Review & Track Premiere: Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

howling-giant-black-hole-space-wizard-part-2

[Click play above to stream ‘Circle of Druids’ from Howling Giant’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2. EP is out Aug. 25 and available to preorder on Bandcamp.]

At very least, we can be sure that by the time Nashville progressive metal/heavy rockers Howling Giant finish telling the story that thus far spans their second and third EPs, they will have long since outgrown the goofball title they’ve given the series. In truth, the complexity and scope of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 might be a little undercut by the stoner-is-as-stoner-does banner it seems to fly, if only because someone who didn’t hear either the trio’s 2015 self-titled or last year’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here) could potentially too easily write it off based on superficialities and miss out on what’s actually a marked depth and individual purpose of craft.

Released almost precisely a year after its predecessor, its six tracks/31 minutes bring the self-releasing trio of guitarist/vocalist Tom Polzine, bassist/vocalist Roger Marks and drummer/vocalist Zach Wheeler to new levels of execution in their material, rife with wonderfully realized vocal harmonies, epic-feeling crescendos, and a still-weighted tonality that they seem to be able to move and shift according to whatever whim drives a given piece, whether it’s the introductory “Henry Tate” with its spoken-word vocals and the first of many guest key/synth contributions throughout from Drew Harakal beneath the first of many swirling, character-laden solos from Polzine, or the galloping apex that leads into a wide-breadth wash at the end of “Visions,” layers of effects swirl — and again, keyboard/synth from Harakal — coming to the forefront of the longest inclusion here at 7:39. Flirting with long-player flow in its front-to-back delivery and the fact that it’s 10 minutes longer than the installment prior, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 establishes Howling Giant‘s underlying commitment to developing their approach and benefits from a quickly and righteously burgeoning stylistic reach.

Because it’s a chapter in a (presumably ongoing) series, one looks for consistencies with what’s come before as well as the growth so plain to hear in the material. And it’s there in the overall sonic take and in some of the intensity of the prog-metal cascade in “The Pioneer” or the penultimate highlight “Circle of Druids,” as well as in the sung harmonies, but there isn’t an element present that doesn’t seem to have moved willfully forward from where the band was a year ago. While they may be working in the same narrative, based around the end of civilization and the adventures of the last remaining human (dubbed “The Pioneer”) among future-mystical presences — last time the Space Wizard, this time the Earth Wizard, as manifest in the closer of the same name — even down to its basic structure as mirrored sides A and B each with an introductory piece, shorter middle cut and longer finale, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 simply has more to offer than what was already an impressive display in songwriting.

howling giant

Arrangement flourish brings a complementary baritone sax guest appearance from Kim Wheeler on the interlude/side B intro “The Forest Speaks” that picks up alongside acoustic pluck and leads gently into “Circle of Druids,” and as much momentum as Polzine, Marks, Wheeler and Harakal — the latter of whom apparently recorded in Texas but might need to relocate and actually join this band given what the organ and synth add to the tracks here — build throughout “Henry Tate,” the low-end fuzz roll of the early verses and ending of “The Pioneer” and the precise, all-class linearity of “Visions,” they remain likewise committed to broadening the palette of their aesthetic and if one thinks of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as an EP and thus a showcase of where Howling Giant are in the inevitable march toward a first full-length, one would be remiss to think of them as anything but ready for that crucial next step.

Whether or not that’s actually where Howling Giant are directly headed — that is, if they’ll do an LP next or follow this Part 2 with a Part 3 EP — I don’t know, but on a creative level, they bring a vibrant persona to these tracks enough to give the impression that their evolution will continue in either context. Beginning with a quick spoken intro, “Circle of Druids” launches from out of “The Forest Speaks” and unfolds to an especially satisfying blend of chugging riffery and a wide-open payoff hook, underscored by Wheeler‘s double-kick and given/needing few frills around its basic structure. Like some of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1, it reminds a bit of Devin Townsend‘s heavier progressive metallurgy, but ultimately proves more distinct, and “Earth Wizard” effectively follows in dropping the tempo to hit a balance like a more straightforward vision of what Ancestors brought to their 2012 triumph, In Dreams and Time.

This initial patience gradually shifts into a fuller charge in “Earth Wizard”‘s back half, which feels somewhat inevitable, but the finale is both earned and once more plays to the notion of Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 as a kind of proto-full-length in its overarching fluidity. As the last vestiges of guitar and synth fade out to bring the EP to its end, the sense is still one of being a shorter release, but if that means Howling Giant are leaving their audience wanting more of the arc coming to life in their tracks, then that only bodes well for a next outing, whatever form it might take. Likewise, one has to acknowledge that while the title might just as likely turn a given listener off as on when it comes to taking up Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2, its goofballery also stands as a signal of an abiding lack of pretense that extends to the songwriting as well. That is, while their arrangements are thought out, their performances clear-headed and impeccably mixed, the corresponding quotient of self-indulgence is remarkably low for something so progressive. If the tradeoff for that is a silly name, it’s a small price to pay — sometimes it’s fun to have fun — and for those who do decide to dig into Howling Giant‘s third EP, the rewards are no less expansive than the band’s sound itself.

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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Howling Giant on Twitter

Howling Giant on Bandcamp

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All Them Witches Announce US Tour; “Bulls” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Already at this point All Them Witches have spent a significant portion of 2017 on the road supporting Sleeping Through the War (review here), which came out in February via New West Records. They toured before it hit, they toured in Spring. They did shows in June and just this week wrapped a July run that found them in Israel, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland before finally settling in for shows in the UK. They’ll be back in Europe come Sept./Oct. as well, and were previously confirmed for Desertfest Belgium 2017 (though I don’t see it listed below), and they’ve just added more dates for after they return to the US in November.

Not only are they in full go-go-go mode in spreading the word on the album, but they’ve also got a brand new video for “Bulls” as well. Directed by drummer Robby Staebler, it captures the awesomely atmospheric opening track in such a way that immediately makes me want to put on the rest of the record and dig into it all over again, though that’s kind of my general headspace in terms of Sleeping Through the War anyhow. Some albums never let you wander too far before they pull you back.

Tour dates from the PR wire:

all them witches

ALL THEM WITCHES – MORE TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED

New U.S. dates have been added.

All Them Witches will be on tour throughout the East Coast and Midwest in November. Reserve your tickets now. For a full list of tour dates, head over to AllThemWitches.org

The new album SLEEPING THROUGH THE WAR is available now.

EUROPEAN DATES
SEP 18 • Heimathafen • BERLIN, GERMANY
SEP 19 • Backstage Werk • MUNCHEN, GERMANY
SEP 20 • Arena • VIENNA, AUSTRIA
SEP 22 • Reeperbahn • HAMBURG, GERMANY
SEP 24 • Debaser Strand • STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
SEP 25 • Revolver • OSLO, NORWAY
SEP 26 • Pumpehuset • COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
SEP 28 • The Sugarfactory • AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
SEP 29 • Trabendo • PARIS, FRANCE
SEP 30 • O2 Institute Birmingham • BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 1 • Sound Control • MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 2 • Whelans • DUBLIN, IRELAND
OCT 3 • King Tuts • GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 4 • Wardrobe • LEEDS, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 5 • Koko • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 7 • Bierkeller • BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 8 • Rescue Rooms • NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 10 • Les Docks • LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND
OCT 11 • Gloria • COLOGNE, GERMANY
OCT 12 • Das Bett • FRANKFURT, GERMANY
OCT 14 • Gagarin • ATHENS, GREECE

U.S. DATES
NOV 3 • Cat’s Cradle • CARBORRO, NC
NOV 4 • The Southern Cafe and Music Hall • CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
NOV 5 • Rock & Roll Hotel • WASHINGTON, DC
NOV 7 • The Foundry at The Fillmore • PHILADELPHIA, PA
NOV 8 • Music Hall of Williamsburg • BROOKLYN, NY
NOV 9 • High Ground • SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT
NOV 10 • Fairmount Theatre • MONTREAL, CANADA
NOV 11 • Lee’s Palace • TORONTO, CANADA
NOV 12 • The Bug Jar • ROCHESTER, NY
NOV 14 • Ace of Cups • COLUMBUS, OH
NOV 15 • Hi-Fi • INDIANAPOLIS, IN
NOV 16 • The Mill • IOWA CITY, IA
NOV 17 • Turf Club • ST. PAUL, MN
NOV 18 • The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee • MILWAUKEE, WI

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-through-the-war
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches

All Them Witches, “Bulls” official video

All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

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Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

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There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

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“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

bretus-from-the-twilight-zone

Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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All Them Witches Euro Tour Starts July 7

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

all-them-witches-photo-James-Ford

It’s been a few months now since All Them Witches released their fourth album, Sleeping Through the War (review here), as their second offering through New West Records, and I’m left curious as to what the longer-term impact of the record will be. Part of me would almost like to set up a best-albums-of-2017-so-far poll and see where people place it on the list of what’s come out in the first six months of the year, and see if perhaps the fact that it showed up in February — already four months ago — has hindered its staying power. I know it’s on my list, which will be posted on Monday, but where is it on yours?

For their part, All Them Witches have done well in hitting the road to support the album. They’re in Ohio tonight and around here and there over the next week-plus, and next month they head to Europe for a first run that will be followed by another this Fall which includes a stop at Desertfest Belgium 2017 and presumably more to come.

The band sent the following update down the PR wire with the dates:

all-them-witches-tour-banner

All Them Witches – Europe we’re coming for you… Tour starts next month

EUROPE! All Them Witches is headed your way next month. First leg of tour kicks off July 7th in Belfort, France. See below for a full list of dates and cities. Grab your tickets now.

Upcoming Tour Dates:
09 JUN the woodward theater CINCINNATI, OH
10 JUN grog shop CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OH
11 JUN mohawk place BUFFALO, NY
13 & 14 JUN club cafe PITTSBURGH, PA
15 JUN strange matter RICHMOND, VA
16 JUN visulite theatre CHARLOTTE, NC
17 JUN the earl ATLANTA, GA
07 JUL eurockeenes BELFORT, FR
09 JUL barby TEL AVIV, IL
11 JUL mascotte ZURICH, CH
12 JUL festivalpark dour DOUR, BE
13 JUL stoned from the underground ERFURT, DE
14 JUL dour festival DOUR, BE
15 JUL valkhof festival NIJMEGEN, NL
16 JUL zwarte cross festival LICHTENVOORDE, NL
19 JUL palp festival MARTIGNY, CH
21 JUL secret garden party HUNTINGDON, UK
22 JUL corporation SHEFFIELD, UK
23 JUL truck festival CAMBRIDGE, UK
18 SEP heimathafen BERLIN, DE
19 SEP backstage werk MUNICH, DE
20 SEP arena VIENNA, AT
22 SEP reeperbahn HAMBURG, DE
24 SEP debaser strand STOCKHOLM, SE
25 SEP revolver OSLO, NO
26 SEP pumpehuset COPENHAGEN, DK
28 SEP the sugarfactory AMSTERDAM, NL
29 SEP trabendo PARIS, FR
30 SEP 02 institute birmingham BIRMINGHAM, UK
01 OCT sound control MANCHESTER, UK
02 OCT whelans DUBLIN, IE
03 OCT king tuts GLASGOW, UK
04 OCT wardrobe LEEDS, UK
05 OCT koko LONDON, UK
07 OCT bierkeller BRISTOL, UK
08 OCT rescue rooms NOTTINGHAM, UK
10 OCT les docks LAUSANNE, CH
11 OCT gloria COLOGNE, DE
12 OCT das bett FRANKFURT, DE
14 OCT gagarin ATHENS, GR

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-through-the-war
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches

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The Cold Stares Premiere Title-Track of New Album Head Bent

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

THE COLD STARES

The Cold Stares make their label debut on Small Stone Records June 16 with their second album, Head Bent. It’s a title that evokes the notion of capitulation, and particularly in the context of Southern and blues tinges the Nashville-based two-piece bring to their brand of heavy rock, also of prayer. Vocalist/guitarist/etc.-ist Chris Tapp and drummer/percussionist Brian Mullins deliver a crisp 11 tracks in 37 minutes as they follow-up 2014’s A Cold Wet Night and a Howling Wind and a series of EPs and singles, and the clearheaded traditionalism of their taut songcraft becomes one of Head Bent‘s most defining aspects. It also rocks, and that certainly doesn’t hurt its cause either.

Along the circuitous but accessible path of songs like opener “John,” “Neighbor Blues,” “God and Country” and the later “Kings,” The Cold Stares offer swagger and groove in bulk, hooks a-plenty and subtle plays at religious themes that don’t so much make an attempt at overblown social comment as acknowledge something that always seems to be in the background of American culture to one degree or another. Even the Clutch-style starts and stops of “Price to Pay” and the righteous fuzz of the penultimate “One Way Outta Here” nod in that direction before subdued closer “Break My Fall” more directly takes on the issue. I won’t profess to know the band’s affiliation or lack thereof, but just going by what they bring to the table with Head Bent, it feels like a safe guess somebody made them go to services at some point in their life, whether they still do or not.

the cold stares head bentThat underlying theme isn’t at all a detriment to the album, and if anything, it works to tie the material together in a way that might otherwise find the songs standing apart, as moods vary between a sharp, uptempo motor-thruster like “Head Bent,” the subsequent, almost doomly roll of “Neighbor Blues” and the nestle-into-mid-paced-comfort of “Caught in the Weather” later on. The record has obviously been as meticulously arranged in terms of tracklisting as the songs have been constructed and recorded — but contrary to their moniker, The Cold Stares lack nothing for energy in their execution, and whatever kind of movement a given track might offer, there always seems to be a direction in mind as the band leads the way through Head Bent‘s tidy, efficient and unpretentious course.

And while we’re talking about themes, one would be remiss not to point out the sheer level of command Tapp and Mullins bring to the material here. “Stuck in a Rut” brings forth a hook worthy of fellow Tennesseans Dirty Streets, and the sweet side B ballad “Ball and Twine” toys with Southern rock convention before arriving at a late-cut blowout riff toward its end, having accomplished what would take many bands eight minutes in a span of three. Yet, as often would be the case with this kind of release, there’s no sense that The Cold Stares are looking to convince their audience of how brash they are, or how drunk, or how sexist, and among the various histories they play toward with Head Bent, one of the most engaging is a drive toward making the conventions of style their own via the quality of their craft and their ability to draw listeners in and hold attention while making that very, very difficult task sound practically effortless.

Small Stone has the aforementioned opener “John” streaming at its Bandcamp page, and I’ve included that here as well at the bottom of the post, but you can dig into the premiere of the title-track from Head Bent below, as well as a quote from Tapp about the song and the album, which comes courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Chris Tapp on “Head Bent”:

“Listening to a bit of Queen and always loved ‘Tie Your Mother Down,’ so started writing with that in mind. The music just sounds like bikes to me. I’ve always had hot rods and bikes and wanted to do a tribute song to all the good people in those communities. Big part of my cancer recovery was getting my mind right, and just riding, nothing like the focus and peace it brings. The bike and gear head community is so much about family and respect, and just love for the machine. Head Bent is that feeling of 80 mph wind twisting your neck down the highway.”

Releases June 16, 2017.

The Cold Stares is:
Chris Tapp: vocals, stringed instruments, keys
Brian Mullins: drums and percussion

The Cold Stares, “John”

The Cold Stares website

The Cold Stares on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Loss Announce Horizonless out May 19 on Profound Lore

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

Granted it’s been six years and all, but if the quickie teaser for Loss‘ forthcoming second album, Horizonless, is anything to go by, that time doesn’t seem to have done much to dull the Nashville death-doomers’ general outlook on the the world around them. Bleak, bleak, bleak, and likely to be as righteously slow in its execution as in its arrival behind their 2011 debut, Despond (review here). The esteemed Profound Lore Records issued that first offering and will stand behind the new one as well, which has been topped off with one of those Adam Burke cover pieces that even though you know the dude is amazing and you consistently expect him to do amazing work still manages to blow your brain to tiny little brainflecks.

Not exaggerating. Brainflecks.

Profound Lore posted the cover along with the details for the record — out May 19 — all of which you’ll find below, as well as the aforementioned teaser:

loss horizonless

Six doomed years in creation since their debut LP “Despond”, Nashville, Tennessee melancholic death/funeral doom metal band Loss have completed work on their new LP “Horizonless”, one of the most anticipated death/doom metal releases of the year set for release on May 19th on CD/2xLP/Digital.

Traveling further into the void and beyond the realms of hopelessness and despondency “Horizonless” is a journey destitute of all hope and redemption, one where heartbreak, total death and never ending despair triumphs.

Produced and engineered by Billy Anderson in the band’s hometown of Music City itself, resulting in LOSS’ most majestic sounding work to date, “Horizonless” forges the LOSS’ sound tapestry into a realm more immense and dynamic; heavier, darker, more melancholic, and sorrowful. Where “Despond” laid down that foundation that gave LOSS the reputation as the saddest and bleakest band in the death/doom metal scene, “Horizonless” forges that funeral deathmarch onwards even moreso towards ruin, decay, and utter oblivion.

Featuring guest vocals from Wrest of LEVIATHAN, Stevie Floyd of Taurus/Dark Castle, and Billy Anderson on the closing track “When Death Is All” and featuring artwork from Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustration, track listing for “Horizonless” goes as follows:

1. The Joy Of All Who Sorrow
2. i.o.
3. All Grows On Tears
4. Moved Beyond Murder
5. Naught
6. The End Steps Forth
7. Horizonless
8. Banishment
9. When Death Is All

https://www.facebook.com/LossDoom/
http://lossdoom.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords/
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/
https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/

Loss, Horizonless album teaser

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Woodsplitter, Shroud Eater & Dead Hand, Moaning Cities, Wartime and Megaritual

Posted in Radio on February 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio by cavum

A round of adds to The Obelisk Radio once a month doesn’t seem like too much to ask, right? Well, it probably will be as the rest of the year plays out amid my meandering attention span, onslaught of reviews, etc., but for now, I’m at least two-for-two on 2017, and that should count for something. I won’t speculate as to what.

Pretty varied batch this time around, with some familiar names stepping outside what might be perceived as their comfort zone and others digging into various traditions in rock, blues, psych, sludge and doom. Much as I try to keep the stream running at all times — one has server blips; it happens — I also try to mix things up at least in a context that makes sense from one song to the next, though every now and again as I listen I hear something that completely blindsides me. That can be fun too.

As always, I hope you find something in here you dig.

The Obelisk Radio adds, Feb. 6, 2017:

Woodsplitter, Inflamed

woodsplitter-inflamed

For those who know guitarist Ben McLeod for the bluesy, psychedelic flow he brings to the languid jamming of All Them Witches, no doubt the Inflamed debut from his Woodsplitter solo/side-project is going to be a marked surprise. That would seem to be at least in part the intent. Working in a fire-fueled vein of instrumental progressive metal, “Liturgy” introduces a sense of extremity yet unheard from McLeod. Backed only by his own programmed drums, self-recorded, -mixed and -released, it’s a 39-minute mostly-onslaught that calls to mind a sans-vocal Genghis Tron at times while perhaps nodding at Steve Vai technicality via Devin Townsend‘s more metallized approach. McLeod locks in a plodding groove on “Fatty’s Waltz,” but even this is a bold step stylistically, and subsequent “Pile” and two-part title-track — the second piece of which secures Inflamed‘s ultimate triumph — only continue the push into experimentation. Ultimately, McLeod lands sure-footed in this exploration, showcasing roots that many who’ll take on Woodsplitter probably didn’t know he had — including some post-rock layering at the tail end of closer “The Weather Outside is Frightful” — and setting up a future progression almost entirely distinct from that of his main outfit. Won’t be for everybody, but hits with an equal measure of purpose and force.

Woodsplitter on Bandcamp

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

 

Shroud Eater & Dead Hand, Split

shroud-eater-dead-hands-split

As to what unites Georgian five-piece Dead Hand and Floridian trio Shroud Eater on this late-2016 Southern Druid Records split 7″, it won’t take long to figure out. Both bands are heavy as hell. With “Guaiacol” from the former going head-to-head with the latter’s “Destroy the Monolith” it becomes a contest of churn vs. roll, Dead Hand taking an atmospheric approach that feels in comparison more derived from post-metal than Shroud Eater‘s nonetheless spacious sludgy pummeling. Either way you go, you’re getting crushed by a six-minute track that seems only to revel in the cruelty of its lumbering, Dead Hand‘s chug arriving over a torrent of double-kickdrum before opening to a more forward thrust on “Guaiacol” and locking into a nod that persists even in the relatively minimalist midsection before, the lumbering, growling extremity resumes. As a title like “Destroy the Monolith” might hint, Shroud Eater aren’t exactly taking it easy either. With a multi-vocalist arrangement and vastness of groove, they represent their core sound well as a precursor to the awaited arrival of their second album hopefully sometime in 2017. It’s a quick release — in and out in 12 minutes — but both acts are bound to make an impression on the listener as each shows off their own brand of brutality.

Shroud Eater on Bandcamp

Dead Hand on Bandcamp

Southern Druid Records webstore

 

Moaning Cities, D. Klein

moaning-cities-d-klein

Issued through EXAG Records, the oddly-but-somehow-appropriately-stylized D. Klein is the second full-length from Belgium’s Moaning Cities, who seem as much at home in referencing The Velvet Underground and The Stooges on “Solitary Hawk” as drifting out All Them Witches-esque on the earlier “Sex Sells.” At 10 tracks/39 minutes, the Brussels-based outfit don’t express any particular need to settle into one sound-niche or another, but they keep a languid flow of psychedelic heavy blues in songs like “Insomnia” and the poetically-stomping “Vertigo Rising” that makes the okay-it’s-freakout-time arrival of the penultimate “Drag” all the more satisfying, even if their clear element of control is well maintained throughout. Flourish like the electronic beats in opener “Expected” and the soundscaping guitar in the finale “Daggers” add further depth to a release that already offers plenty, but Moaning Cities retain a classy, nigh-on-chic atmosphere without losing the tonal substance needed beneath to hold up such a strong aesthetic presentation. Whether they’re digging into ’90s alt vibes on “Born Again” — Violent Femmes goes West? — or tossing some sitar to go along with the spoken word of “Yell-Oh-Bahn,” Moaning Cities thrive on never quite letting their listeners know what’s coming next, and that nuance suits D. Klein well.

Moaning Cities on Bandcamp

EXAG Records webstore

 

Wartime, Wartime Vol. 1

wartime-vol-1

Between its five-minute, horror-sample-topped intro “Breaking Wheel” and its corresponding five-minute, horror-sample-topped outro “Magical Law,” Wartime‘s Wartime Vol. 1 delves so deep into classic doom via NWOBHM cultishness that I’m amazed Shadow Kingdom Records has yet to pick it up for a release. The Colombian trio’s 2016 debut, it’s as effective in the moodiness of its acoustic centerpiece “A Whisper” as in the brash Sabbathism of the eponymous “Wartime,” and an overarching rawness in the tracks only feeds the vision of doomed purity within them. Pressed in a limited number of CDs that, like their prior 2015 demo tape, are already long gone, it’s a fist-pump-worthy execution of doom for doomers that asks little by way of indulgences and delivers much in riff, metal-of-yore ambience and the songcraft of drummer/vocalist Alejandro, guitarist D-Pig and bassist Scum, who hold onto a punkish thrust for “Another Reality” before the Vitus-style plod of “Wicked Son.” Children of doom indeed. At 32 minutes, it’s on the shorter end of a full-length album, but it unquestionably sets the groundwork for an LP-style flow, and as Wartime‘s debut, impresses double with the realization of its conceptual bleakness. Special thanks to Juan Lopez for the recommendation on this one. I’m glad I got to check it out and will look forward to what Wartime do next.

Wartime on Bandcamp

Wartime merch page

 

Megaritual, Temple

megaritual-temple

I’ve been doing my dernedest to keep up with Australian one-man outfit Megaritual since getting hip to the White Dwarf aptly-named LP compilation, Mantra Music (review here), late last year. The product of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dale Paul WalkerMegaritual followed that release with the 25-minute single-song Eclipse EP (review here), and it’s to that offering that the 18-minute single-tracker Temple seems to have direct lineage, though actually the recording dates back further, to 2013/2014, and finds Walker joined by drummer Govinda Das in a duo incarnation of the band. Not entirely to find “Temple” is a little older, since Megaritual seem to be finding the patience later shown throughout the Mantra Music EPs that comprised the vinyl and then Eclipse afterward here, but you absolutely will not find me complaining about the edge of tonal buzz that complements the massive riff of this track, nor the improvised-sounding spaces around it being explored early on, nor the noise/drone that plays out over the course of the second half. If this is Walker giving a look at the project’s origins, he would seem to have come into Megaritual with an expressive concept in mind, and while it’s clear he’s put himself to the task of refining it, Temple demonstrates it was immersive even in its most formative moments.

Megaritual on Bandcamp

To see everything that joined The Obelisk Radio playlist today, click here.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War: Dancing on the Alabaster

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

all them witches sleeping through the war

Devil’s in the details, right? All Them Witches commune with plenty of both across the eight tracks of Sleeping Through the War. Their fourth album overall and second for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), its 46-minute run basks in a depth of arrangement yet unheard from the Nashville four-piece, from the is-someone-behind-you knocks of opener “Bulls” to the swirling layers of Ben McLeod‘s guitar and Sgt. Pepper-style flashes of Mellotron and other keys that ensue, to the slight delay in bassist Michael Parks, Jr.‘s vocals between the channels on “3-5-7” that seem to make that song all the more psychedelic, to the guest harmonica of Mickey Raphael in the just-under-10-minute closing jam “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet.”

Parks, McLeod, key specialist Allan Van Cleave — Rhodes, piano, Mellotron, the organ that brings such soul to “3-5-7,” etc. — and drummer Robby Staebler, who’s joined in his considerable percussive efforts by the rest of the band on “Alabaster” as well as producer Dave Cobb on the brief push of “Bruce Lee,” appear to be willfully tackling the kind of songwriting approach they so readily avoided their last time out.

Where Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, which had the rather sizable task of following 2013’s Lightning at the Door (review here), invited the listener into the room during its process of creation, feeling very much a roll-tape-and-see kind of experience, Sleeping Through the War is unquestionably more complete in the studio-record sense. Its songs feel finished and, with special mention to Eddie Spear at Creative Workshop in Nashville, who recorded and mixed, they offer a spaciousness like nothing All Them Witches have conjured to-date, going back to their self-produced 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here). With the quirk of “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the ear-worm repetitions of “Alabaster,” it is All Them Witches‘ finest outing yet and 2017’s earliest contender for album of the year.

They begin at a drift with “Bulls,” which is the longest cut on the first half of the record at 6:42 but takes its time unfolding amid sounds that seem captured from some otherworldly beach, the foursome gradually coming together and introducing one of the key elements that will distinguish the complexity at work across Sleeping Through the War in the echoing choral backing vocals of guests Caitlin Rose, Tristen and Erin Rae. This trio behind Parks gives “Bulls” an aspect of classic soulfulness, and ultimately help tie the different movements of the full-length together as they appear throughout “3-5-7,” “Am I Going Up?” and “Alabaster,” at times adding ambient melody behind a chorus, as on “Am I Going Up?,” and bringing “3-5-7” to glories of psychedelic gospel proportions as its hook swells from the rhythmically engaging groove-meander of its open-spaced verse.

All Them Witches have always played toward bluesy conventions in one way or another, and if bringing these singers in is how they’re doing it this time, it’s an effective expansion of that drive, and one they’re correct in basically announcing outright in the opener, since “Bulls” has the rather formidable task of bringing the listener into Sleeping Through the War‘s textural universe — it also finds Parks delivering the title-line early — as it shifts from its initial dreaminess into an exciting, full-thrust, kitchen-sink cosmic wash after the halfway point; a one-song celebration of the band’s increase in scope that will only continue to expand as the rest of the record plays out behind it.

That’s a process that begins gracefully with the grunge-blues of “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” picking up from the end of “Bulls” with Parks‘ line, “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me how to run my town,” and moving into a chorus about, yes, not liking coffee and people “Letting out from the suburbs/Layin’ us to waste” after the instrumental push is unveiled, McLeod‘s crunching riff conversing with Nirvana along the way as Staebler eases the transitions to and from the verse with gleeful snare work and fills during stops between measures of the hook. “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee,” which follows, are arguably the most straightforward of the inclusions on Sleeping Through the War — they’re also the shortest, at just over three minutes apiece — and while they maintain the band’s personality and deeply individualized take, they’re also rock songs and clearly intended to be taken as such. Where the central impact of Dying Surfer Meets His Maker was in its wandering moments, Sleeping Through the War embraces cohesion of craft on a different level entirely, and between “Bulls,” “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee,” that vibe carries through the rest of the material, which from “3-5-7” onward balances structure against increasingly varied psych-blues jamming.

In terms of the overarching flow of Sleeping Through the War, it is pivotal that “3-5-7,” “Am I Going Up?” and “Alabaster” appear in succession. While they in no way fail to leave their own mark, they also serve as a transitional “third” — as much as one can have thirds with eight tracks — following the opening salvo and leading into closing duo “Cowboy Kirk” and “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet,” bringing back RoseTristen and Rae from the opener to tie the album together while moving in intent further away from the rawer approach of “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee.” “3-5-7,” all odds and prime numbers, ranks among the most immersive songs All Them Witches have written to this point in their career. Its chorus surrounds and engulfs with melodic comfort, and the surge they create is not at all out of place because of the foreshadow they provided for it on “Bulls.”

Again, the details. Parks, whose bassline only minutes ago danced into the noisy finish of “Bruce Lee,” switching channels on vocals amid lines like, “Tell me how much can I convince you to stomach?/I am focused/I am focused…,” the swirls of effects even on Staebler‘s drums — something that will be even more crucial to “Cowboy Kirk” shortly — the always-essential key work of Van CleaveMcLeod‘s movement between interacting with those keys in the verse and the fuller fuzz of the chorus; once more All Them Witches provide evidence that it is the whole effect of the band working together rather than any single member that creates their most standout and progressive stretches. Hypnotic, “3-5-7” is a landmark unto itself, but still a piece of a larger function at work between it, “Am I Going Up?” and “Alabaster,” which while perhaps not as outwardly spacious, run successively longer and branch off from what “3-5-7” sets in motion.

“Am I Going Up?” meets the complexity of its initial guitar and bass progressions with a relatively simple, sing-song lyric, Parks joined gradually by the backing chorus. A rumble either of keys or guitar effects takes hold at about the midpoint, but recedes as the chorus resurfaces, only come up again and carry through to the ending, which finds the song drifting into the more purposefully solidified “Alabaster,” which finds its crux in the word itself, around which is weaved a tale of alienation, melody and trades between quiet and loud movements more patient than, say, “Bulls,” but all the more affecting for that. A well-percussed jam takes hold, Parks making various proclamations over top before signaling a rhythmic turn with the line, “Every day they look more and more like me” the finds the band kicking in with a subtle complexity in timing that leads to a final stomp through the instrumental hook and a cold stop from which Staebler‘s echoing drums pick up for the start of “Cowboy Kirk.”

At 6:51, “Cowboy Kirk” is only a few seconds shorter than “Alabaster” (which runs 6:59), and that’s not dissimilar from how “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and “Bruce Lee” functioned earlier. The feeling of common intent is furthered in a lyrical structure that, like “Alabaster,” wraps in part around a single idea — in the case of “Cowboy Kirk,” it’s “Love you like…” — but ultimately, much as “Bruce Lee” had a different direction from the song before it, so does “Cowboy Kirk,” which turns fills out a languid, bouncing jam with swells in volume from Van Cleave and full fuzz tones and leads from McLeod, feeling almost dangerously open by the time it hits four and a half minutes, but working its way back to the firm ground of its verse and chorus again to close. In the context of what follows, this move feels (which is to say, I wouldn’t guess it actually is) done in deference to the closer itself, and the molten, harmonica-laden flow of “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet” earns its place immediately. Led into by the keys and a quick drum crash, its chillout-factor is prevalent even before the spoken and sung layers of vocals start, piano flourish punctuating the stops of the first chorus: “If you’re asking me/I got one thing to say/If I can’t live here/Guess I’ll go live on the internet.”

Calm swagger, deep green hues, cool vibes — however you want to paint it, “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet” is in some ways a prototype All Them Witches jam, but it’s not without its hook either, and by the time they’re two minutes deep, they’ve run through the chorus twice with deceptive efficiency. About two minutes after that, they’re ready to depart into the instrumental ether that will carry to the finish of Sleeping Through the War, marked out by dream-tone spaced guitar, the unshakable but totally shaking progression of the drums and smooth turns of keys and bass to coincide with the guest harp — the band very much in their element having arrived at the place where their fourth album ends up. They finish patiently, eventually, not with a bang or a giant crescendo, but with the jam winding itself down naturally as a swirl of effects remains, bringing “Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet” through its last minute or so in a melodic trance still peppered with deep-mixed harmonica as it fades away.

One more time, the details. They are, in the end, what makes Sleeping Through the War such a special offering, and what most bring to light the creative growth, both since 2015 and over the last half-decade generally. All Them Witches have yet to stop moving forward from one release to the next, and though each of their albums speaks with its own voice — whether that’s the rawness of Dying Surfer Meets His Maker or the even-fuller realization of a collective vision here — the band have made themselves one of the most distinct acts of their generation with an influence that’s already begun to spread. Sleeping Through the War will insure it only continues to do so, and with its memorable songwriting, natural warmth and far-ranging breadth, it delivers a resonance sure to ring out through 2017 and beyond.

All Them Witches, “3-5-7” official video

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

All Them Witches on Instagram

New West Records

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