Insect Ark Announce Marrow Hymns LP out Feb. 23; Stream New Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

insect ark

Go ahead and sign me up for Insect Ark‘s Marrow Hymns right now and save us both the time. I dug the hell out of Dana Schechter‘s work on the band’s 2015 debut, Portal/Well (review here), and was fortunate enough to see the former member of Bee and Flower perform live as well, and going by what I’m hearing in the Earth-y vibes of the new track “In the Nest,” the drone has only gotten richer since Schechter teamed up with TaurusAshley Spungin to make what was a solo-project a duo. So yeah, go ahead. Sign me up. I’m on board. Let’s do this thing.

Oh what? I have to wait until February for the album to come out? So you mean to say I don’t get to have my brain eaten outright by Marrow Hymns immediately? Hell’s bells that’s going to be a challenge.

But so is the record. In the best way possible.

From the PR wire. Check out this fucking cover art:

insect ark marrow hymns

INSECT ARK: Atmospheric Noise/Doom Duo To Release Marrow Hymns Via Profound Lore This February; New Track Streaming

Combining elements of horror-?lm soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, New York City/Portland-based instrumental duo INSECT ARK presents their newest record, Marrow Hymns, to be released on Profound Lore Records, February 23rd, 2018.

Comprised of Dana Schechter (M. Gira’s Angels Of Light, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw) and Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Negative Queen), INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream. Marrow Hymns is a wordless song, a hypnotic voice that screams and whispers from a place deep in the furrows, from the bones, from the blood. Defying easy categorization, INSECT ARK’s uncommon sound is in part the amalgamation of these two women’s passions: Schechter’s sinister bass lines and unconventional use of lap steel guitar (and her complete omission of electric guitar), and Spungin’s lucid, exacting drumming and synth work with her own hand-built analog noise pedals (Ormus Electronics).

Schechter describes INSECT ARK as being a voice when words fail to articulate emotions or experiences, a visceral form of communication through sonic submersion. The cathartic nature of the music INSECT ARK creates is a document of life’s many complex facets – perseverance and presence, chaos and meditation, birth and decay, brutality and delicacy, and of hope in the unknown.

Marrow Hymns was recorded and mixed with engineer Ethan Donaldson at Mozart Street Studios in Brooklyn, New York over the course of eighteen months. With the two halves of INSECT ARK residing on opposite coasts, the album was largely skeletal in form upon commencement of recording. Overdubs and further writing/arrangements were done after Spungin’s return to Portland in the isolation of Schechter’s home studio. The sense of distance and vast emptiness remained intact in the songs, built out over many long nights. Marrow Hymns’ song themes of displacement, loss, and isolation are personal journals of that time period, as both members found themselves simultaneously experiencing existential crises. However, the album also tells a story of strength and determination, made from the marrow of these two women, a song for all things that struggle to survive.

Marrow Hymns will be available on CD, vinyl, and digital formats. Preorders to be unveiled in the coming weeks. 

Marrow Hymns Track Listing:
1. Thelema
2. Arp 9
3. In the Nest
4. Skin Walker
5. Slow Ray
6. Sea Harps
7. Tarnish
8. Windless
9. Daath

INSECT ARK Is:
Dana Schechter – bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers
Ashley Spungin – drums, synthesizers

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, “In the Nest”

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Six Dumb Questions with Eggnogg (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on November 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

EGGNOGG CHARACTERS PROMO

I’ll admit that part of interviewing Eggnogg about their new record, Rituals in Transfigured Time stems from an attempt to increase my own limited understanding of what’s happening with the project. It’s been six years since the Brooklyn three-piece issued their last full-length, Moments in Vacuum (review here), and though they followed it with the Louis EP (review here) in 2012, their “next album” has been in the works pretty much since, given the title You’re all Invited and teased across a variety of graphic-arts images and vague story pieces from guitarist Justin Karol.

Karol, joined in the band by guitarist/vocalist Bill O’Sullivan and drummer Jason Prushko, finally manifests what was You’re all Invited as Rituals in Transfigured Time, a massive conceptual/narrative work based as much around visual art as aural sprawl and storytelling. It is being unveiled one piece at a time — you can hear the latest installment at the bottom of this post, and there’s more to come — as the band weaves through a complex sci-fi plotline toward a yet-unknown resolution, following the tale of a character named Gunther Kilgore, green of skin and forced into a journey both physical and existential (maybe?) by a tophat-wearing skeleton robot. Yeah, the details get a bit fuzzy. So do the guitars though, so it’s all good.

Rituals in Transfigured Time, now in its Entr’acte following the Prologue — a single, 14-minute track called “Overture / Wild Goose Chase” (posted here) — and Acts I & II — comprised of the 22-minute “Death Cap” and the 20-minute “Meshes of the Aftetnoon” (sic) — will go on for I don’t know how long, but is set to serve as the final Eggnogg outing. It’s also, unquestionably, the most ambitious, blending heavy psychedelia, the band’s trademark quirky post-grunge riffmaking and a progressive sprawl marked by a sense of groove that is wholly their own. If indeed Rituals in Transfigured Time is to serve as Eggnogg‘s closing chapter when it comes to new music — one never wants to say never — then they go having made a definitive statement of what their potential could have brought to bear in a multi-sensory engagement with their audience and a sense of individuality that goes beyond their lumbering tones and weirdo cartoons to the very heart of who they are as players and artists.

And even if it does bring about the end of the band, I look forward to seeing how and where Rituals in Transfigured Time ultimately concludes, especially now that Karol has been kind enough to take some time to explain the project, its arc, origins and where it might lead the members of Eggnogg from here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Eggnogg

What’s happening in the story of Rituals in Transfigured Time? Who are the characters? Where are we in the plot? Where is it all leading?

What began as only moments in vacuum turned into six long years adrift in a soundless black void. Our green-skinned protagonist, Gunther Kilgore, had been imprisoned there by mysterious forces in attempt to conceal the secrets of the existence of which Kilgore had been made aware.

Rituals in Transfigured Time is about memories, nostalgia, coincidence, fate, and whether these instances can be manipulated. It centers around a concept I call “Doom Theory,” a quasi-scientific theoretical relationship between heavy or loud sounds or music and unconscious thoughts.

This is the backdrop for Rituals in Transfigured Time, where it is represented by invisible wires or strings that connect all people and things. Kind of like a telephone network, only here the wires connect people’s thoughts and feelings. Each string resonates in waves and can be altered by different sounds or vibrations. They can lay slacked or be wound taut, plucked or strummed to send different moods. But who is pulling the strings?

In the opening Acts, we find the world is ignorant of this, and in bursts of rage and violence, people divide up into cults following the loudest leaders, all connected by a hive-like mentality. Words begin to spread like a disease leading to the final gasp of humanity. If the truth were revealed, the tangled threads could begin to unravel.

Kilgore knows this truth but he is stuck and silenced. He exists neither here nor there, meeting these sort of divine beings who work backstage, revealing how the show is run. His journey seems to take his entire life but he finds that there is no beginning or end to the thread, and the vibrations travel in a loop. He sees that time is cyclical. When he steps out from behind the curtain, he is sent into a time warp.

The next album is called Entr’acte, which means “between acts,” and this ties in musically, visually, and thematically. The time warp leaves us in a far futuristic dystopian city that is inhabited by machines and dictated by pigs. Human population has dropped 99 percent, only the wealthy elite are still around. Pollution has altered the world’s climate so drastically that certain species of animals were forced to speed up their evolution in order to be involved politically and claim their land and resources.

Kilgore arrives here and has to piece together his memory and adjust to the perceived insanity of this new time period. Much of the intentional mystery of the story will be a bit more pronounced this time, with more formal character introductions, such as the divine priestess named Tetra and the skeletal robot with a top hat named Montgomery. Entr’acte will have more of a pulp feel, with parts of the album playing out like a 1930s science fiction radio drama.

How did the idea for such an expansive project come about? What’s the relationship for you between handling the visual art for something like this and writing the songs? Tell me about the songwriting process.

This type of idea had always been in my head, even as early as the formative years of the band when I was around 14, and perhaps even before that. I’ve been drawing and making my own little comic books ever since I was a baby, but I have a distinct memory of when I was around four years old, and my dad showed me the song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath for the first time. I remember him doing these exaggerated stomps during the opening bass drums and explaining that it was the sound of iron man walking, and when it picks up pace in the second half, that he was running and chasing everyone. The song itself has this story to it, which is a bit different from other popular songs that mostly reflect on feelings.

I started to make this relationship between music and visualizing the scenes from then on with any song I heard. Movies ended up being my true passion because it combines sound and visual so perfectly. So I had been making my own little movies with my friends and timing a lot of scenes to music. Then one weekend I cast a mutual friend in the role of a frightened scientist, and that was Bill O’Sullivan, vocalist and guitarist for Eggnogg. So when we started writing original music, my mind started to go crazy with what kind of stories I could create. Up until then, I had only used other people’s music to accompany the visuals, but creating brand new music opened up many more possibilities.

So even from the earliest days, I was drawing out the potential scenes that went with our songs. Scenes and characters would also influence tones and lyrics. As we went on, certain characters developed and backstories came about, and so this sort of universe began to unfold. Bill and I, and our close friends, talk about the characters and stories often, but no one else has really been made aware of it yet. I was always looking for the right time to start telling this story but never quite knew how to release it and have people try to follow it. Characters and scenes ended up on some album art before, but I felt now was a good time to just go for it. It ties into the idea of the album being the revelation, the truth, the finale, the end all be all.

The material is so expansive. How have these songs come together? Is the complete work recorded and being released piecemeal, or is it still in progress? How much is left to come out and do you have a general timeline for when it will be complete and released?

With Moments in Vacuum, I had sequenced the songs so there was, to me, a clear beginning, middle, and ending. I extended a few pieces in particular to have more musical introductions and interludes so they would sort of flow like scenes. It was a more direct attempt at making a “cinematic” record, as I broke up the songs into a three-act structure. However, it backfired a bit when some friends told me they found the track lengths “too long” or they skipped around and didn’t hear crucial moments that happened further into a track, or listened to the songs out of sequence. Rather than compromise the writing, I wanted to exacerbate the concept even further.

From its conception, the intention was to make a record that consisted of long unbroken takes. This way, you had to follow along from beginning to end. It’s my understanding that this is what an album should be and the song sequencing is a key role. I look at them like scenes in a movie or chapters in a book, and if they are told out of order, you lose the essence of the entire work.

Rituals in Transfigured Time began under the working title of “You’re all Invited,” or my initial pitch, “Mass Suicide: You’re All Invited.” Much of it was recorded six years ago and then scrapped. It was designed as two 20 minute songs, so it would fit exactly on one vinyl record. We tried so frustratingly long to get this version of the album made on vinyl, but just could not secure the funds to do so.

After our fundraiser utterly failed, we tried rereleasing our EPs on physical disc to see what we could generate towards the vinyl but it never added up. By then, our drummer had left the band to go off and star on NBC’s The Voice, and we hunted down Jason Prushko of Mean Little Blanket fame. Jason brought a much meaner style of drumming and so the songs were reworked and expanded upon, hashing out new material as we tested it out live. We took this new version of the album to the studio and laid down the groundwork.

These recordings, however, reflected more of our live set and so the material has been in fine tuning to make it more cohesive. I am tweaking things right up until the release.

Talk about the recording itself. Where and how is Rituals in Transfigured Time coming together as a studio project? How much time has it all taken to make happen and how do you feel about how the results have come out so far?

Right after Moments in Vacuum in 2011, we headed back to our recording space to track demos of the next album, as we had always done every summer since around 2006. Some material would be new, some would be revitalized versions of songs that didn’t make the previous record.

The original version of the album was actually recorded to analog tape. It was an experiment for us but we had heard so many good things. Oh boy, it was a disaster. We could only mic so many drums on this type of machine so we ended up with a very strange and thin sound. The tracks on our Louis EP suffered from a similar fate, as they were recorded right after those sessions.

I was forced to use a digital workflow to help save the drum sound, something on previous records I was against. Moments in Vacuum was done with all full takes and no digital editing of any kind with all of the equalizing and mixing done on a board. So having to go to a computer did not sit well with me at first. I eventually got something workable, but I was never satisfied with it.

Thankfully, we rerecorded everything and more a few years later more professionally, thanks to Steve Schalk of Jupiter 4 Studio, who got us a great clear drum sound. I remember we had it all sort of wrapped up rather quickly and handed it off to other people to mix, which was also new since I usually did the mixing. After many mixes from many sources, something was just not sitting right with me when I listened to it and so I backed away from the project to work on other things.

After about a year of working on films, I returned to the project with a fresh perspective. I really wanted to tie up this loose end and make this thing finally complete. I took the basic recordings we did have and started over conceptually. I outlined the entire thing like I would a film and started building the imagery and tones from there.

So far, the reaction has been positive and so I am quite pleased. There was a lot of worries before release, because I had turned it into this lengthy operatic thing with a story that listeners would not know what to do with it. That may still be partly true, but I am hoping those few fans out there will embrace this different type of album and maybe it will catch on.

I’ve heard rumors this is the final release for Eggnogg. Are you really going to put the band to rest after this? What would you do next? Another band? Focus on graphic art?

For me, this is the final Eggnogg album. Jason Prushko has his own project off in California where he just released an EP titled Sylmar Ave. Bill O’Sullivan is over in Philadelphia working on his acoustic spooky country-western music. He has a whole slew of great material I hope is released soon. And I’m here in New York City twiddling my thumbs. I actually have a lot planned musically but it won’t be released as a band.

Although this will be the final Eggnogg album, there is still a potential of older material being remixed and remastered, and maybe even given the same treatment as Rituals by adding more illustrations. This depends heavily on the fans.

The Rituals project is a blueprint for how I am going to continue post release. I have other stories and scripts that will have a musical accompaniment along with the visual. After the release of Rituals in Transfigured Time, I will be preparing to make a feature-length film. The film happens to be about a struggling doom metal band in Brooklyn and will feature a fairly in-depth original score that those few loyal Eggnogg fans will surely appreciate.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Rituals in Transfigured Time is set of albums that follow a narrative, starting with the Prologue, into Acts I & II, and next up the Entr’acte. Following this will be Acts III & IIII. It’s being released as installments because, well, it’s a lot of material! I encourage those who care to listen to also view the illustrations and lyrics to get the full experience. There are many hidden meanings within the story. It is my hope that at least one person out there will pick up on it and feel illuminated and inspired.

There is something unique to this type of music, in that it gets everyone, the players and the audience, all moving in unison. Simple melodies and primal rhythms, it’s as if we are all connecting through some type of ancient language that the soul remembers even if we don’t. Slowly nodding along as if our minds were all connected by some kind of invisible thread.

Thank you to anyone who stumbled across our music!

Eggnogg on Thee Facebooks

Eggnogg on Twitter

Eggnogg on Instagram

Eggnogg on Bandcamp

Eggnogg website

Justin Karol website

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GIVEAWAY: Win Tickets to See Monarch in Brooklyn on Nov. 30

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

monarch

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

There isn’t much time on this one so I’m going to try to keep it simple. The show is this Thursday in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory, and it’s exclamatory French doomers Monarch! along with Ocrilim and T.O.M.B. bringing three different kinds of extremity to bear across an evening that’s sure to leave its legacy stamped in the damage of your eardrums.

Presented by Stardust NYC in conjunction with this site and Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, it finds Monarch! making a rare East Coast appearance before they head out to the Pacific region to tour with Bell Witch and support their new album, Never Forever, released by Profound Lore in September and streaming in full below.

Prize is two tickets, and no, travel isn’t included. Basically if you’re in NYC and can make it out, drop a line by leaving a comment on this post and if you win I’ll let you know asap. By Wednesday.

Good luck to all who enter. Here’s more background:

monarch knitting factory poster

Stardust NYC is presenting its last event for 2017:

After many years of absence, France’s crushing doom act MONARCH! will destroy Brooklyn with this exclusive East Coast ritual. They head out to the West immediately after for their tour with BELL WITCH.

Opening, TOMB and OCRILIM.

For years, France’s most recognized and active extreme doom metal band MONARCH have delivered some of the most punishing amplifier worship that has befallen doom metal through the band’s myriad of releases. This has earned them the reputation as one of the most recognized extreme doom metal bands in the scene today, through countless live shows and tours they have under their belt, the music of MONARCH is an experience to behold within the realm of doom metal.

With their new album “Never Forever” France’s cult extreme doom metal band MONARCH continue their singular style of punishing ritualistic drone doom and take it even more towards melancholic territory with their new LP. Even more ghostly, atmospheric, and haunting than its predecessor, 2014’s “Sabbracadaver”, “Never Forever” sees MONARCH take even more form and shape with their songwriting while still harnessing that plodding, down-tuned, and crushing low-end that has become their signature rhythmic backdrop to vocalist Emilie Bresson’s enchanting and spellbinding vocals. With the more melancholic tone and vibe of “Never Forever”, Bresson adapts her vocals in a more ethereal and delicate manner likewise, while still juxtaposing them with her otherworldly harsh shrieks.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Monarch!, Never Forever (2017)

Show event page on Thee Facebooks

Tickets on Ticketweb

Stardust NYC on Thee Facebooks

Monarch at Profound Lore Bandcamp

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Kings Destroy to Begin Recording Fourth Album Nov. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Things have been quiet on the surface from Brooklyn’s Kings Destroy the last couple months. Sure, they shared the stage with YOB over the summer and issued the single-song 14-minute None More EP (review here) early this year, but while there hasn’t been much word from them since, currents have been running full speed, carrying them toward the inevitability of their fourth full-length. The band posted on Instagram the other day they’ll start recording on Nov. 6, which if you’re paying attention at all to the calendar, you already know is this coming Monday.

That’s already exciting news for anyone who heard 2015’s self-titled (review here) third outing, but if anything’s been true from record to record when it comes to Kings Destroy, it’s that they don’t repeat themselves. And this time around they’ve added further intrigue in a producer swap from Sanford Parker, who has helmed their previous three LPs, to David Bottrill, who mixed their second, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here). Taken into consideration with some accompanying changes to their songwriting process, the prospect of the next Kings Destroy album seems more primed than ever to push them into yet-uncharted territory, which as they’ve proven time and again is where they most thrive.

I chased down guitarist Carl Porcaro for an update about the band’s plans and what’s thus far gone into the making of the next album. Here’s what he had to say:

kings destroy photo JC Carey

Carl Porcaro on Kings Destroy’s Fourth LP:

It’s time for Kings Destroy to get back in the studio to record our fourth album, and while some things will remain the same, there will be big changes. Next week we’ll start tracking at Applehead Recording in Saugerties, NY, where we recorded our second album, A Time of Hunting. The surroundings will be familiar but this will our first time working without Sanford Parker at the bridge. He’s been a constant though our all of our albums and although his presence will be missed, we felt that it was a time to change producers and shake ourselves out of our comfort zone. David Bottrill will be producing and although most of us never met him in person, he mixed A Time of Hunting, so we are familiar with each other, have talked extensively over email about the songs we are going to record, and are excited to make this record together.

We’ll be recording 12 songs and the direction we’ve set our sights on is simultaneously heavier, deeper, and more melodic, mostly slow but with some uptempo thrown in for balance. You’ll probably find some themes you haven’t heard from us lyrically and some sounds that are new for us. We allowed ourselves more time to craft the material this time around and didn’t limit ourselves to our typical approach of only working through the new songs together in our practice room. We demoed songs, listened to them, lived with them, and tweaked them until we felt they were at their best while still leaving room to get spontaneous during the recording process.

Previously we wrote a batch of songs together that we were ready to play live and then went into the studio and figured out how to make a record out of them. This time we’re making a studio record first and foremost, and will enjoy adapting the material for the road in time to start touring on it next year.

https://www.facebook.com/KingsDestroy/
https://www.instagram.com/kingsdestroy_band/
http://www.kingsdestroy.com/
https://kingsdestroy.bandcamp.com/
http://warcrimerecordings.com/
https://www.facebook.com/WarCrimeRecordings

Kings Destroy, None More (2017)

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The Mad Doctors Announce November Touring

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

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

Granted, I’m not exactly on my A-game as regards general mental power this week, but it took me a while to figure out where Brooklyn’s The Mad Doctors were going with naming their tour ‘November Pain.’ Once I figured it out it seemed pretty obvious, but yeah, it was a minute or two of actual, conscious thought before I got there. ‘Danksgiving’ — way more obvious. Making the connection between ‘November Pain’ and the Guns ‘n’ Roses song “November Rain” was a bit more of a challenge. Again, that one’s on me. I’m sure most human beings wouldn’t have the same kind of trouble, what with the higher brain function and whatnot.

Following the release of their second long-player,  No Waves, Just Sharks (discussed here), earlier this year, The Mad Doctors issued a follow-up split via Twin Earth and King Pizza Records with Heavy Traffic (review here). I guess in the end the band couldn’t decide which clever name they wanted to give the run, but either way, they’ll be out for 10 days supporting both of the recent offerings, playing with Rye PinesSun VoyagerBlack HatchZip-Tie Handcuffs and a whole bunch of others. Details on the shows are available through the Thee Facebooks event page, linked following the dates below.

Goes like this:

the mad doctors tour

The Mad Doctors – November Pain / Danksgiving Tour

We are hitching up the minivan and hitting the road in search of gravy. It’s NOVEMBER PAIN/DANKSGIVING so come party with us, ya turkeys!

Three bearded, lab-coated creeps strung out on a dumpster beach, hi-fiving the sun. Two parts fuzz, one part reverb, and a jigger of formaldehyde.

Wed – 11/8 – Brooklyn @ Our Wicked Lady
Thur 11/9 – New London CT @ 33 Golden St.
Fri 11/10 – Boston @ The Rat’s Nest
Sat 11/11 – Upton MA @ Paulson Stained Glass Studio
Sun 11/12 – Milford NH @ Union Coffee Co.
Mon 11/13 – Saratoga Springs NY @ One Caroline
Tues 11/14 – New Paltz NY @ Snugs
Wed 11/15 – Baltimore @ The Crown
Thur 11/16 – Harrisonburg VA @ Crayola House
Fri 11/17 – Richmond @ Hardywood
Sat 11/18 – Philly @ Tralfamadore

Poster art by Tav Palumbo / Heavy Traffic.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2021766151389187/
http://facebook.com/themaddoctors
https://themaddoctors.bandcamp.com/
http://kingpizzarecords.storenvy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingpizzarecs/

The Mad Doctors & Heavy Traffic, Split 7″ (2017)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Mirror Queen, Verdigris

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mirror-queen-verdigris

[Click play above to stream Mirror Queen’s Verdigris in its entirety. Album is out this Friday, Oct. 27, via Tee Pee Records.]

The two years since Mirror Queen issued their 2015 outing, Scaffolds of the Sky (review here), the New York-based classic heavy rockers have traded out guitarist Phi Moon for former The Golden Grass bassist Morgan McDaniel, been back to Europe to tour and continued to proffer an underrated blend of early ’70s progressive rock and six-string-driven NWOBHM-isms. Led as ever by founding guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal, who traces the band’s roots back to his prior outfit Kreisor, the four-piece offer with their third long-player, Verdigris, a more patient and lush take on their titular cut while also bringing quality hooks to bear on tracks like opener “Poignard” and its bouncing side B counterpart, “Starliner” (premiered here), which was previously issued as a limited 7″ single earlier this year.

Comprised of six total songs for a crisp 41-minute LP and issued through Tee Pee RecordsVerdigris finds a natural fluidity building from the early metallic gallop of “Poignard” as the eight-minute pairing of “Flying Eyes” and “Sorrow’s End/Dark Kiss of the Sun” take hold, with SehgalMcDaniel, and the rhythm section of bassist James Corallo and drummer Jeremy O’Brien shining through in balancing their influences almost on a per-part basis while the vocals drive a more confident feel overall through the flowing “Flying Eyes” and add a sense of command to the side A finale that helps carry across the molten and malleable stylistic vibe. Make no mistake, there is a metallic edge to Mirror Queen‘s aesthetic, but it arrives presented in a context of heavy rock groove, so that even as “Poignard” starts Verdigris off with its most fervent charge or “Sorrow’s End/Dark Kiss of the Sun” meets the lush “Flying Eyes” with a moodier, lower-toned take, the affect on the listener is more like those moments where Deep Purple lock into a forward groove than when Iron Maiden do likewise, however much it more it may actually be inspired by the latter than the former.

Indeed, it’s worth emphasizing that that measure is something with which Mirror Queen toy throughout Verdigris. The Thin Lizzy-style turns that start “Starliner” at the outset of side B hit into organic-feeling fuzz and brim with a core vitality that adds force to their punch. As much as the guitars shine throughout — and Swans guitarist Norman Westberg contributes here in that regard as well — and as much as Sehgal‘s vocals establish a presence particularly once “Flying Eyes” kicks into gear, it is of course O’Brien and Corallo who provide the crucial foundation on which the songs rest. Even with two guitars, Mirror Queen set up their dynamic like that of a classic power trio, with the six-stringers free to roam around and between the basslines and drum progressions, which are held together with unquestionable solidity.

mirror queen photo john fell

This can be heard especially in the lush companionship that “Verdigris” offers to “Flying Eyes” before it, but it’s no less true of the less outwardly psychedelic material as well, whether that’s “Poignard” and “Starliner” or “Sorrow’s End/Dark Kiss of the Sun” and the closer “Curse the Night” mirroring each other in their thrust, the latter also hearkening back to “Poignard”‘s sense of forward motion at the outset — O’Brien even sneaks in a little double-kick; blink and you’ll miss it — and ending the album with one final dual-guitar solo and memorable hook, shades of MaidenDio and Priest finding their way into what, again and still, is ostensibly heavy rock and roll in its tone and delivery. It might be worth noting that “Curse the Night” is also the shortest song since the sub-four-minute “Poignard,” but it, “Starliner” and “Verdigris” all over around the seven-minute mark, whereas the side A launch is 3:51 and its two companions each top eight minutes, making for a more stark contrast between them.

That might have a hand in driving the overarching flow that emerges as the record plays out, but the divide between sides A and B is a significant marker for how that process happens. For those listening to a linear form — CD or digital — Verdigris still works smoothly, and that’s a credit to Mirror Queen overall, but no question their intent was toward vinyl structure. Fitting enough given their classic vibe overall, and if the successful manifestation thereof in the songcraft is what makes the A/B split so prevalent, then it only proves all the more how well composed the album actually is.

And it is. Mirror Queen lose none of their energy or memorability as “Starliner” takes hold, and “Verdigris” and “Curse the Night” continue to unfold a broader stylistic range without letting go either of the foundation in craft or the underlying quality of performance, which, while Verdigris is less focused on a “live” sound than some, what with its layered vocal arrangements and studio-born clarity of recording, nonetheless shines through in a manner befitting the band’s maturity, both going back to Sehgal and O’Brien‘s days in Kreisor and to Mirror Queen‘s own work across what’s now a trio of underrated LPs. They have been and remain a better band than people know, but for those who’ve discovered their output, the sonic niche they occupy has proven time and again to be rich ground for exploration.

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The Obelisk Presents: Buzzov*en, Earthride & Crushed at Knitting Factory Brooklyn, Oct. 29

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Every now and again, life affords you the opportunity to have a truly memorable evening. These nights don’t have to be perfect — sometimes they can involve getting kicked in the head — but they’re the sorts of nights you continue to bring with you as you move along the course of your existence. They affect you long after they’re over, sometimes in ways you don’t even immediately understand, and it’s not until you look back years later that you fully realize the impact that single night had.

I’m thrilled to have The Obelisk counted among the sponsors for Buzzov*en and Earthride‘s tour stop at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Oct. 29 with Crushed opening because I truly believe this could be one of those nights for those fortunate enough to be in attendance. It might be smooth going, or you might get kicked in the head, but so help me, one way or another and no matter what sort of ingestion you might undertake along the way, you’re going to remember you were there when this thing happened. It’s going to be one hell of an evening: volume, intensity, rawness, groove. Don’t be surprised if at least three new bands form from people in the crowd, because the impulse to carry forward this level of onslaught will be strong. I mean it.

Let’s sell this one out, Brooklyn. All ages. Make it happen. Here’s info:

buzzoven-earthride-poster

OCT. 29 – Buzzov*en, Earthride, Crushed

Knitting Factory Brooklyn

361 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11211

$20 adv | $25 dos | all ages

Buzzov-en has been cranking out drug-fueled, misanthropic sludge punk in various incarnations since their inception in 1990. Known almost as much for their out-of-control and sometimes violent live shows as they are for their music, the band carries on a tradition shared by such fellow Southern troublemakers as Eyehategod and Antiseen. They have endured several lineup changes and apparent breakups over the years, with the only permanent member being singer/guitarist Kirk Fisher (alternately credited on albums as “Reverend Dirtkicker” or simply “Kirk.”).

Buzzov*en are:
Kirk – Vocals/Guitar
Dave “Dixie” Collins – Bass/vocals
Ash Lee – Drums
Zak Hembree – Guitar

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Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

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Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

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Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

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The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

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Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

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Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

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Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

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It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

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BongCauldron, Binge

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Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

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Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

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Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

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Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

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A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

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Gin Lady, Electric Earth

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Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

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Swanmay, Stoner Circus

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Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

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