Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
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 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
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 – 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
[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.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Going from zero to absolute abrasion in about three seconds, it seems only fair to note the quick impulse toward the scathing that the first audio from Mountain God‘s forthcoming debut album, Bread Solstice, elicits. The track is called “Karmic Truth,” and as you can hear at the bottom of this post, it brings the bite of Godflesh together with a brutal, tonally-dense churn, atmospheric and pummeling both. These guys have been included in my most-anticipated lists for the last two years running (see here and here), so yes, I’ve been looking forward to the record for a while. Pretty much since that time their Forest of the Lost EP (review here) tore my face off in 2015. It’s cool. I wasn’t really using it.
March 24 is the release date, and it’ll be out through Artificial Head Records, the label helmed by Walter Carlos of Texas weirdo rockers Funeral Horse. The PR wire has details:
MOUNTAIN GOD: Brooklyn-based doom trio share psychedelic debut | Listen to new song ‘Karmic Truth’
Bread Solstice will be released on vinyl/digital through Artificial Head on 24th March 2017
Artificial Head Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Brooklyn-based trio Mountain God and with it the release of their debut album Bread Solstice.
Formed in May 2012 by guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi and drummer Ian Murray, along with former Alkahest members Nikhil Kamineni and Jon Powell, as one of 2017’s most exciting new prospects Mountain God’s time is almost upon us.
Experimenting with raw concoctions of doom and ’70s psychedelic influences, their commitment to channeling ill feeling, heavy rock, deep meaning and dark subject matter is unwavering. In 2015 Mountain God followed the release of their five-song EP Experimentation On The Unwilling (2013) with the sprawling concept track ‘Forest Of The Lost’; a devastating, doom-infused laudation of distorted sludge, ambient noise and stoner rock.
Following the departure of Powell and Murray, Thera Roya drummer Ryan Smith was drafted in as the trio set to work recordings that would form the basis of Bread Solstice, their full-length debut and first outing for the Houston-based record label Artificial Head.
“While some of the songs date all the way back to 2013, we didn’t begin rehearsing them regularly until Summer 2015,” explains guitarist Ianuzzi. “We started out demoing, writing, and tearing apart the ideas until we had things we liked. We definitely wanted to push the envelope with more nuanced effects and fewer 4/4 time signatures.”
Around this period the band also became a steady fixture on the NYC metal scene performing shows with the likes of Ufomammut, YOB, Primitive Man, Naam and Kings Destroy. Threatening spaced out and progressive paeans in the mold of Wolves in the Throne Room, Neurosis and Candlemass, as angry and complex a beast as Bread Solstice is it’s also deeply immersive and hypnotic in its atmospheres. Much like their early EPs and recordings, while creeping keyboards swell on tracks like ‘Unknown Ascent’, elsewhere riff-heavy tracks like ‘Nazca Lines’ and ‘Junglenaut’ hammer down hard with an iron fist. As Artificial Head founder Walter Carlos points out:
“I just knew I wanted to work with the band on a release. Their music reminds of the sludge and experimentation of bands such as Skullflower, Splintered, and Ramleh. Big, crushing emptiness with grinding tempos. Their new album, Bread Solstice, continues in that epic darkness.”
Mountain God: Ben Ianuzzi – Vocals, Guitars, Noises Nik Kamineni – Bass, Synth/Keys Ryan Smith – Drums, Vocals
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Brooklyn extremists Tombs have started work on their fourth album. Also their debut on Metal Blade after three outings for Relapse Records, the yet-untitled release is being tracked with Hate Eternal‘s Erik Rutan (who, because I’m from New Jersey, I’ll note was in Ripping Corpse) at Mana Recording in sunny St. Pete, Florida. The black ‘n’ roll ‘n’ more genremashers released their last full-length, Savage Gold (discussed here), in 2014, and have continued to support it steadily with shows and tours at home and abroad.
That thread, it seems, will continue despite the label jump. Tombs have announced what would seem to be a hey-we-just-finished-a-record tour for March alongside the very metal lineup of Darkest Hour, Ringworm and Rivers of Nihil, kicking off on the West Coast and making its way into the Midwest over two-plus weeks.
The PR wire had dates and more info to share:
Tombs enters studio to begin recording fourth full-length album; announces USA tour dates with Darkest Hour, Ringworm, Rivers of Nihil
Brooklyn-based experimental metal outfit Tombs has entered Mana Recording Studio (http://www.manarecording.com) in St. Petersburg, FL to begin recording their fourth full-length. Produced once again by Erik Rutan (Hate Eternal), this currently untitled album is set for a summer release via Metal Blade Records.
Guitarist/vocalist Mike Hill comments: “I’ve been gearing up for this moment for all of past year. Rutan is a master and I’m intending on us delivering the most punishing Tombs record to-date.”
After recording this upcoming album, Tombs will head back out on the road in March, joining Darkest Hour, Ringworm, and Rivers of Nihil for a USA tour. See below for all dates!
Tombs tour dates w/ Darkest Hour, Ringworm, Rivers of Nihil Mar. 5 – Portland, OR – Analog Theater Mar. 6 – Seattle, WA – Studio Seven Mar. 8 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge Mar. 9 – Sacramento, CA – Colonial Theater Mar. 10 – Los Angeles, CA – The Regent Mar. 11 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick Mar. 12 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red Mar. 13 – Tucson, AZ – Club XS Mar. 14 – Albuquerque, NM – Blu Phoenix Venue Mar. 15 – Lubbock, TX – Backstage Lubbock Mar. 16 – Austin, TX – Grizzly Hall Mar. 17 – Houston, TX – White Oak Mar. 18 – San Antonio, TX – The Korova Mar. 19 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Bar and Grill Mar. 21 – Cincinnati, OH – Northside Yacht Club
Tombs line-up: Mike Hill – Guitar/Vocals Charlie Schmid – Drums Ben Brand – Bass Evan Void – Guitar Fade Kainer – Synth / Vocals
[Click play above to stream Kings Destroy’s None More EP in full. It’s out Jan. 13 on War Crime Recordings, and Kings Destroy are on tour with Truckfighters starting Jan. 18 (dates here)]
Brooklyn heavy noise specialists Kings Destroy will release their new EP, None More, on Jan. 13 via War Crime Recordings. Like everything they’ve done up to this point in their seven-year tenure, it’s a departure. It departs from their last album, 2015’s self-titled (review here), and from 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), and certainly from their 2010 debut, And the Rest Will Surely Perish (originally released through this site’s then-existent label, The Maple Forum). “Departure” is pretty much the running theme of everything the five-piece do in one way or another, so it’s all the more intriguing as regards None More — this limited, one-song, 14-minute curio EP pressed to tape with a Mech-battle Josh Graham cover almost two full years after the band’s last record came out and with numerous tours home and abroad behind them — that they should sound so much like themselves on it.
“None More,” the track itself, is presented in five component parts, each with a subtitle: “I. Rise of the Betrayer,” “II. The Blood Waters,” “III. The Battle,” “IV. Requiem,” “V. The Awakening” and “VI. Rise of the Betrayer (Reprise).” It does not feel like some great leap of insight to note the clear narrative at play here, or that “None More” comes full circle at its conclusion — an instrumental move as much as a dramatic turn — or that it’s the grandest scope the lineup of vocalist Steve Murphy, guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik have enacted in a given piece. More to their credit, None More moves through its extended but brief stretch, it flows not like a disjointed assemblage of parts, but with a careful and patiently executed arc. It’s not the first time Kings Destroy have told a story in their work, but it’s the first time they’ve put so much into the telling.
I alluded to it above but should say outright that Kings Destroy and I have collaborated in the past and I continue to consider myself a fan of what they do and I’m fortunate enough to feel comfortable calling them friends — something I’ll just about never do — so what minuscule impartiality I might otherwise claim is right out the window. If that means this review comes with a grain of salt, so be it. That does nothing to change the level of achievement Kings Destroy have reached as they’ve grown over the course of the last seven-plus years, or the substantial mark in their progression None More signifies. One might be tempted to relate “None More” to “Time for War” from the self-titled, and indeed, the EP track does seem to make a direct predecessor of the last album’s closer.
But true to their commitment to always moving forward, it builds on what that song did, beginning after an initial crash and extended count-in by establishing the nodding, Earth-style riff that will serve as its bookend. In less than a minute they’re into the verse — the sound full and spacious as captured by Mike Moebius at Moonlight Mile (Pilgrim, etc.), whose work with Kings Destroy extends back to their first 7″ single (review here) — and guitar leads mournfully interweave beneath as Murphy begins to set up the storyline. Like “Time for War,” it’s a battle.
Specifically the Battle of Clontarf, which took place in Ireland in 1014 and pitted the Irish High King Brian Boru against Vikings as well as other Irish forces, and which — though everyone seems to have died in the process, because war — resulted in the first Irish victory over the Vikings and a turning point in Irish culture after nearly 300 years of raids. Murphy‘s telling is way less prog-rock-history-lesson and way more working to convey the impression of the sunrise-to-sunset slaughter. With a shift into a quicker tempo at around 2:45, ‘The Blood Waters’ takes hold and introduces layered-in tight backing vocals, almost chanting, but more grunted. Sefcik‘s drums hold together a torrent of guitar soloing and the band settles in around a faster riff that’s as much classic metal as it is true to the band’s New York hardcore lineage, and as the next movement makes its way in, what seems to be the key line of the whole song is delivered in dual layers for effect: “We will be victorious/The dead will honor all of us.”
From there, they’re in the thick of it. We would seem to have been through ‘The Battle,’ which plays out instrumentally until about six minutes in, but as it should, “None More” gets murkier from there. Some turns are clearer than others — you know it when they hit into the reprise of ‘Rise of the Betrayer,’ for example, at the 11-minute mark — but between ‘The Battle,’ and the subsequent pair of ‘Requiem’ and ‘The Awakening,’ the progression is fluid enough that they essentially bleed into each other. Harmonized guitar lines lead a march punctuated by Sefcik and Bumpus through the midsection in an intricate play of melody and stomp, and by seven and a half minutes, all has come to a halt and what’s probably ‘The Awakening’ has begun. It’s a from-the-ground-up motion, quiet and ultimately shortlived, but it further conveys Kings Destroy‘s growth in its lack of rush to get where it’s going, instead spreading out a kind of hypnotic drift until they crash back in with the more emotional crux of the song, patient and effective. That they can pull it off and not give in to tension or sound like they’re just waiting to pounce is a definitive step.
Again, it’s quick, but telling. The rolling groove that ensues will carry through to ‘Rise of the Betrayer (Reprise),’ with a momentary break between the two sections and then a resumption of the introductory movement, bringing “None More” full circle rhythmically as a guitar solo takes hold at 11:40 and serves as a finishing move topping the nodding fluidity until the drums and bass drop out and feedback holds sway until clicking off just past 14 minutes. That ending conveys an in-the-studio feel that offsets some of the gritty grandeur of “None More” itself, but has the dual effect of jerking the listener back to reality after the band has dug so deep into the track’s final statement, and that would seem to be intentional. In any case, it fits with the narrative of Kings Destroy themselves, which is no less prevalent here than the Battle of Clontarf, and is shown through the dedication to pushing their approach forward in style and performance. None More might prove to be a stopgap en route to a fourth full-length, but it finds Kings Destroy in a crucial moment as a group and presents their story in a metaphor that could hardly be more apt.
It’s been a long time. Long enough that I’m not even going to link back to the last time I did a round of Radio Adds. Life happens, and with the Quarterly Review, I guess my focus went elsewhere. Well, I just did a Quarterly Review, and that actually kind of inspired this, since I found there was yet more records that wanted covering even after that over-full round of 60 that closed out 2016 and opened 2017. So here we are.
There are, in fact, more than 50 albums being added to The Obelisk Radio playlist today. I can’t promise I’ll do Radio Adds weekly like I once did, or monthly, or again in 2017, or ever, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed only right to take advantage. This stuff all came out last year, so it’s all readily available, and audio samples are included, because, you know, music and such.
Let’s dig in:
Lord Mountain, Lord Mountain
Of all the styles under the vast umbrella of “heavy,” traditional doom is among the hardest to execute – especially, I’d think, for new bands. You need a balance of atmosphere and lack of pretense, a classic vibe, riffs, and groove. On the surface, you’re playing to the past, but if you put out something that just sounds like Sabbath and bring nothing of yourself to it, you’re sunk. Santa Rosa, California’s Lord Mountain – vocalist/guitarist Jesse Swanson, guitarist Sean Serrano, bassist Dave Reed and drummer Pat Moore – would seem to have it figured out on their self-titled debut EP. Released by King Volume Records on limited tape, it brings forth four tracks in 21 minutes that are no less comfortable playing to the downer riffing of Candlemass – opener “Fenrir” – than to the epic chanting of Viking-era Bathory – “Under the Mountain” – and that find distinction for themselves in nodding to one side or the other as they make their way across the bass-y Sabbathism of “Dying World” and into the concluding solo-topped gallop of “Tomb of the Eagle” (more Dio-era there, but effectively translated tonally). As an initial offering, its presence is more stately than raw, and part of that is aesthetic, so I still think Lord Mountain will have growth to undertake, but their EP shows marked potential and brings a fresh personality to doom’s rigid traditionalism, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of it. A CD would probably be too much to ask, but it’s hard to believe no one’s snagged it for a 10” release yet.
Behold the winding, self-directed narrative of underrated, underutilized and underappreciated New York heavy rockers The Giraffes, who issued Usury via Silver Sleeve Records in Jan. 2016, on the cusp of their 20th anniversary and with it welcomed back frontman Aaron Lazar (also a one-time contributor to The Book of Knots, speaking of underrated) to the fold alongside guitarist Damien Paris, drummer Andrew Totolos and bassist Josh Taggart. Comprised of just six songs with a 28-minute runtime, it nonetheless holds to a full-album sentiment, with songs like the tense “Washing Machine” working in a vein not dissimilar to their righteous 2008 offering, Prime Motivator (review here), while the preceding “Facebook Rant” and “Product Placement Song” bask in a social commentary that one can only hope the ensuing decades make dated and the subsequent “White Jacket” has a melancholy danceability that one might’ve related around the time of The Giraffes’ 2005 self-titled debut related to System of a Down, but now just sounds like an enrichment of their approach overall. Usury gets off to a slow start (not a complaint, given the groove) with “Blood Will Run,” which seems to shake off its dust initially before commencing its real push and chug circa the halfway point, but by the time they get down to eight-minute finale “How it Happened to Me,” the sudden conclusion of the jam leaves one to wonder where they went and when they’ll be back, which presumably is the whole idea. Behold a band who did it before it was cool, should’ve been huge, and still kept going. The story is more complicated than that, but there are few tales more admirable.
The first Saint Vitus live album – Live – surfaced in 1990 via Hellhound Records and captured the band in Germany in 1989. Its 2005 reissue on Southern Lord played a large role in introducing the pivotal doomers to a new generation of fans. Live Vol. 2 follows some 26 years later via Season of Mist and likewise documents a crucial era in the four-piece’s existence, having been recorded in 2013 in Luxembourg following the release of their 2012 album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), with the lineup of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez. It’s a 59-minute set, all told – one suspects some of Chandler’s stage rants between songs were shortened or removed – and among the most striking impressions it makes is how seamlessly Lillie: F-65 cuts “Let Them Fall,” “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit in alongside classics like the speedy “War is Our Destiny” and “Look Behind You” or the more grueling “Patra (Petra)” and galloping “White Stallions.” Of course, the anthemic “Born too Late” closes out, with Chandler’s wash of feedback and all-low-end tone at the start the ultimate hallmark of what Saint Vitus have always been – a middle finger to square culture unlike any other. This era of the band may be over, with original vocalist Scott Reagers stepping back into the frontman role, but as one continues to hope for another studio album, Live Vol. 2 proves more than a stopgap and takes an active role in adding to the band’s legendary catalog.
After two successful full-lengths in 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, next-gen Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger join forces with Small Stone Records for their 10-song/46-minute third album, the crisply-executed Crossyears. Like their countrymen labelmates in Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, the Gothenburg three-piece bring modern edge and production to what a few years ago might’ve been purely retro ‘70s boogie rock, as tracks like “Fox Confessor,” “Say Jupiter,” the more languid “Atlas” and “Caesar’s Blues” bask in a showcase of tight, natural performance with a clean production style that still highlights same, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl proving the maturity of their songwriting while still delivering the push of “Silver Blaze” and closer “Window in the Sky” with a sense of energy behind them. Their approach so solidified, Långfinger don’t seem to leave much to chance in their sound, but Crossyears engages heavy rock tradition effectively while bridging a gap of decades across its run, and that, frankly, seems like enough for any one record to take on.
Soggy’s self-titled LP, released in this edition by Outer Battery Records (see also Arctic, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket), is a reissue of a 2008 collection of tracks from a span of years that find the blown-out French punkers paying direct homage to The Stooges with a cover of the seminal “I Wanna be Your Dog,” immediately drawing a line to what seems to have been the band’s most prominent influence. Some 35-plus years after they were initially put to tape, Soggy’s tracks continue to feel dangerous and raw in their frenetic proto-punkery, and that would seem to be exactly what the Soggy LP is looking to convey, digging into the vast trove of lost artifacts in heavy and punk rock and finding a treasure ripe for hindsight appreciation. As much as it just makes me want to put on the self-titled Stooges record or Fun House, I can’t argue with the success of Soggy’s Soggy or not admire its mission, even if some of its blows land harder than others.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
As recently announced, early next month, both Aluk Todolo and Insect Ark will take part in Stardust VI – Dark Nights of the Soul, being held Feb. 3-5 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Almost immediately thereafter, the two experimentalist outfits — from France and Brooklyn, respectively — will head to the West Coast for a five-evening run of shows that will no doubt involve several late-night drives as they make their way in between Seattle and Los Angeles. The amount of geography involved in such things can be staggering.
You can see in the dates below that the shows are dirt cheap. Eerily so. For two bands who should probably play exclusively in museum settings, it feels excessively easy on the wallet in a way that says Aluk Todolo are about to experience one of the most crucial aspects of touring in the US: not being paid well enough. So if you go, make sure you buy all the merch. That’s my recommendation to balance things out.
From the social medias:
ALUK TODOLO + INSECT ARK USA 2017
Aluk Todolo will be back in February 2017 for two sets at NYC’s Stardust VI, and will team up with the instrumental doom drone band Insect Ark for a week of shows on the West Coast. Last time Aluk Todolo played in the USA was under the stars of Stella Natura Fest, in 2012. Since then the band has released Occult Rock and Voix, two milestones in their discography, an adventurous and magical exploration of black metal, psychedelic rock and jazz.
Aluk Todolo & Insect Ark: Feb 3,4,5 New York – Stardust VI – St Vitus Feb 7 Seattle – Highline w/ Caligula Cartel, Serpentent. $12 advance / $15 at door. Feb 8 Portland – High water mark w/ Miserable, HZ, High and Fragile. $10 advance / $13 at door. Feb 9 San Francisco – Elbo Room w/ Common Eider King Eider, Alaric. $12 advance / $15 at door. Feb 10 Sacramento – The Colony Feb 11 Los Angeles (Glendale California) – the Complex w/ TBD. $12 advance / $15 at door.
ALUK TODOLO (Grenoble, France) is an instrumental power trio performing Occult Rock since 2004. Their music is a methodical exploration of the powers of musical trance. Part occult black metal fiend and part snide kraut menace, the band conjures rabid obsessive rhythms and abyssal disharmonic guitars, subliminal spiritualist vibrations and bizarre, magick summonings. ALUK TODOLO reduces psychedelic improvisation to a bare, telluric instrumentation, in which dry, spare percussion grievously mines the scrapes, shrieks and shimmer of mutated guitar and bass. The band’s sound is monolithic and stabbing, hypnotic but unpredictable, minimalist yet teeming: a dangerous, noxious coil of all things black.
INSECT ARK is an instrumental doom-psych duo based in NYC / Portland (Dana Schechter – bass, lap steel, synths / Ashley Spungin – drums, synths). Schechter plays/has played with M. Gira’s Angels of Light (Swans), Wrekmeister Harmonies; Ashley Spungin also plays in Taurus. Since the band’s inception in late 2011, Insect Ark have toured internationally, had their music used in feature films, and released 5 records/singles. A new full-length LP is currently in production for a 2017 release.