Just in case your anticipation for Graveyard‘s forthcoming LP, Innocence and Decadence, had yet to hit fever-pitch, the Swedish foursome have unveiled a new video for the track “The Apple and the Tree” that boasts, among other things, choice groove and shoveling shit. Want some context on that one? Yeah, you’re just gonna have to watch the clip.
The song itself answers a few key questions about where the band would go following their third album, 2012’s Lights Out (review here), most notably about where they’d wind up production-wise. There’s a lot of their core ’70s methodology maintained in “The Apple and the Tree” — which like “Cause and Defect” and the album’s title itself, hints at a theme of duality — but like Lights Out, you wouldn’t necessarily call the vibe here retro or vintage in terms of its overall sound, classic as that groove is.
Also notable is the dynamic of the song itself, which saves its real push toward the end of a satisfying three-minute run, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson — joined in the band by guitarist Jonathan Ramm bassist Truls Mörck and drummer Axel Sjöberg — shifting into his bluesy higher register at just the right moment to drive the point home. As to whether or not that’s emblematic of a songwriting progression across the board on Innocence and Decadence, I don’t know — haven’t heard the album yet — but I’m sure as hell interested to find out.
Video below, followed by recently-announced tour dates and more info from the PR wire. Enjoy:
Graveyard, “The Apple and the Tree” official video
Award-winning Swedish rock band GRAVEYARD will release its new album Innocence & Decadence, on September 25 via Nuclear Blast Records. The acclaimed group’s fourth album was recorded live in the studio, directly to analog tape, with producer Johan Lindström and is the follow-up to GRAVEYARD’s 2012 release, Lights Out. Innocence & Decadence builds on the solid foundation and formidable reputation that GRAVEYARD has cultivated since its formation in 2006, providing the most shining example to date of a sound the band calls “classic rock with a modern roll”. The quartet describes the record as a blend of “everything from old 20’s Blues to Krautrock with synthesizers, Irma Thomas, blast beats and Psych Rock.”
Today, GRAVEYARD premieres the first music video from Innocence & Decadence, for the album’s lead single, “The Apple and the Tree.” Directed by Jonas Petersson and shot outside Fagersta, Sweden (hometown of The Hives), the video depicts the band working and enjoying life on a countryside farm.
“Just like life in general, it depends on what you choose to see and hear,” said the band. “Innocence & Decadence is built on thousands of layers of love, fury and being alive in the year 2015.” Check out a trailer for the record, featuring interactive album art, at this location.
GRAVEYARD will embark on fall U.S. tour dates in support of Innocence & Decadence beginning December 4 in Columbus, OH. The just-released live dates are as follows:
GRAVEYARD tour dates:
December 4 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups December 5 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall December 6 Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Cafe December 8 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall December 9 Salt Lake City, UT In the Venue December 10 Missoula, MT Stage 112 December 11 Seattle, WA Chop Suey December 14 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom December 15 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore December 17 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom December 19 Austin, TX Mohawk
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish trio Cities of Mars have released their debut single, Cyclopean Ritual / The Third Eye, as a name-your-price download. The three-piece of bassist/vocalist Danne Palm, guitarist/vocalist Christoffer Norén (also Benevolent) and drummer Johan Küchler first got together last year, and the new single marks their first time in the studio. They recorded with Esben Willems of Monolord, of which Palm is also a former member. One can hear some similar tendencies in the riffery that ensues across “Cyclopean Ritual” and “The Third Eye,” the stoner idolatry taken to a cosmic end, but Cities of Mars distinguish themselves with some of the most satisfying roll in this style that I’ve heard since the first Sigiriya record in 2011, not looking to overwhelm with tone or impress with nuance, but just riffing out and hitting the mark dead on.
Cities of Mars play the Wizard of Fuzz festival in Oct. in their native Gothenburg, and more info on that and the stream of both tracks follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:
The spacetime transmission is out there.
A tiny fragment of a signal, from another time and another place. Perhaps it tells the truth, some version of the truth or perhaps it’s just distorted white noise, a blip in a broken old radio somewhere.
But all three of us felt it, heard it and we were captivated. The blips and swirls became sound, broken syllables became words, and a story from another world started to unfold. We learned that the Soviet Union’s Mars landers in the early seventies did indeed not crash, but landed a secret agent upon the red planet’s surface. Her journey into the unknown and the discovery of an ancient civilisation from beyond time are for us to decipher and put into this world. We hope you’ll come along for the journey.
Cities of Mars will unleash the premiere of the grim spacetime tales at the Wizard of Fuzz festival in Gothenburg, Sweden on October 9/10th along with a super-sweet line-up of heavy bands: Black Rainbows (IT), Tombstones (NO), Rosy Finch (ESP), Stone from the sky (FR), Zatokrev (CH), Skraeckoedlan, Serpent Omega, Crowlegion, Maida Vale, Mamon, Colossus, Galvano, Besvärjelsen, Orkan, Reverend Jim Jones ATD, Wolves in Haze and Serpent.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
One imagines this headlining run along the West Coast and in the Midwest is just the beginning of Graveyard‘s album cycle for their fourth album, Innocence and Decadence, which is out Sept. 25, but it’s enough to get a longer party started anyway. Their last album, 2012’s Lights Out (review here), took them around the world and it seems only fair to assume this one will do likewise. Still, I’ve never been to Columbus or Chicago in December, but considering how frickin’ cold I can imagine it being, it doesn’t seem like they’re exactly starting off easy. Probably being from Sweden helps.
Dates and info off the PR wire:
GRAVEYARD Announces U.S. Headlining Tour
Swedish Hard Rock Stalwarts to Release New Album Innocence & Decadence September 25
Scandinavian Hi-Fi heroes GRAVEYARD will release their new album, Innocence & Decadence, on September 25 via Nuclear Blast Records. The acclaimed rock band’s fourth album, Innocence & Decadence was recorded live in the studio, directly to analog tape, with producer Johan Lindström and is the follow-up to GRAVEYARD’s 2012 release, Lights Out.
Innocence & Decadence builds on the solid foundation and formidable reputation that GRAVEYARD has cultivated since its formation in 2006, providing the most shining example to date of a sound the band calls “classic rock with a modern roll”. The quartet describes the record as a blend of “everything from old 20’s Blues to Krautrock with synthesizers, Irma Thomas, blast beats and Psych Rock.” Check out a trailer for the record, featuring interactive album art, at this location.
“Just like life in general, it depends on what you choose to see and hear,” said the band in a statement. “Innocence & Decadence is built on thousands of layers of love, fury and being alive in the year 2015.” Innocence & Decadence is available for pre-order nowat this location.
Today, GRAVEYARD announces fall U.S. tour dates in support of Innocence & Decadence. The headlining run will launch on December 4 in Columbus, OH and run through December 19 in Austin, TX with support to be announced. The just-released live dates are as follows:
GRAVEYARD tour dates: December 4 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups December 5 Chicago, IL Lincoln Hall December 6 Minneapolis, MN Fine Line Music Cafe December 8 Denver, CO Summit Music Hall December 9 Salt Lake City, UT In the Venue December 10 Missoula, MT Stage 112 December 11 Seattle, WA Chop Suey December 14 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom December 15 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore December 17 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom December 19 Austin, TX Mohawk
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Swedish outfit The Unquiet Grave issued their debut release, Cosmic Dawn digitally in June, and Caligari Records has stepped in on the quick to follow that up with a physical pressing. There are 125 tapes made for the three-song offering, and the format seems like a good fit for the Norrköping-based project, reportedly helmed in its entirety by Micael Zetterberg, drummer for black metallers Aggressive Mutilator and former bassist/current drummer of death thrashers Terrorama, as well as the founder of Walking Lizzy Records, which released the 2012 Mesozoikum EP from Skraeckoedlan on vinyl.
A pretty varied background, and one that sets up The Unquiet Grave as an endeavor to be clear-headed in what it wants to accomplish. Information is minimal in terms of what’s given from Caligari or the band’s Bandcamp page — like more and more acts these days, The Unquiet Grave is reacting to the social impulse by playing it tight with the raw data of who’s involved, how, etc. — but Zetterberg keeps a near-retro vibe throughout Cosmic Dawn‘s three cuts, classic-style doom riffing meeting with a more languid impulse that the label seems to relate to folk. I’m not inclined to argue.
It’s a cool vibe either way, so while not much is really out there about the band, or where Zetterberg might ultimately be headed with it as a project, there are the songs, and they’re what matters.
The announcement from Caligari Records came down the PR wire and seemed right in line with The Unquiet Grave‘s minimalist sensibilities. It follows here:
THE UNQUIET GRAVE – Cosmic Dawn – Out Now
Swedish doom rock with a folk influence. An intro, three songs and an outro. All sublime and subtle, craftily made and joyously played. First recording, 2015. Limited to 125 copies. Pro Tapes / Pro Covers.
Posted in Reviews on July 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The story of Swedish heavy rockers Greenleaf is one of perpetual evolution. There is no point in the outfit’s 16-year history at which they were doing the same thing twice. From their 2000 self-titled debut EP on Molten Universe (someday it will be mine), through the subsequent 2001 debut full-length, Revolution Rock (discussed here), the beginnings of their association with Small Stone Records on 2003’s Secret Alphabets, the grand productions of 2007’s Agents of Ahriman and 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) and the sustainable touring presence they became with 2014’s Trails and Passes, which recently led to their signing with Napalm Records for the release of their next album — currently in production — they’ve never been quite in the same place as a band. And for the most part, they haven’t had the same lineup either.
Begun as a side-project of Dozer by guitarist Tommi Holappa and Bengt Bäcke, who produced some of Dozer‘s earliest work and has played bass in Greenleaf through their entire tenure, Greenleaf has evolved from a studio outfit putting out occasional records in Dozer‘s downtime to Holappa‘s main focus — a considerable swap in position. When they released Agents of Ahriman, that transition was still a ways off, but the roots were being dug. Bäcke and Holappa were joined on drums by former Dozer drummer Erik Bäckwell and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm, who was at that time only beginning to make an impression with his own band, Truckfighters. Former Lowrider vocalist Peder Bergstrand (who was also the first singer in Greenleaf) and John Hermansen, who was then in the transition between The Awesome Machine and Mother Misery, also make notable guest appearances on vocals.
I do not at all mind telling you that Agents of Ahriman stands among my favorite heavy rock records — period. Of any era. Certainly it was one of the finest outings of the aughts, and I consider it a flawless execution of songwriting and performance. Not one second of its nine tracks/37 minutes is superfluous. Led by Holappa, Greenleaf bring a character to the modus of classic heavy rock that few have been able to parallel, let alone match, both presaging and out-boogieing the retro rock movement while still sounding modern in Bäcke‘s production, melodically complex in Cedermalm‘s arrangements, varied through the guest appearances — not at all limited to vocals; Jocke Åhslund‘s Hammond featuring on “Black Tar,” “Alishan Mountain,” “The Lake” and “Ride Another Highway,” while John Hoyles (now of Troubled Horse) adds a guitar solo to opener “Highway Officer” and Linus Arnberg brings cowbell stomp to swing-happy closer “Stray Bullit Woman” — and outright unstoppable in its righteousness of groove. Front to back, it is the kind of record one could use as a textbook to teach children about the joys of rock and roll.
And if this sounds like hyperbole, it is earned in the hyper-memorable choruses of “Alishan Mountain” and “Ride Another Highway” — Hermansen‘s one-man call and response rivaling Cedermalm‘s own — and in the spaciousness of the six-minute “Sleep Paralysis,” which in its last moments finally seems to be driving toward a payoff of its track-long tension, only to cut out at the moment of impact, breaking the rule under which it seemed to be playing, in Bergstrand doing his best Mark Lanegan on the attitude-soaked “Black Tar,” and in the riffs of “Highway Officer,” “Treehorn” and particularly organ-ic “The Lake,” which was the centerpiece of the CD and on the vinyl is the beginning point for a five-track side B that only gets richer as it pushes — and, in the case of “Ride Another Highway,” propels — toward “Stray Bullit Woman” as the closing statement. A more swaggering performance from Cedermalm there never has been, and the progression over which it comes is worthy of being called Mountain-esque — not a comparison to be made lightly.
There is one last guest appearance before Agents of Ahriman is finished, and it’s Emil Leo, who after emerging from a swirl of effects asks the simple question “And now what?” Eight years after the album’s initial release — worth noting this is the first time it’s out on vinyl — we know to some extent. Dozer would issue their final (to-date; one can always hope) full-length in the form of 2008’s Beyond Colossal, and after a few years of inactivity, Greenleaf would be resurrected again, this time with Dozer‘s Johan Rockner on guitar and Olle Mårthans on drums for Nest of Vipers — Dozer bassist/vocalist Fredrik Nordin also made a guest appearance, along with Bergstrand and keymaster Per Wiberg — and began a touring cycle. That would be the end of Cedermalm‘s run with the band, Truckfighters taking priority as a worldwide touring entity and an outfit of increasing profile, and vocalist Arvid Jonsson took up the difficult mantle ably on Trails and Passes, Sebastian Olsson also stepping into the drummer role.
Greenleaf remains in seemingly permanent flux, and what their next record might bring when it arrives I wouldn’t speculate to say other than to note the reliable quality of Holappa‘s songcraft, which in partnership with Bäcke‘s production, was so plainly on display with Agents of Ahriman in its whole-album, all-killer impact. The LP version is a somewhat different experience, the sides not quite breaking evenly with the second longer than the first, but whether you’ve experienced what I consider Greenleaf‘s finest hour yet — Nest of Vipers was a grander affair and showed progression, but these songs are tattooed on my brain — or whether you’ve never heard the thing, it still proves itself to be an utterly essential listen for anyone and everyone who wants to know what heavy rock sounds like at its most right. You can say I’m overstating it if you want. You’re wrong. It’s already stood up to eight years, and listening to the vinyl, I hear no reason Agents of Ahriman won’t continue to endure into perpetuity. Recommended.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Preceded by the 2014 single “Break the Limit,” the video for which you can see below, the fourth full-length from Swedish trad heavy rockers Horisont is titled Odyssey and it will be out on Sept. 18 via Rise Above Records. That single will also be on the album, the details and righteous artwork for which have just been unveiled. It’s their first record with guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel, ex-Church of Misery) in the lineup, so there’s an added level of intrigue there, but at this point the band are pretty reliable for an exciting meld of classic rock and metal, so if Odyssey is business as usual for them, that’s just fine.
One thing I found particularly interesting in the PR wire info below is when drummer Pontus Jordan mentions that the artwork tells the story of the album. I’d be very interested to know what that story is, given the following:
HORISONT to Release Odyssey September 18th on Rise Above Records
Artwork and Track Listing Revealed
Big of moustache and tight of trouser, HORISONT drink from the bottomless wellspring of inspiration that’s been bubbling up through the layers of time since the birth of the blues – or Blue Oyster Cult at the very least. Theirs is a sound that harks back to the dawn of the 70s, when a new clutch of heads decided it was time to harsh the 60s hippies’ mellow and paint it black; those years when the twin spirit of hard rock and prog rose to redefine sound.
This quintet’s rock trip might be retro but their songwriting is timeless; a good melody lives forever and HORISONT have songs in abundance. New album Odyssey is exactly as its title suggests: an epic journey into the known. A sonic trip. A mighty voyage of sound. You could even call their fourth full release a concept album – although they themselves prefer “space saga”. Either way it’s a brave band who open their album with a ten minute-long track, yet on the album’s title track HORISONT dive straight into the deep end, delivering space-rock with all the dexterity and deftness of the very best prog rock’s finest, such as early Yes or Kansas.
Odyssey was recorded in Studio Kust in Gothenburg with producer by Henrik Magnusson. It was, the band explain their most harmonious creative period ever.”No HORISONT recording session has ever been this good,” admits Delborg. “We had worked with Henrik on our ‘Break The Limit’ single and knew that he was our guy. All the basics where recorded live in just a couple of days. Then we spent a lot of time on the intricate details.”
The artwork for Odyssey harks back to both classic sci-fi paperbacks and prime prog rock albums of the 70s. “We wanted a slightly disturbed, Asimov-esque science fiction cover that told the story of Odyssey,” says drummer Pontus Jordan. “Tom knew this guy who was really in to old science fiction stuff and he had done the cover for The Order Of Israfel. So we meet the guy and it was the one and only Henrik Jacobsen. And he really nailed it.”
Formed in 2006, HORISONT have spent close to a decade kicking ass, taking names and establishing themselves at the forefront of the Scandinavian retro rock revival (see also Witchcraft, Graveyard etc), injecting their sound with early-Status Quo-styled boogie blues, prog complexities, NWOBHM swagger and fire-spitting choruses set to scorch the eyebrows of the first ten rows. This is music made without irony, unafraid to acknowledge an allegiance to past greats such as Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Cactus, Thin Lizzy, the aforementioned Yes andJudas Priest.
Their first two albums Tva Sidor Av Horisonten(2009) and Second Assault (2012) earned HORISONT a special place in the rock underground, while Time Warriors (2013) was a no-holds barred demonstration of classic rock and metal combined with a fearlessly inventive streak, and took them to a wider international audience. And now comes Odyssey, a bold leap into more expansive and ethereal musical territory. It’s the band’s first to feature native Australian and former Church Of Misery guitarist Tom Sutton.
The new line-up change sees a definite gear-shift too. Here HORISONT play as if their lives depend upon it: duelling guitars do battle in a endlessly thrilling interplay over a rhythm section that gallops like wild horses across the frozen tundra. And cutting through the middle, Axel Söderberg’s howling heartfelt vocals delivered with a space-age sense of soulfulness.
Strap in, sit back and let the Odyssey begin….
Odyssey Track Listing: 1. Odyssey 2. Break The Limit 3. Blind Leder Blind 4. Bad News 5. Light My Way 6. The Night Stalker 7. Flying 8. Back On The Streets 9. Beyond The Sun 10. Red Light 11. StÑder Brinner 12. Timmarna
HORISONT Lineup: Axel Söderberg – vocals Charlie Van Loo – guitar Tom Sutton – guitar Magnus Delborg – bass Pontus Jordan – drums
Posted in audiObelisk on July 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Veterans of Roadburn and Copenhagen Psych Fest, Swedish five-piece Agusa will release their second album, Agusa Två — Agusa 2 — on July 24 through The Laser’s Edge (CD) and their own Kommun2 (LP) imprint. In the tradition of their krautorock and psychedelic forebears, the band works quick. They formed in 2013 and have already established a quick LP-per-year pace and have played sporadic fests, in addition to the two mentioned also appearing recently at Electric Moon Fest (which doesn’t seem related to the band of the same name), Säljerydfestivalen in Ingelstad, Sweden, and Kildemose Festival in Denmark.
Listening to Agusa 2 or its 2014 predecessor, Högtid, it’s easy to understand why one might want to add them to a bill. Agusa 2 further gels the chemistry Agusa showed on their debut into two extended pieces — side A’s “Ganglat Fran Vintergatan” (20:22) and side B’s “Kung Bores Dans” (18:17) — rife with progressive complexity, accomplished melodies of guitar, organ and flute, and quick-turning rhythms driven by a classic sense of movement that fits smoothly into Agusa‘s method. As one might expect, both cuts offer plenty of sprawl, but the band operate from a sense of purpose as well, and it’s not merely exploration for its own sake, but an expression of a naturalist instrumental ideal, and one gorgeously conjured and languid in its flow but not at all sonically lazy.
Both “Ganglat Fran Vintergatan” (“Marching Tune from the Milky Way”) and “Kung Bores Dans” (“King Winter’s Dance”) unfold gradually, with the organ as a figure no less prevalent than the guitar, and engage in a crisp but progressive bounce. There’s no mistaking a heavy sense of groove, but they’re also capable of jazzy turns when called for, adding a sense of spontaneity to the proceedings and allowing the band to shift fluidly from one movement to the next while also expanding the context of the album overall. Not bad for two tracks on their sophomore outing, and by that I mean Agusa 2 offers both proggy substance and a psychedelic aesthetic that makes their work eminently listenable.
To wit, I have the pleasure today of hosting a premiere for “Ganglat Fran Vintergatan,” which you’ll find on the player below.
The Laser’s Edge has signed Malmo, Sweden-based psychedelic/prog outfit, AGUSA, for the release of the eclectic outfit’s impending sophomore album this Summer.
With almost forty minutes of new material, AGUSA delivers a wide array of seamlessly-executed, organic rock on the aptly titled Agusa 2. The band’s tranquil output blends tripped-out psychedelic and progressive rock structures are inspired by more folk than occult influences, instilling visions of nature, the cosmos, and dreamlike passages, meandering into realms of a possibly supernatural or parallel existence. While not a fully instrumental recording, backing vocal mantras only seep in through purposeful cracks in the construction of these immense movements, adding an even more spacious feeling to the overall flow of the album.
US progressive label, The Laser’s Edge, will release Agusa 2 on CD and digital platforms on July 24th, while AGUSA will issue the album on vinyl through their own Kommun2 label. Stand by for additional info on the album to be released in the coming days.
Having just performed at this year’s Roadburn Festival, invited by curators, Enslaved, followed immediately by a set at Copenhagen Psych Fest, AGUSA will continue taking their enigmatic live set to fans across Europe with additional performances in the coming months.
AGUSA: Tobias Petterson – bass Mikael Ödesjö – guitar Tim Wallander – drums Jonas Berge – organ Jenny Puertas – flute
Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re on the downhill swing of this edition of the Quarterly Review, so it’s time to get into some extremes, I think. Today, between death-doom lurch, drone-as-fuck exploring, gritty aggression and a whole lot more, we pretty much get there. I’m not saying it’s one end of the universe to another, but definitely a little all-over-the-place, which is just what one might need when staring down the fourth round of 10 reviews in a row in a week’s time. Feeling good though, so let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Kamchatka, Long Road Made of Gold
It would really be something if Swedish blues rockers Kamchatka released six albums over the course of the last decade and didn’t know what they were doing by now. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Long Road Made of Gold (Despotz Records), their sixth, as the Verberg three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Juneor Andersson, bassist Per Wiberg (see also: Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, Opeth, etc.) and drummer Tobias Strandvik modernize classic heavy rock with equal comfort in including a banjo on “Take Me Back Home” and progressive-style harmonies on “Rain.” They seem to get bluesier as they go, with later cuts “Mirror,” “Slowly Drifting Away,” “Long Road” and “To You” rounding out the album with Clutch-style bounce, but the prevailing impact of Long Road Made of Gold is one of unflinching class, the chemistry of its players – not to mention Wiberg’s bass tone – ringing through loud and clear from the material as Kamchatka make their way down that long road to their inevitable next outing.
I said as much when the Tokyo duo released their 2013 debut EP (review here) as well, but their first long-player Iron Scorn (on At War with False Noise) only confirms it: Legion of Andromeda are fucked. Theirs is a doomed-out death metal given further inhumanity by programmed drums and the blown-out growls of vocalist -R-, while guitarist/programmer –M- holds down grime-encrusted chug and dirge riffing. Perhaps most fucked of all is the fact that Iron Scorn uses essentially the same drum progression across its seven tracks/44 minutes, varying in tempo but holding firm to the double-kick and bell-hit timekeeping for the duration. The effect this has not only ties the material together – as it would have to – but also makes the listener feel like they’ve entered into some no-light-can-escape alternate universe in which all there is is that thud, the distortion and the growls. Not a headphone record, unless you were looking to start psychotherapy anyhow, its extremity is prevalent enough to feel like a physical force holding you down.
Relentlessly creative and geographically amorphous drone warriors Queen Elephantine compile eight tracks from eight years of their perpetual exploration for Omen on Atypeek Music, which launches with its titular cut, the oldest of the bunch, from 2007. It’s a gritty rolling groove that, even as nascent and riff-noddy as it is, still has underpinnings that might clue the listener in to what’s to come (especially in hindsight) and comes accompanied by the sludgy “The Sea Goat,” a rawer take recorded the same year in Hong Kong. Newest on Omen is the blissfully percussed “Morning Three” and an 18-minute live version of “Search for the Deathless State” from 2010’s Kailash full-length. Lineups, intent and breadth of sound vary widely, but even into the reaches of “1,000 Years” (2012, Providence, RI) and “Shamanic Procession” (2009, New York), Queen Elephantine remain unflinching in their experimentalism and the results here are likewise immersive. Vastly underrated, their work remains a world waiting to be explored.
Consuming undulations of tectonic riffing. Two of them, actually. Watchtower’s Radiant Moon EP serves as their debut on Magnetic Eye, and like their fellow-Melbourne-resident labelmates in Horsehunter, the four-piece Watchtower slam heavy-est riffs into the listener’s cerebral cortex with little concern for lasting aftereffects, all in worship of nod and volume itself. Where the two acts differ is in Watchtower’s overarching sense of grit, harsh vocals pervading both “Radiant Moon” (9:03) itself and the accompanying “Living Heads” (7:09), standalone vocalist Nico Guijt growing through the tonal fray wrought by guitarist Robbie Ingram and bassist Ben Robertson, Joel McGann’s drums pushing the emergent roll forward on “Living Heads,” a High on Fire-style startoff hitting the brakes on tempo to plod over any and all in its path. I’m trying to tell you it’s fucking heavy. Is that getting through? Watchtower had a live single out before Radiant Moon, but I’d be eager to hear what they come up with for a full-length, whether they might shift elsewhere at some point or revel in pure onslaught. Now taking bets.
The use of multiple vocalists gives Roman trio Ape Skull’s ‘70s fetishism a particularly proggy air. Fly Camel Fly is their second full-length for Heavy Psych Sounds behind a 2013 self-titled, and the boogie of “My Way” and “Early Morning,” the solo-topped groove of “Fly Camel Fly,” and the raw Hendrixology of “A is for Ape” position it as a classic rocker through and through. Vocalist/drummer Giuliano Padroni, bassist/vocalist Pierpaolo Pastorelli and guitarist/vocalist Fulvio Cartacci get down to shuffling business quick and stay that way for the 39-minute duration, the Mountainous “Heavy Santa Ana Wind” missing only the complement of a sappy, over-the-top ballad to complete its vintage believability. Even without, the triumvirate stand tall, fuzzy and swinging on Fly Camel Fly, the cowbell of “Tree Stomp” calling to mind the earthy chaos of Blue Cheer without direct mimicry. A quick listen that builds and holds its momentum, but one that holds up too on subsequent visits.
Mad-as-hell trio Hordes have had a slew of releases out over the last eight years or so – EPs, splits, full-lengths with extended tracks – but their experimental take on noise rock topped with Godfleshy shouts arrives satisfyingly stripped down on their latest self-titled five-track EP, recorded in 2013 and pressed newly to tape and CD (also digital). “Eyes Dulled Blind” dials back some of the pummeling after the bruises left by “Cold War Echo,” guitarist/vocalist Alex Hudson at the fore in the JK Broadrick tradition. Centerpiece “Summer” starts with a slow and peaceful ruse before shifting into brash and blown-out punk – Chris Martinez’s hi-hat forward in the mix to further the abrasion – and finally settles into a middle-ground between the two (mind you, the song is four minutes long), and bassist Jon Howard opens “Life Crusher,” which unfolds quickly into the most oppressive push here, while a churning atmosphere pervades the more echo-laden closer “Fall” to reinforce Hordes’ experimentalist claims and steady balance between tonal weight and noise-caked aggression.
There’s a theatrical element underlying Welsh rockers Dead Shed Jokers’ second, self-titled full-length (on Pity My Brain Records). That’s not to say its eight songs are in some way insincere, just that the five-piece of vocalist Hywel Davies, guitarists Nicky Bryant and Kristian Evans, bassist Luke Cook and drummer Ashley Jones know there’s a show going on. Davies is in the lead throughout and proves a consummate frontman presence across opener “Dafydd’s Song,” the stomping “Memoirs of Mr. Bryant” and the swinging “Rapture Riddles,” Dead Shed Jokers’ penultimate cut before the cabaret closer “Exit Stage Left (Applause),” but the instrumental backing is up to its own task, and a clear-headed production gives the entire affair a professional sensibility. They veer into and out of heavy rock tropes fluidly, but maintain a tonal fullness wherever they might be headed, and Cook’s bass late in “Made in Vietnam” seems to carry a record’s worth of weight in just its few measures at the forefront before Davies returns for the next round of proclamations.
Berlin’s These Hands Conspire aren’t through the two-minute instrumental “Intro” before they’re showing off the heft of tone that pervades their metallized debut album, Sword of Korhan, but as they demonstrate throughout the following seven tracks and the total 45-minute runtime, there’s plenty to go around. Vocalist Felix delivers an especially noteworthy performance over the dual-guitars of Tom and Stefan, the bass of Paul and Sascha’s drums, but heavy metal storytelling – the sci-fi narrative seems to be a battle in space – is just as much a part of the record’s progressive flow, longer cuts like “Praise to Nova Rider,” “The Beast Cometh,” which directly follows, and “Ambush at Antarox IV” feeding one into the next sonically and thematically. The penultimate title-track brings swinging apex to an ambitious first outing, but the foreboding, winding guitar echoes of “Outro” hint at more of the tale to be told. Could be that Sword of Korhan is just the beginning of a much longer engagement.
Maybe it doesn’t need to be said, since if it weren’t the case, they wouldn’t have paired at all, but Enos and Mangoo pair well. The UK chimp-obsessed space metallers – that’s Enos, on side A – and the Finnish modernized classic heavy rock outfit – that’s Mangoo, on side B – don’t ask much of the listener across their Son of a Gun/The Grey Belly split (on H42 Records) beyond a little over 10 minutes of time and a willingness to follow a groove. “Son of a Gun” finds Enos blending particularly well with Mangoo’s methodology via the inclusion of organ in their swinging but still forward-directed movement, and after that, it’s an easy mesh to flip the platter and find Mangoo’s “The Grey Belly” waiting, its own keys playing a huge role in carrying across the ‘70s-via-‘90s vibe the band projects so well. Flourishes of percussion in the former seem to complement the progressive guitar work in the latter, and whichever side happens to be spinning, it all works out just fine.
Born in 2007 as Spice and the RJ Band and rechristened Band of Spice in 2010 prior to their third album, Feel Like Coming Home, the Swedish unit boasting vocalist Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand (founding vocalist of Spiritual Beggars, also Mushroom River Band, currently also in Kayser) release their fourth full-length half a decade later in the form of Economic Dancers on Scarlet Records. It’s a straightforward heavy rocker in the organ-laced European tradition that Spice helped create, with some shades of quirk in the intro to “The Joe” and the arena-ready backing vocals of “In My Blood,” but mostly cutting its teeth on modernized ‘70s jams like “On the Run,” “Down by the Liquor Store” and “True Will,” though the six-minute centerpiece “You Will Call” touches on more psychedelic fare and is backed immediately by two metallers in “You Can’t Stop” and “Fly Away,” so it’s not by any means one-sided, even if at times the mix makes it feel like the 11 tracks are a showcase for the singer whose name is on the marquee.