Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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The Sonic Dawn Announce Phantom LP Out May 10; Premiere “Iron Bird”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Copenhagen psychedelic heavycrafters The Sonic Dawn are releasing their new album, Phantom, on May 10 through Heavy Psych Sounds. Preorders are up as of this announcement and you’ll find the links below, under the player bringing us “Iron Bird” as the first single to come from the record. You might recall their most recent long-player was 2020’s Enter the Mirage (discussed here). That was their third outing under the Heavy Psych Sounds banner behind 2019’s Eclipse (discussed here), 2017’s Into the Long Night (review here), their debut, Perception (review here), having been issued through Nasoni in 2015.

That makes Phantom their fourth album, and it’s also the first to be released since they marked their 10th anniversary as a band last year. In the interim since Enter the Mirage, frontman Emile Bureau has focused on solo work playing as just Emile and also releasing through Heavy Psych Sounds. “Iron Bird” marks a striking return for The Sonic Dawn, who with it present an earthier groove than one might expect from a band so generally given to ethereal float. Not that there’s none of that happening in the track, but they call it proto-metal, and you can hear that in there; a lean toward a more straightforward side of vintage-ism is by no means beyond The Sonic Dawn‘s reach at this point, or entirely unexpected. They’re songwriters. At a certain point, once you’ve got that, you can take it anywhere.

I haven’t heard Phantom in full, so can’t speak to how “Iron Bird” ties in, but it’s neither the band’s nor the label’s nor my first time at this particular dance, so I’ll cut the bullshit and say I hold this band to a pretty high standard of craft. They’ve shown themselves to be up to that over time, and their work has developed a personality and perspective of its own while remaining open to new ideas and thoughtful of its audience. They’re not going to be for everyone, but nothing is. Maybe they’re for you and that’s why you’re here. Great, and I mean that.

You’ll find “Iron Bird” on the player below, followed by a quote from the band, preorder links and more info from the PR wire.

Goes like this:

The Sonic Dawn, “Iron Bird” track premiere

The Sonic Dawn on “Iron Bird”:

Iron Bird is a protest against organized mass murder and the war pigs who run the show. As we see it humanity stands at a crossroads – a choice between sharing and coexistence or inevitable extinction. There will be no winners only death. Such a message calls for a heavy sound. On Iron Bird we explore an almost proto-metal style but fully psychedelic. If that sounds unsettling to you you’re getting the right picture. Much like the psychedelic experience itself our new album “PHANTOM” oscillates between the terrifying and the beautiful. Iron Bird certainly resides on the dark side of that spectrum. Brace yourself for a journey into some heavy acid rock.

THE SONIC DAWN – New album “PHANTOM” out May 10th on Heavy Psych Sounds



Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, The Sonic Dawn is one of Europe’s most prominent current acid rock bands.

Formed in 2013 by childhood friends Emil Bureau, Jonas Waaben, and Niels ‘Bird’ Fuglede, the trio has delivered four albums, celebrated for their dynamic fusion of genres from sitar pop to heavy psych. Their highly anticipated fifth LP is slated for release this spring via Heavy Psych Sounds.

The debut album, Perception (2015), marked their international breakthrough with Berlin-based Nasoni Records. The sophomore release, Into the Long Night (2017), launched on Heavy Psych Sounds, accompanied by an extensive European album tour—some 60 shows, including two weeks with Brant Bjork (US)—solidifying their presence. The subsequent album, Eclipse (2019), earned acclaim as “easily one of the best psychedelic pop albums of the decade,” and once again the group hit the road hard, playing in 11 different countries.

In 2020, The Sonic Dawn unveiled Enter the Mirage, recognized as “a modern psych classic” by Shindig Magazine. While the planned album tour was cut short, it was possible to play on WDR’s legendary TV show Rockpalast, which has featured David Bowie, the Grateful Dead, and many more through the years.

Now, their highly anticipated fifth album, Phantom (2024), is set for a worldwide release on May 10th, 2024. Formally welcoming long-time collaborator Erik ‘Errka’ Petersson as a new studio band member on organ/keys, The Sonic Dawn continues its sonic journey. Culminating from four years of creating music, the album showcases a raw and heavy musical style blended with the melodic psychedelia for which the band is renowned.

The band is gearing up for an extensive European tour in 2024-2025, promising a further development of their mind-altering exploration.

Emil Bureau – Guitars / Vocals
Jonas Waaben – Drums
Niels Bird – Bass



The Sonic Dawn, Enter the Mirage (2020)

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Emile to Release Spirit Sept. 29; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Emil Bureau, known for fronting Copenhagen psych rockers The Sonic Dawn, has set Sept. 29 as the release date for his second album under his Emile solo moniker, Spirit. The follow-up to 2020’s The Black Spider (review here) promises broader arrangements and collaborations around the self-recording/mixing multi-instrumentalist, who is streaming the subdued but immersive “Circles” as the first audio to come from the record.

Tracked at the proverbial away-from-it-all locale, Spirit boasts 10 songs, and going by the various impressions of the first record and the pair of singles Bureau has issued since, I wouldn’t expect “Circles” to fully represent Spirit from whence it comes, but it is enough to get some idea of tone and atmosphere, and it grows more psychedelic as it moves through its utterly-digestible four-minute span, folkish in a way that reminds particularly of 16 Horsepower or the early work of David Eugene Edwards in Woven Hand. Not a thing about which to complain.

The PR wire has it like this:

emile spirit

Folk and psych rock songwriter EMILE to release new solo album “Spirit” this September 29th on Heavy Psych Sounds; stream first single “Circles”.

Danish psych-folk songwriter EMILE (also frontman of The Sonic Dawn) announces the release of his sophomore album “Spirit” this September 29th on Heavy Psych Sounds Records, and presents a soulful first single with “Circles”.

Danish-French singer and songwriter EMILE is also known for fronting Copenhagen acid rock band The Sonic Dawn. On his new solo effort “Spirit”, Emile unfolds a new and exciting side of his songwriting: each song ebbs and flows effortlessly with a great sense of purpose always centered around his voice and masterful acoustic guitar playing.

On “Spirit”, EMILE is backed by a small ensemble of selected musicians and blackbirds singing the sundown. The lyrics reflect an unpretentious cosmic consciousness simply marveling at existence as it is. “Spirit is about connecting with our surroundings, with nature and the universe. There is beauty in transformation too”, he reminds us. This is a different album from a different singer-songwriter, both surrealistic and easy to understand, accomplished and untamed light and heavy — like the passing of time.

About his new single “Circles”, he comments: “Circles is about expanding horizons and breaking free from tracing one’s own footsteps. About seeking out new experiences traveling, discovering and learning. With an eclectic mix of otherworldly sounds and instruments, it delivers a simple but determined idea: the universe is calling if you just listen.”

All songs were written and performed by Emil Bureau, with additional instruments by Jonas Waaben (percussion), Erik Errka Petersson (Hammond Organ), Morten Grønvad (vibraphone) and Rasmus Miehe Sørensen (flute). It was recorded and produced by Emil Bureau in a beautiful place in the countryside. Mixed by Emil Bureau at The Village Recording (Copenhagen) and mastered by Hans Olsson Brookes in Svenska Grammofon Studion Mastering (Gothenburg). Artwork by Robin Gnista.

EMILE – New album “Spirit”
Out September 29th on Heavy Psych Sounds – PREORDER: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS284

1. Easy Ride
2. Nocturnal
3. Elegant Spring
4. Heavy Rain
5. Images
6. The Mountains of Cape Creus
7. Circles
8. Thunderbird
9. Wilderness
10. Images (Slight Return)



Emile, “Circles”

Emile, “Efterårsblade” single (2022)

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Demon Head Revisit “Demon Head” for 10th Anniversary with Jinx Dawson & Coven

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

One doesn’t even have to click play to hear the original hook of Demon Head‘s “Demon Head” on the ol’, increasingly dusty mental jukebox. The song first appeared on a Danish doom rock traditionalists’ Caligari-issued Demo 2014 tape (review here), and would show up again on the two-songer Winterland (review here) later that year and on side B of their debut album, Ride the Wilderness (review here), in 2015.

It is their quintessential, in some ways defining, work, and in light of that, their revisiting the track to mark their 10th anniversary as a group could hardly be more appropriate. The ‘new’ single comes with the bonus of being made in collaboration with cult legends Coven, whose founding vocalist Jinx Dawson is positioned alongside the band’s own Marcus Ferreira Larsen in the verses and rolling hook. It was killer nine years ago, so it’s not really a surprise “Demon Head” holds up — hasn’t been that long — but the arrangement is creative here and it’s a reminder of how malleable a well-written song can be.

You can see the video at the bottom of this post, and yeah, it’s a little over-the-top with the skull and all that, but there are photos and memories from the band’s decade together, so a sweet undercurrent to the whole thing. Dig it:

Demon Head demon Head

Demon Head featuring Jinx Dawson & Coven

Today marks the release of a song that celebrates ten years of life, blood and demon adventures. A completely reimagined version of the very first one we ever wrote, a decade ago this month.

On this recording we are joined by our dear friends Jinx and Coven, Anders M Jørgensen and Brandon.

Thank you all for the support through the years, which has made this whole voyage worthwhile! The second decade looks to begin with a fiery spirit and there is much more to come …

Find the song and David Thelen’s music video by following this link: https://bit.ly/demonhead

The song is also available at our bandcamp as a name-your-price download: https://demonhead.bandcamp.com

Pre-save the single: https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/demonhead1/demon-head-feat-jinx-dawson–coven

See you soon at this summer’s festivals!

We remain humbly,
Your Demons

Recorded at No Master’s Voice
Mixed by Flemming Rasmussen at Sweet Silence Studios
Mastered by Magnus Lindberg at VRTKL
Video footage by Kristian Blond Møller, Alex Kercheval and Jess

Guests on this recording:
Jinx Dawson – Vocals
Chris Wild – Guitar solo and vocals
Chris Vaughn Bird – Guitar solo
Alex Kercehval – Zither harp
Brandon Monohaus – Tape echo manipulation
Anders M Jørgensen – Guitar solo

Demon Head line up:
Mikkel Sander Fuglsang – bass
Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Marcus Ferreira Larsen – vocals
Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Jeppe Wittus – drums


Demon Head, “Demon Head” (feat. Jinx Dawson & Coven) official video

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Quarterly Review: Rotor, Seer of the Void, Moodoom, Altered States, Giöbia, Astral Hand, Golden Bats, Zeup, Giant Sleep, Green Yeti

Posted in Reviews on April 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Oh hi, I’m pretending I didn’t see you there. Today the Spring 2023 Quarterly Review hits and — if Apollo is willing — passes the halfway point en route to 70 total records to be covered by the end of next Tuesday. Then there’s another 50 at least to come next month, so I don’t know what ‘quarter’ that’s gonna be but I don’t really have another name for this kind of roundup just sitting in my back pocket, so if we have to fudge one or expand Spring in such a way, I sincerely doubt anyone but me actually cares that it’s a little weird this time through. And I’m not even sure I care, to be honest. Surely “notice” would be a better word.

Either way, thanks for reading. Hope you’ve found something cool thus far and hope you find more today. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Rotor, Sieben

rotor 7

Seven full-lengths and a quarter-century later, it’s nigh on impossible to argue with Berlin instrumentalists Rotor. Sieben — or simply 7, depending on where you look — is their latest offering, and in addition to embracing heavy psychedelia with enough tonal warmth on “Aller Tage Abend” to remind that they’re contemporaries to Colour Haze, the seven-song/38-minute LP has room for the jazzy classic prog flashes of “Mäander” later on and the more straight-ahead fuzzy crunch of “Reibach,” which opens, and the contrast offered by the acoustic guitar and friendly roll that emerges on the closing title-track. Dug into the groove and Euro-size XXL (that’s XL to Americans) riffing of “Kahlschlag,” there’s never a doubt that it’s Rotor you’re hearing, and the same is true of “Aller Tage Abend,” the easy-nodding second half and desert-style chop of “Schabracke,” and everything else; the simple fact is that Rotor these 25 years on can be and in fact are all of these things and more besides while also being a band who have absolutely nothing to prove. Sieben celebrates their progression, the riffs at their roots, the old and new in their makeup and the mastery with which they’ve made the notion of ‘instrumental heavy rock’ so much their own. It’s a lesson gladly learned again, and 2023 is a better year with Sieben in it.

Rotor on Facebook

Noisolution website


Seer of the Void, Mantra Monolith

Seer of the Void Mantra Monolith

Athens-based sludge-and-then-some rockers Seer of the Void follow their successful 2020 debut, Revenant, with the more expansive Mantra Monolith, enacting growth on multiple levels, be it the production and general largesse of their sound, the songs becoming a bit longer (on average) or the ability to shift tempos smoothly between “Electric Father” and “Death is My Name” without giving up either momentum or the attitude as emphasized in the gritty vocals of bassist Greg “Maddog” Konstantaras. Side B’s “Demon’s Hand” offers a standout moment of greater intensity, but Seer of the Void are hardly staid elsewhere, whether it’s the swinging verse of “Hex” that emerges from the massive intro, or the punkish vibe underscoring the nonetheless-metal head-down chug in the eponymous “Seer of the Void.” They cap with a clearheaded fuzzy solo in “Necromancer,” seeming to answer the earlier “Seventh Son,” and thereby highlight the diversity manifest from their evolution in progress, but if one enjoyed the rougher shoves of Revenant (or didn’t; prior experience isn’t a barrier to entry), there remains plenty of that kind of tonal and rhythmic physicality in Mantra Monolith.

Seer of the Void on Facebook

Venerate Industries on Bandcamp


Moodoom, Desde el Bosque

Moodoom Desde el Bosque

Organic roots doom from the trio Moodoom — guitarist/vocalist Cristian Marchesi, bassist/vocalist Jonathan Callejas and drummer Javier Cervetti — captured en vivo in the band’s native Buenos Aires, Desde el Bosque is the trio’s second LP and is comprised of five gorgeous tracks of Sabbath-worshiping heavy blues boogie, marked by standout performances from Marchesi and Callejas often together on vocals, and the sleek Iommic riffing that accounts as well for the solos layered across channels in the penultimate “Nadie Bajará,” which is just three minutes long but speaks volumes on what the band are all about, which is keep-it-casual mellow-mover heavy, the six-minute titular opening/longest track (immediate points) swaggering to its own swing as meted out by Cervetti with a proto-doomly slowdown right in the middle before the lightly-funked solo comes in, and the finale “Las Maravillas de Estar Loco” (‘the wonders of being crazy,’ in English) rides the line between heavy rock and doom with no less grace, introducing a line of organ or maybe guitar effects along with the flawless groove proffered by Callejas and Cervetti. It’s only 23 minutes long, but definitely an album, and exactly the way a classic-style power trio is supposed to work. Gorgeously done, and near-infinite in its listenability.

Moodoom on Facebook

Moodoom on Bandcamp


Altered States, Survival


The second release and debut full-length from New Jersey-based trio Altered States runs seven tracks and 34 minutes and finds individualism in running a thread through influences from doom and heavy rock, elder hardcore and metal, resulting in the synth-laced stylistic intangibility of “A Murder of Crows” on side A and the smoothly-delivered proportion of riff in the eponymous “Altered States” later on, bassist Zack Kurland (Green Dragon, ex-Sweet Diesel, etc.) taking over lead vocals in the verse to let guitarist/synthesist Ryan Lipynsky (Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path, The Howling Wind, etc.) take the chorus, while drummer Chris Daly (Texas is the Reason, Resurrection, 108, etc.) punctuates the urgency in opener “The Crossing” and reinforces the nod of “Cerberus.” There’s an exploration of dynamic underway on multiple levels throughout, whether it’s the guitar and keys each feeling out their space in the mix, or the guitar and bass, vocal arrangements, and so on, but with the atmospheric centerpiece “Hurt” — plus that fuzz right around the 2:30 mark before the build around the album’s title line — just two songs past the Motörheaded “Mycelium,” it’s clear that however in-development their sound may be, Altered States already want for nothing as regards reaching out from their doom rocking center, which is that much richer with multiple songwriters behind it.

Altered States on Facebook

Altered States on Bandcamp


Giöbia, Acid Disorder

giobia acid disorder

Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Queen of Wands” is so hypnotic you almost don’t expect its seven minutes to end, but of course they do, and Italian strange-psych whatevernauts Giöbia proceed from there to float guitar over and vocals over the crunched-down “The Sweetest Nightmare” before the breadth of “Consciousness Equals Energy” and “Screaming Souls” melds outer-rim-of-the-galaxy space prog with persistently-tripped Europsych lushness, heavy in its underpinnings but largely unrestrained by gravity or concerns for genre. Acid Disorder is the maybe-fifth long-player from the Italian cosmic rocking aural outsiders, and their willingness to dive into the unknown is writ large through the synth and organ layers and prominent strum of “Blood is Gone,” the mix itself becoming no less an instrument in the band’s collective hand than the guitar, bass, drums, vocals, etc. Ultra-fluid throughout (duh), the eight-songer tops out around 44 minutes and is an adventure for the duration, the drift of side B’s instrumental “Circo Galattico” reveling in experimentalism over a somehow-solidified rhythm while “In Line” complements in answer to “The Sweetest Nightmare” picking up from “Queen of Wands” at the outset, leaving the closing title-track on its own, which seems to fit its synth-and-sitar-laced serenity just fine. Band sounds like everything and nobody but themselves, reliably.

Giöbia on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Astral Hand, Lords of Data

Astral Hand Lords of Data

Like everything, Milwaukee heavy psychedelia purveyors Astral Hand were born out of destruction. In this case, it’s the four-piece’s former outfit Calliope that went nova, resulting in the recycling of cosmic gasses and gravitational ignition wrought in the debut album Lords of Data‘s eight songs, the re-ish-born new band benefitting from the experience of the old as evidenced by the patient unfolding of side A capper “Psychedelicide,” the defining hook in “Universe Machine” and the shove-then-drone-then-shove in “End of Man” and the immersive heft in opener “Not Alone” that brings the listener deep into the nod from the very start of the first organ notes so that by the time they’ve gone as far out as the open spaces of “Navigator” and the concluding “God Emperor,” their emergent command of the ethereal is unquestionable. They work a little shuffle into that finale, which is an engaging touch, but Lords of Data — a thoroughly modern idea — isn’t limited to that any more than it is the atmospheric grandiosity and lumber of “Crystal Gate” that launches side B. One way or the other, these dudes have been at it for more than a decade going back to the start of Calliope, but Astral Hand is a stirring refresh of purpose on their part and one hopes their lordship continues to flourish. I don’t know that they’re interested in such terrestrial concerns, but they’d be a great pickup for some discerning label.

Astral Hand on Facebook

Astral Hand on Bandcamp


Golden Bats, Scatter Yr Darkness

Golden Bats Scatter Yr Darkness

Slow-churning intensity is the order of the day on Scatter Yr Darkness, the eight-song sophomore LP from now-Italy-based solo-outfit Golden Bats, aka Geordie Stafford, who sure enough sprinkles death, rot and no shortage of darkness across the album’s 41-minute span, telling tales through metaphor in poetic lyrics of pandemic-era miseries; civic unrest and disaffection running like a needle through split skin to join the various pieces together. Echoing shouts give emphasis to the rawness of the sludge in “Holographic Stench” and “Erbgrind,” but in that eight-minute cut there’s a drop to cinematic, not-actually-minimalist-but-low-volume string sounds, and “Breathe Misery” begins with Mellotron-ish melancholy that hints toward the synth at the culmination of “A Savage Dod” and in the middle of “Malingering,” so nothing is actually so simple as the caustic surface makes it appear. Drums are programmed and the organ in “Bravo Sinkhole” and other keys may be as well, I don’t know, but as Stafford digs into Golden Bats sonically and conceptually — be it the bareknuckle “Riding in the Captain’s Skull” at the start or the raw-throated vocal echo spread over “The Gold Standard of Suffering,” which closes — the harshness of expression goes beyond the aural. It’s been a difficult few years, admittedly.

Golden Bats on Facebook

Golden Bats on Bandcamp


Zeup, Mammals

zeup mammals

Straightforward in a way that feels oldschool in speaking to turn-of-the-century era heavy rock influences — big Karma to Burn vibe in the riffs of “Hollow,” and not by any means only there — the debut album Mammals from Danish trio Zeup benefits from decades of history in metal and rock on the part of drummer Morten Barth (ex-Wasted) and bassist/producer Morten Rold (ex-Beyond Serenity), and with non-Morten guitarist Jakob Bach Kristensen (also production) sharing vocals with Rold, they bring a down-to-business sensibility to their eight component tracks that can’t be faked. That’s consistent with 2020’s Blind EP (review here) and a fitting demonstration for any who’d take it on that sometimes you don’t need anything more than the basic guitar, bass, drums, vocals when the songs are there. Sure, they take some time to explore in the seven-minute instrumental “Escape” before hitting ground again in the aptly-titled slow post-hardcore-informed closer “In Real Life,” but even that is executed with clear intention and purpose beyond jamming. I’ll go with “Rising” as a highlight, but it’s a pick-your-poison kind of record, and there’s an awful lot that’s going to sound needlessly complicated in comparison.

Zeup on Facebook

Ozium Records store


Giant Sleep, Grounded to the Sky

giant sleep grounded to the sky

Grounded to the Sky is the third LP from Germany’s Giant Sleep, and with it the band hones a deceptively complex scope drawn together in part by vocalist Thomas Rosenmerkel, who earns the showcase position with rousing blues-informed performances on the otherwise Tool-ish prog metal title-track and the later-Soundgardening leadoff before it, “Silent Field.” On CD and digital, the record sprawls across nearly an hour, but the vinyl edition is somewhat tighter, leaving off “Shadow Walker” and “The Elixir” in favor of a 43-minute run that puts the 4:43 rocker “Sour Milk” in the closer position, not insubstantially changing the personality of the record. Founded by guitarist Patrick Hagmann, with Rosenmerkel in the lineup as well as guitarist/backing vocalist Tobias Glanzmann (presumably that’ll be him in the under-layer of “Siren Song”), bassist Radek Stecki and drummer Manuel Spänhauer, they sound full as a five-piece and are crisp in their production and delivery even in the atmospherically minded “Davos,” which dares some float and drift along with a political commentary and feels like it’s taking no fewer chances in doing so, and generally come across as knowing who they are as a band and what they want to do with their sound, then doing it. In fact, they sound so sure, I’m not even certain why they sent the record out for review. They very obviously know they nailed what they were going for, and yes, they did.

Giant Sleep on Facebook

Czar of Crickets Productions website


Green Yeti, Necropolitan

Green Yeti Necropolitan

It’s telling that even the CD version of Green Yeti‘s Necropolitan breaks its seven tracks down across two sides. The Athens trio of guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist Dani Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis touch on psychedelic groove in the album-intro “Syracuse” before turning over to the pure post-Kyuss rocker “Witch Dive,” which Andresakis doing an admirable John Garcia in the process, before the instrumental “Jupiter 362” builds tension for five minutes without ever exploding, instead giving out to the quiet start of side A’s finish in “Golgotha,” which likewise builds but turns to harsher sludge rock topped by shouts and screams in the midsection en route to an outright cacophonous second half. That unexpected turn — really, the series of them — makes it such that as the bass-swinging “Dirty Lung” starts its rollout on side B, you don’t know what’s coming. The answer is half-Sleepy ultra-burl, but still. “Kerosene” stretches out the desert vibe somewhat, but holds a nasty edge to it, and the nine-minute “One More Bite,” which closes the record, has a central nod but feels at any moment like it might swap it for further assault. Does it? It’s worth listening to the record front to back to find out. Hail Greek heavy, and Green Yeti‘s willingness to pluck from microgenre at will is a good reason why.

Green Yeti on Facebook

Green Yeti on Bandcamp


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Review & Video Premiere: Edena Gardens, Agar

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on March 14th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

edena gardens agar

Edena Gardens, “Veil” video premiere

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Edena Gardens’ video for “Veil.” Their new album, Agar, is out April 7 on El Paraiso Records.]

Two albums in a year’s time is a pretty quick turnaround anyhow, but Edena Gardens released their self-titled debut (review here) in late October, and Agar — the instrumental trio’s follow-up, released like its predecessor on El Paraiso — will be out less than six months later. Without knowing the recording circumstances of one and the other, it’s hard to gauge whether the returning three-piece of baritone/bass guitarist Martin Rude, drummer Jakob Skøtt and guitarist Nicklas Sørensen are actually creating that fast or if one or the other record was in the can, either the debut’s release delayed and the second album written in the interim, or the two recorded at the same time and edited into multiple sessions à la Big Scenic Nowhere, but one way or the other, Agar‘s arrival-on-heels delivers plainly the message that despite the fact that Rude and Skøtt are members of Causa Sui and related projects like London Odense Ensemble and Sørensen is accounted for in fellow Danish explorationists PapirEdena Gardens is going to be a real band.

It was the biggest question coming out of Edena Gardens, and the answer feels all the more declarative for the short break between that and the eight songs and 46 minutes (the first was seven/41) offered in Agar, even as the material itself seems to move forward and ponder who and what Edena Gardens are going to be as a band. The answer this time is complex, whether it’s the seven-minute opener “Forst” (in English: ‘first’), which mindfully stumbles in on a drum fill and in medias res-feeling strums, taking all of six seconds — no less crucial for their brevity in setting an atmosphere of improvisation-in-the-room; a subliminally functioning ambience that reminds of communication studies in how it tells the audience where they are — to get its footing before jamming out like the day in 1994 when all the kids who had been playing grunge unanimously voted to invite Neil Young to the party, or side B counterpart “Halcyon Days,” which runs just 1:31 and is hardly more than a snippet but expressive and memorable in its floating guitar lead over Rude‘s baritone rhythm, an escapist drone filling out behind, cymbals maybe there but so gentle they’re practically static I can’t be sure if I’m imagining them or not. And I don’t just mean it’s a complex answer; ‘complex’ is who they’re going to be.

Fair enough as they shift from the lightly jazz-improv vibe that caps “Forst” into the shorter “Sombra Del Mar” with its wistful swells of floating guitar and deceptively lighthearted bounce, a contemplative meander out for one walk rhythmically and another melodically and meeting up in the echoing resonance, smoothing out for a time and then splitting off again as the drums crash with time-to-go finality at 3:42 only to keep going for a while longer behind the serene drone guitar, complementing in a way that feels organically off the cuff. Closing side A is Agar‘s longest track, the  12:31 “Veil” (premiering above), which starts with foreboding drums and near-Western swagger of strum in its first minute-plus, Rude and Skøtt reminding a bit of Earth (plus keys) before Sørensen‘s forward higher frequencies stretch out over top.

“Veil” wants to roll, and so it does as it cycles through, Sørensen diving into a more decisive ‘lead’ around three and half minutes in as they build subtly amid hypnotic repetition, the part gradually changing in the midsection — I’m not sure if that’s bass or baritone guitar, but if you’ve got headphones you can hear the strings vibrate — to emerge circa the seven-minute mark in a place adjacent to but different from where it started, still riding that initial groove. At 8:38, Skøtt turns to the ride cymbal and that seems to signal a pickup in energy for all three as “Veil” winds toward a crescendo of reshaping, finding a way toward heavy rock solo-topped nod without giving up the peaceful vibe in service to volume without reason, with a crash and burst of amp noise as if to say, “sorry this jam has exploded, please try another.” So it goes with a band brave enough to be honest about who they are as players and creators. Sometimes a thing just needs to end, and the sense that “Veil” was edited to finish like that is part of Edena Gardens‘ aesthetic; the studio itself becoming another instrument in the realization of the songs.

edena gardens (Photo by Hannibal-Bach)

The aforementioned and duly sentimental “Halcyon Days” follows to softly launch a procession of shorter pieces en route to the near-10-minute “Crescent Helix” at Agar‘s conclusion. “Dreich” follows “Halcyon Days” with a willful-feeling contrast in purpose, starting wholly exploratory with cymbal wash and melodic swell before working into a more grounded movement of subdued baritone and (regular ol’) guitar, doppler keyboard or synth or guitar effects or whatever that is going by at steady intervals as the trio figure out the direction in real-time, Skøtt again telling all when to bring it down. Toms, keys and especially floating, noodling guitar unfurl themselves across the two minutes of “Ascender,” some backwards soloing tucked away near the end but still leaving room for residual echoes to fade; an inhale, perhaps, before the deeper dive into the penultimate “Montezuma” and “Crescent Helix.”

In its underlying low-frequency strum, loose ’90s nostalgia and aspects of drone rock, “Montezuma” feels like kin to “Veil” and even “Halcyon Days,” and comes across somewhat as a combination of the two, while its central movement feels built off Chris Isaak‘s “Wicked Game” and is topped by a more sweeping solo. Edena Gardens aren’t so hook-minded, necessarily, but Agar has a number of standout moments and Sørensen crafts another as the record makes its way into its last section, a long note held at 4:25 like a howl before cycling through again to end “Montezuma” in appropriately thoughtful fashion before “Crescent Helix” announces its arrival with an immediate reorientation of focus on free jazz that feels like an extension almost of the setting-forth that began “Forst.”

Clocking in at 9:55, “Crescent Helix” has room to spread out, and is lush without being overbaked as it constructs and explores the space in which it resides, never quite completely giving up the bent-note skronk of its introduction even as it draws the multiple sides of Edena Gardens‘ approach together, fluidly jamming from the relative cacophony into a midpoint cymbal wash that’s ’70s sentimental in the guitar beneath creating an oddball languid motion, a melting of images still being drawn. The drums transition into more active toms before about 7:30, and Rude and Sørensen follow shortly thereafter, the whole band almost reluctantly hitting an apex before a gently winding final few measures close, a bit of hum and last cymbal taps end, either a tom thud or pedal clicking off calling back once more to the natural spirit in which Agar commenced, or, at very least, keeping in tune with the theme.

Where the self-titled was more tentative in its personality, Agar comes across sure-footed in the forward progressive steps it finds Edena Gardens taking. And while it signals clearly (with a universe of infinite possibilities as a caveat) that they’re going to keep the project going, it also asks more questions about what their ultimate stylistic reach is going to be. Agar rests well alongside some of El Paraiso‘s more psych-jazz offerings, but it’s not just that and it’s not just rock and roll either, and that’s part of what makes it exciting to hear, since by avoiding the trap of one thing or another, Edena Gardens invariably become themselves. To what it will lead, and when, are intriguing thoughts, but in just a matter of months, Edena Gardens have traced a path that is thoroughly their own and begun to survey the surroundings. One hopes that, if and when they continue with studio work, they can keep the sincerity that is so much a part of Agar along with the expanding scope at the core of their methods.

Edena Gardens, “Sombra Del Mar” official video

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Edena Gardens Post “Sombra Del Mar” Video; Announce Second LP Agar & Live Album

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Edena Gardens Agar Impetus 55

El Paraiso Records posted the above image the other day on the ol’ social medias, and heck if it wasn’t an effective teaser. Sure, any El Paraiso release is going to be something at the very least worth checking out — and that is a layer of anticipation inherently — but those rich tones of the cover art, add intrigue as well.

A couple days later, the news is good as Edena Gardens — the Danish instrumental three-piece comprised of Jakob Skøtt and Martin Rude of Causa Sui and Nicklas Sørensen of Papir — unveil a video for the new song “Sombra Del Mar” and announce that their second full-length, Agar, will be released April 7 on El Paraiso. Oh, and there’s a live album coming too, as if to get the “hey we’re an actual band” point across that much clearer.

I don’t think anyone would’ve been surprised or even held it against them if it was a while before they followed up last year’s stunning self-titled debut (review here), but you won’t hear me complain about the quick turnaround either. “Sombra Del Mar” is a dream, perhaps given to some of the stoner folk vibes discussed in the announcement copy below but sweetly melodic and boasting some fascinating intricacy between the guitar and lower end (may be baritone guitar, I don’t know) progression. Easy vibe to get into, and I have a hard time imagining you won’t if you do.

So hey, here’s something awesome that I didn’t know existed yesterday. And I’m glad they turned out to be a real band — their record was pretty well received, which is always nice — and are doing cool stuff like playing Esbjerg Fuzztival in May and putting out new albums. That’s pretty right on.


Edena Gardens, “Sombra Del Mar” official video

First single off their 2nd album, Agar, out on El Paraiso Records April 7th, 2023.

On their 2nd album, Edena Gardens manifests itself as a permanent fixture in the El Paraiso catalogue.

Edena Gardens could have flickered and disappeared in true El Paraiso fashion with a single session album, but the trio emerges with both a new studio album as well as a live album (Live Momentum). It’s part of the band’s DNA: it contains multitudes. There’s always a variation or open path, shifting with ease from heady cosmic stoner folk-vibes, to the scorched earth of 12-minute centrepiece The Veil. Halcyon Days opens up a panoramic interlude of beautiful analogue warmth, while closer Crescent Helix opens in full free-jazz mode, only to travel into an endless crescendo of alt. rock proportions rarely found on this side of the 90’s.

Somehow, Edena Gardens combines the sum of its multifaceted parts in a unified way, Perhaps due to Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt’s transparent edits and layered treatments. Or perhaps the trio’s level of experience and joy of playing simply connects whatever direction they pursue – Nicklas Sørensen of Papir’s glistering guitar lines, backed up by Martin Rude’s rumbling Baritone guitar strums or solid basslines. It’s an album that showcases not only the spontaneous paths taken but also the vast well of ideas or sounds only implied or briefly touched upon, creating an aggregation of sounds just out of reach.

Welcome back to Edena Gardens.

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