MaidaVale Announce New Album Madness is Too Pure Due March 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maidavale (gianluca la bruna)

Already confirmed for Desertfest Berlin 2018 later in Spring, retro-style Swedish rockers MaidaVale are set to issue their second album, Madness is Too Pure, on March 23 via The Sign Records. Their 2016 debut, Tales of the Wicked West (review here), had its heart dug into classic boogie-fied blues rocking, and it would seem that some changes are in store with the new collection that might find MaidaVale working with a more progressive approach on the whole. Should be interesting to find out how that manifests and if they’ll keep their underlying rhythmic swing or perhaps shift into more atmospheric fare in general. Intrigue, my friends! Intrigue!

If you’d like to revisit the first record, you’ll find it streaming at the bottom of this post, and I’ll hope to have more on Madness is Too Pure ahead of the release date. Till then, the PR wire offers the following:

maidavale madness is too pure

MaidaVale – Madness Is Too Pure

MaidaVale have since the release of their debut album “Tales of the Wicked West” in August 2016, toured Europe intensely. With a captivating performance and psychedelic groove they have enchanted their audiences. The live sound of MaidaVale have always leant towards the experimental scene of the ’60s and ’70s, something that have reinvented their sound on the new album. The band have worked with producer Jari Haapalainen which have led them further down the kraut and experimental path. The strong melodic and psychedelic elements from their debut is still present as the foundation on their upcoming second album. MaidaVale’s new album “Madness Is Too Pure” will be released on The Sign Records 23rd of March.

The music on ”Madness Is Too Pure” is deeply rooted in the monotone union between the rhythm section of Johanna Hansson and Linn Johannesson and the hypnotizing vocals of Matilda Roth. Adding Sofia Ströms dazzling guitar playing gives depth to the musical landscape of MaidaVale. ’Madness Is Too Pure’ moves MaidaVale closer to bands such as NEU!, Amon Düül II, Public Image Ltd and Siouxsie and the Banshees.

The album was produced and mixed by Jari Haapalainen who has previously worked with artists such as Ed Harcourt, Camera Obscura, Johnossi, Sahara Hotnights, True Moon and The (International) Noise Conspiracy. The album was recorded during six days in November 2017 at The End Studio outside of Lund, Sweden, engineered by Tommy Tift (Vånna Inget, True Moon).

Live gigs:
26/01 – GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Truckstop Alaska
10/02 – NORRKÖPING, Sweden – Where´s The Music

14/02 PARIS, France – Le Supersonic
15/02 CLERMONT FERRAND, France – Le Raymond Bar
16/02 BARBERAZ, France – Le Brin de Zinc
19/02 – LYON, France – Hard Rock Café
21/02 BORDEAUX, France – Le Voïd
22/02 MELLES, France – Le Café Boulevard
23/02 LORIENT, France – Le Galion
24/02 ANGERS, France – Le Joker’s Pub

European Tour in May
4/5 – BERLIN, Germany – Desertfest Berlin

Members:
Matilda Roth – Vocals
Johanna Hansson – Drums
Linn Johanesson – Bass
Sofia Ström – Guitar

http://www.maidavaleband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/maidavaleswe/
https://twitter.com/maidavaleband
https://www.instagram.com/maidavaleband/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/7rsoTsWjPBw9tyPbLXJko2
www.thesignrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://freighttrain.se/sv/

MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Hypnos Sign to The Sign Records; New Releases Coming in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Swedish classic style heavy rockers Hypnos have signed on to release two new offerings through The Sign Records next year. The first of them is a live-in-studio session that will be out in Spring as the follow-up to their 2016 Crusher Records long-player, Cold Winds (review here), and the second is a proper next full-length, which will be issued in the Fall and will mark their third album overall and first to feature frontman Linus Johansson.

No word on whether the live-in-studio release might contain any preview of what the next album holds, but we’ve got plenty of time before we get there either way, so figure details will probably surface after the New Year. The PR wire brings the following style-statement photo and preliminary announcement of the signing and the impending releases:

hypnos

Hypnos signs with The Sign Records

Hypnos signs with The Sign Records. The Gothenburg act is no stranger to those who are familiar to the contemporary Swedish rock scene. Hypnos can best be described as Heavy Rock where they cheery picked the best out of the 70´s hard rock and 80´s heavy metal scenes. The bands Swedish roots can´t be misstaken as they add heavy melodies and rock n roll energy. Hypnos have up until now been a part of Crusher Records and have done several tours in Europe and previously released two albums.

The Sign Records head of operation Kaj comments on the new signing: “We feel very excited to begin working with Hypnos. It´s without a doubt a extraordinary live band that have impact on audiences all over Europe! The band ain´t afraid of challenges and have developed with every line up change and album to the better. This is one of the true rock n roll band that still wanna make the world better with music.”

Hypnos entered the studio last weekend to record an eight track live session that will be released on vinyl and CD. It will be released during the spring of 2018. The band just completed a line-up change and this release will be the first with new singer Linus Johansson. Hypnos will tour Europe during the spring of 2018 and their next gig is on the 5th of January when the band is headlining a show at Pustervik, Gothenburg where the lineup also consist of their new label mates Märvel and Night. After the tour Hypnos will return to the studio to record a new studio album that will be released during the autumn of 2018.

The Sign records is a Swedish label working with bands as Honeymoon Disease, Lizzies, Tid, MaidaVale, Grande Royale, Night, Märvel, Svartanatt, Demon Head, Hällas among others. The label is a part of the Almost Religious label group that also holds the labels Lövely Records and Gaphals.

Hypnos:
Linus Johansson – Vocals
Oskar Wersäll – Guitarr
Anton Frick Kallmin – Bass
Pontus Isebring – Guitarr
Hamus Hansson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/hypnosboogie/
https://www.instagram.com/hypnosboogie/
http://www.thesignrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://freighttrain.se/sv/the-sign-record/

Hypnos, “Descending Sun” official video

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Honeymoon Disease Premiere Lyric Video for “Four Stroke Woman”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

honeymoon disease

You’d probably never know it from how often I seem to repeat myself or get stuck on certain phrases, images, etc., but just about anything that turns a well-worn cliché on its head gets some automatic points in my book. Thus, if you’re looking at the title of the lyric video premiering below for Gothenburg, Sweden, heavy rockers Honeymoon Disease and thinking to yourself, “Really? Another lady-as-motor song? Does the world really need that?” I’ll ask you to take into account the following consideration: It’s not John Garcia, or Bon Scott, or Ian Gillan talking about “their woman” as a car or car part. It’s guitarist/vocalist Jenna Disease, and instead of objectification, the image becomes one of righteous declaration: “I’m a four stroke woman/A knucklehead, a devil in chains!”

It’s hard to overstate the importance of that distinction. Jenna — joined in the band by guitarist Acid Disease, drummer Jimi Disease (ex-Mamont) and bassist Cedrichoneymoon-disease-part-human-mostly-beasttakes ownership of the image, uses it across the subject/object divide, and so it becomes something closer to empowering. One could still argue that relating one’s existence to automotive repair is inherently dehumanizing, and I think there are arguments to be made on either side of adopting the tropes of discrimination as a means for empowerment in general — this happens in race as well as gender and economics as well — but there’s a big difference between saying you’re a huge fucking motor about to run someone over so let’s kick some ass and have a good time, and saying “my woman is a car and I’m going to drive her with my dude-parts.” I don’t care how you look at it, there’s a line there, and given that we’re bringing the lyrics directly into focus with a video in which they essentially star, it seems fair to point it out.

Did I mention the song rocks? Probably should emphasize that point as well. “Four Stroke Woman” comes from Honeymoon Disease‘s second full-length and first for The Sign RecordsPart Human, Mostly Beast, which is set to release on Oct. 27. The follow-up to the 2015 debut long-player, The Transcendence (discussed here), which was released by Napalm, it finds the band digging into prime boogie thrust without getting too lost in vintage-minded chicanery. You can hear a classic feel in “Four Stroke Woman” to be sure, but consider the clarity with which the song’s bassline comes through — friendly as hell, that one is — amid the forward push of the guitar, and you know which decade you’re in, one way or the other.

The band has some comment about the song and the album below, and more info follows along with preorder linkery from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Honeymoon Disease, “Four Stroke Woman” lyric video premiere

Honeymoon Disease on “Four Stroke Woman”:

“We live and breathe the motor culture, especially muscle cars and choppers. Acid rides motorcycles and our logo is a charger-68. Together with our action rock we create music that the motor community can relate to and ‘Four Stroke Woman’ is a salute to all bikers out there, female in particular, who dare to live the lifestyle that they desire without limits. Fast cars, furious bikes and rock ‘n’ roll, that is what’s it’s all about. And with a twist of avangarde mindset.”

Honeymoon Disease unleashes their new album “Part Human, Mostly Beast” the 27th of October on The Sign Records. The Swedish rock quartet’s second album is filled with high voltage pulse, colorful sounds and lots of groovy soul. Well acclaimed for their intense and high energetic stage performances the band have been one of the raising stars on the European rock stages, something the band have brought into the studio and recording the album live. Honeymoon Disease have worked with producer Ola Ersfjord (Imperial State Electric, Primordial, Tribulation, Dead Lord) since the recording of their last album “The Transcendence” (Napalm Records), something that led up to a recording session with better crafted songs, a more luxuries production and a lot of focus on the vocal arrangements.

Jimi Disease: “We wanted this album to have a more rough and lively feeling, as we are on stage. You should really hear the sweat from the jeans vest dripping out from the speakers.”

Tracklist:
1 – Doin’ it Again
2 – Only Thing Alive
3 – Tail Twister
4 – Rymdvals
5 – Needle In Your Eye
6 – Fly Bird, Fly High
7 – Calling You
8 – Four Stroke Woman
9 – Night By Night
10 – It’s Alright
11 – Coal Burnin’
12 – Electric Eel

The album is released on CD & Vinyl and as a bundle together with wunderbaum, bumpersticker and metal pin.

Pre-order from: http://freighttrain.se/en/

Honeymoon Disease on Thee Facebooks

Honeymoon Disease website

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Grande Royale, Breaking News

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

grande-royale-breaking-news

[Click play above to stream Breaking News by Grande Royale. Album is out Friday, Aug. 25, via The Sign Records.]

Whatever one’s associations with the phrase they’ve chosen as the title for their third album, Breaking News, that’s not Grande Royale‘s fault. Chances are the Jönköping-based heavy rockers had some motivation in mind behind the choice, but without knowing the media climate in their native Sweden, I can only go by the lyrical content of the 10-track/34-minute The Sign Records long-player, including the title-track and catchy toe-tappers like “Brake Light,” “Got to Move,” “Devil’s Place” and closer “I’m on the Loose,” and note it doesn’t seem to be a commentary either on the media or the greater sociopolitical sphere. That’s something of a relief coming from the five-piece of guitarists Gustav Wremer and Andreas Jenå, vocalist Hampus Steenberg, bassist Calle Ljungström and drummer Mackey Gustafsson, who worked with producer Nicke Andersson (The Hellacopters, Entombed, Death Breath, etc.) to instead evoke the positive, warm and bordering-on-wholesome Thin Lizzy-esque bounce of “Live with Your Lie” and classic rockers like the low-end-driven “One Second” and proto-motoring “R’N’R Business.”

Front to back across the offering, which follows Grande Royale‘s self-released 2014 debut, Cygne Noir, and the 2015 follow-up, No Fuss – A Piece by Resolute Men, the band basks in a classic heavy rock sunshine and analog depth, leaving no room for pretense when it comes to bringing forth ’70s influences as filtered through more modern garage push. Yes, The Hellacopters are a factor in their sound, but the harmonies in the four-minute “Daily Illustration” and in the hook of the suitably thrusting “Got to Move” add an individualized edge to the proceedings, and the overarching impression of Breaking News — again, despite any tragic or otherwise unfortunate connotations the words “breaking news” might convey — is so inviting and friendly to the ear that the listener is more inclined to embrace familiar aspects than be caught up in feelings of redundancy. In this way, Grande Royale effectively interpret ’70s, ’90s and ’10s rock without losing themselves in a mire of aping any one band’s sound in particular.

There’s not much mystery as to how the feat is accomplished: it’s the songwriting. I won’t take away from the natural sound Andersson‘s production brings to Jenå and Wremer‘s guitars or from Steenberg‘s crisp delivery throughout on vocals. Indeed, though the roots of their style are more toward the modern/organic than the we-only-use-amps-from-1970 vintage worship — which is expensive, time-consuming and often difficult in terms of repairing busted gear — the balance of that naturalism with the tightness of their craft is perhaps what most of all dogwhistles Grande Royale‘s three albums’ worth of experience. Otherwise, with the plays between swing and urgency among cuts like “Devil’s Place” and “One Second” — shifts in tempo and push handled fluidly by Ljungström and Gustafsson — might find the band losing their grip in a way detracting from the memorability overall, but as it stands, Breaking News makes easy transitions between 7″-worthy cuts and thereby sets up a classic-feeling full-length flow that holds on loosely for the duration and steers its audience with a subtle but firm guiding hand.

grande royale

Not that they make the journey especially difficult, either. From the opening come-on-let’s-go shove of “Know it All” through the more Southern-style organ flourish of finale “I’m on the Loose” — some Thin Lizzy again, maybe via Skynyrd — Breaking News holds onto its aural optimism, and whether it’s the channel-swapping interplay of start-stop riffs in the verses of the title-track all the while underscored by a steady bass and drum progression or the efficient mid-paced execution of “R’N’R Business,” it does so finding consistency of mood doesn’t need to necessarily come with a repetition of sonic ideas. This also relates to the quality of songcraft, but Grande Royale are able to carry through this vibe with chemistry between them and a variety of the basic impression each inclusion makes. The whole thing is even, balanced, smooth, but not at all falling into the trap of dullness to which those things might lead. There’s still an energy here in terms of the root performance.

I don’t know whether or not Grande Royale recorded Breaking News live in full, in part or at all, but the vitality they bring to their pieces would seem to have its foundation in stage-work one way or another, and the album benefits tremendously from that when it comes to tying the songs together and honing the momentum that moves from one into the next. Part of that stems as well from the fact that Breaking News, whether it’s in the individual tracks or the entirety built from them, doesn’t stick around long enough to wear out its welcome. Were it 50 minutes long instead of the tidy, ultra-manageable 34 that it is, that might not be the case, but even this correct editorial decision on the part of the band — knowing how much is enough — is a facet of their aesthetic worth appreciating, and like the clear-headedness of their verse/chorus structures, it speaks to the depth of consciousness beneath what on the surface is such an outgoing execution. That is, none of this is happening by mistake, on any level.

Rather, as one would hope for a third LP, Breaking News finds Grande Royale well in command of their style and sounding fully aware of who they are and who they want to be as a band. The tracks, while not necessarily reinventing classic heavy rock in their construction, are nonetheless refreshing for the sincerity of the group’s approach and the obvious value they place on attention to detail. As they also largely avoid the heavy ’10s boogie rock that has so largely affected the broader European underground, and as they avoid the woeful associations their choice of title could bring forth on the part of their listeners, it becomes even clearer that Breaking News is the work of professional-grade songwriters and that it is all the stronger for that. In other words: Don’t worry. It’s good news.

Grande Royale on Thee Facebooks

Grande Royale at The Sign Records Bandcamp

The Sign Records website

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records webstore

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Honeymoon Disease to Release Part Human, Mostly Beast Oct. 27 on The Sign Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Tilt your head at just the right angle and you can hear where Sweden’s Honeymoon Disease are coming from in noting a classic soul influence in the vocal arrangement of their latest single, ‘Electric Eel.’ That track will close out Part Human, Mostly Beast, which is the band’s second long-player behind 2015 Napalm Records debut, The Transcendence (discussed here), and will be out Oct. 27 via The Sign Records. Of course, there’s still plenty of boogie in “Electric Eel” as well, which would seem to be the whole idea, and one is curious to hear how the balance might shift from song to song throughout the album upon its arrival.

Plenty of time to stew in that anticipation, I suppose, though I also doubt “Electric Eel” will be the last we hear of Part Human, Mostly Beast before the thing actually lands three months from now. Whatever the next couple months might hold, preorders are up now and the PR wire brings art and album details as preliminaries for consumption:

honeymoon-disease-part-human-mostly-beast

FW: Honeymoon Disease – announces new album “Part Human, Mostly Beast”

Honeymoon Disease unleashes their new album “Part Human, Mostly Beast” the 27th of October on The Sign Records. The Swedish rock quartet’s second album is filled with high voltage pulse, colorful sounds and lots of groovy soul. Well acclaimed for their intense and high energetic stage performances the band have been one of the raising stars on the European rock stages, something the band have brought into the studio and recording the album live. Honeymoon Disease have worked with producer Ola Ersfjord (Imperial State Electric, Primordial, Tribulation, Dead Lord) since the recording of their last album “The Transcendence” (Napalm Records), something that led up to a recording session with better crafted songs, a more luxuries production and a lot of focus on the vocal arrangements.

Jenna Disease:
“Its rougher and more heavy but still with a melancholic feeling. It’s part human but mostly beast”

The band released the first single “Electric Eel” from the album during the spring 2017. The backside of the seven inch hold a cover of soul-legend Eddie Floyd’s classic song “Big Bird”. During the pre-production the band and producer Ola Ersfjord find a mutual interest in old soul records. This interest paved the way for a recording session with more focus on strong vocal arrangements with more chorus and soul. At the same time the band is a modern high-energy rock act with focus on taking it all the way to eleven.

Jimi Disease:
“We wanted this album to have a more rough and lively feeling, as we are on stage. You should really hear the sweat from the jeans vest dripping out from the speakers”

Honeymoon Disease released their debut album “The Transcendence” on Napalm Records in 2015. The band have since then been touring frequently with bands as Avatarium, The Vintage Caravan, Dead Lord, RavenEye and Horisont and sharing stages with bands as Imperial State Electric, Graveyard, Bombus, Year of the Goat and The Order of Israfel. On the new album the band have continued to work with producer Ola Ersfjord. Honeymoon Disease have been working with Branca Studios with the artwork. The new album “Part Human, Mostly Beast” is released the 27th of October by The Sign Records.

The album is released on CD & Vinyl and as a bundle together with wunderbaum, bumpersticker and metal pin.
Pre-order from: http://freighttrain.se/en/

Track list:
1 – Doin’ it Again
2 – Only Thing Alive
3 – Tail Twister
4 – Rymdvals
5 – Needle In Your Eye
6 – Fly Bird, Fly High
7 – Calling You
8 – Four Stroke Woman
9 – Night By Night
10 – It’s Alright
11 – Coal Burnin’
12 – Electric Eel

https://www.facebook.com/HoneymoonDisease
http://www.honeymoondisease.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com
http://freighttrain.se/en/

Honeymoon Disease, “Electric Eel” official video

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Hour of 13, Operators, MaidaVale, Audion, Bone Man, Riff Fist, Helén, Savanah, Puta Volcano

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

I don’t know about you, but I could do this all day. Listening to records, writing reviews, getting things done that I’ve been trying to get done in some cases for actual months of my life — suffice it to say I’m way into this process. Wednesday is always a special day for the Quarterly Review because we pass the halfway point, and as much as I wish this edition went to 60 or even 70 releases, because rest assured even with 50 total there’s way more I could be covering if I had space/time, the good news is there’s still much more awesomeness to come. Today gets into some different vibes once again, so let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Enslaved, Roadburn Live

enslaved-roadburn-live

In their storied and groundbreaking career, Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved have never put out a live record, and it kind of makes sense as to why. The nuance of what they’ve come to do in their studio material doesn’t really lend itself to the rawness of a live album. Accordingly, Roadburn Live (on ByNorse and Burning World Records) feels almost as much of an homage to the event itself as to the performance. Captured in 2015 as Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson co-curated and the band headlined playing a special set of their more prog-focused songs – here more recent material like “In Times,” “Building with Fire,” “Daylight” from 2015’s In Times (review here) and “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” from 2012’s RIITIIR (review here) shines along with “Convoys to Nothingness” from 2001’s Monumension, “As Fire Swept Clean the Earth” from 2003’s Below the Lights and the requisite “Isa” from the 2004 landmark of the same name, and a special highlight comes at the finale when they cover Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and bring guitarist Menno Gootjes of Dutch proggers Focus out for a guest spot. Roadburn Live might be a step away from the band’s usual modus, but Enslaved have made their career on pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, so why stop now?

Enslaved on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records website

ByNorse Music website

 

Hour of 13, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased

hour of 13 salt the dead

An overdue compilation from a band making an overdue return, Hour of 13’s Salt the Earth: The Rare and Unreleased reunites the doomers led by multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis with Shadow Kingdom Records and brings together early demos from 2007 – on which the collaboration between Davis and vocalist Phil Swanson was arguably at its most vibrant as they headed into their self-titled debut full-length later that year – with other previously unissued cuts like three songs with Davis on vocals including the Jason McCash tribute piece “Upon Black Wings We Die” (premiered here) and the original rehearsal demos that introduced Beaten Back to Pure singer Ben Hogg as Swanson’s replacement in the band in 2011 (premiered here). If you want a direct feel for the breadth of the band, look no further than the three versions of “Call to Satan” that appear on Salt the Earth. Widely varied between them in sound and overall feel, they underscore the tumult that has existed since the outset at the core of Hour of 13 even as they provide hope that the band previously laid to rest can revitalize enough to put out a fourth studio offering.

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Operators, Revelers

operators revelers

Nearly four years in the making, Revelers is the third full-length from Berlin’s Operators behind 2013’s Contact High (review here) and 2012’s Operators (review here), and it starts off by smashing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats swing headfirst into Goatsnake riffing on “Leveled Reveler,” the first of its six component tracks. Their arrangements, as ever, are marked by the featured position of organ along with guitar, bass and drums, and whether it’s a more extended jam like that opener, “Messina” or the closing “Rolling Hitch” – which boasts a guest vocal/guitar spot from Wight’s René Hofmann, who also recorded and mixed (Tony Reed of Mos Generator mastered) – or the shorter momentum-building winding course through “Pusher,” “Walkin’ on Air” (I’m not sure what’s happening at the end there, but I’m not about to spoil it) and the winning-at-song-titles “Fuzz Muncher,” Operators function with a maturity of approach that seems to have been earned during the longer stretch between releases. To wit, all the turns and pivots even out in the last movement of “Rolling Hitch” and Revelers caps with a classic heavy rock groove that’s neither in a hurry nor staid – Operators finding crucial balance amidst all their revelry, and much to their credit.

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MaidaVale, Tales of the Wicked West

maidavale tales of the wicked west

Blues Pills. There. I said it. Now that the blues-rocking elephant in the room has been acknowledged, perhaps we can get on with Swedish four-piece MaidaVale’s debut full-length, Tales of the Wicked West (on The Sign Records). Yes, the Fårösund-based band owe a bit of their soulfulness to the aforementioned, but the nine-track/44-minute long-player thrives most of all as Linn Johannesson, Sofia Ström, Matilda Roth and Johanna Hansson purposefully meander into psychedelic flashes, as in opener “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire,” the midsection of “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the penultimate Zep-vibing/Bukowski-referencing “Find What You Love and Let it Kill You” and the 11-minute post-“Maggot Brain” closer “Heaven and Earth.” It’s in these moments and the manner in which they blend with the driving rock of “Dirty War,” the bluesy swagger of “Restless Wanderer” and the deft turns of “Colour Blind” early on that MaidaVale’s individualism is beginning to take shape, and if that’s the story that Tales of the Wicked West is telling, then it’s one well worth following through subsequent chapters.

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Audion, La Historia de Abraham

audion-la-histora-de-abraham

Audion’s debut, La Historia de Abraham, is immediately noteworthy in no small part because it brings the rhythm section of Los Natas back together for the first time since that band’s breakup following 2009’s excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here). Drummer Walter Broide and bassist Gonzalo Villagra join forces in the new outfit with guitarist Dizzy Espeche, and all three contribute vocals throughout at least in backup capacity, adding variety to go with the instrumental breadth that runs from the serene end of “Llegaron Sordos” right into the rush of “La Maquina del Tiempo” and well beyond later as the interlude “Para Rosita” introduces an earthy acoustidelic feel and “El Carancho” explores ‘70s anthemic rock before the fuzz- and horn-laden finisher “Queruzalem” closes out with a surprising progressive wash. Cuts like opener “Clarence,” the title-track and “Colmillo Blanco” can call to mind Villagra and Broide’s previous work, but Audion make a fresh impression on La Historia de Abraham in the variety throughout, and as they make their way through “Lesbotrans” and “Diablo vs. Dios” and into the second half of the album, it becomes increasingly clear how distinct this first offering actually is.

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Bone Man, III

bone man iii

To go along with the propulsive rhythm of “False Ambition” and the wash in the payoff of the earlier “These Days are Gone,” there’s a sense of gothic drama to vocalist Marian’s delivery that adds further atmosphere to Bone Man’s III (on Pink Tank Records), and in kind with the cohesive foundation of Arne’s bass, Ötzi’s drumming and his own scorch-prone guitar, that gives cuts like “Cold Echo” and the alternately brooding and explosive centerpiece – layered acoustic and electric guitar filling out the sound further – even more stylistic depth. That moodiness comes perhaps most into focus on the more subdued “Incognito,” but it’s there from the boogie-laced opener “Pollyanna” onward, and in the jagged push of “Years of Sorrow” and the more spacious finale “Amnesia” (still a tightly structured four minutes in length), it lends III a persona stretching beyond what one might think of as the standard genre fare and gives the Kiel, Germany, outfit a presence decidedly their own. It’s their third record, so maybe that’s not a surprise for a band who made their first offering eight years ago, but it serves as a major source of resonance in the material nonetheless.

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Pink Tank Records website

 

Riff Fist, King Tide

riff fist king iii

Going back to 2013, Melbourne, Australia, trio Riff Fist have basically summed up their approach in the eight letters of their name: a tight-knit approach to guitar-led heavy rock, as straightforward as a fist in your face. King Tide is their debut album after three EPs named for the Clint Eastwood Dollars trilogy of westerns – 2015’s The Good, the Loud and the Riff, 2014’s For a Few Riffs More and 2013’s Fistful of Riffs (review here) – and it significantly expands their breadth. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 11-minute title cut (video premiered here), King Tide covers new, more patient and encompassing ground from bassist/vocalist Cozza, guitarist Casey and drummer Joel than anything they’ve touched on before, and while the subsequent “D.T.U.B.,” fuzz-laden “Fist Bier (Noch Eins)” and even the first half of eight-minute centerpiece “Chugg” bring that all-ahead sensibility back into focus, King Tide remains effectively and engagingly informed by its leadoff impression through its total 33-minute run, which is rounded out as “Beer and a Cigarette” melds the more spacious and atmospheric take with a still-swinging post-Clutch groove. There’s more work to do in tying the various sides together, but King Tide is a rousing introduction to the process through which the band can make that happen.

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Helén, Helén

helen helen

Hexvessel multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Kimmo Helén makes a willfully peculiar and experimentalist self-titled debut with the solo-project Helén via Svart Records, setting a course through melodic indie wash in “Uusi Olento” even as “Jumalan Hullu” threatens in its bounce and the later “Lystia” moves into yet-darker expanses. Keys, electric and acoustic guitar, sax, and of course Helén’s own Finnish-language vocals, there’s very little that feels like it might be outside his comfort zone in terms of craft, and Helén, the album, is just as effective in the plus-cello-acoustic-minimalism of the penultimate “Lopussa” as in the earlier atmospheric breadth of “Puolen Metrin Syvyydessä.” Closing out with the alternately melancholy and dreamy “Kaikki Isä,” the record brings out a full-band feel despite Helén having handled the vast majority of the instrumentation on his own and impresses in that as well as in its range of moods and overarching sense of purpose. May it be a first exploration in a series of many.

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Savanah, The Healer

savanah the healer

I won’t take away from a wah-drenched rocker like “The Healer,” which still jams out plenty before digging into doomier lumbering, but where Austrian trio Savanah’s Stone Free Records debut album, The Healer, really gets its point across is in the fluidity of its longer-form material, whether that’s post-“Intro” opener “Mind,” the ebbing and flowing heavy psych instrumental “Pillars of Creation” or the over-10-minutes-apiece closing pair of the doom rocking “Black Widow” and “Panoramic View of Stormy Weather,” which effectively draws together the multiple aesthetic faces the three-piece demonstrate throughout the record preceding, culling rock, psych and doom into a single riff-driven entity and, most importantly, making it theirs. Guitar leads the way with big, natural fuzz, but the rhythm section is crucial here, and as Benny, Felix and Jakob follow-up their 2015 EP, Deep Shades, they seem to establish a path along which they can flourish and hopefully continue to capture the listener’s attention as they do here.

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StoneFree Records website

 

Puta Volcano, Harmony of Spheres

puta volcano harmony of spheres

The kind of release where by the end of the first song you want to own everything the band has ever put out. Don’t let Athens’ Puta Volcano get lost in the wash of bands coming out of Greece these days, because there are many, but if you miss out on the blend of desert-style tones and graceful melodies of “Bird,” it’s to your general detriment. I’m serious. In craft and performance, Puta Volcano’s third album, Harmony of Spheres, takes on unpretentious progressivism in songwriting and blends it with a post-Slo Burn/Hermano sense of freedom from genre. Witness the funky “Zeroth Law” or the later, more subtle post-grunge linearity of “Moebius,” the odd chanting repetitions in closer “Infinity” or the nigh-on-maddening hook of “Jovian Winds.” Really, do it. With the lineup of vocalist Luna Stoner, guitarist Alex Pi, bassist Bookies and drummer Steven Stefanidis, Puta Volcano are onto something special in aesthetic and delivery, and if Harmony of Spheres might be your first experience with the band as it’s mine, it’s one that will no doubt warrant multiple revisits. Consider it sleeper fodder for your year-end list – I know I will.

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Six Dumb Questions with Demon Head

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

demon head

With the seven tracks/40 minutes of their second full-length, Thunder on the Fields (review here), Copenhagen-based five-piece Demon Head explored textures between cult rock, vintage heavy, the formative era of doom and its modern interpretations, tying these various elements together via memorable songcraft and a resonant sense of live performance in cuts like “We are Burning,” “Thunder on the Fields” and “Gallows Omen,” among others. Their efforts resulted in one of the best albums of 2017 so far, and with issue through The Sign Records and Caligari Records, the follow-up to the band’s 2015 debut, Ride the Wilderness (review here), took a decided forward step in aesthetic and overarching presentation.

The solidification of an approach is one thing, and Thunder on the Fields most definitely represents that for Demon Head — appropriately so for a sophomore outing after a potential-filled debut — but in the garage-esque jangle of centerpiece “Older Now,” one can hear the lineup of vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen, lead/slide guitarist Thor Nielsen, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Birk Nielsen, bassist Mikkel Fuglsang and drummer Jeppe Wittus actively working toward a more individualized style. And while the pieces they’re using for construction may be familiar, to listen to Thunder on the Fields either in its more straight-ahead early cuts like opener “Menneskeæderen” or the later reaches of the proto-metallic “Hic Svnt Dracones” and the seemingly jammed-out finale “Untune the Sky,” Demon Head‘s success in their efforts to make them their own can only be called a success throughout.

In the interview that follows, Larson talks about making the new record in terms of writing and recording, but also the band’s recent experience getting robbed on tour, brewing their own beer, and future plans to hit the road. It’s a relatively quick check-in with a group who seem poised to continue to grow in positive and increasingly nuanced ways, and if you haven’t yet had the chance to dig into Thunder on the Fields, the full stream from Bandcamp is at the bottom of this post. Have at it.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

demon head thunder on the fields

Six Dumb Questions with Demon Head

Tell me about writing Thunder on the Fields. Was there anything in particular you wanted to bring out in the material after Ride the Wilderness? How do you feel your sound has evolved from the first album to the second?

The songs on Thunder on the Fields came quickly after recording R.T.W. — and actually a good time before its release — so they’ve been underway for some years now. As writing, recording, and producing is mostly something we do ourselves, I guess we wanted to push ourselves further and take no easy ways out. The songs themselves have more sinister vibes to them, less boogie rock-feeling, and we gradually came to work more collectively on every riff and melody. Maybe that’s the natural way a band evolves, but I think the communal aspect has grown stronger and even if it makes it harder to finish something quick, the wicked demon baby that results from it is stronger. In terms of sound, we’ve learned a lot and become more picky this time around.

What was your time in the studio like? Set the scene for the place you recorded. What was the atmosphere there and how long were you in the studio? Did you record live? What kind of equipment was used and how much time went into capturing the tones in the guitar and bass?

When we felt that Thunder on the Fields was becoming a whole thing rather than individual parts, we planned for a long time how to record it. After an initial, very intense trip of three days and nights where we recorded demos of everything in my father’s studio, we took our time to listen and feel what was missing. Then in the middle of winter last year we went back to a cabin in the countryside of Northern Sealand, and had two weeks to record drums, guitar, and bass – the basic, live tracks that we always begin with. We bought an old mixing console and got it fixed for way more than we could afford, it seemed like a coincidence too good to be true that we had it offered some weeks before recording, and with the help of some friends we transported and mounted all our Chaos Island recording in the wooden house.

Everything went into a 16-track tape recorder, and we’d studied pretty obscure recording techniques from interviews, pictures and videos of sounds we ourselves like a lot. The sound of the instruments themselves we’ve spent a long time moulding, but how to reproduce these on a recorded media is every technician’s headache – not too noisy, but not artificially clear… Thinking back now, we always have very high expectations and put an enormous effort into following our ideals of sound, feeling, and expression. We didn’t sleep very much, worked from the morning all through the night and at times way beyond what’s healthy. But what can you do when you have a burning love?

Tell me about writing “Gallow’s Omen.” So much of the record has a tighter feel to its songwriting, but that song seems to jam a bit more. How did it come about? It was the first video you made for the album. What made you want to introduce people to the record with that track particularly?

Well, actually that is very carefully planned dynamics and tones… But I’m happy if it sounds loose in a way. It’s hard to plan how to lose control or let dreams and nightmares flow; that is part of what we wanted especially in the final part of the song. We felt it represented some general themes of the new record: a sinister feeling, a blend of faster and slow parts, loads of atmosphere, and it tends to get stuck in your head. At least that’s what I think it was now, looking back.

Has there been any word on recovering the gear stolen at the Northern Discomfort Festival? What happened there?

Unfortunately not! We don’t really know what happened. Our gear was in a room behind the stage, and although it is not locked, I usually recommend touring bands stashing their gear there when the sound room itself is full – nothing has been taken from there in years, at least to my knowledge. So either someone accidentally brought the things with them, or some shady entrepreneur visited the festival sometime in the early hours of after-party and saw their chance to score some neatly packed, expensive gear. Ungdomshuset is not normally a place where people go to steal, so it’s a shame that people are exploiting good DIY policy of open doors and anarchic trust…

You’ve now got your own Demon Head Thunder on the Fields IPA beer. How did that come about? Did someone in the band brew it or is it an outside collaboration? How does it taste? Are you guys big beer drinkers generally?

That’s right! At least we had some for the release shows. Now they’re mostly gone. That’s the work of Birk, Thor and their father, who’ve recently taken up brewing. So a family business, one might say. It’s awfully good, bitter and fresh – shame they’re through… A good portion were sold, the others we’ve given away to friends who’ve helped us on the road or bringing this album come to life. We appreciate good beer since it’s one of our few vices in terms of drugs.

You had dates in Finland and May and by the time this goes up, you’ll have played Muskelrock as well. Will you tour more for Thunder on the Fields before you start writing the next album? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yes, this spring has been excellent in Sweden, Finland and now Muskelrock this last weekend. We are once again humbled by the efforts and generosity of friends and strangers…

In August, we will travel Northern Europe for two weeks, invited to a couple of festivals and joined some of the road by the incredible musical entity that is Ill Wicker from Gothenburg. Keep an eye out if you’re somewhere around the Swedish desert and a forest on the German-Czech border!

Some plans for crossing waters to the UK, Ireland, and even across the Pacific are being hatched. Get in touch if you have some ideas, or let your local booking collective know…

Songs for what will be the next album are slowly coming. We’ve been so busy these months that it has been hard to find time to be really creative. Nonetheless, we do our best to prioritise it, and we can’t wait to disappear to a cabin somewhere again.

Finally there’s not much more to say than we appreciate you, the reader, taking your time to spell through these words. Oh, and there is one more piece of vinyl with some songs coming this year on The Sign Records. Keep your ears to the ground for more rumours on that.

Love and Thunder,

Marcus & D.H.

Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields (2017)

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