Posted in Features on April 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One would be hard pressed to name a single city that has contributed more to the sphere of American heavy rock in the last half-decade than Portland, Oregon. I’m not even sure there’s any competition, even from places like San Francisco or San Diego. The challenge this presents new bands at this point is how they go about distinguishing themselves from their peers, and that is something that hard-driving four-piece Holy Grove would seem to have solved early.
Their self-titled debut (review here) is out now on Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds, owned by Gabriele Fiori of Black Rainbows/Killer Boogie, and basks in wide-cast grooves and a crisp but natural tonal warmth captured by stuff-of-legend producer Billy Anderson that puts the powerful vocals of Andrea Vidal front and center atop the riffs of guitarist Trent Jacobs, the rumble of bassist Gregg Emley and the roll of original drummer Craig Bradford (replaced by Adam Jelsing). That’s a big risk for a relatively new band, Holy Grove started in 2012, but it’s still their first album, but Holy Grove takes classic cues and updates them with a modern thickness of sound that would seem to hold an appeal for fans of then and now in heavy.
Holy Grove play Psycho Las Vegas in August (info here), joining in international and interstellar array of groups, and have a European tour in the works for the fall to further support the album, as well as work already underway on the follow-up, which is probably a ways off, but still in progress already. In the interview that follows, Vidal talks with good humor about her experience joining the band, how they got together, needing to buy a microphone after the first practice, starting work on the album after releasing the Live at Jooniors (review here) two-songer, recording with Anderson and much more, including finding her voice as a lead singer and the importance of commanding a stage and bringing a show to life.
The complete Q&A tops 3,200 words and can be found after the jump.
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Pittsburgh natives Horehound will release their self-titled debut full-length on April 20 via Blackseed Recordings and Releases. Dense riffs, doomly vibes and an overarching ethereal spirit typify the first long-player from the five-piece, who formed 14 months ago and have unveiled a rolling-groove teaser to herald the album’s arrival. They’re reportedly looking to hit the road a bit this summer in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, so there’s one to keep an eye out for there as well. Will be interested to see how much touring they do in support of the record.
You know the drill: New band, cool sound, some potential as they go forward. Info follows, courtesy of the PR wire:
Horehound Debut Record Release
Blackseed Records & Releases’ artist HOREHOUND, the Doom Metal/Hard Rock outfit from the Steel City of Pittsburgh, PA have been ripping up the metro scene throughout the past year with their live shows. Well-known clubs such as Gooski’s, 31st Street Pub (R.I.P.), Howlers and Club Café have seen the band move up the ranks opening for genre mainstays Karma to Burn, Foghound, and Cavern while developing a concrete foundation and fan base along the way.
Formed in February 2015, the band quickly pooled their experiences and influences to create their heavy yet heavily approachable sound. Vocalist Shy Kennedy explodes into her debut role as front-woman and brings her unique and haunting style to each song. The band’s dual guitar grind comes via Mike Altopiedi (rhythm) and Brendan Parrish (lead), both formerly of the band Perish. On drums is JD Dauer, who brings many years of heavy-hitting to the band while also a regular with rockabilly outfit Memphis Mike & The Legendary Tremblers. David “Wes” Westfall brings a devastating low-end onslaught as bassist and is also currently a guitarist for the band The New Casual.
2016 pushes the 5-piece even further with their debut 7-song LP slated for release April 20th, 2016. A regional tour this summer including dates in OH, PA, MD, and NY are in the works and opening slots for national headliners Order of the Owl, Graves at Sea, and Prong are booked!
The momentum is building at lightning speed. With new music, shows, tours and promotions, HOREHOUND is on the rise, ready for the world to come!
Weed‘s Weed is little more than half an hour long, but that proves to be plenty of time for it to summarize much of what was righteous about the heavy rock movement of the early ’70s. The band was founded circa 1970 by keyboardist Ken Hensley, who by then had not only released two records with Uriah Heep, but albums with Toe Fat, Head Machine and The Gods as well. Bringing him to the fore on lead vocals and guitar in addition to keys, Weed would only release this one album during their time together, but it nonetheless captures a moment right at the intersection of psychedelia, heavy rock and what would in the early/mid-1970s become krautrock and prog, something of course Uriah Heep would dig into deeply after their rawer earlier work. Joining Hensley in Weed were guitarist Werner Monka, bassist Reinhold Spiegelfeld, flutist Bernd Hohmann, keyboardist Rainer Schnelle and drummer Peet Becker, some of whom came from the German prog band Virus, and while commonly thought of as a solo-project for Hensley, Weed‘s Weed boasts a definite and significant full-band feel.
That’s true even in the minimalist intro of the organ-led “My Dream,” but most apparent on bluesier cuts like opener “Sweet Morning Light” and its shuffling side B counterpart “Slowin’ Down.” Elsewhere, Weed bask in the second-track balladry that would become a staple of the era on “Lonely Ship” and embrace a wider scope on “My Dream,” leaving the penultimate “Before I Die” to offer piano-led proto-prog and the closing title-track to move into post-Hendrix psychedelic jamming, bass and guitar sparring excitingly over swinging drums and an upbeat push, ending as scorching lead lines are placed one on top of the next until finally the whole thing becomes a wash of big-finale noise. Live-sounding to be sure, but clear, Weed pulls off difficult stylistic pivots with ease and remains something of an underrated addition to the canon of the classic heavy era. A footnote perhaps when compared to the 13 records Hensley put out during his time with Uriah Heep, its appeal all the same runs much deeper than its bizarre cover art and the band’s moniker. If it’s a footnote, it’s a loud one.
And an enduring one. Weed‘s Weed has been reissued multiple times over, by Philips Records, which originally put it out, among others, all the while finding an audience among heads looking to dig into the past. If you know it, I hope you enjoy the chance to revisit, and if you haven’t heard it, I hope you stick it out through the whole thing, because both the trip and the destination are entirely worth the effort.
Hope you dig.
So uh, hey. Next week is Roadburn. Wish I could tell you the laundry is done, my bag is packed and I’m ready to roll, but the truth is that it kind of snuck up on me this year. I like that though. Better than waiting for months and months more than I am anyway for April to get here. I fly out on Tuesday, get in Wednesday morning to Tilburg, get to the hotel in time for the Hardrock Hideout on Wednesday night, then four days of heavy bliss ensue.
If you don’t know how I do Roadburn coverage, basically my goal is to review each day before the next day starts. This involves a lot of late-night posting, it does not involve a lot of sleep. I hope, if you choose to keep up with that adventure, you enjoy it. There will not be many posts next week aside from Roadburn coverage once that starts. Don’t want to say none, because you never know, but still, if any not many.
That’s okay though, because in addition to a rare Sunday post lined up, I’ve got a full-album stream on Monday for the new Black Rainbowsand a track premiere from Sidewave, as well as a full-album stream Tuesday for Merchant and a track premiere for Atala. That’s pretty much a week’s worth of stuff anyway, so there you go. There’s more too. It’s going to be somewhat hectic. No big change there.
Posted about it on the social medias, but we hit a new record for listeners-at-once for The Obelisk Radio this week. It was awesome, and thank you. Wish I knew what was playing at the time, I’d put it on more.
I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Thus ends another successful Quarterly Review. And by successful I mean I survived. There were a few minutes there when I actually thought about spreading this out to six days, doing another batch of 10 on Monday, but then what happens? Then it’s seven days, then eight, then nine, and before I know it I’m just doing 10 reviews every day and it’s more of a daily review than a quarterly one. Next week we’ll get back to whatever passes for normality around this place, and at the end of June, I’ll have another batch to roll with. Maybe the beginning of July, depending on time. In any case, thank you for reading this week. I hope you’ve found something in all this that you’ve dug, and that this final round offers something else that resonates.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Chron Goblin, Backwater
Calgary party rockers Chron Goblin pay homage to Seattle with a song named after the city on their third album, Backwater (on Ripple Music), but they continue to have way more in common with Portland, Oregon. The follow-up to 2013’s Life for the Living (review here) pushes into psychedelic groove early in its title-track and gets bluesy for most of the subsequent “The Wailing Sound,” but it seems even that song can’t resist the urge to throw down and have a good time by the end, and cuts like “Give Way,” the galloping opener “Fuller” and the requisite “Hard Living” reaffirm the band’s commitment to heavy riffs and positive vibes. The stylistic elephant in the room continues to be Red Fang, but as they’ve done all along, Chron Goblin work in shades of other influences in heavy rock – if they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d call it Roadsaw – and put a stamp of their own on the style.
“Mercenary Blues” is near-immediate in telegraphing the level of heft Slabdragger will emit across their second album, Rise of the Dawncrusher, which tops an hour in five tracks (one of them four minutes long) and shifts between clean vocals, screams and growls from bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder as drummer Jack Newham holds together tempo shifts no less drastic. The shorter cut, “Evacuate!,” is an extreme take on heavy rock, but as Slabdragger move through the extended “Shrine of Debauchery” (12:23), “Dawncrusher Rising” (15:16) and “Implosion Rites” (17:20), their methods prove varied enough so that their material is more than just an onslaught of thickened distortion. I wouldn’t call it progressive exactly, but neither is it lunkheaded in its intention or execution, as the chanted melodies buried deep in “Shrine of Debauchery”’s lumber, derived perhaps in part from Conan and Sleep but beholden to neither so much as its own righteous purposes.
Finnish heavy psychedelic rockers Jupiter take a decidedly naturalist position when it comes to their style. Yeah, there are some effects on the guitars throughout Interstellar Chronidive, the trio’s second album behind 2014’s Your Eccentric State of Mind, but it’s more about what the three players can accomplish with dynamic tempo and mood changes than it is creating a wash, and that gives songs like “Stonetrooper” and “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” a classic feel despite a decidedly modern production. “Premonitions” provides raucous fuzz worthy of any next-gen stoners you want to name, and the 14-minute “In Flux” answers its own initial thrust with and expansive, liquefied jam that’s all the more emblematic of the organic core to their approach, Hendrix-derived but not Hendrix-emulating. Bright guitar tone, rich bass and swinging drums aren’t necessarily unfamiliar elements, but the touches of space rock narration on “Dispersed Matter/Astral Portal” and the consuming nod of closer “Vantage Point” assure there’s no shortage of personality to go around.
Also stylized as IZ? with a long accent over the ‘o,’ Izo is the self-titled debut from Italian double-guitar instrumental four-piece Izo, who bookend four flowing and densely weighted progressions with an intro and outro to add to the atmospheric breadth. Rather than choose between heaviness or ambience, Izo – guitarists Paolo Barone and Maurizio Calò, bassist Francesco de Pascali and drummer Luca Greco – play both into each other so that a song like “Hikkomori” is as engaging in its heft as it is hypnotic. That might be easier to do without vocals, but it’s essential to Izo’s approach, and something that, for their debut, sets up future expansion of post-metal and psychedelic elements. I’m not sure if there’s a theme or narrative for the album, but consistent use of Japanese language and imagery ties the material together all the same, and Izo emerge from their first album having shown a clearheadedness of purpose that can only continue to serve them well.
Cultist made their introductory statement in the early hours of 2016 with Three Candles, a five-song EP from the social media-averse Cleveland, Ohio, trio featuring members of Skeletonwitch, Mockingbird and Howl. In the wall of fuzz they construct, the swing injected into their rhythms and the use of multiple vocalists, there’s a strong undercurrent of Uncle Acid to “Path of the Old One,” but “Consuming Damnation” distinguishes itself with a more aggressive take, rawer in its melodies, and the creeping closer “Eternal Dark” is up to something entirely more doomed. How this balance will play out with the more familiar riff-patterning in “Follow Me” is the central question, but for their first tracks to be made public, Cultist’s Three Candles offers fullness of sound and the realization of an aesthetic purpose. Yes, there’s room to grow, but they already have a better handle on what they want to do than a lot of bands, so it should be interesting to keep up.
Ultra-thick, ultra-dank, Haoma is the work of Swedish duo R (bass/vocals) and S (drums), and the three-tracker Eternal Stash is their second self-released EP. The offering takes its title from the opener and longest track (immediate points), and wastes no time with subtlety in getting down on molten Cisneros-style stoner-doom grooves. Sleep meets Om isn’t a huge divide to cross, but there’s a blown-out sensibility to the vocals as well that speaks to some element of Electric Wizard at play, and the overarching roughness suits Haoma’s tonal crunch well. Even when they break to wah bass in the second half of “Eternal Stash” to set up the ensuing jam, this underlying harshness remains, and “Unearthly Creatures” and “Orbital Flight” build on that, the latter with a march that feels more decidedly individual even if constructed on familiar ground. Heavy, raw, unpretentious celebration of groove is almost always welcome by me, and so Haoma’s Eternal Stash is likewise.
Another boon to Poland’s emerging heavy rock scene, Wroclaw’s Spaceslug slime their way out of the ground with their debut long-player, Lemanis, a seven-cut paean to weighted tone and laid back roll. Vocally, the trio seem to take a cue from the Netherlands’ Sungrazer, but their riffs are far more dense and while the penultimate interlude “Quintessence” and the earlier “Galectelion” demonstrate a sense of spaciousness, the context in which that arrives is much more weighted and, particularly in the second half of “Supermassive,” feels culled from the Sleep school of Iommic idolatry. No complaints. The record clocks in at 43 minutes all told and in no way overstays its welcome, rounding out with the nine-minute title-track, an instrumental that’s probably not improvised but comes across as exploratory all the same. The CD version is out through BSFD Records, but don’t be surprised when someone picks it up for a vinyl issue, as both the front-to-back flow and the artwork seem to be made for it.
An element of twang that seems present even in the most uproarious moments of Slush’ American Demons tape comes to the fore with the brief “Leshy,” a quick, fleetly-strummed bit of slide guitar the follows highlight cut “Bathysphere” and precedes “Death Valley,” both of which bask full-on in the garage shake, proto-punk vibe and anything goes swagger the Brooklynite trio have on offer throughout their third EP. That countrified twist plays well alongside the drawling skate rock of “In the Flesh,” which seems to take on some of The Shrine’s West Coast skate vibes with a twist of New York fuckall, and the quick crotchal thrust off “Silk Road,” which serves as Slush’ most purely punkish moment. “Death Valley” closes out with a tale of drugs and the desert, the vocals somewhere between Misfits and early Nick Cave, drenched in attitude and accompanied by fuzz that seems to be likewise. Bonus points for the silver tape and copious included art and info.
Strange spirits are afoot throughout Menimals’ Menimals, the maybe-debut from the Italian troupe who engage wantonly in the proliferation of post-Mike Patton creepy darkjazz across five cuts of sparse, spacious weirdness. Issued through Phonosphera/Riot Season, it’s a work of high atmospheric density but ultimately more about mood than sonic impact, evoking complex shapes – dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons, octahedrons – as a mirror for its own quizzical mission. The kind of record that those who don’t spend time trying to figure it out are going to have more fun with, it makes its most effective impression on “Transitioning from a Cube to the Octahedron” on side B, evoking minimalist drone rock atmospheres as whispered vocals tie it to the rest of Menimals’ bizarre vibe. That’s not to take away from the noisy finish of closer “Bird on the Wind as a Hinge,” which follows, just to note that Menimals manage to somehow find balance in all the subdued seething and resonant experimentalism.
By way of a confession, I wanted to end this batch of 50 reviews with something I knew I dug, and that distinction goes to Houston rockers Linus Pauling Quartet, whose latest full-length, Ampalanche, is released via the label wing of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum. An album that offers some of the most pretense-free rock flute I’ve ever heard on “Slave to the Die,” it’s a down-home weirdo rocker that might, at a moment’s notice, plunge full-on into psychedelia in “Sometimes” or, say, include a 49-minute echoing space-drone “Vi, de Druknede (We, the Drowned)” as a download-only bonus track, and the fact that Linus Pauling Quartet can always be relied on for something different but consistent in charm and the quality of songwriting is not to be taken for granted, whether it’s the Midwestern noise rock of “Brisket” or the fuzzy roll of dreamy album-closer “Alive.” Yeah, I was doing myself a favor by finishing with Ampalanche. I have absolutely zero regrets. Linus Pauling Quartet continue to be woefully underappreciated.
Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It seems like a day doesn’t go by that I don’t find something in one of these piles (metaphorical, sometimes literal) of records that keeps me coming back. Today is once again spread across a pretty wide stylistic swath, and that’s by design to keep my brain from going numb, but if there’s a unifying theme across all of it, let it be a sense of scope and bands and artists who are trying to take what’s been done before and push it forward or in some new direction. That’s not universal — nothing is — but today might be the most adventurous of the days included this quarter, so I hope you’ll keep open ears and an open mind as you make your way though.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
Expectations are high for Fresno trio Beastmaker in no small part because their first album, Lusus Naturae, arrives through Rise Above Records. Whether they’ll take their place among the venerable UK imprint’s genre-shapers of the last half-decade, Uncle Acid, Ghost, etc., remains to be seen, but there can be little question Lusus Naturae lives up to the standard of offering something individual even as it plays off familiar conceptions. Beastmaker’s doom is classic without sounding like much of anything else, and as they unfold “Arachne” and catchy pieces like “Mask of Satan” and “You Must Sin,” they arrive aesthetically cohesive and demonstrating accomplished songwriting finding a space of its own surrounding Sabbathian and Cathedral-driven ideals with semi-psych, semi-cultish tendencies, not wanting to be put in one place or the other but successfully engaging a melting pot of modern doom in “Burnt Offering” and the plodding “It.” Whatever the wider response winds up being, Lusus Naturae will without a doubt stand as one of 2016’s best debuts.
If you’re hand-picking dream rhythm sections, getting Trevor Dunn to play bass while Dale Crover drums would probably be the picks of any number of players, but initials-only core duo EHA and AAL of Los Angeles’ Low Flying Hawks actually went out and got the Mr. Bungle and Melvins personnel to play on their Toshi Kasai-produced Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Kofuku. Aside from keeping good company, the album’s 10 tracks/53 minutes are marked by a spaciousness that not even the tonal heft of early cut “Now, Apocalypse” seems to fill as EHA and AAL balance post-rock, doomed lurch and darker psychedelics with blackened screams and fervent rhythmic push – see “White Temple” and “Wolves Within Wolves.” They round out with the lumbering 11-minute “Destruction Complete,” a heavy rock march topped by airborne, dissonant leads that keeps its head even as it plods onward into oblivion. Not as unipolar as it might first appear in terms of sound, but the mood of Kofuku points consistently downward.
The crux of CHVE’s Rasa is in resonance. Amenra frontman Colin H. van Eeckhout (his solo-project’s name derived from his initials) constructs a flowing half-hour of fluid drone, intermittent percussion – first tribal, then a straightforward kind of march, slow but not still – and atmospheric vocal on the single track that comprises the work, seeming to take influence from calls to prayer as much as atmospheric noise. At higher volumes, the piece is consuming, his voice surrounds with the almost constant wash of tone, but even at more reasonable levels, the sense of purpose and ritual remains. Of course, Amenra are noted for the use of the word “mass” in their album titles, and while Rasa departs from the direct tonal heft of much of what van Eeckhout does in his main outfit, there is a sense of mass here in terms both of presence and in terms of the worship being enacted.
How do you fit an 11-minute track onto a 7” release? Easy, you break it in half. Such is the method of Ohio instrumentalists Brujas del Sol, who follow their Moonliner EP trilogy with the late-2015 single Starquake, presented on the limited H42 Records platter as “Starquake Pt. I” and “Starquake Pt. II” but comprising nonetheless a single piece that backs airy, post-rock-tinged guitar with a decided forward rhythmic motion, resulting in an overarching build that, while there’s a natural moment for the split, is hypnotic front to back, a swirl of effects calling it mind space rock improvisation even as the plotted momentum of drums and bass resumes. Starquake is enough to make one imagine what kind of variety and spontaneity Brujas del Sol would bring to a debut full-length, so in that it very much does its job, but it makes a good case for standing on its own as well as it hits its second apex and finishes in a residual wash of cosmic noise.
Offered through New Heavy Sounds, Noeth Ac Anoeth is the debut full-length from Welsh cosmic doom four-piece Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. It is comprised of three songs and incorporates the half-hour-long “Nachthexen,” which was also the title-track of the band’s prior 2015 EP (review here), their rumble brought to bear through the capable knob-turning of Conan’s Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio. The vocals of Jessica Ball manage to cut through the ensuing tonal murk of her bass and the guitars of Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon, and James Carrington’s drums live up to the near-impossible task of making “Les Paradis Artificiels,” “Slave Moon” and “Nachthexen” go, each developing its own plodding momentum amid the purposeful thickness overdose and atmospheric sensibility enhanced both by Davies’ work on keys and Ball’s vocals. “Slave Moon” winds up at a gallop and almost operatic, but there’s no way the highlight wasn’t going to be “Nachthexen,” which offers chug dense enough and spaces wide open enough to easily get lost in. Time well spent, all around.
Spanish heavy rock four-piece The Shooters present their third album, Dead Wilderness (on Red Sun Records/Nooirax Producciones), as two sides even on the CD pressing, each half of the record ending with an extended cut over the 10-minute mark. All told it’s six songs/49 minutes of solidified, mostly straightforward Euro-style riff-led heavy grooves, tapping into some Dozer influence on “War on You” but offering more spacious burl on “Lucifer’s Word,” which starts side B after the push of “Roots” rounds out side A. There’s little by way of letup, but moments like the quiet start and bridge of “Black Mountain” do a lot of work in adding complexity to The Shooters’ hook-minded approach, and 11-minute finale “Candelabrum” builds on that with a patient linear unfolding that casts off some tonal heft in favor of a more atmospheric take. That ultimately lets Dead Wilderness bring an individual edge to established stylistic parameters, from which it greatly benefits.
Granted, a title playing off Curb Your Enthusiasm and, well, herb, might make you think the band is just goofing around, but UK riffers Boss Keloid offer more substance with their second album, Herb Your Enthusiasm, than they do wackiness. The sound – captured by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio – is positively massive, bolstered by guest appearances from Fielding himself and his Conan bandmate, Jon Davis, who also owns Skyhammer and Black Bow Records, the imprint releasing the LP, and given to swells of largesse and huge rolling grooves that still remain righteously fuzzed, as on “Escapegoat” or “Lung Valley” the quieter complement to opener “Lung Mountain.” Vocalist Alex Hurst assures any quota of burl is met, but has more to his approach melodically than riff-following chestbeating, and guitarist Paul Swarbrick, bassist Adam Swarbrick and drummer Stephen Arands present instrumental flow and turns behind that give the record a sense of personality beyond its weedian play. Not a minor undertaking at an hour long, but satisfying in tone and execution.
I guess it’s fair to call late 2015’s Nous N’y Trouvons que le Doute the debut full-length from Toulouse-based one-man outfit Hors Sujet, though multi-instrumentalist/atmosphere-conjurer Florent Paris has done a variety of soundtrack work and released numerous other textures in EPs and a variety of other offerings, so take that for what it’s worth. More important is the rich sense of ambience Paris brings to Hors Sujet in the seven included songs, from the dystopian doom of “Au Plus Loin, la Mer / L’hiver Peureux” to the wistful drone wash of “Le Souffle, Peu à Peu (Pt. 2),” which has its companion piece earlier in the album. Of special note should be 27-minute closer “Et Maintenant, le Ombres,” acting as a summary of the proceedings as much as expansion thereupon, concluding an often quiet outing with a stark cacophony that gorgeously builds from the minimalism before it to a raucous finish worth of the breadth Paris shows in his work throughout.
Initially released by the band in summer 2015, the self-titled debut from Finnish progressive heavy rockers Warchief sees vinyl issue through Phonosphera Records, its two sides consumed by organic execution across four tracks moving beyond traditional structure in favor of a more varied approach, from the rumbling heft that emerges in opener “Give” through the goes-anywhere near-psychedelia of 21-minute closer “For Heavy Damage.” Warchief, the Jyväskylä-based four-piece of Teemu Pellonpää, Juho Saarikoski, Esa Pirttimäki and Tommi Rintala, feel right at home working in longer-form material, whether it’s that closer or the nine-minute “Life Went On” preceding, and given their breadth I wouldn’t be surprised if they would up with a single-song album sometime in the future. With that in mind, perhaps most encouraging about their self-titled is the fact that it seems so exploratory, very much like the beginning of creative growth rather than a finished product on display. One hopes they continue to flesh out stylistically and build on the foundation they’ve set here.
Riffing their way into the post-Electric Wizard league of rumble purveyors, Minneapolis newcomers Seedship avoid any cultish trappings on last fall’s Demo 2015, their first release. A marked tonal thickness is nearly immediate, but along with the slow-motion nod and overarching density, melodic vocals cut through the morass to give a human aspect to the groove. Of the three tracks, “The Edge of Expiry,” “The Condemned Adrift” and “The Desperate Odyssey,” not a one is under eight minutes long, and as they plod their way through the opener (also the longest track; immediate points), Seedship enact a sci-fi theme that carries through the release as a whole, which scuffs up the approach some in the closer, but always keeps its spacier elements intact, even as it kicks the pace in the ass at around six minutes in and lets loose a release for all the tension built up prior before a final slowdown ends out. They seem to have a lot already worked out sound-wise, so should be interesting to hear where they go with it.
Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Sunn O))), Kannon
Sunn O))) are without question among the most integral bands of their generation. I don’t feel like it’s going even remotely out on a limb to say that. With the three-song full-length, Kannon (on Southern Lord), they go back to exploring the waveforms and ritualistic atmospheres that helped their influence spread in the first place, after several years of collaborating with others like Scott Walker and Ulver. Kannon is the first Sunn O)))-proper LP since 2009’s orchestral Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), and while I understand any and everything I might have to say about it is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the from-all-sides laudits founding guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have received, its three parts nonetheless demonstrate the fact that with Sunn O))), there is never any backward looking, and that even as they strip away elements that made Monoliths and Dimensions as expansive as it was in favor of the claustrophobic rumble and chants of “Kannon 3,” they move relentlessly forward. They remain necessary.
Hey, I like Swallow the Sun. I’ve dug the Finnish outfit since their debut, The Morning Never Came, but I gotta say, maybe a triple album, which Songs from the North I, II and III is, is a bit much? The concept is awesome – one record of light/dark, one record of light, one record of dark – but in practice it’s about a 160 minutes long and a considerable investment to ask of their audience. When it comes to repeat listens, I can’t help but continually go to Songs from the North III, the most extreme installment, which still has plenty of spacious guitar melodies to go with its death-doom emotional and tonal crush, and while I’m not sure that Swallow the Sun would’ve been doing themselves any favors if they spaced out three separate releases rather than bundling them together as they have, it’ll be years before a release of this scope can be properly digested, if it can at all, and for a band whose work is as complex and often lush as Swallow the Sun’s, one wants to absorb it in a way that such a massive offering doesn’t allow.
Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.
Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.
Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.
The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.
Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.
Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.
There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.
As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.
Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I thought yesterday went pretty well, by which I mean I didn’t receive any complaints that somebody’s name was spelled wrong (yet), so I feel alright going into the second batch of releases for the Quarterly Review. Today mixes it up a bit, which is something I always enjoy doing with these, and while I’ll take pains to emphasize that the list of releases today, as with every day, isn’t in order, there was no way I wasn’t going to start with the first record below. Some albums just demand top placement.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Eight Bells, Landless
However you define the word “heavy” as it relates to music, Eight Bells are it. The Portland, Oregon, trio release their second album and first for Battleground Records in the form of the five-track Landless, and from the opening sprawl and lumber of “Hating” through the crawling-plus-blasting chaos of “Touch Me,” a strong progressive current underscores the material – most notably the 13-minute title-track, but really the rest as well, which flows gracefully even in its harshest moments, the blackened rush in the second half of “Landless,” for example, which follows psychedelic drones and harmonies just minutes before, or the similar thrust of centerpiece “Hold My Breath,” which works in tighter quarters but manages to span genres all the same. “The Mortal’s Suite” provides some respite in airy guitar and airier vocals, giving new drummer Rae Amitay a break while showcasing the harmonies of guitarist Melynda Jackson (ex-SubArachnoid Space) and bassist Haley Westeiner. As open atmospherically as the band is in their creative scope, there just isn’t a level on which Landless isn’t superb.
Swedish four-piece Öken do themselves huge favors by refusing to be easily categorized on their 2015 self-titled Ozium Records debut full-length, which runs an immersive 62 minutes and blends doom, classic heavy/desert rock and forest psych with subtle grace throughout its eight tracks, each of which is fleshed out in an overarching naturalist atmosphere. “Väktaren” dives headfirst into boogie only after initial minimalist teasing, and “Crimson Moon” bursts to life after a hypnotic psychedelic opening to find its crux in later runs of dueling guitars. The two closing cuts, “Under Vår Sol” and “Cuauhtémoc” are an album unto themselves, the former nodding initially at Sungrazer’s serene vibes before pushing into even more open psychedelic territory, and the latter proffering riffy largesse en route to a striking classic prog finish. That Öken make these elements work side-by-side and transition from one to the other fluidly is emblematic of the confidence at work in the band, and they carry their scope with organic-sounding ease.
West Virginian roots doomers Brimstone Coven made their debut on Metal Blade in 2015 with a self-titled EP compilation (track stream here), and Black Magic is their first full-length. Its 10 tracks/54 minutes take cues varyingly from classic heavy rock, doom and the less majestic side of the NWOBHM, but Brimstone Coven’s approach is marked out by the extensive use of vocal harmonies on cuts like the prog-tinged “Beyond the Astral,” the later moments of raw-roller “Upon the Mountain” and “The Plague.” Black Magic’s production is barebones enough that this singing – credited solely to “Big John” Williams, while Corey Roth handles guitar, Andrew D’Cagna bass and Justin Wood drums – doesn’t really soar so much as nestle in and enhance the begging-for-vinyl analog-worship of the instruments surrounding, a proliferation of cultish themes distinguishing Brimstone Coven even as a song like “The Seers” finds them inheriting a trad-doom soulfulness from The Gates of Slumber.
Between its vicious aggression, inhumane chug and have-fun-enduring-this stomp, the self-titled, self-released debut LP from Pants Exploder could just as easily be definitive New York noise, but the low-end heft of their assault right from opener “It’s Ok, I’m Wiccan.” (punctuation included in title) has an element of early-Mastodonic lumber, and that’s a thread that continues throughout “End of the World” and “You Don’t Strike Me as a Reader,” which offsets its slab-of-concrete-on-your-chest push with moments of respite, but remains driving in its intensity. As in, driving your head into the ground. Also the ground is pavement. It’s fucking heavy, is the point. To wit, the mega-plod of “Um, I Curated an Art Show in College, So…” and thrust of “God Has a Plan for Me.” Capping with the seven-minute “You Smug Bastard,” Pants Exploder pays off the tension they build in a noise-wash fury that is as impressive as it is scathing.
The rather ominous The Moon Rises EP is the first non-demo offering from Asheville, North Carolina, four-piece Shallows, who blend heavy psychedelic and grunge influences across its five tracks, opener “Shimmering” and closer “Distance” mirroring each other’s spacious push while between, “Zero,” “A Mile Beneath” and the Earth-influenced “The Barn Burning” enact gorgeous vocal harmonies between Cameron Zarrabzadeh and HannahLynn Cruey atop atmospheric heavy rock, hitting into Alice in Chains-meets-Kylesa territory on the centerpiece, “A Mile Beneath,” which is a fair bit of ground to cover. That cut is the high point in showcasing Shallows’ potential, but the Western take with “The Barn Burning” and meandering post-rock echoes and organ of “Distance” only add to the breadth of this impressive, too-short collection. With a focus consistently kept on ambience throughout, The Moon Rises flows like a full-length album, and so bodes that much better for what Shallows will be able to accomplish when they get there. I’ll look forward to it.
Even before they get to the all the aggro fuzz riffing, there’s a distinct threat of violence in Monumentum’s The Killer is Me. Its four songs, “Noose,” “Whore,” “Fiend and Foe” and “Killer Me,” each seem to find the Norwegian band doling out noise-influenced heavy rock, driven by some underlying dissatisfaction on this, their first EP. Released on vinyl through Blues for the Red Sun Records, it offsets being so outwardly pissed off through groove, the starts and stops of “Killer Me” and the rolling seven minutes of opener and longest track “Noose” (immediate points) both marked out for both their tonal weight and the force with which Monumentum push their material forward – not speedy, though “Whore” is by no means slow, but dense and emitting a residual tension all the same. Somewhat unipolar in its mood, The Killer is Me still manages to give an initial impression of what Monumentum are about sound-wise, and provides them with a solid start to work from.
While the UK isn’t at all short on doom or sludge at this point, Canterbury five-piece Famyne distinguish themselves on their self-titled first EP with a traditional take and the at-times theatric harmonies of vocalist Tom Vane. Along with guitarists Alex Tolson and Alex Williams, bassist Chris Travers and drummer Jake Cook, Vane nods at Alice in Chains on lumbering opener “Enter the Sloth” without going full-on “hey whoa momma yeah” and provides a considerable frontman presence, particularly for a debut recording. Comprising three songs with the speedier bonus track “Long Lost Winter” as an add-on download with the CD version, Famyne’s Famyne EP finds its crux in the nod and push of the 10-minute “The Forgotten,” which takes a cue atmospherically from The Wounded Kings but finds its own, less-cultish niche in bringing new energy to classic doom and setting in motion a progression that already puts an individual stamp on established tenets.
There’s patient, and then there’s Ethereal Riffian, whose riffy ritualizing and exploration nonetheless brims with some intangible energetic sensibility on their new live outing, Youniversal Voice. Heavy psychedelic wash, thick riffs, theatric vocals and guitar effects, stoner roll and the occasional fit of shredding, one might hear any of it at a given point in over-12-minute cuts like “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman,” the latter which arrives as the penultimate of the eight-song/56-minute set. The clarity, for being a live album, is remarkable, and Ethereal Riffian add to the experience with a CD version that includes a candle, elaborate packaging and artwork, and tea, so the multi-sensory impression is obviously important, and where many live outings are throwaways or a means of bowing to contractual obligation, Youniversal Voice adds to Ethereal Riffian’s studio work a substantial ambassasorial feel, conveying an onstage vibe with a fullness of sound and clarity of mind not often heard.
Desert rock trio Wet Cactus don’t make any bones about where they’re getting their influence from on their late-2015 self-titled second EP. By the time they get around to the penultimate “The Road” on the five-track/24-minute outing, they’ve dug themselves in deep into the worship of crunchy Kyuss-style riffing, and you can throw in looks for Unida, Queens of the Stone Age, Slo Burn and whoever else of that milieu, but Kyuss is at the root of it all anyway. Less grand in their production than UK outfit Steak, who operated in similar territory on their 2014 debut LP, Slab City, Wet Cactus keep it natural in the tradition of their forebears, and while there’s room for them to grow into a more individual approach, the hazy fuckall in closer “World’s Law” has a stoner charm before and after it kicks into a punkish push to close out. Cool vibe either way, and the tone is dead on. If these cats go jammier, watch out.
I won’t say a bad word about the artwork of David Paul Seymour in the context of this review or any other, but ultimately, Louisiana doomers Forming the Void are coming from someplace much more in line with progressive metal than the three-eyed goat and robed figures on the cover of their second album, Skyward, might represent. Again, that’s not a knock on Seymour, or for that matter, the band, just that the look of the record is deceptive, dogwhistling stonerisms even as moody cuts like the opening title-track and “Three Eyed Gazelle” – while thoroughly doomed in their vibe – prove more lucidly constructed. That holds true through the chugging centerpiece “Saber” as well, marked out by vocal harmonizing, and “Return Again,” which rolls through atmospheric metal and an ambient interlude to enact the record’s most memorable payoff and set up the linear course of the more patient closer “Sleepwalker.” Cohesive in mood and clearly plotted, Skyward is ultimately darker and more driven than it might at first appear.
Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
So it begins. I’d say this one snuck up on me, but the terrible truth of these things is that there are months of planning involved. You know the drill by now: Between today and Friday, I’ll be posting 50 record reviews in batches of 10 per day, and that’s the Quarterly Review. They’re not really in any order. Some have been out for a while, some aren’t out yet. I have tried to mark 2015 stuff where possible, if only to keep my own organizational modus straight. We’ll see how that goes as the week plays out. In any case, I hope you find something here that you dig. I know I have.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Wheel in the Sky, Heading for the Night
Although Wheel in the Sky’s presentation is modern enough on their The Sign Records debut album, Heading for the Night, to steer them clear of Sweden’s boogie-mad masses, they’re still very clearly taking influence from classic rock, most notably The Who on cuts like opener “Fire, Death to All” (also the longest track; immediate points), “Total Eclipse of the Brain” and “Thrust in the Night.” The clarity of sound and approach puts them more in line with bands like The Golden Grass and, for a countrymen example, Troubled Horse, than Graveyard, and the Uppsala/Stockholm four-piece distinguish themselves further through the dual-lead interplay of “A Turn for the Wicked,” which hints just a bit toward Thin Lizzy bounce to feed into closer “God on High,” which coats its vocals in echo to add a sense of grandeur before the last instrumental push, which picks up the pace at the end to cap a first album from a band clearly looking to find their own niche within a classic heavy rock feel.
Offered first by the band in 2012 and reissued through Sulatron Records with two bonus tracks from the same recording session, Sun Dial’s Mind Control puts the long-running UK psych/space rockers in their element in a kosmiche expanse quickly on “Mountain of Fire and Miracles,” and while electronic experimentation is a factor throughout “Radiation” and “Burned In,” there’s always a human spirit underneath and sometimes out front in what Sun Dial do, and the newly-included “Seven Pointed Star” and “World Within You” fit in with the sense of acid ritual that the original album tracks convey, the title cut transposing Hawkwindian warp drive on a more relaxed atmosphere, each measure seemingly a mantra in a longer meditation. Even with its wah-soaked ending, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” has a more straightforward tack, proving that even when you think you know what a group like Sun Dial are up to, you’re probably wrong.
The second EP from San Francisco-based shoegazing psychedelic rockers LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place, arrives a whopping nine years after its self-titled predecessor. Granted, it might be the wash of effects and the almost-whispered vocal melodies that seem to barely break the surface of the waves of airy distortion, but if any of this material goes back that far, it doesn’t show its age. The five-piece – guitarist/vocalist Andy Liszt, vocalist Sophia Cambell, guitarist Chris Fifield, bassist Ryan Lescure and drummer Ricky Maymi – offer five tracks of blissed-out, dripping wet vibe, with “Outer Space (Long Way Home)” at the center of a post-grunge swirl following the cosmic push of “(I Don’t Think that We Should) Take it Slow” and before the serenity of “Elizabeth” takes hold as a lead-in for seven-minute finale “Without You,” simultaneously the most lucid and dreamy of the cuts included. Nine years is a long time. Heaven is a Place begs for a quicker follow-up.
Austin purveyors Duel make a striking impression from the cover onward with their Heavy Psych Sounds full-length debut, Fears of the Dead. The four-piece, which by all reports features two former members of Scorpion Child, get down with classic swing on the opening title-track and thereby broadcast the intent of the album as a whole, bringing ‘70s-style grooves and boogie forward in time with modern fullness and a crisp production that highlights the gruff vocals of guitarist Tom Frank, who alongside bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants, guitarist Derek Halfmann and drummer JD Shadowz, swaggers through the record’s eight included slabs as one might through a crowded venue for the next in a long series of an evening’s beers. Later cuts like “When the Pigs are Fed” and 7:52 closer “Locked Outside” bring some more variety to the approach, but the heart of Fears of the Dead remains brash and unbridled, and one doubts if Duel would have it any other way.
One might blink and miss the debut single from somewhat mysterious psychedelic rockers The Canadian Sweetmen, which totals its A and B sides together for a runtime of about four and a half minutes, but the fact that the 90-second “Intro” (the A side) manages to marry The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys in that span is definitely something worth taking the time to note. There’s just about no information on the band as to who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, etc., but the three-minute “New Cigarettes” makes an impression on style and substance alike and offers an encouraging glimpse at what seems to be a psychedelia bolstered by organ and Rhodes and unbound by a need to adhere to genre tenets. “Intro” doesn’t even stick around long enough to do so, but “New Cigarettes” careens into a rhythmic push for its chorus that offers an earthy undertone to the heady, spaced-out vibe. More please.
Absolutely devastating. UK post-sludgers Wren dole out a punishment that won’t be soon forgotten on their second EP, Host (on Holy Roar), following up the blackened post-rock of their 2014 self-titled EP (review here) and their 2015 split with Irk (review here) with four pummeling but still richly atmospheric cuts. Working now as the lineup of Owen Jones, Chris Pickering, Robert Letts and John McCormick, Wren have had three different vocalists on their three releases, but not a one of them has failed to add to the ambience and crushing impression of their riffs, and the hook of “No Séance” particularly on Host signifies that despite whatever lineup shifts they may have had, Wren continue to progress and refine their attack. “Stray,” “No Séance,” “The Ossuary” and “Loom” are unshakable, deeply weighted and righteously spaced. They may have flown somewhat under the radar up to this point, but Wren are too loud to be a well kept secret for much longer.
Some 12 years after their initial demo surfaced in 2003, Massachusetts’ Transient present an atmospheric take on alt-metal with their self-titled debut full-length, self-released last fall. Bringing together nine tracks/46 minutes with a patient but tense pacing and underlying currents of progressive metal in cuts like “Ditch of Doubt” and “Wrong Time,” it unfolds gracefully with the intro “Voyager One” and finds an aggressive burst in “Wrong Time” and the Tool-gone-psych build of the penultimate “Slightest Scare.” That song is part of an extended two-cut closing suite with “Hold this Grudge,” which highlights Scott McCooe’s bass tone as it provides a surprising but satisfying laid back finish. McCooe, joined here by guitarist/vocalist Tim Hayes and drummer John Harris, splits his time with metalcore progenitors Overcast, and as Transient was recorded over a year’s stretch and then mixed and mastered a year after that – living up to the band’s name – it may be a while before a follow-up, but after so long from their demo, it’s still a welcome debut.
Issued by H42 Records in a limited edition for this year’s Desertfest, the new split 7” from UK heavy platoons Desert Storm and Suns of Thunder is so dudely they could sell it as vitamin supplements on late-night tv. A complex critique of gender it is not, heavy it is. One track from each band. Desert Storm bring the burl of “Signals from Beyond,” which with its strong hook and gravely vocals brings to mind Orange Goblin nestled into a nodding riff. For Swansea’s Suns of Thunder, it’s “Earn Your Stripes,” with its complex vocal arrangements for lyrics about small men and big men, paying your dues and other whathaveyou that dominant culture tells those with testicles will make them more complete people. Fine. Masculinity and femininity are scams to sell pants, but “Earn Your Stripes” is catchy as all anything and “Signals from Beyond” is even catchier than however catchy that is, so a testosterone overdose seems a small price to pay.
Telstar Sound Drone, Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles
Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles is the second album from Copenhagen-based auralnauts Telstar Sound Drone, and like much of what Bad Afro releases, it presents a strong temptation to drop out, tune in and turn on. Little surprise the band is something of an offshoot from Baby Woodrose, sharing guitarist Mads Saaby and drummer Hans Beck with the seminal garage rockers, but the lush impression made on “Something I Can’t Place” with the watery vocals of Sean Jardenbæk comes from an even more lysergic place, and the experimental side that comes through on “Closer Again,” “Dark Kashmir” and the languid “Dead Spaces” is a multi-tiered dreamscape that closer “Lean down on White” seems sad to leave. Reasonably so. With guest spots from members of Spids Nøgenhat, Bite the Bullet and Baby Woodrose (Kåre Joensen on bass/synth), Telstar Sound Drone’s sophomore outing is an otherworldly psychedelic vision that, as promised, does seem to cure what ails, exciting even in its most subdued moments.
Initially offered by the band in 2012 and subsequently pressed to a six-song 7” and jewel case CD, the self-titled debut EP from San Diego trio Fantasy Arcade only runs about 11 minutes, but that’s all it needs to bring together punk, thrash, sludge and heavy rock across fuckall-heavy cuts like “The Dwarves are Missing” – the longest song here at 3:38 – and the rumbling finale “Die Before You Suck,” which gallops and shouts and seems to crash into walls on its way out, though drummer/vocalist Adam, bassist/vocalist Chris and guitarist Mike actually do well in deciding when to keep control and when to let it go. More nuanced than it lets on, Fantasy Arcade is an aggressive pulse given to moments of frustration boiling over, but being rooted in metal as much as punk, its dwelling in two worlds gives heft to the freneticism at play, as shown in “Poison Arrow,” the first half of which runs at a sprint right into the brick wall slowdown of its second, and final, minute.