Seedy Jeezus: Polaris Oblique Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

seedy jeezus photo barry c douglas

There’s no exact release date listed below for Seedy Jeezus‘ impending second album, Polaris Oblique, but I’d imagine it’ll be out before or around the time the Melbourne three-piece hit the road in Europe — with Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed on bass no less — this coming July, and since “June” was the original timeframe floated for it, yeah, that makes sense. Either way, it’s coming and you can preorder it as of now from Lay Bare Reccordings which will handle the European release. It’ll also be out through Ripple Music distribution in the US and Blown Music in the band’s native Australia.

Of course, the vinyl’s limited and all that. Details follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

SEEDY JEEZUS POLARIS OBLIQUE

Seedy Jeezus – Polaris Oblique

In 2015 Seedy Jeezus released their 1st record on Lay Bare Recordings; in 2018 the 2nd record is ready to shatter your music spine. Called Polaris Oblique and on presale Monday 21st of May, 7am CET.

The band has evolved from the first album, but has retained their bite and bark. There are crazy jams and heavy riffs with a dose of 70’s influences that has always bubbled under in the bands sound since its formation. Many who followed the band since the first album will know where the band is at musically. There is a maturity in the band’s sound and songs. When they get mellow is an almost Floydian world you’re looking into and when they hit the heavy, you know it’s on. Strap yourself in and just wait….it’s coming

‘Polaris Oblique’ comes in a release of 500 pcs, of which 100 pcs are a DELUXE Version.
Each 100 pcs have a different color.

The European edition is LIMITED to 90 pcs. only and has its own unique color.
Exclusively available in Europe via Lay Bare Recordings.
– Gatefold
– Metallic Foil Artwork
– 150gr. vinyl
– Colored version

Click here for the pre-order:
?https://laybarerecordings.com/release/polaris-oblique-by-seedy-jeezus-lbr019

US & Canadian orders for the STANDARD version are advised to go here to save on shipping: http://heavyripples.bigcartel.com

Seedy Jeezus is:
Mark Sibson – Drums
Lex Waterreus – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Crick – Bass/Noises

http://www.seedyjeezus.com
https://www.facebook.com/seedyjeezuspage/
https://laybarerecordings.com/
Ripple Music website
Blown Music website

Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique album teaser

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Quarterly Review: The Sword, Mountain Tamer, Demon Head, Bushfire, Motherslug, Dove, Treedeon, Falun Gong, Spider Kitten, Greynbownes

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay then. We got past the first day and I thought it went reasonably well. No casualties. Nobody’s brain melted from trying to find another word for “riffs” for the 19th time, so yeah, mark it a win. There’s a good spread of stuff in today’s batch — a little of this, a little of that — so hopefully somewhere in the mix you’re able to run into something you dig. Hell, I’ll say the same for myself as well. Come on, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

The Sword, Used Future

the sword used future

Now-veteran Austin heavy rockers The Sword have gotten a mixed response to the more progressive approach their recent work has taken, and I doubt Used Future (on Razor & Tie) is going to be any less polarizing, but its crisp 13 tracks/43 minutes are pulled off with professionalism. Yes, it has its self-indulgent aspects in “Sea of Green” or the earlier instrumental “The Wild Sky,” but The Sword have never done anything other than deliver accessible heavy rock and tour like hell, so while I get the mixed response, at this point I think the band has at very least earned a measure of respect for what they’ve accomplished as ambassadors of underground heavy. They wanna throw a little John Carpenter influence into “Nocturne?” Fine. They’re not hurting anybody. The unfortunate truth about The Sword is that neither polarized side is right. They’re not the end of heavy metal as we know it; some crude ironic take on what metal should be. And they’re not the greatest band of their generation. They have a good record deal. They write decent songs. Where’s the problem with that? I don’t hear it on Used Future.

The Sword on Thee Facebooks

Razor & Tie website

 

Mountain Tamer, Living in Vain Demo

mountain tamer Demo 2017

If it was Mountain Tamer’s intention to get listeners excited about the prospect of a second full-length from the Santa Cruz, CA three-piece, then the Living in Vain demo serves this purpose well. Their 2016 Argonauta Records self-titled debut (review here) expounded on the potential they originally showed with 2015’s Mtn Tmr demo (review here), and though it’s only two songs, Living in Vain would seem to do the same in building on the accomplishments of the album before it. The opening title-track is labeled “Living in Vain Pt. 1” and nestles easily into a mid-paced shuffle before shifting into psychedelic lead layering and a more jammed-out spirit, from which it returns in the last 30 seconds to hit into a more solidified ending riff, leading to the immediately slower “Wretched.” More spacious, more of a march, it plays into an instrumental hook and holds to its structure for its entire 5:40, ending with guitar on a quick fade. Obviously the intention with a release like this is to entice the listener with the prospect of the band’s next album. Living in Vain does that and more.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Tamer on Bandcamp

 

Demon Head, The Resistance

demon head the resistance

Returning just about a year after issuing their second album, Thunder on the Fields (review here), Copenhagen-based proto-metallers Demon Head offer a new two-songer single titled The Resistance that at least to my ears speaks to the current political moment of populism opposing liberalism – as much at play in Europe as in the US, if not more so – and the fight for an open society. They present it as a six-plus-minute languid groove with flashes of militaristic snare; something of a turn from the cult rock of their two-to-date long-players. One could say the same of the sci-fi themed “Rivers of Mars,” though like its predecessor, it remains sonically on-point with the band’s vintage aesthetic, fostered through naturalist guitar and bass tones, bluesy, commanding vocals and classy, creative drumming. Actually, apply that “classy” all around. As Demon Head continue to come into their own sound, they do so with poise that’s all the more striking for how raw their presentation remains.

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records

 

Bushfire, When Darkness Comes

bushfire when darkness comes

When Darkness Comes is German heavy rocking five-piece Bushfire’s follow-up to late-2013’s Heal Thy Self (review here), and it retains the Darmstadt-based outfit’s penchant for quality riffcraft and a showcase for the vocals of frontman Bill Brown, which hit in bottom-of-the-mouth melodies and gruff shouts fitting to cuts like “The Conflict” and the swinging “Shelter.” Bushfire are no strangers to a semi-Southern element in their sound, and that remains true on When Darkness Comes from the opening title-track through the later “Another Man Down” and closer “Liberation.” Somewhat curiously, that closer is instrumental, and where the vocals play such a role in the overarching impression the record makes, it’s an interesting twist to have them absent from the final statement, leaving guitarists Marcus Bischoff and Miguel Pereira, bassist Vince and drummer Sascha to finish out on their own. If groove is the measure, they’re certainly up to the task, but then, that was never really in doubt.

Bushfire on Thee Facebooks

Bushfire on Bandcamp

 

Motherslug, The Electric Dunes of Titan

motherslug the electric dunes of titan

I’m sorry. I don’t see how you could dig anything calling itself “stoner” and not be down with what Motherslug are doing with their second long-player, The Electric Dunes of Titan. Plus-sized riffing all over the place, languid rollouts, excursions into psychedelic splendor (see “Followers of the Sun,” etc.), explosions into massive groove (see “Staring at the Sun”), a nod to High on Fire in “Tied to the Mast” and a Sleep-style march on closer “Cave of the Last God” that’s probably the best I’ve heard since the Creedsmen Arise demo in 2015. Really, if Motherslug doesn’t do it for you, nothing will. Five years after they initially released their self-titled EP (review here), which was later expanded into their debut album for NoSlip Records (review here), the Melbourne outfit charge back with what should be a litmus test for riff-heads. In all seriousness, from tone to structure to songwriting to production to the cover art, there’s just nothing here that doesn’t deliver the message. Should’ve been on my best of 2017 list.

Motherslug on Thee Facebooks

Motherslug on Bandcamp

 

Dove, Dove Discography

dove discography

In the wake of Floor’s disbanding, drummer Henry Wilson formed Dove. They were around for about five years, did some touring (one remembers picking up their self-titled in a Manhattan basement with $2 Rolling Rocks calling itself The Pyramid), and disbanded to a cult status not so different from that which Floor enjoyed prior to their own reunion, if to something of a lesser degree. As the title indicates, Dove Discography compiles “every listenable track” the band ever put out, including their self-titled, Wilson’s original demo for the project, compilation and 7” material. All told, it’s 20 tracks and just under an hour of documentation for who Dove were and the kind of punk metal they were about, never quite stoner, but heavy rock to be sure, and definitely of the Floridian ilk that produced both Floor and Cavity and a style Wilson has progressed with House of Lightning. Dove could be blazingly intense or they could plod out a huge riff, holding a deceptively wide purview that was only part of the reason they were so underrated at the time.

Dove on Bandcamp

House of Lightning on Thee Facebooks

 

Treedeon, Under the Manchineel

treedeon under the manchineel

To anyone who might complain that all sludge sounds the same, I humbly submit Treedeon, whose second album for Exile on Mainstream, Under the Manchineel, is a work both noise-laden and righteously avant garde. Perhaps even more ferocious than its 2015 predecessor, Lowest Level Reincarnation (review here), the seven-track/44-minute outing offers a touch of melody in “Breathing a Vein” and buried deep in the midsection of 16-minute closer “Wasicu,” and arguably in guitarist Arne Heesch’s delivery in opener “Cheetoh” as well, but he and bassist Yvonne Ducksworth mostly keep to harsh shouts as they create consuming washes of noise over the madcap drumwork of newcomer Andy Schuenemann, who punctuates every punch of Ducksworth’s gotta-hear-it bass tone on album centerpiece “No Hell” as Heesch goes lands the chorus with the line “No hell can hold me” as its standout line. Bringing a sense of themselves to an established style to a degree that’s rare, rarer, rarest, Treedeon are no less aggressively weird than they are aggressive, period.

Treedeon on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream website

 

Falun Gong, Figure 1

Falun Gong Figure 1

There are some post-Electric Wizard shades that emerge in the debut single from London’s Falun Gong by the time it reaches its feedback-soaked finale, but really, “Figure 1” is much more about digging into its own cultistry than that of the Obornian sort. Still, the overarching impression is somewhat familiar, and will be particularly to those who were fans of The Wounded Kings, but the duo who remain anonymous present themselves with a clearheaded intent toward maximum sonic murk, and with the lumbering misery they trod out in “Figure 1,” they seem to achieve what they’re going for. I don’t know who they are, but I’d guess this isn’t their first band, and as crowded as London’s heavy underground has become over the course of this decade, acts like Falun Gong are fewer and farther between than some others, and during these 10 minutes, they make a striking first impression. One hopes for “Figure 2” sooner rather than later.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Spider Kitten, Concise and Sinister

http://theobelisk.net/obelisk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/spider-kitten-concise-and-sinister.jpg

Intended as a thematic continuation to some degree of 2016’s Ark of Oktofelis, the four-song Concise and Sinister finds long-running multi-genre UK outfit Spider Kitten bookending two extended crushers around two shorter pieces, one of which is a cover of Hank Williams’ “Alone and Forsaken” (also memorably done by 16 Horsepower) and the other of which is a noise-punk assault that lasts 46 seconds and is called “I’m Feeling So Much Better.” Whether fast or slow, loud or quiet, the intention of Spider Kitten doesn’t seem even at its most abrasive to be to punish so much as to challenge, and whether it’s the cinematic elements dug into the march of opener and longest track (immediate points) “A Glorious Retreat” (11:33) or the harmonies that accompany especially-doomed 10-minute closer “Martyr’s Breath,” Spider Kitten and founder Chi Lameo demonstrate a creativity acknowledging that bounds exist and then simply refusing to accept them, making even the familiar seem unfamiliar in the process.

Spider Kitten on Thee Facebooks

Spider Kitten on Bandcamp

 

Greynbownes, Grey Rainbow from Bones

greynbownes grey rainbow from bones

Comprised of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Lukas, bassist Martin and drummer Jakub, Greynbownes hail from Moravia in the Czech Republic and the moniker-explaining Grey Rainbow from Bones is their self-issued debut full-length. It is comprised of nine tracks of inventive heavy rock, pulling elements from grunge and ‘90s-era stoner noise on cuts like “Across the Bones” while veering into fare more aggressive, or psychedelic or jammy in the trio of six-minute tracks “Seasons,” “Death of Autumn Leaves” and “B 612” that precedes the closing duo of the funky “Sitting at the Top” and the mellow-but-still-heavy finisher “Weight of Sky,” which feels far removed from the opening salvo of “Boat of Fools,” the fuzz-punker “Madness” and the fuckall-chug of “What is at Stake.” Yes, it’s all over the place, and one might expect Greynbownes’ sound to solidify over time, but to the trio’s credit, Grey Rainbow from Bones never flies apart in the way that it seems at multiple points it might, and that’s an encouraging sign.

Greynbownes on Thee Facebooks

Greynbownes on Bandcamp

 

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Seedy Jeezus to Tour Europe in July with Tony Reed on Bass; Polaris Oblique Due in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Looking like a busy summer ahead for Aussie heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus. Their second album, titled Polaris Oblique, is due out in June via Blown Music in Australia, Lay Bare Recordings in Europe and Ripple Music‘s distribution in the US — what? no Abraxas to cover South America? — and the following month, they’ll take off on a European tour for which they’ll be joined by none other than Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, taking on the bassist role in place of Paul Crick, who’s unable to make the trip.

Reed is as natural a fit for the position as anyone could possibly be. He’s recorded both of Seedy Jeezus‘ full-lengths, and he guests on the new album as well — so too does Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless, with whom Seedy Jeezus previously collaborated as Tranquonauts (review here) in 2016 — so Reed is about as close as anyone can get to the band without actually being a member, which I suppose he will be now, at least for a time.

The dates are still coming together for that run — if you want Seedy Jeezus to play by you, hit them up and make it happen — but there’s plenty of time between now and June/July, so keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, there’s a teaser video for Polaris Oblique that the band put up recently that gives a little sampling of some new music, and the sounds bode well. Either way, more to come.

Dig it:

seedy jeezus europe 2018

Tony Reed is playing bass on the tour for us as Paul can’t tour due to commitments. SO Tony who has recorded and produced both of our albums has offered to jump in and play bass for Paul on the tour. Tony Reed is like the 4th member of the band. We trust his instincts and ears when working with him, and he knows the music better than anyone outside the band…so his offer was an easy one to accept.

We are still looking to fill some dates on the tour, so if you have a hookup and wanna get Seedy Jeezus to your town, hit us up… we wanna gig, and share the love.

The teaser for the new Seedy Jeezus album ‘Polaris Oblique’. The album will be out in June, available via Lay Bare Recordings in Europe, and Ripple Distribution in the USA, as well as Blown Music here in Australia.!!

Video footage by Barry C Douglas.

Seedy Jeezus is:
Mark Sibson – Drums
Lex Waterreus – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Crick – Bass/Noises

http://www.seedyjeezus.com
https://www.facebook.com/seedyjeezuspage/
https://laybarerecordings.com/
Ripple Music website
Blown Music website

Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique album teaser

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Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

somnuri somnuri

To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

Somnuri on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

Daira on Thee Facebooks

Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

Kavrila on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

Ivan on Thee Facebooks

Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

clara-engel-songs-for-leona-carrington

Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

deadly-vipers-fueltronaut

Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

Deadly Vipers on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

storm-of-void-war-inside-you

Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

Storm of Void on Thee Facebooks

Hostess Entertainment website

 

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Seedy Jeezus Premiere “Communication Breakdown” Video; New 7″ Available Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

seedy jeezus photo barry c douglas

In what will reportedly be a series of seven-inch offerings, Melbourne heavy psych rock trio Seedy Jeezus today issue a new single featuring a cover of Led Zeppelin‘s ‘Communication Breakdown.’ Born out of a languid jam between guitarist/vocalist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Waterreus, bassist Paul Crick and drummer Mark Sibson, the new recording comes paired with “Bad Girl,” which was originally tracked for the band’s first record and never released. So basically it’s something brand new and something older and they’re both still new. Best of all worlds.

To mark the occasion — did I mention this was happening today? like, right now? okay, good — they’ve got a video together for the languid four-and-a-half-minute “Communication Breakdown” that pairs live shots of the band with manipulated footage from the 1967 Roger Corman movie The Trip, in seedy jeezus communication breakdown vinylwhich we see a drugged-out Peter Fonda running around basically looking for what in a clever twist turns out to be a Seedy Jeezus show. Very nice, gentlemen. I see what you did there. That’s a good bit of fun, but the highlight of course is the track itself, and as one awaits news of the next Seedy Jeezus long-player — which will hopefully arrive in 2018 amid however many 7″s the trio end up putting out — their take on the classic from Zeppelin‘s 1969 self-titled debut still manages to emphasize the personality of the Aussie outfit itself and how easily they make their way between straight-ahead aspects of heavy rock and trippier fare.

The numbers on the single are super-limited for those who’d chase down a physical version — the one with the obi strip, for example, is an edition of 50 — so if you’re hemming and hawing about picking one up, that would seem to be the wrong way to go. That’s not me trying to tell anybody how to live their life; I just don’t want to see you miss out if you don’t want to miss out. That’s all.

I’m thrilled to host the premiere of the “Communication Breakdown” video, which you can watch below, followed by more info on the 7″, how to get it, and of course the links to do so if you so choose.

Please enjoy:

Seedy Jeezus, “Communication Breakdown” official video

We are dropping a 7″ this Thursday. A cover of “Communication Breakdown.” The recording evolved from a spontaneous jam at Studio One B in Melbourne, and was recorded by Dave Warner. Lex went home and recorded some vocals on the jam and then it was handed to Tony Reed (Mos Generator) to mix and master at Heavyhead in Port Orchard. So we thought wed drop it to vinyl and threw “Bad Girl” (a track left from the debut album) on the other side. Tony engineered “Bad Girl” as well.

There will be only 50 Deluxe 7″ with an exclusive colour of vinyl, tarot style insert, Obi, insert poster and Stickers, and a Standard version of 7″ record, and insert.

Thursday midday these will be available for sale. Official Launch will be Friday Week at the B.East with Grasshole. So keep Dec. 22 free.

You can buy the 7″ and select the pick up at gig option to save postage.

Released on Blown Music in Australia and available from www.seedyjeezus.com until sold out.

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Six Dumb Questions with Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on October 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

hotel wrecking city traders

Since their inception over a decade ago, Melbourne’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders have consistently — which is not to say relentlessly — pushed themselves to grow as artists. They have also been consistently — which is not to say relentlessly — undervalued for the fruits of this effort. Since the first cacophonies of their 2008 full-length debut, Black Yolk, and through 2010’s Somer/Wantok (review here) single, their 2011 collaborative work with Yawning Man guitarist/desert rock figurehead Gary Arce (review here), 2012 splits with Sons of Alpha Centauri and WaterWays (review here) and Spider Goat Canyon and their more recent long-players, 2014’s Ikiryo (review here), 2016’s Phantamonium (review here) and the newly-issued Passage to Agartha (review here), brothers Ben and Toby Matthews have been on an outward sonic journey that has remained unafraid to take on psychedelic tenets even as it maintains the semi-mathy crunch of its roots.

To listen to Passage to Agartha in particular, it is striking just how far Ben (drums) and Toby (guitar) have come. Their sound on the Cardinal Fuzz/Evil Hoodoo and Bro Fidelity 90-minute offering is more expansive than it’s ever been — so much so, in fact, that they recently recruited Spider Goat Canyon‘s Josh Beagley to play bass, making them a trio for the first time — and whether that’s manifest in the 20-minute, drone-backed bonus exploration “Oroshi” or in the crunch-meets-post-rock of “Quasar” and the massive rolling low end of “Kanged Cortex” at the outset, the instrumentalists continue to revel in their adventure in a way that few bands can make sound so genuine. Passage to Agartha, no less huge in concept than runtime, was recorded in mere days and largely improvised, only further emphasizing the musical language the brothers have built between them over time and how fluid their execution has become across their years.

As advice goes, it seems counterintuitive, but if you’re unfamiliar with Hotel Wrecking City Traders, start with Passage to Agartha and work your way back. I know an hour-and-a-half-long record is a lot to dig into at an inexperienced outset, but I think by the time the siren wails backing the flow of the title-track roll around, Passage to Agartha tells a lot of the story of how Hotel Wrecking City Traders have become the band they are — or the band they were when they tracked this material, anyway; again, they’re a trio now and one looks forward to how their dynamic might shift as a result — and with the surrounding push in “Chasing the Tendrils” and the dream-coated-in-noise wash of “Ohms of the Cavern Current,” the richness that Toby and Ben are able to convey has never come through with such exciting and entrancing resonance.

Ben was kind enough recently to take on discussing his relationship with his brother, the processes by which Passage to Agartha came about, bringing in Beagley and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Hotel-Wrecking-City-Traders-Passage-to-Agartha

Six Dumb Questions with Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Tell me about putting together Passage to Agartha. How did these massive tracks take shape, and was there anything specific you were trying to bring to the material coming off of Phantamonium? How much of your writing is born of improvisation and jamming?

We had no pre-written ideas prior to day one. It was all improvised over the two days we were in the studio, with two days of overdubs for the bass and synth parts. A fairly typical approach for us, really, though this time the added instrumentation took a little longer. We didn’t really have Phantamonium in mind when we did this one we kind of left the way Toby approached the main guitar parts open for additional parts. We always record live together and rarely do overdubs but this time we felt we wanted to try to broaden the scope of sounds and tried to create a more full and layered tapestry of sounds. Playing synth was a first for us on a record and I just did one pass over each track and what you hear is what you get.

What was your time in the studio like? Was it enough? How much were the songs fleshed out in the studio? Was there something particular you wanted out of the sound of the album this time around?

We had a lot of fun this time around. The engineer who also owns the studio, Max [Ducker] and his two dogs were there for the recording. The size of the room we recorded in was smaller than places we have gone in the past but Max really knows his gear and we trusted that he would be able to capture what we were after. He has mixed the band as a live engineer many times and is a good friend of the band so in terms of a working relationship it was super-relaxed and he brought some nice gear for us to use and has a golden working knowledge of his studio and its capabilities so we felt very relaxed the whole time.

The songs were 100 percent improvised over the two days so we just rolled with it and allowed the songs to dictate how we would approach the next one. For example, amp settings, pedals, tempo and those sorts of things but we have always been a very cerebral pair, Tobz and I, and we just got into a certain headspace and let the songs evolve completely naturally and of their own will.

We try to make each record we do different and I think this one kind of has elements of old approaches and also newer ideas as well as a real mixture of melody and sheer volume and velocity. It’s a double album, which was not our intention going in but once we were done and we had the labels in place to release it we knew it had to be a double as the songs were so long that we could really only fit one per side of vinyl.

Where does the space theme come from and how does it tie into the material for you? Is there a narrative taking place in the tracks? If so, what’s the story being told?

It’s certainly an expansive record in its length and also the sonic elements from one track to the next so it was the final version of the record that lent itself to a space themed sort of idea. The passage to Agartha being the mythical city in the centre of the Earth’s core. We’re nerds and love sci-fi and horror and it seemed like the right fit. Whilst there is no specific story, the songs definitely go from a faster, more melodic place and end up in a slower and more molten space by the end of the record.

“Oroshi” cuts off suddenly past the 22-minute mark. Was that actually the end of the piece? You’ve done longform jamming before, of course. Does a song like that just happen, or do you go into it with the intention of doing something more extended?

Yeah that was a single live take over a loop that Tobz made and we just went for it. I used mallets to play that track but we did not EQ the drum mics any differently. It has a sort of Steve Shelley/Sonic Youth vibe to the drums and we were limited only by the 22 minutes of guitar loop! Haha! So yeah, we had a timer counting down as we were against the clock. Lots of nods for that one. We deliberately made that one far looser and more soundscape based than the others and I believe it was recorded midway through the recording late on day one.

You’re past a decade now working as Hotel Wrecking City Traders. How do you feel about how the band has grown in that time, and how has your relationship changed as brothers and as bandmates? How much of the communication between you at this point is unspoken on a musical level, and how clear a picture do you have in your head of what each other wants to do with the band?

Tobz and I are super good friends and playing together for this long has cemented that. We’re probably more tolerant of each other from doing tours in Japan, Europe and New Zealand together on a budget.  Continuing to want to create together and do this has always been important to us. Most of our communication is unspoken to be honest. Musically we say very little to each other verbally and communicate via the music as it seems to be more pure that way and less preconceived. It seems to work quite well.

We recently added a bass player to the band and played our first show as a trio last month. His name is Josh [Beagley] and is from the band Spider Goat Canyon. We’ve been friends for a decade and played tons of shows together. We realized we wanted to play these songs off Passage to Agartha and knew we needed that extra component. We’ve been getting together every week and jamming and reworking this set of new songs so our sets can be half those and half improvised and expansive.

We were very happy to have this new album come out as a co-release between Cardinal Fuzz and Evil Hoodoo (who we worked with previously on Phantamonium). We sell way more records in Europe than we do in our own country and it made sense to do it that way. In terms of a clear picture of what we wish to continue doing – more records, more Aussie shows and definitely getting back to Europe next year is high on our list. We are also looking at NZ shows and Japan shows as well as it’s been four years since we were last there and we’d absolutely love to go back and hit up some new cities and towns.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Just a thanks to your good self for covering this release and all the support you have shown us over the years. We truly appreciate it. Other than that, please check out the record and shoot us a message if you would like to help us organize anything in Europe or anywhere for that matter. We always enjoy being able to travel as a result of the music we create and see new places.

Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Passage to Agartha (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

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MIG Music website

 

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

Lucifer-in-the-Sky-with-Diamonds-Silent-Echo

The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

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Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

thera-roya-masterful-universe

Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

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Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

Ojos-Rojos-Sons-of-Love-and-Death

It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

ett-rop-pa-hjalp-sans-och-balans

Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

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BongCauldron, Binge

bongcauldron-binge

Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

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Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

nomadic-rituals-marking-the-day

Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

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Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

mental-tremors-mental-tremors

A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

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Gin Lady, Electric Earth

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Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

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Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

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Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

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Swanmay on Bandcamp

 

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