Pale Grey Lore Self-Titled LP Due Dec. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

pale grey lore

I was a big fan of the self-titled first full-length from Ohio heavy rockers Pale Grey Lore (review here) when it was released last year by the band on their own. Enough so that I considered it one of 2016’s best debut albums, and I’ll happily stand by that a year after the fact. Right out of the gate, the Columbus natives showcased an ability to craft memorable songs that were about more than just their hooks, but still delivered those with righteous efficiency. Their material was tight, mature in a way that undercut the fact that it was their first album, and wholly unpretentious. There was, in short, a lot to like.

On Dec. 1, Kozmik Artifactz offshoot Oak Island Records will release Pale Grey Lore‘s Pale Grey Lore as a limited LP. The band has a release show booked in their hometown at The Spacebar and preorders are set to start soon. If you didn’t dig into the album when it came out last year, no time like the present to get caught up. You’ll find it streaming in full at the bottom of this post.

Dig:

pale-grey-lore-pale-grey-lore-lp

Originally released on CD and digital download in June of 2016, Pale Grey Lore’s self-titled debut album is slated for vinyl release on December 1st 2017 via German label Kozmik Artifactz’s imprint Oak Island Records. Featuring cover art by Joel Chastain, the album was recorded and engineered by Andy Sartain and mastered by Harold LaRue.

Melodic vocals and tasteful harmonies echo alongside thunderous drums, while fuzz-drenched reverberating guitars push demon-haunted vintage amplifiers to the brink. Spanning the genres of psych rock, doom metal, post-punk and drone pop, the album’s nine tracks are refreshingly diverse, yet part of a remarkably coherent whole that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
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The vinyl release party will take place on Friday December 1st at The Spacebar in Columbus Ohio and will feature special guests Matter of Planets (from Columbus) and Pillärs (from Cleveland).

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http://palegreylore.bigcartel.com/
http://palegreylore.bandcamp.com/
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http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng

Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore: No Wasted Space

Posted in Reviews on September 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

pale grey lore pale grey lore

Nothing’s been announced as yet, but don’t be surprised when the news comes out that this or that label has snagged Pale Grey Lore for a pressing of their self-titled debut. The band has hinted at a vinyl issue in 2017 for the as-of-now-self-released offering, and with the level of songcraft they show throughout, the sheer efficiency of the material, it just seems like too prime an opportunity to pass up putting on a platter.

Comprised of brothers Michael (guitar/vocals) and Adam Miller (drums) and bassist Donovan Johnson, the trio got their start in 2014 and so it seems fair to consider them a relatively new project, having played locally around Ohio, but with the nine tracks/32 minutes of Pale Grey Lore, they dive headfirst into influences classic and modern and come out of the process with a crisp execution and an identity of their own. That would be enough to have it make sense for someone to pick them up — bands have been signed for far less — but the hooks and the performances only let them shine all the more.

Stylistically cohesive across the front-to-back span, the album shies away neither from classic psych-pop, as highlight centerpiece “She Radiates” shows with its theremin and trippy soloing, nor from the modern cult stoner crunch of “Black Sun Rise.” Songs run in the three-to-four-minute range exclusively, and though moods vary, among the factors most tying the record together one cut to the next is the mindful structuring that seems to be the root of their approach. They sound like a band with a whiteboard in the rehearsal space, but at the same time have more to offer in melody and groove than just being able to put together a verse and chorus in a way that makes sense.

To wit, the swath they cut through modern heavy rock is pretty deep. One can hear ’90s vibes in the poppy “Life in the Hive” and the later “Woe Betide Us,” Michael seeming to move into and out of a British accent with ease, but opener “The Conjuration” rolls out a groove that finds common argument with Elephant Tree‘s recent self-titled debut, and the key infusion in the penultimate “Tell the Masters” and riff of closer “Grave Future” add a cultish feel that seems to speak to life after Uncle Acid.

There are sonic differences, but I’d also say that what Pale Grey Lore are doing with reimagining post-grunge ’90s alt-rock isn’t all that dissimilar in process to what Demon Lung do to classic doom — a refresh of an established sound that seeks to put its own stamp on familiar themes. Quality of songwriting might be a factor in that comparison as well, even though, again, each group is on its own wavelength. Still, these impressions persist and Pale Grey Lore‘s debut makes an impressive melting pot for them.

pale grey lore

Not at all haphazard and less exploratory feeling than debuts often are, it carries a sense of confidence in what it wants to do and that it can make those ideas a reality — so of course it does. Even in darker moments like “Black Sun Rise” or “Woe Betide Us,” Pale Grey Lore don’t position themselves at such remove from the shimmer at the end of “Spiders” or “She Radiates” as to make their transitions jarring, and if anything, the album is done before the formula has a chance to really sink in.

Brevity can be a decisive advantage. I’m not sure Pale Grey Lore would work in the same way if it was 45-50 minutes long, and I’m not sure sacrificing the neatly-presented semi-psychedelic push of “Ruins” would be worth having the band flesh out the songs further or extended them somehow simply for the sake of doing so.

The ’90s revivalist psych-rock of “She Radiates,” for example, comes across so fluidly with its languid, echoing vocals, bouncing chorus riff and ’60s-worship solo that to mess with it would seem cruel. This material has obviously been worked on, hammered out, maybe even whittled down to get to the point it’s at, and Pale Grey Lore may decide as they move forward that they want a looser approach to songwriting, that they’re more suited to jamming out or something like that, but what they’ve done with their first album is show that the three of them — the two Millers and Johnson, together — can work as a single unit toward expressing musical ideas through craft.

They’ve shown that it’s not about who’s in the band, or any particular player necessarily — though Michael has several shining moments of tone and vocals — but about the songs they’ve come up with and executed as a group. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a palpable sensibility throughout Pale Grey Lore, no matter how the vibe might change between “Woe Betide Us” and “Grave Future,” that brings the material together and helps create the linear front-to-back flow which, as in the best of cases, only makes individual tracks feel stronger as it goes.

Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore (2016)

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Pale Grey Lore Release Self-Titled Debut

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

pale grey lore

I’ll be honest. These guys dropped me a line, caught me at the right moment, I checked out the record and dug what they were doing and that’s why I’m putting up a post about the album being released when it was over a month ago. Because I think the release is worth noting, and if you, like me, hadn’t yet checked out Ohio trio Pale Grey Lore and their self-titled debut, currently available digitally and on CD, then, well, you might want to go head and get yourself introduced.

The band was kind enough to give me some background on who they are and what they do and while I’ve still got digging in to do before I’ll be ready to review it properly, I think the description of their mission provided sums up the scope of the record pretty well, particularly when it comes to words like “psych” and “concise.” On early impression, it is strikingly efficient for a first album. I dig it.

Info, links and audio:

pale grey lore self titled

Pale Grey Lore debut album

Pale Grey Lore began as a collaboration between brothers Michael (guitar, vocals) and Adam Miller (drums), with Donovan Johnson (bass) joining up in the summer of 2014. Drawing upon elements of psych, doom, sludge, post-punk, and garage rock, Pale Grey Lore create groove-laden, fuzzed-out songs that are spacey yet concise. Their debut self-titled album, released in June of 2016, was engineered by Andy Sartain at Mindfield Recording and Mixing and mastered by Harold LaRue.

Conceived as a series of surreal vignettes, each track depicts allegorical scenes from a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world in which the lines between science and the occult, technology and superstition, are hopelessly blurred.

Guitar, vocals, theremin – Michael Miller
Drums – Adam Miller
Bass – Donovan Johnson

Music by Pale Grey Lore
Lyrics by Michael Miller
Recorded, engineered and mixed by Andy Sartain
Mastered by Harold LaRue
Cover art by Joel Chastain

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

Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore (2016)

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