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Quarterly Review: Hornss, Khemmis, Fox 45, Monolith Wielder, No Man’s Valley, Saturna, Spotlights, MØLK, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Moon Coven

Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk winter quarterly review

2016 ends and 2017 starts off on the right foot with a brand new Quarterly Review roundup. The first time I ever did one of these was at the end of 2014 and I called the feature ‘Last Licks.’ Fortunately, I’ve moved on from that name, but that is kind of how I’m thinking about this particular Quarterly Review. You’ll find stuff that came out spread all across 2016, early, middle, late, but basically what I’m trying to do here is get to a point where it’s not March and I’m still reviewing albums from November. Will it work? Probably not, but in order to try my damnedest to make it do so anyway, I’m making this Quarterly Review six full days. Monday to Monday instead of Monday to Friday. 60 reviews in six posts. Sounds like madness because it is madness. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Hornss, Telepath

hornss telepath

San Francisco trio Hornss debuted on RidingEasy Records with 2014’s No Blood No Sympathy (review here) and further their raw genre blend on Telepath, their half-hour follow-up LP delivered via STB, melding heavy punk and metallic impulses to a noisy, thick-toned thrust on songs like “Atrophic” and the bouncing “Sargasso Heart” while opener “St. Genevieve” and the penultimate “Old Ghosts” dig into more stonerly nod. The latter track is the longest inclusion on the record at 3:26, and with 11 cuts there’s plenty of jumping between impulses to be done, but the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha, bassist/vocalist Nick Nava – both formerly of desert punkers Solarfeast – and drummer Bil Bowman (ex-Zodiac Killers) work effectively and efficiently to cast an identity for themselves within the tumult. It’s one that finds them reveling in the absence of pretense and the sometimes-caustic vibes of songs like “Leaving Thermal,” which nonetheless boast an underlying catchiness, speaking to a progression from the first album.

Hornss on Thee Facebooks

STB Records store

 

Khemmis, Hunted

khemmis hunted

Easily justifiable decision on the part of Denver’s Khemmis to return to Flatline Audio and producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, etc.) for their second album, Hunted. No reason to fix what clearly wasn’t broken about their 2015 debut, Absolution (review here), and on the 20 Buck Spin Records release, they don’t. A year later, the four-piece instead build on the doomly grandeur of the first outing and push forward in aesthetic, confidence and purpose, whether that’s shown in mournful opener “Above the Water,” the darker “Candlelight” that follows, or the centerpiece “Three Gates,” which opens as muddied death metal before shifting into a cleaner chorus, creating a rare bridge between doom and modern metal. Khemmis save the most resonant crush for side B, however, with the nine-minute “Beyond the Door” capping with vicious stomp before the 13-minute title-track, which closes the album with an urgency that bleeds even into spacious and melodic break that sets up the final apex to come, as emotionally charged as it is pummeling.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Fox 45, Ashes of Man

fox 45 ashes of man

In addition to the outright charm of titles like “Doominati,” “Coup d’étwat,” “Murdercycle” and “Urinal Acid” (the latter a bonus track), Rochester, New York’s Fox 45 offer fuzzy roll on their Twin Earth Records debut full-length, Ashes of Man, the three-piece of Amanda Rampe, Vicky Tee and Casey Learch finding space for themselves between the post-Acid King nod of “Necromancing the Stone” and more swing-prone movements like the relatively brief “Soul Gourmandizer.” Playing back and forth between longer and shorter tracks gives Ashes of Man a depth of character – particularly encouraging since it’s Fox 45’s first record – and the low-end push that leads “Phoenix Tongue” alone is worth the price of admission, let alone the familiar-in-the-right-ways straightforward heavy riffing of “Narcissister” a short while later. Very much a debut, but one that sets up a grunge-style songwriting foundation on which to build as they move forward, and Fox 45 seem to have an eye toward doing precisely that.

Fox 45 on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Monolith Wielder, Monolith Wielder

monolith wielder self titled

Double-guitar Pittsburgh four-piece Monolith Wielder make their self-titled debut through Italian imprint Argonauta Records, bringing together Molasses Barge guitarist Justin Gizzi and Zom guitarist/vocalist Gero von Dehn with bassist Ray Ward (since replaced by Amy Bianco) and drummer Ben Zerbe (also Mandrake Project) for 10 straightforward tracks that draw together classic Sabbathian doom with post-grunge heavy rock roll. There’s a workingman’s sensibility to the riffing of “No Hope No Fear” and the earlier, more ‘90s moodiness of “Angels Hide” – von Dehn’s vocals over the thick tones almost brings to mind Sevendust on that particularly catchy chorus – but Monolith Wielder’s Monolith Wielder isn’t shy about bringing atmospherics to the Iommic thrust of its eponymous cut or the penultimate “King Under Fire,” which recalls the self-titled Alice in Chains in its unfolding bleakness before closer “Electric Hessian” finishes with a slight uptick in pace and a fade out and back in (and a last sample) that hints at more to come.

Monolith Wielder on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

No Man’s Valley, Time Travel

no man's valley time travel

The stomp and clap intro “The Man Who Would be King” casts an immediately bluesy hue on No Man’s Valley’s debut album, Time Travel (LP release on Nasoni), and the Netherlands-based five-piece seem only too happy to build on that from there. It’s a blend outfits like The Flying Eyes and Suns of Thyme have proffered for several years now between heavy psychedelia and blues, but No Man’s Valley find a niche for themselves in the dreamy and patient execution of “Sinking the Lifeboat,” a highlight of the eight-track/33-minute LP, and bring due personality to the classic-style jangle-and-swing of “The Wolves are Coming” as well, so that Time Travel winds up more textured than redundant as it makes its way toward six-minute piano-laden finale “Goon.” Once there, they follow a linear course with a post-All Them Witches looseness that solidifies into a resonant and deeply engaging apex, underscoring the impressive reach No Man’s Valley have brought to bear across this first LP of hopefully many to come.

No Man’s Valley on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Saturna, III/Lost in Time

saturna lost in time

Barcelona classic rocking four-piece Saturna seem to avoid the boogie trap when they want to, as on the more rolling, modern heavy groove of “Five Fools,” and that keeps their World in Sound/PRC Music third album, III/Lost in Time, from being too predictable after the opening “Tired to Fight” seems to set up Thin Lizzy idolatry. They dip into more complex fare on “Leave it All,” somewhere between Skynyrd leads, Deep Purple organ-isms topped with a rousing hook, but keep some shuffle on songs like “Disease” and the earlier “All Has Been Great.” Highlight/closer “Place for Our Soul” seems to be literal in its title, with a more subdued approach and harmonized vocal delivery, and listening to its more patient delivery one can’t help but wonder why that soul should be relegated to the end of the album instead of featured throughout, but the songwriting is solid and the delivery confident, so while familiar, there’s ultimately little to complain about with what III/Lost in Time offers.

Saturna on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

MØLK, Hate from the Bong

molk hate from the bong

Especially with the title of their second EP set as Hate from the Bong, one might be tempted to put Belgian outfit MØLK immediately in the same category of malevolent stoner/sludge metal as the likes of Bongripper, but frankly they sound like they’re having too much fun for that on the five-tracker, reveling in lyrical shenanigans on the politically suspect “Stonefish” and opener “Methamphetamine.” Make no mistake, they’re suitably druggy, but even Hate from the Bong’s title-track seems to keep its tongue in cheek as it unfolds its post-Electric Wizard echoes and tonal morass. That gives the five-piece an honest vibe – they’re a relatively new band, having released their first EP in 2016 as well; why shouldn’t they be having a good time? – to coincide with all that thickened low end and vocal reverb, and though they’re obviously growing, there isn’t much more I’d ask of them from a debut full-length, which is a task they sound ready to take on in these songs.

MØLK on Thee Facebooks

MØLK on Bandcamp

 

Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision

psychedelic witchcraft the vision

Italian cult rock outfit Psychedelic Witchcraft have proven somewhat difficult to keep up with over the last year-plus. As they’ve hooked up with Soulseller Records and reissued their Black Magic Man EP (review here), their full-length debut, The Vision, and already announced a follow-up compilation in 2017’s Magick Rites and Spells, the band consistently work to feature the vocals of Virginia Monti (also Dead Witches) amid semi-retro ‘70s-style boogie, as heard on the debut in cuts like “Witches Arise” and “Wicked Ways.” At nine tracks/34 minutes, however, The Vision is deceptively efficient, and though they’re unquestionably playing to style, Psychedelic Witchcraft find room to vary moods on “The Night” and the subdued strum of “The Only One Who Knows,” keeping some sonic diversity while staying largely on-theme lyrically. To call the album cohesive is underselling its purposefulness, but the question is how the band will build on the bluesy soulfulness of “Magic Hour Blues” now that they’ve set this progression in motion. Doesn’t seem like it will be all that long before we find out.

Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Soulseller Records website

 

Spotlights, Spiders EP

spotlights spiders

Following the heavy post-rock wash of their 2016 debut album, Tidals, Brooklynite two-piece Spotlights – bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sarah Quintero and guitarist/synthesis/vocalist Mario Quintero – return on the quick with a three-track EP, Spiders, and set themselves toward further sonic expansion. The centerpiece “She Spider” is a Mew cover, electronic beats back opener “A Box of Talking Heads V2” and the spacious closer “Joseph” is a track from Tidals remixed by former Isis drummer Aaron Harris. So, perhaps needless to say, they hit that “expansion” mark pretty head-on. The finale turns out to be the high point, more cinematic in its ambience, but still moving through with an underlying rhythm to the wash of what one might otherwise call drones before becoming more deeply post-Nine Inch Nails in its back half. How many of these elements might show up on Spotlights’ next record, I wouldn’t guess, but the band takes an important step by letting listeners know the potential is there, adding three wings onto their wheelhouse in three tracks, which is as efficient conceptually as it is sonically immersive.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Spotlights on Bandcamp

 

Moon Coven, Moon Coven

moon coven self-titled

This self-titled second full-length from Malmö, Sweden-based Moon Coven begins with its longest track (immediate points) in “Storm” and works quickly to nail down a far-reaching meld between heavy psych and riffy density. Issued through the much-respected Transubstans Records, it’s a nine-track/50-minute push that can feel unipolar on an initial listen, but largely avoids that trap through tonal hypnosis and fluid shifts into and out of jams on cuts like “The Third Eye,” while centerpiece “Haramukh High” provides a solidified moment before the organ interlude “The Ice Temple” leads into the mega-roll of finisher “White Sun.” What seems to be a brooding sensibility from the artwork – a striking departure from their 2014 debut, Amanita Kingdom – is actually a far more colorful affair than it might at first appear, and well justifies the investment of repeat visits in the far-out nod of “Conspiracy” and the swirling “Winter,” which goes so far as to add melodic texture in the vocals and notably fuzzed guitar, doing much to bolster the proceedings and overarching groove.

Moon Coven on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records

 

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Molasses Barge Complete Work on Debut Full-Length

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pittsburgh-based traditional doom metallers Molasses Barge have finished putting together their debut full-length. The band first got together circa 2008, so it’s safe to say it’s been a while in the making, but as members have been involved in other outfits like Argus and Monolith Wielder in the interim, I suppose some delay is to be expected. And if you’re wondering, yes, the Argus connection is frontman Brian “Butch” Balich, also formerly of Penance — though if you skipped to the bottom of this post and just checked out the streaming track “Emerging Void” from the impending, self-titled offering, you wouldn’t even have to ask, because you’d immediately recognize his soaring vibrato.

Molasses Barge recorded with Jason Jouver, who also helmed Monolith Wielder‘s debut, which was released on Argonauta Records. The band are currently looking for a label to put the album out, and between what I’m hearing on “Emerging Void,” the involvement of Chris Kozlowski (The Obsessed, Earthride, etc.), and the stuff on the band’s two past releases, the 2011 Jewels EP on Innervenus Records and their 2012 demo, I have a hard time believing they won’t get somebody on board in 2017. Seems like easy pickin’, frankly.

The following basic info was sent over with the track:

We recorded it with Jason Jouver at +/- Studio in Pittsburgh. It was mixed by Jason and Chris Kozlowski, and later mastered by Koz at his studio, Polar Bear Lair, in Middletown, MD. All that was over parts of 2015 and 2016. Jason is the same engineer who recorded Monolith Wielder. Other notables include Don Cabellero and Lady Beast. Koz has worked with everyone from Melvins to Pentagram, Earthride, Spirit Caravan, Internal Void and so on.

We’ve been around since 2008, but have only released two ep’s previously. Butch is also the singer for Argus. Amy is now in Monolith Wielder with me [Justin].

Molasses Barge:
Brian “Butch” Balich – Vocals
Amy Bianco – Bass
Dave Fresch – Guitar
Justin Gizzi – Guitar
Wayne Massey – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/molassesbargedoom/
https://molassesbarge.bandcamp.com
https://soundcloud.com/molasses-barge

Molasses Barge, “Emerging Void”

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Carousel Call it Quits

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Whatever else you can say about Pittsburgh heavy rockers Carousel, they certainly had their adventures. The classically-styled outfit were brash, and their material brazenly took on ’70s stylization without going full-on vintage loyalist across their two albums, 2013’s Jeweler’s Daughter (review here) and last year’s 2113 (review here) — both on Tee Pee Records — and they came to represent a vision of classic heavy rock from the eastern half of the country that didn’t necessarily rely on the aggro approach of so many of the bands from the coast. Carousel were coming from their own place, soaked in booze and just a bit unhinged, but never veering from a quality songwriting that ultimately became their defining feature.

They call it quits after a somewhat tumultuous year. Last winter, they flipped their van in Wyoming on a West Coast stint. This Spring, they toured Europe alongside Elder with guitarist Alejandro Necochea (also of labelmates Worshipper) filling in for Matt Goldsborough (sometimes of Pentagram), playing Roadburn and Desertfest and many others besides. By that time, they’d already parted ways with drummer Jake Leger, who contributed to both albums, leaving just guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler and bassist Jim Wilson as original members as Justin Sherrell (ex-Blackout, Bezoar) took on the drums and John Dziuban (Sistered; who had initially joined on drums) became the guitarist. Like I said, tumultuous. Earlier this summer, Carousel canceled their scheduled appearance at Psycho Las Vegas for August, and a general lack of communication from the band ended with the announcement of their disbanding as Wheeler and Wilson plan to move forward in another band.

I was fortunate enough to see Carousel a year ago in Maryland (review here) and was struck by the vitality they brought to the classic rock form and the unabashed love they showed for the power of what a hook could do to an audience. Bottom line: Good band. They probably had more to offer than they got to.

Their announcement:

carousel

Hello fans and friends… It’s difficult to make this post but the time has come for carousel to call it quits. It’s been a hell of a ride but frequent lineup changes and other unfortunate events have necessitated this decision. Thanks to anyone who supported us over the years. We’re still humbled by the fact that anyone gave a crap about us or our music and we’re truly grateful to our label Tee Pee Records for taking a chance on us. Jim and Dave will carry on with their other band Outsideinside. We leave you with a clip of Jeweler’s Daughter live in Bilbao, Spain from our last tour. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It’s been a dream come true.

https://www.facebook.com/Carousel-220084014687656/
https://carousel2.bandcamp.com/
http://carouselpghmerch.bigcartel.com/
teepeerecords.com/products/

Carousel, “Jeweler’s Daughter” live in Spain, May 14, 2016

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Quarterly Review: Atomikylä, Sunnata, White Dynomite, Horehound, Sulfur Giant, New Planet Trampoline, Hypnos, Honky, Cheap Wine, Gurt & Trippy Wicked

Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-summer-2016-quarterly-review

This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Atomikylä, Keräily

atomikyla Keraily

From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.

Atomikylä on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Sunnata, Zorya

sunnata zorya

As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.

Sunnata on Thee Facebooks

Sunnata on Bandcamp

White Dynomite, Action O’Clock

white dynomite action oclock

I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.

White Dynomite on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Horehound, Horehound

horehound horehound

Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.

Horehound on Thee Facebooks

Horehound on Bandcamp

Sulfur Giant, Beyond the Hollow Mountain

sulfur giant beyond the hollow mountain

Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.

Sulfur Giant on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records

New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions

new planet trampoline dark rides and grim visions

Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”

New Planet Trampoline on Thee Facebooks

New Planet Trampoline on Bandcamp

Hypnos, Cold Winds

hypnos cold winds

With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.

Hypnos on Thee Facebooks

Hypnos at Crusher Records

Honky, Corduroy

honky corduroy

Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.

Honky website

Housecore Records website

Cheap Wine, Sad Queen

cheap wine sad queen

Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.

Cheap Wine on Thee Facebooks

Celebration Days Records website

Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy

gurt trippy wicked guppy

The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.

Gurt on Thee Facebooks

Trippy Wicked on Thee Facebooks

When Planets Collide website

HeviSike Records

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Supervoid & Red Desert, The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two: Wayfarers and Revolvers

Posted in Reviews on May 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-2-supervoid-red-desert

Ripple Music believes we are in the midst of a heavy rock renaissance. We may well be. The West Coast imprint has both made its argument and fostered the movement over the last several years through a slew of signings of bands from around the US and beyond its borders, and they now stand among the genre’s most fortified purveyors, with a reach that finds them partnering with STB Records on vinyl/CD pressings and picking up Small Stone veteran acts like Gozu and Wo Fat, truly moving into a leadership position in their community, scene, whatever you want to call it. Their aesthetic, to-date, is light on frills and big on riffs, and like any impressive beginning (and I use the term loosely, Ripple have been at it for over five years now) of a creative motion, one expects it will only continue to grow outward for as long as it does.

A special project the label began in 2015 is a series of splits: The Second Coming of Heavy. I already quibbled with the numbering of the title, whether or not this is the second generation playing heavy rock (it’s at least the third), in my review of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter One (review here), which featured off-album tracks from Geezer and Borracho, and it remains beside the point of the work Ripple is doing to promote the growth of the current, largely undeniable, boom of heavy rock. The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two boasts new songs from Pittsburgh’s Supervoid and Minneapolis’ Red Desert, continuing thematic artwork from Joseph Rudell and Carrie Olaje, and vinyl pressings limited in number and distinguished in color, as the times would demand.

Like its predecessor, the prevailing vibe throughout The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two fits neatly onto two 12″ vinyl sides, one per band, with each act offering basically a short EP’s sampling of their stylistic wares and what they bring to the underlying core in the title — the ‘Heavy’ part of the title, that is — that distinguishes them from their peers. In the case of Supervoid — who make their debut as a four-piece here having previously recorded with five members for their 2013 first LP, Filaments (review here), and the subsequent 2014 digital single “Against Sunrise” (posted here) — they present the songs “Olympus,” “Wayfarer” and “The Gallows,” which continue their ahead-thrust blend of modern metal and heavy rock and roll, vocalist Brian creatively arranging an assortment of layered growls and screams behind his belted-out cleaner vocals, which seem to steer the riffs behind from guitarist Joe as much as they’re pushed forward by them.

With John on bass and Greg on drums, their material is consistent but progressed from where they were on their debut (due for a follow-up it may or may not get; more on that in a bit) and the momentum they build in “Olympus” feeds smoothly into the more extended “Wayfarer,” the minor-key Eastern-flair guitar line making it all the more a centerpiece before the crunchier “The Gallows” picks up with open verses, a semi-spaced weaving of guitar effects, and the inescapable drive that has become Supervoid‘s hallmark. Reportedly, since the release of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter TwoSupervoid have taken “a break,” and how permanent that may or may not be remains to be seen. Either way, the manner in which they bring together metal and heavy rock remains brazen in its show of influence and ground that few acts are so bold as to tread, which is admirable even before one gets to considering their songwriting or performances, likewise worthy of respect.

Supervoid‘s side B companions, Red Desert, offer post-Sleep/The Sword heavy rock chug on “Frost Giant,” the first of their four inclusions, calling out the title character and Valhalla in a resonant hook. Hitting their marks. Their material stands out particularly next to Supervoid for the laid back sensibility in its roll and in the vocals of guitarist Shawn Stende, joined by lead guitarist Jeff Kluegel, bassist Paul Teeter and drummer Dave Dancho, and though “Hypnotized” is faster, it maintains the swing of their opener, as do “Revolver” and “Nightstalker” (presumably not named after the Greek band, but one never knows), while also offering subtle, effective shifts in mood and shifts in approach that speak to the experience gained from their 2012 debut album, Damned by Fate, and call to mind what Lords of the North were once able to bring to stoner riffing in personality and thickness of groove. The harmonies in the chorus of “Nightstalker” and touches of C.O.C. gallop there expand the palette further but ultimately keep consistent with what’s come before, rounding out a fluid B-side with a late surge of energy that suits Red Desert well.

They’re four years out from their first album, and while they’ve threatened a vinyl release thereof, I’ve yet to see word of a follow-up. Doesn’t mean one’s in the works, doesn’t mean one’s not, but in true EP fashion, they give a broad slice of their sound for those who maybe haven’t encountered them before to dig into, which of course speaks to the mission of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two overall. My understanding is that all 10 installments of the series are booked and there’s another series in the works for after, so it seems fair to expect over the next several years that these LPs will continue to be a major part of Ripple‘s contribution to heavy rock. Fair enough. Two editions deep, they’ve already highlighted a range of styles and a swath of acts from around different regions of the US brought together by their varied takes on what it means to be heavy. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and the project remains ambitious, but taking it one LP at a time, there seems to be nothing keeping the label from continuing this exploration and enlightening listeners as they go. Looking forward to the next one.

Supervoid & Red Desert, The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two (2016)

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Monolith Wielder Sign to Argonauta Records; Debut Due this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Originally set to release last Fall, the debut offering from Monolith Wielder has been picked up for release by Italy’s Argonauta Records. The band cut their teeth someplace between classic metal and doom, and the early tracks they’ve showcased have a definite sense of darkness without losing a straightforward songwriting take to atmospherics. Both “Illumination” and “Angels Hide” are available to stream via their Soundcloud, and presumably those are the mixes (or near to the mixes) that were sent to the venerable Jack Endino (High on FireWindhandNebulaNirvana, etc.) to be mastered.

Argonauta will have Monolith Wielder‘s Monolith Wielder out this Fall. Comment from the label and the band follows:

Monolith-Wielder

ARGONAUTA RECORDS new signing: MONOLITH WIELDER

Thrilled to welcome a new great act from the States into our family. Drawing as much influence from the early 90’s Pacific Northwest, as the Maryland doom of that same era, MONOLITH WIELDER are a quartet made up of several veterans of the Pittsburgh music scene. Formed in 2014 by Molasses Barge guitarist Justin Gizzi, longtime friend and percussionist Ben Zerbe (Halo’s Grace/Mandrake Project), and singer/guitarist Gero von Dehn (Von Dane/Zom), the three began working up the material that would comprise their first studio effort. Later rounded out by bassist Ray Ward, the group started performing live that fall, and headed into Plus Minus Recording studio on Pittsburgh’s South Side in January 2015. With engineer Jason Jouver at the helm, ten songs were completed in the studio, and later sent off to Jack Endino at Soundhouse in Seattle for Mastering. MONOLITH WIELDER album is scheduled to be released by Autumn 2016.

Says the band:

Hey folks! We’re very happy to announce that the band has signed with Italian-based label Argonauta Records, and they will be releasing our debut album this fall! Thanks to Sean Cho and Plus Minus Recording, Jason Jouver who recorded the album, Jack Endino for the fine mastering job, Gero Argonauta for believing in the band, and Paul Werkmeister with Miser Photography. Check out the other varied acts on the label, including Dee Calhoun, who is sharing the stage with us this coming Saturday May 7th at Cattivo, for Horehound’s cd release party. We’ll be on stage again the following Saturday the 14th at Altar Bar with The Obsessed, Karma To Burn, and The Atomic Bitchwax!

www.facebook.com/monolithwielderpgh
https://soundcloud.com/monolithwielder
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/

Monolith Wielder, “Illumination” (pre-master mix)

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Horehound Release Self-Titled Debut April 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

horehound (Photo by Paul Werkmeister)

Pittsburgh natives Horehound will release their self-titled debut full-length on April 20 via Blackseed Recordings and Releases. Dense riffs, doomly vibes and an overarching ethereal spirit typify the first long-player from the five-piece, who formed 14 months ago and have unveiled a rolling-groove teaser to herald the album’s arrival. They’re reportedly looking to hit the road a bit this summer in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, so there’s one to keep an eye out for there as well. Will be interested to see how much touring they do in support of the record.

You know the drill: New band, cool sound, some potential as they go forward. Info follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

horehound horehound

Horehound Debut Record Release

Blackseed Records & Releases’ artist HOREHOUND, the Doom Metal/Hard Rock outfit from the Steel City of Pittsburgh, PA have been ripping up the metro scene throughout the past year with their live shows. Well-known clubs such as Gooski’s, 31st Street Pub (R.I.P.), Howlers and Club Café have seen the band move up the ranks opening for genre mainstays Karma to Burn, Foghound, and Cavern while developing a concrete foundation and fan base along the way.

Formed in February 2015, the band quickly pooled their experiences and influences to create their heavy yet heavily approachable sound. Vocalist Shy Kennedy explodes into her debut role as front-woman and brings her unique and haunting style to each song. The band’s dual guitar grind comes via Mike Altopiedi (rhythm) and Brendan Parrish (lead), both formerly of the band Perish. On drums is JD Dauer, who brings many years of heavy-hitting to the band while also a regular with rockabilly outfit Memphis Mike & The Legendary Tremblers. David “Wes” Westfall brings a devastating low-end onslaught as bassist and is also currently a guitarist for the band The New Casual.

2016 pushes the 5-piece even further with their debut 7-song LP slated for release April 20th, 2016. A regional tour this summer including dates in OH, PA, MD, and NY are in the works and opening slots for national headliners Order of the Owl, Graves at Sea, and Prong are booked!

The momentum is building at lightning speed. With new music, shows, tours and promotions, HOREHOUND is on the rise, ready for the world to come!

https://www.facebook.com/horehoundband/
http://horehound.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/horehoundband
https://www.facebook.com/blackseedrecords/
http://www.blackseedrecords.com/

Horehound self-titled promo

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Dream Death Premiere “Cold Hard Light” from Dissemination

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

dream death

Reignited Pittsburgh sludgers Dream Death will release their third album, Dissemination, on March 4 via Rise Above Records. It follows just three years behind their 2013 reunion outing, Somnium Excessum (discussed here), which though they had released a live outing and a compilation in the time between, was their first studio full-length since their 1987 debut, Journey into Mystery. Here’s where the story gets complicated. Five years after that album was released, in 1992, the current lineup of Dream Death — guitarist/vocalist Brian Lawrence, guitarist Terry Weston, bassist Richard Freund and drummer Mike Smail — issued their debut as PenanceThe Road Less Travelled, on a then-nascent Rise Above, and a winding 24-year course brings them back to that same label for Dissemination as Dream Death.

The more things change? Well, in a way, yeah, because listening to Dissemination, the vibe is that the shifts in sound that Somnium Excessum presented have been cast off as Dream Death dig back to the bitterness and death metal-style chug that has cast their influence over a generation of extreme sludge. “Conform or die,” shouts Lawrence in the opening title-track, and the stakes remain similarly severe throughout, and while cuts like “The Other Side” dares to work in a bit of melody and closer “In Perpetuum” takes a more personal lyrical viewpoint than some of the direct social commentary in cuts like “Crawling,” “Cold Hard Light” or the raging “Neutral Ground,” the crux of Dissemination is still seeing-red angry, and that remains true regardless of pace or any other turns Dream Death might present in the material.

As a running theme, it’s a disaffection that leaves little room for argument, the feeling of lost agency pervasive among the downer riffing of “Expendable Blood Flow,” violent gutturalisms met by channel-swapping static and toy piano transitions before the even-moodier “Crawling” puts worms in the brain as a lead-in for “Cold Hard Light,” which brings lurching death metal groove to the foredream death dissemination and only builds in intensity as it moves methodically forward, through tempo switches united by an overriding sense of disgust. The subsequent “All in Vain” and “Dominion” follow suit, the former with a slight touch of C.O.C. in the chorus that’s just as likely unintentional and the latter with a thrashier take overall, the guitars becoming a flurry of low squibbling, Slayer-esque but shifting into a temporary slowdown in the midsection before raging to the end. As the longest cut at 5:52, “The Other Side” is somewhat more ambient, but its core mission remains consistent, and “Nothing Ever Will” brings the central idea of Dissemination back into focus with its opening lines, “The machine gets/What the machine wants/The machine wants us to die/More each day.”

Ultimately, “Nothing Ever Will” and “Neutral Ground” summarize between them a decent portion of what’s driving Dissemination. Stylistically working between aggressive doom, raw thrash and death metal, they trade off grooves and paces but keep the central pissed off thematic like a current of electricity running them both. Even as it falls to “In Perpetuum” to expand the album’s context, Dream Death don’t necessarily sacrifice impact to make that happen, a sample mirroring the opening hypnosis and some organ adding a creeping vibe to early acoustics, but the chug kicks in at about the two-minute mark and Dream Death are still very much themselves. They cap with that same hypnotic sample — literally, it sounds like someone is being hypnotized — which makes for a quiet ending compared to much of the teeth-clenched, fist-tightened onslaught preceding. I don’t know if there’s resolution, or catharsis in taking Dissemination‘s central themes and using them as a lens to look inward, but “In Perpetuum” does effectively add to what they’re doing sound-wise without giving up the fury they’ve displayed all along, and for that it’s a noteworthy finish.

Now past 30 years since their inception, Dream Death have long been an underrated band, a kind of extra-angry footnote in the history of sludge, which has veered more toward punk influence than the definitively metallic style the Pittsburgh four-piece proffer, but Dissemination proves they’re able not only to draw on their past to match with current inspiration, but to take those ideas forward into current relevance as well. Of course it’s not as raw as Journey into Mystery or their prior demos — nor should it be — but Dream Death‘s third LP is so clearheaded in its ferocity that it seems all the more vital and all the more punishing.

Today I’m thrilled to host the premiere of “Cold Hard Light,” which you’ll find in the embed below. Enjoy:

Dream Death, “Cold Hard Light” from Dissemination

Somewhere in the darkest depths of Pittsburgh, Dream Death have risen from their self-imposed grave. After making their full-length debut in 1987 with the groundbreaking doom/death/thrash masterstrokeJourney Into Mystery—an album that somehow bridged the groaning gaps between Celtic Frost, Slayer and Saint Vitus while going on to influence many a notable death metal and death/doom faction—the vastly underappreciated band pulled their own plug in ’89 and formed the more traditional doom outfit Penance. The latter’s 1992 album The Road Less Travelled was one of the earliest Rise Above releases, while Dream Death began what would prove to be a 22-year hibernation. In 2011, vocalist/guitarist Brian Lawrence, drummer Mike Smail (formerly of both Pentagram and Cathedral), bassist Richard Freund and guitarist Terry Weston regrouped and eventually stormed the studio for Dream Death’s 2013 comeback album, Somnium Excessum.

The band’s third and latest, Dissemination, marks the return of The Road Less Travelled lineup to Rise Above, this time in their resurgent Dream Death incarnation. Forged in the dank recesses of Lawrence’s basement, Dissemination is the apogee of a creative process that recaptured and reinforced the singular spirit of Dream Death’s late ’80s triumphs. “While I’m proud of the material on Somnium, I think there was some experimentation there that could have been reigned in a bit,” Lawrence offers. “The tracks on Dissemination are much more focused and delivered with intent.”

The opening title track was the first song written for Dissemination, and ultimately formed the basis for one of the album’s lyrical themes. “Mike had the title before we ever had a song,” Lawrence explains. “He wanted something to express the idea of people blindly accepting the crap that’s dished out to them on a daily basis and how little ability they have to change it even if they were aware of it in the first place. You think you’re in control of your life? Guess again.”

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