Quarterly Review: Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Candlemass, Skuggsjá, Black Lung, Lord Vicar, Dakessian, Gypsy Chief Goliath, Inter Arma, Helgamite, Mollusk

Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-summer-2016-quarterly-review

Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare

mirrors for psychic warfare mirrors for psychic warfare

Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.

Neurot Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings webshop

Candlemass, Death Thy Lover

candlemass-death-thy-lover

The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Candlemass at Napalm Records

Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror

skuggsja-a-piece-for-mind-and-mirror

Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.

Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist webshop

Black Lung, See the Enemy

black lung see the enemy

Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Black Lung at Noisolution

Lord Vicar, Gates of Flesh

lord vicar gates of flesh

Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.

Lord Vicar on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records

Dakessian, The Poisoned Chalice

dakessian the poisoned chalice

Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.

Dakessian on Bandcamp

Holy Mountain Printing

Gypsy Chief Goliath, Citizens of Nowhere

gypsy chief goliath citizens of nowhere

Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.

Gypsy Chief Goliath on Thee Facebooks

Pitch Black Records on Bandcamp

Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows

inter arma paradise gallows

Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Inter Arma at Relapse Records

Helgamite, Hypnagogia

helgamite hypnagogia

Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”

Helgamite on Thee Facebooks

Lost Apparitions Records website

Flesh Vessel Records on Thee Facebooks

Mollusk, Children of the Chron

mollusk-children-of-the-chron

Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.

Mollusk on Thee Facebooks

Mollusk at ReverbNation

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Sanford Parker to Release Lash Back July 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

sanford parker

Known for his work as a producer in addition to adding the foundation of beats to Corrections House alongside members of Eyehategod, Neurosis and Yakuza, as well as for pioneering doom extremity in Buried at Sea and exploring the low-end depths of post-metal in Minsk, Chicago’s Sanford Parker can now check “solo artist” off his list. His debut album, Lash Back, will be issued by My Proud Mountain in July and is also available to preorder through War Crime Recordings (yup, the same label that put out my book), in which he’s also a partner.

This is at least the second LP Parker has had out this year, and it seems like it should pair pretty well with Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, the atmospheric two-piece consisting of Parker and his Corrections House bandmate Scott Kelly, who made their debut this Spring on Neurot, but I wouldn’t actually go so far as to speculate what this thing will sound like until I hear it. Even then, one might hesitate.

From the PR wire:

sanford parker lash back

Sanford Parker to release debut solo album ‘Lash Back’ via My Proud Mountain on July 22nd

Sanford Parker is the reputed producer and electronics wrangler behind some of metal’s most exploratory outfits, breaking new territory in his work as a fixture of Buried At Sea, Minsk, Corrections House and Mirrors For Psychic Warfare, and featuring on and producing numerous records from respected names across the experimental spectrum. His trademark paranoid atmospherics slalom from the nuanced to the crushingly direct, siphoning elements of industrial, cold-wave and power electronics to give bleak, brutalist clout to his work.

Now, Parker is striking out on his own with Lash Back, a full length record of mechanical, dystopic, beat-driven menace. Due out on the My Proud Mountain label on July 22nd, Lash Back is a marked departure from his metallic legacy, retaining some of the hallmarks of his impressive work to date but moving towards a distilled, gruesome interpretation of the electronic world’s darkest operators like Perc, Youth Code and Pharmakon. Scathing kick detonations establish anti-dance rhythms to lose consciousness to, and vast swathes of swarming disintegrated synths wrap around the beats until they obscure all that existed below. Whilst intentionally disorientating and confrontational (with titles like ‘Sheep Slaughter’ and ‘Knuckle Crossing’ underlining his aesthetic), Parker still provides enough coherence and mastery to make Lash Back a record of searing hot excellence, and with tracks like ‘Your Feral Blood’ impinging on Kevin Martin styled earthquake beats, and opener ‘Psychic Driving’ uniformly loud yet majestic like Dominick Fernow, each gap a gasp for breath, Parker has broken into a wicked and characteristic style.

LASH BACK TRACKLISTING:
1. Psychic Driving
2. Knuckle Crossing
3. Slow Children
4. Low Gaps
5. Your Feral Blood
6. Sheep Slaughter

http://www.myproudmountain.com/
https://www.facebook.com/myproudmountain/
http://warcrimerecordings.bigcartel.com/

Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Live at Roadburn 2016

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Live Review: Corrections House, Theologian and York Factory Complaint in Brooklyn, 01.21.13

Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Somebody’s Range Rover had broken down in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, so the traffic getting across to the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn was a cruelty. The Patient Mrs. had business elsewhere in the borough as well, so we carpooled and sat for about an hour, waiting, inching forward, honking, being honked at, staring at the billboards for Soylent Orange or whatever it was, waiting. Waiting. Mostly it was waiting.

I was still early to the show, though, which was the live debut of the supergroup (they need to come up with a new tag for “band made up of people known for being in other bands”) Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker — permanently linked to the largely unmatched crush of Buried at Sea in my mind — acting as warden behind a podium with the band’s logo draped on the front, his laptop, sampler, drum machine adding to the experimental edge and providing the rhythmic base of the material.

The concept for the show was pretty complex. Two bands were opening: noise trio York Factory Complaint and blackened noisemakers Theologian, both NY-native. After them, each of the members of Corrections House would come up for a brief 10-15 minutes of solo work, then, once they were pieced together on the stage, a Corrections House set would close out the night. It was a cool theory, and it felt even better to know that St. Vitus bar was the first time they were trying it out, but I guess my concern going into it was how they’d actually make it happen with each member doing something different, what the order would be and how many songs Corrections House, as a band, could possibly have.

Answer? Three or four songs. But it was a long road to get there. York Factory Complaint went on at about 10PM, so I knew right away it was going to be a pretty late night. All the gear was backlined behind and around the outfit — which lists itself as a four-piece so perhaps someone was missing — who sat and knelt on the floor of the stage in front of their vintage-looking manipulators, Moogs and whathaveyous. Their noise was, well, noise. As advertised. Screaming vocals gave some inkling of structure, but there wasn’t really a verse as such, just lines spit over harsh audio.

I guess that’s going to happen from time to time, and for what it was, I thought the presentation was cool and the ambience creative. I always wanted to start a noise project with equipment hooked up to giant walls with knobs on them that I could dress as a mad scientist in a labcoat and run from side of the stage to side of the stage turning like a fool. Of course, with neither the money for equipment nor a knack for working with oversized knobs, it’s resided in the pile of band ideas next to my one-man black metal band with no music because nothing sounds kvlt enough and my doom project with lyrics based solely on the themes of Final Fantasy games.

York Factory Complaint was much simpler in their approach, and Theologian likewise, though the Leech-led live trio — which included Fade Kainer of Batillus on, you guessed it, synth and noise — were a little more grounded, relatively speaking, and had a projector going behind and over them while they played. That didn’t do much to make the sounds any friendlier or more accessible, but the point was the experiment, and their complex wash of synth, effects-laden vocals and array of abrasive screeches felt all the more purposed for its bleakness of mood. A couple toms on the side of the stage manned by Matt Slagle provided human-driven thud when called upon, and Leech‘s voice became as much a part of the wash as anything else. I wondered how they’d serve as a lead-in for Corrections House, but with Sanford Parker up first crafting a noise barrage of his own, it made more sense than one might have expected.

Dressed as all the members of the band would be in a black button-down with Corrections House logo patches sown on the arms and a larger logo on the back, Parker set quickly to work laying a bed of industrial-style beats and noisy flourishes. Samples came and went muddled by the surrounding swell as Parker, lost in the rhythm, continued to construct the sound one element at a time, even picking up a mic and manipulating feedback from it. After a while, Lamont joined him on stage, picking up his baritone sax and running it through a pedal board of his own, soon doing the same with some vocalizations and even scratches on the microphone that ran along the border between experimental and obnoxious. It can be a fine line sometimes.

Williams appeared unceremoniously on the side of the stage, holding a notebook, and gradually, Parker and Lamont brought the noise down to a steady drone. This actually worked really well, because in his reading — Williams in addition to fronting Eyehategod has done spoken word for a while now and has a book of poems called Cancer as a Social Activity — he gripped the mic, yelled and often had space to pause for the sound behind him filling what would otherwise have been silence tempting people in the crowd to talk over him. I’ve been to that kind of gig before and it’s excruciating, but whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s charismatic like few others I’ve seen on a stage. Like a magnet for eyeballs.

His poems/writings ran through a litany of post-beat disaffection, navigating a gamut of vague imagery and all-too-specific chemically-added grit. It’s hard to critique a written work by hearing a reading, but his delivery could change in a line from tragic and solipsistic to engaging with smiled charm, and not without interrupting the flow of a piece, and that’s worthy of commending. As he read, Kelly made his way to the front and took up position at the side of the stage, fresh off two rare East Coast Neurosis gigs, in Philly and at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple for a weekender preceding the launch of this tour. Lamont and Parker were still up there as well, the former kneeling in front of his pedal board in attentive semi-meditation and the latter tucked away behind his podium.

Closing out his portion with an extended poem that was a series of purposefully ridiculous claims ended by the refrain “That’s what the obituary said,” and finally ending it with what he seemed to make his own concerning his many-storied history of drug abuse — there was some mention of “finally kicking the habit” — Williams then made way for Kelly to run through a couple songs. This turned out to be something of a side-step, since each of the preceding additions of personnel to the stage had added to the atmosphere of what would become Corrections House, whereas Kelly‘s material is more straightforward and more definitively solo. Even “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul,” which featured a second guitar on last year’s The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here), was wholly Kelly‘s own despite complementing ethereal backing vocals from Lamont. I’m not about to complain for getting to watch Scott Kelly play his solo material — that can only make a good night better — but it was a turn from the process of building Corrections House on the stage, since what he was playing as part of the band turned out to be heavier, darker and more fitting to the rhythmic pulsations of Parker‘s drum machine.

Once they were all there, again, Corrections House only had three, maybe four songs to play. The difference was it had already been about an hour, so it was more like an extended encore than a full set. I wasn’t about to complain. Aside from Kelly playing angrier and with more distortion, there wasn’t much about Corrections House that hadn’t already been revealed. A digital “leak” of their “Hoax the System” video had given some idea of what to expect, and the other material they played followed suit, once more leaning on the line between organic darkened heavy and industrial coldness. Williams spat fury with his characteristic nihilism, Lamont kept up with Parker in laying the foundation of noise, be it with his sax or mic or both, and where once there wasn’t one, an increasing swirl of chaos ensued. It was all I could do to realize how far we’d already come by the time Corrections House were into their second offering.

They wrapped with an extended take on “Hoax the System,” its insistent rhythm playing out steady as the final tide of feedback rolled over it and just about everything else, Williams seeming to hold on against the rush with repetitions of his last lyrics urging the title. It was nearly 1AM by the time they were done, and I knew The Patient Mrs. was waiting, so I was quick out the door of the St. Vitus bar and back down the block to where she’d parked and was waiting for me to drive back to Jersey. Fortunately, whoever’s Range Rover it was had been towed by then. Small favors.

Pretty much the whole way through, this show wasn’t what I’d expected or planned on. From the traffic getting there to Williams taking the frontman spot then relinquishing for Kelly only to resume it shortly thereafter, to Lamont‘s mic-scratching, to the clear-road record time I made to the valley afterwards, the vast majority of my preconceived notions of what Corrections House would be had turned out to be in need of — forgive me — correcting. That’s what they got, anyhow. Rumor has it a 7″ is in the works, after that, who knows. But whatever might come next for these guys in this collaborative form, at least now I know why I’m anticipating it.

Extra pics after the jump.

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Is Sanford Parker the New Billy Anderson?

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Hmm, needs more knobs...The contemplative Mr. Anderson.You know, that go-to producer bands work with to get a specific sound, like Steve Albini or Jack Endino? Producer/”Engine-ear” Billy Anderson has worked on some of the all-time great heavy albums (dig the list) but aside from his tenure in Buried at Sea and Minsk, Sanford Parker has done records for Pelican when they were awesome, Rwake, Debris Inc., Yakuza and a ton more.

It’s not a question of who’s better, but do you think that down the line people will hold Nachtmystium‘s Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1 in the same kind of esteem as High on Fire‘s The Art of Self Defense? Just a thought…

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