[Click play above to stream Sweat Lodge’s cover of ZZ Top’s ‘Precious and Grace’ from their Tokens for Hell EP, out March 10 on Brutal Panda Records. Preorders are available here and here.]
After being snagged by Ripple Music for an initial release, the 2015 debut album from Austin’s Sweat Lodge, Talismana (review here), linked arms as well with Brutal Panda Records for a vinyl pressing. Why either or both labels would want to stand behind the album is little mystery. Sweat Lodge, who had only a 2013 demo out prior aptly-named the Sweat Lodge Tape Demo EP, presented coherent neo-bikerisms and boogie with psychedelic flourish. They sounded like a band who had their heads and hearts in the right places and one who, if they hit the road properly, had the potential to grow into a considerable force in terms of songwriting and style. So it goes.
With their Tokens for Hell EP, also on Brutal Panda, the four-piece of vocalist Cody, guitarist Bones, bassist Shock and drummer Caleb kiss it all up and mark the beginning of what may or may not be a permanent hiatus. They’re hardly the first group with promise to split before really developing to their fullest — I don’t have the math to back this up, but it probably happens daily — and it’s always kind of a bummer. Perhaps even more for the affirmation of what might have been that the four tracks of Tokens for Hell present, showcasing as they do a band staying true to their roots — if being from Texas, playing heavy rock and covering ZZ Top doesn’t qualify as that, nothing does — while stepping forward from their first record toward even more realized fare. Heck of a way to say goodbye.
One always tends to want that which is unavailable — if you don’t believe me, hit the vinyl market on Discogs sometime — but it’s hard to listen to Tokens for Hell and not think of Sweat Lodge as letting go of noteworthy chemistry. Across “Life Goes On” (4:40), “Lost the Sun” (5:00), “Precious and Grace” (2:58; the aforementioned ZZ Top cover, also taken on by Queens of the Stone Age as a bonus track for 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze) and “Tokens for Hell” (3:16) itself, they bring together heavy ’10s retroism with a particularly Sabbathian bent, as the opener shows by a direct turn in its middle third toward a riff and spaciousness that recalls 1975’s “Megalomania” from the recently-retired heavy metal forefathers.
The production only bolsters this feel, but the side-effect is an atmospheric sensibility to what might otherwise have been raw riffing, from which Tokens for Hell benefits greatly throughout its brief span, front to back. “Precious and Grace” is perhaps the most earthbound inclusion, placed third of the four, but on the preceding “Lost the Sun,” Sweat Lodge turn that five-minute runtime into a sprawl of mellow psych-prog verses and swirling hooks, engaging a depth that moves easily from its soothing start into a more upbeat jam before shifting back to quieter territory to close out, a charming guitar solo and piano interplay marking the finish. It’s a subtle expansion of the arrangement, but does much to add to the overarching vibe of ’70s influence, and the smoothness with which difficult transitions are carried out in “Lost the Sun” is not to be understated. At their most uptempo, Sweat Lodge are a lot of fun, but if you wanted definitive proof there’s more to them than a vintage stylization and a cool logo, it’s right there.
As noted, “Precious and Grace” brings Tokens for Hell toward less a less astral mindset, but echo on Cody‘s vocals and the fuzz in the guitar and bass keep it tied to the original material in terms of overall sound, and to understate it, it fits. That’s true structurally as well, as Shock runs basslines under a midsection lead from Bones and Caleb holds the thrust together — a four-piece doing the work of one of the most essential power trios of all time. Its bounce is there and gone, defined in part by its abiding lack of pretense, and that leaves Sweat Lodge to finish with “Tokens for Hell” itself, a Kadavar-style hook-minded final composition that speaks with some measure of self-awareness of coins being placed on eyes in a memorial ritual to which the EP turns out all along to have been leading.
Also executing. Many bands who call it quits, whether they leave it open to working together again in the future, as Sweat Lodge have, or go out in a fiery blitz of argument and drama, don’t get to give a proper farewell. These days, those that don’t just fade away after what becomes a swansong release in hindsight do a sad post on social media and that’s pretty much it. Their work stagnates in the judgment of residual ‘likes’ and digital plays through whatever outlet. If they’re lucky, a reissue happens somewhere along the line. What fate ultimately waits for Sweat Lodge is still to be determined — one never says never in rock and roll, especially when it comes to bands breaking up and getting back together — but they’re fortunate to have been in a place relationship-wise where, if they were going to go out, they could do so on their own terms. Tokens for Hell leaves no doubt they’re doing just that, and underscores the righteous presence they represented in the first place.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
For anyone who sat the results of or perhaps even voted in the 2016 Year-End Poll back in December, I don’t need to tell you that Wo Fat released something special in 2016’s Midnight Cometh (review here), bringing their swamp-fuzz to the fore of Texas’ mighty underground and stepping forward yet again as one of the American underground’s most resonant purveyors of riffs and jams. The character Wo Fat have developed in their sound, record by record, continues to set new standards, both for themselves and for those smart enough to pick up their influence. One expects the latter is a number that will keep growing.
This June, Wo Fat and compatriot Lone Star Staters The Well — who’ll spend much of 2017 back and forth between the US and Europe supporting their own 2016 release, Pagan Science (review here), will head east to play Maryland Doom Fest 2017 (info here), and it looks like they’re making a proper trip of it. Tour info came down the PR wire, and you can find it after the lanky poster for the run below:
WO FAT announce East Coast tour with The Well this June along with Maryland Doom Fest appearance
Midnight Cometh is out now on Ripple Music
Following the critical success of last year’s Midnight Cometh album on Ripple Music, Wo Fat will sling their Texas-sized psychedelic doom across the East Coast of America this June.
Over the course of a sonic odyssey which spans six studio albums, one live recording and two splits, they have stayed true to the deep, dark blues that wail from within and have continually infused their riffs with primal grooves. Having secured their legendary status within the stoner rock community by appearing on much coveted bills at Roadburn, Desertfest, Freak Valley Festival, HellFest and Psycho California, the band is currently readying themselves for a nine-date tour with fellow Texans The Well.
Kicking off the chaos in Oklahoma on the 17th, Wo Fat and The Well hit the road and will end their run at the annual Maryland Doom Fest on 24th June. For the full list of dates see below:
17th June – The Blue Note – Oklahoma City, OK 18th June – The Riot Room – Kansas City, MO 19th June – Reggies – Chicago, IL 20th June – Fifth Quarter – Indianapolis, IN 21st June – Northside Yacht Club – Cincinnati, OH 22nd June – KFN – Philadelphia, PA 23rd June – Saint Vitus (w. The Skull) – New York, NY 24th June – Maryland Doom Fest – Frederick, MD
[Click play above to stream ‘We are the Aliens’ from Evil Triplet’s debut album, Otherworld. Release date is Feb. 10 on Super Secret Records.]
Like any good rocket launch, Evil Triplet‘s Otherworld works in stages. The Austin trio make their debut on Super Secret Records with the nine-song 2LP, clocking in at an unmanageable 72 minutes and veering their way between post-punk experimentalism and laid back cosmic rock. What are the likely side splits — three songs on side A, and two each on sides B, C and D — don’t quite tell the whole tale of how the album breaks down over a linear CD/DL listen, but one way or another, Evil Triplet conjure a sonic goo of just-sub-blissful tonality and keep themselves grounded despite never seeming to actually fully come to earth. Even on “Get a Job,” which is the most depressing song I’ve heard this month, they retain an airy undertone in the guitar work of Steve Marsh (also vocals) atop the push of drummer Kirk Laktas and the bass of Joe Volpi.
Despite this being Evil Triplet‘s first offering, all three members of the band have a history behind them, with Marsh having been in Terminal Mind, while Laktas has played in Cinders and My Education, among others, and Volpi in The Flood as well as Cinders and others. Does that experience help them keep afloat as “Get a Job” veers into a wash of downer abrasion toward its finish or help them balance space rock and structural nuance on opening duo “Star Ladder” and “Fungus?” I don’t know, but clearly these guys have had fun being weirdos for a long time, and now they’re very clearly having fun being weirdos together. Texas has a long tradition of anything-goes noise-infused anti-genre rock and roll. Evil Triplet fit well into it by not fitting at all.
There are moments where one is reminded of fellow Austin-dweller Mark Deutrom and his work with Bellringer‘s debut album last year, but as Evil Triplet move past side A and continue to flesh out across the dreamy “Planet I’m On” and the extended, mostly-drifting 10:55 “Post Group Date Scene” on side B, their vision becomes more distinct. Infused with organ and an initially wistful guitar strum, “Planet I’m On” holds some measure of sentimentality even after Marsh‘s vocals and Laktas‘ drums kick in and it swells to a more active thrust en route to a lengthy guitar solo that arrives just past the three-minute mark and does not relinquish until the end; Evil Triplet setting the course outward and following it vividly. “Post Group Date Scene” works in more of a late-’60s psychedelic vein as regards the guitar and background swirl, with vocals that seem to nod at Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson and lost desert ceremonies in general. An emergent gallop leads to another flowing solo from Marsh, over toms and a fluid bassline, and just before eight minutes in, Laktas changes the drum progression to a more active beat and carries the rest of the track outward, like some lost moment that George Martin would’ve made The Beatles fade out of — all that’s missing is backmasked hidden messages about who buried whom.
The subsequent turn into “Pyramids” might feel more earthly, with its chug and straightforward beginning, but in reality the song is the beginning point of Otherworld‘s next stage — the second LP. Listening to digital files, one could argue “Post Group Date Scene” as the stretch that breaks them through the atmosphere. I’m not inclined to fight either way, but hearing the tracks with four sides in mind, even rounding out the first platter with the record’s longest track feels like a setup for what’s to come in side C’s “Pyramids” (9:02) and “We are the Aliens” (8:59), and side D’s “Worship Satin” (7:16) and “Road Trips” (10:13), and those turn out to be where the expanse in Evil Triplet‘s approach more fully takes hold.
By the start of side C, Evil Triplet have already shown they’re ready to let a song go where it will behind Marsh‘s guitar, and the back half of “Pyramids” works similarly with an improvised feel, departing its verses in favor of a swirling psych jam, effects layered across for added texture that fade out into the speedier push of “We are the Aliens,” which makes a fitting complement for its catchiness early on and departure into a reach of effects noise that winds up being the last element remaining after the rest of the song has split, like some lost radio broadcast sent outside the solar system. Keys play a significant role in the jam, setting a relatively simple progression under the guitar that gives Volpi and Laktas another element to work with in the rhythm. Spaced. Thoroughly. When Evil Triplet decide to go, they go.
Side D opener “Worship Satin” (get it?) finds an anchor early on in repetitions of its title, listing various places and times one might worship satin, but has notions of its own departure lurking beneath the surface that, sure enough, come to fruition as it marches through its second half, this time even with Laktas getting in on the noise wash via cymbal crash and tom runs — a fitting cacophony that, though the song is shorter, is no less striking than that of “We are the Aliens” or “Pyramids” before it. All this space makes “Road Trips” a somewhat curious end. Tires on asphalt? That doesn’t run on nuclear fusion! Nonetheless, with a subtle emotional current of piano alongside the wailing guitar, “Road Trips” begins surprisingly tethered to terra firma, and as Marsh runs through a list of places been, things seen and deeds done, missed buses and so on, the vibe is an engaging blend of the lysergic and the lucid.
Of course, they arrive in Fresno and that becomes the locale from which the song shifts into its final instrumental movement, but the piano stays, so as much as the guitar turns to scorch, there’s still something to keep a foot on the ground before the somewhat cold, sudden ending. It makes a difference, and though Evil Triplet‘s scope proves plenty wide throughout Otherworld, the last of its motions adds a reminder to the listener of a consciousness at work driving all the madness surrounding. No challenge to chalk that up to experience on the part of the trio, but there are plenty who’ve been around for whom the sorts of chaos in which Evil Triplet traffic would simply be too much to hold together. On their sprawling debut, they handle it easily.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
“We don’t talk. We’re just Stone Machine Electric.” So begins the (spoken) introduction to Vivere, the new live album from the Texas two-piece to complement their 2016 studio offering, Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here). Opening with the rumbles and roll of “I am Fire,” Vivere also features “Dreaming,” “PorR” and “I am Fire (Slightly Burned)” from the record, as well as a couple off-the-cuff transitional pieces and for those of us who’ve yet to have the pleasure of seeing the band live, it’s an appreciated glimpse of the flow that William “Dub” Irvin and Mark Kitchens are able to bring to the stage these days. A mix by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump doesn’t hurt either, of course.
It’s true though, they don’t have much to say throughout the set banter-wise, but as it’s streaming in full now I think you’ll find that only makes the listening experience more immersive. If you didn’t check out Sollicitus es Veritatem, you should, but whether you have prior knowledge of these tracks or not, they’re still likely to swallow you whole, so while advised as a proper course, it’s not 100 percent necessary. Can’t imagine that if you take the time to listen to Vivere you’re not going to want to chase the studio versions down anyhow, so either way.
Better band than people know.
Off The Record Label based in The Netherlands has got the CDs for “VIVERE” on the way to us! So you folks in the states will be able to get them from us soon. The release date is scheduled for 01/27/2017. You can order from www.clearspot.nl, or if you are in The Netherlands, go by Off The Record’s shop and get one. Tjeerd will also be sending some copies to All That is Heavy for distribution in the states.
Here’s the track list for the album: I Am Fire “mindless meanderings” Dreaming “invented passages” PorR I Am Fire (Slightly Burned)
Recorded live on June 3rd, 2016 at the Doublewide in Dallas, TX by Rob Stercraw. Mixed by Kent Stump and mastered by Ryan Lee at Crystal Clear Sound. Available on CD from Off the Record Label –www.offtherecordlabel.com
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
At least Sweat Lodge are going out on their own terms. A lot of bands, they just fade away. A record happens, or maybe a tour happens, then nothing happens. You just stop seeing the name around. The Austin, Texas-based outfit, who made an energetic debut with Talismana (review here) circa 2015, may be calling it quits, but as the new single “Life Goes On” from their upcoming Tokens for Hell EP demonstrates, just because you’re going out doesn’t mean you can’t go out loud. The track brings together the upbeat vibes of Kadavar with a production that seems specifically tuned to Black Sabbath‘s “Megalomania” for its reference point, and that’s just fine from where I sit.
They’ve got tapes available for preorder now through Brutal Panda Records, they also cover ZZ Top on the four-song offering, and they hint at shows during SXSW in March, so yeah, they seem to have a handle on the whole not-gonna-be-a-band thing. Will hope to see them back soon though.
From the PR wire:
SWEAT LODGE Announce New EP Tokens For Hell; Release New Single
Austin, TX hard rock / heavy psych quartet SWEAT LODGE have announced their final release as a band, a four song EP titled Tokens For Hell. After almost seven years as a group, the band has decided to end on a high note with their most accomplished songcraft to date.
Formed in 2010, SWEAT LODGE released their debut self-titled EP in 2013 and their first full-length Talismana in 2015. SWEAT LODGE performed with YOB, Acid King, Earthless, The Sword, Pentagram, Monolord and Beastmaker during their tenure as a band. The band commented on their final release:
“We really appreciate all the support we’ve had from fans along with all the great bands we’ve got to share time with but at least for the time being we’re going to concentrate on growing the family with the addition of Austin’s twins and a new guitarist for Sweat Lodge in the future. We love y’all Keep an eye out for the Sweat Trio during SXSW”
Tokens For Hell will see it’s release on March 10th via Brutal Panda Records. The EP will be available digitally and as a limited-edition cassette. Pre-Orders for the cassette are available HERE with digital pre-orders available HERE.
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell tracklisting: 1. Life Goes On 2. Lost The Sun 3. Precious and Grace (ZZ Top Cover) 4. Tokens For Hell
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
In 2015, ultra-respected Italian print ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum did a story in its 19th issue (review here) highlighting the prodigious and sometimes bizarre Houston noise rock scene. Around the same time, the label wing of the same publication hooked up with the Linus Pauling Quartet to release the early-2016 full-length, Ampalanche (review here), basically putting their money where their mouth is. Or at very least continuing to in a manner beyond the already considerable factor of running a print outlet in the 2010s.
Seems fair to look at Vincebus Eruptum Recordings picking up Houston’s Project Grimm (ex-The Mike Gunn) to issue their first album in well over a decade, The Crass Menagerie, as an extension of the same impulse. The record is set to arrive on Feb. 15, and feature eight tracks split up over two sides of a vinyl limited to just 300 copies, 100 red, 200 black, that, when you buy it direct from the label, come with a copy of Vincebus Eruptum No. 21.
Preorders are up now. Vincebus Eruptum Recordings posted the following info on the subject:
PROJECT GRIMM “The Crass Menagerie”
Issue date: 15th of February 2017
Limited edition vinyl (VELP016): 300 copies (100 copies on red vinyl + 200 copies on black vinyl)
Track-list: A1 – E. Pluribus Merman A2 – Solvent A3 – Cloud No Larger Than A Man’s Hand A4 – New Two B1 – Deliveryman’s Threat B2 – Cartographer B3 – Grifters B4 – A German Beach
The first album by the Houston cult band after 15 years!!! From the ashes of THE MIKE GUNN to that heavy-psych unique sound! The trio is composed by John Cramer (ex Mike Gunn) on guitar and vocals, Drew Calhoun on bass and Ricky Costello on drums.
THAT VINYL WILL BE SHIPPED TOGETHER WITH A FREE COPY OF VINCEBUS ERUPTUM MAGAZINE N.21
The cost contains the fee to subscribe and/or the donation to the Associazione Culturale VINCEBUS ERUPTUM
With their new video, Houston bizarro heavy rockers Funeral Horse are more or less saying goodbye to their 2015 album, Divinity for the Wicked (review here), but true to form, that’s hardly all they’re saying. The clip premiering below for “Underneath all that Ever Was” starts off with a Stranger Things reference, digs into a narrative about a downer bureaucrat — played by drummer Chris Bassett — working a suicide prevention hotline and not caring, cuts suddenly to guitarist/vocalist Walter “Paul Bearer” Carlos on his phone waiting to shoot for his solo, and then goes back to Bassett‘s character drinking at his desk, only to be visited by Death, who very cleverly high-fives him, ending his life, and leaving a slew of distraught people on the other end of the suicide hotline.
Got all that? If so, you’re one up on me. Fortunately, director Larry Czach — who also worked with the band on their video for “There will be Vultures” (posted here) — was on it, but suffice it to say it’s very much Funeral Horse‘s thing to be on their own wavelength, so they’re right at home in “Underneath all that Ever Was” in addition to being part of a longstanding tradition of weirdo Texan noisemakers. The three-piece have a few live dates in the Lone Star State this month at which they’ll introduce new bassist Clint Rater, and then it’s back to preparations for their next full-length, which will presumably be out sometime before the end of the year, likely on Artificial Head Records. I’d make a prediction as to when specifically, but I think both the song and video below bear out the futility of trying to predict anything when it comes to Funeral Horse.
A few words from Carlos and Bassett follow, as well as the tour dates.
Funeral Horse, “Underneath all that Ever Was” official video
Walter Carlos on making the video:
Working on this video was an intense experience in that it was more like a movie production. We purposely wanted to make something that had more of a cinematic quality to it rather than standard band footage. At one point, we did have some live shots of the band, but that got scrapped in production in favor of the guitar diva scene. We decided on the song “Underneath All That Ever Was“ because it’s not only one of our favorites to play live, it’s one of our darkest topics… which fit with the theme of the failed suicide prevention consultant from the video.
This marks the second collaboration between the band and Larry Czach –- who produced the video for “There Shall Be Vultures” –- also from the current record. Larry has a long history in the Houston music scene -– going back to 1970 when he ran lights for psychedelic rock bands that came to town.
Chris Bassett on making the video:
It was a blast working on this video! We got to work on a lot of ideas to help bring the story to life. Working with Larry was a breeze. He listened to our ideas but also had some neat tricks up his sleeve for capturing the essence of what the story was all about. I think it worked out quite well.
Funeral Horse January Texas Tour (with Shadow Giant from Louisiana) 01/25 Satellite Bar (Houston, TX) 01/26 Black Monk (Corpus Christi, TX) 01/27 TBA (McAllen, TX) 01/28 Faust (San Antonio, TX)
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Now having spanned multiple years since starting way back in 2016, this Quarterly Review ends today with writeups 51-60 of the total 60. I’ve said I don’t know how many times that I could go longer, but the fact of the matter is it would hit a point where it stopped being a pleasant experience on my end and I’d rather keep things fun as much as possible rather than just try to cram in every single release that ever came my way. Make sense? It might or it might not. I can’t really decide either. From the bottom of my heart though, as I stare down the final batch of records for this edition of the Quarterly Review, I thank you for reading. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #51-60:
Crippled Black Phoenix, Bronze
Nine albums and just about 10 years on from their 2007 debut, A Love of Shared Disasters, the UK’s Crippled Black Phoenix arrive on Season of Mist with the full-length Bronze and remain as complex, moody and sonically resolute as ever. If we’re lucky, they’ll be the band that teaches a generation of heavy tone purveyors how to express emotion in songwriting without giving up the impact of their material, but the truth is that “Champions of Disturbance (Pt. 1 & 2),” “Deviant Burials,” “Scared and Alone” and take-your-pick-from-the-others are about so much more depth than even the blend of “heavy and moody” conveys. To wit, the spacious post-rock gaze of “Goodbye Then” gives a glimpse of what Radiohead might’ve turned into had they managed to keep their collective head out of their collective ass, and the penultimate “Winning a Losing Battle” pushes through initial melancholia into gurgling, obtuse-but-hypnotic drone before making a miraculous return in its finish – then closer “We are the Darkeners” gets heavy. Multi-instrumentalist, founder and chief songwriter Justin Greaves is nothing shy of a visionary, and Bronze is the latest manifestation of that vision. One doubts it will be the last.
Nothing shy about Trouble in Eden, the third full-length from San Jose heavy rockers Zed and second for Ripple Music. From its hey-look-guys-it’s-a-naked-chick cover to the raw vocal push from Pete Sattari –which delves into more melodic fare early on “The Only True Thing” and in rolling closer “The Mountain,” but keeps mostly to gruff grown-up-punker delivery throughout – the 10-tracker makes its bones in cuts like “Blood of the Fallen” and the resonant hook of “Save You from Yourself,” which are straightforward in intent, brash in execution and which thrive on a purported “rock the way it should be” mentality. Well, I don’t know how rock should be, but Zed – Sattari, guitarist Greg Lopez, bassist Mark Aceves and drummer Rich Harris – play to classic structures and seem to bring innate groove with them wherever they go on the album, be it the one-two punch of “High Indeed” and “So Low” or the Clutch-style bounce in the first half of “Today Not Tomorrow,” which leaves one of Trouble in Eden’s most memorable impressions both as a song and as a summary of their apparent general point of view.
Limited to just 200 copies on We Empty Rooms and Gotta Groove Records, the Collective Fictions split 180g LP between Melbourne noise duo Dead and Mark Deutrom (Bellringer, Clown Alley, ex-Melvins) is a genuine vinyl-only release. No digital version. That in itself gives it something of a brazen experimentalism, never mind the fact that one can barely tell where one track ends and the next track starts. Purposeful obscurity? Maybe. It’s reportedly one of a series of four LPs Dead are working on for the next year-plus, and they present two cuts in “Masonry” and “In the Car,” moving through percussion and mid-range drone to build a tense jazz on the former as drummer Jem and bassist Jace make room for the keys and noise of BJ Morriszonkle, which continue to play a prominent role in “In the Car” as well, which is also the only inclusion on Collective Fictions to feature vocals, shortly before it rumbles and long-fades snare hits to close out Dead’s side of the LP, leaving Deutrom – working here completely solo – thoroughly dared to get as weird as he’d like. An opportunity of which he takes full advantage. Over the course of four tracks, he unfurls instrumentalist drone of various stripes, from the nighttime soundscaping of “The Gargoyle Protocol,” which seems to answer the percussive beginning of Dead, through the spacier reverb loneliness of “Presence of an Absence,” like a most pastoral, less obtuse Earth, dreamy but sad in a way that denotes self-awareness on the part of the title, or at very least effective evocation thereof. Likewise, “Bring the Fatted Calf,” with its gong hits, Master Musicians of Bukkake-style jingling and minimalist volume swells, is duly ritualistic, which makes one wonder what the prog-style keys at the open of “View from the Threshold” are looking at. Deutrom moves through that side-closer patiently but fluidly and ends at a drone, tying up Collective Fictions as something of a curio in intent and execution. By that I mean what seems to have brought the two parties together was a “Hey, wanna get weird?” impulse, but each act makes their own level and then works on it, so hell yes, by all means, get weird.
Any record that starts with a narration beginning, “In the not too distant future…” is going to find favor with my MST3K-loving heart. So begins The Apocalypse Trilogies: Spacewolf and Other Dark Tales, the cumbersomely-named but nonetheless engaging Salt of the Earth Records debut full-length from Toronto’s Ol’ Time Moonshine, whose 2013 The Demon Haunted World EP (review here) also found favor. The burl-coated outing is presented across three chapters, each beginning with its own narration and comprising three subsequent tracks – trilogies – tying into its theme as represented in the cover art by vocalist/guitarist Bill Kole, joined in the band by guitarist Chris Coleiro, bassist John Kendrick and drummer Brett Savory. They shift into some more complex fare on the instrumental “Lady of Light” before the final chapter, but at its core The Apocalypse Trilogies remains a (very) heavy rock album with an undercurrent of metal, and whatever else Ol’ Time Moonshine bring to it in plotline, they hold fast to songwriting as the most crucial element of their approach.
Italian four-piece Ufosonic Generator (also stylized as one word: UfosonicGenerator) make themselves at home straddling the line between doom and classic boogie rock on what seems to be their debut album, the eight-track The Evil Smoke Possession, released through Minotauro Records. Marked out by the soaring and adaptable vocals of Gojira – yup – the band offer proto-metal shuffle on shorter early cuts “A Sinful Portrait” and the rolling nod of “At Witches’ Bell,” but it’s the longer pairing of “Meridian Daemon” (7:47) and “Silver Bell Meadows” (6:53) on which one finds their brew at highest potency, sending an evil eye Cathedral’s way without forgetting the Sabbathian riffery that started it all or the Iron Maiden-gallop it inspired. They cap with the suitable lumber of their title-track and pick up toward the finish as if to underscore the dueling vibes with which they’ve been working all along. Ultimately, the meld isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it does pay homage fluidly across The Evil Smoke Possession’s span, and as a debut, it sets Ufosonic Generator forward with a solid foundation on which to progress.
Issued digitally in late-2015 and subsequently snagged for a 2016 vinyl issue through Krauted Mind, Nocturnes is the debut full-length from Dublin five-piece Mother Mooch, and in its eight tracks, they set their footing in a genre-spanning aesthetic, pulling from slow-motion grunge, weighted heavy rock, psychedelic flourish and even a bit of punk on the shorter, upbeat “My Song 21” and “L.H.O.O.Q.” Those two tracks prove crucial departures in breaking up the proceedings and speak well of a penchant on the part of vocalist Chloë Ní Dhúada, guitarists Sid Daly (also backing vocals) and Farl, bassist Barry Hayden and drummer Danni Nolan toward sonic diversity. They bring a similar sensibility to the closing Lead Belly cover “Out on the Western Plain” as well, whereas cuts like opener “This Tempest,” “Into the Water” and “Misery Hill” work effectively to find a middle ground between the stylistic range at play. That impulse, seemingly innate to their songraft, is what will allow them to continue to develop their personality as a band and is not to be understated in how pivotal it is to this first LP.
To my knowledge, this only-70-pressed five-song tape release is the second self-titled EP from off-kilter North Carolina heavy rockers The Asound following a three-songer back in 2011 (review here). Offered by Tsuguri Records, the new The Asound starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the 6:54 “Moss Man” and touches on earliest, most righteous High on Fire-style brash, but holds to its own notions about what that that blend of groove and gallop should do. Through splits with Flat Tires (review here), Magma Rise (review here), Lenoir Swingers Club (review here) and Mark Deutrom (review here), the trio of Guitarist/vocalist Chad Wyrick, bassist Jon Cox and drummer Michael Crump have always had an element of the unpredictable to their sound, and that’s true as centerpiece “Human for Human” revives the thrust of the opener coming off “Controller”’s less marauding rhythm, but the sludgy rollout and later airy lead-work of “Pseudo Vain” and chugging nod of closer “Throne of Compulsion” speaks to the consciousness at play beneath the unhinged vibes that’s been there all along. They’ve sounded ready for a while to make a full-length debut. They still sound that way.
Immediate bonus points to Richmond, Virginia’s Book of Wyrms for titling a track on their full-length debut “Infinite Walrus,” but with the Garrett Morris-recorded tones they proffer with the seven-song/53-minute Sci-Fi/Fantasy (on Twin Earth Records), they don’t really need bonus points. The five-piece of vocalist Sarah Moore Lindsey, six-stringers Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven mostly avoid the sounding-like-Windhand trap through stretches of upbeat tempo, theremin and other noise flourish, and harmonies on guitar, but they’re never far from an undercurrent of doom, as opener “Leatherwing Bat” establishes and the long ambient midsection and subsequent nod of centerpiece “Nightbong” is only too happy to reinforce. “All Hallows Eve” gets a little cliché with its samples, but the dueling leads on 11-minute closer “Sourwolf” and included keyboard noise ensure proper distinction and mark Book of Wyrms as having come into their first long-player with a definite plan of action, which finds them doing well as a showcase of potential and plenty immersive in the here and now.
Despite the sort of cross-cultural ritualism of its cover art, Oxblood Forge’s self-titled debut EP has only the firmest of ideas where it’s coming from. The Whitman, Massachusetts-based five-piece boasts former Ichabod vocalist Ken MacKay as well as bassist Greg Dellaria from that band, and guitarist Robb Lioy (also in Four Speed Fury with MacKay) alongside guitarist Josh Howard and drummer Chris Capen, and in a coherent, vigilantly straightforward five-tracker they touch on aggressive fare in “Lashed to the Mast” as their Northeastern regionalism would warrant – we’re all very angry here; it’s the weather – and demonstrate a knack for hooks in “Inferno” and “Sister Midnight,” the latter blending screams and almost Torche-style melodies over clam chowder riffing before closer “Storm of Crows” opens foreboding with Dellaria’s bass and moves into the short release’s nastiest fare, MacKay sticking to harsher vocals as on the earlier “Night Crawler,” but in a darker instrumental context. They set a range here, and might be feeling things out in terms of working together as this band, but given the personnel involved and their prior familiarity with each other, it’s hard to imagine that if a follow-up is in the offing it’ll be all that long before it arrives. Consider notice served.
Ukrainian trio The Heavy Crawls set out as a duo called just The Crawls and released a self-titled debut in 2013 that was picked up in 2015 by ultra-respected German imprint Nasoni Records. Under the new moniker, they get another stab at a first album with the 10-track/42-minute classic rocker The Heavy Crawls, the three-piece of founding guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Max Tovstyi, drummer Inessa Joger and keyboardist/vocalist/percussionist Iryna Malyshevska evoking spirited boogie and comfortable groove on “She Said I Had to Wait” and the handclap-stomping “Girl from America.” Elements of garage rock show up on “Too Much Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the soul-swinging “I Had to Get Away,” but The Heavy Crawls are more interested in establishing a flow than being showy or brash, and the payoff for that comes in eight-minute closer “Burns Me from Inside,” which stretches out the jamming sensibility that earlier pieces like the organ-laced “One of a Kind” and the staccato “Friday, 13th” seem to be driving toward. Some growing to undertake, but the pop aspect in The Heavy Crawls’ songcraft provides intrigue, and their (second) debut shows a righteous commitment to form without losing its identity to it.