Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Novembers Doom Touring Australia & New Zealand in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

novembers doom

More than 30 years after their inception, Chicago death-doom innovators Novembers Doom will tour Australia and New Zealand for the first time. The band, arguably among the earliest in the States to tap into what concurrent acts in the UK like Anathema, Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride were doing in terms of bringing together extreme metal grit with emotive expression no less heavy, head Down Under for the first time, going at the behest of Your Mate Bookings in support of their late-2019 album, Nephilim Grove, which was their label debut through Prophecy Productions after many years spent releasing on The End Records.

On the tour, they’ll headline the Behold Your Doom Festival in Adelaide, playing alongside a host of extreme bands that, given the deathly turn Novembers Doom‘s sound has taken over the last, oh, decade or so, should be an easy fit, but they’ll also start out in New Zealand and do Auckland and Wellington there, and it seems worth emphasizing that this is something the band has never done before. After 30-plus years since their inception. Playing a fest or not, that’s something pretty special. I have to think there aren’t that many places on the planet left these guys haven’t been.

Dates are below, as posted by Your Mate Bookings:

novembers doom australia tour

Novembers Doom – Australia/New Zealand Tour

You asked – we answered! Novembers Doom the gods of death-doom are coming to the antipodes with support from Enough to Escape on the Australian dates! Are you ready for what is guaranteed to be a mammoth live show?

Tuesday 14/7 Whammy Bar, Auckland NZ
Wednesday 15/7 Valhalla, Wellington NZ
Friday 17/7 The Foundry, Fortitude Valley QLD
Saturday 18/7 The Vanguard, Newtown NSW
Sunday 19/7 Transit Bar, Canberra ACT
Thursday 23/7 Stay Gold, Brunswick VIC
Friday 24/7 The Bendigo Hotel, Collingwood VIC
Saturday 25/7 Altar, Hobart TAS
Sunday 26/7 Jive, Adelaide SA – Behold Your Doom Festival 2020

Get tickets for this monumental occasion:
https://www.yourmatebookings.com/upcoming-events/

https://www.facebook.com/NovembersDoom1989/
https://www.instagram.com/novembersdoom/
http://www.novembersdoom.com/
https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions
https://www.instagram.com/prophecypro/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/

Novembers Doom, Nephilim Grove (2019)

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Friday Full-Length: Trouble, Simple Mind Condition

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Trouble, Simple Mind Condition (2007)

In light of the announcement earlier this week that Hammerheart Records in the Netherlands has undertaken the rather significant charge of stewarding deluxe reissues of Trouble‘s entire catalog to-date as well as putting out their next full-length, it seemed only fair to close out the week with an album by the Chicago-based doom legends. They have eight albums to this point, the most recent of them having been 2013’s The Distortion Field (review here), and over the course of a career that dates back to 1978, they’ve hardly been Uriah Heep or Hawkwind when it comes to output, but they put out six LPs between 1984 and 1995 and have done just two since, so take from that what you will. One of those, obviously, is The Distortion Field. The other is its predecessor, Simple Mind Condition, from 2007.

Whether because of the direction away from earlier-Sabbathian riffs and grooves heavy metal took in the post-NWOBHM ’80s or the more hard-rocking direction Trouble embarked on circa their 1990 self-titled, moving into a semi-psychedelic phase through 1992’s Manic Frustration and 1995’s Plastic Green Head, they’ve long since been due for a level of consideration that’s proven elusive. In 2006, when Stockholm’s Escapi Music signed them and began reissuing pieces of their back catalog and sundry live offerings, their Unplugged recordings and so on, it seemed like perhaps their work was receiving a bit of well-earned respect, and though he’d already left the band once in the 1990s and been replaced by Kyle Thomas of Exhorder, I have to think that if Simple Mind Condition had gotten a bigger reception, vocalist Eric Wagner might have at least considered staying with Trouble after the release. Instead, it marks his final album with them after what was then already a nearly-30-year run.

But what a record. No, Simple Mind Condition isn’t the riffy force of Trouble and it doesn’t carry the morose feel of their landmark 1984 debut, Psalm 9 (discussed here), but it is a mature presentation of the band Trouble were at that point. The guitars of Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin, on point as ever, while bassist Chuck Robinson and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson locked in a groove on opener “Goin’ Home” that seemed to hold for the entire 11-track/45-minute duration. Trouble were always about that crunch in the guitars — their tone no less a signature than Wagner‘s soaring vocals in the early days — but with Simple Mind Condition, the songwriting came front and center in a way that was genuinely exciting and, at least to an extent, fresh. Consider it had been 12 years since Plastic Green Head, and Simple Mind Condition was the first album since Wagner rejoined the band after leaving the first time.

The hooks in “Mindbender” and “Seven” and the swinging “Pictures of Life” not only kept an underlying doomy feel — the chug of the latter is up there with whatever classic metal you want to put it next to — not to mention the later “Trouble Maker” or “Simple Mind Condition” or “If I Only Had a Reason.” Even the ballads “After the Rain” and “The Beginning of Sorrows” — the latter delivering the line “Sewing pillows for those which are asleep,” from which The Skull would later derive the name of their first LP — proved memorable when given the time to do so, and along with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride the Sky” that fit seamlessly among the originals, and the quirk in “Arthur Brown’s Whiskey Bar,” with Wagner touching on some oftrouble simple mind condition the Beatles influence that the band manifested in their psychedelic days — they covered “Tomorrow Never Knows” on Plastic Green Head, and Wagner‘s short-lived post-Trouble project, Lid, certainly had that vibe as well on 1997’s In the Mushroom — while of course referencing the ’60s psych era in the title character of the song, added personality between the start-stop stomp of “Trouble Maker” and the thrust of the title-track.

All of this tells the story of an album that is front to back, flat out, all in. No pretense, heavy, raw in its way when it wants to be, but of course with rampant melody. They were never the most energetic of bands, and neither were they intended to be, but Simple Mind Condition still ups the tempo when it wants to, whether it’s the lurch-to-life at the bass-led outset of “Goin’ Home” or “Ride the Sky”‘s recognizable signature progression, and they’re no less at home in doing so than in the piano-complemented emotionalism of “The Beginning of Sorrows,” which builds from its subdued beginning over the course of its sub-five-minute run as Wagner intones, “Six long years/Since I’ve been in love/Yeah, maybe since birth,” and lets the sadness of those lines stand on its own, beautifully understated.

It’s a what-if record. The landscape of heavy into which Simple Mind Condition was introduced was vastly different from what the underground would become even a few years later as the new generation to which Trouble seemed to be speaking actually opened its ears. But by then it was too late, at least for Trouble as they were up to that point. They toured without Wagner to support Simple Mind Condition and the various other Escapi releases, and I remember seeing them at the old Knitting Factory in Manhattan circa 2008 with fellow Chicagoans Minsk opening and Warrior Soul vocalist Kory Clarke fronting the band. Franklin and Wartell sounded great, of course, but as a band it just didn’t work, and they brought in Thomas once again shortly thereafter. Sometimes you try a thing, I guess. I seem to recall Clarke was a last-minute call anyhow.

Of course, Wagner went on to form The Skull with former Trouble bassist Ron Holzner and Sacred Dawn guitarist Lothar Keller, and they’ve been touring and releasing albums since, at first playing old Trouble material and gradually bringing originals to the mix, then letting their own songs take priority. Their two full-lengths to-date, 2014’s For Those Which are Asleep (review here) and 2018’s The Endless Road Turns Dark (review here), shone like a melancholy beacon and realized the potential in Simple Mind Condition to engage that emergent generational audience of which Trouble seemed just a couple years ahead. Those are two of the last decade’s best American doom records, easily, and inextricably tied to Trouble‘s legacy while forging their own outward path therefrom.

I don’t know what Trouble‘s new deal with Hammerheart — which is more known for its dealings with death and black metal than doom — will bring. A chance for fans to buy records they already own? Bonus material? I don’t know. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll get to review some of those albums? Maybe? We’ll see. One way or the other, since their inception, Trouble worked against trend and were a band who spoke to a particular segment of the heavy converted. It would be great if they got the museum-grade respect they deserve, but even if that doesn’t happen, at least it’s a chance for a few new heads to turn on to what they were doing all along, and maybe Simple Mind Condition — which has been reissued along the way, in 2009, 2010, 2013 — can play a role in making that happen. It was a special, fleeting moment for the Trouble, and one that, 13 years after the fact, still holds up.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Things seemed to settle down a bit this week, which was good. We had The Patient Mrs.’ birthday dinner last Sunday, and that was kind of a mess while it was actually coming together, but by the time food was served it was fine. I think it’s been since Monday that I last really felt the need to take a xanax, so that’s something, and I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on the semester schedule and how to work the days with The Pecan and all that kind of thing. His going to part-time daycare on Wednesdays and Thursdays has been working out for him, and he has had a language explosion over the last month-plus that has helped cut a lot of frustration he was feeling not being able to express himself. He talks now almost as much as he moves, and he moves constantly.

Actually, he fell at daycare in some woodchips or something this week and cut up his face. His teacher when The Patient Mrs. and I went to pick him up was all worried in telling us like we were going to freak out. We were like, “shrug.” She said he just got up and kept running like nothing happened and I said, “Yup, that’s who he is.” This kid falls every single day in ways that, if I did it, I’d have to go to bed for a week. I’m not bragging because he’s tough or whatever — it’s something we worked on, actively not making a big deal of it when he falls down.

And now he does and it’s no drama. He falls off the couch. He falls off his bike. He falls running. He falls jumping. He bumps into walls, tables, shelves, doors, whatever. He slips while climbing the windowsill. It doesn’t matter. You have to stop yourself from reaching for him, but now when he plotzes down I mostly just laugh, and so he does too. And if he starts complaining I say, “You’re fine,” and he is. That’s just who he is. He’s that kind of kid. That’s the real him. I was glad it came out at what we’ve been calling “school” just for the ease of doing so.

The week’s centerpiece as regards general plight was money. As in, we don’t have any. And The Patient Mrs. made the woeful mistake of extrapolating how much we spend on groceries per year and, well, that just sucked. I offered to get a job — go work in some store or something — but it hasn’t really been part of the discussion. We’re keeping receipts for the next week or so and then seeing where we’re at and what we can do. I fucking hate money. I hate everything about it. I hate having it, I hate spending it, I hate making it, I hate not having it. It astounds me that, as a species evolved over hundreds of thousands and millions of years, we’ve so totally failed to come up with anything better to do with our time than engage in the pursuit and interchange of so much made-up bullshit. That I spend so much time, and that my wife — who pays our bills — spends so much of her time, fretting about these things shames me deeply.

But it’s the weekend. I have work to do on the Roadburn ‘zine, and some other stuff, but next week is pretty full. Look out for a Foot track premiere on Monday. Australian band. That record is so god damn good. There’s other stuff too, a few announcements here and there. A My Dying Bride review. It’ll be fun.

The kid’s up, so I’m gonna get rolling on the day. Great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind. FRM. Forum, Radio, Merch.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

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Trouble Sign to Hammerheart Records for New Album and Reissues

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Signing on to reissue the entire Trouble catalog is no minor commitment for a record label to make. Hammerheart Records will reportedly not only reissue the Chicago doom legends’ entire discography — that’s eight full-length albums, mind you — but will do so on remastered vinyl, 2CD and tapes, as well as the standard downloads, and that includes giving 2013’s The Distortion Field (review here) a proper look. That’s a huge deal. Plus they’re announcing that Trouble will have a new record out before the end of this year — stranger things have happened but I’m on a believe-it-when-I-see-it basis when it comes to doom LPs — and that they’ll put that out as well.

Basically what this means is that Trouble have a new home. The reissues are starting this May with Psalm 9 and will proceed onward from there, and it’s obvious that Hammerheart is passionate about the project, otherwise they wouldn’t even take it on. It’s awesome to see and hopefully it introduces Trouble‘s most essential works to a new generational audience, because frankly the more people who are exposed to it, the better.

Here’s news:

trouble

Hammerheart Records announces partnership with metal legends Trouble

Hammerheart Records will partner with the legendary metal band Trouble to re-release their entire musical catalogue, in addition to their upcoming album.

Hammerheart Records is thrilled to announce their biggest achievement to-date with the signing of doom metal legends Trouble to their label. This partnership that will see the distribution of the band’s entire library of music that spans over three decades.

“We are very excited to be partnering with Hammerheart Records and joining their roster of bands”, stated Rick Wartell, Trouble founder/guitarist. “Our entire back catalogue of music will be made available to our fans worldwide, as well as our upcoming release scheduled for later this year.”

Hammerheart Records and Trouble will re-issue the full catalogue with each album remastered and reworked with the respect to the original recordings. Every album will be reissued on a deluxe 2-CD edition, vinyl, music cassette, and digital offerings. Releases will be scheduled chronologically, starting in May 2020 with the album now known as Psalm 9, which was originally released on Metal Blade Records in 1984 and is hailed as one of the Trouble of doom metal music.

Other Trouble releases will follow including other 80’s heavy classics, the 90’s psychedelic era, and more recent releases including the critically-acclaimed The Distortion Field. All equally essential to Trouble fans, and lovers of heavy metal everywhere.

A new Trouble album is planned for release at the end of 2020 and will be heavier than ever.

Trouble is:
Kyle Thomas : vocals,
Bruce Franklin : guitar,
Rick Wartell : guitar,
Rob Hultz : bass,
Marko Lira : drums

https://www.facebook.com/TroubleMetal/
https://www.facebook.com/hammerheartrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/hammerheartrecords666/
https://www.hammerheart.com/

Trouble, Live on TV in 1982

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Helen Money Announces New Album Atomic out March 20; Song Streaming & European Tour Dates

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

helen money

Chicago-based cellist Alison Chesley will release her new album under the moniker of Helen Money on March 20 through Thrill Jockey Records. It’s the first new Helen Money album in four years since Become Zero (review here) in 2016 — though Chesley has hardly been idle in that time — and a glimpse at its atmospheric reach is being given in the streaming leadoff track “Midnight,” which will open the 11-song LP in duly cinematic fashion. Always experimental but on sure aesthetic ground, Chesley weaves layers of cello on each other to create a tense build and cascade that, as it should, only makes me want to dive into the rest of the album to follow. It would seem her work continues to defy genre and yet remain heavy in atmosphere and emotionalist intent.

Badass, in other words.

A European tour has been announced. Dates and album info, as the PR wire has it:

helen money atomic

Helen Money announces powerfully emotional new album Atomic, out Mar. 20th

Helen Money touring Europe this spring

Helen Money has announced new album Atomic, out March 20th, as well as shared the album’s intimate, expansive single “Midnight”. Composer Alison Chesley stands as one of the most unique and versatile cellists working today. Under the Helen Money moniker, Chesley uses the instrument to access and channel the extremities of human emotion, employing extensive sonic manipulation and an array of plucking and bowing techniques to summon an astonishing breadth and depth of sound. A prolific collaborator, Chesley recently transcribed and performed on Bob Mould’s Sunshine Rock has worked with the likes of Jason Roeder (Sleep/Neurosis) and Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s), and she has toured extensively with Mould, Russian Circles, Earth, Shellac, Sleep and MONO. On her new album Atomic, Chesley pushes even further out towards the extremes of her output with a daring leap forward in her songwriting through minimalist arrangements that stand as her most intimate, direct, and emotionally bare work to date.

Atomic was written during a period of transition for Chesley and her family. She explains: “After my parents passed away, we had to find new ways to be – with ourselves and each other. The whole process brought us closer together, strengthening the bonds between the three of us; between us and our friends; between us and my extended family. My sister and brother and I would often get together at my brother’s house in the Redwoods of Northern California. Being there with them, looking up at these giant trees that were there long before we were, looking up at the Milky Way, looking out at the Pacific Ocean – it just gave me a sense of perspective and how connected we all are to everything.” The experience of recalibrating herself in the world came to subconsciously inform Atomic’s searching tone, Chesley pushing her music to surprising new places, both intimate and powerfully emotional.

Helen Money – Atomic tracklist:
1. Midnight
2. Understory
3. Nemesis
4. Coil
5. Coppe
6. Something Holy
7. Brave One
8. One Year One Ring
9. Marrow
10. Redshift
11. Many Arms

Helen Money EU tour dates
May 2 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
May 3 – Goteborg, SE – Koloni
May 5 – Prague, CZ – Klub 007
May 7 – Gdansk, PL – Drizzly Grizzly
May 8 – Poznan, PL – Pawillon
May 9 – Hranice na Morav?, CZ – Karnola
May 10 – Kosice, SK – Taba?ka Kulturfabrik
May 12 – Vienna, AT – Fluc
May 13 – Zurich, CH – Schallbeton
May 14 – Torino, IT – Blah Blah
May 15 – Lyon, FR – Le Sonic
May 17 – Lille, FR – La Malterie
May 20 – Glasgow, UK – Broadcast
May 21 – Newcastle, UK – Cluny
May 23 – London, UK – Raw Power Festival w/ Pye Corner Audio, Enablers + more
May 24 – London, UK – Raw Power Festival w/ Pye Corner Audio, Enablers + more

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http://thrilljockey.com/products/atomic

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Helen Money, “Midnight”

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Friday Full-Length: Minsk, Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

With its 15th anniversary impending later this year, Minsk‘s debut album, Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive, still sounds like the end of the fucking world. Issued through At a Loss Recordings, the full-length built directly on a prior 2004 demo that made the band’s signing mandatory — had to happen — with two of the tracks from that independent offering re-recorded and positioned as part of the monstrous opening salvo of the LP proper. Those songs are “Waging War on the Forevers” (10:40) and “Narcotics and Dissecting Knives” (10:57), and together with the universe-consuming 14 minutes of “Holy Flower of the North Star,” they assured Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive‘s place in the then-burgeoning pantheon of post-metal’s most glorious moments.

As the mid-aughts found Neurosis and Isis exploring some of their most ambient material and bands like Mouth of the ArchitectRwakeBurst, Amenra and Rosetta started to establish the aesthetic tenets of the style, Minsk were almost singularly chaotic. Like no one before them, the Chicago-based outfit were able to harness the tempestuous rhythms of Neurosis‘ Through Silver in Blood and bring that kind of intensity to their own approach, pairing it with standout riffs and vocal lines as well as effective linear builds like that with subtly leads into “Holy Flower of the North Star” before letting go of the listener’s hand and tossing them over the edge into the churning fray. Though the record’s impact was not immediate, with the quiet opening sample at the start of “Waging War on the Forevers” before the thrust kicks in at 1:29, once Minsk unveiled their full tonal weight, there was no way to stop the ensuing crush, and who the hell would want to anyway?

Though the fact that he’d helmed Pelican‘s Australasia certainly didn’t hurt his cause, and also the fact that Buried at Sea‘s Migration remains one of the heaviest records ever released, period, Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive seemed to serve particular notice of Sanford Parker‘s accomplishment as a producer. His ability to harness low frequency resonance is writ large throughout the 65 minutes of Minsk‘s debut, and of course that he wound up playing bass in the band, taking over for Drew McDowell in the lineup alongside vocalist/percussionist/keyboardist Tim Mead, guitarist/vocalist Chris Bennett, guitarist Dustin Addis and drummer Tony Wyioming (aka Anthony Couri), was a bonus that only added to their sonic impact. The use of percussion and keys whether in stretches of maximum churn or atmospheric reach, was also a distinguishing factor for Minsk, and made their sound all the more inventive and distinct from their peers amid what was at the time a stylistic boom, and as much of their impression would Minsk Out of a Center Which Is Neither Dead nor Alivebe made across those first three tracks — the original At a Loss vinyl edition reordered the songs to fit neatly as a 2LP — the subsequent “Three Hours” (11:11), “Bloodletting and Forgetting” (8:26) and “Wisp of Tow” (9:28) pushed ever deeper into hypnotic sway and contrasting pummel.

“Three Hours” still feels especially raging once it builds the proper momentum, with intertwining lines of vocals reaching up from out of the grueling ether with a kind of desperation that seems as emotionally raw as the proceedings around it are sonically complex. By the time the track crosses its halfway point, with its swirling effects leading gradually to a chugging that is all the more vicious for the undercurrent of keys and the glorious opening that follows, Minsk are both nearly impossible to follow and impossible to turn away from. The sheer aural demand of Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive remains staggering. Not only is it the kind of record in which, almost 15 years later, one can still hear new aspects of the band’s approach — it’s the kind of record whose urgency time has done nothing to dull. Which is all the more impressive when one considers how much of it is given to quiet parts.

“Bloodletting and Forgetting,” which follows “Waging War on the Forevers” on the vinyl side A, is the penultimate cut on the CD, and positioned well behind “Three Hours” as something of a comedown with its extended quiet start working as the launch of a linear build that, sure enough, hits a raging crescendo, but still gives over to closer “Wisp of Tow” with a psychedelic fluidity that the guest saxophone spot from Bruce Lamont, then of Yakuza, only drives into the broader reaches of the “far out.” Of course, they finish with a payoff that borders on Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive‘s most extreme moments before returning to lucidity for a few final lines before cutting out, but by then the feeling of consumption is long since established, and Minsk‘s refusal to bask in their own accomplishment — leaving as they do largely without ceremony — highlights the prior intensity. Though it was the earlier demo that set the foundation on which the album would flourish, they left no question as to their forward-thinking intent or their strength of purpose.

I recall it wasn’t long before Relapse Records came knocking. The venerable Philly imprint snagged Minsk and issued 2007’s The Ritual Fires of Abandonment and 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), as well as a split with Unearthly Trance concurrent to the latter, before Minsk took part in Neurot Recordings‘ Hawkwind Triad (review here) with U.S. Christmas and Harvestman in 2010. Half a decade passed before they returned with The Crash and the Draw (review here), a fourth LP once again on Relapse, and a split with like-minded Swiss outfit Zatokrev, titled Bigod (review here), followed in 2018 to mark the occasion of a tour and the 15th anniversaries of both bands.

Their first demo, 2003’s Burning, was reissued on tape in 2018 by Three Moons Records — it seems to be sold out, which I know because I just went to the label’s webstore to try to buy it — and they’ve had a beer collaboration and periodic local shows since. What their plans might be going forward, I don’t know, but even if it’s another three years before they release another album, The Crash and the Draw certainly proved worth that wait, and whatever they do, they’ve never given a reason for their audience to anticipate anything but creative and structural progression. When and if there is a “next record,” I’d expect no less of it than to live up to that high standard.

Still, Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive was and is a landmark for them and for post-metal as a whole, and as always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I left the house this week. That was good. Took half a xanax to get me out the door, but we got there. And the show was good. And the people were good. I had fun and when I felt like a weirdo, I just took my little red laptop and started writing in the corner. Problem solved and it got the review done quicker. Can’t do that at every gig, but when I can it’s kind of nice to get the immediate impressions down rather than letting them filter through a night’s — or half a night’s, as it were — sleep.

I’m talking about this show, if you’re wondering. Sorry, should’ve made that clear.

So hey, Gimme Radio has come through the round of specials they were doing I guess to finish out 2019 and they’re bringing back The Obelisk Show to its every-other-week scheduling. I’m stoked. It was kind of a bummer just to do it once a month, but I like the alternating weeks. Next show is Jan. 31 at 1pm Eastern. I hope you can tune in: http://gimmeradio.com.

That was good news to get this week. I got kind of hosed on two of the “premieres” over the last few days, so makes up for a bit.

We’re coming up on the start of The Patient Mrs.’ next semester, which I know will be an adjustment to schedule that, where The Pecan and I are concerned, takes about three weeks to really get in a groove with. He’s also starting daycare part-time, four-hours, for two days a week, before the end of the month, so that’s a further tweaking of routine. It’ll be good to get him some time with other kids though. He needs it. Spends too much time with my cynical ass.

He’s up now, running around the living room as I type. And his approaching me to read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus — which I’ll pause to do — is probably my cue to wrap it up.

Next week there’s a premiere on Monday that I don’t think I can talk about yet, plus announcements on Tuesday that I know I can’t and a premiere of Grimoire Records’ next release. Wednesday I’m going to try to review the new Ripple split — new series, might as well at least start to try to keep up with it. Thursday’s open at the moment but something will come along or I’ll do another review, then Friday is a Lowrider track premiere and review, which, yeah, I wrote the liner notes for the Postwax version of Refractions, but fuck it, Lowrider’s first album in 20 years, you’d have to hit me with a bus to stop me from writing about it. I’ll do a full disclosure note before the review starts and then proceed with the hyperbolic praise accordingly.

Should be fun.

Today’s off to Connecticut, then back this afternoon. Tomorrow I have a press release to write for another announcement that’s also happening sometime early in the week, and then before I know it I’m neck deep in the week. That and cheesy taco dip are my big plans for the next couple days. Maybe a few minutes of reading during nap if such a thing can be finagled.

May yours be great and safe as ever. Have fun and be kind.

FRM: Forum, Radio, Merch at MiBK.

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Quarterly Review: Alcest, Superchief, Test Meat, Stones of Babylon, Nightstalker, Lewis & the Strange Magics, Room 101, Albatross Overdrive, Cloud Cruiser, The Spiral Electric

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Welcome to Day Three of The Obelisk’s Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. It’s gonna be kind of a wild one. There’s a lot going on across this batch of 10 records, and it gets kind of weird — also, it doesn’t — so sit tight. It’ll be fun either way. At least I hope so. I’ll let you know when I’m finished writing. Ha.

Today we pass the halfway point on the road to 50 reviews by Friday. I think I’m feeling alright up to this point. It’s been a crunch behind the scenes, but it usually is and I’ve done this plenty of times now, so it’s not so bad. I always hold my breath before getting started, but once I’m in it, I rarely feel anymore overwhelmed than I might on any other given day. Which is still plenty, but you know, you make it work.

So let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Alcest, Spiritual Instinct

alcest spiritual instinct

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the label’s modus in this regard as it’s picked up bands from the heavy underground over the last eight to 10 years — arguably a movement that began with Graveyard in 2012 — but Parisian post-black metal innovators Alcest make something of an aesthetic shift with their first outing for Nuclear Blast, Spiritual Instinct. Melody, of course, remains central to their purposes, but in the nine-minute side B opener “L’Île des Morts” as in its side A counterpart “Les Jardins de Minuit,” the subsequent “Protection” and “Sapphire” and even in the crescendo — glorious wash as it is — of the closing title-track, one can hear a sharper, decidedly metallic edge to the guitar and impact of the drums. That’s a turn from 2016’s Kodama (review here), which offered more of a conceptual progressivism, and of course the prior 2014 LP, Shelter (review here), which cast of metallic trappings almost entirely. Why the change? Who cares, it works, and they still have room for the cinematic keyboard-led drama of “Le Miroir” and plenty of the wistful emotionalism that’s been their hallmark since their debut in 2007. They’ve long since mastered their approach and Spiritual Instinct serves as another example of their being able to make their sound do whatever they want.

Alcest on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Superchief, Moontower

superchief moontower

Four records and just about a decade deep into a tenure that began with the 2010 Rock Music EP (review here), Iowa heavy rockers Superchief have found ways to bring an inventiveness to what’s still an ostensibly straightforward approach. Moontower, named for a lookout point where — at least presuming from the album’s artwork — people tailgate and get drunk, finds the dudely five-piece no less embroiled in burl than they’ve ever been, but using samples and other elements in interesting ways as with the revving motor matching step with the drums at the start of “Barking Out at the Blood Moon” or keyboards in “Rock ‘n’ Roll War” filling out the breaks where the riffs take a step back. Handclaps early in “Beer Me Motherfucker” — as much post-“Introduction” mission statement for the LP as a whole as anything — set the party tone, and from the shaker on “The Approach” to the Southern tinged shred and organ on closer “Priority of the Summer,” a car speeding by at the finish, Superchief find ways to make each of their songs stand out from its surroundings. Then they pair that with choice riffery, pro-shop sound and hooks. Sure enough, it’s once again a winning formula and a distinct showing of personality and craft that still comports with classic heavy style.

Superchief website

Superchief on Bandcamp

 

Test Meat, Enjoy

test meat enjoy

Boston duo Test Meat are so utterly bullshit-free as to be almost intimidating. Guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (Kind, Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, Milligram, etc.) and drummer Michael Nashawaty (Planetoid) dig into heavy grunge and noise rock influences across a 10-track/27-minute full-length that resounds with punker roots and an ethic of willful straightforwardness. It’s not that the music is so intense there would be no room for frills, it’s that the structures are so tight and so purposefully barebones that they’d be incongruous. And it’s not that Test Meat are writing half-hearted songs, either. Frankly, neither the quality of their material nor the sharpness of the sound they captured at New Alliance Studio with Alec Rodriguez would remotely lead one to believe so, and nothing with such stylistic clarity happens by mistake. This is a band with a mission, and Enjoy finds them bringing that mission to life with a complete lack of pretense. It’s a reminder of what made grunge so appealing in the first place some 30 years and an entire internet ago. Songs and performance. Yes.

Test Meat on Thee Facebooks

Test Meat on Bandcamp

 

Stones of Babylon, Hanging Gardens

Stones of Babylon Hanging Gardens

Following a 2018 live demo, Portuguese instrumental three-piece Stones of Babylon — guitarist Rui Belchior, bassist João Medeiros, drummer Pedro Branco — embark with a conceptualist intent on their debut full-length, Hanging Gardens, issued through Raging Planet. An opening sample in the leadoff title-track describing the hanging gardens of Babylon sets the stage for what the band goes on to describe with wordless atmospheres over the five-song/47-minute long-player, their vision of heavy psychedelia touched with a suitable Middle Eastern/North African influence in the initial unfolding of the meditative 11-minute “Coffea Arabica” or the winding lead work over the punchy low end of “Black Pig’s Secret Megalith.” But Hanging Gardens is still very much a heavy rock release, and its material showcases that in tone and mood, with volume changes and builds taking hold like that in centerpiece “Ziggurat,” which in its second half sets a march of distorted largesse nodding forth until its final crashout. They save the most drift for “Babylonia (The Deluge),” and if they’re finishing with the story of the flood, one can’t help but wonder what narrative course they might follow in a second record. On the other hand, if one comes out of Hanging Gardens trying to envision Stones of Babylon‘s future, then the debut would seem to have done its job, and so it has. There’s stylistic and tonal promise, and with the edge of storytelling, an opportunity for development of which one hopes they avail themselves.

Stones of Babylon on Thee Facebooks

Raging Planet website

 

Nightstalker, Great Hallucinations

nightstalker great hallucinations

Frontman Argy and Greek heavy rock institution Nightstalker return with their eighth album in a quarter-century run, Great Hallucinations. Also their first LP for Heavy Psych Sounds after issuing 2016’s As Above So Below (review here) on Oak Island Records, it’s an up-to-par eight-track collection of catchy tracks marked out by psychedelic elements but underpinned by traditionalist structures, Argy‘s distinctive frontman presence, and an all-around unforced feeling of a mature, established band doing what they do. Not going through the motions in the sense of fulfilling some perceived obligation to stay on the road, but creating the songs they want to create in nothing less than the manner they want to create them. I won’t take away from the roll of “Seven out of Ten,” but as “Cursed” taps into a legacy of European heavy rock that runs from Dozer‘s turn of the century work — not to mention Nightstalker‘s own — to outfits today, it’s hard not to appreciate an act being so assured in what they do in terms of execution while actually doing it. In that way, Great Hallucinations is as refreshing as it is familiar.

Nighstalker on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Melvin’s Holiday

Lewis and the Strange Magics Melvins Holiday

From their beginnings in garage doom and subsequent dive into exploitation/vamp psych, Barcelona’s Lewis and the Strange Magics put themselves in even weirder territory on their third album, Melvin’s Holiday, centering a story around the titular character whose life is in turmoil and so he goes on vacation. The sound of the band seems to do likewise, veering into ’70s lounge sleaze and island influences, toying with funky rhythms and keyboards amid catchy choruses across what still would have to be called an experimental 34-minute run. It is a concept album, to be sure, and one that comes through in its stylistic choices like the dreamy keyboards of the centerpiece “Carpet Sun” or the fuzzy stomp in “Sad in Paradise” and the percussion amid the Ween-sounding lead guitar buzz of “Lounge Decadence.” This could be Lewis and the Strange Magics working purposefully to cast off any and all expectation that might be placed on them, or it could just be a one-off whim, but there’s no question they pull off an impressive turn and carry the concept through in story and substance. When it comes to what they might do next time, the payoff of closer “Afternoon on the Sand” serves as one more demonstration that the band can do whatever the hell they want with their sound, so I’d expect them to do no less than precisely that.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Room 101, The Burden

room 101 the burden

The debut EP from Lansing, Michigan, four-piece Room 101, called simply The Burden, would seem to take a scorched-earth approach to atmospheric sludge, setting their balance to exploring ambient textures and samples in pieces like “You Will Never Know Security” — which, sure enough, samples 1984 to recount the origin of the band’s name — and the brief “A Place to Bury Strangers,” while the churning “As the Crow Flies” and “Missing Rope” present an outright extremity that comes through in post-Godflesh vocal barks and a Through Silver in Blood-style intensity of churn and general approach. Yet I wouldn’t necessarily call Room 101 post-metal — at least not here. The solo on “Missing Rope” seems to draw from more traditional sources, and the manner in which the chugging in “Plague Dogs” caps with a sudden quick series of hits recalls grindcore’s pivoting brutality. One might hope all of these elements get fleshed out more over subsequent releases, but as a first outing, part of The Burden‘s promise is also drawn from the sheer rawness of its impact and the lack of compromise in its wrench of gut.

Room 101 on Thee Facebooks

Room 101 on Bandcamp

 

Abatross Overdrive, Ascendant

albatross overdrive ascendant

Albatross Overdrive‘s 2016 LP, Keep it Running (review here), ran 31 minutes. Their follow-up, Ascendant, reaches to 33, but loses two tracks in the doing. Clearly, one way or the other, this is a conscious ethic on the band’s part, and it tells you something about their approach to heavy rock as well. There’s nothing too fancy about it — even in “Come Get Some,” which is the longest song the band have ever written at 6:40 — and they are not an outfit to waste their time. Structures run from verse to chorus to verse to chorus led through by guitarists Andrew Luddy and Derek Phillips and Art Campos‘ gritty delivery with an expectedly solid underpinning from bassist Mark Abshire (ex-Fu Manchu) and drummer Rodney Peralta and songs like the careening title-track and the blues-licked shover “Undecided” are enough to give the impression that anything else would be superfluous. They’re not lacking style — because ’70s-meets-’90s-straight-ahead-heavy is, indeed, a style — but it’s the level of their craft that stands them out.

Albatross Overdrive on Thee Facebooks

Albatross Overdrive on Bandcamp

 

Cloud Cruiser, I: Capacity

Cloud Cruiser I Capacity

Kyuss-style riffing takes a beating at the hands of Chicago newcomers Cloud Cruiser — who are not to be confused with Denver’s Cloud Catcher — who make their debut on vinyl through Shuga Records with I: Capacity, giving an aggressive push to what’s commonly considered a more laid back sound. In tone and rhythm and general gruffness, they are a deceptively pointed outfit, with turns of broader groove like that at the outset of “575” that speak to more influences than simply those of the Cali desert. They start off catchy and familiar-if-reshaped, though, on “Transmission” and “Glow,” letting their tale of alien abduction unfold across the lyrics while setting up the shifts that “Gone” and “575” and the thick-boogie of “Orbitalclast” will make before the EP’s would-be-clean-but-for-all-that-dirt-it’s-kicked-up 23-minute run is through. The balance they present speaks to a background in metal, though if they’re fresh arrivals in this realm of heavy, you’d never know it from the lumbering finish they present. Sometimes you just gotta get mean to get your point across. It suits

Cloud Cruiser on Thee Facebooks

Shuga Records website

 

The Spiral Electric, The Spiral Electric

the spiral electric the spiral electric

It is a progressive interpretation of fuzz ‘n’ buzz that San Francisco four-piece The Spiral Electric realize on their self-titled, self-released debut long-player, with recording and mixing by Dead Meadow‘s Steve Kille, the band — vocalist/synthesist/noisemaker/guitarist/percussionist/co-producer Clay Andrews, lead guitarist/backing vocalist Nicolas Percey, bassist Michael Summers and drummer Matias Drago — bridge the generally disparate realms of heavy psych and riffer heavy rock, giving a dreamy sensibility to “Marbles” with no less an organic vibe than they brought to the howling, attitudinal push of “No Bridge Left Unburned” earlier. They skillfully mess with the scale across the lengthy 14-track span, and thereby hold their audience for the duration in longer pieces like “The True Nature of Sacrifice” (8:24) as easily as they do in a series of three episodic interludes of noise, field recordings, synth, etc. This is a band ready, willing and able to space. the hell. out., and after listening to the record, you’d be a fool if you wanted to try. Not that they don’t have aspects to shore up or shifts that could be tightened and so on, but from ambition to fruition, it’s the kind of first record bands should aspire to make.

The Spiral Electric on Thee Facebooks

The Spiral Electric on Bandcamp

 

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Canyon of the Skull Stream New Album Sins of the Past in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

canyon of the skull

Founded in Austin and now located in Chicago, Canyon of the Skull release their third album, Sins of the Past, on Nov. 20. It’s only been two years since founding guitarist Erik Ogershok — who then also handled bass duty — stood astride the band’s second full-length, the 37-minute single-tracker The Desert Winter, and yet clearly much has changed. For one, what had for a time been a duo with Ogershok and drummer Adrian Voorhies is now a trio with a full rhythm section in bassist Todd Haug and drummer Mike Miczek (also The Atlas Moth, etc.), and the latest work is produced and mixed by Sanford Parker with mastering by Collin Jordan, so yes, very much embracing the Windy City and its various resources. The changes go beyond that, however, as Sins of the Past brings forth two massive instrumentalist riff-slabs, lumbering and metallic in their root in kind, with “The Ghost Dance” hitting 25 minutes long as “The Sun Dance” on its own nearly matches the entirety of The Desert Winter at 34:12. The simple math has it at 59 minutes of plodding, sans-vocal sprawl, atmospheric but not overly ethereal or psychedelic while still managing to bring together elements out of post-metal, sludge, doom and traditional heavy metal.

Most impressively, Sins of the Past — which takes its thematic from Native American issues and stories from the Southwest — does not simply shift between styles. Throughout “The Ghost Dance” and “The Sun Dance” alike, it isn’t a case of “a doom part” and “a Canyon of the Skull Sins of the Pastmetal part,” or some such. Rather, OgershokHaug and Miczek bring these various sides together into one cohesive sound that is fluid in tipping its balance from one genre to another. This would almost have to be truer of “The Sun Dance,” which is even more extended than the leadoff track, but the ethos is the same across both, and it comes to fruition in thoughtful but not overthought progressions of patient, guitar-led rollout and sections of alternately tense and open-feeling movement. It’s not exploratory in the sense of jamming and seeing what happens — there’s a definite plan being followed here — but there’s still something about Sins of the Past that seems to draw the listener deeper into this complexity. It’s a heady release, to be sure, and a challenge in the sense of asking its audience to keep up with changes across 25- and 34-minute pieces that offer no vocals, much substance and purposefully little by way of an instrumental hook, but that only means there is more to dig into, and even in its later reaches, “The Sun Dance” in particular is immersive while holding to the relatively straightforward, grounded tones of its predecessor and the general spirit of the release overall, which doesn’t stray too far from the central, earthy atmosphere that “The Ghost Dance” incites early on — an immediacy underlying all the sprawl and end-to-end distance of the material.

It probably goes without saying (and yet, here I am, saying it) that a record comprised of two so drawn-out instrumental movements and makes so little play toward general accessibility probably isn’t going to be for everybody, but for more adventurous metallurgists and those craving depth and breadth alike, there’s plenty in Sins of the Past to inspire deep-dive listening, tracking each movement of the guitar, bass and drums as you go. I won’t say a negative word about that approach — it certainly has its advantages — but when it comes to Canyon of the Skull, it seems no less important to consider the overarching ambience that comes through the material even as the material itself isn’t all that ambient. That is, if one thinks of the record as a single work, then what’s the mood of that work? What is the work as a whole saying? In some ways, I wish Ogershok was more open in discussing the specific themes he’s working with in his songwriting — sometimes instrumentalists are surprisingly verbose on such matters, but apparently less so in this case — but his approach of “letting the listener decide” has arguable merits of its own as well. I’ll take it either way, I guess.

The more crucial matter would seem to be the urgency of the music itself, so maybe it’s best to let that do the not-talking. Ogershok does offer some comment on the record’s making below, following the player on which one can find the entirety of Sins of the Past streaming ahead of its Nov. 20 release.

I hope you enjoy:

Erik Ogershok on Sins of the Past:

“I try to do different things with each record and this one is no exception. This record is visceral and immediate, like the self-titled, while being highly conceptual and dynamic like The Desert Winter. ‘The Ghost Dance’ is probably the best thing that I have written to date. ‘The Sun Dance’ is unlike anything that I have ever written before. It incorporates my basic philosophies of composition but applies them differently, one that I jokingly call prog-doom.

The main aesthetic and themes that Canyon of the Skull was founded on remain unchanged. This band has always been focused on telling the stories of Indigenous Americans and their environments, specifically those of the American Southwest. I am still surprised at how many people have never met an Indigenous American, but we are not extinct, and this band exists to tell our stories both past, present, and future. This record is a bit more broad with the subject matter since it involves the rituals of tribes far from the land of my people. Also, this record is more influenced by recent events that have an impact beyond Native communities. I don’t like to talk specifically about the deeper meaning of any of my compositions as I want people to discover their meaning in our music. These two pieces have very specific meanings to both me and the wider world and googling the titles is my recommendation for people that want to delve deeper for the literal meanings.”

Recorded at Decade Music Studios March 2019
Recorded and Mixed by Sanford Parker
Produced by Sanford Parker and Canyon of the Skull
Mastered by Collin Jordan at Boiler Room Mastering
Artwork Layout and design by Erik Bredthauer

Canyon of the Skull is:
Erik Ogershok- Guitars
Todd Haug- Bass Guitar
Mike Miczek- Drums

Canyon of the Skull on Bandcamp

Canyon of the Skull on Thee Facebooks

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