Issued in July 1973, the sophomore outing from Aussie heavy rockers Buffalo falls right between Deep Purple‘s Who Do We Think We Are? (Jan.) and Black Sabbath‘s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Dec.), and when it comes to Volcanic Rock itself, that’s not a bad way to think about where it was coming from generally. The Sydney-based band formed in 1971 and released their debut, Dead Forever, in 1972, and so missed out on taking part in the barrage of self-titled offerings that showed up in the few years prior, 1970-’71 serving as a nexus point from which heavy rock and roll still seems to be expanding. Still, if they were a little behind the times, Volcanic Rock is no less sincere than any of its 1971 counterpart offerings from gritty rockers like Atomic Rooster, Cactus or countless others. If anything, Buffalo are harder-edged from the start of the propulsive “Sunrise (Come My Way)” through the epic proto-metal finish of “Pound of Flesh/Shylock.” Led by John Baxter‘s guitar and with Dave Tice‘s bluesy vocals, Buffalo represent much of the best of their era, and if the fact that Volcanic Rock showed up two years later means anything in the long run, it means the band’s time was well spent in making it.
To wit, the lurching groove of the nine-minute “Freedom” is an absolute high point, swinging and patient with Jimmy Economou‘s drums and Peter Wells‘s bass. It would be easy for this song and any number of others to fall into post-Led Zeppelin theatric posturing, but it never quite does. Instead, it captures a dead-on nod-jam that sets the tone for some of what “Shylock” will offer later on before giving way to “Till My Death,” in which one can hear the seeds of what Judas Priest would soon enough turn into classic metal. Through that track and “The Prophet,” which thickens up hard-blues grooves and plays off a traditional American gospelism, Buffalo cast an identity for themselves that remains resonant to this day, their methods simply burlier and more roughed up than a lot of heavy rock was and would become as it continued to grow under a progressive influence. Buffalo had their own path, and after Volcanic Rock — the bizarre cover art of which is discussed here — they would continue down it with 1974’s Only Want You for Your Body, 1976’s Mother’s Choice and their final album, 1977’s Average Rock ‘n’ Roller, all through Vertigo Records.
As will happen with this kind of thing, there are numerous editions of the album in existence. I don’t know from which the bonus tracks included in the video above are culled, but whatever. The record itself ends after “Shylock” at 37:25. If you want to push beyond that into the rest, that’s cool too. None of it sucks.
Hope you enjoy.
Quiet start to the New Year, all things considered. I knew it was midnight last night when someone down the way started setting off fireworks. I was still up, but kind of lost in the process of putting together the Year-End Poll Results that went up earlier today. The Patient Mrs. was already asleep. Guess I wasn’t paying attention. Happy New Year.
Also woke up early this morning to finish laying out images, players and links and to start writing the Quarterly Review, which starts next week and of which I got a pathetic amount done between the hours of seven this morning and one this afternoon. I’ll get it done. It’ll be fine. I’m not gonna stress about it (yes I am), or the La Chinga full-album stream that’s slated for Monday, or any of the news posts I’m already behind on (Graveyard playing Freak Valley, etc.). Why stress? Why get upset?
Oh right, because I’m compulsive.
So anyway, yeah, next week is the Quarterly Review. 50 albums written up across Monday to Friday, 10 per day. Since I’m counting it as the end of a quarter of 2015 even though we’re into 2016 already, that will make 200 records covered this year under that format. Next one should be at the end of March/early April, depending on how I can time it with going to Roadburn. Let me get through this one first. Then I’ll start on the next.
The Quarterly Review will eat up a good portion of the week’s posts, but where and when I see news, videos, audio, whatever else there might be, I’ll get as much of it in as I can. That’s the deal around here anyway.
One more time before I sign off for the weekend: Happy New Year and thanks to everybody who took part in the Year-End Poll. At some point this month I’ll have a list up of albums to look forward to in 2016. Last I checked, I was over 100 names. No idea how I’m going to organize it yet, but I will. Gotta see if I can write Mars Red Sky and Neurosis in extra-big letters.
Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sydney six-piece We Lost the Sea first released their third full-length, Departure Songs (review here), this past summer. They financed it on their own and worked with Bird’s Robe Records and Art as Catharsis, and the latest version of the album was issued by Translation Loss this past Friday. It’s out now. It’s streaming on their Bandcamp page and has been for I don’t know how long. Why, then, would one bother to host the tracks for a full-album stream like it’s not something that everybody can just go find on their own? The simple answer is that the five-song, 67-minute outing is that much worth the time and focus.
Departure Songs, almost entirely instrumental save for a choral part in opener “A Gallant Gentleman” and samples in “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” is richly evocative, broad in its scope and gorgeously engrossing throughout its span. It has moments of rage, of excitement and times where its breadth seems to just go on and on, but its intent is plain: To convey loss. We Lost the Sea‘s work has always been thematic in one way or another — their 2010 debut, Crimea, took inspiration from poetry about the Crimean War, and 2012’s The Quietest Place on Earth resounded with melancholy at its center — but Departure Songs brings this to a new level of poignancy and specificity, each track referring directly to a tragic death that, as the band put it, “tells the stories of those who have gone above and beyond their duty as humans and sacrificed themselves for others for honorable reasons.”
The subject matter is no coincidence. In 2013, We Lost the Sea frontman Chris Torpy committed suicide, devastating the band and others around him, and as the group continues to move forward, it seems that in listening to the quiet reaches of centerpiece “The Last Dive of David Shaw” — Shaw an Australian diver who lost his life trying to recover the body of another diver — that the cathartic exploration on the part of the band is as much inward as it is outward. That’s as much the case for the soft airy guitars that begin “A Gallant Gentleman” — English explorer Laurence Oats who sacrificed himself so that the rest of his party could survive in the Antarctic — and for the subsequent “Bogatyri,” which takes its narrative from the story of three people (Valeri Bezpalov, Alexie Ananenko and Boris Baranov) who died opening the floodgates at Chernobyl to lessen the impact of the fallout, as it is for the two-part “Challenger,” which closes out in homage to the crew of the ill-fated 1986 shuttle of the same name.
It may well be that by telling these stories through music, the remaining members of We Lost the Sea — guitarists Mark Owen, Matt Harvey and Brendon Warner, bassist Kieran Elliott, pianist/keyboardist Mathew Kelly and drummer Nathaniel D’Ugo — are in some way attempting to make sense of their own, but it’s worth noting that in a subject territory in which everything and anything has been said and all that’s left is to rehash the superficial comforts of cliché, Departure Songs brims with original, personal boldness. Tracks are immersive and so gracefully textured that, even without the context retreaded above, it succeeds in putting the listener in a kind of contemplative, quiet place with its emotional gamut, the final wash of “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song” bringing a tear to the eye for what is the most universal truth of our condition. All of us. Everybody.
Like I said, the album is out now, so take this as a long-form version of “Recommended” if you want to, but either way, I urge you to dive into Departure Songs one way or another. Whether that happens here on the player below, their Bandcamp, Spotify, through Translation Loss, wherever, I hope you enjoy:
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sydney heavy post-rockers We Lost the Sea initially released their latest album, Departure Songs (review here), this summer, but it’s been picked up for a label-backed issue via Translation Loss next month, and if you heard it, there’s really no mystery as to why. Lush in its textures but still human-sounding in a this-might-be-able-to-be-replicated-on-stage kind of way, its atmospheric crux was as much emotional as sonic, and particularly for an instrumental band, its songs seemed to evoke precisely the kind of wistfulness that the band intended.
More about their intentions — including some of the direct themes they’re drawing from throughout — follows in the news about the Departure Songs release on Translation Loss. If you haven’t yet had the chance to take a listen to the tracks, they’re below courtesy of We Lost the Sea‘s Bandcamp. Well worth your time:
WE LOST THE SEA to Release New Album ‘Departure Songs’ November 27
Australian Post-Rock Pack Creates Cinematic Instrumental Atmospherics
Progressive instrumental heavy rock band WE LOST THE SEA will release its new LP, Departure Songs, on November 27 via Translation Loss Records. The Australian sextet, which calls its sound, “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” and “crushing guitar noise with post-rock atmospherics”, recorded the album at Sydney’s 301 Studios (Coldplay, Chvrches, Muse) with producer Tim Carr. Departure Songs is the follow-up to WE LOST THE SEA’s 2012 release, The Quietest Place On Earth, a recording that was hailed as “a ride of despair, aggression and melancholy filled to the brim with emotion.”
A conceptual album with song titles and themes inspired by actual events, Departure Songs pairs heavy subject matter with the group’s depth-filled, melancholic, yet emotionally charged music. “A Gallant Gentleman” is a sound story about Laurence Oats, an English cavalry officer and explorer who, during an expedition to the Antarctic, willingly committed an act of self-sacrifice when aware that his ill health was compromising his companions’ chances of survival. “Challenger” pays homage to the Space Shuttle Challenger and its brave crew who perished on January 28, 1986. “Bogatyri” is a tribute to Valeri Bezpalov, Alexie Ananenko and Boris Baranov — aka “the suicide squad” — who gave their lives diving to the depths of the Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in order to open its floodgates, saving much of Europe from deadly nuclear fallout. Finally, “The Last Dive of David Shaw” honors the Australian scuba diver, technical diver — one of only 11 people who have dived below a depth of 240 metres (800 ft) on self-contained underwater breathing apparatus — who gave his life in “Bushman’s Hole” (believed to be the sixth-deepest submerged freshwater cave (or sinkhole) in the world) while attempting to recover the body of Deon Dreyer, a South African diver who had died in the same spot ten years previously.
“‘Departure Songs’ is about failed journeys and it tells the stories of those who have gone above and beyond their duty as humans and sacrificed themselves for others for honorable reasons,” says the band. “It is also a tribute to our late friend and front man, Chris Torpy. It is about those that have left us and moved on. Each song on this album has a themed attached to it; almost like the song’s lyrics, telling a story. All of the stories are from history and about real people. Part of the band’s creative process was and is to find themes that fit the music and tell stories like that. Epic stories for epic songs. It helps give context, narrative and character.”
WE LOST THE SEA creates music that incorporates expression, pensive atmospherics melody, dynamics and crushing heaviness that, while seeming and sounding to be downbeat and somber, is also at once appreciative, commemorative, remembering and celebratory. A cathartic experience of sadness and perseverance encapsulated in five amazing instrumental passages, Departure Songs will come housed in a four panel heavyweight wallet with a 12 page booklet CD. The album will also be released on LP (packaged as a 2xLP gatefold), available in both black and limited colored vinyl, with accompanying 12 page / 12″ booklet.
Track listing: 1.) A Gallant Gentleman 2.) Bogatyri 3.) The Last Dive of David Shaw 4.) Challenger part 1: Flight 5.) Challenger part 2: A Swan Song
Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:
We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs
To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.
There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.
Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.
It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.
And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.
If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.
Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People
Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.
Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.
French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.
Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Sydney heavy rockers Comacozer have signed with Netherlands-based imprint HeadSpin Records. Their first album for the label — also their first album, period — will be recorded this October and is to be titled Astra Planeta, and as a precursor to its arrival early next year, HeadSpin has compiled Comacozer‘s two EPs, Deloun and Sessions, onto one LP appropriately titled Deloun Sessions and available now to preorder ahead of a Sept. 2015 release.
Word from the band and info on both releases follows, gently plucked from the PR wire:
We have recently been signed by Dutch Label, HeadSpin Records (also home to Elder, Eternal Elysium and more great bands) to release a Full Length LP early 2016 which will be titled ‘ASTRA PLANETA’ so this is extremely exciting news for us and can’t wait to get this new release out there. Album will be recorded in October at Frank St Studios with Frank Attard (Mother Mars, Frozen Planet 69 and Peppershake Records) at the mixing desk/producing and have the amazing artwork of Jasmin Meier (Harley & J Illustrations) who did the ‘Deloun’ artwork.
In the meantime, Headspin Records is releasing a special Limited Edition 12” release titled ‘DELOUN SESSIONS’ which combines our two previous EPs onto transparent green/black, silver and standard black vinyl and the two EPs completely remastered. It’s available for Pre-Order from Shiny beast Mailorder with an expected ship date of 1ast September.
‘DELOUN’ and ‘SESSIONS’ EP’s RE-MASTERED FOR THIS SPECIAL LIMITED EDITION RELEASE!!!
‘Deloun’ Recorded at Frank St Studios – January 2015 Engineered by Frank Attard (Peppershake Records / Mother Mars / Frozen Planet 69) Produced by COMACOZER Mastered by Philip Dust Artwork by Jasmin Meier (Harley & J Illustrations)
‘Sessions’ Recorded at Soundworks Studios – April 2014 Engineered & Produced by Dav Byrne (Iridium Audio) & Comacozer Mastered by Philip Dust Artwork by Rick Burke
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Congratulations to Australian riffers Aver on signing to Ripple Music, and I promise I didn’t know that was happening earlier this week when I included their Nadiralbum in the Quarterly Review. Fair enough. Ripple will have a pressing of Nadir out sometime later in 2015 — or maybe 2016, considering the year’s already more than half over — so that those who got stoked on the digital release will be able to have one to take home and put on the shelf. Maybe vinyl-size will be big enough to figure out just what the hell is going on with that cover art.
The announcement follows, courtesy of the PR wire:
Ripple Music is pleased to announce the signing of Australian band AVER and with it, the official international release of their sophomore album Nadir.
Originally self-released earlier in the year to an online fanfare from a dedicated few amid the stoner/psych community, the album has already proven itself to be one of the most exciting and distinctive alternative records of 2015. Fearlessly taking their music exactly where it needs to go, and packing enough technical nous and talent to power an exploratory vessel of sound and substance, at over an hour in length Nadir exposes listeners to soaring instrumentals, heavy psychedelia and spine-crushing progressive cadences. Weighted somewhere between the worlds, galaxies and supernovae of stoner metal and space rock, for the quartet – who originally formed on the Northern shores of Sydney back in 2008 – their signing to the Californian label heralds yet another stellar addition to the ever growing Ripple Music Family, and the beginning of a journey out of the underground and into the void.
While an official release date for the album will follow soon, in the meantime, sit back, strap yourselves in and take a trip and experience AVER’s magnificent ‘Rising Sun’.
Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I said back in March that I was going to try to make the Quarterly Review a regular feature around here, and once it was put out there, the only thing to do was to live up to it. Over the last several — like, five — weeks, I’ve been compiling lists of albums to be included, and throughout the next five days, we’re going to make our way through that list. From bigger names to first demos and across a wide swath of heavy styles, there’s a lot of stuff to come, and I hope within all of it you’re able to find something that hits home or speaks to you in a special way.
No sense in delaying. Hold nose, dive in.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Relatively newcomer trio Foehammer specialize in grueling, slow-motion punishment. Their self-titled debut EP follows a well-received 2014 demo and is three tracks/34 minutes released by Grimoire and Australopithecus Records of doomed extremity, the Virginian three-piece of guitarist Joe Cox (ex-Gradius), bassist/vocalist Jay Cardinell (ex-Gradius, ex-Durga Temple) and drummer Ben “Vang” Blanton (ex-Vog, also of The Oracle) not new to the Doom Capitol-area underground by any stretch and seeming to pool all their experience to maximize the impact of this extended material. Neither “Final Grail,” “Stormcrow” nor 14-minute closer “Jotnar” is without a sense of looming atmosphere, but Foehammer at this point are light only on drama, and the lower, sludgier and more crushing they go, the more righteous the EP is for it. Stunningly heavy and landing with a suitable shockwave, it is hopefully the beginning of a long, feedback-drenched tenure in death-doom, and if the EP is over half an hour, the prospect of a follow-up debut full-length seems overwhelming. Easily one of the year’s best short releases.
It’s not like they were lying when they decided to call a song “Shroom Doom.” Melbourne double-guitar four-piece made their self-titled debut as Holy Serpent last year, and the five-track full-length was picked up for release on RidingEasy Records no doubt for its two-front worship of Uncle Acid’s slither and jangle – especially prevalent on the eponymous opener and closer “The Wind” – and the now-classic stonerism of Sleep. That blend comes together best of all on the aforementioned finale, but neither will I take away from the north-of-10-minute righteousness of “The Plague” preceding, with its slow roll and malevolent vibe that, somehow, still sounds like a party. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Scott Penberthy, guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Michael Macfie and drummer Keith Ratnan, the real test for Holy Serpent will be their second or third album – i.e., how they develop the psychedelic nodes of centerpiece “Fools Gold” along with the rest of their sound – but listening to these tracks, it’s easy to let the future worry about itself.
There are a variety of influences at work across Wicked Inquisition’s self-titled debut long-player, from the Sabbath references of its eponymous closer to the earlier thrashery of “In Shackles” and “Sun Flight,” but the core of the Minneapolis four-piece resides in a guitar-led brand of metal, whatever else they decide to build around it. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey align tightly around the riffs of “M.A.D.” in all-business fashion. Shades of Candlemass show up in some of the slower material, “M.A.D.” included as well as with “Crimson Odyssey,” but the start-stops of “Tomorrow Always Knows” ensure the audience is clued in that there’s more going on than just classic doom, though a Trouble influence seems to hover over the proceedings as well, waiting to be more fully explored as the band moves forward.
Clocking in at an hour flat, Sydney all-caps riffers AVER construct their second album, Nadir, largely out of familiar elements, but wind up with a blend of their own. Fuzz is prevalent in the extended nod of opener “The Devil’s Medicine” (9:46) which bookends with the longest track, finisher “Waves” (9:48), though it’s not exactly like the four-piece are shy about writing longer songs in between. The production, while clear enough, lends its focus more toward the low end, which could be pulling in another direction from the impact of some of Nadir’s psychedelia on “Rising Sun” second half solo, but neither will I take anything away from Jed’s bass tone, which could carry this hour of material were it asked. The vocals of guitarist Burdt have a distinct Acid Bathian feel, post-grunge, and that contrasts a more laid back vibe even on the acoustic-centered “Promised Lands,” but neither he, Jed, guitarist Luke or drummer Chris feel out of place here, and I’m not inclined to complain.
Sweet, classic and very, very British folk pervades the gorgeously melodic and meticulously arranged Silence and Tears by London six-piece Galley Beggar, released on Rise Above. The eight-track/40-minute album packs neatly onto a vinyl release and has near-immediate psychedelic underpinnings in the wah of opener “Adam and Eve,” and side B’s “Geordie” has some heavier-derived groove, but it’s the beauty and lushness of the harmonies throughout (finding satisfying culmination in closer “Deliver Him”) that stand Galley Beggar’s third offering out from worshipers of a ‘60s and ‘70s era aesthetic. The highlight of Silence and Tears arrives early in nine-minute second cut “Pay My Body,” a wonderfully swaying, patient excursion that gives equal time to instrumental exploration and vocal accomplishment, but to a select few who let themselves be truly hypnotized and carried along its winding course, the album’s entire span will prove a treasure to be revisited for years to come and whose sunshiny imprint will remain vivid.
With inspiration reportedly from the 1977 demon-possession horror flick Alucarda, Las Vegas doomers Demon Lung return with A Dracula, their second offering via Candlelight Records after 2013’s The Hundredth Name, and as the movie begins with a birth, so too do we get “Behold, the Daughter” following the intro “Rursumque Alucarda,” later mirrored by a penultimate interlude of the same name. Billy Anderson produced, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the slow, undulating riffs and the periodic bouts of more upbeat chug, as on “Gypsy Curse,” come through nice and viscous, but vocalist Shanda brings an ethereal melodic sensibility, not quite cult rock, but on “Mark of Jubilee” presenting momentarily some similarly bleak atmospherics to those of the UK’s Undersmile, her voice seeming to command the guitars to solidify from their initial airiness and churn out an eerie apex, which closer “Raped by the Serpent” pushes further for a raging finale.
Spirit Division’s self-titled debut full-length follows a 2014 demo that also hosted three of the tracks – opener “Spirit Division,” “Through the Rounds” and “Mountain of Lies” – but is fuller-sounding in its post-grunge tonality and doomly chug than the earlier offering, guitarist/vocalist Stephen Hoffman, bassist/vocalist Chris Latta and drummer/vocalist David Glass finding a straightforward route through moody metallurgy and weighted riffage. Some Wino-style swing shows up on “Bloodletting,” and “Cloud of Souls” has a decidedly militaristic march to its progression, while the later “Red Sky” revels in classic doom that seems to want to be just a touch slower than it is, but what ultimately unites the material is the strong sense of purpose across the album’s span and Spirit Division’s care in the vocal arrangements. The production is somewhat dry, but Spirit Division walk the line between sludge rock and doom and seem comfortable in that sphere while also sparking a creative progression that seems well worth further pursuit.
I was all set to include a different Space Mushroom Fuzz album in this roundup, but then I saw that the project was coming to an end and Until Next Time was issued as the band’s final release. The deal all along with the band headed by guitarist/vocalist Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) has been that you never really know what he’s going to do next. Fair enough. Abrams brings it down in suitably bizarre fashion, a keyboard and guitar line backing “Class Onion” in direct mockery of Beatlesian bounce, where “The DeLorean Takes Off!” before compiles five-plus minutes of experimental noise and “Follow that DeLorean” answers with another round after. Elsewhere, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Here Comes Trouble” resonates with its central guitar line and unfolds to further oddity with a quiet but gruff vocal, while “The Rescue” vibes like something Ween would’ve conjured after huffing roach spray (or whatever was handy) and closer “Back in ‘55” moves from progressive soloing to froggy singing and weirdo jangle. All in all a strange and fitting end to the band.
Santa Cruz trio Mountain Tamer have been kicking around the West Coast for the last several years, and since they released a full-length, Liquid Metal, in 2013, and a prior EP in 2012’s The Glad, it’s tempting to try to read some larger shift sonically into their MTN TMR Demo, as though having completely revamped their sound, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Andru, bassist/vocalist Dave Teget and drummer/vocalist Casey Garcia trying out new ideas as they redirect their approach. That may well be the case, with “Satan’s Waitin’,” “Sum People” and “Dunes of the Mind” each standing at over five-minutes of neo-stoner roll, more psychedelic than some in the growing fuck-it-let’s-skate oeuvre, but still plainly born after, or at least during, grunge. The finisher comes to a thrilling, noisy head as it rounds out the short release, and if Mountain Tamer are taking on a new path, it’s one well set to meander and I hope they continue to follow those impulses.
Like their late-2014 debut, Bloom, OHHMS’ sophomore outing, Cold, is comprised of two extended tracks. Here the Canterbury five-piece bring “The Anchor” (18:30) and “Dawn of the Swarm” (14:27), blending modern prog, sludge and post-metallic vibes to suit a melodic, ambitious purpose. Atmosphere is central from the quiet drone starting “The Anchor” and remains so as they lumber through a linear build and into an apex at about 13 minutes in, dropping out to quiet only to build back up to a striking melodic push that ends on a long fade. Side B, “Dawn of the Swarm” is more immediately post-rock in the guitar, the lineup of vocalist Paul Waller, guitarists Daniel Sargent and Marc George, bassist Chainy Chainy and drummer Max Newton moving through hypnotic sprawl into angular Isis-ism before finding their own way, the second cut pushing structurally against the first with loud/quiet tradeoffs in a well-timed back half. Clearly a band who arrived knowing their purpose, but not so cerebral as to detract from the heavy landing of the material itself.
In one of the last shows they’ll play under the Kyuss Lives! moniker, Vista Chino joined forces with Orange Goblin and Red Fang (god damn that’s a good show) at the Metro in Sydney, Australia on Feb. 27. All three bands and many others are down that way for the massive Soundwave festival, and Vista Chino closed their pre-encore set with — wait for it — a new song. The title is either “Dragona” or “Gakona,” but likely it’ll be something else entirely by the time their new album streets, so it probably doesn’t matter yet anyway. Joining drummer Brant Bjork, guitarist Bruno Fevery and vocalist John Garcia was C.O.C.‘s Mike Dean on bass.
Here’s their full setlist:
One Inch Man
Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop
I know I already closed out the week, and I hope if this isn’t actually the first video of new Vista Chino someone will correct me, but seeing this, it was too cool not to post. The video’s a little rough (shot on an iPhone), but it should still be enough to give a general idea until something a little cleaner surfaces, which it’s bound to do. Till then, dig you some of this:
Vista Chino, “Dragona” Live in Sydney, Feb. 27, 2013