Deathchant Premiere “Hex”; Self-Titled Debut out Jan. 10

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

deathchant

Los Angeles four-piece Deathchant issue their self-titled debut on Jan. 10 through King Volume Records (LP) and Dune Altar (tape), and there’s some weird shit afoot. So, get this: Seven tracks/29 minutes. On the shorter end of an LP, but whatever. All the songs have one-word titles, so you’d think maybe pretty stripped down, right? And it’s Southern California, so you’d think maybe some boogie involved or some jams, right? Not really. Deathchant, led by guitarist/vocalist TJ Lemieux, make short work of expectation and offer a feedback-drenched take on darker heavy rock, so that even the strut of opener “Pessimist” can just absolutely collapse into biting noise at a moment’s notice — which it does — and then resume its course like nothing happened. There are “hey wait!” moments like that all over the album, and to add to that, Lemiuex‘s vocals are coated in reverb — he did similarly his band Child (who are not to be confused with the Australian blues rockers of the same name) — in such a way that in context of some of the severity surrounding feels like a tip of the hat to Wovenhand that immediately gives the songs a distinguishing element. There’s no shortage of groove to go around in “Pessimist” or elsewhere, and as the album unfolds with “Control” and “Ritual” — which as I understand it was going to be the title-track at one point — there is a linear character to the transitions that the noise-factor only helps further.

deathchant deathchant

Side A of the LP is those three songs: “Pessimist,” “Control” and “Ritual,” and the momentum factor isn’t to be understated. While Deathchant is short, and was recorded live obviously in an effort to capture an energetic vibe (easy to argue success there), the material doesn’t sound any more rushed than they want it to, and they’re in control the whole time of the thrust, which particularly as the drifting centerpiece “Eulogy” takes hold on side B and turns its wash over to the unbridled push of “Breathe,” “Hex” and closer “Trigger,” is key. Every song on the second half of the record is shorter than anything on the first, and it’s almost as though the band swapped out what would be the usual tack for an A/B long-player, putting the up-front rockers in back and the more ranging material up front, “Eulogy” notwithstanding. Either way, even at their most driving, in the forward pummel and tonal crush of “Breathe” or the chugga-shuffle of “Hex,” they hold firm to the atmosphere created by the earlier cuts, so that the most rocking of tracks is still imbued with a darker underlying spirit. As “Trigger” surges outward in go-go-go fashion before cutting to a closing minute-plus of eerie sampled noise and far-away guitar, the core blend of Deathchant‘s aesthetic is maintained — it is volatile, exciting and unpredictable. These are not words I use lightly.

Lemieux, who’s responsible for the songwriting and joined in the band by John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho, also helped to mix the recording which was engineered by Stephen Schroeder (who also mastered it), has been and is involved in a number of projects, but Deathchant find their footing quickly on their self-titled, and potential abounds for further exploration, and the lean nature of Deathchant itself only furthers interest in how their ethic will develop over the longer term.

Want the short version? Cool track. Give it a listen:

Recorded live over a 2 day period at a secluded cabin in Big Bear, California. Mixed by TJ Lemieux and Stephen Schroeder. Engineered and Mastered by Stephen Schroeder. All Songs & words by TJ Lemieux. Copyright 2018 RAGWEED.

DEATHCHANT is the brainchild of TJ Lemieux (CHILD, Psychedelic speed freaks, Mainline ladies, Babylon) formed in 2018 in Los Angeles, CA. They have been dubbed Psychedelic rock, proto-metal, doom, stoner metal, noise-punk, hard rock, and everything in between, but if you ask them it’s “rock and roll with psychedelic influences.” Their imagery and sound seem to fluctuate rapidly between a peaceful meditative eastern-tinged message of unity and all out warcry with an underlying message of love and peace-through-violence.

Driven by Thomas (TJ) Lemieux’s brooding aesthetic and signature psychedelic guitar character, DEATHCHANT echoes through the darker side of Proto-metal and hard rock. Reflections of past endeavors from TJ Lemieux, John Bolino, Colin Fahrner, and George Camacho (Roast, psychedelic speed freaks, high rise, Babylon) cascade into an immersive wall of noise-induced heavy metal mania, equal parts paranoia and transcendental harmony. These four create a sound that is loud, massive, and about as melodic as a sonic assault of this magnitude can be. They resonate with wherever or whoever you are and deliver an excitingly raw and catchy brand of rock and roll. Ask a freak!!

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Medicina Announce New LP Turboacido; Premiere “Pirotecnias”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

medicina

Grunge meets heavy psychedelia and straight-ahead rock in the expanses of Medicina‘s first long-player, Turboacido. Arriving Feb. 22 through Mei Lei Bel (say it out loud), the 10-track/45-minute LP is lush in tone and patient in delivery, but ultimately clearheaded about what it’s looking to accomplish in terms of songwriting. As the Algeciras-based trio features two former members of the defunct Viaje a 800, there’s an immediate level of interest, but Medicina — who have three EPs out dating back to 2015 — are quick to distinguish themselves in moments of all-out ’90s reimagining and the occasional bit of footgaze, which is like shoegaze, but with x-ray vision.

They’re not cosmic-averse either, which is fortunate since that’s where closer “Histimina” seems to be heading at full impulse speed. That track caps side B, but if you want to hear the one that does likewise on side A, you can stream the clap-along-worthy “Pirotecnias” on the player at the bottom of this post. Mei Lei Bel has preorders starting on my mom’s birthday (it’s what every mother wants), and you can find more background on the band and their noble mission below, courtesy of the PR wire.

It’s right under the art, which is looking directly at you.

Thusly:

medicina turboacido

Medicina – Turboacido

Release Date: 22/02/2019 (Pre-Orders will be available January 4, 2019) (Mai Lei Bel, Austria) (https://maileibel.bandcamp.com).

– Recording Info: Recorded and Mastered by Curro “Snortil” Ureba at Trafalgar Estudios (El Palmar-Vejer) during August/October 2018. Produced by Medicina & Curro “Snortil” Ureba.

Medicina is a trio formed at the beginning by Alberto and David, veteran musicians of the local scene in South Spain (They’ve playing together since the early 90´s in several bands like Ballet Violencia, Xudor Barato, among others).

David Ruiz was the drummer in the well known stoner rock band Viaje a 800 (from 1996 to 2008), and also in Buenamuerte Trío (From 2010 to 2013); After multiple line-up changes, Jose “Pot” (Viaje a 800, Atavismo…) finally joins the band as bass player in 2018.

Medicina began playing in 2012, performing a mix of genres like Shoegaze, Grunge, Post Punk and Space Rock, but anyway they prefer to call it Expansive Rock. Their main influences are bands like: Loop, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Spacemen 3, Suicide, Telescopes, The Stooges, Lagartija Nick or Nirvana, among others…

They have 3 EPs (self-released), the last one called: #3 includes new incursions in another music genres not previously explored as Ambient and Dub. They have announced a LP called “Turboacido” that will be released by the Austrian label Mai Lei Bel Records next year 2019.

Talking about live shows, they´ve been playing in several places of their country with bands such as Atavismo, Cowboy Lovers, and many others ; also played at festivals such as the Picnic Intestelar in Seville among others.
Nowadays they´re preparing themselves for a next Tour during 2018/2019, due to the presentation of their new upcoming LP.

Meanwhile….they keep experimenting in their laboratory.

Band members:
Alberto Ruiz Gonzalez (Guitar and Vocals)
David Ruiz Donoso (Drums)
Jose “Pot” Moreno (Bass)

Discography :
– Mlp – 2015 (Self Release)
– Soluble – Ep – 2016 (Self Release)
– 3 # – Ep – 2017 (Self Release)
– Turboacido – Lp – 2019 (Mai Lei Bel Records)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Lucifer’s Fall, Tales from the Crypt

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lucifer's fall tales from the crypt

[Click play above to stream Lucifer’s Fall’s Tales from the Crypt in its entirety. It’s out Dec. 17 through Sun and Moon Records.]

If you want to get a sense of where Lucifer’s Fall are coming from, you don’t have to look far. They have a song called “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall,” and that basically sums it up. The Adelaide, Australia, five-piece of vocalist Philip “Deceiver” Howlett, guitarists Kieran “The Invocator” Provis and Blake “Heretic” Stephens, bassist Jessica “Cursed Priestess” Erceg and drummer Ben “Unknown and Unnamed” Dodunski, more than live up to that basic ethos, and their sound seems to put it in constant emphasis along with their raw take on traditionalist doom. Their roots lie in acts like Puritan and Rote Mare, and in their five years, they’ve issued two long-players in a 2014 self-titled and 2016’s II: Cursed and Damned (review here), but the impetus for their new Sun and Moon Records collection, Tales from the Crypt, lies in the smattering of singles, demos, one-offs and Bandcamp tracks they’ve issued aside from those records.

There is some overlap, as there would be with demos and live tracks included — “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” also appeared on the second LP and I’m not sure how they’ll ever be able to release an album without it included; it’s their slogan and calling card — but with rehearsal tracks, studio songs and live cuts, there’s no want of variety between cuts like opener “Trapped in Satan’s Chains” or “Die Witch Die” as the compilation moves from raw to rawer, stripping doom down to its essential components and adding a lethal dose of fuckall in the spirit of the finest black ‘n’ roller primitivists. Doom worship. Metal worship. Tag on partial, “barely rehearsed” and/or live covers of Reverend BizarreExciter and Angel Witch, and you get over an hour of doomly scathe that’s drenched in attitude and unrelenting in its drive, songs like “Dirty Shits Dirty Music” and the rehearsal tape “Damnation” offering little by way of letup in a barebones sensibility that’s as punk as it is metal.

Are there tapes? There should be. Are there patches? Oh yes.

Some of the included material has been previously released — the already-noted salvo of covers that closes out Tales from the Crypt, for example, was on the limited CD-R Cursed Visions – Dungeon Demos III in 2016, which indeed was the third in a series of demos going back to the beginnings of the band in 2013 (though the “Angel Witch” here comes from 2017’s digital offering Live & Raw at Three?-?D Radio’s Sound Lounge). But I think even if you managed to snag one of the 30 CDs or 20 tapes that were pressed up at the time — long gone, of course — you might be fan enough to appreciate their appearance here as well. And if they’re new to you, or if the band is new to you, it’s hard to argue they do anything but shine in these tracks. Since so much of the point in what they do is to strip away what they might consider the excess from traditional doom and metal, their sound is remarkably well suited to the rehearsal-room feel of “Cursed Priestess,” which ends with a “yeah” from Deceiver that’s only appropriate, “Damnation,” “The Mountains of Madness” and this version of “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall.”

lucifer's fall

By extension, the bootleg-style recordings of “Deceiver,” “Die Witch Die” and “Death of the Mother” capture the band at their outwardly nastiest and thus most righteous. Having heard their proper studio output and the three “cleaner” inclusions here at the outset in “Trapped in Satan’s Chains,” “Dirty Shits” and “Unknown Unnamed,” I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for Lucifer’s Fall to abandon all production in the spirit of ever-more-rudimentary black metal-style tape-hiss cavernousness, but in combination with their actual albums, Tales from the Crypt helps to present a fuller picture of who they are to listeners. And granted, we know who they are — they’re Lucifer’s Fall, and you know the rest — but by culling these varied sources together, not only is more of the band’s personality put on display, which is not a minor consideration when it comes to Lucifer’s Fall, but also they get the chance to feature their work in a kind of anti-greatest-hits portrayal. This too is only fitting the band’s aesthetic. Couldn’t afford the leather, stuck with the denim.

So I guess this is the part where I sat that maybe the 13-track/61-minute assault of drunken doombashing isn’t for everybody. Fine. There’s your disclaimer. And it might be true in terms of the general brashness of the thing, but on another level, Tales from the Crypt embodies some of the best aspects not just of doom, but of being a band. It brims with fist-pumping, headbanging vitality. It taps into the spirit of collaborative creation — five individuals coming together to work toward a singular purpose and expression — and while it’s not by any means a quick listen, the band works quickly in both tempo and craft to bring the listener into their framework, so that as “Unknown Unnamed” gives way to “Deceiver” or “Death of the Mother” leads into the crawling “Cursed Priestess,” the jump in sound is easy enough to make because the whole thing isn’t necessarily about a a full album flow as much as it is about letting the audience into the rehearsal space — one imagines a basement-smelling dungeon, or crypt, or, you know, basement — or into the barroom with the shitty P.A., or just simply into their creative process.

There isn’t much ground being broken here — again, this is mostly material that’s surfaced elsewhere, and even if it wasn’t, that’s not really the point of what Lucifer’s Fall‘s approach. This is a celebration of the most basic tenets of doom and the deviant subculture around it. Call them born too late. Call them consumed with the wickedness of man. Say they’re hurling themselves face-first into the void. However you want to put it, Tales from the Crypt succeeds in bringing to light an essential facet of who Lucifer’s Fall are as a band, and with their penchant for putting out live sets, singles and demos and other sundry whatnot, it’s easy to think that the first such collection won’t by any means be the last. So be it.

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Nebula Premiere “Whalefinger” from Demos & Outtakes 98-02; Preorders up Now

Posted in audiObelisk on November 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

nebula

Nebula will issue Demos and Outtakes 98-02 two months from today, and to mark the occasion of preorders going live through Heavy Psych Sounds, the band are premiering the previously-unreleased track “Whalefinger.” Recorded in 2002, it’s one of the later inclusions on the compilation, with “You Got It” and a faithful live cover of Black Flag‘s “Nervous Breakdown” stemming from the same era. That same year, the Californian heavy psych rockers would release their collection Dos EPs (discussed here) as their final outing with the original lineup of guitarist/vocalist Eddie Glass, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano, as by the time 2003’s Atomic Ritual was released, Abshire had moved on. In familiar cuts like “Sun Creature,” “Humbucker,” “To the Center,” “Smokin’ Woman” and “Synthetic Dream,” Demos and Outtakes 98-02 isn’t necessarily as raw sounding as the name would imply, and while it’s inherently true that these most of tracks aren’t the “finished” versions, they also find the band working with producers like Jack Endino on “Humbucker” or John Agnello (Screaming Trees, many others) on the opening Leaf Hound cover “Stagnant Pool,” and with new mixes on “Smokin’ Woman” and “Sun Creature” by Matt Lynch of Snail, the band sounds vital even at their most barebones, which might be “You Got It,” though the Glass-only fuzz-blowout take on The Creation‘s “How Does it Feel to Feel” comes close.

The impact of this era of Nebula‘s work speaks for itself in the influence they continue to have on psychedelia, desert rock, and acts from any number of other intertwining heavy subgenres. Heavy Psych Sounds this year already issued Dos EPs along with Nebula Demos Outtakes 98-021998’s Let it Burn EP (discussed here) and 1999’s To the Center (discussed here) — both landmarks — and though it’s just over two minutes long, “Whalefinger” stands testament to the punk undercurrent running through the band’s sound. Stripped-down lyrics, sharp transitions and a momentum driven by Romano‘s drumming position the track structurally not so far off from “Nervous Breakdown,” though admittedly the latter is faster. And of course that matters to the overall intensity factor, but the point is that Nebula were taking various sonic perspectives from punk, garage rock, psych, stoner, whatever, and bringing them into their own approach. By 2002, they were an established touring act. They’d been across the US and abroad to Europe, and they weren’t exactly rookies when they started either, with Glass and Romano having broken off from Fu Manchu in ’97 and reunited with Abshire, who was that band’s original bassist, shortly thereafter. Still, I’m not sure I’d call Nebula “mature” by the time 2002 rolled around. Certainly they were experienced and seasoned — and toasted — but as Demos and Outtakes 98-02 shows in “Whalefinger” and “You Got It,” there was still a lot of exploring being done in terms of songcraft and aesthetic, and a kind of restlessness propelled them forward.

That works until you hit a wall, which Glass eventually did in 2010, but a revamped version of the band is pressing forward again with Glass, longtime bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster and working toward the prospect of the band’s first album since Heavy Psych (review here) in 2009. As to what Nebula might conjure after a decade out of the studio, I don’t know, but Demos and Outtakes 98-02 offers listeners a chance to revisit their original lineup in a way that stands apart from the lineage of their discography. It’s not the first “early works” compilation by any means, but given the fact that the Glass/Abshire/Romano incarnation of the band only had two LPs and a couple EPs and singles out — not nothing, but not exactly a glut of material — and given the nigh-legendary status of the trio as they were, it’s a question of taking all you can get. And from the covers to the unreleased tracks to the working versions of some of their most classic material, fans of the band should be ready to do precisely that.

More PR wire info follows “Whalefinger,” which you’ll find on the player below.

Please enjoy:

Mark Abshire on “Whalefinger”:

“Whalefinger” – not only is this song rad, but it’s the first song Eddie ever wrote. The original version was recorded and released by Olivelawn as a 7” B-side (Eddie played drums in Olivelawn).”

Set for a release on January 25th 2019, the ‘Demos & Outtakes 98-02’ will include 5 tracks that have never seen the light of day before, alongside rare demos as well as cover songs such as a special live version of Black Flag’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’! Beside these never published demos to date, the known tracks on this album are different to what NEBULA originally released on their previous records like on their pathbreaking ‘Charged’ or ‘To The Center’. Some tracks were written and recorded in these sessions, some never made it on any of them or were used for B-sides and singles. And then we get songs such as ‘Whalefinger’ which was the first song Eddie Glass ever wrote and which originally made it on a 7” B-side by Olivelawn, where Eddie played drums.

The tracklist of NEBULA’s ‘Demos & Outtakes 98-02’ will read as follows:

1. Stagnant Pool ( ’00/01 demo, Leaf Hound cover )
2. Whalefinger ( ’02 demo )
3. Humbucker ( ’99 demo )
4. Smokin’ Woman ( ’98 demo )
5. Sun Creature ( ’98 demo )
6. You Got It ( ’02 demo )
7. To The Center ( ’99 demo )
8. Synthetic Dream ( ’99 demo )
9. How Does It Feel To Feel? ( ’99 demo, The Creation cover )
10. Nervous Breakdown ( Live ’02, Black Flag cover )

Preorder: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS088

Nebula lineup on “Whalefinger”:
Eddie Glass: Guitar/Vocals
Ruben Romano: Drums
Mark Abshire: Bass

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Wolves in Haze Premiere “All or Nothing”; New Single out Dec. 13

Posted in audiObelisk on November 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

wolves in haze (Photo by Emma Johansson)

Swedish grit-worshipers Wolves in Haze release their new single, All or Nothing, on Dec. 13. Comprised of two tracks, the 10-minute offering taps into a vibe that directly calls out the Sunlight Studio sound of nearly 30 years ago, as bands like Entombed, Grave and Dismember brought a new and raw shape to death metal with a strong influence from rock and roll as an undercurrent. Wolves in Haze tip that balance the other way, and while the guitar tones of Manne Olander and Olle Hansson carry some no shortage of severity in their distortion, the Gothenburg four-piece completed by bassist Vicke Crusner and drummer Kalle Lilja (also of Långfinger) are still definitively working from a heavy rock foundation. “All or Nothing” and “Leave Your Head” follow behind the band’s 2016 self-titled debut full-length — which they recorded and mixed themselves and Esben Willems of Monolord mastered — and find the band with a clearheaded approach to what they want their sound to do, starting with the compressed riff that begins “All or Nothing” and unfolding through the hook and darker exploration of “Leave Your Head.”

The first song is the shorter of the two at 4:09, and its presentation bears the hallmark crispness of sound that added such a lurking cavernousness to the classic Sunlight records, and the jabbing impact of that riff in “All or Nothing” wolves in haze all or nothingseems to draw a direct line to Entombed‘s To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth from 1997, as that band began to move out of the death metal style and into their “rock period” before ultimately circling back. Wolves in Haze to well with the marked influence, peppering the forward intensity with dual vocals from Olander and Hansson and a headbang-ready pounding chorus leading to a chugging verse before a post-midsection break of creeper bass leads to a minor-key lead line, the capstone solo and chug that seems to round out before a quick return to the central riff. A sample begins “Leave Your Head,” which thrashes harder initially but still has the same root in filthy low end despite a cleaner vocal in its aforementioned hook. Piano accompanies the break around the halfway point to add an eerie vibe and as they did with the prior track, they pick back up into an instrumental finish, this time with a bookending sample at the close.

For those who, like me, didn’t catch the first album when it was released, All or Nothing makes a quick opportunity to sample Wolves in Haze‘s wares while also showcasing the progression they’ve undertaken since that debut came out. They are working their way into a niche that, frankly, is right there waiting for them, and finding a stylistic blend that not only speaks to some of the most essential extreme records Sweden has ever produced, but still allows the band room to grow into their own take on it as well. It’s a fucking cool single. That’s what it comes down to. And Wolves in Haze bend that Sunlight sound to their will with a natural-sounding ease that only makes me look forward all the more to what they do next.

Enjoy “All or Nothing” followed by some words from the band below:

Wolves in Haze, “All or Nothing” official track premiere

Wolves in Haze on “All or Nothing”:

“All or Nothing” draws inspiration from actual events involving a serial killer in a small southern suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden. As there were many restless nights for the inhabitants of the area, these malicious acts dated to the summer of 2018 when Wolves in Haze started working with new material.

Wolves in Haze is:
Manne Olander – Voice, Guitar, Bass
Olle Hansson – Guitar, Bass, Voice
Victor Crusner – Bass, Grand Piano, Organs
Kalle Lilja – Drums, Moog, Organs, Bass, Guitar

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Review & Track Premiere: Orango, Evergreens

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

orango evergreens

[Click play above to stream ‘Evergreen’ from Evergreens by Orango. Album is out Nov. 30 on Stickman Records.]

The tale of a band stripping down their approach is familiar enough. A group push in one direction, decide to go in another. There are degrees to which it’s perceptible to the listener and degrees to which it happens in an artist’s head or in how a recording is actually made in a studio, but it’s not a wild, unheard-of concept by any means. As it applies to Oslo’s Orango and their seventh full-length, Evergreens (released by Stickman Records), the trio effectively pull back on some of the more lush aspects they presented in the early hours of 2017 on The Mules of Nana (review here) in order to affect a more straightforward and driving approach. For the first six songs. Yes, Orango — comprised of guitarist Helge Bredeli Kanck, bassist Hallvard Gaardløs and drummer Trond Slåke, all of whom contribute to the oft-harmonized vocal pastiche — cut back on some of the more progressive leanings and dig into classic boogie and heavy rock. For the first six songs. It’s a hook-fest that taps into essential groove and memorable stretches like that in the particularly Southern-tinged “Hillside Man.” For the first six songs.

But when Evergreens flips over to side B after the tight three and a half minutes of “Sunny Bay,” it unfurls the 16:18 sprawl of the semi-title-track “Evergreen” and that seventh and final song completely changes the narrative of the record. Yeah, they execute taut and controlled songcraft even in the shuffling 2:40 of “Blue Heart,” the first minute of which is an intro to the forthcoming organ-and-fuzz-drenched boogie, but when the soft guitar introduces “Evergreen,” everything changes. It’s not just that it’s a shift in mindset. It’s that, on their seventh LP, Orango have willfully chosen to distinguish between two sides of their style that were closer together on a prior outing. Usually one thinks of a band melding disparate elements over time. Orango here perform a chemical separation, and the results are both fascinating as an experiment and in the material resulting.

Orango are by no means the first band to sit a much-longer piece at the end of an album of shorter and more straightforward tracks, but what stands out about their doing so on Evergreens is just how stark and purposeful they’ve made that separation. Not just in that it’s two different vinyl sides; it’s two different missions. But for the consistency of tone and the harmonies that seem to tie everything together no matter where the band might go in an individual track, it’s almost as though Evergreens was made as two separate mini-albums put together. From the Mountainous riff that starts “Glow Out of Time” and through the KISS-style urbanity of the subsequent “Loco,” also the catchiest of the bunch here, Orango set a path that even casts off some of the Southern rock vibe that their earlier work brought to bear on albums like 2004’s Villa Exile or 2011’s Confessions, and none of that feels like an accident.

orango

Seven records and a career that spans more than a decade, plus being a band who put so much time and clear thought into their arrangements, vocal and otherwise, it’s easy to give Orango the benefit of the doubt on knowing what they want to do in the studio and to have a fair conception of how an album will turn out when it’s done. Even if their songwriting process just naturally led to the disparity between one side of Evergreens and the other, they still would’ve been likely to understand how that would manifest when it was all pressed to the same platter. One can only assume, then, that the creation of that disparity was a part of the project, if not initially, then certainly by the end. So be it. “Evergreen” has its stretch of verses and choruses following its gradual intro and preceding a turn just after the six-and-a-half-minute mark to a quieter, organ-led section of meandering guitar and classic prog atmospherics.

Earlier, “Old Shores” carried wistful nostalgia through in a hooky verse and the aforementioned “Sunny Bay” gracefully mellowed out following the all-go “Blue Heart,” moving into subdued wah guitar and a bluesier feel. So “Evergreen” isn’t without context. One of the most successful aspects of Orango‘s construction of the album as a whole is how well it flows, and that includes all seven of its tracks and the full 37 minutes they run. But still, in its intro and in the section after the already-noted break, “Evergreen” is inherently distinct from everything else on the record that pluralizes its name. They bring the flow almost to silence, and having gone all the way down, bring it all the way back up. Vocals are sparse but not absent, a flute shows up, and the guitar, bass, organ and drums surge forward after 11:45 into a secondary chorus that carries them further toward the apex of the track. After a last held-out note at 14 minutes in, they’re ready to take off, and they launch into a long, solo-topped instrumental finish that becomes increasingly noisy as it moves to its inevitable conclusion but cuts hard at 15:45 in order to make a sharp turn to a quiet blues lick that actually finishes out.

That sudden last turn is crucial to understanding Evergreens as a whole, because it’s so representative of the band’s overarching mindset of making their songs do exactly what they want them to do. It’s analogous to the release in how it puts two seemingly opposing ideas together and makes them function toward the same end — in this case, the end of the album. As noted, Orango are by no means the first band to strip down their approach, but the fact that they seem to have done so while transposing all the prog textures and structure that might’ve been in the other six tracks into the seventh makes Evergreens all the more an intriguing listen. And not to be lost in the discussion of the structure and mission at work throughout is the fact that Orango completely pull it off. Not only do they make “Evergreen” fit alongside its shorter companion pieces, but they remind throughout that in songwriting and performance they’re one of the most strikingly underrated acts in the European heavy underground. All this and a little bit of flute, too, saved for when its appearance is most effective. One would expect nothing less.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Huata, Lux Initiatrix Terrae

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

huata lux initiatrux terrae cover

[Click play above to stream Huata’s Lux Initiatrix Terrae in full. Album is out Nov. 23 on Sludgelord Records, Seeing Red Records and Musicfearsatan.]

Songs become grandiose riff ceremonies and the album as a whole becomes a ritual rooted in harmonized meditations and weighted progressive instrumentalism. Atmosphere is paramount. Texture is everywhere. And if it’s a ritual, then despite their penchant for donning a robe or two, France’s Huata bring a feeling of celebration to their second album, Lux Initiatrix Terrae, and that pushes beyond horror-minded cultish tropes. Those themes may be somewhere in 15-minute opener “Mythical Beast of Revelations,” to be sure, but they’re buried so deep beneath organ and the vocal work of Ronan Grall, who also handles drums and is joined in the band by guitarist/bassist Benjamin Moreau, that they’re harder to discern in the first place. The Brittany duo work primarily in longform stretches across the willfully unmanageable 68-minute runtime, with five tracks over 10 minutes long and two interludes under three, and Moreau and Grall bring in a host of outside players — presumably to contribute vocals and keys, etc. — to help them flesh out the ensuing complexity of the material. Five other names are credited: Gurvan Coulon, David Barbe, Alexis Degrenier, Laetitia Jehano, Marion Le Sollier, but as to who does what, it’s unclear.

In any case, the resulting contributions of all parties are wildly immersive, as between the bookends of “Mythical Beast of Revelations” and 16-minute closer “Third Eyed Nation,” the band unfolds a perpetually widening cascade of moods and sounds, such that the eerie organ and synth in the closer are consistent in approach with what’s preceded even as they seem to reach further into a kind of colorful abyss — Huata‘s sound too rich and too vibrant to simply conjure images of light-absent emptiness. Theirs is the proverbial shining void, and their material finds them churning this multi-hued, potent cauldron of sound with witchy glee, even as their overarching direction seems to be intent on taking them downward into it.

There’s a dichotomy there, and it’s brought to life in the recording and mix of Cyrille Gachet (Year of No Light, Chaos Echoes, The Great Old Ones), which allows for a broad reach between the Electric Wizard-gone-interstellar start of “Child of the Cosmic Mind,” samples and organ and low riffs all circling around each other in slowly building wash, but it’s elements like the tone of the guitar and bass, the compression effects on the oft-harmonized vocals and the inclusion of various keys — church organ among them and feeling particularly appropriate, given the overall aesthetic — that tie everything together and make Lux Initiatrix Terrae so fluid. The distorted heft comes and goes, but so do nearly all the other elements at work throughout, as nothing seems to be permanent or beyond the band’s reach. A slow march in “The Solar Work” picks up where “Child of the Cosmic Mind” leaves off, and might be the closest thing to a title-track present on the album, the first and last word of which are Latin for “light” and “world” and the middle which puts together ideas of beginnings and so that it’s something like light begetting the world — “The Solar Work” doesn’t seem so far off from that.

huata lux initiatrux terrae

Either way, in the second half of the 10:35 piece, the vocals give way to melodic shouts in a kind of relative apex, but by then the idea is made plain that repetition is a key part of this ritual. Huata‘s songs — reminiscent of more recent Ancestors in their vocal approach and progressive lean — are mantras. It’s not going to be about hooks or about roping the listener in with a catchy solo or sharp rhythmic turn. The three-song salvo tops 36 minutes and is an album unto itself, let alone the second LP that follows it as the 2:50 “Part I – Gathering in Sin Wur” makes its way via organ and soft guitar toward the lung-crushing weight — worthy of whatever comparisons to Slomatics or Conan or Ufomammut one might want to draw — and ranging scale-work melody of “The Golden Hordes of Kailash,” which furthers the thread of a purposeful delve into hypnotics, a post-midsection break meshing together different layers of keys in order to set the stage for a return to the nodding, lumbering push that draws the listener back into the multi-tiered wash of distortion and melody before what even after 10-plus minutes feels like a sudden stop.

The second interlude, “Part II – The IXth Arch Assembly” follows the diversionary modus of its predecessor, drifting with soft guitars and underlying keys that resolve in wistful notes ahead of the arrival of “Third Eyed Nation,” which makes its way in gradually — of course — with complementary ambience before the vocals start less than a minute in. Those expecting a grand finale after what’s already been an hour-long listen should be sated by “Third Eyed Nation,” which even in its first half seems to signal its spot as culmination of the proceedings, though after seven minutes, the drums cut out and a stretch of spoken samples and almost siren-esque synth sounds in a high frequency and others in a lower frequency take hold before guitar sneaks back in to signal the return of the tonal onslaught and the beginning of the real apex.

They get there, in other words, and frankly, if one is making the journey through Lux Initiatrix Terrae and gets as far as “Third Eyed Nation,” the expectation that Huata are going to take their time getting to where they want to go should be well ingrained. It’s hard to imagine making it across the songs otherwise, since that head-down, prog-tinged dirge vibe is so writ large and so consistent throughout the material. That’s not to say Moreau and Grall don’t make efforts to change their approach in terms of surroundings, personnel and mood, but the aspects of their sound that they carry with are what enable them to create the world that one seems to inhabit while listening. And one of Lux Initiatrix Terrae‘s greatest strengths stems from the band’s ability to put the listener in the mindset they intend, the place they intend. That world may be created by light, I don’t know, and it may certainly be chaotic, but Huata guide their audience through it with a sure hand that’s well evocative of the dogma they’ve envisioned.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

foghound awaken to destroy

[Click play above to stream Foghound‘s Awaken to Destroy in its entirety. Album is out this Friday, Nov. 23, on Ripple Music.]

It’s Foghound saying, “okay, let’s go.” And they do. Immediately, the impression Awaken to Destroy (their second for Ripple Music, third overall) gives is of continuing the thread of aggressive, sweeping heavy rock the Baltimore four-piece conjured on The World Unseen (review here) in 2016. A high-paced opening salvo begins with the title-track, and “Awaken to Destroy” seems to be a tailor-made opener for a live set. It brings in all three of the band’s vocalists — drummer Chuck Dukehart and guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar — and launches the band’s third LP with a surge of energy that continues through the sharp and catchy “Known Wolves,” which follows. Sharp production from Frank “The Punisher” Marchand makes its presence known right away in the echo around the vocals and general largesse of tone from Sipes and Settar and former bassist Rev. Jim Forrester, whose late-2017 murder doesn’t exactly cast a pall over Awaken to Destroy, but is certainly present as part of the context in which the record arrives.

Front to back, the album is a good time, and if you listened to the centerpiece interlude “AVE!” and didn’t know that’s Forrester playing the acoustic guitar or that the subsequent “Keep on Shoveling” was released as a benefit single for his family and written in light of the medical issues he suffered through before his death, or that it’s his spoken word in the song itself, it’s easy to breeze through Awaken to Destroy and dig it for what it is: a willfully kickass heavy rock record full of tight performances, smart songcraft and a more dynamic sound than Awaken to Destroy had on offer that brings back some of the groove of Foghound‘s 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), without repeating that album in style or tone.

Hooks in songs like “Known Wolves,” “Keep on Shoveling” and “Gone up in Smoke” do well to carry the listener through the 11-track/41-minute outing as “Filthy” touches on social commentary, “Cut the Cord” brings the charge to an almost frenetic level ahead of the dynamic shifts in “In Due Time,” both of which remind of when Mike Dean stepped back up to front C.O.C. on their self-titled, and the quieter “Staring Down the Demons” presents an organ-laced examination of inner and outer turmoil. There’s further departure as jam-rooted closer “Death Will Tremble” taps a groove like self-titled-era Clutch with an edge of psychedelia in the guitar and keys that keeps a strong foundation as it should in the bass and drums, so yes, Awaken to Destroy handles its business in that destructive regard, but is informed by more than just the initial burst. The fact that Forrester was killed while it was being made, once you know it, is kind of inescapable.

foghound photo shane gardner

That is, there’s no way around it, and I’m not sure there should be, either on an emotional or a sociopolitical level when one considers gun violence even outside the seemingly constant stream of mass-shooting headlines. Frankly, it’s to Foghound‘s credit that Awaken to Destroy exists at all. It can’t have been an easy task to finish it, particularly for Dukehart, who was a bandmate of Forrester‘s in Sixty Watt Shaman as well, but the drummer’s vocals end up as a standout element in the material, and he seems to take a forward position in that regard with complement from Settar and Sipes. Having three vocalists — plus Forrester‘s contributions here in that regard and those on the opening two tracks from current bassist Adam Heinzmann, who’s known for his work in Internal Void and whose CV also includes stints in Pentagram and War Injun — only makes Foghound more of a powerhouse able to pull off shifts in mood and melody in addition to those of rhythm and tempo. Perhaps the starkest example is the turns from “AVE!” to “Keep on Shoveling” and then “Staring Down the Demons,” but the truth is Awaken to Destroy is full of deftly-composed changes that are nonetheless positioned for a clear A/B LP-style across-album flow.

It would be easy to write a thinkpiece about Forrester‘s murder and what a tragedy it was. And likewise, it would have been easy for Foghound to say, well, that’s that, nix the album entirely and either go back and re-record the material, write new songs, or not. Awaken to Destroy represents the harder path. “Keep on Shoveling” is a song about perseverance, and while the lyrics were written thinking about their bassist’s plight in another context — Forrester discussed his medical issues and time in a coma in an interview here — and the album that surrounds that single song is the manifestation of that mindset. This is the sound of Foghound, shoveling. And it fucking rocks. It’s an absolute triumph for the fact that it exists, yes, but what’s more, these songs represent the finest work the band has done to-date, and they already have two outings of righteous heavy rock to their credit. It’s a refusal to be consumed by loss. The cliché is to say that “Band Member X would want us to carry on,” but that’s a cliché for a reason.

I won’t attempt to feign impartiality here — this guy got fucking murdered. Gunned down outside of a tattoo shop. And instead of losing themselves in grief and being torn apart by the sheer senselessness of that, Foghound have stepped up and delivered a record that not only pays tribute to his memory but brings together the strongest elements of their approach in songwriting and execution and pushes their particular take on heavy rock forward from where it could be found just two years ago. It’s a multi-tiered victory and an album that, if they were going to continue at all, absolutely needed to happen. No doubt Foghound‘s fourth full-length, whenever it might arrive, will be marked as well by the changes they’ve been through — lineup being the least of them — but to even get to that point, they will have already managed to come through adversity the likes of which would indeed destroy lesser bands. Foghound, in contrast, could hardly seem more awakened than they do in this material.

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