Queen Elephantine, Gorgon: Turn to Stone

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

queen elephantine gorgon

As a creative unit, Queen Elephantine seem to take particular delight in contrasting ritual and experimentalism. Nomadic in geography and decreasingly so but still somewhat amorphous in contributors around founding guitarist/vocalist Indrayudh Shome and drummer Nathanael Totushek — though percussionist/vocalist Matthew Becker, Tanpura player/sometimes guitarist Srinivas Reddy, and vocalists Ian Sims and Samer Ghadry (who’ve also handled percussion and guitar, respectively, in the past) have become something of a steady presence — the group which in its latest incarnation is based at least on Shome‘s part in Philadelphia also includes bassist Camden Healy and returning guitarist Brett Zweiman, as well as synth from former Elder drummer Matt Couto, present Gorgon on Argonauta Records and Atypeek Music. It is the sixth Queen Elephantine full-length and arrives following Kala (review here), which Argonauta picked up after an initial self-release in 2016. With it come four extended tracks that hearken to the contrast noted in the outset: “Mars” (13:02), “Unbirth” (9:59), “To See Eyes” (10:12) and “Mercury” (10:14). It is by no means the band’s first consort with mythology and extended forms, and after 2013’s Scarab (review here) saw them discover a more dronely, meditative course, Kala pushed further just as Gorgon does once again.

So how can a band be both reliable and unpredictable? Easy: they’re reliably unpredictable. You never really know going into a Queen Elephantine record what you’re going to get, but you can rest assured it’s not going to sound like anything else, and sure enough, Gorgon doesn’t. Even as, with multiple singers at play throughout much of it, adding to the overarching droned-out feel, Gorgon is perhaps Queen Elephantine‘s most Swansian outing up to this point in their career, it’s also singly their own, basking in an identity that comes through Shome‘s own lo-fi production (Billy Anderson mastered) and willful abandonment of traditional verse/chorus structure in favor of songcraft as an outward linear journey, an absolute going that doesn’t so much actively try to return as to follow a drifting and sometimes tidal-feeling pattern, surging and receding, ebbing and flowing, building, crashing, rolling out again. Even in their most straightforward early work, Queen Elephantine have never been a particularly accessible band. Their material is always challenging, and reliable in being more concerned with its own expression and journey than with a given listener’s ability to keep up or with placating an audience.

That very much remains true on Gorgon, as “Mars,” which is both opener and longest track (immediate points) opens with waves of drone and the eventual arrival of a chanting vocal pattern that will return throughout much of the album as it unfolds. These wails become an essential part of the record’s character, and one assumes it’s ShomeSims and Ghadry together singing out. On “Mars,” they’re surrounded by winding lead guitar, live-sounding drums and at least two layers of synth/drone, so there’s no shortage of things happening, yet with the rawness of production there’s still something minimal about the proceedings that would seem to have carried over from pieces of Kala and more particularly Scarab before Gorgon. The rhythmic guitar of “Unbirth” seems to join the percussive march happening and is willfully, almost defiantly, repetitive — also a significant source of the Swans comparison above — but builds to as close to a wash as I’ve ever heard from Queen Elephantine, psychedelic and immersive with the forward rush of synthesizer and the fragmentation of that guitar line, which morphs and readjusts itself into a different plod, all the more resolved with resurgent vocals overtop. But it’s with “To See Eyes” that the more minimalist feel comes through, and particularly in the second half, which isn’t by any means leaving empty space, but in the setup for a guitar freakout to come, departs for a minute or two into a vast dronescape that is little short of breathtaking.

QUEEN ELEPHANTINE

And when the guitar kicks back in after the seven-minute mark, well, you’ll know it when you hear it. Noise ensues, and what construction there was — and I don’t doubt there was some, even if it was steadfast in its refusal to follow familiar patterns — is pulled apart. I haven’t had the benefit of a lyric sheet to guess at themes or anything like that — often the chants seem more intended to add to the overarching atmosphere than to deliver a pointed message, but perhaps that’s my own misinterpretation — but there are no words as “To See Eyes” bleeds directly into “Mercury” anyhow, the nodding finisher picking up with a more active and plodding progression, guitar and synth adding to the liquefied feel of the outward processional. A noisy solo takes hold and a clear verse emerges from it after three minutes in as patterns are established in the ethereal, which can only mean that departure isn’t far off. Sure enough, Queen Elephantine are soon embroiled in the greater reaches of Sonic Elsewhere, though there’s something particularly grungey about the guitar tone as they go. In psychedelic ritual fashion, they once again pull the track apart at the seams, but this time reemerge from the noise with a verse and final build to a crescendo paying off Gorgon as a whole before giving over to a last burst of feedback.

Isn’t it time to start calling Queen Elephantine jazz? Are we there yet? Much as the gorgons turned those who gazed upon them into stone — the most famous, of course, being Medusa — Gorgon‘s own conversation with immortals would seem to have more to do with Alice Coltrane than Ancient Greece, at least from a sonic standpoint. It’s easy enough to get why they’re underappreciated. True experimentalists often are by a wider audience. But in terms of style and forward-thinking expressive and ambient weight, Queen Elephantine stand apart now and have for some time from those who one might otherwise consider their peers, and as they exist between worlds of the heavy underground and the avant garde, it seems all the more apparent how laudable and unbending their commitment to their own continued growth is. Is it indulgent? Oh yeah. Most definitely. Gorgon isn’t easy listening by any stretch, and even at a manageable 43 minutes, it can feel grueling in the reaches of “Unbirth” or the near-violent deconstruction of “To See Eyes,” but it’s not meant to be easy — on you as a listener or on them as artists. It is meant to exist in that perpetual contradiction between ritual and experiment, taking the familiar and reshaping it into something almost unrecognizable. I wouldn’t dare to predict Queen Elephantine‘s future, where they might go from here in sound or otherwise, but that ethic is at their core, and it seems only fair to expect it to stay there for as long as they’re a band. So be it.

Queen Elephantine, Gorgon (2019)

Queen Elephantine website

Queen Elephantine on Bandcamp

Queen Elephantine on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

Atypeek Music website

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Ruby the Hatchet Reissue Discography on Tape & Post Uriah Heep Cover; Touring with Kadavar

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

We can probably still be friends if you can’t get down with tape reissues of Ruby the Hatchet‘s discography, but as your friend, I’d probably want to sit you down and pull your head out of your ass. The Philly/Jersey natives launch a tour with Germany’s Kadavar this very evening — T-O-N-I-G-H-T — and in addition to the tapes out tomorrow and available to order now through Brutal Panda Records, they have a new Uriah Heep cover of “Easy Livin'” they’ve debuted in a video. I recognized part of the footage from Roadburn, which was fun, and it was awesome to see that photographer-of-whom-I’m-constantly-in-awe Dante Torrieri filmed the studio portions as well. That dude gets around.

Ruby the Hatchet do likewise, and the tour dates to prove it are below, as well as the video, links and all that happy whatnot. I mean, if you’re not down, it’s okay, but seriously. Come on. Listen to that cover. Hell, go back and listen to the albums. You want those tapes. It’s okay to admit it. I think we all want those tapes.

The PR wire adds clarity:

ruby the hatchet

RUBY THE HATCHET: Release Uriah Heep Cover; Set to Kick off Tour with Kadavar

Cassette Discography to be Released by Brutal Panda Records

Philadelphia psych rock quintet RUBY THE HATCHET has premiered a cover of Uriah Heep’s 1972 “Easy Livin’” via a new music video HERE. A staple of their recent live sets, the band recorded the cover at Retro City Studios in NJ. The group commented on the cover:

“Uriah Heep is a band favorite and still an unsung hero of sorts in our opinion. Many of their songs make our karaoke cuts, but Easy Livin’ was especially fun to figure out now that we have been toying with live three part harmonies. All of the high notes in our cover are vocally supported by Johnny, and of course Owen…still trying to put a mic in front of Lake. Plus, when you have someone like Sean playing organ, a Heep cover is a must.”

RUBY THE HATCHET will kick off an upcoming North American tour with Kadavar this Thursday December 5th in Atlanta, GA. The tour runs through December 21st and a full list of dates is available below.

Additionally, RUBY THE HATCHET will release their three full-length albums and EP on limited edition, colored cassette via Brutal Panda Records. The cassettes will be available on December 6th and can be ordered at this LOCATION.

RUBY THE HATCHET are currently writing their follow-up to 2017’s celebrated album Planetary Space Child. A 2020 release is expected with more info to follow.

RUBY THE HATCHET TOUR DATES:
12.05 Atlanta, GA • The Earl
12.06 Nashville, TN • Exit/In
12.07 Asheville, NC • The Mothlight
12.08 Richmond, VA • Richmond Music Hall
12.09 Baltimore, MD • Metro Gallery
12.11 Pittsburgh, PA • Spirit Hall
12.12 Brooklyn, NY • Saint Vitus
12.13 Philadelphia, PA • Johnny Brenda’s
12.14 Boston, MA • Once Ballroom
12.15 Montreal, QC • Foufounes Electrique
12.16 Ottawa, ON • Cafe Dekcuf
12.17 Toronto, ON • Lee’s Place
12.18 Detroit, MI • El Club
12.19 Cleveland, OH • Grog Shop
12.20 Chicago, IL • Avondale Music Hall
12.21 Minneapolis, MN • Fine Line Music Hall

Stream “Easy Livin'” http://www.smarturl.it/EasyLivin
Pre-Order Ruby Cassettes: http://www.brutalpandarecords.com

“Easy Livin'” recorded May 21st, 2019 by Joe Boldizar at Retro City Studios in Germantown, PA.
Original song by Uriah Heep (1972).

Video directed and edited by Todd McConnell and Jillian Taylor.

Live studio footage and photography by Dante Torrieri (Germantown, PA).
Roadburn live footage by Volksradio Moos (Tilburg, Netherlands).
Live at the Echo footage by Arturo Gallo (Los Angeles, CA).

https://www.facebook.com/rubythehatchet
https://www.instagram.com/rubythehatchet/
http://rubythehatchet.tumblr.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BrutalPandaRecords
http://instagram.com/brutalpandarecords
http://www.brutalpandarecords.com

Ruby the Hatchet, “Easy Livin'” official video

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Queen Elephantine to Start Gorgon Release Tour Nov. 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

queen elephantine

The new Queen Elephantine album, Gorgon, is out Nov. 8 through Argonauta Records and Atypeek Music, and the night before, they’ll begin a Northeastern run to support the release, playing Philly and Baltimore and Richmond before turning back north to Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, closing out in scenic Montclair, New Jersey. The Connecticut show is particularly notable since I think it’s their first time there and they’ll share the stage with local largesse-bringers Sea of Bones which, well, if you ever had a mind to have your entire being swallowed by tone at a gig, that might just be the night to make it happen. Also nifty that Matt Couto of Elder and Kind is sitting in on percussion (he also plays synth on the record, so there’s that) for the run alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Indrayudh Shome and a seemingly expansive cast of cohorts.

An entirely underrated band whose work genuinely deserves more attention than it’s ever gotten to this point. They should tour more, but hey, maybe this is a start.

They posted the dates on thee social medias as follows:

queen elephentine november tour

In two weeks we hit the road to celebrate the release of our new album GORGON, which drops November 8th on Argonauta Records and Atypeek Music.

We’re playing with amazing artists throughout including Brian Chase of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs doing a solo “Drums & Drones” set in Brooklyn, our cosmic friends darsombra, the ten-ton thunder of Sea of Bones, Azonic (mems of Khanate and Blind Idiot God), Baltimore heavies BLACK LUNG, noise rockers tile and Hex Machine, and in Providence the dirt royalty of The Hammer Party, and the otherworldly drone violence of Rectrix (Pippi Zornoza) and Gyna Bootleg (Steph Nieves).

The core lineup will be Indrayudh Shome (guitar/vocal), Nathanael Totushek (drums), Camden Healy (bass), Brett Zweiman (synth), Matthew Couto (percussion), with appearances from Samer Ghadry, Ian Sims, Matthew Becker, Derek Fukumori, and Srinivas Reddy.

NOVEMBER 2019
7 – Philadelphia PA (Century)
8 – Baltimore MD (The Crown)
9 – Richmond VA (Wonderland)
10 – Harrisburg PA (JB Lovedraft’s)
14 – Brooklyn NY (Sunnyvale)
15 – Hamden CT (The Cellar on Treadwell)
16 – Providence RI (AS220)
17 – Montclair NJ (The Meatlocker)

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 Post “Shut up and Drive” Video; Euro Tour on Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision

Philly’s primo spacedudes Ecstatic Vision are presently embroiled in the nebular mists of a European tour supporting their righteous 2019 offering, For the Masses (review here). You hear it yet? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that yeah, you did. If you’re reading this, that doesn’t seem too rash. Kudos to you on keeping up, or something. I have no doubt you’re better at it than I am, as I know I’ve said many times before.

Anyhoo, as the four-piece bullhorn-preach Jupiterian mushroom insight across the Old World — they’re in Amsterdam tonight — they also bring forth a new video. The track is “Shut up and Drive,” and in it we see frontman Doug Sabolik wander lost in the desert, only to find he’s really just passed out on his lawn. Subsequently evicted by a cop he calls dickhead (played by bassist Michael Field Connor) he eats some mushrooms with his dog guitarist/saxophonist/occasional-flutist Kevin Nickles, appearing in the style of the tv show Wilfred) then goes to audition for a band and runs into more cops (Connor and drummer Ricky Kulp) and then from there, there’s the audition, some more getting high, and general shenanigans that ensue. Is watching it front to back worth seven minutes out of your precious day? Speaking from personal experience, oh most definitely.

And after that’s over, because the track also rules, I’ve also included the full stream of For the Masses at the bottom of the post because you’ll probably want to dig into that again. That’s me, looking out for you, but I guess you can send your thank-you card to Heavy Psych Sounds, which handled the release, hosts the record on Bandcamp and put the band on tour. Credit where it’s due, after all.

Enjoy:

Ecstatic Vision, “Shut up and Drive” official video

Philadelphia’s acid rockers ECSTATIC VISION present their butt-kicking and exhilarating new video for “Shut Up And Drive.” The band is touring Europe right now to present their new studio album ‘For The Masses’ released this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds.

ECSTATIC VISION have tapped into something that expands heavy rock’s vocabulary and moves into a far-out sonic galaxy where there is music in the spheres, but the spheres vibrate on previously untold frequencies. ‘For the Masses’ is Ecstatic Vision at its most spacey, most tripped-out, most avant-garde, and most rock and roll, somehow all at once.

Frontman Doug Sabolik says: “We were toying with the idea of a more digestible record but at the end of the day we had to keep it real and the result was our most psychedelic, head-trip style record to date. This record mixes expansions of the elements we have touched on in the past and with the help of producer Tim Green (Melvins, Earthless) we have delivered a streamlined, clear version of our unique blend of Neanderthal, Catatonic, Semi-Articulate, Cro-Magnon Rock.”

ECSTATIC VISION on tour:
25/10/2019 NL Amsterdam – OCCII
26/10/2019 UK London – The Dev
28/10/2019 UK Bristol -The Lanes
29/10/2019 BE Bruxelles – Le Bunker
30/10/2019 NL Groningen – Vera
31/10/2019 DE Dresden – Chemienfabrik
01/11/2019 AT Wien – Weberknecht
02/11/2019 AT Innsbruck – Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
03/11/2019 SK Bratislava – Protokultura
04/11/2019 CZ Prague – Cafe v Lese
05/11/2019 DE Leipzig – Naumanns
06/11/2019 PL Wroclaw – DK Luksus
07/11/2019 PL Gdansk – Drizzly Grizzly
09/11/2019 DE Berlin – Headz Up Fest
13/11/2019 IS Reykkjavik – Gaukurinn
15/11/2019 SE Helsingborg- Favela
16/11/2019 SE Stockholm – Southside Cavern

ECSTATIC VISION is
Doug Sabolik – guitar, organ, vocals
Michael Field Connor – bass
Kevin Nickles – saxophone, flute, guitar
Ricky Kulp – drums

Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses (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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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, For the Masses (2019)

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