Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
We’re just about a month out from the March 24 release of the new Pontiak album, Dialectic of Ignorance, so I wouldn’t expect it to be all that long before audio starts making its way out. The brotherly, beery Virginian three-piece will do a few quick US dates around the release in Brooklyn, Louisville, and Chicago to mark the record coming out, and then in April they head abroad, where they’ll do a couple select dates alongside Thrill Jockey labelmates Sumac as well as True Widow and King Woman in addition to appearing at Roadburn in the Netherlands and at Desertfest in London and Berlin.
Bit of back and forth in the routing, looks like, but it’s pretty impressive in the ground it covers. And since Dialectic of Ignorance will be out by then, all the better to hit as many ears as possible.
To that end, they’ll reportedly have more shows in the States after they get back from Europe in May. So you know, more to come and whatnot. But you knew that anyway.
Here’s the latest off the PR wire:
Pontiak squeeze in Brooklyn, Louisville, and Chicago shows ahead of European tour
Pontiak to tour throughout U.S. in May
Pontiak’s hazy, infectious Dialectic of Ignorance is out March 24th
In support of the release of their dazzling new album Dialectic of Ignorance, the Virginia brothers of Pontiak have announced they’re squeezing in a handful of U.S. dates before their European tour this Spring, which will include a set at Roadburn Festival and at Desertfest in the UK and in Germany. Pontiak will be returning to hit the road in the U.S. in May.
Whereas Pontiak’s 2014 album Innocence tore through rowdy riffs and melancholic balladry in a neat half hour, it’s immediately clear from the reverb-heavy trip of opener “Easy Does It” that Dialectic of Ignorance is altogether a different beast. Euphorically defying spatial constraint, brothers Van, Jennings, and Lain Carney instead opt to guide each song along its own cosmic trajectory: confident in the outcome, but even more excited to enjoy the ride.
Having opened their own brewery, Pen Druid Brewing, in August 2015, the Carney brothers were afforded a rare opportunity to reassess their creative process, through the medium of brewing. The lessons learned from this experimentation have had a formative effect on both the process underlying and subsequent sound of Dialectic of Ignorance.
Pontiak Tour Dates Mar. 23 Brooklyn, NY Alphaville Mar. 25 Louisville, KY Haymarket Whiskey Bar Mar. 27 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle Apr 21 Fluc Vienna, Austria Apr 22 Jubez w/ Sumac, Oxbow Karlsruhe, Germany Apr 23 013 Roadburn, Tilburg, Netherlands Apr 26 De Gude Wellen Luxembourg, Luxembourg Apr 27 VK w/ True Widow, King Woman Brussels, Belgium Apr 28 Desertfest London, United Kingdom Apr 29 Stereo Wonderland Köln, Germany Apr 30 Desertfest Berlin, Germany May 01 UT Connewitz Leipzig, Germany May 02 Lucerna Music Bar Prague, Czech Republic
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
I mean, uh, sold. Right? Virginian heavy rockers Freedom Hawk head west next month alongside North Carolinian chuggers Irata, and I’m not even sure this one needs comment from me other than to reinforce the notion that you should make every effort to go to whichever one of these shows is closest to where you live. They’ve also got the last date of the tour open on Feb. 19 somewhere around Austin — or, presumably, a reasonable day’s drive between Austin and the Eastern Seaboard — and how much fun would it be to book those two bands somewhere and put on a kickass show to round out their tour? I like that idea. If I lived in Eastern Texas or somewhere else down south, I’d probably like it even more right about now.
Freedom Hawk are heralding an impending Ripple Music reissue for their 2008 debut album, Sunlight, and still supporting their 2015 fourth long-player, Into Your Mind (review here), while Irata — who upon returning from this tour will roll out again alongside All Them Witches — go on the back of their 2015 Retro Futurist offering, Loris.
Dates, links, audio and whatnots follow, as seen on the social medias:
Freedom Hawk / Irata US Tour
February 3 – February 17
Freedom Hawk and Irata Live will embark on a tour to the US West Side to continue the search for the perfect riff!!
Freedom Hawk will also have in tow their Small Stone 2015 release – Into Your Mind AND a hot off the press Ripple Music special remastered limited edition Vinyl/CD (Jan 27) release of their 2008 self released album – Sunlight.
IRATA will have their 2015 Retro Futurist release “Sweet Loris.” in tow and will be jamming these righteous tunes on tour with Freedom Hawk before returning to the road in March, 2017 with Nashville band All Them Witches.
HIWATTAGE Booking presents… FREEDOM HAWK & IRATA:
THE ENDLESS SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT RIFF – WEST SIDE TOUR – FEB 2017!! 3-Feb Nashville, TN Springwater 4-Feb Fort Worth, TX The Rail Club club 5-Feb El paso, TX Rockhouse Bar & Grill 6-Feb Open (drive day) 7-Feb San Diego, CA Soda Bar 8-Feb Anaheim, CA Out Of The Park Pizza 9-Feb San Francisco, CA Thee Parkside 10-Feb Eugene. OR Old Nick’s Pub 11-Feb Portland, OR High Water Mark Lounge 12-Feb Seattle, WA Funhouse Seattle 13-Feb Yreka, CA, Chromaphonic Music Hall 14-Feb Sacramento, CA Starlite Lounge 15-Feb Las Vegas, NV, Beauty Bar 16-Feb Tucson, AZ The Flycatcher 17-Feb Fort Stockton, TX The Garage 18-Feb Austin, TX Swan Dive 19th-Feb Open (hit us up)
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Now having spanned multiple years since starting way back in 2016, this Quarterly Review ends today with writeups 51-60 of the total 60. I’ve said I don’t know how many times that I could go longer, but the fact of the matter is it would hit a point where it stopped being a pleasant experience on my end and I’d rather keep things fun as much as possible rather than just try to cram in every single release that ever came my way. Make sense? It might or it might not. I can’t really decide either. From the bottom of my heart though, as I stare down the final batch of records for this edition of the Quarterly Review, I thank you for reading. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #51-60:
Crippled Black Phoenix, Bronze
Nine albums and just about 10 years on from their 2007 debut, A Love of Shared Disasters, the UK’s Crippled Black Phoenix arrive on Season of Mist with the full-length Bronze and remain as complex, moody and sonically resolute as ever. If we’re lucky, they’ll be the band that teaches a generation of heavy tone purveyors how to express emotion in songwriting without giving up the impact of their material, but the truth is that “Champions of Disturbance (Pt. 1 & 2),” “Deviant Burials,” “Scared and Alone” and take-your-pick-from-the-others are about so much more depth than even the blend of “heavy and moody” conveys. To wit, the spacious post-rock gaze of “Goodbye Then” gives a glimpse of what Radiohead might’ve turned into had they managed to keep their collective head out of their collective ass, and the penultimate “Winning a Losing Battle” pushes through initial melancholia into gurgling, obtuse-but-hypnotic drone before making a miraculous return in its finish – then closer “We are the Darkeners” gets heavy. Multi-instrumentalist, founder and chief songwriter Justin Greaves is nothing shy of a visionary, and Bronze is the latest manifestation of that vision. One doubts it will be the last.
Nothing shy about Trouble in Eden, the third full-length from San Jose heavy rockers Zed and second for Ripple Music. From its hey-look-guys-it’s-a-naked-chick cover to the raw vocal push from Pete Sattari –which delves into more melodic fare early on “The Only True Thing” and in rolling closer “The Mountain,” but keeps mostly to gruff grown-up-punker delivery throughout – the 10-tracker makes its bones in cuts like “Blood of the Fallen” and the resonant hook of “Save You from Yourself,” which are straightforward in intent, brash in execution and which thrive on a purported “rock the way it should be” mentality. Well, I don’t know how rock should be, but Zed – Sattari, guitarist Greg Lopez, bassist Mark Aceves and drummer Rich Harris – play to classic structures and seem to bring innate groove with them wherever they go on the album, be it the one-two punch of “High Indeed” and “So Low” or the Clutch-style bounce in the first half of “Today Not Tomorrow,” which leaves one of Trouble in Eden’s most memorable impressions both as a song and as a summary of their apparent general point of view.
Limited to just 200 copies on We Empty Rooms and Gotta Groove Records, the Collective Fictions split 180g LP between Melbourne noise duo Dead and Mark Deutrom (Bellringer, Clown Alley, ex-Melvins) is a genuine vinyl-only release. No digital version. That in itself gives it something of a brazen experimentalism, never mind the fact that one can barely tell where one track ends and the next track starts. Purposeful obscurity? Maybe. It’s reportedly one of a series of four LPs Dead are working on for the next year-plus, and they present two cuts in “Masonry” and “In the Car,” moving through percussion and mid-range drone to build a tense jazz on the former as drummer Jem and bassist Jace make room for the keys and noise of BJ Morriszonkle, which continue to play a prominent role in “In the Car” as well, which is also the only inclusion on Collective Fictions to feature vocals, shortly before it rumbles and long-fades snare hits to close out Dead’s side of the LP, leaving Deutrom – working here completely solo – thoroughly dared to get as weird as he’d like. An opportunity of which he takes full advantage. Over the course of four tracks, he unfurls instrumentalist drone of various stripes, from the nighttime soundscaping of “The Gargoyle Protocol,” which seems to answer the percussive beginning of Dead, through the spacier reverb loneliness of “Presence of an Absence,” like a most pastoral, less obtuse Earth, dreamy but sad in a way that denotes self-awareness on the part of the title, or at very least effective evocation thereof. Likewise, “Bring the Fatted Calf,” with its gong hits, Master Musicians of Bukkake-style jingling and minimalist volume swells, is duly ritualistic, which makes one wonder what the prog-style keys at the open of “View from the Threshold” are looking at. Deutrom moves through that side-closer patiently but fluidly and ends at a drone, tying up Collective Fictions as something of a curio in intent and execution. By that I mean what seems to have brought the two parties together was a “Hey, wanna get weird?” impulse, but each act makes their own level and then works on it, so hell yes, by all means, get weird.
Any record that starts with a narration beginning, “In the not too distant future…” is going to find favor with my MST3K-loving heart. So begins The Apocalypse Trilogies: Spacewolf and Other Dark Tales, the cumbersomely-named but nonetheless engaging Salt of the Earth Records debut full-length from Toronto’s Ol’ Time Moonshine, whose 2013 The Demon Haunted World EP (review here) also found favor. The burl-coated outing is presented across three chapters, each beginning with its own narration and comprising three subsequent tracks – trilogies – tying into its theme as represented in the cover art by vocalist/guitarist Bill Kole, joined in the band by guitarist Chris Coleiro, bassist John Kendrick and drummer Brett Savory. They shift into some more complex fare on the instrumental “Lady of Light” before the final chapter, but at its core The Apocalypse Trilogies remains a (very) heavy rock album with an undercurrent of metal, and whatever else Ol’ Time Moonshine bring to it in plotline, they hold fast to songwriting as the most crucial element of their approach.
Italian four-piece Ufosonic Generator (also stylized as one word: UfosonicGenerator) make themselves at home straddling the line between doom and classic boogie rock on what seems to be their debut album, the eight-track The Evil Smoke Possession, released through Minotauro Records. Marked out by the soaring and adaptable vocals of Gojira – yup – the band offer proto-metal shuffle on shorter early cuts “A Sinful Portrait” and the rolling nod of “At Witches’ Bell,” but it’s the longer pairing of “Meridian Daemon” (7:47) and “Silver Bell Meadows” (6:53) on which one finds their brew at highest potency, sending an evil eye Cathedral’s way without forgetting the Sabbathian riffery that started it all or the Iron Maiden-gallop it inspired. They cap with the suitable lumber of their title-track and pick up toward the finish as if to underscore the dueling vibes with which they’ve been working all along. Ultimately, the meld isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it does pay homage fluidly across The Evil Smoke Possession’s span, and as a debut, it sets Ufosonic Generator forward with a solid foundation on which to progress.
Issued digitally in late-2015 and subsequently snagged for a 2016 vinyl issue through Krauted Mind, Nocturnes is the debut full-length from Dublin five-piece Mother Mooch, and in its eight tracks, they set their footing in a genre-spanning aesthetic, pulling from slow-motion grunge, weighted heavy rock, psychedelic flourish and even a bit of punk on the shorter, upbeat “My Song 21” and “L.H.O.O.Q.” Those two tracks prove crucial departures in breaking up the proceedings and speak well of a penchant on the part of vocalist Chloë Ní Dhúada, guitarists Sid Daly (also backing vocals) and Farl, bassist Barry Hayden and drummer Danni Nolan toward sonic diversity. They bring a similar sensibility to the closing Lead Belly cover “Out on the Western Plain” as well, whereas cuts like opener “This Tempest,” “Into the Water” and “Misery Hill” work effectively to find a middle ground between the stylistic range at play. That impulse, seemingly innate to their songraft, is what will allow them to continue to develop their personality as a band and is not to be understated in how pivotal it is to this first LP.
To my knowledge, this only-70-pressed five-song tape release is the second self-titled EP from off-kilter North Carolina heavy rockers The Asound following a three-songer back in 2011 (review here). Offered by Tsuguri Records, the new The Asound starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the 6:54 “Moss Man” and touches on earliest, most righteous High on Fire-style brash, but holds to its own notions about what that that blend of groove and gallop should do. Through splits with Flat Tires (review here), Magma Rise (review here), Lenoir Swingers Club (review here) and Mark Deutrom (review here), the trio of Guitarist/vocalist Chad Wyrick, bassist Jon Cox and drummer Michael Crump have always had an element of the unpredictable to their sound, and that’s true as centerpiece “Human for Human” revives the thrust of the opener coming off “Controller”’s less marauding rhythm, but the sludgy rollout and later airy lead-work of “Pseudo Vain” and chugging nod of closer “Throne of Compulsion” speaks to the consciousness at play beneath the unhinged vibes that’s been there all along. They’ve sounded ready for a while to make a full-length debut. They still sound that way.
Immediate bonus points to Richmond, Virginia’s Book of Wyrms for titling a track on their full-length debut “Infinite Walrus,” but with the Garrett Morris-recorded tones they proffer with the seven-song/53-minute Sci-Fi/Fantasy (on Twin Earth Records), they don’t really need bonus points. The five-piece of vocalist Sarah Moore Lindsey, six-stringers Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven mostly avoid the sounding-like-Windhand trap through stretches of upbeat tempo, theremin and other noise flourish, and harmonies on guitar, but they’re never far from an undercurrent of doom, as opener “Leatherwing Bat” establishes and the long ambient midsection and subsequent nod of centerpiece “Nightbong” is only too happy to reinforce. “All Hallows Eve” gets a little cliché with its samples, but the dueling leads on 11-minute closer “Sourwolf” and included keyboard noise ensure proper distinction and mark Book of Wyrms as having come into their first long-player with a definite plan of action, which finds them doing well as a showcase of potential and plenty immersive in the here and now.
Despite the sort of cross-cultural ritualism of its cover art, Oxblood Forge’s self-titled debut EP has only the firmest of ideas where it’s coming from. The Whitman, Massachusetts-based five-piece boasts former Ichabod vocalist Ken MacKay as well as bassist Greg Dellaria from that band, and guitarist Robb Lioy (also in Four Speed Fury with MacKay) alongside guitarist Josh Howard and drummer Chris Capen, and in a coherent, vigilantly straightforward five-tracker they touch on aggressive fare in “Lashed to the Mast” as their Northeastern regionalism would warrant – we’re all very angry here; it’s the weather – and demonstrate a knack for hooks in “Inferno” and “Sister Midnight,” the latter blending screams and almost Torche-style melodies over clam chowder riffing before closer “Storm of Crows” opens foreboding with Dellaria’s bass and moves into the short release’s nastiest fare, MacKay sticking to harsher vocals as on the earlier “Night Crawler,” but in a darker instrumental context. They set a range here, and might be feeling things out in terms of working together as this band, but given the personnel involved and their prior familiarity with each other, it’s hard to imagine that if a follow-up is in the offing it’ll be all that long before it arrives. Consider notice served.
Ukrainian trio The Heavy Crawls set out as a duo called just The Crawls and released a self-titled debut in 2013 that was picked up in 2015 by ultra-respected German imprint Nasoni Records. Under the new moniker, they get another stab at a first album with the 10-track/42-minute classic rocker The Heavy Crawls, the three-piece of founding guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Max Tovstyi, drummer Inessa Joger and keyboardist/vocalist/percussionist Iryna Malyshevska evoking spirited boogie and comfortable groove on “She Said I Had to Wait” and the handclap-stomping “Girl from America.” Elements of garage rock show up on “Too Much Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the soul-swinging “I Had to Get Away,” but The Heavy Crawls are more interested in establishing a flow than being showy or brash, and the payoff for that comes in eight-minute closer “Burns Me from Inside,” which stretches out the jamming sensibility that earlier pieces like the organ-laced “One of a Kind” and the staccato “Friday, 13th” seem to be driving toward. Some growing to undertake, but the pop aspect in The Heavy Crawls’ songcraft provides intrigue, and their (second) debut shows a righteous commitment to form without losing its identity to it.
Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.
Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.
So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.
Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.
And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.
Here we go:
The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016
1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP
An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.
Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″
Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.
At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.
I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”
To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.
Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.
One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.
This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.
Posted in Reviews on December 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Feeling good going into day two of the Quarterly Review. The good news about how heavy music has become such a vast universe is that there’s always plenty to cover without having to really dig into stuff I don’t find interesting. Of course, the other side of that is feeling constantly behind the curve and overwhelmed by it all, but let’s not talk about that for the moment. Point is that as we make our way through this week and into the next — because, remember, it’s six days this time, not five — a big part of me still feels like I’m just scratching the surface of everything that’s out there. It still seems just to be a fraction of the whole story being told around the world in the riffiest of languages. We all do what we can, I guess. Let’s get started.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Red Fang, Only Ghosts
Four albums into one of the decade’s most successful and influential heavy rock careers, doesn’t it seem like Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang are due for a truly great record? Their 2013 outing, Whales and Leeches (discussed here), was rushed by the band’s own admission – their focus, as ever, on touring – and Only Ghosts (on Relapse) unites them with producer Ross Robinson and mixer Joe Barresi, two considerable names to bring heft and presence to the 10-track/42-minute outing. And I’ve no doubt that “Shadows” and the bigger-grooving “The Smell of the Sound” and opener “Flies” kick ass when delivered from the stage, and it’s true they sound more considered with the ambience of “Flames” positioned early, but Only Ghosts still comes across like a collection of songs united mostly by the timeframe in which they were written. Doesn’t mean they don’t build on Whales and Leeches, but now five years on from 2011’s Murder the Mountains (review here), and with their dynamic, charged and momentum-driven sound firmly established, Red Fang still seem to be at the threshold of some crucial forward step rather than stomping all over it as one might hope.
After releasing a self-titled debut (review here) and the follow-up Andromeda (review here) in 2014, 2016’s Sea of Clouds (on Crispin Glover/Stickman) is the third proper studio full-length from Norway’s Black Moon Circle – though at that point, define “proper.” In 2015, the trio/four-piece – Trondheim-based guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen, plus Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective on synth – also released The Studio Jams Vol. I (discussed here) and in addition to the four tracks of Sea of Clouds, they’ve also had a Vol. II (review here) out this year. The definitions become fluid, is what I’m saying, and that couldn’t be more appropriate for the sound of “Lunar Rocket,” the outward-gazing space rock of “The Magnificent Dude,” “Moondog” and “Warp Speed,” which indeed offer enough kosmiche expanse to make one wonder where the song ends and the jam begins. Or, you know, reality. One has to wonder if Black Moon Circle might bridge the gap at some point between studio improv and more plotted songwriting, but as it stands, neither side of their dual personality fails to engage with its flow and drift.
A one-sided 12” EP issued by STB Records in late 2015 as the follow-up to Richmond dirge-fuzzer trio Druglord’s debut album, Enter Venus (review here), the three-track Deepest Regrets represents the band’s final studio material with bassist Greta Brinkman (ex-L7) in the lineup, who’s since been replaced by Julian Cook. That distinction matters in no small part because so much of Druglord’s purposes on Deepest Regrets’ three component songs – “Regret to Dismember,” “Speedballs to Hell” and “Heaven Tonight” – is about reveling in low end. Rawer than was the album preceding, they find guitarist/vocalist/organist Tommy Hamilton, Brinkman and drummer Bobby Hufnell emitting an oozing lurch, blasting out thickened motor-riffing, and fortifying a darkly psychedelic drear – in that order. True to EP form, each song gives a sampling of some of what Druglord has to offer coming off the album, and with a recording job by Garrett Morris, who also helmed the LP, it remains a fair look at where they might head next, despite the shift in lineup.
Melbourne’s Holy Serpent return with Temples (on RidingEasy), their second full-length after 2015’s self-titled debut (review here), and continue to offer an engaging blend of well-blazed psychedelia and heavier-rolling groove. Especially considering they’ve still only been a band for two years, the four-piece of guitarists Nick Donoughue and Scott Penberthy (the latter also vocals), bassist Dave Barlett and Lance Leembrugen remain striking in their cohesion of purpose, and Temples opener “Purification by Fire” and ensuing cuts like the fuzz-wall centerpiece “Toward the Sands” and echo-laden “The Black Stone” only continue to stretch their intentions toward ever more acid-ic flow. They called it “shroom doom” last time out, and seem to have moved away from that self-branding, but however one wants to label Temples, its five tracks/43 minutes push ahead from where Holy Serpent were just a year ago and, rounding out with the slower churn of “Sativan Harvest,” still reminds that mind expansion and deeply weighted tonecraft are by no means mutually exclusive.
Self-releasing Croatian instrumental trio Drone Hunter devise vigilantly straightforward riffing on their second album, Welcome to the Hole, finding room for some charm in titles like “Wine Dick,” “Crazy Ants with Shotguns” and the closing “A Burning Sensation,” the latter of which seems to draw particularly from the playbook of Karma to Burn. That comparison is almost inevitable for any riff-led/sans-vocal three-piece working in this form, but the crunch in “Fog Horn” and “Waltz of the Iron Countess” isn’t without its own personality either, and as with a host of acts from the Croatian underground, they seem to have a current of metal to their approach that, in the case of Welcome to the Hole, only makes the entire affair seem tighter and more precise while maintaining tonal presence. Fitz (guitar), Klen (bass) and Rus (drums) might not be much for words or last names, but their sophomore full-length comprises solid riffs and grooves and doesn’t seem to ask anything more than a nod from its audience. A price easily paid.
Lugweight is comprised solely of Brooklyn-via-Richmond-Virginia transplant Eric Benson, and the project makes its full-length debut with the evocatively-titled drone wash of Yesterday following one EP and preceding another. Fair to call it an experimental release, since that’s kind of the nature of the aesthetic, but Benson demonstrates a pretty clear notion of the sort of noise he’s interested in making, and there’s plenty of it on Yesterday in “Sleeping on Cocaine,” on which one can hear the undulating wavelengths emanating from speaker cones, or the penultimate “Love Song for the Insane,” which features chanting vocals in echoes cutting through a tonal morass but still somehow obscure. A 33-minute five-tracker, Yesterday doesn’t overstay its welcome, but alternates between sonic horrors and warmer immersion in the shorter centerpiece “Bleed My Sorrow” and closer “Show Me Where the Shovel Is,” coming dangerously close in the latter to doom riffing that one might almost dare to put drums to. Solo drone guitar, even when this thick, is never for everyone, but one doubts Benson was shooting for accessibility anyhow.
To hear Australia’s Megaritual tell it, the 25-minute single-song Eclipse EP was recorded on Mt. Jerusalem in New South Wales this past summer, the one-man outfit of vocalist/guitarist/sitarist/drummer Dale Paul Walker working with bassist/Monotronist Govinda Das to follow-up his prior two Mantra Music EPs, recently compiled onto an LP (review here) by White Dwarf Records. Whether or not that’s the case, “Eclipse” itself is suitably mountainous, building along a linear course from sea level to a grand peak with droning patience and gradual volume swells, lush and immersive psychedelia in slow-motion trails, a sparse verse, percussion, sitar, guitar, bass, and so on coming to a glorious vista around the 17:30 mark only to recede again circa six minutes later in a more precipitous dropoff. The digital edition (and that’s the only edition thus far) comes with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” which makes good company for the hypnotic titular exploration and the quick progression it represents after the other two short releases.
Heavy psychedelic pastoralists Red Lama enter the conversation of 2016’s best debut albums with Dreams are Free, initially released on All Good Clean Records and subsequently picked up by Stickman. Leaning more toward the liquid end of psych-blues, the Danish seven-piece immediately transcend with opener “Inca” (video here) and quickly showcase a subtlety for build that only gets more potent as they move through “Sonic Revolution” and “The World is Yours,” unfolding due heft in the latter without losing the laid back sensibility that the vocals bring sweetly, melodically, to the material. The later “Mekong River” seems almost like it’s going to shoegaze itself into post-rock oblivion, but Red Lama hold their sound together even into the 10-minute closer “Dalai Delay” – aptly-titled twice over – and deliver with striking patience a languid flow with hints of underlying prog experimentation. How that will come to fruition will have to remain to be seen/heard, but Dreams are Free also dips into funkier groove on “Dar Enteha,” so while they probably could be if they were feeling lazy, Red Lama don’t at all seem to be finished growing. All the better.
Lacy is an experimental solo-project from former Lord guitarist Stephen Sullivan, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and part of a deep sludge underground that goes back well over a decade. Andromeda is his third album with the outfit and the second to be released in 2016, though unlike the preceding Volume 2. Blue, its 12 tracks were recorded in a matter of months, not years. All instruments, arrangements, vocals and the raw recording were handled by Sullivan himself (he also took the photo on the cover) but cuts like “Gyre Hell” and the acoustic “Push Me Away” veer around self-indulgence or hyper-navelgazing – I’d call “Offal and the Goat Brains” experimental, but not narcissistic – and he seems more interested in writing songs than making a show of being outside this or that imaginary box. Still, Andromeda offers diversity of instrumentation and arrangement, unplugging once more for “Healer” before closer “Always” finishes the album as a rumbling and grunge-laden love song.
After catching on late to German metallers Valborg’s 2015 fifth album, Romantik, I told myself I wasn’t going to miss whatever they did next. The single Werwolf (on Temple of Torturous and Zeitgeister) might be a quick check-in of just two songs – “Ich Bin Total” and “Werwolf” itself – but the classic European-style death-doom chug of the latter and the vicious crash of the former I still consider a reward for keeping an eye out. “Ich Bin Total” is less than three and a half minutes long, and “Werwolf” just over five, but both feature choice chug riffing, darkened atmospherics and art-metal growls that only add to the clenched-teeth intensity of the instruments surrounding. They spare neither impact nor ambience nor lives as Werwolf plays out, the title cut riding its massive progression forward to a sensory-overload of nod before finally offering some release to the tension in a second-half guitar lead, only to revive the brutality once more, repetitions of “werwolf” chanted in growls over it. Awesome.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Well, I mean, yeah. Clearly. Labelmates, both from Richmond, both with three records out, sharing a bassist, etc. — it seems only reasonable that if either Windhand or Cough were going to undertake the rather significant voyage from the US East Coast to tour Australia and New Zealand that the other would go along as well. Though they’re certainly distinguishable in sound, they could hardly have more circumstantially in common if they were the same band. Logic wins the day. Spock would be pleased.
Windhand go supporting 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here), while Cough head abroad to herald 2016’s Still They Pray (review here). It’s hardly the first international trip for either band — both of whom were also recently confirmed to play Psycho Las Vegas 2017 — but should be a good time nonetheless. Who doesn’t like to travel with friends?
Shows are presented by Life is Noise, who sent the following down the PR wire:
LIFE IS NOISE PRESENTS: WINDHAND (USA) & COUGH (USA) AUSTRALIAN / NEW ZEALAND TOUR MARCH/APRIL 2017
LIFE IS NOISE is excited to announce that two powerhouses of American doom metal—Windhand and their spiritual kin Cough—will be heading to our shores in 2017.
These label-mates from Virginia will be melting minds at select venues throughout Australia and New Zealand as part of a massive doom double-header in March and April next year.
The rise of Windhand has been meteoric. Since first surfacing in 2009, this Virginia five-piece quickly outgrew their local underground ties to tour the globe with acts like Sleep, High On Fire, Dead Meadow and Kvelertak. And their third full length, Grief’s Infernal Flower, cemented the band as one of the doom masters of our time.
Grief’s Infernal Flower is the epitome of fuzzed-out bliss. Simultaneously massive, heavy and deeply personal, the haunting and hypnotic vocals of Dorthia Cottrell serve to guide the listener through the dual riff attack of guitarists Garrett Morris and Asechiah Bogdan.
Windhand live are a lesson in rhythmic mastery. Propelling through the slowest of songs, with the subtle expertise of bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe as their backbone, no one will be able to defy the pure need to headbang in their presence.
Cough rose from the fertile metal swamps of Richmond, Virginia to produce some of the most intense, tortured and misanthropic doom out. Drawing from savage elements of extreme music, the past decade has seen the band inspired by everything from early black metal and sludge tones to psychedelia, doom’s early genre forefathers, blues and more—all in their search for beauty in the darkest of places.
Now they have returned after a five-year hiatus with the monolithic beast that is Still They Pray.
Produced by Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn, Still They Pray is a recording that takes the listener to the depths of despair and longing. With comparisons to seminal acts like Candlemass, Cathedral, Sleep and Saint Vitus, their third full length is 70-minutes of crushing defeat and euphoric redemption.
Catch Windhand and Cough at any of the following dates:
Wellington – San Fran – March 31 Auckland – Kings Arms – April 1 Brisbane – Crowbar – April 2 Sydney – Newtown – April 5 Adelaide – Fowlers Live – April 6 Melbourne – Corner Hotel – April 7 Perth – Badlands – April 8
Posted in Reviews on November 29th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
It feels like longer than three years since bass-driven Virginia sludge outfit Akris offered up their self-titled debut (review here), but part of that may be due to the rather significant changes the band has undergone in that stretch. Founded as a two-piece in the wake of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg‘s prior outfit, Aquila, Akris‘ second full-length, Your Mantis (on DGRecords), marks an entirely new beginning for the group, which in 2015 announced that joining Goldberg would be guitarist/vocalist Paul Cogle (Nagato, Black Blizzard) and drummer Tim Otis (Admiral Browning), establishing them as a trio for the first time. That’s no minor shift, adding guitar and second vocals for the first time, let alone a drummer with the fervor and intense personality and play that Otis brings, and the six-track/38-minute Your Mantis meets the change head-on with ambition, beginning a storyline reportedly intended to carry across a multi-album arc into the next Akris release, whatever form that may take when they get there.
This lineup made its opening statement with last year’s Fall EP (review here), so for those who heard that or the first record, perhaps Your Mantis won’t be so much a superficial sidestep from its predecessor — it’s still very much Goldberg at the core of group, and their blend of aggressive noise rock and weighted sludge tonality is consistent — but one can hear progression both in terms of the concepts with which Akris are working, and in the still-engagingly-raw sound they bring to bear, the track “Brown” offering a direct comparison point as it’s shared between both albums.
Worth noting that the version of “Brown” on Your Mantis is over a minute shorter than the one on Akris. The long-player itself follows suit. Recorded and mixed at Oubliette Studios with a mastering job by Noel Mueller of Grimoire Records and topped with Sean “Skillit” McEleny cover art, Your Mantis is over 20 minutes shorter than the preceding self-titled, and when it comes to a sound that plays back and forth between hypnotic melodicism and intense punkish fervor in the manner theirs does, building quickly into bursts of aggro thrust with a measure’s notice as Goldberg swaps out clean-singing for vicious screams, that brevity lends efficiency. Add to that a song like the well-placed “Burn with Me,” third of the six cuts, which finds Goldberg and Cogle working in duet-style vocals on a linear movement that’s clear and crisp in its execution, and Akris bring a sense of accomplishment and realization to Your Mantis that, while it may only be part of the story in terms of lyrical narrative, has plenty to say about how far they’ve come in the last three years.
Since her days in Aquila, brashness has always been a feature of Goldberg‘s work, and that’s no different as opener “Profit” shifts from its early swaying and thudding into searing sludge and noise, setting up one of the essential trades the album will continue to make if not telling the full story in terms of atmosphere, which begins to flesh out with the fuzzier, more patient and winding “Sturgeon.” Melodically sung for the duration, it nonetheless hits into a slow-rolling finish before its five minutes are up, but even more, it provides a transition point between the scorch of “Profit” and “Burn with Me,” which brings Cogle forward vocally for the first time. It’s a quieter pulse at first, kept somewhat tense through percussion à la “Planet Caravan,” but that doesn’t last, and just past the halfway point heavier guitar kicks in and drives the song into its apex, leaving enough room on the other side to finish quiet and bring a sense of symmetry to what one presumes would be the end of side A.
Though it’s shorter as already noted, “Brown” feels more spacious in its early meanderings, but still locks into a blasting drive in its second half. That move between where-am-I-who-am-I and oh-yeah-I’m-here-to-rip-your-throat-out is in some ways the key to making Your Mantis work as it does, but Akris aren’t afraid to screw with the formula either, as the biting “Row” demonstrates with a near-blackened blend of rumble and screams at its start, giving way to the single angriest push of the record, an insistent noisy post-grunge chug still consistent atmospherically with echo on Goldberg‘s vocals, which relent as the three-piece move into the brief chorus only to trade back again as the next verse takes hold. It’s not chaos exactly — there’s a plan at work on a structural level — but it sure sounds like it. “Row,” as the penultimate cut before the 10-minute finale “Visitor,” is the most brutal piece on Your Mantis, and Otis, who so frequently shines as a drummer in moments of fury, makes a highlight of the frustrated crashes that accompany its late payoff, but it is ultimately the closer tasked to sum up the record as a whole.
Not as easy a job as it might initially seem. Across its first five tracks, Your Mantis has careened, lurched, thrust, wandered, pivoted and turned, remaining cohesive and even flowing front to back in a manner born of some of the same impulses as the debut but grown outward from them on nearly every level of theme and performance — and with a new lineup. “Visitor” is wise to take its time in covering all this ground, and whether or not it was written with the intent of closing, it does the job well, representing the dynamic in sound and style that Akris have come to proffer on what might itself feel like a first outing were it not so clearly benefiting from the experience of having made the self-titled before it. Clear-headed? Certainly as far as its purposes go. Your Mantis may well be the beginning of something of larger scope for Akris, but they still hold onto that basic rawness beneath, and their approach is all the richer for it.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Virginia Beach four-no-three-no-four-piece heavy rockers Freedom Hawk just wrapped a tour up the Eastern Seaboard with Colossus supporting their 2015 fourth long-player, Into Your Mind (review here), released by Small Stone. Today brings word that their 2008 debut outing, Sunlight — which has been sold out on CD for long enough that I don’t know how long it’s been, but can still be streamed via the player below — will be pressed anew by Ripple Music, making Freedom Hawk the latest in a line of bands that includes Wo Fat, Gozu and Roadsaw who’ve gone from one imprint to working with the other. Four bands. A noteworthy statistic.
Whether Freedom Hawk‘s relationship with Ripple will extend beyond this reissue, I don’t know, but it’ll be worth keeping an eye out as they move forward with their recently reconstructed lineup, detailed here. Here’s PR wire info for the interim:
Ripple Music to Bring Freedom Hawk’s Debut Album, Sunlight, to Vinyl and World-Wide Release
Ripple Music is thrilled to announce the upcoming release of the long-lost debut album “Sunlight” from retro-rock pioneers, Freedom Hawk. Hailing from the barrier dunes of Virginia, this quartet blends heavy riffs, a rolling groove, and soulful guitar melodies to produce the sound that is Freedom Hawk. Widely recognized as one of the leading forces in the retro-rock movement, their brand of heavy rock coupled with a high energy live show, leaves many wondering if they’ve stepped through a time warp that has taken them to rock’s heyday of the 70’s by the power of their dark music fueled by the sun.
Originally self-released as a digital and very limited-run CD release in 2009, Ripple is proud to give this seminal album the full “Ripple” vinyl treatment. “Sunlight” is hard and powerful riff rock wrapped in core metal tones with melodic high pitched vocals and slight psychedelic edges. The driving beat and heavy guitars with timeless vocals gave light to the new birth in heavy music. Relegated to digital only status for too long, Sunlight will be released world-wide on January 27th, in two vinyl versions and CD.
Ripple is proud to help bring this amazing album to a whole new audience and spread the word on the killer riffs of Freedom Hawk.