Review & Full Album Premiere: Firebreather, Firebreather

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

firebreather firebreather

[Click play above to stream Firebreather’s self-titled debut in its entirety. Album is out Friday, Oct. 13, via Suicide Records. Tour dates posted here.]

During their decade together, Sweden’s Galvano grew increasingly progressive in their delivery of semi-sludged metal, such that the chugging of their 2015 swansong, Trail of the Serpent, found them more in line with bands like The Ocean than the Black Cobra-style thrust proffered by their prior 2012 debut, Two Titans. Aligned to Candlelight, that two-piece was led by guitarist/vocalist Mattias Nööjd and would seem to have come to an end sometime after touring with Snailking and Zaum in Autumn 2015.

Nööjd resurfaces in Firebreather alongside bassist Kyle Pitcher and drummer Tommy Hanning, and in terms of relating to his past songwriting, it would seem he’s made clear efforts to get back to basics: pummel, tone, and push. Firebreather‘s self-titled debut runs a bone-crunching but totally manageable 33 minutes. Its four songs — “Fire Foretold” (7:09), “Emerald Eyes” (7:42), “The Ice Lord” (6:13) and “Release the Lava” (11:34) — split neatly into two vinyl sides, and the whole affair is somewhat unassuming on the surface. But just as the deep-toned Adam Burke cover art carries such a sense of illumination in darkness — just what fire has been lit in that cave? — so too does Firebreather‘s material soon unveil the breadth of its threat in the push and gallop that takes hold after the wind-swirl and nodding intro to “Fire Foretold,” Pitcher‘s bass leading a charge that, particularly when Hanning‘s steady snare joins and Nööjd adds his guttural vocals to start the first verse, feels almost singularly derived from High on Fire.

But not just any High on Fire, and not just any derivation. Early High on Fire. High on Fire at their most marauding, when the notion of taking filthy sludge tones and making them do things that only Celtic Frost and Slayer might otherwise dare was a novelty. This era — begun with their 1999 self-titled demo and continued onto 2000’s The Art of Self-Defense and 2002’s Surrounded by Thieves — is recognizable in the speedy immediacy of “Fire Foretold” as well as the lurching buildup that begins around the midpoint of “The Ice Lord,” and Nööjd‘s vocals are a big part of it, recalling pre-melody Matt Pike telling tales of monsters and conquests through material material that seems so violent one almost doesn’t notice how catchy it is; hello, “Emerald Eyes.” It’s more than just Nööjd‘s approach to singing though.

firebreather

In the structure of the lyrics and the rhythm of their delivery, one can hear it, and in the guitar and bass tones as well. These latter could be likened to a dull battle axe. That sounds like it’s not a compliment — wouldn’t one want to be sharp? — but if we keep with Firebreather in terms of representing a take on the aesthetic of formative High on Fire, the idea of the blade being dulled is crucial. A sharp blade cuts cleanly. It slices through: one swing. Swoop, done. It’s fresh, crisp. Maybe unused. A dull battle axe, on the other hand, maybe has a chip in one side of its blade from the neckbone of an enemy. It does not cut cleanly. When it cuts, it has to tear into chunks of raw meat its chosen target. The process is bloody, messy, full of gore. And the difference is one could argue High on Fire have become more and more sharpened over time, but in interpreting their influence on this self-titled, Firebreather dig back to the nastier, rounded edges that once so brutally cleaved the skulls of the unsuspecting.

Whether that’s done in the thud-and-churn in which “Emerald Eyes” is resolved or the broader epic-style storytelling that takes place across the fluid tempo shifts of “Release the Lava,” it’s a spirit Firebreather bring to life with marked purpose and a suitably righteous insistence, and despite the clear focus as regards their chief point of inspiration, their songs are not without an identity of their own. Particularly with the closer’s more patient delivery, rolling through its first two and a half minutes before the drums drop out to let the central riff be introduced and the first verse built toward, Nööjd, Pitcher and Hanning begin the process of carving out their niche, which includes some subtle, perhaps nascent use of melody in the still-from-the-gut shouted vocals that on “Fire Foretold” or “Emerald Eyes” hardly seemed to be a consideration despite layering in the hooks.

How Firebreather might continue to develop and distinguish themselves from their chief influence and from Nööjd‘s past efforts in Galvano, their debut presents a clear stylistic vision and intent — which is to say that the material doesn’t at all feel like it just stumbled into this sound. Rather, like a hilltop declaration of war, Firebreather‘s Firebreather sets forth with bludgeonry in mind and benefits from the knowledge of how to make it happen. It is the underlying memorability that comes through in the band’s songwriting, however, that will most let them flourish in the years and releases to come, and one hopes that as they storm the countryside on horseback spattering brain matter in their wake they remember that craft is the handle of the axe they so capably wield here.

Firebreather on Thee Facebooks

Firebreather on Instagram

Suicide Records on Thee Facebooks

Suicide Records website

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Lark Self-Titled EP Due out Oct. 31; New Teaser Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lark

Newcomer modern progressive metal duo Lark is comprised of Raphaël and Zacharie Mizzi, former members of Sail in Between and Bright Curse, respectively. Their self-released, self-titled debut EP is due out on Halloween, and though listening to opener “Hailstorm” it seems easy enough to figure out the release — yeah, it’s got some of that post-Baroness winding proggy riffing, multiple vocal layers, etc. — by the time they get into the subsequent “Red Eye,” that pretty much goes out the window. The second track takes on a much more metallic feel, with growled and deathly vocals and a harsher vibe all the way around.

Between “Decay,” “Too Far Gone” and “Heavy,” which follow, Lark never quite get back to that kind of intensity again on the EP, but no question that on first listen it’s a jarring shift that makes it much harder to predict where they might end up in a given track — and likewise on any future release. Pretty awesome and unexpected turn.

The EP is out Oct. 31 and they have a teaser posted for it now, which came down the PR wire along with the following info:

lark lark

LARK to release debut EP on Halloween

Progressive sludge/stoner metal band LARK are set to release their debut, self-titled album on October 31st 2017. The band features former members of BRIGHT CURSE and SAIL IN BETWEEN.

Lark is the overdue collaboration of two French brothers, Raph, former guitarist and lead singer of Sail In Between and former bassist of Angher Incorporated and Zach, former drummer of Bright Curse. The elder resides in their native south of France, while the younger moved to London in 2009 to explore the UK music scene.

Zach evolved in the Stoner, Psyche and Hard Rock tones in recent years while Raph followed his love for Hardcore and Prog, but their tastes meet in a Rock and Metal avalanche of riffs, grooves and all that is heavy. They shared a vision of music that combines massive and textured sound with the groove of their early metal influence.

The two brothers rapidly found ways around the distance between them and started their first creative collaboration at the beginning of 2017. The EP came to life thanks to the help of Robin Mariat of Grey Matter Studio (Lyon, Fr), Chris Painter of Red Roof Sounds (London, Uk), Marco of Marc&Cheese (London, Uk) and Jake Read of Living Room Studios (London, Uk).

The band is set to release their first EP “Lark’’, a new blend of metal inspired by Mastodon, Opeth, Gojira, Black Peaks, Russian Circles and more this fall. The D day is set for Halloween 2017 when their extensive network of VIPs will meet and celebrate at a location not yet disclosed.

facebook.com/LarkBandOfficial/
instagram.com/lark_band/

Lark, Lark teaser trailer

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The Hazytones Sign to Ripple Music & Oak Island Records; Album out Nov. 3

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Attitude-laden heavy garage-psych doomers The Hazytones have inked not one, but two new label deals for their self-titled debut. The Montreal three-piece of Mick Martel, Adam Gilbert and Antoine St-Germain also issued the album digitally on their own in 2016 and subsequently earlier this year on tape through Hellas Records in Indonesia and Canada’s own Sunmask Records, so it’s safe to say at this point that the record has engendered some significant response.

Listening back through the nine-track offering and basking in the bassy groove of “Day of the Dead,” the space-cultistry of centerpiece “Children of the Universe” and the forward thrust of “Fool’s Paradise,” yeah, I get it. They’re right in between a couple different lines of subgenre and play to one side or another very well in these tracks, all the while casting an identity of their own in the process. I posted about the band back in Spring when they were headed out on tour and the record made enough of an impression on me then to keep them in mind. They definitely seem like suitable fodder for a wider release. Cheers all round.

Here’s info and announcements gathered from the social medias:

the-hazytones-photo-brooke-dee

The Hazytones – Ripple Music & Oak Island Records

It’s a big day today, we announce our signature on Ripple Music!!! Vinyl’s and cd’s are coming November 3rd. In a week we will have all the USA dates for our tour in January.

Here’s the other big news we had in store. Announcing our partnership with Kozmik Artifactz. They will be distributing our album, as well as producing Cd’s/Vinyl’s through their sub label Oak Island Records. Release date is November 3rd!

Says Ripple Music:

Please welcome to the family. Canadian retro doom rockers, The Hazytones!! Debut album due out this November with a new new album to follow next year. So psyched to work with these guys and bring them into the family.

Says Oak Island Records:

We are extremely excited to be partnering with our good friends at Ripple Music to bring you guys the rockin’ debut by Montreal power trio, The Hazytones

The debut will drop early November with Ripple handling the US release and Oak Island Records distributing throughout Europe. These guys rock hard, so be sure to check them out!

The Hazytones is a group of stoner rock founded in 2015 in Montreal. In September 2015, The Hazytones began the production of their debut album recorded and mixed at ReelRoad studio located in Rosemont – La Petite-Partie in Montreal. After a few month of labor, the band launched his first single ‘’Living On The Edge’’, followed by a music video. To mark the imminent release of their first titled album, the trio got on the road across Canada(23 shows) from August to September 2016.

The band launched their first titled album on September 22nd at La Rockette bar in Montreal at the Pop Montreal festival. The album was well received by the stoner/psychedelic community in Canada, USA and Europe.

More recently, the band toured Europe (UK, Belgium, Switzerland and France) for 28 days and 10 days after they embarked on a Canadian tour that led them all the way to Vancouver and back.

For the Hazytones future, a full U.S.A tour is scheduled in January and a second album is on its way. The band has been signed to two labels, Ripple Music and Kozmik Artifacts. Both labels will produce Cd, Vinyls and handle the digital distribution. Everything is set to be release on November 3rd.

The Hazytones are:
Mick Martel – guitar/vocals
Adam Gilbert – bass/backing vocals
Antoine St-Germain – drums

https://www.facebook.com/TheHazytones/
http://www.twitter.com/TheHazytones/
https://www.instagram.com/thehazytones/
https://thehazytones.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/oakislandrecords/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=1072&lang=eng

The Hazytones, The Hazytones (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Primitive Man, Black Lung & Nap, Zone Six, Spectral Haze, Cosmic Fall, Epitaph, Disastroid, Mastiff, Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, Liblikas

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The final round of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review starts now. 60 reviews done. I think if this particular QR session proves anything it’s that come hell or high water, once it’s set, there’s no stopping this train. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but the site was down for half of last week and we’re still getting to 60 reviews from Monday to Monday. That’s not not impressive from where I sit, especially since I spent that downtime going out of my mind trying to get things up and running again while also trying to write posts that I didn’t even know if they were going to happen. But they happened — thanks again, Slevin and Behrang — and here we are. All is well and we can get back to normal hopefully for the rest of this week. Thanks for reading any of this if you did. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primitive Man, Caustic

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Primitive Man’s Caustic is the concept of “heavy” taken to the superlative. It is a 12-track/77-minute onslaught for which no less than absolute hyperbole will suffice. In following-up their 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), a series of splits and 2015’s Home is Where the Hatred Is EP (review here), the Denver trio reign in terror as they make Caustic live up to its name in the crushing tones, feedback of and slow churn of “My Will,” “Commerce” “Tepid,” and “Sugar Hole,” the consuming wave of “Victim,” the blastbeating death assault of “Sterility,” and the biting atmospherics of harsh interludes “Caustic,” “Ash” and “The Weight,” which preface the nine minutes of vague noise that close on “Absolutes,” following the grueling slaughter of “Disfigured” and the rightfully-named 12-minute “Inevitable,” which seems even slower and more weighted somehow than everything before it. On the sheer level of heft for that song alone, it’s time to start thinking about Primitive Man among the heaviest bands in the world. I’m serious. Caustic is an overwhelming masterwork of unbridled extremity, and with it, Primitive Man set a new standard both for themselves and for anyone else who’d dare to try to live up to it in their wake.

Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records webstore

 

Black Lung & Nap, Split

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A heavy blues trio from Baltimore and a progressive boogie outfit from Oldenburg, Germany, might seem like an odd pairing, but by the time the 25 minutes of Black Lung and Nap’s split 12” platter (on Noisolution) are up, the release has come to make its own peculiar kind of sense. In following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here), Black Lung present two new songs in “Strange Seeds” and “Use this Stone” as well we the prior-issued Marvin Gaye cover “Inner City Blues” done in collaboration with rapper Eze Jackson, where Nap answer their debut album, Villa (review here), with the shuffle-into-psychedelia of “Djinn,” the spacious, patient rollout of the airy guitars in “Vorlaut” and the final thrust of “Teer.” Each of the two acts establishes a context for itself quickly – Black Lung brazenly defying theirs in the shift from “Use this Stone” to “Inner City Blues”; Nap expanding between “Djinn” and “Vorlaut” – and though one wouldn’t be likely to mistake one group for the other, their disparate sounds don’t at all hinder the ability of either group to make an impression during their brief time.

Nap on Thee Facebooks

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution webstore

 

Zone Six, Zone Six

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Originally issued in 1998 via Early Birds Records with the lineup of bassist/synthesis/Mellotronist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, guitarist Hans-Peter Ringholz, drummer/keyboardist Claus Bühler and vocalist Jodi Barry, the self-titled debut from German space/krautrock explorationists Zone Six sees something of a redux via Sulatron Records to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s founding. Eight minutes shorter than the original edition at 51 minutes, the new version whittles down the original 13-track presentation to two vinyl sides – titles: “Side A” (27:04) and “Side B” (24:39) – and drops the vocal tracks entirely to make it a completely instrumental release. That’s a not-insignificant change, of course, but let there be no doubt that it works in terms of highlighting the flow, which as it transitions between what used to be one song and another loses not one step and instead simply becomes an engrossing and multifaceted jam. This is truer perhaps to the band Zone Six have become – if you missed their 2015 full-length Love Monster (review here), it was glorious and it’s not too late to catch up – than the band they started out as, but Zone Six have found a way to make an old release new again, and new Zone Six is never anything to complain about, whatever the occasion.

Zone Six on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records? webstore

 

Spectral Haze, Turning Electric

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Space rock warriors Spectral Haze return after three years in the Gamma Quadrant with Turning Electric via Totem Cat Records, a six-song sophomore outing behind 2014’s I.E.V.: Transmutated Nebula Remains (review here) that quickly enters a wormhole of Hawkwindian thrust on opener “The Dawn of the Falcon” – perhaps that’s what’s represented on the glorious Adam Burke cover art – and takes a winding but directed course deeper and deeper into interstellar realms for its duration of what on earth is only six songs and 33 minutes. Each of the intended two vinyl sides boasts a longer track, be it “Cathexis/Mask of Transformation” on side A or “They Live” on side B, but whether it’s in those or shorter rocket boosters like the title-track, “Ajaghandi” or the aforementioned leadoff, the Oslo-based four-piece keep it dreamy and kosmiche even unto the doomlier roll of closer “Master Sorcerer,” a collection of final psychedelic proclamations that cuts off quickly at the end as though breaking a transmission from the heart of the galaxy itself. Heck of a destination, and getting there’s a blast, too.

Spectral Haze on Thee Facebooks

Totem Cat Records webstore

 

Cosmic Fall, Jams for Free

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Kind of a bummer how Jams for Free came about, but for the reassurance that Berlin heavy psych improvisationalists Cosmic Fall will keep going after what seems to have been an unceremonious split with now-ex-guitarist/vocalist Mathias, I’ll take it. With two new explorations, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel introduce new guitarist Martin, and those worried they might lose the funk of their original incarnation should have their fears duly allayed by “A Calmer Sphere” (12:19) and “The Great Comet” (8:10), which begin a new era of Cosmic Fall after the remaining founders were forced to stop selling their prior works. If there’s anger or catharsis being channeled in Jams for Free, though, it comes through as fluidity and serene heavy psych, and with the resonant live-in-studio vibe, Cosmic Fall essentially seem to be picking up where they left off. With Martin making a distinguishing impression in the soloing of “A Calmer Sphere”’s second half particularly, the future continues to look bright for the German asteroid riders. Right on, guys. Keep jamming.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Epitaph, Claws

Epitaph-Claws

Doomers of Verona Epitaph trace their origins back some 30 years, but Claws (on High Roller Records) is just their second long-player behind 2014’s Crawling out of the Crypt. Matters not. Theirs is the doom of ages one way or the other, presented in this collection of five songs in traditional fashion with an edge of the Italian bizarrist movement (think early Death SS) and, from the “Neon Knights”-style riff of “Gossamer Claws” to the “After All (The Dead)”/”Falling off the Edge of the World”-style dramaturge of “Wicked Lady,” the nods to ‘80s and early-‘90s Black Sabbath are manifold and executed with what sounds like a genuine love for that era of the band and classic metal in general. Hard to fault Epitaph that influence, particularly as they bring it to bear in the guttural riffly chug of centerpiece “Sizigia,” tonally as much as in the form of what’s actually being played. As a mission, the homage is perhaps a bit single-minded, but as they continue to build their own legacy in these classic sounds, it’s impossible to say Epitaph’s collective heart isn’t in the right place.

Epitaph on Thee Facebooks

High Roller Records webstore

 

Disastroid, Screen

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The nine songs of Disastroid’s fourth self-released LP, Screen, are drawn together by a songwriting prowess that’s better heard than described and by a heft of tone that, especially on stompers like “Dinosaur” early and “Coyote” later on, proves likewise. Is the point of this review, then, that you should listen to the album? Yuppers. At a crisp 35 minutes, Screen finds the Bay Area trio willfully nestled someplace between heavy rock riffing, noise crunch, punk and metal, and they fly this refusal to commit to one style over another no less proudly than they do the hook of “Getting in the Way” or “I Didn’t Kill Myself,” which along with the push of “Choke the Falcon” and the Melvinsian “Clinical Perfection” make up a series of short burst impressions contrasted by the longer “Screen” and “New Day” at the outset and the six-minute finale “Gunslinger,” though wherever Disastroid seem to go, they bring a current of memorable craft with them, making an otherwise purposefully bumpy ride smooth and a chaos-fueled joy to undertake.

Disastroid website

Disastroid on Bandcamp

 

Mastiff, Bork

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Ultimately, bludgeon-ready UK five-piece Mastiff might owe as much to grind as they do to doom or sludge – at least if “Nil by Mouth” has anything to say about it – but more than loyalty to any subgenre or other, the Hull unit’s 25-minute Bork full-length (released on CD by APF Records) is interested in presenting an extreme vision of sonic heft. Brutal pummel infects the rolling chorus of “Everything Equals Death” and the initial chug of “Tumour” alike, and where opener “Agony” was content to blast out its cacophony in fury of tempo as much as weight, as they settle in for the mosh-ready six minutes of closer “Eternal Regret,” Mastiff seem to have dug out a position between lumbering doom and early ‘00s deathcore, a telltale breakdown capping Bork in grooving and familiar fashion. Their intensity might prove a distinguishing factor over the longer term, though, and they certainly have plenty enough of it to go around.

Mastiff on Thee Facebooks

APF Records website

 

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension, An Organic Mythology

demons-from-the-dungeon-dimension-an-organic-mythology

The righteously-monikered Demons from the Dungeon Dimension made a striking and individualized – and bizarre – impression in 2016 with the There was Ogres EP (discussed here), a follow-up to the debut full-length, As the Crow Flies, released just weeks earlier. With the new single An Organic Mythology and the five-minute, raw-recorded track of the same name, the Durban, South Africa-based project is laid to rest. A burly opening and thickened distortion lead to a pushing verse with dry vocals over top – sounding very much like a home-recorded demo outright and not trying to be anything else – and soon enough the track shifts into a spoken-word-dissertation over an instrumental build that carries it into its final minute, at which point the verse kicks back in to end. As with the prior EP, which topped 25 minutes, the vibe is willfully strange throughout “An Organic Mythology,” and if this is indeed the last we’ll hear from Demons from the Dungeon Dimension (doesn’t it just sound like something TOR Books would put out?), somehow it seems right we live in an age where the material can reside in the digital ether, waiting to be stumbled on by curious parties soon to be blindsided by what they hear.

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on Bandcamp

Demons from the Dungeon Dimension on YouTube

 

Liblikas, Unholy Moly

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From the initial semi-gothic vibes from vocalist Oliver Aunver to the progressive fuzz rock that ensues on opener “Holy Underground,” Estonian five-piece Liblikas seem to specialize in the unexpected on their second full-length, Unholy Moly. Aunver, guitarists Temo Saarna (also vocals) and Henrik Harak, bassist Joosep Käsper and drummer/backing vocalist Mihkel Rebane, oversee a brisk 45-minute run across eight tracks of genre-spanning grooves, from the chugging almost-doom of “Highest Hound” to the semi-folk experimentalist interlude “Fugue Yeah! (Diary Pt. II),” which follows “Dear Diary, Yeah!” a track that starts out with what might be a Japanese-language sample and psychedelic unfolding to more cohesive, harmony-topped prog rock bounce before the fuzz emerges and meets with forward vocals and effective interplay of acoustics in the chorus. Why yes, there is a six-minute song called “Pornolord” – funny you should ask. It appears before the oud-laced “Ol’ Slime” and nine-minute closer “Keezo,” which embraces the difficult task of summing up the weirdo intensity that’s been on display throughout Liblikas’ songwriting all along, and with wispy guitar leading to a big, noisy finish, succeeds outright in doing so.

Liblikas on Thee Facebooks

Liblikas on Bandcamp

 

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Tronald Capture the Unhinged Moment in “Obelisk ov Hash” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tronald

Hell’s bells, you’re a thinking, considered and considerate individual, and therefore you don’t need the likes of me to tell you these are strange days in which we’re living. You read the news. You’re informed. You have opinions. Me too, and well, it’s not going to do any good to get myself all worked up laying them out for you here. If you want catharsis, though, history has shown time and again that any number of creative endeavors can provide, and listening through to the 20-minute self-titled EP from Manchester, UK, newcomers Tronald on APF Records, that seems to be exactly what’s playing out.

With Tronald, Charlie Seisay and Andy Preece aren’t so much trying to make sense of the absurd era in which we find ourselves embroiled, when basic fact is no longer a given in the face of media manipulation and outright lies go unchallenged. Hearing the chaos they and a slew of guest vocalists from outfits like Boss Keloid and Under, among others, elicit on songs like the lumbering “Vegan Gains” and the punk-grinding “Get Your Grubby Hands off My Bennell” — not to mention the eponymous plod of the title-track or rolling mass of the subsequent “Boss Keloid are Shit” — they seem rather to be simply trying to work their way through understanding what’s happening in the world around then by representing and inhabiting the chaos they see.

The longest song on the release is “Obelisk ov Hash” at five minutes flat and it bashes out its sludgy extremity with ferocious abandon. Vocals are largely indecipherable growls or spacious howling. Riffs are utterly ruthless and consuming, and whether the track is political or not in its nature — one expects not — much like the scorching finale “Burgled Senseless” or “Dlanort,” on which the only vocals are samples, including the current US president talking about how much winning his lapping-it-up audience is going to be doing, it feeds into an atmosphere of the unhinged in which anything can happen and it all seems to manifest one kind of violence or another. It would be a genuine challenge to think of something timelier than that.

Tronald‘s Tronald is out now. You’ll find the clip for “Obelisk ov Hash” below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Whatever side of whatever argument you’re on, please enjoy:

Tronald, “Obelisk ov Hash” official video

TRONALD is a new entity formed in Manchester in early 2017. The project is spearheaded by musicians Charlie Seisay and Andy Preece (Under, Halfling’s Leaf, Thing) who decided to create the heaviest, gnarliest most down-tuned and distorted heavy music they could possibly commit to tape. Tronald is set to release its debut self-titled EP on September 30th on APF Records.

Tronald works as a collective, inviting other vocalists and musicians to guest on each track. On their eponymous first release the guest singers are members of popular North-West England acts The Hyena Kill (Steven Dobb), Boss Keloid (Alex Hurst), Mower (Jared Tuck), Under (Matt Franklin) and Riggots (Martin Battle). The sound of Tronald is colossally heavy, built on low tunings and distortion. The EP weaves in elements of Sludge Metal, Doom and Noise Rock over its 20 minute run time.

‘Tronald’ will be available as a stunning 6-panel digipak CD designed by Sam Yates of Ingested. Strictly limited edition of 100, all individually numbered. The EP will also be available in digital format. Tronald is set to play some select live performances across 2018, aiming to bring together the guest vocalists and musicians where possible. The first of such shows will be the APF Records Showcase at Ruby Lounge, Manchester on 3rd February 2018.

Tronald on Bandcamp

Tronald on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

APF Records on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Twitter

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

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

the obelisk quarterly review

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

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

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

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

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Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

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

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Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

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

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Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

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

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

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

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BongCauldron, Binge

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

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Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

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

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Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

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

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Gin Lady, Electric Earth

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

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Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

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

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Firebreather Announce Tour Dates with Zaum; New Song Streaming

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

firebreather

Gothenburg-based three-piece Firebreather are gearing up to gallop off with hearts and minds — also presumably a soul or two — when they issue their self-titled debut EP via Suicide Records on Oct. 13. That same night, the band will head out on tour as support for Canadian ritualists Zaum, which makes sense when you keep in mind that the lineup for Firebreather boasts guitarist/vocalist Mattias Nööjd, who used to be in now-defunct bashers Galvano, with whom Zaum also toured. Maybe more than once, if I recall correctly.

In any case, it’s called continuity, so yeah, Firebreather and Zaum hitting the road together makes sense in part because of it. The other part is just because it makes sense, if you’re wondering.

Firebreather are streaming the new track “Fire Foretold” now, which leads off their EP. You can hear it at the bottom of this post.

The PR wire has more:

firebreather zaum tour poster

FIREBREATHER: EU tour dates with Canadian legends Zaum announced

FIREBREATHER EP is released on 13th October 2017 on Suicide Records

There’s no escaping the fact that Sweden is an incomparable breeding ground for some of the heaviest and most crushing metal bands in the world right now. Amon Amarth, Grand Magus, Candlemass, Vokonis, Monolord… all have crossed the water and duly conquered in recent years. In fact, even those yet to arrive can more often than not be found waiting in the wings, battle horn in hand heralding trepidation, Scandinavian-promise and riffs the size of long ships.

One such band waiting to scorch the earth upon which they land is Gothenburg trio FIREBREATHER who will release their self-titled debut album on Suicide Records this coming October. Relatively new to the fold having formed in the spring of 2016 from the ashes of underground doom heavyweights Galvano, FIREBREATHER is a devastatingly weighty statement of intent. Taking in four tracks that swallow time behind tooth shattering riffs from guitarist/vocalist Mattias Nööjd and crunching rhythms via bassist Kyle Pitcher and Tommy Hanning (newly replaced by drummer Fredrik Käll), FIREBREATHER are a jaw-breaking triptych of sludge and doom rock.

Mastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, Corrosion of Conformity, Beastmilk, Obituary) at his Audioseige Studio in Portland, OR and featuring artwork by legendary underground artist Adam Burke, FIREBREATHER are out to make 2017 their own.

FIREBREATHER hit the road this October with Canadian legends Zaum for a number of dates across Europe.

FIREBREATHER live w/ ZAUM:
10/13 Kiel DE Alte Meirei
10/14 Hamburg** DE Astra Stube
10/15 Freiburg DE The White Rabbit
10/16 Torino IT Haram’s Graveyard
10/18 St. Feliu de Codines ES Inciviczone
10/19 Zaragoza ES Arrebato
10/20 Madrid ES TBC
10/21 Cascais PT Stairway Club
10/22 Galicia ES TBC
10/25 Zagreb HR Vintage Industrial
10/26 Brno C Bakjazyl
10/27 Szeged HU Grand Cafe
10/28 Carpi IT Ekinda
10/29 Bistrica ob Sotli SI Klub Metulj
10/30 Timisoara RO Club Daos
10/31 Plzen CZ TBC
11/03 Gothenburg SE Truckstop Alaska

FIREBREATHER:
Mattias Nööjd – Guitar, Vocals
Fredrik Käll – Drums
Kyle Pitcher – Bass

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Agusa Premiere “Bortom Hemom” from New Self-Titled LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

agusa-Julio-Barcellos

Swedish progressive rockers Agusa will release their third self-titled album on Oct. 27 via The Laser’s Edge. What might informally be called Tre or Agusa Tre follows two years behind the preceding Agusa Två (review here) and brings five new tracks highlighting the pastoralism that the Malmö-based five-piece bring to their work. Without being overly lush or coated in effects, or losing themselves in indulgent attitudes, Agusa‘s instrumental compositions bask in a folkish traditionalism that nonetheless is all the more a standout for its complexity. Arrangements of guitar from Mikael Ödesjö, play out in consideration of the organ work of Jonas Barge (since replaced by Jeppe Juul) and Jenny Puertas‘ flute, while the inventive basslines of Tobias Petterson and drums/percussion — there’s plenty of both — from Tim Wallander course alongside with resonant nuance and groove. At least when the rhythm section isn’t actually driving the charge, that is. Much of the time on cuts like centerpiece “Den Fortrollade Skogen” (“the fortified forest”) and “Sagor Fran Saaris,” that’s exactly how it plays out.

Either way they go at any given moment, it only makes Agusa Tre — again, an informal title at least so far as I know; I’m just using it so no one thinks I’m talking about a different self-titled — all the more dynamic. Even as they head toward a cosmos on “Sagor från Saaris” (“stories from Saari”) that seems so distant from the ground they started on with opener “Landet Längesen” (“country lands,” appropriately enough), the rolling hillsides of which shine green and bright under a huge, yellow and full northern sun. The build in that leadoff and longest inclusion (immediate points for that) resonates no less than the song’s vocal-less hook, the whole band uniting around a gently flowing roll — the river, if we want to keep to the image already set — and moving gracefully into “Sorgenfri,” which takes its name from a neighborhood in Malmö.

Why does that matter? It matters because with Ödesjö‘s strumming guitar line and the bouncing flute from PuertasAgusa evoke a sense of place without the need agusa agusa trefor their audience to ever have actually been there. Barge‘s organ moves into a forward role in the second half of the five-minute cut, topping a subtle shuffle that finds Wallander washing out his cymbals even as he drives a straight-ahead charge that somehow still manages to swing. The turns are so tight that it’s almost a shame when “Sorgenfri” is over, or at least it would be if “Den Fortrollade Skogen” didn’t allow for a solid two minutes of digestion before embarking on its own eight-minute unfurling, a classically triumphant melody in the flute and keys matching step with the bass, drums and clean-toned guitar once more to reground the audience. As noted, “Sagor från Saaris” is more psychedelic, but also more subdued in all but Wallander‘s hi-hat and the prominence of the low end, which as the flute and guitar jazz-out kosmiche-style has a chance to shine before the final movement begins and brings a worthy apex, still holding out some noise on a long fade into closer “Bertom Hemom” (“beyond homeward”), the gorgeousness of which underscores the humility at heart in Agusa‘s approach on the whole.

To wit, it moves, it careens, it grooves — it has a complex and striking presentation of the elements at play, as shown when the electric guitar lead layer works its way in circa the three-minute mark amid the prior acoustic foundation and how aligned it becomes with Barge on organ and the overarching rhythm. This is the stuff of spinning heads — of repeat on repeat on repeat listens — and yet Agusa make it come through with such a naturalist warmth that one feels like they’re back in that open field again, like it’s the folk music of some unknown people who never existed or did and were otherwise too hippie-awesome to want to stick around on this square-despite-its-roundness planet and got back in their mothership in search of cooler terrain. After what one could argue is the crescendo of “Bertom Herom,” the flute and drums take hold and offer a stripped-down take on the rhythm as the foundation for the guitar and bass and organ to rejoin the fold, tying the song back to its start before the final measures crash out and somebody — one of them, I don’t know who it is — lets out a well-earned exhale. “Woof.” As if anything else needed to be said.

Agusa Tre‘s specific kind of immersion and hypnosis may or may not be for everybody, but for those willing to take it with an open mind on its own level, it’s quite simply going to be a release that offers satisfaction long after 2017 is over. I’m thrilled today to be able to host the premiere of “Bertom Hemom” ahead of the album coming out. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by a quick quote from Ödesjö about its making and more from the PR wire.

I sincerely hope you enjoy:

Mikael Ödesjö on “Bortom Hemom”:

“Bortom Hemom” translates roughly as “Beyond Homeward” and consists of two sections joined together by a bridge. The first part is in 7/4 and the second in 3/4. Perhaps our most “progressive” effort this far. Enjoy!

Agusa was recorded and mixed by Viktor Rinneby and mastered by Grammy-winning engineer Bob Katz, and completed with art by Danilo Stankovic and design by Peter Wallgren.

Laser’s Edge will release Agusa on digital, CD, and LP on October 27th. Find CD and LP preorders at Amazon HERE and digital preorders at Bandcamp HERE. This will be celebrated with release shows in Sweden and Denmark, after which the band will head east to play their first gigs on Russian soil.

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