Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

Grand Reunion on Thee Facebooks

Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

Pledge on Thee Facebooks

Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

Child on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp

 

Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

Circle of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Circle of the Sun on Bandcamp

 

Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

Svarta Stugan on Thee Facebooks

Svarta Stugan on Bandcamp

 

Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

Bast on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Sandrider, Witchkiss, Satta Caveira, Apollo80, The Great Unwilling, Grusom, Träden, Orthodox, Disrule, Ozymandias

Posted in Reviews on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Good morning from the kitchen table. It’s a couple minutes before 4AM as I get this post started. I’ve got my coffee, my iced tea in the same cup I’ve been using for the last three days, and I’m ready to roll through the next 10 records in this massive, frankly silly, Quarterly Review. Yesterday went well enough and I’m three days into the total 10 and I don’t feel like my head is going to explode, so I’ll just say so far so good.

As ever, there’s a lot to get through, so I won’t delay. I hope you find something here you dig. I certainly have.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sandrider, Armada

sandrider armada

Armada is the third full-length from Seattle noiseblasters Sandrider, and at this point I’m starting to wonder what it’s going to take for this band to get their due. Produced by Matt Bayles and released through Good to Die Records, the album is an absolute monster front to back. Scathing. Beastly. And yet the songs have character. It’s the trio’s first outing since 2015’s split with Kinski (review here) and follows 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here) in melding the band’s West Coast noise superiority with a sense of melody and depth as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts, and omegadrummer Nat Damm course and wind their way through intense but varied material. “Banger” has been tapped for its grunge influence. Eh. Maybe in the riff, but who cares when there’s so much more going on with it? “Brambles” is out and out brutal but still has a hook, and cuts like “Industry” and the closing “Dogwater” remind of just how skilled Sandrider are at making that brutality fun. If the record was six minutes long and just had “Hollowed” on it, you’d still call it a win.

Sandrider on Thee Facebooks

Good to Die Records website

 

Witchkiss, The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes

witchkiss the austere curtains of our eyes

Goodness gracious. Cavernous echo accompanies the roars of guitarist Scott Prater that are offset by the more subdued melodies of drummer Amber Burns, but even in the most spacious reaches of 11-minute second cut “Blind Faith,” Witchkiss are fucking massive-sounding. Their debut album, The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes, presents an especially crushing take on ritualistic volume, sounding its catharsis in a song like “Spirits of the Dirt” and sounding natural as it trades between a rolling assault and the atmospheres of its quieter moments. With the departure since the recording of bassist Anthony DiBlasi, the New York-based outfit will invariably shift in dynamic somewhat coming out of this record, but with such an obvious clarity of mission, I honestly doubt their core approach will change all that much. A band doesn’t make a record like this without direct intention. They may evolve, and one hopes they do just because one always hopes for that, but this isn’t a band feeling their way through their first record. This is a band who know exactly the kind of ferocity they want to conjure, and who conjure it without regret.

Witchkiss on Thee Facebooks

Witchkiss on Bandcamp

 

Satta Caveira, MMI

Satta Caveira MMI

Argentinian instrumentalist trio Satta Caveira make a point of saying they recorded MMI, their second or third album depending on what you count, live in their home studio without edits or overdubs, click tracks or anything else. Clearly the intention then is to capture the raw spirit of the material as it’s happening. The eight songs that make up the unmanageable 62-minute listen of MMI — to be fair, 14 of those minutes are opener “Kundalini” and 23 are the sludge-into-jam-into-sludge riffer “T.H.C.” — are accordingly raw, but that in itself becomes a component of their aesthetic. Whether it’s the volume swell that seems to consume “Don Santos” in its second half, the funk of closer “Afrovoid” or the drift in “Kalifornia,” Satta Caveira manage to hone a sense of range amid all the naturalism, and with the gritty and more aggressive riffing of the title-track and the rush of the penultimate “Router,” their sound might actually work with a more elaborate production, but they’ve got a thing, it works well, and I’m not inclined to argue.

Satta Caveira on Thee Facebooks

Satta Caveira on Bandcamp

 

Apollo80, Lizard! Lizard! Lizard!

apollo 80 lizard lizard lizard

Vocalized only by spoken samples of astronauts, the thrice-exclamatory Lizard! Lizard! Lizard! is the debut EP from Perth, Australia, three-piece Apollo80, who are given mostly to exploring an outpouring of heavy molten vibes but still able to hone a bit of cacophony following the “godspeed, John Glenn” sample in second cut “FFH.” There are four songs on the 26-minute offering, and its spaciousness is brought to earth somewhat by the dirt in which the guitar and bass tones are caked, but it’s more the red dust of Mars than anything one might find kicking around a Terran desert. Unsurprisingly, the high point of the outing is the 10:46 title-track, where guitarist Luke, bassist Brano and drummer Shane push farthest into the cosmos — though that’s debatable with the interstellar drone of closer “Good Night” — but even in the impact of “Apollo” at the outset, there’s a feeling of low-oxygen in the atmosphere, and if you get lightheaded, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Apollo80 on Thee Facebooks

Apollo80 on Bandcamp

 

The Great Unwilling, EP

the great unwilling ep

The prevailing influence throughout the untitled debut EP from Minnesota’s The Great Unwilling is Queens of the Stone Age, but listening to the layer of wah intertwine with the solo on “Sanguine,” there’s more to their approach than just that, however dreamy the vocal melodies from guitarist Jesse Hoheisel might be. Hoheisel, bassist Joe Ulvi and Mark Messina present a clean four tracks and 20 minutes on their first outing, and for having been together for about 18 months, their songwriting seems to have a firm grasp on what they want to do. “If 3 was 7” rolls along at a heavy clip into an effectively drifting midsection and second half jam before returning to the initial riff, while “Current” leads off with a particularly Hommeian construction, and soon gives way to the flowing pace and apparent lyrical references of the aforementioned “Sanguine.” They finish with the dirtier tonality of “Apostasy” and cap with no more pretense than they started, bringing the short release to a close with a chorus that seems to finish with more to say. No doubt they’ll get there.

The Great Unwilling on Thee Facebooks

The Great Unwilling on Bandcamp

 

Grusom, II

grusom ii

A prominent current of organ alongside the guitars gives Grusom‘s aptly-titled second album on Kozmik Artifactz, II, a willfully classic feel, and even the lyrics of “Peace of Mind” play into that with the opening lines, “I always said I was born too late/This future is not for me,” but the presentation from the Svendborg six-piece isn’t actually all that retro-fied. Rather, the two guitars and organ work in tandem to showcase a modern take on those classic ideas, as the back and forth conversation between them in the extended jam of “Skeletons” demonstrates, and with a steady rhythmic foundation and soulful vocals overtop, Grusom‘s craft doesn’t need the superficial trappings of a ’70s influence to convey those roots in their sound. Songs like “Dead End Valley” and “Embers” have a bloozy swing as they head toward the melancholy closer “Cursed from Birth,” but even there, the proceedings are light on pretense and the atmosphere is more concerned with a natural vibe rather than pretending it’s half a century ago.

Grusom on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Träden, Träden

traden traden

Having originated as Träd Gräs och Stenar, the group now known as Träden is the product of a psychedelic legacy spanning generations. Founder Jakob Sjöholm has joined forces with Hanna Östergren of Hills, Reine Fiske of Dungen and Sigge Krantz of Archimedes Badkar to create a kind of supergroup of serenity, and their self-titled is blissful enough not only to life up to Träd Gräs och Stenar‘s cult status, but to capture one of its own. It’s gorgeous. Presumably the painting used on the cover is the cabin where it was recorded, and its eight tracks — sometimes mellow, sometimes more weighted, always hypnotic — are a naturalist blueprint that only make the world a better place. That sounds ridiculous, I know. But the truth is that for all the terrible, horrifying shit humanity does on a daily basis, to know that there are people on the planet making music like this with such a genuine spirit behind it is enough to instill a bit of hope for the species. This is what it’s all about. I couldn’t even make it through the Bandcamp stream without buying the CD. That never happens.

Träden on Thee Facebooks

Träden on Bandcamp

 

Orthodox, Krèas

orthodox kreas

Last year, Spanish experimentalists Orthodox released Supreme and turned their free-jazz meets low-doom into a 36-minute fracas of happening-right-now creativity. Krèas, a lone, 27-minute track with the core duo of bassist Marco Serrato and drummer Borja Díaz joined by saxophonist Achilleas Polychronidis, was recorded in the same session but somehow seems even more freaked-out. I mean, it’s gone. Gone to a degree that even the hepcats who claim to appreciate free-jazz on anything more than a theoretical level (that is, those who actually listen to it) will have their hair blown back. The rest of the universe? Well, they’ll probably continue on, blissfully unaware that Orthodox are out there smashing comets together like they are, but wow. Challenging the listener is one thing. Krèas is the stuff of dissertations. One only hopes Orthodox aren’t holding their breath waiting for humanity to catch up to what they’re doing, because, yeah, it’s gonna be a while.

Orthodox on Thee Facebooks

Alone Records webstore

 

Disrule, Sleep in Your Honour

Disrule Sleep in Your Honour

Danish bruisers Disrule run a brash gamut with their second album, Sleep in Your Honour (on Seeing Red). Leading off with the earworm hook of the title-track (premiered here), the album puts a charge into C.O.C.-style riffing and classic heavy rock, but shades of Clutch-y funk in “Going Wrong” and a lumbering bottom end in “Occult Razor” assure there’s no single angle from which they strike. “(Gotta Get Me Some) Control” elicits a blues-via-Sabbath vibe, but the drums seem to make sure Disrule are never really at rest, and so there’s a strong sense of momentum throughout the eight-song/29-minute EP, perhaps best emphasized by two-minute second cut “Death on My Mind,” which seems to throw elbows as it sprints past, though even shouted-chorus closer “Enter the Void” has an infectious energy about it. If you think something can’t be heavy and move, Disrule have a shove with your name on it.

Disrule on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Ozymandias, Cake!

ozymandias cake

First clue that all is not what it seems? The artwork. Definitely not a picture of cake on the cover of Ozymandias‘ debut album, Cake!, and accordingly, things don’t take long before they get too weird. “Jelly Beans” hits on harshest Nirvana — before it goes into blastbeats. “Mason Jar” scathes out organ-laced doom and vicious screaming, before “Hangman” gets all danceable like “All Pigs Must Die” earlier in the record. The wacky quotient is high, and the keyboards do a lot to add to that, but one can’t really call “Doom I – The Daisies” or the later “Doom II – The Lilies” anything but progressive in the Devin Townsend-shenanigans-metal sense of the word, and as wild as some stretches of Cake! are, the trio from Linz, Austria, are never out of control, and they never give a sense that what they’re doing is an accident. They’re just working on their own stylistic level, and to a degree that’s almost scary considering it’s their first record. I won’t claim to know where they might be headed, but it seems likely they have a plan.

Ozymandias on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: A Storm of Light, Z/28, Forrest, 1476, Owl, Brass Hearse, Craneium & Black Willows, Magmakammer, Falun Gong, Max Tovstyi

Posted in Reviews on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Day Two of the Quarterly-Review-Mega-Super-Ultra-Year-End-Wrap-Up-Spectacular-Gnarly-Edition — name in progress — begins now. First day? Smooth. Wrote it over the weekend to get a jump on the week, cruised through a morning and into baby-naps, finished with time left over to still go and read the Star Trek novel I’m currently making my way through. Easy. Also peasy.

Today? Well, apparently I turned off my alarm in my sleep because I rolled over 40 minutes later and certainly didn’t remember it going off. Whoops. Not a great start, but there is a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so we’ll get through it, even if it’s awfully early in the week to be sleeping in. Ha.

Have a great day everybody. Here are 10 more records for the QRMSUYEWUSGE. Rolls right off the tongue.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

A Storm of Light, Anthroscene

A Storm of Light Anthroscene

“America the sick and crumbling/Liberty she’s weeping/The tired and poor are huddled and dying/As the wretched ones are touched aside.” The lines, from A Storm of Light‘s “Blackout” — the second cut from their fifth LP, Anthroscene (on Translation Loss) — lead to the inevitable question: “What the fuck is wrong with us?,” and thereby summarize the central sociopolitical framework of the record. A dystopian thematic suits the band’s aesthetic, and there’s certainly no shortage of material to work from between current events and future outlook. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/graphic artist Josh Graham, bassist Domenic Seita and guitarist/keyboardist Dan Hawkins are five years removed from the band’s last outing, however, so their post-apocalyptic post-metal is welcome either way, and Anthroscene taps a Killing Joke influence and turns it to its dark and churning purposes over the course of its eight tracks/51 minutes, delving into harsh shouts on “Short Term Feedback” and capping with the resistance-filled “Rosebud,” which surges forth from ambience like the anti-facist/anti-capitalist critique that it is, ending with the lyric, “When you die, we will spit on your grave,” which could hardly be more appropriate.

A Storm of Light on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records on Bandcamp

 

Z28, Nobody Rides for Free

Z28 Nobody Rides for Free

Massachusetts’ Z28 — also stylized as Z/28 and Z-28; I don’t think they care so long as you get the point they’re named after the Camaro — make their full-length debut with Nobody Rides for Free on Fuzzdoom Records, and with the occasional bit of organ on songs like “Touch of Evil” and “Angst III (I Don’t Want to Die),” they nonetheless give a raw take on heavy rock laced with that particularly Northeastern aggression. Guitarist Jeff Hayward (also organ), bassist/acoustic guitarist/engineer Jason Negro and drummer Breaux Silcio all contribute vocals to the outing, and yet the minute-long instrumental intro tells much of the story of what it’s about in terms of the chemistry between them. Impressive guitar solos are rampant throughout, and the rhythm section carries over a weighted groove through cuts like “Wandering” that’s fluid in tempo but still able to create an overarching flow between the tracks. I’ll give bonus points for the Black Sabbath nods in the multi-layered lead work toward the end of “Spirit Elk (Lord of the Hunt)” as well as the title “Keep on Rockin’ (In the Invisible World),” and Z28 have something to build on here in terms of songwriting and that chemistry. It’s raw-sounding, but that doesn’t necessarily hurt it.

Z28 on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Bandcamp

 

Forrest, Kickball with Russians

forrest kickball with russians

Granted, Forrest telegraph some measure of quirk by naming their debut EP Kickball with Russians, but the four-piece from Lexington, Kentucky, still seem to be rolling along in a straightforward-enough manner on six-minute instrumental opener and longest track (immediate points) “(I Dream of) Kickball with Russians,” until the keyboards start in. That turn gives their EP an edge of the unexpected that continues to inform “DAN,” “Deew” and the closing “My Son Looks Just Like Me,” and “DAN” continues the thread with gang shouts popping up over its chugging progression and receding again after about two words to let the track get quiet and build back up. And is that a velociraptor at the start of “Deew?” Either way, that song’s Mr. Bungle-style angularity, a return of the keys and intermittent heavy nod work to underscore the willful weirdness that’s very much at play in the four-piece’s work, and the closer adds Ween-style effects work into the mix while still keeping a heavy presence in tone and lumber. They’ll get weirder with time, but this is a good start toward that goal.

Forrest on Thee Facebooks

Forrest on Bandcamp

 

1476, Our Season Draws Near

1476 our season draws near

Coastal melancholy and a pervasive sense of atmosphere seem to unite the varied tracks on 1476‘s 2017 Prophecy release, Our Season Draws Near, which otherwise draw across their span from goth rock, punk, doom and extreme metal, able to blur the line especially between punk and black metal on songs like “Ettins” while acoustics pervade “Solitude (Exterior)” en route to the Anathema-gone-char rasps of “Solitude (Interior)” a short time later. I know I’m late to the party on the Salem, MA, duo, and likewise late on this record, but from opener “Our Silver Age” to closer “Our Ice Age” to the “Solitude” pairing to “Winter of Winds” — finally: David Bowie fronts Joy Division — and “Winter of Wolves,” there’s so much of Our Season Draws Near that has a bigger-picture thought process behind its construction that its impact is multi-tiered. And it’s not just that they pit genres against each other in their sound, it’s that their sound brings them together toward something new and malleable to the purposes of their songwriting. Not to be missed, so this is me, not missing it. Even though I kind of missed it.

1476 on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Nights in Distortion

owl nights in distortion

Joined on Nights in Distortion by bassist René Marquis as well as longtime drummer Patrick Schroeder, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Christian Kolf (also Valborg) greatly expands his former solo-ish-project Owl with their second release of 2018 behind March’s Orion Fenix EP (review here), bringing together elements of post-metal churn with deeply atmospheric sensibilities, cuts like “Transparent Moment” churning as much as they are surprising with their underlying melody. A Type O Negative influence continues to be worked into their sometimes grueling context, but it’s hard to listen to the keyboard-laced “Inanna in Isolation” and hear Owl being anything other than who they’ve become, and their third album is the most distinct statement of that yet, airy lead guitars floating over a still-fervent, industrial-style chug amid vocals veering from barking shouts to quiet, low-register semi-spoken fare and cleaner singing. Nights in Distortion is the evolving work of a mastermind, captured in progress.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Temple of Torturous website

 

Brass Hearse, Hollow on the Surface

Brass Hearse Hollow on the Surface

Synth-laden heavy horror garage dance rock could probably use a more succinct genre name, but while those in charge of such things sit and scratch their butts, Boston’s Brass Hearse carve out a niche unto themselves with their second EP, Hollow on the Surface. The five-track offering is in and out in 14 minutes but wants nothing for either a show of craft or arrangement, tapping into psych-folk in the strummy interlude “Dwellers in the Static Valley” after the hook-led “Death by Candlelight” and before the John Carpenter-style pulsations that underscore “The Thing from Another World.” Opener “Fading” is the only song to top four minutes and has a distinctly progressive take, but while it and the organ-ic closer “Headaches & Heartbreaks” has a theatricality to it, Brass Hearse are too cohesive to charge with being weird for weirdness’ sake, and their experimentation is presented in complete, engaging songs, rather than self-indulgent collections of parts mashed together. Would love to hear what they do over the course of a full-length.

Brass Hearse on Thee Facebooks

Playing Records on Bandcamp

 

Craneium & Black Willows, Split

Different missions from Finland’s Craneium and Switzerland’s Black Willows on their BloodRock Records split. Craneium nod through “Your Law” and mark their second inclusion, “Try, Fail, Repeat,” with a Sabbathian swing that only kicks up in tempo as it moves through its five minutes. Black Willows, on the other hand, present a single track in the 19-minute, noise-soaked post-everything “Bliss,” which trades back and forth between minimalism and crushing riffs en route to a consuming wash and long, long, long fadeout. Released in March, the outing showcases both bands well, but one is left wondering where the connection is between the two of them that they’d come together for a joint vinyl release. Either way, I won’t detract from what they do individually, whether it’s the catchiness of “Your Law” and the jam in its second half or “Bliss” with its frost-covered expanse of tonality, it’s just a marked leap from side A to side B. Maybe that was the idea all along, and if that’s the case, then one can only say they succeeded.

Craneium on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

BloodRock Records on Bandcamp

 

Magmakammer, Mind Tripper

magmakammer mindtripper

Following a 2015 self-titled debut EP, Oslo trio Magmakammer align with Kozmik Artifactz for their first long-player, Mindtripper, and so effect a garage doom sound that’s quickly relatable to Uncle Acid on songs like “Fat Saturn” and the chug-shuffling “Along the Crooked Roads.” Where they distinguish themselves from this core influence, though, is in the density of their tones, as opener “Druggernaut” and the rolling “Acid Times” prove thicker in their charge. Still, there’s no mistaking that swing and the blown-out sound of the vocals. Closer “Cosmic Dancers,” which is one of two tracks over seven minutes long, shows more dynamic in its loud/quiet tradeoffs, and resolves itself in a righteous nodder of a riff. It’s essentially in the same vein, but still displaying some emerging personality of Magmakammer‘s own that one hopes they continue to develop. And in the meantime, the foundation of craft and stylistic awareness they hone is still welcome, familiar or not.

Magmakammer on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz webstore

 

Falun Gong, Figure 2

Falun Gong Figure 2

Mystique isn’t easy to come by in this Age of Access, but the anonymous London-dwelling duo Falun Gong have succeeded in piquing interest with their two-to-date singles, “Figure 1” (review here), and the eight-minute “Figure 2,” which like its predecessor is raw in the recording, sounds like it was performed live, and follows a trance-inducing course of riffing. The central groove is a slow march that makes its way through obscure voices delivered in buried fashion — the whole thing may or may not be mastered; somehow I’m thinking not, but I’ve been wrong before — through a self-aware drift that rounds out following a soulful culmination fitting the song’s lyrical theme, which would seem to be tied to the cover art about baptism in a river’s waters. There’s just something off-kilter about Falun Gong to this point, and while it’s still early going for them, they bring an eerie persona to their work that feels less performative than it so often does.

Falun Gong on Bandcamp

 

Max Tovstyi, Mesmerize

Max Tovstyi Mesmerize

Though he’s had a slew of live outings out with the Max Tovstyi Blues Band and the Max Tovstyi Blues Association, Mesmerize (LP on Nasoni) is the Ukrainian heavy blues rocker’s first solo studio outing since 2014. He’s credited with all the instruments on the 10- or 12-track offering save for a couple arrangement-flourish guest appearances, and he pulls in a classic spirit and full-band sound without any trouble on a moody piece like “World of Sin” or the bonus track “Show Me the Way,” which isn’t a Peter Frampton cover so far as I can tell but still has plenty of guitar scorch to go around. “From the Blues to the Funk” jams its way along its stated trajectory, and “Feel Like Dying Now” brings together organ and keys in a fashion far less dramatized than one might initially think. With a clean production, Tovstyi — also known for his work in The Heavy Crawls, Lucifer Rising, and others — carries through his sentimentality for blues rock’s past and finds himself well at home leading the pack of guest vocalists on “Make Up Your Mind,” which closes the album proper with a semi-country twang and sweet melody.

Max Tovstyi on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Trippy Wicked, Dunbarrow, The Vintage Caravan, Zatokrev & Minsk, Owl Maker, Orbital Junction, Bourbon, Birnam Wood, Wytch Hazel, The Soulbreaker Company

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

You know how this goes by now, right? Well, okay, except that because I skipped the Quarterly Review that I otherwise would’ve done in September (or, more likely, October), I’m doubling-up this time. 100 reviews instead of 50. Two full weeks of 10 albums per day. Will I survive? Yeah, probably. Will it be completely overwhelming? Already is. Thanks for asking.

I’ll save the summaries of the year that was for list-time, which is fast approaching, but consider the fact that there are well more than 100 albums I could include in this roundup emblematic of just how vibrant heavy rock and doom are in the US, EU, UK, Australia and elsewhere. It’s a universal thing, and accordingly, there’s a whole universe of it to explore. This is just a sampling.

But yeah, time’s a wastin’, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stakes n Scale

trippy wicked stakes n scale

An acoustic EP from Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight — who, let’s face it, were way ahead of the curve when it comes to the UK scene’s thing for long and ridiculous band names — is a considerable departure from where they were two years ago on their split/collaboration with GurT (review here), but those familiar with the band might recall their past penchant for the occasional unplugged cover recorded for YouTube. Chris West (also Crawling for Carrion, Glanville, etc.), who engineered the recording and plays guitar, and vocalist Peter Holland (also Elephant Tree) revamp Trippy Wicked‘s “Up the Stakes” from 2012’s Going Home (review here), and cover “Scale the Mountain” by Stubb, of which both were members when the song was written. Together, they make for a nine-minute showcase for the character in Holland‘s voice and the melodies and craft at root in both tracks, and while its arrival feels like kind of a one-off, it’s certainly no less welcome for that.

Trippy Wicked on Thee Facebooks

Trippy Wicked on Bandcamp

 

Dunbarrow, II

dunbarrow ii

The novelty of new bands playing through vintage gear in order to capture a heavy ’70s sound may have faded, but like all subgenres, as time goes on, the retro-ist style continues to shift and change as bands like Dunbarrow bring new character to established tenets. Their second LP for RidingEasy is aptly-titled II and sways between honoring the likes of Pentagram and acts like Witchcraft who’ve helped craft that band’s hindsight-founded legacy. Dunbarrow‘s noodly style, restrained rhythmic shove and ride-the-riff melody on “Weary Lady” and the foresty creep of “The Demon Within” capture the vibe well, the latter occurring in a second half of II populated with “The Wolf” and “Witches of the Woods Pt. II,” a sequel to the closer of their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) that here leads to the more severe roll of the finale, “On this Night,” emblematic of the changing character of the band even as it reaffirms in its tense midsection the roots from which they sprung.

Dunbarrow on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

The Vintage Caravan, Gateways

the vintage caravan gateways

With their third record and second for Nuclear Blast, Icelandic trio The Vintage Caravan affirm not only their passion for the boogie of old on cuts like “The Way” and the strutting “Hidden Streams,” but secure a place as being worthy of the consideration they’ve been given to a degree by the wider Continental European heavy underground. They are strikingly mature in their approach for still being a relatively young band, and their albums have worked quickly to develop a character that is becoming more and more their own. They do the fests and they tour, and so on, but they seem to be engaged in building their listenership one pair of ears at a time. Having a metal-major label behind them hasn’t hurt their promotional cause, but frankly, they’re not as big as they should be for the level of work they’re doing, and even with songs like “Reset” and “Reflections” and the composed-strictly-for-vinyl-sounding closer “Tune Out” to their credit, they’re still largely a word of mouth band, especially in the US. Well, consider this your word of mouth. If you haven’t heard Gateways yet, you should get on that.

The Vintage Caravan on Thee Facebooks

The Vintage Caravan at Nuclear Blast

 

Minsk & Zatokrev, Bigod

zatokrev minsk bigod

Post-metallic powerhouses Minsk and Zatokrev — both of whom hit their 15th anniversary last year — teamed up for a European tour this Fall. To mark the occasion, Consouling Sounds and Czar of Crickets celebrated with Bigod, a split with two tracks from each band arranged in alternating order — Minsk, then Zatokrev, etc. — intended to highlight the symmetry between them not just of circumstance and root influence in the Neurosis school of atmospheric sludge, but the fact that they share these commonalities despite their origins in Illinois and Switzerland, respectively. Each band opens with a longer track (double points) in Minsk‘s “Invoke/Revive” and Zatokrev‘s “Silent Gods,” each of which push past 13 minutes as likely at any moment to be pummeling as ambient, and follows with two shorter cuts, Minsk‘s “Salvatore” swelling theatrically from its minimalist beginnings while Zatokrev‘s “The Chalice and the Dagger” seems to explode from the foundation the prior band laid out. It must have been a hell of a tour, but whether you saw it or not, the split is a welcome conglomeration from two of post-metal’s strongest acts.

Minsk on Thee Facebooks

Zatokrev on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

Owl Maker, Sky Road

owl maker sky road

Self-recording guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, ex-Guerra, etc.) leads Connecticut-based three-piece Owl Maker through a complex thematic of Native American folklore and heavy metal classicism. The NWOBHM plays a strong role in his riffing style, but one of the two tracks included on the two-songer single Sky Road, “Owl City,” also veers into more extreme territory with a departure from clean vocals to harsher screaming. All told, it’s about eight minutes of music, but Sky Road nonetheless follows Owl Maker‘s earlier-2018 EP, Paths of the Slain (review here), with an uptick in melodic presence in the vocals of Tuozzoli and bassist Jessie May and progression in the chemistry between the two of them and drummer Chris Anderson, and with the fluidity of their transitions between various styles of heavy, their scope seems only to be growing. To wit, “Sky Road” itself is only 3:42, but still demonstrates a clear-headed compositional method based around storytelling and a subtly encompassing range. Whether it’s early warning for what they do next or a conceptual one-off, its quick run seems just to be begging for a 7″ pressing.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Orbital Junction, Orbital Junction

Orbital Junction orbital junction

The Londonderground continues to produce acts ready and willing to worship at the altar of riffs. Orbital Junction‘s self-release debut EP makes an impression not only because of the markedly pro-shop production by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios and the cover art by SoloMacello, but the hooks to live up to those high standards. “6 ft. 2” follows opener “Space Highway” with a bit of dudely chestbeating — note: I don’t know how tall any of them actually are — but the swing of EP centerpiece “Devil’s Double” and the bounce of “Gypsy Queen” speak for the four-piece’s roots and appreciation of straightforward heavy, void of pretense and tapping into an easy mid-paced fluidity that slows up somewhat on closer “Pagan” without really losing the central groove of the offering overall. They’ll have their work cut out for them in distinguishing themselves over the longer term amongst London’s burl-fueled hordes, but their first outing shows their instincts headed in the right direction in terms of songwriting, performance and presentation.

Orbital Junction on Thee Facebooks

Orbital Junction on Bandcamp

 

Bourbon, Fuente Vieja

Bourbon Fuente Vieja

Crisp but warm in its tone and presentation, rife with melody and carrying a laid back spirit despite a fervent underlying groove — the bass on “El Sendero” rests well within gotta-hear-it territory — Spanish purveyors Bourbon emobody some of the best of post-Viaje a 800 Andalusian heavy rock and roll on their third LP, Fuente Vieja (on Spinda). Their fuzz makes its presence known early on “Si Véis La Luz, Corred” and continues as a running theme as tracks like “A Punto de Arder” and the side-A-capping title-cut grow increasingly progressive. There’s room for some shuffle, of course, as side B begins with “La Triste Realidad,” and the slower “Hacia el Sol” gracefully blends electrified wah and acoustic guitars beneath a well-timed standout vocal performance, but the highlight might be eight-minute closer “Destierro,” which seems to bring everything else under one roof while tapping into a poppier structure early — acoustics and electrics aligning effectively circa two minutes in — while providing the album with a graceful and fittingly organic-sounding finale.

Bourbon on Thee Facebooks

Spinda Records webstore

 

Birnam Wood, Wicked Worlds

birnam wood wicked worlds

Birnam Wood don’t have time for bullshit, but they do have time for a bit of shenanigans. Thus the 1:44 surge of opener “Time of Purification” leads into the sample-laden roller groove of “Richard Dreyfuss” on their as-of-now-self-released Wicked Worlds, and the “Hole in the Sky”-style “Dunsinane” shifts into the more blown-out “Early Warning,” which, by the time its tectonic low end kicks in, is indeed something of a clarion. At seven-tracks/34-minutes, Wicked Worlds is somewhere between an EP and an LP, but I’d argue it as the latter with the flow from “Greenseer” into the massive “A Song for Jorklum” and the seven-minute finale “Return to Samarkand” making for a righteous side B, but either way, it’s a Boston-crafted assault of grit-tone and aggro doom that finds the band not overwhelmed by the heft of their own tones but able to move and manipulate them to serve the purposes of their songs. Those purposes, incidentally, are mostly about kicking ass. Which they do. Copiously.

Birnam Wood on Thee Facebooks

Birnam Wood on Bandcamp

 

Wytch Hazel, II: Sojourn

Wytch Hazel II Soujorn

It would not seem to be a coincidence that UK self-aware four-piece Wytch Hazel — guitarists Conlin Hendra (also vocals) and Alex Haslam, bassist Matt Gatley and drummer Jack Spencer nod to Wishbone Ash‘s Argus with the cover of their second LP, II: Sojourn (on Bad Omen). They do a lot of that kind of nodding, with a sound culled from a valiant blend of classic progressive and early NWOBHM styles that makes the point of how closely related the two have always been. “The Devil is Here” starts out at a fervent gallop with just an underpinning of Thin Lizzy, while the later “See My Demons” shifts from its steady roll and rousing hook into an acoustic/electric break that seems to pull from Jethro Tull as much as Scorpions. At 10 tracks/45 minutes, they have plenty of time to flesh out their ideas, and they do precisely that, whether it’s the careful unfolding around the keys and acoustics of closer “Angel Take Me” or the over-the-top instrumental push of “Chorale” or the moodier “Wait on the Wind,” the wah solo of which is a highlight on its own. There are some burgeoning harmonies in Hendra‘s vocals, which is an impulse he should follow as it would only enhance the material, but after making their debut with 2016’s Prelude, II: Sojourn finds Wytch Hazel sounding comfortable and well established in their niche.

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Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light

the soulbreaker company sewed with light

Progressive, expansive and engaging, the sixth album from Spanish sextet The Soulbreaker Company, Sewed with Light (on Underground Legends), taps into classically Floydian influences on songs like “The Word, the Blade” while still keeping a foot in heavy rock on the prior “Together,” and setting a quick course into a varied sonic persona via the seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Inner Dark.” Hypnotizing not necessarily with drift but with sheer willful exploration, The Soulbreaker Company work with a variety of key sounds and craft-minded ranging guitar in order to effect an atmosphere of thoughtful songwriting even in their most outwardly trippy moments. The sneering semi-psychedelic rock of “Avoid the Crash” and the more stripped-down roll of “Arrhythmia” (video premiere here) lead the way into closer “In the Beginning,” which marks yet another departure with its grandeur of string sounds and electronic beats leading to a chugging big finale. As with the bulk of The Soulbreaker Company‘s work, it requires an active ear, but Sewed with Light both encourages and well earns consideration as more than background noise.

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Underground Legends on Bandcamp

 

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Black Capricorn Release Equinox EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black capricorn

I usually give bands immediate points for opening a release with the longest song. It’s a continually brave decision, and in my mind, worth highlighting when it happens. Okay, so Black Capricorn‘s new digital outing, Equinox, is an EP. So figure maybe half points. But the song’s also acoustic — an unplugged leadoff on an otherwise-plugged release. That’s gotta be points right there. Plus it’s called “Doom for the Red Sun,” so cleverness points on top of those for the reference. I haven’t done a full tally of the numbers involved, but all told, I think it probably works out to you should take a couple minutes and check out the release, which as fate would have it is streaming at the bottom of this post courtesy of the Sardinian trio’s Bandcamp page.

Equinox follows 2015’s Ira Dei EP (discussed here) and this year’s LP, Cult of Black Friars (review here), and in addition to its doomly red sun blues has tracks that date back even before the band got their start and an uncut version of “The Hound of Harbinger God,” which previously appeared on a single.

The art and info:

black-capricorn-equinox-ep

Black Capricorn – Equinox EP

This new EP is part of a concept continuing for a second and final chapter later next year.

Equinox is inspired by spring season and the end of the summer time. Consist of an acoustic with an unlikely title song (track 1), an old song written during Cult of Black Friars session (track 2), a very old song written in the mid of the 90s by Fabrizio for his formerly band Wild Duck (track 3) and the uncensored (by the length of the 7″ release) and remastered song (track 4).

tracklist:
1. Doom for the red sun
2. La sella del Diavolo
3. Astroflower
4. The hound of harbinger god (uncutted and remastered)

Recorded 3 days of november at the doomy cottage (Hill de los muertos, Sardinia). Mastered in 666 minutes by the man behind the button: mr. Toro.

https://blackcapricorn.bandcamp.com/album/equinox-ep

http://facebook.com/blackcapricorn666
https://blackcapricorn.bandcamp.com

Black Capricorn, Equinox (2018)

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Heavy Temple Announce New Album for 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I admit, when I started this post and reached out to Heavy Temple, my basic going idea was, ‘I haven’t written about Heavy Temple in a while and Heavy Temple kick ass.’ That’s what I was going on. For those who don’t keep up on their well-maintained social media presence, they’ve been steadily destroying ears and the brains between them over the course of this year at happenings like Muddy RootsDescendants of CromDays of DarknessShadow WoodsRPM Fest — as well as Ode to Doom in Manhattan this past weekend — and dates alongside the formidable likes of Ecstatic VisionMothershipWitch Mountain and Corrosion of Conformity. They’ve spent most of this year playing out between touring and wisely-chosen fests, and their following has only grown more cult-like and loyal as a result.

Right on. The news that came back when I hit up one High Priestess Nighthawk was better than I could’ve hoped in that Heavy Temple will be recording this winter for a new full-length to follow-up on 2016’s righteous Chassit (review here) debut LP. It’ll be their first record with Thunderhorse on guitar as they bring their hard fuzz stylizations to new degrees of intensity. You can see that even in the reinterpreted older material played live in the clip below, filmed at Underground Arts in their native Philadelphia on a bill they shared with YOB and Bell Witch. Because fucking a.

Which brings me back to my original point: Heavy Temple kick ass. Their new record? It’ll probably kick ass too.

Here’s a quick update from the band about it:

heavy temple

Heavy Temple – New Album Recording & Gigs

We’ll be heading to the basement this winter to record our new album (more details to come). Will Spectre’s Red Water Recording captures some of Philly’s finest (Outer Heaven, Witching, Narcos Family Band, Moros, Black Urn) and we’re excited to get started. We have five songs planned for this record, including some interludes that we’ll be writing throughout the sessions.

This album is true to the Heavy Temple sound, but noticeably different in that this will be the third recorded line up. We’re really hitting our stride with this one and even though we’ve been playing some of the new material live, we look forward to being able to get it out to the folks that haven’t been able to make it to a show.

We have one more appearance this year, at December Doomsday with Weedeater and Unearthly Trance in Baltimore. We have two shows in April at the Philly Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, and back in Baltimore for Haze Mage’s annual 4/20 jammer, aptly named Grim Reefer fest, with Ruby the Hatchet. Additionally we’d love to get further west next year, as well as across the pond! Keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground. We’re comin’ to getchoo. XO

Heavy Temple is:
High Priestess Nighthawk (low end and vocal power)
Siren Tempest (rhythm)
Thunderhorse (6 string axe slinger)

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Live at Underground Arts, Philadelphia, PA, June 29, 2018

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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The Sixth Chamber Premiere “Entrance to the Cold Waste” Video; Single Available Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the sixth chamber entrance to the cold waste video

If you find yourself wondering what’s going on with the new video from Los Angeles-based goth-tinged doom rockers The Sixth Chamber, that’s okay. Between the desert and the bellydancing and the demon sultan, there are a fair amount of references to various mythological concepts, and bellies, and yeah, it’s all pretty wild. Not the least counterintuitive is the fact that the song is called “Entrance to the Cold Waste” and the clip was filmed in Death Valley on what looks like a stinking-hot kind of afternoon. Whatever else you listen to today, it’s not gonna sound like this.

Founded by guitarist/vocalist Rahne Pistor around the turn of the century, The Sixth Chamber‘s new single features members of Crypt Sermon and Salem’s Bend, and if pulling playersthe sixth chamber cover from across the country (Crypt Sermon being based in Philadelphia) seems out there, that’s just the start of it. Their first show was in 2002 opening for Chuck Dukowski. They played Buddy Miles‘ funeral, and their last video had Ron Jeremy in it. So, even before you click play on the YouTube embed below, you need to understand that “out there” is a big part of what The Sixth Chamber do. And if you hear a hint of New York goth metal â la Type O Negative in “Entrance to the Cold Waste,” you’re probably not far off. Pistor spent time in the late ’90s in New York doing Misfits tunes alongside Bobby Steele in The Undead, so there’s about no way he would’ve escaped that band’s sphere of influence.

But “Entrance to the Cold Waste” isn’t at all so easy to pin down as just that. Rather, its theatricality comes coupled with an underlying course of classically doomed grooving and fuzzed-out tones. It’s a rare balance of stylistic elements, and the visuals to which they’re set — from the swordfight to the actual eating of a heart — tell a story that’s as entrancing as it is obscure. I’m not sure you’ll want to look away, but even if you did, you probably wouldn’t be able to do so.

“Entrace to the Cold Waste” is available as a single now, and the video was directed by Constantin Werner. It’s my pleasure to host the premiere below.

Please enjoy:

The Sixth Chamber, “Entrance to the Cold Waste” official video premiere

An entheogenic seeker and sorcerer (Rahne Pistor) stalks an irresistible will-o’-the-wisp sorceress (Mahafsoun) through the vast tortured waste far beyond the waking world toward the marvelous sunset city. En route of his dream quest he encounters the creeper from the great beyond and other grim perils. What unspeakable horrors lie at the prehistoric stone monastery in the dominion of the crude and mischievous demon sultan Azathoth (Stanton Lavey), that evil devil? Who is left to trust? Do the seeker’s true enemies lie within? Is reaching the wondrous Kadath in all its glory worth the wholesale scourging of his soul?

Directed by Constantin Werner.

STARRING:
Rahne Pistor
Mahafsoun
Stanton Lavey
Brian Bodt

Other notable facts about the production:
*It features a cameo by the grandson of Satanic Bible author and Church of Satan Founder Anton Lavey, who plays a crude heathen elder god of a guttural devil sect too awful to mention.
*It was shot in the scorching heat and otherworldly wastelands of Death Valley, CA this past summer
*The video stars the illustrious gothic metal belly dancer Mahafsoun, a well-known YouTube personality and early adopter of this dance sub-genre.
*The song includes lead guitarist Steve Jansson of Crypt Sermon and bassist Bobby Parker of Salem’s Bend

SONG CREDITS:
Rahne Pistor – Vocals, Guitar
Steve Jansson – Guitar
Bobby Parker – Bass
Jameson Cluchey – Drums
Adam Thompson – Keyboards

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The Sixth Chamber on Instagram

The Sixth Chamber on Bandcamp

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