Quarterly Review: Boris, DVNE, Hydra, Jason Simon, Cherry Choke, Pariiah, Saavik, Mountain Tamer, Centre El Muusa, Population II

Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Kind of a spur of the moment thing, this Quarterly Review. I’ve been adding releases all the while, of course, but my thought was to do this after my year-end list went up, and I realized, hey, if I’ve got like 70 records I haven’t reviewed yet, maybe there’s some of that stuff worth considering. So here we are. I’ve pushed back my best-of-2020 stuff and basically swapped it with the Quarterly Review. Does it matter to you? I seriously, seriously doubt it, but I believe in transparency and that’s what’s up. Thought I’d let you know. And yeah, this is going to go into next week, take us through the X-mas holiday this Friday, so whatever. You celebrate your way and I’ll celebrate mine. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Boris, No

boris no

As a general project, reviewing Boris is damn near pointless. One might as well review the moon: “uh, it’s big and out there most of the time?” The only reason to do it is either to exercise one’s own need to hyperbolize or help the band sell records. Well, Boris doesn’t need my push and I don’t need to tell them how great they are. No is 40 minutes of the widely and wildly lauded Japanese heavy rock(s) experimentalists trying to riff away existing in 2020, delving high speed into hardcore here and there and playing off that with grueling sludge, punk, garage-metal and the penultimate “Loveless,” which is kind of Boris being their own genre. Much respect to the band, and I suppose one might critique Boris for, what?, being so Boris-y?, but there really isn’t a ton that hasn’t been said about them because such a ton has. I’m not trying to disparage their work at all — No is just what you’d expect as regards defying expectation — but after 20-plus years, there’s only so many ways one wants to call a band genius.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris on Bandcamp

 

DVNE, Omega Severer

DVNE Omega Severer

Kind of a soft-opening for Edinburgh’s DVNE as an act on Metal Blade Records, unless of course one counts the two songs on the Omega Severer EP itself, which are post-metallic beasts of the sort that would and should make The Ocean blush. Progressive, heavy, and remarkably ‘next-wave’ feeling, DVNE‘s awaited follow-up to 2017’s Asheran may only be about 17 and a half minutes long, but it bodes remarkably well as the band master a torrent of intensity on the 10-minute opening title-cut and answer that with the immediately galloping “Of Blade and Carapace,” smashing battle-axe riffing and progressive shimmer against each other and finding it to be an alchemy of their own. Album? One suspects not until they can tour for it, but if Omega Severer is DVNE serving notice, consider the message received loud, clear, dynamic, crushing, spacious, and so on. Already veterans of Psycho Las Vegas, they sound like a band bent on capturing a broader audience in the metallic sphere.

DVNE on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Hydra, From Light to the Abyss

hydra from light to the abyss

There’s no questioning where Hydra‘s heart is at on their debut full-length, From Light to the Abyss. It belongs to the devil and it belongs to Black Sabbath. The Polish four-piece riff hard and straightforward throughout most of the five-track offering (released by Piranha Music), and samples set the kind of atmosphere that should be familiar enough to the converted — “No One Loves Like Satan” reminds of Uncle Acid in its initial channel-changing and swaggering riff alike — but doomly centerpiece “Creatures of the Woods” and the layered vocal melodies late in closer “Magical Mind” perhaps offer a glimpse at the direction the band could take from here. What matters though is where Hydra are at today, and that’s bringing riffs and nod to the converted among the masses, and From Light to the Abyss offers no pretense otherwise. It is doom rock for doom rockers, grooves to be grooved to. They’re not void of ambition by any means — their songwriting makes that clear — but their traditionalism is sleeve-worn, which if you’re going to have it, is right where it should be.

Hydra on Thee Facebooks

Piranha Music on Bandcamp

 

Jason Simon, A Venerable Wreck

jason simon a venerable wreck

Dead Meadow guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon follows 2016’s Familiar Haunts (review here) with the genre-spanning A Venerable Wreck, finding folk roots in obscure beats and backwards this-and-that, country in fuzz, ramble in space, and no shortage of experimentalism besides. A Venerable Wreck consists of 12 songs and though there are times where it can feel disjointed, that becomes part of the ride. It’s not all supposed to make sense. Yet what happens by the time you get around to “No Entrance No Exit” is that Simon (and a host of cohorts) has set his own context broad enough so that the drone reach of “Hollow Lands” and sleek, organ-laced indie of closer “Without Reason or Right” can coexist without any real interruption of flow between them. The question with A Venerable Wreck isn’t so much whether the substance is there, it’s whether the listener is open to it. Welcome to psychedelic America. Please inject this snake venom and turn in your keys when you leave.

Jason Simon on Bandcamp

BYM Records website

 

Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse

Cherry Choke-Raising Salzburg Rockhouse-Cover

You won’t hear me take away from the opening psych-scorch hook of “Mindbreaker” or the fuzzed-on, boogie-down, -up, and -sideways of “Black Annis” which follows, but there’s something extra fun about hearing Frog Island’s Cherry Choke jam out a 13-minute, drum-solo-inclusive version of “6ix and 7even” that makes Raising Salzburg Rockhouse even more of a reminder of how underrated both they are as a band and Mat Bethancourt is as a player. Look no further than “Domino” if you want absolute proof. The whole band rips it up at the Austrian gig, which was recorded in 2015 as they supported their third and still-most-recent full-length, Raising the Waters (review here), but Bethancourt puts on a Hendrixian clinic in the nine-minute cut from 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which is actually less of a clinic than it is pure distorted swagger followed by a mellow “cheers, thanks” before diving into “Used to Call You Friend.” A 38-minute set would be perfect for an vinyl release, and anytime Cherry Choke want to get around to putting together a fourth studio album, well, that’ll be just fine too.

Cherry Choke on Thee Facebooks

Cherry Choke on Bandcamp

 

Pariiah, Swallowed by Fog

Pariiah swallowed by fog

It’s a special breed of aggro that emerges as a result of living in the most densely populated state in the union, and New Jersey’s Pariiah have it to spare. Bringing together sludge tonality with elder-style New York hardcore lumbering riffs on their Trip Machine Laboratories tape, Swallowed by Fog, they exude a thickened brand of pissed off that’s outright going to be too confrontation for many who take it on. But if you want a middle finger to the face, this is what it sounds like, and the six songs (compiled into four on the digital version of the release) come and go entirely without pretense and leave little behind except bruises and the promise of more to come. They’re a new band, started in this most wretched of years, but there’s no learning curve whatsoever among the members of Devoid of Faith, The Nolan Gate, Kill Your Idols, Changeörder and others. I’d go to Maplewood to see these cats. I’m just saying. Maybe even Elizabeth.

Pariiah on Bandcamp

Trip Machine Laboratories website

 

Saavik, Saavik

saavik saavik

So you’ve got both members of Holly Hunt in a four-piece sludging out with spacey synth and the band is named after a Star Trek character? Not to get too personal, but that’s going to pique my interest one way or the other. Saavik — and they clearly prefer the Kirstie Alley version, rather than Robin Curtis, going by drummer Beatriz Monteavaro‘s artwork — are damn near playing space rock by the end of “He’s Dead Jim,” the opener of their self-titled debut EP, but even that’s affected by a significant tonal weight in Didi Aragon‘s bass and the guitar of Gavin Perry, however much Ryan Rivas‘ synth and effects-laced vocals might seem to float overhead, but “Meld” rolls along at a steadier nod, and “Horizon” puts the synth more in the lead without becoming any less heavy for doing so. Likewise, “Red Sun” calls to mind Godflesh in its proto-machine metal stomp, but there’s more concern in Saavik‘s sound with expanse than just pure crush, and that shows up in fascinating ways in these songs.

Saavik on Thee Facebooks

Other Electricities on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual

mountain tamer psychosis ritual

There’s been a dark vibe all along nestled into Mountain Tamer‘s sound, and that’s certainly the case on Psychosis Ritual, with which the Los Angeles-based trio make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s their third full-length overall behind 2018’s Godfortune // Dark Matters (review here) and 2016’s self-titled debut (review here), and it finds their untamed-feeling psychedelia rife with that same threat of violence, not necessarily thematically as much as sonically, like the songs themselves are the weapon about to be turned on the listener. Maybe the buzz of “Warlock” or the fuckall echo of the prior-issued single “Death in the Woods” (posted here) aren’t out there trying to be “Hammer Smashed Face” or anything, but neither is this the hey-bruh-good-times heavy jams for which Southern California is known these days. Consider the severity of “Turoc Maximus Antonis” or the finally-released screams in closer “Black Noise,” which bookends Psychosis Ritual with the title-track and seems at last to be the point where whatever grim vibe these guys are riding finally consumes them. Mountain Tamer continue to be unexpected and righteous in kind.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Centre El Muusa, Centre El Muusa

centre el muusa centre el muusa

Hypnotic Estonian psychedelic krautrock instrumentals not your thing? Well that sounds like a personal problem Centre El Muusa are ready to solve. The evolved-from-duo four-piece get spaced out amid the semi-motorik repetitions of their self-titled debut (on Sulatron), and that seems to suit them quite well, thanksabunch. Drone trips and essential swirl brim with solar-powered pulsations and you can set your deflectors on maximum and route all the secondaries to reinforce if you want, there’s still a decent chance 9:53 opener an longest track “Turkeyfish” (immediate points, double for the appropriately absurd title) is going to sweep you off what you used to call your feet when that organ line hits at about six minutes in. That’s to say nothing of the cosmic collision later in “Burning Lawa” or the just-waiting-for-a-Carl-Sagan-voiceover “Mia” that follows. Even the 3:46 “Ain’t Got Enough Mojo” lives long enough to prove itself wrong. Interstellar tape transmissions fostered by obvious weirdos in the great out-there in “Szolnok,” named for a city in Hungary that, among other things, hosts the goulash festival. Right fucking on.

Centre El Muusa on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Population II, À La Ô Terre

Population II a La o Terre

The first Population II album, a 2017 self-titled, was comprised of two tracks, each long enough to consume a 12″ side. Somehow it’s fitting with the Montreal-based singing-drummer trio’s aesthetic that their second long-player, À la Ô Terre, would take a completely different tack, employing shorter freakouts like “L’Offrande” and “La Nuit” and the garage-rocking “La Danse” and what-if-JeffersonAirplane-but-on-Canadian-mushrooms “À la Porte de Demain” and still-more-drifting finisher “Je Laisse le Soleil Briller” amid the more stretched out “Attaction,” the space-buzzer “Ce n’est Réve” while cutting a middle ground in the greaked-out (I was gonna type “freaked out” and hit a typo and I’m keeping it) “Il eut un Silence dans le Ciel,” which also betrays the jazzy underpinnings that somehow make all of À la Ô Terre come across as progressive instead of haphazard. From the start to the close, you don’t know what’s coming next, and just because that’s by design doesn’t make it less effective. If anything, it makes Population II all the more impressive.

Population II on Thee Facebooks

Castle Face Records website

 

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Mathew’s Hidden Museum Streams Golden Echoes EP in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on December 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mathews hidden museum

This Friday, Dec. 4, UK-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Mathew Bethancourt — known for his work in Josiah, Cherry Choke, The Kings of Frog Island‘s first three LPs, etc. — will release the debut EP from a new solo endeavor, Mathew’s Hidden Museum. Comprised of three tracks, Golden Echoes follows behind two singles posted in October (one of which was a remake of The Kings of Frog Island‘s “Satanica”), and while Bethancourt has in the past produced some of the most diggable fuzz ever put to tape — yes, I mean that — Golden Echoes pushes beyond the hairy riffs once proffered by Josiah and even Cherry Choke‘s blend of garage rock and psychedelia to offer a decided turn toward the weird.

Yes, friends. The sometimes-mandated idleness of 2020’s quarantine months has produced any number of offshoot projects from artists, but honestly, as it’s been five years since the last Cherry Choke studio LP, 2015’s stunning Raising the Waters (review here), I’m glad to hear from Bethancourt at all. And Golden Echoes — as the title might hint — is far from another “hey I’ve been stuck in my house for five months so here’s a dungeon synth”-style experience. The bulk of the 16-minute outing takes place in “Golden” and “The Voyage of Psyche,” while closer “Golden (Echoes Flow)))” builds off the opener with a quiet, drifting three and a half minutes, easing into the end of the proceedings. Prior to, the five-minute “Golden” starts with far back drums and piano and Mathews Hidden Museum golden echoesvocals, establishing a hook early on. A hint of melodica prefaces the soon-to-dominate-the-mix arrival of that overlaid progression, and when Bethancourt joins with a second layer of vocals, the experimentalist vibe is set and ready to be fleshed out for the remainder of the piece, which is backed by the 7:20 “The Voyage of Psyche”‘s immediately bizarro-Floydian organ.

Less structured overall, and without the solidity of the same kind of prominent drumbeat to keep it grounded — at least initially — “The Voyage of Psyche” is a semi-directed self-jam that unfolds in two, maybe three, stages. The organ holds sway initially until the arrival of harder drums and electric guitar near the midpoint. A solo gives way to a lower-toned, deceptively fuzzy riff, like Bethancoursneaking into his wheelhouse without telling anyone, but it’s the drums that ultimately dominate, as a relatively simple but locked in groove is backed by quiet bass as the guitar takes a momentary rest before picking up again and carrying to the sudden finish. After that aptly-named journey, the drone-patient beginning of “Golden (Echoes Flow)))” feels suitably like an arrival, with quietly woven guitar figures hinting toward a wash but never becoming quite so overbearing before the already-noted soft let-go at the finish.

The overarching lesson of Golden Echoes is that Mathew’s Hidden Museum is unhindered, unbound by expectation or some imaginary genre limit. The grace in the closer particularly speaks to future explorations that might come, but the same could easily be said of the entire release and the project as a whole. Whatever Bethancourt does with his Hidden Museum, or if he does nothing with it at all from here on out, these songs effectively speak to their moment of creation and set an open foundation upon which subsequent work might build. One doesn’t want to go around making predictions, but Golden Echoes sounds far more like a beginning than an end.

You’ll find the EP streaming below in its entirety, followed by some comment from Bethancourt about its making.

Please enjoy:

Mathew Bethancourt on Golden Echoes:

Like so many, I suddenly found myself with the gift of time. Time to think, reflect, step back and watch the world deconstruct itself. Watching some turn to fear and panic, now aware of the unquenchable thirst created by the sudden lack of rampant consumption in their lives. Whilst I calmly looked on, observed and slowly started to make music.

The enforced social isolation meant I had to do everything myself. My parameters and limitations forced the creative solutions unique to my situation. This music will never happen again. It’s a one off product of a freak moment in time. Born of an experience that will echo across all our lives. All written and performed during the UK lockdown. I hope my observations, of the delicate construct we call society and the people existing within, reflect in the sound. Like – Golden Echoes)))

Tracklisting:
1. Golden
2. The Voyage Of Psyche
3. Golden (Echoes Flow)))

Composed, Performed & Recorded by Mathew’s Hidden Museum somewhere between the months of April & September 2020.

Cherry Choke on Thee Facebooks

Mathew’s Hidden Museum on Instagram

Mathew’s Hidden Museum on Bandcamp

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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.

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube

The Kings of Frog Island on CDBaby

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

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The Kings of Frog Island Post “The Watcher 2020” Live Studio Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the kings of frog island in studio

On June 18, The Kings of Frog Island will take the stage — something they don’t do all that often — at The Soundhouse in their native Leicester, UK, to join French psych-tinged-with-Eastern-flair rockers Karkara and openers Early Remains for, yes, a gig. As I said, it’s not something that happens all the time for The Kings of Frog Island. To wit, the last one they had listed was in Sept. 2017, also in Leicester, though at a different venue. I’m pretty sure they’ve played since then, but one way or another, you get the idea. Did I mention it doesn’t happen all the time? Okay then.

In order to be properly prepared for said show, they’re of course working on hammering out a set, and if 2019’s year-long singles series taught us anything, it was that The Kings of Frog Island know how to use YouTube. Accordingly, they’ve filmed themselves doing a runthrough of a new arrangement of “The Watcher,” which was originally released on their 2008 second album, II (discussed here), through Elektrohasch Schallplatten. The lineup has changed since then, but a lot of what you need to know about the difference from one to the other you can learn from the comparative runtimes. The original? 4:20. The new one? Three minutes longer.

“Save all your love… Don’t let no back door man in…” And so on.

As a fan of the band’s ongoing amorphous amphibiousness, I keep hoping for word of a follow-up to 2014’s (review here), which of course would be called VI, but though there was some report of test pressings being in last Fall, I’ve yet to find anything about that materializing into a release date or anything of the sort.

Until that happens, for those of us who won’t make it to Leicester in June, enjoy this clip recorded live in the studio. I’ve also included the original in case you’d like to dig into that:

The Kings of Frog Island, “The Watcher 2020”

The Watcher 2020

We are getting ready for a live set and thought why not press record.

All done in one night… one take… bit like the set.

Recorded live at Amphibia Sound Studios on the 27/02/2020.

The Kings of Frog Island, “The Watcher”

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube

The Kings of Frog Island on CDBaby

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The Kings of Frog Island Complete Year-Long Series of Single Releases

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the kings of frog island xmas ball

Bands attempt this kind of thing all the time — labels too — and far, far fewer see it through to completion. At the start of the year, Leicester, UK’s underrated post-Elektrohasch psych wanderers The Kings of Frog Island set out to release a song every month across the entirety of 2019. And they did it. They’re a self-contained act in terms of recording — i.e. DIY — so assuming life allows them to get together at semi-regular intervals, it wouldn’t be impossible for each one of these tracks to have been put to tape (or, you know, hard drive) as it was created, but I don’t think that was the circumstance. Some of this stuff was recorded before and finalized or mixed down, or was from other sessions. One is a track reworked and one is a take on Monster Magnet‘s “Ozium” and so it’s not really all drawn from one source. It doesn’t seem to have been a case of, “It’s the first of the month — everybody back in the live room.”

And hey, that’s fair. However it’s done, even self-releasing 12 tracks — plus a bonus holiday song, no less! — in a single year is a massive undertaking, so right on. If you’re like me and have been wondering with The Kings of Frog Island might eventually get around to following up 2014’s V (review here), this project has offered a year-long listening experience that’s scratched the itch on multiple fronts. The even better news, though, is that in September, The Kings of Frog Island received the test pressings for VI, which they’ll release through Kozmik Artifactz at some point I guess in the New Year. I’m not sure how much or if any of these songs will be on that record, but if they are or aren’t, the more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned.

A note and then we can get to it: they’re on Spotify, and I probably could’ve just posted the whole thing as a playlist or whatever, but frankly that seems an injustice to me in terms of visually representing this as 13 separate releases from throughout 2019. As such, here are 13 separate YouTube embeds, which take up a more appropriate-feeling amount of space on the screen.

Enjoy:

The Kings of Frog Island, “We Wish You a Merry Xmas” (Dec.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Rocket Ron (Head in My Hands)” (Dec.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Heat Haze” (Nov.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “El Indio” (Oct.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Descending Inferno” (Sept.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Belvoir Felvoir” (Aug.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Nebula” (July)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Pigs in Kaftans” (June)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Ozium” (Monster Magnet cover, May)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Supernova” (April)

The Kings of Frog Island, “Temporal Riff Vol. 1” (March)

The Kings of Frog Island, “White Dwarf” (Feb.)

The Kings of Frog Island, “The Birth of a Star”

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube

The Kings of Frog Island on CDBaby

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The Kings of Frog Island IV Vinyl Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Long live the Kings! UK heavy psych rockers The Kings of Frog Island have secured an awaited vinyl release for their 2013 album, IV (review here), through Bilocation Records, and preorders are up now. This will mark the first time IV has received a physical pressing, and to be frank I’ll say it’s one well earned for the flowing psychedelia the band brought to it, as you can hear in the video for album highlight “Long Live the King” below. Some records are just a joy. This is one of those.

The Kings of Frog Island followed IV in 2014 with V (review here), another self-release, but this one pressed to a platter on their own. If the photos and vague posts on Thee Facebooks are anything to go by, work may or may not be underway on what I assume will be called VI when it’s done (if, you know, it exists), so I’ll be interested to find out in the weeks and months ahead what might be up in Amphibia these days.

For now, here’s the new cover for the record, the info on the vinyl and that video, ready for the digging:

the kings of frog island iv

IV now available on vinyl. Exclusive.

THE KINGS OF FROG ISLAND draw on a collective passion for cult movie soundtracks, mammoth riffs and high times. Stashed full of heavy psych rock and fragile laments to love, life and the eternal sleep. Journey across the mountains of madness, beyond the big black to the shores of Frog Island and on to the gates of Amphibia. Come take a trip …

After three successful releases on Elektrohasch Records The Kings Of Frog Island from Leicester, UK recorded their fourth effort – but unfortunately never released it until this day. The album shows the band in best form: tight stoner rock combined with amazing psychedelic touches, but never loosing their unique tone and style. A great blend, very refreshing in these days.

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany
– 111x green black white marbled (Exclusive mailorder edition, hand numbered)
– 200x transparent green
– 100x black
– matte laquered 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

https://www.facebook.com/The-Kings-Of-Frog-Island-123205451039992/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?a=56923&lang=eng

The Kings of Frog Island, “Long Live the King” official video

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Friday Full-Length: The Kings of Frog Island, II

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

The Kings of Frog Island, II (2008)

I maintain a deep affection for the second The Kings of Frog Island record, II, as I do for few others. Might sound like hyperbole, but the album is damn near perfect. Released by Elektrohasch in 2008, it followed their ’05 self-titled debut and fleshed out a sound somewhere between heavy psychedelia and warm-toned classic stoner rock that to this day, some eight years after the fact, remains high on my list of all-time outings in the genre. You know how sometimes an album hits you just right? That’s me and “The Watcher,” me and “Welcome to the Void,” “Joanne Marie,” “Hallucination,” the weirdo slide guitar pastoralism of “Laid” and the way it nods into “Ride a Black Horse” en route to the nighttime desert-style closing vibes of “Satanica,” “Witching Hour” and the epilogue “Amphibia Rising.” From the moment the train announcer comes on to say service to Frog Island has been canceled and we’ll have to catch the last train to Satansville, which departs at 23.58 from platform six, II has the perfect blend of flow and vibe and memorable songwriting. To be blunt about it, it’s one of my favorite records. I’m still surprised the universe didn’t collapse on itself when it was released, and of all the stuff that’s come out of the UK since, I can only assume it’s because The Kings of Frog Island don’t play out much that they haven’t had more of an influence. Much to the loss of everyone, really.

The band’s lineup has been somewhat nebulous in the years since II, but when I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt early in 2009 (it was one of if not the first interviews to go on this site), he said the album was about, “The planets of Satanica and Amphibia are fighting an epic battle for control of the universe and all its lost souls.” Bethancourt, who cut his fuzzy teeth in the also-underrated Josiah, would move on from the band following 2010’s III (review here), to focus on the then-nascent Cherry Choke, but fellow founders Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar) and Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) would continue to delve into heavy psychedelia and an ever-jammier presence across 2013’s IV (review here) and 2015’s V (review here), basking in lush and exploratory elements that still owe part of their crux to what The Kings of Frog Island established here in the mega-fuzz of “Welcome to the Void” — a song that I continue to believe offers better tone than Electric Wizard‘s “Witchcult Today” — and the sentimental wisps of “Amphibia Rising.” I don’t know who won the battle for all those lost souls, but I know the process of duking it out made for one hell of a listen.

As of last month, The Kings of Frog Island were back in the studio working on what I can only assume will be called VI when it’s done. Whether or not that’ll be out this year or what, I don’t know, but they continue to be an act that I’m always deeply happy to hear from, and listening back to it now for the first time in a while, II (also previously discussed here) sounds more like a classic than it ever has, to me anyway.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I’ve been in Atlanta all week for work. It’s been busy, but I feel like more for this site than for my job. Look at the last few days: Seven posts today, seven yesterday, five Wednesday (five is about normal), six Tuesday, six Monday. And I’ve been traveling. I said last Friday I didn’t know how it was going to work out, but it did. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t anything I blew off. And if I’m wrong about that, it wasn’t anything malicious or conscious, I assure you.

I’ll be back in Massachusetts for it, but next week is also duly crammed. Monday I’m hosting a track premiere for Hotel Wrecking City Traders and a full album stream for Holy Grove. Tuesday is new stuff from Rhin and Young Hunter (and that review is going to take me a while, I can feel it already). Wednesday, a full stream from Ancient Warlocks. Thursday, a video premiere from Gozu. Friday, new Blackwitch Pudding. Plus I’ve got MerlinStars that MoveQueen Elephantine and Lord waiting to be reviewed, among others, so plenty to work on.

Because I apparently need to be this busy. And when I’m not, I have no idea what to do with myself.

We’ve been running the radio backup server for the last couple weeks, but this weekend I’m hoping to take the proper server hard drive and hook it into a Raspberry Pi I bought to replace the old box. Remains to be seen if I can actually make that happen, but I’m going to give it a shot anyway, and if it does happen, I have a bunch of records I want to add to the server, whether I get to write about them or not. And by that I mean I probably won’t have time to, but you know, we’ll see.

Just heard as well, but R.I.P. Keith Emerson.

Please have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. The Patient Mrs. and I will be bumming down to Providence tomorrow to buy ricotta cheese and probably some chicken, but other than that I’m looking forward to a quiet couple days before Monday brings the inevitable return-to-real-life shitstorm. Always an adventure.

Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Quarterly Review: Satan’s Satyrs, Wildeornes, Blackwülf, VRSA, Marant, Grizzlor, Mother Crone, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Chimpgrinder & Miscegenator, Oak

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review winter

Last day. It’s been some week. When I otherwise would’ve been putting these reviews together yesterday? Jury duty. Yup, my civic responsibility. Add that to a busted laptop, a full-time job and a couple busy days for news, and you have a good argument for why with Quarterly Reviews prior I’ve gotten up at six in the morning over the weekend before and started writing to get as much out of the way as possible. Oh wait, I did that this time too. Well, maybe it was seven.

Either way, as it comes to a close, I want to personally express my thanks to you for checking it out and being a part of what’s become a weird seasonal ritual for me. I hope you’ve found something (or find something today) that resonates with you and stays with you for a long time. I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s all about.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Satan’s Satyrs, Don’t Deliver Us

satan's satyrs don't deliver us

Virginian riff-turner trio Satan’s Satyrs passed the half-decade mark with their third album, late-2015’s Don’t Deliver Us (on Bad Omen Records), just one year after their sophomore outing, Die Screaming! crawled up from the foggy ’70s ether. In addition to touring the US with Electric Wizard, with whom Satan’s Satyrs shares bassist Clayton Burgess (also vocals), one assumes the trio spent the remainder of the year mining old VHS discount-bin horror to find inspiration and fitting subject matter for quick-turning cuts like “(Won’t You be My) Gravedancer” and “Crimes and Blood,” but whatever they did, it worked. As “Spooky Nuisance” jams out its Hendrix-via-Sabbath vibing and the subsequent “Germanium Bomb” leans into yet another impressive solo by guitarist Jarrett Nettnin complemented by the fills of drummer Stephen Fairfield, there’s an element of performance to what they do, but whether it’s the proto-doom of closer “Round the Bend” or the motor-chug of “Two Hands,” Satan’s Satyrs find that sweet spot wherein they constantly sound like they’re about to fall apart, but never actually do. For sounding so loose, they are enviably tight.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

Bad Omen Records

Wildeornes, Erosion of the Self

wildeornes erosion of the self

Sometimes you have an idea for a band, and it’s like, “I’m gonna start a band that puts this genre and this genre together.” In the case of Aussie four-piece Wildeornes, it’s stoner and black metal coming together on their second full-length, Erosion of the Self. I’ll give it to them, they pull it off. I’m not sure the “arising” instead of “rising” in “Serpent Arising” or the “So fucking high!” at the end of “The Subject” are really necessary, but hard to ignore the fact that before they get there, they’ve nodded at Pentagram, Crowbar, and Goatsnake and included a couple measures of blastbeats, or the fact that throughout the album they effectively tilt to one side or the other, riding atmospheric cymbals over a rolling groove in “The Oblivion of Being” only to tap into Nile-brand Egyptology in “Incantation for the Demise of Autumn” only to affect Erosion of the Self‘s biggest chorus on “Winter’s Eve.” Whatever genre tag they, you or I want to give it, their roots are definitely metal, but the juxtaposition they offer within that sphere works for them.

Wildeornes on Thee Facebooks

Wildeornes on Bandcamp

Blackwülf, Oblivion Cycle

blackwulf oblivion cycle

Raw groove is at the core of what Oakland, California’s Blackwülf offer on their second album and Ripple Music debut, Oblivion Cycle. Divided neatly into two sides for an LP, its 10 track hearken to a stripped-down vision of classic metal on “Memories,” Sabbath and Maiden both a factor but not the end of the line when it comes to the four-piece’s influences. Somebody in this band (if not multiple somebodies) is a punker. The two impulses play out in a balance of grand stylization and lean production – to wit, “Wings of Steel” sneers even as it puts a triumphant foot on the stage monitor and gallops off – and if the punk/metal battle isn’t enough of a tip-off, let the umlaut serve as confirmation that these guys are going to miss Lemmy (who isn’t?), but their methods ultimately prove more indebted to Judas Priest than Motörhead by the time they get down to “Never Forget,” which touches on some vocal soaring as it rounds out that feels especially bold as well as well placed as a late gem before the slamming-groove-into-Iommic-flourish of closer “March of the Damned.” As much as Oblivion Cycle has these elements butting heads across its span, that’s not to say Blackwülf lack control or don’t know what they’re doing. Just the opposite. Their pitting ideas against each other is a big part of the appeal, for listeners and likely for the band as well.

Blackwülf on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

VRSA, Phantom of an Era

vrsa phantom of an era

Four years after issuing their second album, 2011’s Galaxia (review here), late-2015’s Phantom of an Era finds Connecticut’s VRSA a considerably more crunch-laden entity. They’ve have some lineup changes in the past half-decade, which is fair enough, but guitarist Andrius and guitarist/vocalist Josh remain prominent, leading the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist John and drummer Wes through prog-metal cascades, quiet parts shifting on a dime to full-volume assaults or holding off and making the change more gradual as tension builds. Either way, if the end-goal is heavy, VRSA get there, whether it’s the rolling, chugging and growling of “Grand Bois” or the winding and crashing and thrashing of the later “Marble Orchard,” or how closer “Baron Cimetière” sets up its waltz rhythm subtly in the beginning only to bash the listener’s skull with it as the inevitable crushing begins anew. There’s plenty of it to go around on Phantom of an Era, which keeps a consistent air of brutality even as it veers into clean, progressive or atmospheric forms.

VRSA on Thee Facebooks

VRSA on Bandcamp

Marant, High Octane Diesel

marant high octane diesel

As they get down elsewhere with hard-driving, Steak-style post-Kyuss desertism, Swiss four-piece Marant have just a couple of more laid back trips perfectly placed along the path of their debut album, High Octane Diesel. The first of them, “Smoothie,” follows opener “Kathy’s Trophy,” and like the later “Road 222,” it has its more raucous side as well, but the big tone-wash happens with the languid heavy psych roll of closer “N’BaCon?,” also the longest track at 8:47. The effect that varying their modus has on broadening the scope of more straightforward songs like “Evil Schnaps” and “The Good the Bad and the Trip” isn’t to be understated. Not only does it show a different side of the emerging chemistry between vocalist Jimmy, guitarist Sergio Calabrian Donkey, bassist Aff Lee and drummer Sir Oli with Snake, but it gives High Octane Diesel an atmospheric range beyond the desert and into an expanse no less ripe for exploration. Whichever method they employ, Marant engage fluidly across their first record.

Marant on Thee Facebooks

Marant on Bandcamp

Grizzlor, Cycloptic

grizzlor cycloptic

Lot of noise, lot of fuckall, not too many songs. Connecticut trio Grizzlor manage to pack seven songs onto a 7” release called Cycloptic (on Hex Records), most of which hover on either side of 90 seconds apiece. Dissonance, grit and tension pervade the offering front to back, and between “Sundays are Stupid” and “I’m that Asshole,” there’s an edge of experimentation in the vocals and rhythm as well, some starts and stops that add to the songwriting, though the peeled-skin noise rock of “Tommy” and the build-into-mayhem of “Winter Blows” ensure that the business of punkish intensity isn’t left out. Was it a danger to start with? Nah. Closer “Starship Mother Shit” and the earlier “Life’s a Joke” rolls out a sludgy-style groove, but with sneering and shouting overtop and hard-edged percussive punctuation, there’s no question where Grizzlor got all that aggression from. If Grizzlor are playing in the basement, somebody’s gonna call the cops.

Grizzlor on Thee Facebooks

Hex Records

Mother Crone, Awakening

mother crone awakening

Bull-in-a-china-shop’ing their way through nine mostly-blistering tracks in 43 minutes, Seattle trio Mother Crone make their full-length debut with the appropriately titled Awakening, a record that melts doom and thrash together with the best of earliest Mastodon and comes out of it sounding righteous, wildly heavy and solidly in control of their methods. Don’t believe it? First of all, why not? Second, check out the six-minute “Descending the North” – the third track after a beastly opening with the mysteriously JFK-sampling intro “Silt Laden Black” and “Black Sea” – which chugs and twists and stomps through its first half only to drop out to just-guitar ambience and burst to life again with a shredding solo finish that leads to – wait for it – the quiet guitar-and-vocals only spaciousness of “The Dream,” which marks a twist into a more experimental middle quotient of the album, the subsequent “Halocline” and furiously building “Revelation” more experimental in form, before the sludgy “Turning Tides” and raging “Apollyon” make the job of the nine-minute closing title-track even more difficult in summarizing everything that came before it. A task of which that song makes short work. For the momentum they build and the brashness they execute within that, Mother Crone‘s Awakening is indeed bound to stir.

Mother Crone on Thee Facebooks

Mother Crone on Bandcamp

Psychedelic Witchcraft, Black Magic Man

psychedelic witchcraft black magic man

Italian four-piece Psychedelic Witchcraft issued Black Magic Man in mid-2015 as their debut EP, and wound up selling through both its limited 10” vinyl pressings. For the Twin Earth Records CD version, it’s been expanded by two tracks – still EP length at 27 minutes – and given new artwork that underscores the band’s cultish bent, which comes across strong in the vocals of Virginia Monti, very much at the forefront of the group’s presentation on “Angela” and “Lying in Iron,” the opening duo that give way to the desert-toned push of the title-track, also the strongest hook included. Drummer Daniele Parrella leads the march into the grungier “Slave of Grief,” in which the guitar of Jacopo Fallai will take a noisy forward position in the midsection, giving way later to some blown-out singing from Monti given heft by bassist Riccardo Giuffrè, like 1967 time traveling to 1971. The production on the last two cuts, “Wicked Dream” and “Set Me Free” is audibly different (Vanni also plays bass), more modernly-styled, but the band’s core intent of living up to their name remains true.

Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records

Chimpgrinder & Miscegenator, Split 7″

chimpgrinder miscegenator split

Philadelphia and New York rarely agree on anything, but Chimpgrinder and Miscegenator, who make their homes respectively in those burgs, have come together at least long enough to share a split 7” between them, though of course what they do with that time is vastly different. Chimpgrinder proliferate a raw kind of sludge on their two tracks, not completely void of melody, but more geared toward groove than expanse, “Gates” taking off on an lengthy solo and deciding it’d rather not come back, ending in feedback fading to abrasive noise. That’s a fitting lead-in for what NY’s Miscegenator are up to on the other side, as “Hate Hate Hate” leads off a six-song set of visceral grind. Shit is raw and mean, and it d-beats its way either into your heart or off your turntable – it’s not the kind of music anyone ever played because they were feeling friendly. Blink and its gone, but the punk-rooted abrasion is like as not to leave a scar as closer “Tony Randall was Right” goes slicing, which is a fair enough answer to the pummel Chimpgrinder made their own a whopping five minutes earlier.

Chimpgrinder on Thee Facebooks

Miscegenator on Thee Facebooks

Oak, Oak

oak oak ep

The self-titled, self-released, self-recorded debut EP from London four-piece Oak saves its burliest impression for “Ride with Me,” the third of its four component tracks. That’s not to say that “All Above” and “Queen of this Land” aren’t plenty dudely – the vocals of Andy Wisbey see to that – but “Ride with Me” feels particularly caked in testosterone. Somewhat quizzical that it also finds guitarist/engineer Kevin Germain, bassist Scott Mason and drummer Rob Emms (since replaced by Sergiu, it would seem) vibing out for a bit of quiet desert noodling in the middle and ending with a primo shuffle of the post-Kyuss variety. Maybe it’s a fine line when one considers the body of work of Orange Goblin as an influence, but it gives a different context to the two songs before and certainly to the stonerly bounce of “Dissolve” after to know that Oak have more in their playbook than the standard beer-pounding and chestbeating. Should be interesting to hear how the various impulses play out as they more forward.

Oak on Thee Facebooks

Oak on Bandcamp

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