Iron Void Sign to Shadow Kingdom Records; Excalibur out in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Hells yes. I had the extreme pleasure of watching Wakefield, UK, trio Iron Void take the stage earlier this year at second night of the inaugural Emerald Haze festival (review here) in Dublin, Ireland, and they were an unbridled revelry of classic doom at its best. Seriously, dudes killed it. I’ve been keeping my eye open since as they’ve been in the process of making their next record to follow-up on 2015’s sophomore outing, Doomsday, and the word that they’ve signed to Shadow Kingdom Records to issue what’s been dubbed Excalibur could hardly be more welcome as far as I’m concerned. Primo doom on an imprint with what I consider to be an unfuckwithable reputation for taste in same? Shit, I feel validated in Iron Void getting picked up by Shadow Kingdom. I can only imagine how the band itself actually feels.

Excalibur will be out sometime in 2018. Whenever it is, call it “not nearly soon enough” and that should about cover it. Prepare for doom!

From the PR wire:

iron void shadow kingdom

IRON VOID sign with SHADOW KINGDOM, new album set for next year

Shadow Kingdom Records announces the signing of Iron Void. The first fruit of this union shall be the band’s highly anticipated third album, Excalibur. A mainstay of the UK doom metal scene, Excalibur is the album by which Iron Void will truly be launched onto the world stage. The album shall be released during the first quarter of 2018 via Shadow Kingdom.

Iron Void was originally formed by Jonathan “Sealey” Seale and Andy Whittaker (Solstice, The Lamp of Thoth) in 1998 in order to create an old-school doom metal band, worshiping at the altar of doom legends such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, etc. The band reformed in 2008, with the current lineup consisting of Jonathan “Sealey” Seale (bass & vocals), Steve Wilson (guitars & vocals), and Richard Maw (drums).

Iron Void’s debut EP, Spell of Ruin, was originally released on CD in 2010 and re-released in 2012 via Doomanoid Records. Their self-titled debut full-length album was released on CD in 2014 via Barbarian Wrath and released on limited-edition vinyl by Fear Me! Music in 2015. The critically acclaimed second album, Doomsday – recorded & produced at Skyhammer Studio by Chris Fielding (Conan, Winterfylleth, Electric Wizard) and mastered by James Plotkin – was released on CD via Doomanoid Records in 2015 and released on limited gatefold vinyl via Fear Me! Music in 2016.

With considerable live action in the past few years as well, and encouraged by the critical acclaim heaped upon Doomsday, Iron Void patiently set to work on Excalibur. Arguably the band’s magnum opus, Excalibur is an epic behemoth of Arthurian legend, emitting an atmosphere that’s truly medieval whilst sacrificing whilst sacrificing none of their trademark DOOMED-OUT heaviness. Here, across the album’s massive yet strangely concise 48 minutes, Iron Void weave old-as-time tales of myth and magic, all set to rumbling, dramatically dynamic doom metal. The album is sequenced together with a subtle sort of mastery, taking the listener on a journey into centuries past, all concluding with the stark ‘n’ stirring acoustic closer “Avalon.” As the final notes ring out, you’ll be reaching for the calendar to check what year it is!

Release date, cover, tracklisting, and preorder info shall be announced shortly, as well as the first track to be revealed from Excalibur. Consult the below links for more info.

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

Iron Void, Doomsday (2015)

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Review & Track Premiere: Nupraptor, The Heresiarch

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

nupraptor-the-heresiarch

[Click play above to stream ‘Burning the Believers’ from Nupraptor’s The Heresiarch. Album is out Dec. 15 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

For anyone into etymology — words, not bugs; that’s entomology — the title of Nupraptor‘s first long-player, The Heresiarch, will read plainly. I had to look it up to be sure it was a real word, but it is. Its two parts, “heresy” and “arch” denote one who is prime among heretics, like an archpriest, and in terms of the Baltimore one-man outfit’s Shadow Kingdom Records-delivered debut, if vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Matt St. Ours is campaigning for the position, he makes a compelling argument for taking ownership of the position. The album is comprised of seven tracks, and from the introductory “Black Mass” through the 11-minute closing epic “The Fall of Christ,” which gleefully recounts the crucifixion story, there isn’t one of them that on some level doesn’t play toward the title.

It’s a unipolarity of theme that, like St. Ours‘ shredding lead work, is born out of classic heavy metal, and the oldschool is indeed the well from which Nupraptor most readily draws. Drums, while programmed, march through straightforward arrangements of elder-style doom, from the Sabbath-via-Trouble march of “Through the Smoke” to the unbridled Candlemass idolatry of “Before the Eyes of God,” and in in vocal approach, St. Ours seems to place himself in the post-Robert Lowe, Messiah Marcolin, sphere, with stylistic flourishes tossed in from the likes of Witchfinder General and others of the NWOBHM who readily crossed the line to doom much as he does here. If you were living the dream and had a dual-deck, The Heresiarch is the kind of record you might dub for one of your buddies and draw the Nupraptor logo on the tape label, perhaps crudely.

Over the last decade, Shadow Kingdom has made itself an essential purveyor of precisely this type of fare: new acts purposefully breaking old ground. The label’s passion for the NWOBHM in particular is a thread one can hear woven through much of what it releases, and Nupraptor fit well into this oeuvre. St. Ours signals early with the aforementioned intro “Black Mass” that his guitar will be in the lead position in terms of arrangement focus, and the 50-minute offering goes according to plan. While it’s Nupraptor‘s first release, St. Ours has past experience working on his own, having founded metallers White Hornet as a one-man project before expanding it to a full lineup, and sure enough, as “Black Mass” gives way to the rolling plod of “Through the Smoke,” that history and the sense of command comes into play almost immediately.

nupraptor

A spoken introduction and initial crash begin “Burning the Believers,” which delivers its title in a whisper before unfurling one of The Heresiarch‘s most satisfying nods, topped with a mournful solo and brimming with downer atmosphere and layered, effected vocals. It is doom for doomers, but though St. Ours is based in Baltimore, it’s worth noting that Nupraptor don’t directly play to Maryland doom of the Pentagram or The Obsessed style. Sure, the pace in “Burning the Believers” picks up in the song’s second half, and the nine-minute title-track, the penultimate “Wasting Away” and “The Fall of Christ” have their rocking moments as well, but this is given to an Iron Maiden-esque gallop more than the rawer punk and hardcore roots from which much of Maryland doom sprang initially and still springs, the swinging progression of “Wasting Away” notwithstanding. Decisively metal, in other words. There is little doubt left as to intent in that regard, and in its craftsmanship, bleak cohesion and anti-Christian storytelling, the album answers the call of its own mission with a passionate delivery and complete-band sound.

That last element — the fact that The Heresiarch sounds like a work by a complete band — makes one wonder what the future for Nupraptor might hold, and if St. Ours could possibly put together a trio or, maybe more likely a four-piece given some of the interweaving guitar antics and harmonies here in “Before the Eyes of God,” etc., down the line. Whether or not that happens, he’s given himself a potent aesthetic model from which to work, and one that will preach loudly and righteously to a vigilant sect of the doom converted. If there aren’t vest patches printed yet, there should be. The Heresiarch speaks to a time in which heavy metal itself was the cult to be joined, and in its style and substance, it succeeds in establishing this context for St. Ours and Nupraptor to nonetheless move forward in bringing new life to this storied past.

Nupraptor on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

The Heresiarch at Shadow Kingdom Records Bandcamp

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Review & Full Album Stream: Lucifer’s Chalice, The Pact

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lucifer's chalice the pact

[Click play above to stream The Pact by Lucifer’s Chalice in full. Album is out Sept. 29 on Shadow Kingdom Records.]

There is a branch of doom and darker-tinged metal that remains steeped in olden ways. Released this past February as a digital offering by the band, the debut full-length from Lucifer’s Chalice, dubbed The Pact, finds wider issue through Shadow Kingdom Records and belongs to this branch. With influences culled from the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal — Cirith UngolPagan AltarWitchfinder General, youngest Iron Maiden, etc. — and classic Sabbathian doom, its four tracks feel as much ready to have the logo representing them scrawled sloppily on the front of a high-school notebook as flown proudly on a denim “battle vest” backpatch.

The Durham, UK, four-piece of guitarist/vocalist CW, lead guitarist SRM, bassist DH and drummer KShevil sound like they’d be just fine with either, if the songs are anything to go by. Earning immediate points by opening with the 11-minute “Hung at the Crossroads,” the hook and gallop of which serve as a table-setting representation of the band’s methods in general, The Pact unfolds brazenly and with a cassette-ready feel that has become cult metal in a way that is perhaps outside Lucifer’s Chalice‘s control, but nonetheless feels prevalent in their late-’70s/early-’80s vibe, persistent in spite of a modern production that’s telling of its actual time — i.e., now — especially in the drums, which if they were actually tracked in 1981 would have the snare likely be obtrusively loud in the mix and coated in reverb. Fortunately (mostly), that emblematic nuance of the era to which The Pact owes so much of its affect has been left by the wayside.

What’s been kept in place is careening riffs leading a charge topped by raw but proto-soaring vocals, and those elements provide the crux of The Pact‘s castle-storming, rusty-axe-wielding 36-minute charge. Though it begins with a mournful lead over a strummed central figure, it’s “Hung at the Crossroads” that begins the thrust in earnest, and the song moves fluidly through its extended runtime, gaining momentum as it works through its verses and chorus toward a slowdown just before the five-minute mark that brings a few minutes of doomier impression-making, to which CW‘s voice is well-suited in post-Candlemass fashion. Following a solo from SRM, a subsequent verse, and another lead, KShevil‘s drums signal a tempo change and the initial push resumes just before nine minutes in and holds sway for the remainder prior to the crash that brings on the sample from 1960’s The City of the Dead in which Massachusetts villagers burn Abigail Adams as a witch.

lucifer's chalice

That’s as fitting an intro as one could ask for the 10-minute track itself, which builds into a rolling first verse quickly and holds to a method ultimately similar to “Hung at the Crossroads” before it, with straightforward push and some underlying doomly swing in the drums to go with its horror-based Satanic lyrical theme, storytelling done in the second-person such that “The devil owns your soul/Hell will be your home.” Of course, the familiarity and blatant play to style is an important part of the aesthetic for Lucifer’s Chalice, and the band have that moniker to live up to, after all, so the adoption cliché isn’t necessarily unwelcome, particularly with the solo it leads to and the uptick in tempo past four minutes in, heading to a midsection that holds to its central modus where the preceding cut veered away and an end that is perhaps the most Maiden-esque stretch here, setting up “Full Moon Nights” and “Priestess of Death” as a shorter side two with another big finish and quick fade.

“Full Moon Nights” arrives with no less than Klaus Kinski as Dracula in Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre from 1979, hearing the howling of wolves and calling it the music of the children of the night. Not a minor reference to make, but the song lives up to it with the fervency of its metallic shove, marked out by the kind of riff from which thrash would’ve taken influence three and a half decades ago and CW pushing his voice to and beyond its breaking point. A more turning progression arrives as the title-line is delivered, but it’s not long before Lucifer’s Chalice are heading forward again, and in the second half of “Full Moon Nights” the energy of their thrust picks up and is drawn toward another extended ending, this one consuming the full last minute and adding a sense of grandeur to counterbalance what’s still been a fairly raw production throughout. The Pact pays one more visit to the VHS shelf to break out 1971’s Twins of Evil for the sample that begins closer “Priestess of Death,” the hook of which is arguably the most memorable since “Hung at the Crossroads” and which reaffirms the devil worship of “The Pact” and “Full Moon Nights.”

As with those cuts, the source material is referenced in the lyrics, and it’s the guitars doing most of the heavy lifting in establishing the personality of the piece — a dual-layered lead as they move through the third minute is a standout point leading into more full-on thrashing and another precise, crashing run through the chorus prior to a surprisingly shredding solo. That gives way to a temporary slowdown that seems like it might be the band’s ending statement, but as “Hung at the Crossroads” did so skillfully, “Priestess of Death” also returns to its core to finish out, capping The Pact on a sudden but effective snap. Lucifer’s Chalice are hardly reinventing classic metal on their first record, but neither is that their intent. Rather, they pay homage to the Metal of Old with these four songs and in theme and purpose begin to stake out the approach they’ll hopefully continue to develop as they move forward, forging themselves in steel and casting outward with doom and pre-thrash malevolence.

Lucifer’s Chalice on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Chalice on Bandcamp

Shadow Kingdom Records on Thee Facebooks

The Pact at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp page

Shadow Kingdom Records website

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Nupraptor Set Dec. 15 Release for Debut Album The Heresiarch; Two New Songs Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

nupraptor

Newcomer one-man outfit Nupraptor will release its debut full-length, The Heresiarch, Dec. 15 via Shadow Kingdom Records, with vinyl to follow at the start of the New Year. I’ve said on multiple occasions that when it comes to all things tinged with classic metal, there are few whose tastes are as trustworthy as that of the Pittsburgh-based imprint, and in its picking up Nupraptor — founded just last year in Baltimore, Maryland, by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Matt St. Ours, also of White Hornet — my position is only reaffirmed. You can stream two new tracks from The Heresiarch below, including the 11-minute album finale “The Fall of Christ,” which opens with St. Ours reciting the Our Father, because, you know, heavy metal and all that.

Interesting to note that White Hornet also started out as a one-man project before becoming a full band. One can’t help but wonder if Nupraptor might end up on a similar path if the demand is there for live shows. I wouldn’t mind hearing “Through the Smoke” at a gig. Just saying.

From the PR wire:

nupraptor-the-heresiarch

NUPRAPTOR set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debt, reveal first tracks

Shadow Kingdom Records sets December 15th as the international release date for the surprise debut of Nupraptor, The Heresiarch, on CD and cassette tape formats. The vinyl version shall be released later, on January 12th, 2018.

Curiously named, Nupraptor is the solo-project of White Hornet mastermind Matt St. Ours, who’s been itching to record some pure ‘n’ powerful doom metal for a while now. And that’s exactly what you get with The Heresiarch: the purest DOOM, powerful as it comes, downtrodden and desolate to the bitter end. Hailing the old European gods of traditional doom, Nupraptor crafts seven slumbering beasts of majestic misery within a mystical continuum of 51 minutes, starting with a “Black Mass” and on “Through the Smoke” before “Burning the Believers” “Before the Eyes of God,” and at last “Wasting Away” before “The Fall of Christ.”

Verily, St. Ours crafts music for the grave and the graveyard, his haunting vocals heralding the onset of long nights wrapped in the fog’s embrace, languorous and lonely. Or, more accurately, you simply cannot craft doom metal of such a beautifully barren hue without having LIVED it – and dying for it. Behold The Heresiarch, for it has arrived as Nupraptor!

Await the arrival with the new tracks “Through the Smoke” and “The Fall of Christ” at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where all three formats of the album can be preordered.

Tracklisting for Nupraptor’s The Heresiarch
1. Black Mass
2. Through The Smoke
3. Burning The Believers
4. The Heresiarch
5. Before the Eyes of God
6. Wasting Away
7. The Fall Of Christ

Nupraptor is:
Matt “Saint” St.Ours – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Drum Programming

https://www.facebook.com/NupraptorBand
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-heresiarch

Nupraptor, The Heresiarch (2017)

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Haunt Signs to Shadow Kingdom Records; Luminous Eyes EP out Dec. 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

haunt

Haunt is a galloping classic metal solo-project from Beastmaker guitarist/vocalist Trevor William Church, and even as that band sets to work on their third full-length for Rise Above, word has come down the PR wire that Haunt will issue its debut four-songer EP, Luminous Eyes via Pittsburgh’s own Shadow Kingdom Records. Church could hardly have found a better outlet for Haunt in the US underground, as Shadow Kingdom‘s taste in things classic metal and NWOBHM-derived is second to none, and I don’t know if you remember the first time you put on Early Man‘s demo circa 2004 or 2005, but listening to Luminous Eyes, yeah, it’s kind of like that feeling. So right on.

Official release date for the EP is Dec. 29 — just in under the wire before the end of the year, as confirmed below:

haunt-luminous-eyes

HAUNT set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debut EP, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets December 29th as the international release date for Haunt’s highly anticipated debut EP, Luminous Eyes, on CD, 12″ vinyl, and cassette tape formats.

Hailing from the United States, Haunt is the work of modern renaissance man Trevor William Church. Son of Montrose bassist Bill Church, the California native has already come to prominence as the vocalist/guitarist of doom-lords Beastmaker, who’ve released two critically acclaimed albums on Rise Above. However, as Haunt, Church goes solo and creates a bewitching brew of classic, turn-of-the-’80s heavy metal, drawing deeply from the momentous NWOBHM movement. Across the four tracks comprising Luminous Eyes, Church quickly establishes a mood somewhere between resignation and resilience. By no means “doomed” per se, the downered fog encasing Luminous Eyes lays the foundation for luxuriously subtle hooks to take hold and entrance the listener. If Haunt’s namesake is anything to go by, then surely Church has accomplished his goal!

But, let it be known that these four introductory tracks are deceptively anthemic and wholly invigorating, so gaze deeply into Luminous Eyes and herald the triumphant beginning of Haunt! The first look can be heard with the title track HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where all three formats of Luminous Eyes can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Haunt (U.S.)’s Luminous Eyes
1. Luminous Eyes
2. As Fire Burns
3. No Master
4. Fallen Star

www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Haunt, Luminous Eyes (2017)

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Lucifer’s Chalice to Release The Pact Sept. 29 on Shadow Kingdom

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lucifer's chalice

Pittsburgh imprint Shadow Kingdom Records has announced a Sept. 29 release for The Pact, the debut album from UK doomers Lucifer’s Chalice. That’s really all I need to know. I think on a dare you could probably find an imprint or two out there with as-trustworthy taste in doom and particularly that branch of it affected by a love of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but you’d definitely have to work to do so, and as the below-streaming 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Hung at the Crossroads” demonstrates, the Durham four-piece have a rawness underscoring what they do that is easy to tag as derived from classic metal.

The album, which the band gave an independent digital release this past February, is available to preorder now and runs through four extended tracks — arranged longest to shortest; not a one under seven minutes long — in 36 minutes. Doom for doomers? You bet your ass.

Word comes down the PR wire for the most ardent of those who worship:

lucifer's chalice the pact

LUCIFER’S CHALICE set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debut, reveal first track

Shadow Kingdom Records sets September 29th as the international release date for the highly anticipated debut album of Lucifer’s Chalice, The Pact.

Hailing from the UK, with members concurrently doing time in such bands as Winds of Genocide, Uncoffined, and an ex-member of new Shadow Kingdom signees Horrified, the four-piece Lucifer’s Chalice play pure ‘n’ true DOOM for total doom MANIACS! Sounding as old as time itself, the eldritch atmosphere of The Pact is brewed in the foundational NWOBHM sounds of Witchfinder General and then steeped in witchcraft across the centuries and across continents.

Its heaviness is forlorn yet yearning, unrepentantly dark but searching for light, plumbing doom metal’s most abyssal recesses but equally brimming with the true metal spirit that defined the early ’80s metal scene: doom metal may be the chosen genre of Lucifer’s Chalice, but they inherently understand its total essence and the building blocks which made it in the first place, and thus span the whole panoply of metal and rock from 1977-1984. As such, across four epic-length tracks in a concise ‘n’ cutting 36 minutes, The Pact takes the listener on a moonlit journey across misty moors and through cobwebbed catacombs, from tragedy to triumph and back to tragedy again, inhabiting the subconscious of both the accuser and the accused.

Originally self-released digitally earlier this year, Shadow Kingdom now steps in to unveil The Pact to a larger audience for which there’s no returning from this covenant of TOTAL DOOM. Begin the journey with the EPIC new track “Hung at the Crossroads” at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp HERE, where the album can be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Lucifer’s Chalice’s The Pact
1. Hung at the Crossroads
2. The Pact
3. Full Moon Night
4. Priestess of Death

Lucifer’s Chalice is:
KShevil – Drums
SRM – Lead Guitars
CW – Rhythm Guitars and Vocals
DH – Bass

http://www.facebook.com/luciferschalice
https://luciferschalice.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/ShadowKingdomRecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-pact
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

Lucifer’s Chalice, “Hung at the Crossroads” from The Pact (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

Hour of 13 on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

Operators on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

Bone Man on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

Riff Fist on Thee Facebooks

Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

Helén on Thee Facebooks

Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

Savanah on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Puta Volcano on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Iron Man, The Passage

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Iron Man, The Passage (1994)

Originally issued on Halloween 1994 by venerable and long-defunct purveyor Hellhound Records — see also: The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Count Raven, Wretched, Blood Farmers, Unorthodox and Revelation; woof — the second full-length from Iron Man, The Passage (reissue review here), should rightly be considered among the defining documents of Maryland doom. It is a record so direct in conveying its influence from and love for Black Sabbath, so unabashed in its worship, that it serves as a near constant reminder that guitarist “Iron” Alfred Morris III started the band back in 1988 specifically to pay homage to the metallic overlords. Formed roughly concurrent to the winding down of Morris‘ prior outfit, Force — whose lone long-player was issued in 1991 and whose discography was compiled onto a single limited release earlier this year by Blood and Iron Records (want) — Iron Man made their debut just one year before The Passage showed up, offering an early mission statement in 1993’s Black Night (discussed here; reissue review here).

Morris‘ guitar tone and ultra-Iommic riffing style, even at that most formative stage of the band, was the defining element of the group. That remains the case today, but a key difference between Black Night and The Passage was a swap in frontmen, and where Black Night was vocalized by Rob Levey, who would later found and curate the Stoner Hands of Doom series of festivals, the 11-track/43-minute The Passage brought in Dan Michalak as singer, and introduced a different style to the context of Iron Man‘s Sabbath worship. One doesn’t have to go far to hear it — and by that I mean it’s evident on the first riff of opener “The Fury,” which draws directly from “Neon Knights,” the corresponding launch-cut of Sabbath‘s 1980 LP, Heaven and Hell (discussed here), which was the beginning of the band’s era fronted by Ronnie James Dio. That’s a considerable shout for Iron Man to make, and would’ve been even in 1994 — Sabbath having reunited with Dio for the triumphant Dehumanizer, which seems to be referenced on The Passage in the foreboding synth of the titular interlude that precedes “Iron Warrior,” in 1992 before working once again with Tony Martin to issue Cross Purposes earlier in ’94 — but Michalak‘s lyrical patterning brazenly follows suit from Morris‘ set rhythm. We hear “Ride out,” references to “the night,” “fire,” hidden knowledge, and other Dio-style themes. Throughout the rest of The Passage, the play seems to be intended to fluidly move between the Ozzy and Dio eras. In the second half of “Unjust Reform,” a sudden stop brings a no less full-on take off from “Snowblind,” while the bit of finger and grander unfolding of “Waiting for Tomorrow” recall some of the more epic Dio-fronted tracks ahead of “Tony Stark” — get it? they didn’t call it “Iron Man” — shooting into the void and evil minds plotting destruction in closer “End of the World,” which caps with canned crowd noise to answer that at the beginning of “The Fury.”

These are just a few of The Passage‘s more Sabbathian moments, but they’re by no means the only ones, and even in the general perspective of judgment from which the social commentary of “Unjust Reform” and the later “Waiting for Tomorrow,” “Time for Indecision” and “Freedom Fighters” stems — notions of man’s inhumanity to man, and so on — Iron Man are willfully adopting the methods of their forebears. Yet, The Passage is more than derivation. At a time when their chief inspiration was crisp and overproduced with a huge echoing snare like so many of their era, Iron Man took a grittier approach, and their identity was cast as much in the raw thrust of “Iron Warrior” — a highlight performance there from drummer Gary Isom, whose CV includes stints in Pentagram, co-founding Spirit Caravan and a current position as guitarist in Weed is Weed, among many others — as in the cover art with a lighting effect that seems to show Morris in flames as he plays guitar. I’ll gladly argue that image stands among the most righteous in American doom, every bit worthy of the gray-on-black logo of Saint Vitus‘ self-titled debut or the line-drawing that would adorn Pentagram‘s Relentless album in iconic terms, but the point is that for Iron Man, even the artwork shows what it’s all about. Yes, it’s a full band, with Michalak responsible for conveying the lyrics, Isom pounding away behind the chug of “Time for Indecision,” and bassist Larry Brown (also ex-Force) in the Geezer Butler role anchoring the low end, but it’s Morris‘ project through and through, and he leads the way accordingly.

The guitarist remains among the most pivotal figures in American doom. Though Hellhound Records is long gone, Shadow Kingdom Records has stepped up to reissue many of Iron Man‘s earlier works (it’s their version of The Passage in the Bandcamp player above) and Iron Man released I Have Returned (review here) through the label in 2009 before swapping out singer Joe Donnelly for “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun and signing to Rise Above for 2013’s South of the Earth (review here), which remains their latest offering. They got to the UK, playing internationally for the first time to support that album, and continue to perform local shows in Maryland with the lineup of MorrisCalhoun, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but don’t really tour, and a series of health concerns seem to have sidelined larger activity. I’m not 100 percent sure what the situation is there, but obviously one wishes Morris and the rest of the band nothing but the best and a full return to stage and/or studio productivity soon. As anyone who dug into South of the Earth could tell you, Iron Man still have plenty more to say, and in a world that’s finally caught up to their ethic of Sabbathian homage, they’ve never been more relevant than they are now.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading and for listening.

Next week is the Quarterly Review. I’ve been working on setting up the back end for the last few days, and this weekend, as I also travel to the NY/NJ area to see a Yankee game (tonight) and family (tomorrow), I’ll be starting the actual process of digging into the 50 records that will be covered between next Monday and Friday. It’s already been a lot of work but I immediately regret not doing a sixth day this time around and maybe even a seventh. As I’ve been so busy the last couple months concerning myself with things like losing my job and the impending Pecan due in October, there’s a buildup of album folders on my desktop and mail piled high on my actual desk of records that want covering.

I wish I could get to everything. Sincerely.

But I’ll do the best I can and because I’m a flop at scheduling, there’s already other stuff slated for the days early in the week of the 17th where the otherwise extra Quarterly Review days would go. Fair enough, and at least it’s good. I’ve also got a bunch of premieres and whathaveyou slated for this week coming, so here are my notes as they stand now, subject to change without notice:

Mon.: Quarterly Review day 1; Fungus Hill video premiere.
Tue.: Quarterly Review day 2; Demon Eye track premiere/album review.
Wed.: Quarterly Review day 3; Salem’s Bend video premiere.
Thu.: Quarterly Review day 4; Arduini/Balich Six Dumb Questions
Fri.: Quarterly Review day 5.

If I can, I might just give myself a break on that last day and not slate anything else, roll with whatever news I’ll inevitably be behind on by then and the Friday Full-Length post, but we’ll see what comes in. I’m already about two weeks later on the Quarterly Review than I’d prefer to be, but whatever. Nobody cares except me. I have to keep reminding myself of that. Constantly. Nobody knows the arbitrary schedules I try to keep, and even if they knew, it wouldn’t matter. No one cares.

There’s a sad kind of freedom in that.

Speaking of sad freedom, if you’re in the US, I hope you had an enjoyable and safe July 4 celebration and that nobody got their hand blown off, etc. The Patient Mrs., the Little Dog Dio, the impending Pecan and I have been at the beach all week — the plus side of not having a job is being able to get up here and see sunrises like this one yesterday — and though I’m out of clean laundry and will be day-twoing it in these socks, it’s been an utter pleasure. We’ll be here until early Monday morning and then back home to Massachusetts, where no doubt copious errands will need to be run.

Whatever you’re up to this weekend, I hope it’s a great and also safe time. I’ll be writing in the passenger seat along the I-95 corridor if you need me, so yeah, that should be interesting. Thanks for reading and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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