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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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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The Black Wizards to Release Reflections Aug. 23; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the black wizards

So, I don’t want to sound like Captain Jaded or anything, but it doesn’t always happen to me that I put on a preview track, video, teaser, whatever and then immediately feel the impulse to check out the entire record. And yet, here I sit, having just made my way through The Black Wizards‘ new clip for “Kaleidoscope Eyes” and needed to put on their new record, Reflections, pretty much as quickly as I could open the folder on my desktop. Regrets? Not a one. The third album from these Portuguese ministers of heavy takes something of a more psychedelic turn than I recall for their boogie-laced 2017 offering, What the Fuzz! (review here). They’ve also trimmed about 25 minutes off the runtime, no doubt at least in part to be able to fit it on a single LP, which Kozmik Artifactz will release on Aug. 23, while Raging Planet handles the CD release.

If you’re feeling up for being similarly convinced, the video for “Kaleidoscope Eyes” follows the PR wire info below, and even if you can’t get your fix right away, there’s always some satisfaction to be derived from a preorder.

Have at it:

The Black Wizards Reflections

THE BLACK WIZARDS release brand new video! Reflections coming August 23rd!

August 23rd will see psychedelic fuzz rockers The Black Wizards return with their brand new album, Reflections. Born in the digital era, these Portuguese rock talents enthrall with an analogue and unique sound of fuzzadelic grooves. Drinking from the same fountains as many of the contemporary bands around, The Black Wizards give a new twist on previously heard tunes and stamp their own personality.

Today the band is sharing with us their brand new video to the psychedelic juggernaut “Kaleidoscope”, taken from The Black Wizards’ upcoming album!

“Kaleidoscope eyes is one of my favorites songs from this record.” Guitarist and vocalist Joana Brito comments. “It’s a psychedelic floating dream song with a very up-bright vibe. For the video, we had the idea of having eyes on it and we did some experiences with Lugatte’s lens and it worked out, so we thought that maybe we could do it ourselves and take it as a new challenge. So then we did it all by ourselves, from capture to edition and it was quite fast but we are proud that we could do it and capture the same nice vibe that you have in the song to the video, we think it fits very well.”

The band exploded on the scene in late 2015 with their debut Lake of Fire, followed by the Fuzzadelic- EP, the sophomore critically acclaimed album What the Fuzz! and numerous tour dates and festival appearances all over Europe. Their live performances are known for being an intense explosion of emotions with lots of soul and of course, a heavy fuzz. The Black Wizards have grown in their sound, they have upped their ante with sonic experimentation without ever losing sight of the core roots having their feet on the ground. The band has learned and archieved a lot, and the time has finally come to present the hotly anticipated, third album: Reflections is like a sunny day and fresh breeze of groovy beats and psychedelia, swaying between sweet moments and massive fuzz deliriums. This record is here to prove more than ever, The Black Wizards are one of the most prolific and promising bands around!

Reflections is set to be released August 23rd on Vinyl with Kozmic Artifactz and on CD plus Vinyl with Raging Planet (including a deluxe edition with a 7”inch Vinyl outakes)!

Album Tracklist:
1. Imposing Sun
2. Outlaws
3. 56th Floor
4. Starlight
5. Symphony of the Ironic Sympathy
6. Soul Keeper
7. Kaleidoscope Eyes

THE BLACK WIZARDS are:
Joana Brito – Vocals & Guitar
Paulo Ferreira – Guitar
João Lugatte – Drums
João Mendes – Bass

www.facebook.com/theblackwizardsband
www.theblackwizards.bandcamp.com
www.instagram.com/theblackwizardsgram
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz
https://ragingplanet.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ragingplanet.pt/

The Black Wizards, “Kaleidoscope Eyes” official video

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Dollar Llama Post Video for “Louder”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

dollar llama

Portuguese bruiser rockers Dollar Llama issued their third album, Juggernaut, this past December via Raging Planet, and with it unfurl a swath of dudely aggro burl worthy of the title. Taking influence from the likes of Down, Goatsnake and those of harder, meaner edges, the band chug their way through cuts like “Knucklehead,” the ultra-catchy “Misery,” and the bullying but still hook driven “Bocanegra,” keeping structures straightforward but offering some variety of mood around the central crux of testosterone-fueled groove. In some of its nastiest charge, Juggernaut borders on sludge — somehow it’s never quite sloppy enough to actually get there — but it’s never ultimately too far from an underlying current of straightforward metal, as heard in the riffs and gruff vocals alike.

And yet, when one listens to a cut like “Louder” — for which the band have a new video which you can view below — the track isn’t without a sense of space or depth of arrangement, and the same applies to songs like “Nails,” the second half of the penultimate title-track and the verses of the slower “Currents.” This doesn’t quite set up a dichotomy between one side and another throughout the album, but it definitely gives Dollar Llama more of a sense of range than they’d have otherwise, vocalist Tiago Simões harmonizing in layers on “Currents” as guitarists Chikko Marques and Hugo Vieira intertwine riffs and leads atop the solid foundation of rhythm from bassist José Dinis and drummer Pedro Cardoso. No matter what direction a given song is headed in throughout Juggernaut, the band keep it crisp and professional, and offer stage-ready energy with a studio-born fullness of tone. To wit, it seems like no coincidence the record caps with the two-minute balls-outtery of “Stagefires,” which feels as much like a statement of intent as anything else.

All told, Juggernaut is 10 tracks and 44 minutes of dead-ahead push, stuck-in-your-head hooks and rocker-mosh vibing. There’s more than a little chestbeating going on and something of a sense of by-dudes-about-dudes-for-dudes comes through the proceedings, but there’s no arguing with the penchant for songcraft, and Juggernaut becomes even more of a destructive force when ridiculous volume is applied. Trust me, I tested it out.

PR wire info follows the video for “Louder” below. I’ve also included the full album stream of Juggernaut in case you’d like to dig in a bit more.

Either way, please enjoy:

Dollar Llama, “Louder” official video

DOLLAR LLAMA have released their third full length album in December 2nd 2017.

“JUGGERNAUT” can be defined as a “literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly, destructive and unstoppable.” That’s how the band describes the sound of the 10 heavy tracks that makes “Juggernaut” the most powerful album in the history of the band so far.

“LOUDER” is the most psychedelic song, with a voyage of heavy riffs, trippy solos and raging vocals. The album was recorded at Black Sheep Studios, produced by Miguel Marques (Devil In Me, Comeback Kid, More Than a Thousand) and will be distributed by Raging Planet (PT) and Stone Groove Records (USA).

Dollar Llama, Juggernaut (2017)

Dollar Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dollar Llama website

Dollar Llama at Raging Planet Bandcamp

Raging Planet website

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Miss Lava Ooze the Blues

Posted in Reviews on May 26th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Lisbon, Portugal’s Miss Lava are the kind of stoner rock band that could only survive in Europe. They ooze with a blatant and un-contradictory stoner rock commercialism that’s completely antithetical to the American scene, and like a lot of European bands of their ilk – Spiritual Beggars comes to mind as a primary comparison point – they make it work. They play dirty, sweaty rock and roll, but they do it with clean, crisp production and tight pop songwriting. When US bands try this stuff, it either doesn’t work or turns into douche rock, which isn’t good for anyone involved.

On Miss Lava’s full-length debut, the perhaps referentially-titled Blues for the Dangerous Miles (Raging Planet), the four-piece present 11 tracks mostly in the three and a half to five minute range, centered around solid structures of verses, choruses and so forth. The riffing of guitarist K. Raffah is central to the songs, but I wouldn’t call Blues for the Dangerous Miles guitar-led. Bassist Samuel Rebelo, drummer J. Garcia and vocalist Johnny Lee know where they’re supposed to be at any given time, so it’s not like the guitars need to start the song and everyone picks up from there. Miss Lava are tighter than that. They’ve worked out those kinks.

Most of the recording was done by Rebelo, or at least involved him in some way (apart from the vocals), and Miss Lava sent the record to metal titan Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth, Katatonia, etc.) at Fascination Street Studios for mixing and mastering. You can hear some of that modern metal sheen in Raffah’s guitar on cuts like “Blind Dog” or the opener “Don’t Tell a Soul,” but in the context of the band’s approach, it works. Ditto for Lee’s vocals, which make tracks like “Shine On” and the slower “The Wait” highlights of Blues for the Dangerous Miles, but would probably be grating in another band situation. In Miss Lava, they seem to swagger just right; their multiple-layer arrangements only adding to the pop sensibilities of the band.

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