Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was already a pretty significant run, but Philly’s Ecstatic Vision have added even more shows around their upcoming tour with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Ruby the Hatchet. Of course, Ecstatic Vision are out supporting their Relapse Records debut, Sonic Praise(review here), the lysergic nature of which was unveiled last month. These guys have already shown a willingness to hit the road, as they did earlier in 2015 alongside Enslaved and YOB, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t wind up doing even more in 2016. Maybe a trip to Europe? Maybe in springtime?
And in case that dogwhistle wasn’t loud enough, I was speculating that they’d be the latest Relapse act to make an appearance at Roadburn in April. [UPDATE: I’ve just read that Ecstatic Vision have signed with Swamp Booking and will indeed be touring Europe in April, making that appearance even more likely.] I guess we’ll see if I’m right on that one, but they’re plenty busy in the meantime.
From the PR wire:
Ecstatic Vision Add More North American Live Dates
Touring with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet
Ecstatic Vision hit the road in a couple of weeks with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet for a full North American trek. Their stunning live show and debut, Sonic Praise earned them a signing with Relapse Records just a little after a year of coming together as a band. Don’t miss them in a city near you – all shows listed below.
In case you missed it: Ecstatic Vision weave the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years.
Ecstatic Vision Live Dates: 9/8: The Garage- Winston Salem, NC 9/9: Center Stage – Atlanta, GA # 9/10: The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA 9/11: Baltimore Sound Stage – Baltimore, MD # 9/12: Webster Hall – New York, NY # 9/13: Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA # 9/14: Royale – Boston, MA # 9/16: Corona Theater – Montreal, QC # 9/17: Phoenix Theater – Toronto, ON # 9/18: Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA # 9/19: Metro – Chicago, IL # 9/20: Mill City Nights – Minneapolis, MN # 9/22: Summit Theater – Denver, CO # 9/23: Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT # 9/25: Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC # 9/26: El Corazon – Seattle, WA # 9/27: Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR # 9/29: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 9/30: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 10/1: The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA # 10/2: The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA # 10/3: Time Out Lounge – Tempe, AZ 10/6: Sons of Hermann Hall – Dallas, TX * 10/7: Hotel Vegas – Austin, TX 10/8: Vino’s – Little Rock, AR 10/9: TBA – Nashville, TN 10/10: Zanzabar – Louisville, KY 10/11: Blind Bobs – Dayton, OH
# – w/ Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet * – w/ King Dude
[NOTE: Press play above to hear the full stream of Carousel’s 2113. Thanks to the band, label and PR for letting me host the premiere.]
Don’t let its minimalist cover fool you, Carousel‘s 2113 is brimming with life. The Pittsburgh four-piece’s second offering through Tee Pee Records after a raucous debut two years ago with Jeweler’s Daughter (reviewed and streamed here), the nine-song/46-minute collection also marks the arrival of guitarist Matt Goldsborough, who doubles in labelmates The Skull. His addition to the lineup with returning guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler, bassist Jim Wilson and drummer Jake Leger, is even more noteworthy because, while Goldsborough is is perhaps best known for his stint replacing Victor Griffin a couple years back in Pentagram, Leger also doubles as the drummer for reunited heavy rockers Bang, so more than most who work in the style, Carousel can claim direct lineage to the classic form from which they take inspiration.
Accordingly, 2113 makes for some of the most seamless ’70s modernization I’ve heard since Stone Axe, songs like “Man Like Me” and the talkbox-infused “Photograph” digging deep into a ’70s-sytle aesthetic and rhythm without necessarily needing the vintage production trappings that others sometimes take on. As was the case with Jeweler’s Daughter, Carousel work smoothly as a two-guitar foursome, this time around Wheeler and Goldsborough finding harmonies right from the start with opener “Trouble” that reinforce the timelessness that Thin Lizzy once so readily tapped. It’s a party vibe early, but the bulk of 2113 isn’t so easily caged into one mindset or another, much to the benefit of the album as a whole.
Wheeler‘s frontman presence is a major force throughout, but ultimately it’s his and Goldsborough‘s guitars both that lead the charge, while Wilson and Leger lock in alternately swinging and driving grooves to push songs like “Photograph” forward at an efficient but not at all rushed-sounding clip through its several included solos. The shift in approach between that cut and the subsequent “Buried Alive in Your Arms” — which almost beats the listener over the head with its hook and thus proves among the more immediately memorable inclusions — signals a sense of structural variety that continues throughout the record, but wherever they wind up, Carousel keep 2113 sounding consistent and largely effortless, swagger perhaps the album’s most unifying theme.
Fitting enough, Wilson gives a highlight bass performance on “Jim’s Song,” and the shortest track (at 2:54) winds up smartly placed to hold onto the momentum the band have thus-far built leading into the centerpiece of the tracklisting, “Highway Strut,” which is about as close as Carousel come to a mission statement on the record. Elsewhere, on “Buried Alive in Your Arms” or the later “Man Like Me,” or on the bonus track Joe Walsh cover “Turn to Stone,” one finds tales of loves lost and found, but “Highway Strut” feels like it’s in the middle for a reason. Also likely the opener of the vinyl side B, it’s a classic road song in the Grand Funk tradition of the sort that Dixie Witch once did so well, and while by the time it comes around, Leger has already broken out the cowbell once on “Photograph,” it couldn’t be more appropriate than it is highlighting the titular strut of the centerpiece.
“Strange Revelation” is about as close as Carousel get to psychedelia, with some added spaciousness in the guitar, but the prevailing vibe remains more boozy than druggy. Starting quiet, it trades back and forth for the first couple minutes until locking itself in around the halfway point through its seven-minute run, building to a satisfying apex that prefaces the title-track soon enough to follow “Man Like Me,” which like “Jim’s Song” on side A, is smartly located where it is. In this case, its straightforward thrust, dual leads and catchy chorus not only stand on their own, but act as a buffer between “Strange Revelation” and “2113.” If you want to go one farther, one can hear a touch of Joe Walsh in the guitar progression as well, tying the original song to the finale cover, but most importantly, “Man Like Me” is strong enough to sound like more than just an interlude between 2113‘s two longest tracks, the latter of which checks in at 7:42 well spent between AC/DC chug and some more of that highway strut they noted earlier.
As ever, Wheeler and Goldsborough affirm the forward position of the guitars, a layer of acoustics adding a sentimental touch to the second half of the track, which is entirely instrumental and topped with interwoven solos prior to a long fadeout. I don’t know whether “Turn to Stone” is included on the vinyl edition of the album — I’d assume not, but one wouldn’t want to feign certainty — but they fit the cut by the former Eagles/James Gang frontman smoothly into the overarching flow either way, even if after the fade of “2113,” there’s not much left that really needs to be said. It’s a quick listen, with or without “Turn to Stone” at the end of it, and Carousel‘s second makes a more than suitable answer to their debut, finding them as players working in more nuanced ideas without losing the natural spirit so essential to what they do.
Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Philadelphia heavy psych trio Ecstatic Vision were signed to Relapse Records last winter on the strength of their first demo and an apparent readiness to hit the road hard. They did so this spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and will do so again this fall with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and fellow Philly residents Ruby the Hatchet. Their first album, Sonic Praise, could easily have been an afterthought to their touring intentions. It is not. The trio of guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker Douglas Sabolik, drummer/percussionist Jordan Crouse — both formerly of metalcore-ish agents A Life Once Lost — and bassist Michael Connor effectively conjure heavy psychedelic vibing and space rock thrust throughout Sonic Praise‘s five tracks and vinyl-minded 38 minutes, positioning the longest cut, “Astral Plane” (12:38), effectively as the second piece behind the already-jammy opener “Journey” for maximum out-there exploration.
Some of the elements feel interchangeable on a thematic level — that is to say, “Astral Plane” could just as easily be called “Sonic Praise” and “Sonic Praise,” which appears as track four, could just as easily be called “Journey,” and so on — but there’s no denying that Ecstatic Vision hit their marks, and given how hard they make it to remember this is their first album and that essentially they’re a band of players exploring a new style of expression as they jam their way through, it’s correspondingly easy to get on board with some familiar weedian worship. Sabolik‘s guitar work is at the fore, but a great strength Ecstatic Vision show from the beginning of “Journey” lies in immersion, and they leave little room for either being completely hypnotized or nothing at all. The former is the more enjoyable position.
“Journey” starts off quick a wash of effects and synth swirl before a Sleep-y riff takes hold, but already there’s more at work than simple Pike/Cisneros worship. That’s good news, and likewise the psychedelic push that emerges from Crouse‘s drumming and the grounding effect of Connor‘s bass — which remains reliably earthbound while Sabolik‘s gruff vocals invite the listener along the trip to come from deep in the mix — layered keys and guitar following in the last minute to transition into “Astral Plane” and seemingly demonstrate a meeting of the expanded minds. Sonic Praise as a whole seems to run on a loose drop-out-get-high narrative, the 12 minutes of “Astral Plane” directly questioning what we work for and what the point of doing anything other than getting stoned might be. Fair question, frankly, but what makes the second track the album’s standout is the jam itself.
With added percussion, Ecstatic Vision tie into some loose Afrobeat elements, more Goat than Fela Kuti, but more Hawkwind than either of them, saxophone swirl and all, the guest horn contributed by Kevin Nickles, who also adds flute. If Sonic Praise is going to grab the listener, it’s in “Astral Plane,” and while it’s not necessarily as bold a move as it might have been to lead off with it, putting what on many records would be the closer second is commendable. By the time they get around to the centerpiece of the CD/side B opener of the vinyl, “Don’t Kill the Vibe,” there seems to be minimal danger of that actually happening. Much like Crouse‘s drumming, the narrative is pushing straight ahead, toward stoned enlightenment amid swirling synth ghosts and righteous lysergics, all the while retaining a self-aware presence that never truly seems lost no matter how much Ecstatic Vision seem to be advocating a wandering consciousness.
Does that undercut — or further, kill — the vibe? Not really. As the second half of Sonic Praise gets underway, they’re in deep enough that even if they’ve managed to keep their heads about them while building this massive swirl, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one listening to it needs to do the same. “Don’t Kill the Vibe” and the title-track, which follows,” continue the thread that “Journey” and “Astral Plane” set out of trance-inducing psychedelia, the title-track in particular dipping into percussive and melodic nuance in a way that broadens the context of the album overall, winding up with echoing drums and shouts and trailing leads feeding directly into “Cross the Divide,” which at 9:43 is enough to provide a fitting counterpoint to “Astral Plane” and account for the resulting moment of the narrative — the “good time” aspired to in “Don’t Kill the Vibe” is attained — but once again, it’s the power trio instrumental chemistry that Ecstatic Vision boast and the richness of sound they’re able to bring amid their subtly moving repetitions that give the album its satisfying finish.
They shift through a deceptive hook in the last two verses of “Cross the Divide,” but it’s less about structure and, true to form for the entire album preceding, much more about vibe. Vibe is the key. Vibe is the intent — and it’s an intent they state, further emphasizing the consciousness lurking beneath all that psychedelic chaos — and vibe is what they emit. It oozes from the speakers in colorful, headphone-worthy emanations, and while Sonic Praise sounds longer then its 38 minutes, that’s not at all because it’s boring, but because one eventually snaps back to consciousness after the long fadeout of “Cross the Divide” and inevitably wonders what the hell just happened. Make no mistake, Sonic Praise is a beginning point. It’s a band’s first album, and it sounds like it. But it’s also among the most promising debut releases I’ve heard from and American band this year, and with the obvious work they’re willing to put into supporting it, one doubts it’ll be all that long before Ecstatic Vision find themselves mastering this cosmos of their own making.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
One thing that Heavy Temple bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk doesn’t mention in the update on the Philly trio’s impending second EP below is that their first release, the 2014 self-titled EP (review here) released through Ván Records, has been made available as a name-your-price download while they continue work on the follow-up. It can currently be grabbed at will via their Bandcamp or on the embedded player below.
Very interested to hear what Nighthawk and company have come up with on the new recording. Since that self-titled came out, she’s had a complete revamping of lineup, bringing in drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Archbishop Barghest (nommes de guerre respected via request) after operating for a time as a duo. In addition to elaborating on the progress for the next offering, Heavy Temple also note two upcoming appearances worth extra emphasis: at Vultures of Volume II in Maryland and the Shadow Woods Metal Fest in Pennsylvania, both in Sept.
Our new EP is loosely based on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and the novels’ parallels in my own life. We’ve recorded 4 tracks so far, not sure if there are going to be more.
Some of the music was written while we were still a two piece. We were prepared to record as such, but decidedly, the guitar is almost a necessary part of the Heavy Temple sound.
As always, the ringmaster is myself, High Priestess Nighthawk. Our new drummer is Siren Tempestas, and our new guitarist is Archbishop Barghest. (May sound silly, but we all prefer not to be called by name, diggin’ on the anonymity thing).
There are some riffs in the 2nd EP that appear in the 1st EP, part of the interwoven sonic tapestry, if you will. So they could potentially be listened to as one album.
As for shows, the two big ones we have coming up are Vultures of Volume (opening Saturday’s festivities), and Shadow Woods Metal Fest, which is the weekend of September 25th.
More than content to let their freak flag fly, Philly trio Ecstatic Vision released their debut long-player earlier this month on Relapse Records. That album, Sonic Praise (review pending), is as informed by the bright multi-color vividness of Goat as it is by classic Hawkwindian space rock, and it serves notice of the three-piece’s arrival on the heavy psych scene, their only prior work a demo that got them picked up by Relapse and found them on tour with the likes of YOB and Enslaved earlier this year. Not a bad way to start out.
“Astral Plane” is the first video to come from Sonic Praise and it is little surprise that it’s trippy as hell. Directed by Philadelphia’s Woodshop Films, it’s essentially a performance clip, but like the song itself, it takes traditional forms and manipulates them through a cosmic sprawl to get a weirdo result that’s multifaceted and oddly familiar at the same time. Hard to imagine it’ll be long before Ecstatic Vision are back out supporting their first full-length’s arrival, but for anyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to see them on stage, the clip gives a decent sense of what they’re all about.
Have at you:
Ecstatic Vision, “Astral Plane” official video
Ecstatic Vision take us on a ride with their new live video “Astral Plane”. Their stunning debut, Sonic Praise earned them a signing with Relapse Records just a little after a year of coming together as a band and they’ve already toured North America with Yob and Enslaved. You can’t miss this one. Sonic Praise weaves the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years.
Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Lucifer, Lucifer I
Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.
Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.
Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.
Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.
The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.
Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.
Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014
If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.
According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.
“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.
Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.
Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
And so we cruise into day three. Not sure how you’re holding up, but I feel like I’m hanging in pretty well. We pass the halfway point today, which is significant, but of course there are still plenty of records to come. I’m not sure I have a favorite day — I tried to spread stuff around as best I could when I was planning the whole thing — but there are definitely a couple highlights today as well. No doubt the standouts will stand out as we make our way through.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Minsk, The Crash and the Draw
Six years after the release of their third album, With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), the 75-minute breadth of The Crash and the Draw (on Relapse) marks a welcome resurgence for Illinois post-metallers Minsk. Only keyboardist/vocalist Timothy Mead and guitarist/vocalist Christopher Bennett (also of Lark’s Tongue) remain from what was a four-piece and is now five with Aaron Austin on guitar/vocals, Zachary Livingston on bass/vocals and Kevin Rendleman on drums, but Minsk’s cascading heft is well intact as they show immediately on 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “To the Initiate.” True enough one is bound to be initiated after it, but it hardly scratches the surface of the atmospheric sludge Minsk continue to develop over the course of the four-parter “Onward Procession,” the glorious later melodies of “The Way is Through,” or the tribal tension in the percussion-led “To You there is No End.” They cap with the 10-minute “When the Walls Fell” and find themselves standing after all else has crashed down. A sprawling and triumphant return.
Not to be confused with New York’s King Buffalo, Michigan’s Bison Machine or any number of other large mammals in the well-populated fur-covered contingent of American heavy rockers, King Bison make their self-titled debut via Snake Charmer Coalition, comprising seven riffy bruisers owing a deep debt to Clutch and, in that, reminding a bit of their Pennsylvanian countrymen in Kingsnake. Songs like “One for the Money” and “March of the Sasquatch” signal a watch for stoner-roller grooves to come in “Queen of the South” and “Pariah,” the dudeliness of the proceedings practically oozing from the speakers in the gruff vocals of guitarist/vocalist Chris Wojcik, who’s joined in the trio by bassist Dean Herber and drummer Scott Carey. The penchant for booze and blues, ladies and US auto manufacturing holds firm in “Night Ride” and the slower “I’m Gone,” and while one might expect a closer called “Space Boogie” to flesh out a bit, King Bison instead reinforce the foundation they’ve laid all along of Southern-style heft, remaining light on pretense and heavy on riffs.
Originally issued digitally late last year, Salzburg, Austria, instrumental trio Les Lekin are set to give their debut long-player, All Black Rainbow Moon, a second look with a 180g vinyl pressing in Fall 2015. Comprised of six tracks, the record is a spacious 49 minutes, and the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Stefan W. and drummer Kerstin W. enact a fluid heavy psych groove, somewhat less dense in its fuzz than the post-Colour Haze sphere and following plotted courses throughout, whether it’s in the Arenna-esque “Solum,” which unfolds after the album’s wash of an intro, the efficient exploration of “Useless,” which seems to pack a 12-minute jam into a six-minute song, or the still-open-sounding bluesy stretchout of “Loom,” the longest inclusion here at 13:16. Familiar in aesthetic perhaps, the songs are nonetheless complex enough to represent the band’s beginnings well, the closer “Release” coming to a heavier apex that could perhaps foreshadow future expansions of the chiaroscuro elements at which the title of this debut is hinting.
After releasing their 2012 debut, Voyage, on Nuclear Blast last year, young Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan return in 2015 with their sophomore full-length, Arrival – the second record seeming by title to be an answer to the first. Maybe that’s the intention musically, but the 10 tracks/55 minutes comprising Arrival do well to stand on their own, with the impressive lead work of guitarist/vocalist Óskar Logi never too far from the fore on songs like the standout “Babylon” or “Sandwalker,” though backed capably by the rhythm section of bassist Alexander Örn (also backup vocals) and drummer Stefán Ari Stefánsson. While unquestionably a more mature outing than their debut and more accomplished in its chemistry and songwriting, Arrival still gives a sense of the progression to come, and it’s easy to worry that by the time the listener gets to the powerful closing trio of “Innerverse,” “Carousel” and “Winter Queen,” the dizzying play throughout will have dulled the senses past the point of full appreciation. Room to tighten? Perhaps, but still a strong second outing for a band loaded with potential.
Guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey is known more for the aggressive edge he’s brought over the years to bands like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai and most recently Shatner, but his solo material brings a different look. Joined in this “solo” endeavor by guitarist/vocalist/organist Joe McMahon, cellist/backing vocalist Dana Fisher, drummer Kyle Rasmussen and accordionist/backing vocalist Bridget Nault, Healey’s songwriting is nonetheless front and center across the nine tracks of This is What the End Looked Like, memorable cuts like “A Whole Lot of Nothing,” the more subdued “Radio” (written by Eddy Llerena) and closer “World War Eight” fleshing out arrangements that could work and/or have worked just as well on solo acoustic guitar for Healey in live performances. Worth noting that for all the vocal and instrumental embellishments on the studio incarnations, the songs lose none of the heartfelt feel at their core, Healey’s voice remaining a lonely presence despite obviously keeping good company.
Nighthymns marks a return for ANU and the band’s sole inhabitant Chad “Drathrul” Davis (Hour of 13/Night Magic, Tasha-Yar, The Sabbathian, and so many others) after a four-year absence following the release of 2011’s III EP. Offsetting blasting, ripping black metal on cuts like “Enter the Chasm” and “The Eternal Frost” with the ambient drones of “Risen within the Mist of Obscurity,” the longer “Winterfall” and the title-track, Nighthymns nonetheless gnashes its teeth in a dense blackened murk, screams far back in “Enter the Chasm” beneath programmed-sounding thud and full-on guitar squibblies. A project Davis has had going in one form or another since releasing a first demo in 1999, and likely before that, ANU’s slicing extremity and atmospherics rest well alongside each other, but neither is accessibility a remote concern. If you get it, you get it, and if you don’t, you don’t. Nighthymns is way more concerned with separating wheat from chaff than it is with making friends, and that plays much to its ultimate success.
Comprised of gruff-shouting vocalist Henning L., guitarists Christopher P. and Stephan M., bassist Matthias B. and drummer Torsten H., German riff idolizers Iron and Stone debuted in 2013 with an EP titled Maelstrom and Old Man’s Doom is a follow-up short release. Pressed to DIY cassettes, the three-tracker preaches loud and clear to the nod-ready converted in “Place in Hell” and “Into the Unknown,” big riffs lumbering out stone vibes, intertwining rhythms and leads in the latter as Henning works his shouting into a corresponding notation. “Into the Unknown” ends large and Sabbathy, but speedier closer “Bliss of Diversion” is a high point unto itself for the consistency of the tonal morass that the uptick in pace brings out of the guitar and bass, resulting in a kind of noisy, dense-in-the-low-end punk that suits Iron and Stone well despite operating in defiance of the EP’s title. New material reportedly in the works as well.
Their first album, Second Sun follows a 2012 self-titled EP from Indiana trio Gorgantherron, but is in a different league entirely. A well-set mix balance establishes itself on the opening title-track and develops throughout “Superliminial” and “Bookbinder” as they get rolling, and Gorgantherron – guitarist/vocalist Clint Logan, bassist/vocalist Toby Richardson and drummer Chris Flint – continue to foster grooving largesse over the nine tracks/47 minutes, veering skillfully between boogie and doom on “Pre-Warp Civilization” before airing out an atmospheric take on “Seventh Planet,” the rough-edged vocals prevalent in quieter surroundings. Richardson’s fuzz on “The Stone” ensures the song lives up to its name, and the soft guitar noodling that opens “Paranoia” brings a surprising touch of Colour Haze influence out of the blue before a count-in from Flint puts the band’s roll back on its appointed track. Closing duo “Entropy” and “Defy” offer some shuffle and chug, respectively, but by then the trio have already made the album’s primary impression in their heavy riffs, burl and more than capable execution.
The two cuts of Spanish trio Elephant Riders’ Challenger EP take Kyuss-style desert riffing and reset the context to something altogether less jammy. Tight and presented with a near-metallic crispness in their production, both “Challenger” – rerecorded from an earlier EP – and its more rolling B-side “Lone Wolf” push the line between heavy and hard rock, but riffs remain central to their purposes. Having released their debut full-length, Supernova, in 2014, they’re still getting settled into their sound, but a blend of heavy rock, grunge and metal impulses pervades these two songs, and when “Lone Wolf” shifts into a couple measures of start-stop fuzz riffing in its second half, they show off just a reminder nod for where they got their name. Two catchy tracks that maybe aren’t reinventing the stoner rock game, they nonetheless provide a quick sample of Elephant Rider’s songwriting development in progress and plant the seeds of future hooks to come.
When placed next to each other, the five one-word titles on Lend Me Your Underbelly’s Hover – either the project’s third or fourth full-length, depending on what you count – result in the phrase “Everything” “Was” “Deep” “Dark” “Green.” Whether or not that is of special significance to Netherlands-based multi-instrumentalist/sampler Christian Berends, I don’t know. The whole idea across these tracks seems to be experimentation and improvisation, so if the titles were grabbed from somewhere at random or carrying a rich emotional connection, either is just as likely. Not knowing turns out to be half the fun of Hover itself – not knowing that, not knowing what Berends is going to do around the next turn as each track builds, not knowing where all this noise is leading as the swirls and riffs of “Green” close out. Layers careen, appear and disappear throughout, but the wide open structures and creative sensibility remain consistent and tie Hover together as an intricate work of exploratory psychedelia.
Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day one down and feeling good so far. Day two continues the thread of mixing more known quantities with bands either self-releasing or putting out demos, etc., and I like that. More than last time around — last quarter, if you want to use the business-y sounding language for it — I tried to really get a balance across this batch of reviews, posted yesterday and coming up over the next couple days. We’ll see how it works out when it’s over. It remains a ton of stuff, and I hope you dig it. Day two starts right now.
Quarterly review #11-20:
Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Pushing their way to the fore of Melbourne’s heavy surge, double-guitar four-piece Horsehunter proffer oppressive tonal crush on the four tracks of their 2LP Magnetic Eye Records debut, Caged in Flesh. The story goes that, unsatisfied the initial recordings weren’t heavy enough, the band – guitarists Michael Harutyanyan (also vocals) and Dan McDonald, bassist/vocalist Himi Stringer and drummer Nick Cron – went back into the studio and redid the entire thing. Mission accomplished. By the time 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Stoned to Death” is done, lungs are suitably deflated, spines are cracked, skulls cleaved, and so on. They’re hardly the only ones in the world to conjure formidable tonal heft, but it’s the deft changes in vocals – clean here, shouts there, more abrasive at the start of the title-track – and the sense of atmosphere in the three-minute penultimate interlude that really distinguish Horsehunter, as well as how smoothly that atmosphere integrates with the pummel in the second half of closer “Witchery,” attention to detail and awareness of the need for more than just sonic weight boding well for future progression.
A staggeringly heavy debut full-length from Sacramento, CA, five-piece Church, Unanswered Hymns was initially released digitally by the band and quickly picked up for a cassette issue by Transylvanian Tapes and forthcoming LP through Battleground Records. One gets the sense listening to the three extended tracks – 19-minute opener “Dawning” being the longest of the bunch (immediate points) – that those won’t be the last versions to come. Psychedelic doom blends seamlessly with vicious sludge extremity, creating a morass engulfing in its tones, spacious in its breadth and unrepentantly heavy, making it one of 2015’s best debut releases, hands down, and a glorious revelry in bleak tectonics that challenges the listener to match its level of melancholy without giving into an impulse for post-Pallbearer emotive theatrics. As thrilling as they are plodding, expect the echoes of “Dawning,” “Stargazer” and “Offering” to resonate for some time to come, and should Church show any predilection for touring in the next couple years, they have the potential to make a genuine impact on American doom. Yes, I mean it.
Recorded in a day and released by Grimoire Records, the four-track Without Form is slated as the debut from Baltimore atmospheric doomers Corpse Light, but the band have had tracks come out in drips and drabs since getting their start as Ophidian in mid-2012, even if this is their first proper release. Either way, “The Fool” sets up an immediate and grim ambience, the churning lurch from guitarists Keiran Holmes and Don Selner and bassist Aurora Raiten set to roll by Lawrence Grimes (The Osedax) and given earthy aggression by the vocals of Jim Webb. “Lying in State” fleshes out these morose aggro vibes, but it’s with the drop-everything-and-kill peak of the subsequent “R Complex” that Corpse Light hit their angriest mark. If Without Form was just about that, it would be the highlight, but the album’s 29 minutes have more to offer than pissed off tonally-weighted post-hardcore, as closer “Kenophobia”’s clever turns and deceptive forward momentum demonstrate, though a touch of that kind of thing never hurts either.
Heavy psych four-piece Sunder will make their debut this summer through Tee Pee and Crusher Records with a 7” for “Cursed Wolf,” so consider this notice of the tracks on their not-for-public-consumption demo a heads up on things to come. Their “Deadly Flower” was streamed here this past April, and the band’s previous incarnation, The Socks, released their self-titled debut (review here) on Small Stone in 2014, but with songs like the key-laced stomper “Bleeding Trees,” the ‘70s rusher “Against the Grain,” and the Uncle Acid-style swinging “Daughter of the Snows,” the Lyon, France, outfit continue to refine a style drawing together different vibes of the psychedelic era. “Deadly Flower” was also distinguished by its key work, and as for “Cursed Wolf” itself, the melody reminds of proto-psych Beatles singles (thinking “Rain” specifically), but the groove still holds firm to a sense of weight that’s thoroughly modern, and by that I mean it sounds like 1972. Keep an eye out.
Granted not everyone is going to make this immediate association, but when I first saw the moniker T-Tops, I couldn’t help think of like C-grade generic stonerisms, songs about beer and pretending to be from the South and all that. If you experienced something similar in seeing the name, rest easy. The Pittsburgh trio of guitarist/vocalist Pat Waters (ex-The Fitt, Wormrigg), bassist Jason Orr (Wormrigg) and drummer Jason Jouver (ex-Don Caballero) are down with far more sinister punk and noise on their self-titled, self-released debut full-length, riding, shooting straight and speaking truth on cuts like “Wipe Down” and the catchy “Pretty on a Girl” after the tense sampling of “A Certain Cordial Exhilaration” turns over the power-push to “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’.” “Ralphie” is probably an inside-joke if not a Christmas Story reference, but point is these guys are way less about-to-sing-about-muscle-cars than the name implies and their tight, crisp rhythmic turns come accompanied by vicious tonal force and an utter lack of bullshit, which is a scenario far preferable to that which one might otherwise expect.
Issued by Aqulamb in the imprint’s standard 100-page art book/download format, the self-titled debut from fellow Brooklynites The Space Merchants seeks to draw a line between psychedelic rock and country. And not pretend country like people with a Johnny Cash fetish because he covered that Nine Inch Nails song one time – actual, bright, pastoral, classic country. Call the results psychtwang and applaud the effort, which works oddly well in a thoroughly vintage context to come across on “Mainline the Sun” like something from a lost ‘60s variety show. Parts of “One Cut Like the Moon” and the later fuzz of “One Thousand Years of Boredom” give away their modernity, but The Space Merchants’ push toward a stylistic niche suits them well, and the intertwined vocal arrangements from guitarist Michael Guggino, bassist Aileen Brophy and keyboardist Ani Monteleone – Carter Logan drums to round out the four-piece – add to the rich, welcoming feel that remains prevalent even as the eight-minute “Where’s the Rest of Life” slips into wah-soaked noise to finish out.
The undercurrent of black metal coursing beneath the surface of Etiolated’s debut full-length, Grey Limbs, Grey Skies, eventually comes to the surface in 10-minute opener “Internal Abyss” and 16-minute eponymous closer, which bookends, but in part it’s the tension of waiting for those rampaging surges that keeps one hooked to the Armus Productions release. Guttural death growls echo up from dense tonal reaches, and tempo shifts, whether in those longer tracks or three-minute lumbering slice “Futility” are fluid, the North Carolina five-piece executing a slow-grinding chug in centerpiece “Exsanguinate,” which seems like a murk without end until the 1:47 “For Your Hell” kicks into a speedier, more blackened rush, guest vocalist Ryan McCarthy joining guitarist/vocalists James Storelli and Walls, bassist Cody Rogers and drummer Elliot Thompson in furthering the already prevalent sense of extremism before “Etiolated,” after a surprisingly peaceful if brooding midsection, plods the album to a close. To say “not for the faint of heart” would be putting it lightly, but if I had a vest and if Etiolated had patches, the two parties would definitely meet up at some point in the near future.
It has not taken long for the discography of UK psych jammers Blown Out to become a populated murky cosmos of its own. Planetary Engineering is released on Oaken Palace Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist Mike Vest (also Bong, etc.), bassist John-Michael Hedley (also Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs) and drummer Matt Baty (also the head of Box Records) exploring two mesmeric and sprawling instrumentals – one per side – that bend and flourish and hypnotize in organically-concocted swirl. Side A’s “Transcending Deep Infinity” tops 20 minutes and shifts from its spacey build to a low key groove at about 7:30 in, pulsing forward once more amid head-turning repetition, deep echoes and longform nod, culminating in a two-minute fadeout that brings forward “Thousand Years in the Sunshine,” an immediate bass groove and interstellar swirl no less trance-inducing than its predecessor. Cyclical drum fills morph over time behind the guitar and bass, and Planetary Engineering seems to push continually further out until, of course, it disintegrates, presumably as it crosses the galactic barrier.
I was fortunate enough to have been in attendance at Het Patronaat in Tilburg when French post-black metallers Les Discrets took the stage at Roadburn 2013. As such, it’s with some trepidation I approach their Live at Roadburn recording on Prophecy Productions – the impression they made live wasn’t something I’d want potentially spoiled or brought to earth by a document proving it was just another set. With Neige of Alcest on bass with guitarist/vocalist Fursy Teyssier, Les Discrets proved to be something really special to those who, like me, were there to catch them, and the eight-track Live at Roadburn – fortunately – captures both the majestic lushness they brought with them and the underlying weight that seemed to add impact to the material. What might sound like post-production mixing on “L’Echappée” or the wash of “Chanson D’Automne” isn’t – it really was that beautiful and that perfectly balanced coming from the stage. A vastly underrated act and a document that reminds of how stellar they were without sullying the memory in the slightest.
Brooklynite foursome Beast Modulus seem to care less about meshing with ideas of genre than sticking them in a meatgrinder and seeing what comes out. To wit the riotous chugging of “Cowboy Caligula,” and the blackened thrust of “WaSaBi!” on their self-released, self-titled outing, which leads to dueling growls and screams on the tonally weighted post-hardcore “Fabulous,” and the appropriately mathy turns of the thrashing “Tyranny of Numbers.” Inventive in their stylizations and in where the six songs included on the release actually go – hint: they go to “heavy” – the lineup of vocalist Kurt Applegate, guitarist Owen Burley, bassist Jesse Adelson and drummer Jody Smith have some post-Dillinger Escape Plan vibe in the calculated chaos of “Kalashnikov,” but closer “Killing Champion” is too impatient to even be held by that, the prevailing manic angularity of Beast Modulus ultimately crafting its own identity from the physical assault the music seems intent on perpetrating upon the listener.