Streaming Interview: Parker Griggs of Radio Moscow Discusses New Project El Perro

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

parker griggs (Photo by Beth Vandeven)

Not much is known at this point about El Perro. Pages on Thee Facebooks and Instagram went up on Wednesday afternoon and there’s a short teaser on the latter with a floating logo and a righteous riff, but not much else to go on. A new band getting together is cool, don’t get me wrong, but the reason it’s news is because the brains behind the outfit happen to be those of Parker Griggs, founding guitarist/vocalist of heavy psych blues and speed boogie masters Radio Moscow. Griggs has assembled the new outfit as a means of exploring some influences beyond what Radio Moscow does, specifically looking to bands who blended funk and heavy and/or psychedelic rock in the early ’70s like Cymande, Black Merda and others in the sphere of what was called Black rock at the time, as well of course as the work Jimi Hendrix was doing a few years prior.

He’s gotten a full four-piece together and they’ll play their first three shows as a weekender at the start of November, beginning as support for none other than Brant Bjork in Las Vegas at a gig presented by Vegas Rock Revolution, and continuing through two subsequent nights in Costa Mesa and Los Angeles. Griggs, of course, is no stranger to touring with Radio Moscow, but it’s early days with El Perro, so probably best to start out with the weekender rather than hit the road for a month right off the bat. Makes sense if you think about it, especially as no one has heard any of the material in question.

There are songs, though. About a set’s worth. I’ve heard two demos from the band with the working titles “New One” and “Sitar Song” and the percussive groove is met by Griggs‘ spacey shred and bluesy vocal delivery. It’s a different vibe from Radio Moscow in that it’s a little more jam-ready — at least “New One” is; “Sitar Song” is a tight two and a half minutes, but damn that’s a funky two and a half minutes — and as Griggs notes, a little more based around the groove rather than the frenetic movement of his longer-running outfit. I’ll take it happily and look forward to more in 2020.

It’s a short interview because, well, Griggs isn’t really Mr. Chatty and the band hasn’t played a show yet, but if you’ve got a few minutes, he talks about putting the band together, what he’s going for with the sound, the upcoming shows and how El Perro relates to Radio Moscow in the grand scheme of Griggs‘ style.

Please enjoy:

Interview with Parker Griggs of El Perro

 

el perro logo

A brand new cosmic and groovy music ensemble formed and led by Parker Griggs of Radio Moscow. We are here and we’re coming to GETCHA!

First shows!

November 1st in Las Vegas @ Counts Vamp’d with Brant Bjork

November 2nd in Costa Mesa @ The Wayfarer with LOVE (revisited)

November 3rd in LA @ The Viper ROOM with Deathchant

Stay tuned for more news coming soon!

 

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Friday Full-Length: Earthless, Sonic Prayer Jam

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Earthless, Sonic Prayer Jam (2005/2012)

 

You can’t really talk about Earthless without talking about the live experience — about watching Isaiah MitchellMike Eginton and Mario Rubalcaba wail on their songs and ride to the point of consumption what’s as close to genuinely classic heavy rock as anything you’ll ever find outside of 1973 regardless of any vintage posturing other acts might do. Sonic Prayer was their debut album in 2005, and Sonic Prayer Jam was the subsequent live 10″. Both were released by Gravity Records, and the latter was reissued in 2012 as a 54-minute beast they still basically call an EP — and I guess you can do that kind of thing when you’re Earthless and no one thinks twice about “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” being nearly 32 minutes long — and though 14 years later it might seem primitive in comparison to the band that Earthless would mature into being, there are more than a few key signifiers in the audio that remain the core of their approach. Mitchell‘s guitar weaves seamlessly between shred and effects-soaked sprawl. Eginton‘s bass provides the grounding element in its crucial repetitions from which the other players explore outer reaches. And Rubalcaba is not only in-pocket and on-swing, but he propels the proceedings outright. Like, kaboom.

It’s kind of funny how, given how much reverence and hyperbole has been tossed Earthless‘ way especially in recent years, you don’t really hear much about their beginnings. There isn’t much hype around the “origin story.” Rubalcaba was in Hot Snakes and Rocket from the CryptMitchell was in Lions of Judah, and Eginton was in a band called Electric Nazarene. Then they decided to form a band and were in Earthless together. Pretty straightforward, but I guess there’s an important narrative happening beneath that as well in the lack of narrative. Think of it this way: the way that story tells it, Earthless just happened. There was no great band meeting about “what are we going to sound like?” or anything like that. They plugged in, jammed, were able to follow where the songs were leading them and decided to stay there. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it certainly suits the righteous sonic spread the three-piece have conjured over the last decade and a half, and the influence they had on a San Diego-based band boom comprising a generation’s worth of players with an affinity for classic heavy rock that, at least in part, is an affinity for Earthless‘ affinity.

As for Sonic Prayer Jam, how you listen to it depends widely on format. If you get the 10″ — still possible on the secondary market — the set recorded at The Casbah earthless sonic prayer jamon Jan. 3, 2004, is edited. If you get the 12″, it’s edited differently. If you get the CD, which is also the 2012 reissue version, “Sonic Prayer Jam” itself is still split into two part, but the first runs the aforementioned 32 minutes and the “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 2” answers back at 16:55 before they close with “Cherry Red” at 5:31. I’m not sure I’m comfortable calling one definitive and the others not, but the more the merrier, really. Especially in hindsight, the raw, echoing, looping effects and exploratory vibe of Sonic Prayer Jam shows how right Earthless were even at that nascent point in their career, and while they weren’t by any means the first heavy band to offer longform jamming, or even the first American band of their generation to do so, there could be no denying the power of their delivery, whether it’s Rubalcaba punishing his snare as “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” noisily transitions into the subsequent second portion or the ultra-tight winding direction of “Cherry Red.” A lot of bands kill it right from the start, but Earthless were Earthless already in 2004 and Sonic Prayer Jam proves it. It was just a matter of everyone else figuring it out.

Their material, especially their studio stuff, would become more plotted, but Earthless have remained keenly aware of what they bring to the stage in playing live, and they’ve done well to continue to represent that. Still, in highlighting an earlier moment for the band, Sonic Prayer Jam nonetheless offers more than academic value for the already-converted. Even if one didn’t know the band or what they were about, it’s the kind of thing you put on and someone says, “Who is this?” Rightly so. The whole point of Earthless even in their early going would seem to have been to blow minds. “Sonic Prayer Jam Part 1” finds them so dug into the proceedings that they barely manage to resurface before shifting into the next phase of the jam, and by tossing out a masterful wash of effects amid extended solos, punctuated with a nigh-on-manic sense of purpose in the drums and bass, Earthless put emphasis on the fact that it was the sheer level of their performance more than any grand stylistic statement that was going to distinguish them over the longer term, though admittedly, they’ve been widely influential in terms of style as well, as manifest in the number of other outfits who try to capture even a fraction of the vitality in Sonic Prayer Jam, some succeeding to a degree, but no one ultimately coming close to what Earthless do and did — as Sonic Prayer Jam shows — even in their formative years.

And yes, “Cherry Red” has vocals. Falsetto vocals, at that. It was legitimately a big deal when last year Earthless offered up Black Heaven (review here) and reshuffled their priorities to feature vocals and more straightforward songcraft, but it wasn’t exactly out of nowhere. And sure enough, Black Heaven had a complementary live outing in later 2018’s From the West (review here), in similar fashion to From the Ages (review here) being followed by a couple of limited live releases or 2007’s Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky being met by 2008’s landmark Live at Roadburn (discussed here), a watershed moment for the band and the growth of their international influence. That’s a set that those who were there continue to talk about. I’d imagine it’s much the same for anyone who happened to be at the Casbah and hung around to hear Mitchell wish the crowd a Happy New Year after the band wrapped up “Cherry Red.” Hell, I wasn’t even there and I’m talking about it, so yeah. Happy New Year.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s my wedding anniversary this week. I’ve been married for 15 years and we’ve been together for 22. Asking The Patient Mrs. to marry me was hands down the best decision I ever made. Nothing else comes remotely close.

Up and down week, as most seem to be these days. Anxiety about the paperwork end of acquiring the ancestral homestead. The Patient Mrs. busy with the new job. The Pecan not really understanding where his mom is after she just had the summer off from teaching, and mad about it. He had a good day or two this week, one hard day and one medium day. We’ll see how today goes when he wakes up, I guess, but that’s kind of how it is at this point every day. We’ll see how it goes. I’m just trying to get through, honestly.

Tonight is Brant Bjork and Ecstatic Vision in Teaneck, NJ. Same place Crowbar and Lo-Pan played a bit ago. They hit Brooklyn last night with River Cult and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, and that would’ve been awesome to see, but no way was I going to be able to go to NYC two nights in a row after about three hours of sleep and hope to enjoy myself whatsoever. I don’t know much about whoever is opening the Jersey show, but whatever. I’ll put the baby to bed and then head out, and yes, see how it goes.

Review of that on Monday along with a full-album stream of the new Goatess and the new single from Witch Mountain, which isn’t a premiere but is exciting nonetheless. Maybe a Bison Machine stream on Tuesday and a Ramprasad track premiere, Wednesday, Cycles of the Damned do a bit of the extreme post-metal thing, and I think on Thursday I’m going to do myself a favor and review the Blackwater Holylight record. Friday I’ll put up an interview I did last week with Parker Griggs from Radio Moscow where we talk about his new band El Perro. That was pretty cool.

I don’t know if anyone listens to those or not, but I’ve been having fun posting them, so whatever.

It’s about 20 minutes before 6AM, so I think I’m gonna leave it there and maybe go crash for a minute. I was so dead on my feet by the time I was doing dishes after dinner last night. The Pecan had woken up and The Patient Mrs. had him yelling on the baby monitor. She went upstairs to his room to check on him and put him back down and I was unconscious by the time she got back. With another late night pending for tonight, every minute counts.

Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch.

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Nebula Drag to Release Blud Sept. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

nebula drag (Photo by Chad Kelco)

When I finally dug into it — because I’m late to the party, always — I was genuinely into Nebula Drag‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), and you know what? I kind of dig the track they’ve shared so far from the upcoming Blud as well. Hey y’all, I think I might like this band. How about that?

Preorders are up now for Blud, which the based-in-San-Diego-more-in-geography-than-in-sound Nebula Drag will release through Desert Records on Sept. 27, and the songs “Always Dying” and “We all Want to Know” offer chunky-style riffing and a kind of melodified take on ’90s noise rock that hits a sweet spot of heavy without coming across as stylistically redundant or faceless. They’ve got dates booked out west, as one will, and that includes a weekender in the desert next month that I’ll just go ahead and assume is gonna be a good time celebrating the new offering.

That Vegas date is TBA. Somebody call John Gist from Vegas Rock Revolution! Dude should be on that.

Here’s the album info and the aforementioned tracks:

nebula drag blud

Nebula Drag – Blud

Nebula Drag is a psycho-delic three piece rock band from San Diego, CA. Definitely not your typical Southern California band… Nebula Drag’s music gives a nod to Stoner Metal and Psych Rock—all with a sound that is uniquely their own. The haunting and blistering riffs paired with the thunderous drumming comprises the heart of this band. Add the melodic and spaced out vocals to the mix and let a listening journey of the highest caliber begin.

Nebula Drag will be releasing their second album “Blud” on Desert Records in September 2019. Their first self-titled album was released in 2016, and they also released a 3 song ep “Always Dying” in 2017. The band also contributed to the San Diego Gimme Danger compilation in 2018, released by Fresh Pots Music.

Tracklisting
1. Dos Lados
2. Knives
3. Always Dying
4. Dogs or Gods
5. We All Want to Know
6. Faces
7. What Went Wrong
8. Numb
9. Infinite Vacation
10. Mental

2019 Performance Dates:
9/10 – The Merrow – San Diego, CA
9/14 – Tower Bar – San Diego, CA
9/26 – T.B.A. – Las Vegas, NV
9/27 – Time Out Lounge – Tempe, AZ
9/28 – Sister Bar – Albuquerque, NM

Nebula Drag is:
Corey Quintana – Guitar/Vocals
Stephen Varns – Drums
Garrett Gallagher – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/NebulaDragz/
https://www.instagram.com/nebuladrag/
https://nebuladrag.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/desertrecordlabel/
https://desertrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://desertrecords.bandcamp.com

Nebula Drag, Blud (2019)

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Monarch Premiere “Counterpart” Video; Beyond the Blue Sky out Aug. 9

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monarch

The kind of sunshine that the rest of the world imagines only exists in Southern California plays a significant role in the listening experience of Monarch‘s second album, Beyond the Blue Sky. The title, of course, isn’t about the sun, but about the entirety of space, and the idea of leaving the planet’s atmosphere behind to launch into the void beyond. Fair enough for the cosmic impulses the classically progressive San Diego five-piece weave into the seven tracks/38 minutes of the El Paraiso Records LP, but they remain grounded with a natural sense of songwriting beneath the wash of effects, lush echoes, sax, synth and so on, as songs like opener “Hanging by a Thread” sneak their way into the frontal cortex and set up shop there via guitar-in-triplicate and groove to match, the band pushing aside some of the boogie for which their home-burg is known in favor of these interplanetary ambitions. Oh, it suits them just fine, whether in the ol’ roll ‘n’ nod of the aforementioned leadoff or the sax-laden fluidity of “Divided Path,” which follows.

“Hanging by a Thread” is both the opener and the longest song on Beyond the Blue Sky at 7:06 (immediate points), and “Divided Path,” “Pangea” and the centerpiece title-track follow in descending order (quadruple points?), so monarch beyond the blue skythe intent on Monarch‘s part toward listener-immersion is pretty well telegraphed, but as ever for the best of psychedelic rock, the point of the voyage is the going, and they go pretty far out. With the vocals of guitarist Dominic Denholm cutting through the wash of tone and fuzz on “Divided Path,” calling to mind Greg Lake-era King Crimson on the jazzy “Pangea” and the flow conjured all around by fellow guitarists Thomas Dibenedetto (also Sacri Monti) and James Upton, bassist Matt Weiss and Andrew Ware, unafraid to tap into country sweetness on “Beyond the Blue Sky” itself at the outset of a three-parter with the synthy “Phenomena” and the shimmering psych of “Counterpart” rounding out, with watery closer “Felo de Se” still to arrive, there’s no question they reach the level of engagement they seem to be shooting for at the launch, pulling their audience with them as they make every effort to live up to the title and, seemingly, getting there as well. Like its predecessor, Two Isles (review here), Beyond the Blue Sky has more than a few moments of outright gorgeousness, but it’s the way it all complements each other that makes it so essential.

Which it is. Even among the crowded ranks of San Diego, Monarch stand themselves out through the progressive modus of their approach, and while they share an affinity for classic stylizations with a good number of their peers, their take on it is decidedly their own and shines through performance and songwriting alike.

You can check out the premiere of a tripped-out video for “Counterpart” below, made by Ricky Macaw, who pretty much nailed it. Beyond the Blue Sky is out Aug. 9.

Enjoy:

Monarch, “Counterpart” official video premiere

There’s something refreshing about Monarch’s take on psychedelic rock: they aren’t afraid to weave allman brothers-esque dual guitar lines with synthesizers and saxophone. They can be heavy, but there’s an unmistakable panoramic quality to their compositions too, reflecting the rich and diverse environment they’ve grown up in, with dazzling pacific coastlines, mountains and desert highways.

Compared to their debut album, ”Two Isles” from 2016, Beyond The Blue Sky is a more complex record. The three year journey has led the band through several separate recording sessions and ended up going all-analog at Audio Design studios. It’s an album that’s meticulously crafted and with sights set on new musical territory. Their songwriting has matured and each track feels like a mini-epic, travelling unexpected routes before reaching their sonic destination. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s centerpiece, the three-part Beyond The Blue Sky/Phenomena/Counterpart, where Monarch manages to fuse all their influences into one mammoth composition. It’s an album to drive off into a careless summer sunset and beyond.

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

Monarch on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

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Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour: Beautiful Demons

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour

It’s been a sneakily long four years since San Diego’s Sacri Monti loosed their 2015 self-titled debut (review here) through Tee Pee Records, and perhaps it’s because they’ve toured steadily — going to Europe at least twice and doing regular stints on the West Coast, etc. — that it doesn’t seem so long. The five-piece also took part in 2017’s Burnout three-way split with Harsh Toke and JOY (review here), so they’ve hardly been absent, but Waiting Room for the Magic Hour telegraphs a sense of anticipation with its title, and the eight-song/45-minute outing lives up to that with organ-soaked classic-style heavy rock that draws away from some of the boogie for which their hometown has become so known as the returning lineup of guitarists Brenden Dellar (also vocals) and Dylan Donovan, bassist Anthony Meier (also of Radio Moscow), organist Evan Wenskay and drummer Thomas Dibenedetto delve deeper into proggy-rocky explorations in cuts like “Fear and Fire,” “Starlight,” “Gone from Grace” and the brief penultimate instrumental “Wading in Malcesine.”

The last of those is more of an interlude — its title referring to a lakeside village in northern Italy that one assumes was a stop on some tour or other or at least an escapist fantasy — but still brings Sacri Monti to a place the first album didn’t dare to go with its post-rock guitar drift and Wenskay‘s synth giving the sub-three-minute proceedings an otherworldly feel. That seems to arrive light-years beyond where they start out with the five-minute opening title-track, which keeps to a more straightforward style that, particularly with the vocal patterning, is bound to remind some listeners of where Earthless were on their own last full-length — also earliest Witchcraft — but still keeps its own identity instrumentally as well and sets up moments like the jabbing surge at the end of side A’s “Starlight,” with organ and guitar winding together in an exciting crescendo that touches on Thin Lizzy and rises out of a more straight-ahead hook, itself led into by the instrumental, guitar-driven interlude/shorter piece “Armistice,” to which side B’s aforementioned “Wading in Malcesine” is something of a mirror.

Flow is essential to a work like this and Sacri Monti make it sound easy. Waiting Room for the Magic Hour, though it can seem rhythmically anxious at times as it shifts through its more progressive stretches, but it’s not without its trail markers as it goes farther out, and the place it winds up in closer “You Beautiful Demon” is a genuine surprise: an acoustic and pedal steel near-twang that still derives from Led Zeppelin, but does so in a way that still serves as a ready example of Sacri Monti‘s drive toward individualism. Amidst all the shuffle and ’70s worship of their crowded scene, Sacri Monti are finding a way to both fit in and distinguish themselves in these songs. They’re establishing a richer, less-bound personality to their songwriting that feels comfortable encompassing psychedelia as much as earthy folk-blues strum — back to back, no less — and most importantly, they’re pulling it off.

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour back cover

Elements in “Fear and Fire” — the longest inclusion at 9:14 — and “Starlight” or even the more patiently melodic side B opener “Affirmation” will seem familiar to those with an affinity either for classic progressive rock or its modern heavy revisionists, but the fluidity of Sacri Monti‘s craft here and the lack of pretense they bring to their instrumentalism, their tonal warmth and overarching groove, help to give Waiting Room for the Magic Hour a distinguishing presence, and the take-it-as-a-whole feel of the album front to back feels not necessarily like a conceptual piece mandating it be experienced in a certain way, but an invitation issued to the listener to come in and sit down for a while and enjoy finding the places where the band end up. Songs like “Starlight,” “Affirmation,” “Gone from Grace” and even “You Beautiful Demon” — let alone the title-track — seem to speak to ideas beyond the bare physical world, and fair enough, but Sacri Monti succeed in carrying their audience along this sometimes-complex path without getting anymore lost along the way than they want to be. That’s the difference between Waiting Room for the Magic Hour being as engaging as it is and a flat mess, which it is not.

Indeed, even the name of the record seems to invite speculation as to meaning. What’s the magic hour? Where’s the waiting room? Beginning with stick clicks and a suitably live feel, the title-track would seem to hint that the show is the magic hour, and the waiting room might be the rest of life — the opening line, “Orange haze fall down on me again,” supports this — and given the place-name in “Wading in Malcesine” speaks to reflections on touring as well, but that’s a simplistic narrative to put to it and what feels more important about Waiting Room for the Magic Hour is the places the record takes Sacri Monti‘s sound, rather than the story behind it, and whether it’s the intricacies of “Armistice” and “Starlight” or the direct way the organ at the end of “Affirmation” seems to lead to the opening guitar line of “Gone from Grace,” there’s a natural vibe that ties the material here together and gives the listener all the more to dig into on repeat visits, putting emphasis on the raw dynamic not just between the two guitars or the instruments and the vocals, but the guitar and bass, the bass and keys, the guitar and keys, the drums and everything, and so on.

Though it often winds up being the guitar in the lead, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour stands on the shoulders of each member’s performance and is even more an accomplishment for what those performances produce. In a vast legion of sun-coated West Coast boogie, it builds something of its own from that foundation and highlights a potential that even the self-titled could only touch on in a tentative way. These songs feel more confident and more realized, and if they’re as much a show of potential as of their own manifestation — that is, if Sacri Monti continue to progress from what they achieve here — even if it takes them another four years to put out a follow-up, that LP will be well worth the wait. These cats could’ve played dumb and written a probably-cool-anyway record of capable ’70s-style heavy rock. They very clearly aimed higher, and they very clearly nailed it.

Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour (2019)

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Sacri Monti on Instagram

Sacri Monti webstore

Sacri Monti on Soundcloud

Tee Pee Records website

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Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

Volcano on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

Torche on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

Speedealer on Thee Facebooks

Speedealer webstore

 

Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

Mt. Echo on Thee Facebooks

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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Sacri Monti Confirm July 5 Release for Waiting Room for the Magic Hour; Title-Track Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

SACRI MONTI

I’m sitting across the kitchen table from The Patient Mrs. just now and she’s telling me about some dude she’s acquainted with in some tertiary way who has a condition whereby he passes something like six kidney stones a month. That sounds fucking awful. What doesn’t sound awful is new Sacri Monti. That sounds like organ-laced West Coast heavy boogie groovy goodness. Much preferable.

The band’s second full-length for Tee Pee Records is called Waiting Room for the Magic Hour, as previously noted, and they’ll tour Europe soon after the July 5 release. We knew that too. But the song they’re streaming — the title-track — is enough to earn its own post, and with the re-confirmed album info and tracklisting, well, yeah, I’m more than happy to reiterate a few known factoids in service to the greater good of this stuff. Album preorders are up now from Tee Pee.

Therefore, dig:

sacri monti waiting room for the magic hour

Sacri Monti to Release Sophomore LP, ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’, July 5

California Heavy Psych Band Featuring Members of JOY, Monarch and Radio Moscow Expands Its Already Kaleidoscopic Sound on Electric New Album

San Diego psychedelic heavy rock champions Sacri Monti return with a vengeance on their sophomore LP ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’. Recorded at Audio Design (Earthless) with producer Jordan Andreen (Joy, Arctic), ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ sees Sacri Monti firing on all cylinders, somersaulting between the spontaneous and the musically calculated. Blues rock, prog rock, proto metal, fusion; it’s all masterfully represented, as brash as it is beautiful. ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ will see a July 5 release via Tee Pee Records.

On ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’, heaps of fuzzed vocals, waves of keyboards, boogie rhythms, and sick, spiraling leads merge with focus, energy and drive to send Sacri Monti soaring to a next level, riff-filled land. Proggy space rock jams erupt as melodies segue in and out, while vocals drift over the top, seemingly lost in the instrumental sea. Sacri Monti come fully charged and ready to party, adding a new twist on heavy psych while delivering the soundtrack to an endless summer with ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’.

A first listen to what ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ holds in store can be heard now as Sacri Monti has released the title track to the upcoming LP. Hear it now at this location.

Track listing:

1.) Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
2.) Fear and Fire
3.) Armistice
4.) Starlight
5.) Affirmation
6.) Gone from Grace
7.) Wading in Malcesine
8.) You Beautiful Demon

Pre-order ‘Waiting Room for the Magic Hour’ at this location.

16/07 UK Brighton Hope & Ruin
18/07 UK London The Black Heart
19/07 BE zottegem kaffee maboel/klsjr kllktv
20/07 DE Zentrum Zinsholz Eastfilly Fest
21/07 DE Munich Import Export
22/07 AT Wien Viper Room
25/07 ITA Lecco La Bottega d’estate c/o Lido di Casletta
26/07 ITA Sezzadio(Alessandria) Cascina Bellaria
27/07 ITA Moos in Passeier,Südtirol Crystal Mountain Festival
28/07 ITA Padova Curtarock
31/07 FRA Paris Supersonic
01/08 DE Köln MTC
02/08 DE Beelen Krach am Bach Open Air
04/08 DE Aschaffenburg – secret show
07/08 DE Berlin Zukunft
08/08 CZ Louny TBA
09/08 DE Sizendorf Void Festival
10/08 PT Moledo Sonic Blast Moledo Festival
11/08 FRA Picardie Celebration Days Festival

Sacri Monti is:
Brenden Dellar -Guitar
Dylan Donovan- Guitar
Anthony Meier- Bass
Evan Wenskay- Organ, Synth
Thomas Dibenedetto- Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sacrimontiband/
https://www.instagram.com/sacri_monti_band/
https://sacrimonti.bigcartel.com/
https://soundcloud.com/sacri-monti
teepeerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/
https://twitter.com/teepeerecords
https://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/

Sacri Monti, “Waiting Room for the Magic Hour”

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