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

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

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

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

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

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

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

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

Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

somnuri somnuri

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

Somnuri on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

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

Daira on Thee Facebooks

Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

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

Kavrila on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

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

Ivan on Thee Facebooks

Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

clara-engel-songs-for-leona-carrington

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

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

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

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

deadly-vipers-fueltronaut

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

Deadly Vipers on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

storm-of-void-war-inside-you

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

Storm of Void on Thee Facebooks

Hostess Entertainment website

 

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Shepherd Announce Breakup; Discuss New Projects in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, it’s kind of a surprise to hear Bangalore, India-based sludgers Shepherd are hanging it up, considering it was just a month ago they announced a split with Death by Fungi that’s actually out today, Aug. 15. That, obviously, will mark their swansong, and the trio played their last show this past weekend at The Humming Tree in their hometown. It seems like their calling it quits is owed more to the life situation of the three players involved rather than any kind of consuming malice between them, and that’s always a preferred scenario — at least if the alternative is “we fucking hate each other,” which it sometimes can be — and whether or not Shepherd ever wind up getting together to do anything else, at least they go out with a few marked accomplishments to their collective credit.

Chief among those has to be their 2015 debut album, Stereolithic Riffalocalypse (review here). The band signed a deal that same year to issue a vinyl edition through Helmet Lady Records and though that didn’t materialize — not that it’s in any way too late for it to do so — the songs stand up in their heft and in the memorable impression their sludgely ways left behind. Complementary offerings like the demo collection Demolithic Riffalocalypse in 2016 and Garden of Hate: Live Riffalocalypse in 2017 only reaffirmed the impact of the full-length on both the band and their still-growing base of listeners.

The band’s announcement was short and sweet, and I followed up with them to get some further comment on the end of Shepherd and what might come next. Both follow here:

shepherd

SHEPHERD (2011-2017): REST IN RIFFS

Unfortunately, the time has come to lay this old thing to rest once and for all. We’ve done a lot more than we ever thought we would when we started this band. It wouldn’t have been possible without all your support, THANK YOU!

Shepherd on their breakup:

It’s sad that we had to put Shepherd to rest, but right now, it seemed like the best thing to do. The three of us are soon going to be on 3 different continents, and even though it’s not impossible to continue as a studio only project, we figured it was the best time to call it quits. Dee and Namit are pretty much the driving force behind the band and the only remaining original members. When I moved to Sweden, it was not too hard to find some amazing musicians to stand in, but with Namit moving Stateside, it felt that it would be better to just to get the split out and bow out.

We’ve had an amazing experience so far and it’s still a bit of a shocker what we’ve managed to pull off, and it wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s support. So thank You!

The only thing we regret is not being able to get Stereolithic Riffalocalypse out on vinyl, especially when it was so close to happening. So yeah, apologies to everyone who was waiting to get their hands on it. We were as bummed out as you were when the label deal fell through.

Regarding what the future holds, I’m sure individually, we will all be involved in some musical projects. Dee’s already put out an album with his solo project, The Earth Below, and he’s already busy working on new material, plus he’s got a bunch of other side-projects.

Shepherd was:
Deepak Raghu (Drums/Vocals)
Namit Chauhan (Guitars/Vocals)
Abhishek Michael (Bass/Vocals)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shepherd/144878495627033
https://twitter.com/ShepherdSludge
https://instagram.com/shepherd.sludge/
https://shepherdrock.bandcamp.com/album/shep-dbf-split

Shepherd, “Agents of Nihil” official video

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Shepherd Announce Split with Death by Fungi Due Aug. 15; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Indian sludgers Shepherd have announced an Aug. 15 release for their upcoming split with the Mumbai-based hardcore outfit Death by Fungi. For Shepherd, the split will follow quickly on the heels of their May 2017 limited CD, Garden of Hate: Live Riffalocalypse, and to herald the arrival of the new offering, they’ve got a video for “Agents of Nihil” streaming now that you can see at the bottom of this post. It’s a quick two-plus minutes but gives a sense of their metallic vibes and adds some edge of melody to its proceedings as well, so as it’s one of five they’ll feature on the upcoming offering, it seems fair to expect a good amount of intensity throughout. Right on.

Preorders are up now if that’s your thing. Info follows courtesy of the PR wire:

shepherd-death-by-fungi-split

Hardcore Mayhem from India: Sludge unit Shepherd and hardcore band Death By Fungi release Split Album

Two of India’s most abrasive bands – Shepherd and Death By Fungi – are teaming up for one hell of a split album, Shep/DBF Split, slated to release on August 15th.

Shepherd, who hail from India’s verdant IT hub of Bangalore, have been regulars on the gigging circuit since 2011, dealing out atmospheric, slowburn sludge on the regular. This five-track side turns away from their low-end jams to become a complete ear drum-bruiser, drummer-vocalist Deepak Raghu and guitarist-vocalist Namit Chauhan picking up the tempo to channel more Black Flag, Discharge and even a bit of grunge for a puerile noise fest. The EP features guests from diverse backgrounds – veteran guitarist Jimmy Palkhivala (from doom/death band Dying Embrace) ripping out a noisy solo on “Agents of Nihil”, Bhayanak Maut co-vocalist Sunneith Revankar and Ganesh Krishnaswamy (from stoner-doom band Bevar Sea and old school stalwarts Kryptos) adding growls on the crushing closer “Weed Dealer”.

Mirroring the rage are Mumbai’s razor-edge hardcore band Death By Fungi, started out as guitarist vocalist Vrishank Menon’s solo project in 2012, adding members over the years (drummer Aryaman Chatterjee, bassist Kamran Raza and vocalist Tabish Khidir). With two EPs (Death By Fungi – 2015, In dearth of – 2016), the (then) trio proved they can stomp their way through a near non-existent punk, mathcore and hardcore landscape in the country. Now, with four new tracks this year, Death By Fungi are pitching the hardcore flag with precision, a rawer, aggro sound that recalls everyone from Converge and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

With the split set to release digitally worldwide on August 15th, Shepherd already have a blistering taste to offer for fans, with the monochrome video to the astonishingly gruesome “Agents of Nihil.”

The split can be pre-ordered below.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shepherd/144878495627033
https://twitter.com/ShepherdSludge
https://instagram.com/shepherd.sludge/
https://shepherdrock.bandcamp.com/album/shep-dbf-split

https://www.facebook.com/deathbyfungi
https://twitter.com/deathbyfungi
https://soundcloud.com/deathbyfungi
https://deathbyfungi.bandcamp.com/

Shepherd, “Agents of Nihil” official video

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