Days of Rona: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis

Posted in Features on April 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

vokonis simon ohlsson

Days of Rona: Simon Ohlsson of Vokonis (Borås, Sweden)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

It’s been pretty varied. The crisis have affected us mentally. I personally think it’s been very hard to handle the way media and people online are handling this. I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age and since I was a teen have been obsessed with being clean, washing my hands and not getting ill/sick. Over the years I’ve gotten better with therapy and just trying my best to put myself out there. So it’s been a setback for me personally.

We’ve had to reschedule a bunch of shows. Stockholm, Oslo and Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark. Hopefully this blows over soon and we can get back to playing live again. I miss it very much. It’s been a source of energy and a way to challenge my anxiety for these past years. I can’t imagine not doing it.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Sweden has been pretty much behind a lot of other countries. We’re not that affected by government restrictions yet. It feels like it’s gonna crash down soon though.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

It’s been a source of connectivity online for sure. I think it’s always going to be strengthening people. We managed to play a show just before all of this really broke out and that felt awesome. To be able to give some matter of relief to people in these troubling times gave a lot of perspective not really being offered online.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

That we’re still going strong. We try to keep motivated as we’re working on a new album. It’s been a great thing to be able to create right now. Not getting immersed in all of the negativity and trying to keep your head leveled above the water.

Due to us having to reschedule shows we’ve had a massive dent in the band’s economy though. Hopefully we’ll get out there again so the new album won’t be set back due to us not getting money. But know that over on the other side of all this, there lies a new Vokonis album!

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialVokonis/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/3DZoit5R0ahZQCNLbDnNxr?si=eh0iJ7YHQQOblw_ztadm1Q
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Review & Track Premiere: CB3, Aeons

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cb3 aeons

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Warrior Queen’ from CB3’s Aeons. Album is out Feb. 28 on The Sign Records.]

They never approach what-you-see-is-what-you-get level simplicity in terms of sound, but at least some of what you need to know about CB3 is there in the name. The acronym, which they seem to prefer to go by, stands for Charlotta’s Burnin’ Trio. Sure enough, there are three of them. They’re led by guitarist Charlotta Andersson. And the burn. Their style is rooted in heavy rock as some of Andersson‘s riffing and certainly her tone demonstrate, but there is a willful-sounding embrace of the progressive as well on their The Sign Records label debut and third album overall, Aeons. Andersson and fellow-founding member Natanael Salomonsson started out in jazzier territory on their 2015 self-titled debut, and across a 2016 live offering, the 2017 short release Adventures, early 2018’s sophomore LP, From Nothing to Eternity (discussed here), and the subsequent live EP, Cult of the Crystals, the Malmö, Sweden, outfit have continually ventured into broader and more psychedelic and weighted ground.

Aeons, which runs an utterly manageable 32 minutes across five tracks, continues this push into the uncharted cosmos perhaps most of all on its nine-minute centerpiece “Acid Haze” — an obvious focal point for the record — but also more generally throughout, as AnderssonSalomonsson and bassist Pelle Lindsjö enact organic-sounding instrumentalist fluidity and give their listeners a range of depths/reaches to explore in kind with the band. Songs are arranged for a journey, parabolically or like a mountain being climbed — though, again, at such a gracefully flowing 32 minutes, it’s not exactly a strenuous uphill — with opener “Zodiac” (3:51) and “Sonic Blaze” (6:50) which follows, building in runtime up to the already-noted longer stretch of “Acid Haze” (9:08), and “Warrior Queen” (7:26) and “Apocalypse” (5:00) paring back down from there in length if not in style or breadth.

Indeed, if anything, “Warrior Queen” answers the sprawl of “Acid Haze” with its own outbound push, particularly over the course of its first five minutes moving further and further from the ground as Andersson‘s guitar soars and shimmers above the solidified but still jammy groove beneath. From there, CB3 come together around a sequence of riffs, one into the next, and resolve the track’s final moments with a straightforward thrust that’s a standout moment even amid the sax and mellotron psychedelic wash of “Apocalypse” that follows — turns out the end of the world is kind of pretty; certainly much prettier than it feels living through it. The point, however, is that the second half of Aeons‘ unfurls itself no less gracefully than does the first. Listening to “Zodiac” at the record’s outset, the groove seems more grounded, toying around with a winding blues riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on a Clutch record even as CB3 manipulate it in various ways via shifts of tempo and effects wash, synth (or synth sounds), and so on, eventually finding their way into a slower nod that only pulls itself further down as it proceeds toward its own end and the more active start of “Sonic Blaze.”

One would hardly call these tracks grounded, even in relation to “Acid Haze” or the first half of “Warrior Queen,” and yet, the temptation to put a first/then narrative — as in, first they’re on the ground, then they’re not — to the progression of Aeons is hard to resist, especially with the sax and mellotron so clearly purposeful in their positioning in the final track. But the truth is more complicated, and, honestly, richer in terms of scope. “Sonic Blaze” flirts with some ambient drone before finding footing in a crash-laden YOB-style triplet gallop, which Andersson then moves up the fretboard before finally releasing into the ether, and eventually returns to the central riff of the track before capping with a winding conclusion on the way into the patient start of “Acid Haze” itself.

cb3

And yes, “Acid Haze” go-go-go-goes to new degrees of galaxial spaciousness in a way that CB3 didn’t do even a year ago, the guitar in eyes-closed-Hendrixian-style echo-shred leading the hypnotic wash that ensues on what is a genuinely gorgeous and singular moment on the album, running as far out as it can before Salomonsson‘s popping snare returns to bring momentum and set the stage for the more sweeping second half of the song, though that too has its due portion of noise before the last live-style crashout and the triumphant guitar intro of “Warrior Queen” commences.

Flow becomes central to the penultimate inclusion on Aeons, and in that regard CB3 are right at home, with some joyful headspinning solo fare after the three-minute mark and a generally languid vibe earlier on before, as noted, the more grounded, chugging end takes hold and builds up to the last charge, leaving just “Apocalypse” to round out, its strumming intro and quiet rim-tap snare serving as the initial foundation on which the fuller tonal impact is made. The aforementioned mellotron arrives earlier than the sax, which doesn’t come until just after the halfway mark and seems to show up in layers when it does, but both are central to the song’s statement and the album’s conclusion, bringing together CB3‘s jazz roots with their intent toward classic progressive rock in a way that, thanks to its atmospheric stylization, avoids the self-indulgence one might commonly associate with fusion or such jazzy impulses.

That is a line that CB3 walk well throughout Aeons, grounding themselves at the beginning and periodically afterward even as they venture into new, more cosmic and psychedelic places. Particularly as an instrumental unit, they’re able to bring an imaginative sense to what they do, but they don’t ever seem to lose focus on their central purpose either, and Aeons is a stronger record on the whole for it. I’m left wondering if there isn’t a storyline taking place between the songs as “Sonic Blaze” and “Acid Haze” and “Warrior Queen” flow in succession toward, well, the end of all things, but perhaps that’s a concern best left for the inevitable sequel. For now, Aeons clearly demonstrates CB3‘s ongoing commitment to evolving their sound, and their ability to meld progressive and psychedelic impulses with a rare and well-harnessed vitality. Would seem that’s plenty to ask of a record that’s just over a half-hour long, no?

CB3, Aeons (2020)

CB3 website

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CB3 Sign to The Sign Records; Aeons out Feb. 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cb3

Cool band. Swedish trio CB3 have been picked up by The Sign Records — wasn’t it just yesterday I was talking about the label’s reliable taste? well here’s another example of it — to release their second long-player, Aeons, on Feb. 28 as the follow-up to 2018’s From Nothing to Eternity (discussed here) and the subsequent live EP, Cult of the Crystals. The progressive psychedelic instrumental outfit are led by and named for guitarist Charlotta Andersson — they’re Charlotta’s Burning Trio when go long-form — and though February 2020 feels like a great and unknown future somewhere off in the distance, actually it’s only a couple months and the band will unveil the new single “Sonic Blaze” from the five-track offering next week, so you don’t actually have to wait all that long to get at least a quick fix.

Until then, here’s info courtesy of The Sign via the PR wire:

cb3 aeons

CB3 – Aeons – The Sign Records

We welcome CB3 (Charlottas Burning Trio) to The Sign Records! CB3 will release their new album “Aeons” the 28th of February 2020, and next Friday – the 25th of October, you’ll be able to enjoy the first cosmic frequencies of the album as the single “Sonic Blaze” reaches earth after a long journey through outer space.

CB3 is here to bring you on a journey with their explosive rock jams and mind-bending cosmic soundscapes. CB3 brings the spirit of psychedelic music to the 21th century; with a style that ranges from heavy psych rock jams like Jimi Hendrix to delicate atmospheric passages like Pink Floyd and progressive rhythms like King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra. Close your eyes, set your mind free and drift away into the musical universe of CB3.

The autumn of 2018, CB3 celebrated a five year anniversary as a band in their hometown of Malmö, Sweden. Half a decade of constant exploration of the unconventional way of playing, fusing rock with jazz tonality and experimenting with rhythms, sounds and structures. After two self-released and self-produced albums, multiple collaborative projects and touring, CB3 signed with Lazy Octopus Records and Drone Rock Records for a cassette and vinyl release of their debut album “From Nothing to Eternity” in 2018. It was sold out immediately and received flourishing reviews.

In spring of 2020 they will release their new album “Aeons” on The Sign Records. Charlotta said of the process “It’s been an exciting journey. Me, Pelle and Nate has almost been living, eating and sleeping music, but above all experimenting with the idea of making the most exciting and kickass instrumental album ever.”. Since the beginning the trio has valued and nourished their thriving lust of exploring new ways in composing music and playing live shows.

The album is recorded by Björn Lindberg at Rabbit Holes Studios in Malmö and mixed and mastered by Joona Hassinen at Studio Underjord in Norrköping, Sweden. Björn is a sound engineer that worked with Hey Elbow. Joona is the sought after engineer in the underground scene in Sweden and has worked with bands like MaidaVale and Vokonis. The last track “Apocalypse” features Martin Wirén on saxophones and Charlotta on mellotrones. Artwork by Robin Gnista (Brant Björk, Radio Moscow, Imperial State Electric). Press Photos by Gianluca La Bruna. Video animations by Matteo Nobis Sandén (3D-artist, illustrator).

CB3 are:
Charlotta Andersson – Electric Guitar
Pelle Lindsjö – Electric Bass
Natanael Salomonsson – Drums

www.charlottasburningtrio.com
https://www.facebook.com/charlottasburningtrio/
https://www.instagram.com/charlottasburningtrio/
https://cb3band.bandcamp.com/
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CB3, “From Nothing to Eternity” (Live 2018)

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Hot Breath Stream Self-Titled Debut EP in Full; Out Friday on The Sign Records

Posted in audiObelisk on October 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hot breath (Photo by Marcus Eriksson)

Swedish classic style heavy rockers Hot Breath will release their self-titled debut this coming Friday, Oct. 18, through The Sign Records. The conglomerate label has emerged as a home for retro-minded heavy (among other styles), from Hypnos and Heavy Feather to Märvel and MaidaVale, and in aligning with newcomer Göteborg four-piece Hot Breath, they continue the tradition of traditionalism, as well as specifically an association with Jennifer Israelsson and Jimi Karlsson. Both the vocalist and drummer of Hot Breath are former members of Honeymoon Disease, whose sophomore LP and apparent swansong, Part Human, Mostly Beast (discussed here), came out through the label in 2017, and the new outfit brings them together with Hypnos bassist Anton Frick Kallmin as well as guitarist Karl Edfeldt, whose other band, Grand, haven’t actually worked with The Sign (yet), but still, three out of four is a compelling enough statistic to tempt one to call Hot Breath a house band for their label. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and it only makes it more appropriate that as Hot Breath offer up the six tracks/21 minutes of Hot Breath just about a year after forming, they’re playing four dates over the next few weeks as part of The Sign Fest with labelmates in Skraeckoedlan, Vokonis, Children of the Sün, and more. Clearly a family affair.

Super-groovy, as the kids might say, and the same applies to the EP itself, which in a song like “1,000 Miles” careens through speed-at-night winding late-’70s proto-metallic riffing, topped with the vocals of Israelsson (I wonder if she’s any relation hot breath hot breathto Truckfighters drummer Daniel Israelsson), whose melodies fit right in with the hard-corner turns in the guitar and the forward propulsion of the rhythm. Whether it’s the hooky “What You Reap” at the conclusion, the earlier “Maniac” or the build-up back at the start with “Still Not Dead,” Hot Breath bring an infectious sense of energy to their tracks, here and there tapping into some non-glam/non-NWOBHM ’80s worship but as likely to pull influence from Joe Walsh as Scorpions as Electric Citizen as Death Alley, the latter seeming specifically to inform “What You Reap” and “Slight Air” before it, wrapping up the quick offering with some of its most fervent and insistent thrust, though that’s not at all to take away from “Got it All,” which is no less brash when it comes right down to it, and boasts some choice backing vocals in the chorus, adding to the already so prevalent catchiness thereof.

If it needs to be said, songwriting is a feature throughout Hot Breath‘s Hot Breath, and though one has to factor in that they’re still basically a brand new band, it shouldn’t be a mystery as to why they seem to have their wits about them in terms of what they want to be doing. It’s because they do. And whether it’s Israelsson and Karlsson‘s prior experience together in Honeymoon Disease or everyone’s experience more generally heavy rock bands of various stripes, clearly the effect of it all is that Hot Breath hit the ground running on their first outing in terms of style and substance both, with tight, high-quality songcraft and an energetic, natural performance captured that serves these tracks well and gives the listener notice of more to come. I don’t know how long it’ll be before Hot Breath get around to a debut album, but if one takes the Hot Breath EP as an advance warning of that, the heads up is indeed all the more appreciable. The converted will have no trouble digging in, and even those less experienced with Sweden’s classic/boogie set will find plenty to grasp onto in the songwriting and delivery.

So, uh, have at it.

The full stream of Hot Breath‘s Hot Breath is available on the player below, followed by more background from the PR wire and live dates, including those at The Sign Fest in the coming weeks.

Please enjoy:

the sign fest

Hot Breath delivers a six track K.O that is set for release the 18th of October on The Sign Records. Blending that immortal sound of 70s classic rock with their own pure attitude, add a bit of all those influences that you like, and you get Hot Breath’s self titled debut. Guitar solos stand side-by-side with Jennifer Israelsson’s (previously seen fronting Honeymoon Disease) swagger-filled vocals and a brilliant rhythm section in Jimi Karlsson (also ex-Honeymoon Disease) and Anton Frick Kallmin (Hypnos). Every track is a hit of its own accord, and by the time “What You Reap” rolls around, it’s clear that Hot Breath provides the soundtrack to the last drink that never ends.

Recorded and mixed by Jamie Elton (ex-Amulet) in Gothenburg during the summer of 2019. Axel Söderberg (Horisont) helped out on keys on the recording. Mastered by Hans Olsson Brookes at Svenska Grammofon Studion. Artwork by Jimi Karlsson. Cover photo by Marcus Eriksson.

Formed in October 2018 (with members from Honeymoon Disease, Hypnos and Grand) the band wanted to mix their various pasts into one vibrating sound. With a common ground of heavy rock Hot Breath quickly took shape and turned into a wicked animal that will twist your hips.

The release will be available on CD in Digipack, 180g Vinyl and Digital formats. Hot Breath is touring and kicks off their first Swedish tour joining a four-date The Sign Fest throughout Sweden.

Live:
18 October, Skylten, Linköping, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
19 October, Slaktkyrkan, Stockholm, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
25/26 October – Skövde, Sweden, In Rock Festival
8 November – Musikens Hus, Göteborg, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
9 November – Plan B, Malmö, Sweden (The Sign Fest)

Hot Breath are:
Jennifer Israelsson – Vocals and Guitar
Karl Edfeldt – Guitar
Anton Frick Kallmin – Bass
Jimmy Karlsson – Drums

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

Asthma Castle on Thee Facebooks

Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

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Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

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King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

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A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

Cavalcade on Thee Facebooks

Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

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Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

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Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Vokonis, Grasping Time

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

vokonis grasping time

[Click play above to stream Vokonis’ Grasping Time in full. Album is out Sept. 6 on The Sign Records.]

Swedish trio Vokonis continue to show the kind of band they’ll become even as they become it. Grasping Time is their third long-player in the last four years, following 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here) and 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), and serves as their first offering through The Sign Records after releasing through Ripple and Ozium Records, respectively — even the 2015 demo tape Temple (review here) that they released under their old moniker had label backing, from BTNKcllctv in Malaysia. Recorded in 2018, the eight-track/44-minute Grasping Time also marks the final release to feature drummer Emil Larsson, who has since been replaced by Peter Ottoson in the Borås-based lineup with guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson and bassist/vocalist Jonte Johansson. That change feels significant, but as Larsson still features in these songs, it’s hard to know how it will ultimately affect the band’s dynamic.

It is that dynamic, incidentally, that is the story of Grasping Time. Not literally, of course, as the lyrics tell their own tale, but in terms of the sound of the record — captured like its predecessor at Studio Underjord in Norrköping by Joona Hassinen — from the head-down drive that launches opener “Antler Queen” through the post-Elder sway and chug in the finale of the capper “Fading Lights” and the brief guitar contemplation thereafter, the three-piece demonstrate their evolving approach in its latest incarnation as a more progressive and continually growing outfit. Ohlsson and Johansson share vocals effectively throughout the tracks, patient in the melodic delivery in the verses at the outset of “Sunless Hymnal” and gruff as that build kicks into its payoff shortly before the halfway point of the 9:57 longest track. I won’t take away from the breadth Vokonis bring to Grasping Time in “Embers” or even the shorter title-track, which serves as the penultimate inclusion ahead of “Fading Lights,” but “Sunless Hymnal” is an effective summary unto itself of who Vokonis are at this stage in their growth, and reveals the conscious execution with which they’re working.

If Olde One Ascending was where the direction was charted and The Sunken Djinn brought new levels of intensity to the proceedings, then Grasping Time is where Vokonis unveil a new level of ambition. It’s not that they didn’t have progressive aspects to their sound all along, and certainly putting “Antler Queen” first emphasizes the fact that they’re still plenty aggressive when they want to be. What’s shifted is the balance of elements. A greater interplay between Johansson and Ohlsson on vocals brings fresh persona to Vokonis‘ delivery, as even “Antler Queen” demonstrates, moving from its extended quiet break into a low-end-heavy doom roll topped with screams and, yes, a finish of post-rock-style airy guitar. In addition, the songs themselves mirror the duality of their sonic take, complementing each other as the brashness of “Antler Queen” leads into the sweeter beginning of “Sunless Hymnal” and the High on Fire bruiser riffing of the open and close of “I Hear the Siren” bookends a melodic dreamscape all the more resonant with the percussive force and solo shred of the two-minute instrumental “Exiled,” which follows to close out side A.

vokonis

And in case you’re not of the camp who believes format matters, the midsection of Grasping Time provides a suitable counterargument. Taken in halves, “Exiled” finishes side A as noted, and the also-just-about-two-minute, also-instrumental “Ashes” launches side B, dropping a few choice basslines beneath some proggy guitar noodling as it does. Fair enough. But in a linear format like CD/DL, the difference is striking. Essentially what happens is Vokonis shift into an instrumental hypnosis mode, with the charged end of “I Hear the Siren” — that last minute or so — gives way to the solo-topped shove of “Exiled,” which culminates with a crash but picks up fluidly in “Ashes” with a brief quiet intro before the full brunt kicks in, and then leads directly into the beginning of “Embers,” the two songs obviously meant to be taken as a pair given their respective titles. Varied and engaging as it is, the intro for “Embers” is another two minutes without vocals, so essentially what happens is Grasping Time has a stretch of about seven of its total 44 minutes, across four different tracks, without a word either from Johansson or Ohlsson.

What that shows is not only their ability to entrance the listener — which that stretch does — but their willingness to follow whatever impulse is going to lead to the best flow for the album as a whole. And the payoff for that is the smack in the face when Ohlsson and Johansson return on “Embers” for the most direct duet-ing they’ve yet done. “Embers” patiently drifts into a lumbering finish and feels something like an apex for Grasping Time, but the title-track continues to broaden the reach of the LP overall, and, again, manifest the progression of Vokonis even as it hints toward future direction for their meld between bruising and soothing impulses, not so much creating a conflict between them, banging them together and seeing what happens, but utilizing both to a singular expressive purpose.

Further proving the whole-album case for Grasping Time is the mirror that “Fading Lights” gives to “Antler Queen” with the return of the harsher screaming later in the track as it finishes its careening run. It underscores the consciousness and intent in the band’s craft, in terms of songwriting as well as structuring the LP, and across the album’s not insignificant span, the control behind Vokonis execution only makes it more impressive how far their reach has expanded in what’s still a relatively short amount of time. Their work has hit the point where one might not feel comfortable predicting where a fourth album might go in terms of sound, other perhaps than to say Vokonis continue to come across with more of an individualized take, whatever influences they may be taking from the modern sphere of heavy around them. With the lineup change bringing in Ottoson, there’s bound to be some shift in approach as a result, intentional or not, but as they prove with Grasping Time, there’s an entire stylistic spectrum they’re able to take and use as a frame for their songwriting. I’d only hope to see that frame’s borders continue to expand as they have thus far.

Vokonis, “I Hear the Siren” official video

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Grande Royale Premiere “Hands Up” Video; Take it Easy out Sept. 13

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

grande royale

Fair enough if you remember Grande Royale from their 2017 Nicke Andersson-produced label debut on The Sign Records, Breaking News (review here), as having kind of a different sound. They were kind of a different band. On Sept. 13, the Swedish troupe will release their fourth album and second for The Sign, the 11-track/39-minute Take it Easy, and with it they undeniably enter a new era. Consistencies include a classically-influenced sound, prevalent boogie vibe and tight songcraft — all welcome — and among the striking changes are the fact that the band parted ways with their frontman and that guitarists Gustav Wremer (who took on the vocalist role) and Andreas Jenå have swapped out their rhythm section, bringing in Samuel Georgsson and drummer Johan Häll to complete the now-four-piece incarnation of the band.

As to the title, which one almost can’t help but hear in the pleading voice of Jeff Bridges as The Dude, it seems to be the entire message of encouragement from the album itself, and it arrives in “Decelerate,” a sub-three-minute tracklist-centerpiece rife with organ and recorded naturalism — Ola Ersfjord (Lucifer, Hypnos, The Riven, The Hellacopters, etc.) produced this time around — after the band has already unfurled five cuts of semi-Southern, ’70s-via-’10s argument in favor of doing just that. With Tove Abrahamsson stepping in on vocals for two tracks — among them “Hands Up,” for which the video is premiering below — Grande Royale hardly seem to have missed a beat despite all the tumult of the last two years. They even had a live record out grande royale take it easybetween the two studio offerings. Kind of scary productivity, considering.

But the news is good and the prevailing spirit of Take it Easy is one of positive, upbeat times. There’s an element of escapism at play in the shove of second cut “Out of Gas” or the slide-infused “Sweet Livin’,” but little reminder of what one might actually be escaping from, which is refreshing. As they were on Breaking NewsGrande Royale are an unremittingly straightforward band, and while one might hear the vocal performance on “Baby You’re a Fool” and wonder why Wremer wasn’t just fronting the band the whole time, the fact is that while they might make having been through so much change sound easy, it couldn’t possibly have been. Or at least not as easy as it sounds here. “Going Strong,” “Standing in My Way” and “On and On” round out in striking and engaging fashion, hooks prevalent and delivered smoothly with a confidence that makes one think that not much has actually changed in their approach to writing.

Meet the new era, same as the old era? Maybe, in some ways. Grande Royale do sound different than they did two years ago — how could they not? — but Take it Easy just sends its core message with such believable fluidity throughout its LP-ready run that one can’t help but think maybe they’ve been taking their own advice all along. It clearly works for them.

The video for “Hands Up” follows here, with a single-camera shot of someone dancing to the song and kind of letting loose a little bit, which is obviously the intention behind the thing. You’ll find it below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Grande Royale, “Hands Up” official video premiere

Hands Up is taken from Grande Royals fourth studio album Take It Easy released by The Sign Records 2019. Video by Filip Pilthammar. Thanks to Tove Abrahamsson for Lead vocals.

Take It Easy is the new album from Grande Royale. The album holds eleven tracks of Scandinavian rock with a strong southern influences: music that speaks the universal language of rock. The album mixes things up by adding brass, soul choirs to the guitar-filled music. Take It Easy is the fourth studio album by Grande Royale, succeeding the live album Captured Live from 2018 and the studio album Breaking News from 2017, all released by The Sign Records. Grande Royale is releasing Take It Easy on the 13th of September.

The album is produced by Ola Ersfjord, who has previously worked with Imperial State Electric, Honeymoon Disease, Primordial, Tribulation and Dead Lord. Since the release of their previous studio album Breaking News, guitarist Gustav Wremer has taken over vocal duties in the band. Vocalist Tove Abrahamsson appears on two tracks. The album artwork is made by Revolver Design.

Live Dates:
26/9 – Burgerweeshuis, Deventer, Netherlands *
27/9 – Muziekcentrum De Bosuil, Netherlands *
28/9 – Sonic Ballroom, Köln, Germany *
29/9 – Lola, Groningen, Netherlands *
* With The Dirty Denims

More live dates are set to be announced in Spain, Italy, Germany, Finland and Sweden among others….

Grande Royale is:
Andreas Jenå – Guitar
Gustav Wremer – Guitar / Vocals
Johan Häll – Drums
Samuel Georgsson – Bass

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Pyramido to Release Fem Sept. 27; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Pyramido

Spotify doesn’t seem to remember I have an account, but even in the 28-second sample of the new single from Malmö, Sweden’s Pyramido there’s a satisfying bit of screamy post-sludge to entice one further as regard their upcoming fifth long-player, Fem (Swedish for ‘five’), which will see release on Sept. 27 in a new alliance with The Sign Records. Given the band’s history, I wouldn’t necessarily expect the entirety of “Utvägen” to speak for the whole of Fem, let alone less than a minute thereof. So as to the rest, we’ll just have to wait until Fall to find out. I have the feeling it’s going to be a crowded release season — already Pyramido share a date with the new Mars Red Sky, and I don’t at all think they’ll be the only two — so they’re smart to get the word out early in order to carve out their place ahead of the pack.

If you want to hear “Utvägen,” it’s below — I’m sure you’re account works just fine; I’m just old; you should’ve seen me trying to download an ebook the other night; so sad — so dig in, and here are the album details from the PR wire:

Pyramido fem

PYRAMIDO to release new album ’Fem‘ in Autumn 2019

Release first single “Utvägen”.

Pyramido is set to release their new album ”Fem” on The Sign Records. Today marks the release of the first single “Utvägen”. The new material breathes and evolves naturally, not being afraid of trying out new tempos, melodies or ideas sometimes foreign to the genre. Drawing inspiration from the delicate melodic figures of dreamy 90‘s indie rock, the folky fuzz of vintage Swedish psychedelia and the bittersweet harmonies of Henrik Berggren and Broder Daniel.

Then imagine these influences being suffocated by the impact of the heaviness and aggression that is Pyramido, leaving only about a few percent of them passably breathing. The result being a somewhat heavy-hearted and melodic sludge metal/hardcore attack, once perfectly described as ”…a warm hug rather than a punch in the face”. The new album ”Fem” is set for release by The Sign Records the 27th of September.

The new album, entitled simply ”Fem”, which is Swedish for the number five, was recorded and mixed during the fall of 2018, with engineer John Rönnerblad. The band have previously released four full-length records, a number of EP‘s and played every dark and damp squat of Europe you might imagine existing.

The album will be released on Vinyl, CD and Digital.

Tracklist:
Born to run
Living Dead
Resort
Ensign Källbacks’s legends
Realization
Five

Pyramido is:
Ronnie Källback
Henrik Wendel
Dan Hedlund
Dan Widing
Sticky Manchester

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