Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

Wucan on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

Lucifer-in-the-Sky-with-Diamonds-Silent-Echo

The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Bandcamp

 

Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

thera-roya-masterful-universe

Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

Thera Roya on Thee Facebooks

Thera Roya on Bandcamp

 

Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

Ojos-Rojos-Sons-of-Love-and-Death

It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

Ojos Rojos on Thee Facebooks

Ojos Rojos on Bandcamp

 

Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

Ett Rop På Hjälp on Thee Facebooks

Sans och Balans on Spotify

 

BongCauldron, Binge

bongcauldron-binge

Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

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Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

Nomadic Rituals on Thee Facebooks

Nomadic Rituals on Bandcamp

 

Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

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A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

Mental Tremors on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Gin Lady, Electric Earth

gin-lady-electric-earth

Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

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Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

Swanmay on Thee Facebooks

Swanmay on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: The Necromancers, The Asound & Intercourse, Bohr, Strobe, Astrosaur, Sun Q, Holy Mount, Sum of R, IIVII, Faces of the Bog

Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The season is changing here in the Northeastern part of the US. Leaves have just barely started to change, and the summertime haze that settles over the region for for the better parts of June, July and August has largely dissipated. It’s getting to be hoodie weather after the sun goes down. This past weekend was the equinox. All of this can only mean it’s time for another Quarterly Review — this one spanning a full Monday-to-Monday week’s worth of writeups. That’s right. 60 albums between now and a week from today. It’s going to be a genuine challenge to get through it all, but I’m (reasonably) confident we’ll get there and that when we’re on the other side, it will have been completely worth the lengthy trip to get there. Hell, you know the drill by now. Let’s not waste any time and get to it, shall we?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl

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A noteworthy debut from the Poitier, France-based four-piece The Necromancers, whose coming has been much heralded owing in no small part to a release through Ripple Music, the six-track/41-minute Servants of the Salem Girl lumbers through doom and cultish heavy rock with likewise ease, shifting itself fluidly between the two sides on extended early cuts like opener “Salem Girl Part I” and the nine-minute “Lucifer’s Kin,” which gets especially Sabbathian in its roll later on. The album’s midsection, with the shorter cuts “Black Marble House” (video premiere here) and “Necromancers,” continues the flow with a general uptick of pace and ties together with the opening salvo via the burly vocals of guitarist Tom, the solo work of Rob on lead guitar, and the adaptable groove from bassist Simon and drummer Ben, and as the penultimate “Grand Orbiter” engages moody spaciousness, it does so with a refusal to commit to one side or the other that makes it a highlight of the album as a whole. The Necromancers finish contrasting rhythmic tension and payoff nod on “Salem Girl Part II,” having long since thoroughly earned their hype through songwriting and immediately distinct sonic persona. There’s growth to do in melodicism, but for being “servants,” The Necromancers show an awful lot of command in structure and style.

The Necromancers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

The Asound & Intercourse, Split 7″

the asound intercourse split

Noise is the order of things on the Tsuguri Records split 7” between New Haven, Connecticut’s good-luck-Googling aggressives Intercourse and North Carolinian sludge rockers The Asound. Each band offers a two-song showcase of their wares, with Intercourse blasting short jabs of post-hardcore/noise rock angularity on “Too Fucked to Yiff” and “Corricidin is a Helluva Drug” and The Asound bringing a more melodic heavy rock swing to “Slave to the Saints” while saving a more galloping charge for “Human for Human.” It’s a quick sampling, of course, and “Slave to the Saints” is the relative epic inclusion as the only one over three minutes long – it goes to 4:20, naturally – but boasts a surprisingly professional production from The Asound and an unhinged vibe from Intercourse that meets them head on in a way both competitive and complementary to the aggression of “Human for Human.” Fodder for the bands’ merch tables in its limited-to-300, one-time-only pressing, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. All the more worth grabbing it if you can, while you can.

The Asound on Thee Facebooks

Intercourse on Thee Facebooks

Tsuguri Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Bohr, Bohr

bohr bohr

Officially called Self-Title, this two-song outing released by Tandang Records and BTNKcllctv serves as the first release from Malaysia’s Bohr, and with shouts and growls duking it out over massive plodding tones on opener “Voyager,” they seem to take position right away in the post-Conan verve of megadoom. Peppered-in lead work showcases some welcome nuance of personality, but it’s the second track “Suria” that trips into more surprising terrain, with a faster tempo and something of a letup in thickness, allowing for a more rocking feel, still met with shouted vocals but hinting at more of a melodic reach nonetheless. The shift might be awkward in the context of a full-length, but on a debut single/EP, it works just fine to demonstrate what may or may not be a nascent breadth in Bohr’s approach. They finish “Suria” with hints of more to come in a plotted guitar lead and are done in about 10 minutes, having piqued interest with two disparate tracks that leave one to wonder what other tricks might be up their collective sleeve.

Bohr on Thee Facebooks

Tandang Records on Bandcamp

BTNKcllctv on Bandcamp

 

Strobe, Bunker Sessions

strobe bunker sessions

It’s worth noting outright that Strobe’s Bunker Sessions was recorded in 1994. Not because it sounds dated, but just the opposite. The Sulatron Records release from the under-exposed UK psychedelic rockers finds them jamming out in live-in-studio fashion, and if you’d told me with no other context that the resultant six-track/40-minute long-player was put to tape two months ago, I’d absolutely have believed it. This would’ve been the era of their 1994 third album, The Circle Never Ends, and while some can hear some relation between that and Bunker Sessions in the shimmering lead and warm underscoring basslines of 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Sun Birth,” the drift in “Chameleon Earth,” synth-laden space rock meandering of “Opium Dreams” and cymbal-wash-into-distortion-wash of closer “Sun Death” are on a wavelength of their own. It’s something of a curio release – a “lost album” – but it’s also bound to turn some heads onto how ahead of their time Stobe were in the ‘90s, and maybe we’ll get lucky and Sulatron will use it to kick off a full series of convenient LP reissues.

Sulatron Records on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Astrosaur, Fade In / Space Out

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While their moniker brings to mind pure stoner idolatry, Oslo instrumentalists Astrosaur acquit themselves toward more progressive fare with Fade In // Space Out, their Bad Vibes Records debut album, finding open spaces in bookending extended opener “Necronauts” and the dramatic shift between droning experimentalism and weighted lumber of the closing title-track even as middle cuts “Space Mountain,” “Yugen” and “Fishing for Kraken” balance with fits of driving progressive metallurgy. Comprised of Eirik Kråkenes, Steinar Glas and Jonatan Eikum, Astrosaur do get fuzzy for a bit on “Yugen,” but by the time they’re there, they’ve already space-doom-jazzed their way through such a vast aesthetic swath that it becomes one more stylistic element in fair-enough play. Open in its structure and building to an affecting cacophony in its ending, Fade In // Space Out is defined in no small part by its stylistic ambition, but whether it’s in the head-spinning initial turns of “Fishing for Kraken” or the stretch of peaceful, wistful guitar after the seven-minute mark in “Necronauts,” that ambition is admirable multifaceted and wide-reaching.

Astrosaur on Thee Facebooks

Bad Vibes Records website

 

Sun Q, Charms

sun q charms

There’s an encouraging and decidedly pro-shop fullness of sound being proffered on Sun Q’s debut full-length, Charms, to match an immediate sense of songcraft and stylization that puts them somewhere between heavy psych and more driving fuzz rock. Vocalist Elena Tiron takes a forward position in opener “Petals and Thorns” over the briskly-captured tones from guitarist Ivan Shalimov and bassist Denis Baranov while drummer Pavel Poseluev pushes the proceedings along, and whether they’re bringing in Seva Timofeev’s Hammond for the subsequent bluesy vibing of “After This,” toying with pop playfulness on “Plankton,” giving Andrey Tanzu percussive room on “Dancing Souls” or going full-expanse on keyboard-laden centerpiece and aptly-titled longest cut “Space,” there’s purpose behind the variety on offer and Sun Q never seem to lose their sense of poise throughout. There are moments where the bite of the production hits a little deep – looking at you, “Plankton” – but especially as their debut, Charms lives up to the name it’s been given and establishes these Moscow natives as a presence with which to be reckoned as they move forward.

Sun Q on Thee Facebooks

Sun Q on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mount, The Drought

holy mount the drought

White Dwarf Records picked up what by my count is Holy Mount’s fourth full-length, The Drought, for a vinyl issue following the Toronto foursome’s self-release last year, and with the immersive, dense heavy psych nod of “Division,” it’s little wonder why. The seven-cut LP is the second to feature the lineup of Danijel Losic, Brandon McKenzie, Troy Legree and Clayton Churcher behind 2014’s VOL, and its moments of nuance like the synth at the outset of “Blackened Log” or the blend of tense riffing and post-The Heads shoegaze-style vocal chants on the markedly insistent highlight cut “Basalt” only further the reasoning. The penultimate “Blood Cove” returns some to of the ritual sense of “Division,” and The Drought’s titular finale pierces its own wash with a lead that makes its apex all the more resonant and dynamic. Not nearly as frenetic as its cover art would have you believe, the already-sold-out vinyl brims with a vibe of creative expansiveness, and Holy Mount feel right at home in its depths.

Holy Mount on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records webstore

 

Sum of R, Orga

sum of r orga

Over the course of its near-hour runtime, Orga, the Czar of Crickets-issued third full-length from Bern, Switzerland, ambient outfit Sum of R deep-dives into droning atmospheric wash while effectively producing headphone-worthy depths and avoiding the trap of redundant minimalism. Chimes in a song like “Desmonema Annasethe” and ringing bells in “We Have to Mark this Entrance” give a feeling of lushness instead that serves the release well overall, and these details, nuances, take the place of what otherwise might be human voices coursing through the bleak mire of Orga’s progression. One might look to closing duo “Let us Begin with What We Do Not Want to Be” and “One After the Other” for some sense of hopefulness, and whether or not it’s actually there, it’s possible to read it into the overarching drone of the former and the percussive movement of the latter, but by then Sum of R have well set the mood in an abiding darkness, and that remains the prevailing vibe. Not quite dramatic or brooding in a human/emotional sense, Orga casts its drear in soundscapes of distant nighttime horizon.

Sum of R website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

IIVII, Invasion

iivii invasion

Noted graphic artist and post-metal songwriter Josh Graham – formerly visuals for Neurosis, but also art for Soundgarden and many others, as well as being known for his work with A Storm of Light and the woefully, vastly underrated Battle of Mice – makes his second ambient solo release in the form of IIVII’s Invasion on Belgian imprint Consouling Sounds. A soundtrack-ready feel pervades the nine tracks/44 minutes almost instantly and holds sway with opener “We Came Here from a Dying World (I)” finding complement in the centerpiece “Tomorrow You’ll be One of Us (II)” and a thematic capstone in closer “Sanctuary,” only furthering the sense of a narrative unfolding throughout. There are elements drawn in “Unclouded by Conscience” from the atmospheric and score work of Trent Reznor and/or Junkie XL, but Graham doesn’t necessarily part with the post-metallic sense of brooding that has defined much of his work even as the pairing of “We Live” and “You Die” late in the record loops its way to and through its dramatic apex. Obviously not going to be for everyone, but it does make a solid argument for Graham as a composer whose breadth is still revealing itself even after a career filled with landmarks across multiple media.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Faces of the Bog, Ego Death

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In some of their shifts between atmospheric patience and churning intensity – not to mention in the production of Sanford ParkerFaces of the Bog remind a bit of fellow Windy City residents Minsk on their DHU Records debut album, Ego Death, but prove ultimately more aggressive in the thrust of “Drifter in the Abyss” and the later stretch of “The Serpent and the Dagger,” on which the guitars of Mark Stephen Gizewski and Trey Wedgeworth (both also vocals) delve into Mastodonic leads near the finish to set up the transition into the 10:33 title-track, which begins with a wash of static noise before Paul Bradfield’s bass sets up the slow nod that holds sway and only grows bigger as it presses forward. That cut is one of two over the 10-minute mark, and the other, closer “Blue Lotus,” unfolds even more gradually and ventures into cleaner vocals presaged on “The Weaver” and elsewhere as it makes its way toward an album-payoff crescendo marked by drummer Danny Garcia’s thudding toms and a low end rumble that’s as much a presence unto itself as a harbinger of progression to come.

Faces of the Bog on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

codeia-dont-be-afraid-she-whispered-and-disappeared

There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

ealdor-bealu-dark-water-at-the-foot-of-the-mountain

“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

bretus-from-the-twilight-zone

Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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The Grand Astoria Release The Fuzz of Destiny EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

In my experience, there’s always something to dig about it when Saint Petersburg progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria get an idea in their heads. That usually leads to projects like that time they put out one copy of a 9CD box set or that time they did a record of tracks influenced by classical music. You never really know where they’re headed. This time? They’re headed for fuzz. The Fuzz of Destiny, as it happens.

That’s the title of the Russian outfit’s latest EP, and it features eight tracks using eight different distortion pedals, basking in the glories of fuzz and the different sides of a sonic personality that said effect can bring forth, from the harsher bite of “Sunflower Queen” to the warmer depths of “Glass Walls.” But what makes the project even cooler and even more The Grand Astoria‘s own is the fact that they list the different pedals used to achieve these sounds, basically letting the listener play along at home as they make their way through the short release.

Feel free to do that by streaming the release at the bottom of this post, if you’re so inclined. All the release info follows as hoisted from their Bandcamp page:

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

First ever tribute to the distortion box!

8 years of The Grand Astoria / 8 songs / 8 different fuzz pedals

Personnel:
Kamille Sharapodinov – vocals, guitars, concept, music and lyrics
Danila Danilov – vocals, bass, keyboards, flute, percussion, recording
Nikolay Kunavin – drums
Ksenia Shamarina – vocals (4)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

Recorded by Danila Danilov at Red Wave Studio during December 2016 – February 2017

Tracklisting:
1. Sunflower Queen 02:53
2. Extra Lap 01:15
3. Tour Diary 04:30
4. Pocket Guru 05:40
5. Glass Walls 02:37
6. The Sleeper Awakes 04:51
7. The Fuzz of Destiny 04:50
8. Eight Years Anniversary Riff 02:32

Pedals used:
1 – Dr. No Octofuzz (with octave off)
2 – Dr. No Power Driver/Booster + Old Octave
3 – Guyatone TZ2
4 – Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh
5 – Dunlop Jimi Hendrix System Classic Fuzz
6 – ZVex Wooly Mammoth
7 – Dr. No Kafuzz
8 – MXR Blue Box

CD (4 panel digipack) is available via thegrandastoria@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/album/the-fuzz-of-destiny-ep

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny EP (2017)

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Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3: Journeys End and Begin

Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

electric funeral cafe vol 3

Look. The thing is immense. One can barely hope to give a decent accounting of a compilation in a review in the easiest of scenarios, but to attempt to sum up the scope of Robustfellow ProductionsElectric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3, which spans three CDs in its physical incarnation and tops out at an astonishing 48 tracks and four-plus hours of listening material when the digital bonus tracks are included from the Bandcamp version, the idea itself becomes silly. All one can really do is the same thing the listener likely does: make your way through it at your own pace, try to absorb as much as you can, and step back to admire the incredible amount of coordinating effort that must have gone into its making.

The latter is particularly impressive as what’s been touted as the final installment of the Kiev-based Robustfellow‘s Electric Funeral Cafe trilogy — nothing like going out with a bang — is bigger even than its predecessors, which came out in 2016 and 2015 and were “only” two discs apiece. The first two were broken down into component Electric and Funeral halves, arranged along this theme by discs. This edition works much the same way, with the Electric discs more focused on heavy rock and the Funeral disc dug into dirge-style doom and sludge, but adds the Cafe disc, on which one might be hear the Beatles-gone-electro-pop psych of Black Maloka, the Creedence Clearwater Revival-style boogie of Freeky Clean or the pure Doorsian meandering of The Jossers, along with more familiar names like Krobak (a Stoned Jesus side-project) or The Legendary Flower Punk (a The Grand Astoria side-project).

As with the earlier volumes, the bulk of the inclusions here highlight the underground boom in the Ukraine itself. 38 of the total 48 groups involved hail from the Ukraine. Two more are from Russia (The Legendary Flower Punk and A Foggy Realm, also on the Cafe disc), and one each from Japan (Eternal Elysium, on the Electric disc), Finland (Loinen, Funeral disc), the US (Contra, Electric), Sweden (Suffer Yourself, Funeral), Belarus (Nebulae Come Sweet, Funeral), the UK (Sons of Alpha Centauri, Cafe), and Italy (Le Scimmie, Funeral). It’s easy to get lost in the sprawl of a release like this, certainly, but worth noting all the same that this is the first of the Electric Funeral Cafe offerings to branch outside the Ukraine itself, so even as Robustfellow ends the series, it does so by reaching into new territories, making the project all the more impressive. One imagines that if the label kept it going, it would only continue to grow.

ELECTRIC FUNERAL CAFE POSTER

Not that it’s lacking in its current form, of course. Pick your poison and it’s likely here somewhere, from the progressive heavy vibes of Stonefromthesky and Ethereal Riffian on the Electric disc to the deathly chug of Chainsaw Jack‘s “Crashing Waves” and post-hardcore-sludge of Nebulae Come Sweet on the Funeral disc to the ’90s-style psych of Vermilion Nocturne and beat-backed drone of Submatukana‘s “Genesis” — which boasts a sampled Bible reading amid creepy whispered vocals — on the Cafe disc. There are, of course, a host of bands here who aren’t so easily fit into one category or another, as Dreadnought foreshadow on the Electric disc some of the screaming that will be a running theme throughout most of the Funeral disc, and the huge Ufomammut-style roll, push and echoes of Soom on Funeral do likewise for Cafe, but each piece of Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 offers something distinct from the others, and so the themes are not only ably established, but solidified while jumping from band to band, city to city, country to county, atmosphere to atmosphere.

And as ever for a worthy various-artists release, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 presents a number of curios warranting further investigation. In particular, Lviv’s 1914, who lead off the Funeral disc with “8×50 mm Repetiergewehr M95” would seem to have a fixation with WWI — remind me to tell you sometime about how it was the fall of Western Civilization; unless you’re European, in which case you already know — and Lucifer Rising on the Electric disc blend modern buzz tone with classic blues rock thrust, but there are a swath of such interest-piquers as the comp plays out, and the real challenge lies in not being overwhelmed by all of it.

Much to the credit of Robustfellow and to the benefit of the acts contributing, everyone is given a genuine chance to ply their sonic wares, whether that’s a sub-three-minute death-doom rumbler like Monmuth‘s “Vail Seven” or the nine-minute heavy post-rock rollout of Stonefromthesky‘s “67,” which makes sense in a if-you’re-going-to-do-it-and-it’s-already-huge-then-don’t-skimp kind of way, and if the tradeoff for that is there’s a lot of music to dig into, it’s the kind of issue a listener should probably be thankful to take on, even if it requires multiple rounds to get through the front-to-back experience — a four-hour listening session is a rare gift in these busy times. Bottom line is Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 will be there, whether one wants to take it as a whole or in pieces — as a document of Ukrainian heavy, yes, but also the scene’s will to reach outside itself and include others in a creative conversation — and as that movement continues to flourish and progress, such an impulse can only help broaden a scope already shown here to be considerable. And by considerable, I mean staggering.

Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 (2017)

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions website

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Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 Compilation Due Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

If you’ve had the chance to check out the prior two installments of Robustfellow Productions‘ compilation series Electric Funeral Cafe, you already know they’re massive things. Huge in terms of the sheer amount of music they feature, and with a strong focus solely directed on the Ukrainian heavy scene, they bring to light some acts who those of us outside the region might not necessarily run into on a daily basis. Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 is no different, but it’s worth noting that in addition to the good dose of acts from Kiev and Lviv it provides, it for the first time pushes international and boasts bands from the US, the UK, Belarus, Finland, Japan and Sweden included, so this final installment in the series — which comes with seven more tracks if you get the digital version — is by no means limited. Fitting for the mission of the series that it would expand even unto its conclusion.

I feel like the first line below under specifications really says it all: 41 bands, 9 countries, three discs, over three and a half hours of music. Sold.

Release date is Jan. 21. Here’s info from the PR wire:

electric funeral cafe vol 3

V/A – ‘Electric Funeral Café vol.3’

Formats: 3xCD in Deluxe digipack & Download
Catalogue # RBF 016 | IHR005
Label: Robustfellow Prods. & Iron Hamster Recs.
Release Date: 21 January 2017

Specifications:
– 41 bands from 9 countries on 3 CDs lasts for more than 3,5 hours
– Including 23 special tracks that you hardly hear anywhere else
– Plus 7 bonus tracks on digital version on bandcamp
– The final chapter of EFC trilogy
– Deluxe ltd.ed. that will consist of EFC vol.1,2,3
– Launch Party 21.I.2017 @ Winter Mass [“Monte Ray Live Stage”, Kyiv, UA]

Artwork design by Zinkovskaya Oksana
Design and DTP by Marsym Gavronsky
Made in Ukraine | 21.I.2017

List of robust bands involved in EFC vol.3 from A to Z:
1914 [Lviv, UA]
5R6 [Kharkiv, UA]
A Foggy Realm [Moscow, RU]
Atomic Simao [Kyiv, UA]
Bichkraft [Kyiv, UA]
Black Maloka [Kyiv, UA]
Borum [Kyiv, UA]
Chainsaw Jack [Kharkiv, UA]
Contra [Cleveland, OH, USA]
Dreadnought [Ternopil`, UA]
Drunk Diver [Lviv, UA]
Eternal Elysium [Nagoya, JP]
Ethereal Riffian [Kyiv, UA]
Filthy Rich Preacher [Cherkassy, UA]
Freeky Cleen [Kyiv, UA]
Krobak [Kyiv/Kharkiv, UA]
Katakomba [Kyiv, UA]
Le Scimmie [Vasto, IT]
Les Gendarmes [Kyiv, UA]
Loinen [Karjaa, FIN]
Love’n’Joy [Kyiv, UA]
Lucifer Rising [Kyiv, UA]
MAUT [Ivano-Frankivsk, UA]
Monmuuth [Dnipro, UA]
Nebulae Come Sweet [Minsk, BY]
Night on Fire [Zhytomyr, UA]
Ningen-girai [Cherkassy, UA]
Nödutgång:Självmord [Poltava, UA]
Obriy [Uzhgorod,UA]
Octopus Kraft [Drohobych/Lviv, UA]
Onsager [Khmelnitsky, UA]
OwlCraft [Cherkassy, UA]
Risin Sabotage [Kyiv, UA]
Small Depo [Kyiv, UA]
Sons Of Alpha Centauri [Kent, UK]
Soom [Kharkiv, UA]
Space-man [Lviv, UA]
stonefromthesky [Kyiv, UA]
Straytones [Kyiv, UA]
Submatukana [Dnipro, UA]
Suffer Yourself [Kyiv, UA/Linköping, SWE]
The Curse Of Wendigo [Kharcyzk/Kyiv, UA]
The Jossers [Kalush, UA]
The Legendary Flower Punk [St.Petersburg, RU]
Trip Inside Me [Kyiv, UA]
Tungu [Chernihiv,UA]
Vermilion Nocturne [Kyiv, UA]
Warningfog [Kyiv, UA]

http://robustfellow.blogspot.com/
https://robustfellow.bandcamp.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/TheRobustfellow
https://www.facebook.com/RobustfellowProds/
http://vk.com/robustfellow

Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 2 (2016)

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The Legendary Flower Punk Releases New Album Zen Variations

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-legendary-flower-punk

From the moment the project was named, it was clear that The Legendary Flower Punk had the potential to be kind of all over the place. And what began as a solo vehicle for The Grand Astoria guitarist/vocalist Kamille Sharapodinov has played out that scenario to its most enticing effect yet on the new album, Zen Variations. Self-released by the band — yup, a band — the new full-length veers through deeply progressive krautrock experimentation. One could argue Sharapodinov‘s guitar is its guiding force, but the tracks, each of which is a “Zen” of one kind or another — much needed — toy with arrangement in a way that even The Grand Astoria at its boldest has yet to do.

Though as Sharapodinov took the time to explain, the two acts are also growing closer together in terms of lineup. Could the future belong to The Legendary Astoria? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out where it’s all heading. You won’t find me daring to speculate.

His words, more info on the new album, the lineup and upcoming tour dates for The Legendary Flower Punk follow, as culled from the internet and from Sharapodinov directly:

the-legendary-flower-punk-zen-variations

The Legendary Flower Punk – Zen Variations

“These tracks were written during last year and were stage tested during the tours we had in 2015-2016,” explains The Legendary Flower Punk guitarist/founder Kamille Sharapodinov. “The project now is The Grand Astoria’s de facto instrumental family outfit, since it includes TGA’s current drummer and the very first TGA bassist (the one who recorded the first album with us and then left). The music is jam-oriented and we are writing it together, which is the main difference from TGA where I write all the music alone.”

The Legendary Flower Punk, Zen Variations tracklisting:
1. Earthquake Zen 08:58
2. Urban Zen 07:46
3. Party Zen 05:11
4. Subway Zen 04:09
5. Warfield Zen 04:09
6. White Magick Zen 06:47
7. Christmas Zen 08:27

The Legendary Flower Punk is going to hit the road the release of new CD! Check the dates below.

The Legendary Flower Punk on tour:
12.11 Zelenograd (RU) “cinema”
13.11 Kaluga (RU) “garage”
19.11 Vilnius (LT) “Narauti”
20.11 Warsaw (PL) “2Kola”
22.11 Berlin (de) ” deep reason ‘
23.11 Hamburg (DE) “227 Bar”
24.11 Halle (de) ” ha7″
25.11 Karlsruhe (de) “Akk”
26.11 Würzburg (DE) “Cairo”
27.11 Nuremberg (de) “Artichoke”
28.11 Leipzig (de) “Mespotine sessions”
03.12 St. Petersburg (RU) “Zoccolo 2.0”

The Legendary Flower Punk is:
Kamille Sharapodinov – guitars
Mike Lopakov – bass
Nik Kunavin – drums, percussion

The Legendary Flower Family:
Danila Danilov – synth (3-6), metallophone (1)
Denis Kirillov – acoustic grand piano (7), flute (7), fender rhodes piano (1)
Ravil Azizov – clarinet (2, 4)
Vladimir Ermolov – trumpet (1, 3, 5)
Ekaterina Kulagina – saxophone (2)
Slava Lobanov – trombone (2, 5)
George Nefedov – balalaika (1)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

https://thelegendaryflowerpunk.bandcamp.com/album/zen-variations
https://www.facebook.com/thelegendaryflowerpunk
https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/

The Grand Astoria, Zen Variations (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Swans, Virus, The Re-Stoned, Castle, Spirit Adrift, Robb & Pott, Family, Les Discrets, Liquido di Morte, Witchskull

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Last day. As ever, I am mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted by this process, but as ever, it’s been worth it. Today I do myself a couple favors in packing out with more familiar acts, but whatever, it’s all stuff I should be covering anyway, so if the order bothers you, go write your own 50 reviews in a week and we can talk about it. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Today we start with Swans. Everything’s a confrontation.

Once again, I hope you’ve found something somewhere along this bizarre, careening path of music that has resonated with you, something that will stick with you. That’s why we’re here. You and me. If you have, I’d love to know about it. Until then, one more time here we go.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Swans, The Glowing Man

swans-the-glowing-man-700

Oh fucking please. You want me to try to summarize The Glowing Man – the culmination and finale of an era of Swans that Michael Gira began now more than half a decade ago – in a single review? Even putting aside the fact that the record two hours long, the notion is ridiculous. If there ever was a chart, the scope here is well off it. The material unfolds and churns and is primal and lush at once on “Cloud of Forgetting,” genuinely chaotic on the 28-minute title-track, and it ends with a drone lullaby, but seriously, what the fuck? Some shit is just beyond, and if you don’t know that applies to Swans by now, it’s your own fault. You want a review? Fine. I listened to the whole thing. It ate my fucking soul, chewed it with all-canine teeth and then spit it out saying “thanks for the clarity” and left me dazed, bloodied and humbled. There’s your fucking review. Thanks for reading.

Swans on Thee Facebooks

Young God Records website

 

Virus, Memento Collider

virus-memento-collider-700

Oslo trio Virus have long since established that they’re a band working on their own wavelength. Memento Collider (on Karisma Records) is the jazzy post-black metallers’ first album in five years and brings together adventurous rhythms, poetic declarations, dissonant basslines and – in the case of “Rogue Fossil,” the occasional hook – in ways that are unique unto Virus. Look at this site and see how often I use the word “unique.” It doesn’t happen. Virus, however, are one of a kind. Memento Collider makes for a challenging listen front to back on its six-track/45-minute run, but it refuses to dumb itself down or dull its progressive edge, bookending its longest (that’s opener “Afield” at 10:41; immediate points) two tracks around jagged explorations of sound like “Steamer” and “Gravity Seeker,” which engage and intrigue in kind after the melodic push of “Dripping into Orbit” and leading into “Phantom Oil Slick,” a righteous affirmation of the angular thrust at the core of Virus’ approach.

Virus on Thee Facebooks

Karisma Records webstore

 

The Re-Stoned, Reptiles Return

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In 2010, Moscow troupe The Re-Stoned issued their first EP, Return to the Reptiles, and being obviously concerned with evolution, they’ve now gone back and revisited that debut release with Reptiles Return, a reworking of the four studio tracks that made up the initial version – “Return,” “Run,” “The Mountain Giant” and “Sleeping World.” The opener is a straight re-recording, as is one other, where another is remixed and the other two remastered, and Reptiles Return – which is presented on limited vinyl through Clostridium Records and a CD box set with bonus tracks via Rushus Records – pairs them with more psychedelic-minded soundscape pieces like “Winter Witchcraft,” “Walnut Talks,” the proggy “Flying Clouds” and sweetly acoustic “Roots Patter,” that showcase where founding multi-instrumentalist Ilya Lipkin is taking the band going forward. The result is a satisfying side A/B split on the vinyl that delights in heavy riffing for its own sake in the first half and expands the scope in the second, which should delight newcomers as well as those who’ve followed The Re-Stoned along this evolutionary process.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Castle, Welcome to the Graveyard

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It may well be the fate of San Francisco’s hard-touring, ass-kicking, genre-refusing duo Castle to be terminally underappreciated, but that has yet to stop them from proliferating their righteous blend of thrash, doom and classic, fistpump-worthy metal. Their latest outing, Welcome to the Graveyard, arrives via respected purveyor Ván Records, and entices in atmosphere and execution, cohesively built tracks like “Hammer and the Cross” and the penultimate “Down in the Cauldron Bog” finding a balance of personality and delivery that the band has long since honed on stage. The Dio-esque barnburner riff of “Flash of the Pentagram” makes that cut a highlight, but as they roll out the cultish vibes of “Natural Parallel” to close, there doesn’t seem to be much on the spectrum of heavy metal that doesn’t fit into Castle’s wheelhouse. For some bands, there’s just no justice. Four records deep, Castle have yet to get their due, and Welcome to the Graveyard is further proof of why they deserve it.

Castle website

Ván Records

 

Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion

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One can hear a new wave of modern doom taking shape in Chained to Oblivion, the Prosthetic Records debut from Arizona one-man outfit Spirit Adrift. The work of Nate Garrett alone in the studio, the full-length offers five mostly-extended tracks as a 48-minute 2LP of soaring, emotional and psychedelic doom à la Pallbearer, but given even further breadth through progressively atmospheric passages and a marked flow in its transitions. To call it personal seems superfluous – it’s a one-man band, of course it’s personal – but Garrett (also formerly of metallers Take Over and Destroy) brings a palpable sense of performance to the songwriting, and by the time he gets to the 11-minutes-apiece finale duo of the title-track and “Hum of Our Existence,” it’s easy to forget you’re not actually listening to a full band, not the least because of the vocal harmonies. Calling Chained to Oblivion a promising first outing would be underselling it – this is a project with serious potential.

Spirit Adrift on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records website

 

Robb & Pott, Once upon the Wings

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Unpredictable from the start of opener “Flesh ‘n’ Steel,” Once upon the Wings is a first-time multinational collaborative effort from Robbi Robb of California’s 3rd Ear Experience and Paul Pott of Germany’s The Space Invaders. Its five tracks/42 minutes arrive through no less than Nasoni Records, and provide a curious and exploratory blend of the organic and the inorganic in sound, as one finds the 11-minute “Grass” no less defined by its percussion solo, guitar line and ‘60s-style vocal than the electronic drums that underscore the layered wash of noise in its midsection. Further definition hits with the 16-minute centerpiece “Prophecy #1,” which works in a space-rocking vein, but the shorter closing duo of the catchy “Looney Toon” and darkly progressive “Space Ear” show a creative bent that clearly refuses to be tamed. Robb & Pott, as a project, demonstrates remarkable potential throughout this debut, as they seem to have set no limits for where they want their sound to go and they seem to have the command to take it there.

Robb & Pott on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records website

 

Family, Future History

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Most of the tracks on Brooklyn progressive noise rockers Family’s second album and Prosthetic Records debut, Future History, come paired with interludes. That cuts some of the growling intensity of winding pieces like “Funtime for Bigboy” and “Floodgates,” and emphasizes the generally experimental spirit of the record as a whole, broadening the scope in sound and theme. I’m somewhat torn as to how much this actually works to the 51:50 outing’s benefit, as shorter pieces like “Prison Hymn” and “Transmission,” while adding dynamic to the sound and narrative drama, also cut the immediacy in impact of “The Trial” or closer “Bone on Bone,” but it’s entirely possible that without them Future History would be an overwhelming tumult of raw prog metal. And while the play back and forth can feel cumbersome when one considers how effectively “Night Vision” bridges the gap between sides, I’m not sure that’s not what Family were going for in the first place. It’s not supposed to be an easy record, and it isn’t one.

Family on Thee Facebooks

Family website

 

Les Discrets, Virée Nocturne

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France’s Les Discrets haven’t had a studio offering since 2012’s Ariettes Oubliées (review here), and while they released Live at Roadburn (review here) last year documenting their 2013 set at that festival, there’s little there that might presage the stylistic turn the Fursy Teyssier-led outfit takes on their new EP, Virée Nocturne (on Prophecy Productions). With four tracks – two new, complete recordings, one demo and the last a remix of the opener by Dälek and DeadverseLes Discrets attempt to find a stylistic middle ground between post-rock and trip-hop, and for the most part, they get there. “Virée Nocturne” itself leads off and can be jarring on first listen, but successfully blends the lush melodicism for which the band is known with electronic-driven beats, and both “Capricorni. Virginis. Corvi” and even the demo “Le Reproche” continue to build on this bold shift. The finale remix adds over two minutes to “Virée Nocturne,” but uses that time to make it even more spacious and all the more immersive. For anyone who thought they might’ve had Les Discrets figured out, the surprise factor here should be palpable.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website

 

Liquido di Morte, II

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Presented across four tracks beginning with the 12-minute and longest-of-the-bunch (immediate points) “The Corpse of Dr. Funkenstein” (double points for the reference), II, the aptly-titled second album from Liquido di Morte expands the progressive atmospherics of the Italian four-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) without losing sight of the performance and spirit of exploration that helped bring it to life. Isaak’s Giacomo H. Boeddu guests on brooding vocals and whispers for “The Saddest of Songs I’ll Sing for You,” which swells in seething intensity as it moves forward, while “Rodents on the Uphill” casts a vision of post-space rock and closer “Schwartz Pit” rounds out with crash and wash that seems only to draw out how different the two halves of II actually are. Not a complaint. Liquido di Morte make their way across this vast span with marked fluidity, and if they prove anything throughout, it’s that they’re able to keep their command wherever they feel like using it to go.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Sstars BigCartel store

 

Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark

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Canberra, Australia, trio Witchskull initially released their debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, last year, and caught the attention of the cross-coastal US partnership between Ripple Music and STB Records, who now align for a reissue of the eight-tracker. Why is quickly apparent. In addition to having earned a fervent response, The Vast Electric Dark basks in quality songcraft and doomly, heavy vibes, keeping a consistent pace while rolling through the semi-metallic push of “Raise the Dead” or the later rumble/shred of “Cassandra’s Curse.” All the while, guitarist/vocalist Marcus De Pasquale provides a steady presence at the fore alongside bassist Tony McMahon and drummer Joel Green, and what’s ultimately still a straightforward rocker of an album finds a niche for itself between varies underground styles of heavy. Between the balance they strike across their 37 minutes and the energy that courses through their songs, Witchskull’s The Vast Electric Dark proves easily worth the look it’s getting.

Witchskull on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

Ripple Music website

 

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