Gaze upon its countenance and realize just how fucking awesome this show is going to be.
Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn marks the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, a one-of-a-kind celebration of things heavy, noisy, psychedelic, progressive, and weird. In addition to being the first New York appearances for French heavy psych mavens Mars Red Sky, Amsterdam-based motor-rockers Death Alley, West Coast riff-rollers Snail and bizarro Texas punks Funeral Horse, The Obelisk All-Dayer will feature food on-hand, full and recorded sets, limited-edition posters and other merch, and an afterparty with DJ Adzo (aka Adam Kriney of Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass) and Walter Roadburn (the man behind the internationally renowned Roadburn festival).
Today the official poster, which will be available at the Vitus Bar in a limited and one-time run of 50, has been revealed. Art is by Los Angeles-based designer Sean “Skillit” McEleny, who has worked with numerous acts across both coasts as well as the header for this site and perfectly captures the strange awe and wonder that the show is certain to elicit front-to-back.
Following the revelation earlier this month of the complete lineup, the set runtimes are now also available:
Mars Red Sky* 10:10-11:40
Death Alley* 8:50-9:50
Kings Destroy 6:30-7:10
Funeral Horse* 4:30-5:10
King Buffalo 3:30-4:10
Heavy Temple 2:30-3:10
(Afterparty with DJ Adzo & Walter Roadburn* 12-2AM)
* Debut appearance in NYC
Set times are firm. The Obelisk All-Dayer is proud to be giving these bands enough time to flesh out their performances, as opposed to rushing one into the next in a festival. The intent is that the day will be a laid-back party more than a festival, from the start of Heavy Temple‘s cult-worthy riffing through the psych-blues bliss of King Buffalo, the possibly-cape-inclusive doings of Funeral Horse, EYE‘s lush progressive rock, locals Kings Destroy‘s aggro noise push and the one-two-three punch of Snail, Death Alley and Mars Red Sky, none of whom has ever played New York before.
This week, respected Brooklyn venue The Acheron announced that as of next month, it would no longer be hosting shows. It’s a considerable blow to New York’s support system for all things heavy and metal, and from grind to doom and all in between, The Acheron has been a home for one of the most vital undergrounds in the US. Goes without saying that it will be much missed.
It’s been four years since frenetic psych rockers La Otracina toured Europe, and in the interim, members have gone on to found other projects, explore other creative facets. Murmurs of a La Otracina reunion started brewing a while ago, and they’ve done a couple shows over the last few months, but even apart from The Acheron closing, it’s bittersweet to have La Otracina‘s July 6 show, with The Company Corvette and Fox 45 supporting, as one for The Obelisk Presents, because it’s also going to be the official goodbye for the band.
Just days before the venue shuts down, La Otracina will call it quits on one of Brooklyn’s most venerable stages. It’s an ending worthy of the creative breadth La Otracina showed over their prolific career, which is fodder for cult worship if ever there was.
Below, spearhead Adam Kriney talks about the show and what led to his decision to bring the band to an end. Ticket and other links at the bottom of the post.
Adam Kriney on La Otracina’s farewell:
It is with great pride, a clear head and resolved heart that I announce the final LA OTRACINA performance and the true end of the artistic entity known as such. Started many moons ago in 2003, when I had just moved to Brooklyn, the band was my outlet to explore the outer reaches of experimental, progressive, improvised and psychedelic musical worlds, merging them into a unique voice that reflected my interests, abilities, and the contributing talent of who I was playing with at the time.
Over the years, the lineups would change, vibe would change, intentions would change, and generally speaking the group became a pure extension of both my artistic discoveries and creative wants, and I was forever on a search for those who wanted to chart unknown territories with me… and I found many, both willing and resistant, to leap off of the abyss with me, to quite a mixed effect!
So here we are, 13 frenetic, chaotic, and shoulder-shrugging years later, and after about 20 releases (from CD-Rs and splits/comps to 12” EPs and double-albums), and approximately 300 concerts across the US and two European tours (the final one being the massive 46-date/18-country 2012 EU Tour), I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing more to say artistically under this group name. The sordid, bizarre, schizophrenic, multi-genre, juggernaut of LA OTRACINA no longer holds any interest for me to pursue, and is filled with enough emotional baggage and unrequited output/dedication to fill a 747!
Of course since the initial hiatus in 2012, I got extremely involved with the creation of THE GOLDEN GRASS where the majority of my time/energy now resides, to which things are going quite well and joyous! Current (as well as past) guitarist Philippe Ortanez has also been busy with his groups POLYGAMYST and VIMANA which are both worth your investigation. It’s been a wild ride, and the discography speaks for itself… but alas, July 6 2016, shall be the last cosmic dance of the Otra-sonic Spaceship!
Also performing at The Acheron gig will be Rochester, NY heavy doom rock quartet Fox 45 and Philadelphia, PA, psychedelic doom trio The Company Corvette! It’s sure to be a heavy pulsing night from some top notch northeast US bands!
Posted in Reviews on April 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s much to The Golden Grass‘ credit that their second album, Coming Back Again, retains the ‘g’ at the end of the word “coming.” The Brooklynite trio seem to have a sense of just where the line is that would put them over-the-top, beyond belief, and they walk that line carefully throughout their sophomore long-player and Listenable Records debut as they did on their 2014 self-titled first outing (review here), released on Svart. That record’s primary contribution came via its overarching positivity — its material dared to be sweet, melodic, graceful, friendly and warm in a climate that reads authenticity mostly via the miserable, even as regards underground heavy music. The Golden Grass‘ boogie worked in direct opposition to that, and much to their credit at their beginning, they had the songwriting to back up their stylization. Fortunately, that remains true on Coming Back Again.
The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Michael Rafalowich, drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney and newcomer bassist/vocalist Frank Caira present six tracks/38 minutes conveniently split across two sides, tracked by Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil Productions, and geared to be as friendly, welcoming and accessible as possible, while also retaining a sense of heft to the tones and rhythmic push — if you want people to dance, give them a shove — and exploring a newfound progressive flourish in the instrumental chemistry that marks a clear, mindful step forward from the debut two years ago. That answers a big question coming into the album, since it was plain from the effort the band put into their presentation that they had no intention of standing still creatively, but it was up in the air how that progression would manifest. It’s manifested as progress. Go figure.
Crucially, as Coming Back Again moves The Golden Grass‘ sound ahead from where it was, that doesn’t come at the expense of the feelgood atmosphere or the melodic richness overall. If anything, even as the emotional context broadens with some more wistful lyrics, it deepens both the atmosphere and level of performance, as opener “Get it Together” (video premiere here) launches with an immediate rhythmic movement leading to a call and response verse from Rafalowich and Kriney, whose harmonies have only become more engaging. Psychedelic lead guitar in a quick break prefaces jams to come, but the band is looking to start out with earthier fare, and the boogie is as strong as the hook in “Get it Together.” It’s not until the break after about four minutes in that the guitar and drums begin to signal some of the sonic shift Coming Back Again will really present, building to a psych-prog swirl atop Caira‘s rock-solid bassline before Rafalowich‘s dream-tone lead takes hold, shifting back to ground in a tambourine-inclusive gallop that finishes the song. That’s a lot of ground to cover in about two minutes’ time, but The Golden Grass masterfully guide “Get it Together” to a sunshiny melodic finish and the tones fade just in time to let the jazzier “Reflections in the Glass” take hold with a smooth entrance.
Caira shines in the transition between verses, along with some keys and interwoven layers of acoustic and electric guitar — the band once again making complex ideas sound simple — and Rafalowich and Kriney execute a thoughtful vocal arrangement to add to the lushness, both easing back for a more gentle delivery than the harder rocking “Get it Together,” but still finding resolution in the last moments of “Reflections in the Glass,” guitar, bass and drums rounding out deceptively complex turns that meet head on with the launch of side A finale, “Shadow Traveler,” more immediately psychedelic. As one of two cuts on Coming Back Again over eight minutes, one might expect full-on prog exploration, but at least in its early going, “Shadow Traveler” is some of the rawest boogie here on offer, Rafalowich calling out both himself and Kriney in the lyrics — “Hey now here comes Adzo/He gonna show you how to swing” — and so he does, in one of the album’s most resonant choruses and subsequent grooves.
Much of the second half of the song is given to an extended psych jam, Rafalowich and Kriney trading lines back and forth referencing other songs on the album — “Get it Together,” “Reflections in the Glass,” the forthcoming “Down the Line” and closer “See it Through” — in a manner classic and brilliant in how it positions the first-time listener with an immediate familiarity with what they’ve just heard. After a finishing wash and crash, side B begins with the interlude “Hazy Daybreak”; two and a half-minutes interplay between far-back airy electric and progressive acoustic guitar, quiet drums, finger snaps, shaker, etc., that, sadly, doesn’t meet with any vocal harmonies on its brief path. I would not be surprised if next time, i.e., on the next album, the case turns out to be different, but if The Golden Grass are telegraphing future experimentation, they’re no less clearheaded about it than they are with their more established movements on Coming Back Again, such as the building tension of the opening to “Down the Line,” which becomes a defining piece for the album in more than just its 9:45 runtime, an early chug and vocal harmonies giving due sense of motion to the chorus “Going down the line.”
After the initial Kriney-led verses, Rafalowich takes the fore through a section past three and a half minutes in that is the departure point for an extended jam careening through psychedelic lead work and rumbling into quiet bass, drums and sparse guitar noise as it moves into the song’s midsection — the foundation of a subdued dream-prog sequence that moves back to reality via Kriney‘s toms and eventually, skillfully, brings back the verse and chorus to close out with emphasis on the control that was never lost. That makes closer “See it Through” something of a victory lap, though a subtly moodier take in the lyrics — plus another noteworthy performance from Caira — also serve as distinguishing factors. And they find room for a boogie jam as well, pushing toward the last hook with handclaps, interspliced layers of fuzz and bass, cowbell, snare and so on as they execute one final round of deceptively tight rhythmic turns while sounding like they’re smiling all the while. The push ends with a “woo!” and that’s about all that needs to be said.
As much as it affirms what The Golden Grass accomplished their first time out, Coming Back Again also leaves that record behind in terms of its ambition and the chemistry in development between Rafalowich, Kriney and Caira, who by no means sounds as new to the band in these tracks as he was when they were recorded. With a grander scope that still sounds definitively natural, The Golden Grass strike a rare balance between accessibility and progressive drive in cuts like “Shadow Traveler,” “Reflections in the Glass” and “See it Through” that, along with “Hazy Daybreak,” set a context for future growth while giving their audience songs that, in the present, are worth returning to the way one enjoys visiting good friends. They’re working toward forward movement sonically, but The Golden Grass remain a band with a deeply individual take on heavy rock, and there’s nothing else out there quite like them.
Today I’m ridiculously pleased to announce that lush progressive heavy psych rockers EYE will play the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer on Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY.
By the time Aug. 20 gets here, EYE will have very likely issued Vision and the Ageless Light, their third full-length and first for The Laser’s Edge. The album arrives following a grueling three-year wait since EYE‘s last release, 2013’s Second Sight (review here), and features new guitarist Jon Finley and new bassist Michael Sliclen alongside founders Lisa Bella Donna (synth) and Brandon Smith (drums), embarking on an expansion of the melodically resonant poise they showed last time out and on their 2011 debut, Center of the Sun (review here).
I’ve been fortunate enough to see EYE live, and their flowing, patient, heavy and thoughtful material is a perfect fit for The Obelisk All-Dayer. If you haven’t been introduced, their latest outing was 2014’s Live at Relay (review here), which brought together two massive, 19-minute cosmic explorations captured, as the title indicates, completely on the move. The textures they’re able to create on those songs push through atmospheric boundaries to create something as spaced-out as it is plotted, and EYE steer their ship with a rare grace as they move further and further away from terra firma.
Bella Donna had this to say about playing: “We are equally excited to rip some music as well as listen during the festival. We are very big fans of The Obelisk and our full intention is to celebrate that energy and the momentum that JJ has already elevated. We have a lot of new sounds and vibes flowing in our music, so we’re excited to bring them to the already great host of music we’ll get the opportunity to listen and party to.”
EYE join the previously announced Mars Red Sky, Snail, King Buffalo and Funeral Horse on the bill for The Obelisk All-Dayer. Tickets are available now. Three more bands still TBA.
The Obelisk All-Dayer is Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature full sets, after-show DJs, food truck on-hand, live recordings, limited edition merch and much more. Stay tuned for announcements to follow.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Underneath the cover artwork for The Glowing Man, which will be the final studio outing from the current incarnation of Swans, you’ll find the complete details on the record, set for a June 17 release through Young God Records and Mute Records. I’ve included it in full. There’s a lot of information, and where usually I might go in and trim that kind of thing down, this seems important to note, not just because Swans have had such an incredible effect on underground music both during their initial run and since their reformation in 2009, but also because it goes into some detail about what the future might hold for Michael Gira‘s ultra-influential outfit when the rather significant amount of touring they’ve lined up is over. This seems like the kind of information that, five years from now, I’m going to want to have.
So yeah, there’s a lot to dig into here, but have at it. At the bottom, you’ll find an excerpt from “The Glowing Man,” the title-track of the new album, for which preorders are now available:
SWANS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM THE GLOWING MAN OUT JUNE 17
Swans have announced details of a new album, The Glowing Man, out on Young God / Mute (outside N America) on 17 June 2016. Listen to an excerpt of The Glowing Man, taken from the album, here.
The Glowing Man will be available on double CD and deluxe triple gatefold vinyl, with a poster and digital download. In addition, there will be a double CD/DVD format, which features a Swans live performance from 2015.
The Glowing Man, announced as the last album release of Swans’ current incarnation, will be followed by an extensive tour. The tour will unfold with dates beginning in North America in the summer, before returning to Europe in the autumn. Announced tour dates below, with more to follow.
Swans, led by Michael Gira, formed in 1982 and, after disbanding in 1997, returned with the critically acclaimed studio albums My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (2010), 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To Be Kind.
“In 2009 when I made the decision to restart my musical group, Swans, I had no idea where it would lead. I knew that if I took the road of mining the past or revisiting the catalog, that it would be fruitless and stultifying. After much thought about how to make this an adventure that would instead lead the music forward into unexpected terrain, I chose the five people with whom to work that I believed would most ably provide a sense of surprise, and even uncertainty, while simultaneously embodying the strength and confidence to ride the river of intention that flows from the heart of the sound wherever it would lead us – and what’s the intention? LOVE!
And so finally this LOVE has now led us, with the release of the new and final recording from this configuration of Swans, The Glowing Man, through four albums (three of which contain more complexity, nuance and scope than I would have ever dreamed possible), several live releases, various fundraiser projects, countless and seemingly endless tours and rehearsals, and a generally exhausting regimen that has left us stunned but still invigorated and thrilled to see this thing through to its conclusion. I hereby thank my brothers and collaborators for their commitment to whatever truth lies at the center of the sound. I’m decidedly not a Deist, but on a few occasions – particularly in live performance – it’s been my privilege, through our collective efforts, to just barely grasp something of the infinite in the sound and experience generated by a force that is definitely greater than all of us combined. When talking with audience members after the shows or through later correspondence, it’s also been a true privilege to discover they’ve experienced something like this too. Whatever the force is that has led us through this extended excursion, it’s been worthwhile for many of us, and I’m grateful for what has been the most consistently challenging and fulfilling period of my musical life.
Going forward, post the touring associated with The Glowing Man, I’ll continue to make music under the name Swans, with a revolving cast of collaborators. I have little idea what shape the sound will take, which is a good thing. Touring will definitely be less extensive, I’m certain of that! Whatever the future holds, I’ll miss this particular locus of human and musical potential immensely: Norman Westberg, Kristof Hahn, Phil Puleo, Christopher Pravdica, Thor Harris, and myself mixed in there somewhere, too.”
THE GLOWING MAN TRACKLISTING 1. Cloud of Forgetting 2. Cloud of Unknowing 3. The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black 4. People Like Us 5. Frankie M. 6. When Will I Return? 7. The Glowing Man 8. Finally, Peace.
“I wrote the song ‘When Will I Return? specifically for Jennifer Gira to sing. It’s a tribute to her strength, courage, and resilience in the face of a deeply scarring experience she once endured, and that she continues to overcome daily.
The song ‘The World Looks Red / The World Looks Black’ uses some words I wrote in 1982 or so that Sonic Youth used for their song ‘The World Looks Red’, back in the day. The music and melody used here in the current version are completely different. While working up material for this new album, I had a basic acoustic guitar version of the song and was stumped for words. For reasons unknown to me, the lyric I’d so long ago left in my typewriter in plain view at my living and rehearsal space (the latter of which Sonic Youth shared at the time) and which Thurston plucked for use with my happy permission, popped into my head and I thought “Why not?” The person that wrote those words well over three decades ago bears little resemblance to who I am now, but I believe it remains a useful text, so “Why not?”. Maybe, in a way, it closes the circle.
The song ‘The Glowing Man’ contains a section of the song ‘Bring The Sun’ from our previous album, To Be Kind. The section is, of course, newly performed and orchestrated to work within its current setting. ‘The Glowing Man’ itself grew organically forward and out of improvisations that took place live during the performance of ‘Bring The Sun’, so it seemed essential to include that relevant section here. Since over the long and tortured course of the current song’s genesis, it had always been such an integral cornerstone I believe we’d have been paralyzed and unable to perform the entire piece at all without it.
‘Cloud of Forgetting’ and ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ are prayers. ‘Frankie M’ is another tribute and a best wish for a wounded soul. ‘The Glowing Man’ contains my favorite Zen Koan. ‘People Like Us’ and ‘Finally, Peace’ are farewell songs.” – Michael Gira 2016
The Glowing Man was recorded at Sonic Ranch, near El Paso, Texas, with John Congleton as recording engineer. Further recording was made at John’s Elmwood Studio, in Dallas, Texas, and at Studio Litho (Seattle, WA) with Don Gunn, engineer, and at CandyBomber (Berlin) with Ingo Krauss, engineer. The record was mixed by Ingo at CandyBomber and by Doug Henderson at Micro-Moose, Berlin. Doug Henderson mastered it at Micro-Moose.
Here’s a list of the principal players on the record (complete credits and words to the songs available on request):
Swans: Michael Gira – vocals, electric and acoustic guitar; Norman Westberg – electric guitar, vocals; Kristof Hahn – lap steel guitar, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; Phil Puleo – drums, dulcimer, knocks, vocals; Christopher Pravdica – bass guitar, vocals; Thor Harris – percussion, vibes, bells, dulcimer. Hit Man and 7th Swan: Bill Rieflin – drums, piano, synth, Mellotron, bass guitar, electric guitar, vocals.
Guest Musicians: Jennifer Gira sings the lead vocal on ‘When Will I Return?’ The cello solo on ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ was graciously provided by the ferocious improviser, Okkyung Lee.
SWANS TOUR 2016 North America 6 July – Philadelphia PA, Union Transfer 7 July – Boston MA, Royale Nightclub 8 July – Providence RI, Fete 9 July – Quebec QC, Le Cercle 10 July – Toronto ON, Danforth Music Hall 12 July – Detroit MI, St Andrews Hall 13 July – Milwaukee WI, Shank Hall 14 July – Minneapolis MN, Fine Line Music Cafe 15 July – Chicago IL, Lincoln Hall 16 July – Chicago IL, Lincoln Hall 18 July – Cleveland OH, Beachland Ballroom 19 July – Cincinnati OH, Woodward Theater 21 July – Louisville KY, Headliner’s Music Hall 22 July – Atlanta GA, Terminal West 23 July – Asheville NC, Orange Peel 24 July – Nashville TN, Exit / In 26 July – Carrboro NC, Cats Cradle 27 July – Richmond VA The Broadberry 28 July – Washington DC, 9:30 CLUB 29 July – New York NY, Bowery Ballroom 30 July – Brooklyn NY, Music Hall of Williamsburg *with support from Okkyung Lee
1 Sept – Tucson AZ, Rialto Theater 2 Sept – Los Angeles CA, Fonda Theater 3 Sept – San Francisco CA, The Regency Grand Ballroom 4 Sept – Portland OR, Wonder Ballroom 6 Sept – Vancouver BC, Venue 7 Sept – Seattle WA, The Showbox 9 Sept – Salt Lake City UT, Urban Lounge 10 Sept – Denver CO, Gothic Theater 12 Sept – Dallas TX, Trees 13 Sept – Austin TX, Mohawk Austin 14 Sept – San Antonio TX, Paper Tiger 15 Sept – Albuquerque NM, Sunshine Theater 16 Sept – Phoenix AZ, Crescent Ballroom *with support from Baby Dee
Europe 6 Oct – Brussels BE, Oranjerie Botantique 7 Oct – Eindhoven NL, De Effenaar 8 Oct – Brighton UK, Concorde 2 9 Oct – Manchester UK, HMV Ritz 11 Oct – Glasgow UK, Oran Mor 12 Oct – Newcastle Upon Tyne UK, Northumbria University 13 Oct – London UK, Islington Assembly Hall 14 Oct – London UK, Islington Assembly Hall 15 Oct – Reims FR, La Cartonnerie 17 Oct – Hamburg DE, Kampnagel 18 Oct – Berlin DE, Huxleys Neue Welt 19 Oct – Prague CZ, Divaldo ARCHA Theatre 21 Oct – Budapest HU, A38 Ship 22 Oct – Vienna AT, Arena Big Hall 23 Oct – Graz AT, Orpheum Extra 25 Oct – Ljubljana SL, Kino Kiska Centre for Urban Culture 26 Oct – Zagreb HR, Lauba 28 Oct – Basel CH, Kaserne 29 Oct – Vevey CH, Rocking Chair 30 Oct – Bern CH, Reitschule Dachstock 1 Nov – Tourcoin FR, Le Grand Mix 2 Nov – Nimes FR, La Paloma 5 Nov – Bologna IT, Teatro Auditorium Manzoni 6 Nov – Rome IT, Orion Live Club 8 Nov – Nantes FR, Stereolux 9 Nov – Paris FR, Le Trabendo 10 Nov – Cologne DE, Gebäude 9 11 Nov – Munich DE, Feierwerk 12 Nov – Wiesbaden DE, Kulturezentrum Schlachthof
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Thus ends another successful Quarterly Review. And by successful I mean I survived. There were a few minutes there when I actually thought about spreading this out to six days, doing another batch of 10 on Monday, but then what happens? Then it’s seven days, then eight, then nine, and before I know it I’m just doing 10 reviews every day and it’s more of a daily review than a quarterly one. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normality around this place, and at the end of June, I’ll have another batch to roll with. Maybe the beginning of July, depending on time. In any case, thank you for reading this week. I hope you’ve found something in all this that you’ve dug, and that this final round offers something else that resonates.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Chron Goblin, Backwater
Calgary party rockers Chron Goblin pay homage to Seattle with a song named after the city on their third album, Backwater (on Ripple Music), but they continue to have way more in common with Portland, Oregon. The follow-up to 2013’s Life for the Living (review here) pushes into psychedelic groove early in its title-track and gets bluesy for most of the subsequent “The Wailing Sound,” but it seems even that song can’t resist the urge to throw down and have a good time by the end, and cuts like “Give Way,” the galloping opener “Fuller” and the requisite “Hard Living” reaffirm the band’s commitment to heavy riffs and positive vibes. The stylistic elephant in the room continues to be Red Fang, but as they’ve done all along, Chron Goblin work in shades of other influences in heavy rock – if they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d call it Roadsaw – and put a stamp of their own on the style.
“Mercenary Blues” is near-immediate in telegraphing the level of heft Slabdragger will emit across their second album, Rise of the Dawncrusher, which tops an hour in five tracks (one of them four minutes long) and shifts between clean vocals, screams and growls from bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder as drummer Jack Newham holds together tempo shifts no less drastic. The shorter cut, “Evacuate!,” is an extreme take on heavy rock, but as Slabdragger move through the extended “Shrine of Debauchery” (12:23), “Dawncrusher Rising” (15:16) and “Implosion Rites” (17:20), their methods prove varied enough so that their material is more than just an onslaught of thickened distortion. I wouldn’t call it progressive exactly, but neither is it lunkheaded in its intention or execution, as the chanted melodies buried deep in “Shrine of Debauchery”’s lumber, derived perhaps in part from Conan and Sleep but beholden to neither so much as its own righteous purposes.
Finnish heavy psychedelic rockers Jupiter take a decidedly naturalist position when it comes to their style. Yeah, there are some effects on the guitars throughout Interstellar Chronidive, the trio’s second album behind 2014’s Your Eccentric State of Mind, but it’s more about what the three players can accomplish with dynamic tempo and mood changes than it is creating a wash, and that gives songs like “Stonetrooper” and “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” a classic feel despite a decidedly modern production. “Premonitions” provides raucous fuzz worthy of any next-gen stoners you want to name, and the 14-minute “In Flux” answers its own initial thrust with and expansive, liquefied jam that’s all the more emblematic of the organic core to their approach, Hendrix-derived but not Hendrix-emulating. Bright guitar tone, rich bass and swinging drums aren’t necessarily unfamiliar elements, but the touches of space rock narration on “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” and the consuming nod of closer “Vantage Point” assure there’s no shortage of personality to go around.
Also stylized as IZ? with a long accent over the ‘o,’ Izo is the self-titled debut from Italian double-guitar instrumental four-piece Izo, who bookend four flowing and densely weighted progressions with an intro and outro to add to the atmospheric breadth. Rather than choose between heaviness or ambience, Izo – guitarists Paolo Barone and Maurizio Calò, bassist Francesco de Pascali and drummer Luca Greco – play both into each other so that a song like “Hikkomori” is as engaging in its heft as it is hypnotic. That might be easier to do without vocals, but it’s essential to Izo’s approach, and something that, for their debut, sets up future expansion of post-metal and psychedelic elements. I’m not sure if there’s a theme or narrative for the album, but consistent use of Japanese language and imagery ties the material together all the same, and Izo emerge from their first album having shown a clearheadedness of purpose that can only continue to serve them well.
Cultist made their introductory statement in the early hours of 2016 with Three Candles, a five-song EP from the social media-averse Cleveland, Ohio, trio featuring members of Skeletonwitch, Mockingbird and Howl. In the wall of fuzz they construct, the swing injected into their rhythms and the use of multiple vocalists, there’s a strong undercurrent of Uncle Acid to “Path of the Old One,” but “Consuming Damnation” distinguishes itself with a more aggressive take, rawer in its melodies, and the creeping closer “Eternal Dark” is up to something entirely more doomed. How this balance will play out with the more familiar riff-patterning in “Follow Me” is the central question, but for their first tracks to be made public, Cultist’s Three Candles offers fullness of sound and the realization of an aesthetic purpose. Yes, there’s room to grow, but they already have a better handle on what they want to do than a lot of bands, so it should be interesting to keep up.
Ultra-thick, ultra-dank, Haoma is the work of Swedish duo R (bass/vocals) and S (drums), and the three-tracker Eternal Stash is their second self-released EP. The offering takes its title from the opener and longest track (immediate points), and wastes no time with subtlety in getting down on molten Cisneros-style stoner-doom grooves. Sleep meets Om isn’t a huge divide to cross, but there’s a blown-out sensibility to the vocals as well that speaks to some element of Electric Wizard at play, and the overarching roughness suits Haoma’s tonal crunch well. Even when they break to wah bass in the second half of “Eternal Stash” to set up the ensuing jam, this underlying harshness remains, and “Unearthly Creatures” and “Orbital Flight” build on that, the latter with a march that feels more decidedly individual even if constructed on familiar ground. Heavy, raw, unpretentious celebration of groove is almost always welcome by me, and so Haoma’s Eternal Stash is likewise.
Another boon to Poland’s emerging heavy rock scene, Wroclaw’s Spaceslug slime their way out of the ground with their debut long-player, Lemanis, a seven-cut paean to weighted tone and laid back roll. Vocally, the trio seem to take a cue from the Netherlands’ Sungrazer, but their riffs are far more dense and while the penultimate interlude “Quintessence” and the earlier “Galectelion” demonstrate a sense of spaciousness, the context in which that arrives is much more weighted and, particularly in the second half of “Supermassive,” feels culled from the Sleep school of Iommic idolatry. No complaints. The record clocks in at 43 minutes all told and in no way overstays its welcome, rounding out with the nine-minute title-track, an instrumental that’s probably not improvised but comes across as exploratory all the same. The CD version is out through BSFD Records, but don’t be surprised when someone picks it up for a vinyl issue, as both the front-to-back flow and the artwork seem to be made for it.
An element of twang that seems present even in the most uproarious moments of Slush’ American Demons tape comes to the fore with the brief “Leshy,” a quick, fleetly-strummed bit of slide guitar the follows highlight cut “Bathysphere” and precedes “Death Valley,” both of which bask full-on in the garage shake, proto-punk vibe and anything goes swagger the Brooklynite trio have on offer throughout their third EP. That countrified twist plays well alongside the drawling skate rock of “In the Flesh,” which seems to take on some of The Shrine’s West Coast skate vibes with a twist of New York fuckall, and the quick crotchal thrust off “Silk Road,” which serves as Slush’ most purely punkish moment. “Death Valley” closes out with a tale of drugs and the desert, the vocals somewhere between Misfits and early Nick Cave, drenched in attitude and accompanied by fuzz that seems to be likewise. Bonus points for the silver tape and copious included art and info.
Strange spirits are afoot throughout Menimals’ Menimals, the maybe-debut from the Italian troupe who engage wantonly in the proliferation of post-Mike Patton creepy darkjazz across five cuts of sparse, spacious weirdness. Issued through Phonosphera/Riot Season, it’s a work of high atmospheric density but ultimately more about mood than sonic impact, evoking complex shapes – dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons, octahedrons – as a mirror for its own quizzical mission. The kind of record that those who don’t spend time trying to figure it out are going to have more fun with, it makes its most effective impression on “Transitioning from a Cube to the Octahedron” on side B, evoking minimalist drone rock atmospheres as whispered vocals tie it to the rest of Menimals’ bizarre vibe. That’s not to take away from the noisy finish of closer “Bird on the Wind as a Hinge,” which follows, just to note that Menimals manage to somehow find balance in all the subdued seething and resonant experimentalism.
By way of a confession, I wanted to end this batch of 50 reviews with something I knew I dug, and that distinction goes to Houston rockers Linus Pauling Quartet, whose latest full-length, Ampalanche, is released via the label wing of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum. An album that offers some of the most pretense-free rock flute I’ve ever heard on “Slave to the Die,” it’s a down-home weirdo rocker that might, at a moment’s notice, plunge full-on into psychedelia in “Sometimes” or, say, include a 49-minute echoing space-drone “Vi, de Druknede (We, the Drowned)” as a download-only bonus track, and the fact that Linus Pauling Quartet can always be relied on for something different but consistent in charm and the quality of songwriting is not to be taken for granted, whether it’s the Midwestern noise rock of “Brisket” or the fuzzy roll of dreamy album-closer “Alive.” Yeah, I was doing myself a favor by finishing with Ampalanche. I have absolutely zero regrets. Linus Pauling Quartet continue to be woefully underappreciated.
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Eight Bells, Landless
However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.
Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.
West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.
Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.
The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.
Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.
While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.
There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.
Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.
I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.
I’m happy to report the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, NY, will also mark the first-ever East Coast appearance of Snail.
The band, who released their finest outing to-date in last year’s Feral (review here), go back some 23 years, having gotten their start with an underrated self-titled album that was followed the next year by an EP and then 16 full years of silence before 2009’s Blood (review here) brought them back. That record, 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Feral established them as masters of heavy psych grooves, rolling maximum-density riffs with a laid back vibe that few dare to be chill enough to match, full in sound and soothing even in its most chaotic moments.
I was fortunate enough to see Snail play a few years back in San Francisco (review here), and they were killer then. Now, back to their original trio incarnation with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, Snail will hit the Eastern Seaboard for the first time to play a full-hour set and join the bill with France’s Mars Red Sky (also their first East Coast appearance), Texas trio Funeral Horse, Rochester, NY’s King Buffalo, and more TBA at The Obelisk All-Dayer. It wouldn’t be a party without them.
Comments Mark Johnson on making the trip from the West Coast to play: “People have been asking us to play on the East Coast for years. Honestly, personally, this is one of the most exciting things in my life. I’ve been to Manhattan once and completely fell in love — so super-happy to be going back to NY… this time Brooklyn!!! And it feels like going home in some way since we’re all friends and you are putting this on.”
That’s precisely the vibe I’m going for with this whole idea. We’re all friends, it’s gonna be a good time, and we’re all hopefully going to feel at home in some big ol’ heavy hippie kind of way. I’m dead serious. The closer we get to this thing happening, the more excited I am. I hope you feel the same, and I hope to see you there.
The Obelisk All-Dayer is Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature full sets, after-show DJs, food truck on-hand, live recordings, limited edition merch and much more. Stay tuned for announcements to follow.