Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Swallow the Sun, Beesus, Giöbia, Decasia, Sonic Mass, Wolvserpent, Delouners, Dead East Garden, Pearl Handled Revolver

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sunn O))), Kannon

sunn kannon

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Sunn O))) on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings

 

Swallow the Sun, Songs from the North I, II & III

swallow the sun songs from the north i ii iii

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Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Century Media

 

Beesus, The Rise of Beesus

beesus the rise of beesus

Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.

Beesus on Thee Facebooks

Beesus on Bandcamp

 

Giöbia, Magnifier

giobia magnifier

Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.

Giöbia on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

 

Decasia, Decasia

decasia decasia title=

Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.

Decasia on Thee Facebooks

Decasia on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn

sonic mass you people never learn

The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.

Sonic Mass on Thee Facebooks

Sonic Mass on Bandcamp

 

Wolvserpent, Aporia:Kala:Ananta

wolvserpent aporia kala ananta

Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.

Wolvserpent on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records

 

Delouners, Family

delouners family

Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.

Delouners on Thee Facebooks

Delouners on Bandcamp

 

Dead East Garden, Dead East Garden

dead east garden dead east garden

There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.

Dead East Garden on Thee Facebooks

Dead East Garden website

 

Pearl Handled Revolver, If the Devil Cast His Net

pearl handled revolver if the devil cast his net

As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.

Pearl Handled Revolver on Thee Facebooks

Pearl Handled Revolver website

 

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Stars that Move, Wren & Irk, Sunset in the 12th House, Sonic Mass, Sativa Root

Posted in Radio on April 17th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

Been a couple weeks, right? Yeah, it has. Between the Quarterly Review — you’ll notice some of those records joining the playlist here as well — and traveling, I haven’t really had the chance to do a proper round of radio adds, which is why if you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates Page you might notice a full 25 records went up today. I’ve been thinking about going in and thinning some stuff out, there’s some sludge in there I feel like could probably go, but on the other hand — and I’m sad to say this is actually how I feel about it — it’s an archive with a good bit of musical history to it, developed over the last decade to be something really special. I’m not sure I have the right to do anything more to than just continue to let it build and evolve. If you take the time to look at the playlists, they’ve hit a point where they’re unbelievably good. It’s frankly better than I ever could have imagined, so maybe I’d just be fixing what isn’t broken. There. I talked myself out of it. On with the show.

The Obelisk Radio adds for April 17, 2015:

Stars that Move, Demo Songs

stars that move demo songs

A debut release of coherent aesthetic that brims with promise, melodic sweetness and classic fuzz boogie filtered through hazy garage modernism, Stars that Move‘s Demo Songs brings together drummer Frank Sikes and guitarist Richard Bennett of Starchild with vocalist Elisa Maria, and the presence and swing they capture on these songs is not to be discounted because it’s a demo. Opener “I Hold a Gaze” seems to ooze out with slower Uncle Acid buzz, but Maria‘s vocals change the vibe entirely, and through the irrefutably heavy nod of “The Blue Prince” and the ethereal shuffle of “She that Rules the King,” she maintains a hold on the material that is transfixing. Anyone who heard Starchild could easily tell you about that Georgian outfit’s worn-on-sleeve penchant for Sabbath, and Stars that Move isn’t without its own aspect of worship, but it comes out most of all in the “Laguna Sunrise”-style acoustic “No Evil Star,” which introduces the closer “Burning in Flames” (also the longest song at 3:48), which has an open-spaced acoustic roll of its own, topped by a soulful croon from Maria met by foreboding electric guitar ringing out to set up the central line after the verse: “We are the world, burning in flames.” It is beautiful despite or maybe even in part because of its melancholy, and it brings Demo Songs to a finish more Zeppelin than Sabbath, but still definitely in that league. I doubt there will be many demos to come in 2015 to stand up to it, and as an announcement of Stars that Move‘s arrival, it’s definitely one worthy of notice. They set themselves up with a core of quality songwriting here that could easily be expanded in experimental arrangements of psychedelic guitar layering, effects, synth, percussion, to create a lush tableau for Maria‘s voice to work with, and I hope they do just that. Either way, their core is set. Stars that Move on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Wren and Irk, Irk | Wren Split

wren and irk irk wren split

I’m not sure who actually comes first on this split between London post-sludgers Wren, whose 2014 self-titled debut EP (review here) impressed considerably, and Leeds trio Irk. In the title, Irk | Wren, it’s Irk, and both bands have it that way on their respective Bandcamp as well. The tracklisting in the files I was given puts Wren first. Either way, each act offers a different take on noise-laced punishment. For Irk, bass leads the way on three blistering, punkish cuts of noise interspersed with a sample-laden interlude called “Life Pervert” that shifts them into the wails, rumbles and jabs of “Cibo per Gattini.” Their opener, “You Sound Like My Ex-Wife,” is their longest inclusion at 5:33, and runs a razorblade gamut across punk, sludge and noise, but the quicker “A Dead Elephant,” which follows, brings forward more of the rawness at heart in the sans-guitar trio’s sound. Wren‘s three inclusions find the four-down-from-five-piece working with vocalist Alex Wealands of Throats, whose voice is more in line with a post-metal sound than the blackened stylings of the prior EP. That has an effect on the atmosphere, but Wren remain coherent, the three-minute “Arise” building a wall of airy-guitar-topped distortion and leading directly into “Before the Great Silence,” the chug of which reminds of what life was like before Isis stopped being angry, rolling out a satisfying emotional catharsis as it drives toward a second-half slowdown and hits into “An Approach,” which starts out raging and dips in its midsection to set up a final crescendo of furious guitar undulations and call and response shouts. It is very, very heavy, and should please anyone who caught wind of Wren‘s last outing or is looking to be introduced. Wren on Thee Facebooks, Wren on Bandcamp, Irk on Thee Facebooks, Irk on Bandcamp.

Sunset in the 12th House, Mozaic

sunset in the 12th house mozaic

Somewhere between an alter-ego and a side-project and somewhere between post-rock and progressive metal, Sunset in the 12th House make their debut with Mozaic on Prophecy Productions. Three out of the four of the Romanian outfit’s members — guitarist/vocalist Edmond “Hupogrammos” Karban, guitarist Cristian “Sol Faur” Popescu, and drummer Sergio Ponti — double in folk-ish black metallers Dordeduh, and are former members of Negur? Bunget as well. Here, with bassist Mihai Moldoveanu, they explore six tracks of varied, mostly instrumental styles, beginning with the 14-minute “Arctic Cascades,” an immersive, well-textured summary of their sound that moves fluidly between prog-metal chug, synth grandiosity and percussive impact. Airier guitars pervade movements of “Desert’s Eschaton” and “Rejuvenation,” but with its songs arranged longest to shortest (immediate points) and with the pervasive sense of focus Sunset in the 12th House display throughout, saving vocals for the last two cuts only, Mozaic is too clear-headed to really call psychedelic. While it has an element of swirl, “Paraphernalia of Sublimation” is unmistakably progressive with its Eastern flair and forward motion, but to quibble about genre is missing the point. Whether it’s the heavier push of the midsection to “Ethereal Consonance” or the tightly-executed weaving of guitar on “Seven Insignia,” soon met by growling vocals, Sunset in the 12th House hit on a sound that’s decidedly their own and markedly well balanced between what in less capable hands would seem like opposing stylistic elements. Sunset in the 12th House on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.

Sativa Root, Dark Days

sativa root dark days

After debuting last year with a self-titled/untitled EP, Austrian trio Sativa Root update with Dark Days, a two-songer seemingly intended to give those who heard the first release a look at what the Salzburg unit have been up to since. So what have they been up to? Riffing. Sounded primed and ready for a 7″ release, five-minute cuts “Dark Days” and “La Bestia” both unfold tonally weighted rollout, the former seeming to nod vaguely at Electric Wizard‘s wisping lead-over-nodding-rhythm methodology and the latter taking some of High on Fire‘s gallop and thickening the atmosphere. Guitarist Stonerhead, drummer Isaak and bassist Fant know what they’re doing with each of these influences, but the reason Dark Days ultimately satisfies is that not the entire sonic crux of the tracks can be accounted for in this way. Between that element of individuality brought to the table and the changeup in atmosphere from one song to the second, Sativa Root‘s update is well met. It hasn’t been so long since their first EP came out — just past the one-year mark, actually — but they’ve obviously been spending their time wisely since.

Sativa Root on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Sonic Mass, All Creatures Strange: Live at the Black Heart

sonic mass all creatures strange live at the black heart

Recorded live at Camden Town’s famed The Black Heart in April 2014, All Creatures Strange: Live at the Black Heart is a soundboard capture of the release party for London four-piece Sonic Mass‘ late-2013 debut EP, All Creatures Strange. As one will, they played the whole thing front-to-back at the show, and it’s a performance rife with heavy rock soul, two guitars having it out in effective balance over the cymbal wash of “The Order” or the later psychedelic shifts of “Pentagon Chameleon – To the Devil, a Daughter.” The smoothness of their approach might be best showcased in “Rise of the Royal Reptile,” but longer cuts like “Widow Stone” have more room to breathe and feel stronger for it. Ending off with the ritualized chants and percussion of “All Creatures Strange (Played Once),” which is listed as “(Dead)” where all the other tracks are “(Live),” it’s a subtly adventurous release that might take a couple listens to really absorb for anyone who didn’t hear the original All Creatures Strange — which is also still available — but that proves worth the effort in the end. No doubt it was something to hear them tear into “Science of Sleep” that night. Sonic Mass on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Not enough for you? Head over to The Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page and check out the other 20 records that were added this afternoon. There’s bound to be something for everybody.

Thanks for reading and listening.
 

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