Review & Track Premiere: Spidergawd, V

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd v

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Spidergawd’s ‘Knights of CGR.’ Their new album, Spidergawd V, is out Jan. 11 on Crispin Glover Records.]

Consistency of the kind Spidergawd have honed across their now-five albums never just happens. The Trondheim, Norway, outfit may have missed putting out a full-length in 2018, but mostly because they were busy touring, and otherwise, their discography has been built on a per-year basis, with Spidergawd IV (review here) in 2017, Spidergawd III (review here) in 2016, Spidergawd II (review here) in 2015 and Spidergawd (review here) in 2014. Released as ever through Crispin Glover RecordsSpidergawd V is the band’s second outing with Hallvard Gaardløs on bass alongside the remaining founding trio of guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, baritone saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad and drummer Kenneth Kapstad, and from its blindingly colorful cover art — also a regular feature of their work, as provided by Emile Morel — to its driven classic heavy rock feel, it is immediately recognizable as Spidergawd songcraft.

Comprised of eight tracks for a crisply-produced 38-minute long-player, Spidergawd V is absolutely air tight. No fluff. No filler. No time for messing around. Every minute of every song has its purpose, whether it’s the wah in “Green Eyes” or the sax-led intro to album opener and longest track (immediate points) “All and Everything,” or the sax and guitar seeming to lockstep later in the penultimate “Whirlwind Rodeo” to touch on “Hole in the Sky”-style riffing en route to some of the NWOBHM-isms that showed up on the last record, and as a unit, they are given to the kind of road-born sharpness that only touring and experience can provide. And for all their consistency, for all their recognizable aspects, and for the sheer fact that they’ve put out five albums essentially with the same title and the same style of art based around similar elements with straightforward structures, Spidergawd never seem to be repeating themselves. Their songs vary in mission and vibe, and the spirit of Spidergawd V underscores the fact that while there’s definitely some carryover from one offering to the next, the band have never actually failed to grow between their releases.

And they’ve done it quickly. Granted, they very clearly knew the band they wanted to be when they made the 2014 self-titled. The years since have only made that more apparent, but as “All and Everything” careens through its propulsive hook on its way to the first of any number of classy-as-hell, festival-ready guitar solos to be found throughout the album, the sheer ease with which they deliver their material is staggering, and it only becomes more so as “Ritual Supernatural” touches on Thin Lizzy troublemaking and “Twentyfourseven” reimagines chugging KISS strut-and-chorus vibes with an edge of the ’80s metal that followed in its wake. With Borten‘s voice and the structure of the verses and choruses he’s singing as a grounding factor, Spidergawd are free to follow whatever whims they might want and still find themselves on solid footing. And over their amassed discography, they’ve done that, with flourishes of psychedelia and metal playing out alongside their core of heavy rock.

spidergawd

Following “Twentyfourseven,” “Green Eyes” fills out more of the metal side of their approach, with layers of acoustic and electric guitar working together in an arrangement that only makes one wonder how the hell the song isn’t about “the night,” though one way or the other it kind of is anyway. With Snustad‘s sax wailing away as Kapstad pushes “Green Eyes” to its apex, side A wraps with an adrenaline surge that resolves itself in half-shouted lyrics and a controlled-as-ever crashout. Even in their most unhinged moments, Spidergawd hold tight on the reins of their sound. That’s not to say there’s no danger in what they’re doing, just that the way through that terrain is no less efficient and no less guided by a sure hand. Same is true as “Knights of CGR” — note the name of the label if you’re wondering what the acronym might stand for — takes hold at the outset of side B and works its way more patiently into its first verse. There’s a subtle shift in vibe, a pullback from some of the all-go-go-go of the first half of the album, but Spidergawd are hardly taking it easy with the Dio Sabbath riff — or is it “Stand up and Shout?” — that carries them to the song’s conclusion.

But even that shift has its purpose in the scope of Spidergawd V, which started out side A with a figurative-deep-inhale intro before “All and Everything” kicked in. “Avatar,” which follows “Knights of CGR” is a straightforward classic swinger, a subtle highlight for its melody and the interplay between Borten‘s guitar and Gaardløs‘ bass, the pace somewhat drawn down, but still moving through smoothly on its well-charted path, with Snustad‘s sax topping a later crashing finish that prefaces the aforementioned “Hole in the Sky”-ness of “Whirlwind Rodeo” to come. There is more Thin Lizzy in there with the steady bassline beneath the winding lead lines in the guitar and the sax blowing steady overarching notes in the verse, but the break in the second half of the song is a departure and might account for some of the time difference between “Whirlwind Rodeo” at 5:10 and everything else, which is between four and five minutes long, the opener notwithstanding. Still, they make their way back to the verse and the chorus to finish and start the closer “Do I Need a Doctor” at an ultra-rush that turns to punctuating jabs of guitar and sax in the verse before finding its melodic and memorable personality in the hook an reviving the push.

Here too, Spidergawd have it all under control, and even though they hit the brakes for a dream-toned bridge in the back end, they pick the tempo up again to round out and once more reinforce the notion that’s been the case with the band all along: that it’s the songwriting. Of all the pieces of their approach that have crossed the line from one LP to the next, when it comes to Spidergawd, by far the most crucial has been their songwriting. And five records deep, the challenge isn’t so much whether Spidergawd are going to put out a killer collection of songs, but whether their audience is going to be caught up to the last one by the time they do. That may be less of a challenge with Spidergawd V having the extra year out from its predecessor, but frankly, it may not. Looking back over what they’ve done in the last half-decade, it may well be a much longer time before their work is giving its full level of appreciation. But as of now, they are relentless on all fronts, and if we’re lucky, they’ll continue to outpace the rest of the planet for a long time to come.

Spidergawd website

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Stickman Records

Crispin Glover Records

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Motorpsycho Set Feb. 15 Release for The Crucible LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho (Photo by Geir Mogen)

I’m not even going to pretend to know how many full-length albums Norway’s Motorpsycho have at this point released in their almost 30-year history, but The Crucible is the latest of the bunch, and it will follow behind 2017’s The Tower (review here), which marked a more rocking turn from the long-established progressive stylings of the band. Sort of a return to roots without forgetting the lessons learned along the way. Stickman Records, which released that album and will again stand behind this one, seems to posit The Crucible as pushing forward along those lines, and I’d believe it, given both the relatively quick turnaround (at least on general terms; Motorpsycho aren’t strangers to putting out multiple releases in a year, but they’ve also been touring) and the band’s penchant for moving ahead with ideas from one LP to the next.

Easy pick for your most-anticipated-of-2019 list, as well as my own, so keep an eye out for more to come as we get closer to February. I streamed a track from The Tower at the time, and I expect I’ll go begging for one for The Crucible as well to go with a review, if only because these guys are fun to write about, being such a nuanced kind of brilliant and all.

Stickman sent the following down the PR wire:

motorpsycho the crucible

New Motorpsycho album The Crucible to be released February 15th

We are beyond pleased to announce the coming arrival of a new Motorpsycho album, titled “The Crucible”! Release date is set for February 15th, 2019 on vinyl, CD and digitally. More details will follow, but here’s a little taster for you:


Crucible

noun

cru·?ci·?ble | \?krü-s?-b?l

1: a severe test

2 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

Both visually and musically, The Crucible starts where the last album The Tower ended, but it soon takes on its own hue, and it is clear that it cannot be called a ‘sequel’ as such: this is very much a step further out than anywhere the band ventured on The Tower. While it is broader lyrically speaking, it is even sharper focused musically and, if possible, even more idiosyncratic and insular than ever. Unarguably a Motorpsycho album, it is one that is going to make the novice Psychonaut’s head spin, but feel comfortingly unfamiliar to the acolyte. Motorpsycho was always too gnarly for prog nerds as well as too musically unwieldy for punks, and as their appeal becomes ever more selective, they are still proudly falling between all cracks, stools or chairs one might think of putting in their way. ‘Prog rock’? Call it Motorpsychodelia!

The Crucible was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales in August 2018 by Hans Magnus Ryan (guitars, vocals), Bent Sæther (bass, vocals, sundry) and Tomas Järmyr (drums), with co-producers Andrew Scheps and Deathprod. To these ears, and to the band’s satisfaction, this co-production ploy worked out wonderfully, and has resulted in a beautifully crafted record, smaller in size but at least equal in ambition to its celebrated predecessor. It is somehow both more focused, and denser in content, but also compositionally more ambitious than The Tower. One would perhaps think that this necessarily results in a diminished sonic assault, but the album still packs a wallop like a good rock record should. And – ‘for once’ some waggish tongues would say – does not outstay its welcome.

Motorpsycho is: Bent Sæther, Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Tomas Järmyr.

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Motorpsycho, “In Every Dream Home There’s a Dream of Something Else” Live at Bruis Festival 2018

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Spidergawd Set Jan. 11 Release for V & Post New Single; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd

By the time it’s done, 2018 will be the first year since 2014 without a new Spidergawd LP. True, the Trondheim, Norway, heavy rock specialists — and as per 2017’s Spidergawd IV (review here), NWOBHM-dabblers — have a new single out called All and Everything and in the spirit of its title that’s not at all nothing, but they had a pretty unbelievable pace going and one can only wonder what the extra time taken to put together Spidergawd V will bring upon the album’s release in January 2019 through Crispin Glover Records. I’m not saying I’ve heard it or anything, but yeah, I have and it smokes.

As they’ll do, they have a sizable tour booked to coincide with the release, and you’ll find those dates below courtesy of social media along with some tantalizing “Lucy in the Hole in the Sky”-style info about the album from the PR wire.

Dig:

spidergawd v

Spidergawd – V

In 2018, Spidergawd vanished from the surface, but not to rest. Rather the opposite. On the 11th January they are back with their fifth studio album, not surprisingly titled ‘ Spidergawd V’.

Once again the band mates Rolf Martin Snustad (Barytonsax) Hallvard Gaardløs (Bass) Kenneth Kapstad (Trommer) and Per Borten (Gitar/Vokal) have managed to make an impressive album in their own unique sound.

Whereas Spidergawd I and II were documentations on an adult musical playground, Spidergawd III and IV headed the band towards a more serious and defined identity. With the NWOBHM- references from IV and the heavy weight from III, Spidergawd V is very much recognizable and keeping up with style. Imagine yourself in a boat on a river with spidergawd trees and black sabbath skies and you’ll be close enough to visualize what to expect in the beginning of 2019.

Spidergawd, with its fifth album under its arm, can be seen on tour in Norway and throughout Europe from January to the end of March 2019.

First single from Spidergawd V, ‘All And Everything’, and B-side ‘My Occupation’ is out on all streaming platforms!

Spidergawd live:
18/01 STORSTUGGU / RØROS / NO
19/01 GREGERS / HAMAR / NO
24/01 VERA / GRONINGEN / NL
25/01 JC DE KLINKER / AARSCHOT / BE
26/01 TBA / NL
27/01 AMSTERDAM / MELKWEG SUGAR FACTORY / NL
07/02 FLYTTEN / HAUGESUND / NO
08/02 FOLKEN / STAVANGER /NO
09/02 TEATERET / KRISTIANSAND / NO
15/02 TERMINALEN / ÅLESUND / NO
16/02 BYSCENEN / TRONDHEIM / NO
21/02 ÆLVESPEILET / PORSGRUNN / NO
22/02 ENERGIMØLLA / KONGSBERG / NO
23/02 ROCKEFELLER / OSLO / NO
27/02 TBA / MO I RANA / NO
28/02 SINUS / BODØ / NO
01/03 DRIV / TROMSØ / NO
02/03 TBA / BERGEN / NO
06/03 POSTEN / ODeNSE / DK
07/03 1000 FRYD / AALBORG / DK
08/03 BETA / COPENHAGEN / DK
09/03 FZW / DORTMUND / DE
10/03 TOWER / BREMEN / DE
12/03 TBA
13/03 LUX / HANNOVER / DE
14/03 NATCHLEBEN / FRANKFURT / DE
15/03 FORUM / BIELEFELD / DE
16/03 LUXOR / COLOGNE / DE
17/03 STADTMITTE / KARLSRUHE / DE
19/03 TBA
20/03 GASWERK / WINTERTHÜR / CH
21/03 ROCKHAOUSE / SALZBURG / AT
22/03 ARENA / WIEN / AT
23/03 STROM / MÜNCHEN / DE
24/03 TBA
26/03 HIRSCH / NÜRNBERG / DE
27/03 UT CONNEWITZ / LEIPZIG / DE
28/03 KNUST / HAMBURG / DE
29/03 BEATPOL / DRESDEN / DE
30/03 MUSIK & FRIEDEN / BERLIN / DE

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Juicer Premiere “Concussion Machine” from Mach IV

Posted in audiObelisk on August 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

juicer

Norwegian five-piece Juicer are set to release their debut long-player, the deceptively-titled Mach IV, on Sept. 21 through All Good Clean Records. Like swagger incarnate, the classic heavy rocking outfit bust out a tight-knit 10-track collection informed by garage rock, early metal and ’70s vibes, peppered with a healthy dose of Scandinavian screw-all, and focusing on the songs, the songs, the songs when it comes to priorities. In intricacies like the piano worked into “Forever is a Long Time” and the twin-guitar leads of the earlier “Saturday Night O.D.,” Juicer present an attention to detail that fleshes out the basic level of craft, but it becomes clear throughout the album’s 38-minute run that it’s in fact that basic craft that’s meant to be the focus.

With Vegar Husby Fiskum‘s vocals front and center on the proto-metallic “Catch 25” and the not-at-all-slacking harmonies in the hook of “The Slacker,” they bask in traditionalist heavy vibes without losing their sound entirely to retroism and their hyper-unpretentious approach speaks to punker roots somewhere in the lineup of Fiskum, guitarists Ole Aleksander Ekker and Fredrik Lian (the latter also vocals), bassist/vocalist Ole Christian Pedersen and drummer Andreas Barlien that keep things exciting without going over-the-top in speed or a hollow-sounding performative nature.

juicer mach ivThat is, they nail the balance just about all the way around. Mach IV — which would seem to be named to make the casual listener think it’s not at all a debut — has a deceptive amount of class to it, whereby cuts like the opening title-track and the later “Concussion Machine” turn out strutting grooves like Thin Lizzy throwing down with Death Alley and still seem to come out of it with their hands clean. Production is a big part of it in that Juicer manage to hone a sound that’s both natural and still crisp-sounding, as ready for vinyl in its content as its sub-40-minute runtime, and clear-headed in its delivery without being stale.

The solo at the outset of the penultimate “Burrito” and the organ included behind the locked-in groove of “You Scared Me Straight” may be layered in or may be recorded live — the point is the album is naturalist enough that it doesn’t really matter which it is. The results are still the same, and the results are engaging and briskly done in harnessing familiar style elements and recrafting them into something of the band’s own. On that level, as well, Mach IV does little to let its audience know it’s the band’s first LP.

So be it. If you’ve got ears to get down with the cause, Mach IV makes no shortage of arguments in its own favor, and while Juicer at times sound like they might want to be rougher-edged than they are here — one expects when they take a stage, they have a bit more grit to their style — the recording highlights their deftly executed stylistic turns and varied moods while still remaining consistent in tone and overall demeanor. It’s an offering with no shortage of personality, as you can hear in the premiere of “Concussion Machine,” via the player below.

Album info follows from the PR wire. Please enjoy:

Juicer on “Concussion Machine”:

Concussion Machine is a rock and roll epic with a catchy refrain and lots of twin guitars. I guess it follows the same recipe of the remaining tracks with our shameless use of tried and true rock and roll clichés. The lyrics are about knocking the senses of whining and useless people in today’s society, basically we tried to addresses the philosophical questions regarding the everyday life of five ordinary, inconvenient and disillusioned men in their late 20s.

Juicer is a five piece orchestra who plays potent and trashy rock. Their debut album ‘Mach IV’ contains 10 hook based, all killer no filler rock and roll epics. Every single track has been processed through Juicer’s eminent orchestration machinery, complimented with sharp, well formulated lyrics and recorded in an extremely expensive recording studio in down town Trondheim. All this done with a large portion of self-irony and humour that is easy to relate to.

Juicer shows that they’re not afraid to go against the trends and norms of today’s contemporary musical landscapes, making “Mach IV” somewhat of a niche product designed with the lovers of guitar based rock music in mind, by lovers of guitar based rock music.

Tracklist:
1. Mach IV
2. Saturday Night OD
3. Catch 25
4. You Scared me Straight
5. Unconditional Love
6. Forever is a long time
7. Concussion Machine
8. The Slacker
9. Burrito
10. On the move

Juicer is:
Vegar Husby Fiskum – Vocals
Andreas Barlien – Drums
Ole Christian Pedersen – Bass & Vocals
Ole Aleksander Ekker – Guitar
Fredrik Lian – Guitar & Vocals

Juicer on Thee Facebooks

Juicer on Bandcamp

All Good Clean Records on Thee Facebooks

All Good Clean Records website

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Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord: Newfound Purposes

Posted in Reviews on July 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord

I’m not sure what other kind of spacelord it would be — at least in the hands of Trondheim, Norway’s Black Moon Circle, but indeed, it’s a Psychedelic Spacelord. All the trip-out you can handle and then a bunch more from there. Enough so that the line, “Sometimes I feel I’m falling out of time… and space,” has a grounding effect. Issued by Crispin Glover RecordsPsychedelic Spacelord is the sixth Black Moon Circle LP in four years, following behind last year’s The Studio Jams Vol. III: Flowing into the 3rd Dimension (review here), 2016’s 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here) and 2016’s The Studio Jams Vol. II (review here), 2015’s The Studio Jams Vol. I: Yellow Nebula in the Sky (discussed here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and also-2014’s self-titled debut EP (review here) and continuing the band’s lysergic outward journey, finding a place for itself amid a crowded subspace field of star-eyed heavy psychedelic explorers via a sense of openness that extends beyond even sheer sonics to the actual band makeup.

Still comprised of the founding trio of guitarist/backing vocalist Vemund Engan, bassist/vocalist Øyvin Engan, and drummer Per Andreas GulbrandsenPsychedelic Spacelord boasts returns from Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective and his magical customized synth box and recording engineer Magnus Kofoed, who contributes Rhodes, Mellotron and Hammond, and a first appearance from violinist Jonathan Segel. It’s worth noting that these are not listed as guest contributions. Dr. Space has been a member for a while now, and Kofoed recorded The Studio Jams Vol. III and played on that as well, so neither is exactly a stranger to Black Moon Circle‘s jammy modus, but as Segel makes his debut with the band, all three are listed as part of a six-piece incarnation: The Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Family Band.

Okay, the name needs some work, I’ll admit, but you get the idea. The point is that over the last several years as Black Moon Circle have developed aesthetically, growing a chemistry between the brothers Øyvin and Vemund and Per on drums, they’ve extended that development to the actual structure of the group. A sonic reach grown in proportion to the amount of personnel involved. How does one even start to comprehend such a thing? I’ll admit, I don’t know, but if you can get your brain around it, the latest version of Black Moon Circle would like to immediately set about melting that same brain with their ultra-molten, gorgeously-patient and soaking-wet psychedelic flow, as represented on Psychedelic Spacelord by the 47-minute title-track that comprises the entire thing. That’s right. Black Moon Circle have both expanded to a six-piece and put out a one-song album. Ever wonder what it might be like when a band is truly on their own wavelength? Well, next time you need an example, you’ve got one.

In truth, putting aside the human-resources aspect of Psychedelic WarlordBlack Moon Circle have been headed toward the extended-single-track format for a while now. For bands of their sort — and if you don’t yet hold them in the same league as the Electric Moons, Papirs and Øresund Space Collectives of the universe, this record might change your mind — it’s almost a rite of passage when it comes to how vital a group’s jams have become. How far can they go? “Psychedelic Warlord” divides roughly in half to account for the limitations of the vinyl format, fading out at about 23 minutes in only to reemerge slowly after a minute or so of quiet, but it’s not like the jam ever actually stops. It’s just been edited.

Black Moon Circle

So to answer the question, they go pretty damn far. The Engan brothers and GulbrandsenKofoedHeller and Segel dig into hypnotic fluidity that once more finds suitably striking representation on the album cover, the image of which is taken from the oil/light show that accompanies the band live, and which only highlights the energetic approach that remains so prevalent in their methodology.

Remember that Psychedelic Spacelord is a named Black Moon Circle release. It’s still certainly based around a jam that’s semi-plotted but seems to have plenty of room for improvisation along its course, but what the band seem to do after getting that basic foundation established beneath them is build upward. Maybe they were recorded at the same time and the whole thing was done live, or maybe they were overdubbed later, but the vocals have always been something of a standout factor for Black Moon Circle, separating them from the instrumentalists when they want to be separate and finding them joining those ranks in the Studio Jams material. One recalls the 26-minute “Waves” from The Studio Jams Vol. III, and on multiple levels, it can be argued “Psychedelic Warlord” is an outgrowth of the same impulses. But the new offering is distinct unto itself not only for the human presence the vocals establish as they call out between the wash of synth, guitar, bass, cymbals and Mellotron in the song’s second half, but also because of Segel‘s first-time contributions on violin.

Treated with echo to match its cavernous surroundings, the violin is a defining presence on Psychedelic Spacelord and makes itself absolutely essential to the proceedings. That is, it’s not flourish. It plays as much a role as the various keyed instruments in setting the atmospheric breadth Black Moon Circle bring to bear, and while I certainly didn’t listen to their last release and think, “Golly these guys sure could use some strings,” by no means does Segel‘s participation make Black Moon Circle any more over-the-top than they clearly want to be. It brings class and further melodic intricacy to complement the keys, vocals, synth and guitar, and weaves through the extended piece with a grace that only highlights the same in the other elements at play. It makes Black Moon Circle a stronger, more complete band. Do they have room for a saxophone? Maybe. There’s an awful lot of space being created. Black Moon Circle Psychedelic Spacelord Orkester: coming soon.

Or, more likely, not. But take it as an indication of just how open Black Moon Circle‘s processes have become over these prolific years. As they approach a half-decade since their first long-player, they’ve not only amassed more of a catalog than some acts get in their entire career, but they’ve successfully managed to capture their will to push themselves forward each time out, as well as the meta-expansiveness that has made them who they are. All of them, acting together. Black Moon Circle may or may not be set in terms of their lineup, and I wouldn’t dare predict what they might do next or where it might go in sonic terms, but Psychedelic Spacelord conjures focus even as it subsumes the consciousness, becoming memorable through osmosis and a joy to undertake for its immersive, extended duration. Six albums in and one still can’t help but think of the potential and the possibilities for what lie ahead of Black Moon Circle. One more indicator of how special a band they are.

Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord (2018)

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Dunbarrow Premiere “The Wolf”; Dunbarrow II out Sept. 14

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

dunbarrow

Norwegian classic-style heavy rockers Dunbarrow will release their second album, Dunbarrow II, on Sept. 14 through RidingEasy Records. That same Cali-based imprint picked up the band’s 2016 self-titled debut (review here) last year, and with good reason, since the five-piece not only dip back to the heavy ’70s usual suspects for inspiration, but also carry the torch of the retroist movement those acts inspired in the first place. Listen to Dunbarrow‘s “The Wolf” at the bottom of this post and tell me you don’t hear shades of the first Witchcraft album in it. You can’t. It’s right there, and that’s precisely the point.

Well, that and groove anyhow, brought together with a tale out of classic horror in the lyrics that I won’t spoil here — hint: there’s a wolf, but where??? — and a fervently organic production. Dunbarrow‘s Dunbarrow worked with some similar elements at its foundation, but as “The Wolf” demonstrates, the Trondheim-based outfit are in the process of carving out their niche aesthetically, and they’re doing so with the sharpest of teeth.

You can hear “The Wolf” below, preceded by album details from the PR wire. Preorders for Dunbarrow II are up now at RidingEasy‘s website:

dunbarrow ii

Dunbarrow – Dunbarrow II

There’s a hauntingly classic feel to Dunbarrow’s sound that gives it, in the band’s own words, “an eerie rawness.” It’s not raw in a lo-fi or distorted sense — far from it, the production is exceptionally clean and powerful. It’s the vibe to the music that has a dreamlike and ghostly quality, like a mysterious recording imprinted onto an old cassette tape.

Dunbarrow’s pristine, unadorned sound shares the unpretentious brilliance of classic heavy progenitors jamming in basements and barns, before the big budgets and bloated habits diluted hard rock records into an echo chamber awash in reverb and layered in distant, screeching hobbits. “It’s a heavy sounding record without being just tons of over-distorted guitar tracks,” says guitarist Kenneth Lønning. “We’ve never been fascinated by that, and we’re trying to push in the other direction.” Its heft comes from the band’s use of space in their songs.

Without the Haugesund, Norway quintet’s exceptional musicianship, such an intimate sound would be impossible. Drummer Pål Gunnar Dale sets the skeletal core with driving urgency and tastefully punctuating triplet fills, Bassist Sondre Berge Engedal slinks throughout with the limber bounce of John Paul Jones, while Lønning’s and Eirik Øvregård’s guitars weave dark, bluesy tapestries with emphasis on melodic chord structures without burying them in distortion or other effects. Vocalist Espen Andersen ties it all together with his warm, folky delivery that gives it all the feel of a bygone era of storytelling in song.

“Maybe more than the previous record, this one is more vocal driven,” Lønning says. “But it still has those quirky transitions, eerie build ups, folk-inspired parts and the haunting solos.” Many of the album’s poetic lyrics were written by former bassist/vocalist Richard Chappell, whose writing personifies the group. Along with the album’s running theme of love and despair, is that of recognizing one’s own dark sides and developing your shadows into something you can control, inspired of the work by Carl Jung.

Key to the band’s impressive sound is that the singer is also the recording and mixing engineer. Andersen also recorded the band’s excellent 2016 debut (formally released wordlwide by RidingEasy in late 2017), now with more studio experience for both Andersen and the band, Dunbarrow II is a truly refined experience. To further perfect their sound, the group teamed up with one of the most prominent producers in Norway, Christer Cederberg (Anathema, Tristania) for the first few days in order to get the sound just right. Then, Espen did the rest. The result is as eponymous and definitive as its title.

Dunbarrow II will be available on LP, CD and download on RidingEasy Records on September 14th, 2018.

Artist: Dunbarrow
Album: Dunbarrow II
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: September 14th, 2018

01. On Your Trail
02. Please Let Me Be
03. Weary Lady
04. Ode To The Moon
05. Feberdrøm
06. The Wolf
07. The Demon Within
08. Witches of The Woods Pt. II
09. On This Night

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Dunbarrow, “The Wolf” official track premiere

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Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension: Always Taking Shape

Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

black-moon-circle-flowing-into-the-third-dimension

It may well be that Black Moon Circle‘s Flowing into the Third Dimension will live up to its title. Not in the sense of adding depth to its length and width — the Trondheim, Norway, heavy psych explorers took care of that a long time ago — but in terms of marking the beginning of a next, and third, working methodology for the band. Whether or not it ultimately does, the Crispin Glover Records is alternately titled The Studio Jams Vol. III, so there’s a practical allusion as well to the more poetic name, and indeed it follows 2016’s Vol. II (review here) and 2015’s Vol. I (discussed here) in that regard.

Accordingly, while it could just be that guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (the latter also of Øresund Space Collective) got bored of the plain titles and decided to add something extra to this latest 49-minute improvisational outing, Flowing into the Third Dimension also represents a change in bringing an appearance from Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, so it’s possible too that Black Moon Circle saw it as an opportunity to tie their jammier work with their more song-based outings, 2016’s Sea of Clouds (review here), 2014’s Andromeda (review here) and that same year’s self-titled debut (review here), or at least to take a forward step in a longer process of doing so. On the other hand, each vinyl side is consumed by a single track — “Barnard’s Loop” (23:27) on side A and “Waves” (26:15) on side B — with a prevailing vibe that’s nothing if not exploratory, it could entirely be the case that I’m reading too much into it. Pardon me while I completely undercut my own supposition. Won’t take a second.

Somehow though, one doubts Black Moon Circle — who, again, are working as a five-piece here, having started out as a trio in Trondheim before adding Heller to the mix — would be against multiple interpretations or different levels of thinking about the conceptual basis for their work. They are in three dimensions, after all, and “Barnard’s Loop” welcomes listeners into an unfolding fuzz mantra that seems to embrace any and all meditation. A record to get lost in for sure, Flowing into the Third Dimension also hits on a frequency of chemistry between its players that stands among some of the finest in heavy psych, a progressive instrumental mentality not unlike the get-on-stage-and-go approach of jazz artists, but of course interpreted through long-form psychedelia on its own journey into the heart of the creative process.

black moon circle

“Barnard’s Loop,” perhaps unsurprisingly, takes its time getting there, as rumbles of guitar back waves of synth forward and receding in the mix in an increasingly noisy first half, which seems to find a more plotted-seeming movement of wah in its midsection, giving way at about 15 minutes in to a lead that makes the most of the newfound dynamic between the two guitars. Multi-tiered — three-dimensional! — swirl is unfolded gracefully, and the resonance holds as they pass the 20-minute mark and a particularly memorable lead line is tossed out in a defining moment for the piece as a whole. I obviously don’t know if that was thought of beforehand or just an off-the-cuff lick, but it shimmers gorgeously like a moment of emergence and stands atop the chugging bass and punctuating drums as a high point of Flowing into the Third Dimension as a whole, whatever shred and wash is still to come. And by the way, there’s still plenty of both to come.

It might not be appropriate to say “Barnard’s Loop” is ever raucous, but it is most definitely vibrant, and it shares that in common with the subsequent “Waves,” which follows a more serene and linear path across its near-half-hour runtime. Black Moon Circle have never left anything wanting for fluidity in their instrumentalist work, but “Waves” might stand as a new pinnacle of immersion for them. Bass provides a foundation for an expanding soundscape of guitars and synth as drums come and go from the depths beneath, and as much of a wash as was to be found in the ending reaches of side A, side B finds itself even more aptly named as it courses through its undulations, lapping at the shores of consciousness with multi-colored textures patiently brought to bear in a first half of subtle movement that drifts into atmospheric sandscape pastoralism increasingly between its ninth and 13th minutes, only to find itself coming dangerously close to falling apart on several occasions before managing to right itself each time.

For those engaging a close listen, those are exciting moments of nuance, but of course with a release like Flowing into the Third Dimension, one might just as simply put it on — headphones justified, volume necessary — shut eyes and let go into a hypno-anesthetic trance, essentially letting the sound carry them for the duration. Both are valid ways to experience Flowing into the Third Dimension, and whether or not Black Moon Circle intended that the album should stand as the beginning of a new stage for them, perhaps with Ryan as a full-time member, perhaps not — they’ve also recently added keyboards and Mellotron, which will reportedly feature on the next release — it is a work of kinematic liquefaction underscored by coherence of purpose that speaks of increasing mastery of the form.

Black Moon Circle, Flowing into the Third Dimension (2017)

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Stickman Records website

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Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

hallatar-no-stars-upon-the-bridge

Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

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Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

alastor black magic

Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

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Twin Earth Records webstore

 

The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

the dead-end-alley-band-storms

Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

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The Dead-End Alley Band on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

hair-of-the-dog-this-world-turns

Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

soup remedies

With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Soup on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

kungens-man-dag-natt

Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

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Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

smoke-wizzzard-run-with-the-wolf

Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

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Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

highburnator-keystoned-state

If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

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Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

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Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

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Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

ULLS I

For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

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