Godsleep, Coming of Age: Silence for the Kingdom

Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

godsleep coming of age

Call a record Coming of Age and you’re setting yourself up for an expectation of maturity. Godsleep, who released their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep (review here), in 2015, do indeed solidify elements of their approach that very much worked in their favor the first time around on this The Lab Records/Threechords Records follow-up. Tracks like “Unlearn” and “N.O.U” desert-cruise with the best of ’em, and with returning producer George Leodis (also 1000mods), there’s a consistency between the two records in terms of the quality and depth of their fuzz and general tonal weight. However, while there’s some holdover on this level and in terms of the overarching quality of songwriting, the band’s ability to offset push-forward groove with more patient stretches, a new vocalist is inherently going to do much to change the character of any release. Godsleep are Coming of Age with Amie Makris fronting the band with guitarist Johnny Tsoumas, bassist Fedonas Ktenas and drummer Dennis Leventos, and the change is significant from the outward dudeliness of Kostas, with Makris — who also contributed the striking cover photography for Coming of Age — taking an approach that’s both more melodic and still laced with attitude and boozy fervor.

Her throaty delivery makes an immediately welcome arrival in the first verse of opener “Ex-Nowhere Man,” with backing lines layered in for emphasis atop pointedly desert-hued riffing. The tones of Tsoumas and Ktenas remain a great strength for the band, and Leventos does well both to complement the vocals and drive a progression like that culminating the opener to and through a marked apex. Have Godsleep come of age? In many ways, yes. They obviously learned from the first album who they want to be as a group and have a better idea of the kinds of songs they want to write. At the same time, bringing in Makris, they’ve also shifted the dynamic in a way that makes this eight-song/49-minute outing something like a second debut, beginning a new exploration of character and impression. The results across the LP are exciting and energized in the way of first records while also benefiting from the returning trio’s past experience recording four years ago. Best of both worlds.

The songs bear that out. “Unlearn” and “N.O.U.” follow “Ex-Nowhere Man” in succession, building a momentum that runs through the rest of the material while also prefacing the expansion of style that begins with the funky wah at the start of “Celestial.” Roll is still a factor and it will remain one, but a subtle shift begins with “Celestial” that ties the first and second halves of Coming of Age together, as Godsleep wind their way through the first half of the song and into the burst of pace that happens in the second. It’s not a radical change of character so much as a beginning point that serves to transition into what the four-piece are doing with the back end of the tracklist. And it’s also worth noting the fluidity with which their shifts play out. Whether it’s a turn from one part to another or a kick in tempo or a slowdown, Godsleep never lose sight of the underlying groove that is carrying them and their audience along the album’s steady but varied course. 49 minutes is by no means short for an LP, but neither is it unmanageable, and Godsleep hold firm to what works while pushing themselves to reach beyond what they’ve done before. There are more of them, but the songs on Coming of Age are by and large shorter than those on Thousand Sons of Sleep — none hit nine minutes, for example, though closer “Ded Space” comes close — and feel tighter in their composition.

godsleep

Even so, an open atmosphere pervades “Puku Dom,” which by all accounts is an interlude, about 90 seconds of subdued fuzz guitar leading the way into “Basic (The Fundamentals of Craving),” which tops seven minutes and begins with Makris‘ standout lines, “Let’s build a house ‘cause time is passing/You are mistaken for the feeling remains,” and runs through a flowing course that builds in energy as it goes, both linear and based on chorus repetition, breaking at around the five-minute mark to more progressive fuzzery ahead of the crescendo that finishes. “Basic (The Fundamentals of Craving)” on its own is demonstrable proof of the maturity happening across Coming of Age, and especially with “Puku Dom” providing listeners with a moment to breathe ahead of its arrival, it seems all the more like the band set it up for maximum impact; a self-awareness that is no less important when it comes to engaging listeners.

“Karma is a Kid” begins at a mellow sway with Makris‘ voice malleable to the situation before the full thickness of the central riff kicks in. It would seem to be the job of the penultimate track to tie the two sides of the LP together, and “Karma is a Kid” does that somewhat with a speedier thrust, but there’s also a change in structure as well, as LeventosKtenas and Tsoumas take over instrumentally after that initial arrival of the riff and the rest of the song plays out without vocals. Like the rest of what surrounds, it offers something new while remaining familiar in the context of the record as a whole, and while one doubts Godsleep sat down and masterminded exactly that impression, in putting together the tracklist, they obviously had a sense of what they wanted Coming of Age to do and when, and that’s crucial. They follow a plotted course through the rest of “Karma is a Kid” and crash out to a fading rumble and the start of “Ded Space,” which unfolds with a patient build of tension in the guitar and drums that moves through the early verses en route to an interplay of spoken and sung lyrics in the midsection.

There’s a quiet break in the second half, but Godsleep aren’t going to let the opportunity for a bigger finish pass them by, and they make no attempt to mask their intention all through “Ded Space” as it heads toward its finale. Nor should they — it’s a payoff well earned, both within “Ded Space” itself and across the entirety of Coming of Age as a whole. The closer’s lyrics seem to move from a personal narrative to take on a more pointed social commentary, perhaps addressing Greece’s political and economic turmoil through metaphor and a kind of big-picture perspective. That’s fair enough ground for Godsleep to tread, but like much of what precedes, it piques interest in terms of where they might go from here. That goes back to the idea of Coming of Age as a reset, or a second debut with the arrival of Makris as a distinguishing moment between their sophomore long-player and its predecessor. However one wants to think of it, though, and however they might progress, the high level of craft throughout Coming of Age indeed speaks to the burgeoning maturity of the band, and their consciousness of what they’re doing only heightens the appreciation thereof. I know I already used the word, but I’ll say it again: it’s an exciting listen.

Godsleep, Coming of Age (2018)

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BUS Premiere “I Buried Paul”; Never Decide Due March 1

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

bus

Greek heavy rockers BUS – aka Bus the Unknown Secretary; they’re their own acronym — will issue their second full-length, Never Decide — on March 1 through RidingEasy Records. It is the Athenian outfit’s first release through the Californian label and it follows behind their 2016 Twin Earth-released debut, The Unknown Secretary (review here), and it comprises 10 tracks for an LP-limit-pushing 51-minute run that nonetheless does little front-to-back to wear out its welcome. From the way opener “You Better Come In, You Better Calm Down” seems to shove the listener forward into the rest of the album, down through the what-if-the-Beatles-were-also-Primus-but-Primus-were-the-Melvins-and-also-Kyuss-is-there-because-that’s-fun bounce of “I Buried Paul” and the drawling roll of “Lucifer” ahead of the monster boogie garage buzz in “First Life Suicide” and side B opener “Moonchild,” the jam-packed rush of “Dying” and the final Sabbathian fuzz blowout of “This King.” Hepcats will notice some echoing flourish of Uncle Acidic melody in the vocals throughout of Bill “City” Politis, but on the most basic level, there’s too much going on otherwise to call Never Decide redundant in any way. Did I mention that Bill City and fellow guitarist Fotis Kolokithas break out some Iron Maiden dual-guitar action on the seven-minute “Into the Night?” They do. And they use it to build a maddening tension for the first three minutes of the song that, by the time it pays off by kicking into the verse riff of the song has absolutely driven you up the wall in the best way possible.

As one might only ask if one was feeling particularly greedy, BUS prime all this nuance with a unifying quality of songcraft that asidebus never decide from seeming to warrant airfare to play Psycho Las Vegas, serves to set up a flow that’s maintained regardless of tempo or other changes in the overarching affect. “The Hunt” digs into darker proto-metallic proclamations just after “You Better Come In, You Better Come Down” breaks through its efficient boogie rock paradise, and songs like “Evil Eyes” confidently deliver hooks that are non-overbearing earworms — the kinds of songs you don’t realize are in your head until they already are. And of course by then it’s too late, and like the already-on-my-list-of-2019’s-best-artwork cover featuring giant chickens wreaking havoc on an unsuspecting town, the four-piece of PolitisKolokithas, bassist Spiros “Chob” Papadatos and drummer Aris Fasoulis build on what they accomplished three years ago in terms of tone and structure while coming across like they’re having an absolute blast in the process. Never Decide, perhaps somewhat ironically, sounds completely sure of itself and its approach. With the basic instrumental tracks recorded live, the band convey an unmistakable energy and dynamic, and as “This King” winds its way through a multi-tiered lead section in its second half that gives way to its apex slowdown chorus, that energy only serves them well throughout. A record over 50 minutes isn’t easy to pull off in the era of algorithmic recommendations and quick-burst tag-browsing — let alone actually fitting it on a platter — but BUS throw off convention with an offering that’s both of the moment and outside it.

And as you might’ve picked up from the above, there’s a lot going on throughout what are still tight-as-they-want-to-be, engaging songs, so finding one track to represent the whole thing is kind of tough. They showed off “You Better Come In, You Better Come Down” first, which is fair enough as the opener, but today I’m happy to host the next premiere, for the quirk-laced “I Buried Paul,” and to give those bold enough to do so another chance to dig in ahead of the release.

Please find the song below, followed by recording info and more details from the PR wire, and please enjoy:

Heavy bands typically don’t know how to make music fun. We’re not talking about goofy, novelty rock, which Athens’ BUS certainly is not. We’re talking clever, spirited and anthemic rock that doesn’t get bogged down in trying to sound menacing. Never Decide is a multifaceted album in the vein of classic hitters like The Hellacopters, Alice Cooper Band, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Orange Goblin.

“The story of the album expresses the psyche of a person in a dead end and his life is introduced into obsessive rhythms, more personal and random,” explains vocalist/guitarist Bill Politis. “There is no happy end here, but the questions remain: Door A or Door B? Time to change or time to die, Never Decide!”

Never Decide was recorded in just 5 days in February 2018 with multitalented engineer and band’s beloved friend John Vulgaris at Electric Highway Studios in Athens, Greece. The entire band — drummer Aris Fasoulis, bassist Spiros Papadatos, and guitarists Fotis Kolokithas and Politis — recorded the instrumental tracks live in 3 days, reserving the last 2 for vocals. Over the 2 months that followed Vulgaris and the band fine-tuned the mix into the subtle and clever masterwork before you.

BUS formed in Athens in 2011, releasing two EPs and a full length The Impious Tapes, followed by The Cross EP (2014), and The Unknown Secretary LP in 2016. During that time the band has toured extensively throughout Greece and in neighboring nations. The release of Never Decide will see them expanding that touring radius considerably.

Never Decide will be available on LP, CD and download on March 1st, 2019 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available HERE.

Tracklisting:
01. You Better Come In, You Better Calm Down
02. The Hunt
03. I Buried Paul
04. Lucifer
05. First Life Suicide
06. Moonchild
07. Into the Night
08. Evil Eyes
09. Dying
10. This King

BUS is:
Aris Fasoulis on Drums.
Bill “City” Politis on Vox & Guitars.
Spiros ”Chob” Papadatos on Bass Guitar.
Fotis Kolokithas on Guitars.

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Review & Track Premiere: Skraeckoedlan, Eorþe

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

skraeckoedlan earth

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Skraeckoedlan’s translated-lyric video for “Creature of Doggerland.” Their new album, Eorþe, is out Feb. 15 on Fuzzorama Records. Preorders are here.]

I generally assume that if I’m writing about something, you already know about it because you’re cooler than I am, because, frankly, that’s how it usually works. But if you haven’t heard of Skraeckoedlan — especially if you don’t live in Sweden — there’s a decent chance it’s because they sing in Swedish. The fuzz rockers have parted with bassist Tim Ångström since their 2015’s Sagor (review here) with Robert Lamu moving from guitar to bass in addition to vocals, while Henrik Grüttner handles the lone guitarist role as well as more vocals and Martin Larsson remains on drums. One might think the band’s third album and first for Fuzzorama Records, Eorþe, would be more stripped down as a result, but the truth is it’s the most progressive record they’ve made in the decade they’ve been together. Their 2011 debut, Äppelträdet (review here) — also recently reissued by The Sign Records from the original release on Transubstans — blended fuzz-drenched tonality with a post-Mastodon style of metal, but they’ve only grown more since then, and as they align with Fuzzorama, they continue an association with sadly-defunct countrymen Truckfighters that extends all the way back to the recording of their first album.

Indeed, one might look at Eorþe as inheriting the mantle of fuzzprog that the last couple Truckfighters albums were working toward, running a fluid nine songs and 54 minutes with a greater depth of melody and broader sonic reach than they’ve ever shown. Songs like “Mammutkungens Barn,” the earlier highlight “Kung Mammut,” the 10-minute “Elfenbenssalarna” and the acoustic closer “Peggys Sång” demonstrate the range of their composition, while even a song like the under-four-minute “Tentakler & Betar” finds a way to hit new ground with vocal harmonies and a pointedly forward thrust. Whether it’s an extended piece like “Creature of Doggerland” (note the English title), or the opener “Guldåldern” or the drum-led beginning of “Angelica,” Eorþe wants nothing for heft either in tone or construction — indeed, tone has been a strength of Skraeckoedlan all along and very much remains one — but even as they hold onto their stylistic weight, they turn into a more nuanced and individualized unit.

When it comes right down to it, Eorþe is Skraeckoedlan reestablishing themselves after a change in their dynamic. The shift from two guitarists to one, even covered in the studio by layering guitar tracks and whatever else, is not a minor one. It affects songwriting as well as how the material is played. And Skraeckoedlan pull that off, no question. For a band who’ve been around for 10 years and have experience recording and touring, that’s not a huge surprise. They should know what they want to sound like — at least to some basic degree — and be able to make that happen. Fine. Where Eorþe really succeeds though is in not only finding Skraeckoedlan make this claim on who they are as a band, but in moving their sound forward from where it was three years ago. Their work is richly textured and in listening to the melody in the chorus of “Mammutkungens Barn,” one can hear their heritage in Scandinavian metal coming through in more than just the language they’re using, but like the grunge-style opening riff of that song — reminds of something from the early-mid ’90s; is it Sonic Youth? — they bring each of their influences into a context that is their own.

They did the same on Äppelträdet in imagining a fuzz-metal stomp in the first place, but with just about every move they make on Eorþe, they do so with a greater scope and identity born of the maturity of their composition. As a result, Eorþe isn’t just Skraeckoedlan‘s finest hour, but a way forward for them in this new incarnation that builds on what they’ve done before. In the tension of “Guldåldern” or the atmosphere of the penultimate instrumental “Angra Mainyu,” their ability to craft a flow and mood across disparate elements brought into a single presentation is engrossing, and the confidence with which they execute the material is what allows them to carry the audience along every step of the way. LamuGrüttner and Larsson are in absolute control of their sound in these tracks, and the potential that always seemed to be residing in their sound has begun to bear fruit accordingly.

Skraeckoedlan have generally kept to a unifying science-fiction thematic over their years, writing about monsters and in this case specifically, mammoths and beasts that may or may not have tentacles and tusks, etc., but whether or not a given listener speaks Swedish, there’s no mistaking the intent of their craft. They are a band who have worked diligently to hone their approach, and while Eorþe is dense, and not a minor undertaking at 54 minutes long, they remain accessible through their use of melody and rhythmic momentum. The fluidity of Eorþe is not to be understated, and while I don’t know if they’re telling a unified story in the lyrics, the underlying point is that the album itself is unified, and the trio are unified in their mission to grow as a band. They have. They do. One hopes they’ll continue to.

In the largesse-laden instrumental stretches of “Elfenbenssalarna,” Skraeckoedlan make clear not only how they’ve developed, but that their commitment is to keep evolving as a creative force, and that the impact that was so much of their initial appeal remains an important factor in what they do. Listening to Eorþe, one can only be glad that’s the case, but the truth is that Skraeckoedlan have expanded their aesthetic to the point that they’re about so much more than just the volume at which one hears them. The melody, the quick turns, the ambience of Eorþe have just as much of an effect on the overarching experience of the songs as the fuzzy tones, shouts and consistent sense of lumber. Whatever it is that has one hearing them, though, they’re a band who deserve more attention than they’ve gotten, and regardless of whatever language barrier there might be with a broader public, Skraeckoedlan break through it like one of the tentacled mammoths of their own creation.

Skraeckoedlan’s website

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Komodor Stream Self-Titled Debut EP in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Komodor are set to release their self-titled debut EP tomorrow, Jan. 11, through Soulseller Records. It’s the French band’s first offering of any kind, and yeah, there are certainly no shortage of enticing associations, what with the fact that Blues Pills bassist Zack Anderson recorded and that he and his entire group put in guest appearances on it, with vocalist Elin Larsson sitting in on three of the four songs — what, you’re gonna just have her on one? no way — and guitarist Dorian Sorriaux sits in as well on “Nasty Habits” with André Kvarnström and Rickard Nygren adding further boogie to the classic garage fuzz of that piece, which follows the particularly Grand Funky “Join the Band.” The core four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Slyde Barnett, guitarist Ronnie Calva, bassist Goudzou and drummer Elrik Monroe reserve closer “1984” for themselves, and fair enough for that track’s relatively straightforward arrangement, but of course by the time they get there in rounding out their brisk 17-minute offering, Komodor have already well established their put-on-your-shuffle-shoes penchant for heavy ’10s boogie as filtered through post-Kadavar naturalist production and live-feeling performance.

That finale in “1984” is also the shortest cut on the EP, so perhaps its guest-less arrangement is meant to further convey an idea on the part of the band of something simpler and more direct musically. Though Komodor aren’t exactly komodor komodorlacking efficiency in the rest of the material either, as opener “Still the Same” launches with analog-warmth and an earworm hook to lead the way through, and if initial EPs are intended to showcase what a band has to offer, Komodor come ready to dance. They’ve got their aesthetic nailed down and their songcraft wants nothing for organics in terms either of construction or execution. As Larsson backs Barnett in “Still the Same,” Calva‘s fuzzy lead seems to join the chorus and Goudzou and Monroe offer rhythmic propulsion that sets the tone for the rest of the release to come. There’s a definite sense of flow to what Komodor have on offer here — with so much groove around, there would almost have to be — and that carries right into “Join the Band,” which veers from its thrusting verse and suitably inviting chorus into an extended guitar solo before ending cleanly with a last run through the chorus. “Nasty Habits” makes good use of the guest piano for a honky-tonk boogie vibe, mellowing out in the second half, but only to set up the party explosion that soon follows, leading to the going-it-alone capper “1984,” which shows that even left to their own devices, Komodor have no problem letting their songs speak well for them.

The question that remains after listening to Komodor‘s Komodor is just how much over the long term the EP will represent their sound. I’m not just talking about vintage-style bands evolving a more modern sound as they move forward — as Blues Pills have done — but how a full-length would come across with the band on their own. Either way, if this collection is helping the four-piece get to the point of running on their own legs, it’s an encouraging first step, and their collaboration with Anderson and the rest of his band is just one of the songs’ appeals. In the end, their songs have to hold up as they are, and they do, so something tells me Komodor will be just fine.

You can hear Komodor‘s Komodor a day early on the player below. More info from the PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

KOMODOR’s first release, a self-titled mini album, will be published on 11th January 2019 on CD, 12” LP and in digital formats.

It features guest appearances by the entire BLUES PILLS band, whose bassist Zack Anderson even recorded the four songs. Inspired by MC5, James Gang, Grand Funk Railroad and many more, KOMODOR invites you to their journey through rock’n’roll!

Check out a first little teaser at this location: https://youtu.be/L6VAd755ljY

Tracklist:
1. Still The Same
2. Join The Band
3. Nasty Habits
4. 1984

Line-up:
Goudzou – Bass
Elrik Monroe – Drums
Ronnie Calva – Lead Guitar
Slyde Barnett – Lead Vocals & Guitar

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Komodor on Instagram

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Dorre Premiere “Extracted at the Moment of Death”; Fall River out Feb. 1

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dorre

Belgian usually-instrumentalists Dorre are set to play a release show Jan. 30 for their debut album, Fall River, at Het Depot in Leuven. The official release date is Feb. 1, and a lot of what the record titled after the Massachusetts town where the Lizzie Borden murders took place has to offer you can hear immediately in the first 10 seconds of opener “Satisfying Sadistic Urges.” It begins with sharply-toned, intense fits of starts and stops, metallic in their aggression, but with a tonal presence that speaks to what’s to come as a heavy work all the same.

They’re quickly under way in “Satisfying Sadistic Urges” — which, somewhat amazingly, is not also the title of a Cannibal Corpse song — and they maintain the directed sensibility through about the first two minutes before breaking to silence and minimalist blues licks, then crash back in and make their way back from whence they came with surprising fluidity given how far out they go. The four-piece of guitarists Etherik Heyns and Adriaan De Raymaeker, bassist Andrew Hockley and drummer Wolf Overloop don’t shy away from the violence of their subject matter on the six-song/33-minute self-released outing, but neither are they neglecting a sense of atmosphere in order to convey the more physical side of the music. As they pull back on the tempo with “Force the Victims,” they’re finding a balance between the sides — the airy guitar lead atop the slamming march in the second half of “Force the Victims,” for example — and it’s in toying with that balance that Fall River makes its encouraging impression.

They cap side A with the more progressively-styled “Maximum State of Emotional Arousal,” which feels loosened up and boasts some subtle but choice snare from Overloop that carries the band from the early meanderings into a more fervent and insistent chug, some more winding and toward a particularly noisy wash of guitar soloing. As they began side A with “Satisfying Sadistic Urges” on high-go, they do the same via the two-minute “The Greatest Amount of Life Force” on side B, which stops just short of leading directly into dorre fall river“Extracted at the Moment of Death,” on which Dorre welcome vocalist Laura Donnelly of Edinburgh, Scotland’s King Witch.

If you’re going to have a guest vocalist, Donnelly is an absolute powerhouse, and she brings a classic metal declarative sense to “Extracted at the Moment of Death,” tapping into Sabbathian patterning with the same penchant for melodies she showed early last year on her own band’s debut, Under the Mountain (review here). As they approach the midsection, a layer of lead guitar smoothly makes its way in and adds flourish, then the band breaks into a quieter midsection, that warmer lead tone gradually emerging again before they charge back with the nodding riff and the band’s well-earned big finish. It’s worth pointing out how well Donnelly fits with Dorre. In some cases with instrumental bands bringing in a guest vocalist, there’s almost a sense of their doing it begrudgingly, and so it doesn’t always mesh, but Donnelly sounds equal parts natural and righteous on the seven-minute track, and one hopes it’s not the last time these two parties collaborate.

In part because the album is short, the closing title-track — which is also the longest at 7:33 — is inherently more than an afterthought after the surge of energy that is “Extracted at the Moment of Death,” and it ends Fall River with a suitably creeping, moody malevolence, finding its footing early in a mostly-linear build that plays out across its span until wind-ish swirling noise brings it to a conclusion. It will be interesting over time to hear if one side or the other in Dorre‘s sound wins out, but the way they draw from their influences across Fall River, their steadiness of theme and their efficient delivery all come together to make the release function as ably as it does. There may be growing still to do, but the band already have a clear sense of where they’re headed, and I wouldn’t be surprised either if they continued to find their way in darker storytelling.

It’s my pleasure today to host the premiere of “Extracted at the Moment of Death.” Obviously it’s something of a standout, being the only song with vocals, but I think it still represents the album well, and basically any chance you get to hear Donnelly sing, you should take it.

Some comment from the band follows the track below. Please enjoy:

Adriaan De Raymaeker on “Extracted at the Moment of Death”:

This one started out based on an older track that had started to grate on us, we completely reworked it keeping only parts of the riffs. We did a couple of preproductions of it and while listening all of us just thought “this needs vocals”. We had played some shows in the UK and Scotland, King Witch opened for us in London and I knew I wanted to do something with Laura [Donnelly], their vocalist, in the future as soon as I heard her sing. So we got in touch, sent her the best pre-production we had and told her to go to town on it, giving her only the basic background story of what we wanted to be portrayed in the song. She killed it from the get go. We recorded the instrumental in Belgium, which was pretty tricky, I slammed my guitar through an organ simulator pedal, we dropped cases of metal scrap on the floor for snare accents, all kinds of crazy stuff that you probably don’t really hear in the recordings but made us very happy. Laura recorded with her partner Jamie [Gilchrist] based on our ProTools session and again, killed it. It was a great experience and something we’ll definitely be doing again in the future!

I especially like the very funky, groovy middle part of the song instrumental wise, it’s so different from our other stuff and it breaks the song very nicely.

After a two year journey of writing, rewriting, sound-searching, recording and collaborating with profoundly talented artists and partners we can finally say it’s here. We are very proud to be able to present our upcoming full album: a dark and murky sensory undertaking, wandering through the alluring town of Fall River.

The album will be released on the 1st of February on high quality, 180gr vinyl. The first pressing will get a limited edition, consisting of 100 coloured albums, as well as 200 black slabs of wax.

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John Garcia and the Band of Gold, John Garcia and the Band of Gold: Kentucky and Beyond

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold self titled

The 2014 self-titled solo debut from John Garcia (review here) was at least 15 years in the making. He followed it in 2017 with the mostly acoustic The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here), and with the self-titled LP from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, he completes a cycle of three records in five years that he has already hinted will mark his last run. That in itself gives the 11-song/40-minute John Garcia and the Band of Gold a different context, but it’s also worth noting that as he’s made his way through these offerings — the latest of which would presumably complete a three-album deal with Napalm Records — he’s also presented a different side of himself each time out. True, the first and third LPs share plenty of aesthetic commonalities, but Garcia stepping into more of a bandleader role with The Band of Gold behind him comprised of guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (Mondo GeneratorYou Know Who) and drummer Greg Saenz (The DwarvesYou Know Who) is a distinguishing factor.

Much has been made as well of the involvement of producer Chris Goss, the frontman of Masters of Reality who once upon a time helmed the Kyuss recordings that would help solidify desert rock in the mid-’90s. That’s not a minor consideration, and if there’s an effect of Goss‘ contributions here — which, as I understand it, came after the basic tracks were recorded — perhaps it can be heard in the extra heft of a track like the rushing “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” or the low-end push behind Garcia‘s crooning in the quieter parts of second cut “Jim’s Whiskers” earlier on. That’s speculation, but even the association between the two parties should be a draw for fans, who might also note the similarity in cover art between John Garcia and the Band of Gold and Vista Chino‘s 2013 outing, Peace (review here; discussed here), both done in a graffiti-on-concrete style. If there’s an intended relationship between those two LPs, I don’t know, but in addition to having appeared on The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues as “Give Me 250ml,” “Kentucky II” would seem to be a sequel in title to “Kentucky” from Hermano‘s 2007 full-length, …Into the Exam Room. One way or another, there is plenty throughout John Garcia and the Band of Gold for longtime fans to dig into.

“Kentucky II” is one of three songs shared between the last album and this one, actually, with “Kylie,” on that showing up as the penultimate “Cheyletiella” on this and “The Hollingsworth Session” revamped in fully-plugged fashion as “Don’t Even Think About It.” There’s something to be said for the continuity tying the two releases together, but highlights of John Garcia and the Band of Gold like “My Everything” and “Lillianna” are both new and help comprise the central impression of the tracklist as a whole, which is fresh in performance and cognizant of the desert it’s inhabiting, whether it’s through the introductory spaciousness that rolls out in “Space Vato” before that 2:44 instrumental kicks into higher gear and moves quickly into the bouncing groove of “Jim’s Whiskers,” or “Softer Side,” which finds Garcia singing quietly over a wide landscape of psychedelic guitar somewhat reminiscent of his work alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in Zun.

john garcia and the band of gold

His voice — naturally a central feature on an album that bears his name — has always been well suited to that ultra-laid back vibe, but neither can one take away from the power in his delivery of “My Everything” or the successful middle ground built up in “Chicken Delight,” a sense of tension coming to a head that the swinging “Kentucky II” pays off in its righteous and familiar shuffle. “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” arguably provides the hardest thrust of John Garcia and the Band of Gold, but “Apache Junction,” which immediately follows, is both the heaviest and the most intriguing as regards arrangement, with guitars echoing out late after slamming out a central riff that’s replete with sonic detailing, bass chugging away beneath effects-laced background vocal layers between lyric lines, and the balance of the mix such that Garcia‘s voice is given an opportunity to cut through the tonal presence surrounding, something that he’s been doing in oft-imitated fashion for over two decades. Unsurprisingly, he nails it.

So will John Garcia and the Band of Gold really be his last record? Yeah, probably not. Even if it’s his last “solo” album for some time, he’s proven restless enough in the past that it’s easy to think maybe he’d work again with Dave Angstrom in Hermano or follow-up on the several reunion gigs Slo Burn did in 2017 with more there. Of the litany of projects he’s been involved in throughout his career, new material would be welcome from just about any of them — which isn’t to mention the perpetually-unfinished business with Unida, a band once stifled by contract woes from releasing what would’ve been their breakthrough album. If John Garcia is going to run out the thread on tour for this release and call it a career, though, what a career to call it. It probably doesn’t help pay the mortgage, but the guy’s legitimately a legend who’s influence has thus far spanned two generations, and John Garcia and the Band of Gold finds him in top form, arguably in better control of his craft than he was when Vista Chino made Peace for the intervening years of writing, touring and singing.

If it’s how he wants to go out, he certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything. But the question, ultimately, is a distraction, and a negative one if it takes anything away from appreciating John Garcia and the Band of Gold on its own level. Among the most crucial statements Garcia makes with the third LP under his name comes from that change in identity. He’s still searching. He’s still trying to find just that right place to inhabit that’s not only his own, but as much about the future as about his storied past. If fronting John Garcia and the Band of Gold is what lets him do that, fine. It worked for his one-time bandmate Brant Bjork for a while when he led Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, also on Napalm Records. And if John Garcia and the Band of Gold does make that happen, it’s even less likely this self-titled will be their last outing. But, just like how at any second his voice might punch the listener upside the head with belted-out desert grit, his future is wholly unpredictable.

John Garcia, “My Everything”

John Garcia on Thee Facebooks

John Garcia on Twitter

Napalm Records webstore

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Inner Altar Premiere “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days”; Debut LP Vol. III out Jan. 18

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

inner altar

Kansas City doom rockers Inner Altar will release their deceptively numbered debut album, Vol. III, through The Company later this month. It is the third release from the five-piece outfit, preceded by two demo/EP outings similarly titled in succession. The full-length taps into a cave-echoed classic doom vibe, not such distant kin from some of what’s come in recent years from Scandinavian acts like Dunbarrow and Demon Head, or even some US practitioners like Magic Circle, but with elements of garage doom roughness to their riffing as well that help to push them into their own territory. To wit, the grueling rollout of “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days” and the chants of the near-seven-minute eponymous closer cast a particularly darkened aspect to the atmosphere that adds depth to the acoustic/electric ’70s doom-folk shuffle of “Undine’s Kiss” earlier. Wailing vocals add a distinctly proro-metallic vibe to the lyrical declarations, and an overriding naturalism to the production — not necessarily worshiping the vintage, but shooting at least for a live feel — only make that vibe more believable.

The touchstone in terms of aesthetics is of course Pentagram‘s First Daze Here material, but neither are the lessons of formative acolytes like Witchcraft lost on Inner Altar, and while we’re talking about Altars, there might be a bit of Pagan Altar‘s pre-NWOBHM style of heavy happening in the crunch and atmosphere of “Castle Storm” as well, the centerpiece pulling back from some of the immediacy of the post-intro opener “For the Gods to Swear By,” which kicks off Vol. III at a relative rush while prefacing some more of the progressive sensibilities of the band in a departure to minimal classic guitar in its second half — the two sides of its personality both proving as crucial to setting up the rest of what follows as the bass tone that leads back into the thrust. That’s not to take away from the impact either of the serenely-strummed “Intro” itself, the quiet and somewhat understated feel of which informs even the straight-ahead thickened-tone roll of the penultimate “Dethroned and Fugitive,” another sub-four-minute rocker that instead of progging out as does “For the Gods to Swear By,” goes the opposite way and kicks into another level of push.

That would seem to leave cuts like “Lives of Fire” and “Mother Eternity” with the task of establishing some middle ground, and the former, which is particularly memorable and which served as a pre-release single (with a video you can see at the bottom of this post), does just that while “Mother Eternity” takes notable command of the more doomed persona with fluid shifts in volume and room for a bit of Witchcraftian flute-ish sounds, though it could just as easily be keys at work there. All told, the record is a clean nine tracks (with intro) and 38 minutes that culminates in suitably dug-in fashion with “Inner Altar” itself, the band drawing together multiple sides of their sound to finish with a fitting representation of their overarching atmospheric intent. Along with the clarity of their stylistic vision — that is, the fact that they know what they want to sound like — the subtly progressive aspects of Vol. III represent Inner Altar well in terms of potential avenues for future growth, but as in the best of cases, that shouldn’t discount what they already bring in terms of songwriting, which only seems to grow in esteem with subsequent listens.

I’m thrilled today to be able to host the premiere of “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days” ahead of the album’s release. You can listen to the track below, followed by some words from the band and more info from the PR wire, including the preorder link for Vol. III. Please enjoy:

Lord Rewcifer on “Pagan Rays | Numbered Days”:

“Pagan Rays. This track is like when the pagan gods plotted the destruction of the human race for giving birth to judeo-christian thought which in turn destroyed them. Suicide is no longer a sin, it is your rite! And they will take us any way they can. Your prayers can’t save you and don’t bother running. Alright! Cheers and Hails!”

Inner Altar hails from very near the center of the US, in Kansas City, MO. Middle of the map. Consisting of friends who came up in the underground midwest punk/hc community who’ve always had an affinity for the classic doom sounds of the early 70’s, Inner Altar was born in 2015. With 2 demo Volumes completed and a some push from Kansas City based record label, The Company, Inner Altar began work on self recording and producing their first LP, Vol III, at the beginning of 2018.

Fast forward to the end of the year and Inner Altar is ready to release their hard work. 9 stand apart tracks of classic doom love with their midwestern land locked twist. Lives Of Fire, the first single from Vol III, has been released Dec 21st and vinyl be preordered through The Company’s website starting Dec 22nd. The official release for the album is January 18th, 2019. The album will be available on black, gold, and blood/bone.

Side A:
Prelude
For the Gods to Swear By
Lives of Fire
Undine’s Kiss
Castle Storm

Side B:
Pagan Rays | Numbered Days
Mother Eternity
Dethroned & Fugitive
Inner Altar

Inner Altar is:
Seasnake
Tunx
SSDB
Rewchild
Long Feather

Inner Altar, “Lives of Fire” official video

Inner Altar on Thee Facebooks

Inner Altar on Bandcamp

The Company webstore

The Company on Instagram

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Review & Track Premiere: Spidergawd, V

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd v

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Spidergawd’s ‘Knights of CGR.’ Their new album, Spidergawd V, is out Jan. 11 on Crispin Glover Records.]

Consistency of the kind Spidergawd have honed across their now-five albums never just happens. The Trondheim, Norway, outfit may have missed putting out a full-length in 2018, but mostly because they were busy touring, and otherwise, their discography has been built on a per-year basis, with Spidergawd IV (review here) in 2017, Spidergawd III (review here) in 2016, Spidergawd II (review here) in 2015 and Spidergawd (review here) in 2014. Released as ever through Crispin Glover RecordsSpidergawd V is the band’s second outing with Hallvard Gaardløs on bass alongside the remaining founding trio of guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, baritone saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad and drummer Kenneth Kapstad, and from its blindingly colorful cover art — also a regular feature of their work, as provided by Emile Morel — to its driven classic heavy rock feel, it is immediately recognizable as Spidergawd songcraft.

Comprised of eight tracks for a crisply-produced 38-minute long-player, Spidergawd V is absolutely air tight. No fluff. No filler. No time for messing around. Every minute of every song has its purpose, whether it’s the wah in “Green Eyes” or the sax-led intro to album opener and longest track (immediate points) “All and Everything,” or the sax and guitar seeming to lockstep later in the penultimate “Whirlwind Rodeo” to touch on “Hole in the Sky”-style riffing en route to some of the NWOBHM-isms that showed up on the last record, and as a unit, they are given to the kind of road-born sharpness that only touring and experience can provide. And for all their consistency, for all their recognizable aspects, and for the sheer fact that they’ve put out five albums essentially with the same title and the same style of art based around similar elements with straightforward structures, Spidergawd never seem to be repeating themselves. Their songs vary in mission and vibe, and the spirit of Spidergawd V underscores the fact that while there’s definitely some carryover from one offering to the next, the band have never actually failed to grow between their releases.

And they’ve done it quickly. Granted, they very clearly knew the band they wanted to be when they made the 2014 self-titled. The years since have only made that more apparent, but as “All and Everything” careens through its propulsive hook on its way to the first of any number of classy-as-hell, festival-ready guitar solos to be found throughout the album, the sheer ease with which they deliver their material is staggering, and it only becomes more so as “Ritual Supernatural” touches on Thin Lizzy troublemaking and “Twentyfourseven” reimagines chugging KISS strut-and-chorus vibes with an edge of the ’80s metal that followed in its wake. With Borten‘s voice and the structure of the verses and choruses he’s singing as a grounding factor, Spidergawd are free to follow whatever whims they might want and still find themselves on solid footing. And over their amassed discography, they’ve done that, with flourishes of psychedelia and metal playing out alongside their core of heavy rock.

spidergawd

Following “Twentyfourseven,” “Green Eyes” fills out more of the metal side of their approach, with layers of acoustic and electric guitar working together in an arrangement that only makes one wonder how the hell the song isn’t about “the night,” though one way or the other it kind of is anyway. With Snustad‘s sax wailing away as Kapstad pushes “Green Eyes” to its apex, side A wraps with an adrenaline surge that resolves itself in half-shouted lyrics and a controlled-as-ever crashout. Even in their most unhinged moments, Spidergawd hold tight on the reins of their sound. That’s not to say there’s no danger in what they’re doing, just that the way through that terrain is no less efficient and no less guided by a sure hand. Same is true as “Knights of CGR” — note the name of the label if you’re wondering what the acronym might stand for — takes hold at the outset of side B and works its way more patiently into its first verse. There’s a subtle shift in vibe, a pullback from some of the all-go-go-go of the first half of the album, but Spidergawd are hardly taking it easy with the Dio Sabbath riff — or is it “Stand up and Shout?” — that carries them to the song’s conclusion.

But even that shift has its purpose in the scope of Spidergawd V, which started out side A with a figurative-deep-inhale intro before “All and Everything” kicked in. “Avatar,” which follows “Knights of CGR” is a straightforward classic swinger, a subtle highlight for its melody and the interplay between Borten‘s guitar and Gaardløs‘ bass, the pace somewhat drawn down, but still moving through smoothly on its well-charted path, with Snustad‘s sax topping a later crashing finish that prefaces the aforementioned “Hole in the Sky”-ness of “Whirlwind Rodeo” to come. There is more Thin Lizzy in there with the steady bassline beneath the winding lead lines in the guitar and the sax blowing steady overarching notes in the verse, but the break in the second half of the song is a departure and might account for some of the time difference between “Whirlwind Rodeo” at 5:10 and everything else, which is between four and five minutes long, the opener notwithstanding. Still, they make their way back to the verse and the chorus to finish and start the closer “Do I Need a Doctor” at an ultra-rush that turns to punctuating jabs of guitar and sax in the verse before finding its melodic and memorable personality in the hook an reviving the push.

Here too, Spidergawd have it all under control, and even though they hit the brakes for a dream-toned bridge in the back end, they pick the tempo up again to round out and once more reinforce the notion that’s been the case with the band all along: that it’s the songwriting. Of all the pieces of their approach that have crossed the line from one LP to the next, when it comes to Spidergawd, by far the most crucial has been their songwriting. And five records deep, the challenge isn’t so much whether Spidergawd are going to put out a killer collection of songs, but whether their audience is going to be caught up to the last one by the time they do. That may be less of a challenge with Spidergawd V having the extra year out from its predecessor, but frankly, it may not. Looking back over what they’ve done in the last half-decade, it may well be a much longer time before their work is giving its full level of appreciation. But as of now, they are relentless on all fronts, and if we’re lucky, they’ll continue to outpace the rest of the planet for a long time to come.

Spidergawd website

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Stickman Records

Crispin Glover Records

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