Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Apparently they’ve been at it since 2006, but the new self-titled LP on Bilocation is the first studio full-length from Swedish triple-guitar six-piece Mexicoma. The band shares a hometown — Umeå, in the north of the country — with Meshuggah, Refused, Cult of Luna and Nocturnal Rites, but from what I can tell, there’s not much in common with any of them or much to point sonically to the low temperatures from which Mexicoma hail. Maybe rock is how they stay warm.
I’ve been a sucker for a “John the Revelator” cover since I first heard The Midnight Ghost Train do the song years ago. It’s included as a bonus to Mexicoma‘s self-titled vinyl, and you can hear it below, vocalist Magnus Olsson giving it a gruff, Mark Lanegan-style treatment. First, to the PR wire:
You’re about to witness one of the heaviest bands of the gerne. These 6 dudes (incl. 3 guitars and 1 heavenly hellish voice) from Sweden bring you an earth shattering melange of stoner rock, doom and metal. So heavy, so melodic, so unique … no need to categorize any further, just listen for yourself …
Since the beginning in 2006, Mexicoma has grown from being a clean-cut stonerband to expressing a much more ambient and heavier sound. Just as a good whiskey, Mexicoma has needed the time to age and evolve to get the right taste. The earlier flirt with the 70s and more peeled off sound, has developed into a heavier and saturnine presence, without discarding their riff-based foundations. The sound today is easiest described as heavy-hearted and transformative, but at the same time still captivating and progressive.
Mexicoma’s self-titled EP is far from the first recordings, still the release is stated as the first official issue. Although the band has been a part of Swedish scene in the north for several years, the time is now to reap what once was sown. Mexicoma is ready to conquer both the international scene as well as, once again, the Swedish one.
- 300 copies total: 200x transparent yellow / (100x transparent red-SOLD OUT) – transparent red vinyl exclusively available from Kozmik Artifactz incl. tarot card signed by the band – all high-quality heavy 180g vinyl pressed in Germany – matte laquered 300gsm gatefold cover – handnumbered
Side A: 1. 5.27 (7:04) 2. Pray (6:14) 3. Relentless (5:02) Side B: 4. Truth Been Told (4:20) 5. Bright Black Day (3:50) 6. Omega Doom (7:27) Bonustrack: 7. John The Revelator (Cover) (6:43) Total 40:40
Posted in Reviews on May 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a decade since Swedish rockers Sgt. Sunshine released their self-titled debut, an album that 10 years later still rings in the ears of those who were fortunate enough to hear it. In 2007, the follow-up, Black Hole, came out on Elektrohasch, and with a crunchier sound didn’t have quite the same spark as its predecessor, despite also being well received at the time. The band’s third album, aptly titled III (also released by Elektrohasch), immediate carves out a potent blend of desert groove and heavy psych jamming, the Malmö three-piece tapping into an earlier-Queens of the Stone Age via Colour Haze sound as natural as it is fuzzy, the guitars of Eduardo Fernandez leading the way for the rhythm section of bassist Pär Hallgren and drummer Christian “Kricke” Lundberg to flesh out and fill out the sound as cuts like “When I Was a Dog” nestles into funky vibing and the later “Holy Mother” digs deep into a warm, open jamming midsection. Fernandez and Hallgren share vocal duties, but it’s the songs themselves that are at the forefront of Sgt. Sunshine’s approach, with memorable hooks spread throughout and a fluid, unpretentious sensibility that leads one track into the next without any sense of progressive posturing or showiness. Opener “Zoetrope” starts with a drum beat from Lundberg strongly reminiscent of “You Think I ain’t Worth a Dollar but I Feel Like a Millionaire” from QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf, but the “ooh”ing chorus soon unveils a more distinctly European take on the desert ideal, reminding of some of what Austrian rockers Been Obscene have been able to bring to the table melody-wise, without being fully adherent to their take either. It’s a solid opener and for Sgt. Sunshine’s first album in six years, they make their intent clear in the thick, warm tones of Fernandez’s guitar and Hallgren’s bass and the on-a-dime changes that play out smoothly across the 3:39, setting a tone for what’s to come throughout the album that follows in a natural feel and engaging sense of craft, “Zoetrope” returning to its verse/chorus interplay after a midsection jam.
From there, III embarks on a variety of riffy progressions but stays consistent in terms of atmosphere and desert rockery. Lundberg’s snare punctuates each cycle on “Caress the Tense Blue” as the guitar and bass work in tandem to threaten to swallow the vocals whole – they don’t, but Fernandez takes an effective transitional solo between verses to echo the melody – and though it’s the longest song on the album at 6:59, its structure prevents it from becoming overly repetitive. A split almost exactly in the middle introduces the fuzz line that will serve as the central figure for the second half, vocals soon topping double-time hi-hat drums that open to a slower section of psychedelic moodiness, a sluggish groove that carries the song to its finish and is soon counteracted by “Golden Dawn”’s immediate, no-frills rush. The effect putting the relatively straightforward “Zoetrope” and “Caress the Tense Blue” next to each other has is one of giving the listener a sense of not knowing what to expect – throwing the audience off without losing their attention – so that as “Golden Dawn” returns to a more basic verse and chorus-based mindset with an instrumental break similar to that of “Zoetrope,” the feeling isn’t that Sgt. Sunshine are repeating themselves, but rather that they’ve shown they can go wherever they like and where they’d like to go for the moment is there. It doesn’t last, of course, as the mostly-instrumental “Marrow Soup” lands with a dense thud of jam-based heavy psych riffing. The parts have been worked out – it doesn’t sound like the trio are making it up on the spot, that is – but there’s a sense of spontaneity about “Marrow Soup” anyway, even as Fernandez, Hallgren and Lundberg bring the build up, put it down again, bring it up again and ride the part to its end, giving way to “When I Was a Dog” and its funk-directed course. So far, III has started with a shorter track and then answered with a longer one, but that doesn’t continue through the second half of the tracklist, as the lasting hook of “When I Was a Dog” leads to a stretch of longer material that fills most of side B save for the epilogue closer, “Levin.”
To date, they’re not revolutionaries or anything like that, but I like Swedish four-piece Mamont. I dug their EP well enough, but with the cumbersomely-titled 2012 debut full-length, Passing through the Mastery Door(review here), it was easy to hear they were beginning a process of coming into their own, and that sensibility I almost always find exciting in an album. The band, based in Nyköping and Stockholm and previously interviewed here, seem bent on doing the work of a genuine creative progression — both in their songwriting and in terms of putting in time on the road — and in their new video for the track “Stonehill Universe,” they show that even a simple performance clip of a group in a room (or two) still has space to show a bit of individuality. I’m not the betting type, but I’m looking forward to hearing what Mamont do next, and this is fun in the meantime.
Posted in On the Radar on March 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
And they say there’s nothing to be gained from spending your days dicking around on the internet. Wait, do they even still say that? Okay, I don’t know what anyone says about anything, but I know toadlicking tripped out doom when I hear it, and Swedish trio Salem’s Pot certain-fucking-ly provide that on their new tape, Watch Me Kill You. The name and the lack of lineup info, and even some of the stonerly swing later into the song itself might bring on an Uncle Acid comparison, but Salem’s Pot seem to be on a thicker vibe tonally, less classic horror atmosphere and more traditional doom lumber cut through by echoing space-minded vocals. Right on.
Seems I missed out on buying the tape, which couples “Watch Me Kill You” with the Wicked Lady cover “Run the Night” and was released last month by Ljudkassett in suitably limited fashion, but even with a decidedly-less-cult digital listen, it’s hard to fuck with the riffy psychosis of the 16:25 title-track, which plods its way through a tortured riff and morose vocals on a seemingly never-ending spiral into the purple-hued abyss. Smooth low-end rumble and crashes hold the movement together when the face starts to melt on the guitar, and after slogging through about 10 solid minutes of downer alchemy, Salem’s Pot kick into a faster stoner groove that’s as much Goatsnake as what came prior was Reverend Bizarre at their most ethereal. Listening back, you can hear the amps farting out the distortion. Once again, right on.
It’s almost impossible to come out of Salem’s Pot with a clean conscience. Their take on Wicked Lady‘s “Run the Night” follows the effects wash deconstruction that caps “Watch Me Kill You” and shows the same kind of affinity for slow-it-down-and-blast-it-out that Wicked Lady themselves once showed for flapper hotties. Of course the song works at the slower pace — its stomp is well suited to Salem’s Pot‘s thick, lower-budget Electric Wizardry, miserable and psych in like measure. Salem’s Pot don’t really sound like them either, but it’s a convenient stopping point for a comparison since the higher-than-thou ethic seems pervasive here as well. Sweden’s answer to Ice Dragon, maybe? Maybe.
Either way, one thing is sure, and that’s that next time around, I don’t plan on missing the tape. Watch Me Kill You is done just this side of 24 minutes, but it’s an easy 24 minutes to get stoked on if you’re down with modern doom that has its eye on candlelit miseries. Could easily see these guys under the banner of someone like Rise Above in the future.
Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Even before Hydra is a heavy rock album, it’s a rock album. The third full-length from Malmö, Sweden’s Deville and first for their new label, Small Stone Records, has its roots in Foo Fighters as much as, if not more than Kyuss, and it’s a difference of presentation and method that runs deeper than one might initially think. A lot of the trad stoner tonality that showed up on Deville‘s first two studio offerings, 2007′s Come Heavy Sleep and 2009′s Hail the Black Sky, has dissipated, but if you listen to those two albums in line with the 11 tracks of Hydra, the latest still seems a logical extension of their methods, if one driven in a more straightforward, less fuzz-reliant direction. The band recorded themselves, with drummer Markus Nilsson handling the engineering, so one imagines they knew what they were doing and that the clean, crisp, professional sound they wound up with on these songs wasn’t an accident. Even in terms of the songs themselves, one can see a difference. Not troubling itself with intros, outros or interludes, Hydra also finds Deville tightening the structures of their material, so that in its varied array of moods, there’s only one song reaching over five minutes long — the penultimate “Imperial,” at 6:31 — where each of the prior two offerings has had four. That’s probably not a conscious decision on the band’s part, that is, they likely didn’t sit down and say, “Okay guys, time to write shorter parts,” but it’s another example of Deville departing their stonerly beginnings in favor of a more straightforward take, skirting the lines between hard and heavy rock an an almost track-by-track basis.
Clocking in at a vinyl-ready 44:35, Hydramakes a strong opening statement in its first three tracks, “Lava,” “Iron Fed” and “In Vein.” Each is opened by Nilsson‘s drums and finds vocalist/guitarist Andreas Bengtsson leading the band with guitarist Martin Hambitzer and bassist Markus Åkesson contributing to the momentum. Right away, the band carries across their sonic shift — again, not so drastic that if you heard Deville before you wouldn’t guess you were listening to them again, but still a marked change from the first two records — but if Hydra‘s first volley proves anything, it’s that the tradeoff comes in the band being tighter performance-wise and clearer in their intent. “Iron Fed” chugs through its verse en route to one of the album’s finest hooks, something mid-period Dozer would’ve been proud to hang their hats on, and keeps motion central even in its lead break, which hits right where it should at the end of the second third of the track, right before the chorus comes back in, once and then again with more feeling. Hardly a slowdown, “In Vain” sees Åkesson come forward in the mix, joined by a guitar swell in the chorus, as Bengtsson pulls back on the vocal thrust to ride the groove kept active by Nilsson‘s upbeat snare. It’s in line structurally with most of the rest of Hydra, but “In Vain” also serves as the first signal that Deville have more to offer in terms of mood than the driving rock they’ve so far presented.
Hellsingborg’s Odyssey released their debut album, Abysmal Despair, in 2012 on Transubstans. On the strength of the new single, “Oncoming Fire,” the Swedish three-piece will hit the road late next month for a handful of dates that will take them through Poland, Belgium, France and the Netherlands. They’ve got a new video for the resoundingly aggressive single, which seems to have more in common with Unsane than most of the fuzz that generally typifies Swedish heavy. Takes all kinds and then some.
You might recall Odyssey were featured alongside Black Pyramid on a limited split. No word on what form if any a physical release for “Oncoming Fire” might take, but the track is available for free download through Odyssey‘s Soundcloud. Here’s the video, followed by a poster with the tour dates. Enjoy:
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Renewing their penchant for strong, accessible hooks and heavy rocking grooves, Swedish single-guitar four-piece One Inch Giant will release their Soulseller Records debut full-length, titled The Great White Beyond, on April 19 in Europe. The long-player follows the band’s 2011 MalvaEP (short review here), which established a fuzz rock charm offset by touches of a more metallic influence.
Should be interesting to hear how that balance might develop over the course of The Great White Beyond, and since the EP was enough to bring One Inch Giant over to the States for a run of shows (reviews here and here), I’m excited to see how the band works to get their name out for their first record. They’ve just released the first track from the album in the form of the catchy “Mountains Will Erode,” and seem to be gearing up for good things to come.
Here’s the song and a blurb grabbed from the label confirming the release date for the album:
Here’s a new track from One Inch Giant’s upcoming album “the Great White Beyond”, prepare for a riff-driven progressive metal journey! Now listen to “Mountains Will Erode,” out on April 19th across Europe!
Tracklist: 1. The Sea Opened Up 2. Mountains Will Erode 3. Malva 4. Jiraya 5. Only Scorn Remains 6. Tell Meteor From Star 7. The Years of Mist 8. Awaiting the Wave 9. My Unshaped Form 10. A Fear Aflame 11. The Great White Beyond
Posted in Reviews on March 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Relatively speaking, there hasn’t been much word out of Swedish fuzz rockers Asteroid‘s camp since they signed to Small Stone about a year ago. They played Desertfest (review here) and did other shows as well, but after losing drummer Elvis Campbell in 2010, the focus seems to have been on resolidifying the trio with new percussionist Henrik Jannson alongside guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson. If that seems like a while to get things hammered out, then weigh that time against the organic nature of Asteroid‘s approach and it will probably make more sense — purveyors of laid back groove and whole-grain fuzz that they are, one imagines it takes some time to get the vibe just so, like trying to make sure a painting is even on all sides. Toward the end of last year, Asteroid issued their first offering with the Jannson/Hirse/Nilsson lineup, a self-released, limited 7″ single featuring the songs “Move a Mountain” and “One Foot in the Grave.” Strictly speaking, it’s the first Asteroid studio output since 2010′s much-loved II(review here) dropped courtesy of Fuzzorama, and as quick as it is, the new tracks are nonetheless a welcome arrival, hopefully heralding a new full-length to come, if not this year than sometime sooner rather than later.
It is short, though. “One Foot in the Grave,” a straightforward, heavy rocking B side less jammy than some of Asteroid‘s material, is reportedly the shortest thing the Fuzzorama alums have ever done, and I tend to believe it. Even the bluesier “Move a Mountain” feels relatively frill-less, though Hirse still finds room for an engaging solo in an instrumental break. It’s a blues, not 12-bar, but of a similar descending construction, and the three-piece sound at least as organic as they did on II, the vinyl’s compression only pushing forward the richness in Nilsson‘s tone and the rush of the guitar. As ever, the dual vocals from Hirse and Nilsson are a distinguishing factor (more on side B), and their approach remains neither completely aligned to a straightforward heavy rock take nor to Sweden’s oh-so-prominent post-Graveyard retro set. It’s mainly the open space in their songwriting that allows them to distinguish themselves so, and Jannson has made himself right at home in the groove of “Move a Mountain,” punctuating the bassline while Hirse strums out a teasing lead line near the song’s midpoint before a dead stop brings about a return to the verse. Hard to imagine this jam wouldn’t be longer live, but there’s only so much room on a 7″ single and they do well working efficiently anyhow, highlighting the catchiness of their blues and the lack of pretense with which they present it as the structure once again gives way to an instrumental break, Jannson‘s cymbals playing as much of a role in the build as Hirse‘s guitar and Nilsson‘s bass — the trio ideal.
The driving groove they elicit as the “Move a Mountain” peaks (get it?) bodes well for the dynamics they might be able to bring to a full-length, and on the other side of the platter, “One Foot in the Grave” is more of a shuffle — not necessarily in a rush, but an uptempo, classic groover that Nilsson and Hirse top with quick verses that leave little room for instrumental explorations. More than “Move a Mountain,” “One Foot in the Grave” is a departure, but it’s not necessarily out of character either with what Asteroid did on II, though were it to appear on that record, it would probably be more developed. The temptation is to read some change into it that might show up on a subsequent full-length, but really, it’s just the B side of a limited single and if Asteroid are signalling a shift in approach or some development of their style, likely that won’t come at the expense of any of the tonal warmth that has typified both of their full-lengths or their earlier debut split with Blowback. These guys arrived with a good sense of what they wanted to do, and “One Foot in the Grave” is enough in line with that so as not to be jarring so much in its approach — they’re not all of a sudden ripping out black metal screams or something — as it is for the sheer fact that it’s faster and shorter. It’s a fun experiment, and if Asteroid work in some higher-tempo material on their next record, the variety can really only make it a stronger offering.
Really, from my standpoint, that’s what Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Graveis accomplishing: It’s Asteroid signalling that despite the lineup change, the personality of the band remains intact and they’ve been working on getting themselves back up to speed, so to speak, perhaps with incorporating some new elements along the way. As a special release for fans to enjoy who might seek it out, the 7″ gets that message across well and revives some of the momentum Asteroid had coming off of IIahead of the potential III, which, the sooner it gets here, the better.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Leading to a performance at this year’s Desertfest in London, Swedish heavy rockers Deville have announced a run of shows that will take them around Western Europe in support of their new album, Hydra. Their debut on Small Stone (third album overall), Hydra also reportedly has a vinyl issue coming from the Detroit imprint, which sent over the dates and info below:
Sweden’s Deville will be hitting the road starting April 9th in Berlin Germany @ White Trash. The three week tour will also include stops in Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands, and a UK date at Desertfest London on April 26th. In the meantime, do yourself a favor an go get their brand new album Hydra, It is rather fantastic. And yes, there will also be 180g ltd vinyl version available in a few months, but the cd and digital download versions are now available.
Deville on tour 04/09 Berlin, Germany White Trash 04/10 Vienna, Austria The Shelter 04/11 Hohenems, Austria ProKonTra 04/12 Sull’arno, Italy Santa Croce Rock City 04/13 Vercelli, Italy Officine Meccaniche 04/14 Treviso, Italy Punkyreggae pub 04/15 Torino, Italy United Club 04/16 Bologna, Italy Distilleria 04/17 Pescara, Italy Qube 04/18 Milano, Italy Ligera 04/19 Lyon, France Trokson 04/20 Aix-en-Provence, France Le Korigan 04/21 Barcelona, Spain Rock Sound 04/22 Madrid, Spain Sala Barracudas 04/23 Iluntz Taberna Guipuzcoa, Spain 04/24 Paris, France Le KLub 04/25 La Louviere, Belgium La Taverne du Theatre 04/26 London, UK Desertfest UK 04/27 Den Helder, The Netherlands De Engel
Heralding the release of their debut album, Angels’ Necropolis, Swedish cult rockers Year of the Goat (featuring ex-members of House of Aquarius, whose album was recently reissued on Electric Magic Records) have unveiled their new video for the song “Spirits of Fire.” Fans of the newly-departed The Devil’s Blood and of Jess and the Ancient Ones should take note, as Year of the Goat get down with some similarly classic Lucifer loving on the LP. Judging by his smile at the end, Satan is pleased as ever with the arrival of the nudie lady.
The clip came down the PR wire earlier today, followed by the info in blue:
Blazing with over fifty minutes of supreme, metallic occult rock, Angels’ Necropolis, the infernal debut album from YEAR OF THE GOAT, has been claiming mass praise from heavy metal fans and critics alike, elevating this new act in the ranks of the scene quickly.
A brilliantly infectious album highlighting classic metal/occult rock harmonies Östergötland/Norrköping, Sweden-based quintet seemingly permeate the air around them with, rather than “perform” or “execute,” the atmospheric permeation of the eight rituals which comprise their Angel’s Necropolis offering form the proper conditions to transport the listener to another plane of existence; a meditative state in tribute to Lucifer and his legions. The album was released on CD, LP and digitally worldwide via Ván Records, also liable for bringing The Devil’s Blood, The Ruins Of Beverast, Nagelfar and others into the cult spotlight over the last decade.
YEAR OF THE GOAT will hit the stage sporadically and continuously through the year, having just announced the acts first confirmed performances of 2013. Stay tuned for further updates as more shows are confirmed.
YEAR OF THE GOAT Live Rituals: 3/01/2013 John Dee – Sankt Hanshaugen, Norway 3/09/2013 Dynamo – Norrköping, Sweden 3/22/2013 Harry’s Rock Night – Linkoping, Sweden 5/24/2013 Club Destroyer – Sundsvall, Sweden 7/27/2013 Skogsröjet – Rejmre, Sweden 8/29/2013 Beyond The Gates – Bergen, Norway 11/16/2013 Hammer Of Doom Festival – Würzburg, Germany
Cult of Luna (also on Roadburn‘s lineup) reportedly filmed the video below for “Passing Through” from their new album, Vertikal, in an abandoned mental institution. They said the same thing about the recording of their last album, 2008′s Eternal Kingdom, and that turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by guitarist Johannes Persson reportedly to point out that nobody in music journalism checks facts. That or it was a convenient story to sell records and it took the band four years to come up with an excuse for why they lied about it. Take your pick. Either way, the fact that I make dick money and sell myself out for the potentiality of being able to beg for a free CD and the fact that I’m useless at everything else weren’t degrading enough. Glad to be the butt of your “point.”
As such, rather than check the facts on where this clip was filmed, I’ll just assume it’s his mom’s house and that his line below about it being the most honest song he’s ever heard is also pretentious bunk. Damn lazy journalists. Vertikal is out now. Or not. Whatever:
Check out our new video for “Passing Through”. Directed by Markus Lundqvist, “Passing Through” was filmed in sub-zero temperatures at what was once Sweden’s largest mental hospital. Closed since the ‘60’s, the Säter hospital was where the mentally ill were routinely castrated and lobotomized.
“Passing Through” is the closing track on Vertikal and is sung by guitarist Fredrik Kihlberg. “When we decided to start writing a new COL album and talked about which direction we wanted to go, this was actually the first idea that came to my head,” said Kihlberg. “I had this phrase – time is passing me by – in my head, going on repeat, and I thought and I should try to make something out of it. It’s a simple phrase but at the same time a powerful and overwhelming feeling. We wanted this to be a beautiful but at the same time intimidating song.”
“You can hear the sensitivity in his voice – just listen and you can hear what he’s communicating. You can feel it. It’s the most honest song I’ve ever heard,” commented vocalist and guitarist Johannes Persson.
Posted in Reviews on February 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Released on limited vinyl in 2012 via Clostridium Records, the Indigo sophomore full-length from Sweden’s Propane Propane is a crisp execution of a classic stoner rock idea. Where much of the European scene has given itself over retro methodologies or to the thick-toned psychedelic jamming of the Elektrohasch set, and there remains a strong core of acts embroiled in a commercial heavy rock that to American ears seems like an impossibility yet nonetheless thrives and results in copious summer festival slots, Propane Propane walk an effective balance between the two, tapping into their inner Colour Haze on the quieter moments of “Cosmic Hideout” but delighted in the chugging riffage that comprises “ANT.” What’s perhaps most impressive about Indigo – which was preceded by a 2009 self-titled and 2011 B-sides compilation – is how seamlessly the Nässjö-based trio makes these sides come together. Guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer Benjamin Thörnblom (he also wrote the liner notes included with the LP and handled synth) would seem to be the figurehead in the band, and he provides a strong presence right from the start of opener “Rise” on vocals, the structure of that and the other songs being an even more classic element than their riffly influence. A Karl Daniel Lidén mix assures a big, open sound, and Indigo is remarkably well balanced, professional and smooth without being overly so. Thörnblom isn’t above throwing in a little “stoner rock lead singer” voice every now and again when the burl is called for, but his approach in general is dynamic enough to not make it so outlandish, and his guitar work, lead and rhythm, is exceptional, as the solo on “Rise” also demonstrates. Fitting accompaniment comes from bassist Niklas Andersson and drummer Jakob Gill (Rickard Swahn has also joined on guitar since the album was put to tape), who don’t so much follow the riffs on the alternately soft/loud nod-worthy grooves of “Kometh” as fill them out, and the result is a strong power trio able to jam out one minute and the next lock into a serious-business rocker constructed from elements that might be familiar but are nonetheless put to excellent use. “Kometh” (6:38) rises to a righteously wah’ed apex before crashing down and delivering a final chorus with effects layered in the mix en route to the shorter “ANT”’s more straightforward thrust, which finds Propane Propane capable of Swedish heavy rock of the highest order.
A sense of balance and flow persists through the rolling grooves of “ANT”’s chorus and into the more psychedelically driven “Cosmic Hideout,” the sonic largess of Thörnblom’s guitar and Andersson’s bass tones rumbling like some forgotten idea that sounding big and modern doesn’t necessarily equate to being over-produced. They do shift from the more open psych to heavier crunch after the two-minute mark, but even so, the context is different on “Cosmic Hideout,” and the result is one of the album’s strongest tracks, with landmark bass work from Andersson – yes, I mean it – and unabashed groove that gets tied together with an epilogue’s return to the guitar meandering that started the track at the end, showing that as far into the heavy rocking cosmos as these gas giants may want to go, they haven’t forgotten their purpose. Side A of the 180 gram platter rounds out with “Truth,” which pushes the diversity of sound even further via a screaming guest vocal from Kongh’s David Johansson placed right as the groove is at its most vicious, resulting in a heavy sort of metal (as opposed to a heavy metal) not so dissimilar from latter day Dozer in its starting point but nonetheless Propane Propane’s own as regards the destination. Thörnblom answers back by leading through a mounting swirl of leads and Gill’s prevalent crash cymbal ends the track. Even without having to flip the record, you know something just ended. Side B launches with “Aquatic,” a more patient instrumental given to flourishes of chugging here and there that add excitement to a slower pace and psych layering in the guitar. Of everywhere on Indigo, the fuzz might be most prevalent here, and notes held into feedback bring what might have started as an intro jam to a hypnotic finish, just in time for “Return of the Burning Son” to punch the listener in the face with the song’s immediate rush. There are parts of the album early on where the vocals come off as distinctly forward in the mix, but the balance on “Return of the Burning Son” smoothes that out while answering some of the stonerly straightforwardness of “ANT” earlier in the album – all bad attitude and burl and a touch of blues at the halfway point that leads to a guitar-fueled build that ends the song raucously but not over the top. Propane Propane are never completely out of control here, and if anything” Return of the Burning Son” is a little more restrained than it needs to be, collapsing in its final moment.
Posted in Reviews on February 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally released in 2003, Swedish heavy rockers House of Aquarius‘ lone full-length, The World through Bloodred Eyes, is given new life on LP thanks to Germany’s Electric Magic Records. The Norrköping four-piece — from which vocalist Mikael Popovic and guitarist Thomas Eriksson went on to found Year of the Goat – fit well alongside Mammoth Volume and Dead Man in the category of underrated Swedish riffers, with a sound dense and bluesy an album that runs even a decade later between groove-laden and viciously catchy. Popovic‘s vocals are a standout element, stonerly without much posturing, and the rhythm section of bassist Lare Hultman and drummer Jens Gustavsson fill out an organic low end without pulling the focus away from Eriksson‘s prevalent cyclical modus. Whatever the members have gone on to do since, the 48 minutes of The World through Bloodred Eyesshows them as having been considerably adept at a more straightforward stoner rock style, and while the album might not have garnered as much acclaim as the output of some of their countrymen over the years — be it Dozer or Witchcraft – the fact remains that House of Aquarius at least belong in the discussion. Thus does the Electric Magic reissue live up to the standard: Does this album deserve another look? One doesn’t have to be even fully through “Lord of Vermin,” the first of the LP’s nine tracks, to understand why the answer is yes. A softer lead guitar line at the halfway point calls back to early Suplecs smooth fuzz even as House of Aquarius build to individualized grit and transition easily between their parts, resulting in an immediately palpable flow that stays strong as one cut progresses to the next.
Also notable is the fact that for being a decade old, The World through Bloodred Eyessounds no more dated now than it was supposed to then. I suspect that’s a discovery that will remain prevalent for some time with reissues such as this — that records put to tape with a classically-influenced production didn’t sound of their day then so they don’t necessarily harken to it now — but it works to House of Aquarius‘ favor, and as the swampy wah of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Grandma and the KKK” toys with a Southern heavy influence and Popovic puts on a touch of accent, there’s nothing in the tonality or presentation that makes me think The World through Bloodred Eyescouldn’t have been recorded a few months back instead of a decade ago. The two-cycle build of “Fear No Evil,” starting soft, getting heavy and repeating, does little to contradict this assertion, and while one can hear shades of Graveyard‘s first record in some of the quieter guitar progression if one strains to do so, neither are House of Aquarius so fully given to a retro aesthetic as to sacrifice tonal thickness. Hultman‘s bass is rich and warm, but can come on as weighted as one could reasonably ask, and along with Eriksson‘s chug in the second half of “Fear No Evil,” it’s the bass providing the foundation for Popovic‘s soulful exclamations. “Azteroid Zombiez” is memorable mostly for its faster thrust and backing vocals in the chorus, but it provides a change from the bluesy feel, which resumes partway with “Cosmic Weed,” as lines like “Lick my lizard” and “Slap me silly” assure the listener that House of Aquarius aren’t about to take themselves too seriously, and in case none of that was enough to wake you up, they end with an alarm clock going off, jolting the blood as the riff of the longer “Unholy” revives stonerly burl with a winding but easy-to-follow instrumental hook.
Posted in Reviews on January 29th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been two years since Stockholm heavyweights New Keepers of the Water Towers released their sophomore full-length, The Calydonian Hunt, through MeteorCity, and that span of time has found them making a jump in more than just their label. Issued via Listenable Records, their third album, The Cosmic Child, finds New Keepers of the Water Towers a much more mature, more patient band, embarking on progressive psychedelic sprawl and incorporating acoustics alongside periods of the more expected weighted distortion. Tracks are by and large longer than either the second album (review here) or their Chronicles debut (review here), which compiled two self-released EPs into a 60-minute long-player rife with formative Mastodonic crush, and the three-turned-four-piece don’t shy away from including atmospheric interludes both within the songs and in the form of the closing title-track. All told, The Cosmic Child runs through six tracks in just under 47 minutes, and while there are times where it seems like New Keepers of the Water Towers have wandered beyond their capacity to restore structured order, there’s never actually a moment throughout where the songs get away from them, and the record winds up being as much of a success as it is a surprise, though those diametrically opposed to progressive indulgences will want to stay wary, as The Cosmic Child is full of them right from the beginning of opener “The Great Leveller,” which swirls to a march led by drummer Tor Sjödén and complemented by the guitars of Rasmus Booberg and Victor Berg (Björn Andersson has since joined on bass, but in this liner-noteless digital age, there’s no word on whether or not he’s actually playing on the album). “The Great Leveller” swells to a slow verse plod topped with melodic vocals and open, big-sounding guitar, gradually giving way to the chorus and a chugging rhythm playing out under a grandiose echoing, winding solo. The Mastodon feel isn’t completely gone from New Keepers’ sound – let’s not forget that they too “went prog” – but The Cosmic Child feels less outwardly concerned with showy technicality than it does with mood and atmosphere, “Visions of Death” setting a side-to-side sway in its guitar line that rests on a strong rhythmic foundation between the bassline and the drums.
There’s a current of excellent guitar leads throughout The Cosmic Child, and “Visions of Death” certainly has one in its midsection, but even these are never so over-the-top as to distract from the overall balance of the material, which rests between modern prog metal and heavy psychedelia. At nearly nine and a half minutes, “Visions of Death” presages much of what’s to come thematically from 12-plus-minute cuts like “Pyre for the Red Sage” (12:05) and “Lapse” (12:32), but each piece of the album has an identity of its own that simultaneously works to the benefit of the whole work. This is the best case scenario for a thematic, semi-narrative album, which The Cosmic Child purports to be (no lyric sheet with that download). Piano drives a transition between “Visions of Death” and the subsequent “Pyre for the Red Sage,” which opens with the same line and adds acoustic guitar for its introductory base. By the end of the first full minute, the song has unfolded its grandeur, but as big as it gets – it gets plenty big – there remains a grounding element in a catchy chorus and driving kick bass. Booberg, Berg and Sjödén all handle vocals reportedly, and on “Pyre for the Red Sage,” layers assure that as much largesse is carried across musically, it’s duly met with the singing. Before its halfway point, the track breaks to synth ambience and moves gradually, patiently, over its next couple minutes to post-Floydian prog metal, a thrashy riff running rhythm for a semi-shred solo that works because of the time spent getting to it. The guitar line that follows is one of the more memorable aspects of the song and indeed the album, and it’s met by far-off echoing vocals before a slowdown introduces the acoustics that will carry into “Cosmosis,” typified by a sweet vocal melody and rounding out with a darker electric guitar line that serves as a foreshadow to “Lapse,” the culmination of The Cosmic Child and New Keepers’ most ambitious single work to date.
Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was the second night of Graveyard and The Shrine‘s US tour and something of a victory lap for the Swedish forerunners of retro heavy, whose 2012 offering, Lights Out (review here), greatly expanded the soulful side of the band’s approach without — if the crowd assembled at Underground Arts in Philadelphia was anything to go by — alienating their fanbase or falling prey to accusations of going soft or betraying expectation. Lights Out is plenty raucous, as the Gothenburg foursome demonstrated once they took the stage, and the band showed why their reception has been so welcome over the last several years of crossover underground success. Because they rock, that’s why.
I arrived at Underground Arts absurdly early, parked outside and waited for the 9PM doors to open. I know people in Philly. I’m not a complete stranger in the town, and I say this not to tout social connections like I’m not some fucking misanthrope who spends his whole life in front of a keyboard, but just to point out that I had options I could’ve probably exercised instead of, say, sitting for 90 minutes and staring at my phone, obsessively lurking on the forum or reading hard-hitting speculation about the Yankees’ prospects this coming season. I could’ve called somebody and gotten out of my car. It could’ve happened. But on the other hand, it was like 10 degrees out. Cold leads to immobility.
I was downstairs — because here’s a shocker: Underground Arts is actually technically a basement venue despite being able to hold 1,000 people — before the doors opened and waited around with the other early-types, who were right to wonder why no one was being let in to drink even as the DJ had already begun to spin ’70s obscurities from heavy lore. As usual, the issue was dropped once they started letting everyone through and soon, soon enough, Venice Beach retro punkers The Shrine appeared to run smiling through a set of their heavied-up no-frills jams. They pretty clearly dig what they do, and I like to watch that, even if their sound is more suited to an empty pool in SoCal summertime than Philly in January.
The bulk of what they played I recognized from their 2012 Tee Pee debut, Primitive Blast (review here), and I’d seen the trio before opening for Honkyand Fu Manchu in NYC, so I had some vague idea of what to expect, but it’s always different seeing a band after you’ve heard the album, and where so much of my impression of The Shrine had been toward the skate-punk end — perhaps because that aesthetic factors so highly in their presentation; both guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau and drummer Jeff Murray wore shirts bearing the logo of Thrasher magazine — I guess I’d forgotten how thick their sound actually was. Landau shredded through his Marshall, true enough, but it was , bassist Courtland Murphy‘s Sunn providing the foundation on which the songs rested.
And as quick as I was to relate Primitive Blast to Black Flag – not inappropriately, in the case of some of the material — their sound live was actually much fuller and less raw than their grainy video for “Whistlings of Death” would lead one to assume. Album opener “Zipper Tripper” and closer “Deep River (Livin’ to Die)” were memorable highlights, though The Shrine moved quickly enough that they probably could’ve played everything off the record had they so desired (and if they didn’t). As I said above, it was the second night of the tour, so front to back there were aspects of the show’s operation that will probably be tighter in a couple more nights, but The Shrine‘s set delivered more than I could ask for and more than anything else gave me the impression that their real potential isn’t to capture the essence of early ’80s hardcore punk — all but impossible — but to grow into something new and individual based off that, similar to how Graveyard and a (very select) few others have been able to do with ’70s heavy rock. I look forward to seeing how it works out.
I’d chosen to hit Philly for the show instead of Manhattan of Brooklyn for two reasons: The crowd at Bowery Ballroom when Graveyard came through just over a year ago with Radio Moscow (review here) and fond memories of Underground Arts from seeing The Company Band there over the summer (review here). I won’t have been at either New York show to know for sure whether or not I made the right choice, but my inclination as Graveyard hit the stage at 11PM and blasted through 90 minutes of blues rocking supremacy was that the extra road time was justified.
Actually, maybe “blasted” isn’t the right word, because where after 2011′s Hisingen Blues(review here), they’d amassed a short catalog of mostly blistering classic rockers, the songs almost terminally upbeat and jagged in their Zeppelin crotchal thrust, Lights Out is simply a more diverse album atmospherically, with subdued, building numbers like “Slow Motion Countdown” and “Hard Times Lovin’” — both of which were played in Philly — to complement the rush of a song like “Seven Seven” or “Goliath.” Their 2008 self-titled had some of that moodier edge, and Hisingen Bluesdid as well on “Uncomfortably Numb,” which they also played, but its most resonant moments were the testimony of “Ain’t Fit to Live Here” or the title-track, drummer Axel Sjöberg challenging the rest of the band to keep up with him and guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson — and his throaty falsetto — rising to the occasion.
With the siren that launches the album as their intro, they opened with “An Industry of Murder” from Lights Out, and if nothing else, it was clear that everybody had heard the record. That would prove to be the case throughout the 15-song setlist (it was numbered), which covered all three of their albums. Wider distribution for the last two through Nuclear Blast, the momentum of touring and growing repute are doubtless the cause of that. I’ll freely admit to not getting on board with what they were doing until the second record, despite having heard the first, but either way, they made the most of it on stage. Guitarist Jonathan Ramm had several instances of blowing out his Orange head — Landau‘s Marshall was brought in as a replacement and sounded fine, but they tried again with the Orange and met with similar results further into the set — and that derailed the initial push of “An Industry of Murder” into “Hisingen Blues,” which, since it was followed by Lights Out‘s fastest track, “Seven Seven,” clearly wasn’t where they wanted the break to take place.
Still, these things can’t be helped sometimes. Nilsson, Sjöberg and bassist filling in for Rikard Edlund jammed out for a bit while Ramm and the stage crew tried to sort out his amp situation, and before long, “Seven Seven” revived the energy of the set and carried into the downshift of “Slow Motion Countdown.” I thought this was an especially bold inclusion, since so much of what makes that song such a high point of Lights Outis the Rhodes, mellotron and piano added to the guitars, bass and drums, but Graveyard made it work, and where Nilsson had seemed rushed in “Hisingen Blues,” the slower tempo allowed him to work his voice more, much to the song’s benefit. It made a solid lead-in for “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” “Buying Truth (Tack & Förlåt)” and “Uncomfortably Numb,” a trio from Hisingen Blues beginning with the opener that were each more welcomed than the last. They dipped back to the self-titled for “As the Years Pass by, the Hours Bend” and returned to Lights Outfor “The Suits, the Law and the Uniforms,” which was rough — though lent extra presence by the bassline — but still grooving and “Hard Times Lovin’,” which Nilsson introduced as, “the most beautiful love song you’ve ever heard.”
I stood directly in front, just about in the middle, and the press of the crowd behind me was such that I’d have a line of bruise across my thighs from being pushed into the stage. This was enough at several points to make me think maybe I should head into the back and watch the remainder of the set from a more comfortable vantage, but to Graveyard‘s credit, they kept me where I was the whole time. “Hard Times Lovin’” turned out to be a highlight of the night, followed by “Thin Line” and “Goliath” (yes, those leads killed) to close out the regular set. After a couple minutes and some fervent chanting from the crowd, the band reemerged from backstage and hit into Hisingen Blues closer, “The Siren.”
The place went off. I continued to get pushed forward with nowhere to go. So what did I do? Motherfucker, I leaned back, trustfall-style. Among the few benefits of being a gentleman of such ample proportion is the knowledge that, if I want to go backwards, I’m going. That eased the pressure some and all was fine till some beardo decided it was time to stagedive, jumped up from the side and took my head with him on his way to the floor. After being summarily punched by his body, he caught my sweatshirt — and considerably more painfully, my hair — with him and then all of a sudden I was crouched over, caught and moving one way without really any choice in the matter. “The Siren” seemed 20 minutes long. Eventually whatever part of that dude was attached to my already-thinning-and-not-at-all-needing-to-be-ripped-out hair was unattached and he went on his way. It was… not boring.
He wasn’t the last, but thankfully everyone else was either tiny or going the other way or both. “Endless Night” from Lights Out and “Evil Ways” from the self-titled followed as a closing duo, the latter with an excellent jam included, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if by the end of this tour Graveyard are closing with “The Siren.” That got the biggest response and seemed the most fitting, with the “Tonight a demon came into my head/And tried to choke me in my sleep” chorus igniting even more of a singalong than had the rest of their cuts.
Whatever they do or don’t do with the order though, it was a quality set, 90 solid minutes that wrapped at 12:30AM and sent me back into the cold night for a two-hour ride home that I made shorter the best way I know how — by speeding. I guess Graveyard will have that effect on you.