Asteroid, III: Standing at the Gates

Posted in Reviews on October 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Much of Asteroid‘s aptly-titled third album, III, is unassuming. It arrives via Fuzzorama Records with a photo of the band’s gear — artfully shot, but a gear photo — on the front cover, and at seven tracks/36 minutes, it’s quick, almost humble listen. That’s precisely the point. It’s been six years since the Örebro, Sweden, three-piece released II (review here), and while they would’ve been well within their rights to turn III into some grandiose, probably hyper-produced excursion given the occasion, it also would’ve been completely out of character. Asteroid went a much more fitting way, and III benefits from that choice.

Natural vibe, on every level. That’s what the gear shot represents. It’s not about some over-the-top presentation, but about the work that guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen) do in that rehearsal or studio space. It’s their chemistry that shines through, in combination with the unremittingly memorable songcraft of cuts like “Last Days” (premiere here), “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” and so on. And yes, III does build on the accomplishments of II in the direction it takes, since that record — thought to be their swansong, notwithstanding the 2013 7″ single Move a Mountain/One Foot in the Grave (review here), until their reunion was announced here late in 2015 — shifted from the more straight-ahead fuzz rock of their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) toward a more open, bluesier, jammier style.

III pushes further in that direction from the gentle way Campbell‘s drums seem to start opener “Pale Moon” in medias res joined soon by Nilsson‘s inimitable warm bass tone and ambient guitar swirl from Hirse down to the soaring leads and into-the-night howls of closer “Mr. Strange.” There is no song of the seven that doesn’t deliver a standout factor, whether it’s a hook, solo, overall groove, vocal tradeoff between Hirse and Nilsson, and the flow created between the tracks makes III a better return than one could’ve reasonably hoped for from Asteroid.

I say that as a fan of the band, which I acknowledge I am. Nonetheless, to have Asteroid come back in a manner that not only reinforces the work they’ve done before but actively builds on it and pushes it forward almost gives III a spirit of making up for lost time. It was three years between the self-titled and II, and even with the 7″ factored in, they’ve doubled that span between full-lengths. In the interim, Hirse went on to found The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, and it legitimately seemed Asteroid were done. It was no minor loss to the sphere of European heavy rock and psychedelia, since what Asteroid effectively represent as a band is an alternative in audio organics that doesn’t necessarily need to rely on vintage presentation to get its point across.

In that regard, they pick up where they left off on III and move ahead from there. “Pale Moon,” one of just two inclusions over six minutes long, enters with a jammy feel, winding guitars, a minimal vocal presence, and eases the listener into what follows. No stretch to imagine it came out of the three of them picking up their instruments and playing the first thing that came to mind, whether or not that’s actually the case. Near the end, a wash of effects takes hold and comes forward, and the song ends with a rumble that leads into the opening of “Last Days,” which turns from its rolling introduction into a Beatlesian bounce marked out by Nilsson‘s bassline and some call and response singing underscored by the just-in-case-you-weren’t-thinking-AbbeyRoad short instrumental chorus riff.

The verse itself is the hook, and shows the band’s penchant for darker lyrical themes — “Death will come, he always does/For each and every one of us” is a standout line traded between Nilsson and Hirse — that comes up again on “Wolf and Snake” and the penultimate “Them Calling.” “Til Dawn,” which follows immediately with a warmth of shuffle given to fuzzy push, is shorter and somewhat faster, but doesn’t let go of the underlying groove of “Last Days” before it, instead building momentum as it starts and stops fluidly and shoves its way toward what’s probably the end of side A, turning around the 2:30 mark into a denser tone that they ride out for most of the duration, turning back to a cleaner guitar line to finish out in the last few seconds.

If you happen to be listening on a linear format — or if the vinyl side split is elsewhere — that makes the transition into “Wolf and Snake” all the more seamless. The centerpiece and longest track on III at a still-manageable 6:31, it’s a classic blues morality play with the standout lyrics in its first verse, “In the end we are the same/Said the wolf to the snake/You and me we’ve been asleep/While everybody else had to stay awake,” and it comes delivered with patience, dynamic shifts in tempo and a chorus that makes it stand among the highlights of the record and Asteroid‘s catalog as a whole.


Emphasizing the turns they’re able to pull off without even a measure’s notice, Hirse‘s layered lead work, and the way in which Nilsson and Campbell sustain cohesive rhythms while bolstering the guitar in classic power trio form. When they get back to the chorus from the solo section near the midpoint, it’s a release in tension, but the real shift comes in the subsequent slowdown — a transition into thickly-fuzzed, peppered-with-ambience riffing instrumental departure that carries them through the bulk of the remainder of the song, until the drums and bass drop out and the guitar lightly strums out the finish for the last minute or so.

At that point, the impact has been made, but just how much “Wolf and Snake” offers in its time serves as a summary of much of what the rest of III has to offer, though the subsequent two tracks, “Silver and Gold” and “Them Calling” are marked points of departure and contrast — at least from each other if not from the style of the band entirely. Rising quietly from the finish of “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold” is the shortest slice of III at 3:11, and from the swirling echoes preceding the first verse onward through the harmonies brought forth by Hirse and Nilsson, it’s the most ambitious vocal arrangement they’ve ever done.

And it marks a shift in approach as well, since so much of their appeal has always been about the tone of the guitar or bass and even the drum sounds, but while the dual-vocals has long been a key element of what they do, “Silver and Gold” is a level of performance and a level of confidence in that performance that’s perhaps the clearest marker of their progression on this album entirely, and reinforces Asteroid‘s fierce commitment to moving forward even as they get their feet under them following their years away. It makes III all the more special, and with a couple far-back hits from Campbell, shifts into a peaceful kind of gallop in its second half, vaguely Western, and topped with more non-lyricized harmonies echoing out over the space created, wrapping with a stretch of silence after the passing of some residual effects.

The role that brief quiet plays is no less pivotal than any of III‘s other transitions, since what it sets up is the outright crash into “Them Calling,” an outright fist-pump fuzz rocker that’s almost all thrust and raises a glass with the lines, “Now I stand at the gates of hell/Waiting for you to arrive/I hear them calling, calling for me/But I want you here by my side,” as it careens through headbang-worthy proto-metallic groove.

Tonally, it’s the densest material on the album, but it hits at just the perfect moment after “Silver and Gold,” and brings Nilsson and Hirse together righteously for the above-noted chorus, and shows that as far out as Asteroid are willing to go, they know the value as well that staying grounded can have. They rightly keep “Them Calling” to a straightforward structure, and in sheer effect, its leanness pushes it well into highlight status even before the solo in the second half gives way to one last bookend runthrough of the chorus and a couple hits to close. A “wow” moment, delightful in how unprecedented it is on III but still not at all a backward step on the part of the band, especially in the context of how it interacts with “Silver and Gold” before it and the closer “Mr. Strange” after.

As much as “Pale Moon” had a clear opening sensibility, “Mr. Strange” feels like it’s winding down — though, admittedly just about anything would with “Them Calling” before it — but as Nilsson takes the lead vocal, the foundation is laid for what will be the final push, complemented by memorable “whoa”s and a nodding lead-topped fuzz that once more casts out a sense of vastness without playing to the need for “sounding huge” or departing from the overarching class that Asteroid have shown all throughout the album to this point. In the end, it’s more active at its finish than “Pale Moon” was at its start, but no less fitting in the unassuming manner in which it rises to its occasion.

That is perhaps the most prevalent impression III leaves behind when it’s over. Asteroid probably could’ve made a “reunion” album. They didn’t. They made a third album, and the songs are stronger and more genuine for it in how they sound and what they signify as the band’s conceptual priorities now and going from here. III is one of 2016’s best, no question, and more over, it reminds of just how crucial Asteroid are and can continue to be as an influence to those who will invariably, hopefully, benefit from following their path. Recommended.

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Truckfighters, V: Creating the Storm

Posted in Reviews on October 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


If you want to look at the trajectory of Swedish heavy rockers Truckfighters, it’s easy to read their catalog as a series of forward steps. There is a clear narrative arc to their work that can be traced right to its latest chapter in their new offering, V. Their 2005 debut, Gravity X, boasts a few tracks that even 11 years later tap into a timeless imperative of desert rock. It established them as a noteworthy presence within the sphere of European fuzz and set in motion a touring and promotion ethic that has gone largely unmatched within that sphere.

Working as a four-piece for Phi in 2007, the Örebro-based outfit began to branch out, but it was with 2009’s Mania (review here) that their progressive side really first showed itself as the path they would follow in songwriting. They hit the road hard in the years that followed, released a feature-length documentary, and began a seemingly endless round of changes in lineup, with the core duo of vocalist/bassist Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm, guitarist Niklas “Dango” Källgren joined by an ongoing succession of drummers. On 2014’s Universe (review here), which was preceded by the EP The Chairman in 2013 and followed earlier this year by Live in London (review here), it was Andre “Poncho” Kvarnström, now of Blues Pills. For V, it’s Daniel “El Danno” Israelsson of Dexter Jones’ Circus Orchestra taking up the call, though my understanding is he too is already out of the band.

These shifts around Cedermalm and Källgren seem to have done little to ultimately slow the progression or momentum of Truckfighters, who as well as being one of the heavy underground’s most kinetic live acts have established one of its most immediately identifiable sounds — you know when you’re listening to Truckfighters — have taken another step forward in inking a deal with Century Media for the distributing of the seven-track/47-minute V, licensing through their own Fuzzorama Records, which has been home to each of their prior outings. A shift in profile, if not necessarily aesthetic, but noteworthy all the same in showing the multi-tiered evolution of the band, whose songcraft continues to grow as well. To listen to V front to back from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Calm Before the Storm” to the finisher “Storyline,” the larger portion of what the trio does in the span will be recognizable to those who heard Universe.

Certainly, in tone, their penchant for fuzz has remained consistent. It’s what they do with that fuzz that has changed over time, and a steady development in vocal confidence from Cedermalm combined with an increased comfort with complex modes of expression overall, which on the first two albums simply wasn’t there and in hindsight was only beginning to emerge on Mania, that results in such fluidity throughout V. Credit in setting the mood has to go to “Calm Before the Storm” as well. While V has plenty of upbeat moments of push in “Hackshaw,” “The 1,” “Gehenna,” and “Fiend” — and indeed the opener increases thrust as it builds through its hook — “Calm Before the Storm” is an especially bold choice to lead off for its brooding sensibility, which seems to find complement and emphasis even in the most raucous of moments that immediately follow, be it the winding chorus of “Hackshaw” or the thick-fuzzed push that begins “The 1.”


To an extent, this was true of Universe as well, and with half as much time between Universe and V as there was between Mania and Universe, it’s not surprising the two would share some characteristics, whatever Truckfighters have been through over the last couple years. But the scope has once again broadened, and one can hear that in how smoothly centerpiece “Gehenna” ebbs and flows, how the momentum of “The 1” seems to subside only to rise again, in the melodic reach of the chorus to “The Contract,” which might be V‘s standout moment, and in the poise with which Truckfighters claim such breadths and depths as their own. As much of their persona — which is not to say “brand” — is defined by onstage acrobatics, Källgren‘s madman energy running back and forth, jumping up and down, spinning in circles, etc., on record they seem even more daring how deeply they plunge into contemplative stretches.

The verse to “The Contract” is spacious, the bridge in the second half of “Hackshaw” dizzying but precisely executed, and the interplay of acoustic and electric guitar in “Storyline” a new level of emotional crux entirely. That Truckfighters can be patient and that band who are such a force in a live setting, and that they can ultimately do so without contradicting themselves and having their foundation collapse under them, makes them all the more special as a group contributing to the expansion of their genre. Even the subtlety that shows itself in the midsection of “Fiend,” teasing those acoustics that play a more prominent role after the blown-out push that starts “Storyline,” stands as an example of the delicate balance Truckfighters strike.

And though they then seem to delight in stomping all over that balance, it emerges unscathed. It might be fair to call this the triumph within V itself were it not for the level of songwriting Cedermalm and Källgren bring forth. Fifteen years on from their first getting together and with countless miles under their collective belt, they’ve become one of heavy rock’s most crucial teams, and more encouragingly, while they’ve clearly established a working modus, they refuse to sit still from one release to the next, to rest on past laurels, or to give in to the expectations of others. It is a rare band who, five albums in, can remain defined by their forward potential, and Truckfighters have worked hard to hold true to that reality.

Truckfighters, “Hackshaw” official video

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The Moth Gatherer Post Video for “Probing the Descent of Man”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


It’s basically a rehearsal-space video, but even that takes on an atmospheric flair when it comes from Swedish four-piece The Moth Gatherer. Taken from their second album, The Earth is the Sky (review here), which was released late last year on Agonia Records, the real miracle of the track “Probing the Descent of Man” might be the prescience of its title, as it’s easily the most apt description I’ve heard of the current US presidential campaign. I doubt that was The Moth Gatherer‘s intention, but the song is instrumental, so I’m just gonna go with it anyway. Clearly they’re looking to leave a certain amount open to interpretation.

Actually, it seems like The Moth Gatherer were most likely talking about a more personal situation when it comes to this title and the record overall, at least if the quote below is anything to go by. Fair enough. Mixed and mastered with Karl Daniel LidénThe Earth is the Sky played out with a variety of post-metallic textures, and though most of what we get in “Probing the Descent of Man” is dudes-in-a-room-style rocking and nodding, plus some ambient shots presumably outside somewhere nearby, the effect gets to a creative root that acts in their genre rarely show, preferring a somewhat less personal touch to their visuals. There’s nothing like a poster for Evil Dead 2 to humanize someone in my mind, I guess.

More info follows the clip below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

The Moth Gatherer, “Probing the Descent of Man” official video

Swedish atmospheric post-rock/doom metal visionaries with ambient and electronic fangs, THE MOTH GATHERER, premiere a new music video for the song “Probing The Descent Of Man”, taken from their last year’s album “The Earth Is The Sky” released on Agonia Records. The video was directed by Albin Sköld (Illusive Illustration) and recorded at the band’s rehearsal space in Sweden earlier this year.

Commented by the band: “The Earth Is The Sky is an album where we tried to take everything as far as we could. There where points during the recording where we honestly spoke about giving up and calling it a day, it felt like we would crumble under the album. But we suffered through. The result is a desperation about how humanity drags it all to the end. Where A Bright Celestial Light (debut album) was an introvert journey into decay, The Earth Is The Sky is a journey to the highest point on Earth where you sit down and contemplate about our existence while watching the flames from the burning world”.

Alex Stjernfeldt: Vocals & Bass
Victor Wegeborn: Vocals, Guitars & Electronics
Svante Karlsson: Drums
Ronny Westphal: Guitars

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Långfinger Premiere “Fox Confessor” Video; Crossyears LP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Langfinger (Photo by Bengt Persson)

Swedish power trio Långfinger released their third album, Crossyears, on Sept. 30. Their first for Small Stone Records, the record — which was first announced here — comes jammed with premium boogie and classic songcraft delivered with a new generation’s energy. One need look no further than the track “Fox Confessor” for clear demonstration of all of the above. The side A cut finds itself a comfortable pace and builds tension in its verse only to let loose in a righteous hooked backed up by spacious lead guitar. Then they turn around and do it all again. Another round for everybody.

That, incidentally, could also be said to be the theme of the video, though Långfinger push deeper into narrative than just playing a show and selling their amps (and dog) for alcohol after being stiffed by the club owner, actually going so far as to take revenge on the club owner themselves. Street justice! They wind up living the high life on a rooftop, praising high art and chipping golf balls into the urban setting below. You know, as one does. It’s about a four-minute clip to tell this story, and about a three-minute song underneath, so efficiency is a major factor here to be sure, but Långfinger don’t need any more time than they take in order to make an impression. Crossyears benefits across its span from their clarity of purpose as much as it does from their choice riffing and rhythmic fluidity.

Plus it’s a bass tone you just gotta hear.

The band was kind enough to offer some comment on the making of the video and the song, which you’ll find below. Crossyears is also streaming in full at Small Stone‘s Bandcamp, linked at the bottom of this post.

Please enjoy:

Långfinger, “Fox Confessor” official video

Långfinger on “Fox Confessor”:

“Fox Confessor” is the first collaboration between Långfinger and cinematographer Anders Bryngel. We were exploring the idea of working together for some years and with the new album looming, it was more appropriate than ever.

One day we devised a syndicate. We then determined that the effort should be focused on a narrative and as the storyline progressed we let it evolve naturally with the group’s dynamic. A spontaneous process driven by our collective efforts.

As for the actual song, which like many of our songs, established itself as an instrumental; was inspired by our favorite Krautrock bands from the late sixties. That was up until I spent some time in rural Argentina. The lyrics began as rough scribbles, and in the attempt to characterize the broad landscape, which seemed to encompass most of my days spent there, a sort of comic relief broke out into lyric.

Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

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Captain Crimson, Remind: Fuel for Future Reminiscence (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


[Click play above to stream Captain Crimson’s Remind in full. Album is out Friday, Oct. 14, on Small Stone Records.]

Swedish four-piece Captain Crimson make their debut on Small Stone Records with their third album, Remind. It’s a record that begs the question of just what we’re being reminded. Comprised of 10 boogie-laden, grooving, swinging, catchy tracks, it follows just two years behind 2014’s Ageless Time (on Moving Air and Nasoni) and four behind the band’s 2012 Dancing Madly Backwards debut that found them paying so strongly to their namesakes in Captain Beyond and King Crimson.

Now working with the lineup of vocalist Stefan Lillhager (ex-Blowback), guitarist Andreas Eriksson, bassist Chris David and drummer/organist Mikael Läth, the Örebro natives have come unquestionably into their own throughout these tracks, moving well beyond the ‘70s worship for which their hometown is so known in favor of a full sound, marking a less dramatic shift than that of, say, Witchcraft, but mostly because Captain Crimson were less of a directly vintage mindset to start with. In any case, what they arrive with on Remind is a 42-minute collection of tightly written, smoothly executed cuts that seem to be vying with each other to occupy space in the listener’s consciousness.

Will it be “Black Rose” or “Let Her Go” stuck in someone’s head? I don’t know, but there’s a good chance that something here will hit a nerve among the converted, as Captain Crimson favor quality songcraft over the trappings of hyper-stylization, and so have no need of the latter as they make their way through, energetically and deftly using the momentum of one track to push through the next.

In the album’s ultimate affect, it feels ahead of the curve in such a way as to recall (which is not to say “remind”) of young-gun countrymen rockers and labelmates Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, who made their debut in 2011 and have followed a similar stylistic trajectory in taking what more vintage-minded outfits have been able to accomplish over the last decade-plus and carry it forward, blending with ’90s influences, yes, but coming across with something new from that mixture.

In the case of Captain Crimson, there are elements at play in early pieces like opener “Ghost Town” or “Bells from the Underground,” which immediately follows and is the longest inclusion at 5:29, that tie them further into the long legacy of quality Swedish heavy rock; most notably in what they’re able to do with the hooks of these songs and the ease of their transitions one might liken their work here to Greenleaf‘s earlier days, or specifically for “Bells from the Underground,” from some of what Astrosoniq had on offer with their last outing, Quadrant, at least on some superficial level, but neither does Remind lack its own personality.

The 10 tracks break evenly onto two neatly-structured vinyl sides, and though each song seeks to deliver an impact, and succeeds on one level or another, they tie together fluidly as well, as one can hear in the crisp jive of “Love Street,” on which Eriksson‘s guitar leads a strut bolstered by layered vocals in the chorus and punchy bass, and the subsequent “Black Rose,” which pulls back on some of the thrust initially to lock in a sleek, classically metallic groove, easily turns into an acoustic break, and emerges with newfound vigor to lead to the side A closer “Money.”

Captain Crimson

Bluesier licks permeate, backed by serene organ flourish, and a flowing jam ensues, more patient than any of the faces Captain Crimson have yet shown, and so a decent setup for some of side B’s expansion of the album’s overall scope. Of course, before they get there, it’s only fair to match “Money” with a barnburner, and “Drifting” opens Remind‘s second half in raucous form, effectively reestablishing the momentum of “Ghost Town” as side B begins to unfold.

There’s some twang underlying the title-track, which follows, but the focus remains on the chorus, cleanly realized with push coming from Läth‘s kick drum, a prominent but not ever really out of place element across the record. Stomp suits Captain Crimson, and “Let Her Go,” with its blues-inflected harmonica (a guest performance from Timo Tilli), backs that up, finding a comfortable pace that allows them to continue to spread out their sound from its foundation of craft and structure in subtle and intriguing ways that become clearer on repeat listens. Then there’s the more drastic change brought on by the penultimate “Alone.”

Almost snuck in before closer “Senseless Mind” reaffirms the decades-spanning stylistic meld, the acoustic-led alone offers Lillhager a showcase in which to shine and he does not disappoint. With vocals and guitar, Captain Crimson depart from the rest of the album toward a different level of emotional resonance, but the presentation is still clear, and there’s never any sense of control lost.

Maybe “Senseless Mind” is meant to work as a reaction to that, or maybe it’s just the drastic contrast between the final two songs, but the ending feels especially riotous by the time it’s over. Before that, like “Black Rose” earlier, it cuts to a quieter interlude, but when the four-piece slam into the final thrust, there’s little doubt the apex has been reached. Like the record as a whole, they telegraph their intentions there, but three albums in, I don’t think there’s anything one could call to question in their intentions.

They clearly know what they’re doing, in the construction of their material, in putting together a record, and in filtering out anything that doesn’t best serve the song at hand. That makes Remind a strong depiction of a group who’ve clearly hit their stride, and leaves one to suppose that perhaps the title is referring to how much of a force such a group can be when captured at their best.

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Bridesmaid, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Landing, Reign of Zaius, Transcendent Sea, Red Teeth, Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Holy Smoke

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance


From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.

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Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!


Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.

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Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes


International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.

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Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!


Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website


Landing, Third Sight


The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.

Landing on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website


Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…


While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.

Reign of Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Reign of Zaius on Bandcamp


Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men


Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.

Transcendent Sea on Thee Facebooks

Transcendent Sea on Bandcamp


Red Teeth, Light Bender


Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website


Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split


One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.

Broken Limbs Recordings on Bandcamp

Sea of Bones on Thee Facebooks

Ramlord on Thee Facebooks


Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!


Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Blues Pills, Arctic, Major Kong, Hands I Annul Yours, Storm Ross, Sinister Haze, Love Gang, Nap, Manthrass, Astral Cult

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Blues Pills, Lady in Gold


Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.

Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website


Arctic, Arctic


Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.

Arctic on Thee Facebooks

Outer Battery Records


Major Kong, Brave New Kong


Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.

Major Kong on Thee Facebooks

Major Kong BigCartel store


Hands I Annul Yours, Year of Death


One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.

Hands I Annul Yours on Bandcamp

Major Destroyer Records website


Storm Ross, Welcome, Sunshine


Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.

Storm Ross on Thee Facebooks

Storm Ross on Bandcamp


Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death


Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

STB Records BigCartel store


Love Gang, Love Gang


The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Love Gang on Bandcamp


Nap, Villa


Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.

Nap on Thee Facebooks

Nap on Bandcamp


Manthrass, Blues del Destino


Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.

Manthrass on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge on Bandcamp


Astral Cult, The Sacred Flame


Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.

Astral Cult on Thee Facebooks

Astral Cult on Bandcamp


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Domkraft to Release The End of Electricity Nov. 11; Preorders Available & Teaser Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


I’ve heard Domkraft‘s The End of Electricity, and I’ll tell you three things about it: First, it crushes. The bass tone? You gotta hear it. Groove, lumbering. Riffs, pummeling. All that stuff that means it’s really, really heavy. Second, it opens with its longest track, which in my book gets it immediate points. Third, Magnetic Eye Records has it up for preorder now and for a limited time to coincide with releasing the trailer that you can see for the first time anywhere at the bottom of this post, they’ve also got free shipping on international preorders. So if you’re in Europe or Canada or South America or, you know, anywhere else that’s not the US, no need to be left out of the good times. Because ultimately we’re one big heavy family, no matter what it costs to send a package across a given border.

Seriously though, once you get a load of the aforementioned teaser clip, you might want to place that order, because it seems entirely likely to me that once people have a handle on what Domkraft are doing with The End of Electricity, those records could go and go quickly.

Art, info, links and audio follow, courtesy of Magnetic Eye:

Domkraft 12 jacket Gatefold

DOMKRAFT – The End of Electricity

Magnetic Eye Records – November 11, 2016

DOMKRAFT, whose name combines the Swedish “DOM” for judgement and “KRAFT” for power, blasts forth towering dirges of annihilating doom, mindbending psychedelia, and
hypnotic minimalism.

The seeds for the monolithic Stockholm band were planted in Gothenburg, where bassist/singer Martin Wegeland, guitarist Martin Widholm and drummer Anders Dahlgren met while playing in various musical constellations. Bonding over the likes of Spacemen 3, Monster Magnet, Sleep and Hawkwind, not to mention a fascination with 10-minute/three chord songs, they finally came together after each relocated to Stockholm.

Drawing from the heaviest of their combined influences, the three spent spent years shaping and crafting their sound, resulting in a spacious yet crushing approach. From Loop to Sleep, Sabbath to Neu!, Hawkwind to Neurosis and Swans to Spacemen 3, the DOMKRAFT sound is an unsettling mix of grinding riffs, blistering power, and inexorable motion.

Says Martin Wegeland: “Our songs build from one riff, played LOUD, then we add and lose parts to mold it all into something powerful. Focusing on the dramaturgy of the songs, we also have clear images in mind when writing. Inspiration comes from films like Jake Paltrow’s Young Ones, Stephen Fingleton’s The Survivalist and (of course) The Road Warrior, though we never let any of that interfere with the groove and energy. The results of our songwriting method may differ in shape from one song to the next, but the foundation is always the same – repetition and volume! You’ll eventually get sick of every melody, but grooves are forever.”

This is Domkraft:
Martin Widholm – Guitar
Martin Wegeland – Bass & Vocals
Anders Dahlgren – Drums

Domkraft, The End of Electricity teaser

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