Quarterly Review: 40 Watt Sun, Worm Ouroboros, The Heads, Jason Simon, Danava, Pylar, Domkraft, Picaporters, Deamon’s Child, Fungal Abyss

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

We press on with the Quarterly Review and writeups #41-50 of the total 60 to be featured. Some considerable names in this batch, as I suppose there have been all along, but one of the functions this feature has come to serve is to allow me a space to offer some comment on bigger records that, let’s be frank, are being covered everywhere in the universe, while fleshing out coverage elsewhere of things like bands’ debuts and some other less-ubiquitous offerings. That’s become the idea anyway. Doesn’t always go like that, but it’s kind of a relief to have somewhere I can put the extra 200 reviews per year rather than miss out. We’ll wrap this one up on Monday, but just because it’s the end of the week and because it’s my general sentiment, thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

40 Watt Sun, Wider than the Sky

40 watt sun wider than the sky

With their second album, the awaited Wider than the Sky, London’s 40 Watt Sun continue to be defined by their depressive expressionism. The six-track/62-minute follow-up to 2011’s The Inside Room (review here) finds guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker (ex-Warning), bassist William Spong and drummer Christian Leitch opening with the longest inclusion (immediate points) in the gorgeously mournful 16-minute unfolding of “Stages.” Sonically lush but still somehow raw and minimal in its emotionality, a slow drear sets the tone for what will follow in “Beyond You” and “Another Room,” “Pictures and “Craven Road,” which alternate on either side of the 10-minute mark until closer “Marazion” (3:57) seems to resonate a less-hopeless spirit. More than The Inside Room, Wider than the Sky realizes itself in emotional rather than tonal weight, and while one often identifies these feelings with things cold and grey, it would require a willful blindness not to recognize the humanity and warmth coming through in Walker’s delivery of this material. Wide it may be, but not at all distant.

40 Watt Sun on Thee Facebooks

40 Watt Sun website

 

Worm Ouroboros, What Graceless Dawn

worm ouroboros what graceless dawn

The duality of Worm Ouroboros’ third album for Profound Lore, What Graceless Dawn, is almost as prevalent as the irony that its title should include the word “graceless” when the 63-minute six-tracker itself is so melodically poised. It’s dark, but hopeful, spacious and compact, challenging but simply and often minimally arranged, patient and emotionally intense, and heavy even as it seems to float from one extended piece to the next on a current of intertwining, nigh-operatic vocals from bassist Lorraine Rath (ex-Amber Asylum) and guitarist Jessica Way (World Eater) while Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, Vhöl) seems just as comfortable in the quiet midsection stretch of 13-minute centerpiece “Ribbon of Shadow” as in the rumbling payoff of “Suffering Tree” just before. Running from opener “Day” to closer “Night,” What Graceless Dawn is nothing if not coherent, and while the band’s core approach has been largely consistent across their 2010 self-titled debut (review here) and 2012’s Come the Thaw, the Bay Area trio maintain a clear commitment to forward-moving artistry that stirs the consciousness.

Worm Ouroboros on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

The Heads, Burning up With: Live at Roadburn 2015

the heads burning up with

I was fortunate enough to be there when UK heavy psych legends The Heads played the Main Stage set at Roadburn 2015 captured on the Burning World Records release Burning up With…, and indeed the preservation of the band’s utter liquefaction of that large room is well worth preserving across the four sides of a double-LP. The only drawback to a vinyl version of their set is that while the individual songs are presented as side-consuming medleys – “Cardinal Fuzz/KRT,” “Gnu/Legevaan Sattelite/U33,” and so on – that still requires some measure of break to flip from one to the next, whereas in the all-at-once linearity of a CD or digital listen, one finds the overwhelming lysergic proceedings intact as they were from the stage, gloriously molten and entrancingly jammed out by the longtime masters of the form. I won’t even attempt to give its spaciousness a proper assessment since just about anything The Heads do is a gift defying impartiality, especially something like this, but yeah, get on it.

The Heads on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

 

Jason Simon, Familiar Haunts

jason simon familiar haunts

Back in 2010, Dead Meadow frontman Jason Simon released an eponymous solo debut on Tee Pee that found him working in a folkish sphere, and his six-years-later follow-up, Familiar Haunts (on Tekeli-Li, Cardinal Fuzz, Burger Records and Blind Blind Tiger), has some of those elements as well on the twanging, finger-plucking “Pretty Polly” and subdued strum of “Seven Sisters of Sleep,” but Simon has also assembled a four-piece band here, and from the pickup of opener “The People Dance, the People Sing,” through the fuzz experimentalism of “Now I’m Telling You” and the airy linear build of the penultimate 11-minute highlight “Wheels Will Spin,” there’s no lack of fullness in the sound. One finds a particularly engaging blend on “Hills of Mexico,” a six-minute rambler that fluidly brings together neofolk and desert ambience, though as Simon and company play sounds off each other in this material, “engaging blend” would seem to be the underlying theme of Familiar Haunts as a whole.

Jason Simon on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz Records

 

Danava, At Midnight You Die

danava at midnight you die

Over a decade removed from their 2006 self-titled debut and five years past their third album, 2011’s Hemisphere of Shadows, one might easily argue that Portland, Oregon’s Danava are due for a full-length release. Sure, the band led by guitarist/vocalist Gregory Meleny have toured plenty in that time in the US and abroad, put out splits and so on, and that has consistently and organically grown their fanbase. Sating that fanbase would seem to be the motivation behind the two-song 7” At Midnight You Die (on Tee Pee), on which the titular A-side finds the four-piece making the most of their dual guitars – Meleny and Pete Hughes (Sons of Huns) shredding in proto-NWOBHM fashion – while the B-side takes on the bizarre and foreboding folk ambience of “My Spirit Runs Free,” short at three minutes, acoustic and sourced from 1979’s The Capture of Bigfoot. So yeah, it’s like that. No new record, but a ripper and some delightful weirdness on hand, and I suspect at this point many of their followers will take what they can get.

Danava on Thee Facebooks

Danava at Tee Pee Records

 

Pylar, Pyedra

pylar pyedra

Some bands are just on their own wavelength, and as much as one might be tempted to relate Sevilla’s Pylar to SunnO))) with their robes and their drones, the Spanish troupe’s four-track full-length, Pyedra (on Alone Records), sees them emitting a slew of horrors all their own. Working as a five-piece, Pylar open with “Menga” (10:57), their longest cut (immediate points) and establish a basis of amelodic, largely arrhythmic noise-jazz. There are more straightforward currents in the subsequent rumble and roll of “Megalitos” (10:33), and “Menhir” (9:37) would seem to draw both sides together before “Meteoros” (9:07) rounds out with an airy, horn-topped alternate-universe victory, but the whole of Pyedra remains informed by the way-off-kilter challenge it poses at the outset, and part of the thrill is making your way through with no idea of what’s coming next other than another extended song beginning with the letter ‘m.’ Will be too much for some, but Pylar’s bleak experimentalism assures cultish appeal worthy of those robes the band wears.

Pylar on Bandcamp

Pylar at Alone Records

 

Domkraft, The End of Electricity

domkraft the end of electricity

Proliferating a combination of speaker-punishing low-end riffs and post-rock-derived spaciousness, Swedish trio Domkraft debut on Magnetic Eye Records with the wholesale immersion of The End of Electricity and evoke heft no less substantial than their stated theme. They begin with their two longest tracks (which I guess is double points?) in “The Rift” and “Meltdown of the Orb,” and by the time they’re through them, bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland, guitarist Martin Widholm and drummer Anders Dahlgren have already doled out a full LP’s worth of nod, which would seem to make what follows after the momentary breather of “Drones” in “Red Lead,” “All Come Hither” the shorter “Dustrider” and closer “We Will Follow” a bonus round – in which Domkraft also dominate. Because its heavy is so heavy and because Wegeland’s vocals arrive across the board as far-back, shouted echoes, it’s easy to lose sight of the ambience that goes with all that roll, but what ultimately gives The End of Electricity such character is that it creates as much of a world as it destroys.

Domkraft on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, El Horror Oculto

picaporters el horror oculto

Back in 2013, Buenos Aires outfit Picaporters made an encouraging debut with Elefantes (review here). They’ve teased the follow-up, El Horror Oculto (on South American Sludge), over the last year-plus with several digital singles, but the album’s arrival hits with a distinct fleshing out of atmosphere, as heard on the grueling second cut “Diferentes Formas de Ostras” or the manner in which the centerpiece title-track departs from its raucous opening into a heavy-psychedelic meander, never to return, feeding off of the structure of “Humo Ancestral” directly before. An interlude “Etude 6” leads into the opening drift of “Ra,” but it’s a ruse as Picaporters offer some of the album’s most driving heavy rock in that cut’s second half, and close out with Sabbath-darkness-via-Zeppelin-noodling on “War is Over,” the trio coming together in a molten psychedelic doom that seems to draw from the various sides they’ve shown throughout without losing sight of pushing further in its summary.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Deamon’s Child, Scherben Müssen Sein

deamon's child scherben mussen sein

It would be a mistake to judge Deamon’s Child’s second full-length, Scherben Müssen Sein (on Zygmatron), by any single one of its tracks, as the German trio makes plain in the dramatic shift from the crushing sludge of “Zucker” into the raw punk thrust of the subsequent “Keine Zeit.” Elsewhere, they find funky footing before punking out once again in “Schweinehund, Kimm Tanz Mit Mir!” and rumble the outing to a finish consuming in its largesse on the 10-minute “Nichts,” so yes, as they follow-up their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), Deamon’s Child hold fast to the sense of the unhinged proffered therein while uniting their material through an intensity that comes across regardless of tempo or surrounding purpose. They are on the beat, not behind it, pushing forward always. That can make Scherben Müssen Sein difficult to keep track of as it moves swiftly through the blast of “Monster” and the manipulated samples of “In Kinderschuhen” toward that finale, but the mission here is far, far away from easy listening, so all the better.

Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks

Deamon’s Child on Bandcamp

 

Fungal Abyss, Bardo Abgrund Temple

fungal abyss bardo abgrund temple

Adansonia Records offers a bonus-track-laden revisit of the 2011 debut release, Bardo Abgrund Temple, from Seattle shroom-jammers Fungal Abyss, whose improvisational sensibility comes through the original four extended cuts with no diminishing of their otherworldly trip-out for the half-decade that’s passed since they first surfaced. Those looking for a US counterpart to European psych-improv outfits like Electric Moon or Øresund Space Collective – i.e., me – would do well to dig into opener “Arc of the Covenant” (20:12) or closer “Fungal DeBrist” (24:07) as a lead-in for the earlier-2016 follow-up, Karma Suture (review here), as well as their companion live outings, but whatever contextual approach a listener might want to take, the instrumental stretch of Bardo Abgrund Temple is a serenely heavy and meandering path to walk, given to bouts of space-rock thrust and long passages of low-end droner nod, as heard on the 10-minute “Timewave Zero,” turned on and duly ritualized in its swirl and far-off vocalizations. A reissue well-earned of a gracefully cosmic debut.

Fungal Abyss on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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Orthodox: New Album Axis Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 26th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

orthodox

Change has been one of very few constants in the career thus far of Spanish experimental doomers Orthodox. After releasing a 7″ this summer for the track “Crown for a Mole” that also marked their debut as a two-piece while coinciding with a handful of tour dates alongside High on Fire, the Sevilla outfit have made their new long-player available to preorder through Alone Records. It will be their first full-length release since Baal (review here) came out in 2011, the band having offered up a few demos and a B-sides collection in addition to the single in the interim.

When it comes to Orthodox, one never really knows what to expect, so I won’t speculate as to whether or not “Crown for a Mole” speaks to the entirety of Axis, which will be the title of their fifth record, but the album is available to preorder now, so we’ll all find out sooner or later anyway. Info came down the PR wire thusly:

orthodox axis

ORTHODOX. New album ‘Axis’ – PRE-ORDER now!

Recently reformed as duo, with Marco Serrato (bass, vocals) and Borja Díaz (Drums), ORTHODOX are coming back with a new studio album.

The duo emerges now performing with different guests musicians on studio sessions, developing a new form of contemporary heavy metal meets extreme jazz meets doom, like no one. New tracks show more ‘straight forward’ concept on composing process. But this is just NOW, as ORTHODOX never compromises with certain sound or ‘song concept’ for so long.

So ‘Axis’ came from such different studio sessions, with a more straight and focus punch of avant-garde approach mixed through heavy metal as only Orthodox are re-doing in every new album.

‘Crown for a Mole’ is the first single, taken from the new album.

BIO:
Orthodox is a duo from Seville, Spain playing experimental doom metal inspired by religious folklore and even jazz. A music based on hypnotic repetitions of quasi-mystical
intensity and slow, torpid rhythms befitting people from a city of crushing summer heat. Musical influences from Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd or Melvins mixed with their peculiar perception of Southern Spain folklore.

https://www.facebook.com/orthodoxband/
http://orthodoxband.bandcamp.com/
www.thestonecirclestore.com

Orthodox, “Crown for a Mole”

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Orthodox to Release New 7″ in June; Tour Dates with High on Fire

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

orthodox

Always fascinating, always experimental doomers Orthodox are now a duo and will release a new single, Crown for a Mole, in June via Alone Records as a herald for their upcoming full-length, Axis, which is due out later this year. Also in June, Orthodox will take the stage alongside High on Fire for three shows on the latter’s upcoming European run, which, if you’re going to put out a new 7″ is probably a good way to make sure copies of the thing go.

The PR wire tells the tale and has the preorder link for the single, of which you can also hear the titular cut below:

orthodox crown for a mole

ORTHODOX. New album & New 7″ available on pre-order.

Recently reformed as duo, with Marco Serrato (bass, vocals) and Borja Díaz (Drums), ORTHODOX are coming back.

The duo now emerges performing with different guests musicians on studio sessions, developing a new form of contemporary heavy metal meets extreme jazz meets doom, like no one. New tracks show more ‘straight forward’ concept on composing process. But this is just NOW, as ORTHODOX never compromises with certain sound or ‘song concept’ for so long.
‘Crown for a Mole’ is the first single, taken from the new album called ‘Axis’. Band is currently busy on recording sessions. A tentative release date for ‘Axis’ is planned for late September this year.

There´s a pre-order already available for the ‘Crown for a Mole’ 2-track 7″ (one time pressing of 300 units, 200 black and 100 colour vinyl), including bundle offers for an excellent price of 14,99 eur. Very limited bundle offer up to 50 pieces. Check out our mail order store for more info and direct purchase. This single will be officially released on June 29th, and available on the upcoming spanish tour with High on Fire. Visit Alone Records site for further info.

Alone Records is now celebrating 15 years of stoner, rock, doom… and whatever you want to call it which give us full pleasure now and then. Join us!

Orthodox Tour Dates:
25/6 – Málaga
26/6 – Alicante
27/6 – Jaén (TBC)
28/6 – Bilbao w/ High on Fire
29/6 – Madrid w/ High on Fire
30/6 – BCN w/ High on Fire

https://www.facebook.com/orthodoxband
http://orthodoxband.bandcamp.com/
http://www.the-stone-circle.com/

Orthodox, “Crown for a Mole”

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Orthodox, Baal: The March Continues

Posted in Reviews on June 2nd, 2011 by JJ Koczan

With three massively varied full-lengths already under their collective belt, be-robed Andalusian doom trio Orthodox return with the follow-up to 2009’s Sentencia in the form of Baal. Baal, released like its predecessor through Spanish imprint Alone Records, is comprised of five tracks that follow the band’s charted course of morose exploration, but find them bringing some crunch into their dirges. Where Sentencia had a medieval, blackly-plagued vibe to it, Baal is more directly doomed, though you might not know it from the near-six-minute instrumental opener, “Alto Padre,” which sets a tone of the kind of free jazz ethic Orthodox has been incorporating into their sound since their 2006 debut, Gran Poder. What remains most consistent about Orthodox on Baal is the band’s ability to affect a mood and their truly open creative sensibility. As much as they’re within the doom genre, they’re almost never limited by it, and from bassist Marco Serrato Gallardo’s victorious vocal warble on “Taurus” to the recklessly rhythmic drive of “Hanin Ba’al,” it seems Orthodox could go anywhere at any moment and be able to pull something coherent out of it.

That’s no easy feat when you’re working with this kind of sonic breadth. With just three members in the band – Gallardo is joined as ever by guitarist Ricardo Jimenez Gómez and drummer Borja Diaz VeraOrthodox manage to completely set an atmosphere both expansive and encompassing, despite a traditionally doomed, spacious feel in the songs. Gómez’s layers of guitar on “Alto Padre” strum and ring freely while Vera rolls on his toms behind, leaving Gallardo to thicken and fill out the song on bass. It’s hard to tell from there where Orthodox might be going with Baal – at least hard to tell correctly – and it’s as though they’re leading from Sentencia directly into this newer material, leaving it up to the first track here to provide the transition from one to the next. If we take “Taurus,” then as the beginning of Baal proper, it’s a lumbering and thoroughly doom face that Orthodox are presenting on their latest work. Gallardo would seem to lead the charge with open bass notes ringing through the breaks and vocals that march as much as they do anything else, but Gómez soon injects one of Baal’s several killer solos and makes his presence known that way. Over time, the members of Orthodox have clearly gotten more comfortable with each other as players, and their interaction is the key to making Baal a success. They never sacrifice artistry or dumb down their playing style to highlight a riff, but neither do they fail to pay homage to the heaviness that was doubtless the impetus behind forming the band in the first place.

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Monkeypriest, The Psalm: Nature Worship for the Damned

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

There’s no telling where the sludge is going to come from next. Andalusian three-piece Monkeypriest got together in 2006 and are now releasing their debut full-length, The Psalm, on heavy Spanish imprint Féretro Records. The album is seven songs, four of which are 6:45-7:00 minutes long, and though that might make it seem like Monkeypriest are working well within a formula, the other tracks – an instrumental opener called “Hanuman’s Dance,” a cover of Cerebral Fix’s “Feast of the Fools” and 10-minute closer “Our Kingdom (Involution Pt. II)” – are enough to break up the proceedings, and combined with the elements of metallic extremity the trio incorporate, The Psalm comes across more varied than one might think. It’s probably not going to blow any minds when it comes to sludge – shades of Eyehategod and Crowbar underscore much of the riffing from guitarist Marco Álvarez – but they have enough different about them to keep the tracks interesting.

Part of that includes a militant kind of nature-based spiritualism and activist sense. Lyrics like “Listen to the sound of nature/I have to follow your work/My protector, my Lord/I need your powerful words” from the title-track sound more like they should be coming from some swoopy-haired Christian deathcore, but Monkeypriest elevate environmentalism to a religious level and use it as the central theme of The Psalm. One might have a hard time figuring that out through the growls and screams of bassist Pedro Román, backed periodically by Álvarez, but the words are right in the liner notes for anyone who wants to explore the album on that level. Even through song titles like “The Word of the Priest” and “Involution,” though, it should be clear from the outset that Monkeypriest have a message they’re trying to deliver. For lack of a better word, call it preaching. It’s also worth noting that each member of the trio uses a numerical stage name. Álvarez is Monkeypriest #1, Román is Monkeypriest #2, and drummer Julio Moreno (who replaced Rafael García sometime before the album was recorded) is Monkeypriest #4. I thought for the purposes of this review that real names would make it easier to distinguish who was doing what.

“The Word of the Priest,” which follows “Hanuman’s Dance,” is more or less a mission statement for The Psalm lyrically and musically. The pacing is on the slower end of middle, and that seems to be where Monkeypriest are most comfortable. Moreno begins the track with heavy thuds and keeps that ethic moving well into “The Psalm,” which follows, enacting builds and subtle tempo changes skillfully. It being sludge, the riffs are central, but the dry-throated rasp of the vocals to “The Psalm” will also make it a standout to those who appreciate screams over their doom. The groove the band follows the riff into proves worthy of naming the album after, but the real surprise follows a Román-led bass break, when the band launch into black metal-style blastbeats and a guitar line that could have come off any of the last several Satyricon records. It’s a unique moment on The Psalm, but hardly Monkeypriest’s only foray into the more extreme end of metal. There’s still that Cerebral Fix cover to come. They do well blending those elements into their sound, though, and it gives The Psalm a sense of being more than just another screamy sludge outing.

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