Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Arizona heavy rockers Wolves of Winter have secured a Nov. 1 release for their self-titled debut from NoSlip Records. Preorders are up now through the label and the album is streaming in full below. It was originally put out digitally by the band back in January, but their dudely chug and prevailing focus on songcraft led to their selling through a first pressing of self-released CDs and running off a second prior to this impending vinyl version — which will be limited to 500 copies spread across four different editions — no doubt a substantial portion of which are already gone or otherwise going.
The PR wire had art and details on the subject:
Wolves of Winter is a Stoner Rock trio based out of Phoenix, AZ. Their sound ranges from classic rock, to grunge, to stoner & doom and back again!
We will have four color variants with this release and they will be pressed on 180 Grams of virgin vinyl, they will be housed in a Gatefold Jacket with art from David Paul Seymour covering both inside panels, the cover art was done by Ghosttown Graphic Art.
The album was mastered by Jeff Harris, Jeff has worked with some greats such as Fleetwood Mac, Eagles and Supertramp, Jeff also worked on the audio crew for the classic Disney film Tron and is now the current lead instructor at the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences.
Die Hard Edition: Transparent Cloudy Clear w/Heavy Purple Splatter. Comes with a Wolves Of Winter Embroidered Patch. Limited to 100 Presses. Obi Edition: Two Opaque Colors. Limited to 100 Presses. Band Edition: Transparent Purple. Limited to 180 Presses Classic Black: Limited to 120 Presses
Track Listing : A1. Astrothoughts A2. A New Reality A3. Tooth and Nail A4. Start of the Season A5. Blind Leading the Blind B1. Devil’s Kiss B2. Rubber Band B3. Child’s Reasoning B4. Manipulation B5. Try Till Dead
Josh McGee – Vocals, Guitar Mike Horn – Drums David Weaver – Bass
Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Blues Pills, Lady in Gold
Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.
Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.
Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.
One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.
Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.
Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.
The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.
Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.
Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.
Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, certain among those running for president in the US may not have heard of Aleppo, but Athens-based heavy prog rockers Chickn definitely have. The three-piece will issue their self-titled debut next week on Inner Ear Records, and as a precursor, they’ve got the seven-minute “Aleppo/Jam” streaming now, showcasing a lush sense of arrangement and clearly being fleshed out over the period of months last year during which it was recorded. Though plenty rich, given the list below of instruments contributed directly by the trio and the myriad guests with which they apparently worked, I somehow doubt that “Aleppo/Jam” tells the whole story of Chickn‘s Chickn, but if you’re just getting your feet wet with the band — as I am — it’s an intriguing place to start.
From the PR wire:
Athens psych-trio Chickn shares the first track from their upcoming debut album
Chickn’s self-titled debut album is finally out! This is a radio zapping on a 68-minute car drive. This is a field unfolding in front of your very eyes and at the same time a call of wandering. This is an attempt of some people to invent themselves through playing. This is Jetztzeit rock. A sound conceived as jump in the free sky of history.
The album was composed by the Athens-based trio in Athens and Valencia from fragments of many years during the period 2014-2015. It was recorded from July to October 2015 in Sonic Playground Studio and in Iraklis Vlachakis’ home in Athens. The album was produced by Chickn and Nikos Triantafyllou and it was mastered by Alan Douches in West West Side Studios in New York.
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze
A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.
Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.
There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist ElenaGarcía, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.
Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You
Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I
Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.
Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.
I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.
Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.
Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.
Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sumac, What One Becomes
With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.
Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.
Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.
Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.
One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.
Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.
It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.
Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.
Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.
It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.
[Click play above to stream Fuzz Evil’s self-titled debut in its entirety. Album is out today, Sept. 30, on Battleground Records.]
If Arizona trio Fuzz Evil‘s debut album feels like it’s been a long time coming, it hasn’t. The band based in Sierra Vista — near Mexico, but I don’t know if it qualifies as a “border town” — only formed in 2014, and it’s much to the credit of the impression they’ve made thus far that their first full-length hits with such a measure of anticipation.
Released on Battleground Records, Fuzz Evil‘s Fuzz Evil follows behind two prior short outings: a late-2014 split with Chiefs (review here) that marked their first release, and a single, “Born of Iron” (streamed here), that hit in the middle of last year. Both of those showed considerable promise on the part of the band in pushing forth unpretentious desert-minded heavy rock, straightforward in construction and based around an easy flowing songwriting process putting the brotherly pair of guitarist/vocalist Wayne Rudell and bassist Joey Rudell — also both of Powered Wig Machine and organizers of the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta — at the fore in tone and presentation.
Fuzz Evil, the album, marks the farewell of drummer Marlin Tuttle, who has since been replaced by Daniel Graves (also Powered Wig Machine), and the band’s original lineup goes out much the way it came in: on a foundation of quality songs incorporating influences without being overly indebted to them.
I don’t think they’re the kind of band looking to set the world on fire, but the spirit behind the material across the manageable six-track/29-minute span here is genuine, and for as little as Fuzz Evil ask in indulgences of the listener — maybe a couple jammy minutes at the end of closer “Black Dread”; still not much in the grander scheme of existence — what they deliver far outweighs. Six-string wizard Arthur Seay of House of Broken Promises and Unida puts in a guest spot on lead guitar for opener “Good Medicine,” but even his blazing fret work becomes another part of the total impression the band makes, as does the later organ work of Brian Gold, who also recorded, mixed and mastered the collection at Primrose Studio.
One might say the same of the production itself, since from the sound of the crash-in cymbals of “Good Medicine,” Fuzz Evil have a rawness of sound that persists even as they expand outward from the album’s first four tracks into the longer and jammier final two. By the time “Good Medicine” has seen fit to give way to the subsequent “My Fuzz” — some charming self-awareness paired with a strutting riff — it’s even harder to ignore in light of the band’s name how much Rudell‘s guitar tone actually has in common with old Celtic Frost or even circa-1984 Saint Vitus in its bite, playing to both the “fuzz” and the “evil.”
Whether that’s on purpose or not, I wouldn’t speculate, but as “My Fuzz” proffers one of the record’s best hooks, it adds depth to the proceedings overall, and speaks at very least to the band’s ability to evoke a varied response. I could be way off any actual influences, in other words, but “Killing the Sun,” which is more post-Queens of the Stone Age in its construction, has some of that underlying darkness too, bolstered by the fact that the vocals are pushed down in the mix under the guitar and bass.
Remembering this is Fuzz Evil‘s first album, and that it’s short, the momentum the Rudells and Tuttle build across the first four tracks is all the more impressive for its flow from one to the next, “My Fuzz” collapsing into the start of “Killing the Sun,” or “Bring Them Through” picking up on the beat from there with a more forward melody in its hook and a mid-paced tempo that does well in setting up the expansion that begins with “Odin Has Fallen” and continues into closer “Black Dread,” the latter also the longest song on Fuzz Evil at just over seven minutes.
Not that Fuzz Evil are going completely off the rails or anything — they keep a consistent sense of craftsmanship — but they space out some wah on “Odin Has Fallen” and in the second half of the track, Wayne drawls out his vocals in a way that reminds of Electric Wizard‘s Jus Oborn, albeit in a much different context. That track finishes with a crash and organ at the beginning of “Black Dread” immediately provides a signal that the palette has expanded.
The aforementioned prior single “Born of Iron” demonstrated a jammier side of Fuzz Evil‘s style, and with its fluid lead work, effects flourish, keys, and languid rhythmic motion, “Black Dread” seems to be building on similar impulses. By its midsection, it’s conjuring howling psychedelia and is locked into the instrumental jam that will carry through its remaining three minutes, each member of the trio playing their part in a final exhibition of the chemistry they’ve established to this point.
Like most of the record before it, “Black Dread” is smooth and will be accessible for the already converted, but the manner in which it adds to the earlier and more straight-ahead material isn’t to be understated. Especially for a debut, it’s a pivotal turn, and one well made. With a few surprises in its overall sound, roughness, songwriting and front-to-back push, Fuzz Evil‘s first expands on the work they have done in setting it up through their singles and sets in motion a creative progression that could continue in any number of directions. It’s reassuring to hear a relatively new band with such a clear idea of who and what they want to be.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Preorders are up now for the self-titled debut from Melbourne sludge rockers The Ruiner, which comes out Sept. 26 on Desert Highways. The band have a couple tracks streaming on their Bandcamp from prior digital singles, and as it seems like both those cuts will be featured on the album as well with their aggressive take underscoring the band’s more extreme origins and early-Crowbar-style push, I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded or from the original sessions in 2013, but either way, there’s a whole bunch of others that have never with them because, you know, that’s how it works with albums and whatnot.
The PR wire had this to say about it:
THE RUINER Self-Titled Debut Album OUT MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26
Established in 2013, The Ruiner were originally brought together to play a one-off show as a tribute to legendary death / grind / stoner band Christbait (1989-1996). They appeared under the moniker Dirtypunkmutha, the name of Christbait’s 1996 release. Somehow, amid much arm-twisting and promises of fame and fortune, two of Christbait’s original members decided to get the project off the ground as a proper band.
Featuring Craig Westwood (guitar – Christbait, Dern Rutlidge, Budd), Jason Vassallo (vocals – Christbait, Dread), Jason PC (bass – Blood Duster, Dern Rutlidge, Birdcage) and brothers Adam Stokes (guitar – Legends Of Motorsport, Pillow) and Ben Stokes (drums – Pillow, Tailbone, Piggy). The Ruiner blends heavy and dark doom riffs with hard stoner grooves; they’re a cross between Isis, Goatsnake and the band you always wanted to join, super heavy while not being afraid of a song.
The Ruiner’s intensity and strength live didn’t take long for them to impress. Having all played together in their numerous projects, The Ruiner boys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and fit together well. They’ve released two digital singles to date with their debut album set for release Monday 26 Sept 2016 through Desert Highways, with tracks being recorded between Goatsound by Jason PC (Witchskull, Watchtower, Broozer, I Exist) and Toyland by Adam Calaitzis (Blood Duster, Damaged, Dern Rutlidge), with mixing duties between Jason PC and Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sick Of It All, High On Fire, Cathedral, Sleep).
The Ruiner: Jason V- Vocals Craig Westwood- Guitar Jason PC- Bass Adam Stokes- Guitar Ben Stokes- Drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This record rules. It really does. I had some decent-sized expectations of New York heavy blues rockers Geezer after their 2015 split with Borracho (review here), but they’ve absolutely blown those out of the water with their self-titled album, due out Nov. 18 through Ripple Music in conjunction with STB Records. That those two imprints — one on the West Coast, the other on the East — would be once again teaming up to get behind the band should tell you something in itself, but I think the songs on Geezer‘s Geezer are not only going to thrill those who’ve already caught onto the band for what they bring to their sound, but probably grab some new ears as well.
So that’s the mini-preview, I guess. Record’s good. Much more to come as we get closer to the release date. For now, the PR wire brings the track “Sunday Speed Demon” for your streaming pleasure and the following art and info:
GEEZER bring heavy cosmic rock on new Ripple Music album | Stream and share new song ‘Sunday Speed Demon’
Geezer will release their self-titled album on 18th November via Ripple Music and STB Records
Hailed as one of the standout EPs of 2014, Gage confirmed that whether spinning on your turntable or playing live, Geezer could electrify listeners with an appreciation of the American outsider like no one else.
Picking up where Gage left off and building on their contribution to the critically-praised Second Coming Of Heavy series on Ripple Music, the Kingston, New York-based trio return this November for another round of sonic meltdown.
For the uninitiated, Geezer is the sound of tres hombres – beer drinkers and hell raisers – spinning Charley Patton, Son House and Corrosion Of Conformity records, doused head to toe in peyote and whisky. From the swirling and psychedelic ‘Sun Gods’, the Iggy-esque ‘One Leg Up’ and hot asphalt shuffle of bluesy opener ‘Sunday Speed Demon’, guitarist Pat Harrington marks himself out as an authentic twenty first century boogie man. A player capable of leaving the likes of Jack White and Dan Auerbach with the meanest of night terrors, especially when backed by the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Chris Turco and bassist Richie Touseull.
Peddling a riotous trip into the hard-edged and heavy acid blues sounds of ’70s groups like Josefus and Blue Cheer, Geezer will receive an official worldwide release on 18th November via Ripple Music (CD/digital) and STB Records (vinyl). In the meantime however follow this link to stream and share their brand new song ‘Sunday Speed Demon.’
Track Listing: 1. Sunday Speed Demon 2. One Leg Up 3. Sun Gods 4. Bi-Polar Vortex 5. Dust 6. Hangnail Crisis 7. Superjam Maximus 8. Stoney Pony
Geezer: Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals Richie Touseull – Bass Chris Turco – Drums