Quarterly Review: Electric Octopus, Crypt Trip, Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Heavy Feather, Faith in Jane, The Mound Builders, Terras Paralelas, The Black Heart Death Cult, Roadog & Orbiter, Hhoogg

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day four of the six-dayer. Head’s a little reeling, but I’m not sure any more so than, say, last week at this time. I’d be more specific about that, but oddly enough, I don’t hook my brain up to medical scanners while doing reviews. Seems like an oversight on my part, now that I think about it. Ten years later and still learning something new! How about that internet, huh?

Since I don’t think I’ve said it in a couple days, I’ll remind you that the hope here is you find something you dig. There’s a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so that should at least make skimming through it fun if you go that route. Either way, thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Electric Octopus, Smile

Electric Octopus Smile

It’s been about two months since Electric Octopus posted Smile, so they’re about due for their next release. So, quick! Before this 82-minute collection of insta-chill jams is out of date, there’s still time to consider it their latest offering. Working as the four-piece of Tyrell Black and Dale Hughes — both of whom share bass and guitar duties — drummer Guy Hetherington and synthesist Stevie Lennox, the Belfast improv jammers rightfully commence with the 25-minute longest track (immediate points) “Abberation” (sic), which evolves and devolves along its course and winds up turning from a percussive jam to a guitar-led build up that still stays gloriously mellow even as it works its way out. You can almost hear the band moving from instrument to instrument, and that’s the point. The much shorter “Spiral,” “Dinner at Sea, for One” and closer “Mouseangelo” bring in a welcome bit of funk, “Moth Dust” explores minimalist reaches of guitar and ambient drumming, and “Hyperloop” digs into fuzz-soaked swirl before cleaning up its act in the last couple minutes. These cats j-a-m. May they do so into perpetuity.

Electric Octopus on Thee Facebooks

Electric Octopus on Bandcamp

 

Crypt Trip, Haze County

crypt trip haze county

Onto the best-albums-of-2019 list go San Marcos, Texas, trio Crypt Trip, who, sonically speaking, are way more Beto O’Rourke than Ted Cruz. The three-piece have way-way-upped the production value and general breadth from their 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds debut, Rootstock, and the clarity of purpose more than suits them as they touch on ’70s country jams and hard boogie and find a new melodic vocal confidence that speaks to guitarist Ryan Lee as a burgeoning frontman as well as the shredder panning channels in “To Be Whole.” Fortunately, he’s backed by bassist Sam Bryant and drummer Cameron Martin in the endeavor, and as ever, it’s the rhythm section that gives the “power trio” its power. Centerpiece “Free Rain” is a highlight, but so is the pedal steel of intro “Forward” and the later “Pastures” that precedes six-minute closer “Gotta Get Away,” which makes its transport by means of a hypnotic drum solo from Martin. Mark it a win and go to the show. That’s all you can do. Haze County is a blueprint for America’s answer to Europe’s classic heavy rock movement.

Crypt Trip on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Split Double EP

smokey mirror love gang split double ep

A bit of Tull as Love Gang‘s flute-inclusive opener “Can’t Seem to Win” skirts the line of the proggier end of ’70s worship. The Denver outfit and Dallas’ Smokey Mirror both present three tracks on Glory or Death RecordsSplit Double EP, and Love Gang back the leadoff with “Break Free” and “Lonely Man,” reveling in wall-o’-fuzz chicanery and organ-laced push between them, making their already unpredictable style less predictable, while Smokey Mirror kick off side B in particularly righteous fashion via the nine-minute “Sword and Scepter,” which steps forth to take ultra-Sabbathian ownership of the release even as the filthy tone of “Sucio y Desprolijo” and the loose-swinging Amplified Heat-style megashuffle of “A Thousand Days in the Desert” follow. Two bands in the process of finding their sound coming together to serve notice of ass-kickery present and future. If you can complain about that, you’re wrong.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Smokey Mirror on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records BigCartel store

 

Heavy Feather, Débris & Rubble

Heavy Feather Debris & Rubble

Very much a solid first album, Heavy Feather‘s 11-song Débris & Rubble lands at a run via The Sign Records and finds the Stockholm-based classic heavy blues rockers comporting with modern Euro retroism in grand fashion. At 41 minutes, it’s a little long for a classic-style LP if one measures by the eight-track/38-minute standard, but the four-piece fill that time with a varied take that basks in sing-along-ready hooks like those of post-intro opener “Where Did We Go,” the Rolling Stones-style strutter “Waited All My Life,” and the later “I Spend My Money Wrong,” which features not the first interplay of harmonica and lead guitar amid its insistent groove. Elsewhere, more mellow cuts like “Dreams,” or the slide-infused “Tell Me Your Tale” and the closing duo of the Zeppelinian “Please Don’t Leave” and the melancholy finisher “Whispering Things” assure Débris & Rubble never stays in one place too long, though one could say the same of the softshoe-ready boogie in “Hey There Mama” as well. On the one hand, they’re figuring it out. On the other, they’re figuring it out.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Countryside

Faith in Jane Countryside

Five full-lengths deep into a tenure spanning a decade thus far, Faith in Jane have officially entered the running to be one of the best kept secrets of Maryland heavy. Their late-2018 live-recorded studio offering, Countryside, clocks in at just under an hour of organic tonality and performance, bringing a sharp presentation to the chemistry that’s taken hold among the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn, with Mize taking extended solos on the Wino model throughout early cuts “All is All” and “Mountain Lore” while the trio adds Appalachian grunge push to the Chesapeake’s flowing groove while building “Blues for Owsley” from acoustic strum to scorching cacophonous wash and rolling out the 9:48 “Hippy Nihilism” like the masters of the form they’re becoming. It’s not a minor undertaking in terms of runtime, but for those in on what these cats have been up to all the while, hard to imagine Countryside is seen as anything other than hospitable.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

The Mound Builders, The Mound Builders

The Mound Builders The Mound Builders

Lafayette, Indiana’s The Mound Builders last year offered a redux of their 2014 album, Wabash War Machine (review here), but that was their last proper full-length. Their self-titled arrives as eight bruiser slabs of weighted sludge/groove metal, launching with its longest track (immediate points) in the 7:30 “Torchbearer,” before shifting into the outright screams-forward pummel of “Hair of the Dogma” and the likewise dry-throated “Separated from Youth.” By the time they get to the hardcore-punk-via-sludge of “Acid Slugs,” it’s not a little heavy. It’s a lot heavy. And it stays that way through the thrashing “Star City Massacre” and “Regolith,” hitting the brakes on “Broken Pillars” only to slam headfirst into closer “Vanished Frontier.” Five years later and they’re still way pissed off. So be it. The four-formerly-five-piece were never really all that gone, but they still seem to have packed an extended absence’s worth of aggro into their self-titled LP.

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

 

Terras Paralelas, Entre Dois Mundos

TERRAS PARALELAS ENTRE DOIS MUNDOS

It’s a fluid balance between heavy rock and progressive metal Terras Paralelas make in the six inclusions on their debut full-length, Entre Dois Mundos. The Brazilian instrumentalist trio keep a foundation of metallic kickdrumming beneath “Do Abismo ao Triunfo,” and even the chugging in “Espirais e Labirintos” calls to mind some background in harder-hitting fare, but it’s set against a will toward semi-psychedelic exploration, making the giving the album a sense of refusing to play exclusively to one impulse. This proves a strength in the lengthier pieces that follow “Infinito Cósmico” and “Do Abismo ao Triunfo” at the outset, and as Terras Paralelas move from the mellower “Bom Presságio” and “Espirais e Labirintos” into the more spaciously post-rocking “Nossa Jornada Interior” and the nine-minute-plus prog-out title-track that closes by summarizing as much as pushing further outward, one is left wondering why such distinctions might matter in the first place. Kudos to the band for making them not.

Terras Paralelas on Thee Facebooks

Terras Paralelas on Bandcamp

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, The Black Heart Death Cult

the black heart death cult the black heart death cult

Though one wouldn’t accuse The Black Heart Death Cult of being the first cumbersomely-named psych-rocking band in the current wave originating in Melbourne, Australia, their self-titled debut is nonetheless a gorgeous shimmer of classic psychedelia, given tonal presence through guitar and bass, but conjuring an ethereal sensibility through the keys and far-back vocals like “She’s a Believer,” tapping alt-reality 1967 vibes there while fostering what I hear is called neo-psych but is really just kinda psych throughout the nodding meander of “Black Rainbow,” giving even the more weighted fuzz of “Aloha From Hell” and the distortion flood of “Davidian Dream Beam” a happier context. They cap with the marshmallowtron hallucinations of “We Love You” and thereby depart even the ground stepped on earlier in the sitar-laced “The Magic Lamp,” finding and losing and losing themselves in the drifting ether probably not to return until, you know, the next record. When it shows up, it will be greeted as a liberator.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records webstore

 

Orbiter & Roadog, Split

orbiter roadog split

I’m pretty sure the Sami who plays drums in Orbiter is the same dude playing bass in Roadog, but I could easily be wrong about that. Either way, the two Finnish cohort units make a fitting complement to each other on their two-songer 7″ single, which presents Orbiter‘s six-minute “Anthropocene” with the hard-driving title-track of Roadog‘s 2018 full-length, Reinventing the Wheels. The two tracks have a certain amount in common, mostly in the use of fuzz and some underlying desert influence, but it’s what they do with that that makes all the difference between them. Orbiter‘s track is spacier and echoing, where “Reinventing the Wheels” lands more straightforward in its three minutes, its motoring riff filled out by some effects but essentially manifest in dead-ahead push and lyrics about a motorcycle. They don’t reinvent the wheel, as it happens, and neither do Orbiter, but neither seems to want to do so either, and both bands are very clearly having a blast, so I’m not inclined to argue. Good fun and not a second of pretense on either side.


Orbiter on Thee Facebooks

Roadog on Thee Facebooks

 

Hhoogg, Earthling, Go Home!

hhoogg Earthling Go Home

Space is the place where you’ll find Boston improvisationalists Hhoogg, who extend their fun penchant for adding double letters to the leadoff “Ccoossmmooss” of their exclamatory second self-released full-length, Earthling, Go Home!, which brings forth seven tracks in a vinyl-ready 37 minutes and uses that opener also as its longest track (immediate points) to set a molten tone to the proceedings while subsequent vibes in “Rustic Alien Living” and the later, bass-heavy “Recalled to the Pyramids” range from the Hendrixian to the funkadelicness he helped inspire. With a centerpiece in “Star Wizard, Headless and Awake,” a relatively straightforward three-minute noodler, the four-piece choose to cap with “Infinitely Gone,” which feels as much like a statement of purpose and an aesthetic designation as a descriptor for what’s contained within. In truth, it’s a little under six minutes gone, but jams like these tend to beg for repeat listens anyway. There’s some growing to do, but the melding of their essential chemistry is in progress, and that’s what matters most. The rest is exploration, and they sound well up for it.

Hhoogg on Thee Facebooks

Hhoogg on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: 11PARANOIAS, Robot Lords of Tokyo, The Riven, High Reeper, Brujas del Sol, Dead Witches, Automaton, Llord, Sweet Jonny, Warp

Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day three. Cruisin’. Oh, another 10 reviews to write? Yeah, no problem. I’m on it.

Okay, maybe a little less that and a little more be banging my head against the wall of sound, but the point is we — you and I — move forward anyhow. The Quarterly Review continues today with the third batch, which at the end will bring us to the halfway point, 30 of the total 60 records done, and that always feels like an occasion. Also helps that it’s a pretty good batch of stuff, so let’s not waste time with formalities, right?

Quarterly Review #21-30:

11PARANOIAS, Asterismal

11paranoias asterismal

It’s a freakout, but not the good kind. More like a panic attack happening in slow motion on another dimensional plane. The masters of murk, 11PARANOIAS return through their own Ritual Productions imprint with Asterismal, collecting/conjuring upwards of nine tracks and 73 minutes of material depending on in which format one encounters it. The core of the outing is the six-song/45-minute vinyl edition, and that’s plenty fucked enough, to be honest, as bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson (Ramesses), guitarist Mike Vest (Bong) and drummer Nathan Perrier (ex-Capricorns) unfurl a grim psychedelic fog across songs like opener “Loss Portal” and tap into The Heads-style swirl on “Bloodless Crush” only to turn it malevolent in the process. The 12-minute “Quantitative Immortalities” finds Vest in the forward position as it summarizes the stretch of doom, psych, and bizarre atmosphere that’s utterly 11PARANOIAS‘ own, and that’s before you get into the experimental and sometimes caustic work on the CD/digital-only “Acoustic Mirror” (10:35) and “Acoustic Mirror II” (15:08), which both rise from minimalist bass to become a willful test of endurance only a select few will pass. All the better.

11PARANOIAS on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Robot Lords of Tokyo, Rise Robot Rise

Robot Lords of Tokyo Rise Robot Rise

Was there ever any doubt Robot Lords of Tokyo could do it on their own? Not if you ever listened to Robot Lords of Tokyo, there wasn’t. The Columbus, Ohio-based outfit built a reputation in the earlier part of the decade by bringing guests onto their records, but their new EP and first outing in half a decade, Rise Robot Rise, features five songs of just the band itself, with founders Rick Ritzler (drums) and Paul Jones (vocals) joined by bassist Joe Viers and guitarists Steve Theado and Beau VanBibber. Their last outing was the 2013 full-length Virtue and Vice (review here), but they seem in “In the Shadows” and “Looking for the Sun” to come into their own with Jones bringing a John Bush-type edge to the hook of “Looking for the Sun” and echoing out a bit on centerpiece “Hell Camino,” which boasts not the band’s first nod to Clutch. With opener “In the Shadows” setting the tone for an undercurrent of metal, “My Aching Eyes” and “Terminus” pay that off without losing their rock edge and thereby highlight just how much force has always been in the core lineup to start with.

Robot Lords of Tokyo on Thee Facebooks

Robot Lords of Tokyo at CDBaby

 

The Riven, The Riven

The Riven The Riven

Issued by The Sign Records, the self-titled debut from Sweden’s The Riven (also discussed here) hones in on classic heavy rock but never actually quite tips all the way into vintage-ism. It sounds like a minor distinction until you put the record on and hear the acoustic guitar lines deep in the mix of “Far Beyond” or the echoing vocal layers in the second half of the later “Fortune Teller” and realize that The Riven are outright refusing to sacrifice audio fidelity for aesthetic. There’s no shortage of shuffle to be had, rest assured, but The Riven are less concerned with aping traditionalism than updating it, and while they’re not the first to do so, the fact that on their first record they’re already working to put their stamp on the established genre parameters bodes well, as does the bluesy float of “I Remember” and the mellow vibing early in “Finnish Woods.”

The Riven on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, Higher Reeper

high reeper higher reeper

Philadelphia exports High Reeper offer their second full-length through Heavy Psych Sounds in Higher Reeper, upping the stakes from their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) in more than just title. In the intervening two years, the five-piece have toured extensively, and it shows in the pacing and general craft of the eight songs/38 minutes here, from the perfectly-timed nod at the end of “Buried Alive” to the face-slap proto-trash riff that starts the subsequent “Bring the Dead,” from the mountaintop echoes of “Obsidian Peaks” (note the “Hole in the Sky” riff rearing its head) to the howling roll through “Plague Hag” and into six-minute closer “Barbarian,” as High Reeper hone elements of doom to go with their biker rock sleaze. Stellar guitar is a running theme beginning with opener “Eternal Leviathan,” and Higher Reeper quickly proves that if you thought the debut had potential, you were right.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brujas del Sol, II

brujas del sol ii

if the 6:40 album opener “Teenage Hitchhiker” from Brujas del Sol‘s Kozmik Artifactz-delivered II makes anything plain, it’s that the songs that follow on the seven-track/43-minute outing are going to pay attention to texture. Still about half-instrumental, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece veer from that modus with “Sisterlace,” the New Wave-y “Fringe of Senility,” the delightfully dream-toned “White Lights,” and the final Floydian section of closer “Spiritus,” adding vocals for the first time and leaving one wondering what took them so long. Nonetheless, the winding lines and later subtly furious drums of “Sea Rage” and the scorching leads of the penultimate “Polara” bring the proggy mindset of the band that much more forward, and if II is transitional, well, it was going to be anyway, because a band like this never stops growing or challenging themselves. They certainly do here, and the results are an accomplishment more than worth continuing to build upon.

Brujas del Sol on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Dead Witches, The Final Exorcism

dead witches the final exorcism

The centerpiece of Dead Witches‘ sophomore album, The Final Exorcism, is a play on ’60s psych-garage-folk that asks “When Do the Dead See the Sun?,” and the rest of the LP that surrounds provides the answer: The sun isn’t showing up anytime soon, for the dead or otherwise. After issuing their first full-length, Ouija (discussed here), in 2017, the multinational horror-cinema doomers brought aboard vocalist Soozi Chameleone alongside drummer Mark Greening (Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard), bassist Carl Geary and guitarist Oliver Irongiant, and one might be tempted to think of The Final Exorcism as a kind of second debut were it not for the fact that it’s so cohesive in its approach. With Greening‘s swinging march at the foundation, cuts like the title-track and “The Church by the Sea” stomp out thick-toned and grainy organic creep, plundering through the cacophonous “Lay Demon” en route to the abyssal plod of “Fear the Priest” at the end, fearsome in purpose and realization and hopefully not at all “final.” Like any good horror franchise, there’s always room for another sequel.

Dead Witches on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Automaton, TALOS

automaton talos

It was hard to know where Automaton were headed after they remixed their debut EP, Echoes of Mount Ida (review here), and released it in LP format with two additional tracks. The original version was raw and weighted, the remix spacious and psychedelic. With TALOS, their first proper long-player (on Sound Effect Records), they answer the question with seven songs/48 minutes of expansive and richly atmospheric post-metal, seeming to take from all sides and shift their focus between crushing with dense tones on 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Trapped in Darkness,” as well as the frantically drummed “Automaton Marching,” “The Punisher” or the end stage of “Talos Awakens” and honing more of a varied and atmospheric approach throughout the sample-laced “Giant of Steel,” the drifting “Submerged Again” and the minimalist acoustic-led closer “Epilogue,” all the while donning both an overarching concept and a new level of production value to bolster their presentation. It is a significant step forward on multiple fronts.

Automaton website

Sound Effect Records website

 

Llord, Cumbria

llord cumbria

Raging and experimental, the rumble-laden Barcelona duo Llord make their full-length debut on Féretro Records with Cumbria, which culls together five punishing-but-still-atmospheric tracks of plod and drive as bassist Aris and drummer David share vocal duties and bludgeoning responsibilities alike. Ill-intentioned from the get-go with the two-minute “Adtrita Sententia,” Cumbria unfurls its 29-minute run like a descent into low-end madness, varying speed and the amount of samples involved and bringing in some guest gralla on “Brega” and closer “Kendal/Crewe,” but finding itself in a consistent tonal mire all the same, shouts reverberating upward from it as through trying to claw their way up during the collapse of earth beneath their feet. It is brutal — an extreme vision of atmospheric sludge that makes the concept of a guitar riffing overtop seem like an indulgence that would only dull the impact of the proceedings as they are, which is formidable.

Llord on Bandcamp

Féretro Records on Bandcamp

 

Sweet Jonny, Sweet Jonny

sweet jonny sweet jonny

I can’t claim to be an expert on the ways of Britpunk classic or modern, but UK swagger-purveyors Sweet Jonny weave a heaping dose of snearing attitude into their self-titled, self-release debut album’s 12 tracks, and it comes set up next to a garage rock fuckall that isn’t necessarily contradicted by the actual tightness of the songwriting, given the context in which they’re working. “American Psycho,” well, that’s about American Psycho. “Sick in the Summer?” Well, guess that could be taken multiple ways, but somebody’s sick in any case. You see where this is going, but Sweet Jonny bring character and addled-punk charm to their storytelling lyrics and barebones arrangements of fucked-up guitar, bass and drums. I don’t know what the punkers are into these days, but the vibe here is rude in the classic sense and they bring a good time feel to “Superpunch” and “It Matters Not” — which stretches past the four-minute mark(!) — so what the hell? I’m up for something different.

Sweet Jonny on Thee Facebooks

Sweet Jonny website

 

Warp, Warp

warp warp

If the approval stamp of Nasoni Records isn’t enough to get you on board — and it should be, frankly — the Sabbathian lowercase-‘g’ ghost rock Warp proffer on their self-titled debut is bound to turn heads among the converted. The Tel Aviv-based outfit tear through eight tracks in a crisp, bitingly fuzzed 28 minutes, taking on classic boogie and doom alike before they’re even through opener “Wretched.” They get bonus points for calling their noise interlude “‘Confusion Will Be My Epitaph’ Will Be My Epitaph,’ as well as for the shuffle of “Gone Man” that precedes it and the stomp of “Intoxication” that comes after, the latter a rhythmic complement to the central progression of second cut “Into My Life,” which only departs that snare-snare-snare to soar for a dual-layered solo. Hard not to dig the space-punk edge of “Hey Little Rich Boy II” and the throttled-back stoner nod of closer “Enter the Void,” which is done in under five minutes and still finds room for the album’s best stop-and-crash. Fucking a.

Warp on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records webstore

 

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The Riven Premiere “Far Beyond” Lyric Video; Self-Titled Debut out March 1

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the riven

The Riven call Stockholm, Sweden, their home base, but with members hailing from Spain and the UK, they’re just as easily tagged as a multinational conglomerate. There’s no clash, however, when it comes to bringing their material to life. To wit, the four-piece issue their The Sign Records-backed self-titled debut album March 1, and with it proffer nine songs and 40 minutes of crisply executed traditionalist heavy rock and roll. They’re not so much dug into the vintage sound, but that influence is there for sure in songs like the single “Far Beyond,” for which you can see the lyric video premiering below, as well as the bluesy “Shadow Man,” the subdued and soulful “I Remember” and the presumed side A finale “Finnish Woods,” which quietly meanders in its beginning and opens to a slow-rolling chorus in its first half only to unveil a NWOBHM gallop after its midpoint that complements and offsets the boogie that surrounds. On The Riven, as on their 2017 debut EP, Blackbird (discussed here), there’s a sense of the classic as a foundation to work from, rather than a modus to be so directly emulated. That mindset only helps The Riven as they make their debut.

Comprised of vocalist Charlotta Ekebergh, guitarist Arnau Diaz, bassist Max Ternebring and The Riven The Rivendrummer Olof Axegärd, the band recorded in Madrid and very clearly worked to capture a naturalist spirit in so doing. As straight-ahead shufflers like the Thin Lizzy-style opener “The Serpent,” the dug-in groover “Edge of Time” and the penultimate “Leap of Faith” hit all their marks, it’s the organic style that unites them with longer cuts like “I Remember” and the jammy closer “Sweet Child.” As it should be for classic-style heavy rock, the rhythm section proves crucial to the overarching effectiveness of the band, with Ternebring‘s tone and Axegärd‘s snare work both serving as standout performances along with Ekebergh‘s dynamic vocals and Diaz‘s guitar leading the way for all to follow. The hook of “Far Beyond” is a highlight, but it’s far from the only one the record has on offer, and whether it’s “Shadow Man” or the momentum-building side B launch in “Fortune Teller,” The Riven draw from the strengths of its component members even as they unite for the purpose of memorable songwriting.

Part of the work The Riven does as an album is set the stage for the band The Riven will become, even as it signals their arrival at this starting point. They won’t get to put out another first record, and they make the most of the opportunity before them. These songs feel worked through and honed for maximum effect, and while the Swedish and wider European heavy underground has seen a surge of similarly-minded blues-influenced ’70s-rock aficionados, The Riven‘s collective ability to drop the rush of “Fortune Teller” right into the moody sway of “I Remember” and still carry the listener with them speaks to their confidence as songwriters as well as the justification for that confidence in the output itself. Are they done growing? Probably not, but The Riven makes an encouraging place to start from not the least because it demonstrates how clear the band are in their purpose. They’re schooled in what they want to do and how they want to do it. What they’ll do next is a question, of course, for some later time. There’s plenty of rock and roll here to last until then.

The Riven‘s The Riven is out March 1 on The Sign Records. PR wire info follows the “Far Beyond” lyric video here.

Please enjoy:

The Riven, “Far Beyond” lyric video premiere

Far Beyond is taken from The Riven’s debut album released by The Sign Records.

In 2018, The Riven went to Madrid, not to spend time under the Spanish sun but rather curled up in the cellar studio at Holy Cuervo Studios. In ten days they powered through the record’s nine songs, producing an album that in the words of the drummer Olof Axegärd, “is loud, is rock, is soul, and prog. It has it all!” The Riven will be releasing their highly anticipated first full length with The Sign Records in the spring of 2019. Produced by Ola Ersfjord (Lucifer, Primordial, Dead Lord) the album manages to merge the diverse influences of its four members into a solid unit of Rock and Roll that will leave no one oblivious.

The Riven is:
Charlotta Ekebergh – Vocals
Arnau Diaz – Guitar
Max Ternebring – Bass Guitar
Olof Axegärd – Drums

The Riven on Thee Facebooks

The Riven on Bandcamp

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

The Sign Records at Freighttrain.se

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Vokonis Announce New Drummer Peter Ottoson; New Album Title Revealed

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

Sweden’s Vokonis are pretty careful in the announcement below not to give away the title of their impending third full-length, which will be issued sometime in the coming months through The Sign Records, but it’s called Grasping Time and on Feb. 2 they’ll have the first single out from the offering, also called “Grasping Time.” So there. The forthcoming album will mark the final contributions of drummer Emil Larsson, who has left the band with Peter Ottoson coming aboard as his replacement alongside guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson and bassist/vocalist Jonte Johansson.

Change is nothing new for Vokonis, whose three albums — 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here), 2017’s The Sunken Djinn (review here), and the upcoming — have been issued through Ozium RecordsRipple Music and (shift to future tense) The Sign Records, respectively, and who began their career under a different moniker with a different lineup. So, you know, kind of how it goes. Despite or perhaps in some part because of this, the band has never failed to grow from one quick-turnaround release to the next, and I’m not saying I’ve heard it or anything, but their third LP is not an exception to the rule, with Ohlsson and Johansson introducing more depth to the vocal arrangements and sharing duties in that regard more than ever before, as well as pushing themselves in terms of their songwriting.

There will be much more to come on Grasping Time, of course, as we get closer to the release. Here’s the lineup change announcement in the meantime:

vokonis

VOKONIS ANNOUNCE NEW MEMBER

Swedish heavy prog band VOKONIS have announced that drummer Emil Larsson has left the band and replaced by Peter Ottoson.

The band commented:

“Emil has decided to leave Vokonis. There are no bad feelings involved. Emil felt done with the band and wanted to leave the position for a person that would feel love for the songs and the band. The new record we recorded in 2018 will be Emil’s last contributions to the band. We are of course incredibly sad by his decision, but that is life. We are excited to welcome Peter as our new drummer.”

More information on the new album will be announced in the next few months!

Vokonis is:
Simon Ohlsson – guitar/vocals
Jonte Johansson – bass/vocals
Peter Ottoson – drums

https://www.facebook.com/OfficialVokonis/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/3DZoit5R0ahZQCNLbDnNxr?si=eh0iJ7YHQQOblw_ztadm1Q
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://www.thesignrecords.com

Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn (2017)

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MaidaVale Announce Spring 2019 Euro & UK Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

maidavale

Classic-style heavy rockers MaidaVale took on a more expansive sound with their 2018 album, Madness is Too Pure (discussed here), and they haven’t exactly been shy about showing it off. They’ll keep the thread going early in 2019 with a Spring tour of Europe and UK that includes a stop at the Bordeaux Psych Fest in France and rooms in the UK like the famed Star and Garter in Manchester and The Black Heart in London. Seems like they’ve got some really good momentum on their side going into much of next year. I have to wonder where it might all be leading and when they’ll get to work on their next record. Madness is Too Pure followed just two years behind 2016’s Tales of the Wicked West (review here), so if it was early 2020 for the next one, I’d hardly be surprised. Sooner works too though, ha.

Here are the tour dates:

maidavale tour poster

MAIDAVALE announce European tour in Spring 2019

MaidaVale is heading out on a lengthy European tour in March 2019. The tour takes the band to Norway, Germany, France, UK and the Netherlands.

The Swedish band released their latest album ‘Madness Is Too Pure’ in March 2018. The record has since been nominated to a P3 Guld award in their native country.

The tour kicks off at the By:Larm Festival in Norway.

Tour Dates:
28/02 (NO) OSLO – by:Larm Festival
01/03 (NO) OSLO – by:Larm Festival
03/03 (DE) HAMBURG – Hafenklang
04/03 (DE) GOETTINGEN – Dots
05/03 (DE) MANNHEIM – 7er Club
06/03 (DE) NIJMEGEN – Merleyn
07/03 (DE) COLOGNE – Sonic Ballroom
08/03 (FR) STRASBOURG – La Laiterie
10/03 (FR) PARIS – Le Glazart
11/03 (FR) ANGERS – Joker’s Pub
12/03 (FR) POITIERS – Le Cluricaume
13/03 (FR) NANTES – La Scène Michelet
14/03 (FR) RENNES – TBA
15/03 (FR) BORDEAUX – Salle du Gran Parc / Bordeaux Psych Fest
16/03 (FR) LYON – Le Farmer
18/03 (DE) FREIBURG – Slow Club
19/03 (DE) STUTTGART – Keller Club
20/03 (DE) KARLSRUHE – Alte Hackerei
22/03 (UK) LONDON – The Black Heart
23/03 (UK) MANCHESTER – Star and Garter
25/03 (UK) BRISTOL – The Lanes
27/03 (NL) AMSTERDAM – Melkweg
28/03 (DE) BREMEN – Zollkantine

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
http://www.thesignrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://freighttrain.se/sv/

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure (2018)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Iron Lamb, Blue Haze

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

iron lamb blue haze

[Click play above to stream Iron Lamb’s Blue Haze in full. Album is out Oct. 26 on The Sign Records.]

Despite a storied pedigree in the more extreme ends of metal, Iron Lamb rock. Period. I’m not sure how else to put it. Blue Haze, issued by The Sign Records, is the Stockholm-based five-piece’s third full-length following 2015’s Fool’s Gold, and it’s a sharp LP at eight songs and 37 minutes given to modern interpretation of a classic heavy rock mindset. Not necessarily uncommon either in general or coming from Sweden specifically — plenty of classic heavy to go around — but what Iron Lamb bring to their third record is a nestle-into-niche sensibility that makes the most of grown-up punk tendencies and the throaty vocals of Daniel Forn Bragman (Tyrant) in order to make a place for itself where the Hammond on closer “Dead Beat” isn’t out of place and neither is the pure Motörhead charge of “The Hunt.”

Those UK megalegends are a primary influence on Iron Lamb, which is comprised of Bragman, guitarists Johan Wallin (ScurvyGallow) and Jens Bäckelin (Martyrdöd, Sanctuary in Blasphemy), drummer Thomas Daun (Dismember, Insision, Repugnant) and bassist Daniel Ekeroth (TyrantUsurpress) — who actually wrote the book on Swedish death metal; it was called Swedish Death Metal and well worth a read as I recall — but much of that influence can be traced to Bragman‘s style, which even in the piano-laced “Erase/Rewind” keeps a gravely approach. Blue Haze is the second record with Bragman as frontman — Gustaf Lindström (RepugnantGhost) handled vocals on the punkier, rawer 2011 debut, The Original Sin — and despite that low-hanging fruit of influence tagging, it’s easy to hear Iron Lamb coming more into themselves this time around. Part of that might be owed to working with Martin “Konie” Ehrencrona, who handles the aforementioned piano and Hammond, recorded and mixed the album and has a pedigree as well of working with the likes of In SolitudeThe Oath and Tribulation at the analog-minded Studio Cobra in Stockholm.

Presumably Blue Haze was tracked to tape as well, which makes sense given its later-’70s affinities — Thin Lizzy, maybe some Scorpions, etc. — but they make no real show of retroism in tone or presentation, instead producing an atmosphere that’s dark but not theatrical and well suited to the pointedly straightforward structures at play in the songs, which stay tight in a four-to-five-minute range and make not even the pretense of avoiding pretense because there’s nothing in that regard to avoid. Like I said at the outset, they rock. They’re not looking to do anything else and they don’t need to. They clearly know what they want to sound like and how to make that happen. Though there are some speedier moments, like the careening “Into the Night” (with keys and Mellotron by Andreas Sandberg of Negative Self) and “Erase/Rewind” or “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes,” which follows, Blue Haze is by and large slower and less frenetic than was Fool’s Gold (the oddly goth standout “Leave Me Be” on that outing notwithstanding), and that’s something easily traced to the band having a better idea of who they want to be.

iron lamb

In that regard, Blue Haze feels much like the second or third album that it is (second with Bragman, third overall), since it demonstrates a maturity of approach from opener “Apocalypse Express” — not sure who plays the keys there, presumably Ehrencrona — that finds Iron Lamb in sure control of their sound while still having a natural energy to carry it across without being staid or overly samey in their tracks. Their gallop is confident, their riffing brash like it’s 1978 but not entirely given to NWOBHM showiness, and as “Bound by Gravity” gives Daun a platform for impressive tom work, Bäckelin and Wallin offer highlight solos and rhythms leading to a spacier slowdown in the second half that’s not at all psychedelic but still has a sense of atmosphere held together by a pushed-forward bassline from Ekeroth.

Tellingly, it wraps with a quick return to speedier fare ahead of the bass leading the way into “Into the Night,” and that’s of course emblematic of the structure at play throughout Blue Haze and the character Iron Lamb bring to their songwriting. The tracks do not feel overly composed in the sense of trying to out-clever either the listener or the band itself. The band range, but aren’t trying to blindside anybody with gimmicky turns of aesthetic, and there is complexity in the interplay between the two guitars even on the penultimate “The Iron and the Lamb,” which is the shortest cut at 3:47 — ahead of the finale, “Dead Beat,” the longest at 5:31 — which finds room for a chugging underpinning to a rampage of a solo in its second half, right before a deft return to the hook. And in rounding out, “Dead Beat” offers anything but, with a fervent strut that reminds of earlier (not earliest) Judas Priest as heavy metal began to take shape from the rock of the prior generation. Iron Lamb make themselves comfortable in that between-space, willfully standing on the threshold of different styles without giving themselves entirely to one or the other or the other; metal, rock and punk.

Instead, they bask in the fluidity that such refusal allows them, shifting subtly throughout Blue Haze with a sense of turning expectations on themselves and creating an individualized sound. That would seem to be the intention, and it’s successful, but while there’s obvious thought and passion put into the craft and production, and an overarching atmosphere as a result, there’s also nothing to take away from a natural vibe throughout these songs and performances, and while I can’t speak to how Iron Lamb might come across as a live act never having seen them play, they very clearly have put themselves to the task of bringing that electricity to the studio. Fair enough. The bottom line, I’m afraid, is the same as the top line: Iron Lamb rock. There isn’t another way to put it, and to try to put it another way would be doing an injustice to the material throughout Blue Haze. You can keep reinventing the wheel if you want. These guys will be over here cracking their next beer and blowing asses out of the room. Cheers.

Iron Lamb, “Apocalypse Express” official video

Iron Lamb on Thee Facebooks

Iron Lamb on Bandcamp

Iron Lamb website

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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The Riven Sign to The Sign Records; Debut Album Due in 2019; New Single This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

On Friday, The Riven will unveil the first single from their impending 2019 debut album. That record doesn’t have a name yet, at least not a public one, but it will be released in a new deal the classic heavy rocking outfit has inked with The Sign Records and it will follow last year’s Blackbird EP (discussed here). Since that five-tracker was recorded in 2016, the band has moved from London to Stockholm, and the new record — because of course — was put to tape in Madrid. Consider it a pan-European heavy rock experience if you must, but The Riven will be another name on 2019’s most anticipated list, and I’ll hope to have more to come on it as we get closer to the release.

For now, here’s the announcement from The Sign Records, as per the PR wire:

THE RIVEN

The Sign Records signs The Riven. The band is set to release their debut album during the spring 2019 and their first single ‘Fortune Teller’ is set for release the 19th of October.

In 2018 The Riven went to Madrid, not to spend time under the Spanish sun but rather curled up in the valved cellar studio at Holy Cuervo Studios. In ten days they powered through the record’s nine songs producing an album that in the words of the drummer Olof Axegärd “Is loud, is rock, is soul, and prog, it has it all!”. The Riven will be releasing their highly anticipated first full length with The Sign Records in the spring of 2019.

The band have recorded their debut album with Ola Ersfjord (Tribulation, Lucifer, Primordial) in Madrid. The album artwork is made by Maarten Donders. The album is a pure injection of Rock into the system.

“The Riven are set to release one of the strongest Swedish debut albums in many years. The band holds a perfect combination of bluesy vocals and classical rock sound. We are humbled over the opportunity to work with, and be able to present The Riven to the world.” – Kaj Sivervik, The Sign Records

“We are super excited to announce that we are signing with the Sign Records. One of the reasons to why we moved the band from the UK to Sweden was that we wanted to be part of the scene over here. We have a great love for bands like Hällas, Hypnos and MaidaVale and to be on the same label as those guys, as well as other great acts too, is really a step in the right direction for us. We knew that working with Kaj and the Patricks would be great for the band when we first heard Kaj speak on Rockpodden. His love and passion for the bands on the label is something you don’t come across too often and we strongly feel that a collaboration of this sort needs to have that element. It was in that moment we knew that we wanted to be on The Sign records. Now let’s bring on the release and let the good times roll!” – Max Ternebring, The Riven

The Riven is:
Charlotta Ekebergh – Vocals
Arnau Diaz – Guitar
Max Ternebring – Bass Guitar
Olof Axegärd – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/TheRivenMusic
https://theriven.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://thesignrecords.com/
https://freighttrain.se/en/the-sign-record/skraeckoedlan/

The Riven, Blackbird EP (2017)

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Hällas Announce Live Dates with Graveyard for Nov./Dec.

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I had a couple crucial learnings at this year’s Hostsabbat Festival in Oslo. Among them? Patchy pants are all the rage in Norway. I guess it’s a post-apocalyptic kind of thing? Like acknowledging that the dystopia is already here? Anyway, by the time I left town two days later, I wanted a pair. Still do.

More relevant: Hällas do not screw around on stage. Their set opening the fest in the Kulturkirken Jakob was likewise pro-shop and raucous; hot rock delivered with a cool hand but not at all staid or boring to watch. I felt fortunate to be able to catch them, and they more than stood up to the task of the high ceiling under which they played.

In addition to being one of the first bands announced for Desertfest Berlin 2019, they’ll be out for more than a handful of Scandinavian dates alongside kingpins Graveyard starting in early November and finishing up just before the holidays.

Don’t forget your patchy pants:

hallas

Hällas Announces Tour supporting Graveyard

Hällas announces a Scandinavian tour supporting Graveyard. These dates will provide a perfect mixture of Swedish rock during eleven dates. Tickets to the tour is running low on several dates. Secure your tickets through Ticketmaster.

Hällas Tour supporting Graveyard
2018.11.02 – SE – Nöjesfabriken – Karlstad
2018.11.03 – SE – Nordfest – Sundsvall
2018.11.09 – SE – Frimis Salonger – Örebro
2018.11.10 – DK – Pumpehuset – Copenhagen
2018.11.22 – SF – Tavastia – Helsinki
2018.11.23 – SF – Lutakko – Jyväskylä
2018.11.24 – SF – Klubi – Tampere
2018.12.14 – SE – Pustervik – Göteborg
2018.12.15 – SE – Pustervik – Göteborg (Sold Out)
2018.12.21 – SE – Cirkus – Stockholm

Hällas album “Excerpts from a future past” was released in October 2017 by the Sign Records. The band have toured all over Europe upon the release. The band have played festivals as Høstsabbat (NO), Devilsstone (Lit), Fusion Fest (De), Roadburn (NL) and Muskelrock (SE) during the last couple of months. The bands just released their hit single ‘Star Rider’ as a flexi seven inch as the band once again heads out on tour, this time in Scandinavia.

Hällas is:
Tommy Alexandersson (bass/vocals)
Alexander Moraitis (guitar)
Kasper Eriksson (drums)
Marcus Pettersson (guitar)
Nicklas Malmqvist (keys)

https://www.facebook.com/haellas/
https://www.instagram.com/hallasband/
http://www.hallasband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thesignrecords/
http://freighttrain.se

Hällas, “Star Rider” official video

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