Quarterly Review: Grails, Expo Seventy, Coltsblood, Rhino, Cruthu, Spacetrucker, Black Habit, Stone Angels, The Black Willows, Lamagaia

Posted in Reviews on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Arrival. Welcome to the final day of The Obelisk’s Spring 2017 Quarterly Review. After today, I clean off my desktop and start over with a mind toward the next round, which in my head I’ve already scheduled for late June. You know, at the end of the next quarter. I do try to make these things make sense on some level. Anyway, before we get to the last 10 albums, let me please reiterate my thanks to you for reading and say once again that I hope you’ve found something this week that really speaks to you, as I know I have and continue to today. We finish the Quarterly Review out strong to be sure, so even if you’re thinking you’re done and you’ve had enough, you might be surprised by the time you’re through the below.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Grails, Chalice Hymnal

grails chalice hymnal

Even if one counts the 2013 collection culled from GrailsBlack Tar Prophecies ongoing series of short releases that showed up via Temporary Residence, it’s been a long while since their last proper outing. Deep Politics (review here) was issued in 2011, but it seems the intervening time and members’ participation in other projects – among them Om and Holy Sons in the case of Emil Amos – disappear for Grails on Chalice Hymnal, which speaks directly to its predecessor in sequel pieces like “Deeper Politics,” “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II,” taking the prog-via-TangerineDream cinematics of Deep Politics to vibrant and continually experimental places on the surprisingly vocalized “Empty Chamber,” the soundscaping “Rebecca” and the imaginative, evocative jazz homage “After the Funeral,” the album’s 10-minute closer. Hearing the John Carpenter keyboard line underpinning “Pelham,” I’m not sure I’d call Chalice Hymnal limitless in its aesthetic – Grails have definitive intentions here, as they always have – but they continue to reside in a space of their own making, and one that has yet to stop expanding its reach.

Grails on Thee Facebooks

Grails at Temporary Residence Ltd.

 

Expo Seventy, America Here and Now Sessions

expo seventy america here and now sessions

Yes. Yes. This. With extended two tracks – “First Movement” (22:17) and “Second Movement” (27:04) – unfolding one massive longform immersion that drones pastoral, delves into hypnotic bliss and fills the soul in that way that only raw exploration can, the America Here and Now Sessions from Kansas City (by way of the moon) outfit Expo Seventy is an utter joy to experience. Purposeful and patient in its execution, graceful in the instrumental chemistry – even with a second drummer sitting in amid the core trio led by guitarist Justin Wright – the album well fits the deep matte tones and nostalgic feel of its accompanying artwork, and is fluid in its movement from drone to push especially on “Second Movement,” which sandwiches a resonant cacophony around soundscapes that spread as far as the mind of the listener is willing to let them. Whether you want to sit and parse the execution over every its every subtle motion and waveform or put it on and go into full-brain-shutdown, America Here and Now Sessions delivers. Flat out. It delivers.

Expo Seventy on Thee Facebooks

Essence Music website

 

Coltsblood, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness

coltsblood ascending into shimmering darkness

After surviving the acquisition of Candlelight Records by Spinefarm, UK doom extremists Coltsblood return with their second album, Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, and follow-up 2014’s Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here) with 54 minutes of concrete-thick atmospheric bleakness spread across five tracks. The headfuckery isn’t quite as unremitting as it was on the debut – a blend of airy and thick guitar in the intro of the opening title-cut (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) reminds of Pallbearer – but the three-piece thrive in this more-cohesive-overall context, and their lumbering miseries remain dark and triumphant in kind. A closing duo of “Ever Decreasing Circles” and “The Final Winter” also both top 12 and 13 minutes, respectively, but the shorter second track “Mortal Wound” brings blackened tendencies to the fore and centerpiece “The Legend of Abhartach” effectively leads the way from one side to the other. Still, the most complete victory here for bassist/vocalist John McNulty, guitarist Jemma McNulty and drummer Jay Plested might be “The Final Winter,” which melds its grueling, excruciatingly slow crash to overarching keyboard drama and becomes a work of cinematic depth as well as skull-crushing wretchedness. Such ambient growth fascinates and shows marked progression from their first offering, and even if the primary impression remains one from which no light escapes, don’t be fooled: Coltsblood are growing and are all the more dangerous for that.

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records website

 

Rhino, The Law of Purity

rhino the law of purity

Once they get past the aptly-titled minute-long “Intro,” Rhino keep their foot heavy on the gas for the vast majority of The Law of Purity, their Argonauta Records debut album. The 10 included tracks veer into and out of pure desert rock loyalism – “Eat My Dust” comes across as particularly post-Kyuss, perhaps melded with some of the burl of C.O.C.’s “Shake Like You” – and the throttle of “Nuclear Space,” “Nine Months,” “A. & B. Brown” and “Cock of Dog” later on come to define the impression of straightforward push that puts the riffs forward even more than earlier inclusions like the post-“Intro” title-track or the more mid-paced “Bursting Out,” which hints at psychedelia without really ever fully diving into it. Capping with the roll of “I See the Monsters,” The Law of Purity reminds at times of earlier Astrosoniq – particularly in the vocals – but finds the Sicilian five-piece crafting solid heavy rock tunes that seem more concerned with having a couple beers and a good time than changing the world or remaking the genre. Nothing wrong with that.

Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity

cruthu the angle of eternity

As it happens, I wrote the bio and release announcement for Cruthu’s debut album, The Angle of Eternity (posted here), and I count guitarist “Postman Dan” McCormick as a personal friend, so if you’re looking for impartiality as regards the self-released six-tracker, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for primo trad doom and classic metal vibes, the Michigan-based four-piece offer touches of progressive flourish amid the shuffle of opener “Bog of Kildare,” a grueling post-“Crystal Ball” nod in “From the Sea” and a bit of ‘70s proto-metallurgy in the closing title-track, which finds vocalist Ryan Evans at his most commanding while McCormick, bassist Erik Hemingsen (Scott Lehman appears as well) and drummer Matt Fry hold together the fluid and patient groove of weighted downer metal. The sense of Cruthu as an outfit schooled in the style is palpable through the creep of “Lady in the Lake” and the post-Trouble chug of “Séance,” but they’re beginning to cast their own identity from their influences – even the penultimate interlude “Separated from the Herd” is part of it – and the dividends of that process are immediate in these tracks.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Spacetrucker, Launch Sequence

spacetrucker launch sequence

From the Kozik-style artwork of their cover to the blown-out vocals on opener “New Pubes” of guitarist Matt Owen, St. Louis three-piece Spacetrucker – how was there not already a band with this name? – make no bones about their intentions on their late-2016, 26-minute Launch Sequence seven-track EP. Owen, bassist Patrick Mulvaney and drummer Del Toro push into a realm of noise-infused stoner grunge loyal to the ‘90s execution of “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” in the stops of the instrumental “Giza” even as they thicken and dirty up their tonality beyond what Kyuss laid forth. The cowbell-inclusive “Science of Us” rests easily on Mulvaney’s tone and nods toward burl without going over the top, and cuts like “Old Flower,” the penultimate roller “Trenchfoot” and the closing post-Nirvana punker blast of “Ain’t Gonna be Me” reimagine a past in which the language of heavy rock was there to explain where grunge was coming from all along. Not looking to reinvent stylistic parameters in their image at this point, Spacetrucker is nonetheless the kind of band one might’ve run into at SXSW a decade and a half ago and been made a fan for life. As it stands, the charm is not at all lost.

Spacetrucker on Thee Facebooks

Spacetrucker on Bandcamp

 

Black Habit, Black Habit

black habit self titled

Clocking in at half an hour, the self-titled debut release from viola-infused Arizona two-piece Black Habit could probably qualify as an EP or an LP. I’m inclined to consider it the latter considering the depths vocalist/guitarist/bassist Trey Edwin and violist/drummer Emily Jean plunge in the five included tracks, starting with the longest of the bunch (immediate points) in the slow-moving “Escape into Infinity” before shifting the tempo upward for “Suffer and Succumb” and digging into deep-toned sludge marked out by consistently harsh vocals. I wouldn’t be surprised if Black Habit became more melodic or at least moved into cleaner shots over time, as the doomly centerpiece “South Beach” and more fuzz-rocking “Travel Across the Ocean” seem to want to head in that direction, but it’s hard to argue with the echoing rasp that accompanies the rumble and hairy tones of finale “Lust in the Dust,” as Black Habit’s Black Habit rounds out with an especially righteous nod. An intriguing, disaffected, and raw but potential-loaded opening salvo from a two-piece discovering where their sound might take them.

Black Habit on Thee Facebooks

Black Habit on Bandcamp

 

Stone Angels, Patterns in the Ashes

stone angels patterns in the ashes

Massive. Patterns in the Ashes is a malevolent, tectonic three-song EP following up on New Zealand trio Stone Angels’ 2011 debut, Within the Witch, as well as a few shorter live/demo offerings between, and it’s an absolute beast. Launching with the seven-minute instrumental “White Light, White Noise II” – indeed the sequel to a cut from the first album – it conjures a vicious nod and bleeds one song into the next to let “Signed in Blood” further unfold the grim atmospherics underscoring and enriching all that tonal heft. Sludge is the core style, but the Christchurch three-piece’s broader intentions come through with due volume on the grueling “Signed in Blood” and when “For the Glory of None” kicks in after its sample intro, the blasts and growls that it brings push the release to new levels of extremity entirely. As a bonus, the digital edition includes all three tracks put together as one longer, 21-minute piece, so the consuming flow between them can be experienced without any interruption, as it was seemingly meant to be.

Stone Angels on Thee Facebooks

Stone Angels on Bandcamp

 

Black Willows, Samsara

the black willows samsara

If Switzerland-based resonance rockers Black Willows had only released the final two tracks, “Jewel in the Lotus” and “Morning Star,” of their late-2016 second full-length, Samsara, one would still have to call it a complete album – and not just because those songs run 15 and 25 minutes long, respectively. Throughout those extended pieces and the four shorter cuts that appear before them, a palpable meditative sensibility emerges, and Black Willows follow-up the promise of 2013’s Haze (review here) by casting an even more immersive, deeper-toned vibe in the post-Om nod of “Sin” (8:08) and the more percussive complement, “Rise” (9:28), keeping a ritualized feel prevailing but not defining. From the lead-in title-track and the spacious psych trip-out of “Mountain” that gives way to the aforementioned extended closing duo, Black Willows find their key purpose in encompassing tonality and languid grooving. Nothing is overdone, nothing loses its patience, and when they get to the linear trajectory of “Morning Star,” the sense is they’re pushing as far out as far out will go. It’s a joy to follow them on that path.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Lamagaia, Lamagaia

lamagaia lamagaia

Anytime you’re at all ready to quit your job and explore the recesses of your mind via the ingestion of psychedelics, rituals and meditation, Sweden’s Lamagaia would seem to stand prepared to accompany. The Gothenburg four-piece offer two extended tracks of encouragement in that direction on their self-titled 12” (released through Cardinal Fuzz and Sunrise Ocean Bender), and both “Aurora” and “Paronama Vju” carry a heady spirit of kosmiche improvisation and classically progressive willfulness. They go, go, go. Far, far, far. Vocals echo out obscure but definitely there in post-The Heads fashion, but there’s Hawkwindian thrust in the fuzzed bass and drums driving the rhythm behind the howling guitar in “Aurora,” and that only sets up the peaceful stretch that the drones and expansive spaciousness of “Paronama Vju” finds across its 18:55 as all the more of an arrival. Immersive, hypnotic, all that stuff that means gloriously psychedelic, Lamagaia’s Lamagaia offers instrumental chemistry and range for anyone willing to follow along its resonant and ultra-flowing path. Count me in. I never liked working anyway.

Lamagaia website

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Take Over and Destroy Sign to Prosthetic Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 3rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

take over and destroy (Photo by Alex Bank Rollins)

Cheers and clinky-glasses to Arizona metallers Take Over and Destroy, who have newly inked a deal to release their next album — to be recorded early in 2016 — via Prosthetic Records. The five-piece have put in some significant road time since their debut, Rotten Tide (review here), came out in 2011, and that record’s follow-up, Endless Night (review here), found the then-sextet touring the country as genre-spanning aggressors seemingly hell bent on living up to their moniker. Signing to Prosthetic would seem to be another pivotal step in making that happen.

They’ll celebrate the recent victory on the road this month with Lament Cityscape. Tour dates and signing announcement follow from the PR wire:

take over and destroy tour dates

TAKE OVER AND DESTROY SIGN TO PROSTHETIC RECORDS, ANNOUNCE TOUR

PROSTHETIC RECORDS is proud to announce the singing of Tempe, AZ’s diverse black & roll band, TAKE OVER AND DESTROY. The band is set to enter the studio in early 2016 with a summer release scheduled. Prior to recording their next LP, TAKE OVER AND DESTROY will hit the road to test out new material to their fans. The band comments:

“We’re excited to announce that the take over continues to grow as we join forces with Prosthetic Records. We’ve finished putting the final touches on the new album and will enter the studio first thing next year. Be ready to spin a new Take Over And Destroy record in 2016! Come see us play this material live for the first time ever as we execute our tour with Lament Cityscape across the southern United States.”

Since 2008, TAKE OVER AND DESTROY has been relentlessly pushing the boundaries of heavy music. With an amalgamation of eclectic tastes: death metal, classic rock, doom, death rock, black metal and horror scores, TOAD has established itself as a truly unique entity, both sonically and aesthetically. The five members’ collective obsession with cinema results in their incorporation of the moody undertones of classic film scores into the raw power and energy of heavy metal and rock and roll.

TAKE OVER AND DESTROY 2015 TOUR DATES
11/11 Mesa, AZ – The Nile Underground (w/Twitching Tongues)
11/27 Tempe, AZ – Yucca Room #
11/28 Tucson, AZ – Skybar #
11/29 El Paso, TX – The Sandbox #
11/30 Lubbock, TX – The District #
12/1 Austin, TX – The Lost Well #
12/2 San Antonio, TX – Bottom Bracket #
12/3 Houston, TX – Black Barbie #
12/4 Lafayette, LA – Heffe’s Saloon #
12/5 New Orleans, LA – TBA #
12/6 Ocean Spring, MS – The Juke Joint #
12/7 Jacksonville, FL – The Birdhouse #
12/8 Greenville, SC – TBA #
12/9 Atlanta, GA – 529 #
12/10 Nashville, TN – East Room #
12/11 Little Rock, AR – Vino’s #
12/12 Fayetteville, AR – Ryleigh’s #
12/13 Tulsa, Ok – Soundpony #
12/14 Albuquerque, NM – The Launchpad #
12/15 Flagstaff, AZ – The Green Room #
# with Lament Cityscape

TAKE OVER AND DESTROY is:
Alex Bank Rollins – guitar
Nate Garrett – guitar
Andrew Leemont – vocals/keys
Pete Porter – bass
Jason Tomaszewski – drums

takeoveranddestroy.com
facebook.com/TakeOverAndDestroy
prostheticrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/prostheticrecords

Take Over and Destroy, Live at the Saint Vitus Bar, 2013

Tags: , , ,

TOAD, Endless Night: Giving a Taste of the Grave

Posted in Reviews on January 31st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

As much as extreme rock has ever been a thing, Tempe, Arizona, six-piece TOAD would seem to be engaged in the practice of it. The double-guitar, organ, bass, drums and standalone vocal outfit made their first showing in 2010 as a split with Drone Throne, then on their own in 2011 with Rotten Tide (review here) and are set to return in 2013 with Endless Night – five tracks of blackened melodic death rock that attempt to draw a line between At the Gates and the riffier terrain of heavy rock. No easy task. The five tracks of the vinyl-ready 27-minute Endless Night cast off a lot of the melodeath cliché that came in the wake of America’s turn-of-the-century metal revival – i.e. they don’t rush through a verse so as to blindside you with an out-of-place breakdown most part – but there is an intensity to some of their parts that feels derived from modern hardcore, so that even the dueling guitars on the otherwise organ-driven closing title-track seem to be in specifically that kind of rush. The band – comprised of guitarists Nate and Alex, bassist Trey, vocalist Andy, drummer Jason and organist Pete – balances its approach well, so that they never appear to be in the same place twice while also creating a full-album flow over the course of a brief span. Endless Night preserves continuity though in the echoing screams of Andy (who seems to be going by Chthon these days, unless I’ve got the lineup info wrong), which are largely unipolar in their shouting approach, at times scathing, but presented well in the mix all the same. Together with Jason’s drums, they announce the rolling groove of opener “Taste of the Grave,” which is also the shortest track on Endless Night at just under four minutes, centered around a heavy rock riff that in another context might bounce where here it pummels. TOAD, whose name is an acronym for Take Over and Destroy, have several immediate factors working toward their favor, and a pervasive knack for structure is one of them. It’s easy to get lost in Endless Night and some might accuse their songs of being samey, but TOAD are able to accomplish changes between otherwise standard verses and choruses that even with considered listening are less predictable than one might think. The harder you hear Endless Night, the heavier it gets.

And repeat listens may pull back the curtain on a horror influence that shows through in Pete’s organ work on “Howling House” and elsewhere, but even so, TOAD don’t necessarily telegraph where they’re headed next, as Entombed-style guitars in the verse of “Taste of the Grave” give way to a nuanced bridge. In some ways, this sets the tone for the whole of the album, which is similarly minded in its bludgeoning, but there’s no chorus to speak of in “Taste of the Grave,” and gang vocals, layers of backing singing and lead guitar throw one off as much as they bring you along with them. That makes Endless Night an immediately fascinating listen, and there’s still a core element of songwriting that brings back the verse riff to end the track, giving way to the creepy guitar opening of the 6:26 “Cosmophobia,” the longest cut of the five but right in line with the closing duo “Boundaries of the Flesh” and “Endless Night.” The intro gradually builds as drums are added before taking off to a thickened stomp at 1:18 that sets up the jagged verse and the more obvious chorus. It’s still largely the guitars responsible for the hook, but the vocals do well in following where the music leads in terms of rhythm, and though stops before the three-minute mark are jarring until the organ begins to fill that space (I kept wondering if one of my channels had dropped out), TOAD once more show an ability to wander from and return to the core figure of the song, reigniting the interchange between the verse and chorus and then cycling through once again with more bombast as an outro, Jason’s blown out cymbals setting up the drum-led thud of the intro to “Howling House,” soon joined by the guitar and an opening “argh!” from Andy that’s straight out of black metal. The Sunlight Studios-esque crunch of “Taste of the Grave” returns on “Howling House” and proves adaptable to the tempo shift into the slower, more open, noisier second half of the track, which picks up following a dual solo into blastbeats and stops to round out once more with a last verse and cold end. If it’s a sample of a tape winding up or the actual tape onto which Endless Night was recorded, I don’t know (TOAD had made a point of analog recording for Rotten Tide), but “Boundaries of Flesh” launches soon after into a frill-less brutality that’s perhaps the most abrasive they’ve been yet.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , ,

On the Radar: TOAD

Posted in On the Radar on January 24th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Not to be confused with the Swiss heavy prog trio from the early ’70s, the Tempe, Arizona-based six-piece TOAD‘s moniker is meant as an acronym for Take Over and Destroy, and seems as well to be a statement of their methodology. Their debut EP, titled Rotten Tide, blends a variety of styles from bombastic hardcore metal to post-Mastodonic technicality, and — perhaps most curiously of all — a preference for analog recording that’s almost entirely absent from the larger scope of modern metal.

Rotten Tide sounds modern, and though parts of centerpiece “Embody the Ghost” speaks to some affection for retro doom in its horror spookiness, the song itself quickly moves away from that and TOAD are, on the whole, working within a different aesthetic. Vocals from Andy Leemont come in abrasive and layered shouts over the guitars of Nate Garrett (who seems to have replaced Dan Labarbiera) and Alex Bank Rollins, and are clearly metallic in their origin, and yet Pete Porter‘s mellotron seems to add a backwards-looking flair that’s not incongruous with what the band are doing only because they mix it so well into their own context.

And as for recording analog — aside from the snobby prestige of being able to say you did it, it doesn’t really do much for your sound if you’re making something as metal as Rotten Tide — but as it’s genuinely a more arduous process, it says something that TOAD did it anyway and, along with their use of “all vintage gear from the ’60s and ’70s,” it seems to speak to the same kind of genre-straying ideology that drives “Embody the Ghost.” They’re still very metal, and at times border on black ‘n’ roll, but the band — who are just starting out and whose lineup is rounded out by bassist Trey Edwin and drummer Shane Taylor — have potential to develop in any number of sonic directions.

If you’d like to find out for yourself, they’ve put all of Rotten Tide up for streaming on their Bandcamp page, and also have a split release available through Boue Records with Drone Throne, with whom they share Rollins and Leemont. They’re also on Thee Facebooks, if that’s your thing. Here’s the whole of Rotten Tide, courtesy of the former:

Tags: , , ,