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.

Puta Volcano on Thee Facebooks

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.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Review & Track Premiere: Venomous Maximus, No Warning

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

venomous-maximus-no-warning

“‘Sea of Sleep’ is a song that is broken up into three parts: past, present and future. We always try to include little references to our personal influences in our music. Whether or not you know realize it, we know it’s there. The song title itself is a reference to Saturn. The bass intro is very ‘NIB.’

“We want you to always hear our influences; it’s what keeps it classic. We don’t steal from it. We were born with it. We are here to keep it alive. I think that’s a big difference between us and other bands nowadays. Some people try so hard to have it and some were born to live it.” — Gregg Higgins on “Sea of Sleep”

[Click play above to stream the premiere of “Sea of Sleep” from Venomous Maximus’ No Warning. Album is out July 28 via Shadow Kingdom Records.]

Now at some six years’ remove from their debut EP, 2011’s The Mission (review here), dark-toned Houston rockers Venomous Maximus remain a band unto themselves. No Warning is their third long-player and second for Shadow Kingdom Records, which brought the four-piece aboard for 2015’s Firewalker (review here) — a workmanlike follow-up to their 2012 debut, Beg upon the Light (review here) — and like everything they’ve done to this point in their tenure, it is marked out by its crisp sense of songwriting and cohesive aesthetic presentation. Their sound, like their cover art this time around, is a multi-faceted collage. It finds them dug deep into horror rock and classic metal influences, tinged with doom so that in any given riff one might hear strains of PentagramIron Maiden, the Misfits, or in the case of the acoustic-minded “All of My Dreams” and the penultimate side B interlude “Endless” here, more cavernous strains of the NWOBHM at its creepiest.

Presented over two clearly demarcated halves, each with its own synth-y intro — aptly-titled “I” and “II” on the digital version, seemingly unnamed in the vinyl tracklist — No Warning adds a progressive edge to Venomous Maximus‘ well-honed theatrical sensibility, and though guitarist Gregg Higgins has his fist-in-the-air vocal declarations working to the group’s advantage in sway and personality alike, he, fellow guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt sound more assured than ever of the bewitching nature of their hooks and more poised in executing the sonic turns between the chugging “Pray for Me” and the more metallic “Return of the Witch,” which would seem to be a direct sequel to “Give up the Witch,” which was a highlight of both The Mission and Beg upon the Light. Could it be that, six years later, Venomous Maximus are feeling a little reflective on how far they’ve come and what they’ve done in their time thus far?

If so, on that level, No Warning is woefully misnamed. The fact of the matter is everything the band has conjured in terms of craft and sound has been a warning to those who’ve been willing to pay attention for what their third outing brings across its efficient 10-track/41-minute stretch. That’s not to say it’s redundant — far from it — just that the point at which Venomous Maximus show themselves having arrived throughout cuts like post-intro opener “Spellbound” and the later, Mercyful Fate-d guitar weep of “Blood for Blood” is one predicated on their prior accomplishments. They couldn’t be where they are without having been where they were. That No Warning was recorded by Toxic Holocaust‘s Joel Grind certainly adds a sense of metallic cred to the proceedings, and his handling of the mix creates a sense of depth throughout that only further draws the material together.

venomous maximus

Bottom line, perhaps, is that Venomous Maximus are an experienced band at this point and they sound like it, and that their third record stands as an affirmation of their style and execution at its strongest. As “Spellbound” starts off with ghoulish glee and the central riff of “Pray for Me” seems to nod at the doom-pop of Ghost without losing its edge, overall Venomous Maximus still sound most like themselves. They’re a powerful live act, and as always, Higgins brings a formidable presence to the studio as well, whether it be in the sharp-edged turns of “Pray for Me” or the longer “Return of the Witch,” which follows and is a clear focus point for the outing as a whole. It may or may not be intended as an answer to “Give up the Witch” — which still stands among the band’s most landmark choruses — but the title-line repetitions across its 5:50 run would seem to make it one either way, and if that’s an easter egg for those who’ve followed the band throughout their years, then fair enough. They’ve more than earned the right to speak directly to their fans.

That said, I’d still call Venomous Maximus somewhat underappreciated as a group. Yes, they’ve toured with High on Fire, and they went abroad earlier in 2017 to play Desertfest in London, but as they expand their palette here with the strums of “All of My Dreams,” the classic biker riffing of their title-track and the later gallop of closer “Sea of Sleep,” what they bring to realization on an aesthetic level still seems generally undervalued. Whether or not No Warning will change that, I don’t know, but it does present the next logical forward step in their ongoing development, tightening their approach from where it was even on Firewalker while holding firm to the atmospheric elements that have helped define who Venomous Maximus are and have become throughout their time.

It may well be that their refusal to play entirely to one subgenre or another has led to some misread on the part of their audience — too metal for the doomers, too doom for the headbangers, too dramatic for the ultra-serious? — but from where I sit that only makes them more admirable. To listen to them toy with vocal echoes on “Blood for Blood,” or dig into raspy call and response there, or to hear the energetic start that “Spellbound” brings to No Warning lead to the sudden stop in the unfolding and turn toward thrashing vibes on “Sea of Sleep,” it seems that no matter where Venomous Maximus want to make their riffs go, it’s fair game.

They cap “Sea of Sleep” with a hidden bonus riff (visible in the wavform above), as if to sneak one more in before actually ending the album, and that too puts the emphasis right where the band wants it. Make no mistake, Venomous Maximus are and have always been putting on a show. Their records are like a black-swirl cultish carnival. But that show has never been pretentious in the slightest about wanting to offer listeners anything more than a good time, and they’ve never sounded more in command of concept, structure and delivery than they do on No Warning. It is a well-earned victory in a hopefully ongoing series thereof.

Venomous Maximus, No Warning (2017)

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Temple of Void Announce New Album Lords of Death

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

temple of void

Hell yes. If nothing else, we can be sure Detroit’s Temple of Void know how to name a record. That was something the death-doom extremists proved with their 2014 debut, Of Terror and the Supernatural (review here), and it seems to be affirmed with the reveal of their follow-up sophomore outing, Lords of Death. Just try to say that out loud without turning one of your hands into a doom claw. Can’t be done. It’s impossible.

Been digging the viciousness these guys roll out since their Demo MMXIII (review here) hit like a full-stack falling on my head, and though I know their kind of ultra-dark, ultra-plodding, ultra-nastiness isn’t everybody’s cup of poisonous tea, they’ve done it so well to-date that I’ve been unable to hear anything in what they do other than righteousness. I didn’t know they’d have a new album out this year, but I’m definitely looking forward to it now.

And you vinyl types will want to get a load of this cover art too. It, the Lords of Death — claw! — tracklisting and more background info come courtesy of the PR wire:

temple-of-void-lords-of-death

TEMPLE OF VOID reveal cover art, tracklisting for new SHADOW KINGDOM album

Today, Shadow Kingdom Records reveals the cover art and tracklisting for Temple of Void’s highly anticipated second album, Lords of Death. Ever aptly titled, Lords of Death is an insanely, irrevocably MASSIVE slab of doom-DEATH, and the album by which Temple of Void will rightfully take their seat at the throne. Nearly three years in the making, Lords of Death is an experience like no other, and will surely go down as one of the top metal albums of 2017.

Temple of Void is an uncompromising collaboration from the depths of Detroit, Michigan. Comprising five musicians who have put in decades of time in the Detroit underground, Temple of Void entered this world with singular focus and methodical execution from the start. Temple of Void harkens back to the somber sound of early European doom, while channeling the energy and devastation of old-school American death metal. But Temple of Void is far more than the sum of its parts: Temple of Void destroys.

Temple of Void self-released their first demo in 2013. Four weeks later, they had signed to four different record labels to release Demo MMXIII and their imminent debut album across the world. The demo was met with staggering support from the underground, but just over a year later, Temple of Void unleashed their debut album, Of Terror and the Supernatural, via Saw Her Ghost Records for the double-LP vinyl version and on CD through Rain Without End Records. The day it was released, Shadow Kingdom contacted the band and requested dibs on re-releasing the album to a worldwide audience. Unleashed internationally in September 2015, the slab of barbarity otherwise known as Of Terror and the Supernatural quickly became a critically acclaimed cult hit amongst the press and those looking for the darkest, dirtiest doom-death.

But, with the bar set so high by that debut album, Temple of Void swagger forth to eclipse that achievement and soundly obliterate any comparisons with Lords of Death. A prescient title if there ever was one, Lords of Death casts Temple of Void in a slightly newer light: whilst unmistakably Temple of Void, this is the sound of the band shorn of any fat and fully representing the powerful, punishing experience of the band in a live setting. It’s still signature Temple of Void, to be sure, but Lords of Death emits an enviable amount of focus and forward momentum, with the band largely ditching the doomier tropes in favor of ones reflective of their all-consuming onstage power. Instead, Temple of Void emphasized the deathlier aspects of their debut, but pumped them full of addicting, headbanging energy. Put another way, whereas Of Terror and the Supernatural was doom with death metal, Lords of Death is death metal with doom. Fittingly, the production here is utterly CRUSHING, and once again recorded at Mount Doom in Detroit.

Completed by appropriately morbid artwork by Paolo Girardi, Lords of Death is that Rubicon-crossing moment where a band becomes masters. Recommended for fans of Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Grave, Asphyx, Edge of Sanity, Obituary, Hooded Menace, Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, and the early works of Paradise Lost, Morbid Angel, and Opeth – behold the new lords of death, Temple of Void!

“An uncompromising record from the band that made one of the very best, if not THE best death/doom debut in last five years or so. Weighty death metal groove and suffocating, gloomy atmosphere in just the right mix together. Album-of-the-year material!” – Markus Makkonen (Hooded Menace / Sadistik Forest)

Release date, first track, and preorder info to be revealed shortly. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Temple of Void’s Lords of Death
1. The Charnel Unearthing
2. Wretched Banquet
A Watery Internment
3. The Hidden Fiend
4. An Ominous Journey
5. The Gift
6. Graven Desires
7. Deceiver in the Shadows

www.facebook.com/templeofvoid
www.templeofvoid.bandcamp.com
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords

Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural (2014)

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Condenados to Release The Tree of Death in Jan.

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

condenados-700

One can definitely hear where the PR wire is coming from with the Bathory reference below when it comes to Chilean doomers Condenados. Their new streaming track, “Sea of Fire” has plenty of that grand, fist-pumping roll and howling-into-Viking-oblivion vibe going on, let alone the tom rolls and chants, but there’s a more rock-based side to it as well that comes across in bass fills and classic heavy-style guitar leads. I’m reminded of the early work of another post-Bathory aficionado act, Ereb Altor, as well as the masters themselves, and Candlemass for sure — traditional doom with an edge of underlying power thrust. No complaints here.

Dig it:

condenados-the-tree-of-death

CONDENADOS set release date for new SHADOW KINGDOM album, reveal first track

It’s been five long years since Condenados’ cult debut album for Shadow Kingdom Records, A Painful Journey Into Nihil, but at long last, the wait is over: on January 13th, 2017, the Chilean doom-lords return with their highly anticipated second album, The Tree of Death! For over a decade now, Condenados have been expertly crafting ancient, ’80s-style European DOOM METAL that’s proud and pure, poignant and provocative, and everything that made A Painful Journey Into Nihil a scene classic is amplified here on The Tree of Death.

The lumbering grooves, the transcendent lead work, the emotive vocals, even a newfound swagger, and just the consistently bursting energy across their forlorn stomp…Condenados are reverential of the form, but masters all the same. As such, The Tree of Death is very likely to appeal to fans of classic Candlemass, old Cathedral, the UK’s Solstice, compatriots Procession, and even those who worship Bathory’s Viking era. And at six songs in a swift 35 minutes, Condenados succinctly make their point and compel repeat spins of The Tree of Death.

Musically and aesthetically, The Tree of Death has strong symbolic art that manifests the most basic instincts of human beings, lyrically channeled through Goetia’s demonology. The cover art was crafted by esteemed Italian artist Paolo Girardi, who has worked with such bands as Manilla Road, Inquisition, Cauchemar, and Blasphemophager among others. The artwork for The Tree of Death is already being acclaimed across social media networks as one of the most incredible works done by Girardi.

The Tree of Death features special appearances of well-known metalheads like Olof Wikstrand, vocalist of Sweden’s Enforcer, who was in charge of the mixing and mastering process. Also, the recording of the album took place in Equinox Studios in Rancagua, Chile, assisted by the guitarist and vocalist of Wrathprayer and Oraculum.

Simultaneously with the album’s release, Condenados will soon reveal a video for “Demon’s Head,” whose theme will address the adverse effects of playing with black magic without having the knowledge of the art. In the meantime, hear “Sea of Fire,” the first track to be revealed from The Tree of Death, exclusively at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp HERE, where the album can also be preordered. Tracklisting is as follows:

Tracklisting for Condenados’ The Tree of Death
1. Star of Punishment
2. The Lamb
3. Burn
4. Demon’s Head
5. Sea of Fire
6. Marchosias Oath

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

Condenados, “Sea of Fire”

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Hour of 13 Reveal More Details for Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Well, we still don’t have a full tracklisting, artwork, or a solid release date, but more details have come through about the rare tracks comp, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased, that is serving as the marker for Hour of 13‘s reactivation, first announced here. The forthcoming comp on Shadow Kingdom will be the band’s first outing since 2012’s 333 (discussed here) and in detailing the origins of some of the tracks included, the label paints an image covering the band’s entire (initial run), and then goes as far as to confirm a new album in the works for 2017. My understanding is there are some contingencies to align before founding multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis and company hit the studio — for example, who “company” is — but however and whenever they get there, it seems inevitable if Hour of 13 is truly going to be a band again that a next record would happen at some juncture. Now the question is, will they tour?

Looking forward to this one, which will reportedly be out before the end of this year. Shadow Kingdom forwarded this along the PR wire:

hour-of-13-chad-davis

HOUR OF 13 rejoin forces with Shadow Kingdom!

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present a long-overdue demos & rarities collection from thee immortal HOUR OF 13, appropriately titled Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased. Across this massive collection, one will find HOUR OF 13’s very first steps into doom metal godhood, alongside alternate recordings of fan favorites.

Listening to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, it becomes quickly apparent that something truly special was being birthed upon the band’s first recorded notes. The first half of this collection – or sides A and B of the double-vinyl edition – comprise demos recorded in 2007. The first three songs were the very first written by HOUR OF 13 in November 2006 and then recorded not long after; the next five songs were recorded nearly a year later. Together, these eight songs would form the foundation of the band’s now-classic debut album, released by SHADOW KINGDOM as Hour of 13. Although recognizably HOUR OF 13, these early demo versions of the debut album’s songs have slightly different arrangements while others have slightly different vocals, but every single bit of the band’s trademark atmosphere is plentiful and poignant. Verily, this is the sound of lingering incense and burning blood.

During the second half of Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, we find a number of alternate recordings, some with special circumstances surrounding them. On side C is an alternate full-band recording of “Call To Satan,” recorded at the HOUR OF 13 rehearsal spot, alongside an alternate version of “The Rites of Samhain” with fully correct lyric placement and vocals by main man Chad Davis. But most poignantly is the song “Upon Black Wings We Die,” written and recorded within a matter of a few hours upon hearing the news of the passing of Jason McCash from The Gates Of Slumber. On side D are the complete Candlemass Eve Recordings, the second rehearsal with Beaten Back to Pure’s Ben Hogg on vocals: all recorded in a single session on a Zoom H2 microphone in the room, captured here with a newfound energy and stirring vocal performance. Feel the ancient atmosphere of early metal rehearsal rooms of yesteryear here!

As founder Chad Davis states in the liner notes to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, “This album documents the times and tribulations that had shrouded HOUR OF 13, the early days of rejuvenation along with the dark days of contemplation, and serve as a testament of an entity capable of withstanding any obstacle in its path.” So far, the definitive HOUR OF 13 collection – and the cultest. Praise Him and enter the abyss!

More news regarding the track listing and album cover will be revealed soon!

HOUR OF 13 are currently working on a new album for 2017! More news will follow soon about that as well.

https://www.facebook.com/hourof13doom/
http://www.shadowkingdomrecords.com/

Hour of 13, “Upon Black Wings We Die”

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