Posted in Whathaveyou on May 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re getting close to the launch of Egypt‘s European tour with Tombstones ahead of their appearance at Freak Valley 2015 in Netphen, Germany. The run kicks off on May 23 in London at the Underworld and carries from there with shows in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium before actually hitting the fest on June 6. First announced back in February, it will mark Egypt‘s debut on European shores.
The North Dakotan trio go supporting their 2013 split with Wo Fat, Cyclopean Riffs (review here), while Oslo’s Tombstones, now Roadburn veterans after appearing at the festival in the Netherlands last month, will tour heralding the follow-up to 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes (review here). They played a ton of new material at Roadburn, so I’d expect no less for this tour.
Dates and info follow here, along with the tour poster by Kim Holm:
Tombstones (NO) & Egypt tour Europe 2015
More than a decade after starting out, Egypt were more active and more widely known than they’d ever been, having racked up shows alongside the likes of Dead Meadow, Jucifer, Today is the Day, Acid Mothers Temple, Weedeater, Church of Misery, and Orange Goblin.
There’s nothing happenstance about it, and in an age where word can travel faster than it ever has, Egypt have slow-burned their way to the fore of the American stoner rock underground. In 2015, they’ll look to expand beyond those borders with their first European tour in support of a new album, set to release this winter. Where they go beyond that is up in the air, but for a band who regrouped by popular demand and have only gathered momentum since, Egypt are just beginning to shape their empire.
Tombstones has been brewing on dirtier filth this time, and their new, third, studio album; “Red Skies and Dead Eyes” will tear holes in your ears and speakers. Norwegian doom has never been played with more confidence and style, and the riffs and grooves penetrate your soul like a demon from ancient caves.
Says Egypt’s Aaron Esterby: “We are extremely stoked to announce the dates of our first European tour this Summer with the killer band from Norway, Tombstones. We couldn’t be more excited to head to Europe. It’s been a long time coming. There are still a couple holes to fill, but for the most part the tour is fully booked. Here are the dates.”
23.05.2015 UK – London, Underworld 24.05.2015 UK – Hastings, Union Bar 26.05.2015 CH – Geneve, Kalvingrad 27.05.2015 IT – Kulturcafe Schlachthaus, Dornbirn 28.05.2015 CH – Olden, Coq D’Or 29.05.2015 A – Innsbruck, PMK 30.05.2015 A – Vienna, Arena 31.05.2015 DE – Nürnberg, K4 01.06.2015 NL – Brussel, Le Bunker 02.06.2015 F – Paris, Glazart 03.06.2015 BE – Antwerpen, AM 04.06.2015 NL – Nijmegen, Onderbroek 05.06.2015 CH – Winterhur, Helvti 06.06.2015 DE – Netphen, Freak Valley Festival
Posted in Reviews on April 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll admit to being somewhat late in reviewing In Times, the 13th full-length and fourth through Nuclear Blast from Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved, but I ultimately don’t think that’s a bad thing. The album was released in March, following about two and a half years after 2012’s Riitiir (review here), and while it is immediately identifiable as Enslaved, it marks a couple of turns that become more apparent on repeat listens. For one, it is a stripping down of some of the grandiosity of Riitiir, the preceding 2010 outing, Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), and 2008’s Vertebrae. Comprised of six songs totaling a three-sided-LP’s 54 minutes, In Times is still plenty substantial, but clocks in a full 14 minutes shorter than its predecessor, and its songwriting feels less centered on the big-chorus methodology of songs like “Thoughts Like Hammers” or the stunning “Roots of the Mountain” from that offering. The tradeoff? In Times is tighter, more efficient, and carries forward the progression of the Bergen five-piece’s sound that has been ongoing since they made their debut with the Hordanes Land EP in 1993. It is a rare band who continues to offer something new each time out beyond three or four records, let alone 13, but while In Times pares down certain elements of Enslaved‘s sound, it’s also their most progressive outing to date, songs like “Nauthir Bleeding” and the 10-minute title-track directly marrying the extreme metal roots of their early work with the boldness of melody and expansive craftsmanship that has evolved in their sound over the last 14 or 15 years, going back to when 2000’s Mardraum: Beyond the Within and 2001’s Monumension set the genre-defying course they’d continue to follow throughout 2003’s Below the Lightsand the two subsequent landmarks, 2004’s Isa and 2006’s Ruun. And much to the credit of In Times, it’s not a case of black metal and melodic prog fighting it out in the band’s sound. Opener “Thurisaz Dreaming” — after a lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security couple of quiet seconds — explodes into ripping extremity, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson‘s phlegmy rasp at the fore, but it’s not long before the gallop takes a turn and keyboardist Herbrand Larsen emerges with the clean vocals that have become a defining signature in Enslaved‘s approach.
The key? It works. It flows. I’ve said on multiple occasions before that Larsen‘s growth as a vocalist is among the pivotal elements — if not the pivotal element — in Enslaved‘s progression since he joined the band in 2004. That’s not to take anything away from the songwriting of the group as a whole, Kjellson, Larsen, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, and drummer Cato Bekkevold, but in hindsight, Larsen‘s first parts offsetting Kjellson‘s raw-throated cackle and Bjørnson‘s periodic roars seem tentative compared to the confident mastery he shows throughout In Times, not just a backing presence, but a leader in the band, if one situated at the rear of the stage. He leads off second cut “Building with Fire,” nails the later chorus hook of the title-track as a defining moment of the album — Bekkevold‘s precision kick work and the tightness of the five of them in general certainly don’t hurt there, either — and there’s no sense of conflict between his and Kjellson‘s vocals. Each serves a purpose in the song and both make the other seem stronger. “Building with Fire” is one of several particularly triumphant moments throughout In Times, Isdal‘s solo as they push toward the midsection a reminder of just how many weapons they have in their arsenal, but one of the key aspects of the record is that it’s best taken as a whole, rather than as individual pieces. One doesn’t necessarily have to hear it front to back to appreciate the dynamic, but more than most of their other output, it feels geared toward an LP flow, and accordingly is tighter in its expressiveness in a way that meshes well with the crisp production. To look at the tracklist, with all but “In Times” itself hovering between eight and nine minutes long, one might expect a sort of staid process, the band pushing through routine execution of an established sound, but the truth is more complex and even within and between the first and second halves there are palpable differences in structure, “One Thousand Years of Rain” once again pushing the more blackened core forward while keeping a melodic underpinning in the keys and guitar of its verse and the vocals topping its chorus and post-midsection slowdown, a Viking-style chant arriving before the pickup of the song’s finale.
While on vinyl it requires a flip not only of sides but of actual platters, the transition between “One Thousand Years of Rain” and “Nauthir Bleeding” in a linear format — digital or CD — is one of the most telling moments of In Times‘ as-a-whole intent, the latter track something of a comedown that flows directly from the preceding extremity, gentle guitar noodling interspersed with miniature fits of aggression that gradually take hold after some sparse lines of vocals from Larsen and themselves prove hypnotic before Kjellson swirls in atop a signature gallop. It’s not as big a chorus as “In Times,” which follows, but the arrangement of the two vocalists, the progression of the guitars and keys, and the solid rhythmic foundation on which the melody plays out make “Nauthir Bleeding” an even more archetypal example of In Times‘ varied strengths. When it does arrive, “In Times” feels enough like a landing to earn its position as the title-track. An initial two minutes hypnotize with a repeated riff and some psychedelic-style swirling lead guitar, but a sudden cut to double-kick and Kjellson‘s screams snap the listener back to reality with the first verse. They cycle through twice and break into a melodic vocal highlight break that moves farther and farther out into finally deconstructing to drum thud, far-off guitar and whispered vocals, then, like the beginning of the song, it snaps back to a raging tumult, the band essentially toying with a sonic mismatch. “In Times” ends crashing and chanting rather than ripping, and while that might leave closer “Daylight” to feel like something of an afterthought, the chanted vocals and multifaceted shifts back and forth provide an underline to the point of the album as a whole, which seems to be that Enslaved aren’t a band that can be easily tagged by genre anymore, and that the creative pursuit at their center remains intact even as they approach a quarter-century’s duration. In Times ends by booking “Daylight” with the chants and stomping riff from its beginning following more twists and turns, and for a record as densely packed, pummeling and forward-thinking, its final reinforcement of structure only adds another layer by which one might appreciate its composition. I’ve said many times I’m a fan of the band I remain one, but I think even behind the sturdiest artiface of objectivity, it would be hard to call Enslaved‘s achievement here anything but significant. It’s been worth taking a little extra time to appreciate.
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record — and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.
A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.
Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.
With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.
Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014
Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.
Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.
Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos
With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.
Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost
Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.
Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.
Posted in On Wax on February 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The languid flow of Black Moon Circle‘s Andromeda is exceptionally well-suited to the vinyl treatment that Crispin Glover Records (distribution through Stickman Records outside Norway) has given it. I don’t know the pressing numbers for the late-2014 release, but the single LP arrives complemented by a CD in a quality matte/gloss cover with a thick sleeve for the record itself, the vinyl a gold and black swirl (solid gold or black also available) that matches the artwork of the sleeve, the front cover a play on the artwork for the Trondheim, Norway, three-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here). It is a spacious presentation and that also fits with the musical thematic with which Black Moon Circle works on the five included tracks, recorded live instrumentally with guest appearances from Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective (who also produced the first album) adding swirl to opener “The Machine on the Hill,” the subsequent “Jack’s Cold Sweat” and side B standout “Dragon,” and Marius Pettersen, who adds vocals to those of vocalist/bassist Øyvin Engan and guitarist/vocalist Vemund Engan on “The Machine on the Hill” and the 15-minute closing title-track, and the three-piece of the Engans and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen show marked growth in expanding sound-wise and time-wise on their first outing, solidifying their craft with memorable tracks even as they leave room for the occasional psych freakout.
A guest spot from Heller is never going to hurt in that regard, and even as Øyvin‘s bass makes a rich tonal impression on “The Machine on the Hill,” “Jack’s Cold Sweat” takes the emerging duality in Black Moon Circle and runs with it, a blend of heavy psych jamming and grunge-styled heavy rock resulting in a memorable, heavy feel that’s laid back and exploratory but still reliant on structure to move forward. The foundation for the trio working in this style was laid on the self-titled, but as an opening salvo, “The Machine on the Hill” and “Jack’s Cold Sweat” delve further, and in terms of providing a shifting dynamic across Andromeda‘s span, the lack of synth on side A’s third cut, “Supernova,” winds up making it sound all the more spacious, a subtly shuffling snare from Gulbrandsen and warm bassline serving as the foundation for wafting guitar and the melodic, echoing vocals that wrap the album’s first half on a sweetly jamming note as the guitar leads the way out topped by a few last lines in a progression that one imagines could have easily kept going ad infinitum. On the CD, that leads directly into the near-nine-minute “Dragon,” but a vinyl flip to side B makes the introductory acoustic guitar of the latter track all the more distinct. The unplugged layer turns out to be the hallmark of the song and the theme it moves around, a carefully woven build given added pulse with the third and final synth guest spot. Sooner or later, Heller might have to just join this band.
Repetitions of the lines “I feel the dragon rising/I feel the dragon rising again” make for Andromeda‘s most resonant hook in “Dragon,” the far-back drums scaled to suit the acoustics in the earlier part of the song, coming forward later with a full-breadth kick-in of heavier tones and lead swirl, an engaging payoff topped with fading amp noise that provides transition into “Andromeda,” which closes out. Black Moon Circle‘s Black Moon Circle was structured similarly, with a longer opener and longer-than-that closer sandwiching shorter material, but Andromeda is longer and more developed, and its finale is likewise, the trio’s chemistry evident in the pre-freakout guitar swirl and the assured direction-pointing of the bass and drums. As one might expect, a jam takes off from the soothing verses, and a guitar solo drives home an organic peak that pushes through the last several minutes of the album, Black Moon Circle managing to affirm their songwriting by bringing back the chorus amidst all the surrounding movement. That’s impressive in itself, let alone the solo that follows, but by then their hypnotic prowess is well established. The progression at Vemund, Øyvin and Per show in these tracks (and how they blend them together) is no less fitting than the physical presentation of the album. It’s been a year since Black Moon Circle was released — “Dragon” was recorded earlier, but the rest was tracked April 5, 2014 according to the back cover — and in less than that time, trio whose name that album bears have learned from what they did on that outing and brought a sense of creative development to Andromeda. One can only hope they continue to evolve in such a manner and at such a rate.
Posted in Radio on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Obelisk Radio server, which I’ve taken to calling the “main computer core,” was down most of last week after some kind of unknown surge in the EPS conduits, so with the data stream running on auxiliary power (yes, I’m using Star Trek science lingo; I’ll stop) it didn’t make much sense to do a round of adds. No one would hear the stuff anyway amid all the Sabbath, Kyuss, Goatsnake, Electric Wizard, etc. Sometimes I really like that backup server, but after a few days of listening, a change is welcome. I was pretty happy when we got the primary box back online.
And by “we,” I mostly mean Slevin, to whose technical expertise I am perpetually indebted. While I wouldn’t dare go much farther than doing so, I’m fortunate enough to be able to add files to the server on my own — I’m sure if you gave him five minutes he’d come up with a more efficient method — so we’ll give that a shot, and if the whole thing doesn’t come crashing down, we can consider it a win. Here goes.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 30, 2015:
Sumac, The Deal
Sumac start out high-profile thanks to the lineup of guitarist Aaron Turner of Isis and Old Man Gloom and drummer Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists and the fact that Russian Circles bassist Brian Cook recorded the low end for their Profound Lore debut, The Deal, but I think even if they were a trio of out-of-nowhere unknown entities, this record would turn some heads. Coated in feedback, blisteringly heavy — in the tradition of older Isis but more assured in its purpose — its six tracks breathe dense tonal life into the pallid post-metal vibe, songs like “Hollow King” (12:21) and “The Deal” (13:41) sounding as complex as they do crushing, wanting nothing in impact or atmosphere. “Spectral Gold” (3:18) and “Thorn in the Lion’s Paw” (8:55) begin The Deal on an ambient note, and the sprawl-drone of “The Radiance of Being” ends it likewise with five minutes of solo guitar from Turner, but in between “Hollow King,” “Blight’s End Angel” (10:17) and “The Deal” work quickly to win over even skeptical ears. Yacyshyn‘s performance is of particular note. Where it would’ve been all too easy to fall into Isis-style patterning to complement Turner‘s riffs, he holds firm to his own personality and The Deal is that much stronger for it. It is a startling and potential-laden debut. Almost enough to make up for the needless dickery Old Man Gloom pulled last year sending a fake record to the press, assuming what I’ve heard from Sumac is actually the real thing. Sumac on Thee Facebooks, at Profound Lore.
Garden of Worm, Idle Stones
Tampere, Finland, trio Garden of Worm make their debut on Svart Records via Idle Stones, their second album following 2010’s Garden of Worm (review here) on Shadow Kingdom. Comprised of four songs alternating between shorter and longer before arriving at 19:49 closer “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Life,” the sophomore outing is a richer, more progressive affair, with bassist SJ Harju and guitarist EJ Taipale combining their vocals effectively at the fore of the mix on “Summer’s Isle” (10:13), which follows the rolling opener “Fleeting are the Days of Man” (5:35). With a style that ultimately owes more to Witchcraft‘s tonal understatement than Reverend Bizarre‘s genre-defining traditionalism, they nonetheless shirk the trap of retroism and make an individual showing with a feel both loose and purposeful throughout. The brighter guitar work of “Desertshore” (7:01) makes it a highlight, along with the persistent crash of drummer JM Suvanto, and the freakout that emerges in “The Sleeper Including Being is More than Life” gracefully and boldly flows across the rarely-bridged gap between doom and heavy psychedelia with a naturalness that very much makes me hope it’s not another half-decade before we hear from Garden of Worm again. Garden of Worm on Thee Facebooks, at Svart Records.
Carpet, Riot Kiss 7″
Story goes that German progressive heavy rockers Carpet started writing for their third album, to follow-up on 2013’s Elysian Pleasures (review here), which was released by Elektrohasch, and wound up with some material that didn’t quite fit the concept they were going for. Since they dug it and didn’t want to just toss it, the Riot Kiss b/w Song of Heartship 7″ was born. Two songs, both a little over four minutes long, reaffirm the Augsburg four-piece’s commitment to forward-thinking textures, with “Riot Kiss” as the space-prog A-side and the quieter, atmospheric-but-still-clearheaded “Song of Heartship” emphasizing Carpet‘s range on side B, the cuts having more dynamic between them than many bands show in their career. I don’t know what Carpet — the lineup of Sigmund Perner, Jakob Mader, Hubert Steiner and Maximilian Stephan — are shooting for with their third record that these songs didn’t jibe with, and I guess we won’t know until that album arrives, but Riot Kiss is a stopgap of considerable substance that showcases Carpet‘s ability to present progressive ideas in ways not only palatable but deeply engaging. Carpet on Thee Facebooks, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.
Sporecaster, See Through Machine
An experimental drone/psych duo comprised in half by Ron Rochondo of Boston’s Ice Dragon, Sporecaster‘s debut release, See Through Machine, is four tracks/26 minutes of exploratory drone given natural breadth through use of didgeridoo and percussion. The outing was tracked at Ron’s Wrecker Service and has a lo-fi feel despite its spaciousness, and chants out its hypnotism early, opener “Invocation or Incantation” (4:20, by astounding coincidence) wrapping itself around consciousness like some kind of psychedelic serpent, only to have the whistle-blowing “Things are Not What they See” (3:21) and tribal-ish drummed “The False Light” (5:46) push deeper into the moody ambience laid out at the beginning. Closer “You are Transparent” (12:45) makes me wonder what Sporecaster might do working in even longer forms, its drone-out having room for both a jammy drum progression and a continuation of the earlier experimental and improvisational feel. As an early showing of their intent, though, See Through Machine makes it clear that Sporecaster‘s creative process is wide open. Sporecaster on Thee Facebooks, Ron’s Wrecker Service.
The Devil and the Almighty Blues, The Devil and the Almighty Blues
The slow-rolling “The Ghosts of Charlie Barracuda” (7:46) begins the self-titled debut from Oslo-based five-piece The Devil and the Almighty Blues, released on the upstart Blues for the Red Sun Records. That song picks up gradually in the first of several of the six-song full-length’s satisfying builds, but atmospherically sets a laid back tone that tracks like the subsequent “Distance” (4:11) and more active “Storm Coming Down” (10:17) play off of, the band proving equally comfortable in long- or short-form material, nestling into a neo-heavy semi-retro blues rock more in line with Graveyard‘s overarching moodiness than Witchcraft‘s early-days dooming. Well-balanced lead guitars and crooning vocals serve as a uniting theme, but in a classic dynamic, it’s the rhythm section that makes the swing of side B’s particularly thick “Root to Root” (9:48) and “Never Darken My Door” — the singing especially blown-out on the latter — so irresistibly grooved. Wrapping with the classy fuzz of “Tired Old Dog” (6:28), The Devil and the Almighty Blues will come from a familiar place sonically, but as their debut, The Devil and the Almighty Blues boasts a cohesion worthy of its weighty title. The Devil and the Almighty Blues on Thee Facebooks, Blues for the Red Sun Records.
Some of this stuff — Sumac, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Carpet — was also included in the podcast that went up yesterday, so if you’d like another avenue for getting a sample, that might not be a bad way to go. However you choose to dig in, I hope that you will and hope that you find something that you feel is worth the time and effort.
Posted in audiObelisk on January 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Trondheim, Norway’s Spidergawd will release their second album, Spidergawd II, at the end of this month through Stickman Records (EU) and Crispin Glover Records (Norway). The special edition with poster, screened cover, etc., has sold out on preorders and it’s little wonder. Their first album (review here) was one of the best debuts of 2014, a self-titled out through the same labels that refined classic-style boogie rock with a progressive edge so that not only did the four-piece groove and shuffle their way through memorable tracks with natural sounding tones and a ’70s-inspired vibe, but they did it with a fresh take on what, in Europe for years and of late in the US as well, has become an established subgenre of heavy rock and roll. Their turns were blinding, but executed with a sense of class that was pervasive throughout the two-sided platter with its somewhat bizarre artwork.
Spidergawd II follows the theme, both in its cover — the idea seems to be to give us a sense of the artificial even as we engage something very real — and in the music contained within. The returning lineup of Per Borten, Rolf Martin Snustad, Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther (the latter two also of Norwegian prog magnates Motorpsycho) push forward from what they were able to accomplish on the debut, and whether it’s the sax-laden jam of “Caereulean Caribou,” the Robert Johnson-style acoustic plucking that commences opener “…Is all She Says” or the near-KISS stomp of “Get Physical,” the album offers genuine, intelligent variety and a persistent flow that makes the shifts within and between songs not only believable — the bass-led “Our Time (Slight Return)” and Thin Lizzy strum-and-bouncer “Sanctuary” close out side B with little to no visible seams — but natural, while still keeping an element of the unexpected about them.
It’s an admirable accomplishment, if I haven’t made that plain enough, and Spidergawd II plays out its accomplishment early without relenting for its entire 42-minute span. The opener’s bluesy pulse gives way to “Tourniquet,” a catchy fuzz-blaster that’s an album highlight and should thrill newcomers and those who heard the self-titled alike. I have the pleasure today of hosting “Tourniquet” for streaming ahead of the record coming out later this month and Spidergawd embarking on a European tour in Feb. following an Jan. 16 performance at Eurosonic at Groningen in the Netherlands.
More info on the album and the band’s tour dates can be found under the “Tourniquet” player below. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Two years ago Spidergawd was a new entity. A band of veterans maybe, but a new band and a new sound for most people. Initially a laid back concern between friends Per Borten, Rolf Martin Snustad, Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther (Motorpsycho), the music the quartet came up with soon proved itself too good to contain in a rehersal room. Starting out as a loose amalgam of blues and hard rock, the music evolved rapidly and the band soon found its own voice. Their self-titled debut album was recorded at their fifth rehersal in May 2013.
This year the Norwegian hard rock quartet is releasing their sophomore effort. Self produced and recorded at main man Per Borten’s own studio at Ler just south of Trondheim in September 2014, the album contains nine new songs that both continue and expand on the sound Spidergawd established on their first record: the blues stylings are more pronounced, the grooves are fatter, the light is lighter and the shade is deeper, and the songs are perhaps even better. One thing is for sure: the Spidergawd brand of boogie is if anything even fiercer this time around, and as their recording career gains momentum through the efforts of Crispin Glover and Stickman Records, promotors, hepcats and fans everywhere eagerly await another round of rock’n’roll goodness this spring. The web is woven, Spidergawd is on the prowl! Spidergawd brings the boogie to Norway in Ferbruary and to Europe in March. They’d love it if you gave their second album a listen while you’re waiting.
16/01 EUROSONIC, Groningen, NL 12/02 FOLKEN, Stavanger, NO 13/02 SKALA, Haugesund, NO 14/02 HULEN, Bergen, NO 19/02 LUNDETANGEN, Skien, NO 21/02 ROCKEFELLER, Oslo, NO 27/02 SAMFUNDET, Trondheim, NO 08/03 STROM, München, DE 09/03 LEGEND CLUB, Milano, IT 10/03 BAD BONN, Düdingen, CH 11/03 GASWERK, Winterthur, CH 12/03 FORUM, Bielefeld, DE 13/03 CAFÉ GLOCKSEE, Hannover, DE 14/03 SOJO, Leuven, BE 15/03 HEDON, Zwolle, NL 09/04 ROADBURN, Tilburg, NL
Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is it. New Year’s is this week and by Friday we’ll be into 2015. A new year always brings new hopes, concerns, records and so on, but to be completely honest, I’m just not quite done with 2014 yet. So here we are. I’ve had stacks of CDs on my desk and folders on my computer from the last couple months of stuff I have been trying to fit in, and it doesn’t seem right to me to let the year go without cramming in as much music as I possibly can.
Gotta call it something, so I went with “Last Licks,” since that’s basically what it will be. The plan is that between today and Friday, each day I’ll have another batch of 10 reviews. I’m not going to promise they’ll be the most comprehensive ever, but the idea is to do as much as I can and this seems to me the best way to turn my brains into goo. When that ball drops in Times Square, there’s a good chance I’ll be typing.
No sense in delaying. You get the idea, so let’s jump in:
Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today
Recorded live as their debut on Candlelight Records and the follow-up to 2011’s debut, Return to Earth (review here), the sophomore outing from Welsh heavy rockers Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today, is distinguished by a vocalist swap bringing in Matt Williams of Suns of Thunder. Williams has a tough job in replacing Dorian Walters, who like guitarist Stuart O’Hara, bassist Paul Bidmead and drummer Darren Ivey, is a former member of Acrimony. There are times when it works and times when it doesn’t. Along with a more barebones tonality in the guitar than appeared on the debut, Williams brings a more straightforward style in his voice, and it changes the personality of the band on songs like “Freedom Engines” and the first-album-title-track “Return to Earth.” “Tribe of the Old Oak” is a catchy highlight and I’ll almost never argue with a song called “Obelisk,” but it seems like they’re still searching for the footing here that seemed so firmly planted their last time out.
Upstate New York blues rockers Handsome Jack waste little time living up to the title Do What Comes Naturally. The name of their third album, released by Alive Naturalsound, is both mission-statement aand suggestion, and on songs like the soul-inflected “Creepin’” and the rolling “You and Me,” they make it sound like a good idea. Blues and classic soul meet garage rock across cuts like the relatively brief “Leave it all Behind,” but the tones are warm throughout the record, and guest spots on harmonica and Hammond help keep a sense of variety in the material, well-constructed but still loose in its vibe. The twang might recall The Brought Low for heavy rock heads, but one doubts Handsome Jack groove on much that came out after Psychedelic Mud. Even the CD splits into sides, and as easy as it would be for something like this to sound like a put-on, Handsome Jack prevail with closer “Wasted Time” in making an outing that’s anything but.
London doomers Serpent Venom sound like experts in the form on Of Things Seen and Unseen, their second album for The Church Within following 2011’s Carnal Altar and their initial 2010 demo (review here), a righteous 48-minute lumbering slab of heavy riffs, downerism and nod. It’s not every band who could put “Death Throes at Dawn” and “Lord of Life” next to each other, but the four-piece of vocalist Garry Ricketts, guitarist Roland Scriver, bassist Nick Davies and drummer Paul Sutherland keep their focus so utterly doomed that even the quiet, minimalist acoustic interlude “I Awake” – ostensibly a breather — comes across as trodden as the earlier “Sorrow’s Bastard,” or the Reverend Bizarre-worthy “Let Them Starve,” which follows. For those who long for trad doom that has an identity outside its Vitus and Sabbath influences, Serpent Venom prove more than ready to enter that conversation on the wah-soaked soloing in the second half of “Pilgrims of the Sun.” Right fucking on.
The artwork tells the story. Owl Glitters’ Alchemical Tones (on Heart and Crossbone Records) is a wash of color. Taking tribal rhythms and repetitions and pairing them with organic low-end, chanted vocals and periodic excursions of psych rock guitar, Arkia Jahani (who seems to be the lone creative force behind the project, though Mell Dettmer mastered) brings a ritualistic sensibility to the eight included pieces, and the flow is molten from the start of “Dervishes.” Less purposefully weird than Master Musicians of Bukkake, but farther into the cosmos than Om, there’s a folkish identity at the heart of Alchemical Tones that keeps the proceedings human even on the near-throat-singing of “Hakim Sanai” or “Poets of Shiras” and “Khalifa’s Visions” an immersive pair preceding the droning closer “By the Candlelight Our Eyes Welcome Glimmers of Eternity.” Beautifully experimental – and in the case of “Mindful of Gems,” fuzzed to the gills – Owl Glitters’ second outing engages sonic spiritualism with dogmatic command and stares back at you from the space within yourself.
Sandveiss released Scream Queen, their first full-length, late in 2013, reveling in a modern sound crisply produced and more than ably executed to feature the vocals of guitarist Luc Bourgeois, who provides frontman presence even on disc alongside guitarist Shawn Rice, bassist Daniel Girard and drummer Dzemal Trtak. Cohesiveness isn’t in question as opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Blindsided” rounds out its 6:26, leading the way into “Do You Really Know” and setting the tone for big-riffed Euro-style heavy from the Quebecois foursome, who slow down on “Bottomless Lies,” on which Trtak backs Bourgeois in you-guys-should-do-this-more fashion, and ultimately hold firm to the focus on songwriting that establishes itself early. They fuzz out on closer “Green or Gold,” but by then it’s another element of variety among the organ, guest vocals on “Scar” and tempo shifts on Sandveiss’ ambitious debut, distinguished even unto the six-panel gatefold digi-sleeve in which it arrives, the art and design by Alexandre Goulet one more standout factor on an album demanding attention.
Probably the most clearly Beatlesian moment on Octopus Syng’s Reverberating Garden Number 7 is a slight “Hey Bulldog”-style cadence on side A’s “Very Strange Trip,” and that in itself is an accomplishment (one I’m apparently not the first to observe). The Helsinki four-piece in their 15th year are led by guitarist/vocalist Jaire Pätäri and emit an oozing, serene psychedelia, peaceful and lysergic in late ‘60s exploratory fashion. Reverberating Garden Number 7 (on Mega Dodo Records) echoes out vibe to spare and is deceptively lush while keeping a humble vibe thanks in no small part to Pätäri’s restrained vocal approach and curios like “Cuckoo Clock Mystery,” which boasts an actual cuckoo clock to add bounce to its arrangement. Nine-minute closer “Listen to the Moths” is the single biggest surprise, and an album unto itself, but its unfolding is only the capstone on a collection of psychedelic wonder sincere in its stylistic intent and execution. It fills the ears like warm air in the lungs.
Destructive Australian trio Sun Shepherd put the bulk of Procession of Trampling Hoof to tape in 2011. Closing bonus track “Exploding Sun” is a demo from 2006, but it fits with their extended tracks and big riffs piled onto each other in densely-weighted fashion, if rougher in presentation. More Ramesses than High on Fire, who prove otherwise to be a key influence tonally for guitarist/vocalist Anson Antriasian, must-hear bassist Leigh Fischer and drummer Michael Barson, though their approach is decidedly less thrash-based. The first five of the six songs find Sun Shepherd’s first full-length a pummel-minded blend of sludge and doom. Antriasian’s vocals are semi-spoken, but fitting theatrically on “Goat-Head Awakening” with the grueling riff-led nod, the tension released as they pass the halfway point of the 10-minute run, a raw atmosphere bolstering the chaos of their slower-motion marauding. With the welcome flourish of stonerly soloing on “Engulfed by Ocean of Time,” one can’t help but wonder what the Melbourne natives are up to three years later.
Fuzz-toned elements of Sleep and Sabbath pervade the stoner-doomy self-titled The Church Within debut from Oslo three-piece Purple Hill Witch, who carry the bounce well in immediately familiar riffs and groove. Swinging drums from Øyvind and the inventive basslines of Andreas underscore Kristian’s purely Iommic riffage and blown-out vocals, somewhere between Witchcraft’s earliest going and Witch’s self-titled. If that gives Purple Hill Witch an even witchier feel, “Final Procession” sounds just fine with that, as do shorter tracks like the later “Aldebaranian Voyage (Into the Sun)” and centerpiece “Karmanjaka” on which the stoner side comes out in force. They finish by using all 11 minutes of the eponymous “Purple Hill Witch”’s runtime, breaking in the midsection for a murky exploration that’s creepily atmospheric without veering into cult rock cliché. They bounce resumes and slows to a crawl to close out, but the jam serves Purple Hill Witch well in expanding the band’s sonic reach and the album’s weedian sensibility. Not that they were keeping it a secret.
A burly dual-guitar five-piece with roots in Germany and Switzerland, Giant Sleep start out their self-titled, self-released first LP with a brief intro titled “Argos” before getting to the question, “Why am I angry all the time?” as the central, recurring line of “Angry Man.” That song, like “Henu” and “Reproduce,” gets its point across quick in heavy rock fashion and develops its argument from there, a progressive metal vibe pervading especially the latter, which is penultimate in the 10-song/52-minute effort, and underscores the high-grade craftsmanship accomplished throughout. “Dreamless Sleep” is probably my pick of the bunch for its airier tone and resonant minor-key hook in the guitars of Markus Ruf and Patrick Hagmann, vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel belting out the chorus before making way for plotted solos atop Radek Stecki’s bass and Manuel Spänhauer’s drums, but it’s not so far removed from its surroundings. As a whole, the album could be more efficient, but it wants nothing for songwriting, and especially as a debut, Giant Sleep hits its marks readily.
Opener “Las Noches del Desierto” is the only one of Star Collider’s five tracks under 10 minutes. Flux seems to be the norm for Finnish post-stoners Acid Elephant, who recently brought in vocalist Martin Ahlö but here revolve around the core of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Miksa Väliverho, guitarist/vocalist Ilpo Kauppinen and drummer Roope Vähä-Aho, employing a host of others on obscure vocals, percussion and djembe throughout the 64-minute sophomore outing, recorded in 2012 and released late in 2013. Whoever they are now, Acid Elephant on Star Collider call out heavy psych, drone/jam and riff-based impulses in their extended cuts, gradually getting longer from “Red Carpet Lane” (10:46) until closer “Bog” hits 18:29. To their credit, their songs leave impressions to match their length, and even as it’s finishing its instrumental run, “Godmason” (15:58) is highlighting its resonant central riff, having emerged from a wash of feedback and amp noise at its beginning, preceded by the droning centerpiece “7th Stone.” Satisfying and unpredictable, Star Collider balances experimentation and engagement smoothly without losing its focus on individualism.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yet another reason to like Enslaved: 13 albums deep, one of metal’s most brilliant progressions under their belt, and they’re still not going to shy away from throwing a “that’s what she said!” into a quote for a press release. Congratulations, you wonderful bastards. Truly a band for all seasons.
Particularly, as regards North American major markets, a band for early spring 2015. Enslaved will hit the road alongside the formidable ranks of YOB and Ecstatic Vision (wasn’t I just talking about those bands?) in support of their lucky 13th long-player, dubbed In Times. The tracklist and cover for the record have just been unveiled along with the tour dates, and you can find all of it courtesy of the PR wire below.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve already started marking the calendar for 2015. Might have to hit NYC for this one:
ENSLAVED Announces North American Headlining Tour!
The long ships will return to North America once again when Norwegian-progressive-extreme-metal-Vikings, ENSLAVED, embark on their headlining tour this upcoming March! “Some days are greater than others,” commented guitarist Ivar Bjørnson. “Announcing the release of our new album In Times at the same time as a North American tour, both in early March 2015, makes for one hell of an event horizon. We’ve had such great tours in the US and Canada the last years; we simply cannot wait to come back! Ah, this can’t get much better. Hey, wait – masters YOB has accepted our invitation to be special guests, and ECSTATIC VISION is supporting. Now, there’s an amazing package for you (that’s what she said)!”
ENSLAVED, YOB, ECSTATIC VISION 3/05/15 San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick 3/06/15 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theatre 3/07/15 San Francisco, CA – Slim’s 3/09/15 Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater 3/10/15 Vancouver BC – Rickshaw Theatre 3/11/15 Seattle, WA – El Corazon 3/13/15 Salt Lake City, UT – Bar Deluxe 3/14/15 Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall 3/16/15 Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights 3/17/15 Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall 3/19/15 Toronto, ON – Opera House 3/20/15 Montreal, QC – Les Foufounes Électriques 3/21/15 New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre 3/22/15 Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer 3/23/15 Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage 3/24/15 Boston, MA – Sinclair
In Times, the thirteenth studio album by ENSLAVED will be released on March 6 (Europe) and March 10, 2015 (N. America). The album was produced by band members Ivar Bjørnson, Grutle Kjellson & Herbrand Larsen together with Iver Sandøy. Mixing was completed by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden. Hand-painted artwork was created by long-time collaborating artist and “sixth ENSLAVED member” Truls Espedal.
The track listing for In Times is:
01 – Thurisaz Dreaming 02 – Building With Fire 03 – One Thousand Years Of Rain 04 – Nauthir Bleeding 05 – In Times 06 – Daylight
Main recordings for In Times took place at Duper Studios to Solslottet Studio in Bergen, Norway with additional recordings sessions at Conclave & Earshot Studios (presided over by ENSLAVED members Larsen and Ice Dale), and Ivar Bjørnson’s Peersonal Sound Studios. Additional experimentation and sonic exploration was conducted deep in the woods of Valevåg south of Bergen where a mobile studio recorded additional sounds.