Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Rosetta, Mantar, King Giant, Si Ombrellone, Grand Massive, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Shiggajon, Mount Hush, Labasheeda

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Lucifer, Lucifer I

lucifer lucifer i

Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Rosetta, Quintessential Ephemera

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

War Crime Recordings

Mantar, Death by Burning

mantar death by burning

Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Brutal Panda Records

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves

king giant black ocean waves

Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.

King Giant on Thee Facebooks

The Path Less Traveled Records on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone, Horns on the Same Goat

si ombrellone horns on the same goat

The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.

Si Ombrellone on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone album downloads

Grand Massive, 2

grand massive 2

Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.

Grand Massive on Thee Facebooks

Daredevil Records

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014

carlton-melton-meets-dr.-space-live-from-roadburn-festival-2014

If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.

Carlton Melton’s website

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Shiggajon, Sela

shiggajon sela

According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.

Shiggajon’s Blogspot

El Paraiso Records

Mount Hush, Low and Behold!

mount hush low and behold

“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.

Mount Hush on Thee Facebooks

Mount Hush on Bandcamp

Labasheeda, Changing Lights

labasheeda changing lights

Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.

Labasheeda on Thee Facebooks

Labasheeda on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Foehammer, Holy Serpent, Wicked Inquisition, AVER, Galley Beggar, Demon Lung, Spirit Division, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Mountain Tamer, Ohhms

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk summer quarterly review

I said back in March that I was going to try to make the Quarterly Review a regular feature around here, and once it was put out there, the only thing to do was to live up to it. Over the last several — like, five — weeks, I’ve been compiling lists of albums to be included, and throughout the next five days, we’re going to make our way through that list. From bigger names to first demos and across a wide swath of heavy styles, there’s a lot of stuff to come, and I hope within all of it you’re able to find something that hits home or speaks to you in a special way.

No sense in delaying. Hold nose, dive in.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Foehammer, Foehammer

foehammer foehammer

Relatively newcomer trio Foehammer specialize in grueling, slow-motion punishment. Their self-titled debut EP follows a well-received 2014 demo and is three tracks/34 minutes released by Grimoire and Australopithecus Records of doomed extremity, the Virginian three-piece of guitarist Joe Cox (ex-Gradius), bassist/vocalist Jay Cardinell (ex-Gradius, ex-Durga Temple) and drummer Ben “Vang” Blanton (ex-Vog, also of The Oracle) not new to the Doom Capitol-area underground by any stretch and seeming to pool all their experience to maximize the impact of this extended material. Neither “Final Grail,” “Stormcrow” nor 14-minute closer “Jotnar” is without a sense of looming atmosphere, but Foehammer at this point are light only on drama, and the lower, sludgier and more crushing they go, the more righteous the EP is for it. Stunningly heavy and landing with a suitable shockwave, it is hopefully the beginning of a long, feedback-drenched tenure in death-doom, and if the EP is over half an hour, the prospect of a follow-up debut full-length seems overwhelming. Easily one of the year’s best short releases.

Foehammer on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Australopithecus Records

Holy Serpent, Holy Serpent

holy serpent holy serpent

It’s not like they were lying when they decided to call a song “Shroom Doom.” Melbourne double-guitar four-piece made their self-titled debut as Holy Serpent last year, and the five-track full-length was picked up for release on RidingEasy Records no doubt for its two-front worship of Uncle Acid’s slither and jangle – especially prevalent on the eponymous opener and closer “The Wind” – and the now-classic stonerism of Sleep. That blend comes together best of all on the aforementioned finale, but neither will I take away from the north-of-10-minute righteousness of “The Plague” preceding, with its slow roll and malevolent vibe that, somehow, still sounds like a party. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Scott Penberthy, guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Michael Macfie and drummer Keith Ratnan, the real test for Holy Serpent will be their second or third album – i.e., how they develop the psychedelic nodes of centerpiece “Fools Gold” along with the rest of their sound – but listening to these tracks, it’s easy to let the future worry about itself.

Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records

Wicked Inquisition, Wicked Inquisition

wicked inquisition wicked inquisition

There are a variety of influences at work across Wicked Inquisition’s self-titled debut long-player, from the Sabbath references of its eponymous closer to the earlier thrashery of “In Shackles” and “Sun Flight,” but the core of the Minneapolis four-piece resides in a guitar-led brand of metal, whatever else they decide to build around it. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey align tightly around the riffs of “M.A.D.” in all-business fashion. Shades of Candlemass show up in some of the slower material, “M.A.D.” included as well as with “Crimson Odyssey,” but the start-stops of “Tomorrow Always Knows” ensure the audience is clued in that there’s more going on than just classic doom, though a Trouble influence seems to hover over the proceedings as well, waiting to be more fully explored as the band moves forward.

Wicked Inquisition on Thee Facebooks

Wicked Inquisition on Bandcamp

AVER, Nadir

aver nadir

Clocking in at an hour flat, Sydney all-caps riffers AVER construct their second album, Nadir, largely out of familiar elements, but wind up with a blend of their own. Fuzz is prevalent in the extended nod of opener “The Devil’s Medicine” (9:46) which bookends with the longest track, finisher “Waves” (9:48), though it’s not exactly like the four-piece are shy about writing longer songs in between. The production, while clear enough, lends its focus more toward the low end, which could be pulling in another direction from the impact of some of Nadir’s psychedelia on “Rising Sun” second half solo, but neither will I take anything away from Jed’s bass tone, which could carry this hour of material were it asked. The vocals of guitarist Burdt have a distinct Acid Bathian feel, post-grunge, and that contrasts a more laid back vibe even on the acoustic-centered “Promised Lands,” but neither he, Jed, guitarist Luke or drummer Chris feel out of place here, and I’m not inclined to complain.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

AVER on Bandcamp

Galley Beggar, Silence and Tears

galley-beggar-silence-and-tears

Sweet, classic and very, very British folk pervades the gorgeously melodic and meticulously arranged Silence and Tears by London six-piece Galley Beggar, released on Rise Above. The eight-track/40-minute album packs neatly onto a vinyl release and has near-immediate psychedelic underpinnings in the wah of opener “Adam and Eve,” and side B’s “Geordie” has some heavier-derived groove, but it’s the beauty and lushness of the harmonies throughout (finding satisfying culmination in closer “Deliver Him”) that stand Galley Beggar’s third offering out from worshipers of a ‘60s and ‘70s era aesthetic. The highlight of Silence and Tears arrives early in nine-minute second cut “Pay My Body,” a wonderfully swaying, patient excursion that gives equal time to instrumental exploration and vocal accomplishment, but to a select few who let themselves be truly hypnotized and carried along its winding course, the album’s entire span will prove a treasure to be revisited for years to come and whose sunshiny imprint will remain vivid.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Demon Lung, A Dracula

demon-lung-a-dracula

With inspiration reportedly from the 1977 demon-possession horror flick Alucarda, Las Vegas doomers Demon Lung return with A Dracula, their second offering via Candlelight Records after 2013’s The Hundredth Name, and as the movie begins with a birth, so too do we get “Behold, the Daughter” following the intro “Rursumque Alucarda,” later mirrored by a penultimate interlude of the same name. Billy Anderson produced, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the slow, undulating riffs and the periodic bouts of more upbeat chug, as on “Gypsy Curse,” come through nice and viscous, but vocalist Shanda brings an ethereal melodic sensibility, not quite cult rock, but on “Mark of Jubilee” presenting momentarily some similarly bleak atmospherics to those of the UK’s Undersmile, her voice seeming to command the guitars to solidify from their initial airiness and churn out an eerie apex, which closer “Raped by the Serpent” pushes further for a raging finale.

Demon Lung on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight USA’s Bandcamp

Spirit Division, Spirit Division

spirit division spirit division

Spirit Division’s self-titled debut full-length follows a 2014 demo that also hosted three of the tracks – opener “Spirit Division,” “Through the Rounds” and “Mountain of Lies” – but is fuller-sounding in its post-grunge tonality and doomly chug than the earlier offering, guitarist/vocalist Stephen Hoffman, bassist/vocalist Chris Latta and drummer/vocalist David Glass finding a straightforward route through moody metallurgy and weighted riffage. Some Wino-style swing shows up on “Bloodletting,” and “Cloud of Souls” has a decidedly militaristic march to its progression, while the later “Red Sky” revels in classic doom that seems to want to be just a touch slower than it is, but what ultimately unites the material is the strong sense of purpose across the album’s span and Spirit Division’s care in the vocal arrangements. The production is somewhat dry, but Spirit Division walk the line between sludge rock and doom and seem comfortable in that sphere while also sparking a creative progression that seems well worth further pursuit.

Spirit Division on Thee Facebooks

Spirit Division on Bandcamp

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Until Next Time

space mushroom fuzz until next time

I was all set to include a different Space Mushroom Fuzz album in this roundup, but then I saw that the project was coming to an end and Until Next Time was issued as the band’s final release. The deal all along with the band headed by guitarist/vocalist Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) has been that you never really know what he’s going to do next. Fair enough. Abrams brings it down in suitably bizarre fashion, a keyboard and guitar line backing “Class Onion” in direct mockery of Beatlesian bounce, where “The DeLorean Takes Off!” before compiles five-plus minutes of experimental noise and “Follow that DeLorean” answers with another round after. Elsewhere, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Here Comes Trouble” resonates with its central guitar line and unfolds to further oddity with a quiet but gruff vocal, while “The Rescue” vibes like something Ween would’ve conjured after huffing roach spray (or whatever was handy) and closer “Back in ‘55” moves from progressive soloing to froggy singing and weirdo jangle. All in all a strange and fitting end to the band.

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Bandcamp

Mountain Tamer, MTN TMR DEMO

mountain tamer mtn tmr demo

Santa Cruz trio Mountain Tamer have been kicking around the West Coast for the last several years, and since they released a full-length, Liquid Metal, in 2013, and a prior EP in 2012’s The Glad, it’s tempting to try to read some larger shift sonically into their MTN TMR Demo, as though having completely revamped their sound, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Andru, bassist/vocalist Dave Teget and drummer/vocalist Casey Garcia trying out new ideas as they redirect their approach. That may well be the case, with “Satan’s Waitin’,” “Sum People” and “Dunes of the Mind” each standing at over five-minutes of neo-stoner roll, more psychedelic than some in the growing fuck-it-let’s-skate oeuvre, but still plainly born after, or at least during, grunge. The finisher comes to a thrilling, noisy head as it rounds out the short release, and if Mountain Tamer are taking on a new path, it’s one well set to meander and I hope they continue to follow those impulses.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Tamer on Bandcamp

OHHMS, Cold

ohhms cold

Like their late-2014 debut, Bloom, OHHMS’ sophomore outing, Cold, is comprised of two extended tracks. Here the Canterbury five-piece bring “The Anchor” (18:30) and “Dawn of the Swarm” (14:27), blending modern prog, sludge and post-metallic vibes to suit a melodic, ambitious purpose. Atmosphere is central from the quiet drone starting “The Anchor” and remains so as they lumber through a linear build and into an apex at about 13 minutes in, dropping out to quiet only to build back up to a striking melodic push that ends on a long fade. Side B, “Dawn of the Swarm” is more immediately post-rock in the guitar, the lineup of vocalist Paul Waller, guitarists Daniel Sargent and Marc George, bassist Chainy Chainy and drummer Max Newton moving through hypnotic sprawl into angular Isis-ism before finding their own way, the second cut pushing structurally against the first with loud/quiet tradeoffs in a well-timed back half. Clearly a band who arrived knowing their purpose, but not so cerebral as to detract from the heavy landing of the material itself.

OHHMS on Thee Facebooks

OHHMS on Bandcamp

 

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Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind: Underneath a Blood Red Sky

Posted in Reviews on June 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

freedom hawk into your mind

No question that Into Your Mind is, in its songwriting and construction and in the stylistic breadth it covers, a step forward for Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk. Named perhaps for being where the songs go, it’s their fourth outing overall and second for Small Stone behind 2011’s Moving On (review here), its 10-track/52-minute run reinforces the classic metal and heavy rock influences under which they’ve been working all along (Ozzy, Fu Manchu, etc.) while also pushing ahead into new ground, subtly psychedelic but still woven around earthy and traditional structures. Perhaps the biggest change of all is that the band are now a trio, having parted ways with guitarist Matt Cave since their last time out and continued to operate as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton, bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines.

Where the band might have been in the writing for Into Your Mind when that split occurred, I don’t know, but Matt is given a writing credit on opener “Blood Red Sky,” “Journey Home,” “Waterfall” and side B’s “Beyond Our Reach” — the tracklisting broken into sides even on back of the CD and very much operating in that kind of structure despite the format — though he doesn’t seem to have participated in the actual recording, the trio tracking the instrumental portion of the LP live with producer/engineer/mixer Jim Woodling with Morton handling the vocals afterward. Their chemistry comes through what’s still a crisp production across the board, though, and while there still sounds like a layer of rhythm guitar under the solo in “Blood Red Sky,” their operation with their new lineup configuration is fluid and the momentum they build over the course of the first two tracks, that opener and “Journey Home,” carries through to some of the more stylistically expansive material that follows.

One thing to get straight, we’re not talking about leaps and bounds here, but natural, incremental stylistic progression. Reasonable. It begins on side A, though the let’s-get-to-it-ness of “Blood Red Sky” and “Journey Home”‘s hooks signals business as usual from Freedom Hawk, “Lost in Space,” with its more patient intro from all three and keys from Morton, brings a turn that presages some of side B’s more adventurous moments. At its heart, it’s still catchy and largely straightforward, but the shift in atmosphere is palpable from the first two cuts and it begins a broadening process that continues later. The lead on “On Your Knees” is a standout, though more so the turn in approach of the vocals, which will later get a fuller exploration on the title-track, and Hines‘ drumming proves able to push the material along at whatever pace is set or direction it might be headed.

freedom hawk

He holds a tension in “Lost in Space” and the later “The Line” and is forward-minded, but definitely not without a sense of swing to coincide. “Journey Home” showcases that and he begins side A closer “Waterfall” with snare work that sets up the song’s more laid-back vibe, the verse arriving later, a few lines tossed out as a precursor to a relatively stripped down chorus compared to that of “Lost in Space” or “Blood Red Sky,” the trio ready and willing to let their chemistry do the talking when it suits them. Side B’s launch, “Radar,” is more of a riff-rocker, but it picks up in its midsection to find more of a rush in which the band seems utterly at home for the bridge before they turn back to the chorus, chugging central nod and surprisingly airy finish. With the shifts that the second half of Into Your Mind brings about, the beginning of that half is still pretty much in line with the cuts preceding. It’s not really until “Beyond Our Reach” kicks in that they fully show their hand.

A jazzy start like something Fatso Jetson might conjure begins “Beyond Our Reach,” and that rhythm holds after the riff and a NWOBHM-style lead progression commence to give an alternate vision of Freedom Hawk‘s brand of heavy rock. Layered vocals seem to mirror guitar harmonies and while the effect is still heavy and a shuffle is present, once again the context has changed. The previously-alluded-to vocal turn on “Into Your Mind” pushes further against expectation — Morton‘s compression-on higher-register vocals are as much a signature as the band has — and they’re not completely gone, but even changing into and out of the chorus establishes a dynamic in an unanticipated way, and “Into Your Mind” also proves to be Cave‘s best performance on bass, his presence in the pocket just behind the guitar only helps in setting that righteous tone.

At 6:51, the penultimate “The Line” is the longest inclusion by nearly a full minute, and they use that extra time for an instrumental drive, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “jam,” since though it finds Hines on his ride, there always seems to be a plotted course being followed. Keys or layered-in background leads pepper the pre-chorus and return later during the extended instrumental part, which is also how they finish before bringing things back to earth for “All Because of You,” a more hook-based start-stopper that seems to be geared toward bookending with “Blood Red Sky,” but honestly, by the time they get there, the opener’s straight-ahead thrust feels like a long time ago and a long ways away. That feeling itself is evidence of the growth Freedom Hawk have undertaken despite losing a player, and though Into Your Mind finds them branching out, it also serves to reinforce the aspects of their sonic personality that have been their hallmarks up to this point in their career. They’re still Freedom Hawk, they’re just working to expand the definition of what that means.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (2015)

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Freedom Hawk on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone on Bandcamp

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Windhand Announce Headlining Tour and Grief’s Infernal Flower Album Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

windhand

While they’re not making it easy on themselves in having to follow the thunderplod of Swedish heavyweights Monolord each night, if there’s anyone who might stand up to the task, it’s Richmond doomers Windhand, who today announce not only that headlining tour with Monolord and Portland heavy rockers Danava, but also the details for their forthcoming third long-player, Grief’s Infernal Flower, which stands among the most anticipated heavy offerings to come before the New Year. Cover art is by Arik Roper, production is by Jack Endino and the album itself is by Windhand, who stand poised to make a defining statement about who they are as a band and what their impact on US doom in the long run will be. I’m eager to find out.

From the PR wire:

windhand grief's infernal flower

Windhand Detail Upcoming Album Grief’s Infernal Flower Out on Relapse Records September 18th

Announce Headlining North American Tour This Fall

WINDHAND return with their third full-length, Grief’s Infernal Flower. The album was produced by Jack Endino (Nirvana, High On Fire, Soundgarden) and is a massive, heavy, personal and modern testament to the power of doom and stoner metal’s legacies. One sees the urgency the band have displayed over their career reflected in their music – long-canonized tropes are reimagined and reinvented, Windhand convey an irrepressible sense of motion even within the slowest of songs.

Front woman Dorthia Cottrell firmly establishes herself as one of today’s most powerful vocalists by perfectly balancing beauty with enormous force, and the twin-guitar attack of Garrett Morris and Asechiah Bogdan weaves together nine songs of perfect riffs and fuzzed-out bliss. That often-delicate splendor is all tempered by the colossal rhythmic mastery of bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe, whose lower-register expertise serves as the backbone of the new record. Though the first two WINDHAND albums were underground classics, Grief’s Infernal Flower stands to see WINDHAND cementing themselves as one of the premier metal bands of our time.

Windhand: Garrett Morris (Guitars), Parker Chandler (Bass) Dorthia Cottrell (Vocals), Asechiah Bogdan (Guitars), Ryan Wolfe (Drums)

Windhand Live Dates:
July 28: AS220 – Providence, RI
Jul 29: Cambridge, MA – Middle East Upstairs
Jul 30: Montreal, QC – RRROOAAARRR
Jul 31: Toronto, ON – The Garrison
Sept 18: Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
Oct 21: New York, NY – Gramercy #
Oct 22: Buffalo, NY – Waiting Room #
Oct 23: Pittsburgh, PA – Smiling Moose #
Oct 24: Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle #
Oct 27: Seattle, WA – Neumos #
Oct 28: Vancouver, BC – Astoria #
Oct 29: Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios #
Oct 30: San Francisco, CA – The Chapel #
Oct 31: San Diego, CA – Night of the Shred ^
Nov 1: Los Angeles, CA – Roxy #
Nov 2: Mesa, AZ – Club Red #
Nov 3: Albuquerque, NM – Sister #
Nov 4: Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater #
Nov 6: Dallas, TX – Dada #
Nov 7: Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest Nites #
Nov 8: Little Rock, AR – White Water Tavern #
Nov 11: Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups #
Nov 12: Ferndale, MI – Loving Touch #
Nov 13: Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop #
Nov 14: Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery #
Nov 15: Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts #

# – w/ Danava and Monolord
^ – w/ Monolord

Windhand
Grief’s Infernal Flower
Relapse Records
September 18th, 2015
Pre-order: Physical | Digital

1 – Two Urns
2 – Forest Clouds
3 – Crypt Key
4 – Tanngrisnir
5 – Sparrow
6 – Hyperion
7 – Hesperus
8 – Kingfisher
9 – Aition

https://www.facebook.com/WindhandVA
https://instagram.com/windhand/
http://windhandva.bandcamp.com/

Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower teaser

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Valkyrie, Shadows: A New Golden Age

Posted in Reviews on June 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

valkyrie-shadows

It has been seven years since Virginia dual-guitar rockers Valkyrie issued their second album, Man of Two Visions, which was a record that never got its due. The core of the band has been and remains brothers Jake and Peter Adams, and with that second full-length following up their 2006 self-titled debut, they delivered a harmonized-lead kick in the ass to the traditions of Maryland-style doom, marking what seemed at the time like a generational shift in approach. The tones were organic, the vibe schooled but dipping back to ’70s rock in a way that, particularly at the time, was refreshing and exciting for an American band, and with just a touch of Southern heavy at its roots it seemed to hold promise that Valkyrie were bound to turn heads in the years to come.

In 2015, they make their debut on Relapse Records with Shadows, a 42-minute heavy-groover that boasts a track for its year of Valkyrie‘s absence — notable that opener “Mountain Stomp” was featured on a 2012 split with Earthling, whose Alan Fary here plays bass — and finds them no less ready than they were to be commended for their exploration of Pentagram-meets-Thin Lizzy vibes with the occasional flourish of Spirit Caravan‘s irresistible roll. With Warren Hawkins‘ drums setting the pace, Jake and Pete — the latter of whom joined Baroness on lead guitar in 2008 and also features in the latest live incarnation of Samhain — are at the fore as ever in Valkyrie, and Shadows is a guitar-lover’s guitar album, “Temple” showing off swirling leads while the aforementioned and aptly-titled “Mountain Stomp” and subsequent “Golden Age” reaffirm both the guitarists’ harmonic tendencies and the memorable songwriting that made the band such a standout during their initial run.

The heavy rock climate having shifted as greatly as it has in the last decade, and Baroness having ascended to the fore of progressive metal, it seems likely that Valkyrie‘s methods will garner more attention with Shadows than they had previously, and fair enough. It is a mature album, steady in its pace and naturalist in its intent, as “Golden Age” demonstrates in following and developing the nod of “Mountain Stop” with one of Shadows‘ more resonant hooks, and “Temple” affirms with a greater sense of spaciousness and sure-footed shuffle to bridge the lines of its verse. More than either of the opening two, “Temple” feels like a guitar showcase in its second half, but the simple fact is that the Adams brothers can pull that kind of thing off — easily, or at least easily-sounding — and emerge on the other end of six and a half minutes having long since departed the structure of a track without blisters either existential or on their already well-calloused hands.

valkyrie-photo-by-nicole-butler

Centerpiece “Shadow of Reality” refreshes a doomier spirit with peppered-in lead work and pushes through a midsection offsetting weightier impulses with airy tones on the way to a sun-soaked pastoral instrumental burst in its second half, the guitars locking step harmonically for a run no less memorable than the chorus subsequently referenced prior to the rumbling finish that leads the way into “Wintry Plains,” the longest track at 6:49 and a singular highlight for its patient feel, strong hook and rhythmic fluidity. That hook is reinforced, which makes a big difference compared to “Temple” or “Shadow of Reality” before it, the song moving into a jam and returning to the chorus before departing again at the close. One wouldn’t ask Valkyrie to do the same thing all the time, but even if it makes “Wintry Plains” the longest cut here — not by much; songs range on either side of six minutes — the extra seconds are well spent and go toward making the song a landmark for the band, which it is.

And the album is classic enough in its construction that “Wintry Plains” isn’t the last landmark to come, either. “Echoes (of the Way We Lived)” moves at a speedier clip than more relaxed earlier cuts like “Mountain Stomp” or “Golden Age” — though I wouldn’t go so far as to call anything on Shadows languid — and the effect it has is to sustain the momentum from the end of “Wintry Plains” over to closer “Carry On,” which leaves an impression that lasts much longer than the song’s six minutes, its theme and the repeated line, “Our voice will carry on,” as appropriate for a finishing track as it is for the story of Valkyrie in particular. With seven years between Man of Two Visions and their third, one can’t help but wonder if either or both of the Adams brothers are questioning if Shadows will be the last chapter in Valkyrie‘s story. It may well be, or it may be a new beginning, but whatever context time gives, it’s a worthy follow-up to their second album and a look at some of what the band might’ve been able to accomplish had they kept going the first time around.

To be perfectly honest, it’s a somewhat bittersweet listen on that level, since it’s easy to imagine that, had their circumstances not worked out the way they did, Valkyrie would probably be two or three records beyond their third offering by now, and there are points in making my way through Shadows where I ask what those could-have-been moments would sound like, where the obvious chemistry between Jake and Pete might have taken their songwriting. We may yet find that out — and better late than never, of course — and while it’s hard to hear these tracks and wonder if this is Valkyrie‘s shining moment or if that might still come, it’s worth remembering that in the intervening seven years they’ve been (mostly) gone, a new generation of American heavy rock fans has emerged, and for them, it’s just as likely Shadows will be a first exposure. On that level, it is nothing if not welcoming.

Valkyrie, Shadows (2015)

Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks

Valkyrie on Bandcamp

Valkyrie at Relapse Records

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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Valkyrie Announce July Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Reborn Virginian heavy rockers Valkyrie continue their surge in the wake of the release last month of their third album, first in seven-plus years and first for RelapseShadows (review pending). They’ve just announced a new round of tour dates supporting the record for next month, and that’s awesome, but if I can, I’d like to draw your eyes for just a moment to their three festival slots in the coming months.

June 27, they’re at Maryland Doom Fest, and in one weekend in August, they play both the Death to False Metal festival in Connecticut (that’s Aug. 14) and the GwarBQ in Richmond, Virginia (that’s Aug. 15). Yeah, there’s a whole tour between and I’ve no doubt the four-piece are going to play with some kickass bands along the way, but god damn, if Valkyrie were going to make a comeback, at least they’re doing it in style.

Okay, now we can go back to the business at hand, which comes off the PR wire:

valkyrie

Valkyrie Announce Tour In Support of “Shadows”

Valkyrie recently released their Shadows LP via Relapse Records, and now the band is gearing up for a tour and set of festival appearances.

Propelled by the stunning guitar heroics of brothers Pete and Jake Adams, Virginia’s Valkyrie return with their third full length Shadows, one of the year’s best guitar-driven, heavy rock records. Valkyrie’s twin harmonized guitar leads and clean dual vocal assault matched with a strong nod to classic doom and heavy metal creates a psychedelic and heavy sound that pays homage to classic heavy rock bands like Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy while bringing to mind the pastoral and organic sounds of Jethro Tull. With no regard to current trends, or retro-rock posturing, Valkyrie rides on with a true, classic, heavy metal assault that has turned many heads with its impressive live shows and soul-stirring conviction. You can stream the album here, and check them out when they ride through your town…

Valkyrie shows:
Jun 27 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest
Jul 17 Athens, OH – Casa Nueva
Jul 18 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
Jul 19 Chicago, IL – Livewire
Jul 21 Madison, WI – Wisco
Jul 22 Minneapolis, MN – Hexagon
Jul 23 Omaha, NE – Lookout Lounge
Jul 24 Kansas City, KS – Riot Room
Jul 25 St. Louis, MO – The Firebird
Jul 27 Memphis, TN – Hi-Tone Cafe
Jul 28 Nashville, TN – The End
Jul 29 Johnson City, TN – The Hideaway
Jul 30 Asheville, NC – Odditorium
Jul 31 Raleigh, NC – Slim’s
Aug 14 Hamden, CT – Death to False Metal Fest
Aug 15 Richmond VA – Gwar BBQ @ Hadad’s Lake

http://www.relapse.com/valkyrie/
https://www.facebook.com/thevalkyrierides
http://www.valkyrieband.com/

Valkyrie, “Mountain Stomp”

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Windhand to Release Grief’s Infernal Flower on Sept. 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Anticipation is already high for Windhand‘s upcoming third album, Grief’s Infernal Flower, and I think it has been more or less since the Richmond, Virginia, five-piece released their second offering and Relapse Records debut, Soma (review here), in 2013. In the wake of that outing, they’ve become one of the most hotly-tipped doom bands in the US, and have toured at home and abroad to acclaim no less mountainous than that heaped onto their studio work.

For Grief’s Infernal Flower, the band partnered with producer Jack Endino, whose resume is the stuff of legend, from his work with Nirvana to Nebula and High on Fire, on and on. The road-dogging Windhand will likely have tour dates announced soon as they lead up to the release of the new album — there are a few shows in the Northeast scheduled as it is that seem like the trickle before the flood of their new touring cycle — but even working with someone like Endino seems like a move by a band ready to take their approach to the next level. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, I’ll casually remind that the High on Fire record Endino helmed was 2007’s Death is this Communion. That should really say it all.

The PR wire has few details but keeps things focused on the key figures:

windhand and endino

Windhand Announce New Album Grief’s Infernal Flower

Produced By Jack Endino | Out On Relapse Records September 18th

Windhand’s highly anticipated, third full-length album is ready. Grief’s Infernal Flower is set for release September 18th on Relapse Records. Recorded in Seattle at Soundhouse Recording with legendary producer Jack Endino (Nirvana, Soundgarden, High on Fire), the album contains nine songs and promises to be their most ambitious record to date.

Stay tuned for more info on WINDHAND.

WINDHAND US LIVE DATES:

July 28: AS220 – Providence, RI
Jul 29: Cambridge, MA – Middle East Upstairs
Jul 30: Montreal, QC – RRROOAAARRR
Jul 31: Toronto, ON – The Garrison

https://www.facebook.com/WindhandVA
http://windhandva.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com/

Windhand, Soma (2013)

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Foehammer and Thera Roya Announce Summer Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

foehammer (Photo by Sasha Benderly-Kraft)
thera roya (Photo by Jess Rechsteiner)

The first night of the upcoming summer tour for Foehammer and Thera Roya, June 12, is the record release party for the former’s self-titled EP on Australopithecus Records. That EP has been available digitally through Grimoire Records for a while, but the vinyl is newly arrived and they’ll reportedly have it ready to go for the tour. Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, meanwhile, should have some new material in tow as well after their “Fat Voyage” single which was released digitally late last year.

A few shows remain unconfirmed for the run, so if you happen to be in one of those cities and have a line on putting something together, be it a bar, house show, whatever, you should probably think about dropping a line to one or both of the bands. If you haven’t heard Foehammer‘s EP yet, it’s devastatingly heavy, and Thera Roya‘s post-metal style will make a fitting complement atmospherically for all that bludgeoning.

T0ur dates, links and audio follow:

foehammer thera roya unmothered austin show

THERA ROYA & FOEHAMMER SUMMER TOUR 2015!

Thera Roya & Foehammer take the south by storm! Details to be added as shows are confirmed.

JUNE
12 Fri WDC / Tour Kickoff @ The Pinch w/ Narrow Grave, TBA
13 Sat Charlottesville, VA @ Magnolia House w/ Beldam
14 Sun VA Beach / Norfolk VA
15 Mon Charlotte NC @ Tommy’s Pub w/ Pig mountain, Grande Niño
16 Tue Charleston SC @ King Dusko’s w/ TBA
17 Wed Orlando, FL
18 Thu Miami, FL
19 Fri Tampa FL @ Cafe Hey! w/ Weltesser
20 Sat Dothan, AL
21 Sun New Orleans, LA
22 Mon Baton Rouge, LA
23 Tue Austin TX @ The Lost Well w/ Unmothered
24 Wed Dallas TX
25 Thu Nashville TN
26 Fri Asheville NC @ The Odditorium w/ Black Mountain Hunger, Spliff, Mondays
27 Sat Morgantown WV / Richmond VA
28 Sun Frederick MD – Maryland Doom Fest @ Cafe 611*
* – Foehammer Only

https://www.facebook.com/events/737569289689446/
https://www.facebook.com/TheraRoya
https://theraroya.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/foehammerva
https://foehammer.bandcamp.com/

Foehammer, Foehammer (2015)

Thera Roya, “Fat Voyage” (2014)

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