Posted in audiObelisk on October 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Pennsylvania mostly-instrumentalists King Dead are set to make their full-length debut any day now. Really, any day. Their first album, Woe and Judgment, will be released digitally before too long as part of a fundraising effort to support a 2016 vinyl release, so yeah, it’s coming very soon. The three-piece impressed with the spacious post-metal textures of their first demo (review here) last year, but as the stream below of the track “Firmament” — the complete, Red Sparowes-esque title is “The Firmament of Heaven Opened, and the Flood Waters Were upon Them” — the scope has expanded considerably even from where it started. With three tracks constructed to fit on two sides, King Dead — four-string bassist Kevin Vanderhoof, six-string bassist Will McGrath and no-strings drummer Steve Truglio — push themselves into an encompassing rumble that still seems to hold onto a human core even as it lumbers between airy doom and rawer, thoroughly-reverbed noise.
When I asked Truglio, whom it has been my pleasure to know personally and professionally for years and years and years at this point, for a quote about the song to use with the post, he had this to say:
“We’ve been opening our set with this lately, and it’s funny that people seem to think it’s our soundcheck for the first couple minutes. Yeah, shit’s gettin’ pretty weird.”
“Shit’s gettin’ pretty weird” is a fitting summary of what’s happening on “The Firmament of Heaven Opened, and the Flood Waters Were upon Them,” but hardly the whole story. True enough, the first couple minutes are dedicated to establishing a kind of foundational churn, the ambient experimental core on which the song’s rollout will take place. Gradually, McGrath, Vanderhoof and Truglio establish a slow roll and embark on a linear build that works in stages across the remainder of the song’s eight-plus minutes. The cut with which it shares the intended side A of Woe and Judgment, “A Monument to Decline,” is led into by a finale of feedback that gives way to a more immediate stomp, the drums thudding and the strings jangling in echoes like sliding footsteps as the initial stage of the track gets underway. A midsection break veers into softer but still hypnotic spaces, but they finish with more rhythmically intense crunch, vaguely attributable to a Neurosis influence, but given its own context through King Dead‘s by-then well established mood.
As for side B, it’s pretty much a universe of its own with the 20-minute “The Coward, the Thieving Liar” consuming its entirety, but sure enough the song does break down into somewhat more manageable pieces around halfway through, shifting between sample-laden ’90s-style atmospheric sludge, abrasive noise, Floydian psychedelics and a final build — complete with what seems to be some vocals — that gives way to feedback and amp buzz to finish out. All told, it’s an immersive 37-minute stretch, but lack of pretense prevails, and King Dead‘s debut long-player finds them aesthetically locked in and proffering a balance between the raw and the lush, with a patience underlying that only makes the songs seem more methodical.
Get a handle on “The Firmament of Heaven Opened, and the Flood Waters Were upon Them” on the player below. The album will be available through their Bandcamp. More on the vinyl release when I hear it:
King Dead have been conspicuoulsy haunting the Stroudsburg PA area lately. Bass players Will McGrath and Kevin Vanderhoof, recruited New Jersey Transplant Steve Truglio on drums last summer, and have begun to wander around the NEPA/NJ area. Their debut record on the cusp of release, was recorded LIVE in their practice and performance home venue at The Living Room in Stroudsburg by Dave Reiser of ROCK HARD STUDIOS. They definitely have their own sound.
Call it sludge, doom, or what we like to say is spaghetti western doom sludge, it sure doesnt sound like yer typical heavy 3 piece band these days. With virtually no vocals, aside from one song(not on the record) and a whistle solo in another, its all about dynamics and the building tempos. Creepy, dreary, sleepy and melodic riffs layered over deep bottom and pounding drums.
Posted in audiObelisk on October 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
This coming weekend, Italian three-piece Humulus will perform as part of the Keep it Low festival in Munich, sharing a stage with Fever Dog, Fatso Jetson and Belzebong, among others. To coincide, the Bergamo trio have a new EP called Electric Walrus that’s available as of today that marks their first release since their 2012 self-titled debut came out on Go Down Records, and their first outing with guitarist/vocalist Andrea Van Cleef in the band alongside bassist Giorgio Bonacorsi and drummer Massimiliano Boventi. That’s a big change in itself, but the change in the band’s dynamic goes even further, the three-track/22-minute outing positioning Humulus in more of a heavy psychedelic/desert rocking vein than did the beery sludge riffs of the debut, and listening to “Red Star, Winter Orbit,” the opener and longest cut at 12:00 (immediate points), it’s hard not to come away with a sense of just how much the scope has expanded.
Clearly intended in its structure toward a vinyl release, Electric Walrus pairs “Red Star, Winter Orbit” with what would be a side B comprised of “Maud and the Black Moon” and “Glider,” both of which check in at just under five minutes. Each represents something of a turn in vibe within the sort of stylistic umbrella overhead of heavy fuzz, desert atmosphere and psychedelic flourish. The first track, for example, is completely instrumental. It unfolds along a natural-but-plotted course in the vein of Causa Sui or Samsara Blues Experiment, and impresses not only with its runtime, but in the fact that Humulus keep it together for the duration and move so smoothly between peaks and valleys, moving late into a section held together by the bassline and featuring big-sky-at-night guitar echo that, even after 12 minutes of the track as a whole, seems to end too soon. There’s a turn almost right away as “Maud and the Black Moon” starts, since the tones change and the song sounds more like Mark Lanegan fronting spacier Fatso Jetson, the vocals of Van Cleef impressing with a reverby presence that sits well over a post-grunge progression that departs its march at the midsection but picks up again to finish with a decent bit of rhythmic momentum.
And while the soft guitar opening of “Glider” is enough on first listen to make one think that maybe the increase in activity was a fluke and Humulus are going to close out the EP with another excursion into Colour Haze-y instrumental exploration — not that there’s anything wrong with that, because there isn’t — about 30 seconds in, they kick into a Truckfighters-style fuzz-rocker, and Van Cleef‘s voice seems no less suited to that than he was to the slower “Maud and the Black Moon.” “Glider” proves to be the most memorable hook of Electric Walrus — the appeal of which extends well beyond its frickin’ awesome title — but the crux of the short release is more about how much ground Humulus cover in the included three songs and how fluid they seem to be shifting between one style or another, trading off ambience for rhythmic drive and emerging from the other side a cohesive-sounding whole.
It’s an impressive feat, particularly for a group with a new frontman making essentially a second debut, and I’m thrilled to be able to host the tracks for streaming in time with the EP’s release and their appearance at Keep it Low. Please find Humulus‘ Electric Walrus on the player below, and enjoy:
Humulus are a heavy-stoner power trio from Brescia/Bergamo (Italy), formed in 2009. Their first self titled album is released by Go Down Records in december 2012. The ten tracks of this first work fully reflect the stoner attitude of the band and their aggressive sound that is best expressed during their live shows. 2013 and 2014 are truly years full of pivotal shows for Humulus career; the band shared the stage with bands like Corrosion Of Conformity, Karma To Burn, Naam and Truckfighters, and they participated also in festivals like Home Festival and Maximum Festival.
In 2014 another great love of the band sees the light: beer! Humulus produced for 2014 their eponymous black stoner IPA, brewed in collaboration with ELAV Indipendent Brewery. Humulus sound is just like that: a combination of fat and fuzzy guitars, heavy riffs…and a lot of beer!
In 2015, after a change of formation, Humulus recorded their new EP called Electric Walrus EP.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Rhode Island doomers Balam will at long last mark the release of their Days of Old full-length with a gig Oct. 31 at Jimmy’s Saloon in Newport, RI. Sounds awesome, right? Doom on Halloween? Yeah, great. Only trouble is that it’s also the band’s last show. It’s been more than a year since Days of Old (track premiere here) was finished being mastered, and so it’s a positive that they’re finally making the whole thing public, but fitting with their thoroughly-doomed vibes that even their new album release show would be tempered by a downer spirit. They were a good band, and they’ll be missed.
Show details and last-one announcement follow, in case you should happen to find yourself in Newport on Halloween or somewhere nearby:
ATTN: Only some may know this, but we will not be performing anymore after this gig! This may seem abrupt to a lot of you, but it has been something we have talked about for some time now and what better way to destroy something other than on Halloween?? We’d like to say this isn’t goodbye and we truly wish we had the time to make this band work, but we are moving on forward with new opportunities that lie ahead. Maybe when the time is right new material can be released, but it will be a very long time before anything like that could ever happen, and there wont be any gigs coming of it.
Also, we haven’t put out much music since our self titled ep, but we sure do have a lot of it! We we’re supposed to put out an album in 2013 called ‘Days Of Old’, and it would have been relevant to come out then, but unfortunately we ran into so many complications with trying to release it, that it’s been buried into a hard drive that doesn’t get looked at. Not too long ago we put up two ‘new’ tracks from that album on the good ol’ bandcamp, but on October 31st we will finally be putting up all of Days Of Old!!!
It’s safe to say we are beyond grateful to have played an incredible amount of memorable shows, created long lasting relationships with people who have helped us get from A to B and guided us in the right direction and STILL are, but most of all we have had the greatest support from so many of you to let us do what we like doing best without going broke. It’s really hard to measure success, but we definitely succeeded far more than we knew we could. This band has led us down another path, diving deeper and deeper into our ideas as we grow as musicians.
With this being said, come fucking party with us at Jimmy’s Saloon Halloween night in support of this release and our LAST gig!! More details about the show will be up in the coming week…
“You see the cat, frown/You click the mouse, down/And now the data has been sent/You sit alone, sad and spent.” I don’t know if Mark Deutrom of Bellringer was setting out to distill the chronicle of our age when he came up with “Click Bait,” but in four and a half minutes, he certainly managed to share some truth about where we’re at on a cultural level, and by extension, where we aren’t. The ex-Melvins bassist — here handling guitar and vocals alongside bassist Corey Cottrell and drummer Craig Nichols — released “Click Bait” as a pay-what-you-want digital single on Sept. 28, and the video go coincide follows the clip for “Von Fledermaus” (posted here) that surfaced in August.
A single concept — culture as meaningless collage of distractions — is executed through some complex editing in the new video, but the song itself is comparatively simple. Deutrom‘s vocals are smooth over a consistent bassline that spreads wider as the guitars open in the chorus, and as one might expect, or at least hope, the chorus itself is meta-catchy, commenting on what the titular marketing phenomenon that seems some days to define the times in which we live while also being rife with an infectious, almost saccharine pity. To put it in internet speak, it’s the snark we, as a people, deserve.
And it comes from an increasingly reliable source. Bellringer may have disappeared their self-titled EP (review here), but I can’t help but think that redistributing some of that material while at the same time moving forward with a newer cut like this one is a part of some larger master plan. What that might be or when it might manifest, we’ll just have to wait to find out.
If you happen to be in that neck of the woods, Bellringer support Funeral Horse at their record release show on Oct. 30 at Rudyard’s in Houston.
Click play to watch:
Bellringer, “Click Bait” official video
Click the mouse down!
Chopped by MD using junk from the interweb. Improved by Jennifer Deutrom.
Mark Deutrom : Guitar, Vocal C. Cottrell : Bass C. Nichols : Drums
Produced and Mixed by Mark Deutrom Recorded By Chico Jones at Ohm Recording Facility, ATX
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
German sludgecore rockers High Fighter toured in Europe this past Spring alongside Polish exports Sunnata, and they’ll return to the road later this month and into November with the formidably doomed likes of their seafaring countrymen in Ahab. The difference? This time, High Fighter will have a limited 12″ edition of their 2014 debut EP, The Goat Ritual (review here), in tow. The wax pressing comes courtesy of Vinyl Got Soul Records, and the magic number is 300. If there are any left as I write this, I don’t imagine they’ll be around for too long.
High Fighter played Stoned from the Underground and SonicBlast Moledo this summer, and in addition to the run with Ahab, they have a few select other dates this fall listed below, as they arrived from the PR wire:
HIGH FIGHTER re-release debut EP on Vinyl + On tour with AHAB this Fall!
Hamburg based newcomer stoner metal outfit HIGH FIGHTER have just announced the re-release of their critically acclaimed debut EP ‘The Goat Ritual’ on Vinyl. Originally self-released as CD Digi Pack as well as Digital Download via Bandcamp back in October 2014, HIGH FIGHTER have now teamed up with Vinyl Got Soul Records for an exclusive Vinyl edition! Their debut EP ‘The Goat Ritual’ is now available as a handnumbered, 12inch limited edition to 300 copies, and can be purchased via several LP online stores as well as directly at: email@example.com
Formed in the summer of 2014, HIGH FIGHTER deliver a volatile cocktail of heavy as hell tunes and offer something new to the doom, sludge, blues and stoner metal scene. After numerous shows with bands such as Corrosion of Conformity, Greenleaf, Mammoth Mammoth or The Midnight Ghost Train, tours throughout Germany, Belgium, France and the UK, as well as several festival appearances this summer at like Stoned from the Underground 2015, Sonic Blast Portugal, Red Smoke in Poland, an exclusive press showcase at this year’s Wacken Open Air & many more, in one year band existence HIGH FIGHTER have gained high praise from both fans and the press all over Europe and already belong to one of the most promising newcomer acts the scene has to offer.
To celebrate the band’s EP re-release on Vinyl and to end a first successful year of their young band history, HIGH FIGHTER have just recently announced an extensive tour with nautic funeral doom masters in AHAB. With them on the bill will be Mammoth Storm from Sweden, make sure to catch this exciting band line up on their upcoming tour:
‘The Tour of the Glen Carrig 2015 Part I’ AHAB, HIGH FIGHTER + MAMMOTH STORM 29.10.2015: Frankfurt a.M. DE – Elfer 30.10.2015: Jena DE – Cassablanca 31.10.2015: Hamburg DE – Bambi Galore 01.11.2015: Köln DE – Underground 02.11.2015: Paris FR – Glazart 03.11.2015: Nantes FR – Le Ferailleur 05.11.2015: Colmar FR – Grillen 06.11.2015: Stuttgart DE – Club Cann 07.11.2015: Pratteln CH – Z7 08.11.2015: Heidelberg DE – Schwimmbad Club
More upcoming shows of HIGH FIGHTER: 16.10.2015: Dresden DE – Club 11 17.10.2015: Leipzig DE – Wilhelmine Setalight Festival, Villakeller 04.12.2015: Oldenburg DE – Cadillac 26.12.2015: Hamburg DE – Rock Café St. Pauli
Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:
We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs
To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.
There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.
Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.
It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.
And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.
If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.
Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People
Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.
Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.
French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.
Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.
Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Cruising right along with the Fall 2015 Quarterly Review. I hope you’ve been digging it so far. There’s still much more to come, and I’ve spaced things out so that it’s not like all the really killer stuff was in the first day. That’s not so much to draw people in with bigger names as to get a good mix of styles to keep me from going insane. 10 records is a lot to go through if you’re hearing the same thing all the time. Today, as with each day this week, I’m glad to be able to change things up a bit as we make our way through. Let’s get to it.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #21-30:
Aside from earning immediate points by sticking the 10-minute title-track at the front of their 62-minute fourth album, Swedish mustache rockers Horisont add intrigue to Odyssey (out on Rise Above) via the acquisition of journeyman guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel, ex-Church of Misery). Their mission? To rock ‘70s arena melodies and grandiose vibes while keeping the affair tight enough so they don’t come across as completely ridiculous in the process. They’ve had three records to get it together before this one, so that they’d succeed isn’t necessarily much of a surprise, but the album satisfies nonetheless, cuts like “Blind Leder Blind” departing the sci-fi thematics of the opener for circa-1975 vintage loyalism of a different stripe, while “Back on the Streets” is pure early Scorpions strut, the band having found their own niche within crisp execution of classic-sounding grooves that seem to have a vinyl hiss no matter their source.
I’ll make no bones whatsoever about being partial to the work of both Blackwolfgoat – the solo experimental vehicle of Boston-based guitarist Darryl Shepard – and Larman Clamor – the solo-project of Hamburg-based graphic artist Alexander von Wieding – so to find them teamed up for a split 7” on H42 Records is something of a special thrill. Shepard’s inclusion, “Straphanger,” continues to push the thread between building layers of guitar on top of each other and songwriting that the last Blackwolfgoat full-length, Drone Maintenance (review here), found him exploring, while Larman Clamor’s “Drone Monger” is an alternate version from what appeared on last year’s Beetle Crown and Steel Wand (review here) and “Fo’ What You Did” digs deep into the swampy psych-blues that von Wieding has done so well developing for the last half-decade or so in the project’s tenure. My only complaint? No collaboration between the two sides. Would love to hear what Shepard and von Wieding could do in a cross-Atlantic two-piece.
II is the aptly-titled second full-length from Russian heavy psych instrumentalists Matushka, who jam kosmiche across its four component tracks and round out by diving headfirst into the acid with “Drezina,” a 20-minute pulsation from some distant dimension that gives sounds like Earthless if they made it up on the spot, peppering shred-ola leads with no shortage of effects swirl. In comparison, “As Bartenders and Bouncers Dance” feels positively plotted, but it, “The Acid Curl’s Dance” before and the especially dreamy “Meditation,” which follows, all have their spontaneous-sounding elements. For guitarist Timophey Goryashin, bassist Maxim Zhuravlev (who seems to since be out of the band) and drummer Konstantin Kotov to even sustain this kind of lysergic flow, they need to have a pretty solid chemistry underlying the material, and they do. I don’t know whether Matushka’s II will change the scope of heavy psychedelia, but they put their stamp on the established parameters here and bring an edge of individuality in moments of arrangement flourish — acoustics, synth, whatever it might be — where a lot of times that kind of thing is simply lost in favor of raw jamming.
If a pilot is used in television to test whether or not a show works, then Tuna de Tierra’s EPisode I: Pilot, would seem to indicate similar ends. A three-song first outing from the Napoli outfit, it coats itself well in languid heavy psychedelic vibing across “Red Sun” (the opener and longest track at 8:25; immediate points), “Ash” (7:28) and the particularly dreamy “El Paso de la Tortuga,” which closes out at 4:08 and leaves the listener wanting to hear more of what Alessio de Cicco (guitar/vocals) and Luciano Mirra (bass) might be able to concoct from their desert-style influences. There’s patience to be learned in some of their progressions, and presumably at some point they’ll need to pick up a drummer to replace Jonathan Maurano, who plays here and seems to since be out of the band, but especially as their initial point of contact with planet earth, EPisode I: Pilot proves immersive and a pleasure to get lost within, and that’s enough for the moment.
Much of what one might read concerning North Carolinian trio MAKE and their second album, The Golden Veil, seems to go out of its way to point out the individual take they’re bringing to the established parameters of post-metal. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but part of that has to be sheer critical fatigue at the thought of another act coming along having anything in common with Isis while at the same time, not wanting to rag on MAKE as though their work were without value of its own, which at this point an Isis comparison dogwhistles. MAKE’s The Golden Veil successfully plays out an atmospherically intricate, engaging linear progression across its seven tracks, from the cut-short intro “I was Sitting Quietly, Peeling back My Skin” through the atmospheric sludge tumult of “The Absurdist” and into the patient post-rock melo-drone of “In the Final Moments, Uncoiling.” Yes, parts of it are familiar. Parts of a lot of things are familiar. Some of it sounds like Isis. That’s okay.
To an extent, the reputation of Belgium instru-crushers SardoniS precedes them, and as such I can’t help but listen to “The Coming of Khan,” which launches their third album, III (out via Consouling Sounds), and not be waiting for the explosion into tectonic riffing and massive-sounding gallop. Still the duo of drummer Jelle Stevens and guitarist Roel Paulussen, SardoniS offer up five tracks of sans-vocals, Surrounded by Thieves-style thrust, a cut like “Roaming the Valley” summarizing some of the best elements of what they’ve done across the span of splits with Eternal Elysium and Drums are for Parades, as well as their two prior full-lengths, 2012’s II and 2010’s SardoniS (review here), in its heft and its rush. A somewhat unanticipated turn arrives with 11:46 closer “Forward to the Abyss,” which though it still hits its standard marks, also boasts both lengthy atmospheric sections at the front and back and blastbeaten extremity between. Just when you think you know what to expect.
With their debut long-player, Barcelona trio Lewis and the Strange Magics answer the promise of their 2014 Demo (review here) in setting a late-‘60s vibe to modern cultish interpretation, post-Uncle Acid and post-Ghost (particularly so on “How to be You”) but no more indebted to one or the other than to themselves, which is as it should be. Issued via Soulseller Records, Velvet Skin isn’t afraid to dive into kitsch, and that winds up being a big part of the charm of songs like “Female Vampire” and “Golden Threads,” but it’s ultimately the chemistry of the organ-inclusive trio that makes the material hold up, as well as the swaggering rhythms of “Cloudy Grey Cube” and “Nina (Velvet Skin),” which is deceptively modern in its production despite such a vintage methodology. The guitar and keys on that semi-title-track seem to speak to a classic progressive edge burgeoning within Lewis and the Strange Magics’ approach, and I very much hope that’s a path they continue to walk.
Basking in a style they call “oceanic rock,” newcomer German trio Moewn unveil their first full-length, Acqua Alta, via Pink Tank Records in swells of post-metallic undulations that wear their neo-progressive influences on their sleeve. Instrumental for the duration, the three-piece tracked the album in 2014 about a year after first getting together, but the six songs have a cohesive, thought-out feel to their peaks and valleys – “Packeis” perhaps most of all – that speaks to their purposeful overall progression. Atmospherically, it feels like Moewn are still searching for what they want to do with this sound, but they have an awful lot figured out up to this point, whether it’s the nodding wash of airy guitar and fluid heft of groove that seems to push “Dunkelmeer” along or second cut “Katamaran,” which if it weren’t for the liquefied themes of the art and their self-applied genre tag, I’d almost say sounded in its more spacious stretches like desert rock à la Yawning Man.
Since their first album, 2008’s Lemuria (review here), it has been increasingly difficult to pin Peruvian outfit El Hijo de la Aurora to one style or another. Drawing from doom, heavy rock, drone and psychedelic elements, they seem to push outward cosmically into something that’s all and none of them at the same time on their third album, The Enigma of Evil (released by Minotauro Records), the core member Joaquín Cuadra enlisting the help of a host of others in executing the seven deeply varied tracks, including Indrayudh Shome of continually underrated experimentalists Queen Elephantine on the acoustic-led “The Awakening of Kosmos” and the penultimate chug-droner “The Advent of Ahriman.” Half a decade after the release of their second album, Wicca (review here), in 2010, El Hijo de la Aurora’s work continues to feel expansive and ripe for misinterpretation, finding weight in atmosphere as much as tone and breadth enough to surprise with how claustrophobic it can at times seem.
Dallas outfit Hawk vs. Dove recorded Divided States in the same studio as their self-titled 2013 debut (review here) and the two albums both have black and white line-drawn artwork from Larry Carey, so it seems only fitting to think of the new release as a follow-up to the first. It is fittingly expansive, culling together elements of ‘90s noise, post-grunge indie (ever wondered what Weezer would sound like heavy? Check “X”), black metal (“Burning and Crashing”), desert rock (“PGP”) and who the hell knows what else into a mesh of styles that not only holds up but feels progressed from the first time out and caps with an 11-minute title-track that does even more to draw the various styles together into a cohesive, singular whole. All told, Divided States is 38 minutes of blinding turns expertly handled and impressive scope trod over as though it ain’t no thing, just another day at the office. It’s the kind of record that’s so good at what it does that other bands should hear it and be annoyed.
Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day one down, four more days to go. I forget each time how different it is writing shorter reviews as opposed to the usual longer ones, but kind of refreshing to bust through something, force myself to say what needs to be said as efficiently as possible and move on. Reminds me of working in print, with word counts and such. Only so much room on the page. Not something that usually comes up around these parts, but I guess it’s good to keep that muscle from complete atrophy. Though taking that line of thought to its natural conclusion, I have no idea why. Anyway, feeling good, ready to take on another 10 records, so let’s roll.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #11-20:
Holy Sons, Fall of Man
It would be hard to overstate the smoothness with which Emil Amos, who serves integral creative and percussive roles in both Grails and Om, brings different styles together on Fall of Man, his second album for Thrill Jockey under the Holy Sons solo moniker and upwards of his 11th overall. An overriding melancholy vibe suits dark, progressive pop elements on the opener “Mercenary World,” Amos at the fore playing all instruments and still vocalizing like a singer-songwriter, while the later wash of “Being Possessed is Easy” takes on ‘90s indie fragility and turns what was purposeful minimalism into an expanse of melody and “Discipline” creeps out lyrically while forming experimentalist soundscapes around a steady line of acoustic guitar. Joined by bassist Brian Markham and drummer Adam Bulgasem on “Aged Wine” – the only other players to appear anywhere on Fall of Man – Amos leads the trio through soaring leads and heavier crashing to give the album a crescendo worthy of its scope, which while astounding on deeper inspection presents itself with simple, classic humility.
WEEED, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath
From the opening drone-groan throat-singing of the 14-minute “Dogma Dissolver,” it seems like not-quite-Seattle trio Weeed are making a run for the title “Most Stoned of the Stoner” with their second full-length, Our Guru Leads us to the Black Master Sabbath. They earn that extra ‘e.’ A double-LP on Illuminasty Records, the album is a 54-minute trip into low tone and deep-running vibe, spaced way out, and well at home whether jamming heavy and hypnotized on “Rainbow Amplifier Worship” – a highlight bassline – or nestling into an ambient stretch like “Bullfrog” preceding. Mostly instrumental, Weeed hit their most active in “Enuma Elish” and then chill and strip back to acoustics and sax (yup) for the Eastern-flavored “Caravan Spliff,” bringing back the throat-singing in the process. How else to finish such a work than with the 15-minute “Nature’s Green Magic,” a 15-minute push along a single build that goes from minimal, pastoral acoustics to nod-on-this megastoner riffing? Weeed might be going for the gold, but they end up in the green, and somehow one imagines they’ll be alright with that. They get super-ultra-bonus points for sounding like Kyuss not even a little.
Formed in 1999 and having made their full-length debut a decade later with The Shadow Tradition (review here), last heard from in a 2012 split with Boise’s Uzala (review here), Austin, Texas, doomly five-piece Mala Suerte return with the 10-track Rituals of Self Destruction, which moves past its four-minute intro into chugging The Obsessed-style trad doom with a touch of Southern heavy à la Crowbar and a generally metallic spirit in cuts like “Utopic Delusions” that gets expanded on later cuts like the swirling, crawling almost Cathedral-ish “Labyrinth of Solitude.” Comprised of forward-mixed vocalist Gary Rosas, guitarists David Guerrero and Vincent Pina, bassist Mike Reed and drummer Chris Chapa (now John Petri), Mala Suerte sound as rueful as ever across the album’s span, rounding out with the hardcore sludge of “Successful Failure” and “The Recluse,” which builds from slow, brooding chug to a more riotous finish. It’s been a while, but it’s good to have them back.
Guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob leads Brooklyn’s Eternal Black through the riffy doom of their debut self-titled three-track EP. Unpretentious in the style’s tradition, the trio is anchored by Hal Miller’s bass and pushed forward by the drums of Joe “The Prince of Long Island” Wood (also of Borgo Pass), the rolling groove of Sabbathian opener “Obsidian Sky” setting the tone for straightforward, few-frills darkness, and Eternal Black follow it up with the workingman’s doom of “The Dead Die Hard” and “Armageddon’s Embrace,” the former started out with an extra lead layer before it unfurls the EP/demo’s most satisfying crawl, and the latter a little more swinging, but still Iommic metal at its core, Wohlrob’s gruff vocal and Wino-style riff backed by Miller’s deep-mixed rumble as Wood goes to the cowbell/woodblock (it’s one or the other) during the guitar solo. Even if Joe Wood wasn’t one of the best human beings I’d ever met, it would still be pretty easy to dig what these cats are doing, and it’ll be worth keeping an eye for how they follow this first installment.
Austin, Texas-based trio Were-Jaguars have already issued a follow-up EP to their earlier-2015 second album, II, but from its opening and longest track “Between the Armies” (immediate points), the three-piece dig into weirdo psych vibes and dense tones across their latest full-length, released through respected Russian purveyor R.A.I.G. Not at all a minor undertaking at 13 tracks, 68 minutes, it gets into garage ritualism in “Let My Breath be the Air” and unfolds immediate doomadelia on “Bishop Kills Enchanter,” but if you need confirmation that Were-Jaguars – the three-piece of Chad Rauschenberg, James Adkisson and Rick McConnell – aren’t just screwing around in these songs and lucking into a righteous result, let it come on the later “Lost Soul,” which melds a flowing instrumental roll to a host of spiritual and pseudo-spiritual samples, loses itself completely, and then returns at the end to finish cohesive, engagingly complex and sure in the knowledge that all has gone to plan. Figuring out what that plan is can be a challenge at times, but it’s there.
The Fuzzonaut split between Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi and Bar de Monjas takes its name from the closing track, provided by the latter act, but it serves as a fitting title for the work as a whole as well. Vinnum Sabbathi launch the six-track offering with “HEX I: The Mastery of Space,” a slow-rolling instrumental topped by samples pulled from rocket launches, and after the 1:45 droning interlude “Intermission (Fluctuations),” they melt their way into the companion “HEX II: Foundation Pioneers,” doomier in its chug, but similarly-minded overall in intent, with the warm bass, copious samples, and planet-sized riffing. Though their portion is shorter overall, Bar de Monjas answer back with relatively upbeat push in “Hot Rail,” winding up in stoner rock janga-janga before stomping their way into “The Ripper,” cowbelling there as part of an impressively percussed spin and capping with “Fuzzonaut” itself, a shroomy 7:45 creeper with big-riff bursts that rises and recedes effectively, ending with a long residual hum.
An immediate touchstone for the droning pastoral drear that Saskatoon three-piece Black Tremor elicit on their four-song debut EP, Impending, is Earth’s HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, but the newcomer trio distinguish themselves immediately with an approach that replaces guitar with violin, so that not only can Black Tremor tie into these atmospheres, they can do so in a way that speak to country roots in a way their forebears didn’t at the time date. Bassist Alex Deighton, violinist Amanda Bestvater and drummer Brennan Rutherford have only just begun the work of developing their sound, but already nine-minute opener “The Church” and its buzzing follow-up “Rise” prove evocative and come across as more than exercises in ambience. “Markhor” hits with an even heavier roll and an almost Melvinsy undertone, while the title-track makes its way through horse-trod mud to emerge at the end not only clean but positively bouncing. It’s still pretty dark, but they’ve given themselves a vast Canadian Midwestern expanse to explore.
A bright tonal bliss pervades There’s Nothing, the Rock Ridge Music debut long-player from Nashville all-lowercase psychedelic post-rockers aave. The band court indie progressivism across the album’s eight component tracks, but with just one song over four minutes long – closer “Turn Me Off” (4:30) – there’s little about it that feels overly indulgent or beyond the pale stylistically. That is to say that while aave set a sonic course for great distances, they get to where they’re going efficiently and don’t hang around too long in one place. That has its ups and downs in terms of vibe, but the resonant vocal melodies of “Nothing Here” – hard not to be reminded of Mars Red Sky’s sweet emotionality, but there are other comparisons one might make – the focus remains grounded in an accessibility that goes beyond getting lost in dreamy guitars. Aesthetically satisfying, they find an intense moment in the later thrust of “Blender,” but even that retains the overarching wistful sensibility of what’s come before and that unites the material throughout.
Spacious, melodic and entrancingly heavy, Derelics’ debut EP, Introducing, indeed makes a formidable opening statement, and in a crowded London scene of post-Orange Goblin burl and Downy sludge, the trio set more progressive ambitions across “To Brunehilde,” “California” and “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla,” psych-funking up the centerpiece after the grooving largesse of the opener en route to the wider-spreading tones of the closer, guitarist/vocalist Reno cutting through his and bassist Nacim’s tones easily with higher-register vocals that push the limits of his range as he encourages one to “ride that fuckin’ snake,” before cutting out to let drummer Rich lead the charge with toms through a build-up bridge that returns to the echoing fullness conjured earlier, ending on a long-fading organ note. An encouraging first offering from the three-piece, and hopefully they continue develop along an original-sounding path as they move ahead. Already they seem to show a knack for melding atmospherics and songwriting toward the same ends.
True to its krautrock-style cover art, Desert Brain, the third outing from Detroit’s Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, has an element of prog at work within its psychedelic unfolding. But that’s reasonable. With four years since their second release, Spectra Spirit (review here), and the inclusion of bassist/keyboardist Eric Oppitz and drummer Rick Sawoscinski with guitarist/vocalist Sean Morrow, the dynamic in the band has legitimately shifted, even though Oppitz (who also did the aforementioned cover art) has recorded all three of their records. Still, they keep the proceedings fluid across the two vinyl sides, finding their inner garage on “Major Medicine” and tripping out easy on “What’s Your Cloud Nine, 37?” on side A before digging in with fuzz and push on side B’s “The Prettiest Sounds of Purgatory” and stretching into ritual stomp on the title cut. All the while, they’re drenched in vibe and a flow that’s languid even as it’s running you over, and while some songs barely have a chorus, they implant themselves in the mind anyway, almost subliminally.