Last Licks 2014: Brain Pyramid, Zaum, Fire Faithful, Pendejo, Heavy Glow, Bibilic Blood, Thera Roya & Hercyn, The Spacelords, The Good Hand and Byzanthian Neckbeard

Posted in Reviews on December 31st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Yesterday was kind of crazy, but I don’t mind telling you I think today might be the most all-over-the-place of the week each of the five piles on my desk — now three, soon two — offers something different from the others, but it’s a wide spectrum being covered here, and there’s a couple abrupt turns from one to the next that I didn’t really do on purpose but I think will make for an interesting challenge anyway. In case you’ve been wondering, that’s what kind of nerd I am. Also the Star Trek kind.

I’m feeling really good about this series so far. Really good. I reserve the right to, by Friday, be so completely done with it that I never want to even think of the idea again, but I can only begin to tell you how satisfying it is to me to be able to write about some of these records after staring at them for so long sitting on my desk. Today’s batch is reviews 21-30 of the total 50, so we’ll pass the halfway point in this pile. If you’ve been keeping count since Monday or checking in, thanks, and if not, thanks anyway. Ha.

It’s about that time:

Brain Pyramid, Chasma Hideout

brain pyramid chasma hideout

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Acid Cosmonaut Records

Zaum, Oracles

zaum oracles

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I Hate Records

Fire Faithful, Organized Occult Love

fire faithful organized occult love

Some of the organ sounds on “Eye Opener,” the aptly-titled leadoff from Virginia four-piece Fire Faithful’s second LP, Organized Occult Love, remind of what Beelzefuzz conjured atmospherically, but an even more primary impression is the uptick in production value from Fire Faithful’s 2012 outing, Please Accept this Invocation (review here). Recorded by Windhand’s Garrett Morris, songs like “Last Fool on Earth” and “Organized Occult Love” brim with tonal resonance and a perfect balance the mix. Guitarist Shane Rippey handled the latter with Morris, and throughout, his tones and that of bassist Jon Bone shine, but whether it’s a more straightforward, Earthride-style groover like the title-track, or a more ranging doomer like “Combat,” vocalist Brandon Malone is well balanced to cut through the morass and drummer Joss Sallade’s crash resides comfortably behind the thick chugging. Melissa Malone and Gabrielle Bishop contribute backing vocals to “Last Fool on Earth” and only affirm how much Organized Occult Love brings Fire Faithful’s Southern doom to another level of presentation. An important forward step.

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Fire Faithful website

Pendejo, Atacames

pendejo atacames

Five years after debuting with 2009’s Cantos a Ma Vida, Amsterdam-based Pendejo return on Chancho Records with Atacames, a 10-track/44-minute wallop of classic heavy rock riffing and Latin American influence via the Spanish lyrics of vocalist El Pastuso and his readily-wielded-but-not-overused trumpet, which makes a surprising complement to Jaap “Monchito” Melman’s fuzz-heavy guitar, Stef “El Rojo” Gubbels’ bass and Jos “Pepellín” Roosen’s drums, but in context works well to bring personality and an individualized sensibility to a sound otherwise heavily indebted to the likes of Kyuss and Fu Manchu. Quality songwriting and variety in songs like the slower “Amiyano” and the building “Hermelinda” ensures Atacames offers more than novelty to those who’d gape at its other-ness, and when that trumpet does hit, it never falls flat. Closing out with a pair of big-riffers in “El Jardinero” and “La Chica del Super No Se Puede Callar,” Pendejo’s sophomore effort produces results as substantial as they are fun, and serve to remind that’s why we’re here in the first place.

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Chancho Records

Heavy Glow, Pearls and Swine and Everything Fine

heavy glow pearls and swine and everything fine

Cali trio Heavy Glow – guitarist/vocalist Jared Mullins, bassist Joe Brooks and drummer St. Judas – have spent a decent portion of the year on tour in support of their full-length, Pearls and Swine and Everything Fine. Understandable, and all the better to pick up your girlfriend in-person. Smooth, well-baked grooves permeate cuts like “Mine all Mine,” which also appeared on their prior 7” (review here), and the later “Nerve Endings,” a Queens of the Stone Age-style production giving about as much of a commercial vibe as a record can have and still be heavy rock, but the songwriting is paramount and definitely an element working in Heavy Glow’s favor, whether it’s the takeoff chorus of “Domino” or near-lounge vibe of “Fat Cat.” There’s an aspirational sensibility at the album’s core that’s going to make for an odd fit for some riff-heads who might be puzzled how something so nearly desert rock can still sound not at all like Brant Bjork, but hooks is hooks, and Heavy Glow use them well.

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Heavy Glow website

Bibilic Blood, Snakeweed

bibilic blood snakeweed

Bibilic Blood released three albums between 2009 and 2011, but the Eastlake, Ohio, duo haven’t been heard from since – their nightmarish, depraved psychedelic sludge vanishing in a smoky, somehow hateful wisp. Snakeweed marks their fourth album, and with it bassist/vocalist Suzy Psycho and drummer/guitarist Scott “Wizard” Stearns unfurl another demented collection of chaos snippets from an alternate, terrifying universe, the 11 songs totaling just 27 minutes with enough lumber and obscure freakout on two-minute mainliners like “Severed” and “Bloodnomicon” in the middle of the record to be a genre on itself — like a grainy horror flick made scarier by its rawness. Closer and longest cut at 4:10 “Bloody Rabbit” starts with Boris, Flood-style noodling from Stearns on guitar, but samples transition into Snakeweed’s most gruesome chapter, Suzy Psycho’s voice echoing, twisted, from out of an abyss that might as well be your own subconscious, referencing Jefferson Airplane along the way. Their particular brand of malevolence has been missed, and hopefully Snakeweed starts a new bout of activity.

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Goat Skull Records

Thera Roya & Hercyn, All this Suffering is Not Enough

thera roya and hercyn all this suffering is not enough

Gloom prevails and takes multiple shapes on All this Suffering is Not Enough, the new jewel-case split between Brooklyn post-metallers Thera Roya and progressive New Jersey black metallers Hercyn. Each band includes one song, and for the trio Thera Roya, that’s “Gluttony,” which builds its churn from the ground up and intersperses spacious guitar and almost punkish clean singing en route to a wash of scream-topped distortion, trading off volume and ambience and ultimately delivering a lot of both in a densely-packed eight minutes. Hercyn, a four-piece, counter with the 14-minute “Dusk and Dawn,” which follows their also-longform Magda EP (review here) in grand and squibbly form, a gallop taking hold early topped with throaty screams and shifting between melodic and dissonant impulses, a midsection solo offering a standout moment before the bludgeoning resumes. Each act offers a quotient of noise not to be understated, and despite working in different styles, that’s enough to let them complement each other well on the searing 23-minute Ouro Preto Productions release.

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Hercyn on Thee Facebooks

The Spacelords, Synapse

the spacelords synapse

Synapse, the third full-length from German trio The Spacelords, arrives like a gift from the bliss-jam gods. Four extended mostly-instrumental cuts arranged two per side on a Sulatron Records LP, crafting memorable impressions with washes of synth and guitar, intelligent jams that feel partially plotted and intelligent but still exploratory and natural in how they flesh out. Guitarist Matthias Wettstein is out front in the mix, but bassist Akee Kazmaier and drummer Marcus Schnitzler (also of Electric Moon) aren’t far behind, as much as a title like “Starguitar” might make you think otherwise. The chemistry between the three-piece remains tight across the album’s 41 minutes, and from the rich bass and chugging guitar of the opening title-track to the more laid-back groove of “No. 5” and voicebox strangeness of “Pyroclastic Master,” which has the record’s only vocals in robotically spoken lines, Synapse seems to make all of its connections along the way. Heavy psych heads previously unfamiliar will want to take note. The vinyl, of course, is limited.

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Sulatron Records

The Good Hand, Atman

the good hand atman

A progressive heavy rock trio from the Netherlands, The Good Hand present Atman, their second album, on Minstrel Music, with an adventurous semi-desert sensibility given crisp production and a somewhat wistful feel in songs like “Greenwich Mean Time” and “Unity.” For a record that starts out with lead guitarist/vocalist Arjan Hoekstra (also tuba, trombone, bugle, keys, percussion) declaring “I am god,” Atman is surprisingly not-arrogant, owing probably as much to Radiohead as Kyuss and keeping an experimental feel to the stops and arrangement of “The Opposite,” bassist/vocalist Dennis Edelenbosch and drummer/vocalist Ingmar Regeling (both also Monotron) swinging out classic style but holding firm to a modern edge. Out of nowhere is the 19-minute closing title-track (nothing else hits six), on which The Good Hand unfold varied movements that push beyond the charm of “The Death of the Real”’s ‘60s affiliations and into spaces jazz-funky, or droning, or doomy, or all of them. No easy accomplishment, but The Good Hand manage to hold it all together fluidly.

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Minstrel Music

Byzanthian Neckbeard, From the Clutches of Oblivion

byzanthian neckbeard from the clutches of oblivion

Okay, seriously. What the hell do you think a band who live on an island in the English Channel and call themselves Byzanthian Neckbeard sound like? Burly as hell? Well you’re right. The Guernsey foursome of guitarist/vocalist Phil Skyrme, guitarist Jon Langlois, bassist Dano Robilliard and drummer Paul Etasse get down on some dudely, dudely grooves on their 2014 debut, From the Clutches of Oblivion. “Doppelganger” nestles somewhere between death rock, stoner and sludge, and there’s a heaping crash of doom on “Plant of Doom” (duh) and “To Seek the Cyberdwarf” to go with the more swaggering take of “Hive Mind Overlord” as well. But primarily, you don’t put the word “Neckbeard” in your band’s name unless you’re on a pretty masculine trip, and Byzanthian Neckbeard do not fuck around in that regard or in the aggro boogie of “The Ganch.” CD is limited to 200 copies in a four-panel digipak to house the growl-laden, riff-led plunder that ensues across its brief but bloody 32-minute span.

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Byzanthian Neckbeard on Bandcamp

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Morbid Wizard, Necrosis of the Eyeball: Here’s Mud in Yer Eye

Posted in Reviews on September 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Ohioan anti-supergroup Morbid Wizard return with an EP to back up the vicious onslaught they brought with their first album. Even the name of the release, Necrosis of the Eyeball, should be some hint as to the sonic extremity on tap, and though the four-piece (down a guitarist in the missing Bahb Branca) have solidified their approach somewhat over the course of the last year since they issued their 2011 Lord of the Rats debut (review here), there’s still a very real, very palpable threat of violence in what they do. At any moment, they might put their instruments down and cut you. No shit. You might not think so, but that works to the favor of the five-track, half-hour-long Necrosis of the Eyeball, the guitar of Scott Stearns keeping consistent nastiness throughout varied pace while drummer Corey Bing and bassist Mike Duncan underscore already low-end psychopathy with vomitous churn. Recorded separately, vocalist Jesse Kling’s screams are no less caustic than they were last time around or on his work with The Disease Concept on their own Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel EP (review here), lyrics vaguely discernible in the barrage of abrasive tonality. Bing also took part in The Disease Concept, and that’s only the most basic of connections that draws these players together. Over time in acts like Fistula, Rue, Sollubi, Ultralord, King Travolta and Son of Jor-El, they’ve helped typify their own brand of Ohio sludge, but Morbid Wizard might be the most cohesive showing they’ve had of that style, and likewise, Necrosis of the Eyeball brings these elements together with a fluidity and creativity that doesn’t necessarily work against the loose, dangerous atmosphere – only more vivid for the roughness of production – but instead giving an all-too-real sense of conscious choice. The difference between being hit with a hammer in broad daylight and being stalked and subsequently stabbed in the dark, let’s say. The results may be roughly the same bloody mess, but how you got there is the whole story.

Like its predecessor, Necrosis of the Eyeball arrives in a DVD-style case with artwork from Stearns, and though that and the short span between releases – not to mention members’ participation in other projects – might lead one to think there hasn’t been much development between the two, that’s just not the case. The recordings may sound roughly similar and the ethic may be along the same lines, but the execution has grown some, and so as the EP gets started with its slowest, perhaps meanest track, “Grave Chyld,” and Stearns tears through shredding leads and painfully slow riffing, there persists a sense of songwriting at work. A few of these tracks are – seems almost impossible to say it, and yet – catchy. Not so much the 9:29 “Grave Chyld” (the longest track on the release; points for the opener), which begins with a sample invoking Lucifer and is working more on bludgeon and killer soloing than on the memorability of its hook, the three songs that ensue – “Necrosis of the Eyeball,” “Chemical Fog” and the Cinderella cover “Night Songs” – each have a strong chorus, however caked in filth and fucked up that chorus might be. After the plodding, doomed mournfulness in the ending of “Grave Chyld,” the faster push of the title-track is both a surprise and seemingly a respite, though ultimately Morbid Wizard offer no quarter. Kling, who handles the samples, uses another at the beginning of “Necrosis of the Eyeball,” and when the riff is introduced, its metallic progression (punctuated by tom thuds from Bing), if played somewhat faster, wouldn’t be out of place on any number of death metal records, and that might very well be the intent, though when they break and Duncan’s low end rumble leads them to a chugging, lurching repetitive section, it’s all sludge. Extreme sludge, but sludge all the same. More excellent guitar solos persist through the slowdown, and though I was left wondering if they’d bring the pace back up to finish, they just sort of let the song fall apart instead. I guess even working with structures has its limits.

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The Disease Concept, Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel: East Meets Midwest

Posted in Reviews on June 12th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Filthy. Horrid. Deviant. Region-spanning five-piece The Disease Concept should be ashamed of themselves for having made Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel – a debut EP not even a mother could love, so encrusted is it with its own nastiness. Of course, that’s the whole idea and the Ohio/Philly/New York fivesome revel in it, but man, this shit is abrasive, taking ethical basis from Ohio’s sludge and bringing it before two well-noted badasses on guitar: Dave “Depraved” Szulkin of Blood Farmers and Tommy Southard of Solace. The Disease Concept’s debut marks Southard’s first outing post-Solace (and, presumably, pre-Solace) and finds the Obelisk contributor’s signature heavy rock shred – see the end of closer “Soboxone Blues (Rock Bottom)” – coupled with the drugged-out psychosis of Ohio’s sludge scene, represented in the band by bassist Chris “Griff” Griffith, drummer Corey Bing and vocalist Jesse Kling, all of whom have been in and out of and around bands like Sollubi, Morbid Wizard and Pennsylvania Connection. The resulting stew doesn’t necessarily belong wholly to one side or the other, but is nonetheless unquestionably toxic. Though his vocals straddle a line between cleaner rhythmic shouts and screaming (skillfully veering to one side or another to add dynamics to the songs), Kling tops songs that masterfully blend abrasion and groove in a manner that stoner rock might have become had prescription narcotics been so readily available in the early ‘70s. Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel (released through Goat Skull Records in a DVD case with art by Scott Stearns) is 29 minutes/five tracks of viciousness that you have to stand back and be impressed by, because your only other option is to be bowled over as it steamrollers its way to the next victim.

The central blend at the heart of what The Disease Concept does on their first outing – put to tape and mixed by Big Metal Dave at Bad Back Studios in Cleveland over the course of three days at the start of this year – is crust and heavy doom grooves. On that level, it might not seem so different from a lot of sludge, but right away, opener “Black Cocaine” distinguishes Liquor Bottles and Broken Steel from a lot of what grows out of Ohio’s formidable and rotten underground. Based around a riff that’s more heavy rocking than dirge-minded (rest assured, that comes later), there’s a straightforward ethic at work underneath all the abrasiveness that’s almost – almost – regarding the listener as something other than an object to be pummeled into the ground. Make no mistake, there’s nothing about the EP that’s remotely accessible, but “Black Cocaine” might be catchy by some alternate universe definition of the word. In any case, Szulkin and Southard represent the Eastern Seaboard well riff-wise, and Bing – who’s proved time and again to be a master of sludge drumming – does no different here, riding out weighted rhythms alongside Griffith’s thick bass, which doesn’t so much undercut the riff that begins “Double Winner” as it does mark the song’s actual beginning when it kicks in with the drums around 45 seconds into the total 7:37 – an appropriate length for a song that’s about as dooming as a plane crash. The opening guitar progression seems initially to have something mournful in common with YOB’s “Catharsis,” but The Disease Concept would only be likely to approach a space influence to stab it in the belly, so the song quickly moves on to more violent territory, Kling recounting a narrative of a woman, “Two black eyes and a bottle of Jack,” in rehab apparently as a “double winner,” i.e. someone in Al-Anon and AA, an alcoholic also affected by someone else’s alcoholism, or as Kling puts it, “She took the pain train/Never coming back/Eighteen days on the detox ward/She tried to walk a straight line/Then she got bored.” So be it. The lyrics might be sympathetic if Kling wasn’t about to call the protagonist a dumb bitch for trying to kill herself.

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