Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you want to feel old today, we’re now 16 years removed from Unearthly Trance first getting together. The Brooklyn trio reunited in Spring 2015 and have made select appearances since, playing local shows and doing a West Coast run last fall that included a stop at Midnite Communion III in Long Beach, California, where they joined Morne, Dopethrone and a host of expertly-curated others.
Six years have gone by since their fifth album, V (review here), was issued by Relapse Records, but the band has posted notice that their upcoming sixth full-length, to be titled Stalking the Ghost, has finished its recording process. Tracking took place with Colin Marston (Gorguts, Behold! the Arctopus) at The Thousand Caves, and Relapse will once again handle putting it out.
There’s still a lot to be learned about the record — most importantly what it might sound like. V was the most developed album that Unearthly Trance put out during their initial run, but guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky has been exploring a variety of different influences in acts like The Howling Wind and Serpentine Path — in which Unearthly Trance bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni also play — so whether or not that might have any impact on Stalking the Ghost is up in the air. Their doomly form had become pretty amorphous stylistically by the time they called it quits, so even if they’re picking up where they left off, it seems fair to expect some expanse of ground to be covered.
No release date yet, but one to look forward to:
We have finished recording our new album entitled “Stalking The Ghost”! We all think it came out absolutely massive and is our best work yet. Colin Marston was a pleasure to work with and we are beyond excited to have this album be released on Relapse Records!
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Forerunners of Portland’s heavy rock scene Red Fang have set an October 14 official release date for their new album, Only Ghosts, through Relapse Records. Their fourth long-player, Only Ghosts follows 2013’s Whales and Leeches (discussed here), and in addition to just being a new full-length from Red Fang — which would already make it noteworthy — the latest outing earns further distinction via the Ross Robinson production job, which one can hear in the opening track “Flies,” streaming now.
Red Fang, of course, will tour the living crap out of Only Ghosts, starting in Europe around the release and presumably covering the rest of the universe from there.
Just off the PR wire:
RED FANG Announce New Ross Robinson-Produced Album ‘Only Ghosts,’ Share New Song + Pre-Orders
After three years of vigorously touring the world, RED FANG, the beer-loving Portland-based rock band whose new album was included in Rolling Stone’s list most anticipated 2016 releases, re-emerge with their greatest and latest full-length album, Only Ghosts. Produced by the legendary Ross Robinson (At The Drive In, The Cure, Slipknot, and many more) and mixed by Joe Baressi (Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Melvins), Only Ghosts consists of 10 new tracks of the band’s signature, high-impact, hook-filled, hard rock. RED FANG prove once again they are top-notch songwriters who have mastered the heavy anthem without taking themselves too seriously. Only Ghosts is a rock album of incredible magnitude that demands to be played at maximum volume!
Only Ghosts was recorded earlier this year at Robinson’s Venice, Calif. studio. In a recent Revolver Magazine interview, bass player Aaron Beam joked that the experience of working beachside was “pretty miserable,” later adding that working with Ross encouraged the band to take a different approach to recording. “He really digs into the meaning behind the songs so that when you’re recording, you’re doing it with conviction and purpose. It’s less about the little technical things. He’s more concerned with getting a performance and focusing on what you’re trying to give the world by making this music in the first place.” The band’s Bryan Giles and Aaron Beam also added,
Working with Ross and Joe [Baressi] on this record was a huge leap forward for us. The process was very challenging and rewarding, and I think we’re a better band for it. This album expresses exactly where we’re at. We’re super proud of it and can’t wait for people to hear it!
Only Ghosts is set for release this October 14 on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical pre-orders are available via Relapse.com here, and digital pre-orders can be found at the band’s Bandcamp page at this location.
Only Ghosts tracklisting:
1. Flies 2. Cut It Short 3. Flames 4. No Air 5. Shadows 6. Not For You 7. The Smell of the Sound 8. The Deep 9. I Am a Ghost 10. Living in Lye
The band will be heading overseas for festival appearances and a headlining tour with Torche in September/October – view a full itinerary below. North American tour dates will be announced soon.
RED FANG Live: August 4 Copenhagen, Denmark Jr Vega August 5 Wacken, DE Wacken Open Air August 6 Utrecht, Netherlands Tivoli Pandora August 7 Lokeren, Belgium Lokerse Feesten September 22 Portland, OR Northwest Hesh Fest
* Dates below with Torche * September 26 Brighton, UK Concorde 2 September 27 London, UK Koko September 28 Bristol, UK Bierkeller September 29 Leeds, UK Leeds Stylus September 30 Manchester, UK Manchester Academy 2 October 2 Birmingham, UK Institute2 October 3 Glasgow, UK Garage October 4 Newcastle, UK Riverside October 5 Southampton, UK Engine Rooms October 7 Athens, Greece Desert Fest October 9 Paris, France Trabendo October 10 Munich, Germany Strom October 11 Vienna, Austria Szene Wien October 12 Berlin, Germany Huxleys October 13 Cologne, Germany Essigfabrik October 15 Leipzig, Germany Conne Island October 16 Hamburg, Germany Markethalle October 18 Odense, Denmark Posten October 19 Oslo, Norway John Dee October 20 Stockholm, Sweden Debaser Medis October 21 Malmo, Sweden KB October 22 Munster, Germany Skater’s Place October 23 Karlsruhe, Germany Substage October 24 Amsterdam, Netherlands Melkweg (OZ)
[Click play above to stream 16’s Lifespan of a Moth in full. Album is out Friday on Relapse.]
It’s now been nearly a decade since Los Angeles sludge metallers 16 — aka -(16)- — were reactivated. In that time, they’ve toured the US and Europe, reissued early material via Relapse Records, which seems to have been the home they were looking for all along, and put together three studio albums, the latest of which is Lifespan of a Moth. Led by founding guitarist/vocalist Bobby Ferry and vocalist Cris Jerue with the newcomer rhythm section of bassist Barney Finks and drummer Dion Thurman, they celebrate a quarter century since their start in 2016, and though the road from then to now has been tumultuous, 16 have become a reliable source for disaffected, aggressive sludge chugging. Their grooves remain thoroughly pissed off on Lifespan of a Moth‘s eight tracks/44 minutes, their lyrics delivered in seething growls and rasps, and as with 2012’s Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds and 2009’s return statement, Bridges to Burn, they have an intensity to their approach that bleeds through regardless of tempo, so that the plodding “The Morphinist” and more upbeat “Secrets of the Curmudgeon” both rage with due force.
Probably worth noting that of their total seven full-lengths, they’ve never had one with so few tracks, but as Lifespan of a Moth is by no means their shortest outing, it means the songs themselves have gotten longer and, I think it can be argued, more expressive. There was an undeniable chaos to records like Drop Out (1996) and Blaze of Incompetence (1997) that stands with the best sludge the US in the ’90s had to offer, East Coast or West Coast, Northern or Southern, but 16 seem to have little interest in pretending the last 20 years never happened, and Lifespan of a Moth finds them honing cynical atmospheres through sonic pummel with an efficiency and maturity that a newer band simply couldn’t share.
Recorded in San Diego at Doubletime Recording Studio, the record begins with sampled beach sounds that soon gives way to a crushing chug riff, raw snare drums and blown-out vocals. “Landloper” is the first of a virulent opening salvo of five-minute tracks, along with “Peaches, Cream and the Placenta” and “The Morphinist,” and between them they essentially act to put up a wall between the four-piece and anyone who might not have the endurance to take on what’s still to come. There’s little interest in letup, but it’s not as if 16 don’t have a dynamic. As “Landloper” thuds to its end — Jerue‘s reverb the last thing to go — it gives way to the slower second cut, just as nasty sounding but more nod than headbang, and “The Morphinist” adds even more stomp to the mix along with lyrics about not trusting doctors, and while there’s some element of chestbeating to it, the riff is undeniable and the track is a highlight.
“Call me patient zero/This is all in your head” go the lines of the bridge, and though the attitude underlying shows 16‘s punker roots, its thickened lurch leads well into “The Absolute Center of a Pitch Black Heart,” the shortest track on Lifespan of a Moth at 3:25 and a faster push with a near-gallop to its rhythm that sees Thurman nodding briefly at Dave Lombardo on his ping ride and the group as a whole rounding out the album’s first half with a marked departure from those first three tracks, clearly setting up the notion that 16 haven’t yet played their full hand. That turns out to be precisely the case.
In linear editions — i.e. CD or digital — the shift from “The Absolute Center of a Pitch Black Heart” to “Gallows Humor” feels no less marked than one expects it would be if it required getting up to flip over the vinyl. Aside from the fact that “Gallows Humor” is the longest track on Lifespan of a Moth at 7:36, it’s also a crawl-and-chug instrumental with either an added layer of lead guitar or maybe keys that lend its roll a sense of drama. The effect is similar to what “Landloper” and company brought to side A — a process of weeding out — but immersive and almost hypnotic as it moves through en route to “Secrets of the Curmudgeon,” which adds in some flourish of black metal-style squibblies to the already-established chug to continue the darker ambience fleshing out the rage that’s been so well stated all along.
Penultimate in the tracklist with a break section led by Finks‘ bass, “Pastor in a Coma” is about as close as 16 come to offering a breather, and they’re still plenty of distance from actually doing so. “Pastor in a Coma” might be the apex of Lifespan of a Moth, and its loud/quiet tradeoff would seem to show that the band have more to say stylistically, but “George” rounds out with a tribute to the Seinfeld character played by Jason Alexander. Not quite timely, but it’s legitimately hilarious to hear Jerue‘s delivery of “These pretzels are making me thirsty,” so the charm makes up for a lot, and the closer’s fuckall, coupled with the weight of its tones, speaks to a lot of what works about Lifespan of a Moth. 16 have never wanted for a misanthropic sensibility, and while 25 years is a long time to keep that up even factoring in their breakup after 2002’s Zoloft Smile, they’ve found ways to grow without sacrificing the edge that made them so vitriolic in the first place.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.
Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day Two of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review — that’s an awful lot of capital letters. I’m not sure if it’s quite such a formal occasion, but perhaps that’s just an effect of staring at some of the names in this particular batch, who from classic heavy rock to post-black metal to stoner riffs, drone, doom and beyond offer a pretty vast range and more than a small measure of profile throughout. It’s a substantial swath, is what I’m saying. If you can’t find something here to dig on, well, I’d say look again, but of course there’ll also be another 10 reviews tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and there were 10 yesterday as well, so I’m sure something will turn up if it hasn’t yet. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
More than 20 years on from their self-titled debut, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars release their ninth LP, Sunrise to Sundown (on Inside Out Music). They seem to have set themselves to the sole task of making the records that one wishes Deep Purple were making, full of righteous organ-laced classic heavy thrust, driven by top tier songwriting and performance on every level. Founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) has assembled a lineup of masters, and since 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), frontman Apollo Papathanasio (also Firewind) has provided the soaring voice to add to the keyboard majesty of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass) on songs like “I Turn to Stone.” The album’s 11 cuts are catchy, universally structured, and varied in their feel enough to carry the listener through fluidly, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) and drummer Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) locking in weighted grooves and underscoring the flow of what comes across like an increasingly collaborative songwriting process. Sunrise to Sundown is the sound of a band knowing what they want to do and how they want to do it and then doing precisely that.
How many records does Ode to a Black Hole make it for Danish improve spacelords Øresund Space Collective? I honestly don’t know. Their Bandcamp lists 52 releases. Granted, not all of them are full-length studio LPs, but they jam whether they’re live or in the studio, so after a point it’s kind of moot. However many in the ultimate tally, Ode to a Black Hole is somewhat unique among them, exploring the darker side of the cosmic reaches in a bleaker, droning psychedelia spread across two instrumental tracks put to tape at the same time as 2015’s triple-LP Different Creatures (review here). Of course, it’s Øresund Space Collective, so there is still plenty of synth and effects swirl to be had, but it’s a slower galaxial movement as “Ode to a Black Hole Part 1” feeds directly into “Ode to a Black Hole Part 2.” Whatever their method of getting there, Øresund Space Collective prove once again how apparently boundless their scope has become with nuance of guitar and key flourish beneath the surface of the mix to let the listener know there’s life out in the expanse.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Goya continue their forward march with The Enemy EP (on STB Records). Still fair to say Electric Wizard are a primary influence, but as shown on their last full-length, 2015’s charmingly-titled Obelisk (review here), the trio are increasingly able to put more of themselves into their sound. In “The Enemy,” “Last” and “Light Years,” that shows in tighter songwriting, some vocal harmonies on “Light Years,” and a harder overall tonal impact than the tenets of post-Witchcult Today doomery might lead one to expect, reminding in parts of the raw in-room feel that Egypt have come to proffer, burly but more about groove than attitude. The EP closes with a nine-minute take on “The Enemy” itself, adding more harmonies, some screams at the end, and a lengthy midsection jam to flesh out its extra four minutes. Goya have been and still are a bright spot (existentially, if not in mood) in up-and-coming US doom, and The Enemy might be a stopgap coming off of Obelisk, but it reminds listeners of their growth very much still in progress.
In a universe full of pretenders to the throne of Eyehategod, German six-piece Black Shape of Nexus prove there’s room for genuine creativity in sludge. Their fourth offering, Carrier (on Exile on Mainstream), finds them past the 10-year mark and lumbering their way through five varied originals, from the cavernous opener “I Can’t Play It” through the droning “Lift Yourself” and the utter spacecrush that ensues in “Facepunch Transport Layer” before the villainous laughter at the end of “Sachsenheim” leads to a 12-minute take on Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death,” which closes. It feels like no coincidence that of the Black Shape of Nexus-penned inclusions “Sand Mountain” is the centerpiece; the tortured screaming, claustrophobic riff and blend of rawness and lush depth speak to the originality at the core of their approach. There’s a firm sense of fuckall here, and my understanding is making Carrier was something of a trial, but the results are perhaps only more vicious for that, and thus stronger.
Six years and the ascent of an entire movement of similarly-minded acts later, Cough ooze back to activity with Still They Pray (on Relapse), their dirt-caked third full-length. That movement, by the way, includes fellow Richmonders Windhand, with whom Cough now share bassist Parker Chandler and whose Garrett Morris recorded here along with Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard, who remain a major influence in Cough’s grueling, nodding filth, brought to bear over eight tracks and a purposefully unmanageable 67-minute runtime. Stylistically it’s not so far from where Cough were on 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here), the bleak anarchistic lurch and tonal immersion still very much at the fore of “Possession,” “Dead Among the Roses” and the organ-inclusive “The Wounding Hours,” but though they can play slow enough to make “Masters of Torture” seem positively thrashy by comparison, they never lose their sense of atmosphere, as the acoustic-led closing title-track makes plain in fashion no less heavy than the punishment meted out before it.
It feels factually inaccurate to call something so wilfully charred “vibrant,” but Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth long-player, Värähtelijä (on Svart and 20 Buck Spin), not only finds light in its overarching darkness, but makes it a pivotal aspect of the album’s 69-minute course. Open structures, an enviable depth of mix between far-off guitar, keys, organ, various layers of screams, etc., songs like 12-minute opener “Saturaatio” and the later 17-minute chaoswirl of “Vasemann Käden Hierarkia” offer stylistic breadth as much prog as they are psychedelia or black metal, perhaps the next phase of the latter’s cosmic wing come to fruition. Relatively speaking, the more straightforward “Havuluu” offers listeners a moment to catch their breadth, but the organ-led experimentalism of 10-minute closer “Valveavaruus” gurgles in an exploration of ambient downward plunge. One of the most adventurous black metal releases of 2016, if you can still even tag a genre to it, which I’m not sure you can. A band doing pivotal and forward-thinking work.
Though they just got off a lengthy US run, the fact that Karma to Burn’s webstore offers their new Mountain Czar EP in euro instead of dollars could easily be taken as a sign of where the band’s general priorities lie. I don’t know if founding guitarist Will Mecum is actually living abroad or remains in West Virginia, but their label, Rodeostar Records, is European, they maintain a close relationship with German artist Alexander Von Wieding, and their tour schedule keeps a definite continental focus. So be it. Mountain Czar brings five new cuts, three by-the-numbers Karma to Burn instrumentals, the highlight of which is patient, jangly-guitar closer “63,” and “Uccidendo un Sogno,” an Italian-language cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a Dream” sung by guest vocalist Stefanie Savy and featuring Manuel Bissig of Switzerland’s Sons of Morpheus on guitar. Karma to Burn very much remain Karma to Burn throughout, Mecum joined by drummer Evan Devine and bassist Eric Clutter, but they’re changing what that means in interesting ways.
Comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Sleaze and drummer Izz, German Southern metallers Black Mood begin their seven-song sophomore outing, Squalid Garden (on Daredevil Records) with a sample of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes quoting the Lawgiver to “shun the beast man,” and so on. By the time they get around to the chugging and warbling “Ohh, save my soul” in second cut “IWNAR,” the Down/Crowbar vibe has been laid on so thick that it’s unmistakable. It’s been seven years since Black Mood made their self-titled debut in 2009 – they had an EP, Toxic Hippies, out in 2012 – but their chestbeating, dudely vibes are easily sourced, even in faster, more Pantera-style moments in “Reflected,” “100 Squalid Garden” or closer “Side,” making the album ultimately a matter of taste for anyone who’d take it on. For me, some aspects ring derivative, others show flashes of individualism, but it’s a very specific vision of Southern metal at work here, and it’s not going to be for everyone.
Newcomers Nebula Drag join the ranks of a crowded heavy psych scene in their native San Diego via their self-titled, self-released debut, but the trio distinguish themselves immediately with a solidified underpinning of punkish intent, so that the airy vocals of “Sano” float over an insistent, noisy crunch. That blend is toyed with in one direction or another throughout the release, the five-minute “So Low” finding some middle-ground in grunge push, but as the subsequent “Up and Down”’s Melvins-style roll and the hardcore-style drive of “Lost Time” play out, Nebula Drag seem far less tied to any single approach. It’s a dynamic that serves them well throughout the album’s 10-track/37-minute run, and they maintain a sense of rawness in the almost thrashy breakdown of “I Can Not Explain” that speaks to a lack of pretense to go along with their potential for development. Will be curious to hear if one side or the other wins out in their sound over the long-term, but in a town where so many bands are geared on being the most laid back, it’s refreshing to hear a group with a more forceful tack.
After a series of numbered full-lengths, Glasgow consciousness-stompers Ommadon offer their self-titled sixth album through Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records and Medusa Crush Recordings. Doubtless the three labels were needed in order simply lift the 41-minute, single-song release, which is so unspeakably and ridiculously heavy as to warrant comparison to Buried at Sea’s Migration. Its retching lumber is superlative, and in giving it their name, Ommadon signal (and say outright) that it’s the work they’ve been driving toward all along. Fair enough. There is no moment of relenting from the abysmal intentions of “Ommadon” itself, and if this is to be the piece that ultimately defines the band, it’s one worthy of consideration for the outright extremity it brings to doom, sludge and drone, as well as the methodical nature in which it unfolds. Whatever its ultimate impact, Ommadon have pushed themselves forward and crafted an excruciating contribution that feels like a monolith bent to their will.
Posted in Features on June 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In the interview that follows, The Obsessed bassist Dave Sherman talks about his bandmate, guitarist/vocalist Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich, as one of the principal figures in doom. And no doubt he is. But what Sherman leaves out of that equation for the most part are his own contributions to the style. In his attitude and in decades of music in Wretched, Spirit Caravan, Earthride, Weed is Weed, King Valley and a slew of others, Sherman has come to embody the relentless pursuit at the heart of Maryland doom. Approachable, good natured and a lifer in his commitment to the heavy, he is no less a figurehead for that scene than Wino, Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, or anyone else. Maryland doom simply wouldn’t be what it is today without him.
Next week, The Obsessed — Sherman, Wino and drummer Brian Constantino — headline the second annual Maryland Doom Fest alongside Bang and Mos Generator. They just wrapped a full US tour with Karma to Burn and The Atomic Bitchwax (who cut their portion short due to injury and were replaced by Sierra), and announced along the way that they’ve signed to Relapse Records for the release of the first full-length by The Obsessed in more than two decades, tentatively-titled Sacred. It’s been a long, crooked road getting Wino and Sherman together as The Obsessed, even counting just from The Obsessed starting their reunion at Roadburn 2012 (review here), then dropping that to get back together and tour as Spirit Caravan before swapping one moniker for the other earlier this year, but to hear Sherman tell it, the journey seems to have been no less satisfying than it was complicated.
When we spoke a couple weeks ago, The Obsessed were getting ready to head into the final portion of the aforementioned tour, and were camped out in San Francisco waiting to go soundcheck at Slim’s. It was a relatively brief conversation, but in it Sherman talks about working with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand and Rob Queen on the new recordings — Queen also helmed the recently-unveiled “Be the Night” demo (posted here) — the signing to Relapse, the band’s place in doom history and more.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Word of The Obsessed signing to Relapse Records for a new album tentatively titled Sacred — what, essentially, was going to be a Spirit Caravan record until the trio swapped monikers in February — but today it’s been made official by the PR wire that whatever it ends up being called will be the first new LP from The Obsessed since 1994’s The Church Within. Also the first The Obsessed with Dave Sherman (Spirit Caravan, Earthride, Weed is Weed, etc.) on bass and Brian Constantino on drums alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, so it’s an exciting prospect really from any angle you want to view it.
All the more so since the new demo “Be the Night” has just been posted ahead of the band entering the studio to record the upcoming outing, which presumably they’ll do after they wrap their current tour with Karma to Burn.
Just off the PR wire:
The Obsessed Sign To Relapse; Release Demo Track + Prepare New Album
Relapse Records is extremely proud to announce the signing of legendary hard rock / doom metal band THE OBSESSED! Formed in 1976 by Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, Shrinebuilder, Probot etc.), the band recently reformed and are on the road now! The band will enter the studio this summer to record the follow up to 1994’s seminal classic, The Church Within.
Scott “Wino” Weinrich commented on the signing and reformation of the band:
“The time is now for rebirth of THE OBSESSED. Fueled with the anger, wisdom and energy of all things past, this monumental achievement is the culmination of many years of dogged determination and the belief in the music. This music that we and many others find healing and inspirational. At last it sees the light, uncompromising and laden with passion and intensity that we’ll immortalize on our new album. We’re happy to officially announce our signing with Relapse Records. They also believe in the music and are very understanding of our integrity, vision and aspirations. On tour right now in the USA, we are celebrating this experience with glorious sound. Join us on this golden road. Thanks to all who believe!”
THE OBSESSED are currently on tour in the US with Karma to Burn and Sierra. A complete listing of dates is available below. Stay tuned for more info on THE OBSESSED.
THE OBSESSED Tour Dates:
May 26 – Kansas City, MO – Riot Room 28 – Denver, CO – 3 Kings 30 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon 31 – Portland, OR – Dante’s
June 2 – San Francisco, CA – Slim’s 3 – Los Angeles, CA – Complex 4 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick 5 – Phoenix, AZ – Club Red 7 – Austin, TX – Dirty Dog 8 – Ft. Worth, TX – Tomcats West 9 – Houston, TX – Walter’s 10 – New Orleans, LA – Siberia 11 – Atlanta, GA – Drunken Unicorn
THE OBSESSED is: Scott “Wino” Weinrich – Guitar & Vocals Dave Sherman – Bass & Vocals Brian Costantino – Drums & Vocals
Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Sunn O))), Kannon
Sunn O))) are without question among the most integral bands of their generation. I don’t feel like it’s going even remotely out on a limb to say that. With the three-song full-length, Kannon (on Southern Lord), they go back to exploring the waveforms and ritualistic atmospheres that helped their influence spread in the first place, after several years of collaborating with others like Scott Walker and Ulver. Kannon is the first Sunn O)))-proper LP since 2009’s orchestral Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), and while I understand any and everything I might have to say about it is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the from-all-sides laudits founding guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have received, its three parts nonetheless demonstrate the fact that with Sunn O))), there is never any backward looking, and that even as they strip away elements that made Monoliths and Dimensions as expansive as it was in favor of the claustrophobic rumble and chants of “Kannon 3,” they move relentlessly forward. They remain necessary.
Hey, I like Swallow the Sun. I’ve dug the Finnish outfit since their debut, The Morning Never Came, but I gotta say, maybe a triple album, which Songs from the North I, II and III is, is a bit much? The concept is awesome – one record of light/dark, one record of light, one record of dark – but in practice it’s about a 160 minutes long and a considerable investment to ask of their audience. When it comes to repeat listens, I can’t help but continually go to Songs from the North III, the most extreme installment, which still has plenty of spacious guitar melodies to go with its death-doom emotional and tonal crush, and while I’m not sure that Swallow the Sun would’ve been doing themselves any favors if they spaced out three separate releases rather than bundling them together as they have, it’ll be years before a release of this scope can be properly digested, if it can at all, and for a band whose work is as complex and often lush as Swallow the Sun’s, one wants to absorb it in a way that such a massive offering doesn’t allow.
Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.
Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.
Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.
The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.
Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.
Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.
There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.
As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.