Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s little I find more inspiring than someone putting in the time and effort to coordinate and execute a festival. It’s something I’ve thought of doing more times than I can count but have yet to be able to muster the backing or the location to get it done, so when I see the news below about the upcoming Høstsabbat in Norway, it makes me want to take to the north even more than I usually do. Which is plenty, I guess.
Norway’s heavy rock scene is widely varied and from the roster of acts playing the upcoming Høstsabbat in Oslo on Sept. 13 and 14, it seems the intent is to capture a bit of that variety in a weekend and present it to the masses. An admirable goal no matter how you look at it.
Best wishes. I hope they pull it off without a hitch. The PR wire has lineups and links:
HØSTSABBAT – NEW NORWEGIAN FESTIVAL
HØSTSABBAT is a newborn initiative, brought to life by people involved in the underground scene in Norway.
It’s a DIY-festival, in collaboration with the student-organisation at Betong in Oslo, focusing on presenting the best underground bands Norway has to offer.
Over two days you can experience slow doom, heavy bluesrock, proto-heavy metal, psychedelic spacerock and prog. The concerts will be held on two different stages, located in the same venue. In addition to this, you’ll find stands, food, beverages and diverse stimulation for your ears and mind. Dj’s from the norwegian scene will accompany your days with the right soundtrack.
HØSTSABBAT takes place on friday 13th, and saturday 14th of September.
Cheap accomodations are located nearby the venue, and the damage for a two-day ticket is about 50 euros.
Complete lineup HØSTSABBAT 2013:
Friday 13th: Lonely Kamel Devil Tusmørke High Priest of Saturn Spectral Haze Hymn
Saturday 14th: Lamented Souls Brutus Tombstones Resonaut Dunbarrow Purple Hill Witch The Devil and the Almighty Blues
Posted in audiObelisk on May 23rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
In 2011, Oslo acid folk rockers Spirits of the Dead marked their arrival with the release of their sophomore outing, The Great God Pan. The follow-up to a 2010 full-length, The Great God Pan (review here) was striking in aesthetic as much in performance, the four-piece showcasing a rare ability throughout to blend classic ideology and modern sonics to both the benefit of the material and any and all ears who might hear it and be tired of the retro cultism and post-Coven candlelit Satanic silliness that so often accompanies.
Happy to say, the forthcoming third release from Spirits of the Dead, Rumours of a Presence follows suit and sees the returning lineup of frontman Ragnar Vikse, guitarist Ole Øvstedal, bassist Kristian Hultgren and drummer Geir Thorstensen keeping to a sense of warm tonality without losing sight of either clarity of sound or purpose. In anything, Rumours of a Presence is even more rock-based than was The Great God Pan. Some of the pagan mentality remains — see the “Dance of the Dead” interlude or the earlier “Golden Sun” — but Spirits of the Dead part ways with some of their folkish roots in favor of classic rock swagger and thematic linearity, the album dealing with mortality and the sea lyrically while tracks like “Wheels of the World” nod at Rush and “Song of Many Reefs” mounts an 8-track ready psychedelic apex.
It’s the latter song that I have the pleasure to premiere today from Rumours of a Presence, which is out June 25 on The End Records in North America. “Song of Many Reefs” offers not only one of Spirits of the Dead‘s most memorable grooves, but also an excellent example of their crisp modern approach, which when combined with Øvstedal‘s classic lead work and the stomp of Hultgren and Thorstensen makes for a potent brew not to be taken lightly.
You can check out the track on the player below, followed by some words from Ragnar Vikse about the song’s origins:
Ragnar Vikse on “Song of Many Reefs”
“Song of Many Reefs” is one of our favorite tracks on the album. We had a clear vision about the first part of the song before we went into the studio, while we left the rest more open and loose to unfold as we were there. Lyrics were also made while we were in the studio. It is a song open for interpretation for everyone, but I would say it’s more or less about a traveler with a highly “driven” desire to travel.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Norwegian acid folk rockers Spirits of the Dead return on June 25 with their third album, Rumours of a Presence. Their last album, The Great God Pan (review here), came out in 2011 and successfully touched on pagan sensibilities without sounding either redundant thematically or silly in its forest worship — which as any number of artists who’ve crossed that line probably won’t be able to tell you — isn’t easy. Those in perpetual search for “something different” would do well to take note of the following, which came down the PR wire yesterday:
SPIRITS OF THE DEAD SET TO RELEASE ‘RUMOURS OF A PRESENCE’ JUNE 25, 2013 ON THE END RECORDS
When “Norway’s finest psychedelic-stoner-folk-band” Spirits of the Dead, released their eponymous debut album in 2008, few could have been more surprised than the band of the album’s overwhelming reviews.
Crowned with a place in Classic Rock Magazine’s “The Best Albums of the Year”, their second album ‘The Great God Pan’ somehow evoked a both retrospective and futuristic quality and made it clear that something was in the making. The band claimed they were “mixing the Sound of the Past with the Sound of the Future”. Well…
Now it’s 2013, and Spirits of the Dead are about to raise the stakes. “Rumours of a Presence” digs deeper and goes to even more profound places than the band has ever been before. Recorded in remote districts of Norway, this grand record lingers on the big questions: Life, Death and the Sea. Well, to be honest…Death and the Sea, really.
Dom Lawson gives us an insight to the record in his liner notes, which can be read here.
Having just announced a European tour with Kadavar, the band looks forward to crossing the ocean to embark on a US tour later in the year.
TOUR DATES WITH KADAVAR 05.10.2013 – DK Copenhagen – Beta 05.11.2013 – DE Hamburg – Klubsen 05.12.2013 – DE Dusseldorf – Stahlwerk 05.13.2013 – DE Nurnberg – Zentralcafe 05.14.2013 – DE Munchen – Backstage 05.15.2013 – DE Frankfurt – Das Bett 05.16.2013 – DE Koln – Underground 05.17.2013 – BE Brussels – Magasin 4 05.18.2013 – NL Rotterdam – Rotown 05.19.2012 – NL Nijmegen – Doornroosje
‘RUMOURS OF A PRESENCE’ TRACKLISTING 01. Wheels Of The World 02. Song Of Many Reefs 03. Golden Sun 04. Dance Of The Dead 05. Rumours Of New Presence 06. Red Death 07. Seaweed 08. Oceanus
Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The thing about Darkthrone some 25-plus years into their career is they don’t give a fuck. A lot of bands say that, but few say it as convincingly and have the fuckall in their approach to back it up that the long-running Norwegian duo seem to toss off on their records like so many squibbly riffs. Where that attitude has manifested itself over the course of their last several full-lengths as a raw, lo-fi punk aimed hard at the very roots of the black metal Darkthrone once pioneered on albums like A Blaze in the Northern Sky (1992) andTransylvanian Hunger(1994), their newest full-length and 16th by my count, The Underground Resistance(Peaceville), finds them blending that rawness with a traditional metal approach manifesting many of the influences they’ve claimed since 2007′s N.W.O.B.H.M – New Wave of Black Heavy Metalsingle signaled their transition from the blackened material of 2006′s The Cult is Alive– actually it was kind of stagnant — to later 2007′s F.O.A.D.(Fuck off and Die), at once a declaration and defense of its own stylistic shift.
But at this point, having pushed that punkish sound as far as it could go or at least as far as they were interested in pushing it with 2010′s bored-seeming-but-still-effective Circle the Wagons (review here), I honestly think that praise heaped on The Underground Resistanceand harsh criticism of it sound the same in the ears of multi-instrumentalist/vocalists Ted “Nocturno Culto” Skjellum and Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell: It’s all just noise. If that’s actually the case, I don’t know, but it’s at least the perception and that character has become as much a part of Darkthrone‘s sound as Fenriz‘s campaigning on behalf of classic underground metal, so fervent that band recommendations on the last couple albums have come on a per-track basis in the liner notes, with Darkthrone cited on occasion as influencing themselves. All this makes the duo a fascinating entity, but ultimately has little to do with the music, which on The Underground Resistanceremains as confrontational as ever in this semi-novel aesthetic sphere. The sound of the album’s six tracks is fuller and occasionally grander than that of Circle the Wagons or 2008′s Dark Thrones and Black Flagsbefore it — as heavy metal was when it emerged early in the ’80s to distinguish itself from punk — but raw enough in its production to be called consistent. That is, between Nocturno Culto‘s trademark gurgle and the speedy gallop of the riffing on the penultimate “Come Warfare, the Entire Doom,” there’s little doubt you’re listening to a Darkthrone record, whatever kind of shenanigans they might be getting up to this time around.
And while homage is paid throughout the album’s 41 minutes to the likes of Manilla Road, Pagan Altar, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate — Fenriz rounding out the album with some pretty mean King Diamond-style vocal drama on the 14-minute closer “Leave No Cross Unturned” — whatever sonic references they might be making are filtered through their own approach so that Darkthrone still sound like Darkthrone. I don’t know if I’d call The Underground Resistancere-energized as compares to Circle the Wagons, but as a band who’ve emerged as being pretty self-aware over the last decade or so, they probably could sense it was time for a change in their approach, even if it wasn’t a conscious decision between the two members as they wrote their individual parts. Three years is also the longest break between Darkthrone albums since 1996′s Goatlord and 1999′s Ravishing Grimness, and if the extra time was spent developing this material, I’d have to believe it. Even “Leave No Cross Unturned,” which seems to switch back and forth between Fenriz and Nocturno Culto parts, nonetheless winds up with one of the collection’s strongest hooks in its chorus with the oft-repeated title line. Finding earlier companionship on the album in “The Ones You Left Behind,” which works from a similar foundation musically, it’s all one could reasonably ask of a closer for an album like The Underground Resistance, which makes a weapon even of its most accessible moments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Svart Records continues its descent into the realms of the weird and wicked. The label that brought forth Seremonia and the long-awaited Bedemon full-length and who’ve also signed on to release the debut from Victor Griffin’s In~Graved will issue the self-titled LP from organ-drenched Norwegian psych-doom three-piece High Priest of Saturn. The band previously released a demo in 2011, and as both tracks from it will also appear on the record when it hits March 22, I’ve included the stream courtesy of the High Priest of Saturn Bandcamp for your enjoyment below.
But first, sayeth the wire of PR:
Today, SVART RECORDS sets March 22nd as the international release date for HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN’s self-titled debut. Self-described as a psychedelic doom act inspired by classic stoner bands and ’60s and ’70s psychedelic rock, HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN are a Norwegian three piece that consist of guitarist Martin Sivertsen and guitarist-drummer Andreas Hagen’s slow-pounding riffs and beats and Merethe Heggset’s eerie vocals, which seem to resonate from another dimension.
The entire High Priest of Saturn opus is drenched with swirling, menacing vintage organ sounds, played on the album by Ole Kristian Malmedal. Groovy yet epic (none of the four tracks presented here are below the nine-minutes mark!), HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN’s debut full-length is a trip. Not only does it fulfill the many promises offered by their 2011 demo (whose two songs have been re-recorded here in even heavier and more mesmerizing versions), but it also propels this trio towards the same league as Sleep and Acid King, towards the sky and beyond. Tracklisting and cover (also attached) are as follows:
Tracklisting for HIGH PRIEST OF SATURN’s High Priest of Saturn 1. Protean Towers (10:30) 2. Kraken Mare (9:06) 3. Crawling King Snake (9:01) 4. On Mayda Insula (12:49)
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anticipation is ramping up for the spring and summer festival season, and the latest check-in comes from Desertfest in London, which announced earlier that Norwegian doomers Tombstones have joined the 2013 lineup. Seems it’s all I can do these last couple weeks to keep up with fest news, but I’ve yet to come across one announcement that didn’t make me more stoked on the event, whatever it might be.
For the first time ever in the UK, Desertfest presents the ultra-heavy Norwegian three-piece; TOMBSTONES.
Although Norway is more famous for its beastly blasting Black Metal, TOMBSTONES turn this musical concept upside down: slow, downtuned, stoned and buzzed out doom is on the menu. TOMBSTONES have two albums under their belt. “Volume II” was released in 2010 by Transubstans Records, and their latest piece “Year of the Burial” was dropped spring 2012 by Soulseller Records. The norwegian doomsters toured Europe with their new album last fall, and have played Mudfest, Death Doomed The Age and Robustfest.
This time it’s Camden and Desertfest who will shiver from their loud and crushing, trance-indulging heaviness. Light you your bongs, and worship the riff!
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, no way this one isn’t a win. Norway’s Enslaved will hit North American shores just at that point when you think winter will never end, and they’re bringing Pallbearer and Ancient VVisdom along to support. Enslaved will be promoting their most excellent Riitiirrelease (review here), and I’m already anxious at the thought of seeing “Roots of the Mountain” live. Call the greatness assumed if you want — this is going to fucking rule.
The PR wire sends details:
Norwegian progressive extreme metal band ENSLAVED will return to the U.S. and Canada in early 2013 for a headlining, 20-show “Winter Rite” tour joined by U.S. doom metallers Pallbearer and occult rockers Ancient VVisdom as openers. Kick-off is in Philadelphia on January 30th with the tour closing in New York City on February 22nd.
ENSLAVED rhythm guitarist/songwriter/lyricist Ivar Bjørnson checks in from Norway about the upcoming trek:
“North America has become like a second home-shore to us; the rising support we’ve been getting for the last albums and tours has been amazing! We’re more than ready to come over again and play our new album Riitiir live to show that the new material is extremely well-fitted for a live setting, and to reflect the enthusiasm and dedication we’ve been getting from the fans over there! See you on the road!”
Confirmed dates for ENSLAVED’s headlining “Winter Rite 2013” tour are:
01/30/13 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA 01/31/13 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD 02/01/13 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA 02/02/13 Magic Stick – Detroit, MI 02/03/13 Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL 02/04/13 Mill City Nights – Minneapolis, MN 02/06/13 Marquis Theater – Denver, CO 02/08/13 The Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA 02/09/13 Slim’s – San Francisco, CA 02/10/13 Branx – Portland, OR 02/11/13 The Highline – Seattle, WA 02/12/13 Biltmore Cabaret – Vancouver, B.C. – CANADA 02/14/13 The Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB – CANADA 02/15/13 Dickens Pub – Calgary, AB – CANADA 02/16/13 The Exchange – Regina, SK – CANADA 02/17/13 Osborne Village Inn – Winnipeg, MB – CANADA 02/19/13 The Opera House – Toronto, ON – CANADA 02/20/13 Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC – CANADA 02/21/13 The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA 02/22/13 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
RIITIIR, ENSLAVED’s twelfth studio album, debuted at #8 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart in October with the band’s highest first-week sales in their career in the United States. The album is already a contender for many “Best of” year-end lists around the world for 2012. Pick up a copy at http://bit.ly/enriitlp and see why that is.
ENSLAVED will be headlining Scion A/V’s Roadburn Records showcase on Saturday, November 10th, 2012 at The Roxy in West Hollywood. Also performing are White Hills, Scott Kelly, Earthless, and Astra. RSVP to the All Ages event here:www.scionav.com/METALSHOW
Posted in audiObelisk on October 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Underjordisk Tusmørkeis the debut album from Oslo-based foursome Tusmørke. In English, the album title means “subterranean twilight,” and the name of the opening track, “Fimbul,” refers to the long, multi-year apocalyptic winter that precedes the end of the world in Norse mythology. So if you’re wondering precisely what kind of ground Tusmørke are covering on their first LP, it’s dark, it’s pagan, and cloaked in atmospheres cold enough to warrant the robes the band dons to present their material.
With flute, mellotron, Hammonds and a host of other bizarre flourishes, Underjordisk Tusmørkebasks in its own strange otherworldliness. A proggish sense of pomposity bleeds into the arrangements, purposefully reaching toward the melodically grandiose in a way that would make Black Widow or Amon Düül II proud. The dual vocals of bassist Benediktator and floutist Krizla add depth and range to the six tracks of the album proper (three bonus tracks are included on the CD), only periodically touching on Tull-isms before taking darker turns pushed forward by drummer HlewagastiR and lent atmospheric richness by keyboardist Deadly Nightshade (also of noise crushers Årabrot). But always, weirdness prevails.
And chiefly, that’s why I’m interested. One listen to “Fimbul” and you know a goat-legged devil isn’t far off, but as much as classic prog has made itself felt across doom and pagan metals and heavy rock, Tusmørke approach the unabashed sense of strangeness that made the sound standout so much in the first place. Using elements of Scandinavian folk and an apparent affinity for vintage methods, they don’t so much lay claim to authenticity as make you wonder why you care so much about it to begin with.
Tusmørke‘s Underjordisk Tusmørkeis due for release on CD/LP Nov. 9 (Nov. 13 in US) on Termo Records. Please enjoy “Fimbul” on the player below, followed by more info about the album, courtesy of the PR wire:
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The band’s history can be traced back to the mid-nineties and the budding, Scandinavian scene of new progressive bands. Back then, the Momrak twins who are the beating heart of Tusmørke called their band Les Fleurs de Mal. The band featured future Wobbler vocalist Andreas Prestmo, and they shared the stage with other up-and-coming bands like White Willow. Via intricate pathways, this evolved into Tusmørke, whose music is darker, more intense and dare we say primeval, than the more delicate Les Fleurs de Mal. The album you are holding in your hands will conjure up images of pagan rites, witches dancing in the firelight serenading the new moon, eldritch wizards conjuring dark spirits… And it’s no gimmick: This band lives and breathes the same air that flows through the magical lands their music describes.
The album has been expertly recorded and produced by that master of retro productions, Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, White Willow, In Lingua Mortua), and sounds so authentically analog that you can practically smell the antique equipment that has been used for its making. Lars contributes mellotron, chamberlin, spinet, Hammond organ and a host of esoteric instruments on the album.
You know, I kind of struggle with knowing how personal I should get in these posts. I’m glad this week to have gotten back to the point where I fill the full frontpage with new stuff, but fuck me sideways, it wasn’t easy. And man, everyone works hard. I’m not the only one with two jobs. I’m not the only one who works late. It’s a fine line between explaining my situation and whining, I think. I don’t get to post as much as I want to, but you know, even when I didn’t have a job and I did five or six posts a day, I didn’t post as much as I wanted to.
So what’s new?
I picked Trouble tonight because it seemed like the only fitting end to this week. It was a pretty Trouble-y week, what with those Days of the Doomed reviews and all that craziness. I figured no better way to go. Sorry if you don’t like Trouble. Sorry if you don’t like The Obelisk. Sorry I drank all the wine.
Except that last one I’m not sorry about.
I’m gonna wait until The Patient Mrs. falls asleep, then I’m gonna go out in the field across the street and make black metal poses at the moon. And I’ll pretend like someone’s taking pictures of me except no one will be and I’ll pretend everything is high contrast black and white and I’m in Norway and I’m in Darkthrone and whatever. Frydee Darkthrone:
New podcast this weekend. Next week, reviews of Danny G., The Company Corvette, maybe Sons of Otis, so on. So help me gawd, I’ll have my interview with Justin Maranga of Ancestors posted, and it’s a good one. And I’ll work late, and I’ll bitch about that, and if I have time, I’ll write some about that Argus record I bought last weekend, and that’ll be fun too. Like, woo-hoo, man.
See you back here tomorrow or Sunday for that new podcast, on the forum in the meantime, and at your favorite jaded-rock-dude support group. SIJA: Self-Indulgent Jerks Anonymous.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Nothing good ever comes from following a wood nymph into a tent. Such is the lesson learned by the strong-chinned protagonist in the new video for the track “Magic Hollow” from Norwegian post-black metal innovators Ulver‘s latest offering, Childhood’s End. The album is a collection of obscure ’60s and ’70s covers (they do Gandalf, which is pretty impressive in itself), and “Magic Hollow” originally opened side B of The Beau Brummels‘ 1967 outing, Triangle.
And though the band once appeared on The Flintstones as The Beau Brummelstones, you’ll note that Ulver‘s take on the already subdued original is pretty severe. If the visual style of the video looks familiar, the director is Justin Oakey of Burial Offerings Productions, whose work on clips by Godstopper and Hexvessel has been featured here in the past. With “Magic Hollow,” he continues to harbor a fascination with human ritual and otherworldly forest spaces. “Magic Hollow” reminds of a silent film, with a crisp narrative and evocative imagery.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
…Or, if you believe everything you read on rock posters, 1967. I’m not exactly sure what that’s about, but then, that’s always half the fun when it comes to Ulver. They’ve made a career off delighting in the confusion of others, morphing from black metal into avant electro-ambient folk yet somehow remaining grimmer than anything that might dwell in the Scandinavian night forests. I for one look forward to their set being excellent and depressing as hell.
Ulver‘s music career is a sonic kaleidoscopic epic that saw them start as a lo-fi black metal band, and then begin a continuous morphing through acoustic outsider folk, electronic ambient music, post-symphonic chamber music and electronic post-rock to their current sound which might be called goth, prog, electronic, experimental, art rock.
They are without question one of the most varied, unique and talented bands active today and Roadburn‘s colossally chuffed to welcome them to the 1967 edition of Roadburn, headlining on Thursday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, Holland.
Ulver‘s latest record, War of the Roses, adds multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan (Guapo, Æthenor, etc.) to the lineup and they are now a seamless amalgamation of the enormous spectrum of sounds that they have prospected during the last decade. It promises to be a wild musical ride at their 1967-performance, we can hardly wait!
EDIT: Justin K. Broadrick has also been announced as artist-in-residence for Roadburn 2012. He’ll do three sets over the course of three days. Leaf Hound will also perform the entirety of their 1971 classic, Growers of Mushroom. Dig the poster to prove it:
Tickets for Roadburn 2012 will go on sale Saturday, November 26, 10:00 Central European Time. There will be a 2 ticket limit (per order) for 3-day and 4-day passes and Afterburner tickets. The new 13% tax increase on concert tickets here in the Netherlands is included.
3-day passes will cost € 177,50 (1000 available), 4-day passes, including Afterburner will cost € 197,50 (1500 available) and single tickets for the traditional Afterburner event (headliner technical thrash metal legends Coroner) will cost € 32,50 (500 available). There will be additional service fees per ticket. More info on tickets for Roadburn Festival 2012here.
In related news: Anekdoten, Bongripper, Dopethrone, Fleshpress, Gnod, Necros Christos, Necro Deathmort and Spiders have also been confirmed for Roadburn Festival 2012.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Blues-rocking Norwegian four-piece Lonely Kamel make their debut on Napalm Records (who, with Monster Magnet, Karma to Burn and Brant Bjork already on their roster, are becoming quite the purveyors of the riffy arts) with Dust Devil. The name sounds like a handheld vacuum cleaner, it’s true. Contrary to such appliances though, Dust Devil doesn’t suck. Rather, Lonely Kamel come off like graduates from the University of Roadsaw (with a minor in Sixty Watt Shaman), infusing loud, driving heavy rock with a sensibility straight off the Delta.
There’s varying levels of that inflection throughout Dust Devil, but these veterans of Roadburn, Stoned From the Underground andDuna Jam — they clearly have their Eurofest credentials in order — handle it with smoothness and ease, right from the sliding ’70s classicism of opener “Grim Reefer” to the Clutch-esque fuzz groove of “Ragnarörkr.” The only real challenge in picking a track to stream was trying to find one that summed everything up.
In the end, I went with “The Prophet.” At about five and a half-minutes, you get the bluesy side of the band through guitarist Thomas Brenna‘s vocals and the heavy rock of the rhythm section of bassist Stian Helle and drummer Espen Nesset. Rounded out by Lukas Paulsen on guitar and backing vocals, Lonely Kamel impress right up to the song’s surprisingly noisy finale. Even there, though, the groove is paramount.
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Blues, grooves, and a bottle of booze! Stoner rock! LonelyKamel‘s third album proves once again that it is absolutely not necessary to be surrounded by desert sands and cacti in order to produce genuine stoner rock. The four Norwegians are living proof of this fact, and don’t stop there. With the release of Dust Devil, they unquestionably provide the genre with a refreshing brand of unrelenting and passionate dedication. The opening two tracks, “Grim Reefer” and “Evil Man,” reveal the road on which Lonely Kamel will travel.
It offers much more than typical stoner riffs and captivating rhythms, adding sing-along choruses and hypnotic melodies to its winding course. Short trips to the world of blues and psychedelic round off this unforgettable journey by ensuring a welcomed change of pace. Dust Devil is the Nordic alternative to the desert sands, and for fans of the stoner rock genre a definite must-have!
Posted in Reviews on September 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
The well-received Norwegian four-piece Spirits of the Dead released their self-titled debut in 2010 to what was – if the extensive collection of press quotes is anything to go by – considerable fanfare. The follow-up to said debut arrives in the form of The Great God Pan (North American release by The End Records), a short but memorable full-length collection of six engaging tracks that hones in on early-‘70s pagan folk with just a hint of dark undercurrent lurking beneath the melodic sweetness. Unlike many other retro acts, Spirits of the Dead aren’t just trying to ape a specific style or one band in particular’s aesthetic – i.e. the way early Witchcraft so directly took on Pentagram. Rather, The Great God Pan is traceable on a more vague level, culling some of its layered lead work from Tony Iommi in its final moments, but progressing as a whole along altogether different lines, and most importantly, taking the retro or otherwise familiar elements of which it’s composed and creating something fresh from them. There is a calmness to The Great God Pan that comes through in its bright tonality, and like the best of their genre, these songs are viewed as though from a grainy, sun-flared photograph.
But though they obviously dwell in a secret forest of krautrock LPs and obscure folkadelia (they have secret forests in Oslo, right?), Spirits of the Dead aren’t limited to retro posturing either. The ringing clarity of the acoustics that begin The Great God Pan opener “Mighty Mountain” and the ensuing distorted guitar revving both sound entirely modern. Guitarist Ole Øvstedal shows restraint throughout the album, and “Mighty Mountain” is just the first instance of it, as the electric guitar again cuts out to acoustic sway, coming back only for a simple start-stop progression in the chorus. Frontman Ragnar Vikse leads the drama of the verses, and proves to be more than capable of taking charge of a song in the classic tradition of the standalone singer. Even with Øvstedal playing a multi-layered lead under, it’s his repetition of the titular chorus line – he’s almost chanting it by then; far back in the mix and echoing – that has the listener enraptured. Drummer Geir Thorstensen keeps to rim shots and jazzy hi-hat/ride interplay for most of “Leaves of Last Year’s Fall,” which is among the more woodland psych of The Great God Pan’s tracks in terms of its atmosphere. Vikse’s voice is deft and almost molten in its ability to jump from note to note, and with the subtle fills of bassist Kristian Hultgren playing out under Øvstedal’s gorgeous leads, there’s a touch of class brought into the song that’s complemented – not undercut – by the somewhat foreboding progression of the bridge. Spirits of the Dead affect a decent build and chaotic payoff, but never meander too far from the straightforward structures on which their material is built.
It’s with “Pure as the Lotus” that The Great God Pan gets its first real injection of ritual. The cut – second in length only to the closer at 6:22 – begins with hard thuds from Thostensen topped with a fuzzy riff from Øvstedal and incantation ah’ing from Vikse, and it’s a clear change in atmosphere from first two songs, the underlying darker vibe of “Leaves of Last Year’s Fall” coming to the fore for the introduction. The single hits of percussion remain a focus and the melody is rounded out by sustained organ in the verse, and the chorus opens more widely into forest worshiping grace. There’s a development to the track that the insistence of Thorstensen and Hultgren’s rhythm helps highlight, but Vikse’s melody seems to be in a world of its own, which helps set up a duality that joins back together as the intro is revived in the song’s back half, leading to a hypnotic, guitar-led instrumental break that eventually fades out on the chorus. Like a lot of The Great God Pan, “Pure as the Lotus” is built around melodic quirk and a heavy dose of personality, but there’s a solid structural foundation underneath. That remains true for the softly-cooed exclamatory title-track, “The Great God Pan!”
Posted in Reviews on April 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Triply-guitared Norwegian outfit Kvelertak made a serious impression with their self-titled debut full-length, released last year on Indie Recordings. Enough of an impression so that Brooklyn’s The End Records came in with a bid for a US release of the six-piece’s Norwegian-language album, which they issued with six bonus tracks (presumably one for each member of the band) of demos and a live session at the BBC. The resulting “new” album is 17 tracks and 73 minutes long – a beast by almost any measure – even if Kvelertak’s sound wasn’t so drenched in vitality and ghastly relevance. The band, who’ve been hailed over the world for their creativity and for whom the hype has been not so much palpable as claustrophobia-inducing, blend a variety of genres across their original 11 studio cuts, touching on black metal, new school beardo stoner, screamo punk and party metal, with a Viking reference or two thrown in. There are parts that just begging for thousands of clapping hands at insert-European-festival here and parts that evoke a woodsy misanthropy, so Kvelertak is nothing if not running a wide gamut of influences.
That works to their benefit on these tracks, as each new reference that pops up is well blended into the context of an overall Kvelertak sound, and even in its darker moments, the upbeat energy of the record – perhaps its most infectious element – is maintained. With six members in the band, there’s room for a slew of backing vocals, gang chants and arrangement tweaks, and at times vocalist Erlend Hjelvik isn’t so much just screaming overtop of riffs has he is conducting a choir of shouts. As one would have to expect, solos abound. The guitars of Bjarte Lund Rolland, Maciek Ofstad and Vidar Landa trade off harmonies and leads, and there are songs that can be overwhelming for how much they have going on, but thanks to the work of Hjelvik, bassist Marvin Nygaard and drummer Kjetil Gjermundrød, the album is never completely out of control and an overarching flow is achieved. Despite the reckless sound of the band, the raucous nature of the material and the fact that opener “Ulvetid” starts out with a gang chant of the band’s name and closer “Utrydd Dei Svake” closes with one (at least lyric-wise), Kvelertak is neither dumb nor out of control. They know exactly what they’re doing here, and that counts among their several key assets.
At the most basic level, Kvelertak rocks. In almost every sense you can think of, the album is a collection of driving, uptempo tracks that – I’ll say it again because I don’t think it can be stressed enough – are so frantic they almost emit light. Captured in the studio by Kurt Ballou of Converge, the hardcore side of the band comes through in an aura of band solidarity. “Ulvetid” (which translates to “Hunting Time”) seamlessly melds punk and black metal in its layers of guitar, and Hjelvik is either to affect either style in his screams. Immediately, the record draws you in, and the Orange-hued opening riff of “Mjød” only drives that point further home. Despite being the shortest track on the album, “Mjød” is also one of the most memorable for its chorus, which, speaking no Norwegian, I still wanted to sing and clap along with. That track’s punk elements are to the front, but “Fossegrim,” which follows, starts off with a verse riff straight out of Norway’s blackened lineage. Where Kvelertak get into putting their stamp on it is just after 1:20, when the song breaks to just the guitar (sounds more like keyboard), taking the progression someplace completely differently before a solo/breakdown section and squibblies keep the guitars busy as Gjermundrød – to his credit – not only manages to keep up with the deluge of changes, but actually establishes a groove in each part and keeps the song moving. One could hardly blame him if his head had exploded two minutes into the track.
“Blodtørst” is memorable for bringing in an acoustic-led break (punctuated by steady bass drum kicks) in its midsection, refusing even then to let go of the momentum the band has established. Everything on Kvelertak happens fast, and that’s part of what makes the record so exciting. It’s telling you to keep up with it if you can, and I think that part of the reason the band has had such success around the world is their being able to stay heavy in the traditional sense – fast, loud, dense tonality – while also working the punk accessibility into their sound. It’s a winning formula across this album, and I’d be surprised if others didn’t pick it up as a tactic in the future, the same way Torche’s brand of melodicism seems to have become universal these days among newer-school doomers. Kvelertak – with their John Dyer Baizley (Baroness) cover art, Kurt Ballou production and, now, specific American release – definitely have their sights on an international market, and going by the reaction Kvelertak has received, rightly so. As the riffy break in “Offernatt” – a place where Nygaard most makes his presence known on bass – fades into the classic rock opening of “Sjøhyenar (Havets Herrer),” it’s increasingly clear Kvelertak have something special going on sound-wise. Call and response vocal interplay on “Sjøhyenar (Havets Herrer)” results in one of the album’s most definitively punk moments, but again it isn’t long before the band changes it up with more acoustic guitars and a straight-ahead rocking chorus.
Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sometimes this album is so beautiful it hurts. The melodic breaks, the interplay between Herbrand Larsen‘s and Grutle Kjellson‘s vocals, the keyboard flourishes, the pounding heaviness of it. I know there are a couple really amazing progressive black metal bands out there — Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord come to mind — but for me, nothing tops Enslaved, and Axioma Ethica Odini might be the bravest album they’ve made in their 20-year career.
You could sit for a week and parse every second and still not manage to capture it. I remember the first time I listened, I was just so happy it didn’t follow a similar production course to that of 2008′s Vertebrae, but it wasn’t until I really dug into Axioma Ethica Odini that the scope of the thing became clear. The first half of the record is your pretty typical Enslaved material — still better than, oh, everything else in its genre — but Side B’s prog overload really pushed Axioma Ethica Odini into the upper echelon of 2010 releases for me. It’s another one of those albums I just can’t seem to leave home.
Even listening to it now to write this, I’m distracted by the fucking brilliance of the album (among other things). The chorus of “Lightening” gives me a chill up my spine every time, and even a song like “Singular,” which I didn’t fully appreciate when I reviewed the record, has grown on me to the point where I’ll put Axioma Ethica Odini away for a day or so, then stop and say to myself, “Why the hell am I not listening to Enslaved?” And you know what the answer is? The answer is I put on Enslaved. Constantly.