Pia Isa to Release Dissolve June 28; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Equal parts moody and melodic, the new Pia Isa single bodes well for Dissolve, which is the second solo-ish full-length from Norwegian heavy singer-songwriter Pia Isaksen, also bassist and vocalist for Superlynx, and since it’s the title-track of the album as the first piece unveiled, somehow that’s so much the better. If you have headphones, I’d say that might be your best bet to let some of the psychedelic nuance of the guitar — and bass! — and the intricacy of the layers of her voice shine through, as well as the post-grunge moodiness, though that’s certainly resonant through speakers as well. Her first record under the Pia Isa banner, Distorted Chants (review here), came out in 2022, also on Argonauta, and worked in similar textures, but it seems likely that “Dissolve” was chosen to represent Dissolve as the lead single in part because you can hear growth in terms of arrangement and flourish elements along with the core fluid groove and melody. Sounds cool, in other words.

Also kind of sad, but this too is part of the thing. There’s a mention for it below, but in addition to having put out her Burning Time EP (review here) earlier this year, Isaksen also recently announced the advent of SoftSun, building on her prior collaboration with guitarist Gary Arce (Yawning Man, etc.), who appeared on “Trauma” (video premiere here) from Distorted Chants, as well as drummer Dan Joeright, who doubles as producer at Gatos Trail Recording Studio in Yucca Valley, California. No idea when anything’s coming out from that three-piece, but don’t forget Superlynx had their own LP, 4 10 (review here), out just this past Fall. So, you know, plenty going on one way or the other, if you’re looking to keep up.

Speaking of keeping up, this news came through like last week and I’m still getting caught up. Recall that at no point in the last 15-plus years did I say I was any good at this.

From the PR wire:

Pia Isa Dissolve

Heavy Psych Dronegazer PIA ISA Unveil “Dissolve” Full Album Details; First Single Out Now

Norwegian psychedelic drone rocker PIA ISA, also known as a member of Superlynx, is set to release a new full-length album titled ‘Dissolve’ on June 28th via Argonauta Records on vinyl.

“The new album feels like a further walk on the path I started with my first solo album but with a few different turns. This time I worked more with layers of vocal harmonies and gave my old dark sounding acoustic nylon guitar some space among the heavy distorted guitars. I am super stoked to have Gary Arce once again laying his stunning guitar tones on most of the songs and about Ole Teigen’s brilliant drums and sound work. Dissolvement is a recurring theme on the album, but so is the idea of reassembling the pieces back together in new and different ways.” – says Pia.

Today is also the day Pia Isa presents the title track in the form of a lyric video, now available.

Pia about the single: “The first single Dissolve is the title track and I guess it tries to capture the feeling of falling apart but also holding on to the pieces of your- self for when the time comes that you feel able to start putting them back together. Knowing that they won’t fit the same way they used to, but maybe a different way could be even better. Musically I wanted the song to catch a heavy sad feeling but also a lot of hopefulness.“

“Dissolve” album tracklisting and cover art are as follows:
Side A:
1. Transform
2. Into the Fire
3. Dissolve
4. One Above Ten Below
Side B:
5. New Light
6. Emerald
7. Tide
8. Drown or Float

On the new album Pia has worked more with layers of vocal harmonies and has given an old dark sounding nylon acoustic guitar more space in her massive distorted soundscape. In addition to singing she plays bass, riff guitars and minimalistic guitar leads while Gary Arce (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Big Scenic Nowhere, Ten East etc) plays additional guitar melodies on six of the album’s eight songs. The drums are played by Ole Teigen (Superlynx etc) who also record- ed, mixed and produced the album with Pia co producing at Crowtown Recordings.

Pia’s lyrics are always personal and honest. She wrote Dissolve at a time where a lot of major things in her own life, but also in the world, changed, were uncertain and seemed to dissolve. Dissolvement is a recurring theme in the songs, but so is the idea of moulding things back together in a new form. As Pia often writes what she needs to hear herself, and needs to tell herself, in her lyrics she wonders if there are others out there needing to hear similar things. On this album she is trying to create hope that no matter how scary major changes and the unknown is it can also be an opportunity for new and better ways and ideas.

In addition to her solo project Pia has spent a decade playing bass and doing vocals in heavy psych band Superlynx and recently started the new project SoftSun with Gary Arce and Dan Joeright (Earth Moon Earth, The Rentals etc).

For more info:



Pia Isa, “Dissolve” lyric video

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Drive by Wire, Time Horizon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

drive by wire (Photo by Marta Ros)

Netherlands-based heavy rockers Drive by Wire release their fifth album, Time Horizon, this Friday through Argonauta Records. It is their first offering since 2018’s Spellbound, and its eight component cuts breeze smoothly through a range of auralscapes, from the driving fuzz in heavy-but-mellow opener “Northern Lights” to the Doors-y build-up of the nine-minute title-track, with a desert-hued fluidity in “Slowrider,” the shuffle of Ingmar Regeling‘s drums holding together “Shapeshifter,” and the standout hook of “The Hardest Thing” to accompany, and the punkish “Dustfader” to pick up on side B, shove into the spacious and acoustic-inclusive “Black Sails” with backing hums from Peter van Elderen (who also produced) behind Simone Holsbeek‘s softly-delivered lead vocals — fellow guitarist Alwin Wubben backs elsewhere on vocals — seeming to drift but not really drifting compared to the open, progressive and psychedelic feel of the nearly-10-minute “Time Horizon” itself, as Marcel Zerb‘s bass providing a bed to the start-stops of guitar shortly before the halfway point and a never-overblown culmination that feels like a willful departure into improvisation. Finding freedom, but taking its own way to get there at the end of the album proper before the cover of The Smith‘s “How Soon is Now” layers Holsbeek in its own largely-undeniable chorus.

Time Horizon is a little dirtier in tone, a little mellower in the overarching mood than was Spellbound, but the root approach of Drive by Wire has been consistent in honing in on fluidity as a major part of what they do. As they approach 18 years since Holsbeek and Wubben founded the band, it neither is nor should be a surprise for them to know what they’re about in terms of sound, but by no means are the proceedings staid or lacking in rhythmic presence alongside that of the melody in the vocals and guitar. They’ve never been all-out, brash-minded conjurors of heavy riff, though the guitar is central and leads through “Slowrider” and the fuzzy push of “Dustfader,” but while one shouldn’t necessarily expect ferocity from the stalwart outfit as they make their post-pandemic return, their dynamic is about more than which pedal is clicked on at which time.

This, too, is how it should be. Holsbeek‘s crooning delivery, breathier on “Black Sails” and almost pleading in its folkishness drive by wire time horizonatop the crashing semi-plod as “The Hardest Thing” moves into and through its hook en route to the twisting solo that caps until that more stomping progression comes back around, has always been a signature element of Drive by Wire‘s work, and Time Horizon highlights this as part of the atmosphere crafted by the songs. She is commanding in “Dustfader” and practically whispering the contemplations that top the cosmic sprawl of “Time Horizon,” and from the start of “Northern Lights,” her delivery is no less malleable in topping the immediacy there than in working to contrast the instrumental tension cast through the second half of “Shapeshifter.” Right friggin’ on.

And if the first paragraph above didn’t make it clear, it’s the kind of album where you might just put it on intending to casually hear what’s up and end up caught in a gravitational run-on sentence where the flow carries you from beginning to end across what we experience as 42 minutes on earth but surely corresponds to some more complex mathematical breadth in a vacuum. Drive by Wire have always been songwriters — again, they’re not coming back after six years with a revolution in purpose so much as a reaffirmation of and extrapolation on what they’ve done before.

As they evoke visions of molten or otherwise liquefied time — and the unspoken specter of mortality on its horizon — they are accordingly less rigid in the album’s structure, and maybe more comfortable that way as well than they might’ve been in 2020 or 2021, but while they’re making their music dance in new ways, the surety of their exploring derives from the strength of craft at the band’s core and the chemistry displayed so distinctively throughout between Holsbeek, Wubben, Zerb and Regeling. They are not trapped by the parameters of what they imagine their sound to be, but informed and bolstered by an unpretentious awareness of self that comes through organically as a result of their experience. If you find yourself in two places at once — hypnotized by a succession of heavy grooves while your brain actively charts its path through Time Horizon‘s more ethereal aspects via the unfolding series of verses and choruses — I think you’re probably hearing it right, though to be honest I’m not sure there’s a wrong way to go when Drive by Wire make the journey so easy to undertake.

Time Horizon streams in its entirety below, including that Smiths cover at the finish. PR wire info follows the player embedded below.

Please enjoy:

Drive by Wire, Time Horizon (2024) album premiere

The Dutch Desert-rockers of Drive By Wire offer you an intriguing and unique mixture of fuzz-laiden heavy stoner rock grooves accompanied by the trippy, hazy vocals of charismatic front lady Simone Holsbeek.

Simone Holsbeek and lead-guitarist Alwin Wubben founded the band in Deventer (2006) writing songs in their basement for the debut album that immediately grabbed the attention of international press. With Marcel Zerb on bass and Ingmar Regeling behind the drumkit, they are capable of building sonic mountains and psychedelic tapestries of sound.

“Time Horizon” is the bands 5th album and the follow up from the release of the highly acclaimed last album “Spellbound” (2018) that was very well received by both international press and fans.

Soon after that release the Covid pandemic hit the world and the band used the hiatus to work on filmmusic. They got a few songs used in American tv-series such as Batwoman and Riverdale.

Early 2023 the band retreated to a cabin in the middle of the woods. They set up their gear and just started jamming between the trees and under the stars. The result is this wonderful, spontaneous and mesmerizing new album. Very unpolished, raw, pure and with organic vibes.

8 solid songs that take you to a world outside, on a a trip through 70′s hardrock and psychedelica. Drive By Wire manages to distill these inspirations into a warm organic sound full of hypnotic heaviness (Kyuss), and psychedelic echoes of the 70’s (Jefferson Airplane, Heart).

1.Northern Lights
6.Black Sails
7.Time Horizon
8.How soon is now? (The Smiths – cover)

Drive by Wire:
Simone Holsbeek – Vocals/guitar
Alwin Wubben – Lead guitar
Marcel Zerb – Bass guitar
Ingmar Regeling – Drums

[Band photo by Marta Ros.]

Drive by Wire, “Slowrider” official video

Drive by Wire on Facebook

Drive by Wire on Instagram

Drive by Wire on Bandcamp

Drive by Wire website

Argonauta Records on Instagram

Argonauta Records on Facebook

Argonauta Records store

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Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Quarterly Review: Nebula, Mountain of Misery, Page Williams Turner, Almost Honest, Buzzard, Mt. Echo, Friends of Hell, Red Sun, Wolff & Borgaard, Semuta

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Legend has it that a long time ago, thousands of years ago, before even the founding of the Kingdom of New Jersey itself, there was a man who attempted a two-week, 100-album Quarterly Review. He truly believed and was known to say to his goodlady wife, “Sure, I can do 100 releases in 10 days. That should be fine,” but lo, the gods did smite him for his hubris.

His punishment? That very same Quarterly Review.

Like the best of mythology, the lesson here is don’t be a dumbass and do things like 100-record Quarterly Reviews. Clearly this is a lesson I haven’t learned. Welcome to the next two weeks. Sorry for the typos. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Nebula, Livewired in Europe

Nebula Livewired in Europe

A busy 2023 continued on from a busy 2022 for SoCal heavy rockers Nebula as they supported their seventh album, Transmission From Mothership Earth (review here), and as filthy as was founding guitarist Eddie Glass‘ fuzz on that record, the nine-track (12 on the CD) Livewired in Europe pushes even further into the rawer stoner punk that’s always been at root in their sound. They hit Europe twice in 2023, in Spring and Fall, and in the lumbering sway of “Giant,” the drawl of “Messiah,” the Luciferian wink of that song and “Man’s Best Friend” earlier in the set, and the righteous urgency of what’s listed in the promo as “Down the Mother Fuckin’ Highway” or the shred-charged roll of “Warzone Speedwolf” in the bonus cuts, with bassist Ranch Sironi backing Glass on vocals and Mike Amster wailing away on drums — he’s the glue that never sounds stuck — they document the mania of post-rebirth Nebula as chaotic and forceful in kind, which is precisely what one would most hope for at the start of the gig. It’s not their first live outing, and hopefully it’s not the last either.

Nebula on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Mountain of Misery, The Land

mountain of misery the land

The self-recording/self-releasing Kamil Ziółkowski offers his second solo LP with The Land, following in short order from last Fall’s In Roundness (review here) and the two-songer issued a month after. At six songs and 35 minutes, The Land further distinguishes Mountain of Misery stylistically from Ziółkowski‘s main outfit, Spaceslug. Yes, the two bands share a penchant for textured tones and depth of mix (Haldor Grunberg at Satanic Audio mixed and mastered), and the slow-delivered melodic ‘gaze-style vocals are recognizable, but “The ’90s” puts Nirvana through this somewhat murky, hypnotic filter, and before its shimmering drone caps the album, on closer “Back Again,” the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist reminds a bit of Eddie Vedder. Seekers of nod will find plenty in “Awesome Burn” and the slightly harder-hitting “High Above the Mount” — desert rock in its second half, but on another planet’s desert — while the succession of “Path of Sound” and “Come on Down” feel specifically set to more post-rocking objectives; the plot and riffs likewise thickened. Most of all, it sounds like Mountain of Misery is digging in for a longer-term songwriting exploration, and quickly, and The Land only makes me more excited to find out where it’s headed.

Mountain of Misery on Facebook

Electric Witch Mountain Recordings on Facebook

Page Williams Turner, Page Williams Turner

page williams turner self titled

The named-for-their-names trio Page Williams Turner is comprised of electronicist/mixer Michael Page (Sky Burial, many others), drummer/percussionist Robert Williams (of the harshly brilliant Nightstick) and saxophonist Nik Turner (formerly Hawkwind, et al), and the single piece broken into two sides on their Opposite Records self-titled debut is a duly experimentalist, mic-up-and-go extreme take on free psychedelic jazz, drone, industrial noisemaking, and time-what-is-time-signature manipulation. “Rorrim I” is drawn cinematically into an unstable wormhole circa its 14th minute, and teases serenity before the listener is eaten by a giant spider in some kind of unknowable ritual, and while “Rorrim II” feels less manic on average, its cycles, ebbs and flows remain wildly unpredictable. That’s the point, of course. If the combination of personnel and/or elements seems really, really weird on paper, you’re on the right track. This kind of thing will never be for everybody, but those who can get on its level will find it transportive. If that’s you, safe travels.

Page Williams Turner at Opposite Records Bandcamp

Opposite Records website

Almost Honest, The Hex of Penn’s Woods

almost honest the hex of penn's woods

The spoken intro welcoming the listener to “the greatest and last show of your lives” at the head of the chugging “Mortician Magician” is a little over the top considering the straightforward vibe of much of what follows on the 10 tracks of 2023’s The Hex of Penn’s Woods from Pennsylvania-based heavy rockers Almost Honest, but whether it’s the banjo early or the cowbell later in “Haunted Hunter,” the post-Fu Manchu riffing and gang shouts of “Alien Spiders,” “Ballad of a Mayfly”‘s whistling, the organ in “Amish Hex” (video premiere here), the harmonies of “Colony of Fire,” a bit of sax on “Where the Quakers Dwell,” that quirk in the opener, the funk wrought throughout by Garrett Spangler‘s bass and Quinten Spangler‘s drumming, the metal-rooted intertwining of Shayne Reed and David Kopp‘s guitars or the structural solidity beneath all of it, the band give aural character to coincide with the regionalist themes based on their Pennsylvania Dutch, foothill-Appalachian surroundings, and they dare to make their third album’s 44 minutes fun in addition to thoughtful in its craft.

Almost Honest on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Buzzard, Doom Folk

buzzard doom folk

Based in Western Massachusetts, Buzzard is the solo-project of Christopher Thomas Elliott, and the title of his debut album, Doom Folk, describes his particular intention. As the 12-song/44-minute outing unfolds from the eponymous “Buzzard” at its outset (even that feels like a Sabbathian dogwhistle), the blend of acoustic and electric guitar forms the heart of the arrangements, but more than that, it’s doom and folk, stylistically, that are coming together. What makes it work is that Elliott avoids the trap of 2010s-ish neo-folk posturing as a songwriter, and while there’s a ready supply of apocalyptic mood in the lyrical storytelling and abundant amplified distortion put to dynamic use, the folk he’s speaking to is more traditional. Not lacking intricacy in their percussion, arrangements or melodies, you could nonetheless learn these songs and sing them. “Death Metal in America” alone makes it worth the price of admission, let alone the stellar “Lucifer Rise,” but the sweet foreboding and build of the subsequent “Harvester of Souls” gets even closer to Buzzard‘s intention in bringing together the two sides to manifest a kind of heavy that is immediately and impressively its own. Doom Folk on.

Buzzard on Facebook

Buzzard on Bandcamp

Mt. Echo, Cometh

mt echo cometh

Mt. Echo begin their third full-length primed for resonance with the expansive, patiently wrought “Veil of Unhunger,” leading with their longest track (immediate points) as a way of bringing the listener into the record’s mostly instrumental course with a shimmer of post-rock and later-emerging density of tone. The Nijmegen trio’s follow-up to 2022’s Electric Empire (review here) plays out across a breadth that extends beyond the 44-minute runtime and does more in its pieces than flow smoothly between its loud/quiet tradeoffs. “Round and Round Goes the Crown” brings a guest appearance from Oh Hazar guitarist/vocalist Stefan Kollee that pushes the band into a kind of darker, thoroughly Dutch heavy prog, but even that shift is made smoother by the spoken part on “Brutiful Your Heart” just before, and not necessarily out of line with how “Set at Rest” answers the opener, or the rumble, nod and wash that cap with “If I May.” The overarching sense of growth is palpable, but the songs express more atmospherically than just the band pushing themselves.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

Friends of Hell, God Damned You to Hell

friends of hell god damned you to hell

They’re probably to raw and dug into Satanic cultistry to agree, but with Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson (Nifelheim) on vocals, guitarists Beelzeebubth (Mystifier, etc.) and Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis (Mirror, etc.), bassist Taneli Jarva (Impaled Nazarene, etc.) and drummer Tasos Danazoglou (Mirror, ex-Electric Wizard, etc.) in the lineup for second LP God Damned You to Hell, it’s probably safe to call Friends of Hell a supergroup. Such considerations ultimately have little to do with how the rolling proto-NWOBHM triumphs of “Bringer of Evil” and “Arcane Macabre” play out, but it explains the current of extremity in their purposes that comes through at the start with the title-track and the severity that surrounds in the layering of “Ave Satanatas” as they journey into the underworld to finish with the eight-minute “All the Colors of the Dark.” You’re either going to buy the backpatch or shrug and not get it, and that seems like it’s probably fine with them.

Friends of Hell on Instagram

Rise Above Records website

Red Sun, From Sunset to Dawn

Red Sun From Sunset to Dawn

Not to be confused with France’s Red Sun Atacama, Italian prog-heavy psych instrumentalists Red Sun mark their 10th anniversary with the release of their third album, From Sunset to Dawn, and run a thread of doom through the keyboardy “The Sunset Turns Purple” and “The Shape of Night” on side A to manifest ‘sunset’ while side B unfolds with airier guitar in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and “Towards the End of Darkness” en route to the raga-leaning “The New Sun,” but as much as there is to be said for the power of suggestion and narrative titling, it’s the music itself that realizes the progression described in the name of the album. With a clear influence from My Sleeping Karma in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and the blend of organic hand-percussion and digitized melody in “The New Sun,” Red Sun immerse the listener in the procession from the intro “Where Once Was Light” (mirrored by “Intempesto” at the start of side B) onward, with each song serving as a chapter in the linear concept and story.

Red Sun on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Wolff & Borgaard, Destroyer

wolff and borgaard destroyer

Cinematic enough in sheer sound and the corresponding intensity of mood to warrant the visual collaboration with Kai Lietzke that accompanies the audio release, the collaboration between Hamburg electronic experimentalist Peter Wolff (Downfall of Gaia) and vocalist Jens Borgaard (Knifefight!, solo) moves between minimalist soundscaping and more consuming, weighted purposes. Moments like the beginning of “Transmit” might leave one waiting for when the Katatonia song is going to kick in, but Wolff & Borgaard engage on their own level as each of the nine pieces follows its own poetic course, able to be caustic like the culmination of “Observe” or to bring the penultimate “Extol” to silence gradually before “Reaper” bursts to life with clearly intentional contrast. I heard this or that streaming service is making a Blade Runner 2099 tv series. Sounds like a terrible idea, but it might just be watchable if Wolff & Borgaard get to do the score with a similar evocations of software and soul.

Peter Wolff on Facebook

My Proud Mountain website

Semuta, Glacial Erratic

Semuta Glacial Erratic

The Portland, Oregon, two-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol (ex-Burials) and drummer Ben Stoller (currently also Simple Forms, Dark Numbers, ex-Vanishing Kids) do much to ingratiate themselves both to the crowded underground of which their hometown is an epicenter, and to the broader sphere of heavy-progressivism in modern doom and sludge. Across the five tracks of their self-released for now debut full-length, Glacial Erratic, the pair offer a panacea of heavy sounds, angular in the urgency of “Toeing the Line,” which opens, or the later thud of “Selective Memory” (the latter of which also appeared on their 2020 self-titled EP), which seem more kin to Baroness or Elder crashes and twists of “A Distant Light” or the interplay of ambience, roll, and sharpness of execution that’s been held in reserve for the nine-minute “Wounds at the Stem” as they leave off. Melody, particularly in Caragol‘s vocals, is crucial in tying the material together, and part of what gives Semuta such apparent potential, but they seem already to have figured out a lot about who they want to be musically. All of which is to say don’t be surprised when this one shows up on the list of 2024’s best debut albums come December.

Semuta on Facebook

Semuta on Bandcamp

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We Broke the Weather Premiere “Heavens Were a Bell” Video; Restart Game LP Out June 14

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 10th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

we broke the weather

We Broke the Weather will release their second album, Restart Game, through Italy’s Argonauta Records on June 14. It is the Somerville, Massachusetts, heavy progressive five-piece’s first offering through the label, and “Heavens Were a Bell” — for which a duly atmospheric video is premiering below — is the second single from the offering. If you take a look/listen to that, find yourself curious enough to hit play on the prior-unveiled “Marionette” near the bottom of the post and are suckerpunched by the differences between the two, well, yeah, I think that’s pretty much the idea.

Behold a band with scope that goes beyond “this part is fast and this part is slow” and/or trades between loud and quiet parts. Rest assured, there’s plenty of that too, but where “Marionette” and “Heavens Were a Bell” both hover right around five and a half minutes long, on a blind listen you’d be justified in wondering if they were made by the same band. Given texture and melodic nuance through the synth lines woven into the guitar-led ambience, we broke the weather restart game“Heavens Were a Bell” retains both a grounded rhythm underneath its floating post-rock tinge and a human presence in the clear but duly echoing vocals. Even when it ‘gets heavy’ about three minutes in and begins the move toward its evocative solo, it resonates as much in emotion as tone, and the mellow, patient flow of its instrumental outro feels all the more purposefully hypnotic with “Marionette” following immediately in Restart Game‘s seven-track succession.

No doubt for those who caught onto the band’s 2022 self-titled debut or the Cabin Fever EP they issued last year as a precursor to Restart Game — and if that’s not you, don’t sweat it; they’re new to me as well — the willful contrast between “Heavens Were a Bell” and “Marionette” will be less of a surprise. The latter’s sense of movement is immediate as the initial howls give over to a bit of Berklee-style quirk-prog mathiness en route to a cabaret-punk verse. Organ and sax join the (not unconsidered) fray and perhaps offer a tie to “Heavens Were a Bell” in their depth of mix, but the momentum and energy are still there, and when they shift back to the hook from whence they set forth on that brief sax-topped cosmic jaunt, it’s a hint toward a crafted approach being carried forward from the self-titled to this new material. Whatever shape the individual cuts on Restart Game might take, they’ll be stronger for the combination of technical skill and songwriting that underscore the multifaceted ambitions already on display between the two-thus-far advance singles.

As to where the rest of Restart Game might go — back to the title screen? — I won’t hazard a guess since I haven’t heard it. But you can check out “Heavens Were a Bell” on the player below, followed by copious background from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

We Broke the Weather, “Heavens Were a Bell” video premiere

US-based Prog Stoner/Psych Rock band we broke the weather, hailing from Boston, signs to Argonauta Records to release their second full-length album, ‘Restart Game’ on June 14, 2024.

Says the band: “Forged in the depths of their basement lair, fueled by the scrumptious nectar of a thousand beers, honed on the killing floors of Boston’s diners and dives, we broke the weather summons forth its tempest to the shores of Genoa to join forces with Argonauta records. Together we shall propel the eddies and vortices of our garage prog musings, from our hearts to your ear holes.”

Two years after releasing their self-titled debut album, Boston “garage prog” five-piece we broke the weather sit in a place far above what they imagined when they began jamming in a basement as strangers with no musical agenda in 2018. Critics and fans alike have praised the band for their bold fusion of disparate genres and influences – progressive rock, jazz fusion, psych rock, math rock, stoner rock, doom metal, and beyond – and while few seem to know how to actually categorize them, they agree that wbtw are onto something special.

we broke the weather features two multi-instrumentalists – Nick Cusworth and Scott Wood – who share vocal duties, play sax, and key/synth and guitar, respectively. Taken with drummer and third vocalist Andrew Clark, the band finds every opportunity to insert bits of jazz, math-y trickiness, and general skronk into a rock framework. Lead guitarist Kevin DiTroia injects the group with a necessary amount of raw energy to balance out what could easily become something stuffy and fussy, and rounding things out is bassist/guitarist/synth wizard Steve Muscari to keep things weird.

The result is an eclectic set of sounds that continues to evolve, spanning the classic progressive rock of King Crimson, Yes, and Rush, contemporary prog of The Dear Hunter and Thank You Scientist, modern stoner, psych, and garage from the likes of Elder, King Gizzard, and Ty Segall, contemporary jazz fusion of Portico Quartet, The Physics House Band, and Colin Stetson, math rock, post-rock, and so much more.

Now signed to Argonauta Records, we broke the weather are ready to take things to the next level with their sophomore album Restart Game. Musically, the album distills the most interesting aspects of their self-titled and pushes them in new directions. Lead single “Marionette” is a relentless head-banger that traipses through sax and guitar-led mathy prog riffs, flamenco-infused psychedelic landscapes, and cosmically heavy stoner grooves. Elsewhere, album opener “Vestige” is epic in every meaning of the word, as it takes the listener on a voyage through dark and twisting chords and melodies, a miasma of synth and djent-leaning guitars, and resolves on a triumphant fuzzed out bass riff and ripping guitar solo. Meanwhile, second single “Heavens Were a Bell” and album centerpiece “Sevenseas” continue the band’s affinity for and exploration of spacey synth-led themes and heavy emotion, with the latter serving as a meditation on wringing any shred of hope in a time when the impacts of climate change are being felt on a daily basis.

Ultimately, Restart Game is an album about living with fears, anxieties, and doubts that can consume us but hopefully not define us. In a time when the world is erupting in flames, a global pandemic has yet to be fully contained, democracies across the world are backsliding further into embracing fascism, authoritarianism, and ethno-nationalism, and America is struggling to keep its entire foundation from crumbling into a sinkhole, this band and this music have been both a life-raft and a megaphone, therapy and an act of rebellion. But at the end of the day, they’re just a group of 5 guys with wives, kids, and jobs who are most likely yelling into the void and are just trying to have some fun while doing so. So come join them down in the hole. It’s nice.

01 Vestige
02 Lake St George
03 Heavens Were a Bell
04 Marionette
05 Sevenseas
06 Aromatic Decay
07 Cycles

We Broke the Weather:
Nick Cusworth: vocals, saxophone
Scott Wood: vocals, keyboard/synth, guitar
Kevin DiTroia: lead guitar
Andrew Clark: drums, vocals
Steve Muscari: bass, guitar, synth

We Broke the Weather, “Marionette”

We Broke the Weather on Facebook

We Broke the Weather on Instagram

We Broke the Weather on Bandcamp

We Broke the Weather website

Argonauta Records on Instagram

Argonauta Records on Facebook

Argonauta Records store

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Shadow Witch Announce Eschaton (The End of All Things) Due in May; “Tell Me” Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

shadow witch

Heads up on the forthcoming long-player Eschaton (The End of All Things) from Kingston, New York, dark heavy rockers Shadow Witch. Set to release in May, it’s their fourth long-player and first offering in the three years since 2020’s Under the Shadow of a Witch (review here), and the material casts a striking blend. They’ve never been light on theatricality even on record, never mind the odd bit of under-blacklight gigging, but as the lead single “Tell Me” conveys and as plays out across the rest of the album, their all-in impulses are matched by the level of craft such that rather than competing with each other, both work together to serve the ends of the individual songs.

I always get itchy when good bands start talking about ‘endings’ in titles, since there are numerous examples of last records that either consciously or not knew they were going to be the last and went so far as to mention it, and Eschaton (The End of All Things) ticks that box as it weaves grooving through doom, chugging metal, gospel blues, modernized ’70s classicism and more besides. One never knows what the future will bring, but it’s not the immediate end of Shadow Witch, although it does mark the final appearance of guitarist Jeremy Hall with the band, who have brought in Jesse Cunningham on guitar alongside frontman/singer/noisemaker Earl Walker Lundy and the rhythm section of bassist David Pannullo and drummer Justin Zipperle (also piano and organ).

Probably safe to assume live dates will follow, but like at least 60 percent of the other East Coast acts issuing albums this Spring, Shadow Witch will make the journey to Frederick for Maryland Doom Fest 2024 at the always-welcoming (not sarcasm) Cafe 611. By the time they get there, they will have already put out their best LP to-date.

The PR wire has the announcement:

Shadow Witch Tell Me cover

US Stoner/Doomsters SHADOW WITCH Return With The New Album; New Single Out Now

2024 should be one helluva year for Shadow Witch, given the potency of their upcoming fourth release, “Eschaton (The End Of All Things)”, coming on ARGONAUTA Records.

Those already familiar with the band’s signature mix of dark 70’s hard rock, doom, stoner, and hints of proto-punk will absolutely not be disappointed, but all is not as it was before.

This time around, a great many nuances from the past are brought to the fore, and this is certainly what should be considered their most dynamic, and, dare I say, accessible effort yet. The catchy hooks that were once reigned in are now literally everywhere, and the choruses, also plentiful, are absolutely huge, with the latter often carrying a strong gospel flavoring. The dark grooves of old sound quite comfortable sharing time with the sunlight freshly peeking through the band’s oft-drawn curtains. This new album is denser than the others, and Lundy delivers what I’d say is his most varied, colorful, and soulful vocals to date. No easy feat.

It’s obvious, at least to this listener, that Shadow Witch wanted a new, perhaps intentionally unexpected infusion of something adventurous, and they have proven themselves more than up to the sizable task on this fourth trip to the studio.

This is a remarkable listen, from start to finish.

Need more proof? Check out the lead-off single “Tell Me” to get a tasty little nibble of what’s going on with the band in the present. It’s AC/DC-influenced anthemic intro and subsequent uptempo groove is not to be denied, just…. enjoyed. (Words by David LaMay)

Founded 2015 in New York’s Hudson Valley, SHADOW WITCH is an enigmatic beast of a band, harnessing decades of varied influences with a decidedly “vintage rock” sensibility. Beginning with their first release ‘Sun Killer’ in 2016, and ‘Disciples Of The Crow’ in 2017, the band has garnered excellent reviews from the international heavy music community. After signing to Italy’s ARGONAUTA RECORDS, the band returned in 2020 with their brooding occult-rock ode to obsession ‘Under The Shadow of a Witch’. This year, again with ARGONAUTA, SHADOW WITCH release their highly anticipated fourth album ‘ESCHATON (The End of All Things).

Shadow Witch are:
Jesse Cunningham – guitar*
Earl Walker Lundy – vocals, Mellotron, noise
David Pannullo – bass
Justin Zipperle – drums, piano, Hammond organ

(* Jeremy Hall plays guitar and synth on Eschaton (The End of All Things)



Shadow Witch, “Tell Me”

Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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Spiral Grave Post “The Death of Ronnie M.” Video; Ill Repute Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Kind of a lower-key album announcement happening here as Maryland doom standard-bearers Spiral Grave unveil a video for “The Death of Ronnie M.” — as opposed to the death of Ronnie J. D., which I’m still not over — and send first word of the impending Ill Repute as a follow-up to the four-piece’s Argonauta-backed 2021 debut, Legacy of the Anointed (review here). That release was both proof-of-concept and a statement of intent for the band that pulled together vocalist “Screaming Mad Dee” Calhoun, bassist Louis “Iron Lou” Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann from the final incarnation of Iron Man and teamed them with guitarist Willy Rivera, formerly of the wildly underrated (and just plain wild) sludge metal experimentalists Lord. No solid date yet for Ill Repute, but ‘2024’ is easy enough to believe.

I don’t know if Ronnie M.’s is a true case of child abuse and you’ll pardon me if I skip Googling it to find out. In any case, Calhoun (a published author multiple times over) is no stranger to narrative in songwriting between Spiral Grave and his solo work, and “The Death of Ronnie M.” hits sharp with intensity in its low-end-shove midsection to coincide with the traditional metal reach of the vocals, and it’s plain to hear the band are pushing themselves. I haven’t heard Ill Repute or anything, and I can’t even play clever and drop some hint as to when it’ll be out, but a new track isn’t nothing to go on in advance of a familiar ‘more to come’ as they ramp up for the release.

Gets in, lands hard, gets out. Makes it easy to look forward to the record:

spiral grave

SPIRAL GRAVE, the US doom metal band consisting of members from Iron Man and Lord, has released a new official music video for ‘The Death of Ronnie M.’.

The first single from Ill Repute, “The Death of Ronnie M,” is quite simply about murdering a pedophile. The live footage from the video was shot at Another Round in Richmond VA on September 30, 2023.

Spiral Grave formed in late 2018 following the demise of two legendary mid-Atlantic bands, Iron Man and Lord. The band quickly hit the live circuit and recorded their debut album, Legacy of the Anointed (release delayed until 2021 due to COVID). Since that album’s release Spiral Grave has continued to tour, playing live dates and festivals in and around their home area of MD/VA, going as far west as Texas. In addition, the band has recorded their sophomore effort Ill Repute, which is scheduled for a 2024 release from Argonauta Records.

Screaming Mad Dee – voice
Willy Rivera – guitar
Louis Strachan – bass
Jason “Mot” Waldmann – drums



Spiral Grave, “The Death of Ronnie M.” official video

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