Quarterly Review: Horsehunter, Church, Corpse Light, Sunder, T-Tops, The Space Merchants, Etiolated, Blown Out, Les Discrets, Beast Modulus

Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

Day one down and feeling good so far. Day two continues the thread of mixing more known quantities with bands either self-releasing or putting out demos, etc., and I like that. More than last time around — last quarter, if you want to use the business-y sounding language for it — I tried to really get a balance across this batch of reviews, posted yesterday and coming up over the next couple days. We’ll see how it works out when it’s over. It remains a ton of stuff, and I hope you dig it. Day two starts right now.

Quarterly review #11-20:

Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh

horsehunter caged in flesh

Pushing their way to the fore of Melbourne’s heavy surge, double-guitar four-piece Horsehunter proffer oppressive tonal crush on the four tracks of their 2LP Magnetic Eye Records debut, Caged in Flesh. The story goes that, unsatisfied the initial recordings weren’t heavy enough, the band – guitarists Michael Harutyanyan (also vocals) and Dan McDonald, bassist/vocalist Himi Stringer and drummer Nick Cron – went back into the studio and redid the entire thing. Mission accomplished. By the time 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Stoned to Death” is done, lungs are suitably deflated, spines are cracked, skulls cleaved, and so on. They’re hardly the only ones in the world to conjure formidable tonal heft, but it’s the deft changes in vocals – clean here, shouts there, more abrasive at the start of the title-track – and the sense of atmosphere in the three-minute penultimate interlude that really distinguish Horsehunter, as well as how smoothly that atmosphere integrates with the pummel in the second half of closer “Witchery,” attention to detail and awareness of the need for more than just sonic weight boding well for future progression.

Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Church, Unanswered Hymns

church unanswered hymns

A staggeringly heavy debut full-length from Sacramento, CA, five-piece Church, Unanswered Hymns was initially released digitally by the band and quickly picked up for a cassette issue by Transylvanian Tapes and forthcoming LP through Battleground Records. One gets the sense listening to the three extended tracks – 19-minute opener “Dawning” being the longest of the bunch (immediate points) – that those won’t be the last versions to come. Psychedelic doom blends seamlessly with vicious sludge extremity, creating a morass engulfing in its tones, spacious in its breadth and unrepentantly heavy, making it one of 2015’s best debut releases, hands down, and a glorious revelry in bleak tectonics that challenges the listener to match its level of melancholy without giving into an impulse for post-Pallbearer emotive theatrics. As thrilling as they are plodding, expect the echoes of “Dawning,” “Stargazer” and “Offering” to resonate for some time to come, and should Church show any predilection for touring in the next couple years, they have the potential to make a genuine impact on American doom. Yes, I mean it.

Church on Thee Facebooks

Transylvanian Tapes

Battleground Records

Corpse Light, Without Form

corpse light without form

Recorded in a day and released by Grimoire Records, the four-track Without Form is slated as the debut from Baltimore atmospheric doomers Corpse Light, but the band have had tracks come out in drips and drabs since getting their start as Ophidian in mid-2012, even if this is their first proper release. Either way, “The Fool” sets up an immediate and grim ambience, the churning lurch from guitarists Keiran Holmes and Don Selner and bassist Aurora Raiten set to roll by Lawrence Grimes (The Osedax) and given earthy aggression by the vocals of Jim Webb. “Lying in State” fleshes out these morose aggro vibes, but it’s with the drop-everything-and-kill peak of the subsequent “R Complex” that Corpse Light hit their angriest mark. If Without Form was just about that, it would be the highlight, but the album’s 29 minutes have more to offer than pissed off tonally-weighted post-hardcore, as closer “Kenophobia”’s clever turns and deceptive forward momentum demonstrate, though a touch of that kind of thing never hurts either.

Corpse Light on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Sunder, Demo

sunder demo

Heavy psych four-piece Sunder will make their debut this summer through Tee Pee and Crusher Records with a 7” for “Cursed Wolf,” so consider this notice of the tracks on their not-for-public-consumption demo a heads up on things to come. Their “Deadly Flower” was streamed here this past April, and the band’s previous incarnation, The Socks, released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone in 2014, but with songs like the key-laced stomper “Bleeding Trees,” the ‘70s rusher “Against the Grain,” and the Uncle Acid-style swinging “Daughter of the Snows,” the Lyon, France, outfit continue to refine a style drawing together different vibes of the psychedelic era. “Deadly Flower” was also distinguished by its key work, and as for “Cursed Wolf” itself, the melody reminds of proto-psych Beatles singles (thinking “Rain” specifically), but the groove still holds firm to a sense of weight that’s thoroughly modern, and by that I mean it sounds like 1972. Keep an eye out.

Sunder on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records

T-Tops, T-Tops

t-tops t-tops

Granted not everyone is going to make this immediate association, but when I first saw the moniker T-Tops, I couldn’t help think of like C-grade generic stonerisms, songs about beer and pretending to be from the South and all that. If you experienced something similar in seeing the name, rest easy. The Pittsburgh trio of guitarist/vocalist Pat Waters (ex-The Fitt, Wormrigg), bassist Jason Orr (Wormrigg) and drummer Jason Jouver (ex-Don Caballero) are down with far more sinister punk and noise on their self-titled, self-released debut full-length, riding, shooting straight and speaking truth on cuts like “Wipe Down” and the catchy “Pretty on a Girl” after the tense sampling of “A Certain Cordial Exhilaration” turns over the power-push to “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’.” “Ralphie” is probably an inside-joke if not a Christmas Story reference, but point is these guys are way less about-to-sing-about-muscle-cars than the name implies and their tight, crisp rhythmic turns come accompanied by vicious tonal force and an utter lack of bullshit, which is a scenario far preferable to that which one might otherwise expect.

T-Tops on Thee Facebooks

T-Tops on Bandcamp

The Space Merchants, The Space Merchants

the space merchants the space merchants

Issued by Aqulamb in the imprint’s standard 100-page art book/download format, the self-titled debut from fellow Brooklynites The Space Merchants seeks to draw a line between psychedelic rock and country. And not pretend country like people with a Johnny Cash fetish because he covered that Nine Inch Nails song one time – actual, bright, pastoral, classic country. Call the results psychtwang and applaud the effort, which works oddly well in a thoroughly vintage context to come across on “Mainline the Sun” like something from a lost ‘60s variety show. Parts of “One Cut Like the Moon” and the later fuzz of “One Thousand Years of Boredom” give away their modernity, but The Space Merchants’ push toward a stylistic niche suits them well, and the intertwined vocal arrangements from guitarist Michael Guggino, bassist Aileen Brophy and keyboardist Ani MonteleoneCarter Logan drums to round out the four-piece – add to the rich, welcoming feel that remains prevalent even as the eight-minute “Where’s the Rest of Life” slips into wah-soaked noise to finish out.

The Space Merchants on Thee Facebooks

Aqualamb on Bandcamp

Etiolated, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies

etoliated grey limbs grey skies

The undercurrent of black metal coursing beneath the surface of Etiolated’s debut full-length, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies, eventually comes to the surface in 10-minute opener “Internal Abyss” and 16-minute eponymous closer, which bookends, but in part it’s the tension of waiting for those rampaging surges that keeps one hooked to the Armus Productions release. Guttural death growls echo up from dense tonal reaches, and tempo shifts, whether in those longer tracks or three-minute lumbering slice “Futility” are fluid, the North Carolina five-piece executing a slow-grinding chug in centerpiece “Exsanguinate,” which seems like a murk without end until the 1:47 “For Your Hell” kicks into a speedier, more blackened rush, guest vocalist Ryan McCarthy joining guitarist/vocalists James Storelli and Walls, bassist Cody Rogers and drummer Elliot Thompson in furthering the already prevalent sense of extremism before “Etiolated,” after a surprisingly peaceful if brooding midsection, plods the album to a close. To say “not for the faint of heart” would be putting it lightly, but if I had a vest and if Etiolated had patches, the two parties would definitely meet up at some point in the near future.

Etiolated on Thee Facebooks

Armus Productions on Bandcamp

Blown Out, Planetary Engineering

blown out planetary engineering

It has not taken long for the discography of UK psych jammers Blown Out to become a populated murky cosmos of its own. Planetary Engineering is released on Oaken Palace Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong, etc.), bassist John-Michael Hedley (also Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) and drummer Matt Baty (also the head of Box Records) exploring two mesmeric and sprawling instrumentals – one per side – that bend and flourish and hypnotize in organically-concocted swirl. Side A’s “Transcending Deep Infinity” tops 20 minutes and shifts from its spacey build to a low key groove at about 7:30 in, pulsing forward once more amid head-turning repetition, deep echoes and longform nod, culminating in a two-minute fadeout that brings forward “Thousand Years in the Sunshine,” an immediate bass groove and interstellar swirl no less trance-inducing than its predecessor. Cyclical drum fills morph over time behind the guitar and bass, and Planetary Engineering seems to push continually further out until, of course, it disintegrates, presumably as it crosses the galactic barrier.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Oaken Palace Records on Bandcamp

Les Discrets, Live at Roadburn

les discrets live at roadburn

I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Het Patronaat in Tilburg when French post-black metallers Les Discrets took the stage at Roadburn 2013. As such, it’s with some trepidation I approach their Live at Roadburn recording on Prophecy Productions – the impression they made live wasn’t something I’d want potentially spoiled or brought to earth by a document proving it was just another set. With Neige of Alcest on bass with guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, Les Discrets proved to be something really special to those who, like me, were there to catch them, and the eight-track Live at Roadburn – fortunately – captures both the majestic lushness they brought with them and the underlying weight that seemed to add impact to the material. What might sound like post-production mixing on “L’Echappée” or the wash of “Chanson D’Automne” isn’t – it really was that beautiful and that perfectly balanced coming from the stage. A vastly underrated act and a document that reminds of how stellar they were without sullying the memory in the slightest.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions

Beast Modulus, Beast Modulus


Brooklynite foursome Beast Modulus seem to care less about meshing with ideas of genre than sticking them in a meatgrinder and seeing what comes out. To wit the riotous chugging of “Cowboy Caligula,” and the blackened thrust of “WaSaBi!” on their self-released, self-titled outing, which leads to dueling growls and screams on the tonally weighted post-hardcore “Fabulous,” and the appropriately mathy turns of the thrashing “Tyranny of Numbers.” Inventive in their stylizations and in where the six songs included on the release actually go – hint: they go to “heavy” – the lineup of vocalist Kurt Applegate, guitarist Owen Burley, bassist Jesse Adelson and drummer Jody Smith have some post-Dillinger Escape Plan vibe in the calculated chaos of “Kalashnikov,” but closer “Killing Champion” is too impatient to even be held by that, the prevailing manic angularity of Beast Modulus ultimately crafting its own identity from the physical assault the music seems intent on perpetrating upon the listener.

Beast Modulus on Thee Facebooks

Beast Modulus on Bandcamp


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Make to Release Second Album The Golden Veil in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


If you look at the waveform of Make‘s “The Absurdist,” the first-revealed song from their second album, The Golden Veil, it gives a sense of the calculation at work in the audio itself, which builds from a quieter, ambient opening to a post-metallic crush of dense tones and growling vocals in a manner no less linear than it appears. The new full-length is the follow-up to Make‘s debut LP, Trephine, which the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, trio released in 2011. As to what the rest of the long-player might hold, given the breadth of “The Absurdist” as it makes its way from one end of that line to the other, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

The PR wire invites digging:

make the golden veil


After a year-long hiatus, North Carolina’s doom-metal stalwarts MAKE return with their long-awaited second album.

‘The Golden Veil’ is the follow up to the band’s critically acclaimed ‘Axis’ EP and debut full-length ‘Trephine’ and is set for release on July 23.

Says bassist Spencer Lee: “’The Golden Veil’ feels at once more diverse and more concise. We’ve explored a few elements of our sound that had previously been something we’d only touched on briefly, or maybe even just hinted at by proximity. The space is spacier, the metal is heavier, and the concept (though in a sense more nebulous) feels more completely realized.”

Recorded at Legitimate Business, NC, with engineer and producer Kris Hilbert (The Body, Torch Runner) at the helm, the album was mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate, Phantomsmasher, Jodis) and is easily MAKE’s heaviest, most psychedelic, and most sonically lush release to date.

MAKE have played Hopscotch Music Festival, toured with Dragged Into Sunlight and shared bills with Unfomammut, Deafheaven, Alcest, Coffinworm, The Atlas Moth, Altar Of Plagues, Crowbar and many others, and are fixtures of North Carolina’s music scene.

The album will be available for download on July 23, followed by a limited edition 180gm vinyl version with deluxe packaging in September.

Pre-orders can be made here: https://thebandmake.bandcamp.com/album/the-golden-veil

MAKE are: Scott Endres (vocals, guitar), Spencer Lee (vocals, bass), Luke Herbst (drums)


Make, “The Absurdist”

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Weedeater, Goliathan: Battered and Fried

Posted in Reviews on June 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


For those who would be inclined to do so, there are really two ways to take on listening to Weedeater at this stage in their career. One can take a record like the 10-track/34-minute Goliathan, the fifth full-length of their 17-year tenure, first for Season of Mist and first with drummer Travis “T-Boogie” Owen, as a primer for the live experience. No doubt that’s where the hard-touring Wilmington, North Carolina, outfit has always made their primary impact both sonically and as a spectacle, guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd calmly oozing tone on one side of the and bassist/vocalist “Dixie” Dave Collins bugs out his eyes and lets loose both a wave of consuming low-end and a visceral rasp, stomping his foot, banging his head, pounding whiskey, and just maybe vomiting, all the while. One can listen to tracks like “Cain Enabler,” “Goliathan” and “Claw of the Sloth” and imagine the riots incited by the band, who’ve been on the road since long before anyone showed up to see them and have the presence to show for it, up to and including Owen‘s turned-sideways kit as part of the show. One can take Goliathan on that level and be stoked to see Weedeater the next time they roll through. I won’t argue against approaching the album that way. It works, it’s valid, and Steve Albini‘s production, as it did on 2011’s Jason… the Dragon (review here), rightly plays to the rawness of the band’s approach, obviously going for a “live” or at very least organic sound.

The other way to listen to Goliathan, however, is as the most forward-thinking album Weedeater have ever done. Yes, there’s a lot about it that remains intact from their past work. Collins still loves his puns, as “Battered and Fried,” “Cain Enabler” and the epilogue “Benaddiction” remind — the latter an answer to the introduction “Processional,” playing off the band’s Southern and/or Baptist roots — but there’s more going on than that and the expectation-meeting quota of swing (even with Owen in place of Keith Kirkum, this element remains) and vicious extremity of sludge. The opener and closer, for example. “Procession” leads the way into Goliathan with quiet keyboards and duly evangelical flourish of lap steel guitar, Collins adding a semi-spoken grunt of a verse to the mix, and while the progression itself, if it was transposed to full-blast guitar, bass and drums, would be right in Weedeater‘s familiar domain, the opener’s turn of arrangement sets up Goliathan‘s more adventurous approach. Jason… the Dragon had these turns as well, and much to its benefit, but Goliathan uses them more efficiently, and that goes for “Procession,” the spacey guitar minimalism of “Benaddiction,” “Battered and Fried”‘s swampy banjo twang. Even the penultimate “Reprise,” in revisiting the title-track’s steady roll, shows Weedeater with more of a clear head for songwriting and a full-album presentation than they’re often given credit for having, and add to that the speedy punkish weirdness of a song like “Bully,” of which the verses seem to be little more than taunts, and Goliathan becomes an even more nuanced experience.

weedeater (Photo by Scott Kinkade)

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of bludgeoning as well, nor that said bludgeoning isn’t as righteous as any Weedeater have presented before. The vocals on “Cain Enabler” are near-painful to the ear for the permanent damage one imagines they might’ve caused Collins‘ vocal cords, and as the longest track at 5:25, “Claw of the Sloth” seethes and writhes with a brutality all the more prevalent for how readily the band seems to wield it, and whether it’s a more upbeat progression like that one, a mid-paced stomper like “Joseph (All Talk)” or the densely toned lurch of “Goliathan” itself, the central vibe of rural strangeness and otherworldly threat remain — monsters covered in mud, no help for miles. CollinsShepherd and Owen capture many of the aspects of Weedeater‘s sound that has made them the pivotal act within underground heavy they’ve become, but it also goes further than that and pushes not only beyond their earlier albums like their 2001 …And Justice for Y’All debut, 2002’s Sixteen Tons or their 2007 breakthrough, God Luck and Good Speed, but beyond what they accomplished on Jason… the Dragon as well. Perhaps most impressively of all, Goliathan reminds that when it comes to it, Weedeater are going to do whatever they want to do, as they did before their reputation came to precede them and as they no doubt would even if it didn’t. The record’s uncompromising nature just happens to find multiple modes of expression, and in that, the band deliver a work that, on whatever level one might want to take it on, proves worth the effort to do so.

Weedeater, “Cain Enabler”

Weedeater on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist

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Quarterly Review: King Hitter, Desert Storm, Sendelica, Drifter, Sula Bassana, Strange Here, Once-Ler, Waingro, Motorgoat, The Seduction

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

quarterly review

I must be out of my damned mind. After wrapping up last year with a special feature comprising 50 reviews spread over five days, I’ve somehow decided that it’s not a bad way to do things. So here we are. It’s been three months, that’s a quarter of a year, so it seems only fair to have a Quarterly Review to catch up on some things that might otherwise have gone missed.

And that’s precisely what we’ll do. Between now and Friday, it’ll be 10 reviews per day, rounding up releases from the last couple months. Some are out now, some aren’t out yet, but it’s all recent one way or another. Like with the Last Licks 2014, I’ll be checking in each day as well. Should be fun to see how my mental status deteriorates over the course of the next few days, until my brains are little more than a stinky jelly dripping from out my ears on Friday. At least that’s how I remember it going last time.

So let’s go:

King Hitter, King Hitter

king hitter king hitter

A North Carolina five-piece fronted by vocalist Karl Agell, best known as the frontman of Corrosion of Conformity for their 1991 Blind album – he’s also currently reviving that album live on stage with drummer Reed Mullin in C.O.C. Blind – the new outfit King Hitter reunites the singer with his former Leadfoot bandmate, guitarist Scott Little, and they test the waters with a five-track self-titled EP delivered via Candlelight Records. Crisply-produced, songs like “King Hitter” and “Feel No Pain” hit hard and gruff with just a touch of Southern heavy rock flair. The power of Agell’s voice is undiminished, but production is maybe too evident at times, and when they get down to the chugging “Suicide (Is the Retirement Plan,” politics meet personal perspective in a way that strikes deeper than might’ve been intended. Little and fellow guitarist Mike Brown, bassist Chuck Manning and drummer Jon Chambliss turn in worthy performances, but Agell’s command captures a good deal of the attention on this satisfying showcase of a songwriting process getting underway.

King Hitter on Thee Facebooks

King Hitter at Candlelight’s Bandcamp

Desert Storm, Omniscient

desert storm omniscient

Because one invariably measures British anything in “waves,” we’ll put Oxford double-guitar five-some at the crest of the New Wave of British Burl. Omniscient is their third full-length behind 2013’s Horizontal Life and their 2010 debut, Forked Tongues (review here), and it arrives through Blindsight Records with all the brash Southern metal riffing and dudely bellow one might expect. Orange Goblin are an immediate name to drop in comparison to opener “Outlander,” but “Queen Reefer”’s quiet solo section adds breadth and the acoustic “Home,” the Clutchy “Night Bus Blues” and the stomping, subtle djentery of closer “Collapse of the Bison Lung” continue to reveal an extended palette. A richer listen than it might appear the first time through, Omniscient still revels in its heaviness on “Blue Snake Moan” and “Sway of the Tides,” etc., but changes like the tempo downshift in “Horizon” give fodder for repeat visits to Desert Storm’s howling third offering.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

Desert Storm at Blindsight Records’ Bandcamp

Sendelica, Anima Mundi

sendelica anima mundi

Welsh space rockers Sendelica feel out some pretty peaceful vibes on songs like “The Pillar of Delhi,” “Azoic” or the sweet-washing closer “The Hedge Witch” from their self-released cosmos-tripper Anima Mundi, but there’s no shortage of spaced-out push either in songs like the 12-minute jam “Master Benjamin Warned Young Albert Not to Step on the Uninsulated Air” and electronic-pulsing “Baalbek Stones.” An experimental spirit underlies each of the eight included instrumental cuts, elements like sax, synth, keyboards, theremin, flute and various effects intertwining throughout Anima Muni’s 54-minute sprawl. Quiet moments like “Azoic” work well, but I won’t take away from the buzzsaw tone or swing behind “The Breyr, the Taeogion and the Caethion” either. The truly fortunate aspect of Sendelica’s latest is that it flows between its individual pieces, putting the listener in a position of open-minded experience while working around and through various psychedelic impulses, carefully woven and balanced in the mix, but vibrant and exciting and loose-feeling just the same.

Sendelica on Thee Facebooks

Sendeica on Bandcamp

Drifter, Violent at Altitude

drifter violent at altitude

Of the 13 songs on Melbourne trio Drifter’s Desert Highways debut LP, Violent at Altitude, only four reach past the three-minute mark, and even most of those play off a fuzz-punk intensity, shades of Melvins weirdness and Nick Oliveri heavy punker charge showing up in cuts like “Cool Breeze” or the raw, open “Another Life.” Closer “So Long” is given another look from Drifter’s 2013 debut EP, Head (review here), which it also capped, but the feel across Violent at Altitude is that guitarist/vocalist Dan King, bassist/vocalist Troy Dawson and drummer/vocalist Dave Payne is exploring the place where grunge and punk met on pieces like “Bi Polar,” the relatively spacey “Devil Digger” and quick-blasting 1:45 rush of “Russian Roulette,” their tones mean and their attack primal in its overall affect in a way that belies the stylistic nuance at work throughout. You can listen on an analytical level or you can be steamrolled by “Drugs.” Your call. Either way, Drifter are gonna tear it up in accordance with the altitude they’ve apparently hit.

Drifter on Thee Facebooks

Drifter at Desert Highways’ Bandcamp

Sula Bassana, Live at Roadburn 2014

sula bassana live at roadburn 2014

Sula Bassana’s performance at Roadburn 2014 was their first as a full band. The experimental psychedelic project of guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (see also Electric Moon, Krautzone, Zone Six, Weltraumstaunen, etc.) came to life with his Electric Moon bandmates Komet Lulu on bass and Marcus Schnitzler on drums, as well as Zone Six’s Rainer Neeff on guitar, and the four jams of the live recording Live at Roadburn 2014 tell the tale brilliantly. Schmidt, who is quite simply among the foremost heavy psych jammers in the world, leads the four-piece through cascading movements, immersive and clear on record as they were in person, rich with a sense of improvised creation even if based on prior parts. Anything went, as the 18-minute “Dark Days” showcases here, with synth and guitar and heavy bass intertwining to a brilliant cosmic whole, Schnitzler’s drums holding the proceedings together wonderfully. Short at 50 minutes, it’s every bit as switched on as one might expect in a studio album from these players, blurring yet another line as they expand psych-rock consciousness.

Sula Bassana on Thee Facebooks

Live at Roadburn 2014 at Sulatron Records

Strange Here, II

strange here ii

To listen to opener “Still Alone” from Strange Here’s Minotauro Records raw second LP, II, one might expect that Alexander Scardavian (ex-Paul Chain) and Domenico “Dom” Lotito (ex-Hand of God) are presenting some loosely-swung classic doom, shades of Candlemass and Death SS filtered through heavy riffing and Scardavian’s gruff vocals, but that’s barely half the story. More is told by putting eight-minute tracks “Born to Lose” and “Black, Grey and White” next to each other, as they appear here. Following the opening duo of “Still Alone” and the echoing “Kiss of Worms,” the two longer cuts unveil a sound alternately diving into morose doomed march and spacious psychedelic flourish. That blend continues as the marching “Acid Rain” gives way to the acoustic/drone interplay of “Only If…”and comes to a head on closer “Shiftless,” a contrast of back-and-forth impulses played off each other throughout the 47-minute offering. There’s work to do bringing the sides together should Strange Here choose to go that route, though the lines drawn between make it that much easier to catch the listener off guard, which II just might.

Strange Here on Thee Facebooks

Strange Here at Minotauro Records’ Bandcamp

Once-Ler, Once-Ler

once-ler once-ler

Marked out by the jazzy noodling of “The Douche Bag Guru” and the funky bassline on “Drift,” the new self-titled EP from Dayton, Ohio, four-piece Once-Ler dates back a decade in some of its material, the track “Law Dog” having appeared on the band’s 2005 full-length, Entropy. It’s an unassuming rumble, sort of humbly produced for a garage-heavy feel, but the clarity of purpose in centerpiece “Swing the Leg”’s crashing progression is plain enough to hear, and opener “The Victim” is the longest cut at 6:43, earning immediate points. A prog-metal undertone in that track sets up some expectation that the EP veers quickly away from with “Drift,” but guitarist Burns, bassist Deininger, vocalist Reif and drummer Minarcek make a solid case despite the rough sonic edges in the recording. At 25 minutes, Once-Ler’s Once-Ler is enough to give an impression of where the band is headed and a demo-style look at what their progressive heavy rock has to offer.

Once-Ler on Thee Facebooks

Once-Ler on Bandcamp

Waingro, Waingro

waingro waingro

Pummel, pummel, pummel. Vancouver trio Waingro debut at full-sprint with their 11-track/31-minute self-titled, which wastes little time shaking hands and goes immediately for the jugular on “Firebird.” About 10 seconds in, and the ride is underway with little letup to come as Waingro shove heavy tones along at breakneck speed on cuts like “Tailwind,” “Force Fed” and “Bathed in Tongues.” A remarkable sense of control lies beneath, the trio blending hardcore punk, heavy tones and modern metal twists fluidly as interludes like “Matador,” “St. Regis” and “Arboria” add complexity of method and “Rekall,” “Ride” and most especially side B cappers “Black Dawn” and “True North” brazenly craft something of Waingro’s own from familiar components. This album is self-released, but particularly if Waingro are able to tour at any length, it’s hard to imagine some imprint wouldn’t want to stand behind their brash but engaging thrust, professional already in its assured sensibility and rhythmic impact. The real question is whether they’ll wait around for anyone to notice or push ahead with the momentum they build here.

Waingro on Thee Facebooks

Waingro on Bandcamp

Motorgoat, The Iron Hoof of Oppression

motorgoat the iron hoof of oppression

There’s little room left for frills amid the sludge-punk sneer of Motorgoat’s The Iron Hoof of Oppression, which makes no bones about its affinity for booze, metal and fuckall on songs like “Satanic Slacker,” which boasts the lines, “Trippin’ balls is total bliss/He don’t know what day it is,” and so on. Obviously there’s a humor element to “Revenge of the Towndrunk” and “No Pants – No Problems,” but the German four-piece have a sincere vibe as well as they recount loser tales in a viciously-toned punk-metal spirit, less tune-in-drop-out than tune-out-drop-tune, but it turns out heavy either way. Cohesive in spite of its stated penchant for chaos, The Iron Hoof of Oppression offers partytime disaffection that’s so prevalent it might as well be post-modern. After the world has ended, there’s nothing left to do but dance, and Motorgoat seem (mal)content to let their own hooves stomp the floor. An album that gets better when you read the lyrics. Don’t be fooled by how dumb they seem to be calling themselves.

Motor Goat on Thee Facebooks

Motor Goat on Bandcamp

The Seduction, You Catch Fire

the seduction you catch fire

The tell? The tell is the scream just before North Carolina foursome The Seduction move into the bouncing bridge on “Volga,” which launches their Mechanical Pig Records debut, You Catch Fire. From there, it’s pretty easy to hear the metallic vibe beneath their stoner-punk aesthetic. It comes up again in the breakdown for the later “Hell on Two Wheels,” but it’s there anyway, adding an aggressive edge to the record, which at 53 minutes has plenty of room for the breadth of the rocking highlight centerpiece “Flavor of the Weak” or the depth-charge of the penultimate “Starmageddon” – a few more screams there amid spit-out hardcore shouts – but it’s the meld of these with the party-pit vibe of “Daughter of a Holy Man” and “Irish Flu” that makes You Catch Fire effective in taking cues from some of the West Coast’s heavy methods – some Red Fang, some Queens of the Stone Age — and presenting them with a definitively East Coast punch.

The Seduction on Thee Facebooks

The Seduction on Bandcamp


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Friday Full-Length: Corrosion of Conformity, Deliverance

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

C.O.C., Deliverance (1994)

You’d be more likely to win a fight against the sky than successfully argue against C.O.C.‘s Deliverance. Their 1994 fourth album and released as their first on Columbia Records a decade after their debut, Eye for an Eye, it was the record that marked the beginning of the Pepper Keenan era. Following 1991’s Blind, on which Keenan played guitar and sang on “Vote with a Bullet,” he stepped into the guitarist/vocalist role to fill the gap vacated by Karl Agell, playing alongside the founding trio of guitarist Woody Weatherman, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and drummer/sometimes vocalist Reed Mullin. The change was palpable sonically. While Blind was a shift in itself, departing from the crossover hardcore punk/thrash of Eye for an Eye and its 1985 follow-up, Animosity, Deliverance pushed boldly into riff-led heavy Southern rock, and in so doing became a standard-bearer for the genre that still holds up 21 years later. Swamped with classic songs — and, at the time, commercial hits — like “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds,” Deliverance is in many ways the quintessential heavy rock album, and even deeper cuts like “Shake Like You,” “My Grain” and “Shelter” offer no letup in quality. Like the best of the classics, to even attempt to estimate the scope of its influence would be futile, and it remains as relevant today as it was when it was released, if not more so.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, after several years and two albums by the original trio, Corrosion of Conformity have reunited with Keenan for a round of UK dates that, presumably, herald much more touring to come. Sooner or later, they’ll bring that show to the States. Keenan, who’s spent the last decade in Down following the release of C.O.C.‘s underrated 2005 outing, In the Arms of God, carries with him a commercial profile that the band seems to have embraced, playing bigger rooms and promising standards from the Deliverance album and its 1996 follow-up, Wiseblood, in the setlist. The question is inevitably whether or not the four-piece will construct a new album, but with each rehearsal video that surfaces or concert report that comes out, the anticipation for this form of C.O.C.‘s return grows more fervent. It might be a year or two before they get there, since they seem to be testing the waters on the road first, but unless something falls apart in a big way or for some reason the situation is untenable for the players involved, a new record seems fairly inevitable.

But of course, that’s speculation. In the meantime, enjoy the classic on its own terms and if you haven’t, dig into 2012’s self-titled and 2014’s IX, released with DeanWeatherman and Mullin, because both records were badass and are in severe danger of being lost in the wake of this reunion. It would be a shame. Hope you dig it.

I’m not around Monday, so I’m going to try to get a podcast up. Have to take a defensive driving class because the problem with Massachusetts driving is definitely me and not Massachusetts driving. Right. Whatever. I’ll try to get a podcast up Sunday night or early Monday morning, but I’ve also been traveling this week, so it’s been a total mess. Have also slept like crap and been out of my mind generally, hence the lack of reviews. Le Betre/King Buffalo on Tuesday, Radio Adds, Acid King and Blackout after that. Also need to do that Monolord record and about a million fucking others. I can’t even keep it all straight in my head. Whatever.

If you’ve emailed me or Facebooked me this week and I haven’t gotten back, I’m sorry. I’m working on it.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Demon Eye to Release Tempora Infernalia May 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

demon eye

North Carolinian cult-themed heavy four-piece Demon Eye are gearing up to release their second album, Tempora Infernalia, May 8 on Soulseller Records. The new record follows pretty quickly on the heels of early-2014’s debut, Leave the Light (review here), which was well received for its classic influences and catchy songwriting, cuts like “Fires of Abalam” and “From Beyond” immediately resonant in their riff-led hooks. As much of Leave the Light garnered its material from Demon Eye‘s prior demo/EP, 2013’s Shades of Black, this will mark their first long-player comprised of completely new songs. The debut wanted nothing for flow between its tracks, but it should be interesting to hear what Demon Eye have come up with this time around as they offer a bit of darkness to go with springtime.

Album info follows, as posted on their Thee Facebooks. Thanks to Kathleen Johnson for the tip:

demon eye tempora infernalia

DEMON EYE – New album details revealed!

Dark and groovy, loud and heavy – DEMON EYE are back! North Carolina’s occult hard rockers will release their new full-length entitled “Tempora Infernalia” on May 8th through Soulseller Records. The album was recorded and mixed by Alex Maiolo at Seriously Adequate Studio in Carrboro, NC and mastered by Pete Weiss at Verdant Studio in Southern Vermont.

The band’s sophomore release after last year’s highly acclaimed debut, “Leave the Light”, is a blast of wicked riffery and skilled songcraft that conjures apocalyptic visions of a world on the brink of destruction. The end is near, and we welcome its arrival!

Cover artwork (created by John Hitselberger, Raleigh NC)

1. End Of Days
2. Listen To The Darkness
3. I’ll Be Creeping
4. See The Signs
5. Poison Garden
6. In The World, Not Of It
7. Black Winds
8. Give Up The Ghost
9. Please, Father
10. Sons Of Man

Erik Sugg – Vocals, Guitars
Larry Burlison – Guitars
Paul Walz,- Bass
Bill Eagen – Drums, Vocals


Demon Eye, Leave the Light (2014)

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Sourvein Begin Recording Aquatic Occult

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

t-roy medlin sourvein

As we speak, North Carolina sludge mainstays Sourvein are in the studio with C.O.C.‘s Mike Dean at the helm tracking their Metal Blade Records label debut full-length, Aquatic Occult, which is set to release later this year. One imagines that’s not a bad position to be in, and all the more with the word below that Amebix‘s Stig Miller is joining vocalist T-Roy Medlin and company for a two-song collaboration on the album. What that might sound like, I don’t know — raw would be my guess — but it’s one more reason to look forward to Aquatic Occult, on top of Medlin‘s clean-vocal experimentations on Sourvein‘s 2014 split with Graves at Sea and the band’s reliable barrage of grueling riffs and harsh-spoken truths.

The PR wire has it like this:

sourvein aquatic occult

SOURVEIN: Cape Fear Sludge Saviors Begin Tracking New Full-Length; Guest Collaboration With Amebix’s “Stig” Miller Confirmed

Long-running Cape Fear sludge saviors, SOURVEIN, are currently holed-up at SSP Studio in Raleigh, North Carolina with Corrosion Of Conformity bassist/vocalist Mike Dean at the recording helm tracking their forthcoming new full-length, Aquatic Occult. Slated for release later this year via Metal Blade Records, the long player will include a two-track collaboration between SOURVEIN mainman, Troy “T-Roy” Medlin, and guitarist “Stig” Miller of UK crust punk icons Amebix. Further details to be revealed in the weeks to come.

SOURVEIN has existed through two decades of distortion, damage and relentless doom, their resin-coated carnage made of toxic riffs, grooves and just the right amount of psychedelic appeal. In properly commemorating the release as well as chronicling twenty often-times tumultuous years as a band, Medlin was recently interviewed by friend and fellow musician, Randy Blythe of Lamb Of God, who penned the band’s new biography. The text will serve as a thorough SOURVEIN introduction for the uninitiated.

“Finally, man. Finally,” T-Roy relays in an excerpt from the text. “It’s the record I wanted to make when I was in those rooming houses, but I couldn’t. There was too much pain, so I got lost for bit, falling back into the party life and trying to numb myself with alcohol. But motherfuckers need to feel the pain. There is more to life than numbing yourself.” Is that what Aquatic Occult will be about, bringing the pain? “I’m going to bring the truth. The lyrics are reality to me; I don’t write about cars or chicks or fucking horror movies, I write about getting my nose fucking broken, all the stuff I saw growing up and now. But I want it to be positive, to let people know that there is a way out of bad times and tough situations. I’m living proof.”

Stay tuned for further SOURVEIN transmissions including studio updates and live actions.


Sourvein, Live at Maryland Deathfest 2014

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Last Licks 2014: Nate Hall, Nocturnal Poisoning, Snailking, Godmaker, Void Generator, The Mound Builders, Mother Kasabian, Deep Space Destructors, Underdogs and Human Services

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy to report that I survived the first day of this project. Spirits are good and I look at the stack of discs (plus one book; we’ll get there) in front of me and feel relatively confident that by the time I’m through it, my cerebral cortex will still manage to function in the limited way it usually does. If yesterday’s installment is anything to go by, however, I’ll be well out of adjectives by then. What’s another word for “heavy?”

There’s only one way to find out. These will be reviews 11-20 of the total 50. I don’t know if they say the first 10 are the hardest or the last, but I’ll be in the thick of it when this is posted and while I’m sure I probably could turn back and catch minimal if any flack for it — one “Hey wha happen?” on Thee Facebooks seems likely penance — better to just keep going. Another stack awaits tomorrow, after all.

Thanks in advance to anyone reading:

Nate Hall, Electric Vacuum Roar

nate hall electric vacuum roar

Electric Vacuum Roar is one of two Nate Hall physical releases from this fall. The U.S. Christmas frontman and solo performer also has a few digital odds and ends and Fear of Falling, on which he partners with a rhythm section. Released by Heart and Crossbone Records and Domestic Genocide, Electric Vacuum Roar is closer to a solo affair. Hall is joined by Caustic Resin’s Brett Netson on guitar/bass on two extended tracks: “Dance of the Prophet” (16:46) and “Long Howling Decline/People Fall Down” (11:57). The second part of the latter is a reinterpretation of a Caustic Resin song, though here it is droned out and put through a portal of drumless and inward-looking psychedelia, turned into the finale of a communicative and intimate affair. Amp noise and effects swirl around “Dance of the Prophet,” and it’s easy to get lost in it, but Hall maintains a steady presence of obscure vocals and the result is what tribal might be if tribes were comprised of one person.

Nate Hall on Thee Facebooks

Heart and Crossbone Records

Nocturnal Poisoning, Doomgrass

nocturnal poisoning doomgrass

I’ve never tried to break up a one-man band, but I can’t imagine Scott Conner – who helped pave the way for US black metal under the moniker Malefic in Xasthur – has had an easy time of it since he put that band to bed in 2010. Nocturnal Poisoning, whose Doomgass arrives via The End Records, is an entirely different beast. Centered around layers folkish acoustic guitar, cleanly produced backed by occasional bass and tambourine, Doomgrass is still depressive at its core – Robert N. contributes guest vocals, almost gothic in style, to songs like “Starstruck by Garbage” and “Illusion of Worth” – but if the name is a portmanteau of doom and bluegrass, it fits the style. If anything ties Nocturnal Poisoning to Xasthur aside from Conner’s involvement, it’s a focus on atmosphere, but the two ultimately have little in common otherwise, and Nocturnal Poisoning’s exploratory feel is refreshingly individualized and leaves one wondering if Conner will be able to resist the full-band-sound impulse going forward.

Nocturnal Poisoning on Thee Facebooks

Doomgrass at The End Records

Snailking, Storm

snailking storm

Though they’re decidedly post-metal in their influences – Neurosis, YOB, obviously Ufomammut for whose record they are named – Sweden’s Snailking keep to heavy rock tones on their Consouling Sounds debut full-length, Storm, and that greatly bolsters the album’s personality. Even as they lumber, the riffs of 11-minute opener “To Wander” are fuzzed-out, and that remains true throughout the five mostly-extended cuts the trio of drummer Olle Svahn, bassist Frans Levin and guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson present on their first record, which follows the 2012 demo, Samsara (review here). Centerpiece “Slithering” is the shortest and most churning of the bunch at 6:32, but the particularly YOBian “Requiem” underscores another value greatly working in Storm’s favor – the patience with which Snailking present the ambience of their pieces. That will serve them well as they continue to distinguish themselves from their forebears, but for now, Storm makes a welcome opening salvo from the three-piece highlighting both their potential and how far they’ve come already since the release of their demo.

Snailking on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds

Godmaker, Godmaker

godmaker godmaker

The self-titled debut from thoroughly-bearded Brooklynite four-piece Godmaker arrives via Aqualamb as an art-book and download, a full 96 pages of designs, lyrics to the four included tracks of the vinyl-ready 32-minute long-player, live shots from a variety of sources, bizarre geometry and odd etchings feeding the atmosphere of the songs themselves, somewhere between sludge, thrash and aggressive noise with scream-topped moments of doom like “Shallow Points.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross and Chris Strait, bassist Andrew Archey and drummer Jon Lane, Godmaker fluidly shifts between the various styles at work in their sound, whether it’s the explosion at the end of “Shallow Points” or that beginning the rush of opener “Megalith,” and while their self-titled is a dense listen, with the surprising post-hardcore take of “Desk Murder” and the check-out-this-badass-riff-now-we’re-going-to-smash-your-face-with-it 11-minute metallic closer “Faded Glory,” it efficiently satisfies. More so after a couple listens front to back. If Godmaker were breaking your bones, it would be a clean break, and yes, that’s a compliment to their attack.

Godmaker on Thee Facebooks


Void Generator, Supersound

void generator supersound

Supersound is the first full-length from Italian heavy psych rockers Void Generator since 2010’s Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (review here), and where that album held three extended pieces, the latest and third overall breaks into smaller pieces. Some of those are extended – opener “Behind My Door” is 8:09 and “Master of the Skies” tops nine minutes – but the bulk of Supersound’s seven tracks is shorter works somewhere between desert rock and classic psych, guitarist Gianmarco Iantaffi leading the four-piece with a  more subdued vocal approach than last time out, compressed even in the rowdier verses of “What are You Doin’” (written by Sandro Chiesa), on which the keys of Enrico Cosimi feature heavily and add to the sound too crisp to be totally retro but still vehemently organic. Bassist Sonia Caporossi (also acoustic guitar on penultimate interlude “Universal Winter”) and drummer Marco Cenci hold together the fluid grooves as Void Generator follows these varied impulses, and Supersound proves cohesive and no less broadly scoped than its predecessor.

Void Generator on Thee Facebooks

Phonosphera Records

The Mound Builders, Wabash War Machine

the mound builders wabash war machine

There’s a version of The Mound Builders’ 17-minute Wabash War Machine EP from Failure Records and Tapes that includes a comic book, but even the regular sleeve CD edition gives a glimpse at the Lafayette, Indiana, five-piece’s heavy Southern metal push. The middle two of the four inclusions, “Sport of Crows” and “Bar Room Queen,” surfaced earlier this year on a split tape with Bo Jackson 5 (review here), but opener “Wabash War Machine” and the sludged-up closer “The Mound” on which the guitars of Brian Boszor and “Ninja” Nate Malher phase between channels and vocalist Jim Voelz delivers his harshest performance to date, are brand new, albeit recorded at the same sessions in July 2013. “Wabash War Machine” highlights the band’s blend of southern metal and heavy groove, guitar intricacy and a gang-shout chorus meeting thick rollout from bassist Robert Ryan Strawsma and drummer Jason “Dinger” Brookhart, but it’s the finale that’s the EP’s most lasting impression, as pummeling as The Mound Builders have gotten to date.

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

Mother Kasabian, Mother Kasabian

mother kasabian mother kasabian

In Olof’s buzzsaw guitar tone, the thud of Karl’s drums and Gidon’s abiding vocal menace, “Strike of the Emperor” gives notice of some Celtic Frost influence, but that’s hardly the whole tale when it comes Stockholm trio Mother Kasabian’s self-titled, self-released debut EP, as “The Black Satanic Witch of Saturn” immediately calls to mind The Doors in its minimal, spacious verse and offsets this with a soulful classic heavy rock chorus en route to the seven-minute “Close of Kaddish,” which works in a similar pattern – hitting notes of Trouble-style doom in its crescendos – and offers Mother Kasabian’s widest ranging moment ahead of the swaggering closer “The Return of the Mighty King and His Cosmic Elephants.” Swinging drums and variety in Gidon’s The Crazy World of Arthur Brown-style approach give the EP a distinguished feel despite raw production and it being Mother Kasabian’s first outing, and with the psych touches in the finale and a generally unhinged vibe throughout, the trio showcase considerable potential at work.

Mother Kasabian on Thee Facebooks

Mother Kasabian on Bandcamp

Deep Space Destructors, III

deep space destructors iii

Active since 2011 and with two prior full-lengths – 2012’s I (review here) and 2013’s II (review here) – under their belt, Oulu, Finland, heavy psych trio Deep Space Destructors offer their definitive stylistic statement in the wash of III, a five-song/45-minute cosmic excursion with progressive krautrock edge (see “Spaceship Earth”) driven into heavier territory through dense fuzz in guitarist Petri Lassila’s tone and the chemistry between he, vocalist/bassist Jani Pitkänen and drummer Markus Pitkänen. Their extended but plotted jammy course finds culmination in the 15-minute penultimate cut “An Ode to Indifferent Universe,” – King Crimson and Floyd laced together by synth sounds – but the space-rock thrust of closer “Ikuinen Alku” highlights the multifaceted approach Deep Space Destructors have developed since their inception, consistently psychedelic but expansive. The sides gel effectively on “Cosmic Burial,” lending modern crash and tonal heft to classic ideals to craft something new from them in admirable form. As far out as they’ve gone, Deep Space Destructors still seem to be exploring new ground.

Deep Space Destructors on Thee Facebooks

Deep Space Destructors on Bandcamp

Underdogs, Underdogs

underdogs underdogs

Released as a cooperative production between Garage Records and Go Down Records, Italian trio Underdogs’ second, self-titled LP pushes further along the straight-lined course of heavy rock their 2007 debut, Ready to Burn, and 2011’s Revolution Love (review here) charted. Songs like “Nothing but the Best” strip away the Queens of the Stone Age-style fuzz of past outings in favor of a cleaner tone and overall feel, and while that spirit shows up later on side B’s “Called Play” and the rumbling grunge of “My Favourite Game” (a cover of The Cardigans), the prevailing vibe speaks to European commercial viability with clear hooks and straightforward structures. Acoustic finale “The Closing Song” offers a last-minute shift in style, calling to mind UnderdogsDogs without Plugs digital release, but even in more barebones form, the songwriting remains the focus on this mature third offering from a three-piece who’ve clearly figured out the direction in which they want to head and have set about developing an audience-friendly sound.

Underdogs on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records

Human Services, Animal Fires

human services animal fires

Since they issued their self-titled debut (review here) in 2012, Virginia’s Human Services have brought aboard Steve Kerchner of Lord, and he brings as much a sense of chaos to Animal Fires as one might expect in teaming with Jeff Liscombe, Sean Sanford, Don Piffalo and Billy Kurilko, though the 59-minute full-length isn’t without its structure. Longer songs pair with concise noise experiments throughout the first 10 of the total 13 tracks, and each is different, so that even as the gap between songs is bridged, the stylistic basis for Animal Fires is branched out. The result is that by the time “Onyedinci Yil Sürüsü” closes out the album proper before the 17-minute live inclusion “No Structures in the Eye of the Jungle” hits, Human Services have reimagined the modus of Godflesh as an extremity of organic noisemaking, Southern heavy and eerie progressivism. Shades of Neurosis show up in centerpiece “Rats of a Feather,” but they too are twisted to suit the band’s creative purposes, threatening and engagingly bleak.

Human Services on Thee Facebooks

Human Services on Bandcamp

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