Quarterly Review: HIGH LEAF, JAAW, The Bridesmaid, Milana, New Mexican Doom Cult, Gentle Beast, Bloodsports, Night Fishing, Wizard Tattoo, Nerver & Chat Pile

Posted in Reviews on May 8th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Didn’t we just do this? Yeah, kind of. It’s been a weird season, but I knew last month when I launched the Spring 2023 Quarterly Review that it needed to be more than two full weeks and given the timing of everything else slated around then and now, this is what worked to make it happen. For what it’s worth, I have QRs scheduled for July and early October, subject to change, of course.

The bottom line either way is it’s another batch of 50 reviews this week and then that’s a wrap for Spring. It’s a constant barrage of music these days anyhow, and I’m forever behind on everything, but I hope at least you can find something here you dig, whether previously familiar or not. We go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

HIGH LEAF, Vision Quest

High Leaf Vision Quest

An awaited debut from this Philadelphia heavy rock scene outfit, HIGH LEAF‘s Vision Quest makes its home among heavy tropes (also some minute cultural appropriation in the title) with unabashed glee and deceptively sharp songwriting. Certainly opener “Green Rider” is perfectly willing to beat you over the head with its chorus — and rightly so, you have it coming — but the spacious title-track that follows stretches over eight minutes and seamlessly works through drift and heavy psych impulses to get to the post-grunge roll that makes its increasingly aggro presence known past six minutes in, and that’s by no means the final bit of sludge to be had as the later “Hard to Find” leans toward nastiness only to be offset by the funky outset of “Painted Desert,” having pushed deeper from the Kyussery of “Dead Eye” and a swagger in “Subversive” worthy of comparison to Earthride. This lineup of the band has already split (there’s a new one, no worries), and how that reboot will affect HIGH LEAF going forward obviously remains to be seen, but this is a ‘serving notice’-type debut, doubling down on that in closing duo “March to the Grave” and “The Rot,” and the eight songs and 38 minutes commune with groove and riffs like they’ve been speaking the language the whole time. There’s definitely a vision at work. Let’s see where the quest takes them.

HIGH LEAF on Facebook

HIGH LEAF on Bandcamp


JAAW, Supercluster

jaaw supercluster

Fucking hell I wish this was what the future sounded like. It rocks. It’s interesting. It’s driven to be its own thing despite traceable roots. It’s got edge but it’s not hackneyed. It’s the tomorrow we were promised when industrial rock and metal became a thing in the 1990s and that corporate alt-everything and pop-punk usurped. I knew I wanted to write about it now, because it’s coming out now, but I’ll tell you honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of JAAW‘s Svart-issued debut, Supercluster — recorded at Bear Bites Horse in London by Wayne Adams, who’s also in the band alongside Andy Cairns of Therapy?, Mugstar‘s Jason Stoll and Adam Betts (of Squarepusher and others) — and this is the kind of album that’s going to be years in revealing itself. How about this? Sometime in 2028, if this site is still here, I’ll follow-up and let you know what I’ve found digging into the sinister groove of “Rot” or the shout-kraut rumble and noise of “Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry,” “The Dead Drop” going from minimalism to full heavy New Wave wash in five minutes’ time, and so on, but for right now, let it serve as the cannonball to be lobbed at anyone who says there aren’t any acts out there doing new things or pushing different styles forward, because hell’s bells, that’s the only place this goes even as it also seems to go everywhere at the same time, unto closing out with a Björk cover “Army of Me” as imagined by Ministry doing ’90s drum ‘n’ bass. Some things are just bigger than the year of their release, and I look forward to living with this record.

JAAW on Facebook

Svart Records website


The Bridesmaid, Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother

The Bridesmaid Come on People Now Smile on Your Brother

From the opening drone-and-toy-chime-forward over industrial black metal of “Leytonstone: Eat Your Landlord” through the sample-fed machine sludge-turned-psych experimentalism that gives way to a shimmering haze of jazz metal in “Cleveland: And the Rain Came Down” and the can’t-fool-me-by-now acoustic strum at the start of “Summerland: A Long, Maintenance-Free Life” that runs a current of cello under its aural collage and low-end lumber early only to bask in news-and-drone departure with percussion later on the way to what post-hardcore could still someday be, the name of the EP is Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother and The Bridesmaid deliver the proceedings in a manner more suited to Kurt Cobain‘s fuckall rasp of that line rather than the Youngbloods original. So it’s probably the latter. In any case, the UK solo-plus-friends outfit helmed and steered by JJ Saddington are an aural barrage, and while the temptation is to think of the three-song/21-minute offering as a blender on liquefy, the truth is the material is more thought out, more considerately mixed, and more engaging, than that kind of spastic randomness implies. If you can keep up with the changes, the adventure of listening is well worth the ankles sprained in its twists, but you should go into it knowing that the challenge is part of the appeal.

The Bridesmaid on Facebook

The Bridesmaid on Bandcamp


Milana, Milvus

milana milvus

If the hard push and tonal burl of comparatively straight-ahead opener “The Last Witch” aren’t convincing, stick around through “Celestial Bird Spirit” and “Impermanence” on the rest of side A before you resolve one way or the other as regards Milana‘s debut album, Milvus. The Mallorca-based four-piece are for sure in conversation with fest-ready modern European heavy rock, and that’s the thread that weaves throughout the album, but in the 11-minute “Impermanance,” they build on the more temperate rollout of “Celestial Bird Spirit” and find an intriguing blend of atmosphere and dense fuzz, more moody than psychedelic, but smart to hold back its weightiest tonality for the rolling end. Appropriately enough, “Lucid Reality” brings them back to ground at the start of side B, but still has an atmospheric effect in its verse, with vocal layering over open-spaced guitar and an alt-rock pickup as they move toward the chorus, and Howling Wolf gives a class-conscious definition of the blues, in the long intro of “Gray City Lights,” setting a difficult standard for the rest of the song to match, but the organ helps. And all seems well and fine for “Whispering Wind” to wrap up mirroring the rocker “The Last Witch” at the start until the song breaks, the harmony starts, and then the growls and massive fuzz start in the last minute and it turns out they were metal all along. Go figure. There’s growing to do, but there’s more happening on Milvus than one listen will tell you, and that in itself is a good sign.

Milana on Instagram

Milana on Spotify


New Mexican Doom Cult, Necropolis

New Mexican Doom Cult Necropolis

Swedish upstart four-piece New Mexican Doom Cult offer a distinctly Monolordian weep of lead guitar on “Seven Spirits,” but even that is filtered through the band’s own take, and that’s true of their first full-length, Necropolis more generally, as the Gävle outfit now comprised of guitarist/vocalist/principal songwriter Nils Ahnland, guitarist Johan Klyven Kvastegård, bassist Emil Alstermark and drummer Jonathan Ekvall present seven songs and 48 minutes of dug-in rockers, distortion keyed to its fuzziest degree as Ahnland hints vocally on “Underground” toward a root in darker and more metallic fare ahead of the chugging build that rounds out the eight-minute centerpiece title-track and the make-doom-swing ethic being followed in closer “Worship the Sun.” “Vortex” is a highlight for the melody as much as the double-dose of nodfuzz guitar work, and opener “Architect” sets an atmospheric course but assures that the sense of movement is never really gone, something that’s a benefit even to the righteous Sabbath blowout verse in the penultimate “Archangel.” Much of what they’re doing will be familiar to experienced heads, but not unwelcome for that.

New Mexican Doom Cult on Facebook

Ozium Records on Bandcamp

Olde Magick Records on Bandcamp


Gentle Beast, Gentle Beast

Gentle Beast Gentle Beast

Capable double-guitar heavy rock pervades the 43-minute Gentle Beast by the Swiss five-piece of the same name. Mixed by Jeff Henson of Duel and issued through Sixteentimes Music, the eight-song run is defined by knowing itself as stoner rock, and that remains true as “Super Sapiens” departs into its post-midsection jam, eventually returning to the chorus, which is almost unfortunately hooky. “Greedy Man” is almost purely Kyuss in its constructed pairing of protest and riff, but the “Caterpillar” shows a different side of the band’s character in its smooth volume shifts, winding leads and understated finish, leading into the sharper-edged outset of closer “Toxic Times.” In the forward thrust of “Joint Venture,” the opener “Asteroid Miner” with its gruff presentation, and the speedier swing of “Headcage” reinforcing the vocal reference to Samsara Blues Experiment in the leadoff, Gentle Beast tick all the boxes they need to tick for this debut long-player some four years after the band’s initial 7″ single, setting up multiple avenues of possible and hopeful progression while proving dexterous songwriters in the now. Won’t change your life, but isn’t trying to convince you it will, either.

Gentle Beast on Facebook

Sixteentimes Music store


Bloodsports, Bloodsports

bloodsports bloodsports

Denver four-piece Bloodsports — also stylized all-lowercase: bloodsports — give a heavygaze impression with “Sky Mall” at the launch of their self-titled debut EP that the subsequent “Crimp” gleefully pulls the rug right from under with a solo section like All Them Witches grew up listening to The Cure after its Weezery verse, and the proceedings only gets grungier from there with the low-key Nirvana brooding of “Sustain” (also issued in 2022 as a standalone single) and its larger-scale, scorch-topped distorted finish and the shaker-inclusive indie ritual that is “Carnival” until it explodes into a blowout ending like the release of tension everyone always wanted but never actually got from Violent Femmes. Some noisy skronk guitar finishes over the hungover fuzz, which is emblematic of the way the entire release — only 11 minutes long, mind you — derives its character from the negative space, from its smaller moments of nuance, as well as from its fuller-sounding stretches. They’re young and they sound it, but there’s a sonic ideal being chased through the material and Bloodsports may yet carve their aural persona from that chase. As it is, the emotive aspects on display in “Sustain” and the volatility shown in the roll of “Sky Mall” make in plain that this project has places it wants to go and areas to explore, and one hopes Bloodsports continue to bring their ideas together with such fluidity.

Bloodsports on Instagram

Candlepin Records on Bandcamp


Night Fishing, Live Bait

Night Fishing Live Bait

Recorded seemingly almost entirely live on audio and video, vibrancy would seem to be the underpinning that draws Night Fishing‘s Live Bait together, if fishing isn’t. The Denver four-piece are a relatively new formation, with guitarists Graham Zander (also Green Druid) and Zach Amster (Abrams), bassist Justin Sanderson (Muscle Beach) and drummer Gordon Koch (Call of the Void) all coming together from their sundry other projects to explore a space between the kosmiche, heavy rock and semi-improv jamming. The turns and fills and crashes that round out the second of three cuts, “No Services,” for example, feel off-the-cuff, but throughout most of “Alone With My Thoughts” and at least in the initial Slift-like shuffle at the start of “Slapback Twister,” there’s a plan at work. At 25 minutes, they’re only about a song shy of making Live Bait a full-length — though another track might mess up the shortest-to-longest and alphabetical ordering Live Bait has now, which are fun — but the instrumentalist exploration is suited to the nascent feel of the outfit, and while I don’t think Night Fishing is anybody’s only band here, if they can build on the sense of purpose they give to the jangly rhythm and airy solo of “Slapback Twister” and the right-on push of “Alone With My Thoughts,” they can make their records as long or as short as they want and they’re still bound to catch ears.

Night Fishing on Instagram

Brutal Panda Records website


Wizard Tattoo, Fables of the Damned

Wizard Tattoo Fables of the Damned

Following last year’s self-titled debut EP, Indianapolis solo-project Wizard Tattoo cuts itself open and bleeds DIY on the seven songs and 40 minutes of the self-recorded, self-released Fables of the Damned, beginning with distinct moments of departure in opener “Wizard Van” and “The Black Mountain Pass,” the latter of which returns to its gutted-out chorus with maestro Bram the Bard (who also did the cover) cutting through the tonescape of his own creation to underscore the structure at work. There are stories to be told in “The Vengeful Thulsa Dan” and the folkish “Any Which Way but Tuned,” which brings together acoustics and chanting like a gamer version of Wovenhand, deep-mixed tom thud peppered throughout while the chimes are more forward, while the seven-minute “The Ghost of Doctor Beast” picks up with the slowest and most doomed of the included rollouts, “God Damn This Wizard Tattoo” ups the tempo with a catchy chorus, a little bit of mania in the hi-hat under the guitar solo, and hints dropped in the bassline of the grunge aspects soon to be highlighted in instrumental closer “Abendrote.” The sense of character is bigger than the production, and that balance is something that will need to be ironed out over time, but the dug-in curio aspects of Fables of the Damned make it engaging, whatever it may or may not lead toward.

Wizard Tattoo on Facebook

Wizard Tattoo on Bandcamp


Nerver & Chat Pile, Brothers in Christ Split


I’ll never claim to be anything more than a dilettante when it comes to noise rock, and I’ll tell you outright that Kansas City’s Nerver are new to me as of this Brothers in Christ split with Oklahoma City’s Chat Pile, but both acts are coming from a strong Midwestern tradition of post-industrial (talking economy not genre) disaffection and building on momentum from strong 2022 releases, those being Nerver‘s even-the-CD-sold-out (aha! but not from the label! got it!) sophomore full-length CASH and Chat Pile‘s much-lauded debut, God’s Country (review here), and the scream-topped bombast of the one and volatile emotive antipoetry of the other make fitting companions across the included four songs, as Nerver‘s “Kicks in the Sky” underscores its jabs with deep low rumble as a bed for the harshly delivered verse and “The Nerve” shoves itself faceward in faster and less angular fashion, consuming like Chicago post-metal but pissed off like Midwestern hardcore while Chat Pile build through “King” en route to the panicked slaughter of “Cut,” which is sure enough to trigger fight-or-flight in your brain before its sub-five-minute run is up. Neither arrives at this point without hype behind them, both would seem to have earned it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go put on that Nerver album and play a bit of catchup.

Chat Pile on Instagram

Nerver on Facebook

Reptilian Records website

The Ghost is Clear Records website


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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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