Undersmile, Anhedonia: Back into the Water

Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

undersmile anhedonia

Aesthetic continues to play a large role for UK dual-vocal four-piece Undersmile, whose second full-length, Anhedonia, is out on vinyl through Black Bow Records. The Oxfordshire outfit released their debut, Narwhal (review here), back in 2012 and since then have embarked on an acoustic side-project called Coma Wall, even releasing a split called Wood and Wire between the two bands in 2013 (they also had a split with Bismuth out that year). Because that alter ego contains all four members of Undersmile — guitarist/vocalists Hel Sterne and Taz Corona-Brown, bassist Olly Corona-Brown and drummer Tom McKibbin — I wondered if perhaps some of that influence might sneak its way into the workings of the new Undersmile offering. Aside from a shared theatrical sensibility between them and an enduring penchant for slow pacing, both of which Undersmile already had in their arsenal, almost not at all.

I’ll note that Taz and Hel work together more dynamically as vocalists here than on the debut, but with a few years between and some considerable stage time throughout that span, there’s nothing to say that wouldn’t have been the case anyhow. What Anhedonia is, however, is monolithic. At seven tracks, 75 minutes, it dips below the 10-minute mark just once for second cut “Sky Burial” (8:02), and spends the rest of its time reveling in a near-complete wash of darkness and grueling lumber. One might be tempted to call it drone-doom for the overbearing plod it enacts on “Song of Stones” or opener “Labyrinths,” but the truth of the listening experience isn’t that cut and dry, and for all its (purposeful, useful) unipolar churn, Anhedonia creates rich atmospheres.

We could almost call those atmospheres colorful if we were talking about the deep purples and blacks of the album’s fitting Peacevillean cover art, but either way, they play into the stylized drawl of the material — Hel and Taz‘s vocals either sung clean or shouted, but almost always in a drawn-out delivery to match the nodding material behind, which opens gradually on “Labyrinths” and proceeds to trade back and forth throughout the album in massive swells of volume and minimalist spaciousness, an early flair of strings showing up on the opener that will play in again deeper into the abyss on the penultimate “Emmenagogue” and elsewhere. Rhythmically, the course of Anhedonia impresses perhaps most of all in that it manages to hold together and not — as one might be inclined to do while listening — stop halfway through, have a good cry for days gone and what could have been made of them, and go back to the rest later.

undersmile

“Sky Burial” works with similar explosive tendencies, and by the time it’s done, Undersmile‘s intent to absolutely overwhelm their audience is writ large. Pushing toward the midsection, “Song of Stones” builds to a heavy push in its middle and again near the end — strings coming forward around the halfway point of the track only to be consumed by the grueling distortion captured at Skyhammer Studio by producer Chris Fielding (also of Conan), reappear, and be swallowed again for the effort. Take that, any sense of hope whatsoever. Centerpiece “Atacama Sunburn” would seem to draw together a water theme present in the band’s past works — Narwhal had its nautical moments, as did Wood and Wire, and even their 2010 debut EP, A Sea of Dead Snakes, was a sea — and a huge vision of waves remains an appropriate image for the undulating force of Undersmile‘s groove — but the real standout of Anhedonia is “Aeris,” which follows.

As one would expect of Undersmile at this point in their tenure, it’s consistent atmospherically with its surrounding pieces, but “Aeris” offers a melodic fullness all its own, and it doesn’t quite stand in contrast to what’s around it, but it marks a definite broadening of the context. It winds up affecting the listening experience for “Emmenagogue” and closer “Knucklesucker” as well, though the finale has its own intentions, which it keeps secret almost to the very end as if to see who among those who’ve taken Anhedonia on might make it that far. After an oozing linear build for its first nine minutes, feedback transitions into faster (gasp!) riffing that solidifies around McKibbin‘s drums and shifts into a more ’90s-style noise rock, the repeated lines, “I don’t feel hollow/I don’t feel sorrow/I don’t feel anything, really,” metered out over a push of growing intensity. It slows down prior to deconstructing at the finish, but even if for just a minute, Undersmile proved it’s possible to make a sound of such enduring thickness move, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find them pushing it further next time.

Of course, with that there comes a full 74 minutes of suffocating doom, but that’s precisely the point. Undersmile‘s intent isn’t to make it easy on the listener, but to challenge their audience to plunge these emotional and sonic depths with them. As a result, Anhedonia is successful because it feels throughout its course like the four-piece are dragging you along with them on their slog through this oppressive ambience. The party album of 2015 it ain’t, but in its progression beyond what Undersmile have done before, for a more personal feel throughout and for the still-monstrous scope with which it plays out, it’s hard not to stand in awe of the wide waters the band continue to cast, be haunted by the otherworldly presence in their melodies and get lost in the tidal sway of their rhythms.

Undersmile, Anhedonia (2015)

Undersmile on Thee Facebooks

Undersmile on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records

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Gentlemans Pistols Sign to Nuclear Blast

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

gentlemans-pistols

My prevailing association with Leeds four-piece Gentlemans Pistols is the phrase, “the best band in Britain.” That’s what I was told about them prior to seeing them play at Desertfest London in 2012, and while I don’t know if I could really be a judge of that kind of thing at all, not living there, they definitely kicked all kinds of ass on stage that night at The Underworld. At the time, their second full-length, At Her Majesty’s Pleasure, was still pretty new. It’s been four years now since it was released, so to call them due seems fair — it was a similar pause between their 2007 self-titled debut and that album — and the news has come down the PR wire that, whenever it arrives, their third offering, Hustler’s Row, will be issued via Nuclear Blast as part of that label’s ever-expanding heavy rock portfolio.

Here’s the announcement:

gentlemans pistols logo

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS sign global deal with Nuclear Blast!

Leeds based riffers GENTLEMANS PISTOLS have been causing a stir on the underground for a while now with their debauched lyrics, melodic groove and general Yorkshire rock ‘n’ roll swagger.

Formed as a three-piece back in 2003, the band has gone through a variety of line-up changes throughout their career and has now stabilized as a four-piece and is prepared to unleash their magnum opus through Nuclear Blast next autumn.

The band comments: “GENTLEMANS PISTOLS are very pleased to announce the upcoming release of their third album, Hustler‘s Row, on Nuclear Blast. The album was recorded by singer/guitarist James Atkinson at Mutiny Studios in Bradford and reflects nearly five years of experience for the band: good times, bad times, boredom, exhilaration, heartache, frustration and wonder. With this album, we tried to make a record that we would want to listen to; one that was heavy but melodic, intense but catchy, thoughtful but unruly. A record for reprobates and romantics, for gentlemen and hustlers.?

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS‘ last album At Her Majesty’s Pleasure was released to great acclaim in 2011, the band has performed at UK and international festivals such as Desertfest, Hammerfest, Long Division and Fuji Rock festival in Japan previously toured with the likes of WITCHCRAFT, LEAF HOUND and PENTAGRAM.

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS are:
James Atkinson – vocals/guitars
Bill Steer – guitars
Stuart Dobbins – drums
Robert Threapleton – bass

Visit GENTLEMANS PISTOLS online:
www.gentlemanspistols.co.uk
www.facebook.com/pages/Gentlemans-Pistols/340601796105
www.nuclearblast.de/gentlemanspistols

Gentlemans Pistols, “Your Majesty”

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Friday Full-Length: Hawkwind, Warrior on the Edge of Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hawkwind, Warrior on the Edge of Time (1975)

Of course, the Hawkwind catalog is a complex and ever-expanding universe in itself, full of ups and downs, comings and goings, peaks and valleys. It seems safe to think, however, that 1975’s fifth album, Warrior on the Edge of Time, stands among their greater triumphs, building on the complexity of its predecessors — 1974’s Hall of the Mountain Grill, 1972’s Doremi Fasol Latido, 1971’s genre-defining In Search of Space and their 1970 self-titled debut (don’t even get me started on live records) — to form a progressive vision of space rock the influence of which can still be felt today. From the opening of “Assault and Battery/The Golden Void,” the album is resoundingly immersive and full of depth, the keyboards, Mellotron, violin, flute, saxophone, percussion, etc. adding to an already sprawling swirl of guitar effects and rhythmic push, though some of Warrior on the Edge of Time‘s standout moments come in the interplay of atmospherics and spoken word on songs like “The Wizard Blew His Horn,” “Standing at the Edge” and “Warriors,” these shorter pieces playing off the fiction writing of vocalist Michael Moorcock, who was by 1975 already three books deep into his Elric sequence, the pivotal third, Elric of Melniboné, having been released in 1972, and given a fitting ambient push by guitarist Dave Brock, bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, saxophonist Nik Turner, violinist/keyboardist Simon House and drummers Simon King and Alan Powell. There are some gorgeous stretches of jamming in “Magnu” and “Opa-Loka,” and in them one can also hear the far-ranging impact Hawkwind continues to have on the current boom of heavy psychedelia.

The life, times and insurmountable discography of Hawkwind are all well documented — you might even say there’s a documentary — but with so much time and so much output, the details are easy to gloss over, and particularly for an album as rich as Warrior on the Edge of Time, it’s twice as worth paying attention to moments like the re-emergence of Moorcock‘s vocals in “The Golden Void” and the later, seemingly-out-of-nowhere hook of “Kings of Speed,” which departs the farther-and-farther-veering conceptual fare of the album’s second half in songs like “Standing at the Edge,” “Spiral Galaxy 28948″ and “Warriors” for a simplistic structure almost in a ’50s rock and roll style that’s of course filtered through the band’s always-multicolor palette. Pervasively weird but singular unto themselves even in the vast sphere of ’70s prog and krautrock, Hawkwind remain an underground entity in part because to embrace them as a whole is such an undertaking, but in bits and pieces, over time, one might almost endeavor to keep up with their lightspeed thrust, which though barely recognizable in its current form(s), endures to this day.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I’ve been sick the last three days or so. Really beat. Really beat. And a persistent stomach pain, acid reflux, and so on that has really just kicked my ass around the block and then some. I stayed home from work yesterday and spent most of the day in bed, and that seems to have helped put me on the road to recovery — I’m at the office now, so that’s an improvement — but I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself out of the woods. An accompanying, lingering headache has not helped. I have done my best to stay hydrated.

Even putting that aside, it’s been kind of an overwhelming week. Maybe part of that was getting caught up on being away from work in SF last week — was that last week or the week before? — but still, dragging ass. Sorry if that bums you out, I’m just trying to be honest with where I’m at. Five years from now I might look back on this post and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember that time I felt crappy.” These things are important to me.

Busy week, too. If you didn’t see, there’s a new Uncle Acid track that I, with six posts already planned for today, just didn’t have the chance to get to, and I’m already behind on stuff for Monday as well in stories for Mountain TamerThe Skull and Behold! the Monolith. I started out this week pretty much caught up. I did not finish it that way, though it felt good today to review that T.G. Olson vinyl, even if it meant skipping the Radio Adds. I’ll get there one of these days.

Monday, aside from that news, look out for a track premiere from Shabda. I don’t know if you’ve heard them or not, but it’s definitely worth hearing. Tuesday, I’ve got a video premiere slated for Bedroom Rehab Corporation, and Wednesday, audio from Sweat Lodge that was supposed to be this week and got pushed back. Also looking to review the new Undersmile (long overdue) and some vinyl from Greenleaf that won’t even be a review, just me nerding out about how Agents of Ahriman was one of the best heavy rock albums of the aughts. So that should be fun. Hopefully there’s time.

We’re also due for a new podcast. Maybe Monday if I wind up with time on Sunday (unlikely) or some other day thereafter. I’ll get to it as soon as I can. There’s been a lot of good stuff coming in that’s worth highlighting, so keep an eye out either way.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. If you need me, I’ll be taking my convalescence by the sea. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Hey Colossus and Hotel Wrecking City Traders Split 12″ Coming Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

hey colossus

hotel wrecking city traders

This one sounds like a winner. On Friday, Wild Animal Records and Bro Fidelity Records will release a split between UK outfit Hey Colossus and Melbourne’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders on 12″ vinyl that contains one extended track from each band. Apparently the two acts had been in touch for some time but finally got to play together when the Aussie duo hit Europe for a tour last year, including a slot at Desertfest in London.

I’ll admit I don’t know Hey Colossus nearly as well as Hotel Wrecking City Traders, but the six-piece band released a full-length titled In Black and Gold on Rocket Recordings, and if you know that label, that should be enough to pique your interest. In the meantime, Hotel Wrecking City Traders released their second full-length, Ikiryo (review here), last year just about the time they took off for Europe and followed it up with a single, “Loose Alcoholic,” at the end of 2014.

Split’s out at the end of the week, so here’s some PR wire info if you’d like to prepare:

hey-colossus-hotel-wrecking-city-traders-split

HEY COLOSSUS / HOTEL WRECKING CITY TRADERS SPLIT 12 INCH

This split’s been in the pipeline since 2006, Melbourne’s HWCT + London/Somerset’s HC have been long time talkers, finally meeting when they did some shows together in 2014. The Australian duo tore it round Europe for 3 weeks, HC hooked up for 3 of the shows (including the London Desertfest).

One long tune each.

HWCT go JAM-HEAVY with ‘Droned and Disowned (Pt.2)’, ripping on some mid 80’s NY insistent guitar clang, building and building, being led by the drums, chased by the riffs, 22 smoke filled mins.

HC take it doooooown with ‘Heaven Blows’, a 3am ‘question where you’re going with your life’ come down tune, drones flying about, twinkly dream synths, vocals from outta nowhere.

Split 12 / Download is out July 24th on Wild Animals Records + Bro Fidelity Records, both labels out of Melbourne, 216 copies (Various colored vinyl).

https://www.facebook.com/hotelwreckingcitytraders
https://hotelwreckingcitytraders.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/heycolossus
http://geni.us/itunesblackngold
http://wildanimalsrecords.blogspot.com.au/

Hotel Wrecking City Traders, “Loose Alcoholic” (2014)

Hey Colossus, In Black and Gold (2015)

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Conan Announce New Live LP Live at Bannermans

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Online shopping for Conan merch has always been a matter of timing. As in, “Can you manage to get your order in before the item in question has sold out?” The answer, usually, is no. The UK trio have earned much loyalty the last half-decade or so, and that loyalty has shown itself in a money-where-your-mouth is swath of t-shirt and vinyl purchases that have gone toward funding things like guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, at which one is likely to find Conan bassist/backing vocalist Chris Fielding at the helm, as well as the label Black Bow Records.

That label, which has done pressings for Conan, Undersmile, Intensive Square — which features Conan drummer Rich Lewis — and others, will issue the new live outing from Conan, Live at Bannermans, in Oct., with preorders available now. For those whose timing and/or shipping budgets might falter, the band has recently set up a new merch store specifically for US orders that bodes well for future touring incursions on these shores as well. If they weren’t interested, they probably wouldn’t have bothered.

If it needs to be said — and hopefully it doesn’t — the clip below of “Satsumo” from Bannermans in Aug. 2012 is obviously not the same source as the live album itself. I very much doubt Conan would press up a cellphone recording to vinyl.

Here’s the info:

conan live at bannermans

CONAN – LIVE AT BANNERMANS – 12″ VINYL PRE ORDER (USA / CANADA ONLY)

LIMITED RUN of 100 copies of this live set from the historic Bannerman’s venue in Cowgate Edinburgh.

Mixed and mastered by Stu at Wall of Sound.

Order here if you live in the US or Canada.

This recording was taken from Conan’s short run of shows with Slomatics in August 2012.

Running order –

Satsumo
Hawk As Weapon
Battle In The Swamp
Headless Hunter
Sea Lord
Retaliator

Black heavyweight vinyl.

Pre order starts now, shipping commences end of October.

http://conanusamerch.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/conandoom
http://www.hailconan.com/

Conan, “Satsumo” Live at Bannermans, Aug. 2012

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Anathema, Judgement, A Fine Day to Exit & A Natural Disaster: Of Continued Resonance

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

anathema a natural disaster judgement and a fine day to exit covers

British label Music for Nations went under in 2004 after 21 years of releasing landmark metal in Europe from everyone from Entombed and Candlemass and Opeth to Tygers of Pan Tang, Savatage and Legs Diamond. Now owned by Sony via BMG, it has been reactivated and a series of reissues is underway highlighting Music for Nations‘ rather formidable catalog, which includes three records by Liverpool’s Anathema, who signed to the label in 1999 after the release of their fourth album, 1998’s Alternative 4, which would be their last — for a time — on Peaceville Records.

Remastered and issued as deluxe 180g LPs (plus CDs) with liner notes by the band and distributed in the US by The End Records, the three albums Anathema released with Music for Nations are what I usually consider from the middle era of the band. “Mid-period Anathema,” is the phrase I use. Ever-progressing, always changing, one can look at the career of Anathema in three stages: Their early days of doomed extremity that made them contemporaries of Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, the middle era of melancholy influenced heavily by Pink Floyd, and the increasingly progressive work of the last half-decade plus, which has seen them return to Peaceville via its prog-minded offshoot Kscope and found them sounding happier to be alive than they’ve ever been.

Of course, that’s one way of thinking about it. Another would be breaking Anathema‘s discography into two stages — essentially “Then” and “Now” — which leaves their three Music for Nations offerings somewhat lost in the transition, and still another would be to simply say that each of their 10-to-date albums is its own era. Probably the most accurate in terms of the actual processes involved, but hardly useful in understanding the progression either of their lineup around brothers Vincent, Danny and Jamie Cavanagh or of their songwriting, which has retained a vivid core no matter how dark the material actually got. And it got pretty dark there for a while. Gloriously so.

Though 1999’s fifth album, Judgement, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster weren’t close to being Anathema‘s angriest or most outwardly metallic work — for which one would have to go back to their 1993 debut, Serenades, or 1992’s The Crestfallen and 1995’s Pentecost III EPs; their rawness still eviscerating what since have become the conventions of modern theatrical doom — the three albums retain an emotional and atmospheric heft that continues to resonate even more than a decade after the fact. Each presents its own vision of the band, and each has its own sound, but over the course of the three — which The End has bundled together in special edition packages that include extras like a turntable slip mat and as the Fine Days 1999-2004 3CD/DVD mediabook — one can trace a line of vigilant creative progress, and that has always been what draws Anathema‘s discography together.

On a personal note, I’ll say that these three records particularly — I might take Alternative 4 over Judgement, but it’s close and that’s splitting hairs anyway — mark out my favorite era of Anathema‘s work. These are albums I’ve held sacred for years now, and a chance to revisit them is welcome long past the point of impartiality. I’ve been a nerd on this stuff for way too long not to call myself out on it.

Still, we dive in:

Judgement (1999)

anathema judgement vinyl and cover

One of the most striking things about the new version of Judgement is how clear it sounds. Not that the original was muddy by any stretch — Anathema had some lackluster productions in their early going, but had gotten it out of their system by the time they came around to their fifth album — but still, the backgrounds of songs like “Deep” and “Forgotten Hope” and “Parisienne Moonlight” seem to stand out more. It’s true of the other two records as well. Vinyl compression suits the atmosphere of Judgement, which retains a lonely, brooding sensibility despite a pretty broad range of songwriting, and the flow of “Forgotten Hope” into the tense repetitions of “Destiny is Dead” is as vital as ever. In the context of these reissues, the penultimate “Anyone, Anywhere,” with its piano and acoustic blend, seems to directly presage A Fine Day to Exit, though the emergent surge of slow distortion could just as easily be traced to the preceding Alternative 4. In any case, there’s no question as to what band you’re hearing, and though its mood is as blue and deep-running as its cover art, Judgement boasts enough space for more than a fair share of breadth, Vincent Cavanagh coming into his own as the lead vocalist and carrying “One Last Goodbye” across with a flair for drama that does nothing to undercut the emotionalism of the song itself. It was the height of the CD era, and accordingly, Judgement runs long for a standard single LP at 13 tracks and nearly 57 minutes — the side split coming between “Judgement” and “Don’t Look too Far,” the latter every bit worthy of the highlight position opening the second side — but it’s time well spent or re-spent depending on your experience in the band, and in addition to being their debut on Music for Nations, Judgement was pivotal in expanding the reach of Anathema‘s songcraft. Cavanagh mentions in the liner notes that it was also vocalist Lee Douglas‘ intro to the band — she’s on “Parisienne Moonlight” and “Don’t Look too Far” — and as she became more established in the lineup, that reach would only continue to grow.

A Fine Day to Exit (2001)

anathema a fine day to exit cover and lp

As with anything, opinions among the converted vary, and mine is by no means the prevailing one on this issue. However, from where I sit, 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit is Anathema‘s best record. It has all the weight and depressive vibing of their early work but presents itself with an absolute clarity of purpose in memorable songs that stay with the listener — provided the listener lets them and isn’t too busy expecting the album to be something it isn’t or resenting it for not being that thing — long after play has stopped. Its rich melodies and textures foreshadow the progressive mindset that would come when the band resurfaced with 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here (discussed here), but as a band, they were still more about atmosphere than pinpoint execution, and A Fine Day to Exit continues to benefit greatly from the specificity of the moment in Anathema‘s development it captures. Of the three reissues, it’s also the most different from its original version. What was the album opener with its distinctive piano stokes, “Pressure” has moved to the end of side A, and now arrives after the tense pulsations of “Underworld” and before the side flip, which brings the suicidal manic chaos of “Panic” — a song whose existential torture remains writ in its confusing lyrical turns, “Air bubbles in your veins turning my hands black,” and so on — and A Fine Day to Exit‘s heaviest thrust, still beautiful for its poetic bleakness and the stark contrast that its rush maintains with the slower flows surrounding. “Panic” as the starter for side B makes even more sense with the inclusion of new opener, the previously unreleased “A Fine Day,” which provides side A with a jump at the beginning of the record, an acoustic strum giving way to a cacophony (though if you listen, that acoustic line never leaves) of crashes and jagged guitar that cuts short with about a minute to go and ends with a sweet acoustic line that feeds into “Release.” In addition to shifting “Pressure,” side A’s “Looking Outside Inside” has been moved to the second half, where it follows “Breaking down the Barriers,” which used to just be called “Barriers” and used to lead into “Panic” instead of following it as it does here. To fit the format, closer “Temporary Peace” is also a truncated seven minutes on the vinyl, down from 18 on the original version (what with the “What about dogs, what about cats, what about chickens?” and all that silliness at the end) and down from 15 on this one’s accompanying CD. Do all these changes make A Fine Day to Exit a better album? I don’t know. Talk to me in 14 years. What they do is dramatically change the listening experience, and I think it says something that with what’s really some comparatively little minor tooling, Anathema‘s sixth offering can sound as fresh as it does here. It remains one of the best records I’ve ever heard. Ever? Ever.

A Natural Disaster (2003)

anathema a natural disaster cover and lp

After Anathema released A Natural Disaster in 2003, it would be five years before they managed to put out another long-player, and that was Hindsight, a revisit/reworking of older material. I remember wondering if they were done for some time. And in a way, they were, because when We’re Here Because We’re Here came out in 2010, they were a different band. A Natural Disaster found bassist Jamie Cavanagh back in the band alongside VincentDanny, drummer John Douglas (who’d played on the prior two albums as well, having come aboard for Judgement), Lee Douglas (still listed as a guest vocalist), additional vocalist Anna Livingstone who added lines to “Are You There?,” and keyboardist/programmer/recording engineer Les Smith, who makes a more significant impact on the material than one might initially think to hear the songs, but more than the lineup it established — the three Cavanaghs and the two Douglases being in the current incarnation of Anathema with drummer Daniel Cardoso — this was the record where Anathema pushed that sense of inward-looking darkness as far as it could go. A winter hasn’t passed in the last 12 that I haven’t at some point put it on to hear the kick-in of opener “Harmonium” and the sort of wandering ethereal melody of “Balance,” which follows, both songs drawing the listener into a programmed but organic-seeming world the tracks create. If one considers A Fine Day to Exit the trauma, then A Natural Disaster is the post-trauma, that moment of aftershock where damage is assessed. Of the three Music for Nations outings, it is also the most masterful, the steps that Judgement seemed to take as bold moves forward now refined to a point where Anathema could bend their own methods to suit purposes like the build-into-payoff-into-minimalism of “Closer,” or the meandering impressionism of “Childhood Dream,” the soft wistfulness of the aforementioned “Are You There?” and the bass-driven tension of the intro to “Pulled Under at 2,000 Metres,” which here makes a finish to side A no less driving than how “Panic” started side B of the album preceding — the two songs have always been linked in my mind, the outward heaviness of the other making it a spiritual successor to the one. Perhaps most terrifying of all is how comfortable Anathema seem inhabiting this emotional space, the longing that pervades “A Natural Disaster” and “Flying” at the start of side B emblematic of the range that has taken shape by this point in the band’s methods and the variety of forms their expression could, by this point, take. Backed by wisps of guitar, the piano and acoustic strum of “Electricity” provide a last human landmark before 10-minute instrumental closer “Violence” begins its movement forward and through a well-charted build and quiet finish. Far closer to being the same as it was to start with than was A Fine Day to Exit, if listening to the LP of A Natural Disaster has done anything, it’s forced me to really take on those last two cuts, where with the CD of the album that I’ve had since it was released I always tended to zone out after “Flying” and lose myself in the wash of “Violence.” Can’t say I regret paying closer attention.

Like I said, it would be five years before Anathema put out any new studio material — a couple demos surfaced on their website circa 2007 (unless my timeline is way off) for tracks that would show up on the next album; “Angels Walk Among Us” and one or two others — and by the time they did, this moment, the progression of JudgementA Fine Day to Exit and A Natural Disaster would have taken another turn that set in motion the current stage of Anathema‘s development. They plunged deep into a sonic bleakness, maybe too deep for their own liking, ultimately, but what they were able to bring out of that depressive morass remain some of the richest and most honest looks at it a band could hope to give.

Anathema, A Natural Disaster (2003)

Anathema at The End Records

Anathema on Thee Facebooks

Anathema’s website

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Dr. Crazy Release 1,000 Guitars EP on Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Mind you, I don’t actually know if there are 1,000 guitar tracks on the forthcoming second EP from UK trio Dr. Crazy, 1,000 Guitars, but if there were, I’d believe it. The three-piece made their debut last year with the four-song Demon Lady, and 1,000 Guitars seems to be following suit at least in the number of cuts included, though one can only imagine there’s a conceptual theme underlying “Demon Lady” from the first EP and “Mistress of Business” from this one. Could it be the same person? Notice how you never see the two of them in the same room.

Or for that matter the “Bikini Woman.” The plot thickens.

Since they last checked in, guitarist/bassist Chris West (formerly of Trippy Wicked) and vocalist Andreas Mazzereth (Groan) apparently brought on board drummer Mike Pilat (ex-Groan guitarist, currently also of Biggus Riffus) in place of one Tony Reed, whose absence is understandable considering the uptick in activity from Mos Generator so far this year. Rumor also has it Stubb‘s Jack Dickinson also lent a guitar solo to the cause somewhere on these tracks. Hopefully he doesn’t get lost among the thousand.

EP announcement follows, found on the internet!

dr crazy 1000 guitars

Good Morning!

Wrap your peepers round the amazing artwork created for us by Justin T Coons Art for our new EP, 1000 Guitars. The EP will be released on Friday this week and features these four bangers:

Hands off My Rock and Roll
Bikini Woman
1000 Guitars
Mistress of Business

Some of you may be wondering why it took so long to squeeze out the next 4 tracks of sweet rock n roll, well lemme tell you, tracking one thousands takes of guitar all in perfect unison so it sounds like just one guitar is no mean feat and takes time.

More news in a few days. Stay loose.

Mazz (Groan) – vocals; Chris West (ex-Trippy Wicked) – guitar, bass; Mike Pilat (Biggus Riffus) – drums

http://drcrazyrocks.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/DrCRAZYRocks

Dr. Crazy, Demon Lady (2014)

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Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Rosetta, Mantar, King Giant, Si Ombrellone, Grand Massive, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Shiggajon, Mount Hush, Labasheeda

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Lucifer, Lucifer I

lucifer lucifer i

Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Rosetta, Quintessential Ephemera

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

War Crime Recordings

Mantar, Death by Burning

mantar death by burning

Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Brutal Panda Records

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves

king giant black ocean waves

Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.

King Giant on Thee Facebooks

The Path Less Traveled Records on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone, Horns on the Same Goat

si ombrellone horns on the same goat

The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.

Si Ombrellone on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone album downloads

Grand Massive, 2

grand massive 2

Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.

Grand Massive on Thee Facebooks

Daredevil Records

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014

carlton-melton-meets-dr.-space-live-from-roadburn-festival-2014

If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.

Carlton Melton’s website

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Shiggajon, Sela

shiggajon sela

According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.

Shiggajon’s Blogspot

El Paraiso Records

Mount Hush, Low and Behold!

mount hush low and behold

“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.

Mount Hush on Thee Facebooks

Mount Hush on Bandcamp

Labasheeda, Changing Lights

labasheeda changing lights

Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.

Labasheeda on Thee Facebooks

Labasheeda on Bandcamp

 

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