Friday Full-Length: Demon Cleaner, The Freeflight

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Demon Cleaner, The Freeflight (2000)

Something of a lost classic of its era now, Demon Cleaner‘s 2000 debut, The Freeflight isn’t actually all that lost. Molten Universe, the label that put it out 16 years ago along with early releases by related Swedish acts Dozer and Greenleaf, still has copies available. So maybe not lost, but in the pantheon of the beginnings of Europe’s stoner rock boom of the late ’90s and early ’00s, Demon Cleaner deserve consideration alongside Dozer and Lowrider, among others, and their name is often left off that list. Part of that I think is owed to timing. If the early-Fu Manchu fuzz of “Head Honcho” or “Megawheel” dropped today, it would come accompanied by a video of somebody skateboarding in slow motion and would be hailed for its post-grunge authenticity of tone and live feel. Because it was 2000 — a time when discovering music on the internet was something done largely through surfing somebody’s Napster offerings or the odd message board — the process was different and not nearly so widespread, and unlike Lowrider, who had US distribution through MeteorCity, or Dozer, who kept putting out records, Demon Cleaner called it quits after 2002’s self-titled follow-up (also on Molten Universe), with members moving onto Stonewall Noise Orchestra and drummer Karl Daniel Lidén joining Dozer and Greenleaf before embarking on solo material and a successful career as an engineer — he did the latest Katatonia, for example — so there hasn’t been the same kind of sustained legacy for Demon Cleaner as some of their peers.

That, of course, does nothing to diminish the “Spit blood and gasoline/Chrome and steel/Megawheel” appeal of that track or the nodding roll of “Up in Smoke,” or the push of a song like “Mothertrucker,” in which one can hear the roots of a brand of fuzz rock that countrymen acts like Truckfighters would continue to progress years later. Tone is a huge part of the appeal, as closer “Heading Home” successfully emphasizes, but there’s a rawness in the vocals, a dryness, where so much of what came afterwards was and has been drenched in reverb. It gives the delivery of guitarist Daniel Söderholm — joined at this point by Lidén, guitarist Kimmo Holappa and bassist/vocalist Martin Stangefelt — a punkish feel that’s ultimately much truer to the bulk of what came out of the Californian desert scene, whether it was Kyuss or heavy rock compatriots like the aforementioned Fu Manchu. Listening back to The Freeflight now, one can hear the aesthetic of pre-retro European heavy rock taking shape, and while Demon Cleaner may always be noted for having issued a trio of early splits alongside Dozer before their records dropped, linking those two acts and that scene, their albums deliver something from which even Dozer was operating on a different wavelength, and while of their time, I think these tracks still hold up all these years later.

If you’re worried about investing the time in checking it out, The Freeflight has a long break after “Heading Home” before a hidden cut, so it’s not actually 55 minutes long. I guess it was the Lowrider news earlier today got me thinking about these guys, but either way, I hope you enjoy.

If you’re at Desertfest this weekend in either Berlin or London, I hope you have an absolute blast. I’ll admit to being more than a little jealous. Maybe next year I’ll get to Berlin finally or make a triumphant return to Camden Town. I’ll go anywhere that’ll have me, basically.

Rough week at work but who cares? Dragged down by bullshit. Hate letting it get to me. Hate that it does at all. The list goes on. Screw it. Got a couple days not to think about it, so I’m gonna hold tight to that.

Next week: Monday, track stream from Bright Curse and an in-studio report about the new Scissorfight being tracked at the new Mad Oak. Tuesday (right now), Crypt Sermon interview. Wednesday, track stream from Wo Fat. Thursday and Friday I don’t know yet, but probably something will come along, and there are also videos for Kadavar, Limestone Whale, Spiritual Beggars and Drive by Wire that have all dropped in like the last day, so a bit of a backlog there, but I’ll do my best to get on top of that as well. We’re getting into May already. Amazing how quick this year is going.

Before I go — much as I’m ever “gone,” what with writing on the weekends and all — I want to say thanks for the tremendous amount of support I’ve gotten for the book release, for the All-Dayer in August, and for this year’s Roadburn coverage. It’s all hugely appreciated. Because I work full-time in addition to doing this, I don’t always have the chance to be as communicative as I should, because quite literally the choice I make every day is to write or to do everything else and if it’s one or the other I’m writing every time, but please know that if you’ve reached out to me over the last few weeks, thank you. And if you haven’t and you’re reading this, thank you anyway.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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Quarterly Review: Wheel in the Sky, Sun Dial, LSD & the Search for God, Duel, The Canadian Sweetmen, Wren, Transient, Desert Storm & Suns of Thunder, Telstar Sound Drone, Fantasy Arcade

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

So it begins. I’d say this one snuck up on me, but the terrible truth of these things is that there are months of planning involved. You know the drill by now: Between today and Friday, I’ll be posting 50 record reviews in batches of 10 per day, and that’s the Quarterly Review. They’re not really in any order. Some have been out for a while, some aren’t out yet. I have tried to mark 2015 stuff where possible, if only to keep my own organizational modus straight. We’ll see how that goes as the week plays out. In any case, I hope you find something here that you dig. I know I have.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Wheel in the Sky, Heading for the Night

wheel in the sky heading for the night

Although Wheel in the Sky’s presentation is modern enough on their The Sign Records debut album, Heading for the Night, to steer them clear of Sweden’s boogie-mad masses, they’re still very clearly taking influence from classic rock, most notably The Who on cuts like opener “Fire, Death to All” (also the longest track; immediate points), “Total Eclipse of the Brain” and “Thrust in the Night.” The clarity of sound and approach puts them more in line with bands like The Golden Grass and, for a countrymen example, Troubled Horse, than Graveyard, and the Uppsala/Stockholm four-piece distinguish themselves further through the dual-lead interplay of “A Turn for the Wicked,” which hints just a bit toward Thin Lizzy bounce to feed into closer “God on High,” which coats its vocals in echo to add a sense of grandeur before the last instrumental push, which picks up the pace at the end to cap a first album from a band clearly looking to find their own niche within a classic heavy rock feel.

Wheel in the Sky on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records

 

Sun Dial, Mind Control

sun dial mind control

Offered first by the band in 2012 and reissued through Sulatron Records with two bonus tracks from the same recording session, Sun Dial’s Mind Control puts the long-running UK psych/space rockers in their element in a kosmiche expanse quickly on “Mountain of Fire and Miracles,” and while electronic experimentation is a factor throughout “Radiation” and “Burned In,” there’s always a human spirit underneath and sometimes out front in what Sun Dial do, and the newly-included “Seven Pointed Star” and “World Within You” fit in with the sense of acid ritual that the original album tracks convey, the title cut transposing Hawkwindian warp drive on a more relaxed atmosphere, each measure seemingly a mantra in a longer meditation. Even with its wah-soaked ending, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” has a more straightforward tack, proving that even when you think you know what a group like Sun Dial are up to, you’re probably wrong.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Mind Control at Sulatron Records

 

LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place

lsd and the search for god heaven is a place

The second EP from San Francisco-based shoegazing psychedelic rockers LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place, arrives a whopping nine years after its self-titled predecessor. Granted, it might be the wash of effects and the almost-whispered vocal melodies that seem to barely break the surface of the waves of airy distortion, but if any of this material goes back that far, it doesn’t show its age. The five-piece – guitarist/vocalist Andy Liszt, vocalist Sophia Cambell, guitarist Chris Fifield, bassist Ryan Lescure and drummer Ricky Maymi – offer five tracks of blissed-out, dripping wet vibe, with “Outer Space (Long Way Home)” at the center of a post-grunge swirl following the cosmic push of “(I Don’t Think that We Should) Take it Slow” and before the serenity of “Elizabeth” takes hold as a lead-in for seven-minute finale “Without You,” simultaneously the most lucid and dreamy of the cuts included. Nine years is a long time. Heaven is a Place begs for a quicker follow-up.

LSD and the Search for God on Thee Facebooks

LSD and the Search for God on Bandcamp

 

Duel, Fears of the Dead

duel fears of the dead

Austin purveyors Duel make a striking impression from the cover onward with their Heavy Psych Sounds full-length debut, Fears of the Dead. The four-piece, which by all reports features two former members of Scorpion Child, get down with classic swing on the opening title-track and thereby broadcast the intent of the album as a whole, bringing ‘70s-style grooves and boogie forward in time with modern fullness and a crisp production that highlights the gruff vocals of guitarist Tom Frank, who alongside bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants, guitarist Derek Halfmann and drummer JD Shadowz, swaggers through the record’s eight included slabs as one might through a crowded venue for the next in a long series of an evening’s beers. Later cuts like “When the Pigs are Fed” and 7:52 closer “Locked Outside” bring some more variety to the approach, but the heart of Fears of the Dead remains brash and unbridled, and one doubts if Duel would have it any other way.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds

 

The Canadian Sweetmen, Intro b/w New Cigarettes

the canadian sweetmen intro new cigarettes

One might blink and miss the debut single from somewhat mysterious psychedelic rockers The Canadian Sweetmen, which totals its A and B sides together for a runtime of about four and a half minutes, but the fact that the 90-second “Intro” (the A side) manages to marry The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys in that span is definitely something worth taking the time to note. There’s just about no information on the band as to who they are, where they come from, where they’re going, etc., but the three-minute “New Cigarettes” makes an impression on style and substance alike and offers an encouraging glimpse at what seems to be a psychedelia bolstered by organ and Rhodes and unbound by a need to adhere to genre tenets. “Intro” doesn’t even stick around long enough to do so, but “New Cigarettes” careens into a rhythmic push for its chorus that offers an earthy undertone to the heady, spaced-out vibe. More please.

The Canadian Sweetmen Tumblr

The Canadian Sweetmen on Soundcloud

 

Wren, Host

wren host

Absolutely devastating. UK post-sludgers Wren dole out a punishment that won’t be soon forgotten on their second EP, Host (on Holy Roar), following up the blackened post-rock of their 2014 self-titled EP (review here) and their 2015 split with Irk (review here) with four pummeling but still richly atmospheric cuts. Working now as the lineup of Owen Jones, Chris Pickering, Robert Letts and John McCormick, Wren have had three different vocalists on their three releases, but not a one of them has failed to add to the ambience and crushing impression of their riffs, and the hook of “No Séance” particularly on Host signifies that despite whatever lineup shifts they may have had, Wren continue to progress and refine their attack. “Stray,” “No Séance,” “The Ossuary” and “Loom” are unshakable, deeply weighted and righteously spaced. They may have flown somewhat under the radar up to this point, but Wren are too loud to be a well kept secret for much longer.

Wren on Thee Facebooks

Wren on Bandcamp

 

Transient, Transient

transient transient

Some 12 years after their initial demo surfaced in 2003, Massachusetts’ Transient present an atmospheric take on alt-metal with their self-titled debut full-length, self-released last fall. Bringing together nine tracks/46 minutes with a patient but tense pacing and underlying currents of progressive metal in cuts like “Ditch of Doubt” and “Wrong Time,” it unfolds gracefully with the intro “Voyager One” and finds an aggressive burst in “Wrong Time” and the Tool-gone-psych build of the penultimate “Slightest Scare.” That song is part of an extended two-cut closing suite with “Hold this Grudge,” which highlights Scott McCooe’s bass tone as it provides a surprising but satisfying laid back finish. McCooe, joined here by guitarist/vocalist Tim Hayes and drummer John Harris, splits his time with metalcore progenitors Overcast, and as Transient was recorded over a year’s stretch and then mixed and mastered a year after that – living up to the band’s name – it may be a while before a follow-up, but after so long from their demo, it’s still a welcome debut.

Transient on Thee Facebooks

Transient on Bandcamp

 

Desert Storm & Suns of Thunder, Split

desert storm suns of thunder split

Issued by H42 Records in a limited edition for this year’s Desertfest, the new split 7” from UK heavy platoons Desert Storm and Suns of Thunder is so dudely they could sell it as vitamin supplements on late-night tv. A complex critique of gender it is not, heavy it is. One track from each band. Desert Storm bring the burl of “Signals from Beyond,” which with its strong hook and gravely vocals brings to mind Orange Goblin nestled into a nodding riff. For Swansea’s Suns of Thunder, it’s “Earn Your Stripes,” with its complex vocal arrangements for lyrics about small men and big men, paying your dues and other whathaveyou that dominant culture tells those with testicles will make them more complete people. Fine. Masculinity and femininity are scams to sell pants, but “Earn Your Stripes” is catchy as all anything and “Signals from Beyond” is even catchier than however catchy that is, so a testosterone overdose seems a small price to pay.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

Suns of Thunder on Thee Facebooks

 

Telstar Sound Drone, Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles

telstar sound drone magical solutions to everyday problems

Magical Solutions to Everyday Struggles is the second album from Copenhagen-based auralnauts Telstar Sound Drone, and like much of what Bad Afro releases, it presents a strong temptation to drop out, tune in and turn on. Little surprise the band is something of an offshoot from Baby Woodrose, sharing guitarist Mads Saaby and drummer Hans Beck with the seminal garage rockers, but the lush impression made on “Something I Can’t Place” with the watery vocals of Sean Jardenbæk comes from an even more lysergic place, and the experimental side that comes through on “Closer Again,” “Dark Kashmir” and the languid “Dead Spaces” is a multi-tiered dreamscape that closer “Lean down on White” seems sad to leave. Reasonably so. With guest spots from members of Spids Nøgenhat, Bite the Bullet and Baby Woodrose (Kåre Joensen on bass/synth), Telstar Sound Drone’s sophomore outing is an otherworldly psychedelic vision that, as promised, does seem to cure what ails, exciting even in its most subdued moments.

Telstar Sound Drone on Thee Facebooks

Bad Afro Records

 

Fantasy Arcade, Fantasy Arcade

fantasy arcade fantasy arcade

Initially offered by the band in 2012 and subsequently pressed to a six-song 7” and jewel case CD, the self-titled debut EP from San Diego trio Fantasy Arcade only runs about 11 minutes, but that’s all it needs to bring together punk, thrash, sludge and heavy rock across fuckall-heavy cuts like “The Dwarves are Missing” – the longest song here at 3:38 – and the rumbling finale “Die Before You Suck,” which gallops and shouts and seems to crash into walls on its way out, though drummer/vocalist Adam, bassist/vocalist Chris and guitarist Mike actually do well in deciding when to keep control and when to let it go. More nuanced than it lets on, Fantasy Arcade is an aggressive pulse given to moments of frustration boiling over, but being rooted in metal as much as punk, its dwelling in two worlds gives heft to the freneticism at play, as shown in “Poison Arrow,” the first half of which runs at a sprint right into the brick wall slowdown of its second, and final, minute.

Fantasy Arcade on Thee Facebooks

Fantasy Arcade on Bandcamp

 

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New Keepers of the Water Towers, Infernal Machine: A Work in Texture (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

new keepers of the water towers infernal machine

[Click play above to hear the premiere of “Tachyon Deep” from New Keepers of the Water Towers’ Infernal Machine, out April 1 on Listenable Records. Enjoy.]

Stockholm five-piece New Keepers of the Water Towers issue their fourth album, Infernal Machine, April 1 via Listenable Records. It is easily their most textured and expansive work yet. The band have been on an outward push since 2011’s The Calydonian Hunt (review here) followed their rawer 2009 debut, Chronicles (review here), but along with aligning themselves to Listenable in 2013 for the release of their third LP, The Cosmic Child (review here), the band also took a corresponding stylistic leap into progressive psychedelia, basking in Floydian contemplations and spacious heft, and Infernal Machine is very much born of that same tradition. The difference is in the amount of the cosmos that the lineup of vocalist/guitarist Rasmus Booberg, drummer/vocalist Tor Sjödén, guitarist/vocalist Victor Berg, bassist Björn Andersson and keyboardist Adam Forsgren cover over the seven-track/45-minute span of Infernal Machine, and in the precise manner by which they control the linear flow between and throughout the songs.

Clearly intended to be taken in its entirety, Infernal Machine has standout moments, but each one of them feeds into an overarching impression of the whole, and New Keepers of the Water Towers make themselves at home working in such a grand scope, beginning with the 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Forever War” — also the name of the book on which the album is based — which eases the listener into the soundscapes they’ll inhabit as they make the journey from front to back, some alarming textures and wide-open guitar and keys gradually taking shape over a marching drum beat and howling tones.

Like a lot of Infernal Machine, “The Forever War” isn’t without some structure, but mood and atmosphere are for more central to the listening experience than hooks or anything of the sort. By its halfway point, “The Forever War” has locked into a kosmiche groove, but the band departs from there to go back to more spacious fare, guitar leading to an instrumental build that feels like it’s going to be grandiose but never actually goes overboard, quieting down as it makes ready to shift into “Tracks over Carcosa,” which swells initially like the monolith scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey and patiently transitions into more pulsing space rock. Patience is a virtue throughout Infernal Machine, something New Keepers of the Water Towers have learned over time, and something they use exceptionally well here.

The second cut morphs into kind of a surf rock if you were surfing on Titan, but the immersion that “The Forever War” began holds firm, and they pull back from the instrumental push to end the last minute-plus of “Tracks over Carcosa” on an ambient note before mellotron sounds set a peaceful beginning of “Tachyon Deep,” from which a standout rhythm will emerge along a contained linear build led by keyboard textures in a deceptively complex pastoral atmosphere. There’s just a hint of tension beneath to betray the insistence that will come as thicker tones enter the fray in the song’s back half, winding lead guitar echoing over the percussion and bassline in a way that recalls Ancestors‘ “First Light” — not a comparison I make lightly — before crashing to a finish that even with six minutes leading up to it feels somewhat sudden. Given the obvious intent shown in everything else on Infernal Machine and the song’s position right before centerpiece/likely-side-B-intro “Misantropin Kallar,” one has to imagine that’s on purpose, a cold ending following 20-plus minutes of graceful flow to toss a bucket of water on the audience before they flip the platter to its second half.

new keepers of the water towers

Either way, the effect is palpable even on the digital version, though its worth noting that the quiet fade-in of “Misantropin Kallar” makes for a cinematic reentry into the band’s cosmic sphere, bringing to mind Goblin‘s soundtrack work and even including a bit of spoken word dialogue, in Swedish, to highlight the point. A noisy wash comes to the fore in the last seconds of “Misantropin Kallar,” but drops out as “Escape Aleph Minor” begins its more immediate space rock push. The pattern of the drums is pure Hawkwind, but much to their credit, New Keepers of the Water Towers do about as much as anyone could to make such a recognizable element their own, surrounding the push with lush tones, manic rhythm guitar, piano/key lines and soaring vocals in the first half of the song and pushing through to a psych-jazz freakout in the second before bringing everything to a swirling head and crashing out to let the keys end on a subdued-into-silent note, from which “Jorden Wave” emerges, slowly crashing but eminently spacious.

Shorter, but mirroring the instrumental “Tracks over Carcosa,” its breadth works through in the melodies brought to bear over a simple rhythm, lumbering and made melancholy through mellotron, but still unremittingly progressive. There is a foreboding thud, crash and ring-out in the midsection — is that V’ger? — but they never let go of the restraint, and the tension crafted in the droning finish of “Jorden Wave” is all the more effective for the payoff the band refuses to give it. Silence — used here the way many bands use volume — leads into the closing semi-title-track “This Infernal Machine,” also the second-longest cut at 8:46, which, also instrumental, sets out to expand on the interplay of mellotron and lead guitar and cascading sweeps of “Tachyon Deep” as the moment of resolution to which the whole of Infernal Machine has been traveling. There’s even a bit of bounce in the keys à la “Misantropin Kallar,” so not only does it summarize the band’s stylistic accomplishments across the record, but bookends side B as well before it enters into its final build and caps, suitably, on a long tonal wash fadeout.

Those who caught wind of New Keepers of the Water Towers through The Cosmic Child will find that Infernal Machine is a more coherent representation of similar progressive sonic ideals, but the real triumph of the new record is how masterfully the band guide their audience through it and how smoothly it seems to flow. Patient, but heavy, Infernal Machine acts like a classic concept record in that it devotes more time to telling its story than to being impressed with itself for telling a story at all. That’s not to say there aren’t self-indulgent moments — there would have to be, or it wouldn’t be making its point — but that where their last time out, New Keepers of the Water Towers were making a foray into uncharted ground, this time they’ve made that ground their home and proven themselves able to remake it to suit their creative will.

New Keepers of the Water Towers on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records

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Spiritual Beggars Post “Diamond Under Pressure” Lyric Video; Sunrise to Sundown Preorder Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

spiritual beggars

There is at least one, possibly two boatloads — depending, obviously, on the size of the boat in question — of information included with the new Spiritual Beggars lyric video for their new single with animation by Costin Chioreanu. Album preorders, for example. And the tracklisting for the special edition version of the record, which just happens to include two studio cover versions that may or many not be the ones that will also show up highlighted as the timely H42 Records single (info here) due out around the same time as the full-length Sunrise to Sundown, which is the Mike Amott-led Swedish outfit’s ninth. And tour dates! And some comment from Amott himself about how the track came together.

So yeah, plenty to dig into. As such, I don’t really feel the need to ramble about it, except maybe to note how righteously Deep Purple-fied “Diamond Under Pressure” is as presented here. Interesting to find Amott crediting Per Wiberg with the writing, because the organ definitely seems to be leading the charge throughout, and the push in the chorus is as much Spiritual Beggars as it is Machine Head, so all the better. If this is the first audio you’re hearing from Sunrise to Sundown, you might notice some more classic vibe in the recording than on the last couple Spiritual Beggars outings. I’m not sure how that will play out on the rest of the record — which is out March 18 on InsideOut Music — but I’m keen to find out.

But like I was saying, don’t want to ramble. Have at it:

Spiritual Beggars, “Diamond Under Pressure” lyric video

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Launch new single “Diamond Under Pressure”; Album pre-order!

It’s drawing closer…Swedish vintage style hard rock pioneers SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will release their 9th studio album entitled “Sunrise To Sundown” on March 18th, 2016 in Europe as well as March 25th, 2016 in North America via Inside Out Music.

Therefore, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS are now launching the album’s second single, “Diamond Under Pressure”, via a lyric-video created by Costin Chioreanu / Twilight13Media (At The Gates, Grave, Arcturus, etc.), who also did the artwork for “Sunrise To Sundown”.

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS guitarist and main composer Michael Amott checked in to comment about ”Diamond Under Pressure“ as follows:

“Diamond Under Pressure” is a song that our keyboard player Per Wiberg brought in as an awesome instrumental and I proceeded to write a lyric and vocal arrangement for it, I was inspired by a late night, alcohol fuelled conversation I’d had with our producer Staffan Karlsson for this one. Always a great time to be collaborate on music with Per and I think this is one of my favourites off the new album, despite all its obvious “Purple-esque” overtones it’s still retains a very typical Spiritual Beggars feel. Looking forward to playing this one live on tour this spring!”

The complete tracklisting for the new SPIRITUAL BEGGARS album is as follows:

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – “Sunrise To Sundown”
1. Sunrise To Sundown
2. Diamond Under Pressure
3. What Doesn’t Kill You
4. Hard Road
5. Still Hunter
6. No Man’s Land
7. I Turn To Stone
8. Dark Light Child
9. Lonely Freedom
10. You’ve Been Fooled
11. Southern Star

Limited edition 2CD Mediabook bonus disc:
1. Thumbsucker (Mountain cover)
2. Stoned Woman (Ten Years After cover)
3. Wise As A Serpent (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
4. Turn The Tide (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
5. Drum Intro / Dreamer (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
6. One Man’s Curse (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)
7. Kingmaker (Live At Roadburn Festival 2013)

Next to the CD formats, “Sunrise To Sundown” will of course also be available on vinyl. The LP format comes on 180gr. vinyl (Standard black, but also on limited coloured runs of 500x copies on dark green vinyl and 200x copies on yellow vinyl!) and in gatefold packaging with a double-sided poster as well as the full standard album on CD as bonus.
The album’s pre-sale in its various physical formats is starting TODAY via the IOM webshop here:
http://smarturl.it/stsIOMSHOP

Just like on their previous two album releases, “Return To Zero” (2010) and “Earth Blues” (2013), SPIRITUAL BEGGARS stellar line-up is consists of bandleader Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, ex Carcass) on guitars, teaming up with Apollo Papathanasio (ex Firewind) on vocals, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy, Witchery) on bass, Per Wiberg (Candlemass, ex Opeth) on keyboards as well as Ludwig Witt (Grand Magus, Firebird) on drums. And “Sunrise To Sundown” not only easily demonstrates how much on top of their game SPIRITUAL BEGGARS still are after over 20 years of activities, but also adds a fresh and spontaneous vibe to their impressive catalogue.

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will be hitting the road soon to promote “Sunrise To Sundown”:

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Live 2016:
27.03.2016 – Schijndel, The Netherlands – Paaspop
28.03.2016 – Cologne, Germany – Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld
29.03.2016 – Aschaffenburg, Germany – Colos-Saal
31.03.2016 – Leipzig, Germany – Hellraiser
01.04.2016 – Hamburg, Germany – Logo
02.04.2016 – Essen, Germany – Turock
04.04.2016 – Pratteln, Switzerland – Z7
06.04.2016 – Kortrijk, Belgium – De Kreun
07.04.2016 – Rouen, France – Le 106
08.04.2016 – Brest, France – Plougarock Festival Warm Up
09.04.2016 – Nantes, France – Le Ferrailleur
10.04.2016 – Paris, France – Backstage By The Mill
12.04.2016 – Munich, Germany – Strom
14.04.2016 – Karlsruhe, Germany – Substage
15.04.2016 – Malmö, Sweden – KB
16.04.2016 – Stockholm, Sweden – Göta Källare
17.04.2016 – Göteborg, Sweden – Sticky Fingers
28.04.2016 – Berlin, Germany – Desertfest
07.07.2016 – Ballenstedt, Germany – Rock Harz Open Air
08.07.2016 – Oulu, Finland – Jalometalli Metal Music Festival

Spiritual Beggars website

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Spiritual Beggars on Twitter

Spiritual Beggars on Instagram

InsideOut Music

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New Keepers of the Water Towers Releasing Infernal Machine April 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

new keepers of the water towers

Three years after offering up a boldly progressive third outing in 2013’s Cosmic Child (review here), Sweden’s New Keepers of the Water Towers return on Listenable Records with Infernal Machine, due out April 1. They’ve got a new video for opening track “The Forever War,” and it seems indeed to be drawing the listener through its slow, heavy march and immersive classic prog, so I can’t help but wonder what might come next, but for now the intro will have to do. These guys have never failed to progress since offering up their debut album, Chronicles (review here), in 2009 and The Calydonian Hunt (review here) in 2011, so this should be one to look forward to.

You can see the new video below, and all other album info follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

new keepers of the water towers infernal machine

NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS: Swedish Progressive Space Rock Faction To Unveil Infernal Machine Full-Length Via Listenable This Spring; New Video Available

Swedish progressive space rock faction, NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS, will release their Infernal Machine full-length in North America this Spring via Listenable Records.

Attempting to label NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS feels futile. This five-piece hailing from Stockholm, Sweden has grown at such a consistent pace since first forming in 2006, that pigeonholing their unique sound is immediately outdated with each passing album as the band continues to grow and push the boundaries of their musical and writing abilities.

With their fourth full-length, Infernal Machine, a concept album based on the classic sci-fi novel The Forever War, they’ve transformed a tale of an interstellar Galactic battle into a musical odyssey that supersedes anything you’ve heard to date. From the record’s initial onset, listeners are flung into a world where classic prog meets it’s unlikely counterparts of pure, vintage space rock, perfectly haunting harmonizing vocal lines, and just enough of the far from modest power riffs to keep you gasping for air with anticipation for the next track to begin as you move forward on your journey.

In advance of Infernal Machine’s release, NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS recently revealed a brand new video for opening cut, “The Forever War” noting, “This is a very sad song about leaving everyone you know and love behind to face something new, when everything is different but nothing really changes. It’s about the war inside each of us and the war we wage on each other while striving to create the life we want for ourselves.”

Infernal Machine Track Listing:
1. The Forever War
2. Tracks Over Carcosa
3. Tachyon Deep
4. Misantropin Kallar
5. Escape Aleph Minor
6. Jorden
7. This Infernal Machine

NEW KEEPERS OF THE WATER TOWERS’ Infernal Machine will be available in North America on April 1st, 2016 with preorders available at THIS LOCATION.

http://www.facebook.com/NewKeepers
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs
http://www.listenable.net

New Keepers of the Water Towers, “The Forever War” official video

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Spiritual Beggars Release Sunrise to Sundown in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Swedish heavy rock mainstays Spiritual Beggars will issue their ninth full-length, Sunrise to Sundown, late in March on InsideOut Music. The release will be the third to find the band fronted by former Firewind vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, who joined the band alongside founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) in time for 2010’s Return to Zero (review here). The five-piece, which also features bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, keyboardist Per Wiberg and drummer Ludwig Witt — none of whom is without substantial pedigree, as you can see below — are set to tour in Europe supporting the new album, playing Desertfest Berlin 2016 and more besides.

Here there be details from the PR wire:

spiritual beggars

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS Announce New Studio Album Release and Tour Dates!

Swedish vintage style hard rock pioneers SPIRITUAL BEGGARS return with their 9th studio album entitled “Sunrise To Sundown”, which will be released on March 18th, 2016 in Europe as well as March 25th, 2016 in North America via InsideOutMusic.

Just like on their previous two album releases, “Return To Zero” (2010) and “Earth Blues” (2013), SPIRITUAL BEGGARS stellar line-up is consists of bandleader Michael Amott (Arch Enemy, ex Carcass) on guitars, teaming up with Apollo Papathanasio (ex Firewind) on vocals, Sharlee D’Angelo (Arch Enemy, Witchery) on bass, Per Wiberg (Candlemass, ex Opeth) on keyboards as well as Ludwig Witt (Grand Magus, Firebird) on drums.

After a busy couple of last years with Arch Enemy, Michael Amott and his bandmates have once again found the availability and inspiration to lay down 11 dynamic and uplifting new songs, which not only easily demonstrate how much on top of their game SPIRITUAL BEGGARS still are after over 20 years of activities, but also add a fresh and spontaneous vibe to their impressive catalogue.

Speaking about how the new album came together, Amott commented the following:
“We’ve been writing the album here and there over the last couple of years when our schedules have allowed us to meet up and spend a few days jamming. A few of the songs I wrote on my own, others were written by our keyboard player Per Wiberg. Our drummer Ludwig Witt submitted two tracks that are actually his first major contributions to the band as a writer – and they’re great songs too! I also co-wrote a few tunes with Per Wiberg and that was really a lot of fun as well, it’s been a very collaborative process.”

In counteraction to the oftentimes soulless current hi-tech digital cut/paste recordings, “Sunrise To Sundown” was tracked live off the floor and Amott added the following about the recording results:

“I’m super excited about how the album sounds sonically, our engineer Staffan Karlsson also produced and mixed the album and the result is something we’re very proud of. I think every album we have made (this being our 9th) has had its own vibe and atmosphere. I can honestly say this band has never made the same album twice. To me, “Sunrise To Sundown” is the next chapter of the book we’ve been writing since we started the band over 20 years ago. Of course, the foundation of our style is heavy rock music, but we always keep evolving adding new influences and colours to the bands core sound.”

Supporting the release of “Sunrise To Sundown”, SPIRITUAL BEGGARS will finally also be hitting the road again in order to showcase the new material on the following club-dates as well as festivals:

SPIRITUAL BEGGARS – Live 2016:
28.03.2016 Köln (Germany) – Club Bahnhof Ehrenfeld
29.03.2016 Aschaffenburg (Germany) – Colos-Saal
31.03.2016 Leipzig (Germany) – Hellraiser
01.04.2016 Hamburg (Germany) – Logo
02.04.2016 Essen (Germany) – Turock
04.04.2016 Pratteln (Switzerland) – Z7
06.04.2016 Kortrijk (Belgium) – De Kreun
07.04.2016 Rouen (France) – Le 106
10.04.2016 Paris (France) – Backstage By The Mill
12.04.2016 Munich (Germany) – Strom
14.04.2016 Karlsruhe (Germany) – Substage
28.04.2016 Berlin (Germany) – Desert Fest
08.07.2016 Oulu (Finland) – Jalometalli Festival
09.07.2016 Ballenstedt (Germany) – Rock Harz Festival
More dates to be announced soon…

www.spiritualbeggars.com
www.facebook.com/spiritualbeggarsofficial
http://twitter.com/Spiritual_B
https://www.instagram.com/spiritual_beggars/

Spiritual Beggars, “Wise as a Serpent” official video

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Quarterly Review: Corrections House, Antimatter, Colossus, Bastard Lord, Monocluster, Valley, Shatner, Australasia, The Moth Gatherer, Super Witch

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Well, this is where we hit and pass the halfway point. It’s been a good week so far. Busy, but good. I hope you’ve found something that you dig or agree with or whatnot. I know it’s kind of hard to dig through 10 releases at once, but even if you see cover art that strikes a nerve, going with that impulse is rarely a bad idea, particularly when the level of commitment involved is clicking play on a Bandcamp player to get a taste. Pretty wide range today, so let’s dig in.

Quarterly review #21-30:

Corrections House, Know How to Carry a Whip

corrections house know how to carry a whip

Since they made their debut as a unit in 2013 with Last City Zero (also on Neurot), the don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House – vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), saxophonist/vocalist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Bloodiest) and programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea) – have spread their bleak gospel of totalitarian industrial vehemence to audiences in the US and Europe. Their second offering, Know How to Carry a Whip, is bolder sound-wise and retains a very human, punk rock core with Williams’ sneer playing off Kelly’s gutturalism on “White Man’s Gonna Lose” and nearly goes goth in doing the same with Lamont in the later “When Push Comes to Shank,” but across the 45-minute span, the songs remain in the key of abrasion, and ultimately that’s what most unites them. As noisy as closer “Burn the Witness” gets, I can’t help but think of the acoustic, Lamont-led centerpiece “Visions Divide” as the bleakest moment of the record, twisting folkish conventions into a dystopian soundscape, but Williams’ spoken drug-poetry on “I was Never Good at Meth” provides stiff competition.

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Neurot Recordings

Antimatter, The Judas Table

The Judas Table

Lush in its arrangements and doling out extreme measures of melancholy across its 56 minutes, Antimatter’s sixth album, The Judas Table (on Prophecy Productions), brings sonic depth to bear in rich textures of electric and acoustic guitars, keys, and the strength-through-fragility vocals of remaining founder and songwriter Mick Moss. The group’s last offering, 2012’s Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), pushed them into fuller tones, and an early cut like “Killer” builds on that, but the crux of The Judas Table is in subdued and brooding pieces like “Little Piggy,” remorseful and seething in kind as it moves through an acoustic-led arrangement marked out by strings and a sense of grace. “Integrity” asks the question, “What’s the point if no one else has any?” and sets a depressive run through one of the record’s grader builds, but Antimatter are hardly contained to one style here, as the New Wave inflection on “Can of Worms” or the rumbling apex of highlight “Stillborn Empires” demonstrate.

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Prophecy Productions

Colossus, The Breathing World

colossus the breathing world

Not to be confused with their Swedish countrymen who operated under the same moniker and whose lineup included a post-and-pre-Candlemass Messiah Marcolin, Stockholm’s Colossus play a decidedly progressive blend of Peaceville-style doom and metal, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Niklas Eriksson, bassist Peter Berg and drummer Thomas Norstedt adding a near-immediate inflection toward the epic via Primordial-style vocal patterning on opener “Yehi Aour/Wanderers” that holds for much of their 48-minute sophomore outing, The Breathing World (on Perennity Records). “Darkling Root” and more so the chugging “Fuga Mundi” delve into blackened fare in the guitar, but it’s just one of an array of genres in Colossus’ arsenal and in the case of the latter, soon enough complemented by Opethian prog noodling and soulful vocalizing. These turns, which more often than not happen in an instant, are a great strength of The Breathing World, but would fall flat without the crisp, confident delivery the band provides leading to the grand sprawl and long fade of 10-minute closer, “The Silent City.”

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Colossus on Bandcamp

Bastard Lord, Bastard Lord

bastard lord bastard lord

One thing we’ve learned about Twin Earth Records thus far into the long-established label’s recent surge of activity is that it knows tone when it hears it. Thus comes treading Bastard Lord out of Buffalo, New York, whose four-song self-titled debut was initially self-released and remastered for a CD issue, rumble-fuzzing a murky Sabbath worship that oozes from the amps of bassist/vocalist David Braymiller and guitarist Mike Hermann – hard to tell at times in 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cimmerian” where the one instrument ends and the other begins – and set to a suitable plod by Jeremy Coupe’s drumming. It’s little surprise when they pay homage to “Snowblind” in “Wormwood,” but the psychedelic edge in Braymiller’s vocals – drowned in effects, buried in the mix; both appropriately so – gives Bastard Lord a personality of its own the holds even into the faster closer “Into the Sea,” a Toner Low-style lysergic depth unflinching through that song and “Summoner” before it as Bastard Lord emerge from the mire with their intentions clear.

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Twin Earth Records

Monocluster, Monocluster

monocluster monocluster

One might be forgiven for entering into Monocluster’s self-titled, self-released debut album with an expectation for traditional stoner rock, between the band’s moniker and album cover – and if that’s what came through in playing the 35-minute, five-track outing, I very likely wouldn’t complain – but the German-language four-piece subtly veer into and out of spacier interludes in cuts like “Dantes Inferno” and “8 Stunden” and the later “Ich Atme” pushes even further along those lines, jamming out vast and echoing over a foundational bassline that holds the track together before it stops outright and resurfaces with Monocluster’s most righteous single nod. Centerpiece “Straße” demonstrates a touch of Colour Haze influence as well, but on the whole the Cologne four-piece seem headed in a different direction, and as the 10-minute closer “12 Minuten” ranges farther and heavier than everything before it, I’m only more intrigued to find out where they might end up. Heavy psych that’s not afraid to tighten up and make a more pointed impact when it feels one is needed.

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Monocluster on Bandcamp

Valley, Sunburst

valley sunburst

I have two reasons for writing a review of Valley’s Sunburst EP, and they are both ridiculously simple. Yes, the Swedish five-piece were featured in two podcasts (one here, one here) and mentioned in the roundup of 2015’s best short releases – however, reviewing Sunburst now gives me another excuse to put it back on and it gives me something to fall back to later when I’m praising the crap out of whatever they do next and want to link a past review. Simple reasons. If you haven’t yet heard the 2015 debut outing from the Stockholm post-heavy rock instrumentalists, basked in the warm, organic psychedelia of “Tunguska” and “Kiro” or the peaceful folk-jam of “Dream Shooter, Golden!” and the tense-and-release percussion and sample-topped progressive course of “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door,” then you have quite simply missed out. I’m sure plenty have and plenty more will liken it to a desert sound – in no small part because of the cover art – but the smooth melodicism goes beyond landscape here and is made to be appreciated regardless of climate or locale.

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Version Studio Records

Shatner, EP

shatner ep

An edge of Northeastern aggression is unmistakable at the core of Shatner’s 20-minute self-released six-track EP. Based in Boston, the tree-piece boasts guitarist/vocalist Jim Healey (Black Thai, We’re all Gonna Die), bassist/backing vocalist Jesse Sherman (We’re all Gonna Die) and drummer Rob Davol (Cocked ‘n’ Loaded), and so a touch of anger isn’t unexpected given the personnel – even Healey’s acoustic work has brooding tension underlying – but if “Special” and “Black Market Liver” are variations on an ongoing theme, they’re of consistent quality in terms of songwriting, and the Thin Lizzy cover “Bad Reputation” is positioned well just past the halfway point to add variety amid a slew of potent hooks. Not their first time working together, but Healey and Sherman’s voices complement each other well on “Dead in Your Eyes” and “Death Reheated,” and with the solid foundation that Davol provides throughout, Shatner’s EP is an encouraging start to what’s hopefully an ongoing development.

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Shatner on Bandcamp

Australasia, Notturno

australasia-notturno

Harvested, sometimes manipulated samples and synthesized textures permeate Notturno, the mostly-instrumental second album from Italian atmospheric project Australasia. Comprised solely of Gian Spalluto, it’s somewhat more surprising that songs like the cascading “Lumen” and “Kern” are able to conjure such full-band progressions, but layering was bound to be a factor one way or another in Australasia’s approach, so if it’s Spalluto’s vision at play, so be it. Sonically, the impression of much of the material – including the guest-vocalized centerpiece “Invisibile” – winds up somewhere between the dystopian ambience of Red Sparowes and the brighter aspirations of post-black metallers Alcest, but songs like “Haxo” and the closing title-track, a (mostly) solo piano piece, have a cinematic edge as well. Rather than play one side against the other, Spalluto brings them together in one overarching flow that engages conceptually and sonically throughout a nine-track/39-minute course that willfully refuses to acknowledge a line between post-rock and post-metal.

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Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings

The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky

the moth gatherer the earth is the sky

Synth ambience and distorted severity meet head-on with the second full-length from Swedish post-metallers The Moth Gatherer, The Earth is the Sky (on Agonia Records). Produced over a two-year span with Karl Daniel Lidén (Greenleaf, VAKA, etc.), it punishes intensely on “The Black Antlers” with no less underlying fluidity than it had on the quietly atmospheric “Dyatlov Pass” preceding, the four-piece of bassist/vocalist Alex Stjernfeldt, guitarist/vocalist/programmer Victor Wegeborn, guitarist Ronny Westphal and drummer Svante Karlsson finding a place sound-wise that swaps between peaceful and threatening, delving into extreme progressive metal and electronica in kind on “Attacus Atlas” while setting up the consuming, gradual push of 11-minute closer “In Awe Before the Rapture,” which seems in conversation with the synth of the earlier “Probing the Descent of Man” in creating a layered structure of sound, while also attempting to marry the various impulses displayed throughout. Familiar to a degree, but immersive in its bringing earth and sky together.

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Agonia Records

Super Witch, Super Witch has Risen

super witch super witch has risen

You might wonder just what kind of neighborhood it is that would pair “The House that Dripped Blood” next door to “House of Warlocks” – perhaps that street is on the “Island of Lost Souls” – but then you probably wouldn’t get the crux of Memphis heavy punk foursome Super Witch’s debut full-length, Super Witch Has Risen, which has tales of horror front to back, “Spaceship Cadillac” notwithstanding. The Tennessean outfit dip into garage grunge on “Night of the Hunter” and stomp out call and response and Melvins chug on on “The Need,” show some more patient swing on “Smash Your Own Face,” but it’s “Army of Werewolves” and the opening “Super Witch Has Risen” that tell the story of the band’s intent more than the semi-swirl of “Smash Your Own Face” or the all-the-way swirl of closer “With the Lights Out,” as satisfying as the closer is in pulling off a rare feat – psychedelic punk. Split between two recording sessions, there are some changes in sound throughout, but it would take a supernatural force to derail Super Witch from their underlying purpose.

Super Witch on Thee Facebooks

Super Witch on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Motörhead, Owl, Waingro, Frank Sabbath, The Sonic Dawn, Spelljammer, Necro & Witching Altar, Stone Machine Electric, Pale Horseman, Yo Moreno

Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Pushing through the first batch of reviews and into the second. Always seems easier on the downhill somehow, but if the worst thing that ever happens is I have to put on 10 records a day, you aren’t likely to hear me complain. Today we get deeper into the round, and that while I’ll note that the context for today’s first review has changed decidedly for the unfortunate since it was slated for inclusion in this roundup, I’m trying still to take it on its own level, which is what any record deserves, regardless of its circumstances. No sense in delaying. Let’s go.

Quarterly review #11-20:

Motörhead, Bad Magic

Print

The four ‘X’es on the cover of Motörhead’s 23rd album, Bad Magic (on UDR Music) are placed there each to represent a decade of the band’s existence, and while the context of the 13-track/42-minute offering will be forever changed due to the recent passing of iconic frontman/bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and because the remaining members – guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – have said it will be their final new studio release, it goes to show that one of metal and punk’s most landmark acts came in raging and went out raging. To wit, barnburners like “Thunder and Lightning” and “Teach Them How to Bleed” are quintessential Motörhead, and the propulsive “Shoot out All of Your Lights” is a blueprint for both their righteousness and relentlessness. A closing Rolling Stones cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” borders on poignant in hindsight, but on cuts like “Evil Eye,” “Electricity” and “Tell Me Who to Kill,” Bad Magic is basically Motörhead being Motörhead, which was of course what they did best.

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UDR Music

Owl, Aeon Cult

owl aeon cult

Topped off with some of the least-pleasant cover art one might (n)ever ask to see, the Aeon Cult EP is the third from German progressive sludge outfit Owl in two years’ time after two initial full-lengths. It comprises three songs that span genres from the slow-motion lurch of “The Abyss” to deathly intricacy – preceded by a groove that doesn’t so much roll as slam – on “Ravage” to an atmospheric extremity of purpose on “Mollusk Prince,” and is over in a whopping eight and a half minutes. Seriously, that’s it. At the center of the tempest are multi-instrumentalis/vocalist Christian Kolf, also of Valborg, and drummer Patrick Schroeder, formerly of Valborg, who elicit inhuman heft and bleakness across a relatively brief but nonetheless challenging span, and who seem to revel in the melted-plastic consistency of the sounds they create. Creative rhythms and ambience-enhancing keyboard work give Aeon Cult a futuristic edge, and if this is the world into which we’re headed, we should all be terrified.

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Zeitgeister Music

Waingro, Mt. Hood

waingro mt hood

The self-titled debut from Vancouver trio Waingro (review here) was a half-hour affair brimming with intensity and forward motion, and while the band’s second outing, Mt. Hood, follows suit tonally and in its neo-progressive thrust, the 11-track outing also provides a richer all-around experience and shows marked growth on the part of the band. “Desert Son” opens the album with an expansive solo section and intricate vocal layering to go with its metallic crunch, and while Waingro keep a short, efficient songwriting process at their core, that track and the slower, seven-minute “Mt. Hood” show their process has become more malleable as well. Likewise, while the methods don’t ultimately change much, shorter instrumental pieces like “Raleigh” on the first half of the album and the rolling “Frontera” on the second add variety of structure and make Mt. Hood as a whole feel more widespread, which, of course, it is. Waingro still have plenty of intensity on offer throughout, but their sophomore LP proves there’s more to them than unipolar drive.

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Waingro on Bandcamp

Frank Sabbath, Frank Sabbath

frank sabbath frank sabbath

A self-titled debut full-length that breaks down into two subsections – the first is tracks one through five and is titled Emerald Mass and the second is tracks six through 12 and is titled The Quétu – clearly the intentions behind Frank Sabbath’s opening statement are complex. All well and good, but more importantly, the work of the Parisian trio of guitarist/vocalist Jude Mas, bassist Guillaume Jankowski and bassist Baptiste Reig is cohesive across the record’s 12-track span, and those two parts not only meld the songs that make them up together fluidly, but work set one into the next to bring a full-album flow to the proceedings, spanning classic progressive (the kind that’s not afraid to let the guitars get jazzy) rock and psychedelic mind-meld into a sometimes-strange, sometimes-in-Spanish brew of potent lysergics. The three-piece set a vast range from “Waves in Your Brain” onward and wind up delivering the “Fucking Moral,” which seems to be “Never be afraid of who you are/Never be ashamed of what you are.” Clearly, while their moniker might be playing off acts who came before, Frank Sabbath are not afraid to stand on their own sonically.

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Frank Sabbath on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Perception

the sonic dawn perception

Sweet soul and classic psychedelic methods pervade The Sonic Dawn’s Perception (on respected purveyor Nasoni Records) debut album, and the Copenhagen trio of guitarist/vocalist Emil Bureau, bassist Neil Bird and drummer Jonas Waaben find an easy, spacious flow through songs that, despite being relatively straightforward, retain an expansive feel. Shades of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors make themselves felt early on, but Bureau’s voice shifts smoothly into and out of falsetto and the tonally The Sonic Dawn seem immediately in search of their own identity. The effects-soaked finish of “All the Ghosts I Know” and the apex of “Wild at Heart” would seem to indicate success in that process, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they push the psychedelic impulses of “Watching Dust Fall” even further their next time out, and if they can do so while holding onto the accessible foundation of Perception, all the better. An impressive debut from a three-piece who do right in making a show of their potential.

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Nasoni Records

Spelljammer, Ancient of Days

spelljammer ancient of days

Ancient of Days follows two impressive EPs from Swedish tonal constructionists Spelljammer (on RidingEasy), and is the trio’s full-length debut, a pretense-less 39-minute offering that basks in post-Sleep riff idolatry while leaving room in a cut like the 12-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Meadow” for nodding atmospherics as well. “Meadow” and the 11-minute closer “Borlung” sandwich the rest of Ancient of Days, which moves between the acoustic minimalism of the quick “Laelia” to the already-gone centerpiece “From Slumber,” which rises gradually, swells in its midsection, and recedes again – beautifully – and the eight-minute groove-roller “The Pathfiner,” which would be the apex of the record if not for the crashing finale of “Borlung,” which churns and plods and caps the record – how else? – with a swirl into empty space. Following a cult response to 2012’s Vol. II EP, that Spelljammer would deliver big on their debut album isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it remains striking just how easy it is to get lost in the morass of riffs and outward vibes they present in these five cuts. Should’ve been on my Best Debuts of 2015 list.

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RidingEasy Records

Witching Altar & Necro, Split

necro witching altar split

This doomy twofer from Hydro-Phonic Records plants a veritable garden of unearthly delights in bringing together Brazilian doom outfits Witching Altar and Necro and highlighting the similarities and the differences between them. Pressed to CD late in 2015 with vinyl impending, it offers four cuts from Witching Altar, whose take on doom is ultra-traditional to the point of working in a Sabbathian “All right now!” for “She Rides the Seventh Beast,” and three from Necro (shortened from Necronomicon), a yet-unheralded trio of ‘70s progressive traditionalists who offer up the new single “Contact” and two tracks revisited from their two to-date full-lengths. Both prove immersive in their own right, Witching Altar setting a course for weird quickly on “The Monolith” which some theremin that reappears later, and Necro vibing out on the warm bassline of “Holy Planet Yamoth,” but each has their own ideas about what makes classic doom so classic, and the arguments on both sides are persuasive.

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Witching Altar on Thee Facebooks

Hydro-Phonic Records

Stone Machine Electric, The Amazing Terror

stone machine electric the amazing terror

One never knows quite what to expect from Texas two-piece Stone Machine Electric, and that seems to be precisely how the duo of guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/thereminist Mark Kitchens like it. The Amazing Terror is something of a stopgap EP, released on CDR by the band as a follow-up to late-2014’s Garage Tape (review here) and a lead-in for their next full-length, reportedly recorded last month with Wo Fat’s Kent Stump at the helm. Taken from the Garage Tape sessions, The Amazing Terror makes a standout of its languid, jammy title-track and surrounds it by three more instances of the band’s exploratory ideology, delving into the quietly cosmic on “Before the Dream” and feeding a cyclical delay expanse on closer “Passage of Fire,” a likely companion-piece to the opening “Becoming Fire,” which may or may not play thematically into where Stone Machine Electric are headed with their next record. As always with these guys, I wouldn’t dare place a bet either way and look like a fool on the other side.

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Stone Machine Electric on Bandcamp

Pale Horseman, Bless the Destroyer

pale horseman bless the destroyer

Chicago post-sludgers Pale Horseman featured a remix by Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), originally on their 2013 self-titled debut, on their second outing, 2014’s Mourn the Black Lotus (review here), and their third full-length, Bless the Destroyer, boasts a mixing job by Noah Landis of Neurosis. All three records were also recorded by Bongripper guitarist Dennis Pleckham, so it seems fair to say that Pale Horseman know who they want to work with and why. The results on Bless the Destroyer speak for themselves. With the 15-minute penultimate cut “Bastard Child” as an obvious focal point, the four-piece give a clear sense of progression in terms of their patience and overall range. The earlier “Caverns of the Templar” still boasts plenty of post-Godflesh chugging intensity – elements of death metal, see also centerpiece “Pineal Awakening” – but closer “Olduvai Gorge” sleeks along with a poise that even in 2013 Pale Horseman would’ve driven into the ground on their way to doing the same to everything else in their path. Their growth has made their approach more individual, and it suits them well.

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Pale Horseman on Bandcamp

Yo, Moreno, Yo, Moreno EP

yo moreno yo moreno ep

A self-titled four-track debut EP from Argentina heavy rockers Yo, Moreno finds the band coming out swinging. The San Miguel de Tucumán-based four-piece of vocalist Marcos Martín, guitarist Lucas Bejar, bassist Noel Bejar and drummer Omar Bejar elicit a surprisingly aggro mood on “A Lot of Pot,” the opener, but groove remains paramount, and fuzz abounds. “Noelazarte” is more adventurous all around, an early build setting a tone with prevalent bass before Martín comes in after the halfway mark. Since “Para Noico” returns to the angrier spirit of “A Lot of Pot” and closer “3,000” heads outward on an instrumental exploration that blends grounded, weighted tones with spacier impulses, it seems easy to think that someone, somewhere would pick Yo, Moreno up for a 10” release. Especially as their first offering, it skillfully blends doomier atmospheres with fuzz-heavy nods, and stakes its claim in a niche that’s never completely one side or the other. Even formative as it is, it’s an intriguing blend.

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Yo, Moreno on Bandcamp

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