Quarterly Review: Khanate, Space Queen, King Potenaz, Treedeon, Orsak:Oslo, Nuclear Dudes, Mycena, Bog Monkey, The Man Motels, Pyre Fyre


Ah, a Quarterly Review Wednesday. Always a special occasion. Monday starts out with a daunting look at the task ahead. Tuesday is all digging in and just not trying to repeat myself too much. Wednesday, traditionally, is where we hit the halfway point. The top of the hill.

Not the case this time since I’ll have 10 records each written up next Monday and Tuesday, but crossing the midpoint of this week alone feels like an accomplishment and you’ll pardon me if I mark it as such. If you’re wondering how the rest of the week will go, tomorrow is all-business and Friday’s usually a party one way or the other. My head gets so in it by the middle of next week I’ll be surprised not to be doing this anymore. So it goes.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khanate, To Be Cruel

Khanate To Be Cruel

Who among mortals could hope to capture the horrors of Khanate in simple words? The once-New York-based avant sludge ultragroup end a 14-year hiatus with To Be Cruel, a fourth album, comprising three songs running between 19-21 minutes each that breed superlative hatefulness. At once overwhelming and minimalist, with opener “Like a Poisoned Dog” placing the listener in a homemade basement dungeon with the sharp, disaffection-incarnate bark of Alan Dubin (also Gnaw) cutting through the weighted slog in the guitar of Stephen O’Malley (also SunnO))), et al), the bass of James Plotkin (more than one can count, and he probably also mastered your band’s record) and the noise free-jazz drumming of Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God, etc.), they retain the disturbing brilliance last heard from in 2009’s Clean Hands Go Foul (discussed here) and are no less caustic for the intervening years. “It Wants to Fly” is expansive and wretched death poetry set to drone doom, a ritual made of its own misery, and the concluding title-track goes quiet in its midsection as though to let every wrenching anguish have its own space in the song. There is no one like them, though many have tried to convey some of what apparently only Khanate can. As our plague-infested, world-burning, war-making, fear-driven species plunges further into this terrible century, Khanate is the soundtrack we earn. We are all complicit. All guilty.

Khanate on Facebook

Sacred Bones Records store


Space Queen, Nebula

Space Queen Nebula EP

Though plenty atmospheric besides, Vancouver heavy fuzz rockers Space Queen add atmosphere to their nine-song/26-minute Nebula EP through a series of four interludes: the a capella three-part harmonies of “Deluge,” the acoustic-strummed “Veil” and “Sun Interlude,” and the finishing manipulated space-command sample in “End Transmission” after the richly melodic doom rock of “Transmission/Lost Causemonaut.” That penultimate inclusion is the longest at 6:14 and tells a story in a way that feels informed by the three-piece of drummer/vocalist Karli MacIntosh, guitarist/vocalist Jenna Earle and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Seah Maister‘s past in the folk outfit Sound of the Sun, but transposes its melodic sensibility into a heavier context. It and the prior garage-psych highlight “When it Gets Light” — a lighter initial electric strum that arrives in willful-seeming contrast to “Darkest Part” immediately preceding — depart from the more straight-ahead push of opener “Battle Cry” and the guitar-screamer “Demon Queen” separated from it by the first interlude. Where those two come across as working with Alice in Chains as a defining influence — something the folk elements don’t necessarily argue against — the Nebula EP grows broader as it moves through its brief course, and flows throughout with its veering into and out of songs and short pieces. This is Space Queen‘s second EP, and if they’re interested in making a full-length next, they sound ready.

Space Queen on Facebook

Space Queen on Bandcamp


King Potenaz, Goat Rider

king potenaz goat rider

Fasano, Italy’s King Potenaz debut on Argonauta Records with Goat Rider, which conjures raw fuzz, garage-doom atmospherics, and vocals that edge toward aggression and classic cave metal, early Venom or Celtic Frost having a role to play even alongside the transposition of Kyuss riffing taking place in the title-track, which follows “Among Ruins” and “Pyramids Planet,” both of which featured on the trio’s 2022 Demo 6:66, and which set a tone of riff-led revelry here with a sound that reminds of turn-of-the-century era stoner explorations, but grows richer as it moves into “Pazuzu (3:33)” — it’s actually 5:18 — with guest vocals from Sabilla and the quiet three-minute instrumental “Cosmic Voyager” planet-caravanning into the 51-minute album’s second half, where “Moriendoom (La Ballata di Ippolita Oderisi)” and the even doomier “Monolithic” dig into cultish vibes and set up the bleak shuffle of nine-minute closer “Dancing Plague,” departing from its central ’90s-heavy riff into a mellow-psych movement and then returning from that outward stretch to end. Even at its most familiar, Goat Rider finds some way to harness an individual edge, cleverly using the mix itself as an instrument to create the space in which the songs dwell. It may take a few listens to sink in, but there’s real potential in what they’re doing.

King Potenaz on Facebook

Argonauta Records store


Treedeon, New World Hoarder

Treedeon New World Hoarder

With the release of their third album, New World Hoarder, German art-sludgers Treedeon celebrate their first decade as a band. The combined vinyl-with-CD follows 2018’s Under the Manchineel (review here) and proffers raw cosmic doom in “Omega Time Bomb,” crossing the 10-minute line for the first time after the particularly-agonized opener “Nutcrème Superspreader” and before the title-track’s nodding riff brings bassist Yvonne Ducksworth to the fore vocally, trading off with guitarist Arne Heesch as drummer Andy Schünemann crashes cyclically behind. “New World Hoarder” gives over to side B opener “Viking Meditation Song,” which rolls like an evil-er version of Goatsnake, and “RHV1,” on which Heesch and Ducksworth share vocal duties, as they also do in 12-minute closer “Läderlappen” — a shouting duet in the first half feels long in arriving, but that’s how you know the album works — as the band cap with more massive chug following an interplay of melody and throatier fare. They’re right to ride that groove, as they’re right about so much else on the record. Like much of what Exile on Mainstream puts out, Treedeon are stylistically intricate and underrated in kind.

Treedeon on Facebook

Exile on Mainstream site


Orsak:Oslo, In Irons

Orsak Oslo In Irons

There are a couple different angles of approach one might take in hearing Orsak:Oslo‘s In Irons full-length. The Norway/Sweden-based instrumental troupe have been heretofore lumped in with heavy post-rock and ambient soundscaping, which is fair enough, but what they actually unveil in “068 The Swell” (premiered here), is a calming interpretation of space rock. With experimentalism on display in its late atmospheric drone comedown, “068 The Swell” moves directly into the more physical “079 Dutchman’s Wake (Part I),” the languid boogie feeling modern in presentation and classic in construction and the chemistry between the members of the band. The drums sit out much of the first half of “069 In What Way Are You Different,” giving a sense of stillness to the drone there, but the song embraces a bigger feel toward its finish, and that sets up the feedback intro to “078 The Mute (Part II),” which veers dreamily between amplifier drone and complementary melodic guitar flourish. Taking 17 minutes to do it, they close with “074 Hadal Blue,” which more broadly applies the space-chill of “068 The Swell” and emphasizes flow and organic changes from one part to the next. Immersive, it would be one to get lost in if it weren’t so satisfying to pay attention.

Orsak:Oslo on Facebook

Vinter Records website


Nuclear Dudes, Boss Blades

Nuclear Dudes Boss Blades

Fuck. Yes. As much grind as sludge as electronics-infused hardcore as it is furious, unadulterated noise, the 12-song/50-minute onslaught that is Boss Blades arrives via Modern Grievance at the behest of Jon Weisnewski, also of Sandrider, formerly of Akimbo. If Weisnewski‘s name alone and the fact that Matt Bayles mixed the self-recorded debut LP aren’t enough to pull you into the tornado of violence and maddening brood that opener “Boss Blades” uses to open — extra force provided by one of two guest vocal spots from Dave Verellen of Botch; the other is on “Lasers in the Jungle” later on — then perhaps the seven-minute semi-industrial march of “Obsolete Food” or the bruising intensity of “Poorly Made Pots” or the minute and a half of sample-topped drone psych in “Guitart,” the extreme prog metal of “Eat Meth” or “Manifest Piss Tape” will do the trick, or the nine-minute near-centerpiece “Many Knives” (which, if there’s a Genghis Tron influence here generally — and there might be — is more the last record than the older stuff) with its slow keyboard unfolding as a backdrop for Dust Moth‘s Irene Barber to make her own guest appearance, plenty of post-everything cacophony mounting by the end, grandiose and consuming. I could go on — every track is a new way to die — but suffice it to say that this is what my brain sounds like when my kid and my wife are talking to me about different things at the same time and it feels like my skull is on fire and I have an aneurysm and keel over. Good wins.

Nuclear Dudes on Instagram

Modern Grievance Records website


Mycena, Chapter 4

mycena chapter 4

Sometimes harsh but always free, 2022’s Chapter 4 from Croatian instrumentalist double-guitar five-piece Mycena — guitarists Marin Mitić and Pavle Bojanić, bassist Karlo Cmrk, drummer Igor Vidaković and synthesist/noisemaker Aleksandar Vrhovec — brings three tracks that are distinct unto themselves but listed as part of the same entirety, dubbed “Dissolution” and divided into “Dissolution Part 1” (17:49), “Dissolution Part 2” (3:03), and “Dissolution Part 3” (18:11), and it may well be that what’s being dissolved is the notion that rock and roll must be confined to verse/chorus structuring. Invariably, Earthless are a comparison point for longform instrumental heavy anything, and given the shred in “Dissolution Part 1” around five minutes deep and the torrent rockblast in the first half of “Dissolution Part 3” before it melts to near-silence and quietly noodles its way through its somehow-dub-informed last 11 or so minutes, building in presence but not actually blowing up to full volume as it caps. While totaling a manageable 39 minutes, Chapter 4 is a journey nonetheless, with a scope that comes through even in “Dissolution Part 2,” which may just be an interlude but still carries a steady rhythm that seems to reorient the band ahead of their diving into the extended final part, the band sounding natural in making changes that would undo acts with less chemistry.

Mycena on Facebook

Mycena on Bandcamp


Bog Monkey, Hollow

bog monkey hollow

Filthy tone. Just absolutely nasty. Atlanta’s Bog Monkey tracked Hollow, their self-released debut LP, with Jay Matheson at The Jam Room in South Carolina, and if they ever go anywhere else to try to capture their sound I’d have to ask why. With seven cuts totaling 33 minutes play-time and fuzz-sludge blowouts a-plenty in “Facemint,” the blastbeaten “Blister” and the heads-down largesse-minded shove-off-the-cliff that is “Slither” at a whopping 2:48, Hollow transposes Conan-style shouted vocals on brash, thickened heavy, the bass in “Tunnel” and forward-charging leadoff “Crow” with its thrash-riffing hook is the source of the heft, but it’s not alone. Spacious thanks to echoes on the vocals, Hollow crushes just the same, and as the trio plunder toward the eight-minute “Soma” at the end, growing intense quickly out of a calmer intro jam and slamming their message home circa 3:40 with crashes that break to bass and guitar noise to establish the nod around which the ending will be based, all you can really do is look forward to the bludgeoning to come and be glad when it arrives. Don’t be fooled by their generic name, or the silly stoner rock art (which I’m not knocking; it being silly is part of the point). Bog Monkey bring together different styles in a way that’s thoughtful and make songs that sound like they just rose out of the water to fucking obliterate you. So go on. Be obliterated.

Bog Monkey on Facebook

Bog Monkey on Bandcamp


The Man Motels, Dead Nature

The Man Motels Dead Nature EP

Punkish in its choruses like the title-track or opener “Sports,” the four-song Dead Nature EP from South Africa’s The Man Motels is the latest in a string of short releases and singles going back to their 2018 full-length, Quit Looking at Me!, and they temper the urgency of their speediest parts with grunge-style melody and instrumental twists. Bass and drums at the base of “Young Father” set up the sub-three-minute closer as purely punk, but sure enough the guitar kicks in coming out of the verse and one can hear the Nirvana effect before it drops out again. Whether it’s a common older-school hardcore influence, I don’t know, but “Sports” and “Young Father” remind of a rawer Fu Manchu with their focus on structure, but “The Fever” is heavier indie rock and culminates in a tonally satisfying apex before cutting back to the main riff that’s led the way for… oh, about three minutes or so. All told, The Man Motels are done in 15 minutes, but they pack a fair amount into that time and they named the release after its catchiest installment, so there. Maybe not the kind of thing I’d always reach for in my own listening habits, but I’m not about to rag on a band for being good at what they do or showcasing their material with the kind of energy The Man Motels put into Dead Nature.

The Man Motels on Facebook

Mongrel Records website


Pyre Fyre, Pyre Fyre

pyre fyre pyre fyre

With a couple short(er) outings to their credit, Bayonne, New Jersey, three-piece Pyre Fyre present seven songs in the 18 minutes of their self-titled, which just might be enough to make it a full-length. Hear me out. They start raw with “Hypnotize,” more of a song than an intro, punkish and the shortest piece at 1:22. From there, the Melvins meet Earthride on “Flood Zone” and the range of shenanigans is unveiled. Produced by drummer/noisemaker Mike Montemarano, with Dylan Wheeler on guitar, Dan Kirwan on bass and vocals from all three in its hithers and yons, it is a barebones sound across the board, but Pyre Fyre give a sense of digging in despite that, with the echo-laced “Wyld Ryde” doled out like garage thrash, while “Dungeon Duster/Ice Storm” sounds like it was recorded in two different sessions and maybe it was and screw you if that matters, “Don’t Drink the Water” hits the brakes and dooms out with stoner-drawl vocals later, “Arachnophobia” dips into a darker, somehow more metal, mood, and the fuzzy “Cordyceps” ends with swagger and noise alike in just under two and a half minutes. All of this is done without pretense, without the band pausing to celebrate themselves or what they just accomplished. They get in, kick ass, get out again. You don’t want to call it an album? Fine. I respectfully disagree, but we can still be friends. What, you thought because it was the internet I was going to tell you to screw off? Come on now.

Pyre Fyre on Instagram

Pyre Fyre on Bandcamp


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