Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

Child on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp

 

Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

Circle of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Circle of the Sun on Bandcamp

 

Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

Svarta Stugan on Thee Facebooks

Svarta Stugan on Bandcamp

 

Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

Bast on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Trippy Wicked, Dunbarrow, The Vintage Caravan, Zatokrev & Minsk, Owl Maker, Orbital Junction, Bourbon, Birnam Wood, Wytch Hazel, The Soulbreaker Company

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

You know how this goes by now, right? Well, okay, except that because I skipped the Quarterly Review that I otherwise would’ve done in September (or, more likely, October), I’m doubling-up this time. 100 reviews instead of 50. Two full weeks of 10 albums per day. Will I survive? Yeah, probably. Will it be completely overwhelming? Already is. Thanks for asking.

I’ll save the summaries of the year that was for list-time, which is fast approaching, but consider the fact that there are well more than 100 albums I could include in this roundup emblematic of just how vibrant heavy rock and doom are in the US, EU, UK, Australia and elsewhere. It’s a universal thing, and accordingly, there’s a whole universe of it to explore. This is just a sampling.

But yeah, time’s a wastin’, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stakes n Scale

trippy wicked stakes n scale

An acoustic EP from Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight — who, let’s face it, were way ahead of the curve when it comes to the UK scene’s thing for long and ridiculous band names — is a considerable departure from where they were two years ago on their split/collaboration with GurT (review here), but those familiar with the band might recall their past penchant for the occasional unplugged cover recorded for YouTube. Chris West (also Crawling for Carrion, Glanville, etc.), who engineered the recording and plays guitar, and vocalist Peter Holland (also Elephant Tree) revamp Trippy Wicked‘s “Up the Stakes” from 2012’s Going Home (review here), and cover “Scale the Mountain” by Stubb, of which both were members when the song was written. Together, they make for a nine-minute showcase for the character in Holland‘s voice and the melodies and craft at root in both tracks, and while its arrival feels like kind of a one-off, it’s certainly no less welcome for that.

Trippy Wicked on Thee Facebooks

Trippy Wicked on Bandcamp

 

Dunbarrow, II

dunbarrow ii

The novelty of new bands playing through vintage gear in order to capture a heavy ’70s sound may have faded, but like all subgenres, as time goes on, the retro-ist style continues to shift and change as bands like Dunbarrow bring new character to established tenets. Their second LP for RidingEasy is aptly-titled II and sways between honoring the likes of Pentagram and acts like Witchcraft who’ve helped craft that band’s hindsight-founded legacy. Dunbarrow‘s noodly style, restrained rhythmic shove and ride-the-riff melody on “Weary Lady” and the foresty creep of “The Demon Within” capture the vibe well, the latter occurring in a second half of II populated with “The Wolf” and “Witches of the Woods Pt. II,” a sequel to the closer of their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) that here leads to the more severe roll of the finale, “On this Night,” emblematic of the changing character of the band even as it reaffirms in its tense midsection the roots from which they sprung.

Dunbarrow on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

The Vintage Caravan, Gateways

the vintage caravan gateways

With their third record and second for Nuclear Blast, Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan affirm not only their passion for the boogie of old on cuts like “The Way” and the strutting “Hidden Streams,” but secure a place as being worthy of the consideration they’ve been given to a degree by the wider Continental European heavy underground. They are strikingly mature in their approach for still being a relatively young band, and their albums have worked quickly to develop a character that is becoming more and more their own. They do the fests and they tour, and so on, but they seem to be engaged in building their listenership one pair of ears at a time. Having a metal-major label behind them hasn’t hurt their promotional cause, but frankly, they’re not as big as they should be for the level of work they’re doing, and even with songs like “Reset” and “Reflections” and the composed-strictly-for-vinyl-sounding closer “Tune Out” to their credit, they’re still largely a word of mouth band, especially in the US. Well, consider this your word of mouth. If you haven’t heard Gateways yet, you should get on that.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

 

Minsk & Zatokrev, Bigod

zatokrev minsk bigod

Post-metallic powerhouses Minsk and Zatokrev — both of whom hit their 15th anniversary last year — teamed up for a European tour this Fall. To mark the occasion, Consouling Sounds and Czar of Crickets celebrated with Bigod, a split with two tracks from each band arranged in alternating order — Minsk, then Zatokrev, etc. — intended to highlight the symmetry between them not just of circumstance and root influence in the Neurosis school of atmospheric sludge, but the fact that they share these commonalities despite their origins in Illinois and Switzerland, respectively. Each band opens with a longer track (double points) in Minsk‘s “Invoke/Revive” and Zatokrev‘s “Silent Gods,” each of which push past 13 minutes as likely at any moment to be pummeling as ambient, and follows with two shorter cuts, Minsk‘s “Salvatore” swelling theatrically from its minimalist beginnings while Zatokrev‘s “The Chalice and the Dagger” seems to explode from the foundation the prior band laid out. It must have been a hell of a tour, but whether you saw it or not, the split is a welcome conglomeration from two of post-metal’s strongest acts.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Zatokrev on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

Owl Maker, Sky Road

owl maker sky road

Self-recording guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, ex-Guerra, etc.) leads Connecticut-based three-piece Owl Maker through a complex thematic of Native American folklore and heavy metal classicism. The NWOBHM plays a strong role in his riffing style, but one of the two tracks included on the two-songer single Sky Road, “Owl City,” also veers into more extreme territory with a departure from clean vocals to harsher screaming. All told, it’s about eight minutes of music, but Sky Road nonetheless follows Owl Maker‘s earlier-2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), with an uptick in melodic presence in the vocals of Tuozzoli and bassist Jessie May and progression in the chemistry between the two of them and drummer Chris Anderson, and with the fluidity of their transitions between various styles of heavy, their scope seems only to be growing. To wit, “Sky Road” itself is only 3:42, but still demonstrates a clear-headed compositional method based around storytelling and a subtly encompassing range. Whether it’s early warning for what they do next or a conceptual one-off, its quick run seems just to be begging for a 7″ pressing.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Orbital Junction, Orbital Junction

Orbital Junction orbital junction

The Londonderground continues to produce acts ready and willing to worship at the altar of riffs. Orbital Junction‘s self-release debut EP makes an impression not only because of the markedly pro-shop production by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios and the cover art by SoloMacello, but the hooks to live up to those high standards. “6 ft. 2” follows opener “Space Highway” with a bit of dudely chestbeating — note: I don’t know how tall any of them actually are — but the swing of EP centerpiece “Devil’s Double” and the bounce of “Gypsy Queen” speak for the four-piece’s roots and appreciation of straightforward heavy, void of pretense and tapping into an easy mid-paced fluidity that slows up somewhat on closer “Pagan” without really losing the central groove of the offering overall. They’ll have their work cut out for them in distinguishing themselves over the longer term amongst London’s burl-fueled hordes, but their first outing shows their instincts headed in the right direction in terms of songwriting, performance and presentation.

Orbital Junction on Thee Facebooks

Orbital Junction on Bandcamp

 

Bourbon, Fuente Vieja

Bourbon Fuente Vieja

Crisp but warm in its tone and presentation, rife with melody and carrying a laid back spirit despite a fervent underlying groove — the bass on “El Sendero” rests well within gotta-hear-it territory — Spanish purveyors Bourbon emobody some of the best of post-Viaje a 800 Andalusian heavy rock and roll on their third LP, Fuente Vieja (on Spinda). Their fuzz makes its presence known early on “Si Véis La Luz, Corred” and continues as a running theme as tracks like “A Punto de Arder” and the side-A-capping title-cut grow increasingly progressive. There’s room for some shuffle, of course, as side B begins with “La Triste Realidad,” and the slower “Hacia el Sol” gracefully blends electrified wah and acoustic guitars beneath a well-timed standout vocal performance, but the highlight might be eight-minute closer “Destierro,” which seems to bring everything else under one roof while tapping into a poppier structure early — acoustics and electrics aligning effectively circa two minutes in — while providing the album with a graceful and fittingly organic-sounding finale.

Bourbon on Thee Facebooks

Spinda Records webstore

 

Birnam Wood, Wicked Worlds

birnam wood wicked worlds

Birnam Wood don’t have time for bullshit, but they do have time for a bit of shenanigans. Thus the 1:44 surge of opener “Time of Purification” leads into the sample-laden roller groove of “Richard Dreyfuss” on their as-of-now-self-released Wicked Worlds, and the “Hole in the Sky”-style “Dunsinane” shifts into the more blown-out “Early Warning,” which, by the time its tectonic low end kicks in, is indeed something of a clarion. At seven-tracks/34-minutes, Wicked Worlds is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but I’d argue it as the latter with the flow from “Greenseer” into the massive “A Song for Jorklum” and the seven-minute finale “Return to Samarkand” making for a righteous side B, but either way, it’s a Boston-crafted assault of grit-tone and aggro doom that finds the band not overwhelmed by the heft of their own tones but able to move and manipulate them to serve the purposes of their songs. Those purposes, incidentally, are mostly about kicking ass. Which they do. Copiously.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

Wytch Hazel, II: Sojourn

Wytch Hazel II Soujorn

It would not seem to be a coincidence that UK self-aware four-piece Wytch Hazel — guitarists Conlin Hendra (also vocals) and Alex Haslam, bassist Matt Gatley and drummer Jack Spencer nod to Wishbone Ash‘s Argus with the cover of their second LP, II: Sojourn (on Bad Omen). They do a lot of that kind of nodding, with a sound culled from a valiant blend of classic progressive and early NWOBHM styles that makes the point of how closely related the two have always been. “The Devil is Here” starts out at a fervent gallop with just an underpinning of Thin Lizzy, while the later “See My Demons” shifts from its steady roll and rousing hook into an acoustic/electric break that seems to pull from Jethro Tull as much as Scorpions. At 10 tracks/45 minutes, they have plenty of time to flesh out their ideas, and they do precisely that, whether it’s the careful unfolding around the keys and acoustics of closer “Angel Take Me” or the over-the-top instrumental push of “Chorale” or the moodier “Wait on the Wind,” the wah solo of which is a highlight on its own. There are some burgeoning harmonies in Hendra‘s vocals, which is an impulse he should follow as it would only enhance the material, but after making their debut with 2016’s Prelude, II: Sojourn finds Wytch Hazel sounding comfortable and well established in their niche.

Wytch Hazel on Thee Facebooks

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light

the soulbreaker company sewed with light

Progressive, expansive and engaging, the sixth album from Spanish sextet The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light (on Underground Legends), taps into classically Floydian influences on songs like “The Word, the Blade” while still keeping a foot in heavy rock on the prior “Together,” and setting a quick course into a varied sonic persona via the seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Inner Dark.” Hypnotizing not necessarily with drift but with sheer willful exploration, The Soulbreaker Company work with a variety of key sounds and craft-minded ranging guitar in order to effect an atmosphere of thoughtful songwriting even in their most outwardly trippy moments. The sneering semi-psychedelic rock of “Avoid the Crash” and the more stripped-down roll of “Arrhythmia” (video premiere here) lead the way into closer “In the Beginning,” which marks yet another departure with its grandeur of string sounds and electronic beats leading to a chugging big finale. As with the bulk of The Soulbreaker Company‘s work, it requires an active ear, but Sewed with Light both encourages and well earns consideration as more than background noise.

The Soulbreaker Company on Thee Facebooks

Underground Legends on Bandcamp

 

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Monolord Sign to Relapse Records; New Album Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Swedish riff-expansionists Monolord have inked a deal to release their next album through Relapse Records late in 2019. The signing comes after years of widespread acclaim for the hard-touring, thick-toned Gothenburg-based trio, whose 2017 album, Rust (review here), was their third on RidingEasy Records. Over the last five-plus years, they’ve risen to prominence as one of the most impact-producing and forward-thinking purveyors of next-generation amplifier worship, and their live shows have only grown more incendiary over that same period. Touring like bastards has certainly helped in that regard.

While we’re on the subject, Monolord are currently on tour in Europe with Kadavar, and completed a headlining US run to support Rust earlier this year. While they’re aiming to have a new LP together for the end of 2019, one can only expect more touring to come as they enter this new phase of their career and seem poised to take their place among the foremost acts of their day. This makes Monolord and YOB labelmates. Imagine that tour for a minute.

Fresh off the PR wire:

monolord

MONOLORD: Sign To Relapse Records; New Album Coming Late 2019

Relapse is proud to announce the signing of Swedish trio MONOLORD. Formed in Gothenburg in 2013, MONOLORD quickly burst onto the scene releasing three critically-acclaimed full-lengths in a four-year span (Empress Rising, Vænir and Rust) on RidingEasy Records all while touring relentlessly around the globe. MONOLORD is a rare breed: A band both encompassing and transcending genre; a vortex of heavy rock density that consumes all others. The band’s enveloping, syrupy sludge is a state of mind, with guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki create a massive, dynamic sound with ultra-low frequencies serving as its fourth member. MONOLORD’s yet-to-be-titled fourth studio album is expected to be released in late 2019. Stay tuned for more information.

MONOLORD comment on the signing:

“Stoked about this! Working with people who are driven by the passion for music above anything else has always been key for us. The fine music lovers at Relapse are just the kind of passionate people we want to spread the decibel gospel with and we feel confident that this is gonna be a very sweet ride together.”

MONOLORD are currently on tour throughout Europe with Kadavar. A full list of remaining tour dates is available below.

MONOLORD Tour Dates:

— All Dates Nov 15-Dec 01 w/ Kadaver —

Nov 15 Lausanne, CH @ Le Romandie
Nov 16 Zurich, CH @ Mascotte Zurich
Nov 17 Eindhoven, NL @ Helldorado
Nov 18 Groningen, NL @ VERA Groningen
Nov 20 Bielefeld, DE @ Forum Bielefeld
Nov 21 Kortrijk, BE @ Concertzaal
Nov 22 Karlsruhe, DE @ Substage
Nov 23 Leipzig, DE @ Sonne Island
Nov 24 Schweinfurt, DE @ Stattbahnhof Schweinfurt
Nov 25 Neukirchen, DE @ Sagewerk
Nov 27 Cham, DE @ L.A. Live Style Cafe
Nov 28 Munich, DE @ Backstage Munchen
Nov 29 Bochum, DE @ Zeche Bochum
Nov 30 Saarbrucken, DE @ Garage
Dec 01 Freiburg, DE @ Jazzhaus Freiburg

MONOLORD Is:

Esben Willems – Drums
Thomas Jäger – Guitar Vocals
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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The Well Headed Back to Europe in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-well-photo-by-david-brendan-hall

Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Gee, but didn’t The Well tour Europe just last month?” Correctamundo, your inner-dialogue. That was the Summer tour. This is the Fall tour. And anyway, the thing about going to Europe is once you go, it’s pretty much all you want to do. You get over there and everything’s awesome and old and different looking and they have different cars and not everything is slapped with a corporate logo on it — The Roman Coliseum, brought to you by Supercuts — and yeah, it’s not really much of a mystery why The Well would be headed back so soon. Plus, they’re booked for Up in SmokeDesertfest Belgium and Keep it Low, so who’s gonna argue with their turning it into a three-week run? Jerkwads, that’s who.

They head back over still supporting 2016’s candlelit-good-timer Pagan Science (review here) on RidingEasy Records, and though I was speculating for the summer tour that maybe they’d have a new record out — their debut, Samsara (review here), was released in 2014, so a two-year span between LPs would be on target — I still haven’t heard anything about such doings, so I’ll keep my speculations to myself this time. Lesson (probably not) learned.

Dates and whatnots from the PR wire:

THE WELL TOUR

***THE WELL – EUROPEAN FALL TOUR 2018***

Austin-based power trio The Well blossomed when guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham was fired from his previous band. Determined to redirect his musical focus, Graham hooked up with bassist Lisa Alley and the two began picking out riffs in their east-side garage. Rounding out their sound, they stole drummer Jason Sullivan from Graham’s old band in a tale of vengeance and karma. His solid groove and reckless tribal beat gave the three-piece their ideal primal attack.

Due to their psychedelic doom edge, The Well reap comparisons to Black Sabbath, Sleep, Electric Wizard and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. As fans of cult horror films, they embrace the sinister, revel in dark themes and find inspiration in haunting echoes. The dual vocals of Graham and Alley evoke an ancient language that carries a mystic spell..

THE WELL EUROPEAN FALL TOUR 2018:
04.10.2018 IT Roma-Traffic
05.10.2018 IT Pisa-Albatross
06.10.2018 CH Basel-Up In smoke
10.10.2018 FR Lorient-Le Galion
11.10.2018 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet
12.10.2018 FR Paris-Olympic Café
14.10.2018 BE Antwerp-Desert Fest
15.10.2018 DE Osnabruck-Darty+Dancing
16.10.2018 DE Tubingen-Shedhalle
17.10.2018 CH Basel-Hirschneck
18.10.2018 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse
19.10.2018 DE Augsburg-City Club
20.10.2018 DE Munich-Keep It Low Fest
22.10.2018 DE Berlin-Toast Hawaii
23.10.2018 DE Erfurt-Tiko
24.10.2018 DE Frankfurt-DKK
25.10.2018 CH Olten-Coq D’Or
26.10.2018 CH Frauenfeld-Kaff
27.10.2018 CH Rorschach-Treppenhaus

THE WELL ARE
Ian Graham – Guitars / Vocals
Lisa Alley – Bass / Vocals
Jason Sullivan – Drums

http://www.facebook.com/thewellband
http://thewellaustin.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ridingeasyrecords/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/
https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

The Well, Pagan Science (2016)

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Alastor Stream Title-Track of New Album Slave to the Grave; Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

alastor

Swedish doom rockers Alastor renew their not-so-humble invitation to die in fire with their RidingEasy Records debut album and second overall full-length, Slave to the Grave, the maddeningly catchy title-track of which they’re streaming now ahead of the Oct. 31 release. The new record follows last year’s three-songer LP, Black Magic (review here), which was released via Twin Earth Records, and the subsequent Blood on Satan’s Claw EP (review here), which found the four-piece dooming out a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover in “Bad Moon Rising.” Good times. In fire. Slave to the Grave would seem to continue their penchant for fuckall-laced darkened themes, and in addition to the unveiling of new, clever stage names where formerly each member only went by a single-letter initial, the mere fact that the new record boasts seven tracks would seem to speak to a change of approach. To wit, at just over seven minutes, “Slave to the Grave” is the shortest song they’ve ever done.

As to how the rest of the LP will play out, one can only look forward to knowing. Halloween’s the date, but preorders are up now from the label if you’re the type to take care of that kind of thing early. I bet you pay bills on time, too. Way to go on that.

From the PR wire:

alastor slave to the grave

Alastor premiere title track from forthcoming RidingEasy Records debut Slave To The Grave

Swedish depraved heavy doom hearkens to early occultist hard rock

Alastor hearken to the days when heavy rock was the music of the rebel, the occult adherent and lurker in the shadows, not hipster bros. Theirs is the doom sound for those who discovered it on the edge of town, in the cold rain, perhaps, as an escape from the squares who’ll never understand.

Alastor is heavy doom rock for the wicked and depraved. Drenched in heavy, distorted darkness and steeped in occult horror that will make your skin crawl and ears cry sweet tears of blood, Slave To The Grave pulls no punches in the Swedish band’s unabashedly bleak themes.

“It’s an album that circles around the concept of death,” explains lead guitarist Lucy Ferian. “It’s about death in both its spiritual and personal meaning — how death is a part of our everyday life. How it affects our thoughts and actions. How some of us spend our entire life in fear of death, while some seek it. But no matter how you live your life and no matter what you achieve here on this earth. You are still just a slave to the grave.”

Alastor formed under a bad moon in 2016, consisting of Dharma Gheddon (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and organ), Lucy Ferian on lead & acoustic guitar and organ, Terry Fying on guitar and Levi Athan on drums. Yes, those are their given birth names, why do you ask?

The quartet released its epic 3-song debut album Black Magic in early 2017 via Twin Earth Records, followed by the 2-track “Blood On Satan’s Claw” EP on Halloween the same year. Joining forces with RidingEasy Records in 2018, Alastor hunkered down to summon the 7-track hateful gospel Slave To The Grave with engineer Magnus Sörensen.

The album opens with the dramatic spoken intro “I döden är vi alla lika” (In death we are all equal) backed by rolling thunder and a clanging church bell to set the stage for the rumbling dirge “Your Lives Are Worthless.” Forlorn vocals and drop-tuned guitars seep like murky syrup as the song slowly morphs through varying riffs across the nearly 10-minute song as it builds to an epic crescendo of squealing guitar notes and pummeling half-tempo drums. “Drawn To The Abyss” is a swinging anthem punctuated by haunting backing vocals and scraping wah-wah guitar sounds leading into a powerful double-time outro. “N.W. 588” is the hook-laden melodic centerpiece sounding like an apparent nod to Technical Ecstasy leading into the flamenco-themed acoustic ballad “Gone.” The anthemic album title track rings out with pliant lead guitar notes countering the dark lyrics and behemoth, propulsive rhythms that can only foreshadow the heft of 17-minute album closer “Spider of My Love” which brings the album to a fittingly massive and funereal close. Perfect.

Slave To The Grave will be available on LP, CD and download on Halloween, October 31st, 2018 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available HERE.

rtist: Alastor
Album: Slave to the Grave
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: October 31, 2018

01. I döden är vi alla lika
02. Your Lives Are Worthless
03. Drawn to the Abyss
04. NLW 588
05. Slave to the Grave
06. Gone
07. Spider of My Love

facebook.com/alastordoom
alastordoom.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Alastor, “Slave to the Grave”

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BlackWater HolyLight Post “Wave of Conscience” Video; Touring West Coast Next Month

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

blackwater holylight

Portland, Oregon, four-piece BlackWater HolyLight made their self-titled debut (review here) earlier this year with the formidable backing of RidingEasy Records. But, you know, as any given year goes on, a lot of really killer records that came out in the first half — Winter albums certainly, but early Spring ones too — are lost in the shuffle when it comes to considering the year’s best. That’s part of why you always see so many records released in September. That way they’re fresh in mind for list time. Also of course involves touring cycles and things like that, but you get the idea. It’s not the only factor, but it’s definitely a piece of it. Just because a record came out in February or April doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered alongside one of October’s finest outings.

As to what the hell that has to do with BlackWater HolyLight, I’m getting there. One of the ways a band can counteract this temporal phenomenon is by putting out music videos. Another is touring, and vocalist/bassist Allison Faris, guitarist/vocalist Laura Hopkins, drummer Cat Hoch and synth player Sarah Mckenna are doing a bit of both. They have a new video for the ultra-catchy, Witch-worthy fuzz of “Wave of Conscience” (originally premiered here) and they’re going to be touring mostly in California for a week next month. Along with songs like the buzz-happy “Sunrise” and the synth-laden lower-end rollout of “Slow Hole,”  “Wave of Conscience” is an easy pick-out as a highlight of BlackWater HolyLight‘s self-titled, and they give its hook due presence with the visual accompaniment, mining the public record for nature footage of a black widow spider laying and hatching an egg.

The clip — spoiler alert — ends with hundreds of baby black widows trolling around their mom’s web, and the jumpy creep of their movement could hardly be better suited to the band’s sound. It’s an effective reminder to put the record on and provides a fervent case for showing up to one of the gigs should they happen to be hitting your town. To wit, awesomeness.

You can check out the “Wave of Conscience” video below, followed by those tour dates and more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

BlackWater HolyLight, “Wave of Conscience” official video

Portland, OR quartet BlackWater HolyLight share the first video from their breakout debut album today. Watch and share “Wave of Conscience” via YouTube.

BlackWater HolyLight also announce West Coast tour dates starting August 3rd. Please see current dates below.

BlackWater HolyLight was recorded by Cameron Spies at Gold Brick Studios and The Greenhouse, and with Eric Crespo at Touch Tourcher Recording in Portland. The album is available on LP, CD and download, released April 6th, 2018 via RidingEasy Records on LP & CD at www.ridingeasyrecs.com and digital at blackwaterholylight.bandcamp.com.

BLACKWATER HOLYLIGHT LIVE:
08/03 Nevada City, CA @ Cooper’s
08/04 Oakland, CA @ Elbo Jack London
08/07 Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse
08/08 Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon w/ Zig Zags
08/09 Oceanside, CA @ Pourhouse w/ Red Wizard
08/10 Fresno, CA @ Full Circle
08/11 Arcata, CA @ Alibi

BlackWater HolyLight on Instagram

BlackWater HolyLight on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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Review & Track Premiere: Electric Citizen, Helltown

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

electric citizen helltown

[Click play above to stream ‘Lunch’ from Electric Citizen’s Helltown. Album is out Sept. 28 on RidingEasy Records.]

The stated intention behind Electric Citizen‘s third album for RidingEasy RecordsHelltown, is a turn from where the band was two years ago on their sophomore outing, Higher Time (review here). Likewise, Higher Time brought the Cincinnati four-piece to someplace their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), hadn’t dared to go. Around a central core of memorable hooks and classic heavy rock riffing, Electric Citizen wove a vision of heavy glam, taking the riff-led fare of Sateen to someplace entirely bigger — in production value, in scope, in its unabashed poppiness. Helltown once more finds vocalist Laura Dolan, guitarist Ross Dolan, bassist Nick Vogelpohl and drummer Nate Wagner in an aesthetic pivot. While it would same to be driven by the same impulse toward refining their sound and trying to bring their songs to different levels of expression, etc., the manifestation is markedly different. Dolan‘s voice still commands the proceedings with pointed melodicism, and the guitar runs the instrumental charge beneath with classic swing from the rhythm section.

What’s different is largely down to presentation, and it’s one that finds Electric Citizen engaged in entirely rawer fare. Gone is the pop-ready sheen of Higher Time, and it’s been replaced by proto-metal tonality on the part of Dolan — as heard in the solo of second cut “Hide it in the Night,” as well as the riffs throughout — and Vogelpohl, as well as a decided lack of the keys/organ that featured so prominently last time out — “Father Time,” “New Earth” and “Mother’s Little Reject” notwithstanding — in favor of a more stripped down approach overall. Vocals are treated but not as many-layered, and the album as a whole is shorter, running nine songs and 32 minutes where the last one was 10 and 40. They largely stay away from following a punkish impulse — even centerpiece “Ripper,” which is definitely not a cover of Judas Priest‘s “The Ripper,” holds more to classic metal style — but the LP’s purpose is clearly to shoot for a more live sound, something that can be brought to life on stage, say, when the band tours as support for Monster Magnet in support of Helltown this Fall.

That’s not to say there isn’t any progressive edge to be found. Dolan as a guitarist is an intricate riffer and has been since he was doing his best mid/late-’70s Iommi on Sateen. As much as the smoothness and fluidity of Higher Time suited his style, he thrives here in showcasing his chemistry with Laura‘s vocals and with the righteous solidity of the bass and drums. Of course, a more barebones production style like this is no less an aesthetic choice than something hyper-elaborate, but the stylistic turn suits him and the rest of the band well, and would seem to have been something purposefully brought to the songwriting process. These tracks, in addition to being fewer in number, feel shorter and tighter in their structure. There are still drum transitions in “Lunch” and Dolan isn’t shy about taking a solo when called on to do so, but Helltown — named for the Cincinnati neighborhood the band calls home, as if to further telegraph the “back to their roots” sentiment at play — seems to pull back on some of the expanse that Electric Citizen made their own last time out, and it’s a meaner sound for it.

electric citizen

Of course, what draws the work together is the craft behind it. “Father Time” is the longest cut on Helltown at 4:25, and its quiet, more gradual introduction would seem to be a departure from some of the immediacy held forth in songs like prior opening salvo of “Heart Attack,” “Hide it in the Night” or “Cold Blooded Blue,” all of which are into their first verse before the first 30 seconds are up. Pacing in general is a big part of what makes Helltown distinct in Electric Citizen‘s catalog. Sateen was dug into semi-garage doom shuffle, and so had a middling pace, and Higher Time followed suit with its more outwardly accessible fare. Helltown isn’t a Motörhead record or anything, but “Ripper,” “The Pawn,” “Heart Attack” have a quick pulse to be sure, and even as “New Earth” would seem to be a transitional moment into the closing duo of “Lunch” and “Mother’s Little Reject,” the momentum holds steady. And though “Lunch” digs into that eased-up tempo somewhat and “Mother’s Little Reject” starts out with organ-backed spoken word over a “War Pigs”-esque progression before igniting a finale-worthy bounce, the energy in Electric Citizen‘s delivery is unflinching.

If Helltown has a central message, that’s it. It’s enough of a declaration of who Electric Citizen are that part of me is surprised it isn’t self-titled. That identity can change, of course, and likely will if their three-to-date albums are anything to go by, but the statement in these tracks is clear and unmistakable. Whatever else Electric Citizen might do and wherever their sound might take them, they’re a heavy rock band at heart. Helltown is a performance-minded collection that would seem to be the result of some genuine soul-searching on the part of the band. It could well be they’ve found themselves as players and as a group and that whatever they do from here will be a hopeful step forward from where they currently are. Or it could be that this album, like the one before it, will spur an equal and almost-opposite reaction and the Electric Citizen will move in a different direction entirely. I like the fact that, four years and three records into their tenure as a band, I have no idea what to expect from them next.

Other than songwriting. That’s the key. It let them serve introductory notice on Sateen and it provided the foundation for the expanded-sound of Higher Time, and now it serves as the very core of being for Helltown. And if it wasn’t there, there’d be no hiding it. This is as stripped-down as Electric Citizen have gotten, and if they didn’t have the songs and didn’t have the performance and the vibe, it simply wouldn’t work. Fortunately, they do and it does. I won’t discount what each of the past two records did for their own accomplishments in their own contexts, but listening to Helltown, it very much seems to be marking a new level for Electric Citizen, and as they cull the most essential facets of their approach as a band, they emerge from that process stronger than ever and at their most vital.

Electric Citizen, “Hide it in the Night”

Electric Citzen on Thee Facebooks

Electric Citizen on Twitter

Electric Citizen on Instagram

Electric Citizen on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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Dunbarrow Premiere “The Wolf”; Dunbarrow II out Sept. 14

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

dunbarrow

Norwegian classic-style heavy rockers Dunbarrow will release their second album, Dunbarrow II, on Sept. 14 through RidingEasy Records. That same Cali-based imprint picked up the band’s 2016 self-titled debut (review here) last year, and with good reason, since the five-piece not only dip back to the heavy ’70s usual suspects for inspiration, but also carry the torch of the retroist movement those acts inspired in the first place. Listen to Dunbarrow‘s “The Wolf” at the bottom of this post and tell me you don’t hear shades of the first Witchcraft album in it. You can’t. It’s right there, and that’s precisely the point.

Well, that and groove anyhow, brought together with a tale out of classic horror in the lyrics that I won’t spoil here — hint: there’s a wolf, but where??? — and a fervently organic production. Dunbarrow‘s Dunbarrow worked with some similar elements at its foundation, but as “The Wolf” demonstrates, the Trondheim-based outfit are in the process of carving out their niche aesthetically, and they’re doing so with the sharpest of teeth.

You can hear “The Wolf” below, preceded by album details from the PR wire. Preorders for Dunbarrow II are up now at RidingEasy‘s website:

dunbarrow ii

Dunbarrow – Dunbarrow II

There’s a hauntingly classic feel to Dunbarrow’s sound that gives it, in the band’s own words, “an eerie rawness.” It’s not raw in a lo-fi or distorted sense — far from it, the production is exceptionally clean and powerful. It’s the vibe to the music that has a dreamlike and ghostly quality, like a mysterious recording imprinted onto an old cassette tape.

Dunbarrow’s pristine, unadorned sound shares the unpretentious brilliance of classic heavy progenitors jamming in basements and barns, before the big budgets and bloated habits diluted hard rock records into an echo chamber awash in reverb and layered in distant, screeching hobbits. “It’s a heavy sounding record without being just tons of over-distorted guitar tracks,” says guitarist Kenneth Lønning. “We’ve never been fascinated by that, and we’re trying to push in the other direction.” Its heft comes from the band’s use of space in their songs.

Without the Haugesund, Norway quintet’s exceptional musicianship, such an intimate sound would be impossible. Drummer Pål Gunnar Dale sets the skeletal core with driving urgency and tastefully punctuating triplet fills, Bassist Sondre Berge Engedal slinks throughout with the limber bounce of John Paul Jones, while Lønning’s and Eirik Øvregård’s guitars weave dark, bluesy tapestries with emphasis on melodic chord structures without burying them in distortion or other effects. Vocalist Espen Andersen ties it all together with his warm, folky delivery that gives it all the feel of a bygone era of storytelling in song.

“Maybe more than the previous record, this one is more vocal driven,” Lønning says. “But it still has those quirky transitions, eerie build ups, folk-inspired parts and the haunting solos.” Many of the album’s poetic lyrics were written by former bassist/vocalist Richard Chappell, whose writing personifies the group. Along with the album’s running theme of love and despair, is that of recognizing one’s own dark sides and developing your shadows into something you can control, inspired of the work by Carl Jung.

Key to the band’s impressive sound is that the singer is also the recording and mixing engineer. Andersen also recorded the band’s excellent 2016 debut (formally released wordlwide by RidingEasy in late 2017), now with more studio experience for both Andersen and the band, Dunbarrow II is a truly refined experience. To further perfect their sound, the group teamed up with one of the most prominent producers in Norway, Christer Cederberg (Anathema, Tristania) for the first few days in order to get the sound just right. Then, Espen did the rest. The result is as eponymous and definitive as its title.

Dunbarrow II will be available on LP, CD and download on RidingEasy Records on September 14th, 2018.

Artist: Dunbarrow
Album: Dunbarrow II
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: September 14th, 2018

01. On Your Trail
02. Please Let Me Be
03. Weary Lady
04. Ode To The Moon
05. Feberdrøm
06. The Wolf
07. The Demon Within
08. Witches of The Woods Pt. II
09. On This Night

Facebook.com/Dunbarrow
Instagram.com/Dunbarrow
Dunbarrow.Bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Dunbarrow, “The Wolf” official track premiere

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