Days of Rona: Nighthawk of Heavy Temple

Posted in Features on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

heavy temple nighthawk

Days of Rona: High Priestess Nighthawk of Heavy Temple (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Everyone is in good health. Two of us still have to go to work, which is both a curse and a blessing. Most of our spring shows and tours have been postponed so we’re just kind of in a holding pattern. We planned to release the new album in spring or summer, but it’s looking like that might not happen as well. We haven’t had practice in about a month but have been trying to work on writing and recording remotely. Two of us live together and we have a recording studio in the basement, so there are some options. I think it’s really just starting to set in that we had a lot of big plans for this year, as did a lot of other bands, and while we can still make music it’s just not the same. Nothing is right now.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

We’re in Philly and currently it’s just stay at home and don’t go out unless you need to, isolate yourself if you’re sick, etc. Most people seem to be abiding by those rules. The lack of overall leadership and direction, however, seems to only be prolonging the societal effects of this thing, which is frustrating.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

While I know it’s hard for bands who can’t play, and especially those whose main source of income is playing shows, I’ve seen a lot of bands get creative as far as maintaining their relationships with one another and their fans. Live streams, play-throughs, merch specials, releasing new music even. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of people posting pictures of the great food they’re making at home, and the Instagram challenges have been fun. Wine chugging, write a riff, see a cat share a cat. It’s inspiring to see people trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

While we’re really bummed that we can’t be out there doing what we love, we do have a few tricks up our sleeves. We’re expecting to hear a lot of new music from everyone once we all come out on the other side of this thing. Everything moves so fast that it’s kind of a shock to be slowed down by circumstances beyond your control. On a personal note, I think everyone is anxious and frustrated, and frankly scared about what the future will hold, myself included. But throughout all of that I’ve seen small acts of kindness and larger acts of solidarity that I hope will continue to prevail. The ball is entirely in our court, and I think we’re being forced to see that now. We can demand things, we can act, we can be on the same team. In the end, whatever goes down, Heavy Temple can’t fucking wait to shred again.

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com

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Days of Rona: Erik Caplan of Thunderbird Divine

Posted in Features on April 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

thunderbird divine erik caplan

Days of Rona: Erik Caplan of Thunderbird Divine (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Obviously, this whole thing sucks — bandwise and just in general. This virus is a bastard. We’ve canceled shows, including our CD release show. Half of the band is working from home, the other half works in very small businesses. We are being careful, skipping rehearsals and staying home. Adam (bass) and I are sending song ideas back and forth via Dropbox, but it’s really not the same as getting together and just playing. It sucks, and I miss my dudes. Thankfully, we’re all safe and healthy. That’s ultimately the most important thing. My buddy Mike (former drummer of Wizard Eye) just texted me and said, “There are gonna be a lot of rusty rehearsals when this quarantine is over.” I can’t wait to go be rusty.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

I’m in Montgomery County, PA, which is very close to Philly. Schools are closed. All non-essential businesses are closed. Everyone is supposed to stay home. People are half-assedly doing this. Too many are out doing stuff in crowds because they’re bored. I’m honestly concerned for the health of general population right now.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

When I go anywhere outside of the house, things are eerie. Kids are home from school, but they’re generally not outside. Playgrounds are empty. Grocery stores have a very strange energy. People are distanced, but they’re also fractured and shopping sort of hysterically. It’s very disconcerting. My neighbors wave and say hello from a distance. That’s not so different, actually.

Musically, I’m seeing a lot of our peers doing songs on Facebook, posting acoustic stuff or just jamming alone (shout out to Ken from Eternal Black showing of his beautiful amps and guitars). I find this very life-affirming and communal. I’m glad to see them alive and well, doing their thing. I want this to be over so I can hug everyone.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

We’re here, we’re alive and we’re hoping everyone is being safe and staying healthy. This thing isn’t a joke or a game, and you’re not too young, too smart or too badass to get sick or get someone else sick. This situation is like telling your kid to go to bed when they’re hyped up and don’t want to sleep: I promise all the fun stuff will still be there when you wake up. Just follow the rules. All the fun will come back. Let it go for a while. It’ll be okay. We’re gonna be here. Let’s stay healthy.

https://www.facebook.com/thunderbirddivine
https://www.instagram.com/thunderbird_divine/
https://thunderbirddivine.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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Thunderbird Divine Premiere Title-Track from The Hand of Man EP

Posted in audiObelisk on March 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

thunderbird divine

Psychedelphia four-piece Thunderbird Divine release their new EP, The Hand of Man, on March 28 through Salt of the Earth Records. It’s only three tracks and about 12 minutes long, but The Hand of Man works quickly to blow the roof off of where Thunderbird Divine were early last year when they made their full-length debut with the rousing Magnasonic (review here), with the three-and-a-half-minute opening title-track throwing its Fu Manchu-style fuzz and riff-worth-remembering out the airlock into an open space of guest organ and backing vocal arrangements in preparation for the Monster Magnetism of the ensuing six-minute centerpiece “Boote’s Void,” a triumph and moment of arrival certainly for bassist Adam Scott if not the rest of the band — though also definitely the rest of the band, as the guitars of Flynn Lawrence (also sitar; yup) and Erik Caplan (also vocals, lap steel, theremin, etc.) grow richer in tone with the surrounding keys and drummer Mike Stuart shows his style as malleable either to the swing of “The Hand of Man” and the roll of “Boote’s Void” as well as the move over to percussion alongside Caplan for the psych-bluesy instrumental finale “’88 Testadoon,” a hypnotic instrumental that one only wishes jammed on for about nine minutes instead of the two it does.

Run-on sentence much? Hell yes, but The Hand of Man functions that way as well, with one piece moving fluidly into the next and into the last, the songs building off each other along the way. Granted, “’88 Testadoon” is something of an epilogue, but eventhunderbird divine the hand of man that brings a sense of patience and atmosphere to the proceedings that bolster the whole outing and broaden the band’s sound overall. Magnasonic showcased no lack of potential on the part of the former Wizard Eye and Skeleton Hands members, who also recently took on The Yardbirds‘ “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” — which one only hopes will see a physical pressing of one sort or another soon — and The Hand of Man finds them working quickly to fulfill that potential casting a melodic swirl in “The Hand of Man” made stronger through the backing vocals of Brittany Marie and Avalicious and the keys of Charles Newman. Hate to say it — actually I don’t — but Thunderbird Divine might end up having to play shows as The Thunderbird Divine All-Stars if this keeps up, because what they’re doing here really, really works, right up to Caplan channeling his inner Dave Wyndorf as the deceptively patient cosmic unfurling of “Boote’s Void” takes place before the harder fuzz kicks in, righteous and spaced and soulful in likewise expanding measure.

That’s always the question though with a release like The Hand of Man — perhaps even more so as it’s coming after Thunderbird Divine‘s debut album — in terms of how indicative it is of their sound moving forward versus is it a one-off, the band trying an experiment that just happens to work exceedingly well. Hell if I know. Maybe they don’t either. What’s exciting about The Hand of Man though, aside from the material itself, which is electrified in any number of figurative senses, is that it makes Thunderbird Divine a less predictable band on the whole. Going into their inevitable second album, whenever it might arrive — shit, the sooner the better — I feel like I have less of a grasp after listening to these three songs on what to expect for a follow-up to Magnasonic than I did before the EP came along, and that is invariably a good thing. Whether they continue to build on the fluidity as presented here in a style that, were it not so short, would definitely be album-ish, or push into something rawer in terms of arrangement or again decide to take an unanticipated direction, they’re very quickly beginning to earn a basic level of trust that they can carry their songwriting through any number of diverse applications. Dudes have it down, is what I’m saying. Let the nonsense move you, because the nonsense is awesome.

The Hand of Man was recorded at Retro City Studios in Philly and Cottage Sounds Unlimited in Brooklyn. You can stream the premiere of the title-track below, followed by a quote from Caplan on the making of the song, that Yardbirds cover, and a trailer for an upcoming recording documentary on the making of the EP.

Please enjoy:

Erik Caplan on “The Hand of Man”:

This track started as a riff that existed before I joined up with these dudes back in 2017. Flynn is a masterful riffologist, and this one has a lovely swagger. We previously tried to cram this riff into a bunch of other song structures, and none of them were quite right. Eventually we realized we needed to let it breathe, and it developed an identity of its own. After that, the song grew naturally into its final form. I love Mike’s break before the bridge. It’s a small moment, but it feels very natural. We wanted it to be a banger, but we also wanted it to have a foreboding, scattered feeling as an overtone to the groove in the bridge.

Basic tracking took place at Retro City Studios in Philadelphia, where we nailed down the essence of the song, my main vocals and all of the backing vocal arrangements. Picture me acting as a lunatic choir director from behind a baby grand piano as the ladies (Avy and Brittany) attempted to decipher my conducting for the backing vocals… it was pretty amusing.

Joe Boldizar and the crew at Retro City got excellent, organic sounds for us in the main tracking phase. Adam and I then took the track to Cottage Sounds Unlimited in Brooklyn to add the Wurlitzer, B3 Organ and lap steel guitar. Charles Newman is a talented musician, and keys are a specialty for him. He interpreted our (admittedly offbeat) sonic requests brilliantly. When we brought the tracks back to Retro City for mixing, Joe sort of instinctively knew what we wanted. It was a very smooth process overall.

The lyrics are my musings about a documentary called Discovering Bigfoot. The filmmaker, Todd Standing, put a lot of time and effort into making this sort of visual poem for the Bigfoot population he clearly loves and respects. I’m not saying his research is flawed or anything like that, but his approach was certainly a little unconventional, as I suppose it should be, considering the subject matter. I’m not sure he proved his thesis by making this film, but he succeeded in providing entertainment.

Thunderbird Divine “Hand Of Man”
Available @ www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

Thunderbird Divine is
Erik Caplan: electric guitars, vocals, theremin, lap steel guitar, percussion, vocal arrangements
Flynn Lawrence: electric guitars, electric sitar
Mike Stuart: drums, percussion
Adam Scott: bass, synth, 3-string strum stick, percussion

With
Brittany Marie and Avalicious: backing vocals
(Additional backing vocal arrangement by Brittany Marie on “Boote’s Void”)
Mike Scarpone: djembe on “Boote’s Void”
Charles Newman: keys, synths on “Hand of Man” and “Boote’s Void”

Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man recording documentary trailer

Thunderbird Divine, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”

Thunderbird Divine on Thee Facebooks

Thunderbird Divine on Instagram

Thunderbird Divine on Bandcamp

Salt of the Earth Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

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Thunderbird Divine Stream Yardbirds Cover; The Hand of Man EP out March 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

thunderbird divine

Somewhat unexpected but most definitely welcome news out of Philly in that Thunderbird Divine have a new EP on the way following up on their righteous 2019 debut, Magnasonic (review here), and further, that they’re already streaming a new single as a precursor to that. If there’s anything I enjoy, it’s not waiting for new music. The track they’ve got posted now is a Yardbirds cover “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago,” which they nonetheless manage to make sound like it comes from the future, and the upcoming three-songer is called The Hand of Man. It’ll be out through Salt of the Earth Records on March 28. Preorders are up now, and you should do that.

Thunderbird Divine have a gig booked around the release and they’ll be at Maryland Doom Fest 2020 as well. More info follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

thunderbird divine the hand of man

Philly’s Space Hippies THUNDERBIRD DIVINE Set To Release ‘The Hand Of Man’ 3-Song Single on Salt Of The Earth Records!

Psychedelic Rock Collective THUNDERBIRD DIVINE shares their tribute to The Yardbirds’ “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” ahead of the upcoming release of a three-song single ‘The Hand of Man’.

The Philadelphia-based space hippies of THUNDERBIRD DIVINE will put forth their second release, ‘The Hand of Man,’ on March 28th via Salt of the Earth Records, alongside a documentary of the recording sessions.

“We absolutely loved what Thunderbird Divine did with Magnasonic, and The Hand of Man just keeps the ball rolling,” says Scott Harrington, president of Salt of the Earth Records. “These guys are at the top of their game when it comes to songwriting and arrangements.”

A companion recording, a cover of The Yardbirds’ “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” is presented here in video format and will be available for free download via the band’s Bandcamp site. “We tracked and mixed that one ourselves,” says guitarist / vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Erik Caplan. “We relate to The Yardbirds more and more as we continue writing. That band was stuck between being known as bluesy rock act and a progenitor of psychedelia and studio experimentation. This cover is a tribute to their brilliant work.”

Primary tracking for the three-song ‘The Hand of Man’ single was done at Philadelphia’s Retro City Studios, with Joe Boldizar handling most of the engineering duties. Additional layers were added at Brooklyn’s Cottage Sounds Unlimited, with Charles Newman providing his prowess on various synths and keys. “Working with the guys was a total pleasure,” says Boldizar. “They showed just the right amount of focus and did some fun experimenting with the tracks.”

‘The Hand Of Man’ Tracklist:
01. The Hand of Man
02. Boote’s Void
03. ’88 Testadoon

This release finds the band committed to its rock and psychedelic roots with a less densely embroidered approach to layering and instrumentation.

“For ‘Magnasonic’, we really went all out in the tracking process, just creating several sonically nuanced elements in every track,” Caplan says. “We built those layers in the studio as we worked. For ‘The Hand of Man’ sessions, our orchestration and instrumentation, from the ladies singing backups and the electric sitar, to the Wurlitzer organ, was fully realized before we set foot in the studio.” The result is a focused, streamlined trio of songs true to the band’s love of both riff-rock and trippy experimentation.

This theme follows through the release’s visual elements, as well. “For this recording’s artwork, I started with a synthetic cubist design and built elements out from there,” says bassist / multi-instrumentalist / art designer Adam Scott. “I intentionally departed from the vibrant color palette used on ‘Magnasonic’ and focused more on layers and space.”

Additionally, THUNDERBIRD DIVINE will make available a 17-minute visual record of its recording process in the form of a documentary compiled by close band friend and fellow musician, Jamie Victor. “I love the guys, love the band and love making videos,” Victor explains. “It all lined up. I consider these guys family, so it was my pleasure to make this for them. They didn’t even know I was going to do it.”

‘The Hand Of Man’ is available March 28th. Pre-order now:
Digital: https://thunderbirddivine.bandcamp.com/album/the-hand-of-man
CD: https://saltoftheearthrecords.com/product/548953

Upcoming Live Dates:
Mar. 28 – Philadelphia, PA @ Ortlieb’s
Jun. 18-21 – Frederick, MD @ The Maryland Doom Fest 2020

Performed by
Erik Caplan: electric guitars, vocals, theremin, lap steel guitar, percussion, vocal arrangements
Flynn Lawrence: electric guitars, electric sitar
Mike Stuart: drums, percussion
Adam Scott: bass, synth, 3-string strum stick, percussion

With
Brittany Marie and Avalicious: backing vocals
(Additional backing vocal arrangement by Brittany Marie on “Boote’s Void”)
Mike Scarpone: djembe on “Boote’s Void”
Charles Newman: keys, synths on “Hand of Man” and “Boote’s Void”

https://www.facebook.com/thunderbirddivine
https://www.instagram.com/thunderbird_divine/
https://thunderbirddivine.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

Thunderbird Divine, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”

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High Reeper Touring in March and April; Playing SXSW & Heavy Psych Sounds Fests

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

high reeper

Last Spring, when Philadelphia’s High Reeper released their second album, Higher Reeper (review here), they subsequently took off on a European tour that included stops at Desertfest, Maximum Festival and many more besides. It would seem losing a guitarist and an intervening year haven’t dulled the band’s ability to use their time well, as this Spring they’ll do an efficient US tour that touches both coasts, starts at SXSW and includes two stops at Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in California.

They’ll of course also play New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3 in May in Connecticut, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they organized more touring around that, since the only real East Coast stop here is Brooklyn (still counts), but either way, it’s a pretty impressive amount of ground to cover in the time they’re doing it. Note also they’re meeting up with Lord Dying in Chicago. That’s a good night to leave the house.

Dates follow, as per the PR wire:

high reeper tour

High Reeper Announces U.S. Tour Dates

Philadelphia Psych-Metal Band to Perform at SXSW Music Festival, Heavy Psych Sounds Fests in Los Angeles, San Francisco as Part of Spring Tour Run

Philadelphia psych-metal unit High Reeper has announced U.S. tour dates in support of its latest LP ‘Higher Reeper’ (Heavy Psych Sounds). The two week trek will launch on March 19 in Austin, TX as part of the 2020 SXSW Music Festival and run through April 4 in Brooklyn, NY.

As part of the spring tour, High Reeper will perform as part of the recently-announced Heavy Psych Sounds festival shows in San Francisco (March 27) and Los Angeles (March 28). The curated west coast shows will spotlight an exclusive selection of Italian independent record label Heavy Psych Sounds’ blue-chip roster, including live sets from acts such as ex-Kyuss musician Brant Bjork, and Yawning Man, as well as special guests Earthless, Danava and more.

High Reeper tour dates:

March 19 Austin, TX The Far Out Lounge (as part of SXSW)
March 20 Arlington, TX Division Brewing
March 21 Lafayette, LA Freetown Boom Boom Room
March 22 Houston, TX Rudyard’s
March 24 Phoenix, AZ Palo Verde Lounge
March 25 Las Vegas, NV Bunkhouse
March 26 Reno, NV Shea’s Tavern
March 27 San Francisco, CA Rickshaw Stop (as part of Heavy Psych Sounds Fest)
March 28 Los Angeles, CA The Moroccan Lounge (as part of Heavy Psych Sounds Fest)
March 30 Denver, CO Hi Dive
March 31 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge
April 1 Chicago, IL Reggie’s (w/Lord Dying)
April 2 Pittsburgh, PA Gooski’s
April 3 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
April 4 Brooklyn, NY Knitting Factory

High Reeper features vocalist Zach Thomas, guitarist Pat Daly, bassist Shane Trimble and drummer Justin DiPinto (ex-Malevolent Creation).

https://www.facebook.com/HIGHREEPER/
https://highreeper.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/

High Reeper, Higher Reeper (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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