Quarterly Review: Blues Pills, Arctic, Major Kong, Hands I Annul Yours, Storm Ross, Sinister Haze, Love Gang, Nap, Manthrass, Astral Cult

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Blues Pills, Lady in Gold


Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.

Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website


Arctic, Arctic


Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.

Arctic on Thee Facebooks

Outer Battery Records


Major Kong, Brave New Kong


Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.

Major Kong on Thee Facebooks

Major Kong BigCartel store


Hands I Annul Yours, Year of Death


One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.

Hands I Annul Yours on Bandcamp

Major Destroyer Records website


Storm Ross, Welcome, Sunshine


Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.

Storm Ross on Thee Facebooks

Storm Ross on Bandcamp


Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death


Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

STB Records BigCartel store


Love Gang, Love Gang


The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Love Gang on Bandcamp


Nap, Villa


Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.

Nap on Thee Facebooks

Nap on Bandcamp


Manthrass, Blues del Destino


Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.

Manthrass on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge on Bandcamp


Astral Cult, The Sacred Flame


Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.

Astral Cult on Thee Facebooks

Astral Cult on Bandcamp


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Windhand Announce East Coast Shows for December

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

At this point, one almost receives an email with a subject announcing a Windhand tour and expects it to list a month-plus of dates. That’s kind of just how the Virginian outfit have operated for the last couple years — already they’ve put in considerable time supporting last fall’s Jack Endino-produced Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here) — but this time around it’s just a handful of gigs for December alongside Relapse Records labelmate extremists Ilsa that will take them as far north from Richmond as the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn before they head back, a quick run of pre-holiday dates.

Maybe they’re testing out new material ahead of 2017? Maybe they’re taking a victory lap for Grief’s Infernal Flower? Or maybe they just feel like getting out and doing a couple nights to wrap the year. Can hardly hold it against them either way.

The PR wire has details and a couple September shows as well:


WINDHAND Announce US Tour Dates With ILSA

Stoner/doom heavyweights WINDHAND have announced a new run of US tour dates this coming December along with labelmates and recent Relapse signees ILSA. The bands will be leveling Washington D.C., Boston, and New York beginning December 1; WINDHAND will also be playing select US dates in September. Check out a full itinerary below.

Sep 06 Atlanta GA The Earl
Sep 07 Nashville TN Exit/In
Sep 15 Durham NC Motorco Music Hall

***All Dates With Ilsa***
Dec 01 Washington DC Black Cat Mainstage
Dec 02 Boston MA Brighton Music Hall
Dec 03 New York NY Mercury Lounge
Dec 04 Brooklyn NY St Vitus

WINDHAND are still touring in support of their critically-acclaimed 2015 full-length Grief’s Infernal Flower, which can be streamed and purchased at the band’s Bandcamp page here.

D.C. death metal crew ILSA signed to Relapse last year and released a two-song split with labelmates COFFINS this past February. The split is available for streaming and purchase at this location.


Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (2015)

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Cough Touring Europe with Elder this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

I like a tour with an element of contrast, and to pair Virginia’s Cough with Massachusetts trio Elder strikes me as particularly brilliant. It’s a classic light and dark. Cough head overseas behind their new album, Still They Pray (review here), a massive slab of full-on bum-you-the-fuck-out doom that rolls its grooves like boulders. Elder? Still supporting 2015’s album of the year Lore (review here), they lead the charge with fleet-footed progressive heavy rock that even as it maintains its tonal crunch only seems to be becoming brighter in its tone.

So yeah, like I say: Some contrast. Awesome.

From the PR wire:


COUGH Announce EU Tour Dates With Elder

Fresh off the release of their highly-acclaimed new record Still They Pray, Richmond stoner/doom veterans COUGH have announced a European tour with contemporaries Elder set to begin this coming October. The band will be performing throughout Western Europe and the UK, including appearances at Up In Smoke Festival in Switzerland and Desertfest in Belgium. The band will also be performing select US dates before their departure – see a full list of dates below.

Aug 12 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
Aug 13 Brooklyn, NY Union Pool

***European Tour***
Oct 01 Pratteln, CH Up In Smoke Festival @ Z7
Oct 02 Nürnberg, DE Kunstverein / Z – Bau
Oct 03 Budapest, HU Dürer Kert
Oct 04 Berlin, DE SO 36
Oct 06 Nantes, FR TBD
Oct 07 Lyon, FR TBD
Oct 10 London, UK Underworld
Oct 11 Edinburgh, UK Bannermans
Oct 12 Manchester, UK Rebellion
Oct 13 Coventry, UK The Phönix
Oct 14 Bristol, UK Exchange
Oct 15 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium @ Trix

Nov 12 Long Beach, CA Di Piazza’s – Midnite Communion Festival
Nov 18 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter – Doomed and Stoned Festival

COUGH’s new album Still They Pray is out now via Relapse Records on CD/2xLP/Digital. Physical orders and bundle deals are available via Relapse.com here, and digital copies can be ordered through COUGH’s Bandcamp page at this location.


Cough, Still They Pray (2016)

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Inter Arma Announce Fall East Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

What, you thought Inter Arma weren’t going to announce Fall 2016 tour plans? The Richmond genremashers rarely let a season go by without hitting the road for at least some measure, and whether they’re chipping away at the US region by region or heading abroad, the reliable thing is that they’re out there somewhere. To wit, right now they’re finishing a run alongside Withered, and next month, they’ll be out with Call of the Void as they continue to support their 2016 album, Paradise Gallows (review here), which of course came out on Relapse.

They’ve got a new video as well for “The Summer Drones” that follows the info below, sent along the PR wire:

inter arma tour

INTER ARMA Announce US Tour Dates With Call of the Void

As their current US tour with Withered draws to a close, Richmond genre-benders INTER ARMA have announced a new run of US dates with Relapse labelmates Call of the Void. The tour will kick off this September 22 and will see both bands crushing cities throughout the Midwest, South, and East Coast. A full list of dates is available below.

The band’s music video for Paradise Gallows track “The Summer Drones” recently premiered and can be seen below.

Paradise Gallows is out now on CD/2xLP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical orders, including limited vinyl colors and bundles, are available via Relapse.com at this location, and digital orders can be found at Bandcamp here.


***All Dates With Withered***
Aug 2 Atlanta GA The Earl
Aug 3 Asheville NC Mothlight

***All Dates With Call Of The Void***
Sep 22 Harrisonburg, VA Golden Pony
Sep 23 Charlotte, NC Snug Harbor
Sep 24 Savannah, GA The Jinx
Sep 26 Tallahassee, FL Club Downunder
Sep 27 Memphis, TN Hi-Tone Cafe
Sep 28 Fayetteville, AR Ryleigh’s
Sep 29 Little Rock, AR Vino’s
Sep 30 Des Moines, IA Vaudeville Mews
Oct 01 Iowa City, IA Gabe’s Oasis
Oct 03 St Louis, MO Firebird
Oct 04 Champaign, IL The Accord
Oct 05 Grand Rapids, MI Pyramid Scheme
Oct 06 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
Oct 07 Buffalo, NY Waiting Room
Oct 08 Montreal, QC Casa Del Popolo
Oct 09 Portland, ME Space
Oct 10 New Haven, CT Cafe Nine


Inter Arma, “The Summer Drones” official video

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Quarterly Review: Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Candlemass, Skuggsjá, Black Lung, Lord Vicar, Dakessian, Gypsy Chief Goliath, Inter Arma, Helgamite, Mollusk

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

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.

Neurot Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings webshop

Candlemass, Death Thy Lover


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.

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Candlemass at Napalm Records

Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror


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.

Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist webshop

Black Lung, See the Enemy

black lung see the enemy

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.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Black Lung at Noisolution

Lord Vicar, Gates of Flesh

lord vicar gates of flesh

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.

Lord Vicar on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Dakessian, The Poisoned Chalice

dakessian the poisoned chalice

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.

Dakessian on Bandcamp

Holy Mountain Printing

Gypsy Chief Goliath, Citizens of Nowhere

gypsy chief goliath citizens of nowhere

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.

Gypsy Chief Goliath on Thee Facebooks

Pitch Black Records on Bandcamp

Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows

inter arma paradise gallows

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.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Inter Arma at Relapse Records

Helgamite, Hypnagogia

helgamite hypnagogia

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.”

Helgamite on Thee Facebooks

Lost Apparitions Records website

Flesh Vessel Records on Thee Facebooks

Mollusk, Children of the Chron


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.

Mollusk on Thee Facebooks

Mollusk at ReverbNation

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Throttlerod, Turncoat: Winning at Winning (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

throttlerod turncoat

[Throttlerod release Turncoat on June 24 via Small Stone. Click play above for an exclusive track premiere.]

After a certain point, a band’s new album becomes a believe-it-when-you-see-it prospect. Throttlerod, seven years and one social media revolution removed from the release of their last full-length, 2009’s Pig Charmer (review here), were past that point. Still, they haven’t been completely inactive over that span, playing periodic shows near founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Whitehead‘s home-base in Richmond, Virginia, and apparently crafting enough material so that their fourth outing, Turncoat, clocks in at a considerable 55 minutes with 12 tracks. It’s long. CD long, in a vinyl time, but as ever for these cats, the songwriting holds up. Small Stone Records — which was also behind Pig Charmer, 2006’s Nail, the 2004 Starve the Dead EP and 2003’s Hell and High Water (their 2000 debut, Eastbound and Down, was on Underdogma) — is once again handling the release.

While that’s business as usual for ThrottlerodTurncoat still makes for a departure from their past methods in that instead of working with Andrew Schneider, who helmed all the outings listed above, the three-piece of Whitehead, bassist Jeremy Plaugher (who makes his first appearance here; Schneider also played on Pig Charmer) and drummer Kevin White enlisted J. Robbins to act as producer/engineer at his Magpie Cage Studio. Like a lot of bands, Throttlerod have been through lineup changes and this and that, but swapping producers after 15 years is huge, and Robbins — known for his work with ClutchThe SwordMurder by Death, among many others, as well as for playing in Jawbox and other projects — makes a mark on this material in a way distinct from anything Throttlerod have done before.

Distinct, but not outlandishly removed from Pig Charmer. That in itself is something of a change as compared to, say, the sonic jump they made between Hell and High Water and Nail, which, with less than half the time between Pig Charmer and Turncoat, found Throttlerod revamping their sound from Southern heavy rock to angular noise drawing on influence from early and mid-’90s dissonance. Pig Charmer continued that thread, and Turncoat follows suit to an extent, but as opener “Bait Shop” shows in its chorus, the push comes with a heightened sense of melody as well. Whitehead‘s vocals, layered, are less shouted than sung, and as the two in the one-two punch, “Lazy Susan” answers in kind to “Bait Shop,” Throttlerod seem at least on some level to be reconciling their latter day approach with their beginnings, either consciously or not.


Granted, that melody comes off more post-grunge than Southern-inflected, but as they slow the roll on the early parts of the more brooding “Never was a Farmer,” those elements are easy enough to read into the proceedings, even if the context is different these years later. Rhythmic insistence comes back to the fore on “Lima,” with White propelling a middle-paced push as Whitehead squibbles out on guitar late, his vocals buried under the wall of his and Plaugher‘s tones. The title-track follows accompanied by “You Kicked My Ass at Losing,” and both songs tap into the more grunge-laden approach, the latter more raucously and of course with the best title on the record, which the chorus well earns, capping the first half of the record with a sudden stop and quick-fade cymbal ring-out. They have a long way to go, but Throttlerod are working efficiently and effectively, and for a band who’s been more or less absent for the last seven years, there’s little rust to be heard in this material.

Guitar scorches at the beginning of “Gainer,” an angular beginning opening to a more manageable verse and chorus en route to a finish that recalls once-labelmates Puny Human and that band’s frontman, Jim Starace, in whose memory Turncoat is dedicated and presumably not titled after. The subsequent “Every Giant,” “Cops and Robbers” and “Breadwinner” mostly tap into moods that the record showed earlier, but each has something about it to make one understand how it wound up in the final tracklisting, whether it’s the handclaps in “Breadwinner,” the what-if-Weezer-got-really-pissed-off aggro build in “Every Giant” or the frantic, jazzy bassline in the verse of “Cops and Robbers,” which brings to mind the melodic take on classic noise rock of Black Black Black without sounding directly akin.

Crashing and full-sounding, “I Know a Ship” offers one last landmark hook before closer and longest cut (at 6:29) “The Guard” finishes out with what starts as a more atmospheric take and then moves into chugging starts and stops — I’m tempted to call them Tool-esque, but to be fair, let’s make it pre-up-their-own-ass-Tool — that nonetheless drive as White does laps around his toms toward the finish of the record. Ultimately it’s hard to know how much of an effect Robbins‘ production might’ve had in bringing forward the melodic side of Throttlerod‘s approach — it’s not like there’s a version of the record tracked by someone else to do a side-by-side — but one way or another, the band have come back after seven years and made a record that is a definitive step forward from where they were their last time out. It might take a listen or two to sink in, but Throttlerod‘s Turncoat is one that only grows richer from there.

Throttlerod on Thee Facebooks

Turncoat preorders

Small Stone Records

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Sinister Haze Release Laid Low in the Dust of Death on May 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sinister haze

Formerly a trio, now a four-piece, Richmond, Virginia’s Sinister Haze offered up addled doom with touches of psychedelia and boogie. The band, which now features drummer Eli Pizzuto, formerly of Brooklyn space rockers Naam, have solidified a May 7 release for their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death, on limited vinyl through respected purveyor STB Records. Of course, in keeping with STB‘s tradition of such things, Laid Low in the Dust of Death will be available in low quantities and high qualities in a number of different versions to sate the hungry collector.

Find those, as well as new song “Chains to Dust,” below, courtesy of the PR wire:

sinister haze laid low in the dust of death

STB Records Presents SINISTER HAZE: Release Info and Song Stream

STB Records is proud to announce the upcoming limited vinyl release of “Laid Low In The Dust Of Death” from Richmond, Virginia’s SINISTER HAZE! A a magma-filled, heavy-psych romp that will leave fans of Blue Cheer and St. Vitus begging for another fix. Featuring members of “Cough” and “NAAM”!!

The limited vinyl release will be on Saturday, May 7th at 12pm EST through the STB Records webstore at:

For a taste of the haze, check out “Chains to Dust”, the first song released from the album. It is streaming now on the band’s Bandcamp page: https://sinisterhaze.bandcamp.com/album/laid-low-in-the-dust-of-death

Vinyl Info:
• Die Hard Edition – Limited to 75. 180g half green/half black vinyl
• OBI Edition – Limited to 100. 180g clear vinyl with green and black splatter
• Standard Edition – Limited to 130. 180g green and black swirl vinyl
• World Wide Edition – (200) Green 180g vinyl available through Kozmik Artifactz and other international distributors, we may or may not have a small amount available on May 7th through the webstore.

The band says:
“Laid Low in the Dust of Death. A hallucinogenic trip of misery and psychedelia recorded in 3 days within the Appalachian hills of North Carolina by Chad Davis. Sinister Haze brings 6 songs that will leave the listener laid low in a drugged out haze. Gather ‘round witchfinders, the hunt begins May 7th.”

Cover Art by Niki Urban
Mastered by Collin Jordan at the Boiler Room
Design by Joshua Wilkinson @TheCompanyDesign

Sinister Haze:
Guitar/Vocals – Brandon Marcey (Cough)
Bass/Vocals – Sam Marsh (Dry Spell)
Drums/Madness – Joe Dillon (Balaclava)

Sinister Haze has just announced the additions of Eli Pizzuto (Naam) and Jk (Lost Tribe) to the band.

“As our brightest stars fall into the darkness of night…. Dawn brings the rising sun… Changin’ ways upon the horizon. Welcome our good friends Eli Pizzuto (Naam) and Jk (Lost Tribe) to the fold. We couldn’t be more excited and inspired by their talent. What they’ve brought to the haze is a deeper, more enveloping layer of sonic attack. Expect the unexpected, don’t take more than you can eat, and join us voyagers… as we travel beyond the void!”


Sinister Haze, “Chains to Dust”

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Cough to Release Still They Pray on June 3; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Virginian doomers Cough return after six years with their new album, Still They Pray, which is due out June 3 via Relapse Records and was produced by Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard and recorded by Oborn and Garrett Morris of Windhand. As the Richmond troupe — now past a decade of existence — share bassist/vocalist Parker Chander with Windhand and draw a primary influence from Electric Wizard, these seem like especially reasonable choices to make. Their sophomore outing, Ritual Abuse (review here), served as their Relapse debut and was hugely received. It’s been a while, but it should be interesting to see how Still They Pray is met upon its arrival in June.

If you’d like a preview, the song “The Wounding Hours” is streaming below, and if you’re hyper-organized, there are preorder links as well.

Just off the PR wire:

cough still they pray

COUGH Announces New Album Still They Pray; New Track “The Wounding Hours” Now Playing

After a five-year break, Richmond’s COUGH has returned with their newest opus, Still They Pray. Produced by Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn and recorded by Oborn and Windhand’s Garrett Morris, Still They Pray is the kind of monolithic, cosmic doom that will take the listener to the heights of despair and the bottom of the abyss. With this release, COUGH summons psychedelic, feedback-driven melodies just to deconstruct them to their core. Still They Pray is easily COUGH at their most focused: pessimistic riffs and tortured grooves collide in melodic agony alongside a hallucinogenic blend of harsh and clean incantations, crushing and cathartic yet utterly mesmerizing. Step through the gates of madness and stare into the void.

Still They Pray is set for release via Relapse Records on CD/2xLP/Digital this coming June 3rd. Physical preorders and bundle deals are available via Relapse.com HERE, and digital copies can be preordered through COUGH’s Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION.

Still They Pray
Track Listing:
1. Haunter Of The Dark
2. Possession
3. Dead Among The Roses
4. Masters Of Torture
5. Let It Bleed
6. Shadow Of The Torturer
7. The Wounding Hours
8. Still They Pray


Cough, “The Wounding Hours”

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