Abramis Brama, Tusen År: Thousand Year Wildfire

Posted in Reviews on May 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Abramis Brama Tusen År

There’s just nothing here to argue against. I’m sorry. Usually in a review I find it appropriate to cite areas of potential growth as well as what’s really working and the narrative of a given album, but to take a band like Stockholm’s Abramis Brama, who release their seventh album, Tusen År, through Black Lodge Records and with it embark on a 45-minute journey through rock as timeless as it is willfully dated — a style they’ve long since mastered in an aesthetic they helped define — and yeah, I just don’t hear anything in these eight tracks that doesn’t work.

Founding vocalist Ulf Torkelsson and founding guitarist Per-Olof Andersson, partnered once again with the tenured rhythm section of bassist/backing vocalist Mats Rydström (also Avatarium) and drummer Fredrik Liefvendahl (formerly of Grand Magus) — in the band for six and 13 years, respectively — celebrate two decades since their initial single was released with a collection that basks in raw classic heavy rock energy and form. They cover Ashbury with the translated-into-Swedish “Vägen ut” and work in the tradition of bands like November and Träd, Gräs och Stenar in playing proto-heavy and progressive, folk-infused rock on a cut like “Slutet av tunneln,” which ends side A of a well-split vinyl record big on quality and light on pretense as only a band with two decades under its collective belt can be if it so chooses. If nothing else, Tusen År reaffirms that Abramis Brama have been long underrated in the international underground.

No doubt part of that is their Swedish lyrics, but in listening to their work on Tusen År, or the preceding 2014 outing Enkel Biljett (discussed here) or 2009’s more polished-seeming Smakar Söndag (review here), let alone a record like 2005’s Rubicon (discussed here), the fact that the songs are in Swedish is an essential part of the band’s character and sonic persona. It’s something from which they’ve veered only once, on 2003’s Nothing Changes (discussed here), and that’s something they still blame on their record label at the time, Sweden Rock. Either way, theirs stands among the most storied careers in the Swedish heavy rock, and tracks like the uptempo one-two kick of “Löpeld” and the ping-ride-infused roller “Vem du är” at the outset of Tusen År only underscore the immense respect the band is due.

Abramis Brama photo Linda Pettersson

Cleanly produced but overarchingly natural with backing vocal harmonies, hooks and flowing grooves, the initial salvo sets the tone for much of what follows, though as Abramis Brama move into the title-track, they immediately expand the palette of mood to encompass more brooding vibes and a bluesy harmonica solo from Torkelsson amid the sleek shuffle of the verse and bouncing chorus declension. At the halfway point, the title-track breaks into an acoustic-laced jam but eventually pulls back to the more weighted push of its hook before fading out and giving way to “Slutet av tunneln,” to which it has provided a subtle and fluid lead-in. The aforementioned side A closer has its louder moments, starting at 2:32 and just barely leaving room at the end for a return to the quiet acoustic guitar that started out, but the personality of the piece is more defined by its mellow vibe and offers a singular moment to which the winding course of Tusen År‘s side B will ultimately not return, in spite of expectation otherwise.

The shortest track on Tusen År at 3:24, “Fel kvinna” is primo boogie rock, thick in tone but well geared toward its rhythmic movement and subtly precise drumming, with little space for frills amid its hook and tambourine-inclusive drive. “Vengeance” was included on Ashbury‘s 1983 outing, Endless Skies, and apart from the translation and a better balance in the mix, Abramis Brama are pretty loyal to the original version, featuring the guitar in lead and rhythm layers atop a nodding groove and the flowing vocals that accompany. This departure from original material sets up the transition into closing duo “Hav av lögner” and “Ta mig tillbaka,” two of Tusen År‘s longest — 7:04 and 8:26 — tracks but also some of the catchiest, and, in a mirror of “Löpeld” and “Vem du är” at the beginning, two songs that work in a similar fashion to define some of the essential elements of the album as a whole.

Neither Abramis Brama‘s prowess as songwriters nor their chemistry as performers was in particular doubt, but both are reaffirmed in the ’70s boogie party of “Hav av lögner,” and I don’t care what’s your first language, by the time it gets around to delivering its title line, “Ta mig tillbaka” is 100 percent singalong-worthy. The closer starts out patiently and makes its way gradually through its initial verses, but don’t be fooled — the good times are on their way, and 20 years on from their first radio airplay, Abramis Brama sound like they’re having an absolute blast as “Ta mig tillbaka” swings to its harmonica-topped finish at about 7:30, only to give way to vague, echoing acapella vocals that remind of some lost 45RPM record from the mid-’60s but fade out as an epilogue to the absolute blast beforehand.

Like I said at the outset, there’s nothing to complain about here. This is simply a band aware of who they are and how to make their sound go where they want it to go, ace crafters of classic-style songs that bring a stamp of their own persona to everything they do. It’s not every year a new Abramis Brama comes along, but when one does, it’s almost certainly going to be an occasion to celebrate. That’s certainly the case with Tusen År.

Abramis Brama, “Vem är du”

Abramis Brama website

Abramis Brama on Thee Facebooks

Abeamis Brama on Instaram

Abramis Brama purchase portal

Black Lodge Records on Thee Facebooks

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MaidaVale tour with The Black Wizards Starts Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I’m pretty sure I said so around the time it came out, MaidaVale‘s second full-length, Madness is too Pure surprised in both its energy an its cohesion.I’m not trying to take away from what they did on their debut, Tales of the Wicked West (review here), but the level of development on a reltively quick turnaround is remarkble. And I hear from those who were at Desertfest Berlin 2018 this past weekend that their set there was something special as well.

All the better that they’re about to head out on a two-week tour. Most of the shows are in Germany — which will happen these days; Germany being pretty much where it’s at — but wherever they’re headed, the road time is only going to help MaidaVale continue to progress as aa a ba, which if you listen to Madness is too Pure, I think you’ll probably agree is something they’re definitely interested in doing.

Seriously though, check out that record if you haven’t. It’s on The Sign, while the tour with The Black Wizards is presented by Sound of Liberation, who posted the following

maidavale tour poster

To promote the release of their new album “Madness Is Too Pure”, MaidaVale will hit the road in 3 days along with The Black Wizards, starting at DesertFest Berlin!

07.05.18 | PL | Warsaw | Hydrozagadka
08.05.18 | PL | Torun | Koniec Swiata
09.05.18 | D | Dresden | Ostpol
10.05.18 | D | Oldenburg | Polyester
11.05.18 | D | Hamburg | Molotow
12.05.18 | D | Husum | Speicher
13.05.18 | NL | Drachten | Iduna
15.05.18 | D | Stuttgart | Goldmarks
16.05.18 | D | Munich | Feierwerk
17.05.18 | I | Bolzano | Sudwerk
18.05.18 | D | Nuernberg | Muz
19.05.18 | D | Leipzig | So & So
20.05.18 | D | Bueckburg | Schraub Bar
.
Members:
Matilda Roth – Vocals
Johanna Hansson – Drums
Linn Johanesson – Bass
Sofia Ström – Guitar

www.soundofliberation.com/maida-vale
MaidaVale website
MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks
MaidaVale on Twitter
MaidaVale on Instagram
MadidaVale on Spotify
The Sign Records website
The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks
The Sign Records at Freight Train Distro

Maidale, Deadlock (official video)

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Candlemass Post “House of Doom” Video; New EP out May 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

candlemass

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t care if the new Candlemass is inspired by Parcheesi. It’s new Candlemass. That’s what matters. The Swedish legends of doom metal led by bassist Leif Edling present four new songs on their upcoming House of Doom EP, which takes its name from, yeah, a video game, and will be released by Napalm on May 25 ahead of a reported new full-length due this autumn. More new Candlemass? Mark it a win. Some things just make the universe a better place.

They’ve got a lyric video up for the House of Doom title-track that you can see at the bottom of this post, and yes, it kicks ass. Doom doesn’t get much more doom than Candlemass. They pretty much built this ‘House.’

From the PR wire:

candlemass house of doom

CANDLEMASS TO RELEASE NEW EP ‘HOUSE OF DOOM’ ON MAY 25th!

It only takes a few short bars of the title track “House Of Doom” to feel that familiar sensation again: yes, Leif Edling aka the undisputed king of minor key songwriting has returned. With him, he brings frenzied riffing, melancholy made sound and warm Hammond organ tapestries that form the pillars of every CANDLEMASS classic!

Mats Levén on the EP:

“We in Candlemass are proud to present 4 new songs to the world on the new EP ‘House of Doom’! The title track is inspired by the House of Doom game from Hyperfrost. We’re also very happy that our label Napalm Records are with us all the way – 2018 will be a big year for Candlemass!”

The Swedish pioneers of doom managed once again to distill the essence of epic doom metal – and at the same time they make waiting for the next long player (to be released in fall 2018) even harder…

Preorder ‘House Of Doom’ HERE!

Track Listing:
01. House of Doom
02. Flowers of Deception
03. Fortuneteller
04. Dolls On A Wall

Lineup:
Leif Edling: Bass
Mats “Mappe” Björkman: Guitars
Jan Lindh: Drums
Lars “Lasse” Johansson: Guitars
Mats Levén: Vocals

In addition to the regular EP there will be 10″ etched vinyl with an exclusive 9,5 minutes long version of the song ‘The House Of Doom’. This 10″ will be available to win from April 27th.

The vinyl cannot be bought, it can only be obtained by playing the game HOUSE OF DOOM.

To win the contest users need to sign up to a selected casino through the houseofdoom.com website.

Winners of the contest will be selected at random. Supply is limited so this will be a very rare and collectible item. You can win other exclusive merchandise by playing the game, including signed t-shirts and more.

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
WWW.HOUSEOFDOOM.COM
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, “House of Doom” lyric video

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Quarterly Review: The Atlas Moth, Across Tundras, The Wizards of Delight, Against the Grain, Our Solar System, Dommengang, Boss Keloid, Holy Smoke, Sabel, Blackwater Prophet

Posted in Reviews on April 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

This is a crucial moment in any Quarterly Review. Today we hit the halfway point one way or the other. I still haven’t decided if this will be a 50- or 60-album edition; kind of playing it by ear, but either way, today’s a landmark in my mind in terms of how far to go vs. how far we’ve come. Uphill vs. downhill to some extent, but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m either half-assing it from here on out or that I don’t enjoy the challenge of reviewing 10 records in a day, one after the next, for (at least) five days in a row. I’ve always been a glutton for a bit of self-flagellation. Ha.

Alright, let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Atlas Moth, Coma Noir

the atlas moth coma noir

If one still wants to consider Chicago’s The Atlas Moth post-metal after hearing Coma Noir, at least do them the courtesy of emphasizing the “metal” part of that equation. For their debut on Prosthetic Records and fourth full-length overall, the five-piece worked with producer Sanford Parker to solidify a progressive metal sound that, whether in the harsh and weighted impact of the opening title-track or the later interplay between guitarists Stavros Giannopoulos and David Kush on screams and cleaner vocals in “Furious Gold,” seems to take cues from groups like a less manic Strapping Young Lad and a less watered-down Mastodon more than Isis or Neurosis. With prominent synth from Andrew Ragin (also guitar), and the solid roll from the rhythm section of bassist Alex Klein and drummer Mike Miczek, the band brings revitalized edge to “The Streets of Bombay,” and even on the slower, more atmospheric closer “Chloroform,” they’ve never sounded more lethal. It suits them.

The Atlas Moth on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records webstore

 

Across Tundras, Tumbleweeds III

across tundras tumbleweeds iii

A collection of odds and ends from Across Tundras, the 10-track/52-minute Tumbleweeds III may or may not sate anyone hoping for a follow-up to 2013’s Electric Relics (review here), but it provides some curio fodder along the way to be sure, from raw opener “Final Breath over Venom Falls” to the acoustic-percussion jam “Bullet in the Butt” to the fuller roll of “Cold Ride” and later demos for “Spinning Through the Cosmic Dust,” “Hijo del Desierto,” “Stone Crazy Horse” and “The Stacked Plain,” which later became “Seasick Serenade” on Electric Relics, it’s at very least something for fans to dig into and a fascinating listen, as Across Tundras’ rambling sound is almost eerily suited to a home-recording vibe, as the “Stone Crazy Horse” demo, featuring vocalist Shannon Allie-Murphy along with frontman Tanner Olson, sounds all the more folksome as a result of its lack of production polish. Closing with Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” then, could hardly be more appropriate. Still waiting for a proper long-player to surface, but happy at this point to take what comes.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

The Wizards of Delight, The Wizards of Delight

the wizards of delight the wizards of delight

Like a chicanery-laced dusty vinyl with a naked lady on the cover, The Wizards of Delight emerge from the London underground to solidly declare “We’ve got the rock ‘n’ rollz.” And yes, they spell it with a ‘z.’ The presence of frontman Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen will be familiar to anyone who ever even briefly encountered Groan – dude makes an impression, to be sure – and the four tracks he and the surrounding five-piece of guitarists/backing vocalists Dan Green’s Myth and Lenny Ray, bassist/backing vocalist Eponymous, organist/backing vocalist Henry and drummer Reece bring is both funky and classically heavy, “Gypsy” referencing Dio Sabbath in the first line while “Mountain Woman” brings a heavy ‘70s shuffle to answer the way-un-P.C. “Shogun Messiah,” which seems to be working under the thesis that because it sounds like it’s from 40 years ago, they can get away with it. I’ll give them that the track is, to an unfortunate degree, catchy. As to the rest, give me the groove of “We Got the Rock ‘n’ Rollz” any day. It’s been a while since anyone so brazenly interpreted Mk. II Deep Purple and actually pulled it off.

The Wizards of Delight on Thee Facebooks

APF Records website

 

Against the Grain, Cheated Death

against the grain cheated death

Hard-touring Detroit heavy rockers Against the Grain are known for speed, and rightly so. When they burst into high gear, as on “Sacrifice,” “No Sleep,” “Last Chance,” “Rolling Stone,” “Enough’s Not Enough,” and “Jaded and Faded” from their latest offering and Ripple Music debut, Cheated Death. The follow-up to 2015’s Road Warriors (review here) sees them no less infectious in their live energy, but it’s hard to ignore the more versatile approach that seems to be growing in their sound, from the classic rocking “Smoke” to the near-centerpiece “Devils and Angels” which ballads-out its boozy regrets before entering into an effective mid-paced build that rounds out in choice dual-soloing. Likewise, though they open at a good clip with the title-track, closer “Into the Light” finds a middle ground between thrust and groove. The truth is Against the Grain have never been just about speed, but they’ve never so directly benefited from a dynamic approach as they do on Cheated Death either.

Against the Grain on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Our Solar System, Origins

our solar system origins

Immediate kudos to Stockholm-based psychedelic progressive explorers Our Solar System – aka Vårt Solsystem – for opening their third full-length for Beyond Beyond is Beyond, the five-track/41-minute Origins, with the side-consuming 21-minute “Vulkanen.” One could hardly ask for more effective immersion in the band’s world of patiently unfurled, languid psychedelia, and with the accompaniment of “Babalon Rising,” the jazz-prog tracklist centerpiece “En Bit Av Det Tredje Klotet,” the birdsong-laced “Naturligt Samspel” and the semi-freaked-out melodic wash of “Monte Verita” on side B, a full, rich, and mind-expanding cosmos is engaged, free of restriction even as it remains thoroughly lysergic, and adherent to no structural will so much as the will to adventure into the unknown, to find out where one progression leads. As regards the long- and short-form material on Origins, it leads far, far out, and if you don’t come out the other side wanting to own everything the band has ever released, you’re decidedly in the wrong.

Our Solar System on Thee Facebooks

Beyond Beyond is Beyond website

 

Dommengang, Love Jail

dommengang love jail

Once calling Brooklyn Home, Los Angeles trio Dommengang waste no time in getting down to the business of boogie on their second album for Thrill Jockey, Love Jail. Produced by Tim Green (The Fucking Champs), the 10-track/50-minute long-player has all the room for organ/guitar mashups, righteous West Coast vibes and easy-flowing classic heavy rock one could hope for, and in the opening salvo of “Pastel City,” “Lovely Place” and “Lone Pine,” the three-piece of guitarist Dan “Sig” Wilson, bassist Brian Markham, and drummer Adam Bulgasem reaffirm mellow bluesiness as well on the title-track and dig into ‘90s-style alt bliss on the penultimate “Color out of Space.” There’s a welcoming air throughout that holds steady regardless of tempo, and in heavier moments like the second half of “I’m out Mine,” the band resonates with fuzz and noisy elements that bring just enough danger to the proceedings to keep the listener riveted. Classy, but not too classy, in other words.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records website

 

Boss Keloid, Melted on the Inch

boss keloid melted on the inch

It would seem that Wigan, UK, outfit Boss Keloid — newly signed to Holy Roar Records for the release of their third LP, Melted on the Inch – internalized a few crucial lessons from their sophomore outing, 2016’s Herb Your Enthusiasm (review here). At six tracks and 40 minutes, Melted on the Inch is about 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor. Its title isn’t a weed pun. Its cover art conveys a work of dimensionality, and most importantly, the album itself turns to be precisely that. Taking a significant step toward a more progressive sound, Boss Keloid maintain the heft of their prior outing but base it around material that, frankly, is more complex and dynamic. I won’t say that “Tarku Shavel” and “Lokannok” are without their elements of self-indulgence, but neither should they be for the five-piece to do justice to the multifaceted nature of their purpose. They still roar when they want to, but Boss Keloid strike with breadth on Melted on the Inch as well as sheer impact.

Boss Keloid on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records website

 

Holy Smoke, Pipe Dream

holy smoke pipe dream

After forming in 2015, Philadelphia’s exclamatory Holy Smoke! issued their first three-track release, It’s a Demo! (review here) the next year and showed marked stylistic promise in cuts like “Rinse and Repeat” and “Blue Dreams.” Both of those tracks, as it happens, stand at the opening of the band’s latest EP, the five-song Pipe Dream, and reaffirm the potential in the group. The opener (also the longest track once again; immediate points) is a tale of workaday redundancy, the very sort of monotony that the rest of the offering seems to leave behind in favor of post-grunge heavy rock, marked by the wah-bass on finale “Asch Backwards” and the brooding sensibility of the prior “Golden Retriever,” which surges in its midsection like a lost Alice in Chains demo only to end quiet once again, a departure from the linearity of centerpiece “Missing the Mark” just before. Less psychedelic than their initial impression conveyed, they seem to have undertaken the work of crafting their own sonic niche in Philly’s increasingly crowded scene, and there’s nothing on Pipe Dream to make one think it’s not a realistic possibility they’ll get there.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp

 

Sabel, Re-Generation

sabel re-generation

Sabel know what they want to be and then are that thing. Their third album, Re-Generation, arrives via Oak Island Records as six tracks of to-the-converted stonerism, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “In the Walls of Eryx,” the Swedish trio do little more than ask their listeners to smell the smoke emanating from their speaker cabinets (oddly sweet), and hone walls of fuzz that each seem to be bigger than the last. There are some elements of earliest Electric Wizard at play in “Atlantean” or the sneering “Voodoo Woman,” but belters like “Interstellar Minddweller” and “Green Priestess” stave off their sounding overly derivative, and though at the end of Re-Generation’s 42-minute run, one might feel as though they need a shower, the record itself proves well worth the dive into the muck. The band would seem to have carved their own descriptor with the title of their self-released 2015 LP, Hard Doom, and that’s as good as anything I could come up with, so let’s roll with it. They seem to.

Sabel on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Blackwater Prophet, As I Watch it Freeze

blackwater prophet as i watch it freeze

Cheers to Christian Peters of Samsara Blues Experiment for putting me onto Spokane, Washington’s Blackwater Prophet, who with the seven-track As I Watch it Freeze collect various tracks recorded between 2015 and 2017. Thus something of a compilation, the 40-minute outing wants nothing for overarching flow, “In My Passing Time” leading off with a mellow psych-blues spirit that only grows more classic-feeling through “House of Stone” and the gorgeously pastoral “The Swamp.” The band have two proper full-lengths out, and if they wanted to count As I Watch it Freeze as their third, I don’t think they’d find much argument, as centerpiece “Gold in the Palm” opens like a gateway leading to the increasingly resonant “Careworn Crow,” the fuzzy swing of “Eating the Sun” and finally, the title-track itself, which answers the acoustics of “The Swamp” earlier while adding flourish of volume-swelling and swirling electric guitar and late choral vocals that only make the proceedings seem all the more complete in their engagement.

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Blackwater Prophet on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Avon, The Discussion, Alms, Vessel of Light, Enojado, Mother Mars, Southfork, Gypsy Sun Revival, Valhalla Lights, L.O.W.

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

This is the part of each Quarterly Review when I begin to question my life choices. Otherwise known as ‘the beginning.’ I still haven’t decided if this is going to be a five-dayer or a six-dayer, but one way or another, between now and whenever it ends, at least 50 records will be reviewed in batches of 10 per day. It’s completely insane. Completely. Every three months or so I remind myself of this by doing it again, and every time it ends up being worth the insanity. I’ve no doubt that will be the case here as well, but looking across the next five days at placeholders where reviews need to be, well, yeah. It’s pretty insane.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Avon, Dave’s Dungeon

avon daves dungeon

Dave’s Dungeon is the second full-length from Californian desert rockers Avon, and with it they make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. Peppered with varied songwriting across alternately garage rocking cuts like “Yello,” “On Fire” and “Red Barn” (video premiere here), languid psychedelic excursions in “Space Native” and the subtly proggy “Hero with a Gun,” and the classic desert crunch of “Dungeon Dave,” “Mace Face” and “Terraformations,” the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist James Childs, bassist Charles Pasarell (also Waxy) and drummer Alfredo Hernández (ex-Kyuss, Yawning Man, etc.) have no doubt garnered attention due to the participation of the latter, but all three manage to leave their mark across the 10 tracks, particularly Childs. His English-accented vocals become a defining element in “Hero with a Gun” and “Yello,” and whether fast or slow, the rhythm section offers air-tight accompaniment. Straightforward in their approach but not without some flourish, Avon bring their own touch to the classic desert style and offer memorable songs in the process. Nobody loses.

Avon on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

The Discussion, European Tour EP

The Discussion European Tour Ep 2017

Issued to coincide with an initial string of Fall 2017 European shows, the aptly-titled Tour EP serves as the debut offering from The Discussion, and its five tracks mark the return of guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, not heard from since the end of her prior outfit, Kylesa. With “A Gesture/Other Side,” Pleasants and company commune with post-rock and atmospheric stretch, where “Like Rain” and “Surf Jesus” channel New Wave and Blondie pop with an underlying heft of low end to add presence. Through it all, Pleasants’ vocals prove a patient and melodic element, and as “Before We’re Gone” brings in a moody krautrock sensibility and finale “Cuts Like a Knife” engages louder and more forward riffing in its final minute payoff, the message that The Discussion has only begun comes through loud and clear. Tour EP sounds like the beginning stages of a larger process of experimentation and creative growth, and one hopes it proves to be precisely that.

The Discussion on Thee Facebooks

The Discussion on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Demo Vol. 1

alms demo vol 1

Modern heavy rock groove meets classic metal guitar on AlmsDemo Vol. 1, which, as it turns out, is more of a sampler than an actual demo, comprised as it is of two rough mixes from the band’s forthcoming debut album. The result of this mesh on “The Offering” and “Dead Water” is somewhere between Uncle Acid swing and Iron Maiden twin lead work, and the five-piece do well immediately to own the combination and make it cohesive sonically. Traditional doom play more of a role in “Dead Water,” and the keys of vocalist Jess Kamen – joined by guitarist/vocalist Bob Sweeney, guitarist Danny McDonald, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans – and while I don’t know what label it is that’s going to pick them up (I’d believe anyone from Ripple to Shadow Kingdom to Season of Mist, depending on how much they want to tour), but if these two songs are anything to go by, they’ll be lucky to get them.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Alms on Bandcamp

 

Vessel of Light, Vessel of Light

vessel of light vessel of light

Collaborating between Ohio and New Jersey, Vessel of Light brings together vocalist Nathan Opposition of Ancient VVisdom and guitarist Dan Lorenzo of Hades. Their self-titled five-tracker EP (on Argonauta) melds bluesy metallic riffing with tales of murder and drugs on cuts like “Dead Flesh and Bones” (video premiere here) and its eponymous closer, which emphasizes a hook based around the lines, “LSD has got a hold on me/I wanna show you all the things that I’ve seen.” It goes like that. For Lorenzo, parts recall the groove he brought to short-lived heavy rock outfit The Cursed, but with Opposition’s lyrics and the periodic delving into harsher vocals, there’s a moodier and more aggressive edge to the songs that helps define the personality of the duo as a band. How often they’ll work together remains to be seen, they make a murderous introduction with this EP and there’s plenty of fodder here for further exploration should they get there.

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Enojado, Mist and Thunder

enojado mist and thunder

German trio Enojado was founded by guitarist/vocalist Stephan Kieserling circa 2002, and though he’s been through numerous lineups since, with bassist/vocalist Thomas Schnaube and drummer Till Junker, he’s put together the band’s first release since their 2014 The Chain is Loose LP was issued by Setalight. At under half an hour and six tracks plus an intro, late 2017’s Mist and Thunder offers solid heavy rock songwriting with a straightforward approach bordering on the metallic in its tone but never quite departing a heavy rock context in rhythm, even in the starts and stops of “Notorious.” The obvious standout in heft is the seven-minute “Coma,” which seems to add weight to everything around it, from “The Truth About Gold” earlier to “I Saw the Sun,” which follows, and the finale in “Queen of Heaven,” which brings a quick payoff to the release and leaves a residual echo and drone/guitar minimalism for its last two minutes. Less derivative than it at first seems, Mist and Thunder might take multiple rounds to sink in, but proves worth the effort of a dedicated listen.

Enojado on Thee Facebooks

Enojado on Bandcamp

 

Mother Mars, On Lunar Highlands

mother mars on lunar highlands

It’s kind of rare for a band to sound like they’re making fun of their own music as they play it, and yet, “Lost Planet Airmen” from Mother Mars’ fourth full-length, On Lunar Highlands, does precisely that. The Aussie trio led by multi-instrumentalists Frank (drums, synth, Clavinet) and Paul (guitar, bass, synth, banjo-mandolin, keys) Attard – who also produced together – and featuring the bluesy stylings of vocalist Dave Schembri, did not make the 11-tracker a minor undertaking. Rather, at 69 minutes, it pushes through stoner boogie on “Thought it Best to Cut You Loose” and still has room for heady jams on extended pieces like “The Stalwarts of Stalwart Castle” (9:31), “Woodhollow Green” (12:55) and the penultimate title-track (8:35), which leads to the far-out banjo shenanigans of closer “The Heavy Hand of the Destroyer.” Needless to say, madness ensues. Interludes like “Bean Stalkin’” and “Bean Stalkin’ Again” and the experimental “The Working Mind of the Creator” add anything-can-happen flair, and the weirder On Lunar Highlands gets, the more it satisfies. It gets very, very weird.

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Southfork, Through a Dark Lens

southfork through a dark lens
Two decades after their founding in 1997, Stockholm’s Southfork returned late last year with their first album since 2001’s Straight Ahead, the seven-track Through a Dark Lens, which itself is nearly five years in the making. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 7:59 “Already Gone,” the bass-heavy approach the band takes is indeed emblematic of an era now easily thought of as classic, but one could hardly call it dated for that. Rather, tracks like “Into the Deep” and “Tomb of the Mirror Men” flow easily from one to the next and the record reveals in the strut of “Seventosix” and the answer-back closer “Nowhere Gone” just why someone might put almost half a decade of effort into realizing it. Whether you remember Southfork’s original run or not, Through a Dark Lens offers immersive tone and songwriting and as Southfork have already followed it up with what seems to be a compilation release, it may signal a return to fuller activity on their part.

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Southfork on Bandcamp

 

Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time

Gypsy Sun Revival Journey Outside Of Time

Production by Kent Stump (Wo Fat). Mastering by John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet). Released through Nasoni Records. Sure enough, the second album from Texas heavy psych rockers Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time, wants nothing for the quality of its associations and with the Hendrixian guitar work of Will Weise and the bluesy classic frontman approach of vocalist Mario Rodriguez, they earn that pedigree through and through. Tyler Gene Davis’ contributions on organ only further the ‘70s vibes on “To the Sky” before Weise takes a wah-soaked solo backed by Lee Ryan on bass and drummer Ben H., and the later two-part “Pisces” combines with closer “Departure” to create a thrilling jammed-out side B that takes the more structured craft of “Indigo” and catchy opener “Cadillac to Mexico” earlier and pulls them through an interdimensional haze that only does more to evoke the album’s title. Between Journey Outside of Time and Gypsy Sun Revival’s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), one is left wondering how long we’ll be able to think of them as a well-kept secret of Texas’ fertile heavy underground.

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Nasoni Records website

 

Valhalla Lights, My Gracious Highway

valhalla lights my gracious highway

There’s a commercial sense of clarity to Valhalla LightsMy Gracious Highway, which seems to have been originally issued by the band in 2016 but is being given a renewed international push. It’s a crisp 13-track/45-minute long-player, marked by solid songcraft and the forward performance of vocalist Ange Saul, who takes the place of departed original singer Phoebe Black, who passed away in 2015 just prior to guitarist George Christie, bassist Brent “Badger” Crysell and drummer Deon Driver – all formerly of heavy rockers FORT – entered the studio to record their debut release. Songs veer toward Queens of the Stone Age-style groove on “Hammer the Witch” and closer “Punk,” and there’s enough variety of mood between the brooding “Beautiful,” showcase centerpiece “The One” and “Darker Side of Love” and the all-go rockers “Rise Above,” “Crucify” and “Someday” to carry the listener through smoothly with an abiding sense of professionalism. Will be too clean for some listeners, but is largely inarguable in its execution.

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Valhalla Lights website

 

L.O.W., Bones EP

low bones ep

Located in the northwest of Poland, the acronymic four-piece L.o.W. debut with the Bones EP, which hurls forth three extended works of extreme sludge led into by an atmospheric intro. The band – the lineup of vocalist Adam, guitarist Marek, drummer Witold and bassist Micha? belong to the post-Primitive Man sphere of viciousness, but “Tear Me Open” offers some respite in its closing moments, pulling back on the massive plunder and switching from guttural growls to spoken vocals. With just a touch of Electric Wizard swirl, “Almost Like God’s,” renews the onslaught, offering a break in its middle from the Eyehategod-style sway while saving its most brutal growl for last, and at just under 10 minutes long, the title-track rounds out Bones with bass and drums unfolding a progression soon topped by guitar noise that lets the listener know they’ve just entered another level of punishment. There are moments of impulse toward stonerism that show themselves in Marek’s guitar work, but the primary mission on Bones seems to be assault, and the band has no problem living up to that intent.

L.o.W. on Bandcamp

L.o.W. on Thee Facebooks

 

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MaidaVale Post “Oh Hysteria!” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maidavale

The proceedings get pretty weird on MaidaVale‘s second album, Madness is too Pure, whether it’s the tripped out psych-guitar of ‘Dark Clouds’ or the bass-underscored start-stop classic rock declarations of the penultimate “She is Gone” or the spaciousness that follows on closer “Another Dimension,” but “Oh Hysteria!,” second of the total nine tracks, has a kind of ritualism all its own, and there’s nothing else quite like it on the record. That might not make it the most representative single for Madness is too Pure, which is due March 23 on The Sign Records, but the repetitions of the title and chant-like feel of the song in general send an important signal to those whose ears might pick it up: MaidaVale are a different band than they were when they made their debut with 2016’s Tales of the Wicked West (review here).

That album dug deep into blues rock rhythms and a late ’60s/early ’70s soul mentality, and while Madness is too Pure could be argued to stem from the same place, the outward linear trajectory the tracks follow that culminates with “Another Dimension” isn’t to be understated. MaidaVale — the Stockholm-based four-piece of vocalist Matilda Roth, guitarist Sofia Ström, bassist Linn Johanesson and drummer Johanna Hansson — range with a sense of purpose as opener “Deadlock” and “Oh Hysteria!” begin the ascent into freakoutery that continues across “Dark Clouds,” the electronic beat-infused “Trance,” “She is Gone,” etc. A Zeppelin-gone-psych vibe is prevalent throughout, but the most pivotal statement MaidaVale make with Madness is too Pure is that their sound is very much in the process of becoming their own and their songwriting is far more adventurous than one might’ve first suspected with the shuffle and semi-vintage boogie of their first outing. To listen to centerpiece “Späktrum,” one would hardly recognize them as the same band.

And that’s not a slight at all on Tales of the Wicked West, which had thrills of its own to offer and certainly was a showcase of potential when it came to MaidaVale‘s songwriting and performance, but rather just to say that with Madness is too Pure, the band have exceeded even the hints they gave the first time around of who they were as a group, and perhaps in showcasing their willingness to get weird, “Oh Hysteria!” is a representative single after all. One way or the other, paired with the clip for “Deadlock” that was premiered here at the end of January, one at least begins to get a sense of the brain-melting course Madness is too Pure ultimately follows, which remains tied to the first album both in the passion of its execution and in the potential it shows on the part of MaidaVale as a whole. Long live the freakouts, long live the weird.

PR wire info, including copious live dates, follows the “Oh Hysteria!” video below. Please enjoy:

MaidaVale, “Oh Hysteria!” official video

Swedish stoner/heavy rock band MaidaVale have released a video for their song “Oh Hysteria” The song is from the band’s new album Madness Is Too Pure which will be released in March 2018 via The Sign Records.

The band commented “This song came to life during a creative jam session while writing for the album. Once we had found the groove and the hook it all fell into place very naturally. We were happy to work with Flickhemmet on this video; they managed to really capture the essence of the song.”

Pre-order the album on vinyl here: http://freighttrain.se/en/the-sign-record/maidavale/maidavale-madness-is-too-pure-lp.html

MAIDAVALE live dates
24/3 – Jönköping, Sweden
6/4 – Jönköping, Sweden
7/4 – Linköping, Sweden
20/4 – Malmö, Sweden
27/4 – Gothenburg, Sweden
5/5 – Berlin, Germany – Desertfest Berlin
7/5 – Warsaw, Poland
8/5 – Torun, Poland
9/5 – Dresden, Germany
11/5 – Hamburg, Germany
12/5 – Husum, Germany
13/5 – Dracthen, Netherlands
15/5 – Stuttgart, Germany
16/5 – Munich, Germany
17/5 – Blozano, Italy
18/5 – Nuernberg, Germany
19/5 – Leipzig, Germany
20/5 – Bueckburg, Germany
26/5 – Sandviken, Sweden
30/6 – Bourlon, France

Members:
Matilda Roth – Vocals
Johanna Hansson – Drums
Linn Johanesson – Bass
Sofia Ström – Guitar

MaidaVale website

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

MaidaVale on Twitter

MaidaVale on Instagram

MadidaVale on Spotify

The Sign Records website

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The Sign Records at Freight Train Distro

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Besvärjelsen Premiere “Under en Svart Himmel” Video; Vallmo out March 27

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

besvarjelsen

It makes a lot of sense that so much of the new Besvärjelsen video happens in split screen, since the band seems to spend so much time inhabiting multiple worlds. The Stockholm five-piece will issue their debut album, Vallmo, on March 27 via Suicide Records in conjunction with DalaPop (again, multiple worlds), and its sound is a deeply varied wash of progressive heavy post-rock atmospherics, moody soul-searching melodicism and weighted groove. Lyrics switch back and forth between Swedish and English depending on the song — prior single “Return of No Return” (video premiere here) was in English, the latest sampling premiering below, “Under en Svart Himmel,” is in Swedish — and with vocal duties shared among multiple members between frontwoman Lea Amling Alazam and guitarists Andreas Baier and Staffan Winroth, there’s an obvious commitment to a varied approach that comes through on Vallmo‘s eight tracks/51 minutes and, in kind with the depth of the mix and the richness of tones and melodies, makes the album an all-the-more-satisfying listening experience.

Of course, being driven by the rhythm section of bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall doesn’t hurt either. Both players have roots in Dozer, but Rockner played in Greenleaf as well, and one can find a touch of influence from that band’s more dramatic latter-day output on Vallmo in songs like “Öken,” which blends heavy rock Besvarjelsen Vallmogroove with a spacious sensibility thanks to a healthy dose of reverb on Alazam‘s vocals and the weight in the guitars and drive of the rhythm overall, and the penultimate “Falsarium,” which builds toward a linear peak topped by righteous soloing and push from the bass and drums. Ultimately though, Besvärjelsen are on their own wavelength, as the doom-meets-prog rollout of “Röda Rummet” and the organ-laced graces in the second half of ‘I Skuggen Av Ditt Morker” so readily demonstrate. Conceptually and in practice, the album is an undertaking, and it requires active participation on the part of its audience, but the reward for fuller engagement is a memorable release that, especially as a debut, is striking in its cohesion and sense of purpose. Besvärjelsen are a relatively new band, started in 2014, but there’s never a wavering moment throughout Vallmo where they seem to be in anything less than complete control of where their songs are heading and what they’re seeking to express.

And again, since the record is so varied between pieces like the swaying opener “Mara” residing in a kind of minor-key proggy riffism somewhat reminiscent in its breadth of sound to the later work of Parisians Abrahma and the patient sprawl that ensues across 10-minute finale “Alone,” the midsection of which veers into a stretch of psychedelic minimalism one hopes the band takes as a model to employ again in future composition, the accomplishment on Besvärjelsen‘s part in keeping it all together as fluidly and decisively as they do, and with such a clear conveying of intent, is not a feat to be understated. If nothing else, they’ve set a high standard from which to progress as they move forward, but thinking in the shorter term — i.e. of Vallmo itself, rather than the potential it signifies — there’s little doubt that the Swedes have culled together what will serve as one of the finer debut long-players of 2018. As “Alone” jumps from that quiet midsection back through its chorus en route to the album’s final crescendo and payoff, the emotional and aural resonance of what Besvärjelsen do could hardly be clearer, and it’s something that both demands and well earns the attention it’s due.

Below you’ll find the video for the melancholy and soulful “Under en Svart Himmel” (“under a black cloud,” in English), followed by a quote from the band about its making and more info on Besvärjelsen‘s Vallmo, courtesy of the PR wire:

Besvärjelsen, “Under en Svart Himmel” video premiere

Besvärjelsen on “Under en Svart Himmel”:

It was the last song that was written for Vallmo. We had discussed that we needed one more song for the album and luckily Andreas had been sitting on this one for a while. He had almost the whole song ready, both guitars and vocals. So the rest of the band just added some spices. Like Leas vocals, the small guitar flourishes on the second verse and the drum beat on the second part of the verses which came to be after listening to The Doors on the car stereo.

The vibe of the song was inspired by the song ”Vintersaga” (“A winters tale”) performed by the Swedish singer Monica Törnell. The lyrics can be interpreted in many ways but the main theme was the metamorphosis that takes place after a forest fire. In particularly the great forest fire that swept over middle of Sweden in 2014 came to mind.

The video was shot the morning of February 17th in Andreas’ home village of Nås, and edited in the afternoon by Erik Bäckwall.

BESVÄRJELSEN – Swedish for “conjuring” – was forged in 2014. The band released their debut EP Villfarelser in 2015 which was followed by 2016’s Exil EP. Much of 2017 found BESVÄRJELSEN composing the the audio alchemy found on their ?rst full-length studio offering Vallmo (Swedish for “poppy”). Vallmo more than ever showcases the band’s enormous potential, the eight-track offering seamlessly wandering from crushing doom riffs to catchy vocals and melodies, deep lyrical content, and storming drum work, all topped by stunning guitar solos and, for the first time since the band’s formation, songs in English as well as their native Swedish.

BESVÄRJELSEN’s Vallmo was captured at Studio Glashuset and Midlake Studios by guitarist/vocalist Andreas Baier and comes sheathed in the cover art of Blodpest with design by drummer Erik Bäckwall.

Vallmo will see release on vinyl and digital formats via by Suicide Records in cooperation with DalaPop on March 27th.

BESVÄRJELSEN:
Lea Amling Alazam – vocals
Andreas Baier – guitar, vocals
Staffan Winroth – guitar, vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

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Suicide Records website

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Abramis Brama to Release Tusen År April 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Abramis Brama photo Linda Pettersson

I’ll probably post it first, because of the time zone differences and all that, but you should know that I’ve waited until the end of my day to write about the new Abramis Brama album because I knew it would make me happy to think about it coming out and I wanted to finish the afternoon of putting posts together on a particularly high note. And yeah, the long-running Swedish outfit are good for that kind of thing. Tusen År will be their seventh long-player and first on Black Lodge Records, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get some advanced coverage going for it — you know, beyond this — and maybe interview the band, who remain way, way underappreciated for their contributions to heavy rock both retro and modern.

Yeah, see? I knew that would feel good to think about. New Abramis Brama. What’s not awesome about that? It’s out in April.

From the PR wire:

abramis brama tusen ar

Abramis Brama – Tusen År – Black Lodge Records

Abramis Brama returns with their seventh studio album in 2018, which also celebrates the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut on the Swedish heavy rock scene and national radio airwaves with their signature song “Mamma talar”.

At the time, however, heavy rock with strong 60’s and 70’s roots, sung in their native Swedish tongue, was hardly in fashion. Still, Abramis Brama persevered, and aside from one album (by request of the record label at the time), the band has not swayed, nor betrayed their initial ideals of fusing the doomy thunder of Black Sabbath with the deep groove of Mountain and the lyrical tradition that started with Swedish cult band November in the late 60’s – also adding a Swedish folk influence and some psychedelic touches.

This has garnered them international praise and recognition from listeners and press alike, and by their solid, high energy live performances all over Sweden they’ve created a strong grassroots fan base, that stretch far outside the main cities.

“Tusen år”, the band’s debut for Black Lodge Records, is a very focused rock album that stays true to band’s ideals, and digs deeper with thoughtful, mature, and poetic lyrics – which both celebrate and lament our existence as humans on earth and beyond.

TRACKLIST:
01. Löpeld
02. Vem är du?
03. Tusen år
04. Slutet av tunneln
05. Fel kvinna
06. Vägen ut
07. Hav av lögner
08. Ta mig tillbaka

LINE-UP:
Ulf Torkelsson – lead vocals, harmonica
Per-Olof Andersson – electric and acoustic guitars
Fredrik Liefvendahl – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Mats Rydström – bass, backing vocals

www.abramisbrama.com
www.facebook.com/abramisbrama
www.instagram.com/abramisbramaofficial
http://smarturl.it/tusen-ar
https://www.facebook.com/blacklodgerecords/

Abramis Brama, “Lång Tripp” official video

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