Review & Track Premiere: Red Mountains, Slow Wander

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

red mountains slow wander

[Click play above to listen to the premiere of ‘Stone’ from Red Mountains’ Slow Wander. Album is out Sept. 1 on All Good Clean Records.]

With their steady rhythmic roll, jam-sounding foundations and tonally warm psychedelic affect, one almost expects the heady sounds of Red Mountains to originate from Munich, rather than the northern climes of Trondheim, Norway — nearly seven hours up from Oslo by rail — but their sound, perhaps informed by the Scandinavian Mountain chain running through their hometown, has its roots in soulful heavy rock just as much as airy drift. To wit, their second album and first for All Good Clean Records is the nine-track Slow Wander, which follows the Nasoni-issued 2015 debut, Down with the Sun (review here), and while one notes aesthetic continuity in the cover art by the esteemed Samantha Muljat — who seems to have done a number of short, digital releases for the band as well — the 47-minute offering takes decided action in moving them stylistically ahead from where they were two years ago.

Recorded outside Trondheim at Sørgården Studios with Spidergawd guitarist/vocalist Per Borten at the production helm, Håvard Soknes on the mix and Magnus Kofoed mastering, Slow Wander is maybe somewhat devious in its title in that even at its most drifting, on a cut like the vast, airy sway of “Oak” or the subsequent 10-minute blues-psych sprawl of “Endless Ocean,” there’s a clear sense of purpose maintained. And that bears fruit elsewhere in the more solidified songwriting process of vocalist/guitarist Magnus Riise, guitarist/vocalist Jostein Wigenstad, bassist Sverre Dalen and drummer Simen Mathiassen, who seem to take cues from UK heavy rockers Stubb in the soulfulness and hooks of the bouncing centerpiece “Stone,” “Cellar Door” and the earlier “Rat King,” which though slower and somewhat darker in its atmosphere contains arguably the catchiest chorus of the bunch.

Where the album ultimately succeeds is in establishing a balance between its two sides — the more rocking impulses and the wider-breadth jamming — and in conveying a direct sense of purpose in doing this. There’s no sense that anything on Slow Wander is happening by accident, whatever the name of the record might otherwise indicate. Rather, if one takes the title as advice from the band instead of a description of their own actions as regards its making, then Red Mountains are perhaps giving their listenership the best way possible to make its collective way through the tracks. From opener “Home” — like the starting point of a board game — onward through “Rat King” and “Oak” and “Endless Ocean,” Slow Wander earns not just a fleeting glance from its audience, but a real savoring experience.

red mountains

That’s not to say one should slow down playback or take a break from one track to the next and thereby miss out or undercut the flow between them, which is one of Slow Wander‘s most appealing aspects across what would seem to be its A and B sides, but just that the progression of the album as it unfolds is worth more than a passive listen, and the more one engages with moments like the echoing solo that tops the midsection of “Home” or the languid payoff deep into “Endless Ocean,” or the crunchier riffing on the penultimate “Acid Wedding” — which seems as well to sneak a guest vocal performance from Borten into its second half — the more those moments and the rest of the release repay that effort with satisfying detail of songcraft and execution. No question Red Mountains have an organic basis from which they’re working in that this material is born of jams, but whether it’s the rolling vibe of “Fog” or the nod-ready payoff of “Cellar Door,” there’s been an obvious commitment made and energy dedicated to shaping that basis into coherent, deceptively varied songs.

An argument could be made that in that process, Red Mountains are playing to style. I’m not sure I disagree, given how willful their sense of craft comes across in “Stone,” “Rat King,” “Home,” etc., but when one considers Slow Wander in light of Down with the Sun before it, the trajectory they’re on would seem to be toward a more individualized take on heavy psychedelia. Further, if playing to style is going to result in the chance to bask in the kind of immersion that “Endless Ocean” offers, then go right ahead. There is a grammar of aesthetic for any genre-based output, and Slow Wander demonstrates plainly that Red Mountains have been schooled via their influences in what they’re doing.

But again, the increase in production value between the debut and the follow-up, the precise placement of these songs — turning vinyl convention on its head with the more open material up front and the rockers in back — and even the overarching symmetry of answering the opener “Home” with the closer “Returning,” as though they knew the listener would finish the record and then immediately go back to the start to make their way around the board again, all of this shows a directed consciousness from RiiseWigenstadDalen and Mathiassen. Fortunately for them and for anyone who would take their second long-player on in a more than cursory manner, their chemistry carries through the structures they’ve built, and while it may not be a revolution in style, Slow Wander is a friendly, open-armed welcome to the converted and a forward step that affirms the potential of their debut and would seem to hint toward even broader reaches to come. There is nothing more one could reasonably ask of Slow Wander than to be precisely what it is, and in setting those terms, Red Mountains begin to lay claim to sonic territory of their own.

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Red Mountains on Bandcamp

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All Good Clean Records website

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Enslaved Post Video for “Storm Son” from New Album E

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved e storm son

A few crucial learnings from the new Enslaved track, and you know I love crucial learnings. The mainstay Norwegian progressive black metallers announced last week they’ll issue their new album, E, on Oct. 13 via Nuclear Blast, and in a week that was full of good news of releases to come, that might’ve been the most welcome date to mark on the calendar. In accordance with unveiling the cover runic origins, cover art, tracklisting and preorders for E, they said they’d be posting the first single “Storm Son” on Friday, and sure enough, they lived up to their word.

The 10-minute track makes a substantial sampling of what famed producer Jens Bogren is bringing to themix and master E in terms of clarity of vision and precise instrument separation — the track is immediately clean, very much in the style of Bogren‘s work on Enslaved‘s last four albums and countless others — and the video is by Josh Graham. You might recognize his crow-flying-in-profile motif from Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” video, though there’s plenty going on here besides.

Before we get to the clip, let’s run through what we find out in it:

1. New dude can sing.

Granted, we may or may not be getting a guest appearance in the second half of “Storm Son” from Einar Selvik of Wardruna as well, and as the subsequent gallop takes off, bassist Grutle Kjellson‘s rasp is front and center (his own clean vocals are there too, somewhat buried in the layering), but early in the track, we get to hear new keyboardist Håkon Vinje‘s voice for the first time, and yeah, he pretty much nails it. What Vinje would bring to the band in filling the void left by Herbrand Larsen, who stepped away earlier in 2017 after a 13-year tenure, was to my mind the biggest question going into E, and if “Storm Son” is any indicator, things are gonna be alright. Larsen‘s progression as a vocalist over the last decade was a hallmark of Enslaved‘s stylistic progression, and obviously the band didn’t want to take any backward steps in losing him.

2. The style hasn’t changed that much.

A start-stop riff from guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve Isdal carries the spirit of 2015’s In Times (review here) forward, and as one would expect, drummer/famed fisherman Cato Bekkevold is malleable to whatever changes the song might present. Much as it marks a new beginning for Enslaved in terms of their lineup, “Storm Son” doesn’t come across as a radical shift from where they were two years ago in terms of sound so much as the next step in their ongoing evolution. I’m not sure I’d count on one song to speak for E as a whole — yes, that’s me hedging my bets — but even with some notable post-rock flourish, I don’t feel blindsided by what the band is doing here.

3. Metallic patience abounds.

That said, one can hear a certain meditativeness in the repetitions early; Enslaved seeming to take that extra measure or two before switching to the next part of the track. That’s what I mean by “metallic patience.” It’s not like they’re jamming out — one would never really expect them to suddenly go improv — but while Enslaved resolve “Storm Son” with significant rhythmic charge, they also allow the textures of the track to flesh out a bit without growing fed up with waiting, losing their grip, and blasting out before it feels right to do so. There’s still a build in “Storm Son” along a linear course, but pay attention to how Enslaved handle it on their way through and I think you’ll notice as well that they hold their sense of poise even as that fury mounts, and that control is emblematic both of their experience and of the place that has brought them as players and songwriters.

Enjoy the video:

Enslaved, “Storm Son” official video

True avant-garde Norwegians ENSLAVED will release their epic new studio album E on October 13th, 2017 and with this 14th full-length record, the virtuoso herald a new chapter in the band’s history. To provide a first taste of what’s to come, the band now unveils their debut music video for the 10 minute long single “Storm Son” that blends mesmerizing prog with jarring extreme metal and a folky atmosphere. The music video was designed by Josh Graham, who previously worked with SOUNDGARDEN and NEUROSIS among others, and delivered a truly spectacular piece of animated art.

“‘Storm Son’ deals with the duality of man and nature, how important and basic that relationship is,” explains songwriter and guitarist Ivar. “Everything we do and create are imitations of nature; as we evolved from nature, that is how it must be – yet modern man thinks he and she is independent of nature, that we somehow are so superior that we do not have to take nature into consideration other than as a backdrop for shitty movies. Or festivals. Losing touch with nature is basically to lose touch with being human.”

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

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

The track list contains these majestic anthems:
01. Storm Son (10:54)
02. The River’s Mouth (5:12)
03. Sacred Horse (8:12)
04. Axis Of The Worlds (7:49)
05. Feathers Of Eolh (8:06)
06. Hiindsiight (9:32)
Bonus tracks available on the digipak:
07. Djupet (7:39)
08. What Else Is There? (Röyksopp cover) (4:44)

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Enslaved on Instagram

Enslaved on Twitter

Enslaved website

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Nuclear Blast on Instagram

Nuclear Blast on Twitter

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Black Moon Circle to Release New Jams Collection Flowing into the Third Dimension

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

black moon circle

The Trondheim, Norway-based heavy psych jammers Black Moon Circle continue to evolve, and if you haven’t yet dug into that ongoing process, the two 20-minute-plus improvisations on The Studio Jams Vol. III — AKA Flowing into the Third Dimension — are as good a time to do so as either prior installment. Working once again as the four-piece of guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen, and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also of Øresund Space Collective), they set a course for 180 mark 0 and head about as far out as they’ve gone to-date, which bodes remarkably well for their impending full-length to come next year, on which they’ll also introduce organist/keyboardist Magnus. Intrigue abounds.

Note that Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan of Motorpsycho sits in for The Studio Jams Vol. III as well. Because I guess if you’re going to happen to make your way into a new plane of reality — rest assured Black Moon Circle have spent time in multiple dimensions over the course of their offerings thus far — you should probably keep the best company possible as you go.

Info follows from the PR wire:

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

Black Moon Circle – The Studio Jams Vol III

MOON6CGR078 / LP

Black Moon Circle (BMC) is a psychedelic jam band from Trondheim, Norway. The band started off as a 3 piece (Vemund- Guitar, backing vocals; Øyvin- Bass, lead vocals; Per- Drums) in 2012 playing gigs in Trondheim, Oslo and Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, they met Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Space Rock Productions) and a lasting collaboration started, and thrives and evolves to this day. The Plains EP was released on Space Rock Productions (2014) and included 2 songs from the bands set and one long in studio jam. The band did not sit idle for long and over the last 3 years the band has released 2 additional studio albums, a split 10”, split 7 and completed a trilogy of Studio Jam albums (Vols. 1-3). Most of these are released on the local, Crispin Glover Records label.

Vol 1 and 2 have been extremely well received and Vol 3 saw a further evolution in the band, with the addition of Snah, guitar player from Motorpsycho, who joined the band in the studio (he also played on the 10” record) for several jams.

2017 has seen the band expand into a five piece with the addition of Magnus on organ, mellotron, rhodes piano to further augment the bands sound. You will hear his contributions on the next studio album due in early 2018.

http://blackmooncircle.bandcamp.com
http://facebook.com/blackmooncircle
http://crispingloverrecords.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/

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Enslaved Announce Preorders for New Album E out Oct. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

If you’re like me and you’re wondering exactly what the new Enslaved album, E, is going to sound like, then you’re probably also like me and you know gosh darn well the answer isn’t likely to be provided in its entirety by the unveiling this Friday of the first single “Storm Son.” Nonetheless, when it comes to the long-running Bergen, Norway, progressive black metal innovators, I’ll take what I can get. Nuclear Blast has set an Oct. 13 release date for E and begun taking preorders for physical and digital editions, and that’s nifty, but at this point all we’ve got to go on is the art — looks like Enslaved art; Truls Espedal strikes again — and with the news that Herbrand Larsen has stepped away from the keys/clean vocal role, there’s the potential for a big sonic shift in E‘s tracks. Larsen was not a minor factor in the evolution of their sound.

Friday will begin to tell that tale; Oct. 13 will continue it. More when I hear, but for now, this from the PR wire:

enslaved e

ENSLAVED Announce Album Details And Release Date Of E

Launch Album Pre-Order Here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

True avant-garde Norwegians ENSLAVED have announced the release of their epic new studio album for October 13th, 2017. This 14th full-length masterpiece sets the musical mind-twisters free from genre boundaries and offers a unprecedented mix of prog, extreme metal and shoegaze on 8 tracks with a play time of more than an hour. Elegantly titled E, the album was once again written by the unholy alliance of guitarist Ivar Bjørnson (music, lyrics) and singer/bassist Grutle Kjellson (lyrics) and marks the introduction of their new keyboard master and clean vocalist Håkon Vinje. Mixed and mastered at the Fascination Street Studios by the renowed Jens Bogren, E heralds a new era for ENSLAVED. Its cover artwork was once again hand-painted by the Norwegian artist Truls Espedal. As support for their brave sound journey, the quintet brought several guest musicians on board for the songs “Hiindsiigh”‘ and ‘”Feathers Of Eolh”, including WARDRUNA’s Einar Kvitrafn Selvik, flutist Daniel Mage and jazz saxophonist Kjetil Møster.

Mastermind Ivar explains about the title E:
“The concept of the album lies in both it’s meaning as a letter in the latin alphabet, and it’s runic reference: the rune “Ehwaz”, that is depicted as an “M” when drawn as rune (just to make sure it gets really confusing) – the runes are drawn to look like what they literally mean. Ehwaz (pronounced and used as what’s known as E, but drawn as an “M”) looks like and means ‘horse’. Which is closely linked to its esoteric meaning; which is ‘trust’ and ‘co-operation’. One of mankind’s oldest and deepest pairings/collaborations with any “outside” entities is with the horse. When they were first tamed and utilised there must have arisen the notion of some esoteric link between the two; now we could move swiftly, escape faster and even eat and drink from the animal (both horse milk and horse blood), and of course show off and brag before our enemies and peers with the most spectacular horses.

So, no, it is not about horses! It is about the symbioses that surrounds us; which are vital to our existence, to our development – on all scales: man and vessel (for instance horse, yes), a person and its significant other, child and parent, musician and instrument, chaos and order, subconscious and conscious, Oden and Sleipnir – wisdom and communication. There are many levels and variations of this concept on the album; the duality of man and nature, present and past personalities within one self, the conscious fear and the subconscious drive. And other symbiosis.”

The pre-order starts today and you can now get your hands on the physical editions of the album here: nuclearblast.com/enslaved-e

Or the digital version here: nblast.de/EnslavedDigital

The track list contains these majestic anthems:
01. Storm Son (10:54)
02. The River’s Mouth (5:12)
03. Sacred Horse (8:12)
04. Axis Of The Worlds (7:49)
05. Feathers Of Eolh (8:06)
06. Hiindsiight (9:32)
Bonus tracks available on the digipak:
07. Djupet (7:39)
08. What Else Is There? (Röyksopp cover) (4:44)

Stay tuned for the first single “Storm Son” to be unveiled this Friday!

http://www.facebook.com/enslaved
https://www.instagram.com/enslavedofficial
https://twitter.com/enslavedband
http://www.enslaved.no/
http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://instagram.com/nuclearblastusa
http://www.twitter.com/nuclearblastusa

Enslaved, “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” official video from Roadburn Live

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Spectral Haze Post Title-Track & Cover Art for Turning Electric

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

spectral haze

I’m not entirely sure how long Spectral Haze‘s Turning Electric has been in the works, or if the band even deigns to recognize the linear motion of our space-time continuum, but it seems like it might be a while. In 2015, the Oslo, Norway, heavy psych/space rockers posted a notice about new t-shirts coming soon and said “prepare to turn electric” as a part of that, so at very least they’ve been sitting on the title for some time. They signed to France-based imprint Totem Cat Records at the end of last year and said at that point that the record would be out in May, so its current Oct. 20 release date is the end result of some delay as well — reportedly owing to the usual concerns of pressing vinyl.

What matters, of course, is that the album is coming out. Then a five-piece and apparently having some fluidity of lineup anyhow, Spectral Haze made their debut in late 2014 with I.E.V.: Transmutated Nebula Remains (review here) via Soulseller Records, which followed a self-titled 2012 demo EP that you can still hear on their Bandcamp. Speaking of audio, the now-foursome are giving a first taste of what’s to come on Turning Electric by means of streaming the title-track, which is only 3:42 long, but still gives a sense of the cosmic thrust they’re working with anyhow, as excellently complemented by the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art that’s also newly unveiled.

I mean seriously, just look at this thing. I could do a year-end list of the best artwork and just have it all be Burke covers. Hell, maybe I should.

While I kick that idea around, here’s that cover and release date confirmation from the label, followed by the song stream:

spectral haze turning electric

Totem Cat Records – COMING NEXT / Spectral Haze – Turning Electric

Available October 20 on CD/LP
Artwork by Adam Burke

Psyched Out Doom Rock Rituals

Spectral Haze is:
Spacewülff – Interstellar Howls/Geetarrrgh
Sönik Slöth – Supercosmic overdrive pedalinfused guitarvoid
Döômdögg – Dronemachinated AUM
Cëlestïal Cöbra – Conjurer of souls through ritual drums

Occasional appearances:
Elêctrïc Stårlïng – Space wizard beckoning astral animal guardians, manipulating aether
Pòwêr Pänthêr – Percussive boddhisattva, aspect of the conjuring ritual drums

https://www.facebook.com/SpectralHaze/
https://spectralhaze.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

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Wrapping up #VinylDay2017

Posted in Features on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Grooves and platters galore. My motivation behind doing Vinyl Day 2017 was simple: I felt like listening to records and sharing that process. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Just an idea I had and ran with it. I figure it doesn’t need to be anything more than that, right? Isn’t putting on an album its own excuse for putting on an album? I tend to think so.

And yeah, I made it a hashtag. Because it’s the future, and hashtags. Instagrammaphone and whatnot. I’m a novice at best when it comes to the social medias, but it seems to me that if you’re going to share a full day’s worth of what you’re listening to, that’s the way to do it. So that’s what I did. If I clogged up your feed or whatever and it pissed you off, sorry.

For anyone who might’ve missed it, it turned out to be nine records of various sorts. Here they are, complete with accompanying audio when I could get it, because it’s the age of instant gratification:

There you have it. Had to be Sleep to end it. Pretty awesome day of music on the whole, and whatever was on your playlist yesterday, if it was this stuff or anything else, I hope you enjoyed. I’m gonna call Vinyl Day 2017 a definite win. Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

Hour of 13 on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

Operators on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

Bone Man on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

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Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

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Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

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Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

Helén on Thee Facebooks

Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

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I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

Savanah on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Puta Volcano on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Loss, BardSpec, Sinner Sinners, Cavra, Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Supersonic Blues, Masterhand, Green Lung, Benthic Realm, Lâmina

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

Day two of the Quarterly Review and all is chugging along. I was on the road for part of the day yesterday and will be again today, so there’s some chaos underlying what I’m sure on the surface seems like an outwardly smooth process — ha. — but yeah, things are moving forward. Today is a good mix of stuff, which makes getting through it somewhat easier on my end, as opposed to trying to find 50 different ways to say “riffy,” so I hope you take the time to sample some audio as you make your way through, to get a feel for where these bands are coming from. A couple highlights of the week in here, as always. We go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Loss, Horizonless

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Horizonless (on Profound Lore) marks a welcome if excruciating return from Nashville death-doomers Loss, who debuted six years ago with 2011’s Despond (review here) and who, much to their credit, waste no time in making up for their absence with 64 soul-crushing minutes across nine slabs of hyperbole-ready atmospheric misery. The longer, rumble-caked, slow-motion lumbering of “The Joy of all Who Sorrow,” “All Grows on Tears,” “Naught,” the title-track and closer “When Death is All” (which boasts guests spots from Leviathan’s Wrest, Dark Castle’s Stevie Floyd and producer Billy Anderson) are companioned by shorter ambient works like the creepy horror soundtrack “I.O.” and the hum of “Moved Beyond Murder,” but the deeper it goes, the more Horizonless lives up to its name in creating a sense of unremitting, skyline-engulfing darkness. That doesn’t mean it’s without an emotional center. As Loss demonstrate throughout, there’s nothing that escapes their consumptive scope, and as they shift through the organ-laced “The End Steps Forth,” “Horizonless,” “Banishment” and the long-fading wash of the finale, the album seems as much about eating its own heart as yours. A process both gorgeous and brutal.

Loss on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

BardSpec, Hydrogen

bardspec hydrogen

It’s only fair to call Hydrogen an experimentalist work, but don’t necessarily take that to mean that Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson doesn’t have an overarching vision for what his BardSpec project is. With contributions along the way from Today is the Day’s Steve Austin and former Trinacria compatriot Iver Sandøy (also Manngard), Bjørnson crafts extended pieces of ambient guitar and electronica-infused beats on works like “Fire Tongue” and the thumping “Salt,” resulting in two kinds of interwoven progressive otherworldlinesses not so much battling it out as exploring the spaces around each other. Hydrogen veers toward the hypnotic even through the more manic-churning bonus track “Teeth,” but from the psych-dance transience of “Bone” (video posted here) to the unfolding wash of “Gamma,” BardSpec is engaged in creating its own aesthetic that’s not only apart from what Bjørnson is most known for in Enslaved, but apart even from its influences in modern atmospherics and classic, electronics-infused prog.

BardSpec on Thee Facebooks

ByNorse Music website

 

Sinner Sinners, Optimism Disorder

There’s a current of rawer punk running beneath Sinner Sinners’ songwriting – or on the surface of it if you happen to be listening to “California” or “Outsider” or “Hate Yourself” or “Preachers,” etc. – but especially when the L.A. outfit draw back on the push a bit, their Last Hurrah Records and Cadavra Records full-length Optimism Disorder bears the hallmarks of Rancho de la Luna, the studio where it was recorded. To wit, the core duo of Steve and Sam Thill lead the way through the Queens of the Stone Age-style drive of opener “Last Drop” (video posted here), “Desperation Saved Me (Out of Desperation)” and though finale “Celexa Blues” is more aggressive, its tones and overall hue, particularly in the context of the bounce of “Together We Stand” and “Too Much to Dream” earlier, still have that desert-heavy aspect working for them. It’s a line that Sinner Sinners don’t so much straddle as crash through and stomp all over, but I’m not sure Optimism Disorder would work any other way.

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Sinner Sinners on Bandcamp

Last Hurrah Records website

 

Cavra, Cavra

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The five-song/52-minute self-titled debut from Argentina trio Cavra was first offered digitally name-your-price-style late in 2016 and picked up subsequently by South American Sludge. There’s little reason to wonder why. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Cristian Kocak, bassist/vocalist Fernando Caminal and drummer Matias Gallipoli, the Buenos Aires three-piece place themselves squarely in the sphere of their home country’s rich heritage in heavy rock and psychedelic fluidity, with earthy tones, a resounding spaciousness in longer cuts like the all-15-minutes-plus “2010,” “Montaña” and “Torquemada.” My mind went immediately to early and mid-period Los Natas as a reference point for how the vocals cut through the density of “Montaña,” but even as Cavra show punkier and more straightforward thrust on the shorter “Dos Soles” (4:10) and “Librianna” (2:45) – the latter also carrying a marked grunge feel – they seem to keep one foot in lysergism. Perhaps less settled than it wants to be in its quiet parts, Cavra’s Cavra nonetheless reaches out with a tonal warmth and organic approach that mark a welcome arrival.

Cavra on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Split

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One has to wonder if whichever of the involved parties – be it the two acts or either of the labels, Sunmask Records or Hypnotic Dirge – had in mind a land-and-sea kind of pairing in putting together Saskatoon’s Black Tremor or Nova Scotia’s Sea Witch for this split release, because that’s basically where they wound up. Black Tremor, who issued their debut EP in 2016’s Impending (review here), answer the post-Earth vibes with more bass/drums/cello instrumental exploration on the two-part “Hexus,” while the massive tonality of duo Sea Witch answers back – though not literally; they’re also instrumental – with three cuts, “Green Tide,” “As the Crow Flies Part One” and “As the Crow Flies Part Two.” The two outfits have plenty in common atmospherically, but where Black Tremor seem to seek open spaces in their sound, Sea Witch prefer lung-crushing heft, and, well, there isn’t really a wrong answer to that question. Two distinct intentions complementing each other in fluidity and a mood that goes from grim and contemplative to deathly and bleak.

Black Tremor on Thee Facebooks

Sea Witch on Thee Facebooks

Hypnotic Dirge Records webstore

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul

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It takes Den Haag trio Supersonic Blues no more than eight minutes to bust out one of 2017’s best short releases in their Who Can You Trust? Records debut single, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul. Yes, I mean it. The young three-piece of guitarist Timothy, bassist Gianni and drummer Lennart absolutely nail a classic boogie-rock vibe on the two-tracker, and from the gotta-hear low end that starts “Curses on My Soul,” the unabashed hook of “Supersonic Blues Theme” and the blown-out garage vocals that top both, the two-tracker demonstrates clearly not only that there’s still life to be had in heavy ‘70s loyalism when brought to bear with the right kind of energy, but that Supersonic Blues are on it like fuzz on tone. Killer feel all the way and shows an exceeding amount of potential for a full-length that one can only hope won’t follow too far behind. Bonus points for recording with Guy Tavares at Motorwolf. Hopefully they do the same when it comes time for the LP.

Supersonic Blues on Thee Facebooks

Who Can You Trust? Records webstore

 

Masterhand, Mind Drifter

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A neo-psych trio from Oklahoma City, Masterhand seem like the kind of group who might at a moment’s notice pack their gear and go join the legions of freaks tripping out on the West Coast. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t find welcome among that I-see-colors-everywhere underground set – at least if their debut long-player, Mind Drifter, is anything to go by. Fuzz like Fuzz, acid like Uncle, and a quick, raw energy that underlies and propels the proceedings through quick tracks like “Fear Monger” and “Lucifer’s Dream” – tense bass and drums behind more languid wah and surf guitar before a return to full-on fuzz – yeah, they make a solid grab for upstart imprint King Volume Records, which has gotten behind Mind Drifter for a cassette issue. There’s some growing to do, but the psych-garage feel of “Chocolate Cake” is right on, “Heavy Feels” is a party, and when they want, they make even quick cuts like “Paranoia Destroyer” feel expansive. That, along with the rest of the release, bodes remarkably well.

Masterhand on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records webstore

 

Green Lung, Green Man Rising

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Groove-rolling four-piece Green Lung boast former members of Oak and Tomb King, among others, and Green Man Rising, their first digital single, is the means by which they make their entry into London’s crowded underground sphere. Aside from the apparent nod to Type O Negative in the title – and the plenty of more-than-apparent nod in guitarist Scott Masson’s riffing – “Green Man Rising” and “Freak on a Peak” bask in post-Church of Misery blown-out cymbals from drummer Matt Wiseman, corresponding tones, while also engaging a sense of space via rich low end from bassist Andrew Cave and the echoing vocals of Tom Killingbeck. There’s an aesthetic identity taking shape in part around nature worship, and a burgeoning melodicism that one imagines will do likewise more over time, but they’ve got stonerly hooks in the spirit of Acrimony working in their favor and in a million years that’s never going to be a bad place to start. Cool vibe; makes it easy to look forward to more from them.

Green Lung on Thee Facebooks

Green Lung on Bandcamp

 

Benthic Realm, Benthic Realm

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In 2016, Massachusetts-based doom metallers Second Grave issued one of the best debut albums of the year in their long-awaited Blacken the Sky (review here)… and then, quite literally days later, unexpectedly called it quits. It was like a cruel joke, teasing their potential and then cutting it short of full realization. The self-titled debut EP from Benthic Realm, which features Second Grave guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (also ex-Warhorse) and bassist Maureen Murphy alongside drummer Brian Banfield (The Scimitar), would seem to continue the mission of that prior outfit if perhaps in an even more metallic direction, drawing back on some of Second Grave’s lumber in favor of a mid-paced thrust while holding firm to the melodic sensibility that worked so well across Blacken the Sky’s span. For those familiar with Second Grave, Benthic Realm is faster, not as dark, and perhaps somewhat less given to outward sonic extremity, but it’s worth remembering that “Awakening,” “Don’t Fall in Line” and “Where Serpents Dwell” are just an introduction and that van Guilder and Murphy might go on a completely different direction over the longer term after going back to square one as they do here.

Benthic Realm website

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp

 

Lâmina, Lilith

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Smack dab in the middle of Lilith, the debut album from Lisbon-based doom/heavy rockers Lâmina, sits the 20-minute aberration “Maze.” It’s a curious track in a curious place on the record, surrounded by the chugging “Evil Rising” and bass-led rocker bounce of “Psychodevil,” but though it’s almost a full-length unto itself (at least an EP), Lâmina make the most of its extended and largely linear course, building on the tonal weight already shown in the earlier “Cold Blood” and “Big Black Angel” and setting up the tension of “Education for Death” and the nine-minute semi-title-track finale “In the Warmth of Lilith,” which feels a world away from the modern stonerism of “Psychodevil” in its slower and thoroughly doomed rollout. There’s a subtle play of scope happening across Lilith, drawn together by post-grunge tonal clarity and vocal melodies, and Lâmina establish themselves as potentially able to pursue any number of paths going forward from here. If they can correspondingly develop the penchant for songwriting they already show in these cuts as well, all the better.

Lâmina on Thee Facebooks

Lâmina on Bandcamp

 

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