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

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

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

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

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

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

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Carlton Melton, Night Pillers

carlton melton night pillers

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

Carlton Melton on Facebook

Agitated Records website

 

Crown, The End of All Things

Crown The End of All Things

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

Crown on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Noêta, Elm

Noêta elm

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

Noêta on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

 

Polymerase, Unostentatious

Polymerase Unostentatious

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

Polymerase on Facebook

Polymerase on Bandcamp

 

Lucid Sins, Cursed!

lucid sins cursed

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

Lucid Sins on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

 

Hekate, Sermons to the Black Owl

Hekate Sermons to the Black Owl

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

Hekate on Facebook

Black Farm Records store

 

Abel Blood, Keeping Pace with the Elephants

Abel Blood Keeping Pace with the Elephants

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

Abel Blood on Facebook

Abel Blood on Bandcamp

 

Suffer Yourself, Rip Tide

Suffer Yourself Rip Tide

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

Suffer Yourself on Facebook

Aesthetic Death website

 

Green Dragon, Dead of the Night

Green Dragon Dead of the Night

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

Green Dragon on Facebook

Green Dragon on Bandcamp

 

ÂGE TOTAL, ÂGE TOTAL

ÂGE ? TOTAL

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

Endless Floods on Facebook

Greyfell on Facebook

Soza Label on Bandcamp

 

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Year of No Light to Release Consolamentum on Pelagic Records July 2

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

year of no light

Well that’s a pretty heavy 12-minute single you’ve got there, Year of No Light. The Bordeaux-based six-piece haven’t issued a full-length since they gave the Vampyr score a once-over in 2013, and to herald the coming of Consolamentum, the band have revealed “Réalgar,” a post-metallic instrumental soundscaper that’s suitably big on atmosphere and impact without losing itself entirely to either. The new album will be their first for Pelagic, and it comes as they mark their 20th anniversary as a band, also releasing a new limited box set that is nothing if not extensive. You know bands are giving it their all when they put the slipmat along with 12 platters in the hand-silkscreened wood box.

What’s really enticing about “Réalgar” — aside from that synth line running beneath the airy guitars — is how short it makes that 12 minutes seem. Didn’t we just set out on this journey, Year of No Light? And already we’re dissolving into gorgeous ambience? They do spend the last couple minutes in that swirl, but don’t be fooled by the lack of drums, there’s still plenty of substance to the proceedings.

Cool beans. (That’s probably something no one else will say about this track, so there. Thanks for reading.) You’ll find the details for the box and Consolamentum below, courtesy of the PR wire:

year of no light consolamentum

Year of No Light announce Consolamentum album and 20th anniversary box set

Bordeaux, FR post-metal sextet joins Pelagic Records w/ heaviest album to date

Bordeaux, France post-metal sextet Year of No Light announce their forthcoming fifth studio album Consolamentum today, sharing the first single “Réalgar” via all DSPs. Hear and share “Réalgar” via Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube.

Consolamentum is the band’s first album on Pelagic Records. To celebrate joining the label and Year of No Lights’s 20th anniversary, they will release a limited edition deluxe wooden box set of the band’s entire discography, titled Mnemophobia on July 2nd. The handmade, hand-silkscreened wooden box features 12 vinyl LPs in 6 gatefold sleeves, exclusive colored vinyl variants, a slipmat, metal pin, patch and poster. For more information, see HERE: https://pelagic-records.com/product/year-of-no-light-mnemophobia-wooden-lp-boxset/

Year of No Light’s lengthy, sprawling compositions of towering walls of guitars and sombre synths irradiate a sense of dire solemnity and spiritual gravity, and couldn’t be a more fitting soundtrack for such grim medieval scenarios. But there is also the element of absolution, regeneration, elevation, transcendence in the face of death. Consolamentum is dense, rich and lush and yet somehow feels starved and deprived.

It comes as no surprise that ever since the beginning of their career, the band have had an obsession for the fall of man and salvation through darkness. The term “consolamentum” describes the sacrament, the initiation ritual of the Catharic Church, which thrived in Southern Europe in the 12th – 14th Century – a ritual that brought eternal austereness and immersion in the Holy Spirit.

“There’s a thread running through all of our albums”, says the band, collectively “an exploration of the sensitive world that obeys a certain telos, first fantasized (“Nord”) and reverberated (“Ausserwelt”), then declaimed as a warning (“Tocsin”). The deeper we dig, the more the motifs we have to unveil appear to us. Yes, it’s a bit gnostic. This album is invoked after the Tocsin, it’s the epiphany of the Fall.”

With debut album Nord (2006) and sophomore release Ausserwelt (2010), the band made themselves a name in the European avant-metal scene. Extensive tours of Europe, North America and Russia in 2013 and 2014, including two appearances at Roadburn festival, Hellfest and a spectacular performance in a 17th Century fortress in the Carpathian mountains introduced them to a broader and quickly growing international audience.

With their seminal 3rd album Tocsin, released in 2013, Year Of No Light reached the peak of their career thus far – a logical decision that Consolamentum was made with the same team again: recorded and mixed by Cyrille Gachet at Cryogene in Begles / Bordeaux, mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side.

“We wanted this album to sound as organic and analog as possible”, comments the band. “All tracks were recorded live. The goal was to have the most natural, warm and clean takes possible, to give volume to the dynamics of the songs. We aimed to have a production with a singular personality.”

For the adept listener, Consolamentum seems to be venturing deeper into the dark and claustrophobic spheres explored on Tocsin – but the band doesn’t conceive of the evolution of their music in a linear way, as it would be apparent from looking at their discography.

“It’s more a matter of sonic devotion. Music against modern times. Year Of No Light” is above all a praxis. We wanted intensity, trance, climax and threat, all of them embedded in a bipolar and mournful ethos.”

Consolamentum will be available on 2xLP, CD and digital on July 2nd, 2021 via Pelagic Records. Preorders are available HERE: https://pelagic-records.com/artist/year-of-no-light/

Tracklisting:
01. Objuration
02. Alétheia
03. Interdit aux Vivants, aux Morts et aux Chiens
04. Réalgar
05. Came

https://yearofnolight.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/yearofnolight
https://www.instagram.com/yearofnolightofficial
http://smarturl.it/yearofnolightDGTL
http://www.pelagic-records.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pelagicrecords

Year of No Light, Consolamentum (2021)

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Mars Red Sky Post “Hollow King” Official Live Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (photo by Rob Maurice)

Bordeaux heavy psychedelic progressives Mars Red Sky recently announced a couple of weekenders in their native France, the first of which is set for this weekend. I have no idea if that’s still happening or how it might play out given the EU’s turn toward further lockdown measures following a cold-weather-and-everyone’s-apparently-tired-of-masks spike in COVID-19 cases. What I do know — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — is I really, really miss going to shows. It’s been 10 months since I’ve been in a venue! That’s insane. Even at my most hermit-like, I don’t think I ever went this long.

Mars Red Sky did a couple live streams in June (review here), but they’re clearly hankering too. Not only can you tell from the fact that they’re bothering to book dates at all, let alone maybe even play them, but also their new video for “Hollow King” from 2019’s The Task Eternal (review here) is a recorded live performance of the song. They did it during soundcheck before playing a gig in Dijon last month. Close your eyes and visualize a time when that would be no big deal. Can you?

Bottom line: I love this song. I dug this record a lot and this band remains pretty frickin’ special. I hope to see them on stage again someday.

Enjoy the video:

Mars Red Sky, “Hollow King” official live video

Bordeaux-based psychedelic rockers MARS RED SKY unveil bold new live video “Hollow King” – recorded a few hours before their latest show in Dijon, France. The track is taken from their new album ‘The Task Eternal’, out on Mrs Red Sound and Listenable Records.

MARS RED SKY’s new live video “Hollow King” highlights the band’s unique sounding, propelled by a pachydermic rhythm section, ethereal vocals, enthralling riffs and meaningful lyrics. Video recorded live in La Vapeur, Dijon (France) by Sébastien from Faits-Divers. “Hollow king” is taken from the album “The task Eternal’ (2019), recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

MARS RED SKY live:
06.11.20 BESANÇON (25) La Rodia
07.11.20 CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE (71) Théâtre de Chalon-sur-Saône / LaPéniche (portes 18h30 – concert 19h)
08.11.20 BOURG-EN-BRESSE (01) La Tannerie (portes 17h – concert 17h30)
25.03.21 LYON (69) L’Épicerie Moderne / salle musiques actuelles
26.03.21 MULHOUSE (68) Noumatrouff avec Witchfinder
27.03.21 STRASBOURG (67) La Laiterie Artefact

MARS RED SKY are:
Julien Pras : guitar, vocals
Jimmy Kinast : bass, vocals
MatGaz : drums, vocals

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks

Mars Red Sky website

Listenable Records website

Listenable Records on Thee Facebooks

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Mars Red Sky Announce French Weekender Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (Photo by Rod Maurice)

Think there’s any chance at all the French government will let an American into the country by next March? I can think of worse ways to enter life as an emigrant refugee — if need be — than to kick around France and go see a couple socially-distant, seated Mars Red Sky shows. It’s not exactly a plan for survival in the doomsday-prepper sense, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t making it through doomsday anyhow.

While we’re being honest, Mars Red Sky doing three shows next month and three shows next March in France is nice and all, but I was really kind of hoping the Bordeaux three-piece were about to announce a new EP that was a half-hour long single-song epic of progressive heavy psychedelic melody. I’m glad they’re getting out — their live stream a few months back (review here) was certainly good fun — but these days one is trying to find anything to look forward to at all, and new Mars Red Sky is always something to look forward to. Maybe next year.

Said everyone, about everything.

If you need me, I’ll be investigating visa applications. Here’s the info on their shows, with links and whatnot:

mars red sky tour france

MARS RED SKY – France Shows

We are super excited to be able to announce this tour in France! The concerts will all be sitting but in beautiful rooms and with compliance with the health rules. And you can find our merch of course…

06.11.20 BESANÇON (25) La Rodia
Event: Mars red Sky à Besançon
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0611

07.11.20 CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE (71) Théâtre de Chalon-sur-Saône / LaPéniche (portes 18h30 – concert 19h)
Event: Mars Red Sky au Piccolo
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0711

08.11.20 BOURG-EN-BRESSE (01) La Tannerie (portes 17h – concert 17h30)
Event: Mars Red sky [Heavy psychédélique]
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales0811

25.03.21 LYON (69) L’Épicerie Moderne / salle musiques actuelles
More info shortly!

26.03.21 MULHOUSE (68) Noumatrouff avec Witchfinder
More info shortly!

27.03.21 STRASBOURG (67) La Laiterie Artefact
Event: Mars Red Sky + Witchfinder • Strasbourg • La Laiterie
Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/presales2703

http://www.facebook.com/marsredskyband/
https://marsredsky.bigcartel.com/
http://www.marsredsky.net
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs

Mars Red Sky, “Crazy Hearth” official video

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Quarterly Review: Horisont, Ahab, Rrrags, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Earthbong, Rito Verdugo, Death the Leveller, Marrowfields, Dätcha Mandala, Numidia

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Well, I’m starting an hour later than I did yesterday, so that’s maybe not the most encouraging beginning I could think of, but screw it, I’m here, got music on, got fingers on keys, so I guess we’re underway. Yesterday was remarkably easy, even by Quarterly Review standards. I’ve been doing this long enough at this point — five-plus years — that I approach it with a reasonable amount of confidence it’ll get done barring some unforeseen disaster.

But yesterday was a breeze. What does today hold? In the words of Mrs. Wagner from fourth grade homeroom, “see me after.”

Ready, set, go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Horisont, Sudden Death

horisont sudden death

With a hefty dose of piano up front and keys throughout, Gothenburg traditionalist heavy rockers Horisont push retro-ism into full-on arena status. Moving past some of the sci-fi aspects of 2017’s About Time, Sudden Death comprises 13 tracks and an hour’s runtime, so rest assured, there’s room for everything, including the sax on “Into the Night,” the circa-’77 rock drama in the midsection of the eight-minute “Archeopteryx in Flight,” and the comparatively straightforward seeming bounce of “Sail On.” With cocaine-era production style, Sudden Death is beyond the earlier-’70s vintage mindset of the band’s earliest work, and songs like “Standing Here” and the penultimate proto-metaller “Reign of Madness” stake a claim on the later era, but the post-Queen melody of “Revolution” at the outset and the acoustic swing in “Free Riding” that follows set a lighthearted tone, and as always seems to be the case with Horisont, there’s nothing that comes across as more important than the songwriting.

Horisont on Thee Facebooks

Century Media website

 

Ahab, Live Prey

ahab live prey

Scourge of the seven seas that German nautically-themed funeral doomers Ahab are, Live Prey is their first live album and it finds them some five years removed from their last studio LP, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (review here). For a band who in the past has worked at a steady three-year pace, maybe it was time for something, anything to make its way to public ears. Fair enough, and in five tracks and 63 minutes, Live Prey spans all the way back to 2006’s Call of the Wretched Sea with “Ahab’s Oath” and presents all but two of that debut’s songs, beginning with the trilogy “Below the Sun,” “The Pacific” and “Old Thunder” and switching the order of “Ahab’s Oath” and “The Hunt” from how they originally appeared on the first record to end with the foreboding sounds of waves rolling accompanied by minimal keyboards. It’s massively heavy, of course — so was Call of the Wretched Sea — and whatever their reason for not including any other album’s material, at least they’ve included anything.

Ahab on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Rrrags, High Protein

rrrags high protein

Let’s assume the title High Protein might refer to the fact that Dutch/Belgian power trio Rrrags have ‘trimmed the fat’ from the eight songs that comprise their 33-minute sophomore LP. It’s easy enough to believe listening to a cut like “Messin'” or the subsequent “Sad Sanity,” which between the two of them are about as long as the 5:14 opener “The Fridge” just before. But while High Protein has movers and groovers galore in those tracks and the fuzzier “Sugarcube” — the tone of which might remind that guitarist Ron Van Herpen is in Astrosoniq — the stomping “Demons Dancing” and the strutter “Hellfire,” there’s live-DeepPurple-style breadth on the eight-minute “Dark is the Day” and closer “Window” bookends “The Fridge” in length while mellowing out and giving drummer/vocalist Rob Martin a rest (he’s earned it by then) while bassist Rob Zim and Van Herpen carry the finale. If thinking of it as a sleeper hit helps you get on board, so be it, but Rrrags‘ second album is of unmitigated class and straight-up killer performance. It is not one to be overlooked.

Rrrags on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Viscerals

pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs viscerals

There’s stoner roll and doomed crash in “New Body,” drone-laced spoken-word experimentalism in “Blood and Butter,” and post-punk angular whathaveyou as “Halloween Bolson” plays out its nine-minute stretch, but Viscerals — the third or fourth Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album, depending on what you count — seems to be at its most satisfying in blowout freak-psych moments like opener “Reducer” and “Rubbernecker,” which follows, while the kinda-metal of “World Crust”‘s central riff stumbles willfully and teases coming apart before circling back, and “Crazy in Blood” and closer “Hell’s Teeth” are more straight-up heavy rock. It’s a fairly wide arc the UK outfit spread from one end of the record to the other — and they’re brash enough to pull it off, to be sure — but with the hype machine so fervently behind them, I have a hard time knowing whether I’m actually just left flat by the record itself or all the hyperbole-set-on-fire that’s surrounded the band for the last couple years. Viscerals gets to the heart of the matter, sure enough, but then what?

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Earthbong, Bong Rites

Earthbong Bong Rites

Kiel, Germany’s Earthbong answer the stoner-sludge extremity of their 2018 debut, One Earth One Bong (review here), with, well, more stoner-sludge extremity. What, you thought they’d go prog? Forget it. You get three songs. Opener “Goddamn High” and “Weedcult Today” top 15 minutes each, and closer “Monk’s Blood” hits half an hour. Do the quick math yourself on that and you’ll understand just how much Earthbong have been looking forward to bashing you over the head with riffs. “Weedcult Today” is more agonizingly slow than “Goddamn High,” at least at the beginning, but it builds up and rolls into a pace that, come to think of it, is still probably slower than most, and of course “Monk’s Blood” is an epic undertaking right up to its last five minutes of noise. It could’ve been an album on its own. But seriously, if you think Earthbong give a shit, you’re way off base. This is tone, riff and weed worship and everything else is at best a secondary concern. Spend an hour at mass and see if you don’t come out converted.

Earthbong on Thee Facebooks

Earthbong on Bandcamp

 

Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus

rito verdugo post-primatus

No doubt that at some future time shortly after the entire world has moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a glut of releases comprised of material written during the lockdown. Peruvian four-piece Rito Verdugo are ahead of the game, then, with their Post-Primatus four-song EP. Issued digitally as the name-your-price follow-up to their also-name-your-price 2018 debut, Cosmos, it sets a 14-minute run from its shortest cut to its longest, shifting from the trippy “Misterio” into fuzz rockers “Monte Gorila” (which distills Earthless vibes to just over three minutes) and “Lo Subnormal” en route to the rawer garage psychedelia of “Inhumación,” which replaces its vocals with stretches of lead guitar that do more than just fill the spaces verses might otherwise be and instead add to the breadth of the release as a whole. Safe to assume Rito Verdugo didn’t plan on spending any amount of time this year staying home to avoid getting a plague, but at least they were able to use the time productively to give listeners a quick sample of where they’re at sound-wise coming off the first album. Whenever and however it shows up, I’ll look forward to what they do next.

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Death the Leveller, II

Death the Leveller II

Signed to Cruz Del Sur Music as part of that label’s expanding foray into traditionalist doom (see also: Pale Divine, The Wizar’d, Apostle of Solitude, etc.), Dublin’s Death the Leveller present an emotionally driven four tracks on their 38-minute label debut, the counterintuitively titled II. Listed as their first full-length, it’s about the same length as their debut “EP,” 2017’s I, but more important is the comfort and patience the band shows with working in longer-form material, opener “The Hunt Eternal,” “The Golden Bough” and closer “The Crossing” making an impression at over nine minutes apiece — “The Golden Bough” tops 12 — while “So They May Face the Sun” runs a mere 7:37 and is perhaps the most unhurried of the bunch, playing out with a cinematic sweep of guitar melody and another showcase for the significant presence of frontman Denis Dowling, who’s high in the mix at times but earns that forward position with a suitably standout performance across the record’s span.

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Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Marrowfields, Metamorphoses

marrowfields metamorphoses

It isn’t surprising to learn that the members of Fall River, Massachusetts, five-piece Marrowfields come from something of an array of underground styles, some of them pushing into more extreme terrain, because the five songs of their debut full-length, Metamorphoses, do likewise. With founding guitarist/main-songwriter Brandon Green at the helm as producer as well, there’s a suitably inward-looking feel to the material, but coinciding with its rich atmospheres are flashes of blastbeats, death metal chug, double-kick and backing growls behind the cleaner melodic vocals that keep Marrowfields distinct from entirely traditionalist doom. It is a niche into which they fit well on this first long-player, and across the five songs/52 minutes of Metamorphoses, they indeed shapeshift between genre elements in order to best serve the purposes of the material, calling to mind Argus in the progressive early stretch of centerpiece “Birth of the Liberator” while tapping Paradise Lost chug and ambience before the blasts kick in on closer “Dragged to the World Below.” Will be interesting to see which way their — or Green‘s, as it were — focus ultimately lies, but there isn’t one aesthetic nuance misused here.

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Dätcha Mandala, Hara

datcha mandala hara

Dätcha Mandala present a strong opening salvo of rockers on Hara, their second album for MRS Red Sound, before turning over to all-out tambourine-and-harp blues on “Missing Blues.” From there, they could go basically anywhere they want, and they do, leading with piano on “Morning Song,” doing wrist-cramp-chug-into-disco-hop in “Sick Machine” and meeting hand-percussion with space rocking vibes on “Moha.” They’ve already come a long way from the somewhat misleading ’70s heavy of opener “Stick it Out,” “Mother God” and “Who You Are,” but the sonic turns that continue with the harder-edged “Eht Bup,” the ’70s balladry of “Tit’s,” an unabashed bit o’ twang on “On the Road” and full-on fuzz into a noise freakout on closer “Pavot.” Just what the hell is going on with Hara? Anything Dätcha Mandala so desire, it would seem. They have the energy to back it up, but if you see them labeled as any one microgenre or another, keep in mind that inevitably that’s only part of the story and the whole thing is much weirder than they might be letting on. No complaints with that.

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Numidia, Numidia

Numidia Numidia

If you’ve got voices in your band that can harmonize like guitarists James Draper, Shane Linfoot and Mike Zoias, I’m not entirely sure what would lead you to start your debut record with a four-minute instrumental, but one way or another, Sydney, Australia’s Numidia — completed by bassist/keyboardist Alex Raffaelli and drummer Nathan McMahon — find worthy manners in which to spend their time. Their first collection takes an exploratory approach to progressive heavy rock, seeming to feel its way through components strung together effectively while staying centered around the guitars. Yes, three of them. Psychedelia plays a strong role in later pieces “Red Hymn” and the folky “Te Waka,” but if the eponymous “Numidia” is a mission statement on the part of the five-piece, it’s one cast in a prog mentality pushed forward with poise to suit. Side A capper “A Million Martyrs” would seem to draw the different sides together, but it’s no minor task for it to do so, and there’s little sign in these songs that Numidia won’t grow more expansive as time goes on.

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Nasoni Records website

 

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Stream Review: Mars Red Sky Live From the Teleport for Europe & North America, 06.18.20

Posted in Reviews on June 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky stream

It’s a curious kind of thing, the way watching a band play a live streaming show just kind of works itself into your day. I’d imagine that’s what it must be like for people who live in major urban centers when it comes to going out. I’ve never lived within half an hour of a venue, so rock and roll in a live context has always had an element of travel and a physical distance from the rest of my “life,” as it were. Music has rarely been so conveniently accessed for me. You just find a link — easy in this case, since Mars Red Sky emailed them out earlier in the day — and put it on and watch a band play live. I know it’s not necessarily new technology, though it’s a more widespread use for it, and if I’m wowed by it, that probably just means I’m old. Fine.

As it happened, Mars Red Sky‘s two Live From the Teleport streams — one first for Europe, then one for the Americas — fit neatly into my schedule. The Europe one happened during my kid’s naptime and the second, at 8PM local time, started just as the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation my wife and I were watching was ending. I put on the Euro stream and found it opened by a couple of vintage commercials, which is fitting to the visual aesthetic the band have harnessed inmars red sky collaboration with director Seb Antoine, whose done videos and visuals for them going back some number of years and was involved in the direction here. Based in Bordeaux, where these shows took place, Mars Red Sky have always to some degree been conscious of the visual aspects of their presentation. Their artwork suits their records, their videos are creative, and these commercials were a fun way to lead into (and out of) the performance itself. The US stream had ones for Oldsmobile and Tang. They both had old video games.

Ostensibly supporting last year’s The Task Eternal (review here), the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/backing vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau seemed comfortable on the stage and looked to have no trouble locking into a performance-mode despite the lack of a physical crowd in front of them. The trio were playing two distinct sets with two different setlists, each about an hour long, and they opened the European set with a new riff from a song currently in the works. After the US show, they mentioned it might end up as an EP, which would be in character for the band between full-lengths, but either way it was appreciated to get a preview of where they’re headed as they continue down their path of progressive heavy psychedelic rock.

I tried to read some intention behind their choices of songs, but they had taken requests on social media and of course I chimed in, campaigning for “Way to Rome” from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), “Friendly Fire” from 2016’s third album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here), both of which were aired in the Americas stream, and several others. I don’t know if they were going for two distinct vibes from one set to the other, tailoring to region, or just taking requests — the fact is that Mars Red Sky have enough of a catalog between LPs and EPs that it’s not a challenge for them to fill about two hours of stage time. And they did so without repeating a song between one set and the other. Here are the setlists:

mars red sky tangEU:
New Riff (Slow)
Under the Hood
Collector
Crazy Hearth
Mindreader
Shot in Providence
Hovering Satellites
Up the Stairs

AM:
Reacts
Alien Grounds/Apex III
Friendly Fire w/ guest vocalist
Way to Rome
Strong Reflection
Hollow King
The Light Beyond

Finishing the first set with “Up the Stairs” worked better than I thought it would, and “Way to Rome” into “Strong Reflection” in the second set just about made my night, particularly with a bit of chugging flourish they added to the latter. For “Friendly Fire” they brought out a guest singer whose name was revealed in the live Q&A afterwards as Helen Ferguson, vocalist and bandmate of Pras‘ in Queen of the Meadow. In any case, she added another layer of melodic sweetness to Pras‘ own voice and as it was something they’d never done before, it seemed a particularly brave move to do so as a part of this stream. “Mindreader” was of course a heavy riff delight, and “Shot in Providence,” the latest single “Crazy Hearth,” “Reacts and “Hollow King” — the latter three all from The Task Eternal — were more than welcome. Seeing them play the most recent stuff was a big part of why I wanted to watch, since as they’ve grown more progressive in the construction of their songs, invariably their live renditions have had to follow suit. As much as their first record continues to hold a special place in my heart, they’ve only become a richer band with time.

There were audio problems after the first set, but the band found a marker board and wrote a thank you message on it, while also playing with a Simon — it had been a minute since I saw one. They came back live after the second set and in that Q&A revealed that the Americas stream had been taped. Not actually unreasonable, since it would’ve started at 2AM on French time, but it did change things. Was it still a live event. Are these streams that have started in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic ever? How is a live performance, taped live and aired as a live stream not live? Does it make a difference?

I don’t know. There isn’t really a ‘live culture’ around streaming yet to properly gauge an audience impression. From what I saw in the YouTube chat, people were grateful to the band for making the effort — and with professional sound and lights, visuals behind them, the commercials, and at least four cameras operating, it was an effort — and frankly, I was too.

The after-show session lasted about 10 minutes, which given that that was live and it was three on the morning for them, was plenty. Pras leaned forward on the couch, Kinast leaned back and snuggled his cat. Only Gazeau, who apparently doesn’t live in Bordeaux, didn’t take part; they disguised one of the camera operators and the reveal was pretty funny. I submitted the question as to how doing these sets compared to the experience of playing live shows, and Pras noted that with the sound, lighting and video crews, it wasn’t like mars red sky teleport posterthe space was totally empty, and that the drones and psychedelic noisemaking they did between songs — more prevalent in the second set than the first — was in part to ease the awkward silence where audience response would otherwise be. It was a prudent and effective move, and emblematic of the attention to detail Mars Red Sky bring to just about everything they do.

My understanding is downloads of the videos of these sets will be available to those who paid for them as part of their tickets, but it seems to me next time Bandcamp has a no-fee day, the band have audio well worth issuing as a special release. I don’t know that will happen, of course, but if they wanted to make it so, they’d certainly have a fan-piece to mark the occasion.

A shifting definition of normality makes me less inclined to speculate as to what live music will look like on the other side of this current pandemic, in Europe, North and South America, or anywhere else. As it stands, however, seeing a group like Mars Red Sky playing their songs, even in the setting of being on my couch after a long day and just before going to bed, is more than welcome. It’s not only a reminder of what’s missing from these incredibly and increasingly strange days, but a new form of creative expression taking shape while we watch. That in itself is a reason to be thankful.

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

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Mars Red Sky website

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Mars Red Sky Post “Crazy Hearth” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky

If the planet were operating in the manner which we as humans thought it might be just a few short months, ago, French progressive heavy psychedelic rockers Mars Red Sky would be heading to North America this month for a tour supporting 2019’s The Task Eternal (review here) that would have begun May 28 in Chicago and run through Monolith on the Mesa (which has been pushed back to September) and finished in Vancouver, British Columbia, on June 7. It was to be presented by this site, among others. Well, of course it’s not happening — how could it?

To be sure, that’s a bummer, but if you look at the video for “Crazy Hearth,” which the Bordeaux three-piece filmed prior to the pandemic with director Seb Antoine — he did their 2016 “Alien Grounds” short film (posted here) and has worked with them on other clips too — it ends up being a pretty striking reminder not just of what we all miss at this point, which is being together, but inevitably of what we’re staying apart now to preserve.

In the video we see the band — guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/sometimes vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mat Gazeau — making their way to a meetup in the woods. Gazeau goes by canoe, and there’s hiking and cool drone shots of the band playing spliced in, and in the end, everyone gets together and they leave in the canoe after building the titular hearth. It has enough heart and is certainly earthy enough to earn the wordplay of the song’s name, but given the context in which the video arrives, it’s hard not to appreciate the simple togetherness and the obvious bond the trio display, while they’re playing and while they’re not.

That’s why we’re quarantined. Because at some point, we want to be able to go back to that without risking harm to one another, and this seems to be the road that gets us there. It’s easy math to do and a hard way to live, but that’s what it’s all about.

Mars Red Sky, “Crazy Hearth” official video

“We got in touch again with Seb Antoine, the best film director ever, to shoot our ***NEW VIDEO CLIP for CRAZY HEARTH*** before the Covid mess. We are particularly proud of this one and really hope you’ll will like it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

From the new album ‘The Task Eternal’ out September 27th 2019 on Listenable Records.

Directed By Seb Antoine
Assistant : Sophie Labruyere
Special Thanks to Mr Gazeau for the Canoe

Recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal (2019)

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Days of Rona: Mars Red Sky

Posted in Features on April 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

mars red sky

Days of Rona: Julien Pras, Jimmy Kinast and Mat Gazeau of Mars Red Sky (Bordeaux, France)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Mat: First of all, everybody is in good health so far. We were on tour till mid march and were heading to the next city when we got a phone call from the venue saying we can drive straight home as all the public manifestations were canceled, so we did.

Jimmy: We had to postpone a lot of club shows and we’re trying to reschedule summer festivals as well for 2021. The most complicated thing is that nobody can say today how long it will take before we’re authorized to organise shows again, pretty scary…

Julien: We’ll try to get together and practice again as soon as we’re free to do so!

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Mat: We must stay at home. Still we can go out to work (if you cannot work from home), to buy food, to make a minimum of physical exercises, plus some other things… For these things we need a paper we fill ourselves saying what we do.

Jimmy: The government said on April 13th that they will gradually open some stores, let people go back to their work and children go to school starting May 11th but bars and restaurants will stay closed for months…

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Mat: It’s obvious as most of the bands/musicians around us rely on live shows to exist and to grow. Personally I live it as being temporarily unemployed for operational reasons.

However, I spend lot of time working on my instrument, I’m lucky enough to have a cabin in the woods where I can play drums and work on different exercises.

Also, I’m improvising myself as a teacher with my 11 years old son in the morning, we keep doing sport with my girlfriend on a weekly basis, and i have more time to read books.

Jimmy: I’m very lucky because I have a house and a garden, I spend a lot of time gardening and taking care of my chickens too…

Julien: Some artists in all fields are embracing the concept of digital communication to a extent that seems questionable.. Saying it’s a bad thing would be bogus, we even made a Beatles cover video with my sweetie, but it’s quite a pressure just to witness this endless stream of content washing over… Now I’m also fortunate enough to have a little home studio where I can stay busy mixing stuff, sketching out song ideas or riffs, fiddling with effect pedals.. And reading quite a lot too, switching from newspapers to fiction depending on my degree of anxiety.. Though so far we’ve managed to stay relatively serene in the household, considering the situation. We’re blessed with good health and a positive attitude… and a cat.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

Mat: I try to keep in mind that even if the situation is extremely bad, we still have a roof, we have food (too much), and it’s not war!! These words have been used by our president which, to me, is a zealous, over-reacting message given to the population. Besides, that word was unnecessary and out of context, nobody is shooting at us, no bombs are falling from the sky, we don’t have to run out from our country, we just have to stay at home!

I am not undermining the situation, I find it sad and serious but I often see on social networks people complaining because they cannot go out and they get bored. It’s quite egocentric!

Much more horrible things are happening right now in Syria (for info: Bordeaux to Damas, Syria, is almost the same distance as LA to NYC), many countries in Africa don’t have enough food and people there die from famine and multiple diseases, but in our egocentric occidental state of mind, we just don’t give a fuck as none of this happened to us (yet).

Furthermore, what strikes me is that our medias can show an incredible ability to inform and react when a situation feels so close to home, when it knocks at our door, when it feels tangible. Horrible, similar and worst, issues are killing humans everyday already, be it famine, multiple diseases… but this happens so far away that we kind of see it in a passive way, we know it is there, we kind of mention it here and there in the news, say it is sad, then move on to our lives thinking “ok, that’s the fate of these places”, it is lived and accepted as THEIR fate, like WE are lucky and untouchable. Today, we realize that we can be affected and touched by similar issues, so we start panicking, all of a sudden we feel vulnerable, and we don’t like it, so we wanna feel heard, looked at, and taken care of, we cannot accept it as fate anymore, it takes another turn, now solutions have to be found quickly, it reached too close to home.

That is selfish to me, even more, it is dangerous behavior. It shows our capacity to willfully ignore the impact of big important issues when they are not literally touching us, regardless of the fact that they are in fact touching us, but indirectly, in a more passive way.

Take pollution for example, it kills at a bigger rate than the Covid-19, but we do not see it, it is not as tangible and fast, so we don’t react, we keep living and consuming in a blissfully unaware, irresponsible way, making us responsible for the death of thousands if not millions of people. If we can react now, if our government can take measures now, what prevented them from taking some measures many years ago to protect the planet? What prevented us from adopting a responsible behavior?

Where was daily front cover on every media? We are all guilty. We are responsible for destroying our planet, killing species, reducing their living environment and causing migration of species and humans. Bringing them closer leads to merging germs that shouldn’t meet in their natural environment and causes diseases to appear. Our behavior contributes to unbalancing the way nature works, and thus bringing war, famine and diseases all over the world. It is high time we open our eyes and see that the marching death band has been walking alongside us for a long time. What we finally accept to see now is nothing but a consequence of this biggest worldwide issue, it is a warning and we will face many more of these. If we are able to accept adapting our behavior now for the greater good, I hope we’ll be able to keep doing it once the quarantine is over.

Julien: May I add, it’s not exactly the first time the West has an epiphany, the crisis in 2008 for example. And a growing number of us are seeing the flaws and the limits of an aggressive liberal economy, the way it affects our lives in so many ways. Not to mention the ongoing ecological crisis that a lot of us are now aware of.
But we sure hope that it won’t be back to “business as usual” this time, that our governments will come up with at least a couple of progressive actions, and not just temporary ones… And that “exceptional measures” likely to come up and jeopardize our civil rights won’t apply forever!

Jimmy: There are some interesting things in that covid crisis. Speaking about civil rights for example: it’s really impressive how the population in Europe is ready to give away a lot of their freedom (lockdown, tracking, checking etc…). The whole population is supporting our leaders and scientists over here. We entrust them with saving the same amount of lives as during a famine or due to pollution within a very short span of time. Hope we can be that brave and involved if the big one hits because of global environmental issues. These last days in France a lot of producers and farmers had to organise a new way to distribute their goods and we can see a real change because more and more people are looking for local products and short-cut « the Big Market ». No plane for a few months is also very good news for the environment and seeing all these wild animals all over our cities makes some people think.

That crisis might be a chance for us because facts / science proved that going back to « normal » with economic growth as a main goal for a few is a suicide for all. We need to stop these « has-been » people because environmental questions can only be fixed if we connect them to worldwide social issues.

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