Mirror Queen Premiere “Starliner”; New Album Due this Fall

Posted in audiObelisk on March 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mirror queen at the saint vitus bar

New York City heavy rockers Mirror Queen have a new single out ahead of a full-length currently being finalized for an October release on Tee Pee Records. Ever true to their city-dwelling roots, the band tracked the Starliner b/w Career of Evil 7″ in the midst of Times Square chaos, at Terminus Studios. It’s hard to imagine a more frenetic or overwhelming environment, but if that’s the setting in which “Starliner” takes place, one would hardly know it in listening to the track itself. As did their last album, 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here), the new track finds peace in a cohesive blend of progressive and classic heavy inspirations, filtering them through a modern production style — and yeah, just an edge of Manhattan crunch — to take full ownership of its sound. With a Blue Öyster Cult cover as the B-side that features formidable guest spots from Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and Harald Fossberg, formerly of Turbonegro, they’d hardly be accused of not owning up to their influences, but neither are they beholden to them, the band emerging with an independent streak that is as much a conceptual part of who they are as it is crucial to their aesthetic.

mirror queen starlinerVery New York, in other words. And not necessarily the new New York either. Mirror Queen are a bit grittier than that. Tracing their lineage back to guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal‘s former outfit, Kreisor, and further beyond that to that band’s predecessor, Aytobach Kreisor, the lineup of Mirror Queen may be regularly subject to some flux — “Starliner” marks the studio debut of former The Golden Grass bassist Morgan McDaniel on guitar alongside Sehgal, bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien — the band’s purpose has remained steady even as their approach has progressed. Scaffolds of the Sky did not shy away from its proggier aspects, and the new outing being finished at Flux in the East Village will reportedly follow suit (including an extended take on “Starliner”), but Mirror Queen never seem to forget the necessity of an underlying structure to their songwriting, and as they eye up the prospects of East Coast and European tours for this summer and fall, respectively, that should only continue to serve them well on every stage they hit.

Sehgal credits Robin Trower and Swervedriver specifically when it comes to “Starliner,” and you can take a listen below and hear that come to fruition for yourself. With a limited edition mirror cover and an included patch, the Starliner b/w Career of Evil 7″ can be ordered direct from Tee Pee at the link at the bottom of this post.

Hope you enjoy:

Trower inspired A-side, Starliner, features new Mirror Queen guitarist Morgan McDaniel (ex-Golden Grass). The B-side, Blue Öyster Cult’s “Career of Evil”, also has musical contributions from keyboardist Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, Opeth) and Harald Fossberg (ex-Turbonegro). Premium mirror sleeve and pressed on black vinyl. Comes with embroidered sew-on Mirror Queen patch.

Mirror Queen on Thee Facebooks

Starliner b/w Career of Evil at Tee Pee Records webstore

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

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Thera Roya Announce East Coast and Midwestern Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Next month, post-sludge three-piece Thera Roya head out on a week-long tour supporting their debut full-length, Stone and Skin (review here). Self-released by the Brooklynite trio in February, the album was the latest manifestation of what’s been an ongoing growth process for them more or less since their inception, and boasted their most textured material to-date, still raw in its presentation, but clearly pushing them forward beyond their prior output and onto something more their own.

They haven’t been shy about getting out in the past, so it’s not a huge surprise they’d do so now either. Fittingly enough, this run caps in Virginia at a show with doom extremists Foehammer, who are former tourmates. One imagines that will give Thera Roya something to strive for as they slog their way around the Midwest and Southeast, but as you can see below, they’re not lacking for company really at any point on the trip, except maybe Winston-Salem.

Dates follow:

thera roya on tour

Thera Roya – April 2017 Tour

Coming off an extremely busy 2015/16 that saw the band release an EP, a split and then go on to play 88 shows, Thera Roya are unafraid to hit the road and grind it out in the name of their craft. Thera Roya has been able to play with bands like Cult Leader, Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Birds In Row, Pilgrim, Generation Of Vipers, U.S Christmas, Tengger Calvary and North. With the release of their monolithic first full length, Stone & Skin, Thera Roya are preparing themselves to tour on their most important material yet.

Thera Roya on tour:
04/03 Century Philadelphia PA w/ Shithawks, Static Brothers
04/04 Potion Castle Morgantown PA w/ Wax Brain, Rat Ship
04/05 Best Friend Bar Lexington KY w/ Dirtbag, No Witness
04/06 The Cobra Nashville TN w/ Sheep Shifter
04/07 Sluggo’s North Vegetarian Cafe Chatanooga TN w/ Prayer Circle
04/08 The Odditorium Ashville NC w/ Black Mountain Hunger
04/09 Test Pattern Winston-Salem NC
04/10 McCormack’s Irish Pub Richmond VA w/ Foehammer, Grim Sleepers

Thera Roya is:
Jonathan Cohn – Bass
Ryan Smith – Drums/Vox/Guitar
Christopher Eustaquio – Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/TheraRoya/
https://theraroya.bandcamp.com/

Thera Roya, Stone and Skin (2017)

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Endless Boogie Announce Vibe Killer Due May 19; Australian Tour Dates this Month

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

endless boogie

Were it not for the lyrical proclamations made by guitarist Paul Major throughout, I’d almost accuse New York’s Endless Boogie of the grammatical flub of forgetting to put a colon between the two words in the title their new album. That would make the No Quarter Records release Vibe: Killer instead of Vibe Killer, which to me seems a much likelier description of how the record will actually sound upon its arrival May 19, following the band’s Australian tour set for later this month and preceding by a week a new book release by the aforementioned Major.

Endless Boogie‘s last studio offering was 2013’s Long Island (review here), which it would be fair to call a sleeper only if you had the misfortune of sleeping on it, and notice of Vibe Killer‘s Spring arrival follows their inclusion on my 2017 Most Anticipated Albums list, for which I had them in the most-speculative “Would be Awfully Nice” category. Sure enough, I still think it’ll be awfully nice to get a new record from them.

Feeding that argument is the public unveiling of the Vibe Killer title-track, which you can and should stream below, and which comes courtesy of the PR wire:

endless boogie vibe killer

Endless Boogie announce “Vibe Killer” / share title track

Endless Boogie have announced their 4th studio album Vibe Killer will be released on May 19th. Vibe Killer is the bands first single LP, a concise 6 track effort recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn, NY. As on the 2013 album Long Island, Matt Sweeney again joins the Boogie’s core of Marc Razo (bass), Harry Druzd (drums), Jesper Eklow (guitar) and Paul “Top Dollar” Major (guitar).

Endless Boogie will tour Australia this March, and the US this Summer (Dates TBA). On May 26th Anthology Archives will release a book Paul by Major called Feel The Music collecting all of his writings on rare and private press albums, as well thoughts on his time in New York, going back to his days in a grimy East Village apartment in the 70’s. It’s an incredible collection.

March 13th – The Curtin – Melbourne
March 14th/15th – Boogie Festival – Tallarook
March 20th – Newtown Social Club – Sydney
March 21 – Black Bear Lodge – Brisbane

https://www.facebook.com/Endless-Boogie-31128877690/
https://endlessboogie.bandcamp.com/
http://noquarter.net/
https://twitter.com/NoQuarterRex
https://soundcloud.com/noquarterrex

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The Mad Doctors Premiere “Dead Beach”; No Waves, Just Sharks Due in April

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-mad-doctors-Photo-Jeanette-D-Moses-Pizzamania-Portraits

There are bits and pieces of dialog interspersed between the tracks on The Mad Doctors‘ forthcoming second album, No Waves, Just Sharks, that come together to tell the story of the record. I’m not entirely sure what that story is, but it’s there, and it involves drugs, and somehow it feels really, really appropriate when put next to the heavy-surfer-punk that the Brooklyn trio proffer in the songs themselves. It’s a fine line to walk, since so much of the record is about thrust — of crotch and rhythm alike — and it basically interrupts itself at every turn, but yeah, they pull it off. If your brain’s not on board for some weirdness, take a second and get there.

Then go ahead and dive into the song “Dead Beach,” which is premiering below. Last we heard from the band was their 2016 split with fellow New Yorkers Sun Voyager (discussed here), and though “Dead Beach” is a little thicker than some of what No Waves, Just Sharks gets into at its most manic — The Mad Doctors get to be pretty zany as they go, in a subtly-malevolent kind of way — I think it represents the album pretty well in its impact and underlying sense of the unhinged, effectively conveyed across the span of the record as it courses through one song to the next.

The Mad Doctors have a slew of dates lined up to herald the April release via King Pizza Records — preorders are up now — and you can see those below and hear the debut of “Dead Beach” at the bottom of the post. Thanks to the band and label for letting me host the premiere.

Enjoy:

the-mad-doctors-no-waves-just-sharks

The Mad Doctors – No Waves, Just Sharks

The Mad Doctors continue their quest to surf the sludgy seas and headbang on Blood Beach with their second LP ‘No Waves, Just Sharks’. One part riffy fuzz, one part reverb-drenched surf – the Brooklyn trio pound out 10 tracks of driving garage punk shit and take to the highways and byways of America to cover themselves in beer and eat lots of chips (aka tour).

Collaborating with tons of familiar faces from the Brooklyn rock n roll scene – additional vocals by Megan Mancini of The Rizzos & Matt Witte of Coach n Commando plus voice-acting in the b-movie clips (featuring mems of Sirs & Madams, The Rizzos, and more), The Mad Doctors create an unholy soundtrack to a B-Movie you wish existed.

Blurring the lines between punk, sludge, psych, and surf, The Mad Doctors revel in their part of a larger scene bringing all types of rock n rollers together to party. So dig the tunes, spread the scourge, and lose your mind. And always remember, Justin’s a cop.

Limited run of 500 LPs, 100 on minty snot green, 100 on fool’s gold, 300 on black available for pre-order via King Pizza Records

Pre-order link: http://kingpizzarecords.storenvy.com/products/19006516-the-mad-doctors-no-waves-just-shark-lp

Release is 4/14 at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn with Stuyedeyed, The Royal They, and Crazy Pills

Track List:
The Ballad of Jort Dad
Springwater Supper Wizard
Dead Beach
Shit Hawks at Blood Beach
Lord of Garbage
Justin’s a Cop
Mind Rot
Dial M (for Sultry)
She’s a Psycho
The Rats are Coming

Tour Dates:
Th 3/16 – Brooklyn NY – The Gutter
F 3/17 – New Paltz NY – Fizzies
Sa 3/18 – Rochester NY – Monty’s Krown
Su 3/19 – Syracuse NY – The Spit House
Fri 3/31 – New London CT – Oasis
Sa 4/1 – Providence RI – POP Gallery
F 4/14 – Brooklyn NY – Shea Stadium
M 4/24 – Baltimore MD – The Annex
Tu 4/25 – Roanoke VA – Front Line
W 4/26 – Knoxville TN – Pilot Light
Th 4/27 – Boone NC – TBA
F 4/28 – Norfolk VA – Norfolk Taphouse
Sa 4/29 – Richmond VA – S.ADD House
W 5/10 – Boston MA – Obrien’s
Th 5/11 – Amherst MA – Spirit Ghost House
F 5/12 – Brattleboro VT – McNeill’s Brewery
Sa 5/13 – Burlington VT – Monkey House
Su 5/14 – Worcester MA – Distant Castle

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1857459804531134/

The Mad Doctors are:
Seth Applebaum – Gtr/Vox
Josh Park – Bass
Greg Hanson – Drums

Band photo by Jeanette D. Moses. http://www.jeanettedmoses.com.

https://themaddoctors.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheMadDoctors/
https://twitter.com/TheMadDoctors
http://kingpizzarecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingpizzarecs/

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The Obelisk Presents: Godmaker, Rozamov, Hush & Husbandry at The Well, Brooklyn, NYC, March 8

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on February 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-presents-godmaker-rozamov-hush-husbandry-the-well

Fancy a little mid-week slaughter? Sure, we all do. All the more reason I’m proud to have The Obelisk present GodmakerRozamovHUSH. and Husbandry on March 8 at The Well in Brooklyn for an evening that will boast both kinds of music — crushing and pummeling.

Okay, you’ve seen the names. Before we get into it, just go ahead and get your tickets here.

Headlining are Brooklyn’s own Godmaker, who are now more than two years past the Aqualamb release of their self-titled debut (review here) and who in the time since have added guitarist/vocalist Carmine Laietta to their lineup. Somehow I doubt bringing the former Hull axe-slinger on board has dulled their scathing, blister-raising noise rock approach. They have new music in the works that as of a couple weeks ago was in the mixing stage, so it seems likely we’ll be hearing from them again sooner than later. Not a complaint.

As for Rozamov, this gig at The Well follows the March 3 hometown release show in Boston for their long-awaited debut album, This Mortal Road (review later this week), on Battleground and Dullest Records, and marks the beginning of a tour (info here) that spans both coasts and includes time at SXSW to play the Austin Terror Fest. The three-piece have put in significant road time already as a band, but with the record coming out, there are going to be a lot of people turned onto their post-sludge roll and doomed atmospherics.

I was fortunate enough back in 2015 to see all-caps, punctuation-inclusive NY doomers HUSH. open for Conan (review here) in Brooklyn, and if they could stand up to that kind of massiveness on stage — which they did, and admirably — they can conquer just about anything. Their 2016 EP, Nihil Unbound, was recently issued on vinyl through Fuzz RecordsDullest (making them partial labelmates to Rozamov) and Silent Pendulum, and is gone, though they might have a few copies on-hand for the merch table. Won’t know if you don’t show up.

And rounding out the bill are Husbandry. Also native to Brooklyn, the four-piece released their debut album, Fera, on Aqualamb — making them labelmates to Godmaker; I love a lineup with comrades and symmetry — and though they label themselves as post-hardcore and certainly that tells part of the tale, it hardly accounts fully for the charge of a song like “Grab Twist Pull” or the alt-minded infectiousness of “Hymn to Tourach.” Still, gotta call it something I guess. Expect a riotous kickoff to a show that only gets meaner as it goes on.

Rozamov bassist Tom Corino had this to say about the night: “The lineup for this show is heavy, diverse and incestuous. The crushing and bleak Hush are joining us for the first couple dates of this tour and will are Dullest Records lablemates with Godmaker and ourselves. We’ve played with Godmaker a bunch of times, and they’ve become our brothers in ‘loud.’ The ‘oddball’ of the group is Husbandry, a mathy-post hardcore band that will melt your mind and tantalize your senses. See you soon Brooklyn!”

It’s going to be a stellar, ridiculously heavy night, and I’m honored to join Tone Deaf Touring in presenting it.

Here’s the raw data:

Godmaker, Rozamov, Hush and Husbandry at The Well

Wednesday, March 8

The Well
272 Meserole St, Brooklyn, New York 11206

Loudest, heaviest show of the spring, in Brooklyn.
Quote us on that.

7pm doors, 8pm music – 21+
$10 adv//$12 at the door.

Tickets at Ticketweb

Event page on Thee Facebooks

Godmaker on Bandcamp

Godmaker on Thee Facebooks

Rozamov on Thee Facebooks

HUSH. on Thee Facebooks

Husbandry on Thee Facebooks

The Well website

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Sabbath Assembly Release Rites of Passage May 12 on Svart

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sabbath-assembly-photo-Justina-Villanueva

Six albums deep, Sabbath Assembly remain something of an anomaly even in the cult rock set. Their last outing, 2015’s self-titled, made no effort to shy away from its metallic underpinnings, and between that and the member changes that seem to surround the group on the regular, I’m not even a little confident in predicting what their new one, titled Rites of Passage, might have to say for itself.

A May 12 release date has been marked by Svart Records, and it’s almost certain they’ll leak some audio prior to that, but Sabbath Assembly has proven elusive since their heady conceptual days around 2009’s Eno ot Derotser and 2010’s Restored to One, so yeah, what we’re getting this time around is anyone’s best guess.

And not knowing, frankly, is part of the fun.

The PR wire brings art and details:

sabbath-assembly-rites-of-passage

SABBATH ASSEMBLY set release date for new SVART album

Today, Svart Records sets May 12th as the international release date for Sabbath Assembly’s highly anticipated sixth album, Rites of Passage. The album shall be released on vinyl, CD, and digital formats.

Led by vocalist Jamie Myers (ex-Hammers of Misfortune), Sabbath Assembly anno 2017 features guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia), who has been with the band since 2011; original Sabbath Assembly drummer Dave Nuss; bassist Johnny Deblase, who also played on the band’s self-titled album; and the new addition of second guitarist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot, Psalm Zero, Zvi). Rites of Passage marks a moment in which Sabbath Assembly truly “comes of age” as a unique combination of its members, creating progressive metal influenced by Gorguts and Hammers of Misfortune while maintaining a melodic edge true to the roots of the band in the hymnody of the Process Church of the Final Judgment.

Thematically, Rites of Passage is a reflection on the complexity of the transitional stages of life. Ethnographer Arnold van Gennep first defined “rites of passage” in 1960 as birth, childhood, puberty, marriage, parenthood, religious initiation, and funerals. In our current age, when many eschew these specific rites, Sabbath Assembly’s newest songs define transitional moments based on experiences in their own lives that have left them feeling truly changed. The songs on Rites of Passage include stories of losing one’s religion (rather than initiation), dissolution of a relationship (rather than marriage), and managing the dementia and physical decline of a loved one (as more profound than a funeral rite).

In a time when others in the occult rock genre remain preoccupied with fantasy and dark mysticism, Sabbath Assembly finds the most profound of transformative moments in everyday experience. Rites of Passage presents its listeners with a set of songs that the band hopes will mirror their own experiences of transition, and in some way provide necessary passage. First track premiere as well as video to be revealed imminently. Cover art, by Alex Reisfar, and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Sabbath Assembly’s Rites of Passage
1. Shadows Revenge
2. Angels Trumpets
3. I Must Be Gone
4. Does Love Die
5. Twilight of God
6. Seven Sermons to the Dead
7. The Bride of Darkness

www.sabbathassembly.com
www.facebook.com/sabbathassembly
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Sabbath Assembly, “Apparition of the Revolution” official video

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White Hills Announce Stop Mute Defeat Due May 19

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

I had this whole rumination cued up in my brain about how White Hills wouldn’t be so gosh darn underappreciated if they were a West Coast band instead of being from New York. Hell, even if they were from elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard — Florida to Philly — they’d probably get more credit than they do for their experimental approach to the psychedelic and beyond, which seems to be on full display with the new album, Stop Mute Defeat, out May 19 on Thrill Jockey.

Really. Had the whole thing worked out in my head. But you know what? You don’t care, and the raw truth of the matter is, while they most definitely are undervalued, White Hills get enough of a mainstream look that it doesn’t really matter what I think about them one way or another. It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m just a shitheel blogger posting a press release about an album that’ll probably be pretty cool. Business as usual. Any other insight? Tertiary at best, completely unnecessary at the most honest.

That’s me facing reality in the face of the unreal.

From Thrill Jockey‘s preorder page:

white-hills-stop-mute-defeat

WHITE HILLS – STOP MUTE DEFEAT – MAY 19

LP pressed on virgin vinyl and packaged in a gatefold jacket with free download coupon. A very limited supply is pressed on blue vinyl. CD version in 4 panel mini-LP style gatefold jacket.

The dismal realities, political or otherwise, that are part of our modern world naturally influence our creative voices. It is in this context that White Hills re-evaluated their approach to creating a new album. Having continually refined their sound, pushing the boundaries of psychedelic music, White Hills flipped the script on Stop Mute Defeat. Dave W. and Ego Sensation have brazenly produced an industrially-charged record that pulsates unlike anything they’ve released before.

Hard-line, gritty, and intellectually engaged, Stop Mute Defeat is a New York record through and through. With this in mind, White Hills drafted Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Brian Eno, Afrika Bambaataa) to mix. White Hills recorded with Bisi on two of their previous releases, Frying On This Rock in 2012 and its follow-up So You Are…So You’ll Be, however Stop Mute Defeat is the first time they worked with Martin “The Beast” Bisi in control of the mixing board. A native New Yorker who made his name in the city’s early hip-hop and no-wave scenes, Bisi was attracted to White Hills’ new material for its distinct early-80s Mudd Club feel. A dance hall, drug den, and bar, the Mudd Club was one of New York’s legendary haunts in the late 1970’s. As a center of a distinct art scene the club served as a major influence for White Hills and Stop Mute Defeat’s sound.

Following similar techniques to those propagated by William S. Burroughs (a regular at Mudd Club), Stop Mute Defeat sees White Hills break free from the guitar-driven structure of their earlier releases. Reassigning William Burroughs’ word “cut-up” technique to music, Dave W. and Ego Sensation deconstruct sound clips to create minimalist but rhythmically complex phrases. Title track ‘Stop Mute Defeat’ layers turbocharged bass loops with squalling guitar samples, to create a sound that calls to mind Xtrmntr-era Primal Scream. “If… 1… 2” goes even further down the rabbit hole, oscillating into the experimental electro-sound of early 80s Sheffield, UK band Cabaret Voltaire. Meanwhile the taut brawny grind of ‘Attack Mode’ industrially hardens White Hills’ rock boundaries to tribal densities.

Appalled by the rampant consumerism and the proliferation of ‘post-truth’ mythology, White Hills’ defiant lyricism is at their most philosophically scathing. Condemning doublespeak as “Subliminal seduction…a serenade with a grenade,” the song “Overlord” laments political and economic opportunism, where “In travesty, [there’s always] another dollar to be made.” On “Attack Mode” meanwhile, a clenched-jawed Dave W. channels the perverse cynicism of Throbbing Gristle, throwing scorn on “societies where misogyny leads and the objectification of young girls runs free.” Exposing Western vulgarity in bright light, Stop Mute Defeat is a fearless and necessary denunciation of the political and economic powers that be.

Between the release of 2015’s Walks For Motorists and the making of Stop Mute Defeat, members Dave W. and Ego Sensation took time out to focus on other artistic endeavors instead of keeping up their pace of an album a year. Diving deeper into the world of video, Ego has produced and exhibited a series of “Moving Stills”: videos that imbue static images with a subtle, uncanny motion. In these pieces, realism morphs with itself to create abstract visions. Through Dave W’s obsession with meditation, he was drawn back to his love of form and image, creating a series of sculpturally based hallucinatory abstract paintings in which the viewer is sucked into infinite space. These forays outside of music were instrumental in the shaping of Stop Mute Defeat.

Writing in his seminal postmodern oeuvre Naked Lunch, Burroughs states: “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” Rethinking their musical norms, personally and musically diving into uncertain waters, White Hills at once embrace and demonstrate the raw power of such abandon.

Tracklist:
1. Overlord
2. A Trick of the Mind
3. Importance 101
4. Attack Mode
5. If… 1… 2
6. Sugar Hill
7. Entertainer
8. Stop Mute Defeat

http://whitehillsmusic.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WHITE-HILLS-90476409450/
https://twitter.com/whitehillsmusic
https://whitehills.bandcamp.com/
http://thrilljockey.com/products/stop-mute-defeat

White Hills, No Game to Play (2016)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Thera Roya, Stone and Skin

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

thera-roya-stone-and-skin

[Click play above to stream Thera Roya’s Stone and Skin in full. Album is out Feb. 17.]

No simple feat to be airy and crushing at the same time, yet, to listen to Christopher Eustaquio‘s guitar and Jonathan Cohn‘s bass on Stone and Skin, it seems to be the modus in which Brooklyn’s Thera Roya are most at home. At seven songs/42-minutes, Stone and Skin is the self-released full-length debut from the post-sludge trio, completed by drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith (also guitar, and also of Mountain God), and it arrives with suitable development time after 2015’s split with Sangharsha and the Unraveling EP (review here), which was three tracks but enough to provide what seemed to be a significant glimpse at where the band was heading — and I say “seemed” because listening to “Egypt’s Light,” “Hume and Ivey” and others from Stone and Skin, that’s just not how it worked out.

Where the EP offered harshness and abrasion, Thera Roya‘s first long-player takes a more multifaceted approach by far, incorporating aspects of post-hardcore on cuts like “Dream of Arrakis” and finding Smith varying his vocal approach sometimes within the span of a line or two between clean singing, searing screams, deathly growls, and other sorts of shouts. They’re still plenty heavy, as they demonstrate throughout in the weight of Cohn‘s tone and the brutal abandon with which it’s wielded, but from the ambient beginning of opener “Saffron,” which slowly unfolds from quiet on a subtle linear build that grows increasingly frenzied over the final two of its total six minutes, Thera Roya show clear effort has been made to progress their sound, and ultimately prove that effort was not in vain by greatly expanding the sonic reach of the band.

A healthy dose of noise and/or feedback provides ease in the transitions within or between songs, and Smith‘s vocal shifts add intrigue, but the evolution in Thera Roya‘s sound goes further than that and resonates to the core of their craft. Structures vary and are malleable, flows are created and willfully interrupted, melodies seem to crash headfirst into dissonance. Coming out of the leadoff salvo of “Saffron,” “Egypt’s Light” and “Dream of Arrakis,” there is a sense of the unhinged at play, but then the three-minute rocking centerpiece “Hume and Ivey” re-anchors the proceedings, and the simple fact that Stone and Skin exists argues for their control over its processes even when the actual audio of the thing might lead one to believe they’re flying apart. That is to say, there’s intention here, even if that intention is to experiment and find out where a given movement goes.

As to that, the first half of Stone and Skin seems to be careening ultimately toward the nine-minute “Solitude,” which plays off Panopticon-style ambient meandering without actually sounding like Isis — avoiding the telltale drumbeat as Thera Roya do here in favor of a lumbering roll is an accomplishment in itself — and late-arriving clean vocals only underscore the openness of structure with which they’re working. To their credit, “Solitude” doesn’t hit some massive crescendo. There’s an apex, but it’s more patient and natural feeling — more sweep than thrust — and works better in the context of the track itself than some forced explosion in volume otherwise might. When “Solitude” ends, it just comes apart, and in that, it’s point seems to be doubly made and all the more evocative.

The observation at the outset, about being airy and crushing, finds maybe its most succinct summary in the penultimate “The Stream,” which follows “Solitude” and moves at a faster pace from atmospheric guitars into low-end density, seeming to provide some of the thrust that the preceding cut held back while remaining instrumental for all of its three and a half minutes. I cannot stress enough how crucial is a song like this to an album like this in a spot like this. It’s one more aspect of Stone and Skin conveying to the listener that Thera Roya are free to move where they want to go sound-wise. Think of it as a different execution of the “acoustic interlude” — though it is far from acoustic — in changing things up going into the finale. If one is hearing Stone and Skin front to back, it might not even be clear where the transition comes into play.

It’s a complete use of a sonic idea that could just as easily have been subsumed into a more finished “song,” but one that enhances the album overall in ways that another song simply couldn’t, while also providing an effective bridge to the sample-laden beginning of closer “Phaedrus Revealed.” Rounding out at just under eight minutes, “Phaedrus Revealed” finds Thera Roya basking in one of the defining tropes of post-metal: the rhythm and riff progression of Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky,” but more than most, they make it their own, finding a sway at the outset topped by satisfyingly soulful clean vocals and marking the shift into that riff on bass while the guitar continues to drift for a time before a pummeling chug takes hold. Post-hardcore screams, starts and stops, thickened tones all around and a last push into chaos bring Stone and Skin to a sudden conclusion, and while by then that familiar churn is long gone, the atmospheric affect remains prevalent and Thera Roya finish by employing what would seem to be the totality of their arsenal.

Given the forward steps in these tracks, one would hardly be surprised to find that arsenal grown further their next time out, and while admirably complex in form, Stone and Skin does still present the band with room to grow. Most essential, however, it portrays them as having the drive to do it while remaining emotionally expressive and not getting consumed in the overthought cerebral end of post-metal that claim’s so many acts in the style. The hope as they move past their debut is that they remain able to enact the balance between various sides as well as they do here while also pushing themselves to cover new ground. No minor task, but I hear nothing from Thera Roya at this point to make me think they’re not up to it.

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