Quarterly Review: Pallbearer, BleakHeart, Pryne, Avi C. Engel, Aktopasa, Guenna, Slow Green Thing, Ten Ton Slug, Magic Fig, Scorched Oak

Posted in Reviews on May 17th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


By the time today is through — come hell or high water! — we will be at the halfway point of this two-week Quarterly Review. It hasn’t been difficult so far, though there are ups and downs always and I don’t think I’m giving away secrets when I tell you that in listening to 50 records some are going to be better than others.

Truth is that even outside the 100 LPs, EPs, etc., I have slated, there’s still a ton more. Even in something so massive, there’s an element of picking and choosing what goes in. Curation is the nice word for it, though it’s not quite that creatif in my head. Either way, I hope you’ve found something that connects this week. If not yet, then today. If not today, then maybe next week. As I’m prone to say on Fridays, we’re back at it on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Pallbearer, Mind Burns Alive

pallbearer mind burns alive

While I won’t take away from the rawer energy and longing put into their earlier work, maturity suits Pallbearer. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell, guitarist/backing vocalist Devin Holt, bassist/synthesist/backing vocalist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Mark Lierly have passed their 15th anniversary between 2020’s Forgotten Days (review here) and the self-recorded six tracks of Mind Burns Alive, and they sound poised harnessing new breadth and melodic clarity. They’ve talked about the album being stripped down, and maybe that’s true to some degree in the engrossing-anyhow opener “When the Light Fades,” but there’s still room for sax on the 10-minute “Endless Place,” and the quieter stretches of the penultimate “Daybreak” highlight harmonized vocals before the bass-weighted riff sweeps in after the three-minute mark. Campbell has never sounded stronger or more confident as a singer, and he’s able to carry the likewise subdued intro to “Signals” with apparent sincerity and style alike. The title-track flashes brighter hopes in its later guitar solo leads, but they hold both their most wistful drift and their most crushing plod for closer “With Disease,” because five records and countless tours (with more to come) later, Pallbearer very clearly know what the fuck they’re doing. I hope having their own studio leads to further exploration from here.

Pallbearer on Facebook

Nuclear Blast website

BleakHeart, Silver Pulse

Bleakheart silver pulse

With its six pieces arranged so that side A works from its longest track to its shortest and side B mirrors by going shortest to longest, Denver‘s BleakHeart seem to prioritize immersion on their second full-length, Silver Pulse, as “All Hearts Desire” unfolds fluidly across nearly eight minutes, swelling to an initial lumbering roll that evaporates as they move into the more spacious verse and build back up around the vocals of Kiki GaNun (also synth) and Kelly Schilling (also bass, keys and more synth). Emotional resonance plays at least as much of a role throughout as the tonal weight intermittently wrought by JP Damron and Mark Chronister‘s guitars, and with Joshua Quinones on drums giving structure and movement to the meditations of “Where I’m Disease” before leaving the subsequent “Let Go” to its progression through piano, drone and a sit-in from a string quartet that leads directly into “Weeping Willow,” the spaces feel big and open but never let the listener get any more lost in them than is intended. This is the first LP from the five-piece incarnation of BleakHeart, which came together in 2022, and the balance of lushness and intensity as “Weeping Willow” hits its culmination and recedes into the subdued outset of “Falling Softly” and the doomed payoff that follows bodes well, but don’t take that as undercutting what’s already being accomplished here.

BleakHeart on Facebook

Seeing Red Records website

Pryne, Gargantuan

PRYNE Gargantuan

Austria’s Pryne — also stylized all-caps: PRYNE — threaten to derail their first album before it’s even really started with the angular midsection breakdown of “Can-‘Ka No Rey,” but that the opener holds its course and even brings that mosher riff back at the end is indicative of the boldness with which they bring together the progressive ends of metal and heavy rock throughout the 10-song/46-minute offering, soaring in the solo ahead of the slowdown in “Ramification,” giving the audience 49 seconds to catch its breath after that initial salvo with “Hollow Sea” before “Abordan” resumes the varied onslaught with due punch, shove and twist, building tension in the verse and releasing in the melodic chorus in a way that feels informed by turn-of-the-century metal but seeming to nod at Type O Negative in the first half bridge of “Cymboshia” and refusing flat-out to do any one thing for too long. Plotted and complex even as “The Terrible End of the Yogi” slams out its crescendo before the Baronessy verse of “Plaguebearer” moves toward a stately gang shout and squibbly guitar tremolo, they roll out “Enola” as a more straight-ahead realignment before the drone interlude “Shapeless Forms” bursts into the double-kick-underscored thrash of closer “Elder Things,” riding its massive groove to an expectedly driving end. You never quite know what’s coming next within the songs, but the overarching sense of movement becomes a uniting factor that serves the material well regardless of the aggression level in any given stretch.

Pryne on Facebook

Pryne on Bandcamp

Avi C. Engel, Too Many Souls

avi c engel too many souls

Backed by looped percussive ticks and pops and the cello-esque melody of the gudok, Toronto experimental singer-songwriter Avi C. Engel is poised as they ask in the lyrics of “Breadcrumb Dance,” “How many gods used to run this place/Threw up their hands, went into real estate” near the center of the seven-song Too Many Souls LP. Never let it be said there wasn’t room for humor in melancholy. Engel isn’t new to exploring folkish intimacy in various contexts, and Too Many Souls feels all the more personal even in “Wooly Mammoth” or second cut “Ladybird, What’s Wrong?” which gets underway on its casual semi-ramble with the line, “One by one I watch them piss into the sun,” for the grounded perspective at root. An ongoing thread of introspection and Engel‘s voice at the center draw the songs together as these stories are told in metaphor — birds return in the album’s second half with “The Oven Bird’s Song” but there’s enough heart poured in that it doesn’t need to be leaned into as a theme — and before it moves into its dreamstate drone still with the acoustic guitar beneath, “Without Any Eyes” brings through its own kind of apex in Engel‘s layered delivery. Topped with a part-backmasked take on the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” that’s unfortunately left as an instrumental, Too Many Souls finds Engel continuing their journey of craft with its own songs as companions for each other and the artist behind them.

Avi C. Engel on Facebook

Somnimage website

Aktopasa, Ultrawest

aktopasa ultrawest

The 13-minute single “Ultrawest” follows behind Aktopasa‘s late-2022 Argonauta Records debut, Journey to the Pink Planet (review here), and was reportedly composed to feature in a documentary of the same name about the reshaping of post-industrial towns in Colorado. It is duly spacious in its slow, linear, instrumentalist progression. The Venice, Italy, three-piece of guitarist Lorenzo Barutta, bassist Silvio Tozzato and drummer Marco Sebastiano Alessi are fluid as they maintain the spirit of the jam that likely birthed the song’s floating atmospherics, but there’s a plan at work as well as they bring the piece to fruition, with Alessi subtly growing more urgent around 10 minutes in to mark the shift into an ending that never quite bursts out and isn’t trying to, but feels like resolution just the same. A quick, hypnotic showcase of the heavy psychedelic promise the debut held, “Ultrawest” makes it easy to look forward to whatever might come next for them.

Aktopasa on Facebook

Aktopasa on Bandcamp

Guenna, Peak of Jin’Arrah

Guenna Peak of Jin Arrah

Right onto the list of 2024’s best debuts goes Guenna‘s Peak of Jin’Arrah, specifically for the nuance and range the young Swedish foursome bring to their center in heavy progressive fuzz riffing. One might look at a title like “Bongsai” or “Weedwacker” (video premiered here) and imagine played-to-genre stoner fare, but Guenna‘s take is more ambitious, as emphasized in the flute brought to “Bongsai” at the outset and the proclivity toward three-part harmonies that’s unveiled more in the nine-minute “Dimension X,” which follows. The folk influence toward which that flute hints comes forward on the mostly-acoustic closer “Guenna’s Lullaby,” which takes hold after the skronk-accompanied, full-bore push that caps “Wizery,” but by that point the context for such shifts has been smoothly laid out as being part of an encompassing and thoughtful songwriting process that in less capable hands would leave “Ordric Major” disjointed and likely overly aggressive. Even as they make room for the guest lead vocals of Elin Pålsson on “Dark Descent,” Guenna walk these balances smoothly and confidently, and if you don’t believe there’s a generational shift happening right now — at this very moment — in Scandinavia, Peak of Jin’Arrah stands ready to convince you otherwise. There’s a lot of work between here and there, but Guenna hold the potential to be a significant voice in that next-gen emergence.

Guenna on Facebook

The Sign Records website

Slow Green Thing, Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse

Slow Green Thing Wetterwarte Waltherstrasse

The interplay of stoner-metal tonal density and languid vocal melody in “I Thought I Would Not” sets an atmospheric mood for Slow Green Thing on their fourth LP, Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse, which the Dresden-based four-piece seem to have recorded in two sessions between 2020 and 2022. That span of time might account for some of the scope between the songs as “Thousand Deaths” holds out a hand into the void staring back at it and the subsequent “Whispering Voices” answers the proggy wash and fuzzed soloing of “Tombstones in My Eyes” with roll and meditative float alike, but I honestly don’t know what was recorded when and there’s no real lack of cohesion within the aural mists being conjured or the heft residing within it, so take that as you will. It’s perhaps less of a challenge to put temporal considerations aside since Slow Green Thing seem so at home in the flow that plays out across Wetterwarte / Waltherstrasse‘s six songs and 44 minutes, remaining in control despite veering into more aggressive passages and basing so much of what they do on entrancing and otherworldly vibe. And while the general superficialities of thickened tones and soundscaping, ‘gaze-type singing and nod will be familiar, the use made of them by Slow Green Thing offers a richer and deeper experience revealed and affirmed on repeat listens.

Slow Green Thing on Facebook

Slow Green Thing on Bandcamp

Ten Ton Slug, Colossal Oppressor


Don’t expect a lot of trickery in Ten Ton Slug‘s awaited first full-length record, Colossal Oppressor, which delivers its metallic sludge pummel with due transparency of purpose. That is to say, the Galway, Ireland, trio aren’t fucking around. Enough so that Bolt Thrower‘s Karl Willetts shows up on a couple of songs. Varied but largely growled or screamed vocals answer the furious chug and thud of “Balor,” and while “Ghosts of the Ooze” later on answers back to the brief acoustic parts bookending opener “The Ooze” ahead of “Mallacht an tSloda” arriving like a sledgehammer only to unfold its darkened thrash and nine-plus-minute closer “Mogore the Unkind” making good on its initial threat with the mosh-ready riffing in its second half, there’s no pretense in those or any of the other turns Colossal Oppressor makes, and there doesn’t need to be when the songs are so refreshingly crushing. These guys have been around for over a decade already, so it’s not a surprise necessarily to find them so committed to this punishing mission, but the cathartic bloodletting resonates regardless. Not for everyone, very much for some on the more extreme end of heavy.

Ten Ton Slug on Facebook

Ten Ton Slug on Bandcamp

Magic Fig, Magic Fig

magic fig magic fig

Don’t let the outward Beatles-bouncing pop-psych friendly-acid traditionalism of “Goodbye Suzy” lull you into thinking San Francisco psych rockers Magic Fig‘s self-titled debut is solely concerned with vintage aesthetics. While accessible even in the organ-and-synth prog flourish of “PS1” — the keyboards alone seeming to span generations — and the more foreboding current of low end under the shuffle and soft vocals of “Obliteration,” the six-song/28-minute LP is no less effective in the rising cosmic expanse that builds into “Labyrinth” than the circa-’67 orange-sun lysergic folk-rock that rolls out from there — that darker edge comes back around, briefly, in a stop around the two-minute mark; it’s hard to know which side is imagining the other, but “Labyrinth” is no less fun for that — and “Distant Dream,” which follows, is duly transcendent and fluid. Given additional character via the Mellotron and birdsong-inclusive meditation that ends it and the album as a whole, “Departure” nonetheless feels intentional in its subtly synthy acoustic-and-voice folkish strum, and its intricacy highlights a reach one hopes Magic Fig will continue to nurture.

Magic Fig on Facebook

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Scorched Oak, Perception

Perception by Scorched Oak

If you followed along with Dortmund, Germany’s Scorched Oak on their 2020 debut, Withering Earth (review here), as that album dug into classic heavy rock as a means of longer-form explorations, some of what they present in the 39 minutes of Perception might make more sense. There was plenty of dynamic then too in terms of shifts in rhythm and atmosphere, and certainly second-LP pieces like “Mirrors” and “Relief” come at least in part from a similar foundation — I’d say the same of the crescendo verse of “Oracle” near the finish — but the reportedly-recorded-live newer offering finds the band making a striking delve into harder and more metallic impacts on the whole. An interplay of gruff — gurgling, almost — and soulful melodic vocals is laid out as opener/longest track (immediate points) “Delusion” resolves the brooding toms of its verse with post-metal surges. Perhaps it’s obvious enough that it doesn’t need to be said, but Scorched Oak aren’t residing in a single feel or progression throughout, and the intensity and urgency of “Reflection” land with a directness that the closing “Oracle” complements in its outward spread. The element of surprise makes Perception feel somewhat like a second debut, but that they pull off such an impression is in itself a noteworthy achievement, never mind how much less predictable it makes them or the significant magnitude of these songs.

Scorched Oak on Facebook

Scorched Oak on Bandcamp

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Mutants of the Monster 2024 Completes Lineup; Rwake, Left Lane Cruiser & Cancerslug Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I guess at some point between the first announcement and now, Spirit Adrift and Fistula dropped off the lineup for Mutants of the Monster 2024, but fair enough for Cancerslug and Left Lane Cruiser to sign on and Little Rock, Arkansas, hometown post-sludge heroes Rwake — whose frontman Chris “CT” Terry is behind the fest — to make a return appearance along with a slew of others from the Southeast US and beyond. Anytime Deadbird show up just about anywhere, it’s notable, never mind tour-buddies Weedeater and Telekinetic Yeti stopping through or John Garcia doing a solo set that pretty much guarantees everyone in attendance will be able to go home saying they watched him do Kyuss‘ “Whitewater” in person.

Also known as Mutants Fest for short, the three-dayer is set for May 16-18 in North Little Rock, and looks like a good, intermittently harsh time. The PR wire brought the final lineup and ticket links so you still have some time to get your travel plans together:

mutants of the monster 2024 poster

MUTANTS OF THE MONSTER FEST 2024 Reveals Final Lineup, Announces Special Sale for National Concert Week

Featuring John Garcia (Formerly of Kyuss), Weedeater, Telekinetic Yeti, Rebelmatic, Cancerslug (Just added), Deadbird, Rwake (Just added!), Flummox + more!

Taking place in North Little Rock, AR at the Argenta Community Theater and Four Quarter Bar from May 16-18!

Get passes here: https://www.lastchancerecords.com/

MUTANTS OF THE MONSTER FEST will return in 2024 to Little Rock, AR from May 16-18! The multi-day festival will take place in the Argenta Arts District and has revealed the final lineup, which now includes the new additions of CANCERSLUG and RWAKE. The full lineup can be found below!

In honor of National Concert Week, the festival is now offering a special discount on tickets and passes that will run until this Tuesday, May 7 @ 11:59 P.M. EDT. Currently, fans can score single day tickets for Friday and Saturday for only $20 while a full festival pass is temporarily discounted at $95! Passes are now available HERE and will cover both stages for all three days of the event.

The full lineup is as follows:

JOHN GARCIA (Formerly of Kyuss playing all of the hits!)


Rwake, Live at Mutants of the Monster 2022

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Pallbearer to Release Mind Burns Alive May 17; “Where the Light Fades” Video Posted

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

PALLBEARER (photo by Dan Almasy)

No real getting around Pallbearer‘s fifth LP, Mind Burns Alive — announced today with a May 17 release date as their second album for Nuclear Blast behind 2020’s Forgotten Days (review here) — as one of the biggest doom releases of the year. The Little Rock, Arkansas, four-piece now in their 16th year have done more to modernize the emotive doom melancholia fostered by the likes of AnathemaMoonspell, maybe even on some level their now-labelmates My Dying Bride — for whose new album Mind Burns Alive should make a fitting complement — for the subsequent generation, and as the first single and lead track “Where the Light Fades” shows, their own maturity as a group has only brought more poise and soul to their approach. Plus they tour. Hard. Regularly.

They’ll do so again for Mind Burns Alive, of course, and after co-headlining a Euro run with Elder in 2022, Pallbearer have lined up support from REZN, The KeeningRwake and Inter Arma — not everybody all at once; calm down — for back-t0-back stints on the East and West Coasts. Dates, preorders, more about the record, the cover art, the tour poster, the ticket link for when they go on sale and of course the “Where the Light Fades” video all follow here, and I celebrate the PR wire for doing so much heavy lifting. If and when you start the clip, give it some time to build up. They get there, and the melodic path being explored is part of the point. Not the first time in Pallbearer‘s arc that they’ve rewarded the patience of their audience, by any means.

Have at it:

pallbearer mind burns alive


PRE-ORDERS AVAILABLE NOW: https://pallbearer.bfan.link/mind-burns-alive.ema



Pallbearer, indisputable masters of emotionally insightful and stirring heavy music, return with their most raw and heartfelt album to date: Mind Burns Alive (May 17, Nuclear Blast Records).

“These songs are a deeper exploration of dynamics and sonic color than anything we have done up to this point,” vocalist/guitarist Brett Campbell explains, shedding light on the band’s decision to strip everything back on the forthcoming nearly hour-long album. “I’m of the belief that true heaviness comes from emotional weight, and sometimes sheer bludgeoning isn’t the right approach to getting a feeling across.”

A preview of Mind Burns Alive arrives today with the release of “Where The Light Fades” and its Dan Almasy-directed video. Lyrically, the song eludes to what are the overall themes on the six-song album, as Campbell describes the tracks as “vignettes that tell the stories of people who deal with myriad sicknesses of the spirit… illnesses communicated by the world we live in, and the subjects are the symptoms of the disease.”

Five years in the making, with recording initially slated for 2020, and thwarted yet again in 2022, it was 2023 that saw the band members living locally to one another in Little Rock for the first time in nine years. As a group, they self-produced the album in their own, newly constructed studio (Idlewild Audio) and at Fellowship Hall Sound. Reflecting on this, bassist/vocalist Joseph D. Rowland remarked, “It’s ironic given that the album is largely centered around isolation, but it felt like it summoned us into being back together again in one town, after so long apart.”

Album pre-orders, which include limited-edition vinyl, CD and digital, are available now: https://pallbearer.bfan.link/mind-burns-alive.ema.

The band has simultaneously announced their most extensive North American tour since 2018, dubbed the “Temporary Spaces North American Tour,” the six-week trek launches on June 6. Tickets are on-sale this Friday at 10 am local time. Openers include Rwake (June 6 to 9; 29), REZN (June 11 to 29), Inter Arma (July 11 to August 3), with The Keening opening on all dates. Visit Pallbearerdoom.com for ticket links.

Pallbearer headlines the opening night of Stumpfest X on April 11 at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Ore.. The band has also confirmed two special European performances: The Copenhell Metal Cruise (Copenhagen to Oslo) from Oct. 25 to 27, and Nov. 16 at Helldorado in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). More European dates will be announced soon.

Mind Burns Alive tracklist:
1. Where The Light Fades
2. Mind Burns Alive
3. Signals
4. Endless Place
5. Daybreak
6. With Disease

pallbearer tour“Temporary Spaces North American Tour”:
June 6 Memphis, TN Growlers *
June 7 Murfreesboro, TN Hop Springs *
June 8 Birmingham, AL Zydeco *
June 9 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade *
June 11 Durham, NC The Fruit #
June 12 Asheville, NC Euology at Burial Beer Co. #
June 14 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery #
June 15 Lancaster, PA Tellus360 #
June 16 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts #
June 18 Hamden, CT Space Ballroom #
June 20 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg #
June 21 Boston, MA The Sinclair #
June 22 Montreal, QC Theatre Fairmount #
June 23 Toronto, ON Velvet Underground #
June 25 Milwaukee, WI Vivarium #
June 26 Chicago, IL Thalia Hall #
June 27 St. Paul, MN Turf Club #
June 28 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck #
June 29 Little Rock, AR The Hall &
July 11 St. Louis, MO Off Broadway ^
July 13 Denver, CO Gothic Theatre ^
July 15 Calgary, AB Dickens ^
July 16 Edmonton, AB The Starlite Room ^
July 18 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw Theatre ^
July 19 Seattle, WA Substation ^
July 23 Sacramento, CA The Starlet Room ^
July 24 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall ^
July 26 Santa Cruz, CA The Catalyst ^
July 27 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick ^
July 28 Los Angeles, CA Teragram Ballroom ^
July 29 Phoenix, AZ Crescent Ballroom ^
July 30 Albuquerque, NM Sister Bar ^
August 1 Dallas, TX Trees ^
August 2 Austin, TX Parish ^
August 3 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall ^
*-w/Rwake & The Keening
# – w/REZN & The Keening
& – w/Rwake, REZN & The Keening
^ – w/Inter Arma & The Keening

Pallbearer is Brett Campbell (vocals/electric guitar/synthesizer), Devin Holt (electric and acoustic guitar/vocals), Mark Lierly (drums/percussion) and Joseph D. Rowland (vocals/bass guitar/synthesizer).



Pallbearer, “Where the Light Fades” official video

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Mutants of the Monster 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Shit, man. Anybody got a line on a crash spot in Little Rock? Mutants of the Monster Fest — or if you’re on friendly terms you can go with Mutants Fest, like on the poster — has announced its initial lineup for May 16-18, with John Garcia as the first headliner. I’m not sure if it’s a solo show or with the full backing as John Garcia and the Band of Gold, but as noted below he’ll be doing Kyuss songs in addition to his own stuff and if the universe aligns just so, you might even get a track from the catalogs of Slo Burn, Unida or Hermano, the latter of whom have reissues out on Ripple now.

But Garcia is just the start and down the line through Weedeater and Telekinetic Yeti (tour partners again?), Spirit AdriftDeadbirdFistulaRebelmaticFlummoxMedicine HorseSeahag and Adam Faucett, and the sense of curation remains strong. Mammoth Caravan will have a new record out by the time they play, and they might not be the only ones, but even if everyone showed up with nothing on the merch table (highly unlikely), it’d still be a riotous bill and there’s more to come since, you know, three days and all that.

Tickets are available through Last Chance Records as linked below. I’ll do my best to keep up are more names are added to Mutants of the Monster 2024. Here’s how the PR wire put it:

mutants of the monster 2024 poster

MUTANTS OF THE MONSTER FEST 2024 Reveals First Wave of Bands; Incl. John Garcia (ex-Kyuss), Weedeater, Telekinetic Yeti, Spirit Adrift + More!

Taking place in North Little Rock, AR at the Argenta Community Theater and Four Quarter Bar from May 16-18!

GET EARLY BIRD TICKETS HERE: https://www.lastchancerecords.com/

MUTANTS OF THE MONSTER FEST will return in 2024 to Little Rock, AR from May 16-18! The multi-day festival will take place in the Argenta Arts District and has revealed the first wave of bands, which is as follows:

JOHN GARCIA (Formerly of Kyuss playing all of the hits!)

Early bird tickets are now available HERE starting today through Monday, December 11. The pass will cover both stages for all three days of the event.

More bands will be announced soon – stay tuned!


John Garcia, “Whitewater” (Kyuss) live at Desertfest New York 2022

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Mammoth Caravan Premiere “Petroglyphs” Video; Ice Cold Oblivion out Feb. 25

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Mammoth Caravan (Photo by Kurt Lunsford)

Little Rock, Arkansas-based sludge rollers Mammoth Caravan are set to issue their debut full-length, Ice Cold Oblivion, on Feb. 25. The album is the three-piece’s first release outside of a limited CD/tape Demo 2022 that featured the songs “Ice Cold Oblivion” and “Nomad,” which clearly they wound up pretty fond of since they open the album here in succession. Fair enough, particularly as the Monolordian buzz that grows so massive past the initial temporal displacement of effects looping in the title-track to act as a kind of welcome to the proceedings as a whole. With Evan Swift on guitar, Brandon Ringo on bass and vocals and Robert Warner drumming, Mammoth Caravan demonstrate immediately they know where they’re coming from, finding ground between the dug-in low-and-slow riffing of Crowbar and some of Egypt‘s bluesier rasp vocally — though Ringo changes it up to a cleaner style in the title-cut and later as well on “Periglacial,” and “Nomad” layers higher shouts over deathly growling, which also features in “Petroglyphs” (premiering below) so it’s not one thing or the other, either — as they instrumentally convey a largesse to suit the narrative of their moniker in the lyrics of the record about, wait for it, a caravan of mammoths.

Presented across two vinyl sides of three songs each, the 38 minutes of Ice Cold Oblivion make their primary impression in lumber, heft, and march. They’ve been compared to Eyehategod — 30 years later, if you play slow and scream at all, someone’s still gonna say you sound like Eyehategod; this is a thing about which I have surprisingly strong feelings — but that doesn’t account either for their more metal aspects throughout or the drifting mellow guitar that bookends “Petroglyphs,” so while it may be a case ofMammoth Caravan Ice Cold Oblivion those hearing the record trying to lump the band into a category where they don’t fit as neatly as some others might, in this case ‘sludge metal,’ it’s ultimately to the trio’s credit that even on their first offering they’re able to look outside microgenre and work in aspects of different heavy styles. They’re not about to start playing polka in 10-minute closer “Frostbite,” which grows plenty massive and encompassing enough in its final slowdown to be a worthy finish to all the pleistocene plod and snare bite cutting through, but neither should they be mistaken for being completely unipolar. As the philosopher Daniel Tiger reminds us: “you can be more than one thing.” And so they are, even as much as the consuming lurch of Ice Cold Oblivion is the backdrop against which those other elements play out.

They are, then, encouragingly malleable in their songwriting and the general quotient of nastiness on display at any given time. “Ice Cold Oblivion” and “Frostbite” do a bit of worldmaking as longer songs first and last, but the converted should have no trouble nodding along as “Petroglyphs” shifts after its quiet opening to harsh buzz and growls, tense and slow, then slower, then faster, then churning, then out on that same guitar figure that introduced it. Mammoth Caravan aren’t so much flying in the face of convention as choosing which versions of it they want to take for their own. This attitude and direction will serve them well as they move forward from here, but there’s something to be said for Ice Cold Oblivion‘s rawest moments as well, be it the sheer riff worship in the instrumental “Megafauna” or “Periglacial” daring toward Primitive Man-style ultradoom before changing to the aforementioned clean vocals en route to the fadeout of guitar and bass that leave the drums that started it. One way or the other, they effectively bring to life a sound like nature trying to kill early humans, and really, seeing how it all turned out, who could blame it for trying?

Below you’ll find the video for “Petroglyphs,” which is wonderfully DIY at the playground, kid finds an eyeball, and so on. It’s the third single from Ice Cold Oblivion behind “Frostbite” and “Nomad” — though obviously the demo of the title-track is streaming as well — and begins to show the flora growing alongside all that crushing fauna in the epoch in which the band here reside. To make it as plain as I can: it is very heavy. You can’t say you weren’t told in advance.


Mammoth Caravan, “Petroglyphs” video premiere

Video shot and edited by Machete Eddy.

Sludge/Doom Metal trio MAMMOTH CARAVAN will release debut/concept album Ice Cold Oblivion February 25, 2023 on CD, digital, cassette, and vinyl formats.

Ice Cold Oblivion was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jason Tedford at Wolfman Studios.

Pre-order: http://mammothcaravan.bandcamp.com/album/ice-cold-oblivion

Track Listing:
1. Ice Cold Oblivion
2. Nomad (feat. Mat Johnson)
3. Petroglyphs
4. Megafauna
5. Periglacial
6. Frostbite


Brandon Ringo – Bass/Vocals
Evan Swift – Guitar
Robert Warner – Drums

Mammoth Caravan, Ice Cold Oblivion (2023)

Mammoth Caravan on Facebook

Mammoth Caravan on Instagram

Mammoth Caravan on Spotify

Mammoth Caravan on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff Morgan of Rwake, Deadbird, and More

Posted in Questionnaire on November 29th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Jeff Morgan Rwake Deadbird

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jeff Morgan of Rwake, Deadbird, The Lights Inside the Woods, Madman Morgan, The Ominous Warning, Ash of Cedars

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

As far as musically, I search the cosmic depths for paths that lead me to melodies and rhythms that I can manifest into this universe. Then I take those sounds and build them into music that can hopefully take others to the same place.
I started this journey in my early teens with the tools I learned from my parents, who were both heavily immersed in metaphysics at that time.

Describe your first musical memory.

Hard to pinpoint the actual “first”, but one of the earliest is when my biological father was blasting Marty Robbins “Don’t Worry About Me” and was in my face yelling at me about how cool the distorted bass sounded on the huge home stereo we had. I was probably four or five years old. I later found out it’s actually a lap steel, not a bass.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

When Rwake played Maryland Deathfest in 2012, we played “Was Only a Dream” off of Rest. During the last section, I felt the whole crowd come together as one and almost everyone in the room were all of one mind for several minutes. It was a very magic moment for sure.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Having kids really tested my belief that my sole purpose in life was to create and play music on a full time scale. It was very hard at first to stop touring and stay home with the family. Over time I have learned how to balance my commitment to being a super-dad with my obsession to create and perform gloomy music.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

For me, the progression leads to a lifetime’s worth of massive volumes of music that will mostly be undiscovered til my eventual death.

For the world, the progression is so rapid and awe-inspiring, it’s hard to even imagine where It will lead. Every day I hear new music that exceeds what I thought possible. That’s the beauty of art.

How do you define success?

Musically, I define success by the amount of pride I feel when I listen to the musical projects I’m involved with. Also, I am constantly humbled by all the love for the music I’ve been a part of, and I cherish all the friendships made along the way.

Personally I define success by the smiles on my kids’ faces, and watching them grow up. When my family is happy, I’m happy.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

When Rwake was a young new band, we thought it would be a good idea to bring a bloated dead possum to the show and cook it in an electric skillet during our set. I wish I would have never seen all the bugs running out of it when I dumped it out of the trash bag into the skillet.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’m in the process of creating a live full band version of a gloomy dark acoustic project that I have called The Lights Inside the Woods. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something more quiet and clean, yet still dark and trance inducing. I can’t wait to see how it progresses.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

Communication. Sharing the results of the quest together. Art is all about the ritual for me. It’s is an endless quest to find the deepest darkest unheard energies and give them a voice.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

We are returning to Iceland later this month to hike Landmannalaugar in the Highlands. Iceland is such a magical place and I can’t wait to return.




Rwake, Rest (2011)

Deadbird, “Alexandria”

The Lights Inside the Woods, II (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Rwake, If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 11th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

A band who don’t get enough credit. Rwake released the cumbersome-but-righteously-titled If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die in 2004 through At a Loss Recordings. Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, the six-piece outfit — six of ’em! — traveled to Chicago in March of that year to record for six days with Sanford Parker, who also mixed (John Brearley is credited with engineering as well; Alan Douches mastered), and what they went home with remains these 18 years later both monstrous and unlike nearly anything else that was coming out at the time. With discernable influences from the likes of Neurosis and Buzzov*en, two singers in Christopher “CT” Terry and Brittany “B” Fugate (the latter also Moog), and a sound that both was and was not in league with the then-nascent movement of post-metal, they were able to bring together atmosphere and impact in a way that few acts of the style before or since have.

From the seven-minute opener “Dying Spiral Galaxies” — hell of a place to start — through the double-whammy titular finale of “If You Walk Before You Crawl” and “You Crawl Before You Die,” Rwake harnessed a creative scope that could either be the screamed poetry over acoustic guitar and distorted bass of “Sleep and Forget Forever” or the deceptively methodical onslaught of volume that was “Embedded,” and even listening to it now, you never quite know where the next turn is headed until it gets there. It is likewise gross and beautiful.

Comprised of FugateTerry (also of Iron Tongue), guitarists Kris “Gravy” Graves and Kiffin Rogers, bassist Reid Raley (who played with The Obsessed from circa 2013-2019) and drummer Jeff Morgan (also bass/vocals in the undervalued Deadbird), if Rwake‘s output wasn’t the product of multiple songwriters, it was at least informed by multiple personalities somewhere along the way. If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die was their third full-length, preceded by 1999’s Absence Due to Projection and 2002’s Hell is a Door to the Sun, and it took the avant sludginess of those offerings to a new level, remaining cohesive even at its most unhinged and noisiest — looking at you, “Woodson Lateral” — resulting in a powerful combination of control and chaos.

Concurrent to releases like Neurosis‘ The Eye of Every StormIsis‘ PanopticonCult of Luna‘s Salvation and Mouth of the Architect‘s Time and Withering, among others, it was a piece of an expanding aesthetic Rwake If You Walk Before You Crawl You Crawl Before You Diepuzzle, yet it stood out even among peers and offered depth in a way that was organically its own. And while a lot of those bands used similar elements, be it synth, or effective layering of guitar, loud/quiet trades and malleable tempos, etc., Rwake tapped into a more vicious gnash when they wanted to — the first time I saw Fugate live was SXSW around the time of this release; she was hunched over at the front of the stage and I couldn’t even see her at first for the rest of the crowd in front of me, just heard that rasp, and when she stood up, a jolt of electricity went through the room; what a scream — and their songs seemed to take special delight in shirking the rules of microgenre even as those were still being defined.

Laced with samples throughout in a way that was very much emblematic of Southern sludge at the time — the album begins with some conservative or other worrying about the deleterious effects of rock and roll on the mind, ambient screams and acoustic guitar behind, before the requisite volume kick actually launches “Dying Spiral Galaxies” — If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die is still head-spinning in its complexity, and offers multiple paths to its audience. If you put it on and follow the guitar, you’ll get an offering of ace riffs front to back, peppered through with stretches of acoustic and more subdued fare, be it “Intro” ahead of “Sleep and Forget Forever” or “If You Walk Before You Crawl” itself.

Concentrate on the vocals and you’ll hear arrangements of marked reach in conveying emotion as well as raw ferocity, an abiding mournfulness that only feels more relevant now and a disaffection that seemed to be speaking to its own experience of the place it was from — lest we forget, CT produced the documentary Slow Southern Steel in 2010 — further evidenced by moments like the sample at the start and in the second half of “Woodson Lateral,” the warning of people living in the woods and on the road of the same name through Pulaski County, where Little Rock is located. Follow the bass and you’re consumed entirely. Follow the drums and it’s damn near jazz, at least intermittently.

There is, in other words, a lot to be heard if you’re willing to engage Rwake on their own wavelength, which given the extremity of purpose around which their work always was/has been based, not everyone can or is willing to do. Fair enough. An outlier position suits them well on If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die, with its closer “You Crawl Before You Die” nearly hitting the 10-minute mark and finding the band at their most dug-in as they make their way to the noise-drenched, mania-screaming, torn-apart-until-only-feedback-is-left finale; like they had a strategic reserve of scathe just waiting to be busted out at the right time.

Maybe part of why their work remains underrated is because they never quite fit in one niche or another, though they signed to Relapse for 2007’s Voices of Omens and 2011’s Rest (review here) — also a 2015 reissue of their 1998 demo Xenoglossalgia (The Last Stage of Awareness) — so they were certainly in good company despite all that pesky doing-their-own-thing that made them harder to categorize. That same ethic, along with the sense of punishment and downerism that so much of it conveys, is also why If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die holds up so well. If it was ahead of its time then, and maybe it was, it still kind of feels that way now. You’ll note the version above is from an 8-track tape edition from Texas-based Dead Media Tapes. And that feels about right,l. On its face and under the surface, it’s just pervasively, definitively weird. And weird is fucking awesome.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I was going to close out last week with this record, but was both out of my mind in pain from my knee — I tore my meniscus at the start of October and there have been good days and bad since — and short on time. If anyone noticed the lack of a Friday Full-Length, no one said anything, and I did extra shares on social media for Bandcamp Friday, so whatever. I remain convinced that I give the biggest crap about that kind of thing anyhow, so it’s on me. Fine. Sometimes you need a day of just six posts on the site. Ha.

I had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee — they marked it with a pen and everything; “YES” in purple letters so they knew to do the left — yesterday afternoon, and could immediately move better. I was given a piece of paper with stretches and exercises to do three times a day, which I did last night before bed with a due amount of discomfort. But the mental difference of productive, healing pain instead of just ongoing injury pain is huge, and this morning I could bend my knee when I sat down on the couch to begin writing, which feels like a novelty even tight as my knee is. It’s been weeks since I could do that. Painkillers don’t hurt either, as it were.

The timing is good, because in 10 days, The Pecan, The Patient Mrs. and I fly to Mexico for the wedding of a couple who are good friends of long standing, and one imagines that will require walking in addition to the air travel. I don’t know that I’ll be running laps by then, but sore as I am now, I feel better than I did. On the mend, as it were. I am fortunate that my wife as a professor at a public university is on a state health insurance plan, or I’d probably never be able to have it fixed. The economic realities of medicine in this country are horrifying and infuriating. Universal healthcare now. Shit, universal healthcare 40 years ago. Alas, everybody’s got their money to make. Don’t get me started.

But I’m lucky I’ll spend hopefully as much time as I can stand not standing (I seem to have lost my ability to sit still during the day) this weekend dedicated to actively healing, icing, doing those leglifts which I hope will become less excruciating, then I have a follow-up next Friday morning with the orthopedist — dude was all-swagger; Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” was playing on the radio in the OR when they wheeled me in, followed immediately by TLC’s “Scrubs”; surgical equipment kept in a huge black Husky-brand tool chest; this is who you want operating on you — to get the stitches out and see if I’ll need physical therapy. I might. I can feel a shift in muscle mass in my legs as a result of walking funny for a month, and I’m a wuss generally, so I wouldn’t be surprised if even in what for me feels like diligence doing the stretches, I’m not pushing hard enough.

And while we’re talking about follow-ups, I have one on Monday with my neurologist (if you’re interested, more on this adventure here) that’s supposed to be more of a psychiatric thing, I think? I don’t know. Anyway, the doctor was nice and it’s a virtual appointment, so that’s easy enough. The Patient Mrs. will be at work, but I’ll see if I can’t loop her in through Zoom because the wretched truth is I’m not a reliable narrator of my own life. Is anybody? I’m interested to hear what she says, even if the entire process feels somewhat like an indulgence. I do miss swimming, which I haven’t done but once to try it since I hurt my knee.

Gimme show today, 5PM, free to stream on https://gimmemetal.com.

New River Flows Reverse stream on Monday, and Mythosphere, High Noon Kahuna, Captain Caravan/Kaiser and Candlemass are lined up for review after that, so it’s a full week. Expect fewer posts while I’m in Mexico — it’s also Thanksgiving week here in the States, so there’s less going on generally — but I’m sure something will come along that I feel compelled to write about. Never fails, even if I’m on “vacation,” as much as traveling with a five year old after knee surgery can ever actually be that.

In any case, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, watch your head, hydrate, all that fun stuff. See you back here Monday for more shenanigans.


The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

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Quarterly Review: Thief, Rise to the Sky, Birth, Old Horn Tooth, Solemn Lament, Terminus, Lunar Ark, Taxi Caveman, Droneroom, Aiwass

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


According to my notes, today is Day Three of the Fall 2021 Quarterly Review. Are you impressed to have made it this far? I kind of am, but, you know, I would be. I hope you’ve managed to find something you dig over the course of the first 20 records, and if not, why not? I’ve certainly added to a few year-end lists between debut albums, regular-old albums and short releases. Today’s no different. Without giving away any secrets ahead of time, this is a pretty wacky stylistic spread from the start and that’s how I like it. Maybe by next Tuesday it’ll all make a kind of sense, and maybe it won’t. In any case, this is apparently my idea of fun, so let’s have fun.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Thief, The 16 Deaths of My Master

Thief The 16 Deaths of My Master

Someone used the phrase “techno for metalheads” in an email to me the other day (about something else) and I can’t get it out of my head concerning Thief‘s The 16 Deaths of My Master. From the swelling distortion of opener “Underking” to the odd bit of harpsicord that shows up in “Scorpion Mother” to the bassy rumble underscoring “Fire in the Land of Endless Rain,” the post-everything “Lover Boy,” droning “Life Clipper,” lazyman’s hip-hop on “Gorelord” and “Crestfaller” and Beck-on-acid finale in “Seance for Eight Oscillators,” there’s certainly plenty of variety to go around, but in the dance-dream “Apple Eaters” and goth-with-’90s-beatmaking “Bootleg Blood” and pretend-your-car-ride-is-a-movie-soundtrack “Wing Clipper,” the metallic underpinning of Dylan Neal (also Botanist) is still there, and the lyrical highlight “Teenage Satanist” rings true. Still, songs like the consuming washer “Night Spikes and subsequent drum’n’bass-vibing “Victim Exit Stage Left” are inventive, fascinating, short and almost poppy in themselves but part of a 16-track entirety that is head-spinning. If that’s techno for metalheads, so be it. Horns up for dat bass.

Thief on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website


Rise to the Sky, Per Aspera Ad Astra

rise to the sky per aspera ad astra

The album’s title is kind of another interpretation of the band’s name, the idea behind the Latin phrase Per Aspera Ad Astra being moving through challenges to the stars and the Santiago, Chile, one-man death-doom outfit being Rise to the Sky. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Sergio González Catalán reportedly wrote and arranged the title-track in the days following his father’s funeral, and the grand, flowing string sounds and engrossing heft that ensues feel genuinely mournful, capping with a progression of solo piano before “End My Night” seems to pick up where “The Loss of Hope” left off. The lyrics to closer “Only Our Past Remains” derive from a poem by Catalán‘s father, and the sense of tribute is palpable across the album’s 46 minutes. I’m not sure how the Russian folk melody bonus instrumental “Horse” might tie in, but neither is it out of place among “Deep Lament” and “Bleeding Heart,” the latter of which dares some clean vocals alongside the gutturalism, and in context, the rest of the album seems to answer with loss what opener “Life in Suspense” is waiting for.

Rise to the Sky on Facebook

GS Productions website


Birth, Demo

birth birth

Those familiar with Brian Ellis and Conor Riley‘s work in Astra should not be surprised to find them exploring ’70s-style progressive rock in Birth, and anybody who heard Psicomagia already knows that bassist Trevor Mast and drummer Paul Marrone (also Radio Moscow) are a rhythm section well up to whatever task you might want to set before them. Thus Birth‘s Demo arrives some four years after its recording, with “Descending Us” (posted here) leading off in dramatic Deep Purple-y fashion backed by the jammier but gloriously mellotroned and Rhodes’ed “Cosmic Wind” and “Long Way Down,” which digs itself into a righteous King Crimson payoff with due class even as it revels in its rough edges. Marrone‘s since left the band and whoever replaces him has big shoes to fill, but god damn, just put out a record already, would you?

Birth on Facebook

Bad Omen Records website


Old Horn Tooth, True Death

old horn tooth true death

Wielding mighty tonality and meeting Monolordian lurch with an aural space wide enough to contain it, Old Horn Tooth follow their 2019 debut LP, From the Ghost Grey Depths, with the single-song EP True Death, proffering a largesse rarely heard even from London’s ultra-populated heavy underground and working their way into, out of, back into, out of and through a nod that the converted among riff-heads likely find irresistible and hypnotic in kind. To say the trio of guitarist/vocalist Chris, bassist/keyboardist Ollie and drummer Mark ride out the groove is perhaps underselling it, but as my first exposure to the band, I’m only sorry to have missed out on both the orange tapes and the limited flash drives they were selling. So it goes. Slow riffs, fast sales. I’ll catch them next time and drown my sorrows in the interim in this immersive, probably-gonna-get-picked-up-by-some-label-for-a-vinyl-release offering. And hey, maybe if you and I both email them, they’ll press a few more cassettes.

Old Horn Tooth on Facebook

Old Horn Tooth on Bandcamp


Solemn Lament, Solemn Lament

Solemn Lament Solemn Lament

Pro-shop-level doom from an initial public offering by Solemn Lament, bringing together the significant likes of vocalist Phil Swanson (ex-Hour of 13, Vestal Claret, countless others), drummer Justin DeTore (Magic Circle and more recently Dream Unending) as well as Blind Dead‘s Drew Wardlaw on bass and Adam Jacino on lead guitar, and Eric Wenstrom on rhythm guitar. These personages cross coastlines to three tracks and intro of grand and immersive doom metal, willfully diving into the Peaceville-three legacy on “Stricken” to find the beauty in darkness after the lumber and chug of the nine-minute “Celeste” resolves with patient grace and “Old Crow” furthers the Paradise Lost spirit in its central riff. Geography is an obvious challenge, but if Solemn Lament can build on the potential they show in this debut EP, they could be onto something really special.

Solemn Lament on Facebook

Solemn Lament on Bandcamp


Terminus, The Silent Bell Toll

Terminus The Silent Bell Toll

A stunning third full-length from Fayetteville, Arkansas, trio Terminus, The Silent Bell Toll bridges doomed heft and roll, progressive melodicism and thoughtful heavy rock construction into a potent combination of hooks and sheer impact. It’s worth noting that the 10-minute closer of the nine-song/40-minute outing, “Oh Madrigal,” soars vocally, but hell, so does the 3:18 “Black Swan” earlier. Guitarist Sebastian Thomas (also cover art) and bassist Julian Thomas share vocal duties gorgeously throughout while drummer Scott Wood rolls songs like “The Lion’s Den” and “The Silent Bell Toll” — that nod under the solo; goodness gracious — in such a way as to highlight the epic feel even as the structure beneath is reinforced. With three instrumentals peppered throughout to break up the chapters as intro, centerpiece and penultimate, there’s all the more evidence that Terminus are considered in their approach and that the level of realization across The Silent Bell Toll is not happenstance.

Terminus on Facebook

Terminus on Bandcamp


Lunar Ark, Recurring Nightmare

Lunar Ark Recurring Nightmare

Clearly named in honor of its defining intent, Recurring Nightmare is the three-song/48-minute debut full-length from Boston-based charred sludge outfit, who take the noisy heft of ultra-disaffected purveyors like Indian or Primitive Man and push it into a blackened metallic sphere further distinguished by harshly ambient drones. One can dig Neurosis-style riffing out of the 19:30 closer “Guillotine” or opener “Torch and Spear,” but the question is how much one’s hand is going to be sliced open in that process. And the answer is plenty. Their tones don’t so much rumble as crumble, vocals are willfully indecipherable throat-clenching screams, and the drums duly glacial. There is little kindness to be had in 16:43 centerpiece “Freedom Fever Dream” — originally broken into two parts as a demo in 2019 — which resolves itself lyrically in mourning a lost ideal over a dense lurch that’s met with still-atmospheric churning. Their established goal, if that’s what it is, has been met with all appropriate viciousness and extremity.

Lunar Ark on Facebook

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

Lunar Seas Records on Bandcamp

Realm and Ritual on Bandcamp


Taxi Caveman, Taxi Caveman

taxi caveman self titled

An ethic toward straight-ahead riff rock is writ large throughout Taxi Caveman‘s self-titled debut full-length, the Warsaw trio offering a face-first dive into fuzz of varying sizes and shaping their material around the sleek groove of “Prisoner” or the more aggressively bent vinyl-side-launchers “Building With Fire” and “Asteroid.” There’s a highlight hook in “I, the Witch” and the instrumental “426” leads into the Dozer-esque initial verse of 10-minute closer “Empire of the Sun,” but the three-piece find their own way through ultimately, loosening some of the verse/chorus reins in order to affect more of a jammed feel. It’s a departure from the crunch of “Asteroid” or “Prisoner” and the big, big, big sound that starts “Building With Fire,” but I’m certainly not about to hold some nascent sonic diversity against them. They’re playing to genre across these 33 minutes, but they do so without pretense and with a mind toward kicking as much ass as possible. Not changing the world, but it’s not trying to and it’s fun enough in listening that it doesn’t need to.

Taxi Caveman on Facebook

Piranha Music on Bandcamp


Droneroom, Negative Libra

Droneroom Negative Libra

“Negative Libra” runs 36:36 and is the lone track on the album that bears its name from Las Vegas-based solo-project Droneroom. The flowing work of Blake Conley develops in slow, meditative form and gradually introduces lap steel to shimmer along with its post-landscape etherealities, evocative of cinema as they are without exactly playing to one or the other film-genre tropes. That is to say, Conley isn’t strictly horror soundtracking or Western soundtracking, and so on. Perhaps in part because of that, “Negative Libra” is allowed to discover its path and flourish as it goes — I’m not sure as to the layering process of making it vis-à-vis what was tracked live and put on top after — but the sense of exploration-of-moment that comes through is palpable and serene even as the guitar comes forward just before hitting the 27-minute mark to begin the transition into the song’s noisier payoff and final, concluding hum.

Droneroom on Facebook

Somewherecold Records website


Aiwass, Wayward Gods

Aiwass Wayward Gods

Blown-out vocals add an otherworldly tinge to Arizona-based one-man-band Aiwass‘ debut full-length, Wayward Gods, giving the already gargantuan tones a sense of space to match. Opener “Titan” and closer “Mythos” seem to push even further in this regard than, say, the centerpiece “Man as God” — the last track feeling particularly Monolordly in its lumbering — but by the time “Titan” and the subsequent, 10-minute inclusion “From Chains,” which ends cold with a guest solo by Vinny Tauber of Ohio’s Taubnernaut and shifts into the cawing blackbird at the outset of “Man as God” with a purposefully jarring intent. Despite the cringe-ready cartoon-boobs cover art, the newcomer project finds a heavy niche that subverts expectation as much as it meets it and sets broad ground to explore on future outings. As an idea, “gonna start a heavy, huge-sounding band during the pandemic,” is pretty straightforward. What results from that in Aiwass runs deeper.

Aiwass on Facebook

Aiwass on Bandcamp


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