Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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War Cloud to Release Earhammer Sessions May 22; Premiere “Vulture City”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

war cloud

Guess what — War Cloud have a new anything coming out and it’s gonna be a banger. Well of course it is. It’s War Cloud. They don’t do otherwise. War Cloud ain’t about to get all prog on you now, no worries. War Cloud bring classic metal and birth-era heavy rock together with enough energy to make you question whatever science it is that said in the first place that alcohol was a depressant. They seem to still be coming down both from 2019’s State of Shock (review here) and from the stretch of European touring they did to support it, even as they look forward to heading abroad once more.

Ah-ha! That brings us to Earhammer Sessions. Sure, the Oakland four-piece have a busy couplewar cloud earhammer sessions months ahead, doing a Texas run and a bit of Midwestern this-and-that around their slot at the Legions of Metal Festival in Chicago, but even as they land in Germany to begin a tour there — they dip into Denmark, but otherwise it’s all-Deutschland — they’ll be celebrating the release of Earhammer Sessions, which was recorded in Cali, but features the band playing the same set they did last time they were in Europe, bringing it to life in the studio as they did on stage, with Greg Wilkinson recording and mixing. Because hell’s bells, if you’re doing a thing, do it right.

May 22 is the release date for Earhammer Sessions, and like State of Shock before it, it’ll be out through Ripple Music. If you find “Vulture City,” the new incarnation of which is premiering below, to be familiar, it originally appeared on War Cloud‘s 2017 self-titled debut (review here), and its origins go back even further than that to when it was issued as a single in 2016. Four years later, they sound accordingly comfortable in using it to kick ass.

Enjoy:

WAR CLOUD ‘Earhammer Sessions’ Out May 22nd on Ripple Music

Oakland hard rock revelers WAR CLOUD announce the release of their thunderous live album ‘Earhammer Sessions’ this May on Ripple Music. The band unveil all details, as well as the dates of their upcoming world tour.

Preorders:
US: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/war-cloud-the-earhammer-sessions
Everywhere: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/the-earhammer-sessions

Says frontman Alex Wein: “We wanted to capture the live energy of our set and it was a no brainer to record with Oakland’s Earhammer Studios. The recordings capture the evolution of the band and how we have progressed as a group. What you hear is the setlist we performed every night of our most recent European tour. It’s a raw, honest, take no prisoners vibe that the band exudes. We chose Earhammer Studios because it has recorded bands that we are fans of (Saviours, Lecherous Gaze, Necrot) and it’s the epitome of the Oakland metal sound. Greg Wilkinson (engineer/mixer) understood our vision and helped recreate the live set. The Earhammer Sessions were mastered by Alan Douches (Motörhead, High On Fire, Gwar)”.

WAR CLOUD also recently unveiled a hectic video for the song “Give’r”, which you can watch at this location. The song is taken from the ‘Earhammer Sessions’ live album, and was first released on 2017’s self-titled debut ‘War Cloud’.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Vulture City
2. Give’r
3. Chopper Wired
4. White Lightning
5. Divide and Conquer
6. Tomahawk
7. Speed Demon
8. Striker

WAR CLOUD will be touring extensively this spring in support of their last album ‘State Of Shock’, released on September 2019 through Ripple Music:

A Fast Ride Through Texas
17/04/20 Houston. Secret Group (Hell’s Heroes Pre-Party)
18/04/20 San Antonio. Faust Tavern
19/04/20 Dallas. Wits End
20/04/20 Austin. Lost Well (Dankfest)

Wings of Steel Tour
United States
13/05/20 Oklahoma City, OK. Blue Note
14/05/20 Lawrence, KS. Replay Lounge
15/05/20 Chicago, IL. Reggie’s (Legions of Metal Festival)
16/05/20 Milwaukee, WS. Cactus Club
17/05/20 Ft. Wayne, IN. Brass Rail
18/05/20 Louisville, KY. Highland Taproom
Europe
22/05/20 Herten, DE. Kustom Kulture Forever
23/05/20 Roskilde, DK. Gimle
26/05/20 Cologne, DE. Museum
27/05/20 Dresden, DE. Ostpol
28/05/20 Berlin, DE. Toast Hawaii
29/05/20 Erfurt, DE. Cafe Tikolor
30/05/20 Munster, DE. Rare Guitar
31/05/20 Leipzig, DE. Black Label
4/06/20 Copenhagen, DK. Byhaven Pumpehuset
5/06/20 Hagen, DE. Kultopia
6/06/20 Kaiserslautern, DE. Irish House

WAR CLOUD:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Nick Burks – Guitar
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums
Taylor Roach – Bass

War Cloud, State of Shock (2019)

War Cloud, “Give’r” official video

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

War Cloud on Bandcamp

War Cloud BigCartel store

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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High Tone Son of a Bitch Premiere “Wicked Threads” from New Compilation Lifecycles

Posted in audiObelisk on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

high tone son of a bitch

You know the origin story of High Tone Son of a Bitch, right? It’s complicated and full of ups, downs, love and loss and all that other deeply human-type stuff. A life story, as it were. The band revitalized circa last year and spent much of the ensuing return period getting their lineup situated and getting their feet under them in terms of stage presentation, but they had a wealth of material to draw from in that regard that went even further than what actually ever saw proper release. On March 20, Tee Pee Records — which also stood behind brothers Paul and Andrew Kott for Kalas‘ lone studio album — will issue Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, a new compilation of songs that span the original era of the band from 2002 through about 2005, preceding Andrew Kott‘s death in 2007.

High Tone Son of a Bitch have two four-trackers currently available. Their Better You Than Me originally came out on CD through Shifty Records in 2003 and though Velocipede was recorded in 2004 it didn’t actually see proper release until 2018 when they put it up on Bandcamp. Last June brought the new single Death of a New Day / Eye in the Sky (discussed here) that was the band’s first proper offering in 16 years and preceded a stop at the opening night of thehigh tone son of a bitch lifecycles eps of htsob inaugural Desertfest NYC (review here) at Saint Vitus Bar. I don’t know how much if any of that material will be included in Lifecycles when it comes out, but there was still plenty more of stuff recorded that apparently never made it to the public, and thus we have the arrival of “Wicked Threads.”

As to what the original plan for the song might have been, I couldn’t say, but with a militaristic snare and wistful guitar and mellotron lines at the outset, the song sets an immediately brooding spirit. Gritty vocals arrive in emotive fashion and give direction to the arrangement, which remains dramatic if not theatrical in such a way as to pull back from the central regret being expressed. The title refers — no, not to your new jeans — to part of a concept that encompasses the entirety of the three-song progression from which the track comes. It’s not as immediately aggressive as they were on stage when I saw them last Spring or as noise-rocking as some of their other material is, but “Wicked Threads” gives some sense of High Tone Son of a Bitch‘s atmospheric resonance and the general breadth of what they used to do. Part of the story, much like this release itself is a part of their overarching narrative.

When it comes to what they’ll do next, however, I’ve no idea. I don’t know if they’re actually signed to Tee Pee or if there’s a new album or another EP or something else brewing, or to what or where their tour plans might take them and when, but even as they look back with Lifecycles: EPs of HTSOB, they make it clear they’re beginning that cycle anew, and moving forward.

Again, the release is March 20. Some more background follows the track below.

Please enjoy:

Paul Kott on “Wicked Threads”:

The Wicked Threads EP is a concept album that spans the past 12,000 years of human history in three songs. It examines the impact of the emergence of class systems, including believing in gods and the development of organized religions, priesthoods, rulers and ruled, and economic classes, has had. The song “Wicked Threads” is set in the modern era of late-stage capitalism, in the wake of thousands of years of these systems of control holding sway over humanity. It’s viewed through the lens of my experience growing up in a dead textile mill town called Lewiston, Maine. Many generations of the people of who live and die in these towns all across America and the world have a long history of being fucked over by wealthy elites. Many of these same people (not everyone, mind you), having been exploited, sucked dry, and ultimately abandoned, seem to fawn over and venerate those who are exploiting them, to adore them. There is almost a worship of the idea of a return to the days when the mills were running full steam and the bosses rang bells to tell them what to do and when. It’s like Stockholm Syndrome, to love your captors, love your abusers.

iTunes: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1&app=itunes
Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/lifecycles-eps-of-htsob/1496428597?ls=1
Download: http://amazon.com/dp/B08469W2FX
Unlimited: http://music.amazon.com/albums/B08469W2FX

Originally formed by brothers Paul and Andrew Kott from the ashes of Oakland prog/doom sludge masters Cruevo, and preceding the Matt Pike-fronted Bay Area metal “supergroup” Kalas, High Tone Son of a Bitch (HTSOB) is a “supergroup” unto itself. Since its founding, HTSOB has pulled together members and collaborators from bands like Noothgrush, Kalas, Hammers of Misfortune, Men of Porn, Melvins, Hawkwind, Neurosis, High on Fire, Sleep, Necrot, The Skull, Worshipper and more. When Andrew Kott died unexpectedly in a tragic fall in 2007, HTSOB disbanded – seemingly forever.

Paul Kott revived the band – at the urging of his Latin Grammy-winning nephew Juan Herrera (Andrew’s step-son) – in 2019. Through lineup changes and regular collaborations that have included some of the most important underground musicians of the modern era, Paul has allowed his brother’s inspiration to live on, carrying the psychedelic hard rock and post-doom vision of HTSOB forward – all the while remaining uncompromisingly true to the musical roots the brothers established years ago.

High Tone Son of a Bitch transcends not only genre archetype but death itself, to weave an essential portrait of the dualistic nature of our lives. This retrospective of 4 EPs simultaneously speaks to the fragility and resilience of the human experience as it spans the years covering the formation of the band, its musical growth, the death of Andrew Kott (one of 2 co-founding brothers), and the path to a rebirth and new life in music and beyond by surviving brother Paul Kott.

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Thee Facebooks

High Tone Son of a Bitch on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records website

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records on Bandcamp

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Azar Sign to DHU Records; Chorus of Woes Vinyl Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

azar

DHU Records continues its threads of international pickups into 2020 with Azar from Oakland, California. Formed around the duo of vocalist Jasmin Moosavi and guitarist/bassist/synthesist/producer Simon Milliman, the band self-released their debut EP, Chorus of Woes, last May, and they join the increasingly packed schedule of those putting out limited vinyl through DHU sometime this year. I don’t have an exact release date on that, by the way, when the platter will arrive, but neither Spring nor Summer seem out of the question, and in the meantime, as I hadn’t heard the band before, it seemed only right to dig into Chorus of Woes via their Bandcamp. You can hear it through those same means at the bottom of this post.

Signing announcement from the label follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

azar chorus of woes

New signing to DHU Records: AZAR

Happy new year to one and all from DHU Records!

Let’s start off 2020 with a new signing to the DHU roster:

DHU Records is excited to announce the signing of Oakland, CA Rockers AZAR!

“Fronted and constructed by female vocalist Jasmin Moosavi, Jasmin has cultivated her own unique brand of upbeat psychedelic rock to form the band AZAR.

AZAR has released its first EP “Chorus of Woes” which contains four biographical songs, traversing the experience of heartbreak to finding love again.”

Upon first hearing of AZAR through fellow Oakland rockers Psychic Hit, the debut EP Chorus of Woes immediately struck a chord with DHU. A little different and maybe a little less heavy than you’re used to from DHU but the charismatic tunes enhanced and perfected by the powerful vocals of Jasmin Moosavi make Chorus of Woes an outstanding debut EP that is undeniably catchy and sure to have your blood pumping uncontrollably!

DHU Records will release Chorus of Woes (DHU046) on Limited Edition 7″ vinyl very soon, more details to follow…

Side A:
A1. Weathered
A2. Chorus of Woes
Side B:
B1. Devil in Disguise
B2. Can’t Get Enough

Azar is:
Jasmin Moosavi: Vocals
Simon Milliman: Guitars, Bass, & Synth
Nick Kostenborder: Drums & Percussion
Jacob Mauro: Drums & Percussion
Brook Cram: Drums & Percussion

https://www.facebook.com/aazarband/
https://azarband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Azar, Chorus of Woes EP (2019)

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War Cloud Premiere “Giver” Video Filmed on European Tour

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

war cloud

Oakland’s War Cloud released their second album, State of Shock (review here), earlier this year on Ripple Music, and as you might guess from the photo above, it was a ripper. The Bay Area four-piece tapped into harder-edged NWOBHM dual-axe chicanery and brought their sound to a new, tighter place than it was at even on their 2017 self-titled debut (review here), upping the irons and still holding enough underlying boogie-readiness so that the overall vibe was fun rather than overly stately. Nothing wrong with that if it’s your thing, but a bit of Oakland grit in their sound certainly feels genuine enough and is true to the history of where they’re coming from as well. It was, simply put, an easy record to dig. If you heard it, you already know this.

If you didn’t hear it — go ahead and slap the back your hand for me (not really; “we don’t hit,” as I constantly remind The Pecan) — it’s streaming in full at the bottom of this post. The band’s new video, however, is for the track “Giver,” and “Giver” isn’t on State of Shock. It’s on War Cloud. Might seem odd that they’d go back and make a clip for a song from the prior album, but consider it’s a new recording, and a live recording done on their European tour, and that the footage in the video also comes from that same tour — the recording was done in Germany, the video shot in Italy, so it’s a bit of multinational conglomerate — and it all starts to make a little more sense. By the time you actually get to watch the thing and witness the sheer righteousness on display, it seems downright logical.

Now then, I won’t keep you from it, except to say that when the band comments below about hearing the progression and shift in sound from the original version on the first record and this one, I tend to agree. They’re a meaner, sharper group on the whole, and clearly that suits their songs new and old. Makes a pretty good argument for showing up to catch them live. Go figure.

Enjoy:

War Cloud, “Giver” official video premiere:

War Cloud on “Giver” video:

It was recorded in a 300 year old barn about an hour outside Cologne, Germany. The recording is live so it only took time to set up, we ran through the song about three or four times. The stage footage was shot at Moto Guzzi Motoraduno in Lecco, Italy and Officine Sonore, in Vercelli, Italy.

We decided to revisit this song because it’s fun to play it faster than it was on the first album, my vocals are more developed and in line with the second album’s sound, the solos are different because we have a different guitarist and it’s a total crowd pleaser!

The new album was received with hails and horns! We only had 2 singles out while we were over there because the record didn’t drop until the last day of tour, but folks were still calling them out by name! We were playing lots of songs no one has ever heard before like “Tomahawk,” “White Lightning,” and “Means of Your Defeat,” and could instantly tell it would be a hit by the crowd’s response. Pits formed, beer was spilled, horns were raised. It was a blast and we can’t wait to get back to Europe!

WAR CLOUD:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Nick Burks – Guitar
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums
Taylor Roach – Bass

War Cloud, State of Shock (2019)

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

War Cloud on Bandcamp

War Cloud BigCartel store

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Sleep Announce ‘Hypersleep’ Indefinite Hiatus Starting in January

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Sleep‘s Nostromo-software social media check-in method has provided the update that after their coming three-night stint at Thalia Hall in Chicago, they’ll go into an indefinite ‘hypersleep,’ which is basically being interpreted as a hiatus. Hey, fair enough. I mean, it’s been a decade, and for a band who were done, who lost their original drummer and whose bassist and guitarist had moved on to other, interesting, groundbreaking projects, to ask Sleep to get back together to even do a couple gigs a year was a lot, let alone the kind of touring they wound up doing over the course of the 2010s, headlining festivals and eventually releasing new material, first in the 2014 single “The Clarity” (review here) and then in last year’s holy-shit-there’s-a-new-Sleep-album The Sciences (review here) as well as its companion single “Leagues Beneath” (discussed here) and the follow-up 2019 3LP live album, Live at Third Man Records (review here), so it doesn’t seem unreasonable if they want to step away from it all for a bit. Matt Pike has continued with High on Fire and Al Cisneros has kept Om kind of in his pocket for a while now. Maybe they’ll get those revved up to full-time status — High on Fire kind of already are (they’re about to tour again), but still — while Jason Roeder works on other stuff, including Neurosis, who’ve also been touring more over the last several years.

The point is that listeners were lucky to get as much as they got from Sleep over the last 10 years, because it was never supposed to be like that. And to listeners’ credit, I think it was audience that kept the band going. People kept showing up, and that kept the material vital. Few and far between are the acts who’ve had as much of an influence on the heavy underground worldwide, from the crustiest doom to the stonedest of the stoned, and though they’ll be missed while they’re gone, it seems worth it to appreciate the fact that they came back at all rather than be like, “Oh this is bullshit because Sleep aren’t playing my house,” or whatever. These guys don’t owe anyone anything. Just the opposite.

Hey Sleep — thanks for everything. Hope to see you again soon.

Here’s their post and dates:

sleep hiatus

Sleep live:
Dec. 29 Thalia Hall Chicago IL
Dec. 30 Thalia Hall Chicago IL
Dec. 31 Thalia Hall Chicago IL

Sleep are:
Al Cisneros
Matt Pike
Jason Roeder

Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Sleep website

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, War Cloud, Here Lies Man, Book of Wyrms, Möyhy-Veikot, Darsombra, Set Fire, Jesus the Snake, Föllakzoid, Dresden Wolves

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Had to take a second this morning to get my email back under 100 unread. It currently stands at 95. There’s just something about being in triple digits that I can’t stand. Press releases and stuff I can usually file right away since not everything’s relevant to the site, etc., but that’s all stuff that either wants follow-up or could be a factor here if there was time. I do my best to try to keep up. And I fail, consistently.

The tradeoff, of course, is I spend that time writing reviews and other stuff for the site. Today’s hump day when we pass the halfway mark of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review, and we’re doing it in absolutely all-over-the-place style, so all the better. Some pretty familiar names today, but some that might not be as well, so whatever your poison, I hope you enjoy the picking.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Russian Circles, Blood Year

russian circles blood year

There’s simply no denying the force behind the depths and swell of a song like “Kohokia” on Russian Circles‘ latest offering, Blood Year (Sargent House), and though one knows what to expect to some degree from the Chicago heavy post-rockers at this point in their career, they seem to be doing all they can to deliver their instrumental progressions with energy to match the breadth of the spaces and the heft they conjure. Like 2016’s Guidance (review here), the seven-track/39-minute Blood Year — was recorded with Kurt Ballou, whom the trio imported to their hometown to work at Electrical Audio (aka Steve Albini‘s stomping ground) instead of traveling to Massachusetts to track at Ballou‘s Godcity. If it was the long-famed drum sound of Electrical Audio that they wanted and the live feel that so many of the recordings done there have, they got both, so mark it a success and another notch in the belt of one of the heavy underground’s most immersive and evocative outfits. Their building and releasing of tension is second to none and moves into the spiritual by the time they even get to side B, let alone through it.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

War Cloud, State of Shock

war cloud state of shock

Oh, the riffs you’ll gallop. Oakland, California’s War Cloud skirt the line between classic thrash and heavy rock and roll on their second album for Ripple Music, State of Shock, and from the sound of things, they have a good time doing it. The record’s not much over a half-hour long, which is as it should be for this kind of party, and they toy a bit with the balance between their two sides on a rocker like “Do Anything” or the subsequent “Means of Your Defeat” on side B, but the main crux of State of Shock and certainly the impression it makes off the bat with “Striker” and “White Lightning” up front ahead of the six-minute that-moment-when-ThinLizzy-turned-into-IronMaiden “Dangerous Game” is one of homage to the metal of yore, and in following-up the band’s 2017 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a showcase of energy and craft alike as two guitars shred, chug, groove and charge through the material. If they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d say something about getting caught in a mosh. As it stands, I’ll go with urging you to jump in the fire instead. Horns up, either way.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon

here lies man no ground to walk upon

They should’ve just called it an album. Yeah, it would be short at 26 or so minutes, but it’s got everything you’d want from a full-length, and if they’d put a four-minute jam or something on it, they’d have been there anyhow. In any case, Los Angeles’ Afrobeat-infused heavy psych rockers Here Lies Man present seven tracks of dug-in glory with No Ground to Walk Upon (on RidingEasy), continuing to build on the potential shown across their first two LPs, 2017’s self-titled debut (review here) and last year’s You Will Know Nothing (review here), even as they swagger their way through a groove like “Long Legs (Look Away)” and show their continued forward potential. They continue to be a special band — the kind of band who doesn’t just come along every day and who shouldn’t be overlooked during their time, because maybe they’ll be around 30 years and maybe they won’t, but what they’re doing now is bringing something wholly individual to a heavy context. They’ve already proven influential to some degree, but listening to No Ground to Walk Upon cuts like the dream-keyed “Iron Rattles” and the opening strut-into-drone of “Clad in Silver,” one wonders if they wouldn’t be more so if people weren’t too afraid to try to pull this thing off. Hard to argue with that, since more likely than not most couldn’t.

Here Lies Man on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Book of Wyrms, Remythologizer

Book of Wyrms Remythologizer

I won’t take anything away from the eight-minute “Blacklight Warpriest” earlier in the offering, but the highlight of Book of Wyrms‘ second album, Remythologizer (on Twin Earth & Stoner Witch Records) has to be the closing “Dust Toad,” which at 9:25 is the longest track and the slowest crawl included. Led into by the synth-infused “Curse of the Werecop,” it takes the crunch that showed itself through opener “Autumnal Snow” and, later, the melody and swing of “Undead Pegasus” — as seen on the cover art — and brings them together in order to perfectly summarize the doom rocking ethic the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece are working from. Tonally righteous and more solvent in their songwriting than they were on their 2017 debut, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), the band sound assured as they move in “Spirit Drifter” from a standout keyboard line to a likewise standout guitar solo, giving a feeling of progressive nuance that’s continuing to take hold in their sound, balanced by the underlying naturalism of their approach. That dynamic continues to duke it out on Remythologizer, much to the benefit of anyone who takes the record on.

Book of Wyrms on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Möyhy-Veikot, Huume Jet Set Life

moyhy-veikot huume jet set life

Too weird for planet earth and, well, probably too weird for anywhere else too, Helsinki psych-space-kraut-whathaveyou experimentalists issue their third tape in the form of Huume Jet Set Life and whether it’s the cosmo-jamming on “MITÄ ON TULLUT VEDETTYÄ?” or the who-the-hell-knows-what-ism of “MEDIA-AJOJAHTI 2000,” the band at no point fail to make an impression of being out there in the far gone far out there reaches of the far out there. Talkin’ freaked out next level total, like the cassette just fell into the atmosphere to represent some other planet’s culture where things are both dangerous and interesting and you never really know if you’re going to get laid or eaten or both. Still, they may be doing math of the likes not yet conceived by humanity, but Möyhy-Veikot go about it in suitably friendly if totally over-the-top fashion, and it’s fun to play along while also being completely overwhelmed at the various pushes and pulls happening all at once, the media samples and the Windows 95 compatibility of it all. It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for disco.

Möyhy-Veikot on Thee Facebooks

Möyhy-Veikot on Bandcamp

 

Darsombra, Transmission

Darsombra Transmission

It’s just lovely. Really. In some ways it feels like the 41:20 single-track full-length Transmission — self-released, no less — is what Baltimore ambient exploratory two-piece Darsombra have been building toward all along, but I think the truth is they probably could’ve done this at any time if they’d chosen to do so. Still, the fluidity of “Transmission” itself is something special, with its cascades of manipulated voice, riffs that swell and recede, loops, synth and somehow-manifested light that are as much immersion for the spirit as the eardrum. One doesn’t want to dive too deep into hyperbole and oversell it to the point of dulling the listener’s own impression, but Transmission is the kind of record that even those who profess to never “get” drone or noise offerings can engage with. Part of that is owed to Brian Daniloski‘s guitar, which provides landmarks along the path of swirl conjured by his own effects and the synth from Ann Everton (both add vocals where applicable; don’t look for lyrics or verses) that allow those who’d take it on to do so more easily. But the real joy in Transmission is letting go and allowing the piece to carry you along its progressive course, genuine in its reaching for the unknown. Plus there’s a gong, and that’s always fun too. Go with it.

Darsombra on Thee Facebooks

Darsombra on Bandcamp

 

Set Fire, Traya

set fire traya

Traya is the third three-song full-length from Boston’s Set Fire, and it would seem that, and in addition to marking the last recording to feature drummer Rob Davol, who’s since been replaced by Josh Cronin, it would seem to show the three-piece nailing their sound of classic-tinged duet-fronted heavy rock and roll. With two powerhouse vocalists on board in guitarist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, etc.) and keyboardist Jess Collins (ex-Mellow Bravo), they work in varying arrangements across a meager 12-minute run that feels short mostly because it is short. Too short. “Any Place Left” puts Collins in the foreground, while “Sacred Song” is more Healey‘s, and unsurprisingly to anyone who’s experienced their past work either together or separate, they’re more than able to carry the material — only more so with the other party backing. “Waves” brings them together around theatrical layers of piano and keyboard and guitar, and that they manage to hold it steady at all, let alone take flight as it does, speaks to how ready they are to embark on a longer offering. Put out an album, already, would ya?

Set Fire on Thee Facebooks

Set Fire on Bandcamp

 

Jesus the Snake, Black Acid, Pink Rain

Jesus the Snake Black Acid Pink Rain

For those feeling adventurous, Portugal’s Jesus the Snake follow-up their 2017 self-titled EP (review here) with the unmitigated warmth of Black Acid, Pink Rain, their live-recorded full-length debut. And for the sort of heavy psych-jazz-prog meandering, one would almost expect the organ-laced instrumentalist four-piece to track the record as they perform it, if not front-to-back then certainly one song at a time across multiple takes. Not one piece of the five total on the 49-minute offering is under eight minutes long, and sandwiched between opener “Karma” (10:28) and the closing title-track (10:55) are three cuts circa nine that prove no less hypnotic. The beginning of “Floyds I” is so fluid with the interplay of organ and guitar that one almost expects a gentle Portuguese spoken word verse to start, but of course one never does. Instead, Jesus the Snake complement mindful drift with flashes of more weighted or active fare, all the while holding to a central vibe that is peaceful even as “Duna” finds its chill before the halfway point, with no loss of spirit in the process.

Jesus the Snake on Thee Facebooks

Jesus the Snake on Bandcamp

 

Föllakzoid, I

follakzoid i

As with any kind of sonic minimalism or release based around trance induction — see Darsombra above — there’s a certain amount of buy-in that needs to happen on the listener’s side. Accordingly, those going into the fourth LP from Chilean duo Föllakzoid, titled I and issued through Sacred Bones Records as a double-vinyl, should be aware that it’s requires that kind of interaction from one side to the other. It’s not especially loud or abrasive, or even demanding in terms of the basic sonics of the thing, but as “I” becomes “II” becomes “III” becomes “IIII” and the songs such as they are alternate between 17- and 13-minute runtimes and the blend of effects and electro beats tips to one side or the other — “II” with a fervent ‘ump-tis’ in its early going while “III” brings a more Vangelis-style cinematic wash — of course there’s an ask in terms of indulgence happening on the part of the two-piece to their audience. Whether an individual is willing to make that jump is obviously going to be up to their headspace and where they’re at, but Föllakzoid‘s work here is more than worth the investment, even for those less familiar with their methods.

Föllakzoid on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Dresden Wolves, Hiedra – Sencillo

dresden wolves Hiedra Sencillo

The sub-three-minute “Hiedra – Sencillo” is the latest in an ongoing series of digital offerings from Mexico City’s Dresden Wolves, and though the two-piece band bill themselves as post-punk and they may actually have a history in playing punk rock — stranger things have happened, certainly — the song finds them working in a taut heavy rock context, brash in delivery but not overly so as to lose the overarching swagger they seem intent on conveying. Particularly as it follows behind two EPs and a swath of other single tracks, and is offered name-your-price through their Bandcamp, “Hiedra – Sencillo” feels like its most nefarious aim is to hook anyone who’d click play on first listen and try and keep them intrigued for next time out. Fair enough. I won’t profess to know what Dresden Wolves‘ plans are, but they’ve got songwriting in their pocket and the production on “Hiedra – Sencillo” is crisp and clear enough to convey the heft of the guitar but not so much so as to dull its rawer aspects. They’ve got the balance ready to go, whatever they might choose to do with it from here.

Dresden Wolves on Thee Facebooks

Dresden Wolves on Bandcamp

 

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