Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell Premiere “Mr. Freedom” from Very Uncertain Times

Posted in audiObelisk on October 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

admiral sir cloudesley shovell

Oh Admiral, my admiral. UK trio Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell will release their new album, Very Uncertain Times, through Rise Above Records on Oct. 25. It’s the answer to 2016’s Keep it Greasy (review here), and the introduction of new drummer/backing vocalist Serra Petale to the fold with guitarist/vocalist Johnny Gorilla and bassist Louis Comfort-Wiggett, and the core of the Hastings-based band’s approach remains firm in their commitment to raw, mean and dirty heavy garage rock and roll. Since their first 7″ showed up through Rise Above in 2010, followed by their debut LP, Don’t Hear It… Fear It! (review here), that’s been their way, and the intervening years have only made them grittier and greasier of sound. The spirit of Motörhead weighs heavily on the riffs in opener “Very Uncertain Times” and in the structure of hooks on early-goers “Ten Years Later,” “The Third Degree” and “Mr. Freedom,” but if you’re taking on Very Uncertain Times looking for some solution to the world’s larger sociopolitical problems — climate change, Brexit perhaps, the rise of nationalism and the arc of history’s bent toward injustice — that ain’t what Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are about. I have no doubt that were the band collectively made prime minister they’d get some righteous shit done, but their fourth LP is hardly their way of announcing their candidacy.

Rather, it is a swaggering, show-up-to-the-party-trashed classic rocking bruiser. Gorilla‘s vocals are perhaps the most Kilmisterian aspect of the record, but a ’70s shove is fervent throughout one way or the other, and even when “Mr. Freedom” cuts the tempo inAdmiral sir cloudesley shovell very uncertain times its midsection to a sleeker boogie as a preface to the sleazy “Blackworth Quarry” later on, the change is momentary before the forward thrust resumes. Only three of the total eight tracks reach beyond the five-minute mark, and the longest is the opening title-track (immediate points) at 5:39, with the mid-paced “The Third Degree” (track three, of course) at 5:31 and closer “No Man’s Land” capping at 5:02 with a “War Pigs”-style apex in its bridge before closing on its central riff, but whatever Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are doing in a given cut, their interest is not in wasting time. They start out at a sprint with “Very Uncertain Times” and hold to that ethic throughout, relying on a classic sound and sheer songwriting to carry them through. In that, they’re nearly as much proto-punk as they are proto-metal, but they’re lizard-brain heavy rock one way or the other, and the primitivism of the material is a crucial tie to their aesthetic that isn’t to be undervalued. It’s worth noting that while the songs are unmistakable in their intent and the production is natural, there’s little about it that feels like it’s playing toward vintage-ism nearly as much as toward a live presentation, and that energy carries through in scorching moments and nods alike, the chorus melody of “Iceberg” touching on psychedelia and the later shuffle of “Biscuits for Victor” as much loaded with biker-style swagger as it is, well, just plainly loaded.

You won’t find me arguing with the basic premise of Very Uncertain Times. If anything, the band seem aware of the understatement they’re making — hence “very” — but by the same token, their approach itself has never sounded more certain. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell have flirted here and there with ethereal premises and still offer a touch of the otherworldly every now and again, but the great irony of Very Uncertain Times is how grounded it is and just how much the three-piece know what they want their songs to be doing at any given moment. With the addition of Petale‘s vocals alongside those of Gorilla, the dynamic has shifted some, but that only works in favor of the songs and the band as a whole. More than 10 years since their start, they’ve hit, and duly flattened, their stride.

PR wire info follows the premiere of “Mr. Freedom” below.

Please enjoy:

The more things change, the more they seem to plummet down the shitter. Fortunately, rock ’n’ roll is alive and well and guaranteed to make us all feel a little bit better about the state of things. Purveyors of nuts-out, ragged and riotous proto-metal since 2008, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell have dedicated the last decade to kicking against the pricks and whipping up a thunderous storm of gritty, snotty and irresistible heavy rock. In 2019, Hastings’ finest three-man riff squad will save the day yet again with their fourth album, the shrewdly-titled Very Uncertain Times.

A reassuring presence for ferocious rock ‘n’ roll and medicated madness in a crazy, doomed world, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are back in the van and heading towards proto-metal nirvana at maximum speed and with no brakes. These may be uncertain times, but you can rely on the Admiral to keep the sonic accelerator floored.

“Our main hope, as always, is that we sell millions of copies enabling us to retire,” laughs Johnny. “Purely to spare the world from having to endure another greasy Shovell album! Oh, and we want to plague the world’s population with as many stupidly loud gigs as possible. Let’s face it, we sure don’t sound like anything else out there!”

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell live:
Supporting Church of Misery (except the 17th)
Monday 14-10-2019 Berlin (GER), Zukunft
Tuesday 15-10-2019 Mannheim (GER), Jugendhaus
Wednesday 16-10-2019 Lille (FR), La Bulle Café
Thursday 17-10-2019 Landgraaf (NL), Oefenbunker (Shovell only show, no COM)
Friday 18-10-2019 Siegen (GER), Vortex
Saturday 19-10-2019 Antwerp (BE), Desertfest
Sunday 20-10-2019 Haarlem (NL), Patronaat
Monday 21-10-2019 Hamburg (GER), Hafenklang

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Cybernetic Witch Cult to Release Absurdum ad Nauseam Dec. 6; New Video Streaming

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

cybernetic witch cult

This past weekend, UK heavy rock weirdos Cybernetic Witch Cult unveiled the first single from their upcoming third album, Absurdum ad Nauseam. As you might expect given the title, it’s intended as a commentary on the current state of, well, everything I guess, and the video below for “The Myth of Sisyphus” finds the band having a ball — of their own making, no less — out in the woods. Of course, thematically, it’s not all fun and games, but if you can appreciate absurdity there’s certainly enough of it to go around. The full-length will be self-released on Dec. 6, so should get some attention as a late arrival to wind down a busy year, and to herald its coming, the trio will head out from their hometown in Cornwall to do a round of English touring.

Those dates, the video, and copious background all came down the PR wire like so:

cybernetic witch cult absurdam ad nauseam

Cybernetic Witch Cult: New album – New video – UK Tour this October!

Cornwall’s finest psychedelic stoner rock band, Cybernetic Witch Cult, will release a new studio album this December following an extensive tour and video premiere in October.

As seen live at Bloodstock Open Air and headlining 2018’s HRH’s Doom V Stoner Festival second stage; Cybernetic Witch Cult’s third album ‘Absurdum ad Nauseam’ sees the trio focusing and honing in on key sonic elements to elevate their own unique perception and create a heavier experience for listeners, without losing the progressive and 70s influences the band are well known for.

“The song is about Albert Camus’ philosophical essay ‘the Myth of Sisyphus’ which is all about struggle and the acceptance of an absurd universe”, says vocalist/guitarist Alex Wyld. “For the music video we made a giant boulder out of cardboard, duct tape, bamboo and a mic stand and set about rolling it around the Cornish countryside.

For us as-well as being a metaphor for the humanistic struggles in life, the boulder represents the literal struggle of pushing an independent band around the country. We had a lot of fun making this video and wanted to keep it tongue in cheek, which fits the quote from Camus’ essay.

There is no denying though that this album is quite a dark one for us as it has come from a general consensus of dread within the band about what the future holds for humanity”, explains vocalist/guitarist Alex Wyld. “However, we have tried to poke some fun into the absurdity of it all. We like to think each song has some meaning and hope that our listeners will enjoy exploring some of the sonic themes.”

With this new album, Cybernetic Witch Cult have produced their most complete work to date and built on the foundations of progressing their own sound in riff drenched science fiction (including Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Dune) that musically drifts in whatever direction the mood of the band and its members take.

Intelligent, progressive whilst accessible, the songs on ‘Absurdum ad Nauseam’ reflect on troubling times in the world, notably climate change. Wyld says, ” I first took climate change seriously at university in 2010: During my Astrophysics degree I opted for a course called ‘Energy and the Environment’ and during our first lecture a student asked the professors “what are our chances like?” and the lecturers gave a solemn look to each other and said “very bleak with the current state of affairs”, everyone had a solemn feeling after that lecture and I think the state of things have gotten worse since then.

It’s tragic to see that while there’s more general awareness of the crisis now, there’s also more (non factual) vocal opposition to climate science and crazy talk of conspiracy theories. I do worry for the future, and I think that’s partly why this album turned out so much heavier and more serious than our older material. But you have to hope that things will improve and that the people who are in power will start to actually make some policy changes to safeguard our civilisation’s future.”

Ahead of the new album release, the South West stoner rock trio release the lead single and new music video for ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ before heading out on the road for an extensive set of live dates.

Cybernetic Witch Cult’s new release was recorded, mixed and mastered at ‘The Crow’s Nest’ in London by Sam Thredder (Slabdragger).The album’s unique artwork was designed by Aimee Wyld at Unlikeness Art.

‘Absurdum ad Nauseam’ is released 6th December 2019. Pre-order it here:
https://cyberneticwitchcult.bandcamp.com/album/absurdum-ad-nauseam

Tracklist:
1. Intro
2. Hypercomputer (Part 1)
3. Cromagnonaut
4. The Cetacean
5. The Ivory Tower
6 . Spice
7 . The Myth of Sisyphus
8 . Hypercomputer (Part 2)

Tour dates:
18th October – FALMOUTH – Jacobs Ladder
19th October – BANBURY – The Wheatsheaf
20th October – CROYDON – The Ship
21st October – PLYMOUTH – The Underground
22nd October – EXETER – The Cavern
23rd October – PORTSMOUTH – Edge of the Wedge
25th October – WEYMOUTH – Finns
26th October – SOUTHAMPTON – Firehouse
28th October – BRISTOL – The Lanes
31st October – NEWQUAY – Whiskers
2nd November – LONDON – The Unicorn
30th November – YEOVIL – The Railway Inn
14th December – LONDON – The Black Heart
20th December – PLYMOUTH – The Junction

Cybernetic Witch Cult are:
Alex Wyld – Vocals & Guitar
Doug MacKinnon – Bass Guitar
Lewis May – Drums & Percussion

www.cyberneticwitchcult.com
www.facebook.com/cyberneticwitchcult
www.instagram.com/cyberneticwitchcultband
https://cyberneticwitchcult.bandcamp.com

Cybernetic Witch Cult, “The Myth of Sisyphus”

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Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell Announce Very Uncertain Times LP out Oct. 25

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

admiral sir cloudesley shovell

Who doesn’t want some new Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell? Jerks? Stiffs? Squares? Certainly no one I know. Thus it is with no small amount of joy that I post word of the impending — like in a couple weeks — release of their new album, Very Uncertain Times, through Rise Above Records, from which you’ll find the title-track streaming at the bottom of this post. Very Uncertain Times follows behind 2016’s sleazebag rocker Keep it Greasy (review here) — spoiler alert: they did — and offers more than a bit of the Motörheaded vibe in the advance cut, while also delving into a sleek riff and airy solo in its second-half jam out, layers of guitar eventually solidifying around the center of a boogie and the proto-NWOBHM progression that started things off just a few minutes earlier in the verse. Cool as hell, but one would expect no less.

They’ve got a new drummer as well, as one might occasionally. Does not seem to have stymied their pursuit of dirty righteousness, however.

Preorders are up from Rise Above now. The PR wire has this:

Admiral sir cloudesley shovell very uncertain times

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell To Release New Album Very Uncertain Times October 25th on Rise Above Records

The more things change, the more they seem to plummet down the shitter. Fortunately, rock ’n’ roll is alive and well and guaranteed to make us all feel a little bit better about the state of things. Purveyors of nuts-out, ragged and riotous proto-metal since 2008, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell have dedicated the last decade to kicking against the pricks and whipping up a thunderous storm of gritty, snotty and irresistible heavy rock. In 2019, Hastings’ finest three-man riff squad will save the day yet again with their fourth album, the shrewdly-titled Very Uncertain Times.

As frontman Johnny Gorilla explains, this band began in the pursuit of simple pleasures, and nothing much has changed…

“Our original masterplan was that we had no plan… and even fewer clues!” he laughs. “It was just three mates getting together to play covers of the stuff we’d always liked, and play a few pub gigs. We just wanted to play music inspired by the stuff we loved, 70’s heavy rock, 60’s garage and psych. But It turned out that we enjoyed our pre rehearsal jams more than our inept covers! We wrote four half-decent songs for a cassette demo, and thought it’d be a blast to get one single out that would immediately disappear into obscurity. Luckily, Lee at Rise Above thought the same. But we never imagined we’d be four albums in!”

Three years on from the widely acclaimed Keep It Greasy!, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are audibly on blistering form on the new record. Very Uncertain Times is the first Admiral album to feature new drummer Serra Petale alongside Johnny and bassist Louis Comfort-Wiggett, and you will immediately hear the fizzing chemistry that has already been established by this reshuffled threesome on the record’s rambunctious opening title track. Recorded at Broadoak Studios in Sussex with long-time collaborator Harvey Summers manning the desk, Very Uncertain Times has the simple aim of rocking your face off.

A celebration of tweaked-out jamming and turbocharged psychedelic rock, every last moment on Very Uncertain Times speaks of a band with a full tank of sonic petrol. From the short-sharp Sabbath squall of Ten Years Later and the raging motör-he(a)donism of Mr Freedom to the loping grooves of The Third Degree and closer No Mans Land’s spiralling freak-out, it’s a powerful salute to the magic that happens when three mates get in a dark, sweaty room and crank everything up to 11. In uncertain times, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell will never let you down.

A reassuring presence for ferocious rock ‘n’ roll and medicated madness in a crazy, doomed world, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are back in the van and heading towards proto-metal nirvana at maximum speed and with no brakes. These may be uncertain times, but you can rely on the Admiral to keep the sonic accelerator floored.

“Our main hope, as always, is that we sell millions of copies enabling us to retire,” laughs Johnny. “Purely to spare the world from having to endure another greasy Shovell album! Oh, and we want to plague the world’s population with as many stupidly loud gigs as possible. Let’s face it, we sure don’t sound like anything else out there!”

Very Uncertain Times Tracklisting:
1. Very Uncertain Times
2. Ten Years Later
3. The Third Degree
4. Mr. Freedom
5. Iceberg
6. Blackworth Quarry
7. Biscuits for Victor
8. No Man’s Land

https://www.facebook.com/theshovell/
https://www.facebook.com/riseaboverecords/
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, “Very Uncertain Times”

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Review & Full LP Premiere: Sons of Alpha Centauri, Buried Memories

Posted in audiObelisk on October 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI Buried Memories Cover

[Click play above to stream Sons of Alpha Centauri’s Buried Memories in full. It’s out Friday and available to order here.]

UK progressive instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri will release the new LP Buried Memories on Oct. 13 through H42 Records, and it’s an offering that immediately begs inspection. Is it an album or a collaboration? An EP, since the first side is three different versions of the same track? As the follow-up to the band’s 2018 outing, Continuum (review here) — which was essentially the band on their own, even if they did work with Aaron Turner (Sumac, ex-Isis) as producer/mixer and John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet) for mastering — it continues a string of joined-f0rces efforts that goes back to their 2009 outing with Karma to Burn side-project Treasure Cat, which included tracks by Alpha Cat with both bands working together. Along the way, in addition to their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) and Continuum some 11 years later, they’ve also worked with Gary Arce of Yawning Man as Yawning Sons for the 2009 album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), and had a trilogy of splits with Karma to Burn (2010, 2014, 2015) as well as splits with A Death Cinematic and Hotel Wrecking City Traders/WaterWays (review here) in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

All of this, as one might expect, has made them somewhat hard to track, as they’re in and out of different incarnations and collaborations, but I think the band probably wouldn’t have it another way, and Buried Memories shows some of where that impulse comes from. The six-track/47-minute 12″ dwells in its complication no less than it dwells in instrumentalists depth and purpose, and I should point out right away that while “Hitmen” is the first three songs, not one version is immediately recognizable from the others. And that’s doubly to Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s credit, because it shows how much they’re willing to let their material be malleable. You see, each half of Buried Memories is dedicated to an outside mix collaboration. For “Hitmen,” they bring in three different incarnations of Godflesh‘s Justin K. Broadrick, who takes the song on first under the guise of himself, then as Jesu and finally as JK Flesh, bringing a distinctly different feel to each edition of the same root work. It’s perhaps easier to do since the songs don’t have verses or choruses weighing them down to a strict structure, but it’s true that each one carves its own impression, and as they move from eight-and-a-half, nine- and nine-and-a-half-minute versions, Broadrick seems to pull the track further from its foundation and bring something of his own to it. It’s not just a simple process of mixing in the sense of finding the right volume for Marlon King‘s guitar or Blake‘s synth, Nick Hannon‘s bass and Stevie B.‘s drums, but of exploring what distance “Hitmen” can cover from its origin. As the Broadrick mix turns to the more melodic Jesu mix to the avant-electro JK Flesh mix, that distance turns out to be pretty vast.

The second-side collaborator is no less than James Plotkin, whose mastering and production work covers myriad outfits and whose work in Khanate alone — never mind his copious other projects — deserves an eternity of thank-you cards, who takes on three different songs, all under the guise of himself. So side A, one song mixed by three versions of the same person. Side AA, three songs mixed by one version of the same person.

Everyone got it?

Okay.

Sons of Alpha Centauri 2019

And much to Plotkin‘s credit, the three inclusions he takes on also push further and further out as they go. “Warhero” (9:33) is relatively straight ahead, but in comparison to Broadrick‘s “Hitmen” shows a focus on bringing out a sense of space in the work, while the shorter “Remembrance” (2:42) dips into minimalist drone guitar almost as a transition into closer “SS Montgomery,” which also takes on a more electronic vibe, in a kind of dark-industrial vein that still holds a heavy presence thanks to the prominence of the live drums, but nonetheless surrounds those with a chaos-swirl of synth and the guitar. “SS Montgomery” is the payoff for the whole release, pushing through clarity toward destructive noise wash in its quick apex and leaving behind residual noise on a long outward fade, and the fact that even given all the shifts of style and intent that Buried Memories holds, Sons of Alpha Centauri would be able to pull everything together at the end speaks to what makes them so underrated in the first place. They are very much a conceptual outfit but still not blind to the basic purpose of making an album, of making songs.

That underlying message comes through clearly across Buried Memories, and whether you consider it an album, an EP, a one-off, or something else, there’s never any doubt Sons of Alpha Centauri are ready and willing to push themselves to take their music to new places and to try and encompass different ideas and evoke various mindsets as they go. It’s not every band who would be willing to hand off their material like this, even to the likes of Plotkin and Broadrick, let alone put it out in such a way that allows the tracks to take on a life of their own within their overarching catalog. I won’t pretend to know what Sons of Alpha Centauri might do next or where they’ll go from here — though they were certainly busy enough in between, it’s notable that it was 11 years from their self-titled to Continuum — but the way their progressiveness extends not only to the sound of the band but to the very makeup and intent thereof continues to make them individually flexible in a universe that seems rigid by comparison. Whatever they might do, this openness and dexterity can only continue to bolster their work. Imagine asking Justin Broadrick for three mixes by different personae. Imagine telling James Plotkin, “Just go with it.” The beauty of Buried Memories is in its outward movement and the sense of freedom it portrays: art as a living thing, music as sculpting clay to be shaped and re-shaped. As regards the creative, there are few ideas more noble.

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Sons of Alpha Centauri website

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H42 Records on Bandcamp

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Desertfest London 2020 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest london 2020 header

Desertfest London 2020 has made its first lineup announcement, with nine acts serving as the foundation of the fray set to take place May 1-3 next year. This one happened a bit ago, concurrent I think to the Desertfest Berlin first announcement, but, well, life happens I guess. Either way, the two festivals will share an artwork theme for the first time, which feels only appropriate — one hopes Desertfest New York does the same next September, if only because I’d like to buy a poster on this theme — as well as a few acts in the likes of Masters of RealityCorrosion of ConformityBrant Bjork, and Orange Goblin.

They may end up sharing more than that, of course, between the bands that each has thus far revealed. There’s always a bit of stagger between one and the other as they add locals — The Brothers Keg and Green Lung and Black Orchids come to mind here — to distinguish themselves and each offer something of its own to attendees. I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if The Picturebooks and Possessor wound up playing Berlin too, but that hasn’t been announced yet if it’s going to happen at all. You get the point.

The point is Deserfest London 2020 already looks awesome, and if you can make it, you should go. I should go too. We should all go. And hang out. It’ll be fun.

Mark your calendar:

desertfest london 2020 poster

MASTERS OF REALITY, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, ORANGE GOBLIN + 6 MORE ANNOUNCED AS FIRST ACTS FOR DESERTFEST LONDON 2020

For their first UK appearance in five years, Masters Of Reality – Official will make their Desertfest debut as 2020 headliners next May. One of the most influential bands in desert rock history, with the genres very own Godfather at the reins, Masters is the brainchild of legendary producer Chris Goss (Welcome to Sky Valley, Rated R, Blues for The Red Sun, Songs for The Deaf). Their effortless combination of hard-rock blues with an experimentally progressive tinge makes no apologies for not sticking within the stylised box listeners would assume, yet simultaneously provides the perfect lesson in the musical ethos and story-telling of the Palm Desert scene.

Joining them on the bill will be North Carolina favourites Corrosion Of Conformity whose unmistakable Southern stomp is always a welcome addition, OG’s of the Desertfest family Orange Goblin will celebrate 25 years of relentless riffs and the desert daze continues as living legend Brant Bjork is set to bask in psychedelic sunshine.

Elsewhere we see high-octane German party duo The Picturebooks, London based psychedelic doom devotees GREEN LUNG show just why they are on our ones-to-watch-list and more home-grown talent comes in the form of space sludge stalwarts The Brothers Keg, the unhinged ferocity of Possessor and a journey of groove and reflection with the other-worldly soundscapes of Black Orchids.

Weekend tickets are now on sale and with dozens more bands to still be announced we implore you to pick up a ticket sooner rather than later!

Tickets & more info here – www.desertfest.co.uk || https://link.dice.fm/desertfest20 (*you do not need the DICE app to purchase via DICE!)

Artwork by Piotr w. Osburne

https://www.facebook.com/events/464163361105416/
http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/

Corrosion of Conformity, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

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Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Ruff Majik, Merlin, Workshed, E-L-R, Sibyl, Golden Legacy, Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Burden Limbs, El Supremo

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Another day, another batch of 10 reviews on the march to 50 by the end of the week. Will we make it? Yeah, probably. I mean, I think there was once when I had to skip a day or something but even then I made up for it and there’s never been an instance where the Quarterly Review fell apart. The one quarter I decided to nix it (was it last year?) I made up for it by doing 100 reviews instead of 50 the next time out, so we got there eventually. It being Tuesday, the end of the week looks far off, but indeed we’ll ge there eventually, and there’s a lot of good music between now and then, so let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Bat Salad

high on fire bat salad

A limited vinyl EP released as part of Record Store Day 2019, High on Fire‘s Bat Salad comprises three songs: an original instrumental and two covers, one of Celtic Frost and one of Bad Brains. And I won’t take away from the “Rat Salad” Sabbath-does-blues-jazz-jam-except-it’s-HighonFire-so-it-sounds-nasty-as-hell spirit of “Bat Salad” at all, but the real highlight here is hearing Matt Pike‘s gravel-throated vocals take on “Into Crypts of Rays.” Celtic Frost have always been a central factor in what High on Fire were doing stylistically, so to have the band take them on directly seems long in the making. They approach Bad Brains‘ “Don’t Bother Me” with due reverence as well, careening through an intense three-minute burst of energy with the grit and underlying precision one has come to expect from these singular masters. Soon enough, bands will be covering High on Fire with the same spirit of fan homage. Doubly notable for being founding drummer Des Kensel‘s last recorded appearance alongside Pike and bassist Jeff Matz in the band.

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eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Tårn

ruff majik tarn

Guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist Jimmy Glass and drummer Ben Manchino return with Tårn, Ruff Majik‘s second album on a quick turnaround from their 2018 debut, Seasons (review here). Aligned with Lay Bare Recordings for the vinyl release, the deceptively quick and even more deceptively complex seven-track/36-minute offering finds Ruff Majik digging into dirt-caked tonality and classically punkish sneer in Holiday‘s vocals. There are moments where they sound like Queens of the Stone Age (“Speed Hippie”) and moments where they sound like Black Flag (parts of opener “Schizophrenic”), but as a roller like “Heretically Happy” or the earlier post-Zeppelin stoner sneak of “Gloom & Tomb” show, Ruff Majik are perhaps most interested in sounding like themselves. They’re gleeful as they toy with doomed vibes on closer “Seasoning the Witch,” and the seven-minute “I’ll Dig the Grave” earlier thrills with changes drawn together by a pervasive and righteous groove. With Tårn, Ruff Majik have found their wavelength, and it suits them.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Merlin, The Mortal

merlin the mortal

Be it heretofore established that sax-laced Kansas City psych-doomers Merlin don’t give a fuck. They don’t give a fuck what you expect, they don’t give a fuck what everyone else is doing, they don’t give a fuck if they meme the crap out of their own band. They’ve got their thing and they’re doing it. And you know what? They’re right. The Mortal is their fifth full-length in six years, following as a sequel to early-2018’s The Wizard (review here), and with flourish galore in arrangements of organ, sax, flute, percussion, accordion, trumpet, etc., alongside the foundation of songcraft that comes through the guitar, bass, drums and always-theatrical vocals of Jordan Knorr, the band recount tales along a dark-magical mystery tour of gorgeously flowing and still-weighted psychedelic plunder. They have become a buried treasure of weirdo/geek rock, and whether it’s the peaceful drift of “Ashen Lake” or the cacophonous heavy riffing of “Basilisk,” the stage-setting prog of “Towerfall” or the consuming swell that carries out the apex of closer “The Mortal Suite” — King Crimson chase and all — Merlin‘s work has never sounded so masterful. Will there be a third installment in the tale? Nothing quite like a trilogy.

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The Company BigCartel store

 

Workshed, Workshed

workshed workshed

They’ve since added a third party in bassist Helen Storer (Fireball Ministry, among others), but Workshed‘s self-titled Rise Above Records debut LP was recorded as the duo of guitarist/vocalist Adam Lehan and drummer Mark Wharton. More than a quarter-century ago, both Lehan and Wharton played on Cathedral‘s pivotal first two albums, but in Workshed, and certainly there are some shades of doom on a stomper like “Anthropophobic” here, but the bulk of Workshed‘s nine-song/47-minute first offering is given to post-Entombed buzzsaw noise sludge, riffs crunched one into the next in an aggro, punk-rooted fashion that rife with a sense of willful punishment that comes through in sheer impact from front to back. Vocals call to mind Tom G. Warrior immediately and are suited to the social commentary of “If This is How it Is” and “This City Has Fallen,” while the grueling march of “A Spirit in Exile” leaves room for some atmosphere to eek through, which it does. They trash out in centerpiece “On Sticks of Wood” and chug their into a last fade on closer “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way,” but by then they’ve long since made their statement and left a trail of destruction behind them. Would they have been signed to Rise Above without the Cathedral connection? Probably not. Does the album earn their place? Absolutely.

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Rise Above Records website

 

E-L-R, Mænad

e-l-r maenad

With their first full-length, Mænad, Swiss post-metallers E-L-R cart a gorgeous and textured course through patient and progressive songweaving that lends itself to hypnosis through its churning rhythm as much as its overarching melodies seem to evoke other worlds. It is not without its sense of challenge and certainly plenty heavy in its tone and groove — at least where it wants to be — but it’s also rich and provides a level of depth to its mix that should have others in the genre asking how they did it. A transitional drone at the end of “Devotee” brings about the 10-minute “Above the Mountains There is Light” and a long contemplation begins, working from the ground up on a pilgrim’s path to the eventual payoff. The resonance there is something unto itself, but even as “Ambrosia,” “Lunar Nights” and “The Wild Shore” find the stylistic footing that opener “Glancing Limbs” and “Devotee” seemed to hint at earlier, E-L-R maintain both an ambient sprawl and a consuming sense of passion that makes their work here all the more thrilling. This is a debut, following only a single 2018 demo that had two of the same tracks. What that tells me is look out for this band, because this kind of potential doesn’t come along every day and when it does, you want to be there for the follow-up. The impeccable taste of Prophecy Productions pays dividends once again.

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Prophecy Productions website

 

Sibyl, The Magic Isn’t Real

sibyl the magic isn't real

Otherworldly doom rock marked by echoing vocals oozing out from deep in the mix and gotta-hear-it bass tone complemented by choice riffage and a fervent thud in the drums, even if the aesthetic of Richmond’s Sibyl is familiar enough, there’s plenty to dig about their debut EP — what one might’ve called a “demo” in eras past — The Magic Isn’t Real. The stylistic elephant in the room is RVA’s own Windhand, but Sibyl take a more psychedelic path to heavy oblivion, and with four tracks in the range of four to five minutes, The Magic Isn’t Real comes across as well focused in its songwriting despite the ethereal touches in the actual sound. Cool vibe, and as they work some noisy shuffle into “Spinning Webs,” they show themselves as being less restricted than otherwise might be the case if they were purely committed to doomed drudgery. I’ll give bonus points as well for naming the penultimate track “Sexpionage,” just on principle, but it’s in stretches like the subdued creeper opening of “Blood Moon” and the engrossing, still-somehow-moving wash of “Pendulums” that Sibyl really showcase their intention.

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Sibyl on Bandcamp

 

Golden Legacy, Golden Legacy II

golden legacy golden legacy ii

London heavy noise duo Golden Legacy offer five tracks and 23 minutes of anti-genre, adrenaline rock to follow-up their 2016 self-titled EP. There’s a strong undercurrent of modern punk and indie to their sound, which is what gets them the “anti-genre” consideration, but it’s the energy of their delivery carrying them one way or the other as they drive through the harsh snare of “Cut and Crash” following the chunkier tone of opener “Moon” and just before centerpiece “Dirty Mouth” finds its way into grunge-style howling beastliness. Comprised of drummer/vocalist Lorena Cachito and guitarist Yanni Georgiou, the two-piece find winning momentum in “Salvation,” while closer “Thirsty” opens with a mellow drum progression gradually joined by the guitar and builds into more progressive and dramatic movement, casting off some of the rawness of the songs before it in favor of more complex fare. It still manages to soar at the end, though, and that seems to be what counts. They might be rawer now than they’ll eventually turn out, but that suits most of what they’re doing in adding to the emotionality on display in Cachito‘s vocals.

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Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Coven of the Ultra-Riff

saint karloff devils witches coven of the ultra-riff

Alright, look. I don’t even think I have the full thing, but whatever. Saint Karloff and Devil’s Witches came together to release the Coven of the Ultra-Riff split — it can be so hard to find the right coven for your family; have you considered the Ultra-Riff? — and they each play an original track and then they cover each other’s songs and then Saint Karloff introduce the progression of “Supervixen (Electric Return)” and Devil’s Witches take up the mantle and run with it on “Supervixen (Acoustic Return),” so yeah, it’s pretty awesome and kind of all over the place but whatever. Get your head around it and get on board with whatever version you can grab. Vinyl came out through Majestic Mountain Records and tapes were through Stoner Witch Records and I’m fairly certain it’s all sold out already and probably stupid expensive on Discogs, but do what you need to do, because this is what Sabbath worship in the year 2019 is supposed to sound like. It’s bombed out of its gourd and has long since dropped out of life. It’s exactly where and what it wants to be.

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Devil’s Witches on Thee Facebooks

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Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Burden Limbs, There is No Escape

burden limbs there is no escape

I’m not going to pretend to have the grounding in post-hardcore to toss off the influences under which Burden Limbs are working, but to listen to the blast of noise in “How Many Times Must I Reset” and the near-industrial wash of noise they conjure in the subsequent “Hypochondriac,” it’s clear they’re working under one influence anyway. There is No Escape (released through Glasshouse Records) runs 24 minutes and carries four songs, but in that time the band around founding figurehead and guitarist/vocalist Chad Murray manage to challenge themselves and the listener alike to keep up with their turns and emotional resonance. Murray is joined by two bassists, another guitarist, keyboards/synth and drums, so yes, there’s something of a busy feel to it, but even echoing cavernous as they are, the vocals seem to draw the songs together around a central presence and add a human core to the proceedings that only makes them all the more affecting as would seem to be the intent.

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Glasshouse Records on Bandcamp

 

El Supremo, Clarity Through Distortion

El Supremo Clarity Through Distortion

Sometimes these things take a while, but El Supremo was formed by now-ex-Egypt bassist Chad Heille has a solo-project and released a self-titled demo in 2008, to which Clarity Through Distortion is the follow-up full-length. Now joined by guitarist Neil Stein (also ex-Egypt, and who also played some on the demo) and organist Chris Gould as well as bassist Cam Dewald who came aboard after the album’s completion, the instrumentalist full-band incarnation of El Supremo waste no time diving into dead-on tonal and riffy righteousness, taking classic heavy cues and running with them in modern production richness, sounding clear but natural as a jam like “Moanin’ & Groanin'” turns into a shuffler as it moves into its second half, or the mellow sway of the 14-minute “Supercell” at last runs head-on into the lumbering motion that will carry it through to the end. I don’t know how much clarity — at least of the existential sort I think they mean in the title — they might’ve found by the time the bluesy “Lotus Throne” rolls over into the shreddy “Outro” that caps, but if the method is distortion, they’ve certainly got that part down.

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

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Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

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Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

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Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

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King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

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A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

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Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

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Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

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The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

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Off the Record Label BigCartel store

 

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Ungraven Add Live Drummer; Playing Desertfest Belgium

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The fact that Conan‘s Jon Davis has a couple shows coming up, including Desertfest Belgium, with Ungraven and has added a drummer to what was formerly just a solo affair is some deceptively telling news. Anyone who has ever seen a list of Conan tour dates or heard any of the string of records Davis has released through his Black Bow imprint or been even moderately aware of his Blackskull Services management company — also I think he was driving bands around on tour for a while there — knows he’s not the type to do something half-assed. If he’s getting a drummer for Ungraven, it’s because he’s got longer-term plans than just the next couple weeks. Maybe I’m wrong, but that kind of says to me he’s thinking of taking it on tour.

Hardest working person in doom? Yeah, he just might be. I’m not sure who else has so much on their plate.

From the PR wire:

ungraven

UNGRAVEN ANNOUNCE LIVE LINE-UP

Jon Davis, (Conan) is pleased to announce that he will be playing live shows with his solo project UNGRAVEN. He will be joined by Tyler Hodges of Tuskar on drums for all future live dates.

So far the duo is confirmed to play both Desertfest Belgium and Aalborg in Denmark.

Both dates will be in support of the recently released of the debut release “The Language of Longing” which was released a few months ago.

Jon commented “Delighted to welcome Tyler Hodges to the lineup. He really gets what I’m trying to do with this material-Together we are UNGRAVEN!”

He further commented on The Language of Longing “I am a huge fan of Fudge Tunnel, Ministry, Godflesh, Sepultura and Nailbomb. I fell in love with ‘For All Those Who Died’ by Bathory on Headbangers Ball and also the ‘Speed Kills’ comp. Since then I have referenced these bands in some of Conan’s material. With Ungraven I pay homage to the industrial sounds emanating from Birmingham in the 90s with a few other influences that I’ve been obsessing over for a while. It’s super heavy but sightly different from what I have done so far.”

Listen to The EP here: https://ungraven.bandcamp.com/album/language-of-longing

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Ungraven, Language of Longing (2019)

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