Review & Full Album Stream: Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

abrahma in time for the last rays of light

[Click play above to stream Abrahma’s In Time for the Last Rays of Light in its entirety. Album is out Friday on Small Stone Records and Deadlight Entertainment.]

It has been an especially long four years since France’s Abrahma released their second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here). As early as 2016, the topic of a new full-length had been broached, and they revealed recording plans in consecutive Junes across 2017 and 2018. The latter took. By the time they got there, guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter Sébastien Bismuth was the lone remaining original member of the band, with a changing lineup around him that contributed in no small part to the delay. In the end, it was by absorbing the entirety of the band Splendor Solis that Bismuth was able to construct Abrahma as a five-piece and enter Orgone Studios to record with Jaime Gomez Arellano, known for his work with Paradise Lost, GhostDream DeathOrange Goblin, etc., and the resulting LP, In Time for the Last Rays of Light, harvests cohesion from the tumult of its making.

With Bismuth joined by guitarist/synthesist/noisemaker Benoît Carel, guitarist/vocalist Florian Leguillon, bassist/vocalist Romain Hauduc and drummer/vocalist Baptiste Keriel, the eight tracks and 49 minutes of the record play out with a fullness and a patience that undercuts the basic idea that this is a completely new lineup — perhaps the fact that CarelLeguillonHauduc and Keriel were a band previously helps — and builds on the atmospheric impression Abrahma made on their second LP with a greater focus on songwriting patience and telling a story with the songs front to back. The operating theme is coping with mental illness, specifically depression, and whether it’s the wailing guitar of “Lost. Forever.” or the turns between massive chug and harmonized vocals of the penultimate “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle,” Bismuth and company hold firmly to that focus across the record’s span. Methodical pacing and tonal weight lend depth to the mood of the material, and while there’s certainly a creative range at play, the songs serve the purpose of conveying that theme regardless of arrangement or other factors.

Those who remember Abrahma‘s 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), might be surprised at just how metal some of the guitars sound throughout In Time for the Last Rays of Light, be it at the end of 8:41 third and longest cut “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 1: Isolation Ghosts” or in the six-minute side B leadoff “Last Epistle,” which emerges from a short intro “Dusk Contemplation” with what would be the album’s most intense spirit — capping in some unabashedly death metal-style chugga-chug in the fadeout accompanied by double-kick drum that’s only too appropriate — were it not for the subsequent “Wander in Sedation,” which swirls in on a dark severity of tone and resolves its lumbering progression in a culminating stretch of blastbeats, echoing those earlier of “Lucidly Adrift” on side A, which takes hold from side A and marries together heavy post-rock with these more extreme impulses.

abrahma

What actually keeps Abrahma from being full-tilt metal is their melodic sensibility and the overarching groove of In Time for the Last Rays of Light. There are moments certainly where one might call out a doom-rooted sense of theatricality, as on closer “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit,” in which a complex arrangement of multiple vocalists — or at least multiple layers — brings mournful resolution to the turbulence preceding, going so far as to have some shouting behind Bismuth in a call-and-response in the pre-chorus, touching on a vibe that would nod to Arellano‘s work with Paradise Lost in its general atmosphere, but working from a foundation of heavy rock instead of classic doom. Still, Abrahma make the lines between styles blurrier on In Time for the Last Rays of Light than they ever have before, and that in itself is something of a victory when it comes to establishing their sound on their third record. They are their most progressive here and their most sonically bold, from the memorable lead line of “Lost. Forever.” setting the downer course for what follows through the last march of “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit” into its fading ringout.

In keeping with that, Bismuth‘s presence as a frontman has never been so palpable. His vocal melodies range further than they have before, and with the others surrounding him at various points throughout, it leads to a more complete and more engaging experience, contrasting the instrumental thrust at times, but finding a foothold in that contrast. And maybe that’s the idea of the record as a whole — exploring or at least trying to come to an understanding of that dynamic and finding a place within it from which to express the emotionality at the core of In Time for the Last Rays of Light. Depression is not an easy to talk about. If it were, it would probably be less pervasive. But Abrahma do not shy away from saying what they want to say about it, and while they don’t go so far as to offer some clichéd hopeful ending, they do manage to craft something beautiful out of the darkened foundations from which they work. The inevitable question, then, is what it will lead to, and how indicative In Time for the Last Rays of Light ultimately will be of where the band are headed, creatively as well as in the simple reality of the players involved.

I don’t know if Abrahma‘s lineup woes are done or not, but listening to “Last Epistle,” “Lucidly Adrift,” “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle” and each of the other tracks that make it, it’s clear In Time for the Last Rays of Light was an album that the band needed to make, almost to exorcise it from their collective system. It is a record of striking instrumental purpose and expressive intent. It not only moves their sound forward from where it was four years ago, but it changes the narrative of the group’s function and that of Bismuth as a bandleader and songwriter. What might come next, I won’t speculate, but for the way it lays bare the personal and pushes Abrahma to places they’ve never been, it is an achievement worthy of the obvious pains taken to make it.

Abrahma website

Abrahma on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

Deadlight Entertainment website

Deadlight Entertainment on Thee Facebooks

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Starmonger Premiere “Dark and Gloomy” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

starmonger

The video for Starmonger‘s “Dark and Gloomy” does well in terms of living up to its name. It starts out with a creepy kind of Gollum/mystic/zombie guy in a room with some tarot cards, taxidermy, flashing lights, wallpaper that needs replacing and other freaky bric-a-brac, and then, after the riff kicks in and the leather-jacket-clad Parisian three-piece start whipping out dirtied up Red Fang melody delivered with post-Baroness harmonies from bassist Steve and guitarist Arthur while Seb pounds away on drums, Mr. Grey — gotta call him something — pukes up some rubber cement, makes a paper mache mask out of the cards, and interpretative dance performance art ensues. I don’t mind telling you it’s fucking weird. It’s also dark. And gloomy. So, mission accomplished. Also, the song rules.

“Dark and Gloomy” appears on Starmonger‘s third EP, Revelation III. You can probably guess what its two predecessors were called, and they were released in 2017 and 2015, respectively. The trio did a video last Fall for the other song on Revelation III, “Rust to Dust,” and the vibe was totally different. No leather jackets, no creepy rubber cement vomit, just some old public domain footage of race cars and the band in their rehearsal space mixed together. Fair enough to go for something else this time around, but it really draws a line atmospherically between the two songs, when essentially the components that make them up are similar in terms of melody, tone, groove, etc. Something to be said perhaps for the power of suggestion in thinking “Dark and Gloomy” is dark and gloomy, but it’s to the band’s credit either way that they’re able to manipulate their approach to convey multiple atmospheres even just on a two-song release. Of course, it’s their third one — actually, Revelation II had three songs — so take that as you will.

Reportedly — and by that I mean going from what they say below — there’s another EP in the works. I can only think that Starmonger have made a purposeful choice not to put out a full-length at this point. Not that it’s been so long — four years since the first EP is nothing on the grand cosmic scale — but I don’t think you can listen to “Dark and Gloomy” or “Rust to Dust” and think of them as a new band searching for their sound. They’ve clearly got it down. So maybe the shorter releases are a way to build up to an eventual compilation? If so, they’re just about there. But that seems like an easy answer. I wonder what the reasoning is for a fourth EP instead of an LP, that’s all. I’m not criticizing it or saying it’s a bad choice or it’s wrong somehow — if it’s what they want to do and they know that, then it’s very much the right choice — I’m just curious, that’s all.

Something to think about while you’re watching Mr. Grey regurgitate adhesives. Gross. Ha.

These guys know what they’re doing. Enjoy the clip:

Starmonger, “Dark and Gloomy” official video premiere

Psychic, seer, fortune-teller…? Starmonger gives glimpses of their divinations through spellbinding melodies and rhythms, occult revelations and fantastic, extravagant stories.

In 2015, Steve (bass) and Arthur (guitar) began incorporating modern stoner rock influences and orientations to their jams. They quickly recorded their first homemade demo, “Revelation”, and after offering several drummers in ritual sacrifices, they were joined by Seb in 2017 on heavy-drumming duty.

With their next EPs, “Revelation II” and “III”, Starmonger continued its search for expanding and thickening its own sound. As they refuse to stay stuck with the same old recipe, Steve, Arthur and Seb keep experimenting with old school 70s rock and mesmerizing, fuzz-soaked stoner rock beats, while adding a progressive dimension to the raw power and efficiency of a power-trio format. Throughout their songs, the band evoke strange and phantasmagoric B-movies and pulp stories, from post-apocalyptic deserts to unfathomable beasts from the abyss.

2019 is packed with promises, with a new music video for “Dark & Gloomy” (from “Revelation III”) along with multiple gigs around Paris. Starmonger is also polishing their new songs for another homemade, self-produced EP. Stay tuned…

Their 3 self-produced EPs are available on bandcamp: https://starmonger.bandcamp.com/

Next live gigs :
23 May 2019 : le Klub, Paris (with Stoned Void, Dead Acid People, Qilin)

Starmonger are :
Steve : bass & vocals
Arthur : guitars
Seb : drums

Starmonger, Revelation III EP (2018)

Starmonger on Thee Facebooks

Starmonger on Bandcamp

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Pencey Sloe to Release Debut Album Don’t Believe, Watch Out on Prophecy Productions

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

pencey sloe

Among the great many things for which I’m an absolute sucker is a total immersive wash of melody. One can hear shades of post-black metal in Pencey Sloe‘s new single, “Lust of the Dead,” but more than that, what stands out is the fullness of sound as the track progresses, the spaciousness it creates and then occupies with rich-but-still-floating tonality. Their debut EP was apparently enough to get the attention of Prophecy Productions, and that venerable imprint will release the trio’s debut album, Don’t Believe, Watch Out, later this year. You can hear the new track at the bottom of this post, and consider this your recommendation that you do so.

No release date for the record as yet, but there’s plenty of 2019 left for it to show up. I’d guess September, if not before? Either way, I think particularly after you hear the song you’ll agree it’s one to look out for.

Dig:

pencey sloe lust of the dead

Prophecy Productions signs French prodigy Pencey Sloe

Paris-based Pencey Sloe seemingly came out of nowhere only two years ago, which is hard to believe while listening to their rich, elegant songs. Born out of a casual exchange of ideas between guitarist, singer and main composer Diane Pellotieri, lead guitarist Valentin Beaucourt and drummer Clément Aulnois, the threesome’s music reflects a distinctly original spin on shoegaze and dream pop.

With somnambulistic certainty and a name harking back to American novelist J.D. Salinger, the trio creates soundscapes of beautifully psychedelic color with some darker tinges that urge you to glimpse into your own inner abyss. Diane and her fellows craft songs with both youthful abandon and astounding maturity. There is a particular deftness in Pencey Sloe’s harmonic interplay between jangling guitars and the front woman’s angelic voice, all held together by infectiously straight drumming.

After recording a demo EP and performing just a few shows on their home turf, Pencey Sloe quickly came onto the radar of Prophecy Productions, who immediately recognized the band’s vast potential. Though still a relatively new act, Pencey Sloe already have their admirers, amongst them Alcest’s Stéphane “Neige” Paut, who says about his young compatriots: “I discovered Pencey Sloe when they released their EP and instantly fell in love with their dark, ethereal sound. I think they are one of the most promising French bands, and their music will surely appeal to fans of Slowdive, Low or Chelsea Wolfe.”

Diane says with regards to the signing, “We are thankful to be part of the Prophecy family. We adore their devotion and true passion for different music and artists, with whom they have an incredible relationship of trust and respect.”

Pencey Sloe just recorded their first album, “Don’t Believe, Watch Out”, at Drudenhaus Studio (Alcest, Les Discrets), to be released later in 2019. In anticipation, the first single, ‘Lust Of The Dead’, is now available digitally.

Pencey Sloe is:
Diane Pellotieri
Clément Baptiste
Valentin Beaucourt

https://www.facebook.com/Penceysloe/
https://penceysloe.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/
http://en.prophecy.de/

Pencey Sloe, “Lust of the Dead”

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Abrahma Post “Lost Forever” Video; In Time for the Last Rays of Light Available to Preorder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

abrahma

It is exceedingly hard to discuss depression. The second one enters into the classification of a diagnosis, the conversation changes. You become less of a person than the manifestation of an idea. This is true of any diagnosis. Think of the simple language involved sometimes. Depressives. Schizophrenics. Cancer patients. Not “people with…” but a simple, easily-filed categorization that saps the individual of their humanity when, let’s face it, acknowledging one’s humanity could potentially go a long way as a first step to addressing the issue in question. It doesn’t always help — it’s not going to make tumors stop growing — but it never hurts.

Making their return after an even-longer-feeling four-year absence, French progressive heavy rockers Abrahma are tackling the issue of depression head on with their new album, In Time for the Last Rays of Light, which is out May 24 on Small Stone and Deadlight Entertainment. The follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) indeed puts a human face on depression and the effects thereof on oneself and those surrounding. The video for “Lost Forever” directly portrays the despondency and loneliness that one can feel, even when in the company of loved ones. It manifests in the clip directed by Michael Leclere as a grueling agony with a tragic end and is by no means easy to watch.

“Lost Forever” is the opening track on In Time for the Last Rays of Light. I’m hoping to set up a premiere with a review as we get closer to the release, so keep an eye out for that (or, you know, don’t, if it doesn’t happen), but in the meantime, you can see the clip for “Lost Forever” below, followed by more info from the PR wire. I’d normally say “enjoy” here, but it seems crass given the context. Maybe just understand?

Here goes:

Abrahma, “Lost Forever” official video

In Time For The Last Rays Of Light is the third full-length from French progressive heavy rock outfit ABRAHMA. Set for release next month via Small Stone, the record follows three tumultuous years of personal challenges and lineup changes and is a chronicle of the ravages of coping with loss and mental illness, brought to bear with heavy and progressive songwriting, melodic catharsis, and an impact that goes beyond the material itself.

In advance of its release, the band has unveiled the moving video clip for “Lost Forever.” Offers director Michael Leclere, “‘Lost Forever’ unequivocally deals with depression, so I wanted to evoke identity quest as a parry to nothingness; when you lose yourself into the wilderness and have to draw in your own resources, facing yourself and looking after your animus, finding the strength to fight for things that may seem meaningless. Moving slowly toward an inextricable death, whether you do it to get a little more time or to find epiphany as a last shield before the abyss. We keep scattering pieces of ourselves through our constant efforts to stay alive. It’s like dying a little more each time. And it’s what will get us in the end.”

ABRAHMA’s In Time For The Last Rays Of Light will be released May 24th on CD and digital formats worldwide via Small Stone Records and in France on Deadlight Entertainment. For preorders go to THIS LOCATION.

Abrahma is:
Sébastien Bismuth – Vocals, Guitars
Florian Leguillon – Guitars, Vocals
Benoît Carel – Guitars, Synths & Effects
Romain Hauduc – Bass, Vocals
Baptiste Keriel – Drums, Vocals

Abrahma website

Abrahma on Thee Facebooks

Abrahma on Twitter

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Abrahma Announce May 24 Release for In Time for the Last Rays of Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

abrahma

As it happens, I wrote the bio for Abrahma‘s upcoming third album, In Time for the Last Rays of Light, which will be out May 24 through Small Stone Records everywhere else and Deadlight Entertainment in the band’s native France. So yes, I’ve heard it. It is a darker affair than either of Abrahma‘s other two albums, but still carries the weight and impact that so typified 2016’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here). No question though that the context has shifted, and founding frontman Sébastien Bismuth talks about a bit of what that’s all about in the bio below, touching on inward and outward tumult of a kind that, hey, I get it. Like, a lot.

I’m going to try to get some coverage set up for this one, so I’ll say “more to come” and leave it at that. You’ll find the PR wire below, and the bio I wrote starts after the “–” in the second paragraph.

Dig:

abrahma in time for the last rays of light

ABRAHMA to release third album “In Time For The Last Rays Of Light” on May 24th through Small Stone Records

ABRAHMA’s third album “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” follows three tumultuous years of personal challenges and lineup changes. It is a chronicle of the ravages of coping with loss and mental illness, brought to bear with heavy and progressive songwriting, melodic catharsis and an impact that goes beyond the material itself.

— Produced and mixed at Orgone Studios by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Paradise Lost, Ghost, Candlemass), “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” follows 2015’s “Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird” and whether it is the stark chug and lumbering weight of “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 1: Isolation Ghosts” or the furious blast-beating in the prior “Lucidly Adrift,” its songs produce a depth of atmosphere that speaks to the soul that birthed them. A split with the prior lineup of the band brought the Rouen, France-based founding vocalist/guitarist Sébastien Bismuth into contact with local outfit Splendor Solis, whose members would soon be folded into the new incarnation of ABRAHMA. After many false starts, the band hit the studio in July 2018 and set to work on what is unmistakably their greatest accomplishment to-date: an album that copes with the depression that birthed it and soars hopefully above while reminding that the darkness beneath is ever-present.

“People do not take mental illness seriously,” says Bismuth. “People suffering from depression generally feel rejected, and it is not only a feeling. People that never gone through it generally do not really understand how hard it can be to live every day with this weight on your shoulders, all those questions going through your head.” Spanning genres and decades of influence, from the Bowie-ism of “…Last Epistle” to the gothic unfolding of closer “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit,” “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” speaks with raw honesty and lush craft to its challenges and realizations. In keeping with the album’s theme, a portion of the merch proceeds from ABRAHMA’s next tours will go to help those suffering from mental illness. “I decided to use this album has a medication against this depression and maybe help other people in this situation,” Bismuth recounts. “Each song explains a different side of it: loss of confidence, other’s critical looks, the impression of not having a place in this world.”

With front and back covers by famed French artist Gustave Doré (1832-1883) and a greater expanse of sound than ABRAHMA has ever had before, “In Time for the Last Rays of Light” confronts its demons and offers a reminder that light exists in the first place. (Words by JJ Koczan for The Obelisk)

ABRAHMA “In Time For The Last Rays Of Light”
Out May 24th on Small Stone Records (world)
and Deadlight Entertainment (France)

TRACK LISTING :
1. Lost.Forever.
2. Lucidly Adrift
3. Eclipse of the Sane Pt.1: Isolation Ghosts
4. Dusk Contemplation…
5. …Last Epistle
6. Wander in Sedation
7. Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle
8. There Bears the fruit of Deceit

Sébastien Bismuth – Vocals, Guitars
Florian Leguillon – Guitars, Vocals
Benoît Carel – Guitars, Synths & Effects
Romain Hauduc – Bass, Vocals
Baptiste Keriel – Drums, Vocals

www.abrahmamusic.net
www.facebook.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.twitter.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com

Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light teaser

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P.H.O.B.O.S. Premiere “Taqiyah Rhyzom” from Phlogiston Catharsis out Sept. 10

Posted in audiObelisk on September 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

phobos

Parisian acronymic industrialists P.H.O.B.O.S. will release their fourth full-length, Phlogiston Catharsis, Sept. 10 via Transcending Obscurity Records. Following a revamped/expanded lineup that brought guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Mani Ann-Sitar and bassist/programmer/etc. Magnus Larssen into the group alongside band founder Frédéric Sacri, who started the project in 2000 as a trio and gradually came to be the sole representative of P.H.O.B.O.S.‘ sound, as well as to record their material at his own studio, Sapel Lomor (which in phonetic French is pretty close to “it’s called love,” though I don’t know if that’s what he was going for), and release it through the self-made imprint Megaton Mass Products, the new album brings harsh vitality to a style that’s often staid or cold by nature.

P.H.O.B.O.S. aren’t that. If anything, they’re as molten as the imagery on the album cover, but it’s not the kind of easy-flowing groove-mongering one might expect from the use of that word. This is more like the actual process of melting rock and metal, of turning it into something churning and blistering to the touch. Like the meeting of minds between Satyricon and a doomed-out Godflesh, the eight-track/46-minute Phlogiston Catharsis revels in its assault factor and brutal chaotic wash.

It’s an oppressive and atmospheric work, with programmed beats and sampled noise serving as a bed for opener “Biomorphorror” and the more guitar-driven “Igneous Tephrapotheosis,” which follows, and the later, relatively uptempo “Neurasthen Logorrh,” the pacing of which does nothing to letup the chaotic feel. Consider as well the buzzing tone of the penultimate “Aljannashid,” which is the longest track on Phlogiston Catharsis at just under seven minutes, and its wide and spacious crushing sensibility, like being steamrolled by some large piece of mechanized equipment meant to flatten a four-lane highway in one go. Tension runs high throughout, of course, and the deep-diving ambience of “Zam Alien Canyons” and the forwardphobos Phlogiston Catharsis beats of “Aurora Sulphura” seem to further the sense of automated terror.

Sacri, drawing nearer to the 20-year mark with the band, obviously knows where he wants to be in terms of aesthetics, and if P.H.O.B.O.S. is the execution of that deranged will, its pulsations and anticosmic push speak to a clear vision brought to bear. For all its maddening aspects, Phlogiston Catharsis is striking in its cohesion, and more than just a meld of genres, pitting industrial and doom and black metal against each other in succession and seeing which comes out on top, the album finds P.H.O.B.O.S. bringing otherwise disparate styles together in pieces like the guitar-noise-laden “Taqiyah Rhyzom” and the cavernous finale “Smothered in Scoria” to craft a varied identity able to shift focus from one to the other without losing a grip on its central purpose of expression.

And that expression is resoundingly, unapologetically dark. Phlogiston Catharsis bears its chug and churn as a direct challenge to the listener, and as “Smothered in Scoria” lurches to its post-solo finish of noise wash and atmospheric screaming, it’s made plain that everything P.H.O.B.O.S. do is in service to an idea of the song, of what each song should be and what each song should bring to the collection as a whole. I won’t say it flows smoothly, because it’s not intended to, but if you let it, Phlogiston Catharsis will carry you from its beginning to end.

But it’s a ride not everybody will dare to take, and one imagines that 18 years later, Sacri is just fine with that. So be it. Destructive and willful, Phlogiston Catharsis manifests a striking stylistic nuance, and whether one approaches it from a place of black metal, or sludge, or doom, or electronic music, it’s the kind of release that grabs its audience’s attention and refuses to let go for the duration. If you’re willing to go along with it, the rewards are significant.

You can stream “Taqiyah Rhyzom” from Phlogiston Catharsis now on the player below. More PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

P.H.O.B.O.S., “Taqiyah Rhyzom” official track premiere

Dark and hypnotic, P.H.O.B.O.S.’s much awaited full length after their split with Blut Aus Nord and a standalone EP is genre-bending exercise for the French band. ‘Phlogiston Catharsis’ contains eight tracks of highly atmospheric industrial-tinged black/doom metal that are both visceral as well as sonically compulsive. These throbbing, sludgy tunes are atavistic in their heaviness but at the same time forward-thinking in their expression. Taking the best elements of black and doom metal, they concoct a form of music that possibly no other band can claim rights to. Their sound is singular, ominous and game-changing. It’s the soundtrack of impending doom.

Line up –
frederic sacri > distortion / keys / pulse / vox
mani ann-sitar > distortion / keys / vox
magnus larssen > subs / infras / lines / pulse

artwork and layout – Synckop (Deafhaven, Merzbow)

P.H.O.B.O.S. on Thee Facebooks

P.H.O.B.O.S. on Bandcamp

P.H.O.B.O.S. website

Transcending Obscurity Records on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Heilung, Amarok, T.G. Olson, Sun Dial, Lucid Grave, Domadora, Klandestin, Poor Little Things, Motorowl

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know what’s disheartening? When someone goes ‘thanks dudes.’ You know, I share a review or something, the band reposts and goes ‘thanks to the crew at The Obelisk blah blah.’ What fucking crew? If I had a crew, I’d put up 10 reviews every single day of the year. “Crew.” Shit. I am the crew. In the description of this site, the very first thing it says is “One-man operation.” It’s a fucking solo-project. That’s the whole point of it. It’s like me looking at your bass and going, “Sweet guitar, thanks for the solos brah.” I’m happy people want to share links and this and that, but really? It’s been nine years. Give me a break.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Nobody gives a shit. Now I remember. Thanks for reading.

And while we’re here, please remember the numbers for these posts don’t mean anything. This isn’t a countdown. Or a countup. It’s just me keeping track of how much shit I’m reviewing. The answer is “a lot.”

Grump grump grump.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Lucifer, Lucifer II

lucifer lucifer ii

Recorded as the trio of vocalist Johanna Sardonis (ex-The Oath), guitarist Robin Tidebrink (Saturn) and guitarist/drummer Nicke Andersson (Death Breath, ex-Entombed, ex-The Hellacopters), Lucifer’s second album, Lucifer II (on Rise Above), follows three years after its numerical predecessor, Lucifer I (review here), and marks its personnel changes with a remarkable consistency of mission. Like Mercyful Fate gone disco, the formerly-Berlin/London-now-Stockholm group bring stage-ready atmospheres to songs like “Phoenix” and the riff-led “Before the Sun,” while unleashing a largesse of hooks in “Dreamer” and the boogie-pushing “Eyes in the Sky.” “Dancing with Mr. D” brings nod to a Rolling Stones cover, and “Before the Sun” reaffirms a heavy ‘70s root in their sound. I can’t help but wonder if the doomier “Faux Pharaoh” is a sequel to “Purple Pyramid,” but either way, its thicker, darker tonality is welcome ahead of the bonus track Scorpions cover “Evening Wind,” which again demonstrates the ease with which Lucifer make established sounds their own. That’s pretty much the message of the whole album. Lucifer are a big band. Lucifer II makes the case for their being a household name.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records webstore

 

Heilung, Lifa

heilung lifa

Lifa is the audio taken from the live video that brought Denmark’s Heilung to prominence. Captured at Castlefest in The Netherlands in last year, the impression the expansive Viking folk group made was all the more powerful with elaborate costuming, bone percussive instruments, antlers, animal-skin drums, and so on. Their debut studio album, Ofnir, came out in 2015 and like LIFA has been issued by Season of Mist, but the attention to detail and A/V experience only adds to the hypnotic tension and experimentalist edge in the material. Does it work with just the audio? Yes. The 12-minute “In Maijan” and somehow-black-metal “Krigsgaldr” maintain their trance-out-of-history aspect, and the 75-minute set blends multi-tiered melodies and goblin-voiced declarations for an impression unlike even that which Wardruna bring to bear. Whether it’s the drones of “Fylgija Futhorck” or the chants and thuds of “Hakkerskaldyr,” LIFA is striking from front to back and a cohesive, visionary work that should be heard as well as seen. But definitely seen.

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Season of Mist website

 

Amarok, Devoured

amarok devoured

Eight years after their founding, an EP and several splits, Chico, California, atmosludge extremists Amarok make their full-length debut with Devoured on Translation Loss. If it’s been a while in the making, it’s easy enough to understand why. The album is rife with brutalist and grueling sensibilities. Comprised of just four tracks, it runs upwards of 70 minutes and brings a visceral churn to each cut, not forgetting the importance of atmosphere along the way, but definitely focused on the aural bludgeoning they’re dealing out. Tempos, duh, are excruciating, and between the screams and growls of bassist Brandon Squyres (also Cold Blue Mountain) and guitarist Kenny Ruggles – the band completed by guitarist Nathan Collins and drummer Colby ByrneAmarok make their bid for Buried at Sea levels of heft and rumble their way across a desolate landscape of their own making. Eight years to conjure this kind of punishment? Yeah, that seems about right. See you in 2026.

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Translation Loss Records webstore

 

T.G. Olson, Ode to Lieutenant Henry

tg olson ode to lieutenant henry

Here’s a curious case: T.G. Olson, founding guitarist and vocalist of Across Tundras, is a prolific experimental singer-songwriter. His material ranges from psychedelic country to fuller-toned weirdo Americana and well beyond. He’s wildly prolific, and everything goes up on Bandcamp for a name-your-price download, mostly unannounced. It’s not there, then it is. Olson’s latest singe, Ode to Lieutenant Henry, was there, and now it’s gone. With the march of its title-track and a complementary cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Silver Ships of Andilar,” I can’t help but be curious as to where the tracks went and if they’ll be back, perhaps in some other form or as part of a different release. Both are plugged-in and coated in fuzzy tones, with Olson’s echoing vocals providing a human presence in the wide soundscape of his own making. The original is shorter than the cover, but both songs boast a signature sense of ramble that, frankly, is worth being out there. Hopefully they’re reposted at some point, either on their own as they initially were or otherwise.

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T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Science Fiction

sun dial sci fi

If space is the place, Sun Dial feel right at home in it. The long-running UK psychedelic adventurers collect two decades’ worth of soundtrack material on Science Fiction, their new release for Sulatron Records. Made with interwoven keyboard lines and a propensity to periodically boogie on “Mind Machine,” “Airlock,” “Infra Red,” etc., the experimentalist aspect of Science Fiction is all the more remarkable considering the album is compiled from different sources. One supposes the overarching cosmos is probably what brings it together, but with the samples and synth of “Saturn Return” and the lower end space-bass of pre-bonus-track closer “Starwatchers” – that bonus track, by the way, is a 15-minute version of opener “Hangar 13” – and though the vast majority of the Science Fiction relies on synth and keys to make its impression, it’s still only fair to call the proceedings natural, as the root of each one seems to be exploration. It’s okay to experiment. Nobody’s getting hurt.

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Sun Dial at Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lucid Grave, Demo 2018

lucid grave demo 2018

There are three songs on Lucid Grave’s first outing, the aptly-titled Demo 2018, and the first of them is also the longest (immediate points), “Star.” It presents a curious and hard to place interpretation of psychedelic sludge rock. It is raw as a demo worthy of its name should be, and finds vocalist Malene Pedersen (also Lewd Flesh) echoing out to near-indecipherable reaches atop the feedback-addled riffing. Quite an introduction, to say the least. The subsequent “Desert Boys” is more subdued at the start but gets furious at the end, vocals spanning channels in an apparent call and response atop increasingly intense instrumental thrust. And as for “Ride the Hyena?” If I didn’t know better – and rest assured, I don’t – I’d call it doom. I’m not sure what the hell the København five-piece are shooting for in terms of style, but I damn sure want to hear what they come up with next so I can find out. Consider me enticed. And accordingly, one can’t really accuse Demo 2018 of anything other than doing precisely what it’s supposed to do.

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Lucid Grace on Bandcamp

 

Domadora, Lacuna

domadora lacuna

Comprised of four-tracks of heavy psychedelic vibes led by the scorch-prone guitar of Belwil, Domadora’s third album, Lacuna, follows behind 2016’s The Violent Mystical Sukuma (discussed here) and taps quickly into a post-Earthless league of instrumentalism on opener “Lacuna Jam.” That should be taken as a compliment, especially as regards the bass and drums of Gui Omm and Karim Bouazza, respectively, who hold down uptempo grooves there and roll along with the more structured 14-minute cut “Genghis Khan” that follows. Each of the album’s two sides is comprised of a shorter track and a longer one, and there’s plenty of reach throughout, but more than expanse, even side B’s “Vacuum Density” and “Tierra Last Homage” are more about the chemistry between the band members – Angel Hidalgo Paterna rounds out on organ – than about crafting a landscape. Fortunately for anyone who’d take it on, the Parisian unit have plenty to offer when it comes to that chemistry.

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Domadora on Bandcamp

 

Klandestin, Green Acid of Last Century

klandestin green acid of last century

That’s a big “fuck yes, thank you very much” for the debut album from Indonesian stoner metallers Klandestin. Green Acid of the Last Century arrives courtesy of Hellas Records and is THC-heavy enough that if they wanted to, they could probably add “Bong” to the band’s name and it would be well earned. Eight tracks, prime riffs, watery vocals, dense fuzz, stomp, plod, lumber, shuffle – it’s all right there in homegrown dosage, and for the converted, Green Acid of the Last Century is nothing short of a worship ceremony, for the band itself as well as for anyone taking it on. With the march of “Doomsday,” the unmitigated rollout of “Black Smoke,” and the swirling green aurora of “The Green Aurora,” Klandestin wear their holding-back-a-cough riffage as a badge of honor, and couldn’t be any less pretentious about it if they tried. From the hooded weedian on the cover art to the Sleepy nod of closer “Last Century,” Green Acid of Last Century telegraphs its intent front-to-back, and is all the more right on for it.

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Hellas Records on Bandcamp

 

Poor Little Things, Poor Little Things

poor little things poor little things

You get what you pay for with “Rock’n’Roller,” which leads off the self-titled debut EP from Bern, Switzerland-based Poor Little Things. Around the core duo of vocalist Tina Jackson and multi-instrumentalist Dave “Talon” Jackson (also of Australia’s Rollerball) on guitar, bass, synth and percussion is Talon’s The Marlboro Men bandmate Fernando Marlboro on drums, and together the band presents five tracks of remember-when-rock-rocked-style groove. Fueled by ‘70s accessibility and a mentality that seems to be saying it’s okay to play big rooms, like arenas, cuts like “Drive” seem prime for audience participation, and “Break Another Heart” gives a highlight performance from Tina while “About Love” showcases a more laid back take. They close with the 6:37 “Street Cheetah,” which struts appropriately, and end with a percussive finish on a fadeout repeating the title line. As a showcase of their style and songwriting chops, Poor Little Things shows significant promise, sure, but it’s also pretty much already got everything it needs for a full-length album.

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Poor Little Things on Bandcamp

 

Motorowl, Atlas

motorowl atlas

Every now and then you put on a record and it’s way better than you expect. Hello, Motorowl’s Atlas. The German troupe’s second for Century Media, it takes the classic stylizations of their 2016 debut, Om Generator, and pushes them outward into a vast sea of organ-laced progressive heavy, soaring in vocal melodies and still modern despite drawing from an array of decades past. The chug in “The Man Who Rules the World” would be metal for most bands, but on Atlas, it becomes part of a broader milieu, and sits easily next to the expansive title-track, as given to post-rocking airiness in the guitar as to synth-laden prog. That mixture of influences and aesthetics would be enough to give the five-piece an identity of their own, but Atlas is further characterized by Motorowl’s ambitious songwriting and benefits greatly from the melodic arrangements and the clear intention toward creative development at work here. Those who take on its seven-track/45-minute journey will find it dynamic, spacious and heavy in kind.

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Motorowl at Century Media website

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Red Sun Atacama, Licancabur

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

red sun atacama Licancabur

[Click play above to stream Red Sun Atacama’s Licancabur in full. Album is out June 29 on More Fuzz Records with vinyl to follow this summer.]

Usually when a band puts a place-name at the end of their moniker, it’s because they’re from there and there’s probably another band with the same name who perhaps had it first. Before you go thinking otherwise, Red Sun Atacama are not from the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is noted as being the driest place on earth. They reside a continent away in Paris, France, which last I heard still gets plenty of rain. Comprised of the trio of bassist/vocalist Clément Màrquez, guitarist Vincent Hospital and drummer Robin Caillon, the French fuzzers make their debut with Licancabur, a six-track/35-minute long-player issued through More Fuzz Records that takes its title from the volcano located in said desert traditionally worshiped as sacred by the Atacameños people who live nearby. The album’s structure is somewhat quizzical, with a quick intro leading to a bookend of two larger songs with two shorter tracks between and one even-shorter track between that. Just for an easy visual, here’s the tracklist:

1. Intro (0:36)
2. Gold (10:38)
3. Red Queen (5:51)
4. Cupid Arrows (1:46)
5. Drawers (4:20)
6. Empire (11:57)

See what I mean? If you put aside the intro, you get five tracks that even sort of look like a mountain peak when written out. I can’t help but wonder if, since they named the record after a volcano, if that wasn’t on Red Sun Atacama‘s mind as they put the hard-driving, desert-rocking release together. Even if you keep the “Intro” — which taps into Morricone-style Western acoustic strum and folkish flutes before the leadoff riff of “Gold” quickly enters to begin the album in earnest — or consider that the vinyl breaks into two three-song sides, the basic idea holds up of climbing a peak to the punk-sprint of “Cupid Arrows” and then making one’s way down through “Drawers” and out into the long plain of “Empire,” which closes side B. May or may not have been intentional, but sure doesn’t feel like an accident.

Crucially, to coincide with this structural nuance, Licancabur has a front-to-back flow which, from that opening riff to “Gold” onward, finds the three-piece careening through high-energy desert riffing, making standout elements from bass and lead guitar interplay as they move toward the midsection of that opening track after the initial verses/chorus thrust and just before they pull back and drop out at around 4:30 to more laid back unfolding. “Gold” has a long instrumental break, keys included, but ultimately returns to vocals later, and even in this and in “Empire,” which is more insistently drummed to close out the offering but still has its own section reserved for a lengthy jam, there’s a consuming fluidity that carries the listener along with it. Red Sun Atacama border on hypnotic, but never seem on their debut to relinquish control into all-out drift, and so when they snap back to the forward push that plays such a significant role in their sound, they don’t necessarily have as far to go as they otherwise might. They keep that flow steady across the entire record.

red sun atacama

A lack of pretense and/or self-indulgence always helps when it comes to desert rock sincerely working, as Licancabur does, to speak to the origins of the genre, which are punk at their heart. It certainly does Red Sun Atacama sonic favors, but part of that too might just stem from the fact that they don’t seem keen (yet) on wandering too far. Could be they’re worried about getting lost in the dry sands, but in “Gold” and “Empire” as well as in “Red Queen” and “Drawers,” they keep their momentum straight ahead of them and throttle back on tempo here and there, break to guitar, drums, whatnot, but by and large run fast and high-energy through the songs. Hooks provide landmarks in “Red Queen,” which might be the most purely Kyuss-ian riff included, and “Drawers” has an even more manic feel, holding together a tense vibe even as the guitar wahs out a lead in the middle and they make their way back to the slams and swings of the last verse, taking turns on bass, guitar and drums by measure to mark the transition into the outro. It’s a head-spinner, overriding control is maintained.

That control turns out to be one of the most impressive aspects of Licancabur, and nowhere more so than on the side B opener/mountain peak “Cupid Arrows,” which is the shortest inclusion at the 1:46 noted above, but still has an essential role to play in being the most furious moment of desert groove on the album. Much to their credit, Red Sun Atacama are off and running speedily and reference The Stooges on their way even as they seem to nod to a more echoing incarnation of earliest Dozer in the sort-of centerpiece, which is the apex of their momentum, thickly toned enough to be consistent with its surroundings and yet an immediate standout for its all-go-no-stop acceleration. If there is anywhere on Licancabur that Red Sun Atacama are in danger of losing their grip on their craft, it’s in “Cupid Arrows,” and they absolutely don’t. They execute the track at full speed like it ain’t a thing and then are dug into “Drawers” before the listener even has a chance to process what they just heard. Right on.

It’s a particularly encouraging facet of Red Sun Atacama‘s first offering — apart from the 2015 demo Part.I on which “Gold” (then “The Gold”), “Red Queen” and “Cupid’s Arrows” appeared — that they’re able to hold it all together with such apparent ease and smoothness, and where they’ve left themselves room to grow is in terms of patience and in the jammy moments like those in “Gold” and “Empire.” One can’t help but wonder if Red Sun Atacama‘s next offering might find them digging even further into these psychedelic landscapes, their fingers bare in exploratory dirt, but for now, while they might want to add an “of” to their moniker, they nonetheless provide a welcome, cohesive kick in the ass through classic-style desert rock and roll and leave one anticipating what they might do next. One could ask nothing more of their first album.

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Red Sun Atacama on Bandcamp

Vinyl preorder at More Fuzz Records

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