Posted in audiObelisk on May 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The line that Stockholm four-piece Sideburn seem so easily content to cross between heavy rock and roll and classic heavy metal on their upcoming fifth full-length, Evil or Divine, might seem strange to American ears, coming from a place where the lines between the two are more drawn in thick, seemingly permanent marker, but the Swedish outfit are part of a long history of stylistic melding that goes back about as far as when the other sprang from the one in the first place. If that’s confusing, think about countrymen acts like Grand Magus or The Awesome Machine and the context might become clearer. Sideburn, who formed in 1997, are contemporaries of these bands, and their latest outing seamlessly pulls together epic grandiosity and heavy grooves, bolstered by strong traditional songwriting and fistpump-ready righteousness.
Evil or Divine see will North American release June 9 via Metalville Records, and it’s the foursome’s first outing for the label and first with Dimitri Keiski on vocals and guitar alongside guitarist Morgan Zocek, bassist Martin Karlsson (also Mangrove) and drummer Fredrik Haake, whose commanding forwardness makes longer pieces like “The Day the Sun Died” and linear-building closer “Presence” all the more engaging. Keiski is a powerful frontman in the Dioist vein, and from the start of opener “Masters and Slaves,” he takes the reins of Evil or Divine and steers the band across flowing movements touching on doom, heavy rock and metal — as much Rainbow as Sabbath, as “Sea of Sins” demonstrates, the “Gates of Babylon” looming large in the distance — finding a niche between and among them while keeping a natural atmosphere as the brooding “When Darkness Calls” and “The Seer (Angel of Death)” play out.
“Sea of Sins” stands as one of the record’s most fervent rockers, a stomping kick drum and winding riff opening into a progression somewhere between shuffle and headbang that seems to capture the vibrancy of both, and gets a late-album complement in “Evil Ways” before the acoustic guitar that starts “Presence” kicks in to set the stage for that drama to unfold. It’s my pleasure today to host the premiere of “Sea of Sins” ahead of the album’s release. You can find the track on the YouTube embed below — if you’re wondering where the Soundcloud is, that site’s weirdo copyright policy will be its undoing as the industry standard for hosting — followed by the PR wire info on the album.
Sideburn, “Sea of Sins”
Stockholm’s own SIDEBURN, featuring Dimitri Keiski (vocals, guitar), Morgan Zocek (guitar), Martin Karlsson (bass, organ), and Fredrik Haake (drums), will release their fifth full-length album titled Evil Or Divine in North America June 9 via Metalville Records.
Mixed/Produced by Jonas Edler with Morgan Zocek and SIDEBURN at B.A.S. Studio and mastered by Mats “Limpan” Lindfors (Meshuggah, Katatonia, Opeth) at Cutting Room studios in Stockholm, with a sound that as much is rooted in the past as it is heading for the future, fans can expect more of what they’ve come to know and enjoy from the band – heavy guitar attacks blended with intense solos backed by a steady rhythm section.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish heavy rockers Sideburn will issue their fifth album, Evil or Divine, June 9 in North America via Metalville Records. The new outing follows two full-lengths on Transubstans, one on Buzzville and their 1997 debut, which arrived via Beard of Stars, so they’ve been nothing if not well-endorsed throughout their career. Hard to imagine the new record’s title isn’t a Dio reference — as in, “We’ll know for the first time/If we’re evil or divine/We’re the last in line” — and if so, if that might speak to some inflection throughout of classic metal, but we’ll see when we get there.
The PR wire has it like this:
SWEDISH DOOM HARD ROCKERS SIDEBURN SET TO RELEASE NEW STUDIO ALBUM VIA METALVILLE RECORDS
EVIL OR DIVINE OUT IN NORTH AMERICA JUNE 9TH
Stockholm’s own SIDEBURN, featuring Dimitri Keiski (vocals, guitar), Morgan Zocek (guitar), Martin Karlsson (bass, organ), and Fredrik Haake (drums), will release their fifth full-length album titled Evil Or Devine in North America June 9 via Metalville Records.
Inspired by seminal acts such as Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Scorpions, and Rainbow, SIDEBURN has gained a solid reputation in the hard rock/doom genre by blending retro sounds with a modern approach.
Mixed/Produced by Jonas Edler with Morgan Zocek and SIDEBURN at B.A.S. Studio and mastered by Mats “Limpan” Lindfors (Meshuggah, Katatonia, Opeth) at Cutting Room studios in Stockholm, with a sound that as much is rooted in the past as it is heading for the future, fans can expect more of what they’ve come to know and enjoy from the band – heavy guitar attacks blended with intense solos backed by a steady rhythm section.
“We are happy signing with Metalville and with their belief and support we think we can take the band to the next level in our career,” says guitarist Morgan Zocek.
Evil Or Divine Tracklisting: 1. Masters and Slaves 2. Sea of Sins 3. When Darkness Calls 4. The Seer (Angel of Death) 5. The Day The Sun Died 6. Evil Ways 7. Presence
Originally formed back in 1997, the band signed to the Italian label Beard of Stars/Vinyl Magic in 2000 and soon after released their debut album Trying To Burn The Sun.
From there, the quartet would go on to release their second album The Newborn Sun in 2007, followed by Demon Dance in 2010, and 2012’s IV Monument – both via Transubstans Records.
Posted in audiObelisk on March 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Epic doom and classic metal resound throughout Sorcerer‘s much-awaited debut LP, In the Shadow of the Black Cross, which is out March 24 on Metal Blade Records. The band are something of a myth in doom, having released two demos in 1989 and 1992 — both later compiled and release by John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus‘ imprint, Brainticket Records — before breaking up and sending its members on to other acts like Therion, Tiamat, 220 Volt, Soilwork and so on. Under the guidance of founding bassist Johnny Hagel and vocalist Anders Engberg, who are joined by guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren and drummer Robert Iverson, Sorcerer made a return in 2010 and have been constructing In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross ever since, with Iverson in the role of engineer.
It wasn’t an especially quick process, but the precision with which Sorcerer execute the record’s eight tracks justifies the extra care. Songs like the eight-minute “Lake of Lost Souls” unfold with latter-day Iommi-style metallic grace, the album’s first three tracks — “The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer,” “Sumerian Script” and “Lake of the Lost Souls” — forming a triumvirate of classic doom that, because they hail from Stockholm, one might be tempted to relate to Candlemass. In the context of the album as a whole, however, Grand Magus seems a more appropriate fit, since neither are Sorcerer shy about establishing a metallic foundation for cuts like “Exorcise the Demon” or “The Gates of Hell,” stepping forward in tempo and aggression while remaining in full command of their sound to the point of seeming to nod at Enslaved‘s “Fusion of Sense and Earth” with the central riff of In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross‘ title-track.
Wherever they might be headed at any given moment on their quarter-century-later debut, though, the material is drawn together by a sense of grand mystery and gracefulness, so that the synth-underscored verses of “Prayers for a King” or the final, solo-topped apex of “Pagans Dance” and quiet epilogue that follows fit seamlessly with the rest of the album’s shifts, including those of “The Gates of Hell” preceding, the shortest and perhaps most metallic cut on In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. With it, the five-piece dip for four and a half minutes into near-power metal stylizations, blurring a usually distinct genre line effectively as they dig crisply into what winds up being a singularly infectious hook, peppered with guitar leads, chanting and more fist-pump-worthy riffing than your wrist can handle.
I’m pleased to be able to host the premiere of “The Gates of Hell” ahead of the album’s March 24 release. Please find it on the player below, followed by some more bio background on the band/record from Metal Blade, and enjoy:
SORCERER was formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1988 but disbanded after two demos in 1992. Both demos are considered true Doom Metal classics and have been released on CD in 1995. In 2010 the band came back together to play the Hammer of Doom festival in Germany and a year later the Up The Hammers festival in Athens, Greece. Both shows were received extremely well and the thoughts of putting together a new album started to take form. In the end it took over two years to write, arrange and record it but the result is nothing but pure, heavy epic doom metal. The process of putting all bits and pieces together and making it ready for mix and mastering was the work of drummer Robert Iversen, also a very fine recording engineer, who was acting as the spider in the recording web. The album was mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth, Devin Townsend).
With years of professional experience and top-class instrumental abilities among its band members the SORCERER of the 21st century is determined to deliver epic doom metal for many years to come; on record and on stages all around the world!
Track Listing: 1. The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer 2. Sumerian Script 3. Lake of the Lost Souls 4. Excorcise the Demon 5. In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross 6. Prayers for a King 7. The Gates of Hell 8. Pagans Dance
SORCERER is: Anders Engberg – vocals Kristian Niemann – guitars Peter Hallgren – guitars Johnny Hagel – bass Robert Iversen – drums
I don’t think there’s any measure by which Candlemass‘ 1987 sophomore outing, Nightfall, doesn’t rate as a doom classic. On a sheer album level, in terms of what I grab off the shelf when I want to listen to the band, I’ll admit to a preference for the Stockholm unit’s 1986 debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, with Johan Längquist singing,but Nightfall is an LP of undeniable force, and it was their first to be fronted by Messiah Marcolin, beginning what some would argue is the most pivotal era in their tenure. It’s fair to argue that Epicus had its epic side, but Marcolin‘s voice brought a new theatrical element to bassist Leif Edling‘s songwriting, and while it would continue to develop over the band’s next two albums, 1988’s Ancient Dreams and 1989’s Tales of Creation — as with a lot of classic metallers, the ’90s were not especially kind to Candlemass — one can already hear the grandiosity taking hold in the band’s approach on songs like “The Well of Souls,” “Samarithan,” and “At the Gallow’s End.” Peppered with instrumentals and interludes, Nightfall wanted nothing for atmosphere, and in a time when doom and metal could hardly have been considered as separate entities, it opted for a more poised, classical character.
That’s not to say it didn’t also spawn the cult-classic video for “Bewitched,” just that musically and vocally it was shooting for something more sophisticated than either thrash or the by-then-waning NWOBHM. Or at least that’s how it sounds 28 years later. Marcolin left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Thomas Vikström and then Björn Flodkvist. After a dissolution following 1999’s From the 13th Sun, Candlemass reformed in 2005 with Marcolin once more up front with Edling, guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson, and drummer Jan Lindh, but by the time 2007’s King of the Grey Islands surfaced, it was Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus in the vocalist role; a position he’d hold through 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here) and 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), also earning the distinction of being the singer for Candlemass‘ first-ever US tour. Though they’ve threatened retirement several times, Candlemass are still active, with former Therion vocalist Mats Levén as their frontman and Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, also Kamchatka) on keys. The last few years have seen numerous compilations and live album released, including the Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 LP (review here) that reunited them with Johan Längquist for the first time since he sang on the debut.
Hope you enjoy it.
Lot of posts this week. Like a lot. The least any day had was five, two days had six (that includes today) and yesterday I think there were seven. Madness. I got a note yesterday from someone on Thee Facebooks who said The Obelisk was one of his “favorite news sites,” which was interesting to me because that’s not really how I think about what I do. I guess the news posts are cool and it’s nice when people share the links and all that and I try to keep up as best I can — I’m already behind for Monday, so you can see how well that goes — but the reviews take so much more time and thought. Can’t fight City Hall, though. News it is. A fascinating glimpse at an identity for a project that’s been in flux more than six years now. One day I’ll settle into something.
Tonight I’m going to see Elder, Mos Generator and Magic Circle in Providence, so expect a review of that on Monday. Next week is The Patient Mrs.‘ Spring Break, and we’ll be traveling — to Maryland; woo. — so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get posted on any given day. One imagines less than seven posts. Fucking madman. But anyway, Monday will bring a full-album stream from Black Rainbows and I’ve got a special Wino Wednesday premiere booked for a Wino & Conny Ochs track from their forthcoming Freedom Conspiracy release, so keep an eye out for those. Other stuff is in the works too. Very hush-hush. Hopefully by the end of the week the new Acid King and Blackout records will have been reviewed.
Spring Break, woo!
At least baseball’s back on.
Hope you have a great and safe weekend and that you dig the Candlemass. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Radio on February 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know it’s not the usual custom to do Radio adds on Mondays, but what the hell, it’s not exactly like there are rules one way or another, and my desktop has hit eight rows deep of folders with albums in them, so whatever day it might be, it’s time to clear out as much of it as possible. A full 22 records join The Obelisk Radio playlist today. Some of it is very strange, some of it pretty straightforward, but one way or another, I think it all makes the stream better and more diverse, and that’s what it’s all about. For the full list of everything added, check out the Playlist and Updates page.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 16, 2015:
Primitive Man, Home is Where the Hatred Is
After their destructive 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), Primitive Man‘s reputation for brutality precedes them. The Denver trio’s new EP, Home is Where the Hatred Is, is only likely to further that reputation, its four tracks alternating between grueling, unrepentantly slow-lumbering, ungodly-toned extremity and fits of grinding megaviolence. The release is arranged longest to shortest so that opener “Loathe” (11:03) is sure to weed out the weaker constitutions en route to the ensuing crushers “Downfall” (8:43) and “Bag Man” (7:09). The closer, “A Marriage with Nothingness” (4:17) is a collage of noise and fedback threat topped with a sample of a woman either in ecstasy or agony — in context it’s kind of hard to tell — but the message is plain either way. One might think of that cut as an answer to Primitive Man‘s 2013 P//M Noise Tape, which also explored droning forms between covers of Portishead, Black Sabbath and Crowbar. Perhaps most foreboding of all is how smoothly Primitive Man shift between the facets of their increasingly diverse sound, since it speaks to a progression in progress in terms of bringing the various elements together. A beast is one thing, but a thinking beast seems all the more ominous. They may be in the process of outgrowing their name, but a savage force remains at the heart of their bludgeoning. Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
Sandrider and Kinski, Sandrider + Kinski Split
With geography in common in their Seattle base of operation, Sandrider and Kinski present their Sandrider + Kinski split on Good to Die Records with three new songs from the former, including a cover of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Mountain Song,” and two from the latter, working in instrumental, textured heavy psychedelic forms that complement Sandrider‘s bombastic approach as heard on their two full-lengths to date, 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here). Both “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” (8:42) and “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo” (5:17) flesh out open spaces, rich in tone and flowing movement, with the closer more of a riffy, space-rock feel while “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” is more exploratory, fading out at its end is the jam sort of deconstructs below lead guitar. As for Sandrider‘s “Rain” (4:47) and “Glaive” (4:40), for anyone who’s heard the rolling punk heaviness of their albums, it should be enough to say they sound like Sandrider — upbeat and catchy and furious and kinetic — and while I’m not sure anyone ever needed to hear a Jane’s Addiction song ever again (ever.), they take what was probably the band’s best riff and re-suit it to their own purposes, which if you’re going to do it at least is the right way to go about it. Sandrider on Thee Facebooks, Kinski on Thee Facebooks, Good to Die Records.
Ultimately, Hiram-Maxim‘s self-titled Aqualamb debut reads more like an experiment in the deconstruction of sound than an album in the traditional sense, and perhaps I use the word “reads” because it’s a book. As has become Aqualamb‘s modus, the four-track release comes as a 100-page artbook and a download that contains its nonetheless-vinyl-ready darkened forms, whether it’s the brooding “One” (11:47) with backing drones and open guitars or the preceding “Can’t Stop” (11:55) with its rising current of abrasive, almost grating noise that gradually consumes whatever song was there to start with. It is a dark atmosphere, and the opener, “Visceral” (7:14), is well titled, but the pervading vibe is more exploratory than theatrical; like the listener, the Cleveland four-piece are feeling their way through these deep reaches, and when they come around to the apex of closer “Worship” (6:25), the resolution they seem to find is frantic and desolate in turn. In another universe, one might call it punk rock. Here, it is gleefully and thoroughly fucked. Hiram-Maxim on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb.
Obrero, The Infinite Corridors of Time
The Infinite Corridors of Time, the second long-player from Stockholm old-schoolers Obrero should — contrary to their logo — appeal to fans of Hour of 13 and Argus and others who’ve made preservation of classic metal their mission, skirting the fine line between doomly Sabbath worship and proto-NWOBHM stylized forwardness of purpose. The double-guitar five-piece show some penchant for ’70s heavy rock on cuts like “Oneironaut” (6:20) and “The Axial Age” (5:40) but by and large their purposes are more metallic, meshing AC/DC and Judas Priest impulses into the keyboard-laden “Manchester Morgue” (5:01) or “Phobos and Deimos” (5:42), which stands out for its hook and successful blend alike. At eight tracks/52 minutes, The Infinite Corridors of Time is no minor undertaking — there is no song under five minutes long — but their use of keys allows Obrero to work in various moods, and for those seeking purity in their metal, the Swedish outfit offer glimpses without being wholly derivative of what’s come before. Obrero on Thee Facebooks, To the Death Records.
Elbrus, Far Away and into Space Pt. 2
If you feel like you missed out on Far Away and into Space Pt. 1, don’t worry about it. Melbourne, Australia, four-piece Elbrus are actually starting out with Pt. 2, and it’s their debut single, an 11-minute psychedelic push of heavy blues rock, stoner rollout and organ-blessed jamming. I’m not sure it’s safe yet to call what’s happening in Melbourne right now a “heavy blues revival” as acts like Elbrus and Child delve into such sonic territory — if only because with bands like Horsehunter and Hotel Wrecking City Traders out there, the city’s take on heavy isn’t so easily categorized — but one rarely recognizes such things until beaten over the head by them. Either way, “Far Away and into Space Pt. 2″ gracefully looses a molten flow over its 11:06 stretch, vocalist/organist Ollie Bradley-Smith unafraid to cut through the natural-sounding, weighted tones of guitarist Ringo Camilleri and bassist Mafi Watson while Tom Todorovic‘s drums smooth the way between volume and tempo changes and add cymbal-crash swing to both. It’s a smooth-grooved nod, and aside from making me curious to hear the first installment of “Far Away and into Space,” it makes me wonder what Elbrus might next encounter as that journey unfolds. Elbrus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
One more time, this is not even a quarter of what’s been added today. There’s also stuff from Black Rainbows, Felipe Arcazas, Headless Kross, Warhorse, Twingiant and others, so please make sure you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page to see the full list.
Of all the albums I didn’t get to hear last year, I think Siena Root hurt the most. There were enough that I could have made a list — one only has so many ears and so much time — but I loved 2009’s Different Realities (discussed here) and did a track stream for the subsequent Root Jam in 2011, and when it came to the release of Pioneers in Nov. 2014 (Cleopatra Records in the US, Gaphals in Europe), I didn’t even know of its existence until after the album was released, and even then it was in some random Facebook post. What a bummer.
“Root Rock Pioneers” is the third video from that record, and in watching and listening, I think you can see why I might be down about missing the boat on the album, what with Siena Root‘s ultra-loose, natural vibe, taking the best parts of heavy rock and ’70s prog and putting them together in a way that both moves easily and demands audience attention. If they’ve created a genre for themselves — one assumes it’s “root rock” instead of “roots rock,” which already exists — they make a good case with the track for their distinction, their organic engagement departs some of the raga-inspired pastoralism of Different Realities in favor of a more rock-band-playing-rock approach that’s well suited to both the stage footage and the psychedelic visuals of the video for “Root Rock Pioneers,” which, true to form, gets a lot done in a little over four minutes.
Siena Root are on tour in Europe this March, and of course Pioneers is available now. It was Gaphals who sent along word of the clip and the tour (credit where it’s due), and you’ll find the PR wire pertinents after the video below. Please enjoy:
Siena Root, “Root Rock Pioneers” official video
Siena Root Root Rock Pioneers video out now!
The third video from Siena Root´s – Pioneers album is a psychadelic journey through Root Rock Land and it captures the bands intense live shows. The band will hit mainland Europe in March 2015 in support of their newly released and highly acclaimed “Pioneers” album.
Produced by Siena Root & Sascha Steinbach Visuals by Maria Puentes Campos Live footage by Macabre Pariah Productions Editing by Sascha Steinbach Words & music by Siena Root
“Pioneers” European Tour 2015 04.03.2015 – DE Rostock, Mau Club 05.03.2015 – DE Hannover, Mephisto 06.03.2015 – DE Jena, Kulturbahnhof 07.03.2015 – DE Berlin, Bassy Cowboy Club 08.03.2015 – DE Dresden, Beatpol 09.03.2015 – AT Wien, Arena 11.03.2015 – IT Padova, Circolo Mame 12.03.2015 – IT Milano, Lo-Fi 13.03.2015 – DE Esslingen, Hell Over Esslingen 14.03.2015 – DE Frankfurt/M., Das Bett 17.03.2015 – ES Donosti, Dabadaba 18.03.2015 – ES Zaragoza, La Ley Seca 19.03.2015 – ES Gijon, Sala Acapulco 21.03.2015 – ES Burgos, Estudio 27 22.03.2015 – ES Barcelona, Rocksound 23.03.2015 – FR Chambery, Brin De Zinc 24.03.2015 – CH Zürich, Kinski 25.03.2015 – DE Fürth, Kofferfabrik 26.03.2015 – DE Köln, Yard Club 27.03.2015 – BE Leuven, Sojo 28.03.2015 – DE Osnabrück, Westwerk
Other livedates: 05.06.2015 – DE Netphen, Freak Valley Festival 06.06.2015 – DE Dornstadt, Wudzog Open Air 02.08.2015 – DE Breitenbach, Burg Herzberg Festival
Siena Root is one of the most original bands in the European rock scene. The Swedish band is now releasing their fifth studio album, “Pioneers”. With over 25.000 albums sold and over four hundred packed shows performed, Siena Root is once again back from the studio with eight new tracks of pure root rock. The album is released 3th of November the Nordic Countrys, Belgium and Holland, Italy, Polen, Czech Rep, Ukraine and 7th of November in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
The record ”Pioneers” is characterized by a tasteful combination of genuine songwriting and captivating improvisations, enjoyable for anyone who wants music to be “well done”. In the spirit of keeping it real, all eight tracks are a hundred percent analog-produced, using all-vintage instruments and equipment. The music itself will remind listeners of the great rock era, yet putting a new perspective on the retrospect. Regardless if you like classic rock hits, trippy psychedelia or swinging blues, ”Pioneers” by Siena Root will be one of your favorite records!
Siena Root is well known for their variety of appearances, with many great guest artists, broad musical range and different interpretations of rock music. The various shapes of Siena Root over time can be heard on the previous albums, which each has its own unique line up.
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.
So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?
Okay maybe not.
Thanks for reading.
The Re-Stoned, Totems
Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.
For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.
Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.
Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.
Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.
Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.
One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.
Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.
Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.
Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.
Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Happy to report that I survived the first day of this project. Spirits are good and I look at the stack of discs (plus one book; we’ll get there) in front of me and feel relatively confident that by the time I’m through it, my cerebral cortex will still manage to function in the limited way it usually does. If yesterday’s installment is anything to go by, however, I’ll be well out of adjectives by then. What’s another word for “heavy?”
There’s only one way to find out. These will be reviews 11-20 of the total 50. I don’t know if they say the first 10 are the hardest or the last, but I’ll be in the thick of it when this is posted and while I’m sure I probably could turn back and catch minimal if any flack for it — one “Hey wha happen?” on Thee Facebooks seems likely penance — better to just keep going. Another stack awaits tomorrow, after all.
Thanks in advance to anyone reading:
Nate Hall, Electric Vacuum Roar
Electric Vacuum Roar is one of two Nate Hall physical releases from this fall. The U.S. Christmas frontman and solo performer also has a few digital odds and ends and Fear of Falling, on which he partners with a rhythm section. Released by Heart and Crossbone Records and Domestic Genocide, Electric Vacuum Roar is closer to a solo affair. Hall is joined by Caustic Resin’s Brett Netson on guitar/bass on two extended tracks: “Dance of the Prophet” (16:46) and “Long Howling Decline/People Fall Down” (11:57). The second part of the latter is a reinterpretation of a Caustic Resin song, though here it is droned out and put through a portal of drumless and inward-looking psychedelia, turned into the finale of a communicative and intimate affair. Amp noise and effects swirl around “Dance of the Prophet,” and it’s easy to get lost in it, but Hall maintains a steady presence of obscure vocals and the result is what tribal might be if tribes were comprised of one person.
I’ve never tried to break up a one-man band, but I can’t imagine Scott Conner – who helped pave the way for US black metal under the moniker Malefic in Xasthur – has had an easy time of it since he put that band to bed in 2010. Nocturnal Poisoning, whose Doomgass arrives via The End Records, is an entirely different beast. Centered around layers folkish acoustic guitar, cleanly produced backed by occasional bass and tambourine, Doomgrass is still depressive at its core – Robert N. contributes guest vocals, almost gothic in style, to songs like “Starstruck by Garbage” and “Illusion of Worth” – but if the name is a portmanteau of doom and bluegrass, it fits the style. If anything ties Nocturnal Poisoning to Xasthur aside from Conner’s involvement, it’s a focus on atmosphere, but the two ultimately have little in common otherwise, and Nocturnal Poisoning’s exploratory feel is refreshingly individualized and leaves one wondering if Conner will be able to resist the full-band-sound impulse going forward.
Though they’re decidedly post-metal in their influences – Neurosis, YOB, obviously Ufomammut for whose record they are named – Sweden’s Snailking keep to heavy rock tones on their Consouling Sounds debut full-length, Storm, and that greatly bolsters the album’s personality. Even as they lumber, the riffs of 11-minute opener “To Wander” are fuzzed-out, and that remains true throughout the five mostly-extended cuts the trio of drummer Olle Svahn, bassist Frans Levin and guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson present on their first record, which follows the 2012 demo, Samsara (review here). Centerpiece “Slithering” is the shortest and most churning of the bunch at 6:32, but the particularly YOBian “Requiem” underscores another value greatly working in Storm’s favor – the patience with which Snailking present the ambience of their pieces. That will serve them well as they continue to distinguish themselves from their forebears, but for now, Storm makes a welcome opening salvo from the three-piece highlighting both their potential and how far they’ve come already since the release of their demo.
The self-titled debut from thoroughly-bearded Brooklynite four-piece Godmaker arrives via Aqualamb as an art-book and download, a full 96 pages of designs, lyrics to the four included tracks of the vinyl-ready 32-minute long-player, live shots from a variety of sources, bizarre geometry and odd etchings feeding the atmosphere of the songs themselves, somewhere between sludge, thrash and aggressive noise with scream-topped moments of doom like “Shallow Points.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross and Chris Strait, bassist Andrew Archey and drummer Jon Lane, Godmaker fluidly shifts between the various styles at work in their sound, whether it’s the explosion at the end of “Shallow Points” or that beginning the rush of opener “Megalith,” and while their self-titled is a dense listen, with the surprising post-hardcore take of “Desk Murder” and the check-out-this-badass-riff-now-we’re-going-to-smash-your-face-with-it 11-minute metallic closer “Faded Glory,” it efficiently satisfies. More so after a couple listens front to back. If Godmaker were breaking your bones, it would be a clean break, and yes, that’s a compliment to their attack.
Supersound is the first full-length from Italian heavy psych rockers Void Generator since 2010’s Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (review here), and where that album held three extended pieces, the latest and third overall breaks into smaller pieces. Some of those are extended – opener “Behind My Door” is 8:09 and “Master of the Skies” tops nine minutes – but the bulk of Supersound’s seven tracks is shorter works somewhere between desert rock and classic psych, guitarist Gianmarco Iantaffi leading the four-piece with a more subdued vocal approach than last time out, compressed even in the rowdier verses of “What are You Doin’” (written by Sandro Chiesa), on which the keys of Enrico Cosimi feature heavily and add to the sound too crisp to be totally retro but still vehemently organic. Bassist Sonia Caporossi (also acoustic guitar on penultimate interlude “Universal Winter”) and drummer Marco Cenci hold together the fluid grooves as Void Generator follows these varied impulses, and Supersound proves cohesive and no less broadly scoped than its predecessor.
There’s a version of The Mound Builders’ 17-minute Wabash War Machine EP from Failure Records and Tapes that includes a comic book, but even the regular sleeve CD edition gives a glimpse at the Lafayette, Indiana, five-piece’s heavy Southern metal push. The middle two of the four inclusions, “Sport of Crows” and “Bar Room Queen,” surfaced earlier this year on a split tape with Bo Jackson 5 (review here), but opener “Wabash War Machine” and the sludged-up closer “The Mound” on which the guitars of Brian Boszor and “Ninja” Nate Malher phase between channels and vocalist Jim Voelz delivers his harshest performance to date, are brand new, albeit recorded at the same sessions in July 2013. “Wabash War Machine” highlights the band’s blend of southern metal and heavy groove, guitar intricacy and a gang-shout chorus meeting thick rollout from bassist Robert Ryan Strawsma and drummer Jason “Dinger” Brookhart, but it’s the finale that’s the EP’s most lasting impression, as pummeling as The Mound Builders have gotten to date.
In Olof’s buzzsaw guitar tone, the thud of Karl’s drums and Gidon’s abiding vocal menace, “Strike of the Emperor” gives notice of some Celtic Frost influence, but that’s hardly the whole tale when it comes Stockholm trio Mother Kasabian’s self-titled, self-released debut EP, as “The Black Satanic Witch of Saturn” immediately calls to mind The Doors in its minimal, spacious verse and offsets this with a soulful classic heavy rock chorus en route to the seven-minute “Close of Kaddish,” which works in a similar pattern – hitting notes of Trouble-style doom in its crescendos – and offers Mother Kasabian’s widest ranging moment ahead of the swaggering closer “The Return of the Mighty King and His Cosmic Elephants.” Swinging drums and variety in Gidon’s The Crazy World of Arthur Brown-style approach give the EP a distinguished feel despite raw production and it being Mother Kasabian’s first outing, and with the psych touches in the finale and a generally unhinged vibe throughout, the trio showcase considerable potential at work.
Active since 2011 and with two prior full-lengths – 2012’s I (review here) and 2013’s II (review here) – under their belt, Oulu, Finland, heavy psych trio Deep Space Destructors offer their definitive stylistic statement in the wash of III, a five-song/45-minute cosmic excursion with progressive krautrock edge (see “Spaceship Earth”) driven into heavier territory through dense fuzz in guitarist Petri Lassila’s tone and the chemistry between he, vocalist/bassist Jani Pitkänen and drummer Markus Pitkänen. Their extended but plotted jammy course finds culmination in the 15-minute penultimate cut “An Ode to Indifferent Universe,” – King Crimson and Floyd laced together by synth sounds – but the space-rock thrust of closer “Ikuinen Alku” highlights the multifaceted approach Deep Space Destructors have developed since their inception, consistently psychedelic but expansive. The sides gel effectively on “Cosmic Burial,” lending modern crash and tonal heft to classic ideals to craft something new from them in admirable form. As far out as they’ve gone, Deep Space Destructors still seem to be exploring new ground.
Released as a cooperative production between Garage Records and Go Down Records, Italian trio Underdogs’ second, self-titled LP pushes further along the straight-lined course of heavy rock their 2007 debut, Ready to Burn, and 2011’s Revolution Love (review here) charted. Songs like “Nothing but the Best” strip away the Queens of the Stone Age-style fuzz of past outings in favor of a cleaner tone and overall feel, and while that spirit shows up later on side B’s “Called Play” and the rumbling grunge of “My Favourite Game” (a cover of The Cardigans), the prevailing vibe speaks to European commercial viability with clear hooks and straightforward structures. Acoustic finale “The Closing Song” offers a last-minute shift in style, calling to mind Underdogs’ Dogs without Plugs digital release, but even in more barebones form, the songwriting remains the focus on this mature third offering from a three-piece who’ve clearly figured out the direction in which they want to head and have set about developing an audience-friendly sound.
Since they issued their self-titled debut (review here) in 2012, Virginia’s Human Services have brought aboard Steve Kerchner of Lord, and he brings as much a sense of chaos to Animal Fires as one might expect in teaming with Jeff Liscombe, Sean Sanford, Don Piffalo and Billy Kurilko, though the 59-minute full-length isn’t without its structure. Longer songs pair with concise noise experiments throughout the first 10 of the total 13 tracks, and each is different, so that even as the gap between songs is bridged, the stylistic basis for Animal Fires is branched out. The result is that by the time “Onyedinci Yil Sürüsü” closes out the album proper before the 17-minute live inclusion “No Structures in the Eye of the Jungle” hits, Human Services have reimagined the modus of Godflesh as an extremity of organic noisemaking, Southern heavy and eerie progressivism. Shades of Neurosis show up in centerpiece “Rats of a Feather,” but they too are twisted to suit the band’s creative purposes, threatening and engagingly bleak.