Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Spaceslug, Lie Heavy, Burning Realm, Kalac, Alkuräjähdys, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Amigo, The Hazytones, All Are to Return

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Alright, back at it. Putting together yesterday over the weekend was more scattershot than I’d prefer, but one might say the same of parenting in general, so I’ll leave it at that. Still, as happens with Quarterly Reviews, we got there. That my wife gave me an extra 40 minutes to bang out the Wizzerd video premiere was appreciated. As always, she makes everything possible.

Compared to some QRs, there are a few ‘bigger’ releases here. You’ll note High on Fire leading off today. That trend will continue over this and next week with the likes of Pallbearer, Uncle Acid, Bongripper, Harvestman (Steve Von Till, ex-Neurosis), Inter Arma, Saturnalia Temple spread throughout. The Pelican two-songer and My Dying Bride back to back a week from today. That’ll be a fun one. As always, it’s about the time crunch for me for what goes in the Quarterly Review. Things I want to cover before it’s too late that I can fit here. Ain’t nobody holding their breath for my opinion on any of it, or on anything generally for that matter, but I’m not trying to slight well known bands by stuffing them into what when it started over a decade ago I thought would be a catchall for demos and EPs. Sometimes I like the challenge of a shorter word count, too.

And I remind myself here again nobody really cares. Fine, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

high on fire cometh the storm

What seems at first to be business as usual for High on Fire‘s fourth album produced by Kurt Ballou, fifth for MNRK Heavy (formerly E1), and ninth overall, gradually reveals itself to be the band’s tonally heaviest work in at least the last 15 years. What’s actually new is drummer Coady Willis (Big Business, Melvins) making his first studio appearance alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (Sleep, Pike vs. the Automaton) and long-tenured bassist/backing vocalist Jeff Matz (also saz on the instrumental interlude-plus “Karanlik Yol”), and for sure Willis‘ thud in “Trismegistus,” galloping intensity in the thrashy and angular “The Beating” and declarative stomp beneath the big slowdown of 10-minute closer “Darker Fleece” is part of it, but from the way Pike and Matz bring “Cometh the Storm’ and “Sol’s Golden Curse” in the record’s middle to such cacophonous ends, the three-and-a-half-minute face-kick that is “Lightning Beard” and the suckerpunch that starts off with “Lambsbread,” to how even the more vocally melodic “Hunting Shadows” is carried on a wave of filthy, hard-landing distortion, their ferocity is reaffirmed in thicker grooves and unmitigated pummel. While in some ways this is what one would expect, it’s also everything for which one might hope from High on Fire a quarter-century on from their first demo. Triumph.

High on Fire on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Spaceslug, Out of Water

spaceslug out of water

A release concurrent to a remastered edition of their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here), only puts into emphasis how much Spaceslug have come into their own over eight productive years. Recorded by drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziółkowski (also Mountain of Misery), with guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka dug into familiar tonal textures throughout five tracks and a quick but inevitably full-length-flowing 32 minutes, Out of Water is both otherworldly and emotionally evocative in the rollout of “Arise the Sun” following the intertwined shouts of opener “Tears of Antimatter,” and in keeping with their progression, they nudge toward metallic aggression as a way to solidify their heavy psychedelic aspects. “Out of Water” is duly mournful to encapsulate such a tragic notion, and the nod of “Delusions” only grows more forcefully applied after the return from that song’s atmospheric break, and while they depart with “In Serenity” to what feels like the escapism of sunnier riffing, even that becomes more urgent toward the album’s finish. The reason it works is they’re bending genre to their songs, not the other way around, and as Spaceslug mature as a group, they’ve become one of Poland’s most essential heavy acts.

Spaceslug on Facebook

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Lie Heavy, Burn to the Moon

lie heavy burn to the moon

First issued on CD through JM Records in 2023, Lie Heavy‘s debut album, Burn to the Moon, sees broader release through Heavy Psych Sounds with revamped art to complement the Raleigh, North Carolina, four-piece’s tonal heft and classic reach in pieces like “In the Shadow” and “The Long March,” respectively. The band is fronted by Karl Agell (vocalist for C.O.C.‘s 1991 Blind album and now also in The Skull-offshoot Legions of Doom), and across the 12-song/51-minute run, and whether it’s the crunch of the ripper “When the Universe Cries” or the Clutch-style heavy funk of “Chunkadelic” pushing further from the start-stops of “In the Shadow” or the layered crescendo of “Unbeliever” a short time later, he and bassist/vocalist TR Gwynne, guitarist/vocalist Graham Fry and drummer/vocalist Jeff “JD” Dennis deliver sans-pretense riff-led fare. They’re not trying to fix what wasn’t broken in the ’90s, to be sure, but you can’t really call it a retread either as they swing through “Drag the World” and its capstone counterpart “End the World”; it all goes back to Black Sabbath anyway. The converted will get it no problem.

Lie Heavy on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Burning Realm, Face the Fire

Burning Realm Face the Fire

Dublin, Ireland, trio Burning Realm mark their first release with the four-song Face the Fire EP, taking the cosmic-tinged restlessness of Wild Rocket and setting it alongside more grounded riffing, hinting at thrash in the ping ride on “From Beyond” but careening in the modern mode either way. Lead cut “Homosapien” gives Hawkwindian vibes early — the trap, which is sounding like Slift, is largely avoided, though King Gizzard may still be relevant as an influence — but smoothly gives over to acoustics and vocal drone once its urgency has bene vaporized, and spacious as the vocal echo is, “Face the Fire” is classic stoner roll even into its speedier ending, the momentum of which is continued in closer “Warped One (Arise),” which is more charged on the whole in a way that feels linear and intended in relation to what’s put before it. A 16-minute self-released introduction to who Burning Realm are now, it holds promise for how they might develop stylistically and grow in terms of range. Whatever comes or doesn’t, it’s easy enough to dig as it is. If you were at a show and someone handed you the tape, you’d be stoked once you put it on in the car. Also it’s like 1995 in that scenario, apparently.

Burning Realm on Facebook

Burning Realm on Bandcamp

Kalac, Odyss​é​e


Offered through an international consortium of record labels that includes Crême Brûlée Records in the band’s native France, Echodelick in the US, Clostridium in Germany and Weird Beard in the UK, French heavy psych thrusters Kalac‘s inaugural full-length, Odyss​é​e — also stylized all-caps — doesn’t leave much to wonder why so many imprints might want some for the distro. With a focus on rhythmic movement in the we-gotta-get-to-space-like-five-minutes-ago modus of current-day heavy neo-space-rock, the mostly instrumental procession hypnotizes even as it peppers its expanses with verses here or there. That might be most effectively wrought in the payoff noiseblaster wash of “II,” which I’m just going to assume opens side B, but the boogie quotient is strong from “Arguenon” to “Beautiful Night,” and while might ring familiar to others operating in the aesthetic galaxial quadrant, the energy of Kalac‘s delivery and the not-haphazard-but-not-always-in-the-same-spot-either placement of the vocals are enough to distinguish them and make the six-tracker as exciting to hear as it sounds like it probably was to record.

Kalac on Facebook

Crême Brûlée Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

Weird Beard Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

Alkuräjähdys, Ehdot.

Alkurajahdys ehdot

The live-tracked fourth outing from Helsinki psych improvisationalists Alkuräjähdys, the lowercase-stylized ehdot. blends mechanical and electronic sounds with more organic psychedelic jamming, the synth and bassier punchthrough in the midsection of opening piece “.matriisi” indeed evocative of the dot-matrix printer to which its title is in reference, while “központ,” which follows, meanders into a broader swath of guitar-based noise atop a languidly graceful roll of drums. That let’s-try-it-slower ideology is manifest in the first half of the duly two-sided “a-b” as well, as the 12-minute finale begins by lurching through the denser distortion of a central riff en route to a skronk-jazz transition to a tighter midtempo groove that I’ll compare to Endless Boogie and very much intend that as a compliment. I don’t think they’re out to change the world so much as get in a room, hit it and see where the whole thing ends up, but those are noble creative aims in concept and practice, and between the two guitars, effects, synth and whathaveyou, there’s plenty of weird to go around.

Alkuräjähdys on Instagram

Alkuräjähdys on Bandcamp

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Tarot Pt. 1

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister tarot pt. 1

Already a significant undertaking as a 95-minute 2LP running 11 tracks themed — as the title(s) would hint — around tarot cards, the mostly serene sprawl of Magick Brother & Mystic Sister‘s Tarot Pt. 1 is still just the first of two companion albums to be issued as the follow-up to the Barcelona outfit’s 2020 self-titled debut (discussed here). Offered through respected Greek purveyor Sound Effect Records, Tarot Pt. 1 gives breadth beyond just the runtime in the sitar-laced psych-funk of “The Hierophant” (swap sitar for organ, synth and flute on “The Chariot”) and the classic-prog pastoralia of closer “The Wheel of Fortune,” and as with the plague-era debut, at the heart of the material is a soothing acid folk, and while the keys in the first half of “The Emperor” grow insistent and there’s some foreboding in the early Mellotron and key lines of “The Lovers,” Tarot Pt. 1 resonates comfort and care in its arrangements as well as ambition in its scope. Maybe another hour and a half on the way? Sign me up.

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Amigo, Good Time Island

Amigo Good Time Island

The eight-year distance from their 2016 debut long-player, Little Cliffs, seems to have smoothed out some (not all, which isn’t a complaint) of the rough edges in Amigo‘s sound, as the seemingly reinvigorated San Diego four-piece of lead guitarist/vocalist Jeff Podeszwik (King Chiefs), guitarist Anthony Mattos, bassist Sufi Karalen and drummer Anthony Alley offer five song across an accessible, straightforward 17 minutes united beneath the fair-enough title of Good Time Island. Without losing the weight of their tones, a Weezery pop sensibility comes through in “Dope Den” while “Frog Face” is even more specifically indebted to The Cars. Neither “Telescope Boy” nor “Banana Phone” lacks punch, but Amigo hold some in reserve for “Me and Soof,” which rounds out the proceedings, and they put it to solid use for an approach that’s ’90s-informed without that necessarily meaning stoner, grunge or alt, and envision a commercially relevant, songwriting-based heavy rock and roll for an alternate universe that, by all accounts here, sounds like a decent place to be.

Amigo on Facebook

Roosevelt Row Records store

The Hazytones, Wild Fever

The Hazytones Wild Fever

Culminating in the Sabbathian shuffle of “Eye for an Eye,” Wild Fever is the hook-drenched third full-length from Montreal fuzzbringers The Hazytones, and while they’ve still got the ‘tones’ part down pat, it’s easy to argue the eight included tracks are the least ‘hazy’ they’ve been to-date. Following on from the direction of 2018’s II: Monarchs of Oblivion (review here), the Esben Willems-mixed/Kent Stump-mastered 40-minute long-player isn’t shy about leaning into the grittier side of what they do as the opening title-track rolls out a chorus that reminds of C.O.C. circa In the Arms of God while retaining some of the melody between the vocals of Mick Martel (also guitar and keys) and Gabriel Prieur (also drums and bass), and with the correspondingly thick bass of Caleb Sanders for accompaniment and lead guitarist John Choffel‘s solo rising out of the murk on “Disease,” honing in on the brashness suits them well. Not where one might have expected them to end up six years later, but no less enjoyable for that, either.

The Hazytones on Facebook

Black Throne Productions store

All Are to Return, III

All Are To Return III

God damn that’s harsh. Mostly anonymous industrialists — you get F and N for names and that’s it — All Are to Return are all the more punishing in the horrific recesses and engulfing blasts of static that populate III than they were in 2022’s II (review here), and the fact that the eight-songer is only 32 minutes long is about as close as they come to any concept of mercy for the psyche of their audience. Beyond that, “Moratorium,” “Colony Collapse,” the eats-you-dead “Archive of the Sky” and even the droning “Legacy” cast a willfully wretched extremity, and what might be a humanizing presence of vocals elsewhere is screams channeled through so much distortion as to be barely recognizable as coming from a human throat here. If the question being posed is, “how much can you take?,” the answer for most of those brave enough to even give III a shot will be, “markedly less than this.” A cry from the depths realizing a brutal vision.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records store

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Quarterly Review: Lord Dying, Black Glow, Cracked Machine, Per Wiberg, Swell O, Cower, HORSEN3CK, Troll Teeth, Black Ocean’s Edge, SONS OF ZÖKU

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


A word about the image above. ‘AI art’ has become a thing people argue about on the internet. Like everything. Fine. I made the above image with a prompt through whatever Microsoft is calling its bot this week and got what I wanted. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or pay anyone in anything more than the personal data you compromise every time you use the internet for anything, and it was done. I could never draw, but when I finished, I felt like I’d at least taken part in some way in making this thing. And telling a computer what to make and seeing what it gets right and wrong is fascinating. You might feel a bit like you’re painting with words, which as someone who could never draw but could construct a sentence, I can appreciate.

I’m a big supporter of human creativity, and yes, corporations who already hold creative professionals — writers, editors, graphic designers, etc. — in such outward contempt will be only too happy to replace them with robots. I was there when magazines died; I know how that goes. But instead of being reactionaries and calling for never-gonna-happen-anyway bans, isn’t it maybe worth acknowledging that there’s no going back in time, that AI art isn’t going anywhere, and that it might just have valid creative uses? I don’t feel like I need to defend myself for making or using the image above, but I did try to get a human artist first and it didn’t work out. In the hard reality of limited minutes, how much should I really chase when there’s an easier way to get what I want? And how much can people be expected to live up to that shifting moral obligation in the long term?

The future will laugh at us, inevitably, either way. And fair enough with the world we’re leaving them.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Lord Dying, Clandestine Transcendence

Lord Dying Clandestine Transcendence

While bearing the tonal force of their roots in doom, Portland’s Lord Dying have nonetheless willfully become a crucial purveyor of forward-thinking death metal, driven by extremity but refusing to subdue its own impulses to fit with genre. At 12 songs and an hour’s runtime, Clandestine Transcendence neither is nor is supposed to be a minor undertaking, but with a melodic declaration in “Unto Becoming” that’ll elicit knowing nods from Virus fans and a mentality of creative reach that’s worthy of comparison to EnslavedLord Dying showcase mastery of the style the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Erik Olson, guitarist Chris Evans, bassist/vocalist Alyssa Maucere and drummer Kevin Swartz explored with vigilance on 2019’s Mysterium Tremendum (review here), and an ability to depart from aggression without losing their intensity or impact on “Dancing on the Emptiness” or in the payoff of “Break in the Clouds (In the Darkness of Our Minds).” They may be headed toward too-weird-for-everybody megaprogmetal ultimately, but the challenges-to-stylistic-homogeny of their material are only part of what gives Clandestine Transcendence its crux, and in fostering the call-and-response onslaught of “Facing the Incomprehensible” alongside the epic reach of “A Bond Broken by Death,” they cast their own mold as unique within or without of the heavy underground sphere.

Lord Dying on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Black Glow, Black Glow

black glow black glow

The late-2023 self-titled debut from Black Glow marks a new beginning for Monterrey, Mexico, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Gina Rios, formerly of Spacegoat, and something of a creative redirect, taking on a sound that is less indebted to boogie and classic doom but that has clearly learned the lessons of its influences. Also credited with producing (Victor “KB” Velazquez recorded, mixed and mastered, which doesn’t invalidate the credit), Rios is a strong enough performer to carry the five-song EP/short-LP on her own, but thankfully bassist Oscar Saucedo and drummer Octavio Diliegros bring tonal fullness to the breadth of atmosphere in the rolling closer “Obscured Jail,” reaching past seven minutes with fluidity that adds to Black Glow‘s aspects of purpose and craft, which are significant despite being the band’s first outing. As a vehicle for Rios‘ songwriting, Black Glow sound immediately like they can evolve in ways Spacegoat likely couldn’t or wouldn’t have, and that prospect is all the more enticing with the accomplishments displayed here.

Black Glow on Facebook

Black Glow on Bandcamp

Cracked Machine, Wormwood

Cracked Machine Wormwood

Between the leadoff of “Into the Chronosphere” and “The Glowing Sea,” “Return to Antares,” “Burning Mountain” and “Desert Haze,” UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine aren’t short on destinations for the journey that is their fourth full-length, Wormwood, but with more angular texturing on “Eigenstate” and the blend of tonal float — yes, even the bass — and terrestrial groove wrought in the closing title-track, the band manage to emphasize plot as well as a sense of freedom endemic to jam-born heavy psychedelia. That is to say, as second cut “Song of Artemis” gives brooding reply to the energetic “Into the Chronosphere,” which is loosely krautrocky in its dug-in feel and exploratory as part of that, they are not trying to pretend this material just happened. Layers of effects and a purposeful reach between its low and high ends in the solo of “The Glowing Sea” — with the drums holding the two together, as one would hope — and subsequent section of standalone guitar as the start of a linear build that spreads wide sonically rather than overpowering with volume speaks to a dynamic that’s about more than just loud or quiet, and the keyboard holding notes in the culmination of “Burning Mountain” is nothing if not purposeful in its shimmering resonance. They may be headed all over the place, but I think that’s just a sign Cracked Machine know how to get there.

Cracked Machine on Facebook

Cracked Machine on Bandcamp

Per Wiberg, The Serpent’s Here

PER WIBERG The Serpent's Here cover

Currently also of Kamchatka and Spiritual Beggars and maybe Switchblade, the career arc of Per Wiberg (also ex-Opeth, live work and/or studio contributions for Candlemass, Grand Magus, Arch Enemy, mostly on keys or organ) varies widely in style within a heavy sphere, and it should be no surprise that his solo work is likewise multifaceted. Following on from 2021’s EP, All Is Well In the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out (review here), the six-song and 41-minute (seven/47 with the bonus track Warrior Soul cover “The Losers”) finds cohesion in a thread of progressive styles that allows Wiberg to explore what might be a Gary Numan influence in the verses of “The Serpent’s Here” itself while emerging with a heavy, catchy and melodic chorus marked by a driving riff. The eight-minute “Blackguards Stand Silent” works in movements across a structural departure as the rhythm section of Mikael Tuominen (Kungens Män) and drummer Tor Sjödén (Viagra Boys) get a subtle workout, and “He Just Disappeared” pushes into the cinematic on a patient line of drone, a contemplative departure after the melancholic piano of “This House is Someone Else’s Now” that allows “Follow the Unknown” to cap the album-proper with a return to the full-band feel and a pointed grace of keys and synth, clearly working to its creator’s own high standard.

Per Wiberg on Facebook

Despotz Records website

Swell O, Morning Haze

Swell O Morning Haze

Bremen, Germany’s Swell O released their apparently-recorded-in-a-day debut album, Morning Haze, in Feb. 2023 and followed with a vinyl release this past Fall on Clostridium Records, and if there’s anything clouding their vision as regards songwriting, it didn’t make it onto the record. Proffering solid, engaging, festival-ready desert-style heavy rock, “Hitchhiker” sweeps down the open highway of its own riff while “Black Cat” tips hat to Fu Manchu, the title-track veers into pop-punkish uptempoism in a way “Shine Through” contrasts with less shove and more ambience. The seven-minute “Summit” extrapolates a lean toward the psychedelic from Kyussian foundations, but the crux on Morning Haze is straightforward and aware of where it wants its songs to be aesthetically. It’s not a revolution in that regard, but it’s not supposed to be, and for all its in-genre loyalism, Morning Haze demonstrates an emergent persona in the modernized ’90s fuzz-crunch semi-blowout of “Venom” at the end, which wraps a salvo that started with “Hitchhiker” and lets Swell O make the most of their over-quickly 31-minute first LP.

Swell O on Facebook

Clostridium Records store

Cower, Celestial Devastation

cower celestial devastation

Accounting for everything from goth to post-hardcore to the churn of Godflesh in an encompassing interpretation of post-punk, London outfit Cower could fill this space with pedigree alone and manage to nonetheless make a distinct impression across the nine songs of Celestial Devastation. Organic and sad on “We Need to Have the Talk,” inorganic and sad on “Hard-Coded in the Souls of Men,” electronic anti-chic before the guitar surge in “Buffeted by Solar Winds,” and bringing fresh perspective to Kataonia-style depressive metal in “Aging Stallions,” it’s a album that willfully shirks genre — a few of them, actually — in service to its songs, as between the software-driven title-track and the downer-New-Wave-as-doom centerpiece “Deathless and Free,” Cower embark on an apparent critique of tech as integrated into current life (though I can’t find a lyric sheet) and approach from seemingly divergent angles without losing track of the larger picture of the LP’s atmosphere. Celestial Devastation is the second album from the trio, comprised of Tom Lacey, Wayne Adams (who also produced, as he will) and Gareth Thomas. Expect them to continue to define and refine this style as they move forward, and expect it to become even more their own than it is here. A band like this, if they last, almost can’t help but grow.

Cower’s Linktr.ee

Human Worth on Bandcamp

HORSEN3CK, Heavy Spells

horsen3ck heavy spells

Boston’s HORSEN3CK, who’ve gone all-caps and traded their second ‘e’ for a ‘3’ since unveiling the included-here “Something’s Broken” as a debut standalone single this January, make a rousing four-song statement of intent even as the lineup shifts from piece to piece around the core duo of Tim Catz and Jeremy Hemond, best known together for their work as the rhythm section of Roadsaw. With their maybe-not-right-now bandmate Ian Ross adding guitar to “Something’s Broken” and a different lead vocalist on each song, Heavy Spells has inherent variety even before “Haunted Heart” exalts its darker mood with pulls reminiscent of Alice in Chains‘ “Frogs.” With Catz taking a turn on vocals, “Golden Ghost” is punk under its surface class, and though “Haunted Heart” grows in its crescendo, its greater impact is in the vibe, which is richer for the shift in approach. “Thirst” rounds out with a particular brashness, but nowhere HORSEN3CK go feels even vaguely out of their reach. Alright guys. Concept proved, now go do a full-length. When they do, I’ll be intrigued to see if the lineup solidifies.

HORSEN3CK on Facebook

HORSEN3CK on Bandcamp

Troll Teeth, Sluagh Vol. 1

troll teeth sluagh vol. 1

New Jersey doom rockers Troll Teeth‘s stated goal with Sluagh Vol. 1 was to find a sound the character of which would be defined in part by its rawer, retro-styled recording. The resultant four-song outing, which was their second EP of 2023 behind Underground Vol. 1, doesn’t actually veer into vintage-style ’70s worship, but lives up to the premise just the same in its abiding rawness. “3 Shots for a 6 Shooter” brings a Queens of the Stone Age-style vocal melody over an instrumental that’s meaner than anything that band ever put to tape, while nine-minute opener “1,000 Ton Brick” feels very clearly titled in honor of its own roll. It might be the heaviest stretch on the EP but for the rumbling low distortion spliced in among the psychedelic unfolding of 16-minute closer “Purgatory,” which submerges the listener in its course after “Here Lies” seems to build and build and build through the entirety of its still-hooky execution. With its title referencing the original name of the band and a focus on older material, the rougher presentation suits the songs, though it’s not like there’s a pristine “1,000 Ton Brick” out there to compare it to. Whether there will be at Sluagh Vol. 2 at any point, I don’t know, but even the intentionality of realizing his material in the recording process argues in favor of future revisits.

Troll Teeth on Facebook

Electric Talon Records store

Black Ocean’s Edge, Call of the Sirens

black ocean's edge (Photo by Matija Kasalo)

Celebrating their own dark side in the opener “Wicked Voice,” German heavy rockers Black Ocean’s Edge keep the proceedings relatively friendly on Call of the Sirens, their debut long-player behind 2022’s Dive Deep EP, at least as regards accessibility and the catchiness of their craft. Vibrant and consistent in tone, the Ulm four-piece find room for the classic rock of “Leather ‘n’ Velvet” and the that-might-be-actual-flute-laced prog-psych payoff of “Lion in a Cage” between the second two of the three parts that comprise the title-track, which departs from the heavy blues rock of “Drift” or “Cold Black Water,” which is the centerpiece and longest inclusion at 7:43 and sets its classic-heavy influences to work with a forward-looking perspective. At 42 minutes and nine tracks, Call of the Sirens feels professional in how it reaches out to its audience, and it leaves little to doubt from Black Ocean’s Edge as regards songwriting, production or style. They may refine and sharpen their approach over time, and with these songs as where they’re coming from, they’ll be in that much better position to hit the ears of the converted.

Note: this album is out in April and I couldn’t find cover art. Band photo above is by Matija Kasalo.

Black Ocean’s Edge on Facebook

Black Ocean’s Edge on Bandcamp


sons of zoku endless

If an album could ask you, musically, why you’re in such a hurry — and not like hurrying to work, really in a hurry, like in how you live — the mellow psych and acid folk proffered by Adelaide, Australia’s SONS OF ZÖKU on their second full-length, ËNDL​Ë​SS, might just be doing that. Don’t take that to mean the album is still or staid though, because they’re not through “Moonlight” after the intro before the bass gets funky behind all that serene melody, and when you’re worshiping the sun that’s all the more reason to dance by the moon. Harmonies resonate in “Earth Chant” (and all around) atop initially quiet guitar noodling, and the adventures in arrangement continue in the various chimes and percussion instruments, the touch of Easternism in “Kuhnoo” and the keyboard-fueled melodic payoff to the pastoralism of “Hunters.” With flute and a rhythmic delivery to its group vocal, “O Saber” borders on the tribal, while “Yumi” digs on cosmic prog insistence in a way that calls to mind the underappreciated Death Hawks and finds its way in a concluding instrumental stretch that doesn’t lose its spontaneous feel despite being more cogent than improv generally comes across. “Lonesome Tale” is a melancholy-vibe-reprise centered around acoustic guitar and “Nu Poeme” gives a sense of grandeur that is unto itself without going much past four minutes in the doing. Such triumphs are rare more broadly but become almost commonplace as SONS OF ZÖKU set their own context with a sound harnessing the inspiration of decades directing itself toward an optimistic future.

SONS OF ZÖKU on Facebook

Copper Feast Records store

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Quarterly Review: Slift, Grin, Pontiac, The Polvos, The Cosmic Gospel, Grave Speaker, Surya Kris Peters, GOZD, Sativa Root, Volt Ritual

Posted in Reviews on February 26th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Admittedly, there’s some ambition in my mind calling this the ‘Spring 2024 Quarterly Review.’ I’m done with winter and March starts on Friday, so yeah, it’s kind of a reach as regards the traditional seasonal patterns of Northern New Jersey where I live, but hell, these things actually get decided here by pissing off a rodent. Maybe it doesn’t need to be so rigidly defined after all.

After doing QRs for I guess about nine years now, I finally made myself a template for the back-end layout. It’s not a huge leap, but will mean about five more minutes I can dedicate to listening, and when you’re trying to touch on 50 records in the span of a work week and attempt some semblance of representing what they’re about, five minutes can help. Still, it’s a new thing, and if you see ‘ARTIST’ listed where a band’s name should be or LINK where ‘So and So on Facebook’ goes, a friendly comment letting me know would be helpful.

Thanks in advance and I hope you find something in all of this to come that speaks to you. I’ll try to come up for air at some point.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Slift, Ilion

Slift Ilion

One of the few non-billionaire groups of people who might be able to say they had a good year in 2020, Toulouse, France, spaceblasters Slift signed to Sub Pop on the strength of that wretched year’s Ummon (review here) and the spectacle-laced live shows with which they present their material. Their ideology is cosmic, their delivery markedly epic, and Ilion pushes the blinding light and the rhythmic force directly at you, creating a sweeping momentum contrasted by ambient stretches like that tucked at the end of 12-minute hypnotic planetmaker “The Words That Have Never Been Heard,” the drone finale “Enter the Loop” or any number of spots between along the record’s repetition-churning, willfully-overblown 79-minute course of builds and surging payoffs. A cynic might tell you it’s not anything Hawkwind didn’t do in 1974 offered with modern effects and beefier tones, but, uh, is that really something to complain about? The hype around Ilion hasn’t been as fervent as was for Ummon — it’s a different moment — but Slift have set themselves on a progressive course and in the years to come, this may indeed become their most influential work. For that alone it’s among 2024’s most essential heavy albums, never mind the actual journey of listening. Bands like this don’t happen every day.

Slift on Facebook

Sub Pop Records website

Grin, Hush

grin hush

The only thing keeping Grin from being punk rock is the fact that they don’t play punk. Otherwise, the self-recording, self-releasing (on The Lasting Dose Records) Berlin metal-sludge slingers tick no shortage of boxes as regards ethic, commitment to an uncompromised vision of their sound, and on Hush, their fourth long-player which features tracks from 2023’s Black Nothingness (review here), they sharpen their attack to a point that reminds of dug-in Swedish death metal on “Pyramid” with a winding lead line threaded across, find post-metallic ambience in “Neon Skies,” steamroll with the groove of the penultimate “The Tempest of Time,” and manage to make even the crushing “Midnight Blue Sorrow” — which arrives after the powerful opening statement of “Hush” “Calice” and “Gatekeeper” — have a sense of creative reach. With Sabine Oberg on bass and Jan Oberg handling drums, guitar, vocals, noise and production, they’ve become flexible enough in their craft to harness raw charge or atmospheric sprawl at will, and through 16 songs and 40 minutes (“Portal” is the longest track at 3:45), their intensity is multifaceted, multi-angular, and downright ripping. Aggression suits this project, but that’s never all that’s happening in Grin, and they’re stronger for that.

Grin on Facebook

The Lasting Dose Records on Bandcamp

Pontiac, Hard Knox

pontiac hard knox

A debut solo-band outing from guitarist, bassist, vocalist and songwriter Dave Cotton, also of Seven Nines and Tens, Pontiac‘s Hard Knox lands on strictly limited tape through Coup Sur Coup Records and is only 16 minutes long, but that’s time enough for its six songs to find connections in harmony to Beach Boys and The Beatles while sometimes dropping to a singular, semi-spoken verse in opener/longest track (immediate points, even though four minutes isn’t that long) “Glory Ragged,” which moves in one direction, stops, reorients, and shifts between genres with pastoralism and purpose. Cotton handles six-string and 12-string, but isn’t alone in Pontiac, as his Seven Nines and Tens bandmate Drew Thomas Christie handles drums, Adam Vee adds guitar, drums, a Coke bottle and a Brita filter, and CJ Wallis contributes piano to the drifty textures of “Road High” before “Exotic Tattoos of the Millennias” answers the pre-christofascism country influence shown on “Counterculture Millionaire” with an oldies swing ramble-rolling to a catchy finish. For fun I’ll dare a wild guess that Cotton‘s dad played that stuff when he was a kid, as it feels learned through osmosis, but I have no confirmation of that. It is its own kind of interpretation of progressive music, and as the beginning of a new exploration, Cotton opens doors to a swath of styles that cross genres in ways few are able to do and remain so coherent. Quick listen, and it dares you to keep up with its changes and patterns, but among its principal accomplishments is to make itself organic in scope, with Cotton cast as the weirdo mastermind in the center. They’ll reportedly play live, so heads up.

Pontiac on Bandcamp

Coup Sur Coup Records on Bandcamp

The Polvos!, Floating

the polvos floating

Already fluid as they open with the rocker “Into the Space,” exclamatory Chilean five-piece The Polvos! delve into more psychedelic reaches in “Fire Dance” and the jammy and (appropriately) floaty midsection of “Going Down,” the centerpiece of their 35-minute sophomore LP, Floating. That song bursts to life a short time later and isn’t quite as immediate as the charge of “Into the Space,” but serves as a landmark just the same as “Acid Waterfall” and “The Anubis Death” hold their tension in the drums and let the guitars go adventuring as they will. There’s maybe some aspect of Earthless influence happening, but The Polvos! meld that make-it-bigger mentality with traditional verse/chorus structures and are more grounded for it even as the spaces created in the songs give listeners an opportunity for immersion. It may not be a revolution in terms of style, but there is a conversation happening here with modern heavy psych from Europe as well that adds intrigue, and the band never go so far into their own ether so as to actually disappear. Even after the shreddy finish of “The Anubis Death,” it kind of feels like they might come back out for an encore, and you know, that’d be just fine.

The Polvos! on Facebook

Surpop Records website

Smolder Brains Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

The Cosmic Gospel, Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love

The Cosmic Gospel Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love

With a current of buzz-fuzz drawn across its eight component tracks that allow seemingly disparate moves like the Blondie disco keys in “Hot Car Song” to emerge from the acoustic “Core Memory Unlocked” before giving over to the weirdo Casio-beat bounce of “Psychrolutes Marcidus Man,” a kind of ’60s character reimagined as heavy bedroom indie, The Cosmic Gospel‘s Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love isn’t without its resentments, but the almost-entirely-solo-project of Mercata, Italy-based multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Medina is more defined by its sweetness of melody and gentle delivery on the whole. An experiment like the penultimate “Wrath and Gods” carries some “Revolution 9” feel, but Medina does well earlier to set a broad context amid the hook of opener “It’s Forever Midnight” and the subsequent, lightly dub beat and keyboard focus on “The Richest Guy on the Planet is My Best Friend,” such that when closer “I Sew Your Eyes So You Don’t See How I Eat Your Heart” pairs the malevolent intent of its title with light fuzzy soloing atop an easy flowing, summery flow, the album has come to make its own kind of sense and define its path. This is exactly what one would most hope for it, and as reptiles are cold-blooded, they should be used to shifts in temperature like those presented throughout. Most humans won’t get it, but you’ve never been ‘most humans,’ have you?

The Cosmic Gospel on Facebook

Bloody Sound website

Grave Speaker, Grave Speaker

grave speaker grave speaker

Massachusetts garage doomers Grave Speaker‘s self-titled debut was issued digitally by the band this past Fall and was snagged by Electric Valley Records for a vinyl release. The Mellotron melancholia that pervades the midsection of the eponymous “Grave Speaker” justifies the wax, but the cult-leaning-in-sound-if-not-theme outfit that marks a new beginning for ex-High n’ Heavy guitarist John Steele unfurl a righteously dirty fuzz over the march of “Blood of Old” at the outset and then immediately up themselves in the riffy stoner delve of “Earth and Mud.” The blown-out vocals on the latter, as well as the far-off-mic rawness of “The Bard’s Theme” that surrounds its Hendrixian solo, remind of a time when Ice Dragon roamed New England’s troubled woods, and if Grave Speaker will look to take on a similar trajectory of scope, they do more than drop hints of psychedelia here, in “Grave Speaker” and elsewhere, but they’re no more beholden to that than the Sabbathism of capper “Make Me Crawl” or the cavernous echo of “Earthbound.” It’s an initial collection, so one expects they’ll range some either way with time, but the way the production becomes part of the character of the songs speaks to a strong idea of aesthetic coming through, and the songwriting holds up to that.

Grave Speaker on Instagram

Electric Valley Records website

Surya Kris Peters, There’s Light in the Distance

Surya Kris Peters There's Light in the Distance

While at the same time proffering his most expansive vision yet of a progressive psychedelia weighted in tone, emotionally expressive and able to move its focus fluidly between its layers of keyboard, synth and guitar such that the mix feels all the more dynamic and the material all the more alive (there’s an entire sub-plot here about the growth in self-production; a discussion for another time), Surya Kris Peters‘ 10-song/46-minute There’s Light in the Distance also brings the former Samsara Blues Experiment guitarist/vocalist closer to uniting his current projects than he’s yet been, the distant light here blurring the line where Surya Kris Peters ends and the emergently-rocking Fuzz Sagrado begins. This process has been going on for the last few years following the end of his former outfit and a relocation from Germany to Brazil, but in its spacious second half as well as the push of its first, a song like “Mode Azul” feels like there’s nothing stopping it from being played on stage beyond personnel. Coinciding with that are arrangement details like the piano at the start of “Life is Just a Dream” or the synth that gives so much movement under the echoing lead in “Let’s Wait Out the Storm,” as Peters seems to find new avenues even as he works his way home to his own vision of what heavy rock can be.

Fuzz Sagrado on Facebook

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Gozd, Unilateralis

gozd unilateralis

Unilateralis is the four-song follow-up EP to Polish heavydelvers Gozd‘s late-2023 debut album, This is Not the End, and its 20-plus minutes find a place for themselves in a doom that feels both traditional and forward thinking across eight-minute opener and longest track (immediate points, even for an EP) “Somewhere in Between” before the charge of “Rotten Humanity” answers with brasher thrust and aggressive-undercurrent stoner rock with an airy post-metallic break in the middle and rolling ending. From there, “Thanatophobia” picks up the energy from its ambient intro and explodes into its for-the-converted nod, setting up a linear build after its initial verses and seeing it through with due diligence in noise, and closer “Tentative Minds” purposefully hypnotizes with its vague-speech in the intro and casual bassline and drum swing before the riff kicks in for the finale. The largesse of its loudest moments bolster the overarching atmosphere no less than the softest standalone guitar parts, and Gozd seem wholly comfortable in the spaces between microgenres. A niche among niches, but that’s also how individuality happens, and it’s happening here.

Gozd on Facebook

BSFD Records on Facebook

Sativa Root, Kings of the Weed Age

Sativa Root Kings of the Weed Age

You wouldn’t accuse Austria’s Sativa Root of thematic subtlety on their third album, Kings of the Weed Age, which broadcasts a stoner worship in offerings like “Megalobong” and “Weedotaur” and probably whatever “F.A.T.” stands for, but that’s not what they’re going for anyway. With its titular intro starting off, spoken voices vague in the ambience, “Weedotaur”‘s 11 minutes lumber with all due bong-metallian slog, and the crush becomes central to the proceedings if not necessarily unipolar in terms of the band’s approach. That is to say, amid the onslaught of volume and tonal density in “Green Smegma” and the spin-your-head soloing in “Assassins Weed” (think Assassins Creed), the instrumentalist course undertaken may be willfully monolithic, but they’re not playing the same song five times on six tracks and calling it new. “F.A.T.” begins on a quiet stretch of guitar that recalls some of YOB‘s epics, complementing both the intro and “Weedotaur,” before bringing its full weight down on the listener again as if to underscore the message of its stoned instrumental catharsis on its way out the door. They sound like they could do this all day. It can be overwhelming at times, but that’s not really a complaint.

Sativa Root on Facebook

Sativa Root on Bandcamp

Volt Ritual, Return to Jupiter

volt ritual return to jupiter

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz, bassist Michał and drummer Tomek, Polish riffcrafters Volt Ritual are appealingly light on pretense as they offer Return to Jupiter‘s four tracks, and though as a Star Trek fan I can’t get behind their lyrical impugning of Starfleet as they imagine what Earth colonialism would look like to a somehow-populated Jupiter, they’re not short on reasons to be cynical, if in fact that’s what’s happening in the song. “Ghostpolis” follows the sample-laced instrumental opener “Heavy Metal is Good for You” and rolls loose but accessible even in its later shouts before the more uptempo “Gwiazdolot” swaps English lyrics for Polish (casting off another cultural colonialization, arguably) and providing a break ahead of the closing title-track, which is longer at 7:37 and a clear focal point for more than just bearing the name of the EP, summarizing as it does the course of the cuts before it and even bringing a last scream as if to say “Ghostpolis” wasn’t a fluke. Their 2022 debut album began with “Approaching Jupiter,” and this Return feels organically built off that while trying some new ideas in its effects and general structure. One hopes the plot continues in some way next time along this course.

Volt Ritual on Facebook

Volt Ritual on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Darsombra, Bottomless, The Death Wheelers, Caivano, Entropía, Ghorot, Moozoonsii, Death Wvrm, Mudness, The Space Huns

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Welcome to Thursday of the Fall 202 Quarterly Review. It’s been a good run so far. three days and 30 records, about to be four and 40. I’ve got enough on my desktop and there’s enough stuff coming out this month that I could probably do a second Fall QR in November, and maybe stave off needing to do a double-one in December as I had been planning in the back of my head. Whatever, I’ll figure it out.

I hope you’ve been able to find something you dig. I definitely have, but that’s how it generally goes. These things are always a lot of work, and somehow I seem to plan them on the busiest weeks — today we’re volunteering at the grade school book fair; I think I’ll dig out my old Slayer God Hates Us All shirt from 20 years ago and see if it still fits. Sadly, I think we all know how that experiment will work out.

Anyway, busy times, good music, blah blah, let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Darsombra, Dumesday Book

darsombra dumesday book

Forever touring and avant garde to their very marrow, ostensibly-Baltimorean duo DarsombraAnn Everton on keys, vocals, live visuals, and who the hell knows what else, Brian Daniloski on guitar, a living-room pedal board, and engineering at the band’s home studio — unveil Dumesday Book as a 75-minute collection not only of works like “Call the Doctor” (posted here) or “Call the Doctor” (posted here), which appear as remixes, but their first proper album of this troubled decade after 2019’s Transmission (review here) saw them reach so far out into the cosmic thread to harness their bizarre stretches of bleeps and boops, manipulated vocals, drones, noise and suitably distraught collage in “Everything is Canceled” — which they answer later with “Still Canceled,” because charm — but the reassurance here is in the continuation of Daniloski and Everton‘s audio adventures, and their commitment to what should probably at this point in space-time be classified as free jazz remains unflinching. Squares need not apply, and if you’re into stuff like structure, there’s some of that, but all Darsombra ever need to get gone is a direction in which to head — literally or figuratively — so why not pick them all?

Darsombra on Instagram

Darsombra on Bandcamp

Bottomless, The Banishing

bottomless the banishing

Cavernous in its echo and with a grit of tone that is the aural equivalent of the feeling of pull in your hand when you make a doom claw, The Banishing is the second full-length from Italian doom rockers Bottomless. Working as the trio of vocalist/guitarist Giorgio Trombino (ex-Elevators to the Grateful Sky, etc.), drummer David Lucido (Assumption, among a slew of others) and bassist Sara Bianchin — the latter also of Messa and recently replaced in Bottomless by Laura Nardelli (Ponte del Diavolo, etc.) — the band follow their 2021 self-titled debut (review here) with an eight-track collection that comes across as its own vision of garage doom. It’s not about progressive flourish or elaborate production, but about digging into the raw creeper groove of “Guardians of Silence” or the righteous post-Pentagram chug-and-nod of “Let Them Burn.” It is not solely intended as worship for what’s come before. Doom-of-eld, the NWOBHM, ’70s proto splurges all abound, but in the vocal and guitar melody of “By the Sword of the Archangel” and the dramatic rolling finish of “Dark Waters” after the acoustic-led interlude “Drawn Into Yesterday,” in the gruel of “Illusion Sun,” they channel these elements through themselves and come out with an album that, for as dark and grim as it would likely sound to more than 99 percent of the general human population, is pure heart.

Bottomless on Facebook

Dying Victims Productions website

The Death Wheelers, Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness

The Death Wheelers Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness

Look. I don’t know The Death Wheelers personally at all. We don’t hang out on weekends. But the sample-laced (“We wanna be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the Man — and we wanna get loaded!” etc.), motorcycle-themed Québecois instrumental outfit sound on their second LP, the 12-track/40-minute riff-pusher Chaos and the Art of Motorcycle Madness, like they’re onto something. And again, I don’t know these cats at all. I don’t know what they do for work, what their lives are like, any of it. But if The Death Wheelers want to get out and give this record the support it deserves, the place they need to be is Europe. Yeah, I know there was The Picturebooks, but they were clean-chrome and The Death Wheelers just cracked a smile and showed you the fly that got splattered on their front tooth while they were riding — sonically speaking. The dust boogie of “Lucifer’s Bend,” the duly stoned “Interquaalude” ahead of the capper duo of “Sissy Bar Strut (Nymphony 69)” and “Cycling for Satan Part II” and the blowout roll in “Ride into the Röt (Everything Lewder Than Everything Else)” — this is a band who should bypass America completely for touring and focus entirely on Europe. Because the US will come around, to be sure, but not for another three or four month-long Euro stints get the point across. I don’t know that that’ll happen or it won’t, but they sound ready.

The Death Wheelers on Facebook

RidingEasy Records store

Caivano, Caivano

Caivano Caivano

The career arc of guitarist Phil Caivano — and of course he does other stuff as well, including vocals on his self-titled solo-project’s debut, Caivano, but some people seem to have been born to hold a guitar in their hands and he’s one of those; see also Bob Balch — is both longer and broader than his quarter-century as guitarist and songwriting contributor to Monster Magnet, but the NJ heavy rock stalwarts will nonetheless be the closest comparison point to these 10 tracks and 33 minutes, a kind of signature sleazy roll in “Talk to the Dead,” the time-to-get-off-your-ass push of “Come and Get Me” at the start or the punkier “Verge of Yesterday” — touch of Motörhead there seeming well earned — a cosmic ripper on a space backbeat in “Fun & Games,” but all of this is within a tonal and production context that’s consistent across the span, malleable in style, unshakable in structure. Closer “Face the Music” is the longest cut at 5:04 and is a drumless spacey experiment with vocals and a guitar figure wrapped around a central drone, and that adds yet more character to the proceedings. I’d wonder how long some of these songs or parts have been around or if Caivano is going to put a group together — could be interesting — and make a go of it apart from his ‘main band,’ but he’s long since established himself as an exceptional player, and listening to some of this material highlights contributions of style and substance to shaping Monster Magnet as well. Phil Caivano: songwriter.

Caivano on Instagram

Entropía, Eclipses

Entropía Eclipses

Together for nearly a decade, richly informed by the progressive and space rock(s) of the 1970s, prone to headspinning feats of lead guitar like that in the back end of second cut “Dysania,” Entropía offer their second full-length in Eclipses, a five-track/40-minute excursion of organ-inclusive cosmic prog that reminds of Hypnos 69 in the warm serenity at the start of “Tarbes,” threatens the epic on seven-minute opener “Thesan” and delivers readily throughout; a work of scope that runs deep in the pairing of “Tarbes” and “Caleidoscopia” — both of which top nine minutes long — but it’s there that Entropía reveal the full spectrum of light they’re working with, whether it’s that tonal largesse that rears up in the latter or the jazzy kosmiche shove in the payoff of the former. And the drums come forward to start closer “Polaris,” which follows, as Entropía nestle into one more groovy submersion, finding heavy shuffle in the drums — hell yeah — and holding that tension until it’s time for the multi-tiered finish and only-necessary peaceful comedown. It’s inevitable that some records in a Quarterly Review get written about and I never listen to them again. I’ll be back to this one.

Entropía on Facebook

Clostridium Records store

Ghorot, Wound

Ghorot Wound

God damn, Ghorot, leave some nasty for the rest of the class. The Boise, Idaho, three-piece — vocalist/bassist Carson Russell (also Ealdor Bealu), guitarist/vocalist Chad Remains (ex-Uzala) and drummer/vocalist Brandon Walker — launch their second LP, Wound, with the gloriously screamed, righteously-coated-in-filth, choking-on-mud extreme sludge they appropriately titled “Dredge.” And fuck if it doesn’t get meaner from there as Ghorot — working with esteemed producer Andy Patterson (The Otolith, etc.) and releasing through Lay Bare Recordings and King of the Monsters Records — take the measure of your days and issue summary judgment in the negative through the mellow-harshing bite of “In Asentia,” the least brutal part of which kind of sounds like High on Fire and the death/black metal in centerpiece “Corsican Leather.” All of which is only on side A. On side B, “Canyon Lands” imagines a heavy Western meditation — shades of Ealdor Bealu in the guitar — that retains its old-wizard vocal gurgle, and capper “Neanderskull” finally pushes the entire affair off of whatever high desert cliffside from which it’s been proclaiming all this uberdeath and into a waiting abyss of willfully knuckledragging blower deconstruction. The really scary shit is these guys’ll probably do another record after this one. Yikes.

Ghorot on Facebook

Lay Bare Recordings website

King of the Monsters Records website

Moozoonsii, Outward

Moozoonsii Outward

With the self-release of Outward, heavy progressive psych instrumentalists Moozoonsii complete a duology of pandemic-constructed outings that began with last year’s (of course) Inward, and to do so, the trio based in Nantes, France, continue to foster a methodology somewhere between metal and rock, finding ground in precision riffing in the 10-minute “Nova” or in the bumps and crashes after eight minutes into the 13-minute “Far Waste,” but they’re just as prone to jazzy skronk-outs like in the midsection solo of “Lugubris,” and the entire release is informed by the unfolding psychedelic meditationscape of “Stryge” at the start, so by no, no, no means at all are they doing one thing for the duration. “Toxic Lunar Vibration,” which splits the two noted extended tracks, brings the sides together as if to emphasize this point, not so much fitting those pointed angles together as delighting in the ways in which they do and don’t fit at certain times as part of their creative expression. Pairing that impulse with the kind of heavy-as-your-face-if-your-face-had-a-big-boulder-on-it fuzz in “Tauredunum” is a hell of a place to wind up. The unpredictable character of the material that surrounds only makes that ending sweeter and more satisfying.

Moozoonsii on Facebook

Moozoonsii on Bandcamp

Death Wvrm, Enter / The Endless

Death Wvrm enter

An initial two tracks from UK trio Death Wvrm, both instrumental, surfaced earlier this year, one in Spring around the time of their appearance at Desertfest London — quiet a coup for a seemingly nascent band; but listening to them I get it — and after. “Enter” was first, “The Endless” second, and the two of them tell a story unto themselves; narrative seeming to be part of the group’s mission from this point of outset, as each single comes with a few sentences of accompanying scene-setting. Certainly not going to complain about the story, and the band have some other surprises in store in these initial cuts, be it the bright, mid-period Beatles-y tone in the guitar for “The Endless” (it’s actually only about four and a half minutes) or the driving fuzz that takes hold after the snap of snare at 2:59, or the complementary layer of guitar in “Enter” that speaks to broader ambitions sound-wise almost immediately on the part of the band. “Enter” and “The Endless” both start quiet and get louder — the scorch in “Enter” isn’t to be discounted — but they do so in differing ways, and so while one listens to the first two cuts a band is putting out and expects growth in complexity and method, that’s actually just fine, because it’s exactly also what one is left wanting after the two songs are done: more. I’m not saying show up at their house or anything, but maybe give a follow on Bandcamp and keep an eye.

Death Wvrm on Instagram

Death Wvrm on Bandcamp

Mudness, Mudness

Mudness Mudness

Safe to assume some level of self-awareness on the part of Brazilian trio Mudness who, after unveiling their first single “R.I.P.” in 2020 make their self-titled full-length debut with seven songs of hard-burned wizard riffing, the plod of “Gone” (also an advance single, if not by three years) and guitarist Renan Casarin‘s Obornian moans underscoring the disaffected stoner idolatry. Joined by Fernando Dal Bó, whose bass work is crucial to the success of the entire release — can’t roll it if it ain’t heavy — and drummer Pedro Silvano, who adds malevolent swing to the slow march forward of “This End Body,” the centerpiece of the seven-song/35-minute long player. There’s an interlude, “Lamuria,” that could probably have shown up earlier, but one should keep in mind that the sense of onslaught between the likes of “Evil Roots” and “Yellow Imp” is part of the point, and likewise that they’re saving an extra layer of aural grime for “Final Breeze,” where they answer the more individual take of “This End Body” with a reach into melodicism and mark their appeal both in what they might bring to their sound moving forward and the planet-sucked-anyhow despondent crush of this collection. Putting it on the list for the best debuts of 2023. It’s not innovative, or trying to be, but that doesn’t stop it from accomplishing its aims in slow, mostly miserable stride.

Mudness on Facebook

Mudness on Bandcamp

The Space Huns, Legends of the Ancient Tribes

The Space Huns Legends of the Ancient Tribes

I’m not generally one to tell you how to spend your money, but if you take a look over at The Space Huns‘ Bandcamp page (linked below), you’ll see that the Hungarian psych jammers’ entire digital discography is €3.50. Again, not trying to tell you how to live your life, but Legends of the Ancient Tribes, the Szeged-based trio’s new hour-long album, has a song on it called “Goats on a Discount Private Space Shuttle Voyage,” and from where I sit that entitles the three-piece of guitarist Csaba Szőke, bassist Tamás Tikvicki and drummer Mátyás Mozsár to that cash and perhaps more. I could just as easily note “Sgt. Taurus on Coke” at the start of the outing or “The Melancholic Stag Beetle Who Got Inspired by Corporate Motivational Coaches” — or the essential fact that in addition to the best song titles I’ve seen all year (again, and perhaps more), the jams are ace. Chemistry to spare, patience when it’s called for but malleable enough to boogie or nod and sound no less natural doing either, while keeping an exploratory if not improvisational — and it might be that too — character to the material. It’s not a minor undertaking at 59 minutes, but between the added charm of the track names and the grin-inducing nod of “Cosmic Cities of the Giant Snail Kingdom,” they make it easy.

The Space Huns on Facebook

The Space Huns on Bandcamp

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Full Album Premiere & Review: Loma Baja, Piscinas Verticales

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Loma Baja Piscinas Verticales

Madrid-based four-piece Loma Baja encompass a complex psychedelia throughout their debut album, Piscinas Verticales, which is set to release this week through the significant label consortium of Spinda Records, Lay Bare Recordings, Clostridium Records and Echodelick Records. To wit, amid the hypnotic post-psych rollout of opening track “V70,” guitars all bendy around the central march, vocals present and melodic but still obscure, some element of Pixies in there somewhere, an ambulance drives by periodically. It happens four or five times as the malleable mix demonstrates early the sort of experimental tinge to the band’s songcraft.

But as with much of what follows, the interplay of that drone (synth? sample?) and the guitar solo isn’t just about the group — guitarist/synthesist/vocalist/sampler Jorge García (Adrift, Gentemayor and formerly El Páramo), guitarist Victor Teixeira, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Pacomoto (G.A.S. Drummers) and drummer Raúl Lorenzo (who also works with Toundra) — being able to make a sound, but also what they do with that in terms of songwriting. Shades of shoegaze-era Sonic Youth are cast under the sample and before the emergent cymbal wash of “La Emboscada,” the bass thick underneath the various noises and guitar lines going in and out as the low end and drums guide the procession into a melodic bridge and back through where it came from, that original sample continuing, like a news reading or an airport announcement, vague for being in another language that maybe you know and maybe you don’t.

One in each channel, García and Teixeira seem to be having a conversation on guitar early in “Canción de Manuel” that reminds a bit of the most out-there Fatso Jetson ever gets, but is tinted atmospherically darker and is more progressive in its presentation, but it’s Lorenzo moving to toms that signals the shift into classic prog stateliness, like something out of a sci-fi soundtrack transposed onto a space rock arrangement, severe with the synth lines and thud after that transition, working into and through a build as the keyboard melody holds, vocals or a sample echoing over the final moments as you realize the payoff isn’t coming and the song stops, letting the longer “Crónica Negra” (7:08) take its time waking up with feedback as the end of side A, mirrored later by the 10-minute “Hierros Viejos” in a show of structure that’s further evidence for a masterplan at work behind the material as opposed to it being a hodgepodge of ideas rather than songs.

It is not that. The brooding unfurl of “Crónica Negra” is mellower and feels like it’s raining outside, but there’s threat of breakout in the lightly-slogging lead guitar, synth in the left channel winding through frequency manipulation before a quick stop brings the next stage, with the drums louder and more forward, the guitar and keys swelling to a wash of fuzz, voices singing out — maybe a sample, maybe Pacomoto and García; hopefully they wrote down somewhere what they did — and a convergence around a dramatic-feeling crescendo that drops at 6:22 to the bassline, guitar skronk and repeat swells either of synth or manipulated feedback, probably both.

It’s not gonna get less weird in the vertical pools. Side B, which features a corresponding four pieces, starts with “Invocación,” which meanders before landing after about a minute in a Melvinsian repetitive nod that’s rich in tone and all the more righteous when the left-side guitar spaces out and the drums open up in the second half. All of a sudden, Loma Baja are instrumental heavy post-rock — except there might be vocals; ha — but dug into a purposeful melodic riff like those in the second halves of “La Emboscada” or “Canción de Manuel,” toying with cinematic grandiosity but never losing their ultimate direction, ending again with a return to the central march.

Loma Baja

What was the album’s lead single, “Boda Final / Velorio” is more indie rock at the start, and the as-yet-most-definitely-vocalized inclusion on the record — hence single — but holds to the intention toward breadth in the material that surrounds, the keys in the left channel and the lead guitar in the right again working to surround the listener as the vocals reinforce notions of otherplanetary classic prog before the jabbing kinda-waltz resumes, makes a riffy turn, then rights itself to finish, shifting immediately into the underlying buzz and quiet interplay of guitars in the intro of the penultimate “Hierros Viejos,” making the bed for a robot-voice verse that will stay for the song’s four-minute duration, threatening heft and volume while, like “Canción de Manuel” before it, making a point of defying expectation and giving over to the drone at the end, the ambient stage set for “AAAAA” to cap.

And “AAAAA” is itself the awaited riffout. At 10 minutes long, it is a substantial portion of Piscinas Verticales, and its echoing vocals remind a bit of Ufomammut‘s earlier kosmic heavy, but the line of guitar introduced at the outset holds through the volume surge and comes back that much stronger for it. It is a solid one, two, three, four, count, and made to be repetitive, but the progression morphs subtly as time goes on, the next verse leading to another chorus-ish push carrying through the midpoint before the keys take a solo and the guitars seem to melt to feedback. Vocals — not a focal point for most of the record — announce the arrival at the next stage of the march, the volume seeming to get deeper as well as louder and noisier.

By the time they’re in the seventh minute, “AAAAA” has been stripped to a wall of feedback and noise, rumble beneath and scorch above, and somewhere in there the drums turned backwards but are largely gone as Loma Baja let that moment evolve, play out, and die on its own terms. They make a point of noting that Piscinas Verticales was recorded live. Fair enough, but it must have been a hell of a mixing process, though one can’t argue with the results as each consecutive part, track, side, feels rife with purpose even when that purpose is counterintuitive to the expectation of heavy rock/psych/prog songwriting. Those, in fact, are some of the record’s highlight stretches — it’s not every band willing to challenge the listener on their first long-player.

To coincide with that challenge that the material offers, Loma Baja accomplish a feat of world-building across Piscinas Verticales such that the context of the songs becomes their own regardless of names dropped above or other influences at work. Pieces like “Crónica Negra,” “Boda Final / Velorio” and “Hierros Viejos” working toward divergent ends at different angles from the same foundation. In this way, Loma Baja convey breadth while keeping their tones and melodic reach consistent, so that the album comes through as a complete statement that deserves to be heard.

So here we are. I’m excited to host the premiere of Piscinas Verticales on the player below. You’ll find it followed by the album particulars courtesy of Spinda Records via the PR wire, the video for “Boda Final / Velorio” and the many links from which the album can be ordered.

Please enjoy:

Loma Baja, Piscinas Verticales album premiere

Produced by Rafa Camisón and Loma Baja. Recorded in a live session at Metropol Studios (Madrid, Spain) by Rafa Camisón, with the assistance of Arturo Rebollo, between 27th and 29th July 2022. Mixed by Rafa Camisón at Estudio Setentaynueve (Jerez, Spain). Mastered by Víctor García at Ultramarinos Mastering (Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Spain). Artwork by Bol Estudio (Jorge García). Idea album title by Diana Calabaza Cósmica.

The album is coming out on 26th May 2023 through the collaboration between indie labels Spinda Records (SP), Lay Bare Recordings (NL), Clostridium Records (GE) and Echodelick Records (US). Album pre-order available at label sites from 21st April.


1. V70
2. La Emboscada
3. Canción de Manuel
4. Crónica Negra
5. Invocación
6. Boda Final / Velorio
7. Hierros Viejos

Víctor Teixeira: guitars
Pacomoto: bass, keyboard, vocals
Jorge García: synths, samplers, guitars, vocals
Raúl Lorenzo: drums

Loma Baja, “Boda Final / Velorio” official video

Loma Baja on Instagram

Loma Baja on Bandcamp

Spinda Records on Facebook

Spinda Records on Instagram

Spinda Records on Bandcamp

Spinda Records website

Lay Bare Recordings website

Lay Bare Recordings on Facebook

Lay Bare Recordings on Instagram

Lay Bare Recordings on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records on Facebook

Clostridium Records website

Echodelick Records on Facebook

Echodelick Records on Instagram

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

Echodelick Records website

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Quarterly Review: Spotlights, Kanaan, Doom Lab, Strange Horizon, Shem, Melt Motif, Margarita Witch Cult, Cloud of Souls, Hibernaut, Grin

Posted in Reviews on May 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Today is the last Quarterly Review day until July. I don’t know yet what shape that QR will take, whether 50 records, 100 records, 700 records or somewhere between. Depends on how the ongoing deluge of releases ebbs and flows as we head into summer. But if you count this and the other part of this Spring’s Quarterly Review, you get a total as of today of 120 releases covered, and considering the prior QR was just in January, and that one was another 100 records that’s a pretty insane amount of stuff for it being May 12.

And that’s basically the moral of the story, again. It’s a ton of stuff to encounter, hear, maybe live with if you’re lucky. I won’t make it a grand thing (I still have too much writing to do), but I hope you’ve found something cool in all this, and if not yet among the 210 albums thus far QR’ed in 2023, then maybe today’s your day as we hit the end of this round.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Spotlights, Alchemy for the Dead

Spotlights Alchemy for the Dead

There are not many boxes that Spotlights‘ fourth album and third for Ipecac, Alchemy for the Dead, leaves unticked. Thematic, musically expansive, finely crafted in its melody and with particular attention to mood as when the bassline joins then leaves behind the acoustic guitar as a preface to the big finish in the closing title-track, it is a consuming, ultra-modern take on heavy rock from the trio of bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sarah Quintero, guitarist/synthesist/vocalist Mario Quintero and drummer Chris Enriquez, substantial even before you get to the fact that its 47 minutes push LP format limits, it speaks emotionally in rhythm as much as the thoughtful vocal interplay on “Sunset Burial,” growing intense around a central chug of guitar for one of the album’s more brazenly metal stretches. Elsewhere, standout moments abound, whether it’s the channel-panned snare buried in the second verse of “Algorithmic,” the proggy moodshifting in “Repeat the Silence,” Spotlights becoming what Deftones wanted to be in the heavygaze of “The Alchemist,” drift meeting head-on crash in “Ballad in the Mirror,” which also rolls out a fuzz-tone riff of statistically significant proportion then finds room for a swell of airy guitar before dissipating into the next mellow verse circa 2:30, more crashes to come. With the synth/sax/big-riff-and-shout interplay at the center in “False Gods,” Alchemy for the Dead would seem to mark the arrival at where Spotlights have been heading all along: their own version of a heavy of everything.

Spotlights on Facebook

Ipecac Recordings website


Kanaan, Downpour

Kanaan Downpour

The mellotron in the title-track, surrounded by dense bass, fleet runs of scorch-prone guitar and resoundingly jazzy drumming, emphasizes the point: Kanaan are a band elevating heavy rock to their level. The Norwegian trio aren’t shy when it comes to riffing out, as they demonstrate in the Hedwig Mollestad collaboration on “Amazon” and intermittently throughout Downpour‘s closing pair of “Solaris Pt. 1” and “Solaris Pt. 2,” each topping seven minutes. But neither are they limited to a singular nodding expression. While still sounding young and energetic in a way that just can’t be imitated, Downpour boogies almost immediately on opener “Black Time Fuzz,” and is often heavy and grooving like a straightforward heavy rock record, but as that tambourine in “Orbit” shows, Kanaan are ready at a moment’s notice with a flourish of guitar, some key or synth element, or something else to distinguish their pieces and in the soundscaping of “Psunspot” (sic) and the scope they claim throughout side B, they remain one of Europe’s brightest hopes for a future in progressive heavy, sounding freer in their atmospheres and in the build of “Solaris Pt. 1” than they did even on 2021’s Earthbound (review here). There’s a reason just about every festival in Europe wants them to play. The proverbial band-on-fire.

Kanaan on Instagram

Jansen Records website


Doom Lab, Zen and the Art of Tone

Doom Lab Zen and the Art of Tone

Zen and the Art of Tone, perhaps unsurprisingly, sets itself to the task in its title as Anchorage, Alaska-based Doom Lab mastermind Leo Scheben guides the listener through mostly short-ish instrumental pieces based around guitar, sometimes ultra-fuzzed with a programmed beat behind as on “Whole-Tones on Tail” or the extra-raw 1:24 of “Motörvamp” or the subsequent “Sabotaging the Sabocracy,” a bit clearer at the outset with “X’d Out,” but the drive toward meditation is clear and allows for both the slower, more doomed reaches of closer “Traveling Through the Cosmos at Beyond the Speed of Light” and the playful elder-funk of “The Plot-Twist” or the bounce of “Lydia Ann.” All told, the 12 songs and 36 minutes of experimentation on offer will resonate with some more than others, but Scheben sounds like he’s starting a conversation here with “Mondays Suck it Big-Time” and “Psychic Vampires” and the real question is whether anyone will answer. Sometimes a project comes along that’s just on its own wavelength, finding its own place in the pastiche, and that’s where Doom Lab have been at since the outset, prolific as well as dedicated to exploration. I don’t know toward what it’s all leading, but not knowing is part of enjoying hearing it, and maybe that’s the zen of the whole thing to start with.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp


Strange Horizon, Skur 14

Strange Horizon Skur 14

Barely a year after making their full-length debut on Apollon with Beyond the Strange Horizon (review here), Bergen, Norway, traditionalists dig deeper into the proto-style roots of doom on their four-song second LP, Skur 14. Named after a rehearsal space complex (presumably where they rehearse) in their hometown, the album runs shortest-to-longest in bringing together Scandi-folk-rooted classic prog and heavy styles, but by the time they get to “Tusser Og Troll,” the 14:47 finale, one is less thinking about the past than the future in terms of sound. Acoustic guitar begins “The Road” ahead of the straight-ahead riff and post-punk vocals, while “Cursed and Cast Out” is both speedier in the verse and more open in the hook before shifting into rolls on the snare and more theatrical shove that, much to the band’s credit, they handle fluidly without sounding either ironically over the top or like goobers in any way other than how they want. With the seven-minute “Candles,” the procession is slower and more vintage in form, reminding a bit of Demon Head but following its own anthemic chorus into an extended solo section before side B is dedicated solely to the spread of “Tusser Og Troll,” which ends with an organic-feeling jam laced with effects. A strong second outing on a quick turnaround that shows clear progression — there’s nothing more to be asked of Skur 14.

Strange Horizon on Facebook

Apollon Records store


Shem, III

Shem III

Sure, the third album from Stuttgart drone-psych-jammers Shem — titled III, lest there be any doubt — starts off with its 16-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Paragate,” but given the context, it’s the second cut on side A, “Lamentum” (2:50), that most piqued my interest. It’s a fading in snippet of a progression, the drums steady, volume swells behind a strumming guitar, some vocal chanting as it moves through. Given the entrancing spaciousness of “Restlicht” (7:34) and “Refugium (Beyond the Gravitational Field of Time and Space)” (11:55), I didn’t expect much more than an interlude, and maybe it’s not intended to be, but that shorter piece does a lot in separating the long cut on III‘s first half from the two on the second, so serves a vital purpose. And in that, it represents III well, since even in “Restlicht,” there seems to be a plan unfolding, even if improvisation is a part of that. Bookending, “Paragate” is mellow when it isn’t congealing nebular gasses to make new stars, and “Refugium (Beyond the Gravitational Field of Time and Space)” finds itself in a wormhole wash of guitar while the ride cymbal tries to hold structural integrity together, the whole engine ending up kissing itself goodbye as it shifts from this dimension to one that, let’s be honest, is probably more exciting.

Shem on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store


Melt Motif, Particles. Death Objective

melt motif particles death objective

You ever hear a band’s album and think maybe it worked out better than the band thought it would when they started making it? Like maybe they surprised even themselves? That was Melt Motif‘s 2022 debut, A White Horse Will Take You Home (review here). The heavy industrial outfit founded by Kenneth Rasmus Greve and legit-doesn’t-need-a-last-name vocalist Rakel are joined by Brazilian producer Joe Irente for the curiously punctuated 10-track follow-up, Particles. Death Objective, and though they don’t have the element of surprise on their side this time out (for themselves or listeners), Melt Motif as a trio do expand on what the first album accomplished, bringing ideas from electronic dance music, sultry post-rock and hard-landing beats — plus some particularly striking moments of weighted guitar — to bear such that “Warrior” and “I’m Gone” are assured in not needing to explode with aggression and even with all its ticks and pops, the penultimate “Abyss” is more about atmosphere than impact. “Fever” creates a wash and lurches slow and heavy following on from “Broken Floor” at the beginning, but in “Full Moon” it’s a techno party and “Never_Again” feels like experimentalist hip-hop, so if you thought the book was closed aesthetically on the project, the sophomore outing assures it very much is not. So much the better.

Melt Motif on Facebook

Apollon Records on Bandcamp


Margarita Witch Cult, Margarita Witch Cult

margarita witch cult self titled

As it begins with the telltale strut and maddening catchiness of “Diabolical Influence,” one might be tempted to think Birmingham’s Margarita Witch Cult are playing in Uncle Acid‘s sinister sandbox, but the two-minute fuzz-chug-punker burst of “Death Lurks at Every Turn” corrects this notion, and the rest of the UK trio’s nine-song/31-minute self-titled Heavy Psych Sounds affirms there’s more going on. “The Witchfinder Comes” is a classic Sabbath-worship roller with multi-tracked vocals — guitarist Scott Vincent is the only one listed on vocals, so might just be layering; Jim Thing is on bass and George Casual on drums — and “Be My Witch” is a lesson in how to make thickened fuzz move, but it’s the pointedly Motörheaded “Annihilation” (1:42) that most stands out, even with the likewise speedy shuffle of “Theme From Cyclops” (1:34) right behind it, the faster takeoff welcome to offset the midtempo home-base of the trio’s grooves. As to that, “Lord of the Flies” nestles itself into a comfortable tempo and resolves in a nod that it seems to have spent much of its five minutes building toward, a last run through the main riff more celebration than repetition ahead of the instrumental “Aradia,” which like “The Witchfinder Comes” featured on the band’s 2022 Witchfinder EP (review here), and the previously-issued single “Sacrifice,” which closes. Bottom line is they’ve got a righteous sound and their first album shows they know how to wield it. The smoke-filled sky is the limit from here. Hail next-gen stoner rock.

Margarita Witch Cult on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Cloud of Souls, A Fate Decided

Cloud of Souls A Fate Decided

Trading between charred rasps and cleaner declarative singing, Indianapolis-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Chris Latta (The Skyspeakers, Lavaborne, ex-Spirit Division) guides the mostly-solo-project — Tucker Thomasson drums and plays lead guitar; not minimizing anyone’s contributions — Cloud of Souls through a tumultuous journey along the line between ancient-of-days doom and black metal, strident at times like Bathory, sometimes all-out ripping as on the earlier-Enslaved-style “Hiding from Human Eyes,” and growing deathlier on “Where Failure Dies” ahead of the closing title-track, which threatens to break out the razors at any moment but stays civilized in its doomly roll for the duration. Whatever else Latta accomplishes in this or any of his other outfits from here on out, he’ll always be able to say he put out a record with a centerpiece called “Time for Slaughter,” which isn’t nothing as regards artist achievements — the song taps pre-NWOBHM doom until it turns infernal in the middle — and while there’s clearly an aspect of self-awareness in what he’s doing, the exploration and the songwriting are put first such that A Fate Decided resounds with a love for the metal that birthed it while finding its own path to hopefully keep walking across future releases.

Cloud of Souls on Facebook

Cloud of Souls on Bandcamp


Hibernaut, Ingress

Hibernaut Ingress

When I tell you Hibernaut has three former members of Salt Lake City psych-blues rockers Dwellers in the lineup, just go ahead and put that expectation to the side for a minute. With guitarist Dave Jones stepping to the front as vocalist, Joey Toscano (also ex-Iota) moving from guitar/vocals to lead guitar, Zach Hatsis (also ex-SubRosa) on drums and Josh Dupree on bass, their full-length debut/first release of any sort, Ingress — recorded of course by Andy Patterson — has more in common with High on Fire and dirt-coated raw thrash than anything so lush, and at 11 songs and 74 minutes long, that will toward the unrestrained is multifaceted as well. There’s rock swagger to be had in “Magog” or the spinning riff of “Summoner,” but “Mines” has more Celtic Frost than Kyuss to it, and that isn’t a complaint. The material varies — at over an hour long, it fucking better — but whether it’s the double-kick rampage of “Kaleidoscope” or the furious takedown of “Lantern Eyed,” Hibernaut revel in an overarching nastiness of riff such that you might just end up scrunching your face without thinking about it. There’s room for a couple nods, in “Projection,” or “Aeons Entombed,” but the prevailing impression is meaner while remaining atmospheric. I like that I have no guess what they’ll do after this. I don’t like having to check autocorrect every time it replaces their name with ‘Hibernate.’ If only I had some gnasher heavy metal to help me vent that frustration. Oh wait.

Hibernaut on Instagram

Hibernaut on Bandcamp


Grin, Black Nothingness


For their Black Nothingness EP, Berlin-based DIY aficionados Grin — bassist Sabine Oberg and drummer/vocalist Jan Oberg — stripped their sound back to its most essential parts. Unlike 2022’s Phantom Knocks (review here) long-player, there’s no soundscaping, no guitar, no Hammond. There is low end. There are drums. There are growls and shouts and there are six tracks and none of them reaches three minutes in length. This ferocious display of efficiency counterintuitively underscores the breadth of Grin‘s approach, since as one band they feel unrestricted in terms of arrangements, and Black Nothingness — on their own The Lasting Dose Records imprint and recorded by Jan — benefits from the barebones construction in terms of sheer impact as heard on the rolling “Gatekeeper” before each ending measure of “Midnight Blue Sorrow” seems to leave a bruise, or even the opening semi-title-track “Nothingness” staking a claim on hardcore gangshout backing vocals for use pretty much anytime. “Talons” is less in-your-face with its violence, but the threat remains fervent and subsequent closer “Deathbringer” perfectly conveys that sense of exhaustion you have from when you’ve been so angry for so long that actually you’re just kind of sad about it. All this and more in about 12 minutes out of your busy and intensely frustrating life makes Black Nothingness one of 2023’s best short releases. Now rage, damnit.

Grin on Facebook

Grin on Bandcamp


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Loma Baja: Debut Album Piscinas verticales Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Based in Madrid, Loma Baja will make their full-length debut through Spinda Records — whose announcement appears below — Lay Bare Recordings in the Netherlands, Clostridium Records in Germany and Echodelick Records in the US, and the multinational synergy of its backing should tell you something about the record. Namely that it makes people want to be involved. Honestly, they had me here at the involvement of Jorge García, formerly of Adrift and El Páramo, but I did bother to go as far as to listen to the demos they put up last year on Bandcamp, and the warm-psych bass is only part of the appeal, as there’s proggy movement and ambience to coincide and the songs feel like nothing so much as blueprints from which to expand their sound. I hope they do just that when the record arrives.

I’ve done a few of these announcements now, and I remain on board. Think it’s a coincidence that everyone can do more through collective action? Hell no. Riffers Union Now! Rising tide of fuzz lifts all amps. Then probably blows a tube or something and has to stop the show for a little bit.

From the PR wire:

Loma Baja


Can you imagine a band featuring members of Adrift, El Páramo, G.A.S. Drummers, Giganto, Another Kind Of Dead and Sou Edipo? Well, that band already exists and it’s called LOMA BAJA.

In our family we didn’t think twice and we opened our doors to them a few months ago when they presented us their debut album ‘Piscinas verticales‘ (vertical pools), about which they tell you this:

“[…] it’s about nightmares, places that generate strange feelings and about the hidden side of things. The songs seek to generate that feeling that stays with you after having seen something weird. This album is the result of the search for a common point between four guys who come from different places and who found a place in the darkness. We like “trial and error” and this is the way we wrote ‘Piscinas verticales’, mixing elements from kraut-rock, post-punk, alt-rock, post-rock and other exotic music […]”

The album will be out this Spring thanks to a collaboration between Spinda Records (ES), Lay Bare Recordings (NT), Clostridium Records (GE) and Echodelick Records (US). But do not worry as a first single is coming out very soon.

They’ll be playing on May 26 in Madrid at Sound Isidro Fest.

Loma Baja is:
Victor Teixeira – Guitarra
Jorge García – Teclado/Guitarra/Voz
Paco Moto – Bajo/Teclado/Voz
Raúl Lorenzo – Batería






Loma Baja, Demos (2022)

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Astral Magic Release Lords of Space on Limited Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Finnish space rockers Astral Magic dig into classic kosmiche on Lords of Space, out on limited vinyl through Clostridium Records. The album was first released digitally and on CD with bonus tracks last March, and it makes its own argument for the rolling-papers-included diehard LP version by tearing through synthy far out rocketblast rock and roll, peppered with guest guitar contributions as founding principal Santtu Laakso navigates reaches that few have dared to chart, keeping company with multi-instrumentalist Jay Tausig as a core duo with mind-expanding wares on display. I mean, look. It’s at the bottom of the post. You can stream it yourself. But if you’re not boosting power to the warp nacelles by rerouting from the auxiliary deflector control by the time you get through the title-track and “Chakra Vimana” and into “Head Encounter,” then just move along. Space rock for space cadets. Climb on board, hit the ion thrusters, and go.

So go. It’s out today:

astral magic lords of space

Astral Magic – ‘Lords of Space’ heavy space rock album now also out on limited vinyl!

Space/psych rock vinyl freaks will be happy to hear that Lords of Space is now also out on vinyl on the German label Clostridium Records! There are two different editions (black and blue-smoke), both limited to 210 copies. Both versions come in an amazing gatefold cover by Dale Simpson and include a poster and a sticker. The die-hard blue-smoke version also has long Astral Magic smoking papers to go along it.

Lords of Space was first released on limited digipack CD also on Clostridium in March 2022. According to the main man Santtu Laakso from Finland, it is his homage to Hawkwind. Guests include Jay Tausig (US) on drums, violin, saxophone & guitar and Kimi Kärki (FI) and Vince Cory (UK) on guitar.

Official release date for the LP is January the 4th, and you can order your copy from:

www.clostridiumrecords.com & https://astralmagic.bandcamp.com/album/lords-of-space

All music and lyrics, mixed and produced by Santtu Laakso aka Dj Astro.
Mastered by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller.
Cover art and designs by Dale Simpson.

Santtu Laakso: synthesizers, sequencers, electric guitar, bass, vocals.
Jay Tausig: drums, violin, saxophone, lead guitar on “Lords of Space”, E-bow guitar and the end chant on “Cosmic Games”.
Vince Cory: electric guitar on “Chakra Vimana”.
Kimi Kärki: electric guitar on “The Fall of Atlantis”.
Mikael C. Haavisto: electric guitar on “Child of the Wild” & “The Undead”.
Perttu Lindberg: drums on “Lords of Space” (uncredited on the album cover due to mistake).



Astral Magic, Lords of Space (2022)

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