Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Wisconsin four-piece Attalla self-released their self-titled self-debut (as in, their debut as themselves — keep up; also review here) in the midst of summer 2014. Shadow Kingdom Records, whose taste in heavy is both varied and killer, has stepped up to give the album a look this June. The band put it out on vinyl themselves, and the CD I got to write about was in a sleeve, but the Pittsburgh imprint seems intent on doing it up right for a compact disc, tape and download, and that’s not at all something I’m going to complain about. If you need a refresher on the record, it’s streaming in its entirety below.
You know how it goes. The PR wire has details:
ATTALLA set release date for SHADOW KINGDOM debut
On June 3rd, prepare for total amplifier worship: Attalla’s self-titled debut album will be released by Shadow Kingdom Records on CD, cassette, and digital formats. Marrying the stoned swagger of early Sabbath to the leafiest of ’70s hard rock, this Wisconsin quartet don’t so much go back in time as stop time itself. Lumbering, doomed-out rhythms roll forward and engulf the listener in a lysergic haze, while the thick ‘n’ moist riffs pulse and pound with an insistence that’s totally entrancing.
In fact, the album’s cryptic song titles – chronologically “Light,” “Haze,” “Lust,” “Thorn,” “Veil,” and “Doom” – vividly portray the trip to come. Too dark for regular hard rock but still committed to its earthier values without traversing into proto-metal territory, Attalla could verily be a sonic document of 1973, unearthed today. And yet, undeniably retro as the record may be, Attalla brim with a potency that’s timeless and wholly appealing to a wide swath of rock and metal listeners, and in vocalist Cody Stieg, the band has a great ROCK voice not unlike The Cult’s Ian Astbury. Spark up and drop out! Cover and tracklisting are as follows:
I’ve been thinking of late about heavy rock in the ’80s, and just where the hell it went. By 1975, many of the bands who were slinging riffs a’plenty just four or five years earlier were distant private press memories. Or they went prog. Or they grew into more commercial arena rock. Disco, contrary to what was thought at the time, didn’t kill rock and roll. Heavy metal was quickly taking shape in the mid-’70s and punk was doing the same thing. Certainly the ’80s — and I’m sorry for generalizing an entire decade, but one has to categorize these things somehow or the brain will explode — had no shortage of rock and roll, from L.A. glam to East Coast hardcore and everything in between. There were some bands on the West Coast dipping into psychedelia in the early ’80s for the so-called “paisley underground,” but the hardest-hitting of them didn’t come close to the kind of heft that groups were producing a decade earlier. The heavy, it seems, went in a different direction altogether.
It got darker, turned to the atmosphere of its riffy roots and, as with bands like Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General and many others, established a principal tenet of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal that holds firm throughout many metallic subgenres today: It started taking itself very seriously. Yeah, there were chains, and fire, and sometimes Rob Halford rode in on a motorcycle (by “sometimes,” I mean every show), but if you wanted fluff, go listen to dance music. Heavy metal was serious business.
Not really fair to call this the beginning of doom, since like rock and roll itself, doom is traceable back to the blues in the early 20th century, but it’s a pivotal moment for understanding what we consider doom metal today, and why we consider one record doom and another one not. Pagan Altar‘s Lords of Hypocrisy — recorded between 1982-1984 and left to languish for the next two decades until a 2004 re-recording and release (2013 reissues on Shadow Kingdom and Cruz del Sur) — is a prime example. The vocabulary and the delineation between metal and doom might not have existed the same way it does 30-plus years later, but Lords of Hypocrisy is every bit a doom record in intent as well as execution.
We know names like Trouble, Candlemass, Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Pentagram and so on, and these are pivotal acts, but divide seems so extreme between the bright, made-up dopey smiles of glam and the no-fun-all-drugs downerism of early doom metal (and, for that matter, thrash, which had just about everything in common with doom except tempo), that I can’t help but think of political party lines being drawn and remaining uncrossed. I wasn’t there — I was four in 1985 and not that cool a kid, sorry — but it seems to me that what would’ve been the middle ground between these polar opposites was solid, engaging, by-then-traditional heavy rock and roll. Where were the new bands, not ’70s holdovers in metal, punk or rock, doing that?
For Pagan Altar‘s part, they remain thoroughly underappreciated, mostly in terms of what they could’ve contributed atmospherically to the NWOBHM at the time had they managed to get a record out. Their debut, Volume 1 was tracked in 1982 and released in 1998, by then following up an impressive self-titled demo released 16 years prior. Lords of Hypocrisy is a prime marriage of elder methods and modern sound that few in the NWOBHM or out of it have managed to capture, completely absent the self-indulgent grandiosity of Iron Maiden or or the strange, half-hearted attempts of many of Pagan Altar‘s contemporaries to recapture something that was lost, its rawness and honesty bleed through the quiet stretches of “Armageddon” as much as the quick, comical “The Devil Came Down to Brockley” — Brockley, UK, being the band’s home — or the building emotionalism of “The Masquerade,” and it’s simply a superior level of output. It’s not as clean or crisp sounding as any number of records by Saxon, but like Witchfinder General, like Venom and others, Pagan Altar were always shooting for a different kind of heavy.
The band, reactivated since 2004, suffered a tragedy last year with the death of founding vocalist Terry Jones. At the time, they were said to have a new album, titled Never Quite Dead, in the mastering stage, but there’s been no word since about whether or not it will ultimately surface posthumous to Jones‘ contributions. His passing was a greater loss than heavy metal realized.
But of course, the work remains, and in the case of Lords of Hypocrisy, it’s amazing how vital this material sounds for having sat around for 20 years. Part of the appeal of doom very often is that it sounds like it’s from another time. In this, as in the best of cases, that seems to make it timeless. Hope you enjoy.
Busted laptop. Jury duty. The radio stream down. A full-time job. The goddamned Quarterly Review. A whole pastiche of ongoing medical shit. It’s a good thing The Patient Mrs. wasn’t around for most of this week, because I’ll be completely honest with you, I was a friggin’ wreck. After I finished writing the last of the posts for today last night, I pretty much curled up in the fetal position on the couch, put on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and was about as mentally ready to completely check out as I can remember being in a long, long time. It has been a draining few days and I’m looking forward to a restorative weekend. I hope to sleep until 10AM at least once.
The Patient Mrs. returned last night, incidentally, and today took about five seconds out of her own busy existence to bring mine into order, which was thoroughly appreciated and duly humbling, as I no doubt would’ve continued my caveman flailing until finally clubbing myself in the face and losing consciousness, existentially speaking. I cannot begin to tell you how fortunate I am to have her in my life.
I’m also heaving a sigh of relief today because jury duty didn’t result in me being picked for anything. Basically I gave up a morning and an early part of an afternoon to the cause of being called up to a judge’s sidebar and telling him that I don’t believe in human impartiality. Might’ve been worth it if I’d had been able to bring a functioning laptop with me to dick around on during the mind-numbing stretches of waiting in the jury pool. “Would you differently consider the testimony of a policeman rather than that of a civilian?” Uh, yes. Because I’m not an idiot. “Is there any reason you would be unable to judge this case impartially?” Yes, because there’s no such thing as impartiality. I was amazed to be the only person raising my hand.
Anyway, it’s over, and unlike the last two, three, however many weeks it’s been, the furthest I’m traveling this weekend is maybe to Boston, which is about an hour, so I’m stoked for what I hope will be some mental resource-gathering and getting my head together.
Monday, look out for a track premiere from Thermic Boogie. Also next week, reviews of Witchcraft, Matus and hopefully Terraplane. I gotta look at my notes when I get back to my once-again-functioning laptop that The Patient Mrs. had repaired this afternoon while I was at work, but there’s probably more I can’t think of, in addition to the news, on which I’m also already and perpetually behind. Hey, I put up 50 reviews this week. I’m doing the best I can.
As I know we all are. Please, have a great and tremendous and not-at-all-injurious weekend, and please, check out the forum and the radio stream.
[Please note: Shadow Kingdom reissued Black Night in 2009 and the album is available on Bandcamp here.]
If you ever wanted a primer or a summary of the entire Maryland doom scene distilled into one record, it might be Iron Man‘s 1993 debut, Black Night (reissue review here). I say that because even more than Pentagram‘s Relentless or The Obsessed‘s self-titled — both landmarks, make no mistake — Black Night has remained an underground phenomenon, and while its tracks and particularly the riffs of founding guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III are on par with any of the post-Sabbath downer metal that region has produced and at this point has influenced a lot of it, to a broader worldwide audience, Iron Man continue to be a relatively obscure act. Less so now than perhaps ever following the 2013 release of their latest album, South of the Earth (review here), on Rise Above, but still. Riffers don’t come much more underrated than Morris.
Whether that’s due to issues of race or if it was a lack of promotion at the time, I don’t know, but Black Night is all the more exemplary for the whole of Maryland doom for being undervalued. It is unremittingly straightforward, whether its the hook of its title-track or the basic frustration at root in the social commentary of “A Child’s Future,” and its roots are directly traced to Black Sabbath and the heart of what doom metal was taking from them and melding to the gallop of the NWOBHM at the time. Black Night, in being issued via the German imprint Hellhound, was one of a swath of records from the Doom Capitol area that saw release at what was apparently just the right time to make a lasting impact, and one could easily look at it as well as concurrent offerings from Unorthodox, Internal Void, The Obsessed, Revelation and Wretched as the blueprints for what Maryland doom has become.
As with any scene, the players involved are pivotal. Morris has remained in Iron Man, and vocalist Rob Levey founded and ran the Stoner Hands of Doom festival series, while drummer Ron Kalimon split his time with Unorthodox. Bassist Larry Brown stuck around to play on Iron Man‘s 1994 follow-up, The Passage (reissue review here), and had played in Force with Morris as well, but parted ways with the band after that, and Iron Man would go on to become a hub for players and vocalists in the tradition of Pentagram, though by no means that extreme in turnover.
Hoping for a new Iron Man release in 2016, but I haven’t heard any solid news in that regard. Now fronted by “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun with Louis Strachan on bass and Jason “Mot” Waldmann on drums, the band began playing new material live as of this summer. Hope you enjoy.
Well, The Patient Mrs. is in Portland, Oregon, for a conference until Sunday, and you know what that means: Bachelor weekend! My plans? Make chicken soup, vacuum, and if there’s time, log the recent mail in the Excel file where I keep track of everything (physical; I’m sorry, but there’s no keeping up with Bandcamp links) that comes in for review. That last item might be ambitious, but either way, it’s gonna be a fucking rager. Look out.
Next week: Radio Adds! Yes. Radio Adds. It’s going to happen. No joke, I have well over 100 albums sitting in a folder on my desktop waiting to go on the server, and next week, it’s happening. It’s been since June, and it’s getting ridiculous, so the time has come. I’ll set it all up Sunday. Also Monday I’ll be streaming the new EP from Return from the Grave that Argonauta Records is putting out, and maybe Tuesday I might (fingers crossed) have a Death Hawks track premiere. I’m loving that album. Svart does not screw around.
Speaking of streams, if you didn’t listen to it yet, that Kristian Harting album is very much worth your time. Stream it here.
If you’re the celebrating-Halloween type, be safe. Whatever your plans might be — bet they don’t have you nearly as excited as the prospect of chicken soup has me — I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on August 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Natives of Houston, Texas’ well-populated heavy underground, the dual-guitar four-piece Venomous Maximus distinguished themselves early into their run with their first two EPs, 2010’s Give up the Witch and 2011’s The Mission (review here). Their subsequent debut full-length, 2012’s Beg upon the Light (review here), built upon the momentum they’d gleaned through touring and the response to their shorter offerings, earning a release through Napalm Records — their riotous live show made them an easy sell — and it seemed at the time like the band would issue their next album through that label as well. A quick follow-up was expected after the roll they got on between their EPs and debut LP, but it’s three years later that Firewalker, their sophomore outing, arrives, and it does so through Shadow Kingdom Records.
There has to be some question as to whether that three-year span cost Venomous Maximus in terms of the momentum they had coming out of Beg upon the Light, though they’d hardly been inactive in that time between touring, releasing videos, writing and so on, but to listen to the 10 tracks/46 minutes of Firewalker itself makes it clear the band — guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt — haven’t missed a step in terms of their approach. Songs like “Dark Waves,” “Angel Heart” and “Fire in the Night” maintain the blend of classic metal precision and darker heavy rock atmospherics, bordering on doom but never quite crossing over, that the first album proffered, and build upon those achievements while further establishing Venomous Maximus‘ sound as distinct from the various influences of which it is constructed.
One could rattle off a list of those influences and come up with names as aesthetically widespread as Celtic Frost, Mötley Crüe, Uncle Acid and Samhain, but no single outfit or even a grouping of them really comes close to giving Venomous Maximus their due when it comes to the individualized stock they’ve boiled down from those component elements, taking a horror-minded vibe from here and a theatrical sense of drama from there and turning it into the post-“Intro” chug of “White Rose,” which gets the darkened bikerisms of Firewalker moving at a decent clip, setting the tone for what follows in natural sound and a persistent quality of songwriting that will be familiar to anyone who encountered Beg upon the Light.
They are identifiable, and more so than one might expect for an outfit even on their second record, with Higgins‘ vocals shifting from the proclamations of “White Rose” and “Through the Black” to grittier, more punkish fare by the time the memorable “October 14th” rolls around to follow “Dark Waves” at the end of what’s clearly intended to be side A, Venomous Maximus making no secret of the album’s structure by means of dual intros — “Intro” for the first half, “Firewalker Theme” for the second — and a forward progression that pushes each half of the outing toward its most resonant hook at the end, whether that’s “October 14th” or the finale of the album as a whole, “Take on the Grave.” That’s of course not to take anything away from the surrounding cuts, as the entirety of Firewalker belts out quality craftsmanship that feeds into a full-length flow across its two sides, just to say that Venomous Maximus have a clarity underlying the curling smoke of their malevolence and that all the thrust the album brings to bear leads it to a worthy destination.
Also not to be understated is the band’s attention to detail. Whether showing itself through the tape hiss that seems to pervade the record as a whole to more specific factors like the layered-in acoustics for the second half of “Fire in the Night,” the mad scientist yowl that marks the launch point for “My Machine,” strange, almost taunting vocals on “Take on the Grave” or the fuzzer tone of “Dark Waves” that sits as well with that song’s ’70s swing as the layered shouts of “Angel Heart”‘s midsection do with its “Looks that Kill”-style riffing. Across the board, Venomous Maximus deliver a cohesiveness of concept and performance that seems in its complexity to justify the three years it took for Firewalker to surface, at the same time completely avoiding any kind of self-congratulatory indulgence and keeping their focus where it belongs: on kicking ass.
As “Take on the Grave” winds itself down and loses the drums, bass and vocals to the ether, the guitar remains to set a final moment of ambience in motion, giving Firewalker an appropriately cinematic conclusion. At the same time, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if — whenever it might surface — Venomous Maximus‘ next record didn’t start off with a similar progression to pick up right where they left off. That’s calling a shot in the dark, maybe, but something about that last minute or so feels just as much like a beginning as an ending, and time will of course tell if it winds up being precisely that. Either way, Venomous Maximus‘ second album should more than thrill anyone who got on board with the first, and it’s bound to turn plenty of new heads in their direction as well, as it grabs and holds attention with likewise ease and poise. They’d probably object to the album being called classy, but it is anyway.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yours truly rated Temple of Void‘s 2014 lurker Of Terror and the Supernatural (review here) as one of the best debuts of the year, so you’ll pardon me if I think it’s a good thing it’s getting another look. The record’s second go around will come in Sept. courtesy of Shadow Kingdom, for whom it was also recently announced that Temple of Void would play at their Shadow Kingdom Riot fest.
That gig is on Sept. 3, and the album is reissued on Sept. 4 — you’d almost swear these things were planned out ahead of time — so it seems to me like the Shadow Kingdom Riot will turn into a de-facto-if-not-officially-announced-as-such release party for Of Terror and the Supernatural, which was originally released by Saw Her Ghost and Rain without End Records, its pile of victims continuing to grow.
Or, as the PR wire puts it:
TEMPLE OF VOID Signs to Shadow Kingdom Records
Detroit Death-Doom Despots to See Debut LP, ‘Of Terror and the Supernatural’ Re-issued September 4
Detroit death-doom band TEMPLE OF VOID has signed to underground independent label Shadow Kingdom Records. The band’s first order of business with its new label will be a re-issue of the group’s debut album, Of Terror and the Supernatural, a pulverizing record that steamrolls via a morbid, high-fidelity death metal assault. The album, which has been called, “powerful and overwhelming like thick fog in an old graveyard” will see a September 4 release through Shadow Kingdom, complete with eerie cover art by legendary science fiction and fantasy artist Bruce Pennington.
Wielding a weighty, deafening power that has been called “a right balance of creeping lurch and extreme plunder”, TEMPLE OF VOID creates crushing metal that will appeal to fans of Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Dismember, Hooded Menace, Incantation and (old) Paradise Lost. The band’s sound combines the slow tempos and depressive moods of doom metal with the subhuman vocals and double kick drumming of classic death metal. Check out the video for TEMPLE OF VOID’s “Savage Howl” now at this location.
TEMPLE OF VOID will perform as one of the featured acts at the just-announced Shadow Kingdom Riot, set to take place on September 3 at Cleveland’s Agora Ballroom. The evening will showcase a diverse lineup from Shadow Kingdom Records’s ever-growing roster, and will see TEMPLE OF VOID share the stage along with now-labelmates Venomous Maximus, Iron Man and more. For full details, visit the show’s Facebook event pageHERE.
Track listing: 1.) The Embalmer’s Art 2.) Savage Howl 3.) Beyond the Ultimate 4.) Invocation of Demise 5.) To Carry this Corpse Evermore 6.) Rot in Solitude 7.) Exanimate Gaze 8.) Bargain in Death
Tour dates: June 18 Pittsburgh, PA The Smiling Moose (w/ Cemetery Filth, Abysme) June 19 Philadelphia, PA Millcreek Tavern (w/ Crypt Sermon) June 20 Bayonne, NJ Lot 13 Longbar (w/ Morpheus Descends, Malignancy, etc.)
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
In conjunction with Hells Headbangers and its Hells Headbash, Shadow Kingdom Records has announced the inaugural Shadow Kingdom Riot for Sept. 3 at the Agora in Cleveland. Night Magic, which is an extension of defunct doomersHour of 13, will play, as well as Tombstalker, Coven, Iron Man, Venomous Maximus and Temple of Void on a bill thoroughly doomed and fitting the label’s passion for underground heavy and classic metal. They’re saying it’ll be an annual thing, and if that turns out to be the case, Shadow Kingdom are already giving themselves something tough to outdo for a one-night lineup.
The PR wire has knowledge it wants to share:
Shadow Kingdom Records Announces First Annual ‘Shadow Kingdom Riot’ Showcase
Venomous Maximus to Headline Raucous Lineup of Diverse Underground Metal September 3 in Cleveland
Acclaimed, independent underground heavy metal label SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to announce its first label showcase, set to take place September 3, 2015 at Cleveland, Ohio’s Agora Ballroom. Dubbed the Shadow Kingdom Riot, the special event will spotlight the label’s eclectic roster of true heavy metal acts, from new signings — such as VENOMOUS MAXIMUS and TOMBSTALKER — to bands that date back to the label’s launch in 2007, like Maryland’s heralded IRON MAN.
Tickets for the Shadow Kingdom Riot are $15 and are on sale now at this location. The showcase is presented in part with Shadow Kingdom’s sister label, Hells Headbangers and that label’s second 3-day annual anniversary fest, Hells Headbash (see details here), slated for September 4-6, also at the Agora Ballroom. Metal fans who purchase a 3 day pass to the Hell’s Headbash event will receive FREE admission to the Shadow Kingdom Riot show on September 3, as part of the package.
The Shadow Kingdom Riot lineup and schedule will feature the following Shadow Kingdom Records artists, performing as follows:
6 PM: TOMBSTALKER (Black/Death Metal) 7 PM: TEMPLE OF VOID (Doom / Death Metal) 8 PM: COVEN (Classic Heavy / Doom Metal) 9 PM: NIGHT MAGIC (aka HOUR OF 13 / Doom Metal) 10 PM: IRON MAN (Doom Metal) 11 PM: VENOMOUS MAXIMUS (Dark Heavy Metal)
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
The second hour starts a little early this time around, and what I mean by that is when you’re like five minutes into hour two and trying to figure out on the tracklisting below what improv-sounding brilliant cut you’re hearing, pay careful attention to when hour one ended. Just 11 seconds from the start of the second half of the podcast. So yeah, that 18-minute wonder gets filed under hour one instead, but it comes with a wink and a nod. I just couldn’t bring myself to file something under hour two without a one at the front of the time stamp, which shows you how sad and compulsive I am because I’ve only been time-stamping these podcasts for two months now. What a dork.
It’s good stuff this. Always is, I suppose, but starting out with Goatsnake into The Machine and then on from there, it builds a flow that makes some sense one into the next in a way that, listening back to it after I put it together, was especially satisfying. Hopefully you agree as you make your way though.
As always, hope you enjoy:
0:00:00 Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones” from Black Age Blues
0:04:36 The Machine, “Coda Sun” from Offblast!
0:09:55 Galley Beggar, “Pay My Body Home” from Silence and Tears
0:18:51 Steve Von Till, “Night of the Moon” from A Life Unto Itself
0:25:48 Venomous Maximus, “Through the Black” from Firewalker
0:29:42 Black Pyramid, “Open the Gates” from Dead Star 7”
0:34:59 Ape Skull, “A is for Ape” from Fly Camel Fly
0:39:54 Sunder, “Deadly Flower” from Demo
0:43:53 Eternal Fuzz, “Sea Change” from Nostalgia
0:47:37 Geezer, “Long Dull Knife” from Long Dull Knife
0:53:31 Fogg, “Joy of Home” from High Testament
0:59:49 Shiggajon, “Sela” from Sela
1:18:07 Blown Out, “Thousand Years in the Sunshine” from Planetary Engineering
1:34:01 Les Lekin, “Loom” from All Black Rainbow Moon
1:47:14 Undersmile, “Knucklesucker” from Anhedonia
Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day four. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling it, but you know, that’s what caffeine is there for. If I push past the day’s quota of mental energy, fine. Hasn’t stopped me yet, and there are only 20 reviews of the total 50 left. Not quite the home stretch, but it’s up there on the horizon. Some cool stuff today, and that always helps as well.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Leather Nun America, Buddha Knievel
Though they’re mostly indebted to a Wino-style Maryland doom sound, San Diego three-piece Leather Nun America touch on more dramatic fare late into their fifth album, the awesomely-titled Buddha Knievel (on Nine Records). Pairing the acoustic-led instrumental “Gloom” and 7:51 “Winter Kill,” which swirls its way to an apex of lead guitar from John Sarnie with some subtle touches of extreme metal from drummer Sergio Carlos, they expand beyond a riff-and-groove ethic – though of course they do that well too. Sarnie and bassist Francis Charles Roberts (also of Old Man Wizard) offer familiar structures but satisfying tones, cuts like “Into Abyss” taking a darker turn on some of Spirit Caravan’s road-ready groove. An intro (“Prologue”) and subsequent interludes offer further depth, but the heart of “Burning Village” and Buddha Knievel as a whole is in the three-piece’s take on doom rock, and some of the record’s most satisfying moments come from precisely that, even unto the surprisingly boogieing closer “Irish Steel.”
Seems longer than three years since Virginia’s Corsair made their self-titled full-length debut (review here), but with the fervent support of Shadow Kingdom Records, they return with One Eyed Horse, an album much sweeter than its somewhat disturbing cover art might indicate, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist/vocalist Jordan Brunk and drummer Michael Taylor gracefully delving further into progressive heavy rock textures in cuts like “Shadows from Breath,” which though it winds up in blastbeats, never loses its sense of pose. That’s emblematic of the masterfully-handed twists and turns One Eyed Horse presents throughout its 45 minutes, highlights like “Sparrows Cragg” soaring and immersive while elsewhere “Brothers” reminds that sometimes it’s important to just get down to business and rock out. Corsair remain a well-kept secret, and one wonders while listening to the harmonies and post-rock bliss of “Royal Stride” just how long they can stay that way. Gorgeous, heavy and definitively their own, there’s nothing one could ask of One Eyed Horse that it doesn’t deliver. And yes, I mean that.
“Seer,” “Moros” and “Chronos” are the first three tracks to be released by Boston newcomer post-metallers Sea, but already their Demo showcases an impressive atmospheric breadth. Churning riffs from guitarists Liz Walshak (who also drew the cover; ex-Rozamov) and Mike Blasi (Rhino King) are given added depth from bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme (Olde Growth), and propelled ahead by drummer/engineer Andrew Muro, though there’s room left in each cut for ambience as well, “Seer” trading off, “Moros” beginning a linear build, and “Chronos” finding a middle-ground in switching between harsh and clean vocals before a slowdown brings about the chugging, memorable finale. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points), Demo proves an ambitious first release, but there’s nothing Sea set out to do on it that they don’t accomplish, and I take it as a particularly encouraging sign that in three cuts, there’s just about no structural repetition to be found. That bodes well in the classic demo sense, but more than what’s to come, these songs are already worth hearing.
Aggressive Sabbath-style doom with East Coast roots – The Munsens recorded at Moonlight Mile with Mike Moebius (Pilgrim, Kings Destroy) in NJ – Weight of Night finds the trio amidst the legal flora of Denver, Colorado, which is a fitting enough setting for the three riff-led cuts they offer on the tape. Of them, side one’s “Slave” is the most decidedly Iommic, a layered solo rounding out after “Under the Sun”-style descent — it also opens with a sample of Julie Newmar as the devil from The Twilight Zone — but both “Weight of Night” and side two’s 11-minute “The Hunt” boast the root influence as well, though the latter is invariably a standout for its crawling progression, almost Pallbearer-esque, that pushes up the tempo in its second half, arriving at a driving pace that’s even farther from where it started than the runtime would have you believe. The opening title-track works somewhat similarly, but ends with a piano interlude, and the shouting, metallic vocals hold back later on “The Hunt,” making its lumbering all the more hypnotic.
Philly trio Gondola waste just about no time showing off primo guitar antics on their Budro Records-released Get Bent LP, a penchant for jamming underscoring a lot of the wah-drenched movement on opener “Brain Ghost” and its side A compatriots “Psychic Knife,” “Poison Path” and “The Hornet.” There’s a decidedly stoner influence, vocals gaze-out Dead Meadow-style on “Psychic Knife,” but a Naam jam in “Brain Ghost” and the Fu Manchu drive of side B highlight “Electric Werewolf” offer plenty of variety within that sphere, guitarist/vocalist Rocky Rinaldi, bassist/vocalist Jordan Blumling and drummer Tim Plunkett finding space to make their own thanks in no small part to a palpable chemistry between them. Heavy rock and roll, and a damn good time, Get Bent comes across more as a suggestion than an imperative by the time the arm’s returned after “Life Cult” but either way, Gondola’s jam-laden push and brainmelter leads make this one a howler not to be missed, and just because it vibes hard doesn’t meant the songs don’t move.
Consistently unpredictable and reliably prolific, Boston outfit Space Mushroom Fuzz – spearheaded by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside – isn’t through opener “Let’s Give Them Something to Hate About” before a sampled bong and sickly-sweet solo interwine with a progressive psychedelic jam. One never really knows what’s coming from Space Mushroom Fuzz, and on Future Family, it seems to be a blend of traditional songwriting with the project’s long-established weirdo sensibilities. “A Day in the Strife” is particularly Floydian, but even that has a structure, and “Saving all My Love for U2” has just about the heaviest, most straightforward push I’ve heard from Abrams in this context, even though there’s plenty of freakout to be had as well. What holds the release together is the persistent anything-goes vibe, which is maintained even unto the acoustic-led swirl of closer “L’Americana,” not quite fully departing an underlying cynicism, but escaping sonically the irony in some of the album’s titles in a manner that’s sincere whether or not it wants to be.
The key to Deep Aeon’s Temple of Time (released on H42 Records) is in the momentum the German four-piece commence to build on opener “Element 24” and how utterly unwilling they are to relinquish it at any point over the release’s 29-minute span. Even six-minute closer “River” has a shuffle – and handclaps. Vocalist Marcel Röche keeps a gruff edge to his voice throughout, but that could just as easily be from keeping up with guitarist Alexander Weber, bassist Axel Meyer and drummer Nikolaj Marfels. Songs like “Floating” and side-B launch “With that Priest on the Back Seat” offer straightforward fuzzy heavy rock, but rhythmically, Temple of Time swings and swings and swings and there’s just no getting away from it. If the record was 50 minutes long, I’m not sure it would be sustainable – someone’s bound to need to catch their breath, band or listener – but for being in and out in under half an hour, Deep Aeon make a clean, efficient run with little use for letup. Bonus points for the Alexander von Wieding artwork.
“Come with me, let’s go get high,” urges Teepee Creeper guitarist/vocalist Jon Unruh on “Rainbow Sex Glow” from his band’s seven-track/33-minute Ashes of the Northwest full-length, recorded by Mos Generator’s Tony Reed, who also drums and whose band released a split 7” with Teepee Creeper last year (review here). I won’t say “let’s go get high” sums it all up, but a lot of it. Riffs rule the day, and deservedly so, on tracks like “Far Far Away,” the live-tracked “Crushing the Gods of Men” and “The Raven’s Eye,” which caps with a particularly righteous roll. Rounded out by bassist Jeremy Deede – no slight presence in the mix – and now featuring drummer Ian Hall, Teepee Creeper seem to get better the higher the volume goes, the impressive and open-sounding tones surrounding the listener on the aforementioned “Rainbow Sex Glow” like a meaner version of Texas’ Wo Fat, and yes, that is a compliment. The album may or may not reduce their native region to ashes, but it’s bound to turn some heads in their direction.
How right the umlaut-happy Hellräd are when the Philly sludge slammers posit that Things Never Change. Their destructive, blown-out grime makes its nihilism plain in songs like “Homegrown Terrorist,” “My Jihad Against My Own Mind,” “Dopefiend Jesus,” and of course “Smoke More Crack,” weighted, lumbering grooves switching off at a clip with full-speed punker fuckall. Guitarist Mike Hook, noisemaker/vocalist Dirty Dave (not the same Dirty Dave from The Glasspack), bassist Herb Jowett and drummer Robert Lepor get down to all-out bludgeonry from the start of “Street Zombies,” the opener and longest track (immediate points) at 6:55, but there’s just something about the rolling groove of “Fuck Up (All I’ll Ever Be)” that hits home. Probably not as primal in its making as the energy with which it’s conveyed might lead one to believe, the ultra-nasty 38-minute debut full-length is nonetheless likely to leave a dent in your skull. Or have your skull leave a dent in something else. A wall, maybe. Or another skull.
Working in longer form on the four original tracks included on Dead Sun Worship, their full-length debut, Dublin four-piece Venus Sleeps make an atmospheric centerpiece out of the Syd Barrett cover “Golden Hair,” which in the context of what surrounds it is almost an interlude. Shades of Electric Wizard show themselves on the howling “I am the Night,” but the opening duo of “Ether Sleeper” and “Dawn of Nova” is more progressive, the guitarist/vocalist Sie Carroll, guitarist/backing vocalist Steven Anderson, bassist Seán O’Connor and drummer Fergal Malone exploring a psychedelic blend of doom and heavy rock riffing that comes to the fore again on 11-minute closer “Age of Nothing,” despite that song’s healthy dose of wah. The range they show in the original material seems only bolstered by the cover, and especially as their debut, the ambition and scope Venus Sleeps showcase is admirable. There are moments when the production seems to contract when a given part wants it to expand, to sound bigger, but Dead Sun Worship lacks nothing for clarity in purpose or execution.