Robespierre Stream Debut Album Garden of Hell in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


One doubts that when it comes right down to it, the two members of Robespierre are evil, or monsters, or even men of violence, as they assert repeatedly in “Men of Violence.” More likely they’re just normal guys: jobs, families, etc., but if their debut album, Garden of Hell — issued via the respectable tastes of Shadow Kingdom Records — is any indicator, they at least know how to wield a hook. The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) holds that guitarist/vocalist David Cooke and drummer Gordon Logan circulated a demo tape circa 1983, private press-style. Went to friends of the band and probably a couple lucky few who went out to shows in the band’s native Liverpool. There was a second demo as well that had even less distribution, and after they showed up and gained some traction online, the two were compiled together on 2011’s Die, You Heathen, Die! with the first four-track demo on side A and the second, from about a year later, on side B. Thus it was that nearly 30 years after their original circulation, Robespierre‘s work finally saw official release. They may or may not be evil, but they’re certainly patient one way or the other.

After this, there was only one thing to do: make a proper album. Thus, some seven years later and some 35 after the band’s original founding in 1983, they offer their first full-length. Garden of Evil tries to make up for lost time with a robespierre garden of hell10-track/48-minute run that, furled by cuts like the opening salvo of the driving “Punish Oppressors,” “Mare of Steel,” and the more decidedly doomed “Dwelling in the Shadows,” with a creeper riff and chorus worthy of the classic metal grit with which it’s presented. Of course, those more familiar with the totality of the NWOBHM know that it wasn’t all major label sheen and motorcycles on stage, and Robespierre‘s raw tones and rawer production remind of classic metal born of a decades-thriving underground producing cuts like “Feel the Fire” driven by little more than the passion for creation, the desire to pay homage to one’s heroes — bit of Sabbath crunch to the opening riff of “The Black Mirror” — and the expression is disaffection, melancholy, whatever it might be. Taking their moniker from an influential figure in the French Revolution, Robespierre aren’t without a social edge, as both “Punish Oppressors” and “Men of Violence” showcase at the outset of each side, but at its core Garden of Hell is metal for the orthodox among the converted, be that those who were there the first time around during the NWOBHM or those who simply wish they could’ve been.

As to just how Robespierre managed to pull off such a classic sound, I wish I knew. There are plenty of heavy rock and metal bands out there who use “vintage” gear and recording methods at affect that kind of cultish ambience, but as the band make their way through “Dagon Rises” and the start-stop stomping “Fear,” toward the closing duo of “Welcome to the Cult” and “I am a Flower (In the Garden of Hell),” which arguably are the album’s two most immersive tracks, they do so not with overblown hyperposturing of sound, but with naturalist, dirt-under-the-fingernails metallurgy. It’s not that they sound as though no time has passed, just that they make that passage of time irrelevant through their structures, presentation and performance. As “I am a Flower (In the Garden of Hell)” dooms its way to its ending with a classy final solo giving way to a few strumming acoustic chords, the sense of Robespierre as a classic metal band is less about the superficialities of their sound and more about the clear measure of heart put into ever single one of these tracks. I don’t know if Robespierre will do another record, or if they do, how they might attempt to modernize (or not modernize) their sound, but the level of catharsis in finally putting out a full-length after 35 years must be staggering, and they’ve done justice to that span in their songwriting and atmosphere.

Robespierre‘s Garden of Hell is out now on Shadow Kingdom, but this is the first time the record has been streamed in full. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present the LONG-awaited debut album of ROBESPIERRE, Garden of Hell. A cult name among NWOBHM diehards, ROBESPIERRE were actually active during the original NWOBHM movement, recording two demos in 1983 that remained unreleased or circulated only among close contacts. Those two demos were released in 2011 as the Die You Heathen, Die! compilation, introducing the Liverpool band to a whole new generation lusting for vintage heavy metal sounds. However, ROBESPIERRE never recorded a proper debut album – until now! Indeed sounding like nearly four decades haven’t passed, Garden of Hell brims with that musky ‘n’ musty scent of classic NWOBHM: traditional and totally METAL songwriting, with hooks piled high and no small amount of grit.

And like a few of their original NWOBHM contemporaries, ROBESPIERRE are keen on dipping into doom – like, really DOOMED-OUT doom that plods like tombstones slowly falling over and enveloping the listener in an ancient haze. Similarly, the band’s forward momentum is brisk but never too aggressive, in exchange exuding a rare sense of class and allowing the subtle textures of their endless hooks to sparkle in the night. Above all, Garden of Hell is aptly titled: for all the raucous rockin’ going on, there’s an ever-present atmosphere of supernatural horror dusting nearly every note. A ROBESPIERRE album has been a long time coming, but no better time than now than to step into the Garden of Hell!

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Rattlesnake Premiere New Single “Dirt in My Eyes”

Posted in audiObelisk on March 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

In a collaboration between In for the Kill Records and H42 Records, newcomer New Yorker classic-style Southern rockers Rattlesnake will issue their debut seven-inch in May. The two-tracker boasts brand new material from the four-piece-maybe-turned-trio which features the likes of Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass and La Otracina on drums/vocals, J.P. Gilbert of JP and the Gilberts on guitar/vocals as well as bassist Don Berger, and comes in three different vinyl incarnations, all of course subject to limited pressings. Because that’s how it goes. If you don’t get it, it’s gone.

rattlesnake posterRattlesnake made a not-at-all-quiet entry last year, playing their first show in May and offering the three-song cassette demo, Outlaw Boogie (review here), that served as one of 2017’s best short releases. Its aesthetic seemed locked in, its presentation was professional, and the songwriting was ace in its structure and execution. “Dirt in My Eyes,” the premiere of which you can listen to via the YouTube player below, is no different but takes a step forward in its melodic reach and its meld of boogie and harder-edged impulses. It shares a brightness of perspective with The Golden Grass, but has an edge of its own in its harmonies and uptempo pulse. And yes, if you’re wondering, it’s maddeningly catchy.

In my experience, Kriney isn’t someone who embarks on a new project lightly. It could well be that Rattlesnake was started on a whim after a night of boozing among friends, but I doubt it. The Golden Grass had a plan, a timeline, goals, and given how much effort Rattlesnake puts into “Dirt in My Eyes,” I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they do as well. Fair enough as far as I’m concerned. All that means is we’re likely to hear from them again soon, which I think as you dig into the interplay of bass and airy guitar in the second half of the track before the final “woo!” is delivered, you’ll agree isn’t a negative in the slightest.

You can read more about the three versions of Dirt in My Eyes / Picture Perfect and head to the preorders via the PR wire info below — the test pressing is signed and limited to 20, if that piques your interest– and of course get a preview of “Dirt in My Eyes” via the player immediately following.

Please enjoy:

Rattlesnake, “Dirt in My Eyes” official premiere

Rattlesnake “Dirt In My Eyes”
A-side of the Rattlesnake “Dirt In My Eyes”/”Picture Perfect” 7″ issued on H42 Records/In For The Kill Records May 2018.

For those who dig the heavy strut of Classic Southern Rock, when it dipped it’s country shufflin’ toes into the sweet honey of Progressive Rock & early-Heavy Metal, well you’re gonna find a real treat in this debut 7” from RATTLESNAKE. A rock-solid display, both earnest & creative, overflowing with killer vocal harmonies, powerful guitar solos, tough riffs, devastating bass runs, & tasty drum fills (featuring Adam Kriney of THE GOLDEN GRASS on vocals/drums, JP GILBERT of J.A.C.K. on vocals/guitar & Don Berger on bass/vocals).

*Available in black or yellow or green vinyl. Black vinyl comes in the brown sleeve. Yellow & Green vinyl comes in the green sleeve. Please specify vinyl colour choice in the comments section on the order form!

*Also available in a limited edition of 20 test pressings, with special signed and numbered “skull” sleeves!

*Comes with digital download card.

North American Preorder available via:

Rest of the World Preorder available via:

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Ruff Majik Premiere “Come all Ye Druids” from New Album Seasons

Posted in audiObelisk on March 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ruff majik Christelle Duvenage Photography

Come this Spring/early Summer, Pretorian heavy psych trio Ruff Majik will embark on a European tour for the first time. They do so supporting their upcoming new album, Seasons, and in addition to a Sound of Liberation showcase on May 26 in Wiesbaden that also includes My Sleeping Karma and Colour Haze in the lineup — not too shabby — they’ll be appearing at Freak Valley 2018 in Germany and SonicBlast Moledo 2018 in Portugal. Clearly the plan is to get around.

Fair enough. Imagine Goatsnake jamming a blowout tapped on mushrooms while backpacking during a semester abroad and you might be somewhere near the swing and sneer of Ruff Majik‘s new streaming single, “Come all Ye Druids,” which is premiering below. I haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing Seasons — which is out April 20 and may or may not bear the subtitle A Stag in the Leaves — in its entirety, but the South African trio three-piece have put out three prior “chapters” under the Seasons banner in last June’s Ruff Majik Come all ye druidsSeasons 1, Chapter 1: The Hare and the Hollow, last September’s Seasons 1, Chapter 2: A Finch in a Cherry Tree and last December’s Seasons 1, Chapter 3: A Dragon and His Hoard, so whether the impending Seasons is part of the same overarching storyline — i.e., if it’s “Chapter 4” — or some next step in the cycle, I couldn’t say, but the mystery only adds intrigue to the track itself, which as intimated above, brims with riffy and tripped-out groove.

The tones are thick but not immobile, and guitarist/vocalist Johni Holidayis right when he asserts below that the band is getting heavier. What they haven’t done, at least going by “Come all Ye Druids,” is abandon the spirit of spontaneity that comes from jam-based songcraft, and so whether it’s Holiday‘s riffs, the washing crash of drummer Ben Manchino or the air-pushing low end from bassist Jimmy Glass, the four-minute track wants nothing for momentum as it pushes its way through its drity, sludge-infused nod. The hook arrives over toms and the central riff picks back up even more infectious than when it left, the swagger of the verse at once dangerous and immersive. A fuzzed out so fights for dominance in the second half of the track, but it seems nothing can overcome the main riff, which takes hold again and seems to override everything else as the track fades just past the four-minute mark.

As to just how much of what Ruff Majik are doing on Seasons might be represented in “Come all Ye Druids,” I couldn’t say. Given how loose-swinging the single is, I’d believe you if you told me the record went just about anywhere. Take a listen below and see if you can guess. A quote from Holiday and PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

Johni Holiday on Seasons:

With this release, Ruff Majik decided to set sail into newer, sludgier directions. We decided long ago that we wouldn’t be that band that people would complain about, saying ‘they used to be heavier.’ Hell no, every time we bring out new music we want to move forward, become heavier, more intense. We still like to include bluesy bits, sure. But this song is made to be filthy, heavy, oily sludge ‘n’ roll. Next time we might do something a bit more doom again, who knows hahaha. All I know is that right now, Ruff Majik is becoming a groove machine, and we like it.

The band embark on their 1st European tour in June 2018 which sees them play Freak Valley Festival in Germany along with a host of club shows supporting the likes of Colour Haze, My Sleeping Karma and The Devil and the Almighty Blues. They’ll be back in Europe in August to play SonicBlast in Portugal.

Support for The Devil and the Almighty Blues:
24 May, Stuttgart, Goldmarks
28 May, Munich, Feierwerk
29 May, Vienna, Arena
30 May, Leipzig, Werk 2

Supporting Colour Haze and My Sleeping Karma:
26 May, Wiesbaden, Schlachthoff
31 May, Freak Valley Festival, Netphen
2 June, Dresden, Beatpol (supporting Mars Red Sky)

In a small, secluded mining town in rural South Africa, three friends heard the call of the void, and spat fuzz back at it. Thus, Ruff Majik was formed, and the boys decided it was time to move to the city to spread their gospel of riff worship and sound sorcery.

Ruff Majik moved to Pretoria, South Africa, where they’ve become infamous for their lively shows and aggressive on-stage persona. With their brand of what they call “stoner rock / sludge ‘n roll” they move between slow grooves and breakneck speeds in the blink of an eye, with live shows being described as ‘whiplash inducing’.

The band surfaced in 2015 with the release of their first 6 track, The Bear. This got them lots of attention from reviewers all over the world. They quickly followed up with The Fox in 2016. In 2017 Ruff Majik released The Swan, The Hare and the Hollow, A Finch in a Cherry Tree and A Dragon and his Hoard, the latter three being part of upcoming full-length Seasons.

The members are Johni Holiday (guitar/vocals), Jimmy Glass (bass guitar) and Ben Manchino (drums).

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Various Artists, Legends of the Desert Desertfest 12″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

va legends of the desert 4 way split

For the last several years, German imprint H42 Records has partnered with Desertfest to create a special limited split release for in honor of the Spring festivals in London and Berlin. Past editions have included Karma to Burn and Sons of Alpha Centauri, Raging Speedhorn together with Monster Magnet, and Greenleaf locking heads with Steak — the tracks generally with some measure of exclusivity, be they previously unreleased, a remastered oldie (which I seem to recall was the case with Greenleaf), etc. In 2018, a year where the entire universe has unveiled its conspiracy against humanity to be completely overwhelming, H42 has also decided to up its game, though it does so in particularly serene fashion.

This year’s Desertfest split is titled Legends of the Desert, and in addition to jumping from 7″ vinyl to a full 12″, it also doubles the amount of acts included from two to four, bringing together the interrelated projects Fatso Jetson, Yawning Sons, WaterWays and Mario Lalli und Matthias Schneeberger to each present one cut seemingly representing one aspect or another of the Californian desert that the principle figures involved call home. Speaking of, while there are four groups included on Legends of the Desert, the platter is really telling the story of two key figures of California’s initial low desert rock scene in Mario Lalli and Gary Arce. Arce‘s trademark shimmering surf-derived guitar tone features on two of the four inclusions — Yawning Sons’ “Down in the Street,” and WaterWays‘ “Three Rivers” — while Lalli is aboard for three as a member of Fatso Jetson, WaterWays and of course his solo-project with Schneeberger, whose production work not only for Fatso Jetson but also the likes of earthlings?, Nick Oliveriand Gutter Twins, among many, many others, has made him a crucial presence behind the board in that scene.

As they should, Fatso Jetson lead off the proceedings with “Semi Lost,” which even if it weren’t the only track to include vocals would probably still be the catchiest song here. Aside from their “desert legends” status, which is basically irrefutable more than 20 years into their career, Fatso JetsonMario Lalli on guitar/vocals, Dino von Lalli on guitar, Larry Lalli on bass and Tony Tornay (now also of All Souls) on drums — have retained the experimentalist sensibility of their songwriting. As their last album, 2016’s Idle Hands (review here) reminded, their songwriting process is deeply varied, and as they open side A with “Semi Lost,” it’s a more laid back feel than some of their more forward punk-blasting groovers. Just so happens — total coincidence, I’m sure — that in addition to providing that landmark hook, it suits the vibe of the split really well.

Last I heard, Mario Lalli and Tony Tornay were both in WaterWays as well, featuring as the rhythm section alongside Gary Arce‘s inimitable guitar tone, derived from surf and goth rock but unmistakably of the desert itself. Though the two groups are very different, Arce serves as the uniting force between WaterWays closing out side A with the four-minute just-too-active-to-really-be-drift-but-kind-of-drifting-anyway “Three Rivers,” his guitar tone echoing out spacious as ever and evocative of the desert in a manner that groups from around the world have done their best to emulate and generally fallen flat in the effort. “Three Rivers” is resoundingly hypnotic, despite being just four minutes long, and though it’s twice the length and has a much fuller arrangement owing to the complete lineup of UK progressive instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri, Yawning Sons‘ “Down in the Street” might dip lower in low end tone, but ultimately winds up in a similarly broad sphere, the ambience stretching out comfortably and patiently for the song’s duration, no less trance-inducing leading off side B than “Three Rivers” was in capping side A, though I will readily admit to being a sucker for Yawning Sons as I still consider their lone full-length, 2009’s Ceremony to the Sunset (review here, vinyl review here), among the finest releases Californian desert rock has ever produced. Anything new from them is welcome as far as I’m concerned.

Legends of the Desert ends with a particular note of intrigue in Mario Lalli und Matthias Schneeberger‘s “Spector,” which at 4:17 brings together the clear collaborative elements of the former’s guitar and the latter’s keys, but there are also drums and bass involved and I’m not sure who handled them. If it’s a studio project, it could’ve certainly been either party or someone like Tornay stopping through for the afternoon, but the real question is why “Spector” isn’t a Fatso Jetson song. Sure it’s instrumental, but Fatso Jetson have done plenty of instrumentals over the years, and Schneeberger, aside from producing, has been a regular guest contributor to their work. One can easily imagine, then, it was a conscious decision to adopt the Lalli/Schneeberger banner, and extrapolate from that the curiosity as to whether the two will collaborate directly on some future release apart from Lalli‘s work in Fatso Jetson, and what that might sound like. “Spector,” for what it’s worth, continues in the open-feeling spirit of Yawning Sons and WaterWays before it — a bit darker in tone — and whether or not it’s a harbinger of things to come, it makes a satisfying closing argument to Legends of the Desert, each side of which tells the tale of arid-climate-born fluidity and resonates with a creative force unlike anything from anywhere else. These Legends are still being told, still being shaped, but there’s no question that the impact they’ve had on the worldwide underground is massive, and if that’s what’s being celebrated here, you’ll get no argument from me.

I have the pleasure today of streaming the complete Legends of the Desert 12″, which officially releases May 4. You’ll find it below courtesy of H42 Records and Desertfest, and it is presented with my gratitude to both of them as well as to you for reading and listening.

Please enjoy:

DESERTFEST is just around the corner in May. 2018. For the past three years we contributed in collaboration with the DesertFest team the vinyl for the FEST. We decided to change the format into the 12″ vinyl format this year.

And what fits better to the DesertFest, as an album with bands with a very big relation to the ‘desert’? So we called the album LEGENDS OF THE DESERT (RELEASE MAY 4th 2018). For this fantastic vinyl we could won great bands and musicians, each of them with a previously unreleased song:

FATSO JETSON, YAWNING SONS, WATERWAYS and a solo project under the direction of MARIO LALLI & MATHIAS SCHNEEBERGER. As always ALEXANDER VON WIEDING was responsible for artwork and layout: a slightly variation of the original 7″ art.

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Et Moriemur Premiere “Requiem Aeternam” from Epigrammata

Posted in audiObelisk on March 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

et moriemur

Czech death-doomers Et Moriemur mark a decade of existence in 2018 with the March 20 release of their third album, Epigrammata, on Transcending Obscurity Records. Comprised of 10 tracks for a densely-packed 53-minute runtime, it is a record that finds the core lineup of vocalist/keyboardist Zdenek Nevelík, bassist Karel “Kabrio” Kovarík, guitarists Ales Vilingr and Pavel Janouskovec and drummer Michal “Datel” Rak [please note: most of the band members’ names have accent marks that won’t show up when I type them into WordPress; see the lineup list below. No disrespect intended to anyone in the band.] employing a host of guests to flesh out arrangements of cello, violin, trombone, spoken word, guest vocals, trombone, acoustic guitar and choir, adding to the group’s own breadth of craft in songs like “Offertorium,” the piano-laden “Agnus Dei,” and the particularly memorable “Communio,” which with a speedier tempo reminds as much of Satyricon in its swinging verses as its violin-laced atmospheric midsection bleeds melancholy leading to a massive roller of a riff topped with deathly growling. Yeah, it’s kind of like that: full-on beauty in darkness, topped off with Gregorian chanting, multi-linguistic recitations, and a sense of ancient grief being brought to life like a weeping statue given the power of slow, gradual movement.

Patience is a virtue that Et Moriemur display handily throughout Epigrammata, which unfolds in no hurry from “Introitus” into the organ and key-fueledet moriemur epigrammata “Requiem Aeternam,” matching tortured and throaty screams against lower growls against chanting to give the proceedings a religious feel right from the start; or at least the sense of being in conversation with those traditions — the Latin titles doing likewise. “Agnus Dei” and “Dies Irae” follow suit in terms of mood and extremity, but more than the emotional or sonic heft that Et Moriemur elicit, it’s the depth of their arrangements and their mix that impress. To wit, the low growls and chants intertwining on “Dies Irae,” Doom, death and black metal aren’t out of the band’s reach stylistically, and there are moments where those elements are juxtaposed and moments where they all seem to come together as something definitively of Et Moriemur‘s own. Obviously, these moments — I’d count the pairing of “Offertorium”‘s crawling wretchedness and “Communio”‘s more progressively bleak vision among them, but would be remiss to leave 10-minute closer “In Paradisum” out of the discussion — make for some of the strongest on Epigrammata, but there’s something to be said to for the manner in which the juxtaposing of styles, smooth though the transitions like that into acoustic guitar and speech on “Libera Me” are, mirrors the tortured sensibility and mood of the album itself. That is, the form matches the intent, and the mood of Epigrammata becomes conveyed not only in the performance of Et Moriemur and the sundry other parties brought aboard, but in the very construction of the songs themselves.

It would be hard to pick one song to represent the totality of the album. Frankly, I’m not sure you could, but with the release date set for just a week from now, I’m sure the full thing will be streaming in no time, and in the interim, “Requiem Aeternam” functions well in displaying many of the aspects that come into play throughout, as well as some — some — of the Et Moriemur‘s range when it comes to songwriting. Do not necessarily think of it as a sampling of all that the full-length has to offer, so much as a teaser of several of the factors at play throughout.

A quote from the band and PR wire info follows below. Please enjoy:

Et Moriemur, “Requiem Aeternam” official premiere

Et Moriemur on “Requiem Aeternam”:

“Epigrammata represents our attempt to cope with the dying or death of those we loved. To create a solemn and classical atmosphere we used lyrics in ancient Greek (the title itself means epigrams) and in Latin, more precisely from the Mass for the dead – the album follows the typical Requiem structure, i.e. Introitus, Requiem Aeternum, Dies Irae etc. – and of course the traditional, unisono male Gregorian chant.“

In any case we tried not to do a uni-dimensional record. So apart from the inevitable grief there is gratitude as well for having had the chance to share our life with them and hope that they are well – wherever they are.“

ET MORIEMUR are doing things in an exceptional way for their upcoming full length titled ‘Epigrammata’. Delving into the rich European history, imbibing Gregorian chanting and using Latin and ancient Greek to convey their message, the Czech supergroup of sorts with members of bands such as DISSOLVING OF PRODIGY, SELF-HATRED and SILENT SCREAM OF GODLESS ELEGY, have assembled a host of musicians playing cello, violin, trombone among others and have even employed services of a choir to take their expression to another level. They combine influences of death, doom and even a bit of black metal and use their operatic flair to imbue it with a mesmerizing quality. It transcends the perceptions of the death/doom style at present and gloriously brings back forgotten elements to elevate it.

Et Moriemur is:
Zden?k Nev?lík – Vocals, Piano
Aleš Vilingr – Guitar
Pavel Janouškovec – Guitar
Karel Ková?ík – Bass
Michal “Datel” Rak – Drums

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Review & Full Album Stream: Sammal, Suuliekki

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sammal suuliekki

[Click play above to stream Sammal’s Suuliekki in full. Album is out now on Svart Records.]

If you’re looking for something to tie together the nine different pieces that make up Sammal‘s Suuliekki, you might find the answer somewhere in the guitar tone, or in the vocals, or in the overarching krautrock-reborn sensibility of the Turku, Finland, five-piece’s third full-length. But on the other hand, if you’re looking for something to tie Suuliekki together, you’re kind of doing it wrong. That’s not to say the album, which is released by the venerable tastes of Svart Records, is incoherent. It’s just intended to come at you from different sides.

The classic-style boogie of “Pinnalle Kaltevalle” and “Vitutuksen Valtameri,” is supposed to sound odd leading into the folk-tinged-but-still-handclap-and-synth-laden prog of “Maailman Surullisiin Suomalainen,” and from the moment the “Intro” eases the way into the theatrical title-track — with jabbing piano notes and an eventual turn to a verse and a chorus that reminds of lounge-pop before a danceable section of definitively Suomi progressive rock takes hold akin to something one might expect from Death Hawks or the bizarro elephant in the room when it comes to all things masterful and strange in Finnish undergroundism: CircleSammal make clear their intentions toward variety and a full-album flow that relies not on the songs all sounding the same, but on the listener engaging with an open mind in order to fully appreciate what’s happening across the heady but manageable 43-minute span.

It’s not always easy to follow — I suspect my own ignorance of the beautiful Finnish language is in no small measure to blame for that — but that would only seem to add to the complexity underscoring Suuliekkias a whole. It’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be a conversation between creator and listener, subject and object.

Organ, keyboards and other synthly goings on make songs like “Ylistys ja Kumarrus” that much richer, as the lineup of Jura, Juhani, Janu, Tuomas and Lasse fleetly bounce their way from one path to another throughout the nine tracks, finding a foothold in a given part and sticking to it only long enough to use it to brace the jump to the next one — centerpiece “Pinnalle Kaltevalle” does this particularly well, and if you can’t get behind that intertwining of organ and guitar in the second half, you should probably just give up and go about the rest of your day. Percussive groove, inventive rhythms and melodies, and a strong sense of striving toward individualism are all welcome aspects of Suuliekki early on.


The title-cut and the subsequent “Lukitut Päivät, Kiitävät Yöt” have a drama behind them, the former in its chorus and the latter in its linear forward build of tempo from subdued brooder to layered howls of lead guitar (of course it ends quiet post-crescendo), and the aforementioned “Ylistys ja Kumarrus,” which at 3:24 is the shortest inclusion here apart from the “Intro” at the outset, seems to amass significant forward momentum even as it dances around an instrumental hook which, as noted, is driven by the keys as much as the guitar. That in itself is a tie to rock classicism — think Deep Purple‘s weirdo Finnish cousins, if for no other reason than it’s a fun image — but while Sammal put that spirit to work even more across the outing’s second half, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as being loyalists to anything other than their own individual songwriting impulses, which very much sound like the fruit of a multiple-parties-involved craft process. Not that one person couldn’t come up with the many twists and turns of the seven-minute “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen,” just that sonic personalities for entire groups are rarely so varied with a single creative force at their root. Suuliekki is dense enough as a listening experience front to back to justify the impression of coming from multiple minds.

That’s not, however, to say it’s completely inaccessible. It’s not. Even “Suuliekki” has a chorus and a rhythmic drive, and when Sammal get through the bass-and-percussion/key-and-guitar/is-that-a-saxophone? vibe of “Pinnalle Kaltevalle,” the subsequent “Vitutuksen Valtameri” signals more straightforward intentions in its fuzzy guitar tone and relative calm compared to much of what’s come before it. Of course, it picks up as it moves through the chorus, but the spirit of the piece is more latter-day Siena Root than Brainticket, and Sammal make the other no less their own than the one, continuing into the stretch of “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen” to affect vast creative sensibility and to bring the willing parties of their audience with them on this complicated but deeply satisfying journey.

One might consider the midsection of “Maailman Surullisin Suomalainen” an apex for the album as a whole, but with “Herran Pelko” and “Samettimetsä” still to go there’s plenty of ground still to cover and far more than should be thought of simply as an epilogue or an afterthought. The opening keyboards and crashes of “Herran Pelko” do give it a kind of things-are-wrapping-up feel, but while the vocals arrive late in the mostly-instrumental victory lap, the actual closer, “Samettimetsä,” operates in a more meditative mood. A jazz-fusion shuffle emerges near the halfway mark as the verse starts, but the vibe is cool with a kind of late ’70s smoothness of tone and presentation that somehow is just as appropriate as anything else could be to close out the record.

I guess that’s the upside of making a long-player where you go anywhere and everywhere you want: by the time you get to the finish, you’ve already established a wide enough breadth to allow for just about anything. So it is with Suuliekki, which succeeds not just because it’s willfully odd in its affect or because it offers this or that progressive nuance, but also because it does these things while serving not a display of technical prowess, but instead, the songwriting. Wherever Sammal go throughout this third offering, they never seem to lose sight of the fact that they’re creating songs and not just putting parts together like a science experiment to see what happens. That crucial difference further allows Suuliekki to make the many leaps it does, because no matter where they’re headed, the listener can trust they’re being guided by capable hands.

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Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Those familiar with the vocal work of Columbus, Ohio-based vocalist Jeff Martin will find his presence recognizable in everything but context when it comes to the newcomer five-piece Akula. Known of course for his work fronting (from behind the drums) the fuzz-laced heavy rocking Lo-Pan, Martin brings his soulful melodicism to Akula as part of a lineup that includes bassist Scott Hyatt, guitarists Sergei Parfenov and Chris Thompson (the latter now also of Lo-Pan) and drummer Ronnie Miller, and the group’s self-titled first full-length incorporates a swath of atmospheric textures derived from progressive metal as ’90s alternative, post-rock and more beyond.

The album, Akula was given a digital self-release by the band in January in somewhat quiet fashion almost testing the ground to gauge an initial reception that, sure enough, came back in a positive response to the sharp chugging turns of 12-minute closer “Predators,” the open-spaced rolling groove of “Force Me Open” (10:07) the weighted ambient pulsations of opener “A Pound of Flesh” (9:19) and the post-doomer crash of “Born of Fire”‘s (9:27) blend of sonic reach and earthen nod. These four extended tracks would be all Akula needed to make that strong first impression, and in terms of both memorable songwriting and a stylistic ambitiousness, the self-titled indeed sounds like only the beginning of where the band might go in terms of ground they explore and just the first demonstration of a nuance of craft set to grow even more across subsequent outings.

Whether Martin‘s voice is the draw or you happen upon Akula through some other means — frankly, the pop in Miller‘s snare, Hyatt‘s tone on the low end and the fluidity with which Thompson and Parfenov lead transitions between claustrophobic riffing and broad-spaced soundscapes all make valid arguments in the 41-minute LP’s favor — the clearly-intended-to-be-two-vinyl-sides offering is immersive from the outset and rich in both sprawl and impact. I would not at all be surprised to find a physical pressing or two in the works for later this year, but in the meantime, Martin was kind enough to take some time to discuss the origins of the band and how the record came together in writing and recording, and whether or not Akula should be considered a side-project. Some of those responses might surprise you.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

akula akula

Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Tell me about Akula getting together. What was the impetus behind starting the band, and how much did you guys know going into the project what you wanted it to sound like?

Akula started when Lo-Pan had some downtime. I was feeling an overabundance of creative energy and I thought jamming with some different people and different styles might be a good way to channel some of that. This was before Chris [Thompson, guitar] joined Lo-Pan. I knew who he was and had seen a few of his previous bands play. I had been listening to a lot of heavier psychedelic stuff in the vein of Yob, Neurosis, and even some Mastodon. I knew Chris could do pretty much anything from seeing him play. I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in getting some people together for a purely fun project. He was all for it. I told him what I was thinking in terms of style and he said he actually already had some part ideas he had been messing around with that might be a fit.

We talked about bass players and drummers and rhythm guitarists and invited some guys to meet up and discuss. It all went pretty smoothly. And stylistically, everyone seemed to understand what we were looking for. A darker, heavier psychedelic sound with melodic vocals. Longer format and prog shifts seemed like a natural thing for everyone. So we got to work.

Talk about that sound for a bit. The album has such a sense of space to it, everything sounds very open and atmospheric, but still heavy. Was there something in particular you were looking to capture in terms of mood on the album?

I think there was a nebulous direction we were all going, but it’s always a mystery how it will actually shake out when you start playing. We all come from various genres of heavy music but also a mix of other types of music as well. Atmospheric was definitely where I wanted it to go. Chris brings that off-time heavy lead mentality to the songs and that was new for me. It was a challenge for me to add vocals to that. I am used to having very standard time signatures which allows me to weave in and out as much as I want to. In that feel, I can really add to the swing of a song. I really love heavy music that swings. But with Akula it took me a bit of effort to learn where the swing was. It’s definitely there. But with the off-time parts, I wanted to make sure that my swing wasn’t too hindered by the guitar parts. It’s not always easy. But I do enjoy the challenge of incorporating my vocal and lyrical style into a heavier format.

How does Akula’s songwriting process work? How does a track like “Force Me Open” come together, and what does each member of the band bring to it? When did you begin writing for the record?

Usually it all starts with a part idea from either Chris or Sergei. Those two will get together and work out a sort of skeleton format for a song. Then Scott and Ronnie will jam with them to build the rest. Adding parts. Changing parts. Removing parts. This will all happen over the course of a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. “Force Me Open” probably took five months or more to reach a record-ready state.  And some of that is just time delays. Chris joined Lo-Pan about a year after we started Akula. Before we even had a name for Akula, actually. So Lo-Pan’s schedule definitely has an effect on the Akula writing process when it comes to time allocation for myself and for Chris.

Also everyone else in the band has quite a bit going on as well. Scott, our bassist is in a few different bands, mainly Bridesmaid, but also occasionally Horseburner and Siouxplex. He also has a career and a wife. Ronnie, our drummer is in another band (Artillery Breath) and travels quite a bit. Sergei, our rhythm guitarist has a family and runs a business. It all just takes time. We began writing the first record from the very first jam sessions. But I think it took around a year before we had our first two songs completed. All before we even discussed a name for the band.

We didn’t even play a show until around the 18-month mark. That was important for us when we started out. We wanted everything to happen in its own good time. No shows until we felt it was all ready to be played out. No recording until we have an album worth of material we all liked. No rushing whatsoever. It’s done when it’s done. And in the meantime we just have fun playing music and hanging out together. That was the first thing I said to everyone when we first got together. Those were the marching orders. No stress. Just fun.

No hassles. It’s done when it’s done. And we have really seen that through. It really is like that. We don’t fight. We all get along and we have a blast together. We play the shows we want to play. We go the direction we all decide is best.

Tell me about recording. It’s just four tracks, but they’re four pretty significant tracks. Where was the album done, how long were you in the studio and as your first release, how do you feel the outcome represents the band at this stage?

Recording could not have been a better process for us. We recorded this record at Sonic Lounge here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really killer studio with some outstanding equipment and it’s all run by Joe Viers. Chris had worked with Joe multiple times in other projects like Sleepers Awake. I worked with Joe on the last Lo-Pan release (In Tensions), and Scott had worked with him in his band Bridesmaid. Joe was our first choice and for me our only choice really. He just gets music and he’s a fantastic collaborator. He becomes like another member of the band. He makes strong suggestions and will hold you accountable when he knows you can play a part better or if you’re out of tune. And even vocally, I have found Joe to be an invaluable resource for ideas on harmonies and execution. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.

We did the entire album and mixing over the course of two weekends at Sonic Lounge. It was a real blast to make this album. I think as a first effort it reflects the entire timeline of the band to this point. You can hear the maturation of the songs. Or at least I can. “Born of Fire” was our first completed song. “Force Me Open” was the second completed song. Even between those two songs, I think you can hear a quantum shift. It’s pretty rewarding to see that growth as a group.

Of course, you’ve done plenty of touring over the years in Lo-Pan, but how much will Akula play out? Will you guys tour to support the album? How much is the band a side-project for you or anyone else involved?

As far as playing out goes, I think Akula takes a very methodical approach to things. We love to play live but we want live shows to be an addition to our experience, and not just a maintaining of status quo. So we are selective about frequency and overall makeup of shows. We are discussing a summer run to support this release.

I would say when we first started out this was definitely a side-project for all of us. And as it’s progressed it has really become an important project for everyone. I don’t know that I would still classify Akula as my side-project. It’s just a different project with a different sound and its own process.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Akula is currently in talks to sign with an indie label to release our self-titled in physical format including vinyl. More to follow on that. We are also continuing to write new material which we will start road testing soon. Our next show is April 6 at Spacebar in Columbus with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black.

Akula, Akula (2018)

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Hashteroid Sign to Cursed Tongue Records for Self-Titled Debut; New Song Premiering Now

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


There is just about no letup offered across the seven-track/34-minute span of Hasteroid‘s Hashteroid, and even when a moment comes to catch your breath or at least think you might be able to start to, it doesn’t last, the Vancouver three-piece blazing at maximum speed through cuts like “Black Tide” and “Godspeed Below” with bull-in-china-shop subtlety and a difficult-to-pull-off blend of heavy rock and punk, shades of rawest Fu Manchu groove aligning themselves to the unrelenting forward drive one finds in the work of Zeke when one to keep up to find it at all.

That’s not to say it’s all thrust — well, actually that’s exactly what it’s to say — but in the furygallop of “Stan the Wolfman” and indeed in “Godspeed Below,” there are turns to a more overarching heavy rock groove that Hashteroid — the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Alex Gidora, bassist/vocalist Mike Grossnickle and drummer Grant Prouse — bring to bear with the kind of cross-genre, we’re-just-gonna-do-this fuckall that once found hardcore punkers like Suicidal Tendencies essentially playing thrash metal. There’s a similar concern for the barriers between one style and another throughout HashteroidHashteroid, and where so much of the underground heavy rock scene in the Pacific Northwest remains enamored of Red Fang‘s party vibes, even in an unbridled catchy piece like “Green Caramel” — which, by amazing coincidence you can hear premiering at the bottom of this post, these guys are on their own trip, as closer “…Return to Hash Planet” shows in its metal-o-speed-punk high-energy push, post-Motörhead for sure, but turning to a beer-spilling nod in its hook like it ain’t no thing, happens all the time. Maybe for Hashteroid it does.

One thing about “Green Caramel” that you might want to keep in mind about the album as a whole as you listen: It’s four minutes and 20 seconds long. The connection to stoner culture notwithstanding — dude, the band is called Hashteroid; ain’t like they’re keeping secrets — the point is that one might expect speed-punk cuts like some of these to be in the one- to two-minute range, but “Stan the Wolfman” tops six. And yet at not point do Hashteroid remain in one place long enough to overstay their welcome. It’s a hard balance to find, even more for a debut full-length, and it leaves little mystery as to why Cursed Tongue Records picked up the band to release the album this summer.

Announcement follows with audio after. Don’t be a jerk and skip the track:

hasteroid ctr signing


Cursed Tongue Records is super pumped to announce the signing of Canadian speed devils and riff meisters Hashteroid. This band has been shredding venues to pieces across the land for some time and is now ready to take over the world with their fast paced take on psych rock and stoner metal. Hashteroid has been on the CTR radar for quite some time and it’s an honor to be given the opportunity to work with this fierce threesome.

Hashteroid prove that stoner metal doesn’t have to be slow; the riffs are huge and the Sabbath is maintained, but the blasting back-beat doesn’t let up. A live Hashteroid set pours gas on the fires of stoke, and burns down barriers in a smoked-out, sweaty haze. The power of the trio lies in smuggling Motörhead’s mayhem into riff-filled lands, while remaining heady enough for harsh tokers. Formed in the Fall of 2013 by Alex Gidora (Guitar/Vocals), Mike Grossnickle (Bass/Vocals), and Steve Chambers (Drums), the band was tragically sidelined by Steve’s passing while waiting for the first pressing of their debut EP, ‘Respect the Depths’. Knowing that the best tribute to a fallen comrade is to keep on with life’s work, Hashteroid regrouped in 2016 with Grant Prouse on the kit and an even bigger chip on their shoulder.

The band hit the Vancouver scene hard, sharing the stage with locals Anciients and Baptists, and touring heavies like Black Breath, The Shrine, and The Atomic Bitchwax. Last fall they opened for Dead Meadow and Elder as well as toured Western Canada. The Spring of 2017 saw the band holed up at Bully’s Studios to record their first full-length with Michael Kraushaar (Black Wizard). The resulting tracks were mixed by Vancouver veteran Jesse Gander (Bison, Japandroids) then mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright (Nails, Mutoid Man). The new material hones the band’s headlong approach, showcasing the trio shredding on the blade of a hot-knife, straddling the opposing forces of pure momentum and reflective intricacy. With a full-length album in the wings, Hashteroid is poised to make their mark on all that is heavy.

2018 is shaping up to be a big one for Hashteroid with the release of their debut album on digital in spring with vinyl to follow shortly after. Also touring plans are lined up along gig in April with mighty Dopethrone.

With Hashteroid we feel that the Cursed Tongue Records roster has been reinforced with some of the illest and hardest hitting punky psych stoner rock this side of the Universe. This is sure to please fans of anything energetic, heavy and ripping. Fans of aforementioned Mutoid Man will find plenty to dig here. And if you ever wondered how Black Sabbath would sound when played at 78 RPM – ponder no more. Hashteroid has you covered with the energy and metallic drive of Kvelertak and the vocals of Fu Manchu/At The Drive-In paired with a heady dose of thrashy stoner riffery.

CTR-009, HASHTEROID – ‘HASHTEROID’, official release date: summer 2018

Alex Gidora – Guitars & Vocals
Mike Grossnickle – Bass & Backup Vocals
Grant Prouse – Drums

Recorded at Bully’s Studios with Michael Kraushaar (Black Wizard)
Mixed by Jesse Gander (Bison, Japandroids)
Mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright (Nails, Mutoid Man)
All music composed and arranged by HASHTEROID
All lyrics by HASHTEROID
Artwork and design by Adam Vick
Additional design/layout by Michael Andresakis

Track listing:

Side A
1. Freak Power
2. Black Tide
3. Stan The Wolfman
4. Green Caramel

Side B
5. Godspeed Below
6. Cool Ghost
7. …Return To Hash Planet

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