Review & Track Premiere: Green Lung, Black Harvest

Posted in audiObelisk on July 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

green lung black harvest

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Reaper’s Scythe’ by Green Lung. Black Harvest is available to preorder here.]

Green Lung on “Reaper’s Scythe”:

Some key elements of ‘Reaper’s Scythe’ were actually written when we were putting together our first EP Free the Witch, but we couldn’t quite find a way to bring them together. Soon after Woodland Rites came out we were playing around in our studio and added a sinister intro and an epic King Diamond-esque middle 8, and suddenly it all clicked. It’s the first song we’ve written with that old school Maiden gallop, and horror fans will spot lots of references in the lyrics, from the familiar (Stephen King’s Children of the Corn) to the obscure (Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home). It’s fast becoming our favourite song to play in the practice space. We can’t wait to unleash it live!

London’s Green Lung return on Oct. 22 with Black Harvest, their second full-length and label-debut for Svart Records. It is an especially pivotal moment for the UK five-piece, arriving after pandemic-delay as the follow-up to 2019’s Woodland Rites (review here), which was the finest debut album released that year, fueled by massive choruses and an underlying classicism of approach blending organ and guitar lines, thoughtful melodies and arrangements, and an on-the-beat vitality that spoke of the live experience even through the clarity and fullness of its studio presentation. Black Harvest, in that regard, does not attempt to fix the unbroken in Green Lung‘s approach.

The band — guitarist Scott Black, vocalist Tom Templar, bassist Joseph Ghast (who steps in following the departure of Andrew Cave), organist John Wright and drummer Matt Wiseman — continue in this crisp 10-song/43-minute collection their collaboration with Wayne Adams as producer, and the overarching presentation they concoct together builds on what they began to offer with 2018’s Free the Witch EP (review here), digging into various metals and heavier rocks such that Black‘s solo in “Leaders of the Blind” can soar like, suitably enough, Blind Guardian, even as Tom Templar‘s vocals find their way into a post-Sabbathian niche while feeding into the semi-cult, goth-tinged atmosphere and horror/folk-derived themes. An October release is only appropriate for a record of such rich, earthy hues and dappled light, and across two clearly delineated sides, Green Lung not only justify the hype that’s surrounded them since before their first record, but demonstrate their readiness to push themselves as songwriters and performers in order to best serve their songs.

Even on a record that boasts hooks like those of “Old Gods,” “Reaper’s Scythe,” “You Bear the Mark” and “Doomsayer” — see also: the rest — atmosphere plays a central role in Green Lung‘s craft. Each half of the LP begins with an intro, with the call-to-ritual “The Harrowing” jumping headfirst into organ-led theatrics at the outset met by side B’s foreboding chant in “Black Harvest,” which gives way to a momentary shred-fest surge before receding again into softer spaces agead of “Upon the Altar.” This balance, between Black on guitar and Wright on organ, is crucial to Black Harvest and to Green Lung‘s execution of their songs overall. Within solidified structures of verses, choruses — have I mentioned the choruses yet? good — solos, etc., the back and forth dance between guitar and keys becomes a central defining factor no less than Templar‘s vocals.

That would seem to put Ghast and Wiseman in supporting roles on bass and drums, but the classic truth of heavy rock holds firm as “Old Gods” unfurls its first thuds, crashes, and thickened groove; heavy is born in the low end and the punctuation is its essence and its volume. “Old Gods” is a well-chosen post-intro opener — everything here is well-chosen, and the mix is gorgeous — and as the band builds Jerusalem on English ground, there’s boogie and momentum immediately on their side, the sing-along-ready hook just the first of more to come as “Leaders of the Blind,” “Reaper’s Scythe” and “Graveyard Sun” follow on the first half of Black Harvest, with the last of them seeming to acknowledge its own autumnal nature, in conversation with mid-period and later Type O Negative without trying to sound like that band or anything so much as itself, again adjusting that balance between guitar and organ to get there as it reaches toward 5:42, the longest cut on the record.

green lung (Photo by Ester Segarra Photography)

“Doomsayer” and “Born to a Dying World” likewise top five minutes, and like so much else throughout Black Harvest, that would seem to be by design in terms of their serving as a formidable closing pair, which they do. Before they get there, though, Green Lung answer the momentary shove of the title-track with “Upon the Altar,” a worthy companion-piece to “Old Gods” in theme and delivery alike, with a festival-ready payoff in its second half bringing on “You Bear the Mark” in one of several one-sided conversations with a lyrical “girl,” as in, “Girl, you bear the mark” or the “autumn girl” from “Graveyard Sun.” So be it.

Speedier than the song before it, “You Bear the Mark” is a beginning point for the outward journey the band make with their final tracks, a grounding that shifts into the longer-and-still-maddeningly-catchy “Doomsayer” and the broader-reaching “Born to a Dying World,” still memorable in both its burst of life and its quieter stretches, but making the conscious choice to pull back from trying to give a grand finale in its last moments as so many of Black Harvest‘s tracks have done to this point, instead letting its concluding minute-plus resolve in soft organ and vocal, folkish if not hymnal, raising the question if nature is the church, is there really a difference between the two? Given the largesse of “Doomsayer” — that stretch before it loops back around to the chorus — and, for that matter, any number of other stretches throughout, the decision to end atmospheric makes a bookend with how they started on “The Harrowing,” and that too would seem to be something of which Green Lung are cognizant.

Given that and the level of work they’ve done in the constructing and recording of this material, it’s hard to think of Black Harvest as anything other than masterful. It has a grandiose instrumental sensibility, to be sure, but still manages to offset that with its organic style and themes, and it engages the audience without capitulating to genre-based expectation, outdoing its predecessor while reaffirming the band’s strengths and forward potential to continue to develop these textures, atmospheres, and to toy with the balances at the core of their sound. From here, they wouldn’t be any more out of place in acoustic-based English folk than in full-on traditional doom riffing or psychedelic expanse. That they’ve chosen most to embody an aesthetic of their own, born of familiar elements and shaped as they will it, is perhaps an even greater strength than their songwriting. It has helped make Black Harvest one of 2021’s finest releases.

Green Lung, Black Harvest (2021)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Acid Magus, Wyrd Syster

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

acid magus

Acid Magus release Wyrd Syster July 30 on Mongrel Records. Hardly a year after unveiling their first single and thereby exposing the lizard people of their native Pretoria, South Africa, heavy psychedelic four-piece Acid Magus bring forth Wyrd Syster as their debut full-length through countryman imprint Mongrel Records. It is duly tripped out, putting modern psych and garage-style heavy in a nebular swirl and sculpting the results into songs of varying length and intent, sometimes headed ‘out there’ in a fashion that reminds of Black Rainbows — looking at you, “Conscientious Pugilist” and “She is the Night” — and offering more weighted blowout heavy ethereality in its closing pair “Evil” and “Red Dawn,” the latter of which answers the shouts of “Rituals” earlier on as though to confirm that, no, their arising from all that wash of fuzz was not a dream, but a reality altered by the molten churn bent to the band’s will. Garage doom is a factor — WitchUncle Acid‘s melodious threat, etc. — but so is grunge, and there’s depth of mix to account for all of it as made earthbound by guitarist Keenan Kinnear, bassist Jarryd Wood, drummer Roelof van Tonder and vocalist Christiaan Van Renen. One way or the other, Wyrd Syster is the stuff of run-on sentences and mixed metaphor, clearly.

True, all things are fleeting, ephemeral, mortal, and some day the sun will swell to however many times its size, burn away the oceans and the atmosphere and eventually the rest of the planet itself. Nothing we as a species do or have ever done can possibly last or matter into such a scale of time. Can’t argue. Sooner or later, the bubble that is the universe itself may simply pop. But in the meantime, Acid Magus cull 44 minutes of deep-dive-ready, headphones-on fuzz-o-buzz, the riffs of the title-track leading the way with echo-drenched leads and a laid back hook delivery from Van Renen. The rhythm is a subtle charge, but it’s intermittent, coming and going amid drifting guitar and a more open verse, and spaciousness and atmosphere feel as much an essential facet of the band’s execution as does the lattice from which they launch, but “Wyrd Syster” is also only half a tell.

acid magus wyrd sisterAs the shortest inclusion — the interlude “Virgo” notwithstanding — on the album that bears its name, “Wyrd Syster” is as much a tease as it is an introduction to what follows, and there’s a marked shift as “Rituals” takes hold with riffage hypnotic and more patient in its flow, the rolling groove that starts out receding behind the central guitar line only to emerge again, massive, powerful, as the procession hits its payoff. For all the space the band have covered, they’ve only just begun, and “Conscientious Pugilist” follows with samples, a spaced-out wacky solo backed by room-emphasis drums leading to Sabbath crunch, start-stop-then-all-start shove and echoing screams and suddenly you get a better sense of why one might call the band “experimental.” It’s not so much about them playing their instruments upside down or making noise for noise’s sake — nothing wrong with that if that’s your thing — but there’s a sense of adventure in “Conscientious Pugilist” as the longest track on Wyrd Syster, and even in the moment to recover that the subsequent quiet stretch of “Virgo” represents as the record’s centerpiece, the impact of Acid Magus‘ outbounding is not to be understated. No lack of exploration for their carrying structure with them.

I’ll make it easy for you: If you’re not on board by the time they ooze into “She is the Night,” the rest will only be a slog, but for those who can get to it and those to whom it gets, side B of Wyrd Syster has plenty more delights of its own to offer, mirroring the shortest-to-longest setup of “Wyrd Syster,” “Rituals” and “Conscientious Pugilist,” but with “She is the Night” setting out from a place less initial than the opener (duh), benefiting from the altitude adjustment already wrought by Acid Magus on the tracks preceding. Like the title-track, “She is the Night” has a standout delivery of its titular lyric, and its guitar rings in ambient fashion, but the joy is the nod and layered movement that takes hold at the end, rumbling out to stillness eventually as all things must, but leaving that resonant guitar behind as an epilogue. “Evil” churns and writhes and seeps and careens through dynamic turns, coalescing around its groove as much as anything, and cutting off cold ahead of “Red Dawn” at the finish. I don’t think the closer is about the Patrick Swayze movie, but I’ve certainly been wrong before. The fuzz and the hey-man-what’s-wrong-aren’t-you-coming shove are reaffirmed early alongside a melodic highlight and given counterpoint in the slower march that arises, spaceborne and elephantine, to lead into the last fadeout with silence to spare at the end, more cosmic than kosmiche, but unfurling in the vacuum either way.

Whether or not you take the journey out the airlock with Acid Magus is ultimately up to you, but Wyrd Syster provides more than enough reach and breadth and resonance to justify the minimal effort in doing so. As their debut — if in fact it is — it shows a distinct chemistry taking shape within the familiar aspects of genre, and sees the band honing their persona out of the various elements and tropes with which they’re working. Consider yourself dared to give it a shot and see where it takes you.

Enjoy:

Acid Magus, Wyrd Syster album premiere

DOWNLOAD / STREAM: https://orcd.co/acidmagus_wyrdsyster

Impassioned, epic, slow, and heavy; it’s all here as Acid Magus present their finest work to date.

In the faint light that separates dreams from reality, lies from truth and heaven from hell, lives the Acid Magus. Meditating, surrounded by darkness and light, energising the air with electric anticipation. Come forward and listen, stay awhile, there are no sins.

“For the first time the band have experimented with some low tuning, so expect octave drops and tempo changes. All the psych/stoner/doom vibes to be expected but once again, that alt rock accessibility lingers.” Comments guitarist Keenan Kinnear

Line Up:
Keenan Kinnear: guitars
Jarryd Wood: bass guitar
Roelof van Tonder: drums
Christiaan Van Renen: vocals

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Suncraft Premiere “Bridges to Nowhere”; Flat Earth Rider out Aug. 6

Posted in audiObelisk on July 26th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

suncraft

Norwegian heavy rockers Suncraft release their debut album, Flat Earth Rider, on Aug. 6 through All Good Clean Records. In the vast annals of modern conspiracy theory, those who are committed to the notion of the planet being a disc which one might one day go off the side — ridiculous; reality as a holographic simulation, on the other hand… — are ultimately harmless, at least in comparative terms, and as Suncraft‘s first full-length following behind a few Spotify-able singles likewise content to dig into its own stylistic niche, throw a burly elbow here and there en route to hard-hitting, forward push hooks, but especially early on in “Flat Earth Rider” and “Space Buddha,” the Oslo four-piece seem to be exploring their way through songwriting toward establishing their sound and discovering who they are as a band. The double-guitars of Sigurd Grøtan and Vebjørn Rindal Krogstad lead that charge and boast duly charged leads, while bassist Rasmus Skage Jensen serves vocal duties and drummer Tobias Paulsen patiently awaits the next change requiring a fluid transition, leading the riffs from inside the pocket.

Jensen‘s vocals get into gruffer fare in “Flat Earth Rider,” centerpiece “Lingo Hive Mind,” and here and there throughout “Commie Cannibals and even the more spacious “Adaptation” ahead of the 11-minute closer “Bridges to Nowhere” (premiering below), but the delivery is more dynamic than, say, a cleaner verse and shouted chorus, or vice versa. It might Suncraft Flat Earth Riderbe a line or two with a throatier delivery, then back to a burgeoning melody making a song like “Space Buddha” or “Lingo Hive Mind” less predictable for the single fact that one is less sure where it’s going to turn next, even if the underlying structures are largely straightforward. These clever arrangements, coupled with the ability of the guitars to push the energy of a song forward with a sense of build to which the drums are only suited, help to give Flat Earth Rider its sonic persona, which doesn’t seem to be taking itself too seriously but can bear significant heft when inclined to do so, as in the rolling chorus of “Commie Cannibals” or the early verses of “Bridges to Nowhere,” which opens in its midsection to more complex melodic layering before surging outward and paying off the touches of metallic aggression and progressive heavy rock that have shown themselves across the six-song span to that point.

That span is manageable at 37 minutes and of course vinyl-ready with the atmospheric echo of “Adaptation” signifying a shift to side B even digitally, but that movement becomes important to someone making their way through the entirety, and it feels like another level on which Suncraft‘s potential shines through. The rougher-edged moments bring to mind Orange Goblin from the title-track onward, and “Flat Earth Rider” indeed sets the tone for side A with the hooks of “Space Buddha,” “Lingo Hive Mind” — for which I’d love to read the lyrics; getting a very “guess I’ll go live on the internet” kind of vibe from what I can discern — and the more weighted, longer “Commie Cannibals” acting as a bookend for what’s almost the first of two mini-albums, with “Adaptation” and “Bridges to Nowhere” serving as the second, broader in ambition but holding to a lack of pretense on the whole. All of this rounds out to an affect that makes me less concerned about where Suncraft are going — surely not off the end of the earth — than where they are now.

Their songcraft is obviously in capable hands, and their performance is energetic without losing the thread of its own purpose in being part of the larger album as a whole. If you were looking for an encouraging debut from a relative-newcomer heavy rock band, well, that’s one thing you can tick off your to-do list for today. Cheers. Take the rest of the afternoon off.

Enjoy “Bridges to Nowhere” on the player below, followed by some comment from the band and more info from the PR wire.

Dive in:

Suncraft on “Bridges to Nowhere”:

“Bridges to Nowhere” is the closing track on Suncraft’s debut album, Flat Earth Rider. A ten-minute, ever-changing epic, the song is a journey of a listen, not holding back on anything the band has to offer. Heavy stoner rock riffs, impactful build-ups, thrash-metal-like choruses, riveting guitar solos and intense blast-beats are some of the features to expect. Lyrically, the song is about alienation from a commodity-based society, as seldom knowing where the commodities we buy come from, who made them and why, can make us feel disconnected from others. The song gradually turns from despair to hope and optimism, insisting that a better future is possible.

“Flat Earth Rider” was produced, mixed and mastered by Ruben Willem (The Good The Bad and The Zugly, Okkultokrati, Djevel, etc…) and features six unique tracks that show Suncraft combining elements from groovy stoner rock and riff-based heavy metal.

Since late 2017, this Oslo-based quartet have played their fair share of club shows in the nooks and crannies of Norway, honing the craft of playing explosively energetic concerts. After releasing released their debut EP, “Saigon” in 2019, the live-performances abruptly ended due to Covid-19. Turning the blow of the pandemic into a positive, the boys put all their efforts into writing their debut album, “Flat Earth Rider” and as soon as the world is safe enough, Suncraft will hit the road again and bring their unique flavor of rock n’ roll to a growing audience.

Line-up:
Rasmus Skage Jensen: Bass/Vocal
Tobias Paulsen: Drums
Sigurd Grøtan: Guitar
Vebjørn Rindal Krogstad: Guitar

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 64

Posted in Radio on July 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

If you’re paying attention at all — and fair enough if you’re not — you had to see this one coming, right? No way I wasn’t going to follow up that massive Quarterly Review with a playlist for The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal. Had to happen. Honestly, I covered enough stuff in that 110-record span that I might do two shows out of it. Have to see what I can pull together for next time.

To answer your next imginary question, yes, it is somewhat bittersweet after two all-Neurosis episodes to be playing anything else. It was bound to happen eventually, some return to normalcy. Such as it is. Fortunately the selections here are killer if I do say so myself, and if you think it’s a coincidence that I reviewed so many albums and this playlist is starting with a cut from the Maha Sohona record, I promise you it is not. That one might’ve been my pick of the whole thing. Also took the excuse to play the Spaceslug track here again, just because it rules and fits that vibe too.

Thanks for listening and/or reading. I hope you enjoy.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 07.23.21

Maha Sohona Leaves Endless Searcher
The Crooked Whispers Hail Darkness Dead Moon Night
Filthy Hippies I’m Bugging Out Departures
Paralyzed Golden Days Paralyzed
VT
Alastor The Killer in My Skull Onwards and Downwards
Spelljammer Bellwether Abyssal Trip
Spaceslug The Event Horizon The Event Horizon
Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel Horizon Polaris
VT
Hellish Form Shadows with Teeth Remains
Vouna Grey Sky Atropos
Rose City Band World is Turning Earth Trip
Moanhand The Boomerang of Serpents Present Serpent
VT
Methadone Skies Retrofuture Caveman Retrofuture Caveman

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Aug. 6 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Wail Premiere Self-Titled Debut in Full: Out This Week on Translation Loss

Posted in audiObelisk on July 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

wail

Philadelphia instrumentalist four-piece Wail release their self-titled debut July 23 on Translation Loss Records, and across its 10 tracks they jam out like the Philly All-Stars they are by any other name. Featuring Yanni Papadopoulos and Alexi Papadopoulos of Stinking Lizaveta on guitar and bass, EDO‘s Pete Wilder also on guitar and drummer Grant Calvin Weston, who’s worked with James “Blood” Ulmer, Billy Martin and hosts of others in varying jazz, funk and fusion contexts in addition to performing solo, they don’t skimp on pedigree, but the hour-long Wail is of course about more than the stuff they’ve done before. The bounce and surging lead guitar of “Family Man” and the jangly underpinning of swing in preceding opener “He Knows What it Is,” building to a fullness of tone and then pulling back to make room for the next solo, the jab-throwing rhythm of “Symmetry” and the way its burgeoning psychedelic feel give over to the nine-minute stretch of “Astronomy”a and the ensuing languid hypnocraft in the first half there — rest assured, they grow freakier as they go — all of these elements come together early on the record to establish a sonic personality with the confidence to go where it wants and follow improvisational whims, but also to build a conversation between the players involved and dive into the chemistry there. Just so happens there’s plenty of that to go around.

If you’re the type to sit and analyze — there’s no wrong way to listen — you’ll find the quality of play here humbling. Dig into the snare work and intertwining guitars and bass of “One World” after “Astronomy” and the rock-jazz affect of the whole is certainly more than the sum of its parts, but that doesn’t mean the parts aren’t still damn impressive. In this way, Wail‘s Wail engages dually, and is cerebral as well as expressive, maybe born of the players’ desire to work together, though in the modern recording climate and era of the ‘pandemic project,’ I should note I have no idea how much time they’ve actually all spent in the same room. If you told me the record was all done live, written and improvised in the studio and recorded over one weekend, I’d believe you. If you told meWail Wail they passed files back and forth for eight months in 2020 and built the songs up one at a time that way, I’d believe you too. I’m very trusting, but I’m easily hurt; don’t take advantage. The point is that however it was made, the vibe here is real, natural and fluid. Obviously, if someone’s going to put a song called “Philly Strut” on a record, they damn well better bring it, and Wail do, funk-tioning as a unit with just an edge of the unhinged to remind you there’s still a chance you’ll get your ass kicked if you hang out long enough in town trying to meet Gritty.

Maybe I’m a sucker for psych-jazz — maybe I also breathe oxygen — but as “Oceans of Mercury” answers back to “Astronomy” in the-only-other-song-about-space fashion, its guitar noodling with due exploratory sense, mellow but not inactive, the breadth and scope that Wail covers becomes that much clearer. It’s fitting that so much of the album is about what the band can bring to light working together — you can hear it throughout the entire span, even in the more atmospheric moments, and they offer no pretense otherwise — but there’s forward potential in that too, and it’s when they stretch out in that kind of flowing movement that it comes forward. “Expert’s Reprise” is brighter somehow but revisits the jangle strum of “Family Man” earlier on and it becomes the bed-jam for an extended shreddy solo that consumes much of its second half, receding temporarily before breaking out again, leading to the trippy “Pyramids” in the penultimate spot, which puts guitar-as-synth (or just synth) and other effects to use over a sweet bassline that holds the whole thing together.

That leaves only closer “Abbath is Drunk Again,” which at 6:54 is a strut unto itself in terms of the band reaffirming what’s worked so well for them all along — a looser feel than some of what’s come before it, but still keeping to a structure not unlike “Expert’s Reprise” where everybody’s going along cool and then wham comes a dizzying guitar solo over top. They end cold, clicking off a pedal, and offer a quick couple seconds to process before the end. Not too shabby. Especially considering Wail as a debut release, the level they’re executing at is emblematic of the experience they bring. Even in its most unscripted moments, the very happening isn’t happenstance. It ain’t a coincidence they kill it. One imagines them swimming around each other in Philly’s talent pool and finally creating a swirl enough to get together and, well, wail for a while. And so they do.

I could go on — it might be fun — but inevitably if I did I’d end up using the word “skronk” somewhere and nobody needs that shit. You’ll find the premiere of the whole shebang on the player below, followed by a killer by-the-numbers quote from Yanni Papadopoulos the pre-save link for the album, courtesy of Translation Loss.

Enjoy:

Yanni Papadopoulos on Wail:

1. Wail is working man’s music. If you’re outside painting houses for a living, baking in the sun while biting flies feast on your flesh, you know that some upbeat swinging jams are what will get you to cleanup time.

2. My lead guitar tracks on this record are all first takes with no edits or punches. I’m proud of that and I think it gives the record an off-the-cuff feel.

3. I’m heavily influenced by Wino and Greg Ginn, but also by Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Hazel. I’ve seen tons of heavy shows in my life, but one of the heaviest was Funkadelic. I was part of the sound crew for a big outdoor show in 94′. We unloaded six Marshall full stacks to the stage and two SVT cabs. Then Funkadelic came out and played Cosmic Slop. Sonic Youth, who had gone on just before them, seemed like a Tonka toy by comparison.

4. Wail just wants to be the funk band at your stoner rock fest.

5. Progressive rock influences are important to me, so it’s a pleasure for me and my brother to work with veterans like Calvin Weston and Pete Wilder who have been prog heads for decades.

pre-save link: https://orcd.co/wail

Yanni Papadopoulos: guitar
Alexi Papadopoulos: bass
Pete Wilder: guitar
Grant Calvin Weston: drums

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Review & Full Album Stream: The Age of Truth, Resolute

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the age of truth resolute

[Click play above to stream Resolute by The Age of Truth. Album is out Friday and available for preorder here.]

Be it resolved, Philadelphia’s The Age of Truth haven’t fixed what wasn’t broken about their 2017 debut LP, Threshold (review here), but have taken many of the aspects of that record and, with Resolute, pushed them forward. The four-piece — with drummer Scott Frassetto making his first recorded appearance alongside returning guitarist Michael DiDonato, bassist William Miller and vocalist Kevin McNamara — offer fewer songs than on the first outing, but if they’ve pulled back on things like an interlude and a bonus track, the path of immediacy suits them even in tracks that might be longer and comes coupled with a progression of songwriting and a sharpness of performance that rings out from the first 10 seconds of “Palace of Rain” onward. They are down to the business of kicking ass. What’s another word for “determined?”

Renewing their collaboration with producer Joseph Boldizar, who engineered along with Dave Klyman at Retro City Studios in Philly — Andrew Schneider mixed all but “Seven Words” in Brooklyn and Ryan Smith mastered in Nashville — only further highlights the growth the band’s craft has undertaken in the last four years. The tension of the chug in “A Promise of Nothing,” the swagger amid McNamara‘s layers in the prior “Horsewhip” and the swaying payoff in aforementioned opener in “Palace of Rain” all set an early standard of high grade fare that finds the unit sounding tighter, more purposeful in their task and aware of what they want that task to be. Understand, I’m not slagging off that first record in the slightest. Again, what’s happening here is that The Age of Truth have taken what worked really well and added to it.

At just under seven minutes, “Palace of Rain” sets up an alternating pattern of shorter and longer cuts that plays out across side A. Its turns are crisp but made fluid by an underlying groove, and among the other functions it has, it establishes the methodology the band will work with throughout what follows. It has an instrumental build. It has a powerhouse performance from McNamara — who could be singing classic metal or NWOBHM if he wanted but is well suited to the grittier fare; his voice reminds of a roughed-up Philly version of Euro heavy rock singers like Magnus Ekwall, Christian “Spice” Sjöstrand, etc. — that meets the aggressive pulse in Frassetto‘s drumming and the patterns set by DiDonato‘s riffs with due confrontationalism, Miller adding the tonal heft to the punch that puts “Palace of Rain” over the top in its concluding nod even as it emphasizes the journey undertaken to get there.

“Horsewhip” — three minutes as opposed to six-plus, which happens again between “A Promise of Nothing” and side A capper “Seven Words” — starts out with a more swinging, near-but-not-quite-post-Clutch semi-spoken verse before the chorus spreads out in Monster Magnetic style and loops back around, catchy like a song that came together in one rehearsal and needed nothing more than it was given, and while “A Promise of Nothing” is more structurally complex and breaks in its midsection for a quiter stretch before picking up volume again in slower roll, eventually returning to its chug to round out, the band carries it across with efficiency and urgency in kind, letting the acousti-Zeppelin “Seven Words” finish out in a manner made all the more organic for the subdued middle of the song before. Vocals farther back, a lead and rhythm layer of guitar accompanying, it’s more than an interlude and a considered shift in methodology that prefaces more changes still to come as Resolute moves into side B.

the age of truth

As “Horsewhip” advised to “Shut your mouth and go to sleep” — practically shouldering its way to getting stuck in your head — “Eye One” draws back for a more patient approach and is nearly two and a half into its total seven minutes before the verse begins. When it does, it’s a stomper with Wyndorfian phrasing, Sabbath-rooted swing and a turn after four minutes in toward more straight-ahead drive for the chorus, before a bluesy solo section begins the final build back into the hook again, vocals in layers front and back while the guitar, bass and drums urges into the cold finish. Where side A went between shorter and longer songs, side B is set up shortest to longest, with “Salome” at 7:52 and closer “Return to the Ships” at 9:01. A bluesman-by-the-river tale unfolds in “Salome” on a bed of fervent chug that in another context could just as easily be prog metal, but a flourish of acoustic guitar surfaces after a hint of Southern idolatry in a transition and it becomes clearer where The Age of Truth are headed. They twist and turn their way into a solo, Miller holding the groove together all the while, and are back in the chorus, more melodic and almost wistfully brash, before the acoustic comes back around to close out.

That’s a fair enough shift as “Return to the Ships” launches with the first genuine drift the band has fostered, a languid moment of strum and groove that’s almost All Them Witches-esque until the watery vocals kick in. A hard snare hit at 3:05 will mark the change that’s being telegraphed — the “now it gets very heavy” moment, and sure enough — but when one considers how far The Age of Truth have come to get to such a point where the beginning of “Return to the Ships” seems natural emphasizes the smoothness with which their execution brings the listener along for the ride. With a return to the quiet and guest keyboards/programming by Graham Killian, the closer chooses not to go for the big payoff at the end. Don’t get me wrong — it’s lacking nothing for impact when it wants to hit hard, and after six minutes in, it’s downright pummeling as the tempo picks up — but the last two and a half minutes of the track are led by that softer guitar, and the actual drawdown of Resolute is exactly that: a drawdown.

The lesson there? Something about unpredictability, maybe, or simply that The Age of Truth are considering the album as a whole as well as the individual songs that comprise it when they’re writing. One way or the other, their taking that breath, taking the time to let “Return to the Ships” go gradually — as one migth see a ship get smaller heading for the horizon — is one last proof for the theorem of their overarching creative growth. That they know so well what they want to do throughout these tracks only makes them a more dangerous band, and as much as Resolute‘s goal is in its craft, so too does the energy in this material make it all the more infectious, resonant even through that softer conclusion. May they never lose whatever chip it is residing on their collective shoulder if this is what they’re going to do with it. One of 2021’s best in heavy rock.

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The Angelus Premiere “Hex Born”; Why We Never Die out Aug. 20

Posted in audiObelisk on July 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the angelus

The Angelus make their label debut for Desert Records on Aug. 20 with their third album, Why We Never Die. It is perhaps an unfortunate outing, monetarily, since for anyone not previously familiar with the band’s work, it just might make one inclined to buy everything they’ve done to-date. Heavy Western vibes pervade the Dollars-trilogy-esque bells of the introductory “Honor to Feasts,” and that two-minute preliminary is followed immediately by the bluesier fuzz of “Hex Born,” of a spiritual kinship somehow to the likes of All Them Witches, latter-day Greenleaf, harmony-laced Wovenhand‘s tense rhythm changes, Lord Buffalo and others while working with their own carefully carved identity. They make fitting labelmates to Cortége in mood (also those bells), and though their arrangements have been stripped down somewhat since their string-laced 2011 debut, On a Dark and Barren Land, and the choruses in “Hex Born” and the subsequent “Ode to None” are hooks enough to set a tone of songcraft-focus for everything that follows, the Dallas trio led by guitarist/vocalist Emil Rapstine with Justin Evans on drums/backing vocals and Justin Ward on bass, are not at all without subtlety either in presentation or aesthetic. Earthy psychedelia pervades as Why We Never Die moves deeper into its ultra-manageable 34-minute procession, but The Angelus never grow so ethereal as to forget to bring their audience along.

“Ode to None” in particular has the feeling of a landmark in its position backing “Honor to Feasts” and “Hex Born” with a longer runtime and a more patient feel. The following “Of Ashen Air” is suitably floating in its midsection vocals and brings fluid forward motionThe Angelus Why We Never Die in the drums, less lush than the song before it, but flowing easily enough from one to the other. Momentum is already on The Angelus‘ side as the first half of Why We Never Die careens ahead, never really bursting out with energy or pushing over the top, but not at all staid in its delivery either. Both “Of Ashen Air” and the more shimmer-and-crash-prone heavy post-rock of “When the Hour is Right” hold to the central atmosphere, which is not necessarily paramount — that’s songwriting and performance, as regards priorities — but always there in terms of the backdrop on which the action of the songs takes place; a stretched out Western landscape, breeze blown and looming, maybe threatening. The quicker “Another Kind” sneaks in post-industrial electronics ahead of its satisfyingly thickened payoff, leading into the seven-minute title-track, the arrival of which feels no less momentous than that of “There Will Be No Peace” on the 2017 sophomore LP of the same name, despite the fact that the intro didn’t reference it specifically. Harmonies and instrumental dynamics alike serve as strengths alongside old-timey phrasing in the lyrics, as heard when the instruments drop out behind the vocals after four minutes in, the melody quickly setting up the building triumph that follows. This is considered, progressive movement in craft, but the mood behind it feels real.

Along with a looped-seeming fuzzy guitar line that borders on techno, the outro “Hustle the Sluggard” provides closing Morricone-ism to bookend that of “Honor to Feasts,” right down to a moment of military snare drum, as the album carries to its finish. It is a last reminder of the coherence at work in The Angelus‘ material, pushing forward even as they move farther out from the place they were as a unit. This is bolstered by a smoothness of the production and a balance of mix brings perfect emphasis on the shifting balance of melody and heft throughout. Why We Never Die is impeccable in its realization, but it does not come across as forced even in its most nuanced reaches.

On the player below, you can stream the premiere of “Hex Born.” Rapstine, also of Dead to a Dying World, offers some comment on the track, and more PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

Emil Rapstine on “Hex Born”:

Death and rock & roll, rock & roll and death. Hex Born was one of the first songs I started working on for “Why We Never Die” and the first I finished the lyrics for. Those lyrics would set the theme and tone for the rest of the record.

“The curse is spoken, cast down to me.
The spell remains unbroken, calling out forever unto thee.”

The curse mentioned is one shared by all humanity and one handed down from generation to generation. A curse to die. The unbroken spell is the music we summon up, an eternal current we connect to to find meaning, and one that will ring out long after we are gone.

“Come lay your head beneath this heavy stone, come carve your given name.
We’ll save you a space, where we’re dreaming no more, with the waking and the slain”

As we leave this world we mark our place with headstones and engravings for others to remember us by. Music can also serve this purpose, creating a record and space for the world to remember our hopes and desires and in a way letting us live forever.

In a dim world, with death our only guarantee, The Angelus returns with their third full-length offering ‘Why We Never Die’. An album full of songs both powerfully engulfing and mesmerizingly intimate, the album’s title alludes to one’s constant rebirth through the creation of music and to the band’s hope to transcend the impending eventuality of death when all that remains is the music, and art becomes artifact. The cover art, featuring a highly stylized rendering of a white peacock resembling the traditional description of the phoenix, reinforces the hope that rebirth through creation allows us to live forever in the material world. The Dallas, Texas trio consists of Emil Rapstine (Dead To A Dying World) on guitar and vocals, accompanied by his stalwart co-conspirator Justin Evans on drums and backing vocals, and their newest accomplice Justin Ward on bass. The album, saturated with plaintive, intoning, and harmonizing vocals, despairing lyrics and darkly droning guitar, draws from post-rock, doom, folk, and dark psychedelic rock. The pleading voices and resounding chords here do not decay because they belong to any ears open to hear them as they reverberate for eternity.

Tracklist:
Honor To Feasts
Hex Born
Ode To None
Of Ashen Air
When The Hour Is Right
Another Kind
Why We Never Die
Hustle The Sluggard

“Why We Never Die” was recorded by Alex Bhore (formerly of This Will Destroy You) in Dallas, TX at Elmwood Recording, which belongs to Grammy Award winning producer John Congleton (SWANS, Chelsea Wolfe, St. Vincent, Angel Olsen). The album was mastered by Sarah Register (Protomartyr, Horse Lords, Lower Dens).

The Angelus: Emil Rapstine (guitar, vocals), Justin Evans (drums, vocals), and Justin Ward (bass)

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High Strange Premiere “Foulstrand”; Woe Upon Man out Aug. 24

Posted in audiObelisk on July 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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High Strange is low death! Plague metal! The buried-alive-in-brown-dirt raw death, chased with elements of sludge and decaying atmosphere, reeks of indiscriminate decay across Woe Upon Man‘s 28-minute span, and the purposefulness of its abiding drear is obvious. This is the sound of the times, channeled into pummeling drive and bitter stench. My beloved Garden State’s own Chrome Peeler Records (Butler, no less; my mother taught art there for 35-plus years) will handle the Aug. 24 release of the five-song debut outing, and Woe Upon Man spits dark poetry in “Black Hands” and “Evil is Life” at least partially lifted from the 1901 A Dream Play surrealist drama from Swedish playwright August Strindberg, lines like “It is a misery to be man!” and “Unclean is the earth” arrive in a spoken gutturalism over drones and distortion like Celtic Frost minus the majesty, and in alternating fashion with opener “Descend and You May See,” centerpiece “Foulstrand” (premiering below) and 10-minute finale “The Final Complaint/The Parting Hour,” ragers and bludgeoners all, no matter what speed they’re actually playing.

To wit, “Descend and You May See” plods until it sprints, taking a mere three minutes to introduce the disaffection and drear wrought by High Strange — the New York-based four-piece of Jonathan Canady, Jay NewmanConor Hickey and Joseph Branciforte, High Strange Woe Upon Manwhose significant pedigree you can see below — and the mystery of how Woe Upon Man earned a cassette release is quickly solved. It’s entirely possible, of course, that these songs were composed and recorded in isolation, passing files back and forth in a pandemic-era project — certainly the style bears the hallmark of disease — but they sure don’t sound like it. High Strange have harnessed a lo-fi sound that is at once scathing and experimental, the drones behind the echoing speech of “Black Hands,” derived from monologues in the play by The Portress and The Lawyer (the full text of the play is readily available) branching outward even as guitar noise howls and screeches like surrounding fire. This leads to the single snare hit that launches the classic death of “Foulstrand,” a speed-chugging central riff holding firm as the gritty, charred-epic sensibilities are shoved further along, the album’s shortest-to-longest progression of tracks making the noted descent all the more palpable as it goes.

“Evil is Life” is, accordingly, lower, longer and less frenetic than “Black Hands” before it, just as “Foulstrand” feels more assured of what it’s doing than “Descend and You May See” — which if you told me it was the first song written for the project, I’d believe you — and “The Final Complaint/The Parting Hour” draws the two sides together, devoting its first half to creating and only partially releasing tension in verses and a spoken chorus, while the second transitions into an ambient peculiarity of doom and drone noise, the rigor finally giving over to speech not unlike “Evil is Life” in such a way as to confirm that, as willfully unrefined as Woe Upon Man is across its relatively short stretch, High Strange are in control of what they’re doing and not acting without purpose behind their expression. The back-and-forth between assault and atmosphere — neither without aspects of the other, mind you — is pulled together in a way that is conscious and that it seems laughable to call graceful but is that just the same. If you can’t raise a claw to this, why even have claws?

Again, Aug. 24 is the release date (or at least the shipping date), and the preorder link and more info follows below from the PR wire. Before you get there, hit play on “Foulstrand” and be duly immersed in mortality’s endgame.

Enjoy:

HIGH STRANGE “Woe Upon Man” LP/cassette (SHIPPING AUGUST 24TH)

Lyrically based on August Strindberg’s “A Dream Play” HIGH STRANGE infuses their dark heaviness with a surrealistic edge. “Woe Upon Man” is a depraved cacophony of metal and noise primitivism, injecting blasts of fetid doom with mangled thrash. Massive slabs of rotted noise and low-end rumble into a seething mass of claustrophobic horror, creating a diverse and mind-blowing avant-heaviness.

Limited to 200 copies on black vinyl and 50 cassettes.

PRE-ORDER @ https://chromepeelerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/woe-upon-man

Tracklisting:
1. Descend and You May See
2. Black Hands
3. Foulstrand
4. Evil is Life
5. The Final Complaint/The Parting Hour

Members:
Jonathan Canady (Deathpile, Dead World): vocals, electronics
Jay Newman (Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path, Abandoner): bass, moog, apprehension engine
Conor Hickey (Brain Slug, Born Sinner): guitar
Joe Branciforte (Carnivore A.D., All Out War): drums

High Strange, Woe Upon Man (2021)

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