Shadow Woods IV Announces Lineup with Tombs, Xasthur, Heavy Temple, Rozamov & Many More

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

I don’t have any idea what Shadow Woods IV — the name trimmed down from the original Shadow Woods Metal Fest for reasons that will become clear as you continue to read — would possibly have to gain from any kind of endorsement on my part, official or not, but let me say anyway that if you can’t respect this idea, the fact that they’ve done it four years running, and the obvious blood-borne passion that goes into making each edition an event unlike anything else in the US when it comes to the mix of bands, the locale, the vibe and the very concept from which it’s working, you can basically fuck off. I may not be into every band on this list — it’s a really, really long list — but there are plenty here who would justify a trip to Harpers Ferry in September, and yeah, all this is is something special year after year.

The lineup this time around is completely over the top, as you can see first in the grim-grim-grim poster below, then in the running order for each for Shadow Woods IV‘s three nights, and then, finally, in alphabetical order, because they are thorough and that’s only one more reason to hold Shadow Woods in such high regard.

Behold:

shadow-woods-iv-poster

Shadow Woods Productions LLC presents the fourth edition of Shadow Woods Metal Fest, now simply referred to as Shadow Woods IV.

http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/

What: Shadow Woods IV is a multi-day open air music and camping event in that includes bands from many subgenres of metal, rock, folk, experimental and noise. The fest will host more than 40 bands on two alternating stages with no overlapping sets so attendees can enjoy every set. There will also be delicious food, craft beer, a vendor marketplace with art, jewelry, home decor, music, and rock and metal merchandise.

Where: Our new fest venue is the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (HFAC) located at 37410 Adventure Center Lane in Purcellville, VA 20132, situated in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers. HFAC features zip lines, ropes courses, tubing, white water rafting, cabins, campsites and an onsite craft brewery. It is located just a little more than a hour from Washington DC and Baltimore, MD near the intersection of the Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia state lines. Festival attendees receive a discount of HFAC activities as well as on the cost of campground and cabin rental with the Shadow Woods group rate.

https://harpersferryadventurecenter.com/

When: Sept 20-22, 2018. Thursday night features primarily acoustic, folk and ritual noise from 6 p.m. until 11 pm. Friday and Saturday showcases rock and metal bands from noon until 11 pm each day.

How: Tickets are on sale now. A full weekend event pass is $130. Day passes for Thursday are $30; Friday and Saturday passes are $60 each. (Important note: Tent camping and cabin are not included in the tickets. Reservations must be made directly through the HFAC and you must request the Shadow Woods group rate. The venue is requesting that attendees hold off on reserving sites for the time being until a system can be put in place for managing this.)

Why: “It was pretty clear from the positive feedback I received after the 2017 fest that festival goers did not want to see Shadow Woods end, even though our property in Maryland had been sold,” said Mary Spiro, fest founder. So without a venue or a confirmed lineup, I started quietly raising the funds to do a new fest via the contributions of past attendees. In January 2018, I was able to find an fantastic site to host the fest that was even better than what we had before. The lineup came together very quickly and I am extremely proud and excited to present these past favorites and new discoveries.”

Here is lineup by day in roughly the reverse order of playing (so headliner at the top) subject to change of course. Then the lineup is in ABC order at the bottom. Brian Sheehan has done the poster.

At this time in terms of Vendors, you can say expect to see some of the ones seen last year plus many new ones.

Don’t have any food vendors or specific sponsors named yet. Beer is the Harpers Ferry Brewing Company which is part of the venue.

Thursday
Xasthur – doomgrass, folk rock (Los Angeles, CA)
On The Water – strange folk (Philadelphia)
Goblin Hovel – metal folk (NY/PA)
Skulsyr – occult noise (Doylestown, PA)
Jerome Deppe and Miss Elizabeth’s All-Girl Band – folk ballads of the damned (Baltimore, MD)
Bound For The Ground – the devil’s blues supergroup with members of Grave Gnosis, The Owls Are Not What They Seem, and Cultic (GA/FL/PA)
Earendel – acoustic folk duo (Baltimore)

Friday
Tombs – post metal (NYC)
Rozamov – psyche-tinged grueling doom (Boston)
Heavy Temple – Hard Fuzz, Psych and Doom (Philadelphia)
Barishi – Gritty Progressive Metal (Brattleboro, VT)
Aether Realm – Viking folk metal (Greenville, NC)
Destroyer of Light – doom and roll (Austin, TX)
Electropathic – doom hard rock with members from several foundational Maryland doom groups (Wheaton, MD)
Husbandry – Fugazi meets Aaliyah (NYC)
God Root – ritualistic sludge (Philadelphia)
Dysfigure – modern heavy metal (Martinsburg, WV)
Windfaerer – extreme aural entity (New Jersey)
Witch Hazel – occult rock and roll/doom (York, PA)
Forest of Legend – doom/stoner/sludge (Virginia Beach, VA)
Hepatagua – sludge/doom/thrash (Boston)
Flummox – nongenre specific doomy metal (Murfreesboro, TN)
Ferus Din – black metal and flutes (Buffalo, NY)
Haze Mage – stoner metal (Baltimore)
Malphas – progressive blackened melodeath (Philadelphia)

Saturday
Uada – black metal (Portland, OR)
Cloak – black and roll (Atlanta, GA)
Panzerfaust – black metal (Toronto, ON)
Voarm – black metal (Richmond, VA)
Imperial Triumphant – black metal (NYC)
Athame – black metal (MD/WV)
Hubris – black metal (Buffalo, NY)
Enthauptung – atmospheric black metal (Rochester, NY)
A Sound of Thunder – traditional/NWOBHM heavy metal (DC/VA)
Bound By The Grave – death metal (Baltimore)
Destroying Angel – dark folk rock (Philadelphia)
All Hell – black and roll (Asheville, NC)
Black Mass – death thrash (Boston)
Hexxus – sludge metal (Birmingham, AL)
Replicant – death metal (NJ)
Tyrannis – death metal (Radford, VA)
Sluagh – progressive metal (Martinsburg, WV)
Sickdeer – death metal (DC)

Alphabetical
Aether Realm
All Hell
A Sound of Thunder
Athame
Barishi
Black Mass
Bound By The Grave
Bound For The Ground
Cloak
Jerome Deppe and Miss Elizabeth’s All-Girl Band
Destroyer of Light
Destroying Angel
Dysfigure
Earendel
Electropathic
Enthauptung
Ferus Din
Flummox
Forest of Legend
Goblin Hovel
God Root
Haze Mage
Heavy Temple
Hepatagua
Hexxus
Hubris
Husbandry
Imperial Triumphant
Malphas
On The Water
Panzerfaust
Replicant
Rozamov
Sickdeer
Skulsyr
Sluagh
Tombs
Tyrannis
Uada
Voarm
Windfaerer
Witch Hazel
Xasthur

http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/
https://www.facebook.com/shadowwoodsmetalfest/
https://twitter.com/ShadowWoodsMF
https://harpersferryadventurecenter.com/

Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2018 playlist

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audiObelisk Transmission 064

Posted in Podcasts on December 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

audiobelisk transmission 064

So this is something I’ve never done before. I’m not exactly what you’d call an early adopter when it comes to new technology, but this weekend I finally signed up for Spotify and decided to give a shot at putting together a year-end playlist through that rather than doing the standard podcast. Aside from a kind of ongoing latent concern about essentially giving away downloads of music that doesn’t belong to me via the old mp3 files — no one’s ever said anything and I always figured it was okay since songs were bundled together as one file — this just seemed more useful in allowing people to explore different artists, albums, etc. If you disagree, I’m sorry.

I can’t say I won’t ever go back to the other way, or that I’ll actively enjoy having a Spotify account enough to keep it, and so on, but it’s something new to try, so I’m giving it a shot. The playlist turned out to be nine hours and 12 minutes long, and once I got going, I couldn’t really resist making it 65 tracks, what with it being the 64th podcast and all. One to grow on.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening:

Track details:

• Artist, Track, Album, Runtime
• Elder, Sanctuary, Reflections of a Floating World, 00:11:13
• All Them Witches, Am I Going Up?, Sleeping Through the War, 00:05:33
• Lo-Pan, Pathfinder, In Tensions, 00:06:22
• MOON RATS, Heroic Dose, Highway Lord, 00:04:27
• Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine, Medicine, 00:06:38
• Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream, Lucifer’s Dream, 00:09:06
• Brume, Reckon, Rooster, 00:09:12
• Riff Fist, King Tide, King Tide, 00:11:20
• Monolord, Dear Lucifer, Rust, 00:08:41
• Hymn, Serpent, Perish, 00:07:32
• Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Waves, Gravity Works, 00:08:26
• Electric Wizard, Wicked Caresses, Wizard Bloody Wizard, 00:06:43
• Ruby the Hatchet, Symphony of the Night, Planetary Space Child, 00:07:08
• Telekinetic Yeti, Colossus, Abominable, 00:08:56
• Bong Wish, My Luv, Bong Wish, 00:02:31
• Radio Moscow, New Skin, New Beginnings, 00:03:02
• Cloud Catcher, Celestial Empress, Trails of Kozmic Dust, 00:05:41
• The Atomic Bitchwax, Humble Brag, Force Field, 00:02:52
• Sasquatch, Just Couldn’t Stand the Weather, Maneuvers, 00:06:27
• Kadavar, Die Baby Die, Rough Times, 00:04:18
• Cities of Mars, Children of the Red Sea, Temporal Rifts, 00:08:27
• Argus, You Are the Curse, From Fields of Fire, 00:06:23
• Comacozer, Hylonomus, Kalos Eidos Skopeo, 00:13:43
• Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe, One with the Universe, 00:15:02
• Orango, Heirs, The Mules of Nana, 00:04:46
• Siena Root, Tales of Independence, A Dream of Lasting Peace, 00:03:39
• Demon Head, Older Now, Thunder on the Fields, 00:04:17
• Sun Blood Stories, Great Destroyer, It Runs Around the Room with Us, 00:06:11
• Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma, Time Travel Dilemma, 00:10:07
• Arc of Ascent, Hexagram, Realms of the Metaphysical, 00:07:34
• Causa Sui, Seven Hills, Vibraciones Doradas, 00:07:24
• Alunah, Fire of Thornborough Henge, Solennial, 00:05:32
• Vokonis, Calling From The Core, The Sunken Djinn, 00:06:03
• Enslaved, Sacred Horse, E, 00:08:12
• Dvne, Edenfall, Asheran, 00:07:04
• The Midnight Ghost Train, Break My Love, Cypress Ave., 00:03:33
• The Obsessed, It’s Only Money, Sacred, 00:02:35
• Mothership, Crown of Lies, High Strangeness, 00:05:41
• Geezer, Red Hook, Psychoriffadelia, 00:06:02
• Uffe Lorenzen, Flippertøs, Galmandsværk, 00:02:46
• Youngblood Supercult, Master of None, The Great American Death Rattle, 00:04:01
• Beastmaker, Nature of the Damned, Inside the Skull, 00:03:26
• Pallbearer, I Saw the End, Heartless, 00:06:21
• Paradise Lost, Blood and Chaos, Medusa, 00:03:51
• Rozamov, Wind Scorpion, This Mortal Road, 00:08:49
• Eternal Black, Sea of Graves, Bleed the Days, 00:06:33
• Demon Eye, Politic Divine, Prophecies and Lies, 00:03:40
• Snowy Dunes, Ritual of Voices, Atlantis, 00:07:17
• The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Low, II, 00:08:49
• Abronia, Glass Butte Retribution, Obsidian Visions / Shadowed Lands, 00:06:09
• John Garcia, Kylie, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues, 00:04:58
• Tuna de Tierra, Raise of the Lights, Tuna de Tierra, 00:07:09
• Colour Haze, Lotus, In Her Garden, 00:07:05
• IAH, Stolas, IAH, 00:08:39
• Fungus Hill, Are You Dead, Creatures, 00:08:54
• Atavismo, El Sueño, Inerte, 00:11:18
• Tuber, Noman, Out of the Blue, 00:08:14
• Spidergawd, What You Have Become, Spidergawd IV, 00:03:44
• Puta Volcano, Bird, Harmony of Spheres, 00:05:07
• Ufomammut, Core, 8, 00:05:15
• Kings Destroy, None More, None More, 00:14:03
• PH, Looking Back at Mr. Peter Hayden, Eternal Hayden, 00:16:44
• Mt. Mountain, Dust, Dust, 00:17:15
• Electric Moon, Live Forever Now (You Will), Stardust Rituals, 00:22:41
• Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper, Mirror Reaper, 01:23:15

If you want to follow me on Spotify, apparently that’s something you can do here.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-debut-albums

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 2017 to that, please do.

Every successive year brings an absolute inundation of underground productivity. Every year, someone new is inspired to pick up a guitar, bass, drums, mic, keyboard, theremin, cello — whatever it might be — and set themselves to the task of manifesting the sounds they hear in their head.

This is unspeakably beautiful in my mind, and as we’ve done in years past, it seems only fair to celebrate the special moment of realization that comes with a band’s first album. The debut full-length. Sometimes it’s a tossed-off thing, constructed from prior EPs or thrown together haphazardly from demo tracks, and sometimes it’s a meticulously picked-over expression of aesthetic — a band coming out of the gate brimming with purpose and desperate to communicate it, whatever it might actually happen to be.

We are deeply fortunate to live in an age (for now) of somewhat democratized access to information. That is, if you want to hear a thing — or if someone wants you to hear a thing — it’s as simple as sharing and/or clicking a link. The strong word of mouth via ubiquitous social media, intuitive recording software, and an ever-burgeoning swath of indie labels and other promotional vehicles means bands can engage an audience immediately if they’re willing to do so, and where once the music industry’s power resided in the hands of a few major record companies, the divide between “listener” and “active participant” has never been more blurred.

Therefore, it is a good — if crowded — time for an act to be making their debut, even if it’s something that happens basically every day, and all the more worth celebrating the accomplishments of these first-albums both on their current merits and on the potential they may represent going forward. Some percent of a best-debuts list is always speculation. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

As always, I invite you to let me know your favorite picks in the comments (please keep it civil). Here are mine:

telekinetic-yeti-abominable

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

1. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
2. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
3. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
4. Dool, Here Now There Then
5. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days
6. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
7. Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Works
8. Tuna de Tierra, Tuna de Tierra
9. Brume, Rooster
10. Moon Rats, Highway Lord
11. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
12. OutsideInside, Sniff a Hot Rock
13. Hymn, Perish
14. Riff Fist, King Tide
15. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine
16. Abronia, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands
17. Book of Wyrms, Sci-Fi Fantasy
18. Firebreather, Firebreather
19. REZN, Let it Burn
20. Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

Honorable Mention

Alastor, Black Magic
Devil’s Witches, Velvet Magic
Elbrus, Elbrus
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Grigax, Life Eater
High Plains, Cinderland
Kingnomad, Mapping the Inner Void
Lord Loud, Passé Paranoia
Masterhand, Mind Drifter
The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl
Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher
Petyr, Petyr
The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure
Savanah, The Healer
War Cloud, War Cloud
WhiteNails, First Trip

I could keep going with honorable mentions, and no doubt will add a few as people remind me of other things on which I brainfarted or whathaveyou, preferably without calling me an idiot, though I recognize that sometimes that’s a lot to ask. Either way, the point remains that the heavy underground remains flush with fresh infusions of creativity and that as another generation comes to maturity, still another is behind it, pushing boundaries forward or looking back and reinventing what came before them.

Notes

Will try and likely fail to keep this brief, but the thing I find most striking about this list is the variety of it. That was not at all something I planned, but even if you just look at the top five, you’ve got Telekinetic Yeti at the forefront. Abominable is something of a speculative pick on my part for the potential it shows on the part of the Midwestern duo in their songcraft and tonality, but then you follow them with four other wildly different groups in Rozamov, Mindkult, Dool and Eternal Black. There you’ve got extreme sludge from Boston, a Virginian one-man cult garage project, Netherlands-based dark heavy rock with neo-goth flourishes, and crunching traditionalist doom from New York in the vein of The Obsessed.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about one thing, one scene, one sound, or one idea. It’s a spectrum, and at least from where I sit, the quality of work being done across that spectrum is undeniable. Think of the prog-doom majesty Arduini/Balich brought to their collaborative debut, or the long-awaited groove rollout from Vinnum Sabbathi, or how Italy’s Tuna de Tierra snuck out what I thought was the year’s best desert rock debut seemingly under everybody’s radar. Stylistically and geographically these bands come from different places, and as with Brume and Moon Rats, even when a base of influence is similar, the interpretation thereof can vary widely and often does.

That Moon Rats album wasn’t covered nearly enough. I’m going to put it in the Quarterly Review coming up just to give another look at the songwriting on display, which was maddening in its catchiness. Maddening in its cacophony of noise was Stone and Skin from Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, which found itself right on the cusp of the top 10 with backing from the ’70s heavy rock vibes of the post-Carousel Pittsburgh outfit OutsideInside. Norway’s Hymn thrilled with their bleak atmospheres, while Australia’s Riff Fist showed off a scope they’d barely hinted at previously, and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree offered surprises of their own in their warm heavy psych tonality and mostly-instrumental immersion. That record caught me almost completely off-guard. I was not at all prepared to dig it as much as I did.

Thrills continue to abound and resound as the Young Hunter-related outfit Abronia made their first offering of progressive, Americana-infused naturalist heavy, while Book of Wyrms dug themselves into an oozing riffy largesse on the other side of the country and Sweden’s Firebreather emerged from the defunct Galvano to gallop forth and claim victory a la early High on Fire. REZN’s Let it Burn got extra points in my book for the unabashed stonerism of it, while it was the ambience of Ealdor Bealu’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain that kept me going back to it. An album that was genuinely able to project a sense of mood without being theatrical about it was all the more impressive for it being their first. But that’s how it goes, especially on this list.

There you have it. Those are my picks. I recognize I’m only one person and a decent portion of my year was taken up by personal matters — having, losing a job; pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, etc. — but I did my best to hear as much music as I could in 2017 and I did my best to make as much of it as new as I could.

Still, if there’s something egregious I left out or just an album you’d like to champion, hell yes, count me in. What were some of your favorites? Comments are right down there. Let’s get a discussion going and maybe we can all find even more music to dig into.

Thanks for reading and here’s to 2018 to come and the constant renewal of inspiration and the creative spirit.

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The Obelisk Presents: 12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The whole point of this list is that it’s not exhaustive. I feel like I say this every year, but it’s not meant to be the best covers of 2017. How would I even begin to judge that kind of thing? Appreciation for visual art is so subjective that, even in a niche within a niche within a niche like the cover pieces for heavy rock and/or doom and/or psych records, the sphere is simply too vast. I just want to have a good time looking at kickass album covers. That’s really it.

Of course, there’s always plenty of fare ready and waiting. I kept a running list all year of things that really stuck out to me, and there are some familiar names here along with some newcomers. My gripe with the proliferation of cartoon tits continues and grows even more fervent as the political climate in which this stuff happens — because even riffs don’t occur in a vacuum, sorry — becomes increasingly fraught, problematic and outright heinous, but there doesn’t seem to be any slowing that particular patriarchal train in this bizarre subculture. Dudes gotta be objectifying women and such to make up for the disaffection they feel from society at large. Weak. Grow up.

And again — I said this last year too — but I’m a fucking hypocrite because of the 14 artists listed in these 12 covers, there isn’t one woman included. Not one. I looked at my list and hung my fool head in self-disappointment. Fortunately, looking at awesome artwork is the kind of thing from which I derive emotional comfort. It’s been a real rollercoaster putting this one together, I guess.

Alright, enough delay. If you’ve got favorites that you don’t see here — and I’m sure you do because I do as well — please let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for not being a jerk.

Here goes:

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Alunah, Solennial

alunah-solennial-adrian-baxter

Cover by Adrian Baxter. Thee Facebooks.

Though it was Alunah‘s 2014 album, Awakening the Forest (review here), that found Michael Cowell introducing the framing style and color scheme used on their latest offering as well, Adrian Baxter‘s piece for the Birmingham outfit’s fourth LP and Svart Records label debut, Solennial (review here), is an utter standout. Themes of death and life and nature echo the organic feel always on display throughout Alunah‘s songwriting, and amid the highly detailed line drawing, the flashes of red evoke the richness of blood to comport with the skeletons and the vines twisted about like innards, subtly reminding of the band’s pagan and forest-canopy ethereality.

Brume, Rooster

brume-rooster-sean-beaudry

Cover by Shaun Beaudry. Artist gallery.

Shaun Beaudry does a lot of work in pen and ink and coffee stain, and like many of his pieces, the cover art for Rooster (review here), the Doom Stew/DHU Records debut album from San Francisco three-piece Brume, seems like it’s tailor-made to be a tattoo. More than that, what strikes me about it is the sense of narrative happening with the serpent-bird, the eggs, the coiling around what would seem to be an unfortunate scavenger and the dandelions and leaves surrounding. Each element looks like it’s giving messages, holding meaning, communicating ideas, and with such exquisite detail, the effect on the viewer is all the more immersive.

Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud-catcher-trails-of-kozmik-dust-adam-burke

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website.

I imagine that, one way or another, every time I post a list like this it will feature a cover by Adam Burke. In 2017, in addition to the art for Cloud Catcher‘s Trails of Kozmic Dust (review here), the man behind Nightjar Illustration (and who did one of this site’s headers and the cover art for my book) also blasted out mention-worthy pieces topping records by Sólstafir and Spectral Haze, and his epic oil-on-canvas fantasy-art style always manages to stun. Look at the sense of scale in the Cloud Catcher cover, and the way that, as we see this cosmic battle happening, the stars seem to bleed through the two warriors, as though we’re looking at something happening across dimensions. And so we are. Beautiful.

Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

elder-reflections-of-a-floating-world-adrian-dexter

Cover by Adrian Dexter. Artist website.

A continued collaboration between Elder and Adrian Dexter yielded dividends once again with the artwork for Reflections of a Floating World (review here), released by Stickman Records and Armageddon Shop. Perhaps it’s not fair to include just the cover in this list since in my head I’m picturing the full LP’s swath of visuals, but even just in this single piece, Dexter gorgeously mirrors (get it? because “reflections?”) the band’s progressive stylizations with his own, evoking classic, stare-at-it-for-hours, poster-ready artwork and seeming to leave one wondering which end of the reflection is up and which is down in much the same way as the band’s dizzying complexity of songcraft.

The Riven, Blackbird

the-riven-blackbird-maarten-donders

Cover by Maarten Donders. Artist website.

In their video for “Killer on the Loose” (posted here), London-based heavy soul rockers The Riven play before a backdrop with the same Maarten Donders artwork on it as their debut EP, BlackbirdDonders is another repeat offender as far as appearances on this list go, and the many-time Roadburn poster collaborator’s detailed style, classic form and muted colors provide a feeling of warmth that seems almost like a goal The Riven are trying to achieve in their sound. From the moon, to the key, to the face being obliterated in smoke, the blackbird itself, the rune-laden ouroboros, the dead and hollow tree trunk, each element of the Blackbird cover holds a mystery of its own, and yet it all fits together perfectly as well, as though the art was a puzzle only Donders could piece together. I’d make a banner out of it, too.

Wight, Atlas

wight-atlas-rene-hofmann.jpg

Cover by René Hofmann. Band website.

Of the 12 covers featured on this list, René Hofmann‘s piece for Wight‘s 2017 H42 Records single, Atlas (review here), is the only one done by a member of the band itself. And I won’t lie: it’s the rainbow that sealed the deal for me. The fade from purple to yellow and sense of perspective in the rows of flowers at the bottom draw the eye toward the band’s logo, and with the mountains behind, that horizontal (angled diagonally) burst of color leads upward to the vertical color bars that seem to be holding up Planet Earth itself or are otherwise left in its path. That brazen use of color, especially with the darkness of the sky behind, was striking, hopeful and joyous in a year that seemed to need precisely as much of that as it could possibly get.

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost-orion-landau

Cover by Orion Landau. Artist Tumblr.

One has to wonder if, in his choice of red and purple hues, if Relapse Records in-house artist Orion Landau wasn’t specifically looking to reference Black Sabbath‘s Born Again in the artwork for Unearthly Trance‘s Stalking the Ghost (review here). Could we be looking at the devil-baby from that 1983 record all grown up in 2017? And could that reference itself be a clever manner of noting that it’s a reunion album for the band? That they’re, in essence, born again? Either way, the three hooded figures and the beast they’ve leashed are a haunting enough presence to fit with the LP’s title and the atmospherics of the group itself, while also being emblematic of the precision and detail Landau brings to the diverse range of work he does for Relapse artists across various realms of extremity and metal.

oceanwake-earthen-chris-luckhardt

Cover by Chris Luckhardt. Artist website.

The framing of the photo is a big part of the draw here, of course. The spiral of the abandoned rollercoaster. Oceanwake‘s Earthen (review here) seemed to set the goal of living up to its cover atmospherically and with the Kubrick-style framing of the abandoned rollercoaster that pulls the eye inward, almost like you’re looking down and not straight ahead, journeyman photographer Chris Luckhardt captured a murk that set a high standard indeed. The metaphor is laid on a little thick, to be sure — it isn’t subtle — but neither is the sound of Oceanwake, and the overarching greys and brooding vibe of the photo serve to genuinely affect the listening experience. Photo covers can be especially hard to pull off. This one does especially well to remain obscure even as its lines drag you in. Where does that coaster end up?

Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus-from-fields-of-fire-brad-moore

Cover by Brad Moore. Artist website.

Anyone with any level of appreciation for classic metal should by rights be an admirer of Brad Moore. The standard applies. Dude has a knack for capturing the kind of imagery you might’ve tried to emulate on the front of your high school notebook, but just ended up with an indecipherable mess of lines and half-formed monsters. Argus‘ 2017 album, From Fields of Fire (review here), with its bizarre hellscape, calls to mind doom, the NWOBHM and even some more extreme, death metal records, but the point rings true that what’s happening here is horns-up, balls-out, no-irony, no-fucking-around metal, and the most majestic Argus offering yet deserved no less. The detail of Moore‘s lines, the root influence of fantasy art, and in this case especially, the setting of theme through the use of red made this one especially arresting.

Spidergawd, IV

spidergawd-iv-emile-morel

Cover by Emile Morel. Artist website.

Easy pick. Sorry, but calling out Spidergawd art for being awesome is kind of low-hanging-fruit as far as critical assessment goes, as the fact is that’s been an essential element of what they’ve done all along across their four to-date full-lengths. The latest them, Spidergawd IV (review here), boasts the above piece by Emile Morel and inhabits the same pastel world as their past outings, but marks a turn for not having a human or semi-human figure as a part of the front cover. Instead we see an arachnid monster who may well represent the Norwegian band itself residing in a garden of fungi wonderfully rendered so that the colors almost obscure the danger lurking around. It’s very much to form, but does nothing to diminish its impact.

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

process-of-guilt-black-earth-Hugo-Santos-Pedro-Almeida

Cover by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida.

Granted, I said at the outset that this list wasn’t about rankings or picking favorites, and it’s not. I stand by that. However, no other album cover hit me as immediately hard as Process of Guilt‘s Black Earth (review here) with its photographed sculpture by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida. I don’t know who did what in terms of the division of labor in its making, but the horrific realism of the result has continued to haunt in the best way possible with its evocation of death, the spirit, the natural world and the contrast between light and dark. It seems so simple on the surface, but at the same time it’s so exacting in its position and its starkness that I can’t help but feel like it’s staring at me every time I see it, or more accurately, staring into me from someplace dark and other.

Rozamov, This Mortal Road

rozamov-this-mortal-road-andrew-weiss-matt-martinez

Cover by Andrew Weiss with layout by Matt Martinez. Artist website.

When I first saw the art for Rozamov‘s awaited Battleground Records debut long-player, This Mortal Road (review here), I was sure it had to be by Samantha Muljat. From the color wash in the sky to the otherworldly blend of photography and manipulation, to the geometric line-making overlaid, it just seemed to fit. Andrew Weiss, however, has done covers for Pelican, Spirit Adrift, and many others, and in concert with Matt Martinez‘s layout, his alien landscape is duly fraught and barren-looking while leaving the viewer to wonder if that’s a lone figure standing in the distance or just an oddly-shaped outcropping between the looming threat of the surrounding cavern walls. The message: there’s only one road ahead, only one way through it all.

A couple honorable mentions that I know I’ll add to as soon as this list goes live and I think of like 10 more records that looked awesome:

Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper
Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Godhunter, Codex Narco
Black Lung/Nap, Split 7″
Primitive Man, Caustic

So who did I miss? What were your favorite album covers of the year? Do you have a preferred style? Leave a comment with your picks and let’s get a conversation going. I know people feel strongly about this stuff, but please keep it civil so we can all have a good time.

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Rozamov and Husbandry Announce October Weekender Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Boston’s Rozamov just got back from a tour that included a stop at Crucialfest and New York’s Husbandry have a brand new video for the track ‘Grab Twist Pull’ and will head out with Moon Tooth in November, so both bands have plenty going on as they move toward rounding out 2017 both supporting and looking to move forward from their debut releases on Battleground/Dullest Records and Aqualamb, respectively. All the better to team up for a quick weekender next month for shows in their native territories of New York and Massachusetts, and to add intrigue, the final of the three dates for the weekender run, to be held at The Middle East — one assumes upstairs, but you can never be sure — that’s going to be recorded by GodCity Studio‘s mobile unit.

Does that mean Kurt Ballou (Converge) is going to helm live outings for both bands? Can’t imagine they’d bring him out and not put out the results. Something to watch for maybe as we head into 2018.

Show info came down the PR wire:

Rozamov & Husbandry – Northeast dates

Rozamov and Husbandry have announced a short string of Northeast dates this October, culminating in a show to be recorded by Godcity Studio at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA.

10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Well
10/21 – Florence, MA @ The 13th Floor Lounge
10/22 – Boston, MA @ The Middle East

Says Husbandry guitarist Jordan Usatch:

“There’s never an absence of ‘heavy’ young bands these days, but I’ve always felt that it’s few and far between of bands that do ‘heavy’ but also ‘interesting’ – so of course, ever since meeting the guys in Rozamov we’ve felt a kinship with them between odd-timed riffs and our mutual big-ass pedalboards. When approached to do a mini-tour in the New England area, using it to hire Godcity mobile recording services for a future live split-record project, we had to say yes. The tour starts at The Well in Brooklyn and culminates 10/22/17 at the Middle East Upstairs, where both bands will record our live sets, featuring new (and previously unreleased) music from both bands. The Middle East show will be rounded out by two other Boston bands- Kal Marks as well as Nomad Stones.”

Rozamov released their debut LP “This Mortal Road” this past March and have completed two tours since including stops at Austin Terror Fest and Crucialfest. The band digitally released a live recording from their March tour titled “Adaptations” earlier this summer and are have been hard at work on new material.

Husbandry recently released a video for their song “Grab Twist Pull” off of their debut LP “Fera” which was released last year. They also recently announced a US tour with fellow New York weirdos Moon Tooth for this November.

https://www.facebook.com/Rozamov
http://battlegroundrnr.com/
http://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords
http://battlegroundrecords.bigcartel.com
https://dullestrecords.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/DullestRecords

https://www.facebook.com/husbandrynyc
http://www.twitter.com/husbandrynyc
http://instagram.com/husbandrynyc
https://husbandryny.bandcamp.com/
https://aqualamb.bandcamp.com/
http://www.aqualamb.org/

Husbandry, “Grab Twist Pull” official video

Rozamov, “Serpent Cult” official video

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Rozamov Premiere “Surrounded by Wolves” from New Live Album Adaptations

Posted in audiObelisk on July 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ROZAMOV

If it seems like a quick turnaround for Boston trio Rozamov to have new material ready to roll out just a couple months after releasing their much-awaited debut album, This Mortal Road (review here), this Spring on Battleground Records and Dullest Records, well, it kind of is. But consider that the band had the material for that five-track long-player in the can for about a year before it came out, and that guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli and bassist/vocalist Tom Corino had added drummer Jeff Landry to the lineup in the meantime post-recording, and it makes sense to think they might want to flex a bit of songwriting. Whether it’s to see where they’re at sound-wise after the record, feel out the new dynamic with Landry or just keep themselves busy while waiting for the release or what was then their next stint on the road, it’s not like writing is going to hurt.

Thus we get “Surrounded by Wolves” on a new live release out July 21 called Adaptations. Captured in Chicago on the coast-to-coast tour the band undertook to mark This Mortal Road‘s arrival, it’s the first track to be put together with Landry in the group, and as it plods out its full course in just over three minutes, it stands as a significant change from the longer-form approach of the debut. I wouldn’t speculate any major shift in direction or method overall based on one initial live track, but the shortest of This Mortal Road‘s non-interlude cuts was the seven-minute “Serpent Cult,” so as “Surrounded by Wolves” checks in at less than half of that, it’s noteworthy either way.

One can’t argue, however, that Rozamov don’t state their case in that time. With a full tonal breadth even in this live version and harsh vocals cutting through the lumbering wash of low end, crashing cymbals and overarching push of its rhythm, “Surrounded by Wolves” champions an efficiency that well earns the quick exclamations audible from the crowd when it chugs to its conclusion. And in kind with the record preceding it, not only is “Surrounded by Wolves” this heavy, brutally-minded shove of lung-filling sludge extremity, but its pummel is also richly atmospheric, and its mix — again, even in this live version — brings a depth in which the listener feels likely to get consumed permanently. Easy to imagine that it made the lights at the Livewire Lounge seem just a bit darker by the time it was done.

You can check out the track on the player below, followed by some comment from Landry — who also did the artwork for Adaptations — on the song in what looks suspiciously in-part like a tour diary, and upcoming live dates, including the run Rozamov will do next month with Battleground labelmates The Ditch and the Delta that wraps with a slot Sept. 2 at Crucialfest.

Behold:

Jeff Landry on “Surrounded by Wolves”:

We are all really excited to release Adaptations. Essentially, it is a live take on our first LP, This Mortal Road, as well as a new track “Surrounded by Wolves.” With the addition of myself on drums, I was able to have a different take on the music. I’m grateful that Matt and Tom allowed me to explore that. We are definitely evolving right now and Adaptations is a little window into what we have going on.

As for the show we recorded this at, we had about 20 nights of shows under our belts going into this set. It was day three of rain. Matt had family come out. We hung out at Wrigley and Tom convinced a pizza spot to deliver to the van. I got locked in the venue’s basement for a while. Solid day. It wasn’t a packed show but people were definitely into the set and we had a great night afterwards too. That was basically the M.O. of that whole tour. We’d show up to the city early, tourist what we could, get to the show, have people sort of stare at us and wonder who we were, crush a set, people chat our ears off after we play, load out and drive to the hotel, sleep, repeat.

I think at that point in March we were about halfway through writing for the new record, so we started peeking out a few each night. We opened up this show with “Surrounded by Wolve.s. After listening to it, we knew we wanted to get it out there for people to listen ASAP. We went the friends route and had our bud Chris Johnson from who plays in a rad band mix it and Alec Rodriguez who also plays in a rad band master it. We are really stoked to get this out there. We’re hitting the road this weekend with our Syracuse homies in Blood Sun Circle and doing a week of dates in Pacific Northwest to Crucialfest this August with our boys The Ditch and The Delta. Jam this new record on Spotify and check out a show!

Rozamov live:
rozamov ditch and the delta tour7/21 – Wallingford, CT @ Cherry Street Station +
7/22 – Rochester, NY @ Photo City Improv +
7/28 – Somerville, MA @ ONCE ^

8/24 – Allston, MA @ Great Scott *
8/25 – Columbus OH @ Cafe Bourbon Street *
8/26 – Indianapolis, IN @ TBA
8/27 – St. Paul, MN @ TBA
8/30 – Seattle, WA @ Funhouse *
8/31 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark *
9/1 – Boise, ID @ The Shredder *
9/2 – Salt Lake City @ Crucial Fest *

+ w/ Blood Sun Circle
^ w/ Author & Punisher
*w/ The Ditch and The Delta

Adaptations was recorded live at Live Wire in Chicago, mixed by Chris Johnson at The Electric Bunker in Brighton, MA, and Mastered by Alec Rodriguez at New Alliance in Cambridge, MA. The full recording will be available for free download via Bandcamp and streaming via Spotify on July 21.

Adaptations tracklisting:
1. Surrounded By Wolves (Live)
2. Ghost Divine (Live)
3. Serpent Cult (Live)
4. Inhumation (Live)

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Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rozamov

There is an odd duality to Boston three-piece Rozamov at this stage in their career. With numerous tours under their collective belt, years of experience slogging it out at fests like Psycho California, that time they opened for Slayer at a Converse show in their hometown, numerous short releases, lineup changes, and so on, it seems improper to think of them as anything but veterans. And yet, some five years after the arrival of their first, self-titled EP, it’s only now that Rozamov have hit the point of releasing their debut album. To call it “awaited” feels like a definite understatement.

The record is This Mortal Road (review here), issued this past March via Battleground Records and comprised of five darkened tracks that unquestionably benefit from Rozamov‘s tenure leading up to hitting the studio. Their doom finds heft in ambient stretches as well as in its most crushing moments, is patient when it wants to be but capable of a noisy assault, and when Rozamov want to punish — as on the 11-minute finale “Inhumation,” discussed below — the results leave bruises on the inner ear. They’ve proven to be as much a force in the studio as they have been on the stage. No small feat, but one hell of a debut.

Recorded with the trio of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli, bassist/vocalist Tom Corino and drummer Will Hendrix, the band is now comprised of Iacovelli, Corino and drummer Jeff Landry, and I’m happy to say that all three took part in this interview to talk about making the album, their experience to this point, the shift that brought Landry aboard and their plans going forward. You’ll find the Q&A below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

rozamov this mortal road

Six Dumb Questions with Rozamov

Where did the title This Mortal Road come from? It’s been quite a journey for Rozamov to get to the point of releasing your first album. Was there an element of self-reflection in naming the record? Why is the road “mortal?”

Tom Corino: The title came basically out of some brainstorming and some in depth conversations between all of us. The road to making this record was certainly plagued or (or blessed in some cases) with twists and turns so I felt that the title was fitting.

Matt Iacovelli: The mortal road would be a metaphor for life and death and everything in between. The band feels like a crazy journey and ride that you don’t want to end.

Tell me about your time in the studio with Jon Taft at New Alliance Audio. How long was the recording process, what was the vibe like in the studio, and how do you feel about the sounds and tones you were able to capture?

MI: The time in the studio was a really great experience. Jon pushed us all to be tight and play tight. It took five-to-six days in the studio.

TC: I think Jon brought an outsider’s perspective to the record and a non-metal approach. It was really important to him that we not fall into certain trends he saw in other recent heavy recordings, so I think the album doesn’t necessarily have a prototypical modern metal sound. I’m pretty sure we used only amp distortion for the guitar tracks, which was a completely out of the box idea for us. I got to fiddle around with a bunch of distortions and amps. Nerd Knuckle Effects boxes had a huge hand in the way my bass sound came together on the record, Brad [Macomber] is really making some interesting stuff in his lab and has been a long time friend and solid dude.

What was the timeline on the recording in terms of when Jeff joined on drums? My understanding is he came aboard after the tracking was done. How has his joining changed the band?

Jeff Landry: Yeah it’s been about a year now, I think. I joined after the record was tracked but I helped with a lot of the physical record itself, so I still feel attached to it. As for the songs itself, Matt and Tom gave me free range on rewriting the drum parts without drastically changing the songs, which I am grateful for. My initial goal was to give these songs more energy live and I really feel we nailed that. They ended up a little faster then the recordings.

MI: Jeff has brought a real songwriting aspect to the band. It’s good ‘cause now we are working on all cylinders.

TC: Our previous drummer, Will Hendrix, recorded all of the drums on the record. After recording we did a tour with our friends in Destroy Judas and Trapped Within Burning Machinery. It was shortly after that tour that Matt and I decided we needed to find a new solution behind the kit. Things had come to a head personally and musically, it was just impossible for the three of us to move on “as is” and be able to promote this record the way we wanted to. We wish Will all the best but it was just time for new blood, and Jeff has supplied that and then some.

Tell me how “Inhumation” came together.

MI: “Inhumation” was written right after Psycho Fest 2015. I remember putting the opening riff together in the jam room. I had one of the change riffs sort of around. The end riff… it’s really one set of chords played in a revolving order. It’s the doomiest we had ever been up to that point. I think it was all of the built up tension that Slayer, Psycho Fest, flying and eminent fact that changes need to be made. A ritualistic burial.

TC: It was the last song we finished for the record and cemented This Mortal Road’s “doom” feel. I remember walking in to Matt working on the last riff in the song and being very excited because we had never done anything that slow or noise-based before. As with all of the songs on the record, Jeff has breathed new life into it.

JL: This is the song that is the most drastically changed from record to live. We recorded it live in Chicago on this past tour and it will be hitting Spotify and Bandcamp pretty soon. Just waiting for some final mixes.

You went coast-to-coast on tour this past March. How was that experience for you as a band? What were the shows like? How was Austin Terror Fest and the rest of SXSW? You’ve of course done tours before. Is it strange to feel like a veteran while touring on your first record?

JL: I’ve been on a bunch of tours before, big and small. I have to say that spending almost a month on the road with my homies was a blast. We were able to establish a routine pretty quickly due to fact that I get a massive discount on hotels with my job. That was a huge deal. It enabled us to be pretty comfortable and focus more on our sets and getting better every night. We don’t really drink too much ether, so that helps. I think I had like three beers all tour. We did smoke a ton of weed though so I promise we are not boring.

TC: It was definitely the healthiest I’ve ever been on tour, both mentally and physically. We’ve done shorter tours before but this was by far the most ambitious outing yet. It is a little strange to have been a band for so long and to still have all these firsts happening; first LP, first full US tour… it’s odd I suppose, but in some aspects we’ve already done a lot in our five years or so as a band. This lineup is far and away the best we’ve ever been. I’m excited for the future of this band, now more than ever and this tour cemented that feeling.

MI: The tour was great, absolutely great. With each tour you learn things, you come back a little older and a little bit more experienced. You realize how your own personal world is so small and exact. We as humans are very ritualistic in nature so on tour you have to change your tune and adapt the best you can. You see other parts of the country and it’s not like home, but strangely it’s similar, strangely we are all in this together as I whiz by going hopefully 75 mph.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

JL: Yeah, we are more than halfway through writing our next record. We have a bunch of shows coming up too. We are playing Stoned to Death fest in Western Mass early next month; doing a few gigs in New York this July with Blood Sun Circle; doing a run with our homies and labelmates The Ditch and the Delta out to the Pacific Northwest, then down to Salt Lake for a fest out there, as well as Forge Fest down in Providence in Sept. We have this really rad tour/recording project we are working on for October that will be announced later.

TC: I’m eternally grateful for all of the people who had a hand in making this record a reality and who have supported us throughout the years. I want to specifically thank David [Rodgers] at Battleground Records for taking a chance on us. It’s a really tough climate for independent music and he’s been an absolute rock, and I’ve honestly learned a lot from him. He’s a man of his word and that’s a hard thing to find in today’s underground music “business.”

MI: Like the great Kid Rock once mused: “It’s been a couple of months in this smokey room/Eaten shrooms drinking Boones writing tunes/And hoping to get one of these mother fuckin’ songs to hit.”

Rozamov, This Mortal Road (2017)

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Rozamov, This Mortal Road: Beating a Path

Posted in Reviews on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

rozamov this mortal road

Consuming in its atmospheric darkness and vicious in intent, the debut album from Boston trio Rozamov arrives not without the ground suitably prepared. Actually, it’s been something of a wait. Founded in 2011 by the trio appearing here of guitarist/vocalist Matt Iacovelli (also piano), bassist/vocalist/noisemaker Tom Corino (also of Kind) and drummer Will Hendrix (since replaced by Jeff Landry), as well as guitarist Liz Walshak, they would quickly turn around two EPs, a self-titled and Of Gods and Flesh, in 2012 and 2013, offering heavy-toned crusher riffs with a thrashy edge and a nascent undertone of doom.

It didn’t seem unreasonable to think a full-length would follow soon after, but Rozamov took something of a turn at that point. They parted ways with Walshak (now in Sea) and undertook their first real stretch of touring. I don’t know what other work they were doing, but by the time 2015 came around and they released their cross-coastal split 7″ with L.A.’s Deathkings (review here), they were a different band. Still heavy, still nasty, but driven in a post-sludge direction in a new way and one that, excitingly, was more their own than what they’d shown on their earliest work. As their first long-player, This Mortal Road lands via Battleground Records and Dullest Records with five tracks/40 minutes that draw that line further out to a new point in their longer-term progression. It has been a while in the making, but it’s a pivotal declaration from Rozamov of who they are as a band, and it comes through loud and clear in these songs. Emphasis on loud.

With a recording and mix by Jon Taft at New Alliance Audio and mastering by Nick Z. at New Alliance East Mastering, This Mortal Road seethes with a particularly New England-style anger and intensity. It is bookended by its two longest pieces in the opening title-track (10:49) and closer “Inhumation” (11:29), and finds a sense of variety in switching between Iacovelli‘s shouts and cleaner, post-Oborn howls, and Corino‘s shouts, which particularly on the rolling second cut “Wind Scorpion” remind of Rwake‘s poetic extremity. There is precious little letup, as “This Mortal Road” makes plain at the outset, beginning almost like the listener got there late with an unfolding mid-paced intro that leads the way into the first verse, cleaner-sung than much of what will follow and thoroughly doomed.

At about three minutes in, the roll-and-rumble comes to a halt and they turn to a quieter but still tense stretch of guitar and either keys or guitar effects leading to an instrumental midsection that gradually, patiently, brings them around to the opener’s grueling, shouted apex, in which the full impact of their churn really begins to show itself, perhaps as a precursor to “Wind Scorpion,” which is marked out by Hendrix‘s tortured thud and the play between the bass — which, on a tonal level, feels like it might just bury us all — and the airier impulses of the guitar.

rozamov-photo-by_Reid_Haithcock

When they hit into a stop, as they do several times in the verse, I don’t care what speaker you’re listening on, it sounds like it’s about to blow. Vocals are shouted with a sense of the space in the room in which they were recorded, but not necessarily buried in the mix for effect, and as “Wind Scorpion” passes its midpoint, Corino and Iacovelli seem to come together on vocals in a moment of extra-righteous malevolence, transitioning into a slow-motion nod drawn to more resonant thudding and a plotted but effective layered-in lead that rounds out. They cap side A with a final chug that, in the context of the lurch and push before it, feels almost humorous in its understatement.

It’s important to note that while This Mortal Road is unquestionably structured to break into two sides, as mentioned above, the flow front-to-back is linear and the resulting full-album feel palpable. Listening digitally or on CD, there’s a quick stop between “Wind Scorpion” and the subsequent “Serpent Cult,” which brings back the clean vocals, but in their order as much as in how “Serpent Cult” feeds into the two-minute interlude “Swallowed and Lost” and that feeds into the finale, Rozamov do well in creating an immersive experience — think Steve Buscemi in a woodchipper, you children of the ’90s — across the presentation of the record as a whole, which is something that, as a newer and less mature outfit, they probably wouldn’t have been able to do.

“Serpent Cult” proves a worthy centerpiece of the tracklist as it oozes forth to execute its seven minutes of hellscaping, and though its instrumental aspects are thoroughly, persistently sludged, the shifts in vocal approach offer diversity both on their own and in relation to “Wind Scorpion” before it. Vague speech, either sampled or spoken, accompanies the piano of “Swallowed and Lost,” and the movement into “Inhumation” — a title that brings to mind some lost death metal band from either Florida or New York — comes via a brief foreboding drone. Fittingly enough, “Inhumation” is the darkest, most outwardly brutal inclusion on This Mortal Road, making its way toward a crawl in its second half that seems bent on tearing itself apart from about its seventh minute onward.

Noble, and I’m not sure how else Rozamov might’ve ended the album other than with the noise and feedback they do, but it follows a churning roll into the bleakest sphere the band has yet to occupy, as though they were forcibly willing themselves to be heavier, meaner, rawer. That impression, savage as it turns out to be in the actual listening experience, is another sign of how much they’ve grown, and while This Mortal Road was recorded over a span of months, the obvious efforts Rozamov have put into crafting their aesthetic with it can be heard in the overarching cohesiveness of purpose in the songs. In other words, it took a while for the band to realize This Mortal Road, but This Mortal Road seems to be all the more realized for that, and as their debut, it strikes with deceptive efficiency and poise. Is it possible for something so harsh to be progressive? One gets the sense that as Rozamov continue forward, they’re setting themselves up to pursue an answer.

Rozamov, This Mortal Road (2017)

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