Cranial Announce Alternate Endings out Sept. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cranial (Photo by Dominik Morber)

With CD and LP due out through Moment of Collapse Records and cassettes through Sludgelord Records and Hand of Death Records, there’s plenty of backing for Cranial‘s new album, Alternate Endings, which is bound to immediately draw some comparisons to the Hydra Head-style pastiche of post-metal, if only for its cover art. The band have a new trailer posted now that captures some of the ambient sensibility that Alternate Endings will have on offer, but if one goes back and listens to their 2017 outing for Moment of CollapseDark Tower / Bright Lights, there’s plenty of churn and crush to go along with that atmospheric reach. I’d expect no less of the upcoming full-length, though it’s always possible they’ve gone all-out drone as well. Something in the tension of that YouTube clip makes me think there’s a payoff lurking there though. Or maybe it’s the song title “Burning Bridges.”

Either way, one imagines harsh things await in the darkness, and that’s just fine. The PR wire brought the info and the aforementioned trailer:

cranial alternate endings

Sludgy post metal heavyweights CRANIAL reveal album details!

“Alternate Endings” coming September 27th on Moment of Collapse Records

Sludge metal heavyweights CRANIAL return with their sophomore album to be released September 27th by capable Moment of Collapse Records! Risen from the ashes of almighty OMEGA MASSIF, CRANIAL took the best ingredients, created their own sound and developed it even further. Powerful and earth shattering, apocalyptic and destructive, melodies as uplifting as they are depressive – once again the band pushed themselves forward and re?ned their songwriting. Working together with Ghost City Recordings and no one else than Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna) they found the perfect team for setting up their most crushing sound to date!

“Alternate Endings is our most personally output so far. It is about loss, fear and desperation but also about rise and hope. Within these four songs we captured and encapsulated these strong feelings. Working with Ghost City Recordings and Magnus Lindberg was the perfect match for the new album. They helped us with our vision.” the band comments.

Seeing the light of day September 27th on LP, CD via Moment of Collapse Records and tapes on Sludgelord and Hand of Death Records – a glimpse of what to expect can already be heard and seen in a first teaser at THIS LOCATION!

Alternate Endings tracklisting:
1. Faint Voice
2. Unceasing Lack
3. Burning Bridges
4. Holistic Figure

CRANIAL is:
Michael Melchers (guitar)
Julian Weidhaus (bass, vocals)
Cornelius Merlin (drums)
Sebastian Kröckel (guitar)

www.facebook.com/cranialband
www.facebook.com/momentofcollapse
www.momentofcollapse.com

Cranial, Alternate Endings album trailer

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Plague of Carcosa Stream Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains EP in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on July 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

plague of carcosa

Chicago instrumentalist two-piece Plague of Carcosa will release their new EP, Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains, on July 19 through Sludgelord Records on tape and Gipsy House Recordings on CD. The title, like much of the band’s framework, derives from the horror literature of H.P. Lovecraft, and the two songs on Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains, “Crawling Chaos” and “Madness at Sea,” do likewise, the former being a 1921 short story related to the outer-god Nyarlathotep, while the latter refers to Cthulhu. So the big guns, as far as Lovecraft goes. Fair enough, as guitarist Eric Zann and drummer Lark McGee have the tone and pummel to match the giant mythical beasts they’d purport to base their work around. As to whether the two of them were sitting in the rehearsal space with their Lovecraft compendium out going, “Okay, now we’ll make this riff represent when he says, ‘Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men,'” but it’s of course an atmospheric impression, and after a few years of lineup changes — doing time over the last three years as a solo-project, a trio, and even a four-piece on last year’s 14-minute “Rats in the Walls” single — they basically have the whole “eldritch dark cosmos” thing down.

And it should go without saying that Lovecraft dilettantes, non-fans or those who’ve simply never engaged with the material and its old-style hyper-formal prose won’t necessarily lose out on the listening experience for not being immediately ready to connect the cumbersome title to the short story “The White Ship” from Plague of Carcosa Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountainswhence it comes. The 15-plus-minute offering has a rumbling, noisy appeal all its own, and one would be remiss not to liken it to acts like Bongripper (whose Dennis Pleckham mastered) or even the much-missed Beast in the Field — the tone at the start of “Madness at Sea” particularly for the latter — but its combination of fullness of sound and a duo’s elemental cacophony helps bring personality to Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains beyond the basic thematic. “Crawling Chaos” indeed lurches forward, building into a sensory overload of which Nyarlathotep himself might be proud before entrancing with low-end distortion into a long deconstructing fadeout, while “Madness at Sea” starts out with feedback and unfurls a more undulating central progression with harder stops and will eventually also seem to rip itself apart on a molecular level before it’s done. “Madness at Sea” might be the more punishing of the two, but it’s a picking of poison either way on the two-songer, as Zann and McGee create a massive, churning abyss of groove and ill-intentioned tone. If the ocean is more ancient than the mountains — technically true — then Plague of Carcosa do well in conjuring what horrors might lie in the unfathomable deep.

I won’t profess to know whether Plague of Carcosa will keep their current configuration or seek to add another member (or two), but the best argument in favor of their current form seems to be coming from the band itself in these songs. I’m no expert on Lovecraft, but the brutal ambience McGee and Zann bring to bear on Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains is a grim thrill unto itself, and only suggests further reading. And by reading, I mean crushing. And by crushing, I mean being crushed. Just so we’re clear.

You can stream Ocean is More Ancient than the Mountains on the player below. More info off the PR wire follows.

Please enjoy:

Plague of Carcosa is a 2-piece instrumental doom band formed in the spring of 2016; the band was created by cult leader Eric Zann in the forgotten corners of Chicago to explore the darker, more droning side of metal. Taking cues from the heavy textures Sunn O))) and Bong, and introducing the terrifying themes of Lovecraft, Eric self-released the debut The Color Out Of Space, and the cult grew. Recruiting a drummer and second guitarist as high priests of the cult, the group quickly took to playing in a style often compared to local heroes Bongripper, whilst also taking notes from the mighty Conan and Thou. As they honed their material, Eric released the 70-minute experimental piece (‘Ritual 1’) and shortly after, the group worked with Andy Nelson (Weekend Nachos) on their first release as a group, Hastur, which was unleashed upon the world in May of 2017. The winter of 2018 saw the release of ‘Rats in the Walls,’ a 15-minute behemoth, which was mastered by Dennis Pleckham of Bongripper.

The latest release, Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains, once again sees the cult teaming up with Andy Nelson and Dennis Pleckham, this time operating only as a two-piece. While they have lost a high priest, they have gained followers all over the world with their sonic adaptations of the works of Lovecraft and invocations of the Great Old Ones. The opener ‘The Crawling Chaos’ serves as a tribute to the great Nyarlathotep and sees them seamlessly blending their signature colossal doom riffs with a touch of grindcore at the climax. The other half of the EP, ‘Madness at Sea,’ is intended to pay tribute to the ‘Call of Cthulhu’ chapter of the same name. Melding drawn-out, ever-evolving riffs with more ambient sections that crash into walls of feedback, it is a fitting depiction of the sailors losing their sanity when being faced with the mountainous Cthulhu in his sunken corpse city.

Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains is set for release digitally and audio cassette via Sludgelord Records on July 19th 2019.

Plague of Carcosa is:
Eric Zann – strings
Lark McGee – drums

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Opium Lord Sign to Sludgelord Records; Vore Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, that’ll do nicely. You don’t get too much of a sense of what Opium Lord might be up to with Vore from the new teaser clip posted to herald the album’s coming-soon status, but even the fuckall violent atmospheric threat is sitting pretty nicely as far as I’m concerned. File under “current mood.” The Birmingham-based five-piece will release the album later this year through Sludgelord Records following behind a 2016 split with Churchburn — any band that would dare stand up to that kind of aural hatefest must be onto something — and their 2015 debut, The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth, which was issued by Candlelight amid some apparent discontent, as well as an initial EP the year prior. Seriously, the clip is only a minute long and you can check it out below. Just feel that misery.

No release date yet, but there’s time. We’ll get there. I included the track from the split in the meantime as well, for further digging if you’re so inclined.

Have at it:

opium lord (Photo by Stuart Lee-Tovey)

Opium Lord to Release Vore on Sludgelord Records

Birmingham misery soaked metal band Opium Lord joins Sludgelord Records for the release of their second album.

The band who started life in 2014 on Leeds based record label Thirty Days of Night Records via Candlelight Records and Dry Cough Records will join Sludgelord Records for the release of their 2nd album ‘Vore’ which will be released this year.

With their 1st album ‘The Calendrical Cycle: Eye of Earth’ selling out on Candlelight Records and Dry Cough Records the band now look forward to linking up with Sludgelord Records.

The band said “we are really chuffed to join Sludgelord Records, we obviously follow the magazine side of the label closely and we’ve found some amazing bands through that and we know how passionate they are about our little scene, so we know full well they will work really hard for us.”

“It’s been a tough few years for us and we’ve been a bit irritated with issues that were out of our hands in regards to releasing this album, waiting on people and being a little pissed around but we are just happy we can now move on and get it out so people can hear it, we are really proud of this record.”

Following the success off the back of their debut album it led them to multiple European tours including a North American tour with Primitive Man. Opium Lord also released a split 7” with former Grief and Vital Remains members Churchburn from Rhode Island.

On the forthcoming record ‘Vore’ they added “we worked with our friend Wayne Adams in London at Bear Bites Horse Studio and we are really happy with it, it’s a slight departure from our first record but we think people will get it – we also have a special guest from an artist we all really respect, but I don’t want to spoil who it is just yet.”

The band plan to tour the UK on release of the Vore, details on when the album will be released as follows.

Opium Lord is:
Nathan James Coyle
Adam Beckley
Bruce Goodenough
Luke Fewtrell
Simon Blewitt

https://www.facebook.com/opiumlord/
https://opiumlord.bandcamp.com/
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https://thesludgelord.bandcamp.com/

Opium Lord, Vore teaser

Opium Lord, “Control”

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Stone Machine Electric, Darkness Dimensions Disillusion

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Stone Machine Electric Darkness Dimensions Disillusion

[Click play above to stream Darkness Dimensions Disillusion by Stone Machine Electric in its entirety. Album is out April 26 on Sludgelord Records.]

Stone Machine Electric are the bluesy, jammy, sometimes doomed sludge jazz called for by the times in which we live. The Hurst, Texas-based duo have consistently evolved over the course of their studio LPs, EPs, live offerings, etc., and for the last nine years, they’ve been an underrated act lurking in the crowded Lone Star underground, compatriots to Wo Fat and recording at that band’s Crystal Clear Sound studio, but never really touring and so never really getting the attention their particular take deserves. Darkness Dimensions Disillusion is their third album and first to be issued through Sludgelord Records. It follows behind 2016’s Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here) and its 2017 live companion, Vivere (review here), which were at that point the farthest yet that the two-piece of William “Dub” Irvin (guitar/vocals) and Mark Kitchens (drums) had pushed themselves, exploring nuanced reaches of dark psychedelia centered around the theme of the 2016 US presidential election, which was about as appropriate a subject as one could ask for their gleefully bizarre and malleable approach.

That willingness to discuss real-world issues had never been expressed to such a degree throughout prior outings like 2015’s The Amazing Terror EP (review here), 2014’s jam-based Garage Tape (review here), their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) and their 2010 demo, Awash in Feedback (review here), but it’s a theme that Darkness Dimensions Disillusion continues in its four component tracks. Perhaps not to the degree of having a portly rat king in a red tie on the front cover — though the diamond-encased staring-eye skull drawn by Kitchens is righteous — but still, it’s there in 12:48 opener “Sum of Man” and 14-minute closer “Purgatory,” the two tracks that bookend the album, as well as the all-caps “SAND” and “Circle” (premiered here), the latter of which is unarguably the most straightforward composition they’ve ever included on a record. That in itself is emblematic of Stone Machine Electric‘s steady creative evolution. They’re never predictable unless you count the reliable certainty that they’ll try new things. So it goes here.

And you don’t have to wait until the third of the four tracks to get to that point either. The very first movement of “Sum of Man” is indicative of their progressive bent, unfolding with surprising grace over the course of its first four minutes with a minimal but spacious stretch of effects ambience that’s greeted with melodic guitar/keys on a subtle linear build that’s nonetheless interrupted by the drums bringing about the shift into the first verse. Stone Machine Electric have done plenty of jamming in their time, but this is a different way of engaging atmospherics, and it’s more purposeful than a basic sonic meandering — nothing against that either — in terms of setting the mood for what follows and putting the listener in a more open headspace, such that even as Irvin intones “The sum of man is equal to his waste,” and “The sum of man/Can be measured/By the size of the void/Left upon the land,” the languid groove, while plenty heavy in terms of tone, remains laid back in its overarching affect.

stone machine electric

Repetitions of the title-line serve as a hook unto themselves, and after a few verses, Irvin and Kitchens take off on a fluid, solo-topped jam that seems to immediately signal no return. It feels earned. “SAND” is more chorus-based, but at over eight minutes long still has plenty of room to stretch out, and it takes advantage of it with a noisy midsection that parses out to angular turns leading into its solo and a slow, doomly roll that follows with some theremin or other synth accompanying, from whence they drop out and return to the hook in an effective showcase that says Stone Machine Electric know precisely which rules they want to break and when they want to do it in terms of working in and out of various structures, which is only fitting their experimentalist take and their level of craft in general. They are not just another band.

With “Circle,” though, they do toy with the idea of dead-ahead songwriting in a way they never have. At 4:45, it’s the shortest cut on Darkness Dimensions Disillusion by nearly half, and it’s a work of verse/chorus songwriting that pulls away from some of the burl in “SAND” in favor of a more melodic vocal that suits Irvin well, and shuffling snare work from Kitchens that seems to be a direct contrast to the track before. There’s a short guitar solo in the second half, and a sudden stop as if purposefully cutting themselves off before they launch into the next jam. There’s plenty of opportunity for such things in “Purgatory,” though, with a quiet keyboard-sounding intro to mirror “Sum of Man” for the first two and a half minutes and a smoother transition into the first verse — really embracing the “jazz” in “doom jazz”; no complaints — and bringing back the throatier vocals as they shift as well to meatier riffs and an unfolding nod that sounds like a culmination even before it serves as one.

Kitchens and Irvin are quick to move into more exploratory fare, but they hardly rest there, taking one movement into the next with a marked fluidity en route to the eventual noise wash that emerges with the vocals seeming to echo up from it as they move deeper into the second half of the track, guitar siren blaring amid the distortion flood until the whole thing goes away at the 10-minute mark and they work their way back into an easier groove topped with a highlight solo and the return of the keyboard line from the beginning of the song, which will be the last element to remain after the guitar and drums head out on a long fade, leaving on a note of quiet atmospherics like that which started the album in the first place.

One can only hope Stone Machine Electric continue to follow that impulse as they inevitably move forward from here, since their more confident approach to melody and more patient execution suits them so well, especially in “Sum of Man” and “Purgatory,” but as ever, they serve an intention toward experimentation, and that leads them to new and fascinating places throughout these songs. I wouldn’t bet on what their next record will sound like, but I’m willing to go on record in saying that they’ll keep moving forward, likely in a multitude of directions. They remain better than people know, and a band whose steady growth is matched only by the consistent quality of their output.

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Stone Machine Electric Premiere “Circle” Video; Album out April 26

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

stone machine electric

I’m going to try really hard in this post not to review Stone Machine Electric‘s new album, Darkness Dimensions Disillusion, which is out April 26 through Sludgelord Records. At this point, I think I’ve written about nearly everything the underrated Texas duo have put out, so I’m not trying to get around or anything, but if you check back in on April 25, I’ll be hosting a full stream of the record and reviewing it then. So we’ll get there, but in the meantime, I’m gonna not say everything I want to say about the four-track offering before, you know, it’s time to actually say it. Stone Machine Electric are a fun band to write about, but in almost all cases, reviewing stuff twice is a bummer. “Didn’t I already do this?” and so on.

That bit of procedural declaration aside, let’s talk about “Circle” instead. On Darkness Dimensions Disillusion, it’s an immediate standout for being about half as long as the next shortest track on the record. That is, it’s 4:44 and the preceding “SAND” is 8:19. The bookending opening and closing cuts — the names of which I’m not even going to mention because that’s how much I’m not reviewing the album right now — are both over 12 minutes. “Circle” might also be a standout in the band’s entire discography as well, though, for its straightforward structure. Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo/bridge, chorus, end. While kind of standard for the rest of the various forms of rock and roll, it’s still a shift in approach on the part of Stone Machine Electric, who’ve traditionally been more about crafting spacious jams than hooks, though they’re not exactly strangers to the idea, as their past work has shown.

The tonal crunch of guitar comes accompanied by a more melodic vocal from William “Dub” Irvin, and the changes between the movements in “Circle” are driven fluidly by Mark Kitchens‘ drumming in a way that underscores the jammy foundations shown on the rest of the album — which, again, I’m definitely not going to review now. In fact, I should probably just leave it there until later in the month.

Instead of hearing me ramble (more), why don’t you just go ahead and dig into Kitchens‘ art in the video for “Circle” below and enjoy a little bit of the old elsewhere-rock as only Stone Machine Electric can provide.

Brief comment from the band, live dates and preorder link follow:

Stone Machine Electric, “Circle” official video premiere

Circle is about the monotony that is life as seen from a macro perception, and sometimes you just want something to come crashing into it in order to reset the cycle.

Upcoming Dates (more to come):
4/6/19 Anderson Mill Pub – Austin, TX
4/26/19 Division Brewing – Arlington, TX (Album Release Show)
5/17/19 Lost Well – Austin, TX
6/28/19 Tin Panther – Fort Worth, TX
6/29/19 Freetown Boom Boom Room, Lafayette, LA
8/31/19 Reno’s Chop Shop – Dallas, TX (Dallas Fuzz Rock Festival)

Preorder Darkness Dimensions Disillusion at: https://thesludgelord.bandcamp.com/album/darkness-dimensions-dillusion

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Stone Machine Electric to Release Darkness Dimensions Disillusion April 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

stone machine electric

I’m not even going to pretend I haven’t heard this one. Stone Machine Electric have a new album coming out. It has four songs on it, and it’s awesome. The Texan bizarrojam duo have been at it for nearly a decade now, and it’s been nothing short of a joy to hear them get weirder and more comfortable getting weirder as they’ve grown into their own style, and Darkness Dimensions Disillusion is four songs serving as the next step in that ongoing process. I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll get to premiere a track or something this time around, but we’ll see as we get closer to the April 26 release on Sludgelord Records whether or not that happens.

Either way, the record is awesome, which is no less than I would expect from Stone Machine Electric, who’ve made that their ply and trade all the while. Their last offering was 2016’s Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here) and its 2017 live companion, Vivere (review here), so they’re due, and as they work once more with Kent Stump (Wo Fat) at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, they’re nothing if not right in their element. All the better.

More to come, but here are the PR wire preliminaries:

Stone Machine Electric Darkness Dimensions Disillusion

STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Darkness Dimensions Disillusion

Texas-based duo best known for their weird approach in crafting a darkened and spacious vision of psychedelic jamming are ready to reveal their latest effort. This album was produced, mixed, and mastered by Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, Texas.

Darkness Dimensions Disillusion informs you on the greater picture that is not seen, reinforces the confusion, reminds you nothing changes, and lets you know that you are still not in control.

Track Listing:
1. Sum of Man
2. SAND
3. Circle
4. Purgatory

Darkness Dimensions Disillusion will be released on Sludgelord Records on April 26th, 2019.

https://www.facebook.com/StoneMachineElectric/
https://twitter.com/SME_band
http://stonemachineelectric.bandcamp.com/
http://www.stonemachineelectric.net/
https://www.facebook.com/SludgelordRecords/
http://instagram.com/sludgelordrecords
https://thesludgelord.bandcamp.com/album/new-day-dying

Stone Machine Electric, Vivere (2017)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Huata, Lux Initiatrix Terrae

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

huata lux initiatrux terrae cover

[Click play above to stream Huata’s Lux Initiatrix Terrae in full. Album is out Nov. 23 on Sludgelord Records, Seeing Red Records and Musicfearsatan.]

Songs become grandiose riff ceremonies and the album as a whole becomes a ritual rooted in harmonized meditations and weighted progressive instrumentalism. Atmosphere is paramount. Texture is everywhere. And if it’s a ritual, then despite their penchant for donning a robe or two, France’s Huata bring a feeling of celebration to their second album, Lux Initiatrix Terrae, and that pushes beyond horror-minded cultish tropes. Those themes may be somewhere in 15-minute opener “Mythical Beast of Revelations,” to be sure, but they’re buried so deep beneath organ and the vocal work of Ronan Grall, who also handles drums and is joined in the band by guitarist/bassist Benjamin Moreau, that they’re harder to discern in the first place. The Brittany duo work primarily in longform stretches across the willfully unmanageable 68-minute runtime, with five tracks over 10 minutes long and two interludes under three, and Moreau and Grall bring in a host of outside players — presumably to contribute vocals and keys, etc. — to help them flesh out the ensuing complexity of the material. Five other names are credited: Gurvan Coulon, David Barbe, Alexis Degrenier, Laetitia Jehano, Marion Le Sollier, but as to who does what, it’s unclear.

In any case, the resulting contributions of all parties are wildly immersive, as between the bookends of “Mythical Beast of Revelations” and 16-minute closer “Third Eyed Nation,” the band unfolds a perpetually widening cascade of moods and sounds, such that the eerie organ and synth in the closer are consistent in approach with what’s preceded even as they seem to reach further into a kind of colorful abyss — Huata‘s sound too rich and too vibrant to simply conjure images of light-absent emptiness. Theirs is the proverbial shining void, and their material finds them churning this multi-hued, potent cauldron of sound with witchy glee, even as their overarching direction seems to be intent on taking them downward into it.

There’s a dichotomy there, and it’s brought to life in the recording and mix of Cyrille Gachet (Year of No Light, Chaos Echoes, The Great Old Ones), which allows for a broad reach between the Electric Wizard-gone-interstellar start of “Child of the Cosmic Mind,” samples and organ and low riffs all circling around each other in slowly building wash, but it’s elements like the tone of the guitar and bass, the compression effects on the oft-harmonized vocals and the inclusion of various keys — church organ among them and feeling particularly appropriate, given the overall aesthetic — that tie everything together and make Lux Initiatrix Terrae so fluid. The distorted heft comes and goes, but so do nearly all the other elements at work throughout, as nothing seems to be permanent or beyond the band’s reach. A slow march in “The Solar Work” picks up where “Child of the Cosmic Mind” leaves off, and might be the closest thing to a title-track present on the album, the first and last word of which are Latin for “light” and “world” and the middle which puts together ideas of beginnings and so that it’s something like light begetting the world — “The Solar Work” doesn’t seem so far off from that.

huata lux initiatrux terrae

Either way, in the second half of the 10:35 piece, the vocals give way to melodic shouts in a kind of relative apex, but by then the idea is made plain that repetition is a key part of this ritual. Huata‘s songs — reminiscent of more recent Ancestors in their vocal approach and progressive lean — are mantras. It’s not going to be about hooks or about roping the listener in with a catchy solo or sharp rhythmic turn. The three-song salvo tops 36 minutes and is an album unto itself, let alone the second LP that follows it as the 2:50 “Part I – Gathering in Sin Wur” makes its way via organ and soft guitar toward the lung-crushing weight — worthy of whatever comparisons to Slomatics or Conan or Ufomammut one might want to draw — and ranging scale-work melody of “The Golden Hordes of Kailash,” which furthers the thread of a purposeful delve into hypnotics, a post-midsection break meshing together different layers of keys in order to set the stage for a return to the nodding, lumbering push that draws the listener back into the multi-tiered wash of distortion and melody before what even after 10-plus minutes feels like a sudden stop.

The second interlude, “Part II – The IXth Arch Assembly” follows the diversionary modus of its predecessor, drifting with soft guitars and underlying keys that resolve in wistful notes ahead of the arrival of “Third Eyed Nation,” which makes its way in gradually — of course — with complementary ambience before the vocals start less than a minute in. Those expecting a grand finale after what’s already been an hour-long listen should be sated by “Third Eyed Nation,” which even in its first half seems to signal its spot as culmination of the proceedings, though after seven minutes, the drums cut out and a stretch of spoken samples and almost siren-esque synth sounds in a high frequency and others in a lower frequency take hold before guitar sneaks back in to signal the return of the tonal onslaught and the beginning of the real apex.

They get there, in other words, and frankly, if one is making the journey through Lux Initiatrix Terrae and gets as far as “Third Eyed Nation,” the expectation that Huata are going to take their time getting to where they want to go should be well ingrained. It’s hard to imagine making it across the songs otherwise, since that head-down, prog-tinged dirge vibe is so writ large and so consistent throughout the material. That’s not to say Moreau and Grall don’t make efforts to change their approach in terms of surroundings, personnel and mood, but the aspects of their sound that they carry with are what enable them to create the world that one seems to inhabit while listening. And one of Lux Initiatrix Terrae‘s greatest strengths stems from the band’s ability to put the listener in the mindset they intend, the place they intend. That world may be created by light, I don’t know, and it may certainly be chaotic, but Huata guide their audience through it with a sure hand that’s well evocative of the dogma they’ve envisioned.

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Review & Track Premiere: Shallow Grave, Threshold Between Worlds

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Shallow Grave Threshold Between Worlds

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘The Horrendous Abyss’ from Shallow Grave’s Threshold Between Worlds. Album is out Oct. 31 on Sludgelord Records, Cursed Monk Records, Black Voodoo Records and Minor Label.]

All that happens in the first 30 seconds of Shallow Grave‘s second album, Threshold Between Worlds, is a fade-in of an introductory riff, and yet even that seems crushing. The Auckland four-piece made 55-minute their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 via Astral Projection, and while they’ve trimmed the runtime down to an LP-ready 38 minutes for four songs, the sense of impact remains a major concern. Mostly, I’d think, for seismologists. It is not long after that fade-in that Shallow Grave begin the 10-minute “The Horrendous Abyss” in earnest, with a buzzsaw tone worthy of namedrops like Beast in the Field and Swarm of the Lotus from guitarists Tim Leth (also vocals) and Mike Rothwell, furious low end distortion from bassist Brent Bidlake and an almost noise-rocking rhythm from drummer James Bakker, who succeeds in pushing deeper into “The Horrendous Abyss” while cutting through the mire with a snare that seems to hit with no less of a thud than the toms.

Largesse is the order of business, and business is lethal, but in “The Horrendous Abyss” and onward through “Garden of Blood” (9:41) and side B’s “Master of Cruel” (13:11) and “Threshold Between Worlds” (5:31), the band craft an atmosphere of chaotic churn, marked by vicious noise and, for all the madness unfolding, a feeling that the worst violence is still being held back. To wit, “The Horrendous Abyss,” in its eighth minute, pulls back to minimalist guitar notes, but even these are backed with windy drones, giving all the more a feeling of being alone somewhere in the wild. Presumably, we’ve arrived at the titular locale. That’s actually how the track ends, fading out to let the faster start of “Garden of Blood” come on to stomp itself between the line of sludge and brutalist noise. An angularity of rhythm emerges, and Leth‘s largely indecipherable vocals call to mind Tomas Lindberg in their rasp, but the primary impression thanks to a consistency of tone is still one of lumber, and Shallow Grave take due time to revel in it.

And who would argue? The foreboding is palpable early in “Garden of Blood,” as it was throughout “The Horrendous Abyss,” and before it hits the 2:30 mark, “Garden of Blood” slows its pace to a crawl and lurches-out for the next minute, growing an increasing wash of noise as its march leads toward an inevitable decay, drums cutting out just prior to four minutes in and the volume receding to let an airy guitar take hold momentarily before a momentum of riff picks up — exactly the source of the two band-comparisons above, neither of which one is inclined to make lightly — and shoves forward through the next several minutes, once again increasing in wash before the vocals return, caked in echo and even less human/humane for that. It may not be a horrendous abyss, as the first song was, but neither is it a relaxing beach-day getaway.

shallow grave (photo by Damian McDonnell)

Instead, it is an apex of pummel that reveals the second movement in “Garden of Blood” for the linear build it’s been all along, cleverly concealed by the surrounding onslaught. The last two minutes of “Garden of Blood” are given to a noisy, mechanical-seeming drone that fades out to conclude side A and prepare the ground for “Master of Cruel,” which in effect is the closing argument Shallow Grave will make here. A swell of low distortion provides a bed for the drums to come forward in the mix — bit of a role reversal there, since it’s been the drums anchoring the proceedings all along throughout “The Horrendous Abyss” and “Garden of Blood” — before an impressive and extended scream from Leth brings with it a surge of guitar.

By the time they’re past three minutes deep, the drums are gone entirely, and is the guitar, as they recede completely to a drone as the foundation for a line of standalone guitar soon enough met with cymbal wash. Just when you might think you have them figured out and that they’re starting another forward build in the vein of the preceding cut, instead of making their way through with deceptive patience, they thrust ahead all at once into a huge-sounding plod, brutally delivered before evening out to a steady hi-hat-punctuated roll. They are not yet, it’s worth noting, at the midpoint of “Master of Cruel,” the title of which would seem to betray its ambitions.

That steadying transition leads to a push-pull nod that will consume much of the second half of the track, as the vocals show up amid a proceeding decrease in tempo and increase in noise. By the time they’re 11 minutes deep, the direction is set and telegraphed to the listener: once more into the morass. Undulations of harsh frequencies mark the noisy finish, less about feedback directly than one might think, but still working on another long fade into a drone that shifts directly into the shorter closing title-track, which executes a tonal deathblow in a midsection surrounded on either side by noise. The effectiveness of those elements isn’t to be understated. Drones in the transitions, long fades, etc. — these are the things that help craft the atmosphere that winds up playing such a significant role in the effect of Threshold Between Worlds on the listener.

I won’t take away from the force of their delivery or the intensity of their heaviest moments — how could I? — but it’s the ambient factors that let Shallow Grave‘s sophomore release become more than just a very heavy sludge record and really begin to find its own personality in terms of style. And that personality may be psychopathic, but that still counts. With a half-decade between their debut and Threshold Between Worlds, it doesn’t seem fair to anticipate a follow-up anytime soon from Shallow Grave, but when/if it does happen that they put out a third release, one might expect them to continue to toy with this balance, as it seems so crucial to their purposes overall. At the same time, to think at all of Threshold Between Worlds, it feels less safe making predictions of any sort for what might come. Other than darkness, which most certainly is lurking on the horizon for all.

Shallow Grave on Thee Facebooks

Shallow Grave on Bandcamp

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp

Black Voodoo Records on Bandcamp

Minor Label website

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