Quarterly Review: Dommengang, Ice Dragon, Saint Karloff, Witch Trail, Love Gang, Firebreather, Karkara, Circle of Sighs, Floral Fauna, Vvlva

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

quarterly review

We begin Day Two of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. Snow on the ground fell overnight and the day ahead looks as busy as ever. There’s barely time to stop for sips of coffee between records, but some allowances must be made. It’s Tuesday after all. There’s still a lot of week left. And if we can’t be kind to ourselves in the post-holiday comedown of wintry gray, when can we?

So yes, pause, sip — glug, more likely — then proceed.

I don’t usually play favorites with these things, but I think today’s might have worked out to be my favorite batch of the bunch. As always, I hope you find something that speaks to you.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Dommengang, No Keys

dommengang no keys

Driving heavy psych and rock meet with spacious Americana and a suburbanite dreaminess in Dommengang‘s No Keys, the now-L.A. trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Love Jail (review here). It is a melting pot of sound, with emphasis on melting, but vocal harmonies and consistently righteous basslines like that in “Stir the Sea” act to tie the nine component tracks together, making Dommengang‘s various washes of tone ultimately the creation of a welcoming space. Early cut “Earth Blues” follows opener “Sunny Day Flooding” with a mindful far-outbound resonance, and the later “Arcularius – Burke” finds itself in a linear building pattern ahead of “Jerusalem Cricket,” which reimagines ’70s country rock as something less about nostalgia than forward possibility. Having come far on their apparently keyboard-less journey, from the breadth-casting verses of “Stir the Sea” to the doomy interlude “Blues Rot,” they end with “Happy Death (Her Blues II)” which sure as hell sounds like it has some organ on it. Either way, whether they live up to the standard of the title or not is secondary to the album’s actual achievements, which are significant, and distinguish Dommengang from would-be peers in atmosphere, craft and melody.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Ice Dragon, Passage of Mind

ice dragon passage of mind

Though they don’t do it nearly as often as they did between 2012 and 2015, every now and then Boston’s Ice Dragon manage to sneak out a new release. Over the last few years, that’s been a succession of singles, but Passage of Mind is their first LP since 2015’s A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), and though they’ll always in some part be thought of as a doom band, the unassuming organic psychedelia of “Don’t Know Much but the Road” reminds more of Chris Goss‘ work with Masters of Reality in its acoustic/fuzz blend and melody. The experimentalism-prone outfit have been down this avenue before as well, and it suits them, even as members have moved on to other projects (Brass Hearse among them), with the seven-minute “One of These Days” basing itself around willfully simplistic-sounding intertwining lines of higher and lower fuzz. There are moments of serenity, like closer “Dream About You” and “Sun in My Eyes,” but “The Sound the Rain Makes” is more of a blowout, and even the darker vibe of “Delirium’s Tears” holds hits melody as top priority. Hey guess what? Here’s an Ice Dragon album that deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I think it’s the 12th one.

Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks

Ice Dragon on Bandcamp

 

Saint Karloff, Interstellar Voodoo

Saint Karloff Interstellar Voodoo

Oslo’s Saint Karloff squash the high standard they set for themselves on their 2018 debut, All Heed the Black God (review here), with the 41-minute single-song long-player Interstellar Voodoo, basking in bluesy Sabbathian grandeur and keeping a spirit of progressive adventuring beneath without giving over entirely to self-indulgent impulses any more than one could as they careen from one movement to the next in the multi-stage work. With vinyl through Majestic Mountain Records, tape on Stoner Witch Records and CD through Ozium Records, they’re nothing if not well represented, and rightly so, as they veer in and out of psychedelic terrain in exciting and periodically elephantine fashion, still making room for classic Scandi-folk boogie on side A before the second half of the track stomps all over everything that’s come before it en route to its own organ-laced jammy meandering, Iommi shuffle and circa-’74 howl. As a new generation of doom rock begins to take shape, Saint Karloff position themselves well as earlier pursuers of an individualist spirit while still drawing of course on classic sources of inspiration. The first record was encouraging. The second is more so. The third will be the real tell of who they are as a band.

Saint Karloff on Thee Facebooks

Majestic Mountain Records webstore

 

Witch Trail, The Sun Has Left the Hill

witch trail the sun has left the hill

The jangling guitar strum in centerpiece “Lucid” on Witch Trail‘s The Sun Has Left the Hill (Consouling Sounds) has the indelible mark of classic rock and roll freedom to it. One wonders if Pete Townshend would recognize it, or if it’s too far blasted into oblivion by the Belgian trio’s aesthetic treatment across The Sun Has Left the Hill‘s convention-challenging 29-minute span, comprising seven tracks that bring together a heavy alternative rock and post-black metal vision marked by spacious echoes and cavern screams that are likewise tortured and self-assured. That is to say, there’s no mistaking the intent here. In the early intensity of “Watcher” or the shimmering and more patiently unfolding “Silent Running,” the Ghent three-piece mark out their stylistic terrain between bursts of noisy chaotic wash and clearheaded execution. The six-minute “Afloat” hisses like a lost demo that would’ve rewritten genre history some 25 years ago, and even in closer “Residue,” one can’t help but feel like Witch Trail are indeed looking to leave some lasting effect behind them with such forward-thinking craft. Sure to be a shock for those who take it on with no idea of what to expect.

Witch Trail on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game

love gang dead mans game

Shortly before Love Gang are halfway through the opening title-track of their debut album, Dead Man’s Game, just when you think you might have their blend of organ-laced Radio Moscow and Motörhead figured out, that’s when Leo Muñoz breaks out the flute and the whole thing takes a turn for the unexpected. Surprises abound from the Denver foursome of Muñoz (who also handles organ and sax), guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentworth, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, who find room for psychedelic airiness amidst the gallop of “Addiction,” which doesn’t seem coincidentally paired with “Break Free,” though the two don’t run together. Love Gang‘s 2016 self-titled EP (review here) had a cleaner production and less aggro throb, and there’s some of that on Dead Man’s Game in the peaceful melody of “Interlude,” but even seven-minute closer “Endless Road” makes a point of finishing at a rush, and that’s ultimately what defines the album. No complaints. Love Gang wield momentum as another element of inventive arrangement on this encouraging first long-player.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

 

Firebreather, Under a Blood Moon

firebreather under a blood moon

‘Tis the stuff of battle axes and severed limbs, but it’s worth noting that three of the six inclusions on Firebreather‘s second LP and first for RidingEasy Records, Under a Blood Moon, have some reference to fire in their title. The follow-up to their brazen 2017 self-titled debut (review here) starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the nine-minute “Dancing Flames,” then follows immediately with “Our Souls, They Burn” and launches side B with the eponymous “Firebreather,” as the Gothenburg trio of Mattias Nööjd, Kyle Pitcher and Axel Wittbeck launch their riffy, destructive assault with urgency that earns all that scarred land left in its wake. The High on Fire comparison remains inevitable, perhaps most of all on “Firebreather” itself, but Firebreather have grown thicker in tone, meaner in approach and do nothing to shy away from the largesse that such a sound might let them convey, as “Our Souls, They Burn” and in the volume surges of closer “The Siren.” Under a Blood Moon is a definite forward step from the first LP, showing an evolving sound and burgeoning individuality that one hopes Firebreather continue to hunt down with such vigilance.

Firebreather on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

Karkara, Crystal Gazer

karkara crystal gazer

Presented through Stolen Body Records, the debut long-player from French trio Karkara purports to be “Oriental psych rock,” which accounts for an Eastern influence in the overall sound of its seven-track/41-minute run, but there are perhaps some geographical questions to be undertaken there, as “Camel Rider” and others show a distinctive Mideastern flair. Whatever works, I guess. At its core, Crystal Gazer is a work of psychedelic space rock, brought to bear with a duly open sensibility by guitarist/vocalist Karim Rihani (also didgeridoo), bassist Hugo Olive and drummer/vocalist Maxime Marouani as seemingly the beginning stages of a broader sonic adventure. That is to say, the stylistic aspects at play here — and they are very much “at play” — feel purposefully used, but like the foundation of what will be future growth on the part of Karkara as a unit. Will they progress along a more patient and meditative path, as “The Way” hints in some of its early roll, or will the frenetic winding of closer “Jedid” set their course for subsequent freakouts? I don’t know, but Karkara strike as a band who won’t see any point to standing still creatively any more than they do to doing so rhythmically.

Karkara on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records website

 

Circle of Sighs, Desolate

circle of sighs desolate

Information is limited on Circle of Sighs, and by that I primarily mean I don’t have any. They list their point of origin as Los Angeles, so there’s that, but as to the whos and whats, wheres and so on, it’s a mystery. Something tells me that suits the band, whose four-track debut EP, Desolate, gracefully executes a blend of melodic downerism with more extreme elements at play, melodic vocal arrangements offset by screams in the closing title-track after the prior rolling groove of “Burden of the Flesh” offered a progressive and synth-laden take on Pallbearer-style emotive doom. Acoustics, keyboard, and a clear use of multiple singers give Circle of Sighs‘ first outing a kitchen-sink feel, but one can only admire them for trying something new at their (presumed) outset, and the catchy chug of “Hold Me, Lucifer” speaks to more complex aesthetic origins than the simplistic subject matter might lead one to believe. The outlier is the penultimate nine-minute cut “Kukeri,” which broods across its first three minutes in a manner that would make Patrick Walker proud before unfolding the breadth of its lumber and arrangement, harmonies and screams and the first real showcase of more extreme impulses taking hold in its second half — plus strings, maybe — which “Desolate” itself will build upon after a bookending acoustic close. There’s some sorting out to do in terms of sound, but already they show a readiness to push in their own direction, and that’s more than it would seem reasonable to ask.

Circle of Sighs on Thee Facebooks

Circle of Sighs on Bandcamp

 

Floral Fauna, Pink and Blue

floral fauna pink and blue

Way out west, Chris Allison of the band Lord Loud is taking on psychedelic shimmer under the ostensible solo moniker of Floral Fauna, but the situation of the project’s 11-tracker debut LP, Pink and Blue is more complicated in personnel and style than that, melding fuzzy presence, classic ’60s surf-tone, rampant hooky melody and ready-to-go-anywhere-as-long-as-it-works pop experimentalism together in a steaming lysergic cauldron of neo-yourface-ism that’s ether blissed enough to tie funk and ancient R&B to cosmic flow together in a manner that feels like an utter tossoff, like, hey, yeah man, this kind of thing just happens all the time here. You know, no big deal on this wavelength. Mellow dreams in “Great White Silence,” a spacey ramble in “Velvet and Jade” and the echoing leadwork of “Red Anxiety” continue the color theme from the opening title-track, and the record caps with “Herds of Jellyfish,” which at last brings forward the vocal harmony that the whole album seems to have been begging for. Cool debut? Shit, man. It’s 36 minutes of straight-up psych joy just waiting to bring you on board. Legal psilocybin now.

Floral Fauna on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Vvlva, Silhouettes

vvlva silhouettes

There are a couple things you can figure on in this wacky universe, and one of them is that German imprint World in Sound knows what it’s doing when it picks up a classic heavy rock band. Silhouettes is the second long-player the label has released from woefully-monikered Aschaffenburg-based four-piece Vvlva, and indeed in the upfront boogie of “Cosmic Pilgrim” or the more progressive unfolding of pieces like “Tales Told by a Gray Man,” the centerpiece “Gomorrah,” or the longer “Night by Night/The Choir” and “Dance of the Heathens,” which seem to bring the two sides together, there’s enough vintage influence to make the case once again. Like the more forward thinking of their contemporaries, Vvlva have brought this modus into the present when it comes to production value and clarity, and rather than sound like it’s 1973, they would seem to be making 1973 sound like them. Whether one dives in for the early hooks in “Cosmic Pilgrim” or “What Do I Stand For?” or the fuzzy interplay between the solo and organ in the maddeningly bouncing “Hobos,” there’s plenty in Silhouettes to demonstrate the vitality and continued evolution of the style.

Vvlva on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

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Czar Premiere “A Loathing” Video; Debut Album out Jan. 31 on Black Bow Records

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

czar

Early next year — on Jan. 31, like the headline says — Colorado’s Czar will make their full-length debut through the Jon Davis (Conan)-owned Black Bow Records. The label has stood behind any range of extreme sounds and darkened vibes, but with Czar, it’s something of a different take. As their lead single, “A Loathing,” demonstrates, their style is born of a distinctive ’90s flair, following an impulse to distill some of the progressive metal reach of Tool into more palatable, structured fare, keeping the melody and atmosphere and losing the flagrant self-indulgence and contempt-for-audience that came to define that band’s work. “A Loathing” is nothing if not accessible, as the four-piece pare down the nuance to its essentials and present a post-grunge hookiness with nascent moves toward vocal harmony and a chorus that stands very much as the centerpiece of the song.

As a flannel-toting product of the decade in question, even the self-victimized perspective in the lyrics rings somewhat familiar to my ears,czar A Loathing Single but to actually go back and listen to a lot of what’s driving Czar stylistically, it sounds dated, and thankfully, Czar themselves don’t. Vocals are prominent in the mix, but behind them, the groove is weighted in its tonality and playing between a chug and more open chords during the verse and the aforementioned chorus. This too is traditionalist in a way that makes me curious as to what else the band might be up to on the record — and hey, there we are. That’s the whole point of a lead single in the first place: teasing the album from whence it comes. Nice sometimes when things work out the way they’re supposed to.

I don’t have much more info on the album than the fact that it’s coming out in January, but Czar are a new band (formed last year), and they’re clearly looking to make an impression.

You can stream the video below. I hope you enjoy:

Czar, “A Loathing” official video premiere

Formed in 2018 and signed with Black Bow Records (Jon Davis / Conan) in 2019, Czar represents the dawn of a new scene in music. Blending a rock core with grunge tones Czar (Jonathan Mason/vocals, Kalen Mauldin/bass, Nate Wilson/drums, Scott Anderson/guitar & keys) have developed a sound that puts the song center stage. Melodic verses combined with memorable choruses leave listeners hooked and wanting more. Based in Colorado, Czar is breaking new ground and every conventional rule set in front of a band. Expect the debut album on January 31, 2020. Who is Czar? Czar is freedom from established norms. Czar is pure rock n roll. Czar is your new favorite band. The Age of Czar begins now.

Czar is:
Kalen Mauldin, Jonathan Mason, Scott Anderson, Nate Wilson

Czar on Thee Facebooks

Czar on Instagram

Czar on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records webstore

Black Bow Records on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records on Thee Facebooks

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Love Gang Release Debut LP Dead Man’s Game Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

love gang

Working with such classic themes as getting wasted and playing metal, Love Gang‘s first album, Dead Man’s Game, is out today through the band’s own Colfax Records imprint. and it’s a banger in the classic tradition thereof. Actually, it’s kind of a lot of things in the classic tradition. The flute shows up — whew — early and often, and does so amid killer riffs, gravel-throat vocals and an abiding sense that these dudes recorded in between getting off one stage and getting on another, which is just how it should be. Comprised of nine tracks with names like “Addiction” and “Heavy Metal Thunder” and “The Nightwalker,” it’s next-generation metallic rock that wants to be the kind of album you tell your friends about. So friends, I’m telling you. It’s out today.

They’re touring out west next month, including dates with Mothership, which I think once you listen to the record you’ll agree is a sick-ass pairing.

Have at you:

love gang dead mans game

Love Gang debut LP release

Love Gang self-release our debut LP ‘Dead Man’s Game’ Friday 9/13 via Colfax Records on all streaming platforms, and there will be 300 caramel vinyl. Vinyl sales start 9/13 and all order will ship by early October. Recorded by Ben Thompson, mastered by Dennis Pleckham (Comatose Studios, Bongripper).

Formed in 2015, Love Gang is a high-energy rock ‘n roll band based out of Denver, Colorado. Influenced by the obscure and underground rock of the 70s, Love Gang is a throwback to the golden days of rock when amps were loud, hair was long, and the drugs were cheap.

Focusing on concise songwriting and an energetic live show, Love Gang is a rock ‘n roll band at its’ core with bits of psychedelia thrown in for good measure. Propelled by wailing guitars and overdriven organ, Love Gang holds nothing back, each song going full-speed ahead full of blues boogie and hard-hitting rock ‘n roll.

Love Gang toured with Wolfmother as direct support on their most recent US dates last fall and have an upcoming tour, half of which will be supporting Mothership:

Love Gang tour dates:
10/09 Albany, CA @ Ivy Room
10/10 Santa Cruz, CA @ Poet and Patriot Irish Pub
10/11 Oceanside, CA @ Black Plague Brewery
10/12 Los Angeles, CA @ The Monty
10/13 Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse Saloon*
10/14 Mesa, AZ @ Club Red*
10/16 Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep*
10/17 Denver, CO @ Streets of London*
*w/ Mothership

Love Gang is:
Kameron Wentworth: guitar, vox
Leo Muñoz: organ, flute, saxophone
Grady O’Donnell: bass guitar
Shaun Goodwin: drums

http://www.facebook.com/lovegangco
https://www.instagram.com/lovegangco/
https://lovegangco.bandcamp.com/

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game (2019)

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Khemmis Announce December West Coast Dates with Un

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

khemmis

The mighty force of metallic melancholy known as Khemmis will finish out 2019 with a nine-day run down the West Coast, the band taking unto themselves the potentially arduous task of driving through the Rockies in wintertime in order to get from their home in Denver through Utah and Idaho before hitting the more temperate coastline and circling south, ending up where they began with a hometown show at Bluebird Theater on Dec. 14. They’re joined in the endeavor by Un from Seattle, and I can’t help but wonder if this might tie into news of a new album coming next year, either in February, when the music industry returns to life after its winter hibernation, or sometime in Spring. Depends on when they record, duh, but as I haven’t seen news one way or the other about that — doesn’t mean it hasn’t been out there, just that it’s a thing I don’t know — I obviously can’t speak to it. One way or the other, I’d categorize a new LP from them in 2020 as “likely.”

But if “definite” is more your thing, they’re definitely touring. Here are the dates:

khemmis un poster

KHEMMIS Announce West Coast Desolation Tour 2019!

Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet KHEMMIS are proud to announce their West Coast Desolation Tour 2019. The 9-date tour will kick-off on December 16th in Salt Lake City and conclude in Denver, Colorado on December 14th. Joining the band on the tour is Seattle funeral doom warlocks UN.

KHEMMIS comments, “After the success of the first leg of the North American Desolation Tour we are thrilled to announce the West Coast Desolation Tour a nine-date headlining trek with support from Seattle funeral doom warlocks UN. We will conclude the outing with a very special hometown show–our only one this year–featuring a rare local appearance by black metal hellions WAYFARER. Tickets for all shows will go on sale this Friday, we’ll see all of you on the road this winter!”

Tickets will be available for purchase on Friday, August 23 at 10AM PST. For more information visit: www.khemmisdoom.com

Confirmed dates for the KHEMMIS West Coast Desolation Tour 2019 with special guests UN are:
12/06/2019 Salt Lake City UT • Soundwell
12/07/2019 Boise ID • Neurolux
12/08/2019 Seattle WA • The Highline
12/09/2019 Portland OR • Doug Fir Lounge
12/10/2019. Oakland CA • Starline Social Club
12/11/2019 Los Angeles CA • The Echo
12/12/2019 San Diego CA • Brick By Brick
12/13/2019 Phoenix AZ • Club Red
12/14/2019 Denver CO • Bluebird Theater (w/ Wayfarer)

Khemmis are:
Phil Pendergast // guitar, vocals
Ben Hutcherson // guitar, vocals
Daniel Beiers // bass
Zach Coleman // drums

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
www.nuclearblast.de/
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

Khemmis, “Isolation” official video

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Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

Torche on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

Speedealer on Thee Facebooks

Speedealer webstore

 

Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

Mt. Echo on Thee Facebooks

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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Luna Sol Announce New Album Below the Deep out June 21

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

luna sol

From out of the mountains of Colorado come Luna Sol, who are set to issue their second album, Below the Deep, on June 21 through Slush Fund Recordings. Riff heads will note that the band features guitarist Dave Angstrom, whose songcraft is a long-since proven quantity owing to his time in Hermano and Supafuzz. Given that pedigree, it’s not entirely surprising to find some basic discussion of desert rock around the band — having John Garcia on the first record will inevitably help that too — but one would hardly consider them bound by ecosystem in their work. It’s like rock, but you know, heavy. They should really come up with a name for that.

Enjoy heavy rock:

luna sol below the deep

Luna Sol to Release New LP, ‘Below the Deep’, June 21

Denver Rock Group Featuring Former Hermano Guitarist Readies Electric Sophomore Album

Colorado heavy rock hypnotists Luna Sol, which features in its ranks guitarist / vocalist Dave Angstrom, formerly of Kyuss vocalist John Garcia’s early aughts band Hermano and Lexington, Kentucky’s Supafuzz, will release its new LP, ‘Below the Deep’, on June 21 via Slush Fund Recordings / Cargo Records.

Luna Sol (Latin for “moon soil”), plays self-described “high mountain rock”, delivering riff-centric music in the “desert rock” tradition while incorporating more variety. Deceptively tuneful, the band delivers an intoxicating collection of hazy, leaden R’N’R that blends volcanic riffage with an earthquaking crunch while crooning vocals float over the songs like ghostly echoes. Luna Sol’s robotic boogie is catchy in a way that doesn’t so much announce itself as creep up behind you. ‘Below the Deep’ is the follow-up to the group’s 2015 debut, ‘Blood Moon’, an album which featured guest spots from John Garcia, Guns N’ Roses’ Dizzy Reed and Nick Oliveri.

Ominous cover art by Amplified Design (Pallbearer, Brant Bjork) lends a foreboding visual air to the record, which Angstrom says was the plan all along. The clearly troubled personal lyrics of the album create a tension that we can all empathetically relate to. With messages of pain, praise, sorrow, death, rejoicing, revolution and honest apologies, ‘Below the Deep’ takes us on a fairground ride of riffs, hooks and emotions.

“We wanted ‘Below the Deep’ to look and feel like worn out Steven King novel, with artwork that will scare children,” he says. It might. A clothed young woman submerged in a lake at the foothills of the Colorado Mountains is creepy. But Angstrom thrives in the darkness. He was married at the Standley Hotel in Estes Park, the haunted mansion that inspired King’s classic “The Shining.”

“This may be the best record I’ve ever made,” says Angstrom. “Below the Deep is a lyrical confession, served with a fist. It’s a dark cohesive album. Hangings, suffering, pain, recovery, family, life; it all seems to make sense when I’m playing and singing about it. We had a goal to create a straight up, guitar oriented, fist-in-the-air classic rock record. I’m extremely proud of this one.”

Track listing:

1.) Black Cloud
2.) Below the Deep
3.) Along the Road
4.) Man’s Worth Killin’
5.) Sometimes We Get It Right
6.) The Dying Conglomerate
7.) Garden of the Gods
8.) Hallelujah
9.) Mammoth Cave
10.) Wait For It

Pre-order ‘Below the Deep’ at this location

In addition to Dave Angstrom, Luna Sol features David Burke (guitar), Shannon Fahnestock (bass, vocals) and Justin Baier (drums).

https://www.facebook.com/Lunasolmusic/
https://squareup.com/store/slush-fund/.

Luna Sol, Below the Deep album trailer

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Friday Full-Length: 16 Horsepower, Folklore

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

16 Horsepower, Folklore (2002)

I suppose the first question when it comes to 16 Horsepower‘s fourth and final long-player, Folklore, is whether it’s an album, since less than half of it is original material from the band. Based in Denver, Colorado, the band got their start in 1992 and would release Folklore a decade later through Glitterhouse and Jetset Records, even as frontman/principal songwriter David Eugene Edwards had already begun his next project, Wovenhand. With Folklore, Edwards and the original trio lineup of the band — drummer Jean-Yves Tola and bassist Pascal Humbert — came together to work seemingly in direct defiance to their preceding full-length, 2000’s Secret South, which had adopted a more modern style to what’s been lazily dubbed “alt country” but is really a much richer sonic pastiche, drawing from Americana, goth, folk, indeed country, rock and gospel. One might see Folklore as 16 Horsepower reclaiming their central influences in taking on traditional songs as well as Hank Williams‘ “Alone and Forsaken” and The Carter Family‘s rousing “Single Girl,” but they never fail to make any of this starting material their own, and their sound is one of such character and depth of arrangement that their take still remains original, whether it’s the accusatory “Sinnerman” late in the record or the stirring narrative of “Outlaw Song” earlier.

Of the 10 tracks, opener “Hutterite Mile,” “Blessed Persistence,” “Beyond the Pale” and the penultimate “Flutter” are 16 Horsepower compositions, credited to the band and Edwards specifically. “Outlaw Song,” “Sinnerman” and the French-language closer “La Robe a Parasol” are folk songs, and the other two inclusions are as noted above. What keeps Folklore from being an EP packed with covers, basically, is that the originals are spread across the two sides, with “Hutterite Mile” beginning the album with a deep sense of foreboding and downtrodden heart, while “Blessed Persistence” uses snare drum for tension amid strings later while its early moment jabs in jazzy fashion behind Edwards‘ vocals, keys, harmonies and so on fleshing out an arrangement that sounds minimal and isn’t at all. Elements come and go throughout — the organ on “Hutterite Mile,” the telltale banjo of “Outlaw Song,” the consuming cello in the chorus of “Alone and Forsaken,” and the chorus of voices on “Single Girl” on side A, piano and backward cymbals on “Beyond the Pale,” string drones on “Horse Head Fiddle,” acoustic guitar in “Sinnerman,” piano and strings on “Flutter” and accordion on “La Robe a Parasol” on side B — but the entire spirit of Folklore is about nothing so much as the songs themselves. That is, though Edwards is a significant presence on guitar, banjo, vocals, and so on, even he seems to approach this material with a sense of reverence. And fair 16 horsepower folkloreenough, since that goes back to 16 Horsepower returning to their roots, but the care and craft put into making these tracks still can’t be called anything other than progressive in the final result, whatever other genre tags with which one might want to saddle them. There are many that would apply, if incompletely.

Each half of Folklore ends in joy. “Single Girl” arrives after the gorgeous and sad “Alone and Forsaken” and takes the country strum of the Carter Family original and layers Edwards‘ vocals on top for a loyalist chorus effect that begs singing along. Likewise, “La Robe a Parasol” appears after arguably the darkest stretch of material 16 Horsepower ever produced in “Beyond the Pale,” “Horse Head Fiddle,” “Sinnerman” and “Flutter.” Certainly there’s a groove underlying “Horse Head Fiddle” and “Flutter,” but the emotional and atmospheric weight with which they’re executed is crushing, and “La Robe a Parasol” offers 2:15 of escapist snare-brush shuffle and accordion, drunkard’s French and backing woops and hollers to underscore the at-the-fair feel. Side A undergoes a similar shift, to be sure, as it heads toward “Single Girl,” but “Hutterite Mile” — the lines, “It’s only misery/It’s only ankle-deep,” some of the most efficient lyric-writing I’ve ever heard — and “Outlaw Song” and “Blessed Persistence” and even “Alone and Forsaken” aren’t as dark as what the second half of Folklore has on offer. It’s a question of ambience in some respect, but side B simply pushes further into whatever unseen reaches of the American plains the band are traveling. “Horse Head Fiddle” is perhaps the most experimentalist moment on Folklore, with flute, string drones, layers of noise and vocals all too obscure to be readily discernible, and by comparison, “Sinnerman”‘s interwoven dual-track verses are resoundingly straightforward. The underlying structure of Folklore, though, is a tapestry. Of originals and choice covers and folk songs all brought into a singular context the likes of which 16 Horsepower had never built before and never would again. My understanding is that when it came out, response was mixed, but of all the work 16 Horsepower did during their time together, Folklore has arguably held up best — though I won’t take away from Secret South or 1997’s Low Estate or ’95’s Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes either, frankly — perhaps as a result of seeming so out of its own time in the first place.

As mentioned, it’s the band’s final studio outing. They would follow it with a compilation titled Olden the next year, but by then, Edwards already had two Wovenhand releases out in the 2002 self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2003’s Blush Music, and that band would ultimately take priority, going on to issue 10 albums moving in an increasingly heavy direction from their neo-folk beginnings. The latest of those albums, 2016’s Star Treatment (review here), is the most outwardly heavy work they’ve done, but it still retains a tie both to their earlier material and to 16 Horsepower‘s roots as shown on Folklore, with Edwards‘ inimitable style as a driving force. 16 Horsepower have had periodic releases out post-breakup, with two DVDs in the mid-aughts, as well as the excellent Live March 2001 collection in 2008 and a 2CD comp of greatest hits and rare tracks, respectively, titled Yours Truly in 2011. That latter would seem to be a true signoff on the part of the band, which is fair enough, but especially listening to Folklore, it’s clear that there was still so much exploring of these ideas to do when they called it quits, even if that creative growth was taken in different directions in the years since.

I love this record.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s about five-thirty in the morning. I’ve already put up two posts of the six slated for today — yesterday wound up being seven, which is a lot — and I’m still getting caught up on stuff post-Roadburn. Man, what a trip that was. So good. Every year. So good.

It happens once or twice a year that in the span of a day or two you wind up getting what you immediately know will be some of the year’s best records. For my own future reference, I’d like to note that this week albums from Slough Feg, Sun Blood Stories, Kandodo3, Slomatics, Beastwars, Zaum and Yawning Man came in for future coverage. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a week where I’ve ended up so happy to check my email.

Ah, the baby’s getting up.

Okay, I’ll keep it short then. Notes for next week, cut and paste right from the document. Next week rules:

MON 04/22 LOS MUNDOS ALBUM STREAM/GETAWAY VAN VIDEO PREMIERE

TUE 04/23 ALTAR OF OBLIVION ALBUM STREAM

WED 04/24 WORSHIPPER TRACK PREMIERE

THU 04/25 STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC REVIEW/FULL STREAM

FRI 04/26 THE WELL VIDEO PREMIERE/REVIEW

As you can see, I have no set format for these things. I just put them in all caps and hope to remember them when the time comes. Being a one-man operation has its ups and downs. Doing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch daily fanzine at Roadburn always brings those into relief, though I will note that this year particularly made me miss having a writing staff. I don’t think I could take one on here, but yeah. That’s a good bunch of people over there and I’m fortunate to work with them.

Looks like a permanent move back to New Jersey may be in the cards for this summer. I’ll keep you posted.

More on that later, I’m sure, but for now let me go grab this poor kid and start the day. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget there’s merch at Dropout, and please don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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Dreadnought Release Emergence May 10; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dreadnought

I was lucky enough to have occasion to see Colorado’s Dreadnought last year at Psycho Las Vegas (review here) as they supported their earlier-2018 third album, A Wake in Sacred Waves (review here). To be honest, I thought it could go either way. They’re an interesting band. Stylistically, they’re incredibly nuanced, and their progressive method of songcraft on the third album found them mashing together subgenres like a mile high hadron collider, but doing that in the studio and doing it live are two very different things. Fortunately for me and everyone else at Psycho to witness it, they underscored their creative scope with an intensity of delivery that only built on the impact of their studio presence. It was a thing to behold.

They have a few dates scheduled for the Spring — a stop at the Psycho Smokeout follows up on the Vegas appearance — and in summer, they head out on a tour that will bring them to the East Coast as they spread the good word of their new album, Emergence, which is out May 10 on Profound Lore. They have a song from it streaming now that you can and should check out at the bottom of this post, particularly if you’re one of those people who argue nobody’s doing anything anymore to push boundaries and wish to be proven wrong.

From the PR wire:

dreadnought emergence

DREADNOUGHT: Progressive Doom Bringers Announce US Summer Tour Including Dates With Big|Brave; Emergence Full-Length To See Release Via Profound Lore

Denver progressive doom bringers DREADNOUGHT have confirmed a stretch of US live dates to kick off the summer season. Set to commence on June 21st and run through July 7th, the trek includes eight shows supporting Montreal’s Big|Brave, and follows several previously-announced performances this spring including an appearance at Psycho Smokeout in Los Angeles, California alongside Elder, Monolord, Belzebong, Amenra, Uada, and more. See all confirmed dates below.

DREADNOUGHT will release their anticipated new full-length, Emergence, on May 10th via Profound Lore. For their fourth long player, DREADNOUGHT follows up their 2017 A Wake In Sacred Waves acclamation with an album that takes their singular multiplex and pictorial sound to new sonic realms even more heavily textile, complex, and vastly designed. Emergence sees the four-piece – vocalist/guitarist/flute player Kelly Schilling, drummer/saxophone player Jordan Clancy, keyboardist/vocalist Lauren Vieira, and bassist/mandolin player Kevin Handlon – delving more into heavier and darker sonic territory as well, an aspect that was evident with A Wake… but has become fully realized with Emergence.

Engineered and mixed by Andy Patterson (Subrosa) and mastered by James Plotkin (Khanate), with art and design by Mark Facey, Emergence will be released on CD, LP, and digital formats via Profound Lore with preorders to be available in the weeks to come.

DREADNOUGHT Live:
4/17/2019 Hi-Dive – Denver, CO w/ UADA, Cloak, Wormwitch
4/20/2019 Psycho Smokeout @ Catch One – Los Angeles, CA
4/21/2019 Club Red Mesa – Mesa, AZ w/ Monolord
4/22/2019 Sister – Albuquerque, NM w/ Monolord
5/26/2019 The Bluebird Theater – Denver, CO w/ Alien Weaponry
6/21/2019 Triple Nickel – Colorado Springs, CO *
6/22/2019 Hi-Dive – Denver, CO *
6/24/2019 Cactus Club – Milwaukee, WI *
6/25/2019 Subterranean Downstairs – Chicago, IL *
6/26/2019 Sanctuary – Detroit, MI *
6/27/2019 Hong Kong – Boston, MA *
6/28/2019 Kingsland – Brooklyn, NY *
6/29/2019 Geno’s – Portland, ME *
7/01/2019 Cafe Nine – New Haven, CT
7/02/2019 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
7/03/2019 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
7/04/2019 Wonderland – Richmond, VA
7/05/2019 Cosmic Charlie’s – Lexington, KY
7/06/2019 Fubar – Saint Louis, MO
7/07/2019 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
* w/ Big|Brave

“Emergence” track listing:
1. Besieged
2. Still
3. Pestilent
4. Tempered
5. The Waking Realm

DREADNOUGHT are:
Kelly Schilling – Guitar, Flute, Clean and Harsh Vocals
Jordan Clancy – Drums, Alto/Tenor Saxophone
Kevin Handlon – Bass, Mandolin, Lyrics
Lauren Vieira – Keys, Clean Vocals

http://www.facebook.com/dreadnoughtband/
http://www.instagram.com/dreadnoughtdenver
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.instagram.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.twitter.com/profound_lore

Dreadnought, “Beseiged”

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