Review & Track Premiere: Shooting Guns, Flavour Country

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shooting guns flavour country

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Flavour Country’ by Shooting Guns. Flavour Country is out Aug. 11 via RidingEasy Records and available to preorder here. You can also hear “French Safe” at the bottom of this post.]

There are no words on Shooting GunsFlavour Country except for a sample at the beginning of the penultimate title-track from Richard Linklater’s 1991 film, Slacker. An interviewer asks someone what it would take for them to get a job, and the answer comes back, “Hey, I’ll get a job when I hear the true call,” and it goes on from that point: “To all you workers out there: Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death.” Beyond that, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, outfit’s self-recorded third album and first for RidingEasy Records — with a noteworthy mastering job by former Monster Magnet and Wellwater Conspiracy guitarist John McBain (see also: Kandodo/McBain and Carlton Melton) — is completely instrumental. It would be hard to overstate the effect that single 30-second stretch has on the listener.

Taken as the beginning of a side-B comprised only of the title-track and languid, lumbering LP-closer “Black Leather Jacket,” each of which tops eight minutes on its own, the sample acts as a defining moment in terms of attitude and perspective for the six-piece, who in addition to the 2011 debut Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976 and 2013 Brotherhood of the Ram LPs put together the soundtrack for the Netflix film WolfCop in 2014 and have had a slew of short releases out, most recently 2015’s Himalaya to Mesopotamia split with fellow Canadian ritualists Zaum (review here). Imagine you get to say one thing on your record. One thing. You say “fuck work.” That’s kind of what’s happening here, and it aligns Shooting Guns to a dropped-out-of-life heavy hippiedom in which the space-rocking push of opener “Ride Free” and the drone-backed pastoral drift of “Vampires of Industry” feel equally at home.

Fluidity is the core impression. Liquefaction. Shooting Guns, who list their lineup with seven members (Keef, Laramee, Jay Loos, Jim Ginther, Toby Bond, Zach Low and Brennan Barclay despite showing six on the cover of Flavour Country, commence “Ride Free” with a simple riff and a faded in second guitar behind before the Hawkwindy thrust begins in earnest, giving an almost grunge-style impression in its first couple measures that winds up subtly showing the shared roots of space rock and punk in straight-ahead attitude. The difference is punk goes to ground while space rock goes far out, and Shooting Guns will wind up doing a bit of both and then some as Flavour Country runs through its six tracks/34 minutes, holding fast to an unpretentious throb while realizing moods from across a swath of headphone-ready heavy psychedelia and doom, malleable in style and tempo but keeping its course on an overarching cosmic trajectory. Dudes trip. Off they go. Whoosh and swirl. Sweep and churn and a bit of plod.

If one is listening to the CD or digital version of Flavour Country — something linear, rather than the vinyl requiring the side-A-to-B flip — it makes sense to break the album down into thirds. The first, made up of “Ride Free” and the subsequent “French Safe,” is the shortest at barely over five minutes between the two tracks, and “French Safe” (1:42) proves even faster and more raw-motor-punk than the opener before it. There’s still some noise and effects swirl behind, but it’s almost as though Shooting Guns are engaging the boosters that will carry them out of the atmosphere as a means of immersing their audience in the rest of the record to come.

Perhaps on that level it’s somewhat ironic that “Beltwhip Snakecharmer” and “Vampires of Industry,” the two six-minutes-each cuts that follow, are so earthy in their overall vibe. Earthy and Earth-y, actually, with “Beltwhip Snakecharmer” providing a dreamed-out hypnotic nod into a quickly-executed apex en route toward the more drone-informed ambience of “Vampires of Industry,” which is a serene and patient highlight of Flavour Country as a whole and effective transition point to set up the aforementioned sample at the intro to the title-track, quieting the proceedings and the mind before Shooting Guns deliver what would seem to be the core message behind the work they’re doing throughout.

And who could disagree? “Look at me,” say the character’s opening lines as cars pass behind, “I’m making it. I may live badly, but at least I don’t have to work to do it.” Feedback rises from beneath that sample and leads into the sludgy stomp of “Flavour Country” itself, the name of the song and album derived from cigarette ads and the tonal buzz ensuing suitably dried-leaf-brown in color. Guitar leads careen atop the core riff in a melodic semi-wash, but it’s the slow groove that’s central to the piece as it marches to its even-noisier crescendo, sounding all the more live-tracked and maybe even improv-based as the drums cut out for a final 30-seconds or so of feedback and amp hum that fades out to let “Black Leather Jacket”‘s stage-setting intro riff begin clean.

The closer is the longest piece on Flavour Country at 8:36 and consistent with the two-songs-as-thirds model, it rounds out the last movement of the album following suit from the title-track’s lumber before it. But it’s even slower, and despite being only about 20 seconds longer than “Flavour Country,” feels more purposefully drawn out, giving way similarly to noise after the seven-minute mark but bringing the drums back for an additional few measures of crash before they stop again and the noise fades quickly to end the record. This final section of Flavour Country, after the kosmiche opening salvo of “Ride Free” and “French Safe” and the trip across the Canadian prairie in “Beltwhip Snakecharmer” and “Vampires of Industry,” is heavier and more doomed, but it underscores the breadth Shooting Guns bring to their material.

If they’re ending on a somewhat sinister note, it’s a considerable journey Shooting Guns take to get there, and perhaps that sonic pilgrimage is itself the alternative the band are offering to the standard, commodity-making death of living in a capitalist system. Maybe that’s reading too much into it, but even if so, it’s a worthy achievement of evocation on the part of the group in putting their audience in that frame of mind, and all the more admirable on the level of both asking a question and answering it. Quit your job. Eat mushrooms. Trade one reality for another. It’s a quick listen, and no doubt it will fly under the radar for many, but Flavour Country‘s resonance makes righteous fodder for multiple repeat visits, and those who take it on with an open mind will be all the more engrossed. Right fucking on.

Shooting Guns on Thee Facebooks

Shooting Guns on Twitter

Shooting Guns on Instagram

Shooting Guns on Bandcamp

Shooting Guns website

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Twitter

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

Flavour Country at RidingEasy’s webstore

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Quarterly Review: Loss, BardSpec, Sinner Sinners, Cavra, Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Supersonic Blues, Masterhand, Green Lung, Benthic Realm, Lâmina

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

Day two of the Quarterly Review and all is chugging along. I was on the road for part of the day yesterday and will be again today, so there’s some chaos underlying what I’m sure on the surface seems like an outwardly smooth process — ha. — but yeah, things are moving forward. Today is a good mix of stuff, which makes getting through it somewhat easier on my end, as opposed to trying to find 50 different ways to say “riffy,” so I hope you take the time to sample some audio as you make your way through, to get a feel for where these bands are coming from. A couple highlights of the week in here, as always. We go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Loss, Horizonless

loss horizonless

Horizonless (on Profound Lore) marks a welcome if excruciating return from Nashville death-doomers Loss, who debuted six years ago with 2011’s Despond (review here) and who, much to their credit, waste no time in making up for their absence with 64 soul-crushing minutes across nine slabs of hyperbole-ready atmospheric misery. The longer, rumble-caked, slow-motion lumbering of “The Joy of all Who Sorrow,” “All Grows on Tears,” “Naught,” the title-track and closer “When Death is All” (which boasts guests spots from Leviathan’s Wrest, Dark Castle’s Stevie Floyd and producer Billy Anderson) are companioned by shorter ambient works like the creepy horror soundtrack “I.O.” and the hum of “Moved Beyond Murder,” but the deeper it goes, the more Horizonless lives up to its name in creating a sense of unremitting, skyline-engulfing darkness. That doesn’t mean it’s without an emotional center. As Loss demonstrate throughout, there’s nothing that escapes their consumptive scope, and as they shift through the organ-laced “The End Steps Forth,” “Horizonless,” “Banishment” and the long-fading wash of the finale, the album seems as much about eating its own heart as yours. A process both gorgeous and brutal.

Loss on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

BardSpec, Hydrogen

bardspec hydrogen

It’s only fair to call Hydrogen an experimentalist work, but don’t necessarily take that to mean that Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson doesn’t have an overarching vision for what his BardSpec project is. With contributions along the way from Today is the Day’s Steve Austin and former Trinacria compatriot Iver Sandøy (also Manngard), Bjørnson crafts extended pieces of ambient guitar and electronica-infused beats on works like “Fire Tongue” and the thumping “Salt,” resulting in two kinds of interwoven progressive otherworldlinesses not so much battling it out as exploring the spaces around each other. Hydrogen veers toward the hypnotic even through the more manic-churning bonus track “Teeth,” but from the psych-dance transience of “Bone” (video posted here) to the unfolding wash of “Gamma,” BardSpec is engaged in creating its own aesthetic that’s not only apart from what Bjørnson is most known for in Enslaved, but apart even from its influences in modern atmospherics and classic, electronics-infused prog.

BardSpec on Thee Facebooks

ByNorse Music website

 

Sinner Sinners, Optimism Disorder

There’s a current of rawer punk running beneath Sinner Sinners’ songwriting – or on the surface of it if you happen to be listening to “California” or “Outsider” or “Hate Yourself” or “Preachers,” etc. – but especially when the L.A. outfit draw back on the push a bit, their Last Hurrah Records and Cadavra Records full-length Optimism Disorder bears the hallmarks of Rancho de la Luna, the studio where it was recorded. To wit, the core duo of Steve and Sam Thill lead the way through the Queens of the Stone Age-style drive of opener “Last Drop” (video posted here), “Desperation Saved Me (Out of Desperation)” and though finale “Celexa Blues” is more aggressive, its tones and overall hue, particularly in the context of the bounce of “Together We Stand” and “Too Much to Dream” earlier, still have that desert-heavy aspect working for them. It’s a line that Sinner Sinners don’t so much straddle as crash through and stomp all over, but I’m not sure Optimism Disorder would work any other way.

Sinner Sinners on Thee Facebooks

Sinner Sinners on Bandcamp

Last Hurrah Records website

 

Cavra, Cavra

cavra cavra

The five-song/52-minute self-titled debut from Argentina trio Cavra was first offered digitally name-your-price-style late in 2016 and picked up subsequently by South American Sludge. There’s little reason to wonder why. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Cristian Kocak, bassist/vocalist Fernando Caminal and drummer Matias Gallipoli, the Buenos Aires three-piece place themselves squarely in the sphere of their home country’s rich heritage in heavy rock and psychedelic fluidity, with earthy tones, a resounding spaciousness in longer cuts like the all-15-minutes-plus “2010,” “Montaña” and “Torquemada.” My mind went immediately to early and mid-period Los Natas as a reference point for how the vocals cut through the density of “Montaña,” but even as Cavra show punkier and more straightforward thrust on the shorter “Dos Soles” (4:10) and “Librianna” (2:45) – the latter also carrying a marked grunge feel – they seem to keep one foot in lysergism. Perhaps less settled than it wants to be in its quiet parts, Cavra’s Cavra nonetheless reaches out with a tonal warmth and organic approach that mark a welcome arrival.

Cavra on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Tremor & Sea Witch, Split

black-tremor-sea-witch-split

One has to wonder if whichever of the involved parties – be it the two acts or either of the labels, Sunmask Records or Hypnotic Dirge – had in mind a land-and-sea kind of pairing in putting together Saskatoon’s Black Tremor or Nova Scotia’s Sea Witch for this split release, because that’s basically where they wound up. Black Tremor, who issued their debut EP in 2016’s Impending (review here), answer the post-Earth vibes with more bass/drums/cello instrumental exploration on the two-part “Hexus,” while the massive tonality of duo Sea Witch answers back – though not literally; they’re also instrumental – with three cuts, “Green Tide,” “As the Crow Flies Part One” and “As the Crow Flies Part Two.” The two outfits have plenty in common atmospherically, but where Black Tremor seem to seek open spaces in their sound, Sea Witch prefer lung-crushing heft, and, well, there isn’t really a wrong answer to that question. Two distinct intentions complementing each other in fluidity and a mood that goes from grim and contemplative to deathly and bleak.

Black Tremor on Thee Facebooks

Sea Witch on Thee Facebooks

Hypnotic Dirge Records webstore

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul

supersonic-blues-supersonic-blues-theme

It takes Den Haag trio Supersonic Blues no more than eight minutes to bust out one of 2017’s best short releases in their Who Can You Trust? Records debut single, Supersonic Blues Theme b/w Curses on My Soul. Yes, I mean it. The young three-piece of guitarist Timothy, bassist Gianni and drummer Lennart absolutely nail a classic boogie-rock vibe on the two-tracker, and from the gotta-hear low end that starts “Curses on My Soul,” the unabashed hook of “Supersonic Blues Theme” and the blown-out garage vocals that top both, the two-tracker demonstrates clearly not only that there’s still life to be had in heavy ‘70s loyalism when brought to bear with the right kind of energy, but that Supersonic Blues are on it like fuzz on tone. Killer feel all the way and shows an exceeding amount of potential for a full-length that one can only hope won’t follow too far behind. Bonus points for recording with Guy Tavares at Motorwolf. Hopefully they do the same when it comes time for the LP.

Supersonic Blues on Thee Facebooks

Who Can You Trust? Records webstore

 

Masterhand, Mind Drifter

masterhand-mind-drifter

A neo-psych trio from Oklahoma City, Masterhand seem like the kind of group who might at a moment’s notice pack their gear and go join the legions of freaks tripping out on the West Coast. Can’t imagine they wouldn’t find welcome among that I-see-colors-everywhere underground set – at least if their debut long-player, Mind Drifter, is anything to go by. Fuzz like Fuzz, acid like Uncle, and a quick, raw energy that underlies and propels the proceedings through quick tracks like “Fear Monger” and “Lucifer’s Dream” – tense bass and drums behind more languid wah and surf guitar before a return to full-on fuzz – yeah, they make a solid grab for upstart imprint King Volume Records, which has gotten behind Mind Drifter for a cassette issue. There’s some growing to do, but the psych-garage feel of “Chocolate Cake” is right on, “Heavy Feels” is a party, and when they want, they make even quick cuts like “Paranoia Destroyer” feel expansive. That, along with the rest of the release, bodes remarkably well.

Masterhand on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records webstore

 

Green Lung, Green Man Rising

green-lung-green-man-rising

Groove-rolling four-piece Green Lung boast former members of Oak and Tomb King, among others, and Green Man Rising, their first digital single, is the means by which they make their entry into London’s crowded underground sphere. Aside from the apparent nod to Type O Negative in the title – and the plenty of more-than-apparent nod in guitarist Scott Masson’s riffing – “Green Man Rising” and “Freak on a Peak” bask in post-Church of Misery blown-out cymbals from drummer Matt Wiseman, corresponding tones, while also engaging a sense of space via rich low end from bassist Andrew Cave and the echoing vocals of Tom Killingbeck. There’s an aesthetic identity taking shape in part around nature worship, and a burgeoning melodicism that one imagines will do likewise more over time, but they’ve got stonerly hooks in the spirit of Acrimony working in their favor and in a million years that’s never going to be a bad place to start. Cool vibe; makes it easy to look forward to more from them.

Green Lung on Thee Facebooks

Green Lung on Bandcamp

 

Benthic Realm, Benthic Realm

benthic-realm-benthic-realm

In 2016, Massachusetts-based doom metallers Second Grave issued one of the best debut albums of the year in their long-awaited Blacken the Sky (review here)… and then, quite literally days later, unexpectedly called it quits. It was like a cruel joke, teasing their potential and then cutting it short of full realization. The self-titled debut EP from Benthic Realm, which features Second Grave guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (also ex-Warhorse) and bassist Maureen Murphy alongside drummer Brian Banfield (The Scimitar), would seem to continue the mission of that prior outfit if perhaps in an even more metallic direction, drawing back on some of Second Grave’s lumber in favor of a mid-paced thrust while holding firm to the melodic sensibility that worked so well across Blacken the Sky’s span. For those familiar with Second Grave, Benthic Realm is faster, not as dark, and perhaps somewhat less given to outward sonic extremity, but it’s worth remembering that “Awakening,” “Don’t Fall in Line” and “Where Serpents Dwell” are just an introduction and that van Guilder and Murphy might go on a completely different direction over the longer term after going back to square one as they do here.

Benthic Realm website

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp

 

Lâmina, Lilith

lamina-lilith

Smack dab in the middle of Lilith, the debut album from Lisbon-based doom/heavy rockers Lâmina, sits the 20-minute aberration “Maze.” It’s a curious track in a curious place on the record, surrounded by the chugging “Evil Rising” and bass-led rocker bounce of “Psychodevil,” but though it’s almost a full-length unto itself (at least an EP), Lâmina make the most of its extended and largely linear course, building on the tonal weight already shown in the earlier “Cold Blood” and “Big Black Angel” and setting up the tension of “Education for Death” and the nine-minute semi-title-track finale “In the Warmth of Lilith,” which feels a world away from the modern stonerism of “Psychodevil” in its slower and thoroughly doomed rollout. There’s a subtle play of scope happening across Lilith, drawn together by post-grunge tonal clarity and vocal melodies, and Lâmina establish themselves as potentially able to pursue any number of paths going forward from here. If they can correspondingly develop the penchant for songwriting they already show in these cuts as well, all the better.

Lâmina on Thee Facebooks

Lâmina on Bandcamp

 

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Shooting Guns to Release Flavour Country Aug. 11 on RidingEasy

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Canadian leftfield psych rockers Shooting Guns have announced an Aug. 11 release date for their third album, Flavour Country, through venerable Californian imprint RidingEasy Records. Last heard from with their 2015 split with Zaum, Himalaya to Mesopotamia (review here), the six-piece last issued a long-player in 2013’s Brotherhood of the Ram, which was the follow-up to 2011’s Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976, but as one will they’ve had a slew of shorter offerings out along the way. Still, they’re about due, and preorders should start for Flavour Country any day now, since RidingEasy is nothing if not on top of that kind of whathaveyou. Keep an eye out.

Details are pretty slim on the album itself in terms of tracks, audio, etc., but there’s art and some preliminary background to go on. Wouldn’t you know, here it is:

shooting-guns-flavour-country

Shooting Guns – Flavour Country

Our 3rd studio album is coming out Aug 11th on RidingEasy Records! Recorded at Pre-Rock Records HQ, “Flavour Country” takes the SG sound to a lot of new places with pre-sales/previews coming next week!!

Shooting Guns provide the perfect soundtrack for the morning after the apocalypse, when you are sitting in the rubble of your home in a bathrobe and think, ‘What should I do now?’ and end up zoning out for hours in a psychedelic trance instead of making a survival plan. Bad move on your part, because you are probably going to die. Shooting Guns are hard at work fortifying the heavy end of the psychedelic spectrum. Hailing from the subarctic wasteland of Saskatoon, SK, they haunt the foggy moor between Sabbath-styled doom riffery and heavy pulse-riding kraut-rock.

Their debut LP, Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976, was nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2012 and the 2nd LP, Brotherhood of the Ram, was released in Oct 2013.

Shooting Guns is:
Keef
Laramee
Jay Loos
Jim Ginther
Toby Bond
Zach Low
Brennan Barclay

http://shootingguns.ca/
https://www.facebook.com/shootinggunsband/
https://shootingguns.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product-category/bands/shooting-guns/

Shooting Guns, Himalaya to Mesopotamia split with Zaum (2015)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Sun Blood Stories, Skraeckoedlan, Mount Desert, Zaum & Shooting Guns and Merchant

Posted in Radio on November 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

You already know, but it’s November as of yesterday. Last time I did a round of adds to The Obelisk Radio was June 5. Granted we’ve had two Quarterly Reviews since then, so not everything has fallen through the cracks in terms of being written up, but even some of that stuff has built up a backlog waiting to be added to the playlist.

Accordingly, there are over 130 records joining The Obelisk Radio today. You can see the full-list here.

That is a massive number for one shot, and some of it is new and some older stuff fills in gaps, mostly in the Black Sabbath catalog. but either way, after five months, it seems like a fair amount to come back with. I’m not sure I’ll be able to schedule a round of Radio Adds every week from here on out — I couldn’t before, if you’ll recall — but as ever, I’ll do my best. As you might expect, five months later, there are some really great records to talk about. We’ll start with the newest one.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Nov. 2, 2015:

Sun Blood Stories, Samhain Variations

sun blood stories samhain variations

A special Halloween release, the complete title of the latest from Sun Blood Stories is Samhain Variations: In Flight Raid Wake up I Don’t Know, and sure enough at the beginning of “Samhain Variation 1” (15:30), lap steel guitarist/vocalist Amber Pollard gives a cabin announcement welcoming listeners aboard “Trip Airlines Flight 666 bound to your brain” as she and guitarist Ben Kirby set out an immediately experimental-sounding foundation of plucked notes, feedback, drones and other noises. What follows from there — mind you that’s about the first 10 seconds — across “Samhain Variation I” and it loop-drum-infused counterpart “Samhain Variation II” (26:50) is a twisted barrage of alternately hypnotic and assaulting sounds, feeling like an exponential expansion of some of the ambient back end of summer-2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here) full-length, with which I remain enamored. The difference is that where those were smaller pieces that, at times, seemed to touch back down to solid footing reminding of the album’s more straightforward beginning movement, Samhain Variations is an ethereal wash that trades back and forth between melodic and amelodic, touching on the memorable “West the Sun” at the launch of “Samhain Variation II,” but ultimately shaping itself into an unrecognizable form. The second part is harsher than the first and substantially longer, but both reinforce the open creative process the band showed a couple months back on Live at the Banana Stand (posted here), and of course, on the album that preceded it. They remain a band to which more people need to get hip, and Samhain Variations is a flight worth taking. Sun Blood Stories on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Zaum & Shooting Guns, Himalaya to Mesopotamia

zaum & shooting guns humalaya to mesopotamia

Moncton ritualizers Zaum will reportedly have a new full-length out in 2016 to follow their impressive 2014 debut, Oracles (review here). In the interim, they’ve partnered with freakout-prone Saskatoon heavy psych rockers Shooting Guns for a split titled Himilaya to Mesopotamia that is out on vinyl this week. With one track from Zaum, the extended “The Serpentshrine” (19:07), and three from Shooting Guns all over six minutes, it’s well substantial enough for a 12″ and gives its audience plenty to dig into from each act, the two-piece Zaum gracefully and gradually unfolding Eastern inflections and immersive drones on “The Serpentshrine” across a hilltop-shaped, parabolic build that swells to greater impact in the middle and recedes to chants and drones at the end from the psychedelic doom march that emerges. Their work remains fluid and progressive, and “The Serpentshrine” fits well alongside Shooting Guns‘ “Super Himalaya,” “Dirty Needle” and instrumental closer “Ultimate Nullifier,” which between them establish an album-style flow that goes from far to farther out, melding space rock, noise, and psych fuckall into the potent nod of “Dirty Needle,” casting a wide cosmic berth of echoing guitar and thrusting rhythm. Shooting Guns tip hat to “War Pigs” in “Ultimate Nullifier,” but by then the vibe is so lysergic that it’s really just one more ingredient in the cauldron. Might get under general-public radars, but a gem of substantial pulsation. Zaum on Thee Facebooks, Shooting Guns on Thee Facebooks, Zaum on Bandcamp, Shooting Guns on Bandcamp.

Skraeckoedlan, Sagor

skraeckoedlan sagor

The awaited follow-up from Swedish stonerplodders Skraeckoedlan on Razzia RecordsSagor answers the big riffing of the band’s 2011 debut, Äppelträdet (review here), with a more progressive realization of some similar ideas, the tones still post-Truckfighters, the largesse still post-Mastodon, but the band impressively carving out their own dynamic within their not-quite-metal-but-still-viciously-weighted approach, songs like the post-intro “Gigantos” (7:27) and “El Monstro” pummeling out melodically conscious heft (the latter with guest vocals) while pieces like “Awen” (1:08), the structurally forward “Flod” (2:46) and even the longest cut here, “Squidman” (8:09) managing not to lose track of a consistent atmosphere amid all the unbridled feel. At 53 minutes, Sagor is not a minor undertaking, but somehow, for an album about giant monsters and built on top of likewise proportioned riffs and grooves, it makes a kind of conceptual sense, and I won’t fight against the sway of “Epos” (5:47) or the poise that “Odjuret” (6:39) seems to showcase in the vocals, switching between full-sounding shouts in the chorus and a Greenleaf-style verse, duly fuzzed and engagingly heavy. Originally titled Gigantos and recorded at various different studios, Sagor seems to have been an adventure in the making, but however daunting the process may have been, Skraeckoedlan have come out of it with a sophomore outing that answers the potential of their debut and finds them refining a sound that one hopes only continues to become more their own from here. Skraeckoedlan on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp, Razzia Records.

Mount Desert, Mount Desert

mount desert mount desert

Based now in San Francisco with roots in Maine, two-piece newcomers Mount Desert impress on their debut two-song demo with the spaciousness they bring to their tracks. What feels like a 7″ in the making, the pair of “Blue Madonna” (4:45) and “Fear the Heart” (6:36) showcase stylistic cohesion on the part of guitarist/vocalist Scott and drummer Jordan, an overarching reverb seeming to take hold on the first song and continue into the second. These are initial explorations — demos by any other name — but Mount Desert tap into psychedelia with a corresponding earthiness that reminds of the first Sigiriya record in its blend, and feels neither nostalgic nor like it’s trying overly hard to position itself within the West Coast heavy psych sphere’s jammy infatuations. It will not feel out of place genre-wise to first time listeners who take it on, but neither are Mount Desert completely familiar. “Blue Madonna” and “Fear the Heart” work quick and efficient, but retain atmospheric resonance as well, and while their real tests are ahead of them, the molten beginnings of “Blue Madonna” and the crunching finish of “Fear the Heart” give an encouraging sense of range, and while exciting for how Mount Desert might build on them, that excitement comes from what the duo have already accomplished here. Mount Desert on Thee Facebooks, Mount Desert on Soundcloud.

Merchant, Seismic

merchant seismic

Together for just about a year at the time of its release in May, Aussie sludge-plus four-piece Merchant make their presence felt with “Seismic” (9:36), an initial single released as a name-your-price download that seems geared toward announcing their arrival on the fertile ground of Melbourne’s heavy scene. They’re not without their psychedelic flourish, but vocalist Mirgy offers throaty growling — here reminding of New Zealand’s Beastwars, there delving even further into gutturalisms — to top the rolling undulations of guitarist Ben, gotta-hear-this-tone bassist Wilson and drummer Nick and that ensures Merchant never stray too far from the muck toward the cosmos. Ben takes a fuzzy solo in the back half, but Merchant bring their first sally to a crashing finish, lumbering out a few final hits before the amp noise squeezes the last air out of the room. Melbourne heavy is about as multi-faceted as a scene gets — see also Portland, Oregon — but Merchant show also that it’s still growing and that there are those within the city limits looking to push the boundaries of extremity beyond their breaking point. For being just under 10 minutes, “Seismic” tells us an awful lot about Merchant and their intentions over the longer term, and it seems like a warning listeners will want to heed. Merchant on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Thanks for reading. I hope you find something you dig, and if you want to see the full list of the 130-plus records added to the server today, check out The Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page.

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Quarterly Review: Holy Sons, WEEED, Mala Suerte, Eternal Black, Were-Jaguars, Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Black Tremor, Aave, Derelics, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-quarterly-review-fall-2015

Day one down, four more days to go. I forget each time how different it is writing shorter reviews as opposed to the usual longer ones, but kind of refreshing to bust through something, force myself to say what needs to be said as efficiently as possible and move on. Reminds me of working in print, with word counts and such. Only so much room on the page. Not something that usually comes up around these parts, but I guess it’s good to keep that muscle from complete atrophy. Though taking that line of thought to its natural conclusion, I have no idea why. Anyway, feeling good, ready to take on another 10 records, so let’s roll.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #11-20:

Holy Sons, Fall of Man

holy sons fall of man

It would be hard to overstate the smoothness with which Emil Amos, who serves integral creative and percussive roles in both Grails and Om, brings different styles together on Fall of Man, his second album for Thrill Jockey under the Holy Sons solo moniker and upwards of his 11th overall. An overriding melancholy vibe suits dark, progressive pop elements on the opener “Mercenary World,” Amos at the fore playing all instruments and still vocalizing like a singer-songwriter, while the later wash of “Being Possessed is Easy” takes on ‘90s indie fragility and turns what was purposeful minimalism into an expanse of melody and “Discipline” creeps out lyrically while forming experimentalist soundscapes around a steady line of acoustic guitar. Joined by bassist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem on “Aged Wine” – the only other players to appear anywhere on Fall of ManAmos leads the trio through soaring leads and heavier crashing to give the album a crescendo worthy of its scope, which while astounding on deeper inspection presents itself with simple, classic humility.

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Holy Sons at Thrill Jockey

WEEED, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath

WEEED-Our-Guru-Brings-us-to-the-Black-Master-Sabbath

From the opening drone-groan throat-singing of the 14-minute “Dogma Dissolver,” it seems like not-quite-Seattle trio Weeed are making a run for the title “Most Stoned of the Stoner” with their second full-length, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath. They earn that extra ‘e.’ A double-LP on Illuminasty Records, the album is a 54-minute trip into low tone and deep-running vibe, spaced way out, and well at home whether jamming heavy and hypnotized on “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” – a highlight bassline – or nestling into an ambient stretch like “Bullfrog” preceding. Mostly instrumental, Weeed hit their most active in “Enuma Elish” and then chill and strip back to acoustics and sax (yup) for the Eastern-flavored “Caravan Spliff,” bringing back the throat-singing in the process. How else to finish such a work than with the 15-minute “Nature’s Green Magic,” a 15-minute push along a single build that goes from minimal, pastoral acoustics to nod-on-this megastoner riffing? Weeed might be going for the gold, but they end up in the green, and somehow one imagines they’ll be alright with that. They get super-ultra-bonus points for sounding like Kyuss not even a little.

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Mala Suerte, Rituals of Self Destruction

mala suerte rituals of self destruction

Formed in 1999 and having made their full-length debut a decade later with The Shadow Tradition (review here), last heard from in a 2012 split with Boise’s Uzala (review here), Austin, Texas, doomly five-piece Mala Suerte return with the 10-track Rituals of Self Destruction, which moves past its four-minute intro into chugging The Obsessed-style trad doom with a touch of Southern heavy à la Crowbar and a generally metallic spirit in cuts like “Utopic Delusions” that gets expanded on later cuts like the swirling, crawling almost Cathedral-ish “Labyrinth of Solitude.” Comprised of forward-mixed vocalist Gary Rosas, guitarists David Guerrero and Vincent Pina, bassist Mike Reed and drummer Chris Chapa (now John Petri), Mala Suerte sound as rueful as ever across the album’s span, rounding out with the hardcore sludge of “Successful Failure” and “The Recluse,” which builds from slow, brooding chug to a more riotous finish. It’s been a while, but it’s good to have them back.

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Mala Suerte on Bandcamp

Eternal Black, Eternal Black

eternal black eternal black

Guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob leads Brooklyn’s Eternal Black through the riffy doom of their debut self-titled three-track EP. Unpretentious in the style’s tradition, the trio is anchored by Hal Miller’s bass and pushed forward by the drums of Joe “The Prince of Long Island” Wood (also of Borgo Pass), the rolling groove of Sabbathian opener “Obsidian Sky” setting the tone for straightforward, few-frills darkness, and Eternal Black follow it up with the workingman’s doom of “The Dead Die Hard” and “Armageddon’s Embrace,” the former started out with an extra lead layer before it unfurls the EP/demo’s most satisfying crawl, and the latter a little more swinging, but still Iommic metal at its core, Wohlrob’s gruff vocal and Wino-style riff backed by Miller’s deep-mixed rumble as Wood goes to the cowbell/woodblock (it’s one or the other) during the guitar solo. Even if Joe Wood wasn’t one of the best human beings I’d ever met, it would still be pretty easy to dig what these cats are doing, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye for how they follow this first installment.

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Eternal Black on Bandcamp

Were-Jaguars, II

were-jaguars ii

Austin, Texas-based trio Were-Jaguars have already issued a follow-up EP to their earlier-2015 second album, II, but from its opening and longest track “Between the Armies” (immediate points), the three-piece dig into weirdo psych vibes and dense tones across their latest full-length, released through respected Russian purveyor R.A.I.G. Not at all a minor undertaking at 13 tracks, 68 minutes, it gets into garage ritualism in “Let My Breath be the Air” and unfolds immediate doomadelia on “Bishop Kills Enchanter,” but if you need confirmation that Were-Jaguars – the three-piece of Chad Rauschenberg, James Adkisson and Rick McConnell – aren’t just screwing around in these songs and lucking into a righteous result, let it come on the later “Lost Soul,” which melds a flowing instrumental roll to a host of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual samples, loses itself completely, and then returns at the end to finish cohesive, engagingly complex and sure in the knowledge that all has gone to plan. Figuring out what that plan is can be a challenge at times, but it’s there.

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R.A.I.G.

Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Fuzzonaut Split

vinnum-sabbathi-and-bar-de-monjas-fuzzonaut

The Fuzzonaut split between Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi and Bar de Monjas takes its name from the closing track, provided by the latter act, but it serves as a fitting title for the work as a whole as well. Vinnum Sabbathi launch the six-track offering with “HEX I: The Mastery of Space,” a slow-rolling instrumental topped by samples pulled from rocket launches, and after the 1:45 droning interlude “Intermission (Fluctuations),” they melt their way into the companion “HEX II: Foundation Pioneers,” doomier in its chug, but similarly-minded overall in intent, with the warm bass, copious samples, and planet-sized riffing. Though their portion is shorter overall, Bar de Monjas answer back with relatively upbeat push in “Hot Rail,” winding up in stoner rock janga-janga before stomping their way into “The Ripper,” cowbelling there as part of an impressively percussed spin and capping with “Fuzzonaut” itself, a shroomy 7:45 creeper with big-riff bursts that rises and recedes effectively, ending with a long residual hum.

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Fuzzonaut on Bandcamp

Black Tremor, Impending

black tremor impending

An immediate touchstone for the droning pastoral drear that Saskatoon three-piece Black Tremor elicit on their four-song debut EP, Impending, is Earth’s HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but the newcomer trio distinguish themselves immediately with an approach that replaces guitar with violin, so that not only can Black Tremor tie into these atmospheres, they can do so in a way that speak to country roots in a way their forebears didn’t at the time date. Bassist Alex Deighton, violinist Amanda Bestvater and drummer Brennan Rutherford have only just begun the work of developing their sound, but already nine-minute opener “The Church” and its buzzing follow-up “Rise” prove evocative and come across as more than exercises in ambience. “Markhor” hits with an even heavier roll and an almost Melvinsy undertone, while the title-track makes its way through horse-trod mud to emerge at the end not only clean but positively bouncing. It’s still pretty dark, but they’ve given themselves a vast Canadian Midwestern expanse to explore.

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Black Tremor on Bandcamp

Aave, There’s Nothing

aave there's nothing

A bright tonal bliss pervades There’s Nothing, the Rock Ridge Music debut long-player from Nashville all-lowercase psychedelic post-rockers aave. The band court indie progressivism across the album’s eight component tracks, but with just one song over four minutes long – closer “Turn Me Off” (4:30) – there’s little about it that feels overly indulgent or beyond the pale stylistically. That is to say that while aave set a sonic course for great distances, they get to where they’re going efficiently and don’t hang around too long in one place. That has its ups and downs in terms of vibe, but the resonant vocal melodies of “Nothing Here” – hard not to be reminded of Mars Red Sky’s sweet emotionality, but there are other comparisons one might make – the focus remains grounded in an accessibility that goes beyond getting lost in dreamy guitars. Aesthetically satisfying, they find an intense moment in the later thrust of “Blender,” but even that retains the overarching wistful sensibility of what’s come before and that unites the material throughout.

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Rock Ridge Music

Derelics, Introducing

derelics introducing

Spacious, melodic and entrancingly heavy, Derelics’ debut EP, Introducing, indeed makes a formidable opening statement, and in a crowded London scene of post-Orange Goblin burl and Downy sludge, the trio set more progressive ambitions across “To Brunehilde,” “California” and “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla,” psych-funking up the centerpiece after the grooving largesse of the opener en route to the wider-spreading tones of the closer, guitarist/vocalist Reno cutting through his and bassist Nacim’s tones easily with higher-register vocals that push the limits of his range as he encourages one to “ride that fuckin’ snake,” before cutting out to let drummer Rich lead the charge with toms through a build-up bridge that returns to the echoing fullness conjured earlier, ending on a long-fading organ note. An encouraging first offering from the three-piece, and hopefully they continue develop along an original-sounding path as they move ahead. Already they seem to show a knack for melding atmospherics and songwriting toward the same ends.

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Derelics on Bandcamp

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Desert Brain

sisters of your sunshine vapor desert brain

True to its krautrock-style cover art, Desert Brain, the third outing from Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, has an element of prog at work within its psychedelic unfolding. But that’s reasonable. With four years since their second release, Spectra Spirit (review here), and the inclusion of bassist/keyboardist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski with guitarist/vocalist Sean Morrow, the dynamic in the band has legitimately shifted, even though Oppitz (who also did the aforementioned cover art) has recorded all three of their records. Still, they keep the proceedings fluid across the two vinyl sides, finding their inner garage on “Major Medicine” and tripping out easy on “What’s Your Cloud Nine, 37?” on side A before digging in with fuzz and push on side B’s “The Prettiest Sounds of Purgatory” and stretching into ritual stomp on the title cut. All the while, they’re drenched in vibe and a flow that’s languid even as it’s running you over, and while some songs barely have a chorus, they implant themselves in the mind anyway, almost subliminally.

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Last Licks 2014: The Re-Stoned, Anthroprophh, Lavagoat, Ketch, Eternal Khan, Mount Carmel, Pocket Size, Zoltan, The Garza, Dot Legacy

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.

So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?

Okay maybe not.

Thanks for reading.

The Re-Stoned, Totems

the re-stoned totems

Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.

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R.A.I.G.

Anthroprophh, Outside the Circle

anthroprophh outside the circle

For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.

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Rocket Recordings

Lavagoat, Weird Menace

lavagoat weird menace

Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.

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Ketch, Ketch

ketch ketch

Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.

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Ketch on Bandcamp

Eternal Khan, A Poisoned Psalm

eternal khan a poisoned psalm

Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.

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Eternal Khan on Bandcamp

Mount Carmel, Get Pure

mount carmel get pure

Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.

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Alive Naturalsound

Pocket Size, Exposed Undercurrents

pocket size exposed undercurrents

One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.

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Pocket Size website

Zoltan, Sixty Minute Zoom

zoltan sixty minute zoom

Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.

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Cineploit Records

The Garza, The Garza

the garza the garza

Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.

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The Garza on Bandcamp

Dot Legacy, Dot Legacy

dot legacy dot legacy

Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.

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Setalight Records

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Lavagoat, Lavagoat: Metal up Your Doom

Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Canadian metal! Saskatoon heavy four-piece Lavagoat defy expectation almost immediately on their 2010 self-titled by not just reveling in punkish Eyehategod-style sludge, as their name would lead one to expect they might. Rather, Lavagoat’s Lavagoat draws liberally from the well of post-Mastodon metallicism, mostly shirking off the “progressive” snobbishness in favor of raw angular pummel. In other words, drummer Graham (the whole band is first-name-only) keeps his feet busy. But even that isn’t the whole story with Lavagoat. The Cathedral-esque clean vocals that come across on cuts like “Magma,” the later “The Witch,” or even a bit cadence-wise on opener “Puritan” show that not only is Lavagoat offering more than the gruff, throaty, rhythmic growls of “Old Man and the Sea,” but that perhaps multiple songwriters are at play behind the material. The liner notes credit the full band, and both bassist Sean and guitarist Graeme handle vocal duties – Lavagoat is rounded out by guitarist Jimi – but there’s enough diversity at play here to make me think the riffs driving the songs have more than one source. Provided a band can pull the different parts together enough to make something cogent from it (which I’d argue Lavagoat do pretty well here), that’s never a bad thing.

But they are heavy. Whatever road they take to get there, Lavagoat don’t ever lose sight of the metal side of stoner metal, even working a section of crushing riffs into “Magma” and a scathing solo into the building instrumental part collection “Interstellar Deserts Azathoth” – perhaps the most aptly-named track on Lavagoat for its varying moods. The aforementioned “Old Man and the Sea” and middle-album slice “The House” find the band at their most metallic, the latter playing off it with a kind of self-aware use of pig screaming (that could be a sample, or it could be guest vocalist Simon Braun). That said, “Rome,” which starts out more ethereally doomed, later boasts death growls amid one of the most Leviathan-derived riffs Lavagoat here concoct – so it’s not necessarily just a case of compartmentalizing the band’s heaviness into this track or that – the metal can show up anywhere. When it does, it’s well met by Lavagoat’s stoner side, “The Witch” meeting the aftermath of “Rome” head on and complementing it with thick groove and a heathen lyrical schematic.

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