Asteroid, III: Standing at the Gates

Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Much of Asteroid‘s aptly-titled third album, III, is unassuming. It arrives via Fuzzorama Records with a photo of the band’s gear — artfully shot, but a gear photo — on the front cover, and at seven tracks/36 minutes, it’s quick, almost humble listen. That’s precisely the point. It’s been six years since the Örebro, Sweden, three-piece released II (review here), and while they would’ve been well within their rights to turn III into some grandiose, probably hyper-produced excursion given the occasion, it also would’ve been completely out of character. Asteroid went a much more fitting way, and III benefits from that choice.

Natural vibe, on every level. That’s what the gear shot represents. It’s not about some over-the-top presentation, but about the work that guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen) do in that rehearsal or studio space. It’s their chemistry that shines through, in combination with the unremittingly memorable songcraft of cuts like “Last Days” (premiere here), “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” and so on. And yes, III does build on the accomplishments of II in the direction it takes, since that record — thought to be their swansong, notwithstanding the 2013 7″ single Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Grave (review here), until their reunion was announced here late in 2015 — shifted from the more straight-ahead fuzz rock of their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) toward a more open, bluesier, jammier style.

III pushes further in that direction from the gentle way Campbell‘s drums seem to start opener “Pale Moon” in medias res joined soon by Nilsson‘s inimitable warm bass tone and ambient guitar swirl from Hirse down to the soaring leads and into-the-night howls of closer “Mr. Strange.” There is no song of the seven that doesn’t deliver a standout factor, whether it’s a hook, solo, overall groove, vocal tradeoff between Hirse and Nilsson, and the flow created between the tracks makes III a better return than one could’ve reasonably hoped for from Asteroid.

I say that as a fan of the band, which I acknowledge I am. Nonetheless, to have Asteroid come back in a manner that not only reinforces the work they’ve done before but actively builds on it and pushes it forward almost gives III a spirit of making up for lost time. It was three years between the self-titled and II, and even with the 7″ factored in, they’ve doubled that span between full-lengths. In the interim, Hirse went on to found The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, and it legitimately seemed Asteroid were done. It was no minor loss to the sphere of European heavy rock and psychedelia, since what Asteroid effectively represent as a band is an alternative in audio organics that doesn’t necessarily need to rely on vintage presentation to get its point across.

In that regard, they pick up where they left off on III and move ahead from there. “Pale Moon,” one of just two inclusions over six minutes long, enters with a jammy feel, winding guitars, a minimal vocal presence, and eases the listener into what follows. No stretch to imagine it came out of the three of them picking up their instruments and playing the first thing that came to mind, whether or not that’s actually the case. Near the end, a wash of effects takes hold and comes forward, and the song ends with a rumble that leads into the opening of “Last Days,” which turns from its rolling introduction into a Beatlesian bounce marked out by Nilsson‘s bassline and some call and response singing underscored by the just-in-case-you-weren’t-thinking-AbbeyRoad short instrumental chorus riff.

The verse itself is the hook, and shows the band’s penchant for darker lyrical themes — “Death will come, he always does/For each and every one of us” is a standout line traded between Nilsson and Hirse — that comes up again on “Wolf and Snake” and the penultimate “Them Calling.” “Til Dawn,” which follows immediately with a warmth of shuffle given to fuzzy push, is shorter and somewhat faster, but doesn’t let go of the underlying groove of “Last Days” before it, instead building momentum as it starts and stops fluidly and shoves its way toward what’s probably the end of side A, turning around the 2:30 mark into a denser tone that they ride out for most of the duration, turning back to a cleaner guitar line to finish out in the last few seconds.

If you happen to be listening on a linear format — or if the vinyl side split is elsewhere — that makes the transition into “Wolf and Snake” all the more seamless. The centerpiece and longest track on III at a still-manageable 6:31, it’s a classic blues morality play with the standout lyrics in its first verse, “In the end we are the same/Said the wolf to the snake/You and me we’ve been asleep/While everybody else had to stay awake,” and it comes delivered with patience, dynamic shifts in tempo and a chorus that makes it stand among the highlights of the record and Asteroid‘s catalog as a whole.


Emphasizing the turns they’re able to pull off without even a measure’s notice, Hirse‘s layered lead work, and the way in which Nilsson and Campbell sustain cohesive rhythms while bolstering the guitar in classic power trio form. When they get back to the chorus from the solo section near the midpoint, it’s a release in tension, but the real shift comes in the subsequent slowdown — a transition into thickly-fuzzed, peppered-with-ambience riffing instrumental departure that carries them through the bulk of the remainder of the song, until the drums and bass drop out and the guitar lightly strums out the finish for the last minute or so.

At that point, the impact has been made, but just how much “Wolf and Snake” offers in its time serves as a summary of much of what the rest of III has to offer, though the subsequent two tracks, “Silver and Gold” and “Them Calling” are marked points of departure and contrast — at least from each other if not from the style of the band entirely. Rising quietly from the finish of “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold” is the shortest slice of III at 3:11, and from the swirling echoes preceding the first verse onward through the harmonies brought forth by Hirse and Nilsson, it’s the most ambitious vocal arrangement they’ve ever done.

And it marks a shift in approach as well, since so much of their appeal has always been about the tone of the guitar or bass and even the drum sounds, but while the dual-vocals has long been a key element of what they do, “Silver and Gold” is a level of performance and a level of confidence in that performance that’s perhaps the clearest marker of their progression on this album entirely, and reinforces Asteroid‘s fierce commitment to moving forward even as they get their feet under them following their years away. It makes III all the more special, and with a couple far-back hits from Campbell, shifts into a peaceful kind of gallop in its second half, vaguely Western, and topped with more non-lyricized harmonies echoing out over the space created, wrapping with a stretch of silence after the passing of some residual effects.

The role that brief quiet plays is no less pivotal than any of III‘s other transitions, since what it sets up is the outright crash into “Them Calling,” an outright fist-pump fuzz rocker that’s almost all thrust and raises a glass with the lines, “Now I stand at the gates of hell/Waiting for you to arrive/I hear them calling, calling for me/But I want you here by my side,” as it careens through headbang-worthy proto-metallic groove.

Tonally, it’s the densest material on the album, but it hits at just the perfect moment after “Silver and Gold,” and brings Nilsson and Hirse together righteously for the above-noted chorus, and shows that as far out as Asteroid are willing to go, they know the value as well that staying grounded can have. They rightly keep “Them Calling” to a straightforward structure, and in sheer effect, its leanness pushes it well into highlight status even before the solo in the second half gives way to one last bookend runthrough of the chorus and a couple hits to close. A “wow” moment, delightful in how unprecedented it is on III but still not at all a backward step on the part of the band, especially in the context of how it interacts with “Silver and Gold” before it and the closer “Mr. Strange” after.

As much as “Pale Moon” had a clear opening sensibility, “Mr. Strange” feels like it’s winding down — though, admittedly just about anything would with “Them Calling” before it — but as Nilsson takes the lead vocal, the foundation is laid for what will be the final push, complemented by memorable “whoa”s and a nodding lead-topped fuzz that once more casts out a sense of vastness without playing to the need for “sounding huge” or departing from the overarching class that Asteroid have shown all throughout the album to this point. In the end, it’s more active at its finish than “Pale Moon” was at its start, but no less fitting in the unassuming manner in which it rises to its occasion.

That is perhaps the most prevalent impression III leaves behind when it’s over. Asteroid probably could’ve made a “reunion” album. They didn’t. They made a third album, and the songs are stronger and more genuine for it in how they sound and what they signify as the band’s conceptual priorities now and going from here. III is one of 2016’s best, no question, and more over, it reminds of just how crucial Asteroid are and can continue to be as an influence to those who will invariably, hopefully, benefit from following their path. Recommended.

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Asteroid on Twitter

Asteroid website

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Truckfighters, V: Creating the Storm

Posted in Reviews on October 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


If you want to look at the trajectory of Swedish heavy rockers Truckfighters, it’s easy to read their catalog as a series of forward steps. There is a clear narrative arc to their work that can be traced right to its latest chapter in their new offering, V. Their 2005 debut, Gravity X, boasts a few tracks that even 11 years later tap into a timeless imperative of desert rock. It established them as a noteworthy presence within the sphere of European fuzz and set in motion a touring and promotion ethic that has gone largely unmatched within that sphere.

Working as a four-piece for Phi in 2007, the Örebro-based outfit began to branch out, but it was with 2009’s Mania (review here) that their progressive side really first showed itself as the path they would follow in songwriting. They hit the road hard in the years that followed, released a feature-length documentary, and began a seemingly endless round of changes in lineup, with the core duo of vocalist/bassist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm, guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren joined by an ongoing succession of drummers. On 2014’s Universe (review here), which was preceded by the EP The Chairman in 2013 and followed earlier this year by Live in London (review here), it was Andre “Poncho” Kvarnström, now of Blues Pills. For V, it’s Daniel “El Danno” Israelsson of Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra taking up the call, though my understanding is he too is already out of the band.

These shifts around Cedermalm and Källgren seem to have done little to ultimately slow the progression or momentum of Truckfighters, who as well as being one of the heavy underground’s most kinetic live acts have established one of its most immediately identifiable sounds — you know when you’re listening to Truckfighters — have taken another step forward in inking a deal with Century Media for the distributing of the seven-track/47-minute V, licensing through their own Fuzzorama Records, which has been home to each of their prior outings. A shift in profile, if not necessarily aesthetic, but noteworthy all the same in showing the multi-tiered evolution of the band, whose songcraft continues to grow as well. To listen to V front to back from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Calm Before the Storm” to the finisher “Storyline,” the larger portion of what the trio does in the span will be recognizable to those who heard Universe.

Certainly, in tone, their penchant for fuzz has remained consistent. It’s what they do with that fuzz that has changed over time, and a steady development in vocal confidence from Cedermalm combined with an increased comfort with complex modes of expression overall, which on the first two albums simply wasn’t there and in hindsight was only beginning to emerge on Mania, that results in such fluidity throughout V. Credit in setting the mood has to go to “Calm Before the Storm” as well. While V has plenty of upbeat moments of push in “Hackshaw,” “The 1,” “Gehenna,” and “Fiend” — and indeed the opener increases thrust as it builds through its hook — “Calm Before the Storm” is an especially bold choice to lead off for its brooding sensibility, which seems to find complement and emphasis even in the most raucous of moments that immediately follow, be it the winding chorus of “Hackshaw” or the thick-fuzzed push that begins “The 1.”


To an extent, this was true of Universe as well, and with half as much time between Universe and V as there was between Mania and Universe, it’s not surprising the two would share some characteristics, whatever Truckfighters have been through over the last couple years. But the scope has once again broadened, and one can hear that in how smoothly centerpiece “Gehenna” ebbs and flows, how the momentum of “The 1” seems to subside only to rise again, in the melodic reach of the chorus to “The Contract,” which might be V‘s standout moment, and in the poise with which Truckfighters claim such breadths and depths as their own. As much of their persona — which is not to say “brand” — is defined by onstage acrobatics, Källgren‘s madman energy running back and forth, jumping up and down, spinning in circles, etc., on record they seem even more daring how deeply they plunge into contemplative stretches.

The verse to “The Contract” is spacious, the bridge in the second half of “Hackshaw” dizzying but precisely executed, and the interplay of acoustic and electric guitar in “Storyline” a new level of emotional crux entirely. That Truckfighters can be patient and that band who are such a force in a live setting, and that they can ultimately do so without contradicting themselves and having their foundation collapse under them, makes them all the more special as a group contributing to the expansion of their genre. Even the subtlety that shows itself in the midsection of “Fiend,” teasing those acoustics that play a more prominent role after the blown-out push that starts “Storyline,” stands as an example of the delicate balance Truckfighters strike.

And though they then seem to delight in stomping all over that balance, it emerges unscathed. It might be fair to call this the triumph within V itself were it not for the level of songwriting Cedermalm and Källgren bring forth. Fifteen years on from their first getting together and with countless miles under their collective belt, they’ve become one of heavy rock’s most crucial teams, and more encouragingly, while they’ve clearly established a working modus, they refuse to sit still from one release to the next, to rest on past laurels, or to give in to the expectations of others. It is a rare band who, five albums in, can remain defined by their forward potential, and Truckfighters have worked hard to hold true to that reality.

Truckfighters, “Hackshaw” official video

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Captain Crimson, Remind: Fuel for Future Reminiscence (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Captain Crimson’s Remind in full. Album is out Friday, Oct. 14, on Small Stone Records.]

Swedish four-piece Captain Crimson make their debut on Small Stone Records with their third album, Remind. It’s a record that begs the question of just what we’re being reminded. Comprised of 10 boogie-laden, grooving, swinging, catchy tracks, it follows just two years behind 2014’s Ageless Time (on Moving Air and Nasoni) and four behind the band’s 2012 Dancing Madly Backwards debut that found them paying so strongly to their namesakes in Captain Beyond and King Crimson.

Now working with the lineup of vocalist Stefan Lillhager (ex-Blowback), guitarist Andreas Eriksson, bassist Chris David and drummer/organist Mikael Läth, the Örebro natives have come unquestionably into their own throughout these tracks, moving well beyond the ‘70s worship for which their hometown is so known in favor of a full sound, marking a less dramatic shift than that of, say, Witchcraft, but mostly because Captain Crimson were less of a directly vintage mindset to start with. In any case, what they arrive with on Remind is a 42-minute collection of tightly written, smoothly executed cuts that seem to be vying with each other to occupy space in the listener’s consciousness.

Will it be “Black Rose” or “Let Her Go” stuck in someone’s head? I don’t know, but there’s a good chance that something here will hit a nerve among the converted, as Captain Crimson favor quality songcraft over the trappings of hyper-stylization, and so have no need of the latter as they make their way through, energetically and deftly using the momentum of one track to push through the next.

In the album’s ultimate affect, it feels ahead of the curve in such a way as to recall (which is not to say “remind”) of young-gun countrymen rockers and labelmates Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, who made their debut in 2011 and have followed a similar stylistic trajectory in taking what more vintage-minded outfits have been able to accomplish over the last decade-plus and carry it forward, blending with ’90s influences, yes, but coming across with something new from that mixture.

In the case of Captain Crimson, there are elements at play in early pieces like opener “Ghost Town” or “Bells from the Underground,” which immediately follows and is the longest inclusion at 5:29, that tie them further into the long legacy of quality Swedish heavy rock; most notably in what they’re able to do with the hooks of these songs and the ease of their transitions one might liken their work here to Greenleaf‘s earlier days, or specifically for “Bells from the Underground,” from some of what Astrosoniq had on offer with their last outing, Quadrant, at least on some superficial level, but neither does Remind lack its own personality.

The 10 tracks break evenly onto two neatly-structured vinyl sides, and though each song seeks to deliver an impact, and succeeds on one level or another, they tie together fluidly as well, as one can hear in the crisp jive of “Love Street,” on which Eriksson‘s guitar leads a strut bolstered by layered vocals in the chorus and punchy bass, and the subsequent “Black Rose,” which pulls back on some of the thrust initially to lock in a sleek, classically metallic groove, easily turns into an acoustic break, and emerges with newfound vigor to lead to the side A closer “Money.”

Captain Crimson

Bluesier licks permeate, backed by serene organ flourish, and a flowing jam ensues, more patient than any of the faces Captain Crimson have yet shown, and so a decent setup for some of side B’s expansion of the album’s overall scope. Of course, before they get there, it’s only fair to match “Money” with a barnburner, and “Drifting” opens Remind‘s second half in raucous form, effectively reestablishing the momentum of “Ghost Town” as side B begins to unfold.

There’s some twang underlying the title-track, which follows, but the focus remains on the chorus, cleanly realized with push coming from Läth‘s kick drum, a prominent but not ever really out of place element across the record. Stomp suits Captain Crimson, and “Let Her Go,” with its blues-inflected harmonica (a guest performance from Timo Tilli), backs that up, finding a comfortable pace that allows them to continue to spread out their sound from its foundation of craft and structure in subtle and intriguing ways that become clearer on repeat listens. Then there’s the more drastic change brought on by the penultimate “Alone.”

Almost snuck in before closer “Senseless Mind” reaffirms the decades-spanning stylistic meld, the acoustic-led alone offers Lillhager a showcase in which to shine and he does not disappoint. With vocals and guitar, Captain Crimson depart from the rest of the album toward a different level of emotional resonance, but the presentation is still clear, and there’s never any sense of control lost.

Maybe “Senseless Mind” is meant to work as a reaction to that, or maybe it’s just the drastic contrast between the final two songs, but the ending feels especially riotous by the time it’s over. Before that, like “Black Rose” earlier, it cuts to a quieter interlude, but when the four-piece slam into the final thrust, there’s little doubt the apex has been reached. Like the record as a whole, they telegraph their intentions there, but three albums in, I don’t think there’s anything one could call to question in their intentions.

They clearly know what they’re doing, in the construction of their material, in putting together a record, and in filtering out anything that doesn’t best serve the song at hand. That makes Remind a strong depiction of a group who’ve clearly hit their stride, and leaves one to suppose that perhaps the title is referring to how much of a force such a group can be when captured at their best.

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Captain Crimson website

Remind at Small Stone Records Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

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Quarterly Review: Blues Pills, Arctic, Major Kong, Hands I Annul Yours, Storm Ross, Sinister Haze, Love Gang, Nap, Manthrass, Astral Cult

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Blues Pills, Lady in Gold


Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.

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Nuclear Blast website


Arctic, Arctic


Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.

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Outer Battery Records


Major Kong, Brave New Kong


Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.

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Hands I Annul Yours, Year of Death


One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.

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Major Destroyer Records website


Storm Ross, Welcome, Sunshine


Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.

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Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death


Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.

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STB Records BigCartel store


Love Gang, Love Gang


The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.

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Nap, Villa


Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.

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Manthrass, Blues del Destino


Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.

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South American Sludge on Bandcamp


Astral Cult, The Sacred Flame


Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.

Astral Cult on Thee Facebooks

Astral Cult on Bandcamp


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Graveyard Disband; All Touring Canceled

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Have to admit I didn’t see this one coming. Swedish classic heavy rockers Graveyard have put out word they’ve called it quits. All upcoming appearances including their recently-announced headlining slot at Desertfest Belgium 2016 have been canceled.

They do leave open the possibility of coming back at some point — note “if and when” below — but however that might pan out, losing Graveyard is a considerable blow to the heavy underground. Since signing to Nuclear Blast ahead of releasing 2011’s Hisingen Blues (review here), and really since their 2007 self-titled came out on Tee Pee, the Örebro natives have been forerunners of the retro rock movement, having a major hand in teaching an entire generation of bands how to boogie across Europe and the US alike.

That position would only solidify with the next year’s Lights Out (review here), which began to bring forward the soul and classic R&B influences that would continue to emerge on last year’s Innocence and Decadence (review here), their fourth album and apparent swansong. By then, Graveyard — the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson, guitarist Jonathan Ramm, bassist Truls Mörck and drummer Axel Sjöberg — had cast their influence wide and it will no doubt continue to ring out despite their breakup. A shuffle like that just doesn’t come along every day.

As to what the future might hold for the members of Graveyard? It’s probably way too soon to speculate, and definitely too soon to hope that Nilsson might get back together with Magnus Pelander of Nuclear Blast labelmates Witchcraft for a reunion of their mid-’90s outfit Norrsken (in many ways the seed of what became the retro rock movement over the next decade), but one way or another, all the best to the members of the band in sorting out whatever issues it is require sorting and all the best for the future. Graveyard were clearly a special band and the void they leave behind is significant.

Here’s the announcement from the group:


Dark clouds above the graveyard today.

Due to the all so classic reason “differences within the band” the Graveyard is as of today officially closed. This is the unfortunate final decision we’ve had to make after going through a period of struggling n juggling with personal issues. Things have gone out of hand and now our energy is very low. As a direct result of this we’re sorry to say that all scheduled touring is cancelled.

Graveyard have always been more about the music than the talking and that approach is the way we intend to deal with this situation also. What we can say is that we don’t know if and when the Graveyard will re-open and return in full force.

Stay tuned, stay awesome & No endless night in sight.

Joakim, Axel, Truls, Jonatan

Graveyard, “No Good Mr. Holden”

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Captain Crimson to Release Remind Oct. 14

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Heads up on a good record. The third from Swedish outfit Captain Crimson, Remind, is also their first for Small Stone and it’ll be out on Oct. 14. You don’t really need to know much more than that at this point, though the PR wire certainly has more to offer in the bio I wrote, and with the lyric video for “Bells from the Underground,” you can get a sense of how these guys have really outgrown the influences in their moniker to come into their own sound this time. The album plays out a lot like that. Memorable songs, quality performance, light on frills but heavy on quality. Will be worth your time, easily.

Preorders are up now through Small Stone‘s Bandcamp. Dig it:


CAPTAIN CRIMSON: Swedish Blues Rockers To Release Third Full-Length, Remind, Via Small Stone; “Bells From The Underground” Lyric Video Posted

The Swedish hotbed of Örebro has already produced the likes of Truckfighters, Graveyard, Witchcraft, and Blues Pills. Prepare to add CAPTAIN CRIMSON to this exceptional tradition.

Forged in 2010 by vocalist Stefan Lillhager, formerly of Blowback, CAPTAIN CRIMSON draws inspiration from the classic sounds of The Groundhogs, Blue Cheer, Jethro Tull, Cactus, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer, meeting heavy boogie head-on with a modern swagger that has carried over to their latest and third album, Remind – their first for Small Stone Records. Remind follows their 2012 debut, Dancing Madly Backwards, which led them onto their first tour that Fall. Emerging with the lineup of Lillhager, bassist/backing vocalist Chris David (ReinXeed), guitarist Andreas Eriksson, and drummer/organist Mikael Läth, CAPTAIN CRIMSON earned rave reviews for their blues riffing and killer hooks, and they did what any band worth their salt would: They kept touring.

Their second offering, 2014’s Ageless Time, aligned them to Moving Air Music and Nasoni Records and once again put them on the road. On the LP, they showcased a multifaceted songwriting process, benefiting from the contributions of each player working together to bolster the strengths of the whole, and with a stopgap jam session in Stockholm captured on a 2015 digital EP (fittingly titled A Chaotic Jam Session In Stockholm), they make their way into Remind having fully realized their vision of modern classic rock.

Make no mistake: CAPTAIN CRIMSON’s latest is nothing less than a testament to the timeless power of groove, of memorable choruses that take you back to when you felt such things deep in your soul, and indeed offer a reminder that you still can and that you still do. It is the kind of rock and roll that speaks to the essence of the form, and we think that when all is said and done, it’s one of the best records ever to arrive with a Small Stone logo on it.

Remind will be released on October 14th, 2016 on CD, digitally and limited edition vinyl. Preorder your copy today at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample opening track “Ghost Town.”

Remind Full-Length
1. Ghost Town
2. Bells From The Underground
3. Love Street
4. Black Rose
5. Money
6. Drifting
7. Remind
8. Let Her Go
9. Alone
10. Senseless Mind

Captain Crimson, “Bells from the Underground” lyric video

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Asteroid Interview & Track Premiere: “Last Days” and First Ones Too

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Digital preorders for Asteroid‘s third full-length, III, will go live on Sept. 12. The proper release date in Europe is Nov. 11, while the US gets it on Dec. 9, but wherever you are, however you order it, the arrival of a new Asteroid record is indisputably good news. The fuzzhappy trio from Swedish heavy hotbed Örebro first made their reunion official here last November, so by the time Fuzzorama Records delivers the 36-minute long-player, it will have been a productive year for Asteroid, playing shows, writing, recording. You know, all that “we’re in a band” stuff.

Well, they weren’t for a while. It’s been six years since their last offering, II (review here), and while they never melted down or anything, it seemed for a long time like that record might be their swansong. III follows in the second album’s footsteps in several crucial ways — its organic tones, its balancing between heavy blues and psychedelia, the vocal tradeoffs between guitarist Robin Hirse and bassist Johannes Nilsson — now joined in the trio by Jimmi Kolscheen — the tendency to follow the spirit of a given track, and moments like the bassline of centerpiece “Wolf and Snake” are about as quintessentially Asteroid‘s own as anything they could’ve put to tape. There are atmospheric stretches, as on “Silver and Gold” — also the most accomplished vocal performance of the band’s career — and cuts like “Last Days” (which you can hear above) tip hat to classic rock while “Them Calling” delivers an album-defining mega-hook while looking toward a more heavy metallized progression on the whole. It’s the fuzz rock you can pump your fist to.

But if III is united by any single principle, it’s the chemistry at heart in Asteroid‘s approach; the way the band interacts sonically and what the results of that interaction do for their songwriting. I’ll be reviewing it as we get closer to the release date (one or the other of them), but as a preview, I wanted to talk to the band about making III and how things came together since they got back, played their first shows and undertook the work of really being a band again after their years apart, including bringing in Kolscheen on drums and hammering out a new dynamic there. Lots to discuss and I feel like the surface has barely been scratched on III, so look for much more to come as we move into the fall, which also finds Asteroid on tour with Limestone Whale. The dates:

Asteroid with Limestone Whale
This tour is booked in cooperation with MAGNIFICENT MUSIC!
10-09 (ESP) Madrid – Madrid Stoner Festival
17-09 (UK) BRISTOL Snuff’est All-Dayer*
22-09 (D) HAMBURG AstraStube
23-09 (D) BERLIN BassyClub
24-09 (D) SIEGEN Vortex * (w/ Yawning Man)
25-09 tba
26-09 (D) FREIBURG i.B WhiteRabbit
27-09 (CH) Winterthur – Helvti
29-09 (AT) WIEN ViperRoom
30-09 (AT) LINZ Stadtwerkstatt
01-10 (D) Munich – tba
03-10 (PL) WARSAW Chmury
04-10 (PL) GDYNIA Ucho
05-10 (PL) POZNAN u Bazyla
06-10 (D) HALLE Hühnermanhatten
07-10 (D) WÜRZBURG Immerhin
08-10 (D) JENA Kulturbahnhof

Full Q&A with Hirse and Nilsson follows the jump. Please enjoy:

Read more »

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Pelander: Witchcraft Frontman Unveils Time Title and Tracklisting

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

More details have started to trickle out about Witchcraft frontman Magnus Pelander‘s debut solo album. The title, for example, will be Time, and it will feature six tracks plus a bonus cut and run about an LP-ready 44 minutes. No artwork or audio or even a solid release date yet, but Nuclear Blast seems to be doling out details one or two at a time — the last press release was “Hey, an album exists and we’re putting it out” and this one is “Hey, it has a name and songs” — so you know, there’s still plenty to learn in the months ahead. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect a release date sometime in October/November, but don’t go quoting that or anything. Pure speculation on my part.

And not to give away state secrets or anything, but if you’ve been missing Witchcraft‘s pioneering retro-doom aesthetic, there are definitely some parts of this record to which you’re going to want to pay particular attention. There. I can be vague with the best of ’em.

This is the part where there’s a photo and then the text changes color to signify its origins on the PR wire:


PELANDER – WITCHCRAFT main man’s solo project announces title & track list

WITCHCRAFT main man, Magnus Pelander’s solo project PELANDER has announced the title as well as the track list for his upcoming debut album.

Time will contain 7 tracks with an approximate running time of 44 minutes.

Time track list:
1. Umbrella
2. Family Song
3. The Irony Of Man
4. True Colour
5. Precious Swan
6. Time
7. Rebecka (BONUS TRACK)

After his latest journey with WITCHCRAFT, Nucleus, multi instrumentalist and lyricist extraordinaire, Magnus Pelander, returns to his solo career which without a doubt can be recognized as being tied to the cult doom/rock band, still exploring other paths and going full on acoustic.

Magnus Pelander comments: “At last my first solo album is done and soon to be released. I cannot believe this is true.”

Commented Nuclear Blast A&R representative Markus Jakob: “We’re thrilled to not only work with a gifted artist as Magnus on his main band but now also on his solo career. Both WITCHCRAFT and PELANDER have always stood for variety, artistic freedom and development which we’re more than happy to support. Prepare yourself for another deep and intense look into the mind and musical vision of a genius!”

Magnus Pelander, “Stardust” Live in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2010

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