Album Review: Clutch, Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1

Posted in Reviews on November 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Clutch Weathermaker Vault Series Vol 1

For those  Select Simple Restaurant Business Plan Templates closely examines documents for content, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, POV, and all other aspects of editing/proofreading. Clutch fans who’ve followed along over the last year-plus as the band has made their way toward building up their ‘Weathermaker Vault Series’ — the first one to be unveiled was HandMadeWritings is well known for it's read heres. Choose one of the best expert editors for your thesis editing. We are 24/7 ready to help you. Cactus-via- see this here - Online Research Paper Writing Company - We Help Students To Get Professional Essays, Research Papers and up to Dissertations For Willie homework information Dissertation Proofreading Service 247 Online personal statement openings thesis custom css not working Dixon‘s “Evil” in June 2019 — through their own  Instant Financial Doctoral Dissertation In English Literature available at Courseworktutors. Get trusted homework help online from the experienced tutors. 24/7 Live Support. Weathermaker Music label, the collection  27-4-2018 How check my site to Write an Essay. An Award-Winning Author's Practical homework help for government Writing Tips on SAT Essay Prep Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1, should be a welcome advent. At very least convenient. In addition to the singles themselves, it includes odds and ends like “Run, John Barleycorn, Run” from the Maryland lifer-rockers’ 2014 split with reggae-informed buddies Assignment Writing Service Sri Lanka at our website and you will get best suggestions from our tor essay writing service. We can deal with all the types of dissertation topics! Lionize, and “Algo Ha Cambiado,” a cover of influential ’70s-era Argentinian outfit  Personal http://foundation.generali.at/?best-descriptive-essay are at your service! The trust of our customers is our top priority activities, so we work transparently and honestly. Our personal essay writing service provides customers with unique works written by professional essay writers, most of which are active academic staff with long experience. Pappo’s Blues that appeared in a jammier take as part of 2009’s writing a college application essay narrative look at this site Us service diary term papers how to write findings in a dissertation Strange Cousins From the West (discussed here and here), as well as sundry other reduxes and covers.

It is, accordingly, a fan-piece.  Can you Customer Case Study? Yes, Our Best - rated experience writers are waiting to assistance you with your College Essay any time. Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 should probably not be anyone’s starting point with  phd thesis china Elementary Creative Writing Prompts diversity literature review in higher education the next research agenda dissertation on financial services Clutch. The band have a wide catalog of full-lengths to choose from, and which one makes the best entry to their work is an argument — a fun argument! — for another time. These 10 songs put together as a respectable 38-minute LP are best approached for what they are, and that’s a niche offering for the previously-indoctrinated.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. As they approach 30 years since first getting together, the four-piece of vocalist  But we at Grademiners will gladly re-do your work for free if you feel like it We do all, so your Online Homework experience will be nothing Neil Fallon, guitarist Our How To Write An High School Essay service comes in to take the stress out of academic paper writing. At EssayAgents.com, Tim Sult, bassist  blog - Learn all you have always wanted to know about custom writing All kinds of academic writings & custom papers. begin working on Dan Maines and drummer  scholarships writing essays People Custom Writing Servicess help homework school chicago turabian citation dissertation Jean-Paul Gaster are no strangers when it comes to this kind of thing. Various limited live offerings through the years have surfaced, as well as countless promo discs and collections like 2003’s  Slow Hole to China: Rare and Unreleased, 2005’s Pitchfork & Lost Needles, 2015’s La Curandera and of course the massive 2020 limited box set, The Obelisk, that brought together all their Weathermaker material — this compilation aside — under one banner. It may be the first of its kind — and it may not be the last; hence ‘vol. 1’ — but even though the method of releasing singles and David Brodsky-directed videos over the course of a year and a half is new to the band, it’s an engagement with multimedia-focused attention spans in a way that fits with what they’ve done before.

Beginning with the recently-unveiled revisit to “Passive Restraints” from the 1992 Earache Records EP of the same name that features a guest appearance from vocalist Randy Blythe of Lamb of GodWeathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 wants nothing for an initial kick of energy. The nature of an outing like this is to be somewhat disjointed as tracks from various sessions are cobbled together, and Clutch have always been a band who bring out different sounds and vibes working with different producers, and while J. Robbins might be the unifying factor here in having helmed several of the songs, there are still shifts both in sound and style as the band spans their long career arc. Clutch don’t hide from them.

Clutch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Instead, they back “Passive Restraints” with a newer take on one of their most successful singles, “Electric Worry.” The song that originally appeared on 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion (reissue reviewed here) is among Clutch‘s most landmark hooks, and while the single version had the unfortunate timing of being roughly concurrent with the death of former organist Mick Schauer, who played on that album and that track, the Weathermaker Vault “Electric Worry” does well in capturing a sense of the band’s live performance of it. Likewise that the later, speeded up redo for “Spacegrass.” It’s almost painful to hear Maines‘ holy-of-holies bassline played at anything other than a glacial pace, and the total presentation throughout is almost too clean for its own good in comparison to the danker edge with which that “Whenever it feels right” hook was delivered some 25 years ago, but again, that was 25 years ago, and Clutch take nothing away from what was by giving a reinterpretation to their own material.

The only other album track on Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 is “Smoke Banshee,” originally on 2001’s Pure Rock Fury and it’s the best of the three. That LP has been maligned by some for its rougher-edged production — I’ll argue the “noise factor” is part of its appeal — but there’s no debating the success they bring in terms of fullness of sound in this version of “Smoke Banshee.” If they’re testing the waters for a full-re-recording or full-album live runthrough to mark the record’s 20th anniversary next year, “Smoke Banshee” shows that material might indeed be ripe for a revamp. And I like Pure Rock Fury. A lot.

ZZ Top‘s “Precious and Grace” feels like it might be included to let anyone who didn’t know know that Fallon cribbed the “Good god almighty…” lyric on Elephant Riders‘ “Eight Times Over Miss October” from the Texan outfit, and fair enough, and the Creedence Clearwater Revival cut “Fortunate Son” that presumably closes side A could hardly be a more fitting Clutch song if they wrote it. “Run, John Barleycorn, Run” is another among the slew of quality hooks early on, sat comfortably between “Electric Worry” and “Evil,” and quite possibly the best choice Clutch made as regards Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 was to put “Willie Nelson” last, since invariably that’s the song that would be stuck in the listener’s head when the LP is over anyway. There’s just no escape from that chorus, and the re-recording — it originally appeared on Slow Hole to China and in a different version on the 2004 High Times compilation, High Volume — absolutely nails it.

That, obviously, is spoken as a fan of the band, but if the point hasn’t yet be made, that’s who inevitably will be most concerned with Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 anyhow. It’s for the kind of Clutch listener who’s hoping they announce a holiday-timed ‘Doom Saloon’ live stream to take the place of the usual tour. Clutch have discussed the possibility of recording a new album this winter, but since they they can’t play live as they otherwise invariably would, Weathermaker Vault Series Vol. 1 is an opportunity in the meantime for followers to step forward and show support to the band and the work they’ve put in not only across this year, but for nearly three decades. If you made it this far reading, you probably know that already.

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Album Review: Vessel of Light, Last Ride

Posted in Reviews on November 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light last ride

The opening verse narrative of Vessel of Light‘s third long-player in as many years, Last Ride, begins with frontman Nathan Opposition (né Nathan Jochum, also of Ancient VVisdom) saying “For as long as I can remember, you’ve always been hard to forget…” and ends with “Now your body is mangled and your skull belongs to me.” This has been part and parcel for the Ohio/New Jersey-based outfit since they released their self-titled debut EP (review here) through Argonauta Records in 2017, and subsequently followed with the first album, Woodshed (review here), and second, Thy Serpent Rise (review here), in 2018 and 2019. Murder fantasy. Kidnapping, dismemberment, murder. Usually it’s implied if not explicitly stated that the victim is a woman and that the speaker in the lyrics feels as though they’ve been somehow done wrong, lied to, betrayed, etc.

It was an especially sexualized turn taken on Thy Serpent Rise, and in answering back to that, Last Ride (released through Nomad Eel Records) brings 10 tracks and 41 minutes of likewise death-obsessed fare, suitably brooding in mood and dark in a tone somewhere between straightforward heavy metal and doom. Last Ride is unquestionably the most realized version of Vessel of Light‘s sound they’ve yet offered. With founding parties Opposition and guitarist Dan Lorenzo (Hades) having introduced bassist Jimmy Schulman (HadesDan Lorenzo‘s solo band) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (ex-Overkill) last time around, Vessel of Light‘s complete-lineup incarnation benefits from both the familiarity of the players involved — none of the Jersey-based trio behind Opposition were strangers to each other before this grouping — and from the personality and playing styles of each. Instrumentally and in terms of production, the songs on Last Ride are varied in tempo and aggression while keeping in mind the overarching mood and progression of the record as a whole. Despite the geographic disparity, they come across as though written in a room with Opposition working out the lyrics as they went.

That in itself is a triumph for a band working with the full, oh-my-god-how-are-we-still-driving-across-this-state mass of Pennsylvania between them, but the real growth of Vessel of Light is in Opposition‘s performance here. In layered vocals that weave into and out of harmony, he recalls Dirt-era Alice in Chains in songs like “Torture King” and the side-B opener “Web of Death,” a speedier, swinging complement to Last Ride‘s nod of a leadoff title-track. Subtle shifts of arrangement in the verses of “There’s No Escape” and a burst of melody that accompanies the instrumental surge of “Voices of the Dead” feel worked on, harnessed over a period greater than the time since the last record came out, and demonstrate plainly the evolution of Vessel of Light beyond “project” and into “band.” Opposition comes across as a more patient and more dynamic vocalist, and his performance throughout turns horror-show depictions into sing-along-ready hooks.

The question is really how much one wants to sing along with these lyrics.

vessel of light

It is a testament to Vessel of Light‘s sense of craft just how little of a question it is when it comes to Last Ride. Their songwriting has grown progressively sharper as they’ve moved quickly between one batch of material and the next, mostly without a focus on live shows, but having done a few along the way, and whether it’s a roller like “Disappearing Pact” or the shout-laced closer “The Death of Innocence,” they balance atmosphere and rhythmic purpose fluidly across the record’s span. To wit, the lead-in the finale gets with “In the Silence,” which is inarguably the most spacious single piece the band has yet done; it feels like an experiment that worked. As Opposition spends much of side B periodically engaging growls and shouts — “Voices of the Dead,” “In the Silence,” “The Death of Innocence” — there’s little if any sacrifice of melody, and it comes across less like a crutch being leaned on than another tool in the singer’s malevolent arsenal being used to these bleak, unremittingly dark tales.

And I guess that’s what it ultimately comes down to with Vessel of Light. In construction and performance, they’ve done nothing but evolve, and Last Ride is the largest step forward they’ve taken in that regard. There is not a misplaced riff, an incoherent groove or a lost-seeming opportunity for melody in these songs. The band are in command of what they do, Lorenzo and Opposition come across as working together more deeply as songwriters than they yet have, and the full-lineup only brings more chances for dynamic in actually executing the material in the studio. They’ve grown in everything but the themes around which their songs are based.

A function of art, and particularly of good art, is to challenge convention, and in many instances that involves exploring the darker elements the human psyche, the more dangerous places one’s mind can go. I’m not saying Opposition is making an invalid artistic statement with his lyrics, but for an album that so much shows the band in question moving forward and challenging itself to offer a richer, more complex product to its listeners — especially, it should be noted, in the vocal department and Opposition‘s own performance — the monochromatic nature of death, death, murder, death, going from “Torture King” to “Carving Station” to “There’s No Escape” to “Web of Death,” and so on, feels almost stubborn in its refusal to branch into other ideas. Among genre fare in literature and pop culture, horror is singularly able to discomfort those who take it on, and there’s no doubt Vessel of Light are good at it at this point.

I’ll willingly confess to not being the world’s biggest horror fan or having an abiding fascination with murder, so there are questions I’m left with at the end that I don’t have easy answers for. With the point of view of the speaker in the lyrics as the perpetrator, where does the sense of the listener as complicit come in? Where’s the challenge other than in the sheer engagement with gruesome or otherwise objectionable notions? Is it really just about making the audience squirm? Perhaps, instead of overthinking it thusly, the way to go with Last Ride is just indeed to take the ride through the songs themselves and engage them for the evident progression they represent in the band’s approach on the whole. Last Ride is the best work Vessel of Light have done to-date. It is a firm statement of identity on the part of the band and an aesthetic dive into the grim, violent reaches of consciousness. There is nothing it seeks to accomplish that it does not accomplish.

Vessel of Light, Last Ride (2020)

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Split LP Review: Cloud Catcher & Tricoma, Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1

Posted in Reviews on November 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cloud Catcher Tricoma Royal Flush Sessions vol 1

It was a noteworthy bummer in when Denver-based boogieblasters Cloud Catcher announced they were calling it quits. Even as they left, however, they both toured and released an EP called The Whip (discussed here), and with that offering explored some different and harder-edged textures from classic metal amidst all the frenetic shuffle carried over from their how’s-that-spelled-again 2016 sophomore LP, Trails of Kosmic Dust (review here), which came out on Totem Cat Records. The band at the time was comprised of guitarist/vocalist Rory Rummings, bassist Scott Schulman and drummer Jared Handman, and as Cloud Catcher make a return with a live-recorded split release with sludge rocking fellow Denverites Tricoma, they do so with an entirely revamped rhythm section.

Doing so leaves Rummings as the sole remaining original member of Cloud Catcher and the perceived spearhead of the band, but as Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1 plainly demonstrates, there’s been no dip in focus on the part of the band for the year and a half they were essentially defunct. Instead, they sound as they are: refreshed. And the plot is no less thickened than the riffs, as while Rummings has brought aboard bassist Matt Ross and drummer Will Trafas, he’s also joined Tricoma — whose self-titled debut LP came out in April, because timing — on guitar. Ross and Trafas also play in Tricoma, alongside vocalist Devin Trotter, guitarist Riley Rukavina, and now Rummings. So what you have on Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1 are two bands, Cloud Catcher and Tricoma, the first of which is three-fifths of the other.

Got all that? Take a second if you need to.

One assumes that one band playing in the next made it somewhat easier for the two acts to lug their gear to the base of Hahn’s Peak in Clark, Colorado, to record the seven-song/35-minute entirety of Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1 live in an outdoor setting. With follow-up mixing by Ben McLeod (All Them Witches) and mastering by Mikey Allred (All Them WitchesAcross Tundras, etc.), the two groups offer a respective glimpse at who they are in the raw, with Cloud Catcher dominating the runtime with 24 minutes of material, 10 of which is dedicated to the jammed-out “Beyond the Electric Sun,” and Tricoma‘s three inclusions comprising the remainder. The tipped balance does little to dull the impact of Tricoma‘s arrival, however, since once their “God and Man” begins, it’s as though the five-piece are willfully snapping the listener out of the hypnosis Cloud Catcher cast.

That moment is essential to Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1 — when “Beyond the Electric Sun” turns into “God and Man.” Make no mistake, both bands aim for scorch and both certainly get there, but it’s how that’s done that defines the release. Cloud Catcher veer more toward the heavy rock side of their sound even while nodding at the NWOBHM on “Magician’s Chariot,” swirling echo vocals behind Rummings‘ clean verses establishing the space in which the first of the band’s many barn-burner solos will take place. Trafas and Ross are tight and dynamic as one would expect an experienced rhythm section to be on import, and though the snare sound comes through tinny, its punctuation in “Boundless Journey” still establishes the nuance of Trafas‘ playing. “Wield the Blade” is maddening in its turns as Rummings‘ riffs dare the listener to keep up, twists and turns and shred conjured in head-spinning fashion like the returning hallmark of their sound that they are.

tricoma

“Beyond the Electric Sun,” prefaced with a quick bassline from Ross, is slower and groovier at the outset and the centerpiece of the tracklisting on the whole. Cloud Catcher‘s portion of the split would still be longer than Tricoma‘s without it, but the balance would of course be much closer. It is, however, not a jam to be left out. By the time it’s two and a half minutes into its run, it’s left the verses behind and embarked on the outward journey, which will take it through psychedelia and boogie alike before hitting the throttle one last time and shoving onward to its finish, bringing about the aforementioned shift as Tricoma‘s harsher, more biting sludge rock takes the fore, the first scream from Devin Trotter a piercing snap to reality such as it is.

As “God and Man” and the following two cuts, “Knife Fight” and “Worthy of Obedience” play out, Trotter‘s style of blown-out throatrippers could just as easily be sourced to black metal as the Weedeater/Bongzilla school of sludge — at a certain point, lo-fi screaming is lo-fi screaming — but the blend of that harshness with Rukavina and Rummings‘ rolling fuzz, chug on “Knife Fight” and downright playful lead work on “Worthy of Obedience” put the band squarely in a weedian aesthetic place. Stoner crust? Maybe. They wouldn’t be the first. However one might be tempted to categorize them, Tricoma‘s onslaught — though brief — is an effective step away from Cloud Catcher‘s dizzying guitar-led array, since even though the vocals are nasty, nasty nasty, the instrumental progressions behind them are fluid and more accessible.

Go figure. Two bands. Same people. One blisters fingers, one puts nodules on vocal cords. Both rip.

They may vary in terms of aesthetic, but what Cloud Catcher and Tricoma share in addition to personnel, at least as regards Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1, is the energy inherent in recording live. The feel throughout the release is more live-in-studio than live-on-stage, but in sound and vibe it’s live just the same, and that serves as the bridge as “Beyond the Electric Sun” crosses into “God and Man.” Whatever the future might hold for either or both bands, if Cloud Catcher will continue on as-is or simply be folded into Tricoma, or splinter off, or not, or anything, rest assured I have no idea. Will there even be a Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 2? Who knows. But for a surprise return from the former and a welcome showing from the latter, the split asks remarkably little of anyone taking it on except perhaps to be bowled over, and it makes that fun in the process. Sounds like it was a good time in the making, and is accordingly a good time in the listening.

Cloud Catcher & Tricoma, Royal Flush Sessions Vol. 1 (2020)

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Review & Track Premiere: Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

[Click play above to stream ‘This Bed’ from Grayceon’s MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES. Album is out Dec. 18 on Translation Loss Records and available for preorder here and here.]

Jackie Perez Gratz on “This Bed”:

“‘This Bed’ is a bleak observation about humanity’s betrayal to Mother Nature, told in a first-person narrative that insinuates we have all been unfaithful in the relationship.”

Grayceon‘s all-caps-styled MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES follows two years behind the San Francisco three-piece’s prior outing for Translation Loss, IV (review here). It’s not the first time the band have had a relatively quick turnaround — their self-titled debut and second LP, This Grand Show, arrived in 2007 and 2008, respectively — but it’s noteworthy because the break between their 2011 third full-length, All We Destroy (review here; discussed here), and IV‘s arrival in 2018 was so much longer. Inspiration strikes? If so, it’s a somewhat tragic inspiration, and as the dried pupa of the Kevin Earl Taylor cover art alludes, Grayceon are working on a dedicated theme with MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES.

Beginning with “Diablo Wind” and the fear born of watching wildfires rage in California for what was then a record season, the album moves through the all-we-have-is-this-planet-and-each-other entreaty “The Lucky Ones,” the reminder of humans being universally complicit in climate change in “This Bed” (“we have made” are the next words), and ends not with further harsh judgment, which would certainly be well enough earned, but love. “And Shine On” finds vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz making a hook of the line “Don’t let them break you down,” likewise addressing the listener as much perhaps as her own progeny, and “Rock Steady” follows suit with love and encouragement, even as its title line emerges in screams from the song’s gentler first half.

The nuanced perspective of Grayceon — Gratz (formerly Amber Asylum and Giant Squid, also known for contributions to OmNeurosis, etc.) alongside guitarist Max Doyle (ex-Walken) and drummer Zack Farwell (ex-Giant Squid) — is one that fits exceedingly well alongside their music, which boasts a similar complexity. Eschewing bass altogether, the cello brings mid-to-lower-range frequencies alongside the guitar while at the same time allowing for softer melodic passages to coincide both with lumbering, distorted doom and charge-laden thrash. As frontwoman and the one holding the cello, Gratz gets much of the credit for how Grayceon‘s songs are delivered, but the winding and creative contributions of Doyle and Farwell‘s mercurial, deeply engrossing drumming are not to be understated. When one actually sits and listens, Grayceon is an every-member band.

Working with Jack Shirley at Oakland’s The Atomic Garden for recording, mixing and mastering, Grayceon begin MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES with a telling intro of Americana-styled cello, drawling notes pulling in a spirit of wistfulness for something that may or may not have ever existed, and it’s when the guitar strum enters ahead of the drums that the tension begins to mount as they build toward the first shove. Melody and rhythmic intricacy are brought together in bold fashion that has very much become the band’s wheelhouse over their decade-plus together, a sound that is as much their own as it is singularly identifiable in its patient urgency. Gratz‘s vocals often come in layers, and the hints of bite as “Diablo Wind” pushes through its midsection and the slowdown that follows bring foreshadow of what’s to unfold in the subsequent pairing of “The Lucky Ones” and the album’s centerpiece, “This Bed.”

grayceon

Together, the two songs encompass 24 of the total 42-minute runtime — so more than half — and it is in them that MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES makes its thematic case and unfolds the greater part of the sonic vision that accords. It’s in “The Lucky Ones” (12:55) that the name of the album appears, broken up in the lines, “We are all mothers of this place we call home/We are all weavers of this fabric we shroud ourselves in/We are all vultures feeding on what’s left for dead,” and that serves as well as the central lyrical indictment, the wordplay of “worship the ground you walk on” and repetitions of “open your eyes” that follow bringing the environmentalist post home. This occurs as Grayceon careens between melodic sprawl and pointed surges, the first five minutes of the track playing out like a genre meatgrinder ahead of the slam on the breaks that brings Gratz‘s already-noted screams.

Gallop and roll play back and forth throughout the second half of “The Lucky Ones,” the chorus returning amid what’s far too stately to be considered chaos but is headspinning nonetheless, and the song bookends with a quieter stretch to match its initial impression, capping with the “worship the ground” line again en route the immediate, full-volume nod of “This Bed” (11:54). The centerpiece of the five-song tracklisting is as close as MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES gets to sheer hopelessness, including both “you” and “we” in the making of the bed while asking “…Is it too late to say sorry?/Will tomorrow come?…” in the verse. Following a more linear progression, “This Bed” establishes its verse and chorus patterns early and then breaks to quiet as it approaches its halfway point, only to push upward again and move into a bigger finish, still resonant in melody and emotion, its cold finish flowing smoothly into the subdued guitar intro to “And Shine On.”

It’s a waltz, naturally. “And Shine On” is the shortest cut on the LP at just 3:48, and “Don’t let them break you down” is the core message, but “I’ll light the sky for you/Empower you so that you can find your truth/And shine on” and “Love hard, wild heart,” back the parent-speaking-to-child feel, the guitar, cello and drums too loud to be a lullaby, but giving something of that vibe just the same. “Rock Steady,” which like “Diablo Wind” is a little over seven minutes, complements that well, with a more gradual unfolding and softer-sung lines, less defiantly belted than “And Shine On,” but suited to the purpose of the subtle build toward the finale that takes hold following a stop at 3:56, the swaying groove that backs the throaty-screamed lyric “rock steady” being the last word as the closer fades out to the record’s end.

Though it was written for a different disaster, the fear, the judgment and the daring (not to say “audacity”) to hope and love in spite of them are nothing if not relevant — not only for the fact that the climate crisis is ongoing, but so is a massive pandemic wave. Grayceon, whose albums are consistently made to be digested over a longer term, were obviously not writing to the latter — it hadn’t happened yet — but the fact that MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES speaks so well to present experience is emblematic of the songs’ and the band’s greater individualism. They stand within the moment and outside of it by refusing to be anything other than themselves.

Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES (2020)


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Review & Track Premiere: Samsara Blues Experiment, End of Forever

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Samsara Blues Experiment End of Forever

[Click play above to stream the title-track of Samsara Blues Experiment’s End of Forever. Album is out Jan. 2021 with preorders coming next month.]

Two weeks ago, German heavy psychedelic rockers Samsara Blues Experiment announced they would be going on indefinite hiatus. Fair enough. 2020 makes it a decade since the band made their full-length debut with the jammy fluidity of Long-Distance Trip (review here), a record that in no small part would define listener expectation from them even as they went on almost immediately to more progressive work. They’d already toured the US by then, hitting the West Coast in 2009 on the heels of their demo (discussed here, review here), and though they wouldn’t North American shores apart from two more shows in 2015, the years since they stopped through have not lacked adventure.

Even as they moved from a four-piece to the trio of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Christian Peters, bassist/backing vocalist Hans Eiselt and drummer Thomas Vedder, a strong European and South American touring presence helped establish them as one of Germany’s foremost post-Colour Haze heavy psych acts, and an indelible commitment to evolving sonically, to never releasing the same album twice, assured they would reach almost immediately beyond their starting point. For however long “indefinite” may last, they’ll be missed, and in End of Forever, they leave behind a final document that summarizes the mindset that has defined them by doing precisely what they’ve done all along: moving forward.

Comprised of seven songs (six plus a bonus track), topped with the visual intricacy of Jessica Rassi‘s cover art, and running a total of 51 minutes, End of Forever was recorded in the plague-addled summer of 2020 with former bassist Richard Behrens at the helm at Big Snuff Studio. It follows three years behind 2017’s One with the Universe (review here) and likewise sees release through Peters‘ Electric Magic Records. That album was defined perhaps inevitably in no small part by its consuming 15-minute title-track, and End of Forever does share some aspects with it, in terms of performance, the winding style of riff that emerges in “End of Forever” itself — indeed, the riff in question, which first emerges at 1:14 into the song’s 7:56 run, would seem to be a purposeful self-reflective nod toward Samsara Blues Experiment‘s early days, and maybe a thank-you card to fans as well — and in the organic production sound.

But End of Forever is distinguished from its immediate predecessor as well as 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) and 2011’s Revelation and Mystery (review here) for how it works in conversation with Peters‘ solo explorations of synth and keyboards. Working under the moniker of Surya Kris Peters, the guitarist — also relocated to Brazil — has been prolific to the point of a creative explosion, with four outings this year to his credit, the latest of which was September’s Leaving Berlin EP.

From the outset of End of Forever in 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Second Birth,” Samsara Blues Experiment make it known that such elements are by no means off limits when it comes to the personality and atmosphere to be established across this album, and while it’s an Eiselt bassline that launches the record and a smooth jam that takes hold, the synth line the sneaks in along with Vedder‘s drums and the guitar is telling of what’s to follow in terms of the album’s ability to create a melodic wash, often with keyboard and synth working together alongside guitar.

As it nears the five-minute mark, a funky progression of bass, soulful lead guitar and drums takes hold, and ’70s-style Hammond soon enters the fray to set up the arrival of a verse. The song moves through a hook into denser-toned riffing, bringing the organ along for good measure, and hits a thrilling culmination circa 9:30 topped by Peters‘ vocals before making its way out in grand fashion. As the leadoff, it’s a journey unto itself, and it does much to affect the vibe for the rest of the offering, but it’s also not necessarily giving everything away up front.

Samsara Blues Experiment

To wit, the acoustic guitar that steps forward and trades off with electric soloing in “Massive Passive” turns out to be an aspect no less crucial to the album’s overarching flow than are the keys. With the ever-strong foundation of Eiselt and Vedder in the rhythm section, Peters constructs dynamic waves of psych-prog, keeping that acoustic line as part of the build even as the track moves through its culmination and into the percussion at the outset of “Southern Sunset,” which brings more organ and due-seeming shimmer as it moves through its intro and into its acoustic-led verse of love-song pastoralia (the sun and moon also making appearances in their work since the beginning), surging back with electrics and organ and backing vocals during the chorus. “Southern Sunset” makes its way out as it came in, with drums and percussion, but has one of End of Forever‘s best hooks along the way and a vibe unique among Samsara Blues Experiment‘s now-five long-players. It’s telling that even as the band winds down, they’d still refuse to rest on their laurels.

In that, the instrumental centerpiece/presumed side B leadoff “Lovage Leaves” is likeminded. It brings together a gorgeous swath of melody, lush but still natural in its feel, and answers “Southern Sunset” as a four-minute companion-piece that also serves as a bridge to “End of Forever” and “Orchid Annie,” which serve as the closing salvo. The title-cut, as noted, boasts a singular sweep among its compatriot songs, but works with a similar spaciousness as that which surrounds, and while it’s perhaps the most outwardly heavy inclusion in terms of tonal push, it nonetheless represents well End of Forever‘s open-minded approach that melody can and might come from anywhere at any time. As it fades to its conclusion, it feels conscious of being a last statement on the part of the band, and if that’s the case, one looks to “Orchid Annie” (slightly longer at 8:24) as a classic rocking epilogue, organ and lead guitar woven together around lyrics bidding farewell to the titular character.

Choice basslines and nuanced drumming — both of which are balanced in a nigh-on-impeccable mix considering the swirl around them — back Peters‘ layers of keys and guitar, and I’m pretty sure I hear an acoustic strum in there too, though I could be wrong. Either way, “Orchid Annie” embarks circa 4:30 on a midtempo proggy chase that shifts into and through a few quick lines in the next couple minutes, and then keys, wah, electric soloing and the last lyrics gradually coming to a head and then ending cold as perhaps they’d have to in order to end at all.

Given how likely it seems Samsara Blues Experiment knew that End of Forever would be their last record for at least an indefinite amount of time, if not outright forever, the title-track and “Orchid Annie” serve as a wistful goodbye, while the bonus track — a 6:48 instrumental jam called simply “Jumbo Mumbo Jumbo” that seems to be based on where they go in “End of Forever”; a ‘slight return’ or reprise, then — offers one last weight-behind-it-but-still-melodic shove for those who’ve taken the trip to enjoy. And among those, count the band as well as their listenership, because if anything, End of Forever feels like a shared experience, its awareness of self not dulling its progressive mentality but adding to it as Samsara Blues Experiment knowingly hang it all on a wire in order to fashion this completeness to their catalog.

Yes, they will be missed for however long they’re gone, but with End of ForeverSamsara Blues Experiment bring the keystone to hold up the arc of their decade-plus-long stylistic development. Like each of its predecessors, it’s the bravest, most outward reaching and inward looking record they’ve done, and so could not be a more fitting conclusion.

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Album Review: Crystal Spiders, Molt

Posted in Reviews on November 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Crystal Spiders Molt

It seems doubtful that Molt will be the definitive document when it comes to Raleigh, North Carolina’s Crystal Spiders. Indeed, bassist/vocalist Brenna Leath, also of The Hell No and Lightning Born, recently confirmed work is underway on a follow-up to the band’s nine-song/43-minute Ripple Music debut, and as she and drummer/backing vocalist Tradd Yancey bid farewell to guitarist Mike Delaotch during the process of making the album, with producer Mike Dean — also in Lightning Born, also C.O.C. — stepping in to play some guitar on these songs as well as collaborating on the next batch, which will also have been put together using a methodology born of quarantine-separation and studio-based writing rather than hammering out material on stage, it seems fair to expect that whatever Yancey and Leath (and Dean) come up with next, Crystal Spiders will have shed this skin and formed a new one in its place.

Given that flux, it becomes all the more appropriate to take Molt on its own terms and to appreciate it for what it is. As a follow-up to the then-trio’s aptly-titled 2019 Demo (review here), it is an expansion of those ideas — one song is carried over between the two releases in “Tigerlily” — that keeps the focus put forth there on melody, groove and tone. Molt is not without a harder edge and faster shove, and one need look no further than the second-cut title-track to find it. Following opener “Trapped,” “Molt” is brash and engaging in kind.

Its first half speeds through a ’70s-style riff with Leath‘s verse lines surfing atop, and even after the tension built is released in a sudden fuzzy turn circa two minutes into the total 3:37, they subsequently turn to a dual-channel guitar solo, drum showoff and boogie/crash finish. And “Molt” is not an aberration in this regard. The later pair “C-U-N-Hell” and “Gutter” course along in no less energetic fashion, unimpeded by the thickness of the guitar and bass tones surrounding as the drums cut through and offer propulsive motion.

There’s a middle ground to be found as well in “The Call,” with a Motörheadular first half leading to a fluid jam-out later backed by a subtle weaving layer of lead-tone, and nothing throughout is quite so clear-cut, one or the other, but Molt‘s primary impression is in fact that thickness of tone and a less fervid tempo. Mood fuzz. The brooding launch Molt receives at the outset of “Trapped” is a tell for what’s to follow, and even as that song comes to life, its nodding pace remains indicative. That’s not to say Crystal Spiders want for energy — far from it, as the chug-meet-toms breaks in “Tigerlily” show, let alone any of the actually-faster material — but that their purposes are subtly multifaceted, and some of their strongest moments come in those restrained-seeming parts.

It’s not quite a question of patience in craft, because if anything, the band feel actively like they’re setting up the next burst, and that has a tendency to make their offerings more exciting since one never really knows when it’s coming (at least on a first couple listens), but one way or another, the rolling and crashing behind Leath‘s vocals in “Chronic Sick” makes a high point of an emotional low, touching on garage doom in the riff and wading deeper into murk than just about anything that surrounds — something the band seems to acknowledge as well in backing it with “C-U-N-Hell,” which also serves as the centerpiece because of course it does.

crystal spiders (photo by Jay Beadnell)

Between that, “Gutter” — which one assumes is the actual emotional low point being portrayed here — and the beginning stretch of “The Call,” Molt finds its biggest and most resonant kick in this post-“Chronic Sick” section. Is that where the molting happens, and where one skin is shed in favor of growing a newer, more resilient one? It would be easy to say yes, perhaps, were it not for the finishing pair of “Headhunters” and “Fog,” which feel distinct unto themselves in their approach.

The former is a pointed departure, and short at just 2:25, but more than an interlude. With handclaps and far-back drums from Yancey behind a watery vocal from Leath, “Headhunters” moves fluidly through a couple verses like a momentary dream — there and gone and you’re not quite sure if you were conscious for it happening. And as the finale, “Fog” lives gloriously up to its name, creating a murk of mellower fuzz riffing that finds Leath likewise more drawn back on vocals as opposed to some of the belting-out done earlier in the record, and it ends up underscoring and furthering the sense of mood that Molt has sought to create all along. As a last impression, “Fog” is the most melodically encompassing, with self-harmonizing and the patience in delivery that other songs hinted toward.

Entirely possible it’s a statement of things to come for the band as they grow into a more complex outfit on the whole, able to foster the dynamic that occurs here between songs within them as well, but again, what matters more is taking Molt on its own merits. On the most basic level of put-it-on-and-hear-it, it’s an assembly of wholly unpretentious kickass tunes. That’s as plain as it can be said. The collaboration between Leath and Yancey that will serve as the foundation of the band going forward is obviously newer in terms of stylistic development, but as the groundwork for future growth, there’s little more one could ask than what’s being delivered here.

And if these are indeed hints of things to come as the band continues to flourish, all the better, but that possibility does nothing to sap the record of its force of execution, its tonal impression, or the mood it evokes, and while there are dangers as “Tigerlily” gives way to “Chronic Sick” that the band might get caught up in their own mire, they never do, and even as they wade through “Fog” at the end, their sense of purpose remains clear. Whatever path their next release might find them walking, they’ve gotten off on the right foot.

Crystal Spiders, Molt (2020)

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Thermic Boogie Premiere “A Herdhead” From Final LP Sheer Madness

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

thermic boogie is over

Over a year ago, Barcelona two-piece Thermic Boogie posted the above text image saying simply that the band was ‘over.’ Well, sometimes over means ‘done’ and sometimes over means ‘we’re still putting out one more record.’ The latter is the case for Albert Martínez-López and Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo, and the title of their third and final studio outing — following 2019’s Fracture EP (review here) and the 2016 debut LP Vastness and Matter (review here) — is Sheer Madness. As sendoffs go, the very least one can say about the seven-song/62-minute offering is that it’s comprehensive, the duo bringing a vibrant noise-metal cacophony that reminds here and there of Mastodon‘s early pummel but works in flourish of psychedelia (“Song to the Mineral”), thermic boogie sheer madnessas well as massive swaths of feedback and drone (KT88_6550″). With only the 5:59 “Phobosophy” under eight minutes long and the 10-minute “The Drum Horse” leading off, an angular onslaught takes hold at a deceptively lurching pace — huge, it is — but ultimately Thermic Boogie are more manic than one tempo or modus operandi can contain.

And golly, that’s a lot of feedback.

The noise, of course, only adds to the sense of Sheer Madness living up to its name. The band use it as a means of transition from one song to another, and it only makes the winding progressions that ensue feel more unhinged. There are moments of stretch-out of where the intensity is pulled back somewhat, earlier in “Crystal Clear” or the more subdued “Song to the Mineral,” but the crux of Sheer Madness finds Thermic Boogie at the most surging they’ve ever been (or ever were, as the case might be) and with the elephantine plod they evoke alongside their rushing tempos, the intricacy with which they execute the material and the fluidity they bring in moving from one part to the next, the only thing one can really say about the listening experience across Sheer Madness is it’s too bad they’re not a band anymore. This isn’t a half-assed we-had-leftover-material-so-here-it-is record. They sound like a band with more to say.

To wit, the various assaults in “A Herdhead” and “Sheer Madness” itself, as well as, say,thermic boogie (photo by Nicolas Hyvoz) everywhere. With ace performances from Gautier-Lorenzo and Martínez-López and unpredictable turns abounding from part to part as the tracks play out, Sheer Madness manifests the shift in sound Thermic Boogie made with Fracture, and they cap with what’s unquestionably their most aggressive statement, making seem entirely possible a scenario in which even with just the two of them the sound became too volatile to hold together. That’s not really how things work, of course, but even as “Song to the Mineral” strums its way through toward its melodic wash finish, there’s a sense that the rug might get pulled out from under the whole thing at any minute and the rained-down destruction will begin anew.

Which it does, but only because you hit play on the album again to continue to try to get your head around it.

With a farewell at least for now to Thermic Boogie and this closing chapter, I’m happy to host “A Herdhead” for your premiere-streaming pleasure below, followed by some explanatory words from the band.

Please enjoy:

Thermic Boogie on Sheer Madness:

Sheer Madness is the fruit of an idea, as we wanted to create a whole album, with soul, and messages. We both stated that the present times looked like a complete mess, and talked a lot about the random bullshit that happened around us. It was around 2019, and after all the financial and personal efforts that we had to provide, that we finally succeeded to gather obscure riffs, attempting to reproduce the shapes and feelings of the kind of black cloud in which we had the impression to be. We also had in mind that the band had to come to its end, and it carried us to give a strong last shot.

The fierce impression that this album may give at first, is the result of our vicissitudes and concerns. We wanted the tracklist to be harsh and torturous to crush our thoughts and act as a painkiller. The recording took place in the studio we were renting. The sound is like our perspective about music: it is straight, as close as possible from the reality, and without any loop or extra bass. We so invite you to play it LOUD! We’d like to thank all our friends from Barcelona who helped us to play the gigs we had the chance to play, and those in France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany who helped us on tour. But also, our parents, record label mates, our families, and every person which is reading this article and giving life to Thermic Boogie. Cheers from Albert and Baptiste

Tracklisting:
1. The Drum Horse
2. Phobosophy
3. A Herdhead
4. Crystal Clear
5. KT88_6550
6. Sheer Madness
7. Song to the Mineral
Thermic Boogie was:
Albert Martinez-Lopez – Kramer guitars and throats
Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo – Ludwig drums and throats

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Causa Sui, Szabodelico

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

causa sui Szabodelico

[Click play above to stream Causa Sui’s Szabodelico in full. Album is out Nov. 13 on El Paraiso Records and can be ordered here.]

Recorded over a period of months between 2019 and early 2020, Szabodelico — named for its own centerpiece track in homage to Hungarian jazz guitarist Gábor Szabó, see also second cut “Gabor’s Path” — revels a bit in its sense of disconnection, in the flourish each of its total 13 pieces brings on its own. And yet, with the long-established chemistry of Danish instrumentalists Causa Sui behind it, and a stated focus on capturing early takes, minimal overdubs, recording themselves, etc., there is an overarching flow and immersion taking place over the 2LP’s 63 minutes that is unmistakable. Causa Sui are nothing less than a treasure of the European psychedelic underground. Their ongoing progression and exploratory impulses have in the past 15 years made them essential and influential listening, and as they’ve moved over the last half-decade toward bringing together tonal-presence-minded heavy psych and various manifestations of jazz, the “voice” they’ve found — such as it is with no vocals — has become their own in a way that is vibrant and encompassing.

Last heard from with 2017’s Vibraciones Doradas (review here) and the Live in Copenhagen (review here) live album issued earlier that year, they bring a sense of grace and spontaneity to Szabodelico that transcends the stylistic shifts between ethereal free-jazz warmup in the opener “Echoes of Light,” spaghetti westernism on “Under the Spell” and organ/guitar call-and-response dueling on “Sole Elettrico.” There are a couple heavier-ish moments of distorted guitar and so on brought forth by guitarist Jonas Munk, drummer Jakob Skøtt, keyboardist Rasmus Rasmussen and bassist Jess Kahr, to be sure, but Szabodelico is more about mellow freedom. About finding out where you’re going when you get there. About playfulness and engaging with the creative process as it’s happening. It has become a pandemic-era cliché to note the additional poignancy of such things, so I’ll say instead that Causa Sui are simply unmatched when it comes to the melding of progressive spirit and instrumental conversation, and the patience of craft they display in these works is no less theirs than anything jammed out across the multi-part Summer Sessions series (review herediscussed here), their live outings, or their other studio work.

As one might expect, the album is structured to highlight the vinyl presentation. Each of the two component platters begins with a kind of introductory short work in the aforementioned “Echoes of Light” (2:33) and its dreamy, key-inflected side C counterpart “Honeydew” (2:58), which gives way with an especially smooth transition into “Lucien’s Beat,” suitably more percussive but still otherworldly. On the other end of these, rounding out sides B and D, are “Szabodelico” itself at 7:14 and the 9:52 album finale “Merging Waters.” The former builds up to become about as full-on rock as Causa Sui get throughout, so it’s only fitting that its companion should be as deeply entrenched in a liquid psychedelia as possible; the quiet lake as opposed to a flowing river, if we’re talking about water.

causa sui (Photo by Danny Kotter)

With the range Causa Sui demonstrate in cuts like the winding “Vibratone,” with its folk-boogie emergence marked out by waves of synth, or the quick cinematic krautrock excursion that is “Premonitions,” Szabodelico can be seen as unpredictable, and it is. On some level, it’s a collection of jams and quick installments gathered from multiple sessions and compiled together as a release. It’s inherent to the form that there would be disparity in purpose and delivery. The genius — and yes, I mean that — of the album is that it doesn’t hide from that so much as make it the point of the thing in the first place, so that each turn Causa Sui make becomes not a hardship for the listener, but a joy to relish along with the band. And on the most basic level of listening, when one puts on Szabodelico, it is anything but a challenge to make the leap from one song to the next. Each side and each movement occurs with such a sure and gentle guiding hand that to not follow where one is being lead is to fail as an audience. The answer is to go with it. Go with it and know it’s all going to work out because, yes, it absolutely does.

The trust is well earned on the part of Causa Sui, and will only be more so going forward because of the work they do on Szabodelico. It is a standout among their catalog of now-six full-lengths, various sessions-type offerings and sundry live albums, and is intended to be precisely that, right unto the ultra-chill percussion drips on “Rosso Di Sera Bel Tempo Si Spera” and the penultimate sunshine rocker “La Jolla” echoes and expands on some of the meditations in “Under the Spell,” bringing singular warmth ahead of the cool dive in “Merging Waters.” Wherever Causa Sui go in a given track, they go with purpose, even if that purpose is simply the going itself, and while some who’ve basked in their desert-style fuzz progressions might be surprised by what Szabodelico is doing, the basic fact of the matter is it’s not a high hurdle to jump.

That is to say, Causa Sui make it easy for the listener to expand their palette (and consciousness), to keep an open mind, because the material itself has such a correspondingly open approach. Maybe this is the band proving they can go anywhere. Maybe this is the shape of psych-jazz to come. Maybe it’s a one-off. You never really know with Causa Sui what direction their output might next take, and when the result of that is material like they bring to Szabodelico, which retains its vitality even at its most subdued and is lush without sacrificing the organic nature of its performance to craft a wash of effects, it is their righteousness reaffirmed. This record feels like a gift built by masters of the form, and it is precisely that. Whatever it may lead to, if anything, is for future hindsight to dictate. As of now, it is a welcoming for anyone ready to be welcomed.

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