Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

Volcano on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records website

 

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Friday Full-Length: Graveyard, Graveyard

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Even though it came out three years later, Graveyard‘s 2007 self-titled debut was the album that showed retro heavy didn’t just belong to Witchcraft. Yeah, I know that’s an easy narrative and there were other bands out there at the time digging into the heavy ’70s sound for inspiration, but frankly, not at this level, and even Graveyard‘s fellow Swedes had begun by then to pull away from the proto-doom rock of their first outing by ’07. The two groups were further linked by a common lineage in Norrsken, with guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and then-bassist Rikard Edlund having played in that outfit alongside Witchcraft‘s Magnus Pelander from 1996-2000 and produced several demos and singles as well as appearing on the tributes Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble (discussed here) and Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer (discussed here) in 1999. But not only were Graveyard on the earlier end of Sweden and greater Europe’s retroist movement, and not only did they play a significant role in putting it into motion, but they showed there was more to it than Pentagram worship.

I’ll readily admit that the first time I saw them, in 2010 at Roadburn Festival (review here), I didn’t get it. I’d heard the self-titled, then three years old after coming out in the States on Tee Pee and in Europe on Transubstans. They were too cool-looking for me. Everything just seemed too perfect, it felt like a put-on for cool kids that just didn’t sit nearly as well with me as falafel I went outside and ate instead of watching them through the open doorway of the old Green Room at the 013 in Tilburg. I was wrong, of course. Not that Graveyard weren’t fashion-conscious in a way that even Witchcraft would never be and that Germany’s Kadavar would raise to yet another level, but I just got a mistaken impression. It was the end of a long weekend. I was tired. So it goes. Those more clued in to what Nilsson, Edlund, drummer Axel Sjöberg, guitarist Jonatan Ramm and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Truls Mörck were creating in terms of vibe dug it plenty. The problem, in short, was me. As ever.

By then, Graveyard were already due for a follow-up to Graveyard that wouldn’t arrive for another two years. That long stretch between a first album and a second one would crush a lesser band graveyard self titledlooking to capture some audience share, but with Graveyard, it seemed only to let the nine-song/39-minute long-player — crafted with a focus on vinyl, which was rare in 2007 — simmer as a burgeoning social media word-of-mouth spread its legend. Graveyard became a thing you knew if you were in the know, and their boogie blues rock was perfectly suited for building a cult following. Capping with the mega-hook of “Satan’s Finest,” the album was a clarion to the converted that wasn’t to be missed, and whether it was the shuffle in Sjöberg‘s snare on “Thin Line” or the swapping out of lead vocals for side A closer “Blue Soul” and side B’s “As the Years Pass by the Hours Bend” and the bass/percussion arrangement in the penultimate “Right is Wrong” that seemed so distant from the rush that began the album on “Evil Ways,” there was so much to dig about what Graveyard were doing that even if you got sucked in by the vintage-style production of the whole outing, you were still only getting part of the story. It was at least as much about the band’s songwriting and performance, if not more so, than the aesthetic they so purposefully donned to present it.

“Evil Ways” and “Satan’s Finest” — the start and the finish — were powerful enough in themselves, and managed to embrace cliché enough to be fun while other tracks took a more emotionalist direction that, in hindsight, foreshadowed some of Graveyard‘s and particularly Nilsson‘s delving into soul-driven fare on subsequent offerings. But the self-titled’s more raucous moments, on the short side B leadoff “Submarine Blues” or the bouncing-down-stairs rhythm of “Lost in Confusion,” as well as the fluidity in “Blue Soul,” were a new branch of heavy rock springing up right in front of the listener, and they were received accordingly. I don’t think it’s a hard argument to make that Graveyard became one of the most essential heavy rock bands of this decade in the wake of this debut, and what they’ve gone on to accomplish in the years since — signing to Nuclear Blast to finally release the landmark sophomore full-length Hisingen Blues (review here) in 2011, followed on a quick turnaround by 2012’s Lights Out (review here), touring the universe and then releasing 2015’s more mature Innocence and Decadence (review here) and 2018’s Peace (review here) — is matched by an elite few who might still be considered underground acts.

When Graveyard announced they were calling it quits in 2016, it seemed fair enough. After four records, they’d never hit a snag, and as they’d taken on a more modern production sound and toured hard for about half a decade, it was understandable they might have burnt themselves out. The breakup didn’t take, and when they got back together, with Oskar Bergenheim on drums in place of Sjöberg (since of Big Kizz) and Mörck back in the band on bass instead of guitar, with Ramm and Nilsson as the remaining founders, the revamped rhythm section changed the character of the band. That was evident on Peace, though the songwriting was consistent and arguably the broadest it had ever been. I don’t know what the future holds for Graveyard, except perhaps more touring — they announced last week they’ll be on the road with Clutch in Europe for a quick run this December — and headlining festival gigs if they want them, but listening back to their self-titled, it’s astounding how vital and assured this band was of what they were doing.

There are no shortage of acts out there who aim toward and eventually capture some sense of individuality. Who you put on and immediately know what you’re listening to. Graveyard would prove identifiable by the time the three and a half minutes of “Evil Ways” were done and wherever they’ve gone in terms of their sound, they’ve never lost that. While of course the context of their career since helps, I don’t think you can really look at their debut as anything other than a pivotal moment for this generation of heavy rock.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Gonna keep this quick if I can. A plug:

Today at 1PM Eastern is The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It’s the first time it’s airing in its new timeslot. I hope you get the chance to listen, and if you do, I hope you dig it. Please, if you can check it out, I’d very much appreciate it. I should be in the Gimme chat for it as well if you want to say hi.

Then later on tonight, The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I are flying to Ireland. It’s been a hell of a week. We loaded and brought a truckload of stuff — including CDs, the packing of which was a task both mentally and physically — to the house in New Jersey where we’ll be living by the end of this summer, on Tuesday. We were there for Wednesday hanging out with family and whatnot, then came back north yesterday to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to a farewell work party, and today we have a bunch of running around to do and packing to go on this trip, which is one of the last things she has going for Bridgewater State University: a study-abroad excursion to Ireland with another professor and 15 students. I’m going basically so she doesn’t have to be away from the baby for two weeks, though it means flying on a red-eye with an 19-month-old, stuffing him onto a bus multiple times and sleeping in the same room with him, which we haven’t done in a little over a year. It’s going to be… interesting. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about all of it.

Fortunately, we’re bringing his headphones. He has a little pair of blue wireless over-ears that The Patient Mrs. bought on Amazon. I loaded a micro-SD with the Beatles catalog and it’s an immediate calm-down for him. He can be in the midst of an absolute shit-fit and you put the headphones on him and it snaps him out of it. It’s astounding. Dude loves it. I just have to make sure he doesn’t get to “Revolution 9.” I don’t think children should be exposed to such horrors.

The plan though is to stop in and visit Slomatics though while we’re in Belfast, so I’m looking forward to that, and I may hit a record shop somewhere along the way. We’ll see. I don’t really know. I haven’t even looked at shows as compared to our itinerary or anything, mostly because I have no idea what our itinerary is. I’m really just along for the ride and the child-care on this one.

Because I love flying so much.

But it’s Ireland until June 6, then back to MA, then down to Jersey to see Solace with a bunch of other badass bands on June 8, then back to MA June 13 for more dental work — the saga continues! — then south to NJ, then further south for Maryland Doom Fest, then up to CT for a bit to cover babysitting my niece and nephew, and somewhere in there maybe we’re going to redo the kitchen in NJ before we actually move in? Oh yeah, and the place in Massachusetts goes on the market today, so if this place sells we’ll have to be out by some appointed closing date, then actually sort finances with buying the house in NJ and do that, finish packing — ugh, vinyl — and actually move. It’s a ton of shit, and completely overwhelming. That’s what it is.

All you can do is keep your head down and keep working.

But putting my head down, I notice on the baby monitor that The Pecan is up. Coming on 6AM, so that’s fair. Gonna go grab him and start the day. Laundry to do and whatnot.

Have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch at Dropout.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

 

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Skånska Mord Release Blues from the Tombs May 17; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swedish heavy rockers Skånska Mord released their self-titled EP in 2014 on Transubstans Records, but it’s been seven years since their last full-length. Their second LP, Paths to Charon (review here), came out in 2012 on Small Stone full of ’70s-via-’90s vibes, and this Spring they’ll issue Blues from the Tombs as a long-in-the-making third album.

Time has not dulled their affinity for classic heavy, as the posted track “Blinded by the Light” demonstrates. You can hear that, of course, at the bottom of this post, beneath the album info for Blues from the Tombs, which was posted by the label on thee social medias.

Have at it:

skanska mord blues from the tombs

SKÅNSKA MORD – new album BLUES FROM THE TOMBS out May 17 on VINYL & CD from TRANSUBSTANS RECORDS

Five years after their self-titled release on Transubstans Records, SKÅNSKA MORD return with yet another hard-hitting release, promptly named “Blues From The Tombs”.

The unique sound that makes SKÅNSKA MORD stand out in today’s scene is present on every track on the new album. While other acts may focus entirely on creating either heavy blues soundscapes, or paying their tribute to the progressive rock bands of the 70’s, SKÅNSKA MORD is not afraid of mixing the two in their own manner. “Blues From The Tombs” is delivering heavy grooves as per the band’s high standard, while enthusing the listener with tempo changes, incredible solos, tight rhythm sections together with the strong voice of Janne Bengtsson. From the doomy elements of “The Coming Of The Second Wave” to the dynamic psychedelia of “Sun”, there is only one thing to conclude; if you enjoy listening to music with the same passion as these guys are playing it, then this album is for you.

Skånska Mord is:
Jan Bengtsson
Petter Englund
Patric Carlsson
Patrik Berglin
Thomas Jönsson

https://www.facebook.com/skanskamord
http://www.transubstans.com/

Skånska Mord, “Blinded by the Light”

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Quarterly Review: Hornss, Khemmis, Fox 45, Monolith Wielder, No Man’s Valley, Saturna, Spotlights, MØLK, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Moon Coven

Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

2016 ends and 2017 starts off on the right foot with a brand new Quarterly Review roundup. The first time I ever did one of these was at the end of 2014 and I called the feature ‘Last Licks.’ Fortunately, I’ve moved on from that name, but that is kind of how I’m thinking about this particular Quarterly Review. You’ll find stuff that came out spread all across 2016, early, middle, late, but basically what I’m trying to do here is get to a point where it’s not March and I’m still reviewing albums from November. Will it work? Probably not, but in order to try my damnedest to make it do so anyway, I’m making this Quarterly Review six full days. Monday to Monday instead of Monday to Friday. 60 reviews in six posts. Sounds like madness because it is madness. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Hornss, Telepath

hornss telepath

San Francisco trio Hornss debuted on RidingEasy Records with 2014’s No Blood No Sympathy (review here) and further their raw genre blend on Telepath, their half-hour follow-up LP delivered via STB, melding heavy punk and metallic impulses to a noisy, thick-toned thrust on songs like “Atrophic” and the bouncing “Sargasso Heart” while opener “St. Genevieve” and the penultimate “Old Ghosts” dig into more stonerly nod. The latter track is the longest inclusion on the record at 3:26, and with 11 cuts there’s plenty of jumping between impulses to be done, but the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha, bassist/vocalist Nick Nava – both formerly of desert punkers Solarfeast – and drummer Bil Bowman (ex-Zodiac Killers) work effectively and efficiently to cast an identity for themselves within the tumult. It’s one that finds them reveling in the absence of pretense and the sometimes-caustic vibes of songs like “Leaving Thermal,” which nonetheless boast an underlying catchiness, speaking to a progression from the first album.

Hornss on Thee Facebooks

STB Records store

 

Khemmis, Hunted

khemmis hunted

Easily justifiable decision on the part of Denver’s Khemmis to return to Flatline Audio and producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, etc.) for their second album, Hunted. No reason to fix what clearly wasn’t broken about their 2015 debut, Absolution (review here), and on the 20 Buck Spin Records release, they don’t. A year later, the four-piece instead build on the doomly grandeur of the first outing and push forward in aesthetic, confidence and purpose, whether that’s shown in mournful opener “Above the Water,” the darker “Candlelight” that follows, or the centerpiece “Three Gates,” which opens as muddied death metal before shifting into a cleaner chorus, creating a rare bridge between doom and modern metal. Khemmis save the most resonant crush for side B, however, with the nine-minute “Beyond the Door” capping with vicious stomp before the 13-minute title-track, which closes the album with an urgency that bleeds even into spacious and melodic break that sets up the final apex to come, as emotionally charged as it is pummeling.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Fox 45, Ashes of Man

fox 45 ashes of man

In addition to the outright charm of titles like “Doominati,” “Coup d’étwat,” “Murdercycle” and “Urinal Acid” (the latter a bonus track), Rochester, New York’s Fox 45 offer fuzzy roll on their Twin Earth Records debut full-length, Ashes of Man, the three-piece of Amanda Rampe, Vicky Tee and Casey Learch finding space for themselves between the post-Acid King nod of “Necromancing the Stone” and more swing-prone movements like the relatively brief “Soul Gourmandizer.” Playing back and forth between longer and shorter tracks gives Ashes of Man a depth of character – particularly encouraging since it’s Fox 45’s first record – and the low-end push that leads “Phoenix Tongue” alone is worth the price of admission, let alone the familiar-in-the-right-ways straightforward heavy riffing of “Narcissister” a short while later. Very much a debut, but one that sets up a grunge-style songwriting foundation on which to build as they move forward, and Fox 45 seem to have an eye toward doing precisely that.

Fox 45 on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Monolith Wielder, Monolith Wielder

monolith wielder self titled

Double-guitar Pittsburgh four-piece Monolith Wielder make their self-titled debut through Italian imprint Argonauta Records, bringing together Molasses Barge guitarist Justin Gizzi and Zom guitarist/vocalist Gero von Dehn with bassist Ray Ward (since replaced by Amy Bianco) and drummer Ben Zerbe (also Mandrake Project) for 10 straightforward tracks that draw together classic Sabbathian doom with post-grunge heavy rock roll. There’s a workingman’s sensibility to the riffing of “No Hope No Fear” and the earlier, more ‘90s moodiness of “Angels Hide” – von Dehn’s vocals over the thick tones almost brings to mind Sevendust on that particularly catchy chorus – but Monolith Wielder’s Monolith Wielder isn’t shy about bringing atmospherics to the Iommic thrust of its eponymous cut or the penultimate “King Under Fire,” which recalls the self-titled Alice in Chains in its unfolding bleakness before closer “Electric Hessian” finishes with a slight uptick in pace and a fade out and back in (and a last sample) that hints at more to come.

Monolith Wielder on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

No Man’s Valley, Time Travel

no man's valley time travel

The stomp and clap intro “The Man Who Would be King” casts an immediately bluesy hue on No Man’s Valley’s debut album, Time Travel (LP release on Nasoni), and the Netherlands-based five-piece seem only too happy to build on that from there. It’s a blend outfits like The Flying Eyes and Suns of Thyme have proffered for several years now between heavy psychedelia and blues, but No Man’s Valley find a niche for themselves in the dreamy and patient execution of “Sinking the Lifeboat,” a highlight of the eight-track/33-minute LP, and bring due personality to the classic-style jangle-and-swing of “The Wolves are Coming” as well, so that Time Travel winds up more textured than redundant as it makes its way toward six-minute piano-laden finale “Goon.” Once there, they follow a linear course with a post-All Them Witches looseness that solidifies into a resonant and deeply engaging apex, underscoring the impressive reach No Man’s Valley have brought to bear across this first LP of hopefully many to come.

No Man’s Valley on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Saturna, III/Lost in Time

saturna lost in time

Barcelona classic rocking four-piece Saturna seem to avoid the boogie trap when they want to, as on the more rolling, modern heavy groove of “Five Fools,” and that keeps their World in Sound/PRC Music third album, III/Lost in Time, from being too predictable after the opening “Tired to Fight” seems to set up Thin Lizzy idolatry. They dip into more complex fare on “Leave it All,” somewhere between Skynyrd leads, Deep Purple organ-isms topped with a rousing hook, but keep some shuffle on songs like “Disease” and the earlier “All Has Been Great.” Highlight/closer “Place for Our Soul” seems to be literal in its title, with a more subdued approach and harmonized vocal delivery, and listening to its more patient delivery one can’t help but wonder why that soul should be relegated to the end of the album instead of featured throughout, but the songwriting is solid and the delivery confident, so while familiar, there’s ultimately little to complain about with what III/Lost in Time offers.

Saturna on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

MØLK, Hate from the Bong

molk hate from the bong

Especially with the title of their second EP set as Hate from the Bong, one might be tempted to put Belgian outfit MØLK immediately in the same category of malevolent stoner/sludge metal as the likes of Bongripper, but frankly they sound like they’re having too much fun for that on the five-tracker, reveling in lyrical shenanigans on the politically suspect “Stonefish” and opener “Methamphetamine.” Make no mistake, they’re suitably druggy, but even Hate from the Bong’s title-track seems to keep its tongue in cheek as it unfolds its post-Electric Wizard echoes and tonal morass. That gives the five-piece an honest vibe – they’re a relatively new band, having released their first EP in 2016 as well; why shouldn’t they be having a good time? – to coincide with all that thickened low end and vocal reverb, and though they’re obviously growing, there isn’t much more I’d ask of them from a debut full-length, which is a task they sound ready to take on in these songs.

MØLK on Thee Facebooks

MØLK on Bandcamp

 

Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision

psychedelic witchcraft the vision

Italian cult rock outfit Psychedelic Witchcraft have proven somewhat difficult to keep up with over the last year-plus. As they’ve hooked up with Soulseller Records and reissued their Black Magic Man EP (review here), their full-length debut, The Vision, and already announced a follow-up compilation in 2017’s Magick Rites and Spells, the band consistently work to feature the vocals of Virginia Monti (also Dead Witches) amid semi-retro ‘70s-style boogie, as heard on the debut in cuts like “Witches Arise” and “Wicked Ways.” At nine tracks/34 minutes, however, The Vision is deceptively efficient, and though they’re unquestionably playing to style, Psychedelic Witchcraft find room to vary moods on “The Night” and the subdued strum of “The Only One Who Knows,” keeping some sonic diversity while staying largely on-theme lyrically. To call the album cohesive is underselling its purposefulness, but the question is how the band will build on the bluesy soulfulness of “Magic Hour Blues” now that they’ve set this progression in motion. Doesn’t seem like it will be all that long before we find out.

Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Soulseller Records website

 

Spotlights, Spiders EP

spotlights spiders

Following the heavy post-rock wash of their 2016 debut album, Tidals, Brooklynite two-piece Spotlights – bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sarah Quintero and guitarist/synthesis/vocalist Mario Quintero – return on the quick with a three-track EP, Spiders, and set themselves toward further sonic expansion. The centerpiece “She Spider” is a Mew cover, electronic beats back opener “A Box of Talking Heads V2” and the spacious closer “Joseph” is a track from Tidals remixed by former Isis drummer Aaron Harris. So, perhaps needless to say, they hit that “expansion” mark pretty head-on. The finale turns out to be the high point, more cinematic in its ambience, but still moving through with an underlying rhythm to the wash of what one might otherwise call drones before becoming more deeply post-Nine Inch Nails in its back half. How many of these elements might show up on Spotlights’ next record, I wouldn’t guess, but the band takes an important step by letting listeners know the potential is there, adding three wings onto their wheelhouse in three tracks, which is as efficient conceptually as it is sonically immersive.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Spotlights on Bandcamp

 

Moon Coven, Moon Coven

moon coven self-titled

This self-titled second full-length from Malmö, Sweden-based Moon Coven begins with its longest track (immediate points) in “Storm” and works quickly to nail down a far-reaching meld between heavy psych and riffy density. Issued through the much-respected Transubstans Records, it’s a nine-track/50-minute push that can feel unipolar on an initial listen, but largely avoids that trap through tonal hypnosis and fluid shifts into and out of jams on cuts like “The Third Eye,” while centerpiece “Haramukh High” provides a solidified moment before the organ interlude “The Ice Temple” leads into the mega-roll of finisher “White Sun.” What seems to be a brooding sensibility from the artwork – a striking departure from their 2014 debut, Amanita Kingdom – is actually a far more colorful affair than it might at first appear, and well justifies the investment of repeat visits in the far-out nod of “Conspiracy” and the swirling “Winter,” which goes so far as to add melodic texture in the vocals and notably fuzzed guitar, doing much to bolster the proceedings and overarching groove.

Moon Coven on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records

 

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audiObelisk Transmission 060

Posted in Podcasts on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 60

Click Here to Download

 

Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.

But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.

Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama

Second Hour:

1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below

Third Hour:

2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Fourth Hour:

3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts

Total running time: 4:07:32

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 060

 

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Moon Coven Release Self-Titled LP on Transubstans Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

moon-coven

So although the PR wire info below lists it as coming soon, it seems like Moon Coven‘s self-titled sophomore outing is actually available to order now — as in right now, today — through Transubstans Records. The Swedish psych outfit offered up their debut, Amanita Kingdom, in 2014, and seem to have posted the self-titled earlier this fall, at the start of November, for at least partial streaming. It’s streaming in full now, as well as available via name-your-price download on Bandcamp, but after checking out the roll of album-centerpiece “Haramukh High,” you may indeed find yourself craving the full experience. You won’t hear me argue against that impulse, at very least.

You can dig into the vibes of the full stream below and see where you’re at with it, but in my experience there are few around whose tastes are as reliable as Transubstans. When they get behind something, it’s almost never happenstance.

Goes like this:

moon-coven-moon-coven

Transubstans Records: OUT SOON: MOON COVEN – S/T

Almost three years after the critically acclaimed debut album, “Amanita Kingdom”, MOON COVEN returns! Stronger and heavier than ever. Expect a psychedelic journey to the unknown grounds of your brain while experiencing a healthy dose of the deadliest sludge out there. The band comes back with their self titled effort and it’s clear they’ve taken their ambient ambitions to a whole new level. Prepare to become dazed, prepare to be strung out. Prepare for MOON COVEN!!

Tracklist:
01 Storm (listen)
02 Old Ground
03 Conspiracy
04 New Season
05 Haramukh High
06 Winter
07 The Third Eye
08 Ice Temple
09 White Sun

MOON COVEN is a five piece Heavy/Psychedelic/Rock band from Malmö/Stockholm, Sweden, with roots in Jönköping. Heavy distorted riffs meets harmoniously floating vocals that results in dreamy music with a hypnotic effect. MOON COVEN offers a paradoxical but satisfying musical landscape, it is massive and delicate at the same time.

Moon Coven is:
David
Axel
Justin
Oscar
Fredrik

https://www.facebook.com/mooncoven/
https://mooncoven.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/transubstans
http://www.transubstans.com/
http://www.recordheaven.net/

Moon Coven, Moon Coven (2016)

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Ponamero Sundown Call it Quits

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Swedish heavy rockers Ponamero Sundown have decided to call it a day. Hung up their spurs. Punched out. Insert other cliche for not being a band anymore here. Their disbanding was announced via Thee Facebooks, and they took care to dub it a “hiatus” and leave open the possibility of playing together again if the timing and offer were right for a farewell show. As of now, so far as I know, nothing is planned.

Based in Stockholm, Ponamero Sundown released three albums during their time together. The latest of them was Veddesta, which came out last year on Transubstans and Ozium Records. Their third full-length, it was preceded by 2011’s Rodeo Eléctrica (review here) and their 2009 debut, Stonerized (review here), both of which were also issued by Transubstans.

They leave having recently posted the track “Black Widow” to mark their 10th anniversary as a band. Originally recorded in 2007 and reportedly a regular feature of live sets, the song was included as a bonus cut on the CD version of Veddesta and brings up a lot of the strengths they showed throughout their tenure in songwriting and energetic execution. New projects from members are reportedly in the works, so when and if I hear of anything, I’ll pass word along.

Until then, best of luck to the dudes who used to be Ponamero Sundown. Here’s their announcement, short, sweet, and Band-Aid-esque:

ponamero sundown

It’s time to release the clutch and move on…

So from today we’re on a hiatus until further notice.

There’s no bad blood, musical differences or anything, just life itself.

If any festival or similar would like to book us one last time we would be open for that. Other than that some of us got other plans…

Thanks for the support over the years! Much love to you all!

Cheers and stay fuzzed!
Anders, Peter, Nicke and Robban

https://www.facebook.com/ponamerosundown/
http://ponamerosundown.bandcamp.com
http://www.transubstans.com
http://www.recordheaven.net
http://oziumrecords.com

Ponamero Sundown, “Black Widow”

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Burning Saviours, Soldat Hans, Olde, Holy Grove, Persona and Dungaree

Posted in Radio on December 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

I try to do these every week. I’d like to, ideally, but it seems to be more like when folders and zip files clog up my desktop enough to really get on my nerves. Fair enough. A full 20 records joined the playlist today, including a couple wintry classics from Anathema that either were overlooked by me or wrongly left out, plus the new Witch Mountain album, and some other recently-reviewed and otherwise-written-about stuff. It’s actually a pretty killer list. If you’re into it, or if you want to see what else has been added lately or what was played today, check out the Playlist and Updates Page. I spend an embarrassing amount of time there. Here are a few more reasons why.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 5, 2014:

Burning Saviours, Unholy Tales from the North

Burning Saviours Unholy Tales from the North

The unheralded heroes of Sweden’s retro heavy movement return with their first full-length since 2007. Their fifth outing overall, Burning Saviours‘ Unholy Tales from the North follows a series of four singles released between 2012 and 2013 (recently compiled by I Hate Records and released under the title Boken Om Förbannelsen) and finds the Örebro four-piece reveling in ’70s-style doom once more, albeit with a rawer and less directly ’70s-style production. That is, it’s not as directly fuzzed as their self-titled debut was nine years ago, when it was pretty much them and Witchcraft digging on classic Pentagram alone, but still presented in the same spirit, a strong opening trio of “They Will Rise Tonight,” “And the Wolves Cried Out” and “Your Love Hurts Like Fire” creating a lasting impression somewhere between early metal (think Rocka Rolla-era Priest) and the heavy rock that preceded it. Two Swedish-language tracks, “Ondskan” and “Lyktgubben,” end each side, and at 28 minutes, it’s a quick runthrough, but shows easily that Burning Saviours — since 2010 the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mikael Monks, lead guitarist Jonas Hartikainen, bassist Fredrik Evertsson and drummer Martin Wijkström — remain vital in their approach, cuts like “Inside My Mind” and “The Sons of the North” exploring metal’s roots effectively and organically while crafting something new, if familiar, from them. Burning Saviours on Thee Facebooks, at Transubstans Records.

Soldat Hans, Dress Rehearsal

Soldat Hans Dress Rehearsal

Swiss newcomers Soldat Hans seem to be embarking on an admirably ambitious journey with their self-released debut, Dress Rehearsal, the title of which hints at their thinking of it as a demo, but for which the extended four tracks included serve to craft a sense of ambience that marks it unmistakably as a full-length. Engrossing in its atmosphere, patient in its construction and impeccably conceived, Dress Rehearsal plays out lengthy builds fluidly and takes listeners from minimalist drone and slow unfolding to massive, feedback-caked sludge, and then back again, sounding natural in the process and brilliant for both its pummel and restraint. None of the four cuts — “Meine Liebste; Sie zerbricht sich” (15:21), “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” (13:34), “Zikueth! Zikueth!” (18:25) and “Liefdesgrot” (15:08) — really departs from a bleak, moody feel, but there are shifts throughout, as “Esthère (im bronzefarbenen Licht)” moves from the linearity of the opener to brooding post-rock and jazzy exploration before hitting its own wash of viciousness. To have a band take such control of their sound on their first outing is remarkable, and the longest and farthest ranging of the tracks, “Zikueth! Zikueth!” provides Soldat Hans their shining moment, theatrical but not overdone, melodic early and raging late, hypnotic in the middle, as classic as it is avant garde. They close out with another maddening payoff in “Liefdesgrot,” and while in the future I’d be interested to hear them take on structures as wide-ranging as what they bring sonically to Dress Rehearsal, if this is just practice, I can’t wait for the show to start. Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Olde, I

SAMO_12Jacket_Standard_RJC

If you were to go by their sound alone, I don’t think there’s any way you could come out of hearing burly five-piece Olde‘s Hypaethral Records debut long-player, I, and not imagine they were from Virginia. In fact, they come from Toronto, but the aggro Southern metal they purvey on the album’s eight bruising tracks would be right at home in the heart of sludgeland, full as it is of steady rolls — Sons of Otis drummer Ryan Aubin provides trailmarking thud — the from-the-chest growling from Doug McLarty and lumbering riffs, songs like “Heart Attack” and “Changelings” in the tracklist’s midsection readily crossing the line between sludge and doom, all mudhole stomp, metallic affiliation and violent groove. There’s atmosphere at work, but it comes out through the aggression portrayed, and ultimately, has about as all the ambience of having your teeth kicked in. And yes, that counts the variation on the theme in the closing “Perimeter Walk,” the more echoing guitar, farther back vocals, and so on. With a crisp production behind it, Olde‘s debut knows precisely the kind of beatdown it wants to deliver and sets about its task with brutal efficiency. Olde on Thee Facebooks, Hypaethral Records on Bandcamp.

Holy Grove, Live at Jooniors

Holy Grove Live at Jooniors

Recorded at some point between then and now at Joonior Studios in Seattle, Washington — I’m guessing more toward “then” — the 2014 outing Live at Jooniors from Portland four-piece Holy Grove is only two songs, but even one would be enough to serve notice of their warm tonality and the bluesy vocals of Andrea Vidal, who pushes her voice to its reaches on “Holy Grove” and still manages to nail the emotional crux. Honestly, that would probably be enough to carry “Holy Grove” and the following “Nix” on its own — sold; I’m on board — but I won’t discount the fuzz in Trent Jacobs‘ guitar or bassist Gregg Emley‘s fills in “Nix,” or the seamless shift drummer Craig Bradford leads between subdued verses and the tense chorus of “Holy Grove.” As far as serving notice goes, Live at Jooniors does so and then some, and without sacrificing sound quality as so many underground live recordings do. Seems to me a 7″ release wouldn’t be out of order, but Holy Grove seem more intent on getting together their full-length debut, which if they can bring to the studio the vibe they create in just 13 minutes on stage, is going to be something to look out for indeed. Learn the name, because you’ll hear it again. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Persona, Persona

Persona Persona

Buenos Aires instrumental four-piece Persona formed in 2004/2005, but their newly-released self-titled appears to be their first LP, preceded by a 2012 EP. If the better part of the intermittent decade was spent jamming, it doesn’t seem to have hurt the band, who present nine plotted but flowing tracks that keep some loose sensibility to them while following a course of classic heavy and fuzz rock. The lineup of guitarist/bassists Lucas Podestá and Santiago Adano, guitarist Gustavo Hernández and drummer Esteban Podestá touch here and there on more metal tendencies, as on “Los Perros” and the brief “Cortina,” but that’s no more out of place than the proggy exploration of “Cuna de Fantasmas,” a King Crimson-style noodling underscored by subtly engaging snare work and giving way to a heavier push. The lead guitar on “Cazador” provides a particularly engaging moment of payoff for the album’s first half, but there’s enough variety throughout that Persona‘s Persona offers a range of satisfying moments. Still room for the band to develop their style, but they obviously have the will and chemistry to do so. Persona on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Dungaree, Climb out of the River

Dungaree Climb out of the River EP

I’ll give it to Hungarian four-piece Dungaree based on their moniker alone. It’s simple, fun to say, and it evokes the rebelliousness of a bygone time. Their debut release, a three-song EP dubbed Climb out of the River, is likewise sharp-dressed, with a grunge-style production that pushes the dudely vocals of László Gergely to the fore ahead of Horváth T. Zoltán‘s guitar, Balogh Attila‘s bass and Dencs Dominik‘s drums to result in a sound that comes across to my American ears more akin to commercial hard rock than underground heavy, though in my experience the line in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe is both less distinct and less relevant. The tracks are short, straightforward, hard-hitting and catchy, with “Climb out of the River” a strong opening hook, “Dream Again” pushing into metallic guitar chugging in its breakneck chorus, and “Right Words” toying with a lounge boogie — snapping fingers and all — that assures the listener that although Dungaree have their sharp corners, they’re not about to take themselves too seriously either. Might not be for everyone, but shows a strong foundation of songwriting, and I wouldn’t ask any more of a first outing than that. Dungaree on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Six releases, and a pretty varied bunch at that. It’s still really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what went up to the server. I always like putting stuff on there — it’s like casting a fishing lure, except maybe without killing? I don’t know. More like tossing a fish in the ocean maybe and not knowing when it will swim by the boat again. Or maybe I just (re)watched Jaws recently and have aquatics on the brain.

Either way, we’ve passed the two-year mark since the stream went online and I’m very happy with how The Obelisk Radio has turned out. Special thanks to Slevin for all the work he’s put in over that time in helping me with hosting and making it go, and thank you as always for reading and listening.

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