Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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Bismut Post Video for Debut Single “Buntovnost”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismut

Netherlands-based three-piece Bismut are using their debut single in precisely the right way. For a band like this — instrumental, heavy, grooving and with ambitions toward a blend of structured and freeform songwriting, a lone track like “Buntovnost” is just the thing to pique audience interest and leave people curious as to what might come next. At very least, that’s how it worked out with me as I made my way through the nine-minute groover, asking myself where the band might go from here and how their apparent method — show up in the studio with something of a plan, work around it more than directly from it — might continue to develop in the future, either becoming invariably more or less rigid over time.

If I had to guess as to a direction listening to “Buntovnost,” I’d bet on Bismut — the Nijmegen trio of Huibert, Peter and Nik — getting jammier over time, as often happens with bands like this as their chemistry continues to develop in the studio and on stage, but the fact that “Buntovnost” was “partially improvised” and recorded live in five takes in the studio makes me think there’s an element of perfectionism at play as well, and it could be interesting to hear if and how that flourishes in their sound too, and if, no matter how far out they might go in veering from it ultimately, they stick to using a central plan in their work going forward.

Man, new bands are fun.

The underlying point? There’s potential here. We don’t yet know what Bismut will be sound-wise — and please don’t quote me on any of the speculation above (unless I’m right); the band could just as easily pull a Wight and go funk-reggae out of the blue, and really, who saw that coming? — But that “Buntovnost” triggers the imagination to wonder about such things in its chugging, turning, energized nine-minute stretch is emblematic of their potential as a whole. “Buntovnost” is available as a name-your-price download at their Bandcamp and they’ve also got a brand new video for it that you can see below if you’re so inclined.

More info follows from the PR wire. Please enjoy:

Bismut, “Buntovnost” official video

“Buntovnost” by Bismut. Recorded live in the studio and partially improvised. This is the best version of 5 takes. No edits. Enjoy! This track was recorded live at Studio 888 and mixed and mastered by Bismut. Recorded and Edited by NNfilm: http://nnfilm.nl

Some Footage by Gusto Video Producties: http://gustoproducties.nl

From explosive and experimental jam sessions in the caverns of the Nijmegen underground arose Bismut. Infinite jamming resulted in an oasis of psychedelic excesses, vicious riffing and heavily drawn-out grooves. After their debut performance in November 2016, the three guys played many kick-ass shows in the Netherlands and abroad. The performances of Bismut are dynamic, intense and straightforward.

In 2018 the band’s focus will be on recording their first full-length which is expected to be released in oktober on the in Hamburg based label, Pink Tank Records.

Bismut is Huibert, Peter and Nik.

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Bismut on Instagram

Bismut on Bandcamp

Pink Tank Records website

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Pink Tank Records on Bandcamp

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Review & Track Premiere: Low Orbit, Spacecake

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

low orbit spacecake

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Dead Moon’ from Low Orbit’s Spacecake. Album is out early Dec. on Pink Tank Records.]

Given the associated ideas of thick, consuming fuzz, spaced-out vibes, massive and rolling grooves and a general checked-out-of-life overarching spirit to the proceedings as a whole, one might be forgiven for immediately thinking of Sons of Otis upon hearing that the earth-buzzing sound you hear from the ground originates in Toronto, Ontario. But with their second album and Pink Tank Records debut, the three-piece Low Orbit make a strong case for themselves as practitioners of the riffly form. Spacecake — reminds of Patton Oswalt’s “skycake” bit; look it up — is the suitably molten and somewhat single-minded follow-up to Low Orbit‘s 2014 self-titled debut, and it arrives as a manageable six-track/42-minute LP that ignites a feeling psychedelic drift through tonal density, the guitar of Angelo Catenaro (also vocals) very much leading the way while backed by Joe Grgic‘s bass and synth and Emilio Mammone‘s drums.

From opener “Dead Moon” onward, their intentions as a group could hardly be clearer or presented in a less pretentious manner. Five out of the six cuts included directly reference space or some space-minded element in their title — “Dead Moon,” “Planet X,” “Shades of Neptune,” “Venus,” and “Lunar Lander,” in that order — and even closer “Machu Picchu” nestles itself into repetitions of “burn the sky” from Catanero after lyrics about the stars, new dawns rising and planets laid to waste, etc. I’m not sure where the ‘cake’ portion of the album’s name comes into play except perhaps in some reference to edibles or in terms of the record itself, which feels duly baked and iced, particularly as the title is referenced in the 10-minute “Shades of Neptune,” which is a highlight as it rounds out side A with a particularly resonant lysergic ooze.

The lava begins to churn after a brief bit of introductory synth at the start of “Dead Moon,” and there’s just about no letup from there. In terms of influences, “Dead Moon” nods — and I do mean nods — at the aforementioned propensity for rolling grooves from fellow Torontonians Sons of Otis, and one can hear shades of earliest Mars Red Sky in the ride-cymbal-punctuated bouncing verse of “Planet X,” but at root beneath both of these and much of the rest of Spacecake is post-Sleep riff idolatry, and Low Orbit do well finding a place for themselves within that context. Lead layers emerge over a wash of high and low fuzz in “Planet X,” and though subtle and in some places buried deep in the mix, that current of synth and effects is almost always present in one form or another, and its flourish both adds to the breadth that Low Orbit cast and bolsters the cosmic theme through which their work is seeking to function.

low orbit

Both “Dead Moon” and “Planet X” offer a tonal warmth that one might take as a contrast to the coldness of atmospheric vacuum, but they’re hardly the first to make that pairing, and as they cut the pace on “Shades of Neptune” to an even more languid push, any and all such grounded concerns more or less dissipate in deference to the groove that emerges. Like the cuts surrounding, one would hardly accuse “Shades of Neptune” of making any revolutionary moves, but it is a more than capable play to style from the trio, whose persona is established within the individual examples of songwriting and in the interplay between them over the flowing and laid back course the band sets into the very heart of the “far out” itself.

With the willful adoption of genre tropes that pervades, one expects side B of Spacecake to mirror and perhaps reinforce the accomplishments of the album’s first half, and to the greater extent, it does precisely that. At five and six minutes, respectively, “Venus” and “Lunar Lander” answer the mid-paced density called out by “Dead Moon” and “Planet X,” and as it reaches just under nine, indeed “Machu Picchu” offers a tempo dip to back up that in “Shades of Neptune.” Fortunately, this is achieved with no discernible decline in the quality of hooks, and as Catanero shouts out the chorus of “Lunar Lander” ahead of the bigger roll that takes hold past the song’s midpoint, it becomes apparent that perhaps Low Orbit haven’t played their complete hand yet in terms of how much they have to offer sound-wise. The closer furthers this supposition with a well-honed-if-self-aware ritualized vibe, led off by Grgic‘s bass and a backing drone to give an immediately Om-style feel. Not at all unwelcome.

A melodic semi-wash takes hold, vocals echo from far off, and Low Orbit find ambient reaches heretofore unknown to Spacecake even as they make their way to a more straightforward march in the chorus. “Machu Picchu” undulates like this throughout its 8:52, coming forward and receding again, and it winds up in a lead-topped crescendo in its last minute that chugs to a sudden-seeming fadeout that one imagines could’ve easily gone on another three or four minutes on its own had the band chosen to have it do so. Perhaps their relative brevity is to be commended, since it would almost be too simple to have Spacecake push into stoner indulgence, and certainly by that time, Low Orbit‘s underlying message has been well delivered. Hidden within a standard subspace signal is a carrier wave to the converted: Come nod with us. It’s warm here and familiar and feels like home.

Low Orbit, “Machu Picchu” official video

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Low Orbit on Bandcamp

Low Orbit website

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Pink Tank Records website

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Marijannah Sign to Pink Tank Records; Till Marijannah Due in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Set for release early next year is the debut album from Singapore-based heavy rock four-piece Marijannah. Details are pretty light thus far on Till Marijannah, including a solid issue date — the band has said “February” — but when it does show up, the vinyl will arrive via Pink Tank Records and the band features members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult digging into heavy garage and semi-psych vibes. They show off some of same in the first streaming single to come from Till Marijannah, the six-and-a-half-minute “Snakecharmer,” which is one of the four inclusions on the record as a whole.

I’m not saying I’ve heard the full thing yet or anything like that, but at least on first impression, it’s a tough one to pin down sound-wise, and that proves to be very much a strength working in its favor. Okay, I’ve heard it. The vibe is heavy and raw and somewhat aggressive, but what Marijannah do atmospherically remains somewhat laid back and it’s not like they ever really explode in nastier fare or anything like that. It’s a trip I’m looking forward to getting to know better over the coming months as we head toward the release, looking back on this post and being like, “Wow, I had no fucking idea what I was talking about.” That’ll be fun. Because I don’t. Invariably.

Pink Tank announced the signing thusly:

marijannah

Marijannah – Pink Tank Records

+++ PLEASE WELCOME MARIJANNAH +++

We’re really proud to present you our new Pink Tank Records Family Member, Marijannah.

Marijannah is a Stoner/Doom Metal band from Singapore. Made up of members of two of the tiny island’s hardest touring bands, Wormrot & The Caulfield Cult.

Marijannah combines finest parts of classic Doom Metal structures with a taste of Stoner driven riffing. On top the four guys garnish their massive sound with a good dose of Psychedelic Rock. Marijannah’s debut record “Till Marijannah” is scheduled to be released in early 2018 on Pink Tank Records.

https://www.facebook.com/marijannah/
https://marijannah.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.pink-tank-records.de/label-1/the-pink-tank-family/marijannah/

Marijannah, “Snakecharmer”

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Aux Premiere “Deadly Rage” from New Album Troubadour out in December

Posted in audiObelisk on October 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

aux

German heavy progressive rockers Aux will release their second album, Troubadour, in December via Pink Tank Records. Following up their 2012 debut, Pursuit of Progress, the Kiel-based five-piece explore a stylistically varied corresponding five tracks, ranging in impression from the post-grunge hookmaking of “Fives” through bluesy classicism of “Deadly Rage” and into the garage foreboding moodiness of centerpiece “Filter” before the pair of 10-minute cuts, “Geocentric” and “Phantom,” comprise a second half for Troubadour that finds itself equally comfortable nodding toward King Crimson and Radiohead. Fed by a constant stream of jazzy basslines and fluid guitar work, the 40-minute long-player avoids pretense while remaining thoughtful in its construction, and as the lineup of vocalist Paul, guitarists Richi (rhythm) and Micha (lead), bassist Jannis and drummer Ole make their way through, they follow a clearly-set linear path that gracefully executes an overarching master plan.

In other words, even as they dig into the grit that builds over the alternately airy and earthbound guitar work in the choruses of “Fives” — and again, the bass that holds it all together — they’re aware of the moves they’re making, and Troubadour at no point aux troubadourfeels like a record of happenstance. Parts may well have been born in jams or fleshed out that way among all members — it’s hard to imagine such creative and adaptable rhythms coming forth in any other manner from Ole, though I suppose it’s possible with an exchange of files or some such other method — but as “Deadly Rage” pushes into its gracefully flowing apex, the balance of rustic feel and sonic fluidity it creates isn’t to be understated. Aux enact a kind of humble hypnosis through their songwriting, and that continues into “Filter” and, perhaps unsurprisingly, into “Geocentric” and “Phantom” as well, but on repeat listens, it’s the melding of different styles and the creation of an organic chemistry from them that makes Troubadour so effective in the first place. Like the idea of the traveling player from which the record takes its name, so too does the album itself go wherever it wants, freely and by its own discretion.

If there’s a downside to an outing of such varied persona, it’s perhaps that it makes it harder to find one single track to represent it as a complete entity — and I fear in my description I haven’t properly emphasized the patience at work in “Geocentric” or the insistence that takes hold in the second half push of “Fives,” so rest assured, there’s a lot going on with Troubadour even though it results in a pretty steady, consistent vibe — but as a basic introduction to the spirit of the release and the natural feel of the production, “Deadly Rage” works well particularly in emphasizing the interplay between the guitars and the rhythm section, drawing out a meandering sensibility that doesn’t necessarily hit as being self-indulgent even when if it came from a band with a more overblown recording, it otherwise might.

That’s a victory in itself, and it comes through on “Deadly Rage,” so as you make your way through the track, it’s something to keep in mind. Troubadour is listed for a Dec. 1 release via Pink Tank, with preorders coming soon.

A quote from the band about “Deadly Rage” and more background from the PR wire follows the song below. Please enjoy:

Aux on “Deadly Rage”:

The song has quite a history to us as it went through several transformations. We wanted to reflect the shifting moods that a person’s mind is undergoing which is shown by the different instrumental vibes. It’s probably the most catchy song on the album and tells what would happen if an ancient deity was expelled to present age, viewing humankind as puppets and playing tricks and games on them.

AUX is a quintet from Kiel, Germany, that has shown its versatility ever since it has been founded back in 2008. Their first album ‘Pursuit of Progress‘ (2012) marks the cornerstone of their sound which is influenced by progressive, art and psychedelic rock.

If there is one constant that can be found within AUX’s music, it is contrasts: While they are nothing else but their musics blueprint, they unleash a swirling maelstrom that swallows the audience into the tension between harmony and disruption.There is a good case to believe that their upcoming second album ‘Troubadour‘ will again reveal another facet of the band. You don‘t want to miss December 2017 as the record will be issued on vinyl, CD and digital via Pink Tank Records!

About Troubadour:

limited to 300 copies
100 copies harmony orange wax / hand numbered (exclusive Pink Tank Records Edition)
100 copies hope green wax / hand numbered (exclusive Band Edition)
100 copies standard black wax (wholesale Edition)
all on 180g heavyweight vinyl
300g heavyweight gatefold cover
poly lined inner sleeve
incl. download code

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Aux on Bandcamp

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Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine: Walking Trails

Posted in Reviews on July 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bees-made-honey-in-the-vein-tree-medicine

Primarily, Medicine feels like an exploration of depth. Not just in the sense of asking how low they can go in terms of tone, but what kind of distance can they set up between those lows and highs, how far can a song stretch from one end to the other before, like taffy, it is pulled apart. Excitingly, the cumbersomely-named Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree (as opposed, one assumes, to doing so in the lion’s skull, à la Earth) never find out, and their five-song/46-minute first full-length stands among 2017’s strongest — and most weighted — heavy psychedelic releases as a result. The Stuttgart, Germany, four-piece recorded Medicine late in Fall 2016 at Milberg Studios and issued it themselves digitally and on CD in January, but a Pink Tank Records vinyl edition brings it to a well-deserved wider distribution and positions the work of guitarist/vocalist/cover artist Simon Weinreich, guitarist Lucas Dreher, bassist/graphic designer Christopher Popowitsch and drummer/vocalist Marc Dreher (relation to Lucas presumed) as particularly satisfying in its blend of extended, jammed-out instrumental sections and denser tonality.

Without losing sight of their core mission, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree proffer liquefied flow between and within their tracks, coming across as cohesive and patient as a cut like the 14-minute penultimate “Sail Away I” demonstrates in unfolding lines of intertwining guitar and bass held together by the underlying drums on a steady, immersive build that’s warm, headphone-ready, melodically rich and hypnotic without being meandering. Medicine works quickly in that song’s echoing spaces and those of the 10-minute opener “Every Night I Walk the Same Trail of Thought” to earn a place as one of the best debuts of the year.

One can hear the influence of Colour Haze in some of the more open stretches, and that never hurts, but even more than the Munich-based progenitors of the style, Medicine directly reminds of the 2010 debut from Dutch trio Sungrazer. That’s not a comparison I make lightly, and while some of the fuzz that coats the driving first crescendo (preceding the crashing second one) of “Sail Away I” might draw a sonic line in that direction, it’s one even more about the act of blending heavy rock and psych impulses in a specific way and with an overarching naturalism that becomes a righteously defining element. If I note that Medicine might be the most engaging heavy psych debut I’ve heard since Sungrazer‘s self-titled, it will invariably sound like hyperbole, but I’m hard pressed to think of more than a handful of first offerings that have brought forth the same clearheaded idea of what they wanted to do and realize it in the same way. If nothing else, it sets Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree on a path of becoming a truly special kind of band, and one whose impact, in the tradition of Samsara Blues Experiment or Black Moon Circle or others building memorable songs out of jams, may resonate over a longer term.

bees made honey in the vein tree

Structurally, Medicine benefits greatly from starting its two sides with the longer pieces. “Every Night I Walk the Same Trail of Thought” begins so quietly that at first one might be tempted to double-check that it’s actually playing, and while neither “Burn the Sun” (7:40) nor “Medicine” (6:38) slouches in terms of runtime, there’s a notable departure from the shimmering guitar that sounds the opener’s first notes toward crunchier-riffed push as “Burn the Sun” gets moving. There’s still space for space, to be sure, but even as the guitars air out leads late before turning to the heads-down riff that brings the song to its end, there’s an undercurrent of low-end heft behind them that makes for both counterpoint and complement. Likewise, the title-cut and centerpiece launches open and jammy to foreshadow some of the post-rock elements still to come in closer “Sail Away II” (6:54), but makes its way after the two-minute mark via feedback into a heavier plod that would seem to be the source of the band’s claim on an aspect of doom within their approach. It’s slow and heavy, anyhow. In context, the mood doesn’t necessarily feel down or dark in the way one might expect, but to quibble about self-imposed genre tags feels like missing the point. There’s a fluidity there. Better to go with it.

And Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree make a convincing argument for doing so, which turns out to be one of Medicine‘s great strengths. Its tracks earn the listener’s trust such that following the band along the trail they’re walking becomes an absolute joy rather than something done tentatively, and the jammier vibe of “Sail Away I” and willful delve into post-rocking drift in “Sail Away II” gracefully expand on what side A accomplishes before them, “Sail Away I” resolving itself in blown-out echoing vocals and a nodding apex, and the finale holding to its peaceful guitar progression even as some of Medicine‘s heftiest lumbering plays out beneath. That last emphasis on the two sides meeting head on in Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree‘s work serves to highlight the duality at work across the album’s entirety, but it’s not a staid thing by any means, and it wouldn’t work if it was.

The band are clearly comfortable in adjusting the balance to suit the needs of their material, and whether that’s done consciously in arranging parts and pieces or something that just comes out of different jams, it’s no less crucial to Medicine‘s ultimate success. There’s a telling moment after “Sail Away II” has blissed itself into final lines of fading guitar when we hear a chair creak and what sounds like drum sticks get laid down. It’s over. These quick, last few seconds are an effective acknowledgement that Medicine is intended to convey a live experience — it may well have been recorded live, I don’t know — and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, who’ve already proliferated such an organic chemistry, seem to hint that along with the exploration of spaciousness at work throughout their material, the corresponding message with that is that the direction in which they’re headed has been plotted naturally, i.e. in an unforced manner. One can only hope they continue to tread the path Medicine lays out before them.

Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

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In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

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Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

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Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

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Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

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The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

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Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

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Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

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Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

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Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

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StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Libido Fuzz, A Guide into Synesthesia: Sparks Ignite the Blues (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

libido-fuzz-a-guide-into-synesthesia

[Click play above to hear the premiere of ‘At the Beginning’ from Libido Fuzz’s A Guide into Synesthesia. Album is out next month on Pink Tank Records.]

Bordeaux-based three-piece Libido Fuzz return on Pink Tank Records with A Guide into Synesthesia, their second full-length, and with it set up a linear course running from blazed-out boogie rock to hard-impact psychedelic blues jams. A 41-minute/six-song outing, it follows 2015’s Kaleido Lumo Age (review here) and is no doubt intended to work across a vinyl LP, which is appropriate given the trio of drummer Thibault Guezennec, vocalist/guitarist Pierre-Alexis Mengual and bassist Rory O’Callaghan‘s penchant for classic forms. But even keeping the inevitable split between sides A and B in mind, Libido Fuzz enact a front-to-back flow that seems to push further outward as it goes, until finally it reaches the 12-minute semi-title-track “Guide Me into Synesthesia” at the end and decides there’s no return.

Up to — and really through — that point, Libido Fuzz keep a steady blend of the retro and modern, the terrestrial and the ethereal, the frenetic and the drifting, and what results in the span of the tracks, which were recorded by Marco Lima with a mix and master by Franck Roder, is an organic-feeling and nuanced heavy rock that draws power from its moments of thrust and uses that momentum wisely to carry through its slower parts. It is dynamic in the sense of where MengualGuezennec and O’Callaghan take it, from the Radio Moscow-style manias of opener “Sparks” and the intro to “Clouds and Birds,” all blinding turns and risk-laden rhythms, to the smooth-grooving B-side occupants “The Last Psychedelic Blues” and of course, “Guide Me into Synesthesia” itself.

Foremost, it is tied together through the overarching naturalism in the performances. Guezennec‘s bass drum, prominent in the mix, is sometimes responsible for holding an entire song together, as it seems to be doing as “Clouds and Birds” drifts farther from its raging start, but fortunately it proves more than up to the task, and while O’Callaghan‘s warm basslines add a jazzy flair to coincide with all the swing of “At the Beginning,” Mengual takes advantage of the space created to pull out heavy blues-style solos that, regardless of tempo, have a kind of hypnotic effect on the listener. At no point are they technically showy, and the production of A Guide into Synesthesia is clearly geared toward a live feel, but they execute their material with confidence from “Sparks” onward, and indeed they seem well aware of the fires they’re setting, the thrust of that opener creating a sense of movement that is translated into everything that follows, regardless of the actual direction a track like the subsequent “Violence of the Sea” actually follows.

Which obviously is something to mention only for the drastic and immediate turn it represents from A Guide into Synesthesia‘s beginning, the second cut’s bookending progression seeming to nod directly at Trouble‘s “The Tempter” in its structure and layers of harmonized guitar while backing off in a middle third that finds the band stomping through more boogie à la “Sparks,” if perhaps even catchier in the hook. Those twists may well be intended to throw the listener off course, but Libido Fuzz are fluid enough in their transitions that as the drums finish “Violence of the Sea” and “At the Beginning” picks up with a more straightforward heavy rock shuffle, there’s nothing to call incongruous about what they’re doing in terms either of the album’s scope or the jump from one vibe to another.

Synesthesia might be described as a trading of senses. Seeing smells, smelling sounds, touching light, and so on. It’s a rare condition, and the stuff of psychedelic daydreams, and in terms of this album, the keyword in the title would seem to be “guide,” since it gives the impression of Libido Fuzz leading their audience into this place of what might feel like some greater cosmic knowledge. That’s a fair enough explanation for how the second half of the tracklisting plays out, with “Clouds and Birds” (which I actually think is on side A, though I can’t confirm that) marking the point of shift into more ethereal fare that “The Last Psychedelic Blues” — which isn’t — and “Guide Me into Synesthesia” — which is — only continue to expand. Mengual‘s guitar and O’Callaghan‘s bass explore open spaces after settling in post-intro, and samples and cymbal washes from Guezennec lead gradually, fluidly, into a comfortably-paced nod that serves as bed or wah swirl and possibly the album’s best solo, which finishes in time for a big rock ending. Show’s over, everyone go home.

Not nearly. With the finale so expansive afterward, the penultimate “The Last Psychedelic Blues” is tasked somewhat with summarizing A Guide into Synesthesia, and it does so with a play between nigh-on-overwhelming fuzz and airier verse-making. All three players shine. In prime power-trio fashion, Libido Fuzz resonate their chemistry forth until the quiet stretch of guitar sentimentality leads to the beginning of “A Guide into Synesthesia,” the extended instrumental journey that will round out the LP. Its beginning feels suitably like an arrival, and it is, and sure enough, a massive and engaging jam ensues, but the band leave room early on for verses without taking advantage. Maybe live. A scorching midsection solo meets with wah bass and building drums, and from there, Libido Fuzz set the course by which they’ll end, plotted but molten, and cutting just before the 10-minute mark to some far-out guitar noise that may or may not be intended to manifest the synesthetic.

I don’t know how it tastes, but it sounds like a trance, and as an epilogue for A Guide into Synesthesia, it’s the last of several pleasant surprises the album presents while highlighting the overall growth of Libido Fuzz from their debut and giving the impression — on any number of sensory levels — that growth is still in progress and likely to remain that way willfully. One can hear MengualO’Callaghan and Guezennec pushing themselves in the realization of these songs, both in the stylistic ground they cover and in the actual performances, and among the many encouraging aspects of A Guide into Synesthesia, it’s that feeling of purpose that most defines it.

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