Posted in audiObelisk on October 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Belgian post-metallers Dorre and Danish sludge brutalizers Bethmoora will release their split LP Nov. 1 in a limited physical pressing of 500 LPs. Divided between 300 black and 200 swirled in black and green, mixed by Chris Fielding (Conan) at Skyhammer Studio, mastered by James Plotkin (everybody, also Khanate) and topped with striking Diaz Inigo cover art, the self-released outing comprises three tracks — two on side A from Dorre, one longer one on side B from Bethmoora — and is bound to make short work of whatever quota you might have for pummel. Dorre, a trio from Leuven, follow their half-hour/single-song One Collapsed at the Altar EP with “Three Fell from the Sky” (8:31) and “Four Walked into the Ocean” (7:15), leaving one to wonder what happened to “Two,” while Copenhagen’s Bethmoora leave far less to mystery with the 17-minute “Succumb,” which, while atmospheric in a manner not wholly dissimilar from their compatriots, is more brazen in its extremity, thanks in part to screaming and growling vocals where the Dorre tracks on side A have none at all.
That in itself is a considerable divide between the two bands, but as much as they both demonstrate clear patience through their material, there are also marked aesthetic differences. Dorre begin “Three Fell from the Sky” with peaceful atmospheric guitar, while Bethmoora start “Succumb” with an immediate tension in the drums. Working bassless, Dorre use the guitars of Adriaan De Raymaeker and Erik Heyns to add psychedelic flourish and construct atmospheres in the vein of Cult of Luna or maybe peak-era Isis, while drummer Wolf Overloop carefully avoids patterning the rhythm after that same group, and rightly so. Not easy work, but they establish a linear build through “Three Fell from the Sky” and carry some of the momentum into “Four Walked into the Ocean,” which has its own payoff and arrives at it through tempo switches and some more rock-based push. Once Bethmoora slam into “Succumb,” on the other hand, there’s little doubt as to the doom of their intent. Their single, extended inclusion is vicious even when vocalist Anders Kofod takes a break from the layered death-growls, sounding raw and brutal over the foundation of Martin Korff‘s crash and thud.
Comprised of Kofod, Korff, guitarists Morten Leerhøy and Henrick Lyck, and bassist Sune Westh Svendsen, Bethmoora lack nothing for fullness of sound on “Succumb,” somebody or other moving into manipulated noise as the song lurches along in its second half, but they too bring a sense of ambience and spaciousness to the proceedings, however grueling that spaciousness might be. They finish with two-plus minutes of quiet guitar, not quite drone but not far off from it, in a last-minute expression of minimalism that, for those who want to bring the 12″ full circle, might find it feeds nicely back into the start of “Three Fell from the Sky” on side A. Whether that was coordinated between Bethmoora and Dorre or a happy accident, I don’t know, but it works to the advantage of emphasizing a sense of cohesion between the two acts, drawing them together despite any disparities of sound that might otherwise separate their output.
Both are relatively new bands. Dorre issued One Collapsed at the Altar about a year ago and Bethmoora put out their first demo in March, so it’s probably fair to think of the split as an early expression on both their parts, but something else that unites them is a clear sense of purpose.
All three tracks are streaming below ahead of the Nov. 1 release, followed by some comment from De Raymaeker about how it came together and more bio-type background. Please enjoy:
Adriaan De Raymaeker of Dorre on the split:
“Creating this split LP together with Bethmoora was a very easy decision. We’re both passionate bands with a drive to create, go further and invest in the quality of our music. I’ve known Morten for a couple of years now, having met at Roadburn. We’ve been wanting to do something together for a while and decided to just get started and make it happen, and here we are!”
Dorre was born at the Rock Café in Leuven when Adriaan De Raymaeker and Wolf Overloop decided to head up to the attic that Pektop (Adriaan’s former band) used to rehearse. Deep, dark, heavy riffs were made and quite possibly enjoyed by several blocks of flats and houses around the building. Deciding that the time had come to widen the scope of Dorre, a more serious approach was taken to write long pieces of music that incorporated every aspect of each musician. A cohesion of doom, noise, psychedelic rock, blues and stoner was organically formed between the two guitars and the drums.
Copenhagen based sludge/doom 5 piece Bethmoora, has existed for about a year in its current form, all members with experience from previous bands. Huge riffs, bludgeoning rhythms and disturbing vocals are key elements of the slow descent. The lyrics of Bethmoora’s tracks revolve around a common theme – a mythos that singer Anders has created. Deities, entities, occult rituals and eternal strife are all key ingredients of this vast, ever expanding, imaginary dark world.
Heavy hippie trio Mammoth Grove released their debut album, Suncatcher (review here), late last year, and the Calgary natives have spent much of 2016 supporting it in one way or another, whether that’s through local shows, hitting the road or putting together a video like their new one for “The Storm.” Frankly, after watching it, I think the band would be hard-pressed to come up with a better representation of the chill vibes they elicit. It’s not that their stuff is shoegazing — or at least not shoegazing all the time — as you can hear in “The Storm,” but there’s just something serene overarching their work so that, even at its most active, it’s nods and smiles in kind.
The video plays to this by finding the band wandering through nature — it may or may not be the Canadian Badlands, where the above photo was also taken — in various settings by streams and canyons, etc., as well as rocking out on a presumably imaginary stage set up in their van, which of course is parked out in the woods. Like Suncatcher as a whole, it’s a fun trip that holds substance despite being kind of lighthearted in its presentation, and it balances psychedelia with heavy rock and blues with an ease of approach that wipes out any suspicion of the band’s material being tossed off or haphazard. Their bounce gets fairly raucous in “The Storm,” but never lose sight of that cool, languid flow that carries across the record’s entirety.
If you haven’t heard the album, it’s streaming in full on their Bandcamp page, which is linked at the bottom of this post. More info follows the video below.
Mammoth Grove, “The Storm” official video
The band’s collective musical inspiration knows no boundaries, ranging from grunge, indie, doom metal, blues and beyond. However, what really drives the trio is the beauty and brilliance found in nature. Many of their songs contain stirring recollections of time spent amongst giants of the forest. Additionally, Mammoth Grove thrives within live jam sessions, connecting to the ever powerful flow-state to fuel their creative process.
With two independently released EPs already under their belt, the Calgary-based trio is now supporting their first full length release, Suncatcher (2015), a mix of both established and fresh songs from the Mammoth Grove repertoire.
Today marks the release date for Prehistorical, the brutalizing second album from Spanish two-piece Melmak. Comprised of brothers Jonan and Igor Extebarria — on guitar/vocals and drums/vocals, respectively — the band offers a relatively brief onslaught throughout Prehistorical‘s seven-track/32-minute run, but that winds up being more than enough time for them to get their point across in cave-echo sludge extremity, fits of thrash groove and, on a song like “Primitive,” elements culled from black metal or at very least atmospheric death metal. That title, “Primitive,” appears relatively early on Prehistorical, right after opener “Pangea,” and since it’s also the longest cut on the follow-up to Melmak‘s 2014 debut, The Only Vision of all Gods, it makes sense that primitivism should be the overriding theme of both an apparent lyrical narrative and the duo’s raw approach itself. As the cover art for Prehistorical shows, they are not a band that shies away from the violent impulse, from the viciousness of instinct, and that’s easy to hear as they move past the Stephen Hawking sample and into the whispers and tense wash of noise that leads the way into the rumbling start of “Primitive” itself.
Maybe “narrative,” above, isn’t the right word, since I’m not sure Melmak are so much telling a specific story here are seeking to explore and represent ideas and impressions of prehistory, of the rudimentary facets and struggle of humans as animals in an animalistic world. They do this not through weaving a character through various obstacles only to find resolution — there is one resolution; we all know what it is — but through weaving themselves and the listener through the pummel of their material, here working in the mold of two-pieces like Black Cobra or Mantar, hitting into a slower pace on the noisy, feedback-drenched “The Cavern” before exploding into blastbeats and one of Prehistorical‘s most extreme stretches. What makes the album interesting, ultimately, is that while Melmak establish this sound that comes across as so focused on the nastiness of its own execution, and so harsh, the band works with more of a range than it might at first appear within that sphere. Yes, I mean they play fast and slow, and yes, I mean that Igor and Jonan swap vocal duties, and that sets up a certain level of dynamic, but even in their hardest-driving moments, the echoes on the vocals give their songs a sense of space, so that when the atmospheric centerpiece/interlude “Megalodon” comes around with its quiet piano and moody scratch, it doesn’t seem at all beyond Melmak‘s reach. Just the opposite. If anything, it bolsters the material surrounding.
And the fade-in of a somewhat militaristic snare and thicker riff on “Bonfire” speaks to Melmak having a keener ear for transitions than the sheer ferocity of some of what they do might lead one to believe. That said, “Bonfire” and the penultimate “Death Struggle” work to strip down their sound even further to some of its barest parts: the blown-out noise of the former being consumed by noise into the grueling sludge roll of the latter. Right around the 3:30 mark into “Death Struggle”‘s 4:15, they hit into a breakdown riff in classically thrashy form, and though their delivery of it is slower, the progression is unmistakable in its moving intent. The mosh part, however brief. That spirit seems to carry into closer “Aegnap” as Jonan and Igor again push into longer terrain, even daring some dual-voice vocal melody before they’re done as they lay the groundwork for the final thrust into noise that, though brief, is perhaps meant to mirror that which started the album in a similar fashion as to how the first and last titles mirror each other. In the end, Prehistorical finds Melmak striking a balance between their proposed “Primitive” sensibility and their more complex realization of it, and in part because the album is so short, it seems to entice the audience back in an attempt to better gauge where the band is actually coming from rather than run the risk of losing itself in any sort of indulgence, even that of the severity of their form.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting Melmak‘s Prehistorical for a full stream. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by more info on the release, courtesy of the band.
Recorded by Ivan Corcuera (Grabasonic Studio) on August 2016. Produced, mixed and mastered by Ivan Corcuera and Melmak. All songs written and composed by Melmak.
Artwork by Igor Mugerza.
In loving memory of Unai.
Jonan: Guitar/Vocals Igor: Drums/Vocals
Chorus on “Aegnap” by Jony Menendez.
Formed in 2010 by the Etxebarria brothers, Melmak is a duo which combines the darkness of the doom metal with the madness of the hardcore to explain the situation of the human being and what are the possible solutions not to extinguish as we know it…
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.
Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today we hit the halfway mark on the Fall 2016 Quarterly Review. Always an occasion worthy of song — or, you know, another batch of 10 records — which happens to be precisely the plan. We pick up much where we left off yesterday in working across a broad spectrum of heavy, and though there are some major releases in here as seems to be the case increasingly, please make sure to note some of the deeper underground stuff as well, whether it’s Hands I Annul Yours or Astral Cult, as nothing here is included by mistake. Some of this I’m late on, some of it isn’t out yet, but all of it is pretty current, so if there’s something here you’ve missed, bigger name or smaller, I hope you get some use out of the lot of it. Here goes.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Blues Pills, Lady in Gold
Blues Pills – like their Nuclear Blast labelmates in Witchcraft, Graveyard and Kadavar before them – have modernized. Their second album behind what became a landmark self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, Lady in Gold arrives with a slick production casting off the vintage vibes while holding onto classic sensibility and rightfully continuing to feature the soulfulness of vocalist Elin Larsson, joined in the band by guitarist Dorian Sorriaux, bassist Zack Anderson (ex-Radio Moscow) and drummer André Kvarnström (ex-Truckfighters). Its 10 tracks/40 minutes are unmistakably pop in their construction, and deftly, complexly arranged, and play to an alternative vision of commercial accessibility in rock that I’m not sure exists anymore even in Europe. Or needs to for an album like Lady in Gold to be successful. As they weave into and out of gospel and R&B conventions, Blues Pills take a bold step away from what one might have expected coming off their debut and ultimately define themselves precisely through that boldness. Whether that works for them in the longer term will have to remain to be seen. For now, Lady in Gold can be jarring at first, but one would be hard pressed to come up with something else out there that sounds quite like it.
Los Angeles three-piece Arctic make their entry into Southern California’s crowded sphere of heavy/psychedelic rock with their self-titled debut on Outer Battery Records. To call them skate rock seems fair enough, since guitarist Justin “Figgy” Figueroa (also Harsh Toke), bassist Don “The Nuge” Nguyen and drummer Frex are all professional skateboarders, but the core of Arctic’s five-track/half-hour-flat runtime is in mixing classic stoner impulses with heavy psych jamming. Most of the record is instrumental, including 8:51 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Over Smoked,” but vocals pop up to surprise on centerpiece “Burnt Ice” and return again in form drawled enough to justify their having called the nodding closer “High” as they do. At very least they make it believable. Between the dankness throughout, the guitar-led fuzz boogie of “Cryptic Black Sun,” the natural vibes, the Arik Roper cover art and the utter lack of pretense, Arctic summarize much of the appeal of the West Coast’s current heavy movement, and so, should have no trouble continuing to make their name as part of it.
Three new tracks from Poland’s Major Kong is nothing to complain about. The Lublin trio have been not-at-all-quietly stomping out quality riffs for more than half a decade now, and with “Energy Whip,” “Escape from the Holodeck” and “Pollution Halo,” the instrumentalists are in and out of Brave New Kong in under 14 minutes, working quickly and efficiently with a crisp but still thick production that pulls away from some of the focus on crush from late last year’s Galactic Cannibalism EP (review here). That may well be the Brave New Kong to which the title refers, or it’s entirely possible they’re just having fun with their own moniker – subsequent offerings will tell the tale – but Major Kong continue to be a well-kept secret for Poland’s fertile heavy underground, and if nothing else, they sound like a group due for a third full-length album, which will hopefully arrive sooner than later.
One could make the argument that given the swath of cultural icons passed away, 2016 is the Year of Death to which Hands I Annul Yours are alluding to in the title of their latest Major Destroyer Records three-song tape, but aside from the fact that they specify it was 2013, one seriously doubts they give a shit about famous people dying. Beginning with the drone and feedback noise of “Year of Death Part I,” the cassette moves into a 19-minute stomp and crush that’s as misanthropic as it is weighted, and much as there is one, the prevailing sentiment is less reflecting on loss than it is rolling out claustrophobic heft. Fair enough. Following the tape-only “Verloren,” “Year of Death Part II” boasts more sample manipulation and a discernible lead from the guitar, but finds its way toward abrasion as well, rounding out Year of Death with a dissolution into feedback that would seem to bring it full circle.
Fortunately, the fact that Storm Ross named the opening track of Welcome, Sunshine “We Need to be Fugazi Now, More than Ever” is only the start of the 37-minute/10-track LP’s experimentalist charms. The follow-up to the Michigan-based guitarist’s 2014 return full-length, The Green Realm (review here), this new collection finds Ross himself once again making his way through soundscapes manic and pastoral with like ease, and as one piece feeds into the next on “Please Don’t Kill My Family” and “Benzie County Farm Fire, 1973” or the synth-infused, tech-shredding “Atheon” fading into the penultimate post-rock drift of “The Smiler” later (think Dylan Carlson solo gone sentimental for the West, plus a late uptick of noise), the sense of Welcome, Sunshine as a whole work is even more palpable than was the last outing, even as Ross jumps from one style to another or incorporates keys, percussion, etc., following various whims toward a universally progressive payoff. Limited to 300 copies on yellow vinyl or on cassette through Already Dead Tapes and Records.
Virginian doomers Sinister Haze follow-up their 2015 debut EP, Betrayed by Time (review here), with the raw and scummed up Laid Low in the Dust of Death LP on STB Records. Recorded by Chad Davis (Hour of 13), it’s their first outing to feature Naam’s Eli Pizzuto on drums, and they do trip out a bit on guitar, but if you’re thinking slow space rock here you’ve got the wrong picture. Guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (ex-Cough) and bassist/vocalist Sam Marsh lead the charge – the low-end is particularly satisfying in its roll throughout – and fellow newcomer JK (Lost Tribe) adds to the mix as well, so the spirit of Laid Low in the Dust of Death is bare-bones and classic, but positively covered in its titular dust. And maybe one or two other kinds. Six tracks split easily onto two sides, Sinister Haze’s first full-length outing comes across as a reaction against cleanliness in doom – call it gutter doom – flowing in its 12-minute closer “A Buried Dream,” but still clearly from the gut.
The flute-laden heavy rock with which Denver’s Love Gang open their debut EP might stand among the best outcomes of Colorado’s marijuana legalization. A four-piece with a full sound only enhanced by the organ/woodwind work of Leo Muñoz, Love Gang self-release their first outing as four tracks that sap classic prog of its pretense and offer ‘70s heavy chemistry without leaning on vintage production. Guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentwork, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, together with Muñoz, get down to business on “Can’t Seem to Win” and the instrumental “Lonely Man,” go bluesy on “Highway” and boogie to a finish in “Sands of Time,” all the while sounding ready in their songcraft and execution for whatever label might come calling to stand behind their work. It’ll be somebody. Some bands take time to develop into their own sound, and some break the doors down out of the gate. Love Gang are the latter. Whenever they get around to a first full-length, I hope they remember to weird out a little bit.
Though five of the eight tracks on Nap’s debut, Villa, have words at one point or another, it’s probably still fair to note the psych-inflected German trio as a mostly-instrumental outfit. The lyrics, when they’re there, arrive in short verses, lines included it seems more to create the impression of a human presence rather than affirm a structure. They are vague in theme for the most part, but there, though there isn’t a song in the bunch that goes as far as a chorus. No complaints. Nap, as a project, feel much more given toward the spacious and atmospheric exploration one finds in the midsection of second cut “Sabacia” than the four or five lines in the driving riff subsequent. As the record plays out, they incorporate elements of surf – surprisingly more on “Duna” and closer “Autobahn” than “Xurf,” but it could also be a Yawning Man influence surfacing – resulting in an overarching progressive feel that serves their fluidity on this first album.
Heavy rocking Buenos Aires three-piece Manthrass issued their debut, Blues del Destino, last year and were subsequently snagged for release through South American Sludge Records, no doubt for the record’s cohesive, hard-driving bluesy push, natural tones and easy-grooving feel. The shuffle of “Una Flor” is a highlight, but neither will you find me arguing with the Pappo’s Blues cover “El Brujo y el Tiempo,” with a burlier vocal and a rolling progression that seems to sum up a lot of where Manthrass are coming from to start with, though closer “Navegar” gets down with more raucous fare. A quality first full-length with a crisp production balanced by a fervent live feel in the energy from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mariano Castiiglioni, bassist/vocalist Ángel Rizzo and drummer/backing vocalist Fede Martínez, who are clearly versed in modern heavy as well as the classics, and are able to control their own destiny here accordingly.
Commencement comes on Astral Cult’s second album, The Sacred Flame, via the ritualized psychedelic incantations of “Prayer,” and from there, the Californian four-piece unfold a molten vision of heavy space rock that stands apart from a lot of what bands further sound in San Diego or even San Francisco are doing, vocalist Alexandre Lapuh, guitarist Ryan Musser, bassist Stefan Henskens and drummer Brazdon Goodwin (since replaced by Cristian Gonzalez) finding their footing in a lumbering and deceptively doomed “Quetzalcotl” after so much lysergic preaching on “Call of the Wild” and “Beacon of Darkness.” The range is surprising, but more so is the fluidity Astral Cult conjure between what are often disparate styles, the four-piece nearly hitting the 13-minute mark on the closing title-tack as they lay the two sides together, one into the next. It’s a rarer blend, but The Sacred Flame, at nearly an hour long, gears itself for maximum immersion.
Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is always a kind of nervewracking moment, sitting here in my chair as I do every couple months and introducing the next Quarterly Review. Between now and Friday, somehow, some way, I’ll post 50 reviews in batches of 10 per day. It will cover more ground than, frankly, I yet know, and by the time it’s done it’s going to feel (at least to me) like way more than a week has passed, but hell, at this point I’ve done this enough times to be reasonably confident I can get through it without suffering a major collapse either of heart or brain. I’ve taken steps beforehand to make it easier on myself and listened to a lot, a lot, a lot of music in preparation, so there’s nothing left to do but dive in and actually kick this this thing off. So let’s do that.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sumac, What One Becomes
With their second album, What One Becomes (on Thrill Jockey), post-metal trio Sumac move forward from what their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), established as their crushing and atmospheric modus. Starting with a wash of blown-out noise in “Image of Control,” the collective of guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner (ex-Isis), bassist Brian Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) eventually settle into a barrage of chug and inhuman lumber over the course of the five-track/58-minute progression, testing tolerance on the 17-minute march “Blackout” and tapping into a satisfying moment of melody in centerpiece “Clutch of Oblivion” that, by the time it arrives, feels a bit like a life raft. There are stretches that come across as part collections, but the whole seems to be geared toward overwhelming, consuming and devastating, and ultimately What One Becomes accomplishes all of those things and more besides, finishing closer “Will to Reach” with the sense they could easily keep going. I believe it.
Prior to making their full-length debut, Dunsmuir issued a series of 7” singles, so if you picked up any of that, the straightforward pulse running through the 10-track self-titled will probably be familiar. Likewise if you’d previously caught wind of The Company Band, the supergroup in which vocalist Neil Fallon (also Clutch), guitarist Dave Bone and bassist Brad Davis (also Fu Manchu) previously joined forces. Here they’re joined by drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, etc.), and the material is suitably metallic in its aftertaste, but while Fallon’s presence is irrepressible and it’s the songwriting itself that shines through in cuts like “Our Only Master” and “…And Madness,” both barnburner riffs in classic metal fashion, where the later “Church of the Tooth” draws back the pace to add sway leading into the mid-paced closing duo “The Gate” and “Crawling Chaos.” Not many surprises, but with the ingredients given, knowing what you’re getting isn’t anything to complain about.
Across a span of 12 tracks and 72 minutes, Swiss heavy progressives Monkey3 unfurl the massive scope of Astra Symmetry, their fifth album and the follow-up to 2013’s The 5th Sun. It is an immediately immersive listening experience and does not become any less so as it plays out, the generally-instrumental four-piece frontloading early songs like “Abyss,” “Moon” and the nodding, synthed-out “The Water Bearer” with vocals and backing that with “Dead Planet’s Eyes” on the second LP for good measure. Delving into Eastern-style melodicism gives Astra Symmetry a contemplative air, but Monkey3’s heavy psychedelia has always provided a free-flowing vibe, and as “Astrea,” “Arch,” “The Guardian” and “Realms of Lights” roll through ambient drones toward the album’s smoothly delivered apex, that remains very much the case. Taken as a whole, Astra Symmetry is a significant journey, but satisfying in that traveling atmosphere and in the hypnosis it elicits along the way.
Big progressive step from London four-piece Oak on their second self-released EP, Oak II. They follow last year’s self-titled (review here) with four more tracks that build on the burl established last time out but immediately show more stylistic command, vocalist Andy “Valiant” Wisbey emerging as a significant frontman presence and the band behind him – guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Masson and drummer Clinton Ritchie – finding more breadth, be it in a nod to djent riffing in “Mirage” or more melodic post-Steak desert rock in “Against the Rain.” In addition, “A Bridge too Far” showcases a patience of approach that the first EP simply didn’t have, and that makes its build even more satisfying as it hits its peak and goes quiet into the stonerly swing of “Smoke,” which ends Oak II with due fuzz and some social commentary to go with. Sounds like more than a year’s growth at work, but I’ll take it.
One word for Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres? How about “underrated?” Since the 2013 Demons EP (review here), it has been nearly impossible to keep a handle on where John Strömshed (also Tunga Moln) might go on any given song, and his latest offering, the full-length Hibernation (on HeviSike with a tape out on Medusa Crush) works much the same, rolling out a melodic mellowness on the opening title-track before topping off-time chug with garage vocals on the subsequent “Endless Summer.” Elsewhere, “Throw it all Away” marries swallow-you-in-tone riffing with a surprisingly emotionally resonant lead, and “Blood on the Snow” offers a downtrodden vision of grunge-blues like what might’ve happened if Danzig had never gone commercial. It’s all over the place, as was 2014’s Spitting Blood (review here) and 2015’s Beheaded, but tied together through a wintry theme, and anyway, variety is the norm for Lightsabres, whose reach seems only to grow broader with each passing year.
Knowing the context of Helen Money’s Become Zero having been written by cellist Alison Chesley following losing both her parents, and knowing that songs like the 10-minute “Radiate” and the effects-less “Blood and Bone” (which features pianist Rachel Grimes) deal directly with that loss, only makes it more powerful, but even without that information, the sense of melancholy and loneliness is right there to be heard. Chesley, who released the last Helen Money album, Arriving Angels (review here), in 2013, once again brings in drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis) to contribute, and his work on the title-track and the later churn of “Leviathan” make both standouts, but whether it’s the empty spaces of “Vanished Star” or the ambient wash of “Radiate” – I don’t even know how a cello makes that sound – the emotional force driving the music is ultimately what ties it together as a single work of poignant, deeply resonant beauty.
It has been nearly three years since desert-dwelling rockers Dali’s Llama celebrated their two-decade run with the Twenty Years Underground vinyl (review here) and almost four since their last proper full-length, Autumn Woods (review here), was issued. For them, that’s an exceedingly long time. One can’t help but wonder if the band – now a five-piece, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and recorded as ever by Scott Reeder – went through a period of introspection in that span. After some stylistic experimentation with darker and more doomed influences, the seven tracks of Dying in the Sun would seem to reaffirm who Dali’s Llama are as they approach the quarter-century mark, bringing some of the gloom of Autumn Woods to extended centerpiece “Samurai Eyes” as easily as “Bruja-ha” seems to play off the goth-punk whimsy of 2010’s Howl do You Do? (review here). The fact is Dali’s Llama are all these things, not just one or the other, and so in bringing that together, Dying in the Sun is perhaps the truest to themselves they’ve yet been on record.
Making their debut on Napalm Records, Berlin five-piece Suns of Thyme exhibit immediate sonic adventurousness on their second album, Cascades, melding krautrock and heavy psych keys and effects with a distinctly human presence in the rhythm section, engaging in songcraft in the new wave-ish “Intuition Unbound” while topping shoegaze wash with organ on “Aphelion.” It’s a vast reach, and with 14 tracks and a 55-minute runtime, Suns of Thyme have plenty of chance to get where they’re going, but the dynamic between the psych-folk of “Val Verde” and the drift of closing duo “Kirwani” and “Kirwani II” and the push of the earlier “Deep Purple Rain” impresses both in theory and practice alike. The task ahead of them would seem to be to meld these influences together further as they move forward, but there’s something satisfying about having no idea what’s coming next after the proggy sway of “Schweben,” and that’s worth appreciating as it is.
Two huge, side-consuming slabs of primordial improvised heavy psychedelia making up a 45-minute LP with a pun title and enough wash throughout that I don’t even feel dirty looking at it? Yeah, there really isn’t a time when I don’t feel ready to sign on for weirdo exploratory stuff like that which Seattle’s Fungal Abyss elicit on Karma Suture. Available as a 12” on Adansonia Records, the album brings together “Perfumed Garden” (22:12) and “Virile Member” (23:22), both sprawling, massive jams that launch almost immediately and are gone for the duration. Way gone. I won’t discount the consumption that takes place on side A, but I think my absolute favorite part of Karma Suture might be the guitar lead on “Virile Member,” which about eight minutes in starts to lose its way and you can actually hear the band come around and pick it back up to an exciting swing. It’s moments like that one that make a group like Fungal Abyss exciting. Not only are they able to right their direction when they need to, but they’re brave enough to put the whole thing on record: as raw and genuine as it gets.
It’s an encouraging and unpretentious start that Malaysian four-piece Wicked Gypsy make on their self-titled, self-released three-song EP. In the 22-minute span of “Wicked Gypsy,” “Heavy Eyes” and “Gypsy Woman,” the band – vocalist/guitarist Mahmood Ahmad, bassist Mohd Azam, keyboardist Azyan Idayu and drummer Ahmad Afiq – bring together influences from modern doom and classic heavy rock, Idayu’s keys providing a distinct ‘70s flair to the opener while Azam’s wah bass and of course a liberal dose of rifffing from Ahmad lead a proto-metallic charge in “Heavy Eyes,” topped with gritty vocals reciting lyrics about smoking weed, black magic, the devil, etc. What one really hears in these tracks is Wicked Gypsy’s initial exploration of dark-themed doom rock, and while the going is rough in its sound, that adds to the appeal, and the drum solo/progressive flourish worked into “Gypsy Woman” speaks well of where they’re headed as they walk the Sabbathian path.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
You gotta call your debut EP something, I guess. Rock heads will probably find it pretty easy to get initiated into Wendigo‘s Initiation. Despite the militaristic cover art, they’re not hammering nails into anybody’s chest — sonically speaking or otherwise — and instead proffer a straightforward type of heavy rock with some more classic metal-style vocals. The entire three-song offering can be streamed now below, as well as a couple cover tracks from Mountain, The Cult, AC/DC, that give a pretty decent sense of where the German five-piece are coming from. Some growing to do, but they’re young yet for the most part.
Background and audio:
WENDIGO – Initiation (EP)
Frisia is a region in northwestern Germany where endless pastures meet cow dung and where sheep’s legs grow askew due to them standing on the levee all the time. Frisia is a region both idyllic and calm… but there’s been not much to say about rock music from Frisia so far. So far. Or better: until 2012. Because 2012 has been the year in which four Frisians, back then still underage, came together to found WENDIGO and to teach some classic Rock to their flat homeland.
At first, WENDIGO, completed by changing singers on stage, enthused the people of Frisia with cover versions from AC/DC to ZZ TOP. Charity concerts for kids with cancer, fairs, underground concerts in youth clubs… the Frisian quartet plus guest vocalists took any chance to give people a taste of Rock and Metal classics. And they do that with success: Their concerts kept (and keep) getting bigger and bigger, and soon they found a constant singer and fifth regular band member in Jörg “Schorsch” Theilen.
Their success on stage also is what put enough wind under WENDIGO’s wings to write and record their own compositions. Years of experience as cover band taught the young band what works fine and what doesn’t, and thus their debut EP “Initiation” is full of their influences without bringing one of the influences so much into the foreground that one might speak of a “rip-off”. “Initiation”, that is quick Hard Rock in connection with cool Blues Rock attitude and hot, dry Stoner Rock atmosphere… music that makes you think about smoky pubs and sweaty clubs, but also works outside in the open air. Music, that makes you loose your temper and invites you to bang your head, but is also perfect if you just want to bop along with a cold beer in your hand.
Tracklisting: 1. Play It 2. Sail On 3. Holy Hypocrite
Band members: Vocals: Jörg Theilen Lead Guitar: Eric Post Rhythm Guitar & Vocals: Jan Ole Möller Bass & Vocals: Lennard Viertel Drums: Steffen Freesemann
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today, Swedish upstart riffers Vokonis announce their plans to enter Studio Underjord in November to begin recording their second full-length. If there’s a reason not to look forward to what these cats do next, I absolutely can’t think of it. Earlier this year, they broke out of the gate with Olde One Ascending (review here), which already has a place on my list of 2016’s best debut full-lengths, to be posted in December. By then, presumably, the tracking will be done on what’s been titled The Sunken Djinn, which will be produced by Joona Hassinen, which should be all the more exciting if you know any of the three bands listed below with whom he’s worked in the past. No minor names there as regards tone.
That’s an asset for Vokonis as well — tone — and as they continue to move forward from their beginnings under the moniker Creedsmen Arise, it’s been exciting so far to watch and hear them come into their own and find their sound in that great undulating sea of plus-sized riffage. More to come on this one, including art, audio, etc., but for now, here’s the statement of intent from the band and the tracklisting for The Sunken Djinn as it stands today:
In November of 2016 the Swedish stoner metal outfit Vokonis will enter the studio to record their second album.
This will be done at Studio Underjord with producer Joona Hassinen, who have previously worked with artists such as Tombstones, Ocean Chief and Skraeckoedlan.
The album which is titled “The Sunken Djinn” feature a more up-tempo and aggressive approach than the debut album “Olde One Ascending”.
‘The Sunken Djinn’ Tracklist: -The Sunken Djinn -Calling from the Core -Blood Vortex -Zilleon’s Eyes -Rapturous -Architect of Despair
Vokonis is in search of a label to publish the album and aims for The Sunken Djinn to be released during the first half of 2017.
VOKONIS is: Simon Ohlsson: Vocals, Guitar Emil Larsson: Drums Jonte Johansson: Bass, Backing vocals