Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Nebula Drag, Nothing is Real, Lotus Thief, Uncle Woe, Cybernetic Witch Cult, Your Highness, Deep Valley Blues, Sky Shadow Obelisk, Minus Green

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Yesterday was marked by a decisive lack of productivity. I got there, don’t get me wrong, but it took friggin’ forever to make it happen. I’m obviously hoping for a different result today and tomorrow. You would think 10 records is 10 records, but some days it’s easy flowing, bounce from one to the next without any trouble, and some days you’re me sitting there wondering how many times you can get away with using the word “style” in the same post. Punishing. The saving factor was that the music was good. Amazing how often that serves as the saving factor.

Just today and tomorrow left, so let’s dive in. Lots of different kinds of releases today, so keep your ears and mind open.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Triumph and Disaster

we lost the sea triumph and disaster

There is plenty of heavy post-rock floating — and I do mean floating — around these days, spreading ethereal and contemplative vibes hither and yon, but none have the emotional weight brought to bear instrumentally by Sydney, Australia’s We Lost the Sea. Across their 65-minute 2LP, Triumph and Disaster (on Translation Loss), the six-piece band recount a wordless narrative of the aftermath of the end of the world through the eyes of a mother and child on their last day. It is a touching and beautiful flow of sentiment, regret and weight that comes through the wash of three guitars and synth, bass and drums, and though 2015’s Departure Songs (review here, discussed here) worked in a similar vein in terms of style if not story, these seven tracks and 65 minutes are wholly distinguished by a willful-seeming progression on the part of the band and a patience and poise of execution as they alternate between longer and shorter pieces that only underscores how special their work truly is. At least the apocalypse is gorgeous.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss store

 

Nebula Drag, Blud

nebula drag blud

Nothing against the progenitors of the form, but Nebula Drag seem with Blud to pull off the feat that Helmet never really could, bringing together a noise-rock derived dissonance of riff with a current of melody in the vocals and even moments of patience in the guitar to go along with the crunch of its more aggressive points. This inherently makes the Desert Records offering from the San Diego outfit a less outwardly intense affair than it might otherwise be, but songs like “Always Dying,” “Numb” and the closer “Mental” — as well as the album as a whole — are ultimately richer for it, and there’s still plenty of drive in opener “Dos Lados” and the shorter “Faces” and “What Went Wrong,” which arrive back to back on side B and lend the momentum that carries Nebula Drag through the remainder of the proceedings. It’s easy to hear to Blud superficially and pass it off as noise or heavy rock or this or that, but Nebula Drag earn and reward deeper listens in kind.

Nebula Drag on Thee Facebooks

Desert Records on Bandcamp

 

Nothing is Real, Pain is Joy

nothing is real pain is joy

Los Angeles oppressive and misanthropic noise project Nothing is Real manifested some of the harshest sounds I heard in 2019 on Only the Wicked are Pure (review here), and the just-months-later follow-up, Pain is Joy, reminds of the constant sensory assault under which we all seem to live. Across five extended tracks of increased production value — still raw, just not as raw — the band seems to be forming a coherent philosophical perspective in “Existence is Pain,” the guest-vocalized “Realms of Madness,” “Life is but a Dream,” “Pain is Joy,” and “We Must Break Free,” but if there’s a will to explain the punishment that is living, there’s not much by way of answer forthcoming in the sludgy riffing, grinding onslaught and surprising solo soar of “We Must Break Free,” instrumental as it is. Still, the fact that Pain is Joy allows for the possibility of joy to exist at all, in any form, ever, distinguishes it from its predecessor, and likewise the clearer sound and cogent expressive purpose. A focused attack suits Nothing is Real. I have the feeling it won’t be long before we find out where it takes the band next.

Nothing is Real on Thee Facebooks

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp

 

Lotus Thief, Oresteia

lotus thief Oresteia

If the name Oresteia isn’t immediately familiar, maybe “Agamemnon” will give some hint. San Francisco’s Lotus Thief, with their third full-length and second for Prophecy Productions, not only bring together progressive black metal, post-rock and drama-laced doom, but do so across eight-tracks and 38 minutes summarizing a 5th century Greek tragedy written in three parts. Ambitious? Yes. Successful? I’ll claim zero familiarity with the text itself, but for the eight-minute “Libation Bearers” alone — never mind any of the other immersive, beautiful wash the band emits throughout — I’m sure glad they’re engaging with it. Ambient stretches like “Banishment” and “Woe” and the barely-there “Reverence” add further character to the proceedings, but neither are “The Furies,” “Agamemnon,” “Sister in Silence” or subdued-but-tense closer “The Kindly Ones” lacking for atmosphere. Oresteia is grim, theatrical, stylistically forward-thinking and gorgeous. A perfect, perfect, perfect winter record.

Lotus Thief website

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Uncle Woe, Our Unworn Limbs

Uncle Woe Our Unworn Limbs

Chugging, sprawling, and most of all reaching, the late-2019 debut LP, Our Unworn Limbs, from Ontario as-yet-solo-outfit Uncle Woe — composed, performed and recorded by Rain Fice — is one of marked promise, taking elements of modern progressive and cosmic doom from the likes of YOB‘s subtly angular riffing style and unfolding them across an emotionally resonant but still manageable 43-minute span. The stomp in “That’s How They Get You” is duly oppressive in following the opener “Son of the Queen,” but with the one-minute experiment “When the Night Fell Pt. 2” and jagged but harmonized “Mania for Breaking” ahead of 15-minute closer “Push the Blood Back In,” the record’s tumult and triumphs are presented with character and a welcome feeling of exploration. I would expect over time that the melodic basis and vocal presence Fice demonstrates in “Mania for Breaking” will continue to grow, but both are already significant factors in the success of that song and the album surrounding it, the first 20-plus minutes of which is spent mired in “Son of the Queen” and “That’s How They Get You,” as early proof of the sure controlling hand at the helm of the project. May it continue to be so.

Uncle Woe on Thee Facebooks

Uncle Woe on Bandcamp

 

Cybernetic Witch Cult, Absurdum ad Nauseam

cybernetic witch cult absurdam ad nauseam

Guitarist/vocalist Alex Wyld, bassist Doug MacKinnon and drummer Lewis May have processed the world around them and translated it into a riffy course of sci-fi and weirdo semi-prog thematics across Absurdum ad Nauseam. What else to call such a thing? At eight songs and 52 minutes, it stands astride the lines between heavy rock and doom and sludge in lengthier pieces like “The Cetacean,” “The Ivory Tower” and the finale “Hypercomputer Part 2,” yet when it comes to picking out discernible influences, one has to result to generalizations like Black Sabbath and Acrimony, the latter in the rolling largesse of “Spice” and “The Myth of Sisyphus” later on in the outing and the vocal effects there particularly, but neither is enough to give a sense of what Cybernetic Witch Cult are actually about in terms of the modernity of their approach and the it’s-okay-we-know-what-we’re-doing-just-trust-us vibe they bring as they rush through “Cromagnonaut” after the intro and “Hypercomputer Part 1.” I’m inclined to just go with it, which should tell you something in itself about the band’s ability to carry their listener through. They earn that trust.

Cybernetic Witch Cult on Thee Facebooks

Cybernetic Witch Cult on Bandcamp

 

Your Highness, Your Highness

Your Highness Your Highness

Heavy blues meets heavy metal on Your Highness‘ self-titled and self-released third album, collecting eight tracks that divide evenly across two sides of an LP, each half ending with a longer piece, whether it’s “Black Fever” (9:00) on side A or “Kin’s Blood” (14:14) on side B. Through these, in full-throttle movements like opener “Devil’s Delight” and “Rope as a Gift” and in nestled-in groovers like “The Flood” and “To Wood and Stone,” Your Highness don’t shy away from bringing a sense of atmosphere to their material, but maintain a focus on burl, gruffness and tonal weight, an aggressive undercurrent in a song like “Born Anew” — the riff to which is nonetheless particularly bluesy — being emblematic of the perspective on display throughout. It moves too fleetly to ever be considered entirely sludge, but Your Highness‘ 51-minute span is prone to confrontation just the same, and its ferocious aspects come to a head in satisfying fashion as the wash of crash pays off “Kin’s Blood,” shouts cutting through en route to a finish of acoustic guitar that lands as a reminder to release the breath you’ve been holding the whole time. Heavy stuff? Why yes, it is.

Your Highness on Thee Facebooks

Your Highness on Bandcamp

 

Deep Valley Blues, Demonic Sunset

Deep Valley Blues Demonic Sunset

Italy’s fervor for stoner rock is alive and well as represented in Demonic Sunset, the eight-song/34-minute debut full-length from Catanzaro’s Deep Valley Blues. Their sound works out to be more heavy rock than the desert one might imagine given the album cover, but that influence is still there, if beefed up tonally by guitarists Alessandro Morrone and Umberto Arena (the latter also backing vocals), bassist/vocalist Giando Sestito and drummer Giorgio Faini, whose fluid turns between propulsion and swing enable a song like “Dana Skully” to come together in its verse/chorus transitions. The penultimate nine-minute “Tired to Beg For” is an outlier among more straight-ahead songwriting, but they use the time well and close with the acoustic-led “Empire,” an encouraging showcase of sonic breadth to follow up on the start of “Lust Vegas” and a widening of the melodic range that one hopes Deep Valley Blues push further on subsequent releases. Centered around issues of mental health in terms of its lyrics, if somewhat vaguely, Demonic Sunset is a first LP that extends its focus to multiple levels while still keeping its feet on the ground in a way that will be familiar to experienced genre heads.

Deep Valley Blues on Thee Facebooks

Deep Valley Blues on Bandcamp

 

Sky Shadow Obelisk, The Satyr’s Path

sky shadow obelisk the satyrs path

You can toss a coin as to whether Sky Shadow Obelisk are death-doom or doom-death, but as you do, just keep an eye on the bludgeoning doled out by the solo-project of Rhode Island-based composer Peter Scartabello on his latest EP, The Satyr’s Path, because it is equal parts thorough and ferocious. Flourish of keys and melody adds a progressive edge to the proceedings across the five-track release, particularly in its two instrumentals, the centerpiece “Ouroboros” and the first half of closer “Shadow of Spring,” but amid the harnessed madness of “Chain of Hephaestus” — which from its lyrics I can only think of as a work song — and the one-two of “The Serpent’s Egg” and the title-track early on, those moments of letup carry a tension of mood that even the grand finish in “Shadow of Spring” seems to acknowledge. It’s been since 2015 that Scartabello last offered up a Sky Shadow Obelisk full-length. He shows enough scope here to cover an album’s worth of ground, but on the most basic level, I’d take more if it was on offer.

Sky Shadow Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Yuggoth Records on Bandcamp

 

Minus Green, Equals Zero

Minus Green Equals Zero

Following up on a 2015 self-titled the material on Minus Green‘s sophomore album, Equals Zero, would seem to have at least in part been kicking around for a couple years, as the closer here, “Durial” (11:22) was released in a single version in 2016. Fair enough. If the other three cuts, opener “Primal” (9:58), “00” (11:51) and the penultimate “Kames” (10:08), have also been developed over that span, the extra rumination wouldn’t seem to have harmed them at all — they neither feel overthought to a point of staleness nor lack anything in terms of the natural vibe that their style of progressive instrumentalist heavy psychedelia warrants. The procession unfolds as a cleanly-structured LP with two songs per side arranged shorter-into-longer, and their sound is duly immersive to give an impression of exploration underway without being entirely jam-based in their structure. That is, listening to “00,” one gets the feeling it’s headed somewhere, which, fortunately it is. Where it and the record surrounding go ultimately isn’t revolutionary in aesthetic terms, but it is well performed and more than suitable for repeat visits. Contrary to the impression they might seek to give, it amounts to more than nothing.

Minus Green on Thee Facebooks

Kerberos Records website

 

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We Lost the Sea Discuss Triumph & Disaster Artwork in New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

we lost the sea

Given that what seems to be depicted in the artwork is a post-climate-apocalypse empty landscape unsuitable to human life, I’m going to guess the children’s book that accompanies We Lost the Sea‘s Triumph & Disaster ain’t exactly Green Eggs & Ham when it comes to playtime reading. Not like Pete the Cat is going to come jumping out of the burned out general store and be like, “Who wants to go on a bug safari?” As it happens, I do a fair bit of reading books for little kids these days, from Dr. Seuss and Gossie & Gertie to Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy and from A is for Activist to I Love You Because You’re You. I don’t have one about the end of the world, but, you know, my kid’s two now, so I’m kind of starting to feel like maybe it’s time I tell him just how screwed over he’s been by every generation before his own, including mine. Sorry about that, duder.

Not sorry enough to stop burning oil, but, you know, sorry in theory.

Anyhoozle, guitarist Matt Harvey‘s art for the We Lost the Sea album and the accompanying story is downright beautiful. I haven’t seen the real-deal, hold-it-in-your-hands finished product, but even the digital images that accompany give further richness to the melodic and wistful atmospheres they conjure with sound. Their style is so much suited to creating a feeling of longing for something lost, and it’s deeply emotive, so yeah, a mother and son spending their last day on earth together feels like fair enough territory for the band to cover, mourning for a lost future that their characters — or the rest of us, because let’s be honest: we’re all boned — will never know. Seems all the more poignant as Australia, like California, burns with wildfires intensified due to climate change and the country’s conservative wing says it’s cool because the people who died voted left.

Somewhere in the vast universe of possibility, Slim Pickens rides a bomb and whips his hat around yelling, “Wahoo!” en route to mutually-assured destruction.

Enjoy the video:

We Lost the Sea, ‘The Art of Triumph and Disaster’

Sydney cinematic instrumental band We Lost The Sea have just released their long-awaited new album Triumph & Disaster on October 4 via Bird’s Robe Records (Australia) and October 25 via Translation Loss (US), Holy Roar (UK) and Dunk!Records (EU). The fourth album in their collection, Triumph & Disaster, is a post-apocalyptic view on the collapse of the world told like a children’s story and illustrated through the eyes of a mother and her son as they spend one last day on Earth. The music is the narrative for the destruction and tragedy. The words tell the story of love, loss and letting go.

In a new documentary the band breaks down their most recent album artwork and the children’s book that arrived alongside it, telling these themes of a post-apocalyptic world and climate ignorance through means other than the music they make.

Also, for an in-depth look at the complete artworks from the album check out the folio page on Behance: https://www.behance.net/gallery/86859775/We-Lost-The-Sea-Triumph-Disaster-Complete-Artworks

Artwork concept, illustration, design and layout by Matt Harvey
Story by Matt Harvey and Mark Owen
Story edited by Robert Dean

We Lost The Sea is:
Matt Harvey – Guitars
Mark Owen – Guitars
Carl Whitbread – Guitars
Kieran Elliott – Bass
Mathew Kelly – Piano and Synths
Nathaniel D’Ugo – Drums

We Lost the Sea, Triumph & Disaster (2019)

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Translation Loss store

Translation Loss on Thee Facebooks

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Comacozer, Mydriasis: Your Outer Limits Tourism Guide

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

comacozer mydriasis

Already in 2019, Sydney’s Comacozer have shared stages across Australia and/or toured with Wo Fat, 1000mods, Naxatras and Oz’s own Mt. Mountain, among others, so while they haven’t necessarily traveled far and wide, their reach is nothing if not considerable. Last year, the instrumentalist psych three-piece of guitarist Rick Burke, bassist Rich Elliott and drummer Andrew Panagopoulos added a fourth in synthesist/keyboardist James “Jabs” Heyligers, and the three-song limit-stretched that is Mydriasis is their first offering since. Their fourth record overall, it follows the vinyl-minded outfit’s impressively expansive 2017 LP, Kalos Eidos Skopeo (review here), 2016’s Astra Planeta (review here) and their 2015 EP compilation, Deloun Sessions, as well as various other odds and ends, and pushes further into cosmic depths, self-recorded with Dan Frizza as a co-mixer and engineer and issued through HeadSpin Records (LP) and Sound Effect Records (CD).

It is comprised of only three tracks and runs 45 minutes, and works in longform explorations of sonic psychedelic ideology. Resonant tones and weighted groove play out in patient fashion across “Mydriasis” (13:11), “Tryptamine” (11:30) and “Kykeneon Journey” (20:51), and Comacozer balance a will to hypnotize their listener against progressions that are immersive but still forward enough to justify active attention. Setting up an overarching flow has never been a problem going back to 2014’s Sessions demo, but the ethereal vibe of Mydriasis is a thing to behold, and it’s easy to argue it stands as Comacozer‘s broadest stretch of space-infused soundscapes to-date.

No doubt the inclusion of Heyligers in the proceedings is a factor in that — how could it not be? — but the change goes beyond simply what’s being played as well and plays a role in the larger conversation happening between BurkeElliott and Panagopoulos as well. It can be heard in the patience with which the songs are brought to bear across Mydriasis, the way Comacozer allows parts to breathe and seemingly find their own way, not necessarily on improvisational terms, but with a natural path that’s never any further out in its wanderings than the band wants it to be. From the initial kick of the drums in the opening title-track, there’s a sense of movement maintained across the album, but a spacious sensibility that’s always been there in Comacozer‘s sound is all the more enhanced by the breadth that Heyligers brings to it.

Rest assured, there’s heft, nod and effects galore, but more than ever, their work seems to be about the journey into and through the fuzz that swallows “Mydriasis” at its midpoint rather than simply being in that place. That is, such outwardly heavy stretches are part of the story rather than the story itself. The guitar rings out with a gloriously triumphant lead over steady-rolling drums and bass and drones, and a molten heavy psych vibe meets with a classic blues jam feel, neither side compromising what it does — or needing to — in order to fit alongside the other. Again, this is as exciting as it is hypnotic, and while it’s easy and enjoyable to lost oneself in the spaces Comacozer craft on their fourth LP, conscious engagement pays further dividends in satisfying slow-motion freakery and dizzying stretch. You dig? You could.

comacozer

It’s “Mydriasis” and “Tryiptamine” on side A, and the opener finishes with a long fade of resonant drone and synth swirl as “Tryptamine” soon answers back with a gradual, sample-topped entry and further use of synth at the outset for a beginning that reminds a bit of earlier YOB in its cosmic spread, but is ultimately directed someplace jammier, charting a gorgeously executed linear path into a payoff that happens late but is brought to bear with marked grace and, again, not at all contrived sounding, despite being a familiar structure at play. Echoplex-style noise backs the increasingly intense drums as bass fills out behind the guitar, and it’s not until shortly before nine minutes in that the full brunt of the tonality is brought to bear.

One has visions of time travel, of things that move fast but on such a scale that they seem to be slow, of selves looking at other selves in real space. I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart were it not so god damned gentle about it, Captain. Comacozer‘s finest hour is and should inherently be “Kykeneon Journey,” with its unmatched sprawl and righteous use of effects, etc., but even the shortest cut on Mydriasis leaves a significant impression as well as an impression of significance. Noise brings that track to its end as well and transitions easily into the start of “Kykeneon Journey.”

There’s a side flip in between, of course, but let’s for a moment pretend we’re not all sitting in smoking jackets listening to vinyl on vintage players and instead listening to music as part of real lives that involve things like headphones and laptops. In that more linear regard, “Kykeneon Journey” is a powerful moment of arrival for Mydriasis as well as for Comacozer more generally. The song seems to work in at least three stages and the last of them, as it would be, is the crescendo of song and album alike. It kicks in at 14:24 and carries through languidly and with airy soloing overtop, growing more intense as it moves past the 19-minute mark and crashing out just before 20:10 to dedicate the remaining 40 seconds or so to a residual wash of noise and drone that finishes on a more gentle fade.

It is encompassing in a way that Comacozer have been moving toward being throughout the last half-decade and, if they were indeed headed in that direction, would be a fair predecessor for a single-song album. That is, if the Sydney foursome continued to expand in ideas and runtimes, I wouldn’t be surprised. As it stands, their first release with this lineup seems to remove conceptual restraints and let them feel their way forward in a manner that’s exciting for the listener as well, no doubt, as it is for them. Wherever they may end up over the longer term of course will remain to be seen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear they’re onto something special.

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Frozen Planet….1969, Meltdown on the Horizon: Roll Back the Sun

Posted in Reviews on August 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Frozen Planet 1969 Meltdown on the Horizon

Jammers gotta jam, and though they’re less than a year removed from their sixth full-length, 2018’s The Heavy Medicinal Grand Exposition (review here), clearly it was time for Frozen Planet….1969 to get down to business on the seventh. Released like that album through Headspin Records on vinyl and Pepper Shaker Records on jewel-case CD, Meltdown on the Horizon compiles four tracks from a session helmed by drummer Frank Attard in the band’s native Canberra, Australia, as he, bassist Lachlan Paine and guitarist Paul Attard set themselves to a four-track/54-minute stretch of cosmic meandering, rife with effects and an improvisational energy that affects even the most spaced-out of moments, like the midsection of 22-minute opener and longest inclusion (immediate points) “Rollback,” as the band depart the initial solo-topped groove and funky display for more atmospheric turns before gradually making their way back with the guitar in the lead. It’s not a minor journey and it’s not intended to be, but the last album was arranged as one long, 39-minute track and a six-minute reprise, so neither is it the farthest Frozen Planet….1969 have gone down that road.

More importantly, it harnesses a gorgeous, organic kind of chaos, with a hypnotic spread of float above a molten river of groove, all natural and emblematic of a sincere will to explore musically, the band dug into the joy of their own creation, starting off in medias res as though we, the audience, join their journey already in progress, which of course we do. And long before they come around to the drums picking up in “Rollback” as the song heads into its 17th minute and winding final realization en route to “Bellhop Shindig” (8:11), “Dandy Chai” (6:41) and “Sunset Variations” (17:01), the trio have locked in the essential character that will define Meltdown on the Horizon in the song’s psychedelic persona, a heavy acid rock spirit emerging that continues into “Bellhop Shindig,” which is no less jazzy than the title might indicate, as Paine‘s bass holds together the flow of drums and guitar surrounding, bridging the gap that’s essential in crafting the spaciousness of the record on the whole. Cool vibe? Yeah, cool vibe. They’ve got it locked down.

When it comes to this kind of jam-based heavy psychedelic instrumentalism, I’m usually a proponent of a conscious listen. That is, in the face of trippy sonics and go-anywhere adventuring, I’ll mostly argue in favor of keeping your wits about you and paying attention to what the band are doing in order to most enjoy it. You know, listening to a record by listening to it. Not a particularly deep concept. And I’m not about to tell you not to give Meltdown on the Horizon the consideration it deserves. I will say though that there’s also a value to engaging with the ultra-chill moments of “Sunset Variations” or “Dandy Chai” on that existential level as well — just sharing the same headspace. This is particularly true of the penultimate cut, which is the shortest of the four as noted above, since its structure seems to kind of come apart about two minutes before it’s done and leave Paul in the position of weaving out pulled guitar notes on an intertwining delay, hypnotic and minimal compared to some of the other stretches on the record, but again, a wholly organic moment.

frozen planet 1969

And one that’s well worth experiencing consciously, but also one that’s a whole lot of fun to just kind of go with. Seven albums deep, Frozen Planet….1969 have more than earned the benefit of the doubt, I think, and even as they lose track of where they’re heading on “Dandy Chai,” including that is purposeful. It’s not just about some “well, we’ll put in a missed note to sound natural” kind of thing, and it’s not that they don’t care. It’s the risk you run in doing improv, and the way in which you roll with it. Shit, Frozen Planet….1969 are giving life lessons, never mind jamming out. They’re telling you how to read their work even as they’re performing it. Just go with it. How could you not want to do that, especially when they pull it off so effectively moving into the subdued start of “Sunset Variations?”

But just to be clear: I’m not saying Meltdown on the Horizon is background music. It’s not. “Bellhop Shindig” is way too busy being funky cosmic boogie to be relegated to the background of anything, and while “Rollback” is hypnotic, it never loses its sense of purpose. What I’m saying is that Frozen Planet….1969‘s explorations hold up to multiple kinds of listens. You can sit and analyze every turn they make throughout “Rollback” and “Sunset Variations,” catch the moment where “Dandy Chai” begins to kind of pull itself apart, or get down with “Bellshop Shindig” note for airy note. I’m not arguing against that. Do it. But the next time you put it on, be aware that Meltdown on the Horizon can hold its own and hold attention without that kind of direct engagement.

It’s a strong enough performance on the part of the band to carry the audience through from one end to the other, and even when there’s a bump in that path, they’re experienced enough to ride it out and go where it takes them. This is the sign, ultimately, of a band who have mastered their approach — at least as much as one can when so much of that approach is improv — and who are not only in control of what they do, but are strong enough to cede that control when it suits the work they’re doing. That ability makes Meltdown on the Horizon an all the more exciting listen, no matter how one engages with it, and it shows both the depth of the chemistry between the Attards and Paine, and the continued daring they bring to their output and their off-the-cuff composition style. The former and the latter alike serve them well here, and their raw creativity earns every single kind of listen it will get.

Frozen Planet….1969, Meltdown on the Horizon (2019)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Arrowhead, Coven of the Snake

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Arrowhead Coven of the Snake

[Click play above to stream Arrowhead’s Coven of the Snake in full. Album is out Friday on Ripple Music.]

Now on their 11th year and releasing their third album, Coven of the Snake, Sydney, Australia’s Arrowhead continue to deliver on the promise of their earliest days, proliferating straightforward heavy rock with a meaner underpinning here and there but keeping the songwriting first, always. This has been their wont since their 2009 self-titled EP (review here), and across their 2012 debut, Atomsmasher (review here) and 2015/2016’s Desert Cult Ritual, initially released by the band and subsequently picked up by Ripple Music. One can only call that alliance correct on some grand cosmic scale — the band and label would seem to have been made for each other. Though the band came first, both embrace a traditionalist heavy rock sound that doesn’t necessarily eschew frills, but makes its point with riff-led fare, memorable choruses and an underlying appreciation for the classics of the style. One thinks of Ripple bands like Roadsaw, Devil to Pay, Freedom Hawk, Ape Machine, Fire Down Below, etc.

Arrowhead acquit themselves well in this company across their latest work, Coven of the Snake, having gone through the change of bringing in bassist Arron Fletcher to replace original member Dave Lopez alongside guitarist/vocalist Brett Pearl and drummer Matt Cramp, whose dynamic proves to be the core of the band’s craft. Granted they’ve had a couple years with Lopez at this point, so he’s not brand new to the band or anything, but listening to the clean, LP-ready eight tracks/40 minutes of Coven of the Snake, Arrowhead don’t seem to have missed a beat for the shift in personnel. Since recording, they’ve also brought in Thumlock‘s Raff Iacurto on second guitar, but he doesn’t actually play on the record. Timing is everything. More intrigue for next time, I suppose. Arrowhead give plenty to dig into in the meantime, as Coven of the Snake stands itself out as their most realized offering to-date in the old fashioned way: with songs. Depending on how deep you want to go, it can be as simple as that.

There’s nothing overly showy about what Arrowhead do. They’re technically proficient, sure enough, but not out to put on any kind of clinic in scale work or anything like that. Their music is conversational. It engages the listener and digs itself into the consciousness, and more over, it makes that process easy. It is accessible in the truest, not at all condescending definition of the word. They open with the title-track, and the lines in the chorus go, “Welcome to the coven of the snake/So why don’t you join?,” and I believe Pearl means it when he asks the question. It summarizes the central invitation that the entire album goes on to send. They are communicating directly with their audience, and while one would be remiss not to point out the phallic nature of the coven itself, but between the opener and “All Seeing Eye” and “Ceremony of the Skull,” which follow, they make it pretty plain that the suggestion to join is universal.

arrowhead

Apart from the 6:56 closer “Golden Thunder Hawk,” songs run between four and five and a half minutes, and PearlCramp and Fletcher spend that time making it easy to get on board. As they have all along, they get into some rougher terrain, calling to mind the dug-in low end of later Dozer on cuts like “Ceremony of the Skull” and the penultimate “March of the Reptiles,” the central riff of which feels specifically drawn from Through the Eyes of Heathens launchpoint “Drawing Dead.” Whatever similarities there might be, Arrowhead have never failed to add their own personality, and Coven of the Snake is no different, even as Pearl‘s vocals remind on that same penultimate track of Arc of Ascent, the context in which that line is drawn is obviously different. Likewise, the prior “Dopanaught” takes a more specifically winding approach, marked out by being the most “stoner” inclusion in terms of basic lyrical foundation — flirting with conspiracy theories and whatnot elsewhere suits the rest of the material as well as anything — and the accompanying lead guitar in its second half. Arrowhead add enough detail to each track so that it stands out from the rest while feeding into the straight-ahead overarching impression of the album.

This is more or less the ideal for this kind of heavy rock and roll songwriting — something that takes its influences and brings new elements to the mix in a style that is unpretentious about where it’s coming from and built to serve memorable, engaging songs. Somewhat understated on the whole, Arrowhead reserve any kind of grandiosity for “Golden Thunder Hawk,” which rolls out much of its extra runtime in a patient introduction to the gently-shuffling main progression, a laid back vocal helping set the mood before opening to a wider chorus. Soon enough they’re halfway through and from there it’s a matter of letting the build play out, which by then the band have well earned with their level of execution on the previous seven tracks. These are the kinds of songs where you read the titles and hear them delivered in your head as they are in the hooks, and that extends even to the finale, which takes a slightly different route to get there but still most certainly does, thereby summarizing much of the appeal of Coven of the Snake while also bringing new ideas to it.

Arrowhead are clearly past the stage where they might otherwise be discovering who they are as a band, and given the work they’ve done since starting out, I’d argue they’ve known all along. Nonetheless, the efforts they’ve made to refine their craft are audible throughout Coven of the Snake, and as they continue to move forward, as a live four-piece and as a creative unit, one hopes the dynamic they showcase here continues with them. This is heavy rock for a longer term; a quality that seeps in not through some novelty but through Arrowhead‘s ability to realize their intentions in impeccably constructed form. Its appeal will last that much longer for it.

Arrowhead, “Coven of the Snake” official video

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We Lost the Sea to Release Triumph and Disaster Oct. 1; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

we lost the sea (Photo by Josh Groom)

I suspect that if you heard 2015’s Departure Songs (review here, discussed here), you don’t need me to tell you how excited to be at the prospect of a new 2LP full-length from Sydney, Australia’s We Lost the Sea, but just in case, you should be very, very excited. And more so after you listen to the 15-minute track “Towers” streaming at the bottom of this post, which finds the instrumentalists’ evocative prowess not at all diminished for the space of years from one release to the next, and as they take on telling a story no less ambitious than summarizing the course of humanity up to its final moments, the personal feel they bring to the material stays resonant. I wouldn’t necessarily count on one track to represent the entire scope of the offering, but no question the emotional undercurrent is there.

Release date is Oct. 1. Here’s looking forward to hearing more:

we lost the sea triumph and disaster

Triumph & Disaster is a post-apocalyptic view on the collapse of the world told like a children’s story and illustrated through the eyes of a mother and her son as they spend one last day on Earth. The music is the narrative for the destruction and tragedy. The words tell the story of love, loss and letting go.

We’re beyond proud, excited and exhausted to present you the first track from it ’Towers’ which summarizes all of those emotions in one song. Representing the beginning and the end of everything, it is about giant oppressive forces and feelings, the towering juggernaut of power, failure, history and death.

“Triumph & Disaster” is available now on 3 2xLP variants but they are going VERY quickly. Also available on CD.

UK orders, please order from our friends at Holy Roar Records. Europe order from Dunk! Records, Australia from The Bird’s Robe Collective.

Color Version 1:
Bone White and Grimace Purple Galaxy Merge (limited to 500 copies)

&

Color Version 2:
Color in Color with Splatter combo ((limited to 300 copies)
*both LPs are different configs, see below:
LP1:
Halloween Orange inside of Clear with HEAVY Aqua Blue, Brown and Bone White Splatter

LP2:
Aqua Blue Inside of Clear with Heavy Halloween Orange, Brown and Bone White Splatter
**this variant is one of the more expensive to make, thus the cost is a bit more.

Color Version 3:
Aqua Blue / Halloween Orange / Brown Tri-Color Merge with HEAVY Deep Purple, Grimace Purple and Neon Violet Splatter (limited to 200 copies)
**this variant is one of the most expensive to make, thus the cost is a bit more.

PREORDER: smarturl.it/WELOSTTHESEA

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We Lost the Sea, “Towers”

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Arrowhead Announce Coven of the Snake Due July 12; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

arrowhead

A four-piece where their last full-length was released as a trio, Sydney’s Arrowhead will offer up Coven of the Snake as their third album next month. Set to deliver through Ripple Music, the record is preceded by a video for the title-track that’s streaming below and tells the story in its straightforward riffing meeting head on with kaleidoscopic visuals, the band doing much the same in terms of style, taking a solid structural foundation and making it more colorful along the way. July 12 is the release date, and it marks a decade for Arrowhead, who got their start in 2009 before releasing their debut EP (review here) the next year.

Rock and roll follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

Arrowhead Coven of the Snake

ARROWHEAD Summon Spirits with the Release of COVEN OF THE SNAKE on RIPPLE MUSIC | Stream the video for new single and title track now!

Coven of the Snake is released worldwide on 12th July 2019

Rising from the underground of Sydney’s stoner rock scene, the Arrowhead brotherhood fire an explosive, all killer/no filler triptych of volume, attitude and down-tuned grooves.

Hitting you harder than a Frank Frazetta-airbrushed panel van travelling at 100mph, Arrowhead is very much a band defined by the riffs that raised them. Fronted by guitar player, vocalist and chief songwriter Brett Pearl, Brett was brought up on a staple diet of classic rock with Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd and Sabbath rarely leaving the turntable. Joined by fellow purveyor of low-end grind is bass player/Viking Arron Fletcher, guitarist Raff Iacurto and living backbone of the band, Matt Cramp on drums.

With each member feeding into the Arrowhead-approved vision of hard rock reverie via Hollywood monsters and science fiction cinema, having paid their dues as a band since late 2009, following on from 2010’s Atomsmasher EP, their self-titled debut and 2016’s Desert Cult Ritual, the latest addition to the quartet’s quiver is new album, Coven of the Snake. An album that is equal parts venom and mysticism, and 100% blood-bound to steal your soul in the name of rock and roll.

Arrowhead’s Coven of the Snake is released on 12th July 2019 through Ripple Music.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Coven Of The Snake
2. All Seeing Eye
3. Ceremony of the Skull
4. Ghost Ship
5. Root Of Evil
6. Dopanaught
7. March Of The Reptiles
8. Golden Thunder Hawk

ARROWHEAD:
Brett Pearl – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Cramp – Drums
Arron Fletcher – Bass Guitar
Raff Iacurto – Guitar

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Arrowhead, “Coven of the Snake” official video

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