Last Licks 2014: Nate Hall, Nocturnal Poisoning, Snailking, Godmaker, Void Generator, The Mound Builders, Mother Kasabian, Deep Space Destructors, Underdogs and Human Services

Posted in Reviews on December 30th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Happy to report that I survived the first day of this project. Spirits are good and I look at the stack of discs (plus one book; we’ll get there) in front of me and feel relatively confident that by the time I’m through it, my cerebral cortex will still manage to function in the limited way it usually does. If yesterday’s installment is anything to go by, however, I’ll be well out of adjectives by then. What’s another word for “heavy?”

There’s only one way to find out. These will be reviews 11-20 of the total 50. I don’t know if they say the first 10 are the hardest or the last, but I’ll be in the thick of it when this is posted and while I’m sure I probably could turn back and catch minimal if any flack for it — one “Hey wha happen?” on Thee Facebooks seems likely penance — better to just keep going. Another stack awaits tomorrow, after all.

Thanks in advance to anyone reading:

Nate Hall, Electric Vacuum Roar

nate hall electric vacuum roar

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Heart and Crossbone Records

Nocturnal Poisoning, Doomgrass

nocturnal poisoning doomgrass

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Nocturnal Poisoning on Thee Facebooks

Doomgrass at The End Records

Snailking, Storm

snailking storm

Though they’re decidedly post-metal in their influences – Neurosis, YOB, obviously Ufomammut for whose record they are named – Sweden’s Snailking keep to heavy rock tones on their Consouling Sounds debut full-length, Storm, and that greatly bolsters the album’s personality. Even as they lumber, the riffs of 11-minute opener “To Wander” are fuzzed-out, and that remains true throughout the five mostly-extended cuts the trio of drummer Olle Svahn, bassist Frans Levin and guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson present on their first record, which follows the 2012 demo, Samsara (review here). Centerpiece “Slithering” is the shortest and most churning of the bunch at 6:32, but the particularly YOBian “Requiem” underscores another value greatly working in Storm’s favor – the patience with which Snailking present the ambience of their pieces. That will serve them well as they continue to distinguish themselves from their forebears, but for now, Storm makes a welcome opening salvo from the three-piece highlighting both their potential and how far they’ve come already since the release of their demo.

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Consouling Sounds

Godmaker, Godmaker

godmaker godmaker

The self-titled debut from thoroughly-bearded Brooklynite four-piece Godmaker arrives via Aqualamb as an art-book and download, a full 96 pages of designs, lyrics to the four included tracks of the vinyl-ready 32-minute long-player, live shots from a variety of sources, bizarre geometry and odd etchings feeding the atmosphere of the songs themselves, somewhere between sludge, thrash and aggressive noise with scream-topped moments of doom like “Shallow Points.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross and Chris Strait, bassist Andrew Archey and drummer Jon Lane, Godmaker fluidly shifts between the various styles at work in their sound, whether it’s the explosion at the end of “Shallow Points” or that beginning the rush of opener “Megalith,” and while their self-titled is a dense listen, with the surprising post-hardcore take of “Desk Murder” and the check-out-this-badass-riff-now-we’re-going-to-smash-your-face-with-it 11-minute metallic closer “Faded Glory,” it efficiently satisfies. More so after a couple listens front to back. If Godmaker were breaking your bones, it would be a clean break, and yes, that’s a compliment to their attack.

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Void Generator, Supersound

void generator supersound

Supersound is the first full-length from Italian heavy psych rockers Void Generator since 2010’s Phantom Hell and Soar Angelic (review here), and where that album held three extended pieces, the latest and third overall breaks into smaller pieces. Some of those are extended – opener “Behind My Door” is 8:09 and “Master of the Skies” tops nine minutes – but the bulk of Supersound’s seven tracks is shorter works somewhere between desert rock and classic psych, guitarist Gianmarco Iantaffi leading the four-piece with a  more subdued vocal approach than last time out, compressed even in the rowdier verses of “What are You Doin’” (written by Sandro Chiesa), on which the keys of Enrico Cosimi feature heavily and add to the sound too crisp to be totally retro but still vehemently organic. Bassist Sonia Caporossi (also acoustic guitar on penultimate interlude “Universal Winter”) and drummer Marco Cenci hold together the fluid grooves as Void Generator follows these varied impulses, and Supersound proves cohesive and no less broadly scoped than its predecessor.

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Phonosphera Records

The Mound Builders, Wabash War Machine

the mound builders wabash war machine

There’s a version of The Mound Builders’ 17-minute Wabash War Machine EP from Failure Records and Tapes that includes a comic book, but even the regular sleeve CD edition gives a glimpse at the Lafayette, Indiana, five-piece’s heavy Southern metal push. The middle two of the four inclusions, “Sport of Crows” and “Bar Room Queen,” surfaced earlier this year on a split tape with Bo Jackson 5 (review here), but opener “Wabash War Machine” and the sludged-up closer “The Mound” on which the guitars of Brian Boszor and “Ninja” Nate Malher phase between channels and vocalist Jim Voelz delivers his harshest performance to date, are brand new, albeit recorded at the same sessions in July 2013. “Wabash War Machine” highlights the band’s blend of southern metal and heavy groove, guitar intricacy and a gang-shout chorus meeting thick rollout from bassist Robert Ryan Strawsma and drummer Jason “Dinger” Brookhart, but it’s the finale that’s the EP’s most lasting impression, as pummeling as The Mound Builders have gotten to date.

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Failure Records and Tapes

Mother Kasabian, Mother Kasabian

mother kasabian mother kasabian

In Olof’s buzzsaw guitar tone, the thud of Karl’s drums and Gidon’s abiding vocal menace, “Strike of the Emperor” gives notice of some Celtic Frost influence, but that’s hardly the whole tale when it comes Stockholm trio Mother Kasabian’s self-titled, self-released debut EP, as “The Black Satanic Witch of Saturn” immediately calls to mind The Doors in its minimal, spacious verse and offsets this with a soulful classic heavy rock chorus en route to the seven-minute “Close of Kaddish,” which works in a similar pattern – hitting notes of Trouble-style doom in its crescendos – and offers Mother Kasabian’s widest ranging moment ahead of the swaggering closer “The Return of the Mighty King and His Cosmic Elephants.” Swinging drums and variety in Gidon’s The Crazy World of Arthur Brown-style approach give the EP a distinguished feel despite raw production and it being Mother Kasabian’s first outing, and with the psych touches in the finale and a generally unhinged vibe throughout, the trio showcase considerable potential at work.

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Mother Kasabian on Bandcamp

Deep Space Destructors, III

deep space destructors iii

Active since 2011 and with two prior full-lengths – 2012’s I (review here) and 2013’s II (review here) – under their belt, Oulu, Finland, heavy psych trio Deep Space Destructors offer their definitive stylistic statement in the wash of III, a five-song/45-minute cosmic excursion with progressive krautrock edge (see “Spaceship Earth”) driven into heavier territory through dense fuzz in guitarist Petri Lassila’s tone and the chemistry between he, vocalist/bassist Jani Pitkänen and drummer Markus Pitkänen. Their extended but plotted jammy course finds culmination in the 15-minute penultimate cut “An Ode to Indifferent Universe,” – King Crimson and Floyd laced together by synth sounds – but the space-rock thrust of closer “Ikuinen Alku” highlights the multifaceted approach Deep Space Destructors have developed since their inception, consistently psychedelic but expansive. The sides gel effectively on “Cosmic Burial,” lending modern crash and tonal heft to classic ideals to craft something new from them in admirable form. As far out as they’ve gone, Deep Space Destructors still seem to be exploring new ground.

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Deep Space Destructors on Bandcamp

Underdogs, Underdogs

underdogs underdogs

Released as a cooperative production between Garage Records and Go Down Records, Italian trio Underdogs’ second, self-titled LP pushes further along the straight-lined course of heavy rock their 2007 debut, Ready to Burn, and 2011’s Revolution Love (review here) charted. Songs like “Nothing but the Best” strip away the Queens of the Stone Age-style fuzz of past outings in favor of a cleaner tone and overall feel, and while that spirit shows up later on side B’s “Called Play” and the rumbling grunge of “My Favourite Game” (a cover of The Cardigans), the prevailing vibe speaks to European commercial viability with clear hooks and straightforward structures. Acoustic finale “The Closing Song” offers a last-minute shift in style, calling to mind UnderdogsDogs without Plugs digital release, but even in more barebones form, the songwriting remains the focus on this mature third offering from a three-piece who’ve clearly figured out the direction in which they want to head and have set about developing an audience-friendly sound.

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Go Down Records

Human Services, Animal Fires

human services animal fires

Since they issued their self-titled debut (review here) in 2012, Virginia’s Human Services have brought aboard Steve Kerchner of Lord, and he brings as much a sense of chaos to Animal Fires as one might expect in teaming with Jeff Liscombe, Sean Sanford, Don Piffalo and Billy Kurilko, though the 59-minute full-length isn’t without its structure. Longer songs pair with concise noise experiments throughout the first 10 of the total 13 tracks, and each is different, so that even as the gap between songs is bridged, the stylistic basis for Animal Fires is branched out. The result is that by the time “Onyedinci Yil Sürüsü” closes out the album proper before the 17-minute live inclusion “No Structures in the Eye of the Jungle” hits, Human Services have reimagined the modus of Godflesh as an extremity of organic noisemaking, Southern heavy and eerie progressivism. Shades of Neurosis show up in centerpiece “Rats of a Feather,” but they too are twisted to suit the band’s creative purposes, threatening and engagingly bleak.

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Human Services on Bandcamp

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Queen Elephantine, Scarab: Snakes and Ladders

Posted in Reviews on August 9th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Since making their debut on the same 2006 split that marked the first recorded appearance of Elder, Providence-by-way-of-Hong-Kong-and-Brooklyn experimental doomers Queen Elephantine have been consistently hard to pin down — and not just geographically. Their latest full-length, Scarab (on Heart and Crossbone Records/Cosmic Eye Records for CD and vinyl, respectively), finds the amorphous outfit as ever led by guitarist Indrayudh Shome working with two drummers and exploring a drone-based mysticism that seems in partial conversation with Om‘s 2012 outing, Advaitic Songs, but taken to a more exploratory degree. The 50-minute album is comprised of four extended tracks — “Veil” (8:12), “Crone” (18:16), “Snake” (10:44) and “Clear Light of the Unborn” (13:05) — and each one builds its own flow within the overarching progression of Scarab as a whole. Joining Shome on his journey are two drummers, Ian Sims and Nathanael Totushek, bassist Matt Becker, returning tanpura player Srinivas Reddy and Brett Zweiman, who played bass on Queen Elephantine‘s last outing, 2011’s Garland of Skulls, but here contributes slide guitar and other drones, and the songs were recorded in one day (I would suspect entirely or at least mostly live) by Sims with a mix by Shome himself and a mastering job from Billy Anderson. The result of all their work is a varied but ultimately satisfying listen of heavy drone, and Queen Elephantine have done increasingly well over their last couple albums in shirking expectations and definitions of what “heavy” means. That continues on Scarab as well and makes their stylistic sprawl all the more boundless and more importantly, all the more their own. Almost immediately, “Veil” commences with a meditative drone and percussion, sparse guitar and bass that in another context might be akin to Earth metering out slow lines over a subtle build both in tempo and clash. Vocals arrive after the instrumental bombast peaks in spiritually desperate wails, and a lighter swirl plays out buried by heavier guitar strum and gradual return the winding line that delivered Scarab‘s first offering to its point of highest energy. Already we hear the flow is liquid.

It remains so for the duration. At 18-plus minutes, “Crone” is an undertaking unto itself, but it unfolds with hypnotic patience and makes a consuming follow-up to “Veil,” working in a similarly-slow, temple-style atmosphere. An underlying synth-style drone — what might be referred to in the credits as “divine mosquito” and credited to Zweiman — plays out steadily beneath the minimal guitar-led progression, and even when the vocals arrive, the sense of open space is maintained. There’s room between the music overtop and that buzz, and it’s in that room that the listener is most likely to get placed, feeling one overtop and the other underneath, surrounded; especially at louder volumes. After five minutes or so, Queen Elephantine embark on a mild cacophony, and again the double percussion plays a major role. Guitar and bass get louder, and vocals return, the band moving within the sort of undulations of energy that they’re crafting to bring the track forward, then draw it back, all the while the drone underneath stays put. There is an instrumental push as they approach 10 minutes in that provides “Crone” a noisy apex at about 13:00, but they soon drop to quieter spheres as Shome establishes a bouncing sort of guitar nod that leads the way through the remaining time, punctuating pops and the bassline adding dimension as the drone finally comes forward near the end of the song before fading out again. If you’re not on board with Scarab yet, you won’t be. The record’s first half is a challenge that the second half rises to meet, but if you’re immune to the trance they’re working in and bringing their listeners into, the course is set. It’s not like they’re going pop once “Snake” hits, is what I’m saying. Rather, with a current of Reddy‘s tanpura, they resume the droning course, bringing vocals in early as they did on “Crone,” and revel further in the torch-lit contemplations. It is atmospherically gorgeous and a sure sign of Queen Elephantine‘s maturity that they’re able to maintain such a patient sense throughout Scarab, and if it turns some listeners off, it’s hardly the band’s loss. “Snake” never gets quite as rambunctious as did “Crone,” but string-esque drones give a sense of emergency all the same as the metered lurch is mounted.

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Queen Elephantine’s Scarab Due Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Amorphous and transient doom experimentalists Queen Elephantine have never been an easy act to nail down, and even as the 26-minute two-track sample of their upcoming fourth album, Scarab, commences an extended, droning and patient build, I can tell immediately that’s still the case. Nonetheless, an uptake in production value over their 2011 third offering, Garland of Skulls (posted here), and the patience with which “Veil” unfolds speaks to some solidification and maturity in the band, ever-shifting their modus and their lineup. One more to look forward to, I guess.

Here’s the cover art, info, links and tracks, sent along the PR wire:

Announcing Queen Elephantine’s fourth album Scarab, to be released in April on CD by Heart & Crossbone Records (Israel) and LP by Cosmic Eye Records (Greece).

“Delirious and psychedelic threnodies, abysmal doom observances and mild invocations, offering deep, heavy sounds straight from the soul-realm woven through the geometries of the cosmos – A funerary procession danced by a mighty double-trio of two axes, two drumsets, and two insectoid drones…”
Longer description beneath links.


Heart & Crossbone Records description:

“Formed in Hong Kong in 2006 and relocated to the United States a few years later, Queen Elephantine has produced some of the finest doom albums and splits (with Sons of Otis, Elder, and Alunah) in recent years, driven by sheer originality and mystical force embodied in resplendent shrines of sound.

Mastered by the omnipotent Billy Anderson (Melvins, Neurosis, Sleep and so many more), Scarab is Queen Elephantine’s 4th album: A work of grandeur which finds the band digging even deeper into delirious and psychedelic threnodies, abysmal doom observances and mild invocations, offering deep, heavy sounds straight from the soul-realm woven through the geometries of the cosmos – A funerary procession danced by a mighty double-trio of two axes, two drumsets, and two insectoid drones.

Opening track “Veil” is the sound of a Mercurial navigator galloping through epochs, a coarse voyage through unspeakable ancient rites. “Crone” is up next, revealing a shadowy affinity between minimalistic tribal-doom and elusive math-psych. Third track “Snake” is an 11-minute squirm of primordial suspension and reproach with sonorous and radiant vocalizations, swallowed by the caliginous doom wreckage of “Clear Light of the Unborn” which takes this masterpiece to its end in a chariot of headless horses heaving a monolithic obsidian temple across the dense, lightless extremes of space.”

Queen Elephantine, “Veil” & “Crone”

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