Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Video Premiere: Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

[Click play above to see the premiere of Yuri Gagarin’s new video for ‘QSO.’ The Outskirts of Reality is out Jan. 31 on Kommun 2 and Sound Effect Records.]

One tends to think of the motorik beat and the notion of the kosmiche in terms of kraut- and progressive space rock as being ideas drawing from influences half a century ago, but Yuri Gagarin readily demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be so. The Gothenburg-based troupe realize a modernist vision of krautrocketing hypnosis on their third long-player, The Outskirts of Reality, and drill to the molten core of a planetoid all their own with an approach that, far from reckless, approaches grandeur as though wielding a cosmic hammer, ready to smash the last vestiges of the reality in its title to shards floating in the sonic ether. Instrumental and running over a stretch of 44 minutes that begins with the ultra-fueled 10-minute blaster “QSO” and follows immediately with the 13-minute dimension-bending immersion of “Oneironaut,” resulting in a side A that seeks to pummel brain cells through the subspace barrier, never to be seen or heard from again. But the important thing to remember amid all this we’re-all-star-stuff-so-let’s-start-acting-like-it aural going-boldly is that Yuri Gagarin, in following up late-2015’s sophomore LP, At the Center of All Infinity — which was also recorded with Linus Andersson — is that Yuri Gagarin manage to pull together this sound of such a vast range and atmospheric willfulness without simply repeating the past. The Outskirts of Reality isn’t classic space rock. At least not yet. It’s forward thinking. It’s urgent and it’s energetic and it’s not just about who plays to what time or what stylistic rules are being followed. It’s about rewriting those rules to suit its own purposes.

And what are those purposes? What is it that Yuri Gagarin seek there in the outskirts? If the synth-laden closing title-track — which follows the delightfully airy “Crystal Dunes” and the even-more-experimentalist “Laboratory 1” on side B — has secrets to unveil, it’s doing so in the wash of guitar and keyboard creating melodic instrumentalist surges setting themselves to convey a feeling of “The Outskirts of Reality” as a point of arrival rather than a place of departure. That is, if we’re buying into the cliché of the album as a journey — and hell yes, we most certainly are — then ‘the outskirts’ is clearly the place we’re headed. The positioning of the title-track last speaks to this, as does the progression of the song itself, which one might think of as answering the liftoff-ignition-blast of “QSO” with a last, consuming wash of noise. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think so, because while Yuri Gagarin are jamming here in the sense of following instrumental paths of their songs to the places they might naturally lead — linear builds, ebbs and flows, and so on — the dynamic the Swedish outfit bring to space rock has so much intentionality behind it that to give anything less than full consideration to its complexity feels half-assed. Even as the push-push-push of “QSO” departs and the song’s last two minutes or so are given to a stretch of quiet guitar fade that lead directly into “Oneironaut,” there’s a plan at work, if not a direct narrative. This isn’t just about self-indulgence or a showcase of effects wash. There’s more to it.

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

Certainly Yuri Gagarin are aware of space rock’s past glories. Almost 50 years later, Hawkwind looms over the entire genre as much as ever, but there’s a significant difference between being aware of something and beholden to it and it seems to be the latter where the band draw the line. It isn’t just a question of having modern production or a sleek gatefold by Påhl Sundström — though neither hurts in terms of presentation — but about the forward push in the material itself. To wit, the winding guitar of “Crystal Dunes” and how that song touches on Middle Easternism or Mediterranean folk without fully abandoning the overarching outward thrust of The Outskirts of Reality‘s entirety, instead bringing those elements into the context of the song and the record as it moves ahead toward the track’s emergent wash and eventual dissolution around a final resonant hum and strum. That this happens en route to the time-warp manipulations of “Laboratory 1” likewise isn’t a coincidence. Aside from being a fit in terms of runtime, the otherwise-interlude is a readjustment of mentality that sets up and reinforces the spirit of arrival at “The Outskirts of Reality” itself. And while the title-track doesn’t hit 13 minutes like “Oneironaut” or even the 10 of “QSO” back on side A, it doesn’t need to.

Rather, the point comes across in the encompassing effects and keys and the scorching guitar soloing, as undulations and surges of melodies take hold and recede and return in nigh-on-maddening fashion. They’re five minutes in before you realize what’s happened, and by then, you couldn’t get out if you wanted to. The shift to the final progression is subtle, but there, and soon Yuri Gagarin are engulfed in a last wash of noise that takes hold despite the ongoing and adjoining loops. If you’re wondering who wins, the answer is noise. Noise wins. The band doesn’t so much deconstruct the piece as let it drift off into the crushing vacuum, and as harsh as the noise is, it fades out in surprisingly gentle fashion. Perhaps there’s room for sentiment in the cosmos after all. One way or the other, Yuri Gagarin‘s The Outskirts of Reality portrays space rock as a reinvigorated aesthetic in such a way as to make it exciting not just to established fans of the style, but those who might be taking it on for the first time. It’s a rare sense of outreach in terms of audience-building, and thus something of a gamble on the part of the band, but in terms of world-building and making its own impression, it is likewise resonant and organic: An ultrasonic blowout for all tomorrow’s todays. Sometimes with records that see envelopes as things to push there is purist backlash as a result, and maybe Yuri Gagarin are at least potentially exposing themselves to that, but there’s much work being done on The Outskirts of Reality to open the minds of those who take it on, and those willing to meet the band on their level will find doing so all the more rewarding.

Yuri Gagarin on Thee Facebooks

Yuri Gagarin on Instagram

Yuri Gagarin on Bandcamp

Yuri Gagarin BigCartel store

Kommun 2 Records website

Sound Effect Records website

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Quarterly Review: Mos Generator, Psychic Lemon, Planet of Zeus, Brass Hearse, Mother Turtle, The Legendary Flower Punk, Slow, OKO, Vug, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to hope y’all know the drill by now. It’s the Quarterly Review. We do it (roughly) every quarter. The idea is 10 reviews per day for a Monday to Friday span, running 50 total. I sometimes do more. Sometimes not. Kind of depends on the barrage and how poorly I’ve been doing in general with keeping up on stuff. This time is ‘just’ 50, so there you go. You’ll see some bigger names this week and some stuff that’s come my way of late that I’ve been digging and wanting to check out. It’s a lot of rock, which I like, and a few things I’m writing about basically as a favor to myself because, you know, self-care and all that.

But staring down the barrel of 50 reviews over the next few days has me as apprehensive and how-the-hell-is-this-gonna-happen as ever, so I think I’ll just get to it and jump in. No time to waste.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Mos Generator, Exiles

mos generator exiles

Worth it just for the Sabbath cover? Most definitely. As Mos Generator take on “Air Dance” from Never Say Die as part of the Glory or Death Records LP compilation release, Exiles, they blend the proggy swagger of later-’70s Iommi leads with the baseline acoustic guitar fluidity that makes those final Ozzy-era records so appealing in hindsight. It’s just one of the six reasons to take on Exiles however. The A side comprises three outtakes from 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), and guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed‘s Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Bob Balch sits in on “Battah,” while a duly manic reworking of Van Halen‘s “Light up the Sky,” the Black Sabbath track and a live version of Rush‘s “Anthem” from 2016 make up side B. It’s a quick listen and it’s Mos Generator. It may be a stopgap on the way to whatever they’re doing next, but if you think about it, so is everything, and that’s no reason not to jump in either for the covers or the originals, both of which are up to the band’s own high standard of output.

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

 

Psychic Lemon, Freak Mammal

psychic lemon freak mammal

The distorted wails of Andy Briston‘s guitar echo out of Freak Mammal — the five-track/46-minute third LP from London’s Psychic Lemon — like a clarion to the lysergic converted. A call to prayer for those worshiping the nebulous void, not so much kept to earth by Andy Hibberd‘s bass and Martin Law‘s drums as given a solidified course toward the infinite far out. Of course centerpiece “Afrotropic Bomb” digs into some Ethiopian groove — that particular shuffling mania — and I won’t take away from the lower buzz of “Free Electron Collective” or the tense hi-hat cutting through all that tonal wash or the ultra-spaced blowout that caps six-minute finale “White Light,” but give me the self-aware mellower jaunt that is the 13-minute second track “Seeds of Tranquility” any day, following opener “Dark Matter” as it does with what would be a blissful drift but for the exciting rhythmic work taking place beneath the peaceful guitar, and the later synthesized voices providing a choral melody that seems all the more playfully grandiose, befitting the notion of Freak Mammal as a ceremony or at very least some kind of lost ritual. Someday they’ll dig up the right pyramid and call the aliens back. Until then, Psychic Lemon let us imagine what might happen after they return.

Psychic Lemon on Thee Facebooks

Drone Rock Records website

 

Planet of Zeus, Faith in Physics

PLANET OF ZEUS FAITH IN PHYSICS

There’s a context of social commentary to Planet of ZeusFaith in Physics that makes one wonder if perhaps the title doesn’t refer to gravity in terms of what-goes-up-must-come-down as it might apply to class hierarchy. The mighty, ready to fall, and so on. Songs like the post-Clutch fuzz roller “Man vs. God” and “Revolution Cookbook” (video premiere here) would seem to support that idea, but one way or the other, as the later “Let Them Burn” digs into a hook that reminds of Killing Joke and the dense bass of eight-minute closer “King of the Circus” provides due atmospheric madness for our times, there’s a sense of grander statement happening across the album. The Athens-based outfit make a centerpiece of the starts and stops in “All These Happy People” and remind that whatever the message, the medium remains top quality heavy rock and roll songcraft, which is something they’ve become all the more reliable to deliver. The more pointed perspective than they showed on 2016’s Loyal to the Pack suits them, but it’s the nuance of electronics and arrangements of vocals and guitar on cuts like “The Great Liar” that carry them through here. If you believe in gravity, Planet of Zeus have plenty on offer.

Planet of Zeus on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brass Hearse, Oneiric Afterlife

brass hearse oneiric afterlife

Experimentalist keyboard-laced psychedelic goth your thing? Well, of course it is. You’re in luck then as Brass Hearse — an offshoot of once madly prolific Boston outfit Ice Dragon — unveil three new songs (plus an intro) with the Oneiric Afterlife and in 10 minutes work to unravel about 30 years of genre convention while still tying their material to memorable hooks. “Bleed Neon,” “Indigo Dust” and “Only Forever” seem simple on the surface, and none of them touch four minutes long, let alone “A Gesture to Make a Stop,” the 26-second introduction, but their refusal of stylistic constraint is as palpable as it is admirable, with a blend of folk guitar and dark-dance-party keys and percussive insistence on “Bleed Neon” and a ’60s Halloweeny rock organ line in “Only Forever” that’s complemented by low-end fuzz and a chorus that would rightly embarrass Ghost if they heard it. In comparison, “Indigo Dust” is serene in its presentation, but even there is a depth of arrangement of keys, guitar, bass and drums, and the skill tying it all together as a cohesive sound is not to be understated. A quick listen with a lot to unpack, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but those who get it will be hit hard and rightly so.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Brass Hearse on Bandcamp

 

Mother Turtle, Three Sides to Every Story

mother turtle three sides to every story

The first of three tracks on Greek progwinders Mother Turtle‘s fourth LP, Three Sides to Every Story, “Zigu Zigu,” would seem to cap with a message of congratulations: “You’ve listened to three musicians indulging themselves with some kind of weird instrumental music.” It then goes on to question its own instrumentalism, because it has the words presently being spoken, continuing in this manner until a long fadeout of guitar leads to the funky start of the 15-minute-long “Notwatch.” Good fun, in other words. Mother Turtle maybe aren’t so weird as they think they are, but they are duly adventurous and obviously joyful in their undertaking, bringing chants in over drifting guitar and synth swirl in “Notwatch” before building to a crescendo of rock guitar and organ, ultimately dominated by a solo as it would almost have to be, before intertwining piano lines in 16:46 closer “A Christmas Postcard from Kim” lead to further shenanigans, vocal experimentation, plays on metal, holiday shimmer, and a fade into the close. At 38 minutes, Three Sides to Every Story doesn’t at all overstay its welcome, but neither is it an exercise looking for audience engagement in the traditional sense. Rather, it resonates its glee through its offbeat sensibility and thus works on its own level to craft a hook. One can’t help but smile while listening to the fun being had.

Mother Turtle on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records website

 

The Legendary Flower Punk, Wabi Wu

The Legendary Flower Punk Wabi Wu

It is something to consider, perhaps as you dive into the nine-minute “Prince Mojito” on The Legendary Flower Punk‘s Wabi Wu, that the band started as a psych-folk solo-project. Currently working as a core trio plus a range of guests, the Russian troupe make their debut on Tonzonen with the brazenly prog seven-tracker, totaling just a 44-minute run but with a range that would seem to be much broader. Alternately jazzy and synth-laden, technically intricate but never overly showy, pieces like the bass-led “Azulejo” and the penultimate “Trance Fusion På Ryska” present a meeting of the minds with founding guitarist Kamille Sharapodinov at the center of most compositions, he and bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin digging into nothing’s-off-limits textures from fusion onward through New Wave and dub. The abiding rule followed seems to be whatever moves the band about a given track is what they roll with, and though The Legendary Flower Punk has evolved well beyond its origins, there’s still a bit of flower and still a bit of punk amid all the legends being made. Good luck keeping up with it.

The Legendary Flower Punk on Bandcamp

Tonzonen Records website

 

Slow, VI – Dantalion

Slow VI Dantalion

With the follow-up to 2018’s V – Oceans (review here), Belgian duo Slow rattle off another 78 minutes of utterly consuming, crushing, atmospheric and melancholic funeral doom like it’s absolutely nothing. Well, not like it’s nothing — more like it’s a weight on their very soul — but even so. Issued through Aural Music, VI – Dantlion brings the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist/drummer Déhà and bassist/lyricist Lore B. once again into the grueling, megalithic churn of self-inflicted riff-punishment that’s so encompassing, so dark, so deep and so dramatic it almost can’t help but also be beautiful. To wit, second track “Lueur” is a 17-minute downward journey into ambient brutalism, yet as it moves toward the midsection one can still hear melodic elements of keyboard and orchestral sounds peaking through. There is letup in the lush finale “Elégie,” but to get there, you have to make your way through “Incendiaire,” which is possibly the most extreme movement of the seven inclusions. Though frankly, after a while, you’re buried so far down by Slow‘s glorious miseries that it’s hard to tell. The world needs this band. They are what humanity would sound like if it was ever honest with itself.

Slow on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

OKO, Haze

oko haze

Adelaide, Australia, newcomers OKO present their debut EP in the form of Haze, a 14:44 single-song outing that sees the instrumental three-piece of guitarist Nick Nancarrow, bassist Tyson Ruch and drummer Ash Matthews tap into organic heavy psych vibes while working cross-planet with Justin Pizzoferrato (known for his work with Elder, among others) on the mix and master. The resulting one-tracker has a clarity in its drum sound and clean feel that one suspects might speak of more progressive intentions on the part of OKO in the longer term, but as they are here they have a sense of tonal warmth that serves them well across the unpretentious span of “Haze” itself, the winding riff inevitably bringing to mind some of Colour Haze‘s jammier work but still managing to find its own direction. I hear no reason OKO can’t do the same, regardless of the influences they’re working under in terms of sound. Further, the longform modus suits them, and while future work will inherently develop some variety in general approach, the natural exploration they undertake on this first outing easily holds attention for its span and is fluid enough that, had they wanted, they could have pushed it further.

OKO on Thee Facebooks

OKO website

 

Vug, Onyx

vug onyx

Vug are not the first European heavy rock band to blend vintage methods with modern production. They’re not the first band to take classic swagger and drum urgency and meld it with a pervasive sense of vocal soul. I’m not sure I’d tell them that though, because frankly, they’re doing pretty well with it. At its strongest, their Tonzonen-released sophomore outing, Onyx, recalls Thin Lizzy via, yes, Graveyard, but there’s enough clarity of intention behind the work to make it plain they know where they’re coming from. Such was the case as well with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and though they’ve had some lineup turnover since that first offering, the self-produced four-piece bring a character to their material on songs like “Tired Of” and the penultimate boogier “Inferno” before closing with the acoustic “Todbringer” — a mirror of side A’s “On My Own” — that they carry the classic-style 39-minute long-player off without a hitch, seeming to prep the heavy ’10s for a journey into a new decade.

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Ultracombo, Season 1

Ultracombo Season 1

As the title hints, the Season 1 EP is the debut from Italy’s Ultracombo, and with it, the five-piece of vocalist Alessio Guarda, guitarists Alberto Biasin and Giordano Tasson, bassist Giordano Pajarin and drummer Flavio Gola work quickly to build the forward momentum that brings them front-to-back through the 23-minute five-track release. “Flusso” and opener “The King” feel particularly drawn from an earlier Truckfighters influence, but Guarda‘s vocals are a distinguishing factor amidst all that ensuing fuzz and straight-ahead drive, and in “Sparatutto” and the closer “Il Momento in Cui Non Penso,” they seem to strip their approach to its most basic aspects and bring together the tonal thickness and melodicism that’s been at root in their sound overall. The subtlety, such as it is, is to be found in their songwriting, which results in tracks that transcend language barriers through sheer catchiness. That bodes better for them on subsequent outings better than a wall o’ fuzz ever could, though of course that doesn’t hurt them either, especially their first time out.

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Yuri Gagarin to Release The Outskirts of Reality Jan. 31; Preorders up This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Blastoff is pretty immediate in the teaser for Swedish space rock demons Yuri Gagarin‘s new album, The Outskirts of Reality, which is due out Jan. 31 through Sound Effect Records in Greece and Kommun 2 in Sweden itself. Some teasers, they give you a minute of a single song, or maybe even less than that. Some have 30 seconds of ambient nothing and kind of leave you feeling like a sucker for hoping for some substance. Yuri Gagarin, on the other hand, present nearly five minutes of an album that as far as I’m concerned can go on as long as it likes given what I’m hearing so far.

The Outskirts of Reality will comprise five tracks — one fewer than its predecessor, 2015’s At the Center of All Infinity — and I don’t hear a bummer note at all in the teaser as it gives a sampling of each of those pieces. I’m assuming “Laboratory 1” is the drone-sounding piece, if only because its title sounds like something a band might call an experimental track like that, but otherwise, Yuri Gagarin sound like they’ve got their intermix chamber aligned to the proper matter/antimatter ratios and are ready to punch it to warp seven the second they leave drydock. You got a list of albums you’re looking forward to in 2020? I do. Yuri Gagarin are on it.

Info about the record is pretty minimal at this point, apart from the tracklisting, the audio in the teaser, and the righteous gatefold cover art by Påhl Sundström — so not nothing, I guess — but I’d keep an eye out for perhaps more details to come later this week as they launch preorders on Dec. 13. If I was gonna, say, put out a whole track and the full album details to follow-up the teaser, that’d probably be the day to do it. Not trying to tell anyone to run their publicity campaign or anything.

Here’s what’s out there so far:

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

Yuri Gagarin – The Outskirts of Reality

Here’s a teaser for our new full length album: The Outskirts Of Reality. The artwork is made by Swedish artist Påhl Sundström.

It will be available on LP and CD on Kommun 2 Records and Sound-Effect Records January 31.

Pre-sales will be available December 13. More info coming soon.

Tracks:
QSO
Oneironaut
Crystal Dunes
Laboratory 1
The Outskirts Of Reality

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https://www.instagram.com/yurigagarinband/
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http://yurigagarin.bigcartel.com/
http://www.motljud.com/
https://www.soundeffect-records.gr/

Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality album teaser

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Comacozer, Mydriasis: Your Outer Limits Tourism Guide

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

comacozer mydriasis

Already in 2019, Sydney’s Comacozer have shared stages across Australia and/or toured with Wo Fat, 1000mods, Naxatras and Oz’s own Mt. Mountain, among others, so while they haven’t necessarily traveled far and wide, their reach is nothing if not considerable. Last year, the instrumentalist psych three-piece of guitarist Rick Burke, bassist Rich Elliott and drummer Andrew Panagopoulos added a fourth in synthesist/keyboardist James “Jabs” Heyligers, and the three-song limit-stretched that is Mydriasis is their first offering since. Their fourth record overall, it follows the vinyl-minded outfit’s impressively expansive 2017 LP, Kalos Eidos Skopeo (review here), 2016’s Astra Planeta (review here) and their 2015 EP compilation, Deloun Sessions, as well as various other odds and ends, and pushes further into cosmic depths, self-recorded with Dan Frizza as a co-mixer and engineer and issued through HeadSpin Records (LP) and Sound Effect Records (CD).

It is comprised of only three tracks and runs 45 minutes, and works in longform explorations of sonic psychedelic ideology. Resonant tones and weighted groove play out in patient fashion across “Mydriasis” (13:11), “Tryptamine” (11:30) and “Kykeneon Journey” (20:51), and Comacozer balance a will to hypnotize their listener against progressions that are immersive but still forward enough to justify active attention. Setting up an overarching flow has never been a problem going back to 2014’s Sessions demo, but the ethereal vibe of Mydriasis is a thing to behold, and it’s easy to argue it stands as Comacozer‘s broadest stretch of space-infused soundscapes to-date.

No doubt the inclusion of Heyligers in the proceedings is a factor in that — how could it not be? — but the change goes beyond simply what’s being played as well and plays a role in the larger conversation happening between BurkeElliott and Panagopoulos as well. It can be heard in the patience with which the songs are brought to bear across Mydriasis, the way Comacozer allows parts to breathe and seemingly find their own way, not necessarily on improvisational terms, but with a natural path that’s never any further out in its wanderings than the band wants it to be. From the initial kick of the drums in the opening title-track, there’s a sense of movement maintained across the album, but a spacious sensibility that’s always been there in Comacozer‘s sound is all the more enhanced by the breadth that Heyligers brings to it.

Rest assured, there’s heft, nod and effects galore, but more than ever, their work seems to be about the journey into and through the fuzz that swallows “Mydriasis” at its midpoint rather than simply being in that place. That is, such outwardly heavy stretches are part of the story rather than the story itself. The guitar rings out with a gloriously triumphant lead over steady-rolling drums and bass and drones, and a molten heavy psych vibe meets with a classic blues jam feel, neither side compromising what it does — or needing to — in order to fit alongside the other. Again, this is as exciting as it is hypnotic, and while it’s easy and enjoyable to lost oneself in the spaces Comacozer craft on their fourth LP, conscious engagement pays further dividends in satisfying slow-motion freakery and dizzying stretch. You dig? You could.

comacozer

It’s “Mydriasis” and “Tryiptamine” on side A, and the opener finishes with a long fade of resonant drone and synth swirl as “Tryptamine” soon answers back with a gradual, sample-topped entry and further use of synth at the outset for a beginning that reminds a bit of earlier YOB in its cosmic spread, but is ultimately directed someplace jammier, charting a gorgeously executed linear path into a payoff that happens late but is brought to bear with marked grace and, again, not at all contrived sounding, despite being a familiar structure at play. Echoplex-style noise backs the increasingly intense drums as bass fills out behind the guitar, and it’s not until shortly before nine minutes in that the full brunt of the tonality is brought to bear.

One has visions of time travel, of things that move fast but on such a scale that they seem to be slow, of selves looking at other selves in real space. I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart were it not so god damned gentle about it, Captain. Comacozer‘s finest hour is and should inherently be “Kykeneon Journey,” with its unmatched sprawl and righteous use of effects, etc., but even the shortest cut on Mydriasis leaves a significant impression as well as an impression of significance. Noise brings that track to its end as well and transitions easily into the start of “Kykeneon Journey.”

There’s a side flip in between, of course, but let’s for a moment pretend we’re not all sitting in smoking jackets listening to vinyl on vintage players and instead listening to music as part of real lives that involve things like headphones and laptops. In that more linear regard, “Kykeneon Journey” is a powerful moment of arrival for Mydriasis as well as for Comacozer more generally. The song seems to work in at least three stages and the last of them, as it would be, is the crescendo of song and album alike. It kicks in at 14:24 and carries through languidly and with airy soloing overtop, growing more intense as it moves past the 19-minute mark and crashing out just before 20:10 to dedicate the remaining 40 seconds or so to a residual wash of noise and drone that finishes on a more gentle fade.

It is encompassing in a way that Comacozer have been moving toward being throughout the last half-decade and, if they were indeed headed in that direction, would be a fair predecessor for a single-song album. That is, if the Sydney foursome continued to expand in ideas and runtimes, I wouldn’t be surprised. As it stands, their first release with this lineup seems to remove conceptual restraints and let them feel their way forward in a manner that’s exciting for the listener as well, no doubt, as it is for them. Wherever they may end up over the longer term of course will remain to be seen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear they’re onto something special.

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Comacozer on Instagram

Comacozer on Bandcamp

HeadSpin Records website

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Sound Effect Records website

Sound Effect Records on Thee Facebooks

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Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock: Into Isotropic

Posted in Reviews on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Oblivion Reptilian Fried on Rock

Sometimes an experiment works. Last year, Sydney, Australia’s Comacozer and UK spacefarers Blown Out released a split LP with one song from the former and three from the latter on Riot Season Records. Much acid-soaked chicanery was had. It is from out of that stellar nursery that Oblivion Reptilian, as a concept, comes, bringing together Comacozer drummer Andrew Panagopoulos and Blown Out guitarist Mike Vest (also of Bong, etc.). Together, the two very-very-far-apart players present the instrumentalist Fried on Rock through Sound Effect Records, with Vest handling bass as well as guitar and collaborating with Panagopoulos across a distance vast enough to be genuinely planetary. No challenge, right? A Dropboxed riff here, some drum backbeat there, done. Easy. On some level that’s probably true, but what that fails to capture as regards Oblivion Reptilian in particular is the live and improvisational feel of the five tracks on Fried on Rock and the cosmic reaches with which they’re able to commune.

There are parts that feel led by the drums and parts that feel led by the guitar, and the effect is such that if one didn’t know they had operated remotely as a two-piece, it would be no challenge to believe their kraut-y jams were tracked live with at least three players all in the same room, let alone on the same continent. That mission makes the 36 minutes of Fried on Rock a more complex affair than just the output of two dudes who dug each other’s bands and decided to start a band — though there’s nothing wrong with that either, of course — and it’s in setting and attaining that goal that Oblivion Reptilian‘s outward course is defined. Do you need that context to listen to the eight-minute post-Nebula scorcher “Daraconian” at the start of the album? Nope, not at all. You could put on Fried on Rock, dig the jams, freak out when the freakness gets freaky, and go about your business as you otherwise might. The record’s a burner either way. But it’s in understanding where its foundation lies that the true drive behind its expression is fully revealed.

That is, when you know what Oblivion Reptilian were going for and the circumstances through which the tracks were made, with ideas passed back and forth from the UK to Australia and parts recorded as beds for improv by both players, it’s all the more an impressive feat. “Daraconian” finds its way into a wash of airy guitar scream, and though it must’ve been a question at some point, Vest‘s decision to also play bass in the duo was without a doubt the right call. The fuzz he adds under his own solo at the outset of “Alien Shit” bolsters that track in ways that speak to some of Earthless‘ more kosmiche moments without being a direct descendant thereof, and as Panagopoulos‘ uptempo swing holds together a forward exploration of vibe and righteously Hendrixian wankery. Even unto the way it sputters out at the end, it feels live.

oblivion reptilian jealousy

The recording is raw in just the right way from both parties so that it sounds like they’re playing together, and as the consuming loops of delay take hold in centerpiece “Amplification from Stimulated Emission,” that vitality comes through. It’s resonant in the brief “Saurian Architect,” and as 8:51 closer “Isotropic Transucent” claws its way onto the brain stem, the wash of guitar hits a new level, layer piled upon layer with the drums and bass acting out a common groove beneath in classic power trio modus. It’s not that Oblivion Reptilian are trying to put one over, like they’re going to trick someone into thinking two players are three, but their intention creatively seems to have been to pay homage to this particular strain of heavy psychedelia, and even if they just decided to work together and see what came out and this is what did, that’s all the more honest to the roots from which their work stems. Isn’t that how it always goes, at least in the ideal scenario for jam-based psych and space rock?

One is left to wonder what might happen if Vest and Panagopoulos ever manage to get into the same studio at the same time, but as the creeping low-end severity of the final progression in “Isotropic Transucent” play out, it’s not like there’s something missing for the approach they’ve taken. I guess that’s ultimately what’s so impressive about the debut from this collaboration — it runs directly counter to the narrative of “oh, you have to all be there playing live, capture lightning in a bottle, blah blah.” There’s no right way to make an album except the way you want to or can do, and while I know both these players have experience working in that fashion, their output as Oblivion Reptilian finds a way around it in order to not just effectively layer tracks on top of each other, but to give a real sense of chemistry and nascent dynamic between them. That’s especially true as the far-back hypnosis of “Saurian Architect” leads into “Isotropic Transucent,” a long fade from the penultimate cut bringing about the emergence of the closer, sounding like a jam captured already in progress, which it may well have been.

It’s so effectively done and so dead-on spaced that the listener just goes where the band leads, getting perhaps willfully lost as the last solos begin to intertwine and lead to the maybe-keyboard/maybe-effects topped finish. Radness abounds. Gnarl abounds. The universe abounds. This kind of fare is never for everybody, but however it was made, the fact remains that Oblivion Reptilian‘s Fried on Rock marks the beginning point of a collaboration with noteworthy potential for future exploration, and that if it’s not an unspeakable pain in the ass to do so, Panagopoulos and Vest should make every effort to keep it going and see where they end up, as reportedly they will. Because if what this debut does is establish the effectiveness of their methodology — I’ll argue it does that and more — then surely the only thing to do at that point is set to refining and innovating that and discovering where the path might go. Right now they’re here. Next time, they can be anywhere.

Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock (2019)

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Sound Effect Records website

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Elevators to the Grateful Sky Release Nude this Month; Two New Songs Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

elevators to the grateful sky

April 19 is the release date for Elevators to the Grateful Sky‘s new album, Nude. It’ll be out through Greece’s Sound Effect Records after the band were caught up in the whole WTF-ness that took hold with HeviSike, their former aligned purveyor. That someone would pick them up isn’t a particular surprise — 2016’s Cape Yawn (review here), was good times all the way around — but that it’s a label with the psychedelic taste of Sound Effect should tell you something.

Mostly, when it comes right down to it, it should probably tell you to listen to the two new tracks the band have streaming in lyric videos embedded below. If it doesn’t tell you that, I will. So yeah, go ahead and give those a once-over. And it’s two of 11 total inclusions, so expect the band to have another trick or five up their collective sleeve.

Album info follows, courtesy of the label:

elevators to the grateful sky nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky – Nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky are back with their third firey full-length album. ‘Nude’ showcases an extremely focused sound where early 90’s Seattle-Sub Pop vibes melt with seducingly psychedelic sections, heavy riffage and dreamy, sun-burnt instrumentals. Mastered at famed Mammoth Sound Mastering studio by Dan Randall (Iron Reagan, Noothgrush, The Walking Dead OST and countless others) and decorated by carefully hand-drawn imagery by vocalist Sandro Di Girolamo, the album comes in both coloured and black vinyl versions for the first time ever on Sound Effect Records. ‘Nude’ out on April 19th 2019.

Formed in sunny Palermo, Sicily in 2011, the band has since released one self-financed demo EP and two full-length albums, Cloud Eye (2013) and Cape Yawn (2016) on Transubstans Records (SWE) and Hevi Sike Records (UK) respectively. Their new, 11-songs album showcases a mature band whose varied songwriting has blossomed into distinctive compositions influenced by 90’s grunge, stoner and alternative rock acts such as SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, MASTERS OF REALITY, QOTSA, GODMACHINE and even DEAD MEADOW and EARTH. ETTGS’s hard-hitting edge has remained intact as they cross the entire spectre between psych jamming, acoustically soothing and straight heavy music.

“Nude” has been recorded and mixed by Silvio “Spadino” Punzo between Southern and Northern Italy in different sessions along 2018, and mastered by Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound Mastering (Maine, USA).

Preorder here: https://www.soundeffect-records.gr/nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky is:
Sandro di Girolamo – vocals and percussion
Giorgio Trombino – guitars, bass, alto saxophone, congas, keyboards, alternate lead vocals
Giuseppe Ferrara – rhythm guitars
Giulio Scavuzzo – drums, darbouka, tambourine, percussion and alternate lead vocals

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http://elevatorstothegratefulsky.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundeffect-records.gr
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Elevators to the Grateful Sky, “Song for July” lyric video

Elevators to the Grateful Sky, “Insects in Amber” lyric video

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Quarterly Review: 11PARANOIAS, Robot Lords of Tokyo, The Riven, High Reeper, Brujas del Sol, Dead Witches, Automaton, Llord, Sweet Jonny, Warp

Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day three. Cruisin’. Oh, another 10 reviews to write? Yeah, no problem. I’m on it.

Okay, maybe a little less that and a little more be banging my head against the wall of sound, but the point is we — you and I — move forward anyhow. The Quarterly Review continues today with the third batch, which at the end will bring us to the halfway point, 30 of the total 60 records done, and that always feels like an occasion. Also helps that it’s a pretty good batch of stuff, so let’s not waste time with formalities, right?

Quarterly Review #21-30:

11PARANOIAS, Asterismal

11paranoias asterismal

It’s a freakout, but not the good kind. More like a panic attack happening in slow motion on another dimensional plane. The masters of murk, 11PARANOIAS return through their own Ritual Productions imprint with Asterismal, collecting/conjuring upwards of nine tracks and 73 minutes of material depending on in which format one encounters it. The core of the outing is the six-song/45-minute vinyl edition, and that’s plenty fucked enough, to be honest, as bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson (Ramesses), guitarist Mike Vest (Bong) and drummer Nathan Perrier (ex-Capricorns) unfurl a grim psychedelic fog across songs like opener “Loss Portal” and tap into The Heads-style swirl on “Bloodless Crush” only to turn it malevolent in the process. The 12-minute “Quantitative Immortalities” finds Vest in the forward position as it summarizes the stretch of doom, psych, and bizarre atmosphere that’s utterly 11PARANOIAS‘ own, and that’s before you get into the experimental and sometimes caustic work on the CD/digital-only “Acoustic Mirror” (10:35) and “Acoustic Mirror II” (15:08), which both rise from minimalist bass to become a willful test of endurance only a select few will pass. All the better.

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Ritual Productions website

 

Robot Lords of Tokyo, Rise Robot Rise

Robot Lords of Tokyo Rise Robot Rise

Was there ever any doubt Robot Lords of Tokyo could do it on their own? Not if you ever listened to Robot Lords of Tokyo, there wasn’t. The Columbus, Ohio-based outfit built a reputation in the earlier part of the decade by bringing guests onto their records, but their new EP and first outing in half a decade, Rise Robot Rise, features five songs of just the band itself, with founders Rick Ritzler (drums) and Paul Jones (vocals) joined by bassist Joe Viers and guitarists Steve Theado and Beau VanBibber. Their last outing was the 2013 full-length Virtue and Vice (review here), but they seem in “In the Shadows” and “Looking for the Sun” to come into their own with Jones bringing a John Bush-type edge to the hook of “Looking for the Sun” and echoing out a bit on centerpiece “Hell Camino,” which boasts not the band’s first nod to Clutch. With opener “In the Shadows” setting the tone for an undercurrent of metal, “My Aching Eyes” and “Terminus” pay that off without losing their rock edge and thereby highlight just how much force has always been in the core lineup to start with.

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Robot Lords of Tokyo at CDBaby

 

The Riven, The Riven

The Riven The Riven

Issued by The Sign Records, the self-titled debut from Sweden’s The Riven (also discussed here) hones in on classic heavy rock but never actually quite tips all the way into vintage-ism. It sounds like a minor distinction until you put the record on and hear the acoustic guitar lines deep in the mix of “Far Beyond” or the echoing vocal layers in the second half of the later “Fortune Teller” and realize that The Riven are outright refusing to sacrifice audio fidelity for aesthetic. There’s no shortage of shuffle to be had, rest assured, but The Riven are less concerned with aping traditionalism than updating it, and while they’re not the first to do so, the fact that on their first record they’re already working to put their stamp on the established genre parameters bodes well, as does the bluesy float of “I Remember” and the mellow vibing early in “Finnish Woods.”

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The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, Higher Reeper

high reeper higher reeper

Philadelphia exports High Reeper offer their second full-length through Heavy Psych Sounds in Higher Reeper, upping the stakes from their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) in more than just title. In the intervening two years, the five-piece have toured extensively, and it shows in the pacing and general craft of the eight songs/38 minutes here, from the perfectly-timed nod at the end of “Buried Alive” to the face-slap proto-trash riff that starts the subsequent “Bring the Dead,” from the mountaintop echoes of “Obsidian Peaks” (note the “Hole in the Sky” riff rearing its head) to the howling roll through “Plague Hag” and into six-minute closer “Barbarian,” as High Reeper hone elements of doom to go with their biker rock sleaze. Stellar guitar is a running theme beginning with opener “Eternal Leviathan,” and Higher Reeper quickly proves that if you thought the debut had potential, you were right.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brujas del Sol, II

brujas del sol ii

if the 6:40 album opener “Teenage Hitchhiker” from Brujas del Sol‘s Kozmik Artifactz-delivered II makes anything plain, it’s that the songs that follow on the seven-track/43-minute outing are going to pay attention to texture. Still about half-instrumental, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece veer from that modus with “Sisterlace,” the New Wave-y “Fringe of Senility,” the delightfully dream-toned “White Lights,” and the final Floydian section of closer “Spiritus,” adding vocals for the first time and leaving one wondering what took them so long. Nonetheless, the winding lines and later subtly furious drums of “Sea Rage” and the scorching leads of the penultimate “Polara” bring the proggy mindset of the band that much more forward, and if II is transitional, well, it was going to be anyway, because a band like this never stops growing or challenging themselves. They certainly do here, and the results are an accomplishment more than worth continuing to build upon.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Dead Witches, The Final Exorcism

dead witches the final exorcism

The centerpiece of Dead Witches‘ sophomore album, The Final Exorcism, is a play on ’60s psych-garage-folk that asks “When Do the Dead See the Sun?,” and the rest of the LP that surrounds provides the answer: The sun isn’t showing up anytime soon, for the dead or otherwise. After issuing their first full-length, Ouija (discussed here), in 2017, the multinational horror-cinema doomers brought aboard vocalist Soozi Chameleone alongside drummer Mark Greening (Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard), bassist Carl Geary and guitarist Oliver Irongiant, and one might be tempted to think of The Final Exorcism as a kind of second debut were it not for the fact that it’s so cohesive in its approach. With Greening‘s swinging march at the foundation, cuts like the title-track and “The Church by the Sea” stomp out thick-toned and grainy organic creep, plundering through the cacophonous “Lay Demon” en route to the abyssal plod of “Fear the Priest” at the end, fearsome in purpose and realization and hopefully not at all “final.” Like any good horror franchise, there’s always room for another sequel.

Dead Witches on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Automaton, TALOS

automaton talos

It was hard to know where Automaton were headed after they remixed their debut EP, Echoes of Mount Ida (review here), and released it in LP format with two additional tracks. The original version was raw and weighted, the remix spacious and psychedelic. With TALOS, their first proper long-player (on Sound Effect Records), they answer the question with seven songs/48 minutes of expansive and richly atmospheric post-metal, seeming to take from all sides and shift their focus between crushing with dense tones on 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Trapped in Darkness,” as well as the frantically drummed “Automaton Marching,” “The Punisher” or the end stage of “Talos Awakens” and honing more of a varied and atmospheric approach throughout the sample-laced “Giant of Steel,” the drifting “Submerged Again” and the minimalist acoustic-led closer “Epilogue,” all the while donning both an overarching concept and a new level of production value to bolster their presentation. It is a significant step forward on multiple fronts.

Automaton website

Sound Effect Records website

 

Llord, Cumbria

llord cumbria

Raging and experimental, the rumble-laden Barcelona duo Llord make their full-length debut on Féretro Records with Cumbria, which culls together five punishing-but-still-atmospheric tracks of plod and drive as bassist Aris and drummer David share vocal duties and bludgeoning responsibilities alike. Ill-intentioned from the get-go with the two-minute “Adtrita Sententia,” Cumbria unfurls its 29-minute run like a descent into low-end madness, varying speed and the amount of samples involved and bringing in some guest gralla on “Brega” and closer “Kendal/Crewe,” but finding itself in a consistent tonal mire all the same, shouts reverberating upward from it as through trying to claw their way up during the collapse of earth beneath their feet. It is brutal — an extreme vision of atmospheric sludge that makes the concept of a guitar riffing overtop seem like an indulgence that would only dull the impact of the proceedings as they are, which is formidable.

Llord on Bandcamp

Féretro Records on Bandcamp

 

Sweet Jonny, Sweet Jonny

sweet jonny sweet jonny

I can’t claim to be an expert on the ways of Britpunk classic or modern, but UK swagger-purveyors Sweet Jonny weave a heaping dose of snearing attitude into their self-titled, self-release debut album’s 12 tracks, and it comes set up next to a garage rock fuckall that isn’t necessarily contradicted by the actual tightness of the songwriting, given the context in which they’re working. “American Psycho,” well, that’s about American Psycho. “Sick in the Summer?” Well, guess that could be taken multiple ways, but somebody’s sick in any case. You see where this is going, but Sweet Jonny bring character and addled-punk charm to their storytelling lyrics and barebones arrangements of fucked-up guitar, bass and drums. I don’t know what the punkers are into these days, but the vibe here is rude in the classic sense and they bring a good time feel to “Superpunch” and “It Matters Not” — which stretches past the four-minute mark(!) — so what the hell? I’m up for something different.

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Sweet Jonny website

 

Warp, Warp

warp warp

If the approval stamp of Nasoni Records isn’t enough to get you on board — and it should be, frankly — the Sabbathian lowercase-‘g’ ghost rock Warp proffer on their self-titled debut is bound to turn heads among the converted. The Tel Aviv-based outfit tear through eight tracks in a crisp, bitingly fuzzed 28 minutes, taking on classic boogie and doom alike before they’re even through opener “Wretched.” They get bonus points for calling their noise interlude “‘Confusion Will Be My Epitaph’ Will Be My Epitaph,’ as well as for the shuffle of “Gone Man” that precedes it and the stomp of “Intoxication” that comes after, the latter a rhythmic complement to the central progression of second cut “Into My Life,” which only departs that snare-snare-snare to soar for a dual-layered solo. Hard not to dig the space-punk edge of “Hey Little Rich Boy II” and the throttled-back stoner nod of closer “Enter the Void,” which is done in under five minutes and still finds room for the album’s best stop-and-crash. Fucking a.

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