Review & Track Premiere: Yatra, All is Lost

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

yatra all is lost

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Eyes of Light’ from Yatra’s All is Lost. Album is out Oct. 9 on Grimoire Records. Says Dana Helmuth: “Athalon is a mythical place or kingdom I invented in the Yatra world, based off the Greek root definition of a major event or trial. ‘Sceptres seeking of Athalon’ pertains to these self righteous leaders and charlatans portraying their magical world that will exist if you bow down and follow their sceptre. ‘Eyes of light they shine, like broken diamonds of night.'”]

Maryland sludge upstarts Avail new discount offers of article source Service UK by Professional Essay Writers UK. We offer plagiarism free work of great quality delivered on time. Yatra will release their third album, http://www.bt-kunst.de/preview2018.php?reliable-essay-writing-service - Hire Online Assignment Help for Completing your assignment writing. More than 10 years of experience with 98% success ratio. All is Lost, on Oct. 9. The record reunites the three-piece with We offer online Expert http://www.hotrodgarage.hu/?dissertation-avec-dans-quelle-mesure for Academic Writing Services at all levels. Don't get stuck with your papers. Let us assist you. Grimoire Records, and even before you hit play and hear the opening squiggly riff of the title-track that launches the nine-song/34-minute beast, it is an offering of both the familiar and unfamiliar from the band. Being back with Essay help online from professional writers with Bachelor and Master's degrees. Business Plan For After School Programs are ready to complete any kind of paper. Available 24/7. Grimoire means they returned to the studio with producer/engineer http://www.soundofliberation.com/?mba-admission-essay-buy-optional. Since 1989 our certified professional essay writers have assisted tens of thousands of clients to land great jobs and Noel Mueller, who of course helmed their 2018 debut, When it comes to choosing the best company to custom Research Papers For Sale Online, write term papers for money or write research papers for money - beware of Death Ritual¬†(discussed here), while the subsequent Jan. 2020 LP, You have stumbled upon one of the best http://www.biotricoline.it/?master-thesis-mentors online. If you are stressed by tons of assignments - our professional academic help is here Blood of the Night (review here), was recorded by Federal, State, Local Government RFP http://www.hrkavarna.cz/?buy-adhd-essays, Consulting, RFP Bid Response Services for Government Contractors. Kevin Bernsten madame bovary essays. College Algebra. Welcome to College Algebra Online! A free online math course. Chapter 1: Letís Get Real. ¬†and released through¬† Read and Download http://www.mureck.gv.at/?statistics-difficulty Free Free Ebooks in PDF format - 2003 JAGUAR X TYPE REPAIR MANUAL BENTLEY CONTINENTAL OWNERS MANUAL DUCATI STB.

They complement this return to roost with a sonic turn toward the extreme that one can only listen to and think of as the manifestation a band like¬† Looking for someone to help you with bibliography? Check out our service and http://itslyf.com/dissertation-publizieren-kosten/ today! Get awesome results without spending much Yatra has to be feeling during the course of this wretched waste of a year. Normally hard-touring and already plenty uncompromising when it comes to their sound,¬† Want to get a high grade for your essay but donít have time for it? We are ready to help! Professional http://www.bavaria-hausverwaltung.de/?average-length-of-a-phd-dissertation writing service at a low price. All is Lost lives up in terms of sound to the despair laid forth in its title. A group who’d put the time in to garner significant momentum in their favor over the last couple years, hitting the road on numerous occasions for stretches long and short — including a we-mean-business Fall 2019 European run — there’s a chunk of 2020 that should by rights have been theirs to devour as they saw fit on higher-profile tours supporting the second record.

The tradeoff, maybe, is that the great gnashing of teeth that songs like “All is Lost,” the lumbering “Tyrant Throne” and “One for the Mountain” — which show some of guitarist/vocalist Argumentative Speeches done by the world class writers at any time you want. All we want from you is to provide us with the information that is Dana Helmuth‘s cleaner-singing approach as it seems to be developing in real-time; a mixture that still calls to mind pay someone to do your school project Where To see here now writing a dissertation evaluation need help with essay writing Matt Pike but particularly in “Tyrant Throne” has an edge of ut quest homework help how to find someone to help write essays thesis custom nav menu business plan writers phoenix az Slough Feg‘s Mike Scalzi too — unfolding after “All is Lost” and the likewise sharp-edged, fucking-heavy-fucking-metal, someone-remind-me-to-send-drummer-SeanLafferty-a-thank-you-card-for-opening-up-that-groove highlight chorus of “Winter’s Dawning,” which follows. If progressive death metal is the new doom, and it is, then¬†Helmuth, bassist Maria Geisbert and¬†Lafferty will continue to walk their own path in dirt-coated metallic extremity — there’s very little one would call progressive here, apart maybe from an attention to the tightness of their songs on the whole.

“One for the Mountain,” which would seem to end side A while giving over to the sitar-introduced tracklist centerpiece “Blissful Wizard” — best sitar on a death metal cut I’ve heard since Amorphis‘ “Tuonela”; I think also the only, but still — is easier to read as catchy because of the relatively clear vocals, but “Blissful Wizard” has a strong hook of its own, and as noted with “Winter’s Dawning” above and pieces as well like “All is Lost” and side B’s “Talons of Eagles” and “Eyes of Light” that begin with their title-lines and immediately establish themselves in the listener’s mind through harshly-barked repetitions thereof, that hook is hardly alone. Extremity of purpose coinciding with a honing of craft. Brutality that refuses to relinquish nod for technicality or songwriting for aesthetic. “Eyes of Light,” blastbeats and all, is death metal. To be sure, much of¬†All is Lost is. Even on the slower stretches of “Tyrant Throne” or in the penultimate plodder “‘Twas the Night,” there is a creeping-Slayer¬†sinister feel to Helmuth‘s riff that¬†Geisbert and¬†Lafferty bring all the more forward through their accompanying lurch.

yatra (Photo by Nicole Strouse)

It’s not necessarily that the readjustment of priorities in Yatra‘s sound is a revolutionary act for them — I compared their last record to Carcass, doubt I was the first to do so, and even at its most primitive their output has to-date carried more than an air of bludgeoning, if at times primarily in the vocals — but it goes back to the blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar, and it’s the direct engagement with what were previously the darkest and harshest aspects of Yatra that, coupled again with the songwriting, makes All is Lost a moment of realization for the band. It is of course impossible to know now how much this one LP will define the path they follow moving forward from it as they inevitably will — or won’t, in which case the point is moot — but what¬†Yatra forge in this material, from the title-cut all the way through the agonizing twists of “Northern Lights” at the album’s finish, is a sonic persona for themselves that rests more within its own individuality than in the conventions of genre.

That is,¬†All is Lost is the point in their career at which¬†Yatra have unveiled not just their best collection of tracks up to now, but a perspective through which they’re approaching the creation of those tracks in the first place. Once a band is pigeonholed as a thing, it can be nearly impossible to work against that — see “sludge upstarts” above; it just rolls off the keyboard, when in fact the record positions them as more stylistically than just sludge (nothing against sludge) and mature beyond “upstart” status — but on the back of¬†All is Lost,¬†Yatra have the potential to transcend niche genre and engage a broader metal audience.

And this is why, even among the hordes of bands unable to tour in 2020, one feels all the more sympathy for¬†Yatra. Because, instead of sitting around, unable to get on tour, they pushed ahead and made a new full-length, and in so doing managed to end up right back where they started from in January: having just put together their best work yet and still be unlikely to give it the live support it deserves. Is all lost? No. But all is ephemeral. In addition to not knowing what¬†Yatra might do next, I’ll also cop to having no idea what the world is going to do next — nothing good, if past is prologue — but as much as the momentum the band built behind them for Death Ritual and into¬†Blood of the Night can be sustained through releasing¬†All is Lost, if they’re going to return to playing live with their former fervency, that momentum will need to be fed at some point.

Or maybe they just become a studio band, play the odd socially-distant gig and make that work. Again, I don’t know. Who the hell does? But today, no, all is not lost. Yatra just made their best album yet. They’ll lose some heads with it, but probably gain even more, and the viciousness of their execution is a statement unto itself that just because it can’t be hand-delivered doesn’t mean punishment isn’t to be meted out. They went back home and found themselves. It’s like the start of a rom-com, only with deathsludge riffs and talons lacing into weak flesh.

So, fucking a.

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Live Review: Sun Voyager at Rushing Duck Brewing in Chester, NY, 09.05.20

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Sun Voyager (Photo by JJ Koczan)

My whole question coming into this was how much of a show it was going to be. Outdoors, masks on, early start, limited capacity, at a brewery celebrating its eighth (I think) anniversary. Do I need earplugs? Do I bring my camera? Should I be worried about a crowd?

The last time I went to a show was January, and I know the last couple years have seen me out and about less than, say, the decade prior, but I’m still pretty sure that January to September is the longest stretch I’ve had without a gig since before my then-girlfriend/now-wife got her drivers license. Before the turn of the century, let’s say.

But bassist Stefan Mersch of Orange County, NY, psych rockers Sun Voyager posted yesterday on Thee Facebooks that they were playing a private event and to message him for info. I did and it seemed doable.

So how much of a show was it? More when Sun Voyager started playing, for sure.

Earplugs, yes. Mask, outside, and all the rest of it as (not) advertised. I’d have to set up a complicated series of charts to determine how much of a show it was, but Sun Voyager played two sets. Vocalist/guitarist Carlos Francisco, Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach were roped off in their own kind of triangle in the gravel parking lot, and the socially-distant gathering of people, some there for music, some for dinner and beer, were seated at tables probably farther apart from each other than they were last summer. It was more show than I’ve been to in eight months, I’ll tell you that.

Between their two sets, most of 2018’s Seismic Vibes (review here) was aired, songs like “Trip,” “Open Road,” “Harebrained,” “Stellar Winds” and “God is Dead” peppered throughout, some running into each other, some interspersed with older material like “Gypsy,” “Be Here Now” and “Space Queen” from their earlier EPs, and what I’ll assume were newer songs in “Some Strange,” “I’ve Got a Feeling” (not a cover), “Feeling Alright” and an extended, speedier push added to “God is Dead” that led well into “Caves of Steel” to close out the night. They noted that it was maybe the third time they’d played together since before lockdown started in the New York area, leaving open the implication that they were shaking off some rust. Well shit dudes, me too. Also, everyone.

Please know I’m not exaggerating when I liken sitting in a folding chair and watching Sun Voyager play “Space Queen” to a kind of communion experience. It was during the second of the two sets — there had been a short break in between and I saw Anthony DiBlasi (ex-Witchkiss, currently Triggered and a new band called Inherus he was talking about that sounded pretty cool), and some local friends of Sun Voyager‘s; there is a certain kind of young-ish white guy who is pretty certain he invented subtle sarcasm, alas, I’ve yet to meet one who did — and I managed to kind of relax my shoulders a little bit, slow my breathing behind my mask, close my eyes and roll with what the band were playing. It had been so long. It sounds silly, and felt that way too, sitting out in the daylight instead of being hidden away in some dark, probably-cramped-enough-to-give-you-anxiety-dreams venue, but it was real and it happened. I’d be dishonest if I didn’t note that feeling.

Their new songs bordered on motorik and it was fun trying to figure out on first listen whether they were outright refusing to cross over to full-Hawkwindian kosmiche in a defiance of genre or if they’re just too punk, in which case they’d be playing to a different genre in an off-hand way. Yes, I mean the word “fun” that sentence.¬†Sun Voyager were that.¬†Francisco‘s between-song commentary loosened up as the sun started to go down, and the place generally seemed more comfortable, or maybe that’s just me projecting. Either way, with¬†Mersch‘s bass tone properly classified as “statistically significant,”¬†Beach‘s propulsive swing behind and a due course of wah in each solo torn into, there was just no way I wasn’t going to enjoy myself, looming threat of plague or no.

Francisco said at one point they’d been working on an album throughout these long months, and that’s something Mersch discussed this Spring as well, but of course I’ve no indication of when a new release might surface and, really, why on earth would you hurry to put something out between now and, say, next March? What, are you gonna on tour? Gonna open up a bunch of shows in NYC? Gonna have a big release party? There you go. Live streams and lyric videos are all well and good — I won’t complain about either — but there’s a reason people have been saying all this time that there’s no substitute for live music, and it’s because it’s true. Sun Voyager tossing “Be Here Now” into the second set only seemed more poignant in this context.

I’m not going to try to make it more than it was. Frankly, I don’t think I need to. It was an unmitigated pleasure to get on the New York Thruway, see that pre-Catskills scenery as I headed basically the straight shot north for just under an hour, then arrive at Rushing Duck and be able to watch Sun Voyager play. It felt rejuvenating in a way I’d missed even more than I think I realized, and while it was a world apart from last time I saw them in the cramped side-room space at¬†The Well in Brooklyn (now gone) just last April at Desertfest¬†New York (review here), it was, as¬†DiBlasi put it, “proof of life.” It happened.

Stars were coming out by the time they were finishing. I might’ve stayed and checked out that sky for a bit, but I knew I’d need to be up early in the morning and the day behind was weighing as much as the day ahead, so I split out on the quick and headed back south. The progression: 87 to 287, 287 to 80, 80 to 202. Numbers all familiar, all feeling to some degree like home, as did the show I’d just left.

Thanks for reading.

Sun Voyager, “Some Strange” live at Rushing Duck Brewery, Sept. 5, 2020

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Album Review: All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

Posted in Reviews on September 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

A band in a place. When the news came through in early March that Nashville’s¬†All Them Witches — the three-piece of bassist/vocalist¬†Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist¬†Ben McLeod and drummer/tape-looper/graphic-artist¬†Robby Staebler — were recording their sixth full-length at¬†Abbey Road Studios in London, and further, that they were bringing producer¬†Mikey Allred along to helm the recording, it was enough to ignite the imagination as to what ghosts they might be able to conjure in that space. Without a doubt,¬†Nothing as the Ideal — the title-line appearing amid the chugging tension and restless-foot kickdrum of opener “Saturnine & Iron Jaw” — is the most nuanced recording¬†All Them Witches have ever done.

In the intentionally-left-there slight crack of Parks‘ voice past the midpoint of “The Children of Coyote Woman,” in the balance between torrential rhythmic intensity and ranging guitar on “Lights Out,” and in the quiet, subtle crackle of¬†McLeod‘s standalone guitar in the two-minute instrumental “Everest,” which might in another context have been an interlude, but through whatever probably-legendary amplifier he’s playing through offers one of¬†Nothing as the Ideal‘s most gorgeous moments of tonality. Perhaps a curious highlight, but it tells a lot of the story of the band’s fourth LP under the banner of¬†New West Records¬†in that it captures a stirring performance in likewise stirring detail. It is high-fidelity, not in the same way as the lush-sounding Sleeping Through the War¬†(review here) from 2017 that their fifth album, 2018‚Äôs ATW¬†(review here), seemed to be reacting against, but in a way that is more about the band reaching into themselves as artists.

Staebler‘s experimental bent that’s now manifest as well in the side-project¬†Uvways shows up in cuts like “41,” “Rats in Ruin” and in transitions between songs, taking the place that up to this point was filled by keys or other arrangement elements from a fourth member of the band, be it Allan Van Cleave or the shorter-tenured¬†Jonathan Draper, who appeared on¬†ATW only.¬†McLeod‘s progressive, sometimes aggressive turns of guitar are writ large throughout in the full dynamic breadth of his work, from “Everest” to the lead wash and coming-apart-at-the-seams jam at the end of 9:50 side A closer “See You Next Fall” and the crunching fuzz reminiscent of 2013‚Äôs¬†Lightning at the Door¬†(review here) that shows up on second track “Enemy of My Enemy” and the later “41.”

He too has a side-project in the instrumental and more metal-leaning Woodsplitter. And¬†Parks, who turns verses into poetry readings here more than ever, obscure in his images painting Romulus and Remus as good ol’ boys on “The Children of Coyote Woman,” seeming to critique touring life in “See You Next Fall,” leading an invocation of unplugged Nirvana in the early going of nine-minute finale “Rats in Ruin,” and layering his voice to make a single out of “Enemy of My Enemy” even as later he seems to refuse to be wholly caught int the shove of “Lights Out.” Anytime he wants to spend a year or two wandering in the woods and put out an experimentalist Americana/neo-folk record, one doubts he’d meet with argument.

all them witches at abbey road

Nothing as the Ideal draws together these different sides of these three players and builds itself as one entirely using elements of each persona.¬†Allred has been a friend of the band of long-standing. He produced their 2015 New West label debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker¬†(review here), mastered the 2019 single ‚Äú1 x 1‚ÄĚ (discussed here) — among other works — and his knowledge of the band’s workings is all the more essential throughout these tracks as they recorded as a three-piece for the first time. It is no shock that the latest¬†All Them Witches album sounds different from the one before it. They all do. But while they approach it with characteristic swagger and have perhaps inadvertently deflected the narrative via their choice of locale in¬†Abbey Road, there’s no question that the former foursome taking on the task of presenting themselves as a trio is a big change.

They’re helped throughout by time they put in touring in such a configuration, as well as by¬†Allred‘s work at the helm, and while¬†Nothing as the Ideal takes the band to places they’ve never been in terms of aesthetic, it’s also more their own than they’ve ever been, transcending the heavy blues genre-forging of their earlier work while seeming still to draw from the abiding melancholy of¬†Dying Surfer Meets His Maker and the organic weight of¬†Lightning at the Door. This is coupled with the unmitigated, seemingly unceasing growth of¬†Parks,¬†McLeod and¬†Staebler as creative individuals, and the coming together of the familiar with the new is perhaps as much a sonic signature as¬†All Them Witches have, regardless of the lineup. From the ambient unfolding of “Saturnine & Iron Jaw” through the push and pull of “Enemy of My Enemy,” the resonance of “Everest,” the twists of “41” and the build of energy that seems to happen across that song and “Lights Out” leading to the quiet initial stretch of “Rats in Ruin” — which itself ends with a brief jam from the trio together that sounds like a coda for career to this point —¬†Nothing as the Ideal wholly lives up to the standard its title sets.

It finds¬†All Them Witches chasing not a preestablished idea of who they are or what their songwriting process is or should be, but their own creative impulses at the moment. They have excelled at this since 2012’s Our Mother Electricity¬†(review here) served as their debut LP, and while their productivity in the years since is something in itself to be admired — six albums in eight years, along with EPs, live releases and countless digital one-offs, etc. — the expressionist aspects of their work, the continuing progression of their craft and the memorable impression their songs make all comes together on¬†Nothing as the Ideal in what feels like an act of self-defiance as much as one of self-definition. As recognizable a band as they’ve become, one never knows what shape¬†All Them Witches might take as they move forward. The fact that they’re still so rife with potential six albums into their career can only emphasize how special a band they truly are.

All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal (2020)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: The Kings of Frog Island, VI

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the kings of frog island vi

[Slick play above to stream The Kings of Frog Island’s VI in full. Vinyl is out Nov. 9 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

It’s not as if¬†The Kings of Frog Island have been absent. Granted, it’s been six years since the band released their fifth numerically-titled full-length,¬†V (review here), in 2014, which brought the “Sunburn/Every turn” hook and a host of jammed-out, vinyl-flowing psychedelic delights, but still. In 2016, the band oversaw a vinyl issue for 2013’s¬†IV (review here) as a first step in their alliance with¬†Kozmik Artifactz, and in 2019, they completed a new single and video for every month of the year (posted here) — plus one to grow on — and in March, they re-recorded “The Watcher” from 2008’s II (discussed here) and posted another video to coincide. With the advent of¬†VI, however, the longest LP drought of their career comes to an end, and a perhaps-overdue proper album arrives to find them with a somewhat shifted focus.

Comprised of 10 songs split evenly onto two vinyl sides and released again through Kozmik Artifactz,¬†VI¬†completes a second trilogy of¬†offerings for¬†The Kings of Frog Island, with founding members Mark Buteaux¬†(vocals/guitar) and¬†Roger ‚ÄúDoj‚ÄĚ Watson (drums) as well as¬†Gavin Searle,¬†Lee Madel-Toner and Tony Heslop working at their own¬†Amphibia Sound Studios IV¬†in the groups native Leicester, UK, over a period from 2017-2020 to construct the material, bringing together the mellow psych explorations in which they’ve basked since¬†IV with the more structured songwriting of the earlier work of what one might call their Elektrohasch era — their 2005 self-titled debut, the aforementioned¬†II, and 2010’s¬†III (review here). That third album would force an adjustment with the departure of guitarist/vocalist¬†Mat Bethancourt (also of¬†Josiah) to focus on the garage-y leanings of¬†Cherry Choke, but¬†The Kings of Frog Island¬†flourished in cosmic drift and made a space for themselves both in terms of sound and the studio where they captured it. In short, they dug in. Across its 42-minute span, VI¬†carries the feel of an emergence.

Or maybe a re-emergence would be more like it, but one way or the other,¬†VI¬†brings¬†The Kings of Frog Island¬†into alignment with all sides of their sound. The shimmering guitar in “Toxic Heart” seems to hint toward earlier days, while the immediately-prior “Bad Trip” is pure psychedelic in-studio experimentation, and the beginning that¬†VI receives with the 1:37 ambient “Monotron” sets an atmospheric foundation that even the more straightforward chorus-making of the subsequent fuzz rocker “Ever and Forever” builds upon. Not only that, but the first two cuts also set up the back-and-forth sensibility that plays out on much of VI, with grounded riffs and progressions meeting head-on with spacier keyboard work sometimes even within a single track itself, as on “Pigs in Space,” perhaps named for the yawning sort of oink later in its proceedings.

the kings of frog island liner

And even as “Toxic Heart” picks up after “Bad Trip” — the two are presented as one song in the digital version of the album I have, but there’s a clear divide around five and a half minutes in — intertwining vocal lines, the already-noted airy guitar and even the generally languid pacing continue to harness the tripped-out feel, even if in less directly experimental fashion than on the song before.¬†The Kings of Frog Island, then, are headed far out. They’re going. One way or the other, their goal is to get there, and they do precisely that with these songs. But it’s the level of interplay between structure and fluidity that makes¬†VI a standout in their catalog and feel like a summation of their work not just over the three years they put into the record’s making, but the 15 years of their career to this point. That would be a lot to ask of a band whose approach and lineup has varied to the degree that¬†The Kings of Frog Island‘s has over their time, but perhaps the patience that seems to come through in “Toxic Heart” or the side B opener “Sicario” is emblematic of the patience that went into making the record in the first place, and maybe that’s the ‘secret weapon’ here, such as it is. They took their time and made the album they wanted to make.

Easily said, harder done. “Sicario” has a moodier feel in its fuzzed lumber, slow, touching on doom but still maintaining enough lysergic tonality as it moves toward its final wash and shifts into “Brainless,” which is the shortest cut on¬†VI apart from “Monotron.” In its 3:09, it builds up from a humming drone and ambient (amphibient?) noise to a quiet guitar line joined at 1:41 by a solo and soon thereafter by drums that continue the instrumental push by uncovering a funk that was there all along and had just gone unseen. Bell-ish sounds, forward and backward, consume the march at about 2:45 and there’s only ultra-soft resonance left over until¬†Madel-Toner‘s vocals enter to begin “Murderer,” which seems to herald the arrival of a final movement of¬†VI that stands apart from its two-sided configuration.

That is, the last three songs — “Murderer,” “I Am the Hurricane” and “Fine” — flow together particularly well, leaving an impression on the listener that underscores the ease of motion across the album as a whole. “Murderer” brings¬†Monster Magnet-style riffing together with synthesizer breadth and multiple layers of vocals, while “I Am the Hurricane” shifts from its blown-out verses into repetitions of its title line over a jam that is about as much of a signature as The Kings of Frog Island‘s approach could ever ask for, and “Fine” closes with a fuzzgrunge shrug and playful tambourine bounce and a winding guitar line like the ’90s alt rock of some other, inevitably cooler, dimension. Even unto its elaborate cover art and we-have-a-logo-now logo,¬†The Kings of Frog Island‘s¬†VI speaks to a sense of creative purpose on the part of the band that, again, hasn’t necessarily been lost — they did put out 13 singles in 2019 — but that manifests here in a way that is engaging and only leaves one with the feeling that they have more to say. It might be another six years before they get to a seventh full-length and it might not, but a decade and a half on from their first release,¬†The Kings of Frog Island keep exploring, keep experimenting and keep crafting a sound that is theirs alone.

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Album Review: Black Helium, The Wholly Other

Posted in Reviews on August 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

black helium the wholly other

The very first thing that The Wholly Other has to offer is tension. A chugging guitar begins the second album from London four-piece Black Helium — and the introduction of drummer Diogo Gomez to the fold — and it’s soon joined by a militaristic snare as the aggressively-titled “Hippie on a Slab” begins to unfurl. Offered up through Riot Season Records, The Wholly Other, both the name of the album and its execution, would seem to be deriving from Black Helium‘s drive toward individuality in heavy psychedelia and beyond.

The band — here guitarist/vocalists Stuart Gray and Davey Mulka and bassist/vocalist/graphic artist Beck Harvey alongside Gomez — made their debut in 2018 with the likewise ambitious and confrontational Primitive Fuck (review here, and it wouldn’t necessarily be correct to call The Wholly Other classier in its delivery, but it is obvious in listening to its six-track/41-minute run that Black Helium learned a few crucial lessons from their time in the studio and were able to translate those into this batch of material.

They didn’t lack confidence before — one does not call a record Primitive Fuck in a timid spirit — but there’s an element of direction to The Wholly Other that comes through likewise in its individual pieces and in the front-to-back listening experience. Tonally and melodically rich, they are brazen enough stylistically to require their audience’s attention and grab it without asking, and the effect of “Hippie on a Slab” is to do precisely that, with the already noted tension of its rhythm as well as its deceptively memorable chorus. It is a clever opener, with a short intro of birdsong before the guitar and hi-hat kick in — there’s a floor tom thud that starts off as well — and the ensuing energy buildup that seems headed toward release over the song’s first 90 seconds before… it stops. Dead.

It’s just for a few seconds, but it’s a really important few seconds. In the first minute and a half of The Wholly Other, Black Helium are telling their audience to broaden their expectations, and maybe even to raise them somewhat. This isn’t going to be simple genre fare, a runthrough of well trod clich√©s and familiar elements. In subsequent side A tracks “Two Masters” and the 10-minute “Death Station of the Goddess,” respectively, they directly reference Nirvana‘s “Drain You” in another build and make the likewise pivotal choice of keeping the established vocal chant mellow even as the track hits into one of the album’s most consuming washes of tone. In making choices like these,¬†Black Helium simply put themselves on another level of songcraft, and whether this is done in calculated fashion — a kind of progressive decisiveness behind each nuance throughout — or in the raw spirit of what comes out of the jam room by collaborative instinct, the same holds true.

black helium (photo by Steve Gullick)

There are, of course, holdover aspects from¬†Primitive Fuck¬†that carry into¬†The Wholly Other. “Hippie on a Slab”‘s later reaches play cacophony over atmospheric spaciousness, and even the Britgrunge of “Two Masters” rampages through a dense fuzz as it makes its way back toward its central riff to close. “Death Station of the Goddess” is an inevitable focal point in its graceful procession and ensuing mania, which is something that its 10:34 side B counterpart “Pink Bolt” — positioned as the centerpiece of that side’s three tracks rather than as the album’s finale; another clever move to contradict genre convention — doesn’t try to match, instead playing out in less linear fashion as it moves from heavy post-rock airiness into a wandering jam and resolving in a lumbering plod that tops the¬†Electric Wizard-style horrormaking of the sample-topped roller “One Way Trip” just before and rumbles beneath its own noisy crescendo.

Shit is massive. Tell your friends or someone else will.

Can it be that after all this,¬†Black Helium find some kind of collective resolution? “Teetering on the Edge,” which rounds out¬†The Wholly Other feels like a peace offering in following “Pink Bolt.” As though the four-piece were scooping up the melted remnants of their audience’s psyche and saying, “Sorry about that, here’s this now, everybody take a breath.” Assuming the purposeful nature of how the two sides of¬†The Wholly Other¬†play out, with the first two tracks leading into “Death Station of the Goddess” and “Pink Bolt” surrounded on either side — these two more extended pieces playing off the shorter cuts around them — the flow with which¬†Black Helium cap off, as though harnessing the ethereal presence of an ultra-mellow¬†Dead Meadow, isn’t to be understated. They’ve already blown out the airlock. It’s time to explore the vacuum.

So they do, with no less aplomb than they brought to The Wholly Other at its noisiest and most sonically forceful. They never quite return to the tension of “Hippie on a Slab,” even in “Two Masters,” which has its own chug, but the album remains informed by it nonetheless, and the sense of not knowing what to expect at any given turn throughout is something they use masterfully to their advantage when it comes to carving out their sonic persona in the manner they seem to have set as their goal. That too is an outgrowth of the work they did on the debut, marking out a range of avenues they might traverse and, here, forging a modus that fluidly or strikingly draws from among them as best serves the songs. This is harder than it sounds, rarer than it sounds, and certainly ‘other’ enough to be noteworthy.

And when considering the attention to detail¬†Black Helium¬†bring to their second album, one shouldn’t ignore¬†Harvey‘s cover art either, the freaked-out freneticism of it and the geometric shape beneath. The font and positioning of the band’s name would seem to be important as well, and at least to my eyes it recalls the staging of the¬†Now That’s What I Call Music series of top 40 pop compilations. If that is the standard to which¬†Black Helium have set themselves against and what they’re reacting to, their second LP could not be better named. Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is that even after this collection of songs is over, it’s hard to guess how the band might continue their forward creative growth, but whatever manifestations may lay ahead,¬†The Wholly Other is a beast unto itself.

Black Helium, The Wholly Other (2020)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

[Click play above to stream The Atomic Bitchwax’s Scorpio in its entirety. It’s out Friday on Tee Pee Records.]

Some 21 years ago in 1999, New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax made one of the most striking impressions on their self-titled debut album (discussed here) with “Hope You Die,” a song that takes its wishing-ill title and turns it into a call and response vocal hook and makes it mischievously fun. “I hope you hate this shit/I hope your clothes don’t fit,” etc. In 2020, “Hope You Die” leads off. It has been pushed to the forward position on Scorpio, which is the trio’s eighth album, issued like their debut through Tee Pee Records. Scorpio is a landmark by default for the band from Neptune, in that it finds them on the other side of their first record’s 20th year — no small feat for an underground act — and it marks the introduction of their third guitarist, Garrett Sweeny. Sweeny took up the position in early 2019 following the departure of Finn Ryan¬†(also ex-Core) late in 2018, and the band — completed by drummer Bob Pantella and founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik — proceeded onward with another following in a series of years with a busy touring schedule, then in support of 2017’s¬†Force Field (review here).

Not to discount¬†Ryan‘s work in¬†The Atomic Bitchwax, as he brought shred worthy of filling founding guitarist¬†Ed Mundell‘s rather sizable shoes and a melodic vocal that worked well in offsetting Kosnik‘s more shouted approach, could carry a song when asked to do so or follow the rhythm section on any number of whirlwind progressions, but his departure (somewhat surprisingly) hardly caused the group to lose a step. Kosnik, who joined¬†Monster Magnet¬†in 2013, and¬†Pantella, who joined¬†Monster Magnet in 2004, snagged¬†Sweeny from that band’s lineup and¬†The Atomic Bitchwax continued on.¬†Scorpio, recorded this past January at Sound Spa in Edison, NJ, with Stephen DeAcutis, benefits markedly from the relative smoothness of that lineup transition and the chemistry the semi-revamped three-piece were able to build on the road last year, touring with Conan and¬†Black Label Society, among others, and couples this with the well established penchant for speedy heavy rock songcraft that has been largely consistent in their work over the last two decades-plus. Momentum, then, is a key element to both the style and the substance of the band. Like their songs, they move forward.

“Hope You Die” serves as the blastoff and the longest track (immediate points) on Scorpio at 4:36, but it’s just one of the bunch when it comes to hooks.¬†Sweeny and¬†Kosnik share vocals, their styles similar in a manner that’s complementary, and throughout the 10-song/37-minute offering, the guitarist acquits himself well in terms of ripping into a barrage of solos and setting the course through Kosnik‘s winding style of riffs, tapping classic rock heroics and translating it into a methodology that’s long since become identifiable as¬†The Atomic Bitchwax‘s own. They follow “Hope You Die” with the aptly-titled “Energy,” a cut that earlier incarnations of the tracklist had swapped with the here-penultimate “Betting Man” as a late surge, but that works no less well in answering the opener with another fervent shove — “Betting Man,” meanwhile, serves basically the same function where it is — and soon enough turns over to the first of three included instrumentals, “Ninja.”

the atomic bitchwax

As one might expect, it is a blurry whirlwind of punches and kicks, drawing on another time-tested aspect of the band’s overarching modus. They kill. In dizzying fashion. 2008’s¬†TAB4¬†(review here) departed for more mid-paced fare on the whole, but since 2011’s instrumental, single-song LP,¬†The Local Fuzz¬†(review here) and through 2015‚Äôs¬†Gravitron¬†(review here) and¬†Force Field, the band has been on a tear in terms of energy. The title-track of¬†Scorpio, also one of its shortest pieces at 3:22, epitomizes this, and is all the more a fitting example for how memorable it is despite being shot from a cannon. The possibly self-referential stomper “Easy Action,” which presumably closes side A and brings a more restrained pace with Pantella marking time on the snare, seems to nod to “So Come On” from 2006’s Jack Endino-produced Boxriff EP (discussed here), and asks the question, “Do you want to live forever?” as if already knowing the answer is no. Tambourine behind the chorus and timed to the snare cleverly keeps the motion of¬†Scorpio going while likewise speaking to the band’s periodic pop flirtations. Unsurprisingly, it works well.

A quick count-in and “Crash” is off; an instrumental lead-in for the second half of¬†Scorpio that hearkens to the riff of the title-track and runs elsewhere with it, taking its own path to its careening stop ahead of “Super Sonic,” which stands just 3:14 but features some highlight bass work from¬†Kosnik and a stripped-down feel compared to the three tracks prior. Perhaps that’s¬†The Atomic Bitchwax introducing the album’s final movement in some way, or just throwing something different in on side B. Either way, it serves its purpose and shifts to “You Got It” with little fanfare, the latter with not only a return of tambourine, but handclaps as well. “You Got It” is quintessential Bitchwax and fits alongside “Scorpio” and “Easy Action” and the subsequent “Betting Man” as some of the strongest material they bring to the outing, but it’s a high standard across the board: the fuzzy riffing, the subtle vocal shifts, the sheer push of the thing.

This is what¬†The Atomic Bitchwax make sound simple and no one else seems to be able to do in quite the same way. See also “Betting Man” and “Instant Death,” the closing duo that sums up¬†Scorpio in suitably concise and direct fashion with one more hook and one last instrumental thrust. It would be hard for a band like¬†The Atomic Bitchwax to be a completely unknown quantity eight records into their career, but part of what makes¬†Scorpio so much their own is its reflection on what they’ve done before. In light of the advent of¬†Sweeny on guitar and the inevitable change to the band’s personality as a result — swapping members in a power trio is never a simple matter — the band’s claim on who they are feels nothing if not purposeful, and at the core of Scorpio is Kosnik‘s songwriting, which is seemingly unshakable. All the better. They’re of course underserved by not being able to tour immediately to support the release, like so many others, but The Atomic Bitchwax nonetheless remain vital and kinetic.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Slomosa, Slomosa

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

slomosa slomosa

[Click play above to stream Slomosa’s self-titled debut in full. It’s out Friday, Aug. 28 on Apollon Records.]

Slomosa¬†may be newcomers, but their sound draws on decades of established heavy rock traditions that are nothing if not stalwart. Based in Bergen, Norway, and releasing their self-titled debut full-length through¬†Apollon Records, the four-piece formed in 2017, recorded in 2018 and traded out half their lineup in 2019, bringing in guitarist Tor Erik Bye and bassist Marie Moe alongside drummer Severin Sandvik and vocalist/guitarist Benjamin Berdous. Starting last Fall,¬†Slomosa began issuing singles from the eight-song/37-minute recorded-live-with-overdubs offering, beginning with the rolling riff that starts the album in “Horses” before following-up with “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” (posted here) and, most recently, “In My Mind’s Desert” (posted here) giving a different look at the breadth of their more than capably conveyed melody. Helmed and mixed by¬†Eirik Sandvik (Amped Out,¬†Howlin’ Sun) and mastered by Enslaved‘s own Iver Sand√ły, the album benefits from the experienced hands of its production (the band is listed as a co-producer), bringing due tonal presence to a style that is well aware of genre tenets and speaking alike to the formative days of Californian desert rock in the 1990s and the Scandinavian interpretations that followed soon behind.

Kyuss and¬†Queens of the Stone Age are two anchor influences, the former coming into play throughout, in songs like “Kevin” and “Estonia” and even “Scavengers,” which hints at more progressive nuance in the guitar twists of its second half, but remains grounded ultimately in its structure and staves off digging too far into such indulgences. The latter manifests perhaps even more palpably in the vocal patterning and riffing style of Berdous and then-guitarist Anders R√łrlienKristian Tvedt played bass — and comes to the fore in “In My Mind’s Desert” and “Just to Be,” both of which specifically key in on the Josh Homme-fronted outfit’s 1998 self-titled debut.

Along with this, the driving thrust of “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” seems to harness the intensity that Dozer once brought to the desert sound, and the march of “Horses” at the launch of the record feels derived more from the earliest work of The Sword¬†— who, it should be noted, are from neither California nor Sweden — so there’s more to dig into throughout¬†Slomosa‘s¬†Slomosa than it might at first appear. And while still definitively a desert rock aesthetic — they call it “tundra rock” in honor of Norway’s lack of deserts; you work with what you’ve got — one of the most encouraging aspects of the collection, especially taken in its manageable entirety, is how much¬†Slomosa are able to bring these influences along to suit the purposes of their own songwriting. Ultimately, it is that songwriting that rules the day.

It might take a given listener a turn or two through¬†Slomosa to get past the novelty of picking out riffs and saying, “Oh, that’s this¬†Kyuss track,” be it “Estonia” drawing from “Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop” or whatever else, but the rewards are ample for that minimal investment of effort, and they come in form of hooks like those of “Horses” or “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” or “Just to Be,” as well as the more willfully sprawling showcase that is closer “On and Beyond.” The last of those is a singular worthy showcase of the band’s potential, but the truth of the matter is that same potential is writ large across the entirety of the release.

slomosa

Their songs work well together and are placed smoothly for an overarching full-length flow, but it is no coincidence that they spaced out three singles ahead of the full album’s arrival, since that is very much the modus in which the record operates: as a presentation of the individual tracks that comprise it. Each song is crisp and smoothly executed — not so smooth as to detract from the weight or edge, but enough to highlight the melody in¬†Berdous‘ vocals for sure. As “In My Mind’s Desert” taps those nascent¬†Queens of the Stone Age¬†vibes (or is it a less melancholy “I Never Came?”), even the word-playfulness of the lyrics seems to be on board in the line, “No man’s an island in no man’s land.” But even here, there’s more happening than simply deriving new material from something built before.

Certainly there’s plenty of that, and you won’t hear me say otherwise — I don’t imagine even¬†Slomosa themselves would come out and say they’ve completely invented a new sound; beware of anyone who does — but the energy and the vitality behind what they’re doing stylistically is an asset that comes into play all along the album’s varied path. Recording at least the basic tracks live would seem to have been a correct choice in that regard, since that natural foundation resonates even through whatever overdubbing and the added-later vocals. It becomes an essential aspect of each track, as heard in the fuzz-forward “Scavengers,” which hits into a bounce and push that would seem to be positioning itself as an heir to¬†Truckfighters‘ unmitigated sense of fun, or in “There is Nothing New Under the Sun,” which in addition to¬†Dozer¬†directly and perhaps with tongue-in-cheek recalls “My God is the Sun” from QOTSA‘s¬†…Like Clockwork, as well as anywhere else one might have ears to hear it.¬†Slomosa sound like a young band. A young band who know what they want stylistically and are able to craft their material in such a way as to manifest that.

Such things don’t come along every day, and if you’re looking for theses in¬†Slomosa, they’re readily apparent in “There is Nothing New Under the Sun” and “In My Mind’s Desert” — two cuts that seem to find the band directly acknowledging where they’re coming from in terms of overall perspective. An act of that kind of boldness isn’t to be taken lightly, especially from a new group releasing their first album. What remains to be seen is how¬†Slomosa‘s lineup change will affect their sound, and what lessons they’ll take with them from having successfully executed this offering at the high level they have. Will they push outward as “On and Beyond” seems to want to do, or dive deeper into the thrust of “Kevin,” or head somewhere else entirely? Part of what makes Slomosa so exciting as an album is not knowing the answer, but only part, because the work they’ve done in these songs is more than enough to stand on its own, regardless of what might come after.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: White Manna, ARC

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

White Manna ARC

Stare hard enough at the Rachel Duffy cover art for White Manna‘s seventh album, ARC, and it starts to make a fittingly weird kind of sense in conjunction with the music itself. Collage assembled as a totem, a kind of monolith built from different colors and textures. A watch, a couple slices of fruit, and is that a coffin with clouds on it? Either way, it is evocative, and much the same is true of what occurs sonically on the record’s nine tracks. The follow-up to 2019’s Ape on Sunday (review here) arrives via¬†Centripetal Force and¬†Cardinal Fuzz¬†and is largely a departure from the record preceding, as returning guitarist/vocalist/keyboardists¬†David Johnson¬†and¬†Anthony Taibi, bassist¬†Johnny Webb¬†and drummer/vocalist¬†Tavan Anderson bring aboard Dominic Talvola and¬†Charlie Love, presumably to also handle synth or the other electronic elements that are so prevalent across¬†ARC‘s 38-minute span.

Experimentalism and improvisation aren’t my any means new for the Arcata, California-based White Manna, who made their self-titled debut in 2012 through¬†Holy Mountain, but the pieces that comprise¬†ARC¬†feel particularly exploratory of the far-in as much as the far-out, beginning with the opening title-track’s eight-minute pulse of electronically driven krautery. It is as though the band — who recorded with Taibi at the helm at his own 3D Light Studios — decided it was high time someone recast jazz in their own image and then set about the task with a spacial focus, not letting themselves be hindered either by their own expectations of what psychedelia is or should be, let alone anyone else’s. The resulting material is not necessarily warm or comforting, but neither is it intended that way. Rather, it is a challenge directed inward, a sort of burst of individualism as¬†White Manna¬†push themselves to do new things and explore their methods in ways and with direction that they never have before. If it’s space rock — and I’d argue that at least some of it is — then it’s deep-space rock, and the places it goes may have been touched by humans before, but the footprint¬†White Manna leave in the cosmic dust is undeniably their own.

Special mention as to go to¬†Anderson¬†on drums. The bulk of¬†ARC is instrumental. There is sax or synth-as-sax peppered here and there, as on the later 10-minute kinda-finale “Surfer Moron,” but whether it’s there or on the out-of-nowhere all-go garage-galaxy-punk blast of “Zosser” earlier — as close to a traditional “song” as¬†White Manna here get —¬†Anderson‘s drumming shines as a creative element, not trying to anchor the proceedings to a structure or define where one off-time measure ends and the next one starts, but instead standing in line and on the same mission as the guitars, bass, synth, etc., in pushing outward beyond the common reaches of genre. Even on side A’s 49-second “Pollen Ball,” which is little more than a captured swirl in a jar, the insistence of the snare hits gives more personality and evocative vibe to what accompanies, and though the drums are just one piece of what brings¬†White Manna to such a place of avant garde reach, they’re nonetheless crucial to that outcome from the echoing outset of the¬†Hawkwind-as-heard-in-another-dimension “ARC” onward, its echoing vocals vague and accompanied by far back guitar, cymbal wash and who the hell even knows what else.

white manna

A wash of noise emerges and is manipulated. Sax arrives and departs and arrives again, and even the motorik beat eventually splits out, leaving the residual soundscaping to finish the job of keeping the universe on its toes heading into the more electronically purposed “Mythic Salon.” There are vocals there too, but they’re subsumed into the atmosphere as the horns/keys tap out jazzy jabs in interstellar bop, waiting to go on a tear but restraining for the moment at least until “Pilgrim’s Progress” pushes the noise freakout to its most abrasive cast on the record. Scorch, pure and simple, only without the simple. There’s a wide breadth happening but it’s less about that than the consumption of everything around, and all of it — yes, all of it — seems to be swallowed at the last. After that, the relatively minimal “Pollen Ball” feels like a well-earned comedown, and though “Painted Cakes” adds more tension with a¬†John Carpenter-esque synth throb, the presumed end of side A is still a rescue by comparison.

So be it. “Zosser” blasts off immediately from “Painted Cakes” and is righteous in its forward momentum, heavy like¬†Stooges but expansive, and with thrusters on full. The 1:48 dronescape “Soft Apocalypse” follows and is probably its own best description, though there is something urban about its doppler-feeling undulations. Like a slow siren however many city blocks away, the keys that have been there all along become more prominent in the fadeout, from which “Surfer Moron” picks up as the longest single inclusion on¬†ARC and the final argument¬†White Manna make in their thesis on psych-jazz progressivism. The very nature of a record like this — something purposefully constructed as a willful act of exploration on the part of the band; a kind of “we’re going on an adventure and you can come” — means there’s some manner of indulgence happening throughout, and of course that’s the case in “Surfer Moron” as much as anywhere else, but the hypnotic sphere in which it lands is engrossing just the same. Atop a slow-rolling beat, horn peppers notes circa 6:30 that are a gorgeous and ethereal, and the energy uptick from there manages to be a linear build and not predictable as it shifts from its apex smoothly to the epilogue of “Sailing Stones,” the keys, drums and whatever else finishing the swirl before fading out after about a minute.

What the hell just happened? I don’t know, but consider again the totem of the cover art, how its varied ideas come together to express a single idea. With¬†ARC, that idea is¬†White Manna pursuing a space beyond genre and of themselves. It is weird — with glee, weird — and there are moments that come across as playful, but the goal to which they’re driven isn’t just about screwing around and seeing what happens. It’s about seeing how far they can push this thing before it all comes apart. It never does here.

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