Posted in audiObelisk on January 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Barcelona duo Thermic Boogie are hoping to release their debut album, Vastness and Matter, this Spring. The instrumental two-piece of guitarist Albert Martínez-López and drummer Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo offer up a four-track, 50-minute long-player with their debut release in a style they refer to as “double-toasted” heavy rock. Whatever that might mean, their sound draws a line across two shorter cuts and two subsequent longer ones between semi-technical riffing and rhythmic turns and all-out crunching tonality. It’s heavy, it can move quick to a dizzying degree, and it retains a sense of spaciousness in its tone and crash no matter where Martínez-López and Gautier-Lorenzo (the latter also of Brain Pyramid and Fange) take it.
In short, Vastness and Matter offers up what its title promises — space and earthly crush. The dynamic that Martínez-López and Gautier-Lorenzo foster even from the feedback-soaked beginning of opener “A Black Powdery” belies the notion of this being their first outing, the guitar digging deep into low-end to fill out the room in the channel a bass might otherwise occupy as the drums offer immediate electrified propulsion. Still, “A Black Powdery” might as well be an introduction next to what follows as “Space Void of Matter” picks up with a vehement push of thickened boogie, Thermic Boogie winding through The Atomic Bitchwax-style runs and still showing up on the doorstep of the four-part “Quadratonic Magnatude” without a scratch on them.
Perhaps it’s inevitable because of the runtimes involved, but “Quadratonic Magnatude” and the closing “No Pienses en Volver” both top 21 minutes and comprise the core of Vastness and Matter‘s barrage of high-impact riffs and en-route-to-tripped-out sonics. Working in four individual movements, “Quadratonic Magnatude” courses through uptempo heavy rock twists and wall-of-noise crashing before settling at last into a slowdown groove and big finish worthy of what came before it, and as it carries the rest of the album out, “No Pienses en Volver” is a record unto itself, with jazzy bursts, a massive stretch drum tension and a stretch of silence prior to a classic riffy shuffle takes hold, either as a secret track or a second part of “No Pienses en Volver” that remains unnamed. At heart in everything Thermic Boogie do on their first outing is the chemistry between Martínez-López and Gautier-Lorenzo, who give an impressive showing while also setting up various avenues for potential future growth.
They’re reportedly looking for a label now to get behind the release of Vastness and Matter, and I don’t anticipate finding one will be much trouble. “Space Void of Matter” gives an excellent sampling of what they have going throughout the album (while not necessarily giving it all away), and you can check it out on the player below.
Thermic Boogie is a heavy rock band formed in Barcelona on summer of 2015. It is the initiative of Albert Martinez Lopez and Baptiste Gautier Lorenzo (Brain Pyramid/Fange). The aim is to provide a loud and powerful groove through firing and corrosive songs. Great volumes, intense sound, high energy, and hard playing. The influences are all 90s and some actual sludge bands, but also rock and roll in his different forms, and of course, every funky groovy, and world music. They will release their first LP called Vastness and Matter in beginnings of 2016. The band is now searching for many gigs to offer the best of what they can blast.
Thermic Boogie / VASTNESS AND MATTER 01 A Black Powdery 02 Space void of matter 03 Quadratonic Magnitude –03.1 Amplitude –03.2 Distance –03.3 Lux Vacuum –03.4 Ascension 04 No pienses en volver
Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last day. It’s been some week. When I otherwise would’ve been putting these reviews together yesterday? Jury duty. Yup, my civic responsibility. Add that to a busted laptop, a full-time job and a couple busy days for news, and you have a good argument for why with Quarterly Reviews prior I’ve gotten up at six in the morning over the weekend before and started writing to get as much out of the way as possible. Oh wait, I did that this time too. Well, maybe it was seven.
Either way, as it comes to a close, I want to personally express my thanks to you for checking it out and being a part of what’s become a weird seasonal ritual for me. I hope you’ve found something (or find something today) that resonates with you and stays with you for a long time. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Satan’s Satyrs, Don’t Deliver Us
Virginian riff-turner trio Satan’s Satyrs passed the half-decade mark with their third album, late-2015’s Don’t Deliver Us (on Bad Omen Records), just one year after their sophomore outing, Die Screaming! crawled up from the foggy ’70s ether. In addition to touring the US with Electric Wizard, with whom Satan’s Satyrs shares bassist Clayton Burgess (also vocals), one assumes the trio spent the remainder of the year mining old VHS discount-bin horror to find inspiration and fitting subject matter for quick-turning cuts like “(Won’t You be My) Gravedancer” and “Crimes and Blood,” but whatever they did, it worked. As “Spooky Nuisance” jams out its Hendrix-via-Sabbath vibing and the subsequent “Germanium Bomb” leans into yet another impressive solo by guitarist Jarrett Nettnin complemented by the fills of drummer Stephen Fairfield, there’s an element of performance to what they do, but whether it’s the proto-doom of closer “Round the Bend” or the motor-chug of “Two Hands,” Satan’s Satyrs find that sweet spot wherein they constantly sound like they’re about to fall apart, but never actually do. For sounding so loose, they are enviably tight.
Sometimes you have an idea for a band, and it’s like, “I’m gonna start a band that puts this genre and this genre together.” In the case of Aussie four-piece Wildeornes, it’s stoner and black metal coming together on their second full-length, Erosion of the Self. I’ll give it to them, they pull it off. I’m not sure the “arising” instead of “rising” in “Serpent Arising” or the “So fucking high!” at the end of “The Subject” are really necessary, but hard to ignore the fact that before they get there, they’ve nodded at Pentagram, Crowbar, and Goatsnakeand included a couple measures of blastbeats, or the fact that throughout the album they effectively tilt to one side or the other, riding atmospheric cymbals over a rolling groove in “The Oblivion of Being” only to tap into Nile-brand Egyptology in “Incantation for the Demise of Autumn” only to affect Erosion of the Self‘s biggest chorus on “Winter’s Eve.” Whatever genre tag they, you or I want to give it, their roots are definitely metal, but the juxtaposition they offer within that sphere works for them.
Raw groove is at the core of what Oakland, California’s Blackwülf offer on their second album and Ripple Music debut, Oblivion Cycle. Divided neatly into two sides for an LP, its 10 track hearken to a stripped-down vision of classic metal on “Memories,” Sabbath and Maiden both a factor but not the end of the line when it comes to the four-piece’s influences. Somebody in this band (if not multiple somebodies) is a punker. The two impulses play out in a balance of grand stylization and lean production – to wit, “Wings of Steel” sneers even as it puts a triumphant foot on the stage monitor and gallops off – and if the punk/metal battle isn’t enough of a tip-off, let the umlaut serve as confirmation that these guys are going to miss Lemmy (who isn’t?), but their methods ultimately prove more indebted to Judas Priest than Motörhead by the time they get down to “Never Forget,” which touches on some vocal soaring as it rounds out that feels especially bold as well as well placed as a late gem before the slamming-groove-into-Iommic-flourish of closer “March of the Damned.” As much as Oblivion Cycle has these elements butting heads across its span, that’s not to say Blackwülf lack control or don’t know what they’re doing. Just the opposite. Their pitting ideas against each other is a big part of the appeal, for listeners and likely for the band as well.
Four years after issuing their second album, 2011’s Galaxia (review here), late-2015’s Phantom of an Era finds Connecticut’s VRSA a considerably more crunch-laden entity. They’ve have some lineup changes in the past half-decade, which is fair enough, but guitarist Andrius and guitarist/vocalist Josh remain prominent, leading the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist John and drummer Wes through prog-metal cascades, quiet parts shifting on a dime to full-volume assaults or holding off and making the change more gradual as tension builds. Either way, if the end-goal is heavy, VRSA get there, whether it’s the rolling, chugging and growling of “Grand Bois” or the winding and crashing and thrashing of the later “Marble Orchard,” or how closer “Baron Cimetière” sets up its waltz rhythm subtly in the beginning only to bash the listener’s skull with it as the inevitable crushing begins anew. There’s plenty of it to go around on Phantom of an Era, which keeps a consistent air of brutality even as it veers into clean, progressive or atmospheric forms.
As they get down elsewhere with hard-driving, Steak-style post-Kyuss desertism, Swiss four-piece Marant have just a couple of more laid back trips perfectly placed along the path of their debut album, High Octane Diesel. The first of them, “Smoothie,” follows opener “Kathy’s Trophy,” and like the later “Road 222,” it has its more raucous side as well, but the big tone-wash happens with the languid heavy psych roll of closer “N’BaCon?,” also the longest track at 8:47. The effect that varying their modus has on broadening the scope of more straightforward songs like “Evil Schnaps” and “The Good the Bad and the Trip” isn’t to be understated. Not only does it show a different side of the emerging chemistry between vocalist Jimmy, guitarist Sergio Calabrian Donkey, bassist Aff Lee and drummer Sir Oli with Snake, but it gives High Octane Diesel an atmospheric range beyond the desert and into an expanse no less ripe for exploration. Whichever method they employ, Marant engage fluidly across their first record.
Lot of noise, lot of fuckall, not too many songs. Connecticut trio Grizzlor manage to pack seven songs onto a 7” release called Cycloptic (on Hex Records), most of which hover on either side of 90 seconds apiece. Dissonance, grit and tension pervade the offering front to back, and between “Sundays are Stupid” and “I’m that Asshole,” there’s an edge of experimentation in the vocals and rhythm as well, some starts and stops that add to the songwriting, though the peeled-skin noise rock of “Tommy” and the build-into-mayhem of “Winter Blows” ensure that the business of punkish intensity isn’t left out. Was it a danger to start with? Nah. Closer “Starship Mother Shit” and the earlier “Life’s a Joke” rolls out a sludgy-style groove, but with sneering and shouting overtop and hard-edged percussive punctuation, there’s no question where Grizzlor got all that aggression from. If Grizzlor are playing in the basement, somebody’s gonna call the cops.
Bull-in-a-china-shop’ing their way through nine mostly-blistering tracks in 43 minutes, Seattle trio Mother Crone make their full-length debut with the appropriately titled Awakening, a record that melts doom and thrash together with the best of earliest Mastodon and comes out of it sounding righteous, wildly heavy and solidly in control of their methods. Don’t believe it? First of all, why not? Second, check out the six-minute “Descending the North” – the third track after a beastly opening with the mysteriously JFK-sampling intro “Silt Laden Black” and “Black Sea” – which chugs and twists and stomps through its first half only to drop out to just-guitar ambience and burst to life again with a shredding solo finish that leads to – wait for it – the quiet guitar-and-vocals only spaciousness of “The Dream,” which marks a twist into a more experimental middle quotient of the album, the subsequent “Halocline” and furiously building “Revelation” more experimental in form, before the sludgy “Turning Tides” and raging “Apollyon” make the job of the nine-minute closing title-track even more difficult in summarizing everything that came before it. A task of which that song makes short work. For the momentum they build and the brashness they execute within that, Mother Crone‘s Awakening is indeed bound to stir.
Italian four-piece Psychedelic Witchcraft issued Black Magic Man in mid-2015 as their debut EP, and wound up selling through both its limited 10” vinyl pressings. For the Twin Earth Records CD version, it’s been expanded by two tracks – still EP length at 27 minutes – and given new artwork that underscores the band’s cultish bent, which comes across strong in the vocals of Virginia Monti, very much at the forefront of the group’s presentation on “Angela” and “Lying in Iron,” the opening duo that give way to the desert-toned push of the title-track, also the strongest hook included. Drummer Daniele Parrella leads the march into the grungier “Slave of Grief,” in which the guitar of Jacopo Fallai will take a noisy forward position in the midsection, giving way later to some blown-out singing from Monti given heft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, like 1967 time traveling to 1971. The production on the last two cuts, “Wicked Dream” and “Set Me Free” is audibly different (Vanni also plays bass), more modernly-styled, but the band’s core intent of living up to their name remains true.
Philadelphia and New York rarely agree on anything, but Chimpgrinder and Miscegenator, who make their homes respectively in those burgs, have come together at least long enough to share a split 7” between them, though of course what they do with that time is vastly different. Chimpgrinder proliferate a raw kind of sludge on their two tracks, not completely void of melody, but more geared toward groove than expanse, “Gates” taking off on an lengthy solo and deciding it’d rather not come back, ending in feedback fading to abrasive noise. That’s a fitting lead-in for what NY’s Miscegenator are up to on the other side, as “Hate Hate Hate” leads off a six-song set of visceral grind. Shit is raw and mean, and it d-beats its way either into your heart or off your turntable – it’s not the kind of music anyone ever played because they were feeling friendly. Blink and its gone, but the punk-rooted abrasion is like as not to leave a scar as closer “Tony Randall was Right” goes slicing, which is a fair enough answer to the pummel Chimpgrinder made their own a whopping five minutes earlier.
The self-titled, self-released, self-recorded debut EP from London four-piece Oak saves its burliest impression for “Ride with Me,” the third of its four component tracks. That’s not to say that “All Above” and “Queen of this Land” aren’t plenty dudely – the vocals of Andy Wisbey see to that – but “Ride with Me” feels particularly caked in testosterone. Somewhat quizzical that it also finds guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Mason and drummer Rob Emms (since replaced by Sergiu, it would seem) vibing out for a bit of quiet desert noodling in the middle and ending with a primo shuffle of the post-Kyuss variety. Maybe it’s a fine line when one considers the body of work of Orange Goblin as an influence, but it gives a different context to the two songs before and certainly to the stonerly bounce of “Dissolve” after to know that Oak have more in their playbook than the standard beer-pounding and chestbeating. Should be interesting to hear how the various impulses play out as they more forward.
Posted in Reviews on January 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This, I suppose, is where things get interesting. As I normally would’ve been putting these reviews together, my laptop decided it had apparently had too much of riffs and decided to unceremoniously shit the bed. Naturally, this is a bummer of considerable proportion. As to what it means to the rest of this Quarterly Review, I guess we’ll find out over the next two days. For now I’m using an old machine of The Patient Mrs.‘ which, among other charms, has no battery in it and can only run when plugged in. Hope that cable doesn’t come loose. A goodly portion of the music I was going to review in this and tomorrow’s batch, of course, is on my busted, hopefully-soon-to-be-repaired laptop, but with Bandcamps and the fact that it’s not my first time hearing any of these records, I should be able to get by. Still, an element of adventure. Unexpected and shitty. Whether it’s repair or replace, I do not anticipate it will be a cheap fix, so I’ll relieve stress the best way I know how, which is by reviewing 10 albums in a row.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Saviours, Palace of Vision
Strange to think of the decade that has passed since Oakland dual-guitar four-piece Saviours offered up their first EP, Warship, and yet it’s difficult to imagine the sphere of underground heavy rock without them. Particularly on the West Coast, their skate-thrash-meets-thick-grooves has had a marked influence, and their fifth full-length, 2015’s Palace of Vision (also their debut on Listenable Records), affirms their hard-driving take on classic metal even as “Flesh of Fire” and “Cursed Night” show an acute melodic awareness, the latter in doom-caked guitars and a rolling groove that, for many bands, would be enough to base their entire sound. For Saviours, it answers the gallop of the prior “The Beast Remains” and precedes 6:38 closer “The Seeker,” a vast departure from how raw they once were, but another example of the righteousness that has held steady throughout their growth. They’re an easy band to take for granted, mostly because they’re so damn reliable.
The solo debut from underrated vocalist/guitarist Dave Heumann from likewise underrated Baltimore fuzz-folkers Arbouretum, Here in the Deep (on Thrill Jockey) basks in a glow of ’70s singer-songwriter intent, but tends to surprise with just how much is going on at any given moment. A solo album in name, it’s by no means minimal, even though it sometimes veers into guy-and-guitar methods, as on the sweet instrumental “Leaves Underfoot.” Elsewhere, arrangements of strings, drums, acoustic and electric guitars create a rich variety of mood and depth of mix, wistful on “Ides of Summer” and “Here in the Deep,” joyous on “Greenwood Side” and the pointedly psych-folk “Holly King on a Hill.” The seven-minute penultimate “Ends of the Earth” is as close as Heumann – who’s joined by a swath of players throughout, including the rest of Arbouretum on this track– comes to his main outfit stylistically, but by then the context is so much Here in the Deep‘s own and between that and the sonic clarity permeated all the while, it just becomes one more turn on an album that makes difficult ones seem effortless. Heumann remains a more accomplished songwriter than people know.
Between their underlying currents of grunge in the guitar, metal in the drums and an air of Foo Fighters in the vocals (“Blues in You”), Massachusetts trio The Dead Nobodies are up front about their ’90s influence. The 10-track, Tad Doyle-mixed/mastered The Wake is their third album behind 2014’s Return of the Tide and 2012’s Ride in with Death, and some of the material has been released by the band before on demos and other short offerings. Still, there’s an air of cohesion to the melodies that surface in “Somatic Complaints,” “Pancakes” and the later “Joel Returns.” Self-released on CD, the album eschews the trappings of genre – or at least of subgenre – for the most part and takes a more overarching approach to not-quite-metal, but what they’re doing seems to work for them, so I’m not inclined to argue. More hard rock than heavy rock for those inclined to split hairs, but accessible enough anyway.
Making their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds, UK-based Old Man Lizard revisit a 2012 EP with what’s become their self-titled sophomore full-length. All the tracks from that five-song outing are included here, the order adjusted, and two more are added on in the closing duo “Craniopagus Parasiticus” and “A Gruesome Mess,” and what I don’t know is if the entire album was re-recorded, or it’s the old recording with two new songs tacked on, or all of it was recorded prior to the release of Old Man Lizard‘s 2014 debut LP, Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear. It matters mostly because Old Man Lizard is good, and it’s a question of which came first to see how their progression is playing out, whether the techishred of “El Doctor” is the latest step or a first. Either way, the band skillfully brings together twanging riffs, neo-prog post-Mastodon crush and a swing that brings to mind the scope of Elder circa Dead Roots Stirring, sounding even more patient on the aforementioned “Craniopagus Parasiticus” than anything before it. If I continue to have questions about the release, the quality isn’t one of them.
An instrumental three-piece based in Hildesheim, Germany, Kalamata make their message pretty plain in the seven tracks of their debut album, You (originally released in 2014, with vinyl new from Pink Tank Records), which line up to form the sentence, “You have to die soon mother fucker.” The music is somewhat less aggressive, Peter Jaun leading the trio with open-spaced riffs as Maik Blümke fills those spaces — see “Have” — with an engaging rumble and drummer Olly Opitz holds tension until the gradual payoff hits. Never an easy thing for a band whose sound is by necessity based on dynamic to make a debut, but Kalamata pull off You without a second thought, making the centerpiece, “Die,” a highlight of classic semi-desert heavy rock that unfolds a patient linear build that leaves closer “Fucker” the task of rolling out the record’s largest nod. No doubt this material would make more of an impact live, but particularly on repeat listens, the depth of tone comes across well and the trio match their aggression to a crisp delivery.
Italy’s futuristically named Unimother 27 – which sounds like the futurebot that raised some dystopian antihero protagonist of a novel/film franchise; I’m sure it’s a reference I’m too ignorant to know – is populated only by multi-instrumentalist and sometimes-vocalist Piero Ranalli. Ranalli, who also plays bass in Insider with his brother, Marco, progs out hard on the solo-project’s fourth full-length and first in eight years, Frozen Information (on Pineal Gland Lab). One expects a certain amount of indulgence on an album of keyboard-laden krautrock explorations, and “Clear Light Healing” certainly delivers on that, but from the opening “Moksha (to Huxley)” through the closing pair of “Hymn to the Hidden God” and “Brief Moments of Eternity,” which features an extended if vague spoken word from Ranalli, Frozen Information remains immersive and, with its quiet, maybe-programmed drums, hypnotic across its span. It is enduringly and endearingly weird, and experimental in a genuine way that most could only hope to be.
The wah that shows up in the second half of “Tad” on Toronto instrumental trio Electric Magma‘s seventh full-length, Silverball, has a distinct mark of Clutchitude to it, but the band owe more to the Fu Manchu pastiche of trad heavy fuzz. Karma to Burn are a name that comes to mind out of necessity more than direct comparison, but the three-piece of guitarist Tim Reesor, drummer Neil Lukewich-Pheaton and bassist Tryg Smith aren’t quite so straightforward, “The Oscillator” tossing a Sleep-style riff into its middle and the later “Sidebar” finding itself on funkier ground altogether. The eight-track/32-minute release seems to set pinball as its central theme, starting with the intro “Silverball” and ending with the harmonica’d “Multiball,” but more than that, they’re preaching a riff-led gospel that the converted should have no trouble getting on board with, the band putting up no pretenses as to doing anything more than having a good time.
Portland, Oregon’s Mane of the Cur would seem to be making a reboot with the three-song Three of Cups EP, some shuffling of lineup establishing them as vocalist Melynda Amann, guitarist Shawn Mentzer, bassist Cory DeCaire, keyboardist “Nasty” Nate Baisch and drummer Blaine Burnham (ex-Lamprey). The five-piece outfit are quick to establish themselves somewhere between classic doom and cult rock, but while Three of Cups doesn’t have the most elaborate production I’ve heard this week, it seems to avoid a lot of the ’70s traditionalism that much of the style embraces so wholeheartedly. That’s not to say the gradually-deconstructed “Kiss of Neptune,” the lightly progressive “Prehistoric Bitch” and the noddingly ethereal “Foolish are Magic” don’t sound natural, just that they don’t sound like it’s 1972. This is to their credit, ultimately, since it only helps Three of Cups give a more individual impression overall, which can’t hurt leading to whatever the band decides to do next.
Polish instrumentalists Major Kong oversaw a vinyl release of their 2012 debut, Doom for the Black Sun (review here), in 2014 on Transubstans, but they’re once again working under their own banner for the four-song Galactic Cannibalism, a 24-minute (or thereabouts) riffpusher that’s set its controls for the heart of oblivion and is happy to tone-crush anything in its path. Guitarist Misiek, bassist Domel and drummer Bolek also released a split with Dopelord in 2015 on which the EP’s closer, “Magnetar,” also appeared, but Galactic Cannibalism has them all on their own, and unsurprisingly they nail it. They’re not doing anything outlandish stylistically, but they effectively conjure and capture big riffs and big nod, varying pace between “Supercluster,” “Diabolic Mind Control” and the mega-chugging “Morlock” to give a sense of flow, but keeping in mind the next plus-sized groove, which seems always to be right around the corner. With two full-lengths out, I’m a little surprised they went for a shorter release rather than a third album, but they make it hard to argue.
Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah make their debut with the full-length Endless Serpents, a seven-track/35-minute collection of tracks that’s shy neither about showcasing its influences — it caps with a cover of Saint Vitus’ “Born too Late,” for example — nor about rolling molasses-thick grooves one into the next. Recording as guitarist/bassist/vocalist Arnas and drummer Gintare, they meter out dense tonality and traditional formulations in the mission-setting title-track, which follows the somewhat quicker opener “A Storm in the Hidden World.” Rhythmically, they add some shuffle to “No Brakes,” “The Overman’s Eye” and even the midsection of “The Way,” which is the longest cut here at 6:34 and presumably the end of what would be a vinyl side A, but the core sensibility and atmosphere of doom is maintained throughout, and as the instrumental “Free Fall” leads into that aforementioned take on “Born too Late,” there’s no doubt as to where Hellhookah’s heart lies. Formative and raw it may be, but Endless Serpents hits its marks as the beginning of the band’s progression.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
With two discs’ — that’s CDs, yes — worth of material, one could hardly accuse Ukrainian duo Nonsun of humble beginnings on their debut full-length, Black Snow Desert, which is out today and being self-released, but if the two-piece stretch far and wide, they do so with purpose, and the record’s sprawl is likewise atmospheric, following up the band’s 2013 Sun Blind Me EP (review here) with a surge forward that’s immersive and ambient in kind while keeping the sense of patient experimentalism consistent while progressing creatively. Also, there’s a lot of it.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m cool with that. Congrats to Nonsun on getting such a monstrous offering together and making it to release day. They have the record available for an on-the-cheap five dollars on Bandcamp, and if you’re so inclined, you can also stream it in full below. Art, announcement, background and audio all follow:
Nonsun debut full-length
Our debut full-length album titled ‘Black Snow Desert’ is to be released on January 6 2016. 2 CDs, 7 tracks, 84 minutes.
It’s not an ordinary album. It’s a journey. A long and hard trip. With a heavy heart and longing spirit. But those patient and open-minded will eventually be rewarded.
It’s the music from behind the wall of sleep. And it doesn’t matter on which side you are while listening to it.
Nonsun is a doom/drone metal band from Lviv, Ukraine. Formed in 2011 by Goatooth (guitars, bass, vocals) and Alpha (drums). Started with a 4-track (but 48-minute) demo EP “Good Old Evil” which was self-released in December 2012. The second EP “Sun Blind Me” was released in September 2013 via Breathe Plastic Records (Netherlands) and Drowning (Denmark). In September 2014 the band played in Wroclaw (Poland) opening the show for Yob & Pallbearer. Yob have chosen Nonsun out of 22 bands.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last we heard from Denver heavyprog troupe Cloud Catcher, they were making known their intentions to record a second full-length in Spring 2016 with Cody Tarbell of Slow Season at the helm. It seems reasonable to think, then, that the newly-announced tour dates below will be the avenue by which the three-piece finalize the material before hitting the studio, tightening up their loose ends, making sure their captains are well beyond and so forth.
While I’m eager to hear what they come up with for their next album — their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence having left enough of an impression to wind up on my list of last year’s best first records — I have to think that will be time well spent. Their stuff isn’t exactly go-riff-and-nod in its construction, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t on stage, if in fact that’s what they’re doing, will hopefully give them a better sense of where they ultimately want to take the recording.
At least that’s how I’m thinking about it until I hear otherwise. Dates follow, as well as the stream of the first LP, which came out on Gotta Groove Records:
We are absolutely stoked to announce the Celestial Spring Tour 2016!! We look forward to hanging with all of our buds again, and making some new ones! Down below are the tour dates, venues, and bands we are playing with. See you on the road!!
Celestial Spring Tour 2016 February 25th – Albuquerque, NM Launchpad with Sun Dogs, Prey for Kali 27th – Tuscon, AZ Borderlands Fuzz Fiesta 28th – San Diego, CA Aztec Brewing Company with LOOM, Great Electric Quest 29th- LA, California The Griffin with CHILD March 1st – Oakland, CA Golden Bull with War Cloud 2nd – Eureka, OR Eureka Vets Hall with UltraMafic, War Moth 4th- Portland, OR The Know with PUSHY, Sons Of Huns 5th – Seattle, WA Substation with Mother Chrone, Terminal Fuzz Terror, Infinite Flux 6th – Eugene, OR Old Nick’s Pub with White Wail 7th – Nevada City, CA TBD 13th- Las Vegas, NV TBD
Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Pushing through the first batch of reviews and into the second. Always seems easier on the downhill somehow, but if the worst thing that ever happens is I have to put on 10 records a day, you aren’t likely to hear me complain. Today we get deeper into the round, and that while I’ll note that the context for today’s first review has changed decidedly for the unfortunate since it was slated for inclusion in this roundup, I’m trying still to take it on its own level, which is what any record deserves, regardless of its circumstances. No sense in delaying. Let’s go.
Quarterly review #11-20:
Motörhead, Bad Magic
The four ‘X’es on the cover of Motörhead’s 23rd album, Bad Magic (on UDR Music) are placed there each to represent a decade of the band’s existence, and while the context of the 13-track/42-minute offering will be forever changed due to the recent passing of iconic frontman/bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and because the remaining members – guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – have said it will be their final new studio release, it goes to show that one of metal and punk’s most landmark acts came in raging and went out raging. To wit, barnburners like “Thunder and Lightning” and “Teach Them How to Bleed” are quintessential Motörhead, and the propulsive “Shoot out All of Your Lights” is a blueprint for both their righteousness and relentlessness. A closing Rolling Stones cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” borders on poignant in hindsight, but on cuts like “Evil Eye,” “Electricity” and “Tell Me Who to Kill,” Bad Magic is basically Motörhead being Motörhead, which was of course what they did best.
Topped off with some of the least-pleasant cover art one might (n)ever ask to see, the Aeon Cult EP is the third from German progressive sludge outfit Owl in two years’ time after two initial full-lengths. It comprises three songs that span genres from the slow-motion lurch of “The Abyss” to deathly intricacy – preceded by a groove that doesn’t so much roll as slam – on “Ravage” to an atmospheric extremity of purpose on “Mollusk Prince,” and is over in a whopping eight and a half minutes. Seriously, that’s it. At the center of the tempest are multi-instrumentalis/vocalist Christian Kolf, also of Valborg, and drummer Patrick Schroeder, formerly of Valborg, who elicit inhuman heft and bleakness across a relatively brief but nonetheless challenging span, and who seem to revel in the melted-plastic consistency of the sounds they create. Creative rhythms and ambience-enhancing keyboard work give Aeon Cult a futuristic edge, and if this is the world into which we’re headed, we should all be terrified.
The self-titled debut from Vancouver trio Waingro (review here) was a half-hour affair brimming with intensity and forward motion, and while the band’s second outing, Mt. Hood, follows suit tonally and in its neo-progressive thrust, the 11-track outing also provides a richer all-around experience and shows marked growth on the part of the band. “Desert Son” opens the album with an expansive solo section and intricate vocal layering to go with its metallic crunch, and while Waingro keep a short, efficient songwriting process at their core, that track and the slower, seven-minute “Mt. Hood” show their process has become more malleable as well. Likewise, while the methods don’t ultimately change much, shorter instrumental pieces like “Raleigh” on the first half of the album and the rolling “Frontera” on the second add variety of structure and make Mt. Hood as a whole feel more widespread, which, of course, it is. Waingro still have plenty of intensity on offer throughout, but their sophomore LP proves there’s more to them than unipolar drive.
A self-titled debut full-length that breaks down into two subsections – the first is tracks one through five and is titled Emerald Mass and the second is tracks six through 12 and is titled The Quétu – clearly the intentions behind Frank Sabbath’s opening statement are complex. All well and good, but more importantly, the work of the Parisian trio of guitarist/vocalist Jude Mas, bassist Guillaume Jankowski and bassist Baptiste Reig is cohesive across the record’s 12-track span, and those two parts not only meld the songs that make them up together fluidly, but work set one into the next to bring a full-album flow to the proceedings, spanning classic progressive (the kind that’s not afraid to let the guitars get jazzy) rock and psychedelic mind-meld into a sometimes-strange, sometimes-in-Spanish brew of potent lysergics. The three-piece set a vast range from “Waves in Your Brain” onward and wind up delivering the “Fucking Moral,” which seems to be “Never be afraid of who you are/Never be ashamed of what you are.” Clearly, while their moniker might be playing off acts who came before, Frank Sabbath are not afraid to stand on their own sonically.
Sweet soul and classic psychedelic methods pervade The Sonic Dawn’s Perception (on respected purveyor Nasoni Records) debut album, and the Copenhagen trio of guitarist/vocalist Emil Bureau, bassist Neil Bird and drummer Jonas Waaben find an easy, spacious flow through songs that, despite being relatively straightforward, retain an expansive feel. Shades of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors make themselves felt early on, but Bureau’s voice shifts smoothly into and out of falsetto and the tonally The Sonic Dawn seem immediately in search of their own identity. The effects-soaked finish of “All the Ghosts I Know” and the apex of “Wild at Heart” would seem to indicate success in that process, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they push the psychedelic impulses of “Watching Dust Fall” even further their next time out, and if they can do so while holding onto the accessible foundation of Perception, all the better. An impressive debut from a three-piece who do right in making a show of their potential.
Ancient of Days follows two impressive EPs from Swedish tonal constructionists Spelljammer (on RidingEasy), and is the trio’s full-length debut, a pretense-less 39-minute offering that basks in post-Sleep riff idolatry while leaving room in a cut like the 12-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Meadow” for nodding atmospherics as well. “Meadow” and the 11-minute closer “Borlung” sandwich the rest of Ancient of Days, which moves between the acoustic minimalism of the quick “Laelia” to the already-gone centerpiece “From Slumber,” which rises gradually, swells in its midsection, and recedes again – beautifully – and the eight-minute groove-roller “The Pathfiner,” which would be the apex of the record if not for the crashing finale of “Borlung,” which churns and plods and caps the record – how else? – with a swirl into empty space. Following a cult response to 2012’s Vol. II EP, that Spelljammer would deliver big on their debut album isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it remains striking just how easy it is to get lost in the morass of riffs and outward vibes they present in these five cuts. Should’ve been on my Best Debuts of 2015 list.
This doomy twofer from Hydro-Phonic Records plants a veritable garden of unearthly delights in bringing together Brazilian doom outfits Witching Altar and Necro and highlighting the similarities and the differences between them. Pressed to CD late in 2015 with vinyl impending, it offers four cuts from Witching Altar, whose take on doom is ultra-traditional to the point of working in a Sabbathian “All right now!” for “She Rides the Seventh Beast,” and three from Necro (shortened from Necronomicon), a yet-unheralded trio of ‘70s progressive traditionalists who offer up the new single “Contact” and two tracks revisited from their two to-date full-lengths. Both prove immersive in their own right, Witching Altar setting a course for weird quickly on “The Monolith” which some theremin that reappears later, and Necro vibing out on the warm bassline of “Holy Planet Yamoth,” but each has their own ideas about what makes classic doom so classic, and the arguments on both sides are persuasive.
One never knows quite what to expect from Texas two-piece Stone Machine Electric, and that seems to be precisely how the duo of guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/thereminist Mark Kitchens like it. The Amazing Terroris something of a stopgap EP, released on CDR by the band as a follow-up to late-2014’s Garage Tape (review here) and a lead-in for their next full-length, reportedly recorded last month with Wo Fat’s Kent Stump at the helm. Taken from the Garage Tape sessions, The Amazing Terror makes a standout of its languid, jammy title-track and surrounds it by three more instances of the band’s exploratory ideology, delving into the quietly cosmic on “Before the Dream” and feeding a cyclical delay expanse on closer “Passage of Fire,” a likely companion-piece to the opening “Becoming Fire,” which may or may not play thematically into where Stone Machine Electric are headed with their next record. As always with these guys, I wouldn’t dare place a bet either way and look like a fool on the other side.
Chicago post-sludgers Pale Horseman featured a remix by Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), originally on their 2013 self-titled debut, on their second outing, 2014’s Mourn the Black Lotus (review here), and their third full-length, Bless the Destroyer, boasts a mixing job by Noah Landis of Neurosis. All three records were also recorded by Bongripper guitarist Dennis Pleckham, so it seems fair to say that Pale Horseman know who they want to work with and why. The results on Bless the Destroyer speak for themselves. With the 15-minute penultimate cut “Bastard Child” as an obvious focal point, the four-piece give a clear sense of progression in terms of their patience and overall range. The earlier “Caverns of the Templar” still boasts plenty of post-Godflesh chugging intensity – elements of death metal, see also centerpiece “Pineal Awakening” – but closer “Olduvai Gorge” sleeks along with a poise that even in 2013 Pale Horseman would’ve driven into the ground on their way to doing the same to everything else in their path. Their growth has made their approach more individual, and it suits them well.
A self-titled four-track debut EP from Argentina heavy rockers Yo, Moreno finds the band coming out swinging. The San Miguel de Tucumán-based four-piece of vocalist Marcos Martín, guitarist Lucas Bejar, bassist Noel Bejar and drummer Omar Bejar elicit a surprisingly aggro mood on “A Lot of Pot,” the opener, but groove remains paramount, and fuzz abounds. “Noelazarte” is more adventurous all around, an early build setting a tone with prevalent bass before Martín comes in after the halfway mark. Since “Para Noico” returns to the angrier spirit of “A Lot of Pot” and closer “3,000” heads outward on an instrumental exploration that blends grounded, weighted tones with spacier impulses, it seems easy to think that someone, somewhere would pick Yo, Moreno up for a 10” release. Especially as their first offering, it skillfully blends doomier atmospheres with fuzz-heavy nods, and stakes its claim in a niche that’s never completely one side or the other. Even formative as it is, it’s an intriguing blend.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In the wee beginning hours of 2016, Madison, Wisconsin, duo Dos Malés (also stylized as one word) offered up their self-titled debut EP, a five-tracker that melds sludge and heavy rock grooves with oozing, bone-rattling tonality. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Michael “Peewee” Makela and drummer/vocalist Nick “Stix66” Zumm, the band draw immediate attention owing to Makela‘s doubling in the again-active Bongzilla (not to mention the seemingly less-active Aquilonian), and hold it with the Floor-gone-raw melody and air-push low-end of “Giants” from the EP. It’s definitely a demo, but not hard to hear where Dos Malés are headed sound-wise on “Stars,” and it’s very clearly the right direction.
They’ve pressed up 100 tapes of the demo, and while one never knows where a project might end up in the longer run, they’ve made an encouraging start. New Year, new band. Seems fair enough:
DOSMALÉS (TWO EVILS) formed in the late Summer/early Fall 2014 when Peewee (Bongzilla) ran into Stix (Panther/Pyroklast) @ The Wisco Pub. Knowing each other years prior but out of touch for some time, Peewee asks Stix to start a 2-piece. Together only almost a month, the songs poured out, playing their 1st show opening for Child Bite & Zebras. After a slew of diy & club shows comes their debut EP.
We have been taking a break from posting & playing shows the last couple of months but are now proud to announce the release of our new 5 Song EP for the new year! We recorded it this last Spring @ The Lions Den in Madison, tracked & mixed by Paul O’Donnell & recently mastered by Brad Boatwright @ AUDIOSIEGE. Songs will be up for download on our new Bandcamp page on New Year’s Eve and cassette tapes out soon after! Also, watch for a tape release show coming in the near future, more info soon!
Mikey (Peewee) – Guitar/Vox Nick (Stix66) – Drums/Backing Vox
Posted in Reviews on January 4th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
And so it begins again. It had been my original intention to launch this latest Quarterly Review last week, but as that would’ve had me basically walking out on the holidays with my family, it seemed somehow prickish to be like, “Uh, sorry dudes, riffs call” and split, particularly when there are hours of driving involved. Still, though it’s already running late by the arbitrary calendar in my mind, I’m glad to be able to tackle a batch of releases that both looks back on the last part of 2015 and to the New Year we’ve just entered. As ever, there is a lot, a lot, a lot of ground to cover, so I won’t delay except to remind of what the Quarterly Review actually is:
Between now and this Friday, I will post 10 reviews a day in a single batch grouped like this one. The order is pretty much random, though something higher profile is usually first. It is my intention that each post covers a range of styles, and hopefully within that, you’re able to find something that speaks to you. Many of these releases were sent to me as physical product, and before I start, I want to extend thanks to those groups for undertaking the time and expense of giving me the full representation of their work to hopefully better do mine.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Jess and the Ancient Ones, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
Finnish six-piece Jess and the Ancient Ones pay homage to psych cultistry on their sophomore full-length, Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes (on Svart), and while one might argue with the band marking this out as the “second coming” of psych – I’d say the third, generationally-speaking – the paean to late-‘60s sonic spaciousness in “In Levitating Secret Dreams” is unmistakable, the songwriting of guitarist Thomas Corpse conjuring fervent swirl behind the soulful Grace Slick-isms of vocalist Jess. At 65 minutes, it’s a classic double-LP, but Second Psychedelic Coming seems most engaged in its longer pieces, the eight-minute “Crossroad Lightning,” which pulls back from the urgency of earlier cuts “”The Flying Man” or the opening “Samhain,” and the 22-minute closer “Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever,” which has an arrangement to match its scope that unfolds no less gracefully. Some of the more frenetic parts seem to be arguing with themselves, but the overarching vibe remains satisfyingly tripped out and that closer is their to-date masterpiece.
No big surprise that a record called Cult of Helios would seem to so unabashedly bask in sunshine. The four-track/32-minute sophomore full-length from German heavy psych four-piece Iguana has its driving moments, some in opener “Josiah” but more in the subsequent melodic thriller “Albedo,” but the prevailing sensibility is toward tonal warmth and steady groove. The band – vocalist/guitarist Alexander Lörinczy, guitarist Thomas May, bassist Alexander May and drummer Robert Meier – debuted in 2012 with Get the City Love You (review here), but Cult of Helios is a more cohesive, individualized release, whether it’s the hook of “Albedo,” the Beatles-gone-fuzz of “A Deadlock Situation” or the lush, flowing 15-minute jam of the closing title-track. Iguana’s propensity for blending underlying structure with a wide-open, welcoming atmosphere is writ large over Cult of Helios, and the album shines in a manner befitting its inspiration. A sleeper that begs waking.
Most long-distance projects fizzle out after a record or two. With a lineup split between Bavaria and Connecticut, doom rockers Seamount have managed to sustain a remote collaboration, the German band of bassist Markus Ströhlein, guitarist Tim Schmidt and drummer Jens Hofmann working with New England-based vocalist Phil Swanson (ex-Earthlord, ex-Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, etc.). The excellently-titled Nitro Jesus (on The Church Within) is their fifth full-length since 2007, and boasts a refined blend of doom, NWOBHM and dark thematics common to Swanson’s lyrics. Tonally crisp but immersive, slow crawlers like “Can’t Escape the Pain” are offset by the ‘80s metal swing of “Beautiful Sadness,” and each side caps with a longer track, whether that’s the seven-minute “Scars of the Emotional Stuntman,” the most singularly sweeping movement here, or the closer “No One Knows,” which has a moodier feel, the guitar recalling Don Henley accompanied by piano as the finale hits its apex. For those who like their metal of tried and true spirit and individual presentation, Nitro Jesus delivers in more than just its name.
Every now and then you hear a record that reminds you what you love about rock and roll in the first place. It doesn’t need to be the most complicated thing in the world, or the most expressive, or the heaviest or the most whatever of anything else, but like Gentlemans Pistols’ third LP, Hustler’s Row (on Nuclear Blast), if it locks in a special chemistry between its players, that’s more than enough to carry it through. That the UK four-piece are ace songwriters and bolstered by the lead guitar chops of Bill Steer (Firebird, Carcass) for the Thin Lizzy dual-solos – vocalist/guitarist James Atkinson on the other end – helps plenty as well, but with the tight, classic-style grooves brought to across Hustler’s Row by bassist Robert Threapleton and drummer Stuart Dobbins, Gentlemans Pistols give essential heavy rock a non-retro modern interpretation that might leave one wondering why so many people try to ape a ‘70s production to start with.
Each side of Wired Mind’s Mindstate: Dreamscape LP (on HeviSike Records) gracefully unfolds a lushly-toned, warm, engaging heavy psychedelic sprawl. The chief influence for the Hannover two-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mikey and drummer Chris is their countrymen godfathers Colour Haze, but the duo make their presence felt early on “Road,” the opener and longest-track at 11:01, which balances serene and spaced exploration with post-Kyuss “Thumb” shuffle, all the more enticing for having been recorded live, conjuring Echoplex spaciousness around the repeated line, “All we gotta do is love.” Both sides work on the same structure of a longer track feeding into a shorter one, “Road”’s considerable amassed thickness giving way to the winding groove of “Jennifer’s Dream of a Switchblade” while the Duna Jam-ready vibes permeating from “Wired Dream” finding a moving complement in closer “Woman,” which effectively captures desert rock rhythmic propulsion. As their debut, Mindstate: Dreamscape feels conceptually and stylistically cohesive, and sets Wired Mind up with a sonic breadth on which to continue to build.
Greek heavy rollers Automaton revisit their 2013 debut full-length, Echoes of Mount Ida, for a limited vinyl release. The four-track offering initially surfaced coated in burl and massive riffing, but a remix adds psychedelic edge to the lumbering fervor of “Fear,” on which the Athenian five-piece are joined by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective for added synth and swirl. He delivers, and the opener also adds guest vocals from Nancy Simeonidou, but the remix keeps things consistent as Automaton transition into the chugging “Beast of War,” a complex near-djent rhythm (which will find complement in the end of “Echoes of Mount Ida” itself) smoothly met by drummer Lykourgos to finish side A of the LP while the locked-in nod of “Breathe in Stone” bleeds into the closing title-track as Automaton offer riffy largesse set in a spacious backdrop like mountains in the distance. Interesting to see if the semi-reboot of their debut is indicative of some overall shift in direction, but at least on the vinyl offering, it makes their sound that much broader.
Between Martin Karlsson’s keys (also bass) and vocalist Dimitri Keiski’s propensity to soar, the mood turns epic pretty quick on Sideburn’s fifth album, Evil or Divine (on Metalville Records). The Swedish foursome’s latest shares more than just its titular reference in common with Dio — who, in addition to the lyric from “The Last in Line” had a live record with the same title – but keep a foot in doom territory throughout, drummer Fredrik Haake playing with metallic precision and an edge of swing as Morgan Zocek pulls out leads over “Sea of Sins.” The later “The Day the Sun Died” is particularly post-OzzyIommic, but Evil or Divine benefits from the kick in the ass that the penultimate “Evil Ways” seems only too happy to provide before “Presence” finishes on a hopeful note. Definitely more fist-pump than nod, Evil or Divine cries out to legions of the brave who want a thicker groove than modern metal is willing to provide without giving up the occasional cause to headbang.
Seattle-based bass/drum duo Year of the Cobra had two labels pick up their debut EP, The Black Sun, between Devil’s Child Records and DHU Records, and they’ve signed to STB Records for the follow-up, so it seems safe to say their three-track outing has gotten a solid response. The songs make a compelling argument for why. With vocals that recall Soph Day from Alunah on opener “White Wizard” before delving into faster, more punkish fare on “The Black Sun” itself, Year of the Cobra serve immediate notice of a breadth in their sound, and the seven-minute wah-bass finale “Wasteland” enacts a low-end swirl that pushes even further out while keeping hold of itself via steady, tense drumming. That finisher is a particular high point, with bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith self-harmonizing in layers over the steady build and drummer Johanes Barrysmith making sure the considerable tone keeps moving forward. Easy to hear why they’ve found such support in such a short time.
The third long-player from Dutch four-maybe-five-piece Drive by Wire, The Whole Shebang gets more complex as it goes. Its first couple tracks, “Kerosine Dreams” [sic], “Woodlands,” “The Whole Shebang” and “Five Ft. High” are deeply indebted to desert rock circa Songs for the Deaf, tonally and even in some of Simone Holsbeek’s sing/talk call and responses on “Woodlands.” From there, “Rituals,” “In This Moment” and the moody “River Run” and “Promised the Night” push into more individual ground, and even though they tie it back together in the album’s third and final movement with “Rotor Motor,” “All Around” and “Voodoo You Do,” the context has changed, and by the time guitarist Alwin Wubben swells lead lines behind the verse of the closer, the fuzz of “Kerosine Dreams” is a distant memory. Completed by bassist Marcel Zerb and drummer Jerome Miedendorp de Bie, Drive by Wire wind up on a considerable journey, and while the title at first seems off-the-cuff, it works out to be a whole shebang indeed.
Relaunched as a trio in the first half of 2015, Virginia trio Akris made a studio return with the four-song/32-minute Fall EP, which probably should’ve been called a full-length and probably should’ve been pressed to vinyl (paging Tony Reed to master and STB Records to release…), but the digital-only offering finds Akris and particularly founding bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg anything but apprehensive as she, guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (Nagato, Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (Admiral Browning) follow-up the band’s raucous sans-guitar 2013 self-titled full-length debut (review here), balancing plodding grooves, melody and abrasion deftly atop rumble and riffs in “Forgiven” as Goldberg swaps between screams and grunge-styled croons. The subsequent “People in the Sky” is less patient, and caps its nine-minute run with a barrage of noise rock synth that continues at the start of closer “Alley Doorway” but ultimately recedes (momentarily) to let that song establish its own course of loud/quiet tradeoffs and resonant exploration. Unless Akris are planning a series of seasonal short releases, I see no reason why Fall EP shouldn’t be characterized as a second long-player and heralded for the bold expansion of the band’s approach it represents.