Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Spaceslug, Lie Heavy, Burning Realm, Kalac, Alkuräjähdys, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Amigo, The Hazytones, All Are to Return

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Alright, back at it. Putting together yesterday over the weekend was more scattershot than I’d prefer, but one might say the same of parenting in general, so I’ll leave it at that. Still, as happens with Quarterly Reviews, we got there. That my wife gave me an extra 40 minutes to bang out the Wizzerd video premiere was appreciated. As always, she makes everything possible.

Compared to some QRs, there are a few ‘bigger’ releases here. You’ll note High on Fire leading off today. That trend will continue over this and next week with the likes of Pallbearer, Uncle Acid, Bongripper, Harvestman (Steve Von Till, ex-Neurosis), Inter Arma, Saturnalia Temple spread throughout. The Pelican two-songer and My Dying Bride back to back a week from today. That’ll be a fun one. As always, it’s about the time crunch for me for what goes in the Quarterly Review. Things I want to cover before it’s too late that I can fit here. Ain’t nobody holding their breath for my opinion on any of it, or on anything generally for that matter, but I’m not trying to slight well known bands by stuffing them into what when it started over a decade ago I thought would be a catchall for demos and EPs. Sometimes I like the challenge of a shorter word count, too.

And I remind myself here again nobody really cares. Fine, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

high on fire cometh the storm

What seems at first to be business as usual for High on Fire‘s fourth album produced by Kurt Ballou, fifth for MNRK Heavy (formerly E1), and ninth overall, gradually reveals itself to be the band’s tonally heaviest work in at least the last 15 years. What’s actually new is drummer Coady Willis (Big Business, Melvins) making his first studio appearance alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (Sleep, Pike vs. the Automaton) and long-tenured bassist/backing vocalist Jeff Matz (also saz on the instrumental interlude-plus “Karanlik Yol”), and for sure Willis‘ thud in “Trismegistus,” galloping intensity in the thrashy and angular “The Beating” and declarative stomp beneath the big slowdown of 10-minute closer “Darker Fleece” is part of it, but from the way Pike and Matz bring “Cometh the Storm’ and “Sol’s Golden Curse” in the record’s middle to such cacophonous ends, the three-and-a-half-minute face-kick that is “Lightning Beard” and the suckerpunch that starts off with “Lambsbread,” to how even the more vocally melodic “Hunting Shadows” is carried on a wave of filthy, hard-landing distortion, their ferocity is reaffirmed in thicker grooves and unmitigated pummel. While in some ways this is what one would expect, it’s also everything for which one might hope from High on Fire a quarter-century on from their first demo. Triumph.

High on Fire on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Spaceslug, Out of Water

spaceslug out of water

A release concurrent to a remastered edition of their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here), only puts into emphasis how much Spaceslug have come into their own over eight productive years. Recorded by drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziółkowski (also Mountain of Misery), with guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka dug into familiar tonal textures throughout five tracks and a quick but inevitably full-length-flowing 32 minutes, Out of Water is both otherworldly and emotionally evocative in the rollout of “Arise the Sun” following the intertwined shouts of opener “Tears of Antimatter,” and in keeping with their progression, they nudge toward metallic aggression as a way to solidify their heavy psychedelic aspects. “Out of Water” is duly mournful to encapsulate such a tragic notion, and the nod of “Delusions” only grows more forcefully applied after the return from that song’s atmospheric break, and while they depart with “In Serenity” to what feels like the escapism of sunnier riffing, even that becomes more urgent toward the album’s finish. The reason it works is they’re bending genre to their songs, not the other way around, and as Spaceslug mature as a group, they’ve become one of Poland’s most essential heavy acts.

Spaceslug on Facebook

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Lie Heavy, Burn to the Moon

lie heavy burn to the moon

First issued on CD through JM Records in 2023, Lie Heavy‘s debut album, Burn to the Moon, sees broader release through Heavy Psych Sounds with revamped art to complement the Raleigh, North Carolina, four-piece’s tonal heft and classic reach in pieces like “In the Shadow” and “The Long March,” respectively. The band is fronted by Karl Agell (vocalist for C.O.C.‘s 1991 Blind album and now also in The Skull-offshoot Legions of Doom), and across the 12-song/51-minute run, and whether it’s the crunch of the ripper “When the Universe Cries” or the Clutch-style heavy funk of “Chunkadelic” pushing further from the start-stops of “In the Shadow” or the layered crescendo of “Unbeliever” a short time later, he and bassist/vocalist TR Gwynne, guitarist/vocalist Graham Fry and drummer/vocalist Jeff “JD” Dennis deliver sans-pretense riff-led fare. They’re not trying to fix what wasn’t broken in the ’90s, to be sure, but you can’t really call it a retread either as they swing through “Drag the World” and its capstone counterpart “End the World”; it all goes back to Black Sabbath anyway. The converted will get it no problem.

Lie Heavy on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Burning Realm, Face the Fire

Burning Realm Face the Fire

Dublin, Ireland, trio Burning Realm mark their first release with the four-song Face the Fire EP, taking the cosmic-tinged restlessness of Wild Rocket and setting it alongside more grounded riffing, hinting at thrash in the ping ride on “From Beyond” but careening in the modern mode either way. Lead cut “Homosapien” gives Hawkwindian vibes early — the trap, which is sounding like Slift, is largely avoided, though King Gizzard may still be relevant as an influence — but smoothly gives over to acoustics and vocal drone once its urgency has bene vaporized, and spacious as the vocal echo is, “Face the Fire” is classic stoner roll even into its speedier ending, the momentum of which is continued in closer “Warped One (Arise),” which is more charged on the whole in a way that feels linear and intended in relation to what’s put before it. A 16-minute self-released introduction to who Burning Realm are now, it holds promise for how they might develop stylistically and grow in terms of range. Whatever comes or doesn’t, it’s easy enough to dig as it is. If you were at a show and someone handed you the tape, you’d be stoked once you put it on in the car. Also it’s like 1995 in that scenario, apparently.

Burning Realm on Facebook

Burning Realm on Bandcamp

Kalac, Odyss​é​e

Odyssee

Offered through an international consortium of record labels that includes Crême Brûlée Records in the band’s native France, Echodelick in the US, Clostridium in Germany and Weird Beard in the UK, French heavy psych thrusters Kalac‘s inaugural full-length, Odyss​é​e — also stylized all-caps — doesn’t leave much to wonder why so many imprints might want some for the distro. With a focus on rhythmic movement in the we-gotta-get-to-space-like-five-minutes-ago modus of current-day heavy neo-space-rock, the mostly instrumental procession hypnotizes even as it peppers its expanses with verses here or there. That might be most effectively wrought in the payoff noiseblaster wash of “II,” which I’m just going to assume opens side B, but the boogie quotient is strong from “Arguenon” to “Beautiful Night,” and while might ring familiar to others operating in the aesthetic galaxial quadrant, the energy of Kalac‘s delivery and the not-haphazard-but-not-always-in-the-same-spot-either placement of the vocals are enough to distinguish them and make the six-tracker as exciting to hear as it sounds like it probably was to record.

Kalac on Facebook

Crême Brûlée Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

Weird Beard Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

Alkuräjähdys, Ehdot.

Alkurajahdys ehdot

The live-tracked fourth outing from Helsinki psych improvisationalists Alkuräjähdys, the lowercase-stylized ehdot. blends mechanical and electronic sounds with more organic psychedelic jamming, the synth and bassier punchthrough in the midsection of opening piece “.matriisi” indeed evocative of the dot-matrix printer to which its title is in reference, while “központ,” which follows, meanders into a broader swath of guitar-based noise atop a languidly graceful roll of drums. That let’s-try-it-slower ideology is manifest in the first half of the duly two-sided “a-b” as well, as the 12-minute finale begins by lurching through the denser distortion of a central riff en route to a skronk-jazz transition to a tighter midtempo groove that I’ll compare to Endless Boogie and very much intend that as a compliment. I don’t think they’re out to change the world so much as get in a room, hit it and see where the whole thing ends up, but those are noble creative aims in concept and practice, and between the two guitars, effects, synth and whathaveyou, there’s plenty of weird to go around.

Alkuräjähdys on Instagram

Alkuräjähdys on Bandcamp

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Tarot Pt. 1

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister tarot pt. 1

Already a significant undertaking as a 95-minute 2LP running 11 tracks themed — as the title(s) would hint — around tarot cards, the mostly serene sprawl of Magick Brother & Mystic Sister‘s Tarot Pt. 1 is still just the first of two companion albums to be issued as the follow-up to the Barcelona outfit’s 2020 self-titled debut (discussed here). Offered through respected Greek purveyor Sound Effect Records, Tarot Pt. 1 gives breadth beyond just the runtime in the sitar-laced psych-funk of “The Hierophant” (swap sitar for organ, synth and flute on “The Chariot”) and the classic-prog pastoralia of closer “The Wheel of Fortune,” and as with the plague-era debut, at the heart of the material is a soothing acid folk, and while the keys in the first half of “The Emperor” grow insistent and there’s some foreboding in the early Mellotron and key lines of “The Lovers,” Tarot Pt. 1 resonates comfort and care in its arrangements as well as ambition in its scope. Maybe another hour and a half on the way? Sign me up.

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Amigo, Good Time Island

Amigo Good Time Island

The eight-year distance from their 2016 debut long-player, Little Cliffs, seems to have smoothed out some (not all, which isn’t a complaint) of the rough edges in Amigo‘s sound, as the seemingly reinvigorated San Diego four-piece of lead guitarist/vocalist Jeff Podeszwik (King Chiefs), guitarist Anthony Mattos, bassist Sufi Karalen and drummer Anthony Alley offer five song across an accessible, straightforward 17 minutes united beneath the fair-enough title of Good Time Island. Without losing the weight of their tones, a Weezery pop sensibility comes through in “Dope Den” while “Frog Face” is even more specifically indebted to The Cars. Neither “Telescope Boy” nor “Banana Phone” lacks punch, but Amigo hold some in reserve for “Me and Soof,” which rounds out the proceedings, and they put it to solid use for an approach that’s ’90s-informed without that necessarily meaning stoner, grunge or alt, and envision a commercially relevant, songwriting-based heavy rock and roll for an alternate universe that, by all accounts here, sounds like a decent place to be.

Amigo on Facebook

Roosevelt Row Records store

The Hazytones, Wild Fever

The Hazytones Wild Fever

Culminating in the Sabbathian shuffle of “Eye for an Eye,” Wild Fever is the hook-drenched third full-length from Montreal fuzzbringers The Hazytones, and while they’ve still got the ‘tones’ part down pat, it’s easy to argue the eight included tracks are the least ‘hazy’ they’ve been to-date. Following on from the direction of 2018’s II: Monarchs of Oblivion (review here), the Esben Willems-mixed/Kent Stump-mastered 40-minute long-player isn’t shy about leaning into the grittier side of what they do as the opening title-track rolls out a chorus that reminds of C.O.C. circa In the Arms of God while retaining some of the melody between the vocals of Mick Martel (also guitar and keys) and Gabriel Prieur (also drums and bass), and with the correspondingly thick bass of Caleb Sanders for accompaniment and lead guitarist John Choffel‘s solo rising out of the murk on “Disease,” honing in on the brashness suits them well. Not where one might have expected them to end up six years later, but no less enjoyable for that, either.

The Hazytones on Facebook

Black Throne Productions store

All Are to Return, III

All Are To Return III

God damn that’s harsh. Mostly anonymous industrialists — you get F and N for names and that’s it — All Are to Return are all the more punishing in the horrific recesses and engulfing blasts of static that populate III than they were in 2022’s II (review here), and the fact that the eight-songer is only 32 minutes long is about as close as they come to any concept of mercy for the psyche of their audience. Beyond that, “Moratorium,” “Colony Collapse,” the eats-you-dead “Archive of the Sky” and even the droning “Legacy” cast a willfully wretched extremity, and what might be a humanizing presence of vocals elsewhere is screams channeled through so much distortion as to be barely recognizable as coming from a human throat here. If the question being posed is, “how much can you take?,” the answer for most of those brave enough to even give III a shot will be, “markedly less than this.” A cry from the depths realizing a brutal vision.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records store

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Maragda, Tyrants

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

maragda tyrants

[Click play above to stream Maragda’s second album, Tyrants in full. It’s out tomorrow through Spinda Records. Preorders available here.]

In the parlance of our times, Tyrants might be Maragda entering the chat. And in this case, the “chat” in question is the broader European heavy psychedelic underground with which the eight tracks and 43 minutes  so vividly engage, from the bass-underscored shuffle and chorus burst of the opening title-track (premiered here) through the expansive spacier jamming of “Godspeed,” and well beyond. For the Barcelona-based three-piece of bassist/vocalist/synthesist Marçal Itarte, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Guillem Tora and drummer/vocalist Xavi Pasqual (who would probably play synth too if his hands weren’t already busy), Tyrants is the follow-up to 2021’s impressive full-length debut (review here), and it takes on modern cosmic prog, psych and space rocks from a variety of angles in the songwriting, with varied arrangements, howling solos, and memorable hooks in cuts like “Tyrants,” “Endless,” and “The Singing Mountain,” among others spread throughout that aren’t necessarily just catchy choruses. A keyboard line, a standout lyric (as with the debut, the lyrics are in English), the freneticism in the build of “Sunset Room,” on and on. It’s all fair game in imprinting itself on the mind of the listener, and moreover, it feels intentional in that.

A roiling dynamic is able to account for the wah-drenched rush in the second half of “Skirmish,” the righteous fuzz of “My Only Link,” the mellotron that sneaks into “Endless,” all the ensuing melodic and rhythmic turns and an overarching progression which, for the many pivots between and sometimes within the songs themselves, flows with a sense of purpose. Stylistically, Tyrants touches on classics from The Beatles to Hawkwind (thinking the jangly strums and vocal pattern of “My Only Link” for the latter, the later guitar solo in the same song for the former) while remaining aware of modern forerunners like ElderKing Gizzard or Slift, and has enough range so that when the twisting leads of closer “Loose” bring a particularly flamenco-rooted feel, rather than come across as out of place, it enriches the fleetfooted rhythm of “The Singing Mountain” and “Godspeed” just prior, adding to the context of the front-to-back listening experience. Especially when one factors in the production helmed by the much-respected Richard Behrens at Big Snuff Studio (Elder, front-of-house for Kadavar, much etc.) in Berlin, Germany, to which the band traveled from Spain to record, and the subsequent master by Peter Deimel at Black Box Studios — who also finalized the self-titled — Maragda seem to be upfront in their outreach to the Eurozone underground scene. They sound like they want to play all the festivals, in all the countries. Yes, that includes yours.

Yet, they’re not cloying in that. The howling scorch that begins “Skirmish” and the vocal layering of the verse that follow are an earnest clarion. Following the digging-in as represented by the verses and the way the chorus takes flight from there, those early moments of “Skirmish” make a bold callout to the converted — perhaps most of all to the heads who think they’ve heard it all before — but Tyrants goes deeper than superficially highlighting aspects of current-day psych-prog in this material, and it does not sacrifice the folkier aspects that have long typified Spanish psychedelia in order to fit with some idea of whatever a phrase like “current-day psych-prog” might evoke for a different listener.

maragda

They are themselves in it, however far outside Iberia their influences might reach stylistically or geographically, and even as Tyrants sends out dogwhistles in working with Behrens, putting the words in English, the lush vocal melodicism before “The Sleeping Mountain” gives over to its no-less-lush instrumental ending, and so on, the needs of the song are never measured as less than the message being sent by the album as a whole. As a collection, Tyrants ends up nowhere that Maragda don’t want it to go, and whether you have a background in Spain’s history in folk, psych or rock more generally — to be clear, I don’t — the songs are likewise accessible and encompassing.

If that makes Tyrants sound like it’s somehow educational, that’s part of it, at least on the hearing end. Even in the reverbed boogie of “Tyrants,” Maragda‘s efforts could be read as having an ambassadorial side, and I don’t think that’s a detriment. But, say you’re the type of listener who might just want to put a record on and enjoy it without delving into the social and aesthetic backdrop against which it arrives (madness, I say, but not unheard of), the energetic spirit captured in the recording, the chemistry shared between PasqualTora and Itarte on the live-feeling performances branched in three dimensions to make the final versions of the songs, and the varying shapes that vitality takes are an accomplishment of craft ready to stand on their own. In the physical motion of the leadoff, the heft unveiled in “Skirmish” and the intricacies of tone and groove beneath the chorus in “Endless,” Maragda launch side A with an enticing salvo that holds the momentum amassed through shifts between longer and shorter runtimes and trades in volume, pace and tone, and a resounding sense of joy in both the build of tension and the freedom inherent in its release. And as much as Tyrants can be defined by its ambitious scope, that applies as much to the interplay of drift and push in “Sunset Room” as it does to the bridges it constructs between often-disparate interpretations of style, and the heart put into its execution cannot and should not be ignored.

Rather, the passion that comes through is pivotal to every level on which Tyrants meets what feel like its goals — and to that, it’s not as though Maragda have said they’re trying to give the countries east of their home peninsula a piece of what they’ve been missing; that’s what I hear happening in the songs separate from the lyrical storyline and at an ocean’s distance and I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth — and while not without its indulgent side as “Loose” reaches toward seven minutes in capping with revitalized mellow-heavy fluidity, Tyrants is nonetheless clearheaded and lets its movement or procession handle its own declarations.

In this, it remains about presence over pretense. Adding to rather than taking from. It is optimistic and forward-looking. What Maragda do on Tyrants expands the palette for themselves first and genre second, and whatever the future will bring for them, whatever they might do next, wherever they might tour, whatever whatever whatever comes of the potential this sophomore LP carries, it is a significant achievement by itself that distinguishes the band from the pigeonholes in which they might otherwise be placed. If they’re entering the chat, they’ve brought plenty to say.

Maragda, “Tyrants” Live at Siete Barbas Studios video

Maragda on Instagram

Maragda on Facebook

Maragda on Bandcamp

Maragda’s linktr.ee

Spinda Records on Facebook

Spinda Records on Instagram

Spinda Records on Bandcamp

Spinda Records website

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Maragda Announce Tyrants Out May 8; Premiere Title-Track

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on March 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

maragda

Barcelona trio Maragda will release their sophomore full-length, Tyrants, on May 8 through Spinda Records. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find two versions of the title-track premiering — the album version of the song and a live-in-studio take as if to demonstrate, “yes, we really can pull this off.” And so they can. And hopefully will for much of the rest of this year on tour in Europe.

Officially, that’s the point of this post. Between you and me, sitting comfortably having a friendly chat together about the things in life that make it tolerable, I’ll tell you that I’ve had the chance to dig into the record and that the hooky proggy cosmic modern space boogie bop of “Tyrants” is no fluke. Maragda pinpoint genre intersections and explore sounds throughout Tyrants that go beyond manifesting the potential of their 2021 self-titled debut (review here). Clear-eyed in their composition, rich in melody and atmosphere, they could hardly be doing more to signal their arrival to the heavy underground in Europe and beyond.

Preorders open tonight at midnight CET, and while I acknowledge that not every track is going to land with every listener, I urge you to take a few minutes for “Tyrants,” which opens the album, to get a glimpse at the sprawl Maragda are conjuring and the manner in which they careen through it. European tribalism has for the better part of 40 years ignored the development of Iberian heavy and progressive rock. Tyrants shows this for how ridiculous it truly is in its flourishing realization and the outreach in the production at Big Snuff Studio by the esteemed Richard Behrens (he was in Heat and Samsara Blues Experiment, has helmed records for Samavayo, Delving and WeiteAbanamat, countless others), actively working to engage the modern heavy psych sphere with all its king-this-and-thats and bouncy galaxial thrust, while also tapping into Spain’s long history of prog melody. Shit, it’s even in English (as was the first record). They could hardly do more if they offered to put your name in a song.

It is an exciting listen. It is not the most hyped album you’re going to hear in 2024, but if you do catch it — and now’s a good time to be introduced — it might just be something you come to treasure.

To wit, it’s one I feel strongly enough about that, in addition to premiering the studio and live versions of “Tyrants” at the bottom of this post, I’m slated to stream the album in full Tuesday, May 7. Keep an eye out.

Art, PR wire info and, crucially, the music, follow. Please enjoy:

maragda tyrants

MARAGDA DROPS ‘TYRANTS’ AS FIRST SINGLE OF THEIR UPCOMING SECOND STUDIO ALBUM

Preorders (midnight CET March 22): https://spindarecords.com/

Maragda, the energetic power-trio from Barcelona, announces the release of their second studio album, “Tyrants”, available on May 8 via Spinda Records. The band is offering a sneak peek of the album with the release of its title track, showcasing both the studio and live versions taken from their recent live session recorded at Siete Barbas Studios.

This highly anticipated album follows their successful self-titled debut album (2021, Spinda Records) and the live EP “The Reckless / Evil Seed” (2022, Spinda Records). In this new musical journey, the band immerses listeners in introspective themes ranging from self-imposed limitations to the fight for values, love, hope, and farewells. All of this unfolds in a hypothetical fantasy universe, where psychedelia and progressive rock continuously merge, adding nuances of other styles like garage.

For the creation of the album “Tyrants”, Maragda embarked on a creative journey that took them to the Big Snuff Studios in Berlin, where they collaborated with studio engineer Richard Behrens, renowned for his work with bands like Kadavar and Elder. Subsequently, the mastering was handled by acclaimed engineer Peter Deimel (known for his work with bands like Motorpsycho) at the Black Box Studios in France, solidifying a successful collaboration that began with their debut album.

In the visual department, the band has once again partnered with Error! Design studio (known for works with Explosions In The Sky, Russian Circles, Mastodon) for the album’s graphic design, ensuring a cohesive and captivating aesthetic experience for their followers.

TRACK-LIST
1. Tyrants
2. Skirmish
3. Endless
4. My only link
5. Sunset room
6. The singing mountain
7. Godspeed
8. Loose

PRE-ORDER:
22 march 2024

RELEASE DATE
8 may 2024

‘Tyrants’ will be available on May 8 through Spinda Records, although album pre-orders will kick off at midnight on Friday, March 22nd, in both CD and vinyl formats. The vinyl edition will be part of the ‘Trippy Series’ from the Andalusian label, alongside acts such as Viaje a 800, Moura, Empty Full Space, or Moundrag. It will be limited to 400 copies on white vinyl with orange splatters and 100 copies on standard black vinyl.

LIVE SHOWS
May 17 | Madrid (ES) @ Madrid Psych Sessions
June 8 | Barcelona (ES) @ Sala Upload (fiesta de presentación)

https://www.instagram.com/maragda.band/
https://www.facebook.com/maragdaaa
http://www.maragda.bandcamp.com/
https://linktr.ee/maragdaband

https://www.facebook.com/SpindaRecords
https://www.instagram.com/spindarecords
https://spindarecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.spindarecords.com/

Maragda, “Tyrants” track premiere

Maragda, “Tyrants” Live at Siete Barbas Studios video premiere

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Saturna Premiere “A Few Words to Say” Video; The Reset Out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

saturna

Barcelona classic-progressive heavy rockers Saturna released their fifth full-length, The Reset, last month through Spinda Records and Discos Macarras. A big gallop, an immediate sense of melodic mastery, and the listener is swept into “Your Whimsical Selfishness,” an oddly phrased but welcome hook that is the initial salvo from Saturna‘s latest offering, which in its digital edition runs 14 tracks and 66 minutes with the addition of four bonus live covers to the standard 10 originals. If you’ve heard the record already, great. As well written and produced heavy rock albums will, it snagged scene attention last month; a word of mouth hype spreading through shared links in a manner that it feels strange to think of as organic, because digital reality, but is that anyway.

Brightly fuzzed and putting Toni del Amo‘s guest keys to use with the organ sounds on that opener, Saturna‘s sound brings together decades of rock and heavy influences to feed into its construction. Of course, you get a ’70s-via-’90s feel at the root that one could argue is the foundation for the modern genre, but more pointedly, “Your Whimsical Selfishness” incorporates a stretch of folkish acoustic guitar to ease the transition into “The Never Ending Star,” which also tops five minutes (three songs do, including the first two, which feels purposeful), and has some light touch of Thin Lizzy in the guitars of James Vieco (also vocals) and Alexandre Sánchez, but its verse moves into a light-strum Zeppelin build back to its gentle push of a chorus. The four-piece — Vieco, Sánchez, bassist Rod Tirado and drummer Enric Verdaguer — trade between later Sabbathian largesse and subdued liquefaction on “Smile” and build off the earlier folkishness in the harmonized acoustic cut “December’s Dust” before “Into the Sun” surges forth with admirably Spidergawdy verve. So yes, more Thin Lizzy influence.

This is the part where I tell you Saturna bring their persona to that, and frankly, five albums deep into their tenure, as well they should. But part of what they do is to be in conversation with classics — and I think including not only four bonus covers, but covers of saturna the resetwell known songs in Black Sabbath‘s “A National Acrobat,” The Beatles‘ “Come Together” (which nothing against the band’s version but I don’t think anyone should cover, ever; Soundgarden didn’t need to do it either; it’s not a song that should be touched; take on “Oh! Darling” instead if you’re feeling brave or “Yer Blues” if you wanna go dark), The Doors‘ “Five to One” and Jimi Hendrix‘s “Who Knows,” is intentional in its communion aspect — in their original songwriting as well, and that comes through in the proggy surge of “A Few Words to Say,” which feels like a continuation of the dialogue from “Your Whimsical Selfishness” on some level, maybe thematic, and captures an exciting push coming off the speedier “Into the Sun” that serves as a shift to the slower, more willfully expansive “The Sign,” rife with clearheaded ethereality and sunshiny heft.

“Made of Stone,” the longest song at 7:50, is a full-on classic heavy blues jam. It brings a return of the keys in a prominent role and dual vocals from Vieco and Sánchez as if to emphasize command even at what’s arguably The Reset‘s loosest moment. It builds to a classy apex but never wants to go over the top, so doesn’t, leaving the boogie “On Fire” — Priest via Motörhead is a winning combination — to give a landmark hook before the semi-titular closer “A Way to Reset” finishes along similarly straightforward lines structurally, but pulls back on tempo in favor of a nodding groove and intricate call and response bounce of guitar in its verse, almost Graveyard-esque, but the melody and the takeoff solo are Saturna‘s to be sure. They don’t blow it out at the finish, but the last chorus wants nothing for vibrance as a setup for the quiet finish and, on the download, immediate transition to the start of “A National Acrobat.”

Saturna did a covers night at some point, and apparently recorded it. Fair. Not every band would be malleable enough to shift from the sleek prot0-heavy blues wordplay of “Come Together” to the guttural stomp of “Five to One,” but Saturna make it work, with the vocals no less malleable. “Who Knows” comes across particularly funky, and that’s as reasonable an ending as one could ask for The Reset, which might be related as a title to some sense of starting over for the band — they were on one of Ripple‘s Turned to Stone splits in 2022 with Electric Monolith (review here), and one would not describe their sound at that point as broken or needing resetting, but you never know — or could just as easily be a broader call or something as simple as trying to fix the Super Nintendo they found in the garage. I don’t know, but taken on its own level and merits, The Reset stands up to the mighty forebears of its influences with a strength of craft and performance that are undeniable and a vitally engaging construction. There’s no real room for argument.

The band’s video for “A Few Words to Say,” which includes the shift to new guitarist Max Eriksson, premieres below. Please enjoy:

Saturna, “A Few Words to Say” video premiere

More than 4 years had passed since the Barcelona-based band Saturna released ‘Atlantis’, which was their latest full-length album until now. Much had happened since then, and their members had evolved musically, a fact evident from the first listening of “Your whimsical selfishness” and “The never ending star”, the two advance singles from ‘The reset’, their recently released new studio album.

This new offering from Saturna arrives through Spinda Records and Discos Macarras – who also co-released their previous album – and immediately positions itself as their best album to date , and also the most varied in terms of compositions. It explores a musical landscape that is a blend of hard rock, psychedelia, post-grunge, and heavy rock, as the band pointed out in recent interviews with Bienvenidos a los 90 and Siete Barbas Estudio, where they performed a live session, including “Smile” and “The never ending star”, both tracks from their new album.

Recorded at Analog Drive-in Studios, mixed by their regular collaborator Dani Pernas and mastered at Doctor Master, ‘The reset’ is now officially available in both physical formats (compact disc and vinyl) and digital. The Bandcamp edition includees 4 bonus live tracks featuring covers of Black Sabbath, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix y The Doors.

First tour dates announced:
Jan 20 in Barcelona (ES) @ Sala Wolf
Feb 17 in Vitoria-Gasteiz (ES) @ Errekaleor Ouzo Askea
Mar 10 in Torredembarra (ES) @ La Travi
Jul 5 in Tenerife (ES) @ Teatro Leal La Laguna

THE RESET
1. Your whimsical selfishness
2. The never ending star
3. Smile
4. December’s dust
5. Into the sun
6. A few words to say
7. The sign
8. Made of stone
9. On fire
10. A way to reset

All songs have been written and produced by Saturna.
Lyrics by James Vieco and Saturna.

Recorded by Christian A.Korn at Analog Drive-in.
Mixed by Dani Pernas.
Mastered by Estanislao Elorza at Doctor Master.
Artwork and cover by Jondix.
Design and layout by Marta Ramon.

Additional musician:
Toni del Amo – Keyboards

SATURNA is:
Rod Tirado – Bass
James Vieco – Vocals, guitars
Alexandre Sánchez – Guitars, backing vocals
Enric Verdaguer – Drums

Saturna, The Reset (2023)

Saturna on Facebook

Saturna on Instagram

Saturna on YouTube

Saturna on Bandcamp

Discos Macarras on Instagram

Discos Macarras on Facebook

Discos Macarras on Bandcamp

Discos Macarras website

Spinda Records on Facebook

Spinda Records on Instagram

Spinda Records on Bandcamp

Spinda Records website

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Electric Monolith

Posted in Questionnaire on June 14th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

electric monolith

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Oscar Chamorro (vocals/guitar), Pepo Villena (drums), Ramón Viña (bass) from Electric Monolith

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

Oscar Chamorro: I like to think I create worlds. The hard way I guess. Lots of trial, and error.

Ramón Viña: I work as a musicologist, DJ, and I also have a role in this band. Simply because of my love/obsession with music since I was very young, and this is what led me to where I am.

Pepo Villena: A self taught drummer doing his best and I would say thanks to my mom’s patience during my young (and rebel) days I’ve been able to become who I’m right now.

Describe your first musical memory.

OC: Ta, Da, Da, Ta, Taaaaaa. The main motif of Steven Spielberg’s “Close encounters of the third kind”. I believe it was the first film I saw in the big screen, and I was pretty young, so I have a strong attachment to this movie.

RV: The Beatles. My parents used to listen to them all the time, so they are the O.S.T. of my life.

PV: Singing basque christmas carols dressed in typical basque clothes in my neighbourhood, going door to door to earn some money with my friends as a really young kid.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

OC: That’s a hard one, as there are so many… But I can mention a special one. The first time I heard “Come Together” by The Beatles under the influence of LSD. I’ve heard that band plenty of times since I was a kid, but I never listened to them like that once.

RV: Nirvana’s show in 1994 at Barcelona, and all that came during that era, music-wise.

PV: As a performer I would say any of the gigs we’ve played at the disappeared and missed Rocksound, the greatest venue Barcelona ever had. And as an audience there are lots of great memories to choose just one, maybe my first big festival as a kid. Warped Tour on 98 with Bad Religion and The Specials amongst other great bands from that time like C.I.V., Lagwagon or Ignite. Yes, I was a teenage punk rocker!

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

OC: Last time I broke off with someone.

RV: When I grow up, I realize everything I’ve been told was a lie.

PV: I was member of the workers council of my company and I’m a member of an anarchist workers union and recently had to quit the job because of the pressures and false allegations from other union members playing in favor of the company and getting rid of all the uncomfortable people on the workers council to do whatever they want with the coworkers.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

OC: To me it leads to a never ending road where I find myself chasing unreachable carrots all over, and over…

RV: It leads to experimentation, and trying new things. Always.

PV: To always keep discovering new ways of expression and boundaries to reach.

How do you define success?

OC: Being able to achieve whatever you want to?

RV: When you do the things you really want to do.

PV: Doing what you love the most for the living and not having to work for anyone but yourself.

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

OC: You don’t want to know. Trust me ;)

RV: So many things. I rather not talk about them. hahaha

PV: People with lots of ego turning into others for stupid things or being rude because of their supposed “social status” or whatever. Hateful.

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

OC: A full OST.

RV: A business related to musicology or show promoter.

PV: A nice and profitable venue in Barcelona for gigs and rehearsal rooms for all musician friends in our scene.

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

OC: To move people by touching their hearts, and minds. I think it is all about feelings at the end.

RV: Make you feel things, and inspire you.

PV: To transmit feelings, experiences or ideas to the audience/viewers/readers/etc. and connect in a way that anything else can.

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

OC: A full feature film or a TV series. Cinema is another love of mine. I’ve been poking there for years, too many perhaps, but it all ended in disaster ;) I have nice memories though. Some part inside me stills looking forward to it. Who knows?

RV: I always loved cinema, although I doubt I end up doing any of that. Mi world. and my job, both are related to music.

PV: Have my own farm or at least a little piece of land to grow things there.

https://www.facebook.com/electricmonolithband
https://www.instagram.com/electricmonolith/
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5fHrOX1CLtvB8R4RUjgwMy
https://electric-monolith.bandcamp.com/

Electric Monolith, Turned to Stone Ch. 4 – Higher Selves (split w/ Saturna) (2022)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Joan Francesc “Fiar” Monguió of Foscor

Posted in Questionnaire on April 26th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

foscor

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Joan Francesc “Fiar” Monguió of Foscor

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

At my studying years of career, I remember having a conversation with a renewed poet who was explaining to the class the sort of emotional dialogue poetry allowed him to develop. Like an exercise which words were tools for defining the immaterial… I remember asking him why he couldn’t see a way higher tool and resource music than poetry, considering that the immaterial perhaps shouldn’t be defined with words, limited in meaning and scope, because responses to a way higher level of comprehension??

I remember sharing some thoughts with him about that, and how conventions and language must serve humans to define what they don’t know. From that point, I understood why I always felt that music was the path I needed to live…something special having way more to do with an untouchable emotional point of view, than a simple tool for catching a moment.

Music speaks to your guts, heart and more essential emotions, despite someone would call them perverted by the society and education we all have had… Music should only speak to that level of human consciousness, the immaterial one, and allow each of the ones you shared it too, feel it from their very unique nature.

So, Emotional Music is what I like to think I do… or face.

Describe your first musical memory.

As a kid, being at my grandparents’ living room, playing with my hands being an orchestra director. My grandfather was a classical music lover, and probably under three years, I have images of his wall furniture from where he played those vinyls and show me something I’ve always called, intensity.

Call it trauma…or whatever, but there already was a sort of seed that many years after made a spark of love for music shine. Being part of a moment of greatness, something I wasn’t able to explain and understand at that so early age, but once I started seriously to play in bands, came with strength to me.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Interesting…and so difficult to answer though. I honestly don’t give much importance to the past in terms of nostalgia. I have always felt a sort of exciting expectation for what’s yet to come, and having this feeling every day or often, because my sight is onwards and not backwards, means the world to me.

Said that, I guess that this difficulty might come from the different way I live and approach myself to the music experience. As a creator or consumer should mark a difference regarding picking a best memory, and why not the personal moment on each parcel or the Live one perhaps should too. I know…you are just asking me for one best musical memory, but honestly, I cannot set only one when it refers to music.

I think it was “Within The Depths of Silence and Phormations”, in 1995, during a trip to the Basque Country trees one of the most intense experiences with music I’ve ever had…Ok, there was some help of substances that helped to merge us with Nature and ourselves…but this memory still gives goosebumps. There would be a couple of unique moments when listening to a couple of Norwegian Black Metal albumsin a way more lonely way, back in the days, which like nails…are deep inside and would accompany this top.

In terms of Live experience, it’s so difficult to beat the emotion once lived after a memorable concert from your own band. In my case, the best memory might be set during and after the presentation gig of our 2017’s album “Les Irreals Visions” in our hometown with a sold out venue… I’m not lying if I call it one of the best musical memories, because of the spontaneous moment and thrilling development of actions during the time it lasted…and it might be considered like that closure act for a soooo long process, which made that moment even more special and unique.

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

More than a belief I should say a way to face things… If I might set how much being involved in band changed a really shy guy like me from 20’s on… after probably 15 years believing I was doing things right in terms of living, moving and developing my band, a big disappointment moment after releasing our 4th album helped me out to because a new profile of person and definitely grow in a much more productive and efficient way.

Let’s say that our relationship with our label and booking agent at that time suddenly ended after them feeling disappointed on the kind of band they thought we were and they truly found. They were kind enough for explaining the lack of attitude and qualities despite the creative one. I remember feeling so bad at that time, like defeated… and of course it meant big issues in the band’s core.

After that, and a really thoughtful period, I remember jumping to an “empty pool” trying to prove myself that I was much better than what the mirror those guys put me in front showed me. It was like a challenge in terms of changing 360º the manners I used to have…probably improve and polish many I already had but didn’t used right…and learn in a really short time what even in more than 15 years I was not capable to realize. I’ll be always grateful for such experience and bad moment for everything that changed on me and allowed me later to live.

I might write many names who are worth mentioning, but I feel this is about ideas, not stories in itself… Anybody in need to know when I’m talking about, simply look for the band we were before and after 2015.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

And artist shall take care of many sources and resources in order to be able to express his ideas and what comes from heart. From the skills and tools he need, to the inspirational seas where feel drowned in ecstasy… progression should lead to be able to express yourself more and better every time you need it.

I’m thinking on progression linked to your own personal development, what I feel should be natural and healthy in terms of creating and expressing something coherent with yourself. Perhaps this personal development is not necessary leading to communicate and connect much better with people, but at least should allow you to feel as much control as possible of your speech and the process and result of what you need to express.

More often, than someone might think, when all of this occurs, progression in terms of music language appears from nowhere…and it is so thrilling.

How do you define success?

Feeling renovated enthusiasm and motivation for the main things you are led by.
Let’s put an example in terms of music… I might mention an album not reaching or receiving the attention and response you would had expected. I am talking about the passion that moves you on to need expressing yourself with music. All the process lived from the first conception act to the very last effort put into layout, lyrics or promotional visuals cannot be dragged because it doesn’t get “results”.

Maximum, it should make you reconsider your way of expressing if what you want is results, but never get down the passion running through your veins. Same thing goes for values which too often and put to test.

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

The coldness on people that shows no empathy with the others… I’ve seen and see that every day in too much life circumstances, and really hurts and makes me feel fed up of the society I live in. You are probably asking me for a music related topic, but even in this small artistic bubble, this is something I wish I would not see anymore.

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

An album with no schedule nor money limitations… Let’s say this in a way more positive way: I would love to create an album or even a way more complex creation, gathering as many artistic disciplines as possible, worked from a total feeling of freedom in terms of time and resources. Looks like there’s always a sort of presence pushing behind when recording music, that would be lovely to make disappear…of course it has to do with the fact that we always have had to deal with such moments among many other life matters and obligations, and probably it may affect to the result.

Every new recording gives me the impression that we are way more efficient, productive and capable to manage everything better than before; but even then, there’s job times to deal with, money limits we cannot afford, etc… That’s the dream I have.

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

With no doubt it’s a communicative one…

You might fill that with all the aesthetical theory and philosophy, but in the end art is the main tool we humans have to connect with the immaterial world. There’s no need to define what’s immaterial, but I’m pretty sure each one of your readers may have a very own idea of how defining the immaterial from a social, cultural, religious or simply emotional point of view, something we cannot explain but we need to express. And even more… share, because the act of communication, although being based on a dialogue with ourselves, always translates previous moments into something new…so, knowledge, to keep living.

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

My son is 2 years and 8 months old, and beyond the challenging moment that paternity means for someone who lives music the way I live, I’m very much looking forward seeing my son develop himself the way he feels. I would love him to be able to express himself in any artistic discipline…but way more important, I would love to see him growing moved by a healthy passion, and surrounded by life aspects that he feels good with.

https://www.facebook.com/foscor.official
https://twitter.com/foscor_official
http://foscor.bandcamp.com/
http://www.youtube.com/user/FOSCORbcn
https://www.foscor.com

https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Foscor, Els Sepulcres Blancs (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Black Math Horseman, Baker ja Lehtisalo, Chrome Ghost, Wölfhead, Godzilla in the Kitchen, Onhou, Fuzzerati, Afghan Haze, Massirraytorr, Tona

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

Not to get too mathy or anything — stay with me, folks — but today is the day the Winter 2023 Quarterly Review passes the three-quarter mark on its way to 80 of the total 100 releases to be covered. And some of those are full-lengths, some are EPs, some are new, one yesterday was almost a year old. That happens. The idea here, one way or the other, is personal discovery. I hope you’ve found something thus far worth digging into, something that really hits you. And if not, you’ve still got 30 releases — 10 each today, tomorrow, Friday — to come, so don’t give up yet. We proceed…

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #71-80:

Black Math Horseman, Black Math Horseman

Black math Horseman self titled

Though long foretold by the prophets of such things, the return of Black Math Horseman with 2022’s self-titled, live-recorded-in-2019 EP some 13 years after their 2009 debut full-length, Wyllt (discussed here, interview here), helped set heavy post-rock in motion, is still a surprise. The tension in the guitars of Ian Barry (who also handled recording/mixing) and Bryan Tulao in the eponymous opener is maddening, a tumult topped by the vocals of Sera Timms (who here shares bass duties with Rex Elle), and given thunder by drummer Sasha Popovic, and as part of a salvo of three cuts all seven minutes or longer, it marks the beginning of a more intense extraction of the atmospheric approach to heavy songcraft that made their past work such a landmark, with the crashes of “Cypher” and the strummy sway of “The Bough” following ahead of shorter, even-driftier closer “Cypber.” There’s a big part of me that wishes Black Math Horseman was a full-length, but an even bigger part is happy to take what it can get and hope it’s not another decade-plus before they follow it with something more. Not to be greedy, but in 2009 this band had a lot more to say and all this time later that still feels like the case and their sound still feels like it’s reaching into the unknown.

Black Math Horseman on Facebook

Profound Lore Records store

 

Baker Ja Lehtisalo, Crocodile Tears

Baker Ja Lehtisalo Crocodile Tears

The names here should be enough. It’s Aidan Baker from heavy drone experimentalist institution Nadja ja (‘and’ in Finnish) Jussi Lehtisalo from prog-of-all masters Circle, collaborating and sharing guitar, bass, vocal and drum programming duties — Lehtisalo would seem also to add the keyboards that give the the titular neon to centerpiece “Neon Splashing (From Your Eyes)” — on a 53-minute song cycle, running a broad spectrum between open-space post-industrial drone and more traditional smoky, melancholic, heady pop. Closer “Racing After Midnight” blends darker whispers with dreamy keyboard lines before moving into avant techno, not quite in answer to “I Wanna Be Your Bête Noire” earlier, but not quite not, and inevitably the 14-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “(And I Want Your Perfect) Crocodile Tears” is a defining stretch in terms of ambience and setting the contextual backdrop for what follows, its howling guitar layered with drum machine churn in a way that’s analogous to Jesu in style but not form, the wash that emerges in the synth and guitar there seeming likewise to be the suddenly-there alt-reality New Wave destination of the more languid meander of “Face/Off.” The amalgam of beauty and crush is enough to make one hope this isn’t Baker and Lehtisalo‘s last get together, but if it is, they made something worth preserving. By which I mean to say you might want to pick up the CD.

Jussi Lehtisalo on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker website

Ektro Records website

Broken Spine Productions on Bandcamp

 

Chrome Ghost, House of Falling Ash

Chrome Ghost House of Falling Ash

While their crux is no less in the dreamy, sometimes minimalist, melodic parts and ambient stretches of their longer-form songs and the interludes “In the Tall Grass” and “Bloom (Reprise),” the outright crush of Sacramento’s Chrome Ghost on their third record, House of Falling Ash (on Seeing Red), is not to be understated, whether that’s the lumber-chug of 14-minute opener “Rose in Bloom” or the bookending 13-minute closing title-track’s cacophonous wash, through which the trio remain coherent enough to roll out clean as they give the record its growl-topped sludge metal finish. Continuing the band’s clearly-ain’t-broke collaboration with producer Pat Hills, the six-song/50-minute offering boasts guest appearances from him on guitar, as well as vocals from Eva Rose (ex-CHRCH) on “Furnace,” likewise consuming loud or quiet, punishing or spacious, Oakland-based ambient guitarist Yseulde in the lengthy, minimalist midsection of “Where Black Dogs Dream,” setting up the weighted and melodic finish there, with Brume‘s Susie McMullin joining on vocals to add to the breadth. There’s a lot happening throughout, loud/quiet trades, experimental flourish, some pedal steel from Hills, but guitarist/vocalist Jake Kilgore (also keys), bassist Joe Cooper and drummer Jacob Hurst give House of Falling Ash a solid underpinning of atmospheric sludge and post-metal, and the work is all the more expressive and (intermittently) gorgeous for it.

Chrome Ghost on Facebook

Seeing Red Records store

 

Wölfhead, Blood Full Moon

Wölfhead Blood Full Moon

Straight-ahead, metal-informed, organ-inclusive classic heavy rock is the order of the day on Wölfhead‘s second album, Blood Full Moon, which is the Barclona-based four-piece’s first offering since their 2011 self-titled debut and is released through Discos Macarras, Música Hibrida and Iron Matron Records. An abiding impression of the 11-song offering comes as the band — who filled out their well-pedigreed core lineup of vocalist Ivan Arrieta, guitarists Josue Olmo and Javi Félez, and drummer Pep Carabante with session players David Saavedra (bass) and Albert Recolons (keys) — present rippers like the Motörhead (no real surprise, considering) via Orange Goblin rocker “Funeral Hearse” as the tail end of a raucous opening salvo, or the later “Mother of the Clan,” but from there the proceedings get more complex, with the classic doom roll of “Rame Tep” or the Jerry Cantrell-esque moody twang of “Everlasting Outlaw,” while “Eternal Stone Mountain” blends keyboard grandiosity and midtempo hookmaking in a way that should bring knowing nods from Green Lung fans, while “The Munsters” is, yes, a take on the theme from the tv show, and closer “El Llop a Dins” takes an airier, sans-drums and more open feel, highlighting melody rather than an overblown finish that, had they gone that route, would have been well earned.

Wölfhead on Facebook

Discos Macarras website

Música Hibrida website

Iron Matron Records store

 

Godzilla in the Kitchen, Exodus

godzilla in the kitchen exodus

Issued through Argonauta Records, Exodus‘ seven inclusions are situated so that their titles read as a sentence: “Is,” “The Future of Mankind,” “Forced By,” “The King of Monsters,” “Because,” “Everything That Has Been Given,” “Will Be Taken Away.” Thus Leipzig, Germany, instrumentalists Godzilla in the Kitchen‘s second album is immediately evocative, even before “Is” actually introduces the rest of what follows across three minutes of progressively minded heavy rock — parts calling to mind Pelican duking it out with Karma to Burn — that give way to the longest cut and an obvious focal point, “The Future of Mankind,” which reimagines the bass punch from Rage Against the Machine‘s “Killing in the Name Of” as fodder for an odd-timed expanse of Tool-ish progressive heavy, semi-psych lead work coming and going around more direct riffing. The dynamic finds sprawl in “Because” and highlights desert-style underpinnings in the fading lead lines of “Everything That Has Been Given” before the warmer contemplation of “Will Be Taken” caps with due substance. Their use of Godzilla — not named in the songs, but in the band’s moniker, and usually considered the “king of monsters” — as a metaphor for climate change is inventive, but even that feels secondary to the instrumental exploration itself here. They may be mourning for what’s been lost, but they do so with a vigor that, almost inadvertently, can’t help but feel hopeful.

Godzilla in the Kitchen on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

 

Onhou, Monument

Onhou Monument

Megalurching post-sludgers Onhou leave a crater with the four-song Monument, released by Lay Bare Recordings and Tartarus Records and comprising four songs and a 41-minute run that’s crushing in atmosphere as much as the raw tonal heft or the bellowing vocals that offset the even harsher screams. Leadoff “When on High” (8:19) is the shortest cut and lumbers toward a viciously noisy payoff and last stretch of even-slower chug and layered extreme screams/shouts, while “Null” (10:39) is unremittingly dark, less about loud/quiet tradeoffs though there still are some, but with depths enough to bury that line of organ and seeming to reference Neurosis‘ “Reach,” and “Below” (11:55) sandwiches an ambient beginning and standalone keyboard finish around post-metallic crunch and not so much a mournfulness as the lizard-brain feeling of loss prior to mourning; that naked sense of something not there that should be, mood-wise. Sure enough, “Ruins” (11:03) continues this bleak revelry, rising to a nod in its first couple minutes, breaking, returning in nastier fashion and rolling through a crescendo finish that makes the subsequent residual feedback feel like a mercy which, to be sure, it is not. If you think you’re up to it, you might be, or you might find yourself consumed. One way or the other, Onhou plod forward with little regard for the devastation surrounding. As it should be.

Onhou on Facebook

Lay Bare Recordings website

Tartarus Records on Bandcamp

 

Fuzzerati, Zwo

Fuzzerati Zwo

Less meditative than some of Germany’s instrumental heavy psych set, Bremen’s Fuzzerati explore drifting heavy psychedelic soundscapes on their 47-minute second album, Zwo, further distinguishing themselves in longform pieces like “Claus to Hedge” (13:01) and closer “Lago” (13:34) with hints of floaty post-rock without ever actually becoming so not-there as to be shoegazing. “Lago” and “Claus to Hedge” also have harder-hitting moments of more twisting, pushing fuzz — the bass in the second half of “Claus to Hedge” is a highlight — where even at its loudest, the seven-minute “Transmission” is more about dream than reality, with a long ambient finish that gives way to the similarly-minded ethereal launch of “Spacewalk,” which soon enough turns to somewhat ironically terrestrial riffing and is the most active inclusion on the record. For that, and more generally for the fluidity of the album as a whole, Fuzzerati‘s sophomore outing feels dug in and complete, bordering on the jazziness of someone like Causa Sui, but ultimately no more of their ilk than of My Sleeping Karma‘s or Colour Haze‘s, and I find that without a ready-made box to put them in — much as “instrumental heavy psych” isn’t a box — it’s a more satisfying experience to just go where the three-piece lead, to explore as they do, breathe with the material. Yeah, that’ll do nicely, thanks.

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Afghan Haze, Hallucinations of a Heretic

Afghan Haze Hallucinations of a Heretic

At least seemingly in part a lyrical narrative about a demon killing an infant Jesus and then going to hell to rip the wings off angels and so on — it’s fun to play pretend — Afghan Haze‘s Hallucinations of a Heretic feels born of the same extreme-metal-plus-heavy-rock impulse that once produced Entombed‘s To Ride Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, and yeah, that’s a compliment. The bashing of skulls starts with “Satan Ripper” after the Church of Misery-style serial murderer intro “Pushing up Daisies,” and though “Hellijuana” has more of a stomp than a shove, the dudely-violence is right there all the same. “Occupants (Of the Underworld)” adds speed to the proceedings for an effect like High on Fire born out of death metal instead of thrash, and though the following closer “Gin Whore” (another serial killer there) seems to depart from the story being told, its sludge is plenty consistent with the aural assault being meted out by the Connecticut four-piece, omnidirectional in its disdain and ready at a measure’s notice to throw kicks and punches at whosoever should stand in its way, as heard in that burner part of “Gin Whore” and the all-bludgeon culmination of “Occupants (Of the Underworld).” This shit does not want to be your friend.

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Massirraytorr, Twincussion

Massirraytorr Twincussion

My only wish here is that I could get a lyric sheet for the Britpsych-style banger that is “Costco Get Fucked.” Otherwise, I’m fully on board with Canadian trio Massirraytorr‘s debut LP, Twincussion — which, like the band’s name, is also styled all-caps, and reasonably so since the music does seem to be shouting, regardless of volume or what the vocals are actually up to in that deep-running-but-somehow-punk lysergic swamp of a mix. “Porno Clown” is garage raw. Nah, rawer. And “Bong 4” struts like if krautrock had learned about fuckall, the layer of effects biting on purpose ahead of the next rhythmic push. In these, as well as leadoff “Calvin in the Woods” and the penultimate noisefest “Fear Garden,” Massirraytorr feel duly experimentalist, but perhaps without the pretension that designation might imply. That is to say, fucking around is how they’re finding out how the songs go. That gives shades of punk like the earliest, earliest, earliest Monster Magnet, or The Heads, or Chrome, or, or, or, I don’t know fuck you. It’s wild times out here in your brain, where even the gravity slingshot of “The Juice” feels like a relatively straightforward moment to use as a landmark before the next outward acceleration. Good luck with it, kids. Remember to trail a string so you can find your way back.

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Tona, Tona

Tona tona

Serbian five-piece Tona make their self-titled second LP with a 10-song collection that’s less a hodgepodge and more a melting pot of different styles coming together to serve the needs of a given song. “Sharks” is a rock tempo with a thrash riff. “Napoleon Complex Dog” is blues via hardcore punk. Opener “Skate Zen” takes a riff that sounds like White Zombie and sets it against skate rock and Megadeth at the same time. The seven-minute “Flashing Lights” turns progadelic ahead of the dual-guitar strut showoff “Shooter” and the willful contrast of the slogging, boozy closer “Just a Sip of It.” But as all-over-the-place as Tona‘s Tona is, it’s to the credit of their songwriting that they’re able to hold it together and emerge with a cohesive style from these elements, some of which are counterintuitively combined. They make it work, in other words, and even the Serbian-language “Atreid” gets its point across (all the more upon translation) with its careening, tonally weighted punk. Chock full of attitude, riffs, and unexpected turns, Tona‘s second long-player and first since 2008 gives them any number of directions in which to flourish as they move forward, and shows an energy that feels born from and for the stage.

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Marçal Itarte of Maragda

Posted in Questionnaire on October 5th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Marçal Itarte of Maragda

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Marçal Itarte of Maragda

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

I put my efforts to combine my passion for music and mountaineering with my family life and a part time job.

Describe your first musical memory.

I remember my brother playing a Metallica cassette everywhere. It was on at home, in the car… One day our mother asked what was that radio show on the radio, because there were no adds, no one speaking… she was driving us to school. It was not a radio show it was The Cassette. Again.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Probably the best memories are that shows that one plays or attends that they end up being magic.

I have a very special memory of a Motorpsycho show so many years ago. At that moment I didn’t know the band yet and I was totally mesmerized, had goosebumps and I was sober. I don’t remember any show ever since where I had that feeling. That one and Tool live in Lisbon was also memorable!

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

I have always played music or recorded it in the most technical approach, and I was convinced it was the best way to do it. One day I realized I wasn’t doing well, I wasn’t putting to much of my thoughts and not so much of my heart.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I guess it’s a never ending journey of exploration. For some might be refining a certain way to play certain instrument or style, for other maybe it’s experimentation with new ways of expression, or maybe some sort of creative freedom one reaches after many years of creating stuff. At the moment I am feeling motivated into learning drumming and finding new sounds.

How do you define success?

I think something is successful when it meets the objectives you made that for, doesn’t matter if it’s a random casual objective or a very ambitious one. It could be playing drums today, or it could be finishing a song and feeling satisfied with the result. It could also be respecting your decision of having a rest day and actually rest!

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

I have seen so many things that I wish I wouldn’t. I am a social worker and I have seen some hard lives and injustice. More personally, I‘d say I wish I didn’t have seen myself in some situations in the past.

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

I would like to build myself a house.

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

I am not sure if I understand it as a function, or maybe a reason to be, but I like to think of art as a mean of transformation.

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

I am putting my efforts into a change in my career.

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Maragda, Maragda (2021)

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