Quarterly Review: Nebula, Mountain of Misery, Page Williams Turner, Almost Honest, Buzzard, Mt. Echo, Friends of Hell, Red Sun, Wolff & Borgaard, Semuta

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Legend has it that a long time ago, thousands of years ago, before even the founding of the Kingdom of New Jersey itself, there was a man who attempted a two-week, 100-album Quarterly Review. He truly believed and was known to say to his goodlady wife, “Sure, I can do 100 releases in 10 days. That should be fine,” but lo, the gods did smite him for his hubris.

His punishment? That very same Quarterly Review.

Like the best of mythology, the lesson here is don’t be a dumbass and do things like 100-record Quarterly Reviews. Clearly this is a lesson I haven’t learned. Welcome to the next two weeks. Sorry for the typos. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Nebula, Livewired in Europe

Nebula Livewired in Europe

A busy 2023 continued on from a busy 2022 for SoCal heavy rockers Nebula as they supported their seventh album, Transmission From Mothership Earth (review here), and as filthy as was founding guitarist Eddie Glass‘ fuzz on that record, the nine-track (12 on the CD) Livewired in Europe pushes even further into the rawer stoner punk that’s always been at root in their sound. They hit Europe twice in 2023, in Spring and Fall, and in the lumbering sway of “Giant,” the drawl of “Messiah,” the Luciferian wink of that song and “Man’s Best Friend” earlier in the set, and the righteous urgency of what’s listed in the promo as “Down the Mother Fuckin’ Highway” or the shred-charged roll of “Warzone Speedwolf” in the bonus cuts, with bassist Ranch Sironi backing Glass on vocals and Mike Amster wailing away on drums — he’s the glue that never sounds stuck — they document the mania of post-rebirth Nebula as chaotic and forceful in kind, which is precisely what one would most hope for at the start of the gig. It’s not their first live outing, and hopefully it’s not the last either.

Nebula on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Mountain of Misery, The Land

mountain of misery the land

The self-recording/self-releasing Kamil Ziółkowski offers his second solo LP with The Land, following in short order from last Fall’s In Roundness (review here) and the two-songer issued a month after. At six songs and 35 minutes, The Land further distinguishes Mountain of Misery stylistically from Ziółkowski‘s main outfit, Spaceslug. Yes, the two bands share a penchant for textured tones and depth of mix (Haldor Grunberg at Satanic Audio mixed and mastered), and the slow-delivered melodic ‘gaze-style vocals are recognizable, but “The ’90s” puts Nirvana through this somewhat murky, hypnotic filter, and before its shimmering drone caps the album, on closer “Back Again,” the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist reminds a bit of Eddie Vedder. Seekers of nod will find plenty in “Awesome Burn” and the slightly harder-hitting “High Above the Mount” — desert rock in its second half, but on another planet’s desert — while the succession of “Path of Sound” and “Come on Down” feel specifically set to more post-rocking objectives; the plot and riffs likewise thickened. Most of all, it sounds like Mountain of Misery is digging in for a longer-term songwriting exploration, and quickly, and The Land only makes me more excited to find out where it’s headed.

Mountain of Misery on Facebook

Electric Witch Mountain Recordings on Facebook

Page Williams Turner, Page Williams Turner

page williams turner self titled

The named-for-their-names trio Page Williams Turner is comprised of electronicist/mixer Michael Page (Sky Burial, many others), drummer/percussionist Robert Williams (of the harshly brilliant Nightstick) and saxophonist Nik Turner (formerly Hawkwind, et al), and the single piece broken into two sides on their Opposite Records self-titled debut is a duly experimentalist, mic-up-and-go extreme take on free psychedelic jazz, drone, industrial noisemaking, and time-what-is-time-signature manipulation. “Rorrim I” is drawn cinematically into an unstable wormhole circa its 14th minute, and teases serenity before the listener is eaten by a giant spider in some kind of unknowable ritual, and while “Rorrim II” feels less manic on average, its cycles, ebbs and flows remain wildly unpredictable. That’s the point, of course. If the combination of personnel and/or elements seems really, really weird on paper, you’re on the right track. This kind of thing will never be for everybody, but those who can get on its level will find it transportive. If that’s you, safe travels.

Page Williams Turner at Opposite Records Bandcamp

Opposite Records website

Almost Honest, The Hex of Penn’s Woods

almost honest the hex of penn's woods

The spoken intro welcoming the listener to “the greatest and last show of your lives” at the head of the chugging “Mortician Magician” is a little over the top considering the straightforward vibe of much of what follows on the 10 tracks of 2023’s The Hex of Penn’s Woods from Pennsylvania-based heavy rockers Almost Honest, but whether it’s the banjo early or the cowbell later in “Haunted Hunter,” the post-Fu Manchu riffing and gang shouts of “Alien Spiders,” “Ballad of a Mayfly”‘s whistling, the organ in “Amish Hex” (video premiere here), the harmonies of “Colony of Fire,” a bit of sax on “Where the Quakers Dwell,” that quirk in the opener, the funk wrought throughout by Garrett Spangler‘s bass and Quinten Spangler‘s drumming, the metal-rooted intertwining of Shayne Reed and David Kopp‘s guitars or the structural solidity beneath all of it, the band give aural character to coincide with the regionalist themes based on their Pennsylvania Dutch, foothill-Appalachian surroundings, and they dare to make their third album’s 44 minutes fun in addition to thoughtful in its craft.

Almost Honest on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Buzzard, Doom Folk

buzzard doom folk

Based in Western Massachusetts, Buzzard is the solo-project of Christopher Thomas Elliott, and the title of his debut album, Doom Folk, describes his particular intention. As the 12-song/44-minute outing unfolds from the eponymous “Buzzard” at its outset (even that feels like a Sabbathian dogwhistle), the blend of acoustic and electric guitar forms the heart of the arrangements, but more than that, it’s doom and folk, stylistically, that are coming together. What makes it work is that Elliott avoids the trap of 2010s-ish neo-folk posturing as a songwriter, and while there’s a ready supply of apocalyptic mood in the lyrical storytelling and abundant amplified distortion put to dynamic use, the folk he’s speaking to is more traditional. Not lacking intricacy in their percussion, arrangements or melodies, you could nonetheless learn these songs and sing them. “Death Metal in America” alone makes it worth the price of admission, let alone the stellar “Lucifer Rise,” but the sweet foreboding and build of the subsequent “Harvester of Souls” gets even closer to Buzzard‘s intention in bringing together the two sides to manifest a kind of heavy that is immediately and impressively its own. Doom Folk on.

Buzzard on Facebook

Buzzard on Bandcamp

Mt. Echo, Cometh

mt echo cometh

Mt. Echo begin their third full-length primed for resonance with the expansive, patiently wrought “Veil of Unhunger,” leading with their longest track (immediate points) as a way of bringing the listener into the record’s mostly instrumental course with a shimmer of post-rock and later-emerging density of tone. The Nijmegen trio’s follow-up to 2022’s Electric Empire (review here) plays out across a breadth that extends beyond the 44-minute runtime and does more in its pieces than flow smoothly between its loud/quiet tradeoffs. “Round and Round Goes the Crown” brings a guest appearance from Oh Hazar guitarist/vocalist Stefan Kollee that pushes the band into a kind of darker, thoroughly Dutch heavy prog, but even that shift is made smoother by the spoken part on “Brutiful Your Heart” just before, and not necessarily out of line with how “Set at Rest” answers the opener, or the rumble, nod and wash that cap with “If I May.” The overarching sense of growth is palpable, but the songs express more atmospherically than just the band pushing themselves.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

Friends of Hell, God Damned You to Hell

friends of hell god damned you to hell

They’re probably to raw and dug into Satanic cultistry to agree, but with Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson (Nifelheim) on vocals, guitarists Beelzeebubth (Mystifier, etc.) and Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis (Mirror, etc.), bassist Taneli Jarva (Impaled Nazarene, etc.) and drummer Tasos Danazoglou (Mirror, ex-Electric Wizard, etc.) in the lineup for second LP God Damned You to Hell, it’s probably safe to call Friends of Hell a supergroup. Such considerations ultimately have little to do with how the rolling proto-NWOBHM triumphs of “Bringer of Evil” and “Arcane Macabre” play out, but it explains the current of extremity in their purposes that comes through at the start with the title-track and the severity that surrounds in the layering of “Ave Satanatas” as they journey into the underworld to finish with the eight-minute “All the Colors of the Dark.” You’re either going to buy the backpatch or shrug and not get it, and that seems like it’s probably fine with them.

Friends of Hell on Instagram

Rise Above Records website

Red Sun, From Sunset to Dawn

Red Sun From Sunset to Dawn

Not to be confused with France’s Red Sun Atacama, Italian prog-heavy psych instrumentalists Red Sun mark their 10th anniversary with the release of their third album, From Sunset to Dawn, and run a thread of doom through the keyboardy “The Sunset Turns Purple” and “The Shape of Night” on side A to manifest ‘sunset’ while side B unfolds with airier guitar in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and “Towards the End of Darkness” en route to the raga-leaning “The New Sun,” but as much as there is to be said for the power of suggestion and narrative titling, it’s the music itself that realizes the progression described in the name of the album. With a clear influence from My Sleeping Karma in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and the blend of organic hand-percussion and digitized melody in “The New Sun,” Red Sun immerse the listener in the procession from the intro “Where Once Was Light” (mirrored by “Intempesto” at the start of side B) onward, with each song serving as a chapter in the linear concept and story.

Red Sun on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Wolff & Borgaard, Destroyer

wolff and borgaard destroyer

Cinematic enough in sheer sound and the corresponding intensity of mood to warrant the visual collaboration with Kai Lietzke that accompanies the audio release, the collaboration between Hamburg electronic experimentalist Peter Wolff (Downfall of Gaia) and vocalist Jens Borgaard (Knifefight!, solo) moves between minimalist soundscaping and more consuming, weighted purposes. Moments like the beginning of “Transmit” might leave one waiting for when the Katatonia song is going to kick in, but Wolff & Borgaard engage on their own level as each of the nine pieces follows its own poetic course, able to be caustic like the culmination of “Observe” or to bring the penultimate “Extol” to silence gradually before “Reaper” bursts to life with clearly intentional contrast. I heard this or that streaming service is making a Blade Runner 2099 tv series. Sounds like a terrible idea, but it might just be watchable if Wolff & Borgaard get to do the score with a similar evocations of software and soul.

Peter Wolff on Facebook

My Proud Mountain website

Semuta, Glacial Erratic

Semuta Glacial Erratic

The Portland, Oregon, two-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol (ex-Burials) and drummer Ben Stoller (currently also Simple Forms, Dark Numbers, ex-Vanishing Kids) do much to ingratiate themselves both to the crowded underground of which their hometown is an epicenter, and to the broader sphere of heavy-progressivism in modern doom and sludge. Across the five tracks of their self-released for now debut full-length, Glacial Erratic, the pair offer a panacea of heavy sounds, angular in the urgency of “Toeing the Line,” which opens, or the later thud of “Selective Memory” (the latter of which also appeared on their 2020 self-titled EP), which seem more kin to Baroness or Elder crashes and twists of “A Distant Light” or the interplay of ambience, roll, and sharpness of execution that’s been held in reserve for the nine-minute “Wounds at the Stem” as they leave off. Melody, particularly in Caragol‘s vocals, is crucial in tying the material together, and part of what gives Semuta such apparent potential, but they seem already to have figured out a lot about who they want to be musically. All of which is to say don’t be surprised when this one shows up on the list of 2024’s best debut albums come December.

Semuta on Facebook

Semuta on Bandcamp

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Semuta to Release Debut LP Glacial Erratic May 24; Title-Track Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan


I don’t know at whose house Semuta filmed the video for the first single and title-track from their upcoming debut album, Glacial Erratic, but with that skate ramp in the back yard, a P.A., and plenty of room for an entire crowd of people — plus at least one chainsaw — to chase some dude out, it looks like a pretty killer spot. “Glacial Erratic” is the first I’ve heard of the two-piece with Benjamin Caragol on guitar/vocals and Ben Stoller on drums, but the reason I’m posting about it is that after hearing it, I’m curious to hear more, so take that as you will. The way the descriptions below align to post-metal with some emotive current through it presents an immediate purpose in aesthetic terms. A goal they’re working toward.

Glacial Erratic is up for preorder from the band on Bandcamp, which I’m sure you know because you probably hang out with these guys and you’re probably in the video because you have friends and aren’t alienated from everyone around you including your family sitting right on the other couch as you beeline on your trajectory to being someone’s divorced asshole dad whose kid never speaks to you again — at least I’m liberal — and the video’s at the bottom of the post. I don’t have anything else to add here that doesn’t round out to hating myself while I wait for the gummy to kick in so I don’t have to think about it anymore or at least not with the words moving so fast in my brain, so here you go. Enjoy:

Semuta Glacial Erratic

SEMUTA: Portland post-metallers debut title track from new album “Glacial Erratic”; official music video features members of Usnea, Dark Castle, more

Preorder: https://semutamusic.bandcamp.com/album/glacial-erratic

Semuta is the duo of guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol and drummer Ben Stoller, former members of noted Rose City bands Burials, Dark Numbers, and more. Together as Semuta, the two summon a mournful strain of sludgy post-metal, marked by enthralling songcraft and passionate execution.

Mixed by Scott Evans at Antisleep Audio (Kowloon Walled City, Great Falls) and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Portrayal of Guilt, Torche), debut full-length Glacial Erratic depicts an ocean of melancholy, punctuated by triumphant swells. Its five songs unfold over the course of 37 minutes, with Caragol’s rich, clean vocals soaring over icy lulls and metallic eruptions. Navigating gentle interludes, tense buildups peppered with odd time signatures, and heroic climaxes, Stoller delivers rock-solid beatings in the Bonham tradition and Caragol unfurls a spectrum of six-string magic, all in service of the songs’ momentum.

Caragol states: “When I was a kid all I really cared about was metal, but around the time I was 15 or 16 I started to branch out. A big moment for me was seeing Radiohead for the first time. I had never seen a group of musicians so willing to dispense with conventions, and explore such a wide array of sounds. After that I was drawn to heavy bands that experimented with sonics, odd times, and emotive melodies; bands like Neurosis, Converge, Godspeed… I really appreciate music that pushes boundaries while maintaining a lot of feeling. I want the music we make to be ambitious, but I also want it to resonate with people emotionally.”

Caragol’s goal, to create music that challenges the mind whilst stirring the soul, has been realized with Glacial Erratic, an album likely to hook the ears of any fan of progressive heavy music, from Russian Circles to Cave In and beyond.

Revealing the themes at play behind the new album, Caragol states: “Most of our songs are about the ways in which human systems are failing us. Governments waging endless war. Corporations hoarding wealth and exploiting natural resources at the cost of an inhabitable planet. The abandonment and persecution of our most vulnerable populations. It’s hard to look at our civilization and not see a gaping wound. And most people bury their heads in the gutter of social media and vapid entertainment; a desperate attempt to hold onto fleeting moments of joy as the world around us falls apart.”

In contrast to the grave messaging, the official music video for the album’s title track sports a lighthearted, B-movie tone. Directed by renowned documentarian of Portland’s metal and punk scenes, Shelby Kray, the video sees a party at a backyard skateboard ramp devolve into hallucinatory horror. Making cameos are a bevy of Semuta’s hometown friends, including members of Usnea, Dark Castle, Armed for Apocalypse, Stoneburner, Nasalrod, and more. “Portland has a pretty thriving music scene,” says Caragol, in regards to the video casting. “There’s a wide variety of bands, and the music community is pretty close knit.”

The Glacial Erratic album artwork was created by Ashleigh Caragol, with design and layout by Justin Cory. The album follows one self-titled EP, released by the band in 2020.

Semuta has announced a string of West Coast dates for the spring, teaming up with such bands as Conan and Heiress along the way.

Apr 18 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios (w/ Conan)
May 31 – Portland, OR @ The High Water Mark (w/ Yellfire)
June 1 – Bellingham, WA @ Make Shift (w/ Melancholia)
June 2 – Seattle, WA @ The Sunset Tavern (w/ Heiress)
June 8 – Santa Rosa, CA @ Shady Oak (w/ Ex Everything)
June 9 – Oakland, CA @ The Stork Club (w/ Ex Everything)

1) Toeing the Line
2) A Distant Light
3) Glacial Erratic
4) Selective Memory
5) Wounds at the Stem

Benjamin Caragol – guitar, bass, vocals
Ben Stoller – drums


Semuta, “Glacial Erratic” official video

Semuta, Glacial Erratic (2024)

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