SOMA to Release Burning is Learning March 19; New Single “Shivranjani” Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


It is a little known fact outside of the region and the culture, but the place where I grew up and now reside, Parsippany, New Jersey, is an epicenter of South Asian immigration. At this point, multiple generations of immigrants from all over the Indian subcontinent have made their home here, and form an essential part of the community. The town celebrates Diwaali. There are badass Indian grocery stores all the way down Rt. 46 to Lake Hiawatha, and because it’s still Northern New Jersey, you might find a spot offering tandoori chicken pizza, representative in some way of the American dream of cultural meld as well as the country’s need to turn every food into an unhealthier version of itself.

I’m not sure where SOMA are from in my beloved Garden State — which has its flaws and corruptions like most places but is my home — but it makes sense to me somehow that a bunch of guys from punk and metal roots might end up exploring traditional Indian devotional music in their psychedelia. Following behind 2022’s Shiva/Shakti, the upcoming Burning is Learning is their second album. It was recorded by Monster Magnet‘s Phil Caivano, mastered by John McBain, and will be released through Centripetal Force on March 19 like the headline says. The first single from the album is “Shivranjani,” and the scale for which it’s named indeed comes from Hindustani classical music, about which I’ll tell you outright that, despite living in an enclave, I’m almost entirely ignorant. That’s what I get for going to school in the next town over.

The PR wire brings words and sounds. Dig in:

soma burning is learning

SOMA’s “Shivranjani” releases February 15, 2024

Centripetal Force announces the release of SOMA’s “Shivranjani,” the first track released from the forthcoming album Burning is Learning, a collection of sacred hymns, spellbinding dirges, and a little bit of mystical meandering.

According to the band, “Contained within ‘Shivranjani’ are notes reflecting that Bliss, an existence without concept or form. It is performed in honor of the unblemished consciousness of Infinite Goodness, the most Terrible, and the most Benevolent. It is a song offered to whom is born every day, yet has never been created nor destroyed.”

Burning is Learning is being presented in a 200 copy vinyl pressing. The album will also be available digitally. The release date for Burning is Learning is March 19, 2024.

A limited number of vinyl preorders will include artist prints of both the front and back covers, as painted by Robert Ryan (front cover) and Kevin Craig (back cover).

SOMA (Sacred Order of Mystic Apogees) is a group of multi-instrumentalists from New Jersey with deep roots in the DIY hardcore punk and heavy metal scenes of the area. They consider their music to be eclectic and sacred, with much of their musical approach grounded in traditions most associated with Pakistan and India. Burning is Learning is their second album.

Preorders for the vinyl digital, will go live at midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on February 15th.

SOMA, Burning is Learning (2024)

SOMA, “Om Namo Bhagavate Ramakrishnaya” Live in New York

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Upupayama Premieres “Sata Me Pani”; The Golden Pond Preorders Start Friday

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Upupayāma releases its sophomore LP, The Golden Pond, on Nov. 4 through Cardinal Fuzz and Centripetal Force. The band — and it’s a full enough sound to be regarded as one, despite the singularity of personnel — is a freak-fuzz-folk project of Parma, Italy’s Alessio Ferrari, and from the opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cuckoos From the House of Golden Tin” moving from nature sounds and sparse guitar into an all-out fuzzblast, and then back again, to the sun-coated Dead Meadow-but-even-mellower pastoralia of “Come Here, Noriko,” to the experimentalism of “Ergobando” or the time-for-an-acid-drench of the penultimate “Sata Me Pani” (premiering below), the procession of tracks is never predictable but united through immersive qualities. That is to say, where Ferrari leads, it’s a whole lot of fun to follow.

This is supposed to be a simple preorder announcement — and, yes, preorder links are below — but as you consider “Sata Me Pani” on the player that follows with all the PR wire info underneath, consider as well the acoustic-Zeppelin turn of “Entering the Time of Wilderness,” which soon twists itself aroundUpupayama The Golden Pond a gleefully 1968 psych rock guitar lead, shifting into “Más” and its cumbia-informed boogie. In some ways, the songs feel manifested from their own vibe — of course “At the Fairie Bower” has a flute, and so on — but even if Ferrari didn’t know quite where a given piece might end up when he started out putting it together, the end result is not unconsidered or haphazard in any way. If anything, the fact that he’s on his own here speaks to the depth of thought put into each arrangement, from the lullaby guitar and subtle drums before the Westernized raga in “El Sueño de la Curandera” to the lysergic folk dance of “Ballad of the Mugho” at the finish.

Take some time to dig into “Sata Me Pani” but understand that it’s not the sum total of everything The Golden Pond has to offer. Upupayāma touches on various folk traditions and unites them largely around its psychedelic center, making sure that wherever in the world the songs might travel, they’re duly otherworldly for the going. If you can get your head in it, it’s not a journey you’ll regret taking.

The 2021 self-titled debut is also being re-pressed (that’s streaming at the bottom of the post), as noted below, but before you get there and click off and about your busy day, take a listen to “Sata Me Pani” and see where you end up. If you have a second to leave a comment, I’d especially love to know where this one takes you. Thanks, in any case.


North American preorders via Centripetal Force:
And UK/EU preorders via Cardinal Fuzz:

What has already been a busy second half of 2022 for both Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz reaches a crescendo on November 4th with the much anticipated release of Upupayāma’s second album, The Golden Pond, as well as the vinyl reissue of the band’s debut 2020 release. Upupayāma dropped the album’s first single “Más” back in August, a fiercely driven piece of modern day kosmische worthy of all the Can comparisons it received.

The second single from The Golden Pond is “Sata me Pani.” The song takes a decisively different direction and highlights Upupayāma’s more heady and introspective tendencies, while also showcasing some serious raga-like influences and well-restrained fuzz-laden breakouts.

For those unfamiliar, Upupayāma is the musical persona of Alessio Ferrari, an Italian multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who lives in a small mountain village above the city of Parma. Upupayāma’s music is rooted strongly in Eastern and Western folk traditions, an approach that Ferrari blends with his own modern sensibilities and style, not to mention his tendency to incorporate invented language into his lyrics and singing.

Preorders for the vinyl editions of The Golden Pond, as well as Upupayāma’s out-of-print debut, are going up for sale this Friday, October 21st via Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz.

Upupayāma, Upupayāma (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Yatra, Sula Bassana, Garden of Worm, Orthodox, Matus, Shrooms Circle, Goatriders, Arthur Brown, Green Sky Accident, Pure Land Stars

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Oh hello. I didn’t see you there. What, this? Oh, this is just me hanging out about to review 100 records in 10 days’ time. Yup, it’s another double-wide Quarterly Review, and I’m telling myself that no, this isn’t just how life is now, that two full weeks of 10 reviews per day isn’t business as usual, but there’s an exceptional amount of music out there right now, and no, this isn’t even close to all of it. But I’m doing my best to keep up and this is what that looks like.

The bottom line is the same as always and I’ll give it to you up front and waste no more time: I hope you enjoy the music here and find something to love.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #01-10:

Yatra, Born into Chaos

yatra born into chaos

The partnership between Chesapeake extremists Yatra and producer Noel Mueller continues to bear fruit on the band’s fourth album and first for Prosthetic Records. Their descent from thick, nasty sludge into death metal is complete, and songs like “Terminate by the Sword” and “Terrorizer” have enough force behind them to become signature pieces. The trio of Dana Helmuth (guitar/vocals), Maria Geisbert (bass) and Sean Lafferty (drums, also Grave Bathers) have yet to sound so utterly ferocious, and as each of their offerings has pushed further into the tearing-flesh-like-paper and rot-stenched realms of metal, Born into Chaos brings the maddening intensity of “Wrath of the Warmaster” and the Incantation-worthy chug of closer “Tormentation,” with massive chug, twisting angularity and brain-melting blasts amid the unipolar throatripper screams from Helmuth (reminds at times of Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved), by now a familiar rasp that underscores the various violences taking place within the eight included tracks. I bet they get even meaner next time,. That’s just how Yatra do. But it’ll be a challenge.

Yatra on Facebook

Prosthetic Records store


Sula Bassana, Nostalgia

Sula Bassana Nostalgia

Part of the fun of a new Sula Bassana release is not knowing what you’re going to get, and Nostalgia, which is built from material recorded between 2013-’18 and finished between 2019-’21, is full of surprises. The heavy space grunge of lead cut “Real Life,” which along with its side A companion “We Will Make It” actually features vocals from Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt himself (!), is the first here but not the last. That song beefs up early Radiohead drudgery, and “We Will Make It” is like what happens when space rock actually gets to space, dark in a way but expansive and gorgeous. Side B is instrumental, but the mellotron in “Nostalgia” — how could a track called “Nostalgia” not have mellotron? — goes a long way in terms of atmosphere, and the 10-minute “Wurmloch” puts its well-schooled krautrockism to use amid melodic drone before the one-man-jam turns into a freakout rager (again: !), and the outright beautiful finisher “Mellotraum” turns modern heavy post-rock on its head, stays cohesive despite all the noise and haze and underscores the mastery Schmidt has developed in his last two decades of aural exploration. One wonders to what this sonic turn might lead timed so close to his departure from Electric Moon and building a Sula live band, but either way, more of this, please. Please.

Sula Bassana on Facebook

Sulatron Records store


Garden of Worm, Endless Garden

Garden of Worm Endless Garden

Continuing a streak of working with highly-respected imprints, Finland’s Garden of Worm release their third album, the eight-song/43-minute Endless Garden, through Nasoni Records after two prior LPs through Shadow Kingdom and Svart, respectively. There have been lineup changes since 2015’s Idle Stones (review here), but the band’s classically progressive aspects have never shone through more. The patient unfolding of “White Ship” alone is evidence for this, never mind everything else that surrounds, and though the earlier “Name of Lost Love” and the closer “In the Absence of Memory” nod to vintage doom and the nine-minute penultimate “Sleepy Trees” basks in a raw, mellow Floydian melody, the core of the Tampere outfit remains their unpredictability and the fact that you never quite know where you’re going until you’re there. Looking at you, “Autumn Song,” with that extended flute-or-what-ever-it-is intro before the multi-layered folk-doom vocal kicks in. For over a decade now, Garden of Worm have been a well kept secret, and honestly, that kind of works for the vibe they cast here; like you were walking through the forest and stumbled into another world. Good luck getting back.

Garden of Worm on Facebook

Nasoni Records site


Orthodox, Proceed

orthodox proceed

Untethered by genre and as unorthodox as ever, Sevilla, Spain, weirdo doom heroes Orthodox return with Proceed after four years in the ether, and the output is duly dug into its own reality of ritualism born more of creation than horror-worship across the six included songs. “Arendrot” carries some shade from past dronings, and certainly the opener before it is oddball enough, with its angular riffing and later, Iberian-folk-derived solo, but there’s a straigter-forward aspect to Proceed as well, the vocals lending a character of noise rock and less outwardly experimentalist fare. “Rabid God” brings that forward with due intensity before the hi-hat-shimmy-meets-cave-lumber-doom “Starve” and the lurching/ambient doomjazz “The Son, the Sword, the Bread” set up the 10-minute closer “The Long Defeat,” which assures the discomforted that at least at some point when they were kids Orthodox listened to metal. Righteously individual, their work isn’t for everyone, and it’s by no means free of indulgence, but in 42 minutes, Orthodox once again stretch the limits of what doom means in a way that most bands wouldn’t dare even if they wanted to, and if you can’t respect that, then I’ve got nothing for you.

Orthodox on Facebook

Alone Records store


Matus, Espejismos II

Matus Espejismos II

Fifty years from now, some brave archivalist soul is going to reissue the entire catalog of Lima, Peru’s Matus and blow minds far and wide. A follow-up to 2013’s Espejismos (review here), Espejismos II brings theremin-laced vintage Sabbath rock vibes across its early movements, going so far as to present “Umbral / Niebla de Neón” in mono, while the minute-and-a-half-long “Los Ojos de Vermargar (Early Version)” is pure fuzz and the organ-laced “Hada Morgana (Early Instrumental Mix)” — that and “Umbra; / Niebla de Neón” appeared in ‘finished versions on 2015’s Claroscuro (review here); “Summerland” dates back to 2010’s M​á​s Allá Del Sol Poniente (review here), so yes, time has lost all meaning — moves into the handclap-and-maybe-farfisa-organ “Canción para Nuada,” one of several remixes with rerecorded drums. “Rocky Black” is an experiment in sound collage, and “Misquamacus” blends acoustic intricacy and distorted threat, while capper “Adiós Afallenau (Version)” returns the theremin for a two-minute walk before letting go to a long stretch of silence and some secret-track-style closing cymbals. The best thing you can do with Matus is just listen. It’s its own thing, it always has been, and the experimental edge brought to classic heavy rock is best taken on with as open a mind as possible. Let it go where it wants to go and the rewards will be plenty. And maybe in another five decades everyone will get it.

Matus on Facebook

Espíritus Inmundos on Facebook


Shrooms Circle, The Constant Descent

Shrooms Circle The Constant Descent

Offset by interludes like the classical-minded “Aversion” or the bass-led “Reprobation,” or even the build-up intro “S.Z.,” the ritual doom nod of Swiss five-piece Shrooms Circle‘s The Constant Descent is made all the more vital through the various keys at work across its span, whether it’s organ or mellotron amid the lumbering weight of the riffs. “Perpetual Decay” and its companion interlude “Amorphous” dare a bit of beauty, and that goes far in adding context and scope to the already massive sounding “The Unreachable Spiral” and the subtle vocal layering in “The Constant Descent.” Someone in this band likes early Type O Negative, and that’s just fine. Perhaps most of all, the 11-song/48-minute The Constant Descent is dynamic enough so that no matter where a given song starts, the listener doesn’t immediately know where it’s going to end up, and taking that in combination with the command shown throughout “Demotion,” “Perpetual Decay,” the eight-minute “Core Breakdown” and the another-step-huger finale “Stagnant Tide,” Shrooms Circle‘s second album offers atmosphere and craft not geared toward hooking the audience with catchy songwriting so much as immersing them in the mood and murk in which the band seem to reside. If Coven happened for the first time today, they might sound like this.

Shrooms Circle on Facebook

DHU Records store


Goatriders, Traveler

Goatriders Traveler

I’m gonna tell you straight out: Don’t write this shit off because Goatriders is a goofy band name or because the cover art for their second album, Traveler, is #vanlife carrot gnomes listening to a tape player on a hillside (which is awesome, by the way). There’s more going on with the Linköping four-piece than the superficialities make it seem. “Unscathed” imagines what might have happened if Stubb and Hexvssel crossed paths on that same hill, and the album careens back and forth smoothly between longer and shorter pieces across 50 engrossing minutes; nature-worshiping, low-key dooming and subtly genre-melding all the while. Then they go garage on “The Garden,” the album seeming to get rawer in tone as it proceeds toward “Witches Walk” and the a capella finish in “Coven,” which even that they can’t resist blowing out at the end. With the hypnotic tom work and repeat riffing of the instrumental “Elephant Bird” at its center and the shouted culminations of “Goat Head Nebula” and “Unscathed,” the urgent ritualizing of “Snakemother” and the deceptive poise at the outset with “Atomic Sunlight,” Traveler finds truth in its off-kilter presentation. You don’t get Ozium, Majestic Mountain and Evil Noise on board by accident. Familiar as it is and drawing from multiple sides, I’m hard-pressed to think of someone doing exactly what Goatriders do, and that should be taken as a compliment.

Goatriders on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store

Evil Noise Recordings store

Ozium Records store


Arthur Brown, Long Long Road

Arthur Brown Long Long Road

At the tender age of 80, bizarrist legend Arthur Brown — the god of hellfire, as the cover art immediately reminds — presents Long Long Road to a new generation of listeners. His first album under his own name in a decade — The Crazy World of Arthur Brown released Gypsy Voodoo (can you still say that?) in 2019 — and written and performed in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Rik Patten, songs like “Going Down” revisit classic pageantry in organ and horns and the righteous lyrical proclamations of the man himself, while “I Like Games” toys with blues vibes in slide acoustic, kick drum thud and harmonica sleazenanigans, while the organ-and-electric “The Blues and Messing Round” studs with class and “Long Long Road” reminds that “The future’s open/The past is due/In this moment/Where everything that comes is new,” a hopeful message before “Once I Had Illusions (Part 2)” picks up where its earlier companion-piece left off in a manner that’s both lush and contemplative, more than a showpiece for Brown‘s storytelling and still somehow that. His legacy will forever be tied to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown‘s late-1960s freakery, but Long Long Road is the work of an undimmed creative spirit and still bolder than 90 percent of rock bands will ever dare to be.

Arthur Brown on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Prophecy Productions store


Green Sky Accident, Daytime TV

Green Sky Accident Daytime TV

Ultimately, whether one ends up calling Green Sky Accident‘s Daytime TV progressive psychedelia, heavier post-rock or some other carved-out microgenre, the reality of the 10-song/50-minute Apollon Records release is intricate enough to justify the designation. Richly melodic and unafraid to shimmer brightly, cuts like “Point of No Return” and the later dancer “Finding Failure” are sweet in mood and free largely of the pretense of indie rock, though “Insert Coin” and the penultimate piano interlude “Lid” are certainly well dug-in, but “Sensible Scenes,” opener “Faded Memories,” closer “While We Lasted” and the ending of “Screams at Night” aren’t lacking either for movement or tonal presence, and that results in an impression more about range underscored by songwriting and melody than any kind of tonal or stylistic showcase. The Bergen, Norway, four-piece are, in other words, on their own trip. And as much float as they bring forth, “In Vain” reimagines heavy metal as a brightly expressive terrestrial entity, a thing to be made and remade according to the band’s own purpose for it, and the title-track similarly balances intensity with a soothing affect. I guess this is what alt rock sounds like in 2022. Could be far worse, and indeed, it presents an ‘other’ vision from the bulk of what surrounds it even in an underground milieu. On a personal level, I can’t decide if I like it, and I kind of like that about it.

Green Sky Accident on Facebook

Apollon Records store


Pure Land Stars, Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

Pure Land Stars Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

With members of Cali psych-of-all explorers White Manna at their core, Pure Land Stars begin a series called ‘Altered States’ that’s a collaboration between Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz Records, and if you’re thinking that that’s going to mean it’s way far out there, you’re probably not thinking far enough. Kosmiche drones and ambient foreboding in “Flotsam” and “3rd Grace” make the acoustic strum of “Mountains are Mountains” seem like a terrestrial touch-down, while “Chime the Kettle” portrays a semi-industrial nature-worship jazz, and “Jetsam” unfolds like a sunrise but if the sun suddenly came up one day and was blue. “Lavendar Crowd” (sic) turns the experimentalism percussive, but it’s that experimentalism at the project’s core, whether that’s manifest in the nigh-on-cinematic “Dr. Hillarious” (sic) or the engulf-you-now eight-minute closer “Eyes Like a Green Ceiling,” which is about as far from the keyboardy kratrock of “Flotsam” as the guitar effects and improvised sounding soloing of “Jetsam” a few tracks earlier. Cohesive? Sure. But in its own dimension. I don’t know if Pure Land Stars is a ‘band’ or a one-off, but they give ‘Altered States’ a rousing start that more than lives up to the name. Take a breath first. Maybe a drink of water. Then dive in.

Pure Land Stars on Bandcamp

Centripetal Force Records store

Cardinal Fuzz Records store


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Album Review: Kungens Män, Kungens Ljud & Bild

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Kungens Män Kungens Ljud & Bild

Hail the kingsmen, as the many triumphant journeys of Swedish heavy psychedelic explorers Kungens Män have led them to the cosmos itself. Kungens Ljud och Bild is both the name of the record and the name of the band’s imprint handling the European side of the release — the US is out through Centripetal Force — and it translates to ‘The King’s Sound and Vision.’ Immediately, the mostly-instrumental but for some rather urgent spoken word in Swedish on “I Hjalles kök” (“In Hjalle’s Kitchen”) long-player sets its synesthetic standard. And the five-song/55-minute offering from the Stockholm six-piece only meets it along the way, melding improv-rooted jamming with mellow space and krautrock, resulting in the multi-tiered hypnosis of a song like the also-appropriately-named, 15-minute “Stora rummet” (“Large Room”), which follows opener “När piskan viner” (“When the Whip Wines”) and layers drifty bounces of synth or guitar or whatever it is behind a sunshiny guitar figure like they’re the string section the band was able to get cheap because they’re from an alternate dimension.

Yes, that’s a compliment. Here’s another: a band of this style — any of them — will fall entirely flat without chemistry. I don’t care how talented the guitarist or the bassist or the keyboardist or the drummer or whoever is. If it doesn’t gel, the band will suck, then die. Kungens Män launch “När piskan viner” like it’s a rocket to Charon with stops on the way for gas, and the space-bound motion of that song — shorter at just 7:44 than everything save the closer “Stora rummet (Edit),” at 5:58 — establishes outright that wherever they’re going on the songs that follow, the listener can be well assured they’ll reach their destination. Comprised of guitarists Hans Hjelm, Gustav Nygren and Mikael Tuominen (the latter also vocals, bass), bassist Magnus Öhrn, synthesist Peter Erikson and drummer Mattias Indy Pettersson, Kungens Män are able to conjure both the haze and the clearest path through it. Maybe that’s the sound and vision. It would make a fitting kind of sense, since on Kungens Ljud & Bild, often it’s both at once.

As straightforward a signal the opening riff of “När piskan viner” is — it’s time to go! — the prevailing vibe throughout Kungens Ljud & Bild is more serene than pushy. That’s not to say that the vinyl-concluding/digitally-penultimate “Vaska lyckokaka” (“Scrap a Fortune Cookie”) doesn’t find its way into a gorgeous outbound progression across its 11-minute span. On the contrary. In what sounds like a piece carved out of a longer exploration as it fades in at the start, what’s captured in the early moments of that song is crucial to understanding how Kungens Män manifest the chemistry noted above. The drums come in locked into a swinging groove over some fuzzier low end and an accompanying casual guitar strum that soon finds a complementary shape. Keys are there, a cleaner guitar tone arrives. Sounds like everybody’s aboard by about 1:10, and they’re underway with an odd note here for good measure, but soon that clean tone is topping the backing swirl with a somehow-dreamy progression that lasts until after three minutes in as a fuzzier guitar arrives to complement, growing more manic for a few seconds, trading off getting back in line, and so on.

Kungens Män

You don’t necessarily realize it yet, but Kungens Män are talking here, and the transition is already under way. There’s a brighter guitar tone in the mix as of 4:59, and that begins to shift the rhythm between the other two strains and over the next minute it pushes the lead clean tone to space out, which it has done by the time they’re at 6:30, though the motion is so smooth it’s hard to pinpoint any more exact time when it happens (they say 5:43, but I’m not sure). And from then on, they’re free to introduce wavelengths of distortion, to let the keyboard go wandering, and to gradually bring the procession to a natural conclusion with a final, somewhat understated, cymbal crash. This isn’t just the kind of thing that not everybody can do. It’s an unspoken communication of creativity between six individuals, and even among heavy psychedelic acts — hell, even among mostly-instrumental, jam-minded heavy psychedelic acts with a penchant for warm tones and classic grooves — that makes Kungens Män stand out.

The prior “I Hjalles kök” works similarly in fading up from what was probably a jam that gradually took this shape, and I don’t know whether Tuominen‘s spoken vocals over it — drawing from a notebook of nonsense songtitles according to the band, arranged and delivered like poetry — happened at the time or were layered in later, but it feels perhaps like a response on the band’s part to the inevitable question of why they don’t have a singer, which in their case is even more ridiculous because the core of their project is so outside the realm of verses and choruses they’d be a completely different band if they did.

But the mad David Byrne-esque Swedish poetics does the job well enough, and emphasizes Kungens Män‘s willingness to experiment as regards the central tenets of their approach, the detail and complexity of the instrumental progression beneath his voice supporting but not at all staid with an uptempo drum progression and tense low-frequency fuzz.  Above all of this, uniting the two sides of the album with their varied takes and even including the edit of “Stora rummet” on the end of the DL, Kungens Ljud & Bild is rife with purpose. Those familiar with the band will find it a more active release on average than 2020’s Trappmusik (review here), but will already know as well that these things are not all one or the other.

Consider though that among the sundry live and studio offerings Kungens Män have made over their 10 years together, this is the closest they’ve ever come to releasing a self-titled album. If one extrapolates from that a kind of representation of the band’s part of who they believe they are, then this material feels all the more definitive. More likely, however — and a negative perhaps for clean narrative but certainly a positive for the actual listening experience — this particular world is one more stop along Kungens Män‘s progressive journey, and there will be more to find as they continue forward.

Kungens Män on Bandcamp

Kungens Män on Facebook

Kungens Män on Instagram

Kungens Män on Tumblr

Centripetal Force Records on Facebook

Centripetal Force Records on Instagram

Centripetal Force Records website

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Quarterly Review: Messa, Witchpit, Dirty Nips, Ocean to Burn, Mt. Echo, Earl of Hell, Slugg, Mirage, An Evening Redness, Cryptophaser

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


It’s been a load road, getting from there to here, and here isn’t even there yet if you know what I mean. Alas, Thursday. Day four — 4, IV, I can’t remember how I’ve been writing it out — of the Spring 2022 Quarterly Review, and it’s a doozy. These things are always packed, in fact it’s pretty much the idea, but I still find that even this week as I’m putting out 10 reviews a day — we’ll get to 60 total next Monday — I’m playing catchup with more stuff coming down the pike. It seems more and more like each Quarterly Review I’ve done out of like the last five could’ve been extended a day beyond what it already was.

Alas, Thursday. Overwhelmed? Me too.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Messa, Close

Messa close

After two LPs through Aural Music, Italy’s Messa arrive via Svart with a crucial third album in Close. The hype surrounding the record has been significant, and Close earns every bit of it across its 10-song/64-minute run, intricately arranged as the Italian four-piece continue to bridge stylistic gaps with an ease born of expansive songcraft and stunning performance, first from vocalist Sara Bianchin (also percussion) and further from guitarist Alberto Piccolo (also oud, mandolin), bassist/synthesist/vocalist Marco Zanin (also various keys and percussion), and drummer Rocco Toaldo (also harsh vocals, percussion), who together create a complete and encompassing vision of doom that borrows periodically from black metal as anything artsy invariably must, but is more notable for its command of itself. That is, Messa — through the entirety of the hour-plus — are nothing but masterful. There’s an old photo of The Beatles watching Jimi Hendrix circa 1967, seeming resigned at being utterly outclassed by the ‘next thing.’ It’s easy to imagine much of doom looking at Messa the same way.

Messa on Facebook

Svart Records website


Witchpit, The Weight of Death

witchpit the weight of death

If what goes around comes around, then don’t be surprised when “Fire & Ice” goes circle-mosh near the end and you get punched in the head. Old. School. Southern. Sludge. Metal. Dudes play it big, and mean, and grooving. Think of turn of the century acts like Alabama Thunderpussy and Beaten Back to Pure, maybe earlier Sourvein, but with a big old lumbering update in sound thanks to a Phillip Cope recording job and a ferocity of its own. They’ve got a pedigree that includes Black Skies, Manticore and Black Hand Throne, and though The Weight of Death is their first long-player, they’ve been a band for seven years and their anti-dogmatic culmination in “Mr. Miserum” feels sincere as only it can coming from the land of the Southern Baptist Church. Aggression pervades throughout, but the band aren’t necessarily monochromatic. Sometimes they’re mad, sometimes they’re pissed off. Watch out when they’re pissed off. And am I wrong for feeling nostalgic listening? Can’t be too soon for them to be retro, right? Either way, they hit it hard and that’s just fine. Everybody needs to blow off steam sometime.

Witchpit on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Dirty Nips, Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples

Dirty Nips Can o Dirty Demo Nipples

Do I even need to say it, that a band called Dirty Nips offering up a demo called Can O’ Dirty Demo Nipples get up to some pretty cheeky shenanigans therein? I hope not. Still, as the Bristol-via-Poland outfit crunch out the riffs of “The Third Nipple” and harmonica-laced Hank Williams-style country blues on “As I Stumbled” and touch on psychedelic jamming in opener “The Basement” and the later experimental-feeling “Dirty Nips Pt. II,” which just drops to silence in the middle enough to make you wonder if it’s coming back (it is), there’s clearly more going on here than goofball chicanery. “Jechetki” builds on the blues and adds a grunge chug, and closer “Mountain Calling” is — dare I say it? — classy with its blend of acoustic guitar and organ, echoing spoken vocal and engagingly patient realization. They may end up wishing they called themselves something else as time goes on, but as it stands, Dirty Nips‘ demo tape heralds a sonic complexity that makes it that much harder to predict where they might end up, and is all the more satisfying a listen for that.

Dirty Nips on Facebook

Galactic Smokehouse store


Ocean to Burn, Vultures

Ocean to Burn Vultures

Though they’re by no means the only band in Sweden to dig into some form of traditionalism in heavy rock, Västerås five-piece Ocean to Burn evoke a decidedly more straight-ahead, Southern-heavy feel throughout the nine songs and 33 minutes of Vultures, their self-released full-length. The throaty grit of vocalist Adam Liifw is a big part of that impression, but in the guitars of Mathilda Haanpää and Fredrik Blomqvist, the tone is more stripped-down than huge-sounding, and the grooves from bassist Pontus Jägervall and drummer Fredrik Hiltunen follow suit. That central purpose suits songs like “Wastelands” and the more strutting “Nay Sayer,” and though they largely stick to their guns style-wise, a bluesier nod on “No Afterlife” early and a breakout in closer “Vulture Road” assure there’s some toying with the balance, even as the tracks all stick to the three- to about four-and-a-half-minute range. They’ve been at it for a while, and seem to revel in the ‘nothin-too-fancy’ attitude of the material, but honestly, they don’t need tricks or novelty to get their point across.

Ocean to Burn on Facebook

Ocean to Burn on Reverbnation


Mt. Echo, Electric Empire

Mt Echo Electric Empire

Following an encouraging start in 2019’s Cirrus (review here), Nijmegen instrumentalists Mt. Echo return with the conceptual-feeling Electric Empire, still holding some noise rock crunch in “Automaton” following the opener “Sound & Fury,” but saving its biggest impacts for the angular “50 Fanthoms,” the 10-minute “Flummox” and subsequent “As the Tide Serves,” and on the whole working to bring that side of their approach together with the atmospheric heavy post-rock float of “The End of All Dispute” and the early going of “These Concrete Lungs.” At 10 songs and just under an hour long, Electric Empire has room for world-building, and one of Mt. Echo‘s great strengths is being able to offset patience with urgency and vice versa. By the time they cap with “Torpid,” the trio of Gerben Elburg, Vincent Voogd and Rolf Vonk have worked to further distinguish themselves among their various sans-vocals proggy peers. One hopes they’ll continue on such a path.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp


Earl of Hell, Get Smoked

Earl of Hell Get Smoked

Vocalist Eric Brock, guitarist/backing vocalist/principal songwriter Lewis Inglis, bassist Dean Gordon and drummer Ryan Wilson are Edinburgh’s Earl of Hell, and their debut EP, Get Smoked, builds on the brash grooves of prior singles “Arryhthmia” (sic) and “Blood Disco,” the latter of which appears as the penultimate of the six included tracks on the 23-minute outing. More stomp-and-swing than punch-you-in-the-face, “I Am the Chill” nonetheless makes its sense of threat clear — it is not about chilling out — as if opener “Hang ’em High” didn’t. Split into two three-song sides each with a shorter track between, it’s in “Parasite” and “Blood Disco” that the band are at their most punk rock, but as the slower “Bitter Fruits” mellows out in opening side B, there’s more to their approach than just full-sprint shove, though don’t tell that to closer “Kill the Witch,” which revels in its call and response with nary a hesitation as it shifts into Spanish-language lyrics. High-octane, punk-informed heavy rock and roll, no pretense of trying to push boundaries; just ripping it up and threaten to burn ladies alive, as one apparently does.

Earl of Hell on Facebook

Slightly Fuzzed Records store


Slugg, Yonder

Slugg Yonder

Released on New Year’s Day after being recorded in Dec. 2021 in the trio’s native Rome, “Yonder” serves as the initial public offering and first single from Slugg, and at 9:59, it is more than a vague teaser for the band they might be. The guitar of Jacopo Cautela and the bass of Stephen Drive bring a marked largesse that nonetheless is able to move when called upon to do so by Andrea Giamberardini‘s drumming, and Cautela‘s corresponding vocals are pushed deeper back in the mix to emphasize those tones. Much of the second half of “Yonder” is given to a single, rolling purpose, but the band cleverly turn that into a build as they move forward, leaving behind the gallops of the first few minutes of the song, but making the transition from one side to another smoothly via midsection crashes and ably setting up the ring-out finish that will draw the song to its close. Not without ambition, “Yonder” crushes with a sense of physical catharsis while affecting an atmosphere that is no less broad. They make it easy to hope for more to come along these lines.

Slugg on Facebook

Slugg on Bandcamp


Mirage, Telepathic Radio

Mirage Telepathic Radio

Joe Freedman, also of Banshee, first saw Telepathic Radio released as the debut full-length from Mirage in 2021 through Misophonia Records on tape. There are still a few of them left. That version runs 30 songs and 90 minutes. The Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force edition is 50 minutes/20 tracks, but either way you go, get your head ready for dug-in freakness. Like freakness where you open the artwork file for the digital promo and all three versions are the cover of a Rhapsody album. Ostensibly psychedelic, songs play out like snippets from a wandering attention span, trying this weird thing and seeing it through en route to the next. In this way, Telepathic Radio is both broad-ranging and somewhat contained. The recordings are raw, fade in and out and follow their own paths as though recorded over a stretch of time rather than in one studio burst, which seems indeed to be how they were made. Horns, samples, keys, even some guitar, a bit of “TV Party” and “TV Eye” on “TV Screens,” Mirage howls and wails out there on its private wavelength, resolved to be what it is regardless of what one might expect of it. By the time even the 20-track version is done, the thing you can most expect is to have no clue what just happened in your brain. Rad.

Misophonia Records on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

Centripetal Force Records website


An Evening Redness, An Evening Redness

An Evening Redness Self-titled

With its first, self-titled release, An Evening Redness basks in morose Americana atmospheres, slow, patient guitar drones, warm bass and steady rhythms giving way to periodically violent surges. Founded perhaps as a pandemic project for Brandon Elkins of Auditor and Iron Forest, the six-song full-length explores the underlying intensity and threat to person and personhood that a lot of American culture just takes for granted. The name and inspiration for the project are literary — ‘An Evening Redness in the West’ is the subtitle of Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel, Blood Meridian — and An Evening Redness, even in the long instrumental stretch of 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Alkali,” treats the subject matter with duly textured reverence. Elkins isn’t alone here, and the vocals of Bridget Bellavia on the brooding “Mesa Skyline” and the closing pair of “Pariah” and “Black Flame at the Edge of the Desert,” as well as the contributions of other guests in various locales around the world up to and including Elkins‘ native Chicago should not be downplayed in enriching these explorations of space and sound. Bands like Earth and Across Tundras warrant mention as precursors of the form, but An Evening Redness casts its own light in the droning “Winter, 1847” and the harmonica-wailing “The Judge” enough to be wholly distinct from either in portraying the sometimes horrifying bounty of the land and the cruelty of those living in it.

An Evening Redness on Twitter

Transylvanian Recordings on Bandcamp


Cryptophaser, XXII

Cryptophaser XXII

Brothers John and Marc Beaudette — who if they aren’t twins are close enough — comprise New Hampshire’s Cryptophaser, and XXII is their first demo, pressed in an edition of 50 purple tapes. Dudes might as well just open my wallet. Fair enough. In what’s a show of chemistry and musical conversation that’s obviously been going on longer than these songs — that is, I highly suspect the maybe-twin brothers who drum and play guitar have been playing together more than a year — they bring an adversarial bent to the conventions of heavy fuzz, and do so with the proverbial gusto, breaking away from monolithic tones in favor of sheer dynamic, and when they shift into the drone in “October 83,” they make themselves a completely different band like it isn’t even a thing. Casual kickass. At 13 minutes, it flows like a full-length and has a full-length’s breadth of ideas (some full-lengths, anyway), and the energy from one moment to the next is infectious, be that next part fast, slow, loud, quiet, or whatever else they want it to be.

Cryptophaser website

Music ADD Records website


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Quarterly Review: Zack Oakley, Vøuhl, White Manna, Daily Thompson, Headless Monarch, Some Pills for Ayala, Il Mostro, Carmen Sea, Trip Hill, Yanomamo & Slomatics

Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Somehow it feels longer than it’s actually been. Yeah, a year’s changed over, but it’s really only been about a month since the last Quarterly Review installment, which I said at the time was only half of the full proceedings. I’ve started the count over at 1-50, but in my head, this is really a continuation of that five-day stretch more than something separate. It’s been booked out I think since before the last round of 50 was done, if that tells you anything. Should tell you 2021 was a busy year and 2022 looks like it’ll be more of the same in that regard. Also a few other regards, but let’s keep it optimistic, hmm?

We start today fresh with a wide swath of stuff for digging and, well, I hope you dig it. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Zack Oakley, Badlands

Zack Oakley Badlands

Apparently I’ve been spelling Zack Oakley‘s name wrong for the better part of a decade. Zack with a ‘k’ instead of an ‘h’ at the end. I feel like a jerk. By any spelling, dude both shreds and can write a song. Known for his work in Joy, Pharlee, Volcano, etc., he brings vibrant classic heavy to the fore on his solo debut, Badlands, sounding like a one-man San Diego scene on “I’m the One” only after declaring his own genre in opener “Freedom Rock.” “Mexico” vibes on harmonica-laced heavy blues and the acoustic-led “Looking High Searching Low” follows suit with slide, but there’s tinge of psych on the catchy “Desert Shack,” and “Fever” stomps out in pure Hendrix style without sounding ridiculous, which is not an achievement to be understated. Closing duo “Acid Rain” and “Badlands” meet at the place where the ’60s ended and the ’70s started, swaggering through time with more hooks and a sound that might be garage if your garage had a really nice studio in it. I’ll take more of this anytime Mr. Oakley wants to belt it out.

Zack Oakley website

Kommune Records on Bandcamp


Vøuhl, Vøuhl

Vøuhl Vøuhl

Issued by Shawn Pelata — also known as Pælãtä Shåvvn, with an apparent thing for accent marks — the self-titled debut from Vøuhl mixes industrial-style experimentalism, dark ambience and a strong cinematic current across a still-relatively-unassuming five-songs and 23 minutes, hitting a resonant minimalism at the ending of “Evvûl” while building to a fuller-sounding progression on the subsequent “Välle.” Drones, echoing, looped beats and thoughtfully executed synth let Pelata construct each atmosphere as an individual piece, but with the attention obviously paid to the presentation of the whole, there’s nothing that keeps one piece from tying into the next either, so whether one approaches Vøuhl‘s Vøuhl as an EP or a short album, the impression of a deep-running soundscape is made one way or the other. What seems to be speech samples in “Aurô” and noise-laced closer “ßlasste” — thoroughly manipulated — may hint at things to come, but I hope not entirely at the expense of the percussive urgency of opener “Dùste” here.

Vøuhl on Facebook

Stone Groove Records website


White Manna, First Welcome

White Manna First Welcome

At first you’re all like, “yeah this is right on I can handle it” and then all of a sudden White Manna are about four minutes into the freakery of “Light Cones” opening up their latest opus First Welcome and you’re starting to panic because you took too much and you’re couchlocked. The heretofore undervalued Calipsych weirdos are out-out-out on their new eight-songer, done in an LP-ready 39 minutes but drippy droppy through an interdimensional swap-meet of renegade noises and melted-down aesthetics. Maybe you heard 2020’s ARC (review here) and thereby got on board, or maybe you don’t know them at all. Doesn’t matter. The thing is they’re already in your brain and by the time you’re done with the triumph-boogie of “Lions of Fire” you realize you’re one with the vibrating universe and only then are you ready to meet the “Monogamous Cassanova” in krautrock purgatory before the swirling “Milk Symposium” spreads itself out like a blanket over the sun. Too trippy for everything, and so just. fucking. right. If you can hang with this, I wanna be friends.

White Manna on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

Centripetal Force Records website


Daily Thompson, God of Spinoza

God Of Spinoza by Daily Thompson

In 2022, German heavy rockers Daily Thompson mark a decade since their founding. God of Spinoza is their fifth full-length, and in songs like “Cantaloupe Melon,” “Golden Desert Child,” and “Muaratic Acid,” the reliability one has come to expect from them is only reinforced. Their sound hinges on psychedelia, but complements that with an abiding sense of grunge and a patience in songwriting. They’ve done heavy blues and straight-up rock in the past, so neither is out of the trio’s wheelhouse — the penultimate “Midnight Soldier” is a breakout here — but the title-track’s drawn-out “yeah”s and slacker-nod rhythm seem to draw more directly from the Alice in Chains school of making material sound slow without actually having it crawl or sacrifice accessibility. I’d give them points regardless for calling a song “I Saw Jesus in a Taco Bell,” but the closer is a genuine highlight on God of Spinoza turning a long stretch of disaffection to immersive fuzz with a deftness befitting a band on their fifth record who know precisely who they are. Like I said, reliable.

Daily Thompson on Facebook

Noisolution website


Headless Monarch, Titan Slug

Headless Monarch Titan Slug

Founded by guitarist/bassist Collin Green, Headless Monarch released their first demo in 2013 and their most recent EP, Nothing on the Horizon, in 2016. Five years later, Green and drummer Brandon Zackey offer the late-2021 debut full-length, Titan Slug, working in collaboration for the first time with vocalist and producer Otu Suurmunne of Moonic Productions — who mostly goes by Otu — across a richly executed collection of six tracks, three new, three from prior outings. Not sure if Otu is a hired gun as a singer working alongside the other two, but there’s little arguing with the results they glean as a trio across a song like “Fever Dream” or “Sleeper Now Rise,” the latter taken from Headless Monarch‘s 2015 two-songer and positioned in a more aggressive stance overall. The newer songs come across as more fleshed out, but even “Eight Minutes of Light” from the first demo has atmospheric reach to go with its clarity of focus and noteworthy heft. One only hopes the collaboration continues and inspires further work along these lines.

Headless Monarch on Instagram

Headless Monarch on Bandcamp


Some Pills for Ayala, Space Octopus

Some Pills for Ayala Space Octopus

Technically speaking, you had me at Space Octopus. After releasing a self-titled EP under the somewhat-troubling moniker (one hopes it’s not too many) Some Pills for Ayala, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Néstor Ayala Cortés of At Devil Dirt returns with this two-songer, comprised of its 11-minute title-cut and the shorter “It’s Been a Long Trip.” The lead track is duly dream-drifty in its procession, a subtle build underway across its span but pushing more for hypnosis than impact and getting there to be sure, even as the second half grows thicker in tone. At 3:48, “It’s Been a Long Trip” comes across more as an experiment in technique captured and used as the foundation for Cortés‘ soft, wide echoing vocals. Lysergic and adventurous in kind, the 15-minute EP is nonetheless serene in its presence and soothing overall. Could be that Cortés might push deeper into folk as he goes forward, but the acidy foundation he’s working from will only add to that.

Some Pills for Ayala on Instagram

Some Pills for Ayala on Bandcamp


Il Mostro, Occult Practices

Il Mostro Occult Practices

It’s a quick in-out from Boston heavy punkers Il Mostro on the Occult Practices EP. Four songs, the last of which is a cover of T.S.O.L.‘s “Black Magic,” nothing over three minutes long, all fits neatly on a 7″. For what they’re doing, that makes sense, taking the high-velocity ethic of Motörhead or Peter Pan Speedrock (if you need a second plays-fast-punk-derived-and-rocks band) and delivering with an appropriately straightforward thrust. Opener “Firewitch” ends with giggling, and that’s fair enough to convey the overarching lack of pretense throughout, but they do well with the cover and have a righteous balance between control and chaos in the relatively-mid-paced “Trial” and the sprinter “Faith in Ghosts,” which follows. Is cult punk a thing? I guess you could ask the Misfits that question, but Il Mostro mostly avoid sounding like that Jersey band, and it’s easy enough to imagine them bashing walls at any number of Beantown havens or bathed under the telltale red lights of O’Brien’s as they tear into a set. So be it, punkers.

Il Mostro on Facebook

Il Mostro on Bandcamp


Carmen Sea, Hiss

Carmen Sea Hiss

Should it come as a surprise that an EP of violin-laced/led instrumentalist progressive post-rock, willfully working against genre convention in order to cross between metal, rock and more atmospheric fare includes an element of self-indulgence? Nope. How could it be otherwise? The five-track Hiss from Parisian four-piece Carmen Sea is a heady outing indeed, but at just 29 minutes, the band doesn’t actually lose themselves in what they’re doing, and the surprises they offer along the way like the electronic turns in “Black Echoes” or the quiet drone stretch in the first half of 11-minute closer “Glow in Space” — which gets plenty tense soon enough — provide welcome defiance of expectation. That is to say, whatever else they are, Carmen Sea are not predictable, and that serves them well here and will continue to. “Frames” begins jarring and strutting, but finds its strength in its more floating movement, though the later bridge of classical and weighted musics feels like the realization that might’ve led to creating the band in the first place. There’s potential in toying with that balance.

Carmen Sea on Facebook

Carmen Sea Distrokid


Trip Hill, Ain’t Trip Ceremony

Trip Hill Aint Trip Ceremony

Florence’s Fabrizio Cecchi has vibe to spare with his solo-project Trip Hill, and Denmark’s Bad Afro Records has stepped forward to issue the 2020 offering, Ain’t Trip Ceremony, toward broader consciousness. The eight-song/39-minute long-player is duly dug-in, and its psychedelic reach comes with a humility of craft that makes the songs likewise peaceful and exploratory and entrancing. Repetition is key for the latter, but Cecchi also manages to keep things moving across the album, with a fuzzy cut like “Spam Mind” seeming to build on top of loops and shifting into a not-overblown space rock, hardly mellow, but more acknowledging the vastness of the cosmos than one might expect. The more densely-fuzzed “Ralph’s Heart Attack” leads into the guitar-focused “Pan” ahead of the finale “What Happened to Will,” but that’s after “Tame Ùkhan” has gone a-wandering and decided to stay that way and the seven-minute “Trái tim Thán Yêu” has singlehandedly justified the vinyl release in its blend of percussive urgency and psychedelic shimmer. Go in with an open mind and you won’t go wrong.

Trip Hill on Facebook

Bad Afro Records on Bandcamp


Yanomamo & Slomatics, Split 7″

Yanomamo & Slomatics Split

Yanomamo begin their Iommium Records two-song split 7″ with Slomatics by harshly delivering a deceptively positive message: “If you’re going to seek revenge/Might as well dig two graves/He who holds resentment is already digging his own.” Fair enough. The Sydney, Australia, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, outfits offer about 10 and a half minutes of material between them, but complement each other well, with the thickness of the latter building off the raw presentation of the former, Yanomamo‘s guttural portrayal of bitterness offered in scream-topped sludge crash on “Dig Two Graves” that builds in momentum toward the end while Slomatics‘ “Griefhound” offers the futurist tonal density and expanse of vocal echo typifying their latter-day work and turns a quiet, chugging bridge into a consciousness-slamming payoff. Neither act is really out of their comfort zone, but established listeners will revel in the chance to hear them alongside each other, and if you hear complaints about either of these cuts, they won’t be from me.

Yanomamo on Facebook

Slomatics on Facebook

Iommium Records on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: Fuzz, Crippled Black Phoenix, Bethmoora, Khan, The Acid Guide Service, Vexing Hex, KVLL, Mugstar, Wolftooth, Starmonger

Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan


Day III of the Inexplicably Roman Numeralized Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, commence! I may never go back to actual numbers, you should know. There’s something very validating about doing Day I, Day II, Day III — and tomorrow I get to add a V for Day IV! Stoked on that, let me tell you.

You have to make your own entertainment these days, lest your brain melt like wax and drip from your nostrils.


Quarterly Review #21-30:

Fuzz, III

fuzz iii

Plenty of heavy rockers can come across sounding fresh. Most of the time all it takes is being young. In the case of III, the third long-player from FuzzCharles Moothart, Ty Segall and Chad Ubovich — they sound like they just invented it. Dig the hard-Bowie of “Time Collapse” or the made-for-the-stage opener “Returning,” or the surf-cacophony of “Mirror.” Or hell, any of it. The combination of this band and producer Steve Albini — aka the guy you go to when you want your album to sound like your live show — is correct. That’s all you can say about it. From the ’70s snarl in “Nothing People” to the triumphant melody in the second half of “Blind to Vines” and the back and forth between gritty roll and fragile prog of “End Returning,” it’s an energy that simply won’t be denied. If Fuzz wanted to go ahead and do three or four more albums with Albini at the helm in the next five years, that’d be just fine.

In the Red Records on Facebook

In the Red Records on Bandcamp


Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst

crippled black phoenix ellengaest

The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) goes that when after lineup shifts left Crippled Black Phoenix without any singers, founder Justin Greaves (ex-Iron Monkey, Earthtone9, Electric Wizard, etc.) decided to call old mates. Look. I don’t care how it happened, but Ellengæst, which is the likewise-brilliant follow-up to the band’s widely-lauded 2018 outing, Great Escape, leads off with Anathema‘s Vincent Cavanagh singing lead on “House of Fools,” and, well, there’s your new lead singer. Anathema‘s on hiatus and a more natural fit would be hard to come by. Ryan Patterson (The National Acrobat, a dozen others), Gaahl (Gaahls Wyrd, ex-Gorgoroth), solo artist Suzie Stapleton and Jonathan Hultén (Tribulation) would also seem to audition — Patterson and Stapleton pair well on the heavy-Cure-style “Cry of Love” — and there are songs without any guests at all, but there’s a reason “House of Fools” starts the record. Make it happen, Crippled Black Phoenix. For the good of us all.

Crippled Black Phoenix on Facebook

Season of Mist website


Bethmoora, Thresholds

Bethmoora Thresholds

Copenhagen’s Bethmoora served notice in a 2016 split with Dorre (review here) and their debut full-length, Thresholds hone destructive lumber across four low-toned tracks that begin with “And for Eternity They Will Devour His Flesh” and only get nastier from there. One imagines being in a room with this kind of rumbling, maddeningly repetitive, slow-motion-violence noise wash and being put into a flight-or-fight panic by it, deer in doomed headlights, and all that, but even on record, Bethmoora manage to cull, and when their songs explode in tempo, as the opener does late in its run, or “Painted Man” does, that spirit is maintained. Each side of the LP is two tracks, and all four are beastly, pile-driver-to-the-core-of-the-earth heavy. “Keeper”‘s wash of noise has willful-turnoff appeal all its own, but the empty space in the middle of “Lamentation” is where they go in for ultimate consumption. And yeah. Yeah.

Bethmoora on Facebook

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp


Khan, Monsoons

khan monsoons

Khan‘s second album, Monsoons is a departure in form from 2018’s Vale, if not necessarily in substance. Heavy, psychedelic-infused post-rock is the order of business for the Melbourne trio either way, but as guitarist Josh Bills gives up playing synth and doing vocals to embark on an instrumental approach with bassist Mitchell Kerr (also KVLL) and drummer Beau Heffernan on this four-track/31-minute offering, the spirit is inescapably different. Probably easier to play live, if that’s a thing that might happen. Monsoons still has the benefit, however, of learning from the debut in terms of the dynamic among the three players, and Bills‘ guitar reaches for atmospheric float in “Orb” and attains it easily, as the midsection rhythm of the closing title-track nods at My Sleeping Karma and the back end of the prior “Harbinger” manages to shine and not sound like Earthless in the process, and quite simply, Khan make it work. The vocals/synth might be worth missing — and they may or may not be back — but to ignore the breadth Khan harness in little over half an hour would be a mistake.

Khan on Facebook

Khan on Bandcamp


The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers

the acid guide service denim vipers

Jammy, psychedelic in parts, Sabbathian in “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” and good fun from the doomly rollout of 11-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “In the Cemetery” onward, the second full-length from Idaho’s The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers, brings considerable rumble and nod, but these guys don’t want to hurt nobody. They’ve come here to chew bubblegum and follow the riff, and they’re all out of bubblegum. Comprised on average of longer songs than 2017’s debut, Vol. 11 (review here), the four-tracker gives the trio room to branch out their sound a bit, highlighting the bass in the long middle stretch of the title-track while the subsequent “Electro-Galactic Discharge” puts its guitar solo front and center before sludge-rocking into oblivion, letting “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” pick up from there, which is as fine a place as any to begin a gallop to the end. Genre-based shenanigans ensue. One would hope for no less.

The Acid Guide Service on Facebook

The Acid Guide Service on Bandcamp


Vexing Hex, Haunt

vexing hex haunt

Based in Illinois, Vexing Hex make their debut on Wise Blood Records with Haunt, and yes, playing catchy, semi-doomed, organ-laced cult rock with creative and melodic vocal arrangements, you’re going to inevitably run into some Ghost comparisons. The newcomer three-piece are distinguished by a harder edge to their impact, a theremin on “Planet Horror” and a rawer production sensibility, and that serves them well in “Build Your Wall” and the buildup of “Living Room,” both of which play off the fun-with-dogma mood cast by “Revenant” following the intro “Hymn” at the outset of Haunt. Not quite as progressive as, say, Old Man Wizard, there’s nonetheless some melodic similarity happening as bell sounds ensue on “Rise From Your Grave,” the title of which which may or may not be purposefully cribbed from the Sega Genesis classic Altered Beast. There’s a big part of me that hopes it is, and if Vexing Hex are writing songs about retro videogames, they sound ready to embark on a Castlevania concept album.

Vexing Hex on Facebook

Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp


KVLL, Death//Sacrifice

kvll death sacrifice

Proffering grueling deathsludge as though it were going out of style — it isn’t — the Melbourne duo KVLL is comprised of bassist/vocalist/guitarist Mitchell Kerr (also Khan) and drummer Braydon Becher. It’s not without ambient stretches, as the centerpiece “Sacrifice” shows, but the primary impression KVLL‘s debut album, Death//Sacrifice makes is in the extremity of crash and heavy landing of “The Death of All That is Crushing” and “Slow Death,” such that by the time “Sacrifice” ‘mellows out,’ as it were, the listener is punchdrunk from what’s taken place on the prior two and a half songs. There’s little doubt that’s precisely KVLL‘s intention here, as the cavernous screams, mega-lurch and tense undercurrent are more than ably wielded. If “Sacrifice” is the moment at which Death//Sacrifice swaps out one theme for another, the subsequent “Blood to the Altar” and nine-minute closer “Beneath the Throne” hammer the point home, the latter with an abrasive noise-caked finale worthy of standard-bearers Primitive Man.

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KVLL on Bandcamp


Mugstar, GRAFT

mugstar graft

Not that the initial droning wash of “Deep is the Air” or the off-blasted “Zeta Potential” and warp-drive freneticism in “Cato” don’t have their appeal — oh, they do — but when it comes to UK lords-o’-space Mugstar‘s latest holodeck-worthy full-length, GRAFT, it’s the mellow drift-jazz of the 12-minute “Ghost of a Ghost” that feels most like matter dematerialization to me. Side B’s “Low, Slow Horizon” answers back later on ahead of the motorik linear build in the finale “Star Cage,” but the 12-minute vibe-fest that is “Ghost of a Ghost” gives GRAFT a vastness to match its thrust, which becomes essential to the space-borne feel. It’s 41 minutes, still ripe for an LP, but the kind of album that has a genuine affect on mood and mindset, breaking down on a molecular level both and remolding them into something hopefully more evolved on some level through cosmic meditation. Fast or slow, up or down, in or out, it doesn’t ultimately matter. Nothing does. But there’s a moment in GRAFT where the one-skin-on-another thing becomes apparent and all the masks drop away. What’s left after that?

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Centripetal Force Records website

Cardinal Fuzz Records BigCartel store


Wolftooth, Valhalla

Wolftooth Valhalla

Hooks abound in power-stoner fashion throughout Indiana four-piece Wolftooth‘s second album, Valhalla, which roughs up NWOBHM clarity in early-Ozzy fashion without going overboard to one side or the other, riffs winding and rhythms charging in a way not entirely unlike some of Freedom Hawk‘s more recent fare, but with a melodic reach of its own and a dynamism of purpose that comes through in the songwriting. Grand Magus‘ metallic traditionalism might be an influence on a song like “Fear for Eternity,” but “Crying of the Wolfs” has a more rocking swagger, and likewise post-intro opener “Possession.” With tightly constructed songs in the four-to-five-minute range, Valhalla never feels stretched out more than it wants to, but “Molon Labe” pushes the vocals deeper into the mix for a bigger, more atmospheric sound, and subtle shifts like that become effective in distinguishing the songs and making them all the more memorable. Recently signed to Napalm after working with Ripple, Ice Fall, Cursed Tongue and Blackseed, they seem to be poised to pay off the potential here and in their 2018 self-titled debut (review here). So be it.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

Ice Fall Records BigCartel store


Starmonger, Revelations

starmonger revelations

Parisian riff-blaster trio Starmonger have been piecemealing tracks out for the last five years as a series of EPs titled Revelation, and the full-length debut, Revelations, brings these nine songs together for a 49-minute long-player that even in re-recorded versions of the earliest cuts like “Tell Me” and “Wanderer” show how far the band has come. It’s telling that those two close the record out while “Rise of the Fishlords” and “Léthé” from 2019’s Revelation IV open sides A and B, respectively, but older or newer, the band end up with a swath of stylistic ground covered from the more straightforward and uptempo kick of the elder tracks to the more progressive take of the newer, with plenty of ground in between. Uniting the various sides are strong performances and strong choruses, the latter of which would seem to be the thread that draws everything together. Whether or not it takes Starmonger half a decade to put out their next LP, one can hardly call their time misspent while listening to Revelations.

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Starmonger on Bandcamp


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Mugstar Stream “Zeta Potential”; GRAFT LP Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Some bands you listen to and then whole bunches of other bands make sense. Like The Heads. See also, Mugstar. The Liverpudlian troupe have been in the spacefaring business for nigh on 17 years, which if you’re keeping track, puts them well ahead of the current wave of what’s being kinda-laughably called neo-psych. Their new album, GRAFT, will see issue through Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz Records on Oct. 30, and to go with preorders, they’re currently streaming the track “Zeta Potential,” which you can hear below.

To go with that, you’ll also find the collaborative outing the four-piece put out earlier this year with Damo Suzuki of progressive rock legends Can through Weird Beard Records. Different vibe, obviously, but it’s another chance to bliss out for 40 minutes and I don’t really see where you’d lose.


mugstar graft


Presale Date: September 25, 2020
Release Date: October 30, 2020

Centripetal Force (North America) and Cardinal Fuzz (UK/Europe) are excited to announce the upcoming release of Mugstar’s GRAFT, the follow up album to their much-lauded live collaboration with Can’s Damo Suzuki released earlier this year. The album is being presented in a 600 copy vinyl pressing, 250 of which will be on deep red vinyl and made available for preorder on September 25th. GRAFT’s release date is October 30th.

UK space rockers Mugstar have been hurtling through the sonic multiverse since 2003 and have left an extensive discography in their wake. Early on, the band caught the attention of the late John Peel, taking part in one of the last editions of his famed Peel Sessions. From there, the band has compiled an impressive run of releases and solidified their reputation for powerfully hypnotic live performances.

After experimenting with longer form compositions on 2016’s Magnetic Seasons (Rock Action Records), GRAFT’s six song journey sees Mugstar return to a more focused work ethic, a move resulting in a sound that is fraught with tension and caters to one of their biggest strengths, the ability to consistently create, sustain, and, ultimately, diffuse drama. This is an effect well-executed on tracks like “Zeta Potential” and “Star Cage.” And even on an album where a tighter approach was a priority, Mugstar still finds plenty of room to improvise and allow for creative exploration, as illustrated on “Ghost of a Ghost” and “Low, Slow Horizon.” Looking back at Mugstar’s catalog, it is remarkable to see the path they have travelled and how GRAFT continues their bold advance into the future. We think you’ll agree.

Mugstar, GRAFT (2020)

Mugstar & Damo Suzuki, Live at the Invisible Wind Factory (2020)

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