Review & Video Premiere: Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on September 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories haunt yourself

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Sun Blood Stories’ video for ‘See You on the Other Side.’ Haunt Yourself is out Sept. 20.]

The fourth full-length from Boise, Idaho’s Sun Blood Stories continues the forward progression of purpose and creative scope that has played out in their work over the last six years. It has not been that long since the trio unveiled their third LP, 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), and yet the 12-track/45-minute Haunt Yourself unveils a fluidity and a personality all its own, marked by a soul and emotionalism in the vocals of slide guitarist Amber Pollard and guitarist Ben Kirby (both also add bass synth to the recording) and a floating post-rock psychedelia that is admirably given shape through the drumming of Jon Fust (also keyboards). As has been their wont on past offerings, they find footing in an early hook — thinking of tracks like “The Great Destroyer” from the last record or “West the Sun” from 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here); their debut, The Electric Years, came out in 2013 and was more formative — this time moving from the swirling fog of “TIME” at the outset to the interwoven vocals and forward rhythm of “Up Comes the Tunnel” (video posted here), wherein their sound hits arguably the thickest point it will on the entirety of Haunt Yourself.

With this, they set up a broad and experimentalist range the richness of which is not to be understated, from the emotional crux of songs like “No One Can Hear You Dream,” with its repetition of “In the end we all will…” whether the answer is burn, die, and so on, or “All the Words in Meaning” (video posted here) just before it with its vocal lashing out or the earlier “Everybody Loves You,” on which the resounding feel is less comforting than the title, Pollard seeming to take on the role of that voice in your head that tells you how much better off everyone would be if you were gone. “Everybody loves you,” you see, “When you’re dead.” This is its own kind of aural brutality apart from any sonic impact Haunt Yourself may or may not make — and the bulk of the album is striking in its patience and gentle delivery — but if you ever needed a lesson in conjuring emotional weight, here it is.

That’s not necessarily new territory for Sun Blood Stories, but their progression has made them more pointed in their approach, such that pieces like the bluesy “At Once in All Directions” or even the ultra-fluid jam in the early cut “See You on the Other Side” that follows “Everybody Loves You” both serve an overarching intent that covers Haunt Yourself as a whole, and the album resulting is built from the conversation between the songs that comprise it. Something something whole, something something sum of parts, but if my assessment is trite, that doesn’t necessarily make it less true as regards the front-to-back listening experience. And make no mistake, front-to-back is how Haunt Yourself should be taken. Each track seems to have a singular purpose, but those never veer too far from the overarching goals of the record as to disconnect from it. Ever-conscious of flow, Sun Blood Stories make this even easier by dividing the tracklisting into three three-song sections, each beginning with its own interlude.

sun blood stories

Those pieces, “TIME,” “LIKE” and “SMOKE,” never go much past two and a half minutes, but together work not only to provide an underlying theme to Haunt Yourself, but also to bring the album into context of their past, as Twilight Midnight Morning featured the cut “Time Like Smoke” as well. And whether it’s in “See You on the Other Side” or the penultimate “Approaching Shadow,” the sense of drift throughout Haunt Yourself is especially prevalent, but at no point do Sun Blood Stories let it go anymore than they choose to. That is to say, while even the cover art speaks to a notion of working against traditionalist structure — something time (like smoke) has proven the band to be quite adept at — they never lost sight of where they want the listener to be throughout the proceedings. Given the breadth of “All the Words in Meaning,” “No One Can Hear You Dream” and “At Once in All Directions” in the record’s middle third, that’s an accomplishment unto itself, but moments like Kirby coming forward in “At Once in All Directions” or Pollard doing the same with a somewhat buried highlight vocal performance on “7 Swords” do a lot to orient anyone who’d take on Haunt Yourself, and that proves to be another way in which the songs each enhance the listen of the album as an entire work.

Following the final interlude piece “SMOKE,” “7 Swords” leads the way into the Western airiness of “Approaching Shadow,” one of only two songs to top six minutes — the other is “No One Can Hear You Dream,” longer at 6:40 — and the 2:21 closer “Shimmer Distant,” a layered-vocal Pollard/Kirby duet that feels like an epilogue after the payoff of “Approaching Shadow” and ends with a final volume swell that cuts out to silence. It’s a fair enough and still somewhat unexpected ending for Haunt Yourself, giving the feeling of answering back the earlier explorations without discarding the psychedelic flavor thereof.

This is emblematic of a maturity in Sun Blood Stories‘ approach, which one would expect for a band on their fourth record, having solidified their lineup and seemingly figured out who they want to be as a group as much as any of us figure out who we want to be ever in any context at all — at least the direction they want to go, perhaps? One way or the other, the individualized progression they’ve undertaken suits them beautifully, and both in the chemistry of the performances between KibyPollard and Fust and the atmosphere that comes across so thickly amid still-memorable songcraft, Haunt Yourself succeeds on every level of expression it engages, and as the fruit of the three-piece refining their processes as established across the work they’ve done since making their debut, it speaks to the root creativity so central in driving it. I won’t predict where they might go next time out, except to say forward along their own path, and all the better for that.

Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself (2019)

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Sun Blood Stories on Bandcamp

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Sun Blood Stories Post “All the Words in Meaning” Video; Haunt Yourself Preorders Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

One would be tempted to talk about confronting demons as regards the new Sun Blood Stories were its subject matter not so horribly human. As the Boise, Idaho, three-piece come closer to the Sept. 20 release date of their new album, Haunt Yourself — preorders are up through Bandcamp — they would seem nonetheless to be living up to the title they’ve given the record in “All the Words in Meaning,” the video for which finds vocalist/guitarist/synth-bassist Amber Pollard confronting childhood abuse through hard-hitting visual metaphor and an even-harder-hitting staredown of the camera. The song itself is duly tense and volatile, a tempest churn brought to bear amid spacious echoes that still speak of place in the way of the band’s landscape-minded earlier efforts, but is obviously turning those expanses inward here in terms of emotionalism and the sheer boldness of what’s being expressed. Pollard, joined in the band by Jon Fust (keys/drums) and Ben Kirby (guitar/bass synth/vocals), is very much at the fore here in the song, and that’s something that’s fluid throughout Haunt Yourself in terms of her interplay with Kirby on vocals, but given the intensity underpinning “All the Words in Meaning” and the rawness of soul on display, it’s a showcase of Sun Blood Stories at their most powerful and affecting.

The song itself isn’t long by any means — about four minutes — and you’ll see at the end there’s a scene were the band are sitting outside around a table. Pollard‘s child is there as well, and there’s a shot where, still holding the stuffed animal from the room where the bulk of the video takes place, Pollard turns to deliver the song’s final lines. It’s a remarkable shot. We see a mother in center-frame as protector, yet the stuffed animal reminds of the abuse suffered and the residual trauma still being carried. It seems to express the urgency of that protection as well as the fragility of the violated. With Kirby and Fust out of frame across the table, it’s just the two of them in the shot, in relief from the brightness of the outdoors space behind them, separate from it even as they’re unavoidably part of it and subject to it.

My understanding is there’s one more video to come early next month before Haunt Yourself is officially released, so I’ll keep an eye out for that, and in the meantime, you can check out “All the Words in Meaning” on the player below, followed by the background on the clip and the song from the band’s posting.

Here you go:

Sun Blood Stories, “All the Words in Meaning” official video

Pre-Order Haunt Yourself: https://sunbloodstories.bandcamp.com/album/haunt-yourself

*ABOUT THE SONG*

CW Child Abuse: “Time to get real real. This song is about my childhood. My awful childhood. My parents split when I was still a toddler. Maybe not even 2 years old yet. Around age 3, my mother started dating a man who would abuse me in every form of the word daily for the next 14 years. Escapism was my only reprise from the physical and emotional pain that was inflicted upon me. I often time found myself fantasizing about what my life could have been like if my parents had stayed together. That is what this song is about. Ben, Jon, and I just really hope this song makes you feel something. Anything. If you or someone you know is being hurt please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-7233. We love you.“ – Amber

All the Words in Meaning is the second single off of Sun Blood Stories’ long anticipated new album, Haunt Yourself, to be released September 20th, 2019 (more about the album and the band below). The music was recorded in Sun Blood Stories’ basement home studio in Boise, ID, and the vocals were recorded in Dale Hiscock’s (Endless Atlas) studio about two blocks away. All the Words in Meaning was written and recorded by Sun Blood Stories. The song was mixed and mastered by Dale Hiscock.

Directed by Thomas Newby, the Green Zoo Arts Collective, and Amber Pollard

Filmed by Thomas Newby and the Green Zoo Arts Collective

Edited by Amber Pollard

Lighting Assistant/Set Design Assistant/Official Photographer: Bethany Peterson

Original music written, performed, and recorded by Sun Blood Stories.

Shout out to George Pollard for letting us use his room and personal belongings for the setting of this music video.

Sun Blood Stories are:
Vocals, Guitar, Bass Synth / Ben Kirby
Drums, Keyboards / Jon Fust
Vocals, Slide Guitar, Bass Synth / Amber Pollard

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Sun Blood Stories on Bandcamp

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Ealdor Bealu Announce West Coast Touring for September

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I think I’ve made it pretty clear at this point that I did what Ealdor Bealu are doing on the earthy and progressive psychedelia of their second album, Spirit of the Lonely Places (discussed here and here), so even though I’ve no knowledge that next months run mostly through California will yield any further touring, I’m still glad the Boise four-piece are getting out to suppor the record at all, particularly if it means they’ll get the chance to sell a few records on the road and get the album to some people who might not have otherwise heard it. It’s a 10-show run in 12 days, and though, again, most of it is in Cali, they still cover a good amount of ground as they head north to finish out in Eugene, Oregon, on Sept. 21.

You can see the dates below, and if you go to this show, buy a t-shirt or something and tell them I said hi.

Here you go:

ealdor bealu tour

Ealdor Bealu’s Fall 2019 West Coast Tour kicks off [in less than] one month!! 10 dates all across California, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho in some of raddest venues around with some truly amazing bands lined up to join us!! Tell your friends… We are coming.

9.10 Boise, ID @ The Olympic Venue w/ darsombra + Lucid Aisle
9.12 Reno, NV @ Dead Ringer Analog Bar w/ Kanawha + BLUNDERBUSST
9.13 Pasadena, CA @ Old Towne Pub Pasadena Metal Assault Presents w/ House of Rabbits + Solar Haze + Dusky Wing
9.14 San Diego, CA @ The Tower Bar w/ Nebula Drag + Mortar + Vedic
9.15 Oceanside, CA @ Pour House Oceanside w/ Deep Sea Thunder Beast + Francis Anger Roberts
9.17 San Luis Obispo, CA @ Pour House Hail Yourself Metalzine Presents w/ Stone Mountain SLO + Hemisphere
9.18 Santa Cruz, CA @ The Blue Lagoon w/ Birdo + Heavyskies
9.19 Oakland, CA @ Elbo Room Jack London w/ BURN RIVER BURN + Supernaut + Phantom Hound
9.20 Chico, CA @ The Maltese w/ Shadow Limb + Solar Estates + You Poor Devil
9.21 Eugene, OR @ Luckey’s Club w/ Childspeak + Long Hallways

SEE YAH ON THE ROAD

Ealdor Bealu is:
Carson Russell: Guitars, Vocals
Rylie Collingwood: Bass, Vocals
Travis Abbott: Guitars, Vocals
Craig Hawkins: Drums, Percussion

https://www.facebook.com/ealdorbealu/
https://ealdorbealu.bandcamp.com/

Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places (2019)

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Sun Blood Stories Post “Up Comes the Tunnel” Video; Haunt Yourself out Sept. 20

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

Normally, this is the part where I’d be all like, “OMG Sun Blood Stories are so great etc. etc.,” and hey, don’t get me wrong, that’s an awful lot of fun. I’m going to forego it — for the moment — however, because what the Boise, Idaho, trio don’t yet know is I’m planning to hit them up to stream their new record, Haunt Yourself, ahead of its Sept. 20 release? Will it happen? I don’t know. I mean, I’ll review it either way, so there’ll be plenty of duh-this-band-is-awesome blah blah verbose blah no matter what. But as for the stream, I’d hardly be able to hold a grudge if they decided to go with someone, you know, relevant instead for it. Or not to do it at all. Or whatever they want to do. It’s their album, after all.

Haunt Yourself though, is flat out gorgeous. Divided into three sections, its tracks play out with the fluidity that has typified their work all along while at the same being brought to bear sun blood stories haunt yourselfwith a new level of clearheadedness from the three-piece incarnation of the band, which first appeared on 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), but seems to have found a balance between experimentalism and core songwriting, with the vocals of guitarist Ben Kirby (also bass) and synthesist/slide guitarist Amber Pollard proving ever more essential to the overarching impression made and resonant long after the actual 12-track outing is done. Their dynamic is integral to the haunt of Haunt Yourself, in other words, but neither should one downplay the grounding effect or the swing in Jon Fust‘s drums, which as “Up Comes the Tunnel” demonstrates, is no less of a key component of the whole.

Like I said, I’m going to review the album, so I’ll cut the analysis there in the hope that I haven’t already bored you to distraction before you got to click play on Pollard‘s video for “Up Comes the Tunnel” below. If I did, sorry about that. If not, you’ll find it below, followed by a bit of background on the song and the record.

Please enjoy:

Sun Blood Stories, “Up Comes the Tunnel” official video

Up Comes the Tunnel is the first single off of Sun Blood Stories’ long anticipated new album, Haunt Yourself, to be released September 20th, 2019 (more about the album and the band below). This song was the first song to be written by the band as the idea of working on a new album started swirling around in their heads. The music was recorded in Sun Blood Stories’ basement home studio in Boise, ID, and the vocals were recorded in Dale Hiscock’s (ESC) studio about two blocks away. Up Comes the Tunnel was written and recorded by Sun Blood Stories. The song was mixed and mastered by Dale Hiscock. This music video was created by Amber Pollard of Sun Blood Stories. The featured poem was written by Ben Kirby of Sun Blood Stories.

Sun Blood Stories’ newest release, Haunt Yourself, will be available on September 20, 2019. Haunt Yourself maintains Sun Blood’s core sound and content while simultaneously sounding like nothing they’ve ever created before. No matter how you like to consume your music SBS has you covered. Haunt Yourself will be available on vinyl, tape, compact disc, digitally, and on all streaming platforms.

Sun Blood Stories are:
Vocals, Guitar, Bass Synth / Ben Kirby
Drums, Keyboards / Jon Fust
Vocals, Slide Guitar, Bass Synth / Amber Pollard

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Ealdor Bealu Post “Smoke Signals” Video; Album out Next Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ealdor bealu

Boise, Idaho’s Ealdor Bealu will issue their second LP, Spirit of the Lonely Places, next Saturday, July 20, with a hometown release show at the Neurolux Lounge. “Smoke Signals” is the centerpiece of the five-track/39-minute offering, and it represents well the rich, smooth-flowing textures the four-piece hone throughout, maintaining a heft of tone and presence alike, weaving currents of mood and songcraft together to create something that feels in conversation with the Rocky Mountains without being outright Americana. It is heavy in spirit and execution, in other words, and a work that engages naturalism on multiple fronts. The video, following a river upstream toward its source, showing amber waves of grain, tall trees and the many threatened faces of nature, emphasizes this central communion well, but it’s in the music no less vividly than in the visual accompaniment below.

That’s true of the entirety of Spirit of the Lonely Places as well. As the midpoint cut, “Smoke Signals” follows opener “Sink Like Stone” and the subsequent “Firebird,” the two shortest songs at a respective 6:53 and 6:39, which present the initial fluidity of the album and the subtle care put into the arrangements both of the instruments and the vocal duties shared by guitarist Carson Russell and bassist Rylie Collingwood, who, after Russell fronts the pastoral post-rock of “Sink Like Stone,” comes to theealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places fore in “Firebird” and leads the way with soaring echoes through a kind of terrestrial space rock, still of the land but not necessarily attached psychically to it. In Russell and Travis Abbott‘s guitars, there’s a winding central progression that drummer Craig Hawkins gives both a forward shove and a swinging emphasis, the song hitting into a fervent wall of fuzz before coming apart behind the lead guitar line. With the first direct vocal tradeoff between Russell and Collingwood, “Smoke Signals” pulls as well from the drift and the push, its placement seeming all the more purposeful after the opening salvo as it builds toward and moves through its classic-feeling solo in the second half.

“Smoke Signals” also becomes a focal point for the transition it provides into the second half of the LP. In the nine-minute “Isolation” and eight-minute closing cover of Aphrodite’s Child‘s “The Four Horsemen,” Ealdor Bealu broaden the scope of Spirit of the Lonely Places as though they wanted to emphasize each keyword in the title itself: the spirit, the loneliness, and the feeling of place. “Isolation” is a singular triumph for its molten, dirt-colored psychedelic roll as well as the willful melodic meandering of its early stretch and the interplay between vocalists, let alone the payoff brought to bear later — which finds Collingwood indulging a few lines of blackened screams overtop — and the finale launches with an initial build into a fuzz-caked groove only to recede again into chime-laced atmospheridelia and emerge even more graceful for a last solo and chorus together that close out the record in, admittedly, one of its least lonely-seeming moments. Perhaps at the end of things there’s some solace after all, even if that’s derived from classic prog.

How blessed are, and so on.

Ealdor Bealu bill themselves as a heavy psych band, and that’s fair enough, but really just the start of what they have on offer with their second record. It is an earthy and progressive style that manifests the consideration obviously put into its making, and its textures go beyond the haphazard wizardry that “psychedelic” sometimes implies, though no doubt they met with their share of happy accidents along the way and Spirit of the Lonely Places is more organic as a result. It is not a record that will resonate with everyone but that some will find something very special within. The more I hear it, the more I think of myself in that camp.

Enjoy the video:

Ealdor Bealu, “Smoke Signals” official video

Spirit of the Lonely Places, the sophomore full-length album by Boise, ID Heavy-Psych Quartet Ealdor Bealu, out worldwide on vinyl/digital on 7/20/19.

Carson Russell: Guitars, Vocals
Rylie Collingwood: Bass, Vocals
Travis Abbott: Guitars
Craig Hawkins: Drums, Percussion

Videography: Willis Hall
Director: Carson Russell
Editor: Carson Russell

AUDIO CREDITS
Recorded/Mixed: Andy A. // THE CHOP SHOP (Boise, ID)
Mastered: Brad Boatright // AUDIOSIEGE MASTERING (Portland, OR)
Music: Travis Abbott
Lyrics: Carson Russell and Rylie Collingwood
Performance: Ealdor Bealu

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Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

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Ealdor Bealu Announce New LP Spirit of the Lonely Places & Fall Tour; Premiere “Smoke Signals”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ealdor bealu

As was the case with their first outing, 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here), there is a keen awareness of geography in Ealdor Bealu‘s sophomore LP, Spirit of the Lonely Places, as well as a purposefulness in the atmosphere being conveyed. Alluded to in the title, the album basks in that feeling of being humbled by nature, the Boise, Idaho, four-piece seeming to look around them and see giant mountains, giant trees, giant skies and to feel duly small as a result. Spirit of the Lonely Places is comprised of five tracks that vary in mood and in terms of composition but are united in ambience and grim melody — the fruit of multiple songwriters coming together with common intent — and while it may not be a concept record in terms of narrative storytelling, its sense of identity is as strong as it is lonely. Standing alone would seem to suit Ealdor Bealu.

It’s out July 20 as issued on LP by the band to coincide with their hometown release show at Neurolux. Preorders are up through Bandcamp and you can stream the premiere of “Smoke Signals” at the bottom of this post. Make sure you do that. They’ll also be touring the West Coast in September.

Dates and info follow:

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Ealdor Bealu – Spirit of the Lonely Places

Spirit of the Lonely Places, sophomore full-length album. Saturday, July 20th Worldwide Release.

Recorded/Mixed by Andy A. at THE CHOP SHOP (Boise, ID). Mastered by Brad Boatright at AUDIOSIEGE MASTERING (Portland, OR). Artwork/Design/Layout by Adam Rosenlund (Boise, ID).

Independently Released on 180G Milky Clear Vinyl (limited to 300) and Digital.

Album Release Show @ Neurolux Lounge in Boise, ID on Saturday, July 20th.

Vinyl Pre-Order goes live on Tuesday, June 11th. All pre-orders receive immediate download of Smoke Signals as well as Ealdor Bealu Patch and Stickers. Vinyls will begin shipping out Monday July 22nd.

Tracklisting:
1. Sink like Stone 06:52
2. Firebird 06:38
3. Smoke Signals 07:32
4. Isolation 09:21
5. The Four Horsemen 08:44

Fall West Coast Tour:
9/10 Tues Boise, ID The Olympic Venue
9/12 Thurs Reno, NV Dead Ringer Analog Bar
9/13 Fri Pasadena, CA Old Towne Pub
9/14 Sat San Diego, CA The Tower Bar
9/15 Sun Oceanside, CA TBA
9/16 Mon Fresno, CA TBA
9/17 Tues San Luis Obispo, CA The Pour House
9/18 Wed Santa Cruz, CA The Blue Lagoon
9/19 Thurs Oakland, CA Elbo Room Jack London
9/20 Fri Chico, CA The Maltese Bar
9/21 Sat Sacramento, CA TBA

Ealdor Bealu is:
Carson Russell: Guitars, Vocals
Rylie Collingwood: Bass, Vocals
Travis Abbott: Guitars, Vocals
Craig Hawkins: Drums, Percussion

Ealdor Bealu, “Smoke Signals” track premiere

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Wrapping up #VinylDay2017

Posted in Features on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Grooves and platters galore. My motivation behind doing Vinyl Day 2017 was simple: I felt like listening to records and sharing that process. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Just an idea I had and ran with it. I figure it doesn’t need to be anything more than that, right? Isn’t putting on an album its own excuse for putting on an album? I tend to think so.

And yeah, I made it a hashtag. Because it’s the future, and hashtags. Instagrammaphone and whatnot. I’m a novice at best when it comes to the social medias, but it seems to me that if you’re going to share a full day’s worth of what you’re listening to, that’s the way to do it. So that’s what I did. If I clogged up your feed or whatever and it pissed you off, sorry.

For anyone who might’ve missed it, it turned out to be nine records of various sorts. Here they are, complete with accompanying audio when I could get it, because it’s the age of instant gratification:

There you have it. Had to be Sleep to end it. Pretty awesome day of music on the whole, and whatever was on your playlist yesterday, if it was this stuff or anything else, I hope you enjoyed. I’m gonna call Vinyl Day 2017 a definite win. Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

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The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

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Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

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There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

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Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

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“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

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Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

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Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

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Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

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Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

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Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

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