Hexvessel Announce Kindred LP out April 17 on Svart Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Hexvessel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hexvessel releasing albums through Svart Records seems to me one of those correct-in-the-sense-of-things-being-right-with-the-universe scenarios. Aside from the fact that band and label are both based in Finland — neat, but not really relevant — it’s the progressive aspects of both that make their realignment seem so spot on. Hexvessel issued last year’s All Tree (review here) through Century Media and thereby marked a return to their core folk-minded approach after departing for the more stylistically experimental When We are Death (review here) in 2016. I would expect Kindred to keep them on their set path somewhat, but of course they’ve never failed to move forward from one record to the next, and the PR wire’s teasing of proggy flashes certainly sounds right on.

Svart will also reissue the first two Hexvessel LPs, which, as it happens, it originally put out. I bet that makes getting the rights easier.

Here’s news:

hexvessel kindred

Finland’s Hexvessel return to Svart Records with new album Kindred, set for release on the 17th of April 2020!

Cover artwork by renowned artists Thomas Hooper and Richey Beckett unveiled.

Back-catalogue to be reissued!

Psychedelic forest folk-rockers Hexvessel will release their new nature-mystic opus, Kindred, via Svart Records on the 17th of April 2020. Taking a darker and more esoteric path, Kindred sees Hexvessel re-forge their eclectic melting cauldron or “vessel” of sound into a potent “hex” of spell-binding songcraft.

Blues-laden psych-rock and progressive structures harken back to King Crimson, giving way to dark earthen balladry reminiscent of early Nick Cave and the doom-laden atmospheres of Dead Can Dance. The band returned to their original studio in Tampere, Finland, where they recorded their cult classic No Holier Temple, which fused Hexvessel’s folk roots with an occult undercurrent, with the new album mastered by John Davis (Gorillaz / Led Zeppelin / Lana Del Rey) in the UK.

Through Kindred’s 10 song rites of passage, Hexvessel cover Coil’s “Fire Of The Mind” live from a mental institution and delve into the Druidic sacrificial swamps with songs like “Bog Bodies”, which conjures the deep Lynchian night with muted trumpet and foggy rhodes piano. Adorned by cover artwork by artists Thomas Hooper (who has worked for Neurosis, Converge and Doomriders) and Richey Beckett (who has created work for Metallica, Foo Fighters, Robert Plant), Kindred is an album which calls you on a journey, both intimate and richly enlightening.

Hexvessel was formed by English/Irish singer/songwriter Mat McNerney in 2009 after he moved to Finland. Also know for his work with Beastmilk (now known as Grave Pleasures), The Deathtrip, Carpenter Brut, Me & That Man and his earlier work with Norwegian Black Metal bands Code & Dødheimsgard, McNerney is a both highly eclectic and critically acclaimed musical artist.

The first single from Kindred will be released on the 24th of January 2020.

In celebration of Hexvessel’s re-signing with the label, Svart Records will also reissue Hexvessel’s first two albums. Their much sought after debut Dawnbearer and the cult follow-up No Holier Temple will be repressed during autumn 2020.

Hexvessel’s upcoming live dates are as follows:
With Twin Temple (USA)

01.02.2020 – Hamburg (DE) – Bahnhof St Pauli
02.02.2020 – Gothenburg (SE) – Tradgarn
04.02.2020 – Tampere (FI) – Olympia
05.02.2020 – Helsinki (FI) – Tavastia
07.02.2020 – Stockholm (SE) – Nalen Klubb
08.02.2020 – Frederica (DK) – Det Bruunske Pakus *
09.02.2020 – Copenhagen (DK) – Beta *
10.02.2020 – Berlin (DE) – Bi Nuu
11.02.2020 – München (DE) – Backstage
12.02.2020 – Vienna (AT) – Arena *
13.02.2020 – Winterthur (CH) – Gaswerk
14.02.2020 – Cologne (DE) – MTC
15.02.2020 – Paris (FR) – Point Ephemere
16.02.2020 – Wacken (DE) – Wacken Winter Nights *
17.02.2020 – Nijmegen (NL) – Merleyn *
18.02.2020 – Rotterdam (NL) – V11 *
21.05.2020 – Ascension Festival Iceland*
11.07.2020 – Fire In The Mountains, Wyoming, USA*
(*without Twin Temple)

https://www.facebook.com/hexvessel
http://instagram.com/hexvesselband
https://hexvessel.bandcamp.com/
https://www.hexvessel.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords

Hexvessel, “Changeling” official video

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Onségen Ensemble to Record New Album in February

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I have it on pretty good authority that I wasn’t the only one who really dug the vibe Oulu, Finland’s Onségen Ensemble brought forth on their 2018 self-released sophomore long-player, Duel (review here). The doesn’t-always-do-stuff-but-when-they-do-they-make-it-count collective have exciting news in that they’ll be recording their next full-length in just a couple months’ time with none other than Jamie Gomez Arellano at the helm at Orgone Studios in London.

Not sure what the recording situation will be in terms of how long they’ll be there, how the tracks will be laid down, if Arellano will mix as well (why not?) and who will master, but the thought of Onségen Ensemble pairing with someone who’s a well-established master of capturing depth of tone — Arellano has worked with luminaries across a spectrum from Hexvessel and Myrkur to Orange Goblin and Paradise Lost — is promising to be sure. I have to wonder if perhaps there’s a label announcement in their future as well. Hmm? Now who do we know who might be interested in putting out well-produced progressive heavy rock from Finland? Rhymes with “start”…

Here’s what they had to say:

onsegen ensemble

Recording new album in February!

For the first time we have a truly extraordinary opportunity to work with producer Jaime Gomez Arellano in his Orgone Studios. Can’t wait!

The album will be released in 2020.

BIO:

Onségen Ensemble is a group of northern musicians whose first assemblage was formed in the beginning of the twenty-first century, with it’s musicians drawn from various genres such as jazz, stoner, prog and black metal. During that time the sound of Onségen was sown as a seed to grow slowly but surely.

Onségen Ensemble Generation Twenty-ten has continued with the task of grafting the material into its final form. “Awalaï”, the first opus to be released, is a cinematic selection of varied landscapes: good, bad, and occasionally ugly.

Onségen is about the critical exploration of one’s mind, about broadening of horizons and new discoveries.

Generation MMXVIII – Personnel In DUEL:
Juggis Aalto, Heikki Häkkilä, Esa Juujärvi, Merja Järvelin, Sami Lehtiniemi, Samuli Lindberg, Joni Mäkelä, Jaakko Tuomivaara, Niina Vahtola and Mikko Vuorela.

https://www.facebook.com/onsegenensemble/
https://onsgenensemble.bandcamp.com/
http://www.onsegen.com/

Onségen Ensemble, Duel (2018)

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Swallow the Sun Annouce Spring North American Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

In some ways, the hardest thing to believe about this is that Swallow the Sun have never headlined a US tour before. And yet, even in light of it being their 20th anniversary next year — pretty astounding, as I remember when their debut came out; but then, I am o-l-d — this tour feels like a risk. Consider they’ll already be more than a year out from this January’s all-kinds-of-killer When a Shadow is Forced into the Light (review here), they’re bringing a full three-band package over with Moldovan nü-metallers Infected Rain and Finnish/UK proggers Wheel, and they’re booked for more than a month of dates.

My eyes went immediately to the fact that they’re playing Dingbatz in New Jersey. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, and there are plenty of other rooms on this list that I recognize like Metro Gallery, Kingsland, Hawthorne Theatre, Brick by Brick, etc., but last time I saw Swallow the Sun was at B.B. King’s in Manhattan — 2007, you say? with Amorphis? that might’ve been it — and Clifton, NJ, might be relatively close geographically, but it’s miles away from that kind of experience.

Bottom line? They’ve in for some really good nights, and some nights of adventure. So I guess basically it’ll be a tour.

See you boys in Clifton.

From the PR wire:

swallow the sun tour

Swallow The Sun Announce North American Headline Tour

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have just announced their North American headline tour today. The band will be on tour this Spring with special guests Infected Rain and Wheel. Catch the band on tour starting April 20th in Tampa and ending on May 24th in Dallas. Tickets are available for purchase HERE.

“We have been touring many times in North America since 2007 but never headlined before this,” states Swallow The Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki about the upcoming headline tour. “So it’s about time to play you a decent length shows, not just 30-45min like before. Better get your tickets now and spread the word. No excuses, you asked for it, you got it! See you soon!”

The band will be touring in support of their most recent full-length album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light. Swallow The Sun’s seventh studio album was produced by the band’s very own Jaani Peuhu and Juha Raivio and is their most personal, cleanest work to date. Purchase and stream When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light HERE.

Swallow The Sun is Mikko Kotamaki (vocals), Matti Honkonen (bass), Juuso Raatkainen (drums), Jaani Peuhu (keys and vocals), Juho Raiha (guitar), and Juha Raivio (guitar and keys).

SWALLOW THE SUN TOUR DATES:
April 20 – Tampa, FL – Crowbar
April 21 – West Palm Beach, FL – Respectables
April 22 – Winter Park, FL – The Haven
April 23 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
April 24 – Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
April 25 – Philadelphia, PA – Voltage Lounge
April 26 – Clifton, NJ – Dingbatz
April 27 – Brooklyn, NY – Kingsland
April 28 – Brooklyn, NY – Kingsland
April 30 – Quebec City, Canada – L’Anti
May 1 – Ottawa, Canada – Mavericks
May 2 – Toronto, Canada – Velvet Underground
May 3 – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
May 4 – Westland, MI – Token Lounge
May 5 – Joliet, IL – The Forge
May 6 – Madison, WI – Crucible
May 7 – St. Paul, MN – Amsterdam
May 9 – Denver, CO – Hermans Hideaway
May 10 – Salt Lake City, UT – Liquid Joe
May 12 – Vancouver, Canada – Rickshaw Theatre
May 13 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater
May 14 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
May 15 – Bend, OR – Third Street Pub
May 16 – Sacramento, CA – Holy Diver
May 17 – West Hollywood, CA – Whiskey A Go Go
May 18 – San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
May 19 – Santa Ana, CA – Malones
May 20 – Tempe, AZ – Club Red
May 22 – Austin, TX – Come and Take it Live**
May 23 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar**
May 24 – Dallas, TX – Trees**
**no Wheel

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light”

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Friday Full-Length: Lord Vicar, Signs of Osiris

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

It has only ever been appropriate that the cover art of Lord Vicar albums should be classical-style paintings. Their work on the whole is very much about being in conversation with masters even as they’ve emerged as masters themselves, and it adds to the poise within their traditionalist doom, while placing in context the sense of reverence for form with which their material is executed. Their second album, Signs of Osiris, was released in 2011 through The Church Within Records as the follow-up to 2008’s debut, Fear No Pain, as well as roughly concurrent splits with Griftegård and Funeral Circle (review here), on Ván Records and Eyes Like Snow, respectively. It was a busy time for the four-piece of vocalist Christian “Lord Chritus” Linderson, guitarist/Mellotronist Kimi “Peter Vicar” Kärki, bassist Jussi “Iron Hammer” Myllykoski and drummer Gareth Millsted, but the clarity of their purpose continues to resound through the timeless/anachronistic doom they crafted. Kärki‘s songwriting is at the root of much of Signs of Osiris but with early contributions from Myllykoski on “The Answer” and Millsted on the multi-movement “Child Witness (Including ‘The Father’ and ‘The Pain of a Maiden’ and ‘Release’),” a sense of variety emerges throughout the 58-minute seven-tracker even beyond that which the flourish of acoustic guitar in opener “Signs of Osiris Slain” that later manifests in the acoustic-led penultimate cut “Endless November” already brings. Whether it’s longer-form pieces like the 15-minute finale “Signs of Osiris Risen (Including ‘Isis and the Needle’ and ‘The Ritual’ and ‘For the Love of War’),” or “Child Witness” and the subsequent “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower” — both of which hover around nine and a half minutes — or the more active and rolling tempos of “Signs of Osiris Slain” and the later “Sinking City,” Lord Vicar manifest doom not as an elitist standard or fodder for a backpatch or a slogan in some meme, but as an emotive and existential mode of being. It’s doom as a way of life, turned into songs.

Unavoidably, the focus on Lord Vicar will forever be Linderson and Kärki. There’s just no getting away from it, and frankly I’m not sure there should be. One’s Lord, and one’s Vicar, and the band is called Lord Vicar. More than a decade after their founding, it still doesn’t seem like an accident, and when one considers their pedigree, with Chritus having served the crusade in Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Terra Firma and more recently Lord Vicar Signs of Osirison the first two Goatess LPs, and Kärki‘s multi-faceted creative force manifest in E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr, Orne, Reverend Bizarre, and so on, top billing is well earned. That said, right up there with the doomly tradition of follow-the-riff is secret-weapon-rhythm-section, and Lord Vicar live up to that on Signs of Osiris as well. Myllykoski would be out of the band by the time their third record showed up, but he and Millsted are locked in here, driving home the turns in “Sinking City” reminiscent of The Obsessed or carrying the midsection part-shifts of “Child Witness” as if to remind any and all listening that Black Sabbath at their heart were a blues band — in itself a perfect backing for Linderson, who is a better Ozzy than Ozzy has been since 1975 — while staying coherent, clear, and improbably straightforward. Even just the crashes behind the mellotron in “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower” add to the grandiosity and the drama in that song’s first half, and when Millsted‘s bass takes the forward position to set up the riff that unfolds thereafter for a short time, it is the stuff of doomed glory. It’s easy to put the focus on Linderson and Kärki, and again, I’m not sure it’s inappropriate to do so either, but Signs of Osiris demonstrates plainly from Osiris’ slaying to Osiris’ rising that Lord Vicar have always been a full band in terms of impact. Even the cymbal washes later in “Endless November” add to that track’s acoustic melody and the classical-styled folkish guitar work that Kärki would later manifest through his solo work.

That song is a highlight of the album, and not just for its departure from the tonal heft that surrounds or the manner in which it builds at its conclusion to transition into “Sign of Osiris Risen,” but the hook of “Child Witness” — strong enough to pull the band back to it even after their running through the subsections in one-after-the-next-fashion — also serves as a standout, and the rocking “The Answer” does likewise, again bringing to light what the rhythm section adds to the core of guitar and vocals. Of course, that’s not to take away from Kärki‘s craftsmanship on the opener and its companion closer, “Between the Blue Temple and the North Tower,” “Sinking City” or “Endless November,” which is no less effectively consuming in its doom than one could ask it to be, or from the performance of Linderson, which is stellar in such a way as to highlight how generally undervalued he is as a frontman in the genre. After a split with Revelation in 2012 that was Myllykoski‘s final release with the band, it would be four years before they resurfaced with 2016’s Gates of Flesh (review here), bringing in bassist Rich Jones, who like Millsted, is based in the UK as opposed to Finland or Sweden. This incarnation of the band would prove no less potent than the preceding, and even as Linderson split time with Goatess and Kärki explored solo work, Lord Vicar remained active in writing and performing. Gates of Flesh received a follow-up earlier this year with The Black Powder (review here), which will shortly feature again around here on the list of 2019’s best releases, as it was certainly among the most gloriously doomed offerings of the last 12 months, continuing to show the inescapable power of what Lord Vicar do to move, affect, and sway the listener to its own spiritual alignment, as did Signs of Osiris, and as might a classical painting.

They recently played Hammer of Doom in Germany and have done other appearances to support the release, and if you’re ever in a position to see them play, I can only recommend doing so.

In the meantime, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Guess the week’s over, since I’m writing a Friday Full-Length post. That’s cool. I’m sure the weekend will be super-restful.

Ha.

This week it was Wednesday. Wednesday was the hard day. Wednesday was the day I was looking at the clock unable to believe it wasn’t even 10AM yet. The Pecan and I didn’t leave the house because it was cold and looked shitty out and I couldn’t even bring myself to go outside and warm up the car, and I had nowhere to go that didn’t cost money and The Patient Mrs. and I have been living beyond our means since, well, pretty much forever. Some days that shit catches up with you, I guess. That was Wednesday.

So the kid was a nightmare pretty much the whole day. Full-on fuck-you-wreck-shit-scream-hit-kick-bite-two-year-old madness. By the early afternoon, when I put him upstairs for a nap and he didn’t even go to sleep, I was ready to collapse on an existential level. Like, “How is this my life?’ It was bad. Even relative to the bad days, it was bad.

Yesterday, by contrast, Thursday, was easier. We went out in the morning to the grocery store, and my mother came and sat with him for an hour and there was other stuff going on during the day. He napped — hour-twenty; not terrible, not great — and afterward we ran a few errands then came back to the house and he ate dinner. The Patient Mrs. had left in the morning to drive up to Massachusetts for a funeral, so for a day that was 100 percent him and me, it actually wasn’t, and it was much easier for that. Kid’s better for everyone else. My mother’ll tell you he’s a gem.

Monday’s a blur, both this past Monday and this one coming. I’m going to go see Kings Destroy play an early show at Vitus Bar in Brooklyn tomorrow night with Borracho and a couple other bands, and that’ll be good. They’re doing a live record and I expect I’ll know a good number of people in the room. Om and Kadavar are also playing New York next week, but as of now I’m not planning to get to either show. That’s probably a mistake on my part. It’s been a really long time since I’ve seen either of them. I don’t know. I don’t get to spend much time with The Patient Mrs. these days, and our evenings together, even if we’re just sitting on ass watching Star Trek — actually, especially if that’s what we’re doing — have become pretty precious to me. I’ll do some math and see where I land.

So next week, that KD live review — “duh, they’re good” — plus a Church of the Cosmic Skull album review and a Doomraiser video premiere and Domo album stream later in the week. Only day I don’t yet have anything planned for is Wednesday. I’m sure something will come along, and if not, I’ve got a goddamn backlog of stuff on my desktop waiting for writeups. So yeah, it’ll be fine.

Don’t forget, The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio is on at 1PM Eastern: http://gimmeradio.com

Don’t forget, new Obelisk shirts and sweatpants and such at Made in Brooklyn Silk Screeners: https://mibk.bigcartel.com/products

And don’t forget to have a great and safe weekend, to have fun and be kind.

FRM. Forum, Radio, Merch.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

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Orbiter Announce New Single “Bone to Earth” Due out Nov. 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Orbiter (photo by Pauli Bostrom)

Not the kind of thing I usually say when I put up a track with a news post, but the song at the bottom here, which comes from Orbiter‘s 2019 split with Roadog (review here), doesn’t really do much to represent where the Helsinki five-piece are coming from on their new single, “Bone to Earth.” Sure, the new cut still has some of those haze-doom underpinnings — a feeling of psychedelic immersion set to big-feeling riffly-roll derived in part from “Witchcult Today” but transmogrified into something less willfully cartoonish, but with vocalist Carolin Koss making her debut in the band, it’s nonetheless a significant change that’s taken place, and it has an effect on their sound of course. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard the new song — it’s out tomorrow, so you know, not really so much advance listening there — and it’s awesome. Also of note is the uptick in the production of the drums. The snare sounds right on in the new track.

Promises of good things to come? Here’s hoping. We’ve got a whole new decade arriving in a little over than a month. Time to start filling it with killer tunes.

From the PR wire:

orbiter bone to earth

Orbiter – New single ‘Bone to Earth’ out on November 28!

Founded at the turn of the year 2014-2015, the band has been influenced by the genre ancestor Black Sabbath, 90s stoner bands like Kyuss, and 21st century doom bands. Additional influences have been drawn from psychedelic and progressive rock.

Now Orbiter is releasing new music! Bone to Earth single will be released on Thursday 28 November. The song is a pre-release from the band’s upcoming debut EP The Deluge, which will come out on January 29.

Bone to Earth is a song about the duality of human nature, which is self-destructive and yet longing for wisdom. The song’s unhurried and heavy riffing blends hypnotically with the voice of the new vocalist, Carolin Koss, who joined the band in April. Koss is an artist, filmmaker and singer originally from Germany, and now residing in Finland.

The upcoming four-song EP contains previously unrecorded material from the band’s earlier days as well as newer songs composed with Koss. Orbiter has previously released three singles, most recently Anthropocene in early 2019.

Upcoming gigs (in Finland)
30.11.19 Ravintola La Barre, Joensuu
11.1.20 UUS HOI SIE, Lappeenranta
10.4.20 Ravintola Cactus, Helsinki
23.5.20 Henry’s Pub, Kuopio

Orbiter
Carolin Koss – Vocals
Alexander Meaney – Guitar
Jere Remes – Guitar
Tuomas Talka – Bass
Sami Heiniö – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/orbiterconnection
https://www.instagram.com/orbiterband/
https://orbiterconnection.bandcamp.com/

Orbiter, “Anthropocene”

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Oulu Space Jam Collective to Release 3LP on Adansonia Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’m not sure what exactly is going to be on the triple-vinyl that Adansonia Records will release from Finnish cosmic-improv unit Oulu Space Jam Collective, but apparently there will be plenty of it. I mean, it’ll be jams one way or the other, since that’s what the band — such as they are — does, but they do it pretty often, so maybe it’s the full-length they put out in September, Drug Rings of Saturn, or maybe it’s a collection of other material or some other past release or maybe it’s something new. A group like this, you never really know. Could be a 3LP pumped out every time they get together. When your ethic is “plug in and go,” adding a step to hit record along the way isn’t such a huge ask.

It’s definitely cool for the band though, whatever might ultimately manifest, so right on. Details are apparently forthcoming, but good news is good news, so here’s good news:

oulu space jam collective

Oulu Space Jam Collective – New release on Adansonia Records

It’s been quiet here for a while and now it’s high time for a new fantastic release.

In the meantime a new band has joined the roster of Adansonia Records. Please welcome Oulu Space Jam Collective from Finland.

Oulu Space Jam Collective channels cosmic streams of the universe through a great variety of instruments, which they choose for their jam sessions. It’s their intention to celebrate extended Space Rock Jams with jazzy grooves and Krautrock experiments. Sounds like they are in good company at Adansonia.

We have managed to prepare one of their numerous recordings for release on vinyl. It is the first official physical release of Oulu Space Jam Collective! The package of test pressings arrived yesterday and is just waiting to be checked. We expect to be able to deliver an incredibly spacey 3LP box in early December. Very soon detailed info…

Check them out!!!

Oulu Space Jam Collective in photo above:
Petri Loukusa
Antti Yrjö Olavi Ylijääskö
Olli Niemitalo
Kalle Veikko
Markus Pitkänen
Joonatan Aaltonen
Jani Pitkänen

https://www.facebook.com/Ouluspacejamcollective
https://ouluspacejamcollective.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/adansoniarecords/
https://www.adansoniarecords.de/

Oulu Space Jam Collective, Drug Rings of Saturn (2019)

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Review & Full Album Stream: The Lone Madman, Let the Night Come

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the lone madman let the night come

[Click play above to stream Let the Night Come by The Lone Madman in its entirety. Album is out Oct. 25 on Saturnal Records.]

With the melodic grandeur of Candlemass, the grim moral certitude of Reverend Bizarre and a patient-but-intense severity behind their execution across four mostly-extended tracks of darkened doom, Helsinki, Finland’s The Lone Madman offer an unconventional take on the genre’s traditional elements with their Saturnal-issued debut LP, Let the Night Come. A dual-guitar four-piece with Turkka Inkilä (also vocals) and Juuso Raunio handling the downtrodden riffery, Veera Vallinkoski on bass and Leevi Lönnrot on drums, there isn’t much about the group on paper that would make one necessarily expect anything crazy from the 42-minute proceedings. They’ve been together for five years, released a single and their Dreary Task EP in 2016, have played shows mostly around their hometown and are very clearly dug into doom as a foundation for what they do. Fine. Certainly there are worse places to start, but unless one has a particular fetish for Finnish doom — which would be understandable — there’s not much to immediately catch the brain. No gimmick to speak of. Even when the flute shows up in “Häxan,” it feels reasonable. But The Lone Madman nonetheless subtly bring together shades of NWOBHM self-righteousness with doom’s utter disaffection in a way that strikes a surprisingly individualized note. The gang shouts in “The Downfall” feel to my East Coast US ears derived from Type O Negative, while some of Inkilä‘s melodies on vocals bring to mind a Finnfolk-infused vision of underground metal that’s a tradition unto itself, apart from doom or anything else.

The Lone Madman thrive in this context, offering little by way of letup in terms of the emotional and spiritual downerism being showcased. From the catchy opening provided by the title-track to the plotted lead in the first half of closer “House of Mourning” before a tempo kick ignites a midsection charge — leading, naturally, to the final slowdown acting as the apex of the song — this is not drink-a-beer-and-ride-a-motorcycle doom, or if it is, it’s with the addendum of being miserable while doing so. Perhaps helping distinguish Let the Night Come from some of its traditionalist forebears (Reverend Bizarre notwithstanding) is the fact that the material feels purposefully longform. The penultimate “Häxan” (7:29) is the only inclusion under 11 minutes long, while “Let the Night Come” (11:04),” “The Downfall” (11:27) and “House of Mourning” (12:47) each seem to push deeper into the spiritual miasma in which the band are, well, not quite reveling — that would imply some kind of celebration — but certainly enamored. This I guess leads to another impressive aspect of Let the Night Come, particularly as The Lone Madman‘s debut album, in that it presents itself in this emotional mire and down-down-down existentialist position, but it isn’t a drag to hear. Of course that’s owed to the songwriting generally, and also to the band’s will to throw in a curve every now and again, usually on a one-per song basis.

the lone madman

That’s maybe how you wind up with the gang shouts on “The Downfall,” the flute on “Häxan,” later Valborgian shouts and the faster solo that tops the (relative) thrust in “House of Mourning.” With “Let the Night Come” at the outset, The Lone Madman set a working foundation for themselves by giving their audience a straightforward look at their style, with a strong presence from Inkilä on vocals and hints at layering of melodies, crashing riffs and flourish of softer complementary meanderings that enhance the overarching impact of that to which they invariably lead, i.e. more doom. I wouldn’t suggest The Lone Madman — yes, all four of them — sat down and decided they needed a way to change up each track on the album just a little bit, but following an instinct for what a given song needs in its arrangement isn’t something to be ignored in a band’s sound. Especially on their first record. So as Let the Night Come unfolds, it sees the band making these decisions with clarity and purpose, resulting in a whole that’s even richer than it would otherwise be, tense in its execution, but using that to help convey its emotional state, not beating the listener over the head with its depression diagnosis as some modern melodic doom can do, but finding a ground that expresses such a state on multiple levels. The changes from song to song, while minute on the bigger scale of the album itself — it’s not like at some point they put the guitars down and pick up a lute; though if they did I bet they could make that work — bolster the underlying affect.

At the same time, there’s a formative feel to Let the Night Come as well, as though this instinct is really just beginning a larger exploration of style and intent and that, yeah, The Lone Madman may get those lutes yet, or at least a kantele. Or maybe just some keyboard. Either way, the ground they lay out on these tracks holds the potential for future statements even as they make their own in the present, bringing a weight of atmosphere as much as tone while remaining mindful of its roots and striving toward something more individual. There’s little else one could reasonably ask of a debut album, and though living in a culture of mass shootings, an American might raise an eyebrow at a moniker like The Lone Madman, it’s worth keeping in mind that Finland, by contrast, had three such sprees between 2008 and 2013, and for what it’s worth, the band give no outward signs of being fascinated with political extremism of any sort. With the storytelling of “Häxan” perhaps as an exception, they seem more concerned with inner turmoil and alienation, and though their sound is cold and isolated, its nascent outward reach demonstrates a will to progress that one hopes The Lone Madman pursue as they move forward. As it is, they find a balance where they need one and thereby secure a place for themselves to proceed however they should desire to do so. Future prospects are exciting, but present accomplishments shouldn’t be overlooked on that account either.

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Death Hawks, Death & Decay & Death Hawks: Dawning Suns

Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

death-hawks-death-and-decay

Two limited reissues bring out the beginnings of Finnish experimentalists Death Hawks and provide fresh context to the work the Tampere-based band has done since signing to Svart Records for 2015’s Sun Future Moon (review here). The band’s first two albums, Death and Decay and Death Hawks, were originally released in 2012 and 2013 through GAEA Records and have been out of print since, sought after by late-comers like yours truly who didn’t catch them the first time around. With 500 copies of pressed of each, Svart does the universe a solid in this instance and puts Death & Decay on a gold LP and Death Hawks in black and white — suited to their respective artwork — and allows for curious parties to discover more about the band’s roots. As it turns out, there’s plenty to learn.

For example, that the stylistic experimentation of 2019’s Psychic Harmony (review here) were by no means a new impulse, and indeed, central to the ethic of the band. You might say it’s the root of Death & Decay, though it’s manifested not in synth-driven progressive disco, but a psychedelic take on country blues, putting the guitar and vocals of Teemu Markkula front and center like an otherworldly John Lee Hooker on a cut like “Death Hawk on My Trail” or the rockabilly-style “Roamin’ Baby Blues,” taking its structure from the Robert Johnson school of proto-blues and adding a speedy snare for that riding-the-rails vibe — filtered, of course, through Finnish psychedelia. With 11 tracks unfolding from the mellow ramblin’-“Planet Caravan”-style understatement of opener “Blue Void” to the later Tom Waits-of-Alpha-Centauri severity of “Priest’s March,” amid fuzzier tones and subtle backing synth also provided by Markkula, Death & Decay is a formative tour de force.

“The Beast” touches on organ-laced ’70s folk while “Holy Water,” which immediately follows, starts with a wild bark and turns itself into a tent revival of psychedelic wash, while over on side B, “Death Has No Reprieve” weaves hypnotic background vocals into its deceptive depths, and the catchy “Dead Man” (probably a reference to the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film of the same name), foreshadows some of the melodic sweetness Markkula will bring to his vocal style on subsequent outings, letting closer “The Peace Maker” touch on Morricone — among other things — as a direct foreshadow for some of what the self-titled would do the next year. Ultimately, Death & Decay is broader in its sound than just tagging it “psych-blues” could hope to convey, but especially with Markkula‘s performance so much at the root of the material on guitar/vocals/keys/producer/composer/etc., the feeling throughout is less full-band-expanse and more solo-exploration, and that gives the 44-minute 11-tracker even more of a “starting out” vibe, as though the material were experiments that came together as songs as they were fleshed out. As sure as the band has been of what they’ve done since, it’s kind of refreshing to know this sense of adventure was what sparked their origin in the first place. Their will to push beyond and between stylistic confines is readily on display, and the songs are memorable and weird in kind, recognizable in themselves and in the nascent sprawl the band would go on to develop from the foundation they set.

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This, of course, was realized in the quick turnaround of Death Hawks, and though it’s a shameful cliché, I’ll note that it does not seem at all a coincidence that the second album is self-titled in terms of their laying claim to who they are as a group and their intentions going forward. Shorter at 35 minutes/seven tracks with a recurring theme in “Cain Go Home (2. Session)” on side A and “Cain Go Home (1. Session)” on side B — the Morricone influence returning in the whistle of both — the self-titled is immediately immersive in its psychedelic reach, with whispers and backing melodies and winding hypnotic guitar on six-minute opener “Night Children,” the title doing little in the end to convey the colorfulness of the tone there or in songs like “Blind Daughter of Death” and the string-and-organ-backed mellow meander of “Quiet Sun,” a not-all-who-wander-are-lost krautrock texture pervading the spirit of what sounds rooted in a live recording.

That, in turn, is answered by the flamenco strum of the “Cain Go Home (1. Session),” which is nothing if not based around conveying a feeling of motion, so a dynamic emerges across the self-titled that is broad while remaining unified not just by Markkula‘s continued melodicism, but through more of a full-band feel around him, with the centerpiece “Grim-Eyed Goat” and sax-inclusive nine-minute closer “Black Acid” ranging into the beyond of subdued-and-not space rock while holding firm to Death Hawks‘ identity as they establish it throughout. Like its predecessor, Death Hawks is very much about its mood and vibe, but it’s an essential step in coming off of the debut and does much to convey what became the overarching intent of the band at the time. True, that intent would shift by the time Sun Future Moon came around and continue to do so for Psychic Harmony earlier this year, but if anything, the first two Death Hawks LPs highlight the purposefulness behind that.

Because it’s not just about how there’s a leap in sound from one record to the next one — which it’s worth reiterating: the sophomore album followed just a year after the first — but about the creative ethic that’s behind making that leap in the first place. Death Hawks‘ open sensibility and forward drive is something that continues to push their material in exciting directions and down paths that others probably wouldn’t dare to tread even if they thought to do so. What Death & Decay and Death Hawks make plain is that this is a founding principle under which Death Hawks have operated for as long as they’ve been a band, and really since before they were a band as they are now. Perhaps more than anything else, these Svart represses make Death Hawks seem like an even less predictable group, with their origins in unexpected climes and an even broader palette than that for which I’d previously given them credit. I wasn’t about to predict what they’d do next anyhow, but I find myself less inclined than ever to speculate.

Death Hawks, “Dead Man” official video

Death Hawks, “Black Acid” official video

Death Hawks website

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