Mammoth Mammoth Sign to Golden Robot Records; New Live Album Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Aussie troublemakers Mammoth Mammoth have pulled back together around the lineup of vocalist Mikey Tucker, guitarist Ben Couzens, bassist Pete Bell and drummer Frank Trobbiani, signed with Golden Robot Records, and announced they’ll release a new live album later on in 2021. That’s a lot of news to pack in, but the four-piece have proven nothing if not efficient in delivering boots to ass over their years together. One assumes that sooner or later the band will return to Europe, which was their touring priority prior to the apocalypse, and the fact that Golden Robot has offices in Hamburg as well as Sydney and Melbourne (and L.A. and NYC, for that matter) would seem to support that.

Of course they’re not the only ones who’ve had to or have otherwise taken the opportunity to revamp or restrcture their existence in the last year — see also: you, me, everybody — but it should be interesting to see/hear what they do with these four players back together. They’ve never been short on volatility, yet somehow they’re plenty reliable in that.

From the PR wire:

Mammoth Mammoth

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH REUNITE AND SIGN WITH GOLDEN ROBOT RECORDS

After spending a year in a COVID hibernation, MAMMOTH MAMMOTH have awoken from their slumber and are back, reunited with their classic line up (Frank ‘Bones Trobbiani, Ben ‘Cuz’ Couzens, Mikey Tucker and Pete Bell), to announce they have signed with global powerhouse Golden Robot Records. They are set to unleash a live album later this year, which will give fans who are currently unable to see the band in action a dose of MAMMOTH MAMMOTH live.

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH hail from the Black Spur Forest of Victoria, Australia, and proudly represent the freight-train power of Australian born and bred rock n’ roll. They describe their sound as “more awesome than God’s tits” and “patented good-time murder fuzz”.

“MAMMOTH MAMMOTH has always been an Australian, balls-out, rock n’ roll band, and we’ve proudly flown that flag in the pubs of Australia and clubs of Europe for almost 15 years. We’re pumped to be reunited and now signed with Golden Robot. They understand what we do and how we do it… and they also have their balls-out.” – MAMMOTH MAMMOTH Guitarist, Ben ‘Cuz’ Couzens

MAMMOTH MAMMOTH is:
Mikey Tucker – Vocals
Frank Trobbiani – Drums
Ben Couzens – Guitar
Pete Bell – Bass

www.facebook.com/mammothmammothband
https://www.instagram.com/mammothmammoth/
www.mammothmammoth.com
https://www.facebook.com/goldenrobotrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/goldenrobotrecords/
https://goldenrobotrecords.com/

Mammoth Mammoth, “Lookin’ Down the Barrel” official video

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Quarterly Review: Paradise Lost, Alastor, Zahn, Greynbownes, Treebeard, Estrada Orchestra, Vestamaran, Low Flying Hawks, La Maquinaria del Sueño, Ananda Mida

Posted in Reviews on July 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

The days grow long, but the Quarterly Review presses onward. I didn’t know when I put this thing together that in addition to having had oral surgery on Monday — rod in for a dental implant, needs a crown after it heals but so far no infection; penciling it as a win — this second week of 10 reviews per day would bring my laptop breaking and a toddler too sick to go to camp for three hours in the morning. If you’re a fan of understatement, I’ll tell you last week was easier to make happen.

Nevertheless, we persist, you and I. I don’t know if, when I get my computer back, it will even have all of these records on the desktop or if the hard-drive-bed-shitting that seems to have taken place will erase that along with such inconsequentials as years of writing and photos of The Pecan dating back to his birth, but hey, that desktop space was getting cleared one way or the other. You know what? I don’t want to think about it.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Paradise Lost, At the Mill

Paradise Lost At the Mill

If Paradise Lost are trying to hold onto some sense of momentum, who can blame them? How many acts who’ve been around for 33 years continue to foster the kind of quality the Yorkshire outfit brought to 2020’s studio outing, Obsidian (review here)? Like, four? Maybe? So if they want to put out two live records in the span of three months — At the Mill follows March’s Gothic: Live at Roadburn 2016, also on Nuclear Blast — one isn’t inclined to hold a grudge, and even less so given the 16-song setlist they offer up in what was the captured audio from a livestream last Fall, spanning the bulk of their career and including requisite highlights from ’90s-era landmarks Gothic and Icon as well as Obsidian features “Fall From Grace,” “Ghosts” and “Darker Thoughts,” which opened the studio LP but makes a rousing finisher for At the Mill.

Paradise Lost on Facebook

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Alastor, Onwards and Downwards

alastor onwards and downwards

The second long-player from Sweden’s Alastor is a surprising but welcome sonic turn, pulling back from the grimness of 2018’s Slave to the Grave (review here) in favor of an approach still murky and thick in its bottom end, but sharper in its songwriting focus and bolder melodically right from the outset on “The Killer in My Skull.” They depart from the central roll for an acoustic stretch in “Pipsvängen” after “Nightmare Trip” opens side B and just before the nine-minute title-track lumbers out its descent into the deranged, but even there the four-piece hold the line of obvious attention to songcraft, instrumental and vocal phrasing, and presentation of their sound. Likewise, the spacious nod on “Lost and Never Found” caps with a shorter and likewise undeniable groove, more Sabbath than the Queens of the Stone Age rush of “Death Cult” earlier, but with zero dip in quality. This takes them to a different level in my mind.

Alastor on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

Zahn, Zahn

Zahn Zahn

Its noise-rock angularity and tonal bite isn’t going to be for everyone, but there’s something about Zahn‘s unwillingness to cooperate, their unwillingness to sit still, that makes their self-titled debut a joy of a run. Based in Berlin and comprised of Felix Gebhard (Einstürzende Neubauten keyboards) as well as drummer Nic Stockmann and bassist Chris Breuer (both of HEADS.), the eight-tracker shimmers on “Tseudo,” punkjazzes on lead cut “Zerrung,” goes full krautrock drone to end side A on “Gyhum” and still has more weirdness to offer on the two-minute sunshine burst of “Schranck,” “Lochsonne Schwarz,” “Aykroyd” and finale “Staub,” all of which tie together in one way or another around a concept of using space-in-mix and aural crush while staying loway to the central pattern of the drums. “Aykroyd” is brazen in showing the teeth of its guitar work, and that’s a pretty solid encapsulation of Zahn‘s attitude across the board. They’re going for it. You can take the ride if you want, but they’re going either way.

Zahn on Facebook

Crazysane Records website

 

Greynbownes, Bones and Flowers

Greynbownes bones and flowers

Bones and Flowers is a welcome return from Czech Republic-based heavy rockers Greynbownes, who made their debut with 2018’s Grey Rainbow From Bones (review here), and sees the trio foster a progressive heavy flourish prone to Doors-y explosive vocal brooding tempered with Elder-style patience in the guitar lines and rhythmic fluidity while there continues to be both an underlying aggressive crunch and a sense of Truckfighters-ish energy in “Dream Seller,” some blues there and in “Dog’s Eyes” and opener “Wolves” besides, and a willful exploratory push on “Burned by the Sun and Swallowed by the Sea,” which serves as a worthy centerpiece ahead of the rush that comprises much of “Long Way Down.” Further growth is evident in the spaciousness of “Flowers,” and “Star” feels like it’s ending the record with due ceremony in its largesse and character in its presentation.

Greynbownes on Facebook

Greynbownes on Bandcamp

 

Treebeard, Nostalgia

Treebeard Nostalgia

One can’t argue with Melbourne heavy post-rockers Treebeard‘s impulse to take the material from their prior two EPs, 2018’s Of Hamelin and 2019’s Pastoral, and put it together as a single full-length, but Nostalgia goes further in that they actually re-recorded, and in the case of a track like “The Ratchatcher,” partially reworked the songs. That makes the resultant eight-song offering all the more cohesive and, in relation to the prior versions, emphasizes the growth the band has undertaken in the last few years, keeping elements of weight and atmosphere but delivering their material with a sense of purpose, whether a give stretch of “8×0” is loud or quiet. Nostalgia effectively pulls the listener into its world, duly wistful on “Pollen” or “Dear Magdalena,” with samples adding to the breadth and helping to convey the sense of contemplation and melodic character. Above all things, resonance. Emotional and sonic.

Treebeard on Facebook

Treebeard on Bandcamp

 

Estrada Orchestra, Playground

Estrada Orchestra Playground

Estonian five-piece Estrada Orchestra recorded Playground on Nov. 21, 2020, and while I’m not 100 percent sure of the circumstances in which such a recording took place, it seems entirely possible given the breadth of their textures and the lonely ambience that unfurls across the 22-minute A-side “Playground Part 1” and the gradual manner in which it makes its way toward psychedelic kraut-drone-jazz there and in the more “active” “Playground Part 2 & 3” — the last part chills out again, and one speaks on very relative terms there — it’s entirely possible no one else was around. Either way, headphone-ready atmosphere persists across the Sulatron-issued LP, a lushness waiting to be closely considered and engaged that works outside of common structures despite having an underlying current of forward motion. Estrada Orchestra, who’ve been in operation for the better part of a decade and for whom Playground is their fifth full-length, are clearly just working in their own dimension of time. It suits them.

Estrada Orchestra on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Vestamaran, Bungalow Rex

Vestamaran Bungalow Rex

Even in the sometimes blinding sunshine of Vestamaran‘s debut album, Bungalow Rex, there is room for shades of folk and classic progressive rock throughout the summery 10-tracker, which makes easygoing vibes sound easy in a way that’s actually really difficult to pull off without sounding forced. And much to Vestamaran‘s credit, they don’t. Their songs are structured, composed, engaging and sometimes catchy, but decidedly unhurried, unflinchingly melodic and for all their piano and subtle rhythmic intricacy, mostly pretense-free. Even the snare sound on “Grustak” feels warm. Cuts like “Risky Pigeon” and “Cutest Offender” are playful, and “Solitude” and closer “Only for You” perhaps a bit moodier, but Vestamaran are never much removed from that central warmth of their delivery, and the abiding spirit of Bungalow Rex is sweet and affecting. This is a record that probably won’t get much hype but will sit with dedicated audience for more than just a passing listen. A record that earns loyalty. I look forward to more.

Vestamaran on Facebook

Apollon Records website

 

Low Flying Hawks, Fuyu

low flying hawks fuyu

Three records in, to call what Low Flying Hawks do “heavygaze” feels cheap. Such a tag neither encompasses the post-rock elements in the lush space of “Monster,” the cinematic flourish of “Darklands,” nor the black-metal-meets-desert-crunch-riffing-in-space at the end of “Caustic Wing” or the meditative, post-Om cavern-delia in the first half of closer “Nightrider,” never mind the synthy, screamy turn of Fuyu‘s title-track at the halfway point. Three records in, the band refuse to let either themselves or their listenership get too comfortable, either in heavy groove or march or atmosphere, and three records in, they’re willfully toying with style and bending the aspects of genre to their will. There are stretches of Fuyu that, in keeping with the rest of what the band do, border on overthought, but the further they go into their own progressive nuance, the more they seem to discover they want to do. Fuyu reportedly wraps a trilogy, but if what they do next comes out sounding wildly different, you’d have to give them points for consistency.

Low Flying Hawks on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

 

La Maquinaria del Sueño, Rituales de los Alucinados

la maquinaria del sueno rituales de los alucinados

Cult poetry on “Enterrado en la Oscuridad,” garage rock boogie “Ayahuasca” and classic, almost-surf shuffle are the first impressions Mexico City’s La Maquinaria del Sueño make on their debut full-length, Rituales de los Alucinados, and the three-piece only benefit from the push-pull in different directions as the seven-song LP plays out, jamming into the semi-ethereal on “Maldad Eléctrica” only to tip hat to ’60s weirdo jangle on “Mujer Cabeza de Cuervo.” Guitars scorch throughout atop swinging grooves in power trio fashion, and despite the differences in tone between them, “Enterré mis Dientes en el Desierto” and “Ángel de Fuego” both manage to make their way into a right on haze of heavy fuzz ahead of the motoring finisher “La Ninfa del Agua,” which underscores the live feel of the entire procession with its big crashout ending and overarching vitality. Listening to the chemistry between these players, it’s not a surprise they’ve been a band for the better part of a decade, and man, they make their riffs dance. Not revolutionary, but cool enough not to care.

La Maquinaria del Sueño on Facebook

LSDR Records on Bandcamp

 

Ananda Mida, Karnak

Ananda Mida Karnak

A three-tracker EP issued through drummer Max Ear‘s (also of OJM) own Go Down Records, Karnak features an instrumental take on a previously-vocalized cut — “Anulios,” from 2018’s Anodnatius (review here) — an eight-minute live jam with Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man sitting in on guitar, and a live version of the Conny Ochs-fronted “The Pilot,” which opened 2019’s Cathodnatius, the cover of which continues to haunt one’s dreams, and which finds the German singer-songwriter channeling his inner David Byrne in fascinating ways. An odds-and-ends release, maybe, but each of these songs is worth the minimal price of admission on its own, never mind topped as they are together with the much-less-horrifying art. If this is a reminder to listen to Anada Mida, it’s a happy one.

Ananda Mida on Facebook

Go Down Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Spelljammer, The Black Heart Death Cult, Shogun, Nadja, Shroud of Vulture, Towards Atlantis Lights, ASTRAL CONstruct, TarLung, Wizzerd & Merlin, Seum

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

We proceed onward, into this ever-growing swath of typos, lineup corrections made after posting, and riffs — more riffs! — that is the Quarterly Review. Today is Day Four and I’m feeling good. Not to say there isn’t some manner of exhaustion, but the music has been killer — today is particularly awesome — and that makes life much, much, much better as I’ve already said. I hope you’ve found one or two or 10 records so far that you’ve really dug. I know I’ve added a few to my best of 2021 list, including stuff right here. So yeah, we roll on.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip

spelljammer abyssal trip

To envision an expanse, and to crush it. Stockholm three-piece Spelljammer return five years after Ancient of Days (review here), with an all-the-more-massive second long-player through RidingEasy, turning their front-cover astronaut around to face the audience head on and offering 43 minutes/six tracks of encompassing largesse, topping 10 minutes in the title-track and “Silent Rift,” both on side B with the interlude “Peregrine” between them, after the three side A rollers, “Bellwether,” “Lake” and “Among the Holy” have tripped out outward and downward into an atmospheric plunge that is a joy to take feeling specifically geared as an invite to the converted. We are here, come worship with us. Also get crushed. Spelljammer records may not happen all the time, but you won’t be through “Bellwether” before you’re saying it was worth the wait.

Spelljammer on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras

The Black Heart Death Cult Sonic Mantras

A deceptively graceful second LP from Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras pulls together an eight-song/45-minute run that unfolds bookended by “Goodbye Gatwick Blues” (8:59) and “Sonic Dhoom” (9:47) and in between ebbs and flows across shorter pieces that maximize their flow in whether shoegazing, heavygazing, blissing out, or whatever we’re calling it this week on “The Sun Inside” and “One Way Through,” or finding their way to a particularly deadened meadow on “Trees,” or tripping the light hypnotic on “Dark Waves” just ahead of the closer. “Cold Fields” churns urgently in its 2:28 but remains spacious, and everywhere The Black Heart Death Cult go, they remain liquefied in their sound, like a seemingly amorphous thing that nonetheless manages to hold its shape despite outside conditions. Whatever form they take, then, they are themselves, and Sonic Mantras emphasizes how yet-underappreciated they are in emerging from the ever-busy Aussie underground.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

 

Shogun, Tetra

Shogun Tetra

Tetra is the third long-player from Milwaukee’s Shogun, and in addition to the 10-minute “Delta,” which marries blues gargle with YOB slow-gallop before jamming out across its 10-minute span, it brings straight-shooter fuzz rockers like “Gravitas,” the someone-in-this-band-listened-to-Megadeth-in-the-’90s-and-that’s-okay beginnings of “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary” and likewise crunch of “Axiom” later, but also the quiet classic progressive rock of “Gone Forever,” and the more patient coming together of psychedelia and harder-hitting movement on closer “Maximum Ray.” Somewhat undercut by a not-raw-but-not-bursting-with-life production, pieces like “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary,” which gives over to a sweeter stretch of guitar in its second movement, and “Vertex/Universal Pain Center,” which in its back end brings around that YOB influence again and puts it to good use, are outwardly complex enough to put the lie to the evenhandedness of the recording. There’s more going on in Tetra than it first seems, and the more you listen, the more you find.

Shogun on Facebook

Shogun on Bandcamp

 

Nadja, Luminous Rot

Nadja Luminous Rot

Keeping up with Nadja has proven nigh on impossible over the better part of the last two decades, as the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto duo have issued over 25 albums in 19 years, plus splits and live offerings and digital singles and oh my goodness I do believe I have the vapors that’s a lot of Nadja. For those of us who flit in and out like the dilletantes we ultimately are, Luminous Rot‘s aligning Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff with Southern Lord makes it an easy landmark, but really most of what the six-cut/48-minute long-player does is offer a reminder of the vital experimentalism the lazy are missing in the first place. The consuming, swelling drone of “Cuts on Your Hands,” blown-out sub-industrialism of “Starres,” hook of the title-track and careful-what-you-wish-for anchor riff of “Fruiting Bodies” — these and the noisily churning closer “Dark Inclusions” are a fervent argument in Nadja‘s favor as being more than a sometimes-check-in kind of band, and for immediately digging into the 43-minute single-song album Seemannsgarn, which they released earlier this year. So much space and nothing to lose.

Nadja on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Shroud of Vulture, Upon a Throne of Jackals

shroud of vulture upon a throne of jackals

Welcome to punishment as a primary consideration. Indianapolis death-doom four-piece hold back the truly crawling fare until “Perverted Reflection,” which is track three of the total seven on their debut full-length, Upon a Throne of Jackals, but by then the extremity has already shown its unrepentant face across the buried-alive “Final Spasms of the Drowned” and the oldschool death metal of “The Altar.” Centerpiece “Invert Every Throne” calls to mind Conan in its nod, but Shroud of Vulture are more about rawness than sheer largesse in tone, and their prone-to-blasting style gives them an edge there and in “Halo of Tarnished Light,” which follows. The closing pair of “Concealing Rabid Laughter” and “Stone Coffin of Existence” both top seven minutes and offset grueling tension with grueling release, but it’s the stench of decay that so much defines Upon a Throne of Jackals, as though somebody rebuilt Sunlight Studio brick for brick in Hoosier Country. Compelling and filthy in kind.

Shroud of Vulture on Facebook

Wise Blood Records website

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Towards Atlantis Lights, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Towards Atlantis Lights When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Ultra-grueling, dramatic death-doom tragedies permeate the second full-length, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun, from UK-based four-piece Towards Atlantis Lights, with vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou and guitarist Ivan Zara at the heart of the compositions while bassist Riccardo Veronese and drummer Ivano Olivieri assure the impact that coincides with the cavernous procession matches in scope. The follow-up to 2018’s Dust of Aeons (review here), this six-track collection fosters classicism and modern apocalyptic vibes alike, and whether raging or morose, its dirge atmosphere remains firm and uncompromised. Heavy lumber for heavy hearts. The kind of doom that doesn’t look up. That doesn’t mean it’s not massive in scope — it is, even more than the first record — just that nearly everything it sees is downward. If there’s hope, it is a vague thing, lost to periphery. So be it.

Towards Atlantis Lights on Facebook

Kostas Panagiotou on Bandcamp

 

ASTRAL CONstruct, Tales of Cosmic Journeys

ASTRAL CONstruct Tales of Cosmic Journeys

It has been said on multiple occasions that “space is the place.” The curiously-capitalized Colorado outfit ASTRAL CONstruct would seem to live by this ethic on their debut album, Tales of Cosmic Journeys, unfurling as they do eight flowing progressions of instrumental slow-CGI-of-the-planets pieces that are more plotted in their course than jams, but feel built from jams just the same. Raw in its production and mix, and mastered by Kent Stump of Wo Fat, there’s enough atmosphere to let the lead guitar breathe, certainly, and to sustain life in general even on “Jettisoned Adrift in the Space Debris,” and the image evoked by “Hand Against the Solar Winds” feels particularly inspired given that song’s languid roll. The record starts and ends in cryogenic sleep, and if upon waking we’re transported to another place and another time, who knows what wonders we might see along the way. ASTRAL CONstruct‘s exploration would seem to be just beginning here, but their “Cosmos Perspective” is engaging just the same.

ASTRAL CONstruct on Instagram

ASTRAL CONstruct on Bandcamp

 

TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vienna-based sludgedrivers TarLung were last heard from with 2017’s Beyond the Black Pyramid (discussed here), and Architect continues the progression laid out there in melding vocal extremity and heavy-but-not-too-heavy-to-move riffing. It might seem like a fine line to draw, and it is, and that only makes songs like “Widow’s Bane” and “Horses of Plague” all the more nuanced as their deathly growls and severe atmospheres mesh with what in another context might just be stoner rock groove. Carcass circa the criminally undervalued Swansong, Six Feet Under. TarLung manage to find a place in stoner sludge that isn’t just Bongzilla worship, or Bongripper worship, or Bong worship. I’m not sure it’s worship at all, frankly, and I like that about it as the closing title-track slow-moshes my brain into goo.

TarLung on Facebook

TarLung on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd & Merlin, Turned to Stone Chapter III

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

Somewhere in the great mystical expanse between Kalispell, Montana, and Kansas City, Missouri, two practicioners of the riffly dark arts meet on a field of battle. Wizzerd come packing the 19-minute acoustic-into-heavy-prog-into-sitar-laced-jam-out “We Are,” as if to encompass that declaration in all its scope, while Merlin answer back with the organ-led “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” (21:51), all chug and lumber until it’s time for weirdo progressive fusion reggae and an ensuing Purple-tinged psych expansion. Who wins? I don’t know. Ripple Music in releasing it in the first place, I guess. Continuing the label’s influential split series(es), Turned to Stone Chapter III pushes well over the top in the purposes of both acts involved, and in that, it’s maybe less of a battle than two purveyors joining forces to weave some kind of Meteo down on the heads of all who might take them on. If you’ve think you’ve got the gift, they seem only too ready to test that out.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Merlin on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Seum, Winterized

Seum Winterized

“Life Grinder” begins with a sample: “I don’t know if you need all that bass,” and the answer, “Oh, you need all that bass.” That’s already after “Sea Sick Six” has revealed the Montreal-based trio’s sans-guitar extremist sludge roll, and the three-piece seem only too happy to keep up the theme. Vocals are harsh, biting, grating, purposeful in their fuckall, and the whole 28-minute affair of Winterized is cathartic aural violence, except perhaps the interllude “666,” which is a quiet moment between “Broken Bones” and “Black Snail Volcano,” which finally seems to just explode in its outright aggression, nod notwithstanding. A slowed down Ramones cover — reinventing “Pet Sematary” as “Red Sematary” — has a layer of spoken chanting vocals layered in and closes out, but the skin has been peeled so far back by then and Seum have doused so much salt onto the wounds that even Bongzilla might cringe. The low-end-only approach only makes it more punishing and more punk rock at the same time. Fucking mean.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Carlton Melton, Crown, Noêta, Polymerase, Lucid Sins, Hekate, Abel Blood, Suffer Yourself, Green Dragon, Age Total

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

This will be a two-week Quarterly Review. That means this Monday to Friday and next Monday to Friday, 10 releases per day, totaling 100 by the time it’s done.

Me? I’m taking it one week, one day, one album at a time. It’s the only way to go and not have it seem completely insurmountable. But we’ll get through it all. I started out with the usual five days, and then I went to seven, then eight, and at that point I felt like I had a pretty good idea where things were headed. The last two days I filled up just at the end of last week. Some of it is I think a result of quarantine productivity, but there’s a glut of relevant stuff out now and some of it I’m catching up on, true, but some of it isn’t out yet either, so it’s a balance as ever. I keep telling myself I’m done with 2020 releases, but there’s one in here today. You know how it goes.

And since you do, I won’t delay further. Thanks in advance for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Carlton Melton, Night Pillers

carlton melton night pillers

Rangey mellow psych collected together with the natural shimmer of a Phil Manley (Trans Am) recording and a John McBain master, the new mini-LP from Mendocino medicine makers Carlton Melton is a 31-minute, five-song meditative joy. To wit, “Safe Place?” Is. “Morning Warmth?” Is, even with the foreboding march of drums behind it. And “Striatum,” which closes with interplay of keys and fuzzy leads and effects, giving a culminating seven-minute wash that doesn’t feel like it’s pushing far out so much as already gone upon arrival, indeed seems like a reward for any head or brain that’s managed to make it so far. Opener “Resemblance” brings four minutes of gentle drone to set the mood ahead of “Morning Warmth” — it might be sunrise, if we’re thinking of it that way — and centerpiece “High Noon Thirty” bridges krauty electronic beats and organic ceremony that feels both familiar and like the band’s own. They may pill at night, but Carlton Melton have a hell of a day here.

Carlton Melton on Facebook

Agitated Records website

 

Crown, The End of All Things

Crown The End of All Things

Weaving in and around genres with fluidity that’s tied together through dark industrial foundations, Crown are as much black metal as they are post-heavy, cinematic or danceable. “Gallow” or the earlier “Neverland” call to mind mid-period, electronica-fascinated Katatonia, but “Extinction” pairs this with a more experimental feel, opening in its midsection to more unsettling spaces ahead of the dance-ready finish. There’s nothing cartoonish or vamp about The End of All Things, which is the French outfit’s fourth album in 10 years, and it’s as likely to embrace pop (closer “Utopia”) as extremity (“Firebearer” just before), grim atmospherics (“Nails”) or textured acoustics (“Fleuve”), feeling remarkably unconcerned with genre across its 45 entrancing minutes, and remarkably even in its approach for a sound that’s still so varied. It’s not an easy listen front to back, but the challenge feels intentional and is emotional as much as cerebral in the craft and performance.

Crown on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Noêta, Elm

Noêta elm

Swedish duo Noêta offer their second record for Prophecy Productions in Elm, comprising a deceptively efficient eight songs and 38 minutes that work in atmospheres of darker but not grim or cultish folk. Vocalist Êlea is very much a focal point in terms of performance, with Andris‘ instrumentals forming a backdrop that’s mournful on “Above and Below” while shimmering enough to bring affirmation to “As We Are Gone” a short while later ahead of the electrified layering in “Elm” and the particularly haunted-feeling closer “Elm II.” “As I Fall Silent” is a singularly spacious moment, but not the only one, as “Fade” complements with strings and outward-sounding guitar, and some of Elm‘s most affecting moments are its quietest stretches, as “Dawn Falls” proves at the outset and the whispers of “Elm” reaffirm on side B. Subdued but not lacking complexity, Noêta‘s songs make an instrument of mood itself and are pointedly graceful in doing so.

Noêta on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

 

Polymerase, Unostentatious

Polymerase Unostentatious

Unostentatious, which is presumably not to say “humble,” may or may not be Polymerase‘s debut release, but it follows on from several years of inactivity on the part of the Philippines-based mostly-instrumentalist heavy psych trio. The band present four duly engaging and somewhat raw feeling jams, with a jump in volume as “Lightbringer//Lightgiver” picks up from “A Night with a Succubus” and opener “The Traveler” and a final touch of thickened, fuzzy sludge in the rolling “Green is the Color of Evil,” which closes at a lurch that comes across at significant remove from the title-hinted brightness of the song just before it. Uneven? Maybe, but not egregiously so, and if Polymerase are looking to give listeners an impression of their having a multifaceted sound, they most assuredly do. My question is over what span of time these tracks were recorded and what the group will do in moving forward from them, but I take the fact that I’m curious to find out at all as a positive sign of having interest piqued. Will hope for more.

Polymerase on Facebook

Polymerase on Bandcamp

 

Lucid Sins, Cursed!

lucid sins cursed

Lucid indeed. The band’s self-applied genre tag of “adult AOR” is more efficient a descriptor of their sound than anything I might come up with. Glasgow’s Lucid Sins released their acclaimed debut, Occultation, in 2014, and Cursed! is the exclamatory seven-years-later follow-up, bringing together classic progressive rock and modern cult heavy sensibilities with a focus on songwriting that’s the undercurrent from “Joker’s Dance” onward and which, as deep as “The Serpentine Path” or the title-track or “The Forest” might go, is never forgotten. To wit, the penultimate “By Your Hand” is a proto-everything highlight, stomping compared to the organ-prog “Sun and the Moon” earlier, but ultimately just as melodic and of enviable tonal warmth. Seven years is a long time between records, and maybe this material just took that long to put together, I don’t know, but I had no idea “cult xylophone” was a possibility until “The Devil’s Sign” came along, and now I’m not sure how I ever lived without it.

Lucid Sins on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

 

Hekate, Sermons to the Black Owl

Hekate Sermons to the Black Owl

Australia’s history in heavy rock and roll is as long as that of heavy rock and roll itself and need not be recounted here, except to say that Hekate, from Canberra and Sydney, draw from multiple eras of it with their debut long-player, Sermons to the Black Owl, pushing ’70s boogie over the top with solos on “Carpathian Eagle” only after “Winter Void” and “Child of Black Magick” have seen the double-guitar-and-let’s-use-both four-piece update nascent doom vibes and “Burning Mask” has brought a more severe chug to the increasingly intense procession. A full production sound refuses to let the quick eight-tracker be anything other than modern, and though it’s only 28 minutes long, the aptly-titled “Acoustic Outro” feels earned atmospherically, even down to the early-feeling cold finish of “Cassowary Dreaming.” The balance may be then, then, then, and now, but the sense of shove that Hekate foster in their songs gives fresh urgency to the tenets of genre they seem to have adopted at will.

Hekate on Facebook

Black Farm Records store

 

Abel Blood, Keeping Pace with the Elephants

Abel Blood Keeping Pace with the Elephants

One does not evoke elephantine images on a heavy record, even on a debut release, if aural largesse isn’t a factor. New Hampshire trio Abel Blood — guitarist/vocalist Adam Joslyn, bassist Ben Cook, drummer Jim DeLuca — are raw in sound on their first EP, Keeping Pace with the Elephants, but the impact with which they land “The Day that Moby Died” at the outset is only encouraging, and to be sure, it’s not the thickest of their wares either. “Enemies” already pushes further, and as centerpiece “UnKnown Variant” would seem to date the effort in advance, it also serves the vital function of moving the EP in a different, more jangly, grungier direction, which is a valuable move with the title cut following behind, its massive cymbals and distorted wash building to a head in time for the nine-minute finale “Fire on the Hillside” to draw together both sides of the approach shown throughout into a parabolically structured jam the middle-placed surge of which passes quickly enough to leave the listener unsure whether it ever happened. They’re messing with you. Dig that.

Abel Blood on Facebook

Abel Blood on Bandcamp

 

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide

Suffer Yourself Rip Tide

Begun in 2011 by guitarist/vocalist Stanislav Govorukha and based in Sweden by way of Poland and the Ukraine, death-doom lurchbringers Suffer Yourself are not strangers to longer-form material, but to my knowledge, “Spit in the Chasm” — the opening and longest track (immediate points) on their third record, Rip Tide — is the first time they’ve crossed the 20-minute mark. Time well spent, and by that I mean “brutally spent,” whether its the speedier chug that emerges from the willful slog of the extended piece’s first half or the viciously progressive lead work that tops the precise, cold end of the song that brings final ambience. Side B offers two shorter pieces in “Désir de Trépas Maritime (Au Bord de la Mer Je Veux Mourir),” laced with suitably mournful strings and a fair enough maritime sense of gothic drama emphasized by later spoken word and piano, and the brief, mostly-drone “Submerging,” which one assumes is the end of that plotline playing out. The main consumption though is in “Spit in the Chasm,” and the dimensions of that fissure are significant, figuratively and literally.

Suffer Yourself on Facebook

Aesthetic Death website

 

Green Dragon, Dead of the Night

Green Dragon Dead of the Night

High order Sabbathian doom rock from my own beloved Garden State, there’s very little chance I’m not going to dig Green Dragon‘s Dead of the Night, and true to type, I do. Presented by the band on limited vinyl after digital release late in 2020, the four-song, 24-minute outing brings guitarist/vocalists Zach Kurland and Ryan Lipynsky (the latter also adding keys and known for his work in Unearthly Trance, etc.), bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Herbert Wiley to a place so dug into its groove it almost feels inappropriate to think of it as a peak in terms of their work to-date. They go high by going low, then. Fair enough. “Altered States” opens with a rollout of fuzz that miraculously avoids the trap sounding like Electric Wizard, while “Burning Bridges” murks out, “The Sad King” pushes speed a bit will still holding firm to nod and echo alike, and “Book of Shadows” plunges into effects-drenched noise like it was one of the two waterslides at the Maplewood community pool in summertime.

Green Dragon on Facebook

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

 

ÂGE TOTAL, ÂGE TOTAL

ÂGE ? TOTAL

The kind of record that probably won’t be heard by enough people but will inspire visceral loyalty in many of those who encounter it, the self-titled debut from French collaborative outfit Age Total — bringing together members from Endless Floods out of Bordeaux and Rouen’s Greyfell — is a grand and engrossing work that pushes the outer limits of doom and post-metal. Bookending opener “Amure” (14:28) and closer “The Songbird” (16:45) around the experimentalist “Carré” (4:06) and rumbling melodic death-doom of “Metal,” the album harnesses grandiosity and nuance to spare, with each piece feeling independently conceived and enlightening to musician and audience alike. It sounds like the kind of material they didn’t know they were going to come up with until they actually got together — whatever the circumstances of “together” might’ve looked like at the time — and the bridges they build between progressive metal and sheer weight of intention are staggering. However much hype it does or doesn’t have behind it, Age Total‘s Age Total is one of 2021’s best debut albums.

Endless Floods on Facebook

Greyfell on Facebook

Soza Label on Bandcamp

 

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Ivory Primarch Sign to Cursed Monk Records; Debut Album Due in November

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Well, today I learned what Warhammer 40,000 is. Kind of. It was part of an attempt to search out an origin for the word “primarch,” as in the moniker of Melbourne, Australia’s Ivory Primarch, who are newly signed to Cursed Monk Records for the release this Fall of their debut album, As All Life Burns. There’s a track up now from the album streaming at the bottom of this post.

If you’ve never watched the video of the LSD experiment on William Millarc (also discussed here) from which the sample that opens this song is taken, I can only recommend it. Certainly the track that ensues offers its fair share of shifting realities as well, harsh as those may be. Aus sludge doesn’t fuck around, as history has shown.

The PR wire has info:

ivory primarch

Cursed Monk Records are thrilled to announce that we will be working with Australian based Ivory Primarch on the release of their debut album “As All Life Burns.”

Ivory Primarch is the BrainChild of Songwriter/Bassist Elzevir. Through reflecting on solitude, pleasure, misery, excess, loss, space, reality and legacy, Elzevir attempts to explore and bring to light feelings of these concepts through Ivory Primarch’s oppressive and funeral dirge like compositions, flavoured with tinges of sludge and psychedelia.

Vorador takes the reins on vocals and lyrical arrangement. Telling stories of the people, beasts and places that personify the concepts, ideas, visions plaguing Elzevir’s mind.

Coming 3 years after the demo “Rituals of Excess” “As All Life Burns” is the first full length album from Ivory Primarch portraying and bringing forth the Representation of Elzevir’s wild envisionment.

“As All Life Burns” will be released in November with preorders beginning in September.

In the meantime you can head to the bands bandcamp and check out the track “The Masque”
https://ivoryprimarch.bandcamp.com/track/the-masque

https://www.facebook.com/IvoryPrimarch/
https://www.instagram.com/ivory_primarchnoise/
https://ivoryprimarch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.cursedmonk.com/
https://cursedmonk.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/cursedmonk/
https://www.instagram.com/cursedmonkrecords/

Ivory Primarch, “The Masque”

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Mountain Wizard Death Cult to Release New Single July 23; Live Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Not to be confused with any of the other death cults out there, including Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sydney-based four-piece Mountain Wizard Death Cult offer alternately ferocious and morose death-sludge with their 2020 two-songer, Thrones of Putrid Light, moving in “Thrones” from a subdued mournfulness into extremity of lurch that’s tsunami-immersive in tone and nod alike, even though they’re saving the real malevolence of atmosphere for “Putrid Light,” which is both more angular and harsher on the ear before it finally chills out. You could call it post-metal in some way if you wanted to — the PR wire does and isn’t wrong — but that doesn’t necessarily convey the extremity Mountain Wizard Death Cult harness when going full bore.

The band will release a new single, Wretch, on July 23 and have live dates booked for July and August into September. Beats Cartel was kind enough to send this along:

mountain wizard death cult

MOUNTAIN WIZARD DEATH CULT RELEASE & TOUR

Mountain Wizard Death Cult are the hidden diamond of the Sydney heavy scene with an underground buzz set to explode with next month’s visceral release ‘Wretch’, an onslaught of epic proportions.

The Sydney-based 4 piece, categorised as a Doom/Sludge/Post-Metal band, begin their first ever Australian tour this July, chalking up a serve of solid east coast shows on the back of touring minifest Aftermath, a festival appearance at Alice Spring’s Blacken Open Air and Thrashville Festival to manifest the track in various large number live settings.

Band guitarist Chris Chaplin says of the upcoming tour “The Wretched Invasion Tour really is a landmark moment for us as a band, heading out for our first shows away from our home State. I feel our new single ‘Wretch’ really encapsulates the raw purge of energy we experience together with the audience at every show, which is as hypnotic as it is heavy. We’re excited to share this experience with new people around the country and in a strange way timing couldn’t have worked out better.”

Built upon live recording sessions to capture the raw energy and chemistry of the band, Mountain Wizard Death Cult overcame flooding, quarantine and various curveballs to finish Wretch’, a follow up to 2020’s ‘Thrones of Putrid Light’, at Studio Bleus in their hometown of Windsor and are all set to offer up their brand of heavy to new ears, minds and souls.

“Wretch is an exploration of betrayal and the darker half within yourself and the other in a relationship. Acceptance of your own fallen nature and the mirroring of one’s perception onto another to give their own point of view credence. We create the character we want to believe. We cast aside the character we wish to be false. Uplifting and dragging down into reality.”

Having received airplay for their previous releases on Triple J’s The Racket, as well as multiple sold out local headline shows and support slots for heavy hitters King Parrot, Flaming Wrekage, Potion & Astrodeath, the time has come for Mountain Wizard Death Cult to hit their national stride. A must see live act for fans of the darker arts.

Mountain Wizard Death Cult will embark on tour from July through September 2021 in support of new single ‘Wretch’, now available as presale on a split 7″ through Tuff Cuff Records with friends Astrodeath. The Wretch release cycle will also see the release of the band’s debut film clip.

Beats Cartel Presents
MOUNTAIN WIZARD DEATH CULT ‘WRETCH’ 2021 Tour
Fri July 23 Wollongong DICEY RILEYS
Sat July 24 Canberra THE BASEMENT
Fri Jul 30 – Sun Aug 01 Arrente Country BLACKEN OPEN AIR
Sat Aug 07 Sydney FACTORY THEATRE
Fri Aug 13 Sunshine Coast ELEVEN DIVE BAR
Sat Aug 14 Brisbane WOOLLY MAMMOTH
Sun Aug 15 Gold Coast MO’S DESERT CLUBHOUSE
Sat Aug 28 Melbourne BENDIGO HOTEL
Sat Sep 11 Dashville THRASVILLE FESTIVAL

Full tour info and tickets at beatscartel.com/aftermath

‘Wretch’ single released across all streaming platforms Fri 23 July

https://www.facebook.com/mountainwizarddeathcult
https://www.instagram.com/mountainwizarddeathcult/
https://mountainwizarddeathcult.bandcamp.com/
https://linktr.ee/mountainwizarddeathcult

Mountain Wizard Death Cult, Thrones of Putrid Light (2020)

Mountain Wizard Death Cult, “Eye of the Sun” live at Housefox Studios

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The Slow Death Premiere “Tyranny” Siege out Aug. 27

Posted in audiObelisk on June 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the slow death art by Mandy Andresen

Australian extreme doom five-piece The Slow Death release their fourth full-length, Siege, on Aug. 27 in a range of editions through Transcending Obscurity Records. It is the band’s first studio work in six years since 2015’s Ark, which was the final performance of then-vocalist Gregg Williamson, who passed away in 2014 after completing the recording, and in a style known for being morose, might be all the more so for that, but the arc of their storytelling looks seems more to look outward across the release.

And while one might balk at accusing an album comprised of four songs that runs a total of 63 minutes of being subtle, Siege nonetheless is that in the way it weaves guitar and keys and vocal arrangements within and between its extended cuts, keyboardist Mandy Andresen (also graphics) handling a cleaner singing style while Gamaliel complements with growls, and vice versa atop the tension-and-release riffing of guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Prickett, as well as Dan Garcia‘s bass and Yonn McLaughlin‘s drums, which drive the tempo changes that make 19-minute opener “Tyranny” feel like an album unto itself, with a complete flow and a progression that feels nigh on literary in its poise, however fast it may or may not be moving at a given point.

Each half of the record — that is to say, each platter of the 2LP — brings a 19-minute track the slow death siegeand shorter one in “Famine” (13:44) and closer “Ascent of the Flames” (10:28), respectively. And make no mistake, by the time you get down to “Ascent of the Flames,” having just followed The Slow Death on their ultra-willful slog through “Pestilence,” you might be numb to the changes happening, but the shifts there and across Siege are worth paying attention to, as they make the entirety of the release all the more satisfying to hear.

Even within “Tyranny,” the break to keys and soft guitar and vocals after the growling stretch circa 13 minutes in is executed with such fluidity and depressive grace that it’s nothing less than a triumph as the heft surges back in behind Andresen a short time later. Siege is full of these moments, whether it’s “Famine” unveiling a folk melody in its tenth minute before dirge-marching to its piano-laced finish — having bludgeoned so forcefully earlier in its procession — or the sudden cutout from lead guitar five-plus minutes into the buildup of “Pestilence,” which Gamaliel starts on vocals, mirroring Andresen on the album’s leadoff, setting up back and forth movements that play out across the rest of the song.

An ability to convey beauty in darkness is a tenet of the style, but The Slow Death do so well, while still keeping an overarching rawness to their presentation that helps them blur the line between where goth ends and death-doom begins. The orchestral elements, even synthesized, bolster the drama of the material and could easily fall flat, but don’t, largely because of the human performances behind them, the dynamic setup between Andresen and Gamaliel essential to the outing and its thoughtful shifts from one part or one song to the next, landing with emotional weight as well as tonal — again, an essential factor in making the sound what it is.

“Famine” was previously streamed, and you’ll find that near the bottom of this post. Between that and “Tyranny” premiering below, you’ve got about 33 of the 63 minutes of Siege to give you an idea of what The Slow Death are all about, if the moniker didn’t already tell you. PR wire info follows the player. Seems cruel to say “enjoy” at this point, so yes, I will.

Enjoy:

The Slow Death, “Tyranny” official premiere

The Slow Death are an exceptional band that straddles the emotive as well as heavier aspect of atmospheric death/doom metal. There are eerie, haunting female vocals alternated with abysmally low growls to go with similarly undulating music, encompassing a terrific range of heart-rending expression. Members of veteran bands such as Illimitable Dolor, Horrisonous, ex-Mournful Congregation ensure that the music remains engaging, even during the sparser, atmospheric parts, which invariably give way to soul-piercing solos or dread-inducing chugging parts.

This is a staggering interpretation of the double-edged style with everything remaining all too palpable, as it hurtles you through a harrowing, emotional roller-coaster ride through four epochal tracks averaging over 15 minutes, at the end of which you’ll emerge cleansed, purged, feeling exhausted but somehow lighter. It’s a microcosm of the events that are bound to unfold in everyone’s life, and The Slow Death couldn’t express the inevitable moments of grief and triumph any better through their emotionally-charged music. Six years in the making, ‘Siege’ is sure to be remembered as one of the best albums in the style.

Artworks by Mandy Andresen

Track listing:
1. Tyranny
2. Famine
3. Pestilence
4. Ascent of the Flames

Line up –
Mandy Andresen (ex-Murkrat, Crone) – Vocals and Keyboards
Stuart Prickett (Horrisonous, Illimitable Dolor) – Guitars and Keyboards
Yonn McLaughlin (Temple Nightside, Horrisonous, Illimitable Dolor, Nazxul) – Drums
Dan Garcia (Horrisonous, Illimitable Dolor) – Bass
Gamaliel (ex-Oracle of the Void) – Vocals

The Slow Death, “Famine”

The Slow Death on Facebook

The Slow Death on Bandcamp

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity on Facebook

Transcending Obscurity US store

Transcending Obscurity Europe store

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Review & Full Album Stream: Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows, The Magnetic Ridge

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

jack harlon and the dead crows the magnetic ridge

[Click play above to stream Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows’ The Magnetic Ridge in full. Album is out May 17 on Psychedelic Salad and Forbidden Place Records.]

Based in Melbourne, Australia, with a sound that reaches across continents, Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows return after three years with The Magnetic Ridge, their second full-length and the follow-up to 2018’s well-received Hymns debut. The new offering finds band-spearhead Tim Coutts-Smith carrying over some of the elements that helped make the first record such a success. He produced, mixed and mastered The Magnetic Ridge‘s 12 tracks himself (10 on the vinyl), donning role of Jack Harlon III at will in the songs — the closest thing I could find to a lineup around him is Lightning Bolts Richardson, The Ghost of Ed Parsons and One Giant Pig in the group with Coutts-Smith — and Adam Burke‘s stirring cover art again features, as the sound holds firm to a heavy Western/psychedelic tonk feel and an overarching narrative construct.

Opener “The Tale Of” feeds directly into “The Magnetic Ridge,” and the way the two titles play off each other might lead one to believe the former is just an intro, but its substance is broader, and in fact it cleverly showcases much of the range that will stretch across the rest of the album that follows, going from its minimal, cinematic guy-and-guitar storytelling to a resonant, weighted soundscape of layered guitar, bass and crashing drums in its final moments before giving over to the transitional noise that stops with a snare pop as the riff to the title-track signals its own takeoff. Just then, all is thrust and all is vital, but though The Magnetic Ridge has plenty of brash fare in the West Coast US-style shred of side B opener “Stray” or the presiding bombast in the crescendo of the prior “Langolier,” among others, the core of their approach is more about the dynamic, the intertwining of different melodies and rhythms and energies to enact an aesthetic familiar in its heavy blues foundation — All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door are a distinct presence — and given its own personality through Coutts-Smith‘s conceptual framework and performance.

Likewise, there is a strong commitment to atmosphere. The digital (and presumably CD) version of The Magnetic Ridge push no less deep in this regard than does the vinyl with interludes as separate tracks, but even the LP boasts “De la Luna,” a 90-second stretch of warm heavy psych guitar following the title-track that allows a breather after the initial salvo, sets up the shamanistic Doors-ness of “Rat Poisoning” and offers a hint of Colour Haze-y influence even if that comes through the filter of the aforementioned All Them Witches. In any case, it’s an attention to detail and tone that works entirely to Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows‘ credit there and within subsequent tracks, as one can feel the narrative shifting and twisting in the music even without the benefit of a lyric sheet — or at very least, one can imagine it doing so.

jack harlon and the dead crows (Photo by Liam Semini Photography)

Ambience is further fleshed out in linear formats by “Dream Sequence 1” and “Dream Sequence 2,” two brief inclusions of manipulated voice samples; the latter is William Melarc’s LSD test, the footage of which is widely available. These provide transitions in sides A and B, and are integrated on the vinyl, the first bringing about the immediate shove in “Langolier,” and the second the more gradual meandering lead-in jam for the preach that comes in “The Painter in the Woods,” but both serve a purpose of creating an impression, bolstering the lush, otherworldly vibe and further enabling Coutts-Smith and company to put the listener where they want them to be, as might a film, novel or other vehicle for storytelling. As it goes, “The Painter in the Woods” is about as tripped out as The Magnetic Ridge gets — though that’s not to take away from the open-landscape breadth of “Rat Poisoning” earlier on — and its being sandwiched between “Stray” and “Absolved Pt. 1” is effective in that there’s a grounding feel as the latter takes hold in a more intense rush of fuzz.

The drums will settle, such as it is, into a shuffle, but the tension is still there for sure and the shouting vocals reach out from the depths of the mix such as to make it even more spacious. The melodic resolution there, subtle and ceding to the return of the central riff to begin “Absolved” Pt. 2,” is a high point of craft, as is the linear build that follows. Breaking the two tracks up will not matter to someone hearing it on vinyl, but it’s a clear signal of the structural change around that same progression and further evidence of the thought put to the work on the whole.

Amid all these haunting ghosts and howling winds of guitars, such poise and clarity of vision isn’t to be ignored, but there’s more to The Magnetic Ridge than cinematography. Each song offers its own plot of the wider sphere, from the scene-setting in “The Tale Of” through the “Absolved” duo pushing to where the limits go. Ultimately, this journey brings the listener around to the patient, gets-loud-but-not-too-loud credits roll of “Black Road,” a finale that doesn’t try to top “Absolved Pt. 2” as to provide a denouement from it, an engaging last show of melody and trance-inducing psychnosis. Thusly subdued, Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows wrap their sophomore outing to fit with how it opened, less than predictable, not entirely unfamiliar or so willfully weird as to forget songwriting, reckless only when it wants to be, just as they have been all along.

As regards the strengths of the album as a whole, this is no less overarching than the thread of the plot unfolding, and the control Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows so ably wield over their material makes it that much easier and more of a joy for the audience to be led across the span, littered with dry bones, sunbaked dust and scuttling life on the fringes as it may be. There’s still forward potential here as the band moves toward individual realization, but the lure of The Magnetic Ridge is not to be understated. I’d read this story.

Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows on Facebook

Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows on Bandcamp

Psychedelic Salad Records on Facebook

Psychedelic Salad on Instagram

Psychedelic Salad Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records on Instagram

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

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