Quarterly Review: Trippy Wicked, Dunbarrow, The Vintage Caravan, Zatokrev & Minsk, Owl Maker, Orbital Junction, Bourbon, Birnam Wood, Wytch Hazel, The Soulbreaker Company

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

You know how this goes by now, right? Well, okay, except that because I skipped the Quarterly Review that I otherwise would’ve done in September (or, more likely, October), I’m doubling-up this time. 100 reviews instead of 50. Two full weeks of 10 albums per day. Will I survive? Yeah, probably. Will it be completely overwhelming? Already is. Thanks for asking.

I’ll save the summaries of the year that was for list-time, which is fast approaching, but consider the fact that there are well more than 100 albums I could include in this roundup emblematic of just how vibrant heavy rock and doom are in the US, EU, UK, Australia and elsewhere. It’s a universal thing, and accordingly, there’s a whole universe of it to explore. This is just a sampling.

But yeah, time’s a wastin’, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stakes n Scale

trippy wicked stakes n scale

An acoustic EP from Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight — who, let’s face it, were way ahead of the curve when it comes to the UK scene’s thing for long and ridiculous band names — is a considerable departure from where they were two years ago on their split/collaboration with GurT (review here), but those familiar with the band might recall their past penchant for the occasional unplugged cover recorded for YouTube. Chris West (also Crawling for Carrion, Glanville, etc.), who engineered the recording and plays guitar, and vocalist Peter Holland (also Elephant Tree) revamp Trippy Wicked‘s “Up the Stakes” from 2012’s Going Home (review here), and cover “Scale the Mountain” by Stubb, of which both were members when the song was written. Together, they make for a nine-minute showcase for the character in Holland‘s voice and the melodies and craft at root in both tracks, and while its arrival feels like kind of a one-off, it’s certainly no less welcome for that.

Trippy Wicked on Thee Facebooks

Trippy Wicked on Bandcamp

 

Dunbarrow, II

dunbarrow ii

The novelty of new bands playing through vintage gear in order to capture a heavy ’70s sound may have faded, but like all subgenres, as time goes on, the retro-ist style continues to shift and change as bands like Dunbarrow bring new character to established tenets. Their second LP for RidingEasy is aptly-titled II and sways between honoring the likes of Pentagram and acts like Witchcraft who’ve helped craft that band’s hindsight-founded legacy. Dunbarrow‘s noodly style, restrained rhythmic shove and ride-the-riff melody on “Weary Lady” and the foresty creep of “The Demon Within” capture the vibe well, the latter occurring in a second half of II populated with “The Wolf” and “Witches of the Woods Pt. II,” a sequel to the closer of their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) that here leads to the more severe roll of the finale, “On this Night,” emblematic of the changing character of the band even as it reaffirms in its tense midsection the roots from which they sprung.

Dunbarrow on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

The Vintage Caravan, Gateways

the vintage caravan gateways

With their third record and second for Nuclear Blast, Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan affirm not only their passion for the boogie of old on cuts like “The Way” and the strutting “Hidden Streams,” but secure a place as being worthy of the consideration they’ve been given to a degree by the wider Continental European heavy underground. They are strikingly mature in their approach for still being a relatively young band, and their albums have worked quickly to develop a character that is becoming more and more their own. They do the fests and they tour, and so on, but they seem to be engaged in building their listenership one pair of ears at a time. Having a metal-major label behind them hasn’t hurt their promotional cause, but frankly, they’re not as big as they should be for the level of work they’re doing, and even with songs like “Reset” and “Reflections” and the composed-strictly-for-vinyl-sounding closer “Tune Out” to their credit, they’re still largely a word of mouth band, especially in the US. Well, consider this your word of mouth. If you haven’t heard Gateways yet, you should get on that.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

 

Minsk & Zatokrev, Bigod

zatokrev minsk bigod

Post-metallic powerhouses Minsk and Zatokrev — both of whom hit their 15th anniversary last year — teamed up for a European tour this Fall. To mark the occasion, Consouling Sounds and Czar of Crickets celebrated with Bigod, a split with two tracks from each band arranged in alternating order — Minsk, then Zatokrev, etc. — intended to highlight the symmetry between them not just of circumstance and root influence in the Neurosis school of atmospheric sludge, but the fact that they share these commonalities despite their origins in Illinois and Switzerland, respectively. Each band opens with a longer track (double points) in Minsk‘s “Invoke/Revive” and Zatokrev‘s “Silent Gods,” each of which push past 13 minutes as likely at any moment to be pummeling as ambient, and follows with two shorter cuts, Minsk‘s “Salvatore” swelling theatrically from its minimalist beginnings while Zatokrev‘s “The Chalice and the Dagger” seems to explode from the foundation the prior band laid out. It must have been a hell of a tour, but whether you saw it or not, the split is a welcome conglomeration from two of post-metal’s strongest acts.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Zatokrev on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

Owl Maker, Sky Road

owl maker sky road

Self-recording guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, ex-Guerra, etc.) leads Connecticut-based three-piece Owl Maker through a complex thematic of Native American folklore and heavy metal classicism. The NWOBHM plays a strong role in his riffing style, but one of the two tracks included on the two-songer single Sky Road, “Owl City,” also veers into more extreme territory with a departure from clean vocals to harsher screaming. All told, it’s about eight minutes of music, but Sky Road nonetheless follows Owl Maker‘s earlier-2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), with an uptick in melodic presence in the vocals of Tuozzoli and bassist Jessie May and progression in the chemistry between the two of them and drummer Chris Anderson, and with the fluidity of their transitions between various styles of heavy, their scope seems only to be growing. To wit, “Sky Road” itself is only 3:42, but still demonstrates a clear-headed compositional method based around storytelling and a subtly encompassing range. Whether it’s early warning for what they do next or a conceptual one-off, its quick run seems just to be begging for a 7″ pressing.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Orbital Junction, Orbital Junction

Orbital Junction orbital junction

The Londonderground continues to produce acts ready and willing to worship at the altar of riffs. Orbital Junction‘s self-release debut EP makes an impression not only because of the markedly pro-shop production by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios and the cover art by SoloMacello, but the hooks to live up to those high standards. “6 ft. 2” follows opener “Space Highway” with a bit of dudely chestbeating — note: I don’t know how tall any of them actually are — but the swing of EP centerpiece “Devil’s Double” and the bounce of “Gypsy Queen” speak for the four-piece’s roots and appreciation of straightforward heavy, void of pretense and tapping into an easy mid-paced fluidity that slows up somewhat on closer “Pagan” without really losing the central groove of the offering overall. They’ll have their work cut out for them in distinguishing themselves over the longer term amongst London’s burl-fueled hordes, but their first outing shows their instincts headed in the right direction in terms of songwriting, performance and presentation.

Orbital Junction on Thee Facebooks

Orbital Junction on Bandcamp

 

Bourbon, Fuente Vieja

Bourbon Fuente Vieja

Crisp but warm in its tone and presentation, rife with melody and carrying a laid back spirit despite a fervent underlying groove — the bass on “El Sendero” rests well within gotta-hear-it territory — Spanish purveyors Bourbon emobody some of the best of post-Viaje a 800 Andalusian heavy rock and roll on their third LP, Fuente Vieja (on Spinda). Their fuzz makes its presence known early on “Si Véis La Luz, Corred” and continues as a running theme as tracks like “A Punto de Arder” and the side-A-capping title-cut grow increasingly progressive. There’s room for some shuffle, of course, as side B begins with “La Triste Realidad,” and the slower “Hacia el Sol” gracefully blends electrified wah and acoustic guitars beneath a well-timed standout vocal performance, but the highlight might be eight-minute closer “Destierro,” which seems to bring everything else under one roof while tapping into a poppier structure early — acoustics and electrics aligning effectively circa two minutes in — while providing the album with a graceful and fittingly organic-sounding finale.

Bourbon on Thee Facebooks

Spinda Records webstore

 

Birnam Wood, Wicked Worlds

birnam wood wicked worlds

Birnam Wood don’t have time for bullshit, but they do have time for a bit of shenanigans. Thus the 1:44 surge of opener “Time of Purification” leads into the sample-laden roller groove of “Richard Dreyfuss” on their as-of-now-self-released Wicked Worlds, and the “Hole in the Sky”-style “Dunsinane” shifts into the more blown-out “Early Warning,” which, by the time its tectonic low end kicks in, is indeed something of a clarion. At seven-tracks/34-minutes, Wicked Worlds is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but I’d argue it as the latter with the flow from “Greenseer” into the massive “A Song for Jorklum” and the seven-minute finale “Return to Samarkand” making for a righteous side B, but either way, it’s a Boston-crafted assault of grit-tone and aggro doom that finds the band not overwhelmed by the heft of their own tones but able to move and manipulate them to serve the purposes of their songs. Those purposes, incidentally, are mostly about kicking ass. Which they do. Copiously.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

Wytch Hazel, II: Sojourn

Wytch Hazel II Soujorn

It would not seem to be a coincidence that UK self-aware four-piece Wytch Hazel — guitarists Conlin Hendra (also vocals) and Alex Haslam, bassist Matt Gatley and drummer Jack Spencer nod to Wishbone Ash‘s Argus with the cover of their second LP, II: Sojourn (on Bad Omen). They do a lot of that kind of nodding, with a sound culled from a valiant blend of classic progressive and early NWOBHM styles that makes the point of how closely related the two have always been. “The Devil is Here” starts out at a fervent gallop with just an underpinning of Thin Lizzy, while the later “See My Demons” shifts from its steady roll and rousing hook into an acoustic/electric break that seems to pull from Jethro Tull as much as Scorpions. At 10 tracks/45 minutes, they have plenty of time to flesh out their ideas, and they do precisely that, whether it’s the careful unfolding around the keys and acoustics of closer “Angel Take Me” or the over-the-top instrumental push of “Chorale” or the moodier “Wait on the Wind,” the wah solo of which is a highlight on its own. There are some burgeoning harmonies in Hendra‘s vocals, which is an impulse he should follow as it would only enhance the material, but after making their debut with 2016’s Prelude, II: Sojourn finds Wytch Hazel sounding comfortable and well established in their niche.

Wytch Hazel on Thee Facebooks

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light

the soulbreaker company sewed with light

Progressive, expansive and engaging, the sixth album from Spanish sextet The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light (on Underground Legends), taps into classically Floydian influences on songs like “The Word, the Blade” while still keeping a foot in heavy rock on the prior “Together,” and setting a quick course into a varied sonic persona via the seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Inner Dark.” Hypnotizing not necessarily with drift but with sheer willful exploration, The Soulbreaker Company work with a variety of key sounds and craft-minded ranging guitar in order to effect an atmosphere of thoughtful songwriting even in their most outwardly trippy moments. The sneering semi-psychedelic rock of “Avoid the Crash” and the more stripped-down roll of “Arrhythmia” (video premiere here) lead the way into closer “In the Beginning,” which marks yet another departure with its grandeur of string sounds and electronic beats leading to a chugging big finale. As with the bulk of The Soulbreaker Company‘s work, it requires an active ear, but Sewed with Light both encourages and well earns consideration as more than background noise.

The Soulbreaker Company on Thee Facebooks

Underground Legends on Bandcamp

 

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The Soulbreaker Company Premiere “Arrhythmia” Video; Sewed with Light out Nov. 30

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the soulbreaker company 2018

Basque Country progressive heavy rockers The Soulbreaker Company release their sixth LP, Sewed with Light, Nov. 30 on Underground Legends Records. It is their first outing through the label after serving as a longtime staple act for Alone Records, but regardless of who’s putting it out, the band’s sound remains unmistakably their own. In their more than 13 years together, the band has been through a number of lineup changes and have undertaken a persistent sonic evolution, and as the latest manifestation of that, the 11-track/48-minute Sewed with Light brings an overarching pastoral feel to still-weighted grooves and tones. With vocalist Jony Moreno out front surrounded by his fellow founders in guitarists Asier Fernandez (also vocals) and Dani Triñanes, melody runs central throughout the proceedings while Javi Free makes an impression on synth in “Together” and piano in “You Guess but You Don’t Understand,” and the drums of Andoni Ortiz and bass of Illan Arribas tie together a vision of progressive heavy informed by the likes of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin that nonetheless seeks to repeat the work of neither of them. Beginning with its longest track (immediate points) in the seven-minute “Inner Dark,” Sewed with Light offers a balance between a rich, textured sound and a graceful live execution that’s emblematic of their sonic maturity but still exciting to hear.

Acoustics, fuzzed electrics, a variety of keys and malleable vocals all come together to create the tapestry evoked in the material, which is peaceful even at its heaviest moments the soulbreaker company sewed with lightand has precious little time for needless aggression. Even as “The Word, the Blade” picks up into its chorus, the feel remains easy and accessible, and as they cap with the electronics-and-drone piece “In the Beginning,” the vibe remains more experimentalist than angry. Though it’s relatively short at 2:57, “Arrhythmia” represents Sewed with Light well. Preceded by the keyboard/Mellotron-laced “Avoid the Crash,” it’s more uptempo than some of what surrounds, but set as the penultimate inclusion on the tracklist, it’s obviously meant as a last-minute kick to get listeners on board for the far-out closer that follows. Like the best of the classics from which they take influence, The Soulbreaker Company are able to distill a grand or epic feel down into a song that’s tight in its structure and doesn’t need to hit the 10-minute mark to make its impression emotionally. Centerpiece “Persephone” brings together Free‘s spacey synth and the lead guitars in a one-into-the-next trade of solos and still has room in its five minutes for a memorable hook and an engaging melody. With the early prog-out of the quick “I am the Void” and the breadth of the subsequent “The End of the Day” and “Together,” there’s much for listeners to dig into, but whether one sits and parses through every move, shift in tone and groove, every part change and chorus, or if one simply goes along for the ride, The Soulbreaker Company offer an enticing invite to take its component songs on and live with them for a while. Some records you hear and that’s it. Sewed with Light feels more like a multi-sensory experience.

I’m thrilled today to host the premiere of the video for “Arrhythmia” with my thanks to Underground Legends for letting me do so. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by some info and links as always.

Please enjoy:

The Soulbreaker Company, “Arrhythmia” official video premiere

THE SOULBREAKER COMPANY’s official video for Arrhythmia from the album “Sewed With Light” available on November 30th.

Written and Directed by Elba Berganzo

The Soulbreaker Company is:
Jony Moreno: vox
Asier Fernandez: Guitars, vox
Andoni Ortiz: Drums
Illan Arribas: Bass
Dani Triñanes: Guitars
Javi Free: Synths, Piano, organ

The Soulbreaker Company on Thee Facebooks

The Soulbreaker Company on Bandcamp

The Soulbreaker Company on Instagram

The Soulbreaker Company on Twitter

Underground Legends Records on Thee Facebooks

Underground Legends Records on Bandcamp

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The Soulbreaker Company Announce New Album La Lucha

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

La Lucha is LP number five from Spanish prog-psych explorers The Soulbreaker Company, and it’s out Sept. 23 on Alone Records. They have the new song “The Kid out of this Land” streaming now from the album, and its synth-laden scope and somewhat foreboding riff are telling particularly in light of the fact that it closes the album. An easy-rolling groove emerges behind a manic guitar solo as it moves toward the halfway point of its 7:28 run, but the prevailing spirit is languid and open, and it would seem that time has loosened the band up somewhat, at least in this context. How it might work out on the rest of the record is of course still unknown.

Preorders are up now from the label, at the store link below. The PR wire had this to say about it:

the soulbreaker company la lucha

THE SOULBREAKER COMPANY “LA LUCHA” CD | LP

Fifth album by the Spanish psych rock band The Soulbreaker Company, recorded at Toy Box Studios in Bristol by Stef Hambrook, mixed at Louder Studios in California by Tim Green (Melvins, Six Organs Of Admittance, Comets On Fire…) and mastered by Noel Summerville (Napalm Death, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats).

The band states: “it reflects all the influences that have marked our history as a band, from heavy to pop, fuzz and psycho with a heavy sound that also shines on clean tunes. Writing and recording was a calm and relaxed process so we had the time to think which tracks to include. We believe it is our most sincere and unpretentious album”.

La Lucha will be released on jewelcase CD and single Gatefold LP, limited to 300 copies on black vinyl and 200 copies on crystal clear colour.

The closing track of the album is entitled “The Kid Out Of This Land” and you can check it on YouTube.

Official release date is set for September 23rd.

https://www.facebook.com/thesoulbreakercompany/
https://www.facebook.com/alonerecords.spain/
http://www.thestonecirclestore.com/

The Soulbreaker Company, “The Kid out of this Land”

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Buried Treasure Stands Alone (Records)

Posted in Buried Treasure on February 18th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Back in December, I placed an order at the Alone Records online distro. They were (and still are) offering a list of CDs, from which you, the loyal customer, could pick 10 for 59.90 Euro. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me, so I hit it up and made my list — who doesn’t love making lists of records they want to buy? — and filled the shopping cart. 10 albums from the list, no problem. Even with the exchange rate and shipping, I made out about right.

End of January, I started to get nervous that perhaps my local post office had either lost or decided “fuck it” and tossed the package, because it still hadn’t come. Of course, I’ve had dealings with Alone before for the site (and before that as well), so the thought that the label was pulling a fast one never entered my mind. Sure enough, it turned out just to be delays. Weather delays, laziness delays, who the hell knows. The box showed up at my house, postmarked from way back when. Knowing that I’d gotten the last copies of a few of the items contained therein, I was glad to see it.

Here’s what I got, presented alphabetically in the spirit of last week’s Buried Treasure:

Abramis Brama, När Tystnaden Lagt Sig…
Duster 69, Ride the Silver Horses
Lucifer Was, Blues from Hellah
Mangrove, Endless Skies
Mississippi Sludge, Biscuits and Slavery
Negative Reaction, Everything You Need for Galactic Battle Adventures
Ridge, A Countrydelic and Fuzzed Experience in a Colombian Supremo
The Soulbreaker Company, The Pink Alchemist
Sunnshine, No More Forever
Warchetype, Goat Goddess Supremacy

Only the Warchetype and the Soulbreaker Company discs are actually on Alone Records proper, and I bought them because I reviewed (here and here) and enjoyed albums from both bands in the past couple months. There were a couple names I remember from a while ago — Mississippi Sludge, Ridge, Duster 69 — that I figured I’d get just for the hell of it. The Ridge was cool in a Fu Manchu vein, the Mississippi Sludge didn’t match the awesomeness of its cover at all, and Duster 69 was heaviest perhaps in its accent, so I guess that batch kind of had its ups and downs.

The Negative Reaction I’ve owned for years. I’m pretty sure the version I have I bought from the band the first time I saw them at the New Jersey Metalfest in 2003, but it’s in a slimline, and I hadn’t heard it in a while, so I thought a full copy would be a good way to revisit. And man, I had forgotten, but that album is killer. The riffs, Ken-E Bones‘ screaming, the samples, the timing of it, everything just works. Definitely under-mentioned when it comes to the high points of abrasive sludge. They still play a lot of these songs live, and for good reason.

Mangrove‘s album was more generic than I remembered from reviewing it back in 2009. I think I had it mixed up in my mind with either Tekhton or The Deep Blue on The Church Within, but either way, Endless Skies wasn’t helped at all by the fact that I listened to it right after the Abramis Brama, which was essentially a better version of the same kind of post-Soundgarden classic rock ideas. But then, Abramis Brama are one of the best bands in Sweden at that kind of thing, so I probably shouldn’t hold it against their countrymen in Mangrove for not measuring up. Just about nobody does.

So there’s a couple I’ll probably put away and a few I’ll revisit again — Lucifer Was‘ prog strangeness, the Negative Reaction, Warchetype, Abramis Brama, etc. — but on the whole it’s a bunch of music that I hadn’t heard before that I’ve heard now, so no matter what, I came out of it on the plus side. And seriously, if you haven’t dug into Warchetype, you should look them up in the immediate. Goat Goddess Supremacy more than lives up to its name.

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The Soulbreaker Company, Itaca: Careful with That Psych

Posted in Reviews on November 24th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Whereas much of the movement in the last several years of heavy psychedelic rock has been toward the more freeform, jamming style of bands like Earthless and Naam, the VitoriaGasteiz collective The Soulbreaker Company from the north of Spain present an incredibly tight-wound vision of what space-leaning psych can be on their second Alone Records full-length, Itaca. The six-piece (plus guests) band run through a wide array of sonic motifs, from the jazzy synth-prog of opener “It’s Dirt,” to the Doors-y feel of the ending movement of “Sandstorm,” always maintaining control, always sounding full. Never a hair out of place, so to speak. It’s an accomplishment mostly in the complexity of the song arrangements – I know of plenty two-piece bands who can’t get to the point of togetherness The Soulbreaker Company have with up to eight or nine people on a single track.

Part of that credit has to go to Chris Fielding, who produced Itaca at Foel Studios in Wales (Obiat, Conan, Porcupine Tree) along with the band. The sounds here are crisp but not unnatural, and there’s a remarkable balance between the separation in the instruments and their meshing. The already-noted opener earns kudos not only for its creative breadth, but for being the longest cut on Itaca at 9:38 (I’m almost always a sucker for a band who opens with their longest song instead of tacking it at the end), and cuts like “Oh! Warsaw,” the catchy “Sow the Roses” and the later, piano- and horn-driven “Take a Seat on the Moon” only reinforce the album’s primary statement, that The Soulbreaker Company are a band for whom the limits are few and far between. They have the will (and the personnel) to take listeners on a genuine journey, and the more of Itaca I dig into, the farther-ranging I’m finding it to be. While the classic rock approach of vocalist/guitarist Jony Moreno (backed occasionally by Layla Seville and/or Joanne Deacon) does a lot of the tying together of the different-sounding tracks, there’s also a tonal consistency to the material on Itaca that serves to heighten the drama of the songs while it helps the flow one to the next. Fans of Hypnos 69 will swoon over the guitar work of Daniel Triñanes and Asier Fernandez on “Colours of the Fire” and the sax-playing of Kike Guzman (who might want to think about adopting a nom de guerre) on “It’s Dirt” and “No Way Back Home,” on which the Hammond of Oscar Gil also provides an album highlight.

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