Review & Full Album Premiere: Spacetrucker, Smooth Orbit

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spacetrucker smooth orbit

[Click play above to stream Spacetrucker’s Smooth Orbit in its entirety. Album is out Aug. 17.]

There’s a lot about St. Louis trio Spacetrucker that points to their being a classic stoner rock band. For one, their name. Also, their sound. But it goes further than that as well and into their presentation. Looking at the cover of their self-released debut full-length, Smooth Orbit, it’s in their use of the Star Wars logo font, as well as the literal depiction of “space truckin’ round the stars,” as Deep Purple once put it, with a tricked out van riding around the rings of Saturn. Charm is a factor, certainly, but it was as well when this style of heavy, fuzz-drenched rock took hold in the late ’90s informed by grunge, punk and its own disaffection. The difference between that moment and this one, of course, is 20 years, and accordingly, guitarist/vocalist Mike Owen, bassist/vocalist Rob Wagoner and drummer Del Toro have an entire generation — two, really — to learn from when it comes to their style.

One thinks of Man’s Ruin Records acts like Tummler or Suplecs as stylistic touchstones. Bands who were obviously aware of the likes of Fu ManchuKyuss, etc., but ready to bring something of their own to what had come before. Spacetrucker, who further echo this era by making their first record the CD-style length of 10 songs and 52 minutes, are likewise looking to bring a nuance to the genre, and one can hear it surfacing in songs like “Meat Wagon,” the raw-hitting “Hotbox Airlock,” and shorter instrumental passages like the raging “Breach,” the jammed-out “Fuck Up” and “Cat March,” which has sampled marching that may or may not actually be recorded cats in a litter box. They succeed in hitting that mark, ultimately, and their debut explores a range of crunch and groove from the nodding push in the first half of “Vanishing Point/Science of Us” with its over-the-top guitar solo to the sudden turn at 5:27 into the total 7:33 to acoustic strum and percussion. On first listen, one might just think it’s a different song entirely. Nope, it’s just Spacetrucker going where they want to go.

Balancing that impulse with more familiar aesthetic elements — the fuzz, the roll, the sheer dayjob-respite vibe that pervades the chugging “Pulling Teeth” or second cut “Not as Hung” — is one of Smooth Orbit‘s greater strengths, and it is found right down to the tones of Owen and Wagoner and the grit that coincides with their engaging riffage. I think we’re early yet to call it retro and the production is modern anyway, but Spacetrucker clearly know the style they want to play — that is, they sound like fans — and are able to translate that into their own work. The bass after the siren in “Breach,” the subtle sprawl that contradicts the start-stop riff as opener “Sample of a Sample” makes it way toward its apex, or the way the bookend closer “Lost in the Sauce” eases into its slower progression, a final nod-out as the band builds to a suitably raucous finish, ending — how could they not — with an explosion that signals more than just the end of the record.

spacetrucker

By then, Spacetrucker have made their intentions plain — the sampled bonghit in “Hotbox Airlock” tells its fair share of the story — and their intentions are, in fact, pretty plain. They’re not looking to reinvent rock and roll. It isn’t about getting that gig at the art gallery. It’s straight-ahead heavy rock and roll. There are flashes of psychedelic rock and grunge is always there and the pot they’re stirring wants nothing for ingredients in general, but at their core, Owen, Wagoner and Del Toro are a heavy rock band, and they present themselves as such with zero pretense otherwise. They know you know, and you know they know you know. That does nothing to stop them from delivering a quality batch of tunes that seems to nod at The Pixies early in “Meat Wagon” as comfortable as the gravely vocals recall Nirvana in the verses that soon follow. Likewise, as they make their way through the instrumental “Fuck Up,” their ability to vary the structures in their material goes even further toward offering diversity of sound.

At the same time, that manner of breaking up one means of craft with another — this applies to the overarching impact made by “Breach” and “Cat March” as well — enhances the flow between the tracks where otherwise it might interrupt them more than anything. Spacetrucker gave an encouraging first showing on 2016’s Launch Sequence (review here), and they build on that effectively with this initial full-length. What seems to be most important in their work is the element of personality they bring to it. I don’t think “Hotbox Airlock” makes it out of ‘working title’ status if a band doesn’t have a sense of humor, and that’s important, but I’m talking even more about the stylistic blend that Spacetrucker bring to bear throughout the songs themselves. It’s not just about goofing off with riffs, but there’s still the definite impression that they’re having and good time, and well they should.

This kind of hyper-down-to-earth heavy rock and roll is the stuff on which the genre was made, and long before that hypothetical art gallery was even booking loud bands, three-pieces of this ilk were blowing out eardrums with the kind of abandon that Spacetrucker embody so fluidly today. It would be fair to call them traditional in that sense, but if I hope to have gotten any single point across here, it’s that there’s more going on than performance of genre. In their sonic persona and their presentation overall, Spacetrucker not only hearken to a bygone era of heavy rock, but they thereby find a niche for themselves not only within that, but in the modern sphere of aesthetic heft. That speaks to a drive toward individualism in terms of sound, which only bodes well for them going forward, and is another among the many encouraging aspects of this debut. It seems fair to expect some level of progression next time around as their influences get melded further together and so on, but these guys already know where they want to be on the heavy spectrum, and they’ve got their boogie van headed right for it.

Spacetrucker on Thee Facebooks

Spacetrucker on Bandcamp

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CHRCH & Fister Release Split LP Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Do you love atmospherically switched on and utterly skull-cleaving extreme doom? Sure, we all do. One should therefore take note of tomorrow as the release date of the new split between Los Angeles soulcrushers CHRCH and their bet-we-can-write-an-even-longer-song scathing compatriots in Fister. Because, you now, with the cleaving and whatnot. Issued through respected purveyor Battleground Records and Crown an Throne Ltd., it’s just two tracks, but that’s frankly all you need and even franklier probably all you could stand anyway from these two litmus test outfits pushing the limits of hyperbole-worthy viciousness. Get it, get doomed.

The PR wire delivers humbling brutality:

chrch fister split

On November 17th 2017, the stunning new split by CHRCH & Fister will be released The album consists of two tracks and will be released on limited edition vinyl via Crown and Throne Ltd and Battleground Records.

CHRCH have been hard at work crafting their particular brew of sound since late 2013. There is no image or campy gimmick to uphold, only the humble continuation and glorification of those fundamental musical elements that first built and then sustained the genre and it’s offshoots over the course of decades.

This purity and honesty comes across in a striking manner on the band’s debut ‘Unanswered Hymns’, a sprawling roller coaster of an album that plumbs the heights and depths of emotion, whether be it sorrow, loss, or redemption. Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Patrick Hills at Earthtone Studios in Rocklin, CA, the recording exudes a warm, organic tone that draws the listener in to music heavily influenced by traditional doom, psych rock, drone, and ambience. CHRCH cannily wields dynamic songwriting, musicianship, and raw power to spin a spellbinding tale of occult darkness that clashes with illuminating melodies and riffs drenched in grimy reverb. Minimalistic, indulgent, or straightforward, the music of CHRCH is simply whatever the listener wants it to be.

Fister, coming off their recent reissue of “Gemini” on vinyl (Encapsulated Records), their split 7″ with TEETH (Broken Limbs Recordings), and of course their last 12″ “IV” (Crown and Throne Ltd.), continues to incorporate heavy influences from the black and death metal genres into a depressing sludge spewing heaviness that many have attempted, but few have mastered.

CHRCH: Eva Rose, Chris Lemos, Adam Jennings, Ben Catchart, Shann Marriott Jr.
Fister: Kenny Snarzdk, Marcus Newstead, Krik Gatterer

https://www.facebook.com/chrchdoomca/
https://www.facebook.com/fisterdoom/
http://crownandthroneltd.bigcartel.com/product/fister-chrch-split-12/
https://www.facebook.com/crownandthroneltd/
https://crownandthroneltd.bandcamp.com/
http://www.battlegroundrnr.com/product/chrch-fister-split-album
https://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords/
https://soundcloud.com/battleground-records

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Quarterly Review: Grails, Expo Seventy, Coltsblood, Rhino, Cruthu, Spacetrucker, Black Habit, Stone Angels, The Black Willows, Lamagaia

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Arrival. Welcome to the final day of The Obelisk’s Spring 2017 Quarterly Review. After today, I clean off my desktop and start over with a mind toward the next round, which in my head I’ve already scheduled for late June. You know, at the end of the next quarter. I do try to make these things make sense on some level. Anyway, before we get to the last 10 albums, let me please reiterate my thanks to you for reading and say once again that I hope you’ve found something this week that really speaks to you, as I know I have and continue to today. We finish the Quarterly Review out strong to be sure, so even if you’re thinking you’re done and you’ve had enough, you might be surprised by the time you’re through the below.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Grails, Chalice Hymnal

grails chalice hymnal

Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from GrailsBlack Tar Prophecies ongoing series of short releases that showed up via Temporary Residence, it’s been a long while since their last proper outing. Deep Politics (review here) was issued in 2011, but it seems the intervening time and members’ participation in other projects – among them Om and Holy Sons in the case of Emil Amos – disappear for Grails on Chalice Hymnal, which speaks directly to its predecessor in sequel pieces like “Deeper Politics,” “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II,” taking the prog-via-TangerineDream cinematics of Deep Politics to vibrant and continually experimental places on the surprisingly vocalized “Empty Chamber,” the soundscaping “Rebecca” and the imaginative, evocative jazz homage “After the Funeral,” the album’s 10-minute closer. Hearing the John Carpenter keyboard line underpinning “Pelham,” I’m not sure I’d call Chalice Hymnal limitless in its aesthetic – Grails have definitive intentions here, as they always have – but they continue to reside in a space of their own making, and one that has yet to stop expanding its reach.

Grails on Thee Facebooks

Grails at Temporary Residence Ltd.

 

Expo Seventy, America Here and Now Sessions

expo seventy america here and now sessions

Yes. Yes. This. With extended two tracks – “First Movement” (22:17) and “Second Movement” (27:04) – unfolding one massive longform immersion that drones pastoral, delves into hypnotic bliss and fills the soul in that way that only raw exploration can, the America Here and Now Sessions from Kansas City (by way of the moon) outfit Expo Seventy is an utter joy to experience. Purposeful and patient in its execution, graceful in the instrumental chemistry – even with a second drummer sitting in amid the core trio led by guitarist Justin Wright – the album well fits the deep matte tones and nostalgic feel of its accompanying artwork, and is fluid in its movement from drone to push especially on “Second Movement,” which sandwiches a resonant cacophony around soundscapes that spread as far as the mind of the listener is willing to let them. Whether you want to sit and parse the execution over every its every subtle motion and waveform or put it on and go into full-brain-shutdown, America Here and Now Sessions delivers. Flat out. It delivers.

Expo Seventy on Thee Facebooks

Essence Music website

 

Coltsblood, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness

coltsblood ascending into shimmering darkness

After surviving the acquisition of Candlelight Records by Spinefarm, UK doom extremists Coltsblood return with their second album, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, and follow-up 2014’s Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here) with 54 minutes of concrete-thick atmospheric bleakness spread across five tracks. The headfuckery isn’t quite as unremitting as it was on the debut – a blend of airy and thick guitar in the intro of the opening title-cut (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) reminds of Pallbearer – but the three-piece thrive in this more-cohesive-overall context, and their lumbering miseries remain dark and triumphant in kind. A closing duo of “Ever Decreasing Circles” and “The Final Winter” also both top 12 and 13 minutes, respectively, but the shorter second track “Mortal Wound” brings blackened tendencies to the fore and centerpiece “The Legend of Abhartach” effectively leads the way from one side to the other. Still, the most complete victory here for bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested might be “The Final Winter,” which melds its grueling, excruciatingly slow crash to overarching keyboard drama and becomes a work of cinematic depth as well as skull-crushing wretchedness. Such ambient growth fascinates and shows marked progression from their first offering, and even if the primary impression remains one from which no light escapes, don’t be fooled: Coltsblood are growing and are all the more dangerous for that.

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records website

 

Rhino, The Law of Purity

rhino the law of purity

Once they get past the aptly-titled minute-long “Intro,” Rhino keep their foot heavy on the gas for the vast majority of The Law of Purity, their Argonauta Records debut album. The 10 included tracks veer into and out of pure desert rock loyalism – “Eat My Dust” comes across as particularly post-Kyuss, perhaps melded with some of the burl of C.O.C.’s “Shake Like You” – and the throttle of “Nuclear Space,” “Nine Months,” “A. & B. Brown” and “Cock of Dog” later on come to define the impression of straightforward push that puts the riffs forward even more than earlier inclusions like the post-“Intro” title-track or the more mid-paced “Bursting Out,” which hints at psychedelia without really ever fully diving into it. Capping with the roll of “I See the Monsters,” The Law of Purity reminds at times of earlier Astrosoniq – particularly in the vocals – but finds the Sicilian five-piece crafting solid heavy rock tunes that seem more concerned with having a couple beers and a good time than changing the world or remaking the genre. Nothing wrong with that.

Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity

cruthu the angle of eternity

As it happens, I wrote the bio and release announcement for Cruthu’s debut album, The Angle of Eternity (posted here), and I count guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick as a personal friend, so if you’re looking for impartiality as regards the self-released six-tracker, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for primo trad doom and classic metal vibes, the Michigan-based four-piece offer touches of progressive flourish amid the shuffle of opener “Bog of Kildare,” a grueling post-“Crystal Ball” nod in “From the Sea” and a bit of ‘70s proto-metallurgy in the closing title-track, which finds vocalist Ryan Evans at his most commanding while McCormick, bassist Erik Hemingsen (Scott Lehman appears as well) and drummer Matt Fry hold together the fluid and patient groove of weighted downer metal. The sense of Cruthu as an outfit schooled in the style is palpable through the creep of “Lady in the Lake” and the post-Trouble chug of “Séance,” but they’re beginning to cast their own identity from their influences – even the penultimate interlude “Separated from the Herd” is part of it – and the dividends of that process are immediate in these tracks.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Spacetrucker, Launch Sequence

spacetrucker launch sequence

From the Kozik-style artwork of their cover to the blown-out vocals on opener “New Pubes” of guitarist Matt Owen, St. Louis three-piece Spacetrucker – how was there not already a band with this name? – make no bones about their intentions on their late-2016, 26-minute Launch Sequence seven-track EP. Owen, bassist Patrick Mulvaney and drummer Del Toro push into a realm of noise-infused stoner grunge loyal to the ‘90s execution of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” in the stops of the instrumental “Giza” even as they thicken and dirty up their tonality beyond what Kyuss laid forth. The cowbell-inclusive “Science of Us” rests easily on Mulvaney’s tone and nods toward burl without going over the top, and cuts like “Old Flower,” the penultimate roller “Trenchfoot” and the closing post-Nirvana punker blast of “Ain’t Gonna be Me” reimagine a past in which the language of heavy rock was there to explain where grunge was coming from all along. Not looking to reinvent stylistic parameters in their image at this point, Spacetrucker is nonetheless the kind of band one might’ve run into at SXSW a decade and a half ago and been made a fan for life. As it stands, the charm is not at all lost.

Spacetrucker on Thee Facebooks

Spacetrucker on Bandcamp

 

Black Habit, Black Habit

black habit self titled

Clocking in at half an hour, the self-titled debut release from viola-infused Arizona two-piece Black Habit could probably qualify as an EP or an LP. I’m inclined to consider it the latter considering the depths vocalist/guitarist/bassist Trey Edwin and violist/drummer Emily Jean plunge in the five included tracks, starting with the longest of the bunch (immediate points) in the slow-moving “Escape into Infinity” before shifting the tempo upward for “Suffer and Succumb” and digging into deep-toned sludge marked out by consistently harsh vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Habit became more melodic or at least moved into cleaner shots over time, as the doomly centerpiece “South Beach” and more fuzz-rocking “Travel Across the Ocean” seem to want to head in that direction, but it’s hard to argue with the echoing rasp that accompanies the rumble and hairy tones of finale “Lust in the Dust,” as Black Habit’s Black Habit rounds out with an especially righteous nod. An intriguing, disaffected, and raw but potential-loaded opening salvo from a two-piece discovering where their sound might take them.

Black Habit on Thee Facebooks

Black Habit on Bandcamp

 

Stone Angels, Patterns in the Ashes

stone angels patterns in the ashes

Massive. Patterns in the Ashes is a malevolent, tectonic three-song EP following up on New Zealand trio Stone Angels’ 2011 debut, Within the Witch, as well as a few shorter live/demo offerings between, and it’s an absolute beast. Launching with the seven-minute instrumental “White Light, White Noise II” – indeed the sequel to a cut from the first album – it conjures a vicious nod and bleeds one song into the next to let “Signed in Blood” further unfold the grim atmospherics underscoring and enriching all that tonal heft. Sludge is the core style, but the Christchurch three-piece’s broader intentions come through with due volume on the grueling “Signed in Blood” and when “For the Glory of None” kicks in after its sample intro, the blasts and growls that it brings push the release to new levels of extremity entirely. As a bonus, the digital edition includes all three tracks put together as one longer, 21-minute piece, so the consuming flow between them can be experienced without any interruption, as it was seemingly meant to be.

Stone Angels on Thee Facebooks

Stone Angels on Bandcamp

 

Black Willows, Samsara

the black willows samsara

If Switzerland-based resonance rockers Black Willows had only released the final two tracks, “Jewel in the Lotus” and “Morning Star,” of their late-2016 second full-length, Samsara, one would still have to call it a complete album – and not just because those songs run 15 and 25 minutes long, respectively. Throughout those extended pieces and the four shorter cuts that appear before them, a palpable meditative sensibility emerges, and Black Willows follow-up the promise of 2013’s Haze (review here) by casting an even more immersive, deeper-toned vibe in the post-Om nod of “Sin” (8:08) and the more percussive complement, “Rise” (9:28), keeping a ritualized feel prevailing but not defining. From the lead-in title-track and the spacious psych trip-out of “Mountain” that gives way to the aforementioned extended closing duo, Black Willows find their key purpose in encompassing tonality and languid grooving. Nothing is overdone, nothing loses its patience, and when they get to the linear trajectory of “Morning Star,” the sense is they’re pushing as far out as far out will go. It’s a joy to follow them on that path.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Lamagaia, Lamagaia

lamagaia lamagaia

Anytime you’re at all ready to quit your job and explore the recesses of your mind via the ingestion of psychedelics, rituals and meditation, Sweden’s Lamagaia would seem to stand prepared to accompany. The Gothenburg four-piece offer two extended tracks of encouragement in that direction on their self-titled 12” (released through Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender), and both “Aurora” and “Paronama Vju” carry a heady spirit of kosmiche improvisation and classically progressive willfulness. They go, go, go. Far, far, far. Vocals echo out obscure but definitely there in post-The Heads fashion, but there’s Hawkwindian thrust in the fuzzed bass and drums driving the rhythm behind the howling guitar in “Aurora,” and that only sets up the peaceful stretch that the drones and expansive spaciousness of “Paronama Vju” finds across its 18:55 as all the more of an arrival. Immersive, hypnotic, all that stuff that means gloriously psychedelic, Lamagaia’s Lamagaia offers instrumental chemistry and range for anyone willing to follow along its resonant and ultra-flowing path. Count me in. I never liked working anyway.

Lamagaia website

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

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Wino Wednesday: Spirit Caravan Live in Saint Louis, 04.23.02 (Whole Show)

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 17th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I actually watched this whole April 2002 set from Spirit Caravan before I decided to post it. That didn’t make for the most productive morning ever at work, but it was kind of cool to see the trio’s performance in its 67-minute entirety. I’ve posted clips from this tour before for Wino Wednesday, but never a whole show from so late in the band’s tenure. You’ll forgive me I hope for not knowing if this was their last run, but if not, it was damn close. After ripping it up on bass the whole set (and vocals for a couple songs), Dave Sherman says they’ll be back next year, but of course that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Sherman would release the first Earthride full-length, Taming of the Demons, just months after this gig (their self-titled EP came out in 2000), and Gary Isom would float around for the next several years, playing drums in Valkyrie before joining forces for a time with Pentagram and reuniting with Sherman in Weed is Weed, and Wino would hardly miss a beat, releasing the debut album from his next trio The Hidden Hand, Divine Propaganda, in 2003. Spirit Caravan ended their tenure with the So Mortal Be single before MeteorCity‘s The Last Embrace compilation put the cap on their discography, but if you’ve gotta go out, a tour with Place of Skulls and Throttlerod is a decent way to do it.

So enjoy the show below, presented in full by Lepers TV, who taped it at the Creepy Crawl for local access, and as always, have a great Wino Wednesday:

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