Quarterly Review: Amenra, Liquid Sound Company, Iceburn, Gods and Punks, Vouna, Heathen Rites, Unimother 27, Oxblood Forge, Wall, Boozewa

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You’ll have to forgive me, what the hell day is it? The url says this is day eight, so I guess that’s Wednesday. Fine. That’s as good as any. It’s all just 10 more records to my brain at this point, and that’s fine. I’ve got it all lined up. As of me writing this, I still haven’t heard about my busted-ass laptop that went in for repair last Saturday, and that’s a bummer, but I’m hoping that any minute now the phone is going to show the call coming in and I’ll just keep staring at it until that happens and I’m sure that will be awesome for my already brutalized productivity.

My backup laptop — because yes, I have one and will gladly argue with you that it’s necessary citing this week as an example — is a cheapie Chromebook. The nicest thing I can say about it is it’s red. The meanest thing I can say about it is that I had to change the search button to a caps lock and even that doesn’t respond fast enough to my typing, so I’m constantly capitalizing the wrong letters. If you don’t think that’s infuriating, congratulations on whatever existence has allowed you to live this long without ever needing to use a keyboard. “Hello computer,” and all that.

Enough kvetching. Too much to do.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Amenra, De Doorn

Amenra De Doorn

I’ve made no secret over the last however long of not being the biggest Amenra fan in the universe. Honestly, it’s not even about the Belgian band themseves — live, they’re undeniable — but the plaudits around them are no less suffocating than their crushing riffs at their heaviest moments. Still, as De Doorn marks their first offering through Relapse Records, finds them departing from their Mass numbered series of albums and working in their native Flemish for the first time, and brings Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker into the songs to offer melodic counterpoint to Colin H. van Eeckhout‘s nothing-if-not-identifiable screams, the invitations to get on board are manifold. This is a band with rules. They have set their own rules, and even in pushing outside them as they do here, much of their ideology and sonic persona is maintained. Part of that identity is being forward thinking, and that surfaces on De Doorn in parts ambient and quiet, but there’s always a part of me that feels like Amenra are playing it safe, even as they’re working within parameters they’ve helped define for a generation of European post-metal working directly in their wake. The post-apocalyptic breadth they harness in these tracks will only continue to win them converts. Maybe I’ll be one of them. That would be fun. It’s nice to belong, you know?

Amenra on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Liquid Sound Company, Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul

Liquid sound company psychoactive songs for the psoul

A quarter-century after their founding, Arlington, Texas, heavy psych rockers Liquid Sound Company still burn and melt along the lysergic path of classic ’60s acid rock, beefier in tone but no less purposeful in their drift on Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul. They’re turning into custard on “Blacklight Corridor” and they can tell you don’t understand on “Who Put All of Those Things in Your Hair?,” and all the while their psych rock digs deeper into the cosmic pulse, founding guitarist John Perez (also Solitude Aeturnus) unable to resist bringing a bit of shred to “And to Your Left… Neptune” — unless that’s Mark Cook‘s warr guitar — even as “Mahayuga” answers back to the Middle Eastern inflection of “Blacklight Corridor” earlier on. Capping with the mellow jam “Laila Was Here,” Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul is a loving paean to the resonant energies of expanded minds and flowing effects, but “Cosmic Liquid Love” is still a heavy rollout, and even the shimmering “I Feel You” is informed by that underlying sense of heft. Nonetheless, it’s an acid invitation worth the RSVP.

Liquid Sound Company on Facebook

Liquid Sound Company on Bandcamp

 

Iceburn, Asclepius

iceburn asclepius

Flying snakes, crawling birds, two tracks each over 17 minutes long, the first Iceburn release in 20 years is an all-in affair from the outset. As someone coming to the band via Gentry Densley‘s work in Eagle Twin, there are recognizable elements in tone, themes and vocals, but with fellow founders Joseph “Chubba” Smith on drums and James Holder on guitar, as well as bassist Cache Tolman (who’s Johnny Comelately since he originally joined in 1991, I guess), the atmosphere conjured by the four-piece is consuming and spacious in its own way, and their willingness to go where the song guides them on side A’s “Healing the Ouroboros,” right up to the long-fading drone end after so much lumbering skronk and incantations before, and side B’s “Dahlia Rides the Firebird,” with its pervasive soloing, gallop and veer into earth-as-cosmos terradelia, the return of Iceburn — if in fact that’s what this is — makes its own ceremony across Asclepius, sounding newly inspired rather than like a rehash.

Iceburn on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Gods & Punks, The Sounds of the Universe

gods and punks the sounds of the universe

As regards ambition, Gods & Punks‘ fourth LP, The Sounds of the Universe, wants for nothing. The Rio De Janeiro heavy psych rockers herein wrap what they’ve dubbed their ‘Voyager’ series, culminating the work they’ve done since their first EP — album opener “Eye in the Sky” is a remake — while tying together the progressive, heavy and cosmic aspects of their sound in a single collection of songs. In context, it’s a fair amount to take in, but a track like “Black Apples” has a riffy standout appeal regardless of its place in the band’s canon, and whether it’s the classic punch of “The TUSK” or the suitably patient expansion of “Universe,” the five-piece don’t neglect songwriting for narrative purpose. That is to say, whether or not you’ve heard 2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) or any of their other prior material, you’re still likely to be pulled in by “Gravity” and “Dimensionaut” and the rest of what surrounds. The only question is where do they go from here? What’s outside the universe?

Gods & Punks on Facebok

Abraxas on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Vouna, Atropos

vouna atropos

Released (appropriately) by Profound Lore, Vouna‘s second full-length Atropos is a work of marked depth and unforced grandeur. After nine-minute opener “Highest Mountain” establishes to emotional/aural tone, Atropos is comprised mostly of three extended pieces in “Vanish” (15:34), “Grey Sky” (14:08) and closer “What Once Was” (15:11) with the two-minute “What Once Was (Reprise)” leading into the final duo. “Vanish” finds Vouna — aka Olympia, Washington-based Yianna Bekris — bringing in textures of harp and violin to answer the lap steel and harp on “Highest Mountain,” and features a harsh guest vocal from Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Nathan Weaver, but it’s in the consuming wash at the finish of “Grey Sky” and in the melodic vocal layers cutting through as the first half of “What Once Was” culminates ahead of the break into mournful doom and synth that Vouna most shines, bridging styles in a way so organic as to be utterly consuming and keeping resonance as the most sought target, right unto the piano line that tops the last crescend, answering back the very beginning of “Highest Mountain.” Not a record that comes along every day.

Vouna on Facebook

Profound Lore website

 

Heathen Rites, Heritage

heathen rites heritage

One gets the sense in listening that for Mikael Monks, the Burning Saviours founder working under the moniker of Heathen Rites for the first time, the idea of Heritage for which the album is titled is as much about doom itself as the Scandinavian folk elements that surface in “Gleipner” or in the brief, bird-song and mountain-echo-laced finish “Kulning,” not to mention the Judas Priest-style triumphalism of the penultimate “The Sons of the North” just before. Classic doom is writ large across Heritage, from the bassline of “Autumn” tapping into “Heaven and Hell” to the flowing culmination of “Midnight Sun” and the soaring guitar apex in “Here Comes the Night.” In the US, many of these ideas of “northern” heritage, runes, or even heathenism have been coopted as expressions of white supremacy. It’s worth remembering that for some people it’s actually culture. Monks pairs that with his chosen culture — i.e. doom — in intriguing ways here that one hopes he’ll continue to explore.

Heathen Rites on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Unimother 27, Presente Incoerente

Unimother 27 Presente Incoerente

Some things in life you just have to accept that you’re never going to fully understand. The mostly-solo-project Unimother 27 from Italy’s Piero Ranalli is one of those things. Ranalli has been riding his own wavelength in krautrock and classic progressive stylizations mixed with psychedelic freakout weirdness going on 15 years now, experimenting all the while, and you don’t have to fully comprehend the hey-man-is-this-jazz bass bouncing under “L’incontro tra Phallos e Mater Coelestis” to just roll with it, so just roll with it and know that wherever you’re heading, there’s a plan at work, even if the plan is to not have a plan. Mr. Fist‘s drums tether the synth and drifting initial guitar of “Abraxas…il Dio Difficile da Conoscere” and serve a function as much necessary as grooving, but one way or the other, you’re headed to “Systema Munditotius,” where forward and backward are the same thing and the only trajectory discernible is “out there.” So go. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Unimother 27 on Facebook

Pineal Gland Lab website

 

Oxblood Forge, Decimator

Oxblood Forge Decimator

Not, not, not a coincidence that Massachusetts four-piece Oxblood Forge — vocalist Ken Mackay, guitarist Robb Lioy, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer/keyboardist Erik Fraünfeltër — include an Angel Witch cover on their third long-player, Decimator, as even before they get around to the penultimate “Sorcerers,” the NWOBHM is a defining influence throughout the proceedings, be it the “hey hey hey!” chanting of “Mortal Salience” or the death riders owning the night on opener “Into the Abyss” or the sheer Maidenry met with doom tinge on “Screams From Silence.” Mackay‘s voice, high in the mix, adds a tinge of grit, but Decimator isn’t trying to get one over on anyone. This blue collar worship for classic metal presented in a manner that could only be as full-on as it is for it to work at all. No irony, no khakis, no bullshit.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

Wall, Vol. 2

wall vol 2

They keep this up, they’re going to have a real band on their hands. Desert Storm/The Grand Mal bandmates and twin brothers Ryan Cole (guitar/bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) began Wall as a largely-instrumental quarantine project in 2020, issuing a self-titled EP (review here) on APF Records. Vol. 2 follows on the quick with five more cuts of unbridled groove, including a take on Karma to Burn‘s “Nineteen” that, if it needs to be said, serves as homage to Will Mecum, who passed away earlier this year. That song fits right in with a cruncher like “Avalanche” or “Speed Freak,” or even “The Tusk,” which also boasts a bit of layered guitar harmonies, feeling out new ground there and in the acousti-handclap-blues of “Falling From the Edge of Nowhere.” The fact that Wall have live dates booked — alongside The Grand Mal, no less — speaks further to their real-bandness, but Vol. 2 hardly leaves any doubt as it is.

Wall on Facebook

APF Records website

 

Boozewa, Deb

Boozewa Deb

The second self-recorded outing from Pennsylvania trio Boozewa, Deb, offers two songs to follow-up on Feb. 2021’s First Contact (review here) demo, keeping an abidingly raw, we-did-this-at-home feel — this time they sent the results to Tad Doyle for mastering — while pushing their sound demonstrably forward with “Deb” bringing bassist Jessica Baker to the fore vocally alongside drummer Mike Cummings. Guitarist Rylan Caspar contributes in that regard as well, and the results are admirably grunge-coated heavy rock and roll that let enough clarity through to establish a hook, while the shorter “Now. Stop.” edges toward a bit more lumber in its groove, at least until they punk it out with some shouts at the finish. Splitting hairs? You betcha. Maybe they’re just writing songs. The results are there waiting to be dug either way.

Boozewa on Instagram

Boozewa on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: The Vintage Caravan, Oslo Tapes, Filthy Hippies, Dunbarrow, Djinn, Shevils, Paralyzed, Black Spirit Crown, Intraveineuse, Void Tripper

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Day Three. The kinds of material covered have varied, but it’s been pretty good so far, which as you can probably imagine makes this whole process much, much easier. Today would traditionally be hump day, where we hit and surpass the halfway mark, but since this is a double-size Quarterly Review, we’re only a quarter of the way there. Still a long way to go, but I’ve got decent momentum in my head at this point and I’ve taken steps not to make the workload crushing on any given day (this mostly involved working last weekend, thanks to The Patient Mrs. for the extra time), so I’m not feeling overly rushed either. Which is welcome.

In that spirit, let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Vintage Caravan, Monuments

the vintage caravan monuments

To every sorrowful head who bemoans the state of rock and roll as being dead, who misses big songs, bands unafraid to groove, to engage their audience, to change things up and stay anchored to a vital spirit of the live experience, the answer is The Vintage Caravan. Monuments is the Icelandic trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Gateways (review here) and it opens with a righteous four-song mission-statement salvo from “Whispers” to “Dark Times” before mellowing out in “This One’s for You” and diving into the eight-minute centerpiece “Forgotten” — later answered by the more subdued but likewise proggy closer “Clarity” — before the hard-hitting shuffle renews on side B with “Sharp Teeth,” “Hell” and “Torn in Two” try to outdo each other in has-the-most-swagger and “Said & Done” sneaks in ahead of the finale to walk away with that particular title. Suitably enough. Momentum is almost a detriment to the proceedings, since the songs are worth individual attention, but among the classic tenets here is leave-’em-wanting-more, and The Vintage Caravan do, no question.

The Vintage Caravan on Facebook

Napalm Records website

 

Oslo Tapes, ØR

Oslo Tapes ØR

First thing to note? Oslo Tapes are not from Oslo. Or Trondheim, for that matter. Founded by Marco Campitelli in Italy, the band is a work of homage and exploration of ideas born out of a trip to Oslo — blessings and peace upon the narrative — and ØR, which is Norwegian for “confusing,” is their third album. It arrives loaded with textures from electro-krautrock and ’70s space modernized through to-day’s post-heavy, a breathy delivery from Campitelli giving a song like “Kosmik Feels” an almost goth-wave presence while the harder-landing “Bodø Dakar,” which follows, shifts with pointed rhythm into a textured percussion jam in its second half, with ethereal keys still behind. The shimmering psychedelia of “Norwegian Dream” comes paired with “Exotic Dreams” late in the record’s eight-track procession, and while the latter emphasizes Oslo Tapes‘ can-go-anywhere sensibility with horn sounds and vague, drumless motion, the hard dance in closer “Obsession is the Mother of All” really seems to be the moment of summary here. That must’ve been some trip.

Oslo Tapes on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Filthy Hippies, Departures

filthy hippies departures

Clocking in at 15 tracks and 77 minutes of deeply varied cosmic fuckery, from the motorik push of “Your Are the Sun” to the ’90s Britgaze stylizations of “Mystified” to the twanging central guitar figure of “The Air is Poison” and onward into the blowout kosmiche echo “Sweet Dreams and Nicotine” and chic the-underground-is-actually-made-of-velvet “Like a Halo” ahead of the Hawkwind-on-ludes “I’m Buggin’ Out,” Filthy HippiesDepartures at very least gets points for having the right title. Departs from everything. Reality, itself, you. The whole nine. The good news is the places it goes have a unifying element of grunge laziness woven throughout them, like Filthy Hippies just rolled out of bed and this material just happened — and maybe that’s how it went — and the journey they make, whistling as they go on “Among the Wire” and ending up in the wistful wash of “Empty Spaces” is a joy to follow. Heady. More purposeful than it’s letting on. Not a minor investment, but not a minor reward either.

Filthy Hippies on Facebook

Mongrel Records website

 

Dunbarrow, III

Dunbarrow III

Long since in command of their aesthetic, Norway’s Dunbarrow embark on III, their third long-player, with a full realization of their purpose. Recorded by the five-piece in Spring 2020 and left to gestate for a year’s time, it’s having been unearthed is suitable to the classic doom vibe wrought throughout the eight tracks, but Dunbarrow‘s sound is more vintage in structure than production at this point, and the shifting balance between ‘then’ and ‘now’ in what they do imagines what might’ve been if self-titled era Witchcraft had retained its loyalty to the tenets of Sabbath/Pentagram while continuing to grow its songcraft, such that “Worms of Winter” both is and is decidedly not “Snowblind,” while “Lost Forever” embarks on its own roll and “Turn in Your Grave” makes for an organ-laced folkish highlight, fitting in its cult atmosphere and setting up the rawer finish in “Turns to Dust.” This is who Dunbarrow are, and what they do, they do exceedingly well.

Dunbarrow on Facebook

Blues for the Red Sun Records on Facebook

 

Djinn, Transmission

Djinn Transmission

The year is 2076. The world’s first Whole Earth parliament has come together to bask in the document Transmission, originating in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the behest of an entity known only as Djinn and respected purveyor Rocket Recordings. It is believed that in fact Transmission and its eight component freak jazz psychedelia tracks were not written at the time of their first release some 55 years earlier, but, as scholars have come to theorize after more than a half-century of rigorous, consistent study, it is a relic of another dimension. Someplace out of place, some time out of time as humanity knows it. So it is that “Creators of Creation” views all from an outsider’s eagle eye, and “Urm the Mad” squees its urgency as if to herald the serenity of “Love Divine” to come, voices echoing up through the surcosmic rift through which Djinn sent along this Transmission. What was their purpose? Why make contact? And what is time for such creatures? Are they us? Are we them? Are we alone? Are we “Orpheus?” Wars have been fought over easier questions.

Djinn on Bandcamp

Rocket Recordings website

 

Shevils, Miracle of the Sun

shevils miracle of the sun

Their third album, ShevilsMiracle of the Sun renews the band’s collaboration with producer Marcus Forsgren, which obviously given the sound of the record, was not broken. With a tidy 10 songs in 32 minutes, the Oslo-based four-piece deliver a loyal reading of heavy hardcore riffing minus much of the chestbeating or dudely pretense that one might otherwise encounter. They’ve got it nailed, and the break as “Monsters on TV” squibblies out is a forceful but pleasant turn, especially backed by the pure noise rock of “Scandinavian Death Star.” The band plays back and forth between heft and motion throughout, offering plenty of both in “Wet Soaking Wet” and “Ride the Flashes,” hitting hard but doing more than just hitting at the same time. Topped with fervent shouts, Shevils feels urgent in manner that to my ears recalls West Coast US fare like Akimbo, but is nonetheless the band’s own, ranging into broader soundscapes on “No More You” and anti-shred on “It Never Ends,” the only two cuts here over four minutes long. No time to screw around.

Shevils on Facebook

Shevils on Bandcamp

 

Paralyzed, Paralyzed

paralyzed paralyzed

If they haven’t been yet — and they may have — it’s entirely likely that by the time I’m done writing this sentence some record label or other will have picked up Paralyzed to release their self-titled debut album on vinyl. The Bamberg, Germany-based four-piece bring classic heavy metal thunder to still-Sabbathian doom rock, casting their lot in with the devil early on “Lucifer’s Road (My Baby and Me),” which feels like as much a statement of aesthetic purpose as it does a righteous biker riff. It’s by no means the sum-total of what’s on offer in a more extended piece like “Prophets” or side B’s rumble-and-roll-plus-wah-equals-doom “Mother’s Only Son,” but the brash fare they bring to light on “Green Eyes” and the post-lizard king-turns-Purple spirit of “Golden Days” tie in well with the toss-your-hair-in-the-wind, how’d-that-hole-get-in-my-jeans spirit of the release on the whole. They start instrumental with the eponymous “Paralyzed,” but vocals are a focus point, and as they round out with the rawer “Parallel,” their command of ’70s heavy is all the more evident. They signed yet? Give it another minute, if not.

Paralyzed on Facebook

Paralyzed on Bandcamp

 

Black Spirit Crown, Gravity

Black Spirit Crown Gravity

Admittedly, I’m late to the party on Black Spirit Crown‘s 2020 debut full-length, Gravity, but as one will when in orbit, it’s easy to be pulled in by the record. The Ohio-based two-piece of Dan Simone (vocals, guitar, theremin, dulcimer) and Chris Martin (vocals, keys & programming, bass) — plus guitar spots from Joe Fortunato (Doomstress, ex-Venomin James) — flourish over longform progressive heavy rock pieces like “Doomstar” and “Orb,” both over eight minutes, and the 21:10 closing title-track, which well earns having the album named after it for its consuming balance between aural weight, darkness of atmosphere and tone, and breadth. Before the last several minutes give way to droning noise, “Gravity” counterbalances the metallic underpinning of “Saga” and the rush of the penultimate “Teutates,” its patience singular even among the other longer cuts, balanced in alternating fashion with the shorter. Peppered-in growls make the proceedings less predictable on the whole, and feel like one more strength working in favor of these complex compositions.

Black Spirit Crown on Facebook

Black Spirit Crown on Bandcamp

 

Intraveineuse, Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome

intraveineuse chronicles of an inevitable outcome

Parisian instrumentalists Intraveineuse make a strong statement with their 32-minute/single-song debut EP, Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome, the feeling of aftermath — regret? — permeating the goth-doom atmosphere coming through in tectonically-dense riffs as well as the piano that offsets them. France would seem to have a post-Type O Negative standard-bearer in Hangman’s Chair, but to discount Intraveineuse on that basis is to miss out on the flowing, immersive progression the band emit on this already-sold-out tape, working in three distinct movements to find their own place within the style, building momentum gradually until the last payoff cuts itself short, as if to emphasize there’s more to come. Hopefully, anyhow. EP or LP, debuts with this kind of scope are rare and not to be overlooked, and though there are stretches where one can hear where vocals might go, Intraveineuse ably steer “Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome” through its various parts with natural-sounding fluidity.

Intraveineuse website

Intraveineuse on Bandcamp

 

Void Tripper, Dopefiend

Void Tripper Dopefiend

Grim, gritty and ghastly, Void Tripper is the debut full-length from Brazil’s Void Tripper, comprised of five tracks marked by the shared/alternating vocals of guitarists Mário Fonteles and Anastácio Júnior. The former gurlges on opener “Devil’s Reject” while the latter complements with a cleaner take on the subsequent “Burning Woods,” setting up the back and forth that plays out in the remaining three tracks, “Hollow,” “Satan & Drugs” and “Comatose.” With the lumbering bass and drums of Jonatas Monte and Gabriel Mota, respectively, as the thickened foundation beneath the riffs, there are shades throughout of Electric Wizard and other acts to be heard, but it’s Sabbath-worshiping sludge one way or the other, and Void Tripper willingly head into that void with a dense fog preceding them and a bleak mood that does nothing if it doesn’t feel suited to our times. Riffy disaffection writ large. You wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but you’d nod the fuck out.

Void Tripper on Facebook

Abraxas on Facebook

 

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Weedevil Premiere Two-Song The Death is Coming EP

Posted in audiObelisk on June 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

weedevil (photo by Ivan Shupikov)

São Paulo-based doom rocking four-piece Weedevil present their new two-songer The Death is Coming tomorrow through Abraxas. Though it only runs about 12 minutes long, there’s no lack of punch in either “The Death is Coming” or the accompanying “Hi! I’m Lucifer” — the exclamation point in the title there bringing me more raw joy than I can possibly express in written language. They roll and they groove and Fabrina Valverde‘s vocals make a strong presence from the outset of the first verse, diving into modern cultistry via classic heavy blues, backed by the formidable tonality of Dani Plothow‘s bass and Caio Caraski‘s guitar and the crash and thick-popping snare of Flávio Cavichiolli‘s drums. It’s not a new formula, by any stretch of the imagination, and right up to the dual-layer soloing in “Hi! I’m Lucifer,” the Sabbath vibes run rampant, but if you’ve got a problem with that, there’s the door.

For the band, The Death is Coming follows up on the plague-era single “Follow the Smoke,” weedevil the death is comingwhich was released last Fall and indeed was leading toward the riff-filled land. Some of that sense of Sleepy lumber shows up in “The Death is Coming,” and some of the chug in “Hi! I’m Lucifer,” but as if in answer to their earlier-2020 self-titled EP, which boasted some more stoner-rocking vibes in “The Illusionist” and “Icarus,” the band has grown darker and meaner in the subsequent months, at least if these songs are anything to go by. Could just be bleak times calling for heavy groove, but for Weedevil, who feel set on an inexorable course toward a debut full-length, the balance of the mix that they lock in on the newer tracks as compared to those still barely just 12 months old is telling in terms of their overarching progression.

As to where it all might lead, well, I hear great things about the Abyss of Lovecraftian Horror Riffage this time of year, if they might care to visit? One way or the other, this is the sound of a band finding their sound.

Enjoy:

With a life history that already had a potentially breathtaking birth the Brazilian stoner/doom band Weedevil started their journey in 2019 with the release of the single “Morning Star” and a subsequent participation in the renowned SIM SP with the well-known Swedish band Asteroid touring in Brazil. In May/2020 the band released their well-received debut EP via Abraxas Records and now the band brings us the powerful “The Death Is Coming”.

As always guided by the magnetic and engaging voice of Fabrina Valverde, the quartet completed by Flávio Cavichiolli (drums), Caio Caraski (guitar) and Dani Plothow (bass), all high-capacity musicians, brings us with “The Death is Coming” a great foreshadowing of his upcoming debut album. Recorded, mixed and mastered at Bay Area Studio in São Paulo in the month of April the release presents the band’s possible creative peak and most mature moment. With two well-crafted and striking compositions that immediately attract the listener, featuring Fabrina’s vocals at their best and with a full-bodied instrumental section, the Psychedelic, Doom and even Occult Rock aspects are precisely evoked inviting the listener to immersion and referencing names like Windhand, Purson, Acid King and others.

“The Death is Coming” will be released digitally in June, 16 through Abraxas Records.

Weedevil are:
Fabrina Valverde- Vocals
Caio Caraski- Guitars
Flávio Cavichiolli- Drums
Dani Plothow- Bass

Weedevil on Facebook

Weedevil on Instagram

Weedevil on Bandcamp

Abraxas on Facebook

Abraxas on Instagram

Abraxas on YouTube

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Void Tripper Premiere “Burning Woods” in New Video; Dopefiend Coming Soon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

void tripper

Brazilian four-piece Void Tripper issue their new single “Burning Woods” tomorrow, April 23, through Abraxas, and in the video below, it’s easy to see the social perspective of the lyrics. They’re not long into the eight-minute track, for example, before one sees Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with a swastika on his head. Fair enough. The clip is a wash of images recent and historical and the song, as the band explains below, does not shy from calling out modern issues like the 2019 fires that raged through the Amazon rainforest and, indeed, Bolsonaro’s widely-regarded-as-negligent response to the COVID-19 pandemic in South America’s most populous nation.

I respect the shit out of that. Frankly, it seems like in heavy underground bands, a lot of people put blinders on for fear of alienating listeners. Not like anyone’s getting on MTV if they tone it down. What, you’re gonna be on the radio if you don’t say something about climate change? Fuck it, go all in if that’s what you want to do. Say what needs to be said.

So, yes, kudos to Void Tripper — the noted lineup of guitarist/vocalists Mario Fonteles and Anastácio Júnior, bassist Jonatas Monte and drummer Gabriel Mota — on being willing to speak their mind at the outset. The debut album, titled Dopefiend, from whence “Burning Woods” comes, is set to release in the middle of the year — so, June? July? — also with the backing of Abraxas, and the band have a number of shorter releases on their Bandcamp page, the 2020 live album Dead Inside… But Still Live and 2019’s says-it-all Sabbath Worshipping Doom EP among them.

The new collection will run five tracks and I haven’t heard the full thing yet, but in addition to putting it all out there lyrically, “Burning Woods” unfurls a massive, fuzz-caked lumber in the post-Monolord/Electric Wizard vein, a steady roll established and maintained for the duration that speaks to the band’s commitment to their stylistic cause. There’s no pretense. There’s no fucking around. They hit it and they go. Right on.

Don’t know about you, but I remain a sucker for killer riff put to good use. So here’s one, followed by some more background from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Void Tripper, “Burning Woods” video premiere

VOID TRIPPER Dopefiend

Preorder: https://voidtripperdoom.bandcamp.com/album/dopefiend

A reference to Stoner / Doom Metal in the State of Ceará, the four-piece Void Tripper will release on April 23 through the Abraxas Records (RJ) their new track, “Burning Woods”. The single is the first advance of the band’s first studio album entitled “Dopefiend”, with release planned for the first semester.

“Dopefiend” is the result of the band’s preparation to be their best release with five tracks of a massive, dull and solid sound that promises to please the most demanding listeners in the strands. Recorded mostly at home ( with drums recorded at the Casa de Ensaio studio) and mixed / mastered at Cosmos Art Studios the album features the production of Rafaum Costa (musician and producer from Rio Grande do Norte).

“Dopefiend” is, in the words of the band itself, “a journey without a return to psychedelic and dirty insanity, with strong influences from Sludge, Stoner and Doom and presenting the problems of today’s society with acid lyrics”. The band criticizes the posture of the Bolsonaro government taking as an example their negligent attitudes during the 2019-Amazon forest fires, until the most recent days with their constant denial about the pandemic and corruption scandals, drawing parallels with authoritarian rulers that emerged throughout of the history of humanity. In the words of the band, “while Bolsonaro plays at being president, Brazil burns”.

“Burning Woods” will be available on streaming and Bandcamp on April 23.

“DOPEFIEND” Tracklisting (release in mid-2021)
1- Devil’s Reject
2- Burning Woods
3- Hollow
4- Satan and Drugs
5- Comatose

BAND:
Mario Fonteles – guitar/vox
Anastácio Júnior – guitar/vox
Gabriel Mota – drums
Jonatas Monte – bass

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Gods & Punks Premiere New Single Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky

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

gods and punks

Brazilian heavy rockers Gods & Punks are working toward the release of their impending fourth full-length. Titled The Sounds of the Universe and set to issue through respected countryman purveyor Abraxas as well as the US-based Forbidden Place Records, the new LP is preceded April 23 by the two-songer single Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky, about which the band has provided extensive notes and perspective. Each single comes with its own artwork and the first of them, “Dimensionaut” purport to summarize the narrative that’s taken place on the across the band’s to-date offerings, presumably to that “Eye in the Sky” and the other pieces of the album can pick up from there and continue to unfold and conclude what they call the ‘Voyage Series.’

“Eye in the Sky” picks up where late-2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) left off, and also calls back to the band’s 2016 debut EP, The Sounds of the Earth — as several of the new album songs will — its languid, jammed-out foundation providing a spacious counterpoint to its more driving predecessor. Gods & Punks count “Dimensionaut” among the most intense material they’ve put together, and fair enough. They recorded at Estúdio MATA, in Niterói, part of Rio de Janeiro, and Kleber Mariano and André Leal at Estúdio Jukebox — the same locale and team behind the last outing — and though not lacking push, the sound is duly lush when they want it to be, the organ expanding their already atmospheric basis of guitar atop the fluid grooves of drums and bass in “Eye in the Sky.” It’s a nine-minute sampling, all told, and the band clearly picked the two tracks in order to establish the dynamic they’re working with throughout the album, one end of the spectrum to the other, as well as the ways all the songs tie together.

I haven’t heard the full record yet, but they sound firmly in command throughout both “Dimensionaut” and “Eye in the Sky” as you can hear below, and one should expect no less for a band who are engaging their past in order to tie up a narrative they’ve stretched across multiple releases at this point. What does the saga’s final moments hold? Well, you’d probably need a lyric sheet to figure that out, but Gods & Punks make an enticing argument for engaging with their storyline’s final chapter in these songs, and even if you don’t know how they got to this point — the Bandcamp is right there if you’re up for digging back — Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky readily demonstrates that it’s not too late to get on board whatever kind of ship it is they’re taking beyond the stratosphere. There’s room for any and all.

Comment from the band follows. Please enjoy:

Gods & Punks on Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky:

We chose to release two singles on the same day to represent what will be The Sounds of the Universe, the last release of the Voyage Series, which began in 2017 with Into the Dunes of Doom and featured Enter the Ceremony of Damnation, 2018, and And the Celestial Ascension, from 2020. We have been telling a story for 4 years that will finally be finished, in a representative way to the narrative.

Dimensionaut was the last song composed in the cabin, with the 5 members who recorded the other Voyage Series records. Eye in the Sky brings a finalized and reimagined version of the very first track of our first EP, The Sounds of the Earth, in 2016. One demonstrates where we are now, the other demonstrates how we would do today, something we did when we had just started play together.

The Sounds of the Universe will deal with a total of 9 songs: 5 tracks from our debut EP in new, revamped versions, and another 4 completely new tracks, composed between 2019 and 2020. The album is the last release of the Voyage Series, but the first chapter of history. And whoever takes the time to listen to the songs in the correct order of the story, will understand why we did it. And with these two tracks, you will have an idea of the album that we will release soon.

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Quarterly Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Dread Sovereign, Space Smoke, If it Kills You, Clara Engel, Maya Mountains, Cave of Swimmers, Blind Monarch, Cancervo, Sahara

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Hello Day Two of the Quarterly Review. It started by oversleeping by about an hour, but so it goes. Yesterday went about as smoothly as I can ask a QR day to go, so I’m hoping that today follows suit despite the rough start. There’s nothing like building some momentum once you get going with these writeups. It’s about as close to ‘in the zone’ as I get. Trance of productivity.

As always, I hope you find something here you dig. Today’s round is good and all over the place, so maybe everyone’ll get lucky. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Jess and the Ancient Ones, Vertigo

jess and the ancient ones vertigo

More than a decade on from their founding, Finland’s Jess and the Ancient Ones are an established brand when it comes to cult psych rock, and their fourth full-length, issued through Svart, is gleeful to the point of witch-cackling on “Talking Board” (think Ouija) and offers rousing classically-stylized hooks on fellow early cuts like opener “Burning of the Velvet Fires” and “World Paranormal” as well as side B’s “Born to Kill,” the Dr. Strangelove-sampling “Summer Tripping Man” and the organ-washed “What’s on Your Mind” ahead of an 11-minute prog rock grand finale in “Strange Earth Illusion” that feels very much like the impetus toward which the album has been driving all along. Relax, you’re in the hands of professional mystics, and their acid rock vibes are made all the more grand by Jess‘ soulful delivery atop the ever-clever arrangements of guitar, organ, bass, drums, samples, and so on. This kind of cultish lysergic fare has never been and never will be for everyone. Listening to Vertigo, you can only really wonder why that is.

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Svart Records website

 

Dread Sovereign, Alchemical Warfare

dread sovereign alchemical warfare

Metallic overload! Irish assault supreme! All sentences end with exclamation points! A new Dread Sovereign record doesn’t come along every day, or year, but the Dublin trio certainly make it count when one does. Alchemical Warfare is the third LP from the Alan Averill-fronted outfit, and with Johnny “Con Ri” King (also Conan) on drums and guitarist Bones Huse (also Wizards of Firetop Mountain), the band tear through nine tracks and 51 minutes of doom-colored metallurgy, throwing unrepentant fists in the air under darkened, irony-free skies. By the time 10-minute post-intro opener “She Wolves of the Savage Season” is over, if you’re not ready to quit your job and join the legion about to set march to “The Great Beast We Serve,” it’s no fault of the band’s. “Nature is the Devil’s Church” was the lead single and is a standout hook, but the grandiosity of “Ruin Upon the Temple Mount”‘s Candlemassy riffing is too good to be ignored, and they finish with a Bathory cover, because fucking a, that’s why.

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Metal Blade Records website

 

Space Smoke, Aurora Dourada

Space Smoke Aurora Dourada

The debut EP from Brazilian instrumentalist trio Space Smoke runs all of 12 minutes, but that’s long enough for Aurora Dourada to give an impression of where the band are coming from. Three distinct tracks — “Magia Cerimonial,” “Interludio” and “Corpo Solar” — comprise the outing, and the middle one is indeed an interlude, so it’s really the opener and closer doing the heavy lifting. “Magia Cerimonia” starts off with a sense of foreboding but makes its way instead into hypnotic repetition, bordering on a meditative lumber that doesn’t stick around long enough to be redundant, and with the interlude as a breath between, the eight-minute “Corpo Solar” rounds out as the most substantial piece of the outing, drifting guitar over languid drums and bass, dreamy and sopping wet with reverb. They push it heavier than its quiet beginning, of course, but even the howling lead work near the finish maintains the inviting and immersive vibe with which they set out. Might be a blip of things to come, but it’s a blip worth checking out. Mini-trip.

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If it Kills You, Infinite Hum

if it kills you infinite hum

Infinite Hum is the striking debut LP from Bakersfield, California, post-hardcore heavy three/four-piece If it Kills You, who along with the periodic charred guest vocals on half the six tracks, bring together a quick assemblage for a 12″ that readily alternates between melodic sway and shoutier roll. They groove despite unpredictable turns, and their blend of hefted tones and punker-grown-up melodies makes a welcome impression on opener “We Don’t Belong Here” or “Moving Target.” Starts and stops and a bit of winding lead work give “Repeat Resolve” an edge of noise rock — more than an edge, actually; kind of like the flat side of a brick — but If it Kills You never push to one side or the other entirely, and as the screams return for later in “Repeat Resolve” and closer “Projections,” charged every time with and succeeding at pushing a crescendo over the top, the band manage to bring sincerity and structure together with what sounds like experienced hands. Don’t be fooled by “first album”; they know what they’re doing.

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Killer Kern on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, A New Skin

Clara Engel A New Skin

I’m not sure if anyone still calls this kind of thing “neo-folk,” but I am sure I don’t care. The sense of atmosphere Clara Engel puts into her latest album, A New Skin, beginning with the shift between minimal guitar and keyboard on “Starry Eyed Goat,” uses negative space no less effectively than does the mostly-black cover art, and the eight-song/46-minute outing that ensues alternates between emotive and wondrously ambient, suited to the home recording done during (presumed) isolation in Fall 2020. Engel handles all instrumentation herself and remains indelibly human in her sometimes-layered vocal delivery all the while, speaking to a building-out process of the material, but one does not get the sense in listening to “Night Tide” and the sparse “Thieves” back-to-back that the foundation of all the songs is the same, which is all the more representative of an exploratory songwriting process. A New Skin as a whole feels likewise exploratory, a reflection inward as much as out.

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Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Long-running Italian trio Maya Mountains issued Era through Go Down Records in 2020 as their first album in some six years, readily engaging with desert rock on cuts like “San Saguaro” and closer “El Toro,” working in a bit of post-Queens of the Stone Age riffy quirk to go along with less bouncing and chunkier fare on “Vibromatic” and “Baumgartner,” or “Extremely High,” which makes its speedier tempo feel organic ahead of the finish. All told, it’s 44 minutes of solid heavy rock, with variation between songs of what each is working toward doing that does nothing to pull away from the vibe as a whole, whether that’s in a more aggressive moment like “Vibromatic” or the spacier playfulness at the start of “Raul,” the band clearly unafraid of letting a little funk hold sway for a minute or two. Engaging without being revolutionary, Era knows its craft and audience alike, and offers one to the other without pretense or presumption. It’s rock for rockers, but what’s wrong with that?

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Go Down Records website

 

Cave of Swimmers, Aurora

cave of swimmers aurora

An awaited first long-player from Miami duo Cave of Swimmers — vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Guillermo Gonzalez and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Arturo Garcia — packages epic metal in tight-knit bursts of heavy rock tonality. Choruses in “The Sun” and “Double Rainbow” are grand affairs not because their tones are so huge, but because of the melodies that top them, and at the same time, with riffs at the forefront of the verses, the duo make progressive shifts sound classic in the vein of Iron Maiden or Dio with a still-prevailing fuzzy topcoat. Centerpiece “My Human” is a love song that slams, while “Looking Glass” leans deeper into prog metal but brings the listener along with a another sweeping hook, a pattern of tension and release that carries over to “Dirt” as well, which leaves “C.S” to close out with its “Sign of the Southern Cross” keyboard-and-harmonies intro en route to a poised but still thrashing finish. There’s life in heavy metal, and here it is.

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Broomtune Records website

 

Blind Monarch, What is Imposed Must Be Endured

blind monarch what is imposed must be endured

Straight out of Sheffield, UK, Blind Monarch first released their What is Imposed Must Be Endured four-song/56-minute full-length on Black Bow Records in 2020 and it’s been picked up for a 2LP vinyl pressing by Dry Cough Records. There’s something to be said for splitting up these tracks each onto its own side, making the whole release more manageable despite getting up to do a side or platter flip, but any way you go, “Suffering Breathes My Name” (13:45), “My Mother, My Cradle, My Tomb” (10:47), “Blind Monarch” (14:10) and closer “Living Altar” (17:54) are geared toward sharp-toothed death-sludge consumption, extreme in thought and deed. Feedback is strewn about the place like so much flayed skin, and even in the quiet moments at the start and laced into “Living Altar,” the atmosphere remains oppressive. Yet, endure one must. Blind Monarch, even among the UK’s ultra-packed underground, are a standout in how maddeningly heavy they manage to be, and on their debut outing, no less. If you missed it last year, be ready to pay extra for shipping.

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Dry Cough Records website

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cancervo, 1

cancervo 1

Each track on Italian instrumentalist trio Cancervo‘s debut album, titled simply 1, is intended to represent an area near their home in the mountainous region of Lombardy, Italy. Their tones are duly thick, their presentation patient and their cast is broad in terms of its landscape. From “Averara,” one might see kilometers, in other words. Whether or not you’re familiar with Cancervo‘s locale, their tonal warmth and heavy psychedelic expanse resonates immersively, letting each of the two sides develop on its own from the beginnings in “Cancervo” and “Darco,” both the longest cuts on their respective halves. The fuller fuzz of “SWLABR” and the punch of bass that accompanies the tom hits on closer “1987” are subtle shifts emblematic of Cancervo‘s creative progression getting underway, and the task to which they set themselves — portraying place in sound — is no less admirable than their accomplishment of same would see to be. I’ve never been there, so can’t confirm 100 percent if that’s what it sounds like, but in repeat listens, I’m happy to take the band’s word (or riffs) for it.

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Electric Valley Records website

 

Sahara, The Curse

sahara the curse

Its four cuts run 17 minutes with the last of them an instrumental title-track that’s under three, but I don’t care — the entire thing is so righteously raw and garage nasty that I’m on board with however much Argentina’s Sahara want to bring to The Curse. “Gallows Noose” sounds like it was taped, and then re-taped, and then re-taped again before finally being pressed (to tape), and there’s no mistaking that’s an aesthetic choice on the part of the band, who probably have phones that could make something with clearer audio, but the in-room demo feel of “Hell on Earth” and “Altar of Sacrifice,” the rootsy metal-of-doom feel of it hits on its own level. Sometimes you just want something that comes across barebones and mean, and that’s what The Curse does. Call it retro, call it unproduced, call it whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Sahara (bring looks that) kill it on that Sabbath-worshiping altar and sound dirt-coated all the while, making everything everything else in the universe seem more complicated than it needs to be.

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Helter Skelter Productions website

 

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Psilocibina Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

psilocibina

Brazilian instrumentalists Psilocibina issued their self-titled debut album (review here) last year through Abraxas in South America and Electric Magic in Europe. Neither is a minor affiliation to have, frankly, and the European tour they’ll undertake beginning next month to support the album is likewise not-minor. The three-piece hit the road in Germany and finish off in Germany — as European tours will these days — but in between, they’ll be there for the entire month of October and then some on a significant run that includes drives across the continent, festival stops, and the full Euro-tour experience all packed into a matter of weeks. Simply put, this is the kind of tour that changes a band. This isn’t just hitting the grindstone — it’s making music your entire life for more than a month. I can’t imagine they’re not excited.

I won’t get to see any of these shows, but what I look forward to is what Psilocibina will learn about themselves as a unit on this run and how it might play into their songcraft on their next release, because it almost invariably will. How could it not, unless they already have a record written? You can hear in the stream of their self-titled, they were already deft of boogie and fleet of rhythm — that bass — but just imagine where they’ll be after this tour. Shit. Never mind their excitement. I’m excited for them. This is how great bands are made.

Dates were posted on social media thusly:

psilocibina poster

PSILOCIBINA – Euro Tour 2069

Taking off for our first European tour next month. We can’t wait to perform live for you!

Thank you Jonas Gonçalves from Ya Ya Yeah for the invitation and our labels Abraxas and Electric Magic for all the support always.

See you soon!!

SEP 27 – STONED MOUNTAIN – PASSAU, DE
SEP 28 – MUSHROOM GARDEN FESTIVAL CHEMNITZ, DE
SEP 29 – TIEF – BERLIN, DE
SEP 30 – BOSS BAR – PODERBRADY, CZ
OCT 2 – PILSEN BUSKING FEST – PILSEN, CZ
OCT 3 – PILSEN BUSKING FEST – PILSEN, CZ
OCT 4 – ŽiŽKOVŠiŠKA – PRAGUE, CZ
OCT 5 – HEXENHAUS – ULM, DE
OCT 7 – LE CIRCUS – CAPBRETON, FR
OCT 8 – VOID – BORDEAUX, FR
OCT 9 – ROCK BEER THE NEW – SANTANDER, ES
OCT 10 – AVENIDA – AVEIRO, PT
OCT 11 – CARPE DIEM – SANTO DIEGO, PT
OCT 12 – SABOTAGE CLUB – LISBOA, PT
OCT 13 – BARRACUDA – PORTO, PT
OCT 16 – GOLYA – BUDAPEST, HU
OCT 17 – GRAND CAFÉ – SZEGED, HU
OCT 18 – ROCK PE PAINE FESTIVAL – CLUJ-NAPOCA, RO
OCT 19 – MIXTAPE 5 – SOFIA, BU
OCT 23 – SECRET SHOW – VERONA, IT
OCT 24 – RED DOG – REZZATO, IT
OCT 25 – ALBATROS CAFÉ – PISA, IT
OCT 26 – CIRCOLO GAGARIN – BUSTO ARSIZIO, IT
OCT 29 – LE BUNKER – BRUSSELS, BE
OCT 31 – ART CAFÉ KALAMBUR – WRACKLOW, PL
NOV 1 – KUNSTBAUERKINO – GROBHENNERSDORF, DE
NOV 2 – COSMIC DAWN – JENA, DE
NOV 3 – SCHLACHTHOF – WEISBADEN, DE

Psilocibina is:
Alex Sheeny – guitar / synth
Lucas Loureiro – drums / percursion
Rodrigo Toscano – bass

https://www.facebook.com/psilocibinamusic/
https://psilocibina.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.abraxas.fm/
http://www.abraxas.shop/
https://www.facebook.com/electricmagicrecords/
http://www.electricmagicrecords.com/

Psilocibina, Psilocibina (2018)

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Belzebong, Light the Dankness: Eternal Stench

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Belzebong_light_the_dankness_cover

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once told us that everybody must get stoned. Poland’s Belzebong would seem to proceed from the assumption that they already have. The instrumentalist four-piece of guitarists Alky Dude and Cheesy Dude, bassist Sheepy Dude and drummer Hexy Dude present four lumbering tracks of stoner sludge on their third album, Light the Dankness — released by the band as well as Emetic Records and Abraxas Records — and if one is a sucker for weedian themes and puns, the record’s titles are sure to please, from the name of the thing itself through component cuts “The Bong of Eternal Stench,” “Pot Fiend” (okay, not so much wordplay there), “Doperganger” and “Roached Earth.” Riffs lead the plodding charge through a 35-minute, two-sided LP that could hardly be more smoked out if it covered itself in hash oil and self-immolated.

It is a crust of tone and vibe that one can trace back to bands like Bongzilla and Dopethrone, but the fact of the matter is Belzebong have been at this for a decade now and over the course of their 2009 demo (discussed here), 2011’s Sonic Scapes and Weedy Groves (discussed here), 2015’s Greenferno and this album, they’ve made the style their own and brought a sense of character to the familiar addled-ism of the overarching aesthetic. Light the Dankness, which is vocalized only with periodic samples, is nonetheless able to convey its sensibilities not only through its titles, but through the bare riffs and grooves themselves.

That is, even without knowing the name of the band, record, or any of the songs, one would hear “Doperganger” and realize the Dudes who made it were bombed out of their collective gourd. And they may or may not have been at the time of recording — they may or may not be right now; infinite universes of infinite possibilities, folks — but the point is they want to sound that way and they do, so by the time the ur-lurch of “Roached Earth” takes hold, all rumble and searing fuzz leads and crash cymbal-washout, their victory in meeting that goal is complete.

Belzebong are not strangers to this way of life, and they don’t come off like it. Over the course of their decade together, they’ve toured steadily with SheepyAlky and Cheesy as founding members and Hexy coming aboard in 2014, and that has helped fuel the reputation that at this point precedes their work, but regardless, Light the Dankness has no trouble making an impression on its own. The album begins with a homemade sample introducing “The Bong of Eternal Stench” as a disgusted woman’s voice pleads, “Oh god, what is it?” only to be answered by the creature itself, “It’s the bong of eternal stench!” And so it is. The mood and tone for the record is quickly set in the opening track, which is also the shortest of the four at 6:07, and while Belzebong‘s material has always seemed to leave room for verses — as though they wanted the listener to bring their own supply — the crashing, lumbering, downward riff seems to speak out the song’s title as it thuds away into the murky cannabinoid abyss.

belzebong

Searing leads crop up and dissipate like the smoke they are, and the underlying rhythm makes the most of the band’s penchant for repetition without redundancy, seeming to change not necessarily predictably but just when a part has worn itself into the consciousness fully. The bass tone is must-hear and well present in the Skyhammer Studios mix, and “The Bong of Eternal Stench” gives over to “Pot Fiend” with a sample announcing the change, but otherwise is immersive enough that one might get lost in the vibe after just the first six minutes. That’s obviously the idea, and it’s worth keeping in mind just how conscious these decisions are for a band who otherwise so successfully sound like fuckall incarnate. The placement of the samples. The shifts from one part to the next. The push to and through solo parts. All of these things come together to form the resin-caked nod that is Light the Dankness, and as on-message as Belzebong are, they never lose sight of actual song construction as they go.

And man, they go.

“Pot Fiend” rounds out side A with nine and a half minutes of filthy swing, pitting slow-motion shuffle and massive riffing against each other and seeing who wins en route to its final crash and fading feedback, and another sample begins “Doperganger” on side B. The second half of Light the Dankness is longer than the first, with “Doperganger” at 7:50 and “Roached Earth” at 12 minutes flat, but the method is largely the same: Riff unto oblivion. “Doperganger” picks up the tempo somewhat from “Pot Fiend” in a kind of winding central progression born of a dirtied-up Sleep influence, but they tool around with it effectively throughout and seem to explore the reaches where the song might go, a solo arriving after five minutes in just as the song seems to start tearing itself apart. A longer sample emerges as they pull it back together and trash their way into a stretch of silence preceding “Roached Earth.”

The sample at the start of the closer comes from 1957’s Curse of the Demon, if you’re wondering how steadily obscure Belzebong‘s horror-aficionado status runs, and following its narrator warning of supernatural creatures and demons and whathaveyou, the track unfolds into a particularly bleak, almost mournful gruel, a solo as it approaches its midsection weaving in and out of the mix on long-held notes that border on melodic but seem overwhelmed as much by the surrounding mountainous riffage as by the depressiveness drove their creation. Resolution, such as it is, comes in the crashing final section as “Roached Earth” rings out its final distorted gurgle, feedback once again serving as the last remaining element to go.

I would not speculate on what tales of terror may yet be forthcoming from Belzebong as they push ever deeper into the plunge that is their hydroponic-grown methodology, but their craft has only grown more virulent with time and for all of Light the Dankness‘ weedery, the album is actually a pretty efficient execution. It’s clear Belzebong‘s decade hasn’t been misspent in developing their style, and while they may be playing to the tenets of crusty stoner sludge, it’s easy enough to argue they’re adding to them as well.

Belzebong, Light the Dankness (2018)

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