Quarterly Review: Pallbearer, Dread Sovereign, Lizzard Wizzard, Oulu Space Jam Collective, Frozen Planet….1969, Ananda Mida, Strange Broue, Orango, Set and Setting, Dautha

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Here we are, on the precipice looking out over a spread that will include 50 reviews by the week’s end. Somehow when it comes around to a Quarterly Review Monday I always end up taking a moment to ask myself if I’ve truly lost my mind, if I really expect to be able to do this and not fall completely flat on my face, and just where the hell this terrible idea came from in the first place. But you know what? I haven’t flubbed one yet. We get through it. There’s a lot to go through, for me and you both, but sometimes it’s fun to be completely overwhelmed by music. I hope you agree, and I hope you find something this week that hits you in that oh-yeah-that’s-why-I-love-this kind of way. Time’s wasting. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Pallbearer, Heartless

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Three albums and nearly a decade into their tenure, Pallbearer stand at the forefront of American doom, and their third outing, Heartless (on Profound Lore), only reinforces this position while at the same time expanding beyond genre lines in ways that even their 2014 sophomore effort, Foundations of Burden, simply couldn’t have done. A seven-song/hour-long sprawl is marked out by resonant melodies, soulful melancholy conveyed by guitarist/vocalist Brett Campbell – the returning lineup completed by guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly – and tonal weight set to a mix by Joe Barresi, who from opener “I Saw the End” onward arranges layers gorgeously so that extended pieces like “Dancing in Madness” (11:48) and closer “A Plea for Understanding” (12:40) become even more consuming. What comes through most resolute on Heartless, though, is that it’s time to stop thinking of Pallbearer as belonging to some established notion of doom or any other subgenre. With these songs, they make it clear they’ve arrived at their own wavelength and are ready to stand up to the influence they’ve already begun to have on other acts. A significant achievement.

Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls

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With the considerable frontman presence of Primordial’s Alan Averill on vocals and bass, the considerable riffing of guitarist Bones (also of Wizards of Firetop Mountain) and the considerable lumber in the drumming of Johnny King (ex-Altar of Plagues), Dread Sovereign make some considerable fucking doom indeed. Their second album, For Doom the Bell Tolls (on Ván Records), follows three years behind their debut, 2014’s All Hell’s Martyrs (review here), and wastes no time giving the devil his due – or his doom, if you prefer – in the span of its six tracks and 37 minutes. Atmospheric and seemingly on an endless downward plod, the 13-minute “Twelve Bells Toll in Salem” is a defining moment, but the trad metallurgy of “This World is Doomed” rounds out side A with some welcome thrust, and after the intro “Draped in Sepulchral Fog,” “The Spines of Saturn” and the thrashing “Live Like and Angel, Die Like a Devil” play dramatic and furious intensities off each other in a manner that would seem to truly represent the fine art of not giving a shit what anyone thinks about what you do or what box you’re supposed to fit into. Righteous. Considerably so.

Dread Sovereign on Thee Facebooks

Ván Records website

 

Lizzard Wizzard, Total War Power Bastard

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Noise, largesse of riffs and shouted vocals that distinctly remind of Souls at Zero-era Neurosis pervade the near-hour-long run of Lizzard Wizzard’s Total War Power Bastard, but as much as the Brisbane four-piece willfully give themselves over to fuckall – to wit, the title “Medusa but She Gets You Stoned Instead of Turning You to Stone, Instead of Snakes She has Vaporizers on His Head… Drugs” – songs like “Shithead Nihilism,” “Pizza” and the droning “Snake Arrow” brim with purpose and prove affecting in their atmosphere and heft alike. Yes, they have a song called “Nerd Smasher,” and they deserve all credit for that as they follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), but by the time they get down to the roll-happy “Crystal Balls” and the feedback-caked “Megaflora” at the record’s end, guitarists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon, bassist Stef Roselli and drummer Luke Osborne end up having done something original with a Sleep influence, and that’s even more commendable.

Lizzard Wizzard on Thee Facebooks

Lizzard Wizzard on Bandcamp

 

Oulu Space Jam Collective, EP1

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Should mention two things outright about Oulu Space Jam Collective’s EP1. First and foremost, its three songs run over 95 minutes long, so if it’s an EP, one can only imagine what qualifies as a “full-length.” Second, the Finnish outfit releasing EP1 on limited tape through Eggs in Aspic isn’t to be confused with Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective. Oulu is someplace else entirely, and likewise, Oulu Space Jam Collective have their own intentions as they show in the 57-minute opener “Renegade Spaceman,” recorded live in the studio in 2014 (they’ve since made two sequels) and presented in six movements including samples, drones, enough swirl for, well, 57 minutes, and a hypnotism that’s nigh on inescapable. I won’t take away from the space rock thrust of 14-minute closer “Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia” (also tracked in 2014), but the smooth progressive edge of three-part 24-minute centerpiece “Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool” is where it’s at for me – though if you want a whole galaxy to explore, hit up their Bandcamp.

Oulu Space Jam Collective on Thee Facebooks

Eggs in Aspic webstore

 

Frozen Planet…. 1969, Electric Smokehouse

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They freak out a bit toward the end of 12-minute opener “Ascendant” and in the second half of the subsequent “Supersaturation,” but for the most part, Aussie three-piece Frozen Planet…. 1969 play it weirdo-cool on their fourth full-length, the excellently-titled Electric Smokehouse (on Pepper Shaker Records). From those jams to the dreamy beachside drift of “Shores of Oblivion” to the funky-fuzz bass of “Sonic Egg Factory” to the quick noise finish of “Pretty Blown Fuse” – which may or may not be the sound of malfunctioning equipment run through an oscillator or some other effects-whatnot, the instrumentalist Sydney/Canberra trio seem to improv a healthy percentage of their fare, if not all of it, and that spirit of spontaneity feeds into the easygoing atmosphere only enhanced by the cover art. On a superficial level, you know you’re getting psych jams going into it, but once you put on Electric Smokehouse, the urge to get lost in the tracks is nigh on overwhelming, and that proves greatly to their credit. Wake up someplace else.

Frozen Planet…. 1969 on Thee Facebooks

Pepper Shaker Records on Bandcamp

 

Ananda Mida, Anodnatius

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Ananda Mida make their debut on Go Down Records with Anodnatius, fluidly working their way around heavy psychedelic and more driving rock influences propelled by drummer Massimo “Max Ear” Recchia, also of underrated Italian forebears OJM. Here, Recchia anchors a seven-piece lineup including two vocalists in Oscar de Bertoldi and Filippo Leonardi, two guitarists in Matteo Scolaro and Alessandro Tedesco, as well as bassist Davide Bressan and organist Stefano Pasqualetto, so suffice it to say songs like the subtly grungy “Passvas,” the dreamy highlight “Heropas” or the vaguely progressive “Askokinn” want nothing for fullness, but there seem to be moments throughout Anodnatius as on “Lunia” and the shuffling “Kondur” early into the proceedings where the band wants to break out and push toward something heavier. Their restraint is to be commended since it serves the interests of songcraft, but part of me can’t help but wonder what might happen if these guys really let loose on some boogie jams. Keep an ear open to find out, as I have a feeling they might be headed in just that direction.

Ananda Mida on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records website

 

Strange Broue, Seance

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The heart of Séance – The Satanic Sounds of Strange Broue might come in the 11-minute sample dump that is “Cults and Crimes,” late into the second half of the 52-minute album. Capturing meticulously compiled news and talk-show clips from the late ‘80s, some of which talk about the Satanic roots of heavy metal, it gets to the ritualism that Quebec four-piece Strange Broue proliferate elsewhere on the record in the lo-fi post-Electric Wizard doom of “Satan’s Slaves,” “Kill What’s Inside of You” and the rolling opener “Ritualize” (video here). These pieces offset by other interludes of noise and drone and samples like “Satanic Panic,” “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanis, Luciferi Excelsis,” the acoustic-until-it-gets-shot-in-the-woods “Las Bas,” the John Carpenter-esque “Séance IV – L’Invocation” and the extended penultimate drone of “Séance V – The Mystifying Oracle with Bells” ahead of the countrified pop gospel of “Satan is Real,” which finishes in subversive fashion, interrupted by more news reports and a finishing assault of noise. Like an arts project in the dark arts, Séance crosses some familiar terrain but finds Strange Broue on their own trip through cultish immersion, as psychological as it is psychedelic.

Strange Broue on Thee Facebooks

Sunmask Records webstore

 

Orango, The Mules of Nana

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Not much to argue with in the sixth long-player from Helge Kanck, Trond Slåke and Hallvard Gaardløs, collectively known as Orango. As they make their way onto Stickman Records (which also handled Euro distro for their last album, 2014’s Battles) with The Mules of Nana, the Norwegian trio deep-dive into harmony-topped ‘70s-style vibing that, well, leaves the bulk of “retro” bands in their V8-crafted dust. Mind you they do so by not being a retro band. True, the fuzz on “The Honeymoon Song” and “Head on Down” is as organic as if you happened on it in some forest where all the trees were wearing bellbottoms, but if you told me it was true, I’d believe Orango recorded The Mules of Nana onto – gasp! – a computer. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but “Heirs,” the sweetly acoustic “Give Me a Hundred” and motoring “Hazy Chain of Mountains” find Orango making no attempt to cloak a lack of songwriting or performance chops in a production aesthetic. Rather, in the tradition of hi-fi greats, they sound as full and rich as possible and utterly live up to the high standard they set for themselves. Pure win in classic, dynamic fashion.

Orango on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Set and Setting, Reflectionless

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There’s an undercurrent of metal that’s quick to show itself on Set and Setting’s Reflectionless. The instrumentalist Floridian five-piece delve plenty deep into heavy post-rock on cuts like the shoegazing “Incandescent Gleam” and subsequent “Specular Wavefront Of…” but they’re not through opener “Saudade” before harder-edged chug emerges, and “…The Idyllic Realm”’s blastbeating nods at black metal while the churning endgame build of closer “Ephemerality” holds tight to a progressive execution. While its textural foundation will likely ring familiar to followers of Russian Circles ultimately, Reflectionless finds distinction in aligning the various paths it walks as it goes, creating an overarching flow that draws strength from its diversity of approach rather than sounding choppy, confused or in conflict with itself. Not revolutionary by any means, but engaging throughout and with a residual warmth to complement what might seem at first to be a purely cerebral approach. It offers more on repeat listens, so let it sink in.

Set and Setting on Thee Facebooks

Set and Setting webstore

 

Dautha, Den Foerste

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Primo short offering of pure, fistpump-ready, violin-infused doom traditionalism. I don’t know what Norrköping, Sweden’s Dautha – the five-piece of vocalist Lars Palmqvist, guitarists Erik Öquist and Ola Blomkvist, bassist Emil Åström and drummer Micael Zetterberg – are planning to do for a follow-up, but this Den Foerste (or Den Förste) two-tracker recalls glory-era Candlemass and willfully soars with no sense of irony on “Benandanti” and “In Between Two Floods” after the intro “Horkarlar Skall Slås Ihjäl,” and having already sold out a self-released pressing leaves little to wonder what would’ve caught the esteemed tastes of Ván Records. And by that I mean it’s fucking awesome. I’m ready for a full-length whenever they are, and from the poise with which Palmqvist carries the melodies of these tracks, the quality of the riffing and the depth of arrangement the violin adds to the overarching mournfulness, they definitely sound ready. So get on it. 15 minutes of dirge-making this gorgeous simply isn’t enough.

Dautha on Thee Facebooks

Ván Records website

 

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Frozen Planet 1969 to Release Electric Smokehouse Jan. 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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In look and sonic vibe, Frozen Planet 1969 seem to be shooting for that obscure, lost private press LP heavy you pick up unknowningly from the rack at your favorite musty shop, take to the counter, and promptly receive — rightly so — a lecture on how frickin’ awesome it is. All you can do is nod your head in vague agreement and roll with it until you get home and realize how correct that trusty clerk was. The Australian heavy psych jammers — who also stylize their name with an elongated ellipse: Frozen Planet….1969 — will issue Electric Smokehouse on Jan. 11, with vinyl out through Headspin Records and CD/DL from Pepper Shaker Records. I’d never presume to play the role of the store clerk, but they’ve got the song “Supersaturation” from the new outing streaming now, and it’s a tasty bit of fluidity sure to consume the converted. By all means, dig in.

They got in touch over subspace frequencies and sent this down the PR wire:

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New Frozen Planet….1969 album

New album by Frozen Planet….1969 ‘Electric Smokehouse’. This is the band’s fourth album. It contains more of the heavy-psych instrumental experimental improvisation the band has become known for! ‘Electric Smokehouse’ will be released very early in the new year- January 11 2017. It will be available on vinyl in black or transparent purple in a gatefold sleeve on Headspin Records and on CD and digitally via Pepper Shaker.

The vinyl version can be found on the Shiny Beast mail-order website and there will also be some copies available via the Pepper shaker Records Bandcamp page. The CD and digital versions will be available via the Pepper Shaker Records Bandcamp page.

Although the band name suggests otherwise, Frozen Planet….1969 dates back to early 2012! It was then that a heavy-psych jam session between two Sydney-based musicians, Paul and Frank Attard, and Canberra-based Lachlan Paine, took place.

Luckily, this afternoon of improvisation at the home of Pepper Shaker Records, Frank Street Studio, was recorded. However, it wasn’t until over a year later that the three decided they should finally mix and release some of the material they had created that day. Paul and Frank had been playing in the stoner-doom band, Mother Mars. Lachlan was playing in the Canberra heavy rock trio, Looking Glass. After playing on numerous bills together over the years it seemed only natural there would be some sort of collaboration between the two bands at some point.

Frozen Planet….1969 played its first show in February 2014. It was also around this time that the band recorded another mammoth jam session. From this jam session came the second and third releases for the band, “Lost Traveller Chronicles, Volume 1” (released 20th August 2014) and “Lost Traveller Chronicles, Volume 2” (released 6th May 2015). The concept this time would be a travel journal through the constellations, with each song being a chapter from the journal! Both volumes were released in digital and physical format on Pepper Shaker Records. The physical format for Volume 1 was a limited 10-inch vinyl and for Volume 2 the format was CD.

To date, the band has only played a handful of shows. Each show has been uniquely different with the band continuously jamming for thirty to forty minutes. No rehearsal necessary. Every time Frozen Planet….1969 gets together it’s either to record or play live. All improvised!

https://www.facebook.com/Frozenplanet1969
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepper-Shaker-Records/348639788571646
https://twitter.com/PepperShakerrec
https://peppershakerrecords.bandcamp.com/

Frozen Planet 1969, “Supersaturation”

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Comacozer, Astra Planeta: The Navigational Mind

Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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It’s almost 100 percent certain that’s their origin, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to call the five tracks on Comacozer‘s debut LP, Astra Planeta, jams. There are moments that definitely give an air of spontaneity to the outing, whether that’s the initial unfolding textural nod of “Saurian Dream” or the guitar-led flourish that factors so significantly into closer “Hypnotized by Apophis,” but the course overall feels plotted, and with the blend of psychedelic and heavier impulses that the Sydney-based trio have on offer throughout the 41-minute HeadSpin Records LP, presented in clear/black or clear/purple gatefold vinyl with art by Fever Dog guitarist Danny Graham, there’s some measure of comfort in that.

Of course, Comacozer aren’t exactly entering into their first album blind. Astra Planeta follows behind two EPs in 2014’s Sessions and 2015’s Deloun that wound up combined and pressed to vinyl as — wait for it – Deloun Sessions, but where that was very clearly drawing a line between two early outings, Astra Planeta draws a significant amount of its purpose from exacting a linear flow across its two sides, split with three cuts on side A and two longer ones on side B, opting it would seem for maximum immersion at all times, whether the source of that is Rich Burke‘s willfully-meandering guitar, Richard Elliott‘s patient basslines or the steady push in Andrew Panagopoulos‘ drumming that seems to hold these proceedings together, giving a song like second track “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” a sense of build late and adding direction to the record as a whole.

The opening that “Saurian Dream” and “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” give to Astra Planeta is key to understanding that direction. In listening, I’ve been trying to determine the source of what I’m hearing so distinctly as an earlier My Sleeping Karma influence. It seems to be in some of the minor-key Easternisms early in “Saurian Dream,” blended with Western heavy psych impulses, and no doubt part of the connection stems from the fact that both groups are instrumental, but I think it has even more to do with the smoothness in Comacozer‘s tones. Layers of watery effects from Burke‘s guitar and the depths in Elliott‘s bass as heard just past the midpoint of the opener as it comes more to the forefront of the mix join together to craft a hypnotic impression that, while still figuring out some elements of its approach — one hopes that growth is a lifelong process for the band only beginning here — is marked in its effect on the listener in a similar manner as the German masters of the form.

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Where Comacozer distinguish themselves is in their immediate drive to push beyond this root inspiration, drawing from it the fluidity from which their debut very much benefits and then suiting that to the purposes of their already-noted instrumentalist songwriting, whether that’s the linearity of “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” or the more rhythmically-minded, open structure of “Navigating the Mandjet,” which follows and closes out side A with Panagopoulos expanding the percussive scope amid more adventurous arrangements of guitar, tapping sitar-esque feel and wah-soaked bass as handclaps assure a duly human feel beneath and alongside the earlier ceremonial thrust that gives way to funkier terrain as the three-piece make their way into the second half of the song, which is the shortest on Astra Planeta at 6:21.

It’s fitting for the overarching progression of Astra Planeta that the two lengthiest pieces should follow. One might have a difficult time saying “Illumination Cloud” (8:18) and “Hypnotized by Apophis” (11:38) go further out than any of the first three tracks, since the basic cosmos-bound flow remains largely consistent, but with more time at their disposal, Comacozer do get a chance to show more of the aforementioned spontaneity. Burke‘s solo late in “Illumination Cloud,” which if it isn’t improvised is a close enough approximation over the steady groove offered by the bass and drums — Elliott‘s bass takes over circa 7:30 after that solo drops out and offers a moment to genuinely appreciate his tone shortly before the song ends — as well as in the thicker, early Natas-style fuzz of “Hypnotized by Apophis,” which settles into a march in its second half only after a satisfyingly exploratory midsection in which the low end again shines as the guitar noodles-out in trippy fashion.

Granted, it might ultimately be a familiar blend of styles — heavy, psych, some underpinnings of stoner and doom — but as with any encouraging debut, Astra Planeta presents a telling glimpse of where Comacozer are coming from sound-wise and gives listeners a chance to speculate on where and how they might develop going forward. As to that, the most engaging facets of Astra Planeta prove to be its ultimate immersion, its willingness to subtly engage with expanded layering and arrangements, its tonal warmth and the chemistry beginning to take shape between BurkeElliott and Panagopoulos. So long as Comacozer can maintain those going forward, the rest should take care of itself naturally, and particularly as naturalism seems to be such a focus for them on Astra Planeta, there should be little to worry about in that regard.

Comacozer, Astra Planeta (2016)

Comacozer on Thee Facebooks

Comacozer on Bandcamp

HeadSpin Records website

HeadSpin Records on Thee Facebooks

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

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Russian Circles, Guidance

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

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Salem’s Pot, Pronounce This!

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

Salem’s Pot BigCartel store

RidingEasy Records website

 

Bridesmaid, International House of Mancakes

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

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Bridesmaid on Bandcamp

 

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Keep it Greasy!

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

The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Landing, Third Sight

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

Landing on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…

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

Reign of Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Reign of Zaius on Bandcamp

 

Transcendent Sea, Ballads of Drowning Men

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

Transcendent Sea on Thee Facebooks

Transcendent Sea on Bandcamp

 

Red Teeth, Light Bender

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

Red Teeth on Bandcamp

GTG Records website

 

Sea of Bones & Ramlord, Split

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

Broken Limbs Recordings on Bandcamp

Sea of Bones on Thee Facebooks

Ramlord on Thee Facebooks

 

Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!

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

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp

 

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Arrowhead to Release Desert Cult Ritual Nov. 4

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Aussie heavy rockers Arrowhead will issue their second LP, Desert Cult Ritual, via Ripple Music on Nov. 4. They made their debut in 2013 with Atomsmasher (review here) and offered up Desert Cult Ritual early last year. They join a string of others in similar reissue circumstances in working with Ripple, who continue to have their collective ear to the ground in terms of picking up acts who’ve met with a decent digital response in order to translate that into physical sales. As far as sustainable business models go for the modern music industry, one could do way worse. Like trying money on Pandora. That would be worse.

So yeah, it’s kind of a reissue, but to my knowledge it’s actually also the first physical pressing. If you didn’t hear Desert Cult Ritual when it first came out, you can get a listen via the Bandcamp player below.

From the PR wire:

arrowhead

ARROWHEAD: Oz trio summon spirits with the release of Desert Cult Ritual

Desert Cult Ritual is released worldwide on vinyl/digital on 21st October and on CD on 4th November

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

Having paid their dues as a band since late 2009, the iniquitously titled Desert Cult Ritual is the latest addition to the power trio’s quiver and first for the Californian label Ripple Music, following the release of their self-titled EP in 2010 and Atomsmasher, their storming full-length debut from 2013.

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 – the son of a self-confessed “hippy-dippy mom” with a record collection to die for – 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 in bass player/Viking Dave Lopez and steel backbone, Matt Cramp on drums, all three feed into the Arrowhead-approved vision of hard rock reverie via Hollywood monsters and science fiction cinema.

Arrowhead’s Desert Cult Ritual is released on vinyl/digital on 21st October and worldwide on CD on 4th November through Ripple Music.

Arrowhead:
Brett Pearl – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Cramp – Drums
Arron Fletcher – Bass Guitar

Track Listing:
1. Desert Cult Ritual
2. Hypnotiser
3. Hell Fire
4. Bone Mountain
5. Maneater Blues
6. Weed Lord
7. Rogue Asteroid
8. Dragon Whips Its Tail

https://www.facebook.com/ArrowheadHeavyRock/
https://arrowheadrock.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

Arrowhead, Desert Cult Ritual (2015/2016)

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Friday Full-Length: Buffalo, Volcanic Rock

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Buffalo, Volcanic Rock (1973)

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.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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We Lost the Sea Stream Departure Songs in Full; Out Now on Translation Loss

Posted in audiObelisk on November 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

we-lost-the-sea

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. we-lost-the-sea-departure-songsIn 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:

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

We Lost the Sea on Twitter

Translation Loss store

Translation Loss on Thee Facebooks

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We Lost the Sea to Issue Departure Songs on Translation Loss

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

we lost the sea (Photo by XRAY DOLL)

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 departure songs

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

Departure Songs is available to pre-order now at this location.

WE LOST THE SEA features Mark Owen (guitar), Matt Harvey (guitar), Brendon Warner (guitar), Kieran Elliott (bass), Matthew Kelly (piano, keyboards) and Nathaniel D’Ugo (drums).

http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/welostthesea
https://twitter.com/welostthesea
http://welostthesea.bandcamp.com/
http://www.welostthesea.com/

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs (2015)

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