Quarterly Review: Steve Von Till, Devil Worhsipper, Dr. Crazy, Linie, The Heavy Minds, Against the Grain, Angel Eyes, Baron, Creedsmen Arise, Deadly Sin (Sloth)Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to this Quarterly Review since the last one ended. Not necessarily since it clears the deck on reviews to be done — it doesn’t — but just because I feel like in any given week there’s so much more that I want to get to than I’m usually able to fit into posting that it’s been good to be able to say, “Well I’ll do another Quarterly Review and include it there.” Accordingly, there are some sizable releases here, today and over the next four days as well.
If you’re unfamiliar with the project, the idea is over the course of this week, I’ll be reviewing 50 different releases — full albums, EPs, demos, comps, splits, vinyl, tape, CD, digital, etc. Most of them have come out since the last Quarterly Review, which went up early in July, but some are still slated for Oct. or Nov. issue dates. Best to mix it up. My hope is that within this barrage of info, art and music, you’re able to find something that stands out to you and that you enjoy deeply. I know I’ll find a few by the time we’re done on Friday.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #1-10:
Steve Von Till, A Life unto Itself
A new Steve Von Till solo outing isn’t a minor happening in any circumstances, but A Life unto Itself reads more like a life event than an album. As ever, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist puts a full emotional breadth into his material, and as it’s his first record in seven years since 2008’s A Grave is a Grim Horse, there’s plenty to say. Sometimes minimal, sometimes arranged, sometimes both, the seven tracks feature little of the psychedelic influence Von Till brought to his Harvestman project, but use lap steel, strings, electrics, acoustics, keys and of course his meditative, gravelly voice to convey a broad spectrum nonetheless, and cuts like “Chasing Ghosts,” “In Your Wings” and the centerpiece “Night of the Moon” (which actually does veer into the ethereal, in its way) are all the more memorable for it. The richness of “A Language of Blood” and the spaciousness of the drone-meets-sea-shanty closer “Known but Not Named” only underscore how far Von Till is able to range, and how satisfying the results can be when he does.
Devil Worhsipper, Devil Worhsipper
Bizarro vibes pervade Devil Worshipper’s debut LP, Devil Worshipper, what may or may not be a one-man project from Jeff Kahn (ex-Hideous Corpse, Skeleton of God; spelled here as Jevf Kon), mixed by Tad Doyle and released on Holy Mountain. Based in Seattle (that we do know), the project wields molten tones and slow groove to classic underground metal, heavy psych and bleary moods to hit into oddly cinematic moodiness on “Ash Brume” and even nod at Celtic Frost from a long ways away on closer “Lurker (Death).” Most of the drums are programmed, save for “New Spirit World Order,” “Ash Brume” and “Lurker,” but either way, they only add to the weirdness of the chanting layered vocals of “New Spirit World Order,” and just when it seems like eight-minute second track “Chemrails” will have been as far out as Devil Worshipper gets, side B’s “Desert Grave” takes hold for a five-minute dirge that turns out to be one of the record’s most satisfying rolls, reminiscent of something Rob Crow might’ve done with Goblin Cock on downers. Unexpected and living well in its own space, the album manages to be anchored by its lead guitar work without seeming anchored at all.
Dr. Crazy, 1,000 Guitars
So, how many guitars on London trio Dr. Crazy’s 13-minute/four-song EP, 1,000 Guitars? Two, I think. The side-project of Groan vocalist Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen and Chris West, formerly the drummer of Trippy Wicked and Stubb who here plays guitar and bass while Groan’s former guitarist Mike Pilat handles drums, make a bid for the possibility of playing live in bringing in Pilat to fill the role formerly occupied remotely by Tony Reed of Mos Generator on their 2014 debut EP, Demon Lady. Whether that happens will remain to be seen, but they affirm their ‘80s glam leanings on “Bikini Woman” and keep the message simple on opener “Hands off My Rock and Roll” while “1,000 Guitars” makes the most of guest lead work from Stubb’s Jack Dickinson – he’s the second guitar, alongside West – and yet another infectious Mazzereth-led hook, and well, “Mistress of Business” starts out by asking the titular lady to pull down her pants, so, you know, genius-level satire ensues.
Linie, What We Make Our Demons Do
An aggressive core lies beneath the progressivism of German five-piece Linie (actually written as ?inie) on their debut full-length, What We Make Our Demons Do, but the material holds a sense of atmosphere as well. Vocalist/guitarist Jörn is very much at the fore of post-intro opener “Blood on Your Arms,” but as the crux of the album plays out on the chug-happy “Lake of Fire” and “No Ideal,” Linie showcase a wider breadth and bring together elements of post-hardcore à la Fugazi, darker heavy rock and purposefully brooding metal. Comprised of Jörn, guitarist/vocalist Alex, bassist/vocalist Ralph, drummer/vocalist Alex and keyboardist Iggi, the band impress on their first offering with not only how assured they seem of their aesthetic, but the expansive manner in which they present it. Their songwriting is varied in approach but unified in mood and while I don’t know what has them so pissed off on a cut like “Inability,” there’s no question whether they’re putting that anger to good use.
The Heavy Minds, Treasure Coast
Austrian trio The Heavy Minds make their full-length debut on Stone Free with Treasure Coast, a seven-cut LP that fuzzes up ‘70s swing without going the full-Graveyard in retro vibe. “You’ve Seen it Coming” seems to nod at Radio Moscow, but a more overarching vibe seems to share ideology with Baltimore three-piece The Flying Eyes, the classic rock sensibilities given natural presentation through a nonetheless modern feel in the tracks. The bass tone of Tobias (who also plays guitar at points) alone makes Treasure Coast worth hunting down, but doesn’t prove to be the limit of what the young outfit have to offer, drummer Christoph swinging fluidly throughout “Diamonds of Love” in a manner that foreshadows the emergent roll of “Seven Remains.” That song is part of a closing duo with “Fire in My Veins,” which boasts a satisfying bluesy howl from guitarist Lukas, rounding out Treasure Coast with an organic openness that suits the band well.
Against the Grain, Road Warriors
Momentum is key when it comes to Road Warriors, the new full-length from Detroit four-piece Against the Grain. They amass plenty of it as they thrust into the 12-track/38-minute rager of an outing, but there are changes to be had in tempo if not necessarily intent. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Chris Nowak, guitarist/vocalist Kyle Davis, guitarist Nick Bellomo and drummer Rob Nowak, the band actually seems more comfortable on fifth-gear cuts like “’Til We Die,” “What Happened,” the first half of “Afraid of Nothing” or the furious “Run for Your Life” than they do in the middle-ground of “Guillotine” and “Night Time,” but slowing down on “Sirens” and “Eyes” allows them to flex a more melodic muscle, and that winds up enriching the album in subtle and interesting ways. If you want a clue as to the perspective from which they’re working, they start with “Here to Stay” and end with “Nothing Left to Lose.” Everything between feels suitably driven by that mission statement.
Angel Eyes, Things Have Learnt to Walk that Ought to Crawl
With the ‘t’ and the ‘ought’ in its title, Angel Eyes’ posthumous third full-length, Things Have Learnt to Walk that Ought to Crawl, brims with oddly rural threat. Like the things are people. The Chicago outfit unfold two gargantuan cascades of atmosludge on “Part I” (15:54) and “Part II” (19:18), pushing their final recording to toward and beyond recommended minimums and maximums as regards intensity. They called it quits in 2011, so to have the record surface four years later and be as blindsidingly cohesive as it is actually makes it kind of a bummer, since it won’t have a follow-up, but the work Angel Eyes are doing across these two tracks – “Part I” getting fully blown-out before shifting into the quiet opening of “Part II” – justifies the time it’s taken for it to be released. They were signed to The Mylene Sheath, but Things is an independent, digital-only outing for the time being, though its structure and cover feel ripe for vinyl. Who knows what the future might bring.
Textured, hypnotic and downright gorgeous in its psychedelic melancholy, Baron’s Torpor is a record that a select few will treasure deeply and fail to understand the problem as to why the rest of the planet isn’t just as hooked. A thoroughly British eight-track full-length – their second, I believe, but first for Svart – Torpor creates and captures spaces simultaneously on organ-infused pieces like “Mark Maker,” executing complex transitions fluidly and feeding into an overarching ambience that, by the time they get around to the eight-minute “Stry,” is genuinely affecting in mood and beautifully engrossing. The Brighton/Nottingham four-piece fuzz out a bit on “Deeper Align,” but the truth is that Torpor has much more to offer than a single genre encapsulates and those that miss it do so to their own detriment. I mean that. Its patience, its poise and its scope make Torpor an utter joy of progressive flourish and atmosphere with a feel that is entirely its own. I could go on.
Creedsmen Arise, Temple
So get this. For their first EP, Swedish trio Creedsmen Arise – guitarist Emil, drummer Simon and bassist Gustaf (since replaced by Jonte) – have taken it upon themselves to pen a sequel to Sleep’s Dopesmoker that, “tells the story about what happened centuries after the Dopesmoker Caravan and it’s [sic] Weedians reached their destination.” Admirably ballsy terrain for the three-piece to tread their first time out. It’s like, “Oh hey, here’s my first novel – it’s Moby Dick from the whale’s perspective.” The three tracks of the Temple EP are fittingly schooled in Iommic studies, but the band almost undercuts itself because they don’t just sound like Sleep. They have their own style. Yeah, it’s riffy stoner metal, but it’s not like they’re doing an Al Cisneros impression on vocals, so while the concept is derived directly, the sound doesn’t necessarily completely follow suit. Between the 10-minute opening title- and longest-track (immediate points), “Herbal Burial” and “Circle of Clergymen,” Creedsmen Arise make perhaps a more individualized statement than they intended, but it’s one that bodes well.
Deadly Sin (Sloth), Demo Discography
Nola’s cool and all, but when it comes to the nastiest, most misanthropic, fucked-up sludge, choosy moms choose Ohio, and Deadly Sin (Sloth) are a potent example of why. Their Demo Discography tape revels in its disconcerting extremity and seems to grind regardless of whether the Xenia, OH, trio are actually playing fast. Comprised of Jay Snyder, Wilhelm Princeton and Kyle Hughes, Deadly Sin (Sloth) cake themselves in mud that will be familiar to anyone who’s witnessed Fistula on a bender or Sloth at their most pill-popping, but do so with sub-lo-fi threat on the tape and are so clearly intentional in their effort to put the listener off that one could hardly call their demos anything but a victory. Will not be for everyone, but of course that’s the idea. This kind of viciousness is a litmus test that would do justice to any basement show, maddening in its nod and mean well beyond the point of reason.