Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

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

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

Torche on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

Speedealer on Thee Facebooks

Speedealer webstore

 

Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

Mt. Echo on Thee Facebooks

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Full Album Stream: Cowboys & Aliens, Horses of Rebellion

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cowboys aliens horses of rebellion

[Click play above to stream Cowboys & Aliens’ Horses of Rebellion in its entirety. Album is out March 15 on Polderrecords.]

It’s been more than 20 years since Cowboys & Aliens got their start in 1997 with the long-out-of-print League of Fools, and as with anything, some stuff has changed and some hasn’t. The Bruges-based four-piece still put groove front and center of their approach, and one can still hear traces of Kyuss and earlier Astrosoniq in their approach, but as they release Horses of Rebellion through Polderrecords, the band’s melodic foundation remains strong, but they deliver their material with something of a sharper edge. To listen to songs like “Take a Good Look Around” or even the initial push of “Soaking,” the sound is still right in line with that initial wave of European late ’90s heavy rock, and Henk Vanhee‘s post-John Garcia vocal style speak to that timeframe as well, but the tones of guitarist John Pollentier are as hard as they are heavy, and with the fervent push of Peter Gaelens on drums and Tom Neirynck‘s bass, the album retains a metallic feel to coincide with its foundations in the riffy ways.

It runs a clean 11 songs/43 minutes all told, and makes a centerpiece of its catchiest hook in the title-track, but whether it’s a bruiser like “Morning Again” or the slower early going in “Sheep Bloody Sheep,” Cowboys & Aliens bring an efficiency to their delivery that speaks to their maturity as a band. It’s been a minute, though. While their landmark and widest-known release has always been 2000’s A Trip to Stonehenge Colony (on Buzzville), their last full-length was 2005’s Language of Superstars. In the intervening 14 years, the band broke up and (obviously) got back together, releasing two EPs earlier this decade in 2011’s Sandpaper Blues Knockout and 2013’s Surrounded by Enemies. Both of those releases continued to tap into fuzzier tonality and more of a rocking feel, not quite laid back, but not quite as on top of the beat as a cut like “Refuse” finds them here.

So why the change? Hell if I know. These are troubled times, and perhaps it’s some reflection of that, though songs like “Two Time a Man,” “Hollow,” and the closing duo of “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” and “Splendid Isolation” seem to speak to a more personal perspective than some broader social comment. Even “Refuse,” in the track itself, is preceded by an “I.” Fair enough. One way or the other, it seems safe to assume that the shift in approach — and it’s a shift more than a leap; something notable, but not drastic; they’re not suddenly djenting by any means — is purposeful given the band’s established tenure and the fact that Horses of Rebellion is their fifth long-player. It is very much a collection of songs rather than something composed as a full-length concept or thematic piece, but it flows well throughout its aggressive take, and is malleable in terms of tempo and general mood even though it stays on point as “Soaking” and “Still in the Shade” careen outward in a brisk seven-and-a-half-minute opening salvo that sets the vibe for the rest of what follows.

cowboys and aliens

“Two Time a Man” gives Neirynck‘s bass a well-earned showcase, and presents a more open verse, pulling back the throttle somewhat from the initial launch, but they hold firm to a hook and still have room at the end for a quick crescendo guitar solo ahead of “Sheep Bloody Sheep,” which is a foreshadow of the melodic highlight to come in the title-track and the longest inclusion at just over five minutes, still hitting hard, but doing it slower. Gaelens starts “Take a Good Look Around” and the first two minutes of the song build through a resonant chorus kept on point by a steady kick drum while Pollentier seems to bend the riff around the central groove, never losing it but walking the edge as he goes. When it comes at the start of side B, the subsequent title-track has more of a classic take and a hook made for sticking to the brain complemented by a start-stop verse riff and a swagger that much of Horses of Rebellion avoids. They rightly lean into that chorus even toward the end of the song, but it’s telling that when it’s over, the turn to “Morning Again” is immediate.

That is, there’s a beat of a pause, but that’s it. Only a beat. And even on a record full of relatively smooth transitions, that one stands out as capturing a live feel on the part of the band. Being as crisply produced as they are here, I don’t know how much Horses of Rebellion represents their onstage character — I’ve also never seen them, so that doesn’t help either — but that changeover certainly comes across as show-ready, and it works to keep the energy of the title-track going into “Morning Again,” which has a bounder of a riff at its core and works to keep the momentum going into “Hollow” and “Refuse,” which respectively pull back and push forward in terms of thrust, the latter being the most intense moment on the record since the opening and maybe overall as well. They follow with the solid groove and layered harmonies of “Walk a Mile in My Shoes,” mellowing out a bit in its second half but still keeping the proceedings to a tight four-minutes.

And they close out with “Splendid Isolation,” which — and I mean this in the best, laughingest way possible — is kind of a jerk move. At 2:20, the finale is naught but tense guitar strum and vocal lines. It’s building, you see. At any second, the listener is waiting for the song to absolutely explode, but it never does. Cowboys & Aliens are simply toying with their audience, putting what might otherwise have been first or at the beginning of a live set at the end of the record instead. The message, of course, comes through clearly enough: They’re just getting started. And for a band 22 years on from their debut, that’s no minor message to deliver as effectively as they do, but perhaps the intensity in some parts of Horses of Rebellion is mirroring an urgency behind the album’s creation in the first place, and if that’s so, one seriously doubts it will be another decade and a half before they’re heard from again. As much as their roots remain in the heavy rock of their initial era, their will to move forward is writ large in these songs.

Cowboys & Aliens on Bandcamp

Cowboys & Aliens on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

Polderrecords on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Cowboys & Aliens to Release Horses of Rebellion March 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

If you’re looking at the band moniker and thinking of the 2011 flop/would’ve-been-high-budget-blockbuster, the Belgian rockers predate it by more than a decade. In fact, taking their name presumably from the comic on which that movie was based, Belgian rockers Cowboys & Aliens predate the film by more than a decade. They formed in 1996 — ancient history by any measure; ha — and put out four records in the pre-social media era before fading out circa the middle of the last decade, only to return in this one. Still, a more than 20-year history backs them and Horses of Rebellion, which is due out March 15 on Polderrecords, will be their first long-player since 2005’s Language of Superstars, though they also had EPs out in 2011 and 2014.

Long-underrated European underground heavy rock looking to make a comeback after more than a decade from their last album? Yeah, you know that’s my jam.

Info follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

cowboys and aliens

Polderrecords announces new album by Cowboys & Aliens

POLDERRECORDS is happy to announce the signing of Belgian’s finest stoner rock legends for their 5th full-length album ‘HORSES OF REBELLION’ out March, 2019.

Cowboys & Aliens is a four-piece stoner rock band from Bruges, Belgium. Formed in 1996, they released 4 full studio albums before falling into hiatus in 2006. The band reunited with the original lineup from ‘’ in 2011 with a brand new EP: “Sandpaper Blues Knockout” and gave a hell of a show at DesertFest Antwerp and opened up for Deep Purple (for the second time) at Vorst Nationaal. After playing countless festivals around Europe they released another EP in 2014: “Surrounded by Enemies” that took them once more to numerous stages in Belgium, Holland and Germany.

Now the time has come for their 5th full album: HORSES OF REBELLION to be released March 15th on POLDERRECORDS. The album was recorded and mixed by Pieter Nyckees at Shellshock Studio and mastered by Uwe Teichert at Elektropolis Brussels.

‘HORSES OF REBELLION’ is a classic guide on how to mix different styles into a breathtaking heavy cocktail. It’s all about melodic guitars and classic vocal harmonies, maintaining the riff-loaden grooves and ponderous rhythms Cowboys & Aliens are so well known for.

‘HORSES OF REBELLION’ is a diverse album with some punk attitude injections, classic stoner rock and the heavy edge of nineties grunge … and even an acoustic masterpiece!

Prepare yourself for a trip loaded with heavy fuzz, riffs and catchy melodies.

Brace yourself for impact soon as the album will release digitally on Cowboys & Aliens Bandcamp and all streaming platforms March 1st, 2019 and get ready to groove along to an absolute monster of an album! CD and Vinyl release: March 15th, 2019.

PR018 – COWBOYS AND ALIENS – ‘HORSES OF REBELLION’,
out on cd and vinyl March 15th, 2019.

COWBOYS AND ALIENS are:
John Pollentier – Guitar
Henk Vanhee – Vocals
Peter Gaelens – Drums
Tom Neirynck – Bass

All songs written,arranged and produced by COWBOYS & ALIENS
All lyrics by Henk V.
Recorded and mixed at Shellshock Studio by Pieter Nyckees.
Mastered at Electropolis Brussels by Uwe Teichert.
Artwork by Sandy Verfaille (Inksane Tattoo)
Photos by Trees Rommelaere
Layout & design by Tom Maene and Henk V.

Track listing:
Side A
Soaking – 04:05
Still in the Shade – 03:37
Two Times a Man – 04:45
Sheep Bloody Sheep – 05:01
Take a Good Look Around – 04:22

Side B
Horses of Rebellion – 03:59
Morning Again – 04:14
Hollow – 03:42
Refuse – 03:11
Walk a Mile in my Shoes – 04:21
Splendid Isolation – 02:20

https://cowboysandaliens.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/cowboysandaliensgrooves/
http://www.polderrecords.be

Cowboys & Aliens, Surrounded by Enemies (2013)

Tags: , , , , ,