Iron Void Confirm Oct. 26 Release for Excalibur

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

iron void photo by Katrina Kendrick

DOOM!!! Woe unto you if you can’t down with the trad doom righteousness of UK trio Iron Void, and if you can, then even more woe unto you, because they’re just that doomed. It’s been a bit since word came down that they’d signed to Shadow Kingdom Records and were preparing to issue their third long-player, Excalibur, based around the theme of Arthurian legend, but in addition to the prior streaming track “The Coming of a King,” the band have further heralded the album’s arrival with the news that it will be realized at long last on Oct. 26 in CD, LP and tape format, and no matter how you get it, rest assured, you’re getting doom of the highest order. Not admitting openly that I’ve heard it yet or anything, but seriously, the record is absolutely killer.

If you’re not stoked on it yet, get that way, and then hope Shadow Kingdom signs on to reissue the two previous Iron Void albums too, because the more the merrier. Except not merry. Because doom.

Fucking a:

iron void excalibur

IRON VOID set release date for new SHADOW KINGDOM album

Today, Shadow Kingdom Records sets October 26th as the international release date for Iron Void’s highly anticipated third album, Excalibur, on CD, vinyl LP, and cassette tape formats. A mainstay of the UK doom metal scene, Excalibur is the album by which Iron Void will truly be launched onto the world stage.

Iron Void was originally formed by Jonathan “Sealey” Seale and Andy Whittaker (Solstice, The Lamp of Thoth) in 1998 in order to create an old-school doom metal band, worshiping at the altar of doom legends such as Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, etc. The band reformed in 2008, with the current lineup consisting of Jonathan “Sealey” Seale (bass & vocals), Steve Wilson (guitars & vocals), and Richard Maw (drums).

Iron Void’s debut EP, Spell of Ruin, was originally released on CD in 2010 and re-released in 2012 via Doomanoid Records. Their self-titled debut full-length album was released on CD in 2014 via Barbarian Wrath and released on limited-edition vinyl by Fear Me! Music in 2015. The critically acclaimed second album, Doomsday – recorded & produced at Skyhammer Studio by Chris Fielding (Conan, Winterfylleth, Electric Wizard) and mastered by James Plotkin – was released on CD via Doomanoid Records in 2015 and released on limited gatefold vinyl via Fear Me! Music in 2016.

With considerable live action in the past few years as well, and encouraged by the critical acclaim heaped upon Doomsday, Iron Void patiently set to work on Excalibur. Arguably the band’s magnum opus, Excalibur is an epic behemoth of Arthurian legend, emitting an atmosphere that’s truly medieval whilst sacrificing whilst sacrificing none of their trademark DOOMED-OUT heaviness. Here, across the album’s massive yet strangely concise 48 minutes, Iron Void weave old-as-time tales of myth and magic, all set to rumbling, dramatically dynamic doom metal. The album is sequenced together with a subtle sort of mastery, taking the listener on a journey into centuries past, all concluding with the stark ‘n’ stirring acoustic closer “Avalon.” As the final notes ring out, you’ll be reaching for the calendar to check what year it is!

Hear for yourself with the previously revealed track “The Coming of a King” HERE at Shadow Kingdom’s Bandcamp, where the album can also be preordered. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Iron Void’s Excalibur
1. Dragon’s Breath
2. The Coming of a King
3. Lancelot of the Lake
4. Forbidden Love
5. Enemy Within
6. The Grail Quest
7. A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others
8. The Death of Arthur
9. Avalon

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www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
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Iron Void, “The Coming of a King”

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Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back: Gnashing of Teeth

Posted in Reviews on June 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

orange goblin the wolf bites back

More than two decades on from making their debut in 1997 with Frequencies from Planet Ten, what else to call Orange Goblin but an institution? The Wolf Bites Back is the London four-piece’s ninth album, their first for sort-of-new label Spinefarm/Candlelight Records (they were on the latter, it got taken over by the former, voila: new label), and it comes after a four-year drought of studio work since the release of 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here), which only continued to raise their profile following the 2013 live record A Eulogy for the Fans (review here) and the preceding long-player it was intended to complement, A Eulogy for the Damned (review here). Most of that time the band spent on tour, so it’s not like they’ve been sitting around actively not recording an album or something like that. They’ve been otherwise occupied, and with the sheer sense of attack that’s present in the songs that comprise The Wolf Bites Back — to say nothing of the aggressive mindset of the title or the threatening nature of the artwork — one could only argue it’s been to their benefit. In its bullshit-free 10-track/41-minute run, The Wolf Bites Back summarizes much of what’s always been righteous in Orange Goblin‘s sound.

It covers nearly every side of the band’s approach, from the Sunlight Studios-infected doom rock of “Swords of Fire” to the crisp, three-minute opening anthem “Sons of Salem” to the Motörhead speed-strut of “Renegade” and down to the last hook and long-fading solo of closer “Zeitgeist,” The Wolf Bites Back finds the band going song-by-song through the varying stylistic aspects of their own particular style, from all-out fury to dug-in groove and back again. They enter direct Southern-heavy conversation with (upcoming) tourmates Corrosion of Conformity on “The Stranger,” and do so only after the raw punker blast of the two-minute “Suicide Division” scathes and scorches and stomps into the ground the peaceful and psychedelic strumming of the actually-longer layered guitar interlude “In Bocca al Lupo” before it. There’s more reaffirmation happening throughout than breaking new aesthetic ground, but as much as The Wolf Bites Back quantifies the diversity in what Orange Goblin do, it also reminds that it’s the strength of their songwriting that has always tied their work together, and it’s on that level that their ninth full-length sees them refining their take.

Not that it doesn’t have its patient stretches or its purposefully languid moments, but frontman Ben Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner have been playing together since at least 1995, and in the musical conversation happening between them, they sound like it. Produced with thickness and depth by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Cathedral, Primordial, Paradise Lost, many more) following the sharper, metallic tinge Jamie Dodd brought to the last two outings, The Wolf Bites Back strikes with its efficiency and ferocity alike. “Sons of Salem” is quintessential Orange Goblin, a fist-raising chorus that finds Ward inviting a sing-along without actually asking. They’ve never had trouble knowing how to launch a record, and with the title-track immediately following, there’s a moment of letup in the guitar intro to the second song, but soon enough, Turner starts a tense gallop in the drums and heavier riffing kicks into the first verse and they’re underway. An especially gruff vocal there leads to the more open chorus and “The Wolf Bites Back” makes its way through twists and turns remaining nonetheless memorable all the way.

ORANGE GOBLIN DAVID BOULONGNE

The aforementioned “Renegade” follows and pushes the throttle to the fullest it’s gone yet — “Suicide Division” will top it for sheer speed — and Millard‘s bass opening leading the way into the subsequent “Swords of Fire” not only reconfirms his place as Orange Goblin‘s not-so-secret-secret-weapon, but also sets a doomier tone to the track itself, as Ward waits until the song is more than halfway over to start the vocals, everything dropping out for a moment as Hoare quickly establishes a faster riff and the band shift into a more thrusting progression. Highlight cut “Ghosts of the Primitives,” with an immediate groove and intricate guitar style, pushes into a more standard riff soon enough but never quite loses its proggy edge, even as Hoare dips into a bluesy solo backed by Millard and Turner. Messing with structure and expectation, the real hook doesn’t arrive until shortly before four minutes into the total 5:28, and Orange Goblin earn bonus points in charm for the meta fade-out-and-back-in-and-out-again that accompanies the line “Ghosts of the primitives fade away.” You see, because he’s talking about fading and the song faded out. Sometimes nothing else will do, and though one assumes it wraps side A, it’s to the band’s credit that “Ghosts of the Primitives” doesn’t close the album as a whole, as that’s usually where such tricky fades happen.

A swath of strums and leads in “In Bocca al Lupo” — the underlying rhythm of which would seem to coincidentally call to mind Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” — introduce side B before, again, “Suicide Division” rip them to shreds, gang vocals and all. That stretch of three tracks, with “In Bocca al Lupo,” “Suicide Division” and “The Stranger,” is as disjointed as The Wolf Bites Back gets, hopping between three different styles in the span of three songs and about 10 minutes total, throwing caution and continuity to the wind and trusting — rightly — that their craft will carry them through. It’s not the kind of move a band would make earlier in their career, but for longtime Orange Goblin fans, the instant swapping out of one side of their personality for another (and another) is an easy jump to make, and frankly, it makes the album more exciting since they actually pull it off. By the time the chorus of “The Stranger” hits, and really before that, they’ve succeeded in the shift, and the arrival of organ in the song’s second half is like a victory lap for the turn just made. A psycho shuffle in “Burn the Ships” brings The Wolf Bites Back back to ground stylistically, returning to the core straightforward approach of the opening duo early while saving a Pepper Keenan-style vocal for the midsection to provide a bit more context to “The Stranger” before it and saving its most vicious groove for the return to the chorus near the more winding finish.

With its long fade-in at the outset, “Zeitgeist” seems to be of a kind with “Ghosts of the Primitives,” which is fair enough since it wraps side B and thus the album as a whole, with Ward adding some echo behind a quick bridge following the first chorus and Hoare layering solos over top each other give a particular NWOBHM affect as the organ subtly returns beneath. A second stage lead takes hold just past the halfway mark, leading back to the hook and bridge, the latter repeated, and as the line “The search goes on and on…” echoes out, HoareMillard and Turner lock in for the last dive into the fadeout, the latter two holding together the rhythm as Hoare solos over top. The ending is as clean and purposeful as everything before it, and in addition to answering back the side A finale, it speaks one more time to the fact that all along throughout The Wolf Bites Back, it’s been the songwriting holding the album together. One doesn’t doubt that Orange Goblin could write a sloppier record and probably nail some of the turns they do here in terms of style, but the fact that they not only do what they do, but do it and maintain a full-album flow, present a collection of memorable tracks and still manage to sound like their mission is nothing more or less than kicking every ass in sight, well, that’s why Orange Goblin are Orange Goblin. Over their years, their influence has justifiably spread to a generation of London heavy rockers, and The Wolf Bites Back is the latest manifestation of why that is. In its energy, persona and vibe, as well as in its basic sound, The Wolf Bites Back shows Orange Goblin at the top of their game.

Orange Goblin, “Sons of Salem”

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Corrosion of Conformity Announce UK Tour with Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry and Black Moth

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Can you frickin’ imagine C.O.C. and Orange Goblin on the same bill? I’m sorry, but that’s just awesome. Both will be supporting new records — for Corrosion of Conformity, it’s earlier-this-year’s No Cross No Crown (review here), and for Orange Goblin, the impending The Wolf Bites Back (review later this week) — and with support from Fireball Ministry, lest we forget their own new album, Remember the Story (review here), which came out toward the end of 2017 — and Black Moth, the proceedings are all the more righteous for those who’ll be fortunate enough to witness them.

As fate and clever timing would have it, C.O.C. were in the UK this weekend playing Download and they’ve got another date in Colchester tonight ahead of hitting mainland Europe tomorrow to begin a tour that includes a couple dates meeting up with Converge and a stop at Hellfest. This of course will lead to the next tour, which is another run with Black Label Society in the States following up on the one at the start of the year. That’s in July/August, then in Oct./Nov. it’s back to the UK for the aforementioned excellence alongside Orange Goblin et al. It’s been a busy year for these dudes, especially as they’ve been largely without drummer Reed Mullin, who’s been unable to tour with the band following knee surgery and is, as of the last social media post on the subject, understandably anxious to return.

The PR wire brings the latest, but really, the point here is go see C.O.C. You have the means, motive and opportunity, so make it happen:

corrosion of conformity photo by Dean Karr

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY To Kick Off European Tour This Weekend; Band Confirms Fall UK Dates + Second Leg Of North American Tour With Black Label Society And Eyehategod Nears

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will return to Europe this weekend for a stretch of live dates set to commence June 9th and run through June 24th. The journey includes special performances with Converge as well as appearances at Download, Hellfest, Copenhell, and Graspop. In July, the band will return to North American stages to kick off the second leg of their tour supporting Black Label Society. Slated to begin July 15th, the tour will make its way through nearly two dozen cities upon its conclusion on August 11th. Additional support will again be provided by Eyehategod. CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will close their summer live takeover with a performance at Loud And Heavy Fest in Fort Worth Texas sharing the stages with the likes of Cody Jinks and Whiskey Myers! In October, the band will take on an eight-date UK headlining tour with Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry, and Black Moth. See all confirmed dates below.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY continues to tour in support of their critically lauded No Cross No Crown full-length, released earlier this year via Nuclear Blast Entertainment. Captured in North Carolina with longtime producer John Custer, the record marks the first studio recording with vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan in over a decade and, earning the #67 spot on the Billboard Top 200 Chart, #12 on the Billboard Top Current Albums Chart, and #3 on the Top Hard Music Albums Chart upon its first week of release, is the highest charting album of the band’s career.

No Cross No Crown is available on CD, digital, vinyl, and cassette formats. Various order bundles are available at nuclearblast.com/coc-nocrossnocrown.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY:
6/09/2018 Download – Donnington Park, UK
6/11/2018 Colchester Arts Centre – Colchester, UK
6/12/2018 FortaRock – Nijmegen, NL
6/13/2018 Den Atelier – Luxembourg, LU
6/14/2018 Universum – Stuttgart, DE
6/16/2018 Konzertfabrik Z7 – Pratteln, CH
6/17/2018 Santeria Social Club – Milan, IT
6/18/2018 Orion – Rome, IT w/ Converge
6/19/2018 VAZ Hafen – Innsbruck, AU w/ Converge
6/20/2018 La Belle Electrique – Grenoble, FR w/ Converge
6/22/2018 Hellfest – Clisson, FR
6/23/2018 Copenhell – København, DK
6/24/2018 Graspop – Dessel, BE

w/ Black Label Society, Eyehategod:
7/15/2018 Inkcarceration Music Festival @ Ohio State Reformatory – Mansfield, OH *
7/16/2018 Monarch Music Hall – Peoria, IA *
7/17/2018 The Forge – Joliet, IL *
7/18/2018 20 Monroe Live – Grand Rapids, MI
7/20/2018 Bourbon Theatre – Lincoln, NE
7/21/2018 Diamond Ballroom – Oklahoma City, OK
7/22/2018 Cotillion Ballroom – Wichita, KS
7/23/2018 The District – Sioux Falls, SD
7/25/2018 The Clyde Theatre – Wayne, IN
7/27/2018 Si Hall At The Fairgrounds – Syracuse, NY
7/28/2018 Impact Music Festival – Bangor, ME
7/29/2018 The Webster – Hartford, CT*
7/30/2018 The Queen – Wilmington, DE
8/01/2018 The Mill & Mine – Knoxville, TN
8/02/2018 The Fillmore Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
8/03/2018 Phase 2 – Lynchburg, VA
8/05/2018 The Norva – Norfolk, VA
8/07/2018 Rebel – Toronto, ON
8/08/2018 Metlus – Montreal, QC
8/09/2018 Sherman Theater – Stroudsburg, PA
8/10/2018 Paramount – Huntington, NY
8/11/2018 Starland Ballroom – Sayreville, NJ
8/18/2018 Loud And Heavy Fest @ Panther Island Pavilion – Fort Worth, TX w/ Cody Jinks, Whiskey Myers

w/ Orange Goblin, Fireball Ministry, Black Moth:
10/26/2018 Engine Rooms – Southampton, UK
10/27/2018 02 Institute – Birmingham, UK
10/28/2018 Rock City – Nottingham, UK
10/30/2018 Ritz – Manchester, UK
11/01/2018 02 ABC- Glasgow, UK
11/02/2018 Plug – Sheffield, UK
11/03/2018 The Great Hall – Lardiff, UK
11/04/2018 02 Forum Kentish Town – London, UK
* No Eyehategod

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY is:
Pepper Keenan – vocals, guitar
Woodroe Weatherman – guitar
Mike Dean – bass, vocals
Reed Mullin – drums, vocals

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Corrosion of Conformity, “The Luddite” official video

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Thronehammer Post Teaser for Upcoming Split with Lord of Solitude

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

thronehammer

Good news for the doomed. No, you’re still doomed — as we all are — but guitarist Stuart “Bootsy” West, formerly of the woefully-under-reviewed-by-me-but-nonetheless-righteous Obelyskkh, has unveiled the first snippet of audio from his new project, Thronehammer. The song is called “Hammer, Stake and Cross,” and it comes from a split 10″ with New Zealand’s Lord of Solitude soon to be released by the ultra-trustworthy The Church Within Records.

Naturally, they don’t give a ton to go on — it’s a teaser! — but in the sampling of “Hammer, Stake and Cross,” the swaying riffs and massive tones West and bassist Tim Schmidt emit over top of a nodding groove. There’s a fist-raising sense of classic doom to the proceedings, to be sure, but something in “Hammer, Stake and Cross” seems to have a wider berth as well. Its echo gives a sense of something broader and almost psychedelic beneath. And since it was put to tape, West and Schmidt have filled out the complete lineup for the band, with vocalist Kat “Shevil” Gillham and drummer Olli “The Sludgist, so it seems like whatever they do next will invariably be a step forward from here.

Even so, how this recording of their basic formative moments will manifest in, you know, the whole song, I’ve no idea, let alone how it might factor into anything Thronehammer might have in store following their split with Lord of Solitude. Still, the release of their first public audio is an occasion worth marking, and as I hear more about what seems to be called Vampire Bites Vol. 1 in perhaps an ongoing series from The Church Within, I’ll surely keep you posted.

In the meantime, dig it:

Teaser for our first musical output. “Hammer, Stake and Cross” will appear on a 10″ split EP (w Lord of Solitude) via Church Within Records. take a bite. . .have a listen. . .taste the blood!!!

Caveman Ultradoom Feat. Members of Ex-Obelyskkh, Seamount, Naked Star, Blessed Realm (UK), Uncoffined (UK), Winds Of Genocide (UK), Grimwolv, Scythian Fall

Thronehammer is:
Kat Shevil Gillham – Vokills
Stuart Bootsy West – Guitars | Synth | Fx
Tim Schmidt – Bass
O))i “the Sludgist” – Drums

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Nomad, Feral

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

nomad feral

[Click play above to stream Nomad’s Feral in full. Album is out May 31 on APF Records.]

Britain has become a sludge factory. Seems like every time one turns around, there’s another disgruntled collective shouting, screaming, riffing and crashing out their frustrations in an onslaught of raw, downtuned chug. Manchester’s Nomad, who release their debut album Feral through APF Records — which has boldly taken it upon itself to corral an increasing amount of the national scene — have been around since 2013 and precede their first record with a 2014 EP, The House is Dead, and a 2015 split with Wort. A straightforward guitar, bass, drums, vocals four-piece, their focus on the seven-track/42-minute Feral seems to be on honing as pure a pummel as possible, and they do so via a decidedly New Orleans-tinged sludge, with vocalist Drian Nash reminding of Kirk Windstein in his shoutier moments, and the riffs of Lewis Atkinson calling to mind the earliest days of sludge metal as it veered from the unhinged slowed-down hardcore punk of Eyehategod and became the more cohesive, songwriting-centered output of Crowbar.

The rhythm section of bassist John Carberry and drummer Hayley McIntyre are, naturally, responsible for the foundation on which this aural homage takes place, and do well anchoring and rolling songs like “Swarm,” which take the ferocity of eight-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Curse of the Sun” and the subsequent title-track and push it in a bluesier, lead-topped direction. Though both their moniker and the album’s title evoke a sense of something wild, Nomad themselves are never out of control, and as they blend punk, metal, hardcore and doom on 2:53 centerpiece “The War is Never Over” — chugging mosh-part and all — they present their most intense moment with no less poise than anything preceding or following.

That’s not to say Nomad are staid by any measure, only that they know what they’re doing from the opening hum and fading up toms of “Curse of the Sun” through the long fadeout of the finishing riff to closer “Shallow Fate,” which even brings back — briefly — that same hum that opened the album. And they know which side of the genre they want to play to. Is ‘classic sludge metal’ a thing yet? If not, Feral makes an argument that maybe it should be. Of course, it has its varying sides and modes of expression — “Culture of Ruin” opens with a lightly strummed acoustic guitar to set the mood before moving into its full tonality, etc. — but the root of what they’re doing, and specifically in Atkinson‘s guitar tone, is that early/mid-’90s sludge metal, which is given an even angrier sensibility by Nash‘s vocals moving smoothly between gruff shouts and harsher screams.

nomad

There are moments — the riff that emerges in “Culture of Ruin” just past the halfway point, or the huge wash of crash about six minutes into “Curse of the Sun” before the staccato chugging takes hold — where Nomad give a sense of how they might progress from their debut and what they might bring to their sound over the longer term, but as a statement of who they are, Feral is less wild than it is cohesive in its presentation — which, of course, only works to its advantage. To wit, as the tracklisting plays out, the band moves between longer and shorter songs, alternating one then the other to effectively keep the listener off balance and to highlight the subtle diversity in their presentation and the fluidity with which they execute the structures of their songs. The end effect is to give Feral some of the madness its title brings to mind, even though it’s clear that NashAtkinsonCarberry and McIntyre are actively, consciously steering the material as they go.

In some cases, that might lessen the impact. It doesn’t here, because ultimately it’s a part of the aesthetic. Some early sludgers might have been out of control, but Crowbar never were, and as they’re a chief influence, it’s only fair that Nomad shouldn’t be either. The chugging slam of “The War is Never Over,” the bassline underscoring the title-track, the groove and build of “Shallow Fate” — all of these things arrive with a sense of purpose that makes the overarching listening experience of the album feel focused and all the more intense for the mindfulness at work behind it. These songs didn’t just happen; they were built. As a uniting factor, that purposeful delivery has as much to do with making the album work as the consistency of tone or mood, and in thinking ahead to what Nomad might do over the longer term, it’s among the most encouraging aspects of Feral, which may not ultimately be running wild and completely out of its mind, but certainly gnashes its teeth all the same in a manner that can only help them distinguish themselves from the UK’s crowded sludge underground.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Alpha Centauri Continuum

[Click play above to stream Continuum by Sons of Alpha Centauri in full. Album is out June 1 via H42 Records and Cobraside Distribution.]

Much as one hesitates to use the word ‘unique’ generally, I can’t think of anything quite so fitting to describe the path that’s led UK instrumental four-piece Sons of Alpha Centauri to Continuum, their second album. Released through Cobraside Distribution in the US and Canada and H42 Records in the rest of the world, the eight-track/39-minute sophomore offering — the sophmoffering? — arrives some 11 years after Sons of Alpha Centauri made their self-titled debut (discussed here) and follows a period of multiple collaborations with US-based acts Karma to Burn and Yawning Man — I still regard Yawning Sons‘ 2009 album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), as one of the finest atmospheric desert rock albums ever made — as well as splits with A Death Cinematic and Hotel Wrecking City Traders/WaterWays (review here). They also played Desertfest London in 2013 (review here) and have regularly played out, so as I’ve said before, it’s not like the four-piece have been sitting on their ass for the last decade plus.

They just haven’t been putting out Continuum, which is something that guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, drummer Stevie B. and keyboardist/synthesist Blake — actually credited with “textures” — at last correct, bringing together a slow motion whirlwind of patient and progressive instrumentalist execution under the direction of producer/mixer Aaron Harris, formerly of Isis. In returning to work in the context of a full-length, Sons of Alpha Centauri don’t see unaffected by how they spent their intervening years, and one can hear the reach of Gary Arce‘s desert-setting guitar tone from King on “Interstellar” and the A-to-B straightforward heavy rock of Karma to Burn on “Solar Storm” and intermittently early on in 11-minute closer “Return Voyage.” The missing link, then, would seem to be Isis, but with Blake‘s textures on keys, synth, loops and presumably somewhere in there a laptop permeating so much of the record and giving King time to breathe on guitar, there’s plenty of post-metal vibe as well.

Sons of Alpha Centauri, then, would seem to draw from the environments in which they place themselves, and that’s kind of the ideal purpose of collaboration in the first place. More importantly, they sound comfortable shifting the balance from one side to the other and the other, which gives Continuum an all the more multifaceted style. At the same time, there’s a marked sense of momentum that takes hold as intro/opener “Into the Abyss” patiently takes hold, part Vangelis, part Isis, leading directly into the starting drum roll of the subsequent “Jupiter,” which in turn will give over to the more straightforward “Solar Storm.” Even here, the fuzzy, careening central “verse” riff is backed by a consistent layer of synth — not quite a drone, but an ever-present ambient melody — that fills out the sound and adds to the proceedings what the band are ultimately right to call texture.

Sons of Alpha Centauri

There are many ways an instrumental band compensates for a lack of vocals. Lead guitar is one. Not compensating at all has arguably worked for Karma to Burn since, well, since they nixed the idea of a vocalist after their first record. Some others fill out arrangements with varying instrumentation. Sons of Alpha Centauri‘s approach, I suppose, is most like the latter, but the four-piece are more subtle about it than many. Blake‘s work on Continuum might be the factor that ties the tracks’ varying moods together, from the side A intro “Into the Abyss” to the side B intro “Surfacing for Air” and all along as each half of the record that unfurls from there, he enhances the ambience of “Interstellar” and brings progressive flair to “Jupiter” and “Solar Storm” at the record’s heavier post-intro outset. Though even this portion of the record is fairy dynamic, as King leads the way through loud/quiet tradeoffs in “Jupiter” that seem to mirror what will unfold on a grander scale with “Return Voyage” at the end of the record. They’re not quite going back the way they came, but one can read some symmetry there anyhow.

And it’s worth noting that the balance of Continuum, which takes its audience on this journey to Jupiter that the band seems to be making, is on the outward. “Return Voyage,” as the final statement they offer, certainly has its impact and fittingly provides a musical summary to coincide with being the final chapter of the narrative, but with one song about getting back to earth and seven about leaving or having left — the penultimate 2:47 piano piece “Orbiting Jupiter” is about having arrived — there’s little question as to which direction is the band’s priority when it comes to evoking a sense of story. Sons of Alpha Centauri are about the going and having gone. And the results of that, while grounded in their structure and presentation thanks to the foundation of Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drumming, are more directed than your standard everything-hang-loose psychedelia, space is obviously still a factor sonically as well as thematically. The final build in “Return Voyage” as it crosses its midpoint might be the most Isis-reminiscent moment on Continuum, but like the rest of their discernible influences, this too is recontextualized in a sound that is the band’s own.

As, frankly, one would hope for a record having been a decade-plus in the making. I won’t say Sons of Alpha Centauri wasted their years, because they’ve clearly been able to enrich their own style by collaborating with those outside the confines of their own lineup. Rather, the fact that Continuum is their second full-length is somewhat deceptive given all the experience and sense of purpose they’ve been able to garner since their debut, which even then had a fervent progressive streak at its foundation. What Continuum represents, though, is significant growth on multiple fronts for the band, and an awaited moment of declaration of who they are and who they can be in aesthetic and performance terms. Will it be another decade before album number three? I don’t know, but if it is, it will still be worth keeping track of how and with whom Sons of Alpha Centauri choose to spend that time, since invariably they’ll continue to learn lessons that will feed into their own work later. That process has unquestionably worked to their advantage here.

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Continuum teaser

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Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction: By the River, by the Road

Posted in Reviews on May 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

church of the cosmic skull science fiction

‘Come, Worship!’ says the sign outside the Church of the Cosmic Skull. Or at least it would if they were a building and not a band. Still, the invitation is there, and the Nottingham, UK, seven-piece — who made their debut in 2016 with the excellent and continually striking Is Satan Real? (review here), could hardly make the prospect sound more exciting than they do on their second LP for Kozmik Artifactz (tape out on Septaphonic Records), the nine-track/41-minute Science Fiction. From the hat-tip to Queen in the opening title-track and the hymnal vibe in second cut “Go by the River” to the unbridled gospel bliss of “Revolution Comes with an Act of Love” and the later bluesy stretch of “The Cards that You’re Playing,” Church of the Cosmic Skull evoke a fitting sense of worship through their harmonies, classically progressive tones, synths, etc., and when it comes down to what exactly is being worshiped, as close as I can tell, it’s joy. Pure joy worship.

Each song approaches it from a slightly different angle, from the slow serenity of centerpiece “The Others” through the quick but subtle enough to make it a highlight linear build of closer “The Devil Again,” but much as the distinct sonic elements of brazen vocal harmonies, electric cello and keys and synth run along with the standard guitar, bass and drums, so too does joy seem to be the underlying theme of Science Fiction, and its expression throughout is nothing short of revelry. Led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer “Brother” Bill Fisher, Church of the Cosmic Skull features the congregational lineup of vocalists Sister Caroline Cawley and Sister Joanne Joyce bassist/vocalist Brother Samuel Lloyd, cellist/vocalist Sister Amy Nicholson, keyboardist/vocalist Brother Michael Wetherburn and drummer Brother Laurence Stone, and while like any drug, joy can be dangerous in leading to a loss of control, the band keeps a firm control on the meter and direction of their output across the entire record.

They do so via songwriting, and under the direction of Fisher — whom one hesitates to call auteur when he’s surrounded by the contributions of so many others, but seems to be running the show in any case — they proffer memorable verses and choruses and while the organ-soaked “Paper Aeroplane and Silver Moon” ranges past the six-minute mark, it’s impossible to ignore how tight in performance and structure songs like “Go by the River” and “Timehole (Gonna Build a Rocket)” are. Church of the Cosmic Skull embraced a pop influence on their debut as well, but like the rest of their approach, that too has taken a step forward here, and with driving moments like the cultish galloping riff of the aforementioned longest track, there’s a diversity in sound enough not only to make Science Fiction flow from front to back, but to give each song an opportunity to stand out on its own as well. In that way, it’s all the more fair to think of it as a classic-style long-player in how it’s put together, since its ordering was clearly thought out to maximize both the whole listening experience and the impact of each piece. To be blunt, it worked, and Church of the Cosmic Skull sound all the more accomplished for it. Their arrangements are more complex and their harmonies all the more gorgeous, but there’s still the root of a verse/chorus approach beneath that does not lessen their accessibility factor at all.

church-of-the-cosmic-skull

Like I said at the outset, there’s an invitation being made here, and if the band presents a kind of manifesto anywhere on Science Fiction, I’d say the best summary of their perspective overall arrives in “Revolution Comes with an Act of Love,” which departs from the devilish cultism of the debut — it’s not by any means fully gone; see “The Devil Again” at the album’s finish — but this time through it’s more about the wholeness of spirit itself rather than how it comes about. At least that’s how it reads on listening. There are moments of unashamed fun — again, “Timehole (Gonna Build a Rocket Tonight)” — and more melancholy exercises like “The Cards that You’re Playing” and “The Devil Again,” and “Cold Sweat” is a highlight for taking a Thin Lizzy-style swaggering rhythm and pushing it into a choral realm, but apart from the gleefulness of the atmosphere throughout, what’s striking about Science Fiction is the increasing breadth of the band’s craft and the fact that they can make their songs do all these different things while still retaining a consistent and distinct sound.

With the conceit of religiosity as a factor, Church of the Cosmic Skull nonetheless allow themselves to push beyond novelty. They wear white on stage. They call themselves “Brother” and “Sister.” They’re just as likely to reference ’70s rock as timeless spirituals. Yet with the quality of their output, these things become less like a gimmick and more part of the overarching aesthetic statement. In a frenzied multimedia world, Church of the Cosmic Skull offer an experience about more than just the music, however central that still remains. And in that frenzied world, as with any church, they offer a chance to step outside of oneself and glimpse something grander, even if it’s a purely human realization, rather than one based on dogma or other arbitrary facets.

Ultimately, Science Fiction, while its name evokes images of space rock and visions of futures bright or dark, finds its tie to the genre more through the creation of its own world even than that rocket that it’s gonna build tonight. It finds Church of the Cosmic Skull thoughtful in their composition and delivery, patient in their expression but still exciting to hear, and boldly manifesting the joy they seem to be worshiping throughout. They have been and remain a special band, and with the forward drive they show here, it feels like their growth will only continue as their good word spreads. Rejoice — as in, be made joyful again and celebrate. The invite is right there waiting to be answered, and the congregation is ready to receive any wayward comers ready to bask in the new sunlight.

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Glanville Post “Dancing on Fire” Live Clip from EP Release Show

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

glanville (Photo by Jo Henker)

On April 14, Glanville played the release show for their debut EP, First Blood, in Darmstadt, Germany, from whence frontman René Hofmann hails. Hofmann is of course best known for his guitarist/vocalist role in the ever-evolving Wight, and that band’s bassist, Peter-Philipp Schierhorn, also features in the new group, along with lead guitarist Philipp Michel (The Earwix) and rhythm guitarist Chris West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb) and drummer Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire), comprising an experienced lineup with a definite mission in mind to bask in the glories of the metal of yore. As the title line is delivered in the live clip below for “Dancing on Fire,” if your mind doesn’t readily link to “Living After Midnight,” well, it should.

First Blood, which is out via Fat & Holy Records, brings that mission to life in ready fashion, but still carries an unmistakable current of heavy rock as well. It can be heard in the riffs of the prior video clip for “God is Dead” as well as in “Dancing on Fire” as the band seems to find a balance drawing from ’70s groove and ’80s NWOBHM-style soloing, not entirely dissimilar in the basic math from Chicago’s Bible of the Devil — yes, that’s a compliment — though Hofmann‘s soaring vocals are a distinguishing factor. As Wight moved from heavy psychedelia toward funkier jams, his voice showed likewise progression in confidence and range, and in Glanville he seems to take another step forward as a standalone guitar-less frontman.

And for being a new group if one comprised of veteran players, the band shows itself as being remarkably tight behind him. The dual-leads and gallop in the bridge parts are noteworthy, but even in the shifts from verses to the chorus, there’s a smoothness that, along with the tonality, is perhaps the element most drawn from heavy rock. There isn’t a rough transition. Even live, “Dancing on Fire” is aware of its flow and how crucial it is to maintain it. The vibe is right on, and as much as the grainy visual aesthetic of the “God is Dead” clip — which you can see at the bottom of this post, because one likes to be thorough — tells the story, I think the live show maybe even one-ups it in giving a representation of what Glanville are all about.

Check it out below, followed by more info about the EP and the five-piece’s sundry vices, and enjoy:

Glanville, “Dancing on Fire” live in Darmstadt

Glanville performing “Dancing On Fire” live at Oetinger Villa Darmstadt April 14th 2018.

Glanville was formed by childhood friends Philipp Michel (Jack Daniels) and René Hofmann (Marijuana) who wrote 5 great heavy metal songs and decided they needed to be played by a real band. Hofmann, who previously played guitar, had this to say about the experience:

“As an unsuccessful guitarist screaming and complaining all the time about my playing, I found out that my my tongue works better than my fingers so I became a singer. Finding the right musicians for the band was hard. It took over a year… like diggin’ in the bargain bin and only finding the leftover bruised apples“.

The lineup is completed by bass player Peter-Philipp Schierhorn (Cocaine), rhythm guitar player Chris West (Cheeseburgers) and Thomas Hoffmann (Heroin) on drums. Bass player extraordinaire Schierhorn describes joining the fast-paced band:

“Having grown up on a strict diet of Judas Priest, I just had to hop on board. But now my right hand constantly hurts.”

Get their EP “First Blood” digital:
Amazon – https://amzn.to/2rPHrCM
iTunes – https://apple.co/2rOFoiX
Spotify – https://spoti.fi/2KzUYGn
Apple Music – https://apple.co/2rOFoiX

CD and LP: https://fatandholy.bigcartel.com

Audio recorded by Matze Wörnle.
Mixed and mastered by René Hofmann.
Camera by Gabriel Sahm, Johanna Amberg, Jonas Eichhorn.
Edited by Johanna Amberg.
Color Grading by Gabriel Sahm.

Glanville is:
René Hofmann (vocals)
Philipp Michel (lead guitar)
Peter-Philipp Schierhorn (bass)
Thomas Hoffmann (drums)
Chris West (rhythm guitar)

Glanville, “God is Dead” official video

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Glanville website

Fat & Holy Records webstore

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