Superfjord Announce New LP All Will Be Golden on Svart; New Single Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

superfjord

The hypnotic insistence of the new Superfjord single pretty much guarantees its imprint on the frontal lobe of your brain, and when you’re walking around singing ‘Bow down to the rainbow’ to yourself, there will be little wonder as to why. All Will Be Golden, which is the long-player from whence the aptly-titled “Rainbow” stems, has been confirmed for a Sept. 21 release through ultra-respected purveyor Svart Records. It’s their second album overall and the herald it receives bodes well for what’s to come, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the spaciness that shows up in “Rainbow” is more fleshed out elsewhere. We’ve got time before September hits — though apparently less than I think, as the calendar tells me it’s currently late June (the mind explodes) — so there will probably be more info to come in stuff like the cover art, tracklisting and so on, but you can stream “Rainbow” at the bottom of this post and there’s some preliminary data as regards the Svart signing that came down the PR wire:

It looked an awful lot like this:

superfjord rainbow

SUPERFJORD sign with SVART – release digital single, prepare new album for autumn

Svart Records announces the signing of Finnish prog-psych giants Superfjord. The band will be releasing a digital single titled “Rainbow” through the label, on all major digital platforms, in anticipation of their sophomore album (and first for Svart), All Will Be Golden, which is set for international release on September 21st. These will be Superfjord’s first brand-new releases since a limited 7″ single cover of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” released by cult psych label Fruits De Mer in the UK.

We shall all be redeemed, one way or another. Shall we pass through the golden gates towards the light, up to which myriad mysterious paths lead? Is the journey more important than the destination? Are we dreaming? Regardless of the questions asked, eventually All Will Be Golden.

Superfjord’s sophomore album is about it all: the journey, the destination, and the vehicles. All Will Be Golden is an ambitious musical trip formed of long arcs, mesmerizing mandalas, harmony vocals, and a multitude of aural colors. Have you heard the ayahuasca-inspired collaboration album from Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead, and Spiritualized? Neither have we, but All Will Be Golden could possibly exist in such a parallel dimension. Whether you’re looking for a cure, a way of escape, a catalyst for spiritual expeditions, something to groove to, or just some chakra-opening psychedelic rock ’n’ roll with a 21st century cosmic twist, this might just be it.

“Rainbow,” the first single off the album, is a message from the end of the rainbow: surrender to the force, human. Superfjord’s psychedelic temple contains the whole cosmic color palette. Can you fit The Who, Frank Zappa, and, well, William Orbit into the same congregation? Well, apparently you can – with love.

Superfjord are:
Jussi Ristikaarto: guitars, electronics, vocals
Mikko Kapanen: guitar, vocals, percussion
Ilari Kivelä: drums, percussion
Teemu Soininen: bass
Juho Ojala: keyboards
Jussi Peevo: drums, percussion

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Superfjord, “Rainbow”

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Death Hawks Post Video for New Single “Atitlán”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

death hawks photo Sami Sänpäkkilä

So good. So good. New Death Hawks. So good. Post over. Okay, go watch the video.

Really?

Nah, not really, but if you read the above, you pretty much have the point of everything I have to say about the Finnish psychedelic rockers’ new clip for their single “Atitlán,” which as fortunate fate would have it is the predecessor to a fourth long-player to be released this Fall by Svart Records. The band’s blend of classic progressive elements and forward-thinking spaciousness is entirely their own, and if you heard their last album, 2015’s still-put-it-on Sun Future Moon (review here), you know that the result of their sonic meld lacks nothing for memorability for being so otherwise far, far out. Did I mention “so good?” Okay, right on.

Director Sami Sänpäkkilä, who also helmed the camera and edited the video for “Atitlán” and has worked with the band before, put up a pretty interesting blog post about its making in both conceptual and technical terms, which I’ve cut and pasted below since you don’t often see something so detailed about the actual putting together of a video. That post talks as well about Death Hawks frontman Teemu Markkula‘s providing the stage costumes from his work as a professional drag performer, and the glamorous visual elements end up making “Atitlán” both subversive and all the more a trip into the band’s own world, which makes it suitable that the song itself comes from Markkula‘s traveling to Guatemala and staying for a month by the side of a volcano-surrounded lake. As far as inspiration goes, that’ll probably do the job.

I’ll hope to have (much) more on Death Hawks‘ next record as we get nearer to its arrival, but until then, “Atitlán” has a catchy enough hook to set up residence for heavy rotation on the mental jukebox, and you can hear it and see the accompanying video on the player below. Keep an eye out for the parts where they’re waving crystals in front of the camera. Sänpäkkilä mentions it in his post and you can totally see it in the clip itself once you know what you’re looking for. And if watching drag artists makes you uncomfortable, one suspects that’s part of the point.

So dig it:

Death Hawks, “Atitlán” official video

Today, Death Hawks – the most successful Finnish psychedelic rock act of modern times – reveal a new video for the track “Atitlán.” A new recording two-and-a-half years after their smash-hit album, Sun Future Moon, for Svart Records, “Atitlán” is a special digital-only single currently available on all major digital platforms.

As vocalist/guitarist Teemu Markkula reveals, “We’ve been playing around with the song’s characteristic theme for about a year during soundchecks all over Europe. At some point, our bass player Riku made a demo from it, and we decided to produce this new single from it. The song is a melodic and vocal-driven pop song. It has an interesting variety of instruments and a lot of layers which makes it possible to immerse oneself into the song.”

Continuing about the song’s genesis, he says, “At that time, I had just spent a month in a little Guatemalan village by the lake Atitlán. It’s a magical place! A big lake that has three volcanoes rising up from the shorelines – even more if you count in the ancient volcanoes. This song actually is a kind of a postcard from there, and it is dedicated to the most wonderfully bizarre and liberal people. Travelling really broadens the mind! Whaddaya know?”

Sami Sänpäkkilä on “Atitlán”:

Death Hawks new song Atitlán from their fourth full length album is also my third video for the band. All the videos we’ve done have been very different in technique. Black Acid was shot on super 8 and on Beyond Thyme we used UV lights and paints.

Teemu Markkula and myself cooked up the idea on what the video should include in terms of looks and story. The choreography, lights and the visuals were mostly done at the studio. Teemu had some reference images so we kind of had an idea of the colors we wanted. The clothes were all Jukka’s stage clothes as he’s a professional drag artist.

The whole shoot only took about 6-7 hours including lunch and that speed is due to the fact we had a good studio (Visual Works in Helsinki) and loads of people doing their thing. Lighting and VJ setup was simple. We had a 650W tungsten with a soft box and a grid high up on the ceiling. We also had an amazing portable and wirelessly triggered fog machine that was super easy and fast to use. Jonne Pitkänen did the front projections and Ilona Lehtonen did all the back projections.

All the effects except for the double exposure shots are in-camera effects. We had a few crystals that we shaked in front of the camera.

Directed by Sami Sänpäkkilä
Script: Sami Sänpäkkilä, Teemu Markkula
Music by Death Hawks
Actors: Teemu Markkula, Jukka Kuronen
Gaffer: Anna-Mari Nousiainen
VJ’s: Ilona Lehtonen, Jonne Pitkänen

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Review & Full Album Stream: Pelagos, Revolve

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pelagos revolve

[Click play above to stream Pelagos’ Revolve in its entirety. Album is out June 8 via Svart Records.]

Evocations of space and water meet on “River (Proxima Centauri),” and that would seem to summarize at least a goodly portion of where Pelagos are coming from on their Svart Records debut album, Revolve, but the key idea is of finding some other place. Listening to the Finnish outfit’s eight-track/48-minute offering, one can’t help but wonder how much of it was crafted with an intent, either conscious or not, for escapism. At the same time, there are flashes of traditional folk rhythms amid the washes of e-bow guitar, synth, keys, and so on, so something keeps even “River (Proxima Centauri)” grounded, and as it follows the immediately echoing vocals and expansive welcome of opener “Code” — as in “blue?” is that the kind of other place we’re visiting? — that sense of ground definitely has a purpose to serve.

Pori, from whence the three-maybe-four-piece — they list Teemu Elo, Petri Hagner and Janne Peltomäki as members, but there sure are four people in their promo photos — hail, is known for having produced the mega-weirdo progressive outfit Circle, and sure enough Pelagos share a lineage with that group going back decades, but the new band seem on a more distinct sonic mission, and with the synthesizer pushing them farther and farther out throughout pieces like “Island of Pelicans,” the somewhat more brooding and decidedly urbane “Aphrodite’s Shore,” and into Revolve‘s second-half depths, amid the acoustic-guitar-based “Invisible,” the darker and electronic-beat fueled “Sea of Tranquility,” the encompassing soundscape of “Muted Stars” and closer “Embryo”‘s reimagining of New Wave as an extension of progressive rock with manipulated vocals and repetitive electronics complemented by airy guitar and a steady underlying groove, a key factor in the outing overall is immersion. It’s the kind of record you might get caught in a ridiculous run-on sentence describing, as each song seems to have something of its own to offer while adding to the overarching atmosphere.

And atmosphere is central to Revolve, to the point that one wants to read a story into the idea that they begin with “Code” and end with “Embryo,” as though the songs between are stages in a journey from death to reincarnation. Certainly there’s room to create that narrative in the ethereal sonic affect Pelagos have donned, and though there’s a definite tonal presence throughout, they refuse to let any element get overblown. That is, as much breadth as there is in the material, it’s never simply wandering for its own sake, and a keen balance holds firm for the duration. There’s a temptation to call is psychedelic, but it’s not psychedelic in terms of the traditional mushroom-munching definition of the genre. Whatever the proclivities of the band’s members — I wouldn’t speculate — what they seem to share with psychedelic rock is the idea of space, both thematically and in the music itself. “Code” opens with a subtly gripping drumless section, letting the wash gradually consume the listener before the album makes its way into the journey ahead.

pelagos

After the hypnotic “River (Proxima Centauri),” “Island of Pelicans” takes hold with a more rhythmic feeling behind it, shifting to a more synthesized vibe at around the midpoint, winding up in strumming acoustic guitar with other elements swirling around, in front of and behind it, the idea seeming to be a constant motion either forward or in its own roundabout spirit, moving without feeling like it needs to be anywhere. That, given that it’s purposeful, is a compliment. In truth, even at its most repetitive, Revolve — the title itself a repetitive motion — loses neither its will nor the gracefulness of its execution. As “Aphrodite’s Shore” gives way to “Invisible,” the shift in approach is clear. Both songs are just over five minutes long, and yet the sound of each, from the utter wash of the former to the more folkish impression of the guitar on the latter, is tied together by the ambience that permeates so much of the record and, though it’s mostly at the fore in introductory sections or leadouts, defines it.

I won’t take away from the more active sections of Revolve or the effectiveness of the shifts in structure Pelagos bring to bear, pushing verses forward on “Sea of Tranquility” or “Island of Pelicans” while the ringing tones of “Muted Stars” and “Aphrodite’s Shore” cast a vision of what Yawning Man might’ve been if they were born on an ocean planet instead of in the desert, but there’s no mistaking the focus on ambience — which I wouldn’t exactly classify as “inactive” either — as being crucial to the impression the album gives as a front-to-back listen. And though it should somewhat go without saying, but a work this fluid and smooth in its shifts between one song and the next should be taken in its entirety.

Not that a given song can’t give an impression of the core sound of its surroundings, just that the full breadth of Revolve is best experienced when the whole voyage is made. And it is a longer go than the 48 minutes of its runtime might convey, but whether or not the narrative intended is the one purported, what really matters is that Pelagos put their audience in a place where the experience is engrossing enough that the mind wants to engage with it as one might the chapters of a novel. Particularly given their pedigree, it would be futile to guess what Pelagos might have to offer in the long term or how or along what path their style might develop, but their debut is rich and resonant, and it brims with the openness of spirit that seems to have driven its creation. Especially considering it as a first album, it is a considerable achievement in its balance and aesthetic.

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Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain: Burning and Rebuilding

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

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain

Let’s be honest: Losing a singer like the singer Witch Mountain lost is a worse fate than a band should have to endure. In 2014, following three each-better-than-the-last records in 2011’s South of Salem (review here), 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2014’s gorgeous and sad Mobile of Angels (review here), frontwoman Uta Plotkin left the Portland, Oregon, doomers, and for a minute there, it looked like it might be the end. At least from the outside. But Witch Mountain existed before Plotkin — founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson released the band’s debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), in 2001 — and it would continue to exist after.

In a matter of months, the band was reformed in early 2015 with Wrong (who now also plays in The Skull), Carson, bassist Justin Brown (formerly of underrated trio Lamprey) and new vocalist Kayla Dixon, a transplant from Ohio with a background in the more straightforward metal outfit Demons Within, but whose voice was powerful enough to make one believe in fate. Tours with EnslavedThe SkullSaint Vitus and others followed, and in releasing their fifth album overall, first with the new lineup and first on Svart in North America as well as Europe, Witch Mountain‘s naming their latest LP Witch Mountain feels like a declaration in and of itself.

Or perhaps a victory lap, because what they came through and the manner in which they did is not to be understated. And the five-track/35-minute collection that’s resulted from three years of work on stage and an obviously thoughtful songwriting process is less about meeting the expectations of their audience than about making a definitive statement of who they are. Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain did not happen by accident.

From the first slogging riff and on-the-bell ride hits of opener “Midnight,” that’s readily apparent, and Dixon is about two lines into the first verse before she gives a first glimpse at the throat-ripper of a scream that seems a constant threat to be unleashed amidst her soulful melodic delivery. As a showcase of range and arrangement for her, the opener also boasts a choice solo from Wrong and gives Brown a chance to establish himself as indispensable on the low end. Witch Mountain has been through a succession of bassists but as the march of “Midnight” slams to starts and stops under Dixon‘s soaring voice, he proves an excellent fit with Wrong and Carson, and when they roll into a scream-laced hook in the second half of the track, the bass is all the more essential in setting the groundwork for that turn and the shift into the memorable Spirit cover “Mechanical World.”

The bluesy lyrics and vibe are an excellent fit for Witch Mountain‘s style of doom, Wrong adding subtle flourish around the central riff as Dixon again showcases her breadth as a vocalist, the song moving into manic thrust from its verse just for a minute before running into an even slower, minimal stretch of open, vocal-led atmospherics. If one thinks of “Midnight” as an introductory statement, and “Mechanical World” as helping to set the tone and range for the album as a whole, then the seven-minute side A closer “Burn You Down” is where Witch Mountain really seem to dig into the proceedings.

witch mountain photo whitey mcconnaughy

Dixon is nigh-omnipresent save for solo spots but not overbearing in the mix, and the drums and bass behind do well in setting up a build just past the midpoint where layers of backing choral vocals push her forward to set up a section of vitriolic screams and growls and spiteful lyrics. Wrong likewise tears into another echoing solo as Brown and Carson plod away behind, and “Burn You Down” lumbers to its finish and comes apart to silence at the close of the record’s first half.

As much as the narrative of Witch Mountain is invariably going to be based around the band pressing forward after what would have been the undoing of many acts — and not unreasonably so; that’s the story here and not a minor accomplishment — the truth is that happened three years ago and what’s even more striking is the movement and command within these songs. “Burn You Down,” inarguably the angriest track on the record, still keeps its sense of control as it shifts from one part to the next, and its motion is consuming.

There’s less time for swapping out vibes, but 2:23 acoustic-based side B opener “Hellfire” finds Dixon backed by a simple guitar line and cymbal washes, some piano, as she becomes an entire gospel choir and backs her own central lyric with professional-level ease. There’s a pause as if to say, “Okay, you just let that sink in,” and then the far-back guitar of howl of 14-minute closer “Nighthawk” arrives, complemented by a drum build and bass rhythm that slams into the fullness of its slow push. The band trades back and forth in volume and Dixon drawls out early verses and at the three-minute mark gorgeously matches notes with the start of a short solo from Wrong before the next verse.

A linear build is underway subtly, and the Dixon choral layers reemerge as the band approaches five-minutes in and pick up the tempo ahead of another open stretch and highlight vocal performance, self-harmonies and all. At about 8:20, the guitar takes the fore again and leads the transition into a section of tom fills, chugging riffs and growls and screams working in unison. There’s a break from the onslaught about two minutes later as the guitar seems to nod at fellow Oregonians and former tourmates YOB, but the churn fades back in and soon enough they’re back to destruction-mode. The final break is just after 12 minutes in and sets up a crescendo of spoken and sung vocals, full-on riffing and dirge march behind until the last wash of cymbal and fading feedback signals the end.

I’ve said as much before, but it bears repeating: They did it. They pulled it off. There’s no question in listening to Witch Mountain‘s Witch Mountain that the band is aware of who they are and what they want to be, but as much as one might argue the album is a reset, it’s not at all a step backward. They’ve set themselves on a new course that holds over elements of who they were before and will allow them to continue to progress as an outfit, and while for sure there will be some who doubt, once or twice through the album is enough to vaporize any question whatsoever. The statement is made. This is Witch Mountain. Long live.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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