Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Earth Drive Set March 13 Release for Helix Nebula; Post “Dharma Throne”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

earth drive

Somewhere between progressive metal and heavy psychedelic rock, Portugal’s Earth Drive dig out the immersive, atmospheric niche in which their new album, Helix Nebula, resides. The record comprises 12 tracks and runs about 40 minutes, and as they show with the unveiled single “Dharma Throne” — one of the longest inclusions at 5:25 — it’s a full and deep-running sound but still capable of moving at a fair clip when they want it to do so. Melody rules the day, but impact isn’t forgotten along with that, and the band shift back and forth between different ends of their sound with a marked fluidity only enhanced by variations in their songwriting, drones, and other experiments throughout Helix Nebula. From “Cosmic Eye” to “Space God,” it’s clearly meant to be a journey, and so it is. One of deceptive efficiency.

Anyone else notice Portugal in general and Raging Planet in particular killing it lately? Something to keep an eye on.

From the PR wire:

Earth Drive Helix Nebula

EARTH DRIVE Return With Brand New Album, Helix Nebula, and Release First Single!

March 13th 2020 will see Portuguese heavy psych rock unit, EARTH DRIVE, release their sophomore, stellar album titled Helix Nebula via Raging Planet. The four-piece, who is characterized by a dense, melodic, visceral, cathartic and heavy sound, has created their most ritualistic and meditative record to date. While the power of distortion and loud amps still lead you in front of a massive sound wall, EARTH DRIVE manage to combine all that is heavy with yet spatial effects, catchy hooklines by vocalist Sara Antunes and a hazy, mesmerizing atmosphere. Just recently, the band shared a first appetizer taken from Helix Nebula – join the trip and dive into EARTH DRIVE’s brand new single for Dharma Throne HERE!

Helix Nebula – Tracklisting:
1. Cosmic Eye
2. Helix Nebula
3. Holy Drone
4. Spectra
5. Axial View
6. Dharma Throne
7. Nagarjuna
8. Anulom Vilom
9. Sciene of Pranayama
10. Amazon
11. Phantalien
12. Space God

EARTH DRIVE, who burst into the underground scene in 2007, left their heavy stamp with a first EP, Planet Mantra, followed by their highly acclaimed debut album, Stellar Drone. In addition to the band’s traditional cosmic and psychedelic influences, their new album Helix Nebula explores the potential of raw and powerful tunes with a warm, saturated and ambient sound in a more refined way.

Among numerous festival appearances, EARTH DRIVE have shared the stages with bands alike Sasquatch, Steak, Crippled Black Phoenix, Glowsun, Isaak, Radar Man from the Moon, Planet of Zeus, Spectral Haze, Ecstatic Vision, The Black Wizards and many more to date – but one is sure, with the release of their upcoming album, Helix Nebula, they will be no longer Portugal’s best kept heavy psych rock- secret!

Helix Nebula will be available as LP, CD and in Digital formats on March 13th 2020 via Raging Planet.

EARTH DRIVE is:
Luis Silva – Bass
Sebastião Santos – Drums
Sara Antunes – Vocals
Hermano Marques – Vocals and guitar

www.facebook.com/earthdrivesound
www.earthdrive.bandcamp.com
www.ragingplanet.pt

Earth Drive, “Dharma Throne”

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Quarterly Review: Alcest, Superchief, Test Meat, Stones of Babylon, Nightstalker, Lewis & the Strange Magics, Room 101, Albatross Overdrive, Cloud Cruiser, The Spiral Electric

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Welcome to Day Three of The Obelisk’s Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. It’s gonna be kind of a wild one. There’s a lot going on across this batch of 10 records, and it gets kind of weird — also, it doesn’t — so sit tight. It’ll be fun either way. At least I hope so. I’ll let you know when I’m finished writing. Ha.

Today we pass the halfway point on the road to 50 reviews by Friday. I think I’m feeling alright up to this point. It’s been a crunch behind the scenes, but it usually is and I’ve done this plenty of times now, so it’s not so bad. I always hold my breath before getting started, but once I’m in it, I rarely feel anymore overwhelmed than I might on any other given day. Which is still plenty, but you know, you make it work.

So let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Alcest, Spiritual Instinct

alcest spiritual instinct

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the label’s modus in this regard as it’s picked up bands from the heavy underground over the last eight to 10 years — arguably a movement that began with Graveyard in 2012 — but Parisian post-black metal innovators Alcest make something of an aesthetic shift with their first outing for Nuclear Blast, Spiritual Instinct. Melody, of course, remains central to their purposes, but in the nine-minute side B opener “L’Île des Morts” as in its side A counterpart “Les Jardins de Minuit,” the subsequent “Protection” and “Sapphire” and even in the crescendo — glorious wash as it is — of the closing title-track, one can hear a sharper, decidedly metallic edge to the guitar and impact of the drums. That’s a turn from 2016’s Kodama (review here), which offered more of a conceptual progressivism, and of course the prior 2014 LP, Shelter (review here), which cast of metallic trappings almost entirely. Why the change? Who cares, it works, and they still have room for the cinematic keyboard-led drama of “Le Miroir” and plenty of the wistful emotionalism that’s been their hallmark since their debut in 2007. They’ve long since mastered their approach and Spiritual Instinct serves as another example of their being able to make their sound do whatever they want.

Alcest on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Superchief, Moontower

superchief moontower

Four records and just about a decade deep into a tenure that began with the 2010 Rock Music EP (review here), Iowa heavy rockers Superchief have found ways to bring an inventiveness to what’s still an ostensibly straightforward approach. Moontower, named for a lookout point where — at least presuming from the album’s artwork — people tailgate and get drunk, finds the dudely five-piece no less embroiled in burl than they’ve ever been, but using samples and other elements in interesting ways as with the revving motor matching step with the drums at the start of “Barking Out at the Blood Moon” or keyboards in “Rock ‘n’ Roll War” filling out the breaks where the riffs take a step back. Handclaps early in “Beer Me Motherfucker” — as much post-“Introduction” mission statement for the LP as a whole as anything — set the party tone, and from the shaker on “The Approach” to the Southern tinged shred and organ on closer “Priority of the Summer,” a car speeding by at the finish, Superchief find ways to make each of their songs stand out from its surroundings. Then they pair that with choice riffery, pro-shop sound and hooks. Sure enough, it’s once again a winning formula and a distinct showing of personality and craft that still comports with classic heavy style.

Superchief website

Superchief on Bandcamp

 

Test Meat, Enjoy

test meat enjoy

Boston duo Test Meat are so utterly bullshit-free as to be almost intimidating. Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (Kind, Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Milligram, etc.) and drummer Michael Nashawaty (Planetoid) dig into heavy grunge and noise rock influences across a 10-track/27-minute full-length that resounds with punker roots and an ethic of willful straightforwardness. It’s not that the music is so intense there would be no room for frills, it’s that the structures are so tight and so purposefully barebones that they’d be incongruous. And it’s not that Test Meat are writing half-hearted songs, either. Frankly, neither the quality of their material nor the sharpness of the sound they captured at New Alliance Studio with Alec Rodriguez would remotely lead one to believe so, and nothing with such stylistic clarity happens by mistake. This is a band with a mission, and Enjoy finds them bringing that mission to life with a complete lack of pretense. It’s a reminder of what made grunge so appealing in the first place some 30 years and an entire internet ago. Songs and performance. Yes.

Test Meat on Thee Facebooks

Test Meat on Bandcamp

 

Stones of Babylon, Hanging Gardens

Stones of Babylon Hanging Gardens

Following a 2018 live demo, Portuguese instrumental three-piece Stones of Babylon — guitarist Rui Belchior, bassist João Medeiros, drummer Pedro Branco — embark with a conceptualist intent on their debut full-length, Hanging Gardens, issued through Raging Planet. An opening sample in the leadoff title-track describing the hanging gardens of Babylon sets the stage for what the band goes on to describe with wordless atmospheres over the five-song/47-minute long-player, their vision of heavy psychedelia touched with a suitable Middle Eastern/North African influence in the initial unfolding of the meditative 11-minute “Coffea Arabica” or the winding lead work over the punchy low end of “Black Pig’s Secret Megalith.” But Hanging Gardens is still very much a heavy rock release, and its material showcases that in tone and mood, with volume changes and builds taking hold like that in centerpiece “Ziggurat,” which in its second half sets a march of distorted largesse nodding forth until its final crashout. They save the most drift for “Babylonia (The Deluge),” and if they’re finishing with the story of the flood, one can’t help but wonder what narrative course they might follow in a second record. On the other hand, if one comes out of Hanging Gardens trying to envision Stones of Babylon‘s future, then the debut would seem to have done its job, and so it has. There’s stylistic and tonal promise, and with the edge of storytelling, an opportunity for development of which one hopes they avail themselves.

Stones of Babylon on Thee Facebooks

Raging Planet website

 

Nightstalker, Great Hallucinations

nightstalker great hallucinations

Frontman Argy and Greek heavy rock institution Nightstalker return with their eighth album in a quarter-century run, Great Hallucinations. Also their first LP for Heavy Psych Sounds after issuing 2016’s As Above So Below (review here) on Oak Island Records, it’s an up-to-par eight-track collection of catchy tracks marked out by psychedelic elements but underpinned by traditionalist structures, Argy‘s distinctive frontman presence, and an all-around unforced feeling of a mature, established band doing what they do. Not going through the motions in the sense of fulfilling some perceived obligation to stay on the road, but creating the songs they want to create in nothing less than the manner they want to create them. I won’t take away from the roll of “Seven out of Ten,” but as “Cursed” taps into a legacy of European heavy rock that runs from Dozer‘s turn of the century work — not to mention Nightstalker‘s own — to outfits today, it’s hard not to appreciate an act being so assured in what they do in terms of execution while actually doing it. In that way, Great Hallucinations is as refreshing as it is familiar.

Nighstalker on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Melvin’s Holiday

Lewis and the Strange Magics Melvins Holiday

From their beginnings in garage doom and subsequent dive into exploitation/vamp psych, Barcelona’s Lewis and the Strange Magics put themselves in even weirder territory on their third album, Melvin’s Holiday, centering a story around the titular character whose life is in turmoil and so he goes on vacation. The sound of the band seems to do likewise, veering into ’70s lounge sleaze and island influences, toying with funky rhythms and keyboards amid catchy choruses across what still would have to be called an experimental 34-minute run. It is a concept album, to be sure, and one that comes through in its stylistic choices like the dreamy keyboards of the centerpiece “Carpet Sun” or the fuzzy stomp in “Sad in Paradise” and the percussion amid the Ween-sounding lead guitar buzz of “Lounge Decadence.” This could be Lewis and the Strange Magics working purposefully to cast off any and all expectation that might be placed on them, or it could just be a one-off whim, but there’s no question they pull off an impressive turn and carry the concept through in story and substance. When it comes to what they might do next time, the payoff of closer “Afternoon on the Sand” serves as one more demonstration that the band can do whatever the hell they want with their sound, so I’d expect them to do no less than precisely that.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Room 101, The Burden

room 101 the burden

The debut EP from Lansing, Michigan, four-piece Room 101, called simply The Burden, would seem to take a scorched-earth approach to atmospheric sludge, setting their balance to exploring ambient textures and samples in pieces like “You Will Never Know Security” — which, sure enough, samples 1984 to recount the origin of the band’s name — and the brief “A Place to Bury Strangers,” while the churning “As the Crow Flies” and “Missing Rope” present an outright extremity that comes through in post-Godflesh vocal barks and a Through Silver in Blood-style intensity of churn and general approach. Yet I wouldn’t necessarily call Room 101 post-metal — at least not here. The solo on “Missing Rope” seems to draw from more traditional sources, and the manner in which the chugging in “Plague Dogs” caps with a sudden quick series of hits recalls grindcore’s pivoting brutality. One might hope all of these elements get fleshed out more over subsequent releases, but as a first outing, part of The Burden‘s promise is also drawn from the sheer rawness of its impact and the lack of compromise in its wrench of gut.

Room 101 on Thee Facebooks

Room 101 on Bandcamp

 

Abatross Overdrive, Ascendant

albatross overdrive ascendant

Albatross Overdrive‘s 2016 LP, Keep it Running (review here), ran 31 minutes. Their follow-up, Ascendant, reaches to 33, but loses two tracks in the doing. Clearly, one way or the other, this is a conscious ethic on the band’s part, and it tells you something about their approach to heavy rock as well. There’s nothing too fancy about it — even in “Come Get Some,” which is the longest song the band have ever written at 6:40 — and they are not an outfit to waste their time. Structures run from verse to chorus to verse to chorus led through by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and Art Campos‘ gritty delivery with an expectedly solid underpinning from bassist Mark Abshire (ex-Fu Manchu) and drummer Rodney Peralta and songs like the careening title-track and the blues-licked shover “Undecided” are enough to give the impression that anything else would be superfluous. They’re not lacking style — because ’70s-meets-’90s-straight-ahead-heavy is, indeed, a style — but it’s the level of their craft that stands them out.

Albatross Overdrive on Thee Facebooks

Albatross Overdrive on Bandcamp

 

Cloud Cruiser, I: Capacity

Cloud Cruiser I Capacity

Kyuss-style riffing takes a beating at the hands of Chicago newcomers Cloud Cruiser — who are not to be confused with Denver’s Cloud Catcher — who make their debut on vinyl through Shuga Records with I: Capacity, giving an aggressive push to what’s commonly considered a more laid back sound. In tone and rhythm and general gruffness, they are a deceptively pointed outfit, with turns of broader groove like that at the outset of “575” that speak to more influences than simply those of the Cali desert. They start off catchy and familiar-if-reshaped, though, on “Transmission” and “Glow,” letting their tale of alien abduction unfold across the lyrics while setting up the shifts that “Gone” and “575” and the thick-boogie of “Orbitalclast” will make before the EP’s would-be-clean-but-for-all-that-dirt-it’s-kicked-up 23-minute run is through. The balance they present speaks to a background in metal, though if they’re fresh arrivals in this realm of heavy, you’d never know it from the lumbering finish they present. Sometimes you just gotta get mean to get your point across. It suits

Cloud Cruiser on Thee Facebooks

Shuga Records website

 

The Spiral Electric, The Spiral Electric

the spiral electric the spiral electric

It is a progressive interpretation of fuzz ‘n’ buzz that San Francisco four-piece The Spiral Electric realize on their self-titled, self-released debut long-player, with recording and mixing by Dead Meadow‘s Steve Kille, the band — vocalist/synthesist/noisemaker/guitarist/percussionist/co-producer Clay Andrews, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Nicolas Percey, bassist Michael Summers and drummer Matias Drago — bridge the generally disparate realms of heavy psych and riffer heavy rock, giving a dreamy sensibility to “Marbles” with no less an organic vibe than they brought to the howling, attitudinal push of “No Bridge Left Unburned” earlier. They skillfully mess with the scale across the lengthy 14-track span, and thereby hold their audience for the duration in longer pieces like “The True Nature of Sacrifice” (8:24) as easily as they do in a series of three episodic interludes of noise, field recordings, synth, etc. This is a band ready, willing and able to space. the hell. out., and after listening to the record, you’d be a fool if you wanted to try. Not that they don’t have aspects to shore up or shifts that could be tightened and so on, but from ambition to fruition, it’s the kind of first record bands should aspire to make.

The Spiral Electric on Thee Facebooks

The Spiral Electric on Bandcamp

 

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Stones of Babylon Release Debut Album Hanging Gardens

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

stones of babylon

Let’s just say outright that if you want to get people to notice, releasing a debut album the week between Xmas and New Year’s is probably not the best marketing decision one might undertake. I’m glad to learn, therefore, that Stones of Babylon‘s debut offering, Hanging Gardens — an instrumentalist five-songer working on that Babylonian theme from its opening sample onward through the Eastern-inflected guitar tones — will see a wider release in 2020 through Raging Planet. I don’t have an exact release date for it, but figure if it’s anything other than New Year’s Day, it’ll probably catch more ears than otherwise. The CD is available or preorder or order now from Bandcamp, but the release show is Jan. 10 in Lisboa at the Sabotage Rock and Roll Club. Event page for that is here, should you happen to be in town.

Here’s the album info and the stream though:

Stones of Babylon Hanging Gardens

Stones Of Babylon: Hanging Gardens

In this era of total globalization, under the sign of music, two Portuguese and one Polish allied in the 21st century Lisbon, an eternal city, historical and open to the world.

Thus were born the Stones Of Babylon that began their path in the last quarter of 2017, and from these initial stones were carved the first EP / Demo of 2018 “In Portuguese We Say Padrada”.

Pawel on guitar, Branco on drums and Medeiros on bass continued to refine their musicality and this sonic mass culminated in a second work recorded during the year 2019 and will appear on the dawn of 2020 in the form of this debut LP “Hanging Gardens” under the auspices of Raging Planet Records.

As a result of a line-up change due to personal circumstances, Pawel has since been replaced by Rui Belchior on guitar, but the concept and ideas remain unchanged just like the Babylonian stones that have managed to remain “alive” to this day with so much to tell us still.

With references to the distant past, among what lasted on the sands of time, the stones of memory and the imagination of what could have been, the Stones Of Babylon presents in their first LP five new instrumental sculptures, between sandy, atmospheric textures, in a surrounding of sonic mantras that invoke melodies from the near east with influences from heavier psychedelism and western doom, where their own originality merges with the inevitable influences of musical megaliths such as Black Sabbath, OM, Sleep, among others.

No need for seat belts just listen and travel!

Tracklisting:
1. Hanging Gardens 07:56
2. Coffea Arabica 11:09
3. Ziggurat 09:35
4. Black Pig’s Secret Megalith 08:31
5. Babylonia (The Deluge) 10:28

Stones of Babylon are:
Rui Belchior: Guitars
Pedro Branco: Drums
João Medeiros: Bass

https://www.facebook.com/Stones-Of-Babylon-411506462652704/
https://www.instagram.com/stonesofbabylon/
https://stonesofbabylon.bandcamp.com/
https://ragingplanet.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ragingplanet.pt/

Stones of Babylon, Hanging Gardens (2019)

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Desert’Smoke Post “Mystic Lunar Ship” Video from Debut LP Karakum

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

desertsmoke

The first thing you see in the new video from Lisboa-based heavy psych rockers Desert’Smoke is a warning that the clip contains flashing lights that might cause a seizure. Well, okay. If you have photosensitive epilepsy, you might then want to change your viewing plans, but even if you go right to the Bandcamp stream of Karakum, the debut long-player from the four-piece outfit, you’d only be doing yourself a favor. Elements of meditative heavy psych show up amid a telegraphed desert rock influence, bits here and there of post-Earthless careening making themselves felt in “Mystic Lunar Ship” — the track with the video in question — and others across the five-track LP such as the 12-minute centerpiece “Solar Jam,” which is nothing if not aptly named for the vibe it elicits.

Can you dig it? Yeah, probably. There’s no real pretense in Karakum about where Desert’Smoke are coming from, and as the band follow-up their early-2018 Hidden Mirage EP, they unfold the debut with a careful patience that offsets some of the inevitable shred that emerges. Issued by Raging Planet, the album starts with a 39-second intro “Smoke One” — I hope their follow-up starts with “Smoke Two” — and then is off quickly into the winding “Darvaz,” named for a burning crater of natural gas that’s been on fire in Turkmenistan since the early ’70s. Because, heavy. That’s fun, and the vibe is pretty quickly set by “Darvaz” for “Solar Jam,” “Mystic Lunar Ship” and the righteous-wash-of-layered-solos finale “Gate of Karakum” to continue to push outward, working with consistency of mood even as each piece represents its own sonic excursion, based in jams but not simply meandering without purpose.

They’ve done SonicBlast, they’ll do Cartaxo Sessions in February, and I’m sure there’s more to come in 2020, but until then, if you can watch it without getting a headache, the video for “Mystic Lunar Ship” is below and, again, if you can watch it, it’s kind of awesome.

Hope you enjoy, or if you go straight to the audio below, hope you enjoy that:

Desert’Smoke, “Mystic Lunar Ship” official video

‘Mystic Lunar Ship’ from Karakum album – out now! – https://desert-smoke.bandcamp.com/album/karakum

Video and artwork by Senhor & Warini

Exploring the world of stoner and psychedelic rock, Desert’Smoke presents an instrumental show which blends the power of rock and the contemplative psychedelia with the beats of a symbiotic rhythm section. A trip in this desert created by André Pedroso ROCHA on guitar, João ROMÃO on guitar, João NOGUEIRA on bass and CLÁUDIO ‘Pidgeon’ Aurélio on drums.

‘Karakum’ means black sand and it’s the name of Turkemenistan’s desert. There you can find the Darvaz gas crater, a crater of natural gas that has been burning since 1971.

From Lisboa, Portugal
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Lemon Drops Media by André Eusébio.
Record Label: Raging Planet

Desert’Smoke are:
André Pedroso Rocha (Guitarra)
Cláudio Aurélio (Bateria)
João Nogueira (Baixo)
João Romão (Guitarra)

Desert’Smoke, Karakum (2019)

Desert’Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Desert’Smoke on Instagram

Desert’Smoke on Bandcamp

Raging Planet on Bandcamp

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Doctors of Space Premiere Horrifying Video for “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

doctors of space

Much respect to Doctors of Space, the Portugal-based experimentalist psych duo of synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller and guitarist Martin “Apparently Also Earned a Space Doctorate” Weaver, perhaps best known as the axe behind the classic heavy ’70s riffage of Wicked Lady, who aside from a formidable pedigree have in their new video for “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit” created something genuinely nightmarish. I mean, there’s a lot of music out there that’s dark — and Doctors of Space isn’t particularly so — and a lot of affected horror donned as part of an aesthetic in underground music. It’s just kind of part of the thing. The clip for “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit,” which may or may not have been made by Weaver himself, goes beyond that. It’s a psychological horror, gruesome in the raw visual, yeah, but haunting in a way that speaks to something primal and wrong. That many teeth can only be signifying a threat on a preternatural level.

Are those “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit?” doctors of space ghouls n shitQuite possibly. They are ghoulish. Could also be that the “ghouls” in question are the lines of synth that seem to be screaming throughout the song. Either way, the upcoming 7″ release for the track will mark the first physical offering from the project, which has a couple digital singles to its credit as it is. Heller‘s own Space Rock Productions is handling the pressing, and it’ll be 100 copies with spraypainted covers each of course somewhat different from the others. You can get them signed too, which is always fun. The B-side is a demo of the same track, with Weaver playing bass and programming drums in addition to playing guitar. No doubt that too is gleefully weird.

Heller, known around these parts as the bandleader of Øresund Space Collective and synthesist for Norwegian psych jammers Black Moon Circle, fits well in this more experimental context, adding out-there flair to what’s already a pretty vast concept. As to where his work with Weaver might go, I’m told the universe is only expanding, so I guess it could be just about anywhere they want. It’s a level of adventurousness that suits them just fine. And hey, maybe the next video will be all puppies and flowers. For now, let this one plague your dreams.

Enjoy:

Doctors of Space, “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit” official video premiere

Doctors of Space is a fairly new project that features Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, Dr Space’s Alien Planet Trip, etc..) and Martin Weaver (Dark, Wicked Lady). The songs are conceived as collaborations either starting with synths and Martin adds his parts or Martin creating tracks with drums, bass and guitar and Dr Space adding his spacey sounds.

This 7” is limited to 100 copies, hand numbered and each cover unique, spray painted by the artists. It features the track Ghouls ‘n Shit as well as our original demo version on the B-side. The final version features Hasse Horigmoe (Tangle Edge, Øresund Space Collective) on bass.

The track is an uptempo rock number with some great guitar and spaced out Ghouls in the background, courteous of the Plague Bearer synth module and the Korg SQ-1 sequencer. This is a preview for our full length record that will be out in the spring next year.

Martin Weaver- Guitars, bass, programmed drums
Dr Space- Analog Synthesizers, spoken word, mixing and Mastering
Hasse Horgimoe- Bass guitar

Doctors of Space on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, War Cloud, Here Lies Man, Book of Wyrms, Möyhy-Veikot, Darsombra, Set Fire, Jesus the Snake, Föllakzoid, Dresden Wolves

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Had to take a second this morning to get my email back under 100 unread. It currently stands at 95. There’s just something about being in triple digits that I can’t stand. Press releases and stuff I can usually file right away since not everything’s relevant to the site, etc., but that’s all stuff that either wants follow-up or could be a factor here if there was time. I do my best to try to keep up. And I fail, consistently.

The tradeoff, of course, is I spend that time writing reviews and other stuff for the site. Today’s hump day when we pass the halfway mark of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review, and we’re doing it in absolutely all-over-the-place style, so all the better. Some pretty familiar names today, but some that might not be as well, so whatever your poison, I hope you enjoy the picking.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Russian Circles, Blood Year

russian circles blood year

There’s simply no denying the force behind the depths and swell of a song like “Kohokia” on Russian Circles‘ latest offering, Blood Year (Sargent House), and though one knows what to expect to some degree from the Chicago heavy post-rockers at this point in their career, they seem to be doing all they can to deliver their instrumental progressions with energy to match the breadth of the spaces and the heft they conjure. Like 2016’s Guidance (review here), the seven-track/39-minute Blood Year — was recorded with Kurt Ballou, whom the trio imported to their hometown to work at Electrical Audio (aka Steve Albini‘s stomping ground) instead of traveling to Massachusetts to track at Ballou‘s Godcity. If it was the long-famed drum sound of Electrical Audio that they wanted and the live feel that so many of the recordings done there have, they got both, so mark it a success and another notch in the belt of one of the heavy underground’s most immersive and evocative outfits. Their building and releasing of tension is second to none and moves into the spiritual by the time they even get to side B, let alone through it.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

War Cloud, State of Shock

war cloud state of shock

Oh, the riffs you’ll gallop. Oakland, California’s War Cloud skirt the line between classic thrash and heavy rock and roll on their second album for Ripple Music, State of Shock, and from the sound of things, they have a good time doing it. The record’s not much over a half-hour long, which is as it should be for this kind of party, and they toy a bit with the balance between their two sides on a rocker like “Do Anything” or the subsequent “Means of Your Defeat” on side B, but the main crux of State of Shock and certainly the impression it makes off the bat with “Striker” and “White Lightning” up front ahead of the six-minute that-moment-when-ThinLizzy-turned-into-IronMaiden “Dangerous Game” is one of homage to the metal of yore, and in following-up the band’s 2017 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a showcase of energy and craft alike as two guitars shred, chug, groove and charge through the material. If they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d say something about getting caught in a mosh. As it stands, I’ll go with urging you to jump in the fire instead. Horns up, either way.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon

here lies man no ground to walk upon

They should’ve just called it an album. Yeah, it would be short at 26 or so minutes, but it’s got everything you’d want from a full-length, and if they’d put a four-minute jam or something on it, they’d have been there anyhow. In any case, Los Angeles’ Afrobeat-infused heavy psych rockers Here Lies Man present seven tracks of dug-in glory with No Ground to Walk Upon (on RidingEasy), continuing to build on the potential shown across their first two LPs, 2017’s self-titled debut (review here) and last year’s You Will Know Nothing (review here), even as they swagger their way through a groove like “Long Legs (Look Away)” and show their continued forward potential. They continue to be a special band — the kind of band who doesn’t just come along every day and who shouldn’t be overlooked during their time, because maybe they’ll be around 30 years and maybe they won’t, but what they’re doing now is bringing something wholly individual to a heavy context. They’ve already proven influential to some degree, but listening to No Ground to Walk Upon cuts like the dream-keyed “Iron Rattles” and the opening strut-into-drone of “Clad in Silver,” one wonders if they wouldn’t be more so if people weren’t too afraid to try to pull this thing off. Hard to argue with that, since more likely than not most couldn’t.

Here Lies Man on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Book of Wyrms, Remythologizer

Book of Wyrms Remythologizer

I won’t take anything away from the eight-minute “Blacklight Warpriest” earlier in the offering, but the highlight of Book of Wyrms‘ second album, Remythologizer (on Twin Earth & Stoner Witch Records) has to be the closing “Dust Toad,” which at 9:25 is the longest track and the slowest crawl included. Led into by the synth-infused “Curse of the Werecop,” it takes the crunch that showed itself through opener “Autumnal Snow” and, later, the melody and swing of “Undead Pegasus” — as seen on the cover art — and brings them together in order to perfectly summarize the doom rocking ethic the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece are working from. Tonally righteous and more solvent in their songwriting than they were on their 2017 debut, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), the band sound assured as they move in “Spirit Drifter” from a standout keyboard line to a likewise standout guitar solo, giving a feeling of progressive nuance that’s continuing to take hold in their sound, balanced by the underlying naturalism of their approach. That dynamic continues to duke it out on Remythologizer, much to the benefit of anyone who takes the record on.

Book of Wyrms on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Möyhy-Veikot, Huume Jet Set Life

moyhy-veikot huume jet set life

Too weird for planet earth and, well, probably too weird for anywhere else too, Helsinki psych-space-kraut-whathaveyou experimentalists issue their third tape in the form of Huume Jet Set Life and whether it’s the cosmo-jamming on “MITÄ ON TULLUT VEDETTYÄ?” or the who-the-hell-knows-what-ism of “MEDIA-AJOJAHTI 2000,” the band at no point fail to make an impression of being out there in the far gone far out there reaches of the far out there. Talkin’ freaked out next level total, like the cassette just fell into the atmosphere to represent some other planet’s culture where things are both dangerous and interesting and you never really know if you’re going to get laid or eaten or both. Still, they may be doing math of the likes not yet conceived by humanity, but Möyhy-Veikot go about it in suitably friendly if totally over-the-top fashion, and it’s fun to play along while also being completely overwhelmed at the various pushes and pulls happening all at once, the media samples and the Windows 95 compatibility of it all. It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for disco.

Möyhy-Veikot on Thee Facebooks

Möyhy-Veikot on Bandcamp

 

Darsombra, Transmission

Darsombra Transmission

It’s just lovely. Really. In some ways it feels like the 41:20 single-track full-length Transmission — self-released, no less — is what Baltimore ambient exploratory two-piece Darsombra have been building toward all along, but I think the truth is they probably could’ve done this at any time if they’d chosen to do so. Still, the fluidity of “Transmission” itself is something special, with its cascades of manipulated voice, riffs that swell and recede, loops, synth and somehow-manifested light that are as much immersion for the spirit as the eardrum. One doesn’t want to dive too deep into hyperbole and oversell it to the point of dulling the listener’s own impression, but Transmission is the kind of record that even those who profess to never “get” drone or noise offerings can engage with. Part of that is owed to Brian Daniloski‘s guitar, which provides landmarks along the path of swirl conjured by his own effects and the synth from Ann Everton (both add vocals where applicable; don’t look for lyrics or verses) that allow those who’d take it on to do so more easily. But the real joy in Transmission is letting go and allowing the piece to carry you along its progressive course, genuine in its reaching for the unknown. Plus there’s a gong, and that’s always fun too. Go with it.

Darsombra on Thee Facebooks

Darsombra on Bandcamp

 

Set Fire, Traya

set fire traya

Traya is the third three-song full-length from Boston’s Set Fire, and it would seem that, and in addition to marking the last recording to feature drummer Rob Davol, who’s since been replaced by Josh Cronin, it would seem to show the three-piece nailing their sound of classic-tinged duet-fronted heavy rock and roll. With two powerhouse vocalists on board in guitarist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, etc.) and keyboardist Jess Collins (ex-Mellow Bravo), they work in varying arrangements across a meager 12-minute run that feels short mostly because it is short. Too short. “Any Place Left” puts Collins in the foreground, while “Sacred Song” is more Healey‘s, and unsurprisingly to anyone who’s experienced their past work either together or separate, they’re more than able to carry the material — only more so with the other party backing. “Waves” brings them together around theatrical layers of piano and keyboard and guitar, and that they manage to hold it steady at all, let alone take flight as it does, speaks to how ready they are to embark on a longer offering. Put out an album, already, would ya?

Set Fire on Thee Facebooks

Set Fire on Bandcamp

 

Jesus the Snake, Black Acid, Pink Rain

Jesus the Snake Black Acid Pink Rain

For those feeling adventurous, Portugal’s Jesus the Snake follow-up their 2017 self-titled EP (review here) with the unmitigated warmth of Black Acid, Pink Rain, their live-recorded full-length debut. And for the sort of heavy psych-jazz-prog meandering, one would almost expect the organ-laced instrumentalist four-piece to track the record as they perform it, if not front-to-back then certainly one song at a time across multiple takes. Not one piece of the five total on the 49-minute offering is under eight minutes long, and sandwiched between opener “Karma” (10:28) and the closing title-track (10:55) are three cuts circa nine that prove no less hypnotic. The beginning of “Floyds I” is so fluid with the interplay of organ and guitar that one almost expects a gentle Portuguese spoken word verse to start, but of course one never does. Instead, Jesus the Snake complement mindful drift with flashes of more weighted or active fare, all the while holding to a central vibe that is peaceful even as “Duna” finds its chill before the halfway point, with no loss of spirit in the process.

Jesus the Snake on Thee Facebooks

Jesus the Snake on Bandcamp

 

Föllakzoid, I

follakzoid i

As with any kind of sonic minimalism or release based around trance induction — see Darsombra above — there’s a certain amount of buy-in that needs to happen on the listener’s side. Accordingly, those going into the fourth LP from Chilean duo Föllakzoid, titled I and issued through Sacred Bones Records as a double-vinyl, should be aware that it’s requires that kind of interaction from one side to the other. It’s not especially loud or abrasive, or even demanding in terms of the basic sonics of the thing, but as “I” becomes “II” becomes “III” becomes “IIII” and the songs such as they are alternate between 17- and 13-minute runtimes and the blend of effects and electro beats tips to one side or the other — “II” with a fervent ‘ump-tis’ in its early going while “III” brings a more Vangelis-style cinematic wash — of course there’s an ask in terms of indulgence happening on the part of the two-piece to their audience. Whether an individual is willing to make that jump is obviously going to be up to their headspace and where they’re at, but Föllakzoid‘s work here is more than worth the investment, even for those less familiar with their methods.

Föllakzoid on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Dresden Wolves, Hiedra – Sencillo

dresden wolves Hiedra Sencillo

The sub-three-minute “Hiedra – Sencillo” is the latest in an ongoing series of digital offerings from Mexico City’s Dresden Wolves, and though the two-piece band bill themselves as post-punk and they may actually have a history in playing punk rock — stranger things have happened, certainly — the song finds them working in a taut heavy rock context, brash in delivery but not overly so as to lose the overarching swagger they seem intent on conveying. Particularly as it follows behind two EPs and a swath of other single tracks, and is offered name-your-price through their Bandcamp, “Hiedra – Sencillo” feels like its most nefarious aim is to hook anyone who’d click play on first listen and try and keep them intrigued for next time out. Fair enough. I won’t profess to know what Dresden Wolves‘ plans are, but they’ve got songwriting in their pocket and the production on “Hiedra – Sencillo” is crisp and clear enough to convey the heft of the guitar but not so much so as to dull its rawer aspects. They’ve got the balance ready to go, whatever they might choose to do with it from here.

Dresden Wolves on Thee Facebooks

Dresden Wolves on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: The Black Wizards, Reflections

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The Black Wizards Reflections

[Click play above to stream The Black Wizards’ Reflections in its entirety. Album is out Aug. 23 through Kozmik Artifactz and Raging Planet.]

Reflections is what it sounds like when a band learns the lessons of their past releases and incorporates them into the next one. The third full-length from Portuguese heavy psych blues rockers The Black Wizards, the seven-track Kozmik Artifactz and Raging Planet-issued outing scales back from the 2LP that was 2017’s self-released What the Fuzz! (review here) to a single 41-minute platter with a structure that seems to maximize the overarching flow and still manage to capture a sense of the breadth in their approach, from fervent boogie rock to bluesy sway and onward into resonant psychedelic drift as it rounds out. This range, coupled with the organic style and songwriting approach from guitarists Joana Brito (also vocals) and Paulo Ferreira and the double-João rhythm section of bassist João Mendes and drummer João Lugatte, helps make Reflections an easy bet to win hearts and minds among the converted, as some of the boogie in What the Fuzz! is drawn down into the taffy-pull psych of “Starlight” and closer “Kaleidoscope Eyes,” the band clearly saving their most immersive vibes for the end of each side, in traditional fashion.

“Traditional fashion” could be seen as a kind of running theme for the album, but Reflections is by no means retro. Given the usage of the title-line in “Kaleidoscope Eyes” — a highlight unto itself — I wouldn’t necessarily think the band intended so when they named the album, but their approach to classic heavy rock and psych and blues and all the rest of the stylistic combustibles melted into their sound is very much reflective. Not an exact emulation in the sense of capturing a “vintage” spirit in the actual listening experience — their scope is way too broad and production way too vast for such a thing — but reflecting those ideas back on themselves in a different form. It begins with opener “Imposing Sun” as Lugatte‘s sticks-on-rim tension and Brito‘s vocals lead into a swirl-laced heavy rocker with layers of backing vocals dug deep into the mix and a forward guitar line that’s like sped-up Monster Magnet doing Hawkwind doing Rolling Stones. The vibrato in Brito‘s voice will be familiar to anyone who heard What the Fuzz! or the prior 2015 debut, Lake of Fire, but as everything seems to be, it’s put here to more mature and accomplished-feeling use.

Side A presents a few fascinating turns. True, it works as shorter songs offset by longer ones — three minutes, six, four, six, goes the tracklisting — but second cut “Outlaws” (6:26) introduces more of the psych-blues spirit, with echo ringing out from Brito over rising-sun riffing and a build of effects wash that leads to an immersive linear progression the payoff for which is a righteous return to the central hook riff. The track is little short of a triumph and a fair enough summary of The Black Wizards‘ encompassing style at its best, but it doesn’t tell the whole tale, which continues with the boogie-down spirit of “56th Floor,” though even that start-stoppery has a sense of space to its guitar and drums and some drift in its second half, asking more questions even as it sees fit to answer a few of them as well. The presumed side A finish is in “Starlight,” which is shorter than “Outlaws” at 6:16, but more drawn out in its unfolding of guitar and more patient in its execution overall, presenting Reflections‘ most atmospheric moment in a departure from the groove-groove-groove of the track prior, because take that, expectation. As the whole-album centerpiece and the transition into side B, its role is vital, and “Starlight” lives up to that without a doubt.

the black wizards

That’s all the better to lead into “Symphony of the Ironic Sympathies,” which is the longest track on Reflections at 7:57 and moves from wah-drenched verses to a tuned-in psych rock explosion in its choruses to a righteous melodic slowdown at its midpoint that moves through an instrumental section and into a spoken preach from Brito that reminds of Colour Haze‘s “Peace, Brothers & Sisters!” as she gains intensity before dropping out as the song begins to draw down. It’s a surprising moment, but not at all out of place, since by that time the flow of the record is broad enough to allow The Black Wizards to go pretty much wherever they want sound-wise. Accordingly, the penultimate “Soul Keeper” touches on All Them Witches-style blues licks and jams itself forward for about the first five minutes before cutting the volume behind the vocals to let their reverb carry the ending as the shift into “Kaleidoscope Eyes” takes hold, guitar, bass and drums introducing the album’s finale with grace that’s by then well established but every bit deserving of the reinforcement it gets.

It isn’t necessarily a surprise that The Black Wizards would save the most expansive moment on Reflections for last — though I suppose there are arguments to be made for “Starlight” in that regard as well — but they deliver the finishing move as a summary of the offering preceding and tie together sometimes disparate turns with a fluidity that lets the listener know for sure there’s been a master plan at work all the while. That too underscores the idea of Reflections as an actual reflection, but in this case, the band reflecting on what they’ve done before and how to bring a new level of accomplishment to their sound. There’s no question they’ve done precisely that, as the full and natural melodies and weight of their material is nonetheless carried with such ease both by them and by anyone who would take on the record to discover where it and the band end up by the time it’s done. The Black Wizards‘ obvious internalizing of their strengths is palpable here, and the paring down they’ve done in terms of runtime has allowed them all the more to bring the songs into focus, which is exactly where they belong.

The Black Wizards on Thee Facebooks

The Black Wizards on Instagram

The Black Wizards on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

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