Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

codeia-dont-be-afraid-she-whispered-and-disappeared

There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

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“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

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Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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The Grand Astoria Release The Fuzz of Destiny EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

In my experience, there’s always something to dig about it when Saint Petersburg progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria get an idea in their heads. That usually leads to projects like that time they put out one copy of a 9CD box set or that time they did a record of tracks influenced by classical music. You never really know where they’re headed. This time? They’re headed for fuzz. The Fuzz of Destiny, as it happens.

That’s the title of the Russian outfit’s latest EP, and it features eight tracks using eight different distortion pedals, basking in the glories of fuzz and the different sides of a sonic personality that said effect can bring forth, from the harsher bite of “Sunflower Queen” to the warmer depths of “Glass Walls.” But what makes the project even cooler and even more The Grand Astoria‘s own is the fact that they list the different pedals used to achieve these sounds, basically letting the listener play along at home as they make their way through the short release.

Feel free to do that by streaming the release at the bottom of this post, if you’re so inclined. All the release info follows as hoisted from their Bandcamp page:

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

First ever tribute to the distortion box!

8 years of The Grand Astoria / 8 songs / 8 different fuzz pedals

Personnel:
Kamille Sharapodinov – vocals, guitars, concept, music and lyrics
Danila Danilov – vocals, bass, keyboards, flute, percussion, recording
Nikolay Kunavin – drums
Ksenia Shamarina – vocals (4)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

Recorded by Danila Danilov at Red Wave Studio during December 2016 – February 2017

Tracklisting:
1. Sunflower Queen 02:53
2. Extra Lap 01:15
3. Tour Diary 04:30
4. Pocket Guru 05:40
5. Glass Walls 02:37
6. The Sleeper Awakes 04:51
7. The Fuzz of Destiny 04:50
8. Eight Years Anniversary Riff 02:32

Pedals used:
1 – Dr. No Octofuzz (with octave off)
2 – Dr. No Power Driver/Booster + Old Octave
3 – Guyatone TZ2
4 – Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh
5 – Dunlop Jimi Hendrix System Classic Fuzz
6 – ZVex Wooly Mammoth
7 – Dr. No Kafuzz
8 – MXR Blue Box

CD (4 panel digipack) is available via thegrandastoria@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/album/the-fuzz-of-destiny-ep

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny EP (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Pallbearer, Dread Sovereign, Lizzard Wizzard, Oulu Space Jam Collective, Frozen Planet….1969, Ananda Mida, Strange Broue, Orango, Set and Setting, Dautha

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Here we are, on the precipice looking out over a spread that will include 50 reviews by the week’s end. Somehow when it comes around to a Quarterly Review Monday I always end up taking a moment to ask myself if I’ve truly lost my mind, if I really expect to be able to do this and not fall completely flat on my face, and just where the hell this terrible idea came from in the first place. But you know what? I haven’t flubbed one yet. We get through it. There’s a lot to go through, for me and you both, but sometimes it’s fun to be completely overwhelmed by music. I hope you agree, and I hope you find something this week that hits you in that oh-yeah-that’s-why-I-love-this kind of way. Time’s wasting. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartless

Three albums and nearly a decade into their tenure, Pallbearer stand at the forefront of American doom, and their third outing, Heartless (on Profound Lore), only reinforces this position while at the same time expanding beyond genre lines in ways that even their 2014 sophomore effort, Foundations of Burden, simply couldn’t have done. A seven-song/hour-long sprawl is marked out by resonant melodies, soulful melancholy conveyed by guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell – the returning lineup completed by guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly – and tonal weight set to a mix by Joe Barresi, who from opener “I Saw the End” onward arranges layers gorgeously so that extended pieces like “Dancing in Madness” (11:48) and closer “A Plea for Understanding” (12:40) become even more consuming. What comes through most resolute on Heartless, though, is that it’s time to stop thinking of Pallbearer as belonging to some established notion of doom or any other subgenre. With these songs, they make it clear they’ve arrived at their own wavelength and are ready to stand up to the influence they’ve already begun to have on other acts. A significant achievement.

Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls

dread-sovereign-for-doom-the-bell-tolls

With the considerable frontman presence of Primordial’s Alan Averill on vocals and bass, the considerable riffing of guitarist Bones (also of Wizards of Firetop Mountain) and the considerable lumber in the drumming of Johnny King (ex-Altar of Plagues), Dread Sovereign make some considerable fucking doom indeed. Their second album, For Doom the Bell Tolls (on Ván Records), follows three years behind their debut, 2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs (review here), and wastes no time giving the devil his due – or his doom, if you prefer – in the span of its six tracks and 37 minutes. Atmospheric and seemingly on an endless downward plod, the 13-minute “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” is a defining moment, but the trad metallurgy of “This World is Doomed” rounds out side A with some welcome thrust, and after the intro “Draped in Sepulchral Fog,” “The Spines of Saturn” and the thrashing “Live Like and Angel, Die Like a Devil” play dramatic and furious intensities off each other in a manner that would seem to truly represent the fine art of not giving a shit what anyone thinks about what you do or what box you’re supposed to fit into. Righteous. Considerably so.

Dread Sovereign on Thee Facebooks

Ván Records website

 

Lizzard Wizzard, Total War Power Bastard

lizzard-wizzard-total-war-power-bastard

Noise, largesse of riffs and shouted vocals that distinctly remind of Souls at Zero-era Neurosis pervade the near-hour-long run of Lizzard Wizzard’s Total War Power Bastard, but as much as the Brisbane four-piece willfully give themselves over to fuckall – to wit, the title “Medusa but She Gets You Stoned Instead of Turning You to Stone, Instead of Snakes She has Vaporizers on His Head… Drugs” – songs like “Shithead Nihilism,” “Pizza” and the droning “Snake Arrow” brim with purpose and prove affecting in their atmosphere and heft alike. Yes, they have a song called “Nerd Smasher,” and they deserve all credit for that as they follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), but by the time they get down to the roll-happy “Crystal Balls” and the feedback-caked “Megaflora” at the record’s end, guitarists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon, bassist Stef Roselli and drummer Luke Osborne end up having done something original with a Sleep influence, and that’s even more commendable.

Lizzard Wizzard on Thee Facebooks

Lizzard Wizzard on Bandcamp

 

Oulu Space Jam Collective, EP1

Oulu-Space-Jam-Collective-ep1

Should mention two things outright about Oulu Space Jam Collective’s EP1. First and foremost, its three songs run over 95 minutes long, so if it’s an EP, one can only imagine what qualifies as a “full-length.” Second, the Finnish outfit releasing EP1 on limited tape through Eggs in Aspic isn’t to be confused with Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective. Oulu is someplace else entirely, and likewise, Oulu Space Jam Collective have their own intentions as they show in the 57-minute opener “Renegade Spaceman,” recorded live in the studio in 2014 (they’ve since made two sequels) and presented in six movements including samples, drones, enough swirl for, well, 57 minutes, and a hypnotism that’s nigh on inescapable. I won’t take away from the space rock thrust of 14-minute closer “Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia” (also tracked in 2014), but the smooth progressive edge of three-part 24-minute centerpiece “Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool” is where it’s at for me – though if you want a whole galaxy to explore, hit up their Bandcamp.

Oulu Space Jam Collective on Thee Facebooks

Eggs in Aspic webstore

 

Frozen Planet…. 1969, Electric Smokehouse

frozen-planet-1969-electric-smokehouse

They freak out a bit toward the end of 12-minute opener “Ascendant” and in the second half of the subsequent “Supersaturation,” but for the most part, Aussie three-piece Frozen Planet…. 1969 play it weirdo-cool on their fourth full-length, the excellently-titled Electric Smokehouse (on Pepper Shaker Records). From those jams to the dreamy beachside drift of “Shores of Oblivion” to the funky-fuzz bass of “Sonic Egg Factory” to the quick noise finish of “Pretty Blown Fuse” – which may or may not be the sound of malfunctioning equipment run through an oscillator or some other effects-whatnot, the instrumentalist Sydney/Canberra trio seem to improv a healthy percentage of their fare, if not all of it, and that spirit of spontaneity feeds into the easygoing atmosphere only enhanced by the cover art. On a superficial level, you know you’re getting psych jams going into it, but once you put on Electric Smokehouse, the urge to get lost in the tracks is nigh on overwhelming, and that proves greatly to their credit. Wake up someplace else.

Frozen Planet…. 1969 on Thee Facebooks

Pepper Shaker Records on Bandcamp

 

Ananda Mida, Anodnatius

ananda-mida-anodnatius

Ananda Mida make their debut on Go Down Records with Anodnatius, fluidly working their way around heavy psychedelic and more driving rock influences propelled by drummer Massimo “Max Ear” Recchia, also of underrated Italian forebears OJM. Here, Recchia anchors a seven-piece lineup including two vocalists in Oscar de Bertoldi and Filippo Leonardi, two guitarists in Matteo Scolaro and Alessandro Tedesco, as well as bassist Davide Bressan and organist Stefano Pasqualetto, so suffice it to say songs like the subtly grungy “Passvas,” the dreamy highlight “Heropas” or the vaguely progressive “Askokinn” want nothing for fullness, but there seem to be moments throughout Anodnatius as on “Lunia” and the shuffling “Kondur” early into the proceedings where the band wants to break out and push toward something heavier. Their restraint is to be commended since it serves the interests of songcraft, but part of me can’t help but wonder what might happen if these guys really let loose on some boogie jams. Keep an ear open to find out, as I have a feeling they might be headed in just that direction.

Ananda Mida on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records website

 

Strange Broue, Seance

strange-broue-seance

The heart of Séance – The Satanic Sounds of Strange Broue might come in the 11-minute sample dump that is “Cults and Crimes,” late into the second half of the 52-minute album. Capturing meticulously compiled news and talk-show clips from the late ‘80s, some of which talk about the Satanic roots of heavy metal, it gets to the ritualism that Quebec four-piece Strange Broue proliferate elsewhere on the record in the lo-fi post-Electric Wizard doom of “Satan’s Slaves,” “Kill What’s Inside of You” and the rolling opener “Ritualize” (video here). These pieces offset by other interludes of noise and drone and samples like “Satanic Panic,” “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanis, Luciferi Excelsis,” the acoustic-until-it-gets-shot-in-the-woods “Las Bas,” the John Carpenter-esque “Séance IV – L’Invocation” and the extended penultimate drone of “Séance V – The Mystifying Oracle with Bells” ahead of the countrified pop gospel of “Satan is Real,” which finishes in subversive fashion, interrupted by more news reports and a finishing assault of noise. Like an arts project in the dark arts, Séance crosses some familiar terrain but finds Strange Broue on their own trip through cultish immersion, as psychological as it is psychedelic.

Strange Broue on Thee Facebooks

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango-the-mules-of-nana

Not much to argue with in the sixth long-player from Helge Kanck, Trond Slåke and Hallvard Gaardløs, collectively known as Orango. As they make their way onto Stickman Records (which also handled Euro distro for their last album, 2014’s Battles) with The Mules of Nana, the Norwegian trio deep-dive into harmony-topped ‘70s-style vibing that, well, leaves the bulk of “retro” bands in their V8-crafted dust. Mind you they do so by not being a retro band. True, the fuzz on “The Honeymoon Song” and “Head on Down” is as organic as if you happened on it in some forest where all the trees were wearing bellbottoms, but if you told me it was true, I’d believe Orango recorded The Mules of Nana onto – gasp! – a computer. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but “Heirs,” the sweetly acoustic “Give Me a Hundred” and motoring “Hazy Chain of Mountains” find Orango making no attempt to cloak a lack of songwriting or performance chops in a production aesthetic. Rather, in the tradition of hi-fi greats, they sound as full and rich as possible and utterly live up to the high standard they set for themselves. Pure win in classic, dynamic fashion.

Orango on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Set and Setting, Reflectionless

set-and-setting-reflectionless

There’s an undercurrent of metal that’s quick to show itself on Set and Setting’s Reflectionless. The instrumentalist Floridian five-piece delve plenty deep into heavy post-rock on cuts like the shoegazing “Incandescent Gleam” and subsequent “Specular Wavefront Of…” but they’re not through opener “Saudade” before harder-edged chug emerges, and “…The Idyllic Realm”’s blastbeating nods at black metal while the churning endgame build of closer “Ephemerality” holds tight to a progressive execution. While its textural foundation will likely ring familiar to followers of Russian Circles ultimately, Reflectionless finds distinction in aligning the various paths it walks as it goes, creating an overarching flow that draws strength from its diversity of approach rather than sounding choppy, confused or in conflict with itself. Not revolutionary by any means, but engaging throughout and with a residual warmth to complement what might seem at first to be a purely cerebral approach. It offers more on repeat listens, so let it sink in.

Set and Setting on Thee Facebooks

Set and Setting webstore

 

Dautha, Den Foerste

dautha-den-foerste

Primo short offering of pure, fistpump-ready, violin-infused doom traditionalism. I don’t know what Norrköping, Sweden’s Dautha – the five-piece of vocalist Lars Palmqvist, guitarists Erik Öquist and Ola Blomkvist, bassist Emil Åström and drummer Micael Zetterberg – are planning to do for a follow-up, but this Den Foerste (or Den Förste) two-tracker recalls glory-era Candlemass and willfully soars with no sense of irony on “Benandanti” and “In Between Two Floods” after the intro “Horkarlar Skall Slås Ihjäl,” and having already sold out a self-released pressing leaves little to wonder what would’ve caught the esteemed tastes of Ván Records. And by that I mean it’s fucking awesome. I’m ready for a full-length whenever they are, and from the poise with which Palmqvist carries the melodies of these tracks, the quality of the riffing and the depth of arrangement the violin adds to the overarching mournfulness, they definitely sound ready. So get on it. 15 minutes of dirge-making this gorgeous simply isn’t enough.

Dautha on Thee Facebooks

Ván Records website

 

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The Legendary Flower Punk Releases New Album Zen Variations

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-legendary-flower-punk

From the moment the project was named, it was clear that The Legendary Flower Punk had the potential to be kind of all over the place. And what began as a solo vehicle for The Grand Astoria guitarist/vocalist Kamille Sharapodinov has played out that scenario to its most enticing effect yet on the new album, Zen Variations. Self-released by the band — yup, a band — the new full-length veers through deeply progressive krautrock experimentation. One could argue Sharapodinov‘s guitar is its guiding force, but the tracks, each of which is a “Zen” of one kind or another — much needed — toy with arrangement in a way that even The Grand Astoria at its boldest has yet to do.

Though as Sharapodinov took the time to explain, the two acts are also growing closer together in terms of lineup. Could the future belong to The Legendary Astoria? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out where it’s all heading. You won’t find me daring to speculate.

His words, more info on the new album, the lineup and upcoming tour dates for The Legendary Flower Punk follow, as culled from the internet and from Sharapodinov directly:

the-legendary-flower-punk-zen-variations

The Legendary Flower Punk – Zen Variations

“These tracks were written during last year and were stage tested during the tours we had in 2015-2016,” explains The Legendary Flower Punk guitarist/founder Kamille Sharapodinov. “The project now is The Grand Astoria’s de facto instrumental family outfit, since it includes TGA’s current drummer and the very first TGA bassist (the one who recorded the first album with us and then left). The music is jam-oriented and we are writing it together, which is the main difference from TGA where I write all the music alone.”

The Legendary Flower Punk, Zen Variations tracklisting:
1. Earthquake Zen 08:58
2. Urban Zen 07:46
3. Party Zen 05:11
4. Subway Zen 04:09
5. Warfield Zen 04:09
6. White Magick Zen 06:47
7. Christmas Zen 08:27

The Legendary Flower Punk is going to hit the road the release of new CD! Check the dates below.

The Legendary Flower Punk on tour:
12.11 Zelenograd (RU) “cinema”
13.11 Kaluga (RU) “garage”
19.11 Vilnius (LT) “Narauti”
20.11 Warsaw (PL) “2Kola”
22.11 Berlin (de) ” deep reason ‘
23.11 Hamburg (DE) “227 Bar”
24.11 Halle (de) ” ha7″
25.11 Karlsruhe (de) “Akk”
26.11 Würzburg (DE) “Cairo”
27.11 Nuremberg (de) “Artichoke”
28.11 Leipzig (de) “Mespotine sessions”
03.12 St. Petersburg (RU) “Zoccolo 2.0”

The Legendary Flower Punk is:
Kamille Sharapodinov – guitars
Mike Lopakov – bass
Nik Kunavin – drums, percussion

The Legendary Flower Family:
Danila Danilov – synth (3-6), metallophone (1)
Denis Kirillov – acoustic grand piano (7), flute (7), fender rhodes piano (1)
Ravil Azizov – clarinet (2, 4)
Vladimir Ermolov – trumpet (1, 3, 5)
Ekaterina Kulagina – saxophone (2)
Slava Lobanov – trombone (2, 5)
George Nefedov – balalaika (1)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

https://thelegendaryflowerpunk.bandcamp.com/album/zen-variations
https://www.facebook.com/thelegendaryflowerpunk
https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/

The Grand Astoria, Zen Variations (2016)

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The Grand Astoria Touring Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the grand astoria

Always adventurous and never far off from their next outing, Russian psychedelic progressives The Grand Astoria have just issued a collection of tracks from members’ other outfits. This follows up on 2015’s Soft Focus quieter outing and the grandiose, classically-influenced The Mighty Few, and brings together cuts from The Legendary Flower Punk and other side-projects related to The Grand Astoria proper. To coincide with the latest in a prolific string of outings, The Grand Astoria will hit the road next month through Western Europe, hitting France and the Iberian Peninsula over the course of two weeks before August brings a few select festival dates, among them Yellowstock in Belgium.

This follows up on a run the band did between February and March of this year, as they continue to be somewhat underappreciated in the wider European sphere despite years of steady, quality work. They’re a lot to keep up with at this point — admittedly I feel like I fail to do so more often than not — but their material has always proven to be well worth the effort.

Dates, of which there are reportedly more to come, and other info follow:

the grand astoria poster

First bunch of dates of The Grand Astoria summer tour. We are building around these ones. If you are interested in booking us – please mail to: thegrandastoria@gmail.com

14.7 – Balagny-sur-Thérain (FRANCE) “Le Cheval Blanc”
16.7 – Tarbes (FRANCE) “Celtic Pub”
18.7 – Bilbao (SPAIN) “La Nube Cafe Teatro”
19.7 – Madrid (SPAIN) “Wurlitzer Ballroom”
21.7 – Cangas (SPAIN) “Salason”
22.7 – Ourense (SPAIN) “Urban Place”
23.7 – Figueira de Foz (PORTUGAL) “Woodrock Festival”
25.7 – Cascais (PORTUGAL) “Stairway Club”
27.7 – Loule (PORTUGAL) “Bafo de Baco”
06.8 – Beelen (GERMANY) “Krach am Bach Festival”
13.8 – Cernoy (FRANCE) “Celebration Days Festival”
14.8 – Geel (BELGIUM) “Yellowstock Festival”

From the forthcoming The Grand Astoria family compilation! Lovely piano piece from our keyboards wizard ????? ????????. Enjoy and share with your friends and parents (your mom will dig it)!

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/

The Grand Astoria, “Viipuri Lumi”

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The Grand Astoria Euro Tour Starts this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the grand astoria

It’s not every band in the world you’d believe when they say they’re going to play a different set each night of a tour, but coming from Saint Petersburg progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria — who have both the sense of adventure and the back catalog to make such a thing possible — I have no trouble at all imagining they’ll live up to their word. The prolific outfit’s latest outing is last year’s The Mighty Few, a two-song full-length exploration that melds classical and riffy ideas together in a concoction that for just about anyone else would fall flat. Somehow, The Grand Astoria make that work, as you can hear for yourself on the player under the tour dates below.

Not their first tour by any stretch, but also noteworthy since that different set each night will reportedly include a generous helping of new material. All the better from these guys, whose evolution remains ongoing.

Dates follow:

the grand astoria euro tour

The boss of booking is here! Come to our shows! We play different set every night. Don’t miss and tell your friends.

We promise you a nice set with a bunch of absolutely new songs from the forthcoming album! They are epic!

Poster by Sophia Miroedova.

The Grand Astoria on tour:
19.02 – Wroclaw (PL) – Ciemna Strona Miasta
20.02 – Katowice (PL) – Pub Korba
21.02 – Krakow (PL) – Jazz Rock Cafe
22.02 – Budapest (HU) – Instant
23.02 – Graz (A) – Wakuum
24.02 – Ljubljana (SI) – Gromka
25.02 – Zero Branco (IT) – Altroquando
26.02 – Milan (IT) – Cox 18
27.02 – Cremona (IT) – Circolo Arci Arcipelago
28.02 – Pescara (IT) – Orange Rock Cafe
29.02 – Palermo (IT) – Fabbrica 102
01.03 – Catania (IT) – Magazzini Sonori
02.03 – Reggio Calabria (IT) – Limitazione
03.03 – Bologna (IT) – Freakout
04.03 – Trieste (IT) – Tetris
05.03 – Maribor (SI) – Gustaf Pekarna
06.03 – Bistrica ob Sotli (SI) – Klub Metulj
07.03 – Brno (CZ) – Bajkazyl
08.03 – Ostrava (CZ) – Plan B
09.03 – Hradec Kralove (CZ) – Klub 4
10.03 – Prague (CZ) – Dead Jack Club
11.03 – Karlsruhe (DE) – Cafe Bistro KA
12.03 – Nuremberg (DE) – Artischocken
15.03 – Plzen (CZ) – Divadlo Pod Lampou
16.03 – Halle (Saale) (DE) – Huhnermanhattan
17.03 – Dresden (DE) – Sabotage
18.03 – Potsdam (DE) – Spartacus
19.03 – Berlin (DE) – Urban Spree
20.03 – Warsaw (PL) – 2Kola

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/

The Grand Astoria, The Mighty Few (2015)

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The Grand Astoria Release New Single “Masterplan”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the grand astoria

You might not always know what Russian progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria are up to on any given day, but rest assured they’re always up to something. The restless and accordingly prolific outfit are looking to raise funds for an impending European tour — their umpteenth, to be specific — and have issued a new single, “Masterplan,” in order to help pay for stuff like having merch made, gas, food, lodging, etc. Their asking price for a download? A euro. I’ve seen crowdfunding efforts asking way more and delivering way less than the hook of the new track from the ever-expansive outfit.

The Grand Astoria released an acoustic EP earlier this summer called Soft Focus, and already have a 2015 full-length under their collective belt in the classically-vibing The Mighty Few, as well as a split with Samavayo that Setalight Records released as a 10″ (review here), but next up seems to be a split between all the bands associated with The Grand Astoria‘s members, whether it’s The Legendary Flower Punk or, presumably, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds.

Cool things in the works. Here’s the info and track stream:

the grand astoria masterplan

Hello dear heavy psych lovers and friends of The Grand Astoria Here is the new electric song by yours truly. It will be a part of the very special The Grand Astoria Family split record which will also include new music from The Legendary Flower Punk, Organic Is Orgasmic and our other side-projects!

We decided to publish the first song from it to raise some funds for our forthcoming tour! We need to rent a van, print the merch, pay for the studio so every dime will be really appreciated!!! And the most important – THIS SONG IS REALLY WORTH IT Enjoy and share!

Music and lyrics by Kamille Sharapodinov

Kamille Sharapodinov – guitars, backing vocals
Danila Danilov – lead vocals, rhodes piano, percussion
Michail Bukin – bass
Rogier Berben – drums
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

Recorded by D.Danilov in Red Wave studio during spring 2015
Mixed and mastered by Alexander Karelin

http://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/album/masterplan
https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria

The Grand Astoria, “Masterplan”

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Samavayo & The Grand Astoria, Split: Soul on Kobaïa

Posted in On Wax, Reviews on July 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

samavayo the grand astoria split 10 inch cover and record

Released to mark a month-long tour together earlier this year, the Setalight Records split 10″ between Berlin heavy rockers Samavayo and Russian genrenauts The Grand Astoria holds a few surprises along the way. Pressed to black vinyl, it’s a follow-up to Samavayo‘s 2014 joint release with One Possible Option, and for The Grand Astoria, who’ve worked with Setalight in the past on 2014’s La Belle Epoque (review here), as well as 2013’s Punkadelica Supreme (review here) and several other short releases along the way.

Though on paper it might seem like an awkward pairing — come to think of it, just about anybody paired with The Grand Astoria is kind of awkward on paper; their sound is expansive, and they’re more than capable songwriters, but you never quite know what they’re going to do next — they mesh pretty well, and with a side split between them, both bands give a quick glimpse at where they’re at stylistically without completely losing a thread going one into the other.

One might notice The Grand Astoria‘s skull-headed mascot on the cover art by Sophia Miroedova walking away from a temple — or maybe having his portrait painted in front of it? — over which Samavayo‘s sun-style logo resides in the sky. Both acts, then, are represented, one perhaps more subtly than the other. It’s much the same way with the music. On side A, Samavayo offer two tracks: “Intergalactic Hunt” (4:03) and “Soul out of Control” (8:06), while on side B, The Grand Astoria reaffirm their shift toward progressive rock with “Kobaïa Express” (11:30).

Each cut is distinct from those around it, one way or another, and “Intergalactic Hunt” stands out for its immediate sense of movement, the guitar of Behrang Alavi (also vocals) setting a tight rhythm that drummer/backing vocalist Stephan Voland and bassist/backing vocalist Andreas Voland match both in groove and nuance, building and releasing tension in the instrumental verses and chorus of the first half before shifting in the second to a bridge that gradually leads them back to where they started, the guitar line that started it all serving also as the leadout. Fitting somehow for Samavayo in terms of showing their range that they should go from an entirely instrumental track to one centered almost completely on its vocal hook.

Well, “almost completely” is a stretch. “Soul out of Control” still has its riff — a more laid back chug over which Alavi calls to mind any number of ’90s alt melodies — and at eight minutes, there’s plenty of room for Samavayo to give the song a sense of space. They do precisely that, even slowing down over the last two minutes to march the way out, but “Soul out of Control” remains a deceptively quick listen for topping eight minutes, and that too suits Samavayo well, their songwriting always at the core no matter how expansive a given track may or may not be.

And speaking of expansive, The Grand Astoria‘s “Kobaïa Express” takes its name from the fictional planet created by Magma drummer Christian Vander — or at least from the train that presumably gets you there with the minimum of stops en route — and is presented in the accompanying alien language, a morass of syllables sometimes closer to Italian, sometimes more Slavic depending on where the music is going in any particular movement. And it does go. Recorded as the six-piece of Kamille Sharapodinov (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar), Danila Danilov (vocals, keys, flute), Eugene Korolkov (bass), Vladimir Zinoviev (drums), and Igor Suvorov (lead guitar) with Ravil Azizov on clarinet, “Kobaïa Express” is nigh on visionary progressive metal, at times operatic and at times grinding, but always precise, heavy and intricately constructed.

The Grand Astoria have already followed this split up with a two-song full-length titled The Mighty Few on which each track tops 20 minutes, so we know it’s not as far as they’ll push into fleshing out arrangements and the like, but “Kobaïa Express” thrills nonetheless for its direct Magma-ism and the poise the band demonstrates throughout, and Samavayo‘s inclusions, both of which were recorded at the end of last year, bode well for what they might do on their own next outing. If nothing else, the moral of the story with their split would seem to be that that must have been one hell of a tour. Even though it’s long since over, the scope both bands show here does justice to the fact that they got together in the first place and unites in unexpected ways across a bridge of progressive stylization and heavy craftsmanship.

Samavayo & The Grand Astoria, Split (2015)

Samavayo on Thee Facebooks

Samavayo on Bandcamp

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

Setalight Records

 

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