Lonely Kamel Sign to Stickman Records; New LP in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they move into 2018 and mark a decade since the arrival of their self-titled debut, Oslo-based heavy rockers Lonely Kamel have been announced as signing to Stickman Records for their impending and yet-untitled fifth offering. It will be the first for the four-piece since 2014’s Shit City (discussed here) came out via Napalm Records and by releasing through Stickman, it continues the impressive pedigree the band has built over their time together, having achieved veteran status through performances over the last several years at Freak Valley, Desertfest Belgium, Roadburn and so on.

With Sound of Liberation behind them for booking and Stickman helming the release, I don’t at all imagine this will be the last time we hear from Lonely Kamel heading toward the New Year, and that’s just fine as far as I’m concerned. With an early 2018 tentative arrival date for the record, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their name pop up on a Spring festival or two, but of course, we’ll have to wait and see when we get there.

In the meantime, Stickman announced the partnership thusly:

lonely kamel

STICKMAN RECORDS NEW SIGNING: LONELY KAMEL

Just before the close of the year we’re ecstatic to welcome another band to our fold: Lonely Kamel from Oslo will be releasing their 5th full-length album early next year on Stickman! The band’s melange of smokey blues, hard rock and stoner riffs have caught our ears for a while and we’re glad to be home to their next album. More details on this soon!

This camel is certainly not a lone voice in the wilderness. Especially since LONELY KAMEL indeed sound like a desert, but in truth come from Norway. And obviously traditional Hard Rock can be produced quite exquisitely between fjords and endless forests, which sound nice, meaty and dry. On their fourth album the Norwegians act in the tension between Hard Rock from the seventies, Stoner Rock, Blues, Psychedelic and a dash of Doom.

https://www.facebook.com/lonelykamel
https://www.soundofliberation.com/lonely-kamel
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Lonely Kamel, “Shit City” lyric video

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Thulsa Doom to Release A Keen Eye for the Obvious Feb. 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

thulsa doom

By the time it lands in February, A Keen Eye for the Obvious will be arriving upwards of 13 years after its most recent predecessor from Norwegian heavy rockers Thulsa Doom, which was 2005’s Keyboard, Oh Lord! Why Don’t We?. Needless to say, anyone with a keen eye for the obvious can tell you that’s plenty long enough. Near as I can tell, it’s a release through Duplex Records with distribution from Stickman, though it could be a direct release through Stickman as well — I’m not really sure. Either way, it’s coming out, and the band have a new video for opening track “Lady Nina” playing now that’s rife with boozy themes and Thin Lizzy bounce, and you’re not going to hear me complain about that in the slightest. These guys were always a good time, and one is glad to see that the intervening decade-plus hasn’t changed that core aspect of their sound.

This weekend they play Caliban Sessions alongside Black Debbath and a host of others. There’s more info at their Thee Facebooks page, which is linked below.

Dig it:

thulsa doom a keen eye for the obvious

Thulsa Doom – A Keen Eye for the Obvious

European release distributed by Stickman Records!

We are proud to announce that «A Keen Eye for the Obvious” will be released in Europe, february 16th, 2018.

The release is in the best of hands, distributed through legendary German label Stickman Records who has been, and will always be, a true friend of quality music from Norway.

We look forward to a new chapter in the Thulsa Doom story through Rolf and Stickman, and are really happy to, from now on, be associated with many of our favourite bands from past and present, including Fireside, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, Radio Birdman, Motorpsycho and Elder, just to name a few.

We hope to see you on the road next year as well.

Tracklisting:
1 Lady Nina
2 Eloquent Profanity
3 Wrap the Bad up
4 Shadows on the X-rays
5 Consider Me
6 Bag of Fries
7 Quest for Fire
8 Magazine
9 In Italics and Bold
10 Baby, Hate IT

https://www.facebook.com/thulsadoomnorway/
http://www.duplexrecords.no/band/thulsa-doom/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940/
http://www.stickman-records.de/

Thulsa Doom, “Lady Nina” official video

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Æsthetica Premiere “Ekstasis”; Debut Album Sonorous Æon out Dec. 8

Posted in audiObelisk on November 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

aesthetica-by-Peder-Blumlein

Norwegian four-piece Æsthetica will release their debut album, Sonorous Æon, on Dec. 8 via Esetiske Studier and Fysisk Format, and though thoroughly based in doom at its roots, it’s a six-song outing that nonetheless blurs the lines of subgenres and influences almost on a per-track basis. A sense of post-metallic drama of atmosphere pervades “Todesfuge,” for example, which hits after rolling opener “Haze” calls to mind the heavy-soul delivery of Goatsnake and Gozu. Comprised of Tobias Brynildsbakken HuseSimon Dahl OkoniweskiVetle Bråten Rian and Petter Rosendahl Moland — everybody gets three names; no more, no less — Æsthetica structure their first offering as a two-sided vinyl wherein each half features two cuts just under six minutes long and one longer one on either side of 10, and feel cohesive and self-aware in their approach even as they seem to be staking a claim on such varied stylistic ground as the alternately spacious and crushing side A finale “La Paz,” which moves from open-air guitar noodling to deeply weighted riffage and hits 10:36 as the longest inclusion on Sonorous Æon.

One could hardly consider the range of Æsthetica, whose very moniker speaks to a commitment to or at least awareness of style as an essential facet of art, to be a detriment in the first place, but what makes Sonorous Æon work particularly well is its front to back flow. As the somewhat grim march at the end of “Todesfuge” (‘Death Fugue,’ in German, aesthetica sonorous aeoncomplete with a lengthy spoken sample also in the same language) gives way to the vastness of “La Paz,” initially populated by echoing guitar and flourish of cymbal wash, the band do well to consider overarching presentation. Indeed, the same holds on side B as the airy post-rockisms of second-half-leadoff “Gates” build to an understated head and drop to the sparsest and most contemplative moment on Sonorous Æon, from which a couple seconds of feedback signal the slam into post-Electric Wizard riffing that’s to come in the penultimate “Worshipper.” These borders are crossed with confidence, as they must be to work at all, and while Æsthetica would have their work cut out for them in trying to meld all of these impulses into one overarching sound or idea, they show on their debut that they’re able to tie them together all the same and conjure a sensibility that forces the listener to think of Sonorous Æon as a whole work rather than assembled component parts.

At 9:57, “Ekstasis” closes out Sonorous Æon in answer to “La Paz” back on side A, and in so doing would seem to provide an opportunity for summary or final expansion into new ground. By then, as they approach the total 44 minutes that make up the album, it’s little surprise they choose the latter, bringing in a near-gothic theatricality amid guitar drift anchored by the heft of the corresponding bass tone as the drums push it forward. As they have across the record’s span, the vocals prove a uniting and commanding presence, and as “Ekstasis” builds in pace toward its midsection crashout, it would seem Æsthetica are looking to deliver the crescendo early, but in fact it’s a ruse, and instead, they set themselves up for a two-part cycle, essentially tearing down the fabric of one payoff in order to begin building another, even more satisfying one from the ground up. Instrumental and consuming, the back half of “Ekstasis” makes as fitting a closing argument for Sonorous Æon as anything might, and the album finishes on a resonant pluck of strings to reaffirm the space created.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Ekstasis” as a track premiere ahead of the Dec. 8 release of Sonorous Æon. Please find it on the player below, followed by more background on Æsthetica from the PR wire, and please enjoy:

Æsthetica, “Ekstasis”

From the densely wooded suburbs just outside of Oslo a deep, dark sound has emerged with the sonic intensity of Armageddon and the wistful sonorities of the birds. Æsthetica are a self-styled doom, post-rock band from Kolbotn whose live shows have mesmerised audiences for its fierce fervor and great big swathes of sound that envelop the listener like a mysterious mist. Combining elements of doom, progressive blues rock, eastern scales and even tubas, Æstethica have cultivated a sound uniquely their own and their debut album Sonorous Æon is bringing this to the recorded format for the first time.

Theirs is a bold new sound lifted from the petrified footsteps left by bands like Black Sabbath, Swans and Godspeed! You black Emperor and shaped by a stark coldness that lies beyond the tundra. Æsthetica’s textures are dense and powerful and without provocation they lure the listener into a calm noise that lies just beyond the superficial. It’s a quiet noise that’s best experienced in the live context, which the young four-piece group dominate with a sonic presence.

Recorded and mixed in Asker by Are Sorknes, mastered by Jack Control at Enormous Door Mastering.

Artist: Æsthetica
Title: Sonorous Æon
Release: December 8th, 2017
Label: Esetiske Studier/Fysisk Format

Tracklist:
1. Haze
2. Todesfuge
3. La Paz
4. Gates
5. Worshipper
6. Ekstasis

Æsthetica are:
Tobias Brynildsbakken Huse
Simon Dahl Okoniweski
Vetle Bråten Rian
Petter Rosendahl Moland

Æsthetica on Thee Facebooks

Æsthetica on Bandcamp

Fysisk Format website

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Heave Blood and Die to Release Vol. II in January; New Single out Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

heave blood and die

This Friday, Norwegian post-doomer aggressives Heave Blood and Die will unveil the first single from their upcoming full-length, Vol. II. The album has been given a Jan. 19 release date through Blues for the Red Sun Records, and the band, who released their self-titled debut through the same imprint last year, offer due lumber and metallic-hardcore-tinged scathe throughout “Brigade” to carry over until the New Year — one always appreciates these things around the holidays — so keep an eye out as we head into the weekend for it on the social medias or wherever you hear these things, since it’s a beater. Like it’s beating you. With fists.

Just in case it wasn’t clear what I meant.

The PR wire has release details. It seems kind of complicated and I think maybe the first part of the record is out Dec. 1? We’ll see, I guess.

heave blood and die brigade

Heave Blood & Die – VOL. II (Blues For The Red Sun) – New album out January 19th 2018.

Heave Blood & Die, from the cold white north, bring a soundtrack to the fast approaching doomsday. With a heavy guitar- and synth-driven sound, the new album blows a breath
of fresh air into the metal scene. VOL II is a truly interesting album from a band who continue to develop their special blend of doom.

They draw their inspiration from bands such as Converge, Sunn, Pallbearer and YOB. Echoes from the past may still be heard in the band’s sound, from Black Sabbath to Joy Division and Black Flag. Heave Blood & Die carries the torch onwards, mixing their varied taste in music with their doomy roots.

On their sophomore album Heave Blood & Die are able to convey their unique energy and catchy desperation. This concept album is released digitally in two parts: Part I: Daggers and Part II: Flowers. Completed and reinforced by fantastic original cover art, the music lets listeners into a cold and dark parallel universe.

VOL II is a dagger in your back and a flower on your casket, a smooth but heavy 45 minute ride that won’t leave you disappointed.

https://www.facebook.com/hbdtromso/
https://soundcloud.com/hbdtromso
https://www.facebook.com/BLUES-FOR-THE-RED-SUN-645295312258485/

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Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension: Always Taking Shape

Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

black-moon-circle-flowing-into-the-third-dimension

It may well be that Black Moon Circle‘s Flowing into the Third Dimension will live up to its title. Not in the sense of adding depth to its length and width — the Trondheim, Norway, heavy psych explorers took care of that a long time ago — but in terms of marking the beginning of a next, and third, working methodology for the band. Whether or not it ultimately does, the Crispin Glover Records is alternately titled The Studio Jams Vol. III, so there’s a practical allusion as well to the more poetic name, and indeed it follows 2016’s Vol. II (review here) and 2015’s Vol. I (discussed here) in that regard.

Accordingly, while it could just be that guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (the latter also of Øresund Space Collective) got bored of the plain titles and decided to add something extra to this latest 49-minute improvisational outing, Flowing into the Third Dimension also represents a change in bringing an appearance from Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, so it’s possible too that Black Moon Circle saw it as an opportunity to tie their jammier work with their more song-based outings, 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and that same year’s self-titled debut (review here), or at least to take a forward step in a longer process of doing so. On the other hand, each vinyl side is consumed by a single track — “Barnard’s Loop” (23:27) on side A and “Waves” (26:15) on side B — with a prevailing vibe that’s nothing if not exploratory, it could entirely be the case that I’m reading too much into it. Pardon me while I completely undercut my own supposition. Won’t take a second.

Somehow though, one doubts Black Moon Circle — who, again, are working as a five-piece here, having started out as a trio in Trondheim before adding Heller to the mix — would be against multiple interpretations or different levels of thinking about the conceptual basis for their work. They are in three dimensions, after all, and “Barnard’s Loop” welcomes listeners into an unfolding fuzz mantra that seems to embrace any and all meditation. A record to get lost in for sure, Flowing into the Third Dimension also hits on a frequency of chemistry between its players that stands among some of the finest in heavy psych, a progressive instrumental mentality not unlike the get-on-stage-and-go approach of jazz artists, but of course interpreted through long-form psychedelia on its own journey into the heart of the creative process.

black moon circle

“Barnard’s Loop,” perhaps unsurprisingly, takes its time getting there, as rumbles of guitar back waves of synth forward and receding in the mix in an increasingly noisy first half, which seems to find a more plotted-seeming movement of wah in its midsection, giving way at about 15 minutes in to a lead that makes the most of the newfound dynamic between the two guitars. Multi-tiered — three-dimensional! — swirl is unfolded gracefully, and the resonance holds as they pass the 20-minute mark and a particularly memorable lead line is tossed out in a defining moment for the piece as a whole. I obviously don’t know if that was thought of beforehand or just an off-the-cuff lick, but it shimmers gorgeously like a moment of emergence and stands atop the chugging bass and punctuating drums as a high point of Flowing into the Third Dimension as a whole, whatever shred and wash is still to come. And by the way, there’s still plenty of both to come.

It might not be appropriate to say “Barnard’s Loop” is ever raucous, but it is most definitely vibrant, and it shares that in common with the subsequent “Waves,” which follows a more serene and linear path across its near-half-hour runtime. Black Moon Circle have never left anything wanting for fluidity in their instrumentalist work, but “Waves” might stand as a new pinnacle of immersion for them. Bass provides a foundation for an expanding soundscape of guitars and synth as drums come and go from the depths beneath, and as much of a wash as was to be found in the ending reaches of side A, side B finds itself even more aptly named as it courses through its undulations, lapping at the shores of consciousness with multi-colored textures patiently brought to bear in a first half of subtle movement that drifts into atmospheric sandscape pastoralism increasingly between its ninth and 13th minutes, only to find itself coming dangerously close to falling apart on several occasions before managing to right itself each time.

For those engaging a close listen, those are exciting moments of nuance, but of course with a release like Flowing into the Third Dimension, one might just as simply put it on — headphones justified, volume necessary — shut eyes and let go into a hypno-anesthetic trance, essentially letting the sound carry them for the duration. Both are valid ways to experience Flowing into the Third Dimension, and whether or not Black Moon Circle intended that the album should stand as the beginning of a new stage for them, perhaps with Ryan as a full-time member, perhaps not — they’ve also recently added keyboards and Mellotron, which will reportedly feature on the next release — it is a work of kinematic liquefaction underscored by coherence of purpose that speaks of increasing mastery of the form.

Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension (2017)

Black Moon Circle on Thee Facebooks

Black Moon Circle on Bandcamp

Crispin Glover Records website

Stickman Records website

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Enslaved Post “The River’s Mouth” Video; E out this Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

On Friday, Norway’s Enslaved release their 14th long-player, E (review here), and if that doesn’t sound like an event to you worth marking, you’re going to want to take the five minutes out of your busy day to check out the band’s new video below. Directed as was the prior visualization for album opener “Storm Son” (posted here) that introduced the first public audio from the record by Josh Graham (A Storm of LightBattle of MiceRed SparowesIIVII, art for NeurosisSoundgarden, etc.), the video highlights a dark sense of ritual that fits well alongside the unabashed extremity of “The River’s Mouth” itself, which in directly following the progressively-minded 10-minute “Storm Son” in the tracklisting provides arguably the most fervent straight-ahead drive of the entire release.

I’d hardly call it stripped down, and I think if you listen/watch, you’ll agree with that assessment, but it has fewer twists than a lot of E, and so “The River’s Mouth” seems all the more direct in the delivery of its ideas, sonic as well as thematic. I just reviewed the album — link is in the first sentence if you missed it — and so I’ll spare you going through the whole thing again, but suffice it to say that one of the things that most makes me a fan of this band is their refusal to stop growing as artists. 14 records in, a lot of groups would have long since settled into a standard operating procedure, probably since their third or fourth full-length, and like very few others, that’s never been the case with Enslaved. Each time out, they have something new to say, some natural progression to undertake. It’s not always leaps and bounds, but it’s whatever shifts have manifested themselves naturally and find themselves with a role to play in their sound.

For this I consider Enslaved one of the most respectable bands on the planet, and E is in my eyes and ears a candidate for album of the year. There. I said it.

Note once more the contributions of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in “The River’s Mouth” alongside bassist Grutle Kjellson‘s verses. Dude makes himself right at home.

Much PR wire whatnot and tour dates follow the video.

Enjoy:

Enslaved, “The River’s Mouth” official video

ENSLAVED will finally unleash their new album E and prove that for a band with more than 25 years of history, they are still reinventing themselves. While the 10-minute-long opening track “Storm Son” gave fans a taster of what to expect from the new album, the single “The River’s Mouth” reveals a heavier and more harsh side of the 14th full-length release. Watch the official video for “The River’s Mouth”, which was once again created by Josh Graham (SOUNDGARDEN, NEUROSIS), here: https://youtu.be/Y8HX_vGPCz8

Songwriter and guitarist Ivar explains: “‘The River’s Mouth’ is a quite heavy track, drawing both on our rock roots and of course the foundation of everything awesome: mid-80s, mid-paced Bathory. It also includes some odd space-rock in the choruses and the end part – finally BATHORY and HAWKWIND met. I like the energy of this song a lot – both Cato and new-kid-on-the-chopping-block Håkon is doing such a great job with the psychedelic parts, the chorus and the ending. What a drive! The end sounds like travelling at insane speed through wormholes. The theme here is your relationship with the “future”, as we describe it: The sensation of time moving along is a construction of our brains – physics claims all time to already have been “rolled out”; try wrapping our brains around that one! So the future would be, speaking in tabloid; a piece of land we just haven’t arrived at yet. But it is already here. The song is about acting in tandem with your future self which already arrived at this “future island” – do not sit and wait, make sure you lay the ground for what is to happen in the future, now!”

E will be available in the following formats;

CD digipak
Red Cassette – limited to 300 worldwide
Red with Bone and Grey Splatter – limited to 900 worldwide
BUNDLE: T-shirt + CD Digi + 5 metal pin set + wooden coaster + 11×17 poster

CD Digipak:
1. Storm Son
2. The River’s Mouth
3. Sacred Horse
4. Axis Of The Worlds
5. Feathers Of Eolh
6. Hiindsiight
Bonus Tracks
7. Djupet
8. What Else Is There (Röyksopp Cover)

 

You can now pre-order the physical editions of the album here: http://nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or get the digital version and stream new track “Storm Son” via this link: http://nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

ENSLAVED are set to embark on a headline tour through Europe, with special support acts hand-selected by the band. Be sure to catch them on one of the following dates:

10.11. D Hamburg – Logo (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
11.11. D Berlin – Nuke (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
12.11. D Cologne – Underground (w/ IMPERIUM DEKADENZ & HERETOIR)
13.11. NL Utrecht – Tivoli de Helling
15.11 UK Manchester – o2 Ritz (supporting OPETH)
16.11 UK Glasgow – Barrowlands (supporting OPETH)
17.11. UK Belfast – The Limelight 1 (supporting OPETH)
18.11. IRL Dublin – The Academy (supporting OPETH) *sold out*
19.11. UK Nottingham – Rock City (supporting OPETH)
21.11 UK Bristol – o2 Academy (supporting OPETH)
22.11 UK Birmingham – o2 Institute (supporting OPETH)
24.11. UK London – Islington Assembly Hall (w/ DARKHER & SVALBARD)
25.11. F Paris – Trabendo (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
26.11. B Vosselaar – Biebob
28.11. F Rezé – Barakason (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
29.11. F Lyon – CCO Villeurbanne (w/ LOST IN KIEV & WOLVE)
30.11. I Brescia – Circolo Colony
01.12. CH Pratteln – Z7
02.12. D Frankfurt – Das Bett (w/ ZATOKREV)
03.12. CZ Prague – Chelmnice (w/ ZATOKREV)
16.12. RU Moscow – Volta
17.12. RU St. Petersburg – Club Zal

Get tickets for the German shows here in our shop:
http://www.nuclearblast.de/de/produkte/tickets/indoor/ticket/enslaved-european-tour-2017.html

But before touring Europe, ENSLAVED play two special release shows in their home country Norway, where you can hear the new songs live for the very first time, meet the band at the merch stand and get two unique gig posters for free:

AISA & Time Out Agency presents:
w/ SIBIIR
12.10 N Oslo – Blå
13.10 N Bergen – Garage

26.10. S Stockholm – Close-Up Baten 21
1.-5.02. USA Miami – 70.000 Tons Of Metal

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Enslaved on Instagram

Enslaved on Twitter

Enslaved website

Nuclear Blast on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast on Instagram

Nuclear Blast on Twitter

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Enslaved, E: Horses and Water

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved e

First of all, no, Enslaved didn’t just title their 14th studio album, E, after the first letter of their name. The letter is a translation/reference to the rune ‘ehwaz’ that appears on the Truls Espedal cover art — looks more like an ‘M,’ but there it is — and among the meanings it holds are ‘partnership,’ ‘collaboration’ and ‘horse.’ It’s a one-letter title and a complete concept thematic on which to base the record. And as it happens, E is the most progressive outing the Bergen, Norway, extreme metallers have yet composed in their 26-year career, offering an expanse of sound and intensity that continues to push ahead of their last full-length, 2015’s In Times (review here), while clarifying production ideas, answering the varied intentions of their first live album, earlier-2017’s Roadburn Live (review here), and — in unquestionably the most major change the band has undergone in at least the last decade — introducing new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje to the lineup. Vinje worked with Enslaved founding guitarist Ivar Bjørnson and bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson (among many others) in the broad-reaching and historically-minded Skuggsjá project, and in joining Enslaved with Bjørnson, Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold, he fills the role formerly held by Herbrand Larsen, whose contributions to the band’s overall sound in atmospherics and melodic vocals had only increased in scope since he made his debut on 2004’s landmark Isa LP.

That was six records ago, and in the 13 subsequent years, Enslaved only grew more dynamic as they progressed through 2006’s Ruun, 2008’s Vertebrae, 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), 2012’s Riitiir (review here) and the aforementioned In Times, though the latter drew back toward a rawer production feel that E once again pulls outward into a larger sphere, and the soaring, soothing melodies of Vinje‘s vocals from opener “Storm Son” through cuts like “Axis of the Worlds” and closer “Hiindsiight” greatly enhance that impression. That Enslaved would introduce someone new in such a pivotal role feels like a bold enough step to make on a new album — one could hardly hold being tentative on some level against them, given how much Larsen brought to their sound — but they brazenly continue their apparently ceaseless and willful growth as songwriters and performers, and Vinje absolutely shines in the role into which he’s stepped, carrying the penultimate “Feathers of Eolh” (8:06) through ambience the thrust alike as Enslaved gallop with the fury that’s become one of their trademarks and step back to allow vocal harmonies to carry more subdued verses. It is a stunning late-album moment.

And by then, not the first time Enslaved have made the spine shiver. E launches with its longest track (immediate points) in the adventurous 10:54 “Storm Son,” which begins with captured outdoor sounds — birds, a shout, a Viking horn, a whinnying horse — leading to an unfolding of shimmering guitar and emergent push. It is a patient opening and when the verse kicks in, Vinje backs Kjellson‘s telltale rasp to set the stage for an exploration of proggy guitar-led turns and chug past the midpoint, heading toward a forward surge that carries them toward a repeated chorus that doubles as crescendo. The chant-style vocals in back of that hook are a foreshadow of what will become a major element throughout E, and one can’t help but wonder if perhaps Bjørnson is carrying a bit of influence from working with Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik (who also makes a guest appearance here) on Skuggsjá into these tracks, since even second cut “The River’s Mouth” — which is the shortest at 5:12 and an immediate contrast to “Storm Son” as it brings Kjellson to the fore in the verse and instead lets Vinje handle the chorus — seems to have some aspects therefrom at play.

Of course, creative arrangements of vocals, guitars, keys, and other instrumentation, are nothing new for Enslaved, but as “The River’s Mouth” swirls to its apex and the acoustic opening of “Sacred Horse” — a definitive moment of arrival, if brief — there’s a prevalence factor for resonance of mood that’s impossible to ignore. “Sacred Horse” (8:12) kicks into a vicious pummel with some of Bjørnson‘s roaring growls complementing Kjellson in the verse before a spacious-but-classy guitar lead takes hold before the next push, building a tension that continues as Vinje takes an organ solo after the three-minute mark and brings a melodic verse shortly before a break at 4:25 introduces the guitar part that will serve as the rhythmic bed for a thudding march that proves to be a standout moment of E as a whole, Bekkevold introducing the progression on toms before crashing cymbals to get officially underway. Guitars make a neighing sound to recall the ‘ehwaz’ theme, and choral vocals top the nodding groove in one of the record’s most singularly affecting moments. Amid laughter, they bring it back around to a few last measures of furious push to close out, and let “Axis of the Worlds” (7:49) take hold with more immediacy and a rocking feel at the start of side B.

enslaved

As their titles would seem to acknowledge, “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds” feel very much like the heart of E in their presentation. I won’t take anything away from the impact of “Storm Son” or “Hiindsiight” at the start or the conclusion, and the direct contrast between “The River’s Mouth” as the second cut and “Feathers of Eolh” as the second-to-last seems nothing if not a purposeful display of range, but with the one-two of “Sacred Horse” and “Axis of the Worlds,” Enslaved provide some of their proggiest stretches and show how they’ve made these elements cohesive with the context of their own, ever-shifting approach. To wit, the organ lines of “Axis of the Worlds,” the chorus hook “Chase the serpent/Step on his tail” delivered in clean and echoing screams, the movement into returning chants amid a section that’s as much black metal as it is still somehow drawing from psychedelic and classic progressive rock, and the way the song seems to resolve itself in making its way back to the chorus at the end, the band clear enough in knowing what they want to do to not even in this moment lose sight of the underlying foundation of structure amid all the raging complexity. Especially after the thundering “Sacred Horse” — and, for that matter, before “Feathers of Eolh” — it gets to the core of what Enslaved accomplish with E, manifesting ideas of duality, complement, collaboration, whether that’s between band members or between the band itself and their craft or the instruments they’re playing.

Begun at a rhythmic rush, “Feathers of Eolh” is peppered with nuance of play and topped by piano sounds and guitar flourish for its proggy intro, kicking at about the minute mark into chant-backed drive and bringing in the aforementioned highlight performance from Vinje on vocals. His voice — clear, confident, powerful, layered — recalls some of what Larsen did melodically, but he brings his own edge to the changes in key as well and one expects he’ll only continue to make the role more his own as Enslaved move forward. “Feathers of Eolh” touches on what might be considered Viking post-rock (stick that in your genre search engine) in a brief interlude before springing forth again for the next verse and turns circa six minutes deep into a head-spinning reinterpretation of the intro that meets with further chanting, double-kick from Bekkevold and piano skronk that builds to a sudden finish, bringing the melodic first-minute intro of “Hiindsiight,” which wraps up E fluidly while still holding a surprise or two of its own.

Namely: saxophone. At 9:36, “Hiindsiight” is the second longest inclusion and thereby bookends E with “Storm Son,” but its structure is decidedly working on another wavelength. Cutting from the intro to about as close to a doomed roll as Enslaved have ever come, before the track is into its third minute, it has turned once again to lush melodies from the guitar and keys, trading back again before introducing what sounds like a tenor sax for an echoing solo prior to the halfway point from which Kjellson‘s vocals pick up like throaty searing and jazz instrumentation just go together all the time and there’s nothing at all unusual about it — it’s brilliantly pulled off — and with airy noodling guitar holding the melody beneath, “Hiindsiight” welcomes Vinje back to the arrangement briefly, but gurgles out at around 5:45 to let the guitar set the stage for the E‘s final stretch: a patiently delivered build of melody, chants, the sax, and a wash that’s unlike anything Enslaved have done before and yet so definitively theirs that it couldn’t possibly have come from anyone else.

It is a suitably glorious ending to an album that does nothing less than begin a new era for the band. I’m writing as a fan, but the bravery with which Enslaved take to the formidable task before them in E only underscores how special this group truly is, and in thinking of the stated them of collaboration, one would be remiss to ignore how pivotal the core founding duo of Bjørnson and Kjellson are, and how much their work together has changed over the years while still holding fast to the creative drive that has been so easy as a listener to take for granted all along. It’s only one letter, but E spreads itself across the consciousness with worldbuilding mastery, and is a work of true vision simply not to be missed. One of 2017’s best and then some. Recommended.

Enslaved, “Storm Son” official video

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Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

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Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

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Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

alastor black magic

Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

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The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

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Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

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Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

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Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

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With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

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Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

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Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

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Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

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Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

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Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

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If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

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Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

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Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

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Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

ULLS I

For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

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