Review & Full Album Premiere: Iron Lamb, Blue Haze

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

iron lamb blue haze

[Click play above to stream Iron Lamb’s Blue Haze in full. Album is out Oct. 26 on The Sign Records.]

Despite a storied pedigree in the more extreme ends of metal, Iron Lamb rock. Period. I’m not sure how else to put it. Blue Haze, issued by The Sign Records, is the Stockholm-based five-piece’s third full-length following 2015’s Fool’s Gold, and it’s a sharp LP at eight songs and 37 minutes given to modern interpretation of a classic heavy rock mindset. Not necessarily uncommon either in general or coming from Sweden specifically — plenty of classic heavy to go around — but what Iron Lamb bring to their third record is a nestle-into-niche sensibility that makes the most of grown-up punk tendencies and the throaty vocals of Daniel Forn Bragman (Tyrant) in order to make a place for itself where the Hammond on closer “Dead Beat” isn’t out of place and neither is the pure Motörhead charge of “The Hunt.”

Those UK megalegends are a primary influence on Iron Lamb, which is comprised of Bragman, guitarists Johan Wallin (ScurvyGallow) and Jens Bäckelin (Martyrdöd, Sanctuary in Blasphemy), drummer Thomas Daun (Dismember, Insision, Repugnant) and bassist Daniel Ekeroth (TyrantUsurpress) — who actually wrote the book on Swedish death metal; it was called Swedish Death Metal and well worth a read as I recall — but much of that influence can be traced to Bragman‘s style, which even in the piano-laced “Erase/Rewind” keeps a gravely approach. Blue Haze is the second record with Bragman as frontman — Gustaf Lindström (RepugnantGhost) handled vocals on the punkier, rawer 2011 debut, The Original Sin — and despite that low-hanging fruit of influence tagging, it’s easy to hear Iron Lamb coming more into themselves this time around. Part of that might be owed to working with Martin “Konie” Ehrencrona, who handles the aforementioned piano and Hammond, recorded and mixed the album and has a pedigree as well of working with the likes of In SolitudeThe Oath and Tribulation at the analog-minded Studio Cobra in Stockholm.

Presumably Blue Haze was tracked to tape as well, which makes sense given its later-’70s affinities — Thin Lizzy, maybe some Scorpions, etc. — but they make no real show of retroism in tone or presentation, instead producing an atmosphere that’s dark but not theatrical and well suited to the pointedly straightforward structures at play in the songs, which stay tight in a four-to-five-minute range and make not even the pretense of avoiding pretense because there’s nothing in that regard to avoid. Like I said at the outset, they rock. They’re not looking to do anything else and they don’t need to. They clearly know what they want to sound like and how to make that happen. Though there are some speedier moments, like the careening “Into the Night” (with keys and Mellotron by Andreas Sandberg of Negative Self) and “Erase/Rewind” or “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes,” which follows, Blue Haze is by and large slower and less frenetic than was Fool’s Gold (the oddly goth standout “Leave Me Be” on that outing notwithstanding), and that’s something easily traced to the band having a better idea of who they want to be.

iron lamb

In that regard, Blue Haze feels much like the second or third album that it is (second with Bragman, third overall), since it demonstrates a maturity of approach from opener “Apocalypse Express” — not sure who plays the keys there, presumably Ehrencrona — that finds Iron Lamb in sure control of their sound while still having a natural energy to carry it across without being staid or overly samey in their tracks. Their gallop is confident, their riffing brash like it’s 1978 but not entirely given to NWOBHM showiness, and as “Bound by Gravity” gives Daun a platform for impressive tom work, Bäckelin and Wallin offer highlight solos and rhythms leading to a spacier slowdown in the second half that’s not at all psychedelic but still has a sense of atmosphere held together by a pushed-forward bassline from Ekeroth.

Tellingly, it wraps with a quick return to speedier fare ahead of the bass leading the way into “Into the Night,” and that’s of course emblematic of the structure at play throughout Blue Haze and the character Iron Lamb bring to their songwriting. The tracks do not feel overly composed in the sense of trying to out-clever either the listener or the band itself. The band range, but aren’t trying to blindside anybody with gimmicky turns of aesthetic, and there is complexity in the interplay between the two guitars even on the penultimate “The Iron and the Lamb,” which is the shortest cut at 3:47 — ahead of the finale, “Dead Beat,” the longest at 5:31 — which finds room for a chugging underpinning to a rampage of a solo in its second half, right before a deft return to the hook. And in rounding out, “Dead Beat” offers anything but, with a fervent strut that reminds of earlier (not earliest) Judas Priest as heavy metal began to take shape from the rock of the prior generation. Iron Lamb make themselves comfortable in that between-space, willfully standing on the threshold of different styles without giving themselves entirely to one or the other or the other; metal, rock and punk.

Instead, they bask in the fluidity that such refusal allows them, shifting subtly throughout Blue Haze with a sense of turning expectations on themselves and creating an individualized sound. That would seem to be the intention, and it’s successful, but while there’s obvious thought and passion put into the craft and production, and an overarching atmosphere as a result, there’s also nothing to take away from a natural vibe throughout these songs and performances, and while I can’t speak to how Iron Lamb might come across as a live act never having seen them play, they very clearly have put themselves to the task of bringing that electricity to the studio. Fair enough. The bottom line, I’m afraid, is the same as the top line: Iron Lamb rock. There isn’t another way to put it, and to try to put it another way would be doing an injustice to the material throughout Blue Haze. You can keep reinventing the wheel if you want. These guys will be over here cracking their next beer and blowing asses out of the room. Cheers.

Iron Lamb, “Apocalypse Express” official video

Iron Lamb on Thee Facebooks

Iron Lamb on Bandcamp

Iron Lamb website

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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The Riven Sign to The Sign Records; Debut Album Due in 2019; New Single This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

On Friday, The Riven will unveil the first single from their impending 2019 debut album. That record doesn’t have a name yet, at least not a public one, but it will be released in a new deal the classic heavy rocking outfit has inked with The Sign Records and it will follow last year’s Blackbird EP (discussed here). Since that five-tracker was recorded in 2016, the band has moved from London to Stockholm, and the new record — because of course — was put to tape in Madrid. Consider it a pan-European heavy rock experience if you must, but The Riven will be another name on 2019’s most anticipated list, and I’ll hope to have more to come on it as we get closer to the release.

For now, here’s the announcement from The Sign Records, as per the PR wire:

THE RIVEN

The Sign Records signs The Riven. The band is set to release their debut album during the spring 2019 and their first single ‘Fortune Teller’ is set for release the 19th of October.

In 2018 The Riven went to Madrid, not to spend time under the Spanish sun but rather curled up in the valved cellar studio at Holy Cuervo Studios. In ten days they powered through the record’s nine songs producing an album that in the words of the drummer Olof Axegärd “Is loud, is rock, is soul, and prog, it has it all!”. The Riven will be releasing their highly anticipated first full length with The Sign Records in the spring of 2019.

The band have recorded their debut album with Ola Ersfjord (Tribulation, Lucifer, Primordial) in Madrid. The album artwork is made by Maarten Donders. The album is a pure injection of Rock into the system.

“The Riven are set to release one of the strongest Swedish debut albums in many years. The band holds a perfect combination of bluesy vocals and classical rock sound. We are humbled over the opportunity to work with, and be able to present The Riven to the world.” – Kaj Sivervik, The Sign Records

“We are super excited to announce that we are signing with the Sign Records. One of the reasons to why we moved the band from the UK to Sweden was that we wanted to be part of the scene over here. We have a great love for bands like Hällas, Hypnos and MaidaVale and to be on the same label as those guys, as well as other great acts too, is really a step in the right direction for us. We knew that working with Kaj and the Patricks would be great for the band when we first heard Kaj speak on Rockpodden. His love and passion for the bands on the label is something you don’t come across too often and we strongly feel that a collaboration of this sort needs to have that element. It was in that moment we knew that we wanted to be on The Sign records. Now let’s bring on the release and let the good times roll!” – Max Ternebring, The Riven

The Riven is:
Charlotta Ekebergh – Vocals
Arnau Diaz – Guitar
Max Ternebring – Bass Guitar
Olof Axegärd – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/TheRivenMusic
https://theriven.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://thesignrecords.com/
https://freighttrain.se/en/the-sign-record/skraeckoedlan/

The Riven, Blackbird EP (2017)

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Domkraft, Flood: Torrential Downpour

Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

domkraft flood

Listening to some of their more crunching riffs, Domkraft are easy enough to lump into the category of post-Monolord undulation, big tones and spacious vocals on a song like “The Watchers” seeming to make the Stockholm trio kin to that Gothenburg outfit. That, however, is less than half of the whole story. Domkraft‘s approach, especially on their second album and Blues Funeral Recordings debut, Flood, is a melting pot of modern heavy. Yes, that heft is there, but even more so throughout the seven-song/41-minute outing is a sense of drift and space rock thrust, a heavy rocking swing and bounce, an element of noise rock and post-metal in some of the shouted vocals and plenty of psychedelia throughout.

With rhythmic repetition, the trio of guitarist Martin Widholm, bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland and decidedly-not-named-Martin drummer Anders Dahlgren affect a sense of nodding hypnosis from the outset of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Landslide,” which seems to earn its title via the consuming wash of wah and massive crashing riff in its second half — either evoking or causing the titular devastation; it’s hard to tell which. Either way, the earth moves, but as huge as its riffing is — and it’s not just at the end either; dig that turn at about 3:03 into the total 9:56 — that leadoff also performs the essential function of introducing the more sprawling aspects of Domkraft‘s sound. Those, along with the crush, the style and layout of cover art, the use of a well-placed interlude, etc., are things Flood carries over from 2016’s debut LP, The End of Electricity (review here), which was released by Magnetic Eye Records, but there has been a shift in the production as well as in the reach of the songs themselves, and Flood pushes farther out into open terrain even as it seems so ready to pummel the listener into those same grounds.

One might think of “Landslide” as a companion-piece to “The Rift,” which gloriously opened the debut, and it’s no less effective in establishing the tones and breadth on which what follows continues to build throughout the remaining six tracks. It is a natural progression from one to the next, and in that way emblematic of what is accomplished throughout Flood as a whole. Both “The Watchers” and the subsequent title-track are shorter and represent a momentum-building between them that simplifies some of the moves from “Landslide” but still ties to that song in terms of the elements at play, whether it’s the wah in “The Watchers” amid the Neurosis-style shouts from Wegeland or the tonal heft that they seem to make bounce in “Flood” itself, showing themselves as unafraid to play to heavy rock traditionalism despite being so outwardly modern in their approach. That is, it’s okay to like a fuzzy riff and a locked-in groove. No one’s going to yell at you. The sense of forward motion through both “The Watchers” and “Flood” is crucial, but no less so is the centerpiece interlude “They Appear to Be Alive” (one wants to put an ellipse before the last word of the title: “They Appear to Be… Alive,” if only for dramatic effect), which is less than 90 seconds long but serves in its sort of winding guitar mini-swirl to emphasize Domkraft‘s trance-inducing aspects and the psychedelic flourish that has been accompanying the sonic heft all along.

domkraft

It’s a slowdown, or a breather, after the apex of “Flood” and its downhill push with “The Watchers” following “Landslide,” but it efficiently reorients the listener and prepares them, almost unknowingly, for the second half of album. Already, though, we see the band’s modus is not unlike the match-lighting seabeast adorning Flood‘s cover, with multiple tentacles connected to a three-eyed, somewhat monstrous whole, like an Octorok from Zelda but with better graphics to seem all the more fierce as it belches smoke and carries — tellingly — a hook. Domkraft have a few of those as well, and though their songs aren’t immediately chorus-based in let’s-get-this-verse-out-of-the-way-so-we-can-get-to-why-we’re-really-here fashion, they nonetheless cast a memorable impression that all the more distinguishes the fluid balance of their material, shifting between styles while creating a cohesive entirety from them.

Side B begins with the tempo manipulations of “Sandwalker,” turning first to more of a pushing instrumental chorus and then into a sprawling pre-midsection guitar solo. Madness ensues. With increasing intensity, Domkraft move into a wash of noise and another solo before hitting the brakes again, and then go back for more speed before the song seems to pull itself apart. The chorus turns out to be the solo — an instrumental hook that proves all the more memorable for being the final statement the 7:29 track makes. That length is important because it speaks to the change in structure on side B. Where the first four songs were like a rollercoaster, climbing up “Landslide” and then rushing down “The Watchers” and “Flood” into the valley of “They Appear to Be Alive,” side B works as bookends. “Sandwalker” and the 8:09 closer “Dead Eyes Red Skies” (not to be confused with the 2013 Tombstones album, Red Skies and Dead Eyes) surround “Octopus,” which at 4:40 is the shortest of Flood‘s non-interlude inclusions. That change gives the album as a whole a more varied personality and the sense that the band are willfully not trying to mirror the two halves on each other, which has become the norm for those willing to put in the effort at all. By going another way, Domkraft make themselves all the more distinct from their peers, and “Octopus” gives a crisp reaffirmation of the effectiveness of its quicker side A counterparts while summarizing the rolling groove that has served the band so well.

The closer answers back with another fervent nod, but also a more patient delivery than most of what Domkraft have heretofore brought forward, allowing the tones to flesh out even as they ready for the next shove. Departure into a particularly psychedelic solo leads to a holdout of some feedback and a surge of riffing that identifies readily as the culmination of the record, getting thicker as it goes with the vocals still cutting through, mellowing out one more time, getting heavy quick, then cutting out altogether to finish with whispers over atmospheric guitar and bass. It’s a chaotic finale, but that’s obviously what it’s meant to be, and Domkraft wield it ably as they have done all along throughout Flood. The album is executed with a level of self-awareness across its span that further underscores that notion, and as Domkraft take this unmistakable step forward, they seem to show no signs of resting in this place either. I wouldn’t be surprised if their next outing found them dug even further into the realms of psychedelic ultraheavy, but that of course is just one of Flood‘s accomplishments on which they might build.

Domkraft on Bandcamp

Domkraft on Thee Facebooks

Domkraft on Instagram

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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Domkraft to Release Flood Oct. 19; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

domkraft

As they make ready to appear next month at Desertfest Belgium 2018, Swedish trio Domkraft announce they’ve signed on with Blues Funeral Recordings — founded by the enviable tastes and entrepreneurship of Jadd Shickler, who once upon a time started a little company called MeteorCity and thereby helped shaped heavy rock as we know it today — for the release of their second album, titled Flood. They’re streaming a new song from the record now called  “The Watchers,” and one can only hope that The Watchers will respond with a track called “Domkraft,” but in the meantime, the Stockholm outfit will also feature on Magnetic Eye Records‘ impending Pink Floyd tribute, The Wall [Redux], about which you should stay tuned for more to come around these parts.

Domkraft‘s debut LP, The End of Electricity (review here), was issued in 2016. The PR wire fills in on everything they have going on, and there’s plenty:

domkraft flood

Domkraft share first track from forthcoming sophomore album Flood

Swedish trio Domkraft share the first track from their forthcoming sophomore album Flood.

The album will be the first release on new label Blues Funeral Recordings, founded by former MeteorCity (Truckfighters, Nebula, The Obsessed) cofounder Jadd Shickler.

Domkraft will also appear on Magnetic Eye Records’ massive Pink Floyd homage, THE WALL [REDUX]. Out in November, the song-by-song recreation and reimagining of the iconic Floyd double album features recognizable artists including The Melvins, Mark Lanegan, ASG, Pallbearer, Ruby the Hatchet and Scott Reeder, and includes Domkraft’s rendition of the song, “Empty Spaces.”

Musically, Sweden has always been exceptional at sensing and seizing upon significant moments. And at a time when political chaos and societal unrest have deadened our senses, it takes a band with monolithic, hypnotic power to secure our attention and offer a mollifying score to civilization’s decline. Domkraft are that gloriously massive and land-levelling band.

If debut album The End of Electricity was the soundtrack to the impending apocalypse, then follow-up Flood provides the musical backdrop to armageddon in full, The Purge-style swing. A strong contender to dominate a style some are calling the New Wave of Swedish Doom Metal, Domkraft wield a mindbending soundscape of obeliskian riff-majesty, layer upon layer of crushing fury weaving through the wormhole punctures of spacetime in defiance of beginnings and endings.

Majestic, annihilating, reductive and roaring, Flood merges blackwater tributaries from Neurois, YOB, Monolord, and Windhand into an all-encompassing torrent of nothingness and resignation, but in the most singable, appealing way imaginable. There is no fan of blistering, melodic doom on earth who should be without this record.

DOMKRAFT. Their name combines the Swedish “DOM” for judgement and “KRAFT” for power.

The seeds for this monolithic Stockholm band were planted in Gothenburg, where bassist/singer Martin Wegeland, guitarist Martin Widholm and drummer Anders Dahlgren met while playing in various musical constellations.

Bonding over the likes of Spacemen 3, Monster Magnet, Sleep and Hawkwind, plus a fascination with trudging, 10-minute/three chord songs, they finally came together after each relocated to Stockholm. Drawing from the heaviest of their combined influences, the three spent spent years shaping and crafting a sound that blends towering dirges of annihilating doom, mindbending psychedelia, and hypnotic minimalism.

“Our songs build from one riff, played LOUD, then we add and lose parts to mold it into something powerful,” says bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland. “Focusing on the dramaturgy of the songs, we have clear images in mind when writing, often inspired by films like Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, Stephen Fingleton’s The Survivalist and (of course) The Road Warrior, though we never let it interfere with the groove and energy. The results of our songwriting method may differ in shape from one song to the next, but the foundation is always the same — repetition and volume! You’ll eventually get sick of every melody, but grooves are forever.”

Flood will be available on LP and download on October 19th, 2018 via Blues Funeral Recordings.

Artist: Domkraft
Album: Flood
Record Label: Blues Funeral Records
Release Date: October 19th, 2018

01. Landslide
02. The Watchers
03. Flood
04. They Appear To Be Alive
05. Sandwalker
06. Octopus
07. Dead Eyes, Red Skies

Domkraft is:
Martin Widholm – Guitar
Martin Wegeland – Bass & Vocals
Anders Dahlgren – Drums

domkraft.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/domkraftband
https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral
https://www.bluesfuneral.com/

Domkraft, “The Watchers”

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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