Quarterly Review: BongCauldron, Black Helium, Earthbong, Sir Collapse, Alms, Haaze, The Sledge, Red Lama, Full Tone Generator, Mountain Dust

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Not to get off topic here, but it’s December, and god damn, I hate the fucking holidays. Christmas, even if you believe in the religious significance of the day, is pure garbage. I like giving presents well enough, don’t particularly enjoy receiving them, but even if you put aside the whole “oh it’s so commercial ‘now'” thing, like there was a time anyone now living ever saw when it wasn’t, it isn’t fun. The meal sucks. It’s dark. It’s cold. The songs are fucking endless and terrible — yes, all of them — and the whole experience is just a bummer the whole way through. If there was actually a war on it, I wish they’d drop the bomb and incinerate the entire thing.

Take Thanksgiving, make it start in November and end in December. A month-long festival for the season. You can even give gifts at the end, if you want. It could be like Ramadan, or, probably more likely and much on the opposite end of the spectrum, Oktoberfest.

There. Problem solved. Have a great day, everyone. Let’s do some reviews.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

BongCauldron, Tyke

BongCauldron Tyke

Biscuit, Corky and Jay of BongCauldron return less than 12 months out from their Binge LP (review here) with Tyke (on APF), three more cuts of weed-eating, dirt-worshiping, weed-worshiping, dirt-eating sludge, fueled as ever by fuckall and booze and banger riffs — and yes, I mean “banger” as in “bangers and mash.” There’s a lead that shows up in closer “Jezus Throat Horns” and some vocal melody that follows behind the throaty barks, but for the bulk of the three-tracker, it’s down to the business of conveying dense-toned disaffection and rolling nod. “Pisshead on the Moon” opens with a sample about alcohol killing you and works from its lumber into a bit of a shuffle for its midsection before hitting a wall in the last minute or so in order to make room for the punker blast of “Back up Bog Roll,” which tears ass and is gone as soon as it’s there, dropping some gang vocals on the way, because really, when you think about it, screw everything. Right? “Jezus Throat Horns” might be offering a bit of creative progression in closing out, but the heart of BongCauldron remains stained of finger and stank of breath — just the way it should be.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore

 

Black Helium, Primitive Fuck

black helium primitive fuck

Oh yes. Most definitely. From the Sabbath swing behind the chugging “Love the Drugs” and the march of “Wicked Witch” through the what-would-happen-if-Danzig-was-interesting “Summer Spells” and fuzzed-out post-punk shouts of “Videodrone” en route to the nine-minute “Curtains at the Mausoleum,” London four-piece Black Helium make heavy psychedelic songcraft into something as malleable as it should be on their Riot Season debut, Primitive Fuck, holding to underlying structures when it suits them and touching on drone bliss without ever really completely letting go. Opener “Drowsy Shores” is hypnotic. The aforementioned “Curtains at the Mausoleum” is hypnotic. Even the chug-meets-effects-blowout closing title-track is hypnotic, but on the handclap-laced “Do You Wanna Come Out Tonight?” or “Videodrone,” or even “Summer Spells,” there are hooks for the listener to latch onto, life-rafts floating in the swirling tonal abyss. The truth? There isn’t a primitive thing about it. They’re not so much lizard-brained as astral-planed, and if you want a summation of their sound, look no further than their name. It’ll make even more sense when you listen. Which you should do.

Black Helium on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

Earthbong, Demo 2018

earthbong demo 2018

The immediate association in terms of riff is going to be Sleep. “Drop Dead,” the 10-minute first of two songs on Earthbong‘s debut Demo 2018, rolls out with pure Dopesmoker-ism and follows the model of gradual unfolding of its weedian sludge riffery. No complaints. The Kiel, Germany, trio are obviously just getting their start, and since it’s a demo and not the “debut EP” that so many otherwise demos try to position themselves as, I’ll take it. And to boot, “Drop Dead” ultimately departs its Sleepy environs for altogether more abrasive fare, with Bongzilla-style screams and an increasingly aggressive shove, the drums crashing like the cymbals did something wrong, and feedback capping into the start of “Wanderer,” which is shorter at seven minutes and opens its assault earlier, the vocals no less distorted than the guitar or bass. There’s some space in a solo in the second half, but Earthbong again twist into harsh, crusty doom before letting feedback carry them out to the demo’s finish. Growing to do, but already their violence seethes.

Earthbong on Thee Facebooks

Earthbong on Bandcamp

 

Sir Collapse, Walk to the Moon

sir collapse walk to the moon

Grunge, noise rock and Queens of the Stone Age-style melody-making collide on Walk to the Moon, the debut full-length from German four-piece Sir Collapse, sometimes on disparate cuts, like the noisy intro given to the album by “Lower Principles,” and sometimes within the same song, as in the later “Like Me.” A jangly swing in “Mono Mantra” and the Nirvana-esque hook there soon gives way to the desert-hued thrust of “One Man Show” and the early ’90s fuzz of “Happy Planet Celebration,” while “The Great Escape” leads the way into some measure of evening out the approach in “Like Me,” “Too Late,” “Hey Ben” and “The Family,” unless that’s just the band acclimating the listener to their style. Fair enough either way. Sir Collapse round out with a return to the uptempo push shown earlier, giving their first LP an impressive sense of symmetry and whole-work presentation as layers of vocals intertwine with melody alternately lush and raw, sounding very much like a band who know the parameters in which they want to work going forward. So be it.

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Sir Collapse on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Act One

alms act one

Organ-soaked Baltimorean garage doomers Alms enter the conversation of 2018’s best debut albums with Act One on Shadow Kingdom, a collection rife with choice riffing, dynamic vocals and a nuanced blend of heft and drama. That a song like “The Toll” could be both as traditional sounding as it is and still modern enough to be called forward-thinking is nothing short of a triumph, and in the stomping “The Offering,” Alms cast forth a signature chorus that stands out from the tracks surrounding without departing the atmosphere so prevalent in their work. “Dead Water” at the outset and “For Shame” build a momentum through side A that the five-piece of keyboardist/vocalist Jess Kamen guitarists Bob Sweeney (also vocals) and Derrick Hans, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans expand in the second half of the record, winding up in the early gruel of “Hollowed” only to resolve the album with speedier swing and as sure a hand as they’ve guided it all along. At six songs and 33 minutes, Act One unmistakably leaves the audience wanting more, and indeed, the plot may just be starting to unfold.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records on Bandcamp

 

Haaze, Swamp Mama

Haaze Swamp Mama

It is a sharp, biting 27-minute run, but Swamp Mama isn’t just thrown together haphazardly. Alberta-based sludge metallers Haaze build a song like “35 Indians” to a head over the course of a deceptively efficient 4:44, following opening track “Beast of the Bog” with a developed sense of craft underlying the outward negativity of their sound. I’ll give the band bonus points for finishing side A with a song called “Stereotypically Doomed,” but more for the crash cymbal that seems to devour the mix. There’s a trashy undercurrent to the subsequent title-track, and as it finishes its pummel, it relinquishes ground to the acoustic interlude, “The Mechanic,” which I’m just going to assume is named for the Charles Bronson movie. That of course sets up the most extreme cut included in closer “AL,” which layers fierce growls and screams atop a rhythm clearly designed for maximum assault factor. A little more metal than sludge, it nonetheless remains tonally consistent with what comes before it, giving Swamp Mama a vicious ending and a feel that’s all the more lethal for it.

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Haaze on Bandcamp

 

The Sledge, On the Verge of Nothing

the sledge on the verge of nothing

Copenhagen four-piece The Sledge boasts the three former members of heavy rockers Hjortene in guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Palle, drummer/vocalist Kim and bassist Claus, so while they’ve revamped their identity and gone on to add vocalist Magnus Risby — who appears here on “179 Liars” and “Yet Untitled” — perhaps its somewhat disingenuous to consider their first album under the new moniker, On the Verge of Nothing, a debut. Issued through Kozmik Artifactz, the record collects eight tracks produced by Anders Hansen (who also worked with Hjortene) and mixed by Matt Bayles, and in listening to the cuts with Risby in the lead spot, the vibe taps into a thicker take on late-era Dozer with no less righteous melodicism. That, however, is just a fraction of the total story of On the Verge of Nothing, which taps earlier desert idolatry on “Death Drome Doline” and brings in none other than Lorenzo Woodrose himself for guest spots elsewhere. People in and out of the lineup through different tracks should make the LP disjointed, but as ever, it’s the songwriting that holds it together, and one can’t discount the core band’s experience playing together as a part of that either. Debut or not, it’s an impressive offering.

The Sledge on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Red Lama, Dogma

red lama dogma

One tends to think of serenity and peaceful drift when it comes to Danish heavy psych rockers Red Lama, but as the seven-piece band quickly turn around follow-up to their 2018 sophomore LP, Motions (discussed here), cuts like opener “Time” and “RLP” unfold with a particular sense of urgency, the former seeming to showcase an acknowledgement of sociopolitical circumstances in Europe and beyond in a way that seems to readjust their focus. That’s a tidy narrative, but if it’s a case of priorities being rebalanced, it’s striking nonetheless. To coincide, “RLP” has a heavier roll in its second half, and while second cut “State of the Art” and closer “Tearing up the Snow” both make their way past the five-minute mark with post-rocking pastoralia and dreamy melodies, there remains a feeling of a tighter focus in the tracks that could portend a new stage of the band’s development or could simply be a circumstance of what’s included here. The next album will tell the tale.

Red Lama on Thee Facebooks

Red Lama on Bandcamp

 

Full Tone Generator, Valley of the Universe

full tone generator valley of the universe

Fronted by Andy Fernando of Don Fernando, Full Tone Generator‘s debut long-player, Valley of the Universe, nonetheless bears the unmistakable hallmark of the Californian desert — in no small part because that’s where it was recorded. Fernando and guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Brad Young traveled to that famed landscape to record with Bubba DuPree and Brant Bjork at Zainaland Studios, only to have the latter end up playing drums and contributing backing vocals as well to the eight-tracker. Not a bad deal, frankly. The key reference sound-wise throughout Valley of the Universe is Kyuss, particularly because of Bjork‘s involvement and Fernando‘s vocal style, but the slow-rolling “I Only Love You When I’m Loaded,” 59-second blaster “No Future” and the ending jam duo of “Preacher Man” and “Never to Return” make the ground their own, the latter with some surprise screams before it bounces its way into oblivion as though nothing ever happened. They’ve got the vibe down pat, but Full Tone Generator do more as well than simply retread desert rock’s founding principles.

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Hurricane Music on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Dust, Seven Storms

mountain dust seven storms

Keys give Montreal four-piece Mountain Dust a tie to classic heavy blues and they use that element well to cast their identity in the spirit of a post-retro modern feel, details like the backing vocals of “White Bluffs” and the waltzing rhythm held by the snare on “Witness Marks” doing much to add complexity to the persona of the band. “You Could” goes over the top in its boozy regrets, but the dramas of “Old Chills” are full in sound and satisfyingly wistful, while closer “Stop Screaming” offers a bit of twang and slide guitar to go along with its sense of threat and consuming seven-minute finish. Tight songwriting and clean production do a lot to give Seven Storms a professional presentation, but ultimately it’s the band itself that shines through in terms of performance and as Mountain Dust follow-up their well-received 2016 debut, Nine Years, they sound confident in their approach and ready to flesh out in multiple directions while maintaining a central character to their sound that will be familiar to the converted enough to be a work of genre while setting the stage to become all the more their own as well.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

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Quarterly Review: Blood of the Sun, Evoken, IAH, Asylum, Merlin, The Hazytones, Daily Thompson, Old Man Lizard, Tuskar, Space Coke

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I had to think long and hard just now about what day it is. It’s Tuesday. — See how confident I was in saying that? A mask for insecurity, as always.

Anyway, the QR continues today with 10 more records and a pretty solid mix of whatnot. Some of this I’ve written about before here, but basically want to have another shot at the records themselves, so as we wind down 2018, it seems like the time to do that is now. As always, I hope you find something you dig. Seems pretty likely, frankly. If you go the entire 100 records with nothing but a “meh” to show for it, the problem isn’t likely to be the records. Not trying to insinuate anything, I’m just saying. 100 records is a lot. 10 records is a lot. And that’s what we’re doing today, so let’s get going.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Blood of the Sun, Blood’s Thicker than Love

blood of the sun bloods thicker than love

Drummer Henry Vasquez (also Saint Vitus) returns to his ultra-Texan heavy rock roots with Blood of the Sun‘s first album in six years, Blood’s Thicker than Love (on Listenable). Driven by his own fervent rhythmic push, the six-song collection is given further classic heavy vibe through the prominent organ/keyboard work of Dave Gryder. Oh, and also the riffs from newcomer guitarists Wyatt Burton and Alex Johnson. Oh, and also bassist Roger “Kip” Yma‘s quick turns on bass. Oh, and also Sean Vargas‘ vocals. So yeah, pretty much the whole damn thing is classic uptempo heavy boogie, produced modern but making no mistake about where its heart lies. Vargas‘ voice has a pre-metal swagger that helps define tracks like “Livin’ for the Night” and the capper “Blood of the Road,” and while the follow-up to 2012’s Burning on the Wings of Desire (review here) is enough to make one wistful for the days when their contemporaries in Dixie Witch once also roamed the land, Blood of the Sun make classic rock their own and give it a vibrancy that’s nothing if not a show of love, regardless of how thick that may be.

Blood of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Evoken, Hypnagogia

evoken hypnogogia

Unremitting. Unrelenting. Unforgiving. Whatever else one might say about New Jersey death/doombringers Evoken, it better start with the prefix “un-.” The negativity runs through the 60 minutes of their latest work, Hypnagogia (on Profound Lore), and one would expect no less than the ultra-mournful crush of “To Feign Ebullience” or the buzzing, resonant disdain of “Valorous Consternation,” the string sounds playing such a large role in crafting both the melodies and the relentless nature of their lung-deflating atmosphere. They may only break into speedier sections on rare occasion, but there’s no way to listen to Hypnagogia and call it anything other than extreme metal. It’s so cast down and so grinding that it not only conveys mood but affects it. Evoken are masters of the form, of course, and while Hypnagogia is their first full-length since 2012’s Atra Mors (review here), their history spans more than a quarter-century and time seems only to have made their miseries plunge even deeper.

Evoken on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

IAH, II

iah ii

In part, the gift that Argentinian trio IAH give with their aptly-titled second outing, II — following their 2017 self-titled debut EP (review here) — is to allow their parts to flesh out naturally across the six-song/38-minute span, so that even as second cut “HH” turns to more weighted chug, that in turn evolves into something no less spacious than the drift brought to bear in the second half of the later “La Niña del Rayo,” which makes its way ultimately through similar interplay. This back and forth is exceptionally smooth throughout II, as the instrumental outfit blend heavy psychedelia and progressive metal with an unflinching cohesion of their songwriting. The longest inclusion is the penultimate “Pri” at 7:35, which caps with massive start-stops en route to closer “Sheut,” which serves as one last showcase of the cosmic doom dynamic burgeoning in the band’s sound, as much ready to depart the earth as leave impact craters on it.

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IAH on Bandcamp

 

Asylum, 3-3-88

asylum 3-3-88

The band who a short time later would evolve into Unorthodox, Asylum have long stood as a testament to the enduring power of Maryland doom. 3-3-88 is the second official issue of their material Shadow Kingdom has stood behind, following 2008’s reissue of 1985’s The Earth is the Insane Asylum of the Universe (review here), and it’s no less a document of the classic metal that’s still very much the foundation of what Maryland doom is. From the Sabbathian opening of “World in Trouble” and the later “Psyche World” to the kind of feeling-out-the-riff happening in “Funk 69” and the concluding instrumental “Unorthodox,” there’s a rawness to the sound that suits it well in the spirit of Pentagram‘s First Daze Here, but even in barebones form, Asylum‘s doomly vibes brook no bullshit and weed out the feint of heart. Straightforward working-class doom grit stripped to its essentials. Hard to ask for anything more when you actually hear it.

Unorthodox on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Merlin, Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience

merlin dank souls and dark weed

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin expanded to a six-piece early in 2018, and Dank Souls and Dark Weed: A Live Experience, as the title hints, captures this form of the band on stage. They’re playing a hometown gig at the Riot Room, and from the nodding groove that opens with “Abyss” from this year’s The Wizard (review here) to the extended reaches of a 19-minute take on “Tales of the Wasteland” that’s actually shorter than the studio version from 2016’s Electric Children (review here), the band explore reaches that are vast with a patience befitting their quickly-earned veteran status. The recording is remarkably clear and allows for the wash of “The Wizard Suite” to be discernible in its progressive rollout, and as they close with “Night Creep” from the 2016 LP, their energy comes through no less prevalent than the distortion driving it forward. The crowd are right to holler.

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

 

The Hazytones, II: Monarchs of Oblivion

the hazytones ii monarchs of oblivion

Touching on garage-doom influences, Montreal three-piece The Hazytones effectively sleek into the groove of “The Great Illusion” on their second Ripple LP, II: Monarchs of Oblivion, finding a balance between swing, melody and heft that pushes beyond the seemingly-requisite Uncle Acid influence to a place that isn’t shy about working in crisp tones or unabashed vocal harmonies. The title-track is a two-parter, and touches on theatrics-sans-pretense in the first piece while dedicating the second to following a central riff well worthy of the attention they give it toward a galloping solo finish. Opener “Empty Space” sets a creper vibe, and by the time they’re down to finishing out with the “Hole in the Sky”-style riff of “The Hand that Feeds,” that sensibility is reaffirmed as an essential component of The Hazytones‘ aesthetic. Whether it’s the chugging “Hell” or the way-blown-out “The Beast,” they hold firm to that central purpose and work with it to effect a sound that one can hear becoming their own all the more.

The Hazytones on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Daily Thompson, Thirsty

daily thompson thirsty

Three albums in, Dortmund’s Daily Thompson indeed sound Thirsty — or maybe it’s hungry, but either way, the Dortmund trio’s MIG Music offering captures a tight presentation based around nonetheless natural energy born of their time on tour, as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist Mercedes, and drummer Stefan Mengel touch on Spidergawd-style classic heavy rock strut with “Brown Mountain Lights” and make their way through the semi-acoustic drift of “Stone Rose” and toward the later roll of “River Haze” with a trail of hooks behind them. Songwriting is central to what they do, but while Thirsty isn’t a minor undertaking at a CD-era reminiscent 10 songs/53 minutes, the band offer a chemistry between them and a fullness of sound that allows them to play to different sides of their approach, be it the fuzz-blues of “Gone Child” or the final summation “Spit out the Crap” that seems to shove all the more to its cymbal-wash finish. The title Thirsty brings to mind connotations of need, but Daily Thompson sound like they’ve got it all taken care of.

Daily Thompson on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Old Man Lizard, True Misery

old man lizard true misery

A strong enough current of noise rock runs beneath Old Man Lizard‘s True Misery (on Wasted State) that leadoff track “Shark Attack” is enough to remind of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and in under two minutes, the subsequent “Snakes” ties that into crawling-paced doom riffery such that the lumbering “Tree of Te?ne?re?” opens like the gaping jaws of some deep-sea trench. From there it unfolds a bit more uptempo than one might initially think, but it shows how fluidly Old Man Lizard shift from one impulse to the other. Accordingly, True Misery plays out with familiar-enough tones put to deceptively subtle and unpredictable purposes, making one-two highlights of the eight-minute back-to-backers “Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea” and “Misery is Miserable” — which says it all, really — ahead of the finale, well titled “Return to Earth.” A better band than people know, Old Man Lizard bring a progressive touch to what from many others would just be sludge riffing — a bit of Elder on that closer — and manage to do so without losing touch with the righteousness of their groove. True Misery takes a couple listens to sink in, but well earns those and more besides.

Old Man Lizard on Thee Facebooks

Wasted State Records website

 

Tuskar, The Tide, Beneath, The Wall

tuskar the tide beneath the wall

Tuskar‘s second offering through Riff Rock Records arrives titled for its three songs, “The Tide,” “Beneath” and “The Wall,” and comprises three tracks of largesse-minded sludge, burying its shouted vocals beneath mountainous low end. The Tide, Beneath, The Wall sets itself up through noisy churn and a roll that’s somehow misanthropic at the same time it seems well geared to have an entire bar headbanging. Either way, the feedback-worship in “The Wall” — sure enough a massive thing to slam into — makes a fitting end to the 20-minute release that seems to run so much longer, as “The Tide” and “Beneath” each set forth a grueling sprawl of malevolence that touches on the chaos to come without ever fully giving away what’s in store for the finale. At the same time this assault is cast, there’s an atmosphere to the proceedings as well such that Tuskar aren’t simply bludgeoning for the sake of bludgeonry, but finding a place for themselves within that in order to develop their attack. They do that successfully here and sound well up to the inevitable task before them of a debut full-length.

Tuskar on Thee Facebooks

Riff Rock Records website

 

Space Coke, L’Appel du Vide

space coke lappel du vide

I just about never do this, but I’m gonna go ahead and make the call: Space Coke‘s L’Appel du Vide is going to get picked up for a vinyl release in 2019. I don’t know who, how or when, but it’s basically a lock. The Columbia, South Carolina, organ-laced four-piece play classic-as-now heavy rock with right-on songcraft and a hard-hitting presentation that’s begging for some label with ears to hear it and press it to the platter it deserves. Be it the molten unfolding of the title-track or the fuzz-swirl of “Thelemic Ritual” or the cosmic stretch of “Kali Ma,” they’re locked in to a degree that utterly defies the notion that this is their first record, and from the vocal-effects smash in “Lucid Dream” and the samples laid over-top of “Interlude,” there’s never really a sense of where Space Coke — extra kudos for the Cheech & Chong reference — might go next, and yet their sound is cohesive, directed, and well aware of exactly what it’s doing and what it wants to do. Never a guarantee of anything in this world, but with Space Coke‘s take on modern stoner sprawl, I’d be amazed if someone didn’t grab this in the New Year, if not before. Eyes peeled on the PR wire for the announcement.

Space Coke on Thee Facebooks

Space Coke on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Pale Divine, Pale Divine

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

PALE DIVINE S/T

[Click play above to stream Pale Divine’s self-titled album in full. It’s out Nov. 23 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

The level of coincidence is somewhat astounding. Pennsylvania’s Pale Divine are well past the 20-year mark since forming in 1995. By now the stuff of Chesapeake regional legend, their first demo arrived in 1997 (was also reissued in 2008). Their fourth and otherwise most recent album, Painted Windows Black (review here), was released early in 2012, and a short time after it came out, founding drummer Darin McCloskey and guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener recruited Ron “Fezz” McGinnis to play bass. McGinnis, who’s known for his work in the mostly-instrumental Admiral Browning, as well as Bailjack, the more extreme Thonian Horde and a host of others, was not a minor pickup. In stage presence, tone and complement to Diener‘s vocals, McGinnis was a personality shift for the band that was far more significant than the phrase, “he’s their eighth bassist,” would lead one to believe.

Now, as Pale Divine make a definitive statement by issuing their fifth LP, an eight-track/46-minute self-titled, through Shadow Kingdom Records, the situation is oddly similar. Always a trio save for one stint around the time of their third album, 2007’s Cemetery Earth, Pale Divine‘s Pale Divine lands, gorgeous in tone and as downtrodden in spirit as it is righteous in its traditionalism, as heard on cuts like opener “Spinning Wheel” and the extended blues-informed pieces “So Low” and “Shades of Blue,” just as the trio welcomes Dana Ortt of Beelzefuzz — in which Diener and McCloskey both play, the latter as a founding member, the former as a pickup for their second record — on guitar. A self-titled has a tendency to be a clear signal on the part of a band saying “this is who we are.” And tracks like the rocking “Bleeding Soul” and the penultimate “Silver Tongues,” which has a bounce worthy of the band’s one-time contemporaries in Spirit Caravan, live up to that. But the timing. Pale Divine put out their fourth album and made a considerable change in their dynamic, and now with their fifth album they’ve done the same thing.

Does that make Pale Divine moot? In a word: no. The songs are the key. In the fullness of the record’s emotional heft and across-the-board sonic execution, the way it slides into classic doom because it is that very same classic doom, nodding at Trouble on “Chemical Decline” before just nodding, period, in the early going of the subsequent “So Low” — which in its second half also features a very long guitar solo, making it easy to remember on a linguistic level too — it’s still a process of Pale Divine defining who they are in a specific point in time. From the early signal of a changed mindset with McGinnis joining Diener on vocals for the Pentagram-informed apex of “Spinning Wheel” to the Sabbathian chug, compressed lead tone and sleek groove of “Curse the Shadows” of the also-dual-voiced “Curse the Shadows,” which dates back at least five years to a demo from 2013Pale Divine emphasize the outside-of-time nature of trad doom even as they put their own stamp on the classic style with the force of Diener‘s vocals, the understated but always locked-in drumming of McCloskey and the flash in McGinnis‘ basslines — as heard in the later gallop on that same “Curse the Shadows” — as well as the fluidity of their songwriting.

pale divine

Pieces like “So Low,” which sources its lyrical depression from within and without, or “Bleeding Soul,” with its uptempo hook in the line, “A bleeding soul will find no rest,” or the initial showoff rumble of low end in “Shades of Blue” and the instantly familiar chorus there that follows as the eight-minute track unfolds, are resonant in their downer spirit and stately in their delivery. But one of the accusations often leveled at traditional doom is that it’s staid and dry in its delivery and that applies even less to Pale Divine than it ever has to Pale Divine‘s work before. With the flourish of Southern-style and progressive acoustic/electric guitar layers on closer “Ship of Fools” and the smoothness of their rhythmic and tempo shifts as shown in “Chemical Decline” and “So Low,” as well as Diener‘s vocal delivery across the release and what McGinnis brings in periodic complement to that, there’s nothing but a genuine soulfulness to Pale Divine‘s Pale Divine, and it’s not just boozy self-defeat, though there’s a bit of that also. “Silver Tongues,” “Shades of Blue,” “Spinning Wheel” have, to go with the subtle changes in approach between them, a sense of looking beyond oneself. Not like there isn’t plenty of doom to behold if you have the eyes to see it. Clearly Pale Divine do.

Okay, but then what? What’s the resolution? Well, one could argue there’s hope along with a resigned sensibility in the interwoven soloing on “Ship of Fools,” and positioned as that is at the end of the album — doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that a band who seem well set to hit the quarter-century mark would make a purposeful choice on a closer — with a long fadeout that caps the LP as a whole, it carries a kind of “keep marching” message. You trod on, because what else is there? Fair enough, but it seems on the whole that Pale Divine is less directly about examination and critique than it is the simple act of conveying the experience of living it. Consider the lyrics of “So Low,” with Diener seeming to recount on the page his own lack of inspiration and pervasive depression, the distancing of the self from one’s own existence. Maybe there’s an element of catharsis in the expression, but the songs don’t go so far as to portray that, nor could they, since if it’s there, it’s an after-effect. The point is that what Pale Divine are doing is, to an extent, what they’ve always done in bringing to life the tenets of classic American doom metal while retaining the central identity of who they are as individual players and as a group.

For that, Pale Divine could hardly be more relevant, regardless of the fact that the lineup has changed since it was recorded. Their dynamic may indeed shift with Ortt as a member alongside DienerMcCloskey and McGinnis, but that’s a question for live shows and however many years down the road when and if there’s another album, because who the hell knows what might happen now and then. Pale Divine‘s self-titled earns the name by being a sincere representation of who the band is in its moment, and while moments are inherently fleeting, the poise and maturity of their craft and the passion so rife in their delivery are essential components of what makes them who they are, who they’ve become over their years together. That’s always been in flux and it still will be, but in context, Pale Divine reminds of that too, and so all the more stands as the epitome of their persona.

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Orodruin Post Ruins of Eternity Cover Art; Set Feb. 2019 Release Date

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

Hey, crazier things have happened, but to call a proper sophomore full-length from Rochester, New York, doom loyalists Orodruin long-awaited is underselling it. The former four-piece/now-trio will be past the 20-year mark when and if in fact their second album, Ruins of Eternity arrives in Feb. 2019, as guitarist John Gallo (also Blizaro, solo work, etc.) has newly reconfirmed. Their last EP, In Doom was issued in 2012 — one remembers getting a copy at Days of the Doomed II (review here) in Wisconsin that year — but their lone long-player to-date is 2003’s Epicurean Mass (discussed here), and that was 15 years ago.

They’ve been a well-kept secret in doom ever since, in 2004 issuing the collection Claw Tower …And Other Tales of Terror and sporadic other outings along the way but mostly playing periodic shows with other bands coming through or hitting fests like the aforementioned Days of the Doomed. Even that was some years ago at this point though, and I have to wonder what a new Orodruin might sound like 15-16 years after Epicurean Mass, just how much of the Paul Chain/Goblin influence from Gallo‘s solo work will have made its way into the proceedings, if any. And just the basic construction of it. More than a decade and a half later, if Ruins of Eternity is an hour long, you’d have to say that’s justified.

Well, we might find out in February. I wouldn’t mind. Shadow Kingdom Records, which is home also to Pale Divine and Iron Void among other choice trad doomers, has reportedly signed on to do the release, and fair enough. The band actually posted the cover a while back and said the record would be out in February, but I happened to catch Gallo putting it out again with the mini-update on the status you see below, so it’s good to keep track of where they’re at. Here’s the art and the quick word:

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

“It is planned to be released February of 2019. Wrapping up vocals then mixing.”

Orodruin is:
Nick Tydelski : Guitar
Michael Puleo : Bass, Vocals, Drums
John Gallo : Other Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/orodruinofficialband/
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

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Pale Divine Announce Addition of Dana Ortt on Guitar

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pale divine

With the addition of Dana Ortt of Beelzefuzz on guitar in Pale Divine, that means that the two groups are three-fourths the same people. Only bassist Bert Hall, Jr. plays just in Beelzefuzz and only bassist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis plays just in Pale Divine. Guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener, drummer Darin McCloskey and now Ortt share duties in both bands. PalezefuzzBeelzivine? Either way, it’s only good news for doom.

Pale Divine are, of course, about to put out a new album on Shadow Kingdom next month. And it rules. Self-titled, due out Nov. 23, which is just in time for them to celebrate with their appearance at Hammer of Doom XIII in Germany on Nov. 17, playing alongside BatushkaCovenUnorthodox and others. They’re also at Days of Darkness in Baltimore at the end of this month, which is less travel but a shared stage with Bang, Satan’s SatyrsChild Bite and more. Still quite a gig.

But the coolest part is they’ll go as a four-piece. Someone get video. And while the self-titled is killer and will be streamed here in full ahead of the release — check back in Nov. 20 — it’s hard not to look forward to what Pale Divine will do in this new incarnation. All hail Palezefuzz. Or Beelzivine. Again, either way.

Intrepid reporter that I am, I hit up Ortt for some comment when I saw the band’s announcement. You’ll find both below:

dana ortt

Pale Divine welcomes Dana Ortt

10/21/2018: We’d like to formally announce that Dana Ortt will now be a part of Pale Divine. We’ve been busy rehearsing for the past month and things have really taken shape perfectly. The addition of Dana has absolutely taken our material to new heights and we’re very excited for the next couple of shows with the new lineup!

Dana Ortt on joining Pale Divine:

It’s very cool to be playing with Darin, Greg and Fezz in Pale Divine! Darin, Greg and I have been playing in Beelzefuzz going on four years now, we rehearse and record in Greg’s studio setup at his house. Over time we’ve had some epic recording and jam sessions that have included playing Pale Divine material on occasion. Playing in Pale Divine for me is just like a natural extension of our Beelzefuzz jam sessions. We’ve discussed writing new Pale Divine songs with me singing with Greg but for the upcoming shows at Days Of Darkness and Hammer Of Doom I’ll be focusing on laying down a solid doomy rhythm guitar that is true to the vibe of the recorded songs. Darin, Greg, Bert and I are also currently working on tracking a new Beelzefuzz album that will be released with Church Within Records.

Pale Divine live:
Oct. 28 Baltimore MD Soundstage Days of Darkness Festival
Nov. 17 Wurzberg Germany Posthalle Hammer of Doom XIII

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

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

Pale Divine, “Spinning Wheel”

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Iron Void Celebrate 20th Anniversary with November Tour

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

iron void photo by Katrina Kendrick

Two decades is not a short amount of time. 20 years ago, it was Nineteen-Hundred and Ninety-Eight. Western Civilization could still basically argue it had the potential to bring some good into the world. The Roaring ’90s. It was the time that the robots based The Matrix on. Right before the entire universe took a shit and everyone realized how awful everything is, then collapse resounded around the world and we’re still all dug into the repercussions of that, and so, you know, DOOM.

Enter Iron Void. Formed in 1998, and yeah, they’ve had some bumps and periods of inactivity along the way — they haven’t been slogging it out playing clubs on tour 150 shows a year for 20 years, and neither have you, and neither are they claiming otherwise — but the simple fact that after 20 years, guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Seale would feel strongly and passionately enough about the project to put out an album of the quality of the soon-to-land Exaclibur (review here) is admirable in and of itself. 20 fucking years, man. Think about what you were doing 20 years ago.

I was in high school. Probably stoned. Ha.

Anyway, Iron Void are celebrating 20 years with a show this week and a short tour alongside the also-high-grade-downer Serpent Venom and Famyne next month. I got Sealey to give some comment on the occasion and you can see that below, as well as the event links for the shows, because it’s the future and that’s how it goes now. You wouldn’t have gotten that 20 years ago.

Dig:

IRON VOID TOUR

Jonathan “Sealey” Seale on 20 years of Iron Void and the tour:

“We’re very much looking forward to touring the UK in November with our peers and longtime friends, Serpent Venom and Famyne, who are one of the finest new Doom bands in the UK scene today. I only wish we could have done more dates. Maybe we will in future, who knows? November 2018 is also a very special month and cause for celebration for Iron Void as it marks our 20th anniversary since the band formed in November 1998. We’ve had several lineup changes and obstacles to overcome over the years but all in all it’s been a blast with a lot of fond memories! I’d like to sincerely thank my bandmates, old and new, and all our loyal fans across the globe for making this incredible journey a reality, it wouldn’t have been possible without you, I love you all! Here’s to the next 20 years! DOOM ON!!”

Oct 13 Iron Void 20th Anniversary Show (1998 – 2018):
Black mass Wakefield, UK
https://www.facebook.com/events/1857902831184012/

Iron Void / Serpent Venom / Famyne UK Tour – November 2018

2 NOVEMBER – The Phoenix, Coventry
https://www.facebook.com/events/187309512064309/

3 NOVEMBER – The Black Heart, London
https://www.facebook.com/events/980671265433339/

4 NOVEMBER – The Old England, Bristol
https://www.facebook.com/events/425613231235352/

Iron Void is:
Jonathan ‘Sealey’ Seale – Bass/Vocals
Steve Wilson – Guitars/Vocals
Richard Maw – Drums

www.facebook.com/ironvoid
www.ironvoid.bandcamp.com
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Iron Void, Excalibur (2018)

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Iron Void, Excalibur: Of Legend

Posted in Reviews on September 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

iron void excalibur

Iron Void‘s third full-length and Shadow Kingdom Records debut, Excalibur, is the kind of record that makes you slap your forehead and ask how no one thought of doing this before. A concept album based on the legend of King Arthur? I know that’s hardly new ground for metal in general, and it seems relatively certain another doom act has had a song about it here or there, but a whole album, capturing the plotline from the ascent of Arthur to the downfall of Camelot via righteous, classic doom? The narrative, of course, is immediately familiar in Western culture, such that songs like “The Coming of a King,” “Lancelot of the Lake,” “The Grail Quest” and “The Death of Arthur” don’t need much more than their titles to orient the listener in the plot, and Iron VoidJonathan “Sealey” Seale (bass/vocals), Steve Wilson (guitar/vocals) and Richard Maw (drums) — use that to their advantage in telling the story with nine songs across a 47-minute span that flow together smoothly without losing their individual impact.

That is, they work as part of the whole or are able to stand on their own if need be. As the Wakefield, UK, three’piece make their way to the penultimate “The Death of Arthur” ahead of the acoustic epilogue “Avalon,” their poise remains unflinching and from Merlin’s incantation at the outset of opener “Dragon’s Breath,” which may or may not actually be sampled from the 1981 film that shares the name of the album, on through the nodding riffage that follows, Iron Void pepper in vocal harmonies and hold their focus well amid the tonal fullness brought to bear by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio in Fall 2017. “The Coming of a King” presents a suitably triumphant NWOBHM gallop, and “Lancelot of the Lake” tosses in double-kick drums from Maw and dual-vocals that highlight the hidden strength in Iron Void‘s approach that puts them far ahead of many practitioners of the style.

No doubt Iron Void do justice in their homage to the elders of doom. Sabbath (of course) in multiple-eras, including some of the medieval stylizations of the Tony Martin years, Saint Vitus, Trouble, etc., and included with that is a strong current of the doom-into-NWOBHM moment, acts like Pagan Altar, Cirith Ungol and Witchfinder General adding early- and mid-’80s fervor to “Lancelot of the Lake” and the subsequent “Forbidden Love,” which plays through quiet/loud tradeoffs in its verse before launching into a speedier solo section and setting the stage for a return to the verse with a moment of standalone bass that highlights one of the most crucial aspects of the band in Seale‘s tone. The low end, which is MIA on many a classic metal recording, does much of the work as the foundation on Excalibur around which Wilson‘s riffs crunch and solos soar. That’s not to take away from Maw‘s drumming, but there’s a sense of melody as well as rhythm to the bass that bridges the other two together.

iron void photo by Katrina Kendrick

While the singing and lyrics are the source of much of the memorability in the songs, by the time Iron Void move into the centerpiece “Enemy Within,” their sense of command is absolute, instrumentally as well as vocally. This speaks not only to the work the band has done across its two prior long-players, 2014’s Iron Void and 2015’s Doomsday, but also to the sheer effort and thought put into this collection. It is coordinated across such a clear beginning, middle and end that one is left wondering which came first, the concept or the tracks themselves, but either way, the fluidity with which the band move through one into the next as they tell their tale isn’t to be understated. While it’s possible to take each cut on its own — “Enemy Within” is a standout among standouts, every bit worthy of its position in the tracklisting — it’s even more satisfying to hear them progress as part of the overarching entirety, which is delivered with unstained class and wholly without pretense.

“Enemy Within” rumbles out its finish into a fade ahead of the bursting start of “The Grail Quest” and it’s clear through the pacing and tone the story is making its way to a decidedly unhappy ending. Weeping lead guitar just past the midpoint in “The Grail Quest” tells the listener everything they need to know about how it all turns out, and the subsequent “A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others” takes hold, there seems to be a kind of symmetry with the earlier catchiness of “The Coming of a King,” as Seale and Wilson harmonize through the hook, telling of the death of Merlin and the aftermath thereof. Maw incorporates some cowbell into the first part of the two-stage solo section in the song’s back end, and they finish with a last verse and chorus en route to “The Death of Arthur,” which starts with drum thud and acoustic guitar and unfolds its 7:33 run as, appropriately, the longest track on Excalibur. Fair enough for being kind of an important moment in the fable, but even more than the demise of the central figure, the song offers something of a relief in its sense of melody even as it brings a kind of tension in its early verses.

With subtle noodling on guitar, Iron Void move toward a swell of volume around the 3:30 mark that leads to the next movement, which is more open sounding and a bit more grandiose. A solo naturally gives way back to the quieter verse and a final weighted push ends with a wash of gong. The plucked notes of “Avalon” arrive thereafter and give a concluding chapter to the story and album both that nonetheless expands the sonic palette while remaining true to the central atmosphere at work. Harmonies arrive late for the lines, “Beyond the gates of death/I am free,” and the record closes with the latter lyric and leaves a heavy silence in its wake. They may not be the first to enact the Arthurian theme, but Iron Void make it their own in a manner that both acknowledges metal’s history and dons its proudly. There’s no irony to it, no tongue-in-cheek winking in their presentation. Excalibur is classic metal made new again, and if you can’t handle that, it’s your loss.

Iron Void, Excalibur (2018)

Iron Void on Thee Facebooks

Iron Void on Bandcamp

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Asylum to Release 3-3-88 Sept. 28 on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

asylum

A little bit of tried and true Maryland doom history brought to light by Shadow Kingdom Records. Asylum guitarist Dale Flood and drummer Ronnie Kalimon went on to form Unorthodox, and though the band never had an album out, only a collection of demos, their reputation never really subsided. 3-3-88 isn’t the last recording Asylum made before the one band became the other, but it’s never been officially issued before, and you can stream it in full now at the bottom of this post ahead of a Sept. 28 CD issue. It sounds like it’s probably been cleaned up some from the bootleg versions — or at very least mastered — but either way you can hear the grit and roughness of the tracks as well as the bluesy atmospheric jams on songs like “Nowhere.” Killer vibe throughout, and clearly more than just one for archivists and scholars of Maryland doom, though that contingent should also be well pleased.

Info from the PR wire:

asylum 3-3-88

Pre-UNORTHODOX band ASYLUM to release lost recordings through SHADOW KINGDOM – streaming in full now

On September 28th, Shadow Kingdom Records is proud to present a special lost recording from cult Maryland doom band Asylum entitled 3-3-88. Circulated amongst diehard collectors for years via MP3 but now finally finding an official physical release on CD format, Asylum’s 3-3-88 is a crucial piece of doom metal history.

Doom aficionados are well familiar with the name Asylum by now. Begun in 1981 and crafting a handful of super-cult demos during the lean years of the 1980s, Asylum eventually became Unorthodox in 1992 and released their classic debut album, fittingly titled Asylum, that year on the pivotal Hellhound label. As such, Asylum had a big hand in shaping the Maryland doom metal scene that would come to fruition in the ’90s and sow its influence worldwide.

But, with the long-lost 3-3-88 recording now unearthed, we begin to see the full depth of Asylum’s eventual transformation into UNORTHODOX. This recording was indeed recorded on March 3rd of 1988, and was the last-known recording under the Asylum moniker. Across its 10 tracks, the listener can feel the full force of the band’s ever-expanding biker rock base, which would later become a hallmark of Maryland doom. Whereas so much doom to come would take heavy cues from Black Sabbath, Asylum instead had more of a Steppenwolf-gone-metal feel, and as displayed by 3-3-88, a penchant for jamming out into spacier realms, including touches of otherworldly synth. And yet, for all this increased ambition – four full instrumentals mark this recording, including the portentous “Unorthodox” – the band’s sound remained remarkably focused, with a clear vision and even clearer execution. You can drift off into far-away lands as easily as you can headbang to this.

Pulled from the original tapes and remastered, Asylum’s 3-3-88 possesses an enduring power which has made it such a highly-sought-after recording all these years. And whether they transformed into Unorthodox or not, this crucial document deserves its rightful place in the doom pantheon.

In the leadup to its CD release, the entirety of Asylum’s 3-3-88 is currently streaming in full HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Asylum (Maryland)’s 3-3-88
1. World In Trouble
2. Mystified
3. Time Bomb
4. Road To Ruin
5. Psyche World
6. Forgotten Image
7. Nowhere
8. Funk 69
9. Indecision
10. Unorthodox

www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/

Asylum, 3-3-88 (2018)

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