Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Ruff Majik, Merlin, Workshed, E-L-R, Sibyl, Golden Legacy, Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Burden Limbs, El Supremo

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Another day, another batch of 10 reviews on the march to 50 by the end of the week. Will we make it? Yeah, probably. I mean, I think there was once when I had to skip a day or something but even then I made up for it and there’s never been an instance where the Quarterly Review fell apart. The one quarter I decided to nix it (was it last year?) I made up for it by doing 100 reviews instead of 50 the next time out, so we got there eventually. It being Tuesday, the end of the week looks far off, but indeed we’ll ge there eventually, and there’s a lot of good music between now and then, so let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Bat Salad

high on fire bat salad

A limited vinyl EP released as part of Record Store Day 2019, High on Fire‘s Bat Salad comprises three songs: an original instrumental and two covers, one of Celtic Frost and one of Bad Brains. And I won’t take away from the “Rat Salad” Sabbath-does-blues-jazz-jam-except-it’s-HighonFire-so-it-sounds-nasty-as-hell spirit of “Bat Salad” at all, but the real highlight here is hearing Matt Pike‘s gravel-throated vocals take on “Into Crypts of Rays.” Celtic Frost have always been a central factor in what High on Fire were doing stylistically, so to have the band take them on directly seems long in the making. They approach Bad Brains‘ “Don’t Bother Me” with due reverence as well, careening through an intense three-minute burst of energy with the grit and underlying precision one has come to expect from these singular masters. Soon enough, bands will be covering High on Fire with the same spirit of fan homage. Doubly notable for being founding drummer Des Kensel‘s last recorded appearance alongside Pike and bassist Jeff Matz in the band.

High on Fire on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Tårn

ruff majik tarn

Guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist Jimmy Glass and drummer Ben Manchino return with Tårn, Ruff Majik‘s second album on a quick turnaround from their 2018 debut, Seasons (review here). Aligned with Lay Bare Recordings for the vinyl release, the deceptively quick and even more deceptively complex seven-track/36-minute offering finds Ruff Majik digging into dirt-caked tonality and classically punkish sneer in Holiday‘s vocals. There are moments where they sound like Queens of the Stone Age (“Speed Hippie”) and moments where they sound like Black Flag (parts of opener “Schizophrenic”), but as a roller like “Heretically Happy” or the earlier post-Zeppelin stoner sneak of “Gloom & Tomb” show, Ruff Majik are perhaps most interested in sounding like themselves. They’re gleeful as they toy with doomed vibes on closer “Seasoning the Witch,” and the seven-minute “I’ll Dig the Grave” earlier thrills with changes drawn together by a pervasive and righteous groove. With Tårn, Ruff Majik have found their wavelength, and it suits them.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Merlin, The Mortal

merlin the mortal

Be it heretofore established that sax-laced Kansas City psych-doomers Merlin don’t give a fuck. They don’t give a fuck what you expect, they don’t give a fuck what everyone else is doing, they don’t give a fuck if they meme the crap out of their own band. They’ve got their thing and they’re doing it. And you know what? They’re right. The Mortal is their fifth full-length in six years, following as a sequel to early-2018’s The Wizard (review here), and with flourish galore in arrangements of organ, sax, flute, percussion, accordion, trumpet, etc., alongside the foundation of songcraft that comes through the guitar, bass, drums and always-theatrical vocals of Jordan Knorr, the band recount tales along a dark-magical mystery tour of gorgeously flowing and still-weighted psychedelic plunder. They have become a buried treasure of weirdo/geek rock, and whether it’s the peaceful drift of “Ashen Lake” or the cacophonous heavy riffing of “Basilisk,” the stage-setting prog of “Towerfall” or the consuming swell that carries out the apex of closer “The Mortal Suite” — King Crimson chase and all — Merlin‘s work has never sounded so masterful. Will there be a third installment in the tale? Nothing quite like a trilogy.

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

The Company BigCartel store

 

Workshed, Workshed

workshed workshed

They’ve since added a third party in bassist Helen Storer (Fireball Ministry, among others), but Workshed‘s self-titled Rise Above Records debut LP was recorded as the duo of guitarist/vocalist Adam Lehan and drummer Mark Wharton. More than a quarter-century ago, both Lehan and Wharton played on Cathedral‘s pivotal first two albums, but in Workshed, and certainly there are some shades of doom on a stomper like “Anthropophobic” here, but the bulk of Workshed‘s nine-song/47-minute first offering is given to post-Entombed buzzsaw noise sludge, riffs crunched one into the next in an aggro, punk-rooted fashion that rife with a sense of willful punishment that comes through in sheer impact from front to back. Vocals call to mind Tom G. Warrior immediately and are suited to the social commentary of “If This is How it Is” and “This City Has Fallen,” while the grueling march of “A Spirit in Exile” leaves room for some atmosphere to eek through, which it does. They trash out in centerpiece “On Sticks of Wood” and chug their into a last fade on closer “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way,” but by then they’ve long since made their statement and left a trail of destruction behind them. Would they have been signed to Rise Above without the Cathedral connection? Probably not. Does the album earn their place? Absolutely.

Workshed on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

E-L-R, Mænad

e-l-r maenad

With their first full-length, Mænad, Swiss post-metallers E-L-R cart a gorgeous and textured course through patient and progressive songweaving that lends itself to hypnosis through its churning rhythm as much as its overarching melodies seem to evoke other worlds. It is not without its sense of challenge and certainly plenty heavy in its tone and groove — at least where it wants to be — but it’s also rich and provides a level of depth to its mix that should have others in the genre asking how they did it. A transitional drone at the end of “Devotee” brings about the 10-minute “Above the Mountains There is Light” and a long contemplation begins, working from the ground up on a pilgrim’s path to the eventual payoff. The resonance there is something unto itself, but even as “Ambrosia,” “Lunar Nights” and “The Wild Shore” find the stylistic footing that opener “Glancing Limbs” and “Devotee” seemed to hint at earlier, E-L-R maintain both an ambient sprawl and a consuming sense of passion that makes their work here all the more thrilling. This is a debut, following only a single 2018 demo that had two of the same tracks. What that tells me is look out for this band, because this kind of potential doesn’t come along every day and when it does, you want to be there for the follow-up. The impeccable taste of Prophecy Productions pays dividends once again.

E-L-R on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website

 

Sibyl, The Magic Isn’t Real

sibyl the magic isn't real

Otherworldly doom rock marked by echoing vocals oozing out from deep in the mix and gotta-hear-it bass tone complemented by choice riffage and a fervent thud in the drums, even if the aesthetic of Richmond’s Sibyl is familiar enough, there’s plenty to dig about their debut EP — what one might’ve called a “demo” in eras past — The Magic Isn’t Real. The stylistic elephant in the room is RVA’s own Windhand, but Sibyl take a more psychedelic path to heavy oblivion, and with four tracks in the range of four to five minutes, The Magic Isn’t Real comes across as well focused in its songwriting despite the ethereal touches in the actual sound. Cool vibe, and as they work some noisy shuffle into “Spinning Webs,” they show themselves as being less restricted than otherwise might be the case if they were purely committed to doomed drudgery. I’ll give bonus points as well for naming the penultimate track “Sexpionage,” just on principle, but it’s in stretches like the subdued creeper opening of “Blood Moon” and the engrossing, still-somehow-moving wash of “Pendulums” that Sibyl really showcase their intention.

Sibyl on Thee Facebooks

Sibyl on Bandcamp

 

Golden Legacy, Golden Legacy II

golden legacy golden legacy ii

London heavy noise duo Golden Legacy offer five tracks and 23 minutes of anti-genre, adrenaline rock to follow-up their 2016 self-titled EP. There’s a strong undercurrent of modern punk and indie to their sound, which is what gets them the “anti-genre” consideration, but it’s the energy of their delivery carrying them one way or the other as they drive through the harsh snare of “Cut and Crash” following the chunkier tone of opener “Moon” and just before centerpiece “Dirty Mouth” finds its way into grunge-style howling beastliness. Comprised of drummer/vocalist Lorena Cachito and guitarist Yanni Georgiou, the two-piece find winning momentum in “Salvation,” while closer “Thirsty” opens with a mellow drum progression gradually joined by the guitar and builds into more progressive and dramatic movement, casting off some of the rawness of the songs before it in favor of more complex fare. It still manages to soar at the end, though, and that seems to be what counts. They might be rawer now than they’ll eventually turn out, but that suits most of what they’re doing in adding to the emotionality on display in Cachito‘s vocals.

Golden Legacy on Thee Facebooks

Golden Legacy on Bandcamp

 

Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Coven of the Ultra-Riff

saint karloff devils witches coven of the ultra-riff

Alright, look. I don’t even think I have the full thing, but whatever. Saint Karloff and Devil’s Witches came together to release the Coven of the Ultra-Riff split — it can be so hard to find the right coven for your family; have you considered the Ultra-Riff? — and they each play an original track and then they cover each other’s songs and then Saint Karloff introduce the progression of “Supervixen (Electric Return)” and Devil’s Witches take up the mantle and run with it on “Supervixen (Acoustic Return),” so yeah, it’s pretty awesome and kind of all over the place but whatever. Get your head around it and get on board with whatever version you can grab. Vinyl came out through Majestic Mountain Records and tapes were through Stoner Witch Records and I’m fairly certain it’s all sold out already and probably stupid expensive on Discogs, but do what you need to do, because this is what Sabbath worship in the year 2019 is supposed to sound like. It’s bombed out of its gourd and has long since dropped out of life. It’s exactly where and what it wants to be.

Saint Karloff on Thee Facebooks

Devil’s Witches on Thee Facebooks

Majestic Mountain Records BigCartel store

Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Burden Limbs, There is No Escape

burden limbs there is no escape

I’m not going to pretend to have the grounding in post-hardcore to toss off the influences under which Burden Limbs are working, but to listen to the blast of noise in “How Many Times Must I Reset” and the near-industrial wash of noise they conjure in the subsequent “Hypochondriac,” it’s clear they’re working under one influence anyway. There is No Escape (released through Glasshouse Records) runs 24 minutes and carries four songs, but in that time the band around founding figurehead and guitarist/vocalist Chad Murray manage to challenge themselves and the listener alike to keep up with their turns and emotional resonance. Murray is joined by two bassists, another guitarist, keyboards/synth and drums, so yes, there’s something of a busy feel to it, but even echoing cavernous as they are, the vocals seem to draw the songs together around a central presence and add a human core to the proceedings that only makes them all the more affecting as would seem to be the intent.

Burden Limbs on Thee Facebooks

Glasshouse Records on Bandcamp

 

El Supremo, Clarity Through Distortion

El Supremo Clarity Through Distortion

Sometimes these things take a while, but El Supremo was formed by now-ex-Egypt bassist Chad Heille has a solo-project and released a self-titled demo in 2008, to which Clarity Through Distortion is the follow-up full-length. Now joined by guitarist Neil Stein (also ex-Egypt, and who also played some on the demo) and organist Chris Gould as well as bassist Cam Dewald who came aboard after the album’s completion, the instrumentalist full-band incarnation of El Supremo waste no time diving into dead-on tonal and riffy righteousness, taking classic heavy cues and running with them in modern production richness, sounding clear but natural as a jam like “Moanin’ & Groanin'” turns into a shuffler as it moves into its second half, or the mellow sway of the 14-minute “Supercell” at last runs head-on into the lumbering motion that will carry it through to the end. I don’t know how much clarity — at least of the existential sort I think they mean in the title — they might’ve found by the time the bluesy “Lotus Throne” rolls over into the shreddy “Outro” that caps, but if the method is distortion, they’ve certainly got that part down.

El Supremo on Thee Facebooks

El Supremo on Bandcamp

 

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Seedy Jeezus to Tour Europe in Aug./Sept. with Tony Reed on Bass

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey, if it works, go with it. Last year, as they were getting ready to release their second album, Polaris Oblique (review here), Melbourne heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus announced they’d tour Europe with Tony Reed sitting in on bass. Reed, best known for his variety of musical projects including Mos Generator and his near-constant appearances in phrases like “mixed and mastered by…,” hails from Port Orchard, Washington, and had recorded with Seedy Jeezus in the past.

Clearly everybody got along pretty well, because here we are in 2019 and Seedy Jeezus will make a return to Europe toward the tail end of this summer with Reed once again handling the low end. They’ll also have Davide Straccione in tow, and my immediate response to the news was, “Live album please,” which was not greeted with an outright “no,” so I’ll take that to mean that at very least the thought isn’t abhorrent to them. That’ll do for today.

Specific dates for the run haven’t been announced yet, but here’s word from the band that it’s happening, as per the social medias:

seedy jeezus

Well folks …. it’s on !! We have snagged together enough shows to make it viable.

Seedy Jeezus ( with Tony Reed ) will be hitting the road again. Late August to Mid September.

We have shows in Germany , Poland, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland and France booked.

Many thanks to the folks who have helped us to put this together and to those who have offered to help us …. unfortunately we can’t travel everywhere, but we have notes for the next tour… we will be in touch.

Paul is unable to tour at this time… so Tony Reed ( the mastermind behind Mos Generator) has generously agreed to join us again along with Davide Straccione. He’s one of us now !! We love Davide

So expect venue and dates announced soon…. and please come out and say hi to us while we’re nearby.

Keep it Seedy !!

Seedy Jeezus is usually:
Mark Sibson – Drums
Lex Waterreus – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Crick – Bass/Noises

http://www.seedyjeezus.com
https://www.facebook.com/seedyjeezuspage/
https://laybarerecordings.com/
Ripple Music website
Blown Music website

Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique (2018)

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DÖ Sign to Lay Bare Recordings; Astral Death Cult Due This Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know if the one release has anything to do with the other, but in 2017, the Finnish trio hit their rehearsal space and live-recorded a demo with two songs called Astral: Death / Birth — note that death comes first — that could well feed into their impending full-length release Astral Death Cult, which will be issued through Lay Bare Recordings this Fall. Again, that’s not something I know — I don’t really know anything, pretty much ever — but if one or another of “Astral Death” and “Astral Birth” ended up on the record, would it really be a surprise? What with all that astral living and dying going on in general?

Well, whether or not they’re properly put to tape — actually, they sound pretty right on as is — both of those tracks are streaming at the bottom of this post. They serve as my introduction to , and if the same applies to you, you might find their sludgy riffs and gurgling vocals raising just the right kind of blisters. No word on an exact release date for the album, but they’ve got a teaser up and it seems likely when it lands you’ll feel the thud anyway. Just keep an ear out. You’ll hear it coming.

Lay Bare posted the following:

DÖ

Do… or DÖ we have some good news for you?

Yes! The newest addition to the Lay Bare Family is a band from The Land Of The Thousand Lakes. We are talking about the Finnish stoner doom powerhouse DÖ (means “Die” in Swedish).

Their new album “Astral Death Cult” will be out in Autumn 2019, and it will unleash six soul crushing hymns with earthy northern tone, riffs heavy as a neutron star and lyrics that salute the great cosmic forces.

Hail Cosmos! We’re all döömed!

DÖ is:
Big Dog (Guitar)
Deaf Hank (Vox & Bass)
Joe E. Deliverance (‘E’ stands for ‘Epic’) (Drums & Vox)

https://www.facebook.com/astraldeathcult
https://www.instagram.com/astraldeathcult/
https://doofficial666.bandcamp.com
https://laybarerecordings.com/
https://www.facebook.com/laybarerecordings/
https://twitter.com/laybarerecs

DÖ, Astral Death Cult album teaser

DÖ, Astral: Death / Birth (2017)

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Ruff Majik Post “Gloom & Tomb” Video & Announce Tårn Album Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ruff majik (Photo by Christelle Duvenage)

Not really sure where to place the riffage hurling forth from Ruff Majik‘s new album, Tårn. Set for release as their first offering through Lay Bare Recordings and with a European tour presumably to be announced for the Fall given their recent Keep it Low confirmation, the album is somewhere between grit metal and doomly fuzz. Dirt doom, maybe? The groove has nasty edge, but they’re not really sludge, and the guitar cuts through raw like the best of garage heavy. I’m going to take some more time and really dig in, let it get under my fingernails, and see where we’re at, but in the meantime, Ruff Majik have a new video for “Gloom & Tomb,” which is the second song on the record after the opener, “Schizophrenic.” You’re also going to want to watch out for “Heretically Happy.” There’s some cool shit happening here.

Alright, I’ve said too much. Though before I punch out, I’m glad to see in the PR wire info below that I’m not the only one who saw the Tårn cover and thought of He-Man.

Here’s the art, album details and preorder links. Video is at the bottom of the post, as usual:

ruff majik tarn

Ruff Majik reveal artwork for Tårn and video for new single Gloom & Tomb

South African riff-mongers Ruff Majik have revealed the artwork for new album Tårn along with a video new single Gloom & Tomb. Having recently announced their signing to Dutch label Lay Bare Recordings for the vinyl release of the album and with a couple European tours already lined up, 2019 is going to be a busy year for the band.

Working closely with long-time collaborator Anni Buchner on the artwork for Tårn (Norwegian for tower), guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday explains more about the inspiration behind it all, “We chose the image of the tarot tower for this album cover because it symbolizes crisis, liberation and sudden unforeseen change. The band has been going through these motions for a few months now, and we felt it would only be fitting. We handed that over to Anni, and she turned it into magic as usual.”

“I’ve been working with the band since their first release back in 2015, and as the music has grown and developed over time, so has the art along with it in my opinion. The artwork is a new and more colourful take on the look of the classic Tower tarot card that holds a lot of significance for the band, as well as a bit of a reference to the iconic ‘Castle Grayskull’ from He-Man. Stylistically it’s also me trying out new things with gradients and textures.” adds Anni Buchner.

Johni goes on to comment on the video,” For this video, the band decided to go for a classic karaoke style sing along look, with some intense imagery in the background. Never straying too far from the psychedelic look, the video is full of eye-catching colours and dizzying sequences”

Pre-order on vinyl Here
Pre-order digital Here

Track Listing
1. Schizophrenic
2. Gloom & Tomb
3. I’ll Dig the Grave
4. Dread Breath
5. Heretically Happy
6. Speed Hippie
7. Seasoning the Witch

Ruff Majik is:
Johni Holiday (guitar/vocals)
Jimmy Glass (bass guitar)
Ben Manchino (drums)

https://www.ruffmajik.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ruffmajik
https://twitter.com/ruff_majik
https://www.instagram.com/ruffmajik/
https://laybarerecordings.com/
https://www.facebook.com/laybarerecordings/
https://twitter.com/laybarerecs

Ruff Majik, “Gloom & Tomb” official video

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Review & Track Premiere: Pyramidal, Pyramidal

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Pyramidal Pyramidal

[Click play above to stream ‘Digital Madness’ from Pyramidal’s self-titled LP. It’s out April 15 on Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records.]

There are a few seconds of silence before the opening track of Pyramidal‘s self-titled third album, “Visions of an Astral Journey,” begins and the choice to leave them there tells you much of what you need to know about the level of detail and meticulousness the Alicante, Spain, progressive heavy psychedelic rockers have put into the record as a whole. Pyramidal‘s Pyramidal, released by Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records as the follow-up to 2013’s Frozen Galaxies and their 2011 debut, Dawn in Space (review here), would seem to have been a while in the making were it not for the steady stream of short releases between. Still, as they arrive at the decade-mark since they first got together, the five songs/46 minutes they present with Pyramidal feels all the more like an event for the fact that it’s been six years since the last LP.

They do not fail to live up to the occasion, and 10 years on finds Pyramidal utterly in command of their sound and the listener’s experience, able to carry their audience through the sax-infused King Crimson-style chase and angular nuance of the aforementioned opener and into the mellower climes of “Creatures of the Ancient World,” which starts out likewise dramatic, but after about a minute, drops to a soothing and vaguely Eastern-inflected atmosphere, still intricate, that smooths the way forward into the next build, allowing for the proggy-but-heavy riff that takes hold at 4:45 to immediately mark the change to something else (actually, there’s a bass note before the guitar starts, but still). What follows is an active payoff to the first half of the song and a fluid but no less considered run than that which appeared in “Visions of an Astral Journey.” They resolve in a heavy space-rocking jam that also doesn’t last before dropping to a bass and drum-led section of psychedelic dance, which becomes consumed by guitar noise as it makes its way back to the central progression of the just-departed push.

It is a head-spinner, to be sure. Vocals are relatively spare but not entirely absent, and even the three-minute “Unconscious Oscillations,” which sounds like a sliver of a jam that could’ve been recorded when either of the first two tracks was being put to tape, has some whispers throughout its shorter than everything else run. “Unconscious Oscillations,” with the return of the sax, a ready push of drums and a still-directed drift in the guitar, feels almost like the closing credits for side A of Pyramidal, and serves as a quick summary of the rather considerable depth the band has thus far employed. Not necessarily depth in terms of the actual mix, though it wants nothing for spaciousness throughout “Visions of an Astral Journey,” “Creatures of the Ancient World” and “Unconscious Oscillations,” but in terms of the positioning within the mix of the elements being put to use and the care with which the material is executed. While still sounding natural in the end, Pyramidal‘s work is exacting and full of purpose.

pyramidal (Photo by Sergio Albert)

Though they’ve obviously allowed room for “happy accidents” in the studio, this is not a band who went into making their third record without an idea of what they wanted. Their style, while indebted to classic prog and space rock, has its eyes forward and never loses track of where it wants to go. This remains true as the quiet ambience of “Digital Madness” mirrors the quiet at the start of “Visions of an Astral Journey,” keyboard setting a foundation for airy guitar to come to the fore and build in tension until after a minute in the full brunt of the song is unveiled. Again, it’s a showing of the patience and intent that Pyramidal signaled at the outset. A verse sees vocals matching rhythmic pattern to the guitar with a tinge of Spanish folk offset by the outward-push of the bridge sets up the next verse, the tonal thickness there a standout soon offset by a sprawling solo. They are not yet four minutes into the total 9:42. That’s the kind of record this is.

They continue to build the solo before cutting back to the acoustic/electric blend and a wash of crash cymbal at the midpoint before the lead guitar steps up with a winding run to introduce the next movement. Toms sound like footsteps trying to keep up. A harmony line kicks in, and then they’re riffing again like nothing happened. Did I mention “head-spinner?” A quick few lines of spoken word precede the next solo, then interrupt it, and Pyramidal are at full force with a vision of progressive heavy that would make peak-era Steven Wilson blush. The last build begins with dreamy guitar and a turn to creeping notes, the entry of drums and a surge of volume, and they mute chords before a last measure brings “Digital Madness” to a close to the madness of closer “Alussa Infinity” can arrive, which it does with scale-work to match that of the opener that unfurls into a fuzzier stretch of psych-jazz that in turn gives way to malevolent spoken word and a darker overall vibe.

Pyramidal are not out of surprises yet, and as they toy with tropes from heavy metal, they are no less in control of the proceedings than they’ve been all along. “Alussa Infinity” continues to grow aggressive through a shouty midsection before changing after seven minutes into its total 14:21 to a stretch of ethereal guitar spaciousness that moves into a grander, string-infused progression that’s every bit the grand finale Pyramidal deserves. Then they do it again, and afterward cap the album with a soothing last few minutes of astro-rock and leave it there, having quietly matched side A’s structure in the two tracks on side B but still gone further in the overarching aesthetic mission. That mission may be ongoing, but Pyramidal‘s declaration of who they are in this self-titled collection is not to be overlooked. Their material is expansive and handled with a graceful collective hand, such that they’re neither out of control nor overly in it. That balance is part of what makes these tracks flow so well, and what makes each change presented herein a pleasure to follow.

Pyramidal on Thee Facebooks

Pyramidal on Instagram

Pyramidal on Bandcamp

Pyramidal website

Surnia Records website

Lay Bare Recordings website

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Pyramidal Set April 15 Release for Self-Titled LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

pyramidal (Photo by Sergio Albert)

Don’t tell anybody — or better yet, tell everybody! — but on March 25 I’ll be hosting a track premiere from Pyramidal‘s upcoming self-titled long-player. The album is set to release April 15 through Lay Bare Recordings and Surnia Records and will be their third album and first since 2013’s Frozen Galaxies, though they’ve certainly kept themselves busy in the years between with EPs and splits and playing live shows. And before you ask, yes, a pyramid is included. I’m not sure what it’s for, but it’s there, so be aware of it. Preorders start April 1.

And — shh! — check back in about a week and a half for that audio and more on the record.

From the PR wire:

pyramidal cover

PYRAMIDAL – PYRAMIDAL – LAY BARE RECORDINGS

Release date : April 15th , pre-order opens April 1st, 2019

In 2011, Pyramidal burst on the scene with Dawn in Space. The logo attached to this record was “Space is deep & music is Endless”. These words were a prediction that the band fulfilled in the years after this initial release. It earned them a place among the greats of the contemporary Space Rock La Liga. It landed them also invitations for shows on Europe’s biggest festivals like Roadburn, Yellowstock, Freak Valley & Psychedelic Network festival, whereas their latest release was recorded “Live from the 7th Psychedelic Network Festival 2014”.

Fast forward to 2019, we are set to release their third proper full length self-titled record, carrying number LBR22 in our discography. It is the first Lay Bare release for 2019 and this year shaping up our busiest year in existence.

The collaboration with Lay Bare Recordings started in 2014 with Live from Freak Valley 2013, followed by a split 12” with Domo in 2015 called James from the Sun. The new records contain five new songs filled with their blend of Hawkwindish Sabbath Floydian ancestral Space Rock. Release date is set for the 15th of April, with pre-order opening the 1st of April. And no this is not a bad joke: April 1st is the day you can acquire this must have Space Rock album.

The first vinyl press counts 250 pieces on 180grams vinyl, pressed on milky clear with swamp green, sea blue & bone colored vinyl. The cd edition is done by our partner Surnia records from Spain. As a special treat, a magic Pyramid is printed on the insert, one that can be cut out, pasted into a pyramid and used while playing the record.

https://www.facebook.com/pyramidalband/
https://www.instagram.com/pyramidalmusic/
https://pyramidalmusic.bandcamp.com/
http://pyramidalmusic.com/
http://surniarecords.com/
https://laybarerecordings.com/releases

Pyramidal, From Other Spheres (2016)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Bismut, Schwerpunkt

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismut schwerpunkt

[Click play above to stream Bismut’s Schwerpunkt in its entirety. Album is available to preorder from Lay Bare Recordings here.]

Nijmegen trio Bismut bill themselves as ‘instrumental psych desert metal,’ and unsurprisingly, there’s a bit to unpack there. They’re a relatively new entity, having just formed in 2016 with guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen and drummer Peter Dragt, and their first album is Schwerpunkt, a four-song/41-minute collection offered up on vinyl through Lay Bare Recordings (Pink Tank Records seems to have had some manner of involvement as well). Instrumental is pretty self-explanatory. Sure enough, they’re a sans-vocals operation. And fair enough. 14-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Borgerskapet” makes it pretty clear from the outset that the kinds of expanded structures with which Bismut are working throughout the release wouldn’t really support vocals anyway. And what are you going to do, shout over the 10-minute side B leadoff “Gewapende-Magte?” Then you’d just have noise rock, and I don’t see that listed anywhere in the above.

After instrumental comes psych. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if we’re talking heavy psychedelic rock of the European order with drifting airy guitars and a presentation coated in effects, the descriptor simply doesn’t apply. As regards Schwerpunkt, which was recorded live in its entirety and mixed by the band with mastering by Pieter Kloos, there is a spacious motion in the back half of closer “Czar” before the tense chugging of the song’s apex, but it’s more of the post-metallic sort. That is, more methodical than exploratory — Bismut have a direction in mind and are working to get there. It’s not just about hypnotizing the listener with repetition, but about the heavier context in which that movement happens. Second cut “Stórborg” has a bit more effects in its early going, though this resolves itself by the song’s midpoint into a tense, winding progression and finally into a slowdown of Melvinsian riffmaking. And sure, one can hear some Earthless in “Borgerskapet” if the ear is twisted just so. So psychedelic? Maybe here and there.

Let’s assume “desert” is a stand-in for capital-‘h’ Heavy — because that certainly applies — or tossed in the way some bands still use the designation “stoner” or “riff” as a designation for their rock. To me, desert rock — regardless of its geographic origin or the actual terrain in that place — is a question of melding tonal fullness with a root punk influence. Sabbath might be a factor but they’re by no means the only one. Bismut don’t really play desert rock in the Kyuss/Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson sense of the subgenre, but if one considers the age of expanded definition in which we live, then there’s really no reason the “desert” really has to be anything more than a dogwhistle for an affiliation with underground heavy. And that’s mostly how it functions. Listening to Schwerpunkt — the title of which translates to “main focus” or “center of gravity” — the prevailing sensibility is most certainly heavy, but there’s a fluidity to the rhythmic play and the swaps in tempo that makes “desert” feel a little like it’s cheating the actual complexity of what’s playing out in the flow of “Gewapende-Magte” or “Stórborg,” with its final push of churning plod.

bismut

The upshot is that while there are loyalists, “desert” can mean any number of things at this point, and it usually does. If Bismut had gone with “heavy” instead, it might be more accurate, but it would confuse the use of “metal,” since of course heavy metal has a context all its own. And metal is perhaps second in accuracy only to “instrumental” when it comes to the band’s presumably-self-imposed sound tag, because it considers in a way that “psych” or even “desert” does not the aggression with which Bismut underscore and execute their material. It’s not metal in the chestbeating, dude-for-dudes kneejerk abrasive sense of the word, but there’s a purpose and a charge to what Bismut do, and whether it’s the fluidity in “Borgerskapet” or the snare-and-chug in “Gewapende-Magte,” the band plays with purpose and conviction on their debut album. If that makes them metal, then so be it. Metal it is.

A missing word in all of this is “progressive,” since the one thing Bismut don’t seem to account for in their sound at least as it appears on Schwerpunkt is the consideration in each song of where that song is going. I don’t know how much of each song was left up to happy accidents in the recording — the bass bounce of “Czar,” maybe, and some of the swirl in “Stórborg” — but even those inherently off-the-cuff moments that happen as a result of a band performing live in the studio are brought into the underlying mission behind the album, and are made purposeful simply by their inclusion and the fact that by being there, they play a crucial role in Bismut‘s intent for what their first album should be. One might also consider “atmospheric” an both an acknowledgement of the post-metallic aspects in “Czar” and the general affecting nature of the songwriting as a whole. It’s not just an album about mood, but even through the energetic live recording there can be heard a budding sense of patience in their execution that may or may not come further toward fruition on subsequent outings.

Maybe “raw atmospheric heavy” as a revised descriptor? “Raw” acknowledges the priority of capturing the three of them in the room together, the stage-ready element of their sound. “Atmospheric” brings in the purposeful nature of their sonic reach, and “heavy” functions as a characterization of tone and mindset alike. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Whatever Bismut decide to call themselves in the longer term, while indicative of how they think about the music they’re making, is of course ultimately secondary to the making of that music. Perhaps most importantly, they give their audience with Schwerpunkt something to dig into and elicit a response and engagement on the part of the listener. They’ve been building a reputation in the Netherlands — enough to attract the attention of Lay Bare, which is bound to serve as positive reinforcement — and listening to the album, it’s easy to hear why. Even in this “raw” modus, with the emphasis put on basic performance rather than a lush studio construction, Bismut show themselves as opening a conversation on Schwerpunkt instrumentally with themselves — which indeed might be their center of gravity — and with their audience, whose interaction, regardless of the interpretative quibbles they might bring to it, is a triumph in itself.

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Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique: Light in the Sun’s Eye

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

SEEDY JEEZUS POLARIS OBLIQUE

Theirs is a sound built on headphone-worthy psychedelia and 8-track-ready classic heavy rock groove, and when Seedy Jeezus made their self-titled debut in 2015, they seemed to know it. Based in Melbourne, the Aussie three-piece would go on later that year to release a standalone single titled Echoes in the Sky (discussed here), and would follow it with the 2016 live album, Live in Netphen: Freak Valley 2015 (discussed here), a 2016 collaboration with guitarist Isaiah Mitchell of Earthless and Golden Void called Tranquonauts (review here) and a 2017 single covering Led Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown” (video premiered here). All of this has come alongside a healthy amount of touring, and word early on of a second LP in progress. With support in Europe from Lay Bare Recordings for the domestic Blown Music release, Polaris Oblique arrives as that sophomore full-length, with nine tracks and 41 minutes of classic-gone-modern heavy rock that brings all the bluesy thrust of Lucifer’s Friend and Black Sabbath and brings it into a now-style context; not at all retro, but strongly influenced.

The songs themselves — the longest of which is is 6:41 mellow groover “3 Million Light Years” — are rife with the chemistry between guitarist/vocalist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Waterreus, bassist Paul Crick and drummer Mark Sibson and show a dynamic range that reaches from the unmitigated scorch of “Oh Lord (Part One)” to the subdued balladry of “My Gods are Stone,” which boasts a guest guitar appearance from the aforementioned Isaiah Mitchell, to the Floydian weaving of acoustics and electrics on the methodically-paced “Dripping from the Eye of the Sun.” Waterreus as a singer is capable of carrying across the variety of moods these tracks and the rest, and I won’t take away from the contributions of Crick and Sibson in terms of rhythm and enhancing the changes and deepening the execution overall, but at its heart, Polaris Oblique is very much a guitar album. Its foundation is in the riffs, and the recording — by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, who also adds lead guitar to “Oh Lord (Part Two)” — highlights lead work as a crucial element even as side B moves into its farthest-out in the penultimate nodder “Treading Water.”

Seedy Jeezus wouldn’t be the first heavy rock act to put the emphasis on guitar by any means, but the character in Waterreus‘ playing is a defining element here as well — so it’s both what he plays and how he plays it, whether it’s the swaggering rip and shuffle of opener “Intro – Polaris Oblique” or the laid back riding of the bassline he does in “3 Million Lives” following the post-Stooges shove of “Everything Will be Alright.” Add to this a remarkable sense of flow across the entire release, and Polaris Oblique almost feels like a song unto itself. Not that it was written that way — it’s definitely a collection of individual pieces, just that the way it moves between them almost follows a similar pattern of a classic structure. There are the initial rockers in “Intro – Polaris Oblique” and “Everything Will Be Alright,” a wistful departure in “3 Million Lives” and a dug in mellow groove on “My Gods Are Stone” before “Oh Lord (Part One)” kicks everything in the ass and the trilogy of “Oh Lord (Part Two),” “Dripping from the Eye of the Sun” and “Treading Water” dive deeper into psych-prog nuance and “Barefoot Travelin’ Man” closes out by returning to the earthbound vibrancy of the opening segment.

seedy jeezus photo barry c douglas

The whole album reads as a well-structured piece, with individual parts of what whole making their own impressions along the way, tied together by their focus around the guitar even as they express varying ideas and sensibilities. And it’s an added bit of intrigue that Waterreus would bring in Mitchell and Reed to play guitar. Sure, Seedy Jeezus has collaborated with both before — Reed also recorded the debut, and there was the already-noted Tranquonauts with Mitchell — but it’s clearly more of a personal choice. The band wanted those guys to be a part of their album. Listening to Waterreus shred to pieces on “Oh Lord (Part One)” and match wits with Reed on the subsequent “Part Two” it’s not like he can’t hold his own when it comes to tearing into a solo. It’s not like they’re covering for his not being up to the task by bringing in these players. One suspects it was as much about wanting to hang out in the studio with MitchellReed was obviously already there — as it was anything else. The results are striking either way.

One might say the same of the album in general. It’s not overly showy in terms of technical hijinks, but it does have a precise aspect to its personality, and it makes abundantly clear that Seedy Jeezus know what they want to get out of each track included, up to and including the raucous finish they provide with “Barefoot Travelin’ Man,” which smoothly brings Polaris Oblique to its finish by delving one more time into heavier blues pulsations and a fervent heavy ’70s groove, propelled by Sibson‘s drums, which are worthy in sound and delivery of a comparison to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. In fact, as much as Polaris Oblique puts the guitar at the center, it’s Crick and Sibson both who actively allow that to be the case. One gets the sense that either would be comfortable leading the charge, but that they’re well at home in the pocket as it is, swinging away and offering moments of flourish like that which Crick brings to the midsection of “3 Million Lives,” matching step with Waterreus‘ guitar ahead of a turn to speedy shuffle that nearly hits The Atomic Bitchwax levels of head-spin before resuming the song’s core slower tempo.

This dynamic too is emblematic of a classic power trio, and it works well in accordance with Seedy Jeezus‘ methods overall. In their aesthetic, craft and performance, they bring a traditionalist feel, and yet Reed‘s production is nothing if not shimmering with a modern clarity. Ultimately, this interaction is less of a push-pull than it is a rare alignment, and taken in consideration with the fluidity in and between the songs the whole way through, Polaris Oblique is a marked achievement when it comes to further establishing Seedy Jeezus as a presence of note in the international underground sphere. Whether you listen on headphones, on blaring speakers, on vinyl, CD or digital, there’s much to dig into and much to dig across the record’s thoroughly unpretentious, welcoming span.

Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique (2018)

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