Quarterly Review: Antimatter, Mick’s Jaguar, Sammal, Cassius King, Seven Rivers of Fire, Amon Acid, Iron & Stone, DRÖÖG, Grales, Half Gramme of Soma

Posted in Reviews on January 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

We roll on in this new-year-smelling 2023 with day two of the Quarterly Review. Yesterday was pretty easy, but the first day almost always is. Usually by Thursday I’m feeling it. Or the second Tuesday. It varies. In any case, as you know, this QR is a double, which means it’s going to include 100 albums total, written about between yesterday and next Friday. Ton of stuff, and most of it is 2022, but generally later in the year, so at least I’m only a couple months behind your no doubt on-the-ball listening schedule.

Look. I can’t pretend to keep up with a Spotify algorithm, I’m sorry. I do my best, but that’s essentially a program to throw bands in your face (while selling your data and not paying artists). My hope is that being able to offer a bit of context when I throw 100 bands in your face is enough of a difference to help you find something you dig. Some semblance of curation. Maybe I’m flattering myself. I’m pretty sure Spotify can inflate its own ego now too.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #11-20:

Antimatter, A Profusion of Thought


Project founder, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Mick Moss isn’t through opener “No Contact” — one of the 10 inclusions on Antimatter‘s 54-minute eighth LP, A Profusion of Thought — before he readily demonstrates he can carry the entire album himself if need be. Irish Cuyos offers vocals on the subsequent “Paranoid Carbon” and Liam Edwards plays live drums where applicable, but with a realigned focus on programmed elements, his own voice the constant that surrounds various changes in mood and purpose, and stretches of insularity even on the full-band-sounding “Fools Gold” later on, the self-released outing comes across as more inward than the bulk of 2018’s Black Market Enlightenment, though elements like the acoustic-led approach of “Breaking the Machine,” well-produced flourishes of layering and an almost progressive-goth (proggoth?) atmosphere carry over. “Redshift” balances these sides well, as does fold before it, and “Templates” before that, and “Fools Gold” after, as Antimatter thankfully continues to exist in a place of its own between melancholic heavy, synthesized singer-songwriterism and darker, doom-born-but-not-doom metal, all of which seem to be summarized in the closing salvo of “Entheogen,” “Breaking the Machine” and “Kick the Dog.” Moss is a master of his craft long-established, and a period of isolation has perhaps led to some of the shifting balance here, but neither the album nor its songs are done a disservice by that.

Antimatter on Facebook

Antimatter on Bandcamp


Mick’s Jaguar, Salvation

Mick's Jaguar Salvation

There was a point, maybe 15 years ago now give or take, when at least Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City were awash in semi-retro, jangly-but-rough-edged-to-varying-degrees rock and roll bands. Some sounded like Joan Jett, some sounded like the Ramones, or The Strokes or whoever. On Salvation, their second LP, Mick’s Jaguar bring some chunky Judas Priest riffing, no shortage of attitude, and as the five-piece — they were six on 2018’s Fame and Fortune (review here) — rip into a proto-shredder like “Speed Dealer,” worship Thin Lizzy open string riffing on “Nothing to Lose” or bask in what would be sleaze were it not for the pandemic making any “Skin Contact” at all a serotonin spike, they effectively hop onto either side of the line where rock meets heavy. Also the longest track at 4:54, “Molotov Children” is a ’70s-burly highlight, and “Handshake Deals” is an early-arriving hook that seems to make everything after it all the more welcome. “Man Down” and “Free on the Street” likewise push their choruses toward anthemic barroom sing-alongs, and while I’m not sure those bars haven’t been priced out of the market and turned into unoccupied investment luxury condos by now, rock and roll’s been declared dead in New York at least 100,000 times and it obviously isn’t, so there.

Mick’s Jaguar on Facebook

Tee Pee Records store

Totem Cat Records store


Sammal, Aika laulaa

Sammal Aika laulaa

Long live Finnish weird. More vintage in their mindset than overall presentation, Sammal return via the ever-reliable Svart Records with Aika Laulaa, the follow-up to 2018’s Suuliekki (review here) and their fourth album total, with eight songs and 43 minutes that swap languages lyrically between Finnish, Swedish and English as fluidly as they take progressive retroism and proto-metal to a place of their own that is neither, both, and more. From the languid lead guitar in “Returning Rivers” to the extended side-enders “On Aika Laulaa” with its pastoralized textures and “Katse Vuotaa” with its heavy blues foundation, willfully brash surge, and long fade, the band gracefully skip rocks across aesthetic waters, opening playful and Scandi-folk-derived on “På knivan” before going full fuzz in “Sehr Kryptisch,” turning the three-minute meander of “Jos ei pelaa” into a tonal highlight and resolving the instrumental “(Lamda)” (sorry, the character won’t show up) with a jammy soundscape that at least sounds like it’s filled out by organ if it isn’t. A band who can go wherever they want and just might actually dare to do so, Sammal reinforce the notion of their perpetual growth and Aika laulaa is a win on paper for that almost as much as for the piano notes cutting through the distortion on “Grym maskin.” Almost.

Sammal on Facebook

Svart Records store


Cassius King, Dread the Dawn

Cassius King Dread the Dawn

Former Hades guitarist Dan Lorenzo continues a personal riffy renaissance with Cassius King‘s Dread the Dawn, one of several current outlets among Vessel of Light and Patriarchs in Black. On Dread the Dawn, the New Jersey-based Lorenzo, bassist Jimmy Schulman (ex-Attacker) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (ex-Overkill) — the rhythm section also carried over from Vessel of Light — and vocalist Jason McMaster offer 11 songs and 49 minutes of resoundingly oldschool heavy, Dio Sabbath-doomed rock. Individual tracks vary in intent, but some of the faster moments on “Royal Blooded” or even the galloping opener “Abandon Paradise” remind of Candlemass tonally and even rockers like “How the West Was Won,” “Bad Man Down” and “Back From the Dead” hold an undercurrent of classic metal, never mind the creeper riff of the title-track or its eight-minute companion-piece, the suitably swinging “Doomsday.” Capping with a bonus take on Judas Priest‘s “Troubleshooter,” Dread the Dawn has long since by then gotten its point across but never failed to deliver in either songwriting or performance. They strut, and earn it.

Cassius King on Facebook

MDD Records store


Seven Rivers of Fire, Way of the Pilgrim

Seven Rivers of Fire Way of the Pilgrim

Issued on tape through UK imprint Dub Cthonic, the four-extended-tracker Way of the Pilgrim is the second 2022 full-length from South African solo folk experimentalist Seven Rivers of Fire — aka William Randles — behind September’s Sanctuary (review here) and March’s Star Rise, and its mostly acoustic-based explorations are as immersive and hypnotic as ever as the journey from movement to movement in “They are Calling // Exodus” (11:16) sets up processions through the drone-minded “Awaken // The Passenger” (11:58), “From the Depths // Into the Woods” (12:00) and “Ascend // The Fall” (11:56), Randles continuing to dig into his own particular wavelength and daring to include some chanting and other vocalizations in the opener and “From the Depths // Into the Woods” and the piano-laced finale. Each piece has an aural theme of its own and sets out from there, feeling its way forward with what feels like a genuinely unplanned course. Way of the Pilgrim isn’t going to be for everybody, as with all of Seven Rivers of Fire‘s output, but those who can tune to its frequencies are going to find its resonance continual.

Seven Rivers of Fire on Facebook

Dub Cthonic on Bandcamp


Amon Acid, Cosmogony

Amon Acid Cosmogony

Leeds-based psychedelic doomers Amon Acid channel the grimmer reaches of the cosmic — and a bit of Cathedral in “Hyperion” — on their fifth full-length in four years, second of 2022, Cosmogony. The core duo of guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Sarantis Charvas and bassist/cellist Briony Charvas — joined on this nine-tracker by the singly-named Smith on drums — harness stately space presence and meditative vibes on “Death on the Altar,” the guitar ringing out vague Easternisms while the salvo that started with “Parallel Realm” seems only to plunge further and further into the lysergic unknown. Following the consuming culmination of “Demolition Wave” and the dissipation of the residual swirl there, the band embark on a series of shorter cuts with “Nag Hammandi,” the riff-roller “Mandragoras,” the gloriously-weird-but-still-somehow-accessible “Demon Rider” and the this-is-our-religion “Ethereal Mother” before the massive buildup of “The Purifier” begins, running 11 minutes, which isn’t that much longer than the likes of “Parallel Realm” or “Death on the Altar,” but rounds out the 63-minute procession with due galaxial churn just the same. Plodding and spacious, I can’t help but feel like if Amon Acid had a purposefully-dumber name they’d be more popular, but in the far, far out where they reside, these things matter less when there are dimensions to be warped.

Amon Acid on Facebook

Helter Skelter Productions website


Iron & Stone, Mountains and Waters

Iron and Stone Mountains and Waters

The original plan from Germany’s Iron & Stone was that the four-song Mountains and Waters was going to be the first in a sequence of three EP releases. As it was recorded in Fall 2020 — a time, if you’ll recall, when any number of plans were shot to hell — and only released this past June, I don’t know if the band are still planning to follow it with another two short offerings or not, but for the bass in “Loose the Day” alone, never mind the well-crafted heavy fuzz rock that surrounds on all sides, I’m glad they finally got this one out. Opener “Cosmic Eye” is catchy and comfortable in its tempo, and “Loose the Day” answers with fuzz a-plenty while “Vultures” metes out swing and chug en route to an airy final wash that immediately bleeds into “Unbroken,” which is somewhat more raucous and urgent of riff, but still has room for a break before its and the EP’s final push. Iron & Stone are proven in my mind when it comes to heavy rock songwriting, and they seem to prefer short releases to full-lengths — arguments to be made on either side, as ever — but whether or not it’s the beginning of a series, Mountains and Waters reaffirms the band’s strengths, pushes their craft to the forefront, and celebrates genre even as it inhabits it. There’s nothing more one might ask.

Iron & Stone on Facebook

Iron & Stone on Bandcamp




To be sure, there shades of are discernible influences in DR​Ö​Ö​G‘s self-titled Majestic Mountain Records first long-player, from fellow Swedes Graveyard, Greenleaf, maybe even some of earlier Abramis Brama‘s ’70s vibes, but these are only shades. Thus it is immediately refreshing how unwilling the self-recording core duo of Magnus Vestling and Daniel Engberg are to follow the rules of style, pushing the drums far back into the mix and giving the entire recording a kind of far-off feel, their classic and almost hypnotic, quintessentially Swedish (and in Swedish, lyrically-speaking) heavy blues offered with hints of psychedelic flourish and ready emergence. The way “Stormhatt” seems to rise in the space of its own making. The fuller fuzz of “Blodörn.” The subtle tension of the riff in the second half of “Nattfjärilar.” In songs mostly between six and about eight minutes long, DR​Ö​Ö​G distinguish themselves in tone — bass and hard-strummed guitar out front in “Hamnskiftaren” along with the vocals — and melody, creating an earthy atmosphere that has elements of svensk folkmusik without sounding like a caricature of that or anything else. They’ve got me rewriting my list of 2022’s best debut albums, and already looking forward to how they grow this sound going on from here.

DR​Ö​Ö​G on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store


Grales, Remember the Earth but Never Come Back

Grales Remember the Earth but Never Come Back

Rare is a record so thoroughly screamed that is also so enhanced by its lyrics. Hello, Remember the Earth but Never Come Back. Based in Montreal — home to any number of disaffected sludgy noisemakers — Grales turn apocalyptic dystopian visions into poetry on the likes of “All Things are Temporary,” and anti-capitalist screed on “From Sea to Empty Sea” and “Wretched and Low,” tying together anthropocene planet death with the drive of human greed in concise, sharp, and duly harsh fashion. Laced with noise, sludged to the gills it’s fortunate enough to have so it can breathe in the rising ocean waters, and pointed in its lurch, the five-song/43-minute outing takes the directionless fuckall of so many practitioners of its genre and sets itself apart by knowing and naming exactly what it’s mad about. It’s mad about wage theft, climate change, the hopelessness that surrounds most while a miserly few continue to rape and pillage what should belong to everybody. The question asked in “Agony” answers itself: “What is the world without our misery? We’ll never know.” With this perspective in mind and a hint of melody in the finale “Sic Transit Mundus,” Grales offer a two-sided tape through From the Urn Records that is gripping in its onslaught and stirring despite its outward misanthropy. It’s not that they don’t care; it’s that they want you to pick up a molotov cocktail and toss it at your nearest corporate headquarters. Call it relatable.

Grales on Facebook

From the Urn Records on Bandcamp


Half Gramme of Soma, Slip Through the Cracks

half gramme of soma slip through the cracks 1

Energetic in its delivery and semi-progressive in its intentions, Half Gramme of Soma‘s second album, Slip Through the Cracks, arrives with the backing of Sound of Liberation Records, the label wing of one of Europe’s lead booking agencies for heavy rock. Not a minor endorsement, but it’s plain to hear in the eight-song/42-minute course the individualism and solidified craft that prompted the pickup: Half Gramme of Soma know what they’re doing, period. Working with producer George Leodis (1000mods, Godsleep, Last Rizla, etc.) in their native Athens, they’ve honed a sound that reaches deeper than the deceptively short runtimes of tracks like “Voyager” and “Sirens” or “Wounds” might lead you to believe, and the blend of patience and intensity on finale-and-longest-song “22:22” (actually 7:36) highlights their potential in both its languid overarching groove and the later guitar solos that cut through it en route to that long fade, without sacrificing the present for the sake of the future. That is, whatever Half Gramme of Soma might do on their third record, Slip Through the Cracks shouldn’t. Even in fest-ready riffers “High Heels” and “Mind Game,” they bleed personality and purpose.

Half Gramme of Soma on Facebook

Sound of Liberation Records store


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Motorpsycho, Abrams, All India Radio, Nighdrator, Seven Rivers of Fire, Motherslug, Cheater Pipe, Old Million Eye, Zoltar, Ascia

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Welcome to the penultimate day of the Fall 2022 Quarterly Review, and yes, I will make just about any excuse to use the word “penultimate.” Sometimes you have a favorite thing, okay? The journey continues today, down, out, up and around, through and across 10 records from various styles and backgrounds. I hope you dig it and check back tomorrow for the last day. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Motorpsycho, Ancient Astronauts

motorpsycho ancient astronauts

There is no denying Motorpsycho. I’ve tried. Can’t be done. I don’t know how many records the Norwegian progressive rockers have put out by now, and honestly I wonder if even the band members themselves could give an accurate count. And who would be able to fact check? Ancient Astronauts continues the strong streak that the Trondheim trio of Tomas Järmyr, Bent Sæther, and Hans “Snah” Ryan have had going for at least the last six years — 2021’s Kingdom of Oblivion (review here) was also part of it — comprising four songs across a single 43-minute LP, with side B consumed entirely by the 22-minute finale “Chariot of the Sun/To Phaeton on the Occasion of Sunrise (Theme From an Imaginary Movie).” After the 12-minute King Crimsony build from silence to sustained freakout in “Mona Lisa Azazel” — preceded by the soundscape “The Flower of Awareness” (2:14) and the relatively straightforward, welcome-bidding “The Ladder” (6:41) — the closer indeed unfurls in two discernible sections, the first a linear stretch increasing in volume and tension as it moves forward, loosely experimental in the background but for sure a prog jam by its 11th minute that ends groovy at about its 15th, and the second a synthesizer-led arrangement that, to no surprise, is duly cinematic. Motorpsycho have been a band for more than 30 years established their place in the fabric of the universe, and are there to dwell hopefully for a long(er) time to come. Not all of the hundred-plus releases they’ve done have been genius, but they are so reliably themselves in sound it feels silly to write about them. Just listen and be happy they’re there.

Motorpsycho on Facebook

Stickman Records store


Abrams, In the Dark

Abrams In the Dark

Did you think Abrams would somehow not deliver quality-crafted heavy rock, straightforward in structure, ’00s punk undercurrent, plus metal, plus melody? Their first offering through Small Stone is In the Dark, the follow-up to 2020’s Modern Ways (review here), and it finds guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster joined by on guitar by Patrick Alberts (Call of the Void), making the band a four-piece for the first time with bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen and drummer Ryan DeWitt completing the lineup. One can hear new textures and depth in songs like “Better Living” after the raucous opening salvo of “Like Hell” and “Death Tripper,” and longer pieces like “Body Pillow,” the title-track and the what-if-BlizzardofOzz-was-really-space-rock “Black Tar Mountain,” which reach for new spaces atmospherically and in terms of progressive melody — looking at you, “Fever Dreams” — while maintaining the level of songwriting one anticipates from Abrams four records in. They’ve been undervalued for a while now. Can their metal-heavy-rock-punk-prog-that’s-also-kind-of-pop gain some of the recognition it deserves? It only depends on getting ears to hear it.

Abrams on Facebook

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp


All India Radio, The Generator of All Infinity

All India Radio The Generator of All Infinity

Australia-based electronic prog outfit All India Radio — the solo ambient/atmospheric endeavor of composer and Martin Kennedy — has been releasing music for over 20 years, and is the kind of thing you may have heard without realizing it, soundtracking television and whatnot. The Generator of All Infinity is reportedly the final release in a trilogy cycle, completely instrumental and based largely on short ambient movements that move between each other like, well, a soundtrack, with some more band-minded ideas expressed in “The New Age” — never underestimate the value of live bass in electronic music — and an array of samples, differing organs, drones, psychedelic soundscapes, and a decent bit of ’80s sci-fi intensity on “Beginning Part 2,” which succeeds in making the wait for its underlying beat excruciating even though the whole piece is just four minutes long. There are live and sampled drums throughout, shades of New Wave, krautrock and a genuine feeling of culmination in the title-track’s organ-laced crescendo wash, but it’s a deep current of drone that ends on “Doomsday Machine” that makes me think whatever narrative Kennedy has been telling is somewhat grim in theme. Fair enough. The Generator of All Infinity will be too heady for some (most), but if you can go with it, it’s evocative enough to maybe be your own soundtrack.

All India Radio on Facebook

All India Radio on Bandcamp


Nighdrator, Nighdrator

Nighdrator Nighdrator

Mississippi-based heavygaze rockers Nighdrator released the single “The Mariner” as a standalone late in 2020 as just the duo of vocalist/producer Emma Fruit and multi-instrumentalist JS Curley. They’ve built out more of a band on their self-titled debut EP, put to tape through Sailing Stone Records and bringing back “Mariner” (dropped the ‘The’) between “Scarlet Tendons” and the more synth-heavy wash of “The Poet.” The last two minutes of the latter are given to noise, drone and silence, but what unfurls before that is an experimentalist-leaning take on heavier post-rock, taking the comparatively grounded exploratory jangle of “Scarlet Tendons” — which picks up from the brief intro “Crest/Trough” depending on which format you’re hearing — and turning its effects-laced atmosphere into a foundation in itself. Given the urgency that remains in the strum of “Mariner,” I wouldn’t expect Nighdrator to go completely in one direction or another after this, but the point is they set up multiple opportunities for creative growth while signaling an immediate intention toward individuality and doing more than the My-Bloody-Valentine-but-heavy that has become the standard for the style. There’s some of that here, but Nighdrator seem not to want to limit themselves, and that is admirable even in results that might turn out to be formative in the longer term.

Nighdrator on Bandcamp

Sailing Stone Records store


Seven Rivers of Fire, Sanctuary

Seven Rivers of Fire Sanctuary

William Graham Randles, who is the lone figure behind all the plucked acoustic guitar strings throughout Seven Rivers of Fire‘s three-song full-length, Sanctuary, makes it easy to believe the birdsong that occurs throughout “Union” (16:30 opener and longest track; immediate points), “Al Tirah” (9:00) and “Bloom” (7:30) was happening while the recording was taking place and that the footsteps at the end are actually going somewhere. This is not Randles‘ first full-length release of 2022 and not his last — he releases the new Way of the Pilgrim tomorrow, as it happens — but it does bring a graceful 33 minutes of guitar-based contemplation, conversing with the natural world via the aforementioned birdsong as well as its own strums and runs, swells and recessions of activity giving the feeling of his playing in the sunshine, if not under a tree then certainly near one or, at worst, someplace with an open window and decent ventilation; the air feels fresh. “Al Tirah” offers a long commencement drone and running water, while “Bloom” — which begins with footsteps out — is more playfully folkish, but the heart throughout Sanctuary is palpable and in celebration of the organic, perhaps of the surroundings but also in its own making. A moment of serenity, far-away escapism, and realization.

Seven Rivers of Fire on Facebook

Aural Canyon Music on Bandcamp


Motherslug, Blood Moon Blues

Motherslug Blood Moon Blues

Half a decade on from The Electric Dunes of Titan (review here), Melbourne sludge rock bruisers Motherslug return with Blood Moon Blues, a willfully unmanageable 58-minute, let’s-make-up-for-lost-time collection that’s got room enough for “Hordes” to put its harsh vocals way forward in the mix over a psychedelic doom sprawl while also coexisting with the druggy desert punkers “Crank” and “Push the Venom” and the crawling death in the culmination of “You (A Love Song)” — which it may well be — later on. With acoustic stretches bookending in “Misery” and the more fully a song “Misery (Slight Return),” there’s no want for cohesion, but from naked Kyussism of “Breathe” and the hard Southern-heavy-informed riffs of “Evil” — yes I’m hearing early Alabama Thunderpussy there — to the way in which “Deep in the Hole” uses similar ground as a launchpad for its spacious solo section, there’s an abiding brashness to their approach that feels consistent with their past work. Not every bands sees the ways in which microgenres intersect, let alone manages to set their course along the lines between, drawing from different sides in varied quantities as they go, but Motherslug do so while sounding almost casual about it for their lack of pretense. Accordingly, the lengthy runtime of Blood Moon Blues feels earned in a way that’s not always the case with records that pass the single-LP limit of circa 45 minutes, there’s blues a-plenty and Motherslug brought enough riffs for the whole class, so dig in, everybody.

Motherslug on Facebook

Motherslug on Bandcamp


Cheater Pipe, Planetarium Module

Cheater Pipe Planetarium Module

Keep an ear out because you’re going to be hearing more of this kind of thing in the next few years. On their third album, Planetarium Module, Cheater Pipe blend Oliveri-style punk with early-aughts sludge tones and sampling, and as we move to about 20 years beyond acts like Rebreather and -(16)- and a slew of others including a bunch from Cheater Pipe‘s home state of Louisiana, yeah, there will be more acts adapting this particular stoner sludge space. Much to their credit, Cheater Pipe not only execute that style ably — Emissions sludge — on “Fog Line Shuffle,” “Cookie Jar” or “White Freight Liner Blues” and the metal-as-punk “Hollow Leg Hobnobber,” they bring Floor-style melody to “Yaw” and expand the palette even further in the second half of the tracklist, with “Mansfield Bar” pushing the melody further, “Flight of the Buckmoth” and closer “Rare Sunday” turning to acoustic guitar and “The Sad Saga of Hans Cholo” between them lending atmospheric breadth to the whole. They succeed at this while packing 11 songs into 34 minutes and coming across generally like they long ago ran out of fucks to give about things like what style they’re playing to or what’s ‘their sound.’ Invariably they think of these things — nobody writes a song and then never thinks about it again, even when they tell you otherwise — but the spirit here is middle-fingers-up, and that suits their sound best anyway.

Cheater Pipe on Facebook

Cheater Pipe on Bandcamp


Old Million Eye, The Air’s Chrysalis Chime

Old Million Eye The Air's Chrysalis Chime

The largely solo endeavor of Brian Lucas of Dire Wolves and a merry slew of others, Old Million Eye‘s latest full-length work arrives via Cardinal Fuzz and Feeding Tube with mellow psychedelic experimentalism and folk at its core. The Air’s Chrysalis Chime boasts seven pieces in 43 minutes and each one establishes its own world to some degree based around an underlying drone; the fluidity in “Louthian Wood” reminiscent of windchimes and accordion without actually being either of those things — think George Harrison at the end of “Long Long Long,” but it keeps going — and “Tanglier Mirror” casts out a wash of synthesizer melody that would threaten to swallow the vocals entirely would they not floating up so high. It’s a vibe based around patience in craft, but not at all staid, and “White Toads” throws some distorted volume the listener’s way not so much as a lifeline for rockers as another tool to be used when called for. The last cosmic synthesizer on “Ruby River,” the album’s nine-minute finale, holds as residual at the end, which feels fair as Lucas‘ voice — the human element of its presence is not to be understated as songs resonate like an even-farther-out, keyboard-leaning mid-period Ben Chasny — has disappeared into the ether of his own making. We should all be so lucky.

Old Million Eye on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz Records store

Feeding Tube Records store


Zoltar, Bury

Zoltar Bury

“Bury” is the newest single from Swedish heavy rockers Zoltar, who, yes, take their moniker from the genie machine in the movie Big (they’re not the only ones either). It follows behind two songs released last year in “Asphalt Alpha” and “Dirt Vortex.” Those tracks were rawer in overall production sound, but there’s still plenty of edge in “Bury,” up to and including in the vocals, which are throatier here than on either of the two prior singles, though still melodic enough so that when the electric piano-style keys start up at about two and a half minutes into the song, the goth-punk nod isn’t out of place. It’s a relatively straight-ahead hook with riffing made that much meatier through the tones on the recording, and a subtle wink in the direction of Slayer‘s “Dead Skin Mask” in its chorus. Nothing to complain about there or more generally about the track, as the three-piece seem to be working toward some kind of proper release — they did press up a CD of Bury as a standalone, so kudos to them on the physicality — be it an EP or album. Wherever they end up, if these songs make the trip or are dropped on the way, it’s a look at a band’s earliest moves as a group and how quickly that collaboration can change and find its footing. Zoltar — who did not have feet in the movie — may just be doing that here.

Zoltar on Facebook

Zoltar store


Ascia, III

Ascia III

Sardinia’s Fabrizio Monni (also of Black Capricorn) has unleashed a beast in Ascia, and with III, he knows it more than ever. The follow-up to Volume II (review here) and Volume I (review here) — both released late last year — is more realized in terms of songcraft, and it would seem Monni‘s resigned himself to being a frontman of his own solo-project, which is probably the way to go since he’s obviously the most qualified, and in songs like “The Last Ride,” he expands on the post-High on Fire crash-and-bash with more of a nodding central groove, while “Samothrace” finds a place for itself between marauder shove and more direct heavy rock riffery. Each time out, Monni seems to have more of an idea of what he wants Ascia to be, and whether there’s a IV to come after this or he’s ready to move onto something else in terms of release structure — i.e., a debut album — the progression he’s undertaken over the last year-plus is plain to hear in these songs and how far they’ve come in so short a time.

Ascia on Bandcamp

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Nadja, London Odense Ensemble, Omen Stones, Jalayan, Las Cruces, The Freeks, Duncan Park, MuN, Elliott’s Keep, Cachemira

Posted in Reviews on September 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Day three, passing the quarter mark of the Quarterly Review, halfway through the week. This is usually the point where my brain locks itself into this mode and I find that even in any other posts where I’m doing actual writing I need to think about I default to this kind of trying-to-encapsulate-a-thing-in-not-a-million-words mindset, for better or worse. Usually a bit of both, I guess. Today’s also all over the place, so if you’re feeling brave, today’s the day to really dig in. As always, I hope you enjoy. If not, more coming tomorrow. And the day after. And then again on Monday. And so on.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Nadja, Labyrinthine

Nadja Labyrinthine

The second full-length of 2022 from the now-Berlin-based experimental two-piece Nadja — as ever, Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker — is a four-song collaborative work on which each piece features a different vocalist. In guesting roles are Alan Dubin, formerly of Khantate/currently of Gnaw, Esben and the Witch‘s Rachel Davies, Lane Shi Otayonii of Elizabeth Colour Wheel and Full of Hell‘s Dylan Walker. Given these players and their respective pedigrees, it should not be hard to guess that Labyrinthine begins and ends ferocious, but Nadja by no means reserve the harshness of noise solely for the dudely contingent. The 17-minute “Blurred,” with Otayonii crooning overtop, unfurls a consuming wash of noise that, true, eventually fades toward a more definitive droner of a riff, but sure enough returns as a crescendo later on. Dubin is unmistakable on the opening title-track, and while Davies‘ “Rue” runs only 12 minutes and is the most conventionally listenable of the inclusions on the whole, even its ending section is a voluminous blowout of abrasive speaker destruction. Hey, you get what you get. As for Nadja, they should get one of those genius grants I keep hearing so much about.

Nadja website

Nadja on Bandcamp


London Odense Ensemble, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1

London Odense Ensenble Jaiyede Sessions Volume 1

El Paraiso Records alert! London Odense Ensemble features Jonas Munk (guitar, production), Jakob Skøtt (drums, art) and Martin Rude (sometimes bass) of Danish psych masters Causa Sui — they’re the Odense part — and London-based saxophonist/flutist Tamar Osborn and keyboardist/synthesist Al MacSween, and if they ever do a follow-up to Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1, humanity will have to mark itself lucky, because the psych-jazz explorations here are something truly special. On side A they present the two-part “Jaiyede Suite” with lush krautrock rising to the level of improv-sounding astro-freakout before the ambient-but-still-active “Sojourner” swells and recedes gracefully, and side B brings the 15-minute “Enter Momentum,” which is as locked in as the title might lead one to believe and then some and twice as free, guitar and sax conversing fluidly throughout the second half, and the concluding “Celestial Navigation,” opening like a sunrise and unfolding with a playful balance of sax and guitar and synth over the drums, the players trusting each other to ultimately hold it all together as of course they do. Not for everybody, but peaceful even in its most active moments, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1 is yet another instrumental triumph for the El Paraiso camp. Thankfully, they haven’t gotten bored of them yet.

El Paraiso Records on Facebook

El Paraiso Records store


Omen Stones, Omen Stones

Omen Stones Omen Stones

True, most of these songs have been around for a few years. All eight of the tracks on Omen Stones‘ 33-minute self-titled full-length save for “Skin” featured on the band’s 2019 untitled outing (an incomplete version of which was reviewed here in 2018), but they’re freshly recorded, and the message of Omen Stones being intended as a debut album comes through clearly in the production and the presentation of the material generally, and from ragers like “Fertile Blight” and the aforementioned “Skin,” which is particularly High on Fire-esque, to the brash distorted punk (until it isn’t) of “Fresh Hell” and the culminating nod and melody dare of “Black Cloud,” the key is movement. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton (Druglord), bassist Ed Fierro (Tel) and drummer Erik Larson (Avail, Alabama Thunderpussy, etc. ad infinitum) are somewhere between riff-based rock and metal, but carry more than an edge of sludge-nasty in their tones and Hamilton‘s sometimes sneering vocals such that Omen Stones ends up like the hardest-hitting, stoner-metal-informed grunge record that ever got lost from 1994. Then you get into “Secrete,” and have to throw the word ‘Southern’ into the mix because of that guitar lick, and, well, maybe it’s better to put stylistic designations to the side for the time being. A ripper with pedigree is a ripper nonetheless.

Omen Stones on Facebook

Omen Stones on Bandcamp


Jalayan, Floating Islands

Jalayan Floating Islands

Proggy, synth-driven instrumentalist space rock is the core of what Italy’s Jalayan bring forward on the 45-minute Floating Islands, with guitar periodically veering into metallic-style riffing but ultimately pushed down in the mix to let the keyboard work of band founder Alessio Malatesta (who also recorded) breathe as it does. That balance is malleable throughout, as the band shows early between “Tilmun” and “Nemesis,” and if you’re still on board the ship by the time you get to the outer reaches of “Stars Stair” — still side A, mind you — then the second full-length from the Lesmo outfit will continue to offer thrills as “Fire of Lanka” twists and runs ambience and intensity side by side and “Colliding Orbits” dabbles in space-jazz with New Age’d keyboards, answering some of what featured earlier on “Edination.” The penultimate “Narayanastra” has a steadier rock beat behind it and so feels more straightforward, but don’t be fooled, and at just under seven minutes, “Shem Temple” closes the proceedings with a clear underscoring the dug-in prog vibe, similar spacey meeting with keys-as-sitar in the intro as the band finds a middle ground between spirit and space. There are worlds being made here, as Malatesta leads the band through these composed, considered-feeling pieces united by an overarching cosmic impulse.

Jalayan on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Adansonia Records store


Las Cruces, Cosmic Tears

las cruces cosmic tears

Following 12 years on the heels and hells of 2010’s Dusk (review here), San Antonio, Texas, doomers Las Cruces return with the classic-style doom metal of Cosmic Tears, and if you think a hour-long album is unmanageable in the day and age of 35-minute-range vinyl attention spans, you’re right, but that’s not the vibe Las Cruces are playing to, and it’s been over a decade, so calm down. Founding guitarist George Trevino marks the final recorded performance of drummer Paul DeLeon, who passed away last year, and welcomes vocalist Jason Kane to the fold with a showcase worthy of comparison to Tony Martin on songs like “Stay” and the lumbering “Holy Hell,” with Mando Tovar‘s guitar and Jimmy Bell‘s bass resulting in riffs that much thicker. Peer to acts like Penance and others working in the post-Hellhound Records sphere, Las Cruces are more grounded than Candlemass but reach similar heights on “Relentless” and “Egyptian Winter,” with classic metal as the thread that runs throughout the whole offering. A welcome return.

Las Cruces on Facebook

Ripple Music store


The Freeks, Miles of Blues

The Freeks Miles of Blues

Kind of a sneaky album. Like, shh, don’t tell anybody. As I understand it, the bulk of The Freeks‘ nine-tracker Miles of Blues is collected odds and ends — the first four songs reportedly going to be used for a split at some point — and the two-minute riff-and-synth funk-jam “Maybe It’s Time” bears that out in feeling somewhat like half a song, but with the barroom-brawler-gone-to-space “Jaqueline,” the willfully kosmiche “Wag the Fuzz,” which does what “Maybe It’s Time” does, but feels more complete in it, and the 11-minute interstellar grandiosity of “Star Stream,” the 41-minute release sure sounds like a full-length to me. Ruben Romano (formerly Nebula and Fu Manchu) and Ed Mundell (ex-Monster Magnet) are headlining names, but at this point The Freeks have established a particular brand of bluesy desert psych weirdness, and that’s all over “Real Gone” — which, yes, goes — and the rougher garage push of “Played for Keeps,” which should offer thrills to anyone who got down with Josiah‘s latest. Self-released, pressed to CD, probably not a ton made, Miles of Blues is there waiting for you now so that you don’t regret missing it later. So don’t miss it, whether it’s an album or not.

The Freeks on Facebook

The Freeks website


Duncan Park, In the Floodplain of Dreams

Duncan Park In the Floodplain of Dreams

South Africa-based self-recording folk guitarist Duncan Park answers his earlier-2022 release, Invoking the Flood (review here), with the four pieces of In the Floodplain of Dreams, bringing together textures of experimentalist guitar with a foundation of hillside acoustic on opener and longest track (immediate points) “In the Mountains of Sour Grass,” calling to mind some of Six Organs of Admittance‘s exploratory layering, while “Howling at the Moon” boasts more discernable vocals (thankfully not howls) and “Ballad for the Soft Green Moss” highlights the self-awareness of the evocations throughout — it is green, organic, understated, flowing — and the closing title-track reminisces about that time Alice in Chains put out “Don’t Follow” and runs a current of drone behind its central guitar figure to effectively flesh out the this-world-as-otherworld vibe, devolving into (first) shred and (then) noise as the titular dream seems to give way to a harsher reality. So be it. Honestly, if Park wants to go ahead and put out a collection like this every six months or so into perpetuity, that’d be just fine. The vocals here are a natural development from the prior release, and an element that one hopes continue to manifest on the next one.

Duncan Park on Facebook

Ramble Records store


MuN, Presomnia

MuN Presomnia

Crushing and atmospheric in kind, Poland’s MuN released Presomnia through Piranha Music in 2020 as their third full-length. I’m not entirely sure why it’s here, but it’s in my notes and the album’s heavy like Eastern European sadness, so screw it. Comprised of seven songs running 43 minutes, it centers around that place between waking and sleep, where all the fun lucid dreaming happens and you can fly and screw and do whatever else you want in your own brain, all expressed through post-metallic lumber and volume trades, shifting and building in tension as it goes, vocals trading between cleaner sung stretches and gut-punch growls. The layered guitar solo on “Arthur” sounds straight out of the Tool playbook, but near everything else around is otherwise directed and decidedly more pummeling. At least when it wants to be. Not a complaint, either way. The heft of chug in “Deceit” is of a rare caliber, and the culmination in the 13-minute “Decree” seems to use every bit of space the record has made prior in order to flesh out its melancholic, contemplative course. Much to their credit, after destroying in the midsection of that extended piece, MuN make you think they’re bringing it back around again at the end, and then don’t. Because up yours for expecting things. Still the “Stones From the Sky” riff as they come out of that midsection, though. Guess you could do that two years ago.

MuN on Facebook

Piranha Music on Bandcamp


Elliott’s Keep, Vulnerant Omnes

Elliott's Keep Vulnurent Omnes

I’ve never had the fortune of seeing long-running Dallas trio Elliott’s Keep live, but if ever I did and if at least one of the members of the band — bassist/vocalist Kenneth Greene, guitarist Jonathan Bates, drummer Joel Bates — wasn’t wearing a studded armband, I think I might be a little disappointed. They know their metal and they play their metal, exclusively. Comprised of seven songs, Vulnerant Omnes is purposefully dark, able to shift smoothly between doom and straight-up classic heavy metal, and continuing a number of ongoing themes for the band: it’s produced by J.T. Longoria, titled in Latin (true now of all five of their LPs), and made in homage to Glenn Riley Elliott, who passed away in 2004 but features here on the closer “White Wolf,” a cover of the members’ former outfit, Marauder, that thrashes righteously before dooming out as though they knew someday they’d need it to tie together an entire album for a future band. Elsewhere, “Laughter of the Gods” and the Candlemassian “Every Hour” bleed their doom like they’ve cut their hand to swear an oath of fealty, and the pre-closer two-parter “Omnis Pretium (Fortress I)” and “Et Sanguinum (Fortress II)” speaks to an age when heavy metal was for fantasy-obsessed miscreants and perceived devil worshipers. May we all live long enough to see that particular sun rise again. Until then, an eternal “fucking a” to Elliott’s Keep.

Elliott’s Keep on Facebook

NoSlip Records store


Cachemira, Ambos Mundos

Cachemira Ambos Mundos

Sometime between their 2017 debut, Jungla (review here), and the all-fire-even-the-slow-parts boogie and comprises the eight-song/35-minute follow-up Ambos Mundos, Barcelona trio Cachemira parted ways with bassist Pol Ventura and brought in Claudia González Díaz of The Mothercrow to handle low end and lead vocals alongside guitarist/now-backing vocalist Gaston Lainé (Brain Pyramid) and drummer Alejandro Carmona Blanco (Prisma Circus), reaffirming the band’s status as a legit powerhouse while also being something of a reinvention. Joined by guest organist Camille Goellaen on a bunch of the songs and others on guitar, Spanish guitar and congas, Ambos Mundos scorches softshoe and ’70s vibes with a modern confidence and thickness of tone that put to use amid the melodies of “Dirty Roads” are sweeping and pulse-raising all at once. The name of the record translates to ‘both worlds,’ and the closing title-track indeed brings together heavy fuzz shuffle and handclap-laced Spanish folk (and guitar) that is like pulling back the curtain on what’s been making you dance this whole time. It soars and spins heads until everybody falls down dizzy. If they were faking, it’d fall flat. It doesn’t. At all. More please.

Cachemira on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Duncan Park of Return to Worm Mountain, Rise Up Dead Man & More

Posted in Questionnaire on March 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Duncan Park

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: Duncan Park of Return to Worm Mountain, Rise Up Dead Man & More

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

At the core, I play guitar and write songs. I started playing when I was ten years old, largely because my dad played guitar and my parents played loads of great guitar music in the house as I was growing up. At that age I also started listening to my “own” music, which at that point in time was pretty average pop “punk” like the Offspring and Blink-182 and then nü-metal bands like System of a Down, which was also generally guitar-oriented music.

From there I quickly realized that I love making new sounds on the guitar and started writing my own licks and riffs. At a very young age I knew that I preferred creating my own music to playing covers. I suppose it all just snowballed from there, especially as my tastes in music expanded and my artistic horizons broadened, which opened my eyes to the almost infinite possibilities of musical creation.

Describe your first musical memory.

I was lying on a couch which had been prepared as my bed for the night. I assume we were on a family holiday, or at the very least, we were travelling somewhere and staying in an unfamiliar house. I am not sure how young I was, but I remember feeling excited, and my dad was playing some songs to me on guitar in an attempt to get me to fall asleep. Appropriately, he was playing the song “I’m Only Sleeping” by the Beatles. I remember the song making me feel hopeful, and almost hypnotized. It was a feeling of pure emotive euphoria, which to this day only music can make me feel. It was incredible.

Growing up, my father often played my sister and I songs to get us to fall asleep. He would play his own renditions of the usual Disney songs that kids our age would have liked, but he was a massive Beatles and John Lennon fan, so to this day when I hear the original versions of “I’m Looking Through You,” “Beautiful Boy” or “I’m Only Sleeping,” it always makes me think of him, and more specifically, how much I preferred his versions of those songs (even though the originals are all stone cold classics). I’d love to get a recording of him playing those songs. Next time he comes to stay at my house I think I may force him into it.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is an incredibly difficult question. There are so many moments when writing music which give one an unbridled feeling of euphoria which is immensely satisfying, and I suppose these moments are my best musical memories. One moment in particular would be when Cameron and I wrote the song Umdhlebi Tree for the second Return to Worm Mountain album. We only had a handful of songs and whilst we were jamming and recording some live take’s in his garage to get things started on making the album he said to me we needed to write another song for the record, and kind of put me on the spot to come up with a riff there and then. I felt this immediate pressure and just started to let my fingers wander up and down the fretboard trying to find a riff. He kept saying “nah, I don’t like that” to everything I was coming up with, until I fell upon that serpentine arpeggio that makes up the main riff of the song. At that point we both knew we had something that was special to the two of us, and to this day that remains my favourite riff I have written, and Umdhlebi Tree is one of the songs that I am most proud of out of everything I have ever recorded.

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

In my day job, my firmly held beliefs are tested all the time. But in music, one firmly held belief of mine that is often tested in an incredibly positive way is my belief that when it really comes down to it, the only person you can rely on is yourself. Time and again my friends and musical peers have proved me wrong on this. The musical community has supported me through a great many experiences where I thought I was alone. Music tests me in ways which make me realise that people are generally kinder and more supportive than I believe them to be. And that is a wonderful way to be tested.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Within my own personal experience and understanding of what “artistic progression” is, it leads to an increased satisfaction in one’s own ability to articulate, express, and emote artistically. Something like becoming more fluent in the ability to communicate musically and express feelings and emotions which cannot be expressed through the limitations of conventional language. As you progress artistically, the wider and more powerful your emotive range becomes. With this ability, the more your own satisfaction in the art you create grows.

However, I don’t necessarily believe that I (or anyone) is constantly “progressing” artistically. I often feel more like I have “regressed” in certain aspects of the art I create, which can be incredibly frustrating.

How do you define success?

For me, success is almost synonymous with satisfaction or contentment. Some people are satisfied just being able to write a song which they will only ever play in their living room, and to them that is an accomplishment and a success in itself. Other people may only be satisfied if their album gets five-star reviews and they sell out a headlining tour of Europe or something like that. So it’s not the same for everyone, and I don’t believe anyone’s own criteria for success is more or less valid than the next person’s.

I also don’t believe that success is something that is static. Everything’s relative. When a band starts out, getting that first gig is a success worth celebrating. As they progress over time their own perception or threshold for success may change and evolve. These days, I often see the number of social media followers an artist has being used as a metric for success. Twenty years ago, social media didn’t even exist, so what is generally perceived or accepted as a measure for success by the public changes over time.

For me, playing music is an extremely personal, cathartic experience, so when I play music, whether it be live or recording and experimenting in my home, if I feel like I have achieved that satisfying release of catharsis, then it has been a success. If I walk away feeling elated, euphoric, or even “cleansed”, like I have purged my frustrations, then it has been a success. If I walk away feeling frustrated or disappointed, then it certainly was not a success at all. I guess that’s my metric for measuring success.

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

There are undoubtedly a couple of gigs I wish I hadn’t seen. Conversely, there are a few audiences I wish I hadn’t seen either. However, I suppose these were all learning experiences. Master classes in what not to do on either side of the stage. Not that I’ve come close to mastering the art of performing live.

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

I would really like to create an immersive, meditative drone recording that is over an hour long. I dabble in drone music in my solo stuff and with Rise Up, Dead Man, but I am always nervous to go for that overblown expanse of songs which last for 20+ minutes. It’s ironic, because many of my favourite songs and albums are crazy long, but I suppose I’m building up the confidence to pull something like that off myself. I also don’t want to go into writing a song or an album with the intention of just “making it really long” as an unwarranted tickbox criteria. I feel like it has to happen naturally, so I’m just waiting for the right piece of music or inspiration to come along so that I can ride that wave in a way that is organic rather than forced. Perhaps a stupid goal, but I guess I just want to make the kind of album or piece of music that I really love getting lost in myself. But if it never ends up happening, I am perfectly comfortable with that too.

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

In the immortal words of Shia LaBeouf, “Anything that moves you is art,” and much to my own amazement, I agree with the guy on this point. Whether it makes you reconsider the fabric of reality or just makes you feel happy and want to dance, if it moves you, it is art. Art’s most essential function is to move the audience. I’m sure there are artists who create their art with the intention to communicate something specific (even I have created art with this intention), but once it’s out in the world people will experience and interpret it in their own ways which you cannot, and should not be able to control. So regardless of the specific intention of the artwork, so long as it moves people, it is art.

I suppose this could also fall under the above question regarding how success is defined – art is ultimately successful if it moves the audience.

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

So many things… Summer vacation (I’m in South Africa in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s currently the middle of summer), my wife’s birthday, going hiking again, taking my dogs for a walk in the Durban botanic gardens, seeing my mother for the first time in two years (thanks Covid)… There are many things I am excited for.


Duncan Park, Invoking the Flood (2022)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Dream Unending, Mud Spencer, Farfisa, Volcanova, Aiwass & Astral Construct, Doctor Smoke, Willowater, All Are to Return, Mountain Sides, Duncan Park

Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Last day. I guess we made it. There was never any doubt it would happen, but I wouldn’t call this the smoothest Quarterly Review ever by any stretch. Weather, canceled school, missed bus, The Patient Mrs. about to start a new semester at work, plus that day that had three noise rock records right in a row — who slots these things? (me) — it hasn’t all been easy. But, if you’ve ever read the QR you might know I’ve developed a tendency to load a bunch of killer stuff into the last day to kind of give myself a break, and here we are. No regrets.

Thanks for reading this week (and any other week if you’ve ever been on this site before). Here’s how we finish.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Dream Unending, Tide Turns Eternal

dream unending tide turns eternal

Beautiful and sad, this first collaboration between drummer/vocalist Justin DeTore (Solemn Lament, ex-Magic Circle, many more) and guitarist/bassist Derrick Vella (Tomb Mold, Outer Heaven) under the moniker of Dream Unending harnesses a classic early ’90s death-doom melancholy, but it’s not as raw as the image of My Dying Bride circa ’92 that might bring to mind. If you want to do mashups, think Novembers Doom meets Alternative 4-era Anathema. Tide Turns Eternal brings together seven songs in 46 minutes and is memorable in stretches like the guitar progression of “In Cipher I Weep” and the crushing chug of the title-track as the Massachusetts/Toronto duo harness the a true sense of classic death metal just ahead of the two-minute weepy guitar interlude “Forgotten Farewell” and the 10-minute closing title-track. Perhaps there’s some inspiration from Bell Witch in the making, but Dream Unending‘s atmosphere and patience are their own.

Dream Unending on Instagram

20 Buck Spin website


Mud Spencer, Fuzz Soup

Mud Spencer Fuzz Soup

The title don’t lie. French expat Sergio Garcia, living in Indonesia, concocts 11 instrumental tracks of fuzzy flood, and if he wants to call that soup, then yeah, that’s as good as anything I’ve got. “Razana” opens with two minutes of garage-style strut, while “Back to Origin” crunches and “Fuzz Soup” feels a bit more of a psych freakout with its lead guitar and drums that remind of Witch, all performed by Garcia, who adds organ to boot. “Quest for Fire” is probably more in homage to the movie than band, which is a little sad, but the song brings in some minor scales and droning atmospherics, and “Ride the Mammoth” pushes more straightforward into the languid wah whatnottery of “Argapura” at the presumed start of side B, which feels rawer in “The Shelter” and more chaotic in the buzz of “Surfin’ the Dune” before “The Cheating Mole” turns to nighttime darkjazz, “Tumulous” turns its acoustic start into a hairy march punctuated and grounded by the pop of snare, and closer “Narcolepsy” finishes with a duly zombified, organ-laced take on tape-trader doom. These experiments work well together throughout Fuzz Soup, united by weird and unpredictable as they are.

Mud Spencer on Facebook

Argonauta Records website


Farfisa, Gänger

Farfisa Gänger

Gänger is third in a purported series of four EPs by Manchester, UK, four-piece Farfisa, and its four songs solidify some of the more let-go aspects of 2020’s Bravado, taking the folkish shine of a cut like “My Oh My” and turning it into the dug-in garage prog rock of “Honey Badger” and riffing out dirty and fuzzed on “River Rash.” Frankly, I don’t know why, having once conjured tones like those of the penultimate “Clinton” here, which sound like something that would make Ty Segall start a new band, one would ever not do that again, but I won’t claim to know what the fourth EP in the series might bring. One can only hope that, when the series is wrapped, they compile it into some sort of offering — a double-tape or some such — and release the whole thing together. As it stands though, Gänger is my first exposure to the band, and they smash through “Limitator” with due prejudice. I can think of five record labels off the top of my head who’d be lucky to have these guys, but nobody asks me these things.

Farfisa on Facebook

Farfisa on Bandcamp


Volcanova, Cosmic Bullshit

Volcanova Cosmic Bullshit

Fucking a, rock and roll. Reykjavik’s Volcanova aren’t through “Salem,” the lead cut from their righteously titled Cosmic Bullshit EP, before they’ve cadenced Uncle Acid in the verse and broken out the cowbell, so yes, it’s that kind of party. That cowbell comes back almost immediately for “Gold Coast,” which tramps out big riffs like Def Leppard used to make, and “Desolation” brings the bass forward effectively in its hook, the band having already built fervent momentum that will carry through the rest of the 26-minute mini-album. Not to pick favorites, but “End of Time” feels purposefully placed near the middle, and “No Wheels” — yup, more cowbell — splits that and closer “Lost Spot” well, giving a grounded stretch of pure shove before the finale hard-boogies and big-drifts its way to a surprising wash of an ending, organ included. You don’t call your release Cosmic Bullshit if you’re not looking to get attention, and Volcanova certainly earn that with these tracks.

Volcanova on Facebook

The Sign Records website


Aiwass & Astral Contruct, Solis in Stellis

Aiwass Astral Construct Solis in Stellis

The premier collaboration between Arizona’s Aiwass and Colorado’s Astral Construct — the latter also stylized as ASTRAL COnstruct — is a seven-minute single called “Solis in Stellis” that bridges terrestrial and ethereal heavy psychedelias. At a bit under eight minutes, its melodic flourish and weighted underpinning of low end, drifting guitar and fluid rhythmic progression sound like nothing so much as the beginning of an album that should be made if it’s not currently in the works between Drew Patricks (Astral Construct) and Blake Carrera (Aiwass), who both function as solo artists in their respective projects but come together here to show the complementary potential of each for the other. Lush in atmosphere, patient in its delivery and spacious without being overwrought, “Solis in Stellis” is hopefully the beginning of more to come from these two, who might just end up having to call themselves the Aiwass Construct if they keep going the way they are.

Aiwass on Facebook

Astral Construct on Instagram


Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead

Doctor Smoke Dreamers and the Dead

Seven years after 2014’s The Witching Hour, Ohio’s Doctor Smoke return with Dreamers and the Dead, a solid 10-song/42-minute run that makes up for lost time by reimagining ’90s-era Megadeth sneer as dark and catchy heavy rock and roll. The four-piece led by founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Tluchowski may have let a few years get by them — that’ll happen — but if the intervening time was spent hammering out these songs, the effort shows itself in the efficiency with which each cut makes its point and gets out, a song like “These Horrid Things” casting its mood in the verses before opening to the chorus, winding fretwork building tension into and subsequently through the solo. This is a revamp of the idea of a classic metal influence, the first instance of a generational shift I can think of that’s bringing this particular vibe to a heavy rock context — the pounding and sprinting of the title-track might’ve been thrash in the ’80s, but a decade later it was thicker and so it is here as well — and Doctor Smoke make it theirs, no question. One wonders what the next seven years will bring.

Doctor Smoke on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Willowater, Loyal

Willowater Loyal EP

Rebranded from their moniker of Sierra, Ontario progressive heavy rockers Willowater bring the four-track/14-minute EP as a quick hello to listeners new and old. Guitarist/vocalist Jason Taylor and bassist/drummer/vocalist Robbie Carvalho (also synth) chug out in early-Tool fashion on the opener “Ultimatum,” and the subsequent title-track answers back in kind with shared vocals and a bit of twisting, pulled squeals of guitar, and so on, while “Fly High” calls to mind Dio-style riffing with a bassline to bolster the classic metal vibe, and “Winter Now” builds a tension in its keyboard-laced 3:26 that, somewhat maddeningly, never pays itself off. Perhaps the message there is of more to come. Hope so, anyhow. Sierra were a quality band, and undervalued. Willowater seem to be taking another shot at catching as many ears as possible. A fresh start. Not so crazy different from what they were doing before, but sometimes a name can make all the difference.

Willowater on Facebook

Willowater on Bandcamp


All Are to Return, II

all are to return ii

This second EP from the anonymous Dutch outfit All Are to Return reignites the brutality of their 2020 self-titled debut short release (review here), while expanding the stylistic reach. Opener “Carceri” tips into industrial black metal before resolving itself in harsh screams and drones, while “Surveiller et Punir” feels even more experimental/art rock with tortured screams far back under noisy guitar. “Classified” is shorter and more beat-oriented, but the distorted wash of “Postscript on the Societies of Control” (bit of positive thinking there, almost in spite of itself) is abrasive as fuck, such that the quiet, minimal synth that starts “De Profundis” accompanied by more obscured screams seems almost like a relief before it builds to its own post-Godflesh industrialized crush. They finish atmospheric on “Desiring Machines,” blowing out conceptions of extreme music in about the time it takes for you to put on your shoes and jacket so you can go out, wander into the wilderness, and never be heard from again.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records website


Mountain Sides, Mountain Sides

mountain sides mountain sides

Members of Mirror Queen, the just-signed-to-TeePee-proper Limousine Beach (really, I haven’t even had the chance to post the news yet), Zombi, Ruby the Hatchet and Osees coming together for three Mountain covers. Mountain Sides do “You Better Believe It,” “Dreams of Milk and Honey” and “Travelin’ in the Dark,” and they knock it out of the park accordingly. I don’t know that this would ever get to become a real band between the commitments of Morgan McDaniel, David Wheeler and Steve Moore, let alone Owen Stewart (Ruby the Hatchet‘s drummer) or Paul Quattrone from Osees and a geographic spread between New York, Philly, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, but as a quick outing to test the waters, these three songs want nothing for vibe. Of course, being Mountain songs helps, but it almost inevitably would. Still, I’d take a record of tunes they wrote themselves, even if it doesn’t happen for another decade because everyone’s busy.

Mountain Sides on Bandcamp

Tee Pee Records Digital Annex


Duncan Park, Invoking the Flood

Duncan Park Invoking the Flood

Serenity in experimentalist drone and psychedelia, marked by the interplay of organic folk and otherworldly elements of fluid aural adventures. The backward, swelling repetitions of “The Alluring Pool” answer the watery worldmaking of leadoff “Rivers are a Place of Power,” the backing chimes reminding of water moving the air, the acoustic guitar on centerpiece “Riverbank” furthering the theme in sweetly plucked notes while Duncan Park (who also collaborates with Seven Rivers of Fire) picks up the journey again on “The Winding Stream” with a current of melody playing beneath the main acoustic lines of the song, instrumental in its entirety. Invoking the Flood, apart perhaps from some warning that might be read into the opener, grows more peaceful as it goes, though Park‘s inclusion of vocals on closer “Over the River” speaks perhaps of other tributaries waiting to be explored. Still, it is a sweet and encompassing, if short, trip downstream with Park here, and if the flood comes, at least we had a good time.

Duncan Park on Facebook

Ramble Records on Bandcamp


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Endless Boogie, Sula Bassana, Redscale, Seven Rivers of Fire, Cult Burial, Duster 69, Tankograd, Mother Iron Horse, Ouzo Bazooka, Pilot Voyager

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Somewhere just before I started this Quarterly Review, the contact form on this website was fixed. This, obviously, was a mistake. On my desktop that have come in over the last week and a day are more than enough releases to have continued the Fall 2021 QR for at least two more days, if not longer. That’s just not happening. The music’s been good, but I’ve had both of our family cars break down in the last two days, I’ve been fighting to get a bus to pick my kid up for school in the morning, and waking up at 4:30 to write only seems to result in nodding off while brushing my teeth. Not to mention, as The Patient Mrs. very gracefully doesn’t tell me during these times, I’m a total bitch when I do this. Again, she doesn’t say it. The message though is pretty clear.

So best to quit while I’m… already behind again…

Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Endless Boogie, Admonitions

endless boogie admonitions

Let’s not talk about how Paul Major has cool hair. Or how he’s well known in record-trader circles or whatever else. Let’s talk about Endless Boogie‘s largely-insurmountable 80-plus minutes of jams on Admonitions and how reliable the band have become when one seeks sleek-grooved expanses, not reliant on effects wash and synthesized swirl, but just the rawer guitar, bass, drums, periodic-but-don’t-go-expecting-them vocals. You put on Endless Boogie, you’re gonna get some groove. Pick a favorite between the sides-A-and-C-consuming 22-minute tracks “The Offender” and “Jim Tully” if you want, I’ll take both, and the minimal drone of “The Conversation” and “The Incompetent Villains of 1968” for a bonus. At 5:12 and with vocals, “Bad Call” is about as close as they come to a ‘single’ in the traditional sense — it’s the centerpiece of side B, with “Disposable Thumbs” before and the cool-built funk of “Counterfeiter” after — but if you’re looking for singles you’re missing the point here. The point is to put it on and go. So go, god damn it.

Endless Boogie on Bandcamp

No Quarter website


Sula Bassana, Loop Station Drones

sula bassana loop station drones

A collection of various pieces — aren’t we all? — by Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (Electric Moon, Zone Six, etc.), Loop Station Drones may be aptly named in terms of the basic process of creation, but that hardly covers the scope of the release’s 78-minute span, whether that’s the meditative undercurrent in opener “Roadburn Haze,” slightly edited from Schmidt‘s Roadburn Redux appearance earlier in 2021, the 16-bit cosmic soundtracking of “Rolling in Outer Space” (I’d play the shit out whatever game that is on SNES), the moodier breadth of “Die Karawane der Unsterblichen” and “Wastelandgarden” or the motorik pulse of the 17-minute “Dopeshuttle.” Especially pivotal is the closing duo of “Stargate” (14:06) and “One Way” (6:04), which offer serenity and wistfulness, respectively, that bridge a rare emotionality for what according to its title is a simple ‘drone.’ Anytime Schmidt wants to turn this into an ongoing series, that’ll be fine.

Sula Bassana on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore


Redscale, The Old Colossus

redscale the old colossus

Rock for rockers. Berlin four-piece Redscale roll out a scenario in which Clutch and Kyuss and Soundgarden and Truckfighters and probably six or seven other of your favorite heavy rock live acts got together and decided to put down a batch of kickass songs. That’s what’s up. The Old Colossus is the band’s fourth LP, first for Majestic Mountain, and if they spent their first two albums figuring out how to get shit done, well, they sound like it. Things get duly big-sounding on “Hard to Believe” and they go acoustic on “At the End” ahead of the closer “The Lathe of Heaven,” but basically what Redscale do here is identify the boxes needing ticking and then tick the crap out of them. They’re not reshaping the genre, but they’re definitely doing righteous work within it. The rockers will know the rock when they hear it. Everyone else can get bent.

Redscale on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records webstore


Seven Rivers of Fire, Hail Star of the Sea!

Seven Rivers of Fire Hail Star of the Sea

A solo-project of William Randles, also of Durban, South Africa’s Rise Up, Dead Man, the acoustic-led Seven Rivers of Fire brings a sense of outbound ritualism to drone-folk and organic psychedelia with this second self-released offering, Hail Star of the Sea!. I’m not sure if he’s handling all the instruments himself or not, but one is reminded of Om-split-era Six Organs of Admittance throughout the 20-minute “Crossing the Abyss / The Magician’s Journey,” and instrumental pieces like “I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightning” and “Ghost Dance / Sign of the Goddess” and “Ha-Sulam / Drawing Down the Moon” have a current of tension running alongside their largely-unplugged peacefulness. The 76-minute entirety of the outing is best enjoyed in the sun, outside, but whatever the context in which one might visit it in part or whole, the material is evocative of warmth and its swells and recessions effectively call out to the water. Not a minor undertaking, but neither should it be.

Seven Rivers of Fire on Facebook

Seven Rivers of Fire on Bandcamp


Cult Burial, Oblivion EP


What to call it? Wrench metal, because it feels like it’s systemically pulling you apart? Cement metal because of all that crushing? Post-death metal because all that sludge and doom mixed in sure sounds like decay and that’s what comes after? I don’t know. None of my names for anything ever stick anyway — the tragedy of being irrelevant — but London extremity-purveyors Cult Burial offer three-tracks of doom-laced death in Oblivion, with the short outing following-up on their well-received 2020 self-titled debut in an impressively seamless melding of genres, technical leads searing through lumbering riffs, harsh vocals, various barks and screams, populating this dense and pummeling sampler from the nine-minute opening title-slab through “Parasite” and “Paralysed,” and I’d say they save the heaviest for last, but they hammer-smashed the scale to bits because who the hell cares anyway? All this and atmosphere too. Whatever big-timey metal label ends up snagging this band is gonna have a beast on their hands.

Cult Burial on Facebook

Cult Burial website


Duster 69, 2021

duster 69 2021

German heavy rockers Duster 69 — or Duster69, if you prefer — seem to be testing the waters with their first release in 13 years. Called 2021, the two-songer brings just nine minutes of music in a kind of see-how-it-goes spirit. During their initial run, the outfit with Daredevil Records honcho Jochen Böllath (also of Grand Massive) on guitar released three full-length and splits alongside the likes of Calamus, Rickshaw, The Awesome Machine and House of Broken Promises, and though there’s something unassuming about thinking of “Oppose” and “Remember” as a comeback, it seems more about the band internally figuring out if they still work together as a unit. The answer, of course, is yes, or presumably 2021 wouldn’t see release. The production is rough, but if this is Duster 69 heralding a return in “soft opening” fashion, then something grand may yet be to come.

Duster 69 on Facebook

Daredevil Records website


Tankograd, Klęska

tankograd kleska

With Tomasz “Herr Feldgrau” Walczak, now also drumming in Weedpecker on vocals and guitar, Warsaw’s Tankograd present a Soviet-aftermath through a meld of styles that pulls together heavy rock, sludge, death and black metal. Second album Klęska is as likely to find Walczak — joined by drummer Jakub “Herr Stoß” Kaźmierski, guitarist Grzegorz “Herr Berg” Góra and bassist Herr “I Can’t Find His Real Name” Schnitt — harmonizing as engaging guttural growls over blastbeats, nodding riffs, and so on. “Niech Liczą Trupy” seems to willfully take on Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, but this is only after “Za Ofiarną Służbę” and “Nie Dać Się Zarżnąć” have blown genre convention out of the water. Tankograd continue in this fashion through the blues-into-blasts “Hańba” and the mostly-more-doomed “SLAM,” with “Nostalgia” closing out in a manner one can only call progressive for its clearsighted execution of vision. Bonus track “Polska” is anthemic and to translate the lyrics is a lesson in perspective waiting to happen. I’ve heard 70 albums for this Quarterly Review, and plenty of them have mixed styles. I haven’t heard anything else like this in that process.

Tankograd on Facebook

Piranha Music on Bandcamp


Mother Iron Horse, Under the Blood Moon

Mother Iron Horse - Under The Blood Moon artwork

Something something Salem, Massachusetts, something something witches. Fine. Cheers to Mother Iron Horse, who indeed hail from that storied Halloween tourist destination, on having more in common sound-wise with Doomriders than any tryhard-pagan retro-style novelty acts, and on not pretending to worship the devil despite the theme they’re working with throughout this sophomore LP and Ripple Music debut, Under the Blood Moon. A 37-minute, vinyl-ready-but-is-vinyl-ready-for-it affair that moves between sludge and uptempo heavy rock, there’s little pretense to be found across the eight tracks, even as side B moves through the title-track and into the chuggery of “Samhain Dawn” and the atmospheric-but-for-all-that-screaming-oh-wait-that’s-atmosphere-too “Samhain Night” before the rolling capper “Mass at Dungeon Rock” puts the nail in the proverbial coffin. Cult-themed riffy post-hardcore sludge, anyone? Yeah, probably. Can’t imagine there isn’t a market out there for “Old Man Satan.”

Mother Iron Horse on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Ouzo Bazooka, Dalya

Ouzo Bazooka Dalya

You know that episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk & Co. end up carting around this bunch of troublemaking space hippies? And they play songs like “Hey brother let’s get together and have some fun?” Of course you do. One of them was Chekhov’s ex-girlfriend from Starfleet Academy. Anyway, if you’re ever out warping from planet to planet wherever and you encounter space hippies and the songs they play don’t sound like Tel Aviv’s Ouzo Bazooka, you should drop their asses at the nearest starbase. Across the six songs and 34 minutes of Dalya, the Freak Valley veterans plant a garden of cosmic weirdness that’s as much retro spacefunk as it is Middle Eastern psychedelic jam rock, and I don’t care what decade you want to trace it to, if “Kruv” isn’t the sound of the 2260s happening right fucking now, then the future is going to be no less a disappointment than the present. Krautrock would’ve been better off if this is what it had become, and yes, I mean that.

Ouzo Bazooka on Facebook

Stolen Body Records website


Pilot Voyager, Roadtrip to Fantazery

Pilot Voyager Roadtrip to Fantazery

Those who’ve engaged with The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review at some point in the last seven-plus years that I’ve been doing them might understand that when it comes to finishing out, I like to do myself a favor and close with something awesome. Thus it is that the last record here is Pilot Voyager‘s Roadtrip to Fantazery, with four extended heavy psychedelic jams recorded by the Hungarian outfit in July at the Fantazery festival in Ukraine. It’s a full-on spacey blowout, with the trio of guitarist Ákos Karancz, bassist Ádám Kalamár and drummer Anton Ostrometskiy pushing interstellar vibes along an uptempo course charted by the likes of Earthless or Slift on “Dog Bitten Blues” (10:20) before “Dark Flood” (14:55) slows down and gets really vibed out. “Polite Screams and Electrolytes Between Me, Myself and My Pickups” (13:37) evens things out a bit, contrary to what its title might lead you to believe, and offers a highlight bassline late, and “Rare Wolfs of Yasinya” (13:29) builds to something of an apex before letting go, but the truth is if you’re not on board from the outset with Pilot Voyager‘s roadtrip — emphasis on ‘trip’ — it’s only going to be your loss. One way or the other, they’re gone.

Pilot Voyager on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: King Woman, Mythic Sunship, Morningstar Delirium, Lunar Funeral, Satánico Pandemonium, Van Groover, Sergio Ch., Achachak, Rise Up Dead Man, Atomic Vulture

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Hey, how was your weekend? You won’t be surprised to learn mine was full of tunes, which I mark as a win. While we’re marking wins, let’s put one down for wrapping up the longest Quarterly Review to-date in a full 11 days today. 110 releases. I started on July 5 — a lifetime ago. It’s now July 19, and I’ve encountered a sick kid and wife, busted laptop, oral surgery, and more riffs than I could ever hope to count along the way. Ups, downs, all-arounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

This day was added kind of on an impulse, and the point I’m looking to emphasize is that you can spend two full weeks reviewing 10 albums a day and still there’s more to be had. I’ve learned over time you’re never going to hear everything — not even close — and that no matter how deep you dig, there’s more to find. I’m sure if I didn’t have other stuff scheduled I could fill out the entirety of this week and then some with 10 records a day. As it stands, let’s not have this Quarterly Review run into the next one at the end of September/beginning of October. Time to get my life back a little bit, such as it is.

Quarterly Review #101-110:

King Woman, Celestial Blues

king woman celestial blues

After the (earned) fanfare surrounding King Woman‘s 2017 debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, expectations for the sophomore outing, Celestial Blues, are significant. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Esfandiari meets these head-on in heavy and atmospheric fashion on tracks like the opening title-cut and “Morning Star,” the more cacophonous “Coil” and duly punishing “Psychic Wound.” Blues? Yes, in places. Celestial? In theme, in its confrontation with dogma, sure. Even more than these, though, Celestial Blues taps into an affecting weight of ambience, such that even the broad string sounds of “Golgotha” feel heavy, and whether a given stretch is loud or quiet, subdued like the first half of “Entwined” or raging like the second, right into the minimalist “Paradise Lost” that finishes, the sense of burden being purposefully conveyed is palpable in the listening experience. No doubt the plaudits will be or are already manifold and superlative, but the work stands up.

King Woman on Facebook

Relapse Records website


Mythic Sunship, Wildfire

Mythic Sunship Wildfire

Mythic Sunship are a hopeful vision for the future of progressive psychedelic music. Their fifth album and first for Tee Pee Records, Wildfire offers five tracks/45 minutes that alternates between ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime via emitted subspace wavelengths of shredding guitar, sax-led freakouts, shimmer to the point of blindness, peaceful drift and who the hell knows what else is going on en route from one to the other. Because as much as the Copenhagen outfit might jump from one stretch to the next, their fluidity is huge all along the course of Wildfire, which is fortunate because that’s probably the only thing stopping the record from actually melting. Instrumental as ever, I’m not sure if there’s a narrative arc playing out — certainly one can read one between “Maelstrom,” “Olympia,” “Landfall,” “Redwood Grove” and “Going Up” — and if that’s the intention, it maybe pulls back from that “hopeful vision” idea somewhat, at least in theme, if not aesthetic. In any case, the gorgeousness, the electrified vitality in what Mythic Sunship do, continues to distinguish them from their peers, which is a list that is only growing shorter with each passing LP.

Mythic Sunship on Facebook

Tee Pee Records website


Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium

Morningstar Delirium Morningstar Delirium

I said I was going to preorder this tape and I’m glad I did. Morningstar Delirium‘s half-hour/four-song debut offering is somewhere between an EP and an album — immersive enough to be the latter certainly in its soothing, brooding exploration of sonic textures, not at all tethered to a sonic weight in the dark industrial “Blood on the Fixture” and even less so in the initial minutes of “Silent Travelers,” but not entirely avoiding one either, as in the second half of that latter track some more sinister beats surface for a time. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists/vocalist Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought, BleakHeart) and Clayton Cushman (The Flight of Sleipnir), the isolation-era project feeds into that lockdown atmosphere in moments droning and surging, “Where Are You Going” giving an experimentalist edge with its early loops and later stretch of ethereal slide guitar (or what sounds like it), while closer “A Plea for the Stars” fulfills the promise of its vocalists with a doomed melody in its midsection that’s answered back late, topping an instrumental progression like the isolated weepy guitar of classic goth metal over patiently built layers of dark-tinted wash. Alternating between shorter and longer tracks, the promise in Morningstar Delirium resides in the hope they’ll continue to push farther and farther along these lines of emotional and aural resonance.

Morningstar Delirium on Instagram

Morningstar Delirium on Bandcamp


Lunar Funeral, Road to Siberia

lunar funeral road to siberia

Somewhere between spacious goth and garage doom, Russia’s Lunar Funeral find their own stylistic ground to inhabit on their second album, Road to Siberia. The two-piece offer grim lysergics to start the affair on “Introduce” before plunging into “The Thrill,” which bookends with the also-11-minute closer “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” and gracefully avoids going full-freakout enough to bring back the verse progression near the end. Right on. Between the two extended pieces, the swinging progression of “25th Hour” trades brooding for strut — or at least brooding strut — with the snare doing its damnedest by the midsection to emulate handclaps could be there if they could find a way not to be fun. “25th Hour” hits into a wash late and “Black Bones” answers with dark boogie and a genuine nod later, finishing with noise en route to the spacious eight-minute “Silence,” which finds roll eventually, but holds to its engaging sense of depth in so doing, the abiding weirdness of the proceedings enhanced by the subtle masterplan behind it. Airy guitar work winding atop the bassline makes the penultimate “Your Fear is Giving Me Fear” a highlight, but the willful trudge of “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” is an all-too-suitable finish in style and atmosphere, not quite drawing it all together, but pushing it off a cliff instead.

Lunar Funeral on Facebook

Helter Skelter Productions / Regain Records on Bandcamp


Satánico Pandemonium, Espectrofilia

satanico pandemonium espectrofilia

Sludge and narcosadistic doom infest the six-track Espectrofilia from Mexico City four-piece Satánico Pandemonium, who call it an EP despite its topping 40 minutes in length. I don’t know, guys. Electric Wizard are a touchstone to the rollout of “Parábola del Juez Perverso,” which lumbers out behind opener “El Que Reside Dentro” and seems to come apart about two minutes in, only to pick up and keep going. Fucking a. Horror, exploitation, nodding riffs, raw vibes — Satánico Pandemonium have it all and then some, and if there’s any doubt Espectrofilia is worthy of pressing to a 12″ platter, like 2020’s Culto Suicida before it, whether they call it a full-length or not, the downward plunge of the title-track into the grim boogie of “Panteonera” and the consuming, bass-led closer “La Muerte del Sol” should put them to rest with due prejudice. The spirit of execution here is even meaner than the sound, and that malevolence of intent comes through front-to-back.

Satánico Pandemonium on Facebook

Satánico Pandemonium on Bandcamp


Van Groover, Honk if Parts Fall Off

Van Groover Honk if Parts Fall Off

Kudos to Van Groover on their know-thyself tagline: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we let it roll.” The German trio’s 10-track/51-minute debut, Honk if Parts Fall Off, hits its marks in the post-Truckfighters sphere of uptempo heavy fuzz/stoner rock, injecting a heaping dose of smoke-scented burl from the outset with “Not Guilty” and keeping the push going through “Bison Blues” and “Streetfood” and “Jetstream” before “Godeater” takes a darker point of view and “Roadrunner” takes a moment to catch its breath before reigniting the forward motion. Sandwiched between that and the seven-minute “Bad Monkey” is an interlude of quieter bluesy strum called “Big Sucker” that ends with a rickity-sounding vehicle — something tells me it’s a van — starts and “Bad Monkey” kicks into its verse immediately, rolling stoned all the while even in its quiet middle stretch before “HeXXXenhammer” and the lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-then-the-riff-hits “Quietness” finish out. Given the stated ambitions, it’s hard not to take Honk if Parts Fall Off as it comes. Van Groover aren’t hurting anybody except apparently one or two people in the opener and maybe elsewhere in the lyrics. Stoner rock for stoner rockers.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp


Sergio Ch., Koi

Sergio Ch Koi

There is not much to which Buenos Aires-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Chotsourian, aka Sergio Ch., is a stranger at this point. In a career that has spanned more than a quarter-century, he’s dipped hands in experimentalist folk and drone, rock, metal, punk, goth and more in varying prolific combinations of them. Koi, his latest full-length, still finds new ground to explore, however, in bringing not only the use of programmed drum beats behind some of the material, but collaborations with his own children, Isabel Ch., who contributes vocals on the closing Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” which was also previously released as a single, and Rafael “Raffa” Ch., who provides a brief but standout moment just before with a swirling, effects-laced rap tucked away at the end of the 11-minute “El Gran Chaparral.” If these are sentimental inclusions on Chotsourian‘s part, they’re a minor indulgence to make, and along with the English-language “NY City Blues,” the partial-translation of “Hurt” into Spanish is a welcome twist among others like “Tic Tac,” which blend electronic beats and spacious guitar in a way that feels like a foreshadow of burgeoning interests and things to come.

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


Achachak, High Mountain

Achachak High Mountain

Less than a year removed from their debut full-length, At the Bottom of the Sea, Croatian five-piece Achachak return with the geological-opposite follow-up, High Mountain. With cuts like “Bong Goddess,” “Maui Waui,” they leave little to doubt as to where they’re coming from, but the stoner-for-stoners’-sake attitude doesn’t necessarily account either for the drifty psych of “Biggest Wave” or the earlier nod-out in “Lonewolf,” the screams in the opening title-track or the follow-that-riff iron-manliness of “”Mr. SM,” let alone the social bent to the lyrics in the QOTSA-style “Lesson” once it takes off — interesting to find them delving into the political given the somewhat regrettable inner-sleeve art — but the overarching vibe is still of a band not taking itself too seriously, and the songwriting is structured enough to support the shifts in style and mood. The fuzz is strong with them, and closer “Cozy Night” builds on the languid turn in “Biggest Wave” with an apparently self-aware moody turn. For having reportedly been at it since 1999, two full-lengths and a few others EPs isn’t a ton as regards discography, but maybe now they’re looking to make up for lost time.

Achachak on Facebook

Achachak on Bandcamp


Rise Up, Dead Man, Rise Up, Dead Man

Rise Up Dead Man Rise Up Dead Man

It’s almost counterintuitive to think so, but what you see is what you get with mostly-instrumentalist South African western/psych folk duo Rise Up, Dead Man‘s self-titled debut. To wit, the “Bells of Awakening” at the outset, indeed, are bells. “The Summoning,” which follows, hypnotizes with guitar and various other elements, and then, yes, the eponymous “Rise Up, Dead Man,” is a call to raise the departed. I don’t know if “Stolen Song” is stolen, but it sure is familiar. Things get more ethereal as multi-instrumentalists Duncan Park (guitar, vocals, pennywhistle, obraphone, bells, singing bowl) and William Randles (guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonium, violin, bells, singing bowl) through the serenity of “The Wind in the Well” and the summertime trip to Hobbiton that the pennywhistle in “Everything that Rises Must Converge” offers, which is complemented in suitably wistful fashion on closer “Sickly Meadow.” There’s some sorting out of aesthetic to be done here, but as the follow-up just to an improv demo released earlier this year, the drive and attention to detail in the arrangements makes their potential feel all the more significant, even before you get to the expressive nature of the songs or the nuanced style in which they so organically reside.

Rise Up, Dead Man on Facebook

Rise Up, Dead Man on Bandcamp


Atomic Vulture , Moving Through Silence

Atomic Vulture Moving Through Silence

Yeah, that whole “silence” thing doesn’t last too long on Moving Through Silence. The 51-minute debut long-player from Brugge, Belgium, instrumentalists Atomic Vulture isn’t through opener “Eclipse” before owing a significant sonic debt to Kyuss‘ “Thumb,” but given the way the record proceeds into “Mashika Deathride” and “Coaxium,” one suspects Karma to Burn are even more of an influence for guitarist Pascal David, bassist Kris Hoornaert and drummer Jens Van Hollebeke, and though they move through some slower, more atmospheric stretch on “Cosmic Dance” and later more extended pieces like “Spinning the Titans” (9:02) and closer “Astral Dream,” touching on prog particularly in the second half of the latter, they’re never completely removed from that abiding feel of get-down-to-business, as demonstrated on the roll of “Intergalactic Takeoff” and the willful landing on earth that the penultimate “Space Rat” brings in between “Spinning the Titans” and “Astral Dream,” emphasizing the sense of their being a mission underway, even if the mission is Atomic Vulture‘s discovery of place within genre.

Atomic Vulture on Facebook

Polderrecords on Bandcamp


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Sergio Ch., Dool, Return to Worm Mountain, Dopelord, Ancestro, Hellhookah, Daisychain, The Burning Brain Band, Slump, Canyon

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan


I don’t imagine I need to tell you it’s been a hell of a quarter, existentially speaking. It’s like the world decided to play ’52 card pickup’ but with tragedy. Still, music marches on, and so the Quarterly Review marches on. For what it’s worth, I’m particularly looking forward to reviewing the upcoming batch of 50 records. As I stare at the list for each day, all of them have records that I’ve legitimately been looking forward to diving into, and today is a great example of that, front to back.

Will I still feel the same way on Friday? Maybe, maybe not. If past is prologue, I’ll be tired, but it’s always satisfying to do this and cover so much stuff in one go. Accordingly, let’s not delay any further. I hope you enjoy the week’s worth of writeups.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Sergio Ch., From Skulls Born Beyond

Sergio Ch From Skulls Born Beyond

Intertwining by sharing a few songs with the debut album from his trio Soldati, Doom Nacional (review here), the latest solo endeavor from former Los Natas/Ararat frontman Sergio Ch. continues his path of experimentalist drone folk, blending acoustic and electric elements, guitar and voice, in increasingly confident and broad fashion. The heart of a piece like “Sombra Keda” near the middle of the album is still the strum of the acoustic guitar, but the arrangement of electric and effects/synth surrounding, as well as the vocal echo, give a sense of space to the entirety of From Skulls Born Beyond that demonstrates to the listener just how much range Sergio Ch.‘s work has come to encompass. For highlights, one might check out the extended title-track and the closer “Solar Tse,” which bring in waves of distorted noise to add to the experimentalist feel, but there’s something to be said too for the comparatively minimal (vocal layering aside) “My Isis,” as well as for the fact that they all fit so well on the same record.

Sergio Ch. on Thee Facebooks

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


DOOL, Summerland

Dool Summerland

The follow-up to DOOL‘s 2017 debut, Here Now There Then (review here), does no less than to see the Netherlands-based outfit led by singer Ryanne van Dorst answer the potential of that album while pushing forward the particular vision of Dutch heavy progressive rock that emerged in the wake of The Devil’s Blood, acknowledging that past — Farida Lemouchi (now of Molassess) stops by for a guest spot — while presenting an immersive and richly arranged 54-minute sprawl of highly individualized craft. Issued through Prophecy Productions, it brings cuts like the memorable opener “Sulphur and Starlight” and the dynamic “A Glass Forest” as well as the classic metal chug of “Be Your Sins” and the reaches of its title-cut and acoustic-inclusive finale “Dust and Shadow.” DOOL are a band brazen enough to directly refuse genre, and it is to their benefit and the audience’s that they pull off doing so with such bravado and quality of output. For however long they go, they will not stop progressing. You can hear it.

DOOL on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website


Return to Worm Mountain, Therianthropy

return to worm mountain Therianthropy

By the time Durban, South Africa’s Return to Worm Mountain are done with 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Gh?l” from their second album, Therianthropy, the multi-instrumentalist duo of Duncan Park (vocal, guitar, bass, banjo, jaw harp) and Cam Lofstrand (vocals, drums, synth, guitar, bass, percussion) have gone from High on Fire-meets-Entombed crunch to psychedelic Americana to bare-essential acoustic guitar, and unsurprisingly, the scope doesn’t stop there. “Mothman’s Lament” is folksy sweetness and it leads right into the semi-industrial grind of “Mongolian Death Worm” before “Olgoi-Khorkoi” sludge-lumbers into Echoplex oblivion — or at very least the unrepentantly pretty plucked strings of “Tatzelwurm.” The title refers to a human ability to become an animal — think werewolf — and if that’s a metaphor for the controlled chaos Return to Worm Mountain are letting loose here, one can hardly argue it doesn’t fit. Too strange to be anything but progressive, Therianthropy‘s avant garde feel will alienate as many as it delights, and that’s surely the point of the entire endeavor.

Return to Worm Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Return to Worm Mountain on Bandcamp


Dopelord, Sign of the Devil

dopelord sign of the devil

Primo weedian stoner sludge doom of precisely the proportion-of-riff one would expect from Polish bashers Dopelord, which is to say plenty huge and plenty grooving. “The Witching Hour Bell” sets the tone on Sign of the Devil, which is the fourth full-length from the Warsaw-based four-piece. They lumber, they plod, they crash, and yes, yes, yes, they riff, putting it all on the line with “Hail Satan” with synth flourish at the end before “Heathen” and the ultimately-more-aggro “Doom Bastards” reinforce the mission statement. You might know what you’re getting going into it, but that doesn’t make the delivery any less satisfying as Dopelord plod into “World Beneath Us” like a cross between Electric Wizard and Slomatics and of course stick-click in on a quick four-count for the 94-second punk blaster “Headless Decapitator” to cap the 36-minute vinyl-ready run. How could they not? Sure, Sign of the Devil preaches to the choir, but hell’s bells it makes one happy to have joined the choir in the first place.

Dopelord on Thee Facebooks

Dopelord on Bandcamp


Ancestro, Ancestro

ancestro self titled

Numbered instrumental progressions comprise this third and self-titled offering from Peruvian trio Ancestro (issued through Necio Records and Forbidden Place Records), and the effect of the album being arranged in such a fashion is that it plays through as one long piece, the cascading volume changes of “II” feeding back into the outset count-in of the speedier “III” and so on. Each piece of the whole has its own intention, and it seems plain enough that the band composed the sections individually, but they’ve been placed so as to highlight the full-album flow, and as Ancestro move from “IV” into “V” and “VI,” with songs getting longer as they go en route to that engrossing and proggy 13-minute closer, their success draws from their ability to harness the precision and maybe even a little of the aggression of heavy metal and incorporate it as part of an execution both thoughtful and no less able to be patient when called for by a given piece. Hard-hitting psychedelia is tough to pull off, but Ancestro‘s Ancestro is no less spacious than terrestrial.

Ancestro on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp


Hellhookah, The Curse

hellhookah the curse

In 2016, Lithuanian two-piece Hellhookah made it no challenge whatsoever to get into the traditionalist doom of their debut album, Endless Serpents (review here), and the seven songs of The Curse make for a welcome follow-up, with an uptick in production value and the fullness of the mix and a decided affinity for underground ’80s metal in cuts like “Supremacy” and “Dreams and Passions” to coincide with the Dio-era-Sabbath vibes of centerpiece “Flashes” and the nodding finisher “Greed and Power,” which follows and contrasts “Dreams and Passions” in a manner that feels multi-tiered in its purpose. Departing from some of the Vitus-ness of the first full-length, The Curse adopts a more complex tack across its 38 minutes, but its heart and its loyalties are still of doom, by doom, and for the doomed, and that suits them just fine. Crucially, their lack of pretense carries over, and their love of all things doomed translates into every riff and every stretch on offer. If you’d ask more than that of them, well, why?

Hellhookah on Thee Facebooks

Hellhookah on Bandcamp


Daisychain, Daisychain EP

Daisychain Daisychain EP

Bluesy in opener “Demons,” grunge-tinged in “Lily” and fuzz-folk-into-’70s-soul-rock on “How Can I Love You,” Daisychain‘s self-titled debut EP wants little for ambition from the start, but the Chicago-based four-piece bring a confidence to their dually-vocalized approach that unites the material across whatever stylistic lines it treads, be it in the harmonies of the midtempo rocker “Are You Satisfied” or the righteously languid “Fake Flowers,” which follows. With six songs and 21 minutes, the self-released outing is but a quick glimpse at what Daisychain might have in store going forward, but the potential is writ large from the classic feel of “Demons” to the barroom spirit of closer “The Wrong Thing,” which reminds that rock and roll doesn’t have to sacrifice efficiency in order to make a statement of its own force. There’s plenty of attitude to be found in these songs, but beneath that — or maybe alongside it — there’s a sense of an emergent songwriting process that is only going to continue to flourish. What they do with the momentum they build here will be interesting to see/hear, but more than that, they’re developing a perspective and persona of their own, and that speaks to a longer term ideal. To put another way, they don’t sound like they’re half-assing it.

Daisychain on Thee Facebooks

Daisychain on Bandcamp


The Burning Brain Band, The Burning Brain Band

The Burning Brain Band The Burning Brain Band

Capping with a slide-tinged take on the traditional “Parchman Farm” (see also: Blue Cheer, Cactus, etc.), Ohio’s The Burning Brain Band‘s self-titled debut casts a wide net in terms of influences, centering the penultimate “The Dreamer” around 12-string acoustic guitar on an eight-minute run that’s neither hurried nor staid, but all the more surprising after the electronica-minded “Interlude (Still Running),” which, at four minutes is of greater substance than one might expect of an interlude just as the seven-and-a-half-minute warm-up “Launch Sequence” is considerably broader than one generally considers an intro to an album. There isn’t necessarily a foundational basis from which the material emanates — though “Brain Food” is an effective desert-ish rocker, it moves into the decidedly proggier “Bolero/Floating Away” — but “Launch Sequence” is immersive and the four-piece bring a performance cohesion and a clarity of mindset to the proceedings of this debut that may not unite the songs, but carries the listener through with a sure hand just the same. Who ever said everything on a record had to sound alike? For sure not The Burning Brain Band, who translate the mania of their moniker into effective sonic variety.

The Burning Brain Band on Thee Facebooks

The Burning Brain Band on Bandcamp


Slump, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country

Slump Flashbacks from Black Dust Country

Count Slump in a freakout psych renaissance, all punk-out-the-airlock and ’90s-noise thisandthat. Delivered through Feel It Records, the Richmond, Virginia, outfit’s debut, Flashbacks From Black Dust Country indeed touches ground every now and again, as on “Desire Death Drifter,” but even there, the vocals are so soaked wet with echo that I’m pretty sure they fucked up my speakers, and as much as “Tension Trance” tries, it almost can’t help but be acid grunge. In an age of nihilism, Slump aren’t so much unbridled as they are a reminder of the artistry behind the slacker lean, and in the thrust of “(Do The) Sonic Sprawl” and the far-out twist of “Throbbing Reverberation,” they affirm that only those with expanded minds will survive to see the new age and all the many spectral horrors it might unfurl. Can it be a coincidence that the album starts “No Utopia?” Hardly. I’m not ready to call these cats prophets, but they’ve got their collective ear to the ground and their boogie is molten-core accordingly. Tell two friends and tell them to tell two friends.

Feel It Records on Thee Facebooks

Feel It Records on Bandcamp


Canyon, EP III

canyon ep iii

It’s a ripper, inciting Larry David-style “prettay good” nods and all that sort of approval whatnot. If you want to think of Canyon as Philly’s answer to Memphis’ Dirty Streets, go ahead — and yes, by that I mean they’re dirtier. EP III boasts just three tracks in “No Home,” “Tent Preacher” and “Mountain Haze,” but with it the classic-style trio backs up the power they showed on 2018’s Mk II (review here), tapping ’70s blues rock swagger for the first two tracks and then blowing it out in a dreamy Zeppelin/Rainbow jam that’s trippy and righteous and right on and just plain right. Maybe even right-handed, I don’t know. What I do know is that these guys should’ve been picked up by some duly salivating label like last week already and they should be putting together a full-length on the quick. They’ve followed-up EP III with a stonerly take on The Beatles‘ “Day Tripper,” and that’s fun, but really, it’s time for this band to make an album.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,