Hot Breath Stream Self-Titled Debut EP in Full; Out Friday on The Sign Records

Posted in audiObelisk on October 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hot breath (Photo by Marcus Eriksson)

Swedish classic style heavy rockers Hot Breath will release their self-titled debut this coming Friday, Oct. 18, through The Sign Records. The conglomerate label has emerged as a home for retro-minded heavy (among other styles), from Hypnos and Heavy Feather to Märvel and MaidaVale, and in aligning with newcomer Göteborg four-piece Hot Breath, they continue the tradition of traditionalism, as well as specifically an association with Jennifer Israelsson and Jimi Karlsson. Both the vocalist and drummer of Hot Breath are former members of Honeymoon Disease, whose sophomore LP and apparent swansong, Part Human, Mostly Beast (discussed here), came out through the label in 2017, and the new outfit brings them together with Hypnos bassist Anton Frick Kallmin as well as guitarist Karl Edfeldt, whose other band, Grand, haven’t actually worked with The Sign (yet), but still, three out of four is a compelling enough statistic to tempt one to call Hot Breath a house band for their label. Nothing wrong with that, of course, and it only makes it more appropriate that as Hot Breath offer up the six tracks/21 minutes of Hot Breath just about a year after forming, they’re playing four dates over the next few weeks as part of The Sign Fest with labelmates in Skraeckoedlan, Vokonis, Children of the Sün, and more. Clearly a family affair.

Super-groovy, as the kids might say, and the same applies to the EP itself, which in a song like “1,000 Miles” careens through speed-at-night winding late-’70s proto-metallic riffing, topped with the vocals of Israelsson (I wonder if she’s any relation hot breath hot breathto Truckfighters drummer Daniel Israelsson), whose melodies fit right in with the hard-corner turns in the guitar and the forward propulsion of the rhythm. Whether it’s the hooky “What You Reap” at the conclusion, the earlier “Maniac” or the build-up back at the start with “Still Not Dead,” Hot Breath bring an infectious sense of energy to their tracks, here and there tapping into some non-glam/non-NWOBHM ’80s worship but as likely to pull influence from Joe Walsh as Scorpions as Electric Citizen as Death Alley, the latter seeming specifically to inform “What You Reap” and “Slight Air” before it, wrapping up the quick offering with some of its most fervent and insistent thrust, though that’s not at all to take away from “Got it All,” which is no less brash when it comes right down to it, and boasts some choice backing vocals in the chorus, adding to the already so prevalent catchiness thereof.

If it needs to be said, songwriting is a feature throughout Hot Breath‘s Hot Breath, and though one has to factor in that they’re still basically a brand new band, it shouldn’t be a mystery as to why they seem to have their wits about them in terms of what they want to be doing. It’s because they do. And whether it’s Israelsson and Karlsson‘s prior experience together in Honeymoon Disease or everyone’s experience more generally heavy rock bands of various stripes, clearly the effect of it all is that Hot Breath hit the ground running on their first outing in terms of style and substance both, with tight, high-quality songcraft and an energetic, natural performance captured that serves these tracks well and gives the listener notice of more to come. I don’t know how long it’ll be before Hot Breath get around to a debut album, but if one takes the Hot Breath EP as an advance warning of that, the heads up is indeed all the more appreciable. The converted will have no trouble digging in, and even those less experienced with Sweden’s classic/boogie set will find plenty to grasp onto in the songwriting and delivery.

So, uh, have at it.

The full stream of Hot Breath‘s Hot Breath is available on the player below, followed by more background from the PR wire and live dates, including those at The Sign Fest in the coming weeks.

Please enjoy:

the sign fest

Hot Breath delivers a six track K.O that is set for release the 18th of October on The Sign Records. Blending that immortal sound of 70s classic rock with their own pure attitude, add a bit of all those influences that you like, and you get Hot Breath’s self titled debut. Guitar solos stand side-by-side with Jennifer Israelsson’s (previously seen fronting Honeymoon Disease) swagger-filled vocals and a brilliant rhythm section in Jimi Karlsson (also ex-Honeymoon Disease) and Anton Frick Kallmin (Hypnos). Every track is a hit of its own accord, and by the time “What You Reap” rolls around, it’s clear that Hot Breath provides the soundtrack to the last drink that never ends.

Recorded and mixed by Jamie Elton (ex-Amulet) in Gothenburg during the summer of 2019. Axel Söderberg (Horisont) helped out on keys on the recording. Mastered by Hans Olsson Brookes at Svenska Grammofon Studion. Artwork by Jimi Karlsson. Cover photo by Marcus Eriksson.

Formed in October 2018 (with members from Honeymoon Disease, Hypnos and Grand) the band wanted to mix their various pasts into one vibrating sound. With a common ground of heavy rock Hot Breath quickly took shape and turned into a wicked animal that will twist your hips.

The release will be available on CD in Digipack, 180g Vinyl and Digital formats. Hot Breath is touring and kicks off their first Swedish tour joining a four-date The Sign Fest throughout Sweden.

Live:
18 October, Skylten, Linköping, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
19 October, Slaktkyrkan, Stockholm, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
25/26 October – Skövde, Sweden, In Rock Festival
8 November – Musikens Hus, Göteborg, Sweden (The Sign Fest)
9 November – Plan B, Malmö, Sweden (The Sign Fest)

Hot Breath are:
Jennifer Israelsson – Vocals and Guitar
Karl Edfeldt – Guitar
Anton Frick Kallmin – Bass
Jimmy Karlsson – Drums

Hot Breath on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records website

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Monolord, No Comfort: Truth Found in Time

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord no comfort

Guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems, collectively known as Gothenburg’s Monolord, have had an impact on this decade of heavy in a way that few bands who actually belong to it have done. Their rise in influence and stature would seem fast were it not for all the work they’ve put in over the last five-plus years, touring, writing, recording and releasing. A streak of three massively successful outings on RidingEasy Records in 2014’s Empress Rising, 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2017’s Rust (review here), as well as an increasing tour profile in Europe and the US, led to Relapse Records getting behind the fourth, and the six-track/48-minute No Comfort is the result, recorded by Kim Gravander with mixing by Willems and containing the band’s most atmospheric and complex material to-date. That continues a pattern of growth that Empress Rising set in motion as well as a next-stage-arrival communicated through the greater stylistic reach of Rust, and sure enough, No Comfort takes Monolord‘s sound to places it’s never been, from the Floydian stretch of quiet in the penultimate “Alone Together Forever Divided” to the mournful dirge of “Larvae.”

Those hoping to dig into the riffy primitivism of their earlier work will find a measure of solace — that’s not to say comfort — in opener “The Bastard Son” and the shorter “The Last Leaf,” which follows, but even in those, Monolord dig into hypnotic repetition and aren’t afraid to pull the rug out from under their roll in order to make a statement in terms of mood or feeling. Nor should they be, frankly. Such moves are well in their wheelhouse by now, which only emphasizes the compressed timeline of their growth as a unit. It’s been a half-decade since their first record. Some bands don’t even manage to put out a follow-up in that time. Monolord have made a career, established themselves as one of the most pivotal heavy acts in the world, and in No Comfort, landed at a new echelon of substance and style. Not too shabby.

And there is little mistaking No Comfort as anything other than one of 2019’s best releases. Topped with striking cover art by Alexander Fjelnseth, the offering carries an emotional affect even in the solo in the second half of “The Last Leaf,” an overarching spirit of melancholy residing in its layers in a way that one wouldn’t necessarily anticipate, even after Rust. Make no mistake, Monolord‘s core approach is still based around riffs and the pummeling therewith, but their methods have shifted, are shifting, and even the title No Comfort feels like the declaration of an ideal they’re chasing as they push themselves toward more resonant songcraft. It’s obviously not the way the vinyl would work — that would be three songs on a side, each with two longer songs (the second longer than the first) sandwiched around a shorter one — but if one takes No Comfort in thirds, its progression becomes all the more evident.

monolord

They have always and continue to excel at creating a sense of march. Willems as a drummer is a master of it, and the riffs brought to bear by Jäger and made even thicker and more vital by Häkki‘s bass are plenty of dirge fodder to be sure. But even as they plod their way through the side A finale “Larvae” after “The Bastard Son” and “The Last Leaf,” there’s a turn evident toward a doomed melancholy. “Larvae” and the subsequent melodic highlight “Skywards” — it’s (probably past) time to start considering Jäger as a vocalist rather than a guitar player who sings, even with the steady use of effects on his voice — take the initial shove of the opening duo and prove even more immersive, drawing the listener deeper into No Comfort‘s ambience without giving up the heavy vibe to do so. This ends up as one of the record’s great strengths: Monolord‘s ability to grow without compromising who they are and have been thus far into their tenure.

Those effects on Jäger‘s vocals play a part in that, as they continue to sound overwhelmed by his riffing, creating a sense of largesse, but it’s clear in every element that makes No Comfort just how in command Monolord are of their craft, and their material here both signals and succeeds in its intent, as “Alone Together Forever Divided” and “No Comfort” add to the sense of longing so prevalent in “Skywards.” “Alone Together Forever Divided” is the shortest track on the outing at just over five minutes, but it’s the structural change that gives it its effect on what surrounds. The bulk of it is quiet, atmospheric guitar set to a mellow roll, quiet and led more by the vocals than a riff, though there’s a definite groove behind, held together by Willems and Häkki, that moves toward a burst of sonic weight in the second half, a nod taking hold for a time before receding again to let the quiet guitar finish out in contemplative fashion. It’s a marked and purposeful change in approach, essentially turning Monolord‘s methodology on its head, but given how they’ve led into it across the songs prior, including “Skywards,” it also makes sense, and works double as a lead-in for the the 11-minute title-track that rounds out.

With trades in volume as they move through the verses and chorus, the mood on “No Comfort” itself remains primary, and summarizes well the balance of heft and inward-looking sprawl that the songs before have brought together. In linear format — CD/DL — the outward movement of “No Comfort” is even more resounding, but however you take it, No Comfort is the triumph Monolord need at a crucial moment for the band. They have not given up on the root appeal of bashing out wave after wave of dense riff barrage, but they’ve also stayed true to an impulse toward sonic evolution that points the way forward for years to come. Four albums in and just getting started? Maybe. Whatever happens and however No Comfort is received, it is an album that clearly states and meets its own goals. It sets its terms and then brings the listener along its path. It affects the mind of its audience. It is not to be overlooked.

Monolord, “The Last Leaf” official video

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Instagram

Monolord on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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Mitochondrial Sun to Release Debut Album on Argonauta Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

A few years ago, I tried to go to Sweden on a fellowship to study its heavy rock and metal underground to write a book. It didn’t work out. This year, I tried to set up an Obelisk All-Dayer in Stockholm for next summer, then Truckfighters announced they’d hold a festival at the same venue a couple months later and that was basically the end of that. Will I ever get to that magical Scandinavian land from whence so much crucial heavy has emanated over the decades since the advent of distortion? I honestly don’t know.

Start naming Swedish melodeath bands off the top of your head and it won’t be long before you get around to Dark Tranquility. Their founding guitarist, Niklas Sundin, has newly signed his solo-project to Argonauta Records to release a debut album next year, and that’s a big deal both because it’s one more creative outlet from Gothenburg and because it’s a killer get for Argonauta, the Italian imprint whose signing spree now seems just to be a matter of course rather than a splurge, it’s gone on so long. No complaints. Seven years later, they’ve amassed a catalog that just about anyone would have to call enviable.

And growing.

Mitochondrial Sun‘s first album will be out early next year, as the PR wire informs. There’s a teaser for the first single at the bottom of this post:

mitochondrial sun

Dark Tranquillity’s NIKLAS SUNDIN signs worldwide deal with Argonauta Records

Debut album by Sundin’s solo-project MITOCHONDRIAL SUN coming in early 2020!

Rising powerhouse label Argonauta Records is celebrating its 7th anniversary while adding one of the most prestigious, newest signings to their eclectic artist roster: Mitochondrial Sun, the solo-project by Dark Tranquillity’s Niklas Sundin, has signed a worldwide deal with the Italian record company!

Argonauta Records will release the debut album of Mitochondrial Sun in early 2020. Niklas is best known as a founding member and guitarist of Dark Tranquillity, the Grammy nominated Swedish metal band that for nearly three decades has helped carve out an entire subgenre and inspired musicians all around the globe. After 15 albums as a metal guitarist, Mitochondrial Sun is Sundin’s first public foray into different musical realms: Created with support from the Swedish Arts Council, the self-titled debut album is a diverse offering of atmospheric and darkly cinematic music where the songs differ wildly in expression and sonic aesthetics.

“I’m very pleased and excited to announce that the debut LP/CD of my MITOCHONDRIAL SUN project will be released on Argonauta Records early next year. The album has been a long time in the making, with some of the melodies and chord progressions dating back to the mid ’90’s, so it’ll be great to finally have it out in the open.“ Sundin comments.

“I first got in touch with Argonauta when creating the cover artwork for one of their bands and found them to be an enthusiastic and hungry label that’s not afraid to venture outside of the conventional borders. In other words, a perfect match for an experimental electronic album that covers a lot of ground and that’s hard to pigeonhole into any specific genre. This is my first solo venture in nearly 30 years as a musician, and even if I know that this style of music might not fit every metal fan, I think and hope that people will find it an interesting listen.”

Musically speaking, the Mitochondrial Sun album is largely instrumental and features everything from Dead can dance-like tribal atmospheres to futuristic sci-fi soundscapes. Among the guest musicians appearing are Dark Tranquillity’s Martin Brändström and renowned cello player Annika Blomfeldt. The album was mixed and mastered by Anders Lagerfors (who also contributed grand piano to some tracks) at Nacksving Studio in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The album is based around evolution and the passing of time. Juxtaposing electronic and decidedly synthetic elements with organic sound textures and the presence of real cello and grand piano, Mitochondrial Sun is an exploration of contrasts. Lush and cinematic passages collide with harsh distortion and massive futuristic soundscapes. Some songs have a traditional feel, invoking ghosts and patterns from our distant past, some are urban and desolate and some glance outward towards a future among the stars. In addition to being a musician, Niklas is also a prolific graphic designer. This visual emphasis is transferred over to to the Mitochondrial Sun project, where each song will be accompanied by an animated video further enhancing the experience and providing context. The first single and video, “Nyaga” – whose title is inspired by a little known sci-fi novel by the Swedish astronomer and writer Peter Nilsson – will be revealed in full in October, but you can already dive into a first teaser of the track HERE!

Additional singles will be released before the full length album arrives in early 2020. Featuring ten songs with lots of stylistic differences, Mitochondrial Sun’s debut album is by no means an easy listen, or one designed for instant gratification – but the patient listener will be rewarded!

www.mitochondrialsun.com
www.argonautarecords.com

Mitochondrial Sun, “Nyaga” teaser

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Monolord to Release No Comfort Sept. 20; New Song Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord

Pretty much called it that Monolord‘s new album would be out to coincide with their upcoming Fall touring. Even the Gothenburg trio don’t hit it that hard on back-to-back runs without a new album to support. The timing just makes sense. Plus, getting the record out in September lines them up for all kinds of best-of-the-year accolades, which it seems like this is a prime moment for them to snag, what with debuting on Relapse and having three killer LPs’ worth of momentum behind them. They’re going to be touring this one for a while, I’d imagine — all of 2020 at least — so this is just the start of a new cycle, but while you listen to the reimagined C.O.C. “Albatross” riff at the beginning of “The Bastard Son” below, I think you can only agree theirs is a cause well worth supporting. Relapse certainly seems to think so, and they’ve certainly made a few killer picks along the way.

Art, tracklisting, preorders, tour dates and, finally, the song itself follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

monolord no comfort

MONOLORD: Announce Relapse Records Debut No Comfort Coming September 20

Swedish trio MONOLORD announce their Relapse Records’ debut, No Comfort, coming September 20th.

“This one has been the most challenging yet,” said MONOLORD in a collective statement. “As always striving for evolvement, but within the Monolord realm and with that inviting another person into that process. We hope you like it.”

No Comfort pre-orders are on-sale now, with several limited-edition vinyl variants available, including a Relapse.com exclusive in partnership with Orange Amps. The 100-piece release features the actual material used to wrap Orange Amps and is pressed on neon orange vinyl. The set includes an exclusive two-sided Orange Amps inspired t-shirt and guitar pick set. To view this set as well as the CD/2xLP/CS and digital pre-orders that are available, visit https://ffm.to/monolordnocomfort.

No Comfort Tracklist:
The Bastard Son
The Last Leaf
Larvae
Skywards
Alone Together Forever Divided
No Comfort

MONOLORD Tour Dates:

Aug 08-10 Moledo, PT Sonic Blast
Sep 06-08 Sao Paulo, BR Setembro Negro Festival

— All Headline EU Dates Sep 28 – Oct 26 w/ Firebreather —

Sep 28 London, UK @ The Garage (w/ Ufomammut)
Sep 29 Sheffield, UK @ HRH Doom V Stoner
Sep 30 Bournemouth, UK @ The Anvil
Oct 01 Utrecht, NL @ De Helling
Oct 02 Brussels, BE @ Magasin 4
Oct 03 Pratteln, CH @ Up In Smoke Festival
Oct 04 Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
Oct 05 Paris, FR @ Saturday Mud Fever Festival
Oct 07 Dortmund, DE @ Junkyard
Oct 08 Nuremberg, DE @ B-Zau
Oct 09 Cologne, DE @ Helios 37
Oct 10 Mainz, DE @ Schon Schon
Oct 11 Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Oct 16 Oslo, NO @ John Dee
Oct 17 Gothenburg, SE @ Sticky Fingers
Oct 18 Malmo, SE @ Babel
Oct 23 Linkoping, SE @ The Crypt
Oct 24 Stockholm, SE @ Close Up Baten
Oct 25 Tampere, FI @ Olympia
Oct 26 Helsinki, FI @ Nosturi

— All Headline US Dates Nov 04 – 27 w/ Blackwater Holylight —

Nov 05 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
Nov 06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Nov 07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister
Nov 09 Austin, TX @ Levitation x Relapse Showcase
Nov 10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room
Nov 11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Nov 12 Atlanta, GA @ The 529
Nov 13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
Nov 14 Richmond, VA @ Camel
Nov 15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
Nov 16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Nov 17 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
Nov 20 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
Nov 21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle
Nov 22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Nov 23 Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Nov 25 Denver, CO @ Marquis
Nov 27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom

MONOLORD Is:
Esben Willems – Drums
Thomas Jäger – Guitar Vocals
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, “The Bastard Son”

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Monolord Touring Europe and the US This Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolord

Okay, so let’s assume that any minute now, Monolord are going to announce their next album will be out sometime this Fall. I mean, even if you tour as hard as Monolord generally, do you really book back-to-back European and US tours without the record out to support? Nah, pretty much you can figure that if it’s not out before, it’ll be out sometime while they’re on the road. Recall as well it’s their debut for Relapse. It’s a significant moment for the band, and obviously they want to make the most of it. Well they should, given the work they’ve put in to this point.

And yeah, that’s great and all, but I’m gonna go ahead and get even more stoked on the fact that BlackWater HolyLight are doing the US shows with them. Their once-labelmates on RidingEasy haven’t been east yet from their home in Oregon so far as I know, so I’m absolutely putting that Brooklyn show in my calendar. Sounds like a good time.

Dates from the PR wire:

monolord poster

MONOLORD: Announce Fall Europe & US Headline Tour Dates

Swedish hard rock trio MONOLORD announce headlining European and US tour dates throughout the Fall. First, MONOLORD will tour Europe from September 28 through October 26 with Firebreather. The following week, the band heads to the states from November 5 through 27 with Blackwater Holylight. All confirmed tour dates are available below.

Stay tuned for more MONOLORD news in the near future.

MONOLORD Tour Dates:

Aug 08-10 Moledo, PT Sonic Blast
Sep 06-08 Sao Paulo, BR Setembro Negro Festival

— All Headline EU Dates Sep 28 – Oct 26 w/ Firebreather —

Sep 28 London, UK @ The Garage (w/ Ufomammut)
Sep 29 Sheffield, UK @ HRH Doom V Stoner
Sep 30 Bournemouth, UK @ The Anvil
Oct 01 Utrecht, NL @ De Helling
Oct 02 Brussels, BE @ Magasin 4
Oct 03 Pratteln, CH @ Up In Smoke Festival
Oct 04 Reims, FR @ La Cartonnerie
Oct 05 Paris, FR @ Saturday Mud Fever Festival
Oct 07 Dortmund, DE @ Junkyard
Oct 08 Nuremberg, DE @ B-Zau
Oct 09 Cologne, DE @ Helios 37
Oct 10 Mainz, DE @ Schon Schon
Oct 11 Hamburg, DE @ Molotow
Oct 16 Oslo, NO @ John Dee
Oct 17 Gothenburg, SE @ Sticky Fingers
Oct 18 Malmo, SE @ Babel
Oct 23 Linkoping, SE @ The Crypt
Oct 24 Stockholm, SE @ Close Up Baten
Oct 25 Tampere, FI @ Olympia
Oct 26 Helsinki, FI @ Nosturi

— All Headline US Dates Nov 04 – 27 w/ Blackwater Holylight —

Nov 05 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
Nov 06 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress
Nov 07 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister
Nov 09 Austin, TX @ Levitation x Relapse Showcase
Nov 10 Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom Room
Nov 11 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Nov 12 Atlanta, GA @ The 529
Nov 13 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
Nov 14 Richmond, VA @ Camel
Nov 15 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
Nov 16 Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church
Nov 17 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
Nov 20 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
Nov 21 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle
Nov 22 St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Nov 23 Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Nov 25 Denver, CO @ Marquis
Nov 27 Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom

MONOLORD Is:
Esben Willems – Drums
Thomas Jäger – Guitar Vocals
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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Långfinger Premiere “Feather Beader” from Live LP out May 24

Posted in audiObelisk on May 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

LANGFINGER (Photo by Edko Fuzz)

On May 24, Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger will release the limited LP Live in an edition of 200 copies only. It arrives through Beduin and Sound Pollution less than a full month after Långfinger‘s new split 7″ with JIRM (formerly Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus), and presents a show that took place on Xmas 2017 in the band’s hometown of Gothenburg. In short, it sounds like a holiday. In total, Långfinger rip through eight songs and every bit sound like they knew they were going to end up releasing the gig. Rising to the occasion and all that.

Mixed and mastered by guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and with Lukas Väremo sitting in on keys for “Fantasy Ridge” and “Atlas” — from their first album, 2010’s Skygrounds, and their third album, 2016’s Crossyears (review here), respectively — along with bassist/vocalist Victor Crusner and drummer Jesper Pihl, Live lives up to any live album cliché one might be tempted to apply. Whether it’s “capturing a moment in time” or presenting the band’s studio material in raw and raucous fashion, whatever. It’s all true. It’s all there. It all works. By the time they’re through “Fox Confessor” and “Caesar’s Blues” from Crossyears and into the winding riffery of “Feather Beader,” the sense of witnessing a kickass classic heavy rock show is palpable, and it seems like no coincidence at all that in talking about the record below, Lilja would shout out Deep Purple‘s Made in Japan or Thin Lizzy‘s Live & Dangerous.

langfinger liveAnyone who encountered Skygrounds, 2012’s Slow RiversCrossyears or any of the handful of shorter outings they’ve had along the way can tell you Långfinger work to a pretty high standard. Live demonstrates plainly that the same applies to their stage work, and for someone like me, who’s never been fortunate enough to see them live, hearing the no-nonsense strut of “Crossyears” and the arrival of the telltale guitar and key line of “Atlas” is a boon that only emphasizes the pivotal forward-looking nature of their approach, as rooted in the classics as it is. Somewhat curiously, Slow Rivers isn’t represented at all on Live, but I guess there are only so many spots in the set, and with the fact that Långfinger were playing a special gig in their hometown, maybe the blend of old(est) and new(est) was something they decided to go with to make the night stand out all the more. Can’t argue with the reception the older songs are given, though one might say the same of the newer ones as well.

Either way, Skygrounds opener “Herbs in My Garden” and closer “Ragnar” make a righteous final pairing for Live, the latter of them taking the three-piece into a flowing final jam that carries smoothly to the end of the set. By then, Långfinger have handed the Musikens Hus its ass, and that’s all there is to it. There is less embellishment than in some of the ultra-classic live records from the earlier masters of the form — maybe that’s where Unleashed in the East comes in — but I considered Långfinger to be underrated before, and that’s only become all the more the case with Live. Even with the recent JIRM split and this offering, they’re due for a new studio album sometime soon, and whether or not it happens this year, you’d be wise to keep an eye out. And as for the 200 copies of Live that have been pressed to orange-colored vinyl? I wouldn’t expect them to last long either.

Good band. Good show. Good record. What the hell more would you ask?

Check out the premiere of “Feather Beader” below and hear what I mean:

Kalle Lilja on Live:

We all grew up listening to live albums. Whether it was Made in Japan, Unleashed in the East, Yessongs or Lizzy’s Live & Dangerous. It remains so powerful hearing a band (100% live or not…) cranking it up and delivering a grand snapshot of a moment in time. It’s embedded in our DNA as a group by now, to always portray everything of what we are on stage, and Live is a grand envoy for that directive.

Out May 24 on Beduin & Sound Pollution Distribution.

Limited to 200 copies on orange 180g vinyl…

Jesper Pihl – Drums
Victor Crusner – Vocals/Bass
Kalle Lilja – Guitar
Lukas Väremo – Keyboards (Track 5 & 6)

Recorded live at Musikens Hus, Göteborg, Dec 25, 2017.
Engineered by Sven Jansson
Mixed & mastered at Welfare Sounds by Kalle Lilja
Produced by Långfinger

Långfinger on Thee Facebooks

Långfinger website

Långfinger on Instagram

Sound Pollution website

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Review & Track Premiere: Cities of Mars, The Horologist

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 28th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cities of mars the horologist

[Click play above to stream the lyric video for ‘Trenches of Bah-belon’ from Cities of Mars’ new album, The Horologist. Album is out April 5 on Ripple Music.]

What’s happening on Mars? Sci-fi pummelers Cities of Mars have been telling the story of a Russian cosmonaut on a covert mission and the discovery of ancient advanced technologies since the release of their first single, Cyclopean Ritual/The Third Eye (review here), in 2015. Through the next year’s Celestial Mistress EP (review here) — released by Suicide Records — and 2017’s Argonauta Records-released full-length debut, Temporal Rifts (review here), they’ve developed the characters and settings and woven a tale that’s increasingly complex in its substance and their sonic delivery of it alike. As to when they might just bite the bullet and put out a novelization of the story of KGB agent Nadia and the Martian conspiracy that has unfolded across the band’s work to-date, your guess is as good as mine — probably better, actually — but there can be little doubt that with The Horologist, the band’s second LP in their five years together (on Ripple Music), they’re moving forward in every conceivable fashion.

Plot and musical elements are recognizable in songs like “Trenches of Bah-belon” and the fuzz-largesse of “Hydrahead,” but the trio of bassist/vocalist Danne Palm, guitarist/vocalist Christoffer Norén and drummer/vocalist Johan Küchler, bring their songwriting to a new level and are neither afraid of pushing to new levels of tonal heft, as they do in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Necronograph” and the later “The Floating Museum,” or departing prior methodologies to serve the atmosphere of the album overall, as on “Work Song,” a Soviet-style acoustic folk song that brings in some thudding drums, bass and guitar late, but ultimately keeps to its central impression. Once again, Cities of Mars recorded with Esben Willems (also of Monolord) at Berserk Audio, and that continuity brings all the more into relief how much the three-piece has grown in their approach thanks to a forward drive in their songwriting and, no doubt, the not-inconsiderable amount of touring they’ve done in the last several years.

Offsetting quiet and loud parts from each other is something Cities of Mars have done since “Cyclopean Ritual,” and they’ve always done it well, but to listen to the manner in which “Necronograph” seems to let go of its heavier progression in its second half in favor of a stretch of quiet and echoing guitar, or to hear how the acoustic intro to “Inner Sanctum Outer Space” gradually builds over the first two and a half minutes of the song into the massive roll that kicks in from there on, they’ve never sounded so patient in that process or as willing to let their parts breathe and really settle in on the listener. They’re not repetitive necessarily — even the echoing post-rock break in “The Last Electric Dream” keeps a steady movement as it works its way back to full-brunt delivery — but the atmospheric effects of the band’s approach have never been so immersive as they are on The Horologist, and more, that’s very clearly part of the band’s intent.

Boasting three more tracks and an additional 11 minutes of runtime, The Horologist — at eight songs/46 minutes — is a significantly more substantial undertaking than was Temporal Rifts, and that mirrors what they’re doing with the creative growth of the band as well in becoming more complex overall in their sound and adding not just nuance to the raw weight of their tone and furthering the melodic aspects of their tradeoff shouts, but in composing material of greater height and depth and working to make the turns from one to the other more fluid. With “Necronograph” at the front, Cities of Mars showcase the immersion they’re hoping to achieve, but they push further, and the album actually opens not just with its longest cut, but it’s longest three, with “Trenches of Bah-belon” (6:58) and “Inner Sanctum Outer Space” (6:43) following in that order.

cities of mars

Very clearly, the band are working to to put their listener in a specific place within the story they’re telling, and they succeed in that with their loudest parts and the ambience through which those are contrasted. Whether it’s the minor-key tinge to the lead guitar ahead of the march in “Trenches of Bah-belon” or the noisy psychedelic fervor brought to bear in closer “Lines in the Dark” with all the more a sense of urgency because of its rhythmic tension, Cities of Mars have very simply made themselves a better band with a more developed approach.

That’s certainly worth appreciating and all the more so for the fact that they’ve done so by making their sound even more immediately identifiable — that is, one doesn’t hear the nod and crash that emerges on “Inner Sanctum Outer Space” or even the echoing vocals and acoustic guitar early in “Work Song” and imagine it’s another band — but it doesn’t say much for the actual listening experience. Fair enough. The Horologist — the title referring to one who builds watches or studies time — earns that additional runtime as compared to its predecessor through the noted uptick in complexity. It flows easily within and between its tracks, and when Cities of Mars want to, they are able to provide a sudden kick or a gentle comedown depending on the dictates of the piece at hand. The otherworldly intro to “The Last Electric Dream” is a triumph unto itself for the sheer grace with which the louder guitar enters at the 2:13 mark, let alone its molten groove or the balance between weight and atmosphere that ensues. Likewise, the subsequent “The Floating Museum” makes its intent to conquer plain from its stutter-start onward. And it’s no accident that the two are paired next to each other, either.

One might say the same of the album as a whole: it’s no accident. Cities of Mars started out with an understanding of what they wanted to do as a band, in terms obviously of the story they wanted to tell as well as the stylistic means they wanted to use. Fine. What The Horologist does for that is it brings into focus the increased reach of the band’s craft and the effectiveness with which they’re able to balance not just loud parts and quiet parts, but also concept and execution. The songs come first, which is exactly how it should be, whatever planets might be in the meantime. Their growth continues to be a pleasure to witness, and especially with some of what side B brings to bear in “Work Song,” “Lines in the Dark” and “The Last Electric Dream,” they still showcase remarkable forward potential. Wherever Nadia might end up, her journey has never yet come this far.

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Quarterly Review: Kungens Män, PFUND, Crystal Spiders, The Misery Men, Hubris, Woorms, Melody Fields, Oreyeon, Mammoth Grove, Crimson Devils

Posted in Reviews on March 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

I used to be pretty artsy and write poetry. Let’s give it a shot:

There was an old man who wore no-toe shoes.
He said, I’mma go do 60 reviews.
He was out of his head,
Should’ve gone back to bed,
But he loves him some dirty psych blues.

Years from now, when I link back to this post for a “(review here)”-type scenario, I’m going to see that and I’ll still think it’s funny. The planet’s dying. I’d say a bit of silly is more than called for.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Kungens Män, Chef

kungens man chef

Krautrockers, assemble! Or, you know, whatever krautrockers do — I assume it involves homemade spacecraft that, yes, absolutely fly. Perhaps one of these days I’ll ask Stockholm’s Kungens Män, whose latest outing for Riot Season, simply titled Chef, is an outbound delight of psych-infused progressivism. Beginning with the opening throb of “Fyrkantig Böjelse” and moving into the volume swells, steady drum line and wandering guitar that starts “Öppen För Stängda Dörrar” on side A, its four extended tracks craft otherworldly textures through a meld of organic instrumental flow and waves of synth, the second cut building to a tense wash of distortion all the while keeping that hypnotic march. The two corresponding 10-minute-plus cuts on side B waste no time in offering cosmic boogie in “Män Med Medel” with a more active rhythmic flow, and closer “Eftertankens Blanka Krankhet” — longer than the opener by one second at 11:24 — fades in on meditative guitar and explores a serene minimalism that only underscores the all around joy of the album.

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PFUND, PFUND

pfund pfund

The self-titled, self-released debut full-length from Kiel, Germany’s PFUND arrives and departs with a guesting horn section, and while that inevitably adds a bit of grandeur to the proceedings, the bulk of the outing is dedicated to straightforward, semi-metallic heavy rock, held to ground even in the seven-minute “Spaceman” by a considered sense of structure and an earthy drum sound that draws the songs together, whether it’s the classic riff rock in “Sea of Life” or the moodier sway in the earlier “Lost in Rome.” Dual guitars effectively multiply the impact, and the vocals showcase a nascent sense of melody that one imagines will only continue to grow as the band moves forward. At nine songs and 44 minutes, it shows some breadth and nuance in “Exhaustion” and “Paranoia,” the former tapping into an edge of progressive metal, but the primary impact comes from PFUND‘s heft of groove and how it blends with a rawer edge to their production. The Kyuss-referencing centerpiece here might be called “Imbalance,” but that’s hardly representative of what surrounds, horns and all.

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Crystal Spiders, Demo

crystal spiders demo

Three songs, 11 minutes and three distinct vibes from the aptly-titled Demo demo of North Carolinian three-piece Crystal Spiders. On “Tigerlily,” “Flamethrower” and “Devil’s Resolve,” the trio of bassist/vocalist Brenna Leath (also Lightning Born), guitarist/vocalist Mike Deloatch and drummer/backing vocalist Tradd Yancey careen from bluesy spaciousness to hard-driving catchiness and end up — because why not? — in repeating cult-sludge chants, “Come to the devil’s resolve!” like Black Widow trying to lure people to the sabbat, except shouting. If the purpose of a demo is for a new band to try different methods of working and thereby take a first step in discovering their sound, Crystal Spiders are well on their way, and for what it’s worth, there isn’t anything within their scope as they present it that doesn’t work for them. There are edges to smooth out, of course, but that too is a part of the process starting here.

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The Misery Men, Deathspiration

The Misery Men Deathspiration

If you’d asked, depending on which part of Deathspiration was on, I’d probably have called The Misery Men a bass/drum duo, but nope, that’s guitar. Tonally one is reminded of At Devil Dirt from Chile, but the Portland, Oregon, two-piece of vocalist/guitarist Corey G. Lewis and drummer Steve Jones are entirely more barebones in their craft, eschewing digital involvement of any sort in the recording or mixing process and sounding duly raw as a result throughout the subtle earworm of “C.W. Sughrue” and the lumbering “Harness the Darkness.” The subsequent “Night Creeps In” brings a Northwestern noise payoff to quiet/loud trades and the near-10-minute closer “Stoned to Death,” well, it seems to meet an end befitting its title, to say the least. As their stated intent was to capture the most organic version of their sound possible, and made a point of working toward that ideal in their recording, one could hardly fault them for the results of that process. They wanted something human-sounding. They got it.

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Hubris, EP #II Live

hubris ep ii live

Some — not all — of what one needs to know about HubrisEP #II Live is right there in the title. Indeed, it’s their second EP. Indeed, it was recorded live. And indeed, like using a ‘#’ sign with a Roman numeral, there’s something about the way the three included songs from the Toulouse, France-based outfit sound that’s just a little bit off-kilter from what you might expect. “Zugzwang” (7:19), “Tergo” (19:58) and “Biotilus” (27:04) are arranged shortest to longest, and while the opener starts off like Queens of the Stone Age on an Eastern-tinged psychedelic bender, the lengthy jams that follow — the first of them with a fervent drum punctuation, the second a gradual intertwining of synth and guitar with hardly any percussion at all until after its 22nd minute. The instrumental flow that ensues from there is almost like a hidden bonus track, at least until they Hubris get to minute 26 and the whole thing explodes in crash and plod. The underlying message, of course, is that if you think you’re safe at any point, you’re not.

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Woorms, Slake

woorms slake

Lumbering fuckall pervades the debut full-length, Slake, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sludgers Woorms — also stylized all-caps — which incorporates past singles “Find a Meal Find a Bed Find a God” and “Mouth is a Wound” amid the sample/noise barrage of “Our Lady of Perpetually Shitfaced” and the willfully brash “Racist Kevin” that follows. There’s an edge of Melvinsian chug to the proceedings, but Woorms‘ take, though presented in finished compositions, comes across as almost nihilistic rather than making a show of its experimentalism. That is, they’re trying to say they don’t give a fuck, and in listening, they make it kind of easy to believe, but there’s still something about the cohesiveness of “Veni Vidi Fucki” and “Rice Crispy” and the saved-the-best-nod-for-last finale “Sore Afraid” that undercuts the notion even while making the listening experience all the more pummeling, and from the intro “Corpse Corps” through “Urine Trouble Now”‘s echoing shouts and the closer’s unmitigated stomp, there’s still plenty of exploration being done.

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Oreyeon, Ode to Oblivion

Oreyeon Ode to Oblivion

Rebranded since their 2016 debut, Builders of Cosmos (discussed here), from their more phonetically intuitive original moniker, Orion, Italy’s Oreyeon issue a cosmically expansive spacescape follow-up in their six-song/40-minute sophomore outing, Ode to Oblivion, also their first release through Heavy Psych Sounds. Echoing vocals pervade “Big Surprise” after the introductory “T.I.O.” and “Trudging to Vacuity” establish the wide-cast mix and anti-grav rhythmic density, and the nine-minute side A finale title-track runs mostly-instrumental circles around most of what I’d usually call “prog” only after it lays down a sleek hook in the first couple minutes. After “Big Surprise,” the 8:45 “The Ones” trades volume back and forth but finds its breadth at about the sixth minute as the dramatic lead turns on a dime to desert rock thrust en route to wherever the hell it goes next. Honestly, after that moment, everything’s gravy, but Oreyeon lay it on thick with closer “Starship Pusher” and never neglect melody in the face of nod. Worth a deeper dig if you get the chance.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Melody Fields, Melody Fields

melody fields melody fields

Sometimes you hear a record and it’s like the band is doing you a favor by existing. To that, thanks Melody Fields. The Gothenburg psych troupe lace their lysergic flow with folkish harmonies and an open sensibility on their self-titled debut that comes coupled with enough tonal presence to still consider them heavy not that it matters. They break out the sax on “Morning Sun” to welcome effect, and the sun continues to shine through “Liberty” and the garage-buzzing “Run” before “Rain Man” turns water droplets into keyboard notes and Beatlesian — think “Rain” — voice arrangements atop soothing instrumental drift, every bit the centerpiece and an excellent precursor to the acoustic-based “Fire” and the 10-minute “Trädgränsen,” which is the crowning achievement of this self-titled debut, which, if I’d been hip to it in time, would’ve made both the 2018 best albums and best debuts list. They cap with a reprise of “Morning Sun” and underscore the solid foundation beneath the molten beauty of their work throughout. To ask for another album seems greedy, but I will anyway. More, please.

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Sound Effect Records website

 

Mammoth Grove, Slow Burn

mammoth grove slow burn

Okay, look, enough screwing around. It’s time for someone to sign Mammoth Grove. The Calgary natives have been putting out quality heavy psych rock since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and their latest long-player, the four-song Slow Burn is a righteous amalgam of peace-thru-rock that lives up to its freewheeling vibes in “Seasons” after the methodical opener “Valleys” and rolls out a bit of melodic ’70s biker rock bliss in “Black Meadow” before the side-B-consuming “Gloria” (18:42) asks early if you’re ready to go and then goes like gone, gone, gone, and gone further. Given the analog mindset involved and the heart on display throughout, there’s something fitting about it being pressed up in an edition of 100 hand-screenprinted LPs and 100 CDs likewise, but the more people who could hear it, the merrier, so yeah, some label or other needs to step up and make that happen, and I dare you to listen to the solo that hits past the 14-minute mark in “Gloria” and tell me otherwise. Dare you.

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Crimson Devils, A Taste for Blood

crimson devils a taste for blood

Since pared down to a trio from the four-piece incarnation they present here, Austin’s Crimson Devils first released their debut, A Taste for Blood, in 2017, but gave it a vinyl revisit last year and it’s little mystery why. The record comprises 11 sharply-composed tracks of Small Stone-style heavy rock, taking cues from Sasquatch in modern-via-classic modus, picking and choosing elements of ’70s and ’90s rock to conjure formidable groove and engaging hooks. There’s considerable swagger and weight in “They Get It,” and while opener “Dead and Gone” seems to show an influence in its vocal patterning from Elder, as the album unfolds, it’s more about the blast of “Captain Walker” or the penultimate “Nothing to Claim” and the straight-ahead vibes of “Bad News Blues” and “No Action” than anything so outwardly prog. There’s plenty to dig in the rock-for-rockers mindset, and it’s the kind of offering that should probably come with an octane rating. However such things are measured, safe to say it would not be low.

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