Friday Full-Length: Bang, Bang

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

 

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

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

bang bang

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

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

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

As always, I hope you enjoy.

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

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

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

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

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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

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

quarterly review

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

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

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Total Fucking Destruction, #USA4TFD

Total Fucking Destruction USA4TFD

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

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Give Praise Records website

 

Hippie Death Cult, 111

Hippie-Death-Cult-111

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

Hippie Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

 

The Cosmic Dead, Scottish Space Race

The Cosmic Dead Scottish Space Race

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

The Cosmic Dead on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

Greenthumb, There are More Things

greenthumb there are more things

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

Greenthumb on Thee Facebooks

Acid Cosmonaut Records on Bandcamp

 

Elepharmers, Lords of Galaxia

Elepharmers Lords Of Galaxia Artwork

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

Elepharmers on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Nothing is Real, Only the Wicked are Pure

nothing is real only the wicked are pure

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

Nothing is Real on Thee Facebooks

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp

 

Warish, Down in Flames

warish down in flames

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

Warish on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge, Split

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


Mourn the Light on Thee Facebooks

Oxblood Forge on Thee Facebooks

 

Those Furious Flames, HeartH

those furious flames hearth

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

Those Furious Flames on Thee Facebooks

Vincebus Eruptum Recordings BigCartel store

 

Mantra Machine, Heliosphere

mantra machine heliosphere

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

Mantra Machine on Thee Facebooks

Mantra Machine on Bandcamp

 

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

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

queen elephantine

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

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

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

queen elephantine gorgon

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

Gorgon coming this November on Argonauta Records!

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

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

[ Artwork by Tsem Rinpoche & Nathanael Totushek ]

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

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

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

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

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

Queen Elephantine, “Mars”

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

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

ecstatic vision for the masses

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

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

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

ecstatic vision

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

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

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

Ecstatic Vision, Sonic Praise (2019)

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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High Reeper & Crypt Trip Announce Fall European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

high reeper (Photo Drew Wiedemann)

crypt trip

Crypt Trip and High Reeper both toured Europe this past Spring, the former in March/April and the latter in April/May. Crypt Trip played RoadburnHigh Reeper played Desertfest in London. The way I see the dates, the US-based Heavy Psych Sounds labelmates missed each other by all of five days in terms of intercontinental travel, and as apparently both acts left some unfinished business abroad, it seems only reasonable they’d head back over in good company. They’ll both take part in their label’s festival in Rome, Italy, and Innsbruck, Austria, as well as Desertfest Belgium and a host of other sweet-looking gigs, and because the astounding coincidences keep piling up, they both go supporting killer 2019 releases, as High Reeper‘s Higher Reeper (review here) and Crypt Trip‘s Haze County (review here) both came out this Spring. Go figure.

Still some dates TBA in the UK (that’s the new “Anarchy in the UK,” btw) here, so keep an eye out, but here’s what’s been announced:

high reeper crypt trip tour

*** HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP European Fall Tour 2019 ***

We are so happy to present a very special combo tour. Our beloved HIGH REEPER and Crypt Trip will smash Europe together this Fall playing in Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria and UK. A lot of single shows but also great festivals such as Desertfest Belgium, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest // Roma and Heavy Psych Sounds Fest IBK | Conan, Black Rainbows, more !!!

HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP EU Fall Tour 2019

11.10.2019 IT Pescara-Scumm
12.10.2019 IT Roma-Traffic, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
13.10.2019 IT Cecina- Fuzz n Roll, Ritmi
14.10.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
15.10.2019 IT Trieste-El Covo De Jameson
16.10.2019 SL Ljubljana-Channel Zero
18.10.2019 DE Siegen-Freak Sabbath Vol 5
19.10.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record Shop
20.10.2019 BE Antwerp-Desertfest Belgium
21.10.2019 FR Lille
22.10.2019 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet
23.10.2019 FR Toulouse-Usine a Musique
24.10.2019 SP Bilbao-Satelite T
25.10.2019 SP Aviles-Factoria Cultural
26.10.2019 SP Madrid-Wurlitzer Ballroom
27.10.2019 PT Porto-Barracuda
28.10.2019 PT Lisbon-Sabotage Club
30.10.2019 SP Barcelona-Rocksound
31.10.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’or
01.11.2019 AT Innsbruck-PMK Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
02.11.2019 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk
04.11.2019 AT Koln-MTC*
05.11.2019 UK*
06.11.2019 UK*
07.11.2019 UK*
08.11.2019 UK Bristol*
09.11.2019 UK London-Black Heart*

HIGH REEPER ONLY*

HIGH REEPER are:
Zach Tomas – Vocals
Shane Trimble – Bass
Pat Dealy – Guitars
Andrew Price – Guitars
Justin Di Pinto – Drums

CRYPT TRIP are:
Ryan Lee – Vocals, Guitar
Sam Bryant – Bass
Cameron Martin – Drums

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

High Reeper, Higher Reeper (2019)

Crypt Trip, Haze Country (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Black Lung, Giant Dwarf, Land Mammal, Skunk, Silver Devil, Sky Burial, Wizzerd, Ian Blurton, Cosmic Fall

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Got my laptop back. Turned out the guy had to give me a new hard drive entirely, clone all my data on it, and scrap the other drive. I’m sure if I took it to another technician they’d have said something completely different, either for better or worse, but it was $165 and I got my computer back, working, in a day, so I can’t really complain. Worth the money, obviously, even though it was $40 more than the estimate. I assume that was a mix of “new hard drive” and “this is the last thing I’m doing before a four-day weekend.” Either way, totally legit. Bit of stress on my part, but what’s a Quarterly Review without it?

This ends the week, but there’s still one more batch of 10 reviews to go on Monday, so I won’t delay further, except to say more to come.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo

elizabeth colour wheel nocebo

A rare level of triumph for a first album, Elizabeth Colour Wheel‘s aesthetic scope and patience of craft on Nocebo result in a genre-spanning post-noise rock that maintains an atmospheric heft whether loud or quiet at any given moment, and a sense of unpredictability that feels born out of a genuinely forward-thinking songwriting process. It is dark, emotionally resonant, beautiful and crushing across its eight songs and 47 minutes, as the Philadelphia five-piece ebb and flow instrumentally behind a standout vocal performance that reminds of Julie Christmas circa Battle of Mice on “Life of a Flower” but is ultimately more controlled and all the more lethal for that. Bouts of extremity pop up at unexpected times and the songs flow into each other so as to make all of Nocebo feel like a single, multi-hued work, which it just might be as it moves into ambience between “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” and “Bedrest” before exploding to life again in “34th” and transitioning directly into the cacophonous apex that comes with closer “Head Home.” One of the best debuts of 2019, if not the best.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser on Bandcamp

 

Black Lung, Ancients

black lung ancients

Ancients is the third full-length from Baltimore’s Black Lung, whose heavy blues rock takes a moodier approach from the outset of “Mother of the Sun” onward, following an organ-led roll in that opener that calls to mind All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door and following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here) with an even firmer grasp on their overarching intent. The title-track is shorter at 3:10 and offers some post-rock flourish in the guitar amid its otherwise straight-ahead push, but there’s a tonal depth to add atmosphere to whatever moves they’re making at the time, “The Seeker” and “Voices” rounding out side A with relatively grounded swing and traditionalist shuffle but still catching attention through pace and presentation alike. That holds true as “Gone” drifts into psychedelic jamming at the start of side B, and the chunkier “Badlands,” the dramatic “Vultures” and the controlled wash of “Dead Man Blues” take the listener into some unnamed desert without a map or exit strategy. It’s a pleasure to get lost as Ancients plays through, and Black Lung remain a well-kept secret of the East Coast underground.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Noisolution website

 

Giant Dwarf, Giant Dwarf

Giant Dwarf Giant Dwarf

This just fucking rules, and I feel no need to couch my critique in any more flowery language than that. Driving, fuzzy heavy rock topped with post-Homme melodies that doesn’t sacrifice impact for attitude, the self-released, self-titled debut from Perth, Australia’s Giant Dwarf is a sans-pretense 35 minutes of groove done right. They may be playing to genre, fine, but from the cover art on down, they’re doing so with a sense of personality and a readiness to bring an individual sensibility to their sound. I dig it. Summery tones, rampant vocal melodies in layers, solid rhythmic foundation beneath. The fact that it’s the five-piece’s first album makes me look less for some kind of stylistic nuance, but it’s there to be heard anyway in “Disco Void” and the bouncing end of “High Tide Blues,” and in surrounding cuts like “Repeat After Defeat” and “Strange Wool,” Giant Dwarf set to the task before them with due vitality, imagining Songs for the Deaf with Fu Manchu tonality in “Kepler.” No big surprise, but yeah, it definitely works. Someone should be beating down the door to sign this band.

Giant Dwarf on Thee Facebooks

Giant Dwarf on Bandcamp

 

Land Mammal, Land Mammal

land mammal land mammal

Land Mammal‘s debut outing is a 14-minute, proof-of-concept four-songer EP with clarity of presentation and telegraphed intent. Marked out by the Robert Plant-style vocal heroics of Kinsley August, the band makes the most of a bluesy atmosphere behind him, with Will Weise on wah-ready guitar, Phillip PJ Soapsmith on bass, Stephen Smith on drums and True Turner on keys. On opener “Dark with Rain” and closer “Better Days,” they find a pastoral vibe that draws from ’90s alternative, thinking Blind Melon particularly in the finale, but “Earth Made Free” takes a bluesier angle and “Drippin’ Slow” is not shy about nor ashamed of its danceability, as its lyrics demonstrate. For all the crispness of the production, Land Mammal still manage to sound relatively natural, which is all the more encouraging in terms of moving forward, but it’ll be interesting to hear how they flesh out their sound over the course of a full-length, since even as an EP, this self-titled is short. They have songwriting, performance and production on their side, however, so something tells me they’ll be just fine.

Land Mammal on Thee Facebooks

Land Mammal on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Strange Vibration

skunk strange vibration

Even before they get to the ultra-“N.I.B.” patterning of second track “Stand in the Sun,” Skunk‘s Sabbathian loyalties are well established, and they continue on that line, through the “War Pigs”-ness of “Goblin Orgy” (though I’ll give them bonus points for that title), and the slower “A National Acrobat” roll of “The Black Crown,” and while that’s not the only influence under which Skunk are working — clearly — it’s arguably the most forward. They’ve been on a traditional path since 2015’s mission-statement EP, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here), and as Strange Vibration is their second album behind 2017’s Doubleblind (review here), they’ve only come more into focus in terms of what they’re doing overall. They throw a bit of swagger into “Evil Eye Gone Blind” and “Star Power” toward the end of the record — more Blackmore or Leslie West than Iommi — but keep the hooks center through it all, and cap with a welcome bit of layered melody on “The Cobra’s Kiss.” Based in Oakland, they don’t quite fit in with the Californian boogie scene to the south, but standing out only seems to suit Strange Vibration all the more.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

Silver Devil, Paralyzed

Silver Devil Paralyzed

Like countrymen outfits in Vokonis or to a somewhat lesser degree Cities of Mars, Gävle-based riffers Silver Devil tap into Sleep as a core influence and work outward from there. In the case of their second album, Paralyzed (on Ozium Records), they work far out indeed, bringing a sonic largesse to bear through plus-sized tonality and distorted vocals casting echoes across a wide chasm of the mix. “Rivers” or the later, slower-rolling “Octopus” rightfully present this as an individual take, and it ends up being that one way or the other, with the atmosphere becoming essential to the character of the material. There are some driving moments that call to mind later Dozer — or newer Greenleaf, if you prefer — such as the centerpiece “No Man Traveller,” but the periodic bouts of post-rock bring complexity to that assessment as well, though in the face of the galloping crescendo of “The Grand Trick,” complexity is a secondary concern to the outright righteousness with which Silver Devil take familiar elements and reshape them into something that sounds fresh and engaging. That’s basically the story of the whole record, come to think of it.

Silver Devil on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records website

 

Sky Burial, Sokushinbutsu

sky burial Sokushinbutsu

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/engineer Vessel 2 and drummer/vocalist Vessel 1 (also ex-Mühr), Sky Burial release their debut EP, Sokushinbutsu, through Break Free Records, and with it issue two songs of densely-weighted riff and crash, captured raw and live-sounding with an edge of visceral sludge thanks to the harsh vocals laid overtop. The prevailing spirit is as much doom as it is crust throughout “Return to Sender” (8:53) and the 10:38 title-track — the word translating from Japanese to “instant Buddha” — and as “Sokushinbutsu” kicks the tempo of the leadoff into higher gear, the release becomes a wash of blown-out tone with shouts cutting through that’s very obviously meant to be as brutal as it absolutely is. They slow down eventually, then slow down more, then slow down more — you see where this is going — until eventually the feedback seems to consume them and everything else, and the low rumble of guitar gives way to noise and biting vocalizations. As beginnings go, Sokushinbutsu is willfully wretched and animalistic, a manifested sonic nihilism that immediately stinks of death.

Sky Burial on Thee Facebooks

Break Free Records on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd, Wizzerd

wizzerd st

One finds Montana’s Wizzerd born of a similar Upper Midwestern next-gen take on classic heavy as that of acts like Bison Machine and Midas. Their Cursed Tongue Records-delivered self-titled debut album gives a strong showing of this foundation, less boogie-based than some, with just an edge of heavy metal to the riffing and vocals that seems to derive not directly from doom, but definitely from some ’80s metal stylizations. Coupled with ’70s and ’90s heavy rocks, it’s a readily accessible blend throughout the nine-song/51-minute LP, but a will toward the epic comes through in theme as well as the general mood of the riffs, and even in the drift of “Wizard” that’s apparent. Taken in kind with the fuzzblaster “Wraith,” the winding motion of the eponymous closer and with the lumbering crash of “Warrior” earlier, the five-piece’s sound shows potential to distinguish itself further in the future through taking on fantasy subject matter lyrically as well as playing to wall-sized grooves across the board, even in the speedy first half of “Phoenix,” with its surprising crash into the wall of its own momentum.

Wizzerd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Ian Blurton, Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

The core of Ian Blurton‘s Signals Through the Flames is in tight, sharply-executed heavy rockers like “Seven Bells” and “Days Will Remain,” classic in their root but not overly derivative, smartly and efficiently composed and performed. The Toronto-based Blurton has been making and producing music for over three decades in various guises and incarnations, and with these nine songs, he brings into focus a songcraft that is more than enough to carry song like “Nothing Left to Lose” and opener “Eye of the Needle,” which bookends with the 6:55 “Into Dust,” the closer arriving after a final salvo with the Scorpionic strut of “Kick out the Lights” and the forward-thrust-into-ether of “Night of the Black Goat.” If this was what Ghost had ended up sounding like, I’d have been cool with that. Blurton‘s years of experience surely come into play in this work, a kind of debut under his own name and/or that of Ian Blurton’s Future Now, but the songs come through as fresh regardless and “The March of Mars” grabs attention not with pedigree, but simply by virtue of its own riff, which is exactly how it should be. It’s subtle in its variety, but those willing to give it a repeat listen or two will find even more reward for doing so.

Ian Blurton on Thee Facebooks

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Lackland

Cosmic Fall Lackland

“Lackland” is the first new material Berlin three-piece Cosmic Fall have produced since last year’s In Search of Space (review here) album, which is only surprising given the frequency with which they once jammed out a record every couple of months. The lone 8:32 track is a fitting reminder of the potency in the lineup of guitarist Marcin Morawski, bassist Klaus Friedrich and drummer Daniel Sax, and listening to the Earthless-style shred in Morawski‘s guitar, one hopes it won’t be another year before they come around again. As it stands, they make the eight minutes speed by with volcanic fervor and an improvised sensibility that feels natural despite the song’s ultimately linear trajectory. Could be a one-off, could be a precursor to a new album. I’d prefer the latter, obviously, but I’ll take what I can get, and if that’s “Lackland,” then so be it.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

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Crypt Sermon Announce The Ruins of Fading Light out Sept. 13; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

crypt sermon

The message of Crypt Sermon‘s new streaming track is clear, and to put it as one might in a text: ‘epic doom or GTFO.’ The track is called “Key of Solomon,” and it’s the second cut on the Philadelphia doomers’ sophomore full-length, The Ruins of Fading Light, which is set to release Sept. 13 through Dark Descent Records. Their likewise righteous 2015 debut, Out of the Garden (review here), came out via the same label, and it was a highlight of that year in doom. I’d expect no less of their follow-up outing, particularly given what I’m hearing in “Key of Solomon,” and so I’ll look forward to hearing the album in its entirety when the time comes. What’s that you say? The time is now? Okay, I’ll go put it on. That’s what I was hoping would happen.

Doooom. That’s doom with four ‘o’s. That’s what Crypt Sermon play. It’s one more even than three.

From the PR wire:

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

CRYPT SERMON’s ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’ Arriving September 13 on Dark Descent Records

CRYPT SERMON return with their highly anticipated new album, The Ruins of Fading Light, September 13 on Dark Descent Records. Album track “Key of Solomon” is now streaming.

A follow up to 2015’s critically acclaimed debut Out of the Garden, The Ruins of Fading Light is a collection of existential meditations set to the backdrop of looming, apocryphal vestiges from a lost dark age. The lyrics explore the limits of faith and family, life and loss, strength and pride. Between thundering riffs and plaintive acoustic moments, the music explores new territories on the landscape of epic doom and heavy metal. Still, one message echos as CRYPT SERMON march onward, “We’re doomed.”

The Ruins of Fading Light was again recorded, mixed, and mastered by Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Eternal Champion, Sumerlands, and more) at Creep Records. Album art comes courtesy of vocalist Brooks Wilson.

Regarding “Key of Solomon,” vocalist Brooks Wilson comments, “We live in a time where the practices of science and magic serve distinctly different purposes. This was not always the case. The Italian Renaissance was an age where science and magic intertwined; summoning rituals connected exorcists to esoteric revelations. ‘Key of Solomon’ refers to a pseudepigraphical text of the same name.”

Track List

1 The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame)
2 Key of Solomon
3 Our Reverend’s Grave
4 Epochal Vestiges
5 Christ is Dead
6 The Snake Handler
7 Oath of Exile
8 Enslave The Heathens
9 Beneath The Torchfire Glare
10 The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon is:
Brooks Wilson (vocals)
Steve Jannson (guitars)
James Lipczynski (guitars)
Frank Chin (bass)
Enrique Sagarnaga (drums)

facebook.com/CryptSermon/
cryptsermon.bandcamp.com/
instagram.com/cryptsermon/
darkdescentrecords.com
facebook.com/darkdescentrecords
darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com

Crypt Sermon, “Key of Solomon”

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Quarterly Review: Salem’s Bend, Motorpsycho, Sigils, Lord Dying, Sunn O))), Crimson Heat, Molior Superum, Moros, Glitter Wizard, Gourd

Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Today is Tuesday, I’m pretty sure, and hey, that’s nifty. I thought yesterday kicked off the Summer 2019 Quarterly Review really well, and any time I get through one of these without my head caving in on itself, I feel like that’s a victory, so yeah. Now we wade even deeper into what will ultimately be a 60-review plunge, with another 10 offerings of various stripes and takes on heavy. Some higher profile stuff in here, which is fine, I guess, but most of it is pretty recent, so if there’s something you haven’t heard yet, I hope you find something you dig, as always.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Salem’s Bend, Supercluster

salems bend supercluster

This is the sound of a band who’ve figured it out. Salem’s Bend have taken retroist boogie and modern tonalism, production and melody and turned it into something of their own. Supercluster (on Ripple) follows the Los Angeles trio of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Parker, bassist/vocalist Kevin Schofield and drummer Zach Huling‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), and with an uptick in the complexity of songwriting overall and particularly in the arrangements of dual-vocals, it is a marked step forward palpable as much in the hook of “Ride the Night” — and if you’re gonna call a song that, you better bring it — as the heavy crash ending “Heavenly Manna” and the languid, lucidly dreaming groove in “Infinite Horizon,” which appears ahead of the acoustic hidden track “Beltaine Chant.” That won’t be the last time these guys unplug, but whether it’s the raw Zeppelin vibe of “Show Me the Witch” or the crunching low-end nod of “Thinking Evil” or the leadoff thrust in “Spaceduster,” the message is clear that Salem’s Bend have arrived.

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music webstore

 

Motorpsycho, The Crucible

motorpsycho the crucible

The latest in Motorpsycho‘s nigh-on-impossible-to-chart and ever-growing discography is The Crucible, issued through Stickman Records, and taking some of the heavy rock push of 2017’s The Tower (review here) and stretching out to more willfully progressive execution across three increasingly extended tracks. Running from shortest to longest, the album begins with “Psychotzar” (8:44) which resolves itself in maddening turns after fleshing through an energetic beginning, and rounds out side A with the 11-minute “Lux Aeterna,” with vocal harmonies and mellotron building into a graceful swell of volume before a headspinner solo and jam take hold, break to near-silence and finish in a burst of directly earliest-King Crimson majesty. This all before the 20:51, side B-consuming title-track crashes in with immediate tension and plays back and forth at releasing that through a course that is rife with melody and an emphasis on the mastery of Motorpsycho over their sound and direction. Onto the list of the year’s best records it goes.

Motorpsycho on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Sigils, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves

Sigils You Built the Altar You Lit the Leaves

Hypnotic and immersive heavy post-rock and metal becomes the genre tag well enough, but what New York’s Sigils do on their markedly impressive self-recorded, self-released debut album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves, is more soulful and emotive than “post-” anything generally conveys. With four tracks/38 minutes best taken as a whole, single listening experience, the band offer resonant depths of tone and vocal echoes centered around airy but still weighted guitar and consuming rhythms brought to bear with the patience of an organic Jesu. The ultimate triumph is in the melody and payoff of 13-plus-minute closer “The Wicked, the Cloaked,” which seems to manifest the haunting sensibility that “Samhain” and “Ritual” advocate on side A, but neither will I discount the chug of the prior “Faceless” or the underlying churn in those two leadoff tracks. Especially as a first album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves casts a sonic identity for itself that is striking and sees the band already beginning to push themselves forward. One hopes they continue to do so.

Sigils on Thee Facebooks

Sigils on Bandcamp

 

Lord Dying, Mysterium Tremendum

Lord Dying Mysterium Tremendum

Following 2015’s Poisoned Altars (review here), subsequent years of touring and a jump from Relapse to eOne Metal, Lord Dying‘s Mysterium Tremendum is enough of a stylistic melting pot that the best thing to do is call it progressive and just let it roll. Comprised of 11 tracks themed around death and the afterlife, the record takes the Portland, Oregon, outfit’s prior death-doom ways and expands them to incorporate an array of styles and melodies, like a vocoder-less Cynic or even Atheist, but more focused on the songs themselves. It’s being widely hailed as one of 2019’s best metal releases, and honestly I can’t speak to that because who the hell knows what “metal” even means, but it sees Lord Dying pull off a major sonic leap and if this is the direction they’re headed from now on, then I guess “metal” is going to be whatever the hell they want. So there. Expect to see a lot of Lord Dying t-shirts around in the years to come.

Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Sunn O))), Life Metal

sunn life metal

The core of Sunn O)))‘s sound — that is, the drone-riffed tonality of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, has proven amorphous enough over the last two decades to either be orchestral, minimalist, impossibly bleak, or now, something brighter. The Steve Albini-recorded Life Metal is one of two purported Sunn O))) releases slated for this year, and it follows behind 2015’s Kannon (review here) in manifesting their project in a new way. It is 68 minutes long, comprised of four tracks — the first, “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths,” is notable for the inclusion of vocals from Hildur Guðnadóttir; the rest is instrumental — and while one wonders how much is the power of suggestion amid their colorful artwork and titular presentation, “life” as opposed to death metal, etc., their resonance throughout “Aurora” (19:07) and “Novae” (25:24) strips away much of the flourish that has engulfed Sunn O))) in their post-maturity years and reminds of the power at their center. They chose the right producer.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crimson Heat, Crimson Heat

Crimson Heat Crimson Heat

With a handful of tracks of dirt-coated Sabbathian doom rock, Crimson Heat make their debut with a self-titled demo/EP in no small part defined by its lack of pretense. I’d buy the tape at the show. You’d buy the tape at the show. The download is free. Clearly this is a band figuring out what they want to do and trying to catch a few ears, but the sound is right on. Notable as well for the participation of Sam Marsh of Sinister Haze, tracks like “At My Door” blend Tee Pee Records-style skate vibes with darker traditionalist crunch, and the subsequent acoustic interlude “Firewood” indeed adds a bit of burning-stove smell to the procession ahead of doomed shuffler finale “Deep Red.” They might be new, but from the nod of “Premonition” and the double-layered guitar of “Fortune Teller,” they very clearly know where they’re coming from. What they do with that from here will tell the tale, but for now, selling the tape at the show isn’t nothing. Guess they better get on pressing some up.

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Heat on Bandcamp

 

Molior Superum, As Time Slowly Passes By…

Molior Superum As Time Slowly Passes By

The boogie runs strong in Molior Superum‘s first album in seven years, As Time Slowly Passes By… (on H42 Records), the title of which might just hint at the distance between their two full-lengths. Their debut was Into the Sun (discussed here) in 2012, and they answered that with 2014’s Electric Escapism (review here), but for a band who sound so energized on cuts like “Att Födas Rostig” and “Through Valleys of Wonder,” the time differential from one record to the next is curious. Still, no question the Swedish four-piece make the most of the 36 minutes they present on their sophomore offering, realizing classic vibes and fuzz tones through modern production that recalls the likes of GraveyardJeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus and even, on “Into the Grey,” Demon Head‘s doomier fare, with an overarching bluesy sensibility that remains exciting even in moments like the hypnotic midsection build of centerpiece “Divinity Blues.” Even the closing soft-guitar title-track has movement. They sound hungry in a way that suggests maybe it won’t be another seven years before a third LP arrives.

Molior Superum on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

 

Moros, Weapon

moros weapon

Just because Philly is leading the Eastern Seaboard in terms of psychedelic charge, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the guttersludge extremity of a unit like Moros. The destructive three-piece’s first full-length, Weapon (on Hidden Deity Records), is vicious in its bite and downright nasty in its groove, abrasive from the static intro “(Vortexwound)” onward through “We Don’t Deserve Death” and “Devil Worshipper,” which recalls slower Napalm Death in its riff but is met with a harsh scream as well as shouts. The brutality continues through “Wizard of Loneliness” and into the outright pummel of “Death Nebula,” such that the locked-in nodder groove in the second half of “Every Day is Worse Than the Last” feels almost like a lifeboat, though there’s little salvation on offer in the closing title-track, which fades out on a noisy note in much the same way it faded in. Filthy, mean and heavy. The crust is real and it is thick.

Moros on Thee Facebooks

Hidden Deity Records website

 

Glitter Wizard, Opera Villains

glitter wizard opera villains

I was enticed to dig further into Glitter Wizard‘s Opera Villains (on Heavy Psych Sounds) by the recent video for opener “A Spell So Evil” (posted here), and it’s not a choice I regret. The San Fran-based weirdo collective are putting on a show, no doubt, but the quality of their songwriting on “The Toxic Lady” and the punkish underpinning of “Dead Man’s Wax,” etc., puts them in a classic rocking no man’s land in which they absolutely revel. The laser-strewn drama of “March of the Red Cloaks” and the organ- and flute-laced swing of “Hall of the Oyster King” embrace the grandiose in brazen fashion, and thereby make it that much easier for the listener to join them on this wavelength that is so thoroughly their own. Closer “Warm Blood” taps prog-of-old pomposity in its largesse while the earlier “Fear of the Dark” seems to do the same thing with just an acoustic guitar and some vocal harmonies. A record that knew exactly what it wanted to be and then became that thing. Awesome.

Glitter Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Gourd, Moldering Aberrations

gourd moldering aberrations

Ambient darkness is inflicted with only the cruelest of spirit throughout Gourd‘s Moldering Aberrations EP, the Irish two-piece alternating minimalist spaciousness with gurgling drone intensity, the extremity of which doesn’t so much come through in pummel or drive, but in the swell of volume and its contrast with the emptiness surrounding. Also the growls. Three tracks are offered up like monuments to pain, and through “Befoulment,” “Mycelium” and the title-track, they conjure a heft of atmosphere as much as one of low end, the claustrophobic feeling of their craft coming through even in the relatively peaceful opening of the last song. That peace, of course, isn’t so much moment of respite as it is precursor to the next plunge, and either way, Gourd work in grueling fashion over 23 minutes to dismantle consciousness and expectation with a grim, distortion-fueled chaos from which there seems to be no escape, until the rumble and noise leave “Moldering Aberrations” and there’s just residual hum and a cymbal crash left. Madness.

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