Last Licks 2014: The Re-Stoned, Anthroprophh, Lavagoat, Ketch, Eternal Khan, Mount Carmel, Pocket Size, Zoltan, The Garza, Dot Legacy

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.

So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?

Okay maybe not.

Thanks for reading.

The Re-Stoned, Totems

the re-stoned totems

Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks


Anthroprophh, Outside the Circle

anthroprophh outside the circle

For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.

Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings

Lavagoat, Weird Menace

lavagoat weird menace

Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.

Lavagoat on Thee Facebooks

Lavagoat on Bandcamp

Ketch, Ketch

ketch ketch

Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.

Ketch on Thee Facebooks

Ketch on Bandcamp

Eternal Khan, A Poisoned Psalm

eternal khan a poisoned psalm

Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.

Eternal Khan on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Khan on Bandcamp

Mount Carmel, Get Pure

mount carmel get pure

Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.

Mount Carmel on Thee Facebooks

Alive Naturalsound

Pocket Size, Exposed Undercurrents

pocket size exposed undercurrents

One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.

Pocket Size on Thee Facebooks

Pocket Size website

Zoltan, Sixty Minute Zoom

zoltan sixty minute zoom

Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.

Zoltan on Thee Facebooks

Cineploit Records

The Garza, The Garza

the garza the garza

Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.

The Garza on Thee Facebooks

The Garza on Bandcamp

Dot Legacy, Dot Legacy

dot legacy dot legacy

Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.

Dot Legacy on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records

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Iguana Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


German/Russian heavy psych rockers Iguana kick off a round of European dates tonight that will cover the next couple months, playing with Naam in Weil der Stadt. Later this month, they’ll hit the Keep it Low festival and then on from there for a series of weekenders that goes into December. Their debut album, Get the City Love You (review here), came out in 2012. Rumor has it — and by “rumor” I mean what they said on Thee Facebooks — they’ve got new songs written, so perhaps they’ll use these dates as a means for working out the kinks en route to recording their sophomore outing sometime this winter or next year.

Either way, if you happen to be somewhere these dudes are playing and up for a jammy good time, you know what’s up.


iguana tour

The IGUANA-Tour starts with some highlights. On 3rd of October IGUANA shares the stage with brooklyn based psychrockers NAAM. On the 18.10. they will play Keep It Low Festival, with acts like KADAVAR, BLUES PILLS, MARS RED SKY and THE SHRINE. The bands’ personal highlite will take place on the 25th of October, when IGUANA will be playing with SPIDERGAWD (including two members of the fabulous MOTORPSYCHO). So there is a lot of parties to come. Please join us!

IGUANA are touring Europe for some years now in the good old manner of DIY. IGUANA played more than 120 shows with bands such as Colour Haze, Kadavar, Saint Vitus, Brant Bjork. And they played Stoned From The Underground twice, also Void Fest and Blue Moon Fest.

Tourdates 2014 – IGUANA – Fall Winter Tour 2014:
03.10.2014 – Weil der Stadt (DE), JH Kloster, w. Naam
18.10.2014 – München (DE), Feierwerk – Keep It Low Festival, w. Kadavar, The Shrine, Mars Red Sky
24.10.2014 – Lüneburg (DE), Jekyll & Hyde, w. Eta Lux
25.10.2014 – Hamburg (DE), Bambi Galore, w. Spidergawd
31.10.2014 – St. Gallen (CH), Rümpeltum, w. Wight, Bushfire
01.11.2014 – Kranichfeld (DE), Crossing All Over Fest
14.11.2014 – Nijmegen (NL), De Onderbroek
15.11.2014 – Den Haag (NL), Club tba
20.11.2014 – Dresden (DE), Ostpol, w. Kalamahara
22.11.2014 – Würzburg (DE), Immerhin, w. Stone Troopers
13.12.2014 – Berlin (DE), Cortina Bob, w. Deaf Flow

Iguana, “Get the City Love You”

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Bong, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Desert Lord, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, and Plunger

Posted in Radio on September 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

It’s been a couple weeks since the last time I was able to get together a proper round of adds to The Obelisk Radio, and the list as a result is accordingly huge. I’d have to go back and compare the last 18-plus months to be sure, but I think 40 albums is up there with what I might have uploaded during the initial buildup of the playlist, just basically getting everything I could think of and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t to expand on what was on the hard drive when I got it. We’ll be at two years since the Radio stream went live before I know it. Time goes quick, and seems to all the more when each post has a timestamp.

I say this every time, but there’s a lot of killer stuff included this week, so I hope you find something you enjoy.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Sept. 13, 2014:

Bong, Bong Presents Haikai No Ku Ultra High Dimensionality LP

bong haikai no ku

I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to try to ascertain what plane of being Bong are residing on these days, but suffice it to say, they’ve evolved beyond corporeal form and merged with the all-consuming distortion of the universe. At least that’s how it sounds. The maddeningly prolific UK drone-doomers present this release but aren’t actually on it, save for guitarist Mike Vest, who leads the side-project Haikai No Ku through five tracks of blissful psychout on Ultra High Dimensionality. If you’re looking for differences between the two outfits, Haikai No Ku lean less toward grim droning than Bong, and songs like “Dead in the Temple” and “Blue at Noon” roll out huge psychedelic grooves — the band is completed by bassist Jerome Smith and drummer Sam Booth — but there’s consistency to be found in the wash of noise and the complete hypnosis of their repetitions anyway, and as high as the dimensionality might be, the volume should be higher. One to get lost in for sure, and there’s enough space for everyone. Bong on Twitter, on Bandcamp.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, The Shining One

lucifer in the sky with diamonds the shining one

The pun in the moniker of Moscow double-guitar four-piece Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. Featuring The Grand Astoria collaborator Igor SuvorovLucifer in the Sky with Diamonds pull together touches of psychedelic impulsiveness and classic heavy rock structures with the production clarity and catchy songwriting of mid-era Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a danger underscoring the boogie of “How to Fix Things” from the band’s self-released debut LP, The Shining One, that seems to find payoff later in the big-groove hook of “Highlow World,” which provides one of the album’s most satisfying listens before shifting into an airier dreamspace and fading into the noisier “Lords of the Damned,” reviving the largesse of riff prior to the closing title-track. An intriguing debut for an outfit loaded with potential, the fullness of their sound boding particularly well for their confidence in their sound and the precision of their execution. One not to be missed. Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Desert Lord, To the Unknown

desert lord to the unknown

Finnish stoner-doom foursome Desert Lord get into some Sabbath-worship on their debut long-player, To the Unknown, but manage to avoid both the trap of retro ’70s-ism that has much of Europe so firmly in its grasp and the trap of sounding like Reverend Bizarre, whose legacy in their native land isn’t to be understated. Of particular note is that Desert Lord cite The Cult as an influence. One can hear shades of that in the guitars on opener “Forlorn Caravan,” but Desert Lord quickly move into doomier fare on the subsequent nine-minute “Wonderland,” which distinguished by weeded-out wah on Roni‘s bass. Middle-ground is sought and found on “New Dimensions,” with vocalist Sampo Riihimäki reminding of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman in his movement between rougher delivery, spoken word, and accentuated screaming, also hinting at roots in more traditional metal, though “Manic Survivor’s Song” gives way to more stoner territory in the guitar, reminding of some of Eggnogg‘s stylistic turns, though with less of a mind toward tonal thickness. They’re still figuring out where they want to be, but Desert Lord‘s To the Unknown has more than a few moments worth the effort of a listen. Desert Lord on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Onward, to the Future

space mushroom fuzz onward to the future

Perpetually progressive and perpetually prolific bizarro psych rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz return with another new release, dubbed Onward, to the Future. The Boston outfit, led by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside, include two tracks this time out, “Onward, to the Future,” a laid back space rocker made strange in its midsection with some theremin-style keys, and the waltzing “Half the Way Down,” which shows off some classical guitar work over a subtly oompah backing rhythm with soft, brooding vocals. Is it possible to have a shoegazing waltz? Space Mushroom Fuzz never lack character in they do, Abrams periodically leading the way through jams that could and sometimes do run into indulgent (if satisfying) noodlefests, but particularly with “Half the Way Down,” there’s something more grounded and sadder at the root. “Onward, to the Future” tells a tale of alien invasion — short version: they win — and showcases the band’s exploratory side, but even that ends contemplative and relatively minimal, sort of dropping instruments one at a time by its finish on a long fade. A lesson in taming expectation, perhaps, and a fascinating, quick journey from this inventive outfit. Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Plunger, Space Plumber

plunger space plumber

All seems to be on a course for weirdo noise punk as Los Angeles bass/drum duo Plunger get underway on their debut Space Plumber EP, some Melvins influence making itself felt on “Toxic Wrap,” and then they rumble and thump their way into the eight-minute centerpiece title-track, and it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with twin brothers Mark (bass/vocals) and Kris Calabio (drums/vocals, also of Old Man Wizard) than it might at first seem. They quickly put their own minimalism to work for them on the faster opener “Blerg Rush,” but “Space Plumber” moves far off into sparseness, the drums barely there when they are and then gone ahead of the transition into “Sleep,” on which both Mark and Kris contribute vocals over a fuller rumble and steady roll, clearly enjoying the contrast. “Plunger” rounds out the release with a fuller take on some of the faster movement of the opener, starts and stops in the unpretentious 1;53 finale. One gets the feeling the (Super) Calabio Bros. are only going to get stranger from here, and that suits them well. Plunger on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Once again, these are five cool releases, but there were 35 other records that join the playlist today, including full-lengths from Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Apostle of Solitude and on and on. A couple of these will be on the year-end list, so if you get the chance to check out The Obelisk Radio playlist and updates page, I think it’s worth a look.

Thank you for reading and listening.

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Nice Package: The Re-Stoned, Plasma

Posted in Visual Evidence on February 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Moscow-based heavy psych outfit The Re-Stoned have sandwiched the bulk of the material on their new album between two massive 11-minute tracks, opener “Faces of Earth” and closer “Alpha Rhythm,” but that’s really just the beginning of the story when it comes to how Plasma is put together. The instrumental band led by and mostly comprised of guitarist/bassist Ilya Lipkin released their last record, Analog (review here), through R.A.I.G. in 2010, and Plasma sees issue through the same label as well, but instead of a jewel case arrives bundled in a folded cardboard box — almost like a miniaturized vinyl mailer with the logo printed on the front and the album info on back. It may not prove the most durable packaging option when it comes to standing the test of time, but it certainly is creative.

Lipkin, who is joined by drummers Vasily Bartov, Pavel Voloshin and Evgeny Tkachev throughout Plasma‘s eight tracks/58 minutes, employs a host of effects on his guitar and bass to add flourish to the tradicionnyj stoner riffing that lies at the heart of the band’s sound, and while the cardboard packaging doesn’t seem to have any direct correlation to what’s happening musically or thematically with the album or its titles —  though one does unfold the package and the flow of the album unfolds as well — it does grab the attention as only intricate physical media can. I’ve never thought of cardboard as particularly groovy, but maybe that’s what Lipkin is going for. I couldn’t really say.

The album boasts two covers — an extended jam on Jefferson Airplane’s “Today” in the first half and one on Pink Floyd‘s “Julia Dream” in the second — and with guest vocals from Veronika Martynova, they stand out in the tracklisting immediately and wind up as some of the record’s strongest material, incorporating elements of psychedelic folk with Lipkin layering acoustic and electric guitar. Elsewhere, the standout soloing of “Moon Dust” seems to be surfing with Joe Satriani‘s alien, while the riffs on the earlier “Grease” remind of some of the Karma to Burn-isms that showed up last time around. Fittingly titled, “Acoustic” is no less rich than any of the other material, given depth by Arkady Fedotov‘s synth and Tkachev‘s percussion, and as it occurs directly toward the middle of the album, it too seems to fall in line as another well-placed element at work to the benefit of Plasma.

Really, rather than be fed into by the music as part of an overarching theme, the uncommon packaging option for Plasma serves as an example of how intricately the record as a whole is constructed, be it the space-rocking jam of “The Clay God” or the more open, airy musicality of “Alpha Rhythm,” slowly developing over the calming course of its 11:26. The Re-Stoned and in particular Lipkin as the driving force behind the band impress on all fronts, and if it’s the package housing the CD that gets you to notice the album first, it’s one more thing to be thankful for after you’ve heard it later.

I’ve spouted off plenty of times about what a difference physical media can make in giving someone an impression of a work, so I’ll spare it, but in a case like this, the artwork — Lipkin also designed the logo — and the presentation to the audience becomes a part of the experience, and every time I reach for Plasma, it will be a different feeling than anything else that might be situated on that shelf, including Analog. If the record wasn’t up to par as a listen, it would be gimmicky, but The Re-Stoned have even more tools with which to satisfy sonically than they do in terms of the aesthetic in their choice of casing, so in addition to being a nice package, Plasma is also a complete one.

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Reviewsplosion II: The Return of 10 Records in One Post

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.

It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).

Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.

With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:


Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance

The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance (Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.


Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires

Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.


El-Thule, Zenit

Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.


Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom

It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.


GravelRoad, Psychedelta

Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin'” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.


The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers

Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers (Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4’s website.


Odyssey, Abysmal Despair

It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.


Palkoski, 2012 Demo

Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest  EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.


Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever

Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.


Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green

There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.

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Evil Cosmonaut, We Have Landed: Moscow Heavy Rock vs. Big Super Mega Monsters

Posted in Reviews on January 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Near as I can tell, the plot in the lyrics of Evil Cosmonaut’s “Boris Yeltsin vs. Giant Ants” is that huge bugs come and attack the world. Buildings fall, people die, and then Boris Yeltsin shows up, does an evil dance, and saves the planet. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that’s fucking awesome. Much of the Moscow three-piece’s R.A.I.G. debut, We Have Landed, follows that kind of course – not always to such heights of badassery, but nonetheless with a notable degree of charm. “My Moustache” calls its titular subject, “My present from God,” and “Armageddon” playfully name-checks the stars of the 1998 blockbuster, even going so far as to mention Steve Buscemi. That, in combination with the clay artwork, the crunchy tone of guitarist/vocalist Alex “Kaza” Kazachev and the bluesy groove of “The Song We Will Never Play Again,” seems to make We Have Landed a record that gets by more on personality than innovation, but whatever does it does it. The album’s nine tracks and 42 minutes feel quick, songs vary enough to hold interest, and periodic bursts of punkish energy keep the pace from being mired by sleepy stonerisms. A mostly dry production keeps Evil Cosmonaut grounded from where some of the space-program thematics might otherwise take them, giving the album a garage-esque feel at times, but between Kazachev and bassist Denis “Memphis Dead” Petrov, the tones are thicker than most of what passes these days for that aesthetic. It’s all rock.

And if anything, it’s hard to pick a highlight from among We Have Landed’s fare. “Armageddon” certainly makes a case for itself, with its rudimentary chugging riff and live feel, as well as its lyrics, but “Old Guy Neil,” which recalls the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s first steps out of the craft, starts the album off with a crisp (if somewhat misleading) aggressive bent and foretells a lot of the perspective to come. Drummer Konstantin Sosnin, the only member of Evil Cosmonaut without a nickname, is straightforward in his approach and well-suited to Kazachev’s riffs, which for the most part lead the way. The upbeat shuffle of “Marvin” – either an inside joke or a reference I don’t get to an old man who lives in a cave – features some of We Have Landed’s best fuzz, to be later complemented by closer “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and maintains the forward motion of the opener, leading to the even more rocking “Big Super Mega Monsters,” which earns its chorus shout of the title line late in the track. The song can’t help but be memorable with a name like that, but the music stands up to it with a marked simplicity of approach and a cheeky self-awareness that matches Kazachev’s vocal. However simple the album might seem, Evil Cosmonaut have a clear mindfulness of structure, as “The Song We Will Never Play Again” shows by slowing down the momentum of “Big Super Mega Monsters” and giving way in turn to the middle-pacing of “Armageddon.” Given the tongue-in-cheek nature of most of the lyrics – here a drunken alien abduction is recounted – I’d doubt the veracity of the title “The Song We Will Never Play Again,” or at least hope it’s not true, since the song’s relatively lumbering groove is among the album’s most fascinating assets.

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The Re-Stoned, Analog: Finding the Inner Fuzz

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

If it feels like there’s been a lot of instrumental heavy psych reviewed around here lately, you’re right. Joining the pack with their second studio full-length on R.A.I.G. (they also had a live album out) is previously On-the-Radar’ed Moscow trio The Re-Stoned, whose latest seven-track collection of wah-jam voodoo is called Analog. A lot of what you need to know about the band and the album is right there. As their moniker might lead you to believe, they’re stoned again – playing a kind of heady guitar-led stoner/psych rock – and they’re not at all shy about highlighting the analog warmth of the cuts included; calling it Analog feels almost brazen, daring the listener to take on the album’s natural feel. And in so doing, one is making a considerable investment in both time and energy. The three-piece cover a wide swath of mostly familiar ground on Analog, and with opener “Northern Lights” as the shortest piece at 5:58 and closer “Dream of Vodyanoy” the longest at 14:01, the record clocks a robust 61 and a half minutes, which is a lot and feels like it.

Immediately that’s a kind of drawback for The Re-Stoned. “Fronted” in a musical sense by heavily-effected, Orange-amped guitarist Ilya Lipkin, Analog takes shape around classic psych jams like “Crystals,” and while the bluesy favor in Lipkin’s playing is often satisfying as offset by the double-Vladimir rhythm section of Vladimir Nikulin (bass) and Vladimir Muchnov (drums), as “Crystals” turns into “Feedback” turns into “Music for Jimmy” and the album’s middle becomes its end, the course of jam parts, the occasional plotted riff and extended solos starts to feel samey, in concept if not actual sound. The Re-Stoned recorded Analog live, which was undoubtedly the way to go considering the spontaneous vibe of the material, and in multiple sessions, and one can hear that mostly in Muchnov’s drums, which have an entirely different snare sound on the title-track than they do on the riffier “Put the Sound Down or Get the Hell Out.” And while this change in the actual audio keeps Analog from sounding overly redundant, there’s no denying the ethic is the same. That said, “Analog” blends the more riff-led and jammier elements in The Re-Stoned’s approach better than nearly everything else on the album, so it’s not like Analog is lacking in satisfying moments or is somehow entirely without merit or appeal. Just the opposite.

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Without God, Lambs to the Slaughter: Drawn to the Sound of Broken Glass

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Though both their band moniker and album title smack of grindcore or some form of metal more typically thought of as “extreme,” Moscow outfit Without God’s debut, Lambs to the Slaughter, is doom and sludge the whole way through. The first offering from the four-piece (who may or may not have gotten their name from the Katatonia song), Lambs to the Slaughter finds its release through R.A.I.G., perhaps the most major of players in the still-developing Russian heavy/riff-led scene – that’s not to say “stoner,” because it’s not all stoner rock, though those elements are present in many of R.A.I.G.’s bands (The Re-Stoned and The Grand Astoria come to mind), Without God among them. But the 10 cuts on Lambs to the Slaughter are darker, more doomed atmospherically, and among the band’s influences — readily on display in various stretches throughout the album – the Californian desert is all but completely inconsequential. Without God are shooting for something altogether more tonally weighted, and about as close as they come is some similarity early on between vocalist/guitarist Anton Brovkin and former The Awesome Machine singer John Hermansen’s guttural croon on opener “They Rot.”

I’d chalk that up to coincidence more than influence, and rather, it seems the actual intent of Without God is to play off a Crowbar-style riffy sludge, throw in some melody – as both Brovkin and fellow guitarist Olga Grieg do effectively in the instrumental breaks of “They Rot” – and write traditionally structured heavy songs. Noble enough intent, and they’re not bad at it. Small flourishes of individuality go a long way toward complementing the more genre-based ideas on Lambs to the Slaughter, and a string of slower, bluesy guitar leads across several of the tracks — “Believe,” “Crossroads/Eat the Shit,” “Forgiveness Sunday,” “Altar of Medicine,” and closer “Faithless” – shows personality in the playing that’s still only beginning to emerge. Crowbar is the chief influence on much of Lambs to the Slaughter, whether it’s a slower song like “Altar of Medicine” or a faster one like “Homeless,” but they’re by no means the only point of inspiration on display. Brovkin’s vocal cadence on the awesomely-named “Space Weed” is pure Lee Dorrian from Cathedral’s classic “Hopkins (The Witchfinder General),” and you can’t get away with putting the exclamation “Alright now!” over a grooving riff as he does on “Believe” without earning a comparison to Sabbath’s “Sweet Leaf.” Especially not over that grooving riff.

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