Quarterly Review: DANG!!!, Stew, Nothing is Real, Jerky Dirt, Space Coke, Black Solstice, Dome Runner, Moonlit, The Spacelords, Scrying Stone


Day four. Fancy pants. Yesterday was the most effective writing day I’ve had in recent memory, which makes today kind of a harrowing prospect since the only real way to go after that is down. I’ve done the try-to-get-a-jump-on-it stuff, but you never really know how things are going to turn out until your head’s in it and you’re dug into two or three records. We’ll see how it goes. There’s a lot to dig into today though, in a pretty wide range of sounds, so that helps. I’ll admit there are times when it’s like, “What’s another way to say ‘dudes like to riff?'”

As if I’d need another way.

Anyhoozle, hope you find something you dig, as always. If not, still one more day tomorrow. We’ll get there. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Dang!!!, Sociopathfinder

dang sociopathfinder

It would take all the space I’ve allotted for this review to recount the full lineup involved in making DANG!!!‘s debut album, Sociopathfinder, but the powerhouse Norwegian seven-piece has former members of The Cosmic Dropouts, Gluecifer, Nashville Pussy, and Motorpsycho, among others, and Kvelertak drummer Håvard Takle Ohr, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise they get down to serious business on the record. With influences spanning decades from the ’60s-gone’90s organ-laced electro-rock of “Long Gone Misery” and the Halloween-y “Degenerate,” to the rampaging heavy rock hooks of “Manic Possessive” and “Good Intentions” and the “In the Hall of the Mountain King”-referencing closer “Eight Minutes Till Doomsday,” the 12-song/46-minute outing is a lockdown-defiant explosion of creative songwriting and collaboration, and though it features no fewer than six guitarists throughout (that includes guests), it all flows together thanks to the strength of craft, urgency of rhythm, and Geir Nilsen‘s stellar work on organ. It’s a lot to take on, but pays off any effort put in. Unless you’re a sociopath, I guess. Then you probably don’t feel it at all.

DANG!!! on Facebook

Apollon Records website


Stew, Taste

stew taste

Following up their 2019 debut, People (review here), Swedish classic-heavy trio Stew offer an efficient nine-song/38-minute excursion into ’70s/’10s-inspired boogie rock and heavy blues with Taste, balancing modern production and its own yore-born aesthetic in sharp but not overly-clean fashion. The vocal layering in the back half of opener “Heavy Wings” is a clue to the clarity underlying the band’s organic sound, and while Taste sounds fuller than did People, the bounce of “All That I Need,” the blues hooks in “Keep on Praying” and “Still Got the Time,” subtle proto-metallurgy of “New Moon” (one almost hears barking at it) and the wistful closing duo of “When the Lights Go Out” and “You Don’t Need Me” aren’t so far removed from the preceding outing as to be unrecognizable. This was a band who knew what they wanted to sound like on their first album who’ve set about refining their processes. Taste checks in nicely on that progress and shows it well underway.

Stew on Facebook

Uprising! Records website


Nothing is Real, Transmissions of the Unearthly

nothing is real transmissions of the unearthly

Are the crows I hear cawing on “Tyrant of the Unreal” actually in the song or outside my window? Does it matter? I don’t know anymore. Los Angeles-based psychological terror rock unit Nothing is Real reportedly conjured the root tracks for the 87-minute 2CD Transmissions of the Unearthly with guest drummer Jeremy Lauria over the course of two days and the subsequent Halloween release has been broken into two parts: ‘Chaos’ and ‘Order.’ Screaming blackened psychedelia haunts the former, while the latter creeps in dark, raw sludge realization, but one way or the other, the prevailing sensory onslaught is intentionally overwhelming. The slow march of “King of the Wastelands” might actually be enough to serve as proclamation, and where in another context “Sickened Samsara” would be hailed as arthouse black-metal-meets-filthy–psych-jazz, the delivery from Nothing is Real is so sincere and untamed that the horrors being explored do in fact feel real and are duly disconcerting and wickedly affecting. Bleak in a way almost entirely its own.

Nothing is Real on Facebook

Nothing is Real on Bandcamp


Jerky Dirt, Orse

Jerky Dirt Orse

After immersing the listener with the keyboard-laced opening instrumental “Alektorophobia” (fear of chickens), the third album from UK outfit Jerky Dirt, Orse, unfolds the starts and stops of “Ygor’s Lament” with a sensibility like earlier Queens of the Stone Age gone prog before moving into the melodic highlight “Orse, Part 1” and the acoustic “Eh-Iss.” By the time the centerpiece shuffler “Ozma of Oz” begins, you’re either on board or you’re not, and I am. Despite a relatively spare production, Jerky Dirt convey tonal depth effectively between the fuzz of “Ygor’s Lament” and the more spacious parts of “In Mind” that give way to larger-sounding roll, and some vocal harmonies in “The Beast” add variety in the record’s second half before the aptly-named “Smoogie Boogie” — what else to call it, really? — and progressive melody of “Orse, Part 2” close out. A minimal online presence means info on the band is sparse, it may just be one person, but the work holds up across Orse on multiple listens, complex in craft but accessible in execution.

Jerky Dirt on Bandcamp


Space Coke, Lunacy

Space Coke Lunacy

A scouring effort of weirdo horror heavy, the five-track Lunacy from South Carolina’s Space Coke isn’t short on accuracy, seemingly on any level. The swirl of nine-minute opener “Bride of Satan” is cosmic but laced with organ, underlying rumble, far-back vocals and sundry other elements that are somehow menacing. The subsequent “Alice Lilitu” is thicker-toned for at least stretches of its 13 minutes, and its organ feels goth-born as it moves past the midpoint, but the madness of a solo that ensues from there feels well cast off (or perhaps on, given the band’s moniker) the rails. Shit gets strange, people. “Frozen World” is positively reachable by comparison, though it too has its organ drama, and the ensuing “Lightmare” starts with an extended horror sample before fuzzing and humming out six minutes of obscure incantation and jamming itself into oblivion. Oh, and there’s a cover of Danzig‘s “Twist of Cain” at the end. Because obviously. Doom filtered through goth kitsch-horror VHS tape and somewhere behind you something is lurking and you don’t see it coming until it’s too late.

Space Coke on Facebook

Space Coke on Bandcamp


Black Solstice, Ember

Black Solstice Ember

Broken into two halves each given its own intro in “Intervention” and “Celestial Convoy,” respectively, the debut full-length from Stockholm’s Black Solstice brings back some familiar faces in guitarist Anders Martinsgård and drummer Peter Eklund, both formerly of Ponamero Sundown. Ember, with flourish of percussion in “Signs of Wisdom,” grunge-style harmonies in “Burned by the Sun” and just a hint of winding thrashy threat in “Firespawn,” is deeply rooted in doom metal. They count Sabbath as primary, but the 10-track/42-minute offering is more metal than stonerized riff worship, and with vocalist “Mad Magnus” Lindmark and bassist Lelle B. Falheim completing the lineup, the four-piece boast an aggressive edge and hit harder than one might initially think going in. That is no complaint, mind you. Perhaps they’re not giving themselves enough credit for the depth of their sound, but as their first long-player (following a few demos), Ember finds a niche that hints toward the familiar without going overboard in tropes. I don’t know who, but someone in this band likes Megadeth.

Black Solstice on Facebook

Ozium Records webstore


Dome Runner, Conflict State Design

Dome Runner Conflict State Design

Begun as Paleskin before a probably-for-the-best name change, Tampere, Finland’s Dome Runner offer a hard-industrial bridge between Godflesh at their angriest and earliest Fear Factory‘s mechanized chugging assault. Conflict State Design is the trio’s first full-length, and along with the stated influences, there’s some pull from sludge and noise as well, shades of Fudge Tunnel in “Unfollow” met with harsh screaming or the churning riff underscoring the explosions of synth in “The Undemonizing Process,” like roughed-up Souls at Zero-era Neurosis. With the seven-minute extreme wash of “Impure Utility of Authoritarian Power Structure” at its center, Conflict State Design harkens back to the dreary industrialism of two decades ago — it very pointedly doesn’t sound like Nine Inch Nails — but is given a forward-thinking heft and brutality to match. Amid something of an industrial revival in the heavy underground, Dome Runner‘s debut stands out. More to the point, it’s fucking awesome.

Dome Runner on Facebook

Dome Runner on Bandcamp


Moonlit, So Bless Us Now…

Moonlit So Bless us now

Varese, Italy, instrumentalist heavy post-rockers Moonlit almost can’t help but bring to mind Red Sparowes with their debut album, So Bless Us Now…, though the marching cymbals early in the 17-minute finale “And We Stood Still Until We Became, Invisible” seem to be in conversation with Om‘s meditative practice as well, and the violin on the earlier “Empty Sky/Cold Lights…” (11:25) is a distinguishing element. Still, it is a melding of heft and float across “For We Have Seen” (12:29) at the beginning of the record, more straight-ahead riffing met with a focus on atmospherics beyond conventional sense of aural weight. Each piece has its own persona, some linear, the penultimate “Shine in the Darkest Night” more experimentalist in structure and its use of samples, but the whole 55-minute listening experience is consuming, minimal in its droning finish only after creating a full wash of mindful, resonant psychedelic reach. With titles drawn from Nietzsche quotes from Thus Spake Zarathustra, there are suitably lonely stretches throughout, but even at its maddest, So Bless Us Now… holds to its stylistic purpose.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp


The Spacelords, Unknown Species

The Spacelords Unknown Species

Not to be confused with New York outfit Spacelord, the now-decade-plus-runnin German instrumental kosmiche-harvesters The Spacelords present Unknown Species across three — and I’m just being honest here — wonderful extended works, arranged from shortest to longest as “F.K.B.D.F.” (8:10), “Unknown Species” (14:53) and the initially-unplugged “Time Tunnel” (20:26) unfurl a thoughtful outbound progression that finds beauty in dark times and jams with intent that’s progressive without pretense — and, when it wants to be, substantially heavy. That’s true more of the end in “Time Tunnel” than the initial synth-laced drift of “F.K.B.D.F.,” but the solo-topped punch of the title-track/centerpiece isn’t to be understated either. In 2020, the trio released their Spaceflowers (review here) LP, as well as a documentary about their recording/writing processes, and Unknown Species pushes even further into defining just how special a band they are, gorgeously constructed and impeccably mixed as it is. Can’t and wouldn’t ask for more.

The Spacelords on Facebook

Tonzonen Records website


Scrying Stone, Scrublands

Scrying Stone Scrublands

A debut outing from Michigan-based newcomers Scrying Stone, the 29-minute Scrublands flows like an album so I’m going to consider it one until I hear otherwise. And as a first album, it sets melody and tonal density not so much against each other, but toward like purposes, and even in the instrumental “Ballad of the Hyena,” it finds cohesive ground for the two sides to exist together without contradiction and without sounding overly derivative of its modern influences. “At Our Heels” makes an engaging hello for first-time listeners, and the faster “The Marauder” later on adds a sense of dynamic at just the right moment before the fuzzy overload of “Desert Thirst” dives into deeper weedian idolatry. There’s some boogie underneath the title-track too, and as a companion to the willing-to-soar closer “Dromedary,” that unrushed rush feels purposeful, making Scrublands come across as formative in its reach — one can definitely hear where they might branch out — but righteously complete in its production and songwriting; a strong opening statement of potential for the band to make en route to what might come next.

Scrying Stone on Facebook

Scrying Stone on Bandcamp


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