Last year, The Obelisk was proud to be among the presenters for the Northwest Hesh Fest, and it looks like Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 — set for Sept. 22-24 at Dante’s in Portland, Oregon — will be no different. I’ll have a ticket giveaway closer to the event, so keep an eye out for that, and the festival has just unveiled the lineup for each night, and it brings some formidable names.
Headliners are Red Fang, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and Deafheaven, which I think would probably be enough on their own to draw a three-night crowd, but they’re joined by American Sharks, native Portlanders Witch Mountain, Diesto and Danava, as well as The Blood Royale, Banquet and Greenbeard.
American Sharks, Greenbeard and The Blood Royale hail from Austin, Texas, which makes sense as a complement to the Portland acts since American Icon, which puts together the festival, is based there as well. Of the non-headliner acts, that’s as far east as Northwest Hesh Fest 2016 looks, but in bringing aboard UK garage doom forerunners Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, it extends its reach internationally for the first time. That’s a hell of an opening salvo to the rest of the world.
More to come as we get closer to September and the fest itself, but American Icon announced the lineup today and tickets are now on sale both for the individual nights — for which you can see the complete lineup breakdown below — and for a combined three-night pass. I won’t tell you what to do with your time, but this looks like an awful lot of fun:
NORTHWEST HESH FEST 2016
Sept 22-24 @ Dantes in Portland Oregon RED FANG-UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS-DEAFHEAVEN American Sharks-Witch Mountain-Danava The Blood Royale-Diesto-Banquet-Greenbeard
[Click play above to stream Ragged Barracudas’ ‘Tables Turn’ and Pushy’s ‘Salem Man.’ Their split LP is out mid-July and available now to preorder.]
There’s just nothing to argue with here. German trio Ragged Barracudas and Portland, Oregon’s Pushy team up for a split 12″ on Who Can You Trust? Records, four tracks apiece on two sides obviously divided by band, three originals and one cover each. Let the boogie ensue. It is neither act’s first time working with the label. Ragged Barracudas released a 7″ (review here) early in 2014 and took part in the latest installment of the imprint’s Sweet Times series of four-way split singles, Sweet Times Vol. 5. Pushy, meanwhile, featured on Sweet Times Vol. 4 last year, and as Ragged Barracudas drummer/vocalist Christian Dräger doubles as the head of Who Can You Trust? and Pushy guitarist/vocalist Adam Burke has done artwork for label releases from Pastor and the aforementioned Sweet Times Vol. 4, it’s safe to assume nobody on one side is a stranger to the other.
Those connections come hand-in-hand with a similarity of sonic mindset, both acts embroiled in a modernization of ’70s impulses across the LP’s engaging 33-minute span. They share a lack of pretense in their methods and the circumstance that this 12″ platter is the most substantive release to-date from each of them, Pushy having offered up a digital-only demo in 2014 (review here) and a couple other odds and ends on Bandcamp in addition to the above-mentioned. Both acts sound formative, purposefully, but assured of what they’re trying to accomplish and how they want to get to the natural, classic atmosphere that ultimately unites them and makes the record flow between its two sides.
In the case of Ragged Barracudas, no doubt at least partial credit should go to Guy Tavares. Also the drummer/vocalist of Orange Sunshine, Tavares holds the reins on Motorwolf Studios in Den Haag, the Netherlands, and Ragged Barracudas‘ output benefits greatly from the sweat-soaked rawness of the “Motorwolf sound” on their four songs, “Burning” (on which Tavares also contributes ghungroo bells), “Tables Turn,” “Walking on My Grave” (a Dead Moon cover) and “Conclusions.” With a strong sense of live performance and a down-to-business feel in the lightly blown-out vocals of Dräger, joined in the band by guitarist JanikRuß and bassist Tom Weiten, Ragged Barracudas manage to keep a friendly edge to a successfully dangerous execution.
Some of that might be pacing. “Burning” and “Walking on My Grave” both move at a pretty decent clip, but “Tables Turn” — a highlight of the release and the longest cut on it at six minutes flat — and “Conclusions” contrast with a more patient take. This direct back and forth, particularly over the condensed 17-minute runtime of the vinyl’s side A, sets up a flow that carries the listener along with the changes the band is making. I don’t know the circumstances of the recording exactly, but if it wasn’t completely live I’d guess it was at least mostly so, and whether it’s the almost-gothabilly ride cymbal on “Walking on My Grave” or the melancholic rumble of “Conclusions,” Ragged Barracudas show themselves as having a firm grip on their sound and a growing songwriting process that sounds ready for exploration on a debut full-length.
That’s something else they have in common with Pushy, who sound like the swing-fueled next step the Pacific Northwest has been waiting for since Portland arrived on the heavy rock map seven-plus years ago. They’re not the only band from what’s become a capitol of US heavy to take a bite out of the ’70s grooves of ZZ Top and James Gang, but they do it exceedingly well, whether it’s the start-stop bass groove from Neal Munson on “Zionara” or the sleaze in Burke‘s vocals on side-opener “In My Mouth.”
Blue Cheer are a major factor in that song, and not to its detriment, as Burke, Munson, guitarist Ron Wesley and drummer Travis Claw set themselves up for the funky turn that “I Need More Time” — a cover of The Meters — brings, twisting guitars leading the way into a resounding hook before twin-leads meet up for a scathingly bluesy apex that shifts back into the chorus to finish out. “Salem Man” follows with an admirably believable “rama-lam-bam-bam” worked into its lyrics, and as Pushy‘s tracks are arranged shortest to longest, as they make their move toward “Zionara” to finish out, they get correspondingly bolder, so that the final nod of “Zionara” is not only its own payoff but that also for the band’s entire portion, played out over a lean, deceptively-efficient 15 minutes.
Like I said at the outset, there’s just nothing to argue with here. In performance and songwriting, Ragged Barracudas and Pushy complement each other fluidly. It’s telling that the split’s cover artwork — presumably by Burke — is on what looks like reclaimed wood from an old barn, since both bands have an underlying element of the organic to their approach as well. In accord with that, their combined output sounds ready to stand the test of time.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a good chance that, at any given point, Oregonian heavy rockers Ape Machine are either announcing a tour, actually on said tour, just off touring, or getting ready for their next tour. They went to Europe last fall to herald the arrival of Spring 2016’s Coalition of the Unwilling (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds, and they’ve been on the road steadily for the last several years. To wit, the run that starts June 15 through the Midwest and West Coast, which includes a stop at Crucialfest 6 in Salt Lake City, will be their second US stint of 2016 after one in March around the latest release, and it only seems fair to speculate that it won’t be the last time they get out this year. Some acts do it the hard way, and Ape Machine seem to prefer delivering rock and roll personally. So be it.
Dates follow here, as sent down the PR wire:
Rock’n’roll ain’t dead! Portland rockers APE MACHINE announce more US tour dates this summer.
Rock’n’roll has never been so alive, as Portland’s most exciting and hard-hitting riff merchants APE MACHINE are set to make heads turn again, with the release of their fourth album, on Heavy Psych Sounds. “Coalition Of The Unwilling” landed in March in all good record stores, followed by Southern US tour dates. The psychedelic apes bring the riffs to the Mid-West this summer with dates starting in June and an appearance at the highly regarded stoner-rock fest – Crucialfest – in Salt Lake City.
The name APE MACHINE is a nod to the days of reel-to-reel magnetic tape audio recording; a fitting moniker for the Portland heavy-hitting quartet as the band plays through vintage tube amplifiers and lays down its songs using exclusively throwback quality studio equipment.
With a heady mix of animal aggression and technical precision, APE MACHINE’s music carries an organic depth and warmth rarely heard since the time of rock’s glorious early years (or your Dad’s bad ass record collection) infused with an exceptional modern sensibility. When the mystical lyrics of vocalist Caleb Heinze lock in with the band’s stone-cold groove, the band demonstrates an earth-shaking ability to rock. A true four-piece, the group has been called “a rock and roll band with a finger on the pulse of the 70’s and their asses firmly in the present” and “real heavy-psych for the iPhone generation” that delivers “true guts and glory rock and roll”.
Summer Tour Dates: Wednesday June 15: Shredder, Boise ID Thursday June 16: Crucialfest, Salt Lake City (Metro Bar) Friday June 17: Larimer Lounge, Denver CO Saturday June 18: Replay Lounge, Lawrence KS Sunday June 19: Reggie’s, Chicago IL Monday June 20: Fubar, St. Louis MO Tuesday June 21: Melody Inn, Indianapolis IN Wednesday June 22: The Roxy, Overland Park KS Thursday June 23: Blue Note Lounge, Oklahoma City OK Friday June 24: Leftwoods, Amarillo TX Saturday June 25: Deadhorse Saloon, San Angelo TX Sunday June 26: Lowbrow Palace, El Paso TX Monday June 27: Casbah, San Diego CA Tuesday June 28: Blue Lamp, Sacramento CA
APE MACHINE IS Caleb Heinze – Vocals Ian Watts – Guitar Brian True – Bass Damon De La Paz – Drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is one of those tour-to-end-all-tours tours. Beginning in Austin on Sept. 27, including a stop Oct. 14 at Erosion Fest and culminating Oct. 23 at Southwest Terror Fest, the newly-announced tour with Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain also covers both coasts in nearly its month-long stretch. I’ll admit the prospect of seeing these three bands together at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn has my arm hair standing on end, remembering the Vitus-at-Vitus gig from 2012 (review here) as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, at that venue or anywhere else. It’ll be a different lineup of the band this time, with original vocalist Scott Reagers back in that position as the Die Healing-referential poster art indicates, but they’re keeping excellent company in The Skull and Witch Mountain as well, so kudos all around, including to Nanotear, which put the package together.
Witch Mountain have a couple dates as well en route to meeting up with the others. Find the complete routing, including those shows, below:
SAINT VITUS tour dates All dates with THE SKULL, WITCH MOUNTAIN Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer. Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest
Witch Mountain shows on the way to meet up with Saint Vitus + The Skull: 9/22 Portland, OR – Dante’s (WM only) 9/23 Boise, ID – Neurolux (WM only) 9/24 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro (WM only) 9/25 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (WM only)
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Have to chuckle a bit at The Skull calling a tour ‘November of Doom,’ when they’re from Chicago and that same city is host to Novembers Doom, but hey, sometimes coincidences happen. On their latest run of Europe, which follows two earlier this Spring, including one that stopped for a total of three sets at Roadburn 2016, they’ll be joined by Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain. As coordination would have it, the two bands share a guitarist in Rob Wrong at this point, so though he’ll be pulling double-duty, the pairing makes an awful lot of sense. The Skull, who are continuing to support their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), as well as a self-titled follow-up EP (review here), features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner, guitarist Lothar Keller and drummer Sean Saley, in addition to Rob Wrong.
To my recollection, this is the first time Witch Mountain will be headed to Europe since acquiring vocalist Kayla Dixon. They toured North America last Spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and are about due for a follow-up to 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here), their gorgeous and fraught fourth full-length.
Both bands also play Erosion Festival 2016 (info here) in Missoula, Montana, this October.
From the PR wire:
THE SKULL featuring former Trouble members including vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner are returning to Europe in November 2016!
The Skull & Witch Mountain: 11/04 Bristol, UK Exchange 11/05 Milton Keynes, UK Crauford Arms 11/06 London, UK Underworld 11/07 Tilburg, NL Little Devil 11/08 Utrecht, NL DBS 11/09 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez 11/10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna 11/11 Arnstadt, DE Rockjunfer 11/12 TBA 11/13 Drachten, NL Iduna 11/14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthof 11/15 Kassel, DE Schlachthof 11/16 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang 11/17 Dortmund, DE Piano 11/18 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom 11/19 Winterthur, CH Gaswerk
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Portland progressive heavy rockers Zirakzigil will head out on a West Coast tour next month supporting righteous weirdos Wizard Rifle. The three-piece have announced that Prosthetic Records has picked them up and will reissue their 2015 sophomore full-length, Worldbuilder, on June 10, with new artwork and a bonus track for the CD/DL editions. That’s not minor distribution channel to tap into, and at this point Prosthetic has a significant and loyal following in prog metal, so it’ll be interesting to see how Zirakzigil — veterans of Hoverfest as you can see above in the photo by Aaron Sharpsteen — appeal to the label’s built-in audience.
I wouldn’t expect this run with Wizard Rifle will be Zirakzigil‘s last, either. Info on the release and tour follows, courtesy of the PR wire:
Band announce summer tour dates with Wizard Rifle, launch pre-order bundles for reissue
PROSTHETIC RECORDS are excited to announce their latest signing, Portland progressive psych/doom metal trio ZIRAKZIGIL.
Named after the misty mountain peak from Tolkien’s legendary novel Lord of the Rings, ZIRAKZIGIL have been steadily conquering the Pacific Northwest since their formation in early 2013. Described by Revolver Magazine as “70’s prog-rock sliding down King Crimson’s mountain”, the trio are heavily influenced by both classical music and the famed prog-rock heavy weights of the 70’s such as the aforementioned King Crimson along with Yes, Gentle Giant and Rush – to name just a few. Their truly unique sound blends these elements along with touches of sludge and doom to create an onslaught of crushing heavy riffage fused with sporadic flourishes of progressive insanity.
ZIRAKZIGIL have announced they will reissue their sophomore album “Worldbuilder”, featuring updated artwork seen below, across all formats (CD, LP, and Digital) on June 10. A previously unheard bonus track, “Prolegoria”, will also be included only on digital and CD versions of the album. Recorded and mixed with Billy Anderson (Neurosis, High on Fire).
The band commented, “We are screaming in the faces of kittens with excitement about signing with Prosthetic Records, who have agreed to help us in our quest for world domination. The newly upgraded psychedelic Kantian mindfuck edition WORLDBUILDER release is only the beginning as we continue to conquer new realms of heaviness and complexity. Prepare yourselves for an avalanche of sonic wizardry”.
Track Listing 1. Kategoria 2. Prolegomena 3. Will and Presentation 4. Terra Perricolosa BONUS TRACK 5. Prolegoria * *Included only on CD & Digital versions
ZIRAKZIGIL will join up with Portland/NYC noise rockers, Wizard Rifle, a week after the album’s release along the West Coast.
Catch them at one of the following dates: 6/17 Seattle, WA – Victory Lounge # 6/18 Portland, OR – Panic Room # 6/20 Sacramento, CA – Starlite # 6/21 San Francisco, CA – The Hemlock # 6/22 Santa Cruz, CA – Blue Lagoon 6/23 Glendale, CA – Complex # 6/24 Los Osos, CA – Sweet Springs 6/25 Pacifica, CA – Winter’s Tavern # with Wizard Rifle
Posted in Features on April 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One would be hard pressed to name a single city that has contributed more to the sphere of American heavy rock in the last half-decade than Portland, Oregon. I’m not even sure there’s any competition, even from places like San Francisco or San Diego. The challenge this presents new bands at this point is how they go about distinguishing themselves from their peers, and that is something that hard-driving four-piece Holy Grove would seem to have solved early.
Their self-titled debut (review here) is out now on Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds, owned by Gabriele Fiori of Black Rainbows/Killer Boogie, and basks in wide-cast grooves and a crisp but natural tonal warmth captured by stuff-of-legend producer Billy Anderson that puts the powerful vocals of Andrea Vidal front and center atop the riffs of guitarist Trent Jacobs, the rumble of bassist Gregg Emley and the roll of original drummer Craig Bradford (replaced by Adam Jelsing). That’s a big risk for a relatively new band, Holy Grove started in 2012, but it’s still their first album, but Holy Grove takes classic cues and updates them with a modern thickness of sound that would seem to hold an appeal for fans of then and now in heavy.
Holy Grove play Psycho Las Vegas in August (info here), joining in international and interstellar array of groups, and have a European tour in the works for the fall to further support the album, as well as work already underway on the follow-up, which is probably a ways off, but still in progress already. In the interview that follows, Vidal talks with good humor about her experience joining the band, how they got together, needing to buy a microphone after the first practice, starting work on the album after releasing the Live at Jooniors (review here) two-songer, recording with Anderson and much more, including finding her voice as a lead singer and the importance of commanding a stage and bringing a show to life.
The complete Q&A tops 3,200 words and can be found after the jump.
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Eight Bells, Landless
However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.
Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.
West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.
Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.
The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.
Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.
While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.
There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.
Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.
I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.