[Click play above to stream Mindkult’s Witch’s Oath EP in full. Out soon on Caligari Records.]
Enter Mindkult. So far as I can tell, Witch’s Oath is the debut offering from the Virginia-based outfit, a 25-minute four-songer with a heart geared toward analog-grain horrors and distorted riffs to accompany. The reason I say “so far as I can tell” is because there isn’t a lot to go on when it comes to Mindkult. In the tradition of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ beginnings — and the songs on Witch’s Oath work in that tradition as well — Mindkult‘s sole inhabitant, who goes by Fowst, has kept much a secret going into this first release, presumably to add a sense of mystique.
A search on Monticello Studios, where the EP was reportedly recorded, likewise yields little result, but I’d be surprised if by the time Fowst gets around to following up Witch’s Oath — which is being pressed to CD and tape by Caligari Records — there isn’t more public info available, since the one-man band tap into modern cultish swing and sound natural and full doing so, like a complete band. Which I suppose it is if it sounds that way. Whether or not Fowst recorded “King and Priest,” “Witch’s Oath,” “Serpent’s Nest” and the crawling closer “Chief of Devils” himself is my most pressing question, since being so utterly self-contained could play heavily into the trajectory of the project, but I take it as a sign of the positive impression these cuts leave that one might be tempted to think about the future in the first place. Mindkult, though I won’t say much for the moniker, could most definitely have a future.
To call the project insular seems fair, and while I obviously don’t know Fowst‘s background musically, the signs showed here of having such a clear aesthetic foundation for Mindkult would seem to hint toward past experience in one kind of band or another, though confirmation on that is nil. Could be that dude is 19, has never put anything out before and just happened to nail it — one scenario is as likely as the other. The important thing is he did nail it. Opting to actively depart from the blueprint of the aforementioned Uncle Acid in the vocals becomes a major factor in Witch’s Oath‘s success.
Whether it’s on the rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “King and Priest” or the more uptempo and swinging title-track that follows, Fowst keeps a calm, morose pout, almost shoegazing, in his voice, which is forward in the chorus of the leadoff, but almost buried in “Witch’s Oath,” which seems to run in an attempt to catch up with its winding guitar line during the chorus, setting up a depth in the mix that doesn’t undercut the rawer garage doom vibe in the sound but makes the EP a richer listening experience overall. As side one of a tape, there’s little more one could ask of “King and Priest” or “Witch’s Oath” in establishing the groove and the palette with which Fowst will work on the complementary two tracks, and the leads at the end of “King and Priest” follow a bluesy but plotted course that speak to an underlying consciousness at work, buzzing into the shuffle of “Witch’s Oath” with fluidity bolstered by the haziness of the guitar and bass tones, though as ever, it’s the drums — or drum programming; could go either way — that ties everything here together.
Side two essentially reinforces what Mindkult had on offer in the first two songs, but builds on it as well, as “Serpent’s Nest” finds middle ground between “King and Priest” and “Witch’s Oath” in terms of tempo while blowing out the EP’s best riff and hitting on a balance of obscure vocals and bright-toned lead guitar that one can only hope will become a building block for Fowst going forward. “Serpent’s Nest” saunters to its finish and “Chief of Devils” chugs in soon after, not quite on the beat but not far off it. It’s a quick start to a slow march. Like the opener, the closer tops seven minutes and much of the time difference between it and the 4:44 “Serpent’s Nest” could likely be attributed to pacing. Not a complaint.
Fowst peppers in layers of leads amid the central forward rhythm and his downer vocals, taking a particularly engaging solo toward the end of the first half of the track before the guitar rings out in the second’s verses as the starting point of the EP’s last push. The tempo picks up a bit at the end — a change to ping ride is the marker — and cuts out suddenly like they ran out of tape, which of course may or may not be exactly what happened depending on the circumstances of the recording, though it sounds more purposeful than not. Whatever Fowst‘s real name, whoever produced the album, whatever bands he or they’ve worked with before, it’s the songwriting coming through most of all on Witch’s Oath and the sense of stylistic accomplishment that songwriting showcases. It’s early in Mindkult‘s tenure to make a guess as to directions the band might go, but this initial EP makes a compelling argument in favor of finding out.
Posted in Reviews on June 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Who’s ready for another round of 10 reviews in The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review? I know I am. We gotta hit 50 by Friday, and there’s still a lot — a lot — of ground to cover. Yesterday was all over the place style-wise and today has some of that going as well, but there’s a lot of quality in both, so hopefully you get to check some of it out. Today is the all important QR Hump Day, wherein we pass the halfway mark on our way to the total 50 reviews. If you’re wondering, it’s Lord Vicar who do the honors this time around at #25. Just kind of worked out that way, but I’ll take it. Down to business.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare
Probably fair to call Mirrors for Psychic Warfare an offshoot of Corrections House, since its two members – Scott Kelly (also Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (producer extraordinaire/also Buried at Sea) – are also in that group, but the feel of their Neurot Recordings self-titled debut is substantially different, rawer and at times harsher. Parker handles beats and electronics, creating at times a wash of abrasive noise as in the culmination of “CNN WTZ,” the centerpiece of the five tracks, and elsewhere providing an industrial backdrop for Kelly’s voice for a gothic feel, as on “A Thorn to See.” Unsurprisingly, nothing about Mirrors for Psychic Warfare makes for particularly easy listening – though opener “Oracles Hex” has some commonality with Kelly’s solo work and his voice is resonant as ever – but as they round out the album with “43,” the keys, synth and guitar find some common ground, which leaves distorted shouts from Kelly to do the work of taking listeners to task. We already knew these two worked well together, and the partnership once again bears fruit here.
The four-song Death Thy Lover EP (on Napalm) is the first new studio offering of original material from Swedish doom legends Candlemass since their 2012 album, Psalms for the Dead (review here), marked the end of the tenure of vocalist Robert Lowe, also of Solitude Aeturnus. His replacement is the person who nearly had the job in the first place, Mats Levén (formerly Therion), who has a kind of stateliness to his presence in opener “Death Thy Lover” but suits the plod of “Sleeping Giant” well. Of course, at the center of the band is bassist/songwriter Leif Edling, whose style is unmistakable in these tracks, whether it’s the late-Iommi-style riffing of “Sinister ‘n’ Sweet” or “Death Thy Lover”’s chugging its way toward the hook. Candlemass save the most grueling for last with “The Goose,” as guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman and Lars “Lasse” Johansson intertwine a chugging rhythm and extended soloing over dirge-march drums from Jan Lindh to give the short release a darkened instrumental finale.
Talk about scope. Oh, only a country’s entire cultural history is fair game for Skuggsjá, the brainchild of Norwegian artists Ivar Bjørnson (also Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (also Wardruna) that crosses the line between black metal and Norse traditionalism probably better than anyone has ever done it before. A Piece for Mind and Mirror is the studio incarnation of the work the two composers and a host of others did as commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Norwegian constitution, and though it’s broken into 10 movements for the album, it flows together as one orchestral entirety, the gurgle of Grutle Kjellson (Enslaved) recognizable in the eponymous track amid choral backing and a richly textured blend of traditional folk instruments and metallic thrust. The lyrics are Norwegian, but whether it’s the blowing horn of “Makta Og Vanæra (I All Tid)” or the lush melodies in the march of “Bøn Om Ending – Bøn Om Byrjing,” the sense of pride and the creative accomplishment of A Piece for Mind and Mirror ring through loud and clear.
Two years after making their self-titled debut, Baltimore heavy bluesfuzz trio Black Lung come swaggering back with the spacious vibes of See the Enemy (on Noisolution), which takes the establishing steps the first album laid out and builds on them fluidly and with a clear direction in mind. At eight tracks/45 minutes produced by J. Robbins, the album was clearly structured for vinyl, each half ending with a longer cut, the psych-jamming “Nerve” on side A, which resounds in an ending of scorching guitar from Adam Bufano atop the drums of Elias Schutzman (both of The Flying Eyes), and the closer “8MM,” on which Bufano, Schutzman, guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier and Robbins (who also contributes bass) roll out the record’s most massive groove and cap it with an impenetrable wall of noise. While the songs are striking in their cohesion and poise, there are moments where one wants Black Lung to really let loose, as after Trevor Shipley’s keyboard stretch in “Priestess,” but they have other ideas, feeding the title-track directly into “8MM” with no less a firm sense of control than shown earlier. All told, an excellent follow-up that deserves broader consideration among 2016’s finer offerings.
Offered through The Church Within Records as a paean to classic doom, Lord Vicar’s third LP, Gates of Flesh, nonetheless almost can’t help but put its own mark on the style. The Turku, Finland, outfit’s first album in five years, it finds guitarist Kimi Kärki (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Orne, E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, etc.), vocalist Chritus (also Goatess, ex-Saint Vitus, Count Raven, etc.), and drummer Gareth Millsted (ex-Centurions Ghost) — who, along with Kärki, also contributed bass after the band parted ways with Jussi Myllykoski and prior to adding Sami Hynninen as a temporary replacement — bold enough to shift into minimalist spaciousness on “A Shadow of Myself,” and really, they’re not through opener “Birth of Wine” before Kärki executes a gorgeous dual-layered solo. Trace those roots back to Trouble if you must, but there’s no question to whom the lurch of centerpiece “Breaking the Circle” or the sorrowful 10-minute closer “Leper, Leper” belongs, and the same holds true for everything that follows, be it the quiet start of “A Woman out of Snow” or the swinging second half of “Accidents.” Lord Vicar enact the doom of ages and take complete ownership of the sound, thus only adding to the canon as they go.
Like the stench of rotting, Dakessian’s The Poisoned Chalice provokes a visceral and physical response. The long-in-the-making debut release from the Portland-based duo of vocalist Kenny Snarzyk (also Fister) and multi-instrumentalist Aaron D.C. Edge (Lumbar, Roareth, so many others) had its music recorded back in 2013, and the vocals were added earlier this year, throat-searing screams and growls that top the noisy, claustrophobically weighted tones from Edge’s guitar. The onslaught is unrelenting, both longer songs like “Demons” and “Ten Double Zero” and shorter cuts “Nothing Forever” and the sample-laced opener “Choose Hate” brim with aggressive misanthropy, the will against. Even the penultimate “Baerial,” which offers a glimmer of melody, continues to crush, and starting with a slow drum progression, closer “Cosmic Dissolution” barely tops two and a half minutes, but it brings thorough reassurance of the project’s destructive force before its final drone rounds out. One never knows with Edge if a given band will ever have a follow-up, but as ever, the quality is consistent. In this case, brutally so.
Actually, if you want to get technical about it, Gypsy Chief Goliath are citizens of Ontario, but you’d never know it from listening to their third album, Citizens of Nowhere, which if you had to pin a geographic locale on it might be more of a fit for New Orleans than Canada. The Pitch Black Records release sees the triple-guitar-plus-harmonica six-piece outfit dug deep in Southern metal grooves, marked out by the burl-bringing vocals of frontman/guitarist Al “The Yeti” Bones, formerly of Mister Bones, Serpents of Secrecy and The Mighty Nimbus and the chug-and-churn of cuts like “Black Samurai” and the shuffle of “We Died for This.” The title-track winds its central riff with thickened-up ‘70s boogie, while “Elephant in the Room” and “The Return” space out a bit more, and the closing Black Sabbath cover “Killing Yourself to Live” (a CD bonus track) plays it loyal structurally while dude’ing up the original like it was on hormone therapy.
Hard-touring Richmond genre-benders Inter Arma are due for a landmark release. Their 2014 single-song EP, The Cavern, was wildly well received and earned every bit of praise it got. Their follow-up to that is Paradise Gallows, their third album and second for Relapse behind 2013’s Sky Burial (track stream here). Is Paradise Gallows that landmark? Hell if I know. Recorded, mixed and mastered by Mikey Allred, who also guests on trombone, bass violin, organ and noise, Inter Arma’s third brings an expansive 70 minutes of bleak progressivism, conceptually and sonically broad enough to be considered brilliant and still weighted enough that the prevailing vibe is extremity in their blend of sludge, doom, black metal, post-metal, atmospherics, and a moody acoustic closer. The only real danger is that it might take listeners time to digest – because it’s a lot to take in, all those twists and turns in “Violent Constellations,” particularly after the plod of the title-track – but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find Inter Arma inhabiting any number of year-end lists for 2016. Once again, they earn it.
Virginian bruisers Helgamite manage to cover a deceptive amount of sonic ground on their second LP, Hypnagogia (on CD through Lost Apparitions with vinyl soon on Flesh Vessel), spending plenty of time in dense-toned sludge metal but using that as a foundation for a wider range of explorations, winding up in blastbeats by the time 13-minute side B finale “The Secret” comes around, but by then having torn through the aggro-thrash of “Origins,” lumbered through the mosher “Æstrosion” and topped off “Shaman’s Veil” with math-metal guitar fits melded to a saxophone arrangement. Growls from vocalist William Breeden and Jonah Butler’s drums tie it all together as guitarist Casey Firkin (also sax) and bassist Matthew Beahm pull off intermittently jazzy runs, but impressively, Helgamite never sound in danger of losing sight of the songs they’re serving, and Hypnogogia is stronger for its unwillingness to waste a second of its runtime, even in the aforementioned “The Secret” or its 10-minute side A counterpart, “Snowdrifter.”
Get it? Children of the Chron? I’ll admit it took me a second. While I was thinking about it, Allston, Massachusetts, duo Mollusk doled out sludge-punk-metal beatings via raw tones and shouts and a general sense of checked-out attitude, “Glacier” reminding of earliest, least-poppy Floor, but cuts like “Demon Queen” and “When You’re Gone” finding guitarist Hank Rose using a purposefully monotone vocal approach that works well over slower parts. Rose is joined in Mollusk by drummer Adam O’Day, and though I’ve already noted that the 11-track album is raw, their sound wants nothing for impact in the low end or any other end for that matter. Rather, the harsher aspects become part of the aesthetic throughout Children of the Chron and the band successfully navigates its own mire without getting lost in either its own “Torture Chamber” or “Zombie Apocalypse,” which like opener “Ride the #9,” is almost certainly a song about life in the Boston area.
[Throttlerod release Turncoat on June 24 via Small Stone. Click play above for an exclusive track premiere.]
After a certain point, a band’s new album becomes a believe-it-when-you-see-it prospect. Throttlerod, seven years and one social media revolution removed from the release of their last full-length, 2009’s Pig Charmer (review here), were past that point. Still, they haven’t been completely inactive over that span, playing periodic shows near founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Whitehead‘s home-base in Richmond, Virginia, and apparently crafting enough material so that their fourth outing, Turncoat, clocks in at a considerable 55 minutes with 12 tracks. It’s long. CD long, in a vinyl time, but as ever for these cats, the songwriting holds up. Small Stone Records — which was also behind Pig Charmer, 2006’s Nail, the 2004 Starve the Dead EP and 2003’s Hell and High Water (their 2000 debut, Eastbound and Down, was on Underdogma) — is once again handling the release.
While that’s business as usual for Throttlerod, Turncoat still makes for a departure from their past methods in that instead of working with Andrew Schneider, who helmed all the outings listed above, the three-piece of Whitehead, bassist Jeremy Plaugher (who makes his first appearance here; Schneider also played on Pig Charmer) and drummer Kevin White enlisted J. Robbins to act as producer/engineer at his Magpie Cage Studio. Like a lot of bands, Throttlerod have been through lineup changes and this and that, but swapping producers after 15 years is huge, and Robbins — known for his work with Clutch, The Sword, Murder by Death, among many others, as well as for playing in Jawbox and other projects — makes a mark on this material in a way distinct from anything Throttlerod have done before.
Distinct, but not outlandishly removed from Pig Charmer. That in itself is something of a change as compared to, say, the sonic jump they made between Hell and High Water and Nail, which, with less than half the time between Pig Charmer and Turncoat, found Throttlerod revamping their sound from Southern heavy rock to angular noise drawing on influence from early and mid-’90s dissonance. Pig Charmer continued that thread, and Turncoat follows suit to an extent, but as opener “Bait Shop” shows in its chorus, the push comes with a heightened sense of melody as well. Whitehead‘s vocals, layered, are less shouted than sung, and as the two in the one-two punch, “Lazy Susan” answers in kind to “Bait Shop,” Throttlerod seem at least on some level to be reconciling their latter day approach with their beginnings, either consciously or not.
Granted, that melody comes off more post-grunge than Southern-inflected, but as they slow the roll on the early parts of the more brooding “Never was a Farmer,” those elements are easy enough to read into the proceedings, even if the context is different these years later. Rhythmic insistence comes back to the fore on “Lima,” with White propelling a middle-paced push as Whitehead squibbles out on guitar late, his vocals buried under the wall of his and Plaugher‘s tones. The title-track follows accompanied by “You Kicked My Ass at Losing,” and both songs tap into the more grunge-laden approach, the latter more raucously and of course with the best title on the record, which the chorus well earns, capping the first half of the record with a sudden stop and quick-fade cymbal ring-out. They have a long way to go, but Throttlerod are working efficiently and effectively, and for a band who’s been more or less absent for the last seven years, there’s little rust to be heard in this material.
Guitar scorches at the beginning of “Gainer,” an angular beginning opening to a more manageable verse and chorus en route to a finish that recalls once-labelmates Puny Human and that band’s frontman, Jim Starace, in whose memory Turncoat is dedicated and presumably not titled after. The subsequent “Every Giant,” “Cops and Robbers” and “Breadwinner” mostly tap into moods that the record showed earlier, but each has something about it to make one understand how it wound up in the final tracklisting, whether it’s the handclaps in “Breadwinner,” the what-if-Weezer-got-really-pissed-off aggro build in “Every Giant” or the frantic, jazzy bassline in the verse of “Cops and Robbers,” which brings to mind the melodic take on classic noise rock of Black Black Black without sounding directly akin.
Crashing and full-sounding, “I Know a Ship” offers one last landmark hook before closer and longest cut (at 6:29) “The Guard” finishes out with what starts as a more atmospheric take and then moves into chugging starts and stops — I’m tempted to call them Tool-esque, but to be fair, let’s make it pre-up-their-own-ass-Tool — that nonetheless drive as White does laps around his toms toward the finish of the record. Ultimately it’s hard to know how much of an effect Robbins‘ production might’ve had in bringing forward the melodic side of Throttlerod‘s approach — it’s not like there’s a version of the record tracked by someone else to do a side-by-side — but one way or another, the band have come back after seven years and made a record that is a definitive step forward from where they were their last time out. It might take a listen or two to sink in, but Throttlerod‘s Turncoat is one that only grows richer from there.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Seven years after releasing their third LP, Pig Charmer (review here), vaguely-Chesapeake three-piece Throttlerod return with Turncoat on June 24 via Small Stone Records. In some ways, the new record picks up where the last one left off, bringing thick tones and noise-style heavy rock to bear across an aggressive but still atmospheric span, but there’s a noteworthy departure as well in that the band worked with producer J. Robbins (Clutch, among many others), and I think you can hear that shift even on opening cut “Bait Shop,” which just happens to be streaming now.
While we’re talking odd coincidences, it also just happens that I wrote the bio included with the album info below. Funny how that works out. Kudos to Throttlerod for dedicating Turncoat to the enduring memory of Puny Human vocalist Jim Starace, who is much missed.
From the PR wire:
THROTTLEROD: Long-Running Rock Trio To Release Fourth Full-Length; Record Dedicated To Puny Human Vocalist Jim Starace + New Track Posted
THROTTLEROD has always had a knack for surprising, and their fourth album, Turncoat, is no exception. After making the transition from four-piece to trio, the outfit offered up their third full-length, Pig Charmer, in 2009, and took a left turn from their earlier, riffier vibes to blistering and aggressive noise rock. Like all their prior work, it was produced by Andrew Schneider, and had a sharpness in its chug that, while it still grooved, was clearly looking to accomplish something apart from the band’s earlier three LPs: 2000’s Eastbound And Down, 2003’s Hell And High Water, and 2006’s Nail, as well their quiet, semi-unplugged 2004 EP, Starve The Dead.
While the biggest change that Pig Charmer brought about was in lineup, Turncoat goes even further. Instead of going back to record as they always had, the band hooked up with J. Robbins (Clutch, Coliseum, Against Me!) to lay down Turncoat’s twelve tracks, and the result of the new collaboration is that the album not only follows-up on the aggro promise of Pig Charmer, but builds it outward, in a way that’s more melodically resonant and as much about emotional expression as sonic impact.
Dedicated to the memory of Puny Human vocalist Jim Starace, who passed away in 2012, and who had guested on Nail, Turncoat is an important step forward for the band, but much more, it’s a killer rock album, and whatever THROTTLEROD go through from one record to the next, and whoever happens to be sitting at the helm, that’s the underlying thread. It just wouldn’t be THROTTLEROD if it didn’t kick ass… and offer a surprise or two along the way.
Turncoat was engineered and mixed by J. Robbins at Magpie Cage in Baltimore, Maryland, mastered by Dan Coutant at Sun Room Audio in Cornwall, New York and will see release on CD and digitally June 24th, 2016 through Small Stone Recordings.
Turncoat Track Listing: 1. Bait Shop 2. Lazy Susan 3. Never Was A Farmer 4. Lima 5. Turncoat 6. You Kicked My Ass At Losing 7. Gainer 8. Every Giant 9. Cops And Robbers 10. Breadwinner 1 13. I Know A Ship 12. The Guard
THROTTLEROD is: Matt Whitehead – guitar, vocals Kevin White – drums Jeremy Plaugher – bass
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Formerly a trio, now a four-piece, Richmond, Virginia’s Sinister Haze offered up addled doom with touches of psychedelia and boogie. The band, which now features drummer Eli Pizzuto, formerly of Brooklyn space rockers Naam, have solidified a May 7 release for their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death, on limited vinyl through respected purveyor STB Records. Of course, in keeping with STB‘s tradition of such things, Laid Low in the Dust of Death will be available in low quantities and high qualities in a number of different versions to sate the hungry collector.
Find those, as well as new song “Chains to Dust,” below, courtesy of the PR wire:
STB Records Presents SINISTER HAZE: Release Info and Song Stream
STB Records is proud to announce the upcoming limited vinyl release of “Laid Low In The Dust Of Death” from Richmond, Virginia’s SINISTER HAZE! A a magma-filled, heavy-psych romp that will leave fans of Blue Cheer and St. Vitus begging for another fix. Featuring members of “Cough” and “NAAM”!!
Vinyl Info: • Die Hard Edition – Limited to 75. 180g half green/half black vinyl • OBI Edition – Limited to 100. 180g clear vinyl with green and black splatter • Standard Edition – Limited to 130. 180g green and black swirl vinyl • World Wide Edition – (200) Green 180g vinyl available through Kozmik Artifactz and other international distributors, we may or may not have a small amount available on May 7th through the webstore.
The band says: “Laid Low in the Dust of Death. A hallucinogenic trip of misery and psychedelia recorded in 3 days within the Appalachian hills of North Carolina by Chad Davis. Sinister Haze brings 6 songs that will leave the listener laid low in a drugged out haze. Gather ‘round witchfinders, the hunt begins May 7th.”
Cover Art by Niki Urban Mastered by Collin Jordan at the Boiler Room Design by Joshua Wilkinson @TheCompanyDesign
Sinister Haze: Guitar/Vocals – Brandon Marcey (Cough) Bass/Vocals – Sam Marsh (Dry Spell) Drums/Madness – Joe Dillon (Balaclava)
Sinister Haze has just announced the additions of Eli Pizzuto (Naam) and Jk (Lost Tribe) to the band.
“As our brightest stars fall into the darkness of night…. Dawn brings the rising sun… Changin’ ways upon the horizon. Welcome our good friends Eli Pizzuto (Naam) and Jk (Lost Tribe) to the fold. We couldn’t be more excited and inspired by their talent. What they’ve brought to the haze is a deeper, more enveloping layer of sonic attack. Expect the unexpected, don’t take more than you can eat, and join us voyagers… as we travel beyond the void!”
Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been five years since tumultuous Virginian outfit Lord issued their last album, and that’s long enough. That album was 2011’s Chief (review here) and it revamped their lineup from their 2007 debut, Built Lord Tough. Their third long-player, Awake, largely does likewise, finding founding guitarist/vocalist Willy Rivera and returning lead vocalist Steven Kerchner (also synth) joined by guitarist/vocalist Todd Weurhmann, bassist Chris Dugay and drummer Kevin “Skip” Marimow. Recorded by Vince Burke (Beaten Back to Pure) at his Sniper Studios and released through Heavy Hound Records, there’s a half-decade-later sense of continuity between Chief and the seven tracks/39 minutes that comprise Awake, at least in the band’s stormbringing intent toward Southern sludge, grind and heavy riffing, but at the same time, the new release sees Lord move into a different class of presentation, melodies creeping into songs like “Reset the Wave” and more complex arrangements marking out the acoustic-led “Great Communicator.”
Lord still wield no shortage of fire and fury throughout Awake — the arrival of which was preceded by the 2014 EP, Alive in Golgotha (review here) — as “Breathe,” “Strangers on the Road” and the apex of the closing title-track demonstrate, but although the band’s approach has always been multifaceted, it’s more mature here, and from the initial rush of opener “No Explanations Necessary” through the thrashing turns of “Reset the Wave,” there is a corresponding sense of Lord holding the reins on their own style, which is something they haven’t done before to such a degree. It would be hard to argue they don’t still let loose on plenty of this material, especially the aforementioned finale, but the context for what they do has deepened to a point of being about more than an onslaught.
As a result, even as “One Step Away” rages with blown-out shouts and scorching, abrasive synth squeals, it maintains a sense of forward direction pushing into its mid-paced bridge. Likewise, at Awake‘s open, Lord shift from gallop into a bigger-sounding slowdown that brings forward the vocal arrangements that become such a key element of their still-plenty-unhinged atmosphere throughout. With Rivera and Weurhmann behind Kerchner — whose already varied approach switches at a measure’s notice between an echoing croon, howls, screams and growls — the band explores a depth of layering that Alive in Golgotha and Chief, in hindsight, set in motion, but that Lord in their current incarnation make a calling card with these songs. As “Breathe” lays down highlight basslines from Dugay and a circular rhythmic pattern that borders on exhausting in its thrust, screams are patterned and interwoven so that the affect is even more chaotic. They’ve always been at home in a tempest.
“Breathe” offers one, and they follow-it with the strumming Southern ritualizing of “Great Communicator,” airy and unplugged, layers of vocals building as it moves through, holding back drums initially but unable to resist topping out with an electrified solo near the end, capping a fluid linear build that’s been playing out all along, one piece added to another to another. Interesting that Lord sandwich “Great Communicator” between “Breathe” and “Strangers on the Road,” which follows, since those two are arguably their most raucous inclusions here, but if their point is to make a contrast, they most definitely succeed, “Great Communicator” ending on fading echoes and drums and “Strangers on the Road” picking up with immediate growling guitars, stomping drums and an engulfing sprint into double-kick, death growls and two minutes of unrelenting intensity.
“Strangers on the Road” pulls back on the throttle somewhat as it moves through its midsection, but it’s a temporary shift, building back through a screamed-over solo toward the initial riotousness, which ends with a howl from Kerchner that bleeds right into “One Step Away,” the screams for which are backed by melodic echoing vocals for greater atmospheric presence. The threat is plain enough in the song’s title, but “One Step Away” never feels like it’s chestbeating or playing to anything other than its own mania in its early going, which settles into an exhale of chug in its second half, builds up again and finally seems to resign itself to a series of slowing crashes. Riding a more straightforward groove, “Reset the Wave” starts with a similar interplay of clean and harsh vocals, but establishes its own personality in its coinciding restraint and sludgy aggression. By the time they get around to the solo, Lord are thrashing again, and they meet that with sped-up viciousness, but the first half of the track seems to be setting the stage for that later aggression, various sides of the band being crashed against each other in a way that both works sonically and emphasizes the volatility that is very much still at the heart of what they do.
I don’t think there’s a point on Awake that brings that as much to light as “Awake” itself. The longest inclusion at 7:49 and the last statement, it takes all the madness preceding and seems to sing-along to itself in its first verses before turning through movements of guitar, manipulated vocals, screams, chug and churn, emerging momentarily from this tornado of its own making only to be drawn back in and upward toward some unknown but horrifying oblivion of nod, death growls, squibblies and crash, until finally the drums are the last remaining piece as everything else rumbles out and it seems like they’re still ready to run. The tension Lord work to their advantage throughout Awake works in very much the same way, and while this may be a more mature presentation from the band than even Alive in Golgotha showed, the fact that they can control their sound at all only highlights how underrated they are. No bowing to trend, no compromising vision, no stopping their progress. We may only get a new Lord record every four or five years, but that’s all the more reason to treasure them when they do show up.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Richmond doom forerunners Windhand released their third album, Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here), last fall via Relapse, and thereby continued the steamroller momentum they’ve had going for the last several years thanks to near-constant touring and a massive response to their studio output. It seems this summer will take them back to Europe, as they’ve been confirmed for Freak Valley 2016 in Netphen, Germany, and I’d imagine that will be one of many dates on a tour, since it’s Windhand and that’s kind of how they do. Haven’t seen a full announcement of that yet, but will keep an eye out.
Until then, the fest unveiled this badass poster by Mr. Frumpy (also of Seedy Jeezus) and confirmed their taking part thusly:
WINDHAND are one of the best psychedelic, monolithic and heavy doom bands around. That’s why they will play FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2016 !!
For a band who traffic in measured, unhurried riffage, Richmond’s Windhand have moved awfully quickly over the last few years. Founded in 2009, the VA quintet have been making waves since the release of their 2010 practice space demo, a two-track CD that garnered the band comparisons to artists like Electric Wizard, The Devil’s Blood, and Black Sabbath.
Take your time for Windhand and let them hypnotize you with their trippy, drawn-out and repetitive riffs deeply drenched in fuzz.
WINDHAND released their third full-length, Grief’s Infernal Flower, in 2015, a multifaceted slab of thundering stoner doom that Noisey has called “doom metal’s most anticipated album of the year.” It is massive, heavy, and personal, a modern testament to the power of doom and stoner metal’s legacies.
Frontwoman Dorthia Cottrell firmly establishes herself as one of the best vocalists of the genre by perfectly balancing beauty with enormous power, 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.
FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2016: No Fillers – Just Killers Line-up 2016: GRAVEYARD [SW] – Vintage Rock ORANGE GOBLIN [UK] – Heavy Metal DEAD MEADOW [US] – Psychedelic Stonerrock WINDHAND [US] – Soner/Doom Metal SPIDERGAWD [NO] – Post-Boogie WHITE HILLS [US] – Fuzzed Out Motorik Psychedelic THE SHRINE [US] – Psychedelic Violence Rock and Roll BABY WOODROSE [DK]- Psychedelic Garagerock LONELY KAMEL [NO]- Heavy Blues, Hardrock & Stoner ROTOR [D] – Instrumental StonerRock/Psychedelic MONOLORD [SW] – Doom/Sludge MANTAR [D] – Death Metal Doom Punk TOUNDRA [SP] – Postrock FARFLUNG [US] – Spacerock for 21st Century Heads BLACK RAINBOWS [IT] – Heavy Psych THE GOLDEN GRASS [US]- Heavy/Funk//Psych/Freakbeat SPIDERS [SW] – Hard/Glam Rock LÉ BETRE [SW] – Bluesy Hardrock GIÖBIA [IT] – Acid Rock THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES [NO] – HeavyBluesRock THE SONIC DAWN [DK] – Psychedelic Rock JEREMY IRONS & THE RATGANG MALIBUS [SW] – Space Rock/Stoner/Psychedelic GOMER PYLE [NL] – Psychedelic/Rock/Stonerrock BUSHFIRE [D] – Heavy Blues Rock
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Virginian sludgecrushers Helgamite have released their second album, Hypnogogia. The six-track outing is available now to stream and download, and with three songs per side and each side given an extended finale — not to mention the artwork — it seems like vinyl is more likely than not in mind for the Rileyville four-piece. No word on when that might happen, but Lost Apparition Records has Hypnogogia out on CD now, so there’s already a physical pressing in the books. To support, Helgamite will hit the road for a few shows, heading north to Massachusetts to meet up with Faces of Bayon and pairing elsewhere with Occultation, Akris and The Medusa.
The band sent the following down the PR wire:
Today Helgamite announces the arrival of their second full length album ‘Hynagogia’. This album has been a long time coming. The musical journey that you take listening to this is one of bright and heady anticipation. No two songs are alike, no two moods the same. So many layers…put your headphones on, light up your jay and close your eyes…this will make your heart race while you sink into your chair.
The band pulls inspiration from many musical genres, including metal, jazz, experimental noise and psychedelia.
Helgamite is traveling in April to Massachusetts to share the stage with Faces of Bayon, Conclave and Makavrah at the Middle East Upstairs. Other shows they have on the docket are April 2nd at WindUp Space in Baltimore-MD (w/ Occultation, Zud, Momes and Seasick Gladiator), May 20th at The Ante Room in C-ville-VA (w/ The Medusa, Congenial Crime and Heavy Burner), April 13th at The Golden Pony in Harrisonburg-VA (w/ Akris and Rhin) and other highly motivated shows soon to be announced.
‘Hynagogia’ is available for digital purchase and download at Bandcamp, for physical purchase through the bands’ website (helgamite.com)or through LostApparitions.com.
Casey Firkin – guitar, sax Jonah Butler – drums William Breeden – vocals, kaos Matthew Beahm – bass
‘Hypnagogia’ was recorded at Summit Sound Recordings. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Trey Richards. Produced by Trey Richards and Helgamite. Released through Lost Apparitions Records.