Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain: Burning and Rebuilding

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain

Let’s be honest: Losing a singer like the singer Witch Mountain lost is a worse fate than a band should have to endure. In 2014, following three each-better-than-the-last records in 2011’s South of Salem (review here), 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2014’s gorgeous and sad Mobile of Angels (review here), frontwoman Uta Plotkin left the Portland, Oregon, doomers, and for a minute there, it looked like it might be the end. At least from the outside. But Witch Mountain existed before Plotkin — founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson released the band’s debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), in 2001 — and it would continue to exist after.

In a matter of months, the band was reformed in early 2015 with Wrong (who now also plays in The Skull), Carson, bassist Justin Brown (formerly of underrated trio Lamprey) and new vocalist Kayla Dixon, a transplant from Ohio with a background in the more straightforward metal outfit Demons Within, but whose voice was powerful enough to make one believe in fate. Tours with EnslavedThe SkullSaint Vitus and others followed, and in releasing their fifth album overall, first with the new lineup and first on Svart in North America as well as Europe, Witch Mountain‘s naming their latest LP Witch Mountain feels like a declaration in and of itself.

Or perhaps a victory lap, because what they came through and the manner in which they did is not to be understated. And the five-track/35-minute collection that’s resulted from three years of work on stage and an obviously thoughtful songwriting process is less about meeting the expectations of their audience than about making a definitive statement of who they are. Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain did not happen by accident.

From the first slogging riff and on-the-bell ride hits of opener “Midnight,” that’s readily apparent, and Dixon is about two lines into the first verse before she gives a first glimpse at the throat-ripper of a scream that seems a constant threat to be unleashed amidst her soulful melodic delivery. As a showcase of range and arrangement for her, the opener also boasts a choice solo from Wrong and gives Brown a chance to establish himself as indispensable on the low end. Witch Mountain has been through a succession of bassists but as the march of “Midnight” slams to starts and stops under Dixon‘s soaring voice, he proves an excellent fit with Wrong and Carson, and when they roll into a scream-laced hook in the second half of the track, the bass is all the more essential in setting the groundwork for that turn and the shift into the memorable Spirit cover “Mechanical World.”

The bluesy lyrics and vibe are an excellent fit for Witch Mountain‘s style of doom, Wrong adding subtle flourish around the central riff as Dixon again showcases her breadth as a vocalist, the song moving into manic thrust from its verse just for a minute before running into an even slower, minimal stretch of open, vocal-led atmospherics. If one thinks of “Midnight” as an introductory statement, and “Mechanical World” as helping to set the tone and range for the album as a whole, then the seven-minute side A closer “Burn You Down” is where Witch Mountain really seem to dig into the proceedings.

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Dixon is nigh-omnipresent save for solo spots but not overbearing in the mix, and the drums and bass behind do well in setting up a build just past the midpoint where layers of backing choral vocals push her forward to set up a section of vitriolic screams and growls and spiteful lyrics. Wrong likewise tears into another echoing solo as Brown and Carson plod away behind, and “Burn You Down” lumbers to its finish and comes apart to silence at the close of the record’s first half.

As much as the narrative of Witch Mountain is invariably going to be based around the band pressing forward after what would have been the undoing of many acts — and not unreasonably so; that’s the story here and not a minor accomplishment — the truth is that happened three years ago and what’s even more striking is the movement and command within these songs. “Burn You Down,” inarguably the angriest track on the record, still keeps its sense of control as it shifts from one part to the next, and its motion is consuming.

There’s less time for swapping out vibes, but 2:23 acoustic-based side B opener “Hellfire” finds Dixon backed by a simple guitar line and cymbal washes, some piano, as she becomes an entire gospel choir and backs her own central lyric with professional-level ease. There’s a pause as if to say, “Okay, you just let that sink in,” and then the far-back guitar of howl of 14-minute closer “Nighthawk” arrives, complemented by a drum build and bass rhythm that slams into the fullness of its slow push. The band trades back and forth in volume and Dixon drawls out early verses and at the three-minute mark gorgeously matches notes with the start of a short solo from Wrong before the next verse.

A linear build is underway subtly, and the Dixon choral layers reemerge as the band approaches five-minutes in and pick up the tempo ahead of another open stretch and highlight vocal performance, self-harmonies and all. At about 8:20, the guitar takes the fore again and leads the transition into a section of tom fills, chugging riffs and growls and screams working in unison. There’s a break from the onslaught about two minutes later as the guitar seems to nod at fellow Oregonians and former tourmates YOB, but the churn fades back in and soon enough they’re back to destruction-mode. The final break is just after 12 minutes in and sets up a crescendo of spoken and sung vocals, full-on riffing and dirge march behind until the last wash of cymbal and fading feedback signals the end.

I’ve said as much before, but it bears repeating: They did it. They pulled it off. There’s no question in listening to Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain that the band is aware of who they are and what they want to be, but as much as one might argue the album is a reset, it’s not at all a step backward. They’ve set themselves on a new course that holds over elements of who they were before and will allow them to continue to progress as an outfit, and while for sure there will be some who doubt, once or twice through the album is enough to vaporize any question whatsoever. The statement is made. This is Witch Mountain. Long live.

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Svart Records website

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Review & Video Premiere: Drug Cult, Drug Cult

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on May 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

drug cult drug cult

[Click play above to see the premiere of Drug Cult’s video for ‘Reptile Hypnosis.’ Their self-titled debut is out June 21 on Ritual Productions.]

Maybe this is pointing out the obvious on some levels, but with Drug Cult, the idea is consumption. Yes, theirs, of narcotics, but also theirs of their audience. The Australian four-piece make their self-titled debut through Ritual Productions with nine tracks and 42 minutes of haze doom given its cultish presence by vocalist Aasha Tozer, who on a song like the post-Electric Wizard swinging “Release” comes across like an echo-laden bad trip version of Grace Slick atop the riffing of Vin Steele (ex-Wolfmother, Megaritual, Sun of Man), the snare march from Dale Walker (also Megaritual, Sun of Man) and air-pushing, hope-you-invested-in-replacement-tubes low end of bassist Maggie Schreiber. As a unit their sound is consistent but not unipolar across their debut, but again, they’re looking to swallow the listener entirely.

There are elements drawn from doom — plenty of them, actually — and shades throughout of modern cult rock, but Drug Cult seem less interested in convincing their audience they worship evil spirits than in creating a downer-lumbering atmosphere in which some ritual might take place. Even “Bloodstone,” on which Tozer intones, “I want more/Your blood is the drug I’ve been searching for,” seems more about the hypnotic repetitions of its lines than about the words themselves. With the significant aural murk the band creates there and throughout the rest of the tracks, their sound basks in a dark-toned revelry, and whether a given song is fast or slow, structured or open, it’s the ambience that ties it all together.

The rest of the tracks hover somewhere between three and five minutes, but Drug Cult earn immediate points by opening Drug Cult with the 8:51 “Serpent Therapy,” providing quick immersion into the swamp their tones have created. Walker earns specific mention for his drums keeping these songs from flying apart entirely, and as “Serpent Therapy” rolls out its insistent rif moving toward the halfway mark, it’s the drums that allow the listener to hold onto their consciousness to the extent they can. From there unfold a series of what the band would probably call ‘rites.’ “Release” builds forward momentum rolling into the lurching open of “Reptile Hypnosis,” the stomp of which stands among the record’s most satisfying and the hook of which also provides a highlight moment, let alone the searing guitar lead that comes after it. Throughout, front-to-back, Drug Cult sound positively filthy.

drug cult (Photo Sally Patti Gordon)

Like the kind of band who show up to play the gig, open their van door and from it wafts a smell that’s as much body odor as it is reefer, the latter both being actively smoked at that moment and seeping through the pores of the band itself. Such is the Drug Cult vibe, and even on faster, more swinging garage-doom-style pieces like “The Wall” or “Slaylude,” the depth of tone remains the same and the spaciousness provided both by the guitar and bass together and by Tozer‘s echo-soaked vocals help craft the band’s dark and obscure plane. Whether it’s the howling lurch of centerpiece “Mind Crypt” or the deceptive shuffle of closer “Spell,” which seems less like the moment Drug Cult are trying to payoff the album as a whole than the moment they’re trying to tear it apart — though perhaps that is the payoff — Drug Cult hold firm to a willful sense of aesthetic and atmosphere, and that they refuse to veer from it makes their debut all the more consuming.

That’s not necessarily to imply that the self-titled is completely unipolar. As noted, they toy with a variety of structures and tempos that keep a steady flow from “Serpent Therapy” onward, and the effect that extended opener has of thrusting the audience into Drug Cult‘s scope isn’t to be understated. Where the rest of the album succeeds behind it is in Drug Cult setting up a fluidity between tracks that carries the listener through a trip that’s both nuanced and familiar somehow, without losing hold of their intention. Taking into account this is Drug Cult‘s debut, the full-album level of consideration the band brings to their work is doubly impressive, though it’s also worth pointing out that individual tracks like “Reptile Hypnosis,” “The Wall,” “Bloodstone,” “Spell,” etc., hardly fail at leaving their own mark. It’s the manner in which these songs feed into the whole experience of the record that give it such a sense of accomplishment on an stylistic level.

In the end, I don’t know if Drug Cult is someone’s distant cousin or something like that — let’s assume not — but they make an excellent fit for Ritual Productions, which has worked to put out offerings from Ramesses, 11Paranoias, Bong, and so on. Perhaps somewhat less extreme in their presentation, they’re no less considerate of ambience than their compatriots, and if this is Drug Cult‘s starting point, it will be fascinating to hear what their sound morphs into over subsequent releases.

Drug Cult website

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Ritual Productions website

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Horehound Reissue Self-Titled Debut on Hellmistress Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

horehound

Pittsburgh doom rockers Horehound took part this past weekend in the inaugural New England Stoner and Doom Fest in Connecticut, playing alongside Gozu, Wasted Theory and a vast host of others at a show I was both proud to be involved in presenting and sorry to have missed on account of timing. The appearance there is just the latest in the momentum-building that’s been going on for Horehound more or less since their self-titled debut (review here) was released in 2016.

The date of that release? April 20. The release date of the brand new Hellmistress Records CD and vinyl edition of the album? April 20, AKA last Friday. You have to appreciate a bit of symmetry. The band said last fall when they signed to Hellmistress that they had new material in the works. I haven’t seen an update on that, but maybe by the time they get to Descendants of Crom 2018 this September we’ll have word one way or another. Or maybe they’ll just wait for April 2019. Ha.

Here’s the latest on the reissue and the whatnots:

horehound self-titled

HOREHOUND to Re-Issue Self-Titled Debut on CD and Vinyl on April 20th via Hellmistress Records; Current Live Dates & Fest Appearances.

Pittsburgh, PA’s HOREHOUND announce their teaming up with Hellmistress Records to re-issue the Horehound Self-titled 2016 debut for both CD and first-time colored vinyl variants. The seven original tracks have been re-mixed, re-mastered, and now include a bonus song of Portishead’s, ‘Mysterons’, covered a la doom!
Digital Streaming on Bandcamp and other outlets, as well as the new CD will be available 4/20/2018, which is the second anniversary of the original release date.

Vinyl press is expected to be available on June 1st.

Artist Name: Horehound
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Genres/Styles: Doom Metal, Heavy Metal, Sludge
Label Name:
Blackseed Records (First Press, April 20, 2016)
Hellmistress Records (Re-Issue, April 20, 2018)

Horehound – Track List:

1. World to Come
2. Sangreal
3. Crowns and Thrones
4. The Dead Don’t Lie
5. Waters of Lethe
6. Myope
7. Waking Time
8. Mysterons (bonus track on re-issue only)

Recorded by Matt Schor at War Room.
Mastering by James Plotkin at Plotkinworks.
All music written and performed by Horehound, with the exception of “Mysterons”, originally written and performed by Portishead.
Cover Art by Sasaya Orenda Hamer-Pennisi

HOREHOUND is:
JD Dauer – drums
Brendan Parrish – guitar
Shy Kennedy – vocals
Nick Kopco – bass

HOREHOUND – Upcoming Live Events:
05I10I18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox (w/Mos Generator, Limousine Beach)
05I26I18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cattivo (w/Ufomammut, White Hills)
06I16I18 – Aliquippa, PA @ Fallout Shelter (w/Rule Of Two, Everyone Hates Everything)
09I28I18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ DESCENDANTS OF CROM

Blackseed Records Presents:

DESCENDANTS OF CROM 2018

September 28th – 29th @ Cattivo
Day One: Lo-Pan + Come To Grief + Telekinetic Yeti + Devil To Pay + Disenchanter + Sierra + Heavy Temple + Demon Eye + Horehound + Doomstress + Doctor Smoke + Curse The Son + Eternal Black + Cloud + Solarburn + The Long Hunt
Day Two: Mos Generator + Duel + Kind + Freedom Hawk + Geezer + Forming The Void + Serpents Of Secrecy + Wolftooth + Ironflame + River Cult + Cavern + Thunderbird Divine + Molasses Barge + OutsideInside + Jakethehawk

RSVP – https://www.facebook.com/events/177536592803763/
TICKETS: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3186333

Pre-Gala: September 27th @ Howlers
Destroyer Of Light + Rebreather + Fist Fight In The Parking Lot + Gran Gila + Mires
RSVP – https://www.facebook.com/events/2074052449275860/

https://www.facebook.com/horehoundband/
http://horehound.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/horehoundband
https://www.facebook.com/blackseedrecords/
http://www.blackseedrecords.com/
https://hellmistressrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HellmistressRecords/

Horehound, Horehound (2016)

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Ancient Lights Premiere Trailer for Self-Titled Debut

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ancient lights photo mark swaffield

I know what you’re thinking: Really? A premiere for an album trailer? Well, it’s six and a half minutes long, so quit complaining.

Unceasingly grim in its atmosphere and honed to murky depths that are equal parts obtuse and hypnotic, the self-titled debut from UK three-piece Ancient Lights tops 70 minutes — comes closer to 90 when you count the CD/DL bonus material — and is set to release in July via Ritual Productions. It is a meandering psychedelic wash, repetition and ambience given priority over structure as the trio of bassist/vocalist/guitarist Adam Richardson, guitarist Ben Carr and drummer Tim Bertilsson combine and in some ways surpass their pedigrees in bands like Ramesses5ive and Switchblade in order to push as far out as possible.

Do they get there? Oh, they get there. “War of Attrition” sounds like it’s being fought against the notion of consciousness itself, while 17-minute pieces like “Against Nature” and “Fallow Year” drift into a willed-into-existence sonic beyond. Immersion: inevitable. To call it hypnotic as above is underselling it both in concept and execution. It’s not just the listener being hypnotized here; it’s the band as well. The feedback-soaked, chant-laden “Asakai Dasa” feels as much about the experience of its creation as the resulting “song.” In this way, Ancient Lights are in communion with themselves, with their audience, and with the moment captured on the recording. This is characteristic of much of Richardson‘s work in Ramesses or 11PARANOIAS — the latter of whom also reportedly have new material in the works — but I’m not sure it’s even been driven to such psychedelic extremes as it is on Ancient Lights.

Because it is a work of extremity. Not in the sense of blastbeats or death metal vocals or anything like that, but in its sheer willingness to delve into its own psychosis, Ancient Lights‘ debut is neither for the feint of heart nor the closed of mind. Its triumph lies not in emerging on the other side of “Fallow Year” unscathed, but in having made the journey through it in the first place, and even shorter pieces like “Orichalcum Eater” (2:57) or the plodding “Miasmaculatum” (3:58) make an offering of swirl with more than enough undertow to pull its audience away from their own being. To put a realistic point on it, it’s a hard record to write about because I keep feeling my mind wander in time to the ensuing nod.

The trailer gives a taste of opener “Decaying Lotus,” the subsequent “Temple Ghosts” and the bonus track “Vessel of Inevitability,” and again, if your concern is that most album teasers don’t give a sense of the substance of the record itself, you’re not wrong. I assure you that’s not the case here. Click play and find out for yourself. PR wire info follows, as usual.

Enjoy:

Ancient Lights, Ancient Lights album trailer premiere

Immerse yourself and preview the tracks ‘Decaying Lotus’, ‘Vessel of Inevitability’ and ‘Temple Ghosts’ from Ancient Lights debut self-titled album, out on Ritual Productions July 2018.

Ancient Lights refuse to tread worn sonic terrain with their debut, instead crafting a dynamic and textured journey that explores pastures of darkness, ambience, radiance and disintegration. Comprised of members of esteemed bands of the heavy palette, the origins of the band came after 13 shadowy years of jammed discourse and psychic plotting between Adam Richardson (11PARANOIAS, Ramesses) and Ben Carr (5ive, INTRCPTR), with the optimal addition of Tim Bertilsson (Switchblade) catalysing the final reality of this band.

Trailer directed by Cristiane Richardson and edited by Sergio Angot.

The band recorded their debut rite at Bonafide Studios, London under the spell of the 2017 summer solstice sky with Dan Miller. Additional recording by Ben Carr and Adam Richardson in June 2017 at XL Recordings Studio. Mixing and mastering by Dan Miller and Adam Richardson in December 2017 at XL Recordings Studio, London.

ANCIENT LIGHTS is:
Tim Bertilsson – drums
Adam Richardson – bass, guitar, vocals & lyrics
Ben Carr – guitar

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Pale Divine Announce New Self-Titled LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pale divine

A new Pale Divine record does not come along every day. It’s been six years since the Glen Mills, PA-based trio issued their last full-length, Painted Windows Black (review here), so yeah, if you believe in due, they’re due. The new album, which will be the first since Ron “Fezz” McGinnis stepped into the bassist role, seemingly permanently, alongside guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey. Over the last few years, they’ve been regulars at the Maryland Doom Fest and also appeared at Doom in June, Vultures of Volume and at the Brooklyn stop of the Tour of the Doomed last August with Sheavy and Beezefuzz, the latter of which also boasts both Diener and McCloskey in its lineup.

Doomers don’t need me to tell them that the prospect of a Pale Divine LP being released at some point this year is automatically something worth keeping an eye out for. There isn’t an exact date given by the band or the label, which is the venerable Shadow Kingdom Records, but when I find out more I’ll let you know. Till then, dig the art by Brad Moore and the tracklisting:

PALE DIVINE S/T

Via Shadow Kingdom Records: PALE DIVINE – Self Titled album (Coming in 2018) will be the band’s greatest representation of their entire career with all fresh new music! Awesome artwork done by the incredible Brad Moore. AND we brought back their classic band logo! Enjoy!

Via Pale Divine: BEHOLD! Here is the cover art (courtesy of Brad Moore) and final track listing for our new album coming out later this year on Shadow Kingdom Records.

“All I can say is its a bit different from past releases,” says bassist Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis. “It’s taken us a good amount of time. We really put a lot of thought and effort into these songs and I think we have done something special. We are hoping the fans dig it.”

Pale Divine – S/T
(2018, SKR159)

Tracklisting:
1. Spinning Wheel
2. Bleeding Soul
3. Chemical Decline
4. So Low
5. Curse the Shadows
6. Shades of Blue
7. Silver tongue
8. Ship of Fools

Pale Divine is:
Greg Diener – vocals & guitar
Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis – bass & vocals
Darin McCloskey – drums

https://www.facebook.com/serpentspath/
http://www.paledivineband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords/
https://twitter.com/ShadowKingdom/
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

Pale Divine, Painted Windows Black (2012)

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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

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Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

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The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

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Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

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Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

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Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

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Witch Mountain Announce Headlining Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

You know what the thing about the new Witch Mountain record is? They pulled it off. They did. Somewhere along the way, maybe you doubted they’d do it, but they did it. Some bands switch singers and you hardly notice. Witch Mountain had the task before them of replacing one of the most unmistakable voices in metal — period — and they not only found someone who could carry the old material, but who could put her own stamp on the new. They absolutely, one hundred percent, pulled it off. If you don’t think so, you’re pretty much in denial.

And there. That’s basically the spoiler for my review, which I’ll hope to have up sometime before their self-titled releases on May 25 but which, at the rate I’m going, probably won’t actually be up until July. Because it’s like that over here these days.

Headlining tour announced. Shows presented of course by Nanotear. Info, naturally off the PR wire:

witch mountain tour

WITCH MOUNTAIN ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICAN SUMMER TOUR; FIRST HEADLINING RUN SINCE 2012

WITCH MOUNTAIN ARRIVES MAY 25 VIA SVART

Witch Mountain, who recently announced the May 25 release of their self-titled album via Svart, have confirmed a month-long tour of North America, kicking off on July 11 in Sacramento.

“Since Justin and Kayla joined, we’ve had the amazing fortune to tour with YOB, Danzig, and Saint Vitus… Time flies, and we realized that Witch Mountain hasn’t headlined North America since 2012. Can’t wait to be back out on the road for a summertime adventure, seeing our fans, and sharing our new music with them,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. Bass player Justin Brown and singer Kayla Dixon joined Carson and guitar player Rob Wrong following the release of the critically acclaimed album, Mobile of Angels.

Witch Mountain pre-orders will be announced soon. Listen to “Burn You Down,” from the forthcoming album, here: https://witchmountain.bandcamp.com/album/burn-you-down.

Witch Mountain tour dates:
May 31 Seattle, WA North West Terror Fest
June 23 Portland, OR Star Theater #
July 11 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
July 12 San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
July 13 San Diego, CA Til Two
July 14 Los Angles, CA Lexington
July 15 Phoenix, AZ Club Red
July 16 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
July 18 Austin, TX Lost Well
July 19 Denton, TX Dan’s Silverleaf
July 20 Memphis, TN HiTone
July 21 Knoxville, TN Pilot Light
July 22 Atlanta, GA The Earl
July 23 Asheville, NC Mothlight
July 25 Chapel Hill, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 26 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
July 27 Baltimore, MD Metro
July 28 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
July 29 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus
July 31 Boston, MA Great Scott
August 1 Portland, ME Geno’s
August 2 Montreal, QC Vitrola
August 3 Ottawa, ON House of Targ
August 4 Toronto, ON Garrison
August 5 Buffalo, NY Mohawk
August 7 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
August 8 Chicago, IL Reggie’s
August 9 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge
August 10 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
August 11 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge

# – Will Haven, Atriarch and Worm Ouroboros open (Record release show)

www.facebook.com/witchmountain
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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Quarterly Review: Eagle Twin, Wight, Sundrifter, Holy Mushroom, Iron and Stone, Black Capricorn, Owl Maker, Troll, Malditos, The Freak Folk of Mangrovia

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

I’m pretty sure this Quarterly Review — life eater that it is — is going to wind up being six days long. That means next Monday look for sixth installment, another batch of 10 records, which were not hard to come by among everything that’s come in lately for review. I do my best to keep up, often to little avail — some random act’s Bandcamp page starts trending and all of a sudden they’re the best band ever, which hey, they’re probably not and that’s okay too. Anyhowzer, I’m trying is the point. Hopefully another 10 records added into this Quarterly Review underscores that notion.

More coffee. More albums. Let’s rock.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn)

eagle twin the thundering heard songs of hoof and horn

Consuming tones, throat-sung blues, a wash of lumbering doom – yes, it’s quite a first three minutes on Eagle Twin’s The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn). Released by Southern Lord, it’s the Salt Lake City duo’s first outing since 2012’s The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (discussed here), which arrived three years after their 2009 debut, The Unkindness of Crows (review here). Once again, the four-song outing finds guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith exploring the natural order and the natural world the 11-minute “Quanah un Rama” and the 14-minute “Antlers of Lightning” bookend “Elk Wolfv Hymn” (8:22) and album highlight “Heavy Hood” (7:21), creating an ever-more immersive and grit-laden flow across the album’s span. It’s hard to know if Densley and Smith are the hunters or the hunted here, but the tones are massive enough to make YOB blush, the rhythms are hypnotic and the use they’re both put to is still unlike anything else out there, ending after the chaos and assault of low end on “Antlers of Lightning” with a moment of contemplative guitar lead, as if to remind us of our solitary place in imagining ourselves at the top of the food chain.

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Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion

wight fusion rock invasion

One wonders what it might’ve been like to see Wight on the 2015 tour on which the Bilocation Records-issued vinyl-only Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe was captured. Still a year out from releasing their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), the former trio had already become a four-piece with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek bringing in percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening and already undertaken the funkier aesthetic turn that LP would represent coming off of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). At least I’d think it would be something of a surprise as the band hit into “Helicopter Mama” and “The Muse & the Mule” and “Kelele,” which comprise side A of Fusion Rock Invasion, but by all appearances listening to the crowd response between songs, they seem into it. Who could argue? Wight’s groove in those songs as well as the older “Master of Nuggets” and Love is Not Only What You Know finale “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” on side B, are infectious in their grooves and the soul put into them is genuine and unmistakable. One more reason I wouldn’t have minded being there, I suppose.

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Wight at Bilocation Records

 

Sundrifer, Visitations

sundrifter visitations

Name your bet someone picks up Sundrifter’s Visitations for a proper release. The Boston three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan impress in performance, aesthetic and craft across the nine songs and 48 minute of their for-now-self-released debut long-player, and whether it’s Queenan dipping into blastbeats on “Targeted” or Gaughran’s rumble on the Soundgarden-gone-doom “Fire in the Sky” or the fuzz that leads the charge on the Queens of the Stone Age-style “Hammerburn,” Peura doing a decent Josh Homme along the way, each member proves to add something to a whole greater than the sum of its parts and that is able to take familiar elements and use them to hone an individualized atmosphere. In the wake of melodically engaged Boston acts like Gozu, Sundrifter would seem to be a focused newcomer with a solidified mindset of who they are as a group. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised either if they kept growing their sound. Something about the psychedelic distance in “Fire in the Sky” and “I Want to Leave,” says there’s forward movement yet to be had.

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Sundrifter on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Moon

holy mushroom moon

Serenity and presence. There’s no shortage of either on the second Holy Mushroom full-length, Moon. Incorporating the prior-issued digital single “Éufrates,” the five-track/43-minute excursion is rife with natural-toned psychedelic resonance, marked out by organ/piano working alongside the guitar (see “Birdwax Blues”), as well as guest contributions of double bass and saxophone, and other sundry moments of depth-creating flourish. Their trance-effect is palpable, and Moon is an easy album to get lost in, especially as the Spanish three-piece make their way through 12:35 centerpiece “The Preacher,” moving from a dreamy opening line of guitar into funk-laden heft that only pushes forward with Hendrixian abandon through a massive jam before rounding out sweetly with vocals over background organ and sweetly-strummed guitar. “Éufrates” would seem to start the same way, but varies the structure in more of a back and forth format before closer “Grand Finale in the Blind Desert” brings both Holy Mushroom’s most patient execution and their most vibrant jam (sax included), essentially building from the one into the other to end the album in energetic fashion. To say it works for them would be underselling it.

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Holy Mushroom on Bandcamp

 

Iron and Stone, Petrichor

iron and stone petrichor

A debut long-player of no-pretense, no-nonsense sludge-infused doom, Petrichor (on Backbite Records) shows German five-piece Iron and Stone as ready to follow where the riff will lead them. The late 2017 album is a solidly-delivered 10 tracks and 43 minutes that strikes mostly in monochrome intent, save perhaps for the acoustic “Interlude” near the midpoint. Their 2015 EP, Old Man’s Doom (review here), was similarly upfront in its purposes, but carrying across a full-length – especially a debut – is a different beast from a shorter outing. Their heavier push on “Monolith” is welcome and the break-then-chug of “Deserts” does plenty to satisfy, but Petrichor might require a couple concerted listens to really sink in on its audience, though as I’ve said time and again, if you can’t handle repetition, you can’t handle doom. Iron and Stone effectively balance traditional doom and rawer sludge groove, playing fluidly to whichever suits their purposes at a given moment.

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Backbite Records webstore

 

Black Capricorn, Omega

black capricorn omega

Sardinian doom cult Black Capricorn push well beyond the limits of the manageable with their 95-minute fourth album, Omega (released Nov. 2017 on Stone Stallion Rex), and that’s clearly the idea. The three-piece of bassist Virginia, drummer Rakela and guitarist/vocalist Kjxu offer grim ambience and tempos that sound slow regardless of their actual speed. That said, the 17-minute “Antartide” is an accomplishment as regards crawl. After a sweetly melancholic opening of guitar, it lurches and lumbers out its miserable heft until a return to that intro bookends. Even shorter tracks like “Flower of Revelation” or “Stars of Orion” hold firm to the tenet of plod, and though the results are obviously a lot to take in, the idea that it should be a slog seems all the more appropriate to Black Capricorn’s style. The band, which hits the decade mark in 2018, churn out one last bit of wretchedness in the nine-minute closing title-track before giving way to an acoustic finish, as if to remind that Omega’s sorrows are conveyed as much through atmosphere as actual sonic heft.

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Stone Stallion Rex website

 

Owl Maker, Paths of the Slain

owl maker paths of the slain

Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of malevolent doomers Vestal Claret, leads the new trio Owl Maker, and in the company of bassist Jessie May and drummer Chris Anderson, he embarks on a heavy rock push of six tracks with the debut EP, Paths of the Slain, still holding to some elements of metal, whether it’s the double-kick in opener “Ride with Aileen” or the backing vocals and guitar solo of the subsequent “99.” Songwriting is clearheaded across the EP’s 23 minutes, and in terms of first impressions, “Mashiara” shows a focus on melody that retains a metallic poise without losing its riff-driven edge. The balance shifts throughout “Freya’s Chariot” and the all-go “Witches,” the latter of which touches on black metal in its first half before turning on a dime to mid-paced heavy rock, and closer “Lady Stoneheart” nods in its back end to NWOBHM gallop, as Owl Maker seem to tip their audience to the fact that they’re just getting started on their exploration of the many interpretations of heavy.

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Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Troll, Troll

troll troll

When one considers the multiple connotations of the word, Portland’s Troll are definitely going more for “lives under a bridge” than “meddling in elections” when it comes to their sound. Their self-titled debut EP, issued in 2017 before being picked up by respected purveyor Shadow Kingdom Records for a 2018 CD/tape release, is a highlight offering of classic-style doom worthy of Orodruin and Pilgrim comparisons and headlined by the vocal performance of John, who carries songs like opener “The Summoning” and the later, more swinging “Infinite Death” in a manner impressive in both frontman presence and melodic range. His work is only bolstered by the riffs of guitarist Lou and the consistent groove held together by bassist Wayne and drummer Ryan, whose drive in centerpiece “An Eternal Haunting” is neither overdone nor incongruous with the wall its tempo hits, and who meld shuffle and plod on closer “Savage Thunder” with naturalist ease. Potential abounds, and they reportedly already have new material in the works, so all the better.

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Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Malditos, II

malditos ii
Some bands, you just have to accept the fact that they’re on a different wavelength and that’s all there is to it. Magma. Master Musicians of Bukkake. Circle. Enter Oakland, California’s Malditos, whose sophomore outing, II: La Réve, arrives via Svart Records. From bizarre psychedelic chants to ritualized repetitions that seems to be daring you to play them backwards on your turntable, the spiritual freakout to songs like “Azadeh” and the penultimate “Momen” is palpable. Reach out and touch it and it will ripple like water in front of you. A sense of space is filled with elements alternatingly horrifying and engrossing, and after they make their way through “Le Passage” and centerpiece “Disparu” and wind up in the title-track to close out, the journey to the final wash of noise gives the distinct impression that for neither the listener nor the band is there any coming back. High order head trippery. Will simply be too much for some, will gloriously expand the minds of others.

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Svart Records webstore

 

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach

the freak folk of mangrovia sonic meditations live at palach

I don’t know how much improvisation is a factor in the sound of The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, but the Croation collective bring an ultra-organic presence to their perhaps-debut release, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach. The group, which seems also to have gone under the names Marko Mushan & the Mangrovian Orchestra and The Free Folk of Mangrovia, was opening for Acid Mothers Temple that night, and Sonic Meditations mostly breaks down into parts – “Sonic Meditation I,” “II,” “III” and “IV” – before the band closes out with “’Mangrovian Summer,” all the while with The Freak Folk of Mangrovia making their way through progressive dreamscapes, dripping with effects and spacious enough to house an entire Mangrovian village, however big that might be. It is otherworldly and jazzy and moves with such fluidity that the entire “Sonic Meditation” becomes one overarching piece, complemented by the closing “Mangrovian Summer,” which ebbs and flows through louder, more active jamming before capping in a wash of noise.

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