Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
UK outfits Lacertilia and Cybernetic Witch Cult have teamed up for a run through their native land that’s on now and will run through Oct. 30. Shows started this past weekend in London and the as-Welsh-sounding-as-it-is Merthyr Tydfil (I honestly don’t know how there’s a word in the Welsh language without a black metal band named after it) and find Lacertilia supporting their 2016 release, We’re Already Inside Your Mind, which came out at the end of July on Red Sound Records, while Cybernetic Witch Cult in May issued their second full-length, Spaceous Cretaceous, as the rhyme-consistent follow-up to their 2015 debut, Morlock Rock.
Respect to a couple outfits who’ve very clearly taken it upon themselves to get out and spread the word about what they’re doing for what’s sure to be a week off work and away from whatever other obligations real life might present to them. This is the kind of stint that doesn’t happen unless people really believe in their work.
Dates and info follow:
Lacertilia / Cybernetic Witch Cult: Wizards and Lizards UK Tour
Lacertilia & Cybernetic Witch Cult are teaming up on a UK run of shows. Dates posted below
Lacertilia are a cosmic blend of primal rock ‘n’ roll energy, heavy psychedelia and sludgy groove rock. Their new album ‘We’re Already Inside Your Mind’ is out now on Red Sun Sounds and is available to buy via their Bandcamp page https://lacertilia-uk.bandcamp.com
Cybernetic Witch Cult are a groovacious metal trio from Cornwall who take their influences from Doom metal, 70s rock, stoner rock, space rock and science fiction/horror B movies. A serious band with a fun outlook on music, the lyrics tell stories of invasions, time travel, space and cult horror, the riffs are grandiose and the drums are pounding.
Lacertilia & Cybernetic Witch Cult: 22/10 – Underdog Gallery, London 23/10 – New Crown, Merthyr Tydfil 24/10 – Crowley’s Rock Bar, Swansea (with Suns Of Thunder) 25/10 – Buffalo Bar, Cardiff 26/10 – The Black Swan, Bradford 27/10 – Opium, Edinburgh 28/10 – Arches Venue, Coventry 29/10 – The Anvil, Bournemouth 30/10 – The Junction, Plymouth
Good times had by all. And by all, I mean everybody. Some records just don’t take no for an answer, and that’s Humble Pie‘s 1972 LP, Smokin‘, all the way. The UK heavy rockers’ fifth full-length, it was also the first after guitarist Peter Frampton split, only to be replaced by Clem Clempson (Colosseum) in the lineup alongside guitarist/vocalist/founder Steve Marriott (Small Faces), bassist/vocalist Greg Ridley (Spooky Tooth) and drummer Jerry Shirley. It’s also unquestionably their biggest album, released by A&M Records and powered by the landmark single “30 Days in the Hole,” which opens side B, but of course it’s a far richer offering when taken front to back than that ultra-hook can fully convey, and whether it’s the guest spot Stephen Stills puts in on organ and vocals for “Hot and Nasty” — which lives up to its name — or the driving heavy rock and roll of closer “Sweet Peace and Time,” Smokin’ is a classic through and through in performance, songwriting, and vibe. Like I said, good times had by all.
Like a lot of acts of the era, particularly 1970-1973, Humble Pie were taken with a post-Cream blues sensibility, but they cleaned up the boogie with a slice of funk, as one can plainly hear on cuts like “The Fixer” — a Marriott original; compare to Cactus‘ slowed down take on “Long Tall Sally,” released the year before — or the ultra-friendly Eddie Cochran cover “C’mon Everybody,” both of which appear on the first half of the record. One can debate whether or not “You’re so Good for Me,” with its churchgoing acoustic blues foundation, piano and underlying rhythmic swing, was anything that Parliament hadn’t already been doing for three years at that point, but Humble Pie would hardly be the first of the English rock set to borrow from American black culture — or, for that matter, the American set, or any other — and the twanging context of “Old Time Feeling,” the jam on the Junior Walker cover “Road Runner” and the bluesy sprawl of “I Wonder,” Smokin‘ could hardly be accused of being one-dimensional in that regard. Marriott‘s interplay with background singers in “30 Days in the Hole” is likewise an aspect drawn out of soul and R&B, but Humble Pie marry it to rock heft and impact in a way that would help shape the model an entire generation of acts followed.
The band continued for a long time after Smokin’, with various lineups, various players taking control of the name, and so on. When Steve Marriott died in a house fire in 1991, Greg Ridley held the reins on their by-then formidable legacy, and after he died of pneumonia in 2003, Jerry Shirley toured with a lineup as Humble Pie and derivations thereof as well. When the Smokin’ incarnation of Humble Pie split in 1975, Clempson hooked up with Cozy Powell (Jeff Beck, Black Sabbath, etc.) in Strange Brew and went on to do film work and play backing a whole swath of distinguished acts and solo artists from the era, be it Jack Bruce or Bob Dylan.
As always, I hope you enjoy. I’ve wanted to close out a week with Smokin’ for a long time, and as it’s Universal at this point who owns the label group to which A&M Records belongs, the album rarely stays on YouTube long. But even when it gets removed, the record’s been reissued more times than I can count, so it’s not like it’s not readily accessible, and hell, if you’re reading this, you probably own a copy already anyway. So just go grab it and put it on. And again, enjoy.
Quick week. Needed one. Not free of stress by any stretch of the imagination, but could be worse. The Patient Mrs. and I put our townhouse on the market this week. Monday we had a photographer in to take pictures. You can see our collectible plate with Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation in the kitchen shot (because yes, it hangs in the kitchen) and my Candlemass promotional wall hanging for their 2005 self-titled reunion album in the office, but other than that, the place looks good. I take no credit for any of it. The Patient Mrs. took the idea and ran with it and basically the plan is to see what we can get for the place before we decide if we’re actually going to move. If we do go anywhere, it’ll be south a bit, probably to Rhode Island if we can, or otherwise near the border. We can just inch our way toward living in Connecticut (the dream) one domicile at a time for the next 35 years. That’ll be fine.
Open house on Sunday, if you’re free. Someone’s coming in this morning to clean, so hopefully by then the place won’t be re-covered in dog hair.
Before I get to next week’s stuff — there’s a lot of it — let me just say that if you didn’t get to check out the Zaum album stream that went up yesterday, you should do so. I turned 35 this week and every year I decide to write about something special on my birthday to treat myself, and this year I wrote about Zaum on the day before the post went up as my little present to me. So yeah, if you haven’t dug into that, obviously I think it’s worth your time.
Also had a blast writing the Asteroid review that went up this morning, so there’s that as well.
Okay, next week. Of course it’s subject to change, but here’s the current plan:
Monday: Full album stream and review for the new Albez Duz.
Tuesday: A Devil to Pay album review and a Droids Attack video/audio premiere that’s going to be really cool.
Wednesday: A full stream and review of the new Scissorfight EP.
Thursday: A one-two combo review of new stuff from Mos Generator and a video premiere and big news from Geezer.
Friday: Pending, obviously, but right now I’ve got a review of the solo debut from Magnus Pelander of Witchcraft.
That’s what’s slated as of today. Could shift around some. I’ve already pushed that Pelander review back considerably.
Any video gamers out there? I bought myself a tablet last weekend (I guess that was actually the birthday present to myself; got a Samsung one on the cheap) and have been playing Final Fantasy V on it as I’ve never actually played that one and IV is my favorite game of all time and VI is an ultra-classic as well. They’ve got Final Fantasy XV coming out next month and I’m considering preordering a PS4 Pro to play it. Anyway, just some nerd stuff that has me excited. If you’re down, awesome. If not, sorry for the aside.
My mother and sister’s son are coming north tomorrow to spend the day and stay over to Sunday, so lots going on this weekend between that and the open house. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great one. Stay safe and have fun and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
So, two things: First, Dead Witches are a band. Second, their debut album is coming early in 2017 via Heavy Psych Sounds. Those are both crucial pieces of information. On a secondary level, it’s worth noting that Dead Witches are fronted by Virginia Monti, most recently heard from at the fore of the cultishly strong Psychedelic Witchcraft and drummed along their dirge march by Mark Greening, whose work in With the Dead and Ramesses is killer enough that I don’t even feel compelled to list the band he was in before either of them. You can see it in the PR wire info anyway, if you feel like cheating. But yeah, some pedigree to go around here.
They’re keeping mostly mum so far as regards details of their forthcoming debut album, which, again, Heavy Psych Sounds will have out early next year. That means no title, songs — other than “Ouija,” teased below — song titles, recording info, other background, etc. But you can get a glimpse of the vibe they’re going for in the track snippet and the others on their TubesofYou channel, I think, and that’ll have to do for now.
To the PR wire:
Occult ritualists DEAD WITCHES ink deal with Heavy Psych Sounds Records for their upcoming 2017 release!
Heavily occult supergroup DEAD WITCHES (with former members of Electric Wizard and Psychedelic Witchcraft) have just inked a deal with European powerhouse Heavy Psych Sounds Records. The newly formed outfit will release their debut album early 2017.
Former member of Electric Wizard drummer Mark Greening (also of Ramesses, With The Dead) and vocalist Virginia Monti (Psychedelic Witchcraft) joined forces to found the heaviest occult psych superbeast to see the light this year, taking the shape of DEAD WITCHES.
Keeping it mysterious, the band has only released a couple of nippets for their upcoming works, which can be previewed HERE.
Beware as the witches are coming to take your soul.
DEAD WITCHES IS Virginia Monti – Vocals Mark Greening – Drums Carl Geary – Bass Greg Elk – Guitar
Among the several maligned periods of Black Sabbath‘s almost-50-year history, from the late-Ozzy era to the Tony Martin years to the various reunions, “Psycho Man” and all that, I don’t think any single album has found redemption over the years more than 1983’s Born Again. It’s simply a record that won out over time. Condemned in its day for its mix, its sloppiness of sound and off-balance, coked-up, thrown together feel, it’s now appreciated for many of the same reasons. Until the 2011 charity one-off project WhoCares?, whose single was reviewed here, it would be the only collaboration between founding Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and frontman-of-frontmen Ian Gillan, of course known for his work in Deep Purple. The stories by now are legion, and don’t need my retelling. Gillan has discussed at length over the years how the whole thing was put together by management, how he barely took part in writing these songs — almost apologizing for an album that was poorly received — and that’s fair enough. Born Again is likewise something different from anything he’d done before as well, and for Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward and keyboardist Geoff Nichols, it was a stark contrast to the grandiose reach of the band’s (first) era fronted by Ronnie James Dio, which produced two brilliant, landmark albums in 1980’s Heaven and Hell (discussed here) and 1981’s Mob Rules (discussed here), before coming to a close in time for Dio to issue his solo debut, the also-landmark Holy Diver, a few months before Born Again, in Spring 1983.
I’m not interested in defending Born Again against detractors — it still has many. Rather, in considering it as the pivot point for Black Sabbath in the ’80s, which is a time when it’s easy to think of them as wandering in the desert, working with Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen, etc., en route to the decade Iommi would team with Tony Martin, the nine-track/41-minute offering might be the first Sabbath record that knew it was heavy metal and that being heavy metal was coming to mean something different from even a few years earlier. Born Again strips away the acoustic flourish of “Heaven and Hell,” the expansive progressivism of “The Sign of the Southern Cross,” in favor of raw tracks like “Zero the Hero,” the dissonant and jagged “Disturbing the Priest,” and barnburners like opener “Trashed” — a car song, which shines as a vehicle (pun totally intended) for Gillan post-Purple — and the almost unfortunately catchy “Digital Bitch,” to which, admittedly, history and context have not been as kind. The title-track meanders as a proto-ballad, and with the rocker “Hot Line” and the semi-sleaze of “Keep it Warm” closing out, Born Again is not without filler, but that’s precisely the point. It’s not a perfect record, and if one considers even the most basic measure of creative intent behind that stripping down, it not only sets up what Sabbath would do for the rest of the ’80s and well into the ’90s, but it makes for a standout from their catalog even in comparison to their earth-shattering, genre-defining early albums, which coalesced blues rock, weighted tones and darker themes into what eventually became the heavy metal from which Born Again could be seen as drawing influence.
As Sabbath move inexorably toward retirement, I’m keeping my fingers crossed Iommi and Gillan renew their studio collaboration. It’s a long-shot, granted, but even if they didn’t tour together — Gillan still hits the road with Deep Purple on the semi-regular — a studio album perhaps under the working moniker Born Again would certainly be welcome.
Love it or hate it, I hope you’ll take on Black Sabbath‘s Born Again with an open mind and enjoy the process of paying it another visit. Thanks for reading.
If closing out the week with Sabbath felt too easy or cliché, I’ll ask you to note that in the four-plus years I’ve done “Friday Full-Length,” it’s only been Sabbath in two prior instances, both linked above. That’s tied with Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Dozer, Goatsnake and Masters of Reality, among others. Not outlandish in that context to push for a third, what with them being Sabbath and all. There. I told myself I wasn’t going to justify it and I did anyway.
Short week at work with Monday off. Apparently when you have a real job they give you Columbus Day. First time that’s ever happened to me. Somewhat problematic from a colonial standpoint — all that rape and pillage — but a day off is a day off, and given where the rest of the week went work-wise from Tuesday on, I’ll especially take it. A mess of emails, meetings, emails about meetings, reading copy over and over and taking on more and more assignments. I’m also looking at starting another part-time gig on the side to hopefully give me some saving/playing money. And yes, I know how troubling it is to put “saving” and “playing” so close to each other in this context. Oh, Canon 5D Mark IV. You will be mine.
But anyway, it was stressful and I’m glad it’s just about over. Just about. Next week I’m doing myself a couple favors. I’ll be reviewing stuff from Truckfighters, Worshipper, and Asteroid, as well as hosting album streams from Dorre/Bethmoora and Zaum. Not exactly taking it easy, but none of it is going to be a slog to write about by any means. Also look for news on Samsara Blues Experiment, Freedom Hawk and others, and videos for Sergio Ch. and members of Across Tundras. If I can, I’m also going to squeeze in an extra stream of a couple tracks from lost-but-way-ahead-of-their-time NY riffers Begotten that have come into my possession. I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted permission to host them, so don’t want to let that opportunity slip by. Look for that Wednesday or Thursday.
I think I mentioned something last week or the week before about wanting to shave off my beard. That didn’t happen, but I did get my hair cut last week and asked the dude who does that to take the facial hair in considerably as well. No regrets, as far as that goes. The Patient Mrs. noted that it completely changed the shape of my face. I’m fine with that.
So that’s your Beardwatch 2016 update. I’m sure you were glued to the edge of your seat waiting for news.
The Patient Mrs. has a friend in this weekend from abroad, so I expect there will be some running around probably in Boston on Saturday. My ankle’s resurgent soreness notwithstanding, sounds fine. I also at this point don’t care if my fucking foot falls off though, so maybe that’s not the best attitude. It’s cool. Not like it’s been two years or anything. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but between that and the barrage of fascist bullshit this election cycle, from which even Star Trek and the MLB playoffs have ceased to provide respite, it’s rough going.
Oh, and I started Luke Cage. First episode was a bunch of racial tropes — really? a Biggie portrait? — and not much compelling character development. Haven’t gone back to it yet. Jessica Jones and the second season of Daredevil were kind of disappointing as well, so I may or may not get there anytime soon. If you’ve seen it, I’d welcome any opinions on whether it’s worth the effort or if I should just say screw it and keep going with my Deep Space Nine/Voyager deep-dive.
Alright. Can’t imagine anyone’s still reading, but if you are (and I suppose if you stopped), I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please make sure to check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desertfest London 2017 joins the Spring festival season fray with its first round of lineup announcements. Set for April 28-30 in its traditional home of Camden Town in London, the sixth incarnation of one of the two founding Desertfests will include a headlining set from Turbonegro, as well as appearances from Samsara Blues Experiment, who seem to be set on making a return to activity as we head into the New Year that I’ll be very interested in seeing how it plays out, plus blues-cycle duo The Picturebooks, Virginia’s Satan’s Satyrs, tribalists Vodun, Yuri Gargarin, Mammoth Storm, and London’s own Elephant Tree, whose 2016 self-titled debut (review here) stands among the year’s best in heavy rock. Bit of a no-brainer there, so I guess you might as well get the announcement out of the way early.
Not really looking forward to six months of cartoon-titty posters, but so it goes. Here’s word from the fest:
DESERTFEST LONDON: first bands announced; Turbonegro to headline the 2017 edition!
After a momentous fifth year anniversary, DESERTFEST LONDON proudly returns in 2017. As the festival grows from strength to strength, each year offers up a new challenge to bring a truly unique and amplified weekend to Camden Town. Desertfest aims to not only expand in all areas, but also to exceed expectations, and this year’s lineup is set to do just that.
The first headliner for 2017 is one of the most ludicrously high voltage, straight-up party bands in the history of rock’n’roll: Norway’s very own TURBONEGRO will be bringing their blend of high octane deathpunk to Desertfest 2017, for their first performance ever at the festival!
Joining them on the bill are one of the most requested Desertfest acts, German psych stalwarts SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, whose expert blend of stoner rock, psychedelic blues and Indian raga will bring some mind-bending goodness to the weekend’s trip.
THE PICTUREBOOKS will also be eagerly offering up their diverse alt-rock sound. The duo have pushed boundaries with their style – from drumming with mallets to building their own instruments, their live performances unquestionably follow suit and will not disappoint.
Virginia’s crème-de la-crème of thrash SATAN SATYR’S have effortlessly propelled themselves to cult status by paving the way for that true hard-attack heavy rock, making them stand out from a sea of peers who are just trying to hit half as hard.
VODUN are quickly gaining traction as one of those “must see” bands, and Desertfest is thrilled to show our loyal family as to why. An overwhelming talent of primal, genre-bending, heavy afro-soul rock – they’re not easy to describe, but being labelled one of the best new rock acts on the planet may help paint the picture. Swedish space rock cosmonauts YURI GAGARIN will also join the 2017 proceedings to launch revellers into a hypnotic otherworldly journey, alongside doom-drone power trio MAMMOTH STORM, who will be ready to batter out any cobwebs with a sonic tidal wave of riffs. Last but not least, is London’s very own ELEPHANT TREE with their melodic and weighty riffs that will rattle down on listeners like a stampede.
We are proud, and excited, for what next year has in store. But this is only the tip of the iceberg as there is much, much more to come. Stay tuned!
– DESERTFEST LONDON 2017 – 28th to 30th April in Camden, London Weekend passes are availableHERE
First bands announced: TURBONEGRO, SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT, THE PICTUREBOOKS, SATAN’S SATYRS, VODUN, YURI GAGARIN, MAMMOTH STORM, ELEPHANT TREE
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Imagine crushing sludge roving across the English countryside. Granted, it’s probably less like that and more like dudes in a van, but either way, Sheffield’s Kurokuma and Stockport’s Under have paired up to tour across Britain this week and they’ll cover a good swath of that good land. Kurokuma go supporting their EP, Advorsus, which was released last month on tape via Medusa Crush Recordings and brings about three new tracks of pummel both spacious and significant. You can check it out for yourself in full on the player below, because, you know, I posted it there and whatnot.
As one might expect, they’ve got a suitably apocalyptic backstory, which is also fun. I’ve put a bit of that under the dates below as well, which came off the PR wire. Dig:
Kurokuma / Under UK Tour
Having racked up quite the CV of support slots in their hometown of Sheffield (Conan, Primitive Man, KEN mode, Skeletonwitch) psychedelic sludgers, Kurokuma decided it was time to head out on the road themselves. Bringing along Stockport’s Under, a match for them in the realms of strange, heavy music, it’d be certainly worth your time catching two of the most unique bands in UK underground metal right now.
Wed 12th Oct – Drop the Dumbulls, Liverpool (w/ Springbok + Leavers) Thu 13th Oct – Subside, Birmingham (w/ Sealclubber) Fri 14th Oct – The Bridge Inn, Rotherham (w/ Spaztik Munkey) Sat 15th Oct – NOIZ Weekender, Manchester (w/ Telepathy, 1968 + more) Sun 16th Oct – Liquor, Lincoln (w/ WRECK + Temple Steps) Tue 18th Oct – Corporation, Sheffield (Just Kurokuma w/ Trap Them, OKKULTOKRATI + Venom Prison)
Not all that sleeps is silent; from the dark awakened a visceral being that fed from the smoldering flames and dim glow of the sun.
Strip away the dirty robes and poor illusions, find yourself hideously revealed. Know you are an animal, your heartbeat a steady drum pulsing for atavistic pleasures. Cast your eye upwards from the fire, bear your teeth.
Dance with us as this world crumbles into a mist of ashes.
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sumac, What One Becomes
With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.
Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.
Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.
Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.
One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.
Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.
It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.
Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.
Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.
It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.