Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

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Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

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Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

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Speedealer webstore

 

Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

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Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Bismut, Schwerpunkt

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismut schwerpunkt

[Click play above to stream Bismut’s Schwerpunkt in its entirety. Album is available to preorder from Lay Bare Recordings here.]

Nijmegen trio Bismut bill themselves as ‘instrumental psych desert metal,’ and unsurprisingly, there’s a bit to unpack there. They’re a relatively new entity, having just formed in 2016 with guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen and drummer Peter Dragt, and their first album is Schwerpunkt, a four-song/41-minute collection offered up on vinyl through Lay Bare Recordings (Pink Tank Records seems to have had some manner of involvement as well). Instrumental is pretty self-explanatory. Sure enough, they’re a sans-vocals operation. And fair enough. 14-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Borgerskapet” makes it pretty clear from the outset that the kinds of expanded structures with which Bismut are working throughout the release wouldn’t really support vocals anyway. And what are you going to do, shout over the 10-minute side B leadoff “Gewapende-Magte?” Then you’d just have noise rock, and I don’t see that listed anywhere in the above.

After instrumental comes psych. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if we’re talking heavy psychedelic rock of the European order with drifting airy guitars and a presentation coated in effects, the descriptor simply doesn’t apply. As regards Schwerpunkt, which was recorded live in its entirety and mixed by the band with mastering by Pieter Kloos, there is a spacious motion in the back half of closer “Czar” before the tense chugging of the song’s apex, but it’s more of the post-metallic sort. That is, more methodical than exploratory — Bismut have a direction in mind and are working to get there. It’s not just about hypnotizing the listener with repetition, but about the heavier context in which that movement happens. Second cut “Stórborg” has a bit more effects in its early going, though this resolves itself by the song’s midpoint into a tense, winding progression and finally into a slowdown of Melvinsian riffmaking. And sure, one can hear some Earthless in “Borgerskapet” if the ear is twisted just so. So psychedelic? Maybe here and there.

Let’s assume “desert” is a stand-in for capital-‘h’ Heavy — because that certainly applies — or tossed in the way some bands still use the designation “stoner” or “riff” as a designation for their rock. To me, desert rock — regardless of its geographic origin or the actual terrain in that place — is a question of melding tonal fullness with a root punk influence. Sabbath might be a factor but they’re by no means the only one. Bismut don’t really play desert rock in the Kyuss/Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson sense of the subgenre, but if one considers the age of expanded definition in which we live, then there’s really no reason the “desert” really has to be anything more than a dogwhistle for an affiliation with underground heavy. And that’s mostly how it functions. Listening to Schwerpunkt — the title of which translates to “main focus” or “center of gravity” — the prevailing sensibility is most certainly heavy, but there’s a fluidity to the rhythmic play and the swaps in tempo that makes “desert” feel a little like it’s cheating the actual complexity of what’s playing out in the flow of “Gewapende-Magte” or “Stórborg,” with its final push of churning plod.

bismut

The upshot is that while there are loyalists, “desert” can mean any number of things at this point, and it usually does. If Bismut had gone with “heavy” instead, it might be more accurate, but it would confuse the use of “metal,” since of course heavy metal has a context all its own. And metal is perhaps second in accuracy only to “instrumental” when it comes to the band’s presumably-self-imposed sound tag, because it considers in a way that “psych” or even “desert” does not the aggression with which Bismut underscore and execute their material. It’s not metal in the chestbeating, dude-for-dudes kneejerk abrasive sense of the word, but there’s a purpose and a charge to what Bismut do, and whether it’s the fluidity in “Borgerskapet” or the snare-and-chug in “Gewapende-Magte,” the band plays with purpose and conviction on their debut album. If that makes them metal, then so be it. Metal it is.

A missing word in all of this is “progressive,” since the one thing Bismut don’t seem to account for in their sound at least as it appears on Schwerpunkt is the consideration in each song of where that song is going. I don’t know how much of each song was left up to happy accidents in the recording — the bass bounce of “Czar,” maybe, and some of the swirl in “Stórborg” — but even those inherently off-the-cuff moments that happen as a result of a band performing live in the studio are brought into the underlying mission behind the album, and are made purposeful simply by their inclusion and the fact that by being there, they play a crucial role in Bismut‘s intent for what their first album should be. One might also consider “atmospheric” an both an acknowledgement of the post-metallic aspects in “Czar” and the general affecting nature of the songwriting as a whole. It’s not just an album about mood, but even through the energetic live recording there can be heard a budding sense of patience in their execution that may or may not come further toward fruition on subsequent outings.

Maybe “raw atmospheric heavy” as a revised descriptor? “Raw” acknowledges the priority of capturing the three of them in the room together, the stage-ready element of their sound. “Atmospheric” brings in the purposeful nature of their sonic reach, and “heavy” functions as a characterization of tone and mindset alike. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Whatever Bismut decide to call themselves in the longer term, while indicative of how they think about the music they’re making, is of course ultimately secondary to the making of that music. Perhaps most importantly, they give their audience with Schwerpunkt something to dig into and elicit a response and engagement on the part of the listener. They’ve been building a reputation in the Netherlands — enough to attract the attention of Lay Bare, which is bound to serve as positive reinforcement — and listening to the album, it’s easy to hear why. Even in this “raw” modus, with the emphasis put on basic performance rather than a lush studio construction, Bismut show themselves as opening a conversation on Schwerpunkt instrumentally with themselves — which indeed might be their center of gravity — and with their audience, whose interaction, regardless of the interpretative quibbles they might bring to it, is a triumph in itself.

Bismut on Thee Facebooks

Bismut on Instagram

Bismut on Bandcamp

Bismut website

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Lay Bare Recordings on Instagram

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

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Bismut Post Video for Debut Single “Buntovnost”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismut

Netherlands-based three-piece Bismut are using their debut single in precisely the right way. For a band like this — instrumental, heavy, grooving and with ambitions toward a blend of structured and freeform songwriting, a lone track like “Buntovnost” is just the thing to pique audience interest and leave people curious as to what might come next. At very least, that’s how it worked out with me as I made my way through the nine-minute groover, asking myself where the band might go from here and how their apparent method — show up in the studio with something of a plan, work around it more than directly from it — might continue to develop in the future, either becoming invariably more or less rigid over time.

If I had to guess as to a direction listening to “Buntovnost,” I’d bet on Bismut — the Nijmegen trio of Huibert, Peter and Nik — getting jammier over time, as often happens with bands like this as their chemistry continues to develop in the studio and on stage, but the fact that “Buntovnost” was “partially improvised” and recorded live in five takes in the studio makes me think there’s an element of perfectionism at play as well, and it could be interesting to hear if and how that flourishes in their sound too, and if, no matter how far out they might go in veering from it ultimately, they stick to using a central plan in their work going forward.

Man, new bands are fun.

The underlying point? There’s potential here. We don’t yet know what Bismut will be sound-wise — and please don’t quote me on any of the speculation above (unless I’m right); the band could just as easily pull a Wight and go funk-reggae out of the blue, and really, who saw that coming? — But that “Buntovnost” triggers the imagination to wonder about such things in its chugging, turning, energized nine-minute stretch is emblematic of their potential as a whole. “Buntovnost” is available as a name-your-price download at their Bandcamp and they’ve also got a brand new video for it that you can see below if you’re so inclined.

More info follows from the PR wire. Please enjoy:

Bismut, “Buntovnost” official video

“Buntovnost” by Bismut. Recorded live in the studio and partially improvised. This is the best version of 5 takes. No edits. Enjoy! This track was recorded live at Studio 888 and mixed and mastered by Bismut. Recorded and Edited by NNfilm: http://nnfilm.nl

Some Footage by Gusto Video Producties: http://gustoproducties.nl

From explosive and experimental jam sessions in the caverns of the Nijmegen underground arose Bismut. Infinite jamming resulted in an oasis of psychedelic excesses, vicious riffing and heavily drawn-out grooves. After their debut performance in November 2016, the three guys played many kick-ass shows in the Netherlands and abroad. The performances of Bismut are dynamic, intense and straightforward.

In 2018 the band’s focus will be on recording their first full-length which is expected to be released in oktober on the in Hamburg based label, Pink Tank Records.

Bismut is Huibert, Peter and Nik.

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Bismut on Instagram

Bismut on Bandcamp

Pink Tank Records website

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Pink Tank Records on Bandcamp

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Shaking Godspeed Post “Future Boogie” Video; New Album Due this Fall

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Based out of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, the heavy rocking four-piece Shaking Godspeed released their last full-length on Drakkar Records in 2013. Hoera and Awe combined two prior releases — Hoera and Awe, go figure — into one double-album that was a solid listen and emphasized the quality of songwriting in Shaking Godspeed‘s approach, but might’ve been a bit much for listeners just getting on board. Their current single, the Future Boogie b/w Tombstone Talk 7″ on Suburban Records, pressed in cardboard sleeves with hand-screened logos on the cover, makes for a much more gradual introduction.

The song reportedly (and by that I mean according to the band and I don’t think they’d lie about this kind of thing) deals with themes of technology and the seemingly inevitable advent of artificial intelligence. Presumably that’s what the young lady in the video is running from and is eventually overtaken by, her eyes going black as she becomes a hybrid android/human. Fair enough. “Future Boogie” will feature on Shaking Godspeed‘s forthcoming long-player, Welcome Back Wolf, which is set to release this fall, and the single will be officially released on May 10. Preorder link and more info follows the clip below.

Enjoy:

Shaking Godspeed, “Future Boogie” official video

Future Boogie is available as a 7” vinyl single via Suburban: http://tinyurl.com/nha7mul

The song is also featured on the forthcoming album Welcome Back Wolf by Shaking Godspeed. To be released September 2014.

Heavily inspired by The singularity is near (Ray Kurzweil) they wrote the song Future Boogie. This book sketches the end of the human race as we know it and the birth of the hybrid technologic new human being in 2045. No sci-fi, but soon to be reality!

Fascinated by all the new technological and cultural developments the group understood that keep hanging in the past, old heroes and rusty opinions are almost an insult to their brains. Their new album Welcome Back Wolf, recorded live in a deserted factory, provides ground to Shaking Godspeed’s own slightly deranged views and sincere emotions.

Shaking Godspeed’s website

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Shaking Godspeed on Twitter

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audiObelisk: Atlantis Stream “Raptor” from New Album Omens; Out Oct. 14 on Burning World Records

Posted in audiObelisk on September 26th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

It should say something about the complexity of their operations that it takes six people to reproduce live what by and large is created solely by multi-instrumentalist Gilson Heitinga in the studio for the band Atlantis. Heitinga‘s project began seven years ago and will release Omens, their third mostly-instrumental full-length — there are also two EPs, most recently 2012’s La Petite Mort — on Oct. 14 through Burning World Records, crafting a sonic blend of post-metal, progressive electronica and a sense of tonal weight, resulting in six varied and textured tracks that truly seem to be the output of a clear vision for what the sound should be. Whether it’s the initial ambience of “Rapture” or the patient building of tension that leads to the slow-paced crush of “Widowmaker,” both of Omens‘ vinyl sides produce a rich, immersive feel that’s easy to get lost within.

There are stretches that come across as comparatively minimal, but Omens is never really still, and whether it’s a swirl of synth on backing the emergent shouts on “And She Drops the 7th Veil” or the noisy, chaotic patterning of the side B intro “The Path Into” — that path, incidentally, goes into “Widowmaker” — Atlantis always keep a sense of forward motion despite the changing sphere of each given track and the mood that each piece of the 50-minute offering makes so malleable throughout. As both the first instance of the weighted riffing that comes to the fore periodically and the album’s initial thrust,”Raptor” does a significant amount of work in establishing the atmospheric basis from which the rest of the songs work. It has both parcel fluctuations and an overarching linear build, and pays off in grand style only made more affecting by the drawn out keyboard melodies that top.

Because of that drama at the apex and because “Raptor” does so well in representing the whole of Omens from which it comes, I’m happy to have the chance to feature it here. Check it out on the player below, and please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Omens will be available on Oct. 14 through Burning World Records and can be pre-ordered now on CD and gold or black vinyl.

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Burning World Records

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Stonerfront Nijmegen, 3-Days-Desert: Pilot to Bombardier

Posted in Reviews on March 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

If you didn’t know that stoner rock was a battle, then instrumental trio Stonerfront Nijmegen would like to inform that they’ve got the Dutch field covered. Actually, I’d doubt the three-piece, for whom the EP 3-Days-Desert marks a physical debut — pressed to180 gram vinyl and released through Fuzzmatazz Records — would even seek to make such lofty claims. Their ethic, rather, rests solely in the direction of unpretentious stoner rocking, riffs leading the way for thick, rolling, semi-psychedelic grooves, light touches of early Monster Magnet jangle making their way into the guitar of Remco Verweij while bassist John Munnich fills out a rich low end in locked march with drummer Peter Dragt‘s classic grooves, the overall result on the 20-minute EP’s three tracks resting comfortably somewhere between Kyuss‘ formative desert rock and Karma to Burn‘s straightforward riffy motoring.

Sounds familiar? It probably should, and if any of the above names ring a bell, it probably will. Stonerfront Nijmegen — who hail from, wait for it, Nijmegen — touch on some of the jam-mindedness that’s au courant in European heavy, and thanks to Munnich’s satisfyingly weighted tone, they have a bit in common with some of Elektrohasch‘s current set, albeit overall coming across as less fuzzy on the 9:10 A-side, “Stonerfront Nijmegen” or side B’s “Sector 11” (5:46) and “Sandchaser” (5:54), despite their tendency to wander. The two shorter tracks offer a better look at the trio’s sonic personality than the longer cut, though none of the three should prove a challenge to anyone with prior genre exposure. I’d be curious to know how someone who unfamiliar with Dave Wyndorf‘s ’90s exploits might hear the opening strum of “Stonerfront Nijmegen” or the siren sounding an alarm apparently meant to wake listeners up for the circling jam to come, but either way, Stonerfront Nijmegen seem more bent on interpretation than innovation in their ethic, and as the jams are suitably earthy and the vibe is cool, the wheel seems to have little argument in keeping its long-appreciated shape.

The interplay between Verweij and Munnich throughout all three cuts is high on the list of Stonerfront Nijmegen‘s assets, though it’s worth noting as well that Dragt‘s jazzy changes give them a likewise intricate foundation to build on, and that the drummer is just as pivotal in establishing the soulful stops prior to the six-minute mark as either of the other two. 3-Days-Desert may not be remaking the band’s stated style in its own image, but neither is it void of personality. The siren returns in the second half of the eponymous opener, and to tie it all together, a bomb drops at the end of the track, leading to the sandier climate of “Sector 11” on the next side of the album, a Sky Valley low end making its presence felt early into the jam that emerges to hold at a steady level where one might expect a build. If Stonerfront Nijmegen are missing their John Garcia anywhere on the EP, it’s on “Sector 11,” though few and far between are the singers who dynamic enough to keep up with the track’s variability of mood — a Garcia croon would do it; not much else. They do thicken out some in the second half, but it’s not like they’ve been rising musically toward a payoff, so really it’s just a heavier part written into the script, no more or less offensive than anything they’ve done to this point. Encouragingly, they go back to the central line of earlier in the track at the end, giving “Sector 11” a structured feel. This brings an added touch of context to the more classically motoring “Sandchaser.”

Less of the desert than of the speedway, “Sandchaser” finds Verweij again at the fore, but this time with chunky chugging riffs that touch almost on a rockabilly style, and subsequently a howling lead that, yes, Munnich answers back with a killer bassline, but moreover an unhinged feel that both stands testament to Dragt‘s ability to hold a song together and wants nothing for personality while also filling the space that vocals might otherwise occupy. In any case, Stonerfront Nijmegen — who first got together in 2008 but saw 3-Days-Desert come to fruition after lineup shuffles — would have some growing to do if they seemed remotely interested in doing it. As it stands, they might actually be better off in categorically exploring their influences with relaxed-atmosphere jams rather than trying to force progression into where progression doesn’t want to be, and if that’s the case, then these tracks at very least make the most of what sounds like a good time writing and recording, and taken for what they are, leave one with no real complaints. Further, the more I listen through, the less I find myself asking of 3-Days-Desert, which I’m happy to consider the EP establishing its own context and inviting the listener to approach it on its own level. It’s unambitious, but not without its own charm in part because of that.

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Fuzzmatazz Records

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