Vincebus Eruptum No. 20: Voices on the Edge

Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

vincebus eruptum 20

It’s always a good day when a new issue of Italian ‘zine Vincebus Eruptum shows up. My fandom of the long-running print mag should be well known to anyone who’s been stopping by this site for a while, and Editor Davide “Davidew” Pansolin and the staff under him continue to deliver top quality work with Vincebus Eruptum no. 20, the latest issue. Pressed up with cover art by Kabuto that brings to mind Jawas, the speeder bike that Rey had in The Force Awakens and the cover of the Southern Lord version of Sleep‘s Dopesmoker — all of which is certainly cool by me — the actual physical size of the thing never tells the story of the scope within, as Vincebus Eruptum continues to cover highlights from the international underground in psychedelia, heavy rock, doom, fuzz, garage and more.

Last time aroundVincebus Eruptum took a kind of educational turn and in the midst of a feature about The Linus Pauling Quartet — whose latest album, Ampalanche (review here), was released on Vincebus Eruptum Recordings, the ‘zine’s label arm — gave background on a swath of players and acts from the Texas noise/weirdo rock scene of the 1990s. Cool idea, and Pansolin has clearly decided to run with it. While Vincebus Eruptum no. 20 has fewer interviews than did the prior issue, it makes up for that with two vincebus-eruptum-20-full-artspecially-themed features — one on Maryland doom and another on Ireland’s heavy scene. The scope of Maryland doom, of course, is massive. It spans decades and there are so many players involved that to list them all would leave no room in the issue for anything else, but Klaus Kleinowski does well in finding the balance between narrative and detail, and though he speaks from the perspective of someone out of the region, his knowledge comes through clearly and is information worth seeking for anyone who thinks they know that scene or who’d like to know it.

I like to consider myself pretty familiar with Maryland doom, so after digging that piece, I shifted right over to “Emerald Haze: A Brief History of Irish Fuzz” by Sid Daly and Matt Casciani, which gives a similar, if shorter, treatment to the Irish underground, dedicating space to letting Iona Death Cult bassist Ste O’Connor and Mount Soma bassist Conrad Coyle — both Dublin natives — run down lists and descriptions of their favorite countryman heavy albums. Yes, Slomatics make the cut, amid names like Electric TaurusWild RocketWeed PriestAstralnautVenus Sleeps and Triggerman. Reading Vincebus Eruptum is always a bit like getting a homework assignment of stuff to check out — in a good way; I was never much for doing homework — and to have them go to experts directly to pick out bands for their readers is a shift in approach that I hope they continue. I’d love to see a piece on the boom in the Ukraine rock scene, for example, or to get their perspective on the West Coast of the US’ surge in heavy psych of the last several years. There’s an entire planet to cover, since ‘heavy’ exists just about everywhere.

From there, time to dig into the interviews. Leading off are Kevin Starrs of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Gianmarco Iantaffi of Void Generator — Vincebus Eruptum, as ever, bringing Italian bands to the fore — and both have plenty to talk about. New Void Generator is reportedly in progress, and Starrs talks about some of his favorite Italian film noir directors, vincebus-eruptum-20-issuethe Giallo set, which inspired the band’s 2015 fourth album, The Night Creeper (review here). There are also chats with Abbot and Domovoyd, two Finnish bands with very different takes between them — Abbot leaning toward classic prog/heavy and Domovoyd blending psychedelia and black metal — but who nonetheless share an adventurousness of spirit and songwriting that serve them well. Top it off with a feature looking at Fruits de Mer Records‘ catalog, the usual batch of worldwide reviews — Goatsnake and Snail alongside Nightslug and Bretus, among many more — and it’s another jam-packed installment from Vincebus Eruptum, which if I haven’t gotten the point across by now should be essential reading for novices and lifer experts alike when it comes to all manner of things weighted in tone.

Vincebus Eruptum Recordings has an upcoming release by Sendelica called I’ll Walk with the Stars for You, and as Pansolin notes in his editorial, he’s also opened a physical venue (300 capacity) where bands can play. Congratulations to him on that — way to live the dream — and here’s looking forward to the next Vincebus Eruptum, to which in the same breath he once again doubles-down on his commitment. I can’t wait to see what the associazione culturale does next.

Vincebus Eruptum website

Vincebus Eruptum store

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Last Licks 2014: Nate Hall, Nocturnal Poisoning, Snailking, Godmaker, Void Generator, The Mound Builders, Mother Kasabian, Deep Space Destructors, Underdogs and Human Services

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Happy to report that I survived the first day of this project. Spirits are good and I look at the stack of discs (plus one book; we’ll get there) in front of me and feel relatively confident that by the time I’m through it, my cerebral cortex will still manage to function in the limited way it usually does. If yesterday’s installment is anything to go by, however, I’ll be well out of adjectives by then. What’s another word for “heavy?”

There’s only one way to find out. These will be reviews 11-20 of the total 50. I don’t know if they say the first 10 are the hardest or the last, but I’ll be in the thick of it when this is posted and while I’m sure I probably could turn back and catch minimal if any flack for it — one “Hey wha happen?” on Thee Facebooks seems likely penance — better to just keep going. Another stack awaits tomorrow, after all.

Thanks in advance to anyone reading:

Nate Hall, Electric Vacuum Roar

nate hall electric vacuum roar

Electric Vacuum Roar is one of two Nate Hall physical releases from this fall. The U.S. Christmas frontman and solo performer also has a few digital odds and ends and Fear of Falling, on which he partners with a rhythm section. Released by Heart and Crossbone Records and Domestic Genocide, Electric Vacuum Roar is closer to a solo affair. Hall is joined by Caustic Resin’s Brett Netson on guitar/bass on two extended tracks: “Dance of the Prophet” (16:46) and “Long Howling Decline/People Fall Down” (11:57). The second part of the latter is a reinterpretation of a Caustic Resin song, though here it is droned out and put through a portal of drumless and inward-looking psychedelia, turned into the finale of a communicative and intimate affair. Amp noise and effects swirl around “Dance of the Prophet,” and it’s easy to get lost in it, but Hall maintains a steady presence of obscure vocals and the result is what tribal might be if tribes were comprised of one person.

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Heart and Crossbone Records

Nocturnal Poisoning, Doomgrass

nocturnal poisoning doomgrass

I’ve never tried to break up a one-man band, but I can’t imagine Scott Conner – who helped pave the way for US black metal under the moniker Malefic in Xasthur – has had an easy time of it since he put that band to bed in 2010. Nocturnal Poisoning, whose Doomgass arrives via The End Records, is an entirely different beast. Centered around layers folkish acoustic guitar, cleanly produced backed by occasional bass and tambourine, Doomgrass is still depressive at its core – Robert N. contributes guest vocals, almost gothic in style, to songs like “Starstruck by Garbage” and “Illusion of Worth” – but if the name is a portmanteau of doom and bluegrass, it fits the style. If anything ties Nocturnal Poisoning to Xasthur aside from Conner’s involvement, it’s a focus on atmosphere, but the two ultimately have little in common otherwise, and Nocturnal Poisoning’s exploratory feel is refreshingly individualized and leaves one wondering if Conner will be able to resist the full-band-sound impulse going forward.

Nocturnal Poisoning on Thee Facebooks

Doomgrass at The End Records

Snailking, Storm

snailking storm

Though they’re decidedly post-metal in their influences – Neurosis, YOB, obviously Ufomammut for whose record they are named – Sweden’s Snailking keep to heavy rock tones on their Consouling Sounds debut full-length, Storm, and that greatly bolsters the album’s personality. Even as they lumber, the riffs of 11-minute opener “To Wander” are fuzzed-out, and that remains true throughout the five mostly-extended cuts the trio of drummer Olle Svahn, bassist Frans Levin and guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson present on their first record, which follows the 2012 demo, Samsara (review here). Centerpiece “Slithering” is the shortest and most churning of the bunch at 6:32, but the particularly YOBian “Requiem” underscores another value greatly working in Storm’s favor – the patience with which Snailking present the ambience of their pieces. That will serve them well as they continue to distinguish themselves from their forebears, but for now, Storm makes a welcome opening salvo from the three-piece highlighting both their potential and how far they’ve come already since the release of their demo.

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Consouling Sounds

Godmaker, Godmaker

godmaker godmaker

The self-titled debut from thoroughly-bearded Brooklynite four-piece Godmaker arrives via Aqualamb as an art-book and download, a full 96 pages of designs, lyrics to the four included tracks of the vinyl-ready 32-minute long-player, live shots from a variety of sources, bizarre geometry and odd etchings feeding the atmosphere of the songs themselves, somewhere between sludge, thrash and aggressive noise with scream-topped moments of doom like “Shallow Points.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross and Chris Strait, bassist Andrew Archey and drummer Jon Lane, Godmaker fluidly shifts between the various styles at work in their sound, whether it’s the explosion at the end of “Shallow Points” or that beginning the rush of opener “Megalith,” and while their self-titled is a dense listen, with the surprising post-hardcore take of “Desk Murder” and the check-out-this-badass-riff-now-we’re-going-to-smash-your-face-with-it 11-minute metallic closer “Faded Glory,” it efficiently satisfies. More so after a couple listens front to back. If Godmaker were breaking your bones, it would be a clean break, and yes, that’s a compliment to their attack.

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Aqualamb

Void Generator, Supersound

void generator supersound

Supersound is the first full-length from Italian heavy psych rockers Void Generator since 2010’s Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (review here), and where that album held three extended pieces, the latest and third overall breaks into smaller pieces. Some of those are extended – opener “Behind My Door” is 8:09 and “Master of the Skies” tops nine minutes – but the bulk of Supersound’s seven tracks is shorter works somewhere between desert rock and classic psych, guitarist Gianmarco Iantaffi leading the four-piece with a  more subdued vocal approach than last time out, compressed even in the rowdier verses of “What are You Doin’” (written by Sandro Chiesa), on which the keys of Enrico Cosimi feature heavily and add to the sound too crisp to be totally retro but still vehemently organic. Bassist Sonia Caporossi (also acoustic guitar on penultimate interlude “Universal Winter”) and drummer Marco Cenci hold together the fluid grooves as Void Generator follows these varied impulses, and Supersound proves cohesive and no less broadly scoped than its predecessor.

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Phonosphera Records

The Mound Builders, Wabash War Machine

the mound builders wabash war machine

There’s a version of The Mound Builders’ 17-minute Wabash War Machine EP from Failure Records and Tapes that includes a comic book, but even the regular sleeve CD edition gives a glimpse at the Lafayette, Indiana, five-piece’s heavy Southern metal push. The middle two of the four inclusions, “Sport of Crows” and “Bar Room Queen,” surfaced earlier this year on a split tape with Bo Jackson 5 (review here), but opener “Wabash War Machine” and the sludged-up closer “The Mound” on which the guitars of Brian Boszor and “Ninja” Nate Malher phase between channels and vocalist Jim Voelz delivers his harshest performance to date, are brand new, albeit recorded at the same sessions in July 2013. “Wabash War Machine” highlights the band’s blend of southern metal and heavy groove, guitar intricacy and a gang-shout chorus meeting thick rollout from bassist Robert Ryan Strawsma and drummer Jason “Dinger” Brookhart, but it’s the finale that’s the EP’s most lasting impression, as pummeling as The Mound Builders have gotten to date.

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Failure Records and Tapes

Mother Kasabian, Mother Kasabian

mother kasabian mother kasabian

In Olof’s buzzsaw guitar tone, the thud of Karl’s drums and Gidon’s abiding vocal menace, “Strike of the Emperor” gives notice of some Celtic Frost influence, but that’s hardly the whole tale when it comes Stockholm trio Mother Kasabian’s self-titled, self-released debut EP, as “The Black Satanic Witch of Saturn” immediately calls to mind The Doors in its minimal, spacious verse and offsets this with a soulful classic heavy rock chorus en route to the seven-minute “Close of Kaddish,” which works in a similar pattern – hitting notes of Trouble-style doom in its crescendos – and offers Mother Kasabian’s widest ranging moment ahead of the swaggering closer “The Return of the Mighty King and His Cosmic Elephants.” Swinging drums and variety in Gidon’s The Crazy World of Arthur Brown-style approach give the EP a distinguished feel despite raw production and it being Mother Kasabian’s first outing, and with the psych touches in the finale and a generally unhinged vibe throughout, the trio showcase considerable potential at work.

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Mother Kasabian on Bandcamp

Deep Space Destructors, III

deep space destructors iii

Active since 2011 and with two prior full-lengths – 2012’s I (review here) and 2013’s II (review here) – under their belt, Oulu, Finland, heavy psych trio Deep Space Destructors offer their definitive stylistic statement in the wash of III, a five-song/45-minute cosmic excursion with progressive krautrock edge (see “Spaceship Earth”) driven into heavier territory through dense fuzz in guitarist Petri Lassila’s tone and the chemistry between he, vocalist/bassist Jani Pitkänen and drummer Markus Pitkänen. Their extended but plotted jammy course finds culmination in the 15-minute penultimate cut “An Ode to Indifferent Universe,” – King Crimson and Floyd laced together by synth sounds – but the space-rock thrust of closer “Ikuinen Alku” highlights the multifaceted approach Deep Space Destructors have developed since their inception, consistently psychedelic but expansive. The sides gel effectively on “Cosmic Burial,” lending modern crash and tonal heft to classic ideals to craft something new from them in admirable form. As far out as they’ve gone, Deep Space Destructors still seem to be exploring new ground.

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Deep Space Destructors on Bandcamp

Underdogs, Underdogs

underdogs underdogs

Released as a cooperative production between Garage Records and Go Down Records, Italian trio Underdogs’ second, self-titled LP pushes further along the straight-lined course of heavy rock their 2007 debut, Ready to Burn, and 2011’s Revolution Love (review here) charted. Songs like “Nothing but the Best” strip away the Queens of the Stone Age-style fuzz of past outings in favor of a cleaner tone and overall feel, and while that spirit shows up later on side B’s “Called Play” and the rumbling grunge of “My Favourite Game” (a cover of The Cardigans), the prevailing vibe speaks to European commercial viability with clear hooks and straightforward structures. Acoustic finale “The Closing Song” offers a last-minute shift in style, calling to mind UnderdogsDogs without Plugs digital release, but even in more barebones form, the songwriting remains the focus on this mature third offering from a three-piece who’ve clearly figured out the direction in which they want to head and have set about developing an audience-friendly sound.

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Go Down Records

Human Services, Animal Fires

human services animal fires

Since they issued their self-titled debut (review here) in 2012, Virginia’s Human Services have brought aboard Steve Kerchner of Lord, and he brings as much a sense of chaos to Animal Fires as one might expect in teaming with Jeff Liscombe, Sean Sanford, Don Piffalo and Billy Kurilko, though the 59-minute full-length isn’t without its structure. Longer songs pair with concise noise experiments throughout the first 10 of the total 13 tracks, and each is different, so that even as the gap between songs is bridged, the stylistic basis for Animal Fires is branched out. The result is that by the time “Onyedinci Yil Sürüsü” closes out the album proper before the 17-minute live inclusion “No Structures in the Eye of the Jungle” hits, Human Services have reimagined the modus of Godflesh as an extremity of organic noisemaking, Southern heavy and eerie progressivism. Shades of Neurosis show up in centerpiece “Rats of a Feather,” but they too are twisted to suit the band’s creative purposes, threatening and engagingly bleak.

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Human Services on Bandcamp

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Totem Psych Fest 2014 Set for July 25-27 in Italy

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The inaugural Totem Psych Fest will take place July 25-27, 2014, at a castle located about an hour outside of Rome. Yup, a castle, and yup, Ufomammut are playing. So are Church of Misery. At a castle. They’re playing a castle. On the same bill. At a castle. Nik Turner from Hawkwind will be there too.

Euro fest culture, you’ve done it again. Kudos to Gabriele Fiori from Black Rainbows and Heavy Psych Sounds, which will present the festival. In addition to the aforementioned and Blues Pills, the lineup also includes a host of Italy’s best in heavy rock, from Isaak to Void Generator, Morkobot, OJM and The Wisdoom.

There you have it. For anyone lucky enough to have even the faintest chance of going, tickets are on sale now:

***TOTEM PSYCH FEST***

Heavy Psych Sounds, present the first edition of the TOTEM PSYCH FEST.

This exclusive festival is located one hour north-east of Rome, in the small village of Roccasinibalda. It takes place in the courtyard, gardens and underground cellar of a large, scorpion-shaped castle dating back to the 10th century.

About 25 bands – ranging from heavy psychedelic to space rock, sludge doom, stoner, acid rock, hard blues and one-man bands – will be playing live.

Given the capacity of the location, tickets are very limited: it is possible to purchase 3-day passes or single day tickets. Along the castle there will be shows, food stands and many other events. There will also be free camping, and over the next days a list of all the hotels and holiday-farms located close to the castle will be published on the website.

NIK TURNER SPACE GIPSY (EX Hawkwind)
BLUES PILLS
ZU
BALLETTO DI BRONZO
UFOMAMMUT
CHURCH OF MISERY
BLACK RAINBOWS
LENTO
OJM
OVO
MORKOBOT
TONS
SONIC JESUS
ISAAK
SMALL JACKETS
GIOBIA
IN ZAIRE
THE BLUES AGAINST YOUTH
DA CAPTAIN TRIPS
APE SKULL
THE WISDOOM
SPOOKY MAN
VOID GENERATOR
L’IRA DEL BACCANO

http://www.totempsychfest.com/tickets.htm
www.totempsychfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/totempsych.fest
https://www.facebook.com/events/682287335171446/

Ufomammut, Live in Belgium, April 25, 2013

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Void Generator: Grounded in Space

Posted in Reviews on August 31st, 2010 by JJ Koczan

If the quizzical title Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic presents a twist for your brain (do they mean “phantom” as a verb, like you could turn Hell into a ghost of some kind?), then that’s just the beginning of the puzzles Italian trio Void Generator have to offer on their third release. Following a 2004 self-titled EP and 2006’s We Have Found the Space, Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (Phonosphera Records) is four tracks and well over an hour of anti-gravitational psychedelic rock, the finest attribute of which might be its timing. The Roman four-piece (five if you count Bob the Rich on “accumulation,” which I think means “recording”) have an impeccable sense of when to rock and when to space out.

To wit, the memorable Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic opener, “Message from the Galactic Federation,” which manages to work both a catchy chorus and hyper-extended airy parts into its 15:14 length. My first time through, I waited the full three-plus minutes (not an unreasonable amount of time given the scale of the song) for the vocals to come on and ruin it, but guitarist Gianmarco Iantaffi didn’t disappoint, his delivery maintaining a balance between rough rock and melodic crooning that’s got just enough effects behind it to cut through the guitars, synth, bass and drums. Vocals aside, what sets Void Generator apart from the space rock hordes seems to be their willingness to rein in their jams, to bring them back to the songs, and where many bands seem to plow through their verses and choruses like they’re punching a clock waiting to get to the 10-minute go-nowhere jam – not always a bad thing, mind you – Void Generator remember they’re writing songs here, not just showing off or screwing around. “Message from the Galactic Federation” repeats parts at just the right times, and manages to remain what political pundits call “on point” for its duration. No small achievement.

If the opener sets the bar high, though, the rest of Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic delivers on its promise. The shortest track on the album, a mere 13:04, is “The Morning.” It’s more open-ended feeling than was the opener, but it’s also a show-off point for the rhythm section. Bassist Sonia Caporossi and drummer Marco Cenci (who plays on the latter tracks, while Marco Ricci played on the first) carry most the song, leaving Iantaffi and synth-specialist Cristiano Lodi to add flourishes and contribute to the gradual build, which they do in subtle, confident fashion. Toward the song’s end, Lodi’s work becomes especially apparent, and adds a soft melody to the driving rock behind it in the mix. As a setup for the ostensibly “final” cut, the wonderfully-named 18:12 overture, “The Eternaut,” it works immaculately and with considerable flow.

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Where to Start: The Sounds of Italy

Posted in Where to Start on August 19th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been to Italy once in my life, for my honeymoon early in 2005, arguably the height of anti-American sentiment in Europe. Nonetheless, The Patient Mrs. and I basked in the glory of the Trevi Fountain above and many other of Rome‘s famous artifacts and tourism highlights. It was a beautiful country that I could have easily spent a lifetime getting to know.

This Where to Start comes by request, and I’ll confess to being no expert on the Italian scene, such as it is. Unlike Sweden, which has been a hotbed for heavy rock decades running, Italy doesn’t have the reputation of producing a killer desert or psych scene in particular, but what it does have as a diverse array of individual acts whose contributions to their respective subgenres has been considerable.

Through labels like Black Widow and Beard of Stars (both of which sign international as well as domestic Italian bands), Italy has had a slew of killer bands over the years. Here’s but a sampling to which I hope you’ll add in the comments section. Artists and albums to start with:

Paul Chain, Park of Reason: I started with Whited Sepulchres and it was a mistake. Paul Chain‘s catalog is intimidatingly huge, as it runs from his time in Death SS in the early-’80s to now in Translate, but if you stick with his solo stuff and Paul Chain Violet Theatre, you should be alright.

Ufomammut, Eve: These guys might be the best drone metal act on the planet right now. To put it simply: their doom is bigger than your doom. Most people will tell you start with 2004’s Snailking, and if you buy vinyl, they’re right, but it can be pricey on CD, so I went with the latest, Eve, instead. Either way you win.

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