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Quarterly Review: Bus, Them Bulls, Stinkeye, Buzzard Canyon, Motherbrain, Elder Druid, The Crazy Left Experience, The Watchers, Of the Horizon, Raj

Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Today is the day the Quarterly Review passes the halfway point. This will be 21-30 of the total 60 for the six days, so there’s still a ways to go — you might say 50 percent — but it’s a milestone nonetheless. Once again it’s another roundup of cool stuff, kind of all over the place a little more than the last two days were, but as we go further along with these things, it’s good to mix it up after a while. There’s only so many times you can throw the word “lysergic” around and talk about jamming. That said, you’re getting some of that today as well from Portugal, so when it pops up, don’t be surprised. Much to do, so no need to delay.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Bus, The Unknown Secretary

bus-the-unknown-secretary

Athenian double-guitar four-piece Bus execute a stylistically cohesive, crisp debut with The Unknown Secretary (on Twin Earth Records), presenting classic heavy rock elements without going full-retro in their sound itself and marking songs like “Masteroid” as immediately distinct through the harmonized vocals of guitarist Bill City, joined in the band by guitarist Johnnie Chez, bassist Chob D’oh and drummer Aris. Together they run through a clean two sides that play back and forth between proto-metallic and doom shading – “Don’t Fear Your Demon” touches on slower Pentagram – while sounding perhaps most comfortable in rockers like “Withered Thorn” or the earlier stomper “New Black Volume,” which puts its two guitars to excellent use ahead of and between unabashedly poppy (not sure a full Ghost comparison is warranted) verse, and craft a highlight in the 7:38 arena-ready thrust of “Rockerbus” prior to the surprisingly nodding finale of “Jimi.” A strikingly efficient and clear-headed first full-length that would seem to hold much promise of things to come from yet another player in Greece’s emergent heavy scene.

Bus on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Them Bulls, Them Bulls

them-bulls-them-bulls.jpg

With the start-stop riff of opener “As Fangs in Stone,” a mastering job by Mathias Schneeberger and the breadth of pop melodicism in cuts that one, the swinging “Made of Ghosts,” and the more percussive “Through the Sun,” Italian four-piece Them Bulls make a pretty strong beeline for early-Queens of the Stone Age-style heavy desert rock. Their self-titled Small Stone debut isn’t without individualized flourish, but the 10-track/41-minute offering makes it clear from the start what its intentions are and then sets about living up to them, whether on the careening Songs for the Deaf-ery of “Pot Gun” or the penultimate “We Must Live Up” itself. Vocal interplay from guitarists Daniele Pollio and Franscesco Pasi – joined by the rhythm section of bassist Paolo Baldini and drummer Giampaolo Farnedi – provides an opportunity for future growth, but it’s worth noting that for a band to take on such a specific stylization, their songwriting needs to be in check, and Them Bulls’ is.

Them Bulls on Thee Facebooks

Them Bulls at Small Stone Records

 

Stinkeye, Llantera Demos

stinkeye-llantera-demos

What seems to be Stinkeye’s debut recording, Llantera Demos, arrives as a free download of four tracks and 16 minutes rife with thickened boogie and dense mecha-stoner fuzz, reminding of Dead Meadow immediately in the echoing vocals and rhythmic bounce of “Orange Man” but moving into some shuffle on the subsequent “Fink Ployd” and “Llantera,” the latter a well-earned showcase of bass tone. While out on the coast, ‘70s vibes reign supreme, the Phoenix, Arizona, trio are on a different tip, looser in their swing and apparently more prone to drift. For what it’s worth, they call it “hash rock,” and fair enough as “Pink Clam,” which closes Llantera Demos, rides more of a grunge-laden nod to an immersive but still relatively quick five-minute finish, building after three minutes in to a satisfying final instrumental push. Loaded with potential in tone, execution, vibe and dynamic between the three-piece, Llantera Demos immediately marks Stinkeye out as a band to watch and is just begging for the right person to come along and press it to tape.

Stinkeye on Thee Facebooks

Stinkeye on Bandcamp

 

Buzzard Canyon, Hellfire and Whiskey

buzzard-canyon-hellfire-and-whiskey.jpg

Want to grab attention with your debut long-player? Calling a song “Louder than God” might be a good way to go. That track, at seven minutes, is the longest on Connecticut five-piece Buzzard Canyon’s Hellfire and Whiskey (on Salt of the Earth), and following a quiet initial stretch, it launches into Down-style Southern chug, the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis (the latter also of When the Deadbolt Breaks) veering into and out of more metallic impulses to build on the initial momentum established on the earlier “Highway Run” and “SomaBitch.” The two-minute “For the End” basks in some nightmarish vision of rockabilly, while “Red Beards Massacre” and “Wyoming” dig into more straightforward stylistic patterning, but if Buzzard Canyon want to get a little weird either here or going forward, that’s clearly not about to hurt them. Closer “Not My Cross” hints at some darker visions to come in how it moves into and out of a droning interlude, adding yet more intrigue to their deceptively multifaceted foundation.

Buzzard Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Motherbrain, Voodoo Nasty

motherbrain voodoo nasty

Though “Atomic Rodeo” dips into some Queens of the Stone Age-style groove, Motherbrain’s third album, Voodoo Nasty (on Setalight Records), comes across as more defined by its nasty than its voodoo as the Berlin four-piece demonstrate a penchant for incorporating harsher sludge tendencies, especially in vocal shouts peppered in amid the otherwise not-unfriendly proceedings. That gives the nine-song/48-minute offering a meaner edge but does little ultimately to take away from the groove on offer in the opening title-track or “Ghoul of Kolkata,” and though it retains its raw spirit, Voodoo Nasty digs into some more complex fare later in longer cuts like “Baptism of Fire” and “Half Past Human,” having found a place in centerpiece “Dismantling God” where blown-out noise aggression and semi-psychedelic swirl can coexist, if not peacefully then at least for a while until Motherbrain decide it’s time to give Kyuss-style desert rock another kick in its ass, as on “Sons of Kong,” which, yes, does proclaim a lineage.

Motherbrain on Thee Facebooks

Setalight Records website

 

Elder Druid, Magicka

elder druid magicka

Sludge-rolling five-piece Elder Druid riff forth with their debut studio offering, the five-song/33-minute Magicka EP, which one might be tempted to tag as a demo were it not for a few prior live-tracked short releases that appear to have served that purpose, the latest of which, The Attic Sessions (discussed here), came out in Jan. 2016. The experience of putting that together as well as their prior singles clearly benefited the Northern Irish outfit on Magicka, and while they retain a shouty spirit on opener “Rogue Mystic,” middle cut “The Warlock” offers nod that reminds of The Kings of Frog Island’s “Welcome to the Void,” and that’s about all I ever need. Ever. Served up with bloated tones and geared toward establishing a blend of gruff vocals and consuming fuzz, Elder Druid’s first studio recording has a solid footing in what it wants to accomplish sound-wise and plainly showcases that, and while they have some growing to do and patience to learn in their songcraft, nothing I hear on Magicka argues against their getting there in time.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

The Crazy Left Experience, Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey

the-crazy-left-experience-bills-108th-space-odyssey

The Crazy Left Experience – the moniker seeming to refer to the side of the brain at work in their processes – present Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey almost as an album within an album. The framework from the at-least-party-improvised Portuguese cosmic jammers on the seven-track/56-minute outing centers around William Millarc, who in 1955 was documented while taking part in LSD experiments. Samples of Millarc are peppered into opener “Subject Bill,” the later “Funky Meteor Drop” and the closing duo “Bill Sided Flashback” and “God of the Outer Rings,” but between the opener and the latter trio of cuts comes “Unarius,” a three-part excursion listed as “Part V” through “Part VII” that presumably is the representation of when our friend Bill has left his body behind. So be it. One can hardly call that departure incongruous either sonically or in terms of The Crazy Left Experience’s chosen theme – though there are some unrelated samples spliced into “Unarius – Part VII (Space Brothers)” that are somewhat jarring – and the entire flow of the record is so hypnotic that the band can basically go wherever they want, which of course they do.

The Crazy Left Experience on Thee Facebooks

The Crazy Left Experience on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Sabbath Highway

the watchers sabbath highway

Were it not for the context of knowing that vocalist Tim Narducci and bassist Cornbread hail from SpiralArms and White Witch Canyon, drummer Carter Kennedy from Orchid and guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic from Black Gates, the Sabbath Highway debut EP (on Ripple Music) from California’s The Watchers would be almost impossibly coherent for a first outing. Classic in form but modern in its presentation, the five-tracker – four plus the church-organ interlude “Requiem” between the opening title-cut (video here) and “Call the Priest” – makes the most of Narducci’s ‘70s-style vocal push, reminding of one-time Ripple troupe Stone Axe in his oldschool feel, but as “Today” (premiered here) makes plain, The Watchers are much more focused on learning from the past than repeating it. The straightforward songwriting and all-we’re-here-to-do-is-kick-ass sentiment behind Sabbath Highway might well prove formative compared to what The Watchers do next – presumably that’s a full-length, but one never knows; they sound ready to get down to business  – but it makes its ambitions plain in its hooks and swiftly delivers on its promises.

The Watchers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Of the Horizon, Of the Horizon

of the horizon self-titled

I can’t speak to the present status of California’s Of the Horizon, since last I heard bassist Kayt Vigil was in Italy working with Sonic Wolves, but their self-titled five-track debut full-length arrives via Kozmik Artifactz no less switched on for the half-decade that has passed since it was recorded. Guitarist Mike Hanne howls out throaty incantations to suit the post-Sleep riffing of opener “3 Feet” and drummer Shig pushes the roll of “Caravan” forward into its final crashing slowdown effectively as Vigil ensures the subsequent centerpiece “Unknown” is duly thick beneath its spacious, jammy strum. The two longest slabs hit at the end in “Gladhander” (8:55) and the righteously lumbering “Hall of the Drunken King” (10:31) and feel somewhat like an album unto themselves, but when/if Of the Horizon make a return, they’ve established a working modus on this first full-length that should well satisfy the nod-converted and that demonstrates the timelessness of well-executed tonal onslaught.

Of the Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Of the Horizon at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Raj, Raj

raj self titled

Though it’s fair enough in terms of runtime, it almost seems like Milano sludge-rollers Raj (also written stylized in all-caps: RAJ) do the six tracks of their 20-minute self-titled debut EP a disservice by cramming them onto a single LP side. Not that one gets lost or the band fails to make an impression – far from it – but just that sounds so geared toward largesse and spaciousness beg for more room to flesh out. That, perhaps, is the interesting duality in Raj’s Raj, since even the massive plod of closer “Iron Matrix” lumbers through its course in a relatively short 4:45, never mind the speedier “Magic Wand” (2:47) or drone interlude “Black Mumbai” (1:51) – gone in a flash. The release moves through these, the earlier “Omegagame” and “Eurasia” and the penultimate “Kaluza” with marked fluidity and efficiency, giving Raj a mini-album feel, and with the atmosphere in “Black Mumbai” and in the surrounding material, their rumble sets up a dynamic that seems primed for further exploration.

Raj on Thee Facebooks

Raj on Bandcamp

 

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Elder Druid Post Video for “The Warlock”; New EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 9th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

elder druid (Photo by James Hughes)

Belfast five-piece Elder Druid released their The Attic Sessions four-tracker in the early going of 2016. Presumably that’s a change of venue for the heavy grooving outfit, as their two prior 2015 singles, “Otherworld” and “The Ides of March,” were tracked under the banner of “Live Loft Sessions,” though I suppose they could’ve just renamed the loft an attic and rolled with it. Rolling is a theme of the EP, as it happens. Shades of early Clutch and Orange Goblin show up in opener “Sellsword,” and the later “Red Priestess” — both titles commonly appearing in the George R.R. Martin pantheon — has a thickness to its double-guitar approach that lends an already heavy progression even more heft.

The band’s first outing, they obviously believe enough in The Attic Sessions enough to give it away as a means to entice listeners to check it out, and it doesn’t take me much more than that, frankly. To further spread the word, they’ve got a new clip for “The Warlock,” which is the longest cut on the EP at 6:31 — “Reigning Hell” rounds out with a sludgier take — that features some basic performance footage outside of the attic, the band spread around in the woods and some burnt out looking spaces as they dig into the track. It’s a kind of basic and encouragingly unpretentious beginning for the group, who got together early in 2015, but working from a place of clear motivation and with an intent toward making themselves heard.

So be it. Find the clip for “The Warlock” below, followed by more info from the band:

Elder Druid, “The Warlock” official video

ANNOUNCEMENT & VIDEO: To celebrate the fact that Elder Druid’s ‘The Attic Sessions’ is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music amongst other online music outlets and streaming services, we’ve released the whole EP on Youtube! Now you can have the Druid with you wherever you are and it’s a pretty damn awesome feeling! Big cheers to everyone for the support. Keep enjoying this Live EP for the moment and keep an eye out for NEW music on the horizons!

The official music video for ‘The Warlock’ from The Attic Sessions Live EP.

Download for FREE @ http://elderdruid.bandcamp.com/album/the-attic-sessions

Filmed and directed by Brandon Kelly.

Massive thanks to Brandon and his crew for making this a possibility.

Gregg McDowell – Vocals
Jake Wallace – Lead Guitar
Mikey Scott – Rhythm Guitar
Dale Hughes – Bass Guitar
Brien Gillen – Drums

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Instagram

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

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Slomatics Post Video for “Electric Breath”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

slomatics

Holy crapola is the new Slomatics record good. Like the kind of good where you just throw up your hands and turn up the volume as high as it’ll go and let the tonal wash of the thing take complete hold. Whatever else you happened to be doing at that moment in time? Forget it. For the next 40 minutes, you belong to these riffs. And if riffs were all Future Echo Returns had to offer, well, it would probably be enough, but the album also engages these broad atmospheres, organ and noise and feedback and reverberations coming together to create something that’s as much place as sound. You can hear it in the crush of “Electric Breath,” for which the Belfast trio have a new video, and in how that song fits with the tracks around it, whether that’s preceding instrumental opener “Estronomicon,” which seems to speak directly at the previous album, 2014’s Estron (review here), or the half-speed-BlackCobra push of “In the Grip of Fausto,” which follows.

Slomatics release Future Echo Returns in September through Black Bow Recordings, the imprint helmed by Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, who also happens to own Skyhammer Studio, where the album was tracked by Chris Fielding (also of Conan). The influence Slomatics, who issued their first album in 2005, must have had on Davis isn’t to be understated, but even here they refuse to be defined solely by assault as the six-minute ambient setpiece “Ritual Beginnings” leads the way with progressive foreboding into the second half of the record. As you can tell, there’s a lot to say about it, and my plan is to have a review up once I’ve had a chance to digest it a little more, but dig into “Electric Breath” below and see if you aren’t convinced. If you’re still reading, I have the feeling you will be.

Go on and have at it:

Slomatics, “Electric Breath” official video

Thanks to the incredibly talented Dermot Faloon for creating the video. Taken from our forthcoming album Future Echo Returns, which is available now for pre-order via Black Bow Records, release date 2nd September.

From the Album: Future Echo Returns.

Released via Black Bow Records Sept 2016

Created by Dermot Faloon.

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records

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Slomatics New Album Future Echo Returns Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

slomatics

By the accounts I’ve heard, Belfast’s Slomatics were a highlight of Desertfest London 2016 this past weekend. That’s easy enough to believe. Their 2014 album, Estron (review here), was a tonal admonishment that was an utter joy to receive, and their forthcoming fifth long-player, Future Echo Returns — out in September via Black Bow Records, whose honcho, Jon Davis (also Conan), sat in for a guest vocal spot during the aforementioned London set — continues the thread of progressive melodicism and unrepentantly heavy riffing. Their sound has never wanted for impact, as still-recent Black Bow reissues of their first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna, showed, but to go back and listen to those outings and hear their new stuff and there’s an undeniable sense of growth there as well.

It just so happens that growth hits like a cement block to the face. But in a good way. Sometimes I wonder about these similes…

Black Bow has Future Echo Returns up for preorder now. Album art, info and links follow here:

slomatics future echo return

SLOMATICS – FUTURE ECHO RETURNS

NEW release from Belfast’s own Slomatics. Produced by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio (Conan / Electric Wizard / Winterfylleth) and produced by James Plotkin (Khanate / Conan).

Orders ship on the 2nd September 2016.

Whilst the tide has come in and gone out and come in again on the shores of heavy music, Slomatics have patrolled the surf, unmoved by the shifting sands, unflinching in their dedication to tone and riff. True pioneers of what we call sludge and doom, blending elements of psychedelic rock, conjuring images of overgrown celestial bodies marshalled by undiscovered extraterrestrial entities. Name any heavy band from the last ten years and you will find Slomatics as a crucial ingredient in their own primordial soup, whether they are listed as an influence or not. Essential, irreplaceable, impeccable and peerless heavy music. Influenced by the past, here in the present, echoing a vision of the future…

https://www.facebook.com/Slomatics-196382747053529/
https://slomatics.bandcamp.com/
http://slomatics.com/
http://blackbowrecords.bigcartel.com/

Slomatics, Estron (2014)

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Slomatics Sign to Black Bow Records; New Album Due in 2016; Reissues Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

slomatics

There’s good news and then there’s good news. And then, actually, there’s more good news. Belfast tonal architects — tonechitects, if you need the portmanteau — have signed to Jon Davis from Conan‘s Black Bow Records. Makes a ton of sense. Almost too much sense. Davis has sung the band’s praises for years to anyone who will listen, and anyone who’s heard Slomatics and heard Conan can tell you Slomatics were a big influence.

So that’s good news. Then there’s word that Slomatics‘ first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna are being reissued digitally this month. And the really big good news? Slomatics will have a new full-length out in the Spring that will be their fifth record, also on Black Bow. It’s your basic “label signing, old stuff, new stuff” three-pronged approach. Truth be told, though, if you don’t know Slomatics and you’re still reading this, you’ll probably feel better for familiarizing.

Davis announced the signing as follows:

SLOMATICS SIGN TO BLACK BOW RECORDS

Those who know me will know how much of a massive fan I am of the band Slomatics. Back in 2005 I got a copy of Flooding The Weir on cd after being introduced to them by David Andrew Main at D*A*M. They have consistently released amazing and brutal HEAVY music and I’ve been into them ever since.

Now I can call them all good friends, and to cap it all off I am releasing their new album (due out next year) on my label Black Bow Records. Recording will commence in December 2015 and it is due for release in Spring 2016.

Before that I have lined up a digital release of their first two albums namely FLOODING THE WEIR and KALCEANNA. Both of these will be available through all reputable digital outlets from 20th November 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/Slomatics-196382747053529
http://www.slomatics.co.uk/
https://slomatics.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Black-Bow-Records-565275456841866/

Slomatics, “Celeste” from Flooding the Weir (2005)

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Quarterly Review: Bubonic Bear, The F.T.W., Seremonia, JPT Scare Band, Libido Fuzz, Dopethrone, The Moth, War Iron, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Red Mess

Posted in Reviews on April 3rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, the final day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review. I won’t lie and say it’s been easy this whole time, but the challenge has been worth it. Will I do another one? I guess that depends on how backed up records get. Even with all of this, I haven’t managed to fit in everything, so yeah, it doesn’t seem unlikely I’ll wind up with fodder for more of this kind of thing. Once again, not at all a hardship to have people interested enough in having me write about their music to send it to me. Not at all something I’m going to complain about.

Thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to read or share the link or whatnot, and of course to bands and labels for caring enough to send the music.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Bubonic Bear, Shaved Heat

bubonic-bear-shaved-heat

In and out of their three-song Shaved Heat tape in under 10 minutes, one could hardly accuse Philly guitar/drum duo Bubonic Bear of being overly elaborate in their approach, but the tracks, particularly closer “Clean,” drive home their post-hardcore rawness with suitable intensity. No frills, just impact. Vocals are raw shouts and the blue tape, which is limited to 50 copies through Bastard Sloth Records, has a kind of avant garde charm, underground in the house-show sense and mean, mean, mean, but probably nice enough to talk to. “Chlorine,” “Witch Pyle” and “Clean” are arranged shortest to longest, but all three hover around three minutes and tear into frenetic turns and let’s-call-it-spirited pummel. Andrew and Dustin, the pair involved, have a slew of EPs and splits and one full-length under their belt, and their six-plus years together are evident in the sheer fact that they can execute material so chaotic without having it fall apart under their stamping feet.

Bubonic Bear on Thee Facebooks

Bastard Sloth Records

The F.T.W., Vendetta Kind of Mood

the-f.t.w.-vendetta-kind-of-mood

From its biker chug to its unabashed confrontationalism and attitude-laced approach to songs like “Who Crowned You King” and “Axe to Grind,” The F.T.W.’s Vendetta Kind of Mood just screams oldschool New York. Not the New York that’s the family-friendly (as long as you’re rich) center of the fashion world, but the New York that was really eager to tell you about how it was going to kick your ass, if not actually do so. The 10-track vinyl self-release is clean in its production and straightforward structurally, but has a gritty undercurrent anyway, showing some thrash (or is that NYHC? So hard to tell sometimes) influence in “Bleed Out” and a bit of rawer punk in “Billy Bats,” though they wait till the closer to actually extract a “Pound of Flesh,” which they slice with a choice solo and some Judas Priest riffing from guitarist TheMajor Nelson, joined in the trio by bassist/vocalist Michael Dolan and drummer Jason Meraz. Something tells me they’re not abbreviating “for the win.”

The F.T.W. on Thee Facebooks

The F.T.W. on Bandcamp

Seremonia, Kristalliarkki

seremonia kristalliarkki

Kristalliarkki is the third offering from Finland’s Seremonia on Svart Records, and while all of their albums have thrilled in that quiet, warm-toned, psych-proto-ritual kind of way, the crystal ark is where it’s at. The record lands big with penultimate 14-minute sprawler jam “Kristalliarkki I,” open enough to set down a blanket and have a picnic next to the tree line, but before they get there, the five-piece of vocalist Noora Federley, guitarists Teemu Markkula and Ville Pirinen drummer/flautist Erno Taipale and bassist Ilkka Vekka vibe out fuzzy hypnosis on eight shorter native-language tracks, otherworldly from the word “go” and held together with a glue of ‘70s-style shufflebuzz on “Lusiferin Lapset” and the quick bouncer “Kuolema Voittaa” that beg to be dug on repeat visits. At just 1:14, “Kristalliarkki II” taps punker soul to close out with a sudden finish that leaves one wondering what the hell just happened, and no doubt that’s exactly what Seremonia had in mind.

Seremonia on Thee Facebooks

Seremonia at Svart Records

JPT Scare Band, Acid Acetate Excursion & Rape of the Titan’s Sirens

jpt scare band acid acetate excursion and rape of the titan's sirens

A twofer! Kansas City acid rockers JPT Scare Band Jeff Littrell (“J”), Paul Grigsby (“P”) and Terry Swope (“T”) – dig into their archival material to couple their first two records, Acid Acetate Excursion and Rape of the Titan’s Sirens, for Ripple Music. Both were recorded in the ‘70s but not released until 1994 and 1998, respectively, and the trio’s blown-out heavy continues to wear its years well, the bluesy fire in Swope’s guitar work leading the way through 81 minutes of long-range jams and classic vibes, still underrated after all these years. The second record has more bite tonally than the first, the recording is rougher, but I won’t take anything away from the force behind the 13-minute “King Rat” from the debut either. Think of it as an archival release more than a reissue, and if you haven’t yet been introduced to JPT Scare Band, think of the vinyl as an educational expense.

JPT Scare Band website

Ripple Music

Libido Fuzz, Kaleido Lumo Age

libido-fuzz-kaleido-lumo-age

Bordeaux trio Libido Fuzz trip out pretty hard on heavy ‘70s influences, but I feel like their Kaleido Lumo Age debut LP (on Pink Tank Records) is all the more praiseworthy for the simple fact that it doesn’t sound like Graveyard. Casting off much of the blues that seems to have afflicted so many the world over, Thibault Guezennec, Pierre-Alexis Mengual and Rory O’Callaghan dip back maybe a couple years before ’71, let’s call it ’68, but filter the Hendrix and The Who influences through modern tonality, which means that a boogier like “Raw Animal” and the proto-stoner shuffle of “Enter the Occult” satisfy in concept and execution. Each of the evident two sides caps with a cut past the eight-minute mark, and both “Redemption of the Bison” and album closer “Haight Ashbury” offer significant heavy psych immersion, though it’s the side B finale that ultimately wins out thanks to its second half journey into noise wash, lysergic swirl, last-minute nod and epilogue of birdsong-esque feedback.

Libido Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Libido Fuzz at Pink Tank Records

Dopethrone, Hochelaga

dopethrone hochelaga

Filth-caked Montreal trio Dopethrone eat crust and shit riffs on their Totem Cat-released fourth record, Hochelaga, coating themselves in backpatch-worthy tone and throat-searing screams that would do Bongzilla proud. Weedian scummery through and through. Save for “Dry Hitter,” each of Hochelaga’s seven tracks starts with a sample, as if to emphasize the utter stoner fuckall with which Dopethrone – guitarist/vocalist Vincent, bassist Vyk and drummer Borman – execute their rolling grooves and lumbering viciousness once it kicks in. “Sludgekicker,” “Vagabong” and “Riff Dealer” tell the tale, and the record’s 40 minutes play out in largely unipolar but universally righteous fashion, “Scum Fuck Blues” summing up the ethic nicely with the line, “Smoke, drink, die.” Dopethrone make a show of their rawness, but Hochelaga’s fullness of tone and clarity of aesthetic speak to an underlying sense of knowing what they’re doing, and a record this cohesive doesn’t happen by accident, much as it might be telling you otherwise. That doesn’t mean they’re not also high as hell, just that they can keep it together.

Dopethrone on Thee Facebooks

Dopethrone on Bandcamp

The Moth, And Then Rise

the moth and then rise

A presumed sequel to their 2013 debut, They Fall, Hamburg trio The Moth‘s sophomore full-length, And Then Rise, pulls off heavy rock ethics with a heavy metal sense of purpose and basks in an overarching tension throughout its nine tracks. Fast or slow, doomed or thrashing, cuts like “Battle is Over” and “Travel Light” carry a progressive feel to match their hooks, later doomers like “Slowly to Die” and closer “Fire” – which hides a bonus track in its span – holding onto the tightness even as the relinquish in terms of pacing. Dark atmospherically but brazenly intricate, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Freden, bassist/vocalist Cécile and drummer Tiffy are never showy or putting on a technical clinic, but everything seems to be geared toward the purpose of enhancing the songs, which of course is the ideal. Because the sound is so condensed, it might take a couple listens for And Then Rise to sink in – not saying the chug of “Last Times” doesn’t also have immediate appeal – but The Moth’s genre-bending compositions prove worth the active engagement.

The Moth on Thee Facebooks

The Moth on Bandcamp

War Iron, Precession of the Equinoxes

war iron precession of the equinoxes

I’m pretty sure War Iron could play fast and it would still sound slow. They don’t really try it. Deep, deep low end is cut through by indecipherable-but-get-their-point-across-anyway screams on the Northern Irish four-piece’s third album, Precession of the Equinoxes, which plods out a grueling extremity of doom across its four included tracks, the shortest of which is the 7:37 “Summon Demon Scream the Abyss,” a harsh ritual of sonic heft and disaffection well met by its compatriots, from the churning opener “Bludgeon Lord,” to the title-track – which actually does up the pace somewhat, relatively speaking (and yes, it still sounds slow), and only temporarily – which crushes hopes and eardrums alike leading into the closer “From Napalm Altar,” a final affirmation of the deathly miseries at heart in War Iron’s approach, vocalist Baggy going high-low with screams and growls over the Ross’ guitar, Dave’s bass and Marty’s drums. It is a fearsome and challenging listen.

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Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Earth Hog

chubby-thunderous-bad-kush-masters-earth-hog

Guitarist/vocalist Owen Carty, formerly of underappreciated, coulda-been-contender sludge rockers Dopefight, lends his riffy services to the cumbersomely-named trio Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters (also stylized all-lowercase), who make their debut with the self-released five-song Earth Hog EP. Bassist Will Hart and drummer Mark Buckwell swing heavy and land hard on the opening title-track, and there’s not much letup from there, wah bass and cowbell leading to some fervent stomp in the second half of “Chopsticks and Bad Meatballs,” which starts out as a punk song, and “Devil’s Buttermilk” brazenly tackling Southern riffing without the chestbeating that way, way too often accompanies. More cowbell there too, because if you’re going to do something, overdo it. “Mother Chub” and “Riff Richard” close out, the latter with a slowdown that emphasizes the point: the kush may be bad, but the riffs are primo. Silly name or not, I’ll take this shit any day of the week, and considering Earth Hog was recorded in a living room, I have the feeling it’s only going to get louder from here. Right on.

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Red Mess, Drowning in Red

red mess drowning in red

With a sense that they’re continuing to feel out where they want to be sonically, Brazilian three-piece Red Mess follow-up last year’s Crimson EP (review here) with the newly-issued two-tracker Drowning in Red – apparently working on a theme chromatically – the cuts “Daybreak’s Dope” and “Ready to Go” impressive in performance and tone as guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim shreds out on the latter atop Lucas Klepa’s bass and Douglas Villa’s speaker-popping kick. Each song has a markedly different approach, with “Daybreak’s Dope” topping seven minutes via a Sleep-style rollout while, true to its title, “Ready to Go” seems to have no interest in holding its shuffle still. Pairing them shows sonic breadth, and in the case of the second, a bit of ‘70s influence to coincide with what they showed on Crimson, though the results will still ultimately be familiar. They’re making progress, though, and their cohesiveness and catchiness through stylistic shifts is encouraging.

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Slomatics, Estron: And Yet it Moves

Posted in Reviews on January 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

slomatics estron

Dual-guitar riff excavators Slomatics released their fourth full-length, Estron, last year on Burning World Records, and for those who’d worship at an altar of tone, it makes a suitable icon. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, trio roll out sans bass but want nothing for low end, Chris Couzens and David Majury contributing tectonic force on songs like “Tunnel Dragger” and “Lost Punisher” while drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey (also of War Iron) sets the lurch in motion, his voice echoing deep from within the band’s well-honed morass. Songs are spacious but consuming and full, and on the 38-minute offering there’s really only one moment of letup: the two-minute ambient interlude “Red Dawn” that precedes closer “The Carpenter” (also the longest track at 10:26). Beyond that, Slomatics offer few opportunities (some, but few) to let the air back into their listeners’ lungs, and that’s clearly the idea. Estron marks not only their fourth long-player, but also their first decade in the band, Couzens and Majury having started Slomatics in 2004 and Harvey joining in 2011 between their breakout split with Conan (review here) and 2012’s A Hocht full-length, released on Head of Crom. In that decade, and in any case well before they got around to EstronCouzens and Majury figured out what they wanted from their assault, and Estron bears the fruit of their hammering-out. Though slow-moving, the album is fluid front to back, and thanks in no small part to Harvey‘s vocals, it has a sense of melody to complement its crushing, nigh-on-claustrophobic tonality.

The nod is persistent, and even on the airier “And Yet it Moves” — something you might say about the band’s sound itself — you wouldn’t be wrong to call it brutal, but there’s a human presence in the material as well, and I have a hard time thinking that as Slomatics wreak all this aural havoc they’re not also having a really good time doing it. That’s not to say there’s some element of irony here, just that MajuryCouzens and Harvey seem to revel in the harsh riffscape they create. And why not? “And Yet it Moves” is a highlight for the interplay of lead and rhythm lines, but even when Couzens and Majury are locked into simultaneous plod-riffing à la “Futurian” or the opening “Troglorite,” the output is righteous in its heaviness — the opener particularly indebted to Floor but darker in atmosphere — and exciting in its delivery. Estron works cleanly in two sides, four tracks on side A, three on side B, and the transitions between songs are direct bleeds, usually via feedback, but the resultant over-arching flow isn’t to be understated, and on the CD version, even “Lost Punisher,” which would close out side A of the vinyl, moves right into “And Yet it Moves,” which would otherwise come after the flip to side B. It’s emblematic of Estron being a well-thought-out release, rather than a happenstance collection of badass riffs, and it serves to inform about Slomatics approach as a whole. Their songwriting is likewise purposeful, whether it’s the hook of “Troglorite” or the sparse, minimal opening of “The Carpenter” that emerges from “Red Dawn” and builds to a gradual head over the track’s first four minutes. In between, Slomatics offer variety of pace, shift between levels of aggression, and keep a strong sense of atmosphere in moments like the midsection break of “Tunnel Dragger,” which drones out a hypnotic ambience before moving back in for the next round of pummeling.

slomatics

And make no mistake, many of Estron‘s finest stretches arise from those pummeling moments, be it the shorter barrage on “Futurian” and the CD-centerpiece “Lost Punisher” or the album’s immersive second half, with “And Yet it Moves,” “Red Dawn” and “The Carpenter.” Either way Slomatics go, they carefully manage a balance of heft and spaciousness throughout while sounding anything but careful. It’s a deceptive record in that one might put it on for the first time, hear Couzens and Majury‘s tones and say, “Okay, I got it,” but though the impact of the guitars is a big part of Slomatics‘ approach, it’s really just one piece of a larger, more dynamic picture, working in concert with the drums and vocals, the largesse, the periodic, well-placed breaks and so on for a complete and engrossing effect. Estron is remarkably cohesive even from a band who’ve been around for a decade, and while Slomatics have clearly established a wheelhouse for themselves in which to work, what they bring to that context is a sense of progression and a willfulness to create a whole album, not just a roundup of songs or parts. In this, they are resoundingly successful. Worth noting as well that CouzensMajury and Harvey have already issued a follow-up to Estron in the form of a split single with Floridian tone-and-crashers Holly Hunt, who make a fitting companion. It would seem Slomatics are content to keep moving forward and pushing their sound along with them — and yet it moves… — and that is an ethic worth celebrating, because honestly, if they wanted to, they could probably just sit around, bang out cheapo riff grooves and get by just on the badassery of their tones. That they aspire to and are able to create something deeper and more resonant is ultimately what stands them out from any like-minded peers.

Slomatics, Estron (2014)

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Howlin’ Widow, Exorcised Accidental/Son Shine 7″: Driving Out Them Demons

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

There’s often something extra enticing about a posthumous release from a band you’ve never heard. Irish doom rockers Howlin’ Widow, who officially called it a day in 2011, have semi-returned to mark their final recordings being presented as the Exorcised Accidental/Son Shine 7”, a limited-to-250 red vinyl pressing on Freak Flag Recordings in a quality cardboard sleeve with separate lyric sheet. The artwork, striking blues and greens, is drawn by Elaine Ni Cuana, and included on the platter itself are the two titles, each of which clocks in at just over four minutes. The twin guitars of Gary Spence and Jason Hendry lead the way with riffs through both “Exorcised Accidental” and “Son Shine,” while bassist Dave Boyd and Tony Murray thicken and punctuate the upbeat but still classic-minded proceedings, marked by musical touches of British Isle burl à la mid-period Orange Goblin and the raspy vocals of Tom Clarke, also of the revived outfit Bad Boat, whose three-track Lonely Doom 12” finds simultaneous release on Freak Flag. Clarke contributes a memorable chorus to both of these songs, and though he’s largely unipolar in his approach and follows the riff, at a total eight minutes, there isn’t really enough time to either establish redundancy or offer much in the way of variety. Rather, Howlin’ Widow (who are neither to be confused with the harmony-drenched Howlin’ Rain nor the reverb-soaked True Widow) engage straightforward and efficient rocking, getting the listener from point a – no groove – to point b – groove – as quickly as possible, succeeding in making the most of their limited time. “Exorcised Accidental” boasts a bikerly sub-shuffle in the verse that nails home a familiar groove and then opens from its winding tension to a sufficient payoff in the chorus, while Clarke draws a line between early Alabama Thunderpussy and AC/DC with his vocals. There’s little left to the imagination, and Howlin’ Widow will be immediately familiar to seasoned sludge and stoner rockers, but the five-piece offer solid execution of structured songwriting, and “Exorcised Accidental” grooves front to back, the guitars staying forward in the bridge to shift smoothly back into the ending chorus and slowdown.

If “Son Shine” is rowdier and bluesier, it’s also essentially working from the same stylistic base. Clarke affects a more specifically Southern delivery, and the guitars once more blend effectively fuzzed tones with ‘70s swagger. Sign up for stoner rock and sooner or later this is what you’re going to get. I can’t help but be reminded a bit of Axl Rose in the bridge vocals, but the context is different enough and the league of Southern metal singers taking a similar approach wide enough that a direct comparison to Guns ‘n’ Roses wouldn’t really be appropriate. Howlin’ Widow’s lack of pretense prevails as “Son Shine” draws to an unceremonious close, the song wrapping as quickly as it came, cut cold at its very end. For what it’s worth, “Son Shine” would have worked just as easily as the A side of the release, but Clarke’s more unhinged take is well suited to the final thought, which it may very well have been for the band as well. If that’s the case – they’ve booked a gig to celebrate the physical release this January, but don’t seem to have any other plans while Clarke has revitalized Bad Boat – they left off with a professional outing. A recording from Mudd Wallace, captured partly live, and a mastering job by the ubiquitous James Plotkin  has ensured a crisp but natural finish, and if that sounds like I’m describing a beer, take that to heart in terms of the band’s aesthetic. I won’t say Exorcised Accidental/Son Shine is filled with potential because Howlin’ Widow aren’t a band anymore, but it does the job you’d ask of a debut single in making me wonder what they might have been able to accomplish on a full-length album, with a little more room to stretch out in terms of their songwriting and overall stylistic base. As it is, the two songs (a third track, “Narcotics and Gnostics” was also recorded and so far as I know has yet to see release) make a decent summation for a decent act who were probably cut short before they really took their approach as far as it could go.

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