Miss Lava Premiere “The Great Divide” Video From Doom Machine LP

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on December 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

miss lava the great divide

Portuguese heavy rockers Miss Lava release their new album, Doom Machine, Jan. 15 on Small Stone and Kozmik Artifactz. The band’s fourth long-player and second through Small Stone behind 2016’s Sonic Debris (review here), it is an explosion of well-crafted, professional-sounding material that feels built for European heavy-fest stages. Your Desertfests, certainly SonicBlast, they’re already booked for a festival in Spain this March (which seems ambitious), and so on. It was, appropriately enough, recorded live, with Miguel “Veg” Marques at the helm of Generator Music Studios in Sintra. The energy with which the songs are delivered is only part of the album’s personality though, because the CD version comes with a whopping 15 tracks running a total of 56 minutes, as the returning four-piece of vocalist Johnny Lee, guitarist K. Raffah, bassist Ricardo Ferreira and drummer J. Garcia tear into one hook after the other, careening with desert-inspired purpose through “Fourth Dimension” and “In the Mire” at the outset like an all-grown-up Kyuss with the rest of the album that follows working in different stages set off by interludes, groups of one or two songs complemented by short pieces of varied atmosphere that lend breadth to the proceedings as a whole.

Most of those spacers are quick instrumentals. Guitar, bass, drums. “Magma,” the first of them, and “Karma” follow that pattern, while “Alpha” adopts a more mellow spirit and the last, “Terra” captures wave sounds and guitar noise ahead of the closing title-track, which is also the longest song on the outing at 6:58. The interludes bolster Doom Machine‘s flow and make it all the more immersive despite being largely based around straightforward craft of high grade verses and choruses, though certainly longer stretchesmiss lava doom machine like “Brotherhood of Eternal Love” (5;46), the Alice in Chains-style harmonized “The Fall” (6:31) and “Doom Machine” itself want nothing for atmosphere. “The Fall” is a highlight in that regard, but it contends with single-worthy cuts like the maddeningly catchy “Sleepy Warm” and the slower, more spacious “The Great Divide” nearby for that title, with the latter as the assumed end of the vinyl’s side A and, indeed, the split between the first half of the album and the second — not counting the bonus tracks. That’s not to mention a cut like “The Oracle,” later on, which singlehandedly shows how Miss Lava take cues from classic desert rock and turn them into something of their own all across Doom Machine as a whole. Maybe it’s safer not to talk about highlights.

Amid the many hooks, interludes and spot-on moves made throughout Doom Machine is the narrative of K. Raffah having lost a child after only a month and a half from birth. That brutal context underpins even the most uptempo of Miss Lava‘s songs here, and adds weight to already impactful pieces like “The Fall” and “In the Mire” earlier on, the melodies and momentum betraying little of what’s actually going on but remaining expressive nonetheless. One doesn’t want to call it a disconnect, but Doom Machine hardly sounds dragged down by grief or anything else as Miss Lava courses through. Even the bonus tracks, “God Feeds the Swine,” ‘Feel Surrea” and “Red Atlantis,” boast quality hooks — the last one of them especially so — so there is a balance of elements and themes at play throughout, and the band aren’t necessarily beholden to one or the other of them, as impossible as that might seem.

To wit, the video premiering below for “The Great Divide” takes a post-apocalyptic environmentalist stance, looking out at the world and seeing it being used and torn down by humanity as a whole. The clip was directly by José Dinis, who offers some comment on it below, along with that of Johnny Lee.

As always, I hope you enjoy:

Miss Lava, “The Great Divide” official video premiere

According to singer Johnny Lee, “‘The Great Divide’ is a euphemism for death, an apocalyptic vision for mankind. We keep destroying our planet and forgetting that when this ends, it ends for everyone.”

Director José Dinis reflects that this is “A concept story about an apocalyptic world, where an unhopeful man just tries to survive. As in real life, there is always a way out, a solution, a chance to live a more colourful life, no matter what.”

“The Great Divide” was filmed at Mina de São Domingos, a deserted open-pit mine in Alentejo, Portugal. The site is one of the volcanogenic massive sulfide ore deposits in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, which extends from the southern Portugal into Spain. It was the first place in Portugal to have electric lighting.

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Miss Lava on Bandcamp

Sonic Debris at Small Stone’s Bandcamp

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Album Review: Arcadian Child, Protopsycho

Posted in Reviews on December 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Arcadian Child Protopsycho

With their third album, Protopsycho, Cypriot four-piece Arcadian Child enter a new stage of realization. Their progression has been quick in terms of productive turnaround from one album to the next, with 2017’s Afterglow (review here) getting picked up by Ripple Music‘s imprint Rebel Waves for release in 2018 ahead of the band’s second album, Superfonica (review here), that same year. Lockdown 2020 brought the live album From Far, For the Wild (review here) and word of Protopsycho in the making, and its arrival through Ripple, Kozmik Artifactz and the band’s own Bitter Tea Records finds Arcadian Child at a pivotal moment of their progression in terms of finding their sound. As in, they have.

They do so amid a swath of cultural and aesthetic influences. Cyprus’ position as an island nation finds it situated near the Middle East, Mediterranean Europe and Northern Africa, and Arcadian Child dig into melodies and rhythmic progressions endemic to the region. Early on Protopsycho, the second half of opener “Snakecharm” unfolds a groove that feels born of classic Greek psychedelia, and the winding melody of the subsequent “Wave High” builds on that feel in terms of style, as guitarists Stathis Hadjicharalambous and Panagiotis Georgiou (the latter also vocals), bassist/backing vocalist Andreas Kerveros and newly-arrived drummer Constantinos Pavlides purposefully bring together such traditionalism with a modern edge, not just as regards their own tonality or the production — the album was recorded, mixed and co-produced with Andreas Trachonitis in Nicosia — but on a deeper level of composition as well.

Perhaps most of all, Protopsycho is conscious of what it’s doing sound-wise without necessarily being restrained by that. It is the tightest core of songwriting Arcadian Child has yet brought to bear — which is saying something — and its eight tracks and 37 minutes play through with an unhurried but consistent motion, heavy but fluid thanks in no small part to the intricacy of their rhythms throughout and the apparent ease with which they tie together their verses and choruses. “Snakecharm” and “Wave High” are joined on side A by the more lumbering “Sour Grapes” and the apropos finale “The Well,” which begins at a drift and solidifies in its second half around a classic fuzz rock riff transmuted tonally and in tuning to suit the band’s purposes. In both, there is an emerging current of modern heavy influence, particularly centered around Nashville heavy psych/blues rockers All Them Witches.

It is telling that Mikey Allred at Dark Art Studio mastered Protopsycho, as the former member of Across Tundras has also worked engineering and mastering several All Them Witches albums. Something about the shimmer in the guitar on “The Well” and in “Bitter Tea,” which follows, leading off side B, speaks directly to that. There’s a blend of meditative spaciousness and creative spark that comes to bear feeling like a signature. And yet there’s no denying Arcadian Child make this their own as well, and in purposeful form as “Bitter Tea” begins with a Dying Surfer Meets His Maker-style guitar progression and unfolds with a fuzzy gracefulness and confidence born of a mature band who know what they’re doing. Again, this is Arcadian Child being aware of their choices as a group but not held back by that conscious.

Arcadian Child

“Bitter Tea” and the subsequent “Bodies of Men” are the two shortest cuts on Protopsycho at a respective 3:52 and 3:38, but the tone they set for the second half of the tracklisting isn’t to be understated, as the latter cut picks up with Dead Meadow-style roll in its brief excursion of verse and hook, letting the fuzzy tones of the two guitars lead the way as the vocals push further out in echo, bass and drums providing the solid foundation on which the quirky but structurally sound bounce takes place. The penultimate “Raising Fire” is something of a slower and more ritualized psych burn, vocals following the guitar pattern before fuller tonality kicks in as part of the call-and-response chorus’ thrust. All the while, the abiding atmosphere of “Raising Fire” is patient and built around a tempo that refuses to move at anything other than its own pace for the first four minutes of the track’s 5:35, drums signaling the shift thereafter into a more uptempo instrumental progression that carries the song to its finish.

The splashing crash cymbal deep in the mix of the title-track signals some of the tension Arcadian Child are building as the finale plays out, but though they hit a payoff sure enough, “Protopsycho” never takes off to such a degree as to feel cheap or especially predictable. Rather, it emphasizes just how much the band have been able to set a mood throughout Protopsycho and how far especially side B has worked to bring together the different sides of their sound, the varied folk and psychedelic and heavy influences, not forsaking one for the other, but creating something fresh from pieces of all of them. This is, as noted above, the work Arcadian Child has undertaken in answering the potential of Superfonica and Afterglow, finding both a niche for themselves sound-wise that listeners can hear and readily identify, but pairing that with memorable and well-composed songs.

In essence, this is what Arcadian Child have been building toward for the last three-plus years, and as such it is all the more an injustice they can’t get out and support Protopsycho live, as it represents a special moment for the band. However, what’s perhaps most comforting in terms of listening to these songs and understanding their place in Arcadian Child‘s overarching progression is that there’s still plenty of forward potential on display. How might they move the impulses driving “Snakecharm” forward next time out? Or “Bitter Tea?” Or “Raising Fire?” What shifts might they undertake to continue to bring ideas from multiple sources together under their own banner, while also still pushing themselves on the root levels of performance and craft? As much as Protopsycho manifests Arcadian Child‘s mission up to this point, and achieves what seem to be its goals, it could just as easily be another step in their ongoing evolution.

Arcadian Child, Protopsycho (2020)

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Bitter Tea Records on Instagram

Bitter Tea Records on Bandcamp

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Honeybone to Release Spheres LP Nov. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I may be 60 years old by the time I get there, but some day I will go to Australia. When I do, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for whatever in the water it might be in the ecosystem that has currently caused so much quality and so much varied quantity of heavy to come from the country and Melbourne in particular. Could it be an interaction somehow between the Outback and the Coral Reef? If so, yet another reason to protect these threatened areas.

While I put the finishing touches on my research grant application, I humbly submit the following ellpee by Honeybone. Titled Spheres, it’s being released by Kozmik Artifactz and is a gem. What more do you need to know?

Dig:

honeybone spheres

Oz-Based Psych-Rockers, Honeybone, Release Brand New Album “Spheres” On Kozmik Artifactz This November 27th.

We couldn’t be more excited to welcome Oz psych-rockers, Honeybone, to the Kozmik fold. Honeybone are a three-piece psychedelic/garage rock band based in Melbourne, Australia, and hail from the city of Dunedin, in the deep south of New Zealand. Featuring drummer and vocalist Rachel Trainor, guitarist/vocalist Drew Handcock, and bass player Peter Jermakoff.

Honeybone has previously released one full-length album and two EPs since their formation in 2009, which caught the eye, or ears, of renowned Berlin based record label, Kozmik Artifactz. Having gigged and toured with the likes of Beastwars, Wo-Fat, The Datsuns, Dragon, and Luger Boa, the band have gradually built up a strong fanbase across Australia & New Zealand. Now with a Kozmik release imminent, they have set their sights on breaking through into European territory.

Spheres will be released on limited edition heavyweight vinyl on the 27th November on Kozmik Artifactz.

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited & coloured vinyl
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

TRACKS
1. Artificial Tears
2. Bruises
3. Sands
4. Metathesiophobia
5. Stratosphere
6. Thread the Needle
7. Bones
8. Mist

Honeybone is:
Vocals, Drums & Percussion: Rachel Trainor
Bass Guitar: Peter Jermakoff
Vocals, Guitar, Keys/Synth: Drew Handcock

https://www.facebook.com/honeybonemusic
https://honeybone.bandcamp.com/
http://www.honeybonemusic.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
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Honeybone, Spheres (2020)

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Miss Lava Set Jan. 15 Release for Doom Machine; “Fourth Dimension” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

miss lava

Issuing through Kozmik Artifactz and Small Stone, the impending Doom Machine full-length from Miss Lava will be the band’s first since 2016’s Sonic Debris (review here). The title, Doom Machine, doesn’t inspire much in considerations of individuality — it’s kind of a generic name for a record, band, song, riff, amp, heavy thing, etc. — but the album actually deals with some hard-hitting emotional content on the part of the group, and as one expects from Miss Lava well more than a decade into their tenure, they know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to songwriting and capturing a stage-ready energy in the studio.

Will there be stages for Miss Lava to support the record once it’s out? Hell if I know. Seems unlikely in January, but you know, maybe at some point, ever, they’ll get to tour again.

To preface Doom Machine‘s arrival, Miss Lava have a video up now for the opening track “Fourth Dimension,” and you can see that at the bottom of this post, following the PR wire info and this kickass cover art right here:

miss lava doom machine

MISS LAVA: Lisbon Heavy Rock Unit To Release Doom Machine This January Via Small Stone / Kozmik Artifactz; “Fourth Dimension” Video Now Playing + Preorders Available

Lisbon’s premier heavy rockers MISS LAVA will release their long-awaited new full-length, Doom Machine, this January via Small stone.

The perfect soundtrack for the post-lockdown world, the band’s fourth album and follow-up to 2017’s Dominant Rush EP stands as their densest output to date doused in kaleidoscopic riff explorations and hypnotic interludes; a multi-textured sonic journey that’s at once deep, heavy, mesmerizing, and cathartic. Captured live at Generator Music Studios in Sintra, Portugal by Miguel “Veg” Marques, the record carries with it the warmth and soul of a band full of fresh vigor and perhaps the demons of these tumultuous times.

The record is loosely focused on the tragic death of guitarist K. Raffah’s baby son and the other members’ children born during the creative process. “Doom Machine is a very emotional experience for us…,” Raffah shares. “[My son] was only here for a month and a half, but his light was very bright. We feel his presence every time.” Thematically vocalist Johnny Lee adds, “This album reflects on how each one of us can breed and unleash our own self-destructive force, assembled to be part of a giant ‘Doom Machine.'”

In advance of the record’s release, today the band is pleased to unveil a video for first single, “Fourth Dimension,” noting, “this is a riff raff explosion that urges people to get out of the cave allegory they live in.”

Directed by José Dinis, view MISS LAVA’s “Fourth Dimension.”

Doom Machine will be released on CD and digitally via Small Stone with Kozmik Artifactz handling a limited vinyl edition. Find preorders at THIS LOCATION.

Doom Machine Track Listing:
1. Fourth Dimension
2. In The Mire
3. Magma
4. Brotherhood Of Eternal Love
5. Sleepy Warm
6. The Great Divide
7. Karma
8. The Fall
9. Alpha
10. The Oracle
11. Terra
12. Doom Machine
13. God Feeds The Swine *
14. Feel Surreal *
15. Red Atlantis *
** Bonus tracks on CD and digital only

Doom Machine is the successor to MISS LAVA’s Dominant Rush EP (2017), Sonic Debris (2016), Red Supergiant (2013), and Blues For The Dangerous Miles (2009), as well as a limited edition self-titled blood red vinyl EP (2008).

https://www.facebook.com/MissLavaOfficial/
http://www.instagram.com/miss.lava/
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http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com
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Miss Lava, “Fourth Dimension” official video

Miss Lava, Doom Machine (2021)

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Cruthu, Sólstafir, ILS, Bismut, Cracked Machine, Megadrone, KLÄMP, Mábura, Astral Sleep

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

We’ve reached the portion of the Quarterly Review wherein I would no longer know what day it is if I didn’t have my notes to help me keep track. I suppose it doesn’t matter — the day, that is — since it’s 10 records either way, but I’d hate to review the same albums two days in a row or something. Though, come to think of it, that might be a fun experiment sometime.

Not today. Today is another fresh batch of 10 on the way to 60 by next Monday. We’ll get there. Always do. And if you’re wondering, today’s Thursday. At least that’s what I have in my notes.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. I

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

The collaborative effort Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin and their 64-minute full-length, Stygian Bough Vol. I — the intention toward future output together hinted at in the title already confirmed by the group(s) — is a direct extension of what Aerial Ruin, aka Erik Moggridge, brought to the last Bell Witch album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper (review here), in terms of complementing the crushing, emotionally resonant death-doom of the Washington duo with morose folk vocal melody. Stygian Bough Vol. I is distinguished by having been written by the two-plus-one-equals-three-piece as a group, and accordingly, it more fluidly weaves Moggridge‘s contributions into those of Bell Witch‘s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, resulting in an approach like if Patrick Walker from Warning had joined Thergothon. It’s prevailing spirit is deep melancholy in longer pieces like “The Bastard Wind” and “The Unbodied Air,” both over 19 minutes, while it might be in “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” that the trio most effectively bring their intent to life. Either way, if you’re in, be ready to go all the way in, but know that it’s well worth doing so.

Bell Witch on Thee Facebooks

Aerial Ruin on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Cruthu, Athrú Crutha

cruthu Athrú Crutha

Traditional doom with flourish both of noise and NWOBHM guitars — that turn in the second half of opener “Transformation” is like a dogwhistle for Iron Maiden fans — I hear Cruthu‘s second album, Athrú Crutha, and all I can think of are label recommendations. The Michigan outfit’s 2017 debut, The Angle of Eternity (review here), was eventually issued on The Church Within, and that’d certainly work, but also Ván Records, Shadow Kingdom, and even Cruz Del Sur seem like fitting potential homes for the righteousness on display across the vinyl-ready six-song/39-minute outing, frontman Ryan Evans commanding in presence over the reverb-loaded classic-style riffs of guitarist Dan McCormick and the accompanying gallop in Matt Fry‘s drums given heft by Derek Kasperlik‘s bass. Like the opener, “Necromancy” and “Dimensional Collide” move at a good clip, but side B’s “The Outsider” and closer “Crown of Horns” slow things down following the surprisingly rough-edged “Beyond the Pale.” One way or the other, it’s all doomed and so are we.

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Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Sólstafir, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Sólstafir endless twilight of codependent love

Whereas 2017’s Berdreyminn (review here) existed in the shadow of 2014’s Ótta (review here), Endless Twilight of Codependent Love brings Iceland’s Sólstafir to a new place in terms of their longer-term progression. It is their first album with an English title since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, and though they’ve had English-language songs since then, the mellow “Her Fall From Grace” is obviously intended to be a standout here, and it is. On the nine-song/62-minute course of the album, however, it is one impression of many, and in the raging “Dionysus” and post-blackened “Drýsill,” 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Akkeri,” richly atmospheric “Rökkur,” goth-lounging “Or” and worthy finale “Úlfur,” Sólstafir remind of the richly individual nature of their approach. The language swaps could be reaching out to a broader, non-Icelandic-speaking audience. If so, it’s only in the interest of that audience to take note if they haven’t already.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

ILS, Curse

ils curse

Curse is the first long-player from Portland, Oregon’s ILS, and it’s a rager in the PNW noise tradition, with uptempo, gonna-throw-a-punch-and-then-apologize riffs and basslines and swaps between semi-spoken shouts and vicious screams from Tom Glose (ex-Black Elk) that are precisely as jarring as they’re meant to be. I don’t think Curse is anyone’s first time at the dance — Glose, guitarist Nate Abner, bassist Adam Pike or drummer Tim Steiner — but it only benefits across its sans-bullshit 28-minute run by knowing what it wants to do. Its longest material, like the title-track or “Don’t Hurt Me,” which follows, or closer “For the Shame I Bring,” rests on either side of three and a half minutes, but some of the most brutal impressions are made in cuts like “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” or leadoff “Bad Parts,” which have even less time to waste but are no less consuming, particularly at high volume. The kind of record for when you want to assault yourself. And hey, that happens.

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P.O.G.O. Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismut, Retrocausality

bismut retrocausality

Apart from the consciously-titled three-minute noiseblaster finale “Antithesis” that’s clearly intended to contrast with what comes before it, Bismut‘s second LP for Lay Bare, Retrocausality, is made up of five extended instrumental pieces the shortest of which is just under 13 minutes long. The Nijmegen-based trio — guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen, drummer Peter Dragt — build these semi-improvisational pieces on the foundation they set with 2018’s Schwerpunkt (review here), and their explorations through heavy rock, metal and psychedelia feel all the more cohesive as a song like “Vergangenheit” is nonetheless able to blindside with the heavy riff toward which it’s been moving for its entire first half. At 71 minutes total, it’s a purposefully unmanageable runtime, but as “Predvídanie” imagines a psych-thrash and “Oscuramento” drones to its crashing finish, Bismut seem to be working on their own temporal accord anyhow. For those stuck on linear time, that means repeat listens may be necessary to fully digest, but that’s nothing to complain about either.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Cracked Machine, Gates of Keras

Cracked Machine Gates of Keras

UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine have worked relatively quickly over the course of their now-three albums to bring a sense of their own perspective to the tropes of heavy psychedelic rock. Alongside the warmth of tone in the guitar and bass, feeling drawn from the My Sleeping Karma/Colour Haze pastiche of progressive meditations, there is a coinciding edge of English heavy rock and roll that one can hear not so much in the drift of “Temple of Zaum” as in the push of “Black Square Icon,” which follows, as well as the subtle impatience of the drums on “October Dawn.” “Move 37,” on the other hand, is willfully speedier and more upbeat than much of what surrounds, but though opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cold Iron Light” hits 7:26, nothing on Gates of Keras sticks around long enough to overstay its welcome, and even in their deepest contemplations, the feeling of motion carries them and the listener effectively through the album’s span. They sound like a band realizing what they want to do with all the potential they’ve built up.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

PsyKa Records website

 

Megadrone, Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

Megadrone Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

From cinematic paranoia to consuming and ultra-slow rollout of massive tonality, the debut offering from Megadrone — the one-man outfit of former Bevar Sea vocalist Ganesh Krishnaswamy — stretches across 53 minutes of unmitigated sonic consumption. If nothing else, Krishnaswamy chose the right moniker for the project. The Bandcamp version is spread across two parts — “Transmission A” (21:45) and “Transmission B” (32:09) — and any vinyl release would require significant editing as well, but the version I have is one huge, extended track, and that feels like exactly how Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae was composed and is supposed to be heard. Its mind-numbing repetitions lead the listener on a subtle forward march — there are drums back in that morass somewhere, I know it — and the piece follows an arc that begins relatively quiet, swells in its midsection and gradually recedes again over its final 10 minutes or so. It goes without saying that a 53-minute work of experimentalist drone crushscaping isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Bold favors bold.

Megadrone on Thee Facebooks

Megadrone on Bandcamp

 

KLÄMP, Hate You

klamp hate you

Sax-laced noise rock psychedelic freakouts, blown-out drums and shouts and drones, cacophonous stomp and chaotic sprawl, and a finale that holds back its payoff so long it feels cruel, KLÄMP‘s second album, Hate You, arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, and perhaps there’s some clue as to why in the sheer mania of their execution. Hate You launches with the angularity of its 1:47 title-track and rolls out a nodding groove on top of that, but it’s movement from one part to another, one piece to another, is frenetic, regardless of the actual tempo, and the songs just sound like they were recorded to be played loud. Second cut “Arise” is the longest at 7:35 and it plays back and forth between two main parts before seeming to explode at the end, and by the time that’s done, you’re pretty much KLÄMPed into place waiting to see where the Utrecht trio go next. Oblivion wash on “An Orb,” the drum-led start-stops of “Big Bad Heart,” psych-smash “TJ” and that awaited end in “No Nerves” later, I’m not sure I have any better idea where that might be. That’s also what makes it work.

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God Unknown Records website

 

Mábura, Heni

Mábura heni

Preceded by two singles, Heni is the debut EP from Rio de Janeiro psychedelic tonal worshipers Mábura, and its three component tracks, “Anhangá,” “III/IV” and “Bong of God” are intended to portray a lysergic experience through their according ambience and the sheer depth of the riffs they bring. “Anhangá” has vocals following the extended feedback and drone opening of its first half, but they unfold as a part of the general ambience, along with the drums that arrive late, are maybe sampler/programmed, and finish by leading directly into the crash/fuzz launch of “III/IV,” which just before it hits the two-minute mark unfurls into a watershed of effects and nod, crashing and stomping all the while until everything drops out but the bass only to return a short time later with the Riff in tow. Rumbling into a quick fade brings about the toking intro of “Bong of God,” which unfolds accordingly into a riff-led noisefest that makes its point seemingly without saying a word. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but it’s a first EP. What it shows is that Mábura have some significant presence of tone and purpose. Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up for a release.

Mábura on Thee Facebooks

Mábura on Bandcamp

 

Astral Sleep, Astral Doom Musick

Astral Sleep Astral Doom Musick

It’s still possible to hear some of Astral Sleep‘s death-doom roots in their third album, Astral Doom Musick, but the truth is they’ve become a more expansive unit than that (relatively) simple classification than describe. They’re doom, to be sure, but there are progressive, psychedelic and even traditional doom elements at work across the record’s four-song/43-minute push, with a sense of conceptual composition coming through in “Vril” and “Inegration” in the first half of the proceedings while the nine-and-a-half-minute “Schwerbelastungskörper” pushes into the darkest reaches and closer “Aurinko ja Kuu” harnesses a swirling progressive spread that’s dramatic unto its last outward procession and suitably large-sound in its production and tone. For a band who took eight years to issue a follow-up to their last full-length, Astral Sleep certainly have plenty to offer in aesthetic and craft. If it took them so long to put this record together, their time wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard to listen and not wonder where their next step might take them.

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Astral Sleep on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Steve Von Till, Cyttorak, Lambda, Dee Calhoun, Turtle Skull, Diuna, Tomorrow’s Rain, Mother Eel, Umbilichaos, Radar Men From the Moon

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Oh hi there. It’s Quarterly Review time again, and you know what that means. 50 records between now and Friday — and I may or may not extend it through next Monday as well; I think I have enough of a backlog at this point to do so. It’s really just a question of how destroyed I am by writing about 10 different records every day this week. If past is prologue, that’s fairly well destroyed. But I’ve yet to do a Quarterly Review and regret it when it’s over, and like the last one, this roundup of 50 albums is pretty well curated, so it might even be fun to go through. There’s a thought. In any case, as always, I hope you find something you enjoy, and thank you for reading if you do or as much as you do.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough

steve von till no wilderness deep enough

Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till seems to be bringing some of the experimentalism that drives his Harvestman project into the context of his solo work with No Wilderness Deep Enough, his fifth LP and first since 2015’s A Life unto Itself (review here). Drones and melodic synth backs the deceptively-titled “The Old Straight Track,” and where Von Till began his solo career 20 years ago with traditional folk guitar, if slower, on these six tracks, he uses that meditative approach as the foundation for an outward-reaching 37-minute run, incorporating ethereal strings among the swirls of “Shadows on the Run” and finishing with the foreboding hum of “Wild Iron.” Opener “Dreams of Trees” establishes the palette’s breadth with synthesized beats alongside piano and maybe-cello, but it’s Von Till‘s voice itself that ties the material together and provides the crucial human presence and intimacy that most distinguishes the offerings under his own name. Accompanied by Von Till‘s first published book of poetry, No Wilderness Deep Enough is a portrait of the unrelenting creative growth of its maker.

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Neurot Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Cyttorak, Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

Cyttorak Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

Take a breath before you hit play only to have it punched right out from your solar plexus by the brutalist deathsludge Cyttorak cleverly call “slowerviolence.” Dominated by low end and growls, screams, and shouts, the lumbering onslaught is the second standalone EP for the three-piece who hail from scenic Pawtucket, Rhode Island (former home of the PawSox), and throughout its six-track run, the unit conjure an unyieldingly punishing tonal morass set to aggressive purpose. That they take their name from the Marvel Universe character who controls X-Men villain Juggernaut should not be taken as coincidence, since their sound indeed seems intended to put its head down and smash through walls and/or anything else that might be in its path in pursuit of its quarry. With Conan-esque lyrical minimalism, the songs nonetheless give clues to their origins — “Royal Shokan Dismemberment” refers to Goro from Mortal Kombat, and finale “Domination Lord of Coldharbour” to Skyrim (which I still regret not playing) — but if you consider comics or video games to be lighter fare, first off, you’re working with an outdated mentality, and second, Cyttorak would like a bit of your time to smother you with volume and ferocity. They have a new split out as well, both on tape.

Cyttorak on Thee Facebooks

Tor Johnson Records website

 

Lambda, Heliopolis

lambda heliopolis

Also signified by the Greek letter from which they take their moniker, Czech four-piece Lambda represent a new age of progressive heavy post-rock. Influences from Russian Circles aren’t necessarily surprising to find coursing through the instrumental debut full-length, Heliopolis, but there are shades of Elder as well behind the more driving riffs and underlying swing of “Space Express,” which also featured on the band’s 2015 EP of the same name. The seven-minute “El Sonido Nuevo” did likewise, but older material or newer, the album’s nine-song procession moves toward its culminating title-track through the grace of “Odysea” and the intertwining psychedelic guitars of “Milkyway Phaseshifter” with an overarching atmosphere of the journey to the city of the sun being undertaken. And when they get there, at the closer, there’s an initial sense of peace that gives way to some of the most directly heavy push Heliopolis has to offer. Payoff, then. So be it. Purposeful and somewhat cerebral in its execution, the DIY debut brings depth and space together to immersive effect.

Lambda on Thee Facebooks

Lambda on Bandcamp

 

Dee Calhoun, Godless

dee calhoun godless

Following his 2016 debut, Rotgut (review here) and 2018’s Go to the Devil (review here), Godless is the third full-length from former Iron Man and current Spiral Grave frontman Dee Calhoun, and its considerable 63-minute runtime finds him working in multiple directions while keeping his underlying roots in acoustic-based heavy metal. Certainly “To My Boy” — and Rob Calhoun has appeared on his father’s releases before as well — has its basis in familial expression, but its pairing with “Spite Fuck” is somewhat curious. Meanwhile, “Hornswoggled” cleverly samples George W. Bush with a laugh track, and “Here Under Protest,” “The Greater Evil,” “Ebenezer” and “No Justice” seem to take a worldly view as well. Meanwhile again, “Godless,” “The Day Salvation Went Away” and “Prudes, Puritanicals and Puddles of Piss” make their perspective nothing if not plain for the listener, and the album ends with the two-minute kazoo-laced gag track “Here Comes the Bride: A Tale From Backwater.” So perhaps scattershot, but Godless is nonetheless Calhoun‘s most effective outing yet in terms of arrangements and craft, and shows him digging further into the singer-songwriter form than he has up to now, sounding more comfortable and confident in the process.

Dee Calhoun on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Turtle Skull, Monoliths

Turtle Skull Monoliths

Melodic vocal lines weave together and float over alternately weighted and likewise ethereal guitars on Turtle Skull‘s second album, Monoliths. The percussion-inclusive (tambourine, congas, rain stick, etc.) Sydney-based heavy psychedelic outfit create an immersive wash that makes the eight-song/55-minute long-player consuming for the duration, and while there are moments of clarity to be found throughout — the steady snare taps of “Why Do You Ask?” for example — but the vast bulk of the LP is given to the overarching flow, which finds progressive/space-rock footing in the 11-plus minutes of finale “The Clock Strikes Forever” and is irresistibly consuming on the drifting wash of “Rabbit” or the lysergic grunge blowout of “Who Cares What You Think?,” which gives way to the choral drone of “Halcyon” gorgeously en route through the record’s back half. It’s not the highest profile heavy psych release of 2020, but neither is it to be overlooked for the languid stretch of “Leaves” at the outset or the fuzz-drenched roll in the penultimate “Apple of Your Eye.”

Turtle Skull on Thee Facebooks

Art as Catharsis on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Diuna, Golem

diuna golem

In some ways, the dichotomy of Diuna‘s 2019 sophomore full-length, Golem, is set by its first two tracks, the 24-second intro “Menu” and the seven-minute “Jarmark Cudów” that follows, each longer song throughout is prefaced by an introduction or interlude, varying in degrees of experimentation. That, however, doesn’t cover the outsider vibes the Polish trio bring to bear in those longer songs themselves, be it “Jarmark Cudów” devolving into a post-Life of Agony noise rock roll, or the thrust in “Frank Herbert” cut into starts and stops and shouting madness. Heavy rock, noise, sludge, post-this-or-that, it doesn’t matter by the end of the 12-track/44-minute release, because Diuna establish such firm control over the proceedings and make so clear the challenge to the listener to keep up that it’s only fun to try. It might take a couple listens to sink in, but the more attention one gives Golem, the more one is going to be rewarded in the end, and I don’t just mean in the off-kilter fuckery of closer “Pan Jezus Idzie Do Wojska.”

Diuna on Thee Facebooks

Diuna on Bandcamp

 

Tomorrow’s Rain, Hollow

tomorrows rain hollow

“Ambitious” doesn’t begin to cover it. With eight songs (plus a bonus track) and 11 listed guest musicians, the debut full-length, Hollow, from Tel Aviv-based death-doomers Tomorrow’s Rain seems to be setting its own standard in that regard. And quite a list it is, with the likes of Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride, Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost, Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell, Mikko Kotamaki of Swallow the Sun, and so on, it is a who’s-who of melodic/gothic death-doom and the album lives up to the occasion in terms of the instrumental drama it presents. Some appear on one track, some on multiple tracks — Ribeiro and Kotamaki both feature on “Misery Rain” — and despite the constant shifts in personnel with only one of the eight tracks completely without an outside contributor, the core six-piece of Tomorrow’s Rain are still able to make an impression of their own that is bolstered and not necessarily overwhelmed by the extravagant company being kept throughout.

Tomorrow’s Rain on Thee Facebooks

AOP Records website

 

Mother Eel, Svalbard

mother eel svalbard

Mother Eel‘s take on sludge isn’t so much crushing as it is caustic. They’re plenty heavy, but their punishment isn’t just meted out through tonal weight being brought down on your head. It’s the noise. It’s the blown-out screams. It’s the harshness of the atmosphere in which the entirety of their debut album, Svalbard, resides. Five tracks, 33 minutes, zero forgiveness. One might be tempted to think of songs like “Erection of Pain” as nihilistic fuckall, but that seems incorrect. Nah, they mean it. Fuckall, yeah. But fuckall as ethos. Fuckall manifest. So it goes through “Alpha Woman” and “Listen to the Elderly for They Have Much to Teach,” which ends in a Primitive Man-ish static assault, and the lumbering finish “Not My Shade,” which assures that what began on “Sucking to Gain” half an hour earlier ends on the same anti-note: a disaffected malevolence writ into sheer sonic unkindness. There is little letup, even in the quiet introductions or transitions, so if you’re looking for mercy, don’t bother.

Mother Eel on Thee Facebooks

Mother Eel on Redbubble

 

Umbilichaos, Filled by Empty Spaces

Umbilichaos Filled by Empty Spaces

The four-song/39-minute atmospheric sludge long-player Filled by Empty Spaces is listed by Brazilian solo outfit Umbilichaos as being the third part of, “the Tetralogy of Loneliness.” If that’s the emotion being expressed in the noise-metal post-Godflesh chug-and-shout of “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 02,” then it is loneliness viscerally presented by founding principal and multi-instrumentalist Anna C. Chaos. The feel throughout the early going of the release is plodding and agonized in kind, but in “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 01” and “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 03” there is some element of grim, crusted-over psychedelia happening alongside the outright dirge-ism, though the latter ultimately wins out in the four-minute instrumental capper “Disintegration.” One way or the other, Chaos makes her point through raw tonality and overarching intensity of purpose, the compositions coming across simultaneously unhinged and dangerously under control. There are many kinds of heavy. Filled by Empty Spaces is a whole assortment of them.

Umbilichaos on Thee Facebooks

Sinewave website

 

Radar Men From the Moon, The Bestial Light

radar men from the moon the bestial light

Fueled by avant grunge/noise impulsion, Radar Men From the Moon‘s latest foray to Planet Whothefuckknows arrives in the eight-song/41-minute The Bestial Light, a record alternately engrossing and off-putting, that does active harm when the sounds-like-it’s-skipping intro to “Piss Christ” comes on and then subsequently mellows out with psych-sax like they didn’t just decide to call the song “Sacred Cunt of the Universe” or something. Riffs, electronics, the kind of weirdness that’s too self-aware not to be progressive, Radar Men From the Moon take the foundation of experimentation set by Astrosoniq and mutate it via Swans into something unrecognizable by genre and unwilling to compromise its own direction. And no, by the time “Levelling” comes on to round out, there is no peace to be found, though perhaps a twisted kind of joy at the sheer postmodernism. They should score ballets with this stuff. No one would go, but three centuries from now, they’d be worshiped as gods. Chance of that anyway, I suppose.

Radar Men From the Moon on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records on Bandcamp

 

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Borracho Premiere “It Came From the Sky” Video; Pound of Flesh out Early 2021

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

borracho

As they mark the 10-year anniversary of their debut in 2021, Washington D.C. heavy rolling trio Borracho will also release their covid-delayed fourth full-length, Pound of Flesh. Also their second for Kozmik Artifactz, the new Borracho follows some four-plus years on from 2016’s Atacama (review here) and is prefaced by the new video for “It Came From the Sky.” And if the premise of an upcoming Borracho record isn’t immediately enticing, plug your brain into the clip for just long enough to hear guitarist Steve Fisher‘s fuzz riff and that should be more than enough to prick up your ears.

I’m not sure who recorded the thing, and I’m not sure how representative “It Came From the Sky” might be of what surrounds it across the whole of the LP, because I haven’t heard it yet, but Fisher and bassist/backing vocalist Tim Martin conjure up some enviable tonality, and set to Mario Trubiano‘s steady-as-she-goes-and-she-goes-pretty-damn-steady drums, you’re basically getting a lesson in how to do heavy fuzz correctly in 2020.

For Borracho, “It Came From the Sky” also represents something of a turn toward the socially conscious. Can’t argue. Lines like the song’s hook, “What do you want?/What do you want from me?/Whatever happened to the land of the free?/Fear. Control. Fear.,” put emphasis on the paranoia of our age, and the song digs into conspiracy theories and the abiding sense of something having shifted in the reality in which we live. The last runthrough of the chorus, in fact, switches out “the land of the free” for “reality,” in a clever twist that works well rhythmically. You’ll also note that, in the video, all three members of the band are shown speaking various lines throughout, underscoring the notion of their speaking as a group.

And if you missed it above, Borracho hail from the epicenter of alternate-universe-ism that is the American capitol city, Washington “Taxation Without Representation” D.C. I cannot for the life of me imagine what the air in that town might smell like at this point, but as the US moves inexorably toward a presidential election that has the potential to either reinforce or undermine our shown-to-be-oh-so-fragile system of government, it’s only fair that politics, social issues, and so forth should be on Borracho‘s mind. For those of you who might live elsewhere in the world, you’d have to work really, really hard to ignore it otherwise.

With the promise of more to come, enjoy the premiere of “It Came From the Sky” — filmed in isolation I would guess by the band themselves and skillfully edited together by Larry Jackson, Jr. (also of Wasted Theory) — below, followed by some quick confirmation from the band about the record coming out, double-vinyl style.

Dig:

Borracho, “It Came From the Sky” official video premiere

From the forthcoming album Pound of Flesh, coming in early 2021 on Kozmik Artifactz heavyweight 2LP, CD and digital.

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Borracho on Bandcamp

Borracho website

Kozmik Artifactz website

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Review & Full Album Premiere: The Kings of Frog Island, VI

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the kings of frog island vi

[Slick play above to stream The Kings of Frog Island’s VI in full. Vinyl is out Nov. 9 on Kozmik Artifactz.]

It’s not as if The Kings of Frog Island have been absent. Granted, it’s been six years since the band released their fifth numerically-titled full-length, V (review here), in 2014, which brought the “Sunburn/Every turn” hook and a host of jammed-out, vinyl-flowing psychedelic delights, but still. In 2016, the band oversaw a vinyl issue for 2013’s IV (review here) as a first step in their alliance with Kozmik Artifactz, and in 2019, they completed a new single and video for every month of the year (posted here) — plus one to grow on — and in March, they re-recorded “The Watcher” from 2008’s II (discussed here) and posted another video to coincide. With the advent of VI, however, the longest LP drought of their career comes to an end, and a perhaps-overdue proper album arrives to find them with a somewhat shifted focus.

Comprised of 10 songs split evenly onto two vinyl sides and released again through Kozmik ArtifactzVI completes a second trilogy of offerings for The Kings of Frog Island, with founding members Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar) and Roger “Doj” Watson (drums) as well as Gavin SearleLee Madel-Toner and Tony Heslop working at their own Amphibia Sound Studios IV in the groups native Leicester, UK, over a period from 2017-2020 to construct the material, bringing together the mellow psych explorations in which they’ve basked since IV with the more structured songwriting of the earlier work of what one might call their Elektrohasch era — their 2005 self-titled debut, the aforementioned II, and 2010’s III (review here). That third album would force an adjustment with the departure of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (also of Josiah) to focus on the garage-y leanings of Cherry Choke, but The Kings of Frog Island flourished in cosmic drift and made a space for themselves both in terms of sound and the studio where they captured it. In short, they dug in. Across its 42-minute span, VI carries the feel of an emergence.

Or maybe a re-emergence would be more like it, but one way or the other, VI brings The Kings of Frog Island into alignment with all sides of their sound. The shimmering guitar in “Toxic Heart” seems to hint toward earlier days, while the immediately-prior “Bad Trip” is pure psychedelic in-studio experimentation, and the beginning that VI receives with the 1:37 ambient “Monotron” sets an atmospheric foundation that even the more straightforward chorus-making of the subsequent fuzz rocker “Ever and Forever” builds upon. Not only that, but the first two cuts also set up the back-and-forth sensibility that plays out on much of VI, with grounded riffs and progressions meeting head-on with spacier keyboard work sometimes even within a single track itself, as on “Pigs in Space,” perhaps named for the yawning sort of oink later in its proceedings.

the kings of frog island liner

And even as “Toxic Heart” picks up after “Bad Trip” — the two are presented as one song in the digital version of the album I have, but there’s a clear divide around five and a half minutes in — intertwining vocal lines, the already-noted airy guitar and even the generally languid pacing continue to harness the tripped-out feel, even if in less directly experimental fashion than on the song before. The Kings of Frog Island, then, are headed far out. They’re going. One way or the other, their goal is to get there, and they do precisely that with these songs. But it’s the level of interplay between structure and fluidity that makes VI a standout in their catalog and feel like a summation of their work not just over the three years they put into the record’s making, but the 15 years of their career to this point. That would be a lot to ask of a band whose approach and lineup has varied to the degree that The Kings of Frog Island‘s has over their time, but perhaps the patience that seems to come through in “Toxic Heart” or the side B opener “Sicario” is emblematic of the patience that went into making the record in the first place, and maybe that’s the ‘secret weapon’ here, such as it is. They took their time and made the album they wanted to make.

Easily said, harder done. “Sicario” has a moodier feel in its fuzzed lumber, slow, touching on doom but still maintaining enough lysergic tonality as it moves toward its final wash and shifts into “Brainless,” which is the shortest cut on VI apart from “Monotron.” In its 3:09, it builds up from a humming drone and ambient (amphibient?) noise to a quiet guitar line joined at 1:41 by a solo and soon thereafter by drums that continue the instrumental push by uncovering a funk that was there all along and had just gone unseen. Bell-ish sounds, forward and backward, consume the march at about 2:45 and there’s only ultra-soft resonance left over until Madel-Toner‘s vocals enter to begin “Murderer,” which seems to herald the arrival of a final movement of VI that stands apart from its two-sided configuration.

That is, the last three songs — “Murderer,” “I Am the Hurricane” and “Fine” — flow together particularly well, leaving an impression on the listener that underscores the ease of motion across the album as a whole. “Murderer” brings Monster Magnet-style riffing together with synthesizer breadth and multiple layers of vocals, while “I Am the Hurricane” shifts from its blown-out verses into repetitions of its title line over a jam that is about as much of a signature as The Kings of Frog Island‘s approach could ever ask for, and “Fine” closes with a fuzzgrunge shrug and playful tambourine bounce and a winding guitar line like the ’90s alt rock of some other, inevitably cooler, dimension. Even unto its elaborate cover art and we-have-a-logo-now logo, The Kings of Frog Island‘s VI speaks to a sense of creative purpose on the part of the band that, again, hasn’t necessarily been lost — they did put out 13 singles in 2019 — but that manifests here in a way that is engaging and only leaves one with the feeling that they have more to say. It might be another six years before they get to a seventh full-length and it might not, but a decade and a half on from their first release, The Kings of Frog Island keep exploring, keep experimenting and keep crafting a sound that is theirs alone.

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The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube

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Kozmik Artifactz website

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