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Troubled Horse to Release Revolution on Repeat March 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

troubled horse photo oskar omne

Seemed like Swedish classic heavy rockers Troubled Horse kind of went to ground after the cycle ended for their 2012 debut, Step Inside (review here). They played a few fests, some shows besides, and put out a video for “Bring My Horses Home” (posted here) in 2014, but half a decade is a considerable span between a first and second album, so their return is a welcome one. Revolution on Repeat, the Örebro natives’ second long-player, will be out on Rise Above Records March 31, and for anyone who’s been missing the frenetic upbeat shuffle of Graveyard, or perhaps wondered what might’ve been had that band been able to pull that rhythmic thrust into a more modern production context, songs like “The Filthy Mob” should provide a fix, while the doomier vibe of “Track 7” does likewise for Witchcraft fans rendered bereft by that outfit’s current direction.

That’s not to say Troubled Horse don’t have their own direction — see the punker intensity of “Peasants” or extended scope of nine-minute closer “Bleeding” — but that their Örebro roots come through along with that. In any case, Step Inside certainly warranted a follow-up. Good to have Troubled Horse provide.

I’ll hope to have more to come, but in the interim, the announcement from the PR wire brings plenty of background:

troubled horse revolution on repeat

Troubled Horse To Release Revolution On Repeat March 31st on Rise Above Records

Artwork and Track Listing Revealed

Like anything worth a damn, heavy music only thrives when it aims to keep moving. Whether growing through crazy acts of evolution or simply by letting the cultural winds drive countless small, incremental changes, the greatest bands are rarely accused of letting the grass grow under their feet. And in the wild and wayward world of undiluted, old school heavy metal and rock’n’roll, Sweden’s Troubled Horse are a living, breathing, balls-out example of how change must always be harnessed to make things bigger, better and more exhilarating.

Formed in 2003 in their hometown of Örebro (also home to Witchcraft), the Horse crew erupted into the consciousness of riff-worshippers everywhere with a low-key seven-inch vinyl release in 2010, and then their debut album Step Inside, which was released by Rise Above Records in 2012. An invigorating whirlwind of spiky garage rock, propulsive psychedelia and thunderous, overdriven soul-meets-doom riffing, Step Inside showcased a band with little interest in current or nostalgic trends, instead revelling in a consciously classic but undeniably fresh new take on the most revered and ageless of musical components.

“We’re not locked into a certain genre,” says frontman Martin Heppich. “We allowed ourselves to explore all kinds of music for inspiration, and then we mix down all ideas into the Troubled Horse grinder! I have always had an idea of what Troubled Horse should be musically since I started the band many years ago, so maybe I come across as some kind of a dictator! What makes us unique in this genre is that we don’t really care if we’re accepted into the type of “exclusive retro rock community” which a lot of times is just ridiculous with all their rules of what’s considered ‘true’ and ‘cool’. If we want to mix doom with punk rock and country music – we’ll do it! We want to create something new, not stare too much into what’s already been done.”

An admirable philosophy, then, and one that has borne dazzling fruit on Troubled Horse’s forthcoming second album Revolution On Repeat. With a refreshed line-up featuring new members Jonas (drums) and Tom (bass) alongside loyal guitar lord Mikael Linder, Martin’s vision of a no-holds-barred celebration of heavy rock in all its colourful, subversive glory has never sounded stronger. From the barrelling, high-energy thunder of Hurricane and Which Way To The Mob through to the sprawling head-rush of The Haunted and acid-tinged, lo-fi psych of Desperation, Revolution On Repeat is an instinctive and naturalistic triumph for fire, fury and feel over the forces of plodding revisionism. Throw in a sublime rendition of Warren Zevon’s death-premonition anthem My Shit’s Fucked Up, and the album amount to a bold, pertinent and subtly dispiriting statement on the state of the world, all underpinned by the loudest guitars imaginable.

“The title Revolution On Repeat refers to the history of society repeating itself again and again,” notes Martin. “[We have] revolution after revolution, with fed up people having enough and finally standing up for themselves. But in the end nothing really changes. Man’s quest for power and wealth tears all great ideas and promises of change apart… and it’s back to square one. It really makes you doubt the current system of democracy. There will be a new uprising – but it won’t take long before it all turns to shit again with a new corrupted leader. People are just too stupid and selfish.”

But despite a gloomy view of humanity, Troubled Horse are never anything less than 100% inspirational. Revolution On Repeat is a diverse, diverting and irresistible slab of curiously timely heavy rock that defies the rulebook and breathes new life into that most enduring and fecund of musical genres. As Martin himself states, it’s the simple things in life that keep us forging ahead with hope in our hearts. Here’s hoping that fire never fades.

“Hopefully people will enjoy the record and we’ll get to go on tour and play live,” he grins. “That would be really awesome! I know it’s a cliché, but playing and writing songs is a venting process at least for me. But this is a team effort, even though I always have the last word because I’m a jerk…ha ha ha!”

Revolution On Repeat Track Listing:
1. Hurricane
2. The Filthy Ones
3. Which Way To The Mob
4. Peasants
5. The Haunted
6. Desperation
7. Track 7
8. My Shit’s Fucked Up
9. Let Bastards Know
10. Bleeding

https://www.facebook.com/troubledhorse/
https://www.instagram.com/troubledhorse
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/riseaboverecords/

Troubled Horse, “Bring My Horses Home” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Orange Goblin, Frequencies from Planet Ten

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 13th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

Orange Goblin, Frequencies from Planet Ten (1997)

Later this year, UK heavy overlords Orange Goblin will celebrate 20 years since the release of their first album, Frequencies from Planet Ten. The nine-track outing surfaced via Rise Above Records in fall ’97, following their split 7″ the year before on the same label issued under their original moniker, Our Haunted Kingdom. It was the beginning of what’s become one of heavy rock’s most storied journeys, and while there have seemed to be times when the London outfit have been doing nothing except waiting for the world to catch up to them — say, the five years between 2007’s Healing Through Fire and 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) — they’ve never compromised either their assault or their creative will, and both got their beginning in these nine tracks. It was also a different time. Probably fair to call Frequencies from Planet Ten “stoner rock” for the Sabbathian loyalism it shows in the shuffle of “Saruman’s Wish” or the trippy Monster Magnetism that crops up in opener “The Astral Project,” but already in those cuts, in “Aquatic Fanatic,” “Land of Secret Dreams” and the eponymous “Orange Goblin,” one can hear the roots of the gruff, harder-driving path Orange Goblin would stomp as their sound took shape across their subsequent two full-lengths, 1998’s Time Travelling Blues (discussed here) and 2000’s The Big Black (discussed here), the then-five-piece making an unholy trinity of their first three albums the influence of which continues to reverberate today, especially in London’s fertile heavy rock underground.

Safe to say no one knew that was going to happen 20 years ago, but in addition to being relatively early adopters of a classically heavy sound in the late ’90s and a blueprint others would follow, Orange Goblin showed immediate distinction in their songwriting on Frequencies from Planet Ten. It’s not a perfect album and I don’t think it was meant to be — remember, this was the era of wider-adopted use of ProTools and other digital recording methods, so they were perhaps reacting to that in going for a live sound — but its rawness is only an asset in the forward thrust of “Magic Carpet” or “Aquatic Fanatic,” and vocalist Ben Ward, guitarists Joe Hoare and Pete O’Malley, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner (as well as Duncan Gibbs on keys) cleverly played psychedelics off their more straightforward material, both within in and between songs, so that as “The Astral Project” opened and set a spacious tone, “Magic Carpet” would soon answer by hitting the ground running with a wah-bass and drum boogie that turned into a post-Kyuss push that few making the rounds at the time could match in its tone or execution. Likewise, “Orange Goblin” and closer “Star Shaped Cloud” seemed to reinforce the structure, working at a middle-paced nod and a trippy build, respectively, to round out Frequencies from Planet Ten with an emphasis that while the two weren’t by any means mutually exclusive within their sound, a given track didn’t necessarily need to be aggressive in the metallic sense to be vigorously, righteously heavy.

Of course, over the subsequent two decades, Orange Goblin would become known for plenty of ferocity on their own level. From 2002’s Coup de Grace through 2004’s Thieving from the House of God, the aforementioned Healing Through Fire and A Eulogy for the Damned, as well as their latest outing, 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here), they’d continue to refine, sharpen and tighten their approach to a point of impact that, by three years ago at least, was positively Motörhead-esque. And while that may have been a long, long way from where Frequencies from Planet Ten saw them start out, they were no less Orange Goblin than they’d ever been (unless you count the actual numbers of their mid-aughts change from a five- to a four-piece with the departure of O’Malley). While they’ve offered many, the most resonant lesson of Orange Goblin‘s tenure — which is hardly over; I’ve heard word of a new album this year on Spinefarm and they continue to tour — has proven to be that when you believe in what you’re doing and if you’re willing to stay true to that in the face of external trend, market, whatever, and if you’re right, you can make yourself a leader. They’ve certainly done that, and looking back on it nearly 20 years later, Frequencies from Planet Ten still kicks ass with what’s become Orange Goblin‘s signature footprint.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I needed something of a pick-me-up this week, as it’s been a tough one at work. Add to that the fact that Tuesday night I woke up around 1:30AM and never got back to sleep, so went into Wednesday with about four hours of extra-unfortunate consciousness, and yeah, it was even harder. Stressful. Corporate living.

But the whole of today was awesome, so it seemed only fair to close out the week in that fashion as well. I hope yours was good. I’ve got family coming north this weekend — my mother and nephew — and am looking forward to that as well as to a couple hours of relaxed coffee sipping and writing in the mornings. It’ll be a good time. I’m exhausted, but not nearly so miserable as I was, say, Wednesday afternoon circa 2PM. Easy low point of the year so far, if you’re keeping track.

Next week is pretty full already, which I’ll take. I’ve slated reviews for the next however long, and some of it might get interrupted as premieres come in (that happened today, actually, with the John Garcia), but here’s how it looks at the moment:

MON: Eternal Elysium review & Basalt video premiere.
TUE: Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 comp review & Hornss video premiere.
WED: Vinnum Sabbathi review.
THU: Aathma album stream/review.
FRI: Either a Buddha Sentenza review or a new podcast.

I’ve set Monday, Jan. 23 as the date for launch of my 2017 most anticipated albums list, but that might change as the list has over 100 bands at this point — I will not be writing them all out like last year; nobody read it, nobody cared and the post almost collapsed under its own weight — and has become a beast to organize. Some selection of 35-40 picks will be written out, the rest broken up either by how likely they are to show up or some other standard. I’ll sort it all this coming week, hopefully. Definitely by the end of the month.

Anyway. Thanks for reading this week and I wish you the kind of great, safe and recuperative weekend that I’m hoping to have. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 year end poll results

The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.

All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.

Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.

And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.

One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)

Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)

Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”

Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)

Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)

Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.

Well, Happy New Year.

Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.

After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

Read more »

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Bridesmaid, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Landing, Reign of Zaius, Transcendent Sea, Red Teeth, Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Holy Smoke

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance

russian-circles-guidance-700

From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!

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Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.

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Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes

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International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.

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Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!

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Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.

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Rise Above Records website

 

Landing, Third Sight

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The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.

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El Paraiso Records website

 

Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…

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While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.

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Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men

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Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.

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Red Teeth, Light Bender

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Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website

 

Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split

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One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.

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Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!

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Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.

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Rise Above Relics Announces Oct. 14 Reissue of Horse’s For Twisted Minds Only

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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I bought Horse‘s Horse years ago — I know it was a long time because it was before I was able to look up what it was on my phone and I had to pick it up on spec based on the cover and year of release — but it seems like that 1970 self-titled debut/swansong from the London outfit is only part of what makes up For Twisted Minds Only, which Rise Above Relics is issuing/reissuing on Oct. 14. As to the title, I have to wonder if that’s the original name of the album restored or a new one for the collection as a whole, but in any case, for you classic heavy rock heads, if this is one you don’t know, it’s well worth checking out.

From the PR wire:

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Rise Above Relics to Release HORSE’s For Twisted Minds Only October 14th

Formed in South London during the late sixties, HORSE were a band creating occult influenced progressive hard rock, ahead of its time. Guitarist Rod Roach had briefly played in an incarnation of British psych-rock legends Andromeda before forming Horse with other key member, vocalist Adrian Hawkins. Alongside bassist Colin Standring, the band also featured legendary drummer Ric Parnell, later of Atomic Rooster (amongst many others) and future star of This is Spinal Tap (aka Mick Shrimpton)!

A favorite amongst collectors for many years (with original mint copies today trading in excess of £400), Horse is an album long overdue an official reissue. Recorded in 1969, originally released in 1970 and bootlegged countless times from scratchy vinyl transfers, Rise Above Relics can finally present you with this detailed release mastered and cut directly from the original master tapes. Featuring a treasure trove of previously unheard/unreleased material, For Twisted Minds Only is certain to have connoisseurs and collectors of the period literally frothing at the bit.

The album is available for pre-order on Amazon in CD and Vinyl formats.

This first ever official reissue includes a detailed booklet of the bands history, as well as a tasty selection of previously unheard tracks! Comes housed in previously unseen original artwork by Roger Wootton of Comus.

1. The Sacrifice
2. See The People Creeping Round
3. And I Have Loved You
4. Freedom Rider
5. Lost Control
6. To Greet The Sun
7. The Journey
8. Heat Of The Summer
9. Gypsy Queen
10. Step Out Of Line
11. Autumn (previously unreleased)
12. Winchester Town/Dreams Turn to Ashes (previously unreleased)
13. Born to be Wild (previously unreleased)
14. Picture of Innocence (previously unreleased)
15. She Brings Peace (previously unreleased)
16. Anthems to the Sea (previously unreleased)

*vinyl edition will include further bonus tracks!

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Horse, “The Sacrifice”

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Ides of Gemini Sign to Rise Above Records; New Album Due in 2017

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last heard from in April, Los Angeles heavy post-rockers Ides of Gemini had shifted their lineup and were setting out on a quick West Coast tour to hammer out new material. I guess they got there, because the band has now announced that they’ve signed with Rise Above Records for the follow-up to 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), which they’ll record with Sanford Parker and release early next year.

So for Ides of Gemini, that’s two records on Neurot and one forthcoming on Rise Above. That’s a pretty impressive CV as far as label associations go. You’d think the band was really good or something. Oh wait, they are. Well, that’s another mystery solved.

From the PR wire:

ides of gemini photo by david lee dailey

IDES OF GEMINI Sign With Rise Above Records

Rise Above Records is delighted to announce the signing of Los Angeles based lampblack rock quartet, IDES OF GEMINI. Says label boss Lee Dorrian: “Having been a fan of theirs since the beginning and following them through all of their macabre twists and turns, it feels so great to have them joining the Rise Above family. It’s going to be a supreme association!”

IDES guitarist J Bennett adds: “We’re dying to hit the studio to record with our new lineup. This will absolutely be our best album by leaps and bounds – it’s got some of the heaviest tunes we’ve ever written, some of the least-heavy tunes we’ve ever written, and definitely some of the catchiest tunes we’ve ever written. There might even be a theme that links the songs together, but we’ll fill you in on all that later. Til then, stay tuned…”

The band will commence recording their third full-length album in LA with Sanford Parker and is scheduled for a Spring 2017 release. IDES OF GEMINI are also set to appear Psycho Vegas this weekend. In summary, Bennett concludes: “”We couldn’t be more thrilled to join Rise Above and their absolutely top-notch stable of artists. Lee obviously has impeccable taste, and our signing proves it!”

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Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (2014)

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Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to Release Keep it Greasy Oct. 14

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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As if the Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell would keep it any other way. The brash-n-boozy UK trio will issue their new album, Keep it Greasy, through Rise Above Records, and I don’t usually pull-quote press releases, but “Their songs haven’t washed in weeks” is just about the best description I’ve ever heard of what these guys do. Their latest full-length, Check ‘Em Before You Wreck ‘Em, came out in 2014, and one sincerely doubts their capacity for shenanigans has diminished in the interim. Keep it Greasy will be out Oct. 14, and not a moment too soon for a universe that continues to take itself way too fucking seriously.

Have at you from the PR wire:

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ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL To Release Keep it Greasy! October 14th via Rise Above Records

There seems to be an endless horde of fresh-faced bands that proclaim to be resurrecting the spirit of rock n’ roll these days. They see themselves to grabbing the genre by the scruff of its neck and dragging it back to its supposed glory years. Yet, few bands can say they’ve lived the lifestyle quite like ADMIRAL SIR CLOUDESLEY SHOVELL. These working class grease rock bastards, fuelled by speed, cheap lager and roadside fry-ups, have the scars to prove their worth.

The thing is, The Shovell has never claimed to be the biggest or the best around and frankly they don’t care who is. There is no brash egotism at play here, just a rough-and-ready honesty which permeates in what these three guys do. Their songs haven’t washed in weeks, far too busy spinning crackling Budgie vinyls, knackered Motörhead live albums played at a sluggish RPM and snorting self-inflammatories to do anything hygienic. If you want your music dressed up to the nines like an American prom queen, look elsewhere.

Here’s a band proud to be the soundtrack to your weed smokin’, beer swiggin’ escapes from 2016’s dystopian shitstorm reality; one feverishly decorated with unrelenting commercialism, villainous politicians and godforsaken auto-tune. There may be thousands of musicians who can play their instruments better, write more intelligent and thought provoking music, but when you listen to rugged and guttural ‘tune in, drop out’ vibes of Keep It Greasy, none of that seems to matter.

Their approach to sound and texture makes this record feel like an undiscovered gem from 1971, time worn, warts n’ all. Its beauty is defined, rather than hindered by, its unkempt primalism. As a record too, it displays an improved sense of how to get your heart battering your rib cage – think rattling Geezer Butler bass, gravel-toned vocals and the freewheeling madness of Keith Moon. These new songs are using the tried and tested Shovell formula to find new ways of getting under your skin.

From the jolting opening sex-pest boogie of U Got Wot I Need to the sandpaper smooth, Zeppelin stomp of Tired N’ Wired – its lyrics straight from Lemmy’s freight train of thought – they make the last three decades crumble away. Longer tracks like Hairy Brain Part 2, Paid In Full and album closer Wrong are peppered with many of rock’s cornerstones – twisting harmonies, driving shuffle rhythms and whirling feedback – but never sound impressionistic. They simply absorb you, swallow you whole.
But this is no mere pastiche that cashes in on society’s occasional backwards-glancing, nostalgic tendencies. This is down-to-earth and real. Keep It Greasy documents the trials and tribulations these sleezeballs have been through while on the road and beyond.

It doesn’t parade itself as anything immaculate or ground-breaking – and we all know how tiresome such hyperbole infested press releases can be – but it is hellish fun. Stick it on at a neighbour-unfriendly volume and enjoy it for the sordid, fucked up time warp that it is and see for yourself.

Keep It Greasy! Track List:
1. U Got Wot I Need
2. Hairy Brain Part 2
3. Hawkline Monkster
4. Paid In Full
5. I’m Movin’
6. Potato Boy
7. Tired’N’Wired
8. Wrong

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Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Live at the Black Heart

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