Quarterly Review: Horisont, Blackwolfgoat & Larman Clamor, Matushka, Tuna de Tierra, MAKE, SardoniS, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Moewn, El Hijo de la Aurora, Hawk vs. Dove

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Cruising right along with the Fall 2015 Quarterly Review. I hope you’ve been digging it so far. There’s still much more to come, and I’ve spaced things out so that it’s not like all the really killer stuff was in the first day. That’s not so much to draw people in with bigger names as to get a good mix of styles to keep me from going insane. 10 records is a lot to go through if you’re hearing the same thing all the time. Today, as with each day this week, I’m glad to be able to change things up a bit as we make our way through. Let’s get to it.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #21-30:

Horisont, Odyssey

horisont odyssey

Aside from earning immediate points by sticking the 10-minute title-track at the front of their 62-minute fourth album, Swedish mustache rockers Horisont add intrigue to Odyssey (out on Rise Above) via the acquisition of journeyman guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel, ex-Church of Misery). Their mission? To rock ‘70s arena melodies and grandiose vibes while keeping the affair tight enough so they don’t come across as completely ridiculous in the process. They’ve had three records to get it together before this one, so that they’d succeed isn’t necessarily much of a surprise, but the album satisfies nonetheless, cuts like “Blind Leder Blind” departing the sci-fi thematics of the opener for circa-1975 vintage loyalism of a different stripe, while “Back on the Streets” is pure early Scorpions strut, the band having found their own niche within crisp execution of classic-sounding grooves that seem to have a vinyl hiss no matter their source.

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Rise Above Records

Blackwolfgoat & Larman Clamor, Straphanger / Drone Monger Split

blackwolfgoat larman clamor split

I’ll make no bones whatsoever about being partial to the work of both Blackwolfgoat – the solo experimental vehicle of Boston-based guitarist Darryl Shepard – and Larman Clamor – the solo-project of Hamburg-based graphic artist Alexander von Wieding – so to find them teamed up for a split 7” on H42 Records is something of a special thrill. Shepard’s inclusion, “Straphanger,” continues to push the thread between building layers of guitar on top of each other and songwriting that the last Blackwolfgoat full-length, Drone Maintenance (review here), found him exploring, while Larman Clamor’s “Drone Monger” is an alternate version from what appeared on last year’s Beetle Crown and Steel Wand (review here) and “Fo’ What You Did” digs deep into the swampy psych-blues that von Wieding has done so well developing for the last half-decade or so in the project’s tenure. My only complaint? No collaboration between the two sides. Would love to hear what Shepard and von Wieding could do in a cross-Atlantic two-piece.

Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks

Larman Clamor on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

Matushka, II

matushka ii

II is the aptly-titled second full-length from Russian heavy psych instrumentalists Matushka, who jam kosmiche across its four component tracks and round out by diving headfirst into the acid with “Drezina,” a 20-minute pulsation from some distant dimension that gives sounds like Earthless if they made it up on the spot, peppering shred-ola leads with no shortage of effects swirl. In comparison, “As Bartenders and Bouncers Dance” feels positively plotted, but it, “The Acid Curl’s Dance” before and the especially dreamy “Meditation,” which follows, all have their spontaneous-sounding elements. For guitarist Timophey Goryashin, bassist Maxim Zhuravlev (who seems to since be out of the band) and drummer Konstantin Kotov to even sustain this kind of lysergic flow, they need to have a pretty solid chemistry underlying the material, and they do. I don’t know whether Matushka’s II will change the scope of heavy psychedelia, but they put their stamp on the established parameters here and bring an edge of individuality in moments of arrangement flourish — acoustics, synth, whatever it might be — where a lot of times that kind of thing is simply lost in favor of raw jamming.

Matushka on Thee Facebooks

Matushka on Bandcamp

Tuna de Tierra, EPisode I: Pilot

tuna de tierra episode i pilot

If a pilot is used in television to test whether or not a show works, then Tuna de Tierra’s EPisode I: Pilot, would seem to indicate similar ends. A three-song first outing from the Napoli outfit, it coats itself well in languid heavy psychedelic vibing across “Red Sun” (the opener and longest track at 8:25; immediate points), “Ash” (7:28) and the particularly dreamy “El Paso de la Tortuga,” which closes out at 4:08 and leaves the listener wanting to hear more of what Alessio de Cicco (guitar/vocals) and Luciano Mirra (bass) might be able to concoct from their desert-style influences. There’s patience to be learned in some of their progressions, and presumably at some point they’ll need to pick up a drummer to replace Jonathan Maurano, who plays here and seems to since be out of the band, but especially as their initial point of contact with planet earth, EPisode I: Pilot proves immersive and a pleasure to get lost within, and that’s enough for the moment.

Tuna de Tierra on Thee Facebooks

Tuna de Tierra on Bandcamp

MAKE, The Golden Veil

make the golden veil

Much of what one might read concerning North Carolinian trio MAKE and their second album, The Golden Veil, seems to go out of its way to point out the individual take they’re bringing to the established parameters of post-metal. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but part of that has to be sheer critical fatigue at the thought of another act coming along having anything in common with Isis while at the same time, not wanting to rag on MAKE as though their work were without value of its own, which at this point an Isis comparison dogwhistles. MAKE’s The Golden Veil successfully plays out an atmospherically intricate, engaging linear progression across its seven tracks, from the cut-short intro “I was Sitting Quietly, Peeling back My Skin” through the atmospheric sludge tumult of “The Absurdist” and into the patient post-rock melo-drone of “In the Final Moments, Uncoiling.” Yes, parts of it are familiar. Parts of a lot of things are familiar. Some of it sounds like Isis. That’s okay.

MAKE on Thee Facebooks

MAKE on Bandcamp

SardoniS, III

sardonis iii

To an extent, the reputation of Belgium instru-crushers SardoniS precedes them, and as such I can’t help but listen to “The Coming of Khan,” which launches their third album, III (out via Consouling Sounds), and not be waiting for the explosion into tectonic riffing and massive-sounding gallop. Still the duo of drummer Jelle Stevens and guitarist Roel Paulussen, SardoniS offer up five tracks of sans-vocals, Surrounded by Thieves-style thrust, a cut like “Roaming the Valley” summarizing some of the best elements of what they’ve done across the span of splits with Eternal Elysium and Drums are for Parades, as well as their two prior full-lengths, 2012’s II and 2010’s SardoniS (review here), in its heft and its rush. A somewhat unanticipated turn arrives with 11:46 closer “Forward to the Abyss,” which though it still hits its standard marks, also boasts both lengthy atmospheric sections at the front and back and blastbeaten extremity between. Just when you think you know what to expect.

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Consouling Sounds

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Velvet Skin

lewis and the strange magics velvet skin

With their debut long-player, Barcelona trio Lewis and the Strange Magics answer the promise of their 2014 Demo (review here) in setting a late-‘60s vibe to modern cultish interpretation, post-Uncle Acid and post-Ghost (particularly so on “How to be You”) but no more indebted to one or the other than to themselves, which is as it should be. Issued via Soulseller Records, Velvet Skin isn’t afraid to dive into kitsch, and that winds up being a big part of the charm of songs like “Female Vampire” and “Golden Threads,” but it’s ultimately the chemistry of the organ-inclusive trio that makes the material hold up, as well as the swaggering rhythms of “Cloudy Grey Cube” and “Nina (Velvet Skin),” which is deceptively modern in its production despite such a vintage methodology. The guitar and keys on that semi-title-track seem to speak to a classic progressive edge burgeoning within Lewis and the Strange Magics’ approach, and I very much hope that’s a path they continue to walk.

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Soulseller Records

Moewn, Acqua Alta

moewn acqua alta

Basking in a style they call “oceanic rock,” newcomer German trio Moewn unveil their first full-length, Acqua Alta, via Pink Tank Records in swells of post-metallic undulations that wear their neo-progressive influences on their sleeve. Instrumental for the duration, the three-piece tracked the album in 2014 about a year after first getting together, but the six songs have a cohesive, thought-out feel to their peaks and valleys – “Packeis” perhaps most of all – that speaks to their purposeful overall progression. Atmospherically, it feels like Moewn are still searching for what they want to do with this sound, but they have an awful lot figured out up to this point, whether it’s the nodding wash of airy guitar and fluid heft of groove that seems to push “Dunkelmeer” along or second cut “Katamaran,” which if it weren’t for the liquefied themes of the art and their self-applied genre tag, I’d almost say sounded in its more spacious stretches like desert rock à la Yawning Man.

Moewn on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records

El Hijo de la Aurora, The Enigma of Evil

el hijo de la aurora the enigma of evil

Since their first album, 2008’s Lemuria (review here), it has been increasingly difficult to pin Peruvian outfit El Hijo de la Aurora to one style or another. Drawing from doom, heavy rock, drone and psychedelic elements, they seem to push outward cosmically into something that’s all and none of them at the same time on their third album, The Enigma of Evil (released by Minotauro Records), the core member Joaquín Cuadra enlisting the help of a host of others in executing the seven deeply varied tracks, including Indrayudh Shome of continually underrated experimentalists Queen Elephantine on the acoustic-led “The Awakening of Kosmos” and the penultimate chug-droner “The Advent of Ahriman.” Half a decade after the release of their second album, Wicca (review here), in 2010, El Hijo de la Aurora’s work continues to feel expansive and ripe for misinterpretation, finding weight in atmosphere as much as tone and breadth enough to surprise with how claustrophobic it can at times seem.

El Hijo de la Aurora’s website

Minotauro Records

Hawk vs. Dove, Divided States

hawk vs dove divided states

Dallas outfit Hawk vs. Dove recorded Divided States in the same studio as their self-titled 2013 debut (review here) and the two albums both have black and white line-drawn artwork from Larry Carey, so it seems only fitting to think of the new release as a follow-up to the first. It is fittingly expansive, culling together elements of ‘90s noise, post-grunge indie (ever wondered what Weezer would sound like heavy? Check “X”), black metal (“Burning and Crashing”), desert rock (“PGP”) and who the hell knows what else into a mesh of styles that not only holds up but feels progressed from the first time out and caps with an 11-minute title-track that does even more to draw the various styles together into a cohesive, singular whole. All told, Divided States is 38 minutes of blinding turns expertly handled and impressive scope trod over as though it ain’t no thing, just another day at the office. It’s the kind of record that’s so good at what it does that other bands should hear it and be annoyed.

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Hawk vs. Dove on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Holy Sons, WEEED, Mala Suerte, Eternal Black, Were-Jaguars, Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Black Tremor, Aave, Derelics, Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Day one down, four more days to go. I forget each time how different it is writing shorter reviews as opposed to the usual longer ones, but kind of refreshing to bust through something, force myself to say what needs to be said as efficiently as possible and move on. Reminds me of working in print, with word counts and such. Only so much room on the page. Not something that usually comes up around these parts, but I guess it’s good to keep that muscle from complete atrophy. Though taking that line of thought to its natural conclusion, I have no idea why. Anyway, feeling good, ready to take on another 10 records, so let’s roll.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #11-20:

Holy Sons, Fall of Man

holy sons fall of man

It would be hard to overstate the smoothness with which Emil Amos, who serves integral creative and percussive roles in both Grails and Om, brings different styles together on Fall of Man, his second album for Thrill Jockey under the Holy Sons solo moniker and upwards of his 11th overall. An overriding melancholy vibe suits dark, progressive pop elements on the opener “Mercenary World,” Amos at the fore playing all instruments and still vocalizing like a singer-songwriter, while the later wash of “Being Possessed is Easy” takes on ‘90s indie fragility and turns what was purposeful minimalism into an expanse of melody and “Discipline” creeps out lyrically while forming experimentalist soundscapes around a steady line of acoustic guitar. Joined by bassist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem on “Aged Wine” – the only other players to appear anywhere on Fall of ManAmos leads the trio through soaring leads and heavier crashing to give the album a crescendo worthy of its scope, which while astounding on deeper inspection presents itself with simple, classic humility.

Holy Sons on Thee Facebooks

Holy Sons at Thrill Jockey

WEEED, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath


From the opening drone-groan throat-singing of the 14-minute “Dogma Dissolver,” it seems like not-quite-Seattle trio Weeed are making a run for the title “Most Stoned of the Stoner” with their second full-length, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath. They earn that extra ‘e.’ A double-LP on Illuminasty Records, the album is a 54-minute trip into low tone and deep-running vibe, spaced way out, and well at home whether jamming heavy and hypnotized on “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” – a highlight bassline – or nestling into an ambient stretch like “Bullfrog” preceding. Mostly instrumental, Weeed hit their most active in “Enuma Elish” and then chill and strip back to acoustics and sax (yup) for the Eastern-flavored “Caravan Spliff,” bringing back the throat-singing in the process. How else to finish such a work than with the 15-minute “Nature’s Green Magic,” a 15-minute push along a single build that goes from minimal, pastoral acoustics to nod-on-this megastoner riffing? Weeed might be going for the gold, but they end up in the green, and somehow one imagines they’ll be alright with that. They get super-ultra-bonus points for sounding like Kyuss not even a little.

WEEED on Thee Facebooks

WEEED on Bandcamp

Mala Suerte, Rituals of Self Destruction

mala suerte rituals of self destruction

Formed in 1999 and having made their full-length debut a decade later with The Shadow Tradition (review here), last heard from in a 2012 split with Boise’s Uzala (review here), Austin, Texas, doomly five-piece Mala Suerte return with the 10-track Rituals of Self Destruction, which moves past its four-minute intro into chugging The Obsessed-style trad doom with a touch of Southern heavy à la Crowbar and a generally metallic spirit in cuts like “Utopic Delusions” that gets expanded on later cuts like the swirling, crawling almost Cathedral-ish “Labyrinth of Solitude.” Comprised of forward-mixed vocalist Gary Rosas, guitarists David Guerrero and Vincent Pina, bassist Mike Reed and drummer Chris Chapa (now John Petri), Mala Suerte sound as rueful as ever across the album’s span, rounding out with the hardcore sludge of “Successful Failure” and “The Recluse,” which builds from slow, brooding chug to a more riotous finish. It’s been a while, but it’s good to have them back.

Mala Suerte on Thee Facebooks

Mala Suerte on Bandcamp

Eternal Black, Eternal Black

eternal black eternal black

Guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob leads Brooklyn’s Eternal Black through the riffy doom of their debut self-titled three-track EP. Unpretentious in the style’s tradition, the trio is anchored by Hal Miller’s bass and pushed forward by the drums of Joe “The Prince of Long Island” Wood (also of Borgo Pass), the rolling groove of Sabbathian opener “Obsidian Sky” setting the tone for straightforward, few-frills darkness, and Eternal Black follow it up with the workingman’s doom of “The Dead Die Hard” and “Armageddon’s Embrace,” the former started out with an extra lead layer before it unfurls the EP/demo’s most satisfying crawl, and the latter a little more swinging, but still Iommic metal at its core, Wohlrob’s gruff vocal and Wino-style riff backed by Miller’s deep-mixed rumble as Wood goes to the cowbell/woodblock (it’s one or the other) during the guitar solo. Even if Joe Wood wasn’t one of the best human beings I’d ever met, it would still be pretty easy to dig what these cats are doing, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye for how they follow this first installment.

Eternal Black on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Black on Bandcamp

Were-Jaguars, II

were-jaguars ii

Austin, Texas-based trio Were-Jaguars have already issued a follow-up EP to their earlier-2015 second album, II, but from its opening and longest track “Between the Armies” (immediate points), the three-piece dig into weirdo psych vibes and dense tones across their latest full-length, released through respected Russian purveyor R.A.I.G. Not at all a minor undertaking at 13 tracks, 68 minutes, it gets into garage ritualism in “Let My Breath be the Air” and unfolds immediate doomadelia on “Bishop Kills Enchanter,” but if you need confirmation that Were-Jaguars – the three-piece of Chad Rauschenberg, James Adkisson and Rick McConnell – aren’t just screwing around in these songs and lucking into a righteous result, let it come on the later “Lost Soul,” which melds a flowing instrumental roll to a host of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual samples, loses itself completely, and then returns at the end to finish cohesive, engagingly complex and sure in the knowledge that all has gone to plan. Figuring out what that plan is can be a challenge at times, but it’s there.

Were-Jaguars on Thee Facebooks


Vinnum Sabbathi & Bar de Monjas, Fuzzonaut Split


The Fuzzonaut split between Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi and Bar de Monjas takes its name from the closing track, provided by the latter act, but it serves as a fitting title for the work as a whole as well. Vinnum Sabbathi launch the six-track offering with “HEX I: The Mastery of Space,” a slow-rolling instrumental topped by samples pulled from rocket launches, and after the 1:45 droning interlude “Intermission (Fluctuations),” they melt their way into the companion “HEX II: Foundation Pioneers,” doomier in its chug, but similarly-minded overall in intent, with the warm bass, copious samples, and planet-sized riffing. Though their portion is shorter overall, Bar de Monjas answer back with relatively upbeat push in “Hot Rail,” winding up in stoner rock janga-janga before stomping their way into “The Ripper,” cowbelling there as part of an impressively percussed spin and capping with “Fuzzonaut” itself, a shroomy 7:45 creeper with big-riff bursts that rises and recedes effectively, ending with a long residual hum.

Vinnum Sabbathi on Thee Facebooks

Bar de Monjas on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzonaut on Bandcamp

Black Tremor, Impending

black tremor impending

An immediate touchstone for the droning pastoral drear that Saskatoon three-piece Black Tremor elicit on their four-song debut EP, Impending, is Earth’s HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but the newcomer trio distinguish themselves immediately with an approach that replaces guitar with violin, so that not only can Black Tremor tie into these atmospheres, they can do so in a way that speak to country roots in a way their forebears didn’t at the time date. Bassist Alex Deighton, violinist Amanda Bestvater and drummer Brennan Rutherford have only just begun the work of developing their sound, but already nine-minute opener “The Church” and its buzzing follow-up “Rise” prove evocative and come across as more than exercises in ambience. “Markhor” hits with an even heavier roll and an almost Melvinsy undertone, while the title-track makes its way through horse-trod mud to emerge at the end not only clean but positively bouncing. It’s still pretty dark, but they’ve given themselves a vast Canadian Midwestern expanse to explore.

Black Tremor on Thee Facebooks

Black Tremor on Bandcamp

Aave, There’s Nothing

aave there's nothing

A bright tonal bliss pervades There’s Nothing, the Rock Ridge Music debut long-player from Nashville all-lowercase psychedelic post-rockers aave. The band court indie progressivism across the album’s eight component tracks, but with just one song over four minutes long – closer “Turn Me Off” (4:30) – there’s little about it that feels overly indulgent or beyond the pale stylistically. That is to say that while aave set a sonic course for great distances, they get to where they’re going efficiently and don’t hang around too long in one place. That has its ups and downs in terms of vibe, but the resonant vocal melodies of “Nothing Here” – hard not to be reminded of Mars Red Sky’s sweet emotionality, but there are other comparisons one might make – the focus remains grounded in an accessibility that goes beyond getting lost in dreamy guitars. Aesthetically satisfying, they find an intense moment in the later thrust of “Blender,” but even that retains the overarching wistful sensibility of what’s come before and that unites the material throughout.

aave on Thee Facebooks

Rock Ridge Music

Derelics, Introducing

derelics introducing

Spacious, melodic and entrancingly heavy, Derelics’ debut EP, Introducing, indeed makes a formidable opening statement, and in a crowded London scene of post-Orange Goblin burl and Downy sludge, the trio set more progressive ambitions across “To Brunehilde,” “California” and “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla,” psych-funking up the centerpiece after the grooving largesse of the opener en route to the wider-spreading tones of the closer, guitarist/vocalist Reno cutting through his and bassist Nacim’s tones easily with higher-register vocals that push the limits of his range as he encourages one to “ride that fuckin’ snake,” before cutting out to let drummer Rich lead the charge with toms through a build-up bridge that returns to the echoing fullness conjured earlier, ending on a long-fading organ note. An encouraging first offering from the three-piece, and hopefully they continue develop along an original-sounding path as they move ahead. Already they seem to show a knack for melding atmospherics and songwriting toward the same ends.

Derelics on Thee Facebooks

Derelics on Bandcamp

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, Desert Brain

sisters of your sunshine vapor desert brain

True to its krautrock-style cover art, Desert Brain, the third outing from Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, has an element of prog at work within its psychedelic unfolding. But that’s reasonable. With four years since their second release, Spectra Spirit (review here), and the inclusion of bassist/keyboardist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski with guitarist/vocalist Sean Morrow, the dynamic in the band has legitimately shifted, even though Oppitz (who also did the aforementioned cover art) has recorded all three of their records. Still, they keep the proceedings fluid across the two vinyl sides, finding their inner garage on “Major Medicine” and tripping out easy on “What’s Your Cloud Nine, 37?” on side A before digging in with fuzz and push on side B’s “The Prettiest Sounds of Purgatory” and stretching into ritual stomp on the title cut. All the while, they’re drenched in vibe and a flow that’s languid even as it’s running you over, and while some songs barely have a chorus, they implant themselves in the mind anyway, almost subliminally.

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor on Thee Facebooks

Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor on Bandcamp

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Project Armageddon, Cosmic Oblivion: Vortex of Crush

Posted in Reviews on September 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

project armageddon cosmic oblivion

Houston’s Project Armageddon are quick to let their listeners know what it’s all about. On their third album, Cosmic Oblivion, they open with the eight-minute instrumental “Cosmic Crush,” and the ensuing progression moves from riff to riff to riff and back again. Frills be damned. Each member of the Texan trio, who release Cosmic Oblivion through Shattered Man Records as the follow-up to 2012’s Tides of Doom after having made their debut with 2010’s Departure, played at one point or another in Brainticket Records trad-doomers Well of Souls, but with Project Armageddon, they present a foundation of oldschool metal that one can hear in the guitar tone of Brandon Johnson and the vocals of bassist “Doomstress” Alexis Hollada, as well as the forward-moving rhythms of drummer Raymond Matthews.

The album’s 47 minutes (43 for the digital version) are put to varied use, however, with several cuts positioned almost as bonus material at the end, including the CD-exclusive Judas Priest cover “Deceiver,” the acoustic song “Time’s Fortune” — which, though it’s somewhat buried at the end, is a highlight — and a live version of the title-track to Tides of Doom (recorded somewhere along the line in the band’s hometown) to finish out. As such, though substantial in both runtime and content, Cosmic Oblivion at times feels more like an EP in giving the audience a sample of what Project Armageddon have to offer than a front-to-back full-length, but there’s a flow established all the same, the metallic drive of Matthews‘ drums and Hollada‘s bass setting a patient, grand opening pace under Johnson‘s riffs on “Cosmic Crush,” but deftly shifting between tempo and fostering fist-pumping righteousness along the way through the opener’s chug-happy course.

Like many in Texas’ heavy underground, they’ve taken some measure of influence from Pepper Keenan‘s work in Down and C.O.C., and Project Armageddon aren’t halfway through “Cosmic Crush” before one can hear shades of Deliverance in the guitar, but they grow more individual as they move forward from there and toward “Frigid Bitch,” the centerpiece of the CD and a bluesier, almost Witch Mountain-esque high point boasting Hollada‘s most accomplished vocal performance and a careening interplay of guitar and bass in its back half that’s a showing of diversity in approach after the two tracks prior, “Vortex to Oblivion” and “Lost to Forever,” round out a (theoretical, since so far as I know there’s yet to be a vinyl pressing) side A comprised of satisfying and unmistakably metal-infused riffs that seem to be pushing toward a deeper purpose.

project armageddon

Taken with the vinyl split in mind, Cosmic Oblivion is a completely different record than when played front to back, and some of the second half’s experiments — that acoustic track, the cover, the live cut — make more sense, but the tradeoff for stopping halfway through is felt in the momentum that emerges between “Cosmic Crush,” “Vortex to Oblivion” and “Lost to Forever,” all three of which top seven minutes and give a complete-seeming glimpse at Project Armageddon‘s songwriting and in particular Hollada‘s marked frontwoman presence in the tracks, which are peppered with stage-style exclamations and an energy that does right in teasing a live feel later affirmed as “Tides of Doom” rounds out. Compression on the vocals takes a bit of getting used to, but I’m not about to pan a self-releasing band for audio fidelity. The quality of the tracks holds up across Cosmic Oblivion‘s first half, and while the album’s structure can be a head-scratcher at first, it doesn’t take much to put the pieces together, and a hook like that of the chorus to “Lost to Forever” is its own best sell.

A tempo downshift and more relaxed — opening “woo!” aside — but still heavy vibe, along with Hollada‘s soulful approach, help make “Frigid Bitch” the highlight that it is, and if there’s one truly frustrating aspect of the CD version, it’s that the cover of “Deceiver,” which originally appeared on Judas Priest‘s classic 1976 second album, Sad Wings of Destiny, is placed before “Time’s Fortune.” What’s the difference? Arriving after the cover, the acoustic cut feels more like a bonus track than the album closer it truly is, and more like an extra than the essential component it deserves to be. It broadens the context of Cosmic Oblivion as a whole, and particularly directly following “Frigid Bitch” as it does on the digital version, its added percussion, harmonica and subdued vocal, it provides a resonant counterpoint to side A’s more traditional aspects. “Deceiver,” at just over four minutes, rocks plenty hard, but interrupts that process. Maybe it’s moot, since invariably more people will hear the digital album anyway, but the shift between “Frigid Bitch” and “Time’s Fortune” is an especially engaging finish and the CD doesn’t get the same treatment.

Structured for vinyl, released on CD and better suited to mp3, Cosmic Oblivion can seem somewhat uneven at times, but it will not be the last we hear from Project Armageddon, and I’d be very surprised if someone didn’t pick it up for a restructured vinyl release. That said, without “Deceiver” or the live “Tides of Doom” to close out, Cosmic Oblivion would check in at just 35 minutes, so in addition to an extra enticement toward the physical product — a philosophy against which I won’t argue — they also add to the album’s runtime, and the latter, which opens with a sample releasing the Kraken, affirms the band’s focus on their onstage energy while also not at all subtly confirming that anything Project Armageddon bring to the studio they can also bring to a live setting: no trickery involved. Not that much would be suspected, since as noted at the top, it’s about the riffs and the groove, but the one element “Cosmic Crush” leaves out is Hollada‘s vocals, the dynamics of which are crucial to the album’s overall success.

Project Armageddon, “Lost to Forever” Live in TX, 2014

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Project Armageddon’s website

Cosmic Oblivion at CDBaby

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Funeral Horse Premiere “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh” from Divinity for the Wicked

Posted in audiObelisk on September 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Funeral Horse

One thing I like about Texan weirdo-garage-heavy-punk-doom trio Funeral Horse is that if you were to go up to them and ask what is myrrh anyway, they’d probably tell you it’s a valuable balm, and then when you, in your best Terry Jones high-pitched exclamation shouted “A balm?!” they’d totally get the Life of Brian reference. I don’t know that for sure, not having done it myself — would be a long trip to Houston just for that — but it seems likelier than not given what we’ve learned about Funeral Horse‘s brand of deeply creative heavy rock shenanigans over the course of their two prior full-lengths, 2013’s Savage Audio Demon (review here) and 2014’s Sinister Rites of the Master (review here), that the gag may have come up once or twice while in the studio tracking “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh,” the closing track of their upcoming third album, Divinity for the Wicked, out on Sept. 15.

As with their last two outings, a prevailing lack of pretense rules the day on the new Artificial Head Records seven-tracker. Presented in a concise 37 minutes, Divinity for the Wicked expands the palette of guitarist/vocalist Paul Bearer, bassist Jason Andy Argonauts and drummer Chris Bassett, but keeps consistent in its atmosphere and deceptive lo-fi vibe, a rawness of presentation masking just how far the trip from the hooky opener “There Shall be Vultures” to the bagpipes that round out “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh” actually is. Along the way, a blown-out rocker like “Underneath all that Ever Was” surprises with an inclusion of Mellotron in its second half, and the tracklisting centerpiece/side A finale “Gods of Savages” makes a show of its near-metallic intensity funeral horse divinity for the wickedprior to delving into organ melodies and a rush of sludgy punk.

Side B only offers more confusion for the unsuspecting, as the ultra-stoner guitar line that begins “Yigael’s Wall” stops dead three times before the song actually kicks in to begin its eight-minute build, so quiet by the time it shifts into the cymbal wash of “Cities of the Red Night” that one barely knows where the track before stops and the next one starts, a desert-y guitar line emerging to call to mind Brant Bjork‘s minimalist moments and offer interlude companionship to the shorter, Eastern-inflected “A Bit of Weed” back on side A, however many miles the caravan may have covered since then. When it hits, “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh” sets itself to the almost impossible task of drawing the various sides of Divinity for the Wicked together, Funeral Horse moving between shuffle-infused punker chug and noise-rock shouts to an angular, chaotic roll that finishes by crashing into feedback.

And if you want a real sense of the consciousness behind all the weirdo push and pull that Divinity for the Wicked‘s stylistic breadth plays out, take particular note of how smoothly that feedback fades into the aforementioned bagpipes that bring the song and the album as a whole to its conclusion. Suddenly it’s blazingly apparent that none of this stuff has happened by mistake, and Funeral Horse are a long, long way away from simply screwing around either in their writing or in the studio. It’s bound to catch some listeners off guard, but that’s been the risk they’ve been willing to take since their debut that has made their work up to now (and through now) so appealing.

It’s my pleasure to host the stream of “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh,” which you’ll find below, followed by some background from Paul Bearer on the track. Enjoy:

Paul Bearer on “Gifts of Opium and Myrrh”

“The lyrics were drawn from a book I found on the prophecies and letters of Grigori Rasputin. In the book, he mentioned how his spirit had lived for eons as a great consult to the most powerful leaders throughout the ages. I found the concept interesting and started extracting parts of the book into the song. The bagpipes at the end of the song came about after hearing them during my grandfather’s funeral. I found them to be so mournful yet powerful and had made a mental note to one day use them as a closer for a song/album as a nod to my grandfather and his Scottish heritage.”

Divinity For The Wicked by Funeral Horse will be released on 15th September through Artificial Head Records.

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Bellringer Post New Video for “Von Fledermaus”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


One could probably sit around all day and wait for Bellringer‘s new video for “Von Fledermaus” to start making sense. One could probably ask it nicely. The result would be the same: A presumably mid-coitus stare from a lady bouncing up and down — I wouldn’t quite call it NSFW, but if you’re in an office they might find you out for the weirdo you really are if you’ve got it playing — spliced in with old racing footage and some blasting lights, destruction, etc. The problem isn’t that the video doesn’t make any sense. The problem is that you want it to.

Austin three-piece (maybe four-piece? I saw something about a second bassist) Bellringer released a self-titled four-song EP (review here) earlier this year. Where is it now? Gone. “Von Fledermaus,” with its lurching riff and the subdued vocal from Mark Deutrom (formerly of the Melvins and Clown Alley) — who’s almost Mario Lalli-esque in finding the calm spot in the song’s storm — was on that EP, and whether or not that was removed because someone’s doing a physical pressing or what, I don’t know, but again, I think the problem here is really that not knowing is the whole idea. Wait and find out. It’s what the world does.

Like that offering as a whole, “Von Fledermaus” boasts a sense of balance between its chugging riff and stranger impulses. Seems fair to say the collage-style video by Jennifer Deutrom hones in on the latter, and rightfully so.

If you’re sensitive to bright flashing lights or anything like that, you might want to watch out for some of the middle and second half stuff here, as it gets pretty active. Otherwise, enjoy:

Bellringer, “Von Fledermaus” official video

Earth and Space Chick rocks the Universe, dirt track racing, cowboy ambush and general sensory overload in Bellringer’s first video.
Purchase tequila and project this onto your favorite wall !

“Ham spanky in the back of the train”

Directed and Edited By Jennifer Deutrom
using public domain imagery, and also
“”Weg Zum Nachbarn” by Lutz Mommartz.

Mark Deutrom : Guitar, Vocal
Corey Cottrell : Bass
Craig Nichols : Drums

Produced and Mixed by Mark Deutrom
Recorded By Chico Jones at Ohm Recording Facility

Bellringer’s website

Bellringer on Bandcamp

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Friday Full-Length: The 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The 13th Floor Elevators, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators (1966)

I had a whole post written out talking about The 13th Floor Elevators‘ landmark 1966 debut, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators, and its cross-generational impact on psychedelic rock, counterculture and so on. Wasn’t the best thing I ever wrote, but I was reasonably pleased with it, and it got the point across that it was an album that had considerable influence that continues to be felt today and that the work of vocalist/guitarist Roky Erickson, guitarist Stacy Sutherland, bassist Ronnie Leatherman (Benny Thurman also plays on the record), drummer John Ike Walton and jug-blower Tommy Hall is worth considering as a watershed moment in underground rock, along with being widely regarded as a nexus point for American psychedelia and garage. I had that all ready to go. Then underneath that, I was bitching about other stuff and the whole thing got deleted. No going back to a past draft or anything, apparently, as WordPress moves forward with its continuous improvement program to fix what wasn’t broken the first time around, so it’s gone. Poof. Bye.

Should I have saved the draft earlier? I should’ve done a lot of things.

Not a bummer to put on the album again and re-revisit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” — I’m missing that text right about now — and the bizarre strains of “Monkey Island,” but I’d call it on the whole a pretty fair summary of how the week has gone. I’d be more upset, but not only am I too tired to approximate the sentences I had before and try and make the most of it, but I’m too tired to even be actively bummed out. Shit happens. It is what it is. And whether or not I wax poetic about its legacy, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators remains a great fucking album. The first of their three, and it’s more or less a blessing from the gods of acid. You can get that from listening whether or not I say so. No one reads this shit anyway.

Not even sure why I’m gonna put in a divider, since it’s not like I’m going from talking about the record to talking about something else, but whatever. One falls into these habits. Hope you enjoy the album.

Quiet week. Unless you count that north-of-13 hours I spent sitting in traffic getting to and from work over the last five days. That was loud, at least in terms of the pounding in my head.

Gonna go see Godhunter and Destroyer of Light in Salem. Show is at a sushi bar. A sushi bar. Because even in Salem — a town quite literally most known for burning witches alive — no one has seen fit to open a metal venue. Massachusetts! Northeastern America’s capitol for living wrong. Anyone wanna not recycle and talk about Tom fucking Brady some more?



Whatever. Look for a review of that show Monday, and maybe one on Tuesday if I can get my ass out tomorrow night to see The Atomic Bitchwax vs. waiting to catch them next month in Providence. Not a huge fan of The Middle East, where they play tomorrow — what’s the matter, don’t like dark red lighting and nowhere to park? — but they’re the Bitchwax, so it’s at least a consideration. We’re actually staying in Mass. this weekend instead going to Connecticut, though to be honest I might strongly advocate to The Patient Mrs. tossing that plan out the window tomorrow morning and heading to the coast as quickly as possible. We’ll see. Vacuuming or the beach? Hmm…

But I figure fuck-everything mode is perfect for Godhunter, and I’ve yet to experience the affliction that sushi didn’t help, so it should be a decent night either way. And I just confirmed a Weedeater giveaway for next week, so right on for that as well. I’ll have a stream of the Shiggajon record too, and that’s pretty sweet.

See? It’s not all bad.

But losing drafts is. Save your work, kids.

Great and safe. Forum and radio.

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Venomous Maximus, Firewalker: Fearful Symmetry

Posted in Reviews on August 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

venomous maximus firewalker

Natives of Houston, Texas’ well-populated heavy underground, the dual-guitar four-piece Venomous Maximus distinguished themselves early into their run with their first two EPs, 2010’s Give up the Witch and 2011’s The Mission (review here). Their subsequent debut full-length, 2012’s Beg upon the Light (review here), built upon the momentum they’d gleaned through touring and the response to their shorter offerings, earning a release through Napalm Records — their riotous live show made them an easy sell — and it seemed at the time like the band would issue their next album through that label as well. A quick follow-up was expected after the roll they got on between their EPs and debut LP, but it’s three years later that Firewalker, their sophomore outing, arrives, and it does so through Shadow Kingdom Records.

There has to be some question as to whether that three-year span cost Venomous Maximus in terms of the momentum they had coming out of Beg upon the Light, though they’d hardly been inactive in that time between touring, releasing videos, writing and so on, but to listen to the 10 tracks/46 minutes of Firewalker itself makes it clear the band — guitarist/vocalist Gregg Higgins, guitarist Christian Larson, bassist Trevi Biles and drummer Bongo Brungardt — haven’t missed a step in terms of their approach. Songs like “Dark Waves,” “Angel Heart” and “Fire in the Night” maintain the blend of classic metal precision and darker heavy rock atmospherics, bordering on doom but never quite crossing over, that the first album proffered, and build upon those achievements while further establishing Venomous Maximus‘ sound as distinct from the various influences of which it is constructed.

One could rattle off a list of those influences and come up with names as aesthetically widespread as Celtic FrostMötley Crüe, Uncle Acid and Samhain, but no single outfit or even a grouping of them really comes close to giving Venomous Maximus their due when it comes to the individualized stock they’ve boiled down from those component elements, taking a horror-minded vibe from here and a theatrical sense of drama from there and turning it into the post-“Intro” chug of “White Rose,” which gets the darkened bikerisms of Firewalker moving at a decent clip, setting the tone for what follows in natural sound and a persistent quality of songwriting that will be familiar to anyone who encountered Beg upon the Light.

venomous maximus

They are identifiable, and more so than one might expect for an outfit even on their second record, with Higgins‘ vocals shifting from the proclamations of “White Rose” and “Through the Black” to grittier, more punkish fare by the time the memorable “October 14th” rolls around to follow “Dark Waves” at the end of what’s clearly intended to be side A, Venomous Maximus making no secret of the album’s structure by means of dual intros — “Intro” for the first half, “Firewalker Theme” for the second — and a forward progression that pushes each half of the outing toward its most resonant hook at the end, whether that’s “October 14th” or the finale of the album as a whole, “Take on the Grave.” That’s of course not to take anything away from the surrounding cuts, as the entirety of Firewalker belts out quality craftsmanship that feeds into a full-length flow across its two sides, just to say that Venomous Maximus have a clarity underlying the curling smoke of their malevolence and that all the thrust the album brings to bear leads it to a worthy destination.

Also not to be understated is the band’s attention to detail. Whether showing itself through the tape hiss that seems to pervade the record as a whole to more specific factors like the layered-in acoustics for the second half of “Fire in the Night,” the mad scientist yowl that marks the launch point for “My Machine,”  strange, almost taunting vocals on “Take on the Grave” or the fuzzer tone of “Dark Waves” that sits as well with that song’s ’70s swing as the layered shouts of “Angel Heart”‘s midsection do with its “Looks that Kill”-style riffing. Across the board, Venomous Maximus deliver a cohesiveness of concept and performance that seems in its complexity to justify the three years it took for Firewalker to surface, at the same time completely avoiding any kind of self-congratulatory indulgence and keeping their focus where it belongs: on kicking ass.

As “Take on the Grave” winds itself down and loses the drums, bass and vocals to the ether, the guitar remains to set a final moment of ambience in motion, giving Firewalker an appropriately cinematic conclusion. At the same time, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if — whenever it might surface — Venomous Maximus‘ next record didn’t start off with a similar progression to pick up right where they left off. That’s calling a shot in the dark, maybe, but something about that last minute or so feels just as much like a beginning as an ending, and time will of course tell if it winds up being precisely that. Either way, Venomous Maximus‘ second album should more than thrill anyone who got on board with the first, and it’s bound to turn plenty of new heads in their direction as well, as it grabs and holds attention with likewise ease and poise. They’d probably object to the album being called classy, but it is anyway.

Venomous Maximus, Firewalker (2015)

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Shadow Kingdom Records

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Sweat Lodge Premiere “Heavy Head” from Talismana

Posted in audiObelisk on July 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

sweat lodge

Austin four-, maybe five-piece Sweat Lodge will release their debut album, Talismana, via Ripple Music on Aug. 7. A vinyl-ready nine-track/35-minute offering, its unpretentious oldschool-is-the-new-newschool rollout owes some of its modus to West Coast boogie, but true to their Texan roots, the sound across songs like opening hook-megaphone “Tramplifier,” “Bed of Ashes” and “Phoenix Ascent” is somewhat earthier, touching on classic heavy rock and psychedelic influences but refusing to play entirely to one or the other. There are times when the lineup — vocalist Cody Lee Johnston, guitarists Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson, bassist Austin Shockley and drummer Caleb Dawson — call to mind what might’ve happened had Freedom Hawk and Graveyard ever decided to collaborate, most especially on cuts like “Slow Burn” and “Black Horizon,” but though their ultimate path is straight ahead, the well-vested Sweat Lodge work enough swing and swagger into their approach across the board that the only real choice is to get down and go along for the ride.

They make it a worthy endeavor across the board, and while perhaps in part because of the title one might wait for Sweat Lodge to veer into some vague cultish theatrics, Talismana keeps its all-seeing eye on the prize of ’70s-ish biker motor-riffing and rhythmic sweat lodge talismanasway, the title-track maybe touching lyrically on some of that finding itself fluidly enacting tempo shifts via either-call-it-stoner-or-don’t riffs and swirling leads and echoes. Like a lot of the record, it is not as simple as it first appears — a dreamout taking hold and liquefying the proceedings only to resolidify prior to the finish — but Sweat Lodge make short work of finding a cohesive vibe through such turns, nodding at Deep Purple with “Black Horizon” before the especially ’70s “Boogie Bride” takes hold as the longest cut on Talismana at a manageable 5:51, a summertime fuzz holding firm for the course even as the verses seem to be impatient in their move toward the inevitable leads, the two sides coming together ultimately as Johnston‘s vocals top the semi-psych apex and then let the rocker blues carry out to the whistling start of the penultimate “Heavy Head,” a somewhat more laid back mood but an irresistible roll all the same and one of the record’s catchiest moments.

This careening, deceptively efficient, swinging but not reckless and aesthetically coherent course ends out with “Banshee Call,” somewhat more atmospheric at its start and maybe a bit moodier but still nowhere near overblown. If anything, it underlines the control that Sweat Lodge exercise over the span of Talismana as a whole, which — especially considering it’s the band’s first full-length — is doubly impressive given how poised they manage to remain while letting loose.

I’m thrilled today to host a track premiere for “Heavy Head,” which you’ll find on the player below, followed by some more info off the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

The Austin, TX outfit have made good on their promise with a record that delivers more than you could possibly ever ask from it. Pillaging and plundering some of the most explosive eras of hard rock, heavy psychedelia and proto-metal with a conviction and execution rarely found this side of the millennium, in short, Sweat Lodge’s potential is one that knows no bounds.

Seizing on the southern grooves of Fu Manchu, Saint Vitus and the blues-driven majesty of 70s legends Mountain and fellow Texans ZZ Top, across Talismana – riff after punishing riff, howl after soulful howl – the vintage sound of rock ‘n’ roll reigns supreme, sparked through an engine of uncompromising youth. As anyone who witnessed the band’s debut TV appearance on Last Call With Carson Daly in March will testify, charismatic front man and vocalist Cody Lee Johnston’s ability to bring it on home is hypnotic. Backed by the gnarled bass fuzz of Austin Shockley, the Bonham-esque drum play of Caleb Dawson and guitar interplay of Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson, the band will be unstoppable in 2015 and Talismana an essential record for fans of the genre.

Talismana by Sweat Lodge will be released on 7th August on Ripple Music.

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