Quarterly Review: Monolord, Teacher, Rosy Finch, Holy Mountain Top Removers, Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, Swan Valley Heights, Cambrian Explosion, Haunted, Gods & Punks, GaiaPosted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze
A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.
Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.
Rosy Finch, Witchboro
There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist Elena García, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.
Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You
Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I
Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.
Swan Valley Heights, Swan Valley Heights
Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.
Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.
Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.
Gods and Punks, The Sounds of the Earth
Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.
Gaia, A Cure for Time
Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh