Candlemass Announce Return of Johan Längquist

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Epicus doomicus, indeed. How about a 32-year journey that’s led to original Candlemass vocalist Johan Längquist rejoining the band? Simply amazing. Längquist only sang on one album — the first, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus — but that’s been enough to cement a legacy that continues to resonate to this day. So does Längquist still have it? Yes he absolutely fucking does.

I know this because I was fortunate enough to see Candlemass perform a one-off set at Roadburn 2011 celebrating their 25th anniversary that included Längquist returning to perform their debut in its entirety. It was incredible. His voice, spot on. His stage presence, masterful. It was the Main Stage of the 013, which even before the redux on the venue was not at all a small room, and he absolutely killed it on that material. I can’t wait to hear what he brings to the next Candlemass album. If you don’t want to take my word for it on how incredible that show was, you can always try chasing down the vinyl (review here) they released afterward.

Candlemass has been fronted by vocalist Mats Levén since 2012 when he took over for Robert Lowe (also of Solitude Aeturnus), who had stepped into the band following their split with Messiah Marcolin in 2006. Lowe was still in the band when they released their last full-length, 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), though Levén handled vocals on 2016’s  Death Thy Lover EP (review here) and this year’s game/EP House of Doom.

A new long-player has reportedly already been in the works with the songwriting of bassist Leif Edling as ever at the band’s core, and it looks like Längquist will step back into the role of vocalist for the recording as well.

The band announced it thusly:

candlemass

CANDLEMASS – THE RETURN TO DOOM!!

EPICUS DOOMICUS METALLICUS SINGER JOHAN LANGQUIST IS BACK IN CANDLEMASS

Shocking news! EPICUS singer Johan Langquist is back after a 32 year hiatus replacing Mats Levén who’s been with the band since 2012. This is right in the middle of recording the new album. What happened?

“We wanted to find our way back to the roots of Candlemass, back to the soul and essence of the band. Johan Langquist is back and we hope this will give us some new energy and kickstart the heart of doom again. We don’t know if it will last 10 more years or even 5, but if it will give us just another year of having fun and playing the music that we love so much, it will be a blast! The circle is closed, Johan is back!”

More news will follow soon….

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
http://www.candlemass.se/
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, “Under the Oak” Live at Roadburn 2011

Tags: , , ,

Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Heilung, Amarok, T.G. Olson, Sun Dial, Lucid Grave, Domadora, Klandestin, Poor Little Things, Motorowl

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know what’s disheartening? When someone goes ‘thanks dudes.’ You know, I share a review or something, the band reposts and goes ‘thanks to the crew at The Obelisk blah blah.’ What fucking crew? If I had a crew, I’d put up 10 reviews every single day of the year. “Crew.” Shit. I am the crew. In the description of this site, the very first thing it says is “One-man operation.” It’s a fucking solo-project. That’s the whole point of it. It’s like me looking at your bass and going, “Sweet guitar, thanks for the solos brah.” I’m happy people want to share links and this and that, but really? It’s been nine years. Give me a break.

Oh yeah, that’s right. Nobody gives a shit. Now I remember. Thanks for reading.

And while we’re here, please remember the numbers for these posts don’t mean anything. This isn’t a countdown. Or a countup. It’s just me keeping track of how much shit I’m reviewing. The answer is “a lot.”

Grump grump grump.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Lucifer, Lucifer II

lucifer lucifer ii

Recorded as the trio of vocalist Johanna Sardonis (ex-The Oath), guitarist Robin Tidebrink (Saturn) and guitarist/drummer Nicke Andersson (Death Breath, ex-Entombed, ex-The Hellacopters), Lucifer’s second album, Lucifer II (on Rise Above), follows three years after its numerical predecessor, Lucifer I (review here), and marks its personnel changes with a remarkable consistency of mission. Like Mercyful Fate gone disco, the formerly-Berlin/London-now-Stockholm group bring stage-ready atmospheres to songs like “Phoenix” and the riff-led “Before the Sun,” while unleashing a largesse of hooks in “Dreamer” and the boogie-pushing “Eyes in the Sky.” “Dancing with Mr. D” brings nod to a Rolling Stones cover, and “Before the Sun” reaffirms a heavy ‘70s root in their sound. I can’t help but wonder if the doomier “Faux Pharaoh” is a sequel to “Purple Pyramid,” but either way, its thicker, darker tonality is welcome ahead of the bonus track Scorpions cover “Evening Wind,” which again demonstrates the ease with which Lucifer make established sounds their own. That’s pretty much the message of the whole album. Lucifer are a big band. Lucifer II makes the case for their being a household name.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records webstore

 

Heilung, Lifa

heilung lifa

Lifa is the audio taken from the live video that brought Denmark’s Heilung to prominence. Captured at Castlefest in The Netherlands in last year, the impression the expansive Viking folk group made was all the more powerful with elaborate costuming, bone percussive instruments, antlers, animal-skin drums, and so on. Their debut studio album, Ofnir, came out in 2015 and like LIFA has been issued by Season of Mist, but the attention to detail and A/V experience only adds to the hypnotic tension and experimentalist edge in the material. Does it work with just the audio? Yes. The 12-minute “In Maijan” and somehow-black-metal “Krigsgaldr” maintain their trance-out-of-history aspect, and the 75-minute set blends multi-tiered melodies and goblin-voiced declarations for an impression unlike even that which Wardruna bring to bear. Whether it’s the drones of “Fylgija Futhorck” or the chants and thuds of “Hakkerskaldyr,” LIFA is striking from front to back and a cohesive, visionary work that should be heard as well as seen. But definitely seen.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Amarok, Devoured

amarok devoured

Eight years after their founding, an EP and several splits, Chico, California, atmosludge extremists Amarok make their full-length debut with Devoured on Translation Loss. If it’s been a while in the making, it’s easy enough to understand why. The album is rife with brutalist and grueling sensibilities. Comprised of just four tracks, it runs upwards of 70 minutes and brings a visceral churn to each cut, not forgetting the importance of atmosphere along the way, but definitely focused on the aural bludgeoning they’re dealing out. Tempos, duh, are excruciating, and between the screams and growls of bassist Brandon Squyres (also Cold Blue Mountain) and guitarist Kenny Ruggles – the band completed by guitarist Nathan Collins and drummer Colby ByrneAmarok make their bid for Buried at Sea levels of heft and rumble their way across a desolate landscape of their own making. Eight years to conjure this kind of punishment? Yeah, that seems about right. See you in 2026.

Amarok on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

T.G. Olson, Ode to Lieutenant Henry

tg olson ode to lieutenant henry

Here’s a curious case: T.G. Olson, founding guitarist and vocalist of Across Tundras, is a prolific experimental singer-songwriter. His material ranges from psychedelic country to fuller-toned weirdo Americana and well beyond. He’s wildly prolific, and everything goes up on Bandcamp for a name-your-price download, mostly unannounced. It’s not there, then it is. Olson’s latest singe, Ode to Lieutenant Henry, was there, and now it’s gone. With the march of its title-track and a complementary cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Silver Ships of Andilar,” I can’t help but be curious as to where the tracks went and if they’ll be back, perhaps in some other form or as part of a different release. Both are plugged-in and coated in fuzzy tones, with Olson’s echoing vocals providing a human presence in the wide soundscape of his own making. The original is shorter than the cover, but both songs boast a signature sense of ramble that, frankly, is worth being out there. Hopefully they’re reposted at some point, either on their own as they initially were or otherwise.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Science Fiction

sun dial sci fi

If space is the place, Sun Dial feel right at home in it. The long-running UK psychedelic adventurers collect two decades’ worth of soundtrack material on Science Fiction, their new release for Sulatron Records. Made with interwoven keyboard lines and a propensity to periodically boogie on “Mind Machine,” “Airlock,” “Infra Red,” etc., the experimentalist aspect of Science Fiction is all the more remarkable considering the album is compiled from different sources. One supposes the overarching cosmos is probably what brings it together, but with the samples and synth of “Saturn Return” and the lower end space-bass of pre-bonus-track closer “Starwatchers” – that bonus track, by the way, is a 15-minute version of opener “Hangar 13” – and though the vast majority of the Science Fiction relies on synth and keys to make its impression, it’s still only fair to call the proceedings natural, as the root of each one seems to be exploration. It’s okay to experiment. Nobody’s getting hurt.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sun Dial at Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lucid Grave, Demo 2018

lucid grave demo 2018

There are three songs on Lucid Grave’s first outing, the aptly-titled Demo 2018, and the first of them is also the longest (immediate points), “Star.” It presents a curious and hard to place interpretation of psychedelic sludge rock. It is raw as a demo worthy of its name should be, and finds vocalist Malene Pedersen (also Lewd Flesh) echoing out to near-indecipherable reaches atop the feedback-addled riffing. Quite an introduction, to say the least. The subsequent “Desert Boys” is more subdued at the start but gets furious at the end, vocals spanning channels in an apparent call and response atop increasingly intense instrumental thrust. And as for “Ride the Hyena?” If I didn’t know better – and rest assured, I don’t – I’d call it doom. I’m not sure what the hell the København five-piece are shooting for in terms of style, but I damn sure want to hear what they come up with next so I can find out. Consider me enticed. And accordingly, one can’t really accuse Demo 2018 of anything other than doing precisely what it’s supposed to do.

Lucid Grave on Thee Facebooks

Lucid Grace on Bandcamp

 

Domadora, Lacuna

domadora lacuna

Comprised of four-tracks of heavy psychedelic vibes led by the scorch-prone guitar of Belwil, Domadora’s third album, Lacuna, follows behind 2016’s The Violent Mystical Sukuma (discussed here) and taps quickly into a post-Earthless league of instrumentalism on opener “Lacuna Jam.” That should be taken as a compliment, especially as regards the bass and drums of Gui Omm and Karim Bouazza, respectively, who hold down uptempo grooves there and roll along with the more structured 14-minute cut “Genghis Khan” that follows. Each of the album’s two sides is comprised of a shorter track and a longer one, and there’s plenty of reach throughout, but more than expanse, even side B’s “Vacuum Density” and “Tierra Last Homage” are more about the chemistry between the band members – Angel Hidalgo Paterna rounds out on organ – than about crafting a landscape. Fortunately for anyone who’d take it on, the Parisian unit have plenty to offer when it comes to that chemistry.

Domadora on Thee Facebooks

Domadora on Bandcamp

 

Klandestin, Green Acid of Last Century

klandestin green acid of last century

That’s a big “fuck yes, thank you very much” for the debut album from Indonesian stoner metallers Klandestin. Green Acid of the Last Century arrives courtesy of Hellas Records and is THC-heavy enough that if they wanted to, they could probably add “Bong” to the band’s name and it would be well earned. Eight tracks, prime riffs, watery vocals, dense fuzz, stomp, plod, lumber, shuffle – it’s all right there in homegrown dosage, and for the converted, Green Acid of the Last Century is nothing short of a worship ceremony, for the band itself as well as for anyone taking it on. With the march of “Doomsday,” the unmitigated rollout of “Black Smoke,” and the swirling green aurora of “The Green Aurora,” Klandestin wear their holding-back-a-cough riffage as a badge of honor, and couldn’t be any less pretentious about it if they tried. From the hooded weedian on the cover art to the Sleepy nod of closer “Last Century,” Green Acid of Last Century telegraphs its intent front-to-back, and is all the more right on for it.

Klandestin on Thee Facebooks

Hellas Records on Bandcamp

 

Poor Little Things, Poor Little Things

poor little things poor little things

You get what you pay for with “Rock’n’Roller,” which leads off the self-titled debut EP from Bern, Switzerland-based Poor Little Things. Around the core duo of vocalist Tina Jackson and multi-instrumentalist Dave “Talon” Jackson (also of Australia’s Rollerball) on guitar, bass, synth and percussion is Talon’s The Marlboro Men bandmate Fernando Marlboro on drums, and together the band presents five tracks of remember-when-rock-rocked-style groove. Fueled by ‘70s accessibility and a mentality that seems to be saying it’s okay to play big rooms, like arenas, cuts like “Drive” seem prime for audience participation, and “Break Another Heart” gives a highlight performance from Tina while “About Love” showcases a more laid back take. They close with the 6:37 “Street Cheetah,” which struts appropriately, and end with a percussive finish on a fadeout repeating the title line. As a showcase of their style and songwriting chops, Poor Little Things shows significant promise, sure, but it’s also pretty much already got everything it needs for a full-length album.

Poor Little Things on Thee Facebooks

Poor Little Things on Bandcamp

 

Motorowl, Atlas

motorowl atlas

Every now and then you put on a record and it’s way better than you expect. Hello, Motorowl’s Atlas. The German troupe’s second for Century Media, it takes the classic stylizations of their 2016 debut, Om Generator, and pushes them outward into a vast sea of organ-laced progressive heavy, soaring in vocal melodies and still modern despite drawing from an array of decades past. The chug in “The Man Who Rules the World” would be metal for most bands, but on Atlas, it becomes part of a broader milieu, and sits easily next to the expansive title-track, as given to post-rocking airiness in the guitar as to synth-laden prog. That mixture of influences and aesthetics would be enough to give the five-piece an identity of their own, but Atlas is further characterized by Motorowl’s ambitious songwriting and benefits greatly from the melodic arrangements and the clear intention toward creative development at work here. Those who take on its seven-track/45-minute journey will find it dynamic, spacious and heavy in kind.

Motorowl on Thee Facebooks

Motorowl at Century Media website

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: CHRCH, Bongripper, King Chiefs, Bonnacons of Doom, Boar, June Bug, Tired Lord, Bert, Zen Bison, Wheel in the Sky

Posted in Reviews on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know the deal by now, I’m sure: 50 reviews this week between now and Friday, in batches of 10 per day. It’s an unholy amount of music, but those who really dig in always seem to find something cool within a Quarterly Review. Frankly, with this much to choose from, I’d certainly hope so. I’m not going to delay at all, except to say thanks in advance for coming along on this one. It’s got some core-heavy and some-not-really-core-heavy stuff all bundled next to each other, so yeah, your patience is appreciated. Okay. No time like the present. Let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

CHRCH, Light Will Consume Us All

chrch light will consume us all

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the songs are long. Blah blah blah it’s heavy as whatever kind of construction equipment you could want to name. What’s even more striking about Los Angeles doomers CHRCH’s Neurot Recordings debut, Light Will Consume Us All, is the sense of atmosphere. The follow-up to 2015’s massively well-received Unanswered Hymns (review here) is comprised of three songs presented in descending time order from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Infinite” (20:41) to centerpiece “Portals” (14:50) and closer “Aether” (9:29) and it finds CHRCH refining the unremitting patience of their rollout, so that even when “Aether” explodes in its second half to charred blastbeating and abrasive screams, the ambience is still dense enough to feel it in one’s lungs. CHRCH keep up this level of progression and soon enough someone’s going to call them post-something or other. As it stands, their second album builds righteously on the achievements of their debut, and is a revelation in its bleakness.

CHRCH on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings website

 

Bongripper, Terminal

bongripper terminal

Pressed up as ever in DIY fashion, Bongripper’s Terminal presents two gargantuan slabs – one per vinyl side – that only seem to highlight the strengths in the Chicago instrumentalists’ approach. The tones are huge, the grooves nodding, the impact of each kick drum forceful. Repetition is central, that feeling of aural mass and destructiveness, but neither is Terminal – comprised of “Slow” (25:11) and “Death” (18:15) – lacking a sense of atmosphere. After 21 minutes of grueling pummel, “Slow” devolves into droning layers of noise wash and quiet guitar to finish out, and “Death” seems to hold onto an echoing lead in its closing minutes that accomplishes much the same thing in broadening the atmosphere overall. I don’t know if the two songs were composed to fit together –the titles would hint yes – but they invariably do, and as “Death” unleashes a more insistent punch before turning to a post-YOB gallop, it reconfirms Bongripper’s worship-worthy place in the stoner doom milieu, how their sound can be so familiar in its threat and yet so much their own.

Bongripper on Bandcamp

Bongripper webstore

 

King Chiefs, Blue Sonnet

King Chiefs Blue Sonnet

Born as Chiefs ahead of their 2015 debut album, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), Arizona-based four-piece King Chiefs make their own first outing in the form of the easily-digestible desert rocker Blue Sonnet (on Roosevelt Row and Cursed Tongue Records), comprised of 10 tracks running just under 40 minutes of older-school laid back heavy, swinging easy on cuts like “Surely Never” and “Drifter” while still finding some Helmeted aggressive edge in the riffs of “Slug” and “Walk the Plank.” The overarching focus is on songwriting, however, and King Chiefs hone in cleverly on ‘90s-era desert rock’s post-grunge sensibility, so that their material seems ready for an alternative radio that no longer exists. Such as it is, they do just fine without, and hooks pervade the two-guitar outfit’s material in natural and memorable fashion all the way to five-and-a-half-minute closer “Shrine of the Beholder,” which embraces some broader textures without losing the structural focus that serves so well on the songs before it.

King Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Roosevelt Row Records website

Cursed Tongue Records website

 

Bonnacons of Doom, Bonnacons of Doom

bonnacons of doom bonnacons of doom

Heavy psychedelic experimentalism pervades the Rocket Recordings-issued self-titled debut album from Liverpool collective Bonnacons of Doom, rife with tripout ritualism and exploration of sound as it is, all chasing light and getting freaky in any sense you want to read it. Five tracks, each a voyage unto itself – even the bass-fuzzy push of shortest cut “Rhizome” (5:55) is cosmos-bound – feed into the larger weirdness at play that culminates in the undulating grooves of “Plantae” (8:39), which is perhaps the most solidified cut in terms of choruses, verses, etc., but still a molten, headphone-worthy freakout that pushes the limits of psychedelia and still holds itself together. If the album was a to-do list, it would read as follows: “Eat mushrooms. Get naked. Dance around. Repeat.” Whether you do or don’t is ultimately up to you, but Bonnacons of Doom make a pretty convincing argument in favor, and I don’t generally consider myself much of a dancer. Among the most individualized psych debuts I’ve heard in a long time.

Bonnacons of Doom on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Boar, Poseidon

Boar Poseidon

Poseidon, at six songs and 39 minutes, is the second long-player from Finnish four-piece Boar. Released on vinyl with no shortage of backing — Lost Pilgrims Records, Dissonant Society, Impure Muzik, S.K.O.D., Rämekuukkeli-levyt – it hurls forth a High on Fire-informed vision of noise rock on its opening title-track only to take on a slower roll in the subsequent “Shahar’s Son” and dig into massive crashing on “12.” Using echo to add a sense of depth all the while, they scream in tradeoffs à la Akimbo and boogie in “Featherless” and seem to find a post-metallic moment on “Dark Skies” before closing with the alternately brooding and scathing “Totally out of This World,” the song sort of falling apart into the feedback and noise that ends the album. There’s a persistent sense of violence happening, but it’s as much inward as outward, and though some of Boar’s most effective moments are in that rawness, there’s something to be said for the contemplation at the outset of “Shahar’s Son” and “12” as well.

Boar on Thee Facebooks

Boar on Bandcamp

 

June Bug, A Thousand Days

June bug A Thousand Days

Seemingly unrestrained by genre, the Lille, France-based duo June BugJune on vocals and multiple instruments and Beryl on backing vocals and multiple instruments – dig into some post-punk nudge on early cut “Reasons” from their debut album, A Thousand Days (Atypeek Music) after the folkish melodies of opener “Now,” but whether it’s the fuzzy indie vibes of “Freaks” or the harmonies, electronics and acoustic guitar of “Let it Rest,” or the keyboard-handclaps, lower tones and poppish instrumental hook of centerpiece “Mama,” there’s plenty of variety throughout. What ties the differing vibes and richly nuanced approach together is the vocals, which are mostly subdued and at times hyper-stylized, but never seem to fail to keep melodicism as their central operating method. That remains true on the subdued “Does it Matter” and the beat-laden “Silenced” at the album’s finish and brings everything together with an overarching sense of joy that holds firm despite shifts in mood and approach, making the complete front-to-back listen as satisfying as it might seem all over the place.

June Bug on Thee Facebooks

Atypeek Music website

 

Tired Lord, Demo

tired lord demo

Released by the band last year, the four-song Demo by San Francisco outfit Tired Lord has been picked up for an official cassette issue through From Corners Unknown Records and will reportedly be the only release from the black metal/sludge genre-benders. Presumably that means they broke up, rather than just refuse to ever record again, though the latter possibility intrigues as well and would be meta-black metal. Spearheaded by guitarist Bryce Olson, Tired Lord effectively bring a thickness of tone to charred riffing, and a balance between screams and growls brings a cast of general extremity to the material. So I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to regret their dissolution and wish they’d do a proper release. Fair enough for the brutal chug in “Serpent’s Ascent” and the 7:51 closer “Astaroth,” which one wouldn’t mind hearing fleshed out from their current form. Failing that, one of the 30 tape copies pressed of Demo seems like decent consolation. At least while they’re there for the getting and before Tired Lord go gleefully into that black metal demo tape ether where so many seem to dwell.

From Corners Unknown Records on Thee Facebooks

From Corners Unknown Records website

 

BerT, Relics from Time Zero

bert relics from time zero

Lansing, Michigan, trio BerT – bassist Phil Clark and brothers Ryan (guitar) and Rael (drums) Andrews – broke up. They even put out a posthumous rare tracks release in 2017’s The Lost Toes (review here), so what’s left? Well, another album, of course. Intended as a sequel to the sci-fi narrative of the never-released long-player Return to the Electric Church, the five-track/35-minute Relics from Time Zero is unfinished, sans vocals where they might otherwise be, and basically a look at what might’ve been had the band not dissolved. For those prior-exposed to the once-prolific heavy rock bizarros, some of the proceedings will seem familiar: riffs are plentiful and fluid in their tempo changes from driving rock to droned-out stomp, and there seems to be about 1.5 of them in the four-minute “In the Cave of the Batqueen,” so but for the fact that it’s not done, I’d just about call it business as usual for BerT. I know they’re done and all, but I still wouldn’t mind hearing these songs with some lyrics, let alone the record this one was intended to follow-up. Either way, even defunct, BerT remain on their own wavelength.

BerT on Thee Facebooks

BerT on Bandcamp

 

Zen Bison, Krautrocker

zen bison krautrocker

Classic-style heavy rock riffing pervades opener “Blow My Mind” (5:47) and the subsequent “Backseat Lovers” (5:15) – somewhere between Stubb and Radio Moscow — on Zen Bison’s debut LP, Krautrocker, but as the five-track/42-minute self-release moves into the 11-minute title-track, guitarist/vocalist Philipp Ott, bassist Steffen Fischer and drummer Martin Konopka – joined by organist Hans Kirschner and percussionist Bobby Müller –move into deeper-grooving and more psychedelic fare. That turn suits the mostly-live-recorded outfit well on the longer instrumental piece, and that leads to a side B with the likewise-sans-vocals “La Madrugada” (9:56) and the closing cover of Don Nix’s blues rocker “Going Down” (10:24), jammed out at the end in its middle and end with quick return to the chorus between. There isn’t much on Krautrocker one might actually consider krautrock in the traditional sense, but there’s certainly plenty of rock to go around on the impressive and varied first offering from the Rostock trio.

Zen Bison on Thee Facebooks

Zen Bison on Bandcamp

 

Wheel in the Sky, Beyond the Pale

wheel in the sky beyond the pale

From opener “Rivers of Dust” onward, Wheel in the Sky’s second album, Beyond the Pale (on The Sign Records), proffers classy and classic digs, informed by a heavy ‘70s uptempo spirit on its title-track and moving into more complex volume and arrangement shifts in “Burn Babylon Burn” (video premiere here) and a poppy, goth-informed hook on “The Only Dead Girl in the City,” all the while held together through a quality of songwriting that even the band’s 2015 debut, Heading for the Night (review here), seemed to hint toward. It’s a mover, to be sure, but Wheel in the Sky execute their material with poise and a sense of clear intention, and no matter where they seem to go, their tonality and natural production assures the listener has an easy time tagging along. Might be a sleeper for some, but there are going to be people who really, really dig this album, and I’ve got no argument with them.

Wheel in the Sky on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , ,

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)

Tags: , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Blackwater Prophet on Thee Facebooks

Blackwater Prophet on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Mother Mars on Thee Facebooks

Mother Mars on Bandcamp

 

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.

Southfork on Thee Facebooks

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.

Gypsy Sun Revival on Thee Facebooks

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.

Valhalla Lights on Thee Facebooks

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,