JIRM Premiere “Candle Eyes” Video from Surge ex Monumentis

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

jirm

It’s fitting that rebranded Swedish outfit JIRM — formerly known as Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus — would make a video for the opening track of their forthcoming long-player, Surge ex Monumentis, because it doesn’t take any longer than that for the Stockholm foursome to make it readily apparent to their listeners that they’re on a way different trip than they’ve ever been before. With an underpinning of space metal, heavy progressive swirl and flourish of psychedelic reaching, the six-minute “Candle Eyes” begins Surge ex Monumentis with a feel that’s both classic and vital, owing precious little to the boogie-minded vintage-ism of the band’s prior work under their original name in 2014’s Spirit Knife (review here), their third album, and the preceding outings, 2011’s Bloom and 2009’s Elefanta.

Clearly, then, they’re aware of the signals they’re looking to send their audience. JIRM, as they make what’s more or less a second debut with more than a decade’s experience behind them, foster a number of grand statements of aesthetic throughout Surge ex Monumentis in extended tracks like “Dig” (12:07), “Isle of Solitude” (11:26), “Nature of the Damned” (10:35) and 11-minute closer “Tombs Arise,” and while the record boasts a more progressive bent overall, one might point to the rise of a band like Elder as a potential line of inspiration. That’s not really the case here. JIRM have their own agenda and their blend when it comes to bringing together heavy rock and prog, and by injecting a current of ’80s-style metal grandiosity — notice I didn’t say “glam-diosity”; that’s not what we’re talking about here — they find a niche for themselves and begin to dig into what will likely be a continuing process of forward creative growth.

So again, a second debut. And think of “Candle Eyes” as the leadoff moment of that debut. The video itself is somewhat grim looking, but don’t be fooled — there’s plenty of color to be found in what these guys are doing, whatever they might choose to call themselves.

Surge ex Monumentis is out March 16 on Small Stone Records. More info on the album follows the video premiere below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

JIRM, “Candle Eyes” official video premiere

Official Music Video for the song Candle Eyes.
From the album Surge Ex Monumentis.
Release date: March 16, 2018
Small Stone Records.

For their first record as JIRM, the Stockholm-based four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Karl Apelmo, guitarist Micke Pettersson, bassist Viktor Källgren, and drummer Henke Persson cast off the shackles of expectation entirely. Their style is no less expansive, but it’s become entirely their own, a driving mind meld between psychedelia, classic metal, heavy rock, and individualized realms beyond. Surge Ex Monumentis brims with newfound energy at the same time it benefits from the lessons JIRM have learned since first getting together in 2004 and releasing albums like Elefanta (2009), Bloom (2011), and Spirit Knife (2014).

With as much progressive force as raw sweat behind them, JIRM has never been more themselves than they are on Surge Ex Monumentis, and even as they redefine who they are and what they do as a band, they remain singularly powerful in their delivery and completely unmistakable. The seven-track offering was captured at Puch Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, mixed by Oskar Lindberg at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg, Sweden and mastered by Chris Gooseman at Baseline Audio Labs in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Surge Ex Monumentis will see release on CD, digital, and limited edition 2xLP formats via Small Stone on March 16th. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION where you can also stream opening psalm, “Candle Eyes.”

Surge Ex Monumentis Track Listing:
1. Candle Eyes
2. Dig
3. Isle Of Solitude
4. The Cultist
5. Nature Of The Damned
6. Giza
7. Tombs Arise

JIRM on Thee Facebooks

JIRM on Instagram

JIRM website

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus Rebrand as JIRM; Surge ex Monumentis Due in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

jirm

As much as I’d like to think it was some interference from the actor himself that caused Swedish heavy rockers Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus to change their moniker — both because of his abhorrent views on homosexuality and because he’s the most easily forgotten villain in the Die Hard franchise — that probably wasn’t the case. To be fair, it was a pretty cumbersome name, and JIRM gets the job done anyhow.

Four records deep might seem like an odd time for a group to rebrand, but the Stockholm four-piece actually have a significant sonic shift in store with the forthcoming Surge ex Monumentis as well, trading off boogie vibes for more progressive fare that’s decidedly metallic in its foundation. Enough so, in fact, to make me wonder if the similarity between the figure on the Mattias Halldin cover art and Dio‘s classic mascot, Murray, isn’t a coincidence.

If it isn’t, I just don’t want to be the last in line to know.

Sorry.

Just. Sorry.

I couldn’t help it.

Here’s news from the PR wire:

JIRM SURGE EX MONUMENTIS

JIRM: Swedish Heavy Rockers Formerly Known As Jeremy Irons And The Ratgang Malibus To Release Surge Ex Monumentis Via Small Stone This March; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Sometimes in life you have to make a change. And sometimes you have to make a whole bunch of changes. So it is that JIRM is born and stands where once stood Jeremy Irons And The Ratgang Malibus. Having dropped the cumbersome moniker, the Swedish heavy rockers embark on a new era with Surge Ex Monumentis – marked as much by a tightening of sound as name.

For their first record as JIRM, the Stockholm-based four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Karl Apelmo, guitarist Micke Pettersson, bassist Viktor Källgren, and drummer Henke Persson cast off the shackles of expectation entirely. Their style is no less expansive, but it’s become entirely their own, a driving mind meld between psychedelia, classic metal, heavy rock, and individualized realms beyond. Surge Ex Monumentis brims with newfound energy at the same time it benefits from the lessons JIRM have learned since first getting together in 2004 and releasing albums like Elefanta (2009), Bloom (2011), and Spirit Knife (2014).

With as much progressive force as raw sweat behind them, JIRM has never been more themselves than they are on Surge Ex Monumentis, and even as they redefine who they are and what they do as a band, they remain singularly powerful in their delivery and completely unmistakable. The seven-track offering was captured at Puch Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, mixed by Oskar Lindberg at Svenska Grammofonstudion in Gothenburg, Sweden and mastered by Chris Gooseman at Baseline Audio Labs in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Surge Ex Monumentis will see release on CD, digital, and limited edition 2xLP formats via Small Stone on March 16th. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION where you can also stream opening psalm, “Candle Eyes.”

Surge Ex Monumentis Track Listing:
1. Candle Eyes
2. Dig
3. Isle Of Solitude
4. The Cultist
5. Nature Of The Damned
6. Giza
7. Tombs Arise

http://www.facebook.com/JeremyIronsandtheRatgangMalibus
https://www.instagram.com/jirm_band/
http://www.jirm.se/
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/

JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis (2018)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Långfinger Announce Spanish Tour Dates; Playing Red Sun Fest & Deadfest

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger continue to press the flesh in support of their 2016 third long-player and Small Stone Records debut, Crossyears (review here). This past Fall, in addition to premiering a charm-laden video for the track “Say Jupiter” (posted here), the three-piece hit the road in Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic, and their parsing of Europe will seem to carry forward into the New Year as well with a week-long stretch of dates in Spain and Catalonia.

The run kicks off March 10 in Barcelona at Red Sun Fest, put on by Red Sun Records. I haven’t seen a full lineup for that yet, but will do my best to keep an eye out. As they finish at Dead Fest in Mallorca, they’ll join Fuzz ForwardGolgothaEl Altar del Holocausto and others across a pretty wide stylistic range. No substitute for variety.

Långfinger are also currently at work on their next record and will reportedly be tightening up new material on the road. The PR wire brings word of that and more:

langfinger tour poster

LÅNGFINGER: Gothenburg Power Trio To Tour Spain This March

Gothenburg power trio LÅNGFINGER will perform a week’s worth of live dates in Spain this March. The journey will run from March 10th through March 17th. Comments the band, “We’re happy to announce that we’re heading back to Spain this spring. As we’re working on our new album, it’s hard to think of something better than to take a break and head down south. We’re looking forward to premiering a ton of new material as we’ll be frolicking our way over the peninsula!” See all confirmed shows below.

LÅNGFINGER:
3/10/2018 Red Sun Fest – Barcelona, ES
3/11/2018 Dabadaba – San Sebastian, ES
3/13/2018 La Nube Café Teatro – Bilbao, ES
3/14/2018 Sala Memphis – Gijón, ES
3/15/2018 Sala Son – Cangas De Morrazo, ES
3/16/2018 Barracudas – Madrid, ES
3/17/2018 Deadfest – Palma De Mallorca, ES

LÅNGFINGER’s latest studio offering, the ten-track Crossyears, was released last year via Small Stone.

Långfinger:
Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

Långfinger, “Say Jupiter” official video

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

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Friday Full-Length: Acid King, III

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Acid King, III (2005)

And you’re welcome.

There are few joys in heavy rock as unfettered as a Lori S. riff. Some guitarists gallop. Some careen. Some cut steep angles. Some nod. And sometimes a Lori riff can sound like it’s being thrown down a flight of stairs in how it seems to tumble out of the speakers, but her perfect blend of tempo, timing, groove, construction, spaciousness, tone and the cyclical nature of her style gives her work in San Francisco’s Acid King an unparalleled molten feel. I won’t take anything away from her echoing vocals, Joey Osbourne‘s roll-ready drumming or what a succession of bassists from Peter Lucas to Dan Southwick to Brian Hill to Guy Pinhas to Rafa Martinez to Mark Lamb have brought to the group in terms of low end, but it is now and has always been the riffs that define Acid King, even dating back to their raw 1994 self-titled EP and 1995 debut album, Zoroaster.

That record would serve as the foundation on which in 1999 the band built a temple and named it Busse Woods (discussed here and here), which — as I seem to say every time I mention it at all — is one of the very best stoner rock albums of all time. It would be six years before the trio, which was then comprised of Lori, Pinhas (also known for his work in Goatsnake and The Obsessed) and Osbourne, issued a proper follow-up. No doubt the dissolution of Frank Kozik‘s by-now legendary imprint Man’s Ruin Records, which released Busse Woods and the subsequent 2001 split EP with Mystick Krewe of Clearlight, played into the delay, but in 2004, Small Stone Records reissued Busse Woods and in 2005, stepped in to offer III — Acid King‘s much-awaited and aptly-titled third full-length.

III was a Spring release, and I remember it seemed pretty close behind the Busse Woods reissue, which may have contributed to the impression that despite the stretch between the two (which seemed long at the time; ha) that the newer album was still operating in the shadow of its predecessor. Nonetheless, with years of hindsight to provide a looking-back lens now, III is an absolute masterwork of riffly meditation. From the fading-in fuzz that begins “2 Wheel Nation” and the unmitigated nod that follows through the patient execution of the singularly righteous “Heavy Load,” “Bad Vision” — which is precisely what I had in mind with the “down a flight of stairs” comment in the first paragraph above — the 12-minute centerpiece “War of the Mind,” the quicker “Into the Ground,” the hook reset of “On to Everafter” and the highlight drum wizardry in finale “Sunshine and Sorrow,” one would be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend 46 minutes of listening time when it comes to groove immersion. Across the entire span, Acid King demonstrate plainly the sheer unfuckwithability of their craft and the utter injustice that their name isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Sleep and Black Sabbath for their pivotal contributions to the form.

Yes, I mean that.

One would be remiss not to note the collaboration between the three-piece and producer Billy Anderson as essential to their overall sound. Anderson, who worked with the band on Zoroaster and Busse Woods as well before helming III, captures the depth of tone and character in Lori‘s guitar and seems to put it in just the right balance with the corresponding bass and drums. The effectiveness on “2 Wheel Nation” is immediate once the song starts — it’s a groove that leaves no one behind as it takes to the road on some souped-up space chopper — and with “Heavy Load” following, the launch salvo for III is unmistakable in its preached message of tonal supremacy, but neither is it void of atmosphere. The repetitions are hypnotic, and shortly, “Bad Vision” snaps the listener back to at least a semi-consciousness state, but while one generally thinks of Acid King as being straightforward in their intentions and sonic impression-making, it’s worth pointing out just how much room is being created by Lori‘s riffs, by the crash of Osbourne‘s cymbals and the thud of his toms, and by the plummeting bass tone with which Pinhas anchors the marching procession. This is reinforced as “War of the Mind” gives III its most gorgeous sprawl, setting itself in an open landscape that seems to stretch like some Western highway populated at dawn by mission-bound hippies in some lysergic American daydream. Even as the lyrics call outright for freedom, the instrumental fluidity behind them seems to find it and bring it wonderfully, glaringly to life.

Is is possible for a band to be so widely hailed and still be underrated? III, which in addition to being concurrent to the reissue of the album before it also arrived at a just-pre-social-media moment of generational shift, would argue yes. Though they toured steadily between, brought together their first two outings in 2006 as their The Early Years compilation, and oversaw reissues of both III and Busse Woods in the interim, a decade passed before Acid King released their fourth long-player in 2015. Aligned to Svart Records and comprised of Lori, Osbourne and Lamb, the triumphantly chanting Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (review here) brimmed with classic Acid King method and personality. With production by Anderson as well as Toshi Kasai, it found the band at their most world-conjuring to-date and marked a surge of international touring and general activity that continues to this day as Lori has revamped Acid King‘s lineup to bring back Martinez (who’s spent years on the road at this point as the drummer for the raging Black Cobra) on bass and new drummer Bil Bowman, replacing Osbourne in the band for the first time and leaving herself as the sole remaining founding member.

The inevitable shift in dynamic there could potentially mean a significant change in Acid King‘s overall chemistry, but with the band having taken six years between Busse Woods and III and 10 between III and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, I’m not inclined to predict when their next LP will show up, what shape it will ultimately take, or who will be involved in its making. What matters is that as Acid King approach their 25th anniversary since getting together in 1993, they’ve perhaps never been so ripe for appreciation, and while their catalog over those years isn’t about to challenge Hawkwind in terms of its sheer numbers, each of their albums remains a landmark accomplishment at a level few bands could ever hope to reach.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Yeah, closing out with Acid King is pretty much me doing myself a favor. After a week of being literally shit on, I kind of feel like I earned it as much as I ever consider myself as having “earned” anything. Either way, I decided pretty early on this week that III would do the job and it’s been a pleasure to dig into it over the last few days, go a little deeper in listening than I sometimes do with this stuff. I woke up early this morning to come downstairs and get started. Alarm went off at 4AM. My idea of a good time.

The Pecan continues to grow. Predictably, he’s become a baby of many names, among them “Rocketass” for his propensity to wait until I’ve got his diaper off to unleash fecal torrents. The Patient Mrs. and I gave him a bath last weekend in the kitchen sink and he also pissed on my Vitamix that I use to make the protein shakes that are now what I eat for dinner roughly six nights a week, so yeah. Took me a couple days to forgive that in theory, but the reality of the situation is I don’t even care anymore. He’s yet to produce anything that can’t be wiped off or put through the wash, etc.

I’m sure we’ll get there. I’m just saying we’re not there yet. In the meantime, lack of sleep? Diaper changing? Trying to get him to take a bottle? Whatever. These are good days. Fatigue is a small price to pay for that.

He’s three weeks old now, and The Patient Mrs. continues to be wonderful as a mother. Never a doubt she would be, but to actually see it manifest as reality is humbling and only further underscores how fortunate I am to exist in her presence, pretty much ever, let alone on the ongoing basis of our relationship, marriage and so on. Stupid lucky. The Pecan has been a little fussy the last couple days — Wonder Weeks says he’s on the verge of a sensory breakthrough, which should be fascinating — and she’s been running point all the way. I’ve cooked and cleaned and done that stuff, but to see her momming it up is fantastic. I love her so much I want to bash my brains in.

Next week is Thanksgiving here in the US — a holiday with a troubled historical foundation but probably my favorite in terms of how it brings loved ones together in a spirit of shared appreciation for each other. We’re getting together with my family and The Patient Mrs.’ family in Connecticut for dinner. I’m already anxious about being around that much food — hi, I have an eating disorder — but even if I end up bringing the blender and the protein powder south for the day, I think it’ll be a good time. I’m looking forward to it.

Not sure how it will affect the timing of posts, but here’s what’s in the notes for next week anyway, subject of course to change without notice:

Mon.: Snowy Dunes album review; Borracho announcement/track premiere.
Tue.: Low Orbit track premiere/review; Pillars video premiere.
Wed.: SubRosa Subdued track premiere. Fuck yes.
Thu.: Maybe a podcast? Don’t expect much, if anything.
Fri.: Maybe Frank Sabbath review. Depends where I’m at post-holiday.

There you have it, and there you have it.

I’ve started to put together the next Quarterly Review already for the end of next month/the beginning of January, as well as the best-of lists, so keep an eye out for all that stuff as we move into December, and we’ll have the best albums poll up as well come Dec. 1. Be ready. I want to make it the best one yet, and last year’s is going to be tough to top.

If you’re still reading, you’re great. Thank you.

Have an excellent, safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Review & Video Premiere: Mangoo, The Heat

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on November 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mangoo the heat

[Click play above to check out the premiere of Mangoo’s official video for ‘Relief.’ Their third album, The Heat, is out Dec. 8 on Small Stone Records.]

Heat is a catalyst. When you heat something up, its molecules move faster, become more active. Aside from frogs in slow-boiling pots of water, when someone touches something hot, they’re going to react, and one can’t help but wonder if that’s not what Turku, Finland-based heavy rockers Mangoo had in mind for their third album, The Heat. Something that would provoke a response. Something to get the blood moving. A reason for heads to bang and asses to shake. It would be hard to argue they didn’t get there on The Heat, which comprises a nearly-unmanageable 11 tracks/53 minutes of pro-shop song construction, crisply recorded and sharply delivered, heavy rock and roll.

Following two years after a split with UK space-metallers Enos (review here) and half a decade after their Small Stone debut, 2012’s Neverland (review here), the long-player marks the returning lineup of vocalist/guitarist Richard “Pickles” Dahllund, guitarist/backing vocalist Mathias “Mattarn” Åkerlund, bassist/backing vocalist Igor del Toro, drummer/backing vocalist Teemu Pulkkinen and keyboardist/backing vocalist/noisemaker/engineer Niklas Björklund as veterans of the form early, fleshing out melodic arrangements with a fullness of keys and fuzz tone that’s nether overbaked nor underweight. Pickles holds command as a frontman for almost the entire duration, relinquishing forward position only on the Spanish-language “Tiembla” to del Toro, who takes on lead vocals, and behind him, the band conjures grooving largesse on the title-track, resonant, Euro-radio-worthy hooks on cuts like opener “Relief” and the subsequent “Get Away,” and a fervent charge on “Deification” that offsets the semi-twang of “Beyond the Sky” and the psychedelic garage jangle of “Monolith.”

If that sounds a little broad as regards the general spectrum, it is, and that stylistic restlessness is a theme Mangoo — whose moniker seems truly unfortunate until one learns to pronounce it properly as “man-go” — continue from Neverland. Five years later, however, they are more mature as a group and as people, and whether it’s the rolling bassline that underscores the patient, harmony-topped fluidity in the second half of “Beyond the Sky” or the later solo in the angular boogie of “Stumbling Man,” which straightens out to a particularly satisfying hook near its finish, the vibe here is cohesive front to back and Mangoo never seem to leave an element out of its proper place.

mangoo

One might debate whether in the vinyl-minded late-’10s, The Heat really needs to be 2LP length, or at very least to border thereupon, but with such a chunk of time between their last offering (which also was not short) and this one, a glut of material makes some sense in context, and ultimately it does not hold Mangoo back from effectively stating their point. As to what that might be, one should look again at the subtle diversity of craft on display throughout the tracks. The production by Björklund — on which everyone else receives a co-credit — is a unifying factor to such a degree that on a superficial level, The Heat might seem to take a singular approach, but the truth is Mangoo adopt a range of approaches across these cuts, from the spacious and progressive heft of “One Day,” on which the guitars drift wide during the open verses only to resolidify around a massive and dramatic chorus, to the tense chugging, percussive nuance and slightly-jammed feel that hits in the penultimate “Grey Belly,” building to an apex that, even as it follows what would’ve seemed to be the culmination of the album in its titular cut, justifies its presence.

Feeling a bit more like an indulgence is the actual closer, which is a take on Eddie Murphy‘s 1985 single “Party all the Time,” which, while yes, it has a hook that borders on so catchy it’s infuriating, doesn’t necessarily fit with the rest of The Heat‘s modus, despite the ’80s-esque airbrushed look of the Alexander von Wieding cover art. The sense one gets is that it’s Mangoo signaling their audience that they don’t take themselves too seriously, that they’re having a good time, or that maybe they’re prone as most groups are to the occasional inside joke, but after 10 solid original pieces of Dozer-worthy songwriting and borderline flawless studio execution from the metallic vibe of “Tiembla” to the theatrical spread conjured in “The Heat” itself, to turn that all on its head right as they cross the finish line almost takes away from the impact of the original pieces preceding.

That said, Mangoo are certainly entitled to enjoy themselves in the recording/studio process, and while “Party all the Time” might’ve been better left as an off-LP single or something like that, even more than 30 years on from its first release, it remains a furiously dug-in earworm and Mangoo do well to make it their own in terms of overall sound. Of course, the definition of “their own” has never sounded quite so fluid for the five-piece as it does here either, since they careen with such apparent ease between one side of their increasingly complex sonic persona and the next. Maybe in that spirit, there’s room for just about everything in the triumphant spacet-time reaches born of “Beyond the Sky” or “One Day,” including that last bit of partying. Fair enough. You win this round, Mangoo.

Mangoo, The Heat (2017)

Mangoo website

Mangoo on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone website

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The Heat at Small Stone Bandcamp

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Långfinger Premiere Video for “Say Jupiter”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

langfinger

We’re more than a year out now from the release of Långfinger‘s third album and Small Stone Records debut, Crossyears (review here), and the Swedish trio continue to provide the offering worthy support. Last month, they wrapped yet another round of touring that took them through Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic, and they’ve got a brand new video premiering today for “Say Jupiter,” the second cut from the record.

I don’t know who in Långfinger‘s world owns a restaurant and decided to give the three-piece access to the kitchen for the purposes of the Anders Bryngel-directed clip, but the results are pretty hilarious. As anyone who’s ever made one can tell you, a good meal is as much about preparation as it is about the taste of the outcome, and whether they’re in the kitchen rocking out or in the front of the house getting the royal treatment from the waitstaff — also played by them — bassist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl seem to be having a great time putting it altogether. Whatever dinner turns out to be, it’s apparently a pretty transcendent experience. Must’ve had a lot of garlic.

God damn, I love garlic.

What were we talking about? Oh right, Långfinger. Well, the way I see it, the only question is whether or not the “Say Jupiter” video — which is the band’s second time working with Bryngel after their clip for “Fox Confessor” (premiered here) — is the band’s way of bidding farewell to Crossyears as they move ahead toward their fourth album. They’ve reportedly been at work on their next outing and even played some new material live on the aforementioned Fall tour, so it seems to me there’s a chance 2018 could bring that record to life at one point or another. Will be worth keeping an eye on for sure.

And in the meantime, the partnership between the band and Bryngel yields charm-laden dividends once again here with “Say Jupiter,” so check out the video below, followed by more info from the PR wire, and please enjoy:

Långfinger, “Say Jupiter” official video premiere

From Långfinger’s third full length album “Crossyears”, released September 30th, 2016 on Small Stone Records.

Directed, produced and edited by Anders Bryngel.

Långfinger:
Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, have been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

Långfinger on Thee Facebooks

Långfinger website

Långfinger on Instagram

Långfinger on Twitter

Crossyears at Small Stone Bandcamp

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Mangoo Announce New Album The Heat out Dec. 8; New Song Posted

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

Finnish heavy rockers Mangoo will sneak in their new album, The Heat, via Small Stone Records just before the end of the year. With a release date of Dec. 8, and preorders up now, the Turku-based fuzzers are streaming the opening track “Relief” now, and as you can hear in its stylistic blend, Mangoo take elements old and new and put them together with a penchant for hooks and groove that’s both straightforward and subtly their own. Perhaps most curiously of all, the record — for which I helped revise the bio below; which isn’t to say “here’s a bio I wrote,” because I didn’t write the original — caps with a cover of Eddie Murphy‘s “Party all the Time,” which if you don’t immediately recognize based on the title alone, almost certainly the hook will be familiar as it worms itself into the frontal cortex of your brain, there to reside permanently.

“My girl wants to party all the time, party all the time, PARTY ALL THE TIME…” and so on.

Info comes back around through the PR wire:

mangoo the heat

MANGOO: Finnish Fuzz Rockers To Release The Heat Full-Length Via Small Stone This December; New Track Streaming

You think you’re ready for The Heat, but you’re not. Catchy hooks and sweet vocal harmonies are nothing new for Finnish rockers MANGOO. On the Turku-based outfit’s third full-length, they come backed by a wall of thick, fuzz-fueled guitars and hard-hitting drums with an added sprinkling of analog synth sounds. Combined they result in a sound truly the band’s own – someplace between grunge, classic heavy rock, and a progressive psychedelic spaciousness that refuses any and all boundaries of style between rock and metal and beyond.

MANGOO — pronounced “man go” — have been busting out the fuzz since 2005 when they released their untitled debut EP. Countless beers, shows, and drummers later in 2009 the first full-length, Neolithic, was released on 7:45 Records. With a firm lineup of guitarist/vocalist Pickles, guitarist Mattarn, bassist Igor, drummer Teemu, and keyboardist/noisemaker Nicke, they engage new expanses as they follow-up their 2012 Small Stone debut, Neverland, with the eleven songs of The Heat.

Mega-choruses like “Get Away” and “Grey Belly” provide landmarks while MANGOO brings psychedelic heft to “Beyond The Sky” and the title-track, which, at seven minutes, seems to draw together everything the album that shares its name has to offer – except perhaps in the closing cover of Eddie Murphy’s 1985 single “Party All The Time.” Not that they needed to remind listeners to stay on their toes because you never know what’s coming when MANGOO emerges from the studio, but suffice it to say the track remains an earworm for the ages.

All told, MANGOO’s The Heat is fifty-three minutes of masterful heavy rock and roll of inimitable personality and unmistakable songcraft. It is a welcome return after half a decade from a band who have obviously not been wasting their time in terms of growth and forward progression, and a surefire highlight for any underground heads lucky enough to take it on.

Heat will see release via Small Stone on December 8th, 2017. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample opening track, “Relief.”

Heat Track Listing:
1. Relief
2. Get Away
3. Beyond the Sky
4. Monolith
5. One Day
6. Deification
7. Tiembla
8. Stumbling Man
9. The Heat
10. Grey Belly
11. Party All the Time

http://www.mangooloid.com
http://www.facebook.com/Mangooband
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/the-heat

Mangoo, The Heat (2017)

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