Church of the Cosmic Skull Announce New Album Science Fiction

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

church of the cosmic skull 1

There’s good news and then there’s the good news, and UK harmony-bringers Church of the Cosmic Skull specialize in the latter, with harmonized hymnals to soothe the troubled soul and a classically progressive aplomb that proved to be immediately fluid, gentle, kind and heavy all throughout their 2016 Kozmik Artifactz debut, Is Satan Real? (review here), and with a second album, Science Fiction, the seven-piece group only look to expand their palette sonically and emotionally, leaving their audience to wonder if their noise is actually so joyous or if the smiles they’re sharing are hiding pointed teeth and seeming to enjoy the ambiguity.

Much more on this one to come, I hope, but here is the preliminary announcement and info on Science Fiction as per the PR wire:

church of the cosmic skull science fiction

New Album ‘Science Fiction’ Out May

Church of the Cosmic Skull release their second studio album ‘Science Fiction’ this May on limited edition heavyweight vinyl, CD (Kozmik-Artifactz), and limited edition cassette (Septaphonic).

Described as ‘Occult Pop’ for fans of ELO, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Queen, the 9 track record from the Nottingham based ‘spiritual organisation’ sees an expansion on the prog / psych / retro stylings and hook-heavy songwriting of the critically acclaimed debut ‘Is Satan Real?’ (2016 Bilocation Records). Piano and vintage synths have been introduced alongside the Hammond organ, electric cello and six-part vocal harmonies, resulting in a sound that truly ‘puts the ABBA in Sabbath’.

The decision to self-produce the release is a reflection of both the changing landscape of the music industry, and the Church’s wholeheartedly DIY approach, having turned down major label offers in favour of maintaining independence. Quoting one of the ‘7 Objects’, Church founder Bill Fisher describes the record as a chance to ‘Celebrate and uphold the freedom of art, science and thought.’

‘Science Fiction’ will be supported by UK and European shows, including Desertfest Berlin and an elaborate live event on June 2nd. The group are contributing a track to Magnetic Eye Records’ Pink Floyd ‘The Wall Redux’ tribute album alongside the Melvins and Mark Lanegan, and continue their ‘Tele-Vision’ output with three new music videos, coming soon at cosmicskull.org.

Church of the Cosmic Skull is:
Michael Wetherburn – Hammond Organ & Vocals (Hellset Orchestra, Ulysses Storm)
Loz Stone – Drums (Iron Swan, Rescued by Wolves)
Sam Lloyd – Bass & Vocals (You Slut!, Pilgrim Fathers)
Jo Joyce – Vocals (Solo Artist)
Amy Nicholson – Electric Cello & Vocals (Hellset Orchestra, Polymath)
Caroline Cawley – Vocals (Dystopian Future Movies)
Bill Fisher – Guitar & Vocals (Mammothwing, Distillery Blues Band)

churchofthecosmicskull.com
cosmicskull.org
facebook.com/churchofthecosmicskull
soundcloud.com/churchofthecosmicskull
churchofthecosmicskull.bandcamp.com
youtube.com/c/churchofthecosmicskull
instagram.com/churchofthecosmicskull
twitter.com/thecosmicskull
play.spotify.com/artist/3KY6i8EJac9URU9OeC1n89
itunes.apple.com/us/artist/church-of-the-cosmic-skull/id1146826464#

Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Evil in Your Eye”

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Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

somnuri somnuri

To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

Somnuri on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

Daira on Thee Facebooks

Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

Kavrila on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

Ivan on Thee Facebooks

Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

clara-engel-songs-for-leona-carrington

Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

deadly-vipers-fueltronaut

Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

Deadly Vipers on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

storm-of-void-war-inside-you

Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

Storm of Void on Thee Facebooks

Hostess Entertainment website

 

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Iron Monkey Announce UK Shows in Manchester and London

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The response to Iron Monkey‘s return opus, 9-13, has been a considerable slather. To the point that one wonders if the band finds it gross or gratifying. Either way, the barrage of hyperbole holds a mirror to the resurgent UK sludgers’ barrage of riffs, and at this point there’s no stopping the inevitable next step, which is live shows. Three have been newly announced — two in Manchester, one at The Underworld in London — for next April, and though one might’ve speculated that an appearance would be in the cards, I saw confirmation the other day that indeed Iron Monkey will not appear at Roadburn 2018. Can’t help but feel like that’s a mistake on the band’s part, but they seem to be doing alright without, I guess, and if they gave a fuck generally-speaking, it just wouldn’t be Iron Monkey, would it?

Here’s info from the PR wire:

iron monkey

IRON MONKEY Announces 2018 UK Live Dates

Cult UK doom/sludge unit IRON MONKEY has announced three headlining shows the UK this coming April. Tickets go on sale Wednesday, November 29th at 10:00am GMT. A full list of confirmed shows is available below.

IRON MONKEY will be supporting their 9-13 full-length, recently issued via Relapse Records. Recorded in their hometown of Nottingham in Spring 2017 A.D. with producer Johnny A. Carter, 9-13 is nine songs and forty-eight minutes of total nihilism. Now older, more cynical and more isolationist, IRON MONKEY are back to usurp the scene, then crush it’s skull. Without question, their most focused, aggressive and direct material to date, 9-13 is an all-out assault of violent hatred and nightmarish negativity. Recommended listening for fans of pain, suffering, and misanthropy.

9-13 is out now on CD, LP, and digital formats via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HERE and all retail outlets HERE.

IRON MONKEY:
4/13/2018 Rescue Rooms – Manchester, UK
4/14/2018 The Underworld – London, UK
4/21/2018 Ruby Lounge – Manchester, UK

The band reformed for no reason in the winter of two thousand sixteen with original members J. Rushby and S. Watson, with the addition of current Chaos UK drummer Brigga, forming the shape of an inverted black triangle of vitriol and phase two of operations. IRON MONKEY do not care about your scene, bands, or opinions… ELECTROCUTION, DOOM, OMEGA OMEGA OMEGA.

https://ironmonkey.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/IRONMONKEYBAND/
http://bit.ly/IronMonkey
http://www.relapse.com/
http://www.facebook.com/relapserecords

Iron Monkey, “Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER” official video

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Iron Monkey Post “Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER” Video; 9-13 out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

iron monkey

There has to be some kind of calculation one could do in order to figure out the percentages of band reunion likelihood. Original-member-vitriol-over-time-multiplied-by-success-in-their-first-run-over-subsequent-influence or something like that? The latter — the ‘subsequent influence’ part would seem to be what did the trick for Nottingham sludgers Iron Monkey. They’d certainly gained a reputation in the UK during their initial run, but after calling it quits in 1999 owing to the death of vocalist Johnny Morrow, they went on to ignite a vast swath of metallic sludge fuckall in an extreme underground that continues to flourish to this day. Their comeback album, 9-13, was released last month via Relapse with original members Steve Watson and Jim Rushby joined by new drummer Brigga, and could easily be seen as an attempt to capture a piece of the scene they helped inspire.

I’m not sure Iron Monkey have ever been completely understood outside of England, but talking to those who were there during the band’s first go, there’s a sense of reverence in tone for what they were able to bring to Britain when it came to translating the unhinged fury of acts like Eyehategod for a pre-internet audience who’d never had the chance to experience it before in that way or take it on its own level. I don’t think US response or maybe even Mainland European response matters to the band, if anything does, when their home country was where so much of their impact was made in the first place. Of course, that was 20 years ago, and again, there’s been plenty of sludge in the UK since, so while their return was unlikely, it will remain to be seen what the effect of Iron Monkey‘s reunion will ultimately be.

Though maybe that doesn’t matter. They could book tours in Europe and fests from now until forever and people would probably still show up, so good on them for taking advantage of the opportunity. At least they put out a record first. And yeah, maybe that’s a cynical viewpoint. Do you really think the band would have it any other way?

The video below for “Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER” comes with a flashing lights warning, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, beware. Otherwise, feel free to dive in and enjoy. Info follows beneath courtesy of the PR wire:

Iron Monkey, “Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.PER” official video

IRON MONKEY was beaten to life in the year of your Lord, One Thousand Nine Hundred and Ninety Four, at the location of Nottingham, England. Band reformed for no reason in the winter of Two Thousand and Sixteen with original members J. Rushby and S. Watson, with the addition of current Chaos UK drummer Brigga, forming the shape of an inverted black triangle of vitriol and phase two of operations.

Cult UK doom/sludge outfit IRON MONKEY return with 9-13, their first new full-length in almost two decades. After disbanding in 1999 due to the death of their original singer J.P. Morrow, the group has reformed for phase two of their mission. Recorded in their hometown of Nottingham in Spring 2017 A.D. with producer Johnny A. Carter, 9-13 is 9 songs and 48 minutes of total nihilism. Now older, more cynical and more isolationist, IRON MONKEY are back to usurp the scene, then crush its skull. Without question, their most focused, aggressive and direct material to date, 9-13 is an all-out assault of violent hatred and nightmarish negativity.

Directed by Jack Atherton
http://jackatherton.com/

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Iron Monkey on Instagram

Iron Monkey on Bandcamp

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

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Iron Monkey to Release 9-13 Oct. 20; Stream New Song “OmegaMangler”

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

iron-monkey-photo-ralph-barklam

Hey there sludge heads. Here’s the first new Iron Monkey song in 18 years. Kind of a big deal.

Today, the reformed trio from Nottingham — who aren’t quite singularly responsible for the proliferation of sludge in the UK but definitely have played a major and continuing role in that despite breaking up following the death of vocalist Johnny Morrow in 1999 — have unveiled their new single “OmegaMangler,” as well as the tracklisting and oh-so-familiar cover art for their upcoming album, 9-13, which will be released on Oct. 20 via Relapse Records. Mark your calendar, get your preorder. Do whatever you gotta do. Whatever side of the argument you’re on as regards this reunion, you at very least know you’re curious to hear that song.

So I won’t delay. It’s down there at the bottom of the post under the PR wire info. Hit it:

iron monkey 9-13

Cult UK doom/sludge outfit IRON MONKEY return with 9-13, their first new full-length in almost two decades. After disbanding in 1999 due to the death of their original singer J.P. Morrow, the group has reformed for phase two of their mission. Recorded in their hometown of Nottingham in Spring 2017 A.D. with producer Johnny A. Carter, 9-13 is 9 songs and 48 minutes of total nihilism. Now older, more cynical and more isolationist, IRON MONKEY are back to usurp the scene, then crush its skull. Without question, their most focused, aggressive and direct material to date, 9-13 is an all-out assault of violent hatred and nightmarish negativity. Recommended listening for fans of pain, suffering, and misanthropy.

9-13 is set for release on October 20th on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical packages and digital orders are available via Relapse.com HERE and all retail outlets HERE.

9-13 Tracklisting:
1. Crown of Electrodes
2. OmegaMangler
3. 9-13
4. Toadcrucifier – R.I.P.P.E.R.
5. Destroyer
6. Mortarhex
7. The Rope
8. Doomsday Impulse Multiplier
9. Moreland St. Hammervortex

IRON MONKEY was destroyed sometime in nineteen ninety nine.

Vocal terror J. P. Morrow died of a heart attack in June of Two Thousand and Two. Rest in noise.

The band reformed for no reason in the winter of Two Thousand and Sixteen with original members J. Rushby and S. Watson, with the addition of current Chaos UK drummer Brigga, forming the shape of an inverted black triangle of vitriol and phase two of operations.

IRON MONKEY do not care about your scene, bands or opinions… ELECTROCUTION, DOOM, OMEGA OMEGA OMEGA.

https://ironmonkey.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/IRONMONKEYBAND/
http://bit.ly/IronMonkey
http://www.relapse.com/
http://www.facebook.com/relapserecords

Iron Monkey, “OmegaMangler”

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Are Iron Monkey Reuniting?

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

Why would they take a new lineup picture if they weren’t?

I’ve heard Iron Monkey quoted as one of the UK’s least likely reunions. Between former drummer Justin Greaves moving on to a host of outfits including Crippled Black Phoenix and the June 2002 death of vocalist Johnny Morrow, one had to agree the prospects weren’t great. And while I don’t have confirmation of anything in the works in terms of recordings, new material, shows, fest appearances or anything more to go on than a new photo of guitarists Jim Rushby and Steve Watson and drummer Brigga below and the concise first post they put up on a new, seemingly-official Thee Facebooks page, again, it brings back the question above: Why would they bother even going that far if they weren’t reactivating on some level?

Hard to estimate the impact of Iron Monkey‘s two studio full-lengths — 1996’s Iron Monkey and 1998’s Our Problem (box set review here) — because, quite frankly, that impact is still spreading. Their foundation in hardcore echoed US bands like Buzzov*en and Eyehategod to an extent, but in a pre-social media era, Iron Monkey formed in 1994 and immediately set about conveying a rawness all their own. That would lead to their being picked up by Earache Records after a first issue of their self-titled debut in ’97 — the label put it out again in ’97 — and Our Problem behind it, and while that pair, a 1999 split with Church of Misery and 2002’s Ruined by Idiots live compilation would comprise their total discography (to-date), an entire generation of acts has continued to walk the path that Iron Monkey helped forge.

So what’ll it be? Festival appearances seem most likely, but I wouldn’t speculate as to what and when. Needless to say, nailing down an Iron Monkey reunion is a coup for anyone who’s managed to do it, and until we know more about what’s to come, the only thing to do is keep watch for info as it arrives.

Interested to know as well what Earache has to say about it. For now, this is what we have to go on:

iron monkey

Hello shitheads.

https://www.facebook.com/IRONMONKEYBAND/

Iron Monkey, Iron Monkey (1996/1997)

Iron Monkey, Our Problem (1998)

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Review & Track Premiere: Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

church of the cosmic skull is satan real

Embed for Watch it Grow

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Watch it Grow’ from Church of the Cosmic Skull’s Is Satan Real?, out Sept. 16 on Bilocation Records.]

I don’t know how many people it takes to constitute a “church” by UK standards, but Nottingham’s Church of the Cosmic Skull most likely hit that standard. The newcomer band brings together seven players from different groups — guitarist/lead vocalist Bill Fisher was in Mammothwing, others come from Pilgrim Fathers, Hellset Orchestra, Iron Swan, Polymath, Club AC30, and so on — and together they take the band beyond clear aesthetic vision into a near-conceptual level of execution. That is, their mission is so firmly in their grasp, their control held so definitively throughout the seven songs/38 minutes of their Bilocation Records debut, Is Satan Real?, that it becomes easy to imagine the band took shape as an idea before anyone actually came on board.

Fisher is joined by vocalists Caroline Cawley and Jo Joyce, electric cellist/vocalist Amy Nicholson, bassist/vocalist Sam Lloyd, Hammond organist/vocalist Michael Wetherburn and drummer Loz Stone, and as one might expect, the album makes its primary impression in lush sounds. Deeply indebted to classic prog rock, it is immediately distinguished by its multi-part vocal harmonies and overall melodic flourish, working with an unabashed poppiness that some will no doubt attribute to Ghost, especially with the underlying Satanic theme of the title, but Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s heavy psychedelic clarity almost can’t help but be distinct, from the opening bounce of “Mountain Heart” through nine-minute progstravaganza closer “Evil in Your Eye.”

And if you’re thinking this might just be another British band with a cumbersome or otherwise silly name, I’d say each work in Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s moniker earns its place. “Cosmic” for the swirling psychedelic aspects of a cut like “Movements in the Sky,” “skull” for the darker aspects in “Black Slug,” minimalist centerpiece “Answers in Your Soul” and the almost Opethian prog (or, more likely, Magma) of the title-track, and “church” for the sense of reverence that emerges from the lush arrangements of vocals, keys and/or cello throughout “Mountain Heart,” album highlight “Watch it Grow” and the aforementioned closer, for how crisp the songs sound and how each manages to establish its own personality while also adding to the overall breadth of the whole work. Is Satan Real?, as a title, also evokes late-’60s cult interest, like Anton Lavey on the cover of Look magazine.

church of the cosmic skull

This all feeds into a comprehensive aesthetic ideal to which the band ascribes, “Mountain Heart” and “Black Slug” setting up a play back and forth between lighter and darker sounds while maintaining a steady thread through them of complexity and textured prog rock, the rolling riff of “Black Slug” coming about as close as they ever do to a doomed vibe. That threat does a lot of work in the subsequent tracks, as “Movements in the Sky” picks up with quiet guitar and organ and brings an underlying chug to a brief but effective three-and-a-half-minute linear build, the vibe has clearly switched back toward brighter fare, but the context has shifted, expanded, and that’s something Church of the Cosmic Skull continue to toy with as the album proceeds forward. After the lustrous finish of “Movements in the Sky,” “Answers in Your Soul” picks up with subdued acoustic guitar and Fisher‘s voice alone — a stark contrast to the rest of the record before and after, but obviously intended to be just that. The relative minimalism and still-on-point melody only further highlight just how broad the spectrum at play in Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s sound can be and can continue to become.

I suppose their potential going forward is a major appeal of this first outing, and for a first outing, that’s fair — it’s easy to be excited about a band starting what seems like it could be a fruitful creative progression — however, in the case of Is Satan Real?, that excitement shouldn’t be taken as a knock on the current accomplishment. As “Is Satan Real” serpentines through a winding prog structure, largely instrumental for the first three-plus of its total four minutes save for some whispers, then dives at 3:31 into organ-laced gospel verse, the sense of realization the band brings to their work already is palpable, and in its engagement and confidence, their material soars when it wants to soar, broods when it wants to brood, and in “Watch it Grow,” kind of engages all sides with a max-efficiency hook, gorgeous arrangement, heavy thud and fluid build. With a foundation of bass and drums, the band construct a landmark chorus and continue to add depth to it as they move forward, dedicating the second half of the song to pure revelry that provides an absolute standout moment leading into “Evil in Your Eye,” which answers back with the most complex structure on hand, keys emphasizing urgency early but the vocal chorus taking hold with next to no backing before the push resumes.

Near the halfway point, they shift into a more subdued psychedelic jam and loosen some of the structural reins for what feels like genuine exploration. Naturally, they bring it back to the chorus for a final build before they’re done, but it’s a welcome moment of play and speaks to the possibility of structural changes being as fluid as mood and vibe are all across the record. A quiet hidden track finds Fisher accompanied by piano — perhaps in answer to “Answers in Your Soul” — and once more underscores just how wide open Church of the Cosmic Skull have thrown the doors with this debut full-length. The fact that their range comes with a corresponding cohesion of sound and purpose makes Is Satan Real? even more impressive. Its shining moments blind and its darker moments pull downward, but it’s in being able to pull off both and craft such seamlessness between the two sides that the band truly begin to make their mark.

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Friday Full-Length: Iron Monkey, Iron Monkey

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 11th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Iron Monkey, Iron Monkey (1997)

One could look at any number of sludge or sludge metal acts coming out of the UK these days and point to the continued impact of the relatively short tenure of Nottingham’s Iron Monkey. The dual-guitar deconstructionists issued two full-lengths in their time — 1997’s Iron Monkey and 1998’s Our Problem — through Earache and hooked up with Frank Kozik‘s Man’s Ruin Records for the We’ve Learned Nothing EP, also released as a split with Church of Misery in 1999. They split up that same year, and in 2002, the live album Ruined by Idiots: Live and Unleashed surfaced, compiling material from shows between 1995 and 1999 in memory of vocalist Johnny Morrow, who died of heart failure in June 2002. By the time they were done, they’d traded out both guitarists who appear on the self-titled, Jim Rushby and Steven Watson (Ravens Creed) for Dean Berry (ex-Capricorns) and Stuart O’Hara (ex-Acrimony, now Sigiriya), which left Morrow, bassist Doug Dalziel and drummer Justin Greaves as founding members. Dalziel would go on to play in The Dukes of Nothing with Berry and O’Hara, while Greaves did time in Electric Wizard and Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, among others, before founding Crippled Black Phoenix, with whom he remains to this day.

But if Iron Monkey‘s legacy has tentacled its way into a sort of varied pedigree, the music on the self-titled is almost entirely more singular in its purpose. Topped with Morrow‘s uniform throat-ripping rasp, it is a more active, upbeat thrust than, say Grief‘s Come to Grief, released a few years earlier in 1994, but similar in its attitude and consuming fuckall. From the crawling “Fink Dial” through the chaos-minded mega-chug of “666 Pack” — just in case you doubted a punker lineage — Iron Monkey remain as crusty as Bongzilla but uniformly pissed off. Their tones were thicker and their approach more refined than Buzzov*en — for whom being stripped down meant peeling flesh from bone — but they were perhaps even more vicious. You felt every single second of the self-titled. It’s still not an easy record to get through. It remains more geared toward destruction than a good time.

And disaffection. Woof. “Web of Piss.” “Big Loader.” The lurching “Shrimp Fist.” These songs would be anthems if everyone who ever said “fuck it” to life had any interest in picking a rallying cry. The above version of Iron Monkey includes a bonus track cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Cornucopia” from Earache‘s 1997 Masters of Misery tribute CD, which also included the likes of Sleep, Godflesh and Cathedral — it’s a good one if you can find it. There have been a few reissues of the album over the years, 1999, 2012 on vinyl, a 2009 boxed set with Our Problem (review here), etc., so it’s not exactly a lost classic, but at the same time, the better part of two decades later, it still feels like Iron Monkey are underappreciated for just how furious they actually were.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Not exactly disingenuous, but in some ways I feel like closing out the week with Iron Monkey is at very least in opposition to my current mood. I’ll spare you the effusiveness and just break it down to a list of thanks:

THANK YOU to the nearly 200 people who’ve contributed so far to the 2015 Readers Poll.

THANK YOU to those who’ve placed the 30-plus orders for The Obelisk merch, hoodies and t-shirts. That response is more than I could’ve dreamed of. It’s on sale till next Friday, so if you want to get in on it, please do so.

THANK YOU to everyone who’s as psyched as I am for the Obelisk All-Dayer next August at the Saint Vitus Bar. I’ve got one open slot left in the lineup and will start making announcements early next year.

THANK YOU to everybody who has shared a link, left a comment, retweeted, etc., the lists and other posts this week. It’s been hugely appreciated.

THANK YOU to The Patient Mrs. for continuing to take care of me as my ankle heals up.

And THANK YOU to Kings Destroy for the invitation to join them on their Australian tour with Radio Moscow in February, which I’m going to make every effort to do.

It’s been a wild week and I feel like this is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re reading this, thank you.

Next week, maybe we start off with the year-end podcast? Seems reasonable, right? Maybe I’ll shoot for putting that together on Sunday. I’m going to try to get a writeup done for the Borracho/Geezer split, which I’m sure is long-since sold out by now, and I have a stack of tapes that I’d love to get through before the month ends. Working on it. Also look out for the Top 20 Debuts of 2016 and if I have time, a revisit of that massive 2015 Most Anticipated List that went up in January.

Gonna start on the Quarterly Review as well, because it occurs to me that the weekend before it starts –when I would be writing it — is Xmas. Whoops. Maybe we’ll push that one back to the start of next month? We’ll see how it goes.

Again, thank you all so much for the support, for reading and hopefully digging what goes on in this space. Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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