Operators Announce New Album Revelers Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

operators

They’ve shifted from a six-piece to a five-piece since putting out their second album, Contact High (review here), late in 2013, but as this Spring finds organ-laced Berlin heavy rockers Operators making a return with their third outing, Revelers, that’s not the only change at hand. Not that I’ve heard it yet or anything, but the new record — the six tracks of which arrive half a decade after the band’s self-titled debut (review here) — feels immediately more textured in its intentions than anything they’ve done before.

Still plenty of riotousness happening, as “Pusher” demonstrates in the stream at the bottom of this post, and I don’t think you put a song called “Fuzz Muncher” on your record if you’re going full-prog, but there’s a sense of their approach maturing in “Leveled Reveler,” “Messina” and especially 10-minute closer “Rolling Hitch” that works to expand the dynamic of tempo changes throughout and the vibe of the songs overall.

René Hofmann from Wight recorded and contributes guitar and vocals on that last track, and the band has sent over copious other info on the forthcoming LP, for which they’re crowdfunding a pressing as we speak. Check it out:

operators revelers

Operators – Revelers

We are the heavy rock band OPERATORS from Berlin, Germany – loud guitars, organ, sweat ‘n pure joy! We run this band completely independently since 2009, have recorded two albums entirely on our own and played 140 gigs. Yes, we’re in it for the music! Now we want to publish our new album ‘Revelers’ for and with you – it is already recorded! (photo: Fabian Willi Simon)

We want to release our new album Revelers together with you, without taking any detours!

We’ve consciously decided for crowdfunding and not for a record label. It is important for us to have 100% control over the publishing of our record, just as we have over songwriting and recording. Also, contracts with labels often run over 7 or 10 years – we want to be independent. We have already built a strong and steady connection to you and our crowd through our shows and this next step is only logical now.

This is not about donations, about doing some album at some time, this is about an album that is already finished and is about to be printed and pressed as we speak. This very album can be pre-ordered now for reasonable prices.

Revelers – that’s one hell of a 38 minute Rock’n’Rollercoaster! The album’s diverse six songs shimmer in different colours. The interplay of drums, bass, guitar, organ and vocals shines in the 3 rollicking minutes of “Pusher” and fully unfolds in the 10 captivating minutes of “Rolling Hitch”.

Facts about the record:
– Recorded, mixed and produced by René Hofmann (Wight)
– René Hofmann also contributed backing vocals and a guitar solo (on ‘Rolling Hitch’)
– recorded October 27-30 2016 at Lui Hill Studio, Darmstadt, Germany
– additional vocals recorded in November and December in Darmstadt and Berlin
– mastered by Tony Reed
– 6 songs and 38 minutes strong
– release in mid-May
– artwork by Johannes Walenta/Kopfüber (organ player for Stonehenge)

Tracklist ‘Revelers’:
01 Leveled Reveler (7:50)
02 Pusher (3:04)
03 Messina (7:15)
04 Walkin’ On Air (4:54)
05 Fuzz Muncher (4:43)
06 Rolling Hitch (10:04)

Operators’ upcoming gigs:
March 16 – Nürnberg, Zentralcafé w Samavayo & Zen Meister
March 17 – Würzburg, Immerhin w Samavayo
March 18 – Osnabrück, Dirty Dancing w Samavayo & Isoptera
May – Berlin record release (to be confirmed)
July 16 – RED SMOKE FEST, Pleszew, Poland (Operators are announced on March 10)

https://www.startnext.com/en/operatorsberlin
https://operators.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/OPERATORSberlin

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Horseburner Announce US Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

horseburner

West Virginian progressive heavy rockers Horseburner were among those recently confirmed for the inaugural Descendants of Crom fest to be held in Pittsburgh this September (info here). It’s the latest bit of acclaim for the band following the successful 2016 release of their debut album, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil, which brought the winding rhythms of post-Baroness modernity to the fore amid a still-weighted tonalism, finding a balance and cohesion rare for a first full-length while setting in motion a creative development they’ll look to continue on their next release. As they move forward, they’ll be touring next month alongside Kentucky’s Stonecutters in the Southeastern US, and I wouldn’t be surprised if sooner or later somebody picked up Dead Seeds, Barren Soil for a proper physical issue, since despite its title, the record is so very much alive.

The PR wire as well as the band’s social medias bring dates and whatnots, and if you haven’t heard it, the album can be streamed in full via the Bandcamp player below. Because the internet, and multimedia, and attention to detail. Boogers.

Have at you:

Horseburner – Southern Tour

In support of their debut full length, “Dead Seeds, Barren Soil,” West Virginia’s Horseburner are bringing their brand of high energy, riff-laden stoner metal to the southern United States this April. Joining them in their trek are Louisville, Kentucky’s metal veterans, Stonecutters.

We are excited to announce our upcoming dates for the rest of winter and spring. 2017 is shaping up to be a fun year. See you in the world!

HORSEBURNER ON TOUR:
Special St. Patty’s tour preview: 3-17: Louisville, KY @ The Cure Lounge*
3-18: Huntington, WV @ V Club
3-25: Parkersburg, WV @ Sixpence Pub
4-01: Peoria, IL @ Rail II for Mates Fest 8
4-07: Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway*
4-08: Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor*
4-09: Charleston, SC @ Burns Alley*
4-10: Jacksonville, FL @ Shantytown Pub*
4-11: Miami, FL @ Churchill’s Pub
4-12: St Petersburg, FL @ Fubar*
4-13: Albany, GA @ Oglethorpe Lounge*
4-14: Marietta, GA @ Swayze’s Venue*
4-15: Asheville, NC @ The Odditorium*
4-16: Cincinnati, OH @ Junker’s Tavern
4-28: Athens, OH @ The Union
5-05: Baltimore, MD @ The Depot [relocated from Metro Gallery]
5-06: Brooklyn, NY @ Lucky 13
5-19: TBA
5-20: Dayton, OH @ Blind Bob’s
6-01: Pittsburgh, PA @ TBA
6-02: TBA
6-03: Warren, MI @ The Ritz for Rune Fest
9-30: Pittsburgh, PA @ Descendants of Crom Fest
*On tour with Stonecutters from Louisville, KY

We’re looking to add a few more dates as we go along, so check back in!

And check www.horseburner.com for music, merch, and any additional info. Stay dirty.

Horseburner is:
Adam Nohe
Chad Ridgway
Jack Thomas
Zach Kaufman

https://www.facebook.com/Horseburner/
http://www.twitter.com/horseburner
https://www.instagram.com/horseburner/
https://horseburner.bandcamp.com/
http://www.horseburner.com/

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil (2016)

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Egypt Post “Cracks and Lines”; New Album Coming Soon

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

egypt

However many tracks it might turn out to have on it, it’s a safe bet that North Dakota heavy rockers Egypt are unveiling a substantial portion of their next album in making public the 11 minutes of “Cracks and Lines.” Even in its unmastered form as heard below, the track is a stomper, with the steady snare of drummer Chad Heille punctuating the sleek, classic-minded slow-motion boogie from guitarist Neal Stein and the raspy vocals of bassist Aaron Esterby. The same three-piece issued their last outing, Endless Flight (review here), at the very tail end of 2015 — I counted it in my Top 30 of 2016, for whatever that’s worth — and proffered much tonal density, but I’m digging the spacier vibe that “Cracks and Lines” digs into as it moves past the halfway point.

We’re still well in the Sabbathian playbook, but a little drift in the guitar and vocal chillout sounds right on to my ears, especially with Esterby‘s bass bouncing along at the bottom of that echoing cavern. As a first impression for whatever the next record might be called — don’t know yet; will let you know when I do — it’s a positive one, and I guess ahead of a Spring or Summer 2017 release, which is still a ways off, they don’t need it to be anything more than that necessarily. Dudes’ nod is just about always welcome by me, and after speculating that we’d hear from them in 2017, I’m glad to hear that coming to fruition. Sooner the better.

Look for more to come as we get closer to the album release, and I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the near future the trio announced another round of European touring. They’ve been racking up frequent flier miles over the Atlantic the last couple years, so it wouldn’t be out of character, but they also recently put word out that they’ll appear at the Red Smoke fest in Poland this July. Could it be an album-release tour in the summer? Would make an awful lot of sense, but we’ll see when we get there.

Esterby had a few words to say about the impending full-length and other whathaveyou, and you’ll find that under “Cracks and Lines,” which is on the YouTube player below.

Dig it:

Egypt, “Cracks and Lines” unmastered audio

I think that I said a while back that the new record was done and was being mixed and all that stuff. Well, I was wrong at the time I said that. Turns out there was more work to do. Now I can say with certainty that the new album is finished and will be going to mastering next week. We’re excited, nervous, stoked, concerned, and many other things for you guys to hear it. It’s always painful to let go…haha. But, now is the time.

We’ve never been very good at promoting stuff. We’re kind of a DIY type outfit so there is very little fanfare when it comes to announcements. We’ll be sharing a tracklist and other important odds and ends very soon. In the meantime, here is a song from the new record. It’s not mastered and it’s a youtube rip, so be gentle. If you have 11 minutes to spare give it a listen. Hope you guys dig it. We’ll talk soon. Cheers.

We are extremely excited to announce that we will be playing Red Smoke Festival in Poland on July 16th. Killer lineup so far. We’re beyond stoked to be a part of it.

Egypt on Thee Facebooks

Egypt on Bandcamp

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Kurokuma and DVNE Announce UK Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Next month, as the world turns its attention toward the coming onslaught of spring and summer festival season, UK sludgers Kurokuma and DVNE will head out together on a short round of dates to herald new releases. In the case of Kurokuma, it’s a single, a cover of Kraftwerk‘s “Radioactivity,” which I won’t even pretend to be familiar with, and for DVNE, it’s an impending full-length to follow-up on their 2014 two-songer, Aurora Majesty, and the preceding 2013 EP, Progenitor (review here). Bands, obviously, have toured for less reasonable causes.

As a side note, Kurokuma‘s Joe Allen was recently announced as having a new drone project with Jon Davis from Conan called DOS. Info is sparse as yet, but there’s a Thee Facebooks and that’s a place to start. Kurokuma also have a few killer live dates before the tour that you can see in the update below.

Dig it:

kurokuma-dvne-poster

Kurokuma and DVNE, two imposing figures in UK sludge join forces for five dates in April this year. The trail starts off with two dates in Scotland before rolling down to England for three shows there.

DVNE will be playing tracks from their upcoming album, Asheran, which will see the light of day this summer – the band’s first release since 2014’s Aurora Majesty.

Kurokuma’s next output is set to be a prodigious cover of Kraftwerk’s “Radioactivity” along with fitting visuals. Kurokuma will also feature heavily in the upcoming documentary on UK doom, The Doom Doc (www.facebook.com/thedoomdoc).

Kurokuma & DVNE UK tour:
Friday 14th April – Musical Vision, Aberdeen (w/ Death Watch)
https://www.facebook.com/events/773008732850857/
Saturday 15th April – Bannerman’s, Edinburgh (w/ Seas, Starry and Somaesthesia)
https://www.facebook.com/events/1427787527292620/
Friday 21st April – Pi Bar, Leicester (w/ Temple of Lies)
https://www.facebook.com/events/1852908281589863/
Saturday 22nd April – Doom Over Dewsbury all-dayer at The Old Turk, Dewsbury (w/ Foetal Juice, Battalions and more)
https://www.facebook.com/events/1314224735336355/
Sunday 23rd April – Stag and Hounds, Bristol (w/ Lacertilia and CTBKM)
https://www.facebook.com/events/651351828358443/

Kurokuma live dates:
Saturday 4th March – Star & Garter, Manchester supporting Slomatics
Friday 17th March – Plug, Sheffield supporting Crowbar
Friday 31st March – Chameleon Arts Cafe, Nottingham supporting Alunah
Saturday 8th April – Ritual Festival, Leeds w/ Ihsahn, Anaal Nathrakh, Bossk, Serpent Venom and more

www.facebook.com/kurokumauk
kurokumauk.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/dvneuk
songs-of-arrakis.bandcamp.com

Kurokuma, Advorsus (2016)

DVNE, Aurora Majesty (2014)

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Cave of Swimmers Tour Starts this Weekend; New Song Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Miami two-piece Cave of Swimmers have a new track available as a free download. I joined their mailing list just now and grabbed it for myself to check out. I’m of two minds when it comes to talking about it, because they’ve very clearly made efforts not to give away what it is. Part of me would like to say, “Oh yeah, they’re doing this and this and it’s called this,” and so on, but I almost don’t want to give it away. I’ll say that it’s a cover, and that if you ever listened to classic thrash, you’ll probably recognize it based on the title alone, but I think it’s probably best to leave it there out of respect for the band.

The link where you can get the track and find out or yourself what Cave of Swimmers are up to this time around is below. I’m sure it’ll be on Bandcamp eventually as well, though I’ve gotten no confirmation of that.

This weekend, Misters Perez and García start a Southern tour that will find them spending much of the next week in Texas. The run, dubbed ‘Southern Lights,’ includes dates with Scott Kelly and Jucifer, and the routing follows here:

cave-of-swimmers-southern-lights-tour

Cave of Swimmers will embark on their Southern Lights Tour February 26th. They will join Scott Kelly from Neurosis in that night’s lineup in Jacksonville. They will also join Jucifer on the Houston date. To top it off, make sure to check out the free song download on their website caveofswimmers.com/free

Cave of Swimmers Southern Lights Tour:
Feb 26 Jacksonville, FL at Raindogs w/ Scott Kelly
Feb 27 Murfreesboro, TN at The Boro
March 1 Memphis, TN, at Rickhouse Live
March 2 Tulsa, OK at Soundpony
March 3 Dallas, TX at The Double Wide
March 4 San Antonio, TX at Faust Tavern
March 5 Austin, TX at Hotel Vegas
March 6 Corpus Christi, TX at Black Monk Tavern
March 7 Houston, TX at Super Happy Fun Land w/ Jucifer
March 8 New Orleans, LA at Poor Boys
March 10 Sarasota, FL at Kelly’s Live
March 11 Gainesville, FL at The Atlantic

Cave of Swimmers is a band formed by two Venezuelan kids who met in the 4th grade. After moving to Miami in the mid 2000s, they reunited to form a band with an original take on heavy music. Fast, slow, spooky, sludgy, progressive, you name it: Cave of Swimmers does it their own way.

Cave of Swimmers is:
G.E. Perez: Vocals, Guitar, 6/4 Bass, Synth
Arturo García : Drums, Percussion, Vocals

http://caveofswimmers.com
http://caveofswimmers.bandcamp.com
https://twitter.com/caveofswimmers

Cave of Swimmers, Reflection (2015)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Evil Acidhead, Gypsy Sun Revival, Albinö Rhino, Monarch, and Vision Éternel

Posted in Radio on February 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

My going motto for this site, which basically I repeat to myself like a mantra, is to do as much as I can when I can. Obviously that fluctuates, and I think that’s a good thing on many levels, but I’ve had more time recently to pay due attention to the goings on with The Obelisk Radio and I’m thankful for that. This is the second round of adds for this month, and in addition to the offerings highlighted below, another 30-plus releases have gone up to the server as of today, including some choice bootlegs from the likes of Lowrider, Brant Bjork, Vista Chino, Greenleaf, Acid King, Neurosis and Kyuss. I encourage you to check out the full list of adds here. It kicks a formidable amount of ass.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 20, 2017:

Evil Acidhead, In the Name of all that is Unholy

Evil-Acidhead-In-the-Name-of-all-that-is-Unholy

This 2015 reissue on Agitated Records of Evil Acidhead‘s In the Name of all that is Unholy becomes particularly relevant since 2017 marks 30 years since its original release. Offered as a cassette in 1987 by guitarist John McBain (Monster MagnetWellwater Conspiracy), it tops an hour and 17 minutes and crosses the first of its two LPs before it’s even finished with its four-part opener, and only then digs into the 23-minute “I Control the Moon.” A challenging listen front to back even three decades later, it holds to an experimentalist core of guitar effects, swirl, loops — which are near-maddening on side B’s “Part III: Possession” — and malevolent, droning abrasion. What’s stunning about it is if you said this was something McBain recorded a few months ago, there would be no choice but to call it forward-thinking. Imagine a record that 30 years later still offers a legitimate sense of being ahead of the day. Not that it never happens, but it’s certainly rare, and In the Name of all that is Unholy seems to willfully sidestep what we think of as reality in favor of its apparently timeless hellscapes. It’s far, far away from pleasant, but it sure as hell is impressive.

Evil Acidhead on Thee Facebooks

Agitated Records website

 

Gypsy Sun Revival, Gypsy Sun Revival

http://cdn.theobelisk.net/obelisk/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/gypsy-sun-revival-gypsy-sun-revival

Fort Worth trio Gypsy Sun Revival make their debut with this 2016 self-titled full-length and earn immediate notoriety for their blend of heavy psychedelic and straightforward rocker impulses as well as the fact that the vinyl version of the album sees release through ultra-respected purveyor Nasoni Records. One might recall the last time the Berlin-based label picked up a Texan band, it was Wo Fat, so it’s no minor endorsement of Gypsy Sun Revival‘s potential, and the three-piece of vocalist/bassist/organist Lee Ryan, guitarist/thereminist Will Weise and drummer Ben Harwood live up to it across the 46-minute seven-tracker, songs like “Cosmic Plains” finding a middle ground between sleek ’70s groove and modern thickness, setting up longer post-Zeppelin jams to come like “Idle Tides,” which, though fluid, rely less on effects wash to get their improvisational point across than the raw dynamic between the band itself. As a debut, Gypsy Sun Revival impresses for that, but even more for the level of immersion it enacts the further along it goes, so that when they get to languid instrumental closer “Radiance,” the band’s approach seems to be in full bloom when in fact they may only be beginning their forward creative journey.

Gypsy Sun Revival on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Albinö Rhino, Upholder Live at Ääniwalli, Helsinki 17.12.2016

Albinö-Rhino-Upholder-Live

I’m pretty sure all those umlauts are going to crash the radio stream every single time this gets played, but a 41-minute digital live version — offered as a name-your-price download, no less — of Albinö Rhino‘s heavy psych epic “Upholder” recorded this past December in their native Helsinki is too good to pass up. The Finnish trio issued the studio edition of the three-so-far-part piece late in 2016 under the simple title Upholder (review here), and Upholder Live at Ääniwalli, Helsinki 17.12.2016 comprises a 41-minute single-track rendering of the first two parts brought together with onstage energy and a fitting showcase of the song’s longform jamming path. Led by Kimmo Tyni‘s guitar work — no less recalling early Natas via Sungrazer and Sleep here than in the studio recording — and gruff vocals, the live incarnation also benefits from the deep patience in Ville Harju‘s bass and Viljami Väre‘s drumming, as heard under Tyni‘s moog solo circa 14 minutes in. It’s soon for a revisit of Upholder itself, but as well as getting additional mileage out of the piece, Albinö Rhino bring a different flavor to the live execution of it to this digital-only outing, and if it catches more ears as a 41-minute single song as opposed to being broken up over two sides, there’s no way that’s going to hurt them. Either way you get it, its soul, heft and molten vibe resonate.

Albinö Rhino on Thee Facebooks

Albinö Rhino on Bandcamp

 

Monarch, Two Isles

monarch-two-isles

Not to be understated is the sense of poise that pervades Two Isles, the debut full-length from Encinitas, California, psychedelic progressives Monarch. Delivered via Causa Sui‘s imprint El Paraiso Records — the gorgeous art treatment is consistent with their hallmark style — and produced by Brian Ellis (AstraPsicomagia, etc.), it locks into classically winding turns or melodic flourish with equal ease on side A pieces like the opening title-track and “Assent,” proffering scope but not necessarily pretense. Call it prog in the new West Coast tradition if you must, “Dancers of the Sun” and the more insistent staccato of “Sedna’s Fervor” are dead on either way, and the five-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dominic Denholm, guitarists Nate Burns and Thomas Dibenedetto (see also Joy and Sacri Monti), bassist Matt Weiss and drummer Andrew Ware save their finest showcase for the just-under-10-minute finale “Shady Maiden,” summarizing their liquefied proceedings in more than able fashion, reaching ahead of themselves as the style warrants, and once more proving what might be hypnotic were it not such an active, exciting listen.

Monarch on Thee Facebooks

Monarch at El Paraiso Records

 

Vision Éternel, Echoes from Forgotten Hearts

vision-eternel-echoes-from-forgotten-hearts

Echoes from Forgotten Hearts is the latest EP from Montréal-based solo artist Alexandre Julien, who operates under the banner of Vision Éternel, and it comprises seven brief individual tracks numbered in French as “Pièce No. Un,” “Pièce No. Deux,” etc., of wistful guitar lines and serene dronescapes. The balance that a “Pièce No. Deux” is able to strike by sounding so broad and wide open and yet only being 1:47 is striking, and it makes the release flow together all the more as a work on a single emotional thematic, and while it all only winds up being 14 minutes in total, Julien is able to bring that thematic to life in that time with depth and grace, so that when the relative sprawl of the 3:45 closer “Pièce No. Sept,” takes hold, one only wishes it would go on further. Note this is one of several Vision Éternel offerings joining the playlist this week, and Julien has a boxed set in progress collecting a number of his outings to be released sometime later this year, including, I believe, this one, which originally came out in 2015. Hopefully it’s not long before he follows it with new material.

Vision Éternel on Thee Facebooks

Vision Éternel on Bandcamp

 

Thank you as always for reading and listening.

To see everything that joined the playlist today, please visit The Obelisk Radio.

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Fvzz Popvli Release Debut Single; Euro Tour Set for May

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The fuzz of the people! History counsels healthy skepticism when it comes to anything taking on the tag ‘populi,’ but to say the least, the newcomer Roman trio seem to have brought enough fuzz for everybody. Their debut single, “Lost in Time” — for which you can see the lyrics below, sent as they were down the PR wire — is up now as a name-your-price download through Bandcamp, and both a first EP and a 10-date first European tour seem set to arrive in May, and the three-piece features guitarist/vocalist Pootchie (not to be confused, or maybe to be confused, I don’t really know, with the Simpsons character), who also made a full-length debut last year as a member of Beesus (review here).

In any case, “Lost in Time” gives Queens of the Stone Age-style riffing a garage-minded kick in the pants, and if you’ve got a couple minutes, you can get a sampling of it below. Social media presence is nil, but I also included the link to their Bandcamp, in case you’d like to read all the same stuff there as well.

Like thus:

fvzz popvli

FVZZ POPVLI – Lost in Time

Established in Rome under the will of three potheads… FvzzPopvli: a brand new trio with musicians coming from different experiences, with an addiction for heavy fuzzy riffs from the Black Sabbath era till the Palm Desert Scene, playing with a garage attitude in a heavy psych mood! The band is ready to promote their first single “Lost In TIme”, wich is actually an exclusive for Bandcamp with an up to you download. The upcoming “EP” is composed of five roaring songs, to quench your thirst of fuzzy and fat sounds!

Lost In Time, by FVZZ POPVLI

Lost In Time by FVZZ POPVLI, released 09 February 2017 Lets get high in the sky, no more sight to try, when you’re in the sky everything will be alright, high in the sky you’re not gonna die, when you feel alright, can you? let’s ride! Are you ready ready to take the flight? Are you ready, ready for the sky? Are you ready? I’m lost in time, are you ready… I, im gonna fly, i fly so high, i bet the skyyyy. Are you lost in time? Now you see me blind! Are you lost at home! And you feel it before! Are you ready, you’re not gonna die! Are you ready, you gonna ride!

FVZZ POPVLI ARE:
POOTCHIE – Guitar and Voice (BEESUS,The Wisdoom)
DATIO PALATIO – Bass (The Anthony’s Vinyls)
GLVE-Drums (TOOT)

RELEASE DATE EP TBA IN MAY

EUROPEAN TOUR FROM 04.05.2017 TO 14.05.2017

fvzzpopvli.bandcamp.com

Fvzz Popvli, “Lost in Time”

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Review & Full Album Stream: Thera Roya, Stone and Skin

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

thera-roya-stone-and-skin

[Click play above to stream Thera Roya’s Stone and Skin in full. Album is out Feb. 17.]

No simple feat to be airy and crushing at the same time, yet, to listen to Christopher Eustaquio‘s guitar and Jonathan Cohn‘s bass on Stone and Skin, it seems to be the modus in which Brooklyn’s Thera Roya are most at home. At seven songs/42-minutes, Stone and Skin is the self-released full-length debut from the post-sludge trio, completed by drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith (also guitar, and also of Mountain God), and it arrives with suitable development time after 2015’s split with Sangharsha and the Unraveling EP (review here), which was three tracks but enough to provide what seemed to be a significant glimpse at where the band was heading — and I say “seemed” because listening to “Egypt’s Light,” “Hume and Ivey” and others from Stone and Skin, that’s just not how it worked out.

Where the EP offered harshness and abrasion, Thera Roya‘s first long-player takes a more multifaceted approach by far, incorporating aspects of post-hardcore on cuts like “Dream of Arrakis” and finding Smith varying his vocal approach sometimes within the span of a line or two between clean singing, searing screams, deathly growls, and other sorts of shouts. They’re still plenty heavy, as they demonstrate throughout in the weight of Cohn‘s tone and the brutal abandon with which it’s wielded, but from the ambient beginning of opener “Saffron,” which slowly unfolds from quiet on a subtle linear build that grows increasingly frenzied over the final two of its total six minutes, Thera Roya show clear effort has been made to progress their sound, and ultimately prove that effort was not in vain by greatly expanding the sonic reach of the band.

A healthy dose of noise and/or feedback provides ease in the transitions within or between songs, and Smith‘s vocal shifts add intrigue, but the evolution in Thera Roya‘s sound goes further than that and resonates to the core of their craft. Structures vary and are malleable, flows are created and willfully interrupted, melodies seem to crash headfirst into dissonance. Coming out of the leadoff salvo of “Saffron,” “Egypt’s Light” and “Dream of Arrakis,” there is a sense of the unhinged at play, but then the three-minute rocking centerpiece “Hume and Ivey” re-anchors the proceedings, and the simple fact that Stone and Skin exists argues for their control over its processes even when the actual audio of the thing might lead one to believe they’re flying apart. That is to say, there’s intention here, even if that intention is to experiment and find out where a given movement goes.

As to that, the first half of Stone and Skin seems to be careening ultimately toward the nine-minute “Solitude,” which plays off Panopticon-style ambient meandering without actually sounding like Isis — avoiding the telltale drumbeat as Thera Roya do here in favor of a lumbering roll is an accomplishment in itself — and late-arriving clean vocals only underscore the openness of structure with which they’re working. To their credit, “Solitude” doesn’t hit some massive crescendo. There’s an apex, but it’s more patient and natural feeling — more sweep than thrust — and works better in the context of the track itself than some forced explosion in volume otherwise might. When “Solitude” ends, it just comes apart, and in that, it’s point seems to be doubly made and all the more evocative.

The observation at the outset, about being airy and crushing, finds maybe its most succinct summary in the penultimate “The Stream,” which follows “Solitude” and moves at a faster pace from atmospheric guitars into low-end density, seeming to provide some of the thrust that the preceding cut held back while remaining instrumental for all of its three and a half minutes. I cannot stress enough how crucial is a song like this to an album like this in a spot like this. It’s one more aspect of Stone and Skin conveying to the listener that Thera Roya are free to move where they want to go sound-wise. Think of it as a different execution of the “acoustic interlude” — though it is far from acoustic — in changing things up going into the finale. If one is hearing Stone and Skin front to back, it might not even be clear where the transition comes into play.

It’s a complete use of a sonic idea that could just as easily have been subsumed into a more finished “song,” but one that enhances the album overall in ways that another song simply couldn’t, while also providing an effective bridge to the sample-laden beginning of closer “Phaedrus Revealed.” Rounding out at just under eight minutes, “Phaedrus Revealed” finds Thera Roya basking in one of the defining tropes of post-metal: the rhythm and riff progression of Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky,” but more than most, they make it their own, finding a sway at the outset topped by satisfyingly soulful clean vocals and marking the shift into that riff on bass while the guitar continues to drift for a time before a pummeling chug takes hold. Post-hardcore screams, starts and stops, thickened tones all around and a last push into chaos bring Stone and Skin to a sudden conclusion, and while by then that familiar churn is long gone, the atmospheric affect remains prevalent and Thera Roya finish by employing what would seem to be the totality of their arsenal.

Given the forward steps in these tracks, one would hardly be surprised to find that arsenal grown further their next time out, and while admirably complex in form, Stone and Skin does still present the band with room to grow. Most essential, however, it portrays them as having the drive to do it while remaining emotionally expressive and not getting consumed in the overthought cerebral end of post-metal that claim’s so many acts in the style. The hope as they move past their debut is that they remain able to enact the balance between various sides as well as they do here while also pushing themselves to cover new ground. No minor task, but I hear nothing from Thera Roya at this point to make me think they’re not up to it.

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