Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Usnea, Oceanlord, Morass of Molasses, Fuzzy Grapes, Iress, Frogskin, Albinö Rhino, Cleõphüzz, Arriver

Posted in Reviews on April 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Kind of an odd Quarterly Review, huh? I know. The two extra days. Well, here’s the thing. I’ve already got the better part of a 50-record QR booked for next month. I’ve slid a few of those albums in here to replace things I already covered blah blah whatever, but there’s just a ton of stuff out right now, and a lot of it I want to talk about, so yeah. I tacked on the two extra days here to get to 70 records, and in May we’ll do another 50, and if you want to count that as Spring (I can’t decide yet if I do or not; if you’ve got an opinion, I’d love to hear it in the comments), that’s 120 records covered even if I start over and go from 1-50 instead of 71-120. Any way you go, it’s nearly enough that you could listen to two records per week for the next full year based just on two weeks and two days of posts.

That’s insane. And yet here we are. Two weeks in a row wouldn’t have been enough, and any more than that and I get so backed up on other stuff that whatever stress I undercut by covering a huge swath in the QR is replaced by being so behind on everything that isn’t said QR. Does that make sense at all? No? Well fine then. Shit.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Ecstatic Vision, Live at Duna Jam

Ecstatic Vision Live at Duna Jam

This is a good thing for everyone. Here’s why: For the band? Easy. They get a new thing to sell at the merch table on their upcoming European tour. Win. For the label? Obviously the cash from whatever they sell, plus the chance to showcase one of their acts tearing it up on European soil. “Check out how awesome this shit is plus we’re behind it.” Always good for branding. For fans of the band, well, you already know you need it. I don’t have to tell you that. But Ecstatic Vision‘s Live at Duna Jam — as a greater benefit to the universe around it — runs deeper than that. It’s an example to follow. You wanna see, wanna hear how it’s done? This is how it’s done, kids. You get up on that stage, step out on that beach, and you throw everything you have into your art, every fucking time. This is who Ecstatic Vision are. They’re the band who blow minds like the trees in the old videos of A-bomb tests. They’ve got six songs here, a clean 38-minute live LP, and for the betterment of existence in general, you can absolutely hear in it the ferocity with which Ecstatic Vision deliver live. The fact that it’s from Duna Jam — the ultimate Eurofest daydream — is neat, but so help me gawd they could’ve recorded it in a Philly basement and they’d still be this visceral. That’s who they are. And if we, as listeners, are lucky, others will hear this and follow their example.

Ecstatic Vision on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Usnea, Bathed in Light

usnea bathed in light

Oppressive in atmosphere regardless of volume but with plenty of volume to go around, Portland all-doomers Usnea return after six years with their third full-length, Bathed in Light, a grueling and ultimately triumph-of-death-ant work spanning six songs and 43 minutes of unremitting drear positioned in the newer-school vein of emotionally resonant extreme death-doom. Plodding until it isn’t, wrenching in its screams until it isn’t, the album blossoms cruelties blackened and crushing and makes the chanting in “Premeditatio Malorum” not at all out of place just the same, the slow-churning metal unrelentingly brutal as it shifts into caustic noise in that penultimate track — just one example among the many scattered throughout of the four-piece turning wretched sounds into consuming landscapes. The earlier guitar squeals on “The Compleated Sage” would be out of place if not for the throatripping and blastbeating happening immediately prior, and whether it’s the synth at the outset and the soaring guitar at the end of “To the Deathless” or the Bell Witchian ambient start to closer “Uncanny Valley” — the riff, almost stoner — before it bursts to violence at three minutes into its 8:27 on the way to a duly massive, guttural finish for the record, Usnea mine cohesion from contradictions and are apparently unscathed by the ringer through which they put their audience. Sometimes nothing but the most miserable will do.

Usnea on Facebook

Translation Loss Records store


Oceanlord, Kingdom Cold

Oceanlord Kingdom Cold

The more one listens to Kingdom Cold, the impressive Magnetic Eye Records debut LP from Melbourne, Australia’s Oceanlord, the more there is to hear. The subtle Patrick Walker-style edge in the vocals of “Kingdom” and the penultimate roller “So Cold,” the Elephant Tree-style nod riff in “2340,” the way the bass underscores the ambient guitar and layered melodies in “Siren,” the someone-in-this-band-listens-to-extreme-metal flashes in the guitar as “Isle of the Dead” heads into its midsection, and the way the shift into and through psychedelia seems so organic on closer “Come Home,” the three-piece seeming just to reach out further from where they’ve been standing all the while for the sake of adding even more breadth to the proceedings. If the Magnetic Eye endorsement didn’t already put you over the edge, I hope this will, because what Oceanlord seem to be doing — and what they did on their 2020 demo (review here), where “Isle of the Dead” and “Come Home” appeared — is to work from a foundation in doom and slow-heavy microgenres and pick the elements that most resonate with them as the basis for their songs. They bring them into their own context, which is not something everyone does on their fifth record, let alone their first. So if it’s hearing the potential that gets you on board, fine, but the important thing is you should just get on board. They’re onto something, and part of what I like about Kingdom Cold is I’m not sure what.

Oceanlord on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store


Morass of Molasses, End All We Know

Morass of Molasses End All We Know

Thoroughly fuzzed and ready to rock, Reading, UK, three-piece Morass of Molasses follow 2019’s The Ties That Bind (review here) with their third album and Ripple Music label debut, End All We Know, breaking eight songs into two fascinatingly-close-to-even sides running a total of 37 minutes of brash swing and stomp as baritone guitarist/vocalist Bones Huse, bassist Phil Williams and drummer Raj Puni embrace more progressive constructions for their familiar and welcome tonal richness. With Huse‘s vocals settling into a Nick Oliveri-style bark on opener “The Origin of North” and the likes of “Hellfayre” and “Naysayer” on side A, the pattern seems to be set, but the key is third track “Sinkhole,” which prefaces some of the changes the four cuts on side B bring about, trading burl and brash for more dug in arrangements, psychedelic flourish on “Slingshot Around the Sun” and “Terra Nova” — they’re still grounded structurally, but the melodic reach expands significantly and the guitar twists in “Terra Nova” feel specifically heavy psych-derived — before “Prima Materia” combines those hazy colours with prog-rock insistences and “Wings of Reverie” meets metallic soloing with Elder-style expanse. Not a record they could’ve made five years ago, End All We Know comes through as a moment of realization for Morass of Molasses, and their delivery does justice to the ambition behind it.

Morass of Molasses on Facebook

Ripple Music website


Fuzzy Grapes, Volume 1

fuzzy grapes volume 1

Real headfucker, this one. And I’ll admit, the temptation to leave the review at that is significant, since so much of the intent behind Fuzzy GrapesVolume 1 seems to be a headfirst dive into the deepweird, but the samples, effects, of course fuzz and gong-and-chant-laced brazenness with which the Flagstaff, Arizona, unit set out on “Sludge Fang,” the Mikael Åkerfeldtian growls in “Snake Dagger” and the art-surf poetry reading in “Dust of Three Strings” that becomes a future cavern of synth and noise before the “Interlude” of birdsong and meditative noodling mark a procession too individual to be ignored. Three songs, break, three songs, break goes the structure of the 25-minute debut offering from the five-piece outfit, and by the time “The Cosmic Throne” begins its pastoral progadelic “ahh”s and dreamy ride cymbal jazz, one should be well content to have no idea what’s coming next. Once upon a time elsewhere in the Southwest, there was a collective of kitchen-sink heavy punkers named Leeches of Lore, and Fuzzy Grapes tap some similar adventurousness of spirit, but rarely is a band so much their own thing their first time out. “Made of Solstice” harsh-barks to offset its indie-grunge verse, fleshing out the bassy roll with effects or keys from the chorus onward, jamming like Blind Melon just ran into Amon Amarth getting gas at the Circle K. “Goatcult” ties together some of it with the harsh/chant vocal blend and a cymbal-led push, finishing with the line “Every day the world is ending” before the epilogue “Outro” plays like a vintage 78RPM record singing something about when you’re dead. Don’t expect to understand it the first time though, or maybe the first eight, but know that it’s worth pursuing and meeting the band on their level. I want to hear what they do next and how/if their approach might solidify.

Fuzzy Grapes on Facebook

Fuzzy Grapes on Bandcamp


Iress, Solace EP

IRESS Solace

Conveying genuine emotionality and reach in the vocals of Michelle Malley, the four-track Solace EP from L.A.’s Iress turns its humble 16 minutes into an expressive soundscape of what the kids these days seem to call doomgaze, with post-rock float in the guitar of Graham Walker (who makes his first appearance here) atop the solemn and heavy-bottomed grooves of bassist Michael Maldonado and drummer Glenn Chu for a completeness of experience that’s all the more immersive on headphones in a close-your-eyes kind of listen — that low contemplation of bass after 2:20 into “Soft,” for example, is one of a multitude of details worth appreciating — and though leadoff piece “Blush” begins with a quick rise of feedback and rolls forth with a distinct Jesu-style melancholy, Iress are no less effective or resonant in the sans-drums first two minutes of “Vanish” in accentuating atmosphere before the big crash-in finishes and “Ricochet” offers further dynamic display in its loud/quiet trades, graceful and unhurried in their transitions, the surge of the not-cloying hook densely weighted but not out of place either behind “Vanish” or ahead of “Soft,” even as it’s patience over impact being emphasized as Malley intones “I’m not ready” as a thread through the song. Permit me to disagree with that assessment. The whole band sounds ready, be it for a follow-up album to 2020’s Flaw (which was their second LP) or whatever else may come.

Iress on Facebook

Dune Altar website


Frogskin, III – Into Disgust

Frogskin III Into Disgust

Long-running Finnish troupe Frogskin ooze forth with extremity of purpose even before the harsh-throated declarations of 10-minute opener “Mistress Divine” kick in, and III – Into Disgust maintains the high (or purposefully low, depending on how you want to look at it) standard that initial millstone-slowness sets as “Of Vermin and Man” (8:30) continues the scathe and tension in its unfolding and the somehow-thicker, sample-inclusive centerpiece “Serpent Path” (7:21) highlights violent intention on the way to the shift that brings the atmosphere forward on the two-minute still-a-song “B.B.N.T.B.N.” — the acronym: ‘Bound by nature to be nothing’ — which feels likewise pathological and methodical ahead of closer “The Pyre” (11:46). One might expect in listening that at some point Frogskin will break out at a sprint and start either playing death or black metal, grindcore, etc., but no. They don’t. They don’t give you that. And that’s the point. You don’t get relief or release. There’s no safe energetic payoff waiting. III – Into Disgust is aural quicksand, exclusively. Do not expect mercy because there’s none coming.

Frogskin on Facebook

Iron Corpse store

Violence in the Veins website


Albinö Rhino, Return to the Core

Albinö Rhino Return to the Core

No strangers to working in longform contexts or casting spacier fare amid their doom-rooted riffery, Helsinki’s Albinö Rhino downplay the latter somewhat on their single-song Return to the Core full-length. Their first 12″ since 2016’s Upholder (review here), the trio of guitarist/vocalist/Moogist Kimmo Tyni, bassist/vocalist VH and drummer Viljami Väre welcome back Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also of Space Rock Productions, Øresund Space Collective, etc.) for a synthy guest appearance and Mikko Heikinpoika on vocals and Olli Laamanen on keys, and the resultant scope of “Return to the Core” is duly broad, spreading outward from its acoustic-guitar beginning into cosmic doom rock with a thicker riff breaking doors down at 9:30 or so and a jammed-feeling journey into the greater ‘out there’ that ensues. That back and forth plays out a couple times as they manifest the title in the piece itself — the core being perhaps the done-live basic tracks then expanded through overdubs to the final form — but even when the song devolves starting after the solo somewhere around 22 minutes in, they’re mindful as well as hypnotic en route to the utter doom that transpires circa 24:30, and that they finish in a manner that ties together both aspects tells you there’s been a plan at work all along. They execute it with particular refinement and fluidity.

Albinö Rhino on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Cleõphüzz, Mystic Vulture

Cleophuzz Mystic Vulture

Self-released posthumous to the defunctification of the Quebecois band itself, Mystic Vulture ends up as a rousing swansong for what could’ve been from Cleõphüzz, hitting a nerve with “Desert Rider”‘s blend of atmosphere and grit, cello adding to the space between bass and guitar before the engrossing gang chants round out. With its 46 minutes broken into the two sides of the vinyl issue it will no doubt eventually receive, the eight-song offering — their debut, by the way — makes vocal points of the extended “Desperado” with its organ (I think?) mixed in amid the classic-style fuzz and “Shutdown in the Afterlife” bringing the strings further to the center in an especially spacious close. But whether it’s there or in the respective intros “The End” and “Sarcophage” or the proggy float of “Sortilège” or the Canadiana instrumental and vocal exploration of the title-track itself, Mystic Vulture flows easily across its material, varied but not so far out as to lose its human underpinning, and is more journey than destination. It’s gotten some hype — I think in part because the band aren’t together anymore; heavy music always wants what it can’t have — but in arrangement as well as songwriting, Cleõphüzz crafted the material here with a clear sense of perspective, and the apparent loss of potential becomes part of hearing the album. Some you win, some you lose. At least they got this out.

Cleõphüzz on Facebook

Cleõphüzz on Bandcamp


Arriver, Azimuth

Arriver Azimuth

Expansive metal. Azimuth is the fourth long-player and first in seven years from Chicago progressive/post-metallers Arriver, who answer melody with destruction and crunch with sprawl. From opener “Reenactor” onward, they follow structural paths that are as likely to meld meditative psych with death metal (looking at you, “Only On”) as they are to combust in charred punker aggro rage on “Constellate” or second track “Knot.” The 10-minute penultimate title-track would seem to represent the crossroads at which these ideas meet — a summary as much as anything could hope to be — but even that isn’t the end of it as “None More Unknown” makes dramatic folkish proclamations before concluding with a purposeful nod. “In the Only” winds lead guitar through what might otherwise be post-hardcore, while “Carrion Sun” duly reeks of death in the desert, the complexity of the drum work alone lending gotta-hear status. Plenty of bands claim to be led by their songs. I won’t say I know how Arriver assembled these pieces to make the entirety of Azimuth, but if the band were to say they sat back and let the record write itself and follow its own impulses, I’d believe them more than most. Bound to alienate as well as engage, it is its own thing in its own place, and commanding in its moments of epiphany.

Arriver on Facebook

Arriver on Bandcamp


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 107

Posted in Radio on March 31st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

So I kinda wanted to hear some old shit alongside all the new shit, which I guess I feel okay about. I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like every second of every show has to be super-recent as much as possible to get word out about new bands again as much as possible — and again again as much as possible to the extent of whatever the audience for this show is; I honestly have no idea — but that’s not even close to being true in reality. I could play Death, no one would give a shit.

I should play Death. Next show if I remember, which I’m saying up front is like 70/30 no.

Anyway, so old High on Fire into new Dozer and Altered States’ recent “The Crossing” crossing with The Hidden Hand’s “The Crossing” from their brilliant 2004 opus, and JAAW feeding into Celtic Frost feeding into Vape Warlök. Fucking a. This show’s pretty good. I hope I don’t ruin it by, you know, talking.

A few albums here I’m looking forward to knowing better. Swanmay for sure, JAAW absolutely, and I might even say that of Dozer, perhaps into perpetuity or at very least until long after I’ve reviewed it and hailed it as one of the best albums of the year — which I don’t even feel shy in saying because it’s a fucking given — and Bongzilla, because they’re Bongzilla and I’m glad they’re putting out records. They’re a needed reminder of how even the heaviest things can be made to float.

Thanks if you listen to this show. If not, it happens, but thanks for reading anyhow. If you stumbled here and have no idea what I’m talking about, you might still consider checking out a band or two from the playlist and find something to make your day better.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com.

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.31.23 (VT = voice track)

High on Fire 10,000 Years The Art of Self-Defense (2001)
Dozer Dust for Blood Drifting in the Endless Void
Devoidov Stab Stab
MiR Altar of Liar Season Unknown
Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow Maps of Inferno Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow
Black Rainbows Superhero Dopeproof Superskull
Lammping Better Know Better Better Know Better
Oceanlord 2340 Kingdom Cold
Arriver Azimuth Azimuth
Altered States The Crossing Survival
The Hidden Hand The Crossing Mother Teacher Destroyer (2004)
Iress Ricochet Solace
Grin Nothingness Black Nothingness
Bongzilla Hippie Stick Dab City
MWWB Logic Bomb The Harvest (2022)
Swanmay Stone Cold Frantic Feel
JAAW Rot Supercluster
Celtic Frost A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh Monotheist (2005)
Vape Warlök Inhale Death Inhale Death (2022)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 14 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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