War Cloud Announce Tour Dates Including SXSW and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

war cloud photo Janiece Gonzalez

Oakland riffthrashers War Cloud will head out on tour in March, and I think if you heard their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) — which you can stream in its entirety at the bottom of this post courtesy of Ripple Music‘s Bandcamp page — you probably have some sense of the particular brand of good times they’ll be having along the way. Boozy, in short. Regardless of intake, however, War Cloud are a riot. I’ve yet to have the pleasure of catching them live, but they’ve got hooks, energy and a classic-minded sound delivered with modern vigor, and if that’s not enough to make you show up to a gig, they’ll probably have a rad t-shirt or two for sale too. Just a guess on that one.

They’ll be making stops at SXSW in Austin and circling back to CA in the company newcomer labelmates Holy Grove, which, goodness gracious, that’s a show — though one could easily and probably should say the same of the Ripple Fest II that War Cloud will play on Feb. 3 among likewise-esteemed compatriots Blackwülf, The Hazytones, The Watchers and ZED.

That show is at Thee Parkside and you’ll find the details as well as the tour dates below, courtesy of the band via the PR wire:

war cloud tour poster

Ripple Music and Hi-Wattage Booking present War Cloud, volcanic rock from Oakland, California, for the first time bringing their aural ash of molten riffs to Texas. With their debut album out, the heavy rock quartet will be taking the southwest by storm making an appearance at SXSW and linking up with fellow Ripple band, Holy Grove for the last 3 dates.

Originally erupting out of Oakland, War Cloud have been steadily shredding Northern Californian ear drums since their formation in 2014. Founded by vocalist, guitar player and former Baltimore resident Alex Wein, after immediately planting down his amps he wasted no time in recruiting a solid four-man crew. Setting out to create an aural ash cloud of volcanic rock ‘n’ roll, Wein was soon joined by Bay Area natives Joaquin Ridgell on drums, guitarist Tony Campos, and later, Los Angeles transplant Sean Nishi on bass.

War Cloud Live:
02/03 Ripple Fest II Thee Parkside San Francisco CA w/ Blackwülf, The Hazytones, The Watchers & ZED
03/12 Blacklight District Long Beach CA
03/13 Yucca Tap Room Tempe AZ
03/14 Rockin’ Cigar Bar El Paso TX
03/15 The Lost Well Austin TX (SXSW)
03/16 Rudyard’s British Pub Houston TX
03/17 Limelight San Antonio TX
03/18 TBA
03/20 Surly Wench Tucson AZ
03/21 Tower Bar San Diego CA w/ Holy Grove
03/22 5 Star Bar Los Angeles CA w/ Holy Grove
03/24 Eli’s Oakland CA w/ Holy Grove & Brume

War Cloud is:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Tony Campos – Guitar
Sean Nishi – Bass
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums

http://facebook.com/WarCloudisComing
http://warcloudiscoming.bandcamp.com/
http://warcloud.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

War Cloud, War Cloud (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Wolves in the Throne Room, Gravy Jones, Marmora, Mouth, Les Lekin, Leather Lung, Torso, Jim Healey, Daxma, The Re-Stoned

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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

The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review continues today with day two of five. I don’t mind telling you — in fact I’m pretty happy to tell you — that this one’s all over the place. Black metal, post-metal, singer-songwriter stuff, psych jams, heavy rock. I feel like I’ve had to go to great pains not to use the word “weird” like 17 times. But I guess that’s what’s doing it for me these days. The universe has plenty of riffs. All the better when they start doing something different or new or even just a little strange. I think, anyhow. Alright, enough lollygagging. Time to dive in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

wolves in the throne room thrice woven

True, it’s something of a cliché when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room to think of their work as “an awaited return,” and perhaps that speaks to the level of anticipation with which their outings are greeted generally. Nonetheless, Thrice Woven arrives via the band’s own Artemisia Records six years after Celestial Lineage, their last proper full-length, and three after its companion, Celestite (review here), so the five-track/42-minute offering from the USBM innovators is legitimately due. The Washington-based troupe’s black-metal-of-the-land remains heavily focused on atmosphere, with a sharp, experimental-feeling turn to ambience and melody in opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and the later drone interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” that precedes the rampaging closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon,” which caps Thrice Woven with a long fade into the sound of rolling waves. Between them, “The Old Ones are with Us” casts a vision of blackened folk-doom that seems to pull off what Agalloch was always aiming for, and centerpiece “Angrboda” blasts through an early wash before splitting near the midsection to minimalism and rebuilding itself on a slow march. 15 years on from their beginning, Wolves in the Throne Room still sound like no one else, and continue to push themselves forward creatively.

Wolves in the Throne Room on Thee Facebooks

Artemisia Records on Bandcamp

 

Gravy Jones, Funeral Pyre

gravy jones funeral pyre

It’s a crazy world into which Gravy Jones invite their listeners on their self-issued debut full-length, Funeral Pyre, and the fire they bring is born of a molten classic psychedelic rock underpinned by low end weight and further distinguished by its use of organ and proto-metallic vocal proclamations. Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Heavens Bliss” tops 10 minutes in its weirdo roll, and subsequent cuts “The Burning of the Witch” and “It Came from the Sea” do little to dispel the off-center vibe, the former dug into rawer NWOBHM-ism and the latter, the centerpiece of the five-tracker, beaming in from some kind of alt-universe Deep Purple idolatry to lead into the particularly doomed “Gilgamesh” and the shuffle-into-noisefest onslaught of the closing title-track. All told it’s 41 minutes of bizarre excursion that’s deceptively cohesive and feels like the start of a longer-term sonic exploration. Whether or not Gravy Jones even out sound-wise or hold to such an unhinged vibe, they definitely pique interest here.

Gravy Jones on Thee Facebooks

Gravy Jones on Bandcamp

 

Marmora, Criterion

marmora criterion

Criterion – yes, like the collection – is the debut EP from Chicago four-piece Marmora, who released a single in 2013 before the core brotherly trio of Zaid (guitar), Alejandro (bass) and Ulysses (drums) Salazar hooked up with vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Allan Cardenas in 2015. The three-tracker that has resulted begins with its title-cut, which thrusts forth a wash of heavy post-rock that makes an impression in weight as much as space before turning to the more grounded, propulsive, aggressive and punkishly noise-caked “Apathy” and closer “Flowers in Your Garden,” which turns traditional heavy rock riffery on its head with frenetic drum work and rhythmic turns that feel born of modern progressive metal. Significant as the crunch factor and aggro pulsations are, Criterion isn’t at all without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and though there isn’t much tying these three tracks together, for a first EP, there doesn’t need to be. Let that come later. For now, the boot to the ass is enough.

Marmora on Thee Facebooks

Marmora on Bandcamp

 

Mouth, Live ’71

mouth live 71

Perhaps in part as a holdover between their 2017 second album, Vortex (review here), and the impending Floating to be issued in 2018, German progressive retroists Mouth offer Live ’71. No, it was not actually recorded in 1971. Nor, to my knowledge, was it recorded in 2071 and sent back in time in a slingshot maneuver around the sun. It’s just a play on the raw, captured-from-the-stage sound of the 55-minute set, which opens at a 19-minute sprawl with “Vortex” itself and only deep-dives further from there, whether it’s into the keyboard throb of “Parade,” the nuanced twists of “Into the Light” or the more straightforward riffing of “On the Boat.” There’s room for all this scope and the stomp of “Master Volume Voice” in a Mouth set, it would seem, and if Live ’71 is indeed a stopgap, it’s one that shows off the individualized personality of the long-running band who seem to still be exploring even as they approach the 20-year mark.

Mouth on Thee Facebooks

Mouth on Bandcamp

 

Les Lekin, Died with Fear

les lekin died with fear

A second full-length from Austrian heavy psych trio Les Lekin, Died with Fear is perhaps more threatening in its title than in its overall aesthetic. The four inclusions on the 43-minute follow-up to 2014’s All Black Rainbow Moon (review here) set their mission not necessarily in conveying terror or some overarching sense of darkness – though low end is a major factor throughout – as in cosmic hypnosis born of repetition and chemistry-fueled heavy psychedelic progressivism. Well at home in the extended and atmospheric “Orca” (10:41), “Inert” (10:21), “Vast” (8:59) and “Morph” (13:34), the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Beat B. and drummer Kerstin W. recorded live and in so doing held fast to what feels very much like a natural and developing dynamic between them, their material all the more fluid for it but carrying more of a sense of craft than most might expect from a release that, ostensibly, is based around jams. Sweeping and switched-on in kind, Died with Fear turns out to be remarkably vibrant for something under a banner so grim.

Les Lekin on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation

leather lung lost in temptation

Oh, they’re mad about it, to be sure. I’m not sure what ‘it’ ultimately is, but whatever, it’s got Leather Lung good and pissed off. Still, the Boston-based onslaught specialists’ debut full-length, Lost in Temptation, has more to its cacophony than sheer violence, and though that intelligence is somewhat undercut by the hey-check-it-out-it’s-cartoon-tits-and-also-because-snakes-are-like-wieners cover art, the marriage between fuckall noise intensity on “Gin and Chronic” and trades between growl-topped thrust and more open and melodic plod on “Shadow of the Scythe” and upbeat rock on “Momentum of Misfortune.” Put it in your “go figure” file that the closer “Destination: Void,” which is marked as an outro, is the longest inclusion on the 28-minute offering, but by then due pummel has been served throughout pieces like “Deaf Adder” and “Freak Flag” amid the willful stoner idolatry of “The Spice Melange,” so there’s texture in the assault as well. Yeah though, that cover. Woof.

Leather Lung on Thee Facebooks

Leather Lung on Bandcamp

 

Torso, Limbs

torso limbs

I won’t deny the strength of approach Austria’s Torso demonstrate across Limbs, their StoneFree Records debut LP, in the straightforward structures of songs like “Meaning Existence” or “Mirror of My Mind” or “Skinny and Bony” and the semi-acoustic penultimate grown-up-grunge alternarocker “Down the Highway,” but it’s hard to listen to the nine-minute spread of “Red Moon” in the midsection of the album and not come away from its patient psychedelic execution thinking of it as a highlight. Shades of post-rock and moodier fare make themselves known in “Come Closer” and the righteously melodic “Ride Up,” and closer “Voices” delivers a resounding payoff, but it’s “Red Moon” that summarizes the atmospheric and emotional scope with which Torso are working and most draws together the various elements at play into a cohesive singularity. One hopes it’s a model they’ll follow going forward, but neither should doing so necessarily draw away from the songwriting prowess they show here. It’s a balance that, having been struck, feels ready to be manipulated.

Torso on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Jim Healey, Just a Minute More

jim healey just a minute more

Companioned immediately by a digital release of the demos on which it’s based, including four other songs that didn’t make the cut of the final, studio-recorded EP, Jim Healey’s Just a Minute More conveys its sense of longing in the title and moves quickly to stake its place in a long-running canon of singer-songwriterisms. Healey, known for fronting metal and heavy rock acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Set Fire, etc., could easily come across as a case of dual personality in the sweetly, unabashedly sentimental, acoustic-based opener “The Road” or the more-plugged-in “You and I” at the outset, but in the fuzzed-out centerpiece “Swamp Thing,” the emotionally weighted memorable hook of “Faced,” and the piano-topped payoff of closer “Burn Up,” the 18-minute EP unfurls a sense of variety and a full-band sound that sets the project Jim Healey on its own course even apart from the man himself. Some of those other demos aren’t too bad either. Just saying.

Jim Healey on Thee Facebooks

Jim Healey on Bandcamp

 

Daxma, The Head Which Becomes the Skull

daxma-the-head-which-becomes-the-skull

Signed to Magnetic Eye for the release, Oakland post-metal five-piece Daxma answer the ambition of their half-hour single-song 2016 debut EP, The Nowhere of Shangri-La, with the even-fuller-length The Head Which Becomes the Skull, demonstrating a clear intent toward sonic patience and ambient reach that balances subtle builds and crashes with engaging immersiveness and nod. Three of the six total inclusions top 10 minutes, and within opener “Birth” (10:53), “Abandoning All Hope” (11:34) and the penultimate “Our Lives Will be Erased by the Shifting Sands of the Desert” (13:42), one finds significant breadth, but not to be discounted either are the roll of “Wanderings/Beneath the Sky,” the avant feel of the closing title-track or even the 80-second drone interlude “Aufheben,” which like all that surrounds it, feeds into a consuming ambience that undercuts the notion of The Head Which Becomes the Skull as a debut album for its purposefulness and evocative soundscaping.

Daxma on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Chronoclasm

the re-stoned chronoclasm

For their first new outing since they revisited their debut EP in 2016 with Reptiles Return (review here), Moscow instrumentalists The Re-Stoned cast forth Chronoclasm, a six-track long-player of new material recorded over 2015 and 2016 that ties together its near-hour-long runtime with a consistency of guitarist Ilya Lipkin’s lead tone and a steady interweaving of acoustic elements. “Human Without Body,” “Save Me Under the Emerald Glass,” “Psychedelic Soya Barbecue” and the title-track seem to have some nuance of countrified swing to their groove, but it’s lysergic swirl that ultimately rules the day throughout Chronoclasm, Yaroslav Shevchenko’s drums keeping the material grounded around Lipkin’s guitar and Vladimir Kislyakov’s bass. The trio are joined on percussion by Evgeniy Tkachev on percussion for the CD bonus track “Quartz Crystals,” which picks up from the quiet end of “Chronoclasm” itself and feels like a nine-minute improve extension of its serene mood, adding further progressive sensibility to an already wide scope.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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Blackwulf to Release New Album Sinister Sides & Perform at SXSW with Geof O’Keefe

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

blackwulf

In case you were wondering what ‘keeping good company’ looks like, it probably looks something like bringing Pentagram/Bedemon founder Geof O’Keefe onstage with you to perform at the release show for your new album (on which he also appears) at SXSW this March in Austin, Texas. The laudable move will be undertaken by Oakland aggro heavy rockers Blackwulf as they look to follow-up 2015’s Oblivion Cycle with their next album for Ripple Music, dubbed Sinister Sides. New Year’s Day would seem to be as good a time to make the announcement as any, so what the hell.

You might recall Bedemon released the Symphony of Shadows (discussed here) full-length in 2012 and went on to play Psycho California in 2015 with Wino in the frontman role alongside O’Keefe (interview here). 2015 also saw Relapse reissue the collection Child of Darkness of classic material from the band first founded in 1973.

Blackwulf makes the association public thusly:

BLACKWULF – SINISTER SIDES

The sold-out successes of 2015’s “Oblivion Cycle” (Ripple Music) and 2014’s “Mind Traveler” (Wickerman) releases prompted metal luminaries as mighty as Lars Ulrich (Metallica) and Geof O’Keefe (original Pentagram) to pick up on copies of the albums and publicly name check the band.

Combining vintage ‘70s head banging riffs with doom cloaked soundscapes and vintage heavy metal and hard rock, BLACKWULF is bracing for even greater heights of heaviness with their upcoming Ripple Music follow-up release, “Sinister Sides”. The eight-song album comes complete with gatefold and colored vinyl, and finds the ‘Wulf ambitiously venturing farther afield, deep into extended vintage hard rock sonic jams and dark breakdowns, all the while keeping one matted paw within their established heavy headbanging riff songwriting approach.

The band, unchanged from its original lineup since 2012, features singer Alex Cunningham, guitarist Pete Holmes, bassist Scott Peterson, and drummer Dave Pankenier.
Something classic is made new again: joining BLACKWULF on “Sinister Sides” as a special guest lead guitarist is doom legend Geof O’Keefe, one of the founding members of Pentagram and Bedemon.

O’Keefe’s discovery and subsequent affinity for the band led Blackwulf to invite him to play some lead guitar (and even a gong!) as a special guest on “Sinister Sides”.

O’Keefe’s trademark doom vibrato and vintage guitar heaviness is featured on three tracks on the album: “Dead to the World”, “Sinister Sides” and a blistering cover of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love”.

The chemistry is next level: O’Keefe is “very happy with what resulted” and hails the new Blackwulf album as “easily their best result to date, with extremely strong material and arrangements…the production is superb”. Additionally, O’Keefe will be storming the stage alongside the band at the official Ripple Music showcase at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin Texas in March 2018.

Blackwulf’s “Sinister Sides” will be officially released at the South by Southwest Festival, and the band will support it taking to the road, with gigs across the US and jumping across to the UK for a short run anchored by an appearance at Desertfest London in May 2018.

www.blackwulfusa.com
www.blackwulfusa.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/blackwulfusa
www.twitter.com/blackwulfusa
ripple-music.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
youtube.com/user/GroovesandRipples/
twitter.com/RippleMusic

Blackwulf, Oblivion Cycle (2015)

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Scott Kelly and John Judkins to Tour Europe Early in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

You in no way need me to tell you to go see Scott Kelly. The Neurosis guitarist/vocalist, as a solo performer, has more than enough of a reputation behind him at this point that if you don’t know to show up and sit quietly, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. What I’ll do instead is point out the trio of videos at the bottom of this post of Kelly at work. The first clip is a trailer for a new 7″ split with his upcoming tourmate/collaborator John Judkins (Rwake). It contains new music and makes me very badly want a copy of that single. The second is a live clip from earlier this year of Kelly and Judkins performing “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul” together, and if you needed further argument to get out to a show, that should about cover it. And the third is a recently-posted clip from Revolver of Kelly playing Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” in the open-air setting of Crater Lake that The Patient Mrs. showed me the other day. I don’t know who might’ve thought of setting that one up, but whoever it was, they deserve a raise.

Judkins is the latest in a distinguished line of Kelly-solo collaborators that includes Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), CHVE of Amenra, and Scott “Wino” Weinrich, among others, but as you can see in the clip below, he brings a genuine complement to Kelly‘s acoustic work. As for Kelly himself, he recently got off tour with Mastodon and has a new band going called Semantron with Dave French of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Guy Nelson of Green Jellö about which one hopes to hear more in the New Year.

Until then, this from the PR wire:

Scott Kelly John Judkins photo Danin Drahos

SCOTT KELLY Announces Early 2018 European Tour Dates With John Judkins

SCOTT KELLY of NEUROSIS announces a European solo tour for early 2018, where he’ll accompanied by John Judkins of Rwake.

The tour will be supported by the release of a 7″ EP which captures the two artists performing at their show at White Water Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 3rd, 2017, during a US tour together. In selecting these two songs for the release, SCOTT KELLY offers, “we felt that they show the depth, emotion, and life that we are trying to bring to them.”

This limited edition live 7″ will be sold throughout the tour via My Proud Mountain, available in quantities of 200 on purple vinyl and 100 on black vinyl. A full overview of the dates can be found below.

SCOTT KELLY European Tour 2018 w/ John Judkins:
1/11/2018 Stubnitz – Hamburg, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/12/2018 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/13/2018 TBA – Poznan, PL
1/14/2018 Chmury – Warsaw, PL
1/15/2018 Klarisky Church – Bratislava, SK
1/16/2018 Kapu – Linz, AT
1/17/2018 Circolo Magnolia – Milan, IT
1/18/2018 Traffic Club – Rome, IT
1/19/2018 Cueva – Caligari, IT
1/20/2018 Poudrière – Belfort, FR
1/21/2018 Black Sheep – Montpellier, FR
1/22/2018 Karspek – Lyon, FR
1/23/2018 Sunset Bar – Martigny, CH
1/24/2018 Knabenschule – Darmstadt, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/25/2018 Parterre – Basel, CH
1/26/2018 Sabotage – Lisbon, PT
1/27/2018 Understage – Porto, PT
1/28/2018 Festsaal Kreuzberg – Berlin, DE @ CTM Festival
1/29/2018 Arena 3raum – Vienna, AT
1/30/20018 A38 – Budapest, HU
1/31/2018 Club Mochvara – Zagreb, HR
2/02/2018 Dachstock – Bern, CH
2/03/2018 Pauluskirche – Dortmund, DE w/ Peter Wolff
2/04/2018 Gebr de Nobel – Liden, NL

https://www.facebook.com/ScottKelly.official
http://www.myproudmountain.com
https://www.facebook.com/myproudmountain
https://www.neurotrecordings.com
https://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Scott Kelly & John Judkins tour trailer

Scott Kelly & John Judkins, “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul” live Feb. 28, 2017

Scott Kelly, “Stones from the Sky” live at Crater Lake

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Catapult the Dead Set Nov. 15 Release for A Universal Emptiness

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

catapult the dead

It doesn’t take long into their second album, A Universal Emptiness, for Oakland post-doom six-piece Catapult the Dead to set an atmosphere as heavy emotionally as it is in its tonal substance. Doom Stew Records will have the four-track/38-minute full-length out Nov. 15 as the follow-up to the band’s 2014 debut, All is Sorrow, and while bits and pieces like some of the emergent riffing in opener “Till it Goes Away” and some of the Steve Von Till-style vocals that accompany might be traced back to Neurosis, cuts like the organ-laced “Last Breath” and the piano-topped album apex “Burning Womb” put that churn to individualized purposes.

I’ll hope to have more to come on this one. Digging the vibe a lot so far. The PR wire had this to say on it:

Catapult the Dead A Universal Emptiness

Catapult the Dead release new album on November via Doom Stew Records

Hailing from Oakland, Ca, the 6 piece crushing tribe of doom Catapult the Dead, are teaming up with San Francisco’s Doom Stew Records for their latest full length release “A Universal Emptiness”, due on November 15th, 2017.

Catapult the Dead bring to the genre their own version of musical sorrow, despondency, and longing. This unique and haunting outfit is as beautifully devastating as it is callous and brooding.

A Universal Emptiness is a 38:39 minute apocalyptic journey. Sweeping synth and organ soundscapes lead you eerily, through a dark thunderous wall of sound. With thick brutal guitars at the core, it’s rhythmic foundation is dragged angrily along by layered bass and powerful booming drums. All the while baleful roars and ghostly wales round out this bleak, crushingly dynamic, full length offering.

A Universal Emptiness will be available on November 15th. CD and LP’s are available through Doom Stew Records. Digital download and cassette tapes are available directly through Catapult the Dead. The 12″ vinyl comes in 3 special color variants to compliment thebeautiful illustrations created by Macedonian artist Pig Hands. Also featuring insert and label Illustrations by Death Ink.

Tracklisting:
1. Till It Goes Away
2. Anti-Aether
3. Last Breath
4. Burning Womb

Catapult the Dead are:
Ben Hiteman – Vocals and Percussion
Emad Dajani – Guitar
Thomas Lilliston – Guitar
Garrick O’Connor – Keyboards and Guitars
Dan Brownson – Bass
Patrick Spain – Drums

http://facebook.com/catapultthedead
https://catapultthedead.bandcamp.com
http://catapultthedead.bigcartel.com/
https://www.doomstew.com

Catapult the Dead, All is Sorrow (2014)

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Freak Valley 2018 First Announcement: Om to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Freak Valley 2018 takes place between May 30 and June 2 in Netphen, Germany, and the venerable festival announces today that no less than Om will serve as the first of its headliners. There’s been no solid word of a new Om album for next year — though a return trip abroad in Spring is bound to fuel speculation — and 2018 will make it a full six since the 2012 release of Advaitic Songs (review here), though when you issue what continues to resonate and thrive as one of the best records of the decade, you more than earn the right to take your time on a follow-up. Yes, I mean that. If it’s not Advaitic Songs and YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend duking it out in your mind for the top spot right now, you’re fucking up as regards taste.

Om have two shows currently booked in Europe for 2018. Freak Valley and a date in Greece put together by Smoke the Fuzz Gigs. Details on that are below.

I’m proud to say I wrote the following announcement and it’s looking like I may finally get to attend Freak Valley next year. Stay tuned for more lineup updates to come, since as you can see, this is just the beginning:

Om-Freak-Valley-2018

Call to Prayer: OM to Headline Freak Valley Festival 2018

Freaks rejoice!

Every year, Om are one of the most requested bands to join the Freak Valley lineup, and as the first band to be revealed for Freak Valley 2018, we couldn’t be more thrilled to finally welcome Om as a headliner!

Led by bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros, Om are the band who turned “heavy” into a spiritual movement. They began in 2003 after the dissolution of Cisneros’ prior outfit – a little band called Sleep; maybe you’ve heard of them – and their earliest works, 2005’s Variations on a Theme and 2006’s Conference of the Birds, are nothing short of modern classics. It was with their fifth and latest album, 2012’s Advaitic Songs, however, that Om most fully embraced their own breadth and the mystical visions their sound could conjure.

Cisneros, together with drummer Emil Amos (also Grails, Holy Sons) and keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (also Lichens) cast forth five lush, beautiful and meditative soundscapes, spiritual without being dogmatic, groundbreaking without being pretentious, and more adventurous in their arrangements of piano, table, strings, keys, flute and vocals than Om had ever been.

While it’s true we’re still waiting for a follow-up, we’d be lying if we said Advaitic Songs still didn’t offer something new every time we listened to it. Seriously. If you haven’t already, you should put on “Gethsemane” immediately. You know we’re right.

Om’s headlining appearance at Freak Valley 2018 will be an exclusive and one of only two shows so far announced that the band will play in Europe next year. The other will be June 2 at the Piraeus 117 Academy in Athens, Greece, presented by Smoke the Fuzz Gigs.

This is just the start for Freak Valley 2018! Stay tuned for more bands, ticket presales and much more info to come!

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://www.facebook.com/events/738782742996668/
https://twitter.com/FreakValley

Om, Advaitic Songs (2012)

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Quarterly Review: Spotlights, War Cloud, Rubble Road, Monte Luna, High Reeper, Frozen Planet….1969, Zaius, Process of Guilt, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Owlcrusher

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Day two of the Quarterly Review and feeling groovy so far. Managed to survive yesterday thanks in no small part to good music and good coffee, and looking at what’s coming up in today’s batch, I don’t expect the situation will be much different — though the styles will. I try to keep in mind as I put these weeks together to change up what’s in each round, so it’s not just all psych records, or all doom, or heavy rock or whatever else. This way I’m not burning myself out on anything particular and I hopefully don’t wind up saying the same things about albums that maybe only share vague genre aspects in common — riffs, etc. — in the same way. Essentially trying to trick my brain into being creative. Sometimes it even works. Let’s see how it fares today.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Spotlights, Seismic

spotlights seismic

After touring hard with the likes of Melvins, Deftones and Refused, heavy post-rockers Spotlights mark their first release on Ipecac Recordings with their second album, Seismic, which finds the core duo of Mario and Sarah Quintero working with producer Aaron Harris (Isis) to follow-up 2016’s Tidals with 65 minutes/11 tracks of weighted atmospherics and far-spanning melodic textures as shown on emotive heft-bringers like “Ghost of a Glowing Forest.” Heavygaze, I suppose, is the genre tag that’s emerged, but with the opening title-track, the chugging “Learn to Breathe” and the later percussive turns of “A Southern Death,” there’s as much focus on crush as on ambience, though as Seismic makes its way through the pair of eight-minute tracks “Hollow Bones” (wonder if they know the 30 Rock reference they’re making) and “Hang us All” before the minimal subdued drones and melodic effects swirls of closer “The Hope of a Storm,” Spotlights succeed in finding a middle ground that offers plenty of both. In its moments of intensity and its range, Seismic builds cohesion from ether and immediately benefits from the purposeful growth the Quinteros have clearly undertaken over the past year by hitting the road with the dedication they have.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings website

 

War Cloud, War Cloud

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Bay Area rockers War Cloud don’t get too fancy on their self-titled debut, which they make via Ripple Music as the follow-up to their 2016 single Vulture City (discussed here), but as they prove quickly in the dual-guitar Thin Lizzyisms of opener “Give’r” and the later post-Motörhead/Peter Pan Speedrock careening of “Speed Demon,” neither do they necessarily need to. Comprised of guitarists Alex Wein (also vocals) and Tony Campos, bassist Sean Nishi and drummer Joaquin Ridgell, War Cloud offer 31 minutes of brisk, unpretentious asskickery, riffs trading channels at the outset of “Hurricane” as it makes ready to settle into its proto-thrashing rocker groove, and the mood of the release as a whole engaging as much through its reimagining 20-year-old Metallica as a heavy rock band there as on the more grandly riff-led “Divide and Conquer.” Structures are straightforward, and not one of the eight tracks tops five minutes, but they’re more than enough for War Cloud find their place between metal form and heavy rock tone, and cuts like “Chopper Wired” and brazenly charged closer “Vulture City” nail the core message of the band’s arrival.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Rubble Road, The Clowns Have Spoken

rubble-road-the-clowns-have-spoken

Rubble Road ain’t hurtin’ nobody. The Orlando-based double-guitar four-piece take two prior singles and put them together with four new tracks as their 29-minute/six-song debut EP, The Clowns Have Spoken, and thereby bring forth straightforward heavy rock that seems to be finding its personality in tone but nonetheless has a strong structural foundation underlying that holds up the material and “The Judge” tosses in a bit of metallic gallop to go with the forward-directed heavy rock proffered on the prior “Galactic Fugitives” and “Gospel (Get it Together).” I won’t say much for the politics of “Truck Stop Hooker,” which caps with the line, “Your mother gives great helmet, baby,” but “Wizard Staff” and “Do it Yourself” broaden the dynamic of the release overall. They’ve got some growing to do, but again, there’s an efficiency in their songwriting that comes through these songs, and as an initial showcase/demo, The Clowns Have Spoken shows Rubble Road with the potential to continue to grow.

Rubble Road on Thee Facebooks

Rubble Road on Bandcamp

 

Monte Luna, Monte Luna

monte luna monte lona

You might check out the self-titled debut from Austin, Texas, duo Monte Luna. You might even pick up the digipak or tape version. You might listen to extended tracks like “Nameless City” (12:53) and “6,000 Year March” (17:42) and be like, “Yeah, cool riffs dudes.” You might even then chase down the The Hound EP that guitarist/vocalist/bassist James Clarke and drummer/synthesist Phil Hook put out last year. At some point though, you’re going to put Monte Luna’s Monte Luna on your shelf and leave it there. Fair enough. However – and I’m not going to say when; could be sooner, could be later — then you’re going to find yourself remembering its massive, 71-minute sprawl of riffs, its doomed-out grooves, shouts, screams, growls and the way its builds become so utterly immersive, and you’re going to put Monte Luna on again. And that’s the moment when it will really hit you. It might take some time, and part of that is no doubt that there’s simply a lot of record to wade through, but whether it’s the rumbling start of “Nightmare Frontier” (14:26), the cacophonous stomp of “Inverted Mountain” (12:04) or the righteous crash of “The End of Beginning” (9:42), Monte Luna will have earned that deeper look, and if you allow them to make that deeper impression with their self-titled, they almost certainly will.

Monte Luna on Thee Facebooks

Monte Luna on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, High Reeper

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Newcomer five-piece High Reeper telegraph Sabbathian heavy rocker intent with their self-released, self-titled debut album. The Delaware-based lineup of Zach Thomas, Napz Mosley, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble make no bones about their roots in opener “Die Slow,” and as the stoner-swinging “High Reeper,” the doom-swaggering “Reeper Deadly Reeper” and the yo-check-out-this-bassline nodder “Weed and Speed” play out in the record’s midsection, it seems increasingly likely that, sooner or later, some imprint or other will pick up High Reeper for a wider release. As the band demonstrates through the stomping “Soul Taker” and the seeming mission statement “Black Leather (Chose Us)” ahead of closer “Friend of Death,” which breaks its six minutes in half between Judas Priest thrust and an instrumental finish that calls to mind “Heaven and Hell,” they’ve got a keen ear for updating classic elements, and though formative, their first outing is cleverly memorable and an immediately resonant display of songcraft. Now we know High Reeper can engage these stylistic components — the test will be how they develop them into something individualized going forward.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

High Reeper on YouTube

 

Frozen Planet….1969, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe

Frozen-Planet-1969-From-the-Centre-of-a-Parallel-Universe

From the Centre of a Parallel Universe is the second long-player of 2017 from Sydney/Canberra’s Frozen Planet….1969. It arrives on CD through Pepper Shaker and LP via Headspin with five tracks/43 minutes of improv-style psych jams following suit from the prior Electric Smokehouse (review here) and helps to bring the band’s funk-infused, spacious dynamic all the more into focus. Also out of focus. Like, blurry vision-style. They range far and wide and keep the proceedings delightfully weird in the three extended pieces “Celestial Gambler,” “Through Hell’s Kaleidoscope, Parts I & II” and “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” – all north of 11 minutes – and with “Signals (Channelling…)” and “The Lady and the Archer” leading the way into each LP side, Frozen Planet….1969 take the time to assure they’re bringing their listeners along with them on their potent journey into the cosmically far out. The must-hear bass tone in “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” is but one of many reasons to dig in, but whatever it takes, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe’s invitation to get lost is not one to be missed.

Frozen Planet….1969 on Thee Facebooks

Pepper Shaker Records on Bandcamp

 

Zaius, Of Adoration

zaius of adoration

Chicago’s history with instrumentalist post-metal goes back as far as the notion of the subgenre itself with acts like Pelican and Russian Circles providing aesthetic-defining landmarks over the last 15-plus years even as a group like Bongripper embraces darker, more lumbering fare. The four-piece Zaius, who make their full-length debut with Of Adoration on Prosthetic Records after two self-released EPs in 2013 and 2011, position themselves more toward the shimmering airiness of the former rather than the latter’s raw lumber, but there’s heft to be found in the expanses of “Sheepdog” and “Seirenes” all the same, and the second half of “Echelon” and closer “Colin” tighten up some of the ethereality of pieces like opener “Phaneron” and the driftingly progressive “Reformer” or the penultimate, patient rollout of “Anicca” to hone a sense of balance that feels as emotionally driven as it is cerebral in its construction. Hard for a band like Zaius to stand themselves out at this point given the swath of acts working in a similar style in and out of the Windy City, but in its textural approach and held-steady flow, Of Adoration satisfies.

Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records webstore

 

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

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Portuguese post-doomers Process of Guilt hit the 15-year mark with the release of their fourth album, Black Earth (on Division/Bleak Recordings), and with a mix by Brooklyn noise-rock specialist Andrew Schneider, a mastering job by Collin Jordan in Chicago and striking cover art by growler/guitarist Hugo Santos with images by Pedro Almeida, the sense of atmosphere is thick and the mood is aggressive throughout. Santos, along with guitarist Nuno David, bassist Custódio Rato and drummer Gonçalo Correia chug and flow through a linear 42 minutes and five tracks on the suitably darkened offering, touching on progressive nuance but not letting cerebral underpinnings take away from the onslaught feel of “Feral Ground” or the tension mounted early in the 11-minute penultimate title-track, which uses feedback as a weapon throughout no less capably than the subsequent closer “Hoax” affects immediately with its nodding tonal wash. Taken as a whole, Black Earth finds Process of Guilt exploring depths of their sound as much as with it, and the directions they go feel as much inward as out.

Process of Guilt on Thee Facebooks

Division Records website

Bleak Recordings website

 

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk

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The challenge for an outfit like Stockholm’s Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, whose self-titled debut arrives via respected purveyor Kozmik Artifactz, lies separating themselves from the shadow of fellow Swedes Blues Pills, whose semi-psych heavy-blues-rocking first album has cast a wide influence that can be heard here as well as in any number of other bands currently kicking around the Euro underground proffering as balance of soul and heavy rock as songs like “It Ain’t Love (But Close Enough)” and “Like Water” do here. Where Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk most succeed in doing this is in the harmonies of “Black Magic Man,” which brings to mind classic acid folk while holding to a heavy blues vibe, but there are other moments throughout when individuality flourishes as well. The attitude is laid on a bit thick in “Them Dames,” but the hooks of “Sister Sorrow,” “She Knows,” “The Devil’s Got a Hold on You” and “Stay” and the burgeoning sense of arrangements complementing Abdulghani’s vocals do well in helping cast an identity one hopes will continue to develop.

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher

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Conceived by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Spiers, bassist/vocalist Steve Hobson and drummer Damien McKeown, Banbridge trio Owlcrusher conjure three extended, slicing slabs of black-singed sludge extremity on their self-titled Seeing Red Records debut, and it’s enough to make one wonder just what the fuck is going on in Northern Ireland to inspire such outright bleakness. Beginning with the 16-minute “Feeble Preacher” (also the longest inclusion here; immediate points), Owlcrusher’s Owlcrusher lumbers excruciatingly forth with screams and growls cutting through a tonality geared for max-volume consumption, though it remains to be seen who is consuming whom as “Feeble Preacher” gives way to the likewise scorched eponymous “Owlcrusher” (11:30) and 15-minute closer “Spoiler,” the last of which brings the only real moment of letup on the album after about nine minutes in, and even that takes the form of an interlude of Khanate-style minimalist ambience before the rolling megacrush resumes and plods to a somehow-even-heavier finish. Clearly a band pushing themselves toward the superlative, Owlcrusher get there much faster than their crawling tones would have you believe. Madness.

Owlcrusher on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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War Cloud Self-Titled Debut out Sept. 8; “Chopper Wired” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

war cloud

Not to be Mr. Jadedsawitcomingdickhead or anything, but it wasn’t really among the universe’s biggest surprises when Ripple Music announced earlier this summer that it had picked up Oakland-based heavy rockers War Cloud for the release of their debut album. Not only is the four-piece local to the label’s own home-base, but their brand of high-energy straightforward thrust — as previously demonstrated on their 2016 Vulture City digital single (discussed here) — is a pretty dead-on fit for what’s become a core sound fostered by Ripple over the last few years. It makes sense, in other words. I’m sure if it wasn’t Ripple that got them, it would’ve been someone, but that it’s Ripple, yeah, it works. It doesn’t need to be shocking to be a good match.

War Cloud‘s self-titled hits next month, and the band has a song called “Chopper Wired” streaming now that you can check out. That and more info follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

war cloud self titled

WAR CLOUD: Bay Area quartet bring the heavy with new album on Ripple Music | Stream and share new song ‘Chopper Wired’

War Cloud is released on 8th September 2017 on Ripple Music

Originally erupting out of Oakland, War Cloud have been steadily shredding Northern Californian ear drums since their formation in 2014. Founded by vocalist, guitar player and former Baltimore resident Alex Wein, after immediately planting down his amps he wasted no time in recruiting a solid four-man crew. Setting out to create an aural ash cloud of volcanic rock ‘n’ roll, Wein was soon joined by Bay Area natives Joaquin Ridgell on drums, guitarist Tony Campos, and later, Los Angeles transplant Sean Nishi on bass.

Despite their youth War Cloud are far from wide-eyed innocents. Their musical history comes drenched in molten riffs inspired across a timeline that spans the spectrum of heavy metal. Their name alone originates from a Wicked Lady song of the same title and their collective roots show through, with Tony’s tenure in San Francisco’s thrash band Hell Fire, Sean’s melding of hard rock rhythms and old-school grooves, and Joaquin’s monolithic beats possessed wholesale by the ghost of John Bonham.

War Cloud’s take on metal is a dish best served heavy and those that have dined on the likes of Pentagram, UFO, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath in the past will no doubt appreciate the hard rock sophistication, dipped deep in ’70’s fuzz.

Track Listing:
1. Give’r
2. Chopper Wired
3. Divide And Conquer
4. Hurricane
5. No Man’s Land
6. Red Witch
7. Speed Demon
8. Vulture City

War Cloud:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Tony Campos – Guitar
Sean Nishi – Bass
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums

http://facebook.com/WarCloudisComing
http://warcloudiscoming.bandcamp.com/
http://warcloud.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ripple-Music/369610860064
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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