Unless you plan to spend the rest of your morning/afternoon going through the animated works of Romanian artist Costin Chioreanu — beats working — I can almost completely guarantee that nothing else you watch will be of the particular weirdo ilk that Virus‘ “Rogue Fossil” video inhabits. The song comes from Memento Collider, which is the Norwegian trio’s fourth album and first in a half-decade, out June 3 via Karisma Records, and like Chioreanu‘s artwork accompanying it, “Rogue Fossil” isn’t quite like anything else out there, with its darkened swirl, vigilant sonic individuality and an angularity and catchiness to its hook that in most hands would be completely at odds and yet, for Virus, feels like home.
I was fortunate enough to see the band play last year and they closed with “Rogue Fossil.” The aforementioned hook was immediately recognizable on hearing it in the studio version with the new video, and while Virus aren’t necessarily beholden to one structure or anything else in their experimentalist metal, they are one of those bands you always know when you’re hearing. Doesn’t sound like anything else, must be Virus. I haven’t heard the entirety of Memento Collider yet, but if you’re unfamiliar with them, they’ve honed a kind of heavy progressive rock out of post-blackened atmospheres and they play it with jazzy fluidity. If that sounds all over the map, it should. That’s pretty clearly the whole idea when it comes to these guys.
Album info and preorder links follow the video below.
Virus, “Rogue Fossil” official video
In advance of the release of their fourth full-length, Memento Collider, Norwegian avant-garde rockers/recent Karisma Records signees, VIRUS, today issue the official new video accompaniment to the track “Rogue Fossil.”
The twisted, animated clip was created by renowned Romanian multi-media artist Costin Chioreanu, who says of his new creation for the pioneering experimental rockers, “I went beyond all my boundaries and I have a feeling I touched a bit of insanity. You know that it’s going to be something unique.” Having made his mark not only as a graphic artist, but also as a stage artist, musician, animator, and movie maker at a relatively young age, Chioreanu’s visual manifestation for VIRUS is the latest in a series of collaborations with artists from Karisma Records, and its sister label Dark Essence Records.
Set for release on Karisma Records on the 3rd of June, Memento Collider was recorded at the Amper Tone Studios in Oslo and includes a guest appearance from Voivod’s Dan Mongrain. It is, without a doubt, an album that demonstrates the true essence of progressive rock. To preorder Momento Collider on CD or vinyl go HERE. For digital orders, go HERE.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
There isn’t much more about Norwegian classic heavy rockers Tyburn (also written as Tÿburn, with an umlaut over the ‘y’) out there than a couple of rough tracks available to stream through Soundcloud, but the band has signed to Cruz del Sur Music for the early-2017 release of their debut album, and that’s not a minor endorsement to receive. Uniting disparate acts like Argus, Apostle of Solitude and Bible of the Devil (among many, many others) is a strong sense of traditionalism, and it would seem Tyburn, which features members of Devil and Electric Woodland, have that working in their favor as well, with, as the PR wire notes, a big of proto-NWOBHM flourish for good measure.
Will be interested to hear how these raw incarnations pan out in their final versions when the album arrives. Until then, from the PR wire:
CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC Inks Deal with Heavy Rockers TYBURN
Cruz Del Sur Music has signed Norwegian heavy rockers TYBURN. The band will begin recording its debut album in November and the release is targeted for early 2017.
Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch and the southern end of Edgware Road in present-day London. For many centuries, the name Tyburn was synonymous of capital punishment, having been the principal place for execution of London criminals and convicted traitors.
Inspired by the likes of PENTAGRAM and others 70s hard rock bands, as well as by NWOBHM legends. TYBURN features members of DEVIL, VESEN and ELECTRIC WOODLAND. In Tyburn gallows, ropes and executions are the gloomy backdrop for brilliant songwriting that turns every song into a memorable, grim yet catchy musical experience.
Ronny Østli (Devil, Vesen) – Vocals Thomas Ljosåk (Devil, Vesen) – Bass Emil Kjærnli (Electric Woodland) – Drums Christian Olsen-Ruud (Electric Woodland) – Guitar
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Eight Bells, Landless
However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.
Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.
West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.
Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.
The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.
Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.
While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.
There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.
Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.
I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Norwegian classic heavy rockers Brutus will release their third long-player, Wandering Blind, May 20 via Svart Records. The band previously unveiled the single “Drowning” in a lyric video (posted here), and they follow that now with the oh-so-vinyl-ready cover art for the album and the tracklisting, which between the title cut, “Axe Man,” “The Killer” and “Creepin'” offers no shortage of threat from the Oslo-based five-piece, whose last offering, Behind the Mountains, was issued in 2013.
Clearly they were going for something-you’d-see-in-an-old-vinyl-shop-and-be-stoked-to-have-found with the cover, and that’s cool by me. Dig it and the info below, all courtesy of the PR wire:
BRUTUS set release date for new SVART album
Today, Svart Records sets May 20th as the international release date for Brutus’ highly anticipated third album, Wandering Blind. These days, too many so-called bands try their best to convey that “we don’t belong to that decade” feeling, hoping that few bell-bottom jeans, plenty of facial hair, and a few vintage instruments will do. And then there are those who truly ooze of that natural yet unmistakable grit, that loose impression that they indeed fell through some lost wormhole directly from, say, 1971 and just belong here, in the good sense of the term.
Oslo’s Brutus are one of those rare breed, a solid and non-corrupted pure blues/hard-rock powerhouse, started by three Swedes and two Norwegians ten years ago and openly in awe of Leaf Hound, Grand Funk Railroad, and Blue Cheer, right on the fence separating the ’60s from the ’70s when musicians were already letting their hair hang but had yet to compromise their vision to please the money-hungry business man.
Recorded live in four days only at Engfelt & Forsgren Studios in Oslo by Christian Engfelt, who already worked with Cato Salsa Experience and Big Bang, Brutus’ third album, Wandering Blind, is as honest and down-to-earth as it gets: no modern tricks, no pose, no fancy moves, just pure and greasy music right from a time when those things mattered and nothing else. According to guitarist Johan Forsberg, “That recording was done like our first album, but this time, we nailed it even better! We’ve known Christian for many years and knew he shared our taste for ’60s and ’70s music and also was the right guy as far as how to record that sound and feel. He got a new fantastic studio, and we did the whole thing quickly through an old tape machine and old preamps. This is the first time we used someone that we could work with as a producer, but we welcomed his ideas and thoughts in the process, and it worked out perfectly.”
In a nutshell, Wandering Blind is going to rock you like a mutha and Brutus are your man! Tracklisting is as follows:
Tracklisting for Brutus’ Wandering Blind 1. Wandering Blind 2. Drowning 3. Axe Man 4. Whirlwind Of Madness 5. The Killer 6. Blind Village 7. Creepin 8. My Lonely Room 9. Living In A Daze
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It seems more than fair to expect that Sylvaine‘s second album and Season of Mist debut, Wistful, will live up to its title. Recorded in France, the follow-up to 2014’s Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart, is set to release on May 13, and the new track “Delusions” has been unveiled ahead of time to herald its arrival. It’s not the first premiere from the record, but the song is particularly resonant, and as the opener it was clearly made to stand out.
A 10-minute stretch unfolds gracefully and shifts smoothly through airy atmospheres and more weighted grooves that will be familiar to those who caught on early to Sylvaine‘s one-time tourmates, Alcest, whose Stéphane “Neige” Paut also contributes drums to Wistful, but as there would have to be for such an emotional work, there’s a deeply personal aspect in “Delusions” as well that Sylvaine herself explains in the PR wire info below.
Art, info, preorder link and the stream of “Delusions” follow:
SYLVAINE stream new track, “Delusions”
Norwegian multi-instrumentalist SYLVAINE is streaming the opening track from their forthcoming album ‘Wistful’. The track, titled “Delusions”, is streaming now.
Regarding the track, SYLVAINE comments:
“The song ‘Delusions’ was a natural choice for the opening position of ‘Wistful’, as it captures the range of different expressions shown throughout the whole album very well. From a pure a cappella intro, to the very ethereal, full and epic ending, ‘Delusions’ is a piece that is bound to take the listener on an emotional journey, one that is connected to the feeling of how our humanity is slowly corrupting our essential nature.”
‘Wistful’ will be released by Season of Mist worldwide on May 13. Pre-orders for the album are now available across several CD and LP formats at the Season of Mist E-Shop.
Track list 1. Delusions 2. Earthbound 3. A Ghost Trapped In Limbo 4. Saudade 5. In The Wake Of Moments Passed By 6. Like A Moth To A Flame 7. Wistful
With her sophomore album ‘Wistful’, multi-instrumentalist SYLVAINE is delving deeper into her characteristic ambient wall-of-sound landscapes that are painted by beautiful melodies, lingering guitar riffs, and atmospheres, which are all underlined by a solid groove.
Serving as the composer, recording engineer, producer and musician of all instruments herself, SYLVAINE created her critically acclaimed first full-length only with the aid of British mixing engineer Nick Terry and Ray Staff for mastering at Air Studios.
The recordings for ‘Wistful’ were completed in renowned French Drudenhaus Studios in spring 2015. It was mixed and mastered by the same team as her first full-length during autumn and winter of 2015. The album features contributions by Stephen Shepard and Stéphane “Neige” Paut as session drummers as well as violinist Coralie Louarnika and Thibault Guichard on cello.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Interested to hear where the self-titled debut from Norway’s Heave Blood and Die goes. The Tromsø five-piece are newly signed to Blues for the Red Sun Records, and the album will be out April 29. As you can find out for yourself in the advance streaming track “Draugen” below, they’re kind of hard to pin down aesthetically, and that track has a brooding kind of intensity to it, but it never quite explodes or rages, so I’m curious to find out what the rest of the LP goes, particularly as there are some aspects of the artwork and their presentation that seems to lean toward hardcore, and they shout out hardcore as an influence in their PR as well.
Though of course, hardcore can be just as subjectively defined as anything else. Again, the album is out at the end of April. If you’d like to get introduced, have at the following:
Heave blood & die – heave blood and die (LP/CD/Digital) BFTRS 006
Debut out April 29th 2016.
Northern Norwegian stoner/doom band Heave Blood & Die are about to release their debut “Heave Blood and Die” on April 29th 2016.
Behind the snowy mountains of Northern Norway, under the light of a sinking sun, there is a town called Tromsø, where you will find a stoner/doom band called Heave Blood & Die. A gang of 20 year old boys who’ve created a dark, winterized and raw-sounding album, ready to show it about. A new sound is created with deep and mossy guitars, growls of a troll and screams from a wolf. On their debut album you will find a wide specter of songs. Inspired by groovy 70s rock, super heavy soul rotating riffs and hardcore – they create their own sound of dark, doomy and dirty tunes. The result is far from being a possible radio-hit, but on the other hand it is one of the heaviest and coolest albums released by a band from above the polar circle.
The band gets their juice from other classic bands like: Neurosis, Sleep, Kyuss and Red Fang.
The self-titled debut album was recorded and mixed by Jonas Sivertsen (Kys-ten Studio Tromsø), mastered by Njål Lie (NFL Produksjoner) and produced by Rolf Ole Rydeng Jenssen (Reptile Master).
Tracklist: Side A: Neurotic I 4:39 t RATS 1349 8:21 Krokodil 5:06
SIDE B: Desert Green 3:34 Blues Machine 5:55 Draugen 6:22 Neurotic II 5:14
The band: Karl Pedersen – bass/vocal Mads Ystmark – guitar/vocal Jonas Helgesen Kuivalainen – guitar/backing vocal Kenneth Mortensen – drums
Scandinavian classic heavy rock five-piece Brutus will release their third album, Wandering Blind, April 29 through Svart Records. The full-length comes preceded by a new single, “Drowning,” for which the band have a lyric video posted now, and it finds the band as veterans of a still-booming set of ’70s-inspired European heavy, their self-titled debut (discussed here) having arrived in 2010, akin to the likes of second-LP Witchcraft and the then-doomier Burning Saviours. Brutus had their heads deep in boogie rock on their second offering, 2013’s Behind the Mountains, and that release found them playing Høstsabbat in their native country as well as international fests like Roadburn, Desertfest and Freak Valley.
They mark a decade together in 2016, and that tenure finds them staking out their own territory within the style that apparently today I’ve decided I’m calling New Millennium Analog — see also “the heavy ’10s” and any number of other intermittent descriptors — still definitely rooted in classic methods, but moving forward as well. That’s been an interesting challenge for bands like Brutus, how to progress and invariably become more individual while keeping the sense of homage to what’s come before. I don’t know this, but I’d imagine it’s a gradual process that comes through songwriting rather than something Brutus plotted out — that is, nobody’s sitting around going, “We’re gonna be 20 percent more modern this time” — but their sound remains natural and you can still hear their roots in “Drowning,” which keeps a positive air despite something of a downer lyric.
You can read more about the album below, courtesy of the PR wire. Video follows. Enjoy:
Brutus, “Drowning” official video
Today, Norwegian heavy blues-rockers Brutus premiere the video for “Drowning.” The track is being released today as a single on 7″ vinyl – featuring an exclusive B-side, “Ute av fokus,” and which can be ordered HERE – as well as digitally via iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, and more. “Drowning” is also the first single off Brutus’ forthcoming new album, Wandering Blind, set for international release on April 29th via Svart Records.
Self-described as “heavy blues rock for the new generation,” Brutus was started 10 years ago by three Swedes in Oslo who found two Norwegians, and “we started to jam together. Despite that it was 2006, the music that came out was more akin to what was made in England and the US in 1969-1970 – good rocking stuff like Leaf Hound, Grand Funk, Blue Cheer, and Pentagram that we were spinning a lot on our turntables.”
Brutus’ third album to date, Wandering Blind was recorded at Engfelt & Forsgren Studios in Oslo by Christian Engfelt (Cato Salsa Experience, Big Bang, Serena Maneesh). In 2010, they released the self-titled debut album on Swedish label Transubstans, and in 2013 came the critically acclaimed Behind The Mountains via Svart Records. Following the release of Behind The Mountains, Brutus have toured around Europe a couple of times and played festivals like Roadburn, Desertfest, Bukta Festivalen, Stone Rising Festival, Freak Valley Festival, and many more. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:
Tracklisting for Brutus’ Drowning 1. Drowning 2. Ute av fokus
Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the course of their now-three full-lengths, Norwegian heavy rockers Spidergawd have established a pervasive sense of duality. Beginning with their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, the Trondheim four-piece have presented material that’s progressive and thoughtful, and yet tossed off quickly by the band in almost manic fashion as they move forward to the next thing. That debut? Recorded live at the band’s fifth rehearsal, reportedly. The follow-up, Spidergawd II (review here), arrived correspondingly early in 2015 and fleshed out the already-cohesive approach. Highlighted by flourishes of psychedelia while maintaining the core of high-level songcraft the first record established, it seemed even more intentional in its construction. Spidergawd III — or just III, depending on how you want to read it — is no less a step forward and it arrives topped with a similar-style of artwork through the same labels, Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records, with eight tracks that relentlessly move Spidergawd ahead of where they were sound-wise while also providing a high-quality listening experience.
That’s where the duality comes in. Spidergawd began at a sprint, and they haven’t slowed since, but their output, while often upbeat, never sounds hurried in the making or half-assed in its production or arrangement. One could chalk that up to pedigree if so inclined. The band, as noted many times, has ties to long-running Norwegian progressives Motorpsycho in bassist/engineer Bent Sæther and drummer Kenneth Kapstad, saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad featured in ska outfit Hopalong Knut and guitarist/vocalist Per Borten — who is a strong frontman presence throughout all three Spidergawd offerings to-date, the newest of them most of all — has worked in a host of songwriting contexts while also singing in bands like Cadillac and New Violators. I’d argue, however, that while members’ individual contributions to other groups might have been a factor in providing a clear look at what they wanted to do initially, with the exception of Sæther and Kapstad, who work together directly in another band’s rhythm section, Spidergawd have developed their own dynamic over these albums and the supporting tours, and Spidergawd III provides the most current glimpse of their progression.
Like its two predecessors, it is classic-LP short — 36 minutes — and completely lacking in pretense as though Spidergawd don’t have time to stop and think about what they’ve accomplished in the last three years or this time around particularly, they’re too busy running off to the next thing. And with their touring schedule, that may well be true, but it ultimately doesn’t take away from the impact this record in tracks like “The Funeral,” or the off-and-running immediate momentum provided by opener “No Man’s Land,” which dispenses with any opening theatrics and gets right to business with a quick hi-hat and a flown-in-from-the-danger-zone solo — again, working quick, efficiently, but not sounding rushed — on the way to “El Corazon del Sol,” which just might be the hook on which the rest of the album is anchored.
It arrives delivered in English — the line is, “In you I see the heart of the sun” — and with due brightness atop a heavy low end with standout sax from Snustad at the finish that leads to the pick-up-and-go start of “The Best Kept Secrets,” another quick thrust that you almost have to put on repeat to properly appreciate it’s there so quickly and then gone. That’s harder to do on the vinyl, obviously, but if the point hasn’t gotten across yet, one of the defining characteristics of Spidergawd III is the unflinching, lightning-crisp forward propulsion across its component tracks and how comfortable the band seem working at this pace. Not that they’re playing ridiculously fast, but their execution of this material is so tight and so void of excess that it seems to be over even as it’s started.
Another defining aspect of Spidergawd III, though, is the clarity and fullness of its production. That’s been the modus for the band all along, but on a standout like side A finale “The Funeral” — a rival chorus for “El Corazon del Sol” — it’s especially apparent. Second in length only to closer “Lighthouse Part 3” at 5:41, it cuts a broader spectrum instrumentally than, say, “Best Kept Secrets” or “Picture Perfect Package,” which follows and leads off side B, but is distinguished further through the impact of its tones and depth of its mix, Borten‘s vocals buried under sax and guitar in the last verse after being so forward in delivering the layered hook. Like “No Man’s Land” at the start, “Picture Perfect Package” is all stripped-down straightforward groove, classic in its construction but rife with fresh energy and a push that leads into the three-part closer, “Lighthouse,” split up over separate tracks on the CD/digital version but presented fluidly on the vinyl. “Lighthouse Part 1” begins with a bassline from Sæther and shifts in good time to a boogie that holds firm throughout, offset but not contradicted by a winding chorus, and finishes with a sustained line of sax, semi-mirroring “El Corazon del Sol,” but bleeding directly into the slower (!) unfolding of “Lighthouse Part 2,” an instrumental and really, an interlude, that nonetheless features some choice interaction between Borten and Snustad in its two and a half minutes, finishing cold as the start of “Lighthouse Part 3” takes over on the next beat.
A near-minute of intro feels like a luxury, but it’s tension building toward a release in the chorus and subsequent space-out, airier, reverb-soaked guitar leading the way as Spidergawd purposefully break the rules they’ve so well enacted across the span of the tracks preceding. After the all-out charge of the bulk of Spidergawd III, a bit of indulgence makes a classy finish, but even in the back half of “Lighthouse Part 3,” they don’t overdo it. The album ends on a long fade with the guitar at the head of an improvised-sounding section that comes apart as it goes. One can’t help but wonder how long Spidergawd will be able to or will be interested in keeping up their current relentless pace of releases, and the fact that III has already been issued as part of a first-three-records box set makes it seem all the more like the finishing installment of a trilogy, but whether or not they return with another full-length in 2017 or sometime thereafter, Spidergawd have become a considerable force heralding the righteousness in straightforward but thoughtful heavy rock and roll. They continue to make complex ideas sound easy, and they continue to grow as players and as a band. If there’s more one could ask of Spidergawd III than it delivers, I don’t know what it would be.