Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Portuguese-based summer fest SonicBlast Moledo 2017 came out swinging last month with its first round of lineup announcements, and the second round finds them no less ambitious in their reach. I’ve yet to hear of Kadavar showing up anyplace and being unwelcome, and anywhere Orange Goblin go is of note. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time August hits, either or both hit Moledo as part of a European tour — maybe even supporting or advancing the arrival of new albums? — and one can’t help but be encouraged by the inclusion of Los Angeles trio Sasquatch here as well. Good to know they’ll be making a return trip to Europe in 2017. Again, one looks forward to more info on that to come. Ditto for The Well.
Yuri Gargarin have made a name for themselves over the last couple years across numerous fest appearances — they keep popping up here and there — but Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard out of the UK would be newer on the circuit. They’ll hit SonicBlast Moledo 2017 behind last year’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), which continues to resonate with its ethereal and cosmic doom.
Fest announcements follow:
SONICBLAST MOLEDO 2017 – NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS
With more than 20 years on the road, Orange Goblin are certainly one of the most cherished and distinguished heavy stoner rock bands of the world. Their impeccable union between heavy metal, stoner rock and many psychedelic influences won’t leave no one indifferent! Bang your head!
After their apotheotic show at SonicBlast Moledo’s third edition back in 2013, the German rockers KADAVAR return with their greatly acclaimed latest album “Berlin”, the second one released under Nuclear Blast!
Austin based The Well are also confirmed to invade Moledo with their singular compositions, gifted with a sound which blends psychedelic rock, heavy blues and sinister melodies!
From Los Angeles, California, we announce the comeback of Sasquatch to Portuguese lands, a notable band within the stoner rock movement, who has been relentlessly practicing it since the beginning of the century!
Hailing from Sweden, we welcome for the first time ever in Portugal the psychedelic space rock of Yuri Gagarin, the cosmic quintet whose approach to each musical theme corresponds to an authentic trip through time and space!
Directly from Wales, we cast the musical druidism of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, exemplary practitioners of their own Doom Metal’s kind!
* Orange Goblin (uk) + Kadavar (ger) + Elder (usa) + Sasquatch (usa) + Monolord (se) + Kikagaku Moyo (jp) + Yuri Gagarin (sue) + The Well (usa) + Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (uk) +++ and many more to come +++
Posted in Reviews on December 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Today is the day the Quarterly Review passes the halfway point. This will be 21-30 of the total 60 for the six days, so there’s still a ways to go — you might say 50 percent — but it’s a milestone nonetheless. Once again it’s another roundup of cool stuff, kind of all over the place a little more than the last two days were, but as we go further along with these things, it’s good to mix it up after a while. There’s only so many times you can throw the word “lysergic” around and talk about jamming. That said, you’re getting some of that today as well from Portugal, so when it pops up, don’t be surprised. Much to do, so no need to delay.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Bus, The Unknown Secretary
Athenian double-guitar four-piece Bus execute a stylistically cohesive, crisp debut with The Unknown Secretary (on Twin Earth Records), presenting classic heavy rock elements without going full-retro in their sound itself and marking songs like “Masteroid” as immediately distinct through the harmonized vocals of guitarist Bill City, joined in the band by guitarist Johnnie Chez, bassist Chob D’oh and drummer Aris. Together they run through a clean two sides that play back and forth between proto-metallic and doom shading – “Don’t Fear Your Demon” touches on slower Pentagram – while sounding perhaps most comfortable in rockers like “Withered Thorn” or the earlier stomper “New Black Volume,” which puts its two guitars to excellent use ahead of and between unabashedly poppy (not sure a full Ghost comparison is warranted) verse, and craft a highlight in the 7:38 arena-ready thrust of “Rockerbus” prior to the surprisingly nodding finale of “Jimi.” A strikingly efficient and clear-headed first full-length that would seem to hold much promise of things to come from yet another player in Greece’s emergent heavy scene.
With the start-stop riff of opener “As Fangs in Stone,” a mastering job by Mathias Schneeberger and the breadth of pop melodicism in cuts that one, the swinging “Made of Ghosts,” and the more percussive “Through the Sun,” Italian four-piece Them Bulls make a pretty strong beeline for early-Queens of the Stone Age-style heavy desert rock. Their self-titled Small Stone debut isn’t without individualized flourish, but the 10-track/41-minute offering makes it clear from the start what its intentions are and then sets about living up to them, whether on the careening Songs for the Deaf-ery of “Pot Gun” or the penultimate “We Must Live Up” itself. Vocal interplay from guitarists Daniele Pollio and Franscesco Pasi – joined by the rhythm section of bassist Paolo Baldini and drummer Giampaolo Farnedi – provides an opportunity for future growth, but it’s worth noting that for a band to take on such a specific stylization, their songwriting needs to be in check, and Them Bulls’ is.
What seems to be Stinkeye’s debut recording, Llantera Demos, arrives as a free download of four tracks and 16 minutes rife with thickened boogie and dense mecha-stoner fuzz, reminding of Dead Meadow immediately in the echoing vocals and rhythmic bounce of “Orange Man” but moving into some shuffle on the subsequent “Fink Ployd” and “Llantera,” the latter a well-earned showcase of bass tone. While out on the coast, ‘70s vibes reign supreme, the Phoenix, Arizona, trio are on a different tip, looser in their swing and apparently more prone to drift. For what it’s worth, they call it “hash rock,” and fair enough as “Pink Clam,” which closes Llantera Demos, rides more of a grunge-laden nod to an immersive but still relatively quick five-minute finish, building after three minutes in to a satisfying final instrumental push. Loaded with potential in tone, execution, vibe and dynamic between the three-piece, Llantera Demos immediately marks Stinkeye out as a band to watch and is just begging for the right person to come along and press it to tape.
Want to grab attention with your debut long-player? Calling a song “Louder than God” might be a good way to go. That track, at seven minutes, is the longest on Connecticut five-piece Buzzard Canyon’s Hellfire and Whiskey (on Salt of the Earth), and following a quiet initial stretch, it launches into Down-style Southern chug, the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis (the latter also of When the Deadbolt Breaks) veering into and out of more metallic impulses to build on the initial momentum established on the earlier “Highway Run” and “SomaBitch.” The two-minute “For the End” basks in some nightmarish vision of rockabilly, while “Red Beards Massacre” and “Wyoming” dig into more straightforward stylistic patterning, but if Buzzard Canyon want to get a little weird either here or going forward, that’s clearly not about to hurt them. Closer “Not My Cross” hints at some darker visions to come in how it moves into and out of a droning interlude, adding yet more intrigue to their deceptively multifaceted foundation.
Though “Atomic Rodeo” dips into some Queens of the Stone Age-style groove, Motherbrain’s third album, Voodoo Nasty (on Setalight Records), comes across as more defined by its nasty than its voodoo as the Berlin four-piece demonstrate a penchant for incorporating harsher sludge tendencies, especially in vocal shouts peppered in amid the otherwise not-unfriendly proceedings. That gives the nine-song/48-minute offering a meaner edge but does little ultimately to take away from the groove on offer in the opening title-track or “Ghoul of Kolkata,” and though it retains its raw spirit, Voodoo Nasty digs into some more complex fare later in longer cuts like “Baptism of Fire” and “Half Past Human,” having found a place in centerpiece “Dismantling God” where blown-out noise aggression and semi-psychedelic swirl can coexist, if not peacefully then at least for a while until Motherbrain decide it’s time to give Kyuss-style desert rock another kick in its ass, as on “Sons of Kong,” which, yes, does proclaim a lineage.
Sludge-rolling five-piece Elder Druid riff forth with their debut studio offering, the five-song/33-minute Magicka EP, which one might be tempted to tag as a demo were it not for a few prior live-tracked short releases that appear to have served that purpose, the latest of which, The Attic Sessions (discussed here), came out in Jan. 2016. The experience of putting that together as well as their prior singles clearly benefited the Northern Irish outfit on Magicka, and while they retain a shouty spirit on opener “Rogue Mystic,” middle cut “The Warlock” offers nod that reminds of The Kings of Frog Island’s “Welcome to the Void,” and that’s about all I ever need. Ever. Served up with bloated tones and geared toward establishing a blend of gruff vocals and consuming fuzz, Elder Druid’s first studio recording has a solid footing in what it wants to accomplish sound-wise and plainly showcases that, and while they have some growing to do and patience to learn in their songcraft, nothing I hear on Magicka argues against their getting there in time.
The Crazy Left Experience, Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey
The Crazy Left Experience – the moniker seeming to refer to the side of the brain at work in their processes – present Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey almost as an album within an album. The framework from the at-least-party-improvised Portuguese cosmic jammers on the seven-track/56-minute outing centers around William Millarc, who in 1955 was documented while taking part in LSD experiments. Samples of Millarc are peppered into opener “Subject Bill,” the later “Funky Meteor Drop” and the closing duo “Bill Sided Flashback” and “God of the Outer Rings,” but between the opener and the latter trio of cuts comes “Unarius,” a three-part excursion listed as “Part V” through “Part VII” that presumably is the representation of when our friend Bill has left his body behind. So be it. One can hardly call that departure incongruous either sonically or in terms of The Crazy Left Experience’s chosen theme – though there are some unrelated samples spliced into “Unarius – Part VII (Space Brothers)” that are somewhat jarring – and the entire flow of the record is so hypnotic that the band can basically go wherever they want, which of course they do.
Were it not for the context of knowing that vocalist Tim Narducci and bassist Cornbread hail from SpiralArms and White Witch Canyon, drummer Carter Kennedy from Orchid and guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic from Black Gates, the Sabbath Highway debut EP (on Ripple Music) from California’s The Watchers would be almost impossibly coherent for a first outing. Classic in form but modern in its presentation, the five-tracker – four plus the church-organ interlude “Requiem” between the opening title-cut (video here) and “Call the Priest” – makes the most of Narducci’s ‘70s-style vocal push, reminding of one-time Ripple troupe Stone Axe in his oldschool feel, but as “Today” (premiered here) makes plain, The Watchers are much more focused on learning from the past than repeating it. The straightforward songwriting and all-we’re-here-to-do-is-kick-ass sentiment behind Sabbath Highway might well prove formative compared to what The Watchers do next – presumably that’s a full-length, but one never knows; they sound ready to get down to business – but it makes its ambitions plain in its hooks and swiftly delivers on its promises.
I can’t speak to the present status of California’s Of the Horizon, since last I heard bassist Kayt Vigil was in Italy working with Sonic Wolves, but their self-titled five-track debut full-length arrives via Kozmik Artifactz no less switched on for the half-decade that has passed since it was recorded. Guitarist Mike Hanne howls out throaty incantations to suit the post-Sleep riffing of opener “3 Feet” and drummer Shig pushes the roll of “Caravan” forward into its final crashing slowdown effectively as Vigil ensures the subsequent centerpiece “Unknown” is duly thick beneath its spacious, jammy strum. The two longest slabs hit at the end in “Gladhander” (8:55) and the righteously lumbering “Hall of the Drunken King” (10:31) and feel somewhat like an album unto themselves, but when/if Of the Horizon make a return, they’ve established a working modus on this first full-length that should well satisfy the nod-converted and that demonstrates the timelessness of well-executed tonal onslaught.
Though it’s fair enough in terms of runtime, it almost seems like Milano sludge-rollers Raj (also written stylized in all-caps: RAJ) do the six tracks of their 20-minute self-titled debut EP a disservice by cramming them onto a single LP side. Not that one gets lost or the band fails to make an impression – far from it – but just that sounds so geared toward largesse and spaciousness beg for more room to flesh out. That, perhaps, is the interesting duality in Raj’s Raj, since even the massive plod of closer “Iron Matrix” lumbers through its course in a relatively short 4:45, never mind the speedier “Magic Wand” (2:47) or drone interlude “Black Mumbai” (1:51) – gone in a flash. The release moves through these, the earlier “Omegagame” and “Eurasia” and the penultimate “Kaluza” with marked fluidity and efficiency, giving Raj a mini-album feel, and with the atmosphere in “Black Mumbai” and in the surrounding material, their rumble sets up a dynamic that seems primed for further exploration.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Seems early yet for an event taking place next August, but even as Europe’s well-populated Spring festival scene is shoring up its various lineups for April and May, Portugal-based SonicBlast Moledo 2017 is getting the jump on the Summer set by announcing a trio of heavy hitters who will take part in the form of Elder, Kikagaku Moyo and Monolord.
No doubt the fest was looking to start out with a pretty sonically diverse range of bands, and I’d say they got there between these three. With Elder‘s progressive sprawl, the expansive psychedelia of Kikagaku Moyo and Monolord‘s riff-crush-skull lumbering doom largesse, SonicBlast Moledo 2017 gives itself a number of different avenues along which to continue to develop as it moves forward with the rest of its lineup and finding out where that balance ultimately will work out to be is part of the fun of this whole thing.
Here’s the announcement from the festival:
SonicBlast Moledo 2017 – First bands announcement!
With the dates already settled for August 11th and 12th, the seventh edition of SonicBlast Moledo starts to take shape with its first confirmations. To begin with the revelations, we will be welcoming the Bay Staters Elder, the Tokyoites Kikagaku Moyo and the Gothenburgers Monolord!
Coming directly from the East Coast of United States of America, we proudly announce the long-awaited first visit of Elder to Portugal’s lands, bringing with them the ultimate blend of Progressive Heavy Rock, Psychedelic Rock and Stoner Doom Metal, who are always pushing themselves further in the fields of musical creation. This unique sound signature, took them to major stages, like Keep it Low Festival, Roadburn Festival (which resulted in the album Live at Roadburn 2013), DesertFest Belgium or Freak Valley Festival. Their most recent album, the extraordinary “Lore”, was considered by many ,as a truly transcendental work of art, a masterpiece which we can’t wait to experience live.
Kikagaku Moyo, which is literally translated to “Geometric Patterns”, will be returning to Portugal to deliver a righteous dose of “feeling good music”, clearly the finest sounds of Japanese psychedelic world. Passing through festivals like Eindhoven Psych Lab, Duna Jam or Austin Psych Fest, it is now time to live the sitar folk psych right by Moledo’s beach. Close your eyes, clear your mind and prepare to embrace the cosmic acid folk universe, with the supreme jams of Geometric Patterns.
We gladly welcome back to Portugal the Swedish Doomers Monolord, who after performing at Barroselas Metal Fest 2016, return to spread the colossal heaviness, always worshipping the almighty riff, keeping the sounds fuzzy and haunted, as we like them. It goes without saying that their shows are completely demolishers and mesmerizing, so we all know what to expect.
“I feel as though I’m several other people, and all of them better.” — William Millarc
There are a couple crucial pieces of information you’ll want to have before you make your way into “Subject Bill,” the new video from Lisbon-based space-jammers The Crazy Left Experience taken from their debut album, Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey, which is out Nov. 18. First is who the “Bill” in question is. He’s painter William Millarc, who in 1955 took part in a controlled experiment on the effects of LSD on the brain overseen by Dr. Nicholas Bercel working for the pharmaceutical company Sandoz. Millarc‘s experience taking the drug was filmed and one can find that footage at the bottom of this post. It’s a 25-minute documentary including many soundbite gems including the one quoted above, which I thought kind of summed up the whole idea.
The Crazy Left Experience liberally incorporate samples from the documentary across the album’s expansive 56-minute course, including in “Subject Bill,” which opens the seven-tracker. This leads to a second piece of crucial information: Drift. “Subject Bill” is four minutes long and otherwise sans-vocals apart from the original documentary introduction and a clip from Millarc himself near the end, but the intention is to lead the listener into Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey, which begins to move even futher outward with “Unarius Part V (Uriel Cadillac)” and “Unarius Part VI (String Theory)” before delving into three extended tracks — “Unarius Part VII (Space Brothers),” “Funky Meteor Drop” and “Bill Sided Flashback” — each a departure in one way or another, and rounding out with the serene drones of “God of the Outer Rings.” So what you’re getting in “Subject Bill” is the beginning of a much larger process. It’s not really intended to stand alone, and on the album, it certainly doesn’t.
Nonetheless, it does draw the audience in with expanded-mind textures and a broadening reach, so as the launch point for that near-hour-long unfolding, the immersion of “Subject Bill” does represent some of the core appeal of Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey, and the video would seem to unfold from our protagonist’s direct point of view. The album is out Nov. 18 and follows a slew of shorter releases from The Crazy Left Experience, whose ambitions and sonic breadth come paired with natural tones and an unbridled sense of exploration fitting for the character around which they’ve opted to build their debut’s theme.
You’ll find “Subject Bill” below, followed by more info from the PR wire and the original documentary footage.
The Crazy Left Experience, “Subject Bill” official video
The Crazy Left Experience, “Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey” Release date: November 18, 2016
“Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey” is a revamp of the existing complicity between The Crazy Left Experience members, and proof of how the power of intention and manifestation are not only possible but real.
Seven tracks of cosmic soundscapes, wherein the band gives wing to their own interpretations of the Rock universe and experimentalism. Spontaneity and improvisation; two ingredients that are always present in their tunes, enrich our senses.
Bill, the “subject”, may represent here the humanity conditioned by the forces of the system… So, like most of us!
A small dose of LSD is enough to catapult you through the galaxies to a more expansive, creative and spiritual place. It can be you, or a paradoxical version of yourself. Accompanied by melting guitar lines woven into a bed of bass and drums. It flows between intention and spontaneous outbursts of wild psychedelia. You will dive into a vast, deep, and mysterious sea of sound!
“Bill’s 108th Space Odyssey” is an invitation to old and new perceptions of psychedelic Rock. All you need to do is press PLAY, turn it up to ELEVEN… forget the seat belt, and rely on the powerful sound sights that The Crazy Left Experience’s experimental music has to offer.
With eyes open or closed, Bill’s trip is further evidence that psychedelic Rock is good for life!
Bill wants more, and so does The Crazy Left Experience too!
Drums, Guitar: Rui Inácio Guitar and Sound Effects: Luís Abrantes Bass and Flute: Tiago Machado
LSD Experiment, “Schizophrenic Model Psychosis Induced by LSD 25”
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
I guess that’s one that Black Bombaim can cross off their collective bucket list. The always adventurous Portuguese psychedelic jammers have just released a new collaborative LP with free jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, whose experimental deeds span decades and remain ever forward-thinking. Issued on CD/DL with vinyl due out Nov. 15 via Lovers & Lollypops and Shhpuma, the full-length offering breaks down into four component parts. It was, of course, recorded live and I’d suspect a good deal if not all of it came together on the spot, but what must have been a challenging record to mix results in a fluid combination of can-go-anywhere horn and guitar wash atop a rock solid rhythmic foundation in bass and drums.
There are a couple moments when Brötzmann — whose catalog boasts more than 100 albums and collaborations going back to 1967 — even takes a back seat to let Black Bombaim carry the groove, but at no point is either party phoning in their weirdness. They mean it through and through, on all sides, and present a vision of psychedelic fusion that’s rarely heard even amongst the bravest of jams.
It’s streaming in full now courtesy of Lovers & Lollypops, and you can hear it under the release info below if you’re up for a trip:
Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann
This is not a secret anymore: we recorded a full-length with Peter Brötzmann earlier this year. The record is eponymous and was released via Lovers & Lollypops and Shhpuma.
Tracklisting: 1. Part I 13:04 2. Part II 08:41 3. Part III 11:32 4. Part IV 07:07
Recorded live at Estúdios Sá da Bandeira by João Brandão and José Arantes. Mixed by José Arantes at B-House Studios. Mastered by Chris Hardman. Produced by Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann. Executive production by Travassos (Shhpuma) and Joaquim Durães (Lovers & Lollypops). Design by Sérgio Couto. Special thanks to Pedro Costa.
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.
It’s a pretty easy argument to make that Lisbon’s Miss Lava are Portugal’s biggest heavy rock band. Aside from commercial success in their home country, they’ve toured Europe multiple times over and while the national scene in Portugal is still growing compared to, say, Germany or Italy, it could do far worse than to have Miss Lava acting as spearhead. The four-piece made their debut in 2010 with Blues for the Dangerous Miles (review here) and premiered on respected purveyor Small Stone Records with 2013’s Red Supergiant, which they now follow-up with Sonic Debris, their third long-player, comprising 10 cleanly-recorded tracks for a 51-minute stretch that neither lets its variety stop it from rocking nor its rocking from offering varied modes of expression.
At its strongest, Sonic Debris is as much about atmosphere as its hooks, and the balance Miss Lava strike in songs like “The Silent Ghost of Doom,” “I’m the Asteroid” and the later, airier “Fangs of Venom” demonstrates patience and songwriting acumen in kind. Riffs, somewhat unsurprisingly, still lead the way, but Miss Lava have enough room here to really let their material branch out, and while “Symptomatic” and “In the Arms of the Freaks” are big on their choruses and “Fangs of Venom” winds up that way as well, there isn’t necessarily anything unipolar about Miss Lava‘s overarching approach, and taken front to back, their third album offers peaks and valleys of tempo, mood, etc., that make it that much richer on the whole. Still very much a rock record, but using that more as opportunity than limitation.
So what it comes down to is the lineup of vocalist Johnny Lee, guitarist K. Raffah, bassist Ricardo Ferreira and drummer J. Garcia (no relation) have constructed an outing that’s nowhere near as haphazard as the title Sonic Debris might lead one to believe. Produced by the band with Fernando Matias and engineered by Matias, José Pedro Ataíde and Ricardo Bravo, it also benefits from a Benny Grotto mix at Mad Oak Studios and a mastering job by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio Labs, resulting in a clear, worked-on, big sound, whether that’s in the slower-paced spaciousness of opener “Another Beast is Born” or the post-rant rush of “The Silent Ghost of Doom,” which, when taken in combination with the subsequent “I’m the Asteroid,” make for an initial salvo that says a lot about the ground that what follows will cover.
“I’m the Asteroid” is the longest track on Sonic Debris at 7:25, and it uses that time well to blend catchiness and atmosphere fluidly in a manner that — and I know I’ve said this before — reminds of Miss Lava‘s French labelmates in Abrahma, but they continue to change things up with the quick acoustic-strum-and-effects-swirl of “In a Sonic Fire We Shall Burn,” the vocals far back and echoing as they ease their way through toward the drum start to the nodding “At the End of the Light,” which would seem to be a complement to the opener in its riff, but offers an even more satisfying melody. Either way, it’s a departure point from which side B takes off toward its own purposes, so as marking the end of a movement on the record, it fits in multiple roles effectively.
From its beginning, it seems like “In the Arms of the Freaks” is going to be a moment of pure Fu Manchuism, but Miss Lava wind up on their own riffy trip, with a Euro-festival-ready hook that, if it doesn’t wind up in a video at some point during this album cycle, it’ll be a genuine surprise. Both it and the following “Symptomatic” bear out the side of the band that “The Silent Ghost of Doom” put forth — more straightforward in structure but of crisp and largely undeniable execution. Particularly in the stomp of the latter, Miss Lava dig into classic-style stoner rock that they’ll again tip toward with the desert-hued closer “Planet Darkness.”
Between, “Fangs of Venom” and “Pilgrims of Decay” once again move into more studied, atmospheric fare, the former working a subtle build as it moves through headed toward solid ground that emerges in the second half as a fitting payoff, and the latter effectively bringing together its hook, vocal melody and guitar-led crunch for a late-album highlight. That these songs find common ground with “In the Arms of the Freaks” and “Symptomatic” as well as “Planet Darkness” at the record’s finish should say something about how Miss Lava came to earn their rather considerable reputation, but three LPs in, it isn’t really a surprise to find them having long since hammered out the rough edges of their style. Built on a foundation of diverse songwriting, Sonic Debris may be culled together from a variety of influences, but the result of that process is anything but a throwaway.
I’m not entirely sure what Miss Lava are railing against in the start of their new single — the general state of culture, maybe; people staring at their tvs and phones instead of rocking out — but I won’t question the Lisbon outfit’s conviction. They’re gearing up to issue their new album, Sonic Debris, as the follow-up to 2013’s Red Supergiant, via ultra-respected purveyor Small Stone Records, and if nothing else, “The Silent Ghost of Doom” is definitely working against any sense of apathy the band might perceive in this age of bought-and-sold wonders. Clocking in at an efficient 4:20, it’s a kick in the ass run from front to back, its initial rant building into a careening heavy rock riff met with a catchy hook that only pushes the momentum further forward.
Sonic Debris is out May 20, and “The Silent Ghost of Doom” is the second track to be featured from it behind the grander opening salvo “Another Beast is Born” (posted here), and as it’s also the second track on the record itself, it shows the kind of one-two punch with which Miss Lava are starting their latest outing, shifting from a larger-sounding roll and melody into the rush of “The Silent Ghost of Doom.” One doubts that’s the entirety of the scope of the album, but as the already-noted intro of “The Silent Ghost of Doom” (performed in a guest spot by Rui Guerra) demonstrates, the band are clearly given to offering a surprise or two along the way. For what it’s worth, neither of the two cuts that have made their way to the public so far has stopped me from wanting to hear more of the album.
Hopefully you feel the same. PR wire info follows “The Silent Ghost of Doom” below.
Miss Lava, “The Silent Ghost of Doom” official video
Portugal’s volume merchants, MISS LAVA, will drop the deliciously riff raging sounds of their Sonic Debris full-length via Small Stone Recordings next month.
As a precursor to its release comes the visual accompaniment to “The Silent Ghost Of Doom.” The second single from Sonic Debris, “The Silent Ghost Of Doom” clip was directed by Bruno Simões with direction of photography by Mr. Ivo Cordeiro (the team behind MISS LAVA’s “Black Rainbow” video). “To shoot this video, we went to Lisbon’s old athenaeum — the Ateneu Comercial de Lisboa,” elaborates drummer, J. Garcia. “The historic scenery set the right vibe for the song.”
“This is a loud one that shouts about freeing yourself from tedium, apathy and past time glories,” adds vocalist Johnny Lee. “The broken mirror sights the silent ghost of doom.”
Sonic Debris will be released May 20th and come available on CD and 180-gram light blue vinyl limited to 500 units. For preorders go toTHIS LOCATIONwhere you’ll also hear a stream of opening track “Another Beast Is Born.”