Moon Curse, Spirit Remains: Noble Pursuits (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

moon curse spirit remains

[Please note: Click play above to stream Moon Curse’s Spirit Remains in full. It’s out Nov. 28 on Kozmik Artifactz. Thanks to the band and label for letting me host the premiere.]

When it comes to a record like Spirit Remains, one of the aspects easiest to appreciate is its honesty. Milwaukee trio Moon Curse make their intentions as plain and up-front as they possibly can over the course of their sophomore outing’s five tracks/42 minutes: They want to pummel and they want to do it with riffs. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Matt Leece, bassist/vocalist Rochelle Nason and drummer/synth-specialist Keith Stendler (as of this post, Matt Presutti, who also designed the Spirit Remains cover, may join/has joined as a second guitarist, but they are a trio on the record) issued their self-titled debut in 2012 and sold through multiple pressings both independent and through Kozmik Artifactz, which also stands behind the follow-up. Both full-lengths share largely the same mission, but Moon Curse clearly took some lessons from their debut, and these songs find them sounding massive, professional and confident in their ability to complete the task at hand, and though it has stretches that slow to an absolute crawl like that preceding the galloping finale of closer “Witches Handbook,” there’s more nuance to their approach than it might at first seem.

That fact shows itself in the vocal arrangements between Leece and Nason on “Vicious Sky,” the layered soloing on the preceding side-B opener “Lord of Memories/Spirit Remains,” the added psychedelic flourish that the tambura of Andrew Shelp (Moss Folk) lends to “Electric Veins” or even the marching pace that opener “Beneath the Waves” sets and the spaciousness of its riffing and leads. Yes, Moon Curse want to cave your head in, and with the help of the recording/mixing job Nolan Treolo does (Tony Reed mastered), they just might get there, but while heft is at the core of their purposes, it does not comprise the entirety thereof. Rather, while their nod and grooving largesse definitely puts them in the post-Sleep riff-led milieu, it’s the distinguishing elements of sonic personality throughout that provide the band’s most memorable impressions, whether that’s Leece howling upward from under the riffs of “Beneath the Waves” or the quick turns of chug in “Vicious Sky.”

As was the case when I was fortunate enough to see them play live in 2013, a major factor in driving home their plodding, stomping, running groove — whichever it might be at any given moment — is Stendler‘s drumming. At no point on the record is he putting on a clinic, technically-speaking, but from the first ride hits in the quiet intro of “Beneath the Waves” through to the rampaging toms at the apex conclusion of “Witches Handbook,” he is persistently in the right place at the right time to bolster the work of Leece and Nason and make the most of the material at hand. The album breaks into two sides, though not evenly, and both offer rolling or driving rhythms, and the fullness of sound that a seemingly persistent wash of cymbals provides is never too far from the forefront of the album’s heavier moments. Still, it is the riffs in the lead, and that is true even as “Beneath the Waves” breaks from its initial rollout to a section of layered psychedelic leads, backed by Nason‘s resonant bass tone on an extended instrumental excursion marked out by minor-key twists tossed in before the eventual return to the central verse riff and the echoing shouts that cut through it.

moon curse (Photo by Luke Mouradian)

The aforementioned tambura does much to flesh out “Electric Veins,” but a slower tempo overall adds to the spaciousness as well, and shows immediate breadth coming after “Beneath the Waves,” even if it does return to a lumber more consistent with the opener before breaking into a subdued section of crashes and watery vocals that one just knows is setting up something huge. The drums pick up their pace on returning and push past a halfway point into a short but engaging solo and the eventual return of the verse for another cycle through, trading between Om, Sleep and High on Fire influences before finding itself in a more distinct solo section and the consuming cap of its near-11-minute span and that of side A as a whole. It is a finish worthy of the weight preceding.

Its march takes a little longer to unfold, but there’s plenty of room for a hypnotic intro in the 11:26 runtime of side B opener “Lord of Memories/Spirit Remains,” which ultimately lands on a janga-janga riff for its central figure, Nason and Leece coming together on vocals as it marches past its midsection at a not-at-all hurried clip and into the already-noted solo section, which is followed by howling and crashes that finish out before what one presumes is the split between the first and second parts of its title. “Spirit Remains,” then, comprises the last two minutes of the track in a subdued acoustic break topped with quiet psychedelic vocals, wind sounds or manipulated amp noise taking hold near the end as a ringing bell marks the transition into the feedback-soaked opening of “Vicious Sky,” which is the shortest song on Spirit Remains at 5:03 and a chugging riff that gets married with some post-Baroness shouts to engrossing effect.

Perhaps the most encouraging portion of the track is toward its finish, however, when the drums, guitars, bass and vocals all align to move into a section of washing leads and repeated nod for about the last 50 seconds or so. It seems to bring the various sides of Moon Curse‘s approach together in a way that, if it went on for another two minutes, I wouldn’t argue, but one can only fit so much on a single platter. A direct bleed brings about the quiet but tense beginning of “Witches Handbook,” which bursts open shortly after the two-minute mark for a drawling verse and goes on to recede and swell again before shifting into the galloping ending section, a touch of Morricone thrown in for good measure as Stendler‘s snare matches step with the guitar, which closes out on a solo and relative lack of fanfare as if to tease a sequel already in the making. Given the three years it took for Spirit Remains to surface after Moon Curse, I wouldn’t be surprised if one is, but either way, what the band accomplishes across these tracks is worth more than a passing glance en route to the next thing. The converted will have a deeper appreciation for its preachings, but Spirit Remains gets its point across one way or another.

Moon Curse on Thee Facebooks

Moon Curse on Bandcamp

Moon Curse at Kozmik Artifactz

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Bongzilla: Stash Deluxe and Limited LP Reissue out Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ll admit, I’m deeply interested to see what comes of the current Bongzilla reunion. Not just if the long-underappreciated Wisconsin stoner-sludgers put out another record — though certainly that too — but also what kind of response they’re able to glean from their audience as a resurgent band. I haven’t had the chance to see them live yet, but I want to know how people liking the idea of Bongzilla as the embodiment of this ultra-reefered sludge ethos translates into making them a sustainable group. One way or another, I think 2016 will be a fascinating year for them.

Today, they reissue their 1999 debut, Stash, on Hydro-Phonic Records. It is by no means the first time the band and label have worked together, Hydro-Phonic having also put out the 15th anniversary edition of Bongzilla‘s Methods for Obtaining Extreme Altitudes EP in 2013, as well as the 10th anniversary edition of their second album, Gateway, in 2012.

If you know Hydro-Phonic‘s work, then you know their packaging is always creative and something special to behold, and from the fuzzy nuggets on the cover of the test pressings to the glow-in-the-dark slipmat and foil cover on the deluxe, Stash is clearly no exception.

As it would almost have to, the sale begins at 4:20PM Eastern.

Click any of the images below to enlarge for a better look:

Bongzilla – Stash LP

BONGZILLA: Stash LP first time ever on vinyl from Hydro-Phonic Records Friday the 13th at 4:20pm EST. Versions for every budget available.

100 Deluxe Edition on Ultra Clear with glow-in-dark slip-mat, foil-stamped cover and poster….Handmade numbered Test Press with four-color “fuzzy nugs” (like black-light posters or The Scimitar Test Press you may have) in a “Cadillac” style cover… 50 made, less than 30 for sale. Also 200 Gold, 300 Black and 200 Green with purple/gold splatter! …every copy comes with some “hidden stash” as well…if you find it!

Don’t be late!

100 Deluxe on Ultra Clear wax with a glow-in-dark slipmat and poster, housed in a foil stamped cover
50 handmade “Fuzzy” test pressings
200 Green Splatter
200 Gold
300 Black

Bongzilla, Stash (1999)

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Moon Curse: New Album Spirit Remains Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


You can hear “Beneath the Waves,” the first track of Moon Curse‘s upcoming second album, Spirit Remains, below. It’s pretty fucking awesome. I’m not going to attempt to sell you on it, but if you’re into big nodding grooves, spaced out atmospheres and riffs with tectonic intentions, you’d probably be doing yourself a favor in digging in. Spirit Remains will be the follow-up to Moon Curse‘s 2012 self-titled debut, which has been through several vinyl pressings at this point. Those have been both independent and through Kozmik Artifactz, and it’s the latter label which will issue the new record later this month.

Preorders are up now, and as you can see, limited numbers and all that for the first go-round. The PR wire had it like this:


Three years after their epic self titled debut Milwaukee’s finest doom-trio ‘Moon Curse’ return stronger than ever!

On six tracks the trio shows all their trademarks with enormous power – the listener can feel the pain and blood the band undertook to create this album dripping out of the needle‘s groove. Moon Curse’s vision of doom oscillates from traditional Sabbathian riffs over lava-like electric wizard slowlyness to up-tempo grooves that high on fire could not have played better. This mixture is pure magic and will put a spell on you!

You know it! You love it! So… GET CURSED!

Recorded and engineered by Nolan Treolo
Mastered by Tony Reed
Cover art and layout by Matt Presutti.

Matt Leece: Guitars & Vocals’
Rochelle Nason: Bass & Vocals
Keith Stendler: Drums & Synths

Available as CD, MC & limited vinyl

– 166x Blue marbled White
(numbered MAILORDER
– 150x black
– 200x transparent red
– Plated & pressed on high
performance vinyl in germany
– Matt laquered 300gsm
gatefold Cover
– Special vinyl mastering

A1. Beneath the waves 7:03
A2. Electric Veins 10:56

B1. Lord of Memories /
B2. Spirit remains 11:29
B3. Vicious sky 5:04
B4. Witches’ Handbook 7:55
Moon Curse at Kozmik Artifactz

Moon Curse, Spirit Remains (2015)

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Bongzilla Announce Dec. Shows; Amerijuanican Reissue Due Nov. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

I remember listening to Bongzilla‘s Amerijuanican when it came out, and the only question I had was, “How much crustier can it possibly get?” And the answer is none. None more crusty. The Madison, Wisconsin, masters of weedian crunch riffing will reissue Amerijuanican Nov. 27 on vinyl through Relapse Records, and they’ve been playing shows sporadically through most of this year. I don’t know if they’re back together — as in, going to put out a new record — but if you’re like me and still waiting on some more Aquilonian as well, you already know holding out for new material, it might be a bit before they get around to it.

Bongzilla have announced a quick run of shows in the Midwest for next month, and that stint will follow the Amerijuanican reissue, which should sell out on the strength of their “Champagne and Reefer” cover alone if the universe has any justice. I’ll be interested to see if the label follows this one up with any other reissues. I wouldn’t mind an excuse to re-buy Apogee, but maybe that’s me.

Preorder links, info and dates below:

bongzilla tour poster

Bongzilla’s most recent full-length ‘Amerijuanican’ is being re-pressed on deluxe vinyl for the first time in ten years! You can preorder your copy of this dank Purple Kush Splatter LP exclusively via Relapse Mailorder – the reissue drops 11/27 on Relapse Records! Get it at

We’re not done yet this year. Come get elevated.

Bongzilla December 2015 Tour
12/09 Chicago IL Chop Shop
12/10 Minneapolis MN 7th St. Entry
12/11 Rock Island IL Rock Island Brew Co.
12/12 Cudahy WI The Metal Grill
12/13 Indianapolis IN 5th Quarter Lounge

First Reissue Press
1250 x Black Standard Gram
500 x Purple Kush Standard Gram *Mailorder Exclusive*
250 x Relapse 25th Anniversary Silver Standard Gram *Mailorder Exclusive*

Bongzilla’s fourth and final full-length repressed for the first time in ten years! Weed-infested stoner doom at its finest.

Bongzilla, Amerijuanican vinyl reissue trailer

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Poney Announce New Album Pagan Nouveau and Tour

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


Madison, Wisconsin, four-piece Poney are heading out on tour next month to herald the arrival of their new outing, Pagan Nouveau, which is the follow-up to 2013’s Rorschach. The run heads out from Wisconsin and hits the West Coast before turning inland again, looping back through Denver, Kansas City and the Quad Cities area in Iowa and Illinois, marking something of a return to activity for the band, whose drummer/vocalist Ben Brooks spent the last couple years with Romero.

Announcement of Pagan Nouveau and tour dates follow, as seen on the PR wire:



Poney (ex-ROMERO, Dead Hookers) is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a new full length record and a U.S. Tour starting July 8th.

Following their 2013 West Coast run in support of the well recieved “Rorschach” LP and a short jaunt to hang with Kylesa on their “Spiral Shadow” route, Poney took a break from the road to settle up with the judge and write a new full length album.

Titled “Pagan Nouveau,” Poney’s fifth album is in production, and is set to release at the end of the Summer of 2015 on vinyl. The record displays shades of Cave In, Boris, Torche, Melvins, and Baroness.

Head over to the band’s Facebook page for a full listing of tour dates as well as updates on new merchandise, and teasers for the full length film they’ll be showing as a backdrop to their live show on tour!

7/8: The dmV, Madison
7/9: Big V’s Saloon, St. Paul
7/10: VFW Post 1273, Rapid City
7/11: AstroLokiLabs, Missoula
7/12: Victory Lounge, Seattle
7/13: The Voodoo Lounge, Astoria
7/14: The Know, Portland
7/15: Golden Bull, Oakland
7/16: Hemlock Tavern, SF
7/17: TBA, Santa Barbara
7/18: TBA, San Luis Obispo
7/19: Bunkhouse, Las Vegas
7/20: 7th Circle Collective, Denver
7/21: TBA, Kansas City
7/22: Thee Death Tower, Champaign
7/23: TBA, Quad Cities

Poney, Rorsschach (2013)

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Attalla Announce East Coast Tour

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


Raw toned Wisconsin four-piece Attalla will hit the Eastern Seaboard for 15 days starting July 10. They’ll make their way out from Chicago to hit the Northeast and do a couple shows in the Mid-Atlantic before turning back through the Midwest, all in support of their 2014 self-titled debut (review here). I’d be interested to see these guys live and figure not necessarily how it stands up to the release, since one imagines it’s pretty close — it’s not like they were trying to clean it up for the record; unless, of course, they were — but what level of intensity they bring to the stage. Could be quite an experience.

A classic-style poster and the dates follow here, as sent by the band down the PR wire:

attalla tour poster

ATTALLA – East Coast Tour 2015 Dates

Very happy to share our East Coast 2015 tour dates with you!

Hailing from a state known for the invention of the electric guitar, the most notorious serial killers, long, ruthless winters and more bars than churches, ATTALLA doesn’t have to look far for inspiration. Starting in late 2012, with roots in punk and hardcore, its members applied their DIY ethos to a style of music that had fueled their earlier endeavors but had yet to be fully harnessed. Drawing influences from Black Sabbath to Black Flag, ATTALLA started writing and forming what has become their debut LP. Recorded on Halloween 2013, this record is the result of months of sonic drudgery and aural abuse. Backed by the support of their local scene, ATTALLA trudges forward, spreading their strain of rock’n’roll to future sufferers of tinnitus.

ATTALLA – East Coast Tour 2015
July 10 Chicago, IL – Liar’s Club
July 11 Fort Wayne, IN – Skeletunes Lounge
July 12 Detroit, MI – Corktown Tavern
July 13 – TBA
July 14 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
July 15 Pittsburgh, PA – Gooski’s
July 16 Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
July 17 Rochester, NY – Monty’s Krown
July 18 Wallingford, CT – Knuckleheads
July 19 Brooklyn, NY – TBA
July 20 Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
July 21 Baltimore, MD – SideBar
July 22 Richmond, VA – Emilios
July 23 Wilmington, NC – Scrap Iron Bike Shop / Bar
July 24 Louisville, KY – Magnolia Bar
July 25 St. Louis, MO – Heavy Anchor

Artwork by Smithspeed

Cody Stieg – Lead Guitar/Vocal
Brian Hinckley – Rhythm Guitar
Bryan Kunde – Bass
Aaron Kunde – Drums

More info at:
@attallawi on Instagram

Attalla, Attalla (2014)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Formes, Romero, Bellringer, Wizard Eye, Lewd Flesh and Red Mess

Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

Usually I approach doing a batch of radio adds with some trepidation — after all, I’m basically writing five (or, in this week’s case, six) short reviews — but after doing that Last Licks series last week, this honestly feels like a breeze. Perspective is everything, and to add to yours and mine, I’ve got 18 records joining The Obelisk Radio playlist this afternoon, and it’s a widely varied bunch, both in what’s written up here and the actual makeup of the stuff.

Full-lengths, EPs, splits, a live release, a single, some doom, some black metal, some heavy rock, sludge, psych, you name it. I had the radio going for a while yesterday and heard a few really satisfying changes in style. I like that and I hope you do too, because I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. Full list of adds is on the Updates and Playlist Page.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Jan. 9, 2015:

Formes, Dysphoria Part 1

formes dysphoria part 1

For an album that starts “Through this Hole” and finishes in “Dead Ends,” Formes‘ Dypsphoria Part 1 is a resoundingly progressive and diverse outing that, at its core, works primarily in playing shoegaze psych and extreme metal off each other. Somewhere between Dead Meadow and Akercocke, a song like “Dead Ends” finds a way to mesh wub-chug riffing with the crooning vocals of guitarist/bassist Steve McNamara with the responding death growls of his brother, drummer/guitarist Jordan. The UK three-piece is rounded out by Rob “The Alchemist” Hemingway, whose synths feature heavily in songs like “I am Nothing” and “Tumult,” which atmospherically expand on the ideas the opener presents, thrusting these two sides into the same place and, in defiance of what are generally thought of as the physics of genre, making it work. Formes‘ most effective moments are when they ram one into the other, as on the acoustic-to-doom-pummeling “Smile Club,” which follows quietly seething brooder “I Will Make You Ill” and rounds out with an extended whistle of harsh feedback, but I won’t discount the value they clearly place on structural variety either. Together, they make Dysphoria Part 1 as satisfying as it is unpredictable, and while I don’t know when one might expect Part 2 or just how many installments of Dysphoria there might be, I look forward to when I can next encounter the fruits of Formes‘ stylistic restlessness. Formes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Romero, Gold for the Hunt

romero gold for the hunt

Madison, Wisconsin, sludge poppers Romero made a New Year’s present out of “Gold for the Hunt” by offering the song as a free download on Jan. 1, but it’s also the first new studio material to come from the four-piece since their early 2013 full-length, Take the Potion (review here). Like that album, the single revels in a Floor/Torche influence, but seems to delight even more in its fuzzy tone and burly edge in the vocals of guitarist Jeffrey Mundt and drummer Ben Brooks. With the foundation of Patrick Hotlen‘s bass rumbling beneath, the guitar and vocals push through a tension-release chorus and into a well-layered chugging bridge that further highlights Romero‘s penchant for melodic bellowing. Guitarist/percussionist/organist Tim Consequence seems all but absent initially, but in the final movement, a sustained current of organ winds up as one of “Gold for the Hunt”‘s most distinguishing factors. Well, that and the brutal growing, anyway. Glad to hear from Romero, even in so abbreviated a manner. If you’ve never encountered them before, “Gold for the Hunt” provides a quick, efficient summary of their approach, and if you heard Take the Potion, the new song will only make you further anticipate the follow-up. Romero on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Bellringer, Bellringer EP

bellringer bellringer ep

Based in the weirdo haven of Austin, Texas, newcomer trio Bellringer — for whom this untitled/self-titled, self-released EP is the first outing — boast a familiar face (or at least a familiar cowboy hat) in guitarist/vocalist Mark Deutrom (Clown Alley, peak-era Melvins), who’s joined by bassist Corey Cottrell (ex-Megazilla) and drummer Craig Nichols (Guided by VoicesThe Breeders) on these four tracks. The sound, while adventurous stylistically and in terms of the construction of individual parts, is rooted in heavy rock, opener “Vapor Lock,” a catchy number like “Wait” and the instrumental chorus of “Von Fledermaus” reminding some that, yes, Deutrom was the bass player on Stoner Witch, but particularly in the latter an even more resonant impression comes across like Masters of Reality‘s blend of pop and heavy rock oddness. That vibe continues on the nine-minute psych-jam closer “The Burning Gift,” which brings Deutrom‘s vocals forward and works in keyboard arrangement flourish, bell sounds, string sounds and various melodic volume swells to underscore the point that, even on Bellringer‘s introduction, pretty much anything goes if it works. So be it. The world needs more experimental rock that doesn’t forget there are two sides to that equation, and Bellringer seem to come out of the gate ready to gleefully tip the scales one way or the other. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Wizard Eye, Riff Occult Live


If, like me, you’ve been itching to get a handle on some new music from Philly’s theremin-laced, golly-these-guys-need-to-get-a-new-record-out stoner doom trio Wizard EyeRiff Occult Live should do the trick. All but two of the tracks — “On the Banks of a River” and the meshed-together “Gravebreath/Say No More” — come from the riffy three-piece’s forthcoming sophomore outing, and while it’s definitely a live record, the dense fuzz and nod-ready roll that guitarist/thereminist/vocalist Erik Caplan, on-a-first-name-bassist Dave and drummer Mike Scarpone conjure wins out anyway on cuts like “Drowning Daydream” and “Flying/Falling,” Scarpone‘s kick drum a pop in the low end while Wizard Eye ooze their way through one Sabbathian jam into the next. Opener “Eye of the Deep” sets a tone for extended solos and thick groove, and Wizard Eye do not falter from that path as the set makes its way to the 11-minute final jam, each riff arriving, kicking ass, and moving on in well-purposed succession. Riff Occult Live doesn’t entirely sate the anticipation for a new album, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Lewd Flesh, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte


Marked out immediately by the echoing, over-the-top bluesy vocals of Malene Pedersen, Copenhagen heavy rockers Lewd Flesh make their Spaghetti Casetti Records debut with the Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte 7″, bringing together the two songs “Acid Rider” and “Lewd Troves” to give a professional, crisp first impression across two sides and about 11 minutes. Guitarists Nanna Braunschweig Hansen and Casper Nilsson, bassist John Madsen and drummer Jakob provide the backdrop for Pedersen‘s rocked-out vocal thrust on “Acid Rider,” and more ’90s-style cues are taken on “Lewd Troves,” the wailing guitars offering a flourish of noise influence to coincide with the band’s straightforward production. It is their first outing, and two songs, and it’s a raucous start to make, but there’s room to grow as well in Lewd Flesh‘s hammering out their balance of grunge, noise and heavy rock impulses and figuring out where to place the vocals in the mix. To the credit of both the band and the release, Op I Røven, Dø I Smerte sounds both smoothly produced and on-stage energetic, and hopefully they can keep that spirit intact as they continue to grow. Lewd Flesh on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Red Mess, Crimson EP

red mess crimson

Familiar riffs abound on Red Mess‘ debut EP, Crimson, and the Brazilian trio give due reverence to the likes of Sabbath and Goatsnake, but it’s the rougher, semi-retro presentation that draws the listener into the atmosphere created by guitarist/vocalist Thiago Franzim, bassist Lucas Klepa and drummer Douglas Labigalini over the four tracks/22 minutes. There’s something theatrical in Franzim‘s vocals to opener “Trapped in My Mind” that also give a classic Alice Cooper Band feel to the proceedings as well, and that’s really just one element of heavy ’70s worship that continues on “Hole” and the subsequent, motor-ready “Stoneage Coopers,” but they save the best for last in 5:30 closer “Through the Trees,” which offsets Graveyard-style subdued blues noodling with heavy rock thrust, a highlight performance from Klepa alongside Labigalini‘s swinging cymbal and tom work, and an engaging build throughout. They’re feeling their way through developing their sound, and that’s exciting to hear since the three-piece already has some considerable chemistry between them. Hopefully they’re able to take lessons from Crimson — named, apparently, in homage to a classic prog influence — and move forward as they discover where they want to go and how they want their songs to take them there. Red Mess on YouTube, on Bandcamp.

Had to get that sixth one in there, and not just because it frees up another space on my desktop. The idea behind doing adds like this isn’t just to remind people there’s a radio component to this site. That’s part of it, sure, but the bigger agenda here is to hopefully give you another opportunity to check out music you might dig. That’s why the audio is right there under each review. I sincerely hope something above piques your interest and that you also share it with someone you think will enjoy.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

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Last Licks 2014: The Re-Stoned, Anthroprophh, Lavagoat, Ketch, Eternal Khan, Mount Carmel, Pocket Size, Zoltan, The Garza, Dot Legacy

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.

So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?

Okay maybe not.

Thanks for reading.

The Re-Stoned, Totems

the re-stoned totems

Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks


Anthroprophh, Outside the Circle

anthroprophh outside the circle

For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.

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Rocket Recordings

Lavagoat, Weird Menace

lavagoat weird menace

Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.

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Ketch, Ketch

ketch ketch

Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.

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Ketch on Bandcamp

Eternal Khan, A Poisoned Psalm

eternal khan a poisoned psalm

Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.

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Mount Carmel, Get Pure

mount carmel get pure

Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.

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Alive Naturalsound

Pocket Size, Exposed Undercurrents

pocket size exposed undercurrents

One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.

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Pocket Size website

Zoltan, Sixty Minute Zoom

zoltan sixty minute zoom

Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.

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Cineploit Records

The Garza, The Garza

the garza the garza

Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.

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Dot Legacy, Dot Legacy

dot legacy dot legacy

Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.

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Setalight Records

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