Review & Full Album Stream: Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Witch Disciples of the Crow

[Click play above to stream Shadow Witch’s Disciples of the Crow in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 15 on Salt of the Earth Records.]

Proffering eight tracks of ominous heavy blues, Shadow Witch sneak out their sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow, in some of the darkest hours of 2017, which seems somehow fitting considering the somewhat apocalyptic vibes on hand. Even a faster cut like the more classically metal “Stranger Skies” has a kind of Biblically-informed fire and brimstone despite its lyrical references to red dawns and yellow kings, and certainly the earlier pair of “Reap” and “Cruel” that follow opener “Love Could be Like This” have those elements at work as well as vocalist/mellotronist Earl Walker Lundy injects the material with a preacher’s soulfulness that becomes no less a defining factor than the multi-layer progressive shred guitarist Jeremy H. Hall brings to the second half of the aforementioned “Stranger Skies.”

Peppered with samples throughout — crows on the title-track (premiered here), a thunderstorm to open the six-and-a-half-minute “The Sea,” a spoken part and tolling bell later into “Cruel,” etc. — what might otherwise be a straightforward heavy rocker is given depth of character and atmosphere (samples are also provided by Lundy), but that foundation in dead-ahead structuring is very much present in the drumming of Doug Thompson and bass work of David Pannullo, who are charged as the rhythm section with keeping Disciples of the Crow moving at the clip it does. A decidedly smooth tonality from Pannullo and Hall, perhaps with the exception of the penultimate three-minute blaster “Beneath the Veil,” adds another level of intrigue overall, making the manageable 36 minutes of the record an all the more fascinating proposition worthy of repeat visits.

In the case of the latter — the fuzz — one might liken it on “Love Could be Like This” or even the stomping title-track to the round-edged warmth of Clutch‘s Elephant Riders, though it’s important to keep in mind in doing so that Shadow Witch‘s approach on the whole draws more from metallic traditionalism amid its heavy rocking pulse. Further, if one wanted to draw a line to the Maryland stalwarts, Clutch‘s “Impetus” might be just as appropriate for the immediacy of momentum with which “Love Could be Like This” begins via Thompson‘s drums. It’s also pivotal to remember that the vision cast throughout Disciples of the Crow brims with a willful, purposeful bleakness of mindset. Consider “Cruel,” with the vaguely of-our-times comment, “Your creature comfort/Honey that don’t mean a thing to me/And your social justice/Well the bell it tolls but freedom it don’t ring.”

shadow witch

This examination of privilege, kind of a chorus led into by the first verse, comes with a grim sonic turn, and while one wonders at the perspective overall with which Shadow Witch are approaching the ever-shifting, ever-manic, ever-tragic modernity in which we somehow continuously spiral, the blue-collar perspective is as clear as the adoption of bluesman’s language to present it. This is more of a theme earlier on, though even “Beneath the Veil” drips back to reference the yellow king in the lyrics again, and Disciples of the Crow sets up a nearly bipolar personality for itself with the title-track rounding out side A and “Stranger Skies” beginning a more careening side B with shades of Iron Maiden in its gallop. The flaw in that argument is not accounting for the acoustic aspects of “The Sea” or melody-fueled angular chug of closer “Dead Heroes,” but when one considers Leviathan-era Mastodon for the former or perhaps even late-’90s Tool for the rhythmic chop of the latter — at least before it straightens itself out in the hook — it’s not too much of a stretch to think of them as a more metal manifestation either than some of the earlier pieces.

Wherever Shadow Witch are coming from on a given track or in a given verse — and yes, one is reminded of Soundgarden‘s “Rusty Cage” as Lundy intones “I’m gonna break…” twice near the end of “Dead Heroes”; hard to imagine that’s not on purpose given the song’s title — the cauldron brew they concoct from that complex recipe is very much their own. Their 2016 debut, Sun Killer (discussed here), worked with a similar potency, but Disciples of the Crow is more memorable in its progression and comes across as more efficient in how it’s been crafted. While of course there are tempo shifts, most notably between the pair of the patient “The Sea” and the ensuing thrust of “Beneath the Veil” — the longest cut running headfirst into the shortest — the work Shadow Witch are doing here never feels like it’s in more of a rush than it should be, and for that, there isn’t a single track among its eight that doesn’t end up with some standout aspect emerging, particularly after a couple times through.

United by the foreboding ambience, the quality of the riffs and by Lundy‘s accomplished melodicism as a singer able to hone a dramatic feel without ever leaving behind the idea of serving the material itself rather than the other way around, Disciples of the Crow sets its own terms for its brand of accessibility, and while Shadow Witch are without a doubt speaking to the converted, the nuanced voice in which they do so leads one to think the converted will find the message well worth receiving. As well, for the fluidity of the front-to-back listen despite the turns between the first four songs and the second, in addition to the shifts nestled into side B between “Stranger Skies” and “The Sea,” “Beneath the Veil” and “Dead Heroes” — the last one feeling almost like a bonus track by the time it’s done — Disciples of the Crow is a considerable achievement for Shadow Witch and a firm declaration of who they are aesthetically and their potential to continue to develop along these lines. A moment of arrival? Maybe, but there’s enough drive at root in their sound to make me think they won’t be staying still all that long.

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Sun Voyager Premiere “Caves of Steel” Video; Debut LP Seismic Vibes Available to Preorder

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sun voyager photo by seth applebaum

I don’t even want to talk about how long I’ve been waiting for the debut album from Sun Voyager, but suffice it to say, it’s been a while. The New York-based heavy psych trio’s early EPs, 2015’s Lazy Daze tape (review here) and 2013’s Mecca (review here), brought immersive thrills delivered with the inimitable energy of youth, and splits with Greasy Hearts (discussed here) in 2014 and The Mad Doctors (discussed here) last year only furthered anticipation. Though it’s taken them a fair minute to get there, the band will issue their first long-player in the form of Seismic Vibes via King Pizza Records on April 20, 2018. The album actually exists. You can preorder it now direct from the label.

And I suggest you do. Not just because the numbers are limited, but because Seismic Vibes — about which I’m of course hoping sun voyager seismic vibesto have much more coverage over the course of the next several months — indeed follows through on the potential Sun Voyager has continued to show over the last several years, drawing from grunge, psych, shoegaze, post-rock, heavy riffing, garage stylization and beyond and mashing it all together into songs that are neither pretentious nor overly wrought. A cut like “Hair Brained” howls  and shuffles with should-get-TeePeeRecords‘-attention abandon, while “Open Road” sets a foundational hook early and the later “Psychic Lords” drifts languidly into a vision of heavy indie/neopsych to lead into charged finale “God is Dead.”

That song, or rather a shorter, four-piece version of it, opened Lazy Daze, and opener “Trip” was unveiled earlier this year with a prior album update, so not all of Seismic Vibes will be unfamiliar to those who’ve been keeping up, but the 34-minute run Sun Voyager bring to bear feels in its initial impressions like it’s been worth the wait, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to host the preorder and tour-date announcement below, as well as the video for the uptempo “Caves of Steel,” which boasts one of the record’s catchiest choruses. You’re going to want to watch it more than once, so be ready to commit more than the actual three and a half minutes of the song itself. That’s really just the beginning of it.

All info follows the clip on the player below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Sun Voyager, “Caves of Steel” official video premiere

Sun Voyager Premiere “Caves of Steel”; Seismic Vibes Available to Preorder

Hudson Valley natives Sun Voyager are thrilled to premiere the video for their new single, “Caves of Steel,” off the debut album Seismic Vibes coming out April 20th on King Pizza Records.

This eight-song journey is Sun Voyager’s first true long player and it’s a planet-shattering thunder mountain possibly too nasty for your turntable. It was recorded by Paul Ritchie in Neptune, NJ, produced by Sun Voyager, Paul Ritchie, and keyboardist Evan Heinze, mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music in New Windsor, NY, and album art was designed by Boston’s TJ Freda.

Seismic Vibes is available for preorder today on vinyl with exclusive options limited to 100 White, 100 Gold, as well as Interstellar Black.

Tracklist:
1. Trip
2. Open Road
3. Caves of Steel
4. Stellar Winds
5. Hair Brained
6. Too Much
7. Psychic Lords
8. God is Dead

The name “Caves of Steel” is taken from an Isaac Asimov novel about robots living among us in society and the music video was directed by Danghul Bangyana filmed mostly at Tweed Mountain in Nyack, NY.

Catch Sun Voyager on tour this month:
12/7 – Knoxville, TN – The Pilot Light
12/8 – Boone, NC – Black Cat Burrito
12/9 – Richmond, VA – Lucy Lane
12/10 – Montclair, NJ – The Meatlocker
12/11 – Saratoga Springs, NY – One Caroline
12/12 – Allston, MA – Great Scott
12/13 – Brooklyn, NY – Zone One at Elsewhere*
* – w/ Elephant Stone

Sun Voyager is:
Carlos Francisco
Stefan Mersch
Kyle Beach

Preorder link: http://kingpizzarecords.storenvy.com/products/22483149-sun-voyager-seismic-vibes-lp

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Shadow Witch Confirm Dec. 15 Release for Disciples of the Crow; Preorders Available Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shadow witch

As first announced here back in September, New York dark heavy rockers Shadow Witch will release their second full-length, Disciples of the Crow, via Salt of the Earth Records. The label has made preorders available for the record, which will see its official issue on Dec. 15, and a new trailer has been posted to mark the occasion, as well as the final album art, tracklisting, and other background details. Consider this a heads up, as I’ll be streaming the album in its entirety with a review next week — currently booked for next Tuesday, according to the notes — so while there’s a lot here, there’s much more to come as well.

Dig it:

Shadow Witch Disciples of the Crow

SHADOW WITCH Announce ‘DISCIPLES OF THE CROW’ Album (out 12/15) via Salt Of The Earth Records

Kingston, New York’s Shadow Witch confirms the flight dates for their upcoming album, ‘Disciples Of The Crow’. The band’s second full-length is set for official release through Salt Of The Earth Records on December 15th, with pre-order available as of November 27th.

In 2015, a crew of veteran musicians in Kingston, New York shared a passion to create powerfully original music. Shadow Witch drew musical influences from various directions, but their goals were simple – harness decades of experience into a cohesive, monstrous sound. Considering members of Shadow Witch are known from previous bands such as Murphy’s Law, Hellride 102, Blue Coyote, Voodelic, Cold War Survivor, and The Blind Ambassadors, the velocity by which those goals were met is no surprise.

In August 2016, Shadow Witch released their first full-length album ‘Sun Killer’, to excellent reviews from the international heavy music community. The album is a diverse assemblage of songs pulling in doom, thrash, psychedelic and stoner metal, and they back it up with intense, explosive live shows to annihilate any listener hesitation.

While member resumes may have eased their footing inside the door of many venues, their future is unquestionably solid. Shadow Witch begins a new chapter in their music history with the official release of ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ on December 15, 2017, via Salt Of The Earth Records.

Shadow Witch returns with an amazing new release filled with mood, atmosphere, and killer riffs and vocals. Eight songs are all that’s needed to raise you above the light, surround you in darkness, and bind your ears, hearts, and mind as one.
Shadow Witch is coming for you.

Disciples Of The Crow – Track List:
1. Love Could Be Like This
2. Reap
3. Cruel
4. Disciples Of The Crow
5. Stranger Skies
6. The Sea
7. Beneath The Veil
8. Dead Heroes
All songs on ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ were written and performed by Shadow Witch. The album was recorded between May and August 2017, by Earl Walker Lundy at Temple Of The Downward Witness, with mixing and mastering by Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound Studio. Additional performance on ‘The Sea’ with Nicholas Thompson (tympani) and Nick Glosque (operatic voicing).

Cover illustration by Earl Walker Lundy (after Frank Frazetta), Shadow Witch logo by David Paul Seymour, layout and graphics by Bill Kole, band photography by Kristin Troost Hall. ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ was inspired by the writings of Robert W. Chambers, H.P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King.

SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Doug “Beans” Thompson (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)

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Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow album trailer

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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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Friday Full-Length: Orodruin, Epicurean Mass

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

Next time you’re looking for an example of a band who really, really, really, really need to get another record out, keep Orodruin in mind. I’m talking about the kind of band who’d be doing the world a favor by putting out something new, and that’s the Rochester doomers all the way. Not saying I need something from them every six months or anything like that — like they’re about to turn into some Upstate New York Hawkwind or something — but it’s been over 14 years since their debut full-length, Epicurean Mass, came out via PsycheDOOMelic Records, and if you believe in the concept of “overdue,” then there’s just about no way a sophomore outing from Orodruin doesn’t qualify.

True, the band have had a number of short offerings out since then. 2004 brought a split with Reverend Bizarre as well as the compilation Claw Tower… and Other Tales of Terror that’s basically stood in ever since where a second full-length might’ve otherwise been, but that was basically it until they were selling a new demo at Days of the Doomed in 2011 and they had copies of the subsequent, limited-to-30-copies In Doom EP for sale when they played the Wisconsin-based fest in 2012 as well — as I recall it was in a paper sleeve; without looking I’m at least 90 percent sure mine is upstairs on the rack with the other sleeve purchases — but even that was half a decade ago now and throughout most of that stretch, news of a follow-up hasn’t gone much beyond “it’s in progress” or “we’re writing”-type updates. Nothing even close to a firm release date, label news, etc., and listening to the Epicurean Mass, that only adds to the void conjured by the classic-style doom of songs like “Burn the Witch” and “Melancholia.” With the mournful vocals of bassist Mike Puleo at the fore over the schooled-and-schooling riffs of guitarists Nick Tydelski and John Gallo, the latter also of Blizaro and his own admirably Paul Chain-esque solo work, backed by the lumbering drums of Mike WaskeEpicurean Mass has to stand among one of the most underrated US trad doom releases of all time.

Think about it this way. Orodruin formed in 1998 and issued Epicurean Mass in 2003. That puts them roughly concurrent to Indianapolis’ The Gates of Slumber, who formed in ’98 and put out their first record, The Awakening, in 2004. Think about the trajectory of the two bands. The Gates of Slumber spent years touring their collective ass off and released a total of five albums between ’04 and their swansong in 2011, and came to represent the head of a movement of traditionalist doom the influence of which is still spreading. Maybe you have to have seen Orodruin play live to get this sense, but there’s no way Orodruin couldn’t have been right there with the Midwesterners in profile and prestige. I think that comes through when you hear to the harmonies in “Peasants Lament” and “War Cry” — let alone the organ in the latter, which sets up the perfect preface for the final stretch of the eight-minute closing title-track — or the downer shuffle of “Pierced by Cruel Winds,” the rumble of “Unspeakable Truth” and the tempo shifts in “Melancholia.” In tone and presence, Orodruin were no less dynamic than The Gates of Slumber or anyone else working in the style at the time — hell, look at the legacy Reverend Bizarre have left behind in Europe; you can still see the ripples in new doom acts almost every week on release day. That’s not to take away from RevBiz or The Gates of Slumber at all. Those bands worked hard in the studio and on the road to earn the prestige they enjoyed during their respective time together. Nobody was sneaking their way to popularity there or getting away with a shortcut. I’m just saying the quality of Orodruin‘s craft, particularly on Epicurean Mass, meets that same quality standard, and in no small part because they never toured as much or as widely and haven’t to-date issued a follow-up LP, they never got to the same level of recognition for their work.

Is it too late? I don’t know. On July 5 of this year, Orodruin posted an update saying they would be tracking demos in August and September to kick around to labels and had picked out a studio to begin recording proper on their second album in December. Never say never in rock and roll. It could be that 2018 will finally bring a new Orodruin full-length and perhaps that will let them get some measure of the recognition they’ve long since deserved. Some 14 years — by then it will be 15 — after Epicurean Mass, one hesitates to offer a prediction either way, but if there’s hope of it coming together and actually happening, it’s hard to imagine labels like Shadow KingdomThe Church Within, or maybe even someone like Svart wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to stand behind the four-piece’s work. And as to what it might sound like? My guess is it would be doomed as hell. Frankly, it’s hard to think about the prospect and not get excited at what might come, but if it even happens, it’s probably a ways off, so yeah. Measured response. Cool your jets.

And in the meantime, one of the most righteous aspects of Epicurean Mass is that its decay is as ripe today as it was when it first came out, so if you’ve never heard it or if you’re revisiting after a while, I most definitely hope you enjoy its doomly processions.

Thanks as always for reading.

Oy, this week.

Though it started out exceedingly pleasant as The Patient Mrs. and I continued a long weekend in Vermont to celebrate our anniversary, I’ll say I’m not at all sorry to see it come to an end. The site, as you may or may not have noticed, shit the bed on Tuesday. The deal was basically that HostGator, the company I’ve used for the last however many years to host it, decided that it took up too much processor power and shut it down, more or less holding it hostage until I either did some shit that wasn’t going to actually fix anything and was going to take up a bunch of time or — and something tells me this was actually what they were going for — gave them more money to move to a dedicated server.

Well fuck that, and fuck them. With the generosity of Behrang Alavi of Samavayo, who it just so happens offered a while ago to host the site, we’re now in the process of making a switch. The site’s back up (you’re reading it, so yeah), and Behrang and Slevin have been working hard all week to make the transition happen while I’ve sat and fretted to no fucking end and tried to keep up with the writing end of things in no small part to stop myself from going insane. Minimally effective. We were back live yesterday. Two days’ downtime. On the grand scheme that’s nothing, but still kind of excruciating for me personally in a way I’m not sure I can properly express.

Came back from Vermont on Wednesday because The Patient Mrs. had work, kind of feeling like we were getting away with something by sneaking that trip in before the baby comes. Getting closer to the Oct. 15 due date. Just a couple weeks now. All’s well on that front. The Patient Mrs. remains aglow despite some well-earned discomfort, and all the ultrasounds and midwife visits show The Pecan as healthy and basically just waiting to show up and start kicking ass. We’re stoked.

As I noted last week was our wedding anniversary, this week — yesterday, actually — was the anniversary of when The Patient Mrs. and I first got together. 20 years ago. In 1997. Unbelievable. She is so much a part of my life. Like, all of it. And I feel like we’re just about to start this whole new adventure. It’s an amazing time and it’s going to be really challenging and really exciting and all of these things. But we’re doing it together, is the thing. I’m so lucky. 20 years. I was 15.

Having just come back from Vermont the day before, we didn’t really do much to celebrate. She went to work and I plowed away catching up on Obelisk stuff at home, but I grilled her some chicken and a garlic-infused burger for myself (also made a garlic/truffle aioli to go on top of that, which was amazing) and sauteed some baby kale and we sat down to dinner together and then watched baseball on the couch for a while before crashing out, so not by any means an unpleasant evening. This weekend we’re in Connecticut to see her family and my family and then back to MA on Sunday for The Patient Mrs.’ baby shower with her coworkers. I’m told I have to go. Seems debatable to me at best.

Next week, we wrap the Quarterly Review on Monday and there’s more to come besides. Here’s what’s in my notes now, subject to change as always and as this week certainly has been:

Mon.: Quarterly Review Day 6; Tronald video; Freak Valley 2018 announcement.
Tue.: Young Hunter track premiere/review; Asteroid video premiere.
Wed.: Enslaved review; Aux track premiere.
Thu.: Black Mare review; Rancho Bizarro video.
Fri.: Radio Moscow review.

Those reviews and some more slated for the week after is stuff I’m trying to get in before The Pecan shows up, but we’ll see how it goes. We’re close enough now to the due date that it could basically be anytime, so if it happens that’s obviously going to affect my ability to get reviews done as slated at least in the immediate for a few days, right? Can’t really be like, “Hey baby, I know you’re in labor but this Radio Moscow album ain’t gonna write itself up! Also what’s the hospital wifi?” So yeah. Please know I’ll do what I can when I can. Same as always.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. I appreciate you taking the time to read, and I think you for your patience with the downtime this week. Hopefully that’s over with at this point, but in any case, yeah, thanks. And special thanks to Slevin and Behrang as well.

Have fun. Be safe. Thanks for reading. Back Monday. Forum and Radio.

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Quarterly Review: The Necromancers, The Asound & Intercourse, Bohr, Strobe, Astrosaur, Sun Q, Holy Mount, Sum of R, IIVII, Faces of the Bog

Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The season is changing here in the Northeastern part of the US. Leaves have just barely started to change, and the summertime haze that settles over the region for for the better parts of June, July and August has largely dissipated. It’s getting to be hoodie weather after the sun goes down. This past weekend was the equinox. All of this can only mean it’s time for another Quarterly Review — this one spanning a full Monday-to-Monday week’s worth of writeups. That’s right. 60 albums between now and a week from today. It’s going to be a genuine challenge to get through it all, but I’m (reasonably) confident we’ll get there and that when we’re on the other side, it will have been completely worth the lengthy trip to get there. Hell, you know the drill by now. Let’s not waste any time and get to it, shall we?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl

the-necromancers-servants-of-the-salem-girl

A noteworthy debut from the Poitier, France-based four-piece The Necromancers, whose coming has been much heralded owing in no small part to a release through Ripple Music, the six-track/41-minute Servants of the Salem Girl lumbers through doom and cultish heavy rock with likewise ease, shifting itself fluidly between the two sides on extended early cuts like opener “Salem Girl Part I” and the nine-minute “Lucifer’s Kin,” which gets especially Sabbathian in its roll later on. The album’s midsection, with the shorter cuts “Black Marble House” (video premiere here) and “Necromancers,” continues the flow with a general uptick of pace and ties together with the opening salvo via the burly vocals of guitarist Tom, the solo work of Rob on lead guitar, and the adaptable groove from bassist Simon and drummer Ben, and as the penultimate “Grand Orbiter” engages moody spaciousness, it does so with a refusal to commit to one side or the other that makes it a highlight of the album as a whole. The Necromancers finish contrasting rhythmic tension and payoff nod on “Salem Girl Part II,” having long since thoroughly earned their hype through songwriting and immediately distinct sonic persona. There’s growth to do in melodicism, but for being “servants,” The Necromancers show an awful lot of command in structure and style.

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Ripple Music website

 

The Asound & Intercourse, Split 7″

the asound intercourse split

Noise is the order of things on the Tsuguri Records split 7” between New Haven, Connecticut’s good-luck-Googling aggressives Intercourse and North Carolinian sludge rockers The Asound. Each band offers a two-song showcase of their wares, with Intercourse blasting short jabs of post-hardcore/noise rock angularity on “Too Fucked to Yiff” and “Corricidin is a Helluva Drug” and The Asound bringing a more melodic heavy rock swing to “Slave to the Saints” while saving a more galloping charge for “Human for Human.” It’s a quick sampling, of course, and “Slave to the Saints” is the relative epic inclusion as the only one over three minutes long – it goes to 4:20, naturally – but boasts a surprisingly professional production from The Asound and an unhinged vibe from Intercourse that meets them head on in a way both competitive and complementary to the aggression of “Human for Human.” Fodder for the bands’ merch tables in its limited-to-300, one-time-only pressing, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. All the more worth grabbing it if you can, while you can.

The Asound on Thee Facebooks

Intercourse on Thee Facebooks

Tsuguri Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Bohr, Bohr

bohr bohr

Officially called Self-Title, this two-song outing released by Tandang Records and BTNKcllctv serves as the first release from Malaysia’s Bohr, and with shouts and growls duking it out over massive plodding tones on opener “Voyager,” they seem to take position right away in the post-Conan verve of megadoom. Peppered-in lead work showcases some welcome nuance of personality, but it’s the second track “Suria” that trips into more surprising terrain, with a faster tempo and something of a letup in thickness, allowing for a more rocking feel, still met with shouted vocals but hinting at more of a melodic reach nonetheless. The shift might be awkward in the context of a full-length, but on a debut single/EP, it works just fine to demonstrate what may or may not be a nascent breadth in Bohr’s approach. They finish “Suria” with hints of more to come in a plotted guitar lead and are done in about 10 minutes, having piqued interest with two disparate tracks that leave one to wonder what other tricks might be up their collective sleeve.

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Tandang Records on Bandcamp

BTNKcllctv on Bandcamp

 

Strobe, Bunker Sessions

strobe bunker sessions

It’s worth noting outright that Strobe’s Bunker Sessions was recorded in 1994. Not because it sounds dated, but just the opposite. The Sulatron Records release from the under-exposed UK psychedelic rockers finds them jamming out in live-in-studio fashion, and if you’d told me with no other context that the resultant six-track/40-minute long-player was put to tape two months ago, I’d absolutely have believed it. This would’ve been the era of their 1994 third album, The Circle Never Ends, and while some can hear some relation between that and Bunker Sessions in the shimmering lead and warm underscoring basslines of 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Sun Birth,” the drift in “Chameleon Earth,” synth-laden space rock meandering of “Opium Dreams” and cymbal-wash-into-distortion-wash of closer “Sun Death” are on a wavelength of their own. It’s something of a curio release – a “lost album” – but it’s also bound to turn some heads onto how ahead of their time Stobe were in the ‘90s, and maybe we’ll get lucky and Sulatron will use it to kick off a full series of convenient LP reissues.

Sulatron Records on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Astrosaur, Fade In / Space Out

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While their moniker brings to mind pure stoner idolatry, Oslo instrumentalists Astrosaur acquit themselves toward more progressive fare with Fade In // Space Out, their Bad Vibes Records debut album, finding open spaces in bookending extended opener “Necronauts” and the dramatic shift between droning experimentalism and weighted lumber of the closing title-track even as middle cuts “Space Mountain,” “Yugen” and “Fishing for Kraken” balance with fits of driving progressive metallurgy. Comprised of Eirik Kråkenes, Steinar Glas and Jonatan Eikum, Astrosaur do get fuzzy for a bit on “Yugen,” but by the time they’re there, they’ve already space-doom-jazzed their way through such a vast aesthetic swath that it becomes one more stylistic element in fair-enough play. Open in its structure and building to an affecting cacophony in its ending, Fade In // Space Out is defined in no small part by its stylistic ambition, but whether it’s in the head-spinning initial turns of “Fishing for Kraken” or the stretch of peaceful, wistful guitar after the seven-minute mark in “Necronauts,” that ambition is admirable multifaceted and wide-reaching.

Astrosaur on Thee Facebooks

Bad Vibes Records website

 

Sun Q, Charms

sun q charms

There’s an encouraging and decidedly pro-shop fullness of sound being proffered on Sun Q’s debut full-length, Charms, to match an immediate sense of songcraft and stylization that puts them somewhere between heavy psych and more driving fuzz rock. Vocalist Elena Tiron takes a forward position in opener “Petals and Thorns” over the briskly-captured tones from guitarist Ivan Shalimov and bassist Denis Baranov while drummer Pavel Poseluev pushes the proceedings along, and whether they’re bringing in Seva Timofeev’s Hammond for the subsequent bluesy vibing of “After This,” toying with pop playfulness on “Plankton,” giving Andrey Tanzu percussive room on “Dancing Souls” or going full-expanse on keyboard-laden centerpiece and aptly-titled longest cut “Space,” there’s purpose behind the variety on offer and Sun Q never seem to lose their sense of poise throughout. There are moments where the bite of the production hits a little deep – looking at you, “Plankton” – but especially as their debut, Charms lives up to the name it’s been given and establishes these Moscow natives as a presence with which to be reckoned as they move forward.

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Sun Q on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mount, The Drought

holy mount the drought

White Dwarf Records picked up what by my count is Holy Mount’s fourth full-length, The Drought, for a vinyl issue following the Toronto foursome’s self-release last year, and with the immersive, dense heavy psych nod of “Division,” it’s little wonder why. The seven-cut LP is the second to feature the lineup of Danijel Losic, Brandon McKenzie, Troy Legree and Clayton Churcher behind 2014’s VOL, and its moments of nuance like the synth at the outset of “Blackened Log” or the blend of tense riffing and post-The Heads shoegaze-style vocal chants on the markedly insistent highlight cut “Basalt” only further the reasoning. The penultimate “Blood Cove” returns some to of the ritual sense of “Division,” and The Drought’s titular finale pierces its own wash with a lead that makes its apex all the more resonant and dynamic. Not nearly as frenetic as its cover art would have you believe, the already-sold-out vinyl brims with a vibe of creative expansiveness, and Holy Mount feel right at home in its depths.

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White Dwarf Records webstore

 

Sum of R, Orga

sum of r orga

Over the course of its near-hour runtime, Orga, the Czar of Crickets-issued third full-length from Bern, Switzerland, ambient outfit Sum of R deep-dives into droning atmospheric wash while effectively producing headphone-worthy depths and avoiding the trap of redundant minimalism. Chimes in a song like “Desmonema Annasethe” and ringing bells in “We Have to Mark this Entrance” give a feeling of lushness instead that serves the release well overall, and these details, nuances, take the place of what otherwise might be human voices coursing through the bleak mire of Orga’s progression. One might look to closing duo “Let us Begin with What We Do Not Want to Be” and “One After the Other” for some sense of hopefulness, and whether or not it’s actually there, it’s possible to read it into the overarching drone of the former and the percussive movement of the latter, but by then Sum of R have well set the mood in an abiding darkness, and that remains the prevailing vibe. Not quite dramatic or brooding in a human/emotional sense, Orga casts its drear in soundscapes of distant nighttime horizon.

Sum of R website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

IIVII, Invasion

iivii invasion

Noted graphic artist and post-metal songwriter Josh Graham – formerly visuals for Neurosis, but also art for Soundgarden and many others, as well as being known for his work with A Storm of Light and the woefully, vastly underrated Battle of Mice – makes his second ambient solo release in the form of IIVII’s Invasion on Belgian imprint Consouling Sounds. A soundtrack-ready feel pervades the nine tracks/44 minutes almost instantly and holds sway with opener “We Came Here from a Dying World (I)” finding complement in the centerpiece “Tomorrow You’ll be One of Us (II)” and a thematic capstone in closer “Sanctuary,” only furthering the sense of a narrative unfolding throughout. There are elements drawn in “Unclouded by Conscience” from the atmospheric and score work of Trent Reznor and/or Junkie XL, but Graham doesn’t necessarily part with the post-metallic sense of brooding that has defined much of his work even as the pairing of “We Live” and “You Die” late in the record loops its way to and through its dramatic apex. Obviously not going to be for everyone, but it does make a solid argument for Graham as a composer whose breadth is still revealing itself even after a career filled with landmarks across multiple media.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Faces of the Bog, Ego Death

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In some of their shifts between atmospheric patience and churning intensity – not to mention in the production of Sanford ParkerFaces of the Bog remind a bit of fellow Windy City residents Minsk on their DHU Records debut album, Ego Death, but prove ultimately more aggressive in the thrust of “Drifter in the Abyss” and the later stretch of “The Serpent and the Dagger,” on which the guitars of Mark Stephen Gizewski and Trey Wedgeworth (both also vocals) delve into Mastodonic leads near the finish to set up the transition into the 10:33 title-track, which begins with a wash of static noise before Paul Bradfield’s bass sets up the slow nod that holds sway and only grows bigger as it presses forward. That cut is one of two over the 10-minute mark, and the other, closer “Blue Lotus,” unfolds even more gradually and ventures into cleaner vocals presaged on “The Weaver” and elsewhere as it makes its way toward an album-payoff crescendo marked by drummer Danny Garcia’s thudding toms and a low end rumble that’s as much a presence unto itself as a harbinger of progression to come.

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DHU Records webstore

 

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Mirror Queen Announce New LP Verdigris Due Oct. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mirror-queen-photo-john-fell

Earlier this year, NYC-based heavy classic progressive rockers Mirror Queen issued a seven-inch single Starliner (premiered here) that came prior to their summer tour with Tee Pee Records labelmates The Atomic Bitchwax. The song was a first glimpse at the follow-up to 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here), which has now been announced with the title Verdigris and an Oct. 27 release date. If you didn’t hear it at the time, I’ve embedded the track below for convenience’s sake, and whether or not it’s the same recording at that which will appear on the six-long LP next month, it speaks well of Mirror Queen‘s particular and longstanding meld between driving ’70s rock and more nuanced and progressive impulses.

Curious to hear what Swans guitarist Norman Westberg adds to that mix on Verdigris, as well as to hear the album in general. Led as always by guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal — aka Kenny Kreisor in honor of the outfit from which Mirror Queen evolved prior to their debut in 2011 — Mirror Queen remain a secret kept too well by NYC’s heavy underground.

Album art and details from the PR wire, which gets extra credit in my book for using the phrase “street level” to describe part of Mirror Queen‘s sound. Nicely done there:

mirror-queen-verdigris

Mirror Queen to Release New Album, ‘Verdigris’. October 27

NYC volume dealers MIRROR QUEEN will release their new album, Verdigris, on October 27 via Tee Pee Records. A masterclass of riff-driven melodic hard rock, the LP is the follow-up to the band’s 2015’s LP, Scaffolds of the Sky.

Combining edgy, street-level rock ‘n’ roll with more cerebral elements of poetry and literature, MIRROR QUEEN rides hard and loud, kicking out the jams at every opportunity. Here the songs are expansive and lush in their textures, with ethereal songwriting full of crossing guitar lines and an insistent, demanding rhythmic throb. Featuring additional guitars from SWANS six-stringer Norman Westberg, Verdigris is a rock monolith, all dark delight and sinister pleasure, that demands headbanging and fists raised to the sky.

A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine and toured Europe with legends such as Uli Jon Roth and UFO. The group’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day.

Track listing:

1.) Poignard
2.) Flying Eyes
3.) Sorrow’s End / Dark Kiss of the Sun
4.) Starliner
5.) Verdigris
6.) Curse the Night

MIRROR QUEEN features Kenny Kreisor (guitar, vocals), Jeremy O’Brien (drums), Morgan McDaniel (guitar) and James Corallo (bass).

https://www.facebook.com/mirrorqueennyc/
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/
https://twitter.com/teepeerecords
https://instagram.com/teepeerecords/
https://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com/

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Shadow Witch Sign to Salt of the Earth; Premiere “Disciples of the Crow”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Somewhere between a darkened desert and harder rock grit, one finds Shadow Witch and the title-track of their upcoming sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow. It’s been a minute since the album was first discussed this past Spring as the follow-up to their 2016 debut, Sun Killer, and now it’s been revealed that the New York-native four-piece have signed to Salt of the Earth Records for the release, after issuing the first record through NoSlip and Snake Charmer Coalition both.

That puts them as labelmates for the likes of Earthride, Cortez, Scissorfight and a slew of others, which is sound company to keep for Shadow Witch on the emergent imprint. I haven’t heard the full record yet — presumably it’s done since it’s expected before the end of the year — but in its stomp and deep-toned fuzz and the smooth delivery of Earl Walker Lundy‘s vocals, “Disciples of the Crow” bodes well for things to come. You can listen to the premiere of the track at the bottom of this post.

Shadow Witch play Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery on Sept. 23 with GeezerBook of Wyrms and Heavy Traffic. The show is presented by Freebird Productions in conjunction with The Obelisk.

Dig:

shadow witch

SALT OF THE EARTH Signs Shadow Witch; ‘Disciples of the Crow’ out Soon!

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS proudly announces the signing of Kingston, New York, dark heavy rockers Shadow Witch for their forthcoming second album, Disciples of the Crow. They join Earthride, Scissorfight, Buzzard Canyon, Cortez and others on a stacked and ever-growing Salt of the Earth roster.

Shadow Witch garnered critical acclaim for their 2016 debut long-player ‘Sun Killer,’ which brought together weighted rocker tones and an oldschool metallic sensibility that distinguished Shadow Witch from the hordes of riff-slingers. ‘Disciples of the Crow’ is the follow-up out soon through Salt of the Earth and once again finds the four-piece crafting a dark, soulful, and doomy stoner metal album experience –- exotic and refined like the edge of an assassin’s blade, and no less lethal.

Frontman Earl Walker Lundy’s powerful voice is classic and haunting, bringing to mind the traditions of heavy metal’s best frontmen with soul and emotion. The musical influences displayed by Earl (vocals, mellotron and loops), Jeremy Hall (guitar), David Pannullo (bass, vocals) and Doug Beans (drums) are wide-ranging through blues, ’70s proto-metal, heavy psychedelic and classic rock, NWOBHM, goth, desert rock and beyond, resulting in a diverse scope and sound, that only becomes more their own in this new material. Heaviness, riffs, vibe and hooks for days, there’s so much to dig.

To herald the album’s impending arrival, Shadow Witch today premiere the title-track “Disciples of the Crow” as the first single. Listen to it now for an initial glimpse into this arc-defining release from a group about to turn even more grooving heads in their direction.

Shadow Witch live:
09.23 Ode to Doom, Arlene’s Grocery, Manhattan, NY w/ Geezer, Heavy Traffic & Book of Wyrms

Shadow Witch:
Earl Lundy: Lead Vocals, Mellotron, Loops
Doug Beans: Drums
Jeremy Hall: Guitars
David Pannullo: Bass, vocals

https://www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band/
https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

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