Six Dumb Questions with The Quill (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on August 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the quill

Time flies, and often in more than a single direction. 11 years ago, Swedish heavy rockers The Quill released In Triumph, what was then the victory lap around four prior successful classic-fueled blasts of rock and roll. The long-players Hooray! It’s a Deathtrip (2003), Voodoo Caravan (2002), Silver Haze (1999) and The Quill (1995) had established them as a powerhouse outfit in a crowded Swedish scene, with the megalungs of frontman Magnus Ekwall at the forefront over guitarist Christian Carlsson‘s riffing, given thrust and groove by bassist Roger Nilsson (who left in 2005) and drummer Jolle Atlagic to land in a place that was no less Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath than it was contemporary to countrymen outfits like Mustasch, Dozer or The Awesome Machine.

It would be another five years before The Quill followed-up In Triumph with 2011’s Full Circle (discussed here), and when they did it would be without either Ekwall or Nilsson in the band. Carlsson and Atlagic‘s songwriting was intact, but the energy of the group was different, and even as they came “full circle,” they were on uncharted ground. The then-topical Tiger Blood followed in 2013 with Nilsson back in the group alongside vocalist Magz Arnar making his second appearance, and now The Quill return to thethe quill born from fire Silver Haze-era lineup with Born from Fire — a completely over-the-top, righteously unmanageable 66 minutes that’s just as much at home in the Motörheaddy thrust of “Snake Charmer Woman” as in the Sabbathian roll of “Keep it Together” and “Unchain Yourself,” the stomping “Skull and Bones” or tripped-out psych passages like “Set Free Black Crow” or the harmonized apex of “Hollow of Your Hand.”

It’s too bad they already called a record Full Circle, because otherwise, Born from Fire would certainly be a candidate for the title. It’s 12-track stretch finds The Quill rejuvenated and in top form of craft and performance. For not having appeared on a Quill album in more than a decade, Ekwall hasn’t missed a beat in reassuming his former role, and with over 30 years of experience behind them since their first demo, the band delivers crisp, professional-grade heavy rock. For not one minute of the hour-plus release are they anymore lost than they want to be, and whether it’s the nestled-in chug of “Ghosthorse,” the bass-heavy ultra-fuzz of “The Spirit and the Spark,” the swaggering hook of opener “Stone Believer” or the atmospheric epilogue in closer “Metamorphosis,” that command of their approach remains absolute. Whether a given listener is familiar with past offerings or not, Born from Fire lands with a sense of purpose and personality that only straightforward heavy rock at its most done-right could possibly muster. It is a blueprint not just for the best-case-scenario of reuniting with former members, but for the renewal of spirit that reunion can bring about at its most successful.

In the interview below, Ekwall talks about coming back to The Quill after his prolonged absence, how the writing and recording of Born from Fire came together, the band’s intent toward capturing the vibe of their earlier work and much more.

Born from Fire is out Aug. 25 on Metalville Records. Please enjoy the premiere of “The Spirit and the Spark” and the following Six Dumb Questions:

The Quill, “The Spirit and the Spark” (track premiere)

Six Dumb Questions with The Quill

Tell me about coming back to The Quill after so long away. It’s been more than a decade since In Triumph was released. How did rejoining come about? How does it feel to work with the band again? 

Actually, I am really surprised how easy it was to come back. Very natural, no hard feelings. This was not a planned reunion. It just happened. The guys asked me to join them for a local gig playing a bunch of old KISS songs, and when we rehearsed for this, we tried out a few old Quill tunes, of course. Someone had a new riff and suddenly the first new song was written. I believe it was “Set Free Black Crow.”

We just took up from where we ended when Roger left the band back in 2005 or something, no problem. You know, we are living in a small village and we have met several times over these 10 years I have been away from The Quill. Christian and I became friends like 40 years ago. So everything is great and the most important thing is we made an album that we really love otherwise this would never have happened.

What was your time like in the studio? Tell me about arranging vocals for the songs and putting together lyrics for these tracks. How was it stepping back into doing that again? Did you have any specific goals in mind for what you wanted to do vocally or what you wanted to bring to the material this time around?

The album is recorded in two different sessions in a studio close to where we live. I personally like to record fast, a lot of the vocals are first takes, just the way I like it, to keep the feeling right. Lyric-wise, I decided early on to write about stuff that has happened in my life, like an Ekwall biography, to make it easier for me to sink my teeth into writing. They became rather dark in the end. You find a few songs about death and people close to me that have died, in cancer and so on. Some songs, for example “Hollow of Your Hand,” are about my own anxiety and fear of life itself. There is also a few simple rock ´n´ roll lyrics like “Snake Charmer Woman” and “Electrical Son.” During these years away from the band I have written and recorded loads of stuff with both other people and by myself so I never been out of the process. Writing and recording is just a natural process for me.

We decided early on to try and get the same feeling we had when we wrote and recorded the Silver Haze album; just having a laugh, an easygoing atmosphere. Start from zero and just write without any plan. And it turned out very well, the 12 songs on the album are the 12 songs we first wrote, so there is no old leftover material from back in the days, just new, fresh songs. I personally think it sounds a bit like the old, innocent Quill back in the late ‘90s.

Did you find going into Born from Fire that the writing process changed at all from when you were last in The Quill? What was the timing on your coming back and the album being written? How did the tracks come together?

No, nothing has changed at all. As I said before, this was not at all planned from the start we just happened to write some songs we really liked and when you have done that you normally record them and that was just what we did. When the first session was over we decided to go for it!

Writing process is almost the same for every song. Chris or Jolle has a riff, I come up with the melodies and later the lyrics, we kind of do it together in our rehearsal studio. It almost never happens that somebody turns up with a whole song.

The album kind of spaces out after “Hollow of Your Hand,” gets more atmospheric toward the finish. What was the process like putting together the tracklisting and was there something particular you were looking for in terms of the overall flow?

We had a bit of a hard time deciding if Born from Fire should be a double or a single record. But in the end we used all of the recorded tracks and I personally think it was a good decision. Now you get the whole picture and the variety of our music. I like the spaced out songs, always did, I just love the way bands freaked out in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s. Looking back on the Quill catalogue I really dig songs like “Until Earth is Bitter Gone” and “Man Posed.”

You have to try and find some flow in the tracklisting but you also have to consider the length of the tracks but we are pleased and I really hope our old and new fans love it as much as we do.

Would you say that part of the intention of Born from Fire is to capture a vibe similar to records like Voodoo Caravan and Silver Haze? More of a classic heavy rock sound? Or was it not something the band really thought about during the writing and recording?

As I said before we tried to get back into the mood we had circa Silver Haze, no worries on what a future label would think about what we do or how to present ourselves, just an honest an breathtaking album from our hearts. The songs we wrote are the songs you hear on the album, nothing added, nothing taken away.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well, it is great to be able to be a part of The Quill once again, a band I spent so many years in, building up and created great albums with. I really wish from my heart that the honesty in Born from Fire really shines through.

The Quill on Thee Facebooks

The Quill on Twitter

The Quill website

Metalville Records on Thee Facebooks

Metalville Records on Twitter

Metalville Records website

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The Quill Announce Aug. 25 Release for Born from Fire

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

the quill

Swedish heavy rockers The Quill parted ways with vocalist Magnus Ekwall following the release of their 2006 album, In Triumph, via SPV/Steamhammer, and it would be a full half-decade before their next outing arrived. That record, 2011’s Full Circle (discussed here), was released by Metalville Records and something of a reboot for the band, and saw founding drummer Jolle Atlagic and guitarist Christian Carlsson bring in bassist Hot Señor Rob and vocalist Magz Arnar to round out the four-piece.

The results stayed true to the classic roots of The Quill in ’70s and ’90s-style heavy, and they followed up with the then-topically-named Tiger Blood in 2013. Four years later, they’ve newly announced that their eighth full-length is titled Born from Fire and will be out next month as their third LP via Metalville, and that it reunites Carlsson and Atlagic with Ekwall and bassist Roger Nilsson, the latter of whom had been out of the band since 2005 after appearing on their 1995 self-titled debut, 1999’s Silver Haze, 2002’s Voodoo Caravan and 2003’s Hooray! It’s a Deathtrip.

While it’s Ekwall who makes the most powerful impression — dude is the kind of lead singer who can absolutely carry an entire song on his own if he needs to — all it takes is one listen to any of those records to know that The Quill in that era had a special dynamic. I haven’t heard any of the new material yet, but will definitely be interested to hear how Ekwall and Nilsson reintegrate into the process for Born from Fire, and in the meantime, I’ve included a stream of Voodoo Caravan at the bottom of this post, because whether you’re revisiting it or you’ve never heard it before, you should hear it.

Release announcement follows, as posted by the band. They’ve got preorders up through Amazon now:

the-quill-born-from-fire

BORN FROM FIRE – THE QUILL IS BACK!

The classic line-up who created the albums Silver Haze, Voodoo Caravan and Hooray! It’s A Deathtrip has reunited. Lead singer Magnus Ekwall (Ayreon) is back behind the mic together with the dynamic power of drummer Jolle Atlagic (Hanoi Rocks, Electric Boys, Firebird), guitarist Christian Carlsson and bassist Roger Nilsson (Spiritual Beggars, Firebird).

The legendary line-up has secretly recorded a smashing new album titled “BORN FROM FIRE”. The new masterpiece will be released August 25 by Metalville – formats include digital, cd and double vinyl in gatefold sleeve. First single with accompanying video will be released August 11th.

https://www.facebook.com/thequillsweden/
http://twitter.com/thequillsweden
http://www.thequill.se/
https://www.facebook.com/Metalville/
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http://www.metalville.de/

The Quill, Voodoo Caravan (2001)

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Quarterly Review: Sourvein, Mantar, Elevators to the Grateful Sky, The Poisoned Glass, Spirit Collector, Phiasco, The Cosmic Dead, Postures, Estoner, The Black Explosion

Posted in Reviews on June 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-summer-2016-quarterly-review

Well here we are. Standing on the precipice of a week of 50 reviews, looking out together at the geographic and sonic expanses that will be covered. I never know entirely what a given Quarterly Review is going to bring. Some have been smooth, some not. This one is being put together very little pre-production in terms of chasing down band links and that sort of thing, so I expect it’s going to be an adventure one way or another. I’ll keep you updated as we go as to my mental state and the deterioration thereof.

If you don’t know the drill, The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review is a week every three months in which I review 10 albums per day, Monday through Friday. Some of it was released in the prior three months, some of it is brand new, some of it probably isn’t out yet, some of it is probably older. It’s all relevant one way or another. I hope you find something you enjoy.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sourvein, Aquatic Occult

Sourvein Aquatic Occult

Looking at the makeup of Sourvein’s much-awaited fourth album, Aquatic Occult (on Metal Blade), it’s understandable why it might’ve taken five years to put together. Yes, they had splits out in between, as they do, but the band’s last full-length was 2011’s Black Fangs (review here), and though the 14-song/42-minute Aquatic Occult is manageable, with a host of interludes to carry the listener along its thick-toned, undulating waves, a swath of guest appearances no doubt played havoc with logistics. Fortunately, Sourvein’s figurehead, vocalist T-Roy Medlin, seems to thrive on chaos. Working with producer Mike Dean (C.O.C.), and a revolving-door lineup that here features Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone, Medlin brazenly explores a more melodic dynamic than he ever has. It’s a rare band looking to experiment after 20 years, a rarer band still that pulls it off so well. There’s still some sludgy rasp and guest growling, but Sabbathian roll is the order of the day ultimately and Medlin’s homage to his home in Cape Fear, North Carolina, establishes a breadth unheard before from Sourvein that’s worthy of the years and obvious effort that went into its making.

Sourvein on Thee Facebooks

Sourvein at Metal Blade Records

 

Mantar, Ode to the Flame

Mantar Ode To The Flame

Hamburg duo Mantar’s blend of thrash, sludge and blackened doom is brash, righteously punkish and thus far uncompromised in its malevolent intent. On their second album and Nuclear Blast debut, Ode to the Flame, songs like “Era Borealis” swagger as much as they sneer, the middle-finger-up arrogance becoming part of the appeal. “The Hint” offers some tinge of melody and “I Omen” some organ-laced atmospherics, but Mantar, who debuted in 2015 with the also fire-minded Death by Burning (review here) on Svart, carry their extremity forward like the next logical step of the same impulses that High on Fire once brought forth. Their tempo shifts, from blazing squibblies to outright lumbering, are pulled off with due fuckall, and the shouts from guitarist/vocalist Hanno and drummer/vocalist Erinc are spit forth in a manner near-indecipherable but still have no trouble getting their point across. Mantar are positioning themselves to be the kick in the ass that the underground needs. The next few years (and albums) will see how that pans out, but for now they have two scorchers under their collective belt.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Mantar at Nuclear Blast

 

Elevators to the Grateful Sky, Cape Yawn

elevators to the grateful sky cape yawn

There is a stylistic restlessness to stretches of Elevators to the Grateful Sky’s second record, Cape Yawn (on HeviSike), that becomes the uniting factor between the adrenaline-amped opening with “Ground” and “Bullet Words” and the later dream-surf Yawning Man-meets-sax unfurling of the title-track. The Palermo, Italy, outfit have stated their intention as capturing a blend of ‘90s alternative and modern heavy. Fair enough, but hearing that play out on the penultimate “Mountain Ship” in a mix of weighted riffing and laid back vocals giving way to shouts, it seems that to me that next time out, Elevators to the Grateful Sky should probably just start saying they sound like themselves, because they do. Granted, they’re pulling elements from familiar sources – Soundgarden, Kyuss, etc. – but in giving them new context, the four-piece are defining their sound as moving fluidly between the various styles, and that’s to be commended. The more you put into listening, the more you’ll get out of it.

Elevators to the Grateful Sky on Thee Facebooks

HeviSike Records website

 

The Poisoned Glass, 10 Swords

the poisoned glass 10 swords-700

Representing a 50 percent reunion of Burning Witch, the droning contemplations and hellish atmospherics of The Poisoned GlassRitual Productions debut, 10 Swords, pique immediate interest. And bassist/percussionist/etc.-ist G. Stuart Dahlquist and vocalist/keyboardist Edgy 59 do not disappoint. With unspeakable patience, they execute six grueling and cinematic pieces that seem to find comfort in tortured expression and that feel claustrophobic even as they continue to expand outward and downward through “Plume Veil” and “Toil and Trouble” into the extended closing duo “Silent Vigil” – spoiler alert: not actually silent – and “Low Spirits,” which moves from minimalist stillness through far-back screams and into a wash of synth before its seven minutes are up, covering more ground in one track than some bands do in their entire career. Fair to say on the whole 10 Swords is an immersive listen, but the prevailing vibe is much less “diving in” than “being swallowed whole by some obscure medieval terror.” So, you know, watch out for that.

The Poisoned Glass on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions on Bandcamp

 

Spirit Collector, Owls to Athens

spirit collector owls to athens-700

Los Angeles newcomers Spirit Collector make their debut with the self-released, three-song Owls to Athens EP, clear in its intent and brimming with airy, post-rock-derived guitar atmospherics. A particularly telling moment arrives with the Terence McKenna sample in centerpiece “Reclaim Your Mind,” which speaks of casting off the culture of celebrity worship for a richer human experience, but it’s in the extended closer “Theosophy” (7:57) that Spirit Collector find their footing someplace between a doomed plod and thoughtful psychedelia, picking up a chugging momentum as they push through toward the almost blackened finish, having come a surprising distance since their eponymous opener set the tone for expanse. An encouraging first offering if somewhat familiar superficially as instrumental heavy post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, etc.), and there’s nothing in Owls to Athens to make one think Spirit Collector can’t move forward and develop the experimental drive they begin to show here.

Spirit Collector on Thee Facebooks

Spirit Collector on Bandcamp

 

Phiasco, Vieh

phiasco vieh

Vieh, the debut full-length from Colonge-based desert rocking foursome Phiasco, takes its name from the German word for “cattle.” The band owe some of their fuzz to Truckfighters and some of their psychedelic wash to Sungrazer, but the attitude in songs like “Ultimate Warrior” – comprised largely of riffs topped with an extended sample from the titular professional wrestler – and “Sunndown” is their own, as is the we’re-still-having-a-really-good-time-while-we-make-this-15-minute-song closer “Phisco” (sic), a highlight of the live-recorded full-length, which across its span is light on pretense and heavy on bounce. Cuts like “Old Town” and opener “Back to the Future” – hey, that’s a movie! – bring catchy hooks, and the uptempo “Erasing Rabbits with My Phaserlight” winds up as harmonized as goofed out, and thus is all the more engaging. There’s a certain amount of getting by on charm here, but Phiasco have a capable, varied songwriting process that’s given due fullness and clarity in these eight tracks.

Phiasco on Thee Facebooks

Phiasco on Bandcamp

 

The Cosmic Dead, Rainbowhead

the-cosmic-dead-rainbowhead

Man, who gives a shit about anything else when Glaswegian five-piece The Cosmic Dead are enacting their hypnotic swirl? Their latest instrumental invitation to watch existence melt is called Rainbowhead and it arrives through Paradigms Recordings (CD) and Blackest Rainbow Records (LP) with four tracks that serve as the band’s first full-length since 2014’s EasterFaust, though they’ve had splits in between to keep a prolific rate of offerings fitting for their explorational heavy psych/space rock. The bulk of Rainbowhead is engagingly upbeat as side A plays out across “Human Sausage,” “Skye Burial” and the 13-minute “Inner C,” and side B’s 18-minute title-track follows suit as The Cosmic Dead seem to have found a similar niche between progressive rock and psych to that which Mammatus proffered on their most recent outing. It suits The Cosmic Dead, and they keep an improv vibe prevalent as ever, grasping the subconscious with trip-on-it lysergic pulsations.

The Cosmic Dead on Thee Facebooks

Paradigms Recordings website

Blackest Rainbow Records website

 

Postures, Halucinda

postures halucinda

Deeply textured and lush in its construction around guitar arrangements, percussive and keyboard-laden melodic flourish, Postures’ second full-length, Halucinda (on World in Sound), plays back and forth between prog and heavy rock impulses. The Gothenburg, Sweden, five-piece seem most at home in extended tracks like “Myriad Man,” “Every Room” and the jazzy 10-minute “Wavemaker,” but even the acoustic-led centerpiece interlude “A Million Sequences” invites the audience to turn up the volume for maximum wash effect. Paulina Nyström delivers a powerful, commanding and fluid vocal performance, and while the rhythm section of bassist Per Pettersson and drummer Isak Björhag are the foundation on which these complex structures play out – Viktor Andersson and Benjamin Watts handle guitar; Madeleine Sjögren is credited with backing vocals/keys and Margit Gyllspång percussion/backing vocals – there’s no angle from which Postures don’t come across rich and vital in their winding but well-plotted course, one song feeding fluidly to the next until the dreamy “In the Dark” rounds out with the emotional apex of the record.

Postures on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound Records

 

Estoner, Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis

estoner lennud saatana dimensioonis

What else to call a stoner band from Estonia? Estoner’s appeal, however, goes well beyond their moniker. The Tallinn-based outfit’s second album, Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis, arrives in a handmade hexagonal CD package, heat sealed, as well as with complete visual accompaniment on limited VHS and cassette via Golem Records. The music is no less relentlessly creative, running a gamut between prog, black metal, heavy rock, psychedelia, space rock and probably a few others in its seven-track course. A song like “Teleporteerumine” conjures darkened swirl and “Reptiloid” follows through with foreboding threat, but Estoner plunge even deeper as they go, proferring aesthetic reach that makes seemingly disparate elements work together fluidly on “Hüvasti, Kosmiline Monoliit” and the 10-minute closing title-track. Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis is to call it Svart-worthy, as its diverse means of engulfing the listener speak to a forward-thinking approach that one can only hope Estoner continue to develop.

Estoner on Thee Facebooks

Estoner on Bandcamp

 

The Black Explosion, Atomic Zod War

Unbenannt-1

Extra points to Swedish troupe The Black Explosion for opening their third album, the space-fuzzed out Atomic Zod War (on Metalville Records), with its longest track, the 13-minute “Paralyzed.” That song offers a languid voyage through uncharted jammy reaches, and that sets an open, laid back expectation that the rest of the album seems only too glad to build on, from the Nebula-via-Monster Magnet blown out vibes of “Ain’t Coming Home” to the semi-garage buzz of “Going Down,” a highlight groove that emphasizes the natural, raw tones at play leading into “Get My Mind Together” and the finisher “Devil Inside,” which brings the guitar of Chris Winter (also Dollhouse) forward with backing from bassist Simon Haraldsson and drummer Andreas Lindquist that feels born of the new West Coast tradition but is likely playing off of older impulses. But for its hey-look-it’s-tits cover art, the grit Atomic Zod War offers comes through organically and draws the listener in with its live feel and underlying boogie.

The Black Explosion on Thee Facebooks

Metalville Records

 

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The Black Explosion Release Atomic Zod War June 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Swedish trio The Black Explosion run the line somewhere between blues rock and spaced-out psychedelia, and that territory suits them pretty well from what I’ve thus far heard. Their third outing, Atomic Zod War, is set for issue on June 24 via Metalville Records, and finds them hitting the half-decade mark in their freakout-prone approach, the band having been founded in 2011 by guitarist/vocalist Chris Winter, formerly and seemingly once again of heavy rockers Dollhouse.

The PR wire brings album details:

the black explosion

SPACE ROCKERS THE BLACK EXPLOSION SET TO RELEASE ATOMIC ZOD WAR JUNE 24

In their five years of existence, universal Space Rock act THE BLACK EXPLOSION has become an institution of Scandinavian rock.

Featuring Chris Winter (guitar and vocals), Addman Lindqvist (drums), and Simon Haraldsson (bass), THE BLACK EXPLOSION’s third release entitled Atomic Zod War is scheduled for release in North America via Metalville Records June 24.

Atomic Zod War is a freakin’ free spaced out to the top album with a twist of dark infinity. The music of this piece was arranged and recorded while the band was stranded on planet earth for a short time during a universal tour. Instead of wasting time waiting for their ship to get repaired they decided to enter SGV studios. The result is an album full of very retro space rock soundscapes.

Atomic Zod War is the best matured recording of the band’s career and also again an outstanding tribute to heroes like Hawkwind and MC5.

Since its foundation by ex-Dollhouse mastermind Chris Winter in 2011, THE BLACK EXPLOSION has remained true to their dark Space Rock ideals. It’s all there: sci-fi, space, doom, stoner, acid and psychedelic, and together with their high energetic live performances it all gets complete.

Official Atomic Zod War Tracklist
1. Paralyzed
2. Ain’t Coming Home
3. World Is Dead
4. Location 9
5. Going Down
6. Get My Mind Together
7. Devil Inside

http://www.facebook.com/theblackexplosion
https://theblackexplosion.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Metalville

The Black Explosion, “The Sun-Eater”

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Quarterly Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Iguana, Seamount, Gentlemans Pistols, Wired Mind, Automaton, Sideburn, Year of the Cobra, Drive by Wire, Akris

Posted in Reviews on January 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

And so it begins again. It had been my original intention to launch this latest Quarterly Review last week, but as that would’ve had me basically walking out on the holidays with my family, it seemed somehow prickish to be like, “Uh, sorry dudes, riffs call” and split, particularly when there are hours of driving involved. Still, though it’s already running late by the arbitrary calendar in my mind, I’m glad to be able to tackle a batch of releases that both looks back on the last part of 2015 and to the New Year we’ve just entered. As ever, there is a lot, a lot, a lot of ground to cover, so I won’t delay except to remind of what the Quarterly Review actually is:

Between now and this Friday, I will post 10 reviews a day in a single batch grouped like this one. The order is pretty much random, though something higher profile is usually first. It is my intention that each post covers a range of styles, and hopefully within that, you’re able to find something that speaks to you. Many of these releases were sent to me as physical product, and before I start, I want to extend thanks to those groups for undertaking the time and expense of giving me the full representation of their work to hopefully better do mine.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Jess and the Ancient Ones, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes

jess and the ancient ones the second psychedelic coming

Finnish six-piece Jess and the Ancient Ones pay homage to psych cultistry on their sophomore full-length, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes (on Svart), and while one might argue with the band marking this out as the “second coming” of psych – I’d say the third, generationally-speaking – the paean to late-‘60s sonic spaciousness in “In Levitating Secret Dreams” is unmistakable, the songwriting of guitarist Thomas Corpse conjuring fervent swirl behind the soulful Grace Slick-isms of vocalist Jess. At 65 minutes, it’s a classic double-LP, but Second Psychedelic Coming seems most engaged in its longer pieces, the eight-minute “Crossroad Lightning,” which pulls back from the urgency of earlier cuts “”The Flying Man” or the opening “Samhain,” and the 22-minute closer “Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever,” which has an arrangement to match its scope that unfolds no less gracefully. Some of the more frenetic parts seem to be arguing with themselves, but the overarching vibe remains satisfyingly tripped out and that closer is their to-date masterpiece.

Jess and the Ancient Ones on Thee Facebooks

Jess and the Ancient Ones at Svart Records

Iguana, Cult of Helios

iguana cult of helios

No big surprise that a record called Cult of Helios would seem to so unabashedly bask in sunshine. The four-track/32-minute sophomore full-length from German heavy psych four-piece Iguana has its driving moments, some in opener “Josiah” but more in the subsequent melodic thriller “Albedo,” but the prevailing sensibility is toward tonal warmth and steady groove. The band – vocalist/guitarist Alexander Lörinczy, guitarist Thomas May, bassist Alexander May and drummer Robert Meier – debuted in 2012 with Get the City Love You (review here), but Cult of Helios is a more cohesive, individualized release, whether it’s the hook of “Albedo,” the Beatles-gone-fuzz of “A Deadlock Situation” or the lush, flowing 15-minute jam of the closing title-track. Iguana’s propensity for blending underlying structure with a wide-open, welcoming atmosphere is writ large over Cult of Helios, and the album shines in a manner befitting its inspiration. A sleeper that begs waking.

Iguana on Thee Facebooks

Iguana website

Seamount, V: Nitro Jesus

seamount v nitro jesus

Most long-distance projects fizzle out after a record or two. With a lineup split between Bavaria and Connecticut, doom rockers Seamount have managed to sustain a remote collaboration, the German band of bassist Markus Ströhlein, guitarist Tim Schmidt and drummer Jens Hofmann working with New England-based vocalist Phil Swanson (ex-Earthlord, ex-Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, etc.). The excellently-titled Nitro Jesus (on The Church Within) is their fifth full-length since 2007, and boasts a refined blend of doom, NWOBHM and dark thematics common to Swanson’s lyrics. Tonally crisp but immersive, slow crawlers like “Can’t Escape the Pain” are offset by the ‘80s metal swing of “Beautiful Sadness,” and each side caps with a longer track, whether that’s the seven-minute “Scars of the Emotional Stuntman,” the most singularly sweeping movement here, or the closer “No One Knows,” which has a moodier feel, the guitar recalling Don Henley accompanied by piano as the finale hits its apex. For those who like their metal of tried and true spirit and individual presentation, Nitro Jesus delivers in more than just its name.

Seamount on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Gentlemans Pistols, Hustler’s Row

gentlemans pistols hustler's row

Every now and then you hear a record that reminds you what you love about rock and roll in the first place. It doesn’t need to be the most complicated thing in the world, or the most expressive, or the heaviest or the most whatever of anything else, but like Gentlemans Pistols’ third LP, Hustler’s Row (on Nuclear Blast), if it locks in a special chemistry between its players, that’s more than enough to carry it through. That the UK four-piece are ace songwriters and bolstered by the lead guitar chops of Bill Steer (Firebird, Carcass) for the Thin Lizzy dual-solos – vocalist/guitarist James Atkinson on the other end – helps plenty as well, but with the tight, classic-style grooves brought to across Hustler’s Row by bassist Robert Threapleton and drummer Stuart Dobbins, Gentlemans Pistols give essential heavy rock a non-retro modern interpretation that might leave one wondering why so many people try to ape a ‘70s production to start with.

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Gentlemans Pistols at Nuclear Blast

Wired Mind, Mindstate: Dreamscape

wired mind mindstate dreamscape

Each side of Wired Mind’s Mindstate: Dreamscape LP (on HeviSike Records) gracefully unfolds a lushly-toned, warm, engaging heavy psychedelic sprawl. The chief influence for the Hannover two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mikey and drummer Chris is their countrymen godfathers Colour Haze, but the duo make their presence felt early on “Road,” the opener and longest-track at 11:01, which balances serene and spaced exploration with post-Kyuss “Thumb” shuffle, all the more enticing for having been recorded live, conjuring Echoplex spaciousness around the repeated line, “All we gotta do is love.” Both sides work on the same structure of a longer track feeding into a shorter one, “Road”’s considerable amassed thickness giving way to the winding groove of “Jennifer’s Dream of a Switchblade” while the Duna Jam-ready vibes permeating from “Wired Dream” finding a moving complement in closer “Woman,” which effectively captures desert rock rhythmic propulsion. As their debut, Mindstate: Dreamscape feels conceptually and stylistically cohesive, and sets Wired Mind up with a sonic breadth on which to continue to build.

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Wired Mind at HeviSike Records

Automaton, Echoes of Mount Ida

automaton echoes of mount ida

Greek heavy rollers Automaton revisit their 2013 debut full-length, Echoes of Mount Ida, for a limited vinyl release. The four-track offering initially surfaced coated in burl and massive riffing, but a remix adds psychedelic edge to the lumbering fervor of “Fear,” on which the Athenian five-piece are joined by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective for added synth and swirl. He delivers, and the opener also adds guest vocals from Nancy Simeonidou, but the remix keeps things consistent as Automaton transition into the chugging “Beast of War,” a complex near-djent rhythm (which will find complement in the end of “Echoes of Mount Ida” itself) smoothly met by drummer Lykourgos to finish side A of the LP while the locked-in nod of “Breathe in Stone” bleeds into the closing title-track as Automaton offer riffy largesse set in a spacious backdrop like mountains in the distance. Interesting to see if the semi-reboot of their debut is indicative of some overall shift in direction, but at least on the vinyl offering, it makes their sound that much broader.

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Sound Effect Records

Sideburn, Evil or Divine

sideburn evil or divine

Between Martin Karlsson’s keys (also bass) and vocalist Dimitri Keiski’s propensity to soar, the mood turns epic pretty quick on Sideburn’s fifth album, Evil or Divine (on Metalville Records). The Swedish foursome’s latest shares more than just its titular reference in common with Dio — who, in addition to the lyric from “The Last in Line” had a live record with the same title – but keep a foot in doom territory throughout, drummer Fredrik Haake playing with metallic precision and an edge of swing as Morgan Zocek pulls out leads over “Sea of Sins.” The later “The Day the Sun Died” is particularly post-Ozzy Iommic, but Evil or Divine benefits from the kick in the ass that the penultimate “Evil Ways” seems only too happy to provide before “Presence” finishes on a hopeful note. Definitely more fist-pump than nod, Evil or Divine cries out to legions of the brave who want a thicker groove than modern metal is willing to provide without giving up the occasional cause to headbang.

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Metalville Records

Year of the Cobra, The Black Sun

year of the cobra the black sun

Seattle-based bass/drum duo Year of the Cobra had two labels pick up their debut EP, The Black Sun, between Devil’s Child Records and DHU Records, and they’ve signed to STB Records for the follow-up, so it seems safe to say their three-track outing has gotten a solid response. The songs make a compelling argument for why. With vocals that recall Soph Day from Alunah on opener “White Wizard” before delving into faster, more punkish fare on “The Black Sun” itself, Year of the Cobra serve immediate notice of a breadth in their sound, and the seven-minute wah-bass finale “Wasteland” enacts a low-end swirl that pushes even further out while keeping hold of itself via steady, tense drumming. That finisher is a particular high point, with bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith self-harmonizing in layers over the steady build and drummer Johanes Barrysmith making sure the considerable tone keeps moving forward. Easy to hear why they’ve found such support in such a short time.

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Dark Hedonistic Union Records

Devil’s Child Records

STB Records

Drive by Wire, The Whole Shebang

drive by wire the whole shebang

The third long-player from Dutch four-maybe-five-piece Drive by Wire, The Whole Shebang gets more complex as it goes. Its first couple tracks, “Kerosine Dreams” [sic], “Woodlands,” “The Whole Shebang” and “Five Ft. High” are deeply indebted to desert rock circa Songs for the Deaf, tonally and even in some of Simone Holsbeek’s sing/talk call and responses on “Woodlands.” From there, “Rituals,” “In This Moment” and the moody “River Run” and “Promised the Night” push into more individual ground, and even though they tie it back together in the album’s third and final movement with “Rotor Motor,” “All Around” and “Voodoo You Do,” the context has changed, and by the time guitarist Alwin Wubben swells lead lines behind the verse of the closer, the fuzz of “Kerosine Dreams” is a distant memory. Completed by bassist Marcel Zerb and drummer Jerome Miedendorp de Bie, Drive by Wire wind up on a considerable journey, and while the title at first seems off-the-cuff, it works out to be a whole shebang indeed.

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Drive by Wire webstore

Akris, Fall EP

akris fall ep

Relaunched as a trio in the first half of 2015, Virginia trio Akris made a studio return with the four-song/32-minute Fall EP, which probably should’ve been called a full-length and probably should’ve been pressed to vinyl (paging Tony Reed to master and STB Records to release…), but the digital-only offering finds Akris and particularly founding bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg anything but apprehensive as she, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (Nagato, Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (Admiral Browning) follow-up the band’s raucous sans-guitar 2013 self-titled full-length debut (review here), balancing plodding grooves, melody and abrasion deftly atop rumble and riffs in “Forgiven” as Goldberg swaps between screams and grunge-styled croons. The subsequent “People in the Sky” is less patient, and caps its nine-minute run with a barrage of noise rock synth that continues at the start of closer “Alley Doorway” but ultimately recedes (momentarily) to let that song establish its own course of loud/quiet tradeoffs and resonant exploration. Unless Akris are planning a series of seasonal short releases, I see no reason why Fall EP shouldn’t be characterized as a second long-player and heralded for the bold expansion of the band’s approach it represents.

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Akris on Bandcamp

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Avatarium to Release The Girl with the Raven Mask on Oct. 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Swedish outfit Avatarium, who feature in their ranks none other than Candlemass bassist and songwriter Leif Edling, are set to release their second album later this month. Dubbed The Girl with the Raven Mask, it will follow-up their 2013 self-titled debut, and will see release in Europe on Nuclear Blast Oct. 23 and in North America in cooperation with Metalville Records on Oct. 30.

Art, tracklisting and release info follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

avatarium the girl with the raven mask

SWEDISH DOOM METALLERS AVATARIUM SET TO RELEASE NEW ALBUM THIS FALL

THE GIRL WITH THE RAVEN MASK OUT OCTOBER 30TH

Founded in 2012 by bassist Leif Edling (ex-CANDLEMASS) and guitarist Marcus Jidell (EVERGREY), Swedish-based doom act AVATARIUM, are set to release their magnum opus The Girl With The Raven Mask in North America on October 30th as part of a joint licensing venture between Nuclear Blast Records and Metalville Records.

Recorded and mixed in the Ghostward Studio in Gröndal, Stockholm with engineer David Castillo (BLOODBATH, OPETH, KATATONIA) at the helm, The Girl With The Raven Mask follows the group’s first EP Moonhorse (2013), a highly acclaimed self-titled debut that same year, and a second EP All I Want (2014).

“The quest for the perfect studio wasn’t that easy,” states Jidell, who also produced the record. “To get the right feel, drums, guitar, bass and some keys were recorded live. It was extremely important to find the right studio and the right equipment to make the album sound like we wanted.”

AVATARIUM, which also features Jennie-Ann Smith (vocals), Lars Sköld (drums), and Carl Westholm (keyboards), once again had the pleasure to work with Michael Blair (TOM WAITS, LOU REED) who emerged as guest percussionist. “He did his usual magic and helped us to catch a little of that cool old school vibe we were looking for,” Jidell confirms.

The Girl With The Raven Mask is not only the name of the album but also the opening track. It is the shortest song on the record at just over four minutes. Jidell explains, “It is an up-tempo hard rock/doom number with a very strong lyric made by Leif about a little girl with a big raven head mask. The song asks questions like: Who is she and what did she experience? What is it that she doesn’t want us to see?”

The band’s musical aim on the forthcoming album was to continue the philosophy and atmosphere they had created on their on their self-titled album and the All I Want EP.

“We want to catch the vibe of our heroes, bands like MOUNTAIN, RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, CROSBY, STILLS & NASH and LED ZEPPELIN, to make organic sounding music but to combine that with the raw and heavy sound of today. The songs all have their own soul and touch, we really wanted to have a nice flow on the album and to make something different both musical and lyrical wise. We wanted to keep the energy in all the individual performances and at the same time allowed the songs to grow the way they needed,” Jidell closes.

This is evident in the lengths of the tracks. None of the songs (except the title track) are shorter than five minutes, taking listeners on an epic prog-rock journey.

The Girl With The Raven Mask track listing:
1. Girl With The Raven Mask
2. The January Sea
3. Pearls And Coffins
4. Hypnotized
5. Ghostlight
6. Run Killer Run
7. Iron Mule
8. The Master Thief

Pre-order THE GIRL WITH THE RAVEN MASK here: http://amzn.to/1LNokOO

www.AVATARIUMofficial.com
www.facebook.de/AVATARIUMofficial
www.twitter.com/_AVATARIUM
www.youtube.com/AVATARIUMofficial
www.facebook.com/Metalville

Avatarium, “The Girl with the Raven Mask” lyric video

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Sideburn to Release Evil or Divine on June 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

sideburn

Swedish heavy rockers Sideburn will issue their fifth album, Evil or Divine, June 9 in North America via Metalville Records. The new outing follows two full-lengths on Transubstans, one on Buzzville and their 1997 debut, which arrived via Beard of Stars, so they’ve been nothing if not well-endorsed throughout their career. Hard to imagine the new record’s title isn’t a Dio reference — as in, “We’ll know for the first time/If we’re evil or divine/We’re the last in line” — and if so, if that might speak to some inflection throughout of classic metal, but we’ll see when we get there.

The PR wire has it like this:

sideburn evil or divine

SWEDISH DOOM HARD ROCKERS SIDEBURN SET TO RELEASE NEW STUDIO ALBUM VIA METALVILLE RECORDS

EVIL OR DIVINE OUT IN NORTH AMERICA JUNE 9TH

Stockholm’s own SIDEBURN, featuring Dimitri Keiski (vocals, guitar), Morgan Zocek (guitar), Martin Karlsson (bass, organ), and Fredrik Haake (drums), will release their fifth full-length album titled Evil Or Devine in North America June 9 via Metalville Records.

Inspired by seminal acts such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Scorpions, and Rainbow, SIDEBURN has gained a solid reputation in the hard rock/doom genre by blending retro sounds with a modern approach.

Mixed/Produced by Jonas Edler with Morgan Zocek and SIDEBURN at B.A.S. Studio and mastered by Mats “Limpan” Lindfors (Meshuggah, Katatonia, Opeth) at Cutting Room studios in Stockholm, with a sound that as much is rooted in the past as it is heading for the future, fans can expect more of what they’ve come to know and enjoy from the band – heavy guitar attacks blended with intense solos backed by a steady rhythm section.

“We are happy signing with Metalville and with their belief and support we think we can take the band to the next level in our career,” says guitarist Morgan Zocek.

Evil Or Divine Tracklisting:
1. Masters and Slaves
2. Sea of Sins
3. When Darkness Calls
4. The Seer (Angel of Death)
5. The Day The Sun Died
6. Evil Ways
7. Presence

Originally formed back in 1997, the band signed to the Italian label Beard of Stars/Vinyl Magic in 2000 and soon after released their debut album Trying To Burn The Sun.

From there, the quartet would go on to release their second album The Newborn Sun in 2007, followed by Demon Dance in 2010, and 2012’s IV Monument – both via Transubstans Records.

www.facebook.com/sideburnswedenfanpage
www.metalville.de
www.facebook.com/Metalville

Sideburn, Mastering Evil or Divine

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Riotgod’s Driven Rise Due March 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

With drummer Bob Pantella and guitarist Garrett Sweeny having spent much of last year working in Monster Magnet on the album Last Patrol (review here) and subsequent touring, there hasn’t been much word of late out of the Riotgod (or, alternately, RiotGod) camp since the release of their sophomore album, Invisible Empire (review here), in 2012. They did tour in support of that record that year, even going so far as to play the legendary Wacken Open Air festival, but 2013 was comparatively inactive, with their only show being a Halloween appearance at The Stone Pony in their native New Jersey. Things look to be picking up in 2014 for the four-piece, however, as they’re set to issue their third long-player through Metalville Records.

Dubbed Driven Rise (or, alternately, Driven•Rise), the album is set to release on March 18 and will mark the band’s first studio outing without bassist Jim Baglino, who also parted ways with Monster Magnet last year, replacing him with Erik Boe, who came aboard in time for the band’s winter 2012 tour. The foursome’s classic heavy rocking approach is rounded out by the considerable pipes of vocalist Mark Sunshine, and if cuts like “Davos” and “Melisandre” are anything to go by, somebody in the band has been watching Game of Thrones.

The PR wire takes it from here with album art and track details:

RIOTGOD to Release Driven Rise March 18th on Metalville Records

Red Bank, New Jersey’s RIOTGOD (featuring Monster Magnet drummer Bob Pantella) are set to release their third album Driven Rise on March 18th in North America via Metalville Records. Today the artwork and track listing have been revealed.

Driven Rise Track Listing:
1. Driven Rise
2. They Don’t Know
3. Grenade and Pin
4. Sidewinder
5. Prime Moment
6. Positronic
7. Davos
8. Melisandre
9. You’re My Waste of Time
10. Beg For Power

RIOTGOD Lineup:
Bob Pantella – Drums
Garrett Sweeny – Guitar
Erik Boe – Bass
Sunshine – Vocals

For More Info Visit:
http://www.riotgod.com
https://www.facebook.com/riotgod999
http://www.metalville.de

Riotgod, Live at Wacken 2012

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