Quarterly Review: Paradise Lost, Vinnum Sabbathi, Nighthawk, Familiars, Mountain Witch, Disastroid, Stonegrass, Jointhugger, Little Albert, Parahelio

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Last day, you know the drill. It’s been a pleasure, honestly. If every Quarterly Review could feature the quality of material this one has, I’d probably only spend a fraction of the amount of time I do fretting over it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and enjoyed the music as much as I have. If you haven’t found something here to sit with and dig into yet, well, today’s 10 more chances to do just that. Maybe something will stick at last.

See you in September.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Paradise Lost, Obsidian

paradise lost obsidian

It is impossible to listen to Obsidian and consider Paradise Lost as anything other than masters of the form. Of course, that they were one of the original pioneers of gothic death-doom helps, but even in the decade-plus since they began to shift back toward a more metallic approach, they have established a standard that is entirely their own. Obsidian collects nine tracks across a palatable 45 minutes, and if the hook of “Fall From Grace” is fan-service on the part of the band, then it is no less righteous for that. In atmosphere and aggression, cuts like “The Devil Embraced” and the galloping “Ghosts” deliver on high expectations coming off 2017’s Medusa (review here), even as side B’s “Ending Days” and “Hope Dies Young” branch into a more melodic focus, not departing from the weight of impact presented earlier, but clearly adjusting the approach, leading to an all the more deathly return on “Ravenghast,” which closes out. Their doom remains second to none; their model remains one to follow.

Paradise Lost on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories

Vinnum Sabbathi Of Dimensions and Theories

The narrative thread carried through the six tracks of Vinnum Sabbathi‘s Of Dimensions and Theories is a futuristic sci-fi tale about humanity’s first foray into deep space amid a chaos of environmental collapse and nuclear threat. The real story, however, is the sense of progression the instrumentalist Mexico City outfit bring in following up their debut LP, 2017’s Gravity Works (review here). Tying thematically to the latest Cegvera album — the two bands share personnel — pieces at the outset like “In Search of M-Theory” and “Quantum Determinism” maintain the exploratory vibe of the band’s jammier works in their “HEX” series, but through spoken samples give a human presence and plotline to the alternately atmospheric and lumbering tones. As the record progresses through the airier “An Appraisal” and the feedback-drenched “Beyond Perturbative States,” their dynamic finds realization in “A Superstring Revolution I” and the drum-led “A Superstring Revolution II.” I don’t know about humanity’s prospects as a whole, but Vinnum Sabbathi‘s remain bright.

Vinnum Sabbathi on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records website

 

Nighthawk, The Sea Legs EP

Nighthawk The Sea Legs EP

Composed as a solo outing prior to the founding of Heavy Temple, the Nighthawk solo endeavor (presumably she wasn’t a High Priestess yet), The Sea Legs EP, is plenty self-aware in its title, but for being a raw execution of material written performed entirely on her own, its four tracks also have a pretty significant scope, from the post-QOTSA heavy pop of “Goddamn” leading off through the quick spacegaze of “I’m From Tennessee Woman, All We Do is Honky Tonk,” into the deceptively spacious “I Can Haz” with its far-back toms, dreamy vocal melody and vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding guitar, and ending with the if-Ween‘s-country-album-had-been-weirder finish of “Stay Gold.” Nighthawk has issued a follow-up to The Sea Legs EP in the full-length Goblin/John Carpenter-style synth of The Dimensionaut, but given the range and balance she shows just in this brief 12 minutes, one hopes that indeed her songwriting explorations continue to prove so multifaceted.

Nighthawk on Bandcamp

Heavy Temple on Thee Facebooks

 

Familiars, All in Good Time

familiars all in good time

Contending for one of the year’s best debut albums, FamiliarsAll in Good Time offers eight songs across 43 minutes that blend organic-feeling grit with more ethereal, landscape-evocative psychedelics. The Ontario three-piece have a few singles to their credit, but the lushness of “Rocky Roost” and the emergent heft of “Barn Burning,” the fleshy boogie of “The Dirty Dog Saloon” and the breadth of “Avro Arrow” speak not just to Familiars‘ ability to capture a largesse that draws their songs together, or the nuance that lets them brings subtle touches of Americana (Canadiana?) early on and echoing desert roll to the fuzzy “The Common Loon,” but also to the songwriting that makes these songs stand out so much as they do and the sense of purpose Familiars bring to All in Good Time as their first long-player. That turns out to be one of the most encouraging aspects of the release, but in that regard there’s plenty of competition from elements like tone, rhythm, melody, craft, performance — so yes, basically all of it.

Familiars on Thee Facebooks

Familiars on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Witch, Extinct Cults

Mountain Witch Extinct Cults

Mountain Witch‘s fourth album, Extinct Cults, brings the Hamburg-based duo of guitarist René Sitte and drummer/vocalist René Roggmann back after a four-year absence with a collection that straddles the various lines between classic heavy rock, proto-metal, ’70s heavy prog and modern cultism. Their loyalties aren’t necessarily all to the 1968-’74 period, as the chug and gruff vocals of “Back From the Grave” show, but the post Technical Ecstasy sway of the title-track is a fascinating and rarely-captured specificity, and the vocal melodies expressed in layers across the record do much to add personality and depth to the arrangements while the surrounding recording remains essentially raw. No doubt vinyl-minded, Extinct Cults is relatively brief at six songs and 33 minutes, but the Priestly chug of “Man is Wolf to Man” and the engrossing garage doom of closer “The Devil Probably” offer plenty of fodder for those who’d dig in to dig into. It is a sound familiar and individual at once, old and new, and it revels in making cohesion out of such contrasts.

Mountain Witch on Thee Facebooks

This Charming Man Records website

 

Disastroid, Mortal Fools

disastroid mortal fools

You might find San Francisco trio Disastroid hanging out at the corner of noise and heavy rock, looking disreputable. Their first record for Heavy Psych Sounds is Mortal Fools, and to go with its essential-bloody-essential bass tone and melodic semi-shouted vocals, it brings hints of angularity rounded out by tonal thickness and a smoothness between transitions that extends to the flow from one song to the next. While for sure a collection of individual pieces, Mortal Fools does move through its 43 minutes with remarkable ease, the sure hand of the three-piece guides you through the otherwise willfully tumultuous course, brash in the guitar and bass and drums but immersive in the overarching groove. They seem to save a particular melodic highlight for the verses of closer “Space Rodent,” but really, whether it’s the lumbering “Hopeless” or the sharper-toothed push of “Bilge,” the highlight is what Disastroid accomplish over the course of the record as a whole. Plus that friggin’ bass sound.

Disastroid on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Stonegrass, Stonegrass

stonegrass self titled

I don’t know when this was first released, but the 2020 edition seems to be a remaster, and whenever it first came out, I’m pleased to have the chance to check it out now. Toronto duo Stonegrass brings together Matthew “Doc” Dunn and Jay Anderson, both of a markedly psyched-out pedigree, to dig into experimentalist acid-psych that pushes boundaries stylistic and national, tapping Afrobeat vibes with closer “Drive On” and the earlier 13-minute go-go-go jam “Tea” while “The Highway” feels like a lost psychedelic disco-funk 45, “The Cape” drones like it’s waiting for someone to start reading poetry over-top, and mellow hand-percussion and Turkish psych on centerpiece “Frozen Dunes.” The whole thing, which runs a manageable 39 minutes, is as cool as the day is long, and comes across like a gift to those of expanded mind or who are willing to join those ranks. I don’t know if it’s new or old. I don’t know if it’s a one-off or an ongoing project. I barely know if it’s actually out. But hot damn it’s rad, and if you can catch it, you should.

Cosmic Range Records on YouTube

Cosmic Range Records on Bandcamp

 

Jointhugger, I Am No One

jointhugger i am no one

Norwegian half-instrumental trio Jointhugger have already captured the attention of both Interstellar Smoke Records and Ozium Records with their four-song debut long-player, I Am No One, and as the follow-up to their 2019 Daemo, it leaves little question why. The more volume, the merrier, when it comes to the rolling, nodding, undulations of riff the band conjure, as each member seems geared toward bringing as much weight to bear as much as possible. I’m serious. Even the hi-hat is heavy, never mind the guitar or bass or the cave-echoing vocals of the title-track. “Domen” slips into some shuffle — if you can call something that dense-sounding a shuffle — and underscores its solo with an entire bog’s worth of low end, and though closer “Nightfright” is the only inclusion that actually tops 10 minutes, it communicates an intensity of crush that is nothing if not consistent with what’s come before. There are flashes of letup here and there, but it’s impact at the core of Jointhugger‘s approach, and they offer plenty of it. Don’t be surprised when the CD and LP sell through, and don’t be surprised if they get re-pressed later.

Jointhugger on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records webstore

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

 

Little Albert, Swamp King

Little Albert Swamp King

Stepping out both in terms of style and substance from his position as guitarist in atmospheric doomers Messa, Little Albert — aka Alberto Piccolo — pronounces himself “swamp king” in the opening lines of his debut solo release of the same name, and the mellow ambiance and psychedelic flourish of tone in “Bridge of Sighs” and “Mean Old Woman” and the aptly-titled “Blues Asteroid” offer an individualized blend of psychedelic blues that seems to delight in tipping the balance back and forth from one to the other while likewise taking the songs through full band arrangements and more intimate wanderings. Some of the songs have a tendency to roll outward and not return, as does “Mary Claire” or “Mean Old Woman,” but “Outside Woman Blues” and the closer “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” hold tighter to the ground than some of what surrounds, so again, there’s a balance. Plus, as mellow as Swamp King is in its overarching affect, it’s neither difficult nor anything but a pleasure to follow along where Piccolo leads. If that’s off the psych-blues deep end, so be it. Only issue I take with him being king of the swamp is that the album’s domain hardly seems so limited.

Little Albert on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

Parahelio, Surge Evelia, Surge

Parahelio Surge Evelia Surge

Beautiful, patient and pastoral psychedelia fleshes out across the three tracks of Parahelio‘s debut full-length, Surge Evelia, Surge. Issued on vinyl through Necio Records, the three-song offering reportedly pays homage to a mining town in the band’s native Peru, but it does so with a breadth that seems to cover so much between heavy post-rock and psych that it’s difficult not to imagine places decidedly more ethereal. Beginning with its title-track (12:33) and moving into the swells and recessions of “Gestos y Distancia,” the album builds to an encompassing payoff for side A before unveiling “Ha’Adam,” a 23-minute side-consuming rollout that encompasses not only soundscaping, but a richly human feel in its later take, solidifying around a drum march and a heavy build of guitar that shouldn’t sound strange to fans of Pelican or Russian Circles yet manages somehow to transcend the hypnotic in favor of the dynamic, the immersive, and again, the beautiful. What follows is desolation and aftermath, and that’s how the record ends, but even there, the textures and the spirit of the release remain central. I always do myself a favor with the last release of any Quarterly Review, and this is no exception.

Parahelio on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

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Lammping Premiere Two-Song Greater Good Single; Bad Boys of Comedy out July 21

Posted in audiObelisk on June 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

lammping

Lammping will release their debut album, Bad Boys of Comedy, July 21 through Nasoni Records. The unpretentious eight-song/36-minute jaunt makes itself comfortable amid a lush sunshine of melodic vibe, the Toronto-based duo of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mikhail Galkin and drummer Jay Anderson (Stonegrass, Comet Control) taking advantage of the studio setting to do the work of at least four players between layers of guitar, synth, bass and drums. Effects ebb and flow in a wash that reminds at times of the ’90s revivalist psych that ultimately spawned shoegaze, but there’s something classically playful about the insistent rhymes of the lyrics in opener “Forest for the Trees” and the subsequent “Soakin'” as well that seems to offer a kind of garage-rocking wink to the listener, as if to say, “S’all a joke, innit?” and already know the answer.

All around, languid instrumental flow taps varied realizations of psych — some poppy, some not — and meandering excursions that resonate with an improvised feel if not actual improvisation. Galkin and Anderson may be crafting a full-band sound, but the sense of space in the recording also becomes a presence as the echoes stretch out, coming and going to allow for the Hawkwind-via-MonsterMagnet crunch of “Lightheaded” and the Dead Meadow buzztone boogie in “Greater Good” to shine though no less awash in purpose than they are in reverb.

Let’s get personal for a minute. This is about where my head’s at these days. That’s as honest as I can be with you. I put this record on for the first time a couple weeks ago and it was an utter relief to hear it. “Oh good,” I said. Really. Sweetly melodic, LAMMPING THE BAD BOYS OF COMEDYheavy enough to have a presence and some physicality behind the psychedelia, and given some structure of songwriting to complement the fluid rhythms that persist throughout. It’s not in a rush, it’s not trying to blow you away with how aggressive, or progressive, or regressive it is. It’s just two players collaborating on songs that they obviously dig. No doubt there’s some Beatles-awareness happening as they don Middle Eastern scales in “Within You,” but the dream-toned gorgeousness that rolls out with Anderson‘s cymbal crashes is righteously their own. I dig the hell out of this record. It’s not going to be the biggest release of the year. The hype machine probably won’t be about it. It won’t be “of the moment” or whatever we’re valuing right now. All it is is everything it needs to be.

“Within You” swirls into a fade ahead of the more percussively intense “Eater” but laid back vocals bring to mind some of The Heads‘ freakouts even as some of Anderson‘s tom sounds feel recognizable from his work in Comet Control. Another jam fades into the tambourine-included “Tumble,” which might be named for something falling over at the end, but uses a steady beat during its four minutes to keep the drift in check as much as possible, or at very least as much as it wants to. Side B is more hypnotic than not, which serves the album well as it moves toward “Closer to the Sun” at the finish. My only complaint with the finale, which tops six minutes, is that it isn’t longer, as I have no trouble imagining Galkin and Anderson diving headfirst into longer-form rehearsal-room improvisations, following the whims of one or the other of them wherever they might go. Particularly interesting in the closer is that the bass seems to come into the forward position where so much of Bad Boys of Comedy to that point is led by the guitar.

Again, I’ll take it either way — if I haven’t gotten the point across yet, I’m on board for what Lammping are doing here — but putting the low-end fuzz up front allows the guitar to jam out overtop all the more at the outset of the track, and that is immersive and satisfying, making the two minutes before the first verse that much more evidence of the natural chemistry between Galkin and Anderson. That, of course, is the foundation of everything that plays out across Bad Boys of Comedy, and it remains a palpable unifying factor in the material.

With the release still a month-plus off, Nasoni are taking preorders on their site, and the band has elected to premiere “Greater Good” and “Within You.” The two songs appear in succession on Bad Boys of Comedy and I’m thrilled to host them here for the reach they represent as a whole.

I hope you dig them half as much as I do:

‘Greater Good’ is the second single off Lammping’s debut LP ‘Bad Boys of Comedy’, out July 2020 on Nasoni Records. The drum heavy, riff driven exploration of working class paranoia is side A of this release, with the introspective, psychedelic “Within You” on side B.

Lammping is a new psych-rock outfit from Toronto, formed by multi-instrumentalist Mikhail Galkin and drummer Jay Anderson. The album incorporates a wide range of influences that Jay and Mikhail bonded over, from Tropicalia and Turkish psych to classic NY boom-bap drum patterns and CSNY-style vocal harmonies.

While rooted in riffs and heavy drumming, the debut LP showcases a fresh, eclectic approach to modern psychedelia, eschewing cliched musical categorizations.

Lammping is:
Mikhail Galkin: Guitar, bass, vocals, etc.
Jay Anderson: Drums

Lammping on Instagram

Lammping on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records website

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Days of Rona: Bill Kole of Ol’ Time Moonshine

Posted in Features on June 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

ol time moonshine bill kole

Days of Rona: Bill Kole of Ol’ Time Moonshine (Toronto, Canada)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

Ol’ Time Moonshine was in the studio laying down drums and bass for our new record at the beginning of March when the reports of the virus started to become more frequent. It wasn’t long before the shelter in place/quarantine orders came down. It’s now been a bit more than 10 weeks since we’ve all been in the same room playing together. We’ve been working on our parts for the record and taking care of some band business and promotion, including uploading our releases to streaming services after more limited release. The uncertainty of what the musical landscape will look like when this is all over has been weighing a bit heavily – a number of venues in our province have already shut down permanently since the pandemic began, and a lot more are close. Even when they open up, the capacity restrictions are likely to devastate their businesses. As a band we’re just taking everyday and doing what we can; looking after all the little projects we always said we’d do if we ever had time. The plan right now is to get back and start tracking guitars and vocals in June, which was our original target for completing the record. We’re lucky to live in an era of connected technology that can keep us together and informed if we choose to use it that way.

I’m blessed to work for a wonderful, family owned film audio support business that has kept me on payroll, even when the office was shut, and we’ve reached a point where I’m able to come in to the office safely, mostly working alone, for a few hours a few days a week. It helps break up the monotony of the days, and I’ve been walking the few kilometres to work to avoid public transit and get some exercise. It’s been wonderful to see my family pull together and be strong in the face of this, and to have friends and family making masks for one another, shopping for those less mobile, trying to make the kids in the neighbourhood feel special on their birthdays, etc. I finally was able to teach my daughter the basics of riding her bike after several seasons of trying, and we’ve done lots of work on our apartment to freshen it up. I’ve been working on a few album covers and posters in my free time (and a lot of revisions on posters due to shows moving). I’ve tried to keep getting up at the same time everyday and keeping somewhat of a schedule so that the days don’t just fade away into one another. Motivation has its good days and bad days, but I try not to be hard on myself. I’ve found my emotions bubble closer to the surface; joy and sadness bring me to tears pretty quickly these days. Trying to look at the positives each day and stay strong for my family and friends.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

I generally feel that the federal and provincial and municipal governments have done a decent job of looking after their people in this crisis, though there is always room for improvement and some communities have been more affected than others. Unfortunately, a few have felt that the rules they make do not apply to them. We’re seeing that in a lot of places, though, not just Canada. I fear that a lot of restaurants, theatres, venues and other cultural institutions may not weather this storm without further intervention. It will certainly be interesting to see what survives and thrives on the other side of this unprecedented economic disaster. On a personal level, most of my friends and family have remained rational and followed precaution. I’m proud of them. I am particularly proud of my friends and family in health care and food service that have sacrificed so much to ensure our safety and wellbeing. I haven’t had anyone close to me pass from COVID-19 complications, but I do have several friends and family members that have lost loved ones. It’s probably too late and too difficult for most, but I feel a stricter lockdown, sooner, would have been more effective then and less painful now. We’re a bit too eager to get back to “normal” and I fear that opening up too soon will undo the progress we’ve made. We just loosened a few restrictions last week, and already people are getting lax about wearing masks and distancing. As someone with asthma and autoimmune issues I need to be a bit extra cautious, and it can be disheartening to see someone not wearing a mask in an enclosed space like a store, or just as bad, wearing it as a chin strap or taking it off to lean over a protective barrier and speak to them.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I think most of the people in my musical circle have adapted well, but miss being able to see each other and hang out at shows. I’ve watched a number of great live streams, and some cool pro-shot shows are coming online soon. It’s not entirely the same without the atmosphere and immersion, but it’s the best we’ve got for the moment. I’ve had more time to listen to music, so I’ve been diving in and doing a lot of deep listening, catching a lot of great records I missed the first time around. There have been some great articles and discussions in the scene, and it’s been fun to see what a lot of my fellow musicians have been listening to. I’ve talked to a few groups of musicians about contributing guitar or vocals to a few different projects outside of OTM. I’m really proud of the record Ol’ Time Moonshine is working on, and I REALLY want to get it finished and out there. We’ve gone through a lot these past few years since the release of “The Apocalypse Trilogies”, so it has been a bitter pill to swallow to see us get all of our game pieces in order just for the game to change, but we’ll adapt and move forward, we always do. It could have been much worse, though, so I’m grateful we haven’t lost more. So many friends have had to cancel their release parties and tours. So many promoters and touring companies have lost their livelihood for the perceivable future. So many recovering addicts and people with mental health issues have lost their support. If you are having a good, positive day and feel you can handle it, please, reach out to someone you know who might not be and let them know they have someone that loves them.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

I don’t think things can possibly go back to the way they were. It’s all going to be a bit different, and take some getting used to. I think some have found they are stronger than expected, and some are not as strong as they thought. We need to be compassionate and help one another, especially those that fall through the cracks, and we need to take better care of our mental health. We need to be kinder, and more honest with ourselves and loved ones. I miss my US and worldwide doom family, and hope the borders open back up soon and that everyone stays safe so we can enjoy live music again soon.

https://www.facebook.com/oltimemoonshine/
https://oltimemoonshine.bandcamp.com/
http://www.oltimemoonshine.com/

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Stonegrass Release Self-Titled Debut; Vinyl Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I’ll bottom line it for you: Cool record, out today. Just listen to it.

Vinyl will be out later, but Stonegrass, which has Jay Anderson of Biblical and Comet Control on drums/percussion and Matthew “Doc” Dunn (many projects, most of them delightfully freaked out) on bass/guitar/flute/organ, capture vibes reminiscent of Here Lies Man‘s quest to educate the world on Afrobeat’s righteousness. The recording of Stonegrass‘ self-titled review has some circa-’74 tape grit and the vibe just oozes off jams both longform and cohesive.

Yes, I’ve said this before, but listening to this will make your day better. That’s all I can assure you of.

Thanks for reading if you did. Here’s album info and the stream:

stonegrass self titled

Stonegrass – Stonegrass – May 22

It’s out May 22nd digitally on Bandcamp and you can order the vinyl through that. Should ship late summer/early fall.

Let it go. Let it flow. Let it grow. When Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn and Jay Anderson finally reconnected after the fall of their previous project, The Spiritual Sky Blues Band, that was the M.O. Barely using words to communicate, their instruments became highly charged positive ion conductors for a natural telepathy between these two local burnouts.

On board was Tony Price, manning the controls, with the results, of what you have here, their FRIED AS THE SKY debut LP.

It’s overcooked and burnt to the CORE, but once cooled, these jams come LEAKING out of your mind hole like an unholy baptism of PEACE.

Rough and frayed like yr mind, but comforting like yr old Uncle Billy’s drug rug. Ask the peyote coyote, he’ll tell you its no easy ride, but enlightenment never is. So take it EZ or just TAKE IT.

With more volumes to follow, Stonegrass will be touring this summer all over your mind. Let it burn. LET IT BLOW.”

Tracklisting:
Side A:
1. The Lady In The Moon
2. Tea
3. The Robe
Side B:
4. Frozen Dunes
5. The Highway (To All Known Places)
6. The Cape
7. Drive On

Stonegrass is:
Jay Anderson: Drums & Percussion
Matthew Dunn: Bass, Flute, Guitar & Organ

https://cosmicrangerecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpVjMSgJgE0Mzs8c7NbzmaA

Stonegrass, Stonegrass (2020)

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Itus Premiere “Primordial” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

itus (Photo by Justin Ryan Lawrence)

Though the aftermath of the recording finds vocalist Reinier Vandenbosch and bassist/guitarist Brandon Lucking without a drummer, Primordial is nonetheless cohesive as the debut EP from Toronto-based sludge aggressors Itus. The offering is made up of five tracks total and wastes little time on that which isn’t furious, setting an atmosphere of violence and dwelling therein even as Vandenbosch‘s vocals shift between clean melodic singing and guttural growls on opener “Cloud Reader.”

Itus are not without some ambience, either in that cut or “Question Everything” which follows, but that atmosphere is unmistakably bent toward the brutal in tone and general vibe, and Lucking, Vandenbosch and then-drummer Jackson Ward revel in it, both as “Question Everything” chug-plods to its rumbling finish, and as the subsequent title-track distills Primordial‘s punishing aspects to arguably their purest form.

Some clean vocals at the outset remind a bit of Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory in theiritus primordial use of effects, but the growls and screams that come shortly in layers are the stuff of rawer and deathlier fare. With the drums backing the verse, volume recedes and surges again, and the air gives way to solo-topped, screaming chaos later, coming to a stop ahead of the comparatively mellow beginning of “This Can’t Be.” Well shit, “Primordial” did the same thing — I’m not falling for that trap again. False sense of security denied.

Except in this case it’s not false. Itus put “This Can’t Be” on a linear path, daring toward melody in the lead guitar payoff, and that leads smoothly into the closer, “The Chaplain.” A growling resurgence isn’t unexpected, but is welcome just the same over the lumbering progression that it accompanies, and the roll that ensues is a fitting end to Primordial in concept, execution and mindset. By that I mean it’s heavy as shit.

There’s another video out there for “Primordial” if you’re up for a bit of YouTubing, and the whole EP is streaming below if you’re up for something more conveniently located, but if Itus want to highlight the EP’s title-track further with a lyric video maybe to catch a few eyes — like mine — that missed the EP when it first came through because, oh, I don’t know, a global fucking pandemic, I’m hardly one to begrudge them that chance.

Accordingly, here’s this. Enjoy it:

Itus, “Primordial” lyric video premiere

Atmospheric and energetic, this EP is a step in a new musically direction for the duo of Brandon Lucking and Reinier Vandenbosch, and they are encouraged that the reception for their latest endeavour will be well received as they explain:

“We think that Itus could have a much wider appeal than previous efforts of ours. Songs on the EP like ‘Cloud Reader’ and ‘This Can’t Be” are much more accessible, especially with Vandenbosch’s newly developed clean singing. We think the heavier tracks will strike a nice balance with the mellower tracks on the EP as a whole.”

Two very different singles will be released from the EP, the first being the title track ‘Primordial’. Painting the mood like a classic horror creature reveal, it’s both abrasive and calm, and the accompanying music video is shot like a horror film to accentuate the brutality and dark riffage in the track. ITUS details the track:

“We chose to make this the first song we release because to us, it embodies the aspect of human savagery. Primordial uses the idea of coming out of a euphoric bliss into a hellish existence. Its lyrics comment on what forces within people work to pull society back down to chaos. This is the most aggressive song on the EP with its crisp, and aggressive guitar tones that really make it stand out from the other songs.”

Produced, mixed and mastered by Luc Chiasson
Drums performed and engineered by Jackson Ward (Strata Recordings)

Itus EP lineup:
Reinier Vandenbosch – Vocals
Brandon Lucking – Guitar and Bass
Jackson Ward – Drums (on EP)

Itus, Primordial (2020)

Itus on Thee Facebooks

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Itus on Bandcamp

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Astral Witch Premiere “Embodied” Video from Self-Titled LP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

astral witch

Featured as the second track on Astral Witch‘s soon-to-be-issued-on-vinyl 2018 self-titled debut, the cut ‘Embodied’ began its life as — well, probably as a riff, since that’s how these things go — but also as “Embodied by the Stars” from the Hamilton, Ontario, three-piece’s 2015 Bang-Over EP. The later incarnation, is longer, slower and somewhat clearer — though both it and the record it comes from want nothing for a blown-out sensibility — and with DHU Records in the Netherlands and Fuzzed and Buzzed in Toronto standing behind the LP edition of Astral Witch‘s Astral Witch in the requisite limited and oh-so-FOMO-able numbers as they are, the revision the band works only highlights how purposeful the abiding rawness of their debut actually is, and how much that rawness becomes a part of their aesthetic throughout. It sounds rough because it wants to and it wants to sound rough because it does.

The PR wire — blessings and peace upon it — calls them “occult space grunge,” which is brilliant enough to quote directly, the way I see it. I’m not sure I 100 percent agree on the “space” front, but if you want to sit here with me for half an hour and split hairs between what makes something space-doom and what makes it cosmic-doom, we can do that. I’m on quarantine lockdown — I’ve got the time. If, however, you’d prefer to spend your next six minutes in inevitably more constructive fashion, you’ll find the video for “Embodied” premiering below to highlight the fact that preorders are going live for the vinyl from all three parties involved — both labels and the band — tomorrow, April 18. The details of who gets what version of the album are below that, mostly because I think they’re interesting, and I’ve included the full stream of Astral Witch from the band’s Bandcamp too, because I know that after I heard “Embodied,” I wanted more, and hearing the direct lyrical juxtaposition between “Embodied” and “Love,” which follows, is definitely worth the additional effort it takes to, say, click another thing.

Rumble, grit, attitude and mastering by Tony Reed. Some bands have it all.

Please enjoy:

Astral Witch, “Embodied” official video premiere

Occult space grungers Astral Witch release their debut album on wax via Fuzzed and Buzzed Records in North America and DHU in Europe.

Sounding like a Sabbath worshipping L7 or Babes In Toyland, these Babes in Doomland bring the heavy on the vinyl version of their debut mastered by the legendary Tony Reed the mastering master of Mos Generator fame.

The wax comes in three different colorways including the Band edition, the DHU edition and the Fuzzed and Buzzed edition.

Pre-orders will be on April 18 at Noon EST and 6pm CEST from fuzzedandbuzzed.com in North America and darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com in Europe or straight from the band https://astralwitch.bandcamp.com/

Side A:
A1. Rune
A2. Embodied
A3. Love
A4. Blood III

Side B:
B1. Black Denim
B2. 86ed
B3. Witch Knife

DHU Records Edition
Limited to 100 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Black flood inside
Full color double sided insert
Black polylined innersleeve
DHU Bside label
A3 poster by Shane Horror
Comes on Bone/Black Aside/Bside 12″ vinyl

Astral Witch Edition
Limited to 100 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Black flood inside
Full color double sided insert
Black polylined innersleeve
Astral Witch Bside label
A3 poster by Shane Horror
Comes on Purple/Black Aside/Bside 12″ vinyl

Fuzzed and Buzzed Edition
Limited to 100 copies
Single sleeve w/ 3mm spine
Black flood inside
Full color double sided insert
Black polylined innersleeve
Fuzzed and Buzzed Bside label
A3 poster by Shane Horror
Comes on Green w/ Black Smoke 12″ vinyl

Astral Witch are:
Alyssa – vox/guitar
Jon – vox/bass
Jen – drums/vox

Astral Witch, Astral Witch (2018)

Astral Witch on Thee Facebooks

Astral Witch on Instagram

Astral Witch on Bandcamp

Fuzzed and Buzzed Records on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed Records on Instagram

Fuzzed and Buzzed Records website

DHU Records on Thee Facebooks

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Witchrot Premiere “Strega” From 8″ Single out June 12

Posted in audiObelisk on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

witchrot

With the premiere of its title-track, the new two-songer Strega from Toronto doom-drifters Witchrot is streaming in its entirety. By that I mean the other song was already streaming.

The release, cartoon-boobs cover and all, will see issue as an 8″ single — that’s right: “it’s one more, innit?” — through the cross-ocean partnership between Toronto’s Fuzzed and Buzzed Records and the Netherlands’ DHU Records, and to be sure, it puts that extra inch above the standard to good use. With a total 13-minute runtime, “Strega” and “Hey Hey My My” dwell in a realm of hypnotic riffy largesse. With the guitar and bass of Peter Turik clearly attuned toward maximum density, drummer Shane Tyrer brings forth a slow march on the B side after conjuring a pointed thud on the leadoff, in both cases giving Lea Reto a not-at-all-missed opportunity to cut through the morass as only melody can.

For added intrigue, not only does Reto do this, but she plays into the hypnotic aspects of both tracks almost entirely, patterning lyrics around a few repeating lines rather than whole verses and choruses. “Strega” is just “La strega/Hit me with her evil eye” — though certainly there’s a story behind it, as you can see in the quote from Turik below — and even “Hey Hey My My,” which derives straight from Neil Young, chooses one of the most distinctive progressions of his long career and reinterprets it as almost a religious chant. The attempt isn’t to turn it into the stuff of cult rock cliché — despite the fact that the band have “witch” in their name, I don’t actually get much of that kind of “I’m a spooky supernatural being and I live in the woods” vibe, thankfully — and neither does it need to be. Witchrot are plainly able to conjure the ethereal without hyperperformance of genre tropes. All they need are the riffs, and clearly they have those.

One would be tempted to call Strega deceptively memorable if there were anything deceptive about it. Rather, Witchrot are up front about what they’re doing and ask little indulgence on the listener’s part other perhaps than a definitely-earned nod along. So get to it.

Enjoy “Strega” below, followed by a few words from Turik about the song, and “Hey Hey My My” under that, for completeness’ sake:

Peter Turik on “Strega”:

This song was recorded at Candle Studio by Dylan Frankland. He has become the ultimate behind-the-scenes man for our band. He always knows what works and what doesn’t. Of course Lea belted it all out on this track with minimal effort. There is never a time when she goes into the studio with something set, she is in a constant state of experimentation.

I wrote this song about an encounter my Nono had with a witch back in Italy. She asked him for a ride on his donkey and when he denied she cursed him with some sort of paralysis. Apparently he was bed ridden for weeks and nearly died. His family eventually had to get another witch to reverse the spell.

DHU Records is releasing the song on a special edition 8″ vinyl with our Neil Young cover as the B side. So heavy a 7″ wouldn’t cut it! We also had a tour planned for May which would have been our first time heading to the USA, as of now I can only imagine that will be postponed. Along with that, Fuzzed and Buzzed was going to help us finish recording our first full-length. Of course that will be put off as well.

The state of the world is completely fucked up right now and I can only hope that there is a way to reverse this curse laid upon us.

It seems we’re doomed. Time will tell.

Stay safe… stay heavy.

Witchrot are:
Lea Reto – Vox
Peter Turik – Guitar/Bass
Shane Tyrer – Drums

Witchrot, “Hey Hey My My”

Witchrot on Thee Facebooks

Witchrot on Instagram

Witchrot on Bandcamp

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Fuzzed and Buzzed Records store

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Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

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Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

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Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

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Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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