Friday Full-Length: Bang, Bang

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

 

Of course, the 1972 self-titled outing from Philadelphia power trio Bang is one of any number of releases in its era living in a long shadow cast by Black Sabbath, but in listening to a tracks like “Come with Me” and “Our Home,” the three-piece may have been a couple years ahead of the reality masters at their own game in terms of sound. The overall affect of the eight-track/34-minute LP is raw in its sound even in its various reissue incarnations, but the tones of guitarist Frankie Gilcken and bassist Frank Ferrara are a little more Sabbath-circa-’75 than they are Sabbath-circa-’72, and Ferrara‘s vocals — with backing from Gilcken and lyrics by drummer Tony Diorio — are more malleable than even Ozzy at his ’74-’76 era peak as a singer. But the working class sensibility behind early heavy rock and what one might now consider proto-metal bled into Bang‘s riffs and even the mood of a wistful cut like “Last Will” — its hook, “Happy people make their way through the world every day/Saddened people they can’t seem to find their way across that rejected line” s standout chorus rightly leaned on — draws from it. Recorded after the then-shelved 1971 concept LP, Death of a Country, and released as their debut the same year as its follow-up, Mother/Bow to the King, Bang‘s Bang has long been considered the band’s defining statement and a landmark of the original era of underground heavy rock and roll.

Imagine it’s 1972 and you’re one of three kids from Philly just signed to Capitol Records and they send you down to Miami to record with producer Michael Sunday, who’s just a couple years off working with Blue Cheer on their 1969 self-titled, and engineer Carl Richardson, who’d just had a hand in CactusRestrictions the year before. True, their confidence might’ve been shaken by having their first recording shelved, but still. One shudders to think of the amount of cocaine and who the hell knows what else might’ve been consumed at Criteria Studios, but whether the answer there is “all of it,” “none” or somewhere in between, the fact remains that nothing gets in the way of the songs on Bang. Like the logo on the front cover that would in itself become iconic over the course of the decade since it first appeared, the tracks that comprise Bang stand the test of time because of their inherent structure and the vitality with which they’re presented by the band. Late-arriving singles “Questions” and “Redman” — which is a word that I’m not even comfortable typing, honestly — reinforce this notion at the end of side B, but one need look no further than the opening salvo of the riffy, strutting “Lions, Christians” and the swing-happy “The Queen” to figure it out: This is prime ’70s heavy that has in no small way helped shape the definition thereof. Whether it’s Diorio‘s fills on “The Queen” or Ferrara‘s out-for-a-walk bassline on the prior opener, Bang are not shy about their intent and neither should they be. In answering their label’s call for something more straightforward to be released as their first album, they went back and wrote nothing less than a handful of classics.

bang bang

Go ahead and add the aforementioned quieter “Last Will” and the subsequent chug of “Come with Me” to that list as well, and really, when you factor in side B’s mega-hook in “Our Home” and the nodder riff of “Future Shock,” there isn’t a clunker in the bunch on the LP. “Future Shock” in particular emphasizes something Bang did exceptionally well even among their peers of the day in bringing together Gilcken, Ferrara and Diorio around a deceptively mid-paced groove. It would seem that, of the various lessons the three-piece took from Black Sabbath, that pace plays a role in dictating heaviness was not at all forgotten. “Questions” is more uptempo and thus makes a fitting single (it charted, so fair enough) and “Come with Me” would seem to be about as close to frenetic as Bang got, but though hardly subdued, “The Queen” maintains an overarching groove that’s still laid back despite being pushed along so fervently by the drums, and the same is true of the closer as well, and the brightness of the chorus melody there and in “Our Home” lends Bang a positive sensibility that even some of its moodier aspects in “Last Will” don’t undercut anymore than they mean to. It’s not as dynamic as some of the work they’d do later in their career, but Bang only thrives for the energy captured in a formative moment for the band.

Again, they’d follow it up with Mother/Bow to the King the same year — 1972 — and release Music on Capitol in 1973. That was it until 2000’s RTZ – Return to Zero and 2004’s The Maze, both self-released, but renewed interest came with reissues of their original work through Green Tree Records in Germany and eventually through Rise Above, which put out the Bullets box set in 2010 and gave Death of a Country its first official release in 2011. They’d tour with Pentagram in 2014, play the Psycho Las Vegas predecessor, Psycho California, in 2015 and do Roadburn in 2016 on a European run that got cut short when then-drummer Jake Leger abruptly went AWOL. They came back with the Franks and a new drummer to play Maryland Doom Fest in 2016 and 2017, roughly concurrent to Svart Records reissuing their back catalog, and though live activity has been sparse, last year, Ripple Music released a compilation, The Best of Bang, that of course highlights the songcraft that’s always been so essential to their righteousness.

I was fortunate enough to see Bang every night of their 2014 West Coast and East Coast tours as I was traveling with Kings Destroy, and I’ll say that as I listen to their self-titled now the versions I still hear in my head are coming from the band live, and that every time I saw them, without exception, including at Roadburn and Maryland Doom Fest, the absolute joy and appreciation for what they were doing and for the fact that, after two generations, they’d finally found the audience they’d long since deserved, was infectious. You could not watch them and not be happy for them. If that makes me less impartial about the album, so be it. I’ll take being a fan instead.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Up and down week. Most are. Shit is complicated. Money is complicated. It’s a lonely semester with The Patient Mrs. starting a new job and a schedule that has her gone a lot of the day on a lot of days, so it’s just The Pecan and I for a lot of the week. Plus this week I was recovering from the trip to Norway and yeah. It was just a lot. Any angle you want to take. A lot.

Next week, premieres for Hazemaze, Woodhawk, Hot Breath and Ogre, not necessarily in that order. Plus a review of the Death Hawks LP reissues which Svart was kind enough to send my way, and whatever else happens to come down the pike. That’s kind of how it goes these days. My calendar is pretty full through the end of the month as it is. Sometimes people are like, “hey can you do this thing tomorrow?” and I have to say no. Sorry folks. My brain’s melted as it is. Burnout is real.

I slept through my alarm I guess on Wednesday? Maybe Tuesday? It felt like the end of the fucking universe, whatever day it was. To lose that two-plus hours of writing before The Pecan gets up in the morning? Holy shit, that’s my whole day. That’s what keeps me sane, let alone on pace with stuff around here. The Patient Mrs. came through in the pinch and gave me extra time to work after she got home from teaching class, but without that, I’d have been properly fooked. A reminder of the fragility of the whole thing, I guess. Drop a piano on it and see what happens. Mostly to my mental state.

There’s more, but I’ve no inclination toward further navelgazing — well, I do, but I’ll deny it — and I want to get another post live before the kid wakes up and needs a diaper, breakfast, I need to shower, etc., so off I go. I wish you the greatest and safest of weekends. Have fun, do what you do. Forum, radio, new merch coming soon, old merch I think still available.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Horehound, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Glacier, MNRVA, Coroza, Noosed, zhOra

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Oh hi, I didn’t see you there. Earlier this week — Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and yes, even Wednesday — the alarm went off at 4AM as usual and I got up, got coffee going and a protein bar and sat down to write, starting basically around quarter-after with a quick email check and whatnot. In terms of basic timing, this last morning of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review is no different. I even have the baby monitor streaming on my phone as I would most mornings, so I can keep an eye on when The Pecan gets up. What’s changed is I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Oslo, Norway, having just arrived on an overnight flight from Newark. Managed to sleep some on the plane and I’m hopeful adrenaline will pick up the rest of the slack as regards getting through the day. That and caffeine, anyhow.

Although, speaking of, my debit card doesn’t work and I’ll need to sort that out.

First thing’s first, and that’s reviews. Last batch of 10 for the week. We made it. Thanks as always for reading and being a part of this thing. Let’s wrap it up in style, and because I like working on a theme, three Irish bands in a row close out. Hey, I went to Ireland this year.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ufomammut, XX

UFOMAMMUT XX

Five years ago, Roman cosmic doom masters Ufomammut took a reflective look back at their career for its 15th anniversary with the documentary/live-performance DVD XV (review here). And since one might define the arc of their tenure as constantly trying to top themselves, for their 20th anniversary, they’ve issued a 12LP boxed set, titled simply XX, that compiles their nine albums to-date and tops them off with the mostly-subdued-style XX itself, which reimagines past cacophonies like “Mars” and “Plouton” in a quieter context. That part of the mega-offering issued through their own Supernatural Cat imprint comprises six songs recorded live and makes highlights out of the hypnotic strum and incantations of “Satan” as well as the rumbling drone of “Lacrimosa,” which takes on new emotional resonance for the shoegazy treatment it receives. I’ve said on multiple occasions throughout the years that Ufomammut are a band to be treasured, and I stand by that 100 percent. The XX box should be perceived by fans as an opportunity to do likewise.

Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks

Supernatural Cat website

 

Horehound, Weight

horehound weight

Less than a year after issuing their second long-player in the form of Holocene (review here) through Blackseed and Doom Stew Records, Pittsburgh atmosludgers Horehound align with DHU Records for the two-song 8″ EP Weight, which brings “Unbind” and “The Heavy,” two new cuts that, while I’m not sure they weren’t recorded at the same time as the last album — that is, they may have been — they nonetheless showcase the emergent melodic breadth and instrumental ambience that is developing in their sound. Even as “Unbind” rolls toward its low-end tempo kick, it does so with marked patience and a willingness to stay slow until just the right moment, which is not something every band cane effectively do. “The Heavy,” meanwhile, builds itself around a Crowbar-style dirge riff before Shy Kennedy‘s verse arrives as a standalone element, all the instruments around her dropping out from behind. That moment alone, frankly, is worth the price of admission, as whether it’s through that extra inch in diameter of the platter itself or through the audio of the tracks in question, Horehound continue to distinguish themselves.

Horehound on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records BigCartel store

 

Lingua Ignota, CALIGULA

LINGUA IGNOTA CALIGULA

I’m not sure I’m qualified to write about Lingua Ignota‘s CALIGULA (on Profound Lore), but I’m not sure anyone else is either. Like a self-harmonizing mega-Jarboe turning existential horror into epic proclamations of “I don’t eat/I don’t sleep” on “DO YOU DOUBT ME TRAITOR?” amid bass throb and terrifying melodic layering before making bedroom black metal sound like the lightweight self-indulgence it’s always been on the subsequent check-out-the-real-shit “BUTCHER OF THE WORLD,” Kristin Hayter‘s work is little short of experimentalist brilliance. She is minimal and yet over-the-top, open in creative terms but unwaveringly dark and rife with melody but severe to the point now and again of true aural abrasion. She weaves a context of her own into “FUCKING DEATHDEALER” as she recalls the lyrics to the aforementioned “BUTCHER OF THE WORLD,” while the outright brutality of “SPITE ALONE HOLDS ME ALOFT” is married to a piano-led meditation that, even without the noise wash from whence it comes, is enough to recast visions of what heavy is and can be in musical terms. I won’t pretend to get all the references like “kyrie eleison” (“lord have mercy”) worked into “IF THE POISON WON’T TAKE YOU MY DOGS WILL” and the violent strains surrounding, but it’s impossible not to realize the power of what you’re hearing when you listen.

Lingua Ignota on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records on Bandcamp

 

Valborg, Zentrum

valborg zentrum

With an intensity born out of a history of industrial music and focus on tight rhythms making an impact in even-tighter songwriting, Valborg are neither beholden to death metal nor entirely separate from it, but their style has taken on a life of its own over the course of the last 10 years, and their latest offering, Zentrum (on Prophecy Productions), is the German trio’s most individualized take yet, whether that’s shown in the unbridled melodicism of “Anomalie,” the sludgy riff that drives the barking “Ultragrab” or the seemingly unrelenting snare pops of “Kreuzer” that, even when they finally release that tension, still make it only a temporary reprieve. Valborg‘s sense of control through the epic “Nonnenstern” should not be understated, and though the track is under four minutes long, yes, “epic” very much applies. Suitably enough, they close with “Vakuum” and throw everything at the listener at once before resolving in relatively peaceful atmospherics that could just as easily serve as an introduction to the next round of malice to come, whenever it shows up.

Valborg on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions webstore

 

Sageness, Akmé

sageness akme

Spanish trio Sageness — also written SageNESS — conjure smooth Electric Moon-style soundscapes on their second album, Akmé, and yes, that is a compliment. The record brings forth six tracks of easy-rolling instrumentalist jam-based heavy psychedelia that offer much and take little in return, the richness of the guitar tone from Dawyz and Michi‘s bass given jazzy fluidity by Fran‘s drumming. “Ephemeral” touches most directly on a Colour Haze, as it would almost have to, but even there, the feeling of spaciousness that Sageness present in the recording is a factor that helps them come across as more individual. Earlier, “The Thought” is a little more directly space rock, but opener “Andromeda” seems to be charting the course with its liquefied effects and somehow-even-more-liquefied groove, and if you can’t get down with that, I’ve got nothing for you and neither does the rest of the universe.

Sageness on Thee Facebooks

Spinda Records website

 

Glacier, No Light Ever

glacier no light ever

It’s not exactly true, about their being no light ever on Boston post-metallers Glacier‘s latest full-length, No Light Ever. Sure, it’s plenty dark and heavy and brooding and all that fun stuff, and the riffs get loud and the drums break stuff and all that, but it’s certainly colorful in its way as well, and more than just shades of black on black. Comprised of four tracks cumbersomely titled in keeping with the traditions of the likes of Red Sparowes and the band’s own past work, cuts like “O World! I Remain No Longer Here.” and “The Bugles Blow, Fanned by Hysteria.” stretch themselves out along a scope as massive as the tonality the band emits, and as the wash of “We Glut Our Souls on the Accursed,” — the comma is part of the title there — gives way to feedback and the onset of “And We Are Damned Amid Noble Sound.” the sense of immersion is complete and clear as the priority under which they’re working. It’s about the whole album, or at least the two sides, as a unified work, and about crafting a world through the atmosphere evoked in the material. It works. If they say there’s no light in that world, so be it. It’s whatever they want it to be.

Glacier on Thee Facebooks

Wolves and Vibrancy Records webstore

 

MNRVA, Black Sky

mnrva black sky

Not-entirely-bereft-of-vowels South Carolina heavy trio MNRVA make their debut with the three-song EP Black Sky, a beast of a short release led by the riffs of guitarist Byron Hark on a stretch of ’90s-style crunch and sludge, with bassist/vocalist Kevin Jennings and drummer Gina Ercolini adding to the weight and shove of the proceedings, respectively. “Not the One” has the hook, “No Solution” has the impact and the title-track has both, and though I’m by no means saying the issue of their sound is settled 100 percent and they won’t grow or find their way from this — again, their debut — EP, they do prove to be well in charge of where their songs head in terms of mood and the atmosphere that comes through elements like the blown-out vocals and the rumbling bass beneath the lead guitar in the second half of “Black Sky” itself. Indeed, it’s those harsher aspects that help MNRVA immediately establish their individuality, and the vibe across these 18-plus minutes is that the punishment is only getting started.

MNRVA on Thee Facebooks

MNRVA on Bandcamp

 

Coroza, Chaliceburner

coroza chaliceburner

Just because Irish four-piece Coroza — guitarist/vocalists Ciaran Coghlan and Jack O’Neill, bassist/vocalist Jonny Canning and drummer Ollie Cunningham — might write a song that’s 18 minutes long, that doesn’t mean they forgot to actually make it a song as well. Thus it is that extended cuts like “The Plutonian Drug” (18:24) and closer “Iron from the Sky” (19:30) have plenty of room to flesh out their more progressive aspects amid the other three also-kind-of-extended pieces on Chaliceburner, the group’s ambitious hour-plus/five-track debut full-length. Each song essentially becomes a front-to-back movement on its own, with shifts between singers arranged thoughtfully from one part to the next and hooks along the way to serve as landmarks for those traversing, as in the opening “Chaliceburner” or the gruff winding moments of “Mountain Jaw,” which follows the nine-minute sax-inclusive centerpiece “Scaltheen,” because of course there’s a saxophone in there somewhere. All of this is a recipe for a band biting off more than they can chew stylistically, but Coroza manage pretty well the various twists and turns of their own making, particularly considering it’s their first album.

Coroza on Thee Facebooks

Coroza on Bandcamp

 

Noosed, She of the Woods

noosed she of the woods demo

Encased front and back by witchy samples and creepy vibes, Sept. 2019’s She of the Woods is the second demo in two months to come from Cork, Ireland’s Noosed. And you know it when they get around to the closing seven-minute title-track because it’s just about the only thing other than “Intro” that isn’t raging with grind intensity, but that stuff can be fun too. I don’t know how much witch-grind-doom is out there, but Noosed‘s first, self-titled demo (released in August) had a sludgy edge that seems to have separated out to some degree here into a multifaceted personality. Can one possibly be certain of the direction the band will ultimately take? Shit no. It’s two demos with basically no time differential between them. But if they can effectively bridge the gap between “Fuck Up,” “Wretch” and “She of the Woods,” or even play directly with the contrast, they could be onto something with all this noise and fuckall.

Noosed on Thee Facebooks

Noosed on Bandcamp

 

zhOra, Ruthless Bastards

zhora ruthless bastards

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it such that Irish four-piece zhOra wanted to do something less complicated than was their 2017 album, Ethos, Pathos, Logos (discussed here), so they went ahead and wrote a song that’s five minutes long and purposefully hops between subgenres, going from sludge to doom to a deathcore breakdown, with a snare-pop count-in, to blackened death metal and then back to a lumbering chug to finish out. Okay, zhOra, “Ruthless Bastards” is a an awful lot of metal and an awfully good time, but you missed the mark on “simple” by a considerable margin. If indeed the band had been plotting toward something, say, easier to play or to compose, “Ruthless Bastards” ain’t it. They’ll have to settle for being brutal as fuck instead. Something tells me they’ll survive having made that trade, as much as anything will.

zhOra on Thee Facebooks

zhOra on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Hippie Death Cult, The Cosmic Dead, Greenthumb, Elepharmers, Nothing is Real, Warish, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge, Those Furious Flames, Mantra Machine

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to find the jerk who decided that the week I fly to Norway was a good time for the Quarterly Review. That, obviously, was a tactical error on my part. Nonetheless, we press on with day four, which I post from Oslo on CET. Whatever time zone you may find yourself in this Thursday, I hope you have managed to find something so far in this onslaught of whatnot to sink your chompers into. That’s ultimately, why we’re here. Also because there are so many folders with albums in them on my desktop that I can’t stand it anymore. Happens about every three months.

But anyhoozle, we press on with Day Four of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review, dutiful and diligent and a couple other words that start with ‘d.’ Mixed bag stylistically this time — trying to throw myself off a bit — so should be fun. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Total Fucking Destruction, #USA4TFD

Total Fucking Destruction USA4TFD

Who the hell am I to be writing about a band like Total Fucking Destruction? I don’t know. Who the hell am I to be writing about anything. Fuck you. As the Rich Hoak (Brutal Truth)-led Philly natives grind their way through 23 tracks in a 27-minute barrage of deceptively thoughtful sonic extremity, they efficiently chronicle the confusion, tumult and disaffection of our age both in their maddening energy and in the poetry — yeah, I said it — of their lyrics. To it, from “Is Your Love a Rainbow”: “Are you growing? Is everything okay? Are you growing in the garden of I don’t know?” Lines like this are hardly decipherable without a lyric sheet, of course, but still, they’re there for those ready to look beyond the surface assault of the material, though, frankly, that assault alone would be enough to carry the band — Hoak on drums/vocals, Dan O’Hare on guitar/vocals and Ryan Moll on bass/vocals — along their willfully destructive course. For their fourth LP in 20 years — most of that time given to splits and shorter releases, as one might expect — Total Fucking Destruction make their case for an end of the world that, frankly, can’t get here fast enough.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Give Praise Records website

 

Hippie Death Cult, 111

Hippie-Death-Cult-111

Issued first by the band digitally and on CD and then by Cursed Tongue Records on vinyl, 111 is the impressively toned debut full-length from Portland, Oregon’s Hippie Death Cult, who cull together heavy rock and post-grunge riffing with flourish of organ and a densely-weighted groove that serves as an overarching and uniting factor throughout. With the bluesy, classic feeling vocals of Ben Jackson cutting through the wall of fuzz from Eddie Brnabic‘s guitar and Laura Phillips‘ bass set to roll by Ryan Moore‘s drumming, there’s never any doubt as to where Hippie Death Cult are coming from throughout the seven-track/42-minute offering, but longer, side-ending pieces “Unborn” (8:24) and “Black Snake” (9:06) touch respectively on psychedelia and heavy blues in a way that emphasizes the subtle turns that have been happening all along, not just in shifts like the acoustic “Mrtyu,” but in the pastoral bridge and ensuing sweep of “Pigs” as well. “Sanctimonious” and “Breeder’s Curse” provide even ground at the outset, and from there, Hippie Death Cult only grow richer in sound along their way.

Hippie Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

 

The Cosmic Dead, Scottish Space Race

The Cosmic Dead Scottish Space Race

Heavyweight Glaswegian space jammers The Cosmic Dead present four massive slabs of lysergic intensity with their eighth long-player, Scottish Space Race (on Riot Season Records), working quickly to pull the listener into their gravity well and holding them there for the 2LP’s 75-minute duration. As hypnotic as it is challenging, the initial churn that emerges in the aptly-named 20-minute opener “Portal” clenches the stomach brutally, and it’s not until after about 12 minutes that the band finally lets it loose. “Ursa Major,” somewhat thankfully, is more serene, but still carries a sense of movement and build in its second half, while the 12-minute title-track is noisier and has the surprising inclusion of vocals from the generally instrumental outfit. They cap with the 24-minute kosmiche throb of “The Grizzard,” and there are vocals there too, but they’re too obscured to be really discernible in any meaningful way, and of course the end of the record itself is a huge wash of fuckall noise. Eight records deep, The Cosmic Dead know what they’re doing in this regard, and they do it among the best of anyone out there.

The Cosmic Dead on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

Greenthumb, There are More Things

greenthumb there are more things

With just three tracks across a 20-minute span, There are More Things (on Acid Cosmonaut) feels like not much more than a sampler of things to come from Italian post-sludgers Greenthumb, who take their name from a Bongzilla track they also covered on their 2018 debut EP, West. The three-songer feels like a decided step forward from that offering, and though they maintain their screamier side well enough, they might be on the verge of needing a new name, as the rawness conveyed by the current moniker hardly does justice to the echoing atmospherics the band in their current incarnation bring. Launching with the two seven-minute cuts “The Field” and “Ogigia’s Tree,” they unfurl a breadth of roll so as to ensnare the listener, and though “The Black Court” is shorter at 5:37 and a bit more straight-ahead in its structure, it still holds to the ambient sensibility of its surroundings well, the band obviously doing likewise in transposing a natural feel into their sound born of landscape real or imagined.

Greenthumb on Thee Facebooks

Acid Cosmonaut Records on Bandcamp

 

Elepharmers, Lords of Galaxia

Elepharmers Lords Of Galaxia Artwork

Riffy Sardinians Elepharmers set themselves to roll with “Ancient Astronauts” and do not stop from there on Lords of Galaxia, their third LP and debut through Electric Valley Records. There are some details of arrangement between the guitars of El Chino (also bass, vocals and harmonica) and Andrea “Fox” Cadeddu and the drums of Maurizio Mura, but as Marduk heralds his age on second cut “Ziqqurat,” the central uniting factor is g-r-o-o-v-e, and Elepharmers have it down through “The Flood” and into side B’s classic stoner rocking “Foundation” and the driving “The Mule,” which shifts into laser-effects ahead of the fade that brings in closer “Stars Like Dust” for the last 10 minutes of the 47-minute offering. And yes, there’s some psychedelia there, but Elepharmers stay pretty clearheaded on the whole in such a way as to highlight the sci-fi theme that seems to draw the songs together as much as the riffage. More focus on narrative can only help bring that out more, but I’m not sure I’d want that at the expense of the basic songwriting, which isn’t at all broken and thus requires no fixing.

Elepharmers on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Nothing is Real, Only the Wicked are Pure

nothing is real only the wicked are pure

How do you recognize true misanthropy when you come across it? It doesn’t wear a special kind of facepaint, though it can. It doesn’t announce itself as such. It is a frame. Something genuinely antisocial and perhaps even hateful is a worldview. It’s not raise-a-claw-in-the-woods. It’s he-was-a-quiet-loner. And so, coming across the debut album from Los Angeles experimentalist doom outfit, one gets that lurking, creeping feeling of danger even though the music itself isn’t overly abrasive. But across the 2CD debut album, a sprawl of darkened, viciously un-produced fare that seems to be built around programmed drums at the behest of Craig Osbourne — who may or may not be the only person in the band and isn’t willing to say otherwise — plays out over the course of more than two hours like a manifesto found after the fact. Imagine chapters called “Hope is Weakness,” “Fingered by the Hand of God,” and “Uplift the Worthy (Destroy the Weak).” The last of those appears on both discs — as do several of the songs in different incarnations — as the track marries acoustic and eventual harder-edged guitar around murderous themes, sounding something like Godflesh might have if they’d pursued a darker path. Scary.

Nothing is Real on Thee Facebooks

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp

 

Warish, Down in Flames

warish down in flames

The fact that Warish are blasting hard punk through heavy blowout tones isn’t what everyone wants to talk about when it comes to the band. They want to talk about the fact that it’s Riley Hawk — of royal stock, as regards pro skateboarding — fronting the band. Well, that’s probably good for a built-in social media following — name recognition never hurts, and I don’t see a need to pretend otherwise — but it doesn’t do shit for the album itself. What matters about the album is that bit about the blasting blowout. With Down in Flames (on RidingEasy), the Oceanside three-piece follow-up their earlier-2019 debut EP with 11 tracks that touch on horror punk with “Bones” and imagine grunge-unhinged with “Fight” and “You’ll Abide,” but are essentially a display of tonal fuckall presented not to add to a brand, but to add the soundtrack to somebody’s blackout. It’s a good time and the drunkest, gnarliest, most-possibly-shirtless dude in the room is having it. Also he probably smells. And he just hugged you. Down in Flames gets high with that dude. That matters more than who anyone’s dad is.

Warish on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge, Split

It’s a double-dose of New England doom as Connecticut’s Mourn the Light and Boston’s Oxblood Forge pair up for a split release. The former bring more material than the latter, particularly when one counts the digital-only bonus cover of Candlemass‘ “Bewitched,” but with both groups, it’s a case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Both groups share a clear affinity for classic metal — and yes, that absolutely extends to the piano-led drama of Mourn the Light‘s mournful “Carry the Flame” — but Oxblood Forge‘s take thereupon is rougher edged, harder in its tone and meaner in the output. Their “Screams From Silence” feels like something from a dubbed-and-mailed tape circa ’92. Mourn the Light’s “Drags Me Down” is cleaner-sounding, but no less weighted. I don’t think either band is out to change the world, or even to change doom, but they’re doing what they’re doing well and without even an ounce of pretense — well, maybe a little bit in that piano track; but it’s very metal pretense — and clearly from the heart. That might be the most classic-metal aspect of all.


Mourn the Light on Thee Facebooks

Oxblood Forge on Thee Facebooks

 

Those Furious Flames, HeartH

those furious flames hearth

Swiss heavy rockers Those Furious Flames push the boundaries of psychedelia, but ultimately remain coherent in their approach. Likewise, they very, very obviously are into some classic heavy rock and roll, but their take on it is nothing if not modern. And more, they thrive in these contradictions and don’t at all sound like their songs are in conflict with themselves. I guess that’s the kind of thing one can pull off after 15 years together on a fifth full-length, which HeartH (on Vincebus Eruptum) is for them. Perhaps it’s the fact that they let the energy of pieces like “VooDoo” and the boogie-laced “HPPD” carry them rather than try to carry it, but either way, it’s clearly about the songs first, and it works. With added flash of organ amid the full-sounding riffs, Those Furious Flames round out with the spacey “Visions” and earn every bit of the drift therein with a still-resonant vocal harmony. You might not get it all the first time, but listening twice won’t be at all painful.

Those Furious Flames on Thee Facebooks

Vincebus Eruptum Recordings BigCartel store

 

Mantra Machine, Heliosphere

mantra machine heliosphere

This is what it’s all about. Four longer-form instrumentalist heavy psych jams that are warm in tone and want nothing so much as to go out wandering and see what they can find. Through “Hydrogen,” “Atmos,” “Delta-V” and “Heliosphere,” Amsterdam-based three-piece Mantra Machine want nothing for gig-style vitality, but their purpose isn’t so much to electrify as to find that perfect moment of chill and let it go, see where it ends up, and they get there to be sure. Warm guitar and bass tones call to mind something that might’ve come out of the Netherlands at the start of this decade, when bands like Sungrazer and The Machine were unfolding such fluidity as seemed to herald a new generation of heavy psychedelia across Europe. That generation took a different shape — several different shapes, in the end — but Mantra Machine‘s Heliosphere makes it easy to remember what was so exciting about that in the first place. Total immersion. Total sense of welcoming. Totally human presence without speaking a word. So much vibe. So much right on.

Mantra Machine on Thee Facebooks

Mantra Machine on Bandcamp

 

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Queen Elephantine to Release Gorgon Nov. 8; New Song Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

queen elephantine

Nov. 8 is the release date for the new Queen Elephantine album, Gorgon, and if you perchance think that isn’t information vital to your day, you should get yourself a handle on the streaming track from the thing, called “Mars,” that you can hear at the bottom of this post. Now based in Philly as much as they’ve ever been based anywhere, the experimentalist troupe led by guitarist/vocalist Indrayudh Shome dig well into their jazz-meets-drone-doom ritualizing in full force and by force I mean the slow momentum of lava over landscape.

I haven’t heard it, but given their history I’d not at all count on any one song to represent the entirety of a Queen Elephantine record, even if the central methodology stays the same across the span, which of course isn’t guaranteed either. Doesn’t feel like too much of a leap to say “Mars” bodes well for the general sound of what might surround it, however. I’ve made more daring speculations in my time, and the band have for sure earned some trust over the years.

They’re on the road in November around the release. Info and dates follow:

queen elephantine gorgon

Experimental Psych Doom rockers QUEEN ELEPHANTINE Unleash Album Details + First Single!

Gorgon coming this November on Argonauta Records!

The avant-garde post-apocalyptic rock unit Queen Elephantine have revealed the first details about their forthcoming, sixth studio album, titled Gorgon. Set for a release on November 8th via Argonauta Records, Gorgon’s dissonant riffs will pull you down a river of unearthly atmospheres, guided by the incantations of sardonic fakirs, unravelling their final sermon before the cosmos combusts. High recommended for fans of acts alike Swans, OM, Circle or Earth, this is a trip through hypnotic molasses grooves – drawn from psychedelia, doom, drone, noise rock as well as free jazz and sacred music from around the world. Formed in 2006 in Hong Kong and currently based in Philadelphia, USA, Queen Elephantine is a nebulous worship of heavy mood and time, who already left their big stamp in the current heavy and psych rock scene. Queen Elephantine have released five albums to date as well as splits with Elder or Sons of Otis.

Today the experimental music collective has shared the cover artwork, tracklist and a first track taken from Gorgon with us. Listen to Mars right HERE!

[ Artwork by Tsem Rinpoche & Nathanael Totushek ]

Gorgon Tracklisting:
1. Mars
2. Unbirth
3. To See Eyes
4. Mercury

Gorgon was produced and mixed by guitarist and vocalist Indrayudh Shome, and mastered by Billy Anderson. In support of their new album, with an LP and CD pre-sale coming soon on Argonauta Records and digital album release with Atypeek Music, Queen Elephantine will embark on a US Northeast Tour this Fall, make sure to catch their mesmerizing live shows at the following dates:

11/7 – Philadelphia PA – Century
11/8 – Baltimore MD – The Crown
11/ 9 – Richmond VA – Wonderland
11/10 – Harrisburg PA – JB Lovedraft’s
11/14 – Brooklyn NY – Sunnyvale
11/15 – New Haven CT – The Cellar on Treadwell
11/16 – Providence RI – AS220
11/17 – Montclair NJ – The Meat Locker

Album Line-Up:
Indrayudh Shome: Guitar, Vocals
Nathanael Totushek: Drums
Camden Healy: Bass
Brett Zweiman: Divine Mosquito Guitar
Samer Ghadry and Ian Sims: Vocals
Matthew Becker: Vocals, Percussion
Matthew Couto: Synthesizers
Srinivas Reddy: Tanpura

www.queenelephantine.com
www.queenelephantine.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/queenelephantine
www.argonautarecords.com
www.atypeekmusic.com

Queen Elephantine, “Mars”

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Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses: Tune in, Shut up, Freak Out

Posted in Reviews on September 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision for the masses

From cosmic fuckery to interstellar shove-blues, Ecstatic Vision‘s For the Masses is a space-weirdo dreamboat of wash-creation and spacial anomaly. You know that video where the bullet hits the watermelon in super-slow-motion and the whole back end of the thing explodes and it’s a glorious, sticky mess even though the bullet itself has already traveled through and gone? Ecstatic Vision are the bullet and space rock is the watermelon. For the Masses is the Philly-based psych rockers’ third album and second release through Heavy Psych Sounds behind the 2018 covers EP, Under the Influence (discussed here), and they the four-piece would seem to have blown the doors off their own approach, which was already fairly open across their two prior albums, 2017’s Raw Rock Fury (review here) and 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), both released through Relapse. It is their first long-player with Ricky Kulp on drums — though he appeared on the EP last year as well — and he joins founding guitarist/vocalist/etc.-ist Doug Sabolik and bassist Michael Field Connor as well as guitarist/saxophonist/flutist Kevin Nickles, who played on the first record as a guest and soon signed on as a full-fledged member, as they direct themselves into the further reaches of way gone, seeming to find new echelons of obliteration en route.

Effects swirl, synth and the periodic bursts of sax obscure echo-drenched vocals, but the motorik rhythmic drive is unmistakable, even behind the penultimate “The Magic Touch,” the entirety of which feels like it was being recorded with the mics set up across the room from where it was being played. Three longer pieces, “Shut up and Drive” (7:14), “Yuppie Sacrifice” (8:05) and closer “Grasping the Void” (7:11) help define the seven-track/35-minute offering, but even that definition they provide is loose in the spirit of earliest Monster Magnet doing their best stoned-biker Hawkwind, and For the Masses retains a volatility of spirit that doesn’t so much take the time to earn the right to go where it pleases by establishing rules and then defying them as just cut out the middle man and do whatever the fuck it wants. There is no substitute for efficiency in this regard.

If those who decry heavy rock and roll’s redundant riffs and ready-for-pasture aesthetic can’t hear the capital-‘n’ New bleeding through Ecstatic Vision‘s work here, the problem isn’t with the riffs. With the fading-in percussive intro “Sage Wisdom” launching with an initial two minutes of swirl, For the Masses begins with an immediately off-kilter feel. A wave of synth and blown-out sample take forward position then disappear as the percussion stops and the drone fades into the start of “Shut up and Drive,” the swirl and fuzz-bass of which are righteous from the outset. Laced with solos and tripped-out echo on the vocals, more percussion and not at all the last hypnotic groove they’ll offer, it’s as much a lead-in as it is a lead-out for your brain, which the band seem to be actively working to melt down and, presumably, reshape into a gaudy gold chain.

ecstatic vision

The guitar howls and winds and the bass and drums hold on lockdown even in the takeoff of the song’s later reaches, which are consuming before they’re also consumed, ending, of course, with an upward current of synth and turn to the far-back, already-gone “Yuppie Sacrifice,” the distance of which lends a mellow vibe to what isn’t actually at all a mellow progression, For the Masses‘ longest track enforcing its mania through hand-drums and keyboard undulations even before the drums snap into a ranting verse. The second half of the song? Straight-up past-the-point-of-no-return-oh-was-there-a-point-we-passed-oh-well-whatever fuckall jam that’s mesmerizing and turns to the all-drive cosmic punk thrust of “Like a Freak,” with Sabolik‘s sneer and squeal more central in the mix and a runtime cut by more than half to lend a further sense of urgency. Somehow they still manage to find room to completely blow it out, as one would hope, frankly, for a song called “Like a Freak,” and their hurry-up-and-drop-acid-style throb isn’t done yet.

But first, a bit of jazz. Yes, the sax comes into play on the subsequent two-minute title-track — and they’re into side B now and ready to get even weirder — and that lends a free-jazz improv style to keyboard insistence and grunted-out spoken vocals, manic drumming and whatever else would seem to have shown up that day. It is space rock drawn to its logical maximum, purposefully un-prog and all the more thoughtful for that. A slower line of synth at the beginning of “The Magic Touch” signals a shift to some chill, but it’s still got plenty of movement as Ecstatic Vision dare their listenership to keep up with them as they chase this or that theoretical impossibility. The importance of Connor‘s bass in “The Magic Touch,” as in “Shut up and Drive,” isn’t to be discounted, as it gives heft and a grounding complement to the float and reach of the guitar and keyboards, with the drums and percussion ranging beyond this or that convention. In its final measures, the guitar comes forward to hammer home the central riff, but it’s the bass that’s been doing so all along, and it proves crucial as well in “Grasping the Void,” which reads as much like a mission statement for For the Masses as any kind of description of what the song is actually up to.

Guitar emerges at about 90 seconds in to drive the turn to the verse, which is anthemic in a kind of anti-hero vein, soaking wet with effects and piloting farther out of the known universe. Is there a last guitar solo to bid farewell as Ecstatic Vision exit galaxy stage left? Why hell yes, there most certainly is, and a quick wash of synth thereafter draws down quickly to end the record in a sudden-seeming cut to silence that makes one wonder if perhaps they found that void after all. Seems it’s the place to be, and fair enough. Ecstatic Vision have never been short on attitude, and they aren’t here either, but what feels different about For the Masses is that they’re using the studio itself and the mix as instruments and toying with atmosphere as well as with effects and arrangement elements. These experiments work, and tie gorgeously to those being done with the songs themselves in structure and execution, making For the Masses sound all the more like what Ecstatic Vision have been trying to capture all along.

Ecstatic Vision, Sonic Praise (2019)

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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Horehound Stream “Unbind”; Post Release Details for Weight 8″ EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

horehound (Photo by Amanda Baker)

At the end of last month, it was announced that DHU Records had picked up Pittsburgh post-sludgers Horehound for the release of their new EP, Weight, as an 8″ record that’s bound to screw up somebody or other’s vinyl shelf organization in a delightful fashion. The A-side of the two-tracker is called “Unbind” — why my brain keeps typing that as “unblind,” I have no idea, but it does — and it’s streaming now thanks to a new sampler that DHU has put up as a free download that also includes cuts from DoomstressAstral WitchBlack RoadThe Red Widows and a slew of others that only emphasize the good company Horehound are keeping on the label.

The band had some comment about the release come down the PR wire, so hell yeah I’ll post that with the stream of the track. The EP? Yeah, there are a whopping 66 copies being made, so yes, if you want one, you should not hesitate to place your orders promptly.

Info:

horehound weight

HOREHOUND RELEASE NEW EP SEPT. 27

Post-Doom authors Horehound have recorded their third release: a short, sweet, and intentional teaser of things to come. The two songs set-up on 8″ lathes for a special limited press will also be available on their Bandcamp page on September 27th. The group has kept with its ritual of recording and mixing with Matt Schor at The War Room, and mastering with James Plotkin.

DHU is including the first-side single, Unbind, from this record in their DHU SAMPLER MMXIX VOL. IV, which is set for 9/6/19, so you can get a peek at it now!

“The songs are the most personally connected I’ve felt to anything we’ve written as a band and I hope that connection is something people feel when listening but, more than anything, I hope people just rock it the fuck out.” — Vocalist, Shy Kennedy

“DHU Records understands the Heavy Underground better than most and works hard to find and market the bands in its roster. We are certain this will be a strong partnership to build on.” — Guitarist, Brendan Parrish

Weight will be available for purchase on vinyl through DHU Records website, as well as a limited amount on the Horehound site, and while copies last, at live shows. It will also be available digitally on Bandcamp (https://pro-sludge.com) and through streaming services beginning September 27th, 2019.

HOREHOUND | WEIGHT EP
Side One: Unbind
Side Two: The Heavy

HOREHOUND is:
JD Dauer – drums
Brendan Parrish – guitar
Shy Kennedy – vocals

https://www.facebook.com/horehoundband/
https://www.instagram.com/horehound420/
http://horehound.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Horehound, “Unbind”

Horehound, Holocene (2018)

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Horehound to Release Weight 8″ EP on DHU Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Before this entire post devolves into dick jokes — which, let’s just say, could happen — an eight-inch EP is just like a seven-inch EP, only, guess what?, one inch bigger. I can only think of one other heavy band in recent years who’ve put one out, so good for Pittsburgh’s Horehound and DHU Records teaming up to do something special together. As the band follows up late-2018’s full-length, Holocene (review here), they will release Weight, as a two-songer on eight-inch vinyl through the Netherlands-based imprint. That’s cool. Good fit, all that. The thing is, they’re only pressing 66 of them. That’s like nothing. Less than. That’s gone-on-preorders edition. The official release date is Sept. 27, and yeah, unless preorders open on Sept. 26, I can’t imagine there could possibly be any left by the time the official arrival gets here.

Horehound announced earlier this month that bassist Nick Kopco was leaving the band on amicable terms and that Louis Snyder (also Riparian) would fill in on for the time being until they get somebody to take the role permanently. I would assume it’s still Kopco on the EP, so Weight would also serve as, again presumably, his final recorded output with the band.

The following showed up on social medias:

HOREHOUND DHU

!! LISTEN UP !!!

DHU Records is damn excited to sign Pittsburgh Heavies Horehound to join the DHU Family and release their upcoming 2 song EP Weight on an Exclusive and Limited 8″ Clear Lathe Cut Vinyl!

That’s right, you read that correct, an 8″ vinyl record!

Pressed once again by our vinyl brothers at Royal Mint Records and mastered for vinyl by the one and only James Plotkin

DHU is honored to be releasing new music by one of my favorite Doom bands!

!!! LIMITED TO 66 COPIES WORLDWIDE !!!

Released September 27th
Order info coming soon

STAY DOOMED STAY HEAVY

HOREHOUND is:
JD Dauer – drums
Brendan Parrish – guitar
Shy Kennedy – vocals

https://www.facebook.com/horehoundband/
https://www.instagram.com/horehound420/
http://horehound.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Horehound, Holocene (2018)

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ZOM Announce Icelandic Tour for Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ve had the good fortune of flying to Reykjavik a few times over the years, and from the air, Iceland is stark and gorgeous and like nothing else I’ve ever seen. I’ve never, however, had enough time there to actually leave the airport. It’s always fly-in-fly-out. Pittsburgh’s ZOM, on the other hand, will shoot over for a three-date run of Iceland at the end of August, hitting Reykjavik, Hafnarfjörður and Dalvik, a trip that will let them drive up the western coast of the country for a time before cutting inland a bit as they make their way north. Looks like an awesome way to do a weekender, and hey, if you could get three shows together in Iceland, wouldn’t you do it? Absolutely you would. It’s frickin’ Iceland. You go if you can go.

ZOM released their Argonauta Records debut, Nebulos, last year, and have been playing shows steadily since. This trip marks the first time they’ll leave the States for a show, though somehow one doubts it will be the last. An initial incursion, then.

Their announcement and the show details follow here. Because if you could go see a band from Pittsburgh in Icleand, wouldn’t you do it? Absolutely you would.

You get the idea:

zom

ZOM to tour Iceland this August!

Pittsburgh, USA Stoner/Groove Heavy Rockers, ZOM (Argonauta Records) will embark on a tour of Iceland in late August, 2019.

It’s the band’s first trip overseas as a group in what they hope will be the first of many.

ZOM started as a recording project between Gero von Dehn (Von Dane/Monolith Wielder) and Andrew D’Cagna (Brimstone Coven/Ironflame) but morphed into a full fledged band after the recording of their debut release, Nebulos.

ZOM now features von Dehn (v/g), Ben Zerbe (Monolith Wielder-d), Matt Tuite (Penance/Blackfinger-g) and Sam Pesce (Del Rios-b).

Joining them on all three dates will be Icelandic heavy rockers, Alchemia. Southern flavored, stoner rockers, Volcanova (Iceland) will be perform on select shows.

ICELAND DATES:

Thur Aug 29th Gaukurinn Reykjavik
With Alchemia and Volcanova

Friday Aug 30th R6013 or íslenski rokkbarinn Hafnarfjörður.
With Alchemia and Volcanova

Sat Aug 31st – Dalvik Theatre Leikfelag Dalvikur Dalvik
With Alchemia

www.facebook.com/ZOM-189166947896954/
https://zom-rock.bandcamp.com/music
http://www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/

ZOM, Nebulos (2018)

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