Morag Tong to Release Last Knell of Om May 18; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

morag tong photo isha shah

Through mostly longer-form pieces, London psychedoomic four-piece Morag Tong make their full-length debut with Last Knell of Om on May 18. Though they’re almost certainly aware of them, the title doesn’t seem to actually be a reference to the band Om, whose last knell has hopefully not been heard, and perhaps refers more to the end of a meditative state, something springing to action, say, as a band might on their first album.

But that’s me, and I almost always assume titles are self-referential on the part of the band in question, when they almost never are. So it goes. More importantly, Morag Tong have a new song streaming from Last Knell of Om called “We Answer” and it’s eight minutes of riffy murk that’s a lot of fun to get all turned around within. You can have at it at the bottom of this post.

And hey, while you’re there, why not check out some info from the PR wire, eh? Here it is:

morag tong the last knell of om

Psychedelic doom newcomers MORAG TONG announce debut LP ‘Last Knell of Om’ (May 18)

Psychedelic doom has a new voice in newcomers MORAG TONG, who are proud to announce their debut LP Last Knell of Om, to be released May 18.

To coincide with the news, the band have streamed lead track ‘We Answer’.

Unquestionably odd and instantly lovable, Last Knell of Om is ostensibly a stoner doom album but at heart an anti-doom record, the sounds of the genre taken to the nth degree. Slow, expansive, spacious sonorities meet a shared passion for musical experimentalism driven by a vocalist-drummer and a wall-of-sound approach.

Recorded in a studio at the top of a hill just south of London, Om contains the very minute traces of pick-up from the chart-topping Capital FM station. Similarly, opening track ‘Transmission’ begins and ends with recordings of birdsong – a link to lead track ‘We Answer’.

Although not strictly a concept album, there is an impressive level of cohesion to Morag Tong’s Last Knell of Om. Heavily DIY, Morag Tong embarked on March tours with Tuskar and Sail, and put on their own mini-festival called The Local Fuzz. The band have played alongside Slabdragger, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Earthmass, Monolithian, and more.

Watch the band live:
27th Apr – Plymouth, Underground
28th Apr – Tiverton, White Horse Inn
16th May – London, Black Heart [Album Launch w/ Elephant Tree, Wychhound]

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Mane of the Cur, Retreat of the Glaciers: Time Uncovered

Posted in Reviews on April 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mane of the Cur Retreat of the Glaciers

Somewhere along the line, Portland, Oregon’s Mane of the Cur decided to open their debut full-length, Retreat of the Glaciers, with its eight-minute instrumental title-track. It would be hyperbole to say this made all the difference in the general impression the vinyl-ready eight-song/45-minute record makes, but it certainly goes a long way in establishing a progressive context for even the most straightforward of the material that follows. It was the bold choice, and the right one. “Retreat of the Glaciers” wouldn’t have worked anywhere else, and while its side-B-opening counterpart “9 Lives” — also the longest inclusion at 8:49 — unveils Melynda Marie Amann‘s vocals within its first 30 seconds, the fact that almost 20 percent of the album’s runtime is gone before she arrives on second track “Uncovering Time” gives all the more of a landmark feel to that arrival.

Comprised of Amann, guitarist Shawn Mentzer, bassist Cory DeCaire, keyboardist/cover artist Nate Baisch and drummer Blaine Burnham, Mane of the Cur have roots in the Portland heavy underground going back even beyond the band’s founding in 2012 — their last release was 2015’s Three of Cups EP (review here) — and accordingly, while Retreat of the Glaciers feels like a debut in the potential it shows and some of the turns it makes especially later in its going, the more pervasive sense is that this is an experienced band making conscious decisions about how they want to be perceived in terms of style and songwriting.

The opening title-track — so close at 8:40 to earning those immediate points for also being the longest song — plays a big role in that, and while it’s the kind of dogwhistle that a given listener might not even perceive consciously, more consumed perhaps by the languidly rolling groove, the inclusion of flute (or flute sounds) and the classic rocking, almost pastoral guitar triumph that emerges near the halfway point and carries through to a return of heavier riffing and an eventual keyboard-led finish, the message comes through clearly one way or the other.

Retreat of the Glaciers was recorded and mixed by Eric Leavell at Husk Recording and mastered by Justin Weis at Trakworx Studio, and its presentation is clear but not necessarily unnatural. There are moments, as on “1,000 Years,” when some of the forward-pushing riffing calls to mind fellow Portlanders Young Hunter, but the spirit behind what Mane of the Cur are exploring is different and their sound is their own. Amann, absent entirely from the opener, ends up playing a significant role in standing out the individuality of the band. Her vocals are melodic and soulful, and whether it’s a straightforward verse/chorus rocker like second track “Uncovering Time,” which launches right away into its first lyrics, or “9 Lives,” which reminds of the spaciousness Ancestors brought to their brilliant In Dreams and Time LP, or the harmonies put atop the penultimate “1 Bullet,” which holds forth a more thoroughly doomed progression and pace until its chugging payoff in bridge in the final third, where a solo might otherwise be, she holds a commanding presence within complex material, providing an element to ground the listening experience without sacrificing any of the underlying complexity of the arrangements between the keys and guitar, the guitar and the guitar, the bass and drums, the drums and keys, etc.

mane of the cur logo

While crisply presented, these intertwinings all come together to form the complete picture Mane of the Cur seem to want to evoke with Retreat of the Glaciers: something classic in style, modern in presentation, and forward-thinking in its construction. That they ultimately reach those individual goals while also creating a full-album flow between the eight individual tracks and two intended vinyl sides is what makes their debut a success. That and the fact that it rocks, anyway. But it also rocks while feeling like a complete idea — which is to say, there doesn’t seem to be a missing element from the listening experience. Perhaps Mane of the Cur have realized the aesthetic that Three of Cups and the preceding Wild Hunt EP were moving toward. If so, Retreat of the Glaciers is all the more a victory for them.

That’s not to say there isn’t still room for growth in their sound, however. It’s been six years since the band got their start and while it took them a while to solidify their lineup, it’s still been three since Three of Cups surfaced. I wouldn’t call Retreat of the Glaciers, even with the accomplishment that is “Reefer Magnus (Lonely Mountain)” or the closing Sabbath-gone-noodling boogie of “White Beard” to its credit, the be-all-end-all of Mane of the Cur‘s potential. Rather, it provides the group a basis from which to expand their sound going forward. Nothing new for debut albums, except perhaps that despite their consistent use of traditional structures, the foundation on which Mane of the Cur have to build feels particularly broad. And I go back again to the decision to open with that instrumental. It’s the kind of brazen, and frankly, brave, thing that most bands toss around in the studio as a joke when they’re putting together the track order and then go with something hookier or more structured.

The signal one gets from Mane of the Cur, both there and across the album as a whole, is that while they definitely have an interest in traditional rock songwriting and structure, they’re not necessarily looking to be limited by them, and that thoughtfulness is what earns them the “progressive” tag in terms of style. It was a while waiting for Retreat of the Glaciers — could’ve been longer; it wasn’t enough time to, say, earn a crappy line about the pace being “glacial” — and I don’t know how long it will be before the band presents a follow-up or what form that might ultimately take, but perhaps the clearest signal they send throughout these eight songs is their desire to step forward creatively, to grow tighter in their dynamic and more sure of who they are as a unit. The key, as for so many progressive heavy rockers, will be staving off and/or finding a balance with self-indulgence, but Mane of the Cur seem to have made an encouraging opening statement in that regard as well.

Mane of the Cur, Retreat of the Glaciers (2018)

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Howling Giant Announce East Coast Tour Dates

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

howling giant

As they prepare to take the stage this August at Psycho Las Vegas, Nashville progressive heavy rockers Howling Giant have announced a round of tour dates for May supporting their 2017 release, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (review here). What was, of course, a sequel to 2016’s Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1 (review here) and also followed 2015 self-titled helped the trio further their case for a more expansive sound. Still reveling in the occasional forward groove and off-kilter moment, the songs showed a growing sense of sonic persona that, contrary to what one might expect, did not make the sequel seem weak in comparison to the original.

Will there be a third installment of Black Hole Space Wizard, and if so, when? How the hell should I know. Why don’t you go to one of these gigs and ask the band yourself? Sheesh.

Tour details from the PR wire:

howling giant tour poster

HOWLING GIANT Hit the Road

Nashville riff-psych trio take their DIY sci-fi heaviness on northeast US tour in May, debut new Pink Floyd homage in advance of release alongside Melvins, Pallbearer, ASG, Mark Lanegan.

This May, Howling Giant heads back on tour in support of their latest self-released record, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2 (August 2017), with stops throughout the northeast and a coveted slot at Psycho Las Vegas to close out the summer.

To launch this run of dates with due fanfare, Howling Giant will preview their futuristic update of early Pink Floyd obscurity Matilda Mother, which Magnetic Eye Records will include as part of its colossal The Wall [Redux] / Best of Pink Floyd release extravaganza that has been building in scope and anticipation since early 2017 and features a range of new scenesters and established heavyweights.

Formed by three self-proclaimed nerds, Howling Giant is a perfect marriage between pulpy sci-fi themes and blistering riff-prog. Fans of Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, early Baroness and Summoner will immediately latch on to Howling Giant’s spaced-out, cosmically-informed songcraft, with lyrics spanning sea voyages to space flight, not to mention androids with a bloodlust for camels (because, again, why not?).

Howling Giant on tour in May:

5.10 – Chicago IL @ Reggies
5.11 – Cincinnati OH @ Cameleon Pizza
5.12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Howler’s
5.13 – Buffalo NY @ Mohawk Place
5.14 – Off
5.15 – TBA
5.16 – Easthampton MA @The Ohm
5.17 – TBA
5.18 – Philadelphia PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
5.19 – York PA @ The Depot
5.20 – Frederick MD @ Guido’s
5.21 – Off
5.22 – Baltimore @ The Depot
5.23 – Washington DC @ Atlas Brew Works
5.24 – Raleigh NC @ Slim’s
5.25 – Wilmington VA @Reggies 42nd Street Tavern
5.26 – Asheville NC @ Sly Grog
August 17-19 – Psycho Last Vegas

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/howlinggiant
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/

Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2 (2017)

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Brond Premiere “Failure” from Debut Album Graveyard Campfire; Preorders up Now; European Tour Announced

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

brond

Intensity takes multiple forms on Brond‘s self-released debut album, Graveyard Camptfire, whether it’s found in higher-speed, hardcore-influenced material like “Impossible Downhill” or the intricacy of the progressive riffing on “Harvest the Sun.” The Sofia, Bulgaria-based four-piece find room to in the eight tracks and 43 minutes to blend elements from grunge on songs like “Failure” with an underlying core of heavy rock and roll, and if anything is clear from the very opening of “Enter Shamari” onward, it’s that they’re free to go wherever they feel the song wants them to go at any point in the process. All four members of the band — guitarists Vili Popov and Petar Peikov, bassist Oleg Shulev and drummer Maksim Stoimenov — contribute vocals, and this adds even more diversity of sound to the proceedings, which the foursome manage to hold together despite the breadth of their approach.

By way of an example, one might consider the seven-minute title-track itself, which moves from an airy opening lead to driving forward motion, a semi-metal thrust that gives waybrond graveyard campfire to one of the record’s most resonant hooks. The push ratchets up shortly on “Voice of the Void,” but this only seems to emphasize how much ground Brond cover along their way. A consistency of craft allows them to tip their hats to modern progressive metal — twisting riffs in a post-Mastodon vein put to their own purposes — and still make a chiefly melodic impression on songs like the aforementioned “Harvest the Sun,” the arrangement of multiple vocalists proving to be yet another strength put to welcome use. Likewise, the clear-headed approach to the production and a resulting crispness in the presentation carries that impression across all the more, and especially for a debut release, Brond sure sound a hell of a lot like they know what they’re doing.

Graveyard Campfire is being given a limited LP and CD pressing and the band will have copies with them as they embark on their European tour at the end of this month. Today I have the pleasure of hosting the premiere of “Failure” ahead of the April 18 release date for the album itself. You’ll find it below, followed by a quote from the band about the track, their upcoming tour dates, and more background.

Please enjoy:

Maksim Stoimenov on “Failure”:

“‘Failure’ comes from a pretty dark place, one of the implications of living with a constant hangover is the feeling of ineptitude to deal with life in general. A feeling that’s becoming more and more prevalent in society with or without “drugs” in our lives. Social media for example, can make you feel as much as a failure as any substance abuse. The song covers the denial, bargaining and acceptance phases after taking a good hard look in mirror after a long night.”

EUROPEAN TOUR 2018 ANNOUNCEMENT

We’re beyond stoked to announce that we will be hitting the road in April/May and we can’t thank enough all of the venues and promoters that helped us organise this endeavour. We will bring as the eternal Mike Watt would say “mersh”, so anyone attending will have the chance to grab one of the limited 100 copies of the LP and CD.

28.04 | PRAGUE | CZ| PANOPTIKON BARIKADA
30.04 | POTSDAM | DE | 2 STEPS DEEPER
01.05 | HAMBURG | DE| GO MOKRY
02.05 | AACHEN | DE | WILD ROVER
04.05 | HEUSDEN | NL | JONOSH
05.05 | LYON | FR | LE FARMER
07.05 | ZÜRICH | CH | EBRIETAS
09.05 | BUDAPEST | HU | ROBOT
10.05 | VIENNA | AT | KRAMLADEN
11.05 | LENDAVA | SL | MANSARDA
13.05 | ZAGREB | CR | Klub Mo?vara
19.05 | BUCHAREST | RO | COBRA FEST 2.0
23.05 | SOFIA | BG | MIXTAPE 5

In 2015 BROND released their debut EP “Feint” through Magnetic EyeRecords (US) with the lyrical themes including running forever, jumping into volcanoes, the social implications of living in a post-communist country, oils spills and humanity’s inherent greed. It was produced by Aaron Harris (ex-ISIS, Palms) and mastered by Maor Appelbaum.

In 2016 BROND started work on “Graveyard Campfire” partly inspired by the political self-immolation cases that took place in 2013 and 2014 in Bulgaria. The album was recorded in Sofia Session Studios by Plamen Penchev. The record was produced by Justin Pizzoferrato who has worked with Elder, Dinosaur Jr. & Thurston Moore. The master was done by James Plotkin.

Brond is:
Maksim Stoimenov – Drums/Vocals
Oleg Shulev- Bass/Vocals
Vili Popov – Guitars/Vocals
Petar Peikov – Guitars/Vocals

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Quarterly Review: Avon, The Discussion, Alms, Vessel of Light, Enojado, Mother Mars, Southfork, Gypsy Sun Revival, Valhalla Lights, L.O.W.

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

This is the part of each Quarterly Review when I begin to question my life choices. Otherwise known as ‘the beginning.’ I still haven’t decided if this is going to be a five-dayer or a six-dayer, but one way or another, between now and whenever it ends, at least 50 records will be reviewed in batches of 10 per day. It’s completely insane. Completely. Every three months or so I remind myself of this by doing it again, and every time it ends up being worth the insanity. I’ve no doubt that will be the case here as well, but looking across the next five days at placeholders where reviews need to be, well, yeah. It’s pretty insane.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Avon, Dave’s Dungeon

avon daves dungeon

Dave’s Dungeon is the second full-length from Californian desert rockers Avon, and with it they make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. Peppered with varied songwriting across alternately garage rocking cuts like “Yello,” “On Fire” and “Red Barn” (video premiere here), languid psychedelic excursions in “Space Native” and the subtly proggy “Hero with a Gun,” and the classic desert crunch of “Dungeon Dave,” “Mace Face” and “Terraformations,” the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist James Childs, bassist Charles Pasarell (also Waxy) and drummer Alfredo Hernández (ex-Kyuss, Yawning Man, etc.) have no doubt garnered attention due to the participation of the latter, but all three manage to leave their mark across the 10 tracks, particularly Childs. His English-accented vocals become a defining element in “Hero with a Gun” and “Yello,” and whether fast or slow, the rhythm section offers air-tight accompaniment. Straightforward in their approach but not without some flourish, Avon bring their own touch to the classic desert style and offer memorable songs in the process. Nobody loses.

Avon on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

The Discussion, European Tour EP

The Discussion European Tour Ep 2017

Issued to coincide with an initial string of Fall 2017 European shows, the aptly-titled Tour EP serves as the debut offering from The Discussion, and its five tracks mark the return of guitarist/vocalist Laura Pleasants, not heard from since the end of her prior outfit, Kylesa. With “A Gesture/Other Side,” Pleasants and company commune with post-rock and atmospheric stretch, where “Like Rain” and “Surf Jesus” channel New Wave and Blondie pop with an underlying heft of low end to add presence. Through it all, Pleasants’ vocals prove a patient and melodic element, and as “Before We’re Gone” brings in a moody krautrock sensibility and finale “Cuts Like a Knife” engages louder and more forward riffing in its final minute payoff, the message that The Discussion has only begun comes through loud and clear. Tour EP sounds like the beginning stages of a larger process of experimentation and creative growth, and one hopes it proves to be precisely that.

The Discussion on Thee Facebooks

The Discussion on Bandcamp

 

Alms, Demo Vol. 1

alms demo vol 1

Modern heavy rock groove meets classic metal guitar on AlmsDemo Vol. 1, which, as it turns out, is more of a sampler than an actual demo, comprised as it is of two rough mixes from the band’s forthcoming debut album. The result of this mesh on “The Offering” and “Dead Water” is somewhere between Uncle Acid swing and Iron Maiden twin lead work, and the five-piece do well immediately to own the combination and make it cohesive sonically. Traditional doom play more of a role in “Dead Water,” and the keys of vocalist Jess Kamen – joined by guitarist/vocalist Bob Sweeney, guitarist Danny McDonald, bassist Andrew Harris and drummer Derrick Hans – and while I don’t know what label it is that’s going to pick them up (I’d believe anyone from Ripple to Shadow Kingdom to Season of Mist, depending on how much they want to tour), but if these two songs are anything to go by, they’ll be lucky to get them.

Alms on Thee Facebooks

Alms on Bandcamp

 

Vessel of Light, Vessel of Light

vessel of light vessel of light

Collaborating between Ohio and New Jersey, Vessel of Light brings together vocalist Nathan Opposition of Ancient VVisdom and guitarist Dan Lorenzo of Hades. Their self-titled five-tracker EP (on Argonauta) melds bluesy metallic riffing with tales of murder and drugs on cuts like “Dead Flesh and Bones” (video premiere here) and its eponymous closer, which emphasizes a hook based around the lines, “LSD has got a hold on me/I wanna show you all the things that I’ve seen.” It goes like that. For Lorenzo, parts recall the groove he brought to short-lived heavy rock outfit The Cursed, but with Opposition’s lyrics and the periodic delving into harsher vocals, there’s a moodier and more aggressive edge to the songs that helps define the personality of the duo as a band. How often they’ll work together remains to be seen, they make a murderous introduction with this EP and there’s plenty of fodder here for further exploration should they get there.

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Enojado, Mist and Thunder

enojado mist and thunder

German trio Enojado was founded by guitarist/vocalist Stephan Kieserling circa 2002, and though he’s been through numerous lineups since, with bassist/vocalist Thomas Schnaube and drummer Till Junker, he’s put together the band’s first release since their 2014 The Chain is Loose LP was issued by Setalight. At under half an hour and six tracks plus an intro, late 2017’s Mist and Thunder offers solid heavy rock songwriting with a straightforward approach bordering on the metallic in its tone but never quite departing a heavy rock context in rhythm, even in the starts and stops of “Notorious.” The obvious standout in heft is the seven-minute “Coma,” which seems to add weight to everything around it, from “The Truth About Gold” earlier to “I Saw the Sun,” which follows, and the finale in “Queen of Heaven,” which brings a quick payoff to the release and leaves a residual echo and drone/guitar minimalism for its last two minutes. Less derivative than it at first seems, Mist and Thunder might take multiple rounds to sink in, but proves worth the effort of a dedicated listen.

Enojado on Thee Facebooks

Enojado on Bandcamp

 

Mother Mars, On Lunar Highlands

mother mars on lunar highlands

It’s kind of rare for a band to sound like they’re making fun of their own music as they play it, and yet, “Lost Planet Airmen” from Mother Mars’ fourth full-length, On Lunar Highlands, does precisely that. The Aussie trio led by multi-instrumentalists Frank (drums, synth, Clavinet) and Paul (guitar, bass, synth, banjo-mandolin, keys) Attard – who also produced together – and featuring the bluesy stylings of vocalist Dave Schembri, did not make the 11-tracker a minor undertaking. Rather, at 69 minutes, it pushes through stoner boogie on “Thought it Best to Cut You Loose” and still has room for heady jams on extended pieces like “The Stalwarts of Stalwart Castle” (9:31), “Woodhollow Green” (12:55) and the penultimate title-track (8:35), which leads to the far-out banjo shenanigans of closer “The Heavy Hand of the Destroyer.” Needless to say, madness ensues. Interludes like “Bean Stalkin’” and “Bean Stalkin’ Again” and the experimental “The Working Mind of the Creator” add anything-can-happen flair, and the weirder On Lunar Highlands gets, the more it satisfies. It gets very, very weird.

Mother Mars on Thee Facebooks

Mother Mars on Bandcamp

 

Southfork, Through a Dark Lens

southfork through a dark lens
Two decades after their founding in 1997, Stockholm’s Southfork returned late last year with their first album since 2001’s Straight Ahead, the seven-track Through a Dark Lens, which itself is nearly five years in the making. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 7:59 “Already Gone,” the bass-heavy approach the band takes is indeed emblematic of an era now easily thought of as classic, but one could hardly call it dated for that. Rather, tracks like “Into the Deep” and “Tomb of the Mirror Men” flow easily from one to the next and the record reveals in the strut of “Seventosix” and the answer-back closer “Nowhere Gone” just why someone might put almost half a decade of effort into realizing it. Whether you remember Southfork’s original run or not, Through a Dark Lens offers immersive tone and songwriting and as Southfork have already followed it up with what seems to be a compilation release, it may signal a return to fuller activity on their part.

Southfork on Thee Facebooks

Southfork on Bandcamp

 

Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time

Gypsy Sun Revival Journey Outside Of Time

Production by Kent Stump (Wo Fat). Mastering by John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet). Released through Nasoni Records. Sure enough, the second album from Texas heavy psych rockers Gypsy Sun Revival, Journey Outside of Time, wants nothing for the quality of its associations and with the Hendrixian guitar work of Will Weise and the bluesy classic frontman approach of vocalist Mario Rodriguez, they earn that pedigree through and through. Tyler Gene Davis’ contributions on organ only further the ‘70s vibes on “To the Sky” before Weise takes a wah-soaked solo backed by Lee Ryan on bass and drummer Ben H., and the later two-part “Pisces” combines with closer “Departure” to create a thrilling jammed-out side B that takes the more structured craft of “Indigo” and catchy opener “Cadillac to Mexico” earlier and pulls them through an interdimensional haze that only does more to evoke the album’s title. Between Journey Outside of Time and Gypsy Sun Revival’s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), one is left wondering how long we’ll be able to think of them as a well-kept secret of Texas’ fertile heavy underground.

Gypsy Sun Revival on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Valhalla Lights, My Gracious Highway

valhalla lights my gracious highway

There’s a commercial sense of clarity to Valhalla LightsMy Gracious Highway, which seems to have been originally issued by the band in 2016 but is being given a renewed international push. It’s a crisp 13-track/45-minute long-player, marked by solid songcraft and the forward performance of vocalist Ange Saul, who takes the place of departed original singer Phoebe Black, who passed away in 2015 just prior to guitarist George Christie, bassist Brent “Badger” Crysell and drummer Deon Driver – all formerly of heavy rockers FORT – entered the studio to record their debut release. Songs veer toward Queens of the Stone Age-style groove on “Hammer the Witch” and closer “Punk,” and there’s enough variety of mood between the brooding “Beautiful,” showcase centerpiece “The One” and “Darker Side of Love” and the all-go rockers “Rise Above,” “Crucify” and “Someday” to carry the listener through smoothly with an abiding sense of professionalism. Will be too clean for some listeners, but is largely inarguable in its execution.

Valhalla Lights on Thee Facebooks

Valhalla Lights website

 

L.O.W., Bones EP

low bones ep

Located in the northwest of Poland, the acronymic four-piece L.o.W. debut with the Bones EP, which hurls forth three extended works of extreme sludge led into by an atmospheric intro. The band – the lineup of vocalist Adam, guitarist Marek, drummer Witold and bassist Micha? belong to the post-Primitive Man sphere of viciousness, but “Tear Me Open” offers some respite in its closing moments, pulling back on the massive plunder and switching from guttural growls to spoken vocals. With just a touch of Electric Wizard swirl, “Almost Like God’s,” renews the onslaught, offering a break in its middle from the Eyehategod-style sway while saving its most brutal growl for last, and at just under 10 minutes long, the title-track rounds out Bones with bass and drums unfolding a progression soon topped by guitar noise that lets the listener know they’ve just entered another level of punishment. There are moments of impulse toward stonerism that show themselves in Marek’s guitar work, but the primary mission on Bones seems to be assault, and the band has no problem living up to that intent.

L.o.W. on Bandcamp

L.o.W. on Thee Facebooks

 

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Review: T.G. Olson, A Stone that Forever Rolls & Owned and Operated by Twang Trust LLC

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

tg olson a stone that forever rolls

The first thing you need to know about this review? Its temporal mechanics are all wrong. Chronologically speaking, Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC was released before A Stone that Forever Rolls. The difference, mind you, is less than a month. Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC came out on Feb. 28, and A Stone that Forever Rolls on March 14. A couple weeks between them doesn’t seem like such an egregious flip to make — though if he keeps to his about-two-weeks pace, Olson should have another full-length out by the time this review goes live.

Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC and A Stone that Forever Rolls represent the latest outings in a prolific stretch that, at this point, goes back years for Across Tundras frontman and solo experimentalist/singer/songwriter T.G. Olson. They arrive concurrent to outings from other projects like Inget Namn, Funeral Electrical and even an Across Tundras collection, and represent his first solo works of 2018.

Last year found Olson releasing Searching for the Ur-Plant (review here) and Foothills Before the Mountain (review here), and if one goes further back, 2016 brought about La Violenza Naturale (review here), the From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues single (discussed here) and the albums The Broken End of the Deal (review here) and Quicksilver Sound (discussed here), and so on back to about 2012 and probably before that. Point is, Olson gets his work in. He is of a rare breed of the relentlessly creative, and though I said it as a joke earlier, I really couldn’t be surprised if he posted another long-player to the T.G. Olson/Across Tundras Bandcamp sometime soon. Or maybe he’ll go a year. One never knows.

But when it comes to A Stone that Forever Rolls and Owned and Operated by Twang Trust LLC, there is one definitive aspect tying them together to the point where I feel comfortable giving them a conjoined review: resonance. And in a thrilling and important-to-consider showcase of Olson‘s range as an artist, it’s two very different types of resonance that we’re talking about. A song like “Bless yr Heart My Friend,” which would seem to be about Olson‘s dog Odin, who recently passed away (and condolences there), brims with sincerity and emotionalism. It is raw in its approach and upfront in its acoustic-led post-Dylan/Guthrie folkism. And it’s the kind of song that makes you tear up when you hear it.

tg olson owned operated twang trust

This stands in direct contrast to just about all of Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC, which delights in the Earth-gone-weirder drones and explorations of airy pieces like “When the Bee Balm is in Bloom,” which seems to be backed by ghostly howls, or the earlier “Where Were You When,” the droning of which takes on an almost religious quality, as though among Olson‘s many manipulated sounds was a hymn or a chant to something of the sort bent beyond recognition. Considered alongside the easy sway of the opening title-cut from A Stone that Forever Rolls or the doubled-vocal layers of the subsequent “The Storm’s a Comin’,” ad they would almost seem to be the work of different artists, but that’s simply Olson following one impulse over another as a theme around which to work.

He’s more than capable of steering a record in either context, of course, and has plenty of experience in doing so, and if the sweet melody of “In the Valley of the Tomb of the Kings” and the flute-laden melancholy of “Still They Haunt Us” is coming from someplace completely different from the Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC opener and longest track (immediate points) “Running Fight” with its open-air guitar minimalism or the haunting swirl and swell of “Carpenter Blues” — which may or may not feature manipulated vocals; it’s hard to tell. In this way, the one release enhances the listening experience of the other and paints a broader picture of Olson‘s creative reach in general, not that that was much in question for anybody who’s followed his work over these last several years and managed to actually keep up.

Frankly, neither approach would count as new ground for Olson, who has established a comfortable niche for himself as a folk singer while still seeming to push himself forward in terms of crafting material, a song like “Around a Slow Dying Fire” conveying a sense of urgency despite its calm exterior. Nonetheless, if familiar to those who’ve kept tabs on his work, both Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC and A Stone that Forever Rolls reaffirm the breadth of Olson‘s output and, whether taken together or separately, bring together folk and experimentalism in a way few artists can or would dare to try. Remember near the outset when I said Olson was relentlessly creative? Well, the emotionality and exploratory drive behind these records, along with the rest of his ever-growing and increasingly complex discography, are just further examples of what makes him stand alone in that unrelenting.

T.G. Olson, Owned and Operated by: Twang Trust LLC (2018)

T.G. Olson, A Stone that Forever Rolls (2018)

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Wykan Premiere “Wykan (The Shamanic Trance)” from Debut EP Solace

Posted in audiObelisk on March 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

wykan

Montreal riff metallers Wykan make their debut April 13 with the Solace EP. It is not intended for background listening. Even at three tracks/24 minutes, it’s not the kind of thing you “just put on” while you’re picking up around the house or working or whatever you might be doing. It demands attention and demands it early. Wrapped together in a shroomy, ritualistic thematic, its component pieces are presented shortest to longest — “Lahppon Olmmos” opens at 6:50 with a guest appearance from Cryptopsy‘s Matt McGachy (because Montreal), “The Gathering” (8:00) follows, and “Wykan (The Shamanic Trance)” (9:17) rounds out — and seems to move toward ever more extreme fare as it goes. The opening movement of “Lahppon Olmmos?” It has more in common with Alabama Thunderpussy than anything vicious or brutal, but Wykan get there one way or the other.

One might think of it as a new face of sludge, but the sound is too clean, too calculated for that. Sludge is fucked up and just kind of happens — this material has been thought out. For example, the Opeth-gone-black-metal scream along of “The Gathering” carefully melds a post-metallic plod to its raw-throated cruelties, and likewise, “Lahppon Olmos” keeps itself willfully in two wykan solaceworlds in terms of sound, its chug never quite reaching the mathy complexity for which Montreal’s extreme underground is known (one more time: hello, Cryptopsy), but clearly solving its own stylistic equation as it goes. Likewise, “The Gathering” plods through its scream-topped midsection with a particularly charred-sounding lumber, but keeps room for answering back with classic elements like squigglies and a more chug-happy, sample-inclusive ending movement.

The semi-eponymous “Wykan (The Shamanic Trance)” might be the EP’s crowning achievement, however, beginning with sampled spoken word over ambience before a build of quiet guitar starts in, vocalist/guitarist Jeremy Perkins leading bassist Daniel Paras and drummer Morgan Zwicker toward an Ensalved-esque movement of progressive black metal that fleshes itself out with marked flow over the next several minutes as an instrumental before the vocals finally join in following a midpoint slowdown, turn toward chugging plod and shift back into blastbeaten rush just before the six-minute mark. Raspy vocals again scorch the ground before them and at about 7:45, Wykan move into the kind of chug that might, say, have one headbanging in front of one’s laptop, before another speedy verse takes hold and they finish at their rawest and most extreme point.

This linear movement across Solace‘s three tracks might speak to the mindset of Perkins (also of black metallers Eohum) and company when it comes to a full-length release. The hard work before them will be to continue to integrate disparate stylistic elements into a cohesive whole, but they’ve clearly begun that process here, and the results are enticing even in their most purposefully abrasive stretches.

You can listen to “Wykan (The Shamanic Trance)” and get a closer look at the EP’s David Paul Seymour artwork below. PR wire info, as ever, follows.

Please enjoy:

Wykan, “Wykan (The Shamanic Trance)” official track premiere

Hitting the jam space and recruiting some special guests Matt McGachy (Cryptopsy) and Barrie Butler (Eohum), WYKAN’s debut EP “Solace” features three punishing tracks full of atmosphere and mystery where you can hear black metal rage meet the finest components of blues and harsh psych stoner riffs. The theme of the EP follows inspiration of Ethnobotany and magic along with a tribal take on ritual and ceremony. More specifically with the Northern European Tribes known as the Saami from Finland/Norway/Sweden areas of today and their usage of Amanita Muscaria mushroom for Shamanic practices. Overall, the EPs concept is a reminder of the brisk realities of our lives in relation to the spirit world.

“Wykan (The Shaman Trance) is the short-story / poetic take on the ceremony of drinking the brew of clarity (Amanita prepared brew) among the shaman’s hut and the trip commencement under influence of the Amanita Muscaria,” says band founder Jeremy Perkins.

Produced by Sowilo Arts
Written by Jeremy Perkins
Lyrics and Thematic by Jeremy Perkins
Artwork by David Paul Seymour

Recorded & Mixed at Silverwings Studios in Montreal Feb 2018 by Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc.

Wykan is:
Vocals (intro) and Guitars: Jeremy Perkins
Drums: Morgan Zwicker
Bass: Daniel Paras

Featuring guest vocalist: Barrie Butler ( Eohum )

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Sunnata, Outlands: Travel Beyond Borderlines

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sunnata outlands

This year marks a decade of activity for Poland’s Sunnata, who began their career releasing a series of EPs and a full-length under a prior name before beefing up their sound and adopting the new identity for 2014’s Climbing the Colossus. The impressive Zorya (review here) followed in 2016 and expanded their progressive reach, and their apparent penchant for putting out records on even years continues with Outlands, which also continues a theme of vague figures on the cover art, keeping in kind with both LPs prior in that regard.

If one were to look at the many faces and arms/branches of the person/alien/deity on the front of Outlands and think Sunnata — the lineup of vocalists/guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski, bassist Michal Dobrzanski and drummer Robert Ruszczyk — might be shooting for something to convey a multifaceted existence of some sort, their sound bears that out across the eight-song/47-minute release, which is comprised of nothing less than brilliantly composed progressive post-heavy rock, so spacious that one can hardly see from one end of it to the other, and encompassing enough to genuinely feel like it’s creating its own world as it plays out.

Consistent in overall largesse, it varies in songcraft so that a piece like the nine-minute post-intro opener “Lucid Dream” and the later thrust of “Gordian Knot” hit their own targets, but the underlying force of the production and the expansiveness of the sounds being created tie the songs together and create an overarching flow that moves the listener carefully along Outlands‘ otherwise tumultuous path. If Climbing the Colossus was about Sunnata establishing what was then a new identity and Zorya about expanding their reach into new cross-genre territories, then Outlands feels like the realization of Sunnata of something unto itself, born of but not necessarily beholden to its influences and expressive on both emotional and cerebral levels.

It’s not every band who is able to make that leap, but Sunnata have quite clearly dedicated themselves to pushing ahead creatively, and that seems to guide the Warsaw four-piece’s craft on Outlands, be it the subtle build and surge of volume and groove in “Lucid Dream” that provides the record’s first payoff and arguably most effective moment of consumption, or the Alice in Chains-style harmonies and layering that tops the blastbeats of “Scars,” which follows. More even than their last time out, there’s a prevalent sense of ritual to Outlands — with some of the Eastern inflection in the guitar work, one is almost reminded of a less Om-derived Ethereal Riffian — but the real key to the album is patience.

Sunnata Aleksandra Burska

Even when they’re playing fast, as on “Scars” or in “The Ascender,” they’re in no rush, and suitably enough, the best example — if it’s not “Lucid Dream” — might be Outlands‘ side-A-capping title-track, which begins with an underlying tension of drums and whispers and moves fluidly through hypnotic repetitions through its early verses; the bottom-of-the-mouth vocals vague but working in intertwined layers to mask the build happening beneath them. Finally, at about the five-minute mark and in a mirror of “Lucid Dream” before it, “Outlands” slams into a massive groove that only grows larger when the drums slow to half-time. That would usually be enough to end on, but Sunnata push through the crescendo and dip back into atmospheric reaches and rebuild a progression that’s never really meant to take off in the way of the prior movement, but ends with acapella harmonies to give way to the low-end heft of “The Ascender” at the start of side B, which will ultimately be defined by the album’s 12-minute finale, “Hollow Kingdom” but still has plenty of crunch to offer along its path toward that ending.

To wit, the pairing of “The Ascender” and “Gordian Knot” at the start of side B doesn’t seem accidental. I’m not sure I’d all either track straightforward, but with some harsher vocals included in both — shouts that in the first verse of “Gordian Knot” are metallic enough to remind me of the last Amebix record (which I liked) — and shorter runtimes (5:33 and 4:21, respectively) compared to everything on side A except Outlands‘ 40-second noise-build “Intro,” the impression is still of a more direct methodology. Fortunately, Sunnata handle the intensity of “Gordian Knot” with no less grace than they did the worldbuilding of “Lucid Dreams,” and there are still all manner of backing vocal layers and other noises to contend with, so it’s not like the depth has disappeared, it’s just being used toward rawer ends. “Gordian Knot” caps at full-throttle and gives way to the manipulated guitar noise (and maybe keys?) of “Falling (Interlude),” which serves as a direct lead-in for “Hollow Kingdom,” the 12:35 run of which begins minimal, quiet and spacious, before moving through early sections that are more chants than verses but engagingly melodic nonetheless and serving as something of a hook anyway with the repetition of the word “hollow” as a kind of mantra.

Just before two minutes in, Sunnata shift into the next section of the song, but instead of continuing to build forward, cut back again after this verse and return to the patience shown in “Lucid Dreams” and the title-track. A chorus is established and while it seems like “Hollow Kingdom” is headed for an inevitable payoff, just before its halfway point, the song breaks — the kick drum and some sparse guitar letting you know it’s still there at all — and turns to a completely different progression. It’s a little out-of-nowhere, but one suspects that’s the whole idea. They’re building again, patiently, subtly, and they do indeed move into an apex for “Hollow Kingdom” with lumbering crashes that begin just passed nine minutes in, but to my mind, the real confirmation of the band’s achievement with Outlands is what follows, when they return to the original chorus to close out. By then, they’ve shifted so far away from where they originally came that it’s completely unexpected, and the turn is pulled off flawlessly as a final confirmation of the level of craft that Sunnata have been executing all along.

One wonders if, 10 years ago, the members of Sunnata might have had any sense of the accomplishments in style and substance they would ultimately attain, but whether Outlands is the result of a conscious evolutionary process or an organic growth from release to release, the fact remains that it stands in a place all its own.

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