Friday Full-Length: Celtic Frost, Monotheist

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

What a record. I know Celtic Frost‘s legacy was already long since set by the time they returned to do Monotheist in 2006, and that their earlier works in 1984’s Morbid Tales EP, 1985’s debut album, To Mega Therion, and 1987’s Into the Pandemonium — not to mention what Thomas Gabriel Fischer and Martin Eric Ain had done previously in Hellhammer — had already cast them as one of the formative units not just of black metal, but of a new kind of heavy darkness in general. But 15 years later and long since the band fell apart all over again, Monotheist still resonates, and it’s still so goddamned dense. Thick to the point of making it difficult to move through. Righteous in the challenge it issued to its audience. Righteous in its unmitigated grandiosity. Righteous in its crush, righteous in its indulgent use of space and ambience. Righteous in its heft and heavy in its righteousness.

Fischer had gotten divorced in 2004, and that may well have played into some of the spit in his vocal approach on songs like “Progeny” or “Domain of Decay,” though as I recall many of these songs were older at least in their foundation. The CD came with extensive liner notes — a band putting out their first LP in 16 wanting to be understood are well within their rights to do so — with Ain and Fischer, sometimes opaque, sometimes straightforward, talking about the whens and wheres. If you got the digipak, it came with the extra track “Temple of Depression,” which is a welcome speedier thrust between “Os Abysmi vel Daath” and “Obscured,” but listening back to Monotheist now, I wonder if the album isn’t best served as a double-vinyl. Certainly CDs were already in decline in 2006 and now-clunky-looking iPods were high fashion, but vinyl had yet to make its mass-market comeback as the dominant physical format, but Monotheist works exceedingly well with breaks.

Part of that is the aforementioned density. Celtic Frost‘s sound is about more than just the chug of their riffs, and they never hit harder or certainly with more elaborate produciton behind them than they did on Monotheist, making their atmospheres all the more consuming. The 2LP edition traded out “Temple of Depression” for the more atmospheric “Incantation Against You,” with guest lead vocals by Simone Vollenweider — a performance worthy of the investment that was also a bonus track on the Japanese edition CD; you could go nuts keeping it all straight — but the way that the songs split up into sides highlights the natural flow from one movement into the next, the album working in stages until finding its culmination in “Triptych I: Totengott,” the 14-minute “Triptych II: Synagoga Satanae” and “Triptych III: Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale),” the last a four-minute orchestral instrumental answer back to previous Celtic Frost works that would be a fitting culmination to Celtic Frost‘s career even if they didn’t know it at the time.

The initial salvo of “Progeny,” “Ground” and “Dying God Coming into Human Flesh” is unfuckwithable. The immediacy of the first, the still-catchy crush of the second and the ambience of the third — it sets the stage perfectly for Celtic Frost Monotheisteverything Celtic Frost and their vast array of guests, engineers, session players, etc. will offer throughout, the actual band involved being Fischer, Ain, drummer Franco Sesa and guitarist Erol Unala. Ain and Fischer sharing vocal duties on “A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh” particularly, in how it pushes wider the context of the listening experience, is a thing to be treasured in the message it sends to the audience. As heavy and as bludgeoning as Monotheist is, it stretches no less wide as it goes deeper.

And deeper is exactly where the LP version heads on side B, with “Drown in Ashes” bringing in guest singer Lisa Middelhauve (Xandria) in a grim duet with Fischer ahead of the return to harsh doom chug in “Os Abysmi vel Daath” — a landmark hook in any language — and the spacious, patient “Obscured,” again with Vollenweider turning in an emotive performance alongside Fischer, the two touching on harmony even as the distortion builds behind them. “Incantation Against You,” though it starts the next platter, builds in turn on that, with “Domain of Decay” bringing a return of sheer aural force for a quick four and a half minutes before “Ain Elohim” offers as pure a take on Satanism as I’ve ever encountered: “There is no god but the one that dies with me,” along with a stretch of pure avant garde metal that’s outside genre even as the band helped define it.

While we’re pushing boundaries, “Totengott” feels prescient 15 years later with its Ain-led ambient black metal, while “Synagoga Satanae” brings the summary of the proceedings — including co-producer Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy, Pain, etc.) on backing vocals — as a whole and “Winter (Requiem, Chapter Three: Finale)” serves as epilogue, a final, ultra-purposeful three-part ending that especially isolated on side D of the 2LP version underscores the strength of intention behind everything happening on Monotheist.

This is the kind of record a band does once in a career. It is all-consuming, an utter creative blowout, and in hindsight, it’s not surprising they didn’t make another. It’s not so much that they couldn’t have topped it — I won’t say a negative word about what Fischer has gone on to do in Triptykon in carrying forward what Celtic Frost established here, up to and including the 2020 live record from Roadburn 2019 completing Celtic Frost‘s “Requiem” — but it seems ludicrous now to think they would’ve done anything else. How could they? What’s left after you’ve already dug to the marrow of yourself and presented it to your listener? Sometimes there’s just nothing more that needs to be said.

Beautiful, genuinely engrossing, punishing, Monotheist is a museum piece for what heavy metal can be. That’s not what everyone will want from a given listening experience, but the last statement Celtic Frost would make was that if you weren’t going to meet them at their level, then you were only going to be obliterated for standing in their way, even at the cost of obliterating themselves.

One of the best albums the aughts had to offer, and of course rest in peace Martin Eric Ain, who passed away in 2017.

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

I’m having dental surgery on Monday. They’re putting a screw in the hole in my mouth here a molar was until I had it pulled, with an eventual eye toward a dental implant. I guess the screw will be an improvement over the presently empty spot, though that’s been an interesting experience. They had to take the tooth out in pieces it was so dug in, did a good amount of bone graft with some magical science pellets. I anticipate having a rod screwed into my jawline will present some discomfort. I don’t expect it to interrupt the flow of the Quarterly Review, and that and passive interest-in-what’s-gonna-happen is about the extent of my feelings on the matter, apart from the general nervousness about leaving the house, doing a thing, and so on.

Fucking Celtic Frost, man. How good is that record? I got to interview Martin Ain and Tom Fischer when they played New York on tour, in-person, and it was fucking awesome. They had rented an apartment downtown and then later that night they demolished B.B. King’s in Midtown Manhattan, and it was well worth breaking my blood oath never to go to Midtown. That room was pure love, despite the blanket of bleakness cast over the entire proceedings. So heavy. I just looked to see if there was any audio or video of it on YouTube, and there isn’t, but if you want to go down a rabbit hole, there’s plenty of older live stuff there.

This week brought the exhale that was being able to send The Pecan to daycamp for three hours every day. An easy pattern to fall into, thanks largely to the fact that he was in preschool before. We dropped him off a bit ago, in fact. He didn’t even look back at us as he went through the door, so I guess he likes it well enough. Very good.

That three-hour respite is huge, from 8:30-11:30. It allowed me to do the Quarterly Review this week while staying sane in the process, and since he still takes a rest in the afternoon — sometimes he naps, but mostly he just goes up to his room and farts around making various degrees of noise in unsupervised but contained fashion — I had some time to unwind, read a book, which is massive as far as my general quality of life goes.

I’m reading Star Trek books, as usual, a three-part series called ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ about Jim Kirk and Gary Mitchell, who dies in the (second) pilot of The Original Series, about how they’re best friends and Kirk has to deal with the fallout of having to kill Mitchell after he becomes a megalomaniac with godlike powers. You’d want to retcon it now making him a malevolent Q. And by you, I mean me, in fan-fic. As regards brain power, though, it’s this or that, and I’m better off here.

But that impulse is there for sure.

Come hang out in the Facebook group. It’s getting to be a whole thing.

New Gimme show today, as previously noted. You can listen free: https://gimmeradio.com. 5PM Eastern. Lotsa Neurosis, little bit of me talking about how good Neurosis are. Good fun.

That’s about all I’ve got. Thanks again to everybody who’s snagged some of the new merch. Thinking it might be time to end the run in another week or so, just because I’m starting to feel like a shill plugging it, but please know that your support is sincerely appreciated. Much love.

Great and safe weekend. Hydrate, watch your head, all that stuff. Have fun.

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Swallow the Sun to Release 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki July 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I was very, very, very much looking forward to seeing Finland’s Swallow the Sun come through Dingbatz in April 2020 on an anniversary tour that, of course, was canceled. And of all the shows missed out on over the last year-plus, that was continues to sting as very few do. What a special night that would’ve been. A band with a sound so huge in a space small enough that the floor would’ve vibrated under your feet. For those who showed up, it would’ve been a gig to remember for decades. Swallow the Sun are undervalued anyway. Too extreme for the rock crowd, to melodic for the extreme metallers. I’ve seen them before, but still. What a night. What could’ve been.

They did manage to get a few anniversary shows in before lockdown hit though, and it’s from those that the upcoming live album, 20 Years of Gloom, Beauty and Despair – Live in Helsinki, is made. Set to release July 30 through Century Media, maybe it’ll give me some idea of what I missed out on, because it seems like too damn much to hope that that show might ever get scheduled again.

Alas:

Swallow The Sun 20 Years of Gloom beauty and despair live in helsinki

SWALLOW THE SUN ANNOUNCES LIVE ALBUM – 20 YEARS OF GLOOM, BEAUTY AND DESPAIR – LIVE IN HELSINKI

PRE-ORDERS START TODAY

Finnish doom stars SWALLOW THE SUN announce their first ever live album 20 Years Of Gloom, Beauty And Despair – Live in Helsinki! The live album is set for release on July 30th via Century Media Records.

“Finally some good news after a year of cancellations and shitshow! We managed to play only 10 of these special 20th anniversary gigs before the whole world shut down in March 2020 and the rest of the tour got cancelled. Luckily we filmed and recorded one of the gigs, which we now release as our very first live album as we wait to be able to get back on stages again,”, states Swallow The Sun vocalist Mikko Kotamäki.

About the production Kotamäk adds, “We played the whole ‘Songs from the North II’ with a string quartet—comprised of very professional musicians, two of whom played on our previous album and appeared with us on the 70000 Tons of Metal cruise in 2018. For the first time, we also asked our fans on social media to vote for their favorite songs from each album. We then played the most-voted songs from every album.”

20 Years Of Gloom, Beauty And Despair – Live in Helsinki will be available as Ltd. 2CD+DVD Digipak, Gatefold 3LP+DVD and as digital album. All physical formats are available for pre-order HERE: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/20YearsOfGloomBeautyAndDespair-LiveInHelsinki

The vinyl version will be available in the following colors:
– Black vinyl, unlimited
– Golden vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at Levykauppa Äx
– Dark green vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, available at CMDistro
– Deep blood red vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at EMP
– Mint colored vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available Nuclear Blast
– Glow in the dark vinyl, limited to 200 copies worldwide, only available at the official band store

Swallow The Sun is Mikko Kotamaki (vocals), Matti Honkonen (bass), Juuso Raatkainen (drums), Jaani Peuhu (keys and vocals), Juho Raiha (guitar), and Juha Raivio (guitars).

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “Lost and Catatonic” Live t 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018

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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.

Rito Verdugo on Thee Facebooks

Rito Verdugo on Bandcamp

 

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.

Death the Leveller on Thee Facebooks

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.

Marrowfields on Thee Facebooks

Black Lion Records on Bandcamp

 

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.

Dätcha Mandala on Thee Facebooks

MRS Red Sound

 

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.

Numidia on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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Swallow the Sun Annouce Spring North American Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

In some ways, the hardest thing to believe about this is that Swallow the Sun have never headlined a US tour before. And yet, even in light of it being their 20th anniversary next year — pretty astounding, as I remember when their debut came out; but then, I am o-l-d — this tour feels like a risk. Consider they’ll already be more than a year out from this January’s all-kinds-of-killer When a Shadow is Forced into the Light (review here), they’re bringing a full three-band package over with Moldovan nü-metallers Infected Rain and Finnish/UK proggers Wheel, and they’re booked for more than a month of dates.

My eyes went immediately to the fact that they’re playing Dingbatz in New Jersey. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, and there are plenty of other rooms on this list that I recognize like Metro Gallery, Kingsland, Hawthorne Theatre, Brick by Brick, etc., but last time I saw Swallow the Sun was at B.B. King’s in Manhattan — 2007, you say? with Amorphis? that might’ve been it — and Clifton, NJ, might be relatively close geographically, but it’s miles away from that kind of experience.

Bottom line? They’ve in for some really good nights, and some nights of adventure. So I guess basically it’ll be a tour.

See you boys in Clifton.

From the PR wire:

swallow the sun tour

Swallow The Sun Announce North American Headline Tour

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have just announced their North American headline tour today. The band will be on tour this Spring with special guests Infected Rain and Wheel. Catch the band on tour starting April 20th in Tampa and ending on May 24th in Dallas. Tickets are available for purchase HERE.

“We have been touring many times in North America since 2007 but never headlined before this,” states Swallow The Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki about the upcoming headline tour. “So it’s about time to play you a decent length shows, not just 30-45min like before. Better get your tickets now and spread the word. No excuses, you asked for it, you got it! See you soon!”

The band will be touring in support of their most recent full-length album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light. Swallow The Sun’s seventh studio album was produced by the band’s very own Jaani Peuhu and Juha Raivio and is their most personal, cleanest work to date. Purchase and stream When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light HERE.

Swallow The Sun is Mikko Kotamaki (vocals), Matti Honkonen (bass), Juuso Raatkainen (drums), Jaani Peuhu (keys and vocals), Juho Raiha (guitar), and Juha Raivio (guitar and keys).

SWALLOW THE SUN TOUR DATES:
April 20 – Tampa, FL – Crowbar
April 21 – West Palm Beach, FL – Respectables
April 22 – Winter Park, FL – The Haven
April 23 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
April 24 – Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
April 25 – Philadelphia, PA – Voltage Lounge
April 26 – Clifton, NJ – Dingbatz
April 27 – Brooklyn, NY – Kingsland
April 28 – Brooklyn, NY – Kingsland
April 30 – Quebec City, Canada – L’Anti
May 1 – Ottawa, Canada – Mavericks
May 2 – Toronto, Canada – Velvet Underground
May 3 – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
May 4 – Westland, MI – Token Lounge
May 5 – Joliet, IL – The Forge
May 6 – Madison, WI – Crucible
May 7 – St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam
May 9 – Denver, CO – Hermans Hideaway
May 10 – Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid Joe
May 12 – Vancouver, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
May 13 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater
May 14 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
May 15 – Bend, OR – Third Street Pub
May 16 – Sacramento, CA – Holy Diver
May 17 – West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey A Go Go
May 18 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
May 19 – Santa Ana, CA – Malones
May 20 – Tempe, AZ – Club Red
May 22 – Austin, TX – Come and Take it Live**
May 23 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar**
May 24 – Dallas, TX – Trees**
**no Wheel

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light”

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Lucifer Announce Southern Tour; Lucifer III Due in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lucifer

You know, with the reception Lucifer have gotten over their time together, you’d think Nicke Andersson was in The Hellacopters or something. Or that vocalist Johanna Sadonis came out of hotly-tipped but ultimately shortlived cult duo The Oath or whatever. Oh wait. Okay, so maybe it’s not much of a mystery while the heavy underground has embraced them with open arms, but the work they’re doing speaks for itself. First and foremost, they’ve busted their collective ass touring in Europe and North America, and their records — the latest being last year’s Lucifer II (review here) — have only been met with increasing fervor. Gosh. Maybe they’re a good band or something.

New record, Lucifer III, will be out in March 2020 through Century Media, but somehow I’ll always think of them as a Rise Above band. Maybe that’s just me.

Info from the PR wire:

lucifer tour

LUCIFER ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICA PART III HEADLINE TOUR

Heavy-rock band LUCIFER have just announced their third and final leg of their North American headline tour today. The band will hit the road starting on January 15th in Memphis, TN and ending on January 26th in Tampa, FL. For more information and to purchase tickets for the band’s upcoming tour dates, visit LUCIFER’s Facebook page.

LUCIFER has been touring nonstop in support of their recent full-length album Lucifer II. The band recently wrapped a tour with The Hellacopters for select European shows in May and their first two North American headline tours. Additionally, the band has performed at festivals like Metal Days, Bukta Festival, and Beyond The Gates. They have previously performed at KISS Cruise, Psycho Las Vegas, Desertfest, Hellfest, Muskelrock, Sweden Rock, and Freak Valley.

The group, led by Johanna Sadonis and Nicke Andersson, celebrated massive success in 2018 with the release of Lucifer II, turning heads with their addictive Sabbath-ian hard rock. The album charted at #40 on the German charts, #1 on the Swedish vinyl and hard rock charts, and #2 on the physical album charts. The record is available on vinyl, CD and digitally HERE.

“Oh my Lord! We are incredibly thrilled to announce that the mighty Philip Shouse (bass for Ace Frehley / guitar for Gene Simmons) will join LUCIFER on bass in the US on our upcoming Southern tour! What a legend! Don’t miss this! Tickets go on sale this Friday.”

LUCIFER have commenced work on Lucifer III, which is set for release March 2020. Stay tuned for more details on the forthcoming release.

LUCIFER NORTH AMERICA PART III TOUR 2019
January 15 – Memphis, TN – The Hi Tone
January 16 – Dallas, TX – Three Links
January 17 – Austin, TX – Come And Take It Live
January 18 – Houston, TX – Secret Group
January 19 – New Orleans, LA – Santos
January 21- Birmingham, AL – The Nick
January 22 – Atlanta, GA – 529
January 23 – Tampa, FL – Crowbar
January 24 – Jacksonville, FL – 1904 Music Hall
January 25 – Miami, FL – Churchill’s Pub
January 26 – Orlando, FL – Will’s Pub

LUCIFER is
Johanna Sadonis – vocals
Nicke Andersson – drums
Alexander Mayr – bass
Martin Nordin – guitar
Linus Björklund – guitar

https://www.facebook.com/luciferofficial/
https://www.instagram.com/lucifertheband/
https://kingsroadmerch.com/lucifer/
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Lucifer, “California Son” official video

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Radio Moscow Announce Summer European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

radio moscow

San Diego classic heavy rockers Radio Moscow were in Europe this past week to make stops at the Bordeaux Psych Fest and a few other shows surrounding it. Neat. Well, while they were there, they went ahead and announced a longer European trip, set for this June/July, which is set to include HellfestBlack Deer Fest in Kent, UK, Resurrection Fest, a secret show in Italy — I’m gonna guess we know what that is — and more. Not too bad either.

Before they go, they’ll appear in May as headliners for Planet Desert Rock Weekend in Vegas and for a slot at Stoned and Dusted out somewhere in the Cali desert, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there are other shows in that mix as well, because that’s basically how Radio Moscow do. When they’re going, they go.

The three-piece released their latest album, New Beginnings (review here), late in 2017 as their label debut on Century Media and toured before and after, like you do. I don’t know what their plans are for the rest of 2018, but it’s easy enough to imagine them back out on the road after this as well. Fall in South America maybe? Somebody call Abraxas.

Sound of Liberation had the Euro dates:

radio moscow tour

Radio Moscow EUROPEAN TOUR SUMMER 2019!

While Radio Moscow are currently on the road in France, Spain & Portugal, we are thrilled to announce more European shows for them in June!

Check out the dates below:

11.06.19 – Leipzig | UT Connewitz (DE)
12.06.19 – Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
13.06.19 – Budapest | A38 (HU)
14.06.19 – Graz | PPC (AT)
15.06.19 – Milano | Cronache Marziane Festival (IT)
16.06.19 – Torino | Blah Blah (IT)
18.06.19 – Secret Show (IT)
19.06.19 – Geneva | L’Usine (CH) *with monkey3
21.06.19 – Clisson | Hellfest (FR)
22.06.19 – Schmitten | Schmittner Open Air (CH)
23.06.19 – Tunbridge Wells | Black Deer Festival (UK)
25.06.19 – Leffinge | De Zwerver (BE)
26.06.19 – Cologne | Helios 37 (DE)
27.06.19 – Groningen | Vera (NL)
28.06.19 – Stuttgart | Keller Club (DE)
29.06.19 – Riegsee | Raut Oak Festival (DE)
30.06.19 – Innsbruck | PMK (AT)
01.07.19 – Vienna | Arena (AT)
03.07.19 – Berlin | Lido (DE)
04.07.19 – Wiesbaden| Schlachthof (DE)
05.07.19 – Viveiro | Resurrection Festival (ES)

More info: www.soundofliberation.com/radio-moscow

Radio Moscow line-up
Parker Griggs (vocals, guitar)
Anthony Meier (bass)
Paul Marrone (drums)

http://radiomoscow.net/
www.facebook.com/radiomoscowband
www.instagram.com/radiomoscowband

Radio Moscow, “Driftin'” official video

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Hexvessel, All Tree: A Wilderness Spirit

Posted in Reviews on March 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hexvessel all tree

As side A plays out with its lush melodies and arrangements of flute and violin and cape-donned acoustic folk strum, past the pervasive sense of worship brought to “Son of the Sky” and “Old Tree,” Hexvessel frontman Mat “Kvohst” McNerney intones in “Changeling” the repeated line, “Come back home.” And so it seems the band has done just that. From the harmonized chants opening All Tree in the brief introduction “Blessing” through the birdsong of “A Sylvan Sign,” the quiet but present and foreboding layer of distortion in “Otherworld Envoy,” and the crackling fire of “Liminal Night,” the Finnish outfit have gone to ground aesthetically, and returned to the spirit of their earlier recordings, 2011’s Dawnbearer, 2012’s No Holier Temple, and 2013’s Iron Marsh EP.

Fair enough territory for McNerney and multi-instrumentalist Kimmo Helén (bass, piano, viola), guitarist Andrew McIvor, drummer/bassist Jukka Rämänen, vocalist/percussionist Marja Konttinen, guitarist Jesse Heikkinen and field recording specialist Antti Haapapuro to cover, but it’s a stark change from where Hexvessel were three years ago on When We are Death (review here). Their third album was a break-away from the methods of No Holier Temple et al, and found Hexvessel delving into psychedelic goth, death-driven Bowie swagger, and a broad pastiche of styles. In the context of the work they’ve done over the course of the last decade, All Tree makes When We are Death feel like an anomaly. Maybe it was. But the turn that brought Hexvessel there was no less stark than the turn that brings them to All Tree. Once again, the band as a whole are defying expectation, and as they lay claim once more to what one previously thought of as their core sound, they don’t necessarily forget the lessons of When We are Death in terms of tight songcraft — the ceremony runs a brisk 13 songs and 45 minutes — and nuance of arrangement, but there’s no question that the shift is a drastic one and it leaves one scratching their head at what might’ve been behind it. Even the cover art was done by the same artist who did No Holier Temple.

Perhaps the songs themselves hold the key to understanding the motivation. Like that “Come back home” in “Changeling,” or the chorus, “You can’t change this wilderness spirit,” in “Wilderness Spirit,” there is something about All Tree that feels very much to the core of Hexvessel‘s project. It brings together elements of British folk with a pointed naturalism that presents an alternate view of the modern world in which hillsides might be the shoulders of some giant unseen to human eyes or ghosts seem to populate the landscape as much as any form of life. In minimalist stretches like the finale “Closing Circles” or pieces of “Old Tree” earlier on, McNerney‘s voice is given a showcase it’s more than up to handling, and as much as there’s an overarching theme to the band’s sound, they subtly work in a surprising amount of variety, tapping into weepy pedal steel on “Birthmark,” bringing in session violinist Daniel Pioro for “Old Tree,” or recalling 16 Horsepower-style swing in “Wilderness Spirit.”

hexvessel

Be it the more severe strumming of “Ancient Astronaut” or the quiet brooding of the brief mostly-instrumental “Vision of A.O.S.” that follows, “Otherworld Envoy” with its build toward a resonant wash or the brief interplay of keys and guitar on “Journey to Carnac,” All Tree does not to away with the prior album’s fascination with alternate dimensional planes, but it is by reinterpreting the means of conveying these ideas that so much about All Tree feels different. Even in “A Sylvan Sign,” which is the longest inclusion here at 6:28 as well as the centerpiece of the tracklisting, there’s something ethereal about the proceedings and the hypnotic repetitions of the title amid the plucked strings of acoustic guitar. As dug into the earth as some of these songs seem, wandering aged forests with dirt under the fingernails, there is no lack of mystique or wonder to them. A decade on from their beginnings, Hexvessel seem to be returning to marvel at what surrounds them, telling stories of the place of one’s self in nature and nature’s place in one’s self. “Wilderness Spirit,” in that regard, is a declaration of freedom as much as anything.

So where does that leave Hexvessel? They’re not back where they started, by any means. The level of craft, the diversity of their arrangements and their ability to shift in mood has carried over from When We are Death to All Tree in a way that distinguishes the new work from anything they’ve done before, but at the same time, there’s no getting around the fact that Hexvessel have stepped back into a forest-folk style that, for the most part, they let go three years ago. Does that make All Tree a moment of reconciliation between who Hexvessel were and who they became? Does their fourth album negate the accomplishments of their third or invalidate them somehow? Did Hexvessel hear those songs and think it wasn’t working on some level? How did we get here? Maybe (almost certainly) I’m overthinking it, but what does the fact that Hexvessel returned at least to the general vibe of their earlier work say about who they are as a band?

I’m not sure, and I’m not sure we’re supposed to know. For a band who made so much of their statement stylistically, it was particularly bold when Hexvessel dropped (almost) everything and went in a different direction. Likewise, listening to All Tree, it feels no less bold for Hexvessel to be back under such open skies. I can’t answer the questions above and I’m not going to try, but it feels like much of the purpose in these songs is self-discovery as it is expression. In that regard, Hexvessel have never wavered at all. As a collection in its own right, All Tree has moments of pain, beauty and awe that come across as genuine and driven by an urgency in their creation. On a level of craft, Hexvessel have never sounded more sure of what they want to do or how they want to make that unreal real. As to the rest, their story clearly isn’t done being written, and the narrative has grown more complex with time. Something tells me they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Hexvessel, “Changeling” official video

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Hexvessel website

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Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light: Of Love and Death

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

Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

The immediate question, of course, is what happens? What happens when you force a shadow into the light? As per the memorable, layered screams of the title-track to Finnish melodic death-doomers Swallow the Sun‘s seventh full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, “It rips through your chest and burns like a fire.” Fair enough. That chorus sweeps in from an acoustic-led verse and thanks in part to backing from string sounds — that is, whether it’s strings or keyboard — gives a sense of grandeur that very much works to define what follows across the 52-minute/eight-track Century Media release. A largesse of production value helps as well, and that’s nothing new for Swallow the Sun, who since their 2003 debut, The Morning Never Came, have melded emotional resonance, elements of extreme metal — Mikko Kotamäki has made a trademark of switching fluidly between screams, growls and clean singing, and stands among the finest metal vocalists currently active — and clarity of sound into a melancholic vision of death-doom that has only become more their own with time.

Cumbersome as it is, the album’s title derives from the lyrics to “Broken Mirror” from founding guitarist Juha Raivio‘s Trees of Eternity project, and much of the material here deals with the personal loss of Aleah Stanbridge, who was that outfit’s vocalist as well as Raivio‘s partner, and who passed away from cancer prior to the release of their 2016 debut, Hour of the NightingaleRaivio would subsequently form Hallatar and release 2017’s No Stars Upon the Bridge (review here) using her poetry as lyrics. There is an according sense of longing and mournfulness to When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, which follows the late-2015 triple-album, Songs from the North I, II & III (review here), that can be heard in songs like “Firelights,” “Upon the Water” and even the guttural apex of the penultimate “Here on Black Earth.” Swallow the Sun are no strangers to working in an upfront emotional context, and one of their great assets as a band has always been their ability to balance aspects of extremity with a very human heart.

When a Shadow is Forced into the Light cannot and should not ultimately be separated from the circumstances surrounding its making any more than it should be from the rest of Swallow the Sun‘s catalog. In both it and its companion EP, Lumina Aurea (review here), there isn’t so much a feeling of catharsis — that comes later — as a palpable grief. Summarized best perhaps in the direct address in the lyrics to closer “Never Left,” there is little mistaking the in-the-thick-of-it feel of genuine mourning, but as the band — Raivio (who also handles keys and jouhikko, a bowed instrument used in Finnish traditional music), Kotamäki, guitarist Juho Räihä, bassist Matti Honkonen, drummer Juuso Raatikainen and keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, as well as guests here and there — move through “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” and into “The Crimson Crown” and “Firelights,” neither do they let go of their craft. A complex style of songwriting is fitting for the richness of their sound, and they bask in it, but as noted, the title-track has a hook, and so do “The Crimson Crown,” “Firelights,” “Upon the Water,” “Clouds on Your Side” and “Never Left.”

swallow the sun

“Stone Wings” and “Here on Black Earth” are directed otherwise structurally, but even they have standout moments, whether it’s the throat-ripping screams backed by melodic lines in the latter or the sudden volume swells of the former. And you know, I take it back, “Stone Wings” does have a hook, as well as Raivio‘s jouhikko while it makes its way to its engrossing, double-kick-bolstered crescendo. The point is that although there’s an obvious emotional consumption happening throughout When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, that’s brought into what Swallow the Sun do. They’ve always had a wistful sensibility to them. They’ve always dealt with loss as a working theme, and in some ways, the work they’re doing here is very much consistent with where they’ve been in the past, but the foundation they’re working from is different, and it’s real. The grief is real. The sadness is real. The loss is real. It’s performative by its very nature — as in, it’s an album and people are performing on it — but there’s no sense throughout that Swallow the Sun are doing anything other than seeing Raivio work through this pain.

The tagline for the record has been “love is stronger than death,” as posted by the band in discussions leading up to the release. If that’s their summary of the theme, fair enough — “Never Left” would seem to be the point at which that idea most comes to the fore — and it’s easy to argue that their ability to find balance between this point of view and an already established songwriting modus speaks to the experience and skill of the band as a group. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is never more mired than it wants to be, never held back. The title-track and “The Crimson Crown” — both over seven minutes long and the only songs to hit that mark aside from “Never Left” as the corresponding bookend — form an initial salvo that characterize so much of the rest of the material.

In its immersive blend of acoustics, string sounds, differing vocal approaches and the smoothness of its overall craft, the song “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” seems to accomplish everything Swallow the Sun brought to Songs from the North I, II & III in a single track. It is a cinematic arrangement and poised execution that nonetheless has its basis in an emotionalism that’s still raw. But what the song and indeed the rest of the album that shares its name do so well is to take that rawness and shape it into something encompassing and beautiful. If that’s what it means for love to be stronger than death, if that expression is what comes out of the brutality of the loss that’s behind its making, then When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is its own best argument for the maxim’s truth.

Swallow the Sun, “Firelights” official video

Swallow the Sun website

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