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.

Wucan on Thee Facebooks

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.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Bandcamp

 

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.

Thera Roya on Thee Facebooks

Thera Roya on Bandcamp

 

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.

Ojos Rojos on Thee Facebooks

Ojos Rojos on Bandcamp

 

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.

Ett Rop På Hjälp on Thee Facebooks

Sans och Balans on Spotify

 

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.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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.

Nomadic Rituals on Thee Facebooks

Nomadic Rituals on Bandcamp

 

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.

Mental Tremors on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Gin Lady, Electric Earth

gin-lady-electric-earth

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.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

swanmay-stoner-circus

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.

Swanmay on Thee Facebooks

Swanmay on Bandcamp

 

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Wucan to Release Reap the Storm Sept. 29; Cover and Tracks Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

wucan

Flute-laden Dresden four-piece Wucan have spent the last couple years kicking around various Desertfests — they did London and Berlin in 2017, Belgium in 2015, and were at Up in Smoke last year — in support of their 2015 debut album, Sow the Wind. On Sept. 29, they’ll follow that outing with the similarly-titled Reap the Storm through MIG Music, leaving one to wonder what the relationship between the two records is, beyond the simple fact of the one preceding the other. Just curious. Maybe they’re working on a theme of harvesting weather. I don’t know.

No audio yet, but art and tracks and word from the band themselves, who indeed have a slew of live dates booked for this Fall. I haven’t seen their name in festival updates as yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t wind up there over the next couple months. Still plenty of time, and when I hear whatever I hear, I’ll post. You know the drill.

Here’s what they had to say about Reap the Storm:

wucan reap the storm

Wucan – ‘Reap The Storm’ Double LP out Sep 29th 2017

Dear Dopetrotters,

After we have spent months in the studios developing, recording and mixing the new record, we are beyond stoked to finally tell you that our 80 minutes Double LP ‘Reap The Storm’ will be out on Sep 29th 2017 via MIG music. Yup, it’s a lot of music we have coming up for you!

Francis: “With this record we took what musically developed and just became apparent on our first LP ‘Sow The Wind’ to the next level. ‘Reap The Storm’ is not just a snapshot of our own personal and emotional state at this point, but the logical follow up to all our previous work.”

And damn, we are excited for you to hear the outcome! This time we’ll have two German songs, one of them being an acoustic ballad, one a politically/ socially critical piece and two songs longer than 15 minutes, that’ll take you on an adventurous trip through the fields of Psychedelic and Progressive Rock. Plus the Heavy Flute Rock tunes that shaped our style in the past.

Title List:

Side A
Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht
Ebb And Flute/ The Eternal Groove
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Side B
I’m Gonna Leave You
The Rat Catcher
Falkenlied

Side C
Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds

Side D
Cosmic Guilt

We truly hope you guys will enjoy the results of our and our team’s hard work! More details on pre-order etc. to come asap.

Yours truly,
Wucan

Produced and Recorded by Nene “Porco Dio” Baratto
Mixed by Charlie Paschen
Mastered by Andreas “Lupo” Lubich
Cover Art by Daniel Stolle
Layout and Inner Design by Burning Moon
Photo by Martin Becker

Wucan live:
Sep 07 Zeche Bochum, Germany
Sep 20 Reeperbahn Festival Hamburg, Germany
Sep 21 Mephisto, Faust Hannover, Germany
Sep 23 Scheune Kulturzentrum Dresden, Germany
Oct 05 Das Bach Vienna, Austria
Oct 14 Merleyn Nijmegen, Netherlands
Oct 19 Das Bett Frankfurt, Germany
Oct 28 Jovel Club Münster, Germany
Nov 02 Club, Backstage Munich, Germany

https://www.facebook.com/wucanmusic/
http://www.wucan-music.de
https://www.facebook.com/migmusic.de/
http://www.mig-music.de/
http://www.mig-music-shop.com/

Wucan, Sow the Wind (2015)

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Marius Tilly Premieres Video for “Revel Outer Space”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

marius tilly

Tomorrow night, July 27, German singer-songer-rocker Marius Tilly takes the stage at Zirkonium in Dortmund for an acoustic set. Taken in context with the work the three-piece of Tilly, bassist Benjamin Oppermann and drummer Max Wastl do on last year’s Nebula Rising album (released through MIG Music), that’s a pretty significant showcase of range, but that would seem to be a running theme in Tilly‘s work. Starting out more in a blues songwriter context, the Bochum native seems to have grown into more of a classically rock sphere, and throughout Nebula Rising, he and his rhythm section deliver varied and crisp material underscored by a tightness of craft and directional clarity. In other words, they know what they want to do and they do it.

No minor feat, even three records in. “Revel Outer Space,” for which you can see the video premiering below, is one of the harder rocking cuts on Nebula Rising, and where songs like “Animal Serenade” and “Colder Below” dig into even poppier alt-rocking terrain and “Danger” and “Solar Woman” emphasize upbeat, danceable vibes, “Revel Outer Space” finds something of a middle ground between those sides, with a latter-day Queens of the Stone Age unabashed play for catchiness and a hook that hits that mark nicely. Tilly, Oppermann and Wastl captured the bulk of the footage while on tour last year, though an early 2015 trip to Memphis, Tennessee — which seems appropriate enough environs for what they’re doing stylistically — features as well.

If you’re so inclined, the entirety of Nebula Rising is streaming on Tilly‘s Bandcamp page (linked below), as well as 2015’s preceding LP, Come Together, which was issued under the moniker of the Marius Tilly Band. In addition to the unplugged show tomorrow, Marius Tilly — presumably the full band, though Wastl seems to be out of the lineup and I’m not sure who, if anyone, has replaced him — will also appear next month at Moosenmättle Open Air in Wolfach and Snakepit Festival in Detmold, both in Germany.

Enjoy:

Marius Tilly, “Revel Outer Space” official video

Marius Tilly reinvented himself with his new album: ”Nebula Rising“ (M.i.G. Music/Indigo) presents the German singer and guitarist, who has been at home in the postmodern blues rock genre before, as a mature songwriter and performer in the area of conflict of alternative and rock. “I didn’t want the songs to be a base for staging me as a instrumentalist,“ explains the man from the Ruhr area, ”Instead the focus is on the songwriting.” his artistic reorientation ended with the consequence of deleting the annex ”Band“ out of the groups‘ name and releasing the “with a rhythm duo for 90 per cent live recorded” album under “Marius Tilly.”

His third CD since 2009 has been produced by the sound engineer Helge Preuß in the Horus-Sound- Studio in Hannover. The studio belonged to Frank Bornemann for a long time. The founder of the art rock band ELOY and discoverer and part-time producer of the cross over quartet GUANO APES (Hit: ”Lords Of he Boards“) not only is the publisher, but also Tilly’s mentor. His makeover appears in the form of twelve songs, which are mastered by Brian Lucey (the Arctic Monkeys, Ray LaMontague).

“This time the framing concept is the universe,” notes Tilly. the fan of Douglas Adams’ science fiction satire classic ”the Hitchhiker’s Guide through the Galaxy“ concretizes: ”the lyrics are a glance on our world from the outer space.” As to read in the eight-page booklet of the digipak.

Marius Tilly on Thee Facebooks

Marius Tilly on Instagram

Marius Tilly on Bandcamp

Marius Tilly website

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MIG Music on Instagram

MIG Music website

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Review & Video Premiere: Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on May 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

siena-root-a-dream-of-lasting-peace

[Click play above to see the premiere of Siena Root’s video for ‘No Filter.’ Their new album, A Dream of Lasting Peace, is out May 26 in Europe and June 23 in the US on MIG Music/MVD.]

Among those playing classic-style heavy rock, there are few who do it with the conviction of purpose or the soul of Sweden’s Siena Root, and that has remained true in the 13 years since their 2003 Nasoni-delivered debut, A New Day Dawning, despite some significant shifts in personnel and sound. Their fifth studio full-length, A Dream of Lasting Peace, finds the Stockholm five-piece indisputable as masters reveling in the form, even as new frontman Samuel Björö makes his studio debut with the band following the departure of Jonas Åhlén after 2014’s Pioneers (discussed here).

Founding bassist/vocalist Sam Riffer and drummer/vocalist Love “Billy” Forsberg continue to resonate as the core of the group, and if their last outing captured them still in transition style-wise after splitting with guitarist/sitarist KG West, whose psychedelic ambience was a huge part of the craft of their early work on albums like the aforementioned debut, 2006’s Kaleidoscope (discussed here), 2008’s Far from the Sun and 2009’s Different Realities (discussed here), these 10 tracks/44 minutes show RifferForsbergBjörö, guitarist Matte Gustavsson and organist/keyboardist Erik “Errka” Petersson well in command both aesthetically and in terms of performance. Throughout the release, Björö shines as a singer and Petersson and Gustavsson play off each other — see the penultimate light-step boogie of “Imaginarium” — in a fashion that would and should make peak-era Deep Purple fans blush with delight.

A Dream of Lasting Peace offers touches of psychedelia in the drifting bluesy jam of “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay” and stage-ready vitality across the likes of “No Filters,” “Outlander” and the bouncing funk of “Tales of Independence,” but primarily, the album lands its impact with the strength of its hooks and the balance of its execution across this range of mostly positive-vibing moods. Siena Root are not a dark band, and they never have been, and A Dream of Lasting Peace sounds like the people who made it were having a good time in a way that proves as infectious as the chorus of opener “Secrets” and “Tales of Independence,” which follows in a righteous opening salvo that continues to build momentum as it shuffles into the more laid back “Sundown.” Harmonies pervade a more patient fluidity, but with Petersson‘s underlying organ line and toss-off lead flourish from Gustavsson, the melody is ever at hand, and an instrumental break at 1:48 into the song’s unassuming 4:19 gives the organ space for a solo complemented by guitar and propelled by the creative drumming of Forsberg, who adds chimes just before a tom roll signals the change back into the verse that reintroduces Björö on vocals.

It would be a worthy single with Riffer‘s bass as the foundational element, but it does just as well here as a transition into the even more subdued blues of “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay,” the longest inclusion at 6:08 and a graceful instrumental swell that seems drawn forward by Björö, who delivers his most impressive performance of the record in what feels like a showcase track despite a midsection crescendo that offers crisp, thicker guitar and key work and dynamic changes in tempo and volume. As they sleek their way through the crashing end of that song and into the organ rumble that starts “Outlander,” the return to a more energetic chorus and classic structure marked by its starts and stops is a welcome finish to side A, and the manner in which Petersson and Gustavsson end the track first together, then just with Petersson‘s keys, couldn’t feel more appropriate as the fadeout begins.

siena root

Already through the first half of A Dream of Lasting Peace, there is no level on which Siena Root aren’t delivering. In performance, in the quality of their songwriting, in the balance of clarity and natural feel of the recording itself and in the spirit driving them, they come across as revitalized, and if Pioneers was their way of exploring the possibilities of where their classic influences might take them post-West, here they take the lessons they learned from that experience and use them to grab the reins of their approach and hone something truly special. Traditionally, one would find a band experimenting a bit more on side B, and the Purple-hued rush of “Growing Underground” teases that possibility a bit in a direct call and response from Gustavsson and Petersson that’s just flat-out fun, leading to “Empty Streets,” which seems at first to echo “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay” but finds Riffer delivering a highlight bassline in tandem with the organ late as part of a rousing apex built outward from a nigh-on hypnotic but still progressive meandering.

The shorter and more straightforward “No Filters” has a push to echo “Secrets” and “Tales of Independence” early on, and makes a suitable centerpiece for side B as it regrounds Siena Root heading into the jazzy instrumental “Imaginarium” and subsequent closer “The Echoes Unfold,” which offers a spacious ending with echo on Björö‘s voice to fill a void of stopped guitar and keys and temporarily paused drums and bass. The play of volume and push that ensues is no less poised than anything preceding, less bluesy than “The Piper Won’t Let You Stay,” but thoroughly satisfying in its winding chorus and in the key-led ending section, which takes hold at about the three-minute mark and carries through to the long fade just past five minutes in, casting a symmetry with “Outlander” and once again feeling wholly befitting the course Siena Root have set overall.

Given the obvious care put into their presentation and the level of realization Siena Root attain within these tracks and through the overarching flow they create between them, A Dream of Lasting Peace is a joy that feels sculpted specifically to cast a celebration among the heavy rock converted. The band have their niche, to be sure, but they’ve long excelled in their work and their latest only furthers that thread while also setting them on a sustainable path going forward. Their lineup has always been subject to change and it’s entirely possible it will be in the future as well, but these songs hit on a balance worthy of being considered a highlight in their discography and if they serve as a model for the band to follow, at least for a while, that can only be to the benefit of players and fans alike. A no-doubter to stand among 2017’s best in classic and progressive heavy rock and roll.

Siena Root on Thee Facebooks

Siena Root on Bandcamp

Siena Root on Instagram

Siena Root website

Siena Root at MIG Music

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Siena Root Sign to MIG Music; A Dream of Lasting Peace Due in April

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Stockholm-based heavy rock classicists Siena Root have signed a deal to issue their next album, A Dream of Lasting Peace, in April on MIG Music. The German imprint is probably best known for its many releases recorded for Rockpalast, as well as a vast swath of krautrock reissues that run in varying degrees of obscurity. Between then two, a band like Siena Root should fit perfectly, with a classic, live-feeling sound that’s given to progressive touches. US distribution will be through MVD, which if I’m not mistaken also handled 2014’s Pioneers, but either way it’s cool to see the record will be out in Spring. Couldn’t be a better time for something that’s bound to be so brimming with life.

Oh, and I promise you I didn’t know this news was coming when I decided to close out last week with Siena Root. Pure serendipity. Kind of nice how it worked out though, right? Everything around here should be so cohesive.

The label’s announcement follows, as well as Siena Root‘s upcoming tour dates in Poland and Germany:

Siena Root – A Dream of Lasting Peace – Made in Germany Music

The Swedish band SIENA ROOT has signed a worldwide record contract with M.I.G. Made In Germany Music in Hanover. “A Dream Of Lasting Peace” is the sixth studio album of the Swedish retro rock pioneers and is already scheduled for release end of April this year. The psychedelic and progressive rockers of SIENA ROOT already have an established and loyal fan base in many European countries and played at the most important festivals on the continent in the last year.

Manfred Schütz, MD of MIG Music, about the new deal: “We have seen and heard the band almost two years ago at the Burg Herzberg festival. After that, it was clear to us that we had to work with these guys! We here at MIG cultivate a very selective signing of artists and bands. That is why we are especially pleased to collaborate with these creative and ambitious musicians.”

Siena Root live:
09.03 PL Gdansk Protokultura
10.03 PL Warsawa Chmury
11.03 DE Seelow Blues Rock Festival
12.03 PL Chorzow Lesniczowka Club
13.03 DE Reichenbach Bergkeller

Siena Root is:
Matte Gustavsson – lead guitar
Sam Riffer – bass and vocals
Love “Billy” Forsberg – drums and vocals
Erik “Errka” Petersson – organs and keyboards
Samuel Björö – lead vocals

https://www.facebook.com/sienaroot
https://sienaroot.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/sienaroot/
http://www.sienaroot.com/
http://www.mig-music.de/en/siena-root-are-signing-with-mig-music/

Siena Root, Pioneers (2014)

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