Quarterly Review: The Temple, Dead Man’s Dirt, Witchfinder, Fumata, Sumerlands, Expiatoria, Tobias Berblinger, Grandier, Subsun, Bazooka

Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

Here’s mud in yer eye. How are you feeling so far into this Quarterly Review? The year? How are things generally? How’s your mom doing? Everybody good? Hope so. Odd as it is to think, I find music sounds better when you’re not distracted by everything else going to shit around you, so I hope you don’t currently find yourself in that situation.

Today’s 10 records are a bit of this, bit of that, bit of here, but of there, but I’ll note that we start and end in Greece, which wasn’t on purpose or anything but a fun happenstantial byproduct of slating things randomly. What can I say? There’s a lot of Greek heavy out there and the human brain forms patterns whether we want it to or not. Plenty of geographic diversity between, so let’s get to it, hmm?

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #31-40:

The Temple, Of Solitude Triumphant

The temple of Solitude Triumphant

Though they trace their beginnings back to the mid-aughts, Of Solitude Triumphant (on the venerable I Hate Records) is only the second full-length from Thessaloniki doom metallers The Temple. With chanting vocals, perpetuated misery and oldschool-style traditionalism metered by modern production’s tonal density, the melodic reach of the band is as striking as profundity of their rhythmic drag, the righteousness of their craft being in how they’re able to take a riff, slog it out across five, seven, 10 minutes in the case of post-intro opener “The Foundations” and manage to be neither boring nor a drag themselves. There’s a bit of relative tempo kick in “A White Flame for the Fear of Death” and the tremolo guitar (kudos to the half-time drums behind; fucking a) at the outset of closer “The Lord of Light” speaks to some influence from more extreme metals, but The Temple are steady in their purpose, and that nine-minute finale riff-marches to its own death accordingly. Party-doom it isn’t, and neither is it trying to be. In mood and the ambience born out of the vocals as much as the instruments behind, The Temple‘s doom is for the doomly doomed among the doomed. I’ll rarely add extra letters to it, but I have to give credit where it’s due: This is dooom. Maybe even doooom. Take heed.

The Temple on Facebook

I Hate Records website


Dead Man’s Dirt, Dead Man’s Dirt

Dead Mans Dirt Dead Man's Dirt

Gothenburg heavy rockers Dead Man’s Dirt, with members of Bozeman Simplex, Bones of Freedom, Coaster of Souls and a host of others, offer their 2023 self-titled debut through Ozium Records in full-on 2LP fashion. It’s 13 songs, 75 minutes long. Not a minor undertaking. Those who stick with it are rewarded by nuances like the guitar solo atop the languid sway of “The Brew,” as well as the raucous start-stop riffing in “Icarus (Too Close to the Sun),” the catchy “Highway Driver” and the bassy looseness of vibe in the penultimate “River,” which heads toward eight minutes while subsequent endpoint “Asteroid” tops nine. It is to the band’s credit that they have both the material and the variety to pull off a record this packed and keep the songs united in their barroom-rocking spirit, though some attention spans just aren’t going to be up to the task in a single sitting. But that’s fine. If the last couple years have taught the human species anything, it’s that you never know what’s around the next corner, and if you’re going to go for it — whatever “it” is — go all-in, because it could evaporate the next day. Whether it’s the shuffle of “Queen of the Wood” or the raw, in-room sound of “Lost at Sea,” Dead Man’s Dirt deserve credit for leaving nothing behind.

Dead Man’s Dirt on Facebook

Ozium Records store


Witchfinder, Forgotten Mansion

witchfinder forgotten mansion

Big rolling riffs, lurching grooves, melodies strongly enough delivered to cut through the tonal morass surrounding — there’s plenty to dig for the converted on Witchfinder‘s Forgotten Mansion. The Clermont-Ferrand, France, stoner doomers follow earlier-2022’s Endless Garden EP (review here) and 2019’s Hazy Rites (review here) full-length with their third album and first since joining forces with keyboardist Kevyn Raecke, who aligns in the malevolent-but-rocking wall of sound with guitarist Stanislas Franczak, bassist Clément Mostefai (also vocals) and drummer Thomas Dupuy. Primarily, they are very, very heavy, and that is very much the apparent foremost concern — not arguing with it — but as the five-song/36-minute long-player rolls through “Marijauna” and on through the Raecke-forward Type O Negative-ity of “Lucid Forest,” there’s more to their approach than it might at first appear. Yes, the lumber is mighty. But the space is also broad, and the slow-swinging groove is always in danger of collapsing without ever doing so. And somehow there’s heavy metal in it as well. It’s almost a deeper dive than they want you to think. I like that about it.

Witchfinder on Facebook

Mrs Red Sound store


Fumata, Días Aciagos

Fumata Días Aciagos

There’s some whiff of Conan‘s riffing in “Acompáñame Cuando Muero,” but on the whole, Mexico City sludge metallers Fumata are more about scathe than crush on the six tracks of their sophomore full-length, Días Aciagos (on LSDR Records). With ambient moments spread through the 35-minute beastwork and a bleak atmosphere put in place by eight-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Orgullo y Egoísmo,” with its loosely post-metallic march and raw, open sound, the four-piece of Javier Alejandre, Maximo Mateo, Leonardo Cardoso and Juan Tamayo are agonized and chaotic-sounding, but not haphazard in their delivery as they cross genre lines to work in some black metal extremity periodically, mine a bit of death-doom in “Anhelo,” foster the vicious culmination of the bookending seven-minute title-track, and so on. Tempo is likewise malleable, as “Seremos Olvidados” and that title-track show, as well as the blasting finish of “Orgullo y Egoísmo,” and only the penultimate “No Engendro” (also the shortest song at 4:15) really stays in one place for its duration, though as that place is in an unnamed region between atmosludge, doom and avant black metal, I’m not sure it counts. As exciting to hear as it is miserable in substance, Días Aciagos plunges where few dare to tread and bathes in its own pessimism.

Fumata on Facebook

LSDR Records on Bandcamp


Sumerlands, Dreamkiller

sumerlands dreamkiller

Sumerlands‘ second album and Relapse debut, Dreamkiller finds Magic Circle‘s Brendan Radigan stepping in for original vocalist Phil Swanson (now in Solemn Lament), alongside Eternal Champion‘s Arthur Rizk, John Powers (both guitar), and Brad Raub (bass), and drummer Justin DeTore (also Solemn Lament, Dream Unending, several dozen others) for a traditional metal tour de force, reimagining New Wave of British Heavy Metal riffing with warmer tonality and an obviously schooled take on that moment at the end of the ’70s when metal emerged from heavy rock and punk and became its own thing. “Force of a Storm” careens Dio-style after the mid-tempo Scorpions-style start-stoppery of “Edge of the Knife,” and though I kept hoping the fadeout of closer “Death to Mercy” would come back up, as there’s about 30 seconds of silence at the finish, no such luck. There are theatrical touches to “Night Ride” — what, you didn’t think there’d be a song about the night? come on. — and “Heavens Above,” but that’s part of the character of the style Sumerlands are playing toward, and to their credit, they make it their own with vitality and what might emerge as a stately presence. I don’t know if it’s “true” or not and I don’t really give a shit. It’s a burner and it’s made with love. Everything else is gatekeeping nonsense.

Sumerlands on Facebook

Relapse Records store


Expiatoria, Shadows


Shadows is the first full-length from Genoa, Italy’s Expiatoria — also stylized with a capital-‘a’: ExpiatoriA — and its Nov. 2022 release arrives some 35 years after the band’s first demo. The band originally called it quits in 1996, and there were reunion EPs along the way in 2010 and 2018, but the six songs and 45 minutes here represent something that no doubt even the band at times thought wouldn’t ever happen. The occasion is given due ceremony in the songs, which, in addition to being laden with guest appearances by members of Death SS, Il Segno del Comando, La Janera, and so on, boasts a sweeping sound drawing from the drama of gothic metal — loooking at you, church-organ-into-piano-outro in “Ombra (Tenebra Parte II),” low-register vocals in “The Wrong Side of Love” and flute-and-guitar interlude “The Asylum of the Damned” — traditional metal riffing and, particularly in “7 Chairs and a Portrait,” a Candlemassian bell-tolling doom. These elements come together with cohesion and fluidity, the five-piece working as veterans almost in spite of a relative lack of studio experience. If Shadows was their 17th, 12th, or even fifth album, one might expect some of its transitions to be smoothed out to a greater degree, but as it is, who’s gonna argue with a group finally putting out their debut LP after three and a half decades? Jerks, that’s who.

ExpiatoriA on Facebook

Black Widow Records store

Diamonds Prod. on Bandcamp


Tobias Berblinger, The Luckiest Hippie Alive

Tobias Berblinger The Luckiest Hippie Alive

Setting originals alongside vibe-enhancing covers of Blaze Foley and Commander Cody, Portland’s Tobias Berblinger (also of Roselit Bone) first issued The Luckiest Hippie Alive in 2018 and it arrives on vinyl through Ten Dollar Recording Co., shimmering in its ’70s ramble-country twang, vibrant with duets and acoustic balladeering. Berblinger‘s nostalgic take reminds of a time when country music could be viable and about more than active white supremacy and/or misappropriated hip-hop, and boozers like “My Boots Have Been Drinking” and the Hank Williams via Townes Van Zandt “Medicine Water” and “Heartaches, Hard Times, Hard Drinking”, and smokers like the title-track and “Stems and Seeds (Again)” reinforce the atmosphere of country on the other side of the culture war. Its choruses are telegraphed and ready to be committed to memory, and its understated sonic presence and the wistfulness of the two-minute “Crawl Back to You” — the backing vocals of Mariya May, Marisa Laurelle and Annie Perkins aren’t to be understated throughout, including in that short piece, along with Mo Douglas‘ various instrumental contributions — add a sweetness and humility that are no less essential to Americana than the pedal steel throughout.

Tobias Berblinger website

Ten Dollar Recording Co. store


Grandier, The Scorn and Grace of Crows

Grandier The Scorn and Grace of Crows

Based in Norrköping, Sweden, the three-piece Grandier turn expectation on its head quickly with their debut album, The Scorn and Grace of Crows, starting opener/longest track (immediate points) “Sin World” with a sludgy, grit-coated lumber only to break after a minute in to a melodic verse. The ol’ switcheroo? Kind of, but in that moment and song, and indeed the rest of what follows on this first outing for Majestic Mountain, the band — guitarist Patrik Lidfors, bassist/many-layered-vocalist Lars Carlberg, (maybe, unless they’re programmed; then maybe programming) drummer Hampus Landin — carve their niche from out of a block of sonic largesse and melodic reach. Carlberg‘s voice is emotive over the open-feeling space of “Viper Soul” and sharing the mix with the more forward guitars of “Soma Goat,” and while in theory, there’s an edge of doomed melancholy to the 44-minute procession, the heft in “The Crows Will Following Us Down” is as much directed toward impact as mood. They really are melodic sludge metal, which is a hell of a thing to piece together on your first record as fluidly as they do here. “Smoke on the Bog” leans more into the Sabbathian roll with megafuzz tonality behind, and “Moth to the Flames” is faster, more brash, and a kind of dark heavy rock that, three albums from now, might be prog or might be ’90s lumber. Could go either way, especially with “My Church of Let it All Go” answering back with its own quizzical course. Will be very interested to hear where their next release takes them, since they’re onto something and, to their credit, it’s not immediately apparent what.

Grandier on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store


Subsun, Parasite

Subsun Parasite

Doomers will nod approvingly as Ottawa’s Subsun cap “Proliferation” by shifting into a Candlemassian creeper of a lead line, but that kind of doomly traditionalism is only one tool in their varied arsenal. Guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Jean-Michel Fortin, bassist/vocalist Simon Chartrand-Paquette and drummer Jérémy Blais go to that post-Edling well (of souls) again, but their work across their 2022 debut LP, Parasite, is more direct, more rock-based and at times more aggressive on the whole. Recorded at Apartment 2 by Topon Das (Fuck the Facts), the seven-songer grows punkish in the verse of “Mutation” and drops thrashy hints at the outset of “Fusion,” while closer “Mutualism” slams harder like noise rock and punches its bassline directly at the listener. Begun with the nodding lurch of “Parasitism” — which would seem as well to be at the thematic heart of the album in terms of lyrics and the descriptive approach thereof — the movement of one song to the next has its underlying ties in the vocals and overarching semi-metal tonality, but isn’t shy about messing with those either, as on the lands-even-harder “Evolution” or the thuds at the outset of “Adaptation,” the relative straightforwardness of the structures allowing the band to draw together different styles into a single, effective, individualized sound.

Subsun on Facebook

Subsun on Bandcamp


Bazooka, Kapou Allou

bazooka Kapou Allou

The acoustic guitar of opener “Kata Vathos” transitions smoothly into the arrival-of-the-electrics on “Krifto,” as Athens’ Bazooka launch the first of the post-punk struts on Kapou Allou, their fourth full-length. Mediterranean folk and pop are factors throughout — as heard in the vocal melody of the title-track or the danceable “Pano Apo Ti Gi” — while closer “Veloudino Kako” reimagines Ween via Greece, “Proedriki Froura” traps early punk in a jar to see it light up, and “Dikia Mou Alithia” brings together edgy, loosely-proggy heavy rock in a standout near the album’s center. Wherever they go — yes, even on “Jazzooka” — Bazooka seem to have a plan in mind, some vision of where they want to end up, and Kapou Allou is accordingly gleeful in its purposed weirdoism. At 41 minutes, it’s neither too long nor too short, and vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Xanthos Papanikolaou, guitarist/backing vocalist Vassilis Tzelepis, bassist Aris Rammos and drummer/backing vocalist John Vulgaris cast themselves less as tricksters than simply a band working outside the expected confines of genre. In any language — as it happens, Greek — their material is expansive stylistically but tight in performance, and that tension adds to the delight of hearing something so gleefully its own.

Bazooka on Facebook

Inner Ear Records store


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The Temple Releasing Of Solitude Triumphant Dec. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 19th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Long-running Greek doom metallers The Temple released their debut album, Forevermourn — get it? — in 2016 and followed that with a split single alongside Sweden’s Acolytes of Moros the next year. Of Solitude Triumphant is the first offering of any kind, then, in half a decade from the four-piece who released their first demo in 2007. They’re streaming the new song “A White Flame for the Fear of Death” now and if you’ve got a box for doom, said box will be thoroughly ticked, Gregorian-style chanting and classical-style grandiosity. If you’re coming back after five years, no reason not to go big, and The Temple do that with a resonant sense of intention.

The backing of label I Hate Records is noteworthy here as well. The imprint has a long history of releasing killer doom, and though in recent years they’ve branched out along other metallic traditionalisms, there’s no denying they know their stuff when it comes to slow riffs and grueling groove. It caught my eye, anyhow, and then my ear. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.

From the PR wire:

The temple of Solitude Triumphant

THE TEMPLE – “Of Solitude Triumphant”

Label: I Hate Records
Release date: 9. Dec. 2022

I Hate Records proudly presents the new full-length album of Greek doom metallers THE TEMPLE!

The new temple pillar. Hear these words vilifiers and pretenders; the finest doom band from the Hellenic Republic has returned for their second outing in triumph! Building upon the foundations of their house of worship, their solemn threnodies of purest doom take the form of a concept album about a soul’s journey from coming into being, all the way through rebirth, loss, the fear of death and ending with it at peace in the Light.

Highly recommended to fans of Scald, Isole and While Heaven Wept!

A White Flame For The Fear Of Death” – Official Track Stream:


1. Me To Lichno Tou Astrou
2. The Foundations
3. Reborn In Virtue
4. Profound Loss
5. A White Flame For The Fear Of Death
6. Premonitions Of The Final Hour
7. The Lord Of Light
(playing time: 49:54 min.)

Father Alex – Bass / Vocals
Felipe – Guitar (Lead)
Stefanos – Guitar (Rhythm)
Paul – Drums



The Temple, Of Solitude Triumphant (2022)

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Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran: Sinners’ Fate

Posted in Reviews on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mansion first death of the lutheran

What one didn’t necessarily expect from Mansion’s debut album was how much it would convey its rigidity in tone as well as in its theme. First Death of the Lutheran has been a long time in the making, as the Turku, Finland, outfit started in 2013 by self-releasing their We Shall Live EP (review here), which was soon picked up by Nine Records, and certainly they’ve covered a swath of styles since then with the subsequent The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 single (discussed here) and the Uncreation EP (review here) in 2014, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here) or their comporting-with-sinners 2017 split with Cardinal Wyrm, but still, the five-track/42-minute offering through I Hate Records is a surprise in its general sound. Where their earlier work had more of a retro feel, not quite boogie rock but not shy in its shuffle either, First Death of the Lutheran seeks to and succeeds in conveying the severity of its lyrical basis by sharpening its guitar tones and the production overall.

In defiance of what has become the standard for cult rock in Europe and elsewhere, it is not a warm-sounding album, with sing-songy lyrics about worshiping the devil or whatever else. Mansion‘s perspective has always been on another level. Now their sound matches that idea. They are, as of now, inseparable from their conceptual foundation, born out of the idea of not just singing about a thing, but becoming the thing itself. And specificity. I don’t know how much of general Finnish history covers the endtime-obsessed Kartanoist sect and their strict belief in the Christian Bible, celibacy, and the notion that after World War I in Europe, Jesus was returning to punish sinners, but the band and appointed lyricist Mikael have certainly dug into the history.

Mansion vocalist Alma takes her name from Alma Kartano, who led the group, and sure enough is joined by a congregation, with fellow vocalist Osmo, guitarists Jaakob and Veikko-Tapio, bassist Immanuel, drummer Atami, organist Matti-Juhani, as well as a range of guests appearing on First Death of the Lutheran, including Sami Albert Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre) on “The Eternal,” as well as saxophonist Toivo on closer “First Death,” Antti-Mikael on percussion, Kimmo on violin and trumpet, Ivan on hurdy-gurdy, and so on. All of these arrangement elements are put to work toward the singular if varied purpose of embodying the harshness of dedicated dogmatic idolatry. The snare in opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) evokes flagellation. The effects-laden condemnations of “Lutheran” — of which even the single-word title seems accusatory — lumbering low end and far-back piano line and emergent mournful violin add an air of authoritarianism to Alma‘s highlighted vocals, Hynninen-led testimony of “The Eternal,” choral apex of “1933” and darkly psychedelic cacophony that closes in the 12-minute stretch of “First Death”: it all feeds into the centrality of the point of view.

promo_mansion5 pic by ulla kudjoi-1000

They do not waver. There is no relenting, and particularly in the call and response between Alma and Osmo on “First Death” or in the chorus of “Wretched Hope,” or even as Alma relinquishes the forward position on the centerpiece, there is an underlying sexual tension that speaks to the corrupt nature of religious fanaticism. Tempt and condemn. This trait has always been in Mansion‘s approach, but on First Death of the Lutheran, especially in the vocal trades and amid the increased experimentalism of the instrumental side and production, it’s all the more resonant, and it adds to the sinister nature of the material itself. Certainly the summary hook in “Wretched Hope” of “Hear my warning/The lord is calling/Do you see the signs?/It’s the end of times,” and the doomly march to which they set it is made all the stronger for it, and likewise the bleak swirl that follows in “Lutheran.” And as the album unfolds, it only grows bolder and broader in its encompassing stylization, such that by the time “First Death” starts with its combination of earthbound rhythm and airier guitars in the initial, trumpet-inclusive forward progression and steps into alignment around the riff that holds sway for its first half, the sense is that Mansion have set themselves up to go anywhere.

There’s less of an expectation as the record plays through, then, for songs to sound the same or to carry a similar approach to their making, because already the band have worked diligently — and again, successfully — to undermine any. At the same time they do this, though, it’s the theme that unites the album on the whole, so that as far as Mansion range considering where they started from half a decade ago, they never lose sight of what it is bringing their songs together, the underlying purpose of expression. So the theme not only proves strong enough to maintain itself lyrically throughout the five tracks, but to help present First Death of the Lutheran as a singular work, however varied its sound might ultimately be. The production has a role in this as well, of course, but as noted, even that ties into the band’s adoption of the tenets of Kartanoism. As “First Death” makes its way into its second half around the winding vocal lines that resolve themselves with the final assessment, “You’re a sinner,” it’s a culmination on every level through which that song and those before it have functioned.

And yet the crescendo is still to come. That takes hold as the back end of “First Death” builds into its final wash, Alma cutting through all the while in last moments of preach, with a long-held sax note — excruciatingly tense by the time it lets go — as the final element sacrificed. The level of achievement here isn’t to be understated. Not only have Mansion stretched their conceptual designs out over the course of a full-length, which is something that, frankly, they’ve been ready to do for a while, but with that full-length, they’ve actively worked against what was expected from them, while moving forward in craft overall, greatly increasing their scope and carving out a sonic niche beyond microgenre that is immediately their own and, more importantly, immediately under their command. It is a powerful, awaited debut that moves beyond what one could have even hoped for it, and it not only puts Mansion on their own echelon of cultistry, but realizes their righteousness in a new form that feels like a grim future made flesh.

Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran (2018)

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Thou, Liquid Visions, Benthic Realm, Ape Machine, Under, Evil Triplet, Vestjysk Ørken, Dawn of Winter, Pale Heart, Slowbro

Posted in Reviews on December 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


We meet again! The second week of this amply-proportioned Quarterly Review begins today as we move ever closer toward the inevitable 100-album finish line on Friday. There is an incredible amount of music to get through this week, so I don’t want to delay for too long, but as we look out across the vast stretch of distortion to come, I need to say thank you for reading, and I hope that you’ve been able to find something that’s kicking your ass a little bit in all the right ways so far. If not, well, there are 50 more records on the way for you to give it another shot.

Here goes.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Thou, Magus

thou magus

How can something be so raw and forward thinking at the same time? Baton Rouge’s Thou might be the band of their generation who’ve added the most to sludge in terms of pushing the style in new directions and shaping genre to their purposes. Magus (on Sacred Bones), their fourth or fifth full-length depending on whom you ask, is an overwhelming 75-minute 2LP of inward and outward destructive force, as heavy in its ambience as in its weight and throat-ripping sonic extremity, and yet somehow is restrained. To listen to the march of “Transcending Dualities,” there’s such a sense of seething happening beneath the surface of that chugging, marching riff, and after its creeping introduction, “In the Kingdom of Meaning” seems intent on beating its own rhythm, as in, with fists, and even a stop-by from frequent guest vocalist Emily McWilliams does little to detract from that impression. Along with Magus, which rightly finishes with the lurching threat of “Supremacy,” Thou have released three EPs and a split this year, so their pace runs in something of a contrast to their tempos, but whether you can keep up or not, Thou continue to press forward in crafting pivotal, essential brutalizations.

Thou website

Sacred Bones Records website


Liquid Visions, Hypnotized

Liquid Visions Hypnotized

Sulatron Records‘ pressing of Liquid Visions‘ 2002 debut, Hypnotized, is, of course, a reissue, but also the first time the album has been on vinyl, and it’s not long into opener “State of Mind” or the grunge-gone-classic-psych “Waste” before they earn the platter. Members of the band would go on to participate in acts like Zone Six, Wedge, Electric Moon and Johnson Noise, so it’s easy enough to understand how the band ties into the family tree of underground heavy psych in Berlin, but listening to the glorious mellow-unfolding-into-noise-wash-freakout of 15-minute closer “Paralyzed,” the appeal is less about academics than what the five-piece of vocalists/guitarists H.P. Ringholz (also e-sitar) and Kiryk Drewinski (also organ), bassist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also Fender Rhodes and Mellotron), drummer Chris Schwartzkinsky and thereminist Katja Wolff were able to conjure in terms of being both ahead of their time and behind it. As the album moves from its opening shorter tracks to the longer and more expansive later material, it shows its original CD-era linearity, but if an LP reissue is what it takes to get Hypnotized out there again, so be it. I doubt many who hear it will complain.

Liquid Visions on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore


Benthic Realm, We Will Not Bow

Benthic Realm We Will Not Bow

The second short release from Benthic Realm behind a 2017 self-titled EP (review here) finds the Massachusetts-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse), bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) working toward a refined approach bridging the divide between doom and darker, harder hitting metal. They do this with marked fluidity, van Guilder shifting smoothly between melodic clean singing and harsher screams as Murphy and Blomquist demonstrate like-minded ease in turns of pace and aggression. The penultimate semi-title-track “I Will Not Bow” is an instrumental, but “Save us All,” “Thousand Day Rain” and closer “Untethered” — the latter with some Slayer ping ride and ensuing double-kick gallop — demonstrate the riff-based songwriting that carries Benthic Realm through their stylistic swath and ultimately ties their ideas together. If they think they might be ready for a debut full-length, they certainly sound that way.

Benthic Realm on Thee Facebooks

Benthic Realm website


Ape Machine, Darker Seas

ape machine darker seas

Maybe Ape Machine need to make a video with cats playing their instruments or something, but five albums deep, the Portland outfit seem to be viciously underrated. Releasing Darker Seas on Ripple, they take on a more progressive approach with songs like “Piper’s Rats” donning harmonized vocals and more complex interplay with guitar. It’s a more atmospheric take overall — consider the acoustic/electric beginning of “Watch What You Say” and it’s semi-nod to seafaring Mastodon, the likewise-unplugged and self-awarely medieval “Nocturne in D Flat (The Jester)” and the rocking presentation of what’s otherwise fist-pumping NWOBHM on “Bend Your Knee” — but Ape Machine have always been a band with songwriting at their center, and even as they move into the best performances of their career, hitting a point of quality that even producer Steve Hanford (Poison Idea) decided to join them after the recording as their new drummer, there’s no dip in the quality of their work. I don’t know what it might take to get them the attention they deserve — though a cat video would no doubt help — but if Darker Seas underscores anything, it’s that they deserve it.

Ape Machine on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp


Under, Stop Being Naive

under stop being naive

Stockport, UK, three-piece Under bring a progressive edge to their pummel with their second album, Stop Being Naive (on APF), beginning with the deceptively thoughtful arrangement of crushing opener and longest track (immediate points) “Malcontent,” which unfurls a barrage of riffs and varied vocals contributed by guitarist Simon Mayo, bassist Matt Franklin and drummer/keyboardist Andy Preece. Later cuts like “Soup” and “Grave Diggers” tap into amorphous layers of extremity, and “Happy” punks out with such tones as to remind of the filth that became grindcore in the UK nearly 40 years ago, but while “Big Joke” rolls out with a sneer and closer “Circadian Driftwood” has a more angular foundation, there’s an overarching personality that comes through Under‘s material that feels misanthropic and critical in a way perhaps best summarized by the record’s title. Stop Being Naive is sound enough advice, and it comes presented with a fervent argument in its own favor.

Under on Thee Facebooks

APF Records webstore


Evil Triplet, Have a Nice Trip

evil triplet have a nice trip

Trimming the runtime of their 2017 debut, Otherworld (review here) nearly in half, Austin weirdo rockers Evil Triplet present the six-song/38-minute single LP Have a Nice Trip on Super Secret with classic garage buzz tone on “A Day Like Any Other,” a cosmic impulse meeting indie sneer on opener “Space Kitten” and a suitably righteous stretch-out on “Aren’t You Experienced?” — which is just side A of the thing. The pulsating “Open Heart” might be the highlight for its Hawkwindian drive and momentary drift, but “Pyramid Eye”‘s blown-out freakery isn’t to be devalued, and the eight-minute capper “Apparition” is dead on from the start of its slower march through the end of its hook-topped jam, reminding of the purpose behind all the sprawl and on-their-own-wavelength vibes. A tighter presentation suits Evil Triplet and lets their songs shine through while still highlighting the breadth of their style and its unabashed adventurousness. May they continue to grow strange and terrify any and all squares they might encounter.

Evil Triplet on Thee Facebooks

Super Secret Records website


Vestjysk Ørken, Cosmic Desert Fuzz

Vestjysk orken Cosmic Desert Fuzz

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get on Vestjysk Ørken‘s debut EP, Cosmic Desert Fuzz. At very least, the Danish trio’s three-tracker first outing is aptly-named, and guitarist/vocalist Bo Sejer, bassist Søren Middelkoop Nielsen and drummer Thomas Bonde Sørensen indeed tap into space, sand and tone on the release, but each song also has a definite theme derived from cinema. To wit, “Dune” (11:41) samples Dune, “…Of the Dead” (9:13) taps into the landmark George Romero horror franchise, and “Solaris” (14:15) draws from the 1972 film of the same name. The spaciousness and hypnotic reach of the latter has an appeal all its own in its extended and subtle build, but all three songs not only pay homage to these movies but seem to work at capturing some aspect of their atmosphere. Vestjysk Ørken aren’t quite rewriting soundtracks, but they’re definitely in conversation with the works cited, and with an entire universe of cinema to explore, there are accordingly no limits as to where they might go. Something tells me it won’t be long before we find out how deep their obsession runs.

Vestjysk Ørken on Instagram

Vestjysk Ørken on Bandcamp


Dawn of Winter, Pray for Doom

Dawn of Winter Pray for Doom

I have no interest in playing arbiter to what’s “true” in doom metal or anything else, and neither am I qualified to do so. Instead, I’ll just note that Germany’s Dawn of Winter, who trace their roots back nearly 30 years and have released full-lengths on a one-per-decade basis in 1998, 2008 and now 2018 with Pray for Doom, have their house well in order when it comes to conveying the classic tenets of the genre. Issued through I Hate, the eight-track/51-minute offering finds drummer Dennis Schediwy punctuating huge nodder grooves led by Jörg M. Knittel‘s riffs, while bassist Joachim Schmalzried adds low end accentuation and frontman Gerrit P. Mutz furthers the spirit of traditionalism on vocals. Songs like “The Thirteenth of November” and the stomping “The Sweet Taste of Ruin” are timeless for being born too late, and in the spirit of Europe’s finest trad doom, Dawn of Winter evoke familiar aspects without directly worshiping Black Sabbath or any of their other aesthetic forebears. Pray for Doom is doom, because doom, by doomers, for doomers. The converted will be accordingly thrilled to hear them preach.

Dawn of Winter on Thee Facebooks

I Hate Records website


Pale Heart, Jungeland

pale heart jungleland

Semi-retroist Southern heavy blues boogie, some tight flourish of psychedelia, and the occasional foray into broader territory, Stuttgart three-piece Pale Heart‘s StoneFree debut long-player, Junegleland is striking in its professionalism and, where some bands might sacrifice audio fidelity at the altar of touching on a heavy ’70s aesthetic, guitarist/vocalist Marc Bauer, key-specialist Nico Bauer and drummer Sebastian Neumeier (since replaced by Marvin Schaber) present their work in crisp fashion, letting the construction of the songs instead define the classicism of their influence. Low end is filled out by Moog where bass might otherwise be, and in combination with Hammond and Fender Rhodes and other synth, there’s nothing as regard missing frequencies coming from Jungleland, the nine songs of which vary in their character but are universally directed toward honing a modern take on classic heavy, informed as it is by Southern rock, hard blues and the tonal warmth of yore. A 50-minute debut is no minor ask of one’s audience in an age of fickle Bandcamp attentions, but cuts like the 12-minute “Transcendence” have a patience and character that’s entrancing without trickery of effects.

Pale Heart on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website


Slowbro, Nothings

Slowbro Nothings

UK instrumentalist three-piece Slowbro‘s full-length debut, Nothings, brings forth eight tracks and 51 minutes of heavy-ended sludge rock notable for the band’s use of dueling eight-string guitars instead of the standard guitar/bass setup. How on earth does something like that happen? I don’t know. Maybe Sam Poole turned to James Phythian one day and was like, “Hey, I got two eight-string guitars. So, band?” and then a band happened. Zeke Martin — and kudos to him on not being intimidated by all those strings — rounds out on drums and together the trio embark on cuts like “Sexlexia” (a very sexy learning disability, indeed) and “Broslower,” which indeed chugs out at a considerably glacial pace, and “Fire, Fire & Fire,” which moves from noise rock to stonerly swing with the kind of aplomb that can only be conjured by those who don’t give a shit about style barriers. It’s got its ups and downs, but as Nothings — the title-track of which quickly cuts to silence and stays there until a final crash — rounds out with “Pisscat” and the eight-strings go ever so slightly post-rock, it’s hard not to appreciate the willful display of fuckall as it happens. It’s a peculiar kind of charm that makes it both charming and peculiar.

Slowbro on Thee Facebooks

Creature Lab Records website


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Six Dumb Questions & Full Album Stream: Mansion

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

You’ll see Turku, Finland’s Mansion referred to as ‘cult rock’ a lot. It’s kind of true the way abbreviations stand in for words. The truth of what Mansion do and have done since their 2014 premiere EP, We Shall Live EP (review here), and its soon-after follow-up, Uncreation  (review here), is much more complex. Their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran, is out this week on I Hate Records, and it pushes to new ground in both the conceptual framework and actual songwriting approach on the part of the band. As 12-minute summary/closer “First Death” starts out with psychedelic flourish and effects en route to a sax-inclusive tumult of experimentalist noise, it is as affecting in atmosphere as in impact, and though I’ll have a review of the album in the coming weeks, I was given the opportunity to ask the band some questions, and it wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

For those who didn’t hear Uncreation, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or any of the other short releases they’ve had out along the way, Mansion follow a theme not just of vague, generalized occultmansion first death of the lutheran thematics, but actually take on Kartanoism as their working foundation. The doomsday-obsessed post-WWI breakaway Protestant group followed leader Alma Kartano and her strict interpretations of the Bible and rules for everyday life. That kind of severity shows up in every whip-crack of the snare drum on opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) and in the grueling forward march and unremitting low-light claustrophobia of “Lutheran” and “The Eternal,” which follow. With mysterious “1933” ahead of the finale, First Death of the Lutheran is an appropriate endgame for the style of cult heavy as a whole, but at the same time, it works against genre convention in its sound and the overarching harshness of its production. Not raw — it’s clear-sounding — but sharp.

I’ll have a proper review of the album up in the coming weeks, but on the occasion of the release, I’m flat-out honored to host the premiere of its entirety below. It’s one I’ve been waiting a while for, and its reach only exceeds what I imagined they’d come up with for it.

Please enjoy the stream and the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Mansion

It’s been five years since We Shall Live was released and First Death of the Lutheran is the band’s debut album. How do you see Mansion as having grown in that time? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish with the LP?

Our musical expression has progressed from a traditional retro approach to a more experimental direction. With time the congregation has grown both spiritually and in number. The album was released as a reminder for the sorrowless that the endgame has begun. For the most of them salvation is out of reach.

Tell me about writing First Death of the Lutheran. Over how long a period were the songs put together? Was it a different frame of mind writing for an album instead of an EP or a single? Beyond their theme, how do the songs fit together for the band? How much of the song placement and the progression of the record was mapped out before you went into the studio?

The first song on the album, “Wretched Hope,” was written right after We Shall Live EP was released, while the last song, First Death was written during the recordings of the debut album. The songs on the album might span over several years but it doesn’t mean that those were the only ones we have written so far. We have songs ready or half-ready for at least three albums. The songs you hear on First Death of the Lutheran are picked from our vault based on how they fit together. We recorded seven songs but decided to cut two as they didn’t fit in with the others.

The Uncreation EP was supposed to be our debut album. Due to some technical issues we had to cut two tracks off the album. Those were re-recorded later and released as the Altar Sermon EP.

The whole album seems to lead to “First Death.” Did you know in writing that song that it would be the finale? What is happening there to summarize the album?

As soon as the song was starting to find its form we knew that it would be the finale. In ”First Death” we simply state that there is a difference between us and you. We will be saved and you will burn in the everlasting fires of hell while we bathe in glory in the Kingdom of Heaven by His side. Pretty much what we want to say with the whole album.

What were the circumstances of the recording? There’s so much a blend of harsh noise and melody throughout, and it seems real attention was paid to the details of tone and effects. How long were you in the studio?

We recorded most of the album at our secret cottage in Huittinen. That only took a week. The mixing, though, was a different story. We had to change the mixing engineer after the first version of the album was done. There were too many details that got buried in the mix and so we had to start all over again to get it right.

How would you explain the central philosophy of Kartanoism? What’s the significance specifically of the year 1933?

We believe that most of the sorrowless wretches roaming the earth haven’t got a clue how mighty God is and how powerful his wrath is. Judgement Day will be a merciless slaughter of man and only the chosen few will be saved for eternal agony in the afterlife. We believe sex is a mortal sin and that there should not be an organisation between man and God.

Blasphemous churches will fall, mark our words. We in Finland are surrounded by Lutherans, whose way of life is hypocritical and untrue. They have lost their connection to the Lord Almighty tempted by greed and their vain egos. They will be surprised when their days are done. 1933 is the year when these losers released a sacrilegious translation of the Holy Bible.

Will Mansion tour in 2019 to support the release? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have live sermons and festivals booked for 2019. Book us. Today!

Merry Christmas!

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Mansion Premiere “Wretched Hope”; Debut Album First Death of the Lutheran Due Nov. 16

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Like the dogmatic end-time apocalypse from whence it takes its central theme, Mansion‘s first long-player has seen many delays. It’s been half a decade since their We Shall Live EP (review here) established the Finnish outfit as high-grade practitioners of cultistry and darkly atmospheric heavy rock, lurching at a creep or seething with righteous fury at a moment’s notice amid memorable songcraft given presence through the lurking melodies of vocalist Alma; her stage moniker taken from cult leader Alma Kartano around whose congregation the band is based. They’ve had other offerings along the way, whether it’s 2014’s Uncreation EP (review here) or 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or their split last year with Cardinal Wyrm, but are well due a full-length, and Nov. 16 (vinyl later), I Hate Records will issue First Death of the Lutheran, their awaited debut album.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but for those of us who are unworthy — which is everyone — Mansion are giving an enticing first taste with a mansion first death of the lutherannew video for opening track “Wretched Hope.” It has the band’s signature all over it in terms of ambience, the progressive complexity of its arrangement and its grounded hook: “Hear my warning/The Lord is calling/Do you see the signs/It’s the end of times.” This arrives amid vocals shared between Alma and fellow-singer Osmo, a plodding rhythm and a vivid conveyance of the ceremony at hand. Like the best of Mansion‘s work to-date, it surpasses in concept and realization those who watch horror movies and call it cult rock to instead don a prophecy-minded belief system that comes through the song at hand. It’s theatrical, as they have been all along, but there’s no denying the effectiveness of the display. Indeed, it is an execution ready for worship.

Those sensitive to flashing lights will find harsh penance in the clip itself, but as you listen, take special note of the interweaving layers of guitar, the organ that fills out the melody and adds to the song-as-mass feel of the track itself, the buzzsaw-tone solo in the second half and the arrangement of vocals in call and response and in the chaos that ends. I won’t claim to know how the rest of First Death of the Lutheran plays out subsequent to “Wretched Hope,” but there is a feeling of mood being set throughout “Wretched Hope,” and these are dark times indeed. You can repent if you want. Won’t do you any good.

First Death of the Lutheran is out Nov. 16. I’ll hope to have more to come on it before then. In the meantime, video and comment follow.


Mansion, “Wretched Hope” official video premiere


”First Death of the Lutheran” represents the end of the insidious sinners’ earthly serpentine path as their life ends and they pass on to face the Final Judgement of the Lord Almighty. No doubt in our minds that they will end up horrified by their fate.

The Lutheran hypocrites have wasted their lives following their deceitful priests, blinded by their drivel. And these perverted wretches of the cloth have diluted the Word to serve their own greedy and lustful needs. May these priests be impaled by
the claws of their true master, the accuser, Satan. And may the Lutheran churches fall in the name of the Lord Almighty, for they do not honour Him, but organised human evil. For His is the Glory now and eternally.

”You think you are on your way to heaven
as the reverend promised you.
Sheep to the slaughter in the name of satan.”
– Alma Kartano

Mikael (lyricist) on First Death of the Lutheran:

I Hate Records is trying to reconcile in the eyes of the Lord Almighty after releasing despicable titles, which promote devil worship and sinful ways of life, by publishing the debut full lenght First Death of the Lutheran by the righteous Finnish musical talent Mansion. Good luck to them for He may not be that forgiving.

Video directed and edited by Tommi Hoffrén. On set director and camera by Anssi Ikonen.

4. 1933


Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Zaum Post “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” Video; Touring Canada Next Month

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


I like the idea of a band saying goodbye to one release on the way to their next. I also like the idea of bands swapping tours — a little of the ol’ you-come-here-we’ll-come-there happening. Accordingly, as New Brunswick two-piece Zaum have a video posted for “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” from their 2016 album, Eidolon (review here), and seem to be using that as a means to bid farewell to the record as the make ready to have one out in 2019, and as they’re hitting the road in their native Canada alongside Gothenburg, Sweden, three-piece Firebreather, with whom they toured Europe in 2017, it seems like nothing but good news all the way around.

And fair enough on the timing of moving forward. Eidolon has sold through multiple vinyl pressings as well as a tape release and the band have a whopping five copies left of the CD as listed on their Bandcamp page at the time of this post. One imagines if they’re not gone before, they will be by the time the next tour is over. “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” of course comes from the album, but is an edit of the full side B track, the complete version of which runs a drone-filled 21 minutes and can be heard with its side A compatriot, “Influence of the Magi,” which also runs an even 21 minutes, in the player at the bottom of this post.

It doesn’t at all take Zaum that long to immerse the listener in their tones and rhythm, though. The bass/synth/drum/noise combination is hypnotic from the outset even in its shortened video form, and the narrative of the clip itself is likewise intriguing. Enough so that I can’t help but wonder if the band might at some point do a video for “The Enlightenment (Pt. II)” before next year gets here and they record and release their third album. Seems by the end of the video that the story is just heating up.

That’s a dad joke. I can make those now.

More info and tour dates follow the video below.

Please enjoy:

Zaum, “The Enlightenment Pt. 1” official video

New Brunswick’s ECMA and Music NB award winning mantra doom duo ZAUM are sharing with fans their new music video for “The Enlightenment.” The track is off ZAUM’s second full length “Eidolon” released in 2016 via I HATE Records with distribution via Plastic Head/Sony Music throughout Europe and Century Media in North America to follow their 2014 debut album “Oracles”.

ZAUM’s Kyle Alexander McDonald (Bass/Vocals/Synth/Textures) comments:

“Being that I’m a giant fan of the work of Seth Smith and Nancy Urich (of CUT/OFF/TAIL) due to their unique and unconventional approach to filmmaking – I felt Seth’s David Lynch-esque perspective could be a bizarre yet intriguing take on “The Enlightenment” for people to consider. Their work (like our music) inspires and encourages thought rather than providing literal answers. I’m thrilled with the result and hope people open their minds to the layers of potential reality.”

In their three years as an active touring band ZAUM have amassed 200+ shows (mainly international) under their belts including support stints for Voivod, Pentagram, and Cauldron. The duo recently announced they will be embarking on Canadian dates in Ontario and Quebec (dates listed below) with support from Sweden’s FIREBREATHER whom the band toured Europe with last year.

08/24/18 – Saint John, NB @ Secondspin *
09/13/18 – Ottawa, ON @ Orange Art Gallery **
09/14/18 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo **
09/15/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse
09/16/18 – Hamilton, ON @ Doors
09/17/18 – Barrie, ON @ Foxx Lounge
09/18/18 – TBC @ TBC
09/19/18 – Kitchener, ON @ Hellcat
09/20/18 – Windsor, ON @ Windsor Beer Exchange
09/21/18 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition T.O.
09/22/18 – Quebec City, QC @ Scanner (venue change from Vietnam)
* denotes ZAUM only!
** denotes tribal dance artist Nawal Doucette performing in ZAUM

Zaum is:
Kyle Alexander McDonald (Bass/Vocals/Synth/Textures)
Christopher Lewis (Drums/Percussion)

Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

Zaum on Thee Facebooks

Zaum on Twitter

Zaum on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

Superbob Records website

Superbob Records on Bandcamp

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Zaum Announce Tour Dates with Firebreather

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Hey, look. Whenever Zaum want to get back in the studio and work on their third full-length, that’s cool by me. They want to jump right in and have at it? Great. They want to take a little time and hit the road with obvious-buds Firebreather and hammer out the stuff on tour first? Super. After their 2016 album, Eidolon (review here), I have every faith that the Moncton, New Brunswick, duo know what’s best. However they want to go, that’s cool by me.

Not that “being cool by me” is here or there, you understand. But still. Go get ’em, dudes.

Zaum and Firebreather toured Europe together in Sept. 2017, so their hooking up again for this Canadian run a year later only seems fair. The two bands go way back, as Zaum also toured with Galvano, the prior outfit of Firebreather guitarist Mattias Nööjd and drummer Fredrik Käll. Sometimes you get along with somebody. I’m kind of surprised the two bands haven’t put out a split at this point. Zaum — vocalist/bassist/synthesist/sitarist Kyle Alexander and singly-named drummer Lewis — are also reportedly looking to tour the US in 2019, and presumably the new album will be out by then too. Good news all around.

Poster and tour dates follow, courtesy of the social medias:

zaum firebreather tour

One last tour before we head into the studio for album #3. We’ll have our brothers FIREBREATHER from Sweden in tow! Poster by Josiah Barnett.

08/24/18 – Saint John, NB @ Secondspin **
09/13/18 – Ottawa, ON @ Orange Art Gallery
09/14/18 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo
09/15/18 – Sudbury, ON @ Townehouse
09/16/18 – Hamilton, ON @ Doors
09/17/18 – Barrie, ON @ Foxx Lounge
09/18/18 – TBC @ TBC
09/19/18 – Kitchener, ON @ Hellcat
09/20/18 – Windsor, ON @ Windsor Beer Exchange
09/21/18 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition T.O.
09/22/18 – Quebec City, QC @ Vietnam
** denotes ZAUM only!

ZAUM is:
Kyle Alexander : Vocals, Basses, Sitar, Synth.
Lewis : Drums, Lights

ZAUM recognize the support of Music / Musique NB and the Government of New Brunswick


Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

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