The Wizar’d Sign to Cruz Del Sur; Subterranean Exile out April 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the wizar'd (photo by Scott Bradshaw)

Good pickup for Cruz Del Sur? No. Fucking excellent pickup for Cruz Del Sur. Because The Wizar’d are a band you don’t just sign. They’re a band that signing sends a message. You’re not dabbling if you sign Australia’s The Wizar’d. Like with Pale Divine, Ogre, Orodruin, even Death the Leveller, they’re the kind of band who mean it and by bringing them aboard, Cruz del Sur make it plain they do likewise. I’ll say it again. Excellent pickup. Through sheer exercise of taste, Cruz Del Sur is becoming one of doom’s most essential outlets.

The Wizar’d‘s last album, Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge, was released in 2013 on Barbarian Wrath. Like everyone else who signs to Cruz Del Sur, they note how stoked they are to be on the same label as Slough Feg, which is legit.

From the PR wire:

the wizar'd subterranean exile

THE WIZAR’D Signs With CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC / New Album ‘Subterranean Exile’ Due In April

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Australian occult doom metallers THE WIZAR’D The label will release the band’s new album Subterranean Exile on April 24.

Formed in 2004 by guitarist/vocalist Ol’ Rusty, THE WIZAR’D quickly staked their claim as one of their country’s best representation of vintage doom in the vein of BLACK SABBATH, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, PAGAN ALTAR, SAINT VITUS and TROUBLE. A series of demos, singles and EPs would follow before the band’s first studio album, 2008’s Infernal Wizardry. Along the way, THE WIZAR’D (who are completed by second guitarist Master of the Night, bassist Blackie and drummer Maniac Frodsham) developed their own style while paying homage to the aforementioned bands. 2010’s Pathways Into Darkness and Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge only generated further interest in THE WIZAR’D, with the band notching a prime slot at the 2010 installment of the Hammer Of Doom festival.

The new year will bring forth the band’s latest studio album, Subterranean Exile. Drum tracking started in January 2018 at The Green Room in Hobart; the rest of the album was tracked at Heavy Chains HQ and was completed in May 2019. However, as Ol’ Rusty explains, THE WIZAR’D wanted to make sure they were one-hundred percent satisfied with the results.

“Subterranean Exile follows on from where Ancient Tome left off, we are still conjuring the same kind of arcane metal magick as the previous two albums, but in a more refined and direct way,” he notes. “The production on the new album is also a big step up from anything we’ve done before, thanks to the lengthy recording and mixing process and also thanks to the mastering job from Patrick Engel.”

As for the band’s deal with Cruz Del Sur, ‘Ol Rusty explains that the band made a list of “cool” labels they wanted to work with. At the top was Cruz Del Sur and its sub-label, Gates Of Hell Records.

“Both have an impressive roster of bands and operate and present themselves in a cool, old-school manner which we think is important,” he says. “Gates Of Hell was impressed by the album but felt that it might be better suited to what their parent label Cruz Del Sur is releasing these days. We are very happy to be included with a roster of legendary bands like SLOUGH FEG!”

The Wizar’d are:
Master of the Night – Guitars/Vocals
Maniac Frodsham – Drums
Blackie the Crimson Heretic of a Thousand Eyes – Bass
Ol’ Rusty Vintage Wizard Master – Guitars/Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/arcanemetalmagick/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

The Wizar’d, Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge (2013)

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Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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Pale Divine Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; Consequence of Time Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I don’t mind telling you this is the one I’ve been waiting for. No doubt Cruz Del Sur have been on a trad doom and metal tear, from Ogre and Orodruin to Death the Leveller and Tower, but I’ve heard rumblings of Pale Divine joining those ranks for a few months now, and it’s well earned on the part of the Pennsylvania, etc., four-piece. The band will mark a quarter-century of existence in 2020 with the release of their new album, Consequence of Time in May, and as they follow-up 2018’s stellar self-titled (review here), they’ll also have their first offering not only through the new label home — where they’re all the more kin to Apostle of Solitude, Argus, etc. — but their first as a four-piece, having shortly welcomed guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt (now ex-Beelzefuzz) to the lineup after the release of the last record.

Mark this one a win. A genuine feel-good story for the month, and a genuine feel-doomed album to look forward to.

The PR wire makes it official:

pale divine

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Pennsylvania doom mainstays PALE DIVINE.

Founded in 1995, Pale Divine has made a name for itself with its time-honored and distinctive take on classic doom metal. Albums such as 2004’s “Eternity Revealed” and 2007’s “Cemetery Earth” cemented the band’s reputation as one of the best pure torchbearers of BLACK SABBATH and SAINT VITUS-styled doom.

PALE DIVINE — who comprise of vocalist/guitarist Greg Diener, guitarist Dana Ortt, bassist Ron Fezzy McGinnis and drummer Darin McCloskey — is currently hunkered down in the studio with producer Richard Whittaker recording their sixth studio album, “Consequence Of Time”, which will see the light of day in May 2020. The album’s artwork will be handled by Brian Tutlo, the man responsible for the eye-catching “Thunder Perfect Mind” and “Eternity Revealed” covers.

“It’s definitely a natural progression but maybe not in the way people might expect, which is one of the reasons we’re excited,” says McCloskey. “We have a new lineup now which includes Dana, whom Greg and I played with in BEELZEFUZZ. Dana has brought a new element to the band that blends perfectly with PALE DIVINE that has helped us take things to the next level.”

PALE DIVINE came to join Cruz Del Sur Music through a familiar face: WHILE HEAVEN WEPT leader Tom Phillips. The band originally crossed paths with Cruz Del Sur label head Enrico at the 2018 Hammer Of Doom festival in Germany, but it was Phillips who initiated the proper discussions. After that, according to McCloskey, it was a no-brainer to sign with Cruz Del Sur.

“We had heard great things about Cruz Del Sur from our friends in Argus and Apostle of Solitude so we were already familiar and very interested. We discussed things with Enrico and he offered us a great deal. Moving forward, we’re really excited to be part of the Cruz Del Sur Music roster. It feels like we’re part of a family now. This is where we belong.”

PALE DIVINE will be celebrating its 25th year as a band in 2020. McCloskey says the highlights have been numerous, starting with the bands they’ve played with and the people they’ve met over the years, as well as their first trip to Germany in 2005 playing alongside PLACE OF SKULLS and RISING DUST. “In many ways, it always sort of feels like we’re just starting out,” he says. “Every new experience, every new song and new album pretty much reinforces that. We still have a lot of music in us and a lot more to accomplish. It hardly seems like it’s been 25 years, in all honestly. Going overseas for the first time and playing for people who were fans of our music was pretty mind-blowing for us at the time…still is, really. Even our recent trip to Würzburg last year for Hammer Of Doom was an awesome experience as well. Certainly, the chemistry we have in our current lineup has been a big highlight and, of course, signing with Cruz Del Sur!”

Pale Divine is:
Greg Diener – vocals & guitar
Dana Ortt – guitar
Ron “Fezzy” McGinnis – bass & vocals
Darin McCloskey – drums

https://www.facebook.com/serpentspath/
http://www.paledivineband.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Pale Divine, Pale Divine (2018)

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Death the Leveller to Release Debut Album II on Cruz Del Sur

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I was fortunate enough to be in Dublin, Ireland, in 2017 for the Emerald Haze festival (review here), which was a goddamn blast, and at which Death the Leveller featured. They were awesome, to the point that I made a note to myself in the review to go back later and check out their EP, I, as I had not been exposed to the band before that. As Cruz Del Sur has been on a bit of a tear in picking up quality bands of late — Ogre and Orodruin both had killer albums out this year, and Tower were newly picked up among others in newer movement of traditionalist metal and doom — but Death the Leveller aren’t so easily categorized, and that’s definitely part of the appeal.

Their debut full-length, counterintuitively titled II, will be out in March 2020, and if you’re not stoked on that news, really, take a minute to listen to the EP and give it a fair shake. I definitely got the impression live that they were onto something — and apparently the label did as well — but I think that comes through in the recording as well.

Enjoy:

Death the Leveller live at Emerald Haze 2017 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Irish Doomsters DEATH THE LEVELLER Sign With Cruz Del Sur Music

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Dublin, Ireland doom metallers Death The Leveller. The label will release the band’s first proper full-length album, “II”, in March 2020.

Originally formed in 2016 out of the ashes of long-running Irish metal ensemble MAEL MÓRDHA, DEATH THE LEVELLER released their debut “I” EP in 2017 to critical acclaim and positive fan reaction. The band’s sound — a melancholic, but strikingly epic take on doom metal — is the result of its four members taking their combined experience and working to create something entirely distinct.

“I think the big takeaway for us was the whole approach to DEATH THE LEVELLER had to be honest, about us, our lives, our losses and our passions,” says drummer Shane Achill. “Sure, we are all influenced by one thing or another, but I can’t say the bands we were in in the past influenced us in any big meaningful way. I know we are certainly influenced by the mistakes we made in the past and how not to recreate those mistakes in DEATH THE LEVELLER.”

DEATH THE LEVELLER (who are rounded out by vocalist Denis Dowling, guitarist Ger Clince and bassist Dave Murphy) fell onto Cruz Del Sur’s radar by way of fellow Irish metallers (and Cruz Del Sur act) Darkest Era. Cruz Del Sur label head Enrico Leccese was instantly a fan of “I” and started up a conversation with the band, with the two parties eventually putting pen to paper in 2019.

“The great thing about Cruz is the quality of bands writing quality music being released by a guy who is a fan of the bands and music he releases,” notes Cahill. “There are not many out there like Enrico at the moment and it was very refreshing for us to find a home for our music that cuts out all the crap that takes away from creating and writing music. Enrico is not looking for the next trend or fashion statement, which is good for us, right? Shortly after that, we demoed three tracks and we finally met at Doom Over Vienna where our relationship was cemented and Enrico got to see us live for the first time. Suddenly it looked like we had a label and that ‘II’ was starting to become a reality.”

The band is currently holed up at Trackmix Recording Studio in Dublin with engineer Michael Richards for the recording of “II”. According to Cahill, the album will comprise of four songs at 42 minutes that are more “introspective” and “reaches more emotional depths than ‘I’.”

“We’re still exploring the human relationship with death and concepts of mortality, but whereas the first release approached the idea of legacy after death, this one goes on a more soul-searching journey to some darker personal places of loss but ultimately also has its uplifting moments,” he says. “Sound-wise, this one has a more laid-back feel in places, giving the general tone of the album more space to breathe and a much more natural sound to come through. On saying that, it also has some of the heaviest sections we’ve done so far. For us, writing each song is a journey, and as we write this, we’re in the studio putting the final pieces of the jigsaw together and the landscape forms in front of us.”

The remainder of 2019 will find DEATH THE LEVELLER putting the finishing touches on “II” while preparing for a run of dates in Europe and Ireland alongside new labelmates, Argus. The band will also be appearing at the bi-annual Redemption Festival in Dublin, as well as Little Devil Doom Days in Holland.

“The main focus for 2020 is to get out there and play to as many people as possible,” wraps Cahill. “These songs mean the world to us. It was a fairly personal and at times, a very emotional journey, but now it’s time to have some fun and bring all of that to the stage and let it rip.”

https://www.facebook.com/deaththelevellerdoom/
https://deaththeleveller.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Death the Leveller, I (2017)

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Tower Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; New Album Coming in 2020

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Had the chance earlier this year to check out NY trad metallers Tower at the inaugural Desertfest New York (review here), and having done so, and in light of their new EP, Yesterday and Tomorrow — kudos to whoever in the band came up with that title; it’s a perfect summation of what they do — I’ll say that yeah, Cruz Del Sur makes sense as a label home for them. This is the label, after all, that puts out Slough Feg, and if you ever need know-your-shit-about-traditional-heavy-metal cred, putting out something by Slough Feg is about as much as you can do to argue in your own favor. Tower join those esteemed ranks, as well as those of ArgusApostle of SolitudeOgre and Orodruin, and come aboard as being tight with Twisted Tower Dire and Sanhedrin, so clearly, clearly in good company, and they’ll reportedly work to have a new full-length out sometime in the middle of next year.

Congrats to the band, and respect for guitarist Danzo in what he says about image in the PR wire info below. Anyone who claims they’re not conscious of how they’re perceived by others is fucking lying to you and probably trying to sell you something. Likely clothing.

Dig:

tower

New York City Metal Brigade TOWER Joins CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of New York City’s own TOWER. The label will release the band’s sophomore full-length in mid-2020.

Formed in 2015, TOWER plays a brand of classic, traditional metal inspired by legends such as JUDAS PRIEST and SCORPIONS, further propelled by the imitable, almost Pat Benatar-esque vocals of Sarabeth Linden. To date, TOWER has one studio album to their credit, 2016’s self-titled, as well as this year’s “Tomorrow & Yesterday” EP.

Shortly after the release of the video for “Run For My Life”, multiple record companies came calling for TOWER, including Cruz Del Sur. What sealed the deal for TOWER and Cruz Del Sur, though, was the good word put in by some of the label’s existing bands.

“We’re close friends with Nate Honor and Jim Hunter, whose bands SANHEDRIN and TWISTED TOWER DIRE are/were on Cruz Del Sur,” says guitarist James Danzo. “We heard so many good things about Cruz that it was pretty clear from the beginning which route we should take. In the few years we’ve been a band, we’ve learned not to rush into things and to be very deliberate, but we know we made the right choice!”

Danzo describes the first four years of TOWER’s existence as a “real wild ride,” with the band (who is rounded out by second guitarist Zak Penley, bassist Jeff Filmer and drummer Claire Vastola) going from formation to the demo stage, to playing shows, then scoring their first record deal for the release of their self-titled album. “In this crazy world of ours not everything is ice cream sundaes and cherries on top — we’ve been through some changes with lineups and labels when it became clear we had different goals in mind. We look back with pride on our debut album and especially the new EP. It’s been a huge boost in morale and poured gasoline on the fire inside us!”

The origins of TOWER date back to when Linden and Danzo were playing in THE PSYCHO HIPPIES, a group that primarily played ’50s, ’60s and ’70s pop covers, along with some RAMONES songs to boot. Because of her experience playing such music, Linden brings a unique brand of soul and style to metal, with Danzo noting she even sang at the legendary Apollo Theater as a teenager. Fret not true metal believers: Linden’s vocal idol happens to be Ronnie James Dio, further rounding out a band who is equal in music and image.

“Metal bands love to say, ‘we hate image!’” notes Danzo, “but truth be told, we have a vision and are very protective of it. It’s important to us to come across as real, first and foremost. Everyone in the band has a unique style and persona and we aren’t about to mess with it. We try to avoid clichés when it comes to album covers, too — so far photographs have worked, they’re just classic and real. We’re just here to kick some ass and I think that comes across clear as day.”

TOWER will fill up the rest of 2019 with occasional live duty, but the priority remains to get ready for their forthcoming second studio album. Danzo says “lack of material has never been a problem” for TOWER: The band has three songs leftover from the “Tomorrow & Yesterday” session, as well as another cut that has already been aired live.

“Unlike the last two releases which took forever in spaced-out sessions from weekend to weekend, we plan on blocking out 7-10 days of studio time and doing it as a concise and complete project like a band would do in the old days. Onward and upward!”

Tower is:
Sarabeth Linden: VOCALS
James Danzo: GUITAR
Zak Penley: GUITAR
Jeff Filmer: BASS
Claire Vastola: DRUMS

https://www.facebook.com/TOWERnyc/
https://towernyc.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
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cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

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Review & Full Album Stream: Ogre, Thrice as Strong

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Ogre Thrice as Strong

[Ogre release Thrice is Strong on Oct. 25 through Cruz Del Sur Music. Stream the album in full on the player above.]

Though their tenure has been interrupted by periods of inactivity and on-again-off-again hiatus, 2019 marks 20 years of Ogre, who celebrate their doom-meets-classic-heavy-rock with the new LP Thrice as Strong. It is their first offering since 2014’s The Last Neanderthal (review here), and as the Maine-based trio of bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent dig into the seven-track/43-minute push-pull of early Sabbathian bluesy purity, they’re likewise unafraid to add touches of ’80s proto-NWOBHM to songs like the centerpiece “Judgement Day” or to find their way along a Motörhead-style swing-and-thrust in the early cuts “Hive Mind” and “Big Man” while saving broader-reaching fare for side B’s longer tracks “Blood of Winter” and the closer “Cyber-Czar,” both over eight minutes.

Thrice as Strong, the full title on the cover of which — with art by Will Broadbent; spoiler alert: their heads are on pikes — is listed as In a Doomed World They Must Remain Thrice as Strong, is the three-piece’s first release through Cruz del Sur Music and though their work has always been concerned with a kind of primitivism across releases like their 2003 debut, Dawn of the Proto-Man (reissue review here), 2006’s Seven Hells (reissue review here) and 2008’s Plague of the Planet (review here), their latest collection finds them no less engaged with the present we’re living in. Certainly there’s plenty of fodder there for doom, and Ogre duly revel in it, with cuts like “The Future,” “Hive Mind,” and even “Cyber-Czar” taking on the modern age and its many futuristic and technological horrors/wonders — the latter with a particular Dehumanizer bent in its later moments closing out the album — even as “Blood of Winter” and the penultimate “King of the Wood” tap into Ogre‘s more classic fare of pulp-style epic comic books and so on. In other words, on Thrice as StrongOgre delve into both kinds of lyrics: sci-fi and fantasy. They are no less at home in the one than the other.

That leaves “Big Man” as an outlier, thematically, and maybe it is. I haven’t had the benefit of a full lyric sheet, those familiar with Ogre‘s past albums might consider “Big Man” something of a spiritual successor to “Nine Princes in Amber” from The Last Neanderthal. It is the shortest track on Thrice as Strong at just under four minutes, and the purest of the boogies on offer as well. “The Future” opens melodic and catchy in trad-metallic grandeur — at least relatively — touching on some Iron Maiden influence in Cunningham‘s bassline beneath Markonish‘s solo, and Broadbent adds to the momentum early by double-timing on the hi-hat during the verse, and “Hive Mind” has its shove in the first half before hitting the brakes in the second and picking back up to round out. “Big Man,” by contrast, holds its speedier pace for the duration and is a standout from the surrounding cuts, much as the aforementioned piece from the prior album was in its own context. I don’t think the one song is a direct answer to the other — different themes, different sound — but perhaps on some level manifesting a similar impulse in songwriting toward self-contradiction and flying in the face of “doom needs to be slow” or other such ultimately unnecessary genre tenets.

ogre

One way or the other, Ogre sound like they’re having a blast there and elsewhere. Cunningham is a vocalist for all or at least most seasons, singing clean, shouting, screaming occasionally, all with personality, a touch of echo and a classic feel, but at the same time he comes across as natural even in layers on “The Future,” and never sounds like he’s taking the proceedings too seriously, which would only imperil the album as a whole in terms of atmosphere. Recording-wise, part of Ogre‘s traditionalism has always been a relatively barebones production style. They’ve never veered too far from presenting themselves with something close to their live sound, and for what they’re playing that’s always worked. It does on Thrice as Strong too. That would seem to put extra pressure on Cunningham as a singer in fronting the band not only to carry that energy forward to the audience hearing the record, but simply in pulling off changes like those of “Judgement Day” where he goes from growling out one line to soaring in the next, and it seems to be no challenge whatsoever for him. That is only fortunate for all parties involved.

The shift into “Blood of Winter” represents something of a sea change in Thrice as Strong — it’s very likely the start of side B — with a broader and more doomly scope, but Ogre excel at this kind of storytelling, and together with the swing-and-nodder “King of the Wood,” “Blood of Winter” very much plays to their strengths and reminds of how underrated they’ve always been. A languid groove in “King of the Wood” turns to shuffle late and fades to silence ahead of “Cyber-Czar,” signaling a marked turn as Broadbent‘s drums lead the way on a fade-in that’s particularly militaristic. The closer itself is seven-plus minutes long, but there’s a robot-voice spoken part at the end and a howling sirens and other sounds of conflict over the fading final hits, wind and distant explosions, etc., to round out the atmosphere following the track itself, which is a fitting if deceptively speedy summation of the crux of the record.

Of course, no matter where they go, the underlying message of Thrice is Strong is the same, and caveman battles or futuristic warfare, that’s ultimately what the album is about. It’s about them — the band — together. It’s about Ogre looking back on two decades as a group and not just knowing who they are as a band, as one would expect to be a largely settled issue by anyone’s fifth record — at least as much as any band ever settles that issue — but also appreciating the special aspects of the whole that each member brings. The theme of Thrice as Strong may be struggle in terms of the lyrical narrative, but the album is little short of a commemoration of their methods and their accomplishments as songwriters. The arrival of a new Ogre album, any Ogre album, is noteworthy — it’s just not something that happens every day — but with Thrice as Strong, the acknowledgement of a special occasion seems to extend to all levels. CunninghamMarkonishBroadbentOgre. That’s the story here.

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Review & Track Premiere: Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

[Click play above to stream ‘Forsaken’ from Orodruin’s  Ruins of Eternity. Album is out Oct. 25 on Cruz Del Sur Music. Preorders available now for CD and LP.]

A 16-year differential from one album to the next is significant. Bands have formed, flourished, and broken up in that time. A generational shift in listenership has taken place. Production styles have changed. The list goes on. Fortunately, good doom is timeless, and so it is that Orodruin return from Mordor with Ruins of Eternity, their sophomore LP behind 2003’s rightly vaunted Epicurean Mass (review here). It’s true that the Rochester, New York, three-piece haven’t been totally absent in that time, having put out the Claw Tower… And Other Tales of Terror compilation in 2004 as well as a self-released demo in 2011 and an EP in 2012 — both around performances as the Days of the Doomed in Wisconsin — and guitarist John Gallo released two full-lengths with his other outfit Blizaro, 2010’s City of the Living Nightmare and 2016’s Cornucopia Della Morte (review here), as well as a comp drawing other other work, and also a 2014 solo album under the extra-letter moniker John Gallow called Violet Dreams that dug into his root influence in the work of Paul Chain.

But even with these and the inevitabilities of real life on the part of Gallo, vocalist/bassist Mike Puleo and guitarist Nick Tydelski, to go more than a decade and a half without a proper album release is a long time. And yet Orodruin have been missed all along. They always seemed to maintain there would be another record, and their absence was conspicuous as bands like The Gates of Slumber and Apostle of Solitude moved to the forefront of American doom, let alone relative newcomers like Magic Circle. The nine tracks/47 minutes of Ruins of Eternity serve as a compelling reminder why. Absent longtime drummer Mike Waske, who left the band in 2018, Puleo takes on those duties admirably, and the dynamic between his bass, soaring vocals and the NWOBHM and epic doom-inspired guitars of Gallo and Tydelski stands up to anything in the style you’d want to put it next to, including titans of the form like The Skull or Candlemass, albeit more raw in production than the latter.

If that sounds like hyperbole, consider the guitar heroics in the second half of “Into the Light of the Sun,” the mournful plod and standout melody of “Letter of Life’s Regret” — which appeared on their 2011 demo as well — and the opening gift that is “Forsaken,” which turns after three minutes in and repurposes the speedier riff from Black Sabbath‘s “Falling off the Edge of the World” to its own righteous ends. It would be cliché to say that after 16 years, Orodruin sound on Ruins of Eternity like they haven’t missed a beat, but, well, it’s also true. Granted, it helps that the style of doom they’re playing is loyal to a particular sonic ideal and has its roots in a lost era of ’80s underground metal — even if they came across as dated, that would only work to their advantage — but Ruins of Eternity, even with “Letter of Life’s Regret” and presumably other tracks being of older origin, feels vital. As the chugging march of “Man of Peace” takes hold from “Forsaken,” the Iommic character in the guitar takes on further nuance and deceptive pacing in the verse en route to a more open chorus, the song trading back and forth this way until the lyrics have told their story and a stop brings about the guitar solo section and the return to the central nod at the finish.

orodruin

This is doom songcraft at its most essential, and a message toward the front of Ruins of Eternity to the converted that time has not dulled Orodruin‘s affinity for the style or its substance. As “Grave Illusion” adds more complexity of mood en route to “Letter of Life’s Regret” and the galloping “War on the World,” the experience of the album grows richer, but keeps to the central vibe at its heart. True doom is about bringing character to homage, adding personal perspective to what’s come before. Orodruin do this across Ruins of Eternity with enough grace as to emphasize just how much has been missed by their not putting out an album every two, three or even four years. Is it a chance to affect the scope of doom that’s gone forever? Ruins of Eternity provides a compelling argument otherwise.

As the album moves into its second half, with “Into the Light of the Sun” balancing tempo shifts and dug-in moodiness en route to its aforementioned standout shred and “Voice in the Dark” toying with structure amid a particularly resonant vocal from Puleo, there is some sense of pushing deeper into stylistic reach, but the core mission remains firm. Likewise, “Hell Frozen Over” starts out at a slow burn, picking up to emphasize tone rather than the riff itself, solos panning from one channel to the other ahead of a last tempo kick and some layered harmonies and a last crash-out at the apex that brings about the closing title-track. Somewhat amazingly, “Ruins of Eternity” is the only song over six minutes long on the record that shares its name, and it launches with a commanding stomp ahead of solo-laced swing and a quiet midsection stretch that explodes into faster push, in turn bringing about a slowdown into pure gruel that is as fitting a way to cap Ruins of Eternity as one could possibly ask.

All the while, Orodruin never lose their sense of poise, never lose sight of what they want to do as a band, and never forget that even more than the misery, it’s the song that matters most. It’s hard to listen to the album and not think what might’ve been if this was their fifth or sixth album instead of their second, but that it exists at all is a victory, and that it finds them in such exceptional form all the more so. They’ve rewritten the story of who they are as a band here, and while one wouldn’t predict what the future might hold for them — particularly as they’re short a drummer for playing live — Ruins of Eternity brings into focus just how special Orodruin are and just how much it’s been worth waiting for this one to show up. That’s no easy task, considering, but they nail it.

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Orodruin Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; Ruins of Eternity Due in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

orodruin

Technically speaking, Ruins of Eternity is the follow-up to Orodruin‘s debut long-player, Epicurean Mass (discussed here). Only kicker there is that Epicurean Mass came out in 2003, so the sophomore effort is arriving some 16 years after the fact. Hey, good doom takes time. The Rochester, New York, outfit are the latest in the classic-doom vein to sign with Cruz Del Sur Music behind the recent acquisition of Ogre and others from the last few years like Apostle of Solitude and Argus, and Ruins of Eternity has been given an October release date, which given guitarist John Gallo‘s penchant for the drama of classic horror, does not make Halloween seem unreasonable. It’ll be out right around the same time as Ogre‘s new record either way, which certainly puts them in good company.

It’s been a long time coming, but Orodruin have a real chance here to make that wait pay off. Here’s hoping they take advantage.

From the PR wire:

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

ORODRUIN to release “Ruins of Eternity” in October

Veteran Rochester, New York doomsters Orodruin have signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for the release of their second full-length album, “Ruins Of Eternity”. The album — the band’s first in 16 years — will see the light of day this October.

Originally formed in 1998 by John Gallo (guitar), Mike Puleo (bass/vocals), Nick Tydelski (guitar) and Mike Waske (drums), ORODRUIN broke onto the American metal scene with 2003’s “Epicurean Mass”, which remains their lone full-length album to date.
From the vintage school of BLACK SABBATH and SAINT VITUS doom with a European twist, ORODRUIN’s penchant for churning riffs and atmospheric passages instantly put them on the global doom metal map. The band issued a split, compilation, demo and EP in ensuing years, all building up to the eventual release of their sophomore album.

According to Gallo, ORODRUIN wrote nine new songs from 2016 to 2018, with a tenth song, “Letter Of Life’s Regret” coming from 2005. The album was tracked throughout 2018 at Wicked Squid Studio and is currently being mixed with the mastering process right around the corner.

“Stylistically, the songs are in the epic doom realm like the master titans of the 1970s, SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST,” says Gallo. “The songs are a long-awaiting evolution in our writing and chemistry among brothers on a treacherous journey that will finally be unleashed to the masses. We hope it translates well to the hearts and souls of our fans worldwide.”

In preparation for the band’s triumphant return to European shores for this fall’s Hammer Of Doom Festival festival, ORODRUIN have enlisted drummer Kevin Latchaw of labelmates Argus, who is temporarily manning the drum spot while the band searches for a replacement for Waske, who left ORODRUIN in April of 2018.

Gallo: “We are extremely honored to be playing the same night as Uli Jon Roth and TROUBLE alongside our classic doom brothers MIRROR OF DECEPTION, SKALD and ATLANTEAN KODEX on the next day, to mention only a few! We can’t express how amazing it will be to be playing a substantial doom metal festival in Germany again. We hope people enjoy the new material as much as we do playing it.”

ORODRUIN’s addition to Cruz Del Sur adds to an ever-growing stable of excellent doom metal bands. Not only will the partnership expose ORODRUIN to new audiences, it will put them in close company with many bands who they consider contemporaries. “We have been aware of Cruz Del Sur for a while and it seemed like the perfect home for us as we have a more European audience that appreciates our style of doom metal. Plus, it will be great to be alongside our fellow doom friends in WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, SLOUGH FEG and ARGUS.”

Orodruin is:
Nick Tydelski : Guitar
Michael Puleo : Bass, Vocals, Drums
John Gallo : Other Guitar

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Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

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