Quarterly Review: Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Black Lung, Giant Dwarf, Land Mammal, Skunk, Silver Devil, Sky Burial, Wizzerd, Ian Blurton, Cosmic Fall

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Got my laptop back. Turned out the guy had to give me a new hard drive entirely, clone all my data on it, and scrap the other drive. I’m sure if I took it to another technician they’d have said something completely different, either for better or worse, but it was $165 and I got my computer back, working, in a day, so I can’t really complain. Worth the money, obviously, even though it was $40 more than the estimate. I assume that was a mix of “new hard drive” and “this is the last thing I’m doing before a four-day weekend.” Either way, totally legit. Bit of stress on my part, but what’s a Quarterly Review without it?

This ends the week, but there’s still one more batch of 10 reviews to go on Monday, so I won’t delay further, except to say more to come.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo

elizabeth colour wheel nocebo

A rare level of triumph for a first album, Elizabeth Colour Wheel‘s aesthetic scope and patience of craft on Nocebo result in a genre-spanning post-noise rock that maintains an atmospheric heft whether loud or quiet at any given moment, and a sense of unpredictability that feels born out of a genuinely forward-thinking songwriting process. It is dark, emotionally resonant, beautiful and crushing across its eight songs and 47 minutes, as the Philadelphia five-piece ebb and flow instrumentally behind a standout vocal performance that reminds of Julie Christmas circa Battle of Mice on “Life of a Flower” but is ultimately more controlled and all the more lethal for that. Bouts of extremity pop up at unexpected times and the songs flow into each other so as to make all of Nocebo feel like a single, multi-hued work, which it just might be as it moves into ambience between “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” and “Bedrest” before exploding to life again in “34th” and transitioning directly into the cacophonous apex that comes with closer “Head Home.” One of the best debuts of 2019, if not the best.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser on Bandcamp

 

Black Lung, Ancients

black lung ancients

Ancients is the third full-length from Baltimore’s Black Lung, whose heavy blues rock takes a moodier approach from the outset of “Mother of the Sun” onward, following an organ-led roll in that opener that calls to mind All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door and following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here) with an even firmer grasp on their overarching intent. The title-track is shorter at 3:10 and offers some post-rock flourish in the guitar amid its otherwise straight-ahead push, but there’s a tonal depth to add atmosphere to whatever moves they’re making at the time, “The Seeker” and “Voices” rounding out side A with relatively grounded swing and traditionalist shuffle but still catching attention through pace and presentation alike. That holds true as “Gone” drifts into psychedelic jamming at the start of side B, and the chunkier “Badlands,” the dramatic “Vultures” and the controlled wash of “Dead Man Blues” take the listener into some unnamed desert without a map or exit strategy. It’s a pleasure to get lost as Ancients plays through, and Black Lung remain a well-kept secret of the East Coast underground.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Noisolution website

 

Giant Dwarf, Giant Dwarf

Giant Dwarf Giant Dwarf

This just fucking rules, and I feel no need to couch my critique in any more flowery language than that. Driving, fuzzy heavy rock topped with post-Homme melodies that doesn’t sacrifice impact for attitude, the self-released, self-titled debut from Perth, Australia’s Giant Dwarf is a sans-pretense 35 minutes of groove done right. They may be playing to genre, fine, but from the cover art on down, they’re doing so with a sense of personality and a readiness to bring an individual sensibility to their sound. I dig it. Summery tones, rampant vocal melodies in layers, solid rhythmic foundation beneath. The fact that it’s the five-piece’s first album makes me look less for some kind of stylistic nuance, but it’s there to be heard anyway in “Disco Void” and the bouncing end of “High Tide Blues,” and in surrounding cuts like “Repeat After Defeat” and “Strange Wool,” Giant Dwarf set to the task before them with due vitality, imagining Songs for the Deaf with Fu Manchu tonality in “Kepler.” No big surprise, but yeah, it definitely works. Someone should be beating down the door to sign this band.

Giant Dwarf on Thee Facebooks

Giant Dwarf on Bandcamp

 

Land Mammal, Land Mammal

land mammal land mammal

Land Mammal‘s debut outing is a 14-minute, proof-of-concept four-songer EP with clarity of presentation and telegraphed intent. Marked out by the Robert Plant-style vocal heroics of Kinsley August, the band makes the most of a bluesy atmosphere behind him, with Will Weise on wah-ready guitar, Phillip PJ Soapsmith on bass, Stephen Smith on drums and True Turner on keys. On opener “Dark with Rain” and closer “Better Days,” they find a pastoral vibe that draws from ’90s alternative, thinking Blind Melon particularly in the finale, but “Earth Made Free” takes a bluesier angle and “Drippin’ Slow” is not shy about nor ashamed of its danceability, as its lyrics demonstrate. For all the crispness of the production, Land Mammal still manage to sound relatively natural, which is all the more encouraging in terms of moving forward, but it’ll be interesting to hear how they flesh out their sound over the course of a full-length, since even as an EP, this self-titled is short. They have songwriting, performance and production on their side, however, so something tells me they’ll be just fine.

Land Mammal on Thee Facebooks

Land Mammal on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Strange Vibration

skunk strange vibration

Even before they get to the ultra-“N.I.B.” patterning of second track “Stand in the Sun,” Skunk‘s Sabbathian loyalties are well established, and they continue on that line, through the “War Pigs”-ness of “Goblin Orgy” (though I’ll give them bonus points for that title), and the slower “A National Acrobat” roll of “The Black Crown,” and while that’s not the only influence under which Skunk are working — clearly — it’s arguably the most forward. They’ve been on a traditional path since 2015’s mission-statement EP, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here), and as Strange Vibration is their second album behind 2017’s Doubleblind (review here), they’ve only come more into focus in terms of what they’re doing overall. They throw a bit of swagger into “Evil Eye Gone Blind” and “Star Power” toward the end of the record — more Blackmore or Leslie West than Iommi — but keep the hooks center through it all, and cap with a welcome bit of layered melody on “The Cobra’s Kiss.” Based in Oakland, they don’t quite fit in with the Californian boogie scene to the south, but standing out only seems to suit Strange Vibration all the more.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

Silver Devil, Paralyzed

Silver Devil Paralyzed

Like countrymen outfits in Vokonis or to a somewhat lesser degree Cities of Mars, Gävle-based riffers Silver Devil tap into Sleep as a core influence and work outward from there. In the case of their second album, Paralyzed (on Ozium Records), they work far out indeed, bringing a sonic largesse to bear through plus-sized tonality and distorted vocals casting echoes across a wide chasm of the mix. “Rivers” or the later, slower-rolling “Octopus” rightfully present this as an individual take, and it ends up being that one way or the other, with the atmosphere becoming essential to the character of the material. There are some driving moments that call to mind later Dozer — or newer Greenleaf, if you prefer — such as the centerpiece “No Man Traveller,” but the periodic bouts of post-rock bring complexity to that assessment as well, though in the face of the galloping crescendo of “The Grand Trick,” complexity is a secondary concern to the outright righteousness with which Silver Devil take familiar elements and reshape them into something that sounds fresh and engaging. That’s basically the story of the whole record, come to think of it.

Silver Devil on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records website

 

Sky Burial, Sokushinbutsu

sky burial Sokushinbutsu

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/engineer Vessel 2 and drummer/vocalist Vessel 1 (also ex-Mühr), Sky Burial release their debut EP, Sokushinbutsu, through Break Free Records, and with it issue two songs of densely-weighted riff and crash, captured raw and live-sounding with an edge of visceral sludge thanks to the harsh vocals laid overtop. The prevailing spirit is as much doom as it is crust throughout “Return to Sender” (8:53) and the 10:38 title-track — the word translating from Japanese to “instant Buddha” — and as “Sokushinbutsu” kicks the tempo of the leadoff into higher gear, the release becomes a wash of blown-out tone with shouts cutting through that’s very obviously meant to be as brutal as it absolutely is. They slow down eventually, then slow down more, then slow down more — you see where this is going — until eventually the feedback seems to consume them and everything else, and the low rumble of guitar gives way to noise and biting vocalizations. As beginnings go, Sokushinbutsu is willfully wretched and animalistic, a manifested sonic nihilism that immediately stinks of death.

Sky Burial on Thee Facebooks

Break Free Records on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd, Wizzerd

wizzerd st

One finds Montana’s Wizzerd born of a similar Upper Midwestern next-gen take on classic heavy as that of acts like Bison Machine and Midas. Their Cursed Tongue Records-delivered self-titled debut album gives a strong showing of this foundation, less boogie-based than some, with just an edge of heavy metal to the riffing and vocals that seems to derive not directly from doom, but definitely from some ’80s metal stylizations. Coupled with ’70s and ’90s heavy rocks, it’s a readily accessible blend throughout the nine-song/51-minute LP, but a will toward the epic comes through in theme as well as the general mood of the riffs, and even in the drift of “Wizard” that’s apparent. Taken in kind with the fuzzblaster “Wraith,” the winding motion of the eponymous closer and with the lumbering crash of “Warrior” earlier, the five-piece’s sound shows potential to distinguish itself further in the future through taking on fantasy subject matter lyrically as well as playing to wall-sized grooves across the board, even in the speedy first half of “Phoenix,” with its surprising crash into the wall of its own momentum.

Wizzerd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Ian Blurton, Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

The core of Ian Blurton‘s Signals Through the Flames is in tight, sharply-executed heavy rockers like “Seven Bells” and “Days Will Remain,” classic in their root but not overly derivative, smartly and efficiently composed and performed. The Toronto-based Blurton has been making and producing music for over three decades in various guises and incarnations, and with these nine songs, he brings into focus a songcraft that is more than enough to carry song like “Nothing Left to Lose” and opener “Eye of the Needle,” which bookends with the 6:55 “Into Dust,” the closer arriving after a final salvo with the Scorpionic strut of “Kick out the Lights” and the forward-thrust-into-ether of “Night of the Black Goat.” If this was what Ghost had ended up sounding like, I’d have been cool with that. Blurton‘s years of experience surely come into play in this work, a kind of debut under his own name and/or that of Ian Blurton’s Future Now, but the songs come through as fresh regardless and “The March of Mars” grabs attention not with pedigree, but simply by virtue of its own riff, which is exactly how it should be. It’s subtle in its variety, but those willing to give it a repeat listen or two will find even more reward for doing so.

Ian Blurton on Thee Facebooks

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Lackland

Cosmic Fall Lackland

“Lackland” is the first new material Berlin three-piece Cosmic Fall have produced since last year’s In Search of Space (review here) album, which is only surprising given the frequency with which they once jammed out a record every couple of months. The lone 8:32 track is a fitting reminder of the potency in the lineup of guitarist Marcin Morawski, bassist Klaus Friedrich and drummer Daniel Sax, and listening to the Earthless-style shred in Morawski‘s guitar, one hopes it won’t be another year before they come around again. As it stands, they make the eight minutes speed by with volcanic fervor and an improvised sensibility that feels natural despite the song’s ultimately linear trajectory. Could be a one-off, could be a precursor to a new album. I’d prefer the latter, obviously, but I’ll take what I can get, and if that’s “Lackland,” then so be it.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

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Ian Blurton Sets June 7 Release for Signals Through the Flames

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ian blurtons future now

Way back in January, you might recall a track was premiered from Ian Blurton’s Future Now called “Space is Forever.” That first single will be issued as a 7″ next month and even when that was being posted, it was intended as a lead-in for Blurton‘s upcoming solo-ish record, Signals Through the Flames. Well, I got the album yesterday and the short version is it kicks ass, which is why I’m writing about it now. It’s due out June 7 and I’m sure there will be preorders and advance public audio all that fun stuff, but consider this a heads up. If you’re not from Toronto or the surrounding area, maybe you’re less familiar with Blurton‘s three-decade-plus career in bands and producing, and that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. That context is nice, but in listening to Signals Through the Flames, the songs stand on their own. I’m going to hope to have more on the record before it’s out, but yeah, just early warning here, that’s all. It’s the kind of record that’s really going to hit with some people. I think I might be one of them.

Art and PR wire info follow:

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton – Signals Through The Flame – Pajama Party

Release: 7 June 2019

It’s time for a veteran to show the new generation how it’s done. After 35+ years in the Canadian music industry, playing in over 40 bands and producing, engineering and mixing over 100 albums, Ian Blurton is finally releasing a solo record. You’ve probably seen Blurton play in your town, fronting Change of Heart, Blurtonia, Bionic, C’mon, or the still-active Public Animal. If you missed those bands, his name is still likely to pop up somewhere in your record collection; you’ll find Blurton’s producer credit on career-defining albums for Blood Ceremony, Cursed, Tricky Woo, the Weakerthans and more. Or you may have caught him guest with acts as diverse as Richard Lloyd, Buffy Sainte-Marie , the Sadies, Teenage Head, Twink or The Viletones.

It’s no surprise that Blurton’s inaugural solo effort pulls from an impressive pool of talent and a range of influences. In 2017 a sudden torrent of inspiration brought him a slew of songs best suited to a power-trio format. Enlisting friends who also happened to be some of his favorite drummers and bassists, he set out on a quest to create a combination of dark pop hooks, molten riffage and ambient soundscapes that is his heaviest work to date. Between Blurton’s layers-upon-layers of guitar, a plethora of gifted musicians such as Mike Armstrong (King Cobb Steelie), PJ Dunphy (Iron Giant), Eric Larock (Tricky Woo), Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo), Damon Richardson (Danko Jones), Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman), Nick Sewell (Biblical), and Darcy Yates (Flash Lightnin’) all make appearance on Signals Through the Flames. The result is a heavy music melting pot with one foot in the past and the other planted firmly in the future.

Mixed by Daryl Smith (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at Chemical West and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Signals Through The Flames will be released by new Toronto imprint Pajama Party digitally, on vinyl and cassette June 7, 2019.

The first single, Space Is Forever b/w Upon Yesterday, is out May 4 on Yeah Right! Records, launching at a release show at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and can be heard here: ianblurton.bandcamp.com

The live band, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, draws from the same talent as the record, and currently features drummer Glenn Milchem, bassist Anna Ruddick and Aaron Goldstein as second guitarist. This spring and summer sees the band playing dates between Montreal and Calgary, including appearances at Sled Island and Hillside Festival.

Tracklisting
01 EYE OF THE NEEDLE 4:55
02 SEVEN BELLS 3:34
03 DAYS WILL REMAIN 3:30
04 THE MARCH OF MARS 4:18
05 NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE 3:16
06 ICQ 2:58
07 KICK OUT THE LIGHTS 4:53
08 NIGHT OF THE BLACK GOAT 4:47
09 INTO DUST 6:37

Tour dates
May 1 Montreal – Turbo Haus w/ Dead Quiet, Mountain Dust
May 4 Toronto – Dakota Tavern w/ Sick Things, Rough Spells
May 17 Peterborough – Gordon Best Theatre w/ Mokomokai
June 6 Toronto – Sneaky Dees w/ Spirit Adrift
June 7 Kitchener – The Starlight w/ Hawkeyes
June 14 Toronto – secret show NXNE
June 17 Sudbury – The Townehouse
June 18 Thunder Bay – The Apollo
June 19 Winnipeg – The Handsome Daughter
June 20 Saskatoon – Amigo’s
June 21 Edmonton – The Rec Room Edmonton South
June 22 Calgary – The Palomino/Sled Island Festival
June 23 Regina – The Club at The Exchange
July 14 Guelph – Hillside Festival
July 19 Hamilton – This Ain’t Hollywood
July 20 Toronto – The Horseshoe Signals Through The Flames record release

ianblurton.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/ianblurton

Ian Blurton, “Space is Forever”

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