Quarterly Review: Amenra, Liquid Sound Company, Iceburn, Gods and Punks, Vouna, Heathen Rites, Unimother 27, Oxblood Forge, Wall, Boozewa

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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You’ll have to forgive me, what the hell day is it? The url says this is day eight, so I guess that’s Wednesday. Fine. That’s as good as any. It’s all just 10 more records to my brain at this point, and that’s fine. I’ve got it all lined up. As of me writing this, I still haven’t heard about my busted-ass laptop that went in for repair last Saturday, and that’s a bummer, but I’m hoping that any minute now the phone is going to show the call coming in and I’ll just keep staring at it until that happens and I’m sure that will be awesome for my already brutalized productivity.

My backup laptop — because yes, I have one and will gladly argue with you that it’s necessary citing this week as an example — is a cheapie Chromebook. The nicest thing I can say about it is it’s red. The meanest thing I can say about it is that I had to change the search button to a caps lock and even that doesn’t respond fast enough to my typing, so I’m constantly capitalizing the wrong letters. If you don’t think that’s infuriating, congratulations on whatever existence has allowed you to live this long without ever needing to use a keyboard. “Hello computer,” and all that.

Enough kvetching. Too much to do.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Amenra, De Doorn

Amenra De Doorn

I’ve made no secret over the last however long of not being the biggest Amenra fan in the universe. Honestly, it’s not even about the Belgian band themseves — live, they’re undeniable — but the plaudits around them are no less suffocating than their crushing riffs at their heaviest moments. Still, as De Doorn marks their first offering through Relapse Records, finds them departing from their Mass numbered series of albums and working in their native Flemish for the first time, and brings Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker into the songs to offer melodic counterpoint to Colin H. van Eeckhout‘s nothing-if-not-identifiable screams, the invitations to get on board are manifold. This is a band with rules. They have set their own rules, and even in pushing outside them as they do here, much of their ideology and sonic persona is maintained. Part of that identity is being forward thinking, and that surfaces on De Doorn in parts ambient and quiet, but there’s always a part of me that feels like Amenra are playing it safe, even as they’re working within parameters they’ve helped define for a generation of European post-metal working directly in their wake. The post-apocalyptic breadth they harness in these tracks will only continue to win them converts. Maybe I’ll be one of them. That would be fun. It’s nice to belong, you know?

Amenra on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Liquid Sound Company, Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul

Liquid sound company psychoactive songs for the psoul

A quarter-century after their founding, Arlington, Texas, heavy psych rockers Liquid Sound Company still burn and melt along the lysergic path of classic ’60s acid rock, beefier in tone but no less purposeful in their drift on Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul. They’re turning into custard on “Blacklight Corridor” and they can tell you don’t understand on “Who Put All of Those Things in Your Hair?,” and all the while their psych rock digs deeper into the cosmic pulse, founding guitarist John Perez (also Solitude Aeturnus) unable to resist bringing a bit of shred to “And to Your Left… Neptune” — unless that’s Mark Cook‘s warr guitar — even as “Mahayuga” answers back to the Middle Eastern inflection of “Blacklight Corridor” earlier on. Capping with the mellow jam “Laila Was Here,” Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul is a loving paean to the resonant energies of expanded minds and flowing effects, but “Cosmic Liquid Love” is still a heavy rollout, and even the shimmering “I Feel You” is informed by that underlying sense of heft. Nonetheless, it’s an acid invitation worth the RSVP.

Liquid Sound Company on Facebook

Liquid Sound Company on Bandcamp

 

Iceburn, Asclepius

iceburn asclepius

Flying snakes, crawling birds, two tracks each over 17 minutes long, the first Iceburn release in 20 years is an all-in affair from the outset. As someone coming to the band via Gentry Densley‘s work in Eagle Twin, there are recognizable elements in tone, themes and vocals, but with fellow founders Joseph “Chubba” Smith on drums and James Holder on guitar, as well as bassist Cache Tolman (who’s Johnny Comelately since he originally joined in 1991, I guess), the atmosphere conjured by the four-piece is consuming and spacious in its own way, and their willingness to go where the song guides them on side A’s “Healing the Ouroboros,” right up to the long-fading drone end after so much lumbering skronk and incantations before, and side B’s “Dahlia Rides the Firebird,” with its pervasive soloing, gallop and veer into earth-as-cosmos terradelia, the return of Iceburn — if in fact that’s what this is — makes its own ceremony across Asclepius, sounding newly inspired rather than like a rehash.

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Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Gods & Punks, The Sounds of the Universe

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As regards ambition, Gods & Punks‘ fourth LP, The Sounds of the Universe, wants for nothing. The Rio De Janeiro heavy psych rockers herein wrap what they’ve dubbed their ‘Voyager’ series, culminating the work they’ve done since their first EP — album opener “Eye in the Sky” is a remake — while tying together the progressive, heavy and cosmic aspects of their sound in a single collection of songs. In context, it’s a fair amount to take in, but a track like “Black Apples” has a riffy standout appeal regardless of its place in the band’s canon, and whether it’s the classic punch of “The TUSK” or the suitably patient expansion of “Universe,” the five-piece don’t neglect songwriting for narrative purpose. That is to say, whether or not you’ve heard 2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) or any of their other prior material, you’re still likely to be pulled in by “Gravity” and “Dimensionaut” and the rest of what surrounds. The only question is where do they go from here? What’s outside the universe?

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Forbidden Place Records website

 

Vouna, Atropos

vouna atropos

Released (appropriately) by Profound Lore, Vouna‘s second full-length Atropos is a work of marked depth and unforced grandeur. After nine-minute opener “Highest Mountain” establishes to emotional/aural tone, Atropos is comprised mostly of three extended pieces in “Vanish” (15:34), “Grey Sky” (14:08) and closer “What Once Was” (15:11) with the two-minute “What Once Was (Reprise)” leading into the final duo. “Vanish” finds Vouna — aka Olympia, Washington-based Yianna Bekris — bringing in textures of harp and violin to answer the lap steel and harp on “Highest Mountain,” and features a harsh guest vocal from Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Nathan Weaver, but it’s in the consuming wash at the finish of “Grey Sky” and in the melodic vocal layers cutting through as the first half of “What Once Was” culminates ahead of the break into mournful doom and synth that Vouna most shines, bridging styles in a way so organic as to be utterly consuming and keeping resonance as the most sought target, right unto the piano line that tops the last crescend, answering back the very beginning of “Highest Mountain.” Not a record that comes along every day.

Vouna on Facebook

Profound Lore website

 

Heathen Rites, Heritage

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One gets the sense in listening that for Mikael Monks, the Burning Saviours founder working under the moniker of Heathen Rites for the first time, the idea of Heritage for which the album is titled is as much about doom itself as the Scandinavian folk elements that surface in “Gleipner” or in the brief, bird-song and mountain-echo-laced finish “Kulning,” not to mention the Judas Priest-style triumphalism of the penultimate “The Sons of the North” just before. Classic doom is writ large across Heritage, from the bassline of “Autumn” tapping into “Heaven and Hell” to the flowing culmination of “Midnight Sun” and the soaring guitar apex in “Here Comes the Night.” In the US, many of these ideas of “northern” heritage, runes, or even heathenism have been coopted as expressions of white supremacy. It’s worth remembering that for some people it’s actually culture. Monks pairs that with his chosen culture — i.e. doom — in intriguing ways here that one hopes he’ll continue to explore.

Heathen Rites on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Unimother 27, Presente Incoerente

Unimother 27 Presente Incoerente

Some things in life you just have to accept that you’re never going to fully understand. The mostly-solo-project Unimother 27 from Italy’s Piero Ranalli is one of those things. Ranalli has been riding his own wavelength in krautrock and classic progressive stylizations mixed with psychedelic freakout weirdness going on 15 years now, experimenting all the while, and you don’t have to fully comprehend the hey-man-is-this-jazz bass bouncing under “L’incontro tra Phallos e Mater Coelestis” to just roll with it, so just roll with it and know that wherever you’re heading, there’s a plan at work, even if the plan is to not have a plan. Mr. Fist‘s drums tether the synth and drifting initial guitar of “Abraxas…il Dio Difficile da Conoscere” and serve a function as much necessary as grooving, but one way or the other, you’re headed to “Systema Munditotius,” where forward and backward are the same thing and the only trajectory discernible is “out there.” So go. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Unimother 27 on Facebook

Pineal Gland Lab website

 

Oxblood Forge, Decimator

Oxblood Forge Decimator

Not, not, not a coincidence that Massachusetts four-piece Oxblood Forge — vocalist Ken Mackay, guitarist Robb Lioy, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer/keyboardist Erik Fraünfeltër — include an Angel Witch cover on their third long-player, Decimator, as even before they get around to the penultimate “Sorcerers,” the NWOBHM is a defining influence throughout the proceedings, be it the “hey hey hey!” chanting of “Mortal Salience” or the death riders owning the night on opener “Into the Abyss” or the sheer Maidenry met with doom tinge on “Screams From Silence.” Mackay‘s voice, high in the mix, adds a tinge of grit, but Decimator isn’t trying to get one over on anyone. This blue collar worship for classic metal presented in a manner that could only be as full-on as it is for it to work at all. No irony, no khakis, no bullshit.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

Wall, Vol. 2

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They keep this up, they’re going to have a real band on their hands. Desert Storm/The Grand Mal bandmates and twin brothers Ryan Cole (guitar/bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) began Wall as a largely-instrumental quarantine project in 2020, issuing a self-titled EP (review here) on APF Records. Vol. 2 follows on the quick with five more cuts of unbridled groove, including a take on Karma to Burn‘s “Nineteen” that, if it needs to be said, serves as homage to Will Mecum, who passed away earlier this year. That song fits right in with a cruncher like “Avalanche” or “Speed Freak,” or even “The Tusk,” which also boasts a bit of layered guitar harmonies, feeling out new ground there and in the acousti-handclap-blues of “Falling From the Edge of Nowhere.” The fact that Wall have live dates booked — alongside The Grand Mal, no less — speaks further to their real-bandness, but Vol. 2 hardly leaves any doubt as it is.

Wall on Facebook

APF Records website

 

Boozewa, Deb

Boozewa Deb

The second self-recorded outing from Pennsylvania trio Boozewa, Deb, offers two songs to follow-up on Feb. 2021’s First Contact (review here) demo, keeping an abidingly raw, we-did-this-at-home feel — this time they sent the results to Tad Doyle for mastering — while pushing their sound demonstrably forward with “Deb” bringing bassist Jessica Baker to the fore vocally alongside drummer Mike Cummings. Guitarist Rylan Caspar contributes in that regard as well, and the results are admirably grunge-coated heavy rock and roll that let enough clarity through to establish a hook, while the shorter “Now. Stop.” edges toward a bit more lumber in its groove, at least until they punk it out with some shouts at the finish. Splitting hairs? You betcha. Maybe they’re just writing songs. The results are there waiting to be dug either way.

Boozewa on Instagram

Boozewa on Bandcamp

 

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Gods & Punks Premiere New Single Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky

Posted in audiObelisk on April 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

gods and punks

Brazilian heavy rockers Gods & Punks are working toward the release of their impending fourth full-length. Titled The Sounds of the Universe and set to issue through respected countryman purveyor Abraxas as well as the US-based Forbidden Place Records, the new LP is preceded April 23 by the two-songer single Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky, about which the band has provided extensive notes and perspective. Each single comes with its own artwork and the first of them, “Dimensionaut” purport to summarize the narrative that’s taken place on the across the band’s to-date offerings, presumably to that “Eye in the Sky” and the other pieces of the album can pick up from there and continue to unfold and conclude what they call the ‘Voyage Series.’

“Eye in the Sky” picks up where late-2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) left off, and also calls back to the band’s 2016 debut EP, The Sounds of the Earth — as several of the new album songs will — its languid, jammed-out foundation providing a spacious counterpoint to its more driving predecessor. Gods & Punks count “Dimensionaut” among the most intense material they’ve put together, and fair enough. They recorded at Estúdio MATA, in Niterói, part of Rio de Janeiro, and Kleber Mariano and André Leal at Estúdio Jukebox — the same locale and team behind the last outing — and though not lacking push, the sound is duly lush when they want it to be, the organ expanding their already atmospheric basis of guitar atop the fluid grooves of drums and bass in “Eye in the Sky.” It’s a nine-minute sampling, all told, and the band clearly picked the two tracks in order to establish the dynamic they’re working with throughout the album, one end of the spectrum to the other, as well as the ways all the songs tie together.

I haven’t heard the full record yet, but they sound firmly in command throughout both “Dimensionaut” and “Eye in the Sky” as you can hear below, and one should expect no less for a band who are engaging their past in order to tie up a narrative they’ve stretched across multiple releases at this point. What does the saga’s final moments hold? Well, you’d probably need a lyric sheet to figure that out, but Gods & Punks make an enticing argument for engaging with their storyline’s final chapter in these songs, and even if you don’t know how they got to this point — the Bandcamp is right there if you’re up for digging back — Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky readily demonstrates that it’s not too late to get on board whatever kind of ship it is they’re taking beyond the stratosphere. There’s room for any and all.

Comment from the band follows. Please enjoy:

Gods & Punks on Dimensionaut / Eye in the Sky:

We chose to release two singles on the same day to represent what will be The Sounds of the Universe, the last release of the Voyage Series, which began in 2017 with Into the Dunes of Doom and featured Enter the Ceremony of Damnation, 2018, and And the Celestial Ascension, from 2020. We have been telling a story for 4 years that will finally be finished, in a representative way to the narrative.

Dimensionaut was the last song composed in the cabin, with the 5 members who recorded the other Voyage Series records. Eye in the Sky brings a finalized and reimagined version of the very first track of our first EP, The Sounds of the Earth, in 2016. One demonstrates where we are now, the other demonstrates how we would do today, something we did when we had just started play together.

The Sounds of the Universe will deal with a total of 9 songs: 5 tracks from our debut EP in new, revamped versions, and another 4 completely new tracks, composed between 2019 and 2020. The album is the last release of the Voyage Series, but the first chapter of history. And whoever takes the time to listen to the songs in the correct order of the story, will understand why we did it. And with these two tracks, you will have an idea of the album that we will release soon.

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Days of Rona: Alexandre Canhetti of Gods & Punks

Posted in Features on May 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

gods and punks Alexandre Canhetti

Days of Rona: Alexandre Canhetti of Gods & Punks (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

In the beginning, we were worried about the new album we had just finished writing. We were in a tight schedule since Pedro, our lead guitar, is gonna move to Barcelona in August. Not only that, but we’re currently without a permanent drummer so Andre Leal, from fellow Brazilian stoner rock band Stone House on Fire, offered to record the drums on this next one. And we still had to rehearse all of the songs before recording them. So, that’s probably not gonna happen and Pedro might have to record his parts from Barcelona so this might be our first album recorded in the traditional click-track studio style.

The second step, as a band, was putting all that behind for a while and thinking of what we could do at the moment. So we recorded an EP with four acoustic versions of our past singles, mixed it, and mastered it in two days, and released it as a way to raise money to help people that are in extreme poverty here in Brazil. That’s because, when you live in Rio, you know that a there’s quite a portion of the population that barely has any access to information, basic sanitation and a decent place to live. And now those people would have to stay home and possibly starve during this pandemic. So yeah, we thought it would be a good idea to help out by having 100 percent of the money we got from that EP go to those people through a local charity foundation. And that’s what we did. Now, we’re trying to get more donations while trying to find a way to get ready, so, whenever this shit ends, we can record the new album.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

Well, in that aspect, there’s basically two types of people here: those that support the president, and those who don’t. Those who do, are often against social distancing measures as they think the impact on the economy would be worse than the corona virus itself. Meanwhile, those who either didn’t support the president before, or no longer support him, think we need to prioritize our lives and health, and follow the guidelines suggested by the WHO. However, while politicians debated, the numbers here have risen exponentially, and we now have an average of 800 deaths a day by coronavirus, and a sum of about 15k deaths, while public and private hospitals in all major capitals are reaching their maximum capability and the government does not have tests for everyone. Basically, we’re in deep shit. There’s no other way to put it. Plus, there’s a huge corruption scandal involving the president and his family, in the middle of it all, too. So, yeah. My main concern in terms of what I’ve heard is the huge amount of fake news people are believing. From pointless health measures to dangerous self-medication suggestions people are sharing online. Plus, there are also those who believe it’s all a huge conspiracy for whatever reason, and end up spreading false information.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I feel like the international community is doing its part and is as active as ever. Bandcamp is still on fire, I get new music suggestions every day from people I follow, and I see this beautiful movement of people supporting the musicians they love and it’s fucking amazing. However, here in Brazil, I think many bands who have always been both politically and socially active, have gone kinda quiet. I don’t know why. I expected something completely different. The local psychedelic rock community here feels kind of faded. That’s a bit sad and disappointing, to say the least. Me? There’s days and days. Some days I wake up inspired and energetic, other days get me down, with absolutely no energy for anything, creatively speaking. I’ve been trying my best to maintain a steady routine, though.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

Yeah. How important is art? I mean… Music, literature, movies… That is what’s been keeping me sane, basically. Where the fuck would we be without it? So, yeah, I feel grateful that I can discover new bands and sounds every day and get away from all of this even if it’s for 40 minutes or so, thanks to artists from all around the world. And that’s possible because fans support these artists. And I’m so grateful for that. Plus, I want to thank everyone who downloaded Different Dimensions on Bandcamp. The minimum price tag was 1$ but the average amount you guys spent on the EP was $4.20. That’s so awesome. As Brazilian money is really devalued right now compared to USD, you guys have no idea how many families you guys helped. Thanks so much. And, as a final message, if you haven’t listened to our new acoustic EP, Different Dimensions, check it out on Bandcamp! Cheers!

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Gods & Punks Release New Album And the Celestial Ascension This Friday; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Brazilian heavy psych rock five-piece Gods & Punks will issue their third full-length at the end of this week. Normally this is the point where I’d probably tell you how bad I feel about being so behind on the news and all that, but they just put up preorders like two days ago, so actually I’m not that far off the mark. The short notice comes with preorders being up and the streamable track “Ascension,” which opens the record and pairs an initially Sleepy riffing modus with some broad-sounding Hammond and a multi-layered vocal, boding well at least for how the rest of the outing might unfold. At least we won’t have to wait long to find out how it does.

That’s me, always looking at the bright side.

They have the album info up on Bandcamp like this. I’m just going to go on a limb and assume the record wasn’t actually put to tape in 1975:

gods and punks and the celestial ascension

And the Celestial Ascension by Gods & Punks

“And the Celestial Ascension” closes a cycle that begins with the “The Sounds of the Earth” and passes through both “Into the Dunes of Doom” and “Enter the Ceremony of Damnation”. Our third full-length release in three years straight, and – by far – our most complex and experimental one until now.

Following the final dates of the Damnation tour, we had to leave the attic indefinitely, and we were left with no place to rehearse or compose. We spent some time trying to find somewhere else that could take us in with no success but then Arthur, our drummer, found a place. The shack. We moved all our stuff and settled in, made it our home. It was when the magic happened. That vibe, in the middle of the jungle got to us, and made everything we wrote even more psychedelic and strange-sounding. At times, we had to try not to let ourselves overdo it.

These six songs wrote themselves. They tell the story right where we left off, after “Damnation”, and leaves us right where we began all the way back with “Sounds”. We highly recommend you take the time to appreciate these six tracks. There’s a lot more going on this time. Some will instantly blow you away, some will grow on you. We hope you’ll like ‘em as much as we do.

Tracklisting:
1. Ascension
2. Crowns on Fire
3. Infinite Hourglass
4. Escape to the Stars
5. The Rift
6. Dying Planet

Music by Gods & Punks
Lyrics by Alexandre Canhetti
Edited by Arthur Rodrigues
Mixed and Mastered by André Leal and Kleber Mariano at Estúdio Jukebox
Recorded live in Estúdio MATA in August the 12th, 1975
Artwork by Cristiano Suarez

Gods & Punks live:
Nov 08 LAPA IRISH PUB Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nov 14 Aparelho Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Nov 29 Soma+Lab Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil

Gods & Punks are:
Alexandre – Vocals
Pedro – Lead Guitar
Danilo – Bass
Psy – Rhythm Guitar
Arthur – Drums

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http://instagram.com/gods_and_punks
https://godsandpunks.bandcamp.com/

Gods & Punks, And the Celestial Ascension (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Monolord, Teacher, Rosy Finch, Holy Mountain Top Removers, Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band, Swan Valley Heights, Cambrian Explosion, Haunted, Gods & Punks, Gaia

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze

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A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.

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RidingEasy Records website

 

Teacher, Teacher

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Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.

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Devil’s Child Records webstore

 

Rosy Finch, Witchboro

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There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist Elena García, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You

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Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.

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Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I

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Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.

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No Quarter

 

Swan Valley Heights, Swan Valley Heights

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Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.

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Oak Island Records at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP

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I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.

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Haunted, Haunted

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Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.

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Haunted on Bandcamp

 

Gods and Punks, The Sounds of the Earth

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Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.

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Gaia, A Cure for Time

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Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh

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