Posted in Whathaveyou on July 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Indianapolis doomers Wretch will make their self-titled debut in less than a month’s time via Bad Omen Records. The trio formed by former The Gates of Slumber guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon after the demise of that band and subsequent death of bassist Jason McCash have been playing shows steadily for the last couple years — I was fortunate enough to catch them at Vultures of Volume II — and as Simon is joined by bassist Bryce Clarke and drummer Christopher Gordon, the vibe is as heavy in spirit as it is classic in tone, at least if the new track “Rest in Peace” is anything to go by. You’ll pardon me if I assume it is.
The album art and background follows, courtesy of Bad Omen, which has Wretch available now for preorder ahead of its official Aug. 26 release:
Wretch – Self-Titled – Released August 26th, 2016
Lest we forget, doom metal stands for much more than merely a collection of Sabbathian riffs, funereal tempos and enormous amp-stacks. It’s a form of music that issues forth from the heart, the soul, and the gut. It can be an alchemical force that functions as a process of catharsis in times of need. What’s more, few know more about the power of this music than Karl Simon, formerly of the titanic and much-respected The Gates Of Slumber, and now of Wretch, whose debut carries on valiantly with the mission he began some eighteen years ago.
The making of this self-titled album marked both a renaissance and a crucial tonic for Simon himself – in the wake of the death of his close friend and The Gates Of Slumber bandmate Jason McCash, he was forced to make sense of a profound loss, and the making of this debut formed a crucial part of this process,
The new power-trio he formed with drummer Chris Gordon and bassist Bryce Clarke rose above their circumstances to issue forth a fearsome salvo of cast-iron riffage and heartfelt traditional metal heraldry, shot through with a steely conviction instilled by the experiences of recent days. “It is a new beginning, but I am what I am. I don’t set out to write a style of music.” notes Simon, “This is what happens when I pick up a guitar”
“Making this record has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done” he adds. “Jason and I met just out of school and instantly became best friends. All of my memories as an adult feature him. All of the songs on this record are about him, about me, about our drug use and his death. I’m not close to getting over the grief. In a lot of ways I’ve lost my mind. I hope that people are touched by the record – I am often on the verge of tears while playing..It’s tough reliving those moments”
Heavy in sincerity and emotion rather than in pitch and tone, these gritty yet grandiose songs may follow in the lineage and spirit of classic crusaders like Saint Vitus, The Obsessed and Cirith Ungol, yet the eerily thundering ‘Running Out Of Days’ and the downcast yet groove-laden ‘Icebound’ reach pinnacles of soulful intensity and emotional resonance. Meanwhile, a heroic essaying of Judas Priest’s early classic ‘Winter’ sees Simon & Co. connect with Heavy Metal’s most gnarled and vital roots. Defiant against all adversity, this debut stands proud as a fiery testimony to an indomitable spirit, one finding its way with grace and honesty through the trials and travails of the everyday.
“The days of swords and sorcery are pretty much over for me” notes Karl”. “No more giant spiders or Iceworms, There are real horrors that occupy my mind these days.”
Vinyl Pressing info: White Vinyl – 80 units exclusive to Bad Omen webstore “Bone” Vinyl Black Vinyl
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you haven’t yet, fans of Spiritual Beggars-style classic heavy rock will probably want to take note of what Positiva are doing on their self-titled third album. Newly issued through Odio Sonoro, the Spanish four-piece’s latest offering has a crisp, organ-laced modernity to its nonetheless classic-minded form, and with two songs streaming in “Get On” and the swaggering “Neverending Lust,” it gives an impression of vibe that leaves little question as to why the band would make it self-titled. They’d be hard-pressed to find better representation, I think.
The following PR wire-style info came through from Odio Sonoro in Spanish, but I fed it through a certain major internet company’s translation matrix. Some of the linguistic intricacy might have gotten lost as a result, but I think it’ll still be enough to get the point across. If not, you can always skip right to the tracks as well:
Positiva: songs advance, cover and tracklist of the new album
At last!!! Positiva has a new album, the third album by the rock band Bilbaína will be unveiled early in July. Ten explosive passages full of energy and passion contained in the studies Tío Pete at the hands of José Lastra. In this last album, entitled the name of the group itself, “Positiva”, collected some of the material created in recent years. With a new lead vocals (Eriz, ex Gilah Monster and Lovercraft) and a single guitar instead of two, the band makes a small difference in structure, maintaining its sound and character with as much or more intensity than before.
“During this transition period, we have worked in privacy, adapting to the new training topics and writing new material with the intention of returning to the stage. This work is the fruit of that work.”
Today, by extra-musical personal reasons, and very reluctantly, the band is inactive, waiting for time to allow them to return to action. For now, Unai (drums) and Julio (guitar, vocals), with the invaluable help of José Odio Sonoro, will present his latest album enthusiastically: “Positiva”.
1.Lonely Man 2.Get On 3.Neverending Lust 4.Leave Me Alone 5.Hazy Town 6.Trapped In Body & Soul 7.Icarus 8.Hard To Stay 9.Trace Back Your Steps 10.Glory Hole
Julio Ruiz – guitar, vocals Unai G. de Kortazar – drums, backing vocals Eriz de la Fuente – lead vocals Txetxu Aguado – bass, backing vocals
Additional keyboards on tracks 2, 4 and 10: Jose Lastra
Posted in Features on July 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One could wax philosophical all day about the combination of weighted groove, lush melody, songcraft and tonal depth playing out across Elephant Tree‘s self-titled Magnetic Eye Records debut LP (review here), but as far as doing it justice, it seems like a futile enterprise. The album’s richness, the ease of its execution — nothing sounds labored, nothing feels overwrought — and its consistent sense of movement make it easily one of 2016’s best debut records, and one of the best records of the year overall. It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to tell a friend they need to hear it, because invariably they do.
How’d they get there? The London-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked), drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre offered up their debut EP, Theia (review here), in 2014 (also through Magnetic Eye), and showed immediately a penchant for laid back heavy roll and psychedelic flourish, but a few key changes took place in the short time between Theia and Elephant Tree, among them a shift in focus away from incorporating screaming vocals — I’ll say that the advent of a genuinely psychedelic sludge is an intriguing prospect, and they made it work well — and MacIntyre‘s sitar alongside Townley‘s guitar and Holland‘s bass.
Townley is quick to point out there are still screams on the record, they’re just buried for atmospheric effect, but even that is a change from two years ago. Part of the driving force behind that would seem to be MacIntyre‘s work as producer, steering the sonic concepts with which the band would work as well as contributing to the music itself. Indeed, Elephant Tree sounds like an album thought out beforehand and during the process, and while recording the basic tracks in the room together gives it a natural underlying character, the blues and greens of its tones and the harmonies in the vocals over them are emblematic of the willful progression the band has undertaken.
And perhaps most encouraging of all, that progression would seem to just be at its outset. It’s important to keep in mind as the melancholy piano notes close out “Surma” that Elephant Tree is still just Elephant Tree‘s first full-length. In speaking to Townley, I tried to get an idea both of how this record came together and how the next one might move forward from here. The interview took place admittedly a while ago, just before Elephant Tree teamed up with Bordeaux, France-based heavy psych forerunners Mars Red Sky for a run of shows in the UK — they’ve also done stints with Bright Curse and they’ll play Cardiff’s Red Sun festival on July 29 with Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Grifter, Desert Storm, Old Man Lizard and many others — and so there was much to discuss.
Please find the complete Q&A after the jump, and enjoy. Thank you for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Italian newcomer desert-minded rockers Them Bulls have made the opening track of their self-titled debut album available to stream. The record lands Aug. 26 via Small Stone, and finds the band following up their first EP, the awesomely-titled Space Cadillacs, as they dig in deep to classic Queens of the Stone Age vibes while also finding their own place within a classic heavy rock songwriting modus. They formed in 2014, so have worked quickly toward their first long-player, but the hooks hold up and should pique the interest of those ingrained in the rock of sprawling sands.
I don’t think I wrote this bio from scratch, but I definitely edited it. Dig:
Them Bulls – Them Bulls
Having already shared stages with labelmates in Abrahma and Lo-Pan, as well as Turbonegro, Nick Oliveri and many others, Italian heavy rockers Them Bulls will release their debut full length, Them Bulls, on Small Stone Records later this Summer.
In just over two years since forming early in 2014, Them Bulls have refined their approach to their unique desert-style fuzz of their initial EP called Space Cadillacs, and have now brought their game to a new level entirely. Executed with melodic precision but a loose feel, the songs like “Pot Gun” and “Bandana, Carlos” nod at the poppy bounce of peak-era Queens of the Stone Age, while “Too Much Hot” offers an attitude all the band’s own and “We Must Live Up” drives the point home with rare emphasis for a band who are still so relatively new.
Marking the debut with the band of second guitarist/backing vocalist Francesco Maria Pasi alongside founding vocalist/ guitarist Daniele Pollio, drummer Giampaolo Farnedi (Mondo Generator, Brant Bjork and the Bros.) and bassist Paolo Baldini, Them Bulls was recorded and mixed by Mattia Dallara at Deposito Zero Studio in April and mastered by Mathias Schneeberger. Them Bulls will be hitting many a stage in support of this release.
1. As Fangs In Stone 2. Bandana, Carlos 3. Devil’s Kiss 4. Pot Gun 5. Too Much Hot 6. Made Of Ghosts 7. Twisted Tongues 8. Through The Sun 9. We Must Live Up 10. Just Another Please
Them Bulls: Daniele Pollio – Vocals/Guitars Giampaolo Farnedi – Drums Paolo Baldini – Bass Francesco Maria Pasi – Guitar
When Dust‘s 1971 self-titled debut was reissued on Sony Legacy in 2013 along with 1972’s Hard Attack, I was fortunate enough to interview original drummer Marc Bell, who of course later went on to become Marky Ramone of The Ramones, about the process of revisiting those two albums from early in his career. One of the things I asked him about the process of overseeing those remasters was whether it was strange to go back to hearing that material after so long and being so known for other work. Here’s what he had to say:
It wasn’t strange; it was more of a grateful opportunity to be able to do this because we were still in high school when we did these two albums. We were on a label called Buddha/Kama Sutra, which catered to bubblegum bands. So we really weren’t on the right label that could really push the genre of music, which was heavy metal. Looking back and knowing what we were facing and now, it was a little strange in a way. Because if we did a third album on a legitimate label that knew how to handle this kind of music, I think we would have went over the top with Dust. But in the studio we were remastering it a few months ago, we were thinking of the great memories we had.
Doing shows with Alice Cooper, John Mayall, Uriah Heep then coming back to the high school — Erasmus, where I went. Seeing the album in the windows in the record store. It was really amazing for an 18-year-old teenager to see this. Then everyone wanted to be my friend in high school. Even the people that hated me. It was strange but it brings back funny and youthful memories of how well we played as a unit, three people at that time. — Marky Ramone
He was pretty on-message the entire interview, by which I mean he had the story of the band and albums down and stuck to it for the duration of our talk — something with which, I should mention, I have no problem; as long as it’s cordial, I consider it a sign of professionalism for someone to know what they want to say going into a phoner — and he was vigilant in calling Dust a heavy metal band, and one of the first in America. Ever since, that’s kind of stuck in my head as the standout point. I don’t usually think of proto-metal as metal, or heavy rock as metal, and with its liberal use of slide guitar on opener “Stone Woman” and the classically swinging rhythm of “From a Dry Camel,” I’m still not sure I’d call the self-titled debut or its follow-up metal proper. For sure it was pushing in that direction, but it would still be five years before Judas Priest offered up the visionary Sad Wings of Destiny, and to call Dust‘s Dust metal diminishes the scope of the boom of heavy rock in which it arrived. Consider, for example, that Dust formed in 1969, the same year as fellow New Yorkers Cactus, though that band’s first record landed a year earlier in 1970. Dust were a standout for sure, but they didn’t exist in a vacuum, and to call them metal takes away from the progressive elements of “Often Shadows Felt” or “Goin’ Easy,” however much Bell, guitarist/vocalist Richie Wise and bassist Kenny Aaronson might push Mountain further on “Love Me Hard” or scorch in Motörheady fashion on closer “Loose Goose.”
In whatever genre you want to tag it, Dust‘s self-titled debut remains a classic of the original heavy rock era. The band would make arguably their greatest achievement on “Suicide” from Hard Attack, but their first outing is one not to be missed — frankly, I was surprised to find I hadn’t closed out a week with it before — and I hope as always that you enjoy.
Did you read that Buried Treasure post earlier this week? The one all about driving to Maryland and back? I still feel like I’m recovering from that trip, and as such, no Connecticut this weekend. Staying home. I’ll be back down that way in a couple weeks — both CT and MD, actually — so I honestly think the quiet time will do me some good. Plus I just finished my second week at the new job at Hasbro, and that’s been a pretty big change. Lots to get used to there, many different processes to figure out still. Everyone I talk to there says it takes time, and nothing I’ve seen leads me to think they’re wrong. It’s been good so far though. They dig their board games, and it’s awesome to be in surroundings where people is into what they’re doing.
I’ve been getting up at 5AM — yesterday was earlier, actually, but the alarm was set for five — in order to write reviews and then filling in news posts and such during the day, things like the Brant Bjork announcement yesterday going up as quickly as possible, and doing some writing at night as well, so the balance still needs to be worked out, but I’ll get there. That takes time too. For now, getting up early hasn’t been so bad, even if it’s meant I’m in bed by like 10PM each night. Worth it to get stuff done.
Speaking of, there’s a lot on the docket next week. Monday and Tuesday a couple new album announcements booked for stuff on Small Stone, and also look for reviews and streams from Hyponic, Mos Generator, 16, Naevus and The Company Corvette — that’s one a day for the whole week — as well as new videos from Sea, Monkey3 and Hey Zeus, as well as all the news that’s fit to cut and paste and whatever else I can come across. Should be plenty to keep me busy on those mornings.
It’s not really applicable here — though I could make arguments either way — but if you think it’s something you might also be into, I’ve been very much enjoying Monolith of Phobos by The Claypool Lennon Delirium, which I picked up this week. It’s Les Claypool of Primus and Sean Lennon, and the two play all the instruments and share vocal and keyboard duties and some of it has a really dead-on psychedelic vibe. I don’t think I’ll review it, but it’s worth checking out if you have a spare couple minutes to track it down on YouTube or something.
Alright, gotta run, but I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you might be up to. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.
Posted in Reviews on June 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
We continue today to make our way through The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review. Yesterday we passed the halfway point, always pivotal, and today brings another batch of 10 albums from the realms of doom, heavy rock, heavy psych, boogie rock, and beyond that I’m looking forward to digging into. I’ve been waking up early mornings all week to put these together — in bed circa 10PM, out of bed at 6AM — but it’s been worth it to see the response the posts have gotten so far and, I’ll say it once again, I hope you’ve found something you dig in what’s already out there, or if not, that by the time we wrap tomorrow something piques your interest. Let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
The Order of Israfel, Red Robes
Swedish double-guitar four-piece The Order of Israfel make their second offering in Red Robes. Issued, like its 2014 predecessor, Wisdom, by Napalm Records, the new collection tops out at 59 minute/eight tracks of classically rolling doom. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Sutton (also Horisont, ex-Church of Misery) leads the charge for the Gothenburg-based unit, and along with guitarist Staffan Björck, bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg and drummer Hans Lilja, he brings to light a trad doom not so far removed in some of its impulses from some others throughout Northern Europe in the post-Reverend Bizarre sphere, but showing a personality of its own in the layered vocals of “Von Sturmer” and the acoustic “Fallen Children,” which follows, the choral arrangement in the earlier “The Red Robes” and the speedier “A Shadow in the Hills,” which precedes the crawling 16-minute closer “The Thirst,” its slow-nodding finish underscoring what The Order of Israfel bring of themselves to the classic form in songwriting and overall cohesion of purpose.
It’s a little bit of everything. Landskap’s aptly-titled third album, III, brings out ‘70s vibe with the organ and underlying shuffle of opener “Wayfarer’s Sacrifice,” but offers a doomier feel in the vocals and guitar, and the band go on to execute Doors-gone-prog moodiness on centerpiece “The Trick to Letting Go” and more psychedelic fuzz on the subsequent “The Hand that Takes Away.” So yeah, the London five-piece of vocalist Jake Harding, guitarist George Pan, bassist Christopher West (ex-Trippy Wicked, Groan), drummer Paul Westwood and keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou cover a good bit if ground in just five tracks, tying it all together via Harding’s vocals and a comfortable pace across the board, even on the more insistent “Awakening the Divide,” though that consistency gets toyed with some as nine-minute closer “Mask of Apathy” moves from its dreamy, spacious initial stretch into more uptempo push as payoff for the album as a whole. All the better to have Landskap shift their own methods as fluidly as they meld different styles across III’s engaging span.
If I have a speed at this point, Pooty Owldom is pretty much it. The Virginia-based duo of Matt “Big Jim” Shively and Walter Barry – also two-thirds of the trio Olson/Shively/Barry, which released their debut, Teirra del Fuego Blues (review here), in 2014 – cross the lines between psychedelia, krautrock, folk, weirdo prog and funk with the carefree fluidity of pre-jam-band Ween on their self-titled first outing under their new moniker, and hopefully it’s not the last one, because whether it’s the soap-opera daydream keys of “The Owlet” or any number of the other owl-themed cuts here – “Fuzzy Pellet” is a personal favorite, but who could argue with the bassline/piano tap of “Owls with Big Donuts?” – there’s a considerable creative breadth at work in kind with what sounds like a really good time in progress. Not one for everybody, but for me, I’d love to hear Shively and Barry flesh these ideas out further over longer pieces – “Torus Landing” goes furthest here at 4:53 – and bring the jazzy rhythmic sunbathing of “Target: Mouse” to even greater experimental realization. However it comes, more please.
A guitar/drum duo based in Cherkasy, Ukraine, Celophys issued their third album, Ammonite, last year through Robust Fellow Records. The CD arrives as yet another example of the Ukraine’s burgeoning heavy scene, along with Kiev acts like Stoned Jesus, Bomg, Soom, Mozergush, Ethereal Riffian and others, and brings a noteworthy sense of lumbering across its mostly-extended seven tracks, beginning with 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Baron,” which melds slow-grind sludge riffing with deathly growls and rasp, which the charmingly-named “Spaceburger” and the later drumless drone-feast “Caveman Ritual” continue to build out in atmosphere and snail’s-pace intensity. Feedback, massive tonality, plodding groove – these are hardly unfamiliar elements, but drummer/vocalist Alexander Beregovoy and guitarist Miroslav Kopeyka bring about a fervent bludgeoning across Ammonite that should have even the jaded among those who approach it nodding approval. Also noteworthy is the limited-to-53 “Nautilus Pack” which comes in a hand-carved, custom-designed oversized wood case with special graffiti art, a sticker and a pin, as well as the digipak version of the album.
Dunbarrow’s self-titled debut hits at a curious moment. They might be a few years ahead of their time in returning to the roots of vintage-style heavy rock, but in so doing, they basically take up the mantle that groups like Witchcraft, Graveyard, Kadavar and Blues Pills have left behind in favor of more modern production styles. Specifically, the Norwegian four-piece, who had a handful of shorter digital releases out before, come across in direct conversation with the self-titled Witchcraft debut from 2004. Strange to think that a record with an aesthetic so bent on looking backward could actually be forward-thinking — portrait of what goes around, coming around — but Dunbarrow offer persuasive argument in favor of retro orthodoxy in the swaying “You Knew I was a Snake” and the subdued brooding of “Guillotine.” Whether their bet pays off will be something to find out over the next couple years and as their sound continues to develop, but for their first full-length, they show clever songcraft, a clear idea of what they want to do, and the potential to move that forward in intriguing ways.
I’ll rarely hone in on one instrument throughout an album, but the bass tone on Brutus’ third LP, Wandering Blind (on Svart), has to be heard to be believed. With a goodtime take on ‘70s shuffle, there’s plenty of room for the low end to wind its way around the guitar, and it does. Of course, that’s not all the Swedish/Norwegian five-piece have going for them in these nine live-sounding tracks, as shown in the swaying solo section of “Whirwind of Madness” or the stomp of “Blind Village.” They’re not through the opening title-track before multiple Sabbath references are dropped in the lyrics, and indeed they’re a touchstone, but the more upbeat feel of “The Killer” and the back and forth of closer “Living in a Daze” play to deeper influences from classic heavy rock and its modern incarnations, culminating in a multi-layer guitar solo backed by tambourine, bass, and drums that really seems to sum up the friendly and unpretentious vibe Brutus elicit.
Finnish trio Vallihauta make their self-titled debut on Future Lunch with eight raw tracks that span between the hardcore punk/death ‘n’ roll of “Puoliverinen” and the doomed churn in the early going of “Reviiri.” One can basically tell looking at the runtimes of the cuts where Vallihauta are headed with each song, and they adjust their songwriting capably to coincide with the given tempo shifts, resulting in a back and forth as playful as it is aggressive in its sound and harsh low-end buzz, but to their credit, they bring the two approaches together effectively on closer “Ote,” shifting from the record’s most gurgling rumble and tortured plod to increasingly intense punkishness that hits headfirst into a final slowdown to end the album. A multi-faceted approach is rarely something to complain about, and it certainly isn’t here, but the challenge going forward for Vallihauta will be to build on that bridging of gaps in “Ote” without losing either the ferocity of their faster material or the weight of the slower.
The third Pater Nembrot album, Nusun (on Go Down Records), follows five years behind 2011’s Sequoia Seeds (review here), and for Italian heavy rock, it’s been a hell of a half-decade. Now recognized as one of the strongest scenes in Europe, Italy has become a hotbed and Pater Nembrot’s return couldn’t be better timed. The nine-track outing brings some genuinely expansive moments, as with the 10-minute “Architeuthis” for which Christian Peters (Samsara Blues Experiment) guests on synth, or the wah-soaked second half of “The Rich Kids of Teheran,” but even shorter pieces like “Young Rite” effectively bring together grunge and heavy psych influences. The piano-laced opener “Lostman” and acoustic-strummed closer “Dead Polygon” seem to be speaking right to each other and are somewhat at remove with the rest of the record, perhaps the minute-long bass interlude “Uknap” aside (perhaps not), but the four-piece know their game by this point and just when a song like “Overwhelmed” seems like it’s going to lose its course, they bring it around to Nusun’s most satisfying instrumental build.
Almost immediately upon the band starting “Device,” the sense of ambition in Floodlore’s debut album, When it was Written, is palpable. A psych-infused trio from Northern Virginia, they range freely between the classic-minded “Justice” and fuzzy push of “Bars” before heading back to jammier fare for “Release,” which calls to mind All Them Witches for its meandering blues, and into harder-edged winding riffs for “Evening.” Both “Peace” and “Glow” continue to flesh out one side or the other, but an obvious focal point is the three-part/28-minute closer “Sun/When the Floodlore was Written/In Praise of Alan Watts,” which starts out nodding at surf rock before space-progging out for about 20 minutes, working into an out of extended solos and culminating in swirl and thrust that lives up to the band’s clear will for exploration. Some smoothing out to do in terms of balancing the mix (vocals came through high, though I’ll allow that could be my speakers), but When it was Written impresses in concept and execution and as Floodlore’s first full-length, it’s remarkably encouraging.
When it starts to feel like maybe you’ve got a given track figured out, that seems to be the moment when Eugene, Oregon, five-piece Red Cloud turn something around on their full-length debut, Ursa Minor, and though their foundation is still very much in heavy rock, they build on that shifting into and out of desert stylizations and psychedelic swirl. The band – here guitarist/vocalist/bassist Aaron Williams, guitarist Dennis Medina, drummer/engineer Lauren Roberts and bassist/guitarist Sean Loos, though Loos seems to have left the band and bassist Mike Nemeth and keyboardist Garrett Davis come aboard – keep the material consistent by going back to that heavy rock foundation and through a clear focus on songwriting. Even in the somewhat lumbering starts and stops of “Smoke Screen,” these tracks feel worked on and carefully arranged, and though they go different places – “Ghost Dance” with its manic shuffle, closer “Sick Eagle” with its Songs for the Deaf-style drive – they universally take an efficient route to get there.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.