Witch Mountain Announce Headlining Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

You know what the thing about the new Witch Mountain record is? They pulled it off. They did. Somewhere along the way, maybe you doubted they’d do it, but they did it. Some bands switch singers and you hardly notice. Witch Mountain had the task before them of replacing one of the most unmistakable voices in metal — period — and they not only found someone who could carry the old material, but who could put her own stamp on the new. They absolutely, one hundred percent, pulled it off. If you don’t think so, you’re pretty much in denial.

And there. That’s basically the spoiler for my review, which I’ll hope to have up sometime before their self-titled releases on May 25 but which, at the rate I’m going, probably won’t actually be up until July. Because it’s like that over here these days.

Headlining tour announced. Shows presented of course by Nanotear. Info, naturally off the PR wire:

witch mountain tour

WITCH MOUNTAIN ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICAN SUMMER TOUR; FIRST HEADLINING RUN SINCE 2012

WITCH MOUNTAIN ARRIVES MAY 25 VIA SVART

Witch Mountain, who recently announced the May 25 release of their self-titled album via Svart, have confirmed a month-long tour of North America, kicking off on July 11 in Sacramento.

“Since Justin and Kayla joined, we’ve had the amazing fortune to tour with YOB, Danzig, and Saint Vitus… Time flies, and we realized that Witch Mountain hasn’t headlined North America since 2012. Can’t wait to be back out on the road for a summertime adventure, seeing our fans, and sharing our new music with them,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. Bass player Justin Brown and singer Kayla Dixon joined Carson and guitar player Rob Wrong following the release of the critically acclaimed album, Mobile of Angels.

Witch Mountain pre-orders will be announced soon. Listen to “Burn You Down,” from the forthcoming album, here: https://witchmountain.bandcamp.com/album/burn-you-down.

Witch Mountain tour dates:
May 31 Seattle, WA North West Terror Fest
June 23 Portland, OR Star Theater #
July 11 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
July 12 San Francisco, CA Bottom of the Hill
July 13 San Diego, CA Til Two
July 14 Los Angles, CA Lexington
July 15 Phoenix, AZ Club Red
July 16 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad
July 18 Austin, TX Lost Well
July 19 Denton, TX Dan’s Silverleaf
July 20 Memphis, TN HiTone
July 21 Knoxville, TN Pilot Light
July 22 Atlanta, GA The Earl
July 23 Asheville, NC Mothlight
July 25 Chapel Hill, NC Cat’s Cradle
July 26 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
July 27 Baltimore, MD Metro
July 28 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
July 29 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus
July 31 Boston, MA Great Scott
August 1 Portland, ME Geno’s
August 2 Montreal, QC Vitrola
August 3 Ottawa, ON House of Targ
August 4 Toronto, ON Garrison
August 5 Buffalo, NY Mohawk
August 7 Lexington, KY Cosmic Charlie’s
August 8 Chicago, IL Reggie’s
August 9 Omaha, NE Lookout Lounge
August 10 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
August 11 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge

# – Will Haven, Atriarch and Worm Ouroboros open (Record release show)

www.facebook.com/witchmountain
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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Downfall of Gaia, High Fighter & Hexer on Tour Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

You know what it means when I put a post up that says “on tour now” in the headline? It means I’m probably behind on shit. Such is most definitely the case when it comes to the fact that High Fighter, who’ve been around Europe a few times now supporting their 2016 debut LP, Scars and Crosses (review here), which was released by Svart Records, are out with Downfall of Gaia and Hexer on a run that’s already done two nights in Germany and is in Switzerland this evening, which, frankly, sounds lovely. In any case, to answer something personal you’ve never wondered about me: yes, I am exactly the type of guy to take it to heart and cry a bit when I don’t get an email, but this one came through the second time around, so it was a quick emotional turnaround. Quite a rollercoaster.

The PR wire has it all like this:

downfall of gaia high fighter hexer tour

DOWNFALL OF GAIA TO KICK OFF EUROPEAN TOUR WITH HIGH FIGHTER & HEXER THIS WEEK!

Only a few days left until Post-Black & Sludge Doom Metal outfit DOWNFALL OF GAIA will kick off the second leg of their ‘Atrophy’ European tour this week. Again the band has teamed up with friends and special guests HIGH FIGHTER, which they already toured with back in March 2017. Support will be coming from atmospheric Doom & Black Metal stonerheads HEXER!

With their dark wall of sounds, DOWNFALL OF GAIA are moving forward relentlessly, enveloping the listener, absorbing one’s spirit to take one into the realm of the band’s potent sound. Founded in 2008, and although the group’s roots lie within the DIY / Crust scene, they have become more closely associated with a sound that rather corresponds to the impact of an avalanche made from black earth, rock, and dirty sludge, while their lyrics poetically describe the dark side of living.

The band never intended to stagnate, and naturally their sound underwent significant changes: Nowadays DOWNFALL OF GAIA drifted away from fast crust punk, which influenced their early work, towards longer and more intense material that became the more massive with black metal, doom and sludge elements. DOWNFALL OF GAIA hit the studio in June 2016 and released their recent and critically acclaimed record ‘Atrophy’ via Metal Blade Records in November 2016, followed by numerous shows and tours all over Europe to support the album live. Teaming up with very special guests HIGH FIGHTER and HEXER will round of DOWNFALL OF GAIA’s ‘Atrophy Tour’ perfectly:

„Today we are glad to announce the second leg of our European Tour for April and we are very happy to announce that for this time we will have our very good friends in High Fighter and Hexer as special guests with us!“ DOWNFALL OF GAIA comments. „The straight forward sound from High Fighter and the atmospheric walls of sound from Hexer will make this one a diverse and interesting package. We’re really glad to have them on board and hope to see you in April! Looking forward to this one!“

With HIGH FIGHTER on the bill, DOWNFALL OF GAIA will not just meet old and close friends, but also a band that already left its stamp in the current Stoner, Doom & Sludge Metal scene. Formed in 2014 as a total new project by former band members of A Million Miles, Buffalo Hump and Pyogenesis, this band is a volatile cocktail of heavy as hell riffs fuelled by beer and the mighty weedian riffs. Add a heavy dose of the blues and these deadly schizophrenic vocals and HIGH FIGHTER offer something new to the Sludge, Stoner, Doom & Metal Scene.

After their critically acclaimed debut EP ‘The Goat Ritual’ released end of 2014, followed by numerous shows all over Europe and the UK, including festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Desertfest Berlin & Antwerp, Stoned from the Underground, Summer Breeze & many more, as well as having shared the stages with bands like Ahab, Mammoth Storm, Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity, Conan, Downfall of Gaia, Greenleaf, The Midnight Ghost Train, Brant Bjork or Earth Ship, HIGH FIGHTER released their first full length album ‘Scars & Crosses’ in the summer of 2016 with Svart Records.

HEXER is a four-piece outfit from Germany, combining doom, black and stoner with oriental tunes, repetetive riffs, drone and atmospheric soundscapes. Weird tuned strings and heavy low end, create a meditative yet ominous atmosphere. After recording a live EP in late 2015, HEXER played shows all over Germany and released their full length debut ‘Cosmic Doom Ritual’ in April 2017 on Berlin-based label Vendetta Records. Their live performances are loud and dark rituals, covering the audience in sub-bass,incense and black light, the artists fully painted in shamanic body paint.

06.04.18 CH – Winterthur / Gaswerk *Downfall of Gaia ONLY
06.04.18 DE – Darmstadt / Knabenschule **High Fighter + Hexer ONLY
07.04.18 CH – Luzern / Treibhaus
09.04.18 IT – Milano / Circolo Svolta
10.04.18 AT – Graz / Explosiv
11.04.18 AT – Salzburg / Rockhouse
12.04.18 CZ – Prague / 007 Strahov
13.04.18 CZ – Brno / Kabinet Múz
14.04.18 DE – Leipzig / UT Connewitz

www.downfallofgaia.com
www.facebook.com/DownfallofGaia
www.highfighter.de
www.facebook.com/highfighter
www.hexerdoom.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/hexerdoom

High Fighter, Scars and Crosses (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Eagle Twin, Wight, Sundrifter, Holy Mushroom, Iron and Stone, Black Capricorn, Owl Maker, Troll, Malditos, The Freak Folk of Mangrovia

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

I’m pretty sure this Quarterly Review — life eater that it is — is going to wind up being six days long. That means next Monday look for sixth installment, another batch of 10 records, which were not hard to come by among everything that’s come in lately for review. I do my best to keep up, often to little avail — some random act’s Bandcamp page starts trending and all of a sudden they’re the best band ever, which hey, they’re probably not and that’s okay too. Anyhowzer, I’m trying is the point. Hopefully another 10 records added into this Quarterly Review underscores that notion.

More coffee. More albums. Let’s rock.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn)

eagle twin the thundering heard songs of hoof and horn

Consuming tones, throat-sung blues, a wash of lumbering doom – yes, it’s quite a first three minutes on Eagle Twin’s The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn). Released by Southern Lord, it’s the Salt Lake City duo’s first outing since 2012’s The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (discussed here), which arrived three years after their 2009 debut, The Unkindness of Crows (review here). Once again, the four-song outing finds guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith exploring the natural order and the natural world the 11-minute “Quanah un Rama” and the 14-minute “Antlers of Lightning” bookend “Elk Wolfv Hymn” (8:22) and album highlight “Heavy Hood” (7:21), creating an ever-more immersive and grit-laden flow across the album’s span. It’s hard to know if Densley and Smith are the hunters or the hunted here, but the tones are massive enough to make YOB blush, the rhythms are hypnotic and the use they’re both put to is still unlike anything else out there, ending after the chaos and assault of low end on “Antlers of Lightning” with a moment of contemplative guitar lead, as if to remind us of our solitary place in imagining ourselves at the top of the food chain.

Eagle Twin on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion

wight fusion rock invasion

One wonders what it might’ve been like to see Wight on the 2015 tour on which the Bilocation Records-issued vinyl-only Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe was captured. Still a year out from releasing their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), the former trio had already become a four-piece with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek bringing in percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening and already undertaken the funkier aesthetic turn that LP would represent coming off of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). At least I’d think it would be something of a surprise as the band hit into “Helicopter Mama” and “The Muse & the Mule” and “Kelele,” which comprise side A of Fusion Rock Invasion, but by all appearances listening to the crowd response between songs, they seem into it. Who could argue? Wight’s groove in those songs as well as the older “Master of Nuggets” and Love is Not Only What You Know finale “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” on side B, are infectious in their grooves and the soul put into them is genuine and unmistakable. One more reason I wouldn’t have minded being there, I suppose.

Wight on Thee Facebooks

Wight at Bilocation Records

 

Sundrifer, Visitations

sundrifter visitations

Name your bet someone picks up Sundrifter’s Visitations for a proper release. The Boston three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan impress in performance, aesthetic and craft across the nine songs and 48 minute of their for-now-self-released debut long-player, and whether it’s Queenan dipping into blastbeats on “Targeted” or Gaughran’s rumble on the Soundgarden-gone-doom “Fire in the Sky” or the fuzz that leads the charge on the Queens of the Stone Age-style “Hammerburn,” Peura doing a decent Josh Homme along the way, each member proves to add something to a whole greater than the sum of its parts and that is able to take familiar elements and use them to hone an individualized atmosphere. In the wake of melodically engaged Boston acts like Gozu, Sundrifter would seem to be a focused newcomer with a solidified mindset of who they are as a group. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised either if they kept growing their sound. Something about the psychedelic distance in “Fire in the Sky” and “I Want to Leave,” says there’s forward movement yet to be had.

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Moon

holy mushroom moon

Serenity and presence. There’s no shortage of either on the second Holy Mushroom full-length, Moon. Incorporating the prior-issued digital single “Éufrates,” the five-track/43-minute excursion is rife with natural-toned psychedelic resonance, marked out by organ/piano working alongside the guitar (see “Birdwax Blues”), as well as guest contributions of double bass and saxophone, and other sundry moments of depth-creating flourish. Their trance-effect is palpable, and Moon is an easy album to get lost in, especially as the Spanish three-piece make their way through 12:35 centerpiece “The Preacher,” moving from a dreamy opening line of guitar into funk-laden heft that only pushes forward with Hendrixian abandon through a massive jam before rounding out sweetly with vocals over background organ and sweetly-strummed guitar. “Éufrates” would seem to start the same way, but varies the structure in more of a back and forth format before closer “Grand Finale in the Blind Desert” brings both Holy Mushroom’s most patient execution and their most vibrant jam (sax included), essentially building from the one into the other to end the album in energetic fashion. To say it works for them would be underselling it.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Holy Mushroom on Bandcamp

 

Iron and Stone, Petrichor

iron and stone petrichor

A debut long-player of no-pretense, no-nonsense sludge-infused doom, Petrichor (on Backbite Records) shows German five-piece Iron and Stone as ready to follow where the riff will lead them. The late 2017 album is a solidly-delivered 10 tracks and 43 minutes that strikes mostly in monochrome intent, save perhaps for the acoustic “Interlude” near the midpoint. Their 2015 EP, Old Man’s Doom (review here), was similarly upfront in its purposes, but carrying across a full-length – especially a debut – is a different beast from a shorter outing. Their heavier push on “Monolith” is welcome and the break-then-chug of “Deserts” does plenty to satisfy, but Petrichor might require a couple concerted listens to really sink in on its audience, though as I’ve said time and again, if you can’t handle repetition, you can’t handle doom. Iron and Stone effectively balance traditional doom and rawer sludge groove, playing fluidly to whichever suits their purposes at a given moment.

Iron and Stone on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Black Capricorn, Omega

black capricorn omega

Sardinian doom cult Black Capricorn push well beyond the limits of the manageable with their 95-minute fourth album, Omega (released Nov. 2017 on Stone Stallion Rex), and that’s clearly the idea. The three-piece of bassist Virginia, drummer Rakela and guitarist/vocalist Kjxu offer grim ambience and tempos that sound slow regardless of their actual speed. That said, the 17-minute “Antartide” is an accomplishment as regards crawl. After a sweetly melancholic opening of guitar, it lurches and lumbers out its miserable heft until a return to that intro bookends. Even shorter tracks like “Flower of Revelation” or “Stars of Orion” hold firm to the tenet of plod, and though the results are obviously a lot to take in, the idea that it should be a slog seems all the more appropriate to Black Capricorn’s style. The band, which hits the decade mark in 2018, churn out one last bit of wretchedness in the nine-minute closing title-track before giving way to an acoustic finish, as if to remind that Omega’s sorrows are conveyed as much through atmosphere as actual sonic heft.

Black Capricorn on Thee Facebooks

Stone Stallion Rex website

 

Owl Maker, Paths of the Slain

owl maker paths of the slain

Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of malevolent doomers Vestal Claret, leads the new trio Owl Maker, and in the company of bassist Jessie May and drummer Chris Anderson, he embarks on a heavy rock push of six tracks with the debut EP, Paths of the Slain, still holding to some elements of metal, whether it’s the double-kick in opener “Ride with Aileen” or the backing vocals and guitar solo of the subsequent “99.” Songwriting is clearheaded across the EP’s 23 minutes, and in terms of first impressions, “Mashiara” shows a focus on melody that retains a metallic poise without losing its riff-driven edge. The balance shifts throughout “Freya’s Chariot” and the all-go “Witches,” the latter of which touches on black metal in its first half before turning on a dime to mid-paced heavy rock, and closer “Lady Stoneheart” nods in its back end to NWOBHM gallop, as Owl Maker seem to tip their audience to the fact that they’re just getting started on their exploration of the many interpretations of heavy.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Troll, Troll

troll troll

When one considers the multiple connotations of the word, Portland’s Troll are definitely going more for “lives under a bridge” than “meddling in elections” when it comes to their sound. Their self-titled debut EP, issued in 2017 before being picked up by respected purveyor Shadow Kingdom Records for a 2018 CD/tape release, is a highlight offering of classic-style doom worthy of Orodruin and Pilgrim comparisons and headlined by the vocal performance of John, who carries songs like opener “The Summoning” and the later, more swinging “Infinite Death” in a manner impressive in both frontman presence and melodic range. His work is only bolstered by the riffs of guitarist Lou and the consistent groove held together by bassist Wayne and drummer Ryan, whose drive in centerpiece “An Eternal Haunting” is neither overdone nor incongruous with the wall its tempo hits, and who meld shuffle and plod on closer “Savage Thunder” with naturalist ease. Potential abounds, and they reportedly already have new material in the works, so all the better.

Troll on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Malditos, II

malditos ii
Some bands, you just have to accept the fact that they’re on a different wavelength and that’s all there is to it. Magma. Master Musicians of Bukkake. Circle. Enter Oakland, California’s Malditos, whose sophomore outing, II: La Réve, arrives via Svart Records. From bizarre psychedelic chants to ritualized repetitions that seems to be daring you to play them backwards on your turntable, the spiritual freakout to songs like “Azadeh” and the penultimate “Momen” is palpable. Reach out and touch it and it will ripple like water in front of you. A sense of space is filled with elements alternatingly horrifying and engrossing, and after they make their way through “Le Passage” and centerpiece “Disparu” and wind up in the title-track to close out, the journey to the final wash of noise gives the distinct impression that for neither the listener nor the band is there any coming back. High order head trippery. Will simply be too much for some, will gloriously expand the minds of others.

Malditos on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records webstore

 

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach

the freak folk of mangrovia sonic meditations live at palach

I don’t know how much improvisation is a factor in the sound of The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, but the Croation collective bring an ultra-organic presence to their perhaps-debut release, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach. The group, which seems also to have gone under the names Marko Mushan & the Mangrovian Orchestra and The Free Folk of Mangrovia, was opening for Acid Mothers Temple that night, and Sonic Meditations mostly breaks down into parts – “Sonic Meditation I,” “II,” “III” and “IV” – before the band closes out with “’Mangrovian Summer,” all the while with The Freak Folk of Mangrovia making their way through progressive dreamscapes, dripping with effects and spacious enough to house an entire Mangrovian village, however big that might be. It is otherworldly and jazzy and moves with such fluidity that the entire “Sonic Meditation” becomes one overarching piece, complemented by the closing “Mangrovian Summer,” which ebbs and flows through louder, more active jamming before capping in a wash of noise.

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia on Thee Facebooks

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Malady, Toinen Toista

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

malady Toinen Toista

[Click play above to stream Malady’s Toinen Toista in its entirety. Album is out this month on Svart Records.]

As with many creative works of substance, be they novels, films, paintings or records, Malady‘s Toinen Toista, in its very beginning moments, takes the time to teach its audience how to engage with it. It would seem to be no coincidence whatsoever that the Helsinki-based classic progressive rockers, who made their self-titled debut (review here) via Svart Records in 2015 and issue the follow-up through the same label, open Toinen Toista with its title-track. At just under seven minutes long (the longest on side A), it allows the Finnish five-piece’s returning lineup of guitarist/vocalist Babak Issabeigloo, guitarist Tony Björkman, bassist Jonni Tanskanen, keyboardist/organist Ville Rohiola and drummer Juuso Jylhänlehto to flesh out the sweet-toned naturalism that made their first record such a joy, while broadening the parameters of sound.

The principal instruction is one of patience. Like much of what follows, “Toinen Toista” gives those who would take it on a chance to become acclimated to the sonic environment surrounding. It’s not until after four minutes in that the first vocals — in Finnish, if it wasn’t clear from the titles — kick in, and when they do,, Issabeigloo greets the fluidity of Mellotron, organ and guitar, the gentle wash of cymbals, with a likewise subdued verse. It comes and goes and a sense of drift remains despite the clearly directed progression and subtle instrumental build, lush and cascading from the speaker as it is. But the important thing to note is the lack of rush on Malady‘s part in getting to that verse. They’re perfectly content to let the instrumental aspects establish themselves first, and so they do.

A just about seamless transition brings on second cut “Laulu Sisaruksille,” which is only about a minute and a half long but in that time continues to expand the context of the album, bringing in strings alongside the keys in order to return the listener to the headspace where the band wants them to be. Toinen Toista is rife with sonic details that prove fodder for repeat listens, whether it’s the flute flourish early in subsequent centerpiece “Tiedon Kehtolaulu” or the funky bassline that underscores that track as a whole, or the acoustic strum that was there the whole time but does’t emerge and come to the fore until about the last minute of the 3:45 run.

malady

There’s very subtly a lot happening in the centerpiece, between the guitar and bass and keys and vocals, but the drums provide a solid and welcoming foundation for all manner of exploration, and the rest of the band seems only too happy to take advantage. The track swirls upward to a melodic wash through which cuts flute and the aforementioned acoustic guitar, and the early King Crimson vibe that will resurface in closer “Nurja Puoli” is given due foreshadow. Of course before we get there, “Etsijän Elinehto” offers a bookend to “Toinen Toista” at the outset, gracefully weaving through early verses on its way to a sweeping guitar-led crescendo to finish side A on a crash and long fade. And speaking of worldmaking (as we were earlier; keep up), no place is that more evident than on album closer “Nurja Puoli,” which seems over the course of its 23 minutes to implement the lessons Malady taught so much earlier on the opening title cut.

Before “Nurja Puoli” gets to its post-midpoint round of tense, insistent thuds — and even, I suppose, after — the song’s arrangement unfolds with a graceful linearity. Perhaps Malady have given up a bit of the pastoralism in their sound in favor of this wider range, but only a bit, and though the closer gets momentarily dire, what emerges from that stretch is a warm, welcoming and unpretentious stretch of versemaking that proves deceptively complex in the interweaving of guitar, bass and keys, but is nonetheless pushed forward by Jylhänlehto‘s drums until a temporary moment of stillness around the 18-minute mark. It doesn’t last, of course, and Malady shift into giving Toinen Toista the end-credits soundtrack it deserves, layers of vocals reciting final lines over a suitable melodic wash serving as a peak to the 20-plus-minute journey undertaken, and indeed to the album as a whole, which “Nurja Puoli” almost cannot help but summarize.

There is plenty about Malady‘s approach that will be familiar to those who’ve dug into classic-minded prog before, particularly of the Scandinavian variety, but as they move from the first album to this one, their drive toward an individualized approach to the established tenets of the sound is all the more apparent, and as they move forward, they only do more and more to make it their own. Toinen Toista, which according to a major internet company’s translation matrix equates to “one another” in English, is a crucial step in their hitting that mark, and while they’re well on their way in these tracks — especially “Nurja Puoli,” which is essentially a short album unto itself — the sense is that they’ll only continue to grow and flourish as they move forward, and so remain truly progressive on a creative level.

Malady on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records on Twitter

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Witch Mountain Self-Titled LP Due May 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Call me crazy if you want — you’d have ample evidence to back you up, to be sure — but I think Witch Mountain are going to surprise a lot of people with this record. Hell, I saw the band with Uta Plotkin. I heard the utter mournful brilliance and emotional claustrophobia that was so resonant in 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here). I know what they’re up against in getting new vocalist Kayla Dixon to take on that lead singer role. But you know, I’ve seen them with Dixon up front too. And I’ve listened to “Burn You Down,” which is the centerpiece of their new self-titled-as-a-statement self-titled LP — out May 25 on Svart Records — and if you’ve been saying to yourself there’s no way the band can pull it off without Plotkin, the arguments otherwise are quickly mounting.

Bottom line? Founding drummer Nathan Carson (also of Nanotear Booking) and founding guitarist Rob Wrong (now also of The Skull) aren’t dummies. By bringing in bassist Justin Brown (ex-Lamprey) and Dixon in 2015 and waiting until now to put a new album out, they’ve essentially given themselves the time to let Witch Mountain find its new shape, new personality as a group, and new confidence to move forward. Like I said, I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by just how well they’ve done all of those things with this record.

From the PR wire:

Witch Mountain Witch Mountain

WITCH MOUNTAIN RELEASE SELF-TITLED ALBUM ON MAY 25 VIA SVART RECORDS

NEW RELEASE IS THE FIRST TO FEATURE SINGER KAYLA DIXON

Witch Mountain return from their three-plus-year hiatus with a refreshed line-up (new singer Kayla Dixon and bass player Justin Brown join band stalwarts Rob Wong and Nate Carson) and a new album: Witch Mountain (May 25, Svart Records).

“We’ve always been a patient band,” said founding member/drummer Nathan Carson. “Thanks to all of the touring Rob and I have done with Justin and Kayla over the last three years, we were able to make this album as a full-fledged, road-tested, family unit. Over twenty years, Witch Mountain has never peaked; each record and tour are better than the last. It was a tiny scene when we started, and even though it’s incredibly saturated now, [our] own unique twist on Northwestern doom has continued to set us apart. I can’t wait to share the latest and greatest album with our fans.”

Witch Mountain tracklist:
Midnight
Mechanical World
Burn You Down
Hellfire
Nighthawk

Witch Mountain pre-orders and the band’s North American tour dates will be announced soon

www.facebook.com/witchmountain
http://witchmountain.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Witch Mountain, “Burn You Down”

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Review & Full Album Stream: Sammal, Suuliekki

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sammal suuliekki

[Click play above to stream Sammal’s Suuliekki in full. Album is out now on Svart Records.]

If you’re looking for something to tie together the nine different pieces that make up Sammal‘s Suuliekki, you might find the answer somewhere in the guitar tone, or in the vocals, or in the overarching krautrock-reborn sensibility of the Turku, Finland, five-piece’s third full-length. But on the other hand, if you’re looking for something to tie Suuliekki together, you’re kind of doing it wrong. That’s not to say the album, which is released by the venerable tastes of Svart Records, is incoherent. It’s just intended to come at you from different sides.

The classic-style boogie of “Pinnalle Kaltevalle” and “Vitutuksen Valtameri,” is supposed to sound odd leading into the folk-tinged-but-still-handclap-and-synth-laden prog of “Maailman Surullisiin Suomalainen,” and from the moment the “Intro” eases the way into the theatrical title-track — with jabbing piano notes and an eventual turn to a verse and a chorus that reminds of lounge-pop before a danceable section of definitively Suomi progressive rock takes hold akin to something one might expect from Death Hawks or the bizarro elephant in the room when it comes to all things masterful and strange in Finnish undergroundism: CircleSammal make clear their intentions toward variety and a full-album flow that relies not on the songs all sounding the same, but on the listener engaging with an open mind in order to fully appreciate what’s happening across the heady but manageable 43-minute span.

It’s not always easy to follow — I suspect my own ignorance of the beautiful Finnish language is in no small measure to blame for that — but that would only seem to add to the complexity underscoring Suuliekkias a whole. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be a conversation between creator and listener, subject and object.

Organ, keyboards and other synthly goings on make songs like “Ylistys ja Kumarrus” that much richer, as the lineup of Jura, Juhani, Janu, Tuomas and Lasse fleetly bounce their way from one path to another throughout the nine tracks, finding a foothold in a given part and sticking to it only long enough to use it to brace the jump to the next one — centerpiece “Pinnalle Kaltevalle” does this particularly well, and if you can’t get behind that intertwining of organ and guitar in the second half, you should probably just give up and go about the rest of your day. Percussive groove, inventive rhythms and melodies, and a strong sense of striving toward individualism are all welcome aspects of Suuliekki early on.

sammal

The title-cut and the subsequent “Lukitut Päivät, Kiitävät Yöt” have a drama behind them, the former in its chorus and the latter in its linear forward build of tempo from subdued brooder to layered howls of lead guitar (of course it ends quiet post-crescendo), and the aforementioned “Ylistys ja Kumarrus,” which at 3:24 is the shortest inclusion here apart from the “Intro” at the outset, seems to amass significant forward momentum even as it dances around an instrumental hook which, as noted, is driven by the keys as much as the guitar. That in itself is a tie to rock classicism — think Deep Purple‘s weirdo Finnish cousins, if for no other reason than it’s a fun image — but while Sammal put that spirit to work even more across the outing’s second half, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as being loyalists to anything other than their own individual songwriting impulses, which very much sound like the fruit of a multiple-parties-involved craft process. Not that one person couldn’t come up with the many twists and turns of the seven-minute “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen,” just that sonic personalities for entire groups are rarely so varied with a single creative force at their root. Suuliekki is dense enough as a listening experience front to back to justify the impression of coming from multiple minds.

That’s not, however, to say it’s completely inaccessible. It’s not. Even “Suuliekki” has a chorus and a rhythmic drive, and when Sammal get through the bass-and-percussion/key-and-guitar/is-that-a-saxophone? vibe of “Pinnalle Kaltevalle,” the subsequent “Vitutuksen Valtameri” signals more straightforward intentions in its fuzzy guitar tone and relative calm compared to much of what’s come before it. Of course, it picks up as it moves through the chorus, but the spirit of the piece is more latter-day Siena Root than Brainticket, and Sammal make the other no less their own than the one, continuing into the stretch of “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen” to affect vast creative sensibility and to bring the willing parties of their audience with them on this complicated but deeply satisfying journey.

One might consider the midsection of “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen” an apex for the album as a whole, but with “Herran Pelko” and “Samettimetsä” still to go there’s plenty of ground still to cover and far more than should be thought of simply as an epilogue or an afterthought. The opening keyboards and crashes of “Herran Pelko” do give it a kind of things-are-wrapping-up feel, but while the vocals arrive late in the mostly-instrumental victory lap, the actual closer, “Samettimetsä,” operates in a more meditative mood. A jazz-fusion shuffle emerges near the halfway mark as the verse starts, but the vibe is cool with a kind of late ’70s smoothness of tone and presentation that somehow is just as appropriate as anything else could be to close out the record.

I guess that’s the upside of making a long-player where you go anywhere and everywhere you want: by the time you get to the finish, you’ve already established a wide enough breadth to allow for just about anything. So it is with Suuliekki, which succeeds not just because it’s willfully odd in its affect or because it offers this or that progressive nuance, but also because it does these things while serving not a display of technical prowess, but instead, the songwriting. Wherever Sammal go throughout this third offering, they never seem to lose sight of the fact that they’re creating songs and not just putting parts together like a science experiment to see what happens. That crucial difference further allows Suuliekki to make the many leaps it does, because no matter where they’re headed, the listener can trust they’re being guided by capable hands.

Sammal on Thee Facebooks

Sammal on Bandcamp

Svart Records on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records on Twitter

Svart Records website

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The Obelisk Presents: Alunah Spring 2018 Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on February 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

alunah europe 2018 poster

I am a firm believer in Midlands, UK, naturalist doom rockers Alunah, who in 2018 find themselves engaged in perhaps the most difficult work they’ve done to-date. Their task is to find out who they are as a band without guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day at the forefront. After four strong full-lengths with the group — the latest of which, Solennial (review here), came out last year as their debut on SvartSophie announced she was leaving the band, and as her forest-worship lyrics provided so much of the band’s distinctive aesthetic, as guitarist Dave Day, bassist Daniel Burchmore and drummer Jake Mason move forward, the question remains what Alunah will be without that pivotal element.

While I don’t think we’ll really know for at least another album or two — in other words, not for years — Alunah have begun to play shows with new vocalist Siân Greenaway, and today I’m proud to announce that The Obelisk is among the sponsors for their upcoming May tour, which will obviously be the first with Greenaway at the mic. Ostensibly the band is still supporting Solennial, which, by the by, was fantastic, but more than that, they’re beginning the exploration of who they are in this new era and who they’re going to be going forward from here. As a fan of the band and the work they’ve done over the course of the last decade, I’m thrilled to be one of the sponsors for the tour and I will watch with great interest (also great distance) as they take to the Germany, France, and Belgium in May.

Alunah are also booked for Doom Over Vienna in Austria this November, and I imagine they’ll be keeping plenty busy in the interim over the summer, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, here are the dates coming up, and presented with thanks to the band for having this site on board in this way:

alunah

After the first initial UK shows with our new line-up Alunah are very excited to confirm the following upcoming European run for 2018. We look forward to seeing old friends, and to also break new ground with festivals and venues we haven’t played before.

28th April UK Brighton “Green Door Store”
2nd May UK London “Nightclub Kolis/The Lounge”
3rd May Belgium Antwerp “Music City”
4th May Germany Oldenburg “MTS Records”
5th May Denmark Copenhagen “Northern Discomfort” Festival
7th May Germany Jena “Kulturbahnof”
8th May Germany Dresden “Chemiefabrik”
9th May Germany Stuttgart “Keller Klub”
10th May Germany Aachen “Musikbunker”
11th May France Paris “Fuzzy Sounds” Festival
12th May France Lille “Le Biplan”
18th May UK Coventry “The Phoenix”
19th May UK Bristol “The Old England”
10th Nov Aus “Doom over Vienna” Festival

Alunah is:
Siân Greenaway – Vocals
David Day – Guitar
Daniel Burchmore – Bass
Jake Mason – Drums

http://www.facebook.com/alunah.doom
http://twitter.com/#!/alunah_doom
http://alunah.bandcamp.com
http://www.alunah.co.uk
http://www.svartrecords.com

Alunah, “White Hoarhound” live at the Portland Arms, Cambridge

Alunah, Solennial (2017)

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Worship of Keres Sign to Svart Records; Heir to Fire Due this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

If you head over to Worship of Keres‘ Bandcamp page, you’ll see the Californian four-piece have a few digital singles up and a three-song EP called simply Keres available for perusal. Frankly, given the professionalism of the recordings and the aesthetic have-their-shit-together-ness of the whole deal, I wouldn’t be surprised if any or all of that material showed up on the band’s impending debut full-length, Heir to Fire, which they’ll release through ultra-respected purveyor Svart Records in the coming months. Keres in particular shows a distinctive multi-genre blend taking hold between doom, traditional metal, heavy rock and a few other choice styles tossed in for flourish, and you can also stream that at the bottom of this post.

On the off-chance it’s your first exposure to them as it is mine — which mind you I doubt it is since you’re way more on top of that kind of thing than I am generally — I think you’ll find it an intriguing introduction either way. The PR wire sent word of the Svart signing as follows:

worship of keres

WORSHIP OF KERES sign with SVART RECORDS, prepare label debut

Svart Records is proud to announce the signing of Worship of Keres. The first fruit of this union shall be the band’s highly anticipated debut album, Heir to Fire, which will be released internationally later this spring/summer.

Founded in 2013 by Matthew Woods Wilhoit, Worship of Keres are a heavy metal band hailing from the Central Valley of California. Having been through many lineups since the idea was originally conceived as a side-project by Wilhoit, the curse began to grow and the Worship became the singular focus of its current lineup:

Justin (Hel) Helvete – vocals
Matthew Woods Wilhoit – guitars
Ryan Fernandes – drums
Chris Giblin – bass

Though proudly carrying the banner of heavy metal, Worship of Keres’ roots and influences are as gnarled, windy, and volatile as the area they come from, so it should be no surprise that, in a moment’s notice, they can craft a style of music that combines distinctive elements of doom, early thrash, New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and gothic hard rock. With a whole host of influences both classic and contemporary, Worship of Keres are able to weave together hauntingly dark melodies and incredibly visceral sonics into a cohesive soundscape that is all their own: unique yet inspired, brimming with bewitchingly catchy songs.

After a series of self-released EPs, which garnered an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response, a deal was struck with Finland’s fiercely independent and cutting-edge Svart Records for the release of Worship of Keres’ successive debut album. To be tiled Heir to Fire, the band’s debut LP will possess you from its first breath to its last. Taking the listener on a freefall into musical abandon, where all is possible in the pitch black – from the most vivid dreams to vicious nightmares, and beyond – Heir to Fire is a veritable love letter to everything that’s influenced the band and given it the strength to push forward with freedom of expression. Nothing is sacred in Worship of Keres’ ambitious exploration of melody and malady.

The curse of Worship of Keres will spread like plagues of wildfire, proudly carrying the torch lit by the Great Ones before them, throughout alien terrain and into your blood. Then again, words are words and talk is cheap, especially these days. So turn the volume up and listen for yourself! Cut the bullshit and begin the worship of Worship of Keres!

Release date, cover art, and tracklisting to be revealed shortly. For more info, consult the links below.

www.facebook.com/worshipofkeres
www.worshipofkeres.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

Worship of Keres, Keres (2017)

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