The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

Posted in Questionnaire on July 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tom Blyth of Blind Monarch

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I’m a lyricist, a vocalist and general contributor to all things related to Blind Monarch.

I began playing in bands in around 2004, when my brother Adam asked me to front a band he was starting and I told him I’d do it until he found someone more suitable. Early on the focus was on playing fast and technical death metal but at a certain point our attention was drawn to slower sub genres and bands, hearing Asunder for the first time had a particularly strong influence on us. Gradually we began to incorporate slower, grander sections into our songs, although the style of drumming in that band was too relentless to really let any of them breathe or function as they were intended.

When that band ended in the early 2010’s Adam and I were ready to start a new project based heavily on slower, more atmospheric influences while maintaining an abrasive, caustic element and so Blind Monarch was born.

Describe your first musical memory.

I’m not able to pinpoint exactly what my first musical memory is but I can narrow it down to about three possibilities. I’m either in my Dad’s car, a white or red boxy-shaped ’80s BMW 3 series or a black Opel Manta, and he’s playing No Jacket Required by Phil Collins or Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits. Or I’m in a bed with my brother in a caravan near Scarborough, my parents are still up playing scrabble and “Sunny Afternoon” by The Kinks is playing on Yorkshire Coast Radio.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’m not really one for favourites or bests, for one thing my memory is unreliable and on top of that I tend not to find it useful to try to rank things I enjoy or find meaningful. That said, I have really fond memories of recording What Is Imposed Must Be Endured, as uncomfortable a process that was at the time. We’ve spoken about it at length elsewhere for anyone who is interested but briefly, the album was recorded in freezing temperatures in a huge derelict building. There was no heating or lighting and we had to run electricity from the church adjacent to us, needless to say much of the record was tracked in the dark and in a state of discomfort but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience.

Off the top of my head, I also have great memories of seeing Bolt Thrower play at Damnation a few years ago, that may even have been their last gig but I’m not sure about that… Seeing Entombed play Left Hand Path live, also at Damnation, is another standout, as is seeing Graves at Sea at the Lughole in Sheffield.

Now I’m thinking about it, getting pinned and unable to even move my head in the front row at Cannibal Corpse in Sheffield in around 2010, a short conversation my brother and I had with David Berman when The Silver Jews played in Leeds and watching my friend Sam manage to throw a joint onstage and directly into Wino’s outstretched hand without him having to so much as reach for it, when Spirit Caravan played at Desertfest all seem worth a mention.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I think strongly held beliefs and faith are highly overrated, dangerous concepts and as such I try not to become overly attached to ideas. I strive to always be open to new evidence and a change of opinion when the body of evidence begins to point away from what I thought I knew.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

A sense of fulfilment.

How do you define success?

The ability to build and sustain an ethically sound means of living by ones own terms, based in creativity rather than drudgery. I have a long way to go…

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I saw a woman die on a transatlantic flight once while her husband stalked up and down the isle of the plane praying for her. I was flying home from a long trip on my birthday, where there was a surprise party waiting for me, that was my day. At the same time a woman’s life was ending a few feet away while a helpless man, trapped in a box over an ocean, begged to a higher power while his entire life fell apart in front of hundreds of strangers. While I wouldn’t say I wish I hadn’t seen it, it was a profoundly affecting experience in empathy, I certainly wish that couple had not had to endure that suffering.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’ve toyed with the idea to write a screenplay one day, although I don’t know if I ever will. I’m also learning to play guitar so it would be nice to reach a state of proficiency that allowed for a project with that.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To act as a means for living rather than merely existing. It’s a cliché but I can’t think of a better answer.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Getting older with the people I care about.

https://www.facebook.com/blindmonarchband/
https://www.instagram.com/blind_monarch/
https://blindmonarch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.drycoughrecords.com/
http://facebook.com/DryCoughRecords
http://instagram.com/dry_cough_records
https://blackbowrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.blackbowrecords.com/
https://blackbowrecords.bigcartel.com/

Blind Monarch, What is Imposed Must Be Endured (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Jess and the Ancient Ones, Dread Sovereign, Space Smoke, If it Kills You, Clara Engel, Maya Mountains, Cave of Swimmers, Blind Monarch, Cancervo, Sahara

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Hello Day Two of the Quarterly Review. It started by oversleeping by about an hour, but so it goes. Yesterday went about as smoothly as I can ask a QR day to go, so I’m hoping that today follows suit despite the rough start. There’s nothing like building some momentum once you get going with these writeups. It’s about as close to ‘in the zone’ as I get. Trance of productivity.

As always, I hope you find something here you dig. Today’s round is good and all over the place, so maybe everyone’ll get lucky. Here goes.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Jess and the Ancient Ones, Vertigo

jess and the ancient ones vertigo

More than a decade on from their founding, Finland’s Jess and the Ancient Ones are an established brand when it comes to cult psych rock, and their fourth full-length, issued through Svart, is gleeful to the point of witch-cackling on “Talking Board” (think Ouija) and offers rousing classically-stylized hooks on fellow early cuts like opener “Burning of the Velvet Fires” and “World Paranormal” as well as side B’s “Born to Kill,” the Dr. Strangelove-sampling “Summer Tripping Man” and the organ-washed “What’s on Your Mind” ahead of an 11-minute prog rock grand finale in “Strange Earth Illusion” that feels very much like the impetus toward which the album has been driving all along. Relax, you’re in the hands of professional mystics, and their acid rock vibes are made all the more grand by Jess‘ soulful delivery atop the ever-clever arrangements of guitar, organ, bass, drums, samples, and so on. This kind of cultish lysergic fare has never been and never will be for everyone. Listening to Vertigo, you can only really wonder why that is.

Jess and the Ancient Ones on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Dread Sovereign, Alchemical Warfare

dread sovereign alchemical warfare

Metallic overload! Irish assault supreme! All sentences end with exclamation points! A new Dread Sovereign record doesn’t come along every day, or year, but the Dublin trio certainly make it count when one does. Alchemical Warfare is the third LP from the Alan Averill-fronted outfit, and with Johnny “Con Ri” King (also Conan) on drums and guitarist Bones Huse (also Wizards of Firetop Mountain), the band tear through nine tracks and 51 minutes of doom-colored metallurgy, throwing unrepentant fists in the air under darkened, irony-free skies. By the time 10-minute post-intro opener “She Wolves of the Savage Season” is over, if you’re not ready to quit your job and join the legion about to set march to “The Great Beast We Serve,” it’s no fault of the band’s. “Nature is the Devil’s Church” was the lead single and is a standout hook, but the grandiosity of “Ruin Upon the Temple Mount”‘s Candlemassy riffing is too good to be ignored, and they finish with a Bathory cover, because fucking a, that’s why.

Dread Sovereign on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Space Smoke, Aurora Dourada

Space Smoke Aurora Dourada

The debut EP from Brazilian instrumentalist trio Space Smoke runs all of 12 minutes, but that’s long enough for Aurora Dourada to give an impression of where the band are coming from. Three distinct tracks — “Magia Cerimonial,” “Interludio” and “Corpo Solar” — comprise the outing, and the middle one is indeed an interlude, so it’s really the opener and closer doing the heavy lifting. “Magia Cerimonia” starts off with a sense of foreboding but makes its way instead into hypnotic repetition, bordering on a meditative lumber that doesn’t stick around long enough to be redundant, and with the interlude as a breath between, the eight-minute “Corpo Solar” rounds out as the most substantial piece of the outing, drifting guitar over languid drums and bass, dreamy and sopping wet with reverb. They push it heavier than its quiet beginning, of course, but even the howling lead work near the finish maintains the inviting and immersive vibe with which they set out. Might be a blip of things to come, but it’s a blip worth checking out. Mini-trip.

Space Smoke on Instagram

Abraxas Events on Thee Facebooks

 

If it Kills You, Infinite Hum

if it kills you infinite hum

Infinite Hum is the striking debut LP from Bakersfield, California, post-hardcore heavy three/four-piece If it Kills You, who along with the periodic charred guest vocals on half the six tracks, bring together a quick assemblage for a 12″ that readily alternates between melodic sway and shoutier roll. They groove despite unpredictable turns, and their blend of hefted tones and punker-grown-up melodies makes a welcome impression on opener “We Don’t Belong Here” or “Moving Target.” Starts and stops and a bit of winding lead work give “Repeat Resolve” an edge of noise rock — more than an edge, actually; kind of like the flat side of a brick — but If it Kills You never push to one side or the other entirely, and as the screams return for later in “Repeat Resolve” and closer “Projections,” charged every time with and succeeding at pushing a crescendo over the top, the band manage to bring sincerity and structure together with what sounds like experienced hands. Don’t be fooled by “first album”; they know what they’re doing.

If it Kills You on Thee Facebooks

Killer Kern on Bandcamp

 

Clara Engel, A New Skin

Clara Engel A New Skin

I’m not sure if anyone still calls this kind of thing “neo-folk,” but I am sure I don’t care. The sense of atmosphere Clara Engel puts into her latest album, A New Skin, beginning with the shift between minimal guitar and keyboard on “Starry Eyed Goat,” uses negative space no less effectively than does the mostly-black cover art, and the eight-song/46-minute outing that ensues alternates between emotive and wondrously ambient, suited to the home recording done during (presumed) isolation in Fall 2020. Engel handles all instrumentation herself and remains indelibly human in her sometimes-layered vocal delivery all the while, speaking to a building-out process of the material, but one does not get the sense in listening to “Night Tide” and the sparse “Thieves” back-to-back that the foundation of all the songs is the same, which is all the more representative of an exploratory songwriting process. A New Skin as a whole feels likewise exploratory, a reflection inward as much as out.

Clara Engel on Thee Facebooks

Clara Engel on Bandcamp

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Long-running Italian trio Maya Mountains issued Era through Go Down Records in 2020 as their first album in some six years, readily engaging with desert rock on cuts like “San Saguaro” and closer “El Toro,” working in a bit of post-Queens of the Stone Age riffy quirk to go along with less bouncing and chunkier fare on “Vibromatic” and “Baumgartner,” or “Extremely High,” which makes its speedier tempo feel organic ahead of the finish. All told, it’s 44 minutes of solid heavy rock, with variation between songs of what each is working toward doing that does nothing to pull away from the vibe as a whole, whether that’s in a more aggressive moment like “Vibromatic” or the spacier playfulness at the start of “Raul,” the band clearly unafraid of letting a little funk hold sway for a minute or two. Engaging without being revolutionary, Era knows its craft and audience alike, and offers one to the other without pretense or presumption. It’s rock for rockers, but what’s wrong with that?

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records website

 

Cave of Swimmers, Aurora

cave of swimmers aurora

An awaited first long-player from Miami duo Cave of Swimmers — vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Guillermo Gonzalez and drummer/percussionist/vocalist Arturo Garcia — packages epic metal in tight-knit bursts of heavy rock tonality. Choruses in “The Sun” and “Double Rainbow” are grand affairs not because their tones are so huge, but because of the melodies that top them, and at the same time, with riffs at the forefront of the verses, the duo make progressive shifts sound classic in the vein of Iron Maiden or Dio with a still-prevailing fuzzy topcoat. Centerpiece “My Human” is a love song that slams, while “Looking Glass” leans deeper into prog metal but brings the listener along with a another sweeping hook, a pattern of tension and release that carries over to “Dirt” as well, which leaves “C.S” to close out with its “Sign of the Southern Cross” keyboard-and-harmonies intro en route to a poised but still thrashing finish. There’s life in heavy metal, and here it is.

Cave of Swimmers on Thee Facebooks

Broomtune Records website

 

Blind Monarch, What is Imposed Must Be Endured

blind monarch what is imposed must be endured

Straight out of Sheffield, UK, Blind Monarch first released their What is Imposed Must Be Endured four-song/56-minute full-length on Black Bow Records in 2020 and it’s been picked up for a 2LP vinyl pressing by Dry Cough Records. There’s something to be said for splitting up these tracks each onto its own side, making the whole release more manageable despite getting up to do a side or platter flip, but any way you go, “Suffering Breathes My Name” (13:45), “My Mother, My Cradle, My Tomb” (10:47), “Blind Monarch” (14:10) and closer “Living Altar” (17:54) are geared toward sharp-toothed death-sludge consumption, extreme in thought and deed. Feedback is strewn about the place like so much flayed skin, and even in the quiet moments at the start and laced into “Living Altar,” the atmosphere remains oppressive. Yet, endure one must. Blind Monarch, even among the UK’s ultra-packed underground, are a standout in how maddeningly heavy they manage to be, and on their debut outing, no less. If you missed it last year, be ready to pay extra for shipping.

Blind Monarch on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records website

Black Bow Records webstore

 

Cancervo, 1

cancervo 1

Each track on Italian instrumentalist trio Cancervo‘s debut album, titled simply 1, is intended to represent an area near their home in the mountainous region of Lombardy, Italy. Their tones are duly thick, their presentation patient and their cast is broad in terms of its landscape. From “Averara,” one might see kilometers, in other words. Whether or not you’re familiar with Cancervo‘s locale, their tonal warmth and heavy psychedelic expanse resonates immersively, letting each of the two sides develop on its own from the beginnings in “Cancervo” and “Darco,” both the longest cuts on their respective halves. The fuller fuzz of “SWLABR” and the punch of bass that accompanies the tom hits on closer “1987” are subtle shifts emblematic of Cancervo‘s creative progression getting underway, and the task to which they set themselves — portraying place in sound — is no less admirable than their accomplishment of same would see to be. I’ve never been there, so can’t confirm 100 percent if that’s what it sounds like, but in repeat listens, I’m happy to take the band’s word (or riffs) for it.

Cancervo on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Sahara, The Curse

sahara the curse

Its four cuts run 17 minutes with the last of them an instrumental title-track that’s under three, but I don’t care — the entire thing is so righteously raw and garage nasty that I’m on board with however much Argentina’s Sahara want to bring to The Curse. “Gallows Noose” sounds like it was taped, and then re-taped, and then re-taped again before finally being pressed (to tape), and there’s no mistaking that’s an aesthetic choice on the part of the band, who probably have phones that could make something with clearer audio, but the in-room demo feel of “Hell on Earth” and “Altar of Sacrifice,” the rootsy metal-of-doom feel of it hits on its own level. Sometimes you just want something that comes across barebones and mean, and that’s what The Curse does. Call it retro, call it unproduced, call it whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Sahara (bring looks that) kill it on that Sabbath-worshiping altar and sound dirt-coated all the while, making everything everything else in the universe seem more complicated than it needs to be.

Sahara on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website

 

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Ommadon Announce Breakup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ommadon

I guess there’s something to be said for minimalism, and with a posted picture of a ship on the rocks and a statement that puts it definitively as ‘Ommadon is dead,’ one could hardly accuse Glaswegian megadrone two-piece Ommadon of not getting their point across. David Tobin and Ewan Mackenzie call it quits after a 10-year run that produced eight self-recorded full-length albums released through Dry Cough RecordsMedusa Crush RecordingsAt War with False Noise, and others, as well as splits with ColtsbloodLegion of Andromeda, and more.

Their latest offering, End Times, was issued in May, and while with that title one might wonder if there was some element of self-reflection on the band’s part, the harsh rumble and vicious crash they emitted through the two side-consuming pieces — titled “A” and “B” — was nothing if not outwardly brutal.

Ommadon‘s last show would seem to have been in August as part of the Break the Chains festival in Leeds, and though their own announcement of their breakup is pretty barebones, Dry Cough‘s is more emblematic of the response the band got and how deeply their music affected their listeners. You can stream End Times at the bottom of this post, and here’s that ship and the statements from band and label:

ommadon breakup

Ommadon is Dead

There is no place for magic in this fool’s paradise. Ommadon is dead.

Dry Cough Records on Ommadon:

Ommadon is dead. Long live Ommadon.

I consider myself very lucky to have worked with Tobin and Ewan on three of their records. They’re excellent people and a truly amazing band who have played a huge part in helping Dry Cough establish itself in the UK underground.
I’ll be forever grateful to them for taking a chance on allowing DC to help release ‘V’ back in 2014.

Ommadon and their music mean an awful lot to me. Today is a sad day.

End Times.

Ommadon was:
David Tobin (guitar)
Ewan Mackenzie (drums, keyboards)

https://www.facebook.com/ommadondoom/
https://twitter.com/ommadondoom
https://www.drycoughrecords.com/
http://facebook.com/DryCoughRecords

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Bismuth Announce The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef Due Nov. 2; Premiere Album Trailer

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on September 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismuth

You only get a taste of it in the album trailer by Chariot of Black Moth streaming at the bottom of this post, but the 32-minute title-track of Bismuth‘s upcoming second full-length, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef, is heavy enough that you’ll be mopping your melted brain cells off the floor after they leak out your damaged ears. Provided you still have enough coordination to do so after the onslaught of noise and tonal weight. The Nottingham-based bass/drum duo will release the album Nov. 2 through no fewer than four labels — Dry Cough Records, Tartarus Records, Medusa Crush Recordings and Rope or Guillotine — and hearing it leaves little mystery as to why they’d garner such populous backing. Comprised just of the title-track and the subsequent six-minute scathe of noise-doom in “Weltschmerz,” it works around the theme of climate change and human impact on the planet, so yes, it is quite fucking grim. Quite fucking grim indeed. Just like our prospects for making it out of the next two centuries with a civilization intact. Good work, my fellow fuckwads.

Bassist/vocalist Tanya Byrne, when she’s not rumbling out the extreme-sludge chaos of Bismuth‘s low end alongside drummer Joe Rawlings in a bevvy of splits with the likes of UndersmileGnaw Their Tongues and Legion of Andromeda — significant company to keep, all of them — works as a volcanologist, and wrote the lyrics for The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef in consideration of exactly what the title describes. Not subtle, but certainly a devastating aural interpretation of a continually devastated ecosystem. You”ll find some comment from her below relating to the album, followed by the release info, followed by the trailer premiere.

All thanks to the mighty and seemingly-carbon-free-but-still-probably-somehow-toxic PR wire. Remember, kids. We’re all complicit:

Bismuth The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef

Tanya Byrne on The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef:

Last year I’d been reading a lot about climate change and the impacts it has been having on various parts of the world. There are particular habitats that act as warning flags for other ecosystems, because they are more sensitive to subtle changes. The Great Barrier Reef is one such area: It has been experiencing drastic changes due to a rise in global sea temperatures. In recent years, up to 70 percent of the reef has experiencing bleaching. The corals die, and as less survive every year, the extent of the reef decreases.

My hope is that through listening to this album, listeners will be prompted to do their own research into the effects that our species are having on this planet, and to rely less on the over-simplification of this issue that is so often presented by media outlets or political parties. Their soundbites are good for quotes, but not for explaining this complex and interconnected problem. As an environmental scientist, I try to be hopeful for the future, but I feel optimism can only be gained if all countries and political parties stop blaming each other and start working together to prevent further degradation of our planet.

The current political discourse on how to reduce our impact on ecosystems is stuck in semantics, all while these systems degrade. I believe we can reduce our impact, and I am hopeful that solutions will be found. However, many of these solutions are halted, while governments argue over who is to blame. The album title makes reference to the fact that climate change is affecting this habitat extremely, and inaction is one of the biggest causes of its decline.

Heavy/ slow duo, BISMUTH’s upcoming album, titled The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef, will be released on November 2 via a collaboration between four independent labels; Dry Cough (UK), Rope or Guillotine (NL), Medusa Crush (CA), and Tartarus Records (NL) who will jointly share release duties.

The two piece are based in Nottingham, featuring Joe Rawlings on drums and Tanya Byrne on bass/vocals. The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef is their second full length release, and is in many ways a continuation of earlier work; a strong focus on multiple layers and frequencies coming together to create an enveloping and often oppressive sound is very much BISMUTH’s MO.

The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef is a two song opus with quite self explanatory subject matter, lyric-wise. Outside of the band, Byrne, is a volcanologist with a passion for environmental science.

The title track is a 32 minute behemoth, which stays true to BISMUTH’s own description – heavy with a core of fragility. The second track, Weltschmerz is – musically and thematically – a continuation of the first. Whilst their songs lean towards being lengthy, the message and passion behind them never diminishes.

BISMUTH UK tour dates:
23.11 – Nottingham
24.11 – Manchester
25.11 – Glasgow
26.11 – Edinburgh
27.11 – Liverpool
28.11 – Leeds
29.11 – Birmingham
30.11 – Cardiff
01.12 – London
02.12 – Bristol
03.12 – Brighton

All dates are with VILE CREATURE.

The Slow Dying of The Great Barrier Reef is released on November 2nd via Dry Cough (UK), Rope or Guillotine (NL), Medusa Crush (CA), and Tartarus Records (NL).

https://www.facebook.com/bismuthslow/
https://bismuthslow.bandcamp.com
www.drycoughrecords.com/product/bismuth-slow-dying-pre-order
https://ropeorguillotine.bandcamp.com/album/the-slow-dying-of-the-great-barrier-reef
https://medusacrushrecordings.bandcamp.com
https://tartarusrecords.com

Bismuth, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef album trailer

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Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

endless-floods-ii

No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

Endless Floods on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records on Bandcamp

 

Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

tarpit-boogie-couldnt-handle-the-heavy-jam

Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

Tarpit Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

horseburner-dead-seeds-barren-soil

The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

 

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

vermilion-whiskey-spirit-of-tradition

Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

 

Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

Hex Inverter on Thee Facebooks

Hex Inverter on Bandcamp

 

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Endless Floods New Album II Due Jan. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Preorders start Dec. 5 for the second album from Bordeaux-based doomers Endless Floods. Aptly titled II, the record itself will arrive right after the New Year as a follow-up to the band’s 2015 self-titled debut and a split with the Netherlands’ Uur and finds issue on vinyl through Dry Cough Records and the band’s own Fvtvrecordings, as well as cassette via Breathe Plastic Records. You don’t need me to tell you this, but Dry Cough and Breathe Plastic are two labels who’ve done an excellent job keeping their ears to the ground over the last several years for all things sludgy and extreme, so while there hasn’t been any audio come to the surface from II yet, it might be one to watch out for as we plunge deeper into winter’s biting harshness.

I’ll turn it over to the PR wire for particulars:

endless-floods-ii

French craftsmen of despair ENDLESS FLOODS to release their doom-laden new LP “II” this January 6th.

France’s cathartic doom specialists ENDLESS FLOODS announce the release of their second full-length “II” this January 6th. A realm of darkness awaits.

Following on from their self-titled debut and split EP with Dutch doomsters Uur, ENDLESS FLOODS’ new album “II” will be released this January 6th, 2017 on vinyl format via Dry Cough Records and Fvtvrecordings, and on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records.

On this new offering, the French trio digs deeper within the realm of bleakness they established on their debut “Endless Floods”, making the listener enter a trance-like contemplation through the 20+ minute-long monoliths “Impasse” and “Procession”. In the same vein as their previous works, ENDLESS FLOODS blend their doom and sludge origins with noisier tones and crisper drone-sounding parts, following their path in a never-ending land of heavy. Straight from the limbo, crushing, boundary-free doom.

ENDLESS FLOODS – New album “II”
Out January 6th on Dry Cough Records / Breathe Plastic Records
Vinyl pre-orders from December 5th

The Bordelais trio released their self-titled debut in 2015, which was reissued on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records in February 2016. The band subsequently released a split EP with Dutch doomers UUR this May, which artwork was designed by Derek Setzer. The prolific ENDLESS FLOODS have already announced the release of their sophomore full-length “II” this January 6th, 2017 on vinyl via Dry Cough Records and the band’s label Fvtvrecordings, as well as on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records.

https://www.facebook.com/endlessfloods/
https://endlessfloods.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/endlessfloods
http://www.drycoughrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/breatheplastic/

Endless Floods, Endless Floods (2015)

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Primitive Man and Sea Bastard Releasing Split LP Early 2016

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

You know that scene in Spaceballs where Princess Vespa’s hair gets shot and she goes apeshit on all the balltroopers, Lone Star is all like, “Pretty good, for a girl,” and the Joan Riversbot answers back, “Pretty good for Rambo?” I feel like the prospect of getting together Primitive Man and Sea Bastard for a split and calling it “heavy” works on a similar scale. The Denver, CO, and Brighton, UK, outfits will pair up late next month (or thereabouts) for a new conjoined long-player brought to bear courtesy of Dry Cough and Black Reaper Records, which should tell you something about how heavy it will be that it needs two labels to do the lifting.

Details came down the PR wire. Almost broke the damn thing:

primitive man sea bastard split

Primitive Man / Sea Bastard Split LP

Dry Cough Records / Black Reaper Records

Early 2016 will see the release of quite possibly the heaviest record Dry Cough has released so far.

If you like heavy music – and doom in particular – then you’ll no doubt be familiar with these two behemoths. After a joint UK tour earlier in 2015, they decided to put a record out together, and this skull-crushing split LP is the result.

Denver trio Primitive Man are one of the hardest working and most prolific bands around right now, releasing an LP and a slew of splits & EPS since 2013, whilst seemingly almost permanently on tour. The two tracks they’ve recorded for this split are as harrowing and ferocious as any of their prior output, in fact before I’d even heard them, ELM informed me that they were the bands’ angriest songs yet! ‘Cold Resolve’ is one of the slowest tracks the band have recorded and it’s an uncomfortably claustrophobic listen that brilliantly builds the tension to an almost unbearable level: ‘Servant’ follows, and whilst hardly fast, the gradual increase in tempo almost feels like a blessed relief. Unfortunately for your ears and nerves, the respite is brief and band continue to violently lay waste to your senses for a further fraught 6+ minutes.

The flipside features one mammoth track (is there any other kind?!) from Dry Cough alumni – and one of the UK’s finest doom outfits – Sea Bastard. This is the third record of theirs I have had a hand in releasing, and with each one they’ve blown me away. ‘The Hermit’ starts off fairly low key, the pace probably best described as ‘crawling’, but this is what the band do best: slow, bludgeoning repetition, luring the listener into an almost trance-like state before an expertly executed change in tempo takes things up several notches and the song explodes. In terms of riffs, Sea Bastard have always offered up some of the most aurally satisfying ones one could wish to hear, and this track is no different, it’s full of them. If one word were needed to describe this song – and this band then I think ‘hefty’ would do nicely!

Pencilled in for release late January 2016

500 copies. 180g vinyl.

Primitive Man’s side of the sleeve features the unmistakable artwork of vocalist/guitairst, ELM. Sea Bastard’s side is adorned with a distinct drawing from the band’s guitarist, Oliver Irongiant (and is the first sleeve of theirs not to feature any skulls!).

Co-release with Black Reaper Records (UK).

www.primitivemandoom.bandcamp.com
www.seabastard.bandcamp.com
www.drycoughrecords.com
www.blackreaperrecords.bigcartel.com
www.irongiant.bigcartel.com
www.leangreenohmswatts.tumblr.com

Primitive Man, “Loathe”

Sea Bastard, “Astral Rebirth”

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Bismuth to Release Unavailing Nov. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 27th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

bismuth

Slow and low UK skullbashers Bismuth will release their debut album, Unavailing, on Nov. 25. Among the noteworthy factoids concerning the release is the following: There are no fewer than five labels involved. Frickin’ five. Meanwhile, there are only two people actually in the band, which with a bit of quick arithmetic tells us that there are quite literally more than twice as many imprints standing behind Bismuth‘s first album as there are people in the band. It’s not every group who can make such a claim.

A four-track 2LP — presumably that’s one per side — recorded and mixed by Chris Fielding (Conan) at Skyhammer StudioUnavailing will be out on Dry CoughDe GraanrepubliekBox RecordsTartarus Records and Viral Age. The band is comprised of bassist/vocalist Tanya Byrne and drummer Joe Rawlings. The numbers do not lie.

Into the void with you:

bismuth unavailing

Bismuth – Unavailing: Double LP and cassette released Nov 25th

Unavailing is the debut album by aptly named Nottingham duo, BISMUTH.

“Bismuth has long been considered as the element with the highest atomic mass that is stable. However, in 2003 it was discovered to be weakly radioactive: its only primordial isotope, bismuth-209, decays via alpha decay with a half life more than a billion times the estimated age of the universe. Bismuth often appears as beautiful iridescent, spiral-stepped crystals.” This sums up the sound of the band well.

Like their namesake, the music that Bismuth create is incredibly dense, slow and heavy, but with moments of subtle, ethereal beauty. Bismuth balance stripped down ‘less is more’ approach to songwriting with a ‘more is more’ approach to amplification, volume and fuzz to create a crushing and monolithic sound.

Unavailing consists of four epic tracks recorded and mixed at Skyhammer Studios by Chris Fielding, and mastered by James Plotkin. It will be presented as a double LP in an edition of 300 copies as a cooperative release between the band, De graanrepubliek, dry cough, box records and viral age, with tartarus records handling the cassette version.

https://www.facebook.com/bismuthslow
www.bismuthslow.bandcamp.com
www.degraanrepubliek.com
www.drycoughrecords.com
www.box-records.com
www.tartarusrecords.com
viralagerecords.blogspot.com

Bismuth, Live at SOAN 25/07/2014

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