3rd Ear Experience with Dr. Space, Ear to Space: Souldreams and Eagle Bones

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

3rd ear experience with dr. space ear to space

In 2017, scientists measured ripples in gravity for the first time caused by a neutron star collision in the galaxy rather unromantically-named NGC 4993. It was badass. I don’t know what effect bringing together Californian jammers 3rd Ear Experience with synthesizer specialist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective will have on the universe at large, but if there are gravity waves caused as it beams itself out across space and time, one could hardly be surprised. The two parties coming together perhaps isn’t so much of an impact — that is, it’s actually a pretty smooth process, rather than two objects smashing into each other — but the end result on the 73-minute/five-track Ear to Space feels like a cosmic event anyway. Led by guitarist/producer Robbi Robb, 3rd Ear Experience have been rolling out desert-hued cosmic weirdo jams for the last half-decade, prone to massive explorations or tighter offerings in a varied, never-quite-know-what’s-coming aesthetic that extends to the vibe of the material itself as well as its construction, such as it is constructed at all, what with all the improv.

That sensibility — improv — is all over Ear to Space, with the first three sides of the 2LP each consumed by a single track pushing out across ever greater reaches, such that opener “Screams of Eagle Bone” (14:51), “Anam Cara” (20:22) and the extra-kraut-feeling “Dreams of the Caterpillar” (22:22) become a nebulous sprawl of trance-inducing aural voyage, a put-on-and-mellow-out excursion of engaging atmospheres and deep-running interstellar salutation. The amalgam collaboration of 3rd Ear Experience with Dr. Space doesn’t feel so much like an anomaly as it does a cohesive unit, as the two parties work toward the same ends in proffering an ultima-kosmiche space rock, the sax infusion early on “Screams of Eagle Bone” giving immediate Hawkwindian flair to the initial push, but the album finding its own way shortly thereafter as though, having once broken out of the stratosphere, it decides to go wondering around the neighborhood and see what it might run into. Oh, hello cosmic enlightenment. Didn’t see you there.

It’s an interesting project in terms both of the actual results — which are frankly kind of hard to write about because they’re so entrancing — and the process by which they were made. The aforementioned first three tracks, also known as sides A, B and C, were put together first by 3rd Ear Experience, with Robbi Robb on guitar and synth-guitar, Jorge Carrillo on bass, Richard Stuverud on drums, Amritakripa on synth and the bizarre chanting at the end of “Anam Cara,” and John Whoolilurie on sax. They were then sent to Heller, residing in Portugal, who essentially sat in on the “finished” jams, adding his signature sound via custom modular synth box and presumably other beep-boop this-and-thats — don’t ask me how the magic happens; it’s technology beyond my feeble understanding. The short version of the tale is: it works. If they said Dr. Space wizarded his way to California to join 3rd Ear Experience in the studio live, no one would think twice about questioning it. But, the last two tracks basically flip the method. Dr. Space started out with the synth textures of “Coin in the Desert” (9:37) and “Sue’s Dream World” (6:04), then sent that to Robb and company to be finished and mixed and mastered.

3rd Ear Experience with Dr Space Ear to Space lps

Especially in the case of “Sue’s Dream World,” that change is palpable in a departure to more atmospheric reaches, a lack of drums emphasizing the feeling of floating that’s been there all along if somewhat tethered to molecular cohesion by Stuverud‘s drums and the other percussion around even in “Coin in the Desert,” let alone “Screams of Eagle Bone,” which is downright straightforward in comparison. That said, because “Sue’s Dream World” is shorter, “Dreams of the Caterpillar” might actually be the point where Ear to Space finds itself most crossing dimensions, though it hardly seems a coincidence that both songs involve the word “dream” in their respective titles. That’s not to say “Anam Cara” is lacking anything for otherworldliness. Its sax-laced midsection freakout is a joy to behold, especially in terms of what Carrillo brings on bass, and the solo-topped wandering that happens afterward only enhances the wash, organ and synth coinciding to ensure there’s due melodic breadth to go with all the spaced-out spread happening.

On some level, the listener who is most likely to take on a collaborative effort from 3rd Ear Experience and Dr. Space probably knows what they’re getting going into it. That is, Ear to Space is probably not the kind of thing that finds its way into the hands of the not-yet-converted, except through word-of-mouth proselytizing. Fine. I don’t think going into it knowing that it’s going to be spacey diminishes the listening experience at all, because that simple category is so open to interpretation. 3rd Ear Experience with Dr. Space are indeed spaced out. That’s the idea they’re working from. That’s what they’re going for. But that doesn’t account for the undulating swells at the start of “Dreams of the Caterpillar” or the percussion jam in “Coin in the Desert” or the serenity with which “Screams of Eagle Bone” later resolves its early outbound rocketing.

The nature of improvised space rock is to capture these moments at the heart of creation, and so even while the frame might be familiar, the portrait within is inherently fresh. The point is to make a moment, and that moment, that specific “right then,” doesn’t happen twice. It may seem like an incongruity that something so tied to ephemera — made once, not recreated — should have such a lasting impression, but this too is part of the whole idea and part of what makes Ear to Space so gorgeous as a concept. It’s two parties reaching across continents and an ocean to come together in one celebratory creation ritual. It’s not meant to last, but it does. I’d be surprised if Ear to Space is the only time Robb and Heller join forces, as there seems to be so much more to be explored, and space itself is endless. Until then, this is a most encouraging first contact.

3rd Ear Experience with Dr. Space, Ear to Space (2019)

3rd Ear Experience on Thee Facebooks

3rd Ear Experience on Bandcamp

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website

Space Rock Productions on Thee Facebooks

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Dr. Space Premieres “Cosmic Explosions” Video from Alien Planet Trip Vol. 3

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dr space

Pardon me, but is the head of the household available? Great! Might you have a few minutes to hear the good word of our interstellar salvation? Excellent!

In that case, I delightfully turn you over to Dr. Space, the synth wizard — sometimes actually in costume, sometimes more of a figurative wizard — who stands as figurehead of the amorphous improv outfit Øresund Space Collective. Once of the US, then of Denmark, currently in Portugal with probably six or seven other places in between in what we pitifully think of as “our” dimension, Dr. Space has in the last 20-plus years amassed a massive catalog of output in the form of live records, studio jams, collaborations, splits, and more recently, solo affairs as part of a serious aptly dubbed Alien Planet Trip. The first them (review here) appeared in the night sky circa 2017, and a second followed in moodier fashion last year, amid a general onslaught of offerings.

The third is fully titled Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 3 Featuring Martin Weaver, and feels very much like the beginning of a collaboration that will flesh out further in the future — or maybe it already has if we’re consideringdr spaces alien planet trip vol 3 the realm of non-linear time. Either way, true to its somewhat cumbersome title, it brings together Dr. Space — né Scott Heller — with the also-currently-of-Portugal guitarist Martin Weaver, whom heavy rock heads might recognize from his time in ripe-for-reissue proto-riffers Wicked Lady, among scores of others, and the two mount a kraut-hued exploration of synthesizer and guitar textures across a 50-minute eight-tracker (the LP edition is 44-minutes and seven tracks) that casts forth a hypnotic psychedelic suggestion every bit worthy of owning a song called “Trance Pants.”

That cut, by the by, is a techno freakout the likes of which probably won’t make it into “the club” unless “the club” is indeed on another planet, but emblematic of the kind of experimentalism on display throughout. Opening with the duo “Lost in the Desert” — on which Weaver adds drum programming and various other percussion as well as guitar — and the brazenly ambient “Veganporcotopia,” Alien Planet Trip Vol. 3 willfully blows down the doors of consciousness in its reach such that it’s not just about throwing ideas onto the tape and seeing what the magnet holds, but of helping conjure the other-world to which the title alludes. Even in the shorter “Where Aliens Go to Die” and also-percussive “Cosmic Explosion” find their way to do that, and “Spacey Placey” and “Sue’s Dream of Exploding Sheep” only push further out from there.

It’s a trip, sir or madam, well worth the taking. I thank you for your time and descriptor-indulgence and wish you well on your journey.

Enjoy:

Dr. Space with Martin Weaver, “Cosmic Explosions” official video premiere

Dr Space makes another Alien planet trip and this time he takes guitarist Martin Weaver along with him. This track ‘Cosmic Explosions’ is off the new record Vol 3. The album takes the listener through many different soundscapes and textures.

The 3rd volume of Alien Planet Trips is a collaboration with guitar player, Martin Weaver (Wicked Lady, Dark). We met a year ago and found we had a in common musically and should work together. These tracks were conceived during the summer of 2018, when it was too hot to do anything outside. It had been many years since I used my Nord Lead 2 so it was time to take it out and see what sounds it could produce. Many of the tracks the main synth lines were created on the Nord Lead and then additional layers were added and Martin then laid down some guitars. Hope you enjoy this 3rd Trip. It is very different from Vol 1 and 2.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website

Space Rock Productions on Thee Facebooks

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Saturnia Post “The Twilight Bong” Video from The Seance Tapes

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

saturnia

I said last time around when Saturnia posted a video assembled from studio footage during the making of their latest album, The Seance Tapes (review here), that it probably wouldn’t be the last clip they did in that fashion. For all I know the Portuguese heavy psych rockers have the entire session captured, but for now, “The Twilight Bong” follows “Gemini” (posted here) from the 2018 collection, which found Saturnia founder Luis Simões in the studio for the first time with very nearly a complete lineup, handling guitar, bass, sitar and vocals himself while keeping company with drummer André Silva and keyboardist Nuno Oliveira, essentially able to record live for the first time, and accordingly reworking material from Saturnia‘s prior six full-lengths.

“The Twilight Bong,” for example, makes its sitar-laced way to The Seance Tapes via Saturnia‘s 1999 self-titled debut, and as the penultimate inclusion running a sprawling nine and a half minutes with keys and sitar, drums and percussion intertwining, it’s an especially vivid showcase of what the newer incarnation of Saturnia are able to accomplish, even though it digs back to a record that turns 20 this year. Simões has always been at the core of Saturnia, and to hear his sitar in conversation with Oliveira‘s Mellotron-style keys late in the track is an exciting twist on the character of the original track. The mission is still way trippy, but there’s a live dynamic in the recording throughout The Seance Tapes that a one-man-band would have an almost impossible time trying to capture.

Once again, I don’t think this will be the last time Saturnia put out a video from The Seance Tapes that was taken in the studio. I don’t know if they have footage for the whole record, but if they did and they were able to get it all together, it would only demonstrate the burgeoning, molten chemistry in development with the new lineup. One hopes that perhaps they’ll channel those energies toward further studio work on new material, but the truth of the matter is that if they want to let The Seance Tapes linger a little longer, “The Twilight Bong” is a pretty good example of why that would be just fine.

Please enjoy:

Saturnia, “The Twilight Bong” official video

Hope you are ready for a bit of sitar-Rock.

New video from The Seance Tapes. Enjoy.

Recorded at Colour Haze Studio, Reichertshausen.

Saturnia on Thee Facebooks

Saturnia website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

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SonicBlast Moledo 2019: Earthless, Graveyard, Eyehategod, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, Cardiel and Jesus the Snake Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Oh, you know me. Just sitting on ass on a chilly proto-Spring morning, daydreaming of shuffling over to Portugal for a weekend this August, flying into the Azores and then over to Porto, taking a car, train, or maybe just some other magical means of conveyance out to Moledo on the coast and then pretending to be a human among all the skinny Europeans at SonicBlast Moledo 2019, which has just added the likes of Earthless, Graveyard, Eyehategod, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, Cardiel and Jesus the Snake to a lineup that was already (un)fairly packed before them, with Om and Orange Goblin and Windhand and so on.

Maybe I’m sipping my 45th cup of coffee on the second or third day of the fest and watching Minami Deutsch expand minds via psychedelic jams, or maybe Dopethrone have made even that most pristine of locales (in my mind, anyway) seem utterly filthy with their crusty sludge. Either way, the point is I’m there to see it. In my daydreams.

Announcement from the fest:

sonicblast moledo 2019 square poster

We’re very proud to share with you the latest additions to SonicBlast Moledo 2019 line up:

Revered swedish heavy rock band Graveyard, NOLA kings EYEHATEGOD, San Diego cosmic warriors Earthless, The Devil And The Almighty Blues and their slow, dirty, heavy blues (which today are releasing their new album “Tre”), the intense and powerfull High Fighter, mexican power duo Cardiel and one of the freshest talents emerging from the portuguese underground, JESUS THE SNAKE!

3 days that you’re never ever forget!

Om (usa) + Graveyard (sw) + Eyehategod (usa) + Orange Goblin (uk) + Earthless (usa) + My Sleeping Karma (ger) + Windhand (usa) + Monolord (se) + Lucifer (se) + The Obsessed (usa) + The Devil and The Almighty Blues (nor) + Dopethrone (can) + Toundra (es) + Satan’s Satyrs (usa) + Sacri Monti (usa) + Harsh Toke (usa) + Petyr (usa) + High Fighter (ger) + Zig Zags (usa) + Kaleidobolt (fi) + Cardiel (mex) + Maidavale (se) + Minami Deutsch (jp) + Maggot Heart (se) + Jesus The Snake (pt) ++ some more tba ++

Artwork by Branca Studio

SonicBlast Moledo 2019
8, 9 and 10 of August
Moledo
Portugal

https://www.facebook.com/events/183265999284942/
https://www.facebook.com/sonicblastmoledo/
https://sonicblastmoledo.com/

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Black Bombaim to Release Zone of Resident Bodies March 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

black bombaim

Like a fair amount of Black Bombaim‘s work at this point, it’s probably going to be a decade or two before Zone of Resident Bodies has fully sunk in, but in the meantime, the Portuguese experimentalists have once again broadened the scope of what makes an album an album, working with three different producers in three different explorations of sound and texture in three different environments. How does the room affect sound? How does it affect the mood of the creator of that sound? How does that mood affect the creation? How has no one written a dissertation on this yet?

All these questions and more will, until the Roddenberryian post-scarcity economy takes hold and everyone just works on whatever they most feel deserves their attention — surely at that point a dissertation would be forthcoming — remain unanswered, but the album is a joy nonetheless and its reaches invite these inquiries and evocations fluidly despite the purposeful shifts behind the circumstances of their creation. It’s out March 11. You can dig into a track below. You should do that.

Info came from the PR wire:

black bombaim zone of resident bodies

BLACK BOMBAIM – ZONES OF RESIDENT BODIES (2XLP GATEFOLD)

Cardinal Fuzz and Lovers & Lollipops are proud to bring to you the new magnum opus from Black Bombaim titled ‘Zone Of Resident Bodies’.

Black Bombaim approached their latest creation with the mindset of pushing the boundaries of their musicianship by working with three different electronic composers in three unique recording settings — an old workers auditorium, a huge empty space on the postal office building and on a reverberation room on the university of engineering.

Working with Jonathan Saldanha, Luís Fernandes, Pedro Augusto helped Black Bombaim break free of the constraints of a band in a recording studio as each new recording environment and composer brought new textures and ambiance to the music created. It really is rather special to hear.

‘Zone Of Resident Bodies’ is presented in a 350gsm gatefold sleeve, pressed on black vinyl and comes with a download code. 750 Pressing World-Wide.

Preorders: https://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/product/black-bombaim-zone-of-resident-bodies-cardinal-fuzz-2xlp-gatefold

Black Bombaim: Paulo Gonçalves (drums), Ricardo Miranda (guitar), Tojo Rodrigues (bass)
Producers: Luís Fernandes, Jonathan Saldanha and Pedro Augusto

http://facebook.com/blackbombaim
https://blackbombaim.bandcamp.com/
http://www.blackbombaim.pt/
https://cful.bandcamp.com/
https://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com

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SonicBlast Moledo 2019 Adds Monolord, Lucifer, Satan’s Satyrs, MaidaVale, Sacri Monti and More to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

It was good lineup after one announcement, but here we are and SonicBlast Moledo 2019 has announced the next batch of acts for its bill, which, when you step back and really take it in, seems all the more formidable. Note the San Diego infusion this time around from Sacri Monti, Harsh Toke and Petyr. I can’t help but wonder if that might mean those bands will head out on tour together in Europe sometime around August. Would make sense, since they all seem familiar with each other anyhow, but of course that’s speculation.

What isn’t speculation is that one continues to daydream about a quick weekend trip to Portugal in order to see this festival. Have you ever watched videos from SonicBlast? Seen pictures afterwards? It looks pretty incredible, and somehow the thought of seeing Monolord in such a rare and gorgeous setting seems all the more fun, let alone the classic-style rock of MaidaVale.

Ah, to dream.

The announcement was posted on the ol’ social medias and looked an awful lot like this:

sonicblast moledo 2019 poster square

We’re thrilled to announce ten more bands to the 9th edition of SonicBlast Moledo!

Monolord, LUCIFER, Toundra, Satan’s Satyrs, SACRI MONTI, HARSH TOKE, PETYR, KALEIDOBOLT, MaidaVale and MAGGOT HEART will bring us some loud heavy fuzzy doom tunes!

Om (usa) + Orange Goblin (uk) + My Sleeping Karma (ger) + Windhand (usa) + Monolord (se) + Lucifer (se) + The Obsessed (usa) + Dopethrone (can) + Toundra (es) + Satan’s Satyrs (usa) + Sacri Monti (usa) + Harsh Toke (usa) + Petyr (usa) + Zig Zags (usa) + Kaleidobolt (fi) + Maidavale (se) + Minami Deutsch (jp) + Maggot Heart (se) +++ many more tba +++

Artwork by Branca Studio

Tickets are now available at here.
(Also available in Portugal, through BOL physical point of sales: Fnac, Worten, Ctt’s…)

SonicBlast Moledo 2019
8, 9 and 10 of August
Moledo
Portugal

https://www.facebook.com/events/183265999284942/
https://www.facebook.com/sonicblastmoledo/
https://sonicblastmoledo.com/

Monolord, Live at Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY, Sept. 2018

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SonicBlast Moledo 2019: Orange Goblin, Om, My Sleeping Karma, Minami Deutsch, Windhand, Zig Zags, Dopethrone and The Obsessed to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I was this close — this frickin’ close — to going to SonicBlast Moledo earlier this year. It was an enviable lineup, and when I saw the pictures after the fact, it only confirmed for me how much I wanted to have been there. So it goes.

Will I get that close to SonicBlast Moledo 2019? Probably not. Opportunities like that don’t come along every day or every year, and I know that. Still, in part because I’m a glutton for punishment — also for peanut butter — I’ll be doing my best to keep up with the lineup as it’s announced for next August’s edition of the beachside fest in Moledo, Portugal. Already, as I think you can see, they’re well on their way to destroying and winning hearts and minds.

To wit, a first lineup announcement that brings Om to Europe for the summer (they’ll be there in Spring too; I have to wonder just how long the band is spending abroad or if they’re racking up frequent flier miles), Orange Goblin, My Sleeping Karma (some day I will see that fucking band), Windhand, The Obsessed, Minami Deutsch, Zig Zags and Dopethrone is as righteous as it is varied, and it sets a pretty wide open sphere for what the rest might bring. I don’t have an inside track on that or anything, but 2018’s SonicBlast was certainly awesome looking and I see no reason why 2019 would be any different.

Tickets are available and I’m sure it’ll sell out. Words from the fest:

sonicblast moledo 2019

First bands for SonicBlast Moledo 2019! Let’s start the pilgrimage.

We’re so stoked to announce the first bands for SonicBlast Moledo 2019! Aug. 8-10.

Let’s start the pilgrimage.

OM, Windhand, Orange Goblin, MY SLEEPING KARMA, The Obsessed, Dopethrone, Minami Deutsch and Zig Zags are ready to burn the beach!
3 days that you’re never ever forget!

Om (usa) + Orange Goblin (uk) + My Sleeping Karma (ger) + Windhand (usa) + The Obsessed (usa) + Dopethrone (can) + Minami Deutsch (jp) + Zig Zags (usa) +++ many more tba +++

Artwork by Branca Studio

Tickets are now available at here.
(Also available in Portugal, through BOL physical point of sales: Fnac, Worten, Ctt’s…)

https://www.facebook.com/sonicblastmoledo/
https://sonicblastmoledo.com/

Orange Goblin, “The Wolf Bites Back” live at StoneFree Festival

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Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

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Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

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Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

Pledge on Thee Facebooks

Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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