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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vinna-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.

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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.

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Album Review: Savanah, Olympus Mons

Posted in Reviews on February 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

savanah olympus mons cover

Structure reveals itself over time to be of significant importance to Graz, Austria’s Savanah, even if that doesn’t always show itself in the most obvious of ways. Those, I suppose, would be predictable verse/chorus turns, A/B rhyme patterns and other such accessible and no-less-valid modes of expression, and that’s not what Savanah have ever really been about from their first EP, 2015’s Deep Shades, through 2017’s The Healer (review here) and now their second album, Olympus Mons. Issuing through reliable Austrian imprint StoneFree Records, the trio of bassist/vocalist Benjamin Schwarz, guitarist Jakob Gauster and drummer Felix Thalhammer clearly prefer a melding of aesthetics and ideas. And yet, to look back at The Healer, it was an album that purposefully saved its most forward-thinking material for its final two tracks, longer and of greater reach as they were. They were the destination toward which the album was building.

Olympus Mons seems to pick up that journey where it left off. True, it also ends with its two longest cuts in “1872” (9:11) and “Olympus Mons” (13:04), but the distinction is less immediate between those songs and the opening pair of “Kaleidoscopia” and “Velvet Scarf,” both of which run eight minutes long. Of further interest, the three-minute instrumental “Tharsis” divides these two sections. Doubtless it’s included on side A of the vinyl version of Olympus Mons with the opening duo before it, but its positioning can only be intentional and it speaks to the level of consideration Savanah are putting into their work and and their engagement of the listener overall. I would argue that this purposefulness no less represents their status as a progressive unit than the total five tracks/42 minutes of Olympus Mons itself, which sees them port such a level of intention to their songwriting, continuing the trail that The Healer and Deep Shades — which, though shorter, mirrors the structure of Olympus Mons more directly than the LP that followed — set out, while moving decidedly further along the same path of meeting cohesive songcraft with riffs that blur the line between rock and metal and find a place between sounds and styles that is their own.

All well and good, but what does it sound like? Well, if you’re going to name your record after the tallest mountain in the solar system, you should probably pack in some sense of largesse, and Savanah most certainly do that. Guitar, bass and drums are all geared toward being heard with whatever volume can be spared for the cause, and Schwarz‘s echoing vocals add to the cavernous feel throughout. Much of what one needs to know on the most basic level about Olympus Mons can be heard in “Kaleidoscopia.” A righteous and no doubt purposefully-placed opener, it brings a defining hook for what follows and starts with a near-immediate groove, the drums quickly giving way to the central riff, delivered with metallic surety and a crisp separation between the guitar and bass. The production style — the album was recorded by Hannes Mottl Audioproductions — might link Olympus Mons to the post-Mastodon school of big-bigger-biggest groovers, but like the rest of what they do, they seem to pull from varying influences what works for them and translate it toward their own purposes.

savanah olympus mons full art

In that way, “Kaleidoscopia” represents well what follows, since one might think of a kaleidoscope itself using different angles and colors to give a similar impression. Olympus Mons, then, is telling the listener about itself. As the song moves through its quiet and semi-psych midsection, there’s shades of later, proggier Truckfighters — partially in the vocals — but once the riff kicks back in, Savanah are again steering their own course. “Velvet Scarf” changes methods, opening quiet and hypnotic before hitting into its main progression, which then moves into a chugging semi-chorus, mellowing and building once more toward a bigger, solo-topped apex. The two songs are just different enough despite their similar runtime and the obvious consistency of production to keep the listener aware of the possibility of change, and that’s fortunate as “Tharsis” takes hold with its condensed run through multiple parts, here led by guitar, there bass, always with the drums keeping it steady. It’s too brash and lumbering to be graceful, but neither do Savanah make a misstep along the way.

As noted, The Healer also capped with its two longest songs. The difference is one that only a few years could bring in terms of the band’s growth. The vocal melody in “1872” is offered with a confidence that could only be born of having the experience of the first album and EP behind the band, and the smoothness which which the song moves through its nine minutes only adds to the demonstration, including trades back and forth of volume late and the rumbling noise that leads directly into “Olympus Mons” itself. At 13 minutes, the title-track consumes a not insignificant portion of the album’s runtime, but fair enough again for the subject matter. And to their credit, Savanah make it a journey, touching on modern heavy psychedelia, rolling doom and classic metallic force that summarizes the case they began to make with “Kaleidoscopia” even as it evidences potential still to flourish in their sound.

Whatever Savanah may or may not do from here, the still-somehow-jammy ending of Olympus Mons — with bass so rich you can practically see the strings vibrating in your mind’s eye beneath a triumphant final riff, wide-open drums and a vocal taking flight overtop — makes it clear that if the band are interested in climbing mountains, they’re still looking for higher ones to take on. That is to say, as much as Olympus Mons distinguishes them in style and purpose, as well as songwriting, it does not sound like the work of a group who have no interest in pushing further. A third album is a crucial moment for a band, and as their second, Olympus Mons not only satisfies in its own right, but holds promise for the next steps of their creative pilgrimage still to come. Immersive and progressive, engaging genre but not beholden to it, and clear in its mission, Savanah‘s Olympus Mons is an adventure in the listening guided by the steady presence of its makers.

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Mothers of the Land Stream Live at Deer in the Headlights Studio Session in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on February 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

mothers of the land session

Austrian double-guitar instrumentalists Mothers of the Land found themselves in what will by now be a familiar pickle circa last summer. They had their sophomore full-length, Hunting Grounds (review here), set to release on June 19, and there was of course no way to make a release gig or any others supporting it happen. They did what a lot of those in similar situations did — they went into a studio and recorded themselves playing live. You’ve heard this story before? Good. Like I said, it should be familiar by now.

That doesn’t however, change just how much 2020 absolutely blew ass for bands, big and small. Consider a group like Mothers of the Land. Their debut album, Temple Without Walls, came out in 2016, and got a favorable response. So the entire planet shuts down just as you’re putting together the follow-up for release, and what the hell do you do? Shows are out, but do you even bother issuing the album? Should you wait, and until when? Facing the situation of not knowing when the pandemic was going to end, Mothers of the Land — like many others — put out their record. mothers of the land live at deer in the headlightsAnd to listen to Hunting Grounds, its heavy NWOBHM-inspired grooves are delivered with an energy that deserves to be heard.

But putting the album out could only replace one frustration with another, because you can’t go and put it in a crowd’s ears directly anymore. Here we are, going on eight months later, and Live at Deer in the Headlights Studio, which brings three songs from Hunting Grounds and one from its predecessor, is being issued, not to take the place of live shows — how could it? — but at least to give some representation of the band’s dynamic in that setting. As “Queen of the Den” flows into the guitarmonized unfolding of “Harvest,” the nobility of their intent is plain to hear and their melodies engage with a spirit of triumph through adversity. If you can relate to such a thing, chances are you’re a human being and alive.

“Nightwalk Blues” is the only cut included from Temple Without Walls and it soars in classic form, giving way to “Showdown,” which capped Hunting Grounds, as if to bring to emphasis the progression the years between the two LPs brought forth in their dynamic and style. Fret not, there’s still plenty of groove to go around, and go around it does.

Live at Deer in the Headlights Studio was recorded by Markus Matzinger (who also mixed) and Paul Bacher. You’ll find it streaming in full below, followed by the story as told by the band.

Please enjoy:

„Live Session at Deer In The Headlights Studios 2020“
We had a new album coming in mid June and there was no chance to play any shows to promote „Hunting Grounds“ due to the lockdown measures in Austria. So we did what we thought would be the closest thing to a live show – a live session.

“Deer In The Headlights Studio” has a tradition to do live sessions and have an amazing team of sound engineers. They told us we could only do three songs, but luckily we could convince them to add another one, since one of them was so short – like just three minutes or so.. The only criterium for choosing the songs was the amount of fun we have playing them – we hope you enjoy it as much as we did and still do!

The recording took place at “Deer In The Headlights Studios” Linz, Austria on May 30, 2020.
Engineering: Markus Matzinger and Paul Bacher
Mix: Markus Matzinger

Tracklisting:
1. Queen of the Den 05:04
2. Harvest 03:48
3. Nightwalk Blues 05:11
4. Showdown 09:17

Mothers Of The Land:
Georg Pluschkowitz (guitar)
Jack Jindra (guitar)
Johannes ‘Jon’ Zeininger (bass)
Jakob Haug (drums)

Mothers of the Land, Harvest (2020)

Mothers of the Land website

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Swanmay Premiere ‘Live Session’ Video; New LP Later This Year

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

swanmay

This Friday, Jan. 29, Linz, Austria’s Swanmay will release the three-songer Live Session EP. It is a follow-up to 2017’s debut long-player, Stoner Circus (review here), and as the title hints, they recorded it live, audio and video. The clip, which runs 17:33 total, finds the three-piece playing facing the camera as though on a stage, in an attic-looking room with fabric on the wall, a Tibetan flag on one side, tapestry behind, a setlist on the other, some soft lights and a not-necessarily-minor fortune’s worth of amplifiers and cabinets behind them. Spelled out in tape behind guitarist/vocalist Patrick Àlvaro — joined by bassist/backing vocalist Chri Zao and drummer Niklas Lueger — is the word “ciao,” with an upside-down star on the cab underneath. Ciao indeed, gentlemen.

The idea behind Live Session is to bridge between the first Swanmay album four years ago and the second to come sometime later in 2021. The first record is represented by “Lake on Fire,” which closes out this short set, while the prior “Stone Cold” and “Old Trails” are new. The opener rolls out at an immediately fluid pace, a midtempo push that picks up as the chorus departs from the verse, warmth abounding in the fuzzy guitar and bass tones. Live though it is, Live Session is nonetheless well mixed, and though one gets a sense of how the band might sound on stage with the brooding vocals and desert-style crash, it doesn’t sound as raw as the prospect of band-videoing-themselves-in-what-might-be-their-rehearsal-space implies. “Old Trails” is shorter, with more initial tension in the lead riff, and moves toward a righteously heavy payoff — dig that bass — in its second half, giving hints all the while of airier notions of guitar before the sudden stop leads Swanmay to the familiar “Lake on Fire” from the first LP.

You know, the band did actually play the Austrian festival, Lake on Fire, in 2017, after the record came out, and the song’s lyrics could easily be read as a theme for that event, which takes place outdoors and sets up a stage over the water lakeside at Waldhausen im Strudengau — making, if nothing else, for a slew of idyllic pictures and videos. It’s a catchy hook either way and serves well to wrap the set here with a nod toward better times for those who know what they’re talking about. Which, if it didn’t before, includes you now, so right on.

Whatever the release plan for Swanmay‘s sophomore outing might be, it’s yet to be announced, but they lock in a groove for Live Session and don’t let it go, and the varying sides they show in the two new songs bode well for what’s coming whenever it might actually show up. Band rockin’? That’s good enough for me, let’s do it.

Clip follows here. Enjoy:

Swanmay, Live Session Official Video Premiere

SWANMAY is back, ready to set your ears on fire again!

Since releasing their critically acclaimed full length STONER CIRCUS in 2017, SWANMAY kept themselves busy, playing festivals and shows all over Europe. After a few (virus-related) months of silence, the fuzzheads are back in a new formation, with a new record in tow.

To shorten the waiting time for the new album, they recorded a live-session in their doomy rehearsal room containing three songs, two of them brand new.

Stay tuned for the release later this year!

Tracklisting:
1. Stone Cold
2. Old Trails
3. Lake On Fire

all songs written & played by Swanmay
recorded & mastered by Dario Köstinger & Mastered by DK
mixed by Niklas Lueger
filmed by Fabi Krenn

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Quarterly Review: Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, Spaceslug, Malsten, Sun Crow, Honeybadger, Monte Luna, Hombrehumano, Veljet, Witchrider, Devil Worshipper

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

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

New week, same Quarterly Review. Today is the next-to-last round for this time, though once again, I look at the folders of albums on my desktop and the CDs and LPs that have come in and I realize it could easily go longer. I never really caught up from the last QR. I guess it’s been that kind of year. In any case, more good stuff today, so sit tight and enjoy. If you didn’t find anything last week that stuck out to you, maybe today’s your day.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full

emma ruth rundle thou may our chambers be full

Sure, there’s poise and plunder amid torrents of emotion and weighted tonality, but what’s really astonishing about May Our Chambers Be Full, the first collaboration between Louisville’s Emma Ruth Rundle (Red Sparowes‘ third LP, the Nocturnes, Marriages, etc.) and New Orleans’ sludgers Thou is that it feels so much more substantial than its 36 minutes. That’s not to say it drags, though it does when it wants to in terms of tempo, but just that its impact both in songs where Rundle and Thou‘s Bryan Funck trade off like “Ancestral Recall” or when they come together as on opener “Killing Floor” is such that it feels longer. Atmosphere is certainly a factor, but May Our Chambers Be Full is so striking because of its blend of extremity and melody, emotion and sheer catharsis, and the breadth that seems to accompany its consuming crush. In a couple years, there are going to be an awful lot of bands putting out debut albums that sound very much like this. Follow-up EP out soon.

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Thou on Instagram

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Spaceslug, Leftovers

spaceslug leftovers

Produced by the band and Piotr Grzegorowski — who also guests on synth and guitar — during the plague-addled Spring of 2020, Spaceslug‘s Leftovers EP represents a branching out in terms of style to incorporate a sense of melancholy alongside their established sprawling psychedelics. The 21-minute five-tracker is less a follow-up to 2019’s Reign of the Orion (review here) than a standalone sidestep, but in the acoustic/synth rollout of “From Behind the Glass” and in the especially-stripped-down-feeling centerpiece “The Birds are Loudest in May” it lives up to the challenge of blending an organic atmosphere with the otherworldly sensibilities Spaceslug have honed so well throughout their tenure. Having started with its longest and synthiest track in “Wasted Illusion,” Leftovers caps with the shorter and more active “Place to Turn” and its title-track, which adds a spindly layer of electric guitar (or something that sounds like it) for an experimentalist vibe. Very 2020, but no less welcome for that. The question is whether these impulses show up in Spaceslug‘s work from here on out, and if so, how.

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Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill

malsten The Haunting of Silvakra Mill

Malmö-based four-piece Malsten make their full-length debut on Interstellar Smoke Records with the four-song/44-minute The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill, and in so doing show an immediate command of post-Pallbearer spaciousness and melodic-doom traditionalism. Their lumber is prevalent and engrossing tonally on opener “Torsion” (10:36), uses silence effectively on “Immolation” (10:24), and seems to find a place between Warning and Lord Vicar on “Grinder” (9:02) ahead of the epic-on-top-of-epics summary in closer “Compunction” (13:54), which finds Malsten having reserved another level of heavy to keep as their final statement. So be it. Very heavy and worthy of as much volume as you can give it, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill is an accomplished beginning and heralds significant potential on the part of what’s to come from Malsten. I’d watch this band do a live stream playing this record front-to-back. Just saying.

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Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion

Sun Crow Quest for Oblivion

A significant undertaking of progressive heavy and noise rock, Sun Crow‘s Quest for Oblivion is among the most ambitious debut albums I’ve heard in 2020, but there’s nothing it sets for itself in terms of goals that it doesn’t accomplish, as vocalist Charles Wilson flips between clean melodies and effective screams atop the riffs of guitarist Ben Nechanicky, the bass of Brian Steel and Keith Hastreiter‘s drums. Somebody’s gonna sign these guys. Even at 70 minutes, Quest for Oblivion, from its post-apocalyptic standpoint, aesthetic cohesion, fluid songcraft and accomplished performance, is simply too good to leave without a proper 2LP release. Individualized in atmosphere though working with familiar-enough elements, it is an album that makes it joyously difficult to pick apart influences, unleashing an initial burst of four longer tracks before giving way (albeit momentarily) to “Fear” and the outlying, brazenly Motörheady “Nothing Behind” before returning to cosmic heavy in “Hypersonic” and the 11-minute “Titans,” which uses its time just as well as everything else that surrounds. Ironic that a record that seems to be about a wasteland should bring so much hope for the future.

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Honeybadger, Pleasure Delayer

honeybadger pleasure delayer

It doesn’t take Honeybadger long to land their first effective punch on their debut LP, Pleasure Delayer, as the hook of opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Wolf” hits square on the jaw and precedes an atmospheric guitar outro that leads into the rest of the album as a closer might otherwise lead the way out. A product of Athens’ heavy rock boom, the four-piece distinguish themselves in fuzzy tones and an approach that comes right to the edge of burl and doesn’t quite tip over, thankfully and gracefully staving off chestbeating in favor of quality songcraft on “The Well” and the engagingly bass-led “Crazy Ride,” from which the initially slower, bluesier “Good for Nothing” picks up with some Truckfighters, some 1000mods and a whole lot of fun. Side B’s hooks are no less satisfyingly straightforward. “That Feel” feels born for the stage, while “Laura Palmer” makes a memorable chorus out of that Twin Peaks character’s slaying, the penultimate “Holler” feels indeed like the work of a band trying to stand themselves out from a crowded pack and “Truth in the Lie” caps mirroring the energy of “Good for Nothing” but resounding in a cold finish. Efficient, hooky, smoothly executed. There’s nothing one might reasonably ask of Pleasure Delayer that it doesn’t deliver.

Honeybadger on Thee Facebooks

Honeybadger on Bandcamp

 

Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast

monte luna mind control broadcast

Released name-your-price as a benefit for the venue The Lost Well in Monte Luna‘s hometown of Austin and derived from a CvltNation-sponsored livestream, the three-song Mind Control Broadcast follows 2019’s Drowners’ Wives (review here) and is intended as a glimpse at their impending third LP, likely due in 2021. That record will be one to look forward to, but it’ll be hard to trade out the raw bludgeon of “Blackstar” — the leadoff here — for another, maybe-not-live-recorded version. True, the setting doesn’t necessarily allow for the band to bring in guests like they did last time around or to flesh out melodies in the same way, but the sound is brash and thrilling and lets “Rust Goliath” live up to its name in largesse, while saving its nastiest for last in “Fear the Sun,” the glorious bassline of which it feels like a spoiler even mentioning for someone who hasn’t heard it yet. 22 of the sludgiest minutes you’re likely to spend today.

Monte Luna on Thee Facebooks

Monte Luna BigCartel store

 

Hombrehumano, Crepuscular

hombrehumano crepuscular

As satisfying as the laid-back-heavy desert rock flow of “Rolito” is, and as well done as what surrounds on Hombrehumano‘s 2019 debut album, Crepuscular, turns out to be in its 53-minute run, it’s in the longer pieces like the Western “Puerto Gris” or the post-Brant Bjork “Metamorfosis” that they really shine. That’s not to take away from the opening instrumental “Nomada” that establishes the tones and sets the atmosphere in which the rest of the record takes place, or the nod of “Primaveras de Olvido,” and certainly the fuzz-boogie and percussion of “Ouroboro” shine in a manner worthy of being depicted on the cover, but the Argentinian four-piece do well with the extra time to flesh out their material. But, either way you go, you go. Hombrehumano craft sweet fuzz and spaciousness on “Puerto Gris” and answer it back later in “Zombakice” and add twists of percussion and acoustics and vocal effects — never mind the birdsong — on closer “Del Ensueño.” Es un ejemplo más de lo que le falta a la cultura gringo al no adorar fuertemente a los sudamericanos.

Hombrehumano on Thee Facebooks

Hombrehumano on Bandcamp

 

Veljet, Viva El Diablo

veljet viva el diablo

Even my non-Spanish-speaking ass can translate Viva el Diablo, the title of Mexican instrumentalist three-piece Veljet‘s debut album. Initially released by the band in March 2020, it was subsequently reissued for physical pressing with a seventh track, “Leviatan,” added, bringing the runtime to a vinyl-ready 37 minutes. The apparently-devil-worshiping title-cut is still the longest at a doomly eight minutes, but though the production is fairly raw, Veljet‘s material taps into a few different impulses within the heavy rock sphere, offsetting willfully repetitive riffing in “El Día de las Manos” with scorching solo work while “Jay Adams” — presumably named in homage to the Dogtown skater — pulls some trad-metal riffing into its second half. “Cutlass” is short at 2:36, but makes the record as a whole feel less predictable for that, and the add-on “Leviatan” embodies its great sea beast with a nod up front that opens to later cacophony. The vibe throughout is you’re-in-the-room live jams, and Veljet have well enough chemistry to carry the songs across in that setting.

Veljet on Thee Facebooks

The Swamp Records website

 

Witchrider, Electrical Storm

witchrider electrical storm

Smoothly produced and executed, not lacking energy but produced for a very studio-style fullness, Witchrider‘s second LP arrives via Fuzzorama Records in answer to 2014’s Unmountable Stairs with a pro-shop feel for its 50-minute duration. Songs are sharply hooked and energetic, beefing up Queens of the Stone Age-style desert rock early on “Shadows” and “You Lied” before the guitars introduce a broader palette with the title-track. The chorus of “Mess Creator” and the big finish in closer “The Weatherman” are highlights, but songs like “Keep Me out of It” and “Come Back” feel built for a commercial infrastructure that — at least in radio-free America — doesn’t exist anymore. I’m not sure what it takes to attract the attention of picky algorithms, but if it’s grounded songwriting, varied material and crisp performance like it was when there was a cable channel playing music videos, then Witchrider are ready to roll. As it stands, the Austrian outfit seem underserved by the inability to even get on a festival stage and play this material live to win converts in that manner. They’re hardly alone in that, but with material that seems so poised specifically toward audience engagement, it comes through all the more, which of course is a testament to the quality of the work itself.

Witchrider on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records website

 

Devil Worshipper, 3

devil worshipper 3

Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 10-minute “Silver Dagger” and presented with the burning red eyes of Christopher Lee’s Dracula on the front, the 33-minute 3 tape from Seattle’s Devil Worshipper maintains the weirdo-experimental spirit of the outfit’s 2015 self-titled debut (review here), finding a kind of Butthole Surfers-into-a-cassette-recorder, anything-goes-until-it-sucks, dark ’90s psychedelia they call “garage metal.” Fair enough. Apparently more efficient than anything I can come up with for it, though what doesn’t necessarily account for is the way the 3 challenges the listener, the remastered versions of “Into Radiation Wave” and “Chem Rails” from the first album, or the horror atmospherics of “Drinking Blood.” It’s like it’s too weird for this planet so it finally made one for itself. Well earned.

Devil Worshipper on Thee Facebooks

Puppy Mill Recordings on Bandcamp

 

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Mothers of the Land Stream Hunting Grounds in Full; Out Tomorrow on StoneFree Records

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mothers of the land

Vienna-based instrumentalists Mothers of the Land will release their second album, Hunting Grounds, tomorrow through StoneFree Records. The vinyl arrives as the follow-up to their 2016 debut, Temple Without Walls, and brings six tracks across 37 minutes of dual-guitar-led heavy rock and roll, mostly straightforward particularly in its early going until it gets to the longer pair of cuts across side B in the two eight-minute tracks “Sanctuary” and “Showdown.” Even there, however, there’s little by way of pretense or masking of intention, and one finds likeness to what might happen if Karma to Burn had at some point joined forces with Valkyrie, though whether it’s the lead-in given to the record by opener “Harvest” or the swaggering title-track that takes hold from there, the material contains a good bit of NWOBHM influence as well, more Iron Maiden gallop and Priestly chug than Thin Lizzy swing, despite the decided foundation in classic heavy rock.

There are a number of general modes in which an instrumental act might operate, and as one might expect with the two guitars of Jack Jindra and Georg Pluschkowitz as forward in the sound as they are ahead of Johannes Zeininger‘s bass and Jakob Haug‘s drums, the method of choice for Mothers of the Land is to fill the space where vocals would otherwise be with leads and standout riffs. No complaints there, as “The Beast” shows them all the more able to twist around dynamic changes in volume and mothers of the land hunting groundsmeter and melody without having to adhere to the inherent structure of lyrics. At the same time, each of these songs is working according to a plan, and where so much of the current instrumental heavy wave is based around jamming and improvisation — especially but not exclusively throughout Europe — Mothers of the Land go another way and instead make a showcase of their craft, so that when “The Beast” returns to its central progression to finish out, the listener is able to follow along with the change and internalize it as all the more memorable.

Hunting Grounds is traditionalist enough to be readily familiar to heavy rock heads who might take it on, but it’s not at all void of personality, and the stomp and strut of “Queen of the Den” gives a fittingly regal impression as though to underscore the point, with the bass jutting out from beneath the winding guitars punctuated by the snare and crash in a build of tension that settles into more harmonized leads acting in a semi-chorus fashion. At just under four and a half minutes, “Queen of the Den” makes a relatively quick impression and then ends quietly in a shift to the soft and relatively patient start of “Sanctuary,” which takes hold with a more linear feel in its construction, not just enacting a build from quiet to loud necessarily, but using that as part of a greater expressive ideal. “Showdown” might be titled for the battling solo lines that take place as and after it passes the midpoint, but whether it’s that or there’s some other narrative at work across Hunting Grounds, the central purpose in summarizing what’s come before and expanding on it comes through with no less clarity than the notes themselves.

The upfront nature of their style might give one a superficial first impression of what Mothers of the Land are doing on their second album, and to a point, it’s hard to argue with that. It’s double-guitar instrumentalist heavy rock — not reinventing the form, but making it their own. Fine. But subsequent listens unveil changes and shifts in mood and/or approach that do affect a sense of atmosphere that, while straightforward, seems to be working toward finding its own place within the established aesthetic grounds it occupies. Ultimately, for the minute indulgence asked on the part of the band, the reward is plenty substantial.

You can hear for yourself with the full premiere of Hunting Grounds below, ahead of the release tomorrow.

Please enjoy:

Mothers of the Land, Hunting Grounds official premiere

Riff-Smiths “Mothers of the Land” are an instrumental Heavy Psych Rock band from Vienna, Austria founded in 2012. Known for crafting powerful vintage rock epics, centered around the spiraling psychedelia of their twin lead guitars. In June 2016, they released their live recorded DIY Debut-Album ‚Temple Without Walls‘ and gained a great international reception from listeners, artists and bloggers, resulting in fruitful collaborations around the globe.

Introducing a new era of 70‘s inspired Rock, they deliver heavy twin guitars mounted on a protometal body, rejuvenated by numerous influences reaching from NWOBHM to Stoner Rock. Having played dozens of concerts with international headliner acts like Asteroid, Elder or Red Fang, the band provides powerful performances that lure in the audiences deeply through the surreal worlds they create.

All those experiences were used to forge the new material, which finally formed their second album. “Hunting Grounds” will be released physical and digital via StoneFree Records on June 19th pressed by the state of the art pressing plant “Austrovinyl”.

Recorded and Mixed by Nino Del Carlo
Mastering by Lukas Wiltschko at LW Sonics

Members
Georg Pluschkowitz (Guitar)
Jack Jindra (Guitar)
Johannes Zeininger (Bass)
Jakob Haug (Drums)

Mothers of the Land on Bandcamp

Mothers of the Land on Thee Facebooks

Mothers of the Land on Instagram

Mothers of the Land website

StoneFree Records on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

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Weddings Release Debut Album Haunt This Week; Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

weddings

Fair enough for the Vienna-based three-piece Weddings calling their first album Haunt, since they’ve pretty obviously named it after the atmosphere they’re shooting for. The trio have already posted the record for streaming, and you’ll find that below, but they’ll also have vinyl out with a slightly different version of the cover at the end of the week through StoneFree Records, which is also behind the CD pressing for those of you (I think it’s me and Jose Humberto, probably one or two others) who still like discs in compact form. Any format you go with, the spaciousness comes across as a key component of what Weddings do, and to read that the band members’ origins go back to Spain, Canada and Sweden is fascinating. Wonder how they all wound up in Austria in the first place.

They’ve got a few dates in Austria and Germany lined up, and you’ll see those here courtesy of their Bandcamp, along with some background and the release info.

Dig it:

weddings haunt

Weddings – Haunt – StoneFree Records

Weddings is an explosive and moody rock power trio indebted in equal parts to grunge, desert rock, psych rock, punk and doom. The brainchild of Canadian Jay Brown (Vocals/Guitars), Spaniard Elena Rodriguez (Vocals/ Drums) and Swede Phil Nordling (Bass), the band was created in 2017 after the 3 met while living in Salzburg, Austria.

The band member’s cultural differences helped to forge and fuel Weddings’ uniqueness. Brown’s upbringing on the prairies of Canada, Rodriguez’ childhood in southern Spain and Nordling’s experiences in Gothenburg, Sweden have contributed an impressive diversity to the distinctive songs. A mutual love of bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Monster Magnet and Alice in Chains helped to unify their creative direction – one that takes many left turns away from conventional rock trappings, while in pursuit of fearless creativity.

Their first single Labyrinth showcases all of their strengths – male/female vocal harmonies, powerful riffs, propulsive bass and pounding drums.

Getting caught in this maze of mesmerizing chord structures and tempo changes is equally adrenalizing and haunting. A fitting lead off for the band’s upcoming debut album entitled Haunt released digitally on Bandcamp February 20th, 2020. Vinyl and CDs available Feb. 28th on StoneFree Records.

Weddings signed with Austria’s respected rock label StoneFree in early 2020. Their album release tour will take them through Austria and Germany in Feb/March opening for heavy-hitters like Swan Valley Heights, Great Rift and Vodun.

They’ll perform almost anywhere.. except weddings.

Tracklisting:
1. Pyramids 03:20
2. Acid Heart 02:58
3. Labyrinth 04:10
4. Broken Bones 04:10
5. Trail of Blood 03:56
6. I Can’t Say No To You Anyway 04:31
7. Laughing Our Way To The Grave 04:04
8. Hidden Message 04:18

Weddings live:
Feb 28 Rockhouse Salzburg, Austria
Feb 29 Kramladen Vienna, Austria
Mar 02 Sixty Twenty Innsbruck, Austria
Mar 03 Kulturlounge Leipzig, Germany
Mar 04 Goldener Salon Hamburg, Germany
Mar 06 Tief Berlin, Germany

http://www.facebook.com/weddingstherockband
https://www.instagram.com/weddingstherockband
https://weddingstherockband.bandcamp.com/
http://www.weddingstherockband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/stonefree.co.at/
http://www.stonefree.co.at/

Weddings, Haunt (2020)

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Pastor Sign to Cursed Tongue for Unveil Vinyl Release May 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

pastor

What, you thought just because they’re not a band anymore that might stop a vinyl release? Oh no, no, no, my friends. Because while the members of Vienna classic-style proto-metal-tinged heavy rockers Pastor may have already moved onto new bands like Ryte, Mothers of the Land, White Scorpion, Avalanche and Galactic Pot Healer, they did so by posting their second and final album, Unveil, on Bandcamp like it wasn’t no thing. Except it was a thing. It was a cool record. And cool records get vinyl releases on Cursed Tongue. That’s just the way of life.

So don’t expect to see Pastor anytime soon on a bunch of festival lineups or think there’s a long list of tour dates coming, because really what the May 8 vinyl issue of Unveil is doing is serving as a proper sendoff and a thanks-for-kicking-ass-while-you-did to the four-piece, who released their 2015 debut album, Evoke (review here) and prior 2014 single, Wayfaring Stranger/The Oath (review here), on Who Can You Trust? Records, earning kudos all the while for their combined manner of boogie and shred. Whether or not the band end up doing anything else at any point down the line, I don’t think you can listen to Unveil and not agree it earns its platter.

Preorders start April 3, as the label informs:

pastor unveil

HEAVY PSYCH RIFF ROCKERS PASTOR SIGN TO CURSED TONGUE RECORDS FOR A GLOBAL VINYL RELEASE OF THEIR NEW ALBUM ‘UNVEIL’ MAY 8 2020

Cursed Tongue Records is very happy to announce the signing of Vienna, AU based riff-4some Pastor and look forward to release their sophomore and (potentially last) album entitled ‘Unveil’ premium vinyl. Pastor has yet again created an energetic, engaging and riff-heavy psych rock album full of heft and groove. ‘Unveil’ will kick your face in, knock you over, shred your skin to pieces, melt your brain and crush your skull to powder and all that will be left is your burned skin, shattered bones and knackered grinning skull.

Pastor is no new acquaintance to Cursed Tongue Records, as we have known about this band since their brilliant debut album ‘Evoke’ was released some 4+ years ago. So, when news about the digital release of a sophomore album pierced our radar, there was no hesitation and the quest for a vinyl release of this new album quickly formed in the deep dungeons at CTR headquarters. It didn’t take long for band and label to reach a common understanding that the world needed this album on the paramount medium and we quickly engaged in a plot to unveil the new album on vinyl.

The plot thickens, the plans solidify, and come May 8 2020 ‘Unveil’ will hit doom street and the Heavy Underground can rejoice in the heavy riffage that’s about to commence. Pre-orders for vinyl will run one months prior with a launch date scheduled for April 3rd 2020.

ALBUM BACKGROUND

‘Unveil’ is Pastor second album following a successful debut album entitled ‘Evoke’ released via Austrian label Who can you trust? Records in 2015. The band has the following insight to the story behind the creation of the follow-up album ‘Unveil’:
“So after our first record ‘Evoke’ was released we started gathering some songs. We did a couple weekenders here and there and ended up being on tour for a couple of weeks. During that time our tunes got slightly darker and more psych and we wanted to write songs reflecting the heavier side of our influences. It seemed we were going the direction we wanted to in the first place. “Unveil” documents this process very well, as we find.

In July 2017 we ended up again in lower Austria, where our first 7” was done and recorded there again. Bazoka Jürxn, who was our man of choice this time, captured perfectly what we wanted. Lots of beers were slammed and this time recording was way more of a party than a studio experience. We guess it was just because we knew what to expect and what we exactly wanted.

After the record was done we sort of mellowed out for a while. We started some new bands and Pastor kind of went on hiatus. The songs didn’t come naturally and we called it an end before writing stuff we couldn’t really identify with anymore. Our time was just up. We wanted to release “Unveil” somewhere, somehow and so we ended up putting it on Bandcamp. From there the good people from Cursed Tongue Records got aware of us and our last album and Niels was crazy enough to engage in releasing a record by a band that just split up.

We are more than happy that our last release is finding its way on vinyl, which was the way we wanted it to be right off the bat! So, sit back, grab a beverage of your preference and enjoy our last jams as Pastor called ‘Unveil’ Pastor was arik, shardik, alex & georg.”

Pastor might be done as a band (for now) in its current constellation, but the music lives on and we in Cursed Tongue Records firmly believe that music of this order demands a vinyl release no matter the situation – and we are pretty convinced that you, after having listened to ‘Unveil’, will testify to this as well! So in that in that we spirit we say: “For those about to riff, we salute you”!

https://www.facebook.com/pastorshreds/
https://www.instagram.com/pastorshreds/
https://pastor.bandcamp.com/
http://cursedtonguerecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CursedTongueRecords/

Pastor, Unveil (2019)

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