Review & Full Album Stream: Death Hawks, Psychic Harmony

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

death hawks psychic harmony

[Click play above to stream Death Hawks’ Psychic Harmony in full. Album is out June 7 on Svart Records.]

Nearly a decade after their inception, Tampere, Finland’s Death Hawks are rewriting the script on where synth-led prog, psychedelia, and pop meet. Psychic Harmony arrives via Svart Records as their fourth album, and it takes the dreamscape aspects that showed themselves throughout the deep-ranging melodies of 2015’s Sun Future Moon (review here) and pushes them into a mega-lush wash of synth, periodic bouts of sax and a glamourized emotionality that comes through in slow-burners like “Re-Run” as well as in the disco-fied “Whisper,” which seems to nod at Blondie‘s flirtations with funk and eminent danceability. The returning four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Teemu Markkula, bassist/vocalist Riku Pirttiniemi, drummer Miikka Heikkinen and keyboardist/saxophonist Tenho Mattila present 10 tracks for a fluid single LP tied together by style amid varying moods driven as much if not more by keys as by guitar, the band showcasing a vision of pop sexuality that’s as much ’70s androgyny as it is krautrock exploration.

These would seem to be contrasts until one actually listens to Psychic Harmony, which lives up to its title in bringing into a single context such a swath of impulses, and making something deeply human at the same time so much of it is based around synthesizer. It is a significant leap or sidestep in sound even from the preceding Sun Future Moon, let alone anything that came before it, but here too, it is the focus on melodicism that makes Psychic Harmony within the band’s sphere even as it seems to expand the radius thereof, and Markkula‘s voice throughout is a uniting factor the contributions of which are not to be understated. Pirttiniemi has his parts as well, and Nicole Willis contributes a guest spot to acoustic-led closer “I am a Tree,” but still, Markkula helps establish the mood in which much of the album is operating, and the vibe set forth in “Secret Isle” at the outset is one that holds firm across nearly everything that follows, wherever else it might go sound-wise.

And that vibe? Well, it starts with the sound of a needle hitting a record. The idea isn’t just that you’re listening to a vinyl album, but what Death Hawks are shooting for immediately is the idea of being transported through the audio that comes — that cinematic otherworldliness of the keys that start the song and the outward voyage that ensues from there. It’s as though they’re signaling to their audience the intention for the music to take them someplace, and the lyrics to song bear that out as well. Psychic Harmony itself becomes that secret isle, and as the opener moves into the multi-color wash of “Like Lovers Do,” with a change in the vocals, sax buried far back in the mix and keys pushed far forward with voice overtop, the feel becomes all the more spacious, the world created in “Secret Isle” seeming to open wide with programmed beats and a second half that seems to purposefully lose itself in the moment.

death hawks (Photo by Sami Sanpikkila)

“Re-Run” follows and seems to work in the same vein initially, but even after the synth handclaps arrive after about a minute in, the feel is more mellow, with the mix completely filled out from top to bottom with rhythm and melody. Piano enters at the two-minute mark and “Re-Run” moves into its jazzier break, with the sax included as well, but the chorus returns with layers of vocals, leading just to Markkula‘s voice echoing through the chorus toward the title line again, ethereal sounds following and echoing away to lead out and toward the all-things fusion of the instrumental “Aleya,” which only furthers the atmosphere built to that point with horn harmonies and keys coinciding and a movement from mellow jazz to a more grandiose wash at the finish, bringing about the presumed side A capper “Synchronicity,” with a more prominent beat and effects-laden vocals, repetitions of the title word that make it seems almost like an advertisement from the future, and that shift into a stretch of dance-drift and end with fading swirl noise.

Bass beat starts “Whisper” at the (again, presumed) launch of side B, with a more direct play on dance pop that ensues, the aforementioned disco flush coming through not with the urgency of cocaine that actually typified so much of the material from the era with with the song is conversing, but a more laid back mindset, third eye open and ready to get funky. Still, the chorus lands with more insistence thanks in no small part to the beat behind it as well as the layers of vocals, so a guitar solo isn’t out of place when Death Hawks come around to the final section of the song. It’s the kind of thing that would have an extended dance mix in another time, another place. The drama continues in “A Room with a View” amid keyboard starts and stops, krautrock nuance and the prominent layers of vocals that emphasize the bright and progressive mood soon taken further with the arrival of the saxophone. I’d say “Play for Rewind” brings the proceedings back to ground, but yeah, that’s clearly not where Death Hawks are interested in going with Psychic Harmony.

Instead, they they move forward in deceptively efficient upbeat prog-pop form with a drum motion that increases subtly in intensity until at about 3:10 into the total 3:32, it moves to a double-kick to finish out, cutting to silence ahead of “Scent of Life,” a penultimate single-worthy piece that does indeed recall some of the album’s earlier moments, feeling familiar not in the sense of repeating anything, but of adding to what’s already there. It is the crescendo for the album as a whole, without question, and the departure of “I am a Tree” — the purposeful connection to earth, to the ground that “Play for Rewind” so readily rejected — is palpable, but through the prominence of voice throughout, maintains a complementary place with the other tracks before it. Like much of the album, it is beautiful and it knows it, but it is not content to let that self-awareness carry it. And as Death Hawks have thrown open the doors of perception here and discovered such shimmer on the other side, I would not expect their journey of discovery to stagnate anytime soon.

Death Hawks, “Re-Run” official video

Death Hawks website

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Svart Records

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Lurk Premiere “Proteus Syndrome”; Fringe out Aug. 5

Posted in audiObelisk on July 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lurk

Finnish sludge extremists Lurk release their new album, Fringe, Aug. 5 on Transcending Obscurity. The eight-track outing is the third from Lurk and was originally released by the Tampere-based four-piece digitally in 2016 before being picked up for a proper pressing. It follows behind 2014’s Kaldera and a 2012 self-titled from the band, who mark a decade by making their debut on the Indian imprint and whose attack has never sounded more visceral than it does on Fringe. I’ve already said about the album that they’re likely talking about the “lunatic fringe,” the way-out, or better, way-deep edges where most don’t dare to tread, since that seems to be where Fringe itself is interested in dwelling. With the harsh rasp of Kimmo Koskinen crawling out from beneath the lurch of guitarist Arttu Pulkkinen, bassist Eetu Nurmi and drummer Kalle Nurmi, the atmosphere is dark and punishing but not without an ambient breadth as opener “Ostrakismos” leads the way into an unfolding brutality made ritualistic with the use of an effects-laden alto sax.

Fringe, for all its madness in the chug of “Tale Blade” and the oozing wash of noise that is the subsequent “Reclaim” — Satyricon and Celtic Frost meeting with Neurosis and older Paradise Lost lookinglurk fringe on — is rife with these sonic details. Following the gang-shouted layers of rasp in “Reclaim,” “Elan” closes out side A with an extended building introduction and cleaner vocals — guesting on the song is Aleksi Laakso, also of Totalselfhatred and numerous others — that lead into the album’s most vicious lumbering yet before dropping to near silence and a searing throat-rip pulled directly from Finnish black metal. As side B begins with “Offshoot,” the affect is faster and more death/black than sludge, but the underlying groove is never far, and “Offshoot” seems to be making its way downward as it moves toward “Furrow,” a resumption of plod that remains willfully torturous despite not hitting the five-minute mark. A cleaner section of shouts ignites a call and response of sorts, but the tones surrounding, the crash and the lumber are a tie to the aural cruelty in the tracks surrounding.

As to that, “Nether” answers the how-does-this-not-just-melt chaos of the song before it with an almost stately metallic poise. It’s the shortest track at 3:35, but also perhaps the most straightforward in terms of its metal quotient, working against genre expectations in a way that successfully expands the palette of Fringe overall. It’s only fitting, then, that they should close with their darkest, most utterly miasmic assault. That’s “Proteus Syndrome.” At 7:05, it’s the longest inclusion on Lurk‘s third record, and between its squibbly guitars, its rhythmic nod and its vocal-cord-trashing indecipherability, it both makes for a fitting summary of what’s come before it and pushes further into the depths than anything before it has gone. A post-midpoint drum-dropout leads to a tension of low-end that moves toward resurgence of a riff that’s near-gothic in its theatricality, but repurposed and coated in filth to suit Lurk‘s purposes. They finish with no more kindness than they began, as “Proteus Syndrome” is consumed by a wash of noise that cuts short to leave nothing behind, the arrival of silence clear in its depiction of death and no less resonant or meaningful than the fetid barbarity before it.

Usually when I post a track premiere, I say something like, “enjoy.” I’m not sure that applies here, so:

Be devoured:

Lurk, “Proteus Syndrome” official premiere

Wistful and mysterious, LURK’s music is just as interesting and multi-faceted as their cover artwork. Blending elements of doom, black and death metal into their astounding sludge template, the Finnish band is taking the sound ahead in ways hitherto unheard. Haunting, soaring melodies juxtapose with abrasive low-end riffs without hampering the overall aesthetics. Watch the band take you into a slow, hallucinatory descent towards madness where multiple worlds coalesce and still make sense – that in a nutshell is the music of LURK.

Line up –
Kimmo Koskinen – Vocals
Kalle Nurmi – Drums
Arttu Pulkkinen – Guitar
Eetu Nurmi – Bass

Guest vocals by Aleksi Laakso on Elan
Alto saxophone by Aino Heikkonen on Ostrakismos

Album artwork by Adam Burke (HOODED MENACE, LOSS)
Layout and art direction by Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Lurk on Bandcamp

Lurk on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Obscurity website

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Black Royal Stream Debut Album Lightbringer in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on March 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Black_Royal Peero_Lakanen

Finnish sludge extremists Black Royal release their debut full-length, Lightbringer, on March 9 via Suicide Records. There are a couple different ways one might approach the Tampere four-piece’s rather formidable 10-track/44-minute salvo. It’s either a bludgeoning assault on the auditory senses, laced with underlying heft of groove and tone, but filled with a brutality that reveals itself as a core element whether a given song is fast or slow, rolling or driving, riff-based like “Salvation” or something more along the lines of the half-speed grindcore of opener “Cryo-Volanic” and the punkish “Denial.” Or, it’s an anti-religious treatise that incorporates elements of science fiction, Satanic philosophy, narrative craft and pointed a anti-Christianity doctrine. The truth of Lightbringer, however, is that it’s both.

Oh, to be sure it’s extreme. The lineup of vocalist Riku, bassist/backing vocalist Pete, guitarist/backing vocalist Toni and drummer Jukka meld sludge, hardcore punk, death metal, and their thematic foundation to tell the story of a world losing its religion and ultimately coming out better for that painful process. The lyric sheet comes with footnotes, if that tells you anything, and for songs like “Self-Worship,” which is one of several on Lightbringer to bask in the hypocrisy of faith, they’re actually pretty helpful in tying together the point of view from which the album is working, which is no less cohesive, fortunately, than the band’s sound itself, which, while varied, is never entirely unhinged, as the use of samples in “Pentagram Doctrine” or the quiet stretches of acoustic guitar (courtesy of Pete) and atmospherics in “Dying Star” showcase. In the title-track itself, which also opens side B, the chorus seems to offer a summary of the arc of the story itself: “The Bringer of Light has returned to settle the score/And fight for the lost strength within us all/Man had a chance to unite the world/But their god failed them all.”

Anti-religious perspective within extreme music of nearly all stripes is hardly anything new, but Black Royal are distinguished by just how much they’re willing to make it the core of their debut album’s message. As arrangements gradually flesh out across side B’s “Lightbringer,” keyboard-laced highlight “The Chosen” — the title referring to those whose duty it is to guide the world into this dogma-free next phase of its evolution — “Dying Star” and the slow-unfolding “New World Order” before “Ou[t]roboros” leads the way to the finish with a serenity percussion and far back keys and acoustic guitar, Lightbringer remains vibrant and vehement for the duration. The earlier raw punishment of “Cryo-Volcanic,” “Self-Worship,” “Salvation” and even “Denial” is more straightforward by comparison, with “Pentagram Doctrine” closing side A and foreshadowing some of the expansion to follow, but Lightbringer stays united across its span in its growls and screams no less than in its thematic foundation and aggressive attitude.

The final footnote? Well, it isn’t actually spoken on the song, but on the lyric sheet under “Ou[t]roboros” it quotes Aleister Crowley saying, “These are fools that men adore; both their Gods and their men are fools.” Fair enough. It’s worth noting though that for all the attention paid to messaging across Lightbringer, there’s nothing lacking for songwriting, arrangement, production or execution. The bass tone and chorus of “Lightbringer” both make the titular cut a standout, and in the spirit of many fine growlers before him, Riku seems to have an unyielding supply of vitriol from which to work. While definitely of a style, “The Chosen” hints at progressive elements that could very well come into play more on subsequent releases, and even the most familiar aspects of the album in general are brought to bear with a drive toward individualized, crisp presentation. That would seem to make the thesis all the more pointed, but whether or not a given listener chooses to engage with Black Royal on that level or simply to take it on as a dense slab of aural castigation with a horrid album cover is entirely up to them. In either case, Lightbringer delivers a trouncing worthy of its critique.

I have the pleasure today of premiering Lightbringer for your streaming pleasure. Please find it below, followed by more info from the PR wire, and enjoy:

Hailing from Tampere, Finland, BLACK ROYAL was forged in 2013. The quartet’s music combines modern sludge with ’90s death metal, classic seventies influences, epic choruses and unconventional arrangements, resulting in a distinctly alluring sound often and accurately described as “death blues.” Inspired by beer and occult teachings, their music is laced with distortion and growls proclaiming various themes from free thought to the perils of organized religion.

Following two critically-lauded EPs — The Summoning Pt.1 and Pt.2, released in 2015 and 2016 respectively — the band was signed by Swedish-Finnish label Suicide Records and unleashed the Dying Star seven-inch/digital single, serving as the first taste of BLACK ROYAL’s imminent Lightbringer debut, coming at you this Spring.

BLACK ROYAL:
Jukka – drums, percussion
Pete – bass, backing vocals, acoustic guitar
Riku – vocals
Toni – guitars, backing vocals

Black Royal website

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Black Royal on Instagram

Suicide Records website

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Suicide Records on Bandcamp

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Review & Full Stream: Garden of Worm & The Wandering Midget, Split 7″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Issued late last year, the untitled split seven-inch between Garden of Worm and The Wandering Midget finds the two outfits with plenty in common between them. Some preliminaries: Both hail from Finland. Both are trios. Both got together in the mid-aughts and have released two full-lengths to-date, and both work in an intricate and sometimes subtle vein of progressive, classic-sounding doom. In addition, though they’ve stayed productive in the meantime, both are several years removed from their most recent full-lengths, though they’ve shares shorter offerings in between. In other words? Yeah, getting The Wandering Midget and Garden of Worm together for a split release makes sense, even if in so doing there’s an emphasis placed on the differences between their methods.

Each three-piece offers one track. Garden of Worm bring “Whirls” and The Wandering Midget “Man with Black Hole Eyes.” “Whirls” hits the six-minute mark and “Man with Black Hole Eyes” pushes that mark, so it’s fair to say they’re pushing the limits of what a 7″ platter — even one with the backing of three different imprints in Rämekuukkeli, Acidmen and Pariah Child Records — can hold. They treat stylistic boundaries much the same way, with Garden of Worm on side A measuring out light-grey-toned heavy psychedelic vibe in “Whirls,” which builds on the classic progressivism of 2015’s sophomore outing, Idle Stones (review here) while pushing even further away from a strict adherence to what’s commonly thought of as doom.

Understated, almost laid back vocals give “Whirls” a pastoral vibe in its rolling second half, but this emerges only after the song’s first three minutes embark on a patient, Doors-worthy psychedelic meander, building gradually to the first verse that seems to arrive just a little late on purpose — Garden of Worm making their audience wait, even after the crashing drums of J.M. Suvanto have clearly brought the first of the two movements to its head, S.J. Harju‘s bass and E.J. Taipale‘s guitar living up to the titular “Whirl” all the garden of worm the wandering midget splitwhile. That loose psychedelic feel is maintained, but “Whirls” is unmistakably doom as well, though effectively filtered through classic progressive heavy rock in a way few bands can pull off so well. In six minutes’ time, Garden of Worm reemphasize the individualism of style that’s made their work to-date so satisfying to follow while reminding of the forward potential still so evident in what they do.

A percussive dirge from The Wandering Midget on side B’s “Man with Black Hole Eyes” has a folkish tinge, despite resonant sonic heft particularly stemming from the low end of bassist Thomas Grenier. It’s been over a decade now since the Lappeenranta trio arrived in 2007 via Eyes Like Snow with their I am the Gate compilation — I still remember getting a slimline CD promo copy in the mail, and yes, I still have it — and though part of what they do in paying homage to doomly gods is inherently regressive in form, there’s a freshness to the melancholy of “Man with Black Hole Eyes” that, as the song rounds out with a few lines of vocal harmonies from Grenier backing guitarist Samiel Wormius — the trio completed by drummer Jonathan Sprenger — there is an unmistakable sense of sonic persona running in measure to the post-Reverend Bizarre rolling rhythm at the center of the song. A strong and emotive vocal performance from Wormius gives “Man with Black Hole Eyes” an underlying human presence, but really, it’s the slogging rhythm brought to bear without going over-the-top in terms of tonal weight that gives the track its roots in downerism, gracefully executed and still somehow raw and minimal-seeming.

The Wandering Midget, who had a split out last year as well with Swedish-via-Roman outfit Hands of Orlac are nonetheless creeping up on being six years removed from their second LP, 2012’s From the Meadows of Opium Dreams, and especially listening to the poise with which they deliver “Man with Black Hole Eyes,” that seems like plenty long enough. They’ve always been an outlier — in part I think because of their non-preferred-nomenclature moniker and in part just because they’re bizarre — but “Man with Black Hole Eyes” is a reminder that since the days of I am the Gate there’s always been something intangible and strange about their modus and it’s a due relief to know that hasn’t changed in the time that has passed. Without knowing any plans in that regard or if any batch of new material might be in the works, I can at least say that “Man with Black Hole Eyes” is enough to leave me wanting more from The Wandering Midget, and presumably that’s part of the impetus behind the split in the first place.

Though it’s been out for a while, the split hasn’t actually been streamed anywhere as yet, and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to host the digital premiere of it today. Find it below,followed by more background on the project, and please enjoy:

December 2017

The first plans about this split were made already ten years ago. After that these Finnish bands have played a lot together so it is only natural that they finally share a vinyl too. Luckily the songs are not as old as the original idea.

Garden of Worm started its career with plain doom metal. During the years the band has developed towards more innovative and original sound but all the time maintaining very down-to-earth attitude and warm atmosphere. Whirls is once again a fine example of these qualities.

On the other side of the single The Wandering Midget delivers a heavy punch with an intensive doom metal song. Man with Black Hole Eyes includes a large scale of emotions and heaviness, which suits the genre’s finest traditions.

Besides the unforgettable musical moments the record offers beautiful artwork by Tommi Musturi and skillful calligraphy by Jusso Pilhjerld.

Garden of Worm:
S.J. Harju – bass, vocals
E.J. Taipale – guitar, vocals
J.M. Suvanto – drums

The Wandering Midget:
Samuel Wormius – vocals, guitar
Thomas Grenier – bass, backing vocals
Jonathan Sprenger – drums

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Garden of Worm on Bandcamp

The Wandering Midget on Thee Facebooks

The Wandering Midget on Bandcamp

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Dark Buddha Rising to Release II EP March 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Experimentalist conjurers Dark Buddha Rising have been lurking in the recesses since the 2015 release of their latest full-length, Inversum (review here), which was also their debut on Neurot Recordings and sixth album overall, but they’re back from the abyss on March 23 with a new two-songer that seems to be setting itself up as a sequel to their 2007 debut, I. Suitably titled II, it’s a proposition that leaves one wondering just how the group will relate the two records with such a span of time and so many other outings between., however, I’ll say that whichever way they go, I like the fact that they relate it to a gravitational slingshot, because, you know, Star Trek IV and all that.

“Admiral, there be whales here!”

Indeed, Mr. Scott. Indeed there be.

A vision of a darker future promised by the PR wire:

dark buddha rising ii

DARK BUDDHA RISING Opens A Portal With Their Latest Release II Set To Drop Via Neurot Recordings This March

Prepare your mind, body, and the deepest recesses of your soul: the black gates that DARK BUDDHA RISING unlocked a decade ago with I, open further in 2018, as the band announce the II EP, due for release via Neurot Recordings on March 23rd, 2018. II continues to traverse spiritual planes, exposing a vortex with their sonic calls from beyond.

For ten years, the Finnish band has convened in the now-famous Wastement studio space, set below their home city of Tampere, Finland, to roil in the sounds of the underground, to meet dark spirits, to breathe in time with rhythmic pulses sent from the skies, the stars, and the very dirt around them.

On the surface, the band emits the blackest of psychedelia. Deep down, their sounds are forged in the blue fires of the ancients; exhalations of gods, goddesses and demons alike. Of this new offering, V. Ajomo notes, “To drain our sonic temple, we wanted to record the new material which was made for 2016 shows in order to proceed towards the unknown with open minds and hearts. After the cleansing, we initiated our chamber with ambient meditation and opened the portals of inspiration for our future work.”

II sees DARK BUDDHA RISING return to its purest incarnation: J.Rämänen on drums, P. Rämänen on bass, and V. Ajomo on guitar, J. Saarivuori on synths and M. Neuman on main vocals. “We have done a full cycle of the orbit and now is the time for gravitational slingshot towards the new dimensions in sound, deliverance and vision,” says Ajomo.

The EP’s A-side was recorded and mixed in Space Junk Studio by K.Nyyssönen and B-side was recorded in Wastement by DARK BUDDHA RISING and mixed by S. Tamminen.

It has been two years since DARK BUDDHA RISING found a home amongst kindred spirits at Neurot Recordings, who released Inversum, the first album recorded in the band’s Wastement home AKA “the asylum of eternal feedback.”

II will be released on CD and vinyl formats via Neurot Recordings. Preorder info to be released in the new year. Stand by.

II Track Listing:
1. Mahathgata I
2. Mahathgata II

DARK BUDDHA RISING Live:
12/13/2017 Klubi – Tampere, FI

http://www.darkbuddharising.com
http://www.facebook.com/dbrising
http://www.twitter.com/drkbuddharising
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings
http://www.twitter.com/OfficialNeurot

Dark Buddha Rising, European Tour Trailer

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

Hour of 13 on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

Operators on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzmatazz Records on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

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The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

Audion on Thee Facebooks

Audion on Bandcamp

 

Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

Bone Man on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

Riff Fist on Thee Facebooks

Riff Fist on Bandcamp

 

Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

Helén on Thee Facebooks

Helén at Svart Records webstore

 

Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

Savanah on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Puta Volcano on Bandcamp

 

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: REZN, The Fërtility Cült, Cosmic Fall, Oceanwake, Jenzeits

Posted in Radio on March 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

Granted, we’re still running on the backup server, but it’s been a couple weeks at this point anyway, so it’s time for a new round of adds to The Obelisk Radio. Some of this stuff is brand new, some isn’t out yet, and some is older, so it’s a pretty decent mix on that front, and between REZN, The Fërtility Cült and Cosmic Fall, I certainly think we’ve got heavy psychedelia covered. Fortunately there’s the longform doom extremity of Oceanwake and the kraut-worship electronics of Jenzeits (also longform, as it happens) to offer some balance, lest we go drifting off into the universe never to be heard from again. Can’t have that happening.

Before we dig in, thanks to Slevin as ever for his diligent work in keeping the Radio afloat. He’s got a drive recovery running now that will hopefully bring back everything that was there before. It’s been a whole thing, but progress is being made and I appreciate him tossing this stuff in with the backup material in the interim. Thanks to you as well for reading and listening.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for March 14, 2017:

REZN, Let it Burn

rezn-let-it-burn

All-caps Chicago-based newcomers REZN make their deceptively ambitious debut with Let it Burn, a self-released 10-songer checking in at a willfully sprawling 59 minutes that blends psychedelic drift, grunge fuckall and neo-stoner fuzz consumption to welcome effect. One gets shades of Mars Red Sky from opener “Relax,” but later doomer cuts like the blown-out cosmic smash of “Harvest the Void” or the rolling “Fall into the Sky” ensures the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Phil Cangelosi, drummer Patrick Dunn and guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams are working on their own wavelength, and flourish of sitar from McWilliams and Dunn on the dynamic raga-infused “Rezurrection,” as well as Dunn‘s percussion and Spencer Ouellette‘s modular synth in the two-minute interlude “Pipe Dream” that leads into the initial spoken sample of the Dead Meadow-style fuzzer “The Creature” only add further checked-out-of-life charm to the offering as a whole. “Relax” and “Wake” at the outset speak to some impulse on the part of the band to tie their material together, but that comes through even more as “The Creature” transitions into “Fall into the Sky” and the suitably-spacewalking “Orbit” leads to the noisy start of rumble-laden closer “Astral Sage” later on. REZN leave themselves room to grow into their approach in moments like these, and pieces like “Harvest the Void,” “The Creature” and “Wake” certainly speak to a memorable songwriting process in development, but Let it Burn already shows them a potent brew of weighted lysergics.

REZN on Thee Facebooks

REZN on Bandcamp

 

The Fërtility Cült, A Forest of Kings

the-fertility-cult-a-forest-of-kings

Nestled into the heavy hotbed of Tampere, Finland, The Fërtility Cült continue their progressive push into reverb-laden heft with late-2016’s A Forest of Kings, their third long-player behind 2013’s Heavenly Bodies and their 2011 debut, Eschatology (review here). In an admirably crowded scene, the five-piece are distinguished for their tonal breadth, use-not-overuse of echo-laden saxophone and organ and general willingness to meander without giving up an underlying principal of craft or direction. All of this is on display in the A Forest of Kings opener “Blood of Kings,” but the highlight of the album has to be the centerpiece “The City on the Edge of Forever” (taking its name from the highlight episode of the original Star Trek, written by Harlan Ellison), which successfully fuses jazzy rhythm with a patient, psychedelic execution to the sacrifice of neither. Also the longest inclusion at 10:58, it’s the umlaut-happy troupe’s most resonant melody and most singularly progressive stretch, but neither will I take away from the nod of “God of Rain,” which follows, or the manner in which the apex shuffle of closer “Cycles of Time” unfurls itself from the song’s initial subdued verses. Heady vibe throughout the total 46 minutes, as one might expect, but The Fërtility Cült‘s third is less self-indulgent than it might superficially seem, and their varied arrangements never fail to service what really matters to them, which of course is the material itself rather than the exercise of playing it. Rich and graceful when it wants to be, A Forest of Kings hones an endearing landscape without getting lost in it.

The Fërtility Cült on Thee Facebooks

The Fërtility Cült on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Kick out the Jams

cosmic-fall-kick-out-the-jams

Mostly-instrumentalist trio Cosmic Fall — based in Berlin and comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mathias, bassist Klaus and drummer Daniel — formed in 2016 and worked quickly to turn around First Fall (discussed here), their first full-length of improv-based works. Kick out the Jams arrives with a fittingly quick turnaround and brings forth seven new pieces in its digital form, topping 93 minutes in its total space-bound push. More impressive than the quantity of the work — though I won’t take away from the sprawling appeal (or the delightful, influence-on-our-sleeve pun in the title) of the 21-minute “Earthfull” or 19-minute opener “Saturn Highway” — is the chemistry that seems to have immediately found root in Cosmic Fall‘s sound. They take a forward step in these tracks, to be sure, and there are more steps to be taken — a band like this, in the best case scenario, does not stop progressing, their material only comes to unfold more as a musical conversation between old friends; see Electric Moon — but as Kick out the Jams plays through its extended, immersive runtime, cuts like “Interstellar Junction” and “Stairway Jam” feel especially bold in how open they are in allowing the listener to hear that process happening. Songs are varyingly active — only “White Stone” (4:42) is under 11 minutes long — and allow for Mathias to lead the way into the spaciousness of “Purple Weed” while Daniel‘s toms propel “Cosmic Conclusion” at the album’s finish, but the core message behind Cosmic Fall less than a year into their tenure is one of ambition and the band’s deep motivation to develop the already palpable dynamic they have going. One can only look forward to hearing where their adventures take them and, indeed, where they take their audience.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Oceanwake, Earthen

oceanwake-earthen

With Earthen on ViciSolum Records, Finnish progressive death-doomers Oceanwake complete a trilogy that began on their 2013 debut Kingdom and had its second installment with 2015’s Sunless (review here). I’m not entirely sure what the overarching theme tying the releases together is — perhaps hearing the debut would help, but it’s not easily tracked down — but Earthen expounds on the blend of extremity, poise and emotional resonance the Luvia five-piece proffered their last time out, arriving as two massive tracks, opener “A Storm Sermon” (21:09) and closer “In Amidst the Silent Thrones” (24:04), both of which work in movements that shift between crushing, grueling doom and gorgeous, airy melodies. A depth of emotionalism isn’t necessarily anything new in the style — countrymen from Skepticism to Swallow the Sun have been morose for a long time — but what Oceanwake bring is a fluidity in their transitions and a sense of purpose to their songwriting beyond the usual miseries. Thus, like Sunless before it, Earthen emerges to bring significant character to familiar elements, drifting at times and explosive at others, but always under complete control, never wandering without a reason, and basking in low end that has to be heard to be believed. Earthen might fly under a lot of radars, but it shouldn’t be missed by those with an affinity for the extreme ends of doom. One hopes the now-completed trilogy project won’t be the sum total Oceanwake‘s output together.

Oceanwake on Thee Facebooks

ViciSolum Records on Bandcamp

 

Jenzeits, Jenzeits Cosmic Universe

Jenzeits-Cosmic-Universe

Jenzeits may be a new incarnation, but the project stems from a familiar source. Relocated from North Carolina to San Francisco — also, apparently, to the cosmos itself — multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis (Hour of 13SetAnuThe Sabbathian, etc.) offers up two massive synthesized soundscapes on Jenzeits Cosmic Universe, as both “Alpha” (25:00) and “Omega” (21:53) channel krautrock exploration and progressive indulgence. A due amount of the release is given to hypnotics, as one might expect — that is, it’s an easy one to put on and zone out — but Davis isn’t without some sense of motion either as he makes his way through “Alpha” and the rightfully more foreboding “Omega,” the latter delving into a movement of key runs backed by wind swirl calling to mind any number of horror and/or retro-horror soundtracks, and even minor shifts in the elements at work at any given moment become more pronounced in the grand context of the whole work. Davis usually has his hands in a number of outfits (and a number of genres) at any given time — an Hour of 13 resurgence is pending, for example — but Jenzeits‘ debut is engaging in its textures and feels like a journey just beginning.

Jenzeits on Thee Facebooks

Jenzeits on Bandcamp

More to come as we get The Obelisk Radio back up and running at full capacity. I’ve purchased a new hard drive toward that end, so we’ll have even more room to work with as well. Will update when there’s an update.

Till then, thanks again for reading and listening.

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Warp Transmission to Reissue Tamám Shud on Creepy Crawl Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Finnish blowout psych rockers Warp Transmission will release their Tamám Shud collection of studio tracks, live recordings, etc., via Creepy Crawl Records on April 7 ahead of a new album later this year, which will mark their full-length debut. The band, who hail from Tampere, get plenty weird in the tracks, which you can hear below from their original release in 2015, and one doubts a remaster job ahead of this CD/LP pressing will have changed that any. You know the drill to some extent, but at the same time there’s an edge to the vibe in what they’re doing that begs further consideration. Obviously Creepy Crawl thought so as well, since they picked it up and all.

The PR wire had this to say about it:

Warp-Transmission-Tamam-Shud

Announcing WARP TRANSMISSION ‘Tamám Shud’ reissue

CREEPY CRAWL RECORDS REISSUE FINNISH SIKE-NOISEROCK MASTERPIECE…

Artist: Warp Transmission
Title: Tamán Shud
Label: Creepy Crawl
Format: LP/CD
Release Date: 7th April ’17

Straight out of Tampere Rock City – these Finnish fiends are the bastard children of Blue Cheer and Monster Magnet (McBain era natch!) – but do not panic, this is no retro show, they are not throwbacks or wimpy psych wannabe shoegazers – this record ROCKS and it ROCKS HARD!

Originally released on cassette, Creepy Crawl was totally blown away by it and we knew this had to come out on LP/CD – Tamam Shud is part live rehearsal recordings and the rest created at their own Kemian Laboratorio – 8 face melting freakouts with layers of effect laden guitars, spaced out organ and synth and thunderous bass and drums. Remastered for CD/LP reissue and cut loud…. This is unrelenting psyche-rock at its finest… 500 LP / 1000 CD… setting up for a full length later in 2017.

Warp Transmission is a freak accident, the weirdo process ultra, a travel void of reason. It’s spaced out, stoner,psychedelic, wastoid, heavy ‘n’ heady ROCK.

It’s about riding blind the primal urge, living the archetype, and always rocking out with an excess of noise, burning some bridges and crossing a couple abysses along the way.

Tracklisting:
01. Black Dots
02. Hash Time I
03. Cast into the Process
04. Hash Time II
05. Confusion
06. Great Oceans in the Sky
07. Hash Time III
08. Archetype: Brainfry
09. Outro

Warp Transmission:
Ville – guitars
Jere – guitars
Pekka – bass
Jussi – bass
Jesse – drums
Lede – synth/FX
Kari – voice, organ

https://www.facebook.com/WarpTransmission
https://warptransmission.bandcamp.com/
http://creepycrawl.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/creepyxcrawl/

Warp Transmission, Tamám Shud (2015)

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