Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
One of the most impressive aspects of Sollicitus es Veritatem is that it is so grounded in its theme while being so open and spaced out musically. It’s the self-released second full-length from Texas heavy jam duo Stone Machine Electric — William “Dub” Irvin on guitar/vocals, Mark Kitchens on drums/theremin — and in relatively impressionistic fashion, its five increasingly extended tracks take on the current political climate with predictive fervor and a healthy sense of dread. They’re not running down poll results by any means, but the interpretation of the album’s cover, its rat in a red tie, and Dub‘s gravely repetitions of “I really wish I was dreaming” in second cut “Dreaming” (10:17) both make the message pretty clear.
That’s an aspect of their approach that has developed in the three years since their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), though looking back there were certainly real-world elements at play there, as well as in the 2015 The Amazing Terror EP (review here) that arrived at the start of primary season to set the table for this album, the Latin title of which translates to “Nightmares are Reality.” They may well be, but Stone Machine Electric meet them head on with languid roll, heavy tones and an underlying cohesion to their jams. Recorded by Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, the groove at times bears some resemblance to Stump‘s own outfit, but Sollicitus es Veritatem goes far, far out when it goes, and from the quiet, creeping three-minute start of opener “I am Fire” (7:08), the flow that Dub and Kitchens conjure is almost entirely their own, a darkened and spacious vision of psychedelic jamming and heavy blues melded together in seemingly amorphous shapes.
Together, the five tracks total 57 minutes, so Sollicitus es Veritatem is a substantial commitment in the listening if you’re going front to back, but the individual pieces that make it up sort of blur the lines one into the next and that makes the journey more fluid. That’s not to say that “I am Fire,” which is arguably the most straightforward-feeling of the inclusions even with that intro, doesn’t stand well on its own, just that while too long to fit on a single LP, the CD version of Sollicitus es Veritatem benefits from the smooth and linear progression of its component parts. In addition to leading the listener into the band’s world via cymbal wash, drone atmospherics, and guitar minimalism, “I am Fire” offers a declarative hook in its title line, and in light of the apparent thematic intention one has to wonder just who the speaker in the song might be.
A chugging riff keeps the second half earthbound, but already Stone Machine Electric have set a focus on ambience, and the rest of the material — including the slight-return-style complementary closer, “I am Fire (Slightly Burned)” (6:57) — continues to build on that, beginning with “Dreaming,” which picks up from the end of “I am Fire” with exploratory guitar feeling its way through the surrounding emptiness. Around two minutes in, after Kitchens has joined, the riff solidifies and the verse starts with Dub working quick to deliver dire warnings — not directly political in a naming-names sense, but applicable nonetheless — before a first chorus and quick trip solo that’s a precursor for the extended instrumental jam to come, brought back around to the chorus at the end for a satisfying bookend effect.
In centerpiece “PorR” (14:25) and the subsequent “Demons” (18:46), Stone Machine Electric get to the thick of Sollicitus es Veritatem‘s jam-room vibe, though layering would seem to be an essential part, obscure volume swells and noises in the background — could be theremin with effects, I suppose — an essential part in the quiet open of “PorR,” the main progression of which is a rolling guitar figure that kicks in loud in a manner with which I’ll admit some personal association I can’t quite shake, but serves as the foundation for the album’s most resonant jam, Dub pulling back on his gruff vocal delivery for a more melodic take well suited to the creeper vibe. Though it ultimately has enough room to cover its wide swath, “Demons” is more progressive at its heart, dooming out on either side of a long middle stretch of jazzy shuffle that starts after “Moonchild”-style noise past the seven-minute mark and eases into a long and welcome airy solo topping a steady rhythm.
Guitar and vocals harmonize together past 14 minutes in, and from there the riff re-thickens, diminishes, and returns with YOB-esque push toward the fadeout, giving the album a fitting apex before “I am Fire (Slightly Burned)” begins its cymbal washes recalling the opener. The lyrics are different and the instrumental approach is different — definitely some theremin — almost like Dub and Kitchens took the basic instrumental foundation they had put down for “I am Fire” and built it out in another way. A studio experiment, maybe, but its weirdo vibe is right at home on Sollicitus es Veritatem, and its raucous, noisy and swirling crescendo not only serves as an epilogue post-“Demons” but a manifestation of the otherworldly nightmarish realization Stone Machine Electric would seem to have been moving toward all along. I’ve been a fan of the band since I first heard their demo in 2010 (review here), and though they’ve walked a difficult, sometimes rough path between trying out third members and so on, their second full-length brings a sound and vibe that suits them remarkably well and, as a fan, I can only hope they continue to move forward in this direction.
Stone Machine Electric, Sollicitus es Veritatem (2016)
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
London heavy rockers Oak have issued Oak II, their aptly-titled follow-up to their self-titled debut EP (review here), which came out late last year. Like that release, the new four-tracker is available now as a name-your-price download via the band’s Bandcamp page. I haven’t seen anything about a physical release for either EP, or both together for that matter, or anything else, but Oak seem to be making their way toward these things one step at a time, and I look forward to digging into these new tracks to hear what they’ve been up to for the last seven months.
Art and release info follow, courtesy of the PR wire, Bandcamp, and the social medias:
We’re proud to announce that we’ve just released another batch of 4 tunes for you to enjoy. Several sets of strings, a few drumsticks and a studio loudspeaker have given their lives during the making process of this EP. So we’re hoping you’ll have as much of a blast listening to it, as us making it.
Recorded over a weekend in London’s Kore Studios back in May, Oak II sees the band take on a heavier, more focused sound with the new addition of Clinton Richie on drums.
Formed in the summer of 2015, London stoner rockers Oak have just released Oak II, the follow up to November 2015’s debut EP Oak.
The band combine desert rock grooves with fuzzed out 70s inspired hard rock and have spent 2016 gigging – sharing the stage with bands such as Elephant Tree, Welsh uber-dudes Sigiriya and Black Lung from the USA.
Oak II tracklisting: 1. Mirage 05:36 2. Against The Rain 05:41 3. A Bridge Too Far 06:30 4. Smoke 05:48
Andy Valiant: Lead Vocals Kevin Germain: Guitars, Backing Vocals (tr. 1 & 2), Talk Box Voice Scott Masson: Bass, Backing Vocals (tr.3), Talk Box Guitar Clinton Ritchie: Drums
All songs by Oak Engineered, mixed and mastered by Kevin Germain Artwork by Unexpected Specter
Posted in Reviews on June 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This one’s for all the marbles. Or at very least tiddlywinks. The last day of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review begins. I’ll admit that when I was planning this out — started soon after the last Quarterly Review was finished in early April; that one ran late, this one has run early — I decided to take it easy on myself the last day. Still 10 reviews, so not that easy, but in terms of what’s included today, a lot of is stuff I feel pretty comfortable talking about, whether it’s bands I’ve covered before (which a lot of it is, now that I look at the list) or whatever. If you’ve been keeping up this week, thanks. I hope you found some cool music.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere, Atomikylä made a striking impression with their 2014 Svart Records debut, Erkale (review here), giving a take on psychedelic black metal that was immediately and truly their own in its balance of elements. The band, featuring members of Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, return with doom-jazz fervor on sophomore full-length, Keräily, with three songs covering yet-unnamed stylistic reaches and offering a get-to-the-studio-and-see-what-happens experimentalism to go with their plotted course on 18-minute opener and longest track (bonus points) “Katkos,” which is followed by the building horn freakout “Risteily” (9:15), from which a space rock push takes hold on drums, resulting in maddening guitar swirl – because of course – and closer “Pakoputki” (6:55), which consumes with a darker thrust and more up-front blackened vibe that still holds onto some of the psychedelia in its layers of guitar. Keräily progresses effectively from Atomikylä’s debut and highlights just how individualized they are as a group. They continue to have the potential to do really special work, and the argument is easy to make they’re already doing it.
As opener and longest track (bonus points) “Beasts of Prey” careens toward its apex finish near the 12-minute mark and the title-track begins is crashing, harmonized intro before moving into an Alice in Chains-via-stoner verse, the distance Poland’s Sunnata cover on their second full-length, Zorya, begins to really unveil itself. There doesn’t seem to be a genre within the heavy sphere that’s off limits. They never get into death metal, but heavy rock, doom, psychedelia, prog, sludge – it’s all in play at one point or another in Zorya’s five-track/50-minute run. The reason the album works and isn’t just a haphazard mash of styles is because Sunnata, who’ve been active in Warsaw since the last decade, make each one their own and thus bend genre to suit their purposes and not the other way around. They continue to impress through the rush of “Long Gone,” the airy expanse of “New Horizon” and the more brooding closer “Again and Against,” conjuring effective flow from what in less capable hands would be disparate components.
I have kind of a hard time with White Dynomite. Not musically – the Boston five-piece’s new EP, Action O’Clock (on Ripple) typifies their accessible punk rock; a reminder of a time when the style used guitars – but conceptually. Their lineup features bassist Tim Catz and vocalist Craig Riggs (on drums) of Roadsaw, as well as guitarist Pete Knipfing (also Hey Zeus, Lamont), vocalist Dave Unger and guitarist John Darga, and while I can’t argue with the charm of a track like “Werewolf Underwear” or “Evil Ballerina” — the lyric “Tutu woman, too too much for me” alone makes Action O’Clock worth the price of admission, let alone “I got fangs in my pants” from “Werewolf Underwear” – but I haven’t yet been able to listen to the band in the context of it having been six years since the last time Roadsaw released an album, and thinking about years passing, priorities and whatnot. They sound they’re having a blast all the way through, and I won’t begrudge them exploring other influences, I guess I just miss that band.
Pittsburgh newcomers Horehound formed just last year, so one might go into their self-titled debut full-length thinking it’s an early arrival, but in an unpretentious seven-track/33-minute collection of straightforward but engaging doom rockers, the five-piece demonstrate a clear idea of what they want to do sonically. While it may not represent where they’ll ultimately end up as a band, its songs sound fleshed out in terms of direction and the resultant feel on the release is much more album than demo. So be it. A particular highlight is “The Waters of Lethe,” on which a sweeter melody emerges in the guitar and vocals, but neither will I discount the low-end crunch and vocal call-and-response in closer “Waking Time” or the more uptempo thrust of second cut “Sangreal.” Not that Horehound don’t have room to grow, but their initial offering preaches well to the converted and should give them a solid foundation to work from in that process.
Beyond the Hollow Mountain is the first full-length from Portuguese mostly-instrumentalists Sulfur Giant, who bring together influences from classic progressive rock, psychedelia and heavy rock so that when they dip into Iommic riffing on “Vertigo,” it’s no stranger than the peaceful jamming of “Whisper at Dawn,” which follows. Friendly if not exactly innovative, Sulfur Giant’s debut makes its chief impression with the four-piece’s instrumental chemistry, which brings about an easy flow within and between the eight tracks, which having already been issued digitally will see vinyl release later this year on Pink Tank Records. It’s hard to ignore what organ adds to “Evermore,” but “Sea of Stone” sneaks in some vocals amid its thicker-riffing and Sungrazer-style exploration, and “Magnolia” and the galloping “Unleash Fears” follow suit, so Sulfur Giant have a few tricks up their collective sleeve they hold back from the initial roll and gallop of the opening title-track. All the better.
New Planet Trampoline, Dark Rides and Grim Visions
Never say never in rock and roll. From Cleveland, Ohio, the psych-rocking four-piece New Planet Trampoline called it quits in 2008, leaving behind an unfinished album. After coming back together for 2014’s The Wisconsin Witch House EP, the ‘60s-stylized outfit set themselves to the task of finishing what became Dark Rides and Grim Visions, basking in the glow of early Floyd, Beatles and others of the ilk while keeping a harder edge to songs like “Grim Visions” and a healthy cynicism to “We’ll Get What We Deserve” and the tongue-in-cheek keyboard-laced closer “Haunted as Fuck.” Of the several more extended tracks, the nine-minute “Acts of Mania” is the longest, and provides suitable patience and atmospherics to stand up to its scope. All told, Dark Rides and Grim Visions is a formidable journey at 13 songs/68 minutes, but after more than half a decade away, it’s hard to hold New Planet Trampoline having their say against them, particularly when that say is as lush and dreamy as “This is the Morning.”
With their second LP, Cold Winds (on Crusher Records), Gothenburg’s Hypnos seem to be betting that the next step in the retro game is NWOBHM. They make a convincing argument; it’s kind of how it went the first time around, and their songwriting offers a top-notch look at the moment where Thin Lizzy bounce became Iron Maiden gallop, as on second cut “I’m on the Run,” just minutes after opener “Start the Hunt” featured a flute solo. Broken into two sides, each one works its way toward a longer finale – “Det Kommer en Dag” (7:23) on side A and “1800” (8:32) on side B – but sonic diversity and changes in song structure throughout do much to keep Cold Winds from feeling overly plotted, and like their countrymen in Horisont, Hypnos offer a seamless melding of classic heavy rock and metal, soaring and scorching on “Descending Sun (Unrootables White)” and swinging and swaggering immediately thereafter on “Cold September,” both accomplished with unwavering command.
Texas boogie rockers Honky were last heard from with 2012’s 421 – which I’ll assume is the “going to 11” equivalent for getting high – and their eighth outing, Corduroy, finds bassist JD Pinkus (Butthole Surfers, Melvins) and guitarist Bobby Ed Landgraf (Down) hooked up with drummer Trinidad Leal of Dixie Witch and Housecore Records for the release. To call is business as usual for the underrated outfit in the classic swing and grit they hone would only be a compliment, songs like “Baby Don’t Slow Down,” “Bad Stones” and the harmonized “Double Fine” offering soul as much as push, ‘70s influences given a modern kick in the ass throughout as a swath of guests, including Melvins drummer Dale Crover, come and go, perhaps none making their presence felt as much as Rae Comeau, whose work on “Bad Stones” makes that song a highlight – not to take away from the a capella cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” here retitled as “Mopey Dick,” that closes. Chicanery ensues, booze flows, good times are had for those who’ll have them.
Distinguished as on centerpiece “The Rambler” by their use of organ amid a semi-retro heavy boogie style, French five-piece Cheap Wine recorded Sad Queen – as the cover art says – live for Celebration Days Records. It’s somewhere between an EP and album, and strips away some of the individual track length of their 2013 debut, Mystic Crow, in favor of maximizing the energy put into each piece, the subdued “Intro” and “Opening” that start sides A and B, respectively, aside, though as “Opening” feeds cleanly into the quiet, airy and soulful beginning of the title-track, even that seems to have a tension that builds toward its eventual release, different from the shuffling raucousness of the post-“Intro” opener “Cyclothymic” maybe, but palpable nonetheless. They close somewhat melancholy on “Yesterday’s Dream,” but the complementary guitar of Valentin Constestin and keys of Ahn Tuan aren’t to be missed, nor how well work in concert with vocalist Mathieu Devillers, bassist Valentin Lallart and drummer Louis Morati.
Gurt & Trippy Wicked and teh Cosmic Children of the Knight, Guppy
The UK heavy scene excels at not taking itself too seriously. To wit, Gurt and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight get together for a split (on When Planets Collide for CD and HeviSike cassette) and, they call it Guppy and the first two songs are “Owlmegeddon” and “Super Fun Happy Slide.” It kind of goes from there. Recorded together, sharing a drummer and collaborating on the centerpiece, “Revolting Child,” it’s basically two outfits who are close friends coming together to have a good time, but that doesn’t take away from Gurt’s sludgy intensity on “I Regret Nothing” or the nodding heavy rock Trippy Wicked hold forth on closer “Reign.” Taking its title from the two band names put together, one can only wonder if this will be the last conjoined offering Gurt and Trippy Wicked will make, or if there might be a whole school of guppies in the future. Frankly, this sounds like too good a party to only throw it once.
Posted in Reviews on June 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
We continue today to make our way through The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review. Yesterday we passed the halfway point, always pivotal, and today brings another batch of 10 albums from the realms of doom, heavy rock, heavy psych, boogie rock, and beyond that I’m looking forward to digging into. I’ve been waking up early mornings all week to put these together — in bed circa 10PM, out of bed at 6AM — but it’s been worth it to see the response the posts have gotten so far and, I’ll say it once again, I hope you’ve found something you dig in what’s already out there, or if not, that by the time we wrap tomorrow something piques your interest. Let’s do it.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
The Order of Israfel, Red Robes
Swedish double-guitar four-piece The Order of Israfel make their second offering in Red Robes. Issued, like its 2014 predecessor, Wisdom, by Napalm Records, the new collection tops out at 59 minute/eight tracks of classically rolling doom. Guitarist/vocalist Tom Sutton (also Horisont, ex-Church of Misery) leads the charge for the Gothenburg-based unit, and along with guitarist Staffan Björck, bassist Patrik Andersson Winberg and drummer Hans Lilja, he brings to light a trad doom not so far removed in some of its impulses from some others throughout Northern Europe in the post-Reverend Bizarre sphere, but showing a personality of its own in the layered vocals of “Von Sturmer” and the acoustic “Fallen Children,” which follows, the choral arrangement in the earlier “The Red Robes” and the speedier “A Shadow in the Hills,” which precedes the crawling 16-minute closer “The Thirst,” its slow-nodding finish underscoring what The Order of Israfel bring of themselves to the classic form in songwriting and overall cohesion of purpose.
It’s a little bit of everything. Landskap’s aptly-titled third album, III, brings out ‘70s vibe with the organ and underlying shuffle of opener “Wayfarer’s Sacrifice,” but offers a doomier feel in the vocals and guitar, and the band go on to execute Doors-gone-prog moodiness on centerpiece “The Trick to Letting Go” and more psychedelic fuzz on the subsequent “The Hand that Takes Away.” So yeah, the London five-piece of vocalist Jake Harding, guitarist George Pan, bassist Christopher West (ex-Trippy Wicked, Groan), drummer Paul Westwood and keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou cover a good bit if ground in just five tracks, tying it all together via Harding’s vocals and a comfortable pace across the board, even on the more insistent “Awakening the Divide,” though that consistency gets toyed with some as nine-minute closer “Mask of Apathy” moves from its dreamy, spacious initial stretch into more uptempo push as payoff for the album as a whole. All the better to have Landskap shift their own methods as fluidly as they meld different styles across III’s engaging span.
If I have a speed at this point, Pooty Owldom is pretty much it. The Virginia-based duo of Matt “Big Jim” Shively and Walter Barry – also two-thirds of the trio Olson/Shively/Barry, which released their debut, Teirra del Fuego Blues (review here), in 2014 – cross the lines between psychedelia, krautrock, folk, weirdo prog and funk with the carefree fluidity of pre-jam-band Ween on their self-titled first outing under their new moniker, and hopefully it’s not the last one, because whether it’s the soap-opera daydream keys of “The Owlet” or any number of the other owl-themed cuts here – “Fuzzy Pellet” is a personal favorite, but who could argue with the bassline/piano tap of “Owls with Big Donuts?” – there’s a considerable creative breadth at work in kind with what sounds like a really good time in progress. Not one for everybody, but for me, I’d love to hear Shively and Barry flesh these ideas out further over longer pieces – “Torus Landing” goes furthest here at 4:53 – and bring the jazzy rhythmic sunbathing of “Target: Mouse” to even greater experimental realization. However it comes, more please.
A guitar/drum duo based in Cherkasy, Ukraine, Celophys issued their third album, Ammonite, last year through Robust Fellow Records. The CD arrives as yet another example of the Ukraine’s burgeoning heavy scene, along with Kiev acts like Stoned Jesus, Bomg, Soom, Mozergush, Ethereal Riffian and others, and brings a noteworthy sense of lumbering across its mostly-extended seven tracks, beginning with 12-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Baron,” which melds slow-grind sludge riffing with deathly growls and rasp, which the charmingly-named “Spaceburger” and the later drumless drone-feast “Caveman Ritual” continue to build out in atmosphere and snail’s-pace intensity. Feedback, massive tonality, plodding groove – these are hardly unfamiliar elements, but drummer/vocalist Alexander Beregovoy and guitarist Miroslav Kopeyka bring about a fervent bludgeoning across Ammonite that should have even the jaded among those who approach it nodding approval. Also noteworthy is the limited-to-53 “Nautilus Pack” which comes in a hand-carved, custom-designed oversized wood case with special graffiti art, a sticker and a pin, as well as the digipak version of the album.
Dunbarrow’s self-titled debut hits at a curious moment. They might be a few years ahead of their time in returning to the roots of vintage-style heavy rock, but in so doing, they basically take up the mantle that groups like Witchcraft, Graveyard, Kadavar and Blues Pills have left behind in favor of more modern production styles. Specifically, the Norwegian four-piece, who had a handful of shorter digital releases out before, come across in direct conversation with the self-titled Witchcraft debut from 2004. Strange to think that a record with an aesthetic so bent on looking backward could actually be forward-thinking — portrait of what goes around, coming around — but Dunbarrow offer persuasive argument in favor of retro orthodoxy in the swaying “You Knew I was a Snake” and the subdued brooding of “Guillotine.” Whether their bet pays off will be something to find out over the next couple years and as their sound continues to develop, but for their first full-length, they show clever songcraft, a clear idea of what they want to do, and the potential to move that forward in intriguing ways.
I’ll rarely hone in on one instrument throughout an album, but the bass tone on Brutus’ third LP, Wandering Blind (on Svart), has to be heard to be believed. With a goodtime take on ‘70s shuffle, there’s plenty of room for the low end to wind its way around the guitar, and it does. Of course, that’s not all the Swedish/Norwegian five-piece have going for them in these nine live-sounding tracks, as shown in the swaying solo section of “Whirwind of Madness” or the stomp of “Blind Village.” They’re not through the opening title-track before multiple Sabbath references are dropped in the lyrics, and indeed they’re a touchstone, but the more upbeat feel of “The Killer” and the back and forth of closer “Living in a Daze” play to deeper influences from classic heavy rock and its modern incarnations, culminating in a multi-layer guitar solo backed by tambourine, bass, and drums that really seems to sum up the friendly and unpretentious vibe Brutus elicit.
Finnish trio Vallihauta make their self-titled debut on Future Lunch with eight raw tracks that span between the hardcore punk/death ‘n’ roll of “Puoliverinen” and the doomed churn in the early going of “Reviiri.” One can basically tell looking at the runtimes of the cuts where Vallihauta are headed with each song, and they adjust their songwriting capably to coincide with the given tempo shifts, resulting in a back and forth as playful as it is aggressive in its sound and harsh low-end buzz, but to their credit, they bring the two approaches together effectively on closer “Ote,” shifting from the record’s most gurgling rumble and tortured plod to increasingly intense punkishness that hits headfirst into a final slowdown to end the album. A multi-faceted approach is rarely something to complain about, and it certainly isn’t here, but the challenge going forward for Vallihauta will be to build on that bridging of gaps in “Ote” without losing either the ferocity of their faster material or the weight of the slower.
The third Pater Nembrot album, Nusun (on Go Down Records), follows five years behind 2011’s Sequoia Seeds (review here), and for Italian heavy rock, it’s been a hell of a half-decade. Now recognized as one of the strongest scenes in Europe, Italy has become a hotbed and Pater Nembrot’s return couldn’t be better timed. The nine-track outing brings some genuinely expansive moments, as with the 10-minute “Architeuthis” for which Christian Peters (Samsara Blues Experiment) guests on synth, or the wah-soaked second half of “The Rich Kids of Teheran,” but even shorter pieces like “Young Rite” effectively bring together grunge and heavy psych influences. The piano-laced opener “Lostman” and acoustic-strummed closer “Dead Polygon” seem to be speaking right to each other and are somewhat at remove with the rest of the record, perhaps the minute-long bass interlude “Uknap” aside (perhaps not), but the four-piece know their game by this point and just when a song like “Overwhelmed” seems like it’s going to lose its course, they bring it around to Nusun’s most satisfying instrumental build.
Almost immediately upon the band starting “Device,” the sense of ambition in Floodlore’s debut album, When it was Written, is palpable. A psych-infused trio from Northern Virginia, they range freely between the classic-minded “Justice” and fuzzy push of “Bars” before heading back to jammier fare for “Release,” which calls to mind All Them Witches for its meandering blues, and into harder-edged winding riffs for “Evening.” Both “Peace” and “Glow” continue to flesh out one side or the other, but an obvious focal point is the three-part/28-minute closer “Sun/When the Floodlore was Written/In Praise of Alan Watts,” which starts out nodding at surf rock before space-progging out for about 20 minutes, working into an out of extended solos and culminating in swirl and thrust that lives up to the band’s clear will for exploration. Some smoothing out to do in terms of balancing the mix (vocals came through high, though I’ll allow that could be my speakers), but When it was Written impresses in concept and execution and as Floodlore’s first full-length, it’s remarkably encouraging.
When it starts to feel like maybe you’ve got a given track figured out, that seems to be the moment when Eugene, Oregon, five-piece Red Cloud turn something around on their full-length debut, Ursa Minor, and though their foundation is still very much in heavy rock, they build on that shifting into and out of desert stylizations and psychedelic swirl. The band – here guitarist/vocalist/bassist Aaron Williams, guitarist Dennis Medina, drummer/engineer Lauren Roberts and bassist/guitarist Sean Loos, though Loos seems to have left the band and bassist Mike Nemeth and keyboardist Garrett Davis come aboard – keep the material consistent by going back to that heavy rock foundation and through a clear focus on songwriting. Even in the somewhat lumbering starts and stops of “Smoke Screen,” these tracks feel worked on and carefully arranged, and though they go different places – “Ghost Dance” with its manic shuffle, closer “Sick Eagle” with its Songs for the Deaf-style drive – they universally take an efficient route to get there.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.
Posted in Reviews on June 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Day Two of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review — that’s an awful lot of capital letters. I’m not sure if it’s quite such a formal occasion, but perhaps that’s just an effect of staring at some of the names in this particular batch, who from classic heavy rock to post-black metal to stoner riffs, drone, doom and beyond offer a pretty vast range and more than a small measure of profile throughout. It’s a substantial swath, is what I’m saying. If you can’t find something here to dig on, well, I’d say look again, but of course there’ll also be another 10 reviews tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and there were 10 yesterday as well, so I’m sure something will turn up if it hasn’t yet. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
More than 20 years on from their self-titled debut, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars release their ninth LP, Sunrise to Sundown (on Inside Out Music). They seem to have set themselves to the sole task of making the records that one wishes Deep Purple were making, full of righteous organ-laced classic heavy thrust, driven by top tier songwriting and performance on every level. Founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) has assembled a lineup of masters, and since 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), frontman Apollo Papathanasio (also Firewind) has provided the soaring voice to add to the keyboard majesty of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass) on songs like “I Turn to Stone.” The album’s 11 cuts are catchy, universally structured, and varied in their feel enough to carry the listener through fluidly, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) and drummer Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) locking in weighted grooves and underscoring the flow of what comes across like an increasingly collaborative songwriting process. Sunrise to Sundown is the sound of a band knowing what they want to do and how they want to do it and then doing precisely that.
How many records does Ode to a Black Hole make it for Danish improve spacelords Øresund Space Collective? I honestly don’t know. Their Bandcamp lists 52 releases. Granted, not all of them are full-length studio LPs, but they jam whether they’re live or in the studio, so after a point it’s kind of moot. However many in the ultimate tally, Ode to a Black Hole is somewhat unique among them, exploring the darker side of the cosmic reaches in a bleaker, droning psychedelia spread across two instrumental tracks put to tape at the same time as 2015’s triple-LP Different Creatures (review here). Of course, it’s Øresund Space Collective, so there is still plenty of synth and effects swirl to be had, but it’s a slower galaxial movement as “Ode to a Black Hole Part 1” feeds directly into “Ode to a Black Hole Part 2.” Whatever their method of getting there, Øresund Space Collective prove once again how apparently boundless their scope has become with nuance of guitar and key flourish beneath the surface of the mix to let the listener know there’s life out in the expanse.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Goya continue their forward march with The Enemy EP (on STB Records). Still fair to say Electric Wizard are a primary influence, but as shown on their last full-length, 2015’s charmingly-titled Obelisk (review here), the trio are increasingly able to put more of themselves into their sound. In “The Enemy,” “Last” and “Light Years,” that shows in tighter songwriting, some vocal harmonies on “Light Years,” and a harder overall tonal impact than the tenets of post-Witchcult Today doomery might lead one to expect, reminding in parts of the raw in-room feel that Egypt have come to proffer, burly but more about groove than attitude. The EP closes with a nine-minute take on “The Enemy” itself, adding more harmonies, some screams at the end, and a lengthy midsection jam to flesh out its extra four minutes. Goya have been and still are a bright spot (existentially, if not in mood) in up-and-coming US doom, and The Enemy might be a stopgap coming off of Obelisk, but it reminds listeners of their growth very much still in progress.
In a universe full of pretenders to the throne of Eyehategod, German six-piece Black Shape of Nexus prove there’s room for genuine creativity in sludge. Their fourth offering, Carrier (on Exile on Mainstream), finds them past the 10-year mark and lumbering their way through five varied originals, from the cavernous opener “I Can’t Play It” through the droning “Lift Yourself” and the utter spacecrush that ensues in “Facepunch Transport Layer” before the villainous laughter at the end of “Sachsenheim” leads to a 12-minute take on Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death,” which closes. It feels like no coincidence that of the Black Shape of Nexus-penned inclusions “Sand Mountain” is the centerpiece; the tortured screaming, claustrophobic riff and blend of rawness and lush depth speak to the originality at the core of their approach. There’s a firm sense of fuckall here, and my understanding is making Carrier was something of a trial, but the results are perhaps only more vicious for that, and thus stronger.
Six years and the ascent of an entire movement of similarly-minded acts later, Cough ooze back to activity with Still They Pray (on Relapse), their dirt-caked third full-length. That movement, by the way, includes fellow Richmonders Windhand, with whom Cough now share bassist Parker Chandler and whose Garrett Morris recorded here along with Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard, who remain a major influence in Cough’s grueling, nodding filth, brought to bear over eight tracks and a purposefully unmanageable 67-minute runtime. Stylistically it’s not so far from where Cough were on 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here), the bleak anarchistic lurch and tonal immersion still very much at the fore of “Possession,” “Dead Among the Roses” and the organ-inclusive “The Wounding Hours,” but though they can play slow enough to make “Masters of Torture” seem positively thrashy by comparison, they never lose their sense of atmosphere, as the acoustic-led closing title-track makes plain in fashion no less heavy than the punishment meted out before it.
It feels factually inaccurate to call something so wilfully charred “vibrant,” but Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth long-player, Värähtelijä (on Svart and 20 Buck Spin), not only finds light in its overarching darkness, but makes it a pivotal aspect of the album’s 69-minute course. Open structures, an enviable depth of mix between far-off guitar, keys, organ, various layers of screams, etc., songs like 12-minute opener “Saturaatio” and the later 17-minute chaoswirl of “Vasemann Käden Hierarkia” offer stylistic breadth as much prog as they are psychedelia or black metal, perhaps the next phase of the latter’s cosmic wing come to fruition. Relatively speaking, the more straightforward “Havuluu” offers listeners a moment to catch their breadth, but the organ-led experimentalism of 10-minute closer “Valveavaruus” gurgles in an exploration of ambient downward plunge. One of the most adventurous black metal releases of 2016, if you can still even tag a genre to it, which I’m not sure you can. A band doing pivotal and forward-thinking work.
Though they just got off a lengthy US run, the fact that Karma to Burn’s webstore offers their new Mountain Czar EP in euro instead of dollars could easily be taken as a sign of where the band’s general priorities lie. I don’t know if founding guitarist Will Mecum is actually living abroad or remains in West Virginia, but their label, Rodeostar Records, is European, they maintain a close relationship with German artist Alexander Von Wieding, and their tour schedule keeps a definite continental focus. So be it. Mountain Czar brings five new cuts, three by-the-numbers Karma to Burn instrumentals, the highlight of which is patient, jangly-guitar closer “63,” and “Uccidendo un Sogno,” an Italian-language cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a Dream” sung by guest vocalist Stefanie Savy and featuring Manuel Bissig of Switzerland’s Sons of Morpheus on guitar. Karma to Burn very much remain Karma to Burn throughout, Mecum joined by drummer Evan Devine and bassist Eric Clutter, but they’re changing what that means in interesting ways.
Comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Sleaze and drummer Izz, German Southern metallers Black Mood begin their seven-song sophomore outing, Squalid Garden (on Daredevil Records) with a sample of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes quoting the Lawgiver to “shun the beast man,” and so on. By the time they get around to the chugging and warbling “Ohh, save my soul” in second cut “IWNAR,” the Down/Crowbar vibe has been laid on so thick that it’s unmistakable. It’s been seven years since Black Mood made their self-titled debut in 2009 – they had an EP, Toxic Hippies, out in 2012 – but their chestbeating, dudely vibes are easily sourced, even in faster, more Pantera-style moments in “Reflected,” “100 Squalid Garden” or closer “Side,” making the album ultimately a matter of taste for anyone who’d take it on. For me, some aspects ring derivative, others show flashes of individualism, but it’s a very specific vision of Southern metal at work here, and it’s not going to be for everyone.
Newcomers Nebula Drag join the ranks of a crowded heavy psych scene in their native San Diego via their self-titled, self-released debut, but the trio distinguish themselves immediately with a solidified underpinning of punkish intent, so that the airy vocals of “Sano” float over an insistent, noisy crunch. That blend is toyed with in one direction or another throughout the release, the five-minute “So Low” finding some middle-ground in grunge push, but as the subsequent “Up and Down”’s Melvins-style roll and the hardcore-style drive of “Lost Time” play out, Nebula Drag seem far less tied to any single approach. It’s a dynamic that serves them well throughout the album’s 10-track/37-minute run, and they maintain a sense of rawness in the almost thrashy breakdown of “I Can Not Explain” that speaks to a lack of pretense to go along with their potential for development. Will be curious to hear if one side or the other wins out in their sound over the long-term, but in a town where so many bands are geared on being the most laid back, it’s refreshing to hear a group with a more forceful tack.
After a series of numbered full-lengths, Glasgow consciousness-stompers Ommadon offer their self-titled sixth album through Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records and Medusa Crush Recordings. Doubtless the three labels were needed in order simply lift the 41-minute, single-song release, which is so unspeakably and ridiculously heavy as to warrant comparison to Buried at Sea’s Migration. Its retching lumber is superlative, and in giving it their name, Ommadon signal (and say outright) that it’s the work they’ve been driving toward all along. Fair enough. There is no moment of relenting from the abysmal intentions of “Ommadon” itself, and if this is to be the piece that ultimately defines the band, it’s one worthy of consideration for the outright extremity it brings to doom, sludge and drone, as well as the methodical nature in which it unfolds. Whatever its ultimate impact, Ommadon have pushed themselves forward and crafted an excruciating contribution that feels like a monolith bent to their will.
Posted in Reviews on June 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well here we are. Standing on the precipice of a week of 50 reviews, looking out together at the geographic and sonic expanses that will be covered. I never know entirely what a given Quarterly Review is going to bring. Some have been smooth, some not. This one is being put together very little pre-production in terms of chasing down band links and that sort of thing, so I expect it’s going to be an adventure one way or another. I’ll keep you updated as we go as to my mental state and the deterioration thereof.
If you don’t know the drill, The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review is a week every three months in which I review 10 albums per day, Monday through Friday. Some of it was released in the prior three months, some of it is brand new, some of it probably isn’t out yet, some of it is probably older. It’s all relevant one way or another. I hope you find something you enjoy.
Quarterly Review #1-10:
Sourvein, Aquatic Occult
Looking at the makeup of Sourvein’s much-awaited fourth album, Aquatic Occult (on Metal Blade), it’s understandable why it might’ve taken five years to put together. Yes, they had splits out in between, as they do, but the band’s last full-length was 2011’s Black Fangs (review here), and though the 14-song/42-minute Aquatic Occult is manageable, with a host of interludes to carry the listener along its thick-toned, undulating waves, a swath of guest appearances no doubt played havoc with logistics. Fortunately, Sourvein’s figurehead, vocalist T-Roy Medlin, seems to thrive on chaos. Working with producer Mike Dean (C.O.C.), and a revolving-door lineup that here features Lou Gorra of Halfway to Gone, Medlin brazenly explores a more melodic dynamic than he ever has. It’s a rare band looking to experiment after 20 years, a rarer band still that pulls it off so well. There’s still some sludgy rasp and guest growling, but Sabbathian roll is the order of the day ultimately and Medlin’s homage to his home in Cape Fear, North Carolina, establishes a breadth unheard before from Sourvein that’s worthy of the years and obvious effort that went into its making.
Hamburg duo Mantar’s blend of thrash, sludge and blackened doom is brash, righteously punkish and thus far uncompromised in its malevolent intent. On their second album and Nuclear Blast debut, Ode to the Flame, songs like “Era Borealis” swagger as much as they sneer, the middle-finger-up arrogance becoming part of the appeal. “The Hint” offers some tinge of melody and “I Omen” some organ-laced atmospherics, but Mantar, who debuted in 2015 with the also fire-minded Death by Burning (review here) on Svart, carry their extremity forward like the next logical step of the same impulses that High on Fire once brought forth. Their tempo shifts, from blazing squibblies to outright lumbering, are pulled off with due fuckall, and the shouts from guitarist/vocalist Hanno and drummer/vocalist Erinc are spit forth in a manner near-indecipherable but still have no trouble getting their point across. Mantar are positioning themselves to be the kick in the ass that the underground needs. The next few years (and albums) will see how that pans out, but for now they have two scorchers under their collective belt.
There is a stylistic restlessness to stretches of Elevators to the Grateful Sky’s second record, Cape Yawn (on HeviSike), that becomes the uniting factor between the adrenaline-amped opening with “Ground” and “Bullet Words” and the later dream-surf Yawning Man-meets-sax unfurling of the title-track. The Palermo, Italy, outfit have stated their intention as capturing a blend of ‘90s alternative and modern heavy. Fair enough, but hearing that play out on the penultimate “Mountain Ship” in a mix of weighted riffing and laid back vocals giving way to shouts, it seems that to me that next time out, Elevators to the Grateful Sky should probably just start saying they sound like themselves, because they do. Granted, they’re pulling elements from familiar sources – Soundgarden, Kyuss, etc. – but in giving them new context, the four-piece are defining their sound as moving fluidly between the various styles, and that’s to be commended. The more you put into listening, the more you’ll get out of it.
Representing a 50 percent reunion of Burning Witch, the droning contemplations and hellish atmospherics of The Poisoned Glass’ Ritual Productions debut, 10 Swords, pique immediate interest. And bassist/percussionist/etc.-ist G. Stuart Dahlquist and vocalist/keyboardist Edgy 59 do not disappoint. With unspeakable patience, they execute six grueling and cinematic pieces that seem to find comfort in tortured expression and that feel claustrophobic even as they continue to expand outward and downward through “Plume Veil” and “Toil and Trouble” into the extended closing duo “Silent Vigil” – spoiler alert: not actually silent – and “Low Spirits,” which moves from minimalist stillness through far-back screams and into a wash of synth before its seven minutes are up, covering more ground in one track than some bands do in their entire career. Fair to say on the whole 10 Swords is an immersive listen, but the prevailing vibe is much less “diving in” than “being swallowed whole by some obscure medieval terror.” So, you know, watch out for that.
Los Angeles newcomers Spirit Collector make their debut with the self-released, three-song Owls to Athens EP, clear in its intent and brimming with airy, post-rock-derived guitar atmospherics. A particularly telling moment arrives with the Terence McKenna sample in centerpiece “Reclaim Your Mind,” which speaks of casting off the culture of celebrity worship for a richer human experience, but it’s in the extended closer “Theosophy” (7:57) that Spirit Collector find their footing someplace between a doomed plod and thoughtful psychedelia, picking up a chugging momentum as they push through toward the almost blackened finish, having come a surprising distance since their eponymous opener set the tone for expanse. An encouraging first offering if somewhat familiar superficially as instrumental heavy post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky, Russian Circles, Red Sparowes, etc.), and there’s nothing in Owls to Athens to make one think Spirit Collector can’t move forward and develop the experimental drive they begin to show here.
Vieh, the debut full-length from Colonge-based desert rocking foursome Phiasco, takes its name from the German word for “cattle.” The band owe some of their fuzz to Truckfighters and some of their psychedelic wash to Sungrazer, but the attitude in songs like “Ultimate Warrior” – comprised largely of riffs topped with an extended sample from the titular professional wrestler – and “Sunndown” is their own, as is the we’re-still-having-a-really-good-time-while-we-make-this-15-minute-song closer “Phisco” (sic), a highlight of the live-recorded full-length, which across its span is light on pretense and heavy on bounce. Cuts like “Old Town” and opener “Back to the Future” – hey, that’s a movie! – bring catchy hooks, and the uptempo “Erasing Rabbits with My Phaserlight” winds up as harmonized as goofed out, and thus is all the more engaging. There’s a certain amount of getting by on charm here, but Phiasco have a capable, varied songwriting process that’s given due fullness and clarity in these eight tracks.
Man, who gives a shit about anything else when Glaswegian five-piece The Cosmic Dead are enacting their hypnotic swirl? Their latest instrumental invitation to watch existence melt is called Rainbowhead and it arrives through Paradigms Recordings (CD) and Blackest Rainbow Records (LP) with four tracks that serve as the band’s first full-length since 2014’s EasterFaust, though they’ve had splits in between to keep a prolific rate of offerings fitting for their explorational heavy psych/space rock. The bulk of Rainbowhead is engagingly upbeat as side A plays out across “Human Sausage,” “Skye Burial” and the 13-minute “Inner C,” and side B’s 18-minute title-track follows suit as The Cosmic Dead seem to have found a similar niche between progressive rock and psych to that which Mammatus proffered on their most recent outing. It suits The Cosmic Dead, and they keep an improv vibe prevalent as ever, grasping the subconscious with trip-on-it lysergic pulsations.
Deeply textured and lush in its construction around guitar arrangements, percussive and keyboard-laden melodic flourish, Postures’ second full-length, Halucinda (on World in Sound), plays back and forth between prog and heavy rock impulses. The Gothenburg, Sweden, five-piece seem most at home in extended tracks like “Myriad Man,” “Every Room” and the jazzy 10-minute “Wavemaker,” but even the acoustic-led centerpiece interlude “A Million Sequences” invites the audience to turn up the volume for maximum wash effect. Paulina Nyström delivers a powerful, commanding and fluid vocal performance, and while the rhythm section of bassist Per Pettersson and drummer Isak Björhag are the foundation on which these complex structures play out – Viktor Andersson and Benjamin Watts handle guitar; Madeleine Sjögren is credited with backing vocals/keys and Margit Gyllspång percussion/backing vocals – there’s no angle from which Postures don’t come across rich and vital in their winding but well-plotted course, one song feeding fluidly to the next until the dreamy “In the Dark” rounds out with the emotional apex of the record.
What else to call a stoner band from Estonia? Estoner’s appeal, however, goes well beyond their moniker. The Tallinn-based outfit’s second album, Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis, arrives in a handmade hexagonal CD package, heat sealed, as well as with complete visual accompaniment on limited VHS and cassette via Golem Records. The music is no less relentlessly creative, running a gamut between prog, black metal, heavy rock, psychedelia, space rock and probably a few others in its seven-track course. A song like “Teleporteerumine” conjures darkened swirl and “Reptiloid” follows through with foreboding threat, but Estoner plunge even deeper as they go, proferring aesthetic reach that makes seemingly disparate elements work together fluidly on “Hüvasti, Kosmiline Monoliit” and the 10-minute closing title-track. Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay to Lennud Saatana Dimensioonis is to call it Svart-worthy, as its diverse means of engulfing the listener speak to a forward-thinking approach that one can only hope Estoner continue to develop.
Extra points to Swedish troupe The Black Explosion for opening their third album, the space-fuzzed out Atomic Zod War (on Metalville Records), with its longest track, the 13-minute “Paralyzed.” That song offers a languid voyage through uncharted jammy reaches, and that sets an open, laid back expectation that the rest of the album seems only too glad to build on, from the Nebula-via-Monster Magnet blown out vibes of “Ain’t Coming Home” to the semi-garage buzz of “Going Down,” a highlight groove that emphasizes the natural, raw tones at play leading into “Get My Mind Together” and the finisher “Devil Inside,” which brings the guitar of Chris Winter (also Dollhouse) forward with backing from bassist Simon Haraldsson and drummer Andreas Lindquist that feels born of the new West Coast tradition but is likely playing off of older impulses. But for its hey-look-it’s-tits cover art, the grit Atomic Zod War offers comes through organically and draws the listener in with its live feel and underlying boogie.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
With two members of The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic in tow, one might expect Aboleth to have a kind of spaced-out aspect to their sound, but it’s a different band for a reason. As the newcomer trio’s first EP, suitably titled EP I, shows, Aboleth‘s is a bluesier take, more earthbound and doomed, like those moments when Witch Mountain enacted some shuffle to go with their lumber. Baguitarist (what’s a baguitar anyway?) Collyn McCoy and vocalist Brigitte Roka are joined by drummer Dan Joeright (who also played for UEMG live), for the initial outing, which features three tracks in demo-style introductory handshake form and will reportedly be out on cassette next month.
They sent word down the PR wire about the release:
L.A. DESERT DOOMERS ABOLETH PREMIERE DEBUT EP
AVAILABLE JUNE 17th AS DIGITAL DOWNLOAD AND LIMITED-EDITION CASSETTE
Los Angeles trio ABOLETH releases its debut three-song digital EP on June 17th care of the band’s Bandcamp page. In addition to the digital release they are taking pre-orders for a limited-edition cassette with artwork by the band’s vocalist, Brigitte Roka.
Recorded in Yucca Valley, CA at drummer Dan Joeright’s studio, Gatos Trail (Big Business, Behold! The Monolith), the trio meld melodic doom with metal, blues and murder rock. The EP was mixed and mastered by Matt Lynch (Snail) at his Mysterious Mammal Studios.
Aboleth could almost be considered an Ultra Electric Mega Galactic splinter cell. Joeright was touring drummer for UEMG when the instrumental psych-rockers visited Europe in 2014. UEMG bassist Collyn McCoy is also here on “baguitar” (a bass/guitar hybrid previously utilized in his band Trash Titan). But the pièce de résistance is singer Brigitte Roka, a 20-year-old siren with a voice that is equal parts Janis Joplin and Chris Cornell.
Per McCoy: “UEMG started working with Brigitte last summer, incorporating vocals into our traditionally instrumental format. Meanwhile, I was writing material for a new Trash Titan record. I asked Brigitte to contribute vocals on a few songs, which lead to us writing together, which lead to a sound that was much heavier, doomier and metallic than the swamp blues of Trash Titan. So we figured why not just spin this off into its own thing?”
Joeright, who’d previously played drums in New York avant-noise bands Sulfur and A/N (featuring Algis Kizys and Norman Westberg from SWANS), was the perfect complement to their nascent sound. Drawing from their desert environment for inspiration, the trio’s stripped-down take on heavy rock melds sludge metal riffs with Allman-esque slide guitar and Roka’s distinct whisky-worn-yet-soaring vocals. The resulting EP will sit nicely fans with of Black Mountain, Witch Mountain, and mid-period Soundgarden.
The trio will return to the studio later this summer to record a second EP, with a full length to follow later in the year.