Quarterly Review: Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Black Lung, Giant Dwarf, Land Mammal, Skunk, Silver Devil, Sky Burial, Wizzerd, Ian Blurton, Cosmic Fall

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Got my laptop back. Turned out the guy had to give me a new hard drive entirely, clone all my data on it, and scrap the other drive. I’m sure if I took it to another technician they’d have said something completely different, either for better or worse, but it was $165 and I got my computer back, working, in a day, so I can’t really complain. Worth the money, obviously, even though it was $40 more than the estimate. I assume that was a mix of “new hard drive” and “this is the last thing I’m doing before a four-day weekend.” Either way, totally legit. Bit of stress on my part, but what’s a Quarterly Review without it?

This ends the week, but there’s still one more batch of 10 reviews to go on Monday, so I won’t delay further, except to say more to come.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo

elizabeth colour wheel nocebo

A rare level of triumph for a first album, Elizabeth Colour Wheel‘s aesthetic scope and patience of craft on Nocebo result in a genre-spanning post-noise rock that maintains an atmospheric heft whether loud or quiet at any given moment, and a sense of unpredictability that feels born out of a genuinely forward-thinking songwriting process. It is dark, emotionally resonant, beautiful and crushing across its eight songs and 47 minutes, as the Philadelphia five-piece ebb and flow instrumentally behind a standout vocal performance that reminds of Julie Christmas circa Battle of Mice on “Life of a Flower” but is ultimately more controlled and all the more lethal for that. Bouts of extremity pop up at unexpected times and the songs flow into each other so as to make all of Nocebo feel like a single, multi-hued work, which it just might be as it moves into ambience between “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” and “Bedrest” before exploding to life again in “34th” and transitioning directly into the cacophonous apex that comes with closer “Head Home.” One of the best debuts of 2019, if not the best.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser on Bandcamp

 

Black Lung, Ancients

black lung ancients

Ancients is the third full-length from Baltimore’s Black Lung, whose heavy blues rock takes a moodier approach from the outset of “Mother of the Sun” onward, following an organ-led roll in that opener that calls to mind All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door and following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here) with an even firmer grasp on their overarching intent. The title-track is shorter at 3:10 and offers some post-rock flourish in the guitar amid its otherwise straight-ahead push, but there’s a tonal depth to add atmosphere to whatever moves they’re making at the time, “The Seeker” and “Voices” rounding out side A with relatively grounded swing and traditionalist shuffle but still catching attention through pace and presentation alike. That holds true as “Gone” drifts into psychedelic jamming at the start of side B, and the chunkier “Badlands,” the dramatic “Vultures” and the controlled wash of “Dead Man Blues” take the listener into some unnamed desert without a map or exit strategy. It’s a pleasure to get lost as Ancients plays through, and Black Lung remain a well-kept secret of the East Coast underground.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Noisolution website

 

Giant Dwarf, Giant Dwarf

Giant Dwarf Giant Dwarf

This just fucking rules, and I feel no need to couch my critique in any more flowery language than that. Driving, fuzzy heavy rock topped with post-Homme melodies that doesn’t sacrifice impact for attitude, the self-released, self-titled debut from Perth, Australia’s Giant Dwarf is a sans-pretense 35 minutes of groove done right. They may be playing to genre, fine, but from the cover art on down, they’re doing so with a sense of personality and a readiness to bring an individual sensibility to their sound. I dig it. Summery tones, rampant vocal melodies in layers, solid rhythmic foundation beneath. The fact that it’s the five-piece’s first album makes me look less for some kind of stylistic nuance, but it’s there to be heard anyway in “Disco Void” and the bouncing end of “High Tide Blues,” and in surrounding cuts like “Repeat After Defeat” and “Strange Wool,” Giant Dwarf set to the task before them with due vitality, imagining Songs for the Deaf with Fu Manchu tonality in “Kepler.” No big surprise, but yeah, it definitely works. Someone should be beating down the door to sign this band.

Giant Dwarf on Thee Facebooks

Giant Dwarf on Bandcamp

 

Land Mammal, Land Mammal

land mammal land mammal

Land Mammal‘s debut outing is a 14-minute, proof-of-concept four-songer EP with clarity of presentation and telegraphed intent. Marked out by the Robert Plant-style vocal heroics of Kinsley August, the band makes the most of a bluesy atmosphere behind him, with Will Weise on wah-ready guitar, Phillip PJ Soapsmith on bass, Stephen Smith on drums and True Turner on keys. On opener “Dark with Rain” and closer “Better Days,” they find a pastoral vibe that draws from ’90s alternative, thinking Blind Melon particularly in the finale, but “Earth Made Free” takes a bluesier angle and “Drippin’ Slow” is not shy about nor ashamed of its danceability, as its lyrics demonstrate. For all the crispness of the production, Land Mammal still manage to sound relatively natural, which is all the more encouraging in terms of moving forward, but it’ll be interesting to hear how they flesh out their sound over the course of a full-length, since even as an EP, this self-titled is short. They have songwriting, performance and production on their side, however, so something tells me they’ll be just fine.

Land Mammal on Thee Facebooks

Land Mammal on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Strange Vibration

skunk strange vibration

Even before they get to the ultra-“N.I.B.” patterning of second track “Stand in the Sun,” Skunk‘s Sabbathian loyalties are well established, and they continue on that line, through the “War Pigs”-ness of “Goblin Orgy” (though I’ll give them bonus points for that title), and the slower “A National Acrobat” roll of “The Black Crown,” and while that’s not the only influence under which Skunk are working — clearly — it’s arguably the most forward. They’ve been on a traditional path since 2015’s mission-statement EP, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here), and as Strange Vibration is their second album behind 2017’s Doubleblind (review here), they’ve only come more into focus in terms of what they’re doing overall. They throw a bit of swagger into “Evil Eye Gone Blind” and “Star Power” toward the end of the record — more Blackmore or Leslie West than Iommi — but keep the hooks center through it all, and cap with a welcome bit of layered melody on “The Cobra’s Kiss.” Based in Oakland, they don’t quite fit in with the Californian boogie scene to the south, but standing out only seems to suit Strange Vibration all the more.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

Silver Devil, Paralyzed

Silver Devil Paralyzed

Like countrymen outfits in Vokonis or to a somewhat lesser degree Cities of Mars, Gävle-based riffers Silver Devil tap into Sleep as a core influence and work outward from there. In the case of their second album, Paralyzed (on Ozium Records), they work far out indeed, bringing a sonic largesse to bear through plus-sized tonality and distorted vocals casting echoes across a wide chasm of the mix. “Rivers” or the later, slower-rolling “Octopus” rightfully present this as an individual take, and it ends up being that one way or the other, with the atmosphere becoming essential to the character of the material. There are some driving moments that call to mind later Dozer — or newer Greenleaf, if you prefer — such as the centerpiece “No Man Traveller,” but the periodic bouts of post-rock bring complexity to that assessment as well, though in the face of the galloping crescendo of “The Grand Trick,” complexity is a secondary concern to the outright righteousness with which Silver Devil take familiar elements and reshape them into something that sounds fresh and engaging. That’s basically the story of the whole record, come to think of it.

Silver Devil on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records website

 

Sky Burial, Sokushinbutsu

sky burial Sokushinbutsu

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/engineer Vessel 2 and drummer/vocalist Vessel 1 (also ex-Mühr), Sky Burial release their debut EP, Sokushinbutsu, through Break Free Records, and with it issue two songs of densely-weighted riff and crash, captured raw and live-sounding with an edge of visceral sludge thanks to the harsh vocals laid overtop. The prevailing spirit is as much doom as it is crust throughout “Return to Sender” (8:53) and the 10:38 title-track — the word translating from Japanese to “instant Buddha” — and as “Sokushinbutsu” kicks the tempo of the leadoff into higher gear, the release becomes a wash of blown-out tone with shouts cutting through that’s very obviously meant to be as brutal as it absolutely is. They slow down eventually, then slow down more, then slow down more — you see where this is going — until eventually the feedback seems to consume them and everything else, and the low rumble of guitar gives way to noise and biting vocalizations. As beginnings go, Sokushinbutsu is willfully wretched and animalistic, a manifested sonic nihilism that immediately stinks of death.

Sky Burial on Thee Facebooks

Break Free Records on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd, Wizzerd

wizzerd st

One finds Montana’s Wizzerd born of a similar Upper Midwestern next-gen take on classic heavy as that of acts like Bison Machine and Midas. Their Cursed Tongue Records-delivered self-titled debut album gives a strong showing of this foundation, less boogie-based than some, with just an edge of heavy metal to the riffing and vocals that seems to derive not directly from doom, but definitely from some ’80s metal stylizations. Coupled with ’70s and ’90s heavy rocks, it’s a readily accessible blend throughout the nine-song/51-minute LP, but a will toward the epic comes through in theme as well as the general mood of the riffs, and even in the drift of “Wizard” that’s apparent. Taken in kind with the fuzzblaster “Wraith,” the winding motion of the eponymous closer and with the lumbering crash of “Warrior” earlier, the five-piece’s sound shows potential to distinguish itself further in the future through taking on fantasy subject matter lyrically as well as playing to wall-sized grooves across the board, even in the speedy first half of “Phoenix,” with its surprising crash into the wall of its own momentum.

Wizzerd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Ian Blurton, Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

The core of Ian Blurton‘s Signals Through the Flames is in tight, sharply-executed heavy rockers like “Seven Bells” and “Days Will Remain,” classic in their root but not overly derivative, smartly and efficiently composed and performed. The Toronto-based Blurton has been making and producing music for over three decades in various guises and incarnations, and with these nine songs, he brings into focus a songcraft that is more than enough to carry song like “Nothing Left to Lose” and opener “Eye of the Needle,” which bookends with the 6:55 “Into Dust,” the closer arriving after a final salvo with the Scorpionic strut of “Kick out the Lights” and the forward-thrust-into-ether of “Night of the Black Goat.” If this was what Ghost had ended up sounding like, I’d have been cool with that. Blurton‘s years of experience surely come into play in this work, a kind of debut under his own name and/or that of Ian Blurton’s Future Now, but the songs come through as fresh regardless and “The March of Mars” grabs attention not with pedigree, but simply by virtue of its own riff, which is exactly how it should be. It’s subtle in its variety, but those willing to give it a repeat listen or two will find even more reward for doing so.

Ian Blurton on Thee Facebooks

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Lackland

Cosmic Fall Lackland

“Lackland” is the first new material Berlin three-piece Cosmic Fall have produced since last year’s In Search of Space (review here) album, which is only surprising given the frequency with which they once jammed out a record every couple of months. The lone 8:32 track is a fitting reminder of the potency in the lineup of guitarist Marcin Morawski, bassist Klaus Friedrich and drummer Daniel Sax, and listening to the Earthless-style shred in Morawski‘s guitar, one hopes it won’t be another year before they come around again. As it stands, they make the eight minutes speed by with volcanic fervor and an improvised sensibility that feels natural despite the song’s ultimately linear trajectory. Could be a one-off, could be a precursor to a new album. I’d prefer the latter, obviously, but I’ll take what I can get, and if that’s “Lackland,” then so be it.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Darsombra to Release New Album Transmission in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The only real surprise here is that Darsombra were at some point off the road long enough to record an album. The Baltimorean experimentalist two-piece tend to tour for months, not days or weeks, at a time, and as they make ready to release Transmission, that seems like it’s not about to change. Their psychedelic noise, drone wash and tonal breadth was last manifest in the studio with 2016’s Polyvision (review here), and they’ve already been to Europe this year, and a US tour is planned to surround Transmission‘s arrival that will likely just be one in a series by the time they’re ready to move forward again. Some groups are just nomadic. I think it’s easier when you don’t have to move drums, though a keyboard and video equipment doesn’t exactly seem easy either.

There’s a teaser streaming for Transmission that you can see at the bottom of this post, as well as the Polyvision stream just because it’s there on Bandcamp and accessible for consumption. Please feel free to dig in.

From the PR wire:

darsombra

DARSOMBRA: Baltimore Psychedelic Duo To Release Transmission LP In August; Trailer Posted + North American Tour Being Booked

Baltimore, Maryland-based psychedelic/experimental duo DARSOMBRA has completed their fifth full-length album, titled Transmission. Following a long line of releases through a vast network of underground labels since 2006, Transmission is being handled entirely by the band to be issued on multiple formats in August, during the band’s latest extensive North American tour surrounding its release.

Uniting Brian Daniloski on guitar, vocals, and effects, and Ann Everton on synthesizer, vocals, gong, and visuals, DARSOMBRA is a transcendental and emotive experience. Live, they create a symbiotic audio-video involvement that creates a temporary reality, woven by sight, sound, and movement. These psychedelic and transcendental characteristics are transferred to record as closely as possible.

Prolifically touring for well over a decade, DARSOMBRA has performed throughout North America, Asia, and Europe, at music venues, dive bars, house shows, galleries, festivals, city ruins, and storage units, as well as their legendary pop-up generator shows at national monuments, or just by the side of the road. Their expansive sound finds them fitting on all kinds of bills. They are equally at home on a metal or psych show as they are on a noise or experimental bill.

Following releases on labels in the US, Germany, Malaysia, and Indonesia, including At A Loss, Public Guilt, Exile On Mainstream, Translation Loss, and Noise Bombing, DARSOMBRA is self-releasing their impending 2019 album, Transmission, on LP, CD, cassette, and digital download in August, while on tour across Canada and the US.

Watch for the Transmission cover art, preorder links for all formats, the massive impending tour itinerary, and much more from DARSOMBRA to be announced and posted in the days ahead and through the coming months.

http://facebook.com/darsombra
https://www.instagram.com/darsombra/
http://www.darsombra.com/

Darsombra, Transmission teaser

Darsombra, Polyvisions (2016)

Tags: , , , ,

Lifetime Shitlist Premiere Title-Track of New Album Bad Blood out Aug. 16

Posted in audiObelisk on June 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lifetime shitlist

Fucked times call for hard riffs. Baltimorean heavy punks Lifetime Shitlist will release their new album, Bad Blood, through Grimoire Records on Aug. 16. Like all of the label’s output, the quick, punch-you-in-the-gut-and-get-out 29-minute long-player was recorded by Noel Mueller. Preorders are up, if that’s your thing. The record is brief and blown out, like a strong current of hardcore punk and noise grown up and developed an affinity for thicker riffing, as songs like the opening title-track and the also-crash-happy “Double Blind” demonstrate, and there’s a balance between those sides as well as one between some of the instrumental subtlety at play and titles like “Proud Boys” and “Everyone Thinks They Will Survive the Apocalypse.” If you’re curious about the political alignment there — the chorus isn’t exactly “fuck proud boys,” and it probably should be, but the song hardly seems on board; I haven’t seen a lyric sheet — and the rest of Bad Blood doesn’t seem quite so direct, though if we’re talking about their basic stylistic approach, then we’re kind of talking about being punched in a face, and yes, that would be a fairly direct experience.

“Bad Blood” itself has a hook and slamdances into vibes out of ye olde crossover metal while the subsequent “Uncanny Valley” is pure bruiser all the way and “Not Yet” after “Double Blind” lifetime shitlist bad bloodfeels even more like fodder for getting stomped on at the show, despite a quickie guitar solo tossed in for good measure. As I know dick-all about hardcore, I approach the more heavy rocking 6:06 closer “The Ballad” with particular interest as it seems to adjust the balance more toward the heavy riffing style that’s underpinning some of the tracks elsewhere while still retaining the central force of the preceding cuts, like the transitional “Bonfire of the Vanities” right before it. It’s about two minutes longer than anything else on the record — the next closest is “Bad Blood” at 4:11 — and they use the extra time to flesh out the guitar and some more patience in the delivery more generally, taking off on an instrumental push in the last movement and fading out just before the six-minute mark. I dig that as a matter of principle, but their mission on the seven tracks before it is at least mostly something else. Still, it’s not such a radical departure as to be out of place so much as to add depth to what Lifetime Shitlist are doing elsewhere. In other words, they pull it off.

Again, the album is out Aug. 16. It’s Lifetime Shitlist‘s second for Grimoire after a 2014 self-titled, and though I’m a little confused as to why on earth anyone would give a crap what I think about it either way, you’ll find the streaming track on the player below.

I hope you enjoy:

LIFETIME SHITLIST’s rallying cry from the start has been ‘keep it simple and keep it dirty.’ Formed in beautiful, aromatic, downtown Baltimore in 2012, steeped in tradition with an alchemic meld of hardcore and doom metal infused by guitarist Matt Crocco (Iron Boss, Rancid Decay), vocalist and bassist Ned Westrick (Indictments, Ironchrist), guitarist Corey Fleming, and drummer Ryan Larkin.

Arriving on August 16th from Grimoire Records, ‘BAD BLOOD’ is the second album from LIFETIME SHITLIST. Set for release nearly two years to the day since their well-received 2017 full-length debut ‘Slow March’, the forthcoming ‘BAD BLOOD’ is eight songs of wonderfully brutal, unyielding reality from an intensely broad-minded band. More heaviness, more speed, more filth.

Guitarist Matt Crocco chimes in on the new album:

“We worked hard on these songs and, against all odds, I think we’ve put out a killer record. Ned brought his bass back into active status for this one and, like the amazing bastard he is, now handles dual-duty on vocals. We just want to get the music out there and into everyone’s ears.”

‘Bad Blood’ Tracklist:
01. Bad Blood
02. Uncanny Valley
03. Double Blind
04. Not Yet
05. Proud Boys
06. Everyone Thinks They Will Survive The Apocalypse
07. Bonfire of The Vanities
08. The Ballad

‘Bad Blood’ was recorded in the Spring of 2019, by Noel Mueller. The album was mixed and mastered by Noel Mueller. Cover photo by O.G. Mason, with layout by Mueller.

Bad Blood will be released via limited edition CD and digital download on August 16th through Grimoire Records. Pre-ordering is available as of June 26th.

‘Bad Blood’ will be available August 16th from Grimoire Records: https://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/bad-blood

Limited edition CD and Digital Pre-orders are open now.

Lifetime Shitlist:
Matt Crocco – guitar
Ryan Larkin – drums
Corey Fleming – guitar
Ned Westrick- vocals, bass

Lifetime Shitlist on Thee Facebooks

Lifetime Shitlist on Bandcamp

Grimoire Records on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Haze Mage Premiere “Storm Blade” from Debut Album Chronicles out April 19

Posted in audiObelisk on March 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Haze-Mage-photo-by-Shane-Gardner

Baltimorean double-guitar five-piece Haze Mage will issue their debut full-length, Chronicles, through Grimoire Records on April 19. Comprised of a briskly captured eight tracks and 45 minutes of material produced by the label’s own Noel Mueller, it is the band’s first outing since they changed their name from Blood Mist following the 2017 release of what was then their self-titled debut EP (review here), but which now you can probably just call Blood Mist. Either way, Chronicles brings the arrival of Haze Mage — the lineup of vocalist Matthew Casella, guitarists Nick Jewett and Kevin Considine, bassist Scott Brenner and drummer John De Campos — as a force to contend with in terms of their blend of classic metal, traditional doom and heavy rock and roll, parts of the eponymous opener and “Storm Blade”, which follows, reminded of Saint Vitus on a bender with Pentagram while “Bong Witch” is more purely self-aware stonerization and “Fire Wizards” asks the inevitable question of what might’ve happened if the NWOBHM had been infiltrated by operatives from Big Muff. So yes, it’s awesome.

And that’s really just the start. “Corpse Golem” teases out more complex vocal arrangements and in so doing serves notice of growth yet to come on the part of the band, all the while rolling forth the record’s most satisfyingly lumbering groove, right into “Priest of Azathoth” haze mage chronicleswhich fuzzes a kind of semi-shuffle that’s part Zeppelin preen and part Sabbathian cultistry but all righteous, right up to the laughter on the other side of the halfway mark and the riff-led bounce that follows. If you’re wondering where the blastbeats are hiding, that’d be in “Harbinger,” which starts out like a theatrical, grandiose classic metaller until it suddenly flips its wig with layers of growls under Casella‘s prominent clean vocals and, indeed, a bit of blast. They do it twice, and the second time, it’s screams layered on growls, just like Deicide used to make. Life is full of surprises. They summarize their findings effectively in the 10-minute finale — yeah, there’s some more blastbeating in there too — starting off with a patience that suits them and ending up in much the same place, but in between following a winding course to get where they’re going and executing the song with due drama wielded with a sense of control that seems greater than a first record should generally hold.

What does that mean? Could be a foreshadow for future progressivism in their songcraft, or it could just be a fluke, but what’s more important for the moment is that with ChroniclesHaze Mage establish a metallic hold on the tenets of heavy and traditional doom. And not only to do they do so, but they then essentially put the varying styles in their grasp to work as their plaything — because Chronicles is more than just one-sided, and a lot of it is unabashed fun — from Casella‘s over-the-top Danzig style to the bubbling over the drums that starts “Bong Witch” and the extra-right-on bassline that follows. Haze Mage know what they’re doing, as shown on multiple levels with the characters in their songs as depicted on the cover art and the hooks of “Storm Blade” and “Dread Queen.” That isn’t to say they don’t have room for refinement coming off this collection en route to whatever’s next, but it says that especially as their first record, Chronicles is a warning of what might follow and it’s a warning well worth heeding.

Get yourself impaled with “Storm Blade” via the player below. Comment from the band follows, as well as some PR wire this-and-that.

Enjoy:

Haze Mage on “Storm Blade”:

Forged in lighting, the Storm Blade is an ancient cursed blade which while powerful and deadly to anything in its path, it corrupts the mind of the wielder. To hold it is to release one’s self from mercy, to abandon choice and become an unstoppable, frenzied maniac christened in bloodshed while only a whisper of your own will remains. The Storm Blade, it thunders to kill.

We enjoy diving into the wide spectrum of stoner/doom sub genres and want each song on the album to take the listener to a different place while still feeling like each one belongs as part of the whole experience. Embodying the chaotic and hectic mental state of a person possessed by the Storm Blade, we allowed our mutual admiration for ’80s era UK heavy metal to let loose. With a decidedly doomier approach informing much of this album it was important to us have at least one biting ambush of a song. Frenetic, frantic, and an in-your-face fuel for a fight, Storm Blade is that song for us.

Chronicles will see release on limited edition CD, and digital download via Grimoire Records on April 19th. Preorders have been posted HERE.

Chronicles was recorded, mixed and mastered between fall 2018 and winter 2019 by Noel Mueller. Album art was created by John De Campos/Ghost Bat Illustration, with additional layout work by Noel Mueller, and photography by Shane Gardner. © 2019 Grimoire Records.

HAZE MAGE Live:
4/20/2019 Ottobar – Baltimore, MD @ Grim Reefer Fest

HAZE MAGE:
Kevin Considine – guitar
Nick Jewett – guitar
John De Campos – drums
Scott Brenner – bass
Matthew Casella – vocals

Haze Mage on Instagram

Haze Mage on Thee Facebooks

Haze Mage on Bandcamp

Grimoire Records website

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Grimoire Records on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Twitter

Tags: , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Bellrope, Cracked Machine, The Sky Giants, Sacred Monster, High ‘n’ Heavy, Warlung, Rogue Conjurer, Monovine, Un & Coltsblood, La Grande Armée

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Six. Not that there wasn’t a bit of a crunch along the way, but I definitely think this Quarterly Review was aided by the fact that I dug so much of what I was writing about on a personal-taste level. You get through it one way or the other, but it just makes it more fun. Today is the last day and then it’s back to something approaching normal tomorrow, but of course before this thing is rounded out I want to thank you as always for taking the time and for reading if you did. It means a tremendous amount to me to put words out and have people see them, so thank you for your part in that.

This could’ve easily gone seven or eight or 10 days if scheduling had permitted, but here’s as good a place to leave it. The next one will probably be the first week of July or thereabouts, so keep an eye out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Bellrope, You Must Relax

bellrope you must relax

How much noise can your brain take? I don’t mean noise like start-stop riffs and dudes shouting. I mean actual, abrasive, amelodic noise. Bellrope, with ex-members of the underrated Black Shape of Nexus start their Exile on Mainstream-delivered debut album, You Must Relax, with three minutes of chaff-separation they’re calling “Hollywood 2001/Rollrost.” It’s downright caustic. Fortunately, what follows on the four subsequent extended tracks devotes itself to lumbering post-sludge that’s at least accessible by comparison. “Old Overholt” is the only other inclusion under 10 minutes as the tracks are arranged shortest to longest with the 17:57 “CBD/Hereinunder” concluding. The thickened tones brought to bear throughout “Old Overholt” and the blend of screams and growls that accompany are more indicative of what follows on the centerpiece title-track and the penultimate “TD2000,” but the German four-piece still manage to sound plenty fucked throughout. Just not painfully so. There’s something threatening about the use of the word “must” in the album’s title. The songs realize that threat.

Bellrope on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website

 

Cracked Machine, The Call of the Void

Cracked Machine The Call of the Void

Here be dragons. Though its core tonality is still within the bounds of heavy rock, Wiltshire, UK, four-piece bring a far more atmospheric and progressive style to fruition on their second album, The Call of the Void, than it might at first appear. With post-rock float to the guitar of Bill Denton, keyboard textures from Clive Noyes, and fluid rhythms carried through changes in volume and ambience from bassist Christ Sutton and drummer Blazej Gradziel, the PsyKA Records outfit present a cerebral seven tracks/47 minutes of immersive and seemingly conceptual work, with opener “Jormungandr” establishing the context in which each song that follows is named for a different culture’s dragon, whether it’s the Hittite “Illuyanka,” Japan’s “Yamata No Orochi” or the Persian “Azi Dahakar.” Cracked Machine use this theme to tie pieces together, and they push farther out as the record unfolds late with “Typhon” and “Vritra” a closing pair of marked scope. The shortest cut, the earlier 5:14 “Kirimu,” has probably the most straightforward push, but Cracked Machine demonstrate an ability to adapt to the needs of whatever idea they’re working to convey.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records webstore

 

The Sky Giants, The Shifting of Phaseworld

the sky giants the shifting of phaseworld

Taking cues from psychedelia almost as much as jangly West Coast noise and punk, Tacoma, Washington’s The Sky Giants offer the 10-track sophomore outing The Shifting of Phaseworld, which finds a balance in songs like “Dream Receiver” between progressive heavy rock and its rawer foundations. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jake Frye, bassist Jessie Avery and drummer/vocalist/engineer/graphic artist Peter Tietjen are comfortable tipping from one side to the other between and within songs, starting off with the shove of “Technicolor Kaleidoscope” and getting mathy on the later “Half Machine” ahead of the chunkier-riffed “Rhyme and the Flame,” which somehow touches on classic punk even as it hones a wash of distortion that that has to cut through. Closing each side with a longer track in the rolling, airy “Solid State” (6:53) and the frenetic ending of “Simian” (7:38), The Sky Giants stake out a sonic terrain very much their own throughout The Shifting of Phaseworld and only seem to expand their territory as they go.

The Sky Giants on Thee Facebooks

The Sky Giants on Bandcamp

 

Sacred Monster, Worship the Weird

sacred monster worship the weird

Topped off by the ace screams of vocalist Adam Szczygiel, who taps his inner Devin Townsend circa Strapping Young Lad on “High Confessor” and “Re-Animator,” Sacred Monster‘s debut album, Worship the Weird would seem to cull together elements of Orange Goblin and Bongzilla for a kind of classic-metal-aware sludge rock, the riffs of Robert Nubel not at all shy about digging into aggressive vibes to go with the layers of growls and throatrippers and the occasional King Diamond-esque falsetto, as on “Waverly Hills,” as bassist Guillermo Moreno and drummer Ted Nubel bolster that feel with tight turns and duly driven bottom end. I’ll take “Face of My Father” as a highlight, if only for the excruciating sound of Szczygiel‘s screech, but the swing in closer “Maze of Dreams” has an appeal of its own, and as a Twilight Zone and a Shatner fan, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” offers its own charm.

Sacred Monster on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Monster on Bandcamp

 

High n’ Heavy, Warrior Queen

high n heavy warrior queen

Shades of grunge and skate-fuzz fuckall pervade the Sabbathian grooves of High n’ Heavy‘s second album, Warrior Queen, as guitarist John Steele works some doomly keys into second cut “Shield Maiden” and vocalist Kris Fortin moves in and out of throaty shouts on side B’s “Lydia.” They thrash out in the noisy “Catapult” and Nick Perrone‘s drums seem to bounce even in the longer-winded “Lands Afar” and closer “Smell of Decay / Wings and Claw,” on which Mike Dudley‘s rumble backs classically metallic shred in the lead guitar after offering likewise support to the piano in the early going of “Join the Day.” Released through Electric Valley Records, the eight-song/36-minute LP comes across as raw but not without purpose in that, and its blend of tonal thickness and the blend of thrust and nod does well to ensure High n’ Heavy remain unpredictable while also living up to the standard of their moniker. There’s potential here that’s worth further exploration on the part of the band.

High n’ Heavy on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Warlung, Immortal Portal

Warlung Immortal Portal

Houston, Texas, four-piece make a quick case for the attention of Ripple Music on their sophomore outing, Immortal Portal, which is slickly-but-not-too-slickly produced and sharply-but-not-too-sharply executed, a professional sensibility in “Black Horse Pike” and the subsequent “The Palm Reader” — which manages to be influenced melodically by Uncle Acid without sounding just like them — ahead of the ’80s metallurgy of “Heart of a Sinner” and the reference-packed “1970.” “We All Die in the End” gives an uptempo swing to the opening salvo ahead of the more brooding “Between the Dark and the Light,” but Warlung hold firm to clearly-presented melodies and riff-led rhythms no matter where they seem to go in mood or otherwise. That ties the drift of the later “Heavy Echoes” to the earlier material and makes the harmony-laced “No Son of Mine” and the organ-ic proggy sprawling finale “Coal Minors” all the more effective in reaching beyond where the album started, so that the listener winds up in a different landscape than they started, still grounded, but changed nonetheless.

Warlung on Thee Facebooks

Warlung on Bandcamp

 

Rogue Conjurer, Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives

rogue conjurer of the goddess

Originally released digitally by the Baltimore-based unit in 2017, the two-songer Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives sees pressing as an ultra-limited tape via Damien Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Tonie Joy, drummer Colin Seven and organist Donny Van Zandt — since replaced by Trevor Shipley — honing a psychedelic take on doomly riffs and groove. “Crystal Mountain Lives” has a more distinct nod to its central progression, with a wah-drenched break and greater overall largesse of fuzz, but “Of the Goddess” brings an effective almost shoegazing sense to its downer spirit. The first track is also longer, so it has more time to move from that initial impression to its own payoff, but either way you go, Rogue Conjurer bring out their dead ably on the tape, showing influences from heavy psych and beyond as “Of the Goddess” winds its way to its close and “Crystal Mountain Lives” begins its fade-in all over again. No pretense, but a broad range that would allow for some if they wanted.

Rogue Conjurer on Instagram

Damien Records on Bandcamp

 

Monovine, D.Y.E

monovine dye

Athens heavy rockers Monovine wear their grunge influence proudly on their third full-length, D.Y.E, issued late in 2018 digitally with an early 2019 vinyl release. It’s writ large in the Nirvana-ism of the slurring “Mellow” at the outset and remains a factor through the melodies of “Void” and the later punkery of “Messed Up” or “Ring a Bell,” as well as the toying-with-pop “Me (Raphe Nuclei)” and “Your Figure Smells,” but where Monovine succeed in making that influence their own is by filtering it through a fuzzier presentation. The guitar and bass tones keep a modern heavy feel, and as the drums roll and crash through songs like “For a Sun” and “Why Don’t You Shoot Me in the Head,” that makes a difference in the overall impression the album leaves. Still, there’s little question as to their central point of inspiration, and they bring it out in homage and as a fairly honed mode of expression on closer “Haunt,” which teases an explosion in its melancholy strum and then… well, don’t let me spoil it.

Monovine on Thee Facebooks

Monovine on Bandcamp

 

Un & Coltsblood, Split

un coltsblood split

A festering 42 minutes of lurching agonies, Un and Coltsblood‘s split taps the best of modern death-doom’s emotionalism and bent toward extremity. Billed as a “tribute to grief: the final act of love,” it brings just two tracks, one per band, as Coltsblood open with “Snows of the Winter Realm” and Un follow with “Every Fear Illuminated.” Both bands proffer a terrifyingly weighted plod and offset it with a spacious ambience, whether it’s Un departing their grueling nod after about six and a half minutes only to build back up over the next six and grow more ferocious until devolving into noise and slamming crashes ahead of an outro of echoing, needs-a-tune-sounding piano, or Coltsblood fostering their own tonal brutalism and casting their lot with death and black metal while a current of airy guitar seems to mourn the song even as it plays out. Each cut is a monument built to loss, and their purpose in conveying that theme is both what unites them and what makes their work so ultimately consuming, as grief is.

Un on Thee Facebooks

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks

 

La Grande Armée, La Grande Armée

La Grande Armée La Grande Armée

The blend of drifting guitar and psychedelic wash on opener “El Canto de las Ballenas” earns La Grande Armée‘s self-titled debut three-song EP immediate favor, and the patient execution they bring to the subsequent “Tripa Intergaláctica” and “Normandía,” particularly the latter, only furthers that appeal. The Chilean trio keep a decidedly natural feel to the exploratory-seeming work, and if this is them finding their sound, they seem happy to do it by losing themselves in their jams. All the better someone thought to press record, since although there’s clearly some trajectory behind the progression of songs — i.e., they know at least to a degree where they want to end up — the process of getting there comes across as spontaneous. Guitar pans channels as bass and drums hold down languid flow, and even in the more active midsection of “Tripa Intergaláctica,” La Grande Armée there’s a sense that it’s more about the space being created than the construction under way. In any case, wherever they want to head next, they would seem to have the means of travel at their disposal.

La Grande Armée on Thee Facebooks

La Grande Armée on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: JOY Feat. Dr. Space, Rosetta, Pendejo, Lightsabres, Witch Hazel, CBBJ, Seedium, Vorrh, Lost Relics, Deadly Sin (Sloth)

Posted in Reviews on March 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day Five. What would traditionally be the end of the Quarterly Review if going to six wasn’t the new going to 11. Whatever, I can hack it. The amount of good stuff included in these batches really helps. I’m not saying there are days that are a flat-out bummer, but I feel like the proportion of times in this Quarterly Review I’ve gone, “Wow, this is pretty awesome,” has seen a definite spike this time around. I won’t complain about that. Makes the whole thing fun.

Today will be no exception, and then we finish up on Monday with the last 10. Thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

JOY Feat. Dr. Space, Live at Roadburn 2018

joy feat dr space live at roadburn 2018

Brought together as part of the ‘San Diego Takeover’ at Roadburn 2018 that featured a host of that city’s acts performing in an even broader host of contexts, JOY and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective took the stage at the tiny Cul de Sac near the very end of the festival. It was how I closed out my Roadburn (review here). Dr. Space did a short spoken introduction and then they were off and they didn’t look back. The centerpiece of the limited LP is an extended jam simply titled “Jam.” It’s edited on the platter, but the digital version has the full 54 minutes, and the more the merrier. They round out with takes on Road‘s “Spaceship Earth” and JOY‘s “Miles Away,” and those are cool too, but the real highlight is about halfway through the longer “Jam” when the drums kick into the next gear and you suddenly snap out of your trance to realize how far you’ve already come. And you’re still only at the midpoint. I don’t know. Maybe you had to be there. So be there.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

JOY on Thee Facebooks

JOY Feat. Dr. Space at Øresund Space Collective Bandcamp

 

Rosetta, Sower of Wind

rosetta sower of wind

Philadelphia-based post-whatever-you-got outfit Rosetta continue to set their own terms with Sower of Wind, a self-recorded four-track/half-hour offering that’s something of an outgrowth of their most recent album, Utopioid. Broken into four tracks each assembled from ideas and layers churning throughout the four sections of that record, it brings out the ambient side of the band as guitarist/keyboardist/bassist Matt Weed serves as engineer for “East,” “South,” “West” and “North” as he, guitarist/keyboardist Eric Jernigan and vocalist Mike Armine — who here just adds samples and noise — construct fluid soundscapes that can either build to a head, as on “East” or offer a sense of foreboding like “West” and “North,” depending solely on the band’s will. It’s intended as an exploration, and it sounds like one, but if that wasn’t the point, Sower of Wind probably wouldn’t have been released in the first place. It’s not at all their first ambient release, but this modus continues to be viable for them creatively.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Pelagic Records webstore

 

¡Pendejo!, Sin Vergüenza

pendejo sin verguenza

Whatever your current working definition might be for “over the top,” chances are Pendejo — also stylized as the exclamatory ¡Pendejo! — will make short work of it. Sin Vergüenza, their third long-player, sees release through their own Chancho Records imprint, and it’s not through opener “Don Gernàn” before the Amsterdam-based outfit break out the horns. Fronted by El Pastuso, who supplies the trumpet, the band roll through dense toned heavy rock in a crisply-executed, high-energy 10 tracks and 40 minutes that, even when you think they’re letting up, on the later “El Espejo,” they still manage to burst out a massive riff and groove in the second half. It’s the kind of record that’s breathtaking in the sense of you’re trying to run to keep up with its energy. That, however, should not be seen as undercutting the value of the band’s songwriting, which comes through regardless of language, and whether it’s the start-stops of “La Mala de la Tele” or the gleeful weirdo push of “Bulla,” Pendejo have their sonic terrain well staked out and know how to own it. They sound like a band who destroy live.

Pendejo on Thee Facebooks

Pendejo webstore

 

Lightsabres, A Shortcut to Insanity

LIGHTSABRES A SHORTCUT TO INSANITY

It’s rare for an artist to grow less predictable over time, but Lightsabres mastermind and multi-instrumentalist John Strömshed hits that standard with his former one-man outfit. Joined by session drummer Anton Nyström, Strömshed brings forth 11 tracks of genre-bending songcraft, melding fuzz and progressive folk, downer rock and thoughtful psych, garage push with punker edge, and seemingly whatever else seems to serve the best interests of the song at hand. On “Born Screaming,” that’s a turn to classical guitar plucking sandwiched on either side by massive riffs and vocals, like that of “Tangled in Barbed Wire,” remind of a fuzz-accompanied take on Life of Agony. At just 36 minutes, A Shortcut to Insanity isn’t long by any means, but it’s not an easy album to keep up with either, as Strömshed seems to dare his listenership to hold pace with his shifts through “Cave In,” rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “From the Demon’s Mouth” and the sweetly melodic finale “Dying on the Couch,” which is perhaps cruelest of all for leaving the listener waiting for the other shoe to drop and letting that tension hang when it’s done.

Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

Witch Hazel, Otherworldly

Witch Hazel Otherworldly

Classic-style doom rockers Witch Hazel shift back and forth between early metal and heavy rock on their second full-length, Otherworldly, and the York, Pennsylvania, four-piece of vocalist Nate Tyson, guitarist Andy Craven, bassist Seibert Lowe and drummer Nicholas Zinn keep plenty of company in so doing, enlisting guest performances of organ and other keys throughout opener “Ghost & the Fly” and “Midnight Mist” and finding room for an entire horn section as they round out 11-minute closer “Devastator.” Elsewhere, “Meat for the Beast” and “Drinking for a Living” marry original-era heavy prog with more weighted impact, and “Zombie Flower Bloom” plays out like what might’ve happened if mid-’80s Ozzy had somehow invented stoner rock. So, you know, pretty awesome. The strut and shuffle of “Bled Dry” adds a bit of attitude late, but it’s really in cuts like the title-track and the aforementioned “Midnight Mist” earlier on that Witch Hazel showcase their formidable persona as a group.

Witch Hazel on Thee Facebooks

Witch Hazel on Bandcamp

 

CBBJ, 2018 Demo

CBBJ 2018 Demo

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get with CBBJ‘s 2018 Demo, right down to the wood paneling on the cover art. The band’s name — also written as CB/BJ — would seem to be taken from its members, Cox (that being Bryan Cox, founding drummer of Alabama Thunderpussy), Ball, Bone, and Jarvis, and as they look toward a Southern Thin Lizzy on demo finale “The Point of it All,” there’s something of a realization in what they’re putting together. It’s four tracks total, and finds some thrust in “Wreck You,” but keeps it wits there as well as in the sleazier nod of “The Climb” that precedes it as the opener and even in the penultimate “Can’t Go Home,” which gives booziest, earliest AC/DC a treatment of righteous bass. They’re apparently in the studio again now, or they just were, or will, or won’t, or up, or down, but whatever. Point is it’ll be worth keeping an ear out for when whatever comes next lands.

CBBJ on Thee Facebooks

CBBJ on Bandcamp

 

Seedium, Awake

seedium awake

Go on and get lost in the depths of Seedium‘s debut three-songer, Awake. The Polish outfit might be taking some cues as regards thickness from their countrymen in Dopelord or Spaceslug, but their instrumental tack on “Mist Haulers,” “Brain Eclipse” and “Ruina Cordis” oozes out of the speakers with right-on viscosity and comes across as infinitely stoned. The centerpiece tops 11 minutes and seems to indicate very little reason they couldn’t have pushed it another 10 had they so desired, and through “Ruina Cordis” is shorter at a paltry 7:08, its blasted sensibility and ending blend of spaciousness and swirl portends good things to come. With the murky first impression of “Mist Haulers” calling like a prayer bell to the riff-worshiping converted, Seedium very clearly know what they’re going for, and what remains to be seen is how their character and individual spin on that develops going forward. Still, for its tones alone, this first offering is a stunner.

Seedium on Thee Facebooks

Seedium on Bandcamp

 

Vorrh, Nomads of the Infinite Wild

vorrh nomads of the infinite wild

Programmed drumming gives Nomads of the Infinite Wild, the debut release from the Baltimore duo of Zinoosh Farbod and John Glennon an edge of dub, but the guitar work of songs like “Mercurial,” looped back on itself with leads layered overtop and Farbod‘s echoing vocals, remains broad, and the expansive of atmosphere puts them in a kind of meditative post-doom feel. Opener “Myths” strikes as a statement of purpose, and as “Morning Star” shows some Earth influence in the spaces left by Glennon‘s guitar, the band immediately uses that nuance to craft an individual identity. “Flood Plane” saunters through its instrumental trance before getting noisy briefly at the finish, only to let “These Eyes” work more effectively through a similar structure with Farbod on keys, seeming to set up the piano-foundation of “Ancient Divide,” which closes. This is a band who will benefit greatly from the fact that they record themselves, because they’ll have every opportunity to continue to experiment in the studio, which is exactly what they should be doing. In the meantime, Nomads of the Infinite Wild effectively heralds their potential for aesthetic innovation.

Vorrh on Thee Facebooks

Vorrh on Bandcamp

 

Lost Relics, 1st

lost relics 1st

Well, they didn’t call it 1st because it’s their eighth album. Denver noise rock trio Lost Relics debut with the aptly-titled 18-minute four-songer, bringing Neurosis-style vocal gutturalism to riffy crunch more reminiscent at times of Helmet‘s discordant heyday. Dense tonality and aggression pervade “Dead Men Don’t Need Silver,” “Scars,” the gets-raucous-later “Whip Rag” and closer “Face Grass,” which somehow brings a Clutch influence into this mix, and even more somehow makes it work, and then even more somehow indulges a bit of punk rock. The vocals and sense of tonal lumber tie it all together, but Lost Relics set a pretty wide base for themselves in these tracks, leaving one to wonder how the various elements at work might play out over the course of a longer release. As far as a debut EP goes, then, that’s the whole point of the thing, but something seems to be saying Lost Relics have more tricks up their sleeve than they’re showing here. One looks forward to finding out if that’s the case.

Lost Relics on Thee Facebooks

Lost Relics on Bandcamp

 

Deadly Sin (Sloth), VII: Sin Seven

deadly sin sloth vii sin seven

Deadly Sin (Sloth) play the kind of sludge that knows how well and truly fucked we are. The kind of sludge that doesn’t care who’s president because either way the chicken dinner you’re cooking is packed full of hormones. The kind of sludge that well earns its Scott Stearns tape artwork. VII: Sin Seven is not at all void of melody or purpose, as “Ripping Your Flesh” and the Danziggy “Glory Bound Grave” grimly demonstrate, but even in those moments, its intent is abrasion, and even the slower march of “Icarus” seems to scathe as much as the raw gutterpunk in “F One” and opener “Exit Ramp”‘s harshest screams. Not easy listening. Not for everybody. Not really for people. It’s a malevolent bludgeoning that even in the revivalism of “Blood Bought Church” seems only to be biding its time until the next strike. It does not wait all that long.

Deadly Sin (Sloth) on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Sin (Sloth) on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Darsombra European Tour Starts March 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Like most of us, Darsombra are always somewhere, but unlike most of us, the places they are tend to change with exceptional regularity. Last Fall, they were out west for more than a month. Already this year, they’ve made quick stops through the Southeast, and later this month they’ll head to Europe for a stint that looks like it’s at least going to be a month in a half long already and for which they’re still filling in dates. They go, and go, and go. They’ll be playing Exile on Mainstream‘s 20th anniversary party in Leipzig on April 4, and the SWR Barroselas Metalfest in Portugal on April 28, but there’s plenty to still come together around both. You know the drill: if you have a spot where it’s cool to make noise, you should let Darsombra do that. I can’t think of a bill they wouldn’t fit on, because really, they don’t fit anywhere and that’s the point. So whether it’s a night of singer-songwriter coffee-house stuff or grindcore, book Darsombra. Because they’re awesome and it’s the right thing to do.

Dates thus far confirmed follow here, courtesy of the band’s social media:

darsombra euro tour

Here are the dates so far!!! More to be added!!!

DARSOMBRA EUROPE TOUR 2019

29 Mar Leuven BELGIUM @ Flugzeug Music-Art-Design
30 Mar Antwerp BELGIUM @ Palazzo sessions
1 Apr Cologne GERMANY @ Halle am Rhein
2 Apr Berlin GERMANY @ Zukunft am Ostkreuz
4 Apr Leipzig GERMANY – 20 Years of Exile On Mainstream festival
9 Apr Potsdam GERMANY @ Archiv
10 Apr Hamburg GERMANY @ Hafenklang
13 Apr Nuremburg GERMANY @ Z-Bau
17 Apr Maribor SLOVENIA @ Kibla
18 Apr Treviso ITALY @ Krach Club
19 Apr Milan ITALY @ Ligera
23 Apr Móra d’Ebre SPAIN @ Societat Obrera Móra d’Ebre
24 Apr Madrid SPAIN @ Rock Palace
26 Apr Lisbon PORTUGAL @ Zaratan
28 Apr Barroselas PORTUGAL @ SWR Barroselas Metalfest 22
2 May Paris FRANCE @ La Cantine De Belleville
5 May Newcastle Upon Tyne UK @ Cluny 2
6 May Inverness UK @ Tooth and Claw
8 May Glasgow UK @ BLOC
11 May Bristol UK @ The Cube
12 May London UK @ The Islington

http://facebook.com/darsombra
https://www.instagram.com/darsombra/
http://www.darsombra.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TranslationLossRecords/
https://translationlossrecords.bandcamp.com/
translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

Darsombra, Polyvision (2016)

Tags: , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Swarm of the Lotus, The Sirens of Silence

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swarm of the Lotus, The Sirens of Silence (2005)

When I think of music as being scathing, the standard I’m usually applying is Swarm of the Lotus. Before everyone and their cousin was walking around wearing His Hero is Gone shirts pretending the stuff they were listening to wasn’t just repackaged deathcore chestbeating, the Baltimorean outfit melded hardcore metal and extreme sludge in a way that sounded not only like the end of the world, but like the end of the world you were actively causing. The Sirens of Silence, which was their second and final album, came out in 2005. It was released through Abacus Recordings, which was one of Century Media‘s imprints, specifically designed for hardcore and metalcore, which made Swarm of the Lotus something of an outlier because they weren’t necessarily just about chugging their way into an emo part or a breakdown, and such a huge part of their impact came from the way they seemed able to slam their tone a hammer one second in “The Great Masquerade” and the next sprint off to grind at a sprint through “Vertigo.” I remember seeing them in New York at a place called The Pyramid in 2004. They usually had heavy shows in the basement, but Swarm of the Lotus were upstairs in the main room and it was box that when they started playing you just felt like there was no way out. It was manic. A chaotic, angular gnashing sound. The band were supporting their debut, When White Becomes Black, and their take was utterly ferocious and raw in a way that made perfect sense for the wider turmoil of those times, what with the apparently endless war and all. It’s the sound of human-caused global warming.

The Sirens of Silence is a more complex album than its predecessor in just about every way. I won’t take anything away from Swarm of the Lotus‘ debut — quite frankly, if the whole thing was on YouTube or Bandcamp, I’d be closing out the week with it — but from the initial winding surge of two-minute opener “Hookworm” through the sudden turn to a relatively patient march in “Call to Abandon,” it’s an album that 14 years later I still don’t really have a handle on what to expect from it. With guitarist Peter Maturi and bassist Chris Csar sharing vocal duties, Cole Krickenberger holding down guitar and Jon-John Michaud on drums, Swarm of the Lotus were able to pull off striking turns of approach while staying true to the aggressive sensibility at work beneath. The vocals still hurt my throat just hearing them, and seem to have bite that of all the screams swarm-of-the-lotus-sirens-of-silenceI’ve encountered in my time, realized a physical presence that almost no one else can match. Through the repeated lines, “If you could hold your last breath/How much longer do you think you could live?” in “Call to Abandon” and the searing shouts coinciding with the all-tumult assault in the back half of the subsequent “The Great Masquerade,” they harness a pain and disaffection that goes beyond sounding angry or metal or hardcore. In the angular “Yan Hou,” the filthy death groove of “Jackie G,” and the landmark slowdown of “Snowbeast,” Swarm of the Lotus unite in purpose in a way that seems coherent and yet doesn’t contradict the rawness on display. That is, they’re able to pull off these changes and expand their scope in a way that doesn’t make the elements tying them together or the moods they’re working in sound like a put-on. The hints toward melody in “Snowbeast” are a crucial moment for the band, where they bring in Melvinsian lumber and break to a quiet minimalist stretch before launching into an instrumental apex that’s a standout from both records, let alone just this second one.

What might’ve been side B starts with “Needles and Knives,” which is fitting enough. The tempo stays in the middle range for the brief instrumental and it feeds directly into “The Insect Trust Fund,” which brings together the stomp of “Snowbeast” with the meaner approach of “The Great Masquerade” as it works toward a massive, lurching finish that’s “heavy” in every sense of the word. It’s fitting they follow it with “Vertigo,” since it takes a couple minutes to recover from the fist-to-the-temple at the end of “The Insect Trust Fund,” but there’s little quarter afforded as “Vertigo” grinds and slams its way forward, aligning briefly at about two minutes into its 2:46 around a riff that drives to its end while still reeling up ahead of the start of “Judas,” which bring back some of the cleaner-ish shouting in its midsection and finishes with a plotted lead line that coincides with a half-time drum progression and a move toward genuine singing that Swarm of the Lotus never really try again. It’s buried in the mix, but it works, and it speaks to the growth of the band that was underway and never got fleshed out. They draw various sides together for the penultimate “House at the Bottom of the Sea” and cap with the all-out madness of “Nightmare Paint,” leaving behind a rumble that to my damaged ears just sounds like a speaker cabinet repair bill in the making. Even with fewer than 10 seconds of purposeful silence left, one almost expects Swarm of the Lotus to come back and renew the assault like some kind of horror movie monster refusing to die no matter how many times it’s killed.

Maybe that’s just the residual trauma on the frontal cortex brought on by listening, but Swarm of the Lotus indeed stayed dead, more or less. In 2015, they posted a single on Bandcamp, and they’ve put demos up for their two albums — presumably the albums themselves are still under someone else’s copyright — but they haven’t done really anything to follow that up. Maturi and Csar in the meantime released an awaited EP last year with the more outwardly grinding Graven called Heirs of Discord (review here), which, if it wasn’t named with the band’s relationship to Swarm of the Lotus in mind, easily could’ve been. That record was a beast, and in several ways more directly extreme than Swarm of the Lotus seemed to want to be, but the level of sonic catharsis that When White Becomes Black and The Sirens of Silence bring is not something so readily manifest.

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

I needed that sonic catharsis this week, a kind of purging of the negativity I’ve been feeling all week, that kind of mouth-turned-down radioactive misery. Where’s the pill for that? Yesterday was a bit better, kind of coming out of it, but Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday were just fucking wretched. Doesn’t help that I’ve had the same headache since Saturday either. Still have that going. I’ve been on a regular ibuprofen regimen, but by Wednesday morning I was hearing a kid’s voice suggesting the possibility of a tumor in my brain à la Kindergarten Cop.

I’d say it’s not a tumor, but I don’t know that.

More likely, exhaustion and I popped something on stage last weekend with Clamfight because I don’t know how to breathe and sing anymore even to the minimal degree I ever did. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s this. Life event for yours truly, and worth the headache in the grand scheme.

So, perspective. I’m a lucky boy. Knowing that and living it are different things. Usually I just live like a dick.

Notes for next week:

MON 03/11 SWEET CHARIOT TRACK PREMIERE; OBSIDIAN SEA TRACK PREMIERE/REVIEW.
TUE 03/12 GONE COSMIC PREMIERE/REVIEW; MIDAS TRACK PREMIERE.
WED 03/13 CURSED TONGUE RECORDS ANNOUNCE/PREMIERE; SUPERLYNX ALBUM STREAM.
THU 03/14 THE GOLDEN GRASS PREMIERE/REVIEW.
FRI 03/15 KINGS DESTROY REVIEW; HORSEBURNER TRACK PREMIERE.

All subject to change of course. It’s extra busy because the week after is the Quarterly Review, which is early again because it was either early or late and I figured the less stress the better. So I’m making it stressful anyway. Because that’s what I do.

Thanks to everyone who asked me anything yesterday. I was worried I wouldn’t get any questions, so even if you were just goofing around, your time and interest were appreciated.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading. Great and safe weekend. Forum, Radio, merch at Dropout.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

Tags: , , , , ,