Review & Track Premiere: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, ‘Eagduru’ track premiere

[Stream Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ‘Eagduru’ by clicking play above. The Totems split LP with Slomatics is out in March via Black Bow Records and available to preorder here.]

“Exceptional” can be a pretty lofty mark by its nature, but Totems, hits it on a number of levels. The split release between Welsh and Northern Irish crushers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics — issued with the significant endorsement of founding Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis through his Black Bow Records imprint — probably won’t offer an abundance of surprises to those familiar with the bands or their methods, but in coming together across the five tracks and two sides of this limited vinyl, they reach a degree of impact that not only few splits manage, but go even further convey a spirit of sonic kinship that the Samantha Muljat cover art would seem to recognize: a single figure standing with her back to the viewer, a sword raised to a surrounding landscape. We don’t know if it’s ritual, defiance or an attack, but there’s a sense of union between the woman and that weapon, and the same applies between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics throughout Totems in a way that is genuinely rare.

Side A brings two tracks in the extended “The Master and His Emissary” (12:30) and “Eagduru” (11:03) from Wrexham’s Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, whose ethereal and melodically-focused brand of riff-rolling doom was last heard on their engaging sophomore long-player,Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), which came out via New Heavy Sounds in 2016 and lived up to the promise the band showed in the prior grimness of Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), their 2015 debut. Comprised of vocalist/bassist Jessica Ball, guitarists Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon, and drummer James “Carrat” Carrington — and perhaps as their moniker would indicate — Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are no strangers to being willfully cumbersome.

Both of their full-lengths and the prior 2015 half-hour-long single-track EP, Nachthexen (review here), worked in longer forms, and so what they bring to Totems in “The Master and His Emissary” and “Eagduru” feels very much in their wheelhouse of grooving largesse and layers of otherworldly echoing vocals from Ball, whose harmonies lay out over top of the proceedings masterfully without dominating the mix, but there’s progression to be heard in their style as well. The elements they’re working with, from the deceptively active hook of “The Master and His Emissary” to the hypnotic tumble of “Eagduru,” which fades in with an intense build of chug before unfolding a sprawl that seems to ensnare the listener as it plays out, and, like some slow herbal poison, drain them of their consciousness — a compliment, mind you; this is precisely what the track is intended to do — are more recognizably their own, and while one can still draw a line from the likes of Windhand in terms of influence, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard set themselves up here to fully establish their style as individual, and thereby greatly raise expectations for the kind of achievement they might attain with their next album proper. They may not think of it this way, and in fact one hopes they don’t, but they’re throwing down a gauntlet for themselves with these tracks and setting a high standard to be surpassed.

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems 8-bit

What they’re not doing — and this is perhaps where Totems is at its most exceptional — is competing with the side B onslaught from Belfast three-piece Slomatics. In its info for the release, Black Bow calls Totems a “collaboration” rather than a “split” and while I’d generally take that to indicate the two groups were working together as one unit — which, to the best of my knowledge, they didn’t — they are exceedingly well paired to complement each other’s work. In addition, having both recorded at Skyhammer Studio with Conan bassist Chris Fielding at the helm — who’s a stranger to neither act, having produced both Y Proffwyd Dwyll and Slomatics‘ 2016 fifth LP, Future Echo Returns (review here) — there’s a consistency of sound and a blend of spacious atmosphere in “Ancient Architects” (8:29), the ambient instrumental/interlude “Silver Ships into the Future” (3:49) and “Master’s Descent” (8:30) that helps create the full-album-style flow that so much bolsters the front-to-back listening experience of Totems.

This would seem to be something of which the bands themselves were aware going into the split’s making, since we see in Slomatics‘ closing “Master’s Descent” a mirror or at least a nod toward Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s opener, “The Master and His Emissary.” Whether that’s indicative of an overarching narrative between the bands across the five tracks, I can’t confirm, but it speaks to the coherence of the delivery throughout Totems, which is yet another element making it an outlier from the norm as regards split releases in a positive way. Further, as Slomatics — the returning trio of guitarists Chris Couzens and David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey — tumble out riffs like they’re pushing their grooves down flights of stairs in the second half of “Ancient Architects” and roll through “Master’s Descent” in a fashion that recalls some of Future Echo Returns‘ most triumphant moments while still feeling expanded outward from them — “epic” is the word, though one is generally loath to use it — they remind via the curveball cinematic keyboard of “Silver Ships into the Future” that their approach is as much about reach as it is about crush.

While it’s easy to write off superficially as “just an interlude,” “Silver Ships into the Future”  is effective as well in emphasizing the linear feel of Totems and precisely the sort of sonic detail for which the split will no doubt stand as one of the finest joint offerings of 2018. There are a lot of reasons two groups might pair up. Maybe they’re touring together and need something for a merch table. Maybe they’re friends and just want to work together on a project. Maybe they were directed to do so by a label or shared management or something of that sort. Totems, at least going by the impression left behind from the release itself — boot-shaped-and-on-skull as it is — is once again of a rarer breed here, in that it comes across more as a creative expression than a matter of convenience or logistics. One finds shared intent between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics in aesthetic drive, and that proves to be the ultimate difference when it comes to Totems‘ exceptionality. From concept to production to execution to presentation, it works so as to make itself utterly essential. Recommended.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Bandcamp

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Slomatics on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records webstore

Black Bow Records on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records on Bandcamp

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Orange Goblin Begin Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

UK stalwarts Orange Goblin have entered Orgone Studios in London with producer Jaime Gomez Arellano at the helm to begin tracking their ninth full-length. Presumably set for release later this year, what will be an awaited follow-up to 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) also marks a significant turn for the four-piece of vocalist Ben Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner in being their first offering to be issued through Spinefarm Records, which signed them in 2016.

Though its been four years since their last offering arrived, Orange Goblin have hardly rested in that time. In addition to a complete touring cycle, they could still be found supporting Back from the Abyss last year at festivals like SonicBlast Moledo, Up in Smoke 2017, Desertfest Athens 2017 and, in their only US appearance, Ozzfest Meets Knotfest last Fall in California. Their influence having expanded greatly in their native England and well beyond, anticipation will no doubt be high when it comes to hearing what they bring to their next collection of material. I know I’m looking forward to it, to put it mildly.

In that regard, the choice of Arellano as producer is particularly striking. His metal pedigree is long and storied in producing, engineering and mastering, but recent years have found him directly associated with the output of Rise Above Records and groups like With the Dead, Ghost, Death Penalty and The Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. Of course, Orange Goblin have their history with releases through Rise Above as well, and Arellano has also recently sat behind the board on records for Sólstafir and Paradise Lost, but his involvement adds another level of intrigue to what’s in store with the new Orange Goblin LP when it arrives.

The band marked the occasion of arriving at the studio by posting a couple pictures and a quick update on the social medias, which you’ll find below. More to come:

orange goblin

It begins! Day one of recording album #9 at Orgone Studios with Jaime Gomez Arellano (Grave Pleasures, Paradise Lost, Ghost, Cathedral etc..) We are very excited about this one!!

https://www.facebook.com/orangegoblinofficial/
https://twitter.com/OrangeGoblin1
https://www.instagram.com/orangegoblin1/
http://www.orange-goblin.com/
https://www.facebook.com/spinefarm
www.spinefarmrecords.com/

Orange Goblin, Live at Desertfest Athens 2017

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Desertfest London 2018 Adds Second Weedeater Set, Primitive Man, Suma, Bison, Bismuth and Moloch to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Not that Desertfest London 2018 wasn’t already plenty heavy — I mean, fucking Napalm Death are playing — but pretty much anytime you add Suma and Primitive Man to anything, you’re going to jump into a different weight class entirely when it comes to tone. The Swedish noise-bludgeoners and Denver’s most wanted aggressors are just two of the six acts confirmed for this year’s Human Disease Promo / When Planets Collide stage, which is traditionally where one finds some of Desertfest London’s most vicious and brutal fare. It would seem 2018 is no different in this regard.

Oh, and Weedeater topping it all off with a set specifically comprised of early material? Nice touch. No way in hell that’s going to be anything other than a good time.

From the Desertfest site:

desertfest london 2018 human disease promo when planets collide stage

WEEDEATER, PRIMITIVE MAN AND MORE FOR HUMAN_DISEASE_PROMO / WHEN PLANETS COLLIDE STAGE!

Yet again, we’ve got our good friends from Human_Disease_Promo and When Planets Collide rolling in with their annual heavy stage. As ever, they’ll be delivering a slab of pure brutality this year bringing 6 new bands to the bill as well as a special second set from the previously announced Weedeater. Staggerin’ Matt tells us more about what to expect at The Underworld on Sunday 6th May below.

“This year we’ve gone for an all out colossus of weighty heaviness for the Human_Disease_Promo / When Planets Collide Stage at Desertfest 2018.

Along to top proceedings we have North Carolina reefer riff rascals Weedeater coming in for a special set – their second appearance of the weekend – heading up the Underworld to play a packed bowl of tracks from the earliest strains of their career. It’s gonna be a low down dirty hoot.

Backing them up will be the obscenely punishing, abrasive blows of Denver’s most crushing Primitive Man, stomping and hard driving riffs from Canadian bruisers Bison, a lush hammering pysche vortex in the form of Swedish outfit Suma, joining from St. Louis, the engulfing intensity of destructive filthsters Fister, Nottingham D.I.Y. downers / viscous sludge nasties Moloch and the gigantic cavernous rumblings of UK duo Bismuth.

All said it’s likely the heaviest lineup we’ve ever forged together for the Underworld to bear witness to, so come join us all day on the Sunday to have ya brain fried up and handed back as a pile of stewed mush! It’s gonna be bloody loud in there!”

With this latest set of additions to Desertfest 2018 and more still to come, on top of the dozens of great bands already announced, this year’s heavy weekender looks to bigger than ever. Don’t miss your chance to be at the UK’s premier underground festival. Book your tickets today.

Desertfest London 2018
4th-6th May in Camden Town, London
3-day pass (£115) now on sale AT THIS LOCATION

Our special split payment plan is available until December 12th!
Pay half of your ticket now and the other half in January. Find more info HERE.

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/

Weedeater, Live at Desertfest London 2014

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Friday Full-Length: Cathedral, Forest of Equilibrium

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Cathedral, Forest of Equilibrium (1991)

As lauded as they were during their time — from their stint touring with Black Sabbath in the ’90s to impact at MTV, influence on doom in and out of their native UK, etc. — I still think that for the actual quality of the work they did, Cathedral are underrated. While much of their legacy would be set on subsequent offerings like 1993’s The Ethereal Mirror (reissue review here) and 1995’s The Carnival Bizarre, paying a much-needed revisit to their 1991 Earache Records debut, Forest of Equilibrium (reissue review here) only demonstrates the powerful nature of the band from their very beginnings.

I don’t think the story needs to be recounted here of vocalist Lee Dorrian growing weary of punk following his time in Napalm Death and finding himself in the company of guitarist Gaz Jennings to found Cathedral and move in a decidedly different, more Sabbath-influenced direction. On Forest of Equilibrium, the lineup would be Dorrian, Jennings, guitarist Adam Lehan, bassist Mark Griffiths and drummer Mike Smail (Dream Death), and with additional flourish of keyboard and flute, they’d run through a CD-era-runtime set of seven songs and 54 minutes of raw but deceptively complex, grueling doom that, even 27 years later, remains striking in both how ahead of its time it was is arriving, how progressive the underpinnings of Cathedral‘s sound were even at that point, and how assured they seemed to be of what they were doing even as they flew in the face of trend in both punk and metal.

Cathedral didn’t invent modern doom by any stretch. Trouble had been around for more than a decade by the time Forest of Equilibrium came out, and others like Saint Vitus, Pentagram and Candlemass had been lumbering the earth for some time as well. But they did represent a different, more loyalist aspect of the generation up and coming in England at the time. Consider what Cathedral did with songs like “A Funeral Request,” “Comiserating the Celebration” and “Ebony Tears” in terms of concurrent groups like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Pagan Angel, who’d later become Anathema. While not emotionless and not without its own sense of drama at times — looking at you, “Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain” — Cathedral‘s songs took from punk a sense of bare scathe, and their material was less about theatrics and drama than it was about the basic impact of their plod and wretched atmospheres. As the intro “Picture of Beauty and Innocence” leads into “Comiserating the Celebration” (the title of which just screams grindcore in its alliterative construction), Cathedral were very clearly on their own wavelength separate from the emerging death-doom movement. Throughout their career, they would never quite fit in. Forest of Equilibrium was the crucial beginning point of that.

The band seemed to know it. Not necessarily that they’d go on to release 10 LPs and have one of doom’s most storied tenures before calling it quits after 2013’s The Last Spire (review here), but just that they were right to be so firm in their sonic convictions. Even in its faster moments — the centerpiece “Soul Sacrifice” or in the later reaches of “A Funeral Request” — Forest of Equilibrium maintains its viscous tonality and ambience, and Dorrian‘s harsh, morose vocal approach only adds to the way in which the riffs of the chugging “Serpent Eve” and the nod-ready dual-guitar-highlight semi-title-track “Equilibrium” seem to ooze from the speakers even these many years later. It would be rare for a band making their debut to be so confident in what they were doing in any case, but to have Cathedral emerge from the UK’s primordial doom soup as cohesive in their purposes as they were continues to be striking. Plenty of acts talk about going against the grain. Far fewer have lived out that particular cliche and stood as tall in doing so as Cathedral.

Not only that, but listen to the acoustics and flute at the outset in “Pictures of Beauty and Innocence” as they foreshadow the flute and keys to be included as “Reaching Happiness, Touching Pain” rounds out, and you begin to realize just how little of Forest of Equilibrium was an accident, and that, however much its primary statement is made with excruciating tempos and/or a take on doom informed in part by what was happening in extreme metal at the time, there was also so much more behind the band’s approach as a whole. That’s easier to read in hindsight than it would’ve been at the time, but even so, it is one more element at play that makes the first Cathedral long-player one of the boldest doom releases certainly of the 1990s, if not ever. They knew what they were doing, they knew how they wanted to do it, and they were brazen enough to make it expansive as well as loaded with sonic grit. It would be improper to consider that anything less than a triumph of sound and aesthetic.

Of course, Cathedral‘s career would be marked with several of those along the way, but Forest of Equilibrium holds a special place as the first of them, and while they’d develop through phases more indebted to heavy rock and a kind of middle-ground traditionalism before 2010’s The Guessing Game (review here) made their most progressive statement and the aforementioned 2013 swansong found them coming full circle in a return to darker fare, their position as stylistic forerunners never wavered, and in their latter material or their earliest work, they’re defined ultimately by the same relentless creative drive, and yeah, as much praise as they’ve gotten over the decades, that’s still underappreciated.

I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

So uh, this week was the Quarterly Review. Did you notice? It seemed like it was pretty quiet. A few of the bands shared links and whatnot, and that’s always appreciated, but by and large it was kind of a muted response. Fair enough, I guess, but I still hope you managed to find something you dug in that batch of 50 records. I found a few, to be sure.

I guess the week was up and down in general, though. “Iron” Al Morris fucking died. “Fast” Eddie Clarke fucking died. A new YOB record was announced. I got to premiere a video from The Obsessed. So yeah, lows and highs. I end the week today with a trip to the dentist to follow-up on the root canal I had a couple weeks ago and a couple festival writeups, so yeah, even that: hits and misses.

Next week The Patient Mrs. goes back to work. The semester is starting up, classes start Wednesday and she’s teaching Wednesday night. Her schedule means that I’m home with The Pecan for stretches at least on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it — not the least because the kid still won’t take a bottle from me. We’ve been through like five different brands at this point and he just wants no part of it. Before he came along, I was nervous about changing diapers. I’d never really done it before. Hell. I’ll change diapers all fucking day. I don’t care. You wanna rocket-ass poop all over the place? Whatever Pecan, I can clean it up. But a miserable kid who’s hungry and over-tired and screams inconsolably when you try to feed him? Yeah, that’s way rougher. Shit everywhere if you want, but save me from that fucking bottle.

We’ll see how it goes.

In the meantime, my food issues continue. I have an appointment Monday afternoon with a nutritionist whose position, I expect, will be something along the lines of, “Um, eating disorders are bad, m’kay?” and for that I will have driven probably an hour each way because that’s how long it takes to get just about anywhere from where I live. I’ve had one meal so far in 2018 (actually since Xmas) not comprised of protein powder. It was garlicky cloud bread with pesto. I think on the 8th? Somewhere around there. The Patient Mrs. also made me low-carb scones that I inexplicably gained four pounds from eating and haven’t been able to get rid of since. The rest is shakes, coffee and fake peanut butter, though even the fake peanut butter now seems like too much food to me and I don’t eat it every day. I’d just about take a human life if the tradeoff was a guarantee I could have a cheeseburger and not put on three pounds from it. I don’t even need a bun.

You don’t give a fuck. Save it for your therapist. Get back to the riffs, bro. Riffs. Fair enough.

Here’s what’s in the notes for next week:

Mon.: Somali Yacht Club review/track premiere.
Tue.: Wolftooth review/track premiere; Ozone Mama track-by-track/full-album stream.
Wed.: Clamfight review/full-album stream.
Thu.: Manthrass track premiere/review.
Fri. Six Dumb Questions with Atala.

All subject to change, addition, subtraction, etc., but that’s the plan. It’s a considerable amount of stuff for what’s a busy week otherwise, but hell, I did 50 reviews this week, have a two-month-old baby kicking around the house and basically starve myself as much as I possibly can and still manage to live through the day. Ain’t nothing that hard. The track premieres will get done. Ha.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m going to sleep late tomorrow, which is a thing I’m very much looking forward to doing, and then some family is coming up from CT on Sunday into Monday, which I also expect will be enjoyable. Beyond that, maybe some reading, new Star Trek on Sunday night, protein shakes and coffee. Good times will be had, no doubt.

Thanks for reading. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Wizards of Delight Self-Titled EP out Jan. 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the wizards of delight

Yeah, was there really any way The Wizards of Delight were going to be anything other than a completely over the top heavy metal good time? If you said something along the lines of, “Well, probably not,” go ahead and give yourself a point. The new band fronted by Andreas Mazzereth from Groan begin their debut EP in a misty morning with “Gypsy” and wrap it up with a “Shogun Messiah” who does not welcome peace, and naturally that’s only scratching the surface of the shenanigans on display throughout the four-tracker, which APF Records will issue in a digipak on Jan. 22. I don’t mind telling you I want one. One listen to “We Got the Rock ‘n’ Rollz” and you might too.

To the PR wire:

the wizards of delight the wizards of delight

The Wizards of Delight – Out on Digipak Compact Disc 22nd January 2018

It’s about time we had some proper rock stars on APF Records. Following on from their appearance on the cover CD of Classic Rock Magazine in October, all hail then majestic rock warriors The Wizards of Delight.

Thrusting out a hotbed of gloriously parping and exultant riffs this mega-group features Andreas Mazzereth, the aesthetically pleasing lead vocalist of legendary party-doom outfit Groan (which also features Leigh “Riff Rock” Jones and Linz Eel and Zel Baterista of Vodun) and a band of dazzling musical sorcerers playing a mix of grand psychedelia, acid-fried funk, big fuzzy glam, and stoner groove – all from a whirlwind of capes, synths, fit guitars and resonant good vibes.

Inspired by the likes of Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Yes, The Stooges, David Coverdale, Led Zep and Sly Stone, this is but the first salvo from a burgeoning canon of cock (sic). If Deep Purple, Dio and all things 1970s ring your bell, The Wizards are ready to entertain you. Plant your tongue firmly in your cheek and enjoy the melee.

THE WIZARDS OF DELIGHT ARE:
Andreas Mazzereth – lead vocals
Lenny Ray – lead guitar, backing vocals
Don Green’s Myth – rhythm guitar, backing vocals, percussion
Eponymous – bass guitar, backing vocals
Henry (Henry) Henry – bass, backing vocals
Reece – drums

Produced by The Wizards of Delight
All songs by The Wizards of Delight, except “Gypsy” by Ratz Ass
Recorded at Joe’s Garage Studio, Bristol. Additional Recording at Aerial Studios, Carmarthen
Engineered by Joe Garcia
Mixed by Tim Lewis at Aerial Studios
Mastered by Martin Nichols at White House Recording Studios, Weston Super Mare

https://thewizardsofdelight.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/The.Wizards.Of.Delight/
https://www.facebook.com/apfrecords
https://twitter.com/apf_records
https://apfrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.apfrecords.co.uk

The Wizards of Delight, The Wizards of Delight (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

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

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

Iron Monkey on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Somnuri, Somnuri

somnuri somnuri

To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

Somnuri on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

Daira on Thee Facebooks

Daira on Bandcamp

 

Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

Kavrila on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

Ivan on Thee Facebooks

Ivan on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

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Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Alastor on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

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Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

Deadly Vipers on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Vipers on Bandcamp

 

Storm of Void, War Inside You

storm-of-void-war-inside-you

Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

Storm of Void on Thee Facebooks

Hostess Entertainment website

 

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Quarterly Review: Gruntruck, The Dead Ends, Albatross Overdrive, High Priestess, Monolith Cult, Kayleth & Favequaid, Black Wail, Psychic Lemon, Ixion, Rattlesnake

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Three of the Quarterly Review! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling great. Plowing through, hearing a ton of good stuff. The week is rolling and though it’s most definitely caused me to be a neglectful husband and father for the last 72 hours (so far!), at very least the music is killer. That’s something, right? I didn’t really have a theme in picking today’s batch, but there are some commonalities between some of the inclusions all the same. See if you can find them, like one of those old puzzles in a Highlights magazine in your orthodontist’s wood-paneled office. Ready? Okay, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Gruntruck, Gruntruck

gruntruck-gruntruck

Held back due to legal issues with their original label, Roadrunner, the self-titled third album from Seattle groove-grungers Gruntruck hits like an open time-capsule nearly two decades after the fact of its recording: a little dusty but full of vitality and potential for what could’ve been. With a tad more crunch than the likes of Soundgarden and a crunch less TAD than TAD, Gruntruck found a middle-space between the melodies of their age and scene and heavier impulses, and if songs like “Trip,” the post-Nirvana “Build a Hole,” and the later “Spy” sound dated, well, they should. They are dated. It’s an album that was recorded over 20 years ago. That does nothing to take away from the quality of the songwriting, however, as closer “Flang” shows by demonstrating how thin the line between grunge and heavy rock has always been in the first place, let alone how fluidly Gruntruck were able to cross from one side to the other.

Gruntruck on Thee Facebooks

Found Recordings website

 

The Dead Ends, Deeper the Dark the Brighter We Shine

the-dead-ends-deeper-the-dark-the-brighter-we-shine

This warm and psychedelically charmed debut from Kavala, Greece’s The Dead Ends works quickly to deliver its cumbersome title-line in opener “Memory Ship (Sails at Dawn)” amid a build of organ-laced Doors-style drama, but the overarching spirit of the Sound Effect Records release is nonetheless patient and fluid. The keyboard work of vocalist Giorgos Sechlidis proves to be a major standout factor on the playful “Narri-E Narri-O” as rhythms and melodic elements out of Greek folk rear their head, and as guitarist Serios Savvaidis and drummer Dimitris Apostolidis provide vocal support throughout, the nine tracks of Deeper the Dark, the Brighter We Shine envelop with a depth that corresponds to their outward reach, still based around pop structures practically and conceptually, but feeling open and resolved to remain that way all the same. The jangly “Peter 2:18” closes out by building into a melodic wash, as if to underscore the potential within this exciting outfit’s budding stylistic nuance.

The Dead Ends on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records website

 

Albatross Overdrive, Keep it Running

albatross-overdrive-keep-it-running

Issued in 2016, Albatross Overdrive’s second full-length pulls together a sans-pretense 31 minutes of barroom-style heavy rock born of the California desert but not necessarily indebted solely to its aesthetic so much as to boozy swing and chug and meaner, engine-revving impulses. “Fire Dancer” and “Higher” make impressions early with catchy choruses and hard-delivered riffs, a touch of metal to the latter particularly, and the later “Preaching Love Not War” boasts a highlight performance from bassist Mark Abshire, formerly of Fu Manchu, while gritty vocalist Art Campos leads the five-piece – completed by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and drummer Rodney Peralta – through the grunge-chug of “Earth Mother,” recalling Alice in Chains’ “Again” in its cadence momentarily, though ultimately driven along its own course, headed into closer “Neva,” which finishes the album in top form just as it might cap a raucous live set on any given and much-improved Friday evening.

Albatross Overdrive on Thee Facebooks

Albatross Overdrive website

 

High Priestess, Demo

high-priestess-demo

Los Angeles trio High Priestess were recently snagged by Ripple Music for the release of their impending debut album this year, and on the strength of this five-track demo, one could hardly argue. Tonally rich, perfectly paced in its rollout, melodically centered and meditative with surprising flashes of metallic noise, cuts like 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Firefly” offer psychedelic immersion and a sense of worldmaking rare in a band’s first long-player, let alone their initial demo. Weighted low end gives Demo an earthy sensibility, and there’s definitely a desert-style aspect to “Take the Blame” and “Mother Forgive Me,” but the intertwining vocal melodies of guitarist/organist Katie Gilchrest and bassist Mariana Fiel atop Megan Mullins’ drums provide a spaciousness well across the line of transcendent into ethereal psychedelia. Likewise, after the salvo of “Firefly” and its nine-minute companion “Despise,” the peaceful, organ-laced closer “Earth Dive” draws emphasis on sonic diversity with its patient build and underlying command. Especially as demos go, High Priestess’ is dangerously coherent.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

High Priestess on Instagram

 

Monolith Cult, Gospel of Despair

monolith-cult-gospel-of-despair

From the first listen onward, the hardest thing about putting on Monolith Cult’s second full-length, Gospel of Despair, is actually letting the seven tracks play without constantly interrupting them by saying “hell yes.” Whether it’s the hook of opener “Disconnection Syndrome,” the subsequent plod of the title-track that follows, the massive slowdown that hits about a minute into “Sympathy for the Living” as it moves into its chorus, or the Candlemassian finale chug and stomp of “Death Means Nothing,” the Bradford, UK, five-piece’s follow-up to their 2013 debut, Run from the Light (review here), dwells in similar terrain between righteous classic metal and doom as Cruz del Sur denizens Argus, and the band are likewise firm in their purposes and assured in their delivery. “King of all that’s Lost” feels exceptionally weighted in its impact, but set next to the faster motion in the first half of the penultimate “Complicit in Your Abuse,” it feeds into an overarching flow and sense of leather-on-fistpump-or-headbang-take-your-pick-ready audience response. Hell yes? Oh, hell yes.

Monolith Cult on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Records

 

Kayleth & Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six

kayleth-favequaid-second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-six

In bringing together Verona’s Kayleth and Palermo’s Favequaid, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Six works more on a direct theme than some of the other installments in the impressive and impactful series from Ripple Music. But if there’s a particularly nation’s scene worth highlighting in the heavy rock underground, the emergent riffy movement in Italy makes a riotous case for itself as Favequaid bull-in-a-china-shop their way through the nine-minute “Hypochondria” on side B or Kayleth unfold the highlight nod and melody of “The Survivor” earlier, hitting a mark of spatial weight that’s as much about its crash as reach. Starting with the atmospheric pulse of “Desert Caravan” and following up “The Survivor” with the melodic push of “Magnetar,” Kayleth come across as the more progressive of the two outfits, but with the brash finale of “First” rounding out, Favequaid help put emphasis on the underrated diversity within Italian heavy rock on the whole, and maybe that was the idea in the first place.

Kayleth on Thee Facebooks

Favequaid on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Wail, Chromium Homes

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Though it gradually comes to life around an intro of Hendrixian noodling at the start of “They,” its opener and longest track (immediate points), the third EP from New Jersey’s Black Wail, Chromium Homes, isn’t through that same song before a decidedly Dio-esque “lookout!” is tossed into the pot. Abrasive, sludgy screaming follows. So yeah, it gets weird pretty quick, but that turns out to be the fun of the 27-minute six-tracker, since it just as easily digs back into languid wah-led groove or lets its keyboards flesh out classic heavy rocking melodies. “Thee Ghost” chugs metallic before stepping back to a harmonized a capella midsection and swinging to its finish, and the title-track basks in heavy blues rock like nothing ever happened – the perfect setup for the nastier “The Dead Man’s Hand,” and weirdo bounce-into-punk-thrust of “Radioactive Mutation” that follow. And because why the hell not: a closing doomed-out cover of “Norwegian Wood.” Somehow that was the only thing missing. Black Wail are getting strange and daring you to do the same. If you think you’re up for it, maybe you are.

Black Wail on Bandcamp

Rhyme and Reason Records

 

Psychic Lemon, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay

Psychic-Lemon-Frequency-Rhythm-Distortion-Delay

Prepare for spacedelic immersion. Somewhere there’s a countdown happening and waiting on the other end of it is Psychic Lemon’s sophomore LP, Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, the title of which reads like the recipe from which its five tracks have been constructed. The 41-minute sprawler from the London-based trio sets itself to the task of atmospheric breakout with 8:31 opener “Exit to the Death Lane,” and while it’s hard not to be drawn immediately to a track called “International Fuzz Star” – let alone one that’s almost 10 minutes long – one skips the cosmic-grunge shuffle of “Hey Droog!” and the sped-up Sonic Youthism of centerpiece “You’re No Good” at one’s own peril. They tease tension in the kick drum but ultimately end up soothing in meandering closer “Satori Disko,” but the progressive threat has been laid all the same, and it says something about their accomplishment overall that even in the final moments of Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, one can’t be certain where Psychic Lemon might be headed next.

Psychic Lemon on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records webstore

 

Ixion, Return

ixion return

Brittany, France-based Ixion is a project spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/growler/recording engineer/cover artist Julien Prat, and Return (on Finisterian Dead End) is the band’s third full-length. With clean vocals contributed by Yannick Dilly (who also mixed), it captures a contemplative and majestic balance of hope and sorrow, woeful in its extremity but bright-toned in its sprawling lead guitar figures in pieces like “Into Her Light” and the later “Stranger.” This meld fascinates throughout the nine-song/47-minute run, but it’s the poise of execution of all these ideas that make cuts like “Back Home” and the electronics-infused “Contact” stand out and recall some of the best moments of mid-period Katatonia, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Out of the Dark” onward, Return makes plain its self-awareness and resilience in capturing its formidable stylistic intention in the reality of the recording. It is a true work of beauty-in-darkness and affecting in both its scope and raw emotionalism.

Ixion on Thee Facebooks

Finisterian Dead End website

 

Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie

rattlesnake outlaw boogie

It’s just three songs, but Rattlesnake’s debut demo, Outlaw Boogie (also discussed here), was enough of an aesthetic mission statement all the same to wind up on my list of 2017’s best short releases, and with the swing and swagger provided by drummer/vocalist Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass, the classic-style riffing of guitarists Blake Charlton (Ramming Speed) and JP Gilbert (also vocals) and the wah bass Don Berger brings to “The Reason Why,” well, the reason why is frickin’ obvious. The New York-based newcomers capture a bright ‘70s vibe not dissimilar from The Golden Grass’ self-titled debut, but less serene and more urgent, more charged in its purposes on the whole, and dudelier in that okay-now-it’s-time-to-grow-a-mustache kind of way. Unsurprisingly, Outlaw Boogie is almost maddeningly catchy and cohesive and clear in its direction and intent, and the band seem to arrive in their conceptual foundation ready to move forward onto the next stage of their development. The only reason I call the three-tracker a demo at all and not an EP is because the band does. Otherwise there’s very little about it that doesn’t already denote it as a professional-grade work.

Rattlesnake on Thee Facebooks

In for the Kill Records webstore

 

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Geomancer Releasing Khatt al-Raml Next Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

geomancer

I won’t claim to be any kind of expert on mystical forces, but it seems to me that if Northern UK sludge extremists Geomancer might want to live up to their name and read the future from the contours of the earth, it might due to let up on crushing everything in their path. On the other hand, maybe they should just stick to being heavy as hell and leave the divinations to those less bent on destruction. The only sub-10-minute track on Khatt al-Raml — which is out on Jan. 15 via Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings — is the centerpiece interlude “Visions,” and beyond that, it’s all lumber and pummel from the three-piece, but the debut outing has a heady sense of atmosphere amid its bleached-bone riffing as well. The Eastern influence isn’t necessarily as pronounced as the PR wire info below makes it out to be, but neither is it totally absent.

Either way, the intention would seem to be to conjure as much heft as possible, and in that, Geomancer certainly seem to have read the right path forward.

Album art and details follow:

Geomancer Khatt Al-Raml-700

Post-doom trio Geomancer to release debut album January 15th

Digital download, with CD pre-orders through Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings

Post-doom three-piece Geomancer will release their debut full-length album, ‘Khatt Al-Raml’, on January 15th in association with Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings. Stretching the boundaries of modern doom, ‘Khatt Al-Raml’ is an ambitious first record from the North England-based trio that refuses to be restricted by genre conventions. The result is over 45 minutes of head-turning metal-meets-stoner-meets-sludge that nods to post-rock as much as it does Electric Wizard, Bongripper, and Zaum.

Engineered and mixed by Tom Goodall of Mirrorman Recordings (Ghold, Cattle, Groak) at Leeds’ legendary CHUNK, ‘Khatt Al-Raml’ captures the live energy that’s earned the group a following in England’s North East, their base since forming in 2013. Achieved by recording each song live in single takes, the result is a collection of tracks that are raw while retaining an atmospheric scale the group has worked hard to create.

The band’s goal has always been to sound different and avoid doom clichés while keeping all the genre’s heaviness. By doing things like laying Eastern scales next to massive hypnotic doom sections while mixing in post rock passages and metal influences, the group is confident ‘Khatt Al-Raml’ is a fresh take on the old doom, stoner, and sludge sound.

That aforementioned Eastern influence – heard especially on the powerful intro to ‘Sacrifice’, and throughout eponymous cut ‘Geomancer’ – is echoed in the stunning artwork, created by hyper talented British artist Thee Ruiner, and the album’s title, ‘Khatt Al-Raml’. It means sand divination, sand writing, or sand cutting in Arabic, which itself reflects the band’s name; a geomancer divines messages from the earth, interpreting lines and symbols on the ground.

Geomancer will release ‘Khatt Al-Raml’ first via digital download through Bandcamp on January 15th (geomancer.bandcamp.com), and take CD pre-orders via Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings (Kylver, Geist, Lovely Wife, Lump Hammer) ahead of a Spring release (invertedgrim-millrecordings.bandcamp.com).

‘Khatt Al-Raml’ tracklisting:

1. Geomancer
2. Grief
3. Visions
4. Greed
5. Sacrifice

Geomancer is:
Rich Cartey – vocals, guitar
Calum Piercy – bass
Ruben Guastapaglia – drums

Credits:
Engineered and mixed by Tom Goodall, Mirrorman Recordings, at CHUNK, Leeds
Mastered by Matthew Deamer, Glide Studio
Artwork by Thee Ruiner

geomancer.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/geomanceruk
invertedgrim-millrecordings.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/invertedgrimmillrecordings

Geomancer, Live July 27, 2017

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