Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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Marijannah Sign to Pink Tank Records; Till Marijannah Due in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Set for release early next year is the debut album from Singapore-based heavy rock four-piece Marijannah. Details are pretty light thus far on Till Marijannah, including a solid issue date — the band has said “February” — but when it does show up, the vinyl will arrive via Pink Tank Records and the band features members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult digging into heavy garage and semi-psych vibes. They show off some of same in the first streaming single to come from Till Marijannah, the six-and-a-half-minute “Snakecharmer,” which is one of the four inclusions on the record as a whole.

I’m not saying I’ve heard the full thing yet or anything like that, but at least on first impression, it’s a tough one to pin down sound-wise, and that proves to be very much a strength working in its favor. Okay, I’ve heard it. The vibe is heavy and raw and somewhat aggressive, but what Marijannah do atmospherically remains somewhat laid back and it’s not like they ever really explode in nastier fare or anything like that. It’s a trip I’m looking forward to getting to know better over the coming months as we head toward the release, looking back on this post and being like, “Wow, I had no fucking idea what I was talking about.” That’ll be fun. Because I don’t. Invariably.

Pink Tank announced the signing thusly:

marijannah

Marijannah – Pink Tank Records

+++ PLEASE WELCOME MARIJANNAH +++

We’re really proud to present you our new Pink Tank Records Family Member, Marijannah.

Marijannah is a Stoner/Doom Metal band from Singapore. Made up of members of two of the tiny island’s hardest touring bands, Wormrot & The Caulfield Cult.

Marijannah combines finest parts of classic Doom Metal structures with a taste of Stoner driven riffing. On top the four guys garnish their massive sound with a good dose of Psychedelic Rock. Marijannah’s debut record “Till Marijannah” is scheduled to be released in early 2018 on Pink Tank Records.

https://www.facebook.com/marijannah/
https://marijannah.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.pink-tank-records.de/label-1/the-pink-tank-family/marijannah/

Marijannah, “Snakecharmer”

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Rudra Premiere “Hermit in Nididhyasana” from Enemy of Duality LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

rudra

Long-running Singapore-based metal extremists Rudra will issue their new album, Enemy of Duality, via Transcending Obscurity on Dec. 17. It is the four-piece’s eighth full-length and first through the label, and it comprises eight tracks and 48 minutes of a vicious blend of black metal, thrash, overarching sl0w-nod-frown-face death metal groove and Eastern arrangements that they’ve long-since dubbed “vedic metal” — the heavy underground once again lapping the entire universe when it comes to self-branding. The term refers to Hindu mythology and literature — the Vedas are the oldest scriptures in Hinduism — and like a lot of blackened fare, Rudra pay homage to heritage while also basking in a modern sonic force that has become something of a spiritual exercise on its own level.

By the time they get down to the penultimate cut “Hermit in Nididhyasana,” between the sitar on opener “Abating the Firebrand” and “Slay the Demons of Duality,” Slayer-style soloing on “Acosmic Self,” blackened rasp screams, Kreator-esque riffing on “Seer of All,” chanting, blastbeating on “Root of Misapprehention,” and so on, Enemy of Duality would seem to be a work of worship on multiple levels. And that’s before they lock into to the tablas and Eastern-folkish break in nine-minute closer “Ancient Fourth,” so indeed, reverence abounds.

Listening to the flute that starts “Perception Apparent” and the scorched complexity that follows, one finds a Western parallel in what groups like Negura Bunget have brought to black metal over the years. Rudra‘s sonic balance is no less likely to tip to one side or the other — as the chants later in that same song show — but their thrashy underpinnings are an immediately distinguishing factor that stands them out within either the black or folk metal styles. It shows up largely in the guitar work of Vinod and Simon, and while bassist/vocalist Kathir keeps largely to an echo-laden rasp, drummer Shiva (fair enough the Destroyer would play drums) digs into and out of double-kick gallop with a technical fluidity that, at the time Rudra were starting out, was one of the founding principles melodeath took from both death metal and thrash.

They put it to rampaging use behind machine-gun chug and a soaring lead in “Acosmic Self” before sitar and tabla open “Root of Misapprehension” and shifts the context of Enemy of Duality once again as the second half of the album is introduced. They’ll bookend the track with the folkish arrangement, returning to a more straightforward thrust of extremity on “Seer of All,” which is fitting enough before “Hermit in Nididhyasana” and “Ancient Fourth” close out with the record’s most effective melding of influences. The former, at 6:40, hits first and moves smoothly between opening chants and Bathory-via-earlier-Enslaved progressivism, leaving a memorable impression through both its drive and the apex on which it fades back out into chanting.

As for that finale, it’s no less a stunner. East or West, it’s easy for a band working with any kind of folkish arrangement to come across as gimmicky, but on “Ancient Fourth,” and especially in its percussion-added midsection slowdown, Rudra obviously benefit from their years of experience, and one could easily apply that to Enemy of Duality as a whole. From the fullness and bite of the production through the tightness of performance and the mindfulness of their transitions, Rudra seem to heal as many wounds as they leave behind them, and as they finish out putting flute and didgeridoo over more double-kick from Shiva and slow-headbang riffing on a relatively quick fade, there seems to be very little out of the reach of their encompassing devotion.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the premiere of “Hermit in Nididhyasana.” You’ll find it below, followed by more background from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

‘Vedic metal’ pioneers since the early ’90s return this year with their most ambitious album to-date. Having worked hard over the years to forge a unique sound that’s a sublime blend of Indian classical music rooted in ancient spirituality and extreme metal encompassing death metal, black metal and thrash metal music, Rudra have influenced many and more importantly, have set standards. Unheralded overlords of Asia, Rudra have a cult following that remains mysteriously loyal, as they hone a sound that’s probably unparalleled.

Their latest album, again founded on the principles of Vedic spirituality, extemporizes on the conventional extreme metal template and achieves hitherto unknown sonic effects. Indian classical instruments such as sitar, flute, tablas (Indian percussion) and even a didgeridoo are used for this album, along with female vocals and ritualistic chanting to emanate a genuine, spiritual expression. ‘Enemy of Duality’ is destined to be a landmark from the Orient, one that doesn’t abandon the ancient roots and blends the traditional sounds and philosophies seamlessly into music that’s at once challenging and hypnotic.

Rudra on Bandcamp

Rudra on Thee Facebooks

Rudra website

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity on Thee Facebooks

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