Troll Set April 12 Release for Legend Master; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

troll

The appeal of Portland’s Troll was readily apparent from the self-titled debut (review here) that Shadow Kingdom picked up for release last year — their still-traditional-feeling doom resonates with emotion and melodies atop patient rhythms and a feel that’s no less modern than it is classic, at once of the post-Pallbearer and Windhand school of doom while holding to a march that seems to stem from earlier influences in the genre. Legend Master, which I guess will serve as their second album, though I could’ve sworn the self-titled was an EP. Either way, they’re streaming the first part of the two-chapter title-track, “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell,” and the epic feel in the cut is worthy in every fashion of the punctuation its title carries.

You can hear that for yourself at the bottom of this post, and if I can go out on a limb, I’ll say it’s worth your time to do precisely that. Album preorders are up now through the label.

Dig:

troll legend master

Portland’s TROLL set release date for new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets April 12th as the international release date for the highly anticipated second album of Portland’s Troll, Legend Master, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Troll released their first demo in 2015. Not long after came Troll, their debut album, which was originally self-released on cassette tape. Its original edition sold out quickly, and soon came to the attention of Shadow Kingdom. Duly impressed, the label simply had to release Troll’s album on wider-available physical formats and get the band the attention they so truly deserve.

And indeed did Troll get that attention with its Shadow Kingdom re-release in early 2018: Troll’s swampy, primordial doom ooze was critically acclaimed far and wide, with many salaciously awaiting the band’s next move. And now, that next move has arrived, and it’s more molten and momentous: the ominously titled Legend Master, Troll’s first brand-new material since 2016.

The title Legend Master is a telling one: here, Troll dial back the swampier excesses of their more stoner-indebted work and aim for a more regal, prog-inclined style of doom. And yet, even with such a significant shift, the band’s powers are truly hitting a fever pitch here, seemingly able to weave a majestic-yet-mournful tale at every turn. And there are five “turns” here, each of Legend Master’s five tracks an expansive epic in their own right. With two songs clocking in at eight minutes and the other three topping 10 minutes, Troll render the album a world unto itself; riffs lumber and crunch and then fold and wander, creating atmosphere and tension alike, as enigmatic vocalist Rainbo really reaches into his soul to deliver a goosebump-inducing performance like no other. After 52 minutes, you’ll feel like you’ve gone on a journey of a lifetime, yet will be pressing “play” again immediately after: Troll have truly become that engaging.

Shadow Kingdom is so confident in Troll’s Legend Master, it promises the album’s like sipping a fine wine – subtly intoxicating, savory to the palate, ever mysterious to the very end. Adorned with a classy cover and spellbinding layout, Legend Master will surely put Troll in the league of such luminaries as Pallbearer, Warning (UK), Solstice (UK), and the Lord Weird Slough Feg. Begin the journey to the Legend Master NOW!

Start the journey with the new track “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Troll (Portland)’s Legend Master
1. The Flight of the Dragonship
2. Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell
3. Legend Master, Book II: Three Evil Words
4. The Door
5. Building My Temple

www.facebook.com/trollPDX
https://trollpdx.bandcamp.com/
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Troll, “Legend Master, Book I: Proverbs of Hell”

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Glory in the Shadows Premiere “Babalon” Video; Self-Titled Debut EP out Jan. 25

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

glory in the shadows

Glory in the Shadows seem to be immediately intent on realizing their name. The Portland, Oregon, trio is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Alyssa Maucere, also of Grigax, whose debut album, Life Eater (review here), came out in 2017, as well as Eight Bells as of the last year or so, guitarist/vocalist Taylor Robinson of Bastard Feast and Elitist, and drummer Chuck Watkins, whose CV includes responsibility for the lumber of Uzala and Graves at Sea, among others past and current. Between Maucere‘s experimentalism, Robinson‘s extremity and Watkins‘ plod, Glory in the Shadows clearly lack nothing for diversity of influence on their self-titled four-song debut EP, set to release Jan. 25.

Checking in at a densely-packed 25 minutes, it is an initial salvo that spans styles as one might hope while remaining consistently weighted in its atmosphere and tonal impact. With Maucere channeling her guitar through bass as well as guitar amps, there’s nothing missing from the low end, and the overarching sound is cavernous enough to convey the thematic intensity with which it’s working.

“Lyrically, it takes from [J. Robert] Oppenheimer’s obsession with the Bhagavad Gita, Dante’s Inferno, Book of Revelations interpreted by Aleister Crowley, and the invention of the nuclear bomb,” explains Maucere. Not exactly minor considerations for a 25-minute offering — seems more like three semesters’ worth, at least — but the theme feeds into the ambience across “Kurukshetra I,” “The Seventh Circle,” “Babalon” and “Kurukshetra II: Oppenheimer,” which gracefully meld a post-black metal sensibility with elements of drone and bleak, expansive psychedelia.

From “Kurukshetra I” onward, there’s an immediacy of expression that bleeds through the material whether or not a given part is loud, glory in the shadows glory in the shadowsand while drift is a factor as well, as at the end of the opener, or in the cosmic chants that emerge out of the screams in “The Seventh Circle,” and a swirling murk that seems to cast a pall over Maucere and Robinson‘s vocals. “Babalon,” at a little over four minutes, is the shortest track on Glory in the Shadows, and solidifies around a push of low-end wash and interplay between melody and harsher elements set to a rhythmic nod that holds sway for the duration. It would be undercutting it to call “Babalon” straightforward, but in terms of an initial demonstration, it shows clearly that the three-piece are working from more than one songwriting modus.

“‘I don’t want to play in another metal band,’ was the theme,” Maucere recalls. “I’m not sure if we strayed from our paths, or if we found another way to be heavy; it’s for others to decide. I do know it’s my favorite project to-date, and the fact that we live recorded in our studio, mixed it down ourselves, and managed a good master was amazing. This was my first time running that portion of the recording process, and I borrowed lot of influence from Steve Albini and Butch Vig.” That impulse toward live recording can be heard as “Kurukshetra II: Oppenheimer” blends cave growls and an encompassing surge of guitar tone drops to standalone growls from Robinson soon joined again by Maucere and the total slow-motion instrumental onslaught.

A more studio-type approach, working in layers, etc., would clean that up, and Glory in the Shadows may indeed get there, but they benefit aesthetically from the rawness of the sound and finish with a long stretch into noise and drone to once more highlight their will to use structure as a departure point rather than a cage for their craft.

Or, as Maucere puts it: “Musically… it’s just as strange and creepy. Not sure what to say about it otherwise.”

Fair enough, even if one might add “promising” as a third descriptor for the list.

One doesn’t imagine at all that Glory in the Shadows are settled completely into their sound on their first EP — nor should they be, frankly — but there is a clear will to defy expectation and genre in these four tracks, and that can only bode well as they move forward to whatever might be next.

If you’re sensitive to flashing lights, go warily into the premiere of the video for “Babalon” below, and otherwise, please enjoy:

Glory in the Shadows, “Babalon” official video premiere

Psychotropic Death Songs from the Profound Abyss

Digital release January 25th 2019 on Gloryintheshadows.bandcamp.com.

Also streaming on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, starting January 25th 2019.

Guitars/Vocals: Alyssa Maucere
Guitars/Vocals: Taylor Robinson
Drums: Chuck Watkins
Recorded/produced/mixed: Alyssa Maucere at Fremont St

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Glory in the Shadows on Bandcamp

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ILS Sign to P.O.G.O. Records; Pain Don’t Hurt EP Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Portland heavy noise rockers ILS have released their debut EP, Pain Don’t Hurt, through French label P.O.G.O. Records. The band features vocalist Tom Glose of Black Elk and Clarity Process guitarist Nate Abner, and hey, past bands are fun and all that, but I think the pummel of “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” speaks for itself over the course of its two minutes, and “For the Shame I Bring” is just the right kind of punishment for, say, sitting on your ass all day while going out of your mind waiting for the internet guy to (not) show up. Just a random example. Not speaking from personal experience or anything.

Oh wait, yes I am. Either way, it’s a solid fit for that I’m-so-restless-I’m-about-to-burst-out-of-my-skull thing that, as human beings, we all know too well. The band released the EP last month and P.O.G.O. posted it as of Jan. 2, so whether you want to call it a 2018 or a 2019 release, I don’t think it matters nearly as much as having your head bashed in by it. Which you can name your own price to do.

Info follows:

ils pain dont hurt

For this beginning of the new year (the 26th!), we are very happy to welcome in the P.O.G.O. family, the furious guys of ILS coming from Portland – USA.

We invite you to discover their 1st EP “Pain Do not Hurt”, for fans of Jesus Lizard, Unsane, Steel Pole Bath tub, Flipper, Drive Like Jehu, Whores, Bummer …

(download it for FREE on bandcamp, if problem contact us) –

Tracklisting:
1. No Luck 02:52
2. It’s Not Lard But It’s A Cyst 02:18
3. Northstar 02:08
4. Curse 03:34
5. For The Shame I Bring 03:29

ILS is:
Nathan Abner, g
Christopher Frey, b
Tom Glose, v
Tim Steiner, d

Four guys in PDX who’ve all been in other bands and stuff. This is what we do now. We like loud, aggressive and abrasive. We also like space, like, the place. You don’t have to but it might help.

ilspdx.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/ilspdx/
https://www.facebook.com/PogoRecords
https://pogorecords.bandcamp.com

ILS, Pain Don’t Hurt (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Thou, Liquid Visions, Benthic Realm, Ape Machine, Under, Evil Triplet, Vestjysk Ørken, Dawn of Winter, Pale Heart, Slowbro

Posted in Reviews on December 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again! The second week of this amply-proportioned Quarterly Review begins today as we move ever closer toward the inevitable 100-album finish line on Friday. There is an incredible amount of music to get through this week, so I don’t want to delay for too long, but as we look out across the vast stretch of distortion to come, I need to say thank you for reading, and I hope that you’ve been able to find something that’s kicking your ass a little bit in all the right ways so far. If not, well, there are 50 more records on the way for you to give it another shot.

Here goes.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Thou, Magus

thou magus

How can something be so raw and forward thinking at the same time? Baton Rouge’s Thou might be the band of their generation who’ve added the most to sludge in terms of pushing the style in new directions and shaping genre to their purposes. Magus (on Sacred Bones), their fourth or fifth full-length depending on whom you ask, is an overwhelming 75-minute 2LP of inward and outward destructive force, as heavy in its ambience as in its weight and throat-ripping sonic extremity, and yet somehow is restrained. To listen to the march of “Transcending Dualities,” there’s such a sense of seething happening beneath the surface of that chugging, marching riff, and after its creeping introduction, “In the Kingdom of Meaning” seems intent on beating its own rhythm, as in, with fists, and even a stop-by from frequent guest vocalist Emily McWilliams does little to detract from that impression. Along with Magus, which rightly finishes with the lurching threat of “Supremacy,” Thou have released three EPs and a split this year, so their pace runs in something of a contrast to their tempos, but whether you can keep up or not, Thou continue to press forward in crafting pivotal, essential brutalizations.

Thou website

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Liquid Visions, Hypnotized

Liquid Visions Hypnotized

Sulatron Records‘ pressing of Liquid Visions‘ 2002 debut, Hypnotized, is, of course, a reissue, but also the first time the album has been on vinyl, and it’s not long into opener “State of Mind” or the grunge-gone-classic-psych “Waste” before they earn the platter. Members of the band would go on to participate in acts like Zone Six, Wedge, Electric Moon and Johnson Noise, so it’s easy enough to understand how the band ties into the family tree of underground heavy psych in Berlin, but listening to the glorious mellow-unfolding-into-noise-wash-freakout of 15-minute closer “Paralyzed,” the appeal is less about academics than what the five-piece of vocalists/guitarists H.P. Ringholz (also e-sitar) and Kiryk Drewinski (also organ), bassist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also Fender Rhodes and Mellotron), drummer Chris Schwartzkinsky and thereminist Katja Wolff were able to conjure in terms of being both ahead of their time and behind it. As the album moves from its opening shorter tracks to the longer and more expansive later material, it shows its original CD-era linearity, but if an LP reissue is what it takes to get Hypnotized out there again, so be it. I doubt many who hear it will complain.

Liquid Visions on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Benthic Realm, We Will Not Bow

Benthic Realm We Will Not Bow

The second short release from Benthic Realm behind a 2017 self-titled EP (review here) finds the Massachusetts-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse), bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) working toward a refined approach bridging the divide between doom and darker, harder hitting metal. They do this with marked fluidity, van Guilder shifting smoothly between melodic clean singing and harsher screams as Murphy and Blomquist demonstrate like-minded ease in turns of pace and aggression. The penultimate semi-title-track “I Will Not Bow” is an instrumental, but “Save us All,” “Thousand Day Rain” and closer “Untethered” — the latter with some Slayer ping ride and ensuing double-kick gallop — demonstrate the riff-based songwriting that carries Benthic Realm through their stylistic swath and ultimately ties their ideas together. If they think they might be ready for a debut full-length, they certainly sound that way.

Benthic Realm on Thee Facebooks

Benthic Realm website

 

Ape Machine, Darker Seas

ape machine darker seas

Maybe Ape Machine need to make a video with cats playing their instruments or something, but five albums deep, the Portland outfit seem to be viciously underrated. Releasing Darker Seas on Ripple, they take on a more progressive approach with songs like “Piper’s Rats” donning harmonized vocals and more complex interplay with guitar. It’s a more atmospheric take overall — consider the acoustic/electric beginning of “Watch What You Say” and it’s semi-nod to seafaring Mastodon, the likewise-unplugged and self-awarely medieval “Nocturne in D Flat (The Jester)” and the rocking presentation of what’s otherwise fist-pumping NWOBHM on “Bend Your Knee” — but Ape Machine have always been a band with songwriting at their center, and even as they move into the best performances of their career, hitting a point of quality that even producer Steve Hanford (Poison Idea) decided to join them after the recording as their new drummer, there’s no dip in the quality of their work. I don’t know what it might take to get them the attention they deserve — though a cat video would no doubt help — but if Darker Seas underscores anything, it’s that they deserve it.

Ape Machine on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Under, Stop Being Naive

under stop being naive

Stockport, UK, three-piece Under bring a progressive edge to their pummel with their second album, Stop Being Naive (on APF), beginning with the deceptively thoughtful arrangement of crushing opener and longest track (immediate points) “Malcontent,” which unfurls a barrage of riffs and varied vocals contributed by guitarist Simon Mayo, bassist Matt Franklin and drummer/keyboardist Andy Preece. Later cuts like “Soup” and “Grave Diggers” tap into amorphous layers of extremity, and “Happy” punks out with such tones as to remind of the filth that became grindcore in the UK nearly 40 years ago, but while “Big Joke” rolls out with a sneer and closer “Circadian Driftwood” has a more angular foundation, there’s an overarching personality that comes through Under‘s material that feels misanthropic and critical in a way perhaps best summarized by the record’s title. Stop Being Naive is sound enough advice, and it comes presented with a fervent argument in its own favor.

Under on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

 

Evil Triplet, Have a Nice Trip

evil triplet have a nice trip

Trimming the runtime of their 2017 debut, Otherworld (review here) nearly in half, Austin weirdo rockers Evil Triplet present the six-song/38-minute single LP Have a Nice Trip on Super Secret with classic garage buzz tone on “A Day Like Any Other,” a cosmic impulse meeting indie sneer on opener “Space Kitten” and a suitably righteous stretch-out on “Aren’t You Experienced?” — which is just side A of the thing. The pulsating “Open Heart” might be the highlight for its Hawkwindian drive and momentary drift, but “Pyramid Eye”‘s blown-out freakery isn’t to be devalued, and the eight-minute capper “Apparition” is dead on from the start of its slower march through the end of its hook-topped jam, reminding of the purpose behind all the sprawl and on-their-own-wavelength vibes. A tighter presentation suits Evil Triplet and lets their songs shine through while still highlighting the breadth of their style and its unabashed adventurousness. May they continue to grow strange and terrify any and all squares they might encounter.

Evil Triplet on Thee Facebooks

Super Secret Records website

 

Vestjysk Ørken, Cosmic Desert Fuzz

Vestjysk orken Cosmic Desert Fuzz

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get on Vestjysk Ørken‘s debut EP, Cosmic Desert Fuzz. At very least, the Danish trio’s three-tracker first outing is aptly-named, and guitarist/vocalist Bo Sejer, bassist Søren Middelkoop Nielsen and drummer Thomas Bonde Sørensen indeed tap into space, sand and tone on the release, but each song also has a definite theme derived from cinema. To wit, “Dune” (11:41) samples Dune, “…Of the Dead” (9:13) taps into the landmark George Romero horror franchise, and “Solaris” (14:15) draws from the 1972 film of the same name. The spaciousness and hypnotic reach of the latter has an appeal all its own in its extended and subtle build, but all three songs not only pay homage to these movies but seem to work at capturing some aspect of their atmosphere. Vestjysk Ørken aren’t quite rewriting soundtracks, but they’re definitely in conversation with the works cited, and with an entire universe of cinema to explore, there are accordingly no limits as to where they might go. Something tells me it won’t be long before we find out how deep their obsession runs.

Vestjysk Ørken on Instagram

Vestjysk Ørken on Bandcamp

 

Dawn of Winter, Pray for Doom

Dawn of Winter Pray for Doom

I have no interest in playing arbiter to what’s “true” in doom metal or anything else, and neither am I qualified to do so. Instead, I’ll just note that Germany’s Dawn of Winter, who trace their roots back nearly 30 years and have released full-lengths on a one-per-decade basis in 1998, 2008 and now 2018 with Pray for Doom, have their house well in order when it comes to conveying the classic tenets of the genre. Issued through I Hate, the eight-track/51-minute offering finds drummer Dennis Schediwy punctuating huge nodder grooves led by Jörg M. Knittel‘s riffs, while bassist Joachim Schmalzried adds low end accentuation and frontman Gerrit P. Mutz furthers the spirit of traditionalism on vocals. Songs like “The Thirteenth of November” and the stomping “The Sweet Taste of Ruin” are timeless for being born too late, and in the spirit of Europe’s finest trad doom, Dawn of Winter evoke familiar aspects without directly worshiping Black Sabbath or any of their other aesthetic forebears. Pray for Doom is doom, because doom, by doomers, for doomers. The converted will be accordingly thrilled to hear them preach.

Dawn of Winter on Thee Facebooks

I Hate Records website

 

Pale Heart, Jungeland

pale heart jungleland

Semi-retroist Southern heavy blues boogie, some tight flourish of psychedelia, and the occasional foray into broader territory, Stuttgart three-piece Pale Heart‘s StoneFree debut long-player, Junegleland is striking in its professionalism and, where some bands might sacrifice audio fidelity at the altar of touching on a heavy ’70s aesthetic, guitarist/vocalist Marc Bauer, key-specialist Nico Bauer and drummer Sebastian Neumeier (since replaced by Marvin Schaber) present their work in crisp fashion, letting the construction of the songs instead define the classicism of their influence. Low end is filled out by Moog where bass might otherwise be, and in combination with Hammond and Fender Rhodes and other synth, there’s nothing as regard missing frequencies coming from Jungleland, the nine songs of which vary in their character but are universally directed toward honing a modern take on classic heavy, informed as it is by Southern rock, hard blues and the tonal warmth of yore. A 50-minute debut is no minor ask of one’s audience in an age of fickle Bandcamp attentions, but cuts like the 12-minute “Transcendence” have a patience and character that’s entrancing without trickery of effects.

Pale Heart on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Slowbro, Nothings

Slowbro Nothings

UK instrumentalist three-piece Slowbro‘s full-length debut, Nothings, brings forth eight tracks and 51 minutes of heavy-ended sludge rock notable for the band’s use of dueling eight-string guitars instead of the standard guitar/bass setup. How on earth does something like that happen? I don’t know. Maybe Sam Poole turned to James Phythian one day and was like, “Hey, I got two eight-string guitars. So, band?” and then a band happened. Zeke Martin — and kudos to him on not being intimidated by all those strings — rounds out on drums and together the trio embark on cuts like “Sexlexia” (a very sexy learning disability, indeed) and “Broslower,” which indeed chugs out at a considerably glacial pace, and “Fire, Fire & Fire,” which moves from noise rock to stonerly swing with the kind of aplomb that can only be conjured by those who don’t give a shit about style barriers. It’s got its ups and downs, but as Nothings — the title-track of which quickly cuts to silence and stays there until a final crash — rounds out with “Pisscat” and the eight-strings go ever so slightly post-rock, it’s hard not to appreciate the willful display of fuckall as it happens. It’s a peculiar kind of charm that makes it both charming and peculiar.

Slowbro on Thee Facebooks

Creature Lab Records website

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Holy Grove, II

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

holy grove ii

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Holy Grove’s ‘Valley of the Mystics’ from Holy Grove II. Album is out Nov. 9 on Ripple Music.]

If Holy Grove II was an action figure, it would be one-per-case. If it was coffee, it would be run through the digestive tract of Peruvian bats before brewing. If it was a mushroom, it would only grow on the Western slope of one mountain in the Alps and would only be obtainable by one family who’ve harvested it for 700 years using specially trained dogs. And yes, it would be hallucinogenic. It is, in other words, a rare album. Not so much in pressing — Ripple Music has numbered versions, but those who want it can get it — but in form. It’s a coalescing of influences into something new and of marked individual character. Holy Grove aren’t necessarily out of step with the heavy hotbed that’s swelled in their native Portland, Oregon, over the course of this decade, but as that generation of acts becomes more mature, they’re engaged in an obvious commitment to move their sound to new places.

The reasons Holy Grove II, which comprises five tracks in 44 minutes and boats a much-ballyhooed guest appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt alongside Holy Grove vocalist Andrea Vidal on 12-minute closer “Cosmos,” are plenty: timing, performance, production, songwriting, presence. It’s the right album at the right time — we’re coming up on the end of that decade in Portland heavy; something new is welcome. The performances of Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis are energized, soulful and creative, and captured with a master’s hand by Billy Anderson, who if he hasn’t yet started writing the book on heavy production methods should probably get to work on that. A special kind of presence can be heard in Jacobs‘ leads at the end of the penultimate “Solaris” as well as in Vidal‘s vocals that run concurrent with it leading to a classic metal surge that’s organ-inclusive and full-sounding and lands with all the more impact for its sudden end, and the entire proceeding is memorable precisely because of the songwriting work that’s gone into it.

Vidal follows in a line of Oregonian vocalists that includes few others — the aforementioned Mike Scheidt is one, former Witch Mountain singer Uta Plotkin was another — who are able to bring such soul to a heavy context. From the swinging beginning minutes of opener “Blade Born” onward, she steps forward and is in utter command of the material in a way that even two and a half years ago on Holy Grove‘s self-titled debut (review here) just wasn’t possible. Part of that is easy to read as a comfort factor, and it applies to the entire band. Travis is a more recent acquisition, and he makes his presence known from that first swing onward through the second-half rollout slowdown of “Blade Born” and into the cowbell shuffle and tom runs of straight-up rocker “Aurora” that follows and is by far the shortest inclusion on the album at 3:51, but in Emley‘s low end and Jacobs‘ riffing and leads, there’s never a sense that Holy Grove are rushed or playing in any other way than they want to be.

Holy Grove 2018 press photography for "Holy Grove II" album release.

It is a poised collection, but not pointedly so. That is, with the time they spent on tour domestically and abroad, Holy Grove have very clearly found who they are as a group and set themselves to presenting that in these songs. It works. And whether a listener wants to put that narrative to it and think of Holy Grove II in the context of its predecessor or if it’s someone’s first experience with the band, it doesn’t matter. The way the album unfolds is welcoming regardless, and as “Aurora” boogies directly into launching chug of near-11-minute side A capper/album centerpiece “Valley of the Mystics,” the emphasis becomes not on stylization as a means of exclusivity — they’re not tapping into classic and/or traditional doom impulses to show off their taste — but on doing what works best for the song itself. As the opener hinted and both “Solaris” and “Cosmos” affirm on side B, Holy Grove are well suited to these longer forms. That’s not to take away from “Aurora,” which serves a vital function here and is kickass all the while, just to note that given the space to soar, Holy Grove do so.

“Valley of the Mystics” recedes to let Vidal take forward position in a Dio Sabbath-style verse before resuming the roll for a chorus that boasts self-harmonies — more please — and trades again quiet and loud before shifting into the traditionalist metallurgy already noted, and rings out at its finish to conclude the side as “Solaris” fades in on amp noise before crashing through an intro huge and darker-edged en route to a plodding, nodding progression of its own. Organ helps “Solaris” evoke a grand feel, and keyboard plays a central role in “Cosmos” as well, as the two are paired smoothly in the second half of the record. The sudden end of “Solaris” brings a quiet start to the closer, which again pulls back instrumentally to a quieter verse, this one part of a linear build rife with sonic details in the keys, guitar noise and so on. At 3:28, keyboard/Mellotron takes a central position that might otherwise go to the guitar, but the two intertwine smoothly ahead of another chorus, a solo, an almost complete drop to silence, and the setting of the stage for Scheidt‘s arrival, first with atmospheric growls deep in the mix, then with a clean line that emerges from that mass of tone surrounding.

I’m not going to say a bad word about Scheidt‘s appearance — he’s always welcome as far as I’m concerned — but there is a part of me that doesn’t want Holy Grove to share the apex of their second long-player. It’s theirs. They earned it. Bringing in someone else doesn’t necessarily take away from that, but it does change the form of it, and as Travis‘ drums roll and crash to an end of residual amp noise and echoing voice, the highlight of Holy Grove II remains the album itself and the clear process it’s begun in terms of hammering out the potential that the four-piece showed on their debut. Their flair for dramatic turns instrumentally and vocally is writ large here, but they never lose sight of songcraft, and even as Vidal and Scheidt carry through the crescendo of “Cosmos” together, it’s still the entirety of Holy Grove that’s leaving such a resonant impression. There are who will hear it and those who won’t, but this band is casting their influence out over doom with this record, and I’d be surprised if others didn’t catch it and work from it in the future. And they’re not done growing either, because as exciting as Holy Grove II is, it’s already worth looking forward to Holy Grove III. Recommended.

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Holy Grove on Instagram

Holy Grove on Twitter

Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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Red Fang Announce December Pacific Northwest Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

red fang

Given all the road time they put in, I like the thought of Portland’s Red Fang doing a regional weekender in Oregon and Washington. Of course, it’s worth noting that their four-date run alongside R.I.P. follows a late-November/early-December West Coast stint with Telekinetic Yeti and precedes another three local shows to close out 2018. But that’s kind of how it goes with Red Fang, isn’t it? Since even before they signed to Relapse they’ve been a hard-touring band, and certainly as they continue to support 2016’s Only Ghosts (review here), that’s been the case all along. The way I see it, though, that only adds charm to the four-date set. That’s not a tour they’re doing because they have to, or because they’re promoting a release, or whatever. Those are shows they’re playing because they want to.

Maybe they’re tightening up new material with an eye toward recording sometime in 2019, or maybe they’re just getting out for the hell of it. Either way, the point is it’s easy to read this as something they have booked for fun. Maybe that’s the case and maybe not, but for Red Fang, who are a good time under the most workmanlike of circumstances, it seems only fitting they should have a bit of a blowout to close the year. They’ve earned it.

From the PR wire:

red fang tour poster

RED FANG: Announce Additional Late 2018 Tour Dates

Portland, OR rockers RED FANG announce the second leg of their US headlining tour dates at the end of the year. The brief tour begins December 12nd in Eugene, OR and ends December 15 in Bellingham, WA. Support will be provided by R.I.P. on all four dates. The tour rounds up RED FANG’s Winter 2018 tour dates featuring additional select support by Thunderpussy, Telekinetic Yeti, Wizard Rifle and Gaythiest. All confirmed tour dates are available below.

Tickets are on sale Friday, October 5th @ 10am local time at https://redfang.net/live.html.

Additionally, RED FANG have shared a cover of the 1978 cult hit “Listen to the Sirens” originally performed by Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army. Watch the official music video directed by Ray Gordon.

The music video which is a departure from RED FANG’s usual antics, showcases the band playing the song in their rehearsal place while taking in the sites and sounds of their hometown, Portland.

Red Fang Tour Dates:

Oct 06 Atlanta, GA @ Slaughter Que 2018 (w/ ASG)

— All Dates Nov 29 – Dec 08 w/ Telekinetic Yeti —

Nov 29 San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel
Nov 30 Los Angeles, CA @ Roxy Theatre
Dec 01 Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy & Harriets
Dec 02 Tustin, CA @ Marty’s On Newport
Dec 03 Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
Dec 05 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Dec 06 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Dec 07 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Lounge
Dec 08 Boise, ID @ The Olympic

— All Dates Dec 12 – 15 w/ R.I.P. —

Dec 12 Eugene, OR @ HiFi Music Hall
Dec 13 Bend, OR @ Domino Room
Dec 14 Tacoma, WA @ Alma Mater
Dec 15 Bellingham, WA @ Wild Buffalo

Dec 28 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom (w/ Thunderpussy & Gaythiest)
Dec 29 Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom (w/ R.I.P. & Wizard Rifle)
Dec 31 Seattle, WA @ The Showbox (w/ Thunderpussy)

RED FANG is:
John Sherman – Drums
Aaron Beam – Bass, Vocals
David Sullivan – Guitar
Maurice Bryan Giles – Guitar, Vocals

www.redfang.net
www.facebook.com/redfangband
www.twitter.com/redfang
www.instagram.com/redfangband
http://relapse.com/red-fang-only-ghosts/

Red Fang, “Listen to the Sirens” official video

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Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on October 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

megaton leviathan

I’ve always thought of the difference between modernism and post-modernism as being that modernism says, “There is no god. So what?” and post-modernism takes the form of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and answers, “So what? So let’s dance!” and the presses a play button on its golf bag and starts the party. In their own way, Megaton Leviathan are cutting a post-modern rug on their third album, Mage, which is released Oct. 26 through Blood Music. Led by founding vocalist, guitarist, synthesist, etc.-ist Andrew James Costa Reuscher, the experimentalist progressive drone outfit were last heard from in 2014 with the particularly weighted Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell (discussed here), following up on 2010’s evocative and spacious debut, Water Wealth Hell on Earth (review here), and with Mage, Reuscher and creative partner Mort Subite, whose name translates from French to “sudden death” and who handles keys, vocals, recording, and so on, revamped the lineup of the band, filling out a drone sextext ready to hold sway and any chamber of the damned that might have them. One expects a few will.

The album is five tracks and 41-minutes of whatever-the-fuck-it-wants-to-be, post-all composition, following a narrative line from the forward march of opener “Wave” deep into hypnotic immersion like a spirit-seeking Godflesh before “Take the Fire” brings Floydian acoustic strum to the mix as an earth center for the surrounding ethereal moodiness. Moving into a wash of a finish with Reuscher‘s vocals and those of violinist Andrea Morgan staying resolute Megaton Leviathan Mageand calm at the center, “Take the Fire” comes apart like ashes thrown off a cliff before drums and low synth rumble begin the centerpiece title-track, marking a return of the dual-vocal approach and a beat that holds steady until about four of the six minutes have passed, at which point the loops and strums begin a resonant dirge march soon enough active again in its slow progression downward. This leads to the twist of the Eno Moebius Roedelius (aka Eno & Cluster) track “The Belldog” from 1978’s After the Heat, unveiling a krautrock-derived spread given a darker edge through undulations of lower-end synth rising up behind the belted-out verses.

It is gorgeous and consuming both, a brave take on an obscure original, and when the beat kicks in at about halfway through, the piano line that’s run throughout is only enhanced by the rhythm-making around it. At eight minutes, “The Belldog” is longer than anything before it, and in that, it doubles as a bridge to “Within the Threshold,” the 15-minute, largely instrumental finale to which all the marching on Mage seems to have been leading. Its unfolding is methodical and happens in at least three stages: the first four minutes dedicated to a tense buildup, the next eight-plus given to crafting a beautiful, nigh-incomprehensible wash of synth, guitar, violin and — somewhere in there — Morgan‘s vocals, and the last three a quiet, acoustic-inclusive ending that’s more resolution than epilogue. There’s something of a “what just happened?” effect when it’s over and the final line of keyboard fades gracefully away, but one thing Megaton Leviathan — ReuscherSubiteMorgan, drummer Jon Reid, bassist TrejenRuss Archer and maybe guitarist Travis Hathaway on the album (?) — never lose sight of is the flow between the varied stretches in the material. That is the thread running through Mage and the foundation from which is makes its outward sonic reach.

Reuscher was kind enough to discuss some of the makings of Mage and the personal context for him in which the album was composed, as well as essentially the remaking of Megaton Leviathan around himself and Subite. Before the Q&A, you can click play on the embed below to hear the debut of “The Belldog,” which I’m thrilled to be able to host.

Please enjoy the following track premiere and Six Dumb Questions:

Megaton Leviathan, “The Belldog” official track premiere

Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan

Over how long a period was the material on Mage written? The songs have such a diverse range. How did they come together?

I started writing them in winter of 2015/’16. I had just moved into a one bedroom apartment after my home of 10 years where we had hosted many shows in the basement was demoed. A neat lil side note is Capitalist Casualties played the last show at the house so that was kind of a nice farewell. I was pretty depressed and had some interpersonal things going on at the time on top of this and I had put on a LOT of weight and experiencing some health issues. I was pretty fed up with the bullshit that comes along with doing the band thing. The Past 21 tours where literally a death march and after writing an album when I got back and kind of trying to get a band together, Ford Tennis (yes, that’s his real name) let me know he was leaving. He did the session drums for Past 21 and we tapped him since our touring drummer just kinda ghosted us.

I was fed up with EVERYTHING. People would tell me oh you need to to tour more… I’m like I toured a lot man, I hired PR, we played direct support slots with Wolves in the Throne Room several times, and they even said themselves if this isn’t helping you not much else can be done, so going back a little further that was the basis of beginning of the end for Chris bagging out.  But that’s a whole other story. So yeah, just years of near-misses failures and getting our asses handed to us. So I shelved that album I did after Past 21, I folded the band and told Mort Subite that I was fucking done. He however knew I wasn’t and waited me out patiently. Anyway I got into this one bedroom apartment and set up all my studio gear in the living room.

Then one day I got the itch. I started laying down all these synth tracks and came up with some hooks and whatnot. I compiled three or four songs. I knew I wanted to hang up the doom hat — that shit bored me at this point from a songwriting perspective. I wanted to explore, so I got me a Moog Voyager.  I ended up getting a new house in the middle of the peak of the housing crisis here in Portland as well, nicely situated on the other side of the freeway so no one fucks with us. Anyway I was also listening to a lot of Chrome at the time and I think some of that leaked into it. I guess more than just leaked, since I essentially met Helios Creed and ended up filling in for the synth master himself Tommy L. Cyborg (Farflung). Mort and I ended up helping with Chrome‘s album Techromancy and THEN  I toured Europe with ChromeHelios and Lou Minatti where around quite a lot around this time. So it went from a total bummer to all this awesome stuff happening by the end of 2017.

Tell me about “Within the Threshold.” How did writing that song happen and what is it expressing for you in its lyrics and in the music itself?

This was the last song I had written for the album I knew I wanted to pay homage to the Kosmische Kraut gods. So I went there with it, busted out the Moog and tasty analog arp’d synth and did my best Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze with some German psych-folk in there to possibly make Julian Cope proud heh heh heh… It just came together effortlessly, I mapped it out and did the bottom tracks and then brought Mort and Andrea in to fill it out.  The process was actually fun. The album Mage itself is obviously themed and this song is the completion of the lyrical concepts. It’s not a secret to many that I am a Esoteric Freemason and a member of a Hermetic Fellowship. I had been doing a lot of work and this album reflects that. I try to keep this stuff very simple because it can get very complicated very fast and at that point you may lose the meaning. I also try to keep a childlike wonder about these things — growing up is for losers. Music and magick are creative things that rely on it, in my opinion. So the song, it’s about being within the pillars of hidden knowledge, vision coming to form and being very clear after diligently trudging a dark path with very little to light the way except trust in faith, THEN that moment of “AH!… it all makes sense now,” I hear my song and know it is a gift. To sum it up, Order Ab Chao.

Tell me about the recording process. You basically rebuilt the band going into this album. Were you nervous at all about how it would all work out? What did each player bring to the project that let you know it was going to all fit?

I came at this from the perspective [of how] my Masonic Lodge and etc. goes about bringing in new initiates. They have to want it. I’m not going to waste all my time and effort on curiosity seekers. I want to know that you’re in it, that you know what you want and this is it. My lodge prides itself on their commitment to the craft and are some of the best esotericists (of many different backgrounds) I have ever met, I wanted my band to reflect the same in the capacity of music.

So yeah I had to start from scratch with the exception of Mort Subite — who for those of you who know French might glean that he has impeccable timing, which he does. He is my ace. Though the moment that I realized that I might want to continue was when Jon Reid reached out to me and offered his drumming skills. I knew he played on that first Lord Dying record and I had seen them play several times around town, but I had no idea he knew about ML and that he was a fan. His enthusiasm and his ability as a musician sealed it for me. From that point on I think Mort Subite and I decided to just commit fully and make this a band. Slowly we kept getting together bringing in different people essentially trying them out to fill out the band. Andrea Morgan came into the picture. Mort knew her from “back in the day” and so did a few others we knew. So I was like, “huh don’t know if I need like six people in this band… what can she do?” Mort was quick to inform me that she was extremely talented and plays violin in the Vancouver Washington symphony. I reflected on the work Chris Beug did with string arrangements on the first album, and the stuff we did on Past 21… if we could pull it off in the context of new works that would be great.

So we brought her in she clicked right away and it was a match. At this point we started rehearsing regularly and I was teaching everyone the material off of the Repeating Patterns of Love demo.  We had a few people come in and out but things where kinda gelling so  I was like, “guys! we are going to finish this album I wrote, I want you all to collaborate with me on it.” So we did that and somewhere in there I was talking to Trejen who I used to be roommates with at a Fourth of July party and telling him what I was up to. He was like well you know I play bass as well as art. I mean this dude is a really damn good artist and I knew he was a straight shooter. He also toured with Dystopia as a roadie on their very last tour so I also knew for fact he had the right stuff. So I was like, “you’re in dude, let’s meet next week.” The next day he called me and was like, “hey so I was drunk last night… Did I? did I just join Megaton Leviathan?” I was like, “yeah man – you sure did.  You in?” He said, “yeah lets do this.” So we got it together and played a few local shows to seal the deal over the summer of 2017. In between all of that we worked on the album, getting together in my studio and laying down tracks. I felt that process created a strong bond between us which I knew was needed if we were going forward as a six-piece band.

Our most recent player Russ Archer is rad too. He is a quick study, gets it and has a great sense of humor which is needed. Russ has played in SubArachnoid Space and a bunch of other great bands. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him and everyone on future works for sure.

How are the songs connected for you? Can you expand a bit on how they tie together in theme and purpose and what drew you to fleshing them out in different ways? How do “Mage” and “The Belldog” happen next to each other?

I mean as far as writing them it was pretty much sequentially.  Then when the time was right I kind of catherted and got the lyrical content. I’m telling a story which is kind of reminiscent of a hymn. First song I kinda talk about my process. I was in a dark place and I was looking for some healing. And it kinda goes from there to how I get over it and find my footing again. I go over the dualistic nature of life the tragedy the glory getting in touch with your higher purpose. Listen to the album.

As far as “Mage,” I wrote that one. I kinda went off on tokens in life that kinda signal change and was kind of incorporating more of a worldview with the wacky shit that is happening in our at least American culture anyway. I grew up as a kid in the ’80s having an actor as a president and playing G.I. Joes and Transformers then took a bunch of acid in the ’90s… and now we have this really augmented warped reality that seems too absurd to be real… It’s like I’m living in a dream, “yo dawg is this shit real? We have some reality show host playing G.I. Joes and Transformers but hes presumably in charge of the free world…” Anyway what can I do? This seems really bizarre, man. I feel kinda helpless but I’ve done enough acid to know that this shit will pass and you gotta take the lesson man. Do what you can. Weave your truth into the narrative. Hack it by radiating love on the micro cosmic level, it will grow, etc. In the meantime duck and let the shit wash over you.

“The Belldog” is a cover of a Cluster & Eno track. So I was telling you about Mort Subite and his great timing. We were about done and he came in ad was like, “oh I have this track…” He had arranged it all himself and brought it to Andrea and I to do strings and guitars. So I did my best Micheal Rother. I figured if there was any guitarist that would jam with those dudes it was him first and foremost (Harmonia). All of us in the band where floored by it, and I we knew this had to go on side two and stand as a massive homage to the Kraut masters. Mort Subite and I actually got to see Hans-Joachim Roedelius live in Portland right after we finished tracking and it was this beautiful moment of the vision being realized for that song in particular, having Adam Stacy (Secret Chiefs 3) do the piano on that was the best call we could have made. I just shook Roedelius‘ hand and thanked him after the set.

It’s been four years since Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell. Aside from the lineup, how do you feel the band has grown in that time? Was there something specific you wanted to do differently on Mage?

I mean what line up? it was me stumbling around with a guitar while Mort did sound… although we had a drummer on the US tour so there’s that. I didn’t have a band, not at that point. It had broken up by 2010. I was just trying to keep doing a thing and see the album through and it felt like a burden at that point. I had to re-record it three times save for the drum tracks and the collab tracks which kinda saved that album from being a total waste.

I feel like now I have what I always wanted with Megaton Leviathan anyway. I had always felt like we put the cart before the horse starting out. I wanted live synths, and there is of course things that you gain merely from experience which I lacked 10 years ago. So it is as it should be.

We kind of touched on the doom thing with our first two albums. Past 21 is the heaviest we will ever get. We went out of our way to make the heaviest album we could, and for better or worse, I did it. It’s time to move on. Yeah, with Mage I just wanted to do what felt right musically. The electronic and post-punk elements have always been there so I wanted to expose that more with this output. I have endless roads to travel and I plan on taking that pilgrimage.

Will Megaton Leviathan tour? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah we plan on it, timing is everything and we hope to finally make it to EU sooner than later.  Buy our album, support your local record stores and if you like a band go see ’em live when they come to your town.

Megaton Leviathan, “Wave”

Megaton Leviathan on Thee Facebooks

Megaton Leviathan on Instagram

Megaton Leviathan on Bandcamp

Blood Music webstore

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Holy Grove Unveil Cover Art for Holy Grove II

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

holy grove ii full cover

I usually try to keep it reasonable as regards file sizes around here, mostly because I have a voice in my head that sounds a lot like Slevin (who built the site) berating me for not doing so, but every now and again you gotta just give a piece of art its due. Accordingly, click the image above to greatly enlarge the full two-sided cover for Holy Grove II, the impending second album and Ripple Music debut from Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove. The art, of course, is by Adam Burke.

The striking artwork was a factor as well on Holy Grove‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), released by Heavy Psych Sounds, and like producer Billy Anderson, Adam Burke is a returning party in adding his visuals alongside Holy Grove‘s tracks. I haven’t heard the record yet — it’s a Nov. 9 release date, so we might be a while before we get there — but the band previously announced the tracklisting and offer some more comment about the record, and because one likes to be thorough, you’ll see the front-cover version of the art below, complete with a fancy Holy Grove logo that seems just about ready to become my new favorite t-shirt.

More on Holy Grove‘s Holy Grove II as I hear it (and hopefully I hear it soon — ha.), but for now here’s what I’ve got:

holy grove ii

Holy Grove on Holy Grove II:

For us this record represents a rebirth of sorts…we went through a trying few years where the future of the band was in doubt and making another record seemed like it may never happen. We continued on, believing that we had more to accomplish. This record is a result of that belief, as well as a lot of hard work. We’re all very proud of it, and are looking forward to sharing it.

Holy Grove II tracklisting:
Blade Born
Aurora
Valley of The Mystics
Solaris
Cosmos

Holy Grove is:
Andrea Vidal – Vocals
Trent Jacobs – Guitar
Gregg Emley – Bass
Eben Travis – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/holygroveband/
https://twitter.com/holygroveband
http://holygrove.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Holy Grove, Live at the Tonic Lounge, Portland, OR 03.26.18

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

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