CHRCH & Fister Release Split LP Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Do you love atmospherically switched on and utterly skull-cleaving extreme doom? Sure, we all do. One should therefore take note of tomorrow as the release date of the new split between Los Angeles soulcrushers CHRCH and their bet-we-can-write-an-even-longer-song scathing compatriots in Fister. Because, you now, with the cleaving and whatnot. Issued through respected purveyor Battleground Records and Crown an Throne Ltd., it’s just two tracks, but that’s frankly all you need and even franklier probably all you could stand anyway from these two litmus test outfits pushing the limits of hyperbole-worthy viciousness. Get it, get doomed.

The PR wire delivers humbling brutality:

chrch fister split

On November 17th 2017, the stunning new split by CHRCH & Fister will be released The album consists of two tracks and will be released on limited edition vinyl via Crown and Throne Ltd and Battleground Records.

CHRCH have been hard at work crafting their particular brew of sound since late 2013. There is no image or campy gimmick to uphold, only the humble continuation and glorification of those fundamental musical elements that first built and then sustained the genre and it’s offshoots over the course of decades.

This purity and honesty comes across in a striking manner on the band’s debut ‘Unanswered Hymns’, a sprawling roller coaster of an album that plumbs the heights and depths of emotion, whether be it sorrow, loss, or redemption. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Patrick Hills at Earthtone Studios in Rocklin, CA, the recording exudes a warm, organic tone that draws the listener in to music heavily influenced by traditional doom, psych rock, drone, and ambience. CHRCH cannily wields dynamic songwriting, musicianship, and raw power to spin a spellbinding tale of occult darkness that clashes with illuminating melodies and riffs drenched in grimy reverb. Minimalistic, indulgent, or straightforward, the music of CHRCH is simply whatever the listener wants it to be.

Fister, coming off their recent reissue of “Gemini” on vinyl (Encapsulated Records), their split 7″ with TEETH (Broken Limbs Recordings), and of course their last 12″ “IV” (Crown and Throne Ltd.), continues to incorporate heavy influences from the black and death metal genres into a depressing sludge spewing heaviness that many have attempted, but few have mastered.

CHRCH: Eva Rose, Chris Lemos, Adam Jennings, Ben Catchart, Shann Marriott Jr.
Fister: Kenny Snarzdk, Marcus Newstead, Krik Gatterer

https://www.facebook.com/chrchdoomca/
https://www.facebook.com/fisterdoom/
http://crownandthroneltd.bigcartel.com/product/fister-chrch-split-12/
https://www.facebook.com/crownandthroneltd/
https://crownandthroneltd.bandcamp.com/
http://www.battlegroundrnr.com/product/chrch-fister-split-album
https://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords/
https://soundcloud.com/battleground-records

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Hyborian Sign to Season of Mist; Vol. I Reissue Due Early 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Kansas City riff-bruisers Hyborian initially released their debut album, Vol. I, via local imprint The Company earlier this year, and thereby cleaned the clocks of many in their path. That number includes, apparently, Season of Mist, who announce below that they’ve signed the genre-skirting four-piece and will reissue Vol. I early next year. I can think of few endorsements that ring more clearly with the message, “You did something right.” So kudos to the band on that. Clearly they did something right.

Probably all that kicking ass. Yeah, that’s probably it.

Still, even with genre intricacy behind them, they’re an interesting pickup for Season of Mist, and one wonders where exactly they’ll fit on the label’s roster — other, of course, than very likely on tour with Weedeater again. Plenty of time for such things to shake out.

The PR wire made it official:

hyborian photo robert menzer

HYBORIAN sign to Season of Mist

Season of Mist are proud to announce the signing of HYBORIAN. The Kansas City-based heavy metal riff machine (Martin Bush – Guitar, Vocals, Ryan Bates – Guitar, Vocals, Justin Rippeto – Drums, and Anthony Diale – Bass) will reissue their acclaimed debut ‘Vol. 1’ through Season of Mist in early 2018.

Regarding their signing HYBORIAN comment: “Hyborian is beyond excited to be signing with Season of Mist. SOM is home to some of our favorite bands of all time, and we feel incredibly proud to be able to work with a label that has been so very crucial to creating the landscape of modern heavy music.”

‘Vol. 1’ was recorded by the band at their self-built studio, mixed by Justin Mantooth at Westend Studios (RADKEY, GODMAKER), and mastered by Nick Zampiello (TORCHE, ISIS, OLD MAN GLOOM, TRAP THEM) at New Alliance East. It was originally released by the band (in conjunction with friends The Company KC) in March 2017 and tells the tale of an extra-dimensional, cloaked being called “The Traveller”.

The band explains the concept of ‘Vol. 1’; “Hyborian-Volume I is a collection of stories from the dawn of humanity, events that occurred before the advent of the written word. It is the first in a series of legends from different epochs as told by a figure named The Traveller. The Traveller is a being that exists outside of humanity’s understanding of space and time. He is the source of all life in the universe, but is not omnipresent. He wanders the cosmos, visiting and recording times of great strife or hardship, great suffering or great triumph. We are his chosen mouthpiece on Earth, so we relate those stories, whether from far in the past or far in the future.”

HYBORIAN have been touring extensively since their 2015 formation. In addition to tours with GODMAKER and on their own, they have supported the likes of POWER TRIP, ACID KING, MUTOID MAN, WEEDEATER, IRON REAGAN, VEKTOR, WHORES and many more in the Midwest.

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
https://www.twitter.com/seasonofmist

Hyborian, Vol. I (2017)

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Merlin Announce New Album The Wizard Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

No solid release date yet from what I can tell, but Kansas City, Missouri, storytelling doom rockers Merlin are gearing up to issue their next conceptual full-length, The Wizard. Set for pressing in a vinyl edition of 300 through The Company, the band’s third full-length follows behind 2016’s Electric Children (review here), which stepped away from the narrative focus of the prior Christ Killer (review here), released in 2014. As to what the plot of The Wizard might be, I haven’t the foggiest idea, but my understanding is one exists, and that’s enough for me to go on at least for today. There’s plenty of time to figure out the rest.

I don’t know how long it takes to print up fancy-looking LPs these days — and goodness these are fancy looking — but an early 2018 release seems to me more likely than not. If the case turns out to be otherwise, I’ll let you know, and either way, I’ll hope to have more on the record, like a review, before it hits, so keep an eye out.

Everyone’s happy when this one walks by:

merlin the wizard vinyl

It’s been 4 long years since Merlin’s last conceptual album, Christ Killer was released. In that time of chaos, band members have came and gone, the cast has changed, equipment has broke, alliances were created and a whole lot of rituals have been performed from KC to Psycho Las Vegas. Merlin have finally deemed it time to bring you their next concept story, The Wizard. Featuring new members Chase Thayer on bass guitar and Stu Kersting on Saxophone and Guitar, Merlin have twisted their sound even further into the realms of the mystic unknown and unfamiliar territory…

Christ is dead.

The Electric children are Dead.

Long live The Wizard.

Tracklisting:
1. Abyss
2. Gravelord
3. Sage’s Crystal Stafr
4. Golem
5. Iron Borne
6. Tarantula Hawk
7. The Wizard Suite

Cast:
Carter Lewis – Guitars, Synth
Stu Kersting – Guitars, Saxophones
Chase Thayer – Bass Player
Caleb Wyels – Percussions
Jordan Knorr – Vocals, Storytelling, Omnichord

Mastered by Bret Liber
Recorded at Red Roof Productions
Mixed by Bret Liber and Merlin
Album Art – Nikki Fenn Art
Album Layout – Josh Wilkinson
https://www.facebook.com/MERLIN666/
Merlin on Bandcamp
http://thecompanykc.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecompanykc

Merlin, Electric Children (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Grails, Expo Seventy, Coltsblood, Rhino, Cruthu, Spacetrucker, Black Habit, Stone Angels, The Black Willows, Lamagaia

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Arrival. Welcome to the final day of The Obelisk’s Spring 2017 Quarterly Review. After today, I clean off my desktop and start over with a mind toward the next round, which in my head I’ve already scheduled for late June. You know, at the end of the next quarter. I do try to make these things make sense on some level. Anyway, before we get to the last 10 albums, let me please reiterate my thanks to you for reading and say once again that I hope you’ve found something this week that really speaks to you, as I know I have and continue to today. We finish the Quarterly Review out strong to be sure, so even if you’re thinking you’re done and you’ve had enough, you might be surprised by the time you’re through the below.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Grails, Chalice Hymnal

grails chalice hymnal

Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from GrailsBlack Tar Prophecies ongoing series of short releases that showed up via Temporary Residence, it’s been a long while since their last proper outing. Deep Politics (review here) was issued in 2011, but it seems the intervening time and members’ participation in other projects – among them Om and Holy Sons in the case of Emil Amos – disappear for Grails on Chalice Hymnal, which speaks directly to its predecessor in sequel pieces like “Deeper Politics,” “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II,” taking the prog-via-TangerineDream cinematics of Deep Politics to vibrant and continually experimental places on the surprisingly vocalized “Empty Chamber,” the soundscaping “Rebecca” and the imaginative, evocative jazz homage “After the Funeral,” the album’s 10-minute closer. Hearing the John Carpenter keyboard line underpinning “Pelham,” I’m not sure I’d call Chalice Hymnal limitless in its aesthetic – Grails have definitive intentions here, as they always have – but they continue to reside in a space of their own making, and one that has yet to stop expanding its reach.

Grails on Thee Facebooks

Grails at Temporary Residence Ltd.

 

Expo Seventy, America Here and Now Sessions

expo seventy america here and now sessions

Yes. Yes. This. With extended two tracks – “First Movement” (22:17) and “Second Movement” (27:04) – unfolding one massive longform immersion that drones pastoral, delves into hypnotic bliss and fills the soul in that way that only raw exploration can, the America Here and Now Sessions from Kansas City (by way of the moon) outfit Expo Seventy is an utter joy to experience. Purposeful and patient in its execution, graceful in the instrumental chemistry – even with a second drummer sitting in amid the core trio led by guitarist Justin Wright – the album well fits the deep matte tones and nostalgic feel of its accompanying artwork, and is fluid in its movement from drone to push especially on “Second Movement,” which sandwiches a resonant cacophony around soundscapes that spread as far as the mind of the listener is willing to let them. Whether you want to sit and parse the execution over every its every subtle motion and waveform or put it on and go into full-brain-shutdown, America Here and Now Sessions delivers. Flat out. It delivers.

Expo Seventy on Thee Facebooks

Essence Music website

 

Coltsblood, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness

coltsblood ascending into shimmering darkness

After surviving the acquisition of Candlelight Records by Spinefarm, UK doom extremists Coltsblood return with their second album, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, and follow-up 2014’s Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here) with 54 minutes of concrete-thick atmospheric bleakness spread across five tracks. The headfuckery isn’t quite as unremitting as it was on the debut – a blend of airy and thick guitar in the intro of the opening title-cut (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) reminds of Pallbearer – but the three-piece thrive in this more-cohesive-overall context, and their lumbering miseries remain dark and triumphant in kind. A closing duo of “Ever Decreasing Circles” and “The Final Winter” also both top 12 and 13 minutes, respectively, but the shorter second track “Mortal Wound” brings blackened tendencies to the fore and centerpiece “The Legend of Abhartach” effectively leads the way from one side to the other. Still, the most complete victory here for bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested might be “The Final Winter,” which melds its grueling, excruciatingly slow crash to overarching keyboard drama and becomes a work of cinematic depth as well as skull-crushing wretchedness. Such ambient growth fascinates and shows marked progression from their first offering, and even if the primary impression remains one from which no light escapes, don’t be fooled: Coltsblood are growing and are all the more dangerous for that.

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records website

 

Rhino, The Law of Purity

rhino the law of purity

Once they get past the aptly-titled minute-long “Intro,” Rhino keep their foot heavy on the gas for the vast majority of The Law of Purity, their Argonauta Records debut album. The 10 included tracks veer into and out of pure desert rock loyalism – “Eat My Dust” comes across as particularly post-Kyuss, perhaps melded with some of the burl of C.O.C.’s “Shake Like You” – and the throttle of “Nuclear Space,” “Nine Months,” “A. & B. Brown” and “Cock of Dog” later on come to define the impression of straightforward push that puts the riffs forward even more than earlier inclusions like the post-“Intro” title-track or the more mid-paced “Bursting Out,” which hints at psychedelia without really ever fully diving into it. Capping with the roll of “I See the Monsters,” The Law of Purity reminds at times of earlier Astrosoniq – particularly in the vocals – but finds the Sicilian five-piece crafting solid heavy rock tunes that seem more concerned with having a couple beers and a good time than changing the world or remaking the genre. Nothing wrong with that.

Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity

cruthu the angle of eternity

As it happens, I wrote the bio and release announcement for Cruthu’s debut album, The Angle of Eternity (posted here), and I count guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick as a personal friend, so if you’re looking for impartiality as regards the self-released six-tracker, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for primo trad doom and classic metal vibes, the Michigan-based four-piece offer touches of progressive flourish amid the shuffle of opener “Bog of Kildare,” a grueling post-“Crystal Ball” nod in “From the Sea” and a bit of ‘70s proto-metallurgy in the closing title-track, which finds vocalist Ryan Evans at his most commanding while McCormick, bassist Erik Hemingsen (Scott Lehman appears as well) and drummer Matt Fry hold together the fluid and patient groove of weighted downer metal. The sense of Cruthu as an outfit schooled in the style is palpable through the creep of “Lady in the Lake” and the post-Trouble chug of “Séance,” but they’re beginning to cast their own identity from their influences – even the penultimate interlude “Separated from the Herd” is part of it – and the dividends of that process are immediate in these tracks.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Spacetrucker, Launch Sequence

spacetrucker launch sequence

From the Kozik-style artwork of their cover to the blown-out vocals on opener “New Pubes” of guitarist Matt Owen, St. Louis three-piece Spacetrucker – how was there not already a band with this name? – make no bones about their intentions on their late-2016, 26-minute Launch Sequence seven-track EP. Owen, bassist Patrick Mulvaney and drummer Del Toro push into a realm of noise-infused stoner grunge loyal to the ‘90s execution of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” in the stops of the instrumental “Giza” even as they thicken and dirty up their tonality beyond what Kyuss laid forth. The cowbell-inclusive “Science of Us” rests easily on Mulvaney’s tone and nods toward burl without going over the top, and cuts like “Old Flower,” the penultimate roller “Trenchfoot” and the closing post-Nirvana punker blast of “Ain’t Gonna be Me” reimagine a past in which the language of heavy rock was there to explain where grunge was coming from all along. Not looking to reinvent stylistic parameters in their image at this point, Spacetrucker is nonetheless the kind of band one might’ve run into at SXSW a decade and a half ago and been made a fan for life. As it stands, the charm is not at all lost.

Spacetrucker on Thee Facebooks

Spacetrucker on Bandcamp

 

Black Habit, Black Habit

black habit self titled

Clocking in at half an hour, the self-titled debut release from viola-infused Arizona two-piece Black Habit could probably qualify as an EP or an LP. I’m inclined to consider it the latter considering the depths vocalist/guitarist/bassist Trey Edwin and violist/drummer Emily Jean plunge in the five included tracks, starting with the longest of the bunch (immediate points) in the slow-moving “Escape into Infinity” before shifting the tempo upward for “Suffer and Succumb” and digging into deep-toned sludge marked out by consistently harsh vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Habit became more melodic or at least moved into cleaner shots over time, as the doomly centerpiece “South Beach” and more fuzz-rocking “Travel Across the Ocean” seem to want to head in that direction, but it’s hard to argue with the echoing rasp that accompanies the rumble and hairy tones of finale “Lust in the Dust,” as Black Habit’s Black Habit rounds out with an especially righteous nod. An intriguing, disaffected, and raw but potential-loaded opening salvo from a two-piece discovering where their sound might take them.

Black Habit on Thee Facebooks

Black Habit on Bandcamp

 

Stone Angels, Patterns in the Ashes

stone angels patterns in the ashes

Massive. Patterns in the Ashes is a malevolent, tectonic three-song EP following up on New Zealand trio Stone Angels’ 2011 debut, Within the Witch, as well as a few shorter live/demo offerings between, and it’s an absolute beast. Launching with the seven-minute instrumental “White Light, White Noise II” – indeed the sequel to a cut from the first album – it conjures a vicious nod and bleeds one song into the next to let “Signed in Blood” further unfold the grim atmospherics underscoring and enriching all that tonal heft. Sludge is the core style, but the Christchurch three-piece’s broader intentions come through with due volume on the grueling “Signed in Blood” and when “For the Glory of None” kicks in after its sample intro, the blasts and growls that it brings push the release to new levels of extremity entirely. As a bonus, the digital edition includes all three tracks put together as one longer, 21-minute piece, so the consuming flow between them can be experienced without any interruption, as it was seemingly meant to be.

Stone Angels on Thee Facebooks

Stone Angels on Bandcamp

 

Black Willows, Samsara

the black willows samsara

If Switzerland-based resonance rockers Black Willows had only released the final two tracks, “Jewel in the Lotus” and “Morning Star,” of their late-2016 second full-length, Samsara, one would still have to call it a complete album – and not just because those songs run 15 and 25 minutes long, respectively. Throughout those extended pieces and the four shorter cuts that appear before them, a palpable meditative sensibility emerges, and Black Willows follow-up the promise of 2013’s Haze (review here) by casting an even more immersive, deeper-toned vibe in the post-Om nod of “Sin” (8:08) and the more percussive complement, “Rise” (9:28), keeping a ritualized feel prevailing but not defining. From the lead-in title-track and the spacious psych trip-out of “Mountain” that gives way to the aforementioned extended closing duo, Black Willows find their key purpose in encompassing tonality and languid grooving. Nothing is overdone, nothing loses its patience, and when they get to the linear trajectory of “Morning Star,” the sense is they’re pushing as far out as far out will go. It’s a joy to follow them on that path.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Lamagaia, Lamagaia

lamagaia lamagaia

Anytime you’re at all ready to quit your job and explore the recesses of your mind via the ingestion of psychedelics, rituals and meditation, Sweden’s Lamagaia would seem to stand prepared to accompany. The Gothenburg four-piece offer two extended tracks of encouragement in that direction on their self-titled 12” (released through Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender), and both “Aurora” and “Paronama Vju” carry a heady spirit of kosmiche improvisation and classically progressive willfulness. They go, go, go. Far, far, far. Vocals echo out obscure but definitely there in post-The Heads fashion, but there’s Hawkwindian thrust in the fuzzed bass and drums driving the rhythm behind the howling guitar in “Aurora,” and that only sets up the peaceful stretch that the drones and expansive spaciousness of “Paronama Vju” finds across its 18:55 as all the more of an arrival. Immersive, hypnotic, all that stuff that means gloriously psychedelic, Lamagaia’s Lamagaia offers instrumental chemistry and range for anyone willing to follow along its resonant and ultra-flowing path. Count me in. I never liked working anyway.

Lamagaia website

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

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Smokestock Announces First Lineup: Greenbeard, Youngblood Supercult, Merlin and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Right away, the intent behind the new fest Smokestock is clear. Set for May 27 at the All Star Rock Bar in Kansas City, Missouri, the 10-band lineup finds it focused heavily on promoting the heavy rock underground local to the region. With a reach that dips down to Texas to bring Greenbeard aboard as headliners, it boasts Kansas and Missouri-based acts Youngblood Supercult, Merlin, Sons of Mourning, Custom Black, Gnarly Davidson, Spacetrucker and Hyborian, as well as Ohio’s Druid, so it’s safe to say that the native scene is well represented.

The plan seems to be to squeeze in 10 bands between 6PM and 12AM, so it’s gonna be a packed night for sure, but hard to argue with the righteousness of the mission. As a side note, Greenbeard, Youngblood Supercult, Spacetrucker and Merlin all have new releases in the works, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find them sharing some of that recent material from the stage, and I’ve heard rumors this isn’t the only fest Youngblood Supercult will be playing this year. Merlin have already been confirmed for Psycho Las Vegas, so there’s a legitimate groundswell happening in the Midwest, and I’ll be interested to see how what’s billed itself as a “stoner rock revival” — playing off tent churches? — plays out in fostering the movement of bands.

Dig into the lineup info and links below, as found on the social medias:

smokestock poster

RIP Presents Smokestock: A Midwest Stoner Rock Revival

Saturday, May 27
The All Star Rock Bar
7210 NE 43rd St, Kansas City, Missouri 64117

RIP Productions is proud to present a newly conceived annual event– SMOKESTOCK: A Midwest Stoner Rock Revival

SMOKESTOCK is a Kansas City-based festival aimed at bringing stoner rock, doom metal, and psych/fuzz to the Midwestern masses.

This year’s confirmed performing artists at The All Star Rock Bar:

Greenbeard (Texas)
Youngblood Supercult (Topeka, Kansas)
Druid (Ohio)
Custom Black (KCMO)
Sons Of Mourning (KCMO)
Keef Mountain (KCMO)
Merlin (KCMO)
Gnarly Davidson (Lawrence, Kansas)
Spacetrucker (St. Louis, Mo.)
Hyborian (KCMO)

All ages until midnight!
$10 for 21+/$12 for under 21
Doors at 5pm, music starts at 6!!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1035751783228166/
https://www.facebook.com/smokestock/

Youngblood Supercult, High Plains (2016)

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Keef Mountain Self-Titled LP Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

There are reportedly three new songs on Keef Mountain‘s self-titled debut LP. Can you guess which ones they are? While side B features retracked versions of the cuts from the band’s 2012 demo, Climbing Higher — as do a lot of first albums, one way or another — my money’s on “New Song,” “New Song 2” and “New Song 3” on side A for being the new ones. Don’t ask why. Something about them just makes me think they haven’t been around as long.

Like their label, the newly-formed The Company Records, Keef Mountain are based out of Kansas City, Missouri. The imprint’s founder, Josh Wilkinson, has also done graphics work for STB Records, who sent along word that the Keef Mountain LP — available, in STB-style limited editions — is up for preorder now:

keef-mountain

STB Family member and resident graphic designer extraordianaire, Josh Wilkinson from The Company Design has started a new label, “The Company Records”. His first release is the first full length album from Kansas’ Keef Mountain.

Pre-order is happening now at: http://thecompanykc.com
Stream music here: https://keefmountain.bandcamp.com

Release Info:

Keef Mountain – “Keef Mountain” (THECO-001)
Limited Pressing of 225
50 “Bong Smoke” Die hard Editions / Includes Original Demo Tape “Climbing Higher”
175 “Super Dank” (35 available through the band/140 available through the label)
A Handful of Test Presses will be available at a later date.
50 First Pre-Orders received a free T-Shirt: SOLD OUT

Side A:
New Song
New Song 2
New Song 3

Side B:
Sorcery of the Trees (2016)
Psylocibin Queen (2016)
Death Cult (2016)

To help raise money for this release, The Company Records is presenting a free show (donations highly encouraged) on July 16th @ Mills Record Company in KCMO. Also sponsored by Poisoned Mind and DHU Records, every penny raised from this show will go into the Keef Mountain release.

The amazing lineup is as follows:
Youngblood Supercult
Merlin
Keef Mountain
Orphans of Doom

http://thecompanykc.com
http://thecompanydesign.bigcartel.com/
https://keefmountain.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KeefMountain/

Keef Mountain, “The Ascent”

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The Philistines, The Backbone of Night: Hearts Like Candy (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-philistines-the-backbone-of-night

As fate would have it, today is the release date of The Philistines‘ full-length debut. Out on The Record Machine, the nine-track The Backbone of Night finds the Kansas City six-piece careening around a wide swath of heavy psychedelia, garage, desert and other assorted rocks. It’s the kind of record you might put on and wonder where the hell the band comes from, at times nodding toward the more cohesive end of West Coast bliss-outs, but also offering more driving moments like “A Twitch of the Death Nerve” or delving into classic-style, cane-sugar-coated pop on “A Heart Like Candy” such that each time the listener thinks they have The Backbone of Night figured out, The Philistines — the lineup of Kimmie Queen (vocals), Cody Wyoming (guitar/vocals), Michelle Bacon (bass/vocals), Steve Gardels (drums), Rod Peal (guitar) and Josh Mobley (keys) — hang a louie and the context for the record as a whole expands once again.

The key distinction to make here is that between amorphousness and nebulousness. It’s not that The Philistines are flailing, like they don’t know where they want their material to go. Granted, they might let it wander, as on jammed-out eight-minute centerpiece “The Accretion Disco,” but they always seem to have a direction at the root for each track and the flow of the album in general, which between the fact that there are six people in the band and that they work with a variety of acoustic and electric guitars, keyboard textures, vocal arrangements and so on, makes The Backbone of Night an all the more impressive first outing.

One of two similarly extended cuts along with the hypnotic dream-echo wash of the earlier “Radiation Drive” — credit to The Philistines for not ending the album with either of them — “The Accretion Disco” is obviously a focal point, but that consideration shouldn’t come at the expense of the other stylistic leaps the band makes, whether it’s from the Western garage psych of “Steep” to the shuffling “1971,” which is the shortest cut here at a buzzing 2:31 propelled by tambourine shake and an upbeat hook as it rushes into the more laid back “Radiation Drive,” an acoustic guitar figure adding earthy substance to what’s otherwise an ethereal rhythmic and melodic push outward. Only a single track separates “Radiation Drive” and “The Accretion Disco,” and that’s “A Twitch of the Death Nerve,” an also-under-three-minute, guitar-led, (relatively) straightforward heavy rocker that sets up a back and forth from the interstellar as though the band wanted to remind their listeners that, yes, there was still somebody steering the ship.

the philistines (Photo by Mark Manning)

It’s a difficult swap to make, but The Philistines do it simply by doing it, and the fuzz-rocking “A Twitch of the Death Nerve” maintains an effects-prone undercurrent behind the lead guitar sizzle, so when “The Accretion Disco” kicks in, it’s not by any means out of place. Backwards swirl and cymbal wash tap ’60s psych and Beatlesian harmonies only reinforce the vibe, peaceful, ready for meditation of one sort or another. The already-noted jam portion is acoustic-led and takes flight after three minutes in, joined by electric leads after a few minutes as the song subtly heads back to the chorus, fading out quiet into wind/static and an emergent line of foreboding synth, from which “Arecibo” bursts to life.

To go with the album’s most insistent rhythm, strummed out on forward-in-the-mix (on purpose) acoustic guitar, “Arecibo” makes its mark with gorgeous duet vocal croons, and that would seem to be the element that most ties it to “A Heart Like Candy,” which is so unabashedly poppy it almost feels like a faster version of something that would’ve appeared on Twin Peaks — so dripping with sweetness it borders on unsettling, like something from a musical. Enough so that I Googled the title to see if it was a cover, but no, The Philistines seem to have just buried this milkshake-at-the-pharmacy-counter-turned-reverb-tripout in the second half of their album between “Arecibo” and the subsequent “Stygia,” which one might be tempted to call brooding but for the doubled-timed hi-hat keeping a somewhat frenetic sense of motion to it.

A shift back to something more straightforward is in itself jarring, one has to sort of peek around the corner of the song to make sure there isn’t something lurking, but “Stygia” winds up as the first of a two-part bookend with closer “Get Inside,” which follows, answering back to the heavy garage style that “Steep” and “1971” proffered while, particularly in the case of the finale, maintaining a psychedelic thrust as well. That capstone symmetry reinforces the notion that The Philistines have had an idea of what they wanted to do all long throughout The Backbone of Night, and given the significant amount of ground they cover, that’s reassuring. At least partially as a result of that stylistic breadth, I wouldn’t dare to make a prediction where The Philistines might go from here, but it seems to me that they have a foundation of psych, garage and desert-style rock that they can shape as they please, and the control they demonstrate over that process in these tracks bodes remarkably well.

The Philistines website

The Philistines at The Record Machine

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Merlin, Electric Children: Night Creep Crawling

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

merlin electric children

A sense of drama is nothing new in Merlin‘s sound. It’s been there since their 2013 self-titled debut from which came the single Execution (review here) and it certainly took a step forward on 2014’s Christkiller LP (review here). Their theatrics have come to be a part of what defines them and sets them apart from some of the modern and classic influences they distill in their material, some of it frontman Jordan Knorr‘s mastery of the ceremonies at hand, but Electric Children meets him head-on with more patient songwriting and an expanded palette.

While cuts like opener “Bad Trip” (premiered here), the shuffling “Electric Children” and more aggressive “Night Creep” are in line with what Merlin have offered to-date, two interludes, “Interlude” (2:28) and “A Reprisal for Julia” (1:40), bring the keyboard work of guitarist/backing vocalist Carter Lewis more forward than it has been in the past, and the consciousness that drives the Goblin and John Carpenter-style cues those brief sojourns show, respectively, is an important progressive move. That’s not to take anything away from what Knorr, Lewis, bassist Joey Hamm (since replaced by Chase Thayer) and drummer Caleb Wyels are doing on the more straight-ahead material, just that they’ve grown enough as a band to make the decision to shift the context in which their material appears even more than the intro “Overture” did at the start of the last album. This, in combination with their four-part, 23-minute closer, “Tales of the Wasteland,” and the facts that they’re nodding at classic prog by subtitling Electric Children as “An Understanding by Merlin” and that it was recorded at least mostly live, and Merlin are making clear efforts to back their style with substance. Their third record offers plenty of both.

At eight tracks and 51 minutes, the 4one8 Records (vinyl may or may not be through Poisoned Mind Records) release is substantial but not entirely unmanageable, and Merlin demonstrate throughout a clearheaded presence through their immersive and atmospheric songs. For those who’ve encountered their darkened paths before, not much has changed about their root influences in bands like Uncle Acid, Pentagram and Floyd, but their own sonic personality continues to develop and it’s more of a factor here, whether that’s in the crisp efficiency of “Bad Trip” thudding to introduce the album while also providing its first hook, or “Tales of the Wasteland” stretching beyond traditional structures to purposefully wander in the space it’s created. Between those two, songs like “Will o’ the Wisp” and “Warbringer” indulge psychedelic impulses while “Night Creep” mirrors the thunder of the opener, tempos fluctuate fluidly and ambience remains consistent despite swaps of mood and intensity.

Part of that is down to the recording itself and the depth of the mix, credited to Bret Liber and Merlin, but spaciousness isn’t something Merlin were lacking before, even if they’ve brought it to new levels here. Their craftsmanship on cuts like “Bad Trip,” “Electric Children,” “Will o’ the Wisp,” “Night Creep” and “Warbringer” — which is each of the album’s chorus-minded tracks — isn’t to be understated, but the songs feed into a linear flow as well, deepening in the second half of the album post-“Interlude,” as “A Reprisal for Julia” and “Tales of the Wasteland” push Merlin beyond the point of willfully breaking the rules that they seem to have set for themselves before. That mindfulness is essential to understanding what Merlin are doing on Electric Children, as it’s a key element of their growth. Recording live, spacing out, all of this is directed toward a conscious push ahead of where they were on Christkiller, and the new ground they cover, stomp on, dwell in, etc., is malleable to whatever they want to make it.

It will be interesting to see/hear how they develop with Thayer on bass in place of Hamm, since low-end is a considerable factor throughout Electric Children in shoving the material ahead along with Wyels‘ drumming, but in these songs an essential dynamic in Merlin‘s sound is highlighted between Knorr and Lewis. Not just in the two coming together on vocals on “Bad Trip” or the early verses in “Tales of the Wasteland” before the languid instrumental roll takes full control of the proceedings, but in the sense of challenging each other that seems to play out across the Mind Control-esque “Will o’ the Wisp” and more raging solo and finale of “Night Creep” as well. I don’t want to leave the drummer and bassist out of that dynamic, as if to relegate the rhythm section to some corner, it’s just that vocals and guitar/keys take charge of the atmospheres throughout Electric Children, and Lewis and Knorr seem to be in direct musical conversation in a variety of actual sonic contexts, as on the title-track, which departs from its hook early in order to flesh out a psych jam that only recalls its chorus in its final instrumental moments.

Merlin, three albums in, have established a multifaceted approach to high-grade songwriting, and Electric Children — a recording process from which they’re already nearly 18 months removed — finds them at a crucial stage in their evolution. It’s worth noting that that’s a process I don’t think is over, and while Merlin have made clear and successful efforts to come into their own across this material, there’s still growing to be done and new ground to explore, be it in further incorporating elements of “A Reprisal for Julia” into songs like “Bad Trip” — which “Night Creep” does briefly at its start — or in playing with the balance between heavy psychedelia, heavy rock and doom that has brought them to this place. Perhaps most encouraging of all is that the band make it so plain they too realize this, and among the easiest things to read into Electric Children is a commitment on Merlin‘s part to keep pushing their limits. One hopes they do.

Merlin, Electric Children (2016)

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

4one8 Records

Poisoned Mind Records

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