Sgt. Sunshine Self-Titled Reissue Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sgt. sunshine

It has bothered me for some time not to own a copy of Sgt. Sunshine‘s 2002 self-titled debut. I have their second record, Black Hole, which came out in 2007, and its 2013 follow-up, III (review here), and both of those were released by Elektrohasch, which also had a vinyl version of the self-titled out in limited numbers, but I never managed to find it on CD. It’s still a search I do on eBay and Amazon and Discogs every now and again — including just now, since it’s on my mind — and nope. Nothing. A couple copies of the vinyl for $125 or thereabouts. No CD. This and the first Rotor are frickin’ elusive.

Thanks to Heavy Psych Sounds, it’s about to be less elusive. The Italian imprint has inked a deal to put Sgt. Sunshine‘s Sgt. Sunshine back out. The vinyl will come in either silver or black, fitting to the artwork, and it’s available to preorder starting May 15 ahead of its May 28 release. It’s hailed as something of an underappreciated classic, and this Heavy Psych Sounds reissue will pave the way for the trio to release their fourth album, which is tentatively due this fall, also through the label. Their announcement, as ever, was short and to the point, but the news is good. I’ve also included the album in full from YouTube, should you like to familiarize or revisit.

Dig it:

sgt sunshine cover

Heavy Psych Sounds Records is really proud to announce another great release!

HPS025 ***SGT.SUNSHINE***(Selfitled-2002)

The Swedish band lead by Eduardo Fernandez started 1998 placed them amongst one of the leading underground Stoner-Heavy Psych rock bands of the time.

HPS Records going to reprint this incredible record out in 2002.

HPS Records also signed the band for their fourth full length that will be out in autumn!

RELEASE DATE MAY 28 / PRESALES MAY 15

Printed in 200 Ltd Silver Vinyl / Black vinyl / Digital

https://www.facebook.com/pages/SgtSunshine/1578586959055691
www.heavypsychsounds.com

Sgt. Sunshine, Sgt. Sunshine (2002)

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Quarterly Review: Royal Thunder, Strauss, Kult of the Wizard, Coogans Bluff, Papir Meets Electric Moon, We are Warwick Davis, Rongeur, Crowlegion, Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Eldorado

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk quarterly review

Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors

royal thunder crooked doors

Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record —  and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.

Royal Thunder on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records

Strauss, Luia

strauss luia

A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.

Strauss on Thee Facebooks

Strauss on Bandcamp

Kult of the Wizard, The White Wizard

kult of the wizard the white wizard

Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.

Kult of the Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Kult of the Wizard on Bandcamp

Coogans Bluff, Ein Herz Voller Soul

coogans bluff ein herz voller soul

With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records’ webstore

Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014

papir meets electric moon the papermoon sessions live at roadburn 2014

Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.

Papir on Thee Facebooks

Electric Moon on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

We are Warwick Davis, Storming the Castle

we are warwick davis storming the castle

Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.

We are Warwick Davis on Thee Facebooks

We are Warwick Davis on Reverbnation

Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos

Rongeur-The-Catastrophist-As-The-Blind-Strive-Demos

With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.

Rongeur on Thee Facebooks

Disiplin Media

Crowlegion, The First Offering

crowlegion the first offering

Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.

Crowlegion on Thee Facebooks

Crowlegion on Bandcamp

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost

chris forsyth and the solar motel band intensity ghost

Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.

Chris Forsyth on Thee Facebooks

No Quarter Records

Eldorado, Babylonia Haze

eldorado babylonia haze

Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.

Eldorado on Thee Facebooks

Eldorado on Bandcamp

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Band of Spice Premiere “You Can’t Stop” Official Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

band of spice

Formed in 2007 as Spice and the RJ Band, Swedish five-piece Band of Spice will issue their sophomore full-length and first outing in half a decade on April 28. Economic Dancers is the name of the album and it’s coming out via Italian imprint Scarlet Records, which has a relationship with Band of Spice frontman and principal songwriter Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand — noted for his past work in co-founding Spiritual Beggars and singing on their first four records, as well as fronting The Mushroom River Band  — going back a decade to the debut album of the more aggressive project KayserSpice and the RJ Band, which was initially the trio of Spice himself on guitar/vocals along with drummer Bob Ruben (“R”) and bassist Johan (“J”), expanded to a foursome after 2009’s Shave Your Fear, the follow-up to their 2007 debut, The Will, and with the inclusion of rhythm guitarist Anders Linusson, the name no longer applied. Spice and the RJ Band became Band of Spice.

The fifth member is pianist/organist Hulk, and while “You Can’t Stop” from Economic Dancers is short, it doesn’t take long for Hulk to make his presence known. Pretty much the first riff, actually. The song is a two-minute rush, constant movement propelled along by Ruben‘s kick drum, and in addition to taking a solo after the second chorus, the organ follows the start-stop riffing early on, leaving Spice plenty of room to soulfully belt out the verse lines, the whole thing sounding rushed but still in control. How “You Can’t Stop” portends the rest of Economic Dancers, I couldn’t really say, but Spice is a proven entity in terms of songwriting, so I’d expect some shakeup within the band’s framework of classically styled heavy rock and roll, traditional in its construction but pulsing with an energy all its own. Oh yeah, and it’s catchy as hell. The video, fittingly, captures the band on stage tearing it up to a vibrant crowd, booze, moshing, the whole bit. Looks like a good time to me.

On the player below, you’ll find the video premiere for “You Can’t Stop,” and some more info from Scarlet Records with some comment from Spice about Economic Dancers, which, again, is out April 28.

Please enjoy:

Band of Spice, “You Can’t Stop” official video

Band Of Spice, the new band featuring Swedish singer/songwriter Spice (Spiritual Beggars, Kayser), have released the video for the song ‘You Can’t Stop’, taken from their new album ‘Economic Dancers’, which will be available available starting from April 28th, 2015 on Scarlet Records.

Here is how Spice himself commented this new release: “When I wrote these songs I was listening a lot of music from the end of the Seventies and the early Eighties. As we recorded them, the songs came out quite smooth, organic and melodic, with a touch of “dirt” I would say. This time, instead of renting a studio to record the album, as we did with the previous albums, we decided to build our own studio. We felt that we needed the time to get it right. We didn’t want to rush it. We wanted to fill the songs with just the right amount of warmth, love and justice. The lyrical concept is about abuse, hope, hopelessness, weakness and strength. To try to live life without safety nets and still be able to stay sane. I hope you will enjoy it.”.

Economic Dancers preorder at Scarlet Records’ Bandcamp

Economic Dancers on eBay

Economic Dancers iTunes preorder

Band of Spice at Scarlet Records

Scarlet Records on Thee Facebooks

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Kamchatka to Release Long Road Made of Gold in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

kamchatka

Swedish trio Kamchatka aren’t all that far removed from their last album, 2014’s The Search Goes On, but the PR wire brings details of a May release for their next outing, titled Long Road Made of Gold. The three-piece have unveiled the new song “Get Your Game On” with its decidedly Clutchy groove and snare runs, and will issue the record May 22 through Despotz Records. They were recently on the road in Europe, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves out there again soon to promote the new LP. Once you manage to squeeze in so much, the only thing to do is keep doing more.

Those details and audio:

kamchatka long road made of gold

KAMCHATKA ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM “LONG ROAD MADE OF GOLD” ON DESPOTZ RECORDS

Sixth studio album out May 22

Swedish blues rock trio, Kamchatka, will release its sixth studio album, Long Road Made of Gold, on May 22, 2015 via Despotz Records.

“‘Get Your Game On’ is one of those songs you can’t wait to play live – an up tempo rocker with an uplifting vibe. This is a true energy pill to wake you up like a slap in the face!”

Long Road Made of Gold was recorded in Kamchatka’s own studio and rehearsal room, the “Kamchatka shelter,” and mixed and mastered by Russ Russell (Napalm Death, Dimmu Borgir).

“Even though our music is rooted in ’60s and ’70s music, it’s important for us to have a contemporary sounding album,” explained drummer Tobias Strandvik. “We don’t want to repeat ourselves either, and having Russ Russell mixing and mastering certainly gives it the punch and power we wanted. Russ is mostly known for extreme metal like Napalm Death etc., but embraced this project with open arms and the sonic outcome is definitely our strongest to date.”

Album artwork comes courtesy of Hippograffix, creator of all the Kamchatka graphics since day one.

01. Take Me Back Home
02. Get Your Game On
03. Made of Gold
04. Human Dynamo
05. Rain
06. Who´s to Blame
07. Mirror
08. Slowly Drifting Away
09. Long Road
10. To You
11. No One That Can Tell
12. Devil Dance

Long Road Made of Gold follows Kamchatka’s 2014 release, The Search Goes On. Stay tuned for more information.

Kamchatka is…
Per Wiberg – bass/vocals
Tobias Strandvik – drums
Thomas “Juneor” Andersson – guitar/vocals

www.facebook.com/Kamchatkaofficial
http://www.kamchatka.se/
www.despotz.se
www.facebook.com/DespotzRecords

Kamchatka, “Get Your Game On”

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Monolord, Vænir: Top of the Lake

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

monolord vaenir

As slow as some of their riffs are, heads have turned correspondingly fast toward Swedish tone constructionists Monolord. They leave little mystery as to why. Their 2014 debut, Empress Rising, garnered vast attention with its onslaught of riffs and volume-as-ritual appeal, and their sophomore outing, titled Vænir after the largest lake in Sweden an released, like the first LP, by RidingEasy Records, is sure to follow suit. Comprised of six tracks that offer minimal variance from the band’s central ethic of earth-moving low end and buried-deep watery vocals, Vænir taps into a kind of neo-primitivism in stoner-doom riffing. The point is that it should be overwhelming, and there are times where it is. With elements repurposed from the likes of SleepElectric Wizard, a keyboard-less Ufomammut, and even some of YOB‘s spacious minimalism in a midsection break on Vænir‘s closing title-track, the Gothenburg three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki conjure a sound that’s at once simplistic and increasingly easy to see as their own, pushing into deep, chest-vibrating rumble while keeping enough of a handle on their songwriting as to make Vænir a memorable experience for more than the impact factor. That’s not to take away from that either, however. Primarily, the impression Vænir leaves is like a flag planted on a holy mountain, Monolord staking a claim on a time-honored ritual of volume and sonic excess. It is heavy, in other words. Very heavy. It knows it’s heavy and it knows that heaviness is something worth celebrating. By the time the explosive opener “Cursing the One” is through with its nine-minute rollout, arguing against it seems futile.

There is a large difference between those who worship heaviness and those engaged in building their own temple of it, and to Monolord‘s credit, they seem engaged in the latter, poised toward the development of an individual sensibility within a tricky host of familiar impressions. As much as Vænir‘s tones could be heard as a godsend for heads itching for that ever-elusive (until you look) next nod, the real miracle of the album is that it doesn’t collapse under its own weight. Häkki‘s bass and Willems‘ drums are essential to this, as they manage to keep a song like “Cursing the One” or its more open, loose-swinging follow-up, “We Will Burn,” together, but the atmospheric effect of the vocals, awash in effects and universally deep in the mix — purposefully obscured — isn’t to be understated. Not only does the placement of Jäger‘s voice give it the opportunity to slice through the wall of distortion created by the guitar and bass, which it does effectively throughout Vænir, but it makes the whole thing sound even bigger and otherworldly. “We Will Burn” shifts into Conan-esque rolling groove in its back half, finishing by hammering down a stonerly-headbanger of a riff that leads into the classic-styled intro of “Nuclear Death,” which sets up a comfortable mid-pace push with wraparound drum fills and a crashes only to pull the rug out from the whole thing as it approaches its fourth minute. A thudding slowdown is met by a watery verse and grueling solo, and while the pace is revived somewhat with a kick-in from Willems, the impression is made. “Nuclear Death” would seem about as far into the abyss as Vænir wants to go, but in truth, it’s really just the beginning of the album’s next stage.

monolord (Photo by Hank Henrik Oscarsson)

The first of two cuts on Vænir to top 10 minutes, “Died a Million Times” is the most landmark hook included, and Monolord put it to good use. Its opening minutes set a quicker tempo, and before a line of vocals arrive, the song is already catchy, a stoner bounce counteracted by the fact that it should be too heavy to even get off the ground. It does though, and a quick verse leads to the chorus, which plays off the title line to particularly memorable effect — as much as Vænir has a signature moment that summarizes what the record is about, “Died a Million Times” is it. Verse and chorus cycle through again and a stop leaves just Jäger‘s guitar to act as a bed for a sample from the 1960 film adaptation of H.G. Wells‘ The Time MachineHäkki‘s bass coming in shortly before the captured lines, “I don’t much care for the time I was born into/It seems people aren’t dying fast enough these days,” signal a return for Willems and full-tonal burst, leading to a combined solo and final chorus that crashes to an end with rumble and amp noise to carry it out, leading into the two-minute interlude-plus of “The Cosmic Silence,” a sort of “Planet Caravan”-meets-“Paint it Black” progression where the guitar and percussion are as obscure as the vocals have been all along. It’s a stylistic turn that fits well where it is but is perhaps late in arriving — I don’t know what it would do to the vinyl structure to have something similar, or different for that matter, earlier in the album too — though its purpose seems to be as much to allow some recovery between “Died a Million Times” and “Vænir” as to establish its own quiet, serene psychedelic vibe. Ultimately, it succeeds in both, and when “Vænir” kicks in, its slow, crushing churn feels all the more weighted for the lead-in. “Vænir” breaks roughly into three movements: the early plod, the spaceout and the final jam.

Of those (and yes, it’s a simplified categorization), the middle spaceout probably adds the most to the context of Vænir overall. The lumbering initial progression and the well-rode capper reaffirm a lot of what has worked all along on the record, but its in that expansive soundscape of guitar that the closer really establishes its own dynamic, following impulses that have, again, been there the whole time, but reinterpreting them similarly to how Monolord has successfully taken the lessons of their key influences and used them to create something new from them. A relatively new band (formed in 2013) of experienced players, the chemistry between JägerHäkki and Willems is markedly developed even for a sophomore outing, but there’s a sense that Vænir isn’t the sum total of what Monolord have to offer stylistically. That is to say, while their sound has been well established over their first two albums, the trio has also still left themselves open avenues for progression should they choose to pursue them. Whether they will and what shape their evolution will continue to take is anyone’s best guess, but with Vænir, they effectively demonstrate that Empress Rising was no fluke and that their intention is to leave a footprint befitting the deep heft they bring to bear across these songs.

Monolord, Vænir (2015)

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records

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On Wax: Lé Betre and King Buffalo, Split

Posted in On Wax on March 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

le-betre-king-buffalo-vinyl-and-cover

It seems unlikely at this point that I’d need to once more trumpet the quality of STB Records‘ vinyl. The NJ-based label has quickly thrust itself to the fore of American heavy rock purveyors, bringing forth limited releases that seem to be gone before they’re even out and delving into next-generation heavy rock with an ear for tone and a consistently mindful presentation. In the case of the split 12″ between Sweden’s Lé Betre and New York’s King Buffalo, the vinyl is, of course, already gone. Second pressing coming soon. Numbers were limited — 350 or so copies in white, orange, white and orange or clear with orange splatter — but as with everything STB puts out at this point, speed is required if you actually want to get a copy. Pressed to 180g white vinyl with a two-sided liner (one side for each band) le-betre-king-buffalo-vinyl-side-band evocative cover art, the Lé Betre and King Buffalo split does justice to the up and coming nature of both bands.

That in itself is saying something. Lé Betre also released what was apparently a super-limited, 30-copies-only edition of their 2014 debut album, Melas, through STB that likewise vanished as soon as it arrived, and it’s from that album that most of their material for this split comes. Three out of their five tracks, “Gowns and Crowns,” “Snake Eyes” and  “By the Great White Lights,” which has a companion piece included on the prior release, seem to have their roots on Melas, the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/pianist Marcus Jonsson, guitarist/vocalist Anders Westman, bassist/vocalist Roger Lysén and drummer Jonas Sahlberg tapping into Graveyard-style blues rock without going full-retro in terms of the production, a song like “Jesper Eriksson” pushing vocals forward amid a steady roll that’s open and natural-sounding, but not nearly as analog-minded as one might expect going into it. Keyboard and/or organ plays a large part as well, and with the due fuzz and strum, it’s hard to tell on “Gowns and Crowns” where the guitars end and the keys begin, but that winds up being half the fun. Soulful if familiar, the jangle of “By the Great White Lights” makes a suitable centerpiece to side A, though handclap-infused closer “Mother,” also the longest Lé Betre inclusion, is their most resonant take, providing a better look at the band’s balance of organic flow and tight songwriting than earlier, shorter cuts, catchy as those are.

I’ll admit to some pretty high anticipation when it came to hearing new material from King Buffalo, whose 2013 demo (review here) still gets regular plays. Then a four-piece and now a trio — if you’re looking for former guitarist/vocalist Randall Coon, check out Skunk HawkKing Buffalo seem to have solidified some of their jammier impulses. Of their three inclusions, closer “Providence Eye” is the only one that previously appeared on the demo, and it was re-recorded by guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay along with the two new tracks, “New Time” and “Like a Cadillac,” which both follow suit from Lé Betre‘s jammy songwriting blend, if with their own, more pastoral take. McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson started out with a noteworthy chemistry and have only pushed it forward over the last year-plus, as a comparison of the two versions of “Providence Eye” shows, but “New Time” and “Like a Cadillac” tell more of the story of their progression, taking the swing and molten vibe of their looser, longer demo material and tightening it up with more structured songwriting. le-betre-king-buffalo-front-coverI’m dying to hear what these guys come up with for a full-length, and what experimental edge they might be able to bring to that form in acoustic parts, keyboard interludes, etc., but the commitment to a natural sound King Buffalo show on this split shines all on its own and wants little for expansion. They were on the right track before, they’re still on the right track. It’s good to know, and hopefully they keep writing.

While it would be inappropriate to call either band “established” at this point, both seem to be heading in that direction, Lé Betre following their Melas album, King Buffalo following their demo and lineup change, and it’s particularly remarkable that Lé Betre, for whom this split is ostensibly the first North American release, would get the A side and King Buffalo the B, considering the latter act has toured at least on the East Coast and is native to the region from which the label also hails. I chalk it up to STB and both bands making the decision to put exposing Lé Betre to as many ears as possible a top priority, and that proves a worthy cause as the Swedish act’s five songs play out. Lé Betre‘s bluesy inflection and King Buffalo‘s rural roll wind up giving a glimpse at where European and American heavy rock are headed, and wouldn’t you know, they fit together very, very well.

Lé Betre, “Gowns and Crowns”

King Buffalo, “Providence Eye”

Lé Betre on Thee Facebooks

Lé Betre on Bandcamp

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Bandcamp

STB Records

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Sorcerer Stream “The Gates of Hell” from Debut LP In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross

Posted in audiObelisk on March 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sorcerer

Epic doom and classic metal resound throughout Sorcerer‘s much-awaited debut LP, In the Shadow of the Black Cross, which is out March 24 on Metal Blade Records. The band are something of a myth in doom, having released two demos in 1989 and 1992 — both later compiled and release by John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus‘ imprint, Brainticket Records — before breaking up and sending its members on to other acts like TherionTiamat220 VoltSoilwork and so on. Under the guidance of founding bassist Johnny Hagel and vocalist Anders Engberg, who are joined by guitarists Kristian Niemann and Peter Hallgren and drummer Robert IversonSorcerer made a return in 2010 and have been constructing In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross ever since, with Iverson in the role of engineer.

It wasn’t an especially quick process, but the precision with which Sorcerer execute the record’s eight tracks justifies the extra care. Songs like the eight-minute “Lake of Lost Souls” unfold with latter-day Iommi-style metallic grace, the album’s first three tracks — “The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer,” “Sumerian Script” and “Lake of the Lost Souls”sorcerer in the shadow of the inverted cross — forming a triumvirate of classic doom that, because they hail from Stockholm, one might be tempted to relate to Candlemass. In the context of the album as a whole, however, Grand Magus seems a more appropriate fit, since neither are Sorcerer shy about establishing a metallic foundation for cuts like “Exorcise the Demon” or “The Gates of Hell,” stepping forward in tempo and aggression while remaining in full command of their sound to the point of seeming to nod at Enslaved‘s “Fusion of Sense and Earth” with the central riff of In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross‘ title-track.

Wherever they might be headed at any given moment on their quarter-century-later debut, though, the material is drawn together by a sense of grand mystery and gracefulness, so that the synth-underscored verses of “Prayers for a King” or the final, solo-topped apex of “Pagans Dance” and quiet epilogue that follows fit seamlessly with the rest of the album’s shifts, including those of “The Gates of Hell” preceding, the shortest and perhaps most metallic cut on In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross. With it, the five-piece dip for four and a half minutes into near-power metal stylizations, blurring a usually distinct genre line effectively as they dig crisply into what winds up being a singularly infectious hook, peppered with guitar leads, chanting and more fist-pump-worthy riffing than your wrist can handle.

I’m pleased to be able to host the premiere of “The Gates of Hell” ahead of the album’s March 24 release. Please find it on the player below, followed by some more bio background on the band/record from Metal Blade, and enjoy:

SORCERER was formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1988 but disbanded after two demos in 1992. Both demos are considered true Doom Metal classics and have been released on CD in 1995. In 2010 the band came back together to play the Hammer of Doom festival in Germany and a year later the Up The Hammers festival in Athens, Greece. Both shows were received extremely well and the thoughts of putting together a new album started to take form. In the end it took over two years to write, arrange and record it but the result is nothing but pure, heavy epic doom metal. The process of putting all bits and pieces together and making it ready for mix and mastering was the work of drummer Robert Iversen, also a very fine recording engineer, who was acting as the spider in the recording web. The album was mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Amon Amarth, Devin Townsend).

With years of professional experience and top-class instrumental abilities among its band members the SORCERER of the 21st century is determined to deliver epic doom metal for many years to come; on record and on stages all around the world!

Track Listing:
1. The Dark Tower of the Sorcerer
2. Sumerian Script
3. Lake of the Lost Souls
4. Excorcise the Demon
5. In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross
6. Prayers for a King
7. The Gates of Hell
8. Pagans Dance

SORCERER is:
Anders Engberg – vocals
Kristian Niemann – guitars
Peter Hallgren – guitars
Johnny Hagel – bass
Robert Iversen – drums

Sorcerer on Thee Facebooks

Sorcerer’s website

Sorcerer at Metal Blade Records

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Friday Full-Length: Candlemass, Nightfall

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Candlemass, Nightfall (1987)

I don’t think there’s any measure by which Candlemass‘ 1987 sophomore outing, Nightfall, doesn’t rate as a doom classic. On a sheer album level, in terms of what I grab off the shelf when I want to listen to the band, I’ll admit to a preference for the Stockholm unit’s 1986 debut, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, with Johan Längquist singing,but Nightfall is an LP of undeniable force, and it was their first to be fronted by Messiah Marcolin, beginning what some would argue is the most pivotal era in their tenure. It’s fair to argue that Epicus had its epic side, but Marcolin‘s voice brought a new theatrical element to bassist Leif Edling‘s songwriting, and while it would continue to develop over the band’s next two albums, 1988’s Ancient Dreams and 1989’s Tales of Creation — as with a lot of classic metallers, the ’90s were not especially kind to Candlemass — one can already hear the grandiosity taking hold in the band’s approach on songs like “The Well of Souls,” “Samarithan,” and “At the Gallow’s End.” Peppered with instrumentals and interludes, Nightfall wanted nothing for atmosphere, and in a time when doom and metal could hardly have been considered as separate entities, it opted for a more poised, classical character.

That’s not to say it didn’t also spawn the cult-classic video for “Bewitched,” just that musically and vocally it was shooting for something more sophisticated than either thrash or the by-then-waning NWOBHM. Or at least that’s how it sounds 28 years later. Marcolin left the band in 1991 and was replaced by Thomas Vikström and then Björn Flodkvist. After a dissolution following 1999’s From the 13th Sun, Candlemass reformed in 2005 with Marcolin once more up front with Edling, guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson, and drummer Jan Lindh, but by the time 2007’s King of the Grey Islands surfaced, it was Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus in the vocalist role; a position he’d hold through 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here) and 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here), also earning the distinction of being the singer for Candlemass‘ first-ever US tour. Though they’ve threatened retirement several times, Candlemass are still active, with former Therion vocalist Mats Levén as their frontman and Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, also Kamchatka) on keys. The last few years have seen numerous compilations and live album released, including the Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Live at Roadburn 2011 LP (review here) that reunited them with Johan Längquist for the first time since he sang on the debut.

Hope you enjoy it.

Lot of posts this week. Like a lot. The least any day had was five, two days had six (that includes today) and yesterday I think there were seven. Madness. I got a note yesterday from someone on Thee Facebooks who said The Obelisk was one of his “favorite news sites,” which was interesting to me because that’s not really how I think about what I do. I guess the news posts are cool and it’s nice when people share the links and all that and I try to keep up as best I can — I’m already behind for Monday, so you can see how well that goes — but the reviews take so much more time and thought. Can’t fight City Hall, though. News it is. A fascinating glimpse at an identity for a project that’s been in flux more than six years now. One day I’ll settle into something.

Tonight I’m going to see ElderMos Generator and Magic Circle in Providence, so expect a review of that on Monday. Next week is The Patient Mrs.‘ Spring Break, and we’ll be traveling — to Maryland; woo. — so I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to get posted on any given day. One imagines less than seven posts. Fucking madman. But anyway, Monday will bring a full-album stream from Black Rainbows and I’ve got a special Wino Wednesday premiere booked for a Wino & Conny Ochs track from their forthcoming Freedom Conspiracy release, so keep an eye out for those. Other stuff is in the works too. Very hush-hush. Hopefully by the end of the week the new Acid King and Blackout records will have been reviewed.

Spring Break, woo!

At least baseball’s back on.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend and that you dig the Candlemass. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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