Pretty funny timing on the news coming in that Norwegian blackened progressives Enslaved have begun the recording process for their next album. Or at least the phrasing of the news release made it so: “Enslaved enter the studio again!” Thing was, I got this update from the PR wire over the weekend at Roadburn in the Netherlands about two minutes after I saw Enslaved bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson walking around at the fest. Looked at my phone, looked up and there he was. I had a chuckle and said to myself, “Well, I guess not all of Enslaved are in the studio at the moment.”
Anyway, fun coincidence there, but the good news is that hopefully before the end of 2017 we’ll get a follow-up to Enslaved‘s excellent 2015 studio offering, In Times (review here), which will make it a double-release year for the band, who also just put out the Roadburn Live live record. The more the merrier.
Here’s the latest:
ENSLAVED Enter The Studio Again!
It’s been over two years since the release of critically acclaimed album In Times, and now Norway’s progressive metal legends ENSLAVED have entered the studio again to record their 14th, yet untitled full-length release. Aiming for both wilder and yet more progressive and melodic horizons, the band who celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, never ceases to surprise and challenge their fans; they will once again step up to the plate. The recordings are taking place at Duper & Solslottet Studios in Bergen throughout April, and will be mixed and mastered by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios. With its epic touch, the album promises to be original and refreshing – and to contain some surprising new elements.
“It is absolutely fantastic to be in the studio with these new songs”, states mastermind Ivar Bjørnson. “So many doors were opened with In Times and the times (sic) that followed; for us as a band, for me as a composer and I guess for us all on a personal level. I have never worked this hard to put together music for an album before, and that intensity continues into the studio where everybody is giving their everything, every hour of every day. We are a tighter unit than ever before, which is obvious sonically. The concept conjured by myself and old war-brother Grutle is the strongest we have worked with. Finally, I am proud that we have taken more risks than ever before, and one in particular – and it is yielding awesome results. What does that mean? Stay tuned to find out!”
The eye-catching cover and artwork is once again being created by renowned designer and painter Truls Espedal. More info will be revealed soon!
In the meantime, enjoy ENSLAVED’s latest album In Times that was released in March 2015 via Nuclear Blast, which blew away both fans and journalists. Secure your physical copy here:www.nuclearblast.de/238143
Posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Trondheim, Norway’s Spidergawd remain one of the best and worst kept secrets in Europe’s heavy underground. “Worst” because they do such a terrible job at it themselves, what with constantly touring and putting out new material. That’s no way to keep a secret. “Best” because no matter what they’ve done up to this point in their time together, they still seem underappreciated. Spidergawd IV is their fourth album in four years.
Released by Crispin Glover Records and Stickman Records, it continues a run of nigh-on-unparalleled consistency in songcraft that ran through 2016’s Spidergawd III (review here), 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) and 2014’s Spidergawd (review here), and even as drummer Kenneth Kapstad (also Motorpsycho), saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad and guitarist/vocalist Per Borten welcome new bassist Hallvard Gaardløs in place of Bent Sæther (also recording engineer), they weather the change smoothly and push their sound forward, playing toward elements of classic heavy metal in songs like “I am the Night,” “LouCille” and the insistent “What Have You Become,” among others, while maintaining their penchant for Borten leading the way through righteous, unabashedly accessible hooks on opener “Is this Love…?,” the ultra-swaggering “Heaven Comes Tomorrow” and “Ballad of Millionaire (Song for Elina).” As they turn and twist mindfully through this readjusted balance of influences, Spidergawd also hold fast to the underlying progressive sensibility that has always been at root in their songwriting, so that not only do they reimagine arena rock choruses with a more intense edge than ever before, but they do so with the same level of thoughtfulness they’ve brought to everything they’ve done up to this point.
In this, they have become one of the most immediately identifiable acts in underground heavy rock, and their signature is writ large over the eight tracks/41 minutes of Spidergawd IV no matter what pursuits individual pieces undertake, be it the deceptively pop-minded launch the album gets via “Is this Love…?” or the eight-minute semi-psychedelic nod of “What Must Come to Pass” on side B. Spidergawd sound like Spidergawd, and while one can pick out a riff like the gallop of “I am the Night” and say Iron Maiden or “Heaven Comes Tomorrow” and say Dio and/or Motörhead, or “Ballad of a Millionaire (Song for Elina)” and relate it more to the heavy rock side of their approach — think later Queens of the Stone Age, and no, I don’t just say that because the word “millionaire” is in the title — the sonic territory they claim they work to make their own, and though it may seem like they just bang albums out one after they other because on a basic level of timing that’s kind of how it happens, Spidergawd have never failed to offer a work of marked depth and nuance.
Spidergawd IV is no exception to that, whether it’s the forward charge of “LouCille” shifting slightly down from the rush of “Is this Love…?” and “I am the Night” at the outset as the band makes ready to move into “Ballad of a Millionaire (Song for Elina)” or the fluidity within that song itself, of Snustad‘s sax layered smoothly alongside the bass of the midpaced verse set to Kapstad‘s steady march to one of the album’s most melodically engaging hooks. After the crisp execution of the first three cuts and the likes of “What Have You Become” and “Heaven Comes Tomorrow” to follow, “Ballad of a Millionaire (Song for Elina)” is a standout for its looser rhythmic feel, but its structure is no less resilient than anything before or after, and its fade into a wash of noise at the end only adds a layer of hypnosis to foreshadow “What Must Come to Pass.”
If the sides of the vinyl split evenly in terms of having four tracks on each, “What Have You Become” is the leadoff for side B, and it’s certainly up to the task, reviving the thrust of “I am the Night” at an even higher level, Kapstad‘s snare jabbing and punctuating the careening verse groove. At 3:44, it is the shortest inclusion on Spidergawd IV, and arguably the most straightforward in its intent, so it’s fitting that the sax should open languidly to start “What Must Come to Pass” and immediately throw off the listener’s expectation. The intent at conveying a moment of arrival couldn’t be clearer, and “What Must Come to Pass” earns all eight of its minutes in a graceful unfolding process that builds through a structured start and moves outward shortly after its halfway point, Borten delivering the title line (or sort-of-title-line, anyhow) just ahead of a reverb-soaked classic guitar solo that begins the instrumental course the rest of the song will follow. In their willful abandonment of structure — i.e., not going back to the chorus before the end of “What Must Come to Pass” — Spidergawd remain dynamic.
This isn’t the first time they’ve broken their own rules, and the transition between the noise-fadeout ending of “What Must Come to Pass” and the initial crash-in of “Heaven Comes Tomorrow” nonetheless serves the greater purposes of the album overall. The penultimate song is duly raucous and swinging, marked out by the guitar solo in its second half and more choice interplay from the sax and bass amid a push that comes across perhaps as a grownup version of some of their earlier riotousness. This gives way to the ’80s metal riffing — one hears Mötley Crüe‘s “Looks that Kill” as much as anything from Judas Priest — and rougher vocal from Borten on closer “Stranglehold.” While its hook is representative of the quality of their work overall, the finale of Spidergawd IV is less a summary of the album as a whole than it is a reinforcement of and last bit of fun with the metallic side that’s been present all along. They strut out on layered soloing and the central start-stop riff à la Tipton/Downing, and do not linger, in part no doubt because it’s already time to start work on their next full-length.
When they put out Spidergawd III, I wondered how long they could keep up their pace of releases without losing their grip on either songcraft or presentation, and they answered that question with a decisively forward progression in style while also making a significant lineup change, not losing a step in the process, and still touring their collective ass off. Listening to Spidergawd IV, one isn’t so much tempted to imagine what could possibly derail the band at this point as to be thankful that nothing has, and whether or not they turn out Spidergawd V on schedule in the first half of 2018, they’ve added significant intrigue and accomplishment to a catalog that’s known little else with this latest collection.
There isn’t much audio to go on here for those of you not on Spotify, so you might have to just take my word for it. Tromsø, Norway’s Sunshine Reverberation have one track streaming publicly on their Soundcloud page that’s called “Be a Baby,” but I can’t embed it, and anyway, that doesn’t really do much on its own to summarize their plenty of punk, psych and garage rock as proffered throughout their self-titled debut, which is out later this month via the newly-minted Westergaard Records. I found a video of a Sept. 2016 hometown set on YouTube, but you have to turn it sideways to make it look right. The pickings are as yet kind of slim.
So I guess you can either believe me, use your Spotify if you have one (I don’t), dig into that Soundcloud track, or wait a couple weeks to check out cuts like the circa-’67 garage drawl of “Manipulation” and the bass-led drift of “Sun King II.” Sometimes life doesn’t provide instant gratification. Strange thought, I know.
The PR wire brings art and release info:
Smashing debut from Norwegian psych/garagerock band SUNSHINE REVERBERATION!!
Sunshine Reverberation is a garage punk band heavily influenced by psychedelia and krautrock creating a sonic space similar to artists like King Gizzard, Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees and White Fence. And if you listen, you will also find echoes from Iggy & The Stooges and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
The band was formed in the heart of Tromsø rock city in late 2014. Tromsø is far from everything, in the cold and dark northern parts of the Norwegian wilderness.
Sunshine Reverberation came together over long jam sessions in a furniture stores basement, where they found their unique psychedelic, fuzzy and melodic sound. From the start they have been perpetually broke and they’ve had to adopt a strict DIY ethos.
Sunshine Reverberation are calm, controlled and dreamy before they suddenly launch into noisy, fuzzy punk workouts. They are indeed a four-headed hydra: grinding, wringing and twisting every drop of acid out of rock’n’roll’s rotting corpse.
Their amazing self-titled debut album captures the unique sound of these Norwegian outcasts.
Tracklist: Side A: Rainbow Eyes (3:41) Japanese Death Cult (4:12) Be a Baby (3:39) Golden Gate (2:10) Manipulation (3:47) Side B: Leech Transportation (8:02) Sun King II (4:38) Trees (3:07) Death (4:43)
The band: Karl-Erik Djupnes – Lead guitars/ lead vocals Erik Pettersen – Lead guitars/ backing vocals Jon Dalbakk – Lead bass Roger Jakobsen – Lead drums/ lead percussion
With two full-lengths under their belt of skin-peeling noise rock, Trondheim, Norway, duo Barren Womb offer an aesthetic shift with their upcoming Record Store Day EP, Crown Control. Set for release April 22 through All Good Clean Records (distribution through Stickman), the five-track trades distorted guitar for banjo and adopts a neofolk and Americana stylization that removes the traces of post-Kvelertak black ‘n’ roll that otherwise make themselves felt in their sound. True, a song like “Devil Run the Game” from their 2015 sophomore long-player, Nique Everything, did much the same, but Crown Control brings this more into focus and is a more brazen move away from weighted sonic impact.
For example, listening to “Freak Flag,” for which Barren Womb have a new video premiering below, my most immediate comparison point for what Timo Silvola and Tony Gonzahl are doing is 16 Horsepower‘s “Straw Foot,” and that doesn’t feel like an accident on the band’s part. To listen to the lyrics of “Freak Flag,” there’s plenty of disaffection on offer, as well as some willfully less-than-charming raunch, but where they end up gets to the underlying message at the heart of the song. After urging an audience toward what they call “the dark side” and “the cool side” in the chorus, they finish with the lines, “…Because the worst is the best in a hive mind/And no one should have nothing to hide.”
What that last couplet lacks in grammar, it makes up in justifying the song’s overarching sense of alienation, and it seems that loud or quiet, Barren Womb bring a purpose to their material that’s about making a statement at least as much about conveying the wretchedness driving them toward that statement in the first place. I haven’t heard the rest of Crown Control, but there’s definitely an element of critique in the “Freak Flag” video as well, which features more hot dog eating than I, even as an American — and all we do is eat hot dogs; well, that and wars of aggression, anyway — have seen in a while, and a bit of NSFW-ness for decent measure.
Just a heads up on that.
Barren Womb‘s Crown Control is out April 22 and can be preordered now from All Good Clean Records. PR wire info follows the clip below.
Barren Womb, “Freak Flag” official video (NSFW)
Directed by Hanna Fauske. From the EP “Crown Control” available now on All Good Clean Records.
On April 22nd, Records Store Day, the Trondheim-based power duo Barren Womb will release Crown Control, an EP somewhat out of the ordinary for the duo.
Lyrically it’s still rooted in their usual bleak universe, but the distorted guitars and drums have mostly been replaced by banjo and acoustic guitars. Crown Control comprises 5 winding, misanthropic tracks in the Dark Americana-/Folk-tradition, and will be released by All Good Clean Records.
The first hundred copies will be released as a special handnumbered edition including a signed insert and lyrics sheet.
Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar
Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.
Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.
Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.
Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.
There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.
No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.
Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.
The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.
Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.
If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.
As far as gigs in doom go, opening for Saint Vitus is close to as good as it gets. That’s the situation in which Oslo’s Tombstones find themselves as they continue to support their 2015 album, Vargariis (review here), released by Soulseller Records. Between the two, it’s a doomed-as-hell combo that will plod its way around Europe in May, and with Vitus continuing to work with original vocalist Scott Reagers, all the more an event for those fortunate enough to be in their path.
Can’t help but wonder too if Tombstones might have some new material on offer as we get a little further out from the Vargariis release. I asked bassist/vocalist Ole Helstad for some comment on doing the tour and he was tight-lipped on the possibility, but not mentioning it isn’t necessarily a no.
Dates and whatnot follow for the converted and soon to be converted:
Tombstones – Tour Supporting Saint Vitus
We’re hitting the European roads alongside Saint Vitus in May. Come bang your head!
TOMBSTONES live with SAINT VITUS: 08.04 Copperfields Stockholm SWE 02.05 Helvete Oberhausen DE 03.05 Schlachthof Wiesbaden DE 04.05 Backstage Munich DE 05.05 Kammgarn Schaffhausen CH 06.05 Little Devil Tilburg NL 07.05 Patronaat Haarlem NL 08.05 Day off 09.05 Bastard Club Osnabruck DE 10.05 Hafenklang Hamburg DE 11.05 Voxhall Aarhus DK 12.05 Nojesfabriken Karlstad SWE 13.05 Pokalen Oslo NO 14.05 Pumpehuset Copenhagen DK
Says Ole Helstad:
“We are extremely thrilled to finally go on tour with Vargariis. It’s been a while since last time, and we miss meeting our friends and fans around Europe. It’s such a huge honor to be able to share stages with such legends as Saint Vitus. It’s a dream come true for us.”
Tombstones has taken up on their Norse heritage, evolving from their previous stoner-influenced sound, now descending into the dark side of the gloom.
“Vargariis” finds the band leaning towards the bleak and desperate, assaulting the listener with their blackened, thunderous wall of fuzz and despair.
Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Here we are, on the precipice looking out over a spread that will include 50 reviews by the week’s end. Somehow when it comes around to a Quarterly Review Monday I always end up taking a moment to ask myself if I’ve truly lost my mind, if I really expect to be able to do this and not fall completely flat on my face, and just where the hell this terrible idea came from in the first place. But you know what? I haven’t flubbed one yet. We get through it. There’s a lot to go through, for me and you both, but sometimes it’s fun to be completely overwhelmed by music. I hope you agree, and I hope you find something this week that hits you in that oh-yeah-that’s-why-I-love-this kind of way. Time’s wasting. Let’s get started.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Three albums and nearly a decade into their tenure, Pallbearer stand at the forefront of American doom, and their third outing, Heartless (on Profound Lore), only reinforces this position while at the same time expanding beyond genre lines in ways that even their 2014 sophomore effort, Foundations of Burden, simply couldn’t have done. A seven-song/hour-long sprawl is marked out by resonant melodies, soulful melancholy conveyed by guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell – the returning lineup completed by guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly – and tonal weight set to a mix by Joe Barresi, who from opener “I Saw the End” onward arranges layers gorgeously so that extended pieces like “Dancing in Madness” (11:48) and closer “A Plea for Understanding” (12:40) become even more consuming. What comes through most resolute on Heartless, though, is that it’s time to stop thinking of Pallbearer as belonging to some established notion of doom or any other subgenre. With these songs, they make it clear they’ve arrived at their own wavelength and are ready to stand up to the influence they’ve already begun to have on other acts. A significant achievement.
With the considerable frontman presence of Primordial’s Alan Averill on vocals and bass, the considerable riffing of guitarist Bones (also of Wizards of Firetop Mountain) and the considerable lumber in the drumming of Johnny King (ex-Altar of Plagues), Dread Sovereign make some considerable fucking doom indeed. Their second album, For Doom the Bell Tolls (on Ván Records), follows three years behind their debut, 2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs (review here), and wastes no time giving the devil his due – or his doom, if you prefer – in the span of its six tracks and 37 minutes. Atmospheric and seemingly on an endless downward plod, the 13-minute “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” is a defining moment, but the trad metallurgy of “This World is Doomed” rounds out side A with some welcome thrust, and after the intro “Draped in Sepulchral Fog,” “The Spines of Saturn” and the thrashing “Live Like and Angel, Die Like a Devil” play dramatic and furious intensities off each other in a manner that would seem to truly represent the fine art of not giving a shit what anyone thinks about what you do or what box you’re supposed to fit into. Righteous. Considerably so.
Noise, largesse of riffs and shouted vocals that distinctly remind of Souls at Zero-era Neurosis pervade the near-hour-long run of Lizzard Wizzard’s Total War Power Bastard, but as much as the Brisbane four-piece willfully give themselves over to fuckall – to wit, the title “Medusa but She Gets You Stoned Instead of Turning You to Stone, Instead of Snakes She has Vaporizers on His Head… Drugs” – songs like “Shithead Nihilism,” “Pizza” and the droning “Snake Arrow” brim with purpose and prove affecting in their atmosphere and heft alike. Yes, they have a song called “Nerd Smasher,” and they deserve all credit for that as they follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), but by the time they get down to the roll-happy “Crystal Balls” and the feedback-caked “Megaflora” at the record’s end, guitarists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon, bassist Stef Roselli and drummer Luke Osborne end up having done something original with a Sleep influence, and that’s even more commendable.
Should mention two things outright about Oulu Space Jam Collective’s EP1. First and foremost, its three songs run over 95 minutes long, so if it’s an EP, one can only imagine what qualifies as a “full-length.” Second, the Finnish outfit releasing EP1 on limited tape through Eggs in Aspic isn’t to be confused with Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective. Oulu is someplace else entirely, and likewise, Oulu Space Jam Collective have their own intentions as they show in the 57-minute opener “Renegade Spaceman,” recorded live in the studio in 2014 (they’ve since made two sequels) and presented in six movements including samples, drones, enough swirl for, well, 57 minutes, and a hypnotism that’s nigh on inescapable. I won’t take away from the space rock thrust of 14-minute closer “Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia” (also tracked in 2014), but the smooth progressive edge of three-part 24-minute centerpiece “Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool” is where it’s at for me – though if you want a whole galaxy to explore, hit up their Bandcamp.
They freak out a bit toward the end of 12-minute opener “Ascendant” and in the second half of the subsequent “Supersaturation,” but for the most part, Aussie three-piece Frozen Planet…. 1969 play it weirdo-cool on their fourth full-length, the excellently-titled Electric Smokehouse (on Pepper Shaker Records). From those jams to the dreamy beachside drift of “Shores of Oblivion” to the funky-fuzz bass of “Sonic Egg Factory” to the quick noise finish of “Pretty Blown Fuse” – which may or may not be the sound of malfunctioning equipment run through an oscillator or some other effects-whatnot, the instrumentalist Sydney/Canberra trio seem to improv a healthy percentage of their fare, if not all of it, and that spirit of spontaneity feeds into the easygoing atmosphere only enhanced by the cover art. On a superficial level, you know you’re getting psych jams going into it, but once you put on Electric Smokehouse, the urge to get lost in the tracks is nigh on overwhelming, and that proves greatly to their credit. Wake up someplace else.
Ananda Mida make their debut on Go Down Records with Anodnatius, fluidly working their way around heavy psychedelic and more driving rock influences propelled by drummer Massimo “Max Ear” Recchia, also of underrated Italian forebears OJM. Here, Recchia anchors a seven-piece lineup including two vocalists in Oscar de Bertoldi and Filippo Leonardi, two guitarists in Matteo Scolaro and Alessandro Tedesco, as well as bassist Davide Bressan and organist Stefano Pasqualetto, so suffice it to say songs like the subtly grungy “Passvas,” the dreamy highlight “Heropas” or the vaguely progressive “Askokinn” want nothing for fullness, but there seem to be moments throughout Anodnatius as on “Lunia” and the shuffling “Kondur” early into the proceedings where the band wants to break out and push toward something heavier. Their restraint is to be commended since it serves the interests of songcraft, but part of me can’t help but wonder what might happen if these guys really let loose on some boogie jams. Keep an ear open to find out, as I have a feeling they might be headed in just that direction.
The heart of Séance – The Satanic Sounds of Strange Broue might come in the 11-minute sample dump that is “Cults and Crimes,” late into the second half of the 52-minute album. Capturing meticulously compiled news and talk-show clips from the late ‘80s, some of which talk about the Satanic roots of heavy metal, it gets to the ritualism that Quebec four-piece Strange Broue proliferate elsewhere on the record in the lo-fi post-Electric Wizard doom of “Satan’s Slaves,” “Kill What’s Inside of You” and the rolling opener “Ritualize” (video here). These pieces offset by other interludes of noise and drone and samples like “Satanic Panic,” “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanis, Luciferi Excelsis,” the acoustic-until-it-gets-shot-in-the-woods “Las Bas,” the John Carpenter-esque “Séance IV – L’Invocation” and the extended penultimate drone of “Séance V – The Mystifying Oracle with Bells” ahead of the countrified pop gospel of “Satan is Real,” which finishes in subversive fashion, interrupted by more news reports and a finishing assault of noise. Like an arts project in the dark arts, Séance crosses some familiar terrain but finds Strange Broue on their own trip through cultish immersion, as psychological as it is psychedelic.
Not much to argue with in the sixth long-player from Helge Kanck, Trond Slåke and Hallvard Gaardløs, collectively known as Orango. As they make their way onto Stickman Records (which also handled Euro distro for their last album, 2014’s Battles) with The Mules of Nana, the Norwegian trio deep-dive into harmony-topped ‘70s-style vibing that, well, leaves the bulk of “retro” bands in their V8-crafted dust. Mind you they do so by not being a retro band. True, the fuzz on “The Honeymoon Song” and “Head on Down” is as organic as if you happened on it in some forest where all the trees were wearing bellbottoms, but if you told me it was true, I’d believe Orango recorded The Mules of Nana onto – gasp! – a computer. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but “Heirs,” the sweetly acoustic “Give Me a Hundred” and motoring “Hazy Chain of Mountains” find Orango making no attempt to cloak a lack of songwriting or performance chops in a production aesthetic. Rather, in the tradition of hi-fi greats, they sound as full and rich as possible and utterly live up to the high standard they set for themselves. Pure win in classic, dynamic fashion.
There’s an undercurrent of metal that’s quick to show itself on Set and Setting’s Reflectionless. The instrumentalist Floridian five-piece delve plenty deep into heavy post-rock on cuts like the shoegazing “Incandescent Gleam” and subsequent “Specular Wavefront Of…” but they’re not through opener “Saudade” before harder-edged chug emerges, and “…The Idyllic Realm”’s blastbeating nods at black metal while the churning endgame build of closer “Ephemerality” holds tight to a progressive execution. While its textural foundation will likely ring familiar to followers of Russian Circles ultimately, Reflectionless finds distinction in aligning the various paths it walks as it goes, creating an overarching flow that draws strength from its diversity of approach rather than sounding choppy, confused or in conflict with itself. Not revolutionary by any means, but engaging throughout and with a residual warmth to complement what might seem at first to be a purely cerebral approach. It offers more on repeat listens, so let it sink in.
Primo short offering of pure, fistpump-ready, violin-infused doom traditionalism. I don’t know what Norrköping, Sweden’s Dautha – the five-piece of vocalist Lars Palmqvist, guitarists Erik Öquist and Ola Blomkvist, bassist Emil Åström and drummer Micael Zetterberg – are planning to do for a follow-up, but this Den Foerste (or Den Förste) two-tracker recalls glory-era Candlemass and willfully soars with no sense of irony on “Benandanti” and “In Between Two Floods” after the intro “Horkarlar Skall Slås Ihjäl,” and having already sold out a self-released pressing leaves little to wonder what would’ve caught the esteemed tastes of Ván Records. And by that I mean it’s fucking awesome. I’m ready for a full-length whenever they are, and from the poise with which Palmqvist carries the melodies of these tracks, the quality of the riffing and the depth of arrangement the violin adds to the overarching mournfulness, they definitely sound ready. So get on it. 15 minutes of dirge-making this gorgeous simply isn’t enough.
I was at Roadburn 2015 to watchEnslaved play the set captured on the forthcoming Roadburn Live 2LP, set to release on April 22 through By Norse and Roadburn Records. They were fucking incredible. Really. It had been I think weeks since I saw them in the US and they still managed to blow me away. Dudes never fail. Roadburn Live draws on the proggy side of what they do, and yes, that’s awesome. Every year at Roadburn, I tell myself I get to buy one piece of vinyl to go with the usual swath of CDs. I think I know what it’s going to be this year.
They’ve got “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” streaming now and you can check it out at the bottom of the post if you think my reasoning is suspect. It isn’t.
The PR wire fills in the details where my spinning head can’t:
ENSLAVED To Release Roadburn Live 2XLP For Record Store Day, April 22nd; “Death In The Eyes Of Dawn” Premiered
Roadburn Live is ENSLAVED’s first official live album, a split release between Roadburn Records and By Norse Music. The album was recorded during one of band’s headlining shows at the renowned Roadburn Festival 2015, an edition curated by ENSLAVED’s guitar player Ivar Bjørnson.
Walter Hoeijmakers, Roadburn’s Artistic Director comments on the release: “It’s no secret that there’s a strong friendship between Roadburn and ENSLAVED. One of the most hard-hitting and progressive bands to come out of Norway, ENSLAVED has played a significant part in the festival’s history – both musically and antically. Not only has ENSLAVED been our artist in residence, bringing side-projects such as The Armageddon Concerto (the ENSLAVED/Shining collaboration), Dream Of An Opium Eater, and Trinacria to Roadburn, Ivar Bjørnson has also been our 2015 co-curator, along with Wardruna’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, resulting in Skuggsjá’s first ever performance outside of Norway. ENSLAVED’s 2015 performances were the pinnacle of this enduring and artistic friendship, and showcased the massive influence the band has had on both Roadburn and the (underground) metal scene for the past two decades. To have these shows captured on vinyl is a dream come true for me, and I truly hope it’s the same for anyone who was in attendance, or those who want to indulge themselves in the Northern magic of ENSLAVED.”
Roadburn Live will be available as limited and exclusive Record Store Day color editions and as Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop Gold edition including the original A3 Roadburn poster and color stickers!
To celebrate the release, what better way than to hold a playback session with the members of Enslaved at the Roadburn Festival 2017. Becky Laverty of Roadburn Festival comments: “ENSLAVED and Roadburn share a history that is entwined and their 2015 performance on the main stage was such a fantastic milestone for both parties, that it makes perfect sense for the show to be released as a live album. As the album will be released during Roadburn 2017, it seemed fitting to invite attendees and the band alike to join us for a playback session at the festival as part of our popular side program.”
More information about the playback session to be revealed soon.
Roadburn Live also features a brilliant layout created by highly respected artist and Roadburn’s regular graphic designer Costin Chioreanu. The album was mixed by Iver Sandøy at Solslottet Studio and mastered by Jens Bogren (Kreator, Opeth, Sepultura) in Fascination Studios. It is also the last official release with Herbrand Larsen on keys and vocals.
After celebrating their twenty-five year anniversary in 2016 showcasing a majority of older material, Roadburn Live displays songs mainly from the “newer” and more progressive era of ENSLAVED’s career, with songs from “In Times,” “Riitiir,” “Isa,” “Below The Lights,” and “Monumension.” Featuring guest appearances of Einar Selvik (Wardruna), Aðalbjörn Tryggvason (Sólstafir), Per Wiberg (Opeth, Candlemass), and Menno Gootjes (Focus) on “Immigrant Song,” the first cover song by ENSLAVED to appear on any record ever.
Grutle Kjellson comments on the album: “I’m generally not a huge fan of live albums. I like to be present at a show, to grasp the energy of the band, and to witness the sometimes magical symbiosis that occurs between the band and the audience. I am, however, a huge fan of the Roadburn Festival! I consider this to be my all-time favorite, both as a musician and as a guest. Therefore, if everENSLAVED were to release a live album, it had to be from a Roadburn show! I hope you will enjoy listening to this piece of wax as much as we did recording it!”
Release date and format: April 22nd: Record Store Day limited color editions and Roadburn/ENSLAVED-Webshop gold edition. Standard vinyl, CD, and digital. More information soon!
Roadburn Live Track Listing: 1. Building With Fire 2. Death In The Eyes Of Dawn 3. In Times 4. Daylight 5. Convoys To Nothingness 6. As Fire Swept Clean The Earth 7. Isa 8. Immigrant Song* * Roadburn Live exclusive song originally by Led Zeppelin