Graves at Sea Finish Work on Debut Album; West Coast Tour Starts this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

graves at sea

Based now in Portland, reunited sludge-doomers Graves at Sea will hit the road this weekend on the West Coast as they make their way to the Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, Arizona. Some 12 years after their Documents of Grief demo became a significant statement of intent that was ultimately cut short, the band has just put the finishing touches on their debut album, which will be released on Relapse Records early next year. Pretty astonishing journey this band — and granted they’ve been through a few lineup changes along the way — has had to get to their first record, but hey, it’s doom. If you want it to be fast, you’re doing it wrong.

The PR wire has details and dates. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing what Orion Landau comes up with for this one:

graves at sea oct 11

GRAVES AT SEA: Complete New Album; Announce October West Coast Tour Dates

Doom/sludge quartet GRAVES AT SEA has completed recording its first-full length ever! The new material, which was tracked at Audible Alchemy in Portland, OR and mixed at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, CA, will see an early 2016 release via Relapse. The album was engineered by Greg Wilkinson (Atriach, Lycus, etc) and mastered by Brad Boatright (Obituary, Sleep, Yob, etc), and will also feature artwork by Orion Landau. Album title and preorder information will be made available soon.

Though they have gained a near-cultish following in the underground in relatively little time, GRAVES AT SEA’s success is even more noteworthy when one considers the fact that the band has managed to do so without ever releasing a proper full-length album. Formed in 2002, the band soon self-released the demo Documents of Grief (2003), which quickly became one of the most talked about underground demos of the decade. After recording their debut 7″ and a split with Asunder in 2004 and 2005 respectively, the band went on hiatus, before reuniting in 2012 and signing to Relapse Records in 2015.

Now thirteen years since their formation, GRAVES AT SEA have become stronger than ever, focusing their efforts on touring and recording new material. 2014 saw the group release their first new material in over nine years, including a split with Sourvein and a separate two song EP. GRAVES AT SEA are poised to fully come into their own with the release of their first-ever full-length, which seems certain to bestow the level of success the band has achieved underground to more mainstream audiences. You can stream the band’s 2014 split with Sourvein via Soundcloud HERE.

In celebration of the finished recording, GRAVES AT SEA have also announced a week of tour dates beginning the second week of October. The tour will see the band performing shows throughout the West Coast, and will also include a performance at Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, AZ alongside Relapse brethren CALL OF THE VOID. You can find a full list of dates below.

Oct 11 Seattle, WA The Highline
Oct 13 Oakland, CA The Golden Bull
Oct 14 Glendale, CA Complex
Oct 15 Long Beach, CA Alex’s Bar
Oct 16 Tucson, AZ South West Terror Fest – Club Congress
Oct 19 Sacramento, CA Starlite Lounge

Graves at Sea, “Betting on Black”

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Quarterly Review: My Dying Bride, Glowsun, Caustic Casanova, Dead Sea Apes, Bantoriak, Ahab, Zark, Pyramidal & Domo, Mammoth Salmon, Molior Superum

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


One thing I’ve noticed over the now-several times I’ve done this is that people have a tendency to apply some value to the ordering. It’s true that I try to lead off with a bigger release sometimes (as with today), but beyond that, there’s really no statement being made in how the albums appear. It usually has way more to do with time, when something came in and when it was added to the list, than with the quality or profile of a given outing. Just that final note that probably should’ve been said on Monday. Whoops.

Before we wrap up, I just wanted to say thank you again for checking any of it out if you did this week. It’s not a minor undertaking to do these, but it’s been completely worth it and I very much appreciate your being a part of it. Thank you. As always.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #41-50:

My Dying Bride, Feel the Misery

my dying bride feel the misery

Led by founding guitarist Andrew Craighan and vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe, UK doom magnates My Dying Bride mark their 25th year with Feel the Misery, their 13th full-length and one that finds them right in their element practicing the melancholic death-doom style they helped forge on pivotal early works like As the Flower Withers (1992) and Turn Loose the Swans (1993). “And My Father Left Forever” starts Feel the Misery on a particularly deathly note, but it’s not too long before the 10-minute “To Shiver in Empty Halls” and the subsequent “A Cold New Curse” are mired in the grueling, poetic, beauty-in-darkness emotionality that is My Dying Bride’s hallmark. The album’s title-track is a chugging bit of extremity, but the record’s strongest impact winds up being made by the penultimate “I Almost Loved You,” a piano, string and e-bow (sounding) ballad that pushes further than “A Thorn of Wisdom” by daring not to get heavy and rests well between the lumbering “I Celebrate Your Skin” and the 11-minute closer, “Within a Sleeping Forest,” which fits well, but more reinforces the point than offers something new on its own. A quarter-century later, they remain an institution. One wonders how they’ve managed to stay so depressed for so long.

My Dying Bride’s website

Peaceville Records store

Glowsun, Beyond the Wall of Time


If French mostly-instrumentalists Glowsun are feeling pressed for time these days – and with the theme of Beyond the Wall of Time (out via Napalm Records) that shows itself in the ticking clocks that launch opener “Arrow of Time” and the like-minded titles “Last Watchmaker’s Grave,” “Against the Clock” and “Endless Caravan” – the material itself doesn’t show it. Opening with two nine-minute cuts, Glowsun’s third outing and the follow-up to 2012’s Eternal Season (discussed here) unrolls itself patiently across its seven-track span, leading one to wonder if maybe Beyond the Wall of Time isn’t intended as another means of expressing something outside of it, the expanse of tones and grooves created by guitarist/vocalist Johan Jaccob (also graphic art), bassist Ronan Chiron and drummer Fabrice Cornille on “Shadow of Dreams” and the centerpiece “Flower of Mist” intended to last after some eternal now has passed. I wouldn’t want to guess, but it’s noteworthy that the trio’s output is evocative enough to lead toward such speculations.

Glowsun on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records store

Caustic Casanova, Breaks

caustic casanova breaks

As with their 2012 debut, Someday You Will be Proven Correct, Washington D.C.-based trio Caustic Casanova recorded their sophomore long-player, Breaks, with J. Robbins at The Magpie Cage in Baltimore. They’re also releasing the album through Kylesa’s Retro Futurist Records imprint, so they come nothing if not well-endorsed. With bassist Francis Beringer and drummer Stefanie Zaenker sharing vocal duties throughout – the trio is completed by Andrew Yonki on guitar – they run and bounce through a gamut of upbeat post-hardcore noise rock, thick in tone but not so much as to get up and move around, tempo-wise. Yonki brings some post-rock airiness to the early going of the nine-minute “Elect My Best Friend for a Better World,” but the album on the whole feels more about impact than atmosphere, and Caustic Casanova work up considerable momentum by the time they get around to paying off the 12-minute finale, “The Painted Desert.” Its melodies open up more on repeat listens, but not at the expense of the push so well enacted throughout.

Caustic Casanova on Thee Facebooks

Retro Futurist Records

Dead Sea Apes, Spectral Domain

dead sea apes spectral domain

An outwardly familiar conceptual framework – instrumental space/psychedelic rock – does little to convey how much of themselves Manchester, UK, trio Dead Sea Apes put into their new full-length, Spectral Domain. Released by Cardinal Fuzz in conjunction with Sunrise Ocean Bender, it’s the band’s sixth or seventh LP, depending on what counts as such, and bookends two north-of-10-minute explorations around three shorter pieces (though not much shorter in the case of the 9:50 “True Believers”) varied in color but uniformly galaxial in intent. “Brought to Light” rings out with a wash of drumless echo and swirl, seemingly in response to the tension of centerpiece “The Unclosing Eye,” and the whole album seems to take a theme from things seen and unseen, between “Universal Interrogator” and closer “Sixth Side of the Pentagon,” a vibe persisting in some conspiracy theory exposed as blissful and immersive truth with something darker lurking just underneath. Thick but not pretentious, Spectral Domain seems to run as deep as the listener wants to go.

Dead Sea Apes on Thee Facebooks

Sunrise Ocean Bender

Cardinal Fuzz Records

Bantoriak, Weedooism

bantoriak weedooism

A ritualistic spirit arrives early on Italian heavy psych rockers Bantoriak’s debut LP, Weedooism, and does not depart for the duration of the Argonauta Records release’s six tracks, which prove spacious, psychedelic and heavy in kind, playing out with alternating flourishes of melody and noise. “Try to Sleep” seems to be talking more about the band than the act, but from “Entering the Temple” through the rumbling closer “Chant of the Stone,” Bantoriak leave an individualized stamp on their heavy vibes, and that song is no exception. If Weedooism is the dogma they’re championing on the smooth-rolling “Smoke the Magma,” they’re doing so convincingly and immersively, and while they seem to have undergone a lineup shift (?) at some point since the record was done, hopefully that means Weedooism will have a follow-up to its liquefied grooves and weedian heft before too long. In an increasingly crowded Italian heavy psych/stoner scene, Bantoriak stand out already with their first album.

Bantoriak on Bandcamp

Bantoriak at Argonauta Records

Ahab, The Boats of the Glen Carrig


Though somewhat counterintuitive for a band playing their style of doom to start with, Ahab have only been met with a rising profile over their decade-plus together, and their fourth album for Napalm Records, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, answers three years of anticipation with an expanded sonic palette over its five tracks that is afraid neither of melodic sweetness nor the seafaring tonal heft and creature-from-the-deep growling that has become their hallmark. Their extremity is intact, in other words, but they’re also clearly growing as a band. I don’t know if The Boats of the Glen Carrig is quite as colorful musically as its Sebastian Jerke cover art – inevitably one of the best covers I’ve seen this year – but whether it’s the 15-minute sprawl of “The Weedmen,” which at its crescendo sounds like peak-era Mastodon at quarter-speed or the (relatively) speedy centerpiece “Red Foam (The Great Storm),” Ahab are as expansive in atmosphere as they are relentlessly heavy, and they’re certainly plenty of that.

Ahab on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Zark, Tales of the Expected

zark tales of the unexpected

One would hardly know it from the discouraging title, but all-caps UK progressive metallers ZARK do manage to catch one off-guard on their debut full-length, Tales of the Expected. Duly melodic and duly complex, the eight tracks rely on straightforward components to set deceptively lush vibes, the guitar work of Sean “Bindy” Phillips and Josh Tedd leading the way through tight rhythmic turns alongside bassist Andy “Bready” Kelley and drummer Simon Spiers’ crisp grooves. Vocalist Stuart Lister carries across the aggression of “LV-426” and hopefulness of “The Robber” with equal class, and while ZARK’s first outing carries a pretty ambitious spirit, the Evesham five-piece reach the high marks they set for themselves, and in so doing set new goals for their next outing, reportedly already in progress. A strong debut from a band who sound like they’re only going to get more assured as they move forward. More “pleasant surprise” than “expected.”

Zark on Thee Facebooks

Zark on Bandcamp

Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split

pyramidal and domo jams from the sun

Paired up by style almost as much as by geography, Alicante, Spain, acts Pyramidal and Domo picked the right title for their Jams from the Sun split – a bright, go-ahead-and-get-hypnotized psychedelic space vibe taking hold early on the Lay Bare Recordings release and not letting go as one side gives way to the other or as the noisy post-Hawkwindery of “Uróboros” closes out. Pyramidal, who made their debut in 2012 (review here), offer “Motormind” and “Hypnotic Psychotic,” two 10-minute mostly-instrumental jams that progress with liquid flow toward and through apexes in constant search for the farther-out that presumably they find at the end and that’s why they bother stopping at all, and Domo, who made their debut in 2011 (review here), counter with three cuts of their own, “Viajero del Cosmos,” “Mantra Astral” and the aforementioned “Uróboros,” switching up the mood a little between them but not so much as to interrupt the trance overarching the release as whole. I remain a sucker for a quality space jam, and Jams from the Sun has 45 minutes’ worth.

Pyramidal on Thee Facebooks

Domo on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Mammoth Salmon, Last Vestige of Humanity

mammoth salmon last vestige of humanity

After releasing a couple internet EPs (review here) and 2013’s Call of the Mammoth EP as the duo of guitarist/vocalist/bassist Paul Dudziak and drummer Mitch Meidinger, Portland, Oregon’s Mammoth Salmon enlist bassist Alex Bateman and drummer Steve Lyons for their first full-length, the Adam Pike-produced Last Vestige of Humanity, which rolls out plus-sized Melvinsery across six amp-blowing tracks of sludgy riffing and nodding, lumbering weight. The title-track, which ends what would and probably will at some point be side A of the vinyl version, picks up the tempo in its second half, and “Memoriam” teases the same in Lyons’ drums at the start, but of course goes on to unfold the slowest progression here ahead of “Shattered Existence”’s toying with playing barely-there minimalism off full-on crush and the 10-minute “Believe Nothing” rounding out with appropriately elephantine march. Sustainable in their approach and viciously heavy, Mammoth Salmon seem to have hit reset and given themselves a new start with this lineup, and it works to their advantage on this promising debut.

Mammoth Salmon on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Salmon on Bandcamp

Molior Superum, Electric Escapism

molior superum electric escapism

“Karma is a bitch that will definitely hunt you down for what you have done,” would seem to be the standout message of “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” the third and longest (at 6:34) of the four inclusions on Molior Superum’s new EP, Electric Escapism. The non-retro Swedish heavy rockers fire up righteous heft to put them in league with countrymen Skånska Mord, but ultimately have more in common with Stubb out of the UK in the loose-sounding swing of “Försummad,” despite the different language. I had the same opinion about their full-length debut, Into the Sun (review here), and last year’s The Inconclusive Portrait 7” (review here) as well. Can’t seem to shake it, but Molior Superum’s ability to switch it up linguistics – they open and close in Swedish, with the two middle cuts in English – is an immediately distinguishing factor, and whichever they choose for a given song, they kill it here.

Molior Superum on Thee Facebooks

Molior Superum on Bandcamp

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Eight Bells to Release Landless via Battleground Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Portland-based psychedelic doomers Eight Bells are currently in the process of recording their second long-player with Billy Anderson — because why go anywhere else? — for an intended release early in 2016 on Battleground Records. The post-SubArachnoid Space project of Melynda Jackson made its debut with the immersive and far-ranging The Captain’s Daughter in 2013, which Anderson also produced, and in addition to marking a first appearance for new drummer Rae Amitay, what’s been dubbed Landless will find Eight Bells veterans of such respected West Coast festivals as Fall into Darkness and Hoverfest.

The PR wire checks in with “content,” because it knows you love “content.” It read the focus group report. To answer your next question, yes, I am at work right now. Fuck business everything:


EIGHT BELLS: Experimental Doom Trio To Release Sophomore Full-Length On Battleground Records; New Drummer Announced + 2016 Tour With Voivod Confirmed

Experimental doom trio, EIGHT BELLS, will release their sophomore full-length this Winter via Battleground Records. Titled Landless and featuring new recruit, Rae Amitay (Immortal Bird, Thrawsunblat) at the drum helm, the record is currently in its tracking stages under the watchful ear of legendary producer/engineer, Billy Anderson (Agalloch, Tragedy, Demon Lung, Ommadon, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth et al) and offers a definitive evolution of EIGHT BELLS’ eclectic sound.

In conjunction with the release of Landless, EIGHT BELLS will serve as direct support to Voivod and Vektor on their Northeastern US Winter tour with dates to be announced in the coming weeks.

EIGHT BELLS was forged in 2010 by Melynda Jackson (SubArachnoid Space) and began as a songwriting collaboration with jazz-trained six-string bassist Haley Westeiner and drummer Chris Van Huffel. Based in Portland, Oregon, EIGHT BELLS explores dark sonic realms with a blackened dissonance combined with ethereal and haunting female vocals.

Landless is the follow-up to the band’s critically-lauded debut full-length, The Captain’s Daughter, recorded by Billy Anderson and issued in 2013 via Seventh Rule and on vinyl by The Flenser.

Landless will be released on vinyl/digital formats via Battleground Records in February 2016 and on tape via Tartarus Records with further info to be disclosed in the coming weeks.

Eight Bells, “Fate and Technology”

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Dark Buddha Rising, Red Mountains, Black Space Riders, Lamprey, Godsleep, Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, Monobrow, Denizen, Witchsorrow

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs

we lost the sea departure songs

To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum

dark buddha rising inversum

There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.

Dark Buddha Rising on Thee Facebooks

Dark Buddha Rising at Neurot Recordings

Red Mountains, Down with the Sun

red mountains down with the sun

Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.

Red Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records

Black Space Riders, Refugeeum

black space riders refugeeum

It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders website

Lamprey, III

lamprey iii

And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.

Lamprey on Thee Facebooks

Lamprey on Bandcamp

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.

Godsleep on Thee Facebooks

Rock Freaks Records

Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People

slow joe crow and the berserker blues band we are blues people

Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Thee Facebooks

Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Bandcamp

Monobrow, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon

monobrow a handwritten letter from the moon

Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.

Monobrow on Thee Facebooks

Monobrow on Bandcamp

Denizen, Troubled Waters

denizen troubled waters

French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.

Denizen on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records

Witchsorrow, No Light, Only Fire

witchsorrow no light only fire

Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.

Witchsorrow on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records

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Quarterly Review: Holy Sons, WEEED, Mala Suerte, Eternal Black, Were-Jaguars, Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Black Tremor, Aave, Derelics, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Day one down, four more days to go. I forget each time how different it is writing shorter reviews as opposed to the usual longer ones, but kind of refreshing to bust through something, force myself to say what needs to be said as efficiently as possible and move on. Reminds me of working in print, with word counts and such. Only so much room on the page. Not something that usually comes up around these parts, but I guess it’s good to keep that muscle from complete atrophy. Though taking that line of thought to its natural conclusion, I have no idea why. Anyway, feeling good, ready to take on another 10 records, so let’s roll.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #11-20:

Holy Sons, Fall of Man

holy sons fall of man

It would be hard to overstate the smoothness with which Emil Amos, who serves integral creative and percussive roles in both Grails and Om, brings different styles together on Fall of Man, his second album for Thrill Jockey under the Holy Sons solo moniker and upwards of his 11th overall. An overriding melancholy vibe suits dark, progressive pop elements on the opener “Mercenary World,” Amos at the fore playing all instruments and still vocalizing like a singer-songwriter, while the later wash of “Being Possessed is Easy” takes on ‘90s indie fragility and turns what was purposeful minimalism into an expanse of melody and “Discipline” creeps out lyrically while forming experimentalist soundscapes around a steady line of acoustic guitar. Joined by bassist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem on “Aged Wine” – the only other players to appear anywhere on Fall of ManAmos leads the trio through soaring leads and heavier crashing to give the album a crescendo worthy of its scope, which while astounding on deeper inspection presents itself with simple, classic humility.

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Holy Sons at Thrill Jockey

WEEED, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath


From the opening drone-groan throat-singing of the 14-minute “Dogma Dissolver,” it seems like not-quite-Seattle trio Weeed are making a run for the title “Most Stoned of the Stoner” with their second full-length, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath. They earn that extra ‘e.’ A double-LP on Illuminasty Records, the album is a 54-minute trip into low tone and deep-running vibe, spaced way out, and well at home whether jamming heavy and hypnotized on “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” – a highlight bassline – or nestling into an ambient stretch like “Bullfrog” preceding. Mostly instrumental, Weeed hit their most active in “Enuma Elish” and then chill and strip back to acoustics and sax (yup) for the Eastern-flavored “Caravan Spliff,” bringing back the throat-singing in the process. How else to finish such a work than with the 15-minute “Nature’s Green Magic,” a 15-minute push along a single build that goes from minimal, pastoral acoustics to nod-on-this megastoner riffing? Weeed might be going for the gold, but they end up in the green, and somehow one imagines they’ll be alright with that. They get super-ultra-bonus points for sounding like Kyuss not even a little.

WEEED on Thee Facebooks

WEEED on Bandcamp

Mala Suerte, Rituals of Self Destruction

mala suerte rituals of self destruction

Formed in 1999 and having made their full-length debut a decade later with The Shadow Tradition (review here), last heard from in a 2012 split with Boise’s Uzala (review here), Austin, Texas, doomly five-piece Mala Suerte return with the 10-track Rituals of Self Destruction, which moves past its four-minute intro into chugging The Obsessed-style trad doom with a touch of Southern heavy à la Crowbar and a generally metallic spirit in cuts like “Utopic Delusions” that gets expanded on later cuts like the swirling, crawling almost Cathedral-ish “Labyrinth of Solitude.” Comprised of forward-mixed vocalist Gary Rosas, guitarists David Guerrero and Vincent Pina, bassist Mike Reed and drummer Chris Chapa (now John Petri), Mala Suerte sound as rueful as ever across the album’s span, rounding out with the hardcore sludge of “Successful Failure” and “The Recluse,” which builds from slow, brooding chug to a more riotous finish. It’s been a while, but it’s good to have them back.

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Mala Suerte on Bandcamp

Eternal Black, Eternal Black

eternal black eternal black

Guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob leads Brooklyn’s Eternal Black through the riffy doom of their debut self-titled three-track EP. Unpretentious in the style’s tradition, the trio is anchored by Hal Miller’s bass and pushed forward by the drums of Joe “The Prince of Long Island” Wood (also of Borgo Pass), the rolling groove of Sabbathian opener “Obsidian Sky” setting the tone for straightforward, few-frills darkness, and Eternal Black follow it up with the workingman’s doom of “The Dead Die Hard” and “Armageddon’s Embrace,” the former started out with an extra lead layer before it unfurls the EP/demo’s most satisfying crawl, and the latter a little more swinging, but still Iommic metal at its core, Wohlrob’s gruff vocal and Wino-style riff backed by Miller’s deep-mixed rumble as Wood goes to the cowbell/woodblock (it’s one or the other) during the guitar solo. Even if Joe Wood wasn’t one of the best human beings I’d ever met, it would still be pretty easy to dig what these cats are doing, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye for how they follow this first installment.

Eternal Black on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Black on Bandcamp

Were-Jaguars, II

were-jaguars ii

Austin, Texas-based trio Were-Jaguars have already issued a follow-up EP to their earlier-2015 second album, II, but from its opening and longest track “Between the Armies” (immediate points), the three-piece dig into weirdo psych vibes and dense tones across their latest full-length, released through respected Russian purveyor R.A.I.G. Not at all a minor undertaking at 13 tracks, 68 minutes, it gets into garage ritualism in “Let My Breath be the Air” and unfolds immediate doomadelia on “Bishop Kills Enchanter,” but if you need confirmation that Were-Jaguars – the three-piece of Chad Rauschenberg, James Adkisson and Rick McConnell – aren’t just screwing around in these songs and lucking into a righteous result, let it come on the later “Lost Soul,” which melds a flowing instrumental roll to a host of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual samples, loses itself completely, and then returns at the end to finish cohesive, engagingly complex and sure in the knowledge that all has gone to plan. Figuring out what that plan is can be a challenge at times, but it’s there.

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Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Fuzzonaut Split


The Fuzzonaut split between Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi and Bar de Monjas takes its name from the closing track, provided by the latter act, but it serves as a fitting title for the work as a whole as well. Vinnum Sabbathi launch the six-track offering with “HEX I: The Mastery of Space,” a slow-rolling instrumental topped by samples pulled from rocket launches, and after the 1:45 droning interlude “Intermission (Fluctuations),” they melt their way into the companion “HEX II: Foundation Pioneers,” doomier in its chug, but similarly-minded overall in intent, with the warm bass, copious samples, and planet-sized riffing. Though their portion is shorter overall, Bar de Monjas answer back with relatively upbeat push in “Hot Rail,” winding up in stoner rock janga-janga before stomping their way into “The Ripper,” cowbelling there as part of an impressively percussed spin and capping with “Fuzzonaut” itself, a shroomy 7:45 creeper with big-riff bursts that rises and recedes effectively, ending with a long residual hum.

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Bar de Monjas on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzonaut on Bandcamp

Black Tremor, Impending

black tremor impending

An immediate touchstone for the droning pastoral drear that Saskatoon three-piece Black Tremor elicit on their four-song debut EP, Impending, is Earth’s HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but the newcomer trio distinguish themselves immediately with an approach that replaces guitar with violin, so that not only can Black Tremor tie into these atmospheres, they can do so in a way that speak to country roots in a way their forebears didn’t at the time date. Bassist Alex Deighton, violinist Amanda Bestvater and drummer Brennan Rutherford have only just begun the work of developing their sound, but already nine-minute opener “The Church” and its buzzing follow-up “Rise” prove evocative and come across as more than exercises in ambience. “Markhor” hits with an even heavier roll and an almost Melvinsy undertone, while the title-track makes its way through horse-trod mud to emerge at the end not only clean but positively bouncing. It’s still pretty dark, but they’ve given themselves a vast Canadian Midwestern expanse to explore.

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Black Tremor on Bandcamp

Aave, There’s Nothing

aave there's nothing

A bright tonal bliss pervades There’s Nothing, the Rock Ridge Music debut long-player from Nashville all-lowercase psychedelic post-rockers aave. The band court indie progressivism across the album’s eight component tracks, but with just one song over four minutes long – closer “Turn Me Off” (4:30) – there’s little about it that feels overly indulgent or beyond the pale stylistically. That is to say that while aave set a sonic course for great distances, they get to where they’re going efficiently and don’t hang around too long in one place. That has its ups and downs in terms of vibe, but the resonant vocal melodies of “Nothing Here” – hard not to be reminded of Mars Red Sky’s sweet emotionality, but there are other comparisons one might make – the focus remains grounded in an accessibility that goes beyond getting lost in dreamy guitars. Aesthetically satisfying, they find an intense moment in the later thrust of “Blender,” but even that retains the overarching wistful sensibility of what’s come before and that unites the material throughout.

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Rock Ridge Music

Derelics, Introducing

derelics introducing

Spacious, melodic and entrancingly heavy, Derelics’ debut EP, Introducing, indeed makes a formidable opening statement, and in a crowded London scene of post-Orange Goblin burl and Downy sludge, the trio set more progressive ambitions across “To Brunehilde,” “California” and “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla,” psych-funking up the centerpiece after the grooving largesse of the opener en route to the wider-spreading tones of the closer, guitarist/vocalist Reno cutting through his and bassist Nacim’s tones easily with higher-register vocals that push the limits of his range as he encourages one to “ride that fuckin’ snake,” before cutting out to let drummer Rich lead the charge with toms through a build-up bridge that returns to the echoing fullness conjured earlier, ending on a long-fading organ note. An encouraging first offering from the three-piece, and hopefully they continue develop along an original-sounding path as they move ahead. Already they seem to show a knack for melding atmospherics and songwriting toward the same ends.

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Derelics on Bandcamp

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Desert Brain

sisters of your sunshine vapor desert brain

True to its krautrock-style cover art, Desert Brain, the third outing from Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, has an element of prog at work within its psychedelic unfolding. But that’s reasonable. With four years since their second release, Spectra Spirit (review here), and the inclusion of bassist/keyboardist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski with guitarist/vocalist Sean Morrow, the dynamic in the band has legitimately shifted, even though Oppitz (who also did the aforementioned cover art) has recorded all three of their records. Still, they keep the proceedings fluid across the two vinyl sides, finding their inner garage on “Major Medicine” and tripping out easy on “What’s Your Cloud Nine, 37?” on side A before digging in with fuzz and push on side B’s “The Prettiest Sounds of Purgatory” and stretching into ritual stomp on the title cut. All the while, they’re drenched in vibe and a flow that’s languid even as it’s running you over, and while some songs barely have a chorus, they implant themselves in the mind anyway, almost subliminally.

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Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor on Bandcamp

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Lamprey Release Final Album III

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


I don’t mind telling you I’m going to miss doubly-bassed Portland trio Lamprey. They played their final show on July 25 at what was apparently the birthday of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham, and they’ve newly released their last batch of recordings under the simple title of III. Their last album, EP, whatever, it follows behind 2012’s The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here) and rounds out their tenure on a decidedly powerful note of low-end heavy sludge. Comprised of Burnham, bassist Justin Brown and drummer Spencer Norman, they worked in raw form throughout their time together, but III still sounds huge, and it’s an easy argument to say it’s the best work they’ve done.

From the unmitigated stomp-fest of “Iron Awake” (video here) on down to the leads that close “Gaea,” Lamprey remain a standout of Portland’s massively crowded sphere of heavy, and for more than just their extra helping of thick strings. As for the where-are-they-now thing, you won’t have to look too far to find Brown, as he’s stepped into the bassist role for Witch Mountain — they’re on tour this fall with a little band called Danzig — and Burnham is playing drums in Mane of the Cur. Seems likely Norman will resurface at some point too if he hasn’t yet. When, if and what I hear, I’ll let you know.

For now, bye Lamprey and all the best. Glad III got to come out.

Here’s the release info and stream:

lamprey iii

They say you should always go out on a high note. Well, even our low notes were pretty fucking high…

Engineered, mixed, and mastered by Adam Pike at Toadhouse Recording Studios.

Cover photo and layout by Spencer Norman.

1. Iron Awake 01:36
2. Harpies 07:35
3. Golden Mean 05:59
4. Nokken 02:57
5. Lament of the Deathworm 06:03
6. Gaea 05:27

Blaine, Spencer and Justin would like to say THANK YOU!!! to JJ Koczan of The Obelisk, Adam Pike of Toadhouse Recording Studio, and June No of the Interwebs for being so excellent to us over these past five years.

Lamprey, III (2015)

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Vhöl Post Album Art and Details for Deeper than Sky

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

More details have started to come out about the second album from the they’re-a-supergroup-whether-they-like-it-or-not West Coast outfit Vhöl, which boasts in its formidable lineup members of Hammers of Misfortune, Amber Asylum, Agalloch and YOB. Super as fuck, that group. Anyway, as announced last month, the new record is called Deeper than Sky and will be out Oct. 23 on Profound Lore. Newly released are the cover art by Brandon Duncan and the tracklisting. Both are righteous — I wouldn’t mind hearing what a song called “Red Chaos” put together by these players sounds like — but we’re still a little bit off from audio coming out. Probably next month you’ll see things like track premieres and album trailers starting to surface.

But, you know, take what you can get, right? Looks like you can get some art and text, so dig in:

vhol deeper than sky

VHÖL: Psychedelic Thrash Unit To Unleash Deeper Than Sky Full-Length Via Profound Lore This October; Artwork + Track Listing Revealed

This Fall, Profound Lore Records will unveil the sophomore full-length from psychedelic thrash unit, VHÖL. Titled Deeper Than Sky, the record finds the band — vocalist Mike Scheidt (Yob), guitarist John Cobbett (Hammers Of Misfortune, ex-Ludicra), bassist Sigrid Sheie (Hammers Of Misfortune, ex-Amber Asylum) and drummer Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, Worm Ouroboros, ex-Ludicra) — at their most absorbing. The seven-track follow up to 2013’s self-titled debut was captured at Light Rail Studios and mastered at Trakworx Studio, both in San Francisco, and boasts the cosmic cover creation of Brandon Duncan which unites some of Cobbett’s sketches and concepts with Duncan’s original art, the results of which accurately encapsulate the mind-altering vibe of the music contained within.

“We recorded this album at Light Rail Studios, in a huge room on a beautiful 1970 Trident console onto Jerry Garcia’s 2″ tape deck. One cannot escape the Grateful Dead in San Francisco recording studios — their gear is all over town,” elaborates the band of the recording process. “The mixing was rather primitive with no plug-ins and all effects were done by old pedals, tape echo, and large reverb plates. Another thing that was large and huge during recording was our bass player who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant at the time.”

Deeper Than Sky Track Listing:
1. The Desolate Damned
2. 3AM
3. Deeper Than Sky
4. Paino
5. Red Chaos
6. Lightless Sun
7. The Tomb

With Deeper Than Sky, VHÖL picks up from their debut crafting something totally next level, pushing their already-singular sound to the outer-realms of sonic exploration within the paradigm of old school speed metal. VHÖL’s Deeper Than Sky will be released via Profound Lore on October 23rd, 2015 with preorders and teaser tracks to be revealed in the weeks to come.

Vhöl, “The Wall”

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Ape Machine on Tour Now; Live at Freak Valley Released

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ape machine

Portland heavy rockers Ape Machine began an admirable string of tour dates last night in Bend, Oregon, and they’ll continue on through the bulk of Sept. in support of their newly-issued live outing, Live at Freak Valley (review here), which was recorded on their European tour in 2013. They’d previously been confirmed for a European tour in Nov., but I’ve yet to see those dates surface.

Their current run finds them out alongside their fellow Portlanders Five White Dudes in a Band Called Black Pussy, and Live at Freak Valley is out now on Ripple Music. Seems like longer than two years since their last full-length, Mangled by the Machine (review here) hit, but I guess time flies when you tour a month at a clip.

For info, we turn, as ever, to the PR wire:

ape machine tour vert

Portland rockers Ape Machine and Black Pussy take to the road for US Tour this month | Live At Freak Valley available on Ripple Music now

Having recently toured their latest full-length album Mangled By The Machine in the US and Europe, Portland rockers Ape Machine are set to hit the road this August and September in support of their new Live LP/DVD combo release Live At Freak Valley on Ripple Music. The daring new release was filmed and recorded at the Freak Valley Festival in Germany last year; an event that has proven to be a veritable showcase and ‘Who’s Who’ in the brave new world of upcoming psychedelic and heavy stoner-rock bands. The set features Ape Machine’s blistering hour-long performance in front of a sold-out festival crowd and serves up proof that the band more than lives up to their reputation of captivating and commanding live audiences.

In addition to the upcoming Live at Freak Valley release, Ape Machine has released three critically acclaimed full-length albums, two recent releases of which – Mangled By The Machine and War To Head – were produced by the late Ikey Owens (Jack White, Mars Volta, Mastodon) who also contributed keyboards to both albums. Owens was set to produce the band’s fourth full-length this summer before his untimely death last October while on tour with Jack White. In Ikey Owens’s absence, the band plans to record their next full length this fall with long-time friend Jacob Golden producing.

Last year also found Ape Machine touring extensively, sharing the stage with bands such as Motorhead, Helmet, Orange Goblin, Crobot plus many others. This August however the band embark on a US tour with good friends and fellow Portlanders Black Pussy, bringing their frenzied live show stateside and teaming up with one of the best up-and-coming bands in the scene.

For the full list of tour dates, see below. (All dates w. Black Pussy).

8/20 – Volcanic – Bend, OR
8/21 – McShane’s – Eugene, OR
8/22 – Audie’s – Fresno, CA
8/23 – Los Globos – Los Angeles, CA
8/24 – Casbah – San Diego, CA
8/25 – JR’s – Sierra Vista, AZ
8/26 – Blue Max – Midland, TX
8/27 – Lola’s Saloon – Ft. Worth, TX
8/28 – Holy Mountain – Austin, TX
8/29 – Walter’s – Houston, TX
8/30 – The Ten Eleven – San Antonio, TX
8/31 – Howlin’ Wolf – New Orleans, LA
9/1 – Loosey’s – Gainesville, FL
9/2 – Backbooth – Orlando, FL
9/3 – New World Brewery – Tampa, FL
9/4 – The Nick – Birmingham, AL
9/5 – The Jinx – Savannah, GA
9/6 – Smith’s Olde Bar – Atlanta, GA
9/7 – Springwater Supper Club – Nashville, TN
9/8 – Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
9/9 – Tater and Joe’s – Terre Haute, IN
9/10 – The Demo – St. Louis, MO
9/11 – Outland Ballroom – Springfield, MO
9/12 – Lookout Lounge – Omaha, NE
9/13 – Zoo Bar – Lincoln, NE
9/14 – Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO
9/15 – Leftwoods – Amarillo, TX
9/17 – Beaut Bar – Las Vegas, NV
9/18 – Hood Bar – Palm Desert, CA
9/20 – DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA

Ape Machine, “Strange are the People” Live at Freak Valley 2013

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