They were known as Soon just a couple scant months ago when they released their debut album, Vol. 1 (review here), through Temple of Torturous, but apparently sometime between then and now, they’ve added the someone-threatened-to-sue A.D. to the moniker. Thus, Soon A.D. have a new video. Fine. My question here is who the hell owns the word “soon?” Is there another band out there called Soon? Was the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, four-piece just completely tired of being Googleproof? I’d be very interested to know what happened there. Soon A.D., however, seem to prefer being shrouded in mystery.
If you got the chance to hear Vol. 1, there’s a high probability “Gold Soul” was one of the most resonant impressions. Like the bulk of its surroundings, it’s coated in effects and given a melodic depth to match, but its central riff is a particular standout and likely to get in your head and not get out. Soon A.D. wander around here and there during the midsection of the song, but the verses have a kind of lumber to them that usually doesn’t come hand-in-hand with their brand of accessibility. It’s the key blend — heavy, melodic, psychedelic, poppy — that defines Soon A.D.‘s first offering, and it would seem to be the groundwork for future stylistic expansion. At least that’s the hope.
Album is out now. Might be a sleeper, but I think if you take the time to check out “Gold Soul” below, you’re not likely to regret it.
Soon A.D., “Gold Soul” official video
Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based transcendental rock unit, SOON A.D., (formerly Soon), is very pleased to unveil the stunning new video accompaniment to “Gold Soul.”
What SOON A.D. has manifested with Vol. 1 is multifaceted, melodic and adventurous. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based quartet pulled from a deep well of influence and experience in crafting its eight-song LP spending a concentrated week of revising and tracking, plus two months of tinkering, at the Greensboro studio Legitimate Business with engineer Kris Hilbert (Torch Runner, Between The Buried And Me, The Body) at the helm.
Well here we are. Standing on the precipice of a week of 50 reviews, looking out together at the geographic and sonic expanses that will be covered. I never know entirely what a given Quarterly Review is going to bring. Some have been smooth, some not. This one is being put together very little pre-production in terms of chasing down band links and that sort of thing, so I expect it’s going to be an adventure one way or another. I’ll keep you updated as we go as to my mental state and the deterioration thereof.
If you don’t know the drill, The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review is a week every three months in which I review 10 albums per day, Monday through Friday. Some of it was released in the prior three months, some of it is brand new, some of it probably isn’t out yet, some of it is probably older. It’s all relevant one way or another. I hope you find something you enjoy.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sourvein, Aquatic Occult
Looking at the makeup of Sourvein’s much-awaited fourth album, Aquatic Occult (on Metal Blade), it’s understandable why it might’ve taken five years to put together. Yes, they had splits out in between, as they do, but the band’s last full-length was 2011’s Black Fangs (review here), and though the 14-song/42-minute Aquatic Occult is manageable, with a host of interludes to carry the listener along its thick-toned, undulating waves, a swath of guest appearances no doubt played havoc with logistics. Fortunately, Sourvein’s figurehead, vocalist T-Roy Medlin, seems to thrive on chaos. Working with producer Mike Dean (C.O.C.), and a revolving-door lineup that here features Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone, Medlin brazenly explores a more melodic dynamic than he ever has. It’s a rare band looking to experiment after 20 years, a rarer band still that pulls it off so well. There’s still some sludgy rasp and guest growling, but Sabbathian roll is the order of the day ultimately and Medlin’s homage to his home in Cape Fear, North Carolina, establishes a breadth unheard before from Sourvein that’s worthy of the years and obvious effort that went into its making.
Hamburg duo Mantar’s blend of thrash, sludge and blackened doom is brash, righteously punkish and thus far uncompromised in its malevolent intent. On their second album and Nuclear Blast debut, Ode to the Flame, songs like “Era Borealis” swagger as much as they sneer, the middle-finger-up arrogance becoming part of the appeal. “The Hint” offers some tinge of melody and “I Omen” some organ-laced atmospherics, but Mantar, who debuted in 2015 with the also fire-minded Death by Burning (review here) on Svart, carry their extremity forward like the next logical step of the same impulses that High on Fire once brought forth. Their tempo shifts, from blazing squibblies to outright lumbering, are pulled off with due fuckall, and the shouts from guitarist/vocalist Hanno and drummer/vocalist Erinc are spit forth in a manner near-indecipherable but still have no trouble getting their point across. Mantar are positioning themselves to be the kick in the ass that the underground needs. The next few years (and albums) will see how that pans out, but for now they have two scorchers under their collective belt.
There is a stylistic restlessness to stretches of Elevators to the Grateful Sky’s second record, Cape Yawn (on HeviSike), that becomes the uniting factor between the adrenaline-amped opening with “Ground” and “Bullet Words” and the later dream-surf Yawning Man-meets-sax unfurling of the title-track. The Palermo, Italy, outfit have stated their intention as capturing a blend of ‘90s alternative and modern heavy. Fair enough, but hearing that play out on the penultimate “Mountain Ship” in a mix of weighted riffing and laid back vocals giving way to shouts, it seems that to me that next time out, Elevators to the Grateful Sky should probably just start saying they sound like themselves, because they do. Granted, they’re pulling elements from familiar sources – Soundgarden, Kyuss, etc. – but in giving them new context, the four-piece are defining their sound as moving fluidly between the various styles, and that’s to be commended. The more you put into listening, the more you’ll get out of it.
Representing a 50 percent reunion of Burning Witch, the droning contemplations and hellish atmospherics of The Poisoned Glass’ Ritual Productions debut, 10 Swords, pique immediate interest. And bassist/percussionist/etc.-ist G. Stuart Dahlquist and vocalist/keyboardist Edgy 59 do not disappoint. With unspeakable patience, they execute six grueling and cinematic pieces that seem to find comfort in tortured expression and that feel claustrophobic even as they continue to expand outward and downward through “Plume Veil” and “Toil and Trouble” into the extended closing duo “Silent Vigil” – spoiler alert: not actually silent – and “Low Spirits,” which moves from minimalist stillness through far-back screams and into a wash of synth before its seven minutes are up, covering more ground in one track than some bands do in their entire career. Fair to say on the whole 10 Swords is an immersive listen, but the prevailing vibe is much less “diving in” than “being swallowed whole by some obscure medieval terror.” So, you know, watch out for that.
Los Angeles newcomers Spirit Collector make their debut with the self-released, three-song Owls to Athens EP, clear in its intent and brimming with airy, post-rock-derived guitar atmospherics. A particularly telling moment arrives with the Terence McKenna sample in centerpiece “Reclaim Your Mind,” which speaks of casting off the culture of celebrity worship for a richer human experience, but it’s in the extended closer “Theosophy” (7:57) that Spirit Collector find their footing someplace between a doomed plod and thoughtful psychedelia, picking up a chugging momentum as they push through toward the almost blackened finish, having come a surprising distance since their eponymous opener set the tone for expanse. An encouraging first offering if somewhat familiar superficially as instrumental heavy post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, etc.), and there’s nothing in Owls to Athens to make one think Spirit Collector can’t move forward and develop the experimental drive they begin to show here.
Vieh, the debut full-length from Colonge-based desert rocking foursome Phiasco, takes its name from the German word for “cattle.” The band owe some of their fuzz to Truckfighters and some of their psychedelic wash to Sungrazer, but the attitude in songs like “Ultimate Warrior” – comprised largely of riffs topped with an extended sample from the titular professional wrestler – and “Sunndown” is their own, as is the we’re-still-having-a-really-good-time-while-we-make-this-15-minute-song closer “Phisco” (sic), a highlight of the live-recorded full-length, which across its span is light on pretense and heavy on bounce. Cuts like “Old Town” and opener “Back to the Future” – hey, that’s a movie! – bring catchy hooks, and the uptempo “Erasing Rabbits with My Phaserlight” winds up as harmonized as goofed out, and thus is all the more engaging. There’s a certain amount of getting by on charm here, but Phiasco have a capable, varied songwriting process that’s given due fullness and clarity in these eight tracks.
Man, who gives a shit about anything else when Glaswegian five-piece The Cosmic Dead are enacting their hypnotic swirl? Their latest instrumental invitation to watch existence melt is called Rainbowhead and it arrives through Paradigms Recordings (CD) and Blackest Rainbow Records (LP) with four tracks that serve as the band’s first full-length since 2014’s EasterFaust, though they’ve had splits in between to keep a prolific rate of offerings fitting for their explorational heavy psych/space rock. The bulk of Rainbowhead is engagingly upbeat as side A plays out across “Human Sausage,” “Skye Burial” and the 13-minute “Inner C,” and side B’s 18-minute title-track follows suit as The Cosmic Dead seem to have found a similar niche between progressive rock and psych to that which Mammatus proffered on their most recent outing. It suits The Cosmic Dead, and they keep an improv vibe prevalent as ever, grasping the subconscious with trip-on-it lysergic pulsations.
Deeply textured and lush in its construction around guitar arrangements, percussive and keyboard-laden melodic flourish, Postures’ second full-length, Halucinda (on World in Sound), plays back and forth between prog and heavy rock impulses. The Gothenburg, Sweden, five-piece seem most at home in extended tracks like “Myriad Man,” “Every Room” and the jazzy 10-minute “Wavemaker,” but even the acoustic-led centerpiece interlude “A Million Sequences” invites the audience to turn up the volume for maximum wash effect. Paulina Nyström delivers a powerful, commanding and fluid vocal performance, and while the rhythm section of bassist Per Pettersson and drummer Isak Björhag are the foundation on which these complex structures play out – Viktor Andersson and Benjamin Watts handle guitar; Madeleine Sjögren is credited with backing vocals/keys and Margit Gyllspång percussion/backing vocals – there’s no angle from which Postures don’t come across rich and vital in their winding but well-plotted course, one song feeding fluidly to the next until the dreamy “In the Dark” rounds out with the emotional apex of the record.
What else to call a stoner band from Estonia? Estoner’s appeal, however, goes well beyond their moniker. The Tallinn-based outfit’s second album, Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis, arrives in a handmade hexagonal CD package, heat sealed, as well as with complete visual accompaniment on limited VHS and cassette via Golem Records. The music is no less relentlessly creative, running a gamut between prog, black metal, heavy rock, psychedelia, space rock and probably a few others in its seven-track course. A song like “Teleporteerumine” conjures darkened swirl and “Reptiloid” follows through with foreboding threat, but Estoner plunge even deeper as they go, proferring aesthetic reach that makes seemingly disparate elements work together fluidly on “Hüvasti, Kosmiline Monoliit” and the 10-minute closing title-track. Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis is to call it Svart-worthy, as its diverse means of engulfing the listener speak to a forward-thinking approach that one can only hope Estoner continue to develop.
Extra points to Swedish troupe The Black Explosion for opening their third album, the space-fuzzed out Atomic Zod War (on Metalville Records), with its longest track, the 13-minute “Paralyzed.” That song offers a languid voyage through uncharted jammy reaches, and that sets an open, laid back expectation that the rest of the album seems only too glad to build on, from the Nebula-via-Monster Magnet blown out vibes of “Ain’t Coming Home” to the semi-garage buzz of “Going Down,” a highlight groove that emphasizes the natural, raw tones at play leading into “Get My Mind Together” and the finisher “Devil Inside,” which brings the guitar of Chris Winter (also Dollhouse) forward with backing from bassist Simon Haraldsson and drummer Andreas Lindquist that feels born of the new West Coast tradition but is likely playing off of older impulses. But for its hey-look-it’s-tits cover art, the grit Atomic Zod War offers comes through organically and draws the listener in with its live feel and underlying boogie.
With a new label behind them in Accident Prone Records and a clear demonstration of a more raging approach in the streaming track ‘The Somnambulist,’ North Carolinian post-metal trio work quickly to follow-up their second album, The Golden Veil (review here), with Pilgrimage of Loathing. The band make no bones about the social themes with which they’re working this time out, and certainly in that regard there’s plenty to talk about these days in the US, with our rampaging shitshow election cycle, generations of needless warmongering, discrimination and on and on, so cheers to Make for being so bold as to seize the moment and channel that aggression into something so useful as a creative work, as opposed to, say, an online clickbait thinkpiece about how someone “totally slayed” Donald Trump, which seems to be all anyone else has come up with at this point.
Album info, preorder link and the stream of “The Somnambulist” follow here, courtesy of the PR wire. You’ll note a more blackened approach to the vocals than their last time out. Have to wonder if that plays out across the whole record. Would be fitting enough if so:
MAKE premiere brand new track ‘The Somnambulist’ and announce new partnership with Accident Prone Records.
New album out July 15.
Chapel Hill, NC, psychedelic doom warriors MAKE have unveiled the first track off their highly-anticipated third album, Pilgrimage Of Loathing, due out on July 15 via Accident Prone Records. Titled ‘The Somnambulist’, the new track is a hulking beast that sets the tone for the rest of the album – a far more venomous affair than last year’s acclaimed ‘The Golden Veil’.
Fueled by disgust and anger at the current state of the US political system, especially the discriminatory laws being enforced on people within their home state of NC, Pilgrimage Of Loathing builds on the foundations laid by their two previous albums and explores darker musical territories and intent.
Says Scott Endres (vocals / guitar): “This record is very much a response to all of the horrible, horrible shit happening in America right now. So much to be ashamed of. We loathe the police who kill minorities, we loathe the politicians who paint targets on minority groups for career gain, we loathe the general complacency of the entire populous, we loathe the media who gave Trump the time of day, we loathe the oligarchy the country has become. So much loathing, so much awfulness. And we trudge through it with our middle fingers in the air saying, ‘We are not fucking ok with any of this.’”
Recorded by Kris Hilbert at Legitimate Business and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Sunn0))), Phantomsmasher), the album will be MAKE’s first for Portland, OR, based Accident Prone Records after recently inking a deal.
Says Gary Bahen (AP Chief): “I found out about MAKE on a recent trip to Chapel Hill. When I got back to Portland, I checked them out, and was instantly blown away by what I heard. They’re reminiscent of some of my favorite metal bands, but at the same time truly unique in the overall feelings and emotions that they evoke. I believe strongly in a DIY ethic, and try to run Accident Prone accordingly. That is another thing that drew me to MAKE. They obviously don’t sit back and wait for people to do things for them, they actively put out records, promote shows, tour, etc. I’m very excited to be releasing Pilgrimage Of Loathing and can’t wait to unleash it on the world.”
Pilgrimage Of Loathing is available for pre-order now on Vinyl and digital formats here.
Catch MAKE live when they hit the road in July with Dragged Into Sunlight and Primitive Man.
JULY w/ Dragged Into Sunlight and Primitive Man 19 SAN ANTONIO, TX, Paper Tiger 20 DALLAS, TX, Three Links 21 NEW ORLEANS, LA, Siberia 22 ATLANTA, GA, The Earl 23 RALEIGH, NC, Kings
MAKE are Scott Endres (vocals, guitar), Spencer Lee (vocals, bass), Luke Herbst (drums)
This one kind of sells itself, doesn’t it? Pretty straightforward? News of Weedeater and Conan touring Australia and New Zealand together is pretty much a dogwhistle to the converted signaling its own utter necessity. The US and UK acts, both primo proliferators of riff, will join forces in what I’ll assume is the dead of winter in that part of the world, and unleash their ultra-stoned and ultra-destructive methods over the course of six shows. I’ve never hung out with the Weedeater cats, but I hear they’re great guys, and from what I know, the dudes in Conan are also cool as hell, so apart perhaps from the travel involved, I can’t imagine the two bands won’t come out of the tour as good friends.
Good, hungover friends. The PR wire had this to offer:
WEEDEATER (USA) & CONAN (UK) Australia/New Zealand July 2016
LIFE IS NOISE PRESENTS:
WEEDEATER (USA) & CONAN (UK) AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND JULY 2016
LIFE IS NOISE is very excited to announce that US trio Weedeater will be bringing their brand of stoner sludge to Australia and New Zealand this July… and as if that weren’t enough, they’ll be taking brutally monolithic UK outfit Conan along for the ride. This will be a menacing, heavy and destructively loud tour.
For the first time ever, LIFE IS NOISE is proud to be bringing North Carolina’s favourite cough syrup swilling, hot sauce snorting weirdos, Weedeater to venues across Oz and NZ. Fronted by legendary bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins, Weedeater are a dirty stoner force only to be fully appreciated up close and live with a show full of noise, sweat, spit, and fire. Weedeater will give you a contact high from merely listening.
Conan are punishingly loud, mercilessly heavy and just downright menacing.
Forming in 2006, the Liverpudlian trio’s latest release, Revengeance, is their third album of “caveman battle doom” – where ferociously hammered drums and sludge-filled guitar and bass meet torturously howled vocals to create music that sounds like a herd of war elephants marching over the bones of a vanquished army.
On stage, Conan are simply a behemoth of a band playing in front of a wall of amplifiers pushed to their limit. Pummelingly intense, you don’t just see a Conan show, you try to survive it!
Catch Weedeater and Conan on the following dates:
Wellington – San Fran – July 12 Auckland – Kings Arms – July 13 Brisbane – Crowbar – July 14 Sydney – Manning Bar – July 15 Melbourne – Max Watt’s – July 16 Perth – Rosemount Hotel – July 17
North Carolinian sludge mainstays Sourvein make their long-anticipated debut on Metal Blade Records this Friday with Aquatic Occult, an album that’s as much a departure from their past work as it is affirmation of the vibes frontman T-Roy Medlin has been eliciting for more than 20 years in the band. Produced by Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity and featuring that same band’s Reed Mullin on drums for several tracks, there are ties to be made there sonically as well, but Sourvein retain the underlying sense of grit that they last brought to bear album-wise on 2011’s Black Fangs (review here), with a completely different lineup around Medlin and a methodology much less geared toward incorporating guest appearances from the likes of Stig Miller, Mullin, Dean Berry of Iron Monkey, Keith Kirkum, formerly of Weedeater, and others.
That tradition, which specifically around “Ocypuss” seems to be derived from classic hip-hop, comes accompanied by the boldest stylistic shift Sourvein have ever made, with Medlin refining a cleaner vocal approach than he’s ever used before, and the band around him — bassist Lou Gorra (Halfway to Gone), guitarist Kevin Rochelle, drummer Spider — indulging experiments like “Mermaids” and the atmospheric “Cape Fearian” and bass-led “Bermuda Sundown” while still rolling out an abrasive push like that of “High Tide.” If you thought you knew what Sourvein were all about, and you haven’t yet had a taste of Aquatic Occult, there’s a good chance the band will surprise you at some point in the record’s 14-track/42-minute course.
A new video for “Avian Dawn” showcases some but not all of what I’m talking about and represents well the natural feel that Dean‘s recording brings to the album as a whole. The clip is comprised mostly of spliced together studio footage and gives a bit of insight into how the record was made. You’ll find it below, followed by the complete tracklisting and lineup for the album, courtesy of the PR wire.
Sourvein, “Avian Dawn” official video
Doom/sludge metal vets Sourvein will release their long-awaited Metal Blade Records debut, Aquatic Occult, on April 8th worldwide. Featuring guest performances by Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe (vocals, organ), Amebix’s Stig Miller (guitar), Corrosion of Conformity’s Reed Mullin (drums) and many others, the album is described by front-man T-Roy as the record he wanted to make at a time when his life was at its bleakest.
T-Roy details the guest appearances on this track and in the “Avian Dawn” video: “The ‘Avian Dawn’ video is directed/edited by Randy Ada and features live footage of us recording at SSP Studios in Raleigh, NC. You’ll see Mike Dean of C.O.C. on the production board, Reed Mullin of C.O.C. on drums, Kevin Rochelle of Sea of Tyrants on guitar, Lou Gorra on bass and myself recording riffs and vocals. This video truly gives a behind the scenes look at the album’s core performers hard at work. Music wise, ‘Avian Dawn’ is an upbeat song about positive thinking with an overall loose theme surrounding the sea birds of Pleasure Island, relayed as abstract wordplay in the lyrics throughout the song. We really dig this tune and it’s a lot of fun to play. Enjoy.”
Aquatic Occult is produced by Mike Dean and mastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, Yob). Pre-orders for Aquatic Occult are available now in CD, vinyl, and digital formats via metalblade.com/sourvein
Aquatic Occult track-listing: *Reed Mullin on drums 1. Tempest (Of Desire) (feat. Stig Miller-Amebix)* 2. Avian Dawn* 3. Ocypuss (feat. Randy Blythe-Lamb of God, Mike Dean-Corrosion of Conformity)* 4. Aquanaut (feat. Dean Berry-Iron Monkey, Chris Holcombe and Joel Martin-Subrig Destroyer) 5. Hymn to Poseidon* 6. Mermaids* 7. Urchins (feat. Chris Holcombe and Joel Martin-Subrig Destroyer) 8. In the Wind* 9. Cape Fearian (feat. Dave Capps-All Tore Up, Randy Blythe spoken word-Lamb of God)* 10. Capsized (feat. Dave Capps-All Tore Up)* 11. High Tide (feat. Chris Holcombe and Joel Martin-Subrig Destroyer) 12. Bermuda Sundown (feat. Keith Kirkum-ex Weedeater) 13. Coral Bones* 14. Oceanic Procession (feat. Stig Miller-Amebix, Randy Blythe on organ-Lamb of God)*
Cape Fear sludge upstarts Toke will spend a decent portion of April on the road, heading north from their homebase in North Carolina and back south again on a run supporting their recently-issued split tape with Green Fiend. The band have also been confirmed as taking part in the Denver Electric FuneralFest and Maryland Doom Fest, so it seems likely there are more dates to be announced for the summer as well.
What makes that seem even more likely is that Toke share the bill on Denver Electric Funeral Fest with Sourvein (among others, of course). As the two bands are based in Cape Fear, it doesn’t strike me as particularly crazy to think they might travel together, and Sourvein rarely go anywhere without touring. Toke would fit well on a bill alongside them, but of course nothing’s been confirmed so far as I know. That’s just me speculating.
In the meantime, Toke will share stages with a host of East Coast luminaries, including Heavy Temple and Wizard Eye in Philly, Foghound in Baltimore, Reign of Zaius and River Cult in Brooklyn, and Dutchguts in my former (but still beloved) Garden State, so if a name below seems unfamiliar for some reason, there’s a lot of good company being kept here.
We hit the road soon check it also we are on Instagram @toke_nc
4/2/16 Charlotte NC @ snug harbor w/ the seduction 4/15/16 Richmond VA Wonderland bar w/ Book of Wyrms & Melt 4/16/16 Philladelphia PA @ shred shed w/ Heavy Temple & Wizard Eye 4/17/16 Allentown PA @ Alternative Gallery w/ Heavy Temple, Under the Clothesline & Goatwizard 4/18/16 Asbury Park NJ @ wonder bar w/ Hand of Weed 4/19/16 Lucky 13 Saloon Brooklyn NYC w/ Reign of Zaius & River Cult 4/20/16 Montclair NJ @ Meatlocker w/ Dutchguts 4/21/16 Baltimore MD @ Windup Gallery w/ Gateway to Hell & Foghound 4/22/16 Frederick MD @ Guidos Speakeasy 4/23/16 Hagerstown MD @ R&K Pub w/ Fortress 4/24/16 Greensboro @ NYP w/ Dirac, Dogs Eyes and mini guns 4/29/16 Reggies 42nd street tavern 6/4-6/5 Denver Colorado electric funeral fest 6/26/16 Maryland Doom Fest Frederick MD
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Eight Bells, Landless
However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.
Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.
West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.
Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.
The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.
Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.
While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.
There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.
Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.
I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.
Portland, Oregon’s Disenchanter will welcome North Carolinian doom rockers Demon Eye in April for a West Coast run presented by Nanotear Booking. To my knowledge, it marks Demon Eye‘s first trip out west, and for Disenchanter, it follows an EP compilation released on NoSlip Records and the announcement that they’ll take part in Psycho Las Vegas in August.
Demon Eye, meanwhile, will also play Maryland Doom Fest 2016 in June. Their second album, Tempora Infernalia (review here), was issued last year on Soulseller Records and they’ve supported it since playing local shows with the likes of Acid King and Pentagram. Guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg was also recently announced as having joined Lightning Born, whose lineup features, among others, C.O.C. bassist Mike Dean.
More on that as I hear it. Here are the tour dates and more info:
Our West Coast tour with Disenchanter will be happening soon! A huge thanks to Nanotear Booking!
Coming up in April: Demon Eye and Disenchanter West Coast tour!
The stars have aligned
Formed in May of 2011, rising from the ashes of the black machine, invoked after many moons, Disenchanter is a heavy rock band riding the currents of doom, casting riffs of rock, and melding the elixirs of metal to bring forth a fantasy of sci-fi wrapped in a stoner groove!
Demon Eye’s heavy grooves and thunder rhythms channel the doom and crush of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, and the fist banging shred of early ‘Maiden. The band has received international recognition for their highly acclaimed songcraft and their stunning live performances. Demon Eye remains hellbent on bringing their hook-laden, dark riffin’ songcraft to fans far and wide.
4/14 Seattle, WA – Highline 4/15 Portland, OR – High Water Mark 4/16 Grant’s Pass, OR – The Haul 4/17 Sacramento, CA – Blue Lamp 4/18 Pacifica, CA – Winter’s Tavern 4/19 San Jose, CA – The Caravan 4/20 Los Angeles, CA – Complex 4/21 San Diego, CA – Kensington Club 4/22 Los Osos, CA – Sweet Springs Saloon 4/23 Oakland, CA – Oakland Metro