Quarterly Review: Messa, Witchpit, Dirty Nips, Ocean to Burn, Mt. Echo, Earl of Hell, Slugg, Mirage, An Evening Redness, Cryptophaser


It’s been a load road, getting from there to here, and here isn’t even there yet if you know what I mean. Alas, Thursday. Day four — 4, IV, I can’t remember how I’ve been writing it out — of the Spring 2022 Quarterly Review, and it’s a doozy. These things are always packed, in fact it’s pretty much the idea, but I still find that even this week as I’m putting out 10 reviews a day — we’ll get to 60 total next Monday — I’m playing catchup with more stuff coming down the pike. It seems more and more like each Quarterly Review I’ve done out of like the last five could’ve been extended a day beyond what it already was.

Alas, Thursday. Overwhelmed? Me too.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Messa, Close

Messa close

After two LPs through Aural Music, Italy’s Messa arrive via Svart with a crucial third album in Close. The hype surrounding the record has been significant, and Close earns every bit of it across its 10-song/64-minute run, intricately arranged as the Italian four-piece continue to bridge stylistic gaps with an ease born of expansive songcraft and stunning performance, first from vocalist Sara Bianchin (also percussion) and further from guitarist Alberto Piccolo (also oud, mandolin), bassist/synthesist/vocalist Marco Zanin (also various keys and percussion), and drummer Rocco Toaldo (also harsh vocals, percussion), who together create a complete and encompassing vision of doom that borrows periodically from black metal as anything artsy invariably must, but is more notable for its command of itself. That is, Messa — through the entirety of the hour-plus — are nothing but masterful. There’s an old photo of The Beatles watching Jimi Hendrix circa 1967, seeming resigned at being utterly outclassed by the ‘next thing.’ It’s easy to imagine much of doom looking at Messa the same way.

Messa on Facebook

Svart Records website


Witchpit, The Weight of Death

witchpit the weight of death

If what goes around comes around, then don’t be surprised when “Fire & Ice” goes circle-mosh near the end and you get punched in the head. Old. School. Southern. Sludge. Metal. Dudes play it big, and mean, and grooving. Think of turn of the century acts like Alabama Thunderpussy and Beaten Back to Pure, maybe earlier Sourvein, but with a big old lumbering update in sound thanks to a Phillip Cope recording job and a ferocity of its own. They’ve got a pedigree that includes Black Skies, Manticore and Black Hand Throne, and though The Weight of Death is their first long-player, they’ve been a band for seven years and their anti-dogmatic culmination in “Mr. Miserum” feels sincere as only it can coming from the land of the Southern Baptist Church. Aggression pervades throughout, but the band aren’t necessarily monochromatic. Sometimes they’re mad, sometimes they’re pissed off. Watch out when they’re pissed off. And am I wrong for feeling nostalgic listening? Can’t be too soon for them to be retro, right? Either way, they hit it hard and that’s just fine. Everybody needs to blow off steam sometime.

Witchpit on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Dirty Nips, Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples

Dirty Nips Can o Dirty Demo Nipples

Do I even need to say it, that a band called Dirty Nips offering up a demo called Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples get up to some pretty cheeky shenanigans therein? I hope not. Still, as the Bristol-via-Poland outfit crunch out the riffs of “The Third Nipple” and harmonica-laced Hank Williams-style country blues on “As I Stumbled” and touch on psychedelic jamming in opener “The Basement” and the later experimental-feeling “Dirty Nips Pt. II,” which just drops to silence in the middle enough to make you wonder if it’s coming back (it is), there’s clearly more going on here than goofball chicanery. “Jechetki” builds on the blues and adds a grunge chug, and closer “Mountain Calling” is — dare I say it? — classy with its blend of acoustic guitar and organ, echoing spoken vocal and engagingly patient realization. They may end up wishing they called themselves something else as time goes on, but as it stands, Dirty Nips‘ demo tape heralds a sonic complexity that makes it that much harder to predict where they might end up, and is all the more satisfying a listen for that.

Dirty Nips on Facebook

Galactic Smokehouse store


Ocean to Burn, Vultures

Ocean to Burn Vultures

Though they’re by no means the only band in Sweden to dig into some form of traditionalism in heavy rock, Västerås five-piece Ocean to Burn evoke a decidedly more straight-ahead, Southern-heavy feel throughout the nine songs and 33 minutes of Vultures, their self-released full-length. The throaty grit of vocalist Adam Liifw is a big part of that impression, but in the guitars of Mathilda Haanpää and Fredrik Blomqvist, the tone is more stripped-down than huge-sounding, and the grooves from bassist Pontus Jägervall and drummer Fredrik Hiltunen follow suit. That central purpose suits songs like “Wastelands” and the more strutting “Nay Sayer,” and though they largely stick to their guns style-wise, a bluesier nod on “No Afterlife” early and a breakout in closer “Vulture Road” assure there’s some toying with the balance, even as the tracks all stick to the three- to about four-and-a-half-minute range. They’ve been at it for a while, and seem to revel in the ‘nothin-too-fancy’ attitude of the material, but honestly, they don’t need tricks or novelty to get their point across.

Ocean to Burn on Facebook

Ocean to Burn on Reverbnation


Mt. Echo, Electric Empire

Mt Echo Electric Empire

Following an encouraging start in 2019’s Cirrus (review here), Nijmegen instrumentalists Mt. Echo return with the conceptual-feeling Electric Empire, still holding some noise rock crunch in “Automaton” following the opener “Sound & Fury,” but saving its biggest impacts for the angular “50 Fanthoms,” the 10-minute “Flummox” and subsequent “As the Tide Serves,” and on the whole working to bring that side of their approach together with the atmospheric heavy post-rock float of “The End of All Dispute” and the early going of “These Concrete Lungs.” At 10 songs and just under an hour long, Electric Empire has room for world-building, and one of Mt. Echo‘s great strengths is being able to offset patience with urgency and vice versa. By the time they cap with “Torpid,” the trio of Gerben Elburg, Vincent Voogd and Rolf Vonk have worked to further distinguish themselves among their various sans-vocals proggy peers. One hopes they’ll continue on such a path.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp


Earl of Hell, Get Smoked

Earl of Hell Get Smoked

Vocalist Eric Brock, guitarist/backing vocalist/principal songwriter Lewis Inglis, bassist Dean Gordon and drummer Ryan Wilson are Edinburgh’s Earl of Hell, and their debut EP, Get Smoked, builds on the brash grooves of prior singles “Arryhthmia” (sic) and “Blood Disco,” the latter of which appears as the penultimate of the six included tracks on the 23-minute outing. More stomp-and-swing than punch-you-in-the-face, “I Am the Chill” nonetheless makes its sense of threat clear — it is not about chilling out — as if opener “Hang ’em High” didn’t. Split into two three-song sides each with a shorter track between, it’s in “Parasite” and “Blood Disco” that the band are at their most punk rock, but as the slower “Bitter Fruits” mellows out in opening side B, there’s more to their approach than just full-sprint shove, though don’t tell that to closer “Kill the Witch,” which revels in its call and response with nary a hesitation as it shifts into Spanish-language lyrics. High-octane, punk-informed heavy rock and roll, no pretense of trying to push boundaries; just ripping it up and threaten to burn ladies alive, as one apparently does.

Earl of Hell on Facebook

Slightly Fuzzed Records store


Slugg, Yonder

Slugg Yonder

Released on New Year’s Day after being recorded in Dec. 2021 in the trio’s native Rome, “Yonder” serves as the initial public offering and first single from Slugg, and at 9:59, it is more than a vague teaser for the band they might be. The guitar of Jacopo Cautela and the bass of Stephen Drive bring a marked largesse that nonetheless is able to move when called upon to do so by Andrea Giamberardini‘s drumming, and Cautela‘s corresponding vocals are pushed deeper back in the mix to emphasize those tones. Much of the second half of “Yonder” is given to a single, rolling purpose, but the band cleverly turn that into a build as they move forward, leaving behind the gallops of the first few minutes of the song, but making the transition from one side to another smoothly via midsection crashes and ably setting up the ring-out finish that will draw the song to its close. Not without ambition, “Yonder” crushes with a sense of physical catharsis while affecting an atmosphere that is no less broad. They make it easy to hope for more to come along these lines.

Slugg on Facebook

Slugg on Bandcamp


Mirage, Telepathic Radio

Mirage Telepathic Radio

Joe Freedman, also of Banshee, first saw Telepathic Radio released as the debut full-length from Mirage in 2021 through Misophonia Records on tape. There are still a few of them left. That version runs 30 songs and 90 minutes. The Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force edition is 50 minutes/20 tracks, but either way you go, get your head ready for dug-in freakness. Like freakness where you open the artwork file for the digital promo and all three versions are the cover of a Rhapsody album. Ostensibly psychedelic, songs play out like snippets from a wandering attention span, trying this weird thing and seeing it through en route to the next. In this way, Telepathic Radio is both broad-ranging and somewhat contained. The recordings are raw, fade in and out and follow their own paths as though recorded over a stretch of time rather than in one studio burst, which seems indeed to be how they were made. Horns, samples, keys, even some guitar, a bit of “TV Party” and “TV Eye” on “TV Screens,” Mirage howls and wails out there on its private wavelength, resolved to be what it is regardless of what one might expect of it. By the time even the 20-track version is done, the thing you can most expect is to have no clue what just happened in your brain. Rad.

Misophonia Records on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

Centripetal Force Records website


An Evening Redness, An Evening Redness

An Evening Redness Self-titled

With its first, self-titled release, An Evening Redness basks in morose Americana atmospheres, slow, patient guitar drones, warm bass and steady rhythms giving way to periodically violent surges. Founded perhaps as a pandemic project for Brandon Elkins of Auditor and Iron Forest, the six-song full-length explores the underlying intensity and threat to person and personhood that a lot of American culture just takes for granted. The name and inspiration for the project are literary — ‘An Evening Redness in the West’ is the subtitle of Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel, Blood Meridian — and An Evening Redness, even in the long instrumental stretch of 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Alkali,” treats the subject matter with duly textured reverence. Elkins isn’t alone here, and the vocals of Bridget Bellavia on the brooding “Mesa Skyline” and the closing pair of “Pariah” and “Black Flame at the Edge of the Desert,” as well as the contributions of other guests in various locales around the world up to and including Elkins‘ native Chicago should not be downplayed in enriching these explorations of space and sound. Bands like Earth and Across Tundras warrant mention as precursors of the form, but An Evening Redness casts its own light in the droning “Winter, 1847” and the harmonica-wailing “The Judge” enough to be wholly distinct from either in portraying the sometimes horrifying bounty of the land and the cruelty of those living in it.

An Evening Redness on Twitter

Transylvanian Recordings on Bandcamp


Cryptophaser, XXII

Cryptophaser XXII

Brothers John and Marc Beaudette — who if they aren’t twins are close enough — comprise New Hampshire’s Cryptophaser, and XXII is their first demo, pressed in an edition of 50 purple tapes. Dudes might as well just open my wallet. Fair enough. In what’s a show of chemistry and musical conversation that’s obviously been going on longer than these songs — that is, I highly suspect the maybe-twin brothers who drum and play guitar have been playing together more than a year — they bring an adversarial bent to the conventions of heavy fuzz, and do so with the proverbial gusto, breaking away from monolithic tones in favor of sheer dynamic, and when they shift into the drone in “October 83,” they make themselves a completely different band like it isn’t even a thing. Casual kickass. At 13 minutes, it flows like a full-length and has a full-length’s breadth of ideas (some full-lengths, anyway), and the energy from one moment to the next is infectious, be that next part fast, slow, loud, quiet, or whatever else they want it to be.

Cryptophaser website

Music ADD Records website


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2 Responses to “Quarterly Review: Messa, Witchpit, Dirty Nips, Ocean to Burn, Mt. Echo, Earl of Hell, Slugg, Mirage, An Evening Redness, Cryptophaser”

  1. Dave says:

    That Messa song was thrilling!

  2. Mark says:

    The Messa album is stunning

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