Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from Lluís Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III: Mos Generator, The Atomic Bitchwax, Isaak, Glowsun, Komatsu, Void of Sleep & Black Bone Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Based for the first time in Parma, Italy — the two prior editions had been held in Rome — Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III has announced a massive round of bands newly joined the proceedings, set for Oct. 28 and 29. The names have trickled out over the last couple weeks, but it seems a roundup is in order, considerable as the names are. In addition to The Atomic Bitchwax, who’ll be on the road with Pentagram at the time, and Fatso Jetson, whose slot was previously announced as part of their Heavy Psych Sounds-sponsored Italian tour, the likes of Mos GeneratorGlowsunIsaakKomatsuVoid of Sleep and Black Bone have joined on.

I’d expect that means Mos Generator are about to announce a European tour, but I don’t think they’ve done so yet. They’ll head abroad supporting their new album, the excellent Abyssinia (review here), while hopefully Fatso Jetson‘s upcoming LP will be out by then as well. More on that if/when I hear it.

I’ve noted more than a handful of times how crowded the European festival circuit is for this fall, but Heavy Psych Sounds continues to put Italy on the map for heavy rock, its reach extended both domestically and internationally more than ever before, as you can see:

heavy psych sounds fest vol iii new poster

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3 with Atomic Bitchwax, Fatso Jetson, Mos Generator, Giobia, Glowsun, Isaak….

Here to announce the HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3.

The Festival will take place in Parma, Italy at Mu Club, 90 minutes down Milan or 45 minutes up Bologna, both are the good spot to arrive with airplane. The shows will be divided between 2 stages.

***Friday 28 October ticket 15 euro
**Saturday 29 October ticket 15 euro

*2 days ticket 25 euro only available at http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/fest/

Line Up:
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX
FATSO JETSON
MOS GENERATOR
GLOWSUN
GIöBIA
ISAAK
FUZZ ORCHESTRA
DUEL
DEVILLE
KOMATSU
VOID OF SLEEP
BLACK BONE
……….More bands Tba…..

Artwork by Solo Macello.

WWW.HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS.COM

MU CLUB:
www.muparma.club

www.heavypsychsounds.com/fest
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
https://twitter.com/heavypsychsound
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Mos Generator, “Outlander” from Songs for the Firmament

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Void of Sleep and Three Eyes Left Touring Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Italian outfits Void of Sleep and Three Eyes Left have paired up and will tour together early in March. The two acts are both supporting 2015 releases — for Three Eyes Left, their second album, Asmodeus, on Go Down Records; for Void of Sleep, their own sophomore LP, New World Order (review here), on Aural Music — and the four-night run is sponsored by both labels. With Void of Sleep‘s take on progressive metal and Three Eyes Left‘s doomy brew, it should make for a heavy pairing as they make their way through Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Switzerland, heralding both records and covering a good bit of ground as they go.

Dates and other info follow here, as seen on the social medias:

void of sleep three eyes left tour

Lords of the Occult Vol.I – Void of Sleep – Three Eyes Left

Aural Music and Go Down Records proudly present: LORDS OF THE OCCULT VOL.I

Void of Sleep and Three Eyes Left will play four exclusive gigs in Europe the first week of March, four cities, four contry. Void Of Sleep presents their new opus “New World Order”, an album of progressive occul metal that was included in many 2015’s best albums charts. Three Eyes Left will show you the power of “Asmodeus”, their last album, a great example of occult-inspired doom. You will enter in the deep and obscure doom without a way out. Don’t lose you chance to see you facing a real wall of sound.

THREE EYES LEFT are an Heavy psych doom band from Italy under GODOWN RECORDS, hailing from Bologna (IT). Started in 2004, becoming fastly a breath of fresh air in the heavy psich-doom genre. After a demo and two Ep releases, TEL were reached by GO DOWN RECORDS, on of the most valued heavy-rock label in Italy. Now releasing their second full length ASMODEUS.

These are the places:
-2/3 Viper Room Vienna (Wien, Austria)
-3/3 Sb?rné suroviny (Prague, Czech Republic)
-4/3 Devils Place Rockclub Saarbrücken (Saarbrucken, Germany)
-5/3 Das O (Spiez, Switzerland)

https://www.facebook.com/events/913744212054548/
www.facebook.com/voidofsleep
www.youtube.com/user/voidofsleep
www.facebook.com/3eyesleft
www.auralmusic.com
www.auralwebstore.com
www.godownrecords.com

Void of Sleep, “Hidden Revelations” from New World Order (2015)

Three Eyes Left, Asmodeus (2015)

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Void of Sleep Premiere “Hidden Revelations” from New Album New World Order

Posted in audiObelisk on September 25th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

void of sleep

Italian outfit Void of Sleep will release their new album, New World Order, on Oct. 19 through Aural Music. It’s their second full-length behind 2013’s Tales Between Reality and Madness and arrives anchored in the rather bleak theme of a hopeless future, not so much telling about a character’s struggle against it as reveling in the futility of that struggle to start with across seven tracks/44 minutes that only become more expansive as they go. The four-piece — guitarist/vocalist Andrea “Burdo” Burdisso, guitarist/backing vocalist Marco “Gale” Galeotti, bassist Riccardo “Paso” Pasini and drummer Andrea “Allo” Allodoli — cast a broad stylistic net, varying in poise and aggression throughout, but ultimately land in a comfortable space that blends the impact of sludge riffing with the purposefulness of prog.

Split into two sides, New World Order presents its atmosphere through its theme and through the sound of the material itself — precise but not too clean. Early on, with the opening duo of “The Devil’s Conjuration” and “Hidden Revelations,” Void of Sleep show themselves to be capable of melding complex structures with resonant hooks, the melodies and shouts banding together in order to make an individual impression as “Slaves Shall Serve” takes hold leading into the side A closer “Ordo ab Chao,” which slowsvoid of sleep new world order down and spreads out earlier intensity as a precursor to some of the second half of the album’s more grandiose sensibilities. Those manifest quickly in the side B intro “Lords of Conspiracy” — one may recognize the same from which this record derives its title from Ministry‘s use of it in “N.W.O.” circa 1992 — but only get more expansive as Void of Sleep push through the title-track and into the 14-minute closer “Ending Theme.”

Compared to what follows, the first half of New World Order is more straightforward. Its choruses are hooks and it feels put together on the basis of its individual songs. Side B, on the other hand, is meant to feed right from its intro into “New World Order” and into “Ending Theme,” which also breaks into three component parts over its extended runtime. Accordingly, Void of Sleep come across as more theatrical and narrative, though many of the elements they’re using to give that vibe are similar to what they presented earlier on — tight rhythms, crisp melodies, a generally progressive ambience around what they’re touring and why they’re doing it, and so on. As such, though it doesn’t quite account for a complete summary of what New World Order has to offer, I’m thrilled today to be able to host the premiere of “Hidden Revelations” ahead of the album’s release next month.

The longest cut on side A at 6:36, it boasts a particularly engaging interplay from the two — that’s not to say “dueling” — vocalists and an aggro mood resulting that only develops and grows richer as the rest of New World Order plays out.

Please find “Hidden Revelations” on the player below, followed by info off the PR wire, and enjoy:

Italian progressive occult metal visionaries, VOID OF SLEEP, will release their sophomore full-length next month via Aural Music. Titled, New World Order, the seven track concept album and follow-up to 2013’s acclaimed Tales Between Reality And Madness long player was captured by bassist Riccardo Pasini (Ephel Duath, The Secret) at Studio73 in Ravenna, Italy and mastered by Collin Jordan (Eyehategod, Indian, Wovenhand, Voivod etc.) at The Boiler Room in Chicago, Illinois.

“New World Orderrepresents to us a new culmination of our sound,” issues of the band of their latest compositions. “Now more than ever you can call it visionary, sludgy and progressive. It’s an occult, esoteric and wicked metaphor to the modern society as we consider it: with no positive expectations of the future of this world. This album embraces the concept of evil in its purest form. Since the beginning, man has been doomed to consume and enslave and destroy his own kind in an absurd discord to the final extinction.”

New World Order comes shrouded in the arcane cover creation of Simone Bertozzi who relays of the work, “while doing it I experienced the breath of Lucifer on my back, the Illuminati around the corner and reptilians getting ready for my abduction. Coincidence? I think not.”

New World Order Track Listing:
1. The Devil’s Conjuration
2. Hidden Revelations
3. Slaves Shall Serve
4. Ordo Ab Chao
5. Lords Of Conspiracy
6. New World Order
7. Ending Theme (l. Mourn ll. Triumphant lll. Void)

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

New World Order preorders through Aural Music

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