoscope” (10:44), “The Inland Sea” (12:53), “Last Hour of Light” (20:09), “Pattern of Atolls” (11:54) and “The Empty Quarter” (15:31) — totaling a satisfyingly symmetrical 1:11:11 runtime.

Not a minor investment in terms of the front-to-back listen, but the dreamtones and spaciousness of the title-track, the graceful manner in which the songs unfold and the varied atmospheres between them assure that the journey remains engaging for the duration, drummer John-Paul Caligiuri adding vocals over the slow wash of “The Inland Sea” (though that might be a sample; it’s kind of obscure in the mix) and the subsequent centerpiece after the hypnotic opening of “Kaleidoscope” to bring a definitively human presence to the material just when it seems to be pushing out further and further.

Also the introduction of new bassist Finn Rockwell, who comes aboard to replace Dan McNamara, alongside Caligiuri and guitarist Carlo IacovinoThe Inland Sea casts out cosmic with a natural chemistry and patient execution, indulging itself as a release like this invariably must, but not doing so in an offputting or pretentious fashion.

That can be a hard line to walk, but Ahkmed make it work in the best way possible — by simply doing it. From the fuzzy guitar line that starts “Kaleidoscope” onward, the three-piece ease their way into progressive spacedelia with an underlying command that speaks to the years they’ve been at it, Caligiuri and Iacovino having started the band circa 1998.

As they approach 20 years in and mark their resurgence from a dormant period, The Inland Sea lacks nothing for vitality, though admittedly they’re not exactly shooting for uptempo party rock. That’s not to say their delivery isn’t energetic or they don’t sound like they’re making the music they want to be making — quite the opposite, actually — just that the trance that takes hold about halfway through “Kaleidoscope” and continues into “The Inland Sea” would seem to be closer to the endgame goal the album is pushing toward.

ahkmed

It’s about the texture and spirit that emerges from the material; something to get lost in. They build “Kaleidoscope” to a formidable apex and end it with a fading wash to let the title cut take hold with two builds of its own, patiently marched forward by cymbal washes as the guitar spaces out, the song almost dividing in half for when one part ends and the next one starts.

By its finish, it too gets to significant proportion, but the difference in ambience is noteworthy, and another balance Ahkmed strike subtly throughout The Inland Sea as “Last Hour of Light” — an obvious focal point, for even more than its sheer length — arrives with about two minutes of introduction from the guitar before the vocals and quiet drums join in. At this point, the ethereal mood is fully constructed, but Caligiuri does have a grounding effect when he starts with the first verse, something to give a sense of place to what can seem to be so willfully formless.

At first, it seems like “Pattern of Atolls” might be trying to bridge the the two sides between Ahkmed‘s post-rock and more heavy psych liquefaction, but it winds up pushing further, thickening its tones in the second half and pushing into territory more outwardly heavy than anything The Inland Sea has yet offered. Caligiuri returns on vocals earlier in the track but recedes into the molten flow that seems to rise up after his lines are done, and it’s Rockwell whose low end seems to signify the heft to come, fuzzed-out as it is.

They start to dive into a payoff but hold back, saving it for the end of the song, which feels about right once they hit the nine-minute mark and crash into a blown-out final three minutes that cap with bass-noise swirling directly into the guitar intro of “The Empty Quarter” — the most purposeful transition they’ve yet made and one that ties the final two tracks together in a way that brings to mind a linearity that The Inland Sea invariably wouldn’t have as a 2LP, on which “The Empty Quarter” and “Pattern of Atolls” would each likely occupy a side.

Maybe that’s Ahkmed acknowledging the digital/vinyl companionship, the sort of symbiotic the most and least physical formats have developed over the years since Distance, or maybe it’s just the way the songs flowed the best. I wouldn’t hazard a guess. Either way, the closer follows a similar pattern of a guitar intro leading to a verse that shifts into a jam quiet, louder, quiet again, noisy for a bit, then at last arriving at the groove that will carry it out.

To listen to The Inland Sea by this time and look for intricacies almost feels like missing the point, which is clearly to let the album wash over you and move you from one end of its span to the other. Nonetheless, “The Empty Quarter” and the four cuts before it do offer a depth of experience for those willing to dig in — headphones recommended — and the spaces they evoke seem vast enough to hold a presence until next time. Hopefully that’s not another seven years.

Ahkmed, The Inland Sea (2016)

Ahkmed on Thee Facebooks

Ahkmed on Bandcamp

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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Holy Serpent to Release New Album Temples on Sept. 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

holy serpent (Photo by Sally Townsend)

If you’ll recall, Melbourne’s Holy Serpent got a nod at the start of the year for their impending second album as being one of the most anticipated for 2016. They were an easy pick, to be honest. Their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) effectively tapped into and built on a foundation of classic stoner rock, and the news that RidingEasy Records will have the follow-up, titled Temples, out on Sept. 30 is most welcome. I haven’t heard the whole thing yet, but they have the new song “Toward the Sands” streaming now to give an advance sampling, and it sounds right on.

It has been and no doubt will be interesting to hear RidingEasy bands — Electric CitizenHoly SerpentThe WellMonolord, etc. — as they start to kind of develop in their own directions. The label seems to have done well in picking acts who bring a focus on songwriting but have a will toward growth as well. Good ears. Looking forward to hearing the rest of Temples when the time comes.

Preorders are available now, as the PR wire confirms:

holy serpent temples

Holy Serpent announce followup to acclaimed 2015 debut

The concept of “skate-rock” has been around for many years, but it has never been embodied as well as on Temples, the new album by Holy Serpent. While the band members are just casual skateboarders themselves, one might be tempted to think that skating has subtly influenced the band’s sound. Not only are there the elements of 70s hard rock crossed with punk values and energy. But, the music itself is like riding a skateboard: slow grooving passages can shift on a dime into fast thrill-ride riffs. There’s an exhilarating freedom of movement and unpredictability to the sound.

In the short time since their self-titled RidingEasy debut in mid-2015, Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent have gained a lot of attention for their rather punk version of heavy psych and metal. Fittingly, there’s a strong vibe of early Soundgarden, Saint Vitus and Kyuss to Temples in that it’s undeniably heavy, but also clever in its experimentation with subtle tempo shifts, multiple vocal effects and other production techniques. But it’s still more Sabotage than Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

Temples is heavier in tone than the first album, and also more sonically rich and aggressive. The 5-song, 44-minute album finds vocalist/guitarist Scott Penberthy, guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Dave Bartlett and drummer Danny Leo (new drummer Lance Leembrugen has replaced Leo since recording to complete the live lineup) expanding the hooks while simultaneously taking listeners on a rigorous ride.

“We’ve found playing slow all the time got a tad boring so we’ve mixed it up a bit with tempo changes and added more parts to each song to make them sort of flow like a story,” Penberthy says. “The challenge was making sure it still flowed as it should. ‘All killer no filler’ was a bit of a motto this time around when writing the songs.”

Album opener “Purification by Fire” emerges slowly from a primordial swamp of a reversed gong crash, synth swells, guitar feedback and lightly plucked bass notes before it all coalesces into a driving but slow-burn riff that spans the length of the fretboard as the drum patterns also subtly shift and slide underneath. It’s a brilliant effect, albeit one you might miss if you’re not paying attention. “Bury Me Standing” launches full throttle with a raging guitar solo over a driving riff/rhythm before a quick about-face into a march as Penberthy’s effect-soaked vocals wail above the proceedings. The song builds slowly upon its elements until Penberthy howls an impassioned plea, “bury me standing, I will not forgive you.” Album centerpiece “Toward the Sands” further pushes the tempo changes and sonic experimentation to great effect as the song effortlessly turns on a dime from fast rager to doom, while all sounding cohesive and melodically infectious. Album closer “Sativan Harvest” is an epic nearly 12-minute multi-part journey, built around a central blues motif that drifts into a massive haze of droning guitars set to fat rhythm pickup tone as it swells then recedes, only to restructure into a mutated version of the original motif that eventually abruptly ends with violin, cello and synths in a slow fade into the ether.

Temples will be available on LP, CD and download on September 30th, 2016 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available for physical here and digital here.

Artist: Holy Serpent
Album: Temples
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: September 30, 2016

01. Purification By Fire
02. Bury Me Standing
03. Toward The Sands
04. The Black Stone
05. Sativan Harvest

facebook.com/HolySerpentBand
www.ridingeasyrecords.com
holyserpentband.bandcamp.com

Holy Serpent, “Toward the Sands”

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Seedy Jeezus Release Limited Live at Netphen, Freak Valley 2015 LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Seems to me like time’s kind of short on this one, so I won’t waste a lot of yours. Melbourne heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus have issued a one-time-pressing, limited-to-300-copies vinyl edition of their set from the 2015 Freak Valley festival. Titled Live at Netphen, Freak Valley 2015, the LP is a crisp 40-minutes that found the Aussie trio making friends and making waves across Europe that was clearly a landmark moment for them — shit, just look at that pic on the cover; you’re gonna tell me they’re not into it? — and worthy of the deluxe treatment they’re giving it for this for-fans release, tapestry and all.

Yeah, that’s right, tapestry. Dig it:

seedy-jeezus-live-at-netphen-freak-valley-2015

Seedy Jezeus – Live at Freak Valley 2015 ( x300 Limited Edition Vinyl)

Available on Rock Freaks Green Vinyl.

Hidden in a forested valley in Netphen, Germany, The Freak Valley Festival is a well-loved event that celebrates at its heart: good bands, good people and definitely good times!

In 2015, sharing the bill with the likes of Blues Pills, Orchid, Electric Moon and Earthless, Seedy Jeezus took to the stage on a gloriously sunny afternoon in June with a large curious crowd, interested to see the first Australian band to fly the flag at Freak Valley. It was Seedy’s second show on their first tour of Europe.

Seedy Jeezus were supporting their acclaimed self-titled debut album and they showed everyone that they can pull off their own form of crushing heavy psych rock live, just as well as they can in the studio.

Their Freak Valley Festival performance was recorded and is now presented on vinyl as Seedy Jeezus: Live at Netphen, Freak Valley 2015. The full 40 minute set captures a mixture of their most popular tracks from their debut self-titled album plus the captivating instrumental opus Three Million Light Years. The tracks are a manifestation of the studio versions but have been stretched, jammed and reinterpreted to highlight the frenetic pace of a Seedy Jeezus live set containing mammoth riffage, psych freak outs and sci-fi soundscapes.

Seedy Jeezus during their 40 min set won the crowd over and made alot of new friends and fans who have continued to support and follow the bands progress with each release. Part of the bands performance was also shown on the local German news that night.

Seedy Jeezus, Live at Netphen, Freak Valley was mixed and mastered by Jason Fuller at Goatsound in Melbourne, Australia from multitrack recordings, this album sounds as rocking and brutal as can be expected of any live Seedy set.

Track List:
Chasing the Dragon’s Tail
Wormhole
Three Million Light Years
Pick Up
How Ya Doin
Sun in my Car

Seedy Jeezus Live at Freak Valley will be limited to only 300 copies worldwide on vinyl with no intention of being repressed once it is sold out.

Blown Music in Australia will be releasing as part of the 300 pressings, 50 Deluxe Editions. The deluxe edition will contain the album on Rock Freaks green vinyl with the embossed Deluxe edition seal, a large 80s style fabric wall hanging, 5 promo photos of Seedy Jeezus all contained in a very cool limited edition Freak Valley Festival tote bag…. available from Seedy Jeezus website. Check the links below.

Front cover photo by Laurent Remazeilles / desert-rock.com. All other photos by Ange Strangis , Clemens Mitscher and Lex Waterreus.

http://shop.rockfreaks.de/de/
http://www.seedyjeezus.com

Seedy Jeezus, “Chasing the Dragon’s Tail”

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Devil Electric Sign to Kozmik Artifactz; Debut LP in 2017

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Cheers to Melbourne doom rockers Devil Electric on signing to Kozmik Artifactz for the release of their debut album. The four-piece released their first EP, The Gods Below Vol. 1 on June 6, so it seems safe to say that when you’re signed within a week of your first release, you’re probably doing something correctly. Indeed it’s hard to argue with the rolling riff at the core of “Devil’s Bells,” though it’s the internet so I’m sure someone will make the effort, and the band seem to have hooks in kind throughout the three subsequent tracks on the initial outing.

The album will reportedly be recorded later this year for a 2017 release. They’ve also got a new video for “The Dove and the Serpent” that you can check out below, after the info sent along the PR wire.

Goes like this:

devil electric

DEVIL ELECTRIC sign to Kozmik Artifactz for debut album!

Kozmik Artifactz is very happy to announce that Australia’s finest female fronted quartet signs for their debut full length.

Devil Electric combine the riffs of the old and new in a collision of unholy matrimony. Droning distortion, rumbling bass & heart pounding drums are graced with a haunting female presence. This is what it sounds like when someone walks over your grave.

The band just self-released their first EP called ‘The gods below – Vol.1’, four stunning tracks on whose the Melbourne based band shows its huge potential: doomy riffs that Tommi Iommi could have written, pounding drums and bass and on top the fascinating voice of Pierina O’Brien. What a great combinatiom.

The full length will be recorded late 2016 and released early 2017 on 180g vinyl and CD.

DEVIL ELECTRIC:
Pierina O’Brien – Vocals
Christos Athanasias – Guitars
Tom Hulse – Bass
Mark Van De Beek – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/devilelectric/
http://www.devilelectric.com/
https://devilelectric.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz
https://kozmikartifactz.bandcamp.com/

Devil Electric, “The God and the Serpent” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: Merchant Album Release Show, June 25 in Melbourne, Australia

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on May 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

merchant show poster

One month from today, on June 25, Melbourne cosmic sludgers Merchant will celebrate the official release of their debut album, Suzerain (review here), with a hometown show at Bendigo Hotel. The Obelisk is presenting the gig with the lineup of Merchant as well as YLVA, BØG and Roundtable for a four-band Saturday night of punishing riffing showcasing some of the lengths to which Melbourne will go these days to brutalize its own contingency.

Merchant — vocalist Mirgy, guitarist Ben, bassist Wilson and drummer Nick — recently announced that Suzerain would come out June 25 via the East Coast US-based Snake Charmer Coalition. Comprised of four extended tracks including the 20-minute “Suzerain” for which the album is named, the record is a beast of atmospheric, psychedelic doom that shows the beginnings of a band looking to set themselves apart from the crowded scene that birthed them. It is a foundation on which to build, and I’m very excited to be presenting the release party.

“After a brutal first year and an explosion onto the heavy underground of Melbourne,” says the band, “we’re excited to release our debut album Suzerain through Snake Charmer Coalition. The CD release will be available on June 25 and we join a solid list of bands on the SCC roster, who have helped immensely to get this beast into physical form. YLVA, BØG and Roundtable will join us for the release show and were handpicked as we consider them to be some of the best genre bending bands in the local landscape.”

Thanks to Merchant, Bendigo Hotel and Snake Charmer Coalition for having The Obelisk on board as presenter. Goes without saying that if you find yourself in that part of the world, this one gets a hearty recommendation. Show info follows:

The Obelisk Presents: Merchant: Suzerain Release Show

With YLVA / BØG / Roundtable
June 25, 2016 – 8PM – 18+

Bendigo Hotel
125 Johnston Street
Collingwood, Victoria
Australia 3066

Tickets: $12

Merchant release show event page

Merchant on Thee Facebooks

Merchant on Bandcamp

Snake Charmer Coalition BigCartel store

Bendigo Hotel website

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Merchant Sign to Snake Charmer Coalition

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

June 25 is the set release date for Suzerain (review here), the debut album from Melbourne, Australia, psych-doomers Merchant. The album will be released on Snake Charmer Coalition, which expands its reach in a big way — you might say to the other side of the planet — after sticking primarily with US East Coast acts like King BisonCurse the Son, and the recently-snagged Shadow Witch. Does this mean the Delaware-based imprint is about to go on a multinational signing spree? Hell if I know, but it’s an excellent grab just the same.

If you didn’t hear Suzerain, you can at the review link above or on the stream below, and you’ll find it an encompassingly dark swirl of doom and sludge with some cosmic aspects that keep it from being completely barren. As Merchant‘s debut, its scope is almost as heavy as its tones, and while Melbourne isn’t short on crushing riffs these days, Merchant stood themselves out from the pack immediately and thoroughly. Apparently Snake Charmer Coalition was listening, so right on.

Kind of pieced the below together from various sources on the interwebs, but I think it should have all the info you need:

merchant

***NEW SIGNING ANNOUNCEMENT***

We would like to welcome Melbourne Australia’s very own psych-doom sludgers Merchant to the Snake Charmer Coalition family!!!

Formed in late 2014, Merchant have quickly cemented their place in the landscape of the feedback soaked heavy underground by pummeling venues with aggressive live rituals and crushing riffs.

Their highly acclaimed debut full-length album “Suzerain” will be available June 25th.

Recorded at Goatsound with Jason Fuller and mastered at Iridium Audio by Dav Byrne, the album presents as a 50 minute slab of psych drenched, churning sludge.

Says Merchant: “We’re excited to announce that we’ll be working with Snake Charmer Coalition to help us bring Suzerain to physical format. We’ve got a release show with a massive lineup booked so keep your eye out for that over the next few days.”

https://www.facebook.com/DOOMMERCHANT/
http://doommerchant.bandcamp.com/album/suzerain-2
https://www.facebook.com/SnakeCharmerCoalition/
snakecharmercoalition.bigcartel.com

Merchant, Suzerain (2016)

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Merchant, Suzerain: Seeds and Veins (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

merchant-suzerain

[Merchant release Suzerain on April 18. Click play above to stream the album in full.]

Proffering massive roll over four extended tracks, drenching itself in an encompassing bleakness and grand-scale semi-psych sludge extremity, Merchant‘s Suzerain impresses with a sense of vision underlying that few debuts can claim. A four-piece based in the crowded Melbourne, Australia, heavy scene, Merchant issued their first single, the 10-minute Seismic (review here), just last year, and Suzerain‘s four similarly-extended tracks affirm the potential that piece showed, while also expanding the band’s reach into YOB-style cosmic crush and menacingly abrasive growls, the first-names-only lineup of vocalist Mirgy, guitarist Ben, bassist/vocalist Wilson and drummer Nick coming together as a single, lurching unit, rawer than fellow Melbourne residents Whitehorse, but vibrant in a disaffection that wouldn’t be out of place alongside the heft of Horsehunter or Watchtower, despite having a danker atmosphere.

Though they get there anyhow, the tracks on Suzerain — “Seed and Soil” (8:51), “Mourning Light” (11:37), “Suzerain” (20:17) and “Black Vein” (8:59) — feel less concerned with conjuring tonal largesse than with making skin crawl, and as the opener thunders its way through its initial roll circling back for each verse line in a grueling nod, there doesn’t seem to be a goal set by the band that isn’t met by the time the chug opens up to dual-vocals and hits building to a head prior to the midsection. Ben introduces another element that will be in play across the record in the second half of “Seed and Soil,” which is the airy, psychedelic lead guitar cutting through all that crush, but in light of the aforementioned YOB and the likes of Ufomammut, one could hardly accuse it of being out of place, particularly as the solo shreds.

More accurately, playing space echoes off earthbound roll only deepens the complexity of what Merchant are able to do with their first album, and by expanding their sonic palette, they only further the potential they showed last year. When it starts following the raging finish of the opener, “Mourning Light” introduces itself with quiet but still tense guitar, drums joining after about a minute in and Mirgy‘s raw-throated rasp delivering the title line soon thereafter. A slow churn ensues that Nick‘s drums seem to be holding together amid the low-end wash of each riff. Again, we get a taste of psychedelic guitar early, but it’s brief, and Merchant soon dip back into the nod at the track’s core, the sheer density of it providing a gravity pull downward on the listener. It’s heavy, in nearly a physical sense. Past the midpoint, guitar and bass open up a bit, but it’s all leading toward a faster thrust at the apex of “Mourning Light,” an uptick in tempo leading, naturally, to a deconstructing slowdown that rounds out. One could quibble about which is actually the peak of the build, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve been hit in the head with a shovel or with a hammer — the result is the same.

merchant (Photo by Sally Townsend)

Of course, as it consumes 40 percent of Suzerain‘s 50-minute runtime, the title-track is a major focal point, and one which, further to the band’s credit, they execute fluidly across a purposefully overwhelming span, toying some with pacing early on, but only winding up more excruciating as Mirgy and Wilson again come together in layers of growing and the kick resumes circa the five-minute mark. The thud and roll that follows serves as the rumbling bed for a fuzzed-out lead from Ben, and at 7:53, a second layer of the solo joins in even more forward in the mix, the two coming together in a swirl that meets the lumbering head-on with its own scorch, such that as the verse resumes shortly before nine minutes in, the transition is jarring like a crash to the ground. This also is doubtless intentional. “Suzerain” stomps and crashes its way to its midsection on a gradual fade with the bass and drums remaining, joined soon by open-spaced guitar that seems to provide something Merchant haven’t yet offered: a moment of respite.

It’s brief. Before long, the band resume their full-weight course forward, uphill, in snow, dragging who knows what. But the effect of that quick break is important in the hypnotic element of it, lulling the listener into a false sense of security that’s soon to evaporate, as well as in showcasing Merchant‘s commitment to more than just heft and extreme vocals. Like the flourishes of melody throughout Suzerain and those which the lead guitar brings to the second half of the title-track, it’s another example of the four-piece working to distinguish themselves and establish a sonic personality of their own. They tease a faster progression, but ultimately keep “Suzerain” at its slow-grinding clip and bring it to a wash of noise from which the drums depart in the last minute to let the noise hold sway on a longer fade into the sudden crash of the intro to closer “Black Vein,” which Nick sets up as a faster thrust that maintains an angularity in kind with the opener before letting loose some of the pent-up tension in a more upbeat motion.

Playing back and forth in verses and choruses, they soon move into a post-halfway-point breakdown, vocal tradeoffs, china cymbal and all, and everything drops out save for the guitar, which resumes a chugging gallop before “Black Vein” hits its sixth minute. By then they’re bordering on thrash and it’s a wonder tones so thick can move at all, but though a big, final slowdown is somewhat telegraphed, that doesn’t make its arrival any less satisfying. Merchant hit the brakes and ride out “Black Vein” on a molasses lurch topped with a line of manipulated feedback that at last gives way to the oppressive final measure, faded out to close. It should say something that Merchant hold that aggression to the very last second of their debut, but it shouldn’t say that aggression is all the band has to offer. Suzerain might seem monolithic on an initial listen, but it’s not, and especially in light of it being Merchant‘s debut, it affords the band multiple avenues of growth going forward, even as it lands with all the apparent subtlety usually considered for giant rocks from outer space. Visceral at times, it nonetheless engages in how it conducts its own extremity.

Merchant on Thee Facebooks

Merchant on Bandcamp

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