Friday Full-Length: Lord Vicar, Signs of Osiris

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

It has only ever been appropriate that the cover art of Lord Vicar albums should be classical-style paintings. Their work on the whole is very much about being in conversation with masters even as they’ve emerged as masters themselves, and it adds to the poise within their traditionalist doom, while placing in context the sense of reverence for form with which their material is executed. Their second album, Signs of Osiris, was released in 2011 through The Church Within Records as the follow-up to 2008’s debut, Fear No Pain, as well as roughly concurrent splits with Griftegård and Funeral Circle (review here), on Ván Records and Eyes Like Snow, respectively. It was a busy time for the four-piece of vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson, guitarist/Mellotronist Kimi “Peter Vicar” Kärki, bassist Jussi “Iron Hammer” Myllykoski and drummer Gareth Millsted, but the clarity of their purpose continues to resound through the timeless/anachronistic doom they crafted. Kärki‘s songwriting is at the root of much of Signs of Osiris but with early contributions from Myllykoski on “The Answer” and Millsted on the multi-movement “Child Witness (Including ‘The Father’ and ‘The Pain of a Maiden’ and ‘Release’),” a sense of variety emerges throughout the 58-minute seven-tracker even beyond that which the flourish of acoustic guitar in opener “Signs of Osiris Slain” that later manifests in the acoustic-led penultimate cut “Endless November” already brings. Whether it’s longer-form pieces like the 15-minute finale “Signs of Osiris Risen (Including ‘Isis and the Needle’ and ‘The Ritual’ and ‘For the Love of War’),” or “Child Witness” and the subsequent “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower” — both of which hover around nine and a half minutes — or the more active and rolling tempos of “Signs of Osiris Slain” and the later “Sinking City,” Lord Vicar manifest doom not as an elitist standard or fodder for a backpatch or a slogan in some meme, but as an emotive and existential mode of being. It’s doom as a way of life, turned into songs.

Unavoidably, the focus on Lord Vicar will forever be Linderson and Kärki. There’s just no getting away from it, and frankly I’m not sure there should be. One’s Lord, and one’s Vicar, and the band is called Lord Vicar. More than a decade after their founding, it still doesn’t seem like an accident, and when one considers their pedigree, with Chritus having served the crusade in Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Terra Firma and more recently Lord Vicar Signs of Osirison the first two Goatess LPs, and Kärki‘s multi-faceted creative force manifest in E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, Orne, Reverend Bizarre, and so on, top billing is well earned. That said, right up there with the doomly tradition of follow-the-riff is secret-weapon-rhythm-section, and Lord Vicar live up to that on Signs of Osiris as well. Myllykoski would be out of the band by the time their third record showed up, but he and Millsted are locked in here, driving home the turns in “Sinking City” reminiscent of The Obsessed or carrying the midsection part-shifts of “Child Witness” as if to remind any and all listening that Black Sabbath at their heart were a blues band — in itself a perfect backing for Linderson, who is a better Ozzy than Ozzy has been since 1975 — while staying coherent, clear, and improbably straightforward. Even just the crashes behind the mellotron in “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower” add to the grandiosity and the drama in that song’s first half, and when Millsted‘s bass takes the forward position to set up the riff that unfolds thereafter for a short time, it is the stuff of doomed glory. It’s easy to put the focus on Linderson and Kärki, and again, I’m not sure it’s inappropriate to do so either, but Signs of Osiris demonstrates plainly from Osiris’ slaying to Osiris’ rising that Lord Vicar have always been a full band in terms of impact. Even the cymbal washes later in “Endless November” add to that track’s acoustic melody and the classical-styled folkish guitar work that Kärki would later manifest through his solo work.

That song is a highlight of the album, and not just for its departure from the tonal heft that surrounds or the manner in which it builds at its conclusion to transition into “Sign of Osiris Risen,” but the hook of “Child Witness” — strong enough to pull the band back to it even after their running through the subsections in one-after-the-next-fashion — also serves as a standout, and the rocking “The Answer” does likewise, again bringing to light what the rhythm section adds to the core of guitar and vocals. Of course, that’s not to take away from Kärki‘s craftsmanship on the opener and its companion closer, “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower,” “Sinking City” or “Endless November,” which is no less effectively consuming in its doom than one could ask it to be, or from the performance of Linderson, which is stellar in such a way as to highlight how generally undervalued he is as a frontman in the genre. After a split with Revelation in 2012 that was Myllykoski‘s final release with the band, it would be four years before they resurfaced with 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here), bringing in bassist Rich Jones, who like Millsted, is based in the UK as opposed to Finland or Sweden. This incarnation of the band would prove no less potent than the preceding, and even as Linderson split time with Goatess and Kärki explored solo work, Lord Vicar remained active in writing and performing. Gates of Flesh received a follow-up earlier this year with The Black Powder (review here), which will shortly feature again around here on the list of 2019’s best releases, as it was certainly among the most gloriously doomed offerings of the last 12 months, continuing to show the inescapable power of what Lord Vicar do to move, affect, and sway the listener to its own spiritual alignment, as did Signs of Osiris, and as might a classical painting.

They recently played Hammer of Doom in Germany and have done other appearances to support the release, and if you’re ever in a position to see them play, I can only recommend doing so.

In the meantime, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Guess the week’s over, since I’m writing a Friday Full-Length post. That’s cool. I’m sure the weekend will be super-restful.

Ha.

This week it was Wednesday. Wednesday was the hard day. Wednesday was the day I was looking at the clock unable to believe it wasn’t even 10AM yet. The Pecan and I didn’t leave the house because it was cold and looked shitty out and I couldn’t even bring myself to go outside and warm up the car, and I had nowhere to go that didn’t cost money and The Patient Mrs. and I have been living beyond our means since, well, pretty much forever. Some days that shit catches up with you, I guess. That was Wednesday.

So the kid was a nightmare pretty much the whole day. Full-on fuck-you-wreck-shit-scream-hit-kick-bite-two-year-old madness. By the early afternoon, when I put him upstairs for a nap and he didn’t even go to sleep, I was ready to collapse on an existential level. Like, “How is this my life?’ It was bad. Even relative to the bad days, it was bad.

Yesterday, by contrast, Thursday, was easier. We went out in the morning to the grocery store, and my mother came and sat with him for an hour and there was other stuff going on during the day. He napped — hour-twenty; not terrible, not great — and afterward we ran a few errands then came back to the house and he ate dinner. The Patient Mrs. had left in the morning to drive up to Massachusetts for a funeral, so for a day that was 100 percent him and me, it actually wasn’t, and it was much easier for that. Kid’s better for everyone else. My mother’ll tell you he’s a gem.

Monday’s a blur, both this past Monday and this one coming. I’m going to go see Kings Destroy play an early show at Vitus Bar in Brooklyn tomorrow night with Borracho and a couple other bands, and that’ll be good. They’re doing a live record and I expect I’ll know a good number of people in the room. Om and Kadavar are also playing New York next week, but as of now I’m not planning to get to either show. That’s probably a mistake on my part. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen either of them. I don’t know. I don’t get to spend much time with The Patient Mrs. these days, and our evenings together, even if we’re just sitting on ass watching Star Trek — actually, especially if that’s what we’re doing — have become pretty precious to me. I’ll do some math and see where I land.

So next week, that KD live review — “duh, they’re good” — plus a Church of the Cosmic Skull album review and a Doomraiser video premiere and Domo album stream later in the week. Only day I don’t yet have anything planned for is Wednesday. I’m sure something will come along, and if not, I’ve got a goddamn backlog of stuff on my desktop waiting for writeups. So yeah, it’ll be fine.

Don’t forget, The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio is on at 1PM Eastern: http://gimmeradio.com

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And don’t forget to have a great and safe weekend, to have fun and be kind.

FRM. Forum, Radio, Merch.

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Friday Full-Length: The Obsessed, Live at the Wax Museum

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

First off, I like bootlegs. The act of putting yourself in the raw moment of seeing a band play via a sometimes rough recording from a microphone somewhere in the audience. You can hear people talking between the songs, and you can hear the band as they were from the stage — no cleanup, no mixing, nothing. Bootlegs are the truest of “warts and all” presentations for live music. I’ll take a soundboard recording, to be sure, and a good-sounding A+ boot is like a gift from the gods — thinking specifically of Black Sabbath‘s Asbury Park ’75 recording (discussed here), but of course there are many examples among live and studio unofficial releases — but there’s for sure an appeal to a harsher-audio bootleg. It’s a document of a moment that would otherwise be lost to time and memory.

They’re not for everyone, and that’s cool. If they’re not for you, you might want to move on, skip to the bottom part where I bitch about life or just go about your day or whatever. But if you count yourself among the number who can be entranced by such things, and you’re a fan of the band, then the pure aural force The Obsessed display on Live at the Wax Museum should be considered utterly essential. Recorded on July 3, 1983, it first showed up in 1992 as an unofficial release through Doom Records and it wasn’t until last year that The Church Within (fittingly enough) gave it its first official pressing, with a glow the dark cover and a CD encased in a DVD-style digipak, textured artwork and all. The Obsessed have had a few archival live offerings this decade, including Live at the Melkweg November 28th 1992 and Live Music Hall Köln December 29th 1992 in 2012 when the band first got back together, but Live at the Wax Museum has a different feel, its title giving it a sense of importance as a milestone for the band: that time they were in that place. Also distinguishing Live at the Wax Museum is the fact that it was recorded some nine years before those other shows, with guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, bassist Mark Laue and drummer Dave Flood — who demolishes a drum solo in “Sister Sin” right around the middle of the set, igniting howls from the crowd — playing as intense as I’ve ever heard any incarnation of the band.

Across songs like “Concrete Cancer,” which is introduced during Wino‘s minimalist stage banter as an “old tune,” and “Touch of Everything” (a “dance tune”) and “Mental Kingdom” (a “brand new song”),

the obsessed live at the wax museum

along with 11 others for a total of 14 cuts plus an intro, The Obsessed absolutely tear into this show. There’s a minute-long intro from some preacher talking about how rock music is the devil and blah blah blah and then the three-piece rip into “Burning Gland” and there’s no going back. “Iron & Stone” and set-finale “Sodden Jackal” would show up in ’83 on the band’s first 7″ single following two should-probably-be-reissued demos — their 1984 Concrete Cancer demo was given a limited run by Relapse in 2017, so it’d be as simple as repackaging 1999’s Incarnate, I think — but what’s most striking about Live at the Wax Museum is the sheer intensity of it, and that’s something that comes through despite the rough audio. Because, let’s face it: it’s a bootleg. It ain’t a cleaned-up live record, or something that’s been remastered and remastered, the tape gone over with a fine-toothed comb to remove the static noise. It’s all there. You get to hear someone in the crowd after “Concrete Cancer” shout that “FM radio sucks!” — nothing changes — and someone else later call out for them to play some Sabbath after they nail “Mental Kingdom” — again, nothing changes — and if you’re in the right mindset listening, all of that feeds into the specific atmosphere of the release.

Maybe that’s an added academic or theoretical appeal, but Live at the Wax Museum has no shortage of highlight performance moments to go along with that, from the winding and chugging of “Failsafe” to the utterly indispensable “Neatz Brigade,” which is probably the catchiest hook Wino ever wrote — that’s a pretty vast pantheon of stuff between The ObsessedSpirit CaravanThe Hidden HandPremonition 13, and the sundry other units in which he’s been involved or led — but in terms of the way the verse builds tension for the chorus to open up and release, I can’t come up with a match for it. Especially not listening to it as it appears here. Certainly the catchiest The Obsessed tune, at the very least, and one that, 36 years later, you’re still pretty much guaranteed to see them play at every show. With good reason.

I wasn’t there in 1983 for this show. I was going on two, so let’s assume I wouldn’t have been able to make it even if I’d been aware of it, or, say, anything. But having Live at the Wax Museum as not just proof that it happened but kind of a glimpse at who The Obsessed were at the time and how much their miraculously-not-punk grit and working-class disaffection flew in the face of the burgeoning grandeur of the NWOBHM is not only helpful in explaining who they were at the time and how they earned the reputation they’ve long enjoyed, but also just a badass-sounding recording of a raw three-piece working to shape what we now know as Maryland doom. Hell yes that gets multiple spins from me.

The history of The Obsessed is tumultuous and ongoing, but their long absence ended in 2012 and in 2017, they produced the LP Sacred (review here), their first new album in some 23 years. They’ve been touring steadily for it since. They did Muddy Roots in Tennessee in August, Descendants of Crom III in Pittsburgh in September, last weekend were at Cafe 611 — home of Maryland Doom Fest — with Spiral Grave and others, and will travel to California next Spring for Psycho Smokeout. So yes, keeping busy. I don’t know if they’re planning another record or what, but they’ve got plenty of time to keep aligned with their every-two-decades pace, and I’m happy to see them play whenever the opportunity presents itself. Hearing Live at the Wax Museum only underscores why.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

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And thank you for your support.

Today is also a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. The first new one in more than a month. You hopefully already saw the playlist. It’s on at 1PM Eastern.

Listen on the Gimme app or here: http://gimmeradio.com

And thanks again for your support.

While I’m indulging shameless plugs, I’ll be at Ode to Doom tomorrow in Manhattan, presented in part by this site. Horehound, Thunderbird Divine, Mantismass and Iron Rider are playing.

Event page is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/298666037420426/

And hey, thanks for your support.

Before you say it, I know Slayer and Primus are at MSG tomorrow night. In the hallowed halls of the Knicks and Billy Joel. Cough. I won’t ever tell you not to go see Primus, and I get that it’s Slayer’s alleged farewell tour, but yeah. Seems like as regards Slayer, I’ve got my memories of seeing them destroy, and I’d rather make new memories than relive old ones. So I’ll be at Arlene’s Grocery. I’m not telling you you’re wrong for being nostalgic — Primus are one of my all-time favorite bands; I’ve loved Primus since I was single digits, and I’ve loved seeing them every chance I’ve had — or trying to get while the getting’s good, but yeah. I’ve never seen Thunderbird Divine, or Mantismass, or Iron Rider, and Horehound rule, so I’ll take the lower key option and be grateful for it.

This weekend is also my sister’s birthday, so we’re doing family dinner tonight because I’ll be out tomorrow — not at all the first time I’ve rescheduled such things for a show; these people are very indulgent, these relatives of mine — and then I guess other whatnot over the course of the next couple days that I’m sure will be good.

That’s fine. It was a shit week. They all are. I spent most of it overthinking food, yelling at a two-year-old, feeling bad for yelling at a two-year-old, getting hit, kicked and bit at various points, being wrong about fucking everything, going back and forth with homeowners insurance, waiting for the other shoe to drop that will make us have to move again and daydreaming about being dead. In any case, a little time out of my head is welcome.

Thanks to everyone who has added a list so far to the end-of-decade poll. If that’s not you, I humbly point you to the form to do so here. Include whatever you want. Have fun with it.

I think that’s the last of the plugs.

Well, unless you count all the stuff for next week. Monday is that Ode review, plus a stream of the new Midas EP. Tuesday a Canyon of the Skull album stream. Wednesday an Onhou album stream — dark, dark, dark that one is. Thursday a track premiere and review of the new Solace record that I should probably just start writing now to get it done in time. Next Friday a Czar track premiere. Whole week, nailed down. Most of the week after as well. Busy times for being the “off season” in rock and roll, but it usually is, so fair enough.

Gonna try to get my head into the day to come (still early as I write) and probably fail miserably, as I so, so often do.

Great and safe weekend. Forum, radio and NEW merch.

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Quarterly Review: Earth, Heilung, Thronehammer, Smear, Deadbird, Grass, Prana Crafter, Vago Sagrado, Gin Lady, Oven

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Deep breath. And… here we go.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. You probably know the drill by now, but just in case, here’s what’s up: starting today and through next Monday, I’ll be reviewing 10 records per day for a total of 60. I’ve done this every three months (or so) for the better part of the last five years, each one with at least 50 releases included. Some are big bands, some are new bands, some are releases are new, some older. It’s a mix of styles and notoriety, and that’s exactly the intent. It’s a ton of stuff, but that’s also the intent, and the corresponding hope is that somewhere in all of it there’s something for everyone.

I’ll check in each day at the top with what usually turns out to be a “hot damn I’m exhausted, but this is worth it”-kind of update, but otherwise, if we’re all on board, let’s just get to it. First batch below, more to come.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

Finding post-Southern Lord refuge with Sargent House in similar fashion to Boris, Earth seem to act in direct response to 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (review here) with the 10-track/62-minute Full Upon Her Burning Lips, stripping their approach down to its two essential components: Dylan Carlson‘s guitar and Adrienne Davies‘ drums. The former adds bass as well, and the latter some off-kit percussion, but that’s about as far as they go in the extended meditation on their core modus — even the straightforward photo on the cover tells the story — psychedelic and brooding and still-spacious as the music is. Gone are folk strings or vocals, and so on, and instead, they foster immersion through not-quite minimalist nod and roll, Carlson‘s guitar soundscaping atop Davies‘ slow, steady pulse. It’s not nearly so novel as the last time out, but timed to the 30th anniversary of the band, it’s a reminder that if you like Earth, this dynamic is ultimately why.

Earth on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Heilung, Futha

heilung futha

It might seem like an incongruity that something so based in traditionalism conceptually would also turn into experimentalist Viking jazz, but I defy you to hear “Galgadr,” the 10-minute opener of Heilung‘s third full-length, Futha (on Season of Mist), and call it something else. Cuts like the memorable and melodic “Norupo” and the would-be-techno-but-I-think-they’re-actually-just-beating-on-wood “Svanrand,” which, like “Vapnatak” before it, is rife with the sounds of battle, but it’s in the longer pieces, “Othan,” 14-minute closer “Hamrer Hippyer,” and even the eight-plus-minute “Elivgar” and “Elddansurin” that precede it, that Heilung‘s dramas really unfold. Led by the essential presence of vocalist Maria Franz — who could hardly be more suited to the stated theme of calling to feminine power — Heilung careen through folk and narrative and full cultural immersion across 73 minutes, and craft something willfully forward thinking from the history it embellishes.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Thronehammer, Usurper of the Oaken Throne

thronehammer usurper of the oaken throne

The reliable taste of Church Within Records strikes again in picking up Thronehammer‘s first full-length, Usurper of the Oaken Throne. The project is a dark and warmaking epic mega-doom working mostly in longform material — it’s six tracks/78 minutes, so yeah — conjured in collaboration by the trio of vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham (Lucifer’s Chalice, etc.), guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Bootsy West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and drummer/bassist Tim Schmidt (Seamount), that hits with a massive impact from 17-minute opener “Behind the Wall of Frost” into “Conquered and Erased” (11:24) and “Warhorn” (19:12), making for an opening salvo that’s a full-length unto itself and a beast of doomed grandeur that balances extremity with clearheaded presentation. They simplify the proceedings a bit for “Svarte Skyer” and the eponymous “Thronehammmer,” but are clearly in their element for the 15-minute closing title-track, which rounds out one of the best doom debuts I’ve heard so far this year with due heft and ceremony.

Thronehammer on Thee Facebooks

Church Within Records on Bandcamp

 

Smear, A Band Called Shmear

Smear A Band Called Shmear

Smear‘s live-recorded A Band Called Shmear EP is basically the equivalent of that dude getting dragged out of the outdoor concert for being at the bottom of the puffing clouds of smoke going, “Come on man, I’m not hurting anybody!” And by that I mean it’s awesome. The Eugene, Oregon, four-piece get down on some psychedelic reefer madness tapped into weirdo anti-genre tendencies that come to fruition in the verses of “Guns of Brixton” after the drifting freaker “Old Town.” The whole thing runs an extra-manageable 21 minutes, and six of that are dedicated to the fuzzed jam “Zombie” — tinged in its early going with a reggae groove — so Smear make it easy to follow their outward path, whether it’s the surf-with-no-water “Weigh” at the outset or “Quicksand,” which hints at more complex melodic tendencies almost in spite of itself. You like vibe, right? These cats have plenty to go around, and they deliver it with an absolute lack of pretense. Whatever they do next, I hope they also record it live, because it clearly works.

Smear on Thee Facebooks

Smear on Bandcamp

 

Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

One hesitates to speculate on the future of a band who’ve just taken 10 years to put out an album, but Deadbird sound vital on their awaited third full-length: III: The Forest Within the Tree (arrived late 2018 through 20 Buck Spin), and with a revamped lineup that includes Rwake vocalist Chris Terry and Rwake/The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley as well as bassist Jeff Morgan, guitarist Jay Minish and founders Phillip (drums) and Chuck (guitar) Schaaf and Alan Short — all of whom contribute vocals — Deadbird emerge from the ether with a stunningly cohesive and varied outing of post-sludge, tinged Southern in its humid tonality but still very much geared toward heft and, certainly more than I recall of their past work, melody. In just 38 minutes they push the listener into this dank world of their creation, and seem to find just as much release in experiments “11:34” and “Ending” as in the crashes of “Brought Low” or “Heyday.” Are they really back? Hell if I know, but these songs are enough to make me hope so.

Deadbird on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Grass, Fresh Grass

grass fresh grass

Brooklyn four-piece Grass released a live recording in 2017, but the late-2018 EP Fresh Grass marks their studio debut, and it comprises five tracks digging into the traditions of heavy rock with edges derived from the likes of Clutch, Orange Goblin, maybe a bit of Kyuss and modern bluesier practitioners as well in cuts like “Black Clouds” — the lone holdover from one release to the next — and the swaggering “Runaway,” which veers into vocal layering in its second half in a way that seems to portend things to come, while the centerpiece “Fire” and closer “Easy Rider” roll out in post=’70s fashion a kind of rawer modern take. Their sound is nascent, but there’s potential in their swing and the hook of opener “My Wall.” Fresh Grass is the band searching for their place within a heavy rock style. I hear nothing on it to make me think they won’t find it, and if they were opening the show, you’d probably want to show up early.

Grass on Thee Facebooks

Grass on Bandcamp

 

Prana Crafter, MindStreamBlessing

Prana Crafter MindStreamBlessing

Reissued on vinyl through Cardinal Fuzz with two bonus tracks, Prana Crafter‘s 2017 offering, MindStreamBlessing, originally saw release through Eidolon Records and finds the Washington-based solo artist Will Sol oozing through acid folk and psychedelic traditions, instrumentally constructing a shimmer that seems ready for the platter edition it’s been granted. Songs like “As the Weather Commands” and “Bardo Nectar” are experiments in their waves of meandering guitar, effects and keys, while “Mycellial Morphohum” adapts cosmic ecology to minimal spaciousness and vague spoken word. Some part of me misses vocals in the earthy “FingersFlowThroughOldSkolRiver,” but that might just also be the part of me that’s hearing Lamp of the Universe or Six Organs of Admittance influences. The interwoven layers of “Prajna Pines,” on the other hand, seem fine without; bluesy as the lead guitar line is, there’s no doubting the song’s expressive delivery, though one could easily say the same of the krautrock loops and keys and reverb-drenched solo of “Luminous Clouds.”

Prana Crafter on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Vago Sagrado, Vol. III

vago sagrado vol iii

Heavy post-rockers Vago Sagrado set a peaceful atmosphere with “K is Kool,” the opening track of their third album, Vol. III, that is hard to resist. They’ll soon enough pump in contrast via the foreboding low end of “La Pieza Oscura,” but the feeling of purposeful drift in the guitar remains resonant, even as the drums and vocals take on a kind of punkish feel. The mix is one that the Chilean three-piece seem to delight in, reveling in tonal adventurousness in the quiet/loud tradeoff of “Fire (In Your Head)” and the New Wave shuffle of “Sundown” before “Centinela” kicks off side B with the kind of groove that Queens of the Stone Age fans have been missing for the last 15 years. Things get far out in “Listen & Obey,” but Vago Sagrado never completely lose their sense of direction, and that only makes the proceedings more engaging as the hypnotic “One More Time with Feeling” leads into the nine-minute closer “Mekong,” wherein the wash teased all along comes to fruition.

Vago Sagrado on Thee Facebooks

Vago Sagrado on Bandcamp

 

Gin Lady, Tall Sun Crooked Moon

gin lady tall sun crooked moon

I’m more than happy to credit Sweden’s Gin Lady for the gorgeous ’70s country rock harmonies that emanate from their fourth album, Tall Sun Crooked Moon (on Kozmik Artifactz), from the mission-statement opener “Everyone is Love” onward, but I think it’s also worth highlighting that the 10-track outing also features the warmest snare drum sound I’ve heard maybe since the self-titled Kadavar LP. The Swedish four-piece have nailed their sound down to that level of detail, and as they touch on twang boogie in “Always Gold” or find bluesy Abbey Roadian deliverance in the more riff-led chorus of “Gentle Bird,” their aesthetic is palpable but does not trump the straight-ahead appeal of their songwriting. The closing duo of “The Rock We All Push” and the piano-soother “Tell it Like it Is” are the only two tracks to push past five minutes long, but by then the mood is well set and if they wanted to keep going, I have a hard time imagining they’d meet with complaints. Serenity abounds.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Oven, Couch Lock

oven couch lock

For an EP called Couch Lock — i.e., when you’re too stoned to even stand up — there’s an awful lot of movement on Oven‘s debut release, from the punk thrust of “Get It” to the arrogant sleaze of “Go James” and even the drums in “This Time.” And the nine-minute “Dark Matter” is basically space rock, so yeah, hardly locked to the couch there, but okay. The five-tracker is raw in its production as would seem to suit the Pennsylvania trio, but they still get their point across in terms of attitude, and a closing cover of Nebula‘s “To the Center” seems only to reinforce the notion. One imagines that any basement where they unleash that and the nod that culminates “Dark Matter” just before it would have to be professionally dehumidified afterward to get the dankness out, and an overarching sense of stoner shenanigans only adds to the good times that so much of East Coast-ish psych misses the point on. They’re having fun. You should too.

Oven on Bandcamp

Oven on Thee Facebooks

 

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Beelzefuzz to Play Last Show at Maryland Doom Fest 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Beelzefuzz will take the stage on Saturday, June 22, as part of the most packed Maryland Doom Fest lineup yet. As founding guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt recently made public, it will be the band’s last show. Ortt announced on Instagram that owing to ongoing drama surrounding the band’s name and former bassist Pug Kirby‘s claim thereupon — which is apparently valid so far as Facebook are concerned — he’s simply thrown up his hands and decided to put the band to rest.

We’ve been here before, of course. Five years ago, after making their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013, Beelzefuzz broke up owing to the same situation, and Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey — also of Pale Divineformed Righteous Bloom with Bert Hall, Jr. of Revelation on bass. They, in turn, changed the name back to Beelzefuzz in 2015 and went on to release their second album, The Righteous Bloom (review here), in 2016.

In the meantime, they’d picked up Pale Divine guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener to handle lead guitar alongside Ortt, and Ortt last year joined Pale Divine as well to back Diener‘s frontman role in that band. So, although the last incarnation of Beelzefuzz is done as of later this month in Frederick, MD, Ortt, McCloskey and Diener will apparently continue to work together — alongside bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis — in Pale Divine.

Do I think we’ve seen the last of Beelzefuzz? Probably, but who knows. They were clearly affected by the initial fallout, and even when they came back after their time as Righteous Bloom, there was an edge of been-through-it about their material. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of Ortt as a songwriter, however. He’s been doing solo shows around the Marylandosphere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some other project popped up in addition to his ongoing work in Pale Divine. Some people are just too creative to sit still for very long.

But Beelzefuzz were a band of obvious potential who, especially live, were able to capture something of the spirit of classic progressive rock along with a groove drawn out from the traditions of Maryland doom. Their personality most came through on stage, but whether you were seeing them live or listening to their records, there was never any mistaking their sound. Here’s hoping a new one from Pale Divine shows up sooner than later, and here’s to one more blowout at MDDF. At least they’ll go out among family.

https://soundcloud.com/beelzefuzz
https://beelzefuzz.bandcamp.com/
http://doom-dealer.de/

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Lord Vicar, The Black Powder: In the Bedrock

Posted in Reviews on May 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Lord Vicar The Black Powder

Lord Vicar play the doom of conviction. It’s not just a question of writing a song around a riff and putting some vocals on, but of channeling a mindset or a spiritual place through the music. It’s doom as a worldview. The Black Powder (on The Church Within) is their fourth long-player, and their first to pass the one-hour mark since their 2008 debut, Fear No Pain, as its 69 minutes make it the longest record they’ve ever done. Likewise, its 17-minute opener, “Sulfur, Charcoal and Saltpeter” — which is as close as they come to a title-track in naming the ingredients for gunpowder — is the longest single song they’ve ever produced, and with it they explore an album’s worth of textures and emotionality, guitarist Kimi Kärki switching between quiet, wistful acoustic guitar at the outset to a full-brunt tonality before opening to an airy verse underscored and filled out by Rich Jones‘ bass and held together by drummer Gareth Millsted, whose volume swaps prove no less dynamic. Atop what might be the band’s to-date masterpiece — they’ve certainly worked in longer-form material before, but never quite on the same scale — enter the vocals of Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson, which, with a voice like regrettable history itself, bolster the emotional scathe of the music.

It would be simple for The Black Powder to play out as a retread of the band’s pedigree, and no doubt there’s plenty to draw from there, with Kärki having helped inspire a generation of traditionalist European doom in Finland’s Reverend Bizarre and Orne before diving into varying kinds of experimentalism with outfits like E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr and Uhrijuhla and crafting moody folk as a solo singer-songwriter and Linderson‘s legacy in Count Raven, stint fronting Saint Vitus on 1992’s C.O.D., more rock-based outfit Terra Firma, and time in Goatess as well as the newer unit Python in Sweden. Lord Vicar could simply be an empty showpiece of doom playing to past strengths if they wanted. That’s not what’s happening on The Black Powder.

In the level of songwriting throughout — not just on the opener, but on the hooky “Descent,” which immediately follows, and down the line through the drastic tempo changes of centerpiece “The Temple in the Bedrock,” the Sabbathian rocker “Black Lines,” the acoustic “Nightmare” and closer “A Second Chance: Including The Wagoner, My Soul is Never Free, and Strict Master,” which resolves itself in setting the progressive melancholy of its last chorus directly against one of the record’s most fervent thrusts — the band show a commitment not just to the tenets of what makes doom doom, but to bringing a sense of identity through that and thereby push forward toward individualist expression. Their doom. It should be of little surprise to anyone with experience in listening to the band that it works. Returning to the studio with Joona Lukala, who engineered and mixed 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here) and has mastered all of Lord Vicar‘s full-lengths and split releases, of course brings a measure of consistency to the sound, but that allows the freshness in these compositions to stand out amid the familiar elements.

lord vicar

The concrete wall of distortion in “World Encircled” feels particularly stage-born and stage-made, while the sub-three-minute “Impact” (premiered here) is as all-go a rocker as the band has ever produced, taking the swing of the early going in “The Temple in the Bedrock” or the bridge in the prior “Levitation” and making it the central notion brought to bear in a fashion that “A Second Chance” soon enough answers back in the last payoff for the album as a whole, speeding its way to a cold finish that’s only missing the applause afterward to further the live impression. At the same time, the work Linderson is doing on vocals is a highlight unto itself, with double-track layering, flourishes of harmony, and on “Nightmare,” a laid-bare feel that’s still coated in echo and soon answered back by choral keys and drums, but still rich in its intimacy and ’70s prog/folk soulfulness, gorgeous and sad in like measure. One could say the same of much of The Black Powder, but the shift in intent on “Nightmare” makes it all the more palpable.

The band, with  has stated that the loose central concept of the album is an examination of humanity manifold failings and the numbing of self that is often the response to the simple end of getting through the day surrounded by so much horror; The Black Powder as an image of snorting gunpowder like cocaine, i.e. “Black Lines.” So be it. The notion of doom standing in judgment of society at large is nothing new, going back to Black Sabbath‘s “Hand of Doom” as a primary example, but in a way, the theme also serves as analog to the effect of the record and its songs as a whole. With Millsted and Kärki as primary songwriters, Lord Vicar reinvigorate the traditional tenets of the style in such a way as to not only stand with them, but to make them new again. Their topic could hardly be more fitting for the age in which they appear — a thousand everything-owning Neros fiddling with their genitals as the world burns — but there is more to The Black Powder than cold verdict-reaching and negativity.

Somehow, it is a personal work as well. In Linderson‘s vocals and the instrumental chemistry between Jones, Kärki and Millsted as well, there’s something vibrant shining through amidst the grimness of the matter at hand. That might be the part of humanity worth saving — humanity seems to think so — but we’re not there yet, and Lord Vicar aren’t about to posture and offer some kind of hope from out of all the terror one sees when paying even the most modest amount of attention to the world. It’s not about placating. It’s not just about condemning. It’s laying it all out and asking what the hell might come next, and The Black Powder does the same thing for Lord Vicar sonically. It’s no coincidence that it is their longest album, or that it has their longest single-song, or their greatest breadth of songwriting and performance. It is a moment to which their work has been leading, and as with every step that brought them here, it feels purposeful in the extreme. A no-brainer to call it one of 2019’s best doom records, and frankly, that’s probably underselling it.

Lord Vicar, The Black Powder (2019)

Lord Vicar on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records website

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Lord Vicar Premiere “Impact” Video from The Black Powder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lord vicar

As Lord Vicar prepare the ground for the release of their fourth full-length, The Black Powder, through The Church Within Records on May 3, the Scandinavian doomers unveil their first-ever official video. “Impact” is the shortest track on The Black Powder at a tidy 2:59 — by contrast, the album opens with “Sulfur, Charcoal and Saltpeter,” which runs 17:16 — and the clip accompanying compiles footage from the studio as the band were making the record. You can see guitarist Kimi Kärki, bassist Rich Jones and drummer Gareth Millsted playing through the instrumental tracks together and vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson adding his voice afterward, but of course it’s all edited together to give a flow, which is fair enough since flow is a major factor throughout The Black Powder as a whole.

Its nine songs run a willfully consuming 69 minutes, and if that sounds like a slog, welcome to doom. Now more than a decade removed from their debutLord Vicar The Black Powder album, Fear No PainLord Vicar have long since mastered their approach — a pedigree that includes Reverend BizarreCount Raven and Saint Vitus doesn’t hurt either — and they fill their time not with simple riff-and-nod drudgery, but with material that can’t help but be vibrant despite its so, so thoroughly doomed vibe. In that regard, as well as its lyrics, “Impact” is aptly named. It’s probably the speediest whole track on the offering, though you could get a yardstick out to measure it against “Levitation” or parts of “The Temple in the Bedrock” if you really wanted to, but more than that, it puts the emphasis on exactly what video depicts: the band, in the room, hitting it. Lord Vicar are obviously schooled in classic doom — Kärki and Chritus kind of helped shape it, especially in Europe — but don’t at all take that to mean they’re not also building something new from out of the past. In following up 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here), the four-piece showcase a vitality that thrives in darkness and an organic doom that needs no posturing to make its aesthetic statement.

I’ll have a full review of The Black Powder on May 2 (if the current calendar holds), but in addition to the video premiere for “Impact,” Kärki was kind enough to send some comment on making the album along with the lyrics to the track. Again, there some stuff on the record that is much, much slower, so “Impact” doesn’t necessarily represent everything Lord Vicar do across that almost-70-minute stretch, but it sure is fucking righteous.

Please enjoy:

Lord Vicar, “Impact” official video premiere

Kimi Kärki on “Impact”:

I was born in Good Friday back in 1976, and have always appreciated the fact, so it’s a nice date for the video premiere.

It was a wonderful Finnish winter adventure to record our fourth album The Black Powder. Pretty much everything was done in February and March 2019, including mixing and mastering, again with Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction. Everything is still fresh for us as well, and we can’t wait to get to play these monsters live in May! We have had a new bass player, Rich Jones, aboard for quite long now, but this is the first time he was in studio with us. We were able to hammer drums, bass and the first rhythm guitar live, and that adds a nice organic feel for the album. Gareth (Millsted, drums) was more involved in songwriting, and this time we arranged the songs quite carefully in Switzerland before hitting the studio. Chritus (vocals) lost his voice before his second studio day, but this medicine that is meant for snake bites healed him nicely!

We never did a proper video for Lord Vicar before, and decided to do it totally DIY for ’Impact’, the seventh track of the album. Studio live footage was an obvious choice for this kind of a hard rocking tune, but I also wanted to give a visual nod for the theme of mortality and how sometimes authors are forgotten and only receive proper fame post mortem. Nightmares feature heavily on this album, so this is a tribute to some artists who captured the darkness, shadows, and sheer horror in writing.

Have a Good Friday, up the hammers, down the nails!

Lyrics:
Can you feel the Earth approaching,
Red horizon turn?
Time has frozen between two worlds,
Frozen, empty mind

One thing you have surely lost,
The one thing you still yearn
Frozen people always want to
Leave this world behind

See the roof come falling down
Red horizon turning round
Broken people are earthbound
All of them will hit the ground

You were always first to go,
First to test your mind
People thought that you’d be strong
But you were first to burn

See the roof come falling down
Red horizon turning round
Broken people are earthbound
All of them will hit the ground

All of them will hit the ground
All of them supposed to heal
All of them without a sound
All of them are true and real

All of them, they will be found
All of them, they will be read
All of them below the ground
All of them will conquer death

Lord Vicar and Thronehammer live in May!
03.Mai Würzburg (D) @Immerhin
04 Mai Weikersheim (D) @Club W71
05 Mai Karlsruhe (D) @P8
06 Mai Hamburg (D) @Marx
07 Mai Szczecin (PL) @Jambar
08 Mai Berlin (D) @Slaughterhouse Moabit
09 Mai Halle (D) @Hühnermanhattan
10 Mai Oberhausen (D) @Helvete
11 Mai Tilburg (NL) @Little Devil Doom Days Festival

Lord Vicar is:
Chritus on vocals
Kimi on guitars
Milly on drums
Rich on bass

Lord Vicar on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records website

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Lord Vicar to Release The Black Powder May 3; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lord vicar

Doom upon the land as Lord Vicar make ready to return with their fourth long-player. Titled The Black Powder and recorded in Turku, Finland, the offering will be made through The Church Within Records on May 3 and a tour has been announced to coincide that will take the four-piece through Germany and into Poland on their way to the Doom Days Festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Having had the pleasure to witness Lord Vicar live before, I’ll say it’s a thing of doomed righteousness to which few acts could hope to compare, but the chance to see them heralding a new release seems all the more deathly and awesome. You probably don’t need me to tell you to go to a show if one’s near you, but consider it said anyhow.

And me, I’ll be trying my damnedest to chase down The Black Powder in hopes of reviewing, because writing about this kind of thing I consider doing myself a favor and a bit of #selfcare never hurt.

From The Church Within on thee social medias:

lord vicar tour dates

Mark the date: 3rd of may! LORD VICAR: THE BLACK POWDER

The Black Powder is the fourth album from Lord Vicar. It was, like the previous album Gates of Flesh, recorded by audio wizard Joona Lukala at Noise for Fiction studio in Turku, Finland. All studio work took place in February and March of 2019. The studio has the benefit of a huge live room which gave the band the opportunity to capture a sound that breathes with the ambience of the space, but maintains the sonic weight for which they are rightly known.

This album is a return to longer form, and even more progressive song structures, but the punchier material is also provided with merciless precision, as well as soothing acoustic moments. The songwriting duties are shared by Kimi and Gareth, also Chritus providing lyrical output.

The album contains a loose lyrical concept relating to mankind’s endless lack of reason and weakness of stability, resulting to violence, war, manipulation of children, and numbing our minds in order to shut out the horror that is the reality we live in. We blow the black lines to feel good. This takes place generation after generation, in an endless cycle of standing and falling. Musically and lyrically the album covers a wide spectrum of textures from the all out punky attack of ’The Temple in the Bedrock’, fragile beauty of ‘Nightmare’, to the oppressive menace of the more intense moments of ‘Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre’. This album is a grower, meant to be listened repeatedly, full of subtle details that reveal themselves with each subsequent listen.

’But children of that place remain with us
They illustrate the burden of our lies
And make us feel the hell of all those memories
Buried in the grave of the fireflies’

Tracklisting:
I Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre (Kärki)
II Descent (Millsted)
III World Encircled (Millsted)
IV Levitation (Kärki)
V The Temple in the Bedrock (Millsted, lyrics Kärki)
VI Black Lines (Millsted, lyrics Kärki, Linderson, Millsted)
VII Impact (Kärki)
VIII Nightmare (Kärki)
IX A Second Chance: Including The Wagoner, My Soul Is Never Free, and Strict Master (Millsted)

Lord Vicar and Thronehammer live in May!
03.Mai Würzburg (D) @Immerhin
04 Mai Weikersheim (D) @Club W71
05 Mai Karlsruhe (D) @P8
06 Mai Hamburg (D) @Marx
07 Mai Szczecin (PL) @Jambar
08 Mai Berlin (D) @Slaughterhouse Moabit
09 Mai Halle (D) @Hühnermanhattan
10 Mai Oberhausen (D) @Helvete
11 Mai Tilburg (NL) @Little Devil Doom Days Festival

Lord Vicar is:
Chritus on vocals
Kimi on guitars
Milly on drums
Rich on bass

https://www.facebook.com/lordvicar/
https://www.facebook.com/ChurchWithinRecords/
http://www.doom-dealer.de/

Lord Vicar, “Down the Nails” live in Moscow, July 7, 2018

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Thronehammer Post Teaser for Upcoming Split with Lord of Solitude

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

thronehammer

Good news for the doomed. No, you’re still doomed — as we all are — but guitarist Stuart “Bootsy” West, formerly of the woefully-under-reviewed-by-me-but-nonetheless-righteous Obelyskkh, has unveiled the first snippet of audio from his new project, Thronehammer. The song is called “Hammer, Stake and Cross,” and it comes from a split 10″ with New Zealand’s Lord of Solitude soon to be released by the ultra-trustworthy The Church Within Records.

Naturally, they don’t give a ton to go on — it’s a teaser! — but in the sampling of “Hammer, Stake and Cross,” the swaying riffs and massive tones West and bassist Tim Schmidt emit over top of a nodding groove. There’s a fist-raising sense of classic doom to the proceedings, to be sure, but something in “Hammer, Stake and Cross” seems to have a wider berth as well. Its echo gives a sense of something broader and almost psychedelic beneath. And since it was put to tape, West and Schmidt have filled out the complete lineup for the band, with vocalist Kat “Shevil” Gillham and drummer Olli “The Sludgist, so it seems like whatever they do next will invariably be a step forward from here.

Even so, how this recording of their basic formative moments will manifest in, you know, the whole song, I’ve no idea, let alone how it might factor into anything Thronehammer might have in store following their split with Lord of Solitude. Still, the release of their first public audio is an occasion worth marking, and as I hear more about what seems to be called Vampire Bites Vol. 1 in perhaps an ongoing series from The Church Within, I’ll surely keep you posted.

In the meantime, dig it:

Teaser for our first musical output. “Hammer, Stake and Cross” will appear on a 10″ split EP (w Lord of Solitude) via Church Within Records. take a bite. . .have a listen. . .taste the blood!!!

Caveman Ultradoom Feat. Members of Ex-Obelyskkh, Seamount, Naked Star, Blessed Realm (UK), Uncoffined (UK), Winds Of Genocide (UK), Grimwolv, Scythian Fall

Thronehammer is:
Kat Shevil Gillham – Vokills
Stuart Bootsy West – Guitars | Synth | Fx
Tim Schmidt – Bass
O))i “the Sludgist” – Drums

Thronehammer on Thee Facebooks

The Church Within Records website

The Church Within Records on Thee Facebooks

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