Friday Full-Length: Valkyrie, Valkyrie

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Valkyrie came up around the same time as a kind of underground next-generation local boom in the Virginia/Maryland scene. Bands like Ol’ ScratchVOG (with whom Valkyrie released a split in 2005), Admiral BrowningLord, and a host of others seemed to solidify if not simultaneously then at least concurrently, and though their sounds varied from extreme sludge and thrash to instrumental progressive heavy rock to Valkyrie‘s earthy take on neo-classic dual guitar-ism, there was the sort of camaraderie between them that can only emerge when it’s a group of bands who’ve played shows basically for each other. That entire scene was and remains undervalued, and though most of those bands are gone and/or morphed into other acts like FoehammerSpiral GraveEarthling, the last incarnation of Akris, etc., and Valkyrie were put on the proverbial backburner for years following their second album, Man of Two Visions (discussed here), being picked up by MeteorCity in 2010 after its initial release in 2008 on Noble Origins (Kreation Records also put it out on vinyl in 2009), the quality of their 2006 self-titled still remains in its unpretentious melodies, proto-progressive groove and the weighted tones of its brotherly team of guitarist/vocalists, Jake and Pete Adams.

It’s arguable that among their cohort, Valkyrie had the most potential. Their sound was different from everyone else’s, and as heavy rock consciousness was filled with two-guitar antics and fleet rhythmic turns thanks to the ascent of MastodonValkyrie came across as not-uninformed of that, but able to be a tie between that style, heavy Southern rock, the classic doom of Pentagram, and even a touch of Spirit Caravan — whose drummer Gary Isom, would join them at some point around the second record. They were an immediate standout, in other words, and the material on Valkyrie‘s Valkyrie — released by Twin Earth after that VOG split and a couple of demos — was much the same, with Jake and Pete effectively trading vocals atop winding riffs and a welcoming sense of overarching groove to the bass of Nick Crabill and Nic McInturff‘s drumming. At eight tracks and 40 minutes, the release feels prescient of the vinyl boom to come, and though it’s fair to call its Chris Kozlowski production organic, it’s still rich enough to properly convey the surge of energy with the solo in finale “Lost in the Darkness,” which is perhaps the most singularly Wino-derived moment as it moves back into its The Obsessed-style central riff heading toward the midpoint of the song.

valkyrie self titledOf course, that’s hardly the first uptempo kick on Valkyrie. Beginning with “Withered Tree” at the outset, the four-piece construct a heavy rolling fluidity that allows for as much nuance as is warranted without taking away from impact at the most basic level. Witness the stop and subsequent intertwining of guitars in the second half of the opener. There’s a gracefulness to the execution of that build that undercuts the idea of the self-titled being the band’s first record — no doubt the fact that the guitarists were brothers helped — and as they moved through the hazier riffs of “Sunlight Shines” and the full-on thrust of pace that emerges there, it becomes clear just how central to the proceedings the musical conversation between the Adams brothers truly is. Not to take away from Crabill or McInturff in the rhythm section — though both would be gone by the time the follow-up came along — but Valkyrie were always a guitar-minded outfit, and they earned that through their stage presence and technique alike, tapping into epic heavy rock elements on “Endless Crusade” ahead of the acoustic interlude “Wolf Hollow” and the push into the second half of the tracklisting via “Secrets of the Mind.”

The hooky fuzz there seems to straighten out some of the more winding aspects of earlier cuts, but in truth it’s no less complex than anything before, and much the same applies to “Heralds of the Dawn,” which follows. Perhaps most of all the songs on Valkyrie feels made for the stage. Ready to dominate at Krug’s Place in Frederick or some other Chesapeake-region outlet on a bill maybe with Earthride and cheap beer spilled as much on the floor as down the gullets of patrons who somehow are drunk anyway. On such a guitar-centric record, it might be Jake Adams‘ best vocal performance, and it successfully blends the progressive and proto-metal aspects of the earlier songs with a fuller-sounding distorted roll all the while executing an efficient structure. If you want an example of the potential at root in their sound, that’s where you go. They follow it with longest cut “Eternally There,” which brings in Internal Void‘s Kelly Carmichael for a guest solo — I love the thought at the Adams brothers listened to anything on this record and were like, “You know, I think this could use another guitar”; it’s like the most guitarist thought ever — and prefaces the galloping last build in “Lost in the Darkness” with its own energetic thrust.

They end, as noted, by riding off at top speed into the sunset, which is a fair enough way to go out and certainly earned by the prior proceedings. I’ve always thought of Man of Two Visions as a superior record in that it took a lot of what Valkyrie established as their sound and pushed it forward, opened up the production some and further integrated the natural vibe into the songwriting, but going back and revisiting the self-titled is a refresher of how strong this band was at the outset. No mystery as to “what happened” to them. Jake Adams started a family and in 2008 Pete joined Baroness, where he’d remain until 2017. He currently plays in Samhain and Razors in the Night. In the meantime, Valkyrie released a third LP, Shadows (review here), through Relapse in 2015 and have done periodic shows and fest appearances to support it, remaining underrated all the while.

That release came as a surprise but was certainly welcome, and whatever, whenever Valkyrie do next, if anything, it’ll be much the same. They may not have gotten in the last 15-plus years the recognition they’ve deserved, but the sonic conversation happening between the Adamses remains something special and any outlet it finds is worth hearing.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The Pecan turns two today. Toddlerian. Human Hurricane. “Daddy is not for kicking.” “We don’t bite.” “We don’t hit.” “If you hit me again, I’m leaving. Okay, good night. I love you. See you in the morning.”

Two years ago, I watched as, after, what, 38? hours of labor they pulled him out of my wife’s belly in an emergency C-section. Her guts, blue, on a table that I wasn’t supposed to see but saw anyway before they stuffed them back into her and closed her up with all the barbarity of human medicine at its most basic. The kind of thing the future will judge us for, provided, you know, a future.

While we’re here: Sorry about that, Pecan.

But anyway, Duder is two. And awake. And probably with a dirty diaper from the sound of him, so yeah, I better head upstairs and get the day started. It’s 6AM. Yesterday, his nap got cut short by like an hour I think because my wife and I used the bathroom one after the other and the sound of the running water was enough to wake him — he has a white noise machine but turns it off after we leave him and it plugs in so we can’t move it out of his reach; it’s a whole fucking complicated thing — and he was miserable, but eventually I gave him some of the wheat crackers he likes and he chilled out. But that was my afternoon, pretty much. I got to finish the posts for today, this one aside, and read half a section of a chapter of the Star Trek book I’m working through, and that was it. Back to daddy-time.

I’d say something about pretending to have a real life, but I think probably the proper thing to do is consider daddy-time as real life. There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I guess, and various cruel narratives that play out in my head on any given day as I watch the minutes slowly tick by until I can sit with The Patient Mrs., have dinner, watch the end of News Hour or more Trek and maybe chat for a minute over dessert before I complete the futz ritual — prepare coffee for the morning, etc. — pop half a container of sugar-free Rolaids and go to bed somewhere around 8-8:30, depending on how miserably tired I am. Real life. Maybe I’ll go back to bed this morning.

Yeah.

This post is long enough anyway. I’m gonna go grab him, change him, deliver him to my wife for morning nursing, saying happy birthday and properly doting in special you’re-gonna-have-ice-cream-today fashion, then crash out for a little bit. I’ll put up another post first though, because if I don’t, I won’t sleep. It’s like that.

How about those Astros though, huh?

Next week? I don’t know. It’s Halloween, but I don’t much care except it means the holidays are encroaching and I frickin’ hate the holidays. I think I’m going to put up a poll though for the best albums of the decade next week and that should be fun. I’m interested to see what people pick. And with my plans for 2020 in Sweden having fallen through, I’ve floated an Obelisk All-Dayer in Brazil in July 2021 maybe. That’s a ways off, but we’ll see. Would be fun.

Oh and there’ll be premieres and reviews and other stuff. It’s all in my notes, which frankly I’m too tired to look at at just this moment.

Have a great and safe weekend. Rock and roll and all that. We’re having a big party for The Pecan tomorrow with family and a few close friends. If you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love to have you come by. Email me for the address. We’ll have a bouncy house, so bring the kids. I’m completely serious.

Forum, merch, radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

 

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Quarterly Review: Russian Circles, War Cloud, Here Lies Man, Book of Wyrms, Möyhy-Veikot, Darsombra, Set Fire, Jesus the Snake, Föllakzoid, Dresden Wolves

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Had to take a second this morning to get my email back under 100 unread. It currently stands at 95. There’s just something about being in triple digits that I can’t stand. Press releases and stuff I can usually file right away since not everything’s relevant to the site, etc., but that’s all stuff that either wants follow-up or could be a factor here if there was time. I do my best to try to keep up. And I fail, consistently.

The tradeoff, of course, is I spend that time writing reviews and other stuff for the site. Today’s hump day when we pass the halfway mark of the Fall 2019 Quarterly Review, and we’re doing it in absolutely all-over-the-place style, so all the better. Some pretty familiar names today, but some that might not be as well, so whatever your poison, I hope you enjoy the picking.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Russian Circles, Blood Year

russian circles blood year

There’s simply no denying the force behind the depths and swell of a song like “Kohokia” on Russian Circles‘ latest offering, Blood Year (Sargent House), and though one knows what to expect to some degree from the Chicago heavy post-rockers at this point in their career, they seem to be doing all they can to deliver their instrumental progressions with energy to match the breadth of the spaces and the heft they conjure. Like 2016’s Guidance (review here), the seven-track/39-minute Blood Year — was recorded with Kurt Ballou, whom the trio imported to their hometown to work at Electrical Audio (aka Steve Albini‘s stomping ground) instead of traveling to Massachusetts to track at Ballou‘s Godcity. If it was the long-famed drum sound of Electrical Audio that they wanted and the live feel that so many of the recordings done there have, they got both, so mark it a success and another notch in the belt of one of the heavy underground’s most immersive and evocative outfits. Their building and releasing of tension is second to none and moves into the spiritual by the time they even get to side B, let alone through it.

Russian Circles on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

War Cloud, State of Shock

war cloud state of shock

Oh, the riffs you’ll gallop. Oakland, California’s War Cloud skirt the line between classic thrash and heavy rock and roll on their second album for Ripple Music, State of Shock, and from the sound of things, they have a good time doing it. The record’s not much over a half-hour long, which is as it should be for this kind of party, and they toy a bit with the balance between their two sides on a rocker like “Do Anything” or the subsequent “Means of Your Defeat” on side B, but the main crux of State of Shock and certainly the impression it makes off the bat with “Striker” and “White Lightning” up front ahead of the six-minute that-moment-when-ThinLizzy-turned-into-IronMaiden “Dangerous Game” is one of homage to the metal of yore, and in following-up the band’s 2017 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a showcase of energy and craft alike as two guitars shred, chug, groove and charge through the material. If they were from the Eastern Seaboard, I’d say something about getting caught in a mosh. As it stands, I’ll go with urging you to jump in the fire instead. Horns up, either way.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon

here lies man no ground to walk upon

They should’ve just called it an album. Yeah, it would be short at 26 or so minutes, but it’s got everything you’d want from a full-length, and if they’d put a four-minute jam or something on it, they’d have been there anyhow. In any case, Los Angeles’ Afrobeat-infused heavy psych rockers Here Lies Man present seven tracks of dug-in glory with No Ground to Walk Upon (on RidingEasy), continuing to build on the potential shown across their first two LPs, 2017’s self-titled debut (review here) and last year’s You Will Know Nothing (review here), even as they swagger their way through a groove like “Long Legs (Look Away)” and show their continued forward potential. They continue to be a special band — the kind of band who doesn’t just come along every day and who shouldn’t be overlooked during their time, because maybe they’ll be around 30 years and maybe they won’t, but what they’re doing now is bringing something wholly individual to a heavy context. They’ve already proven influential to some degree, but listening to No Ground to Walk Upon cuts like the dream-keyed “Iron Rattles” and the opening strut-into-drone of “Clad in Silver,” one wonders if they wouldn’t be more so if people weren’t too afraid to try to pull this thing off. Hard to argue with that, since more likely than not most couldn’t.

Here Lies Man on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Book of Wyrms, Remythologizer

Book of Wyrms Remythologizer

I won’t take anything away from the eight-minute “Blacklight Warpriest” earlier in the offering, but the highlight of Book of Wyrms‘ second album, Remythologizer (on Twin Earth & Stoner Witch Records) has to be the closing “Dust Toad,” which at 9:25 is the longest track and the slowest crawl included. Led into by the synth-infused “Curse of the Werecop,” it takes the crunch that showed itself through opener “Autumnal Snow” and, later, the melody and swing of “Undead Pegasus” — as seen on the cover art — and brings them together in order to perfectly summarize the doom rocking ethic the Richmond, Virginia, four-piece are working from. Tonally righteous and more solvent in their songwriting than they were on their 2017 debut, Sci-Fi/Fantasy (review here), the band sound assured as they move in “Spirit Drifter” from a standout keyboard line to a likewise standout guitar solo, giving a feeling of progressive nuance that’s continuing to take hold in their sound, balanced by the underlying naturalism of their approach. That dynamic continues to duke it out on Remythologizer, much to the benefit of anyone who takes the record on.

Book of Wyrms on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Möyhy-Veikot, Huume Jet Set Life

moyhy-veikot huume jet set life

Too weird for planet earth and, well, probably too weird for anywhere else too, Helsinki psych-space-kraut-whathaveyou experimentalists issue their third tape in the form of Huume Jet Set Life and whether it’s the cosmo-jamming on “MITÄ ON TULLUT VEDETTYÄ?” or the who-the-hell-knows-what-ism of “MEDIA-AJOJAHTI 2000,” the band at no point fail to make an impression of being out there in the far gone far out there reaches of the far out there. Talkin’ freaked out next level total, like the cassette just fell into the atmosphere to represent some other planet’s culture where things are both dangerous and interesting and you never really know if you’re going to get laid or eaten or both. Still, they may be doing math of the likes not yet conceived by humanity, but Möyhy-Veikot go about it in suitably friendly if totally over-the-top fashion, and it’s fun to play along while also being completely overwhelmed at the various pushes and pulls happening all at once, the media samples and the Windows 95 compatibility of it all. It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for disco.

Möyhy-Veikot on Thee Facebooks

Möyhy-Veikot on Bandcamp

 

Darsombra, Transmission

Darsombra Transmission

It’s just lovely. Really. In some ways it feels like the 41:20 single-track full-length Transmission — self-released, no less — is what Baltimore ambient exploratory two-piece Darsombra have been building toward all along, but I think the truth is they probably could’ve done this at any time if they’d chosen to do so. Still, the fluidity of “Transmission” itself is something special, with its cascades of manipulated voice, riffs that swell and recede, loops, synth and somehow-manifested light that are as much immersion for the spirit as the eardrum. One doesn’t want to dive too deep into hyperbole and oversell it to the point of dulling the listener’s own impression, but Transmission is the kind of record that even those who profess to never “get” drone or noise offerings can engage with. Part of that is owed to Brian Daniloski‘s guitar, which provides landmarks along the path of swirl conjured by his own effects and the synth from Ann Everton (both add vocals where applicable; don’t look for lyrics or verses) that allow those who’d take it on to do so more easily. But the real joy in Transmission is letting go and allowing the piece to carry you along its progressive course, genuine in its reaching for the unknown. Plus there’s a gong, and that’s always fun too. Go with it.

Darsombra on Thee Facebooks

Darsombra on Bandcamp

 

Set Fire, Traya

set fire traya

Traya is the third three-song full-length from Boston’s Set Fire, and it would seem that, and in addition to marking the last recording to feature drummer Rob Davol, who’s since been replaced by Josh Cronin, it would seem to show the three-piece nailing their sound of classic-tinged duet-fronted heavy rock and roll. With two powerhouse vocalists on board in guitarist Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, etc.) and keyboardist Jess Collins (ex-Mellow Bravo), they work in varying arrangements across a meager 12-minute run that feels short mostly because it is short. Too short. “Any Place Left” puts Collins in the foreground, while “Sacred Song” is more Healey‘s, and unsurprisingly to anyone who’s experienced their past work either together or separate, they’re more than able to carry the material — only more so with the other party backing. “Waves” brings them together around theatrical layers of piano and keyboard and guitar, and that they manage to hold it steady at all, let alone take flight as it does, speaks to how ready they are to embark on a longer offering. Put out an album, already, would ya?

Set Fire on Thee Facebooks

Set Fire on Bandcamp

 

Jesus the Snake, Black Acid, Pink Rain

Jesus the Snake Black Acid Pink Rain

For those feeling adventurous, Portugal’s Jesus the Snake follow-up their 2017 self-titled EP (review here) with the unmitigated warmth of Black Acid, Pink Rain, their live-recorded full-length debut. And for the sort of heavy psych-jazz-prog meandering, one would almost expect the organ-laced instrumentalist four-piece to track the record as they perform it, if not front-to-back then certainly one song at a time across multiple takes. Not one piece of the five total on the 49-minute offering is under eight minutes long, and sandwiched between opener “Karma” (10:28) and the closing title-track (10:55) are three cuts circa nine that prove no less hypnotic. The beginning of “Floyds I” is so fluid with the interplay of organ and guitar that one almost expects a gentle Portuguese spoken word verse to start, but of course one never does. Instead, Jesus the Snake complement mindful drift with flashes of more weighted or active fare, all the while holding to a central vibe that is peaceful even as “Duna” finds its chill before the halfway point, with no loss of spirit in the process.

Jesus the Snake on Thee Facebooks

Jesus the Snake on Bandcamp

 

Föllakzoid, I

follakzoid i

As with any kind of sonic minimalism or release based around trance induction — see Darsombra above — there’s a certain amount of buy-in that needs to happen on the listener’s side. Accordingly, those going into the fourth LP from Chilean duo Föllakzoid, titled I and issued through Sacred Bones Records as a double-vinyl, should be aware that it’s requires that kind of interaction from one side to the other. It’s not especially loud or abrasive, or even demanding in terms of the basic sonics of the thing, but as “I” becomes “II” becomes “III” becomes “IIII” and the songs such as they are alternate between 17- and 13-minute runtimes and the blend of effects and electro beats tips to one side or the other — “II” with a fervent ‘ump-tis’ in its early going while “III” brings a more Vangelis-style cinematic wash — of course there’s an ask in terms of indulgence happening on the part of the two-piece to their audience. Whether an individual is willing to make that jump is obviously going to be up to their headspace and where they’re at, but Föllakzoid‘s work here is more than worth the investment, even for those less familiar with their methods.

Föllakzoid on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Dresden Wolves, Hiedra – Sencillo

dresden wolves Hiedra Sencillo

The sub-three-minute “Hiedra – Sencillo” is the latest in an ongoing series of digital offerings from Mexico City’s Dresden Wolves, and though the two-piece band bill themselves as post-punk and they may actually have a history in playing punk rock — stranger things have happened, certainly — the song finds them working in a taut heavy rock context, brash in delivery but not overly so as to lose the overarching swagger they seem intent on conveying. Particularly as it follows behind two EPs and a swath of other single tracks, and is offered name-your-price through their Bandcamp, “Hiedra – Sencillo” feels like its most nefarious aim is to hook anyone who’d click play on first listen and try and keep them intrigued for next time out. Fair enough. I won’t profess to know what Dresden Wolves‘ plans are, but they’ve got songwriting in their pocket and the production on “Hiedra – Sencillo” is crisp and clear enough to convey the heft of the guitar but not so much so as to dull its rawer aspects. They’ve got the balance ready to go, whatever they might choose to do with it from here.

Dresden Wolves on Thee Facebooks

Dresden Wolves on Bandcamp

 

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Book of Wyrms Release New Single “Spirit Drifter”

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

book of wyrms

New Book of Wyrms single at a name-your-price price, you say? Yeah, I think that’ll do nicely. The Richmond, Virginia, four-piece are releasing their second album, Remythologizer — which I promise I’ll learn to spell by the time I review it so I don’t have to keep cutting and pasting the title — this summer through purveyors of specialty tone Twin Earth Records, and they bring a nodding psych-doom groove to the “Spirit Drifter” that still manages to bask in a traditionalist hook even as it finds the band pushing itself in terms of melody and atmosphere. They call it a “freaky trip,” and that’s about as succinct as anything I could come up with, so yeah.

I haven’t seen a solid release date yet for Remythologizer — there; that time I spelled it without looking — but Stoner Witch Records will have it out on tape in addition to the CD, LP and DL through Twin Earth, so one assumes it’ll get plenty of attention one way or the other. I’ll certainly hope to have more to come on it before we get to the actual release.

Until then, the PR wire:

book of wyrms spirit drifter

BOOK OF WYRMS release new single

Doom metal band BOOK OF WYRMS have just released their stunning new single “Spirit Drifter”. The song is taken from their upcoming album Remythologizer which will be released via Twin Earth Records in summer of 2019.

The band commented, “We are proud as hell to offer up this freaky trip and grateful to everyone digging it in their starcrafts and space trucks or what have you.”

Engineered at Absolute Future Studios by Jamie Rose and Chris Ratterree; Mastered by Bryan Walthall at Stereo Image; Cover art by Barla Horn, Photography by Joey Wharton Photography.

Book of Wyrms is:
Chris DeHaven – Drums/ Percussion
Sarah Moore Lindsey – Vocals/ Synthesizer
Jay “Jake” Lindsey – Bass/ Synthesizer
Kyle Lewis – Guitar
AND
Ben Coudriet – Guitar

https://twitter.com/BookofWyrms
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https://instagram.com/bookofwyrms
https://bookofwyrms.bandcamp.com/
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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

Naisian on Thee Facebooks

Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

Onségen Ensemble on Thee Facebooks

Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Review & Full Album Stream: Saint Karloff, All Heed the Black God

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

saint karloff all heed the black god

[Click play above to stream Saint Karloff’s All Heed the Black God in full. Album is out on LP/CD July 27 through Twin Earth Records with cassettes through Hellas Records.]

Opening with the call of a crow, shortly working its way into sampled thunder and in the meantime igniting immediately Sabbathian riffage marked out by a subtle brightness in its fuzz, the debut album from Saint Karloff, All Heed the Black God, arrives via Twin Earth Records and Hellas Records like a message telegraphed to the converted. Opener “Ghost Smoker” tops seven minutes and dips into blues rocking twists and turns as guitarist Mads Melvold layers his own harmonies — unless that’s bassist Ole Sletner or drummer Adam Suleiman backing — in a midsection shuffle, and the Oslo three-piece delve into accessible melodies as they cross reaches they won’t see again until the bookending closer, pushes closer to the eight-minute mark with an even purer Sabbath worship, like “Under the Sun”‘s malevolent boogie given a modern edge.

I say this nearly every time I mention Twin Earth Records in any context, but the label has an ear for tone that’s second to none, and as Saint Karloff join the imprints ranks, they fit excellently in that regard. The thrust of “Space Junkie” and the birdsong-laced acoustic interlude “Ganymedes” follow “Ghost Smoker,” each following the Black Sabbath blueprint in their own way, but Saint Karloff manage to make their own impression tonally and the deftness of Sletner and Suleiman in pulling off shifts in tempo and lacing one groove into the next set the three-piece apart from the masses when it comes to capturing that aspect of their forebears. In that regard and in terms of general pacing, they’re simply better at it than most bands.

The task of “Ghost Smoker” is clear at the outset in terms of setting the mood and tone — figuratively and literally — for what will follow, and “Space Junkie” answers back the patient groove with the album’s most fervent shove, leading to the interlude. This one-two-three progression of songs is pivotal to the impression All Heed the Black God makes one whole. For one, it is utterly classic. Put your intro where your intro goes, dig into a righteous groove, follow with a good sprint and then hang a louie into something entirely unexpected. It’s a smart play, and clearly intended to keep the listener on their toes as they make their way through especially for the always-pivotal first listen — going for the, “I don’t know what’s happening here, but I’m into it” impression, which they succeed in capturing — but most importantly, it speaks to a conscientiousness of craft from Saint Karloff, so what while their sound might be easy to pinpoint in terms of its influences early — hang on, we’re getting there — the very fact of that stems from a clarity of purpose on the part of the trio. They meant to make it that way, in other words, and they’re educated enough in the roots of their approach to know what they’re doing.

That’s something that only continues to help them as “Ganymedes” gives way to the three-song punch of centerpiece “Dark Sun,” “Radioactive Tomb” and “When the Earth Cracks Open” ahead of “Spellburn.” This middle salvo is likewise crucial to the overarching feel of the record, particularly as it represents a branching out in terms of influence. “Dark Sun” feeds Uncle Acid‘s “Death’s Door” garage doom through a filter of early Witchcraft — and better, works well doing so — before launching at around four minutes into its total 5:35 into thicker riffing and an all-around meaner roll, Melvold either bemoaning or bragging, “We have no soul/We are soulless,” with just a touch of post-Jus Oborn inflection in his voice. That twist fades out to finish “Dark Sun” as a highlight and the subsequent “Radioactive Tomb” confirms a suspicion heretofore held throughout the tracks regardless of speed or anything else: that Saint Karloff have a great drummer.

saint karloff

I am a firm believer that a truly excellent drummer — like an excellent singer, bassist, guitarist or even keyboardist sometimes — can make the difference in a band, and listening to Suleiman shove along the gallop of “Radioactive Tomb” as naturally as he held back during the verses of “Ghost Smoker,” his class and creativity as a player come through in such a way as to vibrantly enhance the work of the other two players around him. “Radioactive Tomb” laces additional percussion into its first half, but even so, it’s the drums holding it together it all opens up heading into and through the midpoint, a consistent, familiar beat that Suleiman makes his own. And even as he counts on his ride after everything else has dissipated, it’s clear just how central the swing and character of his playing is to the band. On the more blown-out “When the Earth Cracks Open,” as Melvold wahs out a lead and Sletner explores a highlight performance of his own, the drums carry over a straightforward progression that makes each cymbal hit count amid tom runs every bit worthy of the Bill Ward comparison they seem to be shooting for. That, “how on earth is he keeping this together?” vibe.

That’s not to take away from the work Melvold and Sletner do here — as noted, Twin Earth sniffs out excellent tone, and they both bring plenty of it — it’s just that when called on to do so, Suleiman is more than able to hold down the songs in a way that sounds easy and simply isn’t. From that shift in “Dark Sun” through the early movement in “Spellburn” en route to the aforementioned “Under the Sun” chug, he always seems to be where he needs to be, and the whole band benefits from it. Still, it’s the guitar in the foreground as “Spellburn” heads toward its sudden cold ending, and the balance across the ultra-manageable 38 minutes of the release of contributions balances well.

There are many aspects of All Heed the Black God — one assumes such heeding would be done on, say, a special day of observance, likewise absent of light — which will seem familiar to the more experienced heads who take it on, but that’s half the point. The other half is in the potential for growth Saint Karloff demonstrate throughout this thesis in Iommic Studies. Even more than the universal symptom on display throughout much of the riffing, it’s that potential left as the primary impression of the album, and one hopes Saint Karloff will continue to build on the vital chemistry and aesthetic willfulness they conjure here.

Saint Karloff, “Spellburn” official video

Saint Karloff, “Ghost Smoker” official video

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Saint Karloff on Bandcamp

Saint Karloff on Instagram

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

Twin Earth Records webstore/

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Hellas Records on Bandcamp

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Haunted Post “Dayburner” Video; New Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

haunted

The trippy visuals in Haunted‘s new video are almost as much a representation of the title-track of their new album, Dayburner, as the song itself. Amid deep-hued skylines, manipulated film footage, the cover art and sundry other elements, the Italian doomers give the nine-minute “Dayburner” over to the capable hands of Gryphus Visual for the proceedings, which are every bit full-screen-worthy and likewise suitable for maximum volume. The album “Dayburner” represents tops 66 minutes with its eight tracks, and is released with backing from Twin Earth Records (CD), DHU Records (LP, presumably) and Graven Earth Records (tape) as the follow-up to the band’s likewise immersive 2016 self-titled debut (review here).

Dayburner saw release June 8 and arrived even as it was announced Haunted would be included in the four-label split showcase Skull Mountain, which featured highlights from the rosters of Twin Earth, Ripple Music, DHU and Kozmik Artifactz, pushing even further the notion of Haunted catching the attention of some of the underground’s foremost tastemakers. Reasonably so. The outlander approach to rolling out stoner-doom groove fits into the post-Windhand cultistry, and yet there’s a sharper edge to Haunted‘s soulfulness. With Christina Chimirri at the fore vocally, the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando — that’s right, dueling Francescos — leading the charge with riffs and solos, and bassist Frank Tudisco (could he be Francesco number three?) and drummer Dario Casabona holding down the nodding grooves, Haunted hit just a little harder rather than get completely lost in the mire, and that difference proves crucial in the listening experience of Dayburner as a whole. It’s not just about hypnotic riffing, but about impact as well.

You can check out the clip for “Dayburner” below, followed by more info from the PR wire. I hope to have a review of the album in the next week or so, so please keep an eye out for that as well.

Dig:

Haunted, “Dayburner” official video

The international doom promises HAUNTED recently unleashed their new studio album, “Dayburner” via Twin Earth Records.

The band revealed the video of the new single ‘Dayburner’.

Francesco Bauso, guitar player, states:
“Basically, it’s one of the most spontaneous songs we have composed so far. We started from a verse and then built the rest around the main riff. The idea of the acoustic guitars came to our mind directly in studio, to add emphasis to the song’s intro. It’s actually the most catchy track on the record, boasting a Sabbathian riffing. On the finale we had the chance to experiment a bit with some overdubs, such as floor-toms for example; whose rhythm evokes a sort of witches dance.”

The video has been created by Gryphus Visual, who works with different labels (Twin Earth, Argonauta, Ripple Music) and made background visuals for Lucifer at Roadburn 2015, besides being the visual master of Addicthead and Echolot.

Purchase ‘Dayburner’ digitally here: https://hauntedband.bandcamp.com/track/dayburner

Haunted as:
Francesco Bauso: Guitars
Dario Casabona: Drums
Cristina Chimirri: Vocals
Francesco Orlando: Guitars
Frank Tudisco: Bass

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Haunted on Bandcamp

Haunted on Instagram

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

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The Mad Doctors Tour Starts Tonight; New Single Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the mad doctors

You know, I was going to start out this post by wondering if Brooklyn trio The Mad Doctors knew that there was already a sequel to the 1992 movie Sister Act. It also starred Whoopi Goldberg, came out in ’93, and it was called Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. But you know what? I bet The Mad Doctors already knew that shit. And if you think about it, doesn’t that just kind of make the joke funnier? So the title of their new single, “Sister Act II: Electric Boogaloo (What if Idris Elba was the Next James Bond),” isn’t only a goof reference on the first Sister Act, it’s even more tongue-in-cheek because it’s a fake sequel to that movie when there’s already a real one. Plus, that whole thing with Idris Elba in the parenthesis. I believe the answer is, “white people on the internet got really pissed off about something that doesn’t matter in the slightest,” which, you know, is kind of the answer to any such “what if” scenario.

Because white people love bitching about shit that doesn’t matter. Like the deficit.

Other point: the title of the new The Mad Doctors single is clever as hell and the band are headed out on a Northeastern run as of this very evening to support it. I doubt they’ll be explaining the joke to everyone as they go, like, “It’s funny because there’s already a movie,” but you know, it’s still pretty funny. And the song’s streaming at the bottom of this post and a name-your-price download, so even better.

Details

the mad doctors tour

The Mad Doctors – Sneakin Out The Web Tour

Northeast coffee fiends, booze hounds (and pitbulls), party rock boys, and folks of all things n stuff – after PIZZAFEST V we’re hitting the road for a week and spending some good quality time with our pals Fire Heads from Wisconsin!! It’s gunna be fuzzy! Check us out in the following places:

M 5/28 – Saratoga NY – Desperate Annie’s
Tu 5/29 – Portland ME – Matthew’s Pub*
W 5/30 – Salem MA – Koto*
Th 5/31 – Pawtucket RI – News Cafe*
F 6/1 – Stamford CT – Riot at Amadeus*
Sa 6/2 – Rutherford, NJ – The Jungeon
* = Fire Heads (WI)

Tour poster by Erick Freuhling (of Fire Heads)

The Mad Doctors are:
Seth Applebaum – Gtr/vox
Joshua Park – Bass
Greg Hanson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/events/2021766151389187/
http://facebook.com/themaddoctors
https://themaddoctors.bandcamp.com/
http://kingpizzarecords.storenvy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kingpizzarecs/

The Mad Doctors, “Sister Act II: Electric Boogaloo (What if Idris Elba was the Next James Bond)”

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Saint Karloff to Release All Heed the Black God on Twin Earth Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know about you, but every time I read ‘signed to Twin Earth Records,’ my mind immediately flashes to thinking this is some tone I probably need to hear. The Midwestern imprint has a knack for finding the kind of distortion you can dive into, and as they step up to issue the debut album from Oslo three-piece Saint Karloff, the standard would definitely seem to apply. I don’t see a set release date for when the label will deliver the band’s debut album, All Heed the Black God, but a first taste thereof is being given now with the video for “Ghost Smoker” that you can see at the bottom of this post, and it certainly bodes well for showing off a doom-rocking, horror-minded sensibility. Makes me look forward to hearing the rest of the record.

The announcement came down the PR wire, as announcements do:

saint karloff

Saint Karloff sign with Twin Earth Records

Saint Karloff Urge You to “All Heed the Black God”, Scribble Deal with Twin Earth Records

Norwegian distortion pedal lovers Saint Karloff are excited to announce their partnership with Twin Earth Records to release their début album, All Heed the Black God, which will be emerging on July 27 2018. The record is stuffed with seven tracks of riff worship much like the already-released “Ghost Smoker”. The band’s aesthetic – much like their name – draws from oldschool horror films, while the music is a modern twist on that 70s and 80s rockin’ vibe set out by Motorpsycho by way of Black Sabbath – with a touch of acoustic amid the heavy crunch.

The band are understandably fired up to get their début album out to the masses. “We have had great fun making it, and we really hope it will bring some good heavy vibes to the people out there!”

All Heed the Black God will be available on CD, vinyl and digital download.

https://www.facebook.com/SaintKarloff/
https://saintkarloff.bandcamp.com/
http://www.instagram.com/saintkarloff
https://twinearthrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://twinearthrecords.storenvy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TwinEarthRecords

Saint Karloff, “Ghost Smoker” official video

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