It starts out innocently enough — easy taps on the ride cymbal, a smoky, bluesy, Mark Lanegan-style vocal delivery — smooth in its inclusion of sax, in its tone and overall execution. But the song is called “Back in Hell,” so you you know trouble’s not far off, and indeed, Vienna duo Succopuss raise a bit of it before they’re through. The song comes from their upcoming StoneFree Records self-titled EP, set to release March 31 as a limited four-song 10″ vinyl. Heavy blues is the foundation but not necessarily the limit of what vocalist/guitarist Tobias Paul and drummer Krystof Hümer bring to bear in the track, and from the classic reefer-in-the-dancehall feel of the transition to the chorus to the deceptively thick guitar push that serves as payoff, “Back in Hell” plays cleverly around notions of sonic heft throughout its six-plus minutes.
As to how “Back in Hell” might stand in line with its companion cuts “Succopuss,” “Death Groove” and “Black Flash,” I don’t know as I haven’t heard the full release, but “Black Flash” and maybe the eponymous opener (though it was spelled differently) could also be found on the band’s 2013 debut full-length, Austrian Power Kush, albeit in much rawer form. Much rawer. Like garage rock. Maybe that vibe shows up in the Succopuss EP as well, but “Back in Hell” plays it with a cooler and more patient head on the whole and a fuller sound, and so makes a fitting introduction if you, like me, are taking on the band for the first time with the new offering. Likewise, the video by Christian Fischer is pastoral in its vibe emphasizing a visual flow that feeds off the energy of the song while engaging its own narrative.
If you think you might be able to dig it — and if you do, you just might — you can check out the clip for “Back in Hell” below. More info, preorder links for Succopuss‘ Succopuss EP, and other whatnot follow beneath, courtesy of the PR wire.
Hope you enjoy:
Succopuss, “Back in Hell” official video
Video-Premiere for the first Single “Back In Hell” of their upcoming EP shot by Filmmaker CHRISTIAN FISCHER.
Succopuss is the name of a rock and roll, stoner, blues duo based in Vienna, founded after Tobias Paul (vocals, guitar) and Krystof Hümer (drums) met each other at a nightclub in their hometown 2013, one dressed up as a sailorman and the other as Nick Cave. Tobias’ 24-year-old voice sounding more like he had already lived decades of rock and roll lifestyle, complementary to Krystof’s drumming, a rhythmic eardrum stimulating penetration.
Their notorious live performances, with jam passages often resulting in more or less obvious acoustic sexual innuendos, are a damage of space and time, causing the crowd flashbacks to a more analog era, when psychedelics were taken before breakfast.
They recorded their “Succopuss EP” which will be released soon as a limited 10″ Vinyl Version (Black/Mint)
Tracklisting: Succopuss Death Groove Back In Hell Black Flesh
Pre-Order for Succopuss 10” is available now and comes in a tasty limited edition via StoneFree Records, Artwork done by KVSH: Limited to 300 Pieces – 10″ Black Vinyl 33rpm Limited to 200 Pieces – 10″ Mint Vinyl 33rpm
Shinki Chen and His Friends, Shinki Chen and His Friends (1971)
One can scarcely find any information on Tokyo-based guitarist Shinki Chen that doesn’t refer to him in one way or another as ‘Japan’s Jimi Hendrix.’ Don’t get me wrong — Hendrix is Hendrix, and without him heavy rock and roll doesn’t exist as we know it, but the designation is more telling about the Western perspective of those making it than it actually is in conveying the character in Shinki‘s playing, which is writ large over his 1971 debut, Shinki Chen and His Friends (also discussed here). Isn’t every lead guitarist Something or Somewhere’s Jimi Hendrix, anyway? At least if they’re doing it right?
Shinki most certainly was that — doing it right — but again, that’s hardly the sum total of what’s on offer with Shinki Chen and His Friends, and all one has to do to realize that is make their way through the opening backwards psychedelic experimentalism of “The Dark Sea Dream.” It’s an intro, made basically of manipulated guitar noise, and yet at 4:51 it’s longer than all but two of the tracks that follow, the closing duo of “Corpse” (5:16) and “Farewell to Hypocrites” (12:52), the latter of which seems to be pieced together from a couple different jams. Not only does Shinki Chen and His Friends remain affected by this initial bend into weirdoism for its duration, but to hear the bass and vocals of George Yanagi and the keys of Hiro Yanagida on “Requiem of Confusion” as backed by Shinichi Nogi‘s drumming, it’s obvious the Friends portion of the four-piece outfit have a key role to play. Hell, “Requiem of Confusion” sounds like the blueprint on which Radio Moscow and too many other classic-styled heavy rock outfits were built, and to get into the fuzzy blues bounce of “Freedom of a Mad Paper Lantern” and the organ-laced sentimentality of “Gloomy Reflections,” there’s a progressive character in Shinki‘s playing and in the performance of the rest of the band that goes beyond being anything other than itself. We know well that by 1971, a heavy rock boom was taking place the world over, from post-hippie Californian fields to Nigerian psychedelic funk dancehalls to Australian barrooms, but as a player and a bandleader, Shinki Chen deserves to be in the conversation of underrated purveyors who had something no one else could offer in quite the same way.
With a song like “It was Only Yesterday,” on which the mix seems to be as fluid as the overarching groove itself, full of swells and recessions and pans between the organ and guitar while the drums remain buried far, far in the back and the fuzzy bass does most of the rhythmic work, part of it is down to finding just the right tempo at which to execute. Shinki Chen and His Friends, unlike much of the era’s output, isn’t just about nailing the heaviest or fastest part or about aping the blues. It’s not quite totally prog, and it’s not quite proto-metal, but it’s definitely psychedelia-plus, and its 39-minute run unfolds quickly by the time “Corpse” comes around with another open-feeling nod, distinct separation between keys, guitar, bass and drums, and a languid spirit that makes a fitting summary leading into the more expansive “Farewell to Hypocrites,” more raucous on the whole and rawer than a lot of the record, but still cohesive as it makes its way into the realms of “far out” and on to whatever lay beyond, Shinki‘s razor-sharp fretwork at the head of the forward charge.
The same year Shinki Chen and His Friends was released, Shinki would form the trio Speed, Glue and Shinki with bassist Masayoshi Kabe (who sniffed glue) and drummer/vocalist Joey Smith (who took speed). They’d put out one album in 1971 on Atlantic called Eve that’s worth driving through a hurricane to pick up and a self-titled 2LP compilation the next year, but that would mark the final recorded appearance of Shinki Chen, who by all reports simply decided he didn’t want to do it anymore and so stopped. Heck of a talent to let go to waste, but fair enough. Shinki Chen and His Friends, Eve and Speed, Glue and Shinki have all been duly bootlegged and reissued, and though his tenure was brief, Shinki Chen remains one of the standout players of the period.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I wrote the above at about 2:30 in the morning last night, so if it’s completely incoherent, I apologize. At that point I’d already been up for more than an hour. I went to sleep at about quarter after nine, woke up circa 1AM, and was awake for most of the night thereafter. I slept a bit between 2:45 — when I put the laptop back down — and 3:15, and 4:00 and 4:45, when the alarm finally went off, but yeah. Pretty terrible evening of rest on the whole. Doubt it will be my last.
Prior to, I’d been doing pretty well this week in that regard, especially considering The Patient Mrs. has been away the last few days and that’s always a kink in the sleep pattern. I got home from work around 6:30, feeling frustrated about that very fact and any number of other things, so yeah, I guess that was enough taken in combination with feeling anxious around a work off-site for today — it’s different! — and not really knowing what’s going on this weekend (supposed to have family up, but might not on account of impending weather). Plus there’s dog poop outside I need to pick up, and there was the Shinki Chen writeup to do. Quite literally these are the things that keep me up at night. At least last night they were.
I repeated my mantra, “It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay,” but to no avail. I’ve been taking herbal supplements for anxiety the last couple weeks at the kind recommendation of a reader, but have a doctor’s appointment on Monday for a physical and might ask for something a little more defizzle-your-brain on a chemical level, just to even me out a bit for a while. Feeling uneven.
Also, anybody got $200,000 they don’t need? Ha.
Okay. Sorry we didn’t get that Samsara Blues Experiment stream up today. There were some timing issues. It’ll be premiered on Monday with the cover art. Here’s the rest of what’s in the notes:
Mon.: Attalla full-album stream/review; Samsara Blues Experiment track premiere/artwork reveal.
Tue.: Los Natas LP review; Phlefonyaar video premiere.
Wed.: Drug Honkey track premiere; Cybernetic Witch Cult video premiere.
Thu.: Review and track premiere for the new Lord (yes!).
Fri.: Q&A and track premiere for Doctor Cyclops; new single premiere from Mirror Queen.
Busy week. Busy weekend, accordingly. I’ve finished mapping out what will be included in the Quarterly Review in two weeks, and I’d like to start organizing the covers, links, tags and so on for those posts this weekend. I also have a bio to write for Lords of Beacon House and copy to assemble for the Roadburn ‘zine, and that Los Natas review will have to be written on Sunday since I don’t have a turntable in my cubicle at work, etc., etc. I don’t expect to sleep much.
But anyway. I gotta get my last cup of coffee (house coffee, as opposed to that which I’m bringing with me to the office) and get ready to head out, get through this Friday and get started as quickly as possible on the aforementioned weekend. I hope you have a great and safe and stress-free one and that all is well on your end generally. I hear on the social medias that Mike Scheidt of YOB is having (more) surgery today. Send him good thoughts for an easy time and speedy recovery. Surgery blows.
Thanks for reading. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
One-or-two-man Texan noise/sludge outfit Red Beard Wall released its first three-song demo just about a year ago, on Leap Day 2016. It’s still up as a name-your-price download on the band’s Bandcamp page — you can also hear it at the bottom of this post — and it has a tense, tight sound that’s informed by sludge groove without necessarily letting go of its abrasive aspects long enough to permit the genre’s fuckall to really take hold. That is, Red Beard Wall sound too pissed off on a song like “Top of the Mountain” to nod out. Still, there’s an air of the experimental underlying the whole thing, so who the hell knows where the album will end up.
Well, I guess Argonauta Records — which will issue Red Beard Wall‘s self-titled debut album this Spring — probably has a pretty good idea. I don’t, is the point I was making. The Italian label’s roster continues to grow wider and weirder, both of which are good things, and an act like Red Beard Wall would seem to bring something immediately all its own as well.
Here’s the announcement:
Red Beard Wall – Argonauta Records
We’re excited to announce a new great band is now part of Argonauta Records family: RED BEARD WALL from United States.
Red Beard Wall was born on the dry, windswept plains of West Texas, at the culmination of 2016. Formed out of a desire to channel his angst, and frustration with the insane reality that surrounds us. With a hyper focus on heavy, hooky, and to the point songs.
Riffs with devastatingly heavy tones, vocals melodies that soar, alongside blistering screams of disillusionment. Influenced by amazing bands such as, Floor, Helmet, Conan, Yob, Pallbearer, Baroness, and countless others.
The band says: “As a band we are extremely honored, privileged, and humbled by our partnership with the mighty Argonauta Records. We are motivated towards, and look forward to a bright future with, in our opinion the best up and coming label in the world”.
Red Beard Wall’s highly anticipated self titled debut record will be out in Spring 2017 on Argonauta Records.
Prescient in playing off cultist truisms, progressive in its arrangements of keys, flute and vocal melodies, and yet still delivering a heavy punch of blues when called upon to do so, the 1971 self-titled debut from Tijuana’s El Ritual has all the makings of a lost classic, but I’m not entirely sure it’s actually ever been lost. It’s hard as an American to properly gauge that kind of thing, because one has to keep in mind colonial ideas of “discovery” like this band was just sitting around waiting for my gringo ass to find it. Hardly. Among other happenings during their relatively short time together, the four-piece El Ritual took part in the 1971 Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro, which was arguably the biggest rock gathering Mexico ever held, and about which legend has it that, with the expectation that 25,000 people would show up, more than 10 times that number actually did, making it a landmark for an entire generation of Mexican rockers as well as those on the bill, which included El Ritual alongside compatriot outfits like Los Dug Dug’s and Peace and Love. It was — again, so the legend goes — a disturbing-enough showing of freaks and weirdos that the Mexican government moved to shut down counterculture events across the board. Too weird, too soon.
Which is funny, because listening to El Ritual‘s El Ritual, it certainly sounds like it’s right on time. With lyrics in English and titles in Spanish, it would seem to have had some intent toward international appeal, and the four-piece of vocalist/guitarist/flutist Frankie Barreño, bassist Gonzalo Chalo Hernández, keyboardist Martin Mayo and drummer Alberto Lalo Barceló more than stood up to that standard when it came to the actual scope of the record, whether it was the proggy keys and flute of opener “Mujer Fácil (Prostituta)” or the later pairing of the eight-minute cinema piece “Satanás” and “Peregrinación Satánica, Incluyendo el Poema ‘En un Principio'” which it’s hard to imagine Mexican church officials hearing even in the early ’70s and not shitting their pants, working as the tracks did in the tradition of cult rockers like Black Widow and Coven and all manner of proto-heavies from the international sphere to make the devil sound at once appalling and alluring in a manner that bands are still trying to emulate. Boogie rock shuffle and Zeppelin-style over-the-toppery with room for an extended drum solo ensued as the one led into the next, but even the devilish warnings of “Peregrinación Satánica” came with a surprisingly jazzy context, and as the earlier “La Tierra de que Te Hable” indulged strings and Greg Lake-era King Crimson-style vocal melodies (think “Epitaph”) before getting down to bluesier, funkier psych-rocking vibes distinguished by their organ work and backing chorus, and the later “Groupie” seemed to work out of the playbook of Latin-informed artists like Santana or War, who released their debuts in 1969 and 1970, respectively, the satanic aspects of El Ritual were only one element at work in the band’s broader profile, much as they may be what continues to resonate with underground listeners today.
No less pivotal overall was the way in which “Groupie” fed into the engaging organ jam of “Muerto e Ido,” on which Barreño‘s guitar took the fore late with a solo marked out by a shift into oddball electronic sounds and a return to the chorus that closed. Or how “Conspiración” found Barreño speaking about kids smoking grass in the park — seems relatively certain there were a few at Avándaro — and old people waiting to cash checks en route to guitar-checking the Rolling Stones and reminding listeners “There’s no life without love.” Or how “Bajo el Sol y Frente a Dios” nestled so easily into its brightly-harmonized and flute-tempered acousti-prog. Point is El Ritual had much more going on than any one or two tracks — or, for that matter, their moniker — might summarize on their own. The version of the album above, from what I can tell, follows the original Raff Records LP tracklisting and includes the single “Tabú” as a bonus track, as did the CD version through Raff Records, which of course came later. In 1987 and 1992 (according to Discogs) a label called Discos y Cintas Denver also issued El Ritual on LP and CD with the songs in a different order, putting “Satanás” and “Peregrinación Satánica” together at the top of the tracklisting. Fair enough, as they’re bound to grab attention either way. I tend to like the flow of the original, but I wouldn’t fight you if you were handing me a copy of the other version, telling me I could take it home for the archive.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
Neither an easy nor a particularly pleasant week. I spent most of it swapping back and forth between anxiety and despondency, just trying to keep my head on straight. Sucks to think Roadburn is still about two months away. I’m feeling like that get-right-with-your-gods pilgrimage is just the thing I need at this point. No doubt that will still be the case in April.
My weekends have been good though. Lot of together-time with The Patient Mrs., quiet or with family. She’s going to Texas on Saturday for a conference, so it’ll just be me and the Little Dog Dio for the bulk of next week. I expect to be lonely and to watch a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe a Werner Herzog movie or two. That’s usually how it goes.
Still, next week is madness through and through. Here’s what’s in my notes so far:
Mon.: Weedeater giveaway, info on the next The Obelisk Presents show (it’s Rozamov in Brooklyn), and a Stone Machine Electric review.
Tue.: Alunah track premiere/album review, news about the new The Sonic Dawn, and a Svuco video.
Wed.: Forming the Void video premiere, The Mad Doctors album announce and track premiere, and an Arbouretum review.
Thu.: Rozamov album review and new video from Shadow Witch.
Fri.: My Sleeping Karma live album review and new video from Black Mirrors.
That’s a lot of shit. And news besides. Goodness gracious. One might almost think I was purposefully overloading my schedule to make up for being lonely with my wife gone for a few days. Nah. Couldn’t possibly be it.
Alright, I’m checkin’ out early. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Watch your back out there, these are strange fucking times. But still, have fun and we’ll see you back here Monday for more riffly shenanigans. Thanks for reading, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
At any given second, there is nothing about the new streaming Cursus track that doesn’t seem to want to be as heavy as it can possibly be. One can hear the Neurosis influence noted by the PR wire in “Waters of Wrath,” which is the first audio to come from the San Antonio, Texas, two-piece’s self-titled debut, but less so the likes of Om or YOB, at least as regards an immediate ritualistic or cosmic impression — though after listening to the band’s 2013 Summer Solstice Sessions demo (available name-your-price at their Bandcamp) neither would I count on “Waters of Wrath” to speak for the entirety of the album.
An April 28 release has been set through Artificial Head Records, the label helmed by Funeral Horse guitarist/vocalist Walter Carlos, and I’ll be interested to find out what it has in store to go with the forceful churn Cursus showcase initially. For now, they certainly seem to know how to make a first impression.
Cover art and album details follow:
CURSUS: Texan doom-duo crush worlds on colossal debut | Listen to new song ‘Waters of Wrath’
Cursus will be released on vinyl/digital on 28th April 2017 via Artificial Head Records
Artificial Head Records is pleased to announce the signing of psychedelic sludge band Cursus and with it the release of their self-titled debut album this April.
Taken from the Latin word meaning “course” – specifically the mournful paths our ancestors once took to bury their dead – the San Antonio-based paring of guitarist/vocalist CJ Duron and drummer Sarah Roork first came into being in the winter of 2013 with the release of their Summer Solstice Sessions demo. Influenced by the likes of Om, Neurosis, YOB and Ufomammut, and deep in experimentation with different sounds, instruments and drone frequencies, the demo slowly unfurled colossal riff driven soundscapes that permeated and punched in equal measure.
Released through Bandcamp it quickly caught the ear of label boss and fellow Texan, Walter Carlos, who signed Cursus on the spot to his Houston-based label Artificial Head Records.
“I had toured with Cursus a few times over the years and I’ve always admired their massive sound. Their ability to crush bodies in the room with their songs is uncanny,” explains Carlos. “Initially, we were going to release a live cassette by the band from recordings they made while on tour. But as the project kept going, we decided that a full-length studio album would be better and we’re proud to have Cursus as part of our family.”
Three years on from the release of Summer Solstice Sessions and Duron and Roork have their debut album loaded. Produced in a basement-recording studio by close friend Chris Dillard, over six devastating songs Cursus summons personal and spiritual pains and turns each into amplified dirges packed with riffs, hypnotic string arrangements and spellbinding percussion. With the power of cosmic doom burning brightly, distortion slams hard into 6/8 rhythms as the Duron and Roork charter a longboat through a magnificent storm of ethereal destruction.
Cursus’s self-titled debut album will be released on vinyl/digital on 28th April 2017 via Artificial Head Records.
Cursus: CJ Duron – Guitar and Vocals Sarah Roork – Drums
Album art by Javier “Warhorse” Luis Artist: Cursus Title: Cursus Release Date: 28th April 2017 Label: Artificial Head Records Formats: Vinyl/Digital
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
It’s not a minor happening at this point when RidingEasy Records picks up anybody. Consider the Cali-based imprint’s track record: Monolord, The Well, Electric Citizen, Mondo Drag, Slow Season, on and on. Norway’s Dunbarrow now join these ranks on the sizable merits of their self-titled debut (review here), which was initially offered-up by the band last year and which will see issue on RidingEasy next month on CD with vinyl following in May.
What Dunbarrow bring to the RidingEasy lineup is a firm grip on an aesthetic born as much of ’70s worship as influence taken from earliest Witchcraft and the best of the Scandinavian retro doom set — the Pentagram loyalism of Burning Saviours comes to mind — as well as an abiding rawness of sound that complements the fluidity of their groove. Preorders, naturally, are up now.
The band and label are highlighting the track “Lucifer’s Child” ahead of the re-release, and you can hear it below, courtesy of the PR wire:
Dunbarrow sign to RidingEasy Records
Trondheim, Norway quintet Dunbarrow announce their signing to L.A. label RidingEasy Records today. The label will reissue the band’s 2016 self-titled debut album worldwide with a special die-cut sleeve and insert for the LP. It will be on CD for the first time ever.
Summoned to play it the old way in a new age, Trondheim, Norway quintet Dunbarrow draws inspiration from freezing winter nights, unpolished demo tapes from the 70’s and the Swedish throwback rock from the beginning of the 21st century. The result is Norwegian proto-doom with a back-to-basics sound, from Pentagram and Witchfinder General to Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Dunbarrow’s clean, unadorned sound shares the unpretentious brilliance of classic heavy progenitors playing basements and barns, before the big budgets and bloated habits diluted hard rock into an echo chamber awash in reverb and layered in distant, screeching hobbits. The band’s 9-track self-titled album is a classic in the sense that every song becomes instantly recognizable after just one listen.
With lyrics like the clever paean to a young witch mother’s birth of “Lucifer’s Child”, Dunbarrow has a wealth of gloomy sentiments: “Can you understand my young mother’s plight / Away from the comforts that burn at the stake / She gave birth to a venomous snake / On her great pyre she smiled / For she carried Lucifer’s child.”
Dunbarrow is based in the far northern Norwegian city Trondheim, but is originally from Haugesund on the west coast of Norway. The band has been playing together for over 8 years through different band names and genres. In 2014, vocalist Espen Andersen joined the band upon the departure of original singer/bassist Richard Chappell. Sondre Berge went from playing drums to playing bass. Kenneth Lønning and Eirik Øvregård are still on the guitars, with Pål Gunnar Dale taking over the drums permanently in 2016. Espen Andersen recorded and mixed the debut album at Stoy Studios. Dunbarrow is hitting the studio for their second album this summer.
Dunbarrow will be available on CD on March 10th, 2017 and LP in May via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available at RidingEasyRecs.com.
Artist: Dunbarrow Album: Dunbarrow Label: RidingEasy Records Release Date: March 10th (CD) & May (LP), 2017
01. Try and Fail 02. The Wanderer 03. You Knew I Was a Snake 04. My Little Darling 05. Lucifer’s Child 06. Guillotine 07. The Crows Ain’t Far Behind 08. Forsaken 09. Witches of the Woods
Posted in Reviews on February 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
At four tracks and just under 19 minutes, the self-titled debut EP from Philadelphia three-piece Canyon give listeners just enough of a glimpse of where they might be headed to emphasize the potential at work. Canyon is their first outing since getting together in 2015 with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Peter Stanko, bassist/vocalist Dean Welsh and drummer/vocalist Anthony Bove and after an initial digital self-release and tape through Anvileater Records, the short outing shows up as a full jewel-case CD with a picture of the band out front to emphasize the classic ideas they’re working from. I would not be surprised if some of the root jams out of which opener “Mashriq” was formed were some of Canyon‘s earliest, as there is definitely a formative aspect to their approach, vocals following the riff closely in a bouncing rhythm that, even compared to what follows on the palpably airier “She Comes to Me,” seems straightforward in a we’re-a-new-band-getting-our-footing kind of way.
That process itself, honestly represented as it is, can be and is refreshing to hear, and in the context of Canyon‘s style, which benefits greatly from an organic warmth of tone in the guitar and bass along with the interplay of vocals, it makes a particular sense that they would showcase where they’re at in this early stage of their progression. Their sound, captured here by Alex Santilli, who engineered and mixed at Spice House Sound while Mark Trewella at Full Circle Mastering handled the finishing touches, is raw, but still offers plenty to the curious listener, and even more so on repeat visits.
After some initial thud, “Mashriq” starts off with a righteously fuzzed impression. Philly has seen no shortage of heavy psych come through the last couple years, from Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision to Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells, but right away, “Mashriq” positions Canyon as having a more earthbound take — fitting enough for their name, I suppose — given to roll and straightforwardness in structure. At just under three and a half minutes, it’s the shortest of the four inclusions on the EP and as “She Comes to Me,” “Radiant Light” and “Tell Me Mister” play out behind it, it becomes something of an outlier stylistically for that. Where Stanko, Welsh and Bove soon enough dig into a languid blend of heavy blues rock and, in the case of “Radiant Light” particularly, find a niche for themselves in dreamy vocal melodicism to complement a shimmer in Stanko‘s guitar, the leadoff cut seems more about establishing a context on which the subsequent material builds.
Maybe that’s Canyon‘s way of easing the listener into their world, and that’s certainly valid, even on a short offering like this one, but “Mashriq,” while a strong opener and memorable in its hook, ultimately does little to account for some of the fleshed-out vibes that follow, even as “Tell Me Mister” rounds out with a return to a more energetic push and the gotta-hear-it buzz-tone that begs to be turned up even louder than it starts. How one accounts for that will depend on the listener, but if we look at the concept of a “debut EP” doing the work that a band’s “demo” used to do, then Canyon‘s establishes them as an outfit with an immediately varied approach of craft, however nascent it might otherwise be.
Could that be the work of multiple songwriters? I don’t know, but I’d believe it based on how the progression plays out front to back. Most importantly, however, Canyon offer intrigue and show several potential avenues for future growth and where their sound might go, toying with pop elements in their use of backing vocals in a kind of garage-grunge mindset — this happens in “Mashriq” as well — and dedicate themselves to a breadth of approach that stays apparent even in this abbreviated context. As to how that growth might manifest, it hardly seems fair to speculate, but as the self-titled plays out with increasing complexity almost on a song-by-song basis until “Tell Me Mister” bridges the gap in summarizing what the band has been putting together all the while, it’s easy enough to foresee Canyon stabilizing their approach to songwriting in a way that allows them to construct a full-album flow.
This, of course, is essential to the work of an initial outing like this one — to give the band lessons to learn as they move forward, and I hear nothing in the tracks to make me think Canyon won’t do precisely that. On the most basic level, it’s a quick debut outing — a demo by any other name — that shows potential in tone and in trading between bounce and blues and drift and thrust all while holding to identifiable markers and avoiding a direct, blatant flag-bearing of its influences. This already is more than one might reasonably ask of it, and it is not by any means the sum total of what is delivered.
Someday, some brave soul is going to reissue all the records like Mammoth Volume‘s 1999 self-titled debut and notch an asterisk in the history of Swedish heavy rock. Like the first Sgt. Sunshine offering (which actually has been reissued), the 2000 debut from Blind Dog — the still-going Sparzanza and Mustasch would soon hit the scene — and a mountainous slew of others, not to mention then-contemporary works by Dutch acts like 35007 (also reissued), 7Zuma7 and Astrosoniq or any of the countless bands Germany produced at the time, it’s a collection that remains distinctly undervalued in the context of when it arrived and what it brought with it. Consider as you listen to “Dervishsong” that the self-titled Queens of the Stone Age had arrived only one year earlier in 1998. By then, Europe’s heavy underground was already flourishing, acts like Dozer and Demon Cleaner releasing early, desert-style singles (also ripe for reissue, as I’ve said many times) to put Sweden at the forefront, and by 1999, the prefacing of the vintage-heavy movement Norrsken would do — members going on to form Witchcraft, Graveyard, and Dead Man — was nearly at its end. It was a time of transition, in other words, and bands like Mammoth Volume, with their easy, open grooves on songs like “Closer to the Sun” on this self-titled, and the continuing progression of their second and third albums, Noara Dance (2000) and A Single Book of Songs (2001), helped establish stylistic parameters that groups continue to follow nearly two decades later.
One can hear classic psychedelia alongside post-Fu Manchu roll in Mammoth Volume‘s “Shindig” and a direct conversation with Californian desert rock happening in the later “The Pinball Referee” that’s true to Kyuss-style tonality than most at that point could come. Comprised of vocalist Jorgen Andersson, guitarist/producer Daniel Gustafsson, bassist Kalle Berlin and drummer/producer Nicklas Andersson would explore jazzy fluidity on “Matthew 6:21” as naturally as chugging heavy swing on opener “Seagull” and the subsequent “Morningsong,” which made the leap from one of the self-titled’s most satisfying rolls into open acoustic strum and subtle post-grunge harmonies with all the care of a shoulder shrug — and only then got into the stoner-jangle-shuffle en route back to the chorus and into an organ-topped bridge in the second half. It’s a familiar story, or at least it should be, of a release that seems ready to get a due that, at the time, just wasn’t there for the getting. Indeed, with the growth and seemingly endless appetite that’s developed for heavy rock and roll on the part of its audience’s next generation over the last five or so years, it’s no stretch to imagine Mammoth Volume‘s Mammoth Volume working next to an entire catalog of repress-worthy outings from its era. If one is given to such daydreaming, anyhow.
If you’d like to do some more digging — “visit your local library!” — in the US, their records were released on a label called The Music Cartel, which also partnered with Rise Above at the time on outings by Cathedral, Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Sheavy, Lid, Firebird and Hangnail while also releasing records by Sally, Leadfoot, The Bronx Casket Companyand righteous compilations like In the Groove and Rise 13 – Magick Rock Vol. 1. Ufomammut‘s Snailking was another pivotal The Music Cartel release, proving they were willing to take a chance on these relatively unknown acts when just about no one else would. Sure, Monster Magnet had a label deal, and Fu Manchu, and Queens of the Stone Age would soon enough, but fewer and farther between were people ready to step up and put out Sleep‘s Jerusalem, and like a less aesthetically inclined East Coast answer to Man’s Ruin Records (Frank Kozik‘s cover art was sometimes as much of an event as the music itself), The Music Cartel did that — as well as Mammoth Volume‘s first three full-lengths and the 2002 The Early Years comp that would end up as the band’s last physical release.
A few digital offerings followed, the most recent of them titled quizzically titled Loved by Few, Hated by Dolphins and put out as a free download from the band’s now-defunct website on the occasion of their official breakup in 2008. I’m not sure if members have gone on to other outfits or what, but if you have any info, I’d love to know in the comments.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy.
I’ve avoided talking about it, but it’s been an unhinged couple of weeks in the country where I live, and much as I’ve tried to live in a bubble of good tunes, Star Trek and Final Fantasy, I’ve not been unaffected. Having lived through the George W. Bush era as an adult-type person aware of the world around me, I’ve seen things get plenty fucked before — anyone remember 2006? — but even on that scale, it would be impressive if it wasn’t all so tragic and terrifying. You don’t need a big fascism-is-bad internet thinkpiece essay from the likes of me, and I can all but promise one isn’t coming, but I’ll just say that thus far, remembering “this isn’t normal” has not been a challenge.
But hey, music, right? Rock and roll?
Plenty of that to go around, and I’ve been working hard to remind myself of the love that I’m so fortunate to have in my life. That seems to carry me over, so I recommend it if you’ve been similarly disturbed.
I’ve been looking forward to this weekend since before the week started. A little dude-time and record shopping with the esteemed Johnny Arzgarth will be fun on Saturday, and otherwise I plan on relaxing and taking it easy as much as possible ahead of what’s sure to be more adventures next week. Writing, coffee, couch-time — all good things.
Here’s what I’ve got in my notes for next week around here (subject to change, as always):
Mon.: A batch of Radio adds and a video premiere from Drone Hunter, also news on two different fests and other tours.
Tue.: Godstopper track premiere, new Naxatras video, more news from Samsara Blues Experiment.
Wed.: Dool review, Against the Grain video.
Thu.: Six Organs of Admittance review, Lung Flower video.
Fri.: Keeping open pending a premiere, otherwise maybe Goya or Rozamov review, mood depending. Something heavy.
Of course, I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. Have fun, be safe, watch your back and please check out the forum and the radio stream.