Mountain God Announce July Weekender Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

New York doom crunchers Mountain God apparently haven’t taken the stage in a while, and by ‘a while’ I mean a couple years. In the interim, they signed to Artificial Head and released their debut album, Bread Solstice — which I’m already months late on reviewing, because I suck at this — which brought forth due sonic devastation after a couple of darkly portentous short offerings. Lineup shifts have been a regular feature of the band, at least around guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi and bassist/noisemaker Nikhil Kamineni, and the trio that now includes drummer Gabriel Cruz have apparently already set to work on their next batch of material. Clearly I’d better get my ass on that review. Noted.

The PR wire brings word of a weekender tour for next month in the Northeast that will mark their return to the stage. Goes like this:

mountain god photo greg christman

Mountain God – July Tour

This July, experimental doom/sludge behemoths Mountain God return to the stage after a nearly 2 year absence from live performances. Led by founders Ben Ianuzzi (guitars, vocals) and Nikhil Kamineni (bass, synths, noise), the duo is joined by new drummer Gabriel Cruz (Hollow Senses). Their 2017 dates include shows in Brooklyn, Washington D.C, Elizabeth and Philadelphia, with more shows planned for the fall.

Having formed in 2012, Mountain God is a familiar name within the underground metal scene, known for a unique blend of doom, psych, noise, and all around heavy riffing. Each of their releases, including “Experimentation on the Unwilling” (2013), “Forest of the Lost” (2015), and most recently, their first full length entitled “Bread Solstice” (Artificial Head Records, 2017), have seen the band continue to evolve and transform into a powerful, scathing, visceral entity that is thoughtful in its process and uncompromising in its musical vision. With the addition of Cruz on drums, the band has been steadily working on new material that is darker, heavier, and noisier than anything the band has done to this point. Entitled “Psychic Driving”, (an allusion to 50s and 60s government mind control programs run by the CIA) Mountain God looks to create an atmosphere that is numbing, deconstructive, and terrorizing, the same emotions felt by the various test subjects whose lives were ruined by the work of men such as Dr. Ewen Cameron.

This tour will see the band perform one of these new tracks along with choice cuts from their back catalogue. If you’ve never seen them, Mountain God is a punishing band in a live setting. Their sound, honed since the bands inception, is a sum of all its parts, including Ianuzzi’s trademark Monson guitar crunch and distorted, terrifying vocals, coupled with Kamineni’s hypnotic, thick, fuzzed out bass tones that dance and weave throughout the songs. The band is all the more strengthened by the ferocity of Cruz’s drumming, as well as synth textures, provided by noise guru Kamineni, that bring the Mountain God trademark sound to life. This tour will see the band reconnect with friends in Godmaker and Foehammer, as well as other peer bands including Trunk and Hyborian.

Having shared the stage with acts such as Yob, Ufommamut, Primitive Man, Opium Lord, and many, many others, the future of the band is bright, with plans to take its music to new places and venues. One reviewer stated, “the demented sounds and sheer majesty of Mountain God suggest that this is a band with the potential to become a major driver in the doom metal scene. They have a sense of forward motion that many of their peers lack, but they are unafraid to ease back on the throttle and merely revel in the power of a great riff. Mountain God are a head and shoulders above many of their peers in this scene and Bread Solstice is a veritable statement and one that I sincerely hope will stand the test of time”.

July Tour Dates:
July 28th- The Well, Brooklyn, NY with Godmaker, Hyborian, and Somnuri
July 29th- The Pinch, Washington DC with Foehammer, Myopic, Ashes of Mankind, Ash Prayer
July 30th- Cianfano’s Bar, Elizabeth, NJ with Galare, Trunk, TBA
July 31st- Kung Fu Nektie (upstairs), Philadelphia, PA with Trunk, TBA

https://www.facebook.com/MountainGodBand
https://mountain-god.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ArtificialHead
https://artinstitute.bandcamp.com/

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Dead Heavens to Release Whatever Witch You Are June 16; Northeast Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

dead heavens

New York-based Dead Heavens will issue their debut long-player June 16 via Dine Alone Records. Titled Whatever Witch You Are, the album will be supported by a run of Northeastern tour dates around the release date, and it gets a preview in the form of streaming track “Adderall Highway,” which toes the line between heavy indie, desert push and psychedelic rock while still managing to toss out a hook fervent enough to pull one in on first listen. The band, whose pedigree is formidable and detailed below, have their roots in more aggressive fare, but dig back further into classic rock for influences, and I guess when you mash all that stuff together with some pretty clear willful direction-taking, this is what you get. Won’t hear me complain.

The PR wire brings copious details, and you can hear the audio of “Adderall Highway” at the bottom of this post. Whatever Witch You Are is up for preorder now, as the following affirms:

dead-heavens-whatever-witch-you-are

Dead Heavens (Quicksand, Cults, White Zombie) Release Song Today + New Album + Tour Dates Added

New Album Whatever Witch You Are Out June 16

East Coast Tour Starts June 14

New York City’s Dead Heavens, the psych-rock project of guitarist and frontman Walter Schreifels (Vanishing Life, Gorilla Biscuits, Rival Schools, Quicksand, and more), Paul Kostabi (Youth Gone Mad, White Zombie, Psychotica), Drew Thomas (Youth of Today, Bold, Into Another), and Nathan Aguilar (Cults), have released their song “Adderall Highway.”. The song appears on their forthcoming album Whatever Witch You Are, out June 16 on Dine Alone Records. Pre-order the album here.

Walter Schreifels talks about the inspiration behind the song: “Adderall Highway was born somewhere between Düsseldorf and Salzburg at the speed of 115-120mph. We were on our first European tour and taking advantage of Germany’s hyper-efficient autobahn system to make up some lost time between shows. As we watched the idyllic German countryside whirr by our windows the Riff to Adderall Highway stirred in our very souls.”

Whatever Witch You Are, their first full-length, plays effortlessly as a new-classic blues rock album— a new-millennium Fresh Cream or Let it Bleed — only with sharp-angular sounds, noticeably psyche inflections, and melodies that seem wrought out of rebar: strong, pared down, and purposeful at every point. If anything, their musical origins have permitted Dead Heavens to approach blues and psyche rock unnostalgically, arriving at an audibly honest sound, stripped of any of the tassels or affectation. The drums hit heavy. The guitars hit heavy. Yet hovering above them both is always Schreifels’ sandier vocals, urging us on through life’s endless freakishness and frustrations.

“Many of these songs are love songs,” Schreifels explains, “ Basic Cable is about love but a modern love that’s lost its way— when couples are stuck at home, binge-watching or glued to their phones, absently doing the dishes, unsatisfied until they finally realize that what they really need is to just go outside. This song is for when they finally get out there.” The pent-energy of this opening single explodes and never lets up, fueling quasi-Krautrock stretches in Goldtooth or Bad Luck Child, coasters like Silver Sea or Experience, or the pounding rock of Adderall Highway and Away from the Speed. Following a burst of earlier singles like History in my Hands and Feel Low, this album is made for One Big Listen, and its lone rest stop, The Moon Will Listen (But Not the Sun), begins reflectively but shifts into full rollick by its second half.

Dead Heavens first coalesced during a solo tour for Schreifels, in 2013, with Thomas and Aguilar as backing band. Swapping and trading music for road listening— Cream, My Bloody Valentine, White Fence— together the three distilled the musical mood that would soon characterize Dead Heavens. Upon returning to New York, Aguilar reacquainted Thomas and Schreifels with musician, painter, and sound engineer Paul Kostabi, who felicitously still owned the reel-to-reel on which Schreifels had recorded Gorilla Biscuits’ Start Today in 1989, and— in another claim to fame— had coined the title of Guns N’ Roses Use Your Illusion. Their sympathies obvious, then, they leapt into recording at Kostabi’s Thunderdome Studios, and welcomed on Kostabi as a second lead guitar. A shotgun home studio set in the marshes of Piermont, New York, Thunderdome also guarded a trove of 70’s recording reels from Black Sabbath, The James Gang, and Jimi Hendrix— reels that played between takes and liberally infused the cauldron with an inspiringly darker magic.

But as the title tells you, Whatever Witch You Are enjoins us to radically accept this darker magic, “in the sense of accepting a strong, strange, powerful woman who freaks out people precisely for all her powers,” Schreifels says, “and not just in love, but acceptance in a modern world that can often isolate us, and make us feel like freaks. For the full 36 minutes of this record, we want people to be able to embrace this freakishness.” Even when our world’s havoc-tossed, and our heavens dead, the lifers out there will always shrug it off and ready themselves for the strange new era.

Dead Heavens Tour Dates
6/14 – New Haven, CT – BAR – New Haven
6/15 – Newport, RI – The Parlor
6/16 – Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool
6/17 – Garwood, NJ – Crossroads
6/18 – Washington, DC – DC9 Nightclub
6/19 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie

http://www.deadheavens.com/
https://www.facebook.com/deadheavens
https://twitter.com/dead_heavens
https://www.instagram.com/deadheavens/
http://hyperurl.co/deadheavens
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https://www.facebook.com/dinealonerecords

Dead Heavens, “Adderall Highway”

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Review & Track Premiere: Blackout, The Horse

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

blackout the horse

[Click play above to stream ‘Let ’em Ride’ from Blackout’s The Horse. Album is out May 26 via RidingEasy Records.]

It’s only been two years since Brooklynite three-piece Blackout made their debut on RidingEasy Records with their self-titled full-length (review here), but clearly the riff-rolling tonebearers have been through some changes in that stretch. Their third album, The Horse, arrives via the same label — their first outing was 2013’s independently-released We are Here (review here) — and basks in much of the same irreverent attitude showcased by its predecessors, but also marks the arrival of new drummer Adam Taylor (ex-Ghost Punch), who joins founding guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy and bassist Justin Sherrell in replacement of Taryn Waldman, who left the band shortly before the writing started up again.

Whether that might or might not have fed into a more aggressive overall take on the part of Blackout for the eight-song/38-minute LP, which was recorded last September in Brooklyn at Spaceman Sound over a period of four days, I don’t know, but the narrative (blessings and peace be upon it) positions The Horse alongside harder-edged New York fare like Cro Mags and Judge, in mindset of snarl if not actual aural impression. That’s probably fair. Even when the Northeast tries to be chill, it can seem impatient about it, and through the raw riffing of “Let ’em Ride” and the chuggy lumber of “Mean Pads,” Blackout do seem to hone in on a particular grit to go along with their thrust, but with Gordy‘s vocals buried as ever and echoing up from under his guitar and Sherrell‘s bass, and a stomper like “Rat Spirit” to provide a nodding cornerstone at the album’s halfway point, mostly Blackout just sound like Blackout. Whether you’ve heard them before or not, that’s nothing to complain about.

What it means is that in a sea of newer-school heavy riffing — the roster of RidingEasy alone finds post-Sleep comparison points in Austin’s The Well — Blackout are managing to concoct a sound across the span of The Horse that stands them out. They’re becoming a more identifiable and individualized band. If being “more New York” is a part of what’s making that happen, then it’s only serving them well. The album’s opener, “Graves,” begins with a stretch of nasty feedback before Taylor‘s drums kick it into the first of many righteous grooves to come, opening up for the verse but held together by toms and rumble for the duration and given further sense of space through Gordy‘s caveman howling. Cro-magnon, indeed.

This straightforward attack has been a big part of Blackout‘s appeal for the better part of the last half-decade, but as “Graves” gives way to “Let ’em Ride” with its play between downer thud and shove, there is growth in songcraft to be heard even from where the three-piece was on Blackout, and a new dynamic with Taylor on drums is unquestionably part of that. “Let ’em Ride” seems about to drift into a wash of chaotic noise just before its final minute, but rights itself around its central riff and crashes to a cohesive, willfully sloppy end to make way for the 2:25 “Roach Bites,” a faster and more all-go of a song which, if anything is tying The Horse to NYC’s small-room-circle-pit past, is what’s doing it.

blackout

Somewhat telling that they immediately counter with “Rat Spirit” — roaches and rats; hey, we are in New York! — which is arguably the biggest-sounding plod the record has to offer, but in playing the contrast directly amid a consistency of tone and overall approach, Blackout do nothing that interrupts the flow or well-established momentum of the record and instead only broaden their stylistic reach, once again sounding more like themselves in the process even as they expand on what that means.

If that sounds like the best case scenario for a band coming to fruition on their third album, it kind of is, but The Horse is too barebones in its approach to sound like some grand arrival, and that’s clearly the point. As it moves into side B, “Amnesia” kicks in with a riff that foreshadows the eight-minute closing title-track to come and embarks on another mid-paced headbang of the sort one found in stretches of “Let ’em Ride” — aggro, sure, but not at the cost of groove and somewhere between “Roach Bites” and “Mean Pads,” another sub-three-minute pile drive that seems to interrupt its own count-in in its rush to get to the meat of its riff. No time to waste. “Mean Pads” winds up being an excellent example of Blackout‘s particular blend of spaciousness and crunch on The Horse, the vocals being so far back and the guitar, bass and drums at the fore, but at 2:36 it’s there and gone and the six-minute “Holy Wood” has taken hold such that on first listen one might miss its appeal. Subsequent visits it is.

A tense chug defines the early going of “Holy Wood,” coming to a maddening cacophony before the two-minute mark only to ease back into a nodding verse and trade between the two sides for the duration, ending in a crash and feedback to highlight the tossoff sensibility so much of The Horse seeks to convey, even if it undercuts this impression through its own thought-out construction. That duality comes into play in the finale as well, which at eight minutes seems to cut itself in half between a clunked initial progression not so dissimilar from the rest of the outing preceding and the big slowdown that occurs just before its midpoint that leads at last to the wash of noise, lead-guitar fuckall and cavernousness that The Horse has been threatening all along. Blackout ride this payoff until about seven minutes in and spend the final stages of the closer essentially disintegrating into amp noise, the drums and bass dropping out to leave a fading feedback as the last element to go much as it was the first element to arrive. Important to know where your foundation lies.

And Blackout clearly do. As they come into their own and continue despite their personnel shift to release a full-length (suitably enough) on the odd-year, they in no way lose sight of their post-Melvins/Sleep beginnings in density of distortion and a seemingly sans-frills delivery that nonetheless shows growth from one offering to the next. That actually is the best of both worlds when it comes to a group hitting their stride, and so it seems that might just be what Blackout are doing as they establish this new lineup in these tracks. It may be 2019 before we really understand the context of The Horse‘s stripped-down approach, but the songwriting and execution GordySherrell and Taylor bring to bear here feels like a landmark for them all the same.

Blackout on Thee Facebooks

Blackout on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Twitter

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Rattlesnake Post Outlaw Boogie Debut Demo & Announce First Show; Band Features Members of Ramming Speed & The Golden Grass

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rattlesnake

May 25 will mark the live debut of Brooklyn-based four-piece Rattlesnake. With members of The Golden GrassRamming Speed and J.A.C.K., the band announces their first time on stage will be at Union Pool in the company of psychblasters Ecstatic Vision and resurgent, native Brooklynite post-doomers Unearthly Trance. Pretty good way to kickoff a new band, if you ask me.

By way of advance notice, Rattlesnake have posted their initial three-song demo. Dubbed Outlaw Boogie — which seems as much a mission statement as a title — the short offering finds them well sure of where they want to be aesthetically, and fans of The Golden Grass will recognize the lead vocals of drummer Adam Kriney (also ex-La Otracina), here in harmony with guitarists J.P. Gilbert and Blake Charlton on “BWOL (Burning Way of Life)” while Ian Anderson (since replaced by Don Berger) holds down a classic-rocking bassline to go with the riffs somewhere between NWOBHM, Southern pastoralia and classic swagger.

That territory seems to be where it’s Rattlesnake‘s intention to dwell, and Outlaw Boogie finds them comfortable there for its entire 16-minute duration. The promise of guitar scorch is telegraphed early on “The Reason Why,” but there’s a funky wah-soaked stomp to the lead cut as well, and before it’s even made it to the halfway point, the band has careened through a winding bridge and established the hook to be built off of upon return from a lengthy, righteous solo section.

It’s a fluidity backed by the gritty, motoring push of “Wicked Man,” the middle cut that seems to have taken a couple key lessons from Death Alley‘s straddling the line between classic metal and post-Motörhead biker riffing, though again it’s the melody of the chorus that sets it apart, as well as a distinctly Southern feel in the soloing, which “BWOL (Burning Way of Life)” reinforces as well, paying off the foreshadow at the beginning of “The Reason Why” as it leads the way out of Outlaw Boogie‘s smooth-flowing, unpretentious run.

Below, you can read more background about Rattlesnake, where they’re from and where they might be headed, and dig into the stream of Outlaw Boogie. First show is May 25. Safe bet is it won’t be the last.

Dig it:

rattlesnake unearthly trance ecstatic vision

Rattlesnake – Outlaw Boogie

The true sound of Outlaw Boogie! It’s heavy, loud, swinging & tough! And it’s coming at you spittin’ venom!

Between the mid-70’s and mid-80’s, the worlds of Southern/Country Rock, Hard/Heavy Rock, Prog, Proto-Metal and NWOBHM collided in a brief but stellar shining moment that was sonically crystallized by cult & legendary groups such as POINT BLANK, BLACKFOOT, OUTLAWS, MOLLY HATCHET, ALKANA, HYDRA, ASHBURY & BLACKHORSE! And like a bolt of lightning out of the dark and desolate sky, a new group has exploded on the underground heavy music scene to carry on the torch of those legendary pioneers, and that band is RATTLESNAKE! Hailing from Brooklyn NY, this 4-piece craft classic, epic & breathtaking tunes, powered by dazzling twin guitar melodies/harmonies/solos, and an earnest delivery of soulfully tough vocals, all served up greasy and swampy! You’re gonna love the way it BITES!

Now they say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”, well then RATTLESNAKE’s sound and swagger should come as no surprise to those familiar with the band members’ other/previous musical groups, and this fact only strengthens their creative forces! However, RATTLESNSAKE is without a doubt, its own unique musical vision! It’s a colossally focused synergy, and quite possibly some of the best darn rock n roll any of these underground heavyweights have ever made!

RATTLESNAKE is Outlaw Boogie! Blazing hard, riding high & swinging low on that lonesome road! Across the dusty desert on up through the mountain high! It’s the thunderous sound of hard working rock n roll lifers! They’ve got enough fire & power to share the stage with any modern rock/metal band out there and the classic/timeless feel to warm an old bluesman’s heart.

Rattlesnake first show!
Thursday May 25 at Union Pool with ECSTATIC VISION and UNEARTHLY TRANCE

The group is comprised of:
Adam Kriney – drums/lead vocals (THE GOLDEN GRASS/LA OTRACINA)
Blake Charlton – electric guitar/backing vocals (RAMMING SPEED/SLASHERS/HELLBENT HOOKER)
JP Gilbert – electric guitar/lead vocals (J.A.C.K./JP & THE GILBERTS)
Don Berger – electric bass

https://www.facebook.com/RattlesnakeBoogie69/
https://rattlesnakeboogie69.bandcamp.com/album/outlaw-boogie
https://www.facebook.com/In-For-The-Kill-Records-415384318840806/

Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo (2017)

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Blackout Set May 26 Release for The Horse; Stream New Track “Graves”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ll admit I was under the impression that Brooklyn three-piece Blackout were done. Seems like it wasn’t just me, either. The NYC trio lost drummer Taryn Waldman following the 2015 release of their self-titled long-player (review here), which was their debut on RidingEasy and their second overall behind the 2013 We are Here 12″ (review here), and I guess when I stopped seeing the band’s name on show fliers, I figured that was it. Hardly. Guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy and bassist Justin Sherrell apparently hooked up with Ghost Punch‘s Adam Taylor, and in May they’ll release the third Blackout album, The Horse, once again on RidingEasy Records.

Mark that a win, and to make the announcement a real occasion, the band has opening track “Graves” streaming now, purportedly based around more aggressive, distinctly New York influences. How that’ll play out across the whole album — aggressively? — remains to be heard, but a little bash over the head in Springtime never hurt anybody. Unless we’re speaking literally. Either way, May 26 is the release date. No doubt you’ll be able to put your order in long before then, so keep an eye out.

The PR wire has cover art, details and the song:

blackout-the-horse

NYC trio Blackout premiere first track from new album The Horse

Add hints of NY crossover legends like Helmet, Cro-Mags, Judge, Prong to their signature gritty doom

Ask any New Yorker what makes them special and they’ll all tell you something different. But there’s something very particular about a city so condensed with a vast range of humanity all facing myriad daily challenges that gives its rock music a brash, direct aggression unlike other places. Case in point, NYC trio Blackout’s take on doom and stoner rock is filled with a gritty, mechanistic heft unlike bands of their ilk from anywhere else.

Subsumed within the greasy grooves of The Horse there are echoes of NYC heavy legends like Helmet, Cro-Mags, Judge, Prong and others — not as intentional homage, but rather a vibe that permeates and inadvertently gives its bands a unique power that few can match.

After a brief hiatus between the March 2015 release of their self-titled sophomore album on RidingEasy Records, Blackout has regrouped and (ahem) gotten back on The Horse for an 8-song blast of riffs that does not fuck around.

On one fateful day in July 2016, with a handful of mushrooms and a bottle of tequila, vocalist/guitarist Christian Gordy set out to write an entire new Blackout record. Following the departure of original drummer Taryn Waldman earlier that year, the band’s fate was uncertain. But, Gordy’s writing forray resulted in a wellspring of inspiration and by happenstance he contacted drummer Adam Taylor who had just parted with his band Ghost Punch. Within two months of banging out riffs with bassist Justin Sherrell, Blackout was back in action.

The Horse was recorded over 4 days in September 2016 at Spaceman Sound in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which the band describes as “a whirlwind session laced with loads of buds, Petey’s burgers and lipstick.”

Or, described by Blackout themselves: “What you have before you now is a messy plate of meat, slathered in weird sauces. A haunted steak from from Centaurus A to sink your dirty fangs into. Sit back, crack a semi cold one, maybe get some snacks… and turn this motherfucker up to 8.”

The Horse will be available on LP, CD and download May 26th, 2017 via RidingEasy Records.

Artist: Blackout
Album: The Horse
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: May 26, 2017

01. Graves
02. Let ‘Em Ride
03. Roach Bites
04. Rat Spirit
05. Amnesia
06. Mean Pads
07. Holy Wood
08. The Horse

ridingeasyrecords.com
blackout666.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/BlackoutNYC
http://ridingeasyrecs.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ridingeasyrecords/
https://twitter.com/EasyRiderRecord

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Quarterly Review: Unearthly Trance, Heavy Traffic, Saturn, Lucifer’s Fall, Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Scuzzy Yeti, Urn., Nebula Drag, Contra, IAH

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

From harsh doom to urban pastoralism to heavy blues rock to rolling doom nonetheless metallic in its defiance, Day Four of the Quarterly Review spins around a swath of styles and hopefully, hopefully, finds something you dig in the doing. It’s been a long week already. You know it. I know it. But it’s also been really good to dig into this stuff and I know I’ve found a few records that have made their way onto the already-ongoing 2017 lists — best short releases, debuts, albums, etc. — so to say it’s been worth it is, as ever, an understatement. Today likewise has gems to offer, so I won’t delay.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost

Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance make a somewhat unexpected reentry with Stalking the Ghost (on Relapse), their sixth album. In the years since 2010’s V (review here), guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky has delved into a wide variety of extreme genres, from the blackened fare of The Howling Wind to the deathly-doom of Serpentine Path, in which Unearthly Trance bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni also shared tenure, but reuniting as Unearthly Trance feels like a significant step for the three-piece, and on tracks like “Dream State Arsenal” and the darkly post-metallic “Lion Strength,” they remind of what it was that made them such a standout in the first place while demonstrating that their years away have done nothing to dull the surehandedness of their approach. At eight tracks/52 minutes, Stalking the Ghost is a significant dirge to undertake, but Unearthly Trance bring pent-up anguish to bear across this varied swath of punishing tracks, and reassert their dominance over an aesthetic sphere that, even after all this time, is thoroughly their own.

Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Heavy Traffic, Plastic Surgery

heavy-traffic-plastic-surgery

Probably a smart move on the part of Heavy Traffic spearhead guitarist Ian Caddick and drummer/vocalist Tav Palumbo to swap coasts from Santa Cruz to Brooklyn ahead of putting together their sixth (!) full-length in three years and Twin Earth Records debut, Plastic Surgery. Cali is awash in heavy psych anyway and Brooklyn’s been at a deficit (as much as it’s at a deficit of anything) since space forerunners Naam became one with the cosmos, so even apart from the acquisition of bassist David Grzedzinki and drummer Dan Bradica, it’s a solid call, and one finds the fruits yielded on Plastic Surgery’s dream-fuzzed blend of heft and roll, heady jams like “See Right Through,” the oh-you-like-feedback-well-here’s-all-the-feedback “Broth Drain” and winding “Medicated Bed” finding a place where shoegaze and psychedelia meet ahead of the low-end-weighted closing title-cut and the bonus track “White and Green,” which finishes with suitable push and swirl to mark a welcome and vibe-soaked arrival for the band. Hope you enjoy the Eastern Seabord. It could use you.

Heavy Traffic on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Saturn, Beyond Spectra

saturn beyond spectra

In the second Saturn album, Beyond Spectra, one can hear one of retro rock’s crucial next movements taking place. The Swedish four-piece, who debuted on Rise Above with 2014’s Ascending and return with a periodically explosive 10-track/45-minute outing here, find a niche for themselves in adding dual-guitar NWOBHM elements to ‘70s-style (also ‘10s-style) boogie, as on the scorching “Still Young” or opener “Orbital Command.” They’re not the only ones doing it – Rise Above alums Horisont come to mind readily – but they’re doing it well, and the last three years have clearly found them refining their approach to arrive at the tightness in the shuffle of “Wolfsson” and the creeping Priestism of “Helmet Man” later on. I’ll give bonus points for their embracing the idea of going completely over the top in naming a song “Electrosaurus Sex,” but by the time they get down to closing duo “Silfvertape” and “Sensor Data,” I’m left thinking of the subdued intro to “Orbital Command” and the interlude “Linkans Delight” and wondering if there isn’t a way to bring more of that dynamic volume and tempo breadth into the songwriting as a whole. That would really be far out. Maybe they’ll get there, maybe they won’t. Either way, Beyond Spectra, like its predecessor, makes a largely inarguable case for Saturn’s potential.

Saturn on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Lucifer’s Fall, II: Cursed and Damned

lucifers-fall-cursed-and-damned

Measuring its impact between doomly traditionalism and attitudinal fuckall, Lucifer’s Fall’s II: Cursed and Damned (on Nine Records) is a doom-for-doomers affair that tops 55 minutes with its nine tracks, recalling Dio-era Sabbathian gallop on opener “Mother Superior” and landing a significant blow with the slow-rolling nine-minute push of “The Necromancer.” Shades of Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre, and the most loyal of the loyalists show themselves throughout, but whether it’s the crawl in the first half of “Cursed Priestess” or the blistering rush of the clarion centerpiece “(Fuck  You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall,” there’s an undercurrent of punk in the five-piece’s take that lends an abiding rawness to even the album’s most grueling moments. One looks to find a middle ground in songs like “The Mountains of Madness” and closer “Homunculus,” but Lucifer’s Fall instead offer NWOBHM-style guitar harmonics and soaring vocals, respectively, only pushing their stylistic breadth wider, playing by and breaking rules they’re clearly setting for themselves rather than working toward outside expectation. As a result, II: Cursed and Damned keeps its fist in the air for the duration, middle finger up.

Lucifer’s Fall on Bandcamp

Nine Records website

 

Trevor Shelley de Brauw, Uptown

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Over the course of six-minute opener “A New Architecture,” guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw gradually moves the listener from abrasive noise to sweet, folkish acoustic guitar backed by amplified wavelengths. It’s a slowly unfolding change, patiently done, and it works in part to define Uptown (on The Flenser), the Pelican guitarist’s six-song solo debut long-player. Noise and drone make themselves regulars, and there’s a steady experimentalism at root in pieces like “Distinct Frequency,” the low-end hum and strum of “You Were Sure,” and the should’ve-been-on-the-soundtrack-to-Arrival “Turn up for What,” which unfurls a linear progression from minimalism to consuming swell in eight minutes ahead of the more actively droning 11-minute sendoff “From the Black Soil Poetry and Song Sprang,” but de Brauw manages to keep a human core beneath via both the occasional acoustic layer and through moments where a piece is being palpably manipulated, à la the spacious distorted churn of “They Keep Bowing.” I’m not sure how Uptown didn’t wind up on Neurot, but either way, it’s an engaging exploration of textures, and one hopes it won’t be de Brauw’s last work in this form.

Trevor Shelley de Brauw on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser website

 

Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti

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Someone in Scuzzy Yeti has roots in metal, and the good money’s on it being vocalist Chris Wells. Joined in the Troy, New Hampshire, five-piece by guitarists Brad Decatur and Jason Lawrence (ex-Skrogg), bassist Wayne Munson and drummer Josh Turnbull, Wells casts a sizable frontman presence across the five-tracks of Scuzzy Yeti’s self-titled debut EP, belting out “Westward” and “BTK” as the band behind him hones a blend of classic heavy rock and doom. The sound is more reminiscent of Janne Christoffersson-era Spiritual Beggars than what one might expect out of New England, and the band amass some considerable momentum as centerpiece “Conqueror” and the shorter shuffle “Knees in the Breeze” push toward slower, lead-soaked closer “Flare,” which finds the lead guitar stepping up to meet Wells head-on. They might have some work to do in finding a balance between the stylistic elements at play, but for a first outing, Scuzzy Yeti shows all the pieces are there and are being put into their rightful place, and the result is significant, marked potential.

Scuzzy Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Scuzzy Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Urn., Urn.

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The insistent push from punctuated Denver trio Urn.’s self-titled debut demo/EP is enough to remind one of the days when the primary impression of Mastodon wasn’t their complexity, but the raw savagery with which that complexity was delivered. Urn. – the three-piece of Scott Schulman, Graham Wesselhoff and Jacob Archuleta – work in some elements of more extreme metal to “Rat King” after opener “Breeder,” both songs under three minutes and successfully conveying an intense thrust. The subsequent “Stomach” ranges further and is the longest cut at 4:45, but loses none of its focus as it winds its way toward closer “To the Grave,” which in addition to maintaining the nigh-on-constant kick drum that has pervaded the three tracks prior, offers some hints of lumbering stomp to come. As a first sampling, Urn.’s Urn. is a cohesive aesthetic blast setting in motion a progression that will be worth following as it develops. Call it rager metal and try not to spill your beverage while you windmill, you wild headbanger.

Urn. on Thee Facebooks

Urn. on Bandcamp

 

Nebula Drag, Always Dying

nebula drag always dying

2016 found San Diego aggressors Nebula Drag making their self-titled, self-released debut (review here) with a record that seemed to work in willful defiance of their hometown’s psychedelic underground while at the same time occasionally nodding to it. The forebodingly-titled Always Dying three-song EP does likewise, launching with a vengeance on “Crosses” before burying the vocals and spacing out behind the crashes of the more languid-rolling title-track and giving a bit of both sides with the four-minute closer “Flying Fuckers.” It’s almost as if the three-piece of Corey Quintana, bassist Mike Finneran and drummer Stephen Varns, having thus completed their first album, decided to boil it down to its essential stylistic components and the result of that was this 14-minute outing. An intriguing prospect, but it could also be these were leftovers from the prior session with Jordan Andreen at Audio Design Recording and putting them up for a free download was an easy way to give them some purpose. In any case, if you haven’t yet been introduced to the band, Always Dying is an efficient telling of their story thus far.

Nebula Drag on Thee Facebooks

Nebula Drag on Bandcamp

 

Contra, Deny Everything

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If their moniker doesn’t have you immediately running through the most legendary of cheat codes, congratulations on being born after 1990. Cleveland burl-sludge metallers Contra make their full-length debut on respected purveyor Robustfellow with the 10-track/41-minute Deny Everything, and if it sounds like they have their shit together – at least sound-wise – it should make sense given the pedigree of drummer Aaron Brittain (ex-Rue), bassist/guitarist Adam Horwatt (So Long Albatross), guitarist Chris Chiera (ex-Sofa King Killer) and vocalist Larry Bent (ex-Don Austin). Be it established that songs like “Snake Goat” and “Son of Beast” are nobody’s first time at the sludge rodeo. Fair enough. Doesn’t mean Contra don’t establish their own personality in the overarching fuckall and total lack of pretense throughout Deny Everything – hell, seven-minute closer “Shrimp Cocktail” proves that on its own – just that that personality has roots. What Contra wants to do with them still kind of seems up in the air, but something about these tracks makes me think the band likes it that way. See the aforementioned “fuckall.”

Contra on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

IAH, IAH

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Comprised of four songs tracked live in the trio’s native Córdoba at 440 Estudio, the self-titled debut EP from Argentine trio IAH – guitarist Mauricio Condon, bassist Juan Pablo Lucco and drummer José Landín – would seem destined to catch the attention of South American Sludge Records if it already hasn’t. In the interim, the three-piece have made the instrumental EP available as a free download and its unpretentious heavy psychedelics and edge of rock-minded thrust on opener “Cabalgan los Cielos” and the early going of closer “Eclipsum” more than justify their intention to spread the word as much as possible. Set to a balance of post-rock guitar, the bassline of “Stolas” carries a progressive inflection, and the fuzz that emerges halfway into second track “Ouroboros” shows a desert rock influence that blends well into its surroundings as a part of a richer sonic entity. A nascent but palpable chemistry at work across its 26 minutes, IAH’s IAH could portend expansive ideas to come, and one hopes it does precisely that.

IAH on Thee Facebooks

IAH on Bandcamp

 

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Spotlights Sign to Ipecac Recordings; New Album Due this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Brooklynite duo/live trio Spotlights have basically done nothing but earn accolades since the release last year of their debut album, Tidals. You won’t hear me argue, but it’s kind of rare to find such general consensus on anything these days, let alone new bands. Even their Spiders EP (review here), which was a couple tracks and a remix, came widely hailed.

Sometimes hype like that can be a hindrance, especially in Brooklyn, where if someone knows your name there’s a decent chance you’re already passe, but in the case of Spotlights, they’ve just been signed to Ipecac Recordings, so I guess it’s a double-win. They’ll record a sophomore full-length, yet untitled, later this year with Aaron Harris (ex-Isis) at the helm. As if they were hurting for good-company-type associations.

Kudos to the band and the momentum they’ve built. The PR wire has all the latest info:

spotlights brian berson photo

SPOTLIGHTS SIGN TO IPECAC; BROOKLYN-BASED BAND WORKING ON NEW ALBUM WITH PRODUCER AARON HARRIS (ISIS/PALMS)

Spotlights, the Brooklyn-based band featuring Mario and Sarah Quintero (formerly of Sleep Lady), have signed to Ipecac Recordings.

The band, who tour as a trio, are working on an as-of-yet untitled full-length with ISIS’/Palms’ Aaron Harris serving as producer. A fall release date is expected.

“It’s such an honor to join Ipecac’s amazing roster,” said the band. “We couldn’t have imagined a better home for the band and our new record.”

“The best part of being a music fan is discovering new artists,” added Ipecac co-owner Greg Werckman. “The best part of being a record label is getting to be the place that introduces music fans to diverse artists. We are thrilled to add Spotlights to the Ipecac family and are sure that a lot of people will share our enthusiasm for their music.”

Spotlights’ most recent releases include the Spiders EP and a previously released full-length titled Tidals.

Spotlights, who were handpicked to open on the Deftones’ summer 2016 tour, will return to the road this summer. Tour dates to be announced soon.

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Spotlights, Spiders EP (2016)

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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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