Sons of Alpha Centauri Announce Buried Memories Collaborative LP with JK Broadrick & James Plotkin

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri 2019

You have to give it to Sons of Alpha Centauri: they keep good company. These are gentlemen of refined taste. Their last album? Produced by Aaron Harris of Isis and mastered by John McBain, formerly of Monster Magnet. Before that, oh, they’d worked with the likes of Gary Arce and Karma to Burn, and so on, producing killer splits and collaborative offerings in the process. Now? They’ve got a kinda-EP/kinda-LP called Buried Memories coming that has four songs total — one is a revisit of a song from their first record — with mixes by Justin Broadrick, who does three different versions of “Hitmen” in various guises as Justin K. Broadrick, JK Flesh and Jesu, and James Plotkin, who’s only James Plotkin throughout but when you played in Khanate that’s enough as far as I’m concerned. Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s sense of sonic adventurousness continues to extend to a meta level, and if you’re not intrigued to hear this, you probably just haven’t paid enough attention. Snap to it.

It doesn’t actually say so below, but the press kit lists Oct. 13 as the release date through H42 Records, so let’s go with that. They’ve got a quick teaser posted as well, and you’ll find that at the bottom of the post, along with the stream of 2018’s Continuum (review here). Enjoy:

SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI Buried Memories Cover

H42 Records: SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI Announce New Album with JK BROADRICK and JAMES PLOTKIN!

Sons of Alpha Centauri are back to release Buried Memories, a collaborative post metal colossus and the second part of the journey that started with last album Continuum!

The new album Buried Memories has been mixed by industrial metal icon Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu…) and ambient gloom metal maestro James Plotkin (Khanate, Jodis etc.). Buried Memories contains two 10 minute slabs of eclectic ambient progressive rock and a series of interpretative remixes of the theme tracks by both Broadrick and Plotkin.

Justin Broadrick collaborates with the band on side A through the progressive riff saga of Hitmen which he has mixed and also provided two remixes in his guise as Jesu and another as the eponymous JK Flesh. These three staggering pieces of music elapse over 27 minutes of pure instrumental voyage in a way only Sons of Alpha Centauri and Justin Broadrick could deliver!

James Plotkin and SOAC collaborate through several tracks including Warhero a sprawling 10 minute odyssey and a masterful remix of SS Montgomery – the single from the bands classic instrumental landmark debut album.

After entering the Continuum (2018) the listener must now bury their memories. The darkness will envelope the listeners in this second part of their epic sprawling progressive dark rock saga.

The LP version of Buried Memories comes on a selection of 180 gram heavyweight colored vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with photo inlay and download code.

Tracklist
1. Hitmen [Justin K. Broadrick Mix]
2. Hitmen [Jesu Remix]
3. Hitmen [JK Flesh Remix]
4. Warhero [James Plotkin Mix]
5. Remembrance [James Plotkin Mix]
6. SS Montgomery [James Plotkin Remix]

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofalphacentauri
https://sonsofalphacentauri.bandcamp.com/
http://www.sonsofalphacentauri.co.uk/
https://www.h42records.com

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Buried Memories teaser

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum (2018)

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Pagan Altar Live Shows This Month; New Reissues Due in December

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

pagan altar records

Pagan Altar coming to the US, even just for five shows, is a big deal. I don’t need to go into the whole blah-blah-doom-legends-plus-they’ve-got-Brendan-from-MagicCircle-singing thing, but I will if you want. Because it’s true. Two shows in Canada, one on the East Coast, one in the Midwest, one on the West Coast — New York, Chicago, L.A. — and that’s it. I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life — yes, I am; pretty much always — but if you ever wanted to see Pagan Altar, this is the time.

Temple of Mystery Records is also continuing its series of reissues of the band’s work, getting their releases back out on tape, CD and LP for those either of a new generation of listeners or who basically just want to allocate more shelf-space to Pagan Altar, which is fair enough. The Time Lord and Mythical and Magical are both due in December, and I’m sure there will be preorders and all that

 

PAGAN ALTAR SHOWS

PAGAN ALTAR’s “Mythical & Magical” and “Time Lord” to be reissued by TEMPLE OF MYSTERY, North American tour coming

Pagan Altar’s Mythical & Magical and The Time Lord are set to be released on December 4th on Temple of Mystery Records. Both albums will be reissued on CD format, deluxe vinyl versions, and audiophile cassettes.

Each CD version include a completely new remaster, complete layout redesign, rare photos, and exclusive liner notes by journalist Sarah Kitteringham.

Each vinyl version include completely new remasters, deluxe gatefold covers, and complete layout redesign. Mythical & Magical includes a beautiful etch on side D, and The Time Lord includes a recently unearthed version of “Night Rider” from the same sessions as the other recordings! Vinyl is available on regular black and limited colors (250 each only copies) available exclusively at the label’s website HERE.

Each cassette versions are pressed on Chromium Dioxide audiophile tapes and include remastered audio.

To celebrate the reissues, Pagan Altar will undertake the following shows around Europe and North America this summer:

***NORTH AMERICAN TOUR***
MONTREAL – Friday, August 23rd
Pagan Altar w/Cauchemar and Palmistry

TORONTO – Saturday, August 24th
Pagan Altar w/Blood Ceremony, Cauchemar, and Smoulder

BROOKLYN – Friday, August 30th
Pagan Altar w/Cauchemar and Spite

CHICAGO – Saturday, August 31st
Pagan Altar w/Cauchemar and High Spirits

LOS ANGELES – Sunday, September 1st
Pagan Altar w/Cauchemar

Tracklisting for Pagan Altar’s Mythical and Magical
1. Samhein
2. The Cry of the Banshee
3. The Crowman
4. Daemoni Na Noiche
5. The Sorcerer
6. Flight of the Witch Queen
7. Dance of the Druids
8. The Erl King
9. The Witches Pathway
10. Sharnie
11. The Rising of the Dark Lord

Featuring songs written mostly between 1976 and 1983, Mythical & Magical is Pagan Altar’s third album and is, without a doubt, the pinnacle of their career. This grandiose, ancient-sounding masterpiece owes most of its atmosphere to Terry Jones’ majestic vocals and Alan Jones’ intricate guitar licks—which gracefully weave a web of medieval-tinged solos throughout the songs. The unique mixture of heavy doom rock and mournful English folk found on Mythical & Magical is absolutely impeccable and will forever be celebrated among the knowing as one of the best albums of the genre. Gatefold LP version includes insert, new layout, etch on vinyl, and remastered songs, and jewelcase CD version includes exclusive liner notes and remastered songs.

Tracklisting for Pagan Altar’s The Time Lord
1. Highway Cavalier
2. The Time Lord
3. Judgement of the Dead
4. The Black Mass
5. Reincarnation
6. Night Rider

Originally recorded back in 1978-79, The Time Lord features Pagan Altar’s earliest recordings. Two of these flawlessly executed tracks are from a 24-track recording session, and the rest of the album are early, atmospheric versions of songs that were later re-recorded on Judgement of the Dead. This LP includes a long-lost, never-before-heard version of “Night Rider,” from the same era as the other songs! This is pure doom metal sorcery. LP version includes insert, new layout, and remastered songs, and jewelcase CD version includes exclusive liner notes and remastered songs.

www.paganaltar.co.uk
www.facebook.com/paganaltarofficial
www.paganaltarofficial.bandcamp.com
www.templeofmystery.ca
www.facebook.com/templeofmysteryrecs

Pagan Altar, Live at Old Grave Fest, Oct. 13, 2018

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard Post “The Spaceships of Ezekiel” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mammoth weed wizard bastard the spaceships of ezekiel video

Hey, if you haven’t heard Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s Yn Ol I Annwn (review here), I get it. There’s a lot out there and life is busy. It happens. But go ahead now and take a couple minutes out of your hectic day to dig into their new video for “The Spaceships of Ezekiel,” which is one of the album’s most memorable tracks, and I think you’ll come to understand quickly why the rest of the record is worth your time. The Welsh cosmic doomers issued the album as the purported third in a trilogy on March 1, and with it pushed their synth-laden heavy riffing to new levels of progressive and melodic intent, covering broader spaces with more confidence than one found even on 2016’s nonetheless triumphant Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here). It’s the kind of record where it’s less about immersion than world-creation, and in headphones it seems to bring new meaning to a phrase like “surround sound.”

“The Spaceships of Ezekiel” is essentially the opener following the Vonnegut-reference intro “Tralfalmadore,” which one assumes represents the point at which the band become unstuck in time, its impression is more or less immediate once it gets going, with dense riffs and spacious effects weaving out colorful tapestries in a broad mix and vocalist Jessica Ball‘s voice echoing in layers to coincide. The video is likewise otherworldly, with a trip into the forest, some UFOs, and a journey through a wormhole that reminds a little bit of Contact, but remains delightfully weird in the spirit of the song itself. You’ll note at one point about halfway into the clip, Ball holds her hand up at the camera and has a rune marked on her palm. It’s ‘ansuz,’ if you’re curious, denoting either god, or ash, or wheat, depending on the context. Pretty wide range there, I guess, but fair enough.

I’ve included the full-stream of Yn Ol I Annwn below basically because I know that if you haven’t yet heard it — and you probably have, I realize — you’re going to want to. From where I sit, it’s one of the year’s best albums, easily.

Enjoy:

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “The Spaceships of Ezekiel” official video

Ufo’s, druids and all sorts of cosmic weirdness are contained within this homage to 80’s science fiction.

The band are huge fans of film director John Carpenter’s work and this video … or short film if you will … is directly inspired by the maestro himself, and his 80’s output in particular.

Check that 80’s vibe, and see if you can spot the direct references hidden in the piece.

Buy the album here: https://cargorecordsdirect.co.uk/products/mammoth-weed-wizard-bastard-yn-ol-i-annwyn
Digitally here: http://smarturl.it/YnOlIAnnwn
Bandcamp here: https://mammothweedwizardbastard.bandcamp.com/album/yn-ol-i-annwn

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn (2019)

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Bandcamp

New Heavy Sounds on Thee Facebooks

New Heavy Sounds on Bandcamp

New Heavy Sounds website

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Oak and 1968 to Embark on Weekender Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

OAK

Who the hell doesn’t want to get out for a weekender every now and then? Next month, London’s Oak and Cheshire’s 1968 will head off together for a three-day stint, starting out at The Black Heart in Camden Town and heading to the continent-proper in order to make stops in Ghent, Belgium, and Paris, France. Decent amount of ground to cover in not a huge amount of time, but the way it’s split up is hardly insurmountable, even with the inevitable traffic of a major urban center. Should be good shows, is what I’m saying. And I dig a weekender tour, so yeah. Right on.

Oak released their third EP, the aptly-titled Oak III, last Spring and have been steadily supporting it around the UK since, while 1968 issued their Ballads of the Godless debut album last year through Black Bow Records, having recorded at Skyhammer Studios1968 also were in America earlier this year, making a stop at Planet Desert Rock Weekend in Las Vegas, which hosted a range of international bands. Good gig to get.

Maybe you’ll be in London, Ghent or Paris to catch these two bands, maybe you won’t. I won’t be. But sometimes I’m just glad to see people getting out to do shows. That’s pretty much the story here. That and a cool poster.

Here it is, speaking of:

oak 1968 tour

OAK – MAJOR UPDATE

We are proud to announce that we will pay a short visit to Belgium and France alongside 1968 in September. Oak is a stoner rock band from London. We tried to sound like Kyuss but fucked it all up. We take retro blues rock riffs influenced by the likes of Cream, make it filthy and downtuned and then get an actual mad man to yell over the top of it.

12th of Sept: London UK, The Black Heart
13th of Sept: Ghent BE, Muziekcentrum Kinky Star
14th of Sept: Paris FR, L’international

Event links below:
https://www.facebook.com/events/2320505784674597/
https://www.facebook.com/events/310172116575644/
https://www.facebook.com/events/2815744091833722/

Poster by Jo Riou Graphic Designer

Oak is:
Clinton Ritchie: Drums
Richard Morgan: Bass, Backing Vocals
Kevin Germain: Guitars
Andy Valiant: Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/oakstoner/
https://oakstoner.bandcamp.com/

Oak, Oak III EP (2018)

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My Dying Bride Finish Work on New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So the masters are with Nuclear Blast now. That’s great. You figure they’re going to want at least three months of lead-time to promote it, right? Lock down the magazine covers, special features, track reveals, maybe a video, tour announcement if that’s in the offing, etc. All that stuff takes time, and you gotta space it out with preorders to build awareness as part of any self-respecting promotional campaign. Plus this is My Dying Bride‘s first record for Nuclear Blast, so it’s a safe bet they’re going to want to make a splash. It’s an event.

Accordingly, a November release is pushing it. It could happen, but the title details, maybe album art, would have to be out like this week in order to to make that go, because it would need to be early November. By the time the holidays hit, which is always earlier, it seems, the year is done for releases of this scale. There’s always going to be stuff coming out, but something like My Dying Bride‘s label debut on Nuclear Blast? They could take the big risk and do December, but you miss out on best-of lists and not as many people are paying attention, so you probably lose some sales. January, everyone’s broke or in debt. Mid-February is when things start really picking up again, and if that’s when the My Dying Bride record happens, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Seems like a long time from now, but it’s already been four years since 2015’s Feel the Misery (review here), so a little longer won’t kill anybody. Since the band signed with Nuclear Blast in 2017, I’m just glad there’s an update about the record at all, and bonus that the update is, “it’s done.” That’s a good update to get.

So here it is. When I hear about the release date, I’ll let you know:

MY DYING BRIDE

It is complete! The new album from My Dying Bride! It has taken quite some time to put together but it is now finished and is with Nuclear Blast as I write this. There is no release date as yet but rest assured we will let you know once we find out. This album is a luxurious journey into a realm only MDB know how to create. It has the most lavish production of any of our past offerings and the sound is utterly stunning; aggressive, beautiful and layered with harmonic melancholy like never before. There is beauty here with slender moments of delicate hope enriched with violins and cello and the stunning voice of special guest Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna. And there is utter madness and anger with visceral death metal vocals lending a fearful edge to this dramatic opus. You will not be disappointed!! Cheers, Aaron.

www.mydyingbride.net
https://www.facebook.com/MyDyingBrideOfficial/
www.nuclearblast.de/mydyingbride
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

My Dying Bride, “Feel the Misery” official video

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Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock: Into Isotropic

Posted in Reviews on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Oblivion Reptilian Fried on Rock

Sometimes an experiment works. Last year, Sydney, Australia’s Comacozer and UK spacefarers Blown Out released a split LP with one song from the former and three from the latter on Riot Season Records. Much acid-soaked chicanery was had. It is from out of that stellar nursery that Oblivion Reptilian, as a concept, comes, bringing together Comacozer drummer Andrew Panagopoulos and Blown Out guitarist Mike Vest (also of Bong, etc.). Together, the two very-very-far-apart players present the instrumentalist Fried on Rock through Sound Effect Records, with Vest handling bass as well as guitar and collaborating with Panagopoulos across a distance vast enough to be genuinely planetary. No challenge, right? A Dropboxed riff here, some drum backbeat there, done. Easy. On some level that’s probably true, but what that fails to capture as regards Oblivion Reptilian in particular is the live and improvisational feel of the five tracks on Fried on Rock and the cosmic reaches with which they’re able to commune.

There are parts that feel led by the drums and parts that feel led by the guitar, and the effect is such that if one didn’t know they had operated remotely as a two-piece, it would be no challenge to believe their kraut-y jams were tracked live with at least three players all in the same room, let alone on the same continent. That mission makes the 36 minutes of Fried on Rock a more complex affair than just the output of two dudes who dug each other’s bands and decided to start a band — though there’s nothing wrong with that either, of course — and it’s in setting and attaining that goal that Oblivion Reptilian‘s outward course is defined. Do you need that context to listen to the eight-minute post-Nebula scorcher “Daraconian” at the start of the album? Nope, not at all. You could put on Fried on Rock, dig the jams, freak out when the freakness gets freaky, and go about your business as you otherwise might. The record’s a burner either way. But it’s in understanding where its foundation lies that the true drive behind its expression is fully revealed.

That is, when you know what Oblivion Reptilian were going for and the circumstances through which the tracks were made, with ideas passed back and forth from the UK to Australia and parts recorded as beds for improv by both players, it’s all the more an impressive feat. “Daraconian” finds its way into a wash of airy guitar scream, and though it must’ve been a question at some point, Vest‘s decision to also play bass in the duo was without a doubt the right call. The fuzz he adds under his own solo at the outset of “Alien Shit” bolsters that track in ways that speak to some of Earthless‘ more kosmiche moments without being a direct descendant thereof, and as Panagopoulos‘ uptempo swing holds together a forward exploration of vibe and righteously Hendrixian wankery. Even unto the way it sputters out at the end, it feels live.

oblivion reptilian jealousy

The recording is raw in just the right way from both parties so that it sounds like they’re playing together, and as the consuming loops of delay take hold in centerpiece “Amplification from Stimulated Emission,” that vitality comes through. It’s resonant in the brief “Saurian Architect,” and as 8:51 closer “Isotropic Transucent” claws its way onto the brain stem, the wash of guitar hits a new level, layer piled upon layer with the drums and bass acting out a common groove beneath in classic power trio modus. It’s not that Oblivion Reptilian are trying to put one over, like they’re going to trick someone into thinking two players are three, but their intention creatively seems to have been to pay homage to this particular strain of heavy psychedelia, and even if they just decided to work together and see what came out and this is what did, that’s all the more honest to the roots from which their work stems. Isn’t that how it always goes, at least in the ideal scenario for jam-based psych and space rock?

One is left to wonder what might happen if Vest and Panagopoulos ever manage to get into the same studio at the same time, but as the creeping low-end severity of the final progression in “Isotropic Transucent” play out, it’s not like there’s something missing for the approach they’ve taken. I guess that’s ultimately what’s so impressive about the debut from this collaboration — it runs directly counter to the narrative of “oh, you have to all be there playing live, capture lightning in a bottle, blah blah.” There’s no right way to make an album except the way you want to or can do, and while I know both these players have experience working in that fashion, their output as Oblivion Reptilian finds a way around it in order to not just effectively layer tracks on top of each other, but to give a real sense of chemistry and nascent dynamic between them. That’s especially true as the far-back hypnosis of “Saurian Architect” leads into “Isotropic Transucent,” a long fade from the penultimate cut bringing about the emergence of the closer, sounding like a jam captured already in progress, which it may well have been.

It’s so effectively done and so dead-on spaced that the listener just goes where the band leads, getting perhaps willfully lost as the last solos begin to intertwine and lead to the maybe-keyboard/maybe-effects topped finish. Radness abounds. Gnarl abounds. The universe abounds. This kind of fare is never for everybody, but however it was made, the fact remains that Oblivion Reptilian‘s Fried on Rock marks the beginning point of a collaboration with noteworthy potential for future exploration, and that if it’s not an unspeakable pain in the ass to do so, Panagopoulos and Vest should make every effort to keep it going and see where they end up, as reportedly they will. Because if what this debut does is establish the effectiveness of their methodology — I’ll argue it does that and more — then surely the only thing to do at that point is set to refining and innovating that and discovering where the path might go. Right now they’re here. Next time, they can be anywhere.

Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock (2019)

Oblivion Reptilian on Thee Facebooks

Oblivion Reptilian on Bandcamp

Sound Effect Records website

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The Grand Mal Premiere “Burning Truth” from Self-Titled Debut out Oct. 18

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the grand mal

It is one of the oldest stories in rock and roll: players from two bands get together; new band is made. So it is that Dave-O and Rob Glenn of Mother Corona and Elliot and Ryan Cole of Desert Storm have joined forces under the banner of APF Records as The Grand Mal. Their self-titled debut is a 52-minute 10-tracker that the Oxford-based unit will release on Oct. 18 ahead of appearances at Manchester’s Sophie Lancaster Festival and APF‘s own all-dayer, which I hear is quite the party. All the better, as one could say the same of the record itself, with the band dipping into grassroots heavy rock groove and brash delivery, not shy about grit in cuts like “No Man’s Land” or the swinging fuzzo-stomper “Liquid Death,” but at the same time shooting for more than party rock vibes. On vocals, Dave-O is a metal-rooted John Garcia, while the band behind him makes an aesthetic of their rawness, with the later slower roll in “Eschaton” coming across extra thick ahead of the driving rocker “Black Spiral” and more out-there closer “Significant.”

Yeah, it’s a first record, but The Grand Mal aren’t exactly taking tentative baby-steps here so much as honing classic rocking sneer with a modern weight behind it. It’s a combo that brooks little argument, and fun as it is, as the album plays through, it only seems to build on the early rocking start of “Explode,” “No Man’s Land” and “Burning Truth,” the last of which you can stream as a track premiere at the bottom of this post, because the proof, ultimately, is in the riffing.

Preorders are up from APF. Have at it:

the grand mal the grand mal

APF Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Oxford-based heavy hitters The Grand Mal, and with it the release of their self-titled debut album this October.

Featuring twin brothers Ryan and Elliot Cole from rising stoner metal behemoths Desert Storm, the decision to back this promising new project was a “no-brainer” according to Andrew Field; peddler of some of the UK’s finest rock/metal underground albums in recent memory on his Manchester-based label.

“I’ve been Desert Storm’s biggest fan since I discovered their music six years ago, which is why I signed them in 2017,” he explains. “Elliot and Ryan approached me about releasing The Grand Mal’s debut and I jumped on it. It’s a joy to continue my relationship with them and I’m excited that APF Records is putting out this stunning release.”

Complimenting the Cole brothers in The Grand Mal are Mother Corona vocalist Dave-O and bassist Rob Glenn. Their first single – ‘Burning Truth’ – is both indebted and in line with the colossal riffs and big grooves of the quartet’s collective influences. Inspired by bands such as Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Soundgarden and Royal Blood, as Butthole Surfers’ JD Pinkus put it best. “The Grand Mal is like Queens of the Stone Age mixed with 80’s Ozzy.”

The Grand Mal’s self-titled debut album is released on Friday, 18th October through APF Records and can be pre-ordered here https://apfrecords.bigcartel.com/.

LIVE:
6/9/19 – The Facebar – Reading, UK
28/9/19 – O2 Academy2 (w. Evil Scarecrow) – Oxford, UK
26/10/19 – The Underground (w. Desert Storm) – Bradford, UK
22/11/19 – The Port Mahon (w. Gnome) – Oxford, UK
23/11/19 – Rebellion (Sophie Lancaster Festival) – Manchester, UK
2/02/20 – The Bread Shed (APF All-Dayer) – Manchester, UK

TRACK LISTING:
1. Explode
2. No Man’s Land
3. Burning Truth
4. Synapse Transmission
5. Liquid & Dust
6. Glitch
7. Pig In The Python
8. Eschaton
9. Black Spiral
10. Significant

THE GRAND MAL: Dave-O (Vocals), Ryan Cole (Guitar), Elliot Cole (Drums), Rob Glenn (Bass)

https://www.facebook.com/thegrandmal/
https://thegrandmal.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/apfrecords/
http://apfrecords.bigcartel.com/

The Grand Mal, “Burning Truth” official premiere

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Friday Full-Length: Conan, Horseback Battle Hammer

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

It was only four songs — “Krull,” “Satsumo,” “Dying Giant” and “Sea Lord” — but Conan‘s 2010 EP, Horseback Battle Hammer (review here), was nothing less than a breakthrough, for doom as much as for them as a part of it. The UK-based trio had issued the Battle in the Swamp demo in 2007 and another demo in 2010, but their work on the first EP was the type to earn immediate hyperbole because it was so hyperbolic. It was the omega doom. The doom to end all doom. None heavier. Everyone go home. Conan wins. It’s over. Even today, as a whole league of acts have picked up on their tonal cues and attempted to manifest a similar affect, one can count on a hand the number who’ve managed to do so while manifesting such a sense of utter triumph.

Because that’s the thing about Conan‘s earlier work that often gets lost in the story of how heavy they were. They weren’t just heavy — they were also about heavy. Conan conquered and told tales of conquest. “Worship Krull, within the mountain,” “Bodies flow to the bottom,” “Oceans of graves ebb and flow,” “Sea be lifted sithen” — these lines about struggle and death, worship and the ocean seemed to rise up out of the very murk Conan were creating with their instruments. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, whose voice even then had a surprisingly melodic timbre even in its shouts on “Sea Lord,” with bassist/vocalist John Paul McNulty (now of Coltsblood) and drummer Paul O’Neill, Conan‘s very mission from the start seemed to be to throw down that gauntlet of heavy. From the very launch of “Krull” from the initial wash of cymbals, the focus was clear on what Conan were doing. ‘Heavy’ wasn’t just a tool in their arsenal; it was the foundation of their aesthetic, and they cast it out with superlative revelry, creating a sound that was extreme in its darkness without being a heavy metal caricature and genuinely broadening the scope of what weighted tonality could accomplish.

I don’t think that’s overstating it. Davis has said on multiple occasions he was working under a heavy Slomatics influence, and yeah, that story checks out, and one could likewise argue he was playing to some degree off Floor‘s prior harvesting of the “bomb tone,” but even so, what he did with that influence was his own from the start, and that’s written all over the ensuing rumble of Horseback Battle Hammer. And it’s easy to paint him as the auteur of Conan because he’s the lone remaining original member, but from the swing in O’Neill‘s drumming as “Krull” picked up the tempo at its finish and moved into the holy-shit-did-that-just-happen roll of “Satsumo,” to the tradeoffs made to the lower-register shouts from McNulty — a model Conan would follow with subsequent bassists Phil Coumbe and Chris Fielding — the complete band contributed to the onslaught at all times. “Dying Giant” was a perfect example as McNulty took the forward vocal role at the midpoint and the whole band seemed to emerge from the willful muck of that cut’s early going — not to mention the far-back gutturalisms that pervaded from there and the final surge, with accompanying double-kick from O’Neill.

conan horseback battle hammer

Was Conan metal? Oh yes. But instead of beating their chest to tell you about it, they were stomping your skull.

To wit, “Sea Lord.” The only cut on Horseback Battle Hammer to top 10 minutes, it started at an especially grueling pace and instead of taking off at any point, it really just descended into noise and became even filthier by the close. It took its own extremity, its own inaccessibility, and turned it into a clarion, and not only did it do so at just the right time to capture the attention of an emerging mobile social media landscape — something out of the band’s direct control, but which they’ve made work for them just the same — but it came from a place that was for the underground by the underground in a way the previous generation of acts simply couldn’t have been. Conan were something new when something new was needed, and their work was unto itself in its execution and rawness, its purposefully simple, impressionistic lyrics telling stories of violence in lines that sometimes didn’t need to be more than one or two words as the telling itself became so much a part of the narrative, with voices buried under a wall of riffs that other bands are still trying to climb. You listened to it and knew it was something special. I think you still do.

The vinyl was on Throne Records and the first CD on Aurora Borealis, but Horseback Battle Hammer has been reissued a couple times, including by Head of Crom RecordsConan‘s current label Napalm Records and Davis‘ own Black Bow Records, so it’s readily available (like on Bandcamp; see above). Of course, Conan released their split with Slomatics (review here) and then signed to Napalm before offering their debut full-length, Monnos (review here), in 2012. From there, the world was pretty much theirs for the spoils. They toured hard in Europe and set a foundation of American fandom before crossing the Atlantic, and across their next three albums — 2014’s  Blood Eagle (review here), 2016’s Revengeance (review here) and last year’s Existential Void Guardian (review here) — they’d move away from some of the all-out tonal bludgeoning of Horseback Battle Hammer, but hold firm to the central modus the EP laid forth.

With Davis, Fielding on bass and Johnny King on drums, Conan just wrapped another string of US touring that included a stop to headline the final night of Maryland Doom Fest (review here), where yes, they dominated, and they’ll tour again this Fall in Europe, playing Desertfest Belgium, Heavy Psych Sounds FestSoulstone Gathering and much more besides. And even as Davis has begun to show off a ’90s noise fetish in Ungraven and founded the Blackskull Services management/promotion company, which he runs in addition to Black Bow Records — shooting for that “hardest working man in show business” thing — writing has also reportedly started on Conan‘s fifth long-player which is currently expected through Napalm in May 2020. Mark your calendars, kids.

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

Today at 1PM Eastern is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It’s a good one. Don’t miss out: http://gimmeradio.com

Holy crap there’s a lot going on next week. Here are the notes:

MON 08/05 HOLY GROVE PLAYLIST; THE LEGENDARY FLOWER PUNK VID PREMIERE; THE GRAND MAL PREMIERE/ANNOUNCE
TUE 08/06 OBLIVION REPTILIAN REVIEW; MONSTROID VIDEO PREMIERE
WED 08/07 NOTHING IS REAL TRACK PREMIERE
THU 08/08 FROZEN PLANET 1969 REVIEW
FRI 08/09 HELLSINGLAND UNDERGROUND VID PREMIERE

Busy. You know how it goes.

Feeling a little vulnerable after the essay I put up before, but I guess that’s to be expected. Week was up and down. We took off on Wednesday and went to watch the Yankees play the Diamondbacks with my oldest nephew and my cousin and mother-in-law and The Pecan, who I think had a good time. It started to rain in the middle of the game and we left. I was running with his stroller in the downpour with my cousin and nephew and it was a lot of fun. Something we’ll tell The Pecan about when he’s older and goes to games. He already knows the words “bat,” “ball” and “mitt.” He has a little tee in the living room and he hits balls off it and claps for himself. It’s awesome, though as yet I’m having trouble getting him to throw left-handed.

Always work for a lefty out of the bullpen. And if you can throw a knuckeball, you can live forever.

But hey, baseball, right?

Nice deflection.

I hope you enjoyed that Conan above. It’s kind of interesting to me to close out the week with records I wrote about a long time ago. I’ve been doing “Friday Full-Length” since like 2013 or something like that, and for a while I didn’t want to do anything from after I’d started the site, but yeah that’s pretty much gone out the window. There’s just too much out there to not, and when it’s something I reviewed at the time, it gives me a chance to look at it in a different context — as in this case — and I think that’s interesting. I hope you agree. Plus, there’s always other stuff I missed at the time and this gives me another shot at it. So yeah. As far as I’m concerned it’s all fair game now.

I’ve also started plotting out the next Quarterly Review. Five days so far and I’m going to see if I can’t keep it to that. I’m thinking Sept. 16-20, maybe? We’ll see.

Alright, that’s gonna do it for me. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks again for reading, please don’t forget the Gimme show if you get to check it out and please hit up the forum, Radio and merch.

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