Quarterly Review: Glanville, Destroyer of Light, The Re-Stoned, Ruff Majik, Soldat Hans, High Priestess, Weed Demon, Desert Storm, Ancient Altar, Black Box Warning

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

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

So Day 1’s done and it’s time to move on to Day 2. Feeling stressed and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff still to be done? Why yes, I am. Thanks for asking. In the past, I used to handle the Quarterly Review well ahead of time. It’s always a lot to get through, but the week before, I’d be setting up back ends, chasing down links and Bandcamp players, starting reviews, etc., so that when it came time, all I had to do was the writing and plug it all into a post and I was set.

There was some prep-work done this past weekend, but especially this time, with my old laptop having been stolen in May, it’s all been way more jazz-improv. I was still adding releases as of last Friday, and writing beforehand? Shit. With the baby having just figured out how to climb? Not bloody likely. Accordingly, here we are, with much to do.

It’ll get done. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet, and if I took an extra day to get there, I’m under no delusion that anyone else would care. So there you go. Let’s hit it for Day 2:

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Glanville, First Blood

glanville first blood

First Blood is the aptly-titled five-song debut EP from Glanville, a newcomer dual-guitar outfit with established players Philip Michel (The Earwix) on lead and Christopher West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb, etc.) on rhythm, Wight’s Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on bass and René Hofmann on vocals, and Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire) on drums. Based in Germany and the UK, the group present 23 minutes of material on their first outing, drawing from the guitar-led likes of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest to capture early metal and present it with a heavy rocking soulfulness and modern production. The most raucous of the cuts might be centerpiece “Durga the Great,” but neither “God is Dead” nor “Dancing on Fire” before nor “Demons” and “Time to Go” after want for action, and especially the latter builds to a furious head to close out the release. Hofmann as a standalone singer wants for nothing in range or approach, and the band behind him obviously build on their collective experience to dig into a stylistic nuance rarely executed with such confidence. They’ve found a place willfully between and are working to make it theirs. Can’t ask for more than that.

Glanville on Thee Facebooks

Glanville on Bandcamp

 

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless

destroyer of light hopeless

Having just recently signed to Argonauta Records for a new album in 2019, Austin doomers Destroyer of Light follow their 2017 long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here), with a further auditory assault in the lumbering Hopeless. Psychedelic and yet still somehow traditional doom lingers in the brain after “Nyx” and “Drowned” have finished – the latter with an Alan Watts sample discussing alcoholism – and the band moves into demos for Chamber of Horrors cuts “Into the Smoke,” “Lux Crusher” and “Buried Alive.” Between the two previously unreleased songs and those three demos, Hopeless pushes to 39 minutes, but it’s probably still fair to call it an EP because of the makeup. Either way, from the miserable plod of “Nyx,” in which each chug in the riff cycle seems to count another woe, to the rolling nod early and surprising melody late in “Drowned,” Hopeless is anything but. Anticipation was already pretty high for Destroyer of Light’s next record after the last one, but all Hopeless does is show further depth of approach and more cleverly-wielded atmospheric murk. And the more it sounds like there’s no escape, the more Destroyer of Light seem to be in their element.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Stories of the Astral Lizard

the re-stonEd stories of the astral lizard

The inevitable question is “Why a lizard?” and if you make it four minutes into 11-minute opener “Fractal Panorama” and don’t have your answer, go back ad start over. Moscow heavy psych instrumentalists The Re-Stoned intend the reptile as a spirit guide for their new outing Stories of the Astral Lizard (on Oak Island Records), which follows quickly behind their late-2017 offering, Chronoclasm (review here), and given the ultra-patient desert vibes in the opener, the acoustic-laced folk-prog of “Mental Print for Free,” the languid meander of “A Companion from the Outside,” the swirling sprawl of the 16-minute “Two Astral Projections” and the final cowpoke drift of “The Heather Carnival,” one might indeed just find a lizard sunning its belly amid all the atmospheric evocations and hallucinatory vibes. I’ll take “Two Astral Projections” as the highlight, but mostly because the extra length allows the band to really dig in, but really the whole album feeds together gorgeously and is a new level of achievement when it comes to atmosphere for The Re-Stoned, who were already underappreciated and find themselves only more so now.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Seasons

Ruff Majik Seasons

Right on fuzz, right on groove, right on vibe – there isn’t much else one might say about Ruff Majik’s Seasons (on Rock Freaks Records and Forbidden Place Records) beyond “right on.” Heavy rock with twists of psychedelia, the Pretoria, South Africa, three-piece of Johni Holliday, Jimi Glass and Benni Manchino make their home on the lines of various subgenres, but wherever they go, the proceedings remain decisively heavy. To wit, a cut like “Breathing Ghosts” or the later “Birds Stole My Eyes” might dig into shuffle boogie or extreme-metal-derived thrust, but there’s a chemistry between the members and a resonant looseness that ties the material together, and as the last 14 of the total 66 minutes are dedicated to “Asleep in the Leaves,” there’s plenty of progressive weirdness in which to bask, one song moving through the next such that neither “Hanami Sakura (And the Ritual Suicide” nor the semi-doom-plodding “The Deep Blue” nor the funky twists of “Tar Black Blood” come across as predictable. Seasons might take a few listens to sink in, but it’s easily worth that effort.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Ruff Majik at Rock Freaks Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Soldat Hans, Es Taut

SOLDAT HANS ES TAUT-750

Hyperbole-worthy post-ism from Switzerland’s Soldat Hans makes their sophomore outing, Es Taut – on Wolves and Vibrancy Records as a 2LP – a forward thinking highlight. As rich in atmosphere as Crippled Black Phoenix and as lethal as Converge or Neurosis or anyone else you might dare to put next to them, the six-piece made their debut with 2014’s Dress Rehearsal (review here) and served notice of their cross-genre ambitiousness. Es Taut finds them four years later outclassing themselves and most of the rest of the planet across three extended tracks – “Story of the Flood” (26:15), “Schoner Zerbirst, Part I” (8:03) and “Schoner Zerbirst, Part II” (18:56) – that sprawl out with a confidence, poise and abrasion that is nothing short of masterful. Es Taut may be a case of a band outdoing their forebears, but whatever their legacy becomes and however many people take notice, Soldat Hans singlehandedly breathe life into the form of post-metal and prove utterly vital in so doing, not only making it their own, but pushing forward into something new in ambience and heft. This is what a band sounds like while making themselves indispensable.

Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks

Wolves and Vibrancy Records website

 

High Priestess, High Priestess

high priestess high priestess

Calling to order a nod that’s immersive from the opening strains of leadoff/longest-track “Firefly” (still immediate points), Los Angeles trio High Priestess build out the psych-doom ritualizing of their 2017 demo (review here) to make their self-titled full-length debut through Ripple Music. The difference between the demo and the album in terms of what’s included comes down to artwork and the track “Take the Blame,” which adds its bell-of-the-ride swing between the atmosphere and melodic focus of “Banshee” and the spacious roller “Mother Forgive Me.” Potential is writ large throughout from guitarist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins, as it was on their demo, and even the harsh growls/screams on “Despise” seem to have found their place within the proceedings. As they wrap with the guitar-led jam of “Earth Dive,” High Priestess put the finishing touch on what’s hands-down one of 2018’s best debut albums and offer a reminder that as much potential as there is in their sound for future development, the accomplishments here are considerable unto themselves.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages

weed demon astrological passages

Four tracks of gurgling riffy plunder pervade Astrological Passages, the 41-minute – longer if you get the digital version or the tape/CD, which includes the 7:24 “Dominion of Oblivion” – debut album from Columbus, Ohio’s Weed Demon. Delivered on vinyl through Electric Valley Records, the nodder/plodder carves out a cave for itself within a mountain of tonally thick stoner metal riffing, infusing a sense of sludge with shouted and growled vocals from guitarists Andy and Brian and bassist Jordan – only drummer Chris doesn’t get a mic – and an overarching sense of bludgeoning that’s Sleep-derived if not Sleep-adjacent in terms of its actual sound. Nasty? Why, yes it is, but as “Sigil of the Black Moon” heads toward the midpoint of its 10-minute run, the repetitive groove assault make the band’s intention plain: worship weed, worship riff. They get faster on “Primordial Genocide” and even sneak a bit of speed in amidst the crawl before the banjo takes hold in the second half of 12-minute closer “Jettisoned” – more Americana sludge please; thank you – but they never lose sight of their mission, and it’s the uniting factor that makes their debut hit like the brick to the head that it is.

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Desert Storm, Sentinels

desert storm sentinels

With Sentinels, Oxford, UK, five-piece Desert Storm pass a decade since making their self-titled debut in 2008. They followed that with 2010’s Forked Tongues (review here), 2013’s Horizontal Life and 2014’s Omniscient (review here), and though they had a single out in 2014 on H42 Records as a split with Suns of Thunder (review here) in 2016, Sentinels is their first outing on APF Records and their first long-player in four years. Burl has always been an important factor in what they do, and the High on Fire-meets-Orange Goblin slamming of “The Brawl” backs that up, but Desert Storm have left much of the hyper-dudeliness behind in favor of a more complex approach, and while Sentinels isn’t a minor undertaking at 10 songs and 51 minutes, longer cuts like “Kingdom of Horns” and “Convulsion” demonstrate the maturity they’ve brought to bear, even as the one-two punch of “Drifter”  and “The Extrovert” offer swinging-fist hooks and beard-worthy chug that assures any and all testosterone quotas are met.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Bandcamp

 

Ancient Altar, Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras

ancient altar cosmic purge foie gras

Based in Los Angeles, Ancient AltarScott Carlson (bass/vocals), Barry Kavener (guitar/vocals), Jesse Boldt (guitar) and Etay Levy (drums) – were last heard from on 2015’s dug-in atmosludger Dead Earth (review here), and they return lo these several years later with the two-tracker Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras, pushing into more extreme crush-of-riff with an abandon that’s anything but reckless. On the contrary, there’s some clear development in the 10-minute “Cosmic Purge” and 13-minute “Foie Gras,” rolling out oppressive grooves with blended screams/shouts and cleaner vocals. As with the last album, a drive toward individuality is central here, and Ancient Altar get there in tone while bringing forth a sense of scope to a sound so regularly thought of as closed off or off-putting in general. In its early going, “Foie Gras” hypnotizes with echoing melody and spaciousness only to resolve itself in a deeply weighted dirge march, furthering the pummel of “Cosmic Purge” itself. I don’t know if the EP – on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records, CD on Transcendental Void Records – will lead toward another album or not, but the sense of progression in Ancient Altar’s style is right there waiting to be heard, so here’s hoping.

Ancient Altar on Thee Facebooks

Black Voodoo Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Box Warning, Attendre la Mort

black box warning attendre la mort

Listen to it on headphones and the kickdrum on Black Box Warning’s Attendre la Mort is downright painful. Next-level blown-out aggro pulsations. Brutal in a physical sense. The rest of the band doesn’t follow far behind in that regard. Riffs are viscous and violent in noise rock tradition, but denser in their tone despite some underlying punkishness, and the vocals are likewise distorted and abrasive. The five-song/23-minute EP’s title translates to “Waiting for Death,” and each of the tracks is a dose: Opener “5 mg” is followed by “4 mg,” “1 mg,” “2 mg” and “3 mg.” Unsurprisingly, pills are a theme, particularly on “4 mg,” and the sense of violent threat is clear in “2 mg” and 3 mg,” which boast lines like, “Watch them all scream/Watch your enemy bleeded,” and “You are the pig/I am the butcher,” respectively. Between the lyrical and the general aural cruelty, the dis-ease is consuming and unmitigated, sludge becoming a slow-motion grindcore, and that’s clearly the point. Not stabbing, but gouging.

Black Box Warning on Thee Facebooks

Black Box Warning on Bandcamp

 

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Holy Grove Finish Work on New Album Holy Grove II

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Portland, Oregon, heavy rockers Holy Grove announce the completion of their second full-length. The four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis already toured the West Coast this year after announcing in January they’d signed to Ripple Music for the follow-up to their 2016 self-titled debut (review here), which was released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Like that record, the new one was tracked with Billy Anderson, but it’s immediately apparent Holy Grove aren’t looking to repeat themselves this time out.

In the update/announcement that follows here, Holy Grove talk about coming together as a band as a result of touring — that’s how it happens — and working out the material both on the road and in their rehearsal space. I look forward to hearing the record not just for its special guest appearance from a checkered-shoe doomer who gets to remain nameless, or for Anderson‘s production, but to hear where Holy Grove‘s songwriting has carried them in the wake of the self-titled being so well received and offering such a string of memorable tracks. Going by what I read in the update below, it seems like they’ve genuinely put the effort forward to make the best album possible at this time. If you can find an argument against that, I’d be interested to hear it. Except not really.

I’ll hope to have much more to come as we continue to move closer to the release, but for today, cheers to Holy Grove on finishing Holy Grove II and here’s to the anticipation of actually digging in.

Photos by Alyssa Herrman, an update from the band, and the album’s tracklisting all follow here:

holy grove 1 (Photo Alyssa Herrman)

We started tracking basically the day after we returned from our West Coast tour in April, and spent about four days tracking at Hallowed Halls in Portland. We then spent an additional couple of days tracking at Everything Hz. We really enjoyed being back in the studio. We felt prepared, focused and really excited about the new material, especially after playing the songs live nightly for a few weeks on tour. Billy (Anderson, engine-ear supreme) was fired up and invested and inspired us to push ourselves in getting the takes we wanted, and obviously crucial in getting the sounds we wanted on tape.

This time around we were able to demo the songs as a band in our practice space. We put a lot of effort into revising and massaging songs to get them to sound the way we heard them in our heads. Demoing allowed the four of us to work through all our ideas and make the necessary changes before heading into the studio, so we went in with a clear picture of what we hoped to achieve. The second biggest difference was being able to tour the record beforehand. Prior to Eben joining in June of 2017, we were rarely in a position where we could tour. In March we embarked on our first West Coast tour and spent the entire time becoming more comfortable with the songs, working out kinks and figuring out what was working and what wasn’t. Knowing the material and being able to hammer it out in a live setting allowed us to bottle that energy and bring it to the studio.

To us, the album to represents turning a page and crossing a threshold musically and emotionally that wasn’t available or apparent before. We’re a different band then we were when we made the first record and it was important to us to reflect that in the songs. We made it a point to listen to our gut during the entire writing and recording process, but still allowed the songs take on a life of their own and let them dictate where to go with them, if that makes sense… The songs are darker, more epic (there are five songs on this record but the overall runtime is longer than our first album, which had seven), and more emotionally reflective of what the band has been through in the last 3-4 years. Andrea’s vocals are more emotive and powerful and her lyrics darker and more personal. Trent immersed himself in his playing and has evolved immensely as a player. Eben and Gregg have become the rhythm section they both always wanted to be a part of. It’s a pretty exciting time for all of us, and we’re excited to see what the future holds.

Holy Grove II tracklisting:
Blade Born
Aurora
Valley of The Mystics
Solaris
Cosmos

Holy Grove is:
Andrea Vidal – Vocals
Trent Jacobs – Guitar
Gregg Emley – Bass
Eben Travis – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/holygroveband/
https://twitter.com/holygroveband
http://holygrove.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/

Holy Grove, Holy Grove (2016)

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Freedom Hawk Post “Brutal Winds” Video; Playing Descendants of Crom 2018 & More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

freedom hawk

Earlier this Spring, Virginia Beach riff aficionados (ariffionados?) Freedom Hawk toured Europe to celebrate the release of their fifth album, Beast Remains (review here), on Ripple Music. The photo above was taken at The Underworld in Camden Town, right after the four-piece’s set at Desertfest London 2018. They toured from April into May and it was by no means their first time abroad. At this point, Freedom Hawk are veterans whose contributions to underground heavy rock are significant, largely avoiding the trap of East Coast aggression, but still bringing a clear-headed intent to a vibe somewhere between classic metal and fuzzy good times.

The question going forward will be just how much Beast Remains is an anomaly. The album was recorded as the first for the band with the four-piece lineup of guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton, bassist Mark Cave, drummer Lenny Hines and guitarist Brendan O’Neill. This comes off having done 2015’s more psychedelic Into Your Mind (review here) playing as a trio for the first time. Accordingly, whatever they do next, one expects a certain shift will be apparent even just for the continued development of chemistry among the personnel. At the same time, Freedom Hawk have developed one of the most recognizable sounds in US underground heavy. Like few others, if you hear someone put on a Freedom Hawk song, there’s never any doubt about who you’re listening to. They’ve managed over their years to develop their sound without losing sight of that aspect of who they are. Morton‘s vocals are a big part of it, but by no means the only element at play. The track “Brutal Winds” for which they have a new video playing below, is quintessential to where their sound is at on Beast Remains.

Freedom Hawk will hit the Descendants of Crom fest in Pittsburgh at the end of September and they have a handful of other live shows leading up to it that you can find listed under the “Brutal Winds” clip, along with a link to the full-album playlist on YouTube. It’s also of course on Ripple‘s Bandcamp, linked at the bottom of this post.

Please enjoy:

Freedom Hawk, “Brutal Winds” official video

“Brutal Winds” by Freedom Hawk
Producer: Bradford Davis
Director: Jarrod Russell
Steadicam Operator: Maxwel Fisher

After completing a successful European Tour, We are releasing an official music video for our song “Brutal Winds” from Beast Remains. The video is on our YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/76wcS9Y-9EI

We also loaded up videos that were sent to us from Fans and other videos and made a Beast Remains playlist of the album at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1bKVPqA878pvz-yIoIP59Ep38xBh8DYR

Currently plotting, planning and working on more US dates and tour(s) in support of Beast Remains..for later this year/early next year. We revamped our Bandcamp site and now have Beast Remains Vinyl, CDs and fresh merch available at www.freedomhawk.bandcamp.com too in support of our Gas Tank/Touring Fund.

Here are a few scattered up and coming US show dates in the meantime with more dates/tour(s) to come:

17 Aug – Norfolk VA @ Charlies w/ Backwoods Payback
8 Sep – Kill Devil Hills, NC @ The Brew Station w/ Snake Mountain Revival
27 Sep – Washington, DC @ Slash Run w/ Electropathic (Gary Isom’s new band)
28 Sep – Philadelphia, PA @ Ortliebs
29 Sep – Pittsburgh, PA @ Descendants of Crom

Freedom Hawk on Thee Faceooks

Freedom Hawk on Bandcamp

Freedom Hawk on Twitter

Freedom Hawk website

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Wo Fat Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

wo fat (Photo Necroblanca Photography)

With their having already been announced for Desertfest Belgium 2018, Keep it Low 2018 and Into the Void 2018, a European tour announcement from Texas swampriffers Wo Fat isn’t entirely unexpected. Still welcome news to just about anyone in their path who’s ever nodded to a riff, though, which always seems to be more and more people in their path. The veteran three-piece are two years removed from their most recent studio offering, Midnight Cometh (review here), which for them is about on pace — see 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), each out with a two-year split between — but I haven’t heard anything yet about a new record. Does that mean it’s not happening? Shit no. Not like I friggin’ know anything. But if it’s coming this year, well, album announcements are into October already, so it would be getting here late. Not to say it can’t happen, just that 2019 seems more likely to my addled, baby-chasing, no-sleep-getting, feeble-to-start-with brain.

Either way, their touring Europe is more than enough excuse to revisit Midnight Cometh, so you’ll find that at the bottom of this post, courtesy of Ripple Music‘s Bandcamp. News comes from the PR wire:

wo fat tour poster

Texan heavy rock legends WO FAT announce “Electric Conjure Man Tour” across UK/Europe this October

To purchase tickets for available dates, please click HERE

Having already secured their legendary status within the stoner rock community over a sonic odyssey of six studio albums, Wo Fat has stayed true to the deep, dark blues that wail from within. Following on from the critical success of their last album, Midnight Cometh, and continuing their partnership with the equally formidable California-based record label Ripple Music, European fans that have yet to experience the full force of the Wo Fat experience will be able to get a taste of what they’ve been missing this October.

“Playing in Europe is always an amazing experience for us and it’s been a couple years since we last made the trip, so we’re really excited to be coming back,” explains Wo Fat’s vocalist/guitarist, Kent Stump.

“We are particularly stoked to be able to play three different festivals, all killer, on this run; Desertfest Belgium, Into the Void and Keep It Low. We’ll also be playing some new places as well as returning to some favourites, like The Underworld in London and Le Glazart in Paris. And even better, about half the shows will be with the mighty Sasquatch along with shows with Elder and The Devil and the Almighty Blues. We’ll be rolling out some new songs on this tour and it will be our first European trip with Zack playing bass so I think our fans in Europe will really dig the heavy groove he brings.”

Brought to you by Ripple Music and Sound of Liberation, Wo Fat’s “Electric Conjure Man European Tour 2018” will kick off on 11th October 2018 at The Underworld, London. For a complete list of dates, see below.

Wo Fat “Electric Conjure Man European Tour 2018”

11/10/18 – The Underworld, London, UK [w. The Devil & the Almighty Blues]
12/10/18 – Desertfest Belgium, Antwerp, BEL
13/10/18 – Engelsburg, Erfurt, DE Stoned From the Underground [w. Sasquatch]
14/10/18 – Cassiopeia, Berlin, DE
15/10/18 – Schlachthof, Wiesbaden, DE [w. Sasquatch]
16/10/18 – Fabrik, Zurich, CH [w. Sasquatch]
17/10/18 – Les Caves Du Manoir, Martigny, CH [w. Sasquatch]
18/10/18 – Le Glazart, Paris, FRA [w. Elder and Sasquatch]
19/10/18 – Into the Void Festival, Leuwaarden, NL
20/10/18 – Keep It Low Festival, Munich, DE

https://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage/
https://twitter.com/HouseOfWoFat
https://www.instagram.com/wofatriffage/
https://wofat.bandcamp.com/
ripple-music.com

Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (2016)

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Various Artists, Planet of Doom: First Contact EP: A Way to Break the Ice

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

planet of doom first contact ep

The Planet of Doom: First Contact EP is something of a curio from the outset. What it effectively does is to retintroduce The Planet of Doom (discussed here), which is an upcoming animated feature helmed by artists Tim Granda and David Paul Seymour bringing together huge names from the graphics and sonics sides of the heavy underground to tell a story in varying chapters, each with its own designer and each with its own music. As projects go, it is breathtakingly ambitious. A generational work, and understandably, it’s been a few years in the making at this point. Last I heard, a 2019 release was expected, but in order to keep momentum going, keep the movie in the mind of potential viewers/fans, and give a taste of the general aesthetic of the work, The Planet of Doom: First Contact presents four songs in a relatively brief 22 minutes that essentially serve as a sampler of what’s to come.

In order, the release presents tracks from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, who every bit deserve to be the leadoff with “Sword of the Sea,” Italian upstarts Messa, who bring the seven-minute “Serpent Libido,” Sweden’s Vokonis with “Runa” and Northern Ireland’s Slomatics, whose “Jagaer” closes out. They are just four among the likes of Order of the Owl, Phillip Cope (ex-Kylesa), Slow Season, Space Witch, Mother Crone, Granda himself, Ironweed, Destroyer of Light, Ufomammut, Cirith Ungol, Wo Fat, Orchid, Elephant Tree, who will ultimately feature on the finished product, but they’ve obviously been chosen as the first representatives because of the flow between the songs. Often with soundtracks, there’s an issue of sonic incongruity between individual cuts, and reasonably so. Different players, different tones, different recordings, different moods — it should sound different in the end result. With Mos Generator, Messa, Vokonis and Slomatics, though, it’s not an issue.

And not because the bands don’t have their own respective styles, from the pure heavy rock with just a slight darker tinge of Mos Generator through the atmospheric approach of Messa, the brash doomly bombast of Vokonis and Slomatics‘ futuristic engagement, there is enough of a leap between sounds that one would hardly be surprised if The Planet of Doom: First Contact wound up disjointed, but the progression toward Slomatics‘ “Jagaer” is such that from Mos Generator onward, there’s a downward motion brought to bear. We’re not just making First Contact with The Planet of Doom like Jean-Luc Picard showing up with a handshake and a gift basket from the United Federation of Planets — “Try the Alvanian snap peas!” — we’re being brought on a descent below its surface into some lurking subterranean cave, surrounding by an ancient murk and a looming sense of threat as we move deeper through. In that way, “Sword of the Sea” is a perfect lead-in.

the planet of doom first contact vinyl

With guest vocals alongside those of guitarist Tony Reed, the track builds on the moodier spirit of the band’s 2018 album, Shadowlands (review here), with a gradual unfolding that moves by 90 seconds in toward a more rocking tension that lets loose just before two minutes in. A sudden organ-laced break at around 2:20 leads to a section of progressive guitar textures and the aforementioned guest vocal spot, stopping again, this time to complete silence, before crashing out to a big rock finish that brings on Messa. Kind of a curious structure there, and if “Sword of the Sea” was left off Shadowlands — I don’t know that it was recorded during the same session or it wasn’t — that peculiarity might be why. In any case, Messa, who’ve reaped massive acclaim for their 2018 album, Feast for Water (review here), present the longest inclusion on the EP and earn their time well with a blend of ambiance and heft that serves as a distinguishing factor even among other accomplished purveyors of riffly wares. They’ll begin to hit the European festival circuit this Fall, and accordingly fall into the “one to watch” category, but even more than that, they’re one to listen to, since “Serpent Libido” does so well in its moody affect and loud/quiet tradeoffs, moving toward a plodding section that turns suddenly to blastbeats to end and set the stage for the initial roll of Vokonis‘ “Runa.”

The Swedish three-piece’s participation in The Planet of Doom: First Contact could hardly be better timed. They recently signed to The Sign Records and will record their third album in August to follow last year’s resounding The Sunken Djinn (review here). “Runa” was reportedly written specifically for The Planet of Doom, and though what it might have to do with the plot remains a mystery, the riff and crash of the band’s sound is well intact in the sharply delivered five-minute cut. It’s a solid showing of what they do and the individualized edge they’ve taken on developing since getting their start just a few years ago. They’ve become a vital outfit in the Euro underground, and “Runa” shows why in its blend of aggression and nod. They continue to both grow and impress, and while I don’t know if their next record will be out before the end of 2018, they very obviously are actively working to keep moving forward. The sudden collapse at the end of “Runa” gives Slomatics a bed of silence on which to begin the underlying synth of “Jagaer,” which soon enough unveils its tonal lumber and rolling rhythm.

I know there are plenty of heavy bands involved in The Planet of Doom, but Slomatics‘ blend of entrenched narrative, their otherworldly vocal echoes, and their inhuman, post-apocalyptic slow-motion assault from guitarists Chris Couzens and David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey is perfect for the film. “Jagaer” unfolds with patience and weight alike, and continues in the vein of the band’s 2018 split with Mammoth Weed Wizard BastardTotems (review here), to assure that Slomatics are in no way done after wrapping the trilogy story that finished on 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here). That’s invariably good news to anyone who’d take on The Planet of Doom: First Contact, as their thud-and-swirl methodology wraps by diverting into a momentary wash of feedback and cutting to nothingness. Hints of more to come? One might say that, and as it’s convenient for me to do so, I will. Either way you take it, The Planet of Doom: First Contact augers remarkably well for the rest of the soundtrack when it finally arrives, and speaks to the curated sensibility of the entire proceeding. As samplers go, it is of impeccable quality and only adds to the well justified anticipation for The Planet of Doom itself.

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Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique: Light in the Sun’s Eye

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

SEEDY JEEZUS POLARIS OBLIQUE

Theirs is a sound built on headphone-worthy psychedelia and 8-track-ready classic heavy rock groove, and when Seedy Jeezus made their self-titled debut in 2015, they seemed to know it. Based in Melbourne, the Aussie three-piece would go on later that year to release a standalone single titled Echoes in the Sky (discussed here), and would follow it with the 2016 live album, Live in Netphen: Freak Valley 2015 (discussed here), a 2016 collaboration with guitarist Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless and Golden Void called Tranquonauts (review here) and a 2017 single covering Led Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown” (video premiered here). All of this has come alongside a healthy amount of touring, and word early on of a second LP in progress. With support in Europe from Lay Bare Recordings for the domestic Blown Music release, Polaris Oblique arrives as that sophomore full-length, with nine tracks and 41 minutes of classic-gone-modern heavy rock that brings all the bluesy thrust of Lucifer’s Friend and Black Sabbath and brings it into a now-style context; not at all retro, but strongly influenced.

The songs themselves — the longest of which is is 6:41 mellow groover “3 Million Light Years” — are rife with the chemistry between guitarist/vocalist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Waterreus, bassist Paul Crick and drummer Mark Sibson and show a dynamic range that reaches from the unmitigated scorch of “Oh Lord (Part One)” to the subdued balladry of “My Gods are Stone,” which boasts a guest guitar appearance from the aforementioned Isaiah Mitchell, to the Floydian weaving of acoustics and electrics on the methodically-paced “Dripping from the Eye of the Sun.” Waterreus as a singer is capable of carrying across the variety of moods these tracks and the rest, and I won’t take away from the contributions of Crick and Sibson in terms of rhythm and enhancing the changes and deepening the execution overall, but at its heart, Polaris Oblique is very much a guitar album. Its foundation is in the riffs, and the recording — by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, who also adds lead guitar to “Oh Lord (Part Two)” — highlights lead work as a crucial element even as side B moves into its farthest-out in the penultimate nodder “Treading Water.”

Seedy Jeezus wouldn’t be the first heavy rock act to put the emphasis on guitar by any means, but the character in Waterreus‘ playing is a defining element here as well — so it’s both what he plays and how he plays it, whether it’s the swaggering rip and shuffle of opener “Intro – Polaris Oblique” or the laid back riding of the bassline he does in “3 Million Lives” following the post-Stooges shove of “Everything Will be Alright.” Add to this a remarkable sense of flow across the entire release, and Polaris Oblique almost feels like a song unto itself. Not that it was written that way — it’s definitely a collection of individual pieces, just that the way it moves between them almost follows a similar pattern of a classic structure. There are the initial rockers in “Intro – Polaris Oblique” and “Everything Will Be Alright,” a wistful departure in “3 Million Lives” and a dug in mellow groove on “My Gods Are Stone” before “Oh Lord (Part One)” kicks everything in the ass and the trilogy of “Oh Lord (Part Two),” “Dripping from the Eye of the Sun” and “Treading Water” dive deeper into psych-prog nuance and “Barefoot Travelin’ Man” closes out by returning to the earthbound vibrancy of the opening segment.

seedy jeezus photo barry c douglas

The whole album reads as a well-structured piece, with individual parts of what whole making their own impressions along the way, tied together by their focus around the guitar even as they express varying ideas and sensibilities. And it’s an added bit of intrigue that Waterreus would bring in Mitchell and Reed to play guitar. Sure, Seedy Jeezus has collaborated with both before — Reed also recorded the debut, and there was the already-noted Tranquonauts with Mitchell — but it’s clearly more of a personal choice. The band wanted those guys to be a part of their album. Listening to Waterreus shred to pieces on “Oh Lord (Part One)” and match wits with Reed on the subsequent “Part Two” it’s not like he can’t hold his own when it comes to tearing into a solo. It’s not like they’re covering for his not being up to the task by bringing in these players. One suspects it was as much about wanting to hang out in the studio with MitchellReed was obviously already there — as it was anything else. The results are striking either way.

One might say the same of the album in general. It’s not overly showy in terms of technical hijinks, but it does have a precise aspect to its personality, and it makes abundantly clear that Seedy Jeezus know what they want to get out of each track included, up to and including the raucous finish they provide with “Barefoot Travelin’ Man,” which smoothly brings Polaris Oblique to its finish by delving one more time into heavier blues pulsations and a fervent heavy ’70s groove, propelled by Sibson‘s drums, which are worthy in sound and delivery of a comparison to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In fact, as much as Polaris Oblique puts the guitar at the center, it’s Crick and Sibson both who actively allow that to be the case. One gets the sense that either would be comfortable leading the charge, but that they’re well at home in the pocket as it is, swinging away and offering moments of flourish like that which Crick brings to the midsection of “3 Million Lives,” matching step with Waterreus‘ guitar ahead of a turn to speedy shuffle that nearly hits The Atomic Bitchwax levels of head-spin before resuming the song’s core slower tempo.

This dynamic too is emblematic of a classic power trio, and it works well in accordance with Seedy Jeezus‘ methods overall. In their aesthetic, craft and performance, they bring a traditionalist feel, and yet Reed‘s production is nothing if not shimmering with a modern clarity. Ultimately, this interaction is less of a push-pull than it is a rare alignment, and taken in consideration with the fluidity in and between the songs the whole way through, Polaris Oblique is a marked achievement when it comes to further establishing Seedy Jeezus as a presence of note in the international underground sphere. Whether you listen on headphones, on blaring speakers, on vinyl, CD or digital, there’s much to dig into and much to dig across the record’s thoroughly unpretentious, welcoming span.

Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique (2018)

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War Cloud Premiere Video for “Red Witch”

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

war cloud photo Janiece Gonzalez

Oakland classic heavy rockers/proto-metallers/whatever-they’re-good-ers War Cloud have been readily hitting stages since making their self-titled debut (review here) last Fall on Ripple Music. Their new video for the track ‘Red Witch’ from that album would seem to be one of at least two they’ll issue this summer, as they’ve also posted on the social medias that they’ll have one out for “Chopper Wired,” but it’s hard as hell to argue with the hook of “Red Witch” and I find that as I make my way through I’m not inclined to try. The song appears on side B of the record — track six of eight on CD or digital — but it’s nonetheless worth the focus of the new clip, the premiere of which you can see below.

In terms of the record as a whole, “Red Witch” is pretty indicative of what works well in War Cloud‘s sound. As alluded to above, they straddle the line between heavy rock and metal, but even their most thrashing riffs from guitarists Alex Wein (also vocals) and Tony Campos and thickest lumber from bassist Taylor Roach come accompanied by a fervent swing in Joaquin Ridgell‘s drumming, so there’s never really a loss of momentum, regardless of where an individual track might go. The rolling groove of “Red Witch,” for example, nestles easily into its lead riff and charges out from there. With the crashing “No Man’s Land” before and “Speed Demon” afterward, it would almost be easy for the track to get lost in the mix were it not for the fact that the chorus is so standout-memorable.

The classic riff and the open lines of its verses create a cycle that should be immediately familiar to experienced heads, but whether they’re drawing from Judas Priest, Sabbath or the earliest days of thrash, War Cloud’s songwriting helps them maintain an identity of their own. No doubt the touring they did earlier this year to support the self-titled and the Midwest tour they’re soon to announce around their appearance at the Doomed and Stoned Festival in Indianapolis will help that out as they start to think about moving onto their next offering. Either way, the bottom line is War Cloud made one of last year’s best debuts, and it’s no challenge at all to look forward to what they might do from here in realizing their potential.

Please check out the premiere for “Red Witch” below. I’ve also included the album stream at the bottom of the post, because more likely than not after the one song is over you’re going to want to revisit the whole record. I know I did.

Enjoy:

War Cloud, “Red Witch” official video premiere

Music Video for War Cloud’s “Red Witch” from their 2017 self-titled debut album, on Ripple Music.

Buy the album: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/artist/war-cloud

War Cloud is:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Tony Campos – Guitar
Taylor Roach – Bass
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums

War Cloud, War Cloud (2017)

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Cities of Mars Sign to Ripple Music; New Album Due in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

After making their full-length debut with 2017’s Temporal Rifts (review here) on Argonauta Records, Gothenburg, Sweden-based riff-rollers Cities of Mars have announced they’ve signed to Ripple Music. They will issue a yet-untitled new album in 2019.

Good news? Hell yes that’s good news. Since Cities of Mars self-released their first single, Cyclopean Ritual/The Third Eye (review here), in 2015, and followed it up with 2016’s Suicide Records EP, Celestial Mistress (review here) the band’s momentum and creative trajectory have both done nothing but move forward, and signing to Ripple, who I think are inarguably the driving force in the American heavy underground at this point, is both a huge and a crucial step in furthering that process. Bottom line is the band kick ass and with Ripple behind them, only more people are going to realize it. Always good news.

Cities of Mars have made a point to tour heavily both before and after the arrival of Temporal Rifts, so as they make public their intentions toward a second long-player due out next year, it seems only fair to expect they’ll be out on the road again to support it. More on that, and the album, hopefully, as we get closer to the release, but for now, heartfelt congratulations to the band and here’s looking forward to new material from them. Their sci-fi edge and unbridled tonal heft should bring something unique to the flagship Ripple lineup, and I can’t wait to hear how it all turns out.

The label sent along the following info:

cities of mars

Cities of Mars – New Album

Cities of Mars from Gothenburg, Sweden, combine heavy doom riffs with ambient soundscapes and haunting vocals.The lyrics on each song adds a chapter in a continuing story, where a Soviet cosmonaut on a covert space mission in 1971 discovers an ancient Martian city and awakens a sleeping conspiracy from the dawn of humanity.

With several European tours and two critically acclaimed vinyl releases under their belt, Cities of Mars are continuing to evolve their sci-fi saga through lead-heavy space tunes.

Formed in 2015 by Danne Palm (vocals, bass), Christoffer Norén (vocals, guitar) and Johan Küchler ( drums, vocals) the first two songs were recorded into a single produced by Esben Willems (Monolord/Berserk Audio) and released for the band’s first live show at the Wizard of Fuzz Festival.

2016 saw the release of Celestial Mistress, a three-song vinyl EP with the captivating artwork of Gothenburg-based graphic artist Axel Widén and the bands’ first European tour. More shows and new songs followed into 2017 when the album Temporal Rifts was released with a three week tour through Europe.

The saga now continues – with three years of writing, jamming and touring, Cities of Mars have sharpened their songcraft in writing another album for release in 2019 – heavy riffs to infinity and beyond!

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Cities of Mars, “Caverns Alive!” official video

Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts (2017)

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