Zirakzigil Sign to Prosthetic Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

zirakzigil (Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen)

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:

zirakzigil worldbuilder


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
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


Zirakzigil, Worldbuilder (2016)

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Holy Grove Interview with Andrea Vidal: Commanding Fate

Posted in Features on April 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

holy grove 1 (Photo by Alyssa Herrman)

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.

Please enjoy:

Read more »

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Quarterly Review: Eight Bells, Öken, Brimstone Coven, Pants Exploder, Shallows, Monumentum, Famyne, Ethereal Riffian, Wet Cactus, Forming the Void

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

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

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.

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Battleground Records


Öken, Öken

oken oken

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.

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Ozium Records


Brimstone Coven, Black Magic

brimstone coven black magic

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.

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Metal Blade Records


Pants Exploder, Pants Exploder

pants exploder pants exploder

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.

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Pants Exploder on Bandcamp


Shallows, The Moon Rises

shallows the moon rises

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.

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Shallows on Bandcamp


Monumentum, The Killer is Me

monumentum the killer is me

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.

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Blues for the Red Sun Records


Famyne, Famyne

famyne famyne

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.

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Famyne on Bandcamp


Ethereal Riffian, Youniversal Voice

ethereal riffian youniversal voice

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.

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Ethereal Riffian on Bandcamp


Wet Cactus, Wet Cactus

wet cactus wet cactus

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.

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Odio Sonoro


Forming the Void, Skyward

forming the void skyward

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.

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Forming the Void on Bandcamp


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Blackwitch Pudding feat. Soul Wizard Premiere Betty Kougar / Herman the Worm Man 10″ Single

Posted in audiObelisk on March 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

blackwitch pudding feat soul wizard

I’m sure somewhere in the dark recesses of the weirdo-est corners of Portland, Oregon, some craggly seer could’ve foretold the reappearance of hooded wizards Blackwitch Pudding, but let’s face it, that dude smells like pee and most of his predictions have to do with chemtrails. It’s been nearly two years since the band unveiled their Covered in Pudding Vol. 1 EP (review here) that offered muddied, rumbling and hilarious takes on Roky EricksonKISSRush and Judas Priest as a follow-up to their 2013 debut LP, Taste the Pudding (review here), and not only have they come lurching back from the smoke-filled ether in which one assumes they dwell, but they’ve brought some formidable company along for the ride. Blackwitch Pudding feat. Soul Wizard will release a blackwitch pudding betty kougarnew 10″ single, Betty Kougar b/w Herman the Worm Man, on April 15.

While the identities of guitarist Space Wizard, bassist Lizard Wizard and drummer Wizard Wizard remain a secret, it just so happens that Soul Wizard is also known to mortals as Uta Plotkin, the former vocalist of Witch Mountain. The new two-songer from Blackwitch Pudding feat. Soul Wizard marks the first recorded output for Plotkin since leaving Witch Mountain in Aug. 2014, and while to anyone even remotely familiar with her work it should come as no surprise that she offers such a noteworthy performance vocally — emphasis on “soul” in Soul Wizard — and provides accent to her bluesy delivery with harsher gutturalisms in both tracks of the 10″, the lyrics to both cuts push the effect even further. Departing from the personal nature of her prior outfit’s last album, Plotkin presents two horror-show characters who fit perfectly alongside the “Gods of Grungus” and “Shark Commando” who’ve populated Blackwitch Pudding‘s other releases.

The A-side cleverly plays “Betty Kougar” as a middle-aged dream-haunting monster on the prowl for younger men — “She’ll make a man out of you/Then she’ll un-man you” — while “Herman the Worm Man” turns more sinister — “When I look at you I see a thousand creeping uncles/Licking their lips and patting their laps/And whispering ‘don’t tell daddy'” — and creeps out along those lines with a character who has worms where his hair and fingers should be. Plotkin seems utterly at home telling these stories, and Blackwitch Pudding roll out a faster, classic-metal swing in “Betty Kougar” and a slower, more doomed groove in “Herman the Worm Man,” their malevolence duly blackwitch pudding herman the worm manthickened but still retaining its party-ready edge considering, you know, it’s all made up horror stories played by people in wizard outfits and all that.

I wouldn’t speculate as to whether Blackwitch Pudding feat. Soul Wizard is a one-time deal or an ongoing collaboration, either full-time or something in-between, but “Betty Kougar” and “Herman the Worm Man” build on what the band has done before and bring it together with the most powerful voice to come out of the Pacific Northwest heavy boom, and in addition to being a good time, it’s a pairing that works remarkably well for all involved. Now if only we knew who the hell Lazer Wizard is.

Recorded by the nigh-on-ubiquitous Adam Pike at Toadhouse StudiosBetty Kougar b/w Herman the Worm Man is out April 15. Both tracks are available to stream below, followed by the release info, with my thanks to the band.


Blackwitch Pudding takes you on a rocking, interplanetary voyage through the deepest reaches of your evil mind with Soul Wizard at the helm. This two track limited release features the voice of Soul Wizard and is available in black and brown/white marble. Get ready to bend over and take it… into hyper drive!

Releases April 15, 2016.

Music by Space Wizard
Lyrics by Soul Wizard
Vocals – Soul Wizard
Guitar – Space Wizard
Bass – Lizard Wizard
Drums – Wizard Wizard
Backup Vocals – Space, Lizard, Wizard, and Lazer Wizard

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Adam Pike at Toadhouse Studios. Artwork by Darren St. Darren. Additional art by David Paul Seymour, Steven McClain, and Liesl Meissner.

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Young Hunter, Young Hunter: Nights in the Void (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Young Hunter’s “Another Night on the Western Front.” Young Hunter is out March 20.]

It has been a tumultuous few years for Young Hunter. Originally based in Arizona, the band released their first full-length, Stone Tools (discussed here), in 2012, following-up a 2011 two-songer, Children of a Hungry World, that began to explore their themes of contemporary environmental issues, latent social commentary, and emotional exploration, a young band feeling their way through the (hungry) world around them. The subsequent 2013 three-song EP, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (review here), was issued as a split tape with folk experimentalists Ohioan, and greatly pushed their sound forward into a heavy, almost gothic Americana, spacious and dramatic and geared for maximum impact.

Following that release, guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake moved himself (and, by extension, the band) to Portland, Oregon, and completely rebuilt the lineup to feature keyboardist/vocalist Sara Pinnell, guitarist Erik Wells, bassist Sam Dean and drummer Grant Pierce on their Adam Pike-recorded self-titled sophomore outing, which feels like as much of a debut as their debut ever did. Pressed by the band and comprising five tracks totaling 41 minutes, it is a richly atmospheric and contemplative collection, flowing smoothly across varied compositions that feed an overarching atmosphere not manic as was the last EP, but firmly in control of purpose and aesthetic. It’s heavy when it wants to be. It’s sparse when it wants to be. Its spaces are as vast as Young Hunter wants to make them, and each song adds something memorable to the proceedings, whether it’s the almost Ghostly riff of centerpiece “This War,” or the vocal and handclap chorus of “Another Night on the Western Front” before it. No coincidence the album is self-titled. This is Young Hunter, after half a decade, marking their arrival as themselves.

Sonically, one might say these tracks build on what the prior incarnation of the band accomplished on Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain, but the tones and the process feel smoother, Blake‘s vocals are more assured alongside Pinnell, and the fact that it’s a completely different lineup of the band is of course a consideration. Nonetheless, as the airy lead guitar enters to top the slow initial lumbering of opener “Nothing Shakes the Void” (premiered here), it has a familiar sense of melancholy that is decidedly Young Hunter‘s own. So be it. The song moves into a nighttime ’80s chug and call and response between Pinnell and Blake for the verse, Pierce‘s forward drumming having a swing all the same en route to the sweeping chorus and back around again with a solo along the way. After the second chorus, on which Blake pushes his voice into gruffer territory, they break to a quiet line of guitar and vocal duet, gradually joined by the drums before a final crashout that leads to the nodding open of “Another Night on the Western Front,” a start-stop instrumental hook establishing itself early before the first verse, which brings Pinnell to the fore, delivering the title line as the first of the song and giving the setting where the track, perhaps the album as a whole, is taking place as the snare and handclaps march together.

young hunter (Photo by Mike Grippi)

Pinnell soars in the chorus as one of the album’s most effective vocal parts, backing harmonies only enhancing the atmosphere before the track shifts back to its initial riff and opens wide with an echoey, desert-hued lead in its midsection. Another verse and chorus cycle through toward drum thud, sparse notes, clapping and a few final lines, and “Another Night on the Western Front” gives way directly to “This War,” which ends side A on a rolling groove, arguably the most riff-based track on the record. Blake takes the front position for the verse, thick-toned double-guitar progressing with some urgency, and Pinnell joins for the hook, more straightforward perhaps than “Nothing Shakes the Void” or “Another Night on the Western Front,” but no less effective atmospherically. A highlight solo follows a second runthrough and bridge, and a final chorus serves as the finale, which is a shift from the first two tracks and well suited to the overall vibe of “This War,” which brims with purpose as much as the title might lead one to believe.

Though it keeps its sense of patience in composition in common with its surroundings, it’s also easy to read a heightened sense of urgency across the eight-minute “After Death” at the start of side B. Both it and 11-minute closer “Pyramid Schemes” have a more insistent feel than some of the flowing grooves of “Another Night on the Western Front” and “This War,” but the severity suits Young Hunter. “After Death” begins with echoing guitar lines but soon crashes to life with a marching build, dropping out for its verse and surging forward again along what’s ultimately a linear path with peaks and valleys along the way, Dean making his presence felt behind Blake and Pinnell in the midsection verse, which telegraphs its return to crash-led intensity but is no less satisfying for that, stopping for turns of guitar but rolling through an apex, chilling out for a progressive solo, and pushing ahead to finish out, structure less of a concern than hitting hard. That feeds well going into “Pyramid Schemes” as well, which starts along a similar highway-stretch of guitar, meditating there with effects for complement, the dual vocals easing in just before the two-minute mark and running through a verse before the song bursts to full-tone thrust at 3:14, Blake taking the next verse and moving to a harder shout as it plays out, answered by a swinging rhythm and guitar transition.

Just past halfway through, guitars and bass rumble out as the snare sets the foundation for the album’s last build, Pinnell this time taking the fore vocally and guiding the band through the next couple minutes of subtle construction, the album’s most resonant melodic lead arriving after atmospheric vocals with particularly psychedelic fervor, a mounting swirl that kicks into a few measures of more earthbound riffing — honestly, they could’ve gotten another three minutes out of that progression easily, but the album has to end at some point — and finish out the exploration in unassuming fashion. As a kind of second debut, Young Hunter‘s Young Hunter offers a sense of musical identity well solidified to carry the band’s name, but as those final stretches of “Pyramid Schemes” show, the band still has ground they want to discover creatively. As each of their releases has carried elements of its predecessors while also taking bold strides forward — also the occasional geographic swap — I’d expect no less from them next time around, and if the ultimate story of Young Hunter is to be that their own hunt is ongoing, their self-titled is a formidable landmark along their path.

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Young Hunter on Bandcamp

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Holy Grove, Holy Grove: Establishing Presence (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Stream Holy Grove’s self-titled debut in full above. Album is out Friday on Heavy Psych Sounds.]

Portland, Oregonian four-piece Holy Grove have been one of their home city’s most eagerly anticipated bands for the last couple years, managing to stand themselves out from a crowded scene even before they really got around to putting out music. To wit, their self-titled debut arrives with stunning cover artwork by Adam Burke through Heavy Psych Sounds preceded only by a two-song live recording, Live at Jooniors (review here), with the songs “Nix” and “Holy Grove” (both of which feature on the album) and rolls out massive, Billy Anderson-tracked grooves that seem a long time coming from the group, who are veterans of Hoverfest and soon-to-be Psycho Las Vegas, when in fact they’re not in the slightest. Holy Grove formed in 2012. There are debut albums that have been much longer in the making.

Nonetheless, the seven tracks/43 minutes of Holy Grove‘s Holy Grove establish a veteran-style presence throughout their run, thanks in no small part to patient tempos, a general awareness of where they want to be sonically, graceful, thick tones, and the masterful vocals of Andrea Vidal, who is an oft-layered force atop the familiar “Nix” and preceding opener “Death of Magic,” furthering a classic heavy rock vibe even as the band takes a modern-sounding approach — I’ve also never known an Anderson record to have a particularly retro aesthetic, natural though they may be — in consuming tonality and unmitigated groove. Guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Craig Bradford (first replaced by Ryan Northrop, also of the recently-put-on-hiatus Sons of Huns, then by current drummer Adam Jelsing) craft a flow within and between the songs, which either stop for effect or bleed one into the next across a vinyl-minded construction that ultimately asks little more of the listener than a nod along — and even that Holy Grove make easy.

They are not yet 10 seconds into “Death of Magic” before they’ve dug into the first of many oh-hell-yes riffs to come, and the efficiency suits them well as they continue to progress through the album. Structures are straightforward on “Death of Magic” and what follows, but the grooves Holy Grove lock in are fully-toned enough and Vidal‘s vocal arrangements are complex enough that while the band avoid pretense, they prove immersive all the same. “Death of Magic” is telling of several key factors, including its hook, which is something that “Nix” answers in kind even through it’s a full three minutes longer. Jacobs‘ lumbering guitar leads through a mid-paced Sabbathian swing as Emley and Bradford alternate filling in stops during the verse, but though the mix is decently balanced, it’s once again Vidal who shines through as the early forward push takes them into a midsection of layered guitar and toward a standout solo in the song’s second half, foreshadowing a bit of what’s to come later on closing duo “Hanged Man” and “Safe Return,” vocals returning even more soulful and fervent as they build toward the “Nix”‘s big-slowdown finish, which fades out into the psychedelic start of “Holy Grove.”

holy grove

An eponymous track on a self-titled LP — especially a self-titled debut — is and should rightly be a focal point, the band are essentially saying, “This is who we are and what we’re about,” and Holy Grove meet that task ably, unfolding from that initial quiet guitar and bass interplay a larger, rolling wash of vibe that continues to hold sway through its verses and the shuffle that emerges under Jacobs‘ solo later on, a smooth transition that leads the way out and fades as Bradford‘s drums begin “Huntress,” touches of Electric Wizard showing up in the interweaving lead and rhythm lines, which drop out to make room for Vidal in the verse but don’t seem to be completely gone as they chug forward. Wisely placed, “Huntress” bursts into faster swinging to close out side A on a more raucous note than some of the relatively laid back fare before it, but that’s just as much preface for what’s to come on “Caravan” as it is an answer to the roll of “Nix” or “Holy Grove.”

Kicking full force into the second half of the album, “Caravan” offers a genuine boogie from Holy Grove, which is territory they’ve come close to but never quite danced all over like they do within, and it works both in the context of mirroring the catchy open they gave Holy Grove with “Death of Magic” and the grander ending to come with the last two tracks, the arrival of which is announced by far back and fading in vocals on “Hanged Man,” the longest cut on the record at 8:49 and arguably the most ambitious as well. It finds its crux somewhere between the unfurling Candlemassian doom of its opening movements and the NWOBHM-meets-Kyuss (think meaner-toned “Green Machine”) gallop that arises past the midpoint, but the really telling factor in all of it is how well Holy Grove command the proceedings throughout, marrying varied styles and ultimately coming out of it with something all the more their own.

“Safe Return” (the second longest track at 7:28) rounds out and answers the Electric Wizardry of the intro to “Huntress” in its own, but also sets its own course. Perhaps more in line with “Nix” or “Holy Grove,” “Safe Return” does indeed feel a bit safe after “Hanged Man,” but its purpose is manifold as the closer in that not only does it tie together the various elements at play across the record, but it expands on how “Huntress” finished side A with its own upbeat turn around a vicious hook delivered by Vidal before it drops out and launches the last build, crashing to a stop that feels all the more sudden considering how fluid the band’s transitions between songs have been all along. It is a debut, so I won’t say Holy Grove feels like the sum total of what Holy Grove have to offer, either in songwriting or execution, but the band does affirm and restate their potential throughout while providing a foundation from which to continue to build, and for the quality they bring and the sense of work done on these tracks, their self-titled will no doubt earn a place among 2016’s more resonant debuts.

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Holy Grove on Bandcamp

Holy Grove at Heavy Psych Sounds

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Ape Machine Stream Coalition of the Unwilling; US Tour Begins March 11

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

ape machine

Back in November, as underappreciated Portland, Oregon, heavy rockers Ape Machine were getting ready to offer up their new release, Coalition of the Unwilling, on Heavy Psych Sounds, they marked the occasion with a 20-date tour, and as they make ready for the domestic release on March 11, it seems only fair to do about the same amount of road time. Just wouldn’t be Ape Machine if they didn’t. To-date, their career is marked out by quality songcraft, righteousness of performance and a readiness to hand-deliver their rock to just about any audience that will have them. Their last album, 2013’s Mangled by the Machine (review here), further cemented their approach, and though it’s somewhere between an EP and an LP in length, the six-track, 25-minute Coalition of the Unwilling makes a fitting answer in terms of their classic-style chemistry, from the fading-in guitar solo of opener “Crushed from Within” through the “Ape’n’Stein” take on The Edgar Winter Group‘s “Frankenstein” and into the subdued, vocal-led closer “Never My Way.”

Through all six cuts, Ape Machine‘s take doesn’t ask much of the listener except maybe to come along for the ride, and what it delivers in return is engaging bounce and a partially Led Zep-inspired, crisply-presented vibe that holds true throughout “Crushed from Within” and the swaying “Disband,” vocalist Caleb Heinze very much at a ape machine coalition of the unwillingfrontman’s position ahead of the guitar of Ian Watts, Brian True‘s bass and Damon de la Paz‘s drumming. With a singer of such ability, it would be easy for Ape Machine to lose balance, but they never have and they don’t on Coalition of the Unwilling, either, which moves through the shuffling “Give What You Get” into the more instrumentally-minded fare “Under this Face” and “Ape’n’Stein” — the latter of which actually is instrumental — before unfurling the minimalist guitar and cymbal washes that start the more brooding finale “Never My Way,” which does bring Heinze‘s vocals back into bluesy focus, but with a corresponding change of context, less upbeat initially and moving through a heavier apex with some choice soloing by Watts before they roll the track to its ending.

Like I said at the outset, Coalition of the Unwilling was issued last Fall by Heavy Psych Sounds, so I wouldn’t call this a premiere or anything, but I’m happy to feature it nonetheless leading up to the domestic release, for the quality of Ape Machine‘s output, its total lack of pretense and the work the band have put in supporting it already and which they’ll continue to put in on their upcoming US tour. The dates for that run, coincidentally, can be found under the player below, on which you can stream Coalition of the Unwilling in its entirety.

Please enjoy:

03/11 Seattle, WA @ Highline
03/12 Eugene, OR @ Luckey’s
03/13 Fresno, CA @ Audie’s
03/14 Los Angeles, CA @ Los Globos
03/15 San Diego, CA @ The Merrow
03/16 Tucson, AZ @ Congress Club
03/17 El Paso, TX @ Mesa Music Hall
03/18 Austin, TX @ Peckerhead’s – SXSW
03/19 Ft Worth, TX @ Lola’s Saloon – Fuzzed Out Fest
03/20 Memphis, TN @ Hi-Tone
03/21 Birmingham, AL @ The Nick
03/22 Chattanooga, TN @ Ziggy’s
03/24 Mobile, AL @ Blind Mule
03/25 Gruene, TX @ Gruene Harley Davidson – Giddy Up Rally Pre-Party
03/26 Houston, TX @ Satellite Bar
03/28 Scottsdale, AZ @ Pub Rock
03/29 Long Beach, CA @ The Prospector
03/30 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
03/31 Portland, OR @ Star Theater

Ape Machine on Thee Facebooks

Ape Machine website

Ape Machine on Twitter

Ape Machine Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds

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Demon Eye and Disenchanter Announce West Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Portland, Oregon’s Disenchanter will welcome North Carolinian doom rockers Demon Eye in April for a West Coast run presented by Nanotear Booking. To my knowledge, it marks Demon Eye‘s first trip out west, and for Disenchanter, it follows an EP compilation released on NoSlip Records and the announcement that they’ll take part in Psycho Las Vegas in August.

Demon Eye, meanwhile, will also play Maryland Doom Fest 2016 in June. Their second album, Tempora Infernalia (review here), was issued last year on Soulseller Records and they’ve supported it since playing local shows with the likes of Acid King and Pentagram. Guitarist/vocalist Erik Sugg was also recently announced as having joined Lightning Born, whose lineup features, among others, C.O.C. bassist Mike Dean.

More on that as I hear it. Here are the tour dates and more info:

demon eye disenchanter new poster

Our West Coast tour with Disenchanter will be happening soon! A huge thanks to Nanotear Booking!

Coming up in April: Demon Eye and Disenchanter West Coast tour!

The stars have aligned

Formed in May of 2011, rising from the ashes of the black machine, invoked after many moons, Disenchanter is a heavy rock band riding the currents of doom, casting riffs of rock, and melding the elixirs of metal to bring forth a fantasy of sci-fi wrapped in a stoner groove!

Demon Eye’s heavy grooves and thunder rhythms channel the doom and crush of Black Sabbath and Pentagram, and the fist banging shred of early ‘Maiden. The band has received international recognition for their highly acclaimed songcraft and their stunning live performances. Demon Eye remains hellbent on bringing their hook-laden, dark riffin’ songcraft to fans far and wide.

4/14 Seattle, WA – Highline
4/15 Portland, OR – High Water Mark
4/16 Grant’s Pass, OR – The Haul
4/17 Sacramento, CA – Blue Lamp
4/18 Pacifica, CA – Winter’s Tavern
4/19 San Jose, CA – The Caravan
4/20 Los Angeles, CA – Complex
4/21 San Diego, CA – Kensington Club
4/22 Los Osos, CA – Sweet Springs Saloon
4/23 Oakland, CA – Oakland Metro


Demon Eye, Tempora Infernalia (2015)

Disenchanter, Strange Creatures (2015)

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