Quarterly Review: Harvestman, Kalgon, Agriculture, Saltpig, Druidess, Astral Construct, Ainu, Grid, Dätcha Mandala, Dr. Space Meets Mr. Mekon

Posted in Reviews on May 23rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

This is the next-to-last day of this Quarterly Review, and while it’s been a lot, it’s been encouraging to dig into so much stuff in such intense fashion. I’ve added a few releases to my notes for year-end lists, but more importantly, I’ve gotten to hear and cover stuff that otherwise I might not, and that’s the value at a QR has for me at its core, so while we’re not through yet, I’ll just say thanks again for reading and that I hope you’ve also found something that speaks to you in these many blocks of text and embedded streaming players. If not, there’s still 20 records to go, so take comfort in that as needed.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Harvestman, Triptych: Part One

Harvestman Triptych Part One

The weirdo-psych experimental project of Steve Von Till (now ex-Neurosis, which is still sad on a couple levels) begins a released-according-to-lunar-orbit trilogy of albums in Triptych: Part One, which is headlined by opening track “Psilosynth,” boasting a guest appearance from Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) on bass. If those two want to start an outsider-art dub-drone band together, my middle-aged burnout self is here for it — “Psilosynth (Harvest Dub),” a title that could hardly be more Von Till and Cisneros, appears a little later, which suggests they might also be on board — but that’s only part of the world being created in Triptych: Part One as “Mare and Foal” manipulates bagpipes into ghostly melodies, “Give Your Heart to the Hawk” echoes poetry over ambient strum, “Coma” and “How to Purify Mercury” layer synthesized drone and/or effects-guitar to sci-fi affect and “Nocturnal Field Song” finds YOB‘s Dave French banging away on something metal in the background while the crickets chirp. The abiding spirit is subdued, exploratory as Von Till‘s solo works perpetually are, and even as the story is only a third told, the immersion on Triptych: Part One goes as deep as the listener is willing to let it. I look forward to being a couple moons late reviewing the next installment.

Harvestman on Facebook

Neurot Recordings website

Kalgon, Kalgon

kalgon kalgon

As they make their self-titled full-length debut, Asheville, North Carolina’s Kalgon lay claim to a deceptive wide swath of territory even separate from the thrashier departure “Apocalyptic Meiosis” as they lumber through “The Isolate” and the more melodic “Grade of the Slope,” stoner-doom leaning into psych and more cosmic vibing, with the mournful “Windigo” leading into “Eye of the Needle”‘s slo-mo-stoner-swing and gutted out vocals turning to Beatlesy melody — guitarist Brandon Davis and bassist Berten Lee Tanner share those duties while Marc Russo rounds out the trio on drums — in its still-marching second half and the post-Pallbearer reaches and acoustic finish of “Setting Sun.” An interlude serves as centerpiece between “Apocalyptic Meiosis” and “Windigo,” and that two-plus-minute excursion into wavy drone and amplifier hum works well to keep a sense of flow as the next track crashes in, but more, it speaks to longer term possibilities for how the band might grow, both in terms of what they do sonically and in their already-clear penchant for seeing their first LP as a whole, single work with its own progression and story to tell.

Kalgon on Facebook

Kalgon on Bandcamp

Agriculture, Living is Easy

agriculture living is easy

Surely there’s some element in Agriculture‘s self-applied aesthetic frame of “ecstatic black metal” in the power of suggestion, but as they follow-up their 2022 self-titled debut with the four-song Living is Easy EP and move from the major-key lightburst of the title-track into the endearingly, organically, folkishly strained harmonies of “Being Eaten by a Tiger,” renew the overwhelming blasts of tremolo and seared screams on “In the House of Angel Flesh” and round out with a minute of spoken word recitation in “When You Were Born,” guitarists Richard Chowenhill (also credited with co-engineering, mixing and mastering) and Dan Meyer (also vocals), bassist/vocalist Leah B. Levinson and drummer/percussionist Kern Haug present an innovative perspective on the genre that reminds of nothing so much as the manner in which earliest Wolves in the Throne Room showed that black metal could do something more than it had done previously. That’s not a sonic comparison, necessarily — though there are basic stylistic aspects shared between the two — but more about the way Agriculture are using black metal toward purposefully new expressive ends. I’m not Mr. Char by any means, but it’s been probably that long since the last time I heard something that was so definitively black metal and worked as much to refresh what that means.

Agriculture on Facebook

The Flenser website

Saltpig, Saltpig

Saltpig saltpig

Apparently self-released by the intercontinental duo last Fall and picked up for issue through Heavy Psych Sounds, Saltpig‘s self-titled debut modernizes classic charge and swing in increasingly doomed fashion across the first four songs of its A-side, laces “Burn the Witch” with samples themed around the titular subject, and dedicates all of side B to the blown out mostly-instrumental roll of “1950,” which is in fact 19 minutes and 50 seconds long. The band, comprised of guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker Mitch Davis (also producer for a swath of more commercially viable fare) and drummer Fabio Alessandrini (ex-Annihilator), are based in New York and Italy, respectively, and whatever on earth might’ve brought them together, in both the heavy-garage strut of “Demon” and the willfully harsh manner in which they represent themselves in the record’s back half, they bask in the rougher edges of their tones and approach more generally. “When You Were Dead” is something of a preface in its thicker distortion to “1950,” but its cavernous shouted vocals retain a psychedelic presence amid the ensuing grit, whereas once the closer gets underway from its feedback-soaked first two minutes, they make it plain there’s no coming back.

Saltpig on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Druidess, Hermits and Mandrakes

druidess hermits and mandrakes

Newcomer UK doomers Druidess nod forth on their debut EP, Hermits and Mandrakes, with a buzzing tonality in “Witches’ Sabbath” that’s distinctly more Monolord than Electric Wizard, and while that’s fascinating academically and in terms of the generational shift happening in the heavy underground over the last few years, the fuzz that accompanies the hook of “Mandragora,” which follows, brings a tempo boost that situates the two-piece of vocalist Shonagh Brown and multi-instrumentalist/producer Daniel Downing (guitar, bass, keys, drum programming; he even had a hand in the artwork, apparently) in a more rocking vein. It’s heavy either way you go, and “Knightingales” brings Green Lung-style organ into the mix along with another standout hook before “The Hermit of Druid’s Temple” signs over its soul to faster Sabbath worship and closer “The Forest Witches’ Daughter” underscores the commitment to same in combination with a more occult thematic. It’s familiar-enough terrain, ultimately, but the heft they conjure early on and the movement they bring to it later should be plenty to catch ears among the similarly converted, and in song and performance they display a self-awareness of craft that is no less a source of their potential.

Druidess on Facebook

Druidess on Bandcamp

Astral Construct, Traveling a Higher Consciousness

astral construct traveling to a higher consciousness

One-man sans-vocals psych outfit Astral Construct — aka Denver-based multi-instrumentalist Drew Patricks — released Traveling a Higher Consciousness last year, and well, I guess I got lost in a temporal wormhole or some such because it’s not last year anymore. The record’s five-track journey is encompassing in its metal-rooted take on heavy psychedelia, however, and that’s fortunate as “Accessing the Mind’s Eye” solidifies from its languid first-half unfolding into more stately progressive riffage. Bookended by the dreamy manifestation of “Heart of the Nebula” (8:12) and “Interstellar” (9:26), which moves between marching declaration and expansive helium-guitar float, the album touches ground in centerpiece “The Traveler,” but even there could hardly be called terrestrial once the drums drop out and the keys sweep in near the quick-fade finish that brings about the more angular “Long View of Astral Consciousness,” that penultimate track daring a bit of double-kick in the drums heading toward its own culmination. Now, then or future, whether it’s looking inward or out, Traveling a Higher Consciousness is a revelry for the cosmos waiting to be engaged. You might just end up in a different year upon hearing it.

Astral Construct on Facebook

Astral Construct on Bandcamp

Ainu, Ainu

ainu ainu

Although their moniker comes from an indigenous group who lived on Hokkaido before that island became part of modern Japan, Ainu are based in Genoa, Italy, and their self-titled debut has little to do sound-wise with the people or their culture. Fair enough. Ainu‘s Ainu, which starts out in “Il Faro” with sparse atmospheric guitar and someone yelling at you in Italian presumably about the sea (around which the record is themed), uses speech and samples to hold most positions vocals would otherwise occupy, though the two-minute “D.E.V.S.” is almost entirely voice-based, so the rules aren’t so strictly applied one way or the other. Similarly, as the three-piece course between grounded sludgier progressions and drifting post-heavy, touching on more aggressive moods in the late reaches of “Aiutami A. Ricordare” and the nodding culmination of “Khrono” but letting the breadth of “Call of the Sea” unfold across divergent movements of crunchier riffs and operatic prog grandiosity. You would not call it predictable, however tidal the flow from one piece to the next might be.

Ainu on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Grid, The World Before Us

grid the world before us

Progressive sludge set to a backdrop of science-fiction and extrasolar range, The World Before Us marks a turn from heretofore instrumental New York trio Grid, who not only feature vocals throughout their 38-minute six-tracker third LP, but vary their approach in that regard such that as “Our History Hidden” takes hold following the keyboardy intro “Singularity” (in we go!), the first three of the song’s 12 minutes find them shifting from sub-soaring melodicism to hard-growled metallic crunch with the comfort of an act who’ve been pulling off such things for much longer. The subsequent “Traversing the Interstellar Gateway” (9:31) works toward similar ends, only with guitar instead of singing, and the standout galloping kickdrum of “Architects of Our World” leads to a deeper dig into the back and forth between melody and dissonance, led into by the threatening effects manipulations of the interlude “Contact” and eventually giving over to the capstone outro “Duality” that, if it needs to be said, mirrors “Singularity” at the start. There’s nuance and texture in this interplay between styles — POV: you dig Opeth and Hawkwind — and my suspicion is that if Grid keep to this methodology going forward, the vocal arrangements will continue to evolve along with the rest of the band’s expanding-in-all-directions stylizations.

Grid on Facebook

Grid on Bandcamp

Dätcha Mandala, Koda

Datcha Mandala Koda

The stated intentions of Bordeaux, France’s Dätcha Mandala in bringing elements of ’90s British alternative rock into their heavier context with their Koda LP are audible in opener “She Said” and the title-track that follows it, but it’s the underlying thread of heavy rock that wins the day across the 11-song outing, however danceable “Wild Fire” makes it or however attitude-signaling the belly-belch that starts “Thousand Pieces” is in itself. That’s not to say Koda doesn’t succeed at what it’s doing, just that there’s more to the proceedings than playing toward that particular vision of cool. “It’s Not Only Rock and Roll (And We Don’t Like It)” has fuzzy charm and a hook to boot, while “Om Namah Shivaya” ignites with an energy that is proggy and urgent in kind — the kind of song that makes you a fan at the show even if you’ve never heard the band before — and closer “Homeland” dares some burl amid its harmonized chorus and flowing final guitar solo, answering back to the post-burp chug in “Thousand Pieces” and underscoring the multifaceted nature of the album as a whole. I suppose if you have prior experience with Dätcha Mandala, you know they’re not just about one thing, but for newcomers, expect happy surprises.

Dätcha Mandala on Facebook

Discos Macarras Records website

Dr. Space Meets Mr. Mekon, The Bubbles Scopes

dr space meets mr mekon dr space meets mr mekon

Given the principals involved — Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, et al, and Chris Purdon of Hawklords and Nik Turner’s Space Ritual — it should come as no surprise that The Bubbles Scopes complements its grammatical counterintuitiveness with alien soundscape concoctions of synth-based potency; the adventure into the unknown-until-it’s-recorded palpable across two extended tracks suitably titled “Trip 1” (22:56) and “Trip 2” (15:45). Longform waveforms, both. The collaboration — one of at least two Heller has slated for release this Spring; stay tuned tomorrow — makes it clear from the very beginning that the far-out course The Bubbles Scopes follows is for those who dwell in rooms with melting walls, but in the various pulsations and throbs of “Trip 1,’ the transition from organ to more electronic-feeling keyboard, and so on, human presence is no more absent than they want it to be, and while the loops are dizzying and “Trip 2” seems to reach into different dimensions with its depth of mix, when the scope is so wide, the sounds almost can’t help but feel free. And so they do. They put 30 copies on tape, because even in space all things digitalia are ephemeral. If you want one, engage your FOMO and make it happen because the chance may or may not come again.

Dr. Space on Facebook

Dr. Space on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Dopethrone, Anandammide, Tigers on Opium, Bill Fisher, Ascia, Cloud of Souls, Deaf Wolf, Alber Jupiter, Cleen

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

It is an age of plenty as regards the underground. Between bands being able to form with members on different continents, to being able to record basically anything anywhere anywhen, the barriers have never been lower. I heard an all-AI stoner rock record the other day. It wasn’t great, but did it need to be?

The point is there’s gotta be a reason so many people are doing the thing, and a reason it happens just about everywhere, more than just working/middle class disaffection and/or dadstalgia. There’s a lot of documentary research about bands, but so far I don’t think anyone’s done a study, book, bio-doc, whatever about the proliferation of heavy sounds across geographies and cultures. No, that won’t be me. “Face made for radio,” as the fellow once said, and little time to write a book. But perhaps some riff-loving anthropologist will get there one day — get everywhere, that is — and explore it with artists and fans. Maybe that’s you.

Happy Thursday.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Nell’ Ora Blu

uncle acid and the deadbeats nell ora blu

My favorite part of the press release for Uncle Acid‘s Nell’ Ora Blu was when founding guitarist/vocalist and apparent-auteur Kevin Starrs said, “I know something like this might have limited appeal, but who cares?” Though it was initially billed as an instrumental record and in fact features Starrs‘ trademark creeper vocal melodies in a few of its 19 tracks, the early “Giustizia di Strada/Lavora Fino Alla Morte” and pretty-UncleAcidic-feeling “La Vipera,” and the later march of the seven-minute “Pomeriggio di Novembre Nel Parco – Occhi Che Osservano,” catchy and still obscure enough in its psychedelia to fit, and “Solo la Morte Ti Ammanetta,” though most of the words throughout are spoken — genre cinephiles will recognize the names Edwige French and Franco Nero; there’s a lot of talking on the phone, all in Italian — as Starrs pays homage to giallo stylization in soundtracking an imaginary film. It’s true to an extent about the limited appeal, but this isn’t the first time Uncle Acid have chosen against expanding their commercial reach either, and while I imagine the effect is somewhat different if you speak Italian, Starrs‘ songwriting has never been so open or multifaceted in mood. Nell’ Ora Blu isn’t the studio follow-up to 2018’s Wasteland (review here) one might have expected, but it takes some of those aspects and builds a whole world out of them. They should tour it and do a live soundtrack, but then I guess someone would also have to make the movie.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Facebook

Rise Above Records website

Dopethrone, Broke Sabbath

Dopethrone Broke Sabbath

If “fuck you” were a band, it might be Dopethrone. With six new tracks spread across a sample-laced (pretty sure Joe Don Baker is in there somewhere; maybe “Truckstop Warlock?”) and mostly-crushing-of-spirit-and-tone 39 minutes, the crusty Montreal trio of guitarist/vocalist Vince, bassist Vyk and drummer Shawn pound at the door of your wellness with their scum-sludge extremity, living up to their reputation in gnash and nastiness for the duration. The penultimate “Uniworse” brings in Weedeater‘s “Dixie” Dave Collins for a guest spot, but by the time they get there, the three-piece have already bludgeoned your bones with album-centerpiece “Shlaghammer” and loosed the grueling breadth of “Rock Slock,” so really, Collins is the gravy on the pill-based bottom-hitting binge. From opening single “Life Kills You” through the final punishing moments of “Sultans of Sins” — presumably a side B mirror in terms of heft to “Slaghammer” — and the choice Billy Madison sample that follows, Dopethrone offer a singular unkindness of purpose. I feel like I need a shower.

Dopethrone on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

Anandammide, Eura

ANANDAMMIDE EURA

Where even the melancholy progression of “Song of Greed” is marked by the gorgeousness of its dual-vocal melody and flowing arrangement of strings, guitar, and strings, Eura is the second full-length and Sulatron Records label-debut for Parisian psych-folkies Anandammide. At the core of the diverse arrangements is songwriter Michele Moschini (vocals, synth, organ, guitar, drums), who brings purposefully Canterburyian pastoralia together with prog rock tendencies on “Phantom Limb” and the title-track while maintaining the light-touch gentility of the start of “Carmilla,” the later flow between “Lullaby No. 2” and “Dream No. 1,” or the gracefully undrummed “I Am a Flower,” with synth and strings side-by-side. Though somewhat mournful in its subject matter, Eura is filled with life and longing, and the way the lyrics of “Phantom Limb” feel out of place in the world suits the aural anachronism and the escapist drive that seems to manifest in “The Orange Flood.” Patient, immersive, and lovely, it sees ruin and would give solace.

Anandammide on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

Tigers on Opium, Psychodrama

tigers on opium psychodrama

An awaited first full-length from Portland, Oregon’s Tigers on Opium, the 10-song/44-minute Psychodrama builds on the semi-sleazed accomplishments of the four-piece’s prior EPs while presenting a refreshingly varied sound. The album begins as “Ride or Die” unfolds with Juan Carlos Caceres‘ vocals echoing in layers over quiet guitar — more of an intro, it is reprised to deliver the title line as a post-finale epilogue — and directly dives into garage-doom strut with “Black Mass” before a Styx reference worked into “Diabolique” makes for an immediate, plus-charm highlight. The parade doesn’t stop there. The Nirvana-ish beginning of “Retrovertigo” soft-boogies and drifts into Jerry Cantrell-style melody backed by handclaps, while Thin Lizzy leads show up in “Sky Below My Feet” and the more desert rocking “Paradise Lost” ahead of the farther-back, open swing and push of “Radioactive” giving over to “Wall of Silence”‘s ’70s singer-songwriterism, communing with the “Ride or Die” bookend but expanded in its arrangement; capper-caper “Separation of the Mind” paying it all off like Queens of the Stone Age finding the Big Riff and making it dance, too. On vocals, guitar and keys, Caceres is a big presence in the persona, but don’t let that undercut the contributions of guitarist Jeanot Lewis-Rolland, bassist Charles Hodge or drummer Nate Wright, all of whom also sing. As complex in intent as Psychodrama is, its underlying cohesion requires everybody to be on board, and as they are, the resulting songs supersede expectation and comprise one of 2024’s best debut albums.

Tigers on Opium on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Bill Fisher, How to Think Like a Billionaire

Bill Fisher How To Think Like A Billionaire

Self-identifying as “yacht doom,” How to Think Like a Billionaire is the third solo full-length from Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s Bill Fisher, and while “Consume the Heart” and “Yell of the Ringman” tinge toward darkness and, in the case of the latter, a pointedly doomly plog, what the “yacht” translates to is a swath of ’80s-pop keyboard sounds and piano rock accompanying Fisher‘s guitar, vocals, bass and drums, a song like “Xanadu” sending up tech-culture hubris after “Ride On, Unicorn” has given a faux-encouraging push in its chorus, rhyming “Ride on, unicorn” with “In the valley of Silicon.” Elsewhere, “Overview Effect” brings the cover to life in imagining the apocalypse from the comfort of a private spaceship, while “Lead Us Into Fire” idolizes a lack of accountability in self-harmonizing layers with the thud that complements “Intranaut” deeper in the mix and the sense that, if you were a big enough asshole and on enough cocaine, it might just be possible Fisher means it when he sings in praise of capitalist hyperexploitation. A satire much needed and a perspective to be valued, if likely not by venture capital.

Bill Fisher on Facebook

Bill Fisher website

Ascia, The Wandering Warrior

ascia the wandering warrior

While one could liken the echo-born space that coincides with the gallop of opening cut “Greenland” to any number of other outfits, and the concluding title-track branches out both in terms of tempo and melodic reach, Ascia‘s debut long-player, The Wandering Warrior follows on from the project’s demoes in counting earliest High on Fire as a defining influence. Fair enough, since the aforementioned two are both the most recent included here and the only songs not culled from the three prior demos issued by Fabrizio Monni (also Black Capricorn) under the Ascia name. With the languid fluidity and impact of “Mother of the Wendol” and the outright thrust of “Blood Bridge Battle,” “Ruins of War” and “Dhul Qarnayn” set next to the bombastic crash ‘n’ riff of “Serpent of Fire,” Monni has no trouble harnessing a flow from the repurposed, remastered material, and picking and choosing from among three shorter releases lets him portray Ascia‘s range in a new light. That may not be able to happen in the same way next time around (or it could), but for those who did or didn’t catch the demos, The Wandering Warrior summarizes well the band’s progression to this point and gives hope for more to come.

Ascia on Bandcamp

Perpetual Eclipse Productions store

Cloud of Souls, A Constant State of Flux

Cloud of Souls A Constant State of Flux

Indianapolis-based solo-project Cloud of Souls — aka Chris Latta (ex-Spirit Division, Lavaborne, etc.) — diverges from the progressive metallurgy of 2023’s A Fate Decided (review here) in favor of a more generally subdued, contemplative presentation. Beginning with its title-track, the five-song/36-minute outing marks out the spaces it will occupy and seems to dwell there as the individual cuts play out, whether that’s “A Constant State of Flux” holding to its piano-and-voice, the melancholic procession of the nine-minute “Better Than I Was,” or the sax that accompanies the downerism of the penultimate “Love to Forgive Wish to Forget.” Each song brings something different either in instrumentation or vibe — “Homewrecker Blues” harmonizes en route to a momentary tempo pickup laced with organ, closer “Break Down the Door” offers hope in its later guitar and crash, etc. — but it can be a fine line when conveying monotony or low-key depressivism, and there are times where A Constant State of Flux feels stuck in its own verses, despite Latta‘s strength of craft and the band’s exploratory nature.

Cloud of Souls on Facebook

Cloud of Souls on Bandcamp

Deaf Wolf, Not Today, Satan

Deaf Wolf Not Today Satan

Not Today, Satan, in either its 52-minute runtime or in the range of its songcraft around a central influence from Queens of the Stone Age circa 2002-2005, is not a minor undertaking. The ambitious debut full-length from Berlin trio Deaf Wolf — guitarist/vocalist Christian Rottstock (also theremin on “Silence is Golden”), bassist/vocalist Hagen Walther and Alexander Dümont on drums and other percussion — adds periodic lead-vocal tradeoffs between Rottstock and Walther to further broaden the scope of the material, with (I believe) the latter handling the declarations of “Survivor” and the gurgle-voice on “S.M.T.P.” and “Beast in Me,” which arrive in succession before “The End” closes with emphasis on self-awareness. The earlier “Sulphur” becomes a standout for its locked-in groove, fuzz tones and balanced mix, while “See You in Hell” finds its own direction and potential in strut and fullness of sound. There’s room to refine some of what’s being attempted, but Not Today, Satan sets Deaf Wolf off to an encouraging start.

Deaf Wolf on Facebook

Deaf Wolf on Bandcamp

Alber Jupiter, Puis Vient la Nuit

Alber Jupiter Puis Vient la Nuit

Five years on from their also-newly-reissued 2019 debut, We Are Just Floating in Space, French instrumentalist heavy space rock two-piece Alber Jupiter — bassist Nicolas Terroitin, drummer Jonathan Sonney, and both of them on what would seem to be all the synth until Steven Michel guests in that regard on “Captain Captain” and the title-track — make a cosmic return with Puis Vient la Nuit, the bulk of which is unfurled through four cuts between seven and 10 minutes long after a droning buildup in “Intro.” If you’re waiting for the Slift comparison somewhat inevitable these days anywhere near the words “French” and “space,” keep waiting. There’s some shuffle in the groove of “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Captain Captain” before it departs for a final minute-plus of residual cosmic background, sure, but the gradual way “Pas de Bol Pour Peter” hits its midpoint apex and the wash brought to fruition in “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Puis Vient la Nuit” itself is digging in on a different kind of vibe, almost cinematic in its vocal-less drama, broad in dynamic and encompassing on headphones as it gracefully sweeps into the farther reaches of far out, slow in escape velocity but with depth in three dimensions. It is a journey not to be missed.

Alber Jupiter on Facebook

Foundrage Label on Bandcamp

Up in Her Room Records on Bandcamp

Araki Records on Bandcamp

Cleen, Excursion

cleen excursion

There’s something of a narrative happening in at least most of the 10 tracks of Cleen‘s impressive debut album, Excursion, as the character speaking in the lyrics drifts through space and eventually meets a perhaps gruesome end, but by the time they’re closing with “A Means to an End” (get it?), the Flint, Michigan, trio of guitarist/vocalist Patrick, bassist Cooley and drummer Jordan are content to leave it at, “I just wanna worship satan and go the fuck to sleep.” Not arguing. Their sound boasts an oozing cosmic ethereality that might remind a given listener of Rezn here and there, but in the post-grunge-meets-post-punk-oh-and-there’s-a-scream movement of “No One Remembers but You,” the punkier shove in the first half of “Year of the Reaper,” the dirt-fuzz jangle of “Aroya” and the sheer heft of “Menticidal Betrayal,” “Sultane of Sand” and “Fatal Blow,” Cleen blend elements in a manner that’s modern but well on its way to being their own in addition to being a nodding clarion for the converted.

Cleen on Facebook

Electric Desert Records website

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Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Spaceslug, Lie Heavy, Burning Realm, Kalac, Alkuräjähdys, Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Amigo, The Hazytones, All Are to Return

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Alright, back at it. Putting together yesterday over the weekend was more scattershot than I’d prefer, but one might say the same of parenting in general, so I’ll leave it at that. Still, as happens with Quarterly Reviews, we got there. That my wife gave me an extra 40 minutes to bang out the Wizzerd video premiere was appreciated. As always, she makes everything possible.

Compared to some QRs, there are a few ‘bigger’ releases here. You’ll note High on Fire leading off today. That trend will continue over this and next week with the likes of Pallbearer, Uncle Acid, Bongripper, Harvestman (Steve Von Till, ex-Neurosis), Inter Arma, Saturnalia Temple spread throughout. The Pelican two-songer and My Dying Bride back to back a week from today. That’ll be a fun one. As always, it’s about the time crunch for me for what goes in the Quarterly Review. Things I want to cover before it’s too late that I can fit here. Ain’t nobody holding their breath for my opinion on any of it, or on anything generally for that matter, but I’m not trying to slight well known bands by stuffing them into what when it started over a decade ago I thought would be a catchall for demos and EPs. Sometimes I like the challenge of a shorter word count, too.

And I remind myself here again nobody really cares. Fine, let’s go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Cometh the Storm

high on fire cometh the storm

What seems at first to be business as usual for High on Fire‘s fourth album produced by Kurt Ballou, fifth for MNRK Heavy (formerly E1), and ninth overall, gradually reveals itself to be the band’s tonally heaviest work in at least the last 15 years. What’s actually new is drummer Coady Willis (Big Business, Melvins) making his first studio appearance alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (Sleep, Pike vs. the Automaton) and long-tenured bassist/backing vocalist Jeff Matz (also saz on the instrumental interlude-plus “Karanlik Yol”), and for sure Willis‘ thud in “Trismegistus,” galloping intensity in the thrashy and angular “The Beating” and declarative stomp beneath the big slowdown of 10-minute closer “Darker Fleece” is part of it, but from the way Pike and Matz bring “Cometh the Storm’ and “Sol’s Golden Curse” in the record’s middle to such cacophonous ends, the three-and-a-half-minute face-kick that is “Lightning Beard” and the suckerpunch that starts off with “Lambsbread,” to how even the more vocally melodic “Hunting Shadows” is carried on a wave of filthy, hard-landing distortion, their ferocity is reaffirmed in thicker grooves and unmitigated pummel. While in some ways this is what one would expect, it’s also everything for which one might hope from High on Fire a quarter-century on from their first demo. Triumph.

High on Fire on Facebook

MNRK Heavy website

Spaceslug, Out of Water

spaceslug out of water

A release concurrent to a remastered edition of their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here), only puts into emphasis how much Spaceslug have come into their own over eight productive years. Recorded by drummer/vocalist Kamil Ziółkowski (also Mountain of Misery), with guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka dug into familiar tonal textures throughout five tracks and a quick but inevitably full-length-flowing 32 minutes, Out of Water is both otherworldly and emotionally evocative in the rollout of “Arise the Sun” following the intertwined shouts of opener “Tears of Antimatter,” and in keeping with their progression, they nudge toward metallic aggression as a way to solidify their heavy psychedelic aspects. “Out of Water” is duly mournful to encapsulate such a tragic notion, and the nod of “Delusions” only grows more forcefully applied after the return from that song’s atmospheric break, and while they depart with “In Serenity” to what feels like the escapism of sunnier riffing, even that becomes more urgent toward the album’s finish. The reason it works is they’re bending genre to their songs, not the other way around, and as Spaceslug mature as a group, they’ve become one of Poland’s most essential heavy acts.

Spaceslug on Facebook

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

Lie Heavy, Burn to the Moon

lie heavy burn to the moon

First issued on CD through JM Records in 2023, Lie Heavy‘s debut album, Burn to the Moon, sees broader release through Heavy Psych Sounds with revamped art to complement the Raleigh, North Carolina, four-piece’s tonal heft and classic reach in pieces like “In the Shadow” and “The Long March,” respectively. The band is fronted by Karl Agell (vocalist for C.O.C.‘s 1991 Blind album and now also in The Skull-offshoot Legions of Doom), and across the 12-song/51-minute run, and whether it’s the crunch of the ripper “When the Universe Cries” or the Clutch-style heavy funk of “Chunkadelic” pushing further from the start-stops of “In the Shadow” or the layered crescendo of “Unbeliever” a short time later, he and bassist/vocalist TR Gwynne, guitarist/vocalist Graham Fry and drummer/vocalist Jeff “JD” Dennis deliver sans-pretense riff-led fare. They’re not trying to fix what wasn’t broken in the ’90s, to be sure, but you can’t really call it a retread either as they swing through “Drag the World” and its capstone counterpart “End the World”; it all goes back to Black Sabbath anyway. The converted will get it no problem.

Lie Heavy on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Burning Realm, Face the Fire

Burning Realm Face the Fire

Dublin, Ireland, trio Burning Realm mark their first release with the four-song Face the Fire EP, taking the cosmic-tinged restlessness of Wild Rocket and setting it alongside more grounded riffing, hinting at thrash in the ping ride on “From Beyond” but careening in the modern mode either way. Lead cut “Homosapien” gives Hawkwindian vibes early — the trap, which is sounding like Slift, is largely avoided, though King Gizzard may still be relevant as an influence — but smoothly gives over to acoustics and vocal drone once its urgency has bene vaporized, and spacious as the vocal echo is, “Face the Fire” is classic stoner roll even into its speedier ending, the momentum of which is continued in closer “Warped One (Arise),” which is more charged on the whole in a way that feels linear and intended in relation to what’s put before it. A 16-minute self-released introduction to who Burning Realm are now, it holds promise for how they might develop stylistically and grow in terms of range. Whatever comes or doesn’t, it’s easy enough to dig as it is. If you were at a show and someone handed you the tape, you’d be stoked once you put it on in the car. Also it’s like 1995 in that scenario, apparently.

Burning Realm on Facebook

Burning Realm on Bandcamp

Kalac, Odyss​é​e

Odyssee

Offered through an international consortium of record labels that includes Crême Brûlée Records in the band’s native France, Echodelick in the US, Clostridium in Germany and Weird Beard in the UK, French heavy psych thrusters Kalac‘s inaugural full-length, Odyss​é​e — also stylized all-caps — doesn’t leave much to wonder why so many imprints might want some for the distro. With a focus on rhythmic movement in the we-gotta-get-to-space-like-five-minutes-ago modus of current-day heavy neo-space-rock, the mostly instrumental procession hypnotizes even as it peppers its expanses with verses here or there. That might be most effectively wrought in the payoff noiseblaster wash of “II,” which I’m just going to assume opens side B, but the boogie quotient is strong from “Arguenon” to “Beautiful Night,” and while might ring familiar to others operating in the aesthetic galaxial quadrant, the energy of Kalac‘s delivery and the not-haphazard-but-not-always-in-the-same-spot-either placement of the vocals are enough to distinguish them and make the six-tracker as exciting to hear as it sounds like it probably was to record.

Kalac on Facebook

Crême Brûlée Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

Weird Beard Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

Alkuräjähdys, Ehdot.

Alkurajahdys ehdot

The live-tracked fourth outing from Helsinki psych improvisationalists Alkuräjähdys, the lowercase-stylized ehdot. blends mechanical and electronic sounds with more organic psychedelic jamming, the synth and bassier punchthrough in the midsection of opening piece “.matriisi” indeed evocative of the dot-matrix printer to which its title is in reference, while “központ,” which follows, meanders into a broader swath of guitar-based noise atop a languidly graceful roll of drums. That let’s-try-it-slower ideology is manifest in the first half of the duly two-sided “a-b” as well, as the 12-minute finale begins by lurching through the denser distortion of a central riff en route to a skronk-jazz transition to a tighter midtempo groove that I’ll compare to Endless Boogie and very much intend that as a compliment. I don’t think they’re out to change the world so much as get in a room, hit it and see where the whole thing ends up, but those are noble creative aims in concept and practice, and between the two guitars, effects, synth and whathaveyou, there’s plenty of weird to go around.

Alkuräjähdys on Instagram

Alkuräjähdys on Bandcamp

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister, Tarot Pt. 1

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister tarot pt. 1

Already a significant undertaking as a 95-minute 2LP running 11 tracks themed — as the title(s) would hint — around tarot cards, the mostly serene sprawl of Magick Brother & Mystic Sister‘s Tarot Pt. 1 is still just the first of two companion albums to be issued as the follow-up to the Barcelona outfit’s 2020 self-titled debut (discussed here). Offered through respected Greek purveyor Sound Effect Records, Tarot Pt. 1 gives breadth beyond just the runtime in the sitar-laced psych-funk of “The Hierophant” (swap sitar for organ, synth and flute on “The Chariot”) and the classic-prog pastoralia of closer “The Wheel of Fortune,” and as with the plague-era debut, at the heart of the material is a soothing acid folk, and while the keys in the first half of “The Emperor” grow insistent and there’s some foreboding in the early Mellotron and key lines of “The Lovers,” Tarot Pt. 1 resonates comfort and care in its arrangements as well as ambition in its scope. Maybe another hour and a half on the way? Sign me up.

Magick Brother & Mystic Sister on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Amigo, Good Time Island

Amigo Good Time Island

The eight-year distance from their 2016 debut long-player, Little Cliffs, seems to have smoothed out some (not all, which isn’t a complaint) of the rough edges in Amigo‘s sound, as the seemingly reinvigorated San Diego four-piece of lead guitarist/vocalist Jeff Podeszwik (King Chiefs), guitarist Anthony Mattos, bassist Sufi Karalen and drummer Anthony Alley offer five song across an accessible, straightforward 17 minutes united beneath the fair-enough title of Good Time Island. Without losing the weight of their tones, a Weezery pop sensibility comes through in “Dope Den” while “Frog Face” is even more specifically indebted to The Cars. Neither “Telescope Boy” nor “Banana Phone” lacks punch, but Amigo hold some in reserve for “Me and Soof,” which rounds out the proceedings, and they put it to solid use for an approach that’s ’90s-informed without that necessarily meaning stoner, grunge or alt, and envision a commercially relevant, songwriting-based heavy rock and roll for an alternate universe that, by all accounts here, sounds like a decent place to be.

Amigo on Facebook

Roosevelt Row Records store

The Hazytones, Wild Fever

The Hazytones Wild Fever

Culminating in the Sabbathian shuffle of “Eye for an Eye,” Wild Fever is the hook-drenched third full-length from Montreal fuzzbringers The Hazytones, and while they’ve still got the ‘tones’ part down pat, it’s easy to argue the eight included tracks are the least ‘hazy’ they’ve been to-date. Following on from the direction of 2018’s II: Monarchs of Oblivion (review here), the Esben Willems-mixed/Kent Stump-mastered 40-minute long-player isn’t shy about leaning into the grittier side of what they do as the opening title-track rolls out a chorus that reminds of C.O.C. circa In the Arms of God while retaining some of the melody between the vocals of Mick Martel (also guitar and keys) and Gabriel Prieur (also drums and bass), and with the correspondingly thick bass of Caleb Sanders for accompaniment and lead guitarist John Choffel‘s solo rising out of the murk on “Disease,” honing in on the brashness suits them well. Not where one might have expected them to end up six years later, but no less enjoyable for that, either.

The Hazytones on Facebook

Black Throne Productions store

All Are to Return, III

All Are To Return III

God damn that’s harsh. Mostly anonymous industrialists — you get F and N for names and that’s it — All Are to Return are all the more punishing in the horrific recesses and engulfing blasts of static that populate III than they were in 2022’s II (review here), and the fact that the eight-songer is only 32 minutes long is about as close as they come to any concept of mercy for the psyche of their audience. Beyond that, “Moratorium,” “Colony Collapse,” the eats-you-dead “Archive of the Sky” and even the droning “Legacy” cast a willfully wretched extremity, and what might be a humanizing presence of vocals elsewhere is screams channeled through so much distortion as to be barely recognizable as coming from a human throat here. If the question being posed is, “how much can you take?,” the answer for most of those brave enough to even give III a shot will be, “markedly less than this.” A cry from the depths realizing a brutal vision.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records store

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The Obelisk Presents: Mars Red Sky Announce Aug./Sept. Tour with Howling Giant

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Having just wrapped a stretch of European touring that found them keeping company with Stoned Jesus, Bordeaux heavy psych progressives Mars Red Sky today reveal the US stint leading to their previously-announced appearance at this September’s Ripplefest Texas, stopping at Crucial Fest along the way. They go on the back of this past December’s Dawn of the Dusk (review here), and with support from Nashville uptempo melodymakers Howling Giant, who issued their second album, Glass Future (review here), in October, that’s two of 2023’s very best records paired up for in-person delivery. Such efficiency brooks no argument.

The Obelisk has presented Mars Red Sky tours in the past, and I’m especially proud to have it do so again in light of the LP they’re heralding to the US audience. In addition to the basic routing here, the tour also answers the question in my mind of whether they would appear at Desertfest NYC with a decisive no — they’ll be in Boise, Salt Lake City and Vegas at the time — but if you’re in New York and worried about missing out, the tour starts Aug. 29 in Brooklyn, so don’t sweat it. More dates are TBA as well.

From the PR wire:

mars red sky us tour 2024 poster

MARS RED SKY US tour announced with special guest HOWLING GIANT

Psych/prog trio MARS RED SKY is getting ready to cross the Atlantic Ocean to join Nashville’s heavy psych quartet HOWLING GIANT on a North American adventure. Their USA tour will kick off this August 29th in New York to end up with RippleFest Texas in Austin on September 21st. All dates and info below.

Brought up on bands like Sonic Youth, The Jesus Lizard or My Bloody Valentine, Bordeaux-based outfit MARS RED SKY had no idea that they were about to become French stoner scene cornerstones when they founded the band in 2007. Julien Pras’ ethereal and melodic voice emerges from a thick and complex rhythm, carried by sci-fi literature’s lyricism. Almost cinematic, MARS RED SKY’s sounding has a peculiar and unique flavour, standing out within the heavy rock scene.

New album ‘Dawn Of The Dusk’ – out on December 2023 on Vicious Circle & Mrs Red Sound – is a genuine conceptual piece of work skillfully exploring progressive and post-metal territories with boundless inspiration. The eight-track album is packed with the band’s overflowing inspiration that has made their reputation in France and around the World over the last decade.

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, HOWLING GIANT blast forth a cosmic convergence of pulpy sci-fi themes and blistering psych-prog songcraft. Across a variety of recorded and live experiences since 2014, have become an essential act of the US forward-thinking heavy rock scene.

8/29 Thu – Brooklyn, NY – Baby’s All Right
8/30 Fri – Cambridge – Boston, MA – Middle East
8/31 Sat – Philadelphia, PA – Milk Boy
9/1 Sun – Baltimore, MD – Metro Gallery
9/2 Mon – Detroit, MI – Sanctuary
9/3 Tue – Chicago, IL – Reggies / Music Joint
9/4 Wed – Milwaukee, WI – X-Ray Arcade
9/5 Thu – Minneapolis, MN – 7th St Entry
9/6 Fri – Sioux Falls, SD – Remedy Brewing
9/7 Sat – Rapid City, SD – Fairground
9/8 Sun – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
9/10 Tue – Portland, OR – The High Water Mark
9/11 Wed – Seattle, WA – Substation
9/12 Thu – Boise, ID – The Shredder
9/13 Fri – Salt Lake City, UT – CRUCIAL FEST
9/14 Sat – Las Vegas, NV – Sinwave
9/15 Sun – San Francisco, CA – Bottom Of The Hill
9/16 Mon – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial
9/17 Tue – Los Angeles, CA – Residen
9/18 Wed – Tempe, AZ – Yucca Tap Room
9/19 Thu – Albuquerque, NM – Launchpad
9/20 Fri – El Paso, TX – The Rosewood
9/21 Sat – Austin, TX – RippleFest Texas

Tickets: https://marsredsky.rocks/tour

MARS RED SKY are:
Julien Pras : guitar, vocals
Jimmy Kinast : bass, vocals
Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau : drums, vocals

http://www.facebook.com/marsredskyband/
https://marsredsky.bigcartel.com/
http://www.marsredsky.net
https://mrsredsound.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mrsredsound33
https://www.instagram.com/mrsredsound/
https://mrsredsound.com/

https://www.facebook.com/viciouscirclerec
https://www.instagram.com/vicious_circle_records
https://viciouscircle.bandcamp.com/
https://www.viciouscircle.fr/

Mars Red Sky, Dawn of the Dusk (2023)

Howling Giant, Glass Future (2023)

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

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

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

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

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

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

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

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

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

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

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

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

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

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

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

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

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

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

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

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious

WITCHORIOUS SELF TITLED

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

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

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

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

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

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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Quarterly Review: Slift, Grin, Pontiac, The Polvos, The Cosmic Gospel, Grave Speaker, Surya Kris Peters, GOZD, Sativa Root, Volt Ritual

Posted in Reviews on February 26th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Admittedly, there’s some ambition in my mind calling this the ‘Spring 2024 Quarterly Review.’ I’m done with winter and March starts on Friday, so yeah, it’s kind of a reach as regards the traditional seasonal patterns of Northern New Jersey where I live, but hell, these things actually get decided here by pissing off a rodent. Maybe it doesn’t need to be so rigidly defined after all.

After doing QRs for I guess about nine years now, I finally made myself a template for the back-end layout. It’s not a huge leap, but will mean about five more minutes I can dedicate to listening, and when you’re trying to touch on 50 records in the span of a work week and attempt some semblance of representing what they’re about, five minutes can help. Still, it’s a new thing, and if you see ‘ARTIST’ listed where a band’s name should be or LINK where ‘So and So on Facebook’ goes, a friendly comment letting me know would be helpful.

Thanks in advance and I hope you find something in all of this to come that speaks to you. I’ll try to come up for air at some point.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Slift, Ilion

Slift Ilion

One of the few non-billionaire groups of people who might be able to say they had a good year in 2020, Toulouse, France, spaceblasters Slift signed to Sub Pop on the strength of that wretched year’s Ummon (review here) and the spectacle-laced live shows with which they present their material. Their ideology is cosmic, their delivery markedly epic, and Ilion pushes the blinding light and the rhythmic force directly at you, creating a sweeping momentum contrasted by ambient stretches like that tucked at the end of 12-minute hypnotic planetmaker “The Words That Have Never Been Heard,” the drone finale “Enter the Loop” or any number of spots between along the record’s repetition-churning, willfully-overblown 79-minute course of builds and surging payoffs. A cynic might tell you it’s not anything Hawkwind didn’t do in 1974 offered with modern effects and beefier tones, but, uh, is that really something to complain about? The hype around Ilion hasn’t been as fervent as was for Ummon — it’s a different moment — but Slift have set themselves on a progressive course and in the years to come, this may indeed become their most influential work. For that alone it’s among 2024’s most essential heavy albums, never mind the actual journey of listening. Bands like this don’t happen every day.

Slift on Facebook

Sub Pop Records website

Grin, Hush

grin hush

The only thing keeping Grin from being punk rock is the fact that they don’t play punk. Otherwise, the self-recording, self-releasing (on The Lasting Dose Records) Berlin metal-sludge slingers tick no shortage of boxes as regards ethic, commitment to an uncompromised vision of their sound, and on Hush, their fourth long-player which features tracks from 2023’s Black Nothingness (review here), they sharpen their attack to a point that reminds of dug-in Swedish death metal on “Pyramid” with a winding lead line threaded across, find post-metallic ambience in “Neon Skies,” steamroll with the groove of the penultimate “The Tempest of Time,” and manage to make even the crushing “Midnight Blue Sorrow” — which arrives after the powerful opening statement of “Hush” “Calice” and “Gatekeeper” — have a sense of creative reach. With Sabine Oberg on bass and Jan Oberg handling drums, guitar, vocals, noise and production, they’ve become flexible enough in their craft to harness raw charge or atmospheric sprawl at will, and through 16 songs and 40 minutes (“Portal” is the longest track at 3:45), their intensity is multifaceted, multi-angular, and downright ripping. Aggression suits this project, but that’s never all that’s happening in Grin, and they’re stronger for that.

Grin on Facebook

The Lasting Dose Records on Bandcamp

Pontiac, Hard Knox

pontiac hard knox

A debut solo-band outing from guitarist, bassist, vocalist and songwriter Dave Cotton, also of Seven Nines and Tens, Pontiac‘s Hard Knox lands on strictly limited tape through Coup Sur Coup Records and is only 16 minutes long, but that’s time enough for its six songs to find connections in harmony to Beach Boys and The Beatles while sometimes dropping to a singular, semi-spoken verse in opener/longest track (immediate points, even though four minutes isn’t that long) “Glory Ragged,” which moves in one direction, stops, reorients, and shifts between genres with pastoralism and purpose. Cotton handles six-string and 12-string, but isn’t alone in Pontiac, as his Seven Nines and Tens bandmate Drew Thomas Christie handles drums, Adam Vee adds guitar, drums, a Coke bottle and a Brita filter, and CJ Wallis contributes piano to the drifty textures of “Road High” before “Exotic Tattoos of the Millennias” answers the pre-christofascism country influence shown on “Counterculture Millionaire” with an oldies swing ramble-rolling to a catchy finish. For fun I’ll dare a wild guess that Cotton‘s dad played that stuff when he was a kid, as it feels learned through osmosis, but I have no confirmation of that. It is its own kind of interpretation of progressive music, and as the beginning of a new exploration, Cotton opens doors to a swath of styles that cross genres in ways few are able to do and remain so coherent. Quick listen, and it dares you to keep up with its changes and patterns, but among its principal accomplishments is to make itself organic in scope, with Cotton cast as the weirdo mastermind in the center. They’ll reportedly play live, so heads up.

Pontiac on Bandcamp

Coup Sur Coup Records on Bandcamp

The Polvos!, Floating

the polvos floating

Already fluid as they open with the rocker “Into the Space,” exclamatory Chilean five-piece The Polvos! delve into more psychedelic reaches in “Fire Dance” and the jammy and (appropriately) floaty midsection of “Going Down,” the centerpiece of their 35-minute sophomore LP, Floating. That song bursts to life a short time later and isn’t quite as immediate as the charge of “Into the Space,” but serves as a landmark just the same as “Acid Waterfall” and “The Anubis Death” hold their tension in the drums and let the guitars go adventuring as they will. There’s maybe some aspect of Earthless influence happening, but The Polvos! meld that make-it-bigger mentality with traditional verse/chorus structures and are more grounded for it even as the spaces created in the songs give listeners an opportunity for immersion. It may not be a revolution in terms of style, but there is a conversation happening here with modern heavy psych from Europe as well that adds intrigue, and the band never go so far into their own ether so as to actually disappear. Even after the shreddy finish of “The Anubis Death,” it kind of feels like they might come back out for an encore, and you know, that’d be just fine.

The Polvos! on Facebook

Surpop Records website

Smolder Brains Records on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records store

The Cosmic Gospel, Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love

The Cosmic Gospel Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love

With a current of buzz-fuzz drawn across its eight component tracks that allow seemingly disparate moves like the Blondie disco keys in “Hot Car Song” to emerge from the acoustic “Core Memory Unlocked” before giving over to the weirdo Casio-beat bounce of “Psychrolutes Marcidus Man,” a kind of ’60s character reimagined as heavy bedroom indie, The Cosmic Gospel‘s Cosmic Songs for Reptiles in Love isn’t without its resentments, but the almost-entirely-solo-project of Mercata, Italy-based multi-instrumentalist Gabriel Medina is more defined by its sweetness of melody and gentle delivery on the whole. An experiment like the penultimate “Wrath and Gods” carries some “Revolution 9” feel, but Medina does well earlier to set a broad context amid the hook of opener “It’s Forever Midnight” and the subsequent, lightly dub beat and keyboard focus on “The Richest Guy on the Planet is My Best Friend,” such that when closer “I Sew Your Eyes So You Don’t See How I Eat Your Heart” pairs the malevolent intent of its title with light fuzzy soloing atop an easy flowing, summery flow, the album has come to make its own kind of sense and define its path. This is exactly what one would most hope for it, and as reptiles are cold-blooded, they should be used to shifts in temperature like those presented throughout. Most humans won’t get it, but you’ve never been ‘most humans,’ have you?

The Cosmic Gospel on Facebook

Bloody Sound website

Grave Speaker, Grave Speaker

grave speaker grave speaker

Massachusetts garage doomers Grave Speaker‘s self-titled debut was issued digitally by the band this past Fall and was snagged by Electric Valley Records for a vinyl release. The Mellotron melancholia that pervades the midsection of the eponymous “Grave Speaker” justifies the wax, but the cult-leaning-in-sound-if-not-theme outfit that marks a new beginning for ex-High n’ Heavy guitarist John Steele unfurl a righteously dirty fuzz over the march of “Blood of Old” at the outset and then immediately up themselves in the riffy stoner delve of “Earth and Mud.” The blown-out vocals on the latter, as well as the far-off-mic rawness of “The Bard’s Theme” that surrounds its Hendrixian solo, remind of a time when Ice Dragon roamed New England’s troubled woods, and if Grave Speaker will look to take on a similar trajectory of scope, they do more than drop hints of psychedelia here, in “Grave Speaker” and elsewhere, but they’re no more beholden to that than the Sabbathism of capper “Make Me Crawl” or the cavernous echo of “Earthbound.” It’s an initial collection, so one expects they’ll range some either way with time, but the way the production becomes part of the character of the songs speaks to a strong idea of aesthetic coming through, and the songwriting holds up to that.

Grave Speaker on Instagram

Electric Valley Records website

Surya Kris Peters, There’s Light in the Distance

Surya Kris Peters There's Light in the Distance

While at the same time proffering his most expansive vision yet of a progressive psychedelia weighted in tone, emotionally expressive and able to move its focus fluidly between its layers of keyboard, synth and guitar such that the mix feels all the more dynamic and the material all the more alive (there’s an entire sub-plot here about the growth in self-production; a discussion for another time), Surya Kris Peters‘ 10-song/46-minute There’s Light in the Distance also brings the former Samsara Blues Experiment guitarist/vocalist closer to uniting his current projects than he’s yet been, the distant light here blurring the line where Surya Kris Peters ends and the emergently-rocking Fuzz Sagrado begins. This process has been going on for the last few years following the end of his former outfit and a relocation from Germany to Brazil, but in its spacious second half as well as the push of its first, a song like “Mode Azul” feels like there’s nothing stopping it from being played on stage beyond personnel. Coinciding with that are arrangement details like the piano at the start of “Life is Just a Dream” or the synth that gives so much movement under the echoing lead in “Let’s Wait Out the Storm,” as Peters seems to find new avenues even as he works his way home to his own vision of what heavy rock can be.

Fuzz Sagrado on Facebook

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Gozd, Unilateralis

gozd unilateralis

Unilateralis is the four-song follow-up EP to Polish heavydelvers Gozd‘s late-2023 debut album, This is Not the End, and its 20-plus minutes find a place for themselves in a doom that feels both traditional and forward thinking across eight-minute opener and longest track (immediate points, even for an EP) “Somewhere in Between” before the charge of “Rotten Humanity” answers with brasher thrust and aggressive-undercurrent stoner rock with an airy post-metallic break in the middle and rolling ending. From there, “Thanatophobia” picks up the energy from its ambient intro and explodes into its for-the-converted nod, setting up a linear build after its initial verses and seeing it through with due diligence in noise, and closer “Tentative Minds” purposefully hypnotizes with its vague-speech in the intro and casual bassline and drum swing before the riff kicks in for the finale. The largesse of its loudest moments bolster the overarching atmosphere no less than the softest standalone guitar parts, and Gozd seem wholly comfortable in the spaces between microgenres. A niche among niches, but that’s also how individuality happens, and it’s happening here.

Gozd on Facebook

BSFD Records on Facebook

Sativa Root, Kings of the Weed Age

Sativa Root Kings of the Weed Age

You wouldn’t accuse Austria’s Sativa Root of thematic subtlety on their third album, Kings of the Weed Age, which broadcasts a stoner worship in offerings like “Megalobong” and “Weedotaur” and probably whatever “F.A.T.” stands for, but that’s not what they’re going for anyway. With its titular intro starting off, spoken voices vague in the ambience, “Weedotaur”‘s 11 minutes lumber with all due bong-metallian slog, and the crush becomes central to the proceedings if not necessarily unipolar in terms of the band’s approach. That is to say, amid the onslaught of volume and tonal density in “Green Smegma” and the spin-your-head soloing in “Assassins Weed” (think Assassins Creed), the instrumentalist course undertaken may be willfully monolithic, but they’re not playing the same song five times on six tracks and calling it new. “F.A.T.” begins on a quiet stretch of guitar that recalls some of YOB‘s epics, complementing both the intro and “Weedotaur,” before bringing its full weight down on the listener again as if to underscore the message of its stoned instrumental catharsis on its way out the door. They sound like they could do this all day. It can be overwhelming at times, but that’s not really a complaint.

Sativa Root on Facebook

Sativa Root on Bandcamp

Volt Ritual, Return to Jupiter

volt ritual return to jupiter

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz, bassist Michał and drummer Tomek, Polish riffcrafters Volt Ritual are appealingly light on pretense as they offer Return to Jupiter‘s four tracks, and though as a Star Trek fan I can’t get behind their lyrical impugning of Starfleet as they imagine what Earth colonialism would look like to a somehow-populated Jupiter, they’re not short on reasons to be cynical, if in fact that’s what’s happening in the song. “Ghostpolis” follows the sample-laced instrumental opener “Heavy Metal is Good for You” and rolls loose but accessible even in its later shouts before the more uptempo “Gwiazdolot” swaps English lyrics for Polish (casting off another cultural colonialization, arguably) and providing a break ahead of the closing title-track, which is longer at 7:37 and a clear focal point for more than just bearing the name of the EP, summarizing as it does the course of the cuts before it and even bringing a last scream as if to say “Ghostpolis” wasn’t a fluke. Their 2022 debut album began with “Approaching Jupiter,” and this Return feels organically built off that while trying some new ideas in its effects and general structure. One hopes the plot continues in some way next time along this course.

Volt Ritual on Facebook

Volt Ritual on Bandcamp

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Karkara Announce Spring Tour Plans; All is Dust Out March 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Heading out from their home in Toulouse, France, on March 13 puts Karkara a little more than a week ahead of the arrival of their new album, All is Dust, which is out March 22. The record brings together heavy psych rock and classic impulses born of kraut and space rock(s) that feels current-gen in its expanded mindset, digging less into Easternism in terms of balance than did 2020’s Nowhere Land (review here), but still showing that dug-in side somewhat on the advance track “Anthropia” that you can stream below. Progressive in its texturing, it is nonetheless an easy, and pleasurable, ride to take into a communal unconscious.

Though some of the shows are split up — that is, the chunk of dates below isn’t all concurrent — gives a chance to see further ahead to the band’s summer plans, as they’ll make stops at Rabastock in July and Krach am Bach in August. They call this ‘the first round,’ so it wouldn’t be a surprise if a second one followed in summer, or certainly a stint through sundry Fall fests would be a possibility and will be all the more after the record, which is Karkara‘s third overall, lands next month. In the meantime, intermittent teaming with spacey spearheads Slift feels appropriate. You’ll find those dates noted below among the others in Europe and the UK.

Right under the poster, in blue. Can’t miss ’em:

Karkara tour

Hello friends 🖤

We’re thrilled to announce the first round of the ALL IS DUST tour.

We’re sharing gigs with SLIFT on this so dig in 🖖✨

Can’t wait to see you all 👇

🇫🇷 13.03 – Toulouse, Le Bikini | w/ SLIFT
🇫🇷 29.03 – Ventabren, Secret Place
🇫🇷 30.30 – Marseille, L’Intermediaire Live
🇫🇷 31.03 – Chambery, Brin de Zinc
🇫🇷 02.04 – Dijon, Singe en Hiver Asso Mondofuzz
🇳🇱 03.04 – Luxembourg, Rockhal | w/ SLIFT
🇨🇭 04.04 – Zurich, Mascotte Club Zürich | w/ SLIFT
🇫🇷 05 .04 – Lyon, L’Épicerie Moderne / salle musiques actuelles | w/ SLIFT
🇫🇷 06.04 – Paris, La Mécanique Ondulatoire
🇫🇷 10.04 – Rouen, Le 3 Pièces Muzik’Club
🇫🇷 11.04 – Lille, La Bulle Café – Maison Folie Moulins
🇫🇷 12.04 – Ardres, Le saxhorn
🇧🇪 13.04 – Bruxelles, Cheval Marin Brussels
🇫🇷 15.04 – Vannes, Le barailleur
🇬🇧 16.05 – London, Strongroom
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 17.05 – Edinburgh, Bannermans Live
🇬🇧 19.05 – Newcastle, Star and Shadow. Wandering Oak
🇬🇧 21.05 – Leicester, The Musician
🇬🇧 23.05 – Lancaster, The kanteena
🇬🇧 24.05 – Bristol, The Lanes
🇬🇧 25.05 – Cambridge, TBA
🇧🇪 22.06 – Namur, Ramd’Âm
🇫🇷 20.07 – Rabastock Festival
🇩🇪 02.08 – Krach am Bach

Stolen Body Records | EXAG’ Records | Le Cèpe Records | Bullet Seed | NRV Promotion

LINE UP :
Karim Rihani – Guitar , Vocals , Didgeridoo
Hugo Olive – Bass
Maxime Marouani – Drums , Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/karkararock/
https://www.instagram.com/karkara_band/
https://karkara.bandcamp.com/

https://stolenbodyrecords.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/stolenbodyrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/stolenbodyrecords/

Karkara, All is Dust (2024)

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