Quarterly Review: Carcass, LLNN, Smiling, Sail, Holy Death Trio, Fuzz Sagrado, Wolves in Haze, Shi, Churchburn, Sonolith

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Welcome to Friday. I’m glad to have come this far in the Quarterly Review, and even knowing that there are two days left to go — next Monday and Tuesday, bringing us to a total of 70 for the entire thing — I feel some measure of accomplishment at doing this full week, 10 reviews a day, for the total of 50 we’ll hit after this batch. It has mostly been smooth sailing as regards the writing. It’s the rest of existence that seems intent to derail.

But these are stories for another time. For now, there’s 10 more records to dive into, so you’ll pardon me if I do precisely that.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Carcass, Torn Arteries

carcass torn arteries

The original progenitors of goregrind return in gleeful fashion with their first full-length since 2013’s Surgical Steel. They’ve toured steadily over the intervening years, and Torn Arteries would seem to arrive timed to a return to the road, though it also follows the 2020 EP, Despicable, so make of that what you will. One way or the other, the 10-track/50-minute offering is at very least everything one could reasonably ask a Carcass record to be in 2021. That’s the least you can say of it. Point of fact, it’s probably much more. Driven by Bill Steer‘s riffs and solos — which would be worth the price of admission alone — as well as the inimitable rasp of bassist Jeff Walker, Carcass sound likewise vital and brutal, delighting in the force of “Kelly’s Meat Emporium” and the unmitigated thrash of “The Scythe’s Remorseless Swing,” while scalpel-slicing their way through “Eleanor Rigor Mortis” and the 10-minute “Flesh Ripping Sonic Torment Limited,” which, yes, starts out with acoustic guitar. Because of course it does. After serving as pioneers of extreme metal, Carcass need to prove nothing, but they do anyway. And bonus! Per Wiberg shows up for a guest spot.

Carcass on Facebook

Nuclear Blast Records website

 

LLNN, Unmaker

LLNN Unmaker

Some concerned citizen needs to file assault charges against Copenhagen crushers LLNN for the sheer violence wrought on their third full-length, Unmaker. Comprised of 10 songs all with single-word titles, the Pelagic Records release uses synth and tonal ultra-heft of guitar and bass to retell Blade Runner but starring Godzilla across 39 minutes. Okay so maybe that’s not what the lyrics are about, but you’d never know it from the harsh screams that pervade most of the outing — guitarist Christian Bonnesen has a rare ability to make extreme vocals sound emotional; his performance here puts the record on another level — which renders words largely indecipherable. Still, it is their combination of whiplash-headbang-inducing, bludgeoning-like-machines-hitting-each-other, air-moving weight and keyboard-driven explorations evocative enough that LLNN are releasing them on their own as a companion-piece that makes Unmaker the complete, enveloping work it is.

LLNN on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Smiling, Devour

Smiling Devour

I’m not sure it’s fair to call something that was apparently recorded five years ago forward thinking, but Smiling‘s melding of post-punk urgency, violin flourish, the odd bit of riot-style aggression, psychedelia and poppy melodic quirk in varying degrees and at various points throughout the debut album, Devour, is that anyway. Fronted by guitarist/songwriter Annie Shaw, Smiling makes a cut like even the two-minute “Other Lives” feel dynamic in its build toward a swelling-rumble finish, immediately shifting into the dreamier psych-buzz of “Forgetful Sam” and the melancholy-in-the-sunshine “Do What You Want.” Yeah, it goes like that. It also goes like the rager title-track though, so watch out. The earlier “Lighthouse” swings like Dandy Warhols, but the closing trilogy of “FPS,” “Take Your Time” and “Duvall Gardens” — also the three longest songs included — showcase a more experimentalist side, adding context and depth to the proceedings. So yeah, forward thinking. Time is all made up anyway.

Smiling website

Rebel Waves Records webstore

 

Sail, Flood

Sail Flood

The track itself, “Flood,” runs all of three minutes and 18 seconds, and I do mean it runs. The Taunton, UK, four-piece of guitarist/vocalists Charlie Dowzell and Tim Kazer, bassist/harsh-vocalist Kynan Scott and drummer Tom Coles offer it as a standalone piece and the track earns that level of respect with its controlled careening, the shouted verses giving way to a memorable clean-sung chorus with zero sense of trickery or pretense in its intention. That is to say, “Flood” wants to get stuck in your head and it will probably do precisely that. Also included in the two-songer digital outing — that’s Flood, the release, as opposed to “Flood,” the song — is “Flood (Young Bros Remix),” which extends the piece to 4:43 and reimagines it as more sinister, semi-industrial fare, but even in doing so and doing it well, it can’t quite get away from the rhythm of that hook. Some things are just inescapable.

Sail on Facebook

Sail on Bandcamp

 

Holy Death Trio, Introducing…

Holy Death Trio Introducing

Austin’s Holy Death Trio have the distinction of being the first band signed as part of the collaboration between Ripple Music and Rob “Blasko” Nicholson (bassist for Ozzy Osbourne, etc.), and Introducing…, the three-piece’s debut, is enough of a party to answer any questions why. Gritty, Motörheadular riffs permeate from post-intro leadoff “White Betty” — also some Ram Jam there, I guess — underscored by Sabbathian semi-doomers like “Black Wave” and the near-grim psychedelia of closer “Witch Doctor” while totaling an ultra-manageable 33 minutes primed toward audience engagement in a “wow I bet this is a lot of fun live” kind of way. It would not seem to be a coincidence that the centerpiece of the tracklist is called “Get Down,” as the bulk of what surrounds seems to be a call to do precisely that, and if the bluesy shuffle of that track doesn’t get the job done, something else is almost bound to.

Holy Death Trio on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Fuzz Sagrado, Fuzz Sagrado

fuzz sagrado self titled

Having put Samsara Blues Experiment to rest following the release earlier this year of the swansong End of Forever (review here), relocated-to-Brazil guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters (interview here) debuts the instrumental solo-project Fuzz Sagrado with a three-song self-titled EP, handling all instruments himself including drum programming. “Duck Dharma,” “Two Face” and “Pato’s Blues” take on a style not entirely separate from his former outfit, but feel stripped down in more than just the lack of singing, bringing together a more concise vision of heavy psychedelic rock, further distinguished by the use of Mellotron, Minimoog and Hammond alongside the guitar, bass and drum sounds, complementing the boogie in “Pato’s Blues” even as it surges into its final minute. Where Peters will ultimately take the project remains to be seen, but he’s got his own label to put it out and reportedly a glut of material to work with, so right on.

Fuzz Sagrado on Facebook

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Wolves in Haze, Chaos Reigns

wolves in haze chaos reigns

It’s 10PM, do you know where your head is? Wolves in Haze might. The Gothenburg-based three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Manne Olander, guitarist Olle Hansson and drummer/bassist/co-producer Kalle Lilja set about removing that very thing with their second record, Chaos Reigns, working at Welfare Sounds with Lilja and Per Stålberg at the helm in a seeming homage to Sunlight Studios as reinvented in a heavy rock context. Still, “In Fire” and “The Night Stalker” are plainly sinister in their riffs — the latter turning to a chorus and back into a gallop in a way that reminds pointedly of At the Gates, never mind the vocals that follow — and “Into the Grave” is as much bite as bark. They’re not without letup, as “Mr. Destroyer” explores moodier atmospherics, but even the lumbering finish of the title-track that ends the album is violent in intent. They call it Chaos Reigns, but they know exactly what the fuck they’re doing.

Wolves in Haze on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store

Tvåtakt Records store

 

Shi, Basement Wizard

shi basement wizard

They work a bit of NWOBHM guitar harmony into the solos on “Rehash” and “At Wit’s End,” and the centerpiece “Interlude” is a willful play toward strum-and-whistle Morricone-ism, but for the most part, Louisville’s Shi are hell-bent on destructive sludge, with the rasp of guitarist Bael — joined in the effort by guitarist Jayce, bassist Zach and drummer Tyler — setting a Weedeater-style impression early on “Best Laid Plans” and letting the rest unfold as it will, with “Lawn Care for Adults” and “We’ll Bang, OK?” and the chugging fuckery of the title-track sticking largely to the course the riffs lay out. They make it mean, which is exactly the way it should be made, and even the sub-two-minute “Trough Guzzler” finds its way into a nasty-as-hell mire. Sludge heads will want to take note. Anyone else will probably wonder what smells like rotting.

Shi on Facebook

Shi on Bandcamp

 

Churchburn, Genocidal Rite

churchburn genocidal rite

Oh, that’s just disgusting. Come on now. Be reasonable, Churchburn. This third LP from the Providence, Rhode Island, extremists brings them into alignment with Translation Loss Records and though it’s just five songs — plus the intro “Toll of Annihilation” — and 33 minutes long, that’s plenty of time for guitarist/vocalist Dave Suzuki and company to pull you down a hole of blistering, vitriolic terrors. Where does the death end and the doom begin? Who gives a shit? Suzuki, bassist/vocalist Derek Muniz, guitarist Timmy St. Amour and drummer Ray McCaffrey take a duly mournful respite with “Unmendable Absence,” but after that, the onslaught of “Scarred” and the finale “Sin of Angels” — with Incantation‘s John McEntee sitting in on vocals — is monstrous and stupefyingly heavy. You’ll be too busy picking up teeth to worry about where the lines of one microgenre ends and another begins.

Churchburn on Facebook

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Sonolith, Voidscapes

Sonolith Voidscapes

Have riffs, will plod. Voidscapes, the three-song second EP from Las Vegas’ Sonolith lets the listener know quickly where it’s coming from, speaking a language (without actually speaking, mind you) that tells tales of amplifier and tonal worship, the act of rolling a massive groove like that central to nine-minute opener “Deep Space Leviathan” as much about the trance induced in the band as the nod resultant for the listener. Close your eyes, follow it out. They complement with the shorter “Pyrrhic Victory,” which moves from a subdued and spacey opening line into post-High on Fire chug and gallop, effectively layering solos over the midsection and final payoff, and “Star Worshipers,” which slows down again and howls out its lead to touch on Electric Wizard without being so overt about it. At about three minutes in, Sonolith kick the tempo a bit, but it’s the more languid groove that wins the day, and the concluding sample about traveling the universe could hardly be more appropriate. Asks nothing, delivers 21 minutes of riffs. If I ever complain about that, I’m done.

Sonolith on Facebook

Sonolith on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Firebird, No. 3

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Guitarist Bill Steer will invariably always be best known for his work in goregrind progenitors Carcass. No getting around that. When those storied Liverpudlian medical dictionary aficionados broke up following 1996’s undervalued Swansong, Steer went on to form Firebird in 1999, releasing a self-titled debut that year through Lee Dorrian‘s Rise Above Records and offering Deluxe through the original Music for Nations (R.I.P. 2004) in 2001. By the time No. 3 came out in 2003 on SPV/Steamhammer, Steer had already been through multiple lineups of the band and had already proven his mettle in classic heavy rock songwriting. Dude may have cut his teeth exhuming to consume, but he could boogie with the best of ’em.

Unsurprisingly, lead guitar is a major presence throughout the Firebird discography, and No. 3 is no exception in that regard. Joined by drummer George “Jolle” Atlagic and bassist Roger Nilsson, both also of Sweden’s The Quill, Steer offered a bevvy of guitar-led styles, from the particularly Mountain-esque opener “Cross the Line” and “Hard Hearted,” to the mellow finale “Friend,” never quite touching on Cactus or Humble Pie directly, and certainly never as grandiose as Led Zeppelin or as proto-doomed as original-era Black Sabbath, but digging into ’70s heavy rock in a way that was still prescient in 2003, never mind in 1999, complicating — also reinforcing, considering two-thirds of the band’s geography at this point; but Steer was doing the core craft — the narrative that vintage-style heavy rock was a Swedish invention.

No. 3 is warm throughout its 10-song/47-minute flow, classy even in more riotous moments like “Tumbling Down” or “End of the Day,” and across its span, it offers a sound so organic and material so wholly unpretentious one would think Steer had never played anything else. Why on earth would he? From the John Lennon-meets-Nick Drake album cover to the softshoe-worthy that is side B’s “Dream Ride,” coming as it does after the dulyfirebird no 3 rolling “Long Gone” and the back and forth volume swells of “Off the Leash,” both of which top six minutes and are the two longest inclusions in succession — a purposeful-feeling move endemic to classic rock B sides, Steer drawing the listener deeper into the album’s scope as it broadens.

And while No. 3 is for sure a ‘guitar’ album, with songs written by a guitarist, one would be remiss not to consider the organ work throughout — especially effective on “Off the Leash” — or the harmonica that adds bluesy flourish to “Hard Hearted,” or even the slide guitar (is that slide or is Steer just that damn smooth a player?) in “Station” and the percussion in the extra-hooky, uptempo “Stoned Believer,” an early highlight chorus that rounds out the leadoff salvo behind “Cross the Line” and “Tumbling Down.” Particularly in the keys — some by Steer himself, some by Tomas Pettersson — there’s a richness to No. 3 that goes beyond riffs or leads. “Station” brings that out after the initial push of the first three tracks, but it’s introduced in “Tumbling Down” and it becomes a defining element of the record, enhancing the melody, allowing the guitar space to breathe, and complementing the work of the rhythm section, playing intricately into “Hard Hearted” and making the groove all the more complex for doing so ahead of “End of the Day”‘s more brash take ending side A. Maybe that’s setup for what comes around with the more patient take of “Long Gone” and “Off the Leash,” the first of which doesn’t have keys as a focal point and the second which most definitely does, but hell, if it works, why argue?

“Off the Leash” could have easily closed the record. It’s quiet at the very end, but by then the payoff has been completed and the vibe of the entirety of No. 3 well reinforced on just about every level. The subsequent “Dream Ride” might feel like an epilogue as a result, but its layered back-half solo, semi-Southern, way bluesy — still with room for organ — is its own excuse for being, and while “Friend” is hardly a grand finale or anything in terms of its overarching energy, it picks up the thread of “Off the Leash” and carries a melodic resonance that’s worth underscoring in the album’s final moments, a kind of melancholy that feels less performative or tacked on than like it’s been there all the while and is at last (literally) surfacing.

Firebird were an undervalued band, and No. 3 is an undervalued album. I guess that’s the core of it. In my mind there’s nothing too flashy about what they did, and Bill Steer was certainly never one for vocal histrionics, but on the songwriting and performance level, there was nothing they left the audience wanting. They did more, of course. No. 3 was the halfway point in a six-LP/decade-plus run that soon found them back on Rise Above Records, which would handle their final three full-lengths. Hot Wings was released in 2006, Grand Union (review here; interview here) in 2009, and their own swansong, Double Diamond (review here), in 2010. I had been fortunate enough to see them live in 2009 at Roadburn in the Netherlands, and it was a joy. The lineup was different — Ludwig Witt on drums, I recall — but the naturalist affect and the feeling of celebrating the roots of heavy rock were palpable. It was there waiting to be dug. I dug it.

At that point, Carcass had already been reunited for a few years. I saw them too somewhere in their earlier re-going — maybe with Napalm DeathStarland Ballroom in NJ? was that the same show? — before they put out 2013’s Surgical Steel, and was a little bummed out at how comparatively staid Steer was in comparison to what I’d witnessed with Firebird however long before. Not that I expected him to boogie down to “Corporal Jigsaw Quandary,” but it seemed to me a kind of through-the-motions thing. Maybe it was an off night. Carcass has certainly had a successful run since then — hype for their forthcoming Torn Arteries is part of what sent me back to No. 3 in the first place — and I haven’t caught them since, so I can’t comment on that. Maybe if they tour I should go. Probably.

In any case, Firebird called it a day in 2011, a decade ago, and I’m not expecting a reunion anytime soon — though if Steer wanted to, he certainly could — but their work stands up exactly as the best of classic heavy should.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

My alarm was set for 5AM. I woke up at 4:35 and was out of bed at 4:38 after three minutes of agonizing over the decision/convincing myself to be awake. The Pecan has three more weeks of camp, then a week and a half off before school starts up. By the time that break comes, I want to be up at 4:30 daily if not 4AM, so I figure I’d better start the transition now, ease myself into it rather than the usual shock and awe approach I take. I don’t know if it’s better or worse, but I’ve been waking up at 5:30 regularly and that’s been luxurious enough to get me spoiled. If I’m up sooner than that, the extra time to work will go to use.

Though as I found this morning, the work pretty much takes as long as you’ve got anyhow. The above was written before dropping The Pecan off at camp, this after. So wakeup, breakfast for him, brush teeth, change clothes, all that between about 7-8AM, then dropoff and back here at circa 8:30 and dig back in. It’s a quick morning but can be intense for that. Today was okay. The other day was a nightmare, biting and scratching to get him to put on the bathing suit that Apple Montessori wants them to wear when they show up. I have cuts on my arm. Fine. I’ve learned in parenting that every day is a new reality. Some of them are bound to be terrible. Lots, in fact.

This was a busy week, writing-wise. Next week is too. I’m falling into a pattern of doubling up on premieres each day, and I’ve done this long enough to see it happening. Some are longer reviews, some shorter, but yeah. That’s getting to be a lot and it’s just kind of becoming the mode in which I work. I used to avoid it like the plague, doing more than one. Now, without as much news to focus on, largely without tours and such, there’s room. I wish I had more Obelisk Questionnaires in though. That’s fallen by the wayside a bit and I’d like to bring it back around again.

But Monday, one premiere and I think an interview. Tuesday, two premieres. Wednesday, premieres, one with a review, one with an announcement. Thursday, one premiere so far. Friday, another interview. I’ll probably have more booked for Thursday or Friday by the time the weekend’s out. I’m thankful anyone gives enough of a shit about what I do that they want to work with me. That’s worth getting out of bed for. Plus the coffee’s good.

New Gimme show 5PM Eastern today. Please listen: http://gimmeradio.com

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, stay hydrated, watch your head, all that stuff. Thanks if you buy Obelisk merch. Thanks for reading either way.

FRM.

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Weather Systems: Post-Anathema Project Streams Demo “Still Lake”

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

If you too were bummed when Anathema called it a day after three decades late last year, you might find some consolation in the fact that the family tree remains quite active. To wit, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Cavanagh recently announced he’d be putting out a solo record, and seemingly in addition to that, he’s also got the new project Weather Systems, which will make its debut in 2022.

The name — if you’re still reading this you probably already know — comes from Anathema‘s 2012 album, Weather Systems (review here), and the intention behind the band seems to be to pick up in some ways where Anathema left off. That, specifically, was 2017’s The Optimist (review here), a record that, even for a band not shy about engaging with their past — having reworked old material and so on — took on their prior output in a new and fascinating way while continuing to move inextricably forward in its own sound.

I don’t know what Weather Systems will hold when Ocean Without a Shore — the upcoming LP — shows up next year, but I know enough to know that one song never represents the entirety, so I listen to the newly posted demo (he calls it ‘low quality,’ inviting contradiction) “Still Lake” not expecting to hear a summation of the total aesthetic so much as a teaser of a fraction thereof. Still, you’ll pardon me if I take what I can get. Curious to see who else is involved in Weather Systems, how it relates to Cavanagh‘s solo record, and who might be releasing the album when we get there. I hope I get to hear it.

From Anathema’s social media:

weather systems ocean without a shore

A low quality demo of the first song from the album ‘ocean without a shore’ to be released next year. This song is not complete, and neither is the album cover, just showing you a work in progress. You deserve it after lockdown. Dedicated to all who lost someone during the pandemic.

Click here: https://bit.ly/3A5wMWC

Many blessings to all

https://soundcloud.com/user-107730380/
www.facebook.com/anathemamusic
www.instagram.com/anathemamusic.com
www.twitter.com/anathemamusic
www.anathema.ws

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Conan Announce July UK Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

conan

Go boldly, gentlemen. If anyone might be tapped to charge axe-first into the barren post-touring wasteland, well, at least Conan have plenty of history as regards conquering. The UK trio will hit the road supporting their recent Live at Freak Valley (discussed here) offering through Napalm Records. It’s something of a stopgap, maybe, but fits smoothly in a take-what-you-can-get kind of scenario, this altered timeline in which we exist and they’ve yet to unveil their follow-up to 2018’s Existential Void Guardian (review here) as they otherwise might have done last year.

Forgive the speculation, but I’m wondering if Conan won’t be looking to release their next full-length sometime this summer, either before or following this tour. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to think they’ll be getting their feet back under them here as they head out for what will be the first time in more than a year — certainly the longest break they’ve had since they started touring — and between pandemic regulations and Britain leaving the European Union, I have no idea what further tours this might lead to, if it even happens at all — they’ve been confirmed for a fest in Sweden in August, if that helps — but since they are pushing to hit the road, doing so to support a new album makes even more sense to me, though nothing has yet been announced in that regard and as ever, I’ve zero info to share.

Maybe wishful thinking on my part, then, but it’s nice to think wishfully for a change. Conan posted the tour dates on their social medias with the appropriate event links:

conan uk tour july 2021

CONAN – UK TOUR JULY 2021

!!!UK TOUR – JULY 2021!!!
15.07 London – https://fb.me/e/4JOAi9mmI
16.07 Sheffield – https://fb.me/e/1bGpgrifB
17.07 Nottingham – https://fb.me/e/22aZA5AHb
18.07 Edinburgh – https://fb.me/e/432ZwP3qf
19.07 Southampton – https://fb.me/e/17WDyIPDq
20.07 Bristol – https://fb.me/e/1ds5cMWVU
21.07 Glasgow – https://www.facebook.com/events/477948890240298/
22.07 Swansea – https://fb.me/e/1fqNcajME
23.07 Birmingham – https://www.facebook.com/events/1624399791083231
24.07 Huddersfield – https://fb.me/e/21Fb7XtCC
25.07 Preston – https://www.facebook.com/events/792840121330264

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Satsumo” live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

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Conan Post “Hawk as Weapon” Video from Live at Freak Valley

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

conan jon davis (Photo Credit Clemens Mitscher)

Hey, remember when Conan were announced for Freak Valley 2017? I do. Here’s the announcement. They were supporting 2016’s Revengeance (review here) at the time; their third album. Remember when they released Monnos (review here) some nine years ago through Burning World Records? Yeah, that was pretty awesome too. Conan, in fact, have been kicking ass for some time now.

“Hawk as Weapon” appeared on that righteously lumbering 2012 debut long-player, and proved that there was more to Conan than slow-rolling, molasses-toned churn. They could make that volume move when they wanted, and that made the Jon Davis-led trio all the more devastating as a result. By 2017, they were already well established among the galaxy’s superlatively massive phenomena, and 2018’s Existential Void Guardian (review here) — still their latest LP because the next one hasn’t come out because fucking pandemic blah blah blah I can’t even type it anymore — would do nothing to dispute the reputation. Davis knew at the outset what he wanted the band to be and he has set about making it that thing ever since.

His mission remains honorable and Conan‘s output remains vital in itself and in the influence they’ve had on a rising generation of riffseekers trying to outdo each other in tonal thickness and primitive destruction. Existential Void Guardian helped reinforce Conan as having garnered more dynamic as a result of their years on the road and a solidified lineup. While bassist/vocalist Chris Fielding was in the band at the time this version of “Hawk as Weapon” was recorded, Johnny King had yet to join on drums. They nonetheless managed to tear it up.

Enjoy:

Conan, “Hawk as Weapon” from Live at Freak Valley

Hail Supreme Doom! Live At Freak Valley!

CONAN have just unveiled the heavy, massive live version of their most successful song, “Hawk As Weapon”, on streaming platforms (to date, the studio version has amassed more than a million plays)! With the fuzz pedal pushed to the limit, the masters of brute waves of sound deliver further proof that they are unsurpassable in intensity. The new single clearly shows what a CONAN show is all about.

Heavily distorted and down-tuned sounds turn the legendary fields of the German Freak Valley Festival into madness. The undisputed masters of fantastical, otherworldly, sludgy doom, CONAN, will cast a spell on the listener and propel them straight into the crowd, captured in dust. HAIL CONAN!

Three years after the release of the ferocious caveman battle doom masterpiece Existential Void Guardian, CONAN waves the flag of Pain again and releases Live At Freak Valley on March 12, 2021 via Napalm Records. Following their 2013 live album, recorded at Roadburn festival, and the self-released Live At Bannermans, their third live album could not have been recorded at a better place than Freak Valley Festival.

Line up:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013–present)
Johnny King – drums (2017–present)

Conan website

Conan on Thee Facebooks

Conan on Instagram

Conan on Bandcamp

Conan on Twitter

Napalm Records website

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Conan Announces March 12 Release for Live at Freak Valley

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

conan freak valley 2019 (photo by Clemens Mitscher)

2021 marks 15 years since guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis founded Conan. What a way to celebrate, right? They should be on tour right now, with a new album coming if not already out. A lot of things should be a lot of things. I don’t know what to tell you.

I’m down with a Conan live album. It feels earned, not just because they’re killer live, and not just because they should be touring, but because they’re still under-celebrated as a live act. This was recorded at Freak Valley Festival in Germany in 2017. The before-time. The long-long ago.

You should watch the video for “Satsumo” and see how close people are standing together. It’ll blow your fucking mind. I hope there’s a Freak Valley this year. And if there is, I hope I get to go. That’s about as much insight as I have to offer. Great band, live record, preorders up.

The PR wire has it like this:

conan live at freak valley

Caveman Battle Doom Masters CONAN to Release New Live Album, Live At Freak Valley, on March 12

First Single and Video “Satsumo” Out Now

Pre-Order NOW: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/conan

Hail Supreme Doom! Live At Freak Valley!

Heavily distorted and down-tuned sounds turn the legendary fields of the German Freak Valley Festival into madness. The undisputed masters of fantastical otherworldly sludgy doom, CONAN, will cast a spell on the listener and propel them straight into the crowd, captured in dust.

Three years after the release of the ferocious caveman battle doom masterpiece Existential Void Guardian, CONAN waves the flag of Pain again and releases Live At Freak Valley on March 12, 2021 via Napalm Records. After their 2013 live album, recorded at Roadburn festival, and the self-released Live At Bannermans, their third live album could not be recorded at a better place than Freak Valley Festival.

“Satsumo” is oppression, massiveness and rage. The first single and video breaks out as a harbinger of the devastation that CONAN brought at their massive show at Freak Valley Festival. With mechanical wizardry heaped upon their pure-hearted compositions, they cement their colossal and brutish live ascendancy! HAIL CONAN!

Tracklist Live At Freak Valley:
1. Gravity Chasm
2. Throne of Fire
3. Thunderhoof
4. Battle in the Swamp
5. Hawk as Weapon
6. Satsumo
7. Foehammer
8. Total Conquest
9. Revengeance

Live At Freak Valley will be available in the following formats:
– 2 LP Gatefold Vinyl White / Black Marble (Napalm Records mailorder only) – strictly limited to 200
– 2 LP Gatefold Vinyl Grey
– 1 CD Jewelcase
– Digital album

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Satsumo” live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

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Quarterly Review: Fuzz, Crippled Black Phoenix, Bethmoora, Khan, The Acid Guide Service, Vexing Hex, KVLL, Mugstar, Wolftooth, Starmonger

Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day III of the Inexplicably Roman Numeralized Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, commence! I may never go back to actual numbers, you should know. There’s something very validating about doing Day I, Day II, Day III — and tomorrow I get to add a V for Day IV! Stoked on that, let me tell you.

You have to make your own entertainment these days, lest your brain melt like wax and drip from your nostrils.

Plurp.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Fuzz, III

fuzz iii

Plenty of heavy rockers can come across sounding fresh. Most of the time all it takes is being young. In the case of III, the third long-player from FuzzCharles Moothart, Ty Segall and Chad Ubovich — they sound like they just invented it. Dig the hard-Bowie of “Time Collapse” or the made-for-the-stage opener “Returning,” or the surf-cacophony of “Mirror.” Or hell, any of it. The combination of this band and producer Steve Albini — aka the guy you go to when you want your album to sound like your live show — is correct. That’s all you can say about it. From the ’70s snarl in “Nothing People” to the triumphant melody in the second half of “Blind to Vines” and the back and forth between gritty roll and fragile prog of “End Returning,” it’s an energy that simply won’t be denied. If Fuzz wanted to go ahead and do three or four more albums with Albini at the helm in the next five years, that’d be just fine.

In the Red Records on Thee Facebooks

In the Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst

crippled black phoenix ellengaest

The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) goes that when after lineup shifts left Crippled Black Phoenix without any singers, founder Justin Greaves (ex-Iron Monkey, Earthtone9, Electric Wizard, etc.) decided to call old mates. Look. I don’t care how it happened, but Ellengæst, which is the likewise-brilliant follow-up to the band’s widely-lauded 2018 outing, Great Escape, leads off with Anathema‘s Vincent Cavanagh singing lead on “House of Fools,” and, well, there’s your new lead singer. Anathema‘s on hiatus and a more natural fit would be hard to come by. Ryan Patterson (The National Acrobat, a dozen others), Gaahl (Gaahls Wyrd, ex-Gorgoroth), solo artist Suzie Stapleton and Jonathan Hultén (Tribulation) would also seem to audition — Patterson and Stapleton pair well on the heavy-Cure-style “Cry of Love” — and there are songs without any guests at all, but there’s a reason “House of Fools” starts the record. Make it happen, Crippled Black Phoenix. For the good of us all.

Crippled Black Phoenix on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Bethmoora, Thresholds

Bethmoora Thresholds

Copenhagen’s Bethmoora served notice in a 2016 split with Dorre (review here) and their debut full-length, Thresholds hone destructive lumber across four low-toned tracks that begin with “And for Eternity They Will Devour His Flesh” and only get nastier from there. One imagines being in a room with this kind of rumbling, maddeningly repetitive, slow-motion-violence noise wash and being put into a flight-or-fight panic by it, deer in doomed headlights, and all that, but even on record, Bethmoora manage to cull, and when their songs explode in tempo, as the opener does late in its run, or “Painted Man” does, that spirit is maintained. Each side of the LP is two tracks, and all four are beastly, pile-driver-to-the-core-of-the-earth heavy. “Keeper”‘s wash of noise has willful-turnoff appeal all its own, but the empty space in the middle of “Lamentation” is where they go in for ultimate consumption. And yeah. Yeah.

Bethmoora on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Khan, Monsoons

khan monsoons

Khan‘s second album, Monsoons is a departure in form from 2018’s Vale, if not necessarily in substance. Heavy, psychedelic-infused post-rock is the order of business for the Melbourne trio either way, but as guitarist Josh Bills gives up playing synth and doing vocals to embark on an instrumental approach with bassist Mitchell Kerr (also KVLL) and drummer Beau Heffernan on this four-track/31-minute offering, the spirit is inescapably different. Probably easier to play live, if that’s a thing that might happen. Monsoons still has the benefit, however, of learning from the debut in terms of the dynamic among the three players, and Bills‘ guitar reaches for atmospheric float in “Orb” and attains it easily, as the midsection rhythm of the closing title-track nods at My Sleeping Karma and the back end of the prior “Harbinger” manages to shine and not sound like Earthless in the process, and quite simply, Khan make it work. The vocals/synth might be worth missing — and they may or may not be back — but to ignore the breadth Khan harness in little over half an hour would be a mistake.

Khan on Thee Facebooks

Khan on Bandcamp

 

The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers

the acid guide service denim vipers

Jammy, psychedelic in parts, Sabbathian in “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” and good fun from the doomly rollout of 11-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “In the Cemetery” onward, the second full-length from Idaho’s The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers, brings considerable rumble and nod, but these guys don’t want to hurt nobody. They’ve come here to chew bubblegum and follow the riff, and they’re all out of bubblegum. Comprised on average of longer songs than 2017’s debut, Vol. 11 (review here), the four-tracker gives the trio room to branch out their sound a bit, highlighting the bass in the long middle stretch of the title-track while the subsequent “Electro-Galactic Discharge” puts its guitar solo front and center before sludge-rocking into oblivion, letting “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” pick up from there, which is as fine a place as any to begin a gallop to the end. Genre-based shenanigans ensue. One would hope for no less.

The Acid Guide Service on Thee Facebooks

The Acid Guide Service on Bandcamp

 

Vexing Hex, Haunt

vexing hex haunt

Based in Illinois, Vexing Hex make their debut on Wise Blood Records with Haunt, and yes, playing catchy, semi-doomed, organ-laced cult rock with creative and melodic vocal arrangements, you’re going to inevitably run into some Ghost comparisons. The newcomer three-piece are distinguished by a harder edge to their impact, a theremin on “Planet Horror” and a rawer production sensibility, and that serves them well in “Build Your Wall” and the buildup of “Living Room,” both of which play off the fun-with-dogma mood cast by “Revenant” following the intro “Hymn” at the outset of Haunt. Not quite as progressive as, say, Old Man Wizard, there’s nonetheless some melodic similarity happening as bell sounds ensue on “Rise From Your Grave,” the title of which which may or may not be purposefully cribbed from the Sega Genesis classic Altered Beast. There’s a big part of me that hopes it is, and if Vexing Hex are writing songs about retro videogames, they sound ready to embark on a Castlevania concept album.

Vexing Hex on Thee Facebooks

Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp

 

KVLL, Death//Sacrifice

kvll death sacrifice

Proffering grueling deathsludge as though it were going out of style — it isn’t — the Melbourne duo KVLL is comprised of bassist/vocalist/guitarist Mitchell Kerr (also Khan) and drummer Braydon Becher. It’s not without ambient stretches, as the centerpiece “Sacrifice” shows, but the primary impression KVLL‘s debut album, Death//Sacrifice makes is in the extremity of crash and heavy landing of “The Death of All That is Crushing” and “Slow Death,” such that by the time “Sacrifice” ‘mellows out,’ as it were, the listener is punchdrunk from what’s taken place on the prior two and a half songs. There’s little doubt that’s precisely KVLL‘s intention here, as the cavernous screams, mega-lurch and tense undercurrent are more than ably wielded. If “Sacrifice” is the moment at which Death//Sacrifice swaps out one theme for another, the subsequent “Blood to the Altar” and nine-minute closer “Beneath the Throne” hammer the point home, the latter with an abrasive noise-caked finale worthy of standard-bearers Primitive Man.

KVLL on Thee Facebooks

KVLL on Bandcamp

 

Mugstar, GRAFT

mugstar graft

Not that the initial droning wash of “Deep is the Air” or the off-blasted “Zeta Potential” and warp-drive freneticism in “Cato” don’t have their appeal — oh, they do — but when it comes to UK lords-o’-space Mugstar‘s latest holodeck-worthy full-length, GRAFT, it’s the mellow drift-jazz of the 12-minute “Ghost of a Ghost” that feels most like matter dematerialization to me. Side B’s “Low, Slow Horizon” answers back later on ahead of the motorik linear build in the finale “Star Cage,” but the 12-minute vibe-fest that is “Ghost of a Ghost” gives GRAFT a vastness to match its thrust, which becomes essential to the space-borne feel. It’s 41 minutes, still ripe for an LP, but the kind of album that has a genuine affect on mood and mindset, breaking down on a molecular level both and remolding them into something hopefully more evolved on some level through cosmic meditation. Fast or slow, up or down, in or out, it doesn’t ultimately matter. Nothing does. But there’s a moment in GRAFT where the one-skin-on-another thing becomes apparent and all the masks drop away. What’s left after that?

Mugstar on Thee Facebooks

Centripetal Force Records website

Cardinal Fuzz Records BigCartel store

 

Wolftooth, Valhalla

Wolftooth Valhalla

Hooks abound in power-stoner fashion throughout Indiana four-piece Wolftooth‘s second album, Valhalla, which roughs up NWOBHM clarity in early-Ozzy fashion without going overboard to one side or the other, riffs winding and rhythms charging in a way not entirely unlike some of Freedom Hawk‘s more recent fare, but with a melodic reach of its own and a dynamism of purpose that comes through in the songwriting. Grand Magus‘ metallic traditionalism might be an influence on a song like “Fear for Eternity,” but “Crying of the Wolfs” has a more rocking swagger, and likewise post-intro opener “Possession.” With tightly constructed songs in the four-to-five-minute range, Valhalla never feels stretched out more than it wants to, but “Molon Labe” pushes the vocals deeper into the mix for a bigger, more atmospheric sound, and subtle shifts like that become effective in distinguishing the songs and making them all the more memorable. Recently signed to Napalm after working with Ripple, Ice Fall, Cursed Tongue and Blackseed, they seem to be poised to pay off the potential here and in their 2018 self-titled debut (review here). So be it.

Wolftooth on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

Ice Fall Records BigCartel store

 

Starmonger, Revelations

starmonger revelations

Parisian riff-blaster trio Starmonger have been piecemealing tracks out for the last five years as a series of EPs titled Revelation, and the full-length debut, Revelations, brings these nine songs together for a 49-minute long-player that even in re-recorded versions of the earliest cuts like “Tell Me” and “Wanderer” show how far the band has come. It’s telling that those two close the record out while “Rise of the Fishlords” and “Léthé” from 2019’s Revelation IV open sides A and B, respectively, but older or newer, the band end up with a swath of stylistic ground covered from the more straightforward and uptempo kick of the elder tracks to the more progressive take of the newer, with plenty of ground in between. Uniting the various sides are strong performances and strong choruses, the latter of which would seem to be the thread that draws everything together. Whether or not it takes Starmonger half a decade to put out their next LP, one can hardly call their time misspent while listening to Revelations.

Starmonger on Thee Facebooks

Starmonger on Bandcamp

 

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Anathema Announce “Indefinite Hiatus”

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Anathema hit 30 years of existence in 2020, and apparently they’ve seen enough. And while there’s a part of me that definitely began the first draft of this post by asking “what’s the point of anything anymore?,” I get it. Over the course of their decades together after being founded in 1990 by brothers Vincent and Danny Cavanagh, the band evolved from death-doom to moody post-goth dark heaviness and came out the other side with an increasingly progressive and melodic reach. They never put out the same record twice — all the more of a feat because their last album, 2017’s The Optimist (review here), was a sequel to 2001’s A Fine Day to Exit — and they never lost their commitment to genuine expression of where they were at the time.

I can only speak as a fan. They were among the first truly underground bands that resonated with me. First exposure was 1998’s Alternative 4 (discussed here), and that, along with 1999’s Judgement, A Fine Day to Exit and 2003’s A Natural Disaster (reissues reviewed here), remain essential works to which I return with fair regularity. Long years between A Fine Day to Exit and 2010’s We’re Here Because We’re Here (discussed here) brought stark changes in perspective — they “got happy,” to put it as simply as possible — but their identity as a group was still intact.

And the decade that followed with releases on Peaceville Records imprint Kscope, whether it was 2012’s Weather Systems (review here), 2014’s Distant SatellitesThe Optimist or various live outings, compilations and redux works like 2011’s Falling Deeper (review here) — a follow-up to 2008’s Hindsight — offered riches of its own for those with minds willing to make the journey with the band. Fans had their favorite eras. I know a few who swear by their first three records — 1993’s Serenades, 1995’s The Silent Enigma and 1996’s Eternity — and nothing else. As one looks back on the arc of their now-apparently-ended career, I’m not sure it matters.

For what it’s worth, Vincent Cavanagh appears on the new Crippled Black Phoenix record, and this is an “indefinite hiatus,” so if they’re able to tour again, they might pick up a few years down the line, but if they’re taking the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the creative world as a whole and on them as people as a cue to make their own exit, well, they do so with no less grace than one would have to expect.

Their announcement follows:

anathema done

www.facebook.com/anathemamusic
www.instagram.com/anathemamusic.com
www.twitter.com/anathemamusic
www.anathema.ws

Anathema, “A Natural Disaster” from A Sort of Homecoming

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