Quarterly Review: Samsara Blues Experiment, Restless Spirit, Stepmother, Pilot Voyager, Northern Liberties, Nyxora, Old Goat Smoke, Van Groover, Hotel Lucifer, Megalith Levitation

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

I broke my wife’s phone yesterday. What a mess. I was cleaning the counter or doing some shit and our spare butter dish — as opposed to the regular one, which was already out — was sitting near the edge of the top of the microwave, from where I bumped it so that the ceramic corner apparently went right through the screen hard enough that in addition to shattering it there’s a big black spot and yes a new phone has been ordered. In the meantime, she can’t type the letter ‘e’ and, well, I have to hand it to Le Creuset on the sturdy construction of their butter dishes. Technology succumbing to the brute force of a harder blunt object and gravity.

Certainly do wish that hadn’t happened. What does it have to do with riffs, or music at all, or really anything? Who cares. I’m about to review 10 records today. I can talk about whatever the hell I want.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Samsara Blues Experiment, Rock Hard in Concert

samsara blues experiment rock hard in concert

10 years after releasing 2013’s Live at Rockpalast (review here), and nearly three after they put out their 2021 swansong studio LP, End of Forever (review here), German heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment offer the 80-minute live 2LP Rock Hard in Concert, and while it’s not their first live album, it gives a broader overview of the band from front to (apparent) back during their time together, as songs opening salvo of “Center of the Sun,” “Singata Mystic Queen” and “For the Lost Souls” from 2010’s debut, Long-Distance Trip (review here), melds in the set with “One With the Universe” and “Vipassana” from 2017’s One With the Universe (review here), End of Forever‘s own title-track and “Massive Passive,” and “Hangin’ on a Wire” from 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) to become a fan-piece that nonetheless engages in sound and presentation. If you were there, it’s likely must-own. For the rest of us, who maybe did or didn’t see the band during their time — glad to say I did — it’s a reminder of how immersive they could be, especially in longer-form material, and how much influence they had on the last decade-plus of jam-based heavy psych in Europe. Recorded in 2018 at a special gig for Germany’s Rock Hard magazine, Rock Hard in Concert follows behind 2022’s Demos & Rarities (review here) in the band’s posthumous catalog, and it may or may not be Samsara Blues Experiment‘s final non-reissue release. Whether it is or not, it summarizes their run gorgeously and puts a light on the chemistry of the trio that led them through so many winding aural paths.

Samsara Blues Experiment on Facebook

World in Sound Records website

Restless Spirit, Afterimage

Restless Spirit Afterimage

Sounding modern and full and in opening cut “Marrow” almost like the fuzz is about to swallow the rest of the song, Restless Spirit step forward with their third long-player, Afterimage, and establish a new level of craft for themselves. In 2021, the Long Island heavy/doom rock trio offered Blood of the Old Gods (review here), and their guitar-led energetic surges continue here in Afterimage riffers like the chug-nod “Shadow Command” and “Of Spirit and Form,” which seems to account for the underlying metallic edge of the band’s execution with its sharper turns. Their first album for Magnetic Eye Records, its eight tracks fit smoothly into the label’s roster, which at its baseline might be said to foster modern heavy styles with a particular ear for songwriting and melody, and Restless Spirit dig into “All Furies” like High on Fire galloping into a wall of Slayer records, only to follow with the 1:45 instrumental reset “Brutalized,” which is somehow weightier. They touch on the ethereal with the guitar in “The Fatalist,” but the vocals are more post-hardcore and have a grounding effect, and after starting with outright crush, “Hell’s Grasp” offers respite in progressive flourish and midtempo meandering before resuming the double-plus-huge roll and pointed riff and noodly offsets, the huge hook coming back in a way that makes me miss doing a radio show. “Hell’s Grasp” is the longest piece on the collection at 6:25, but “From the Dust Returned” closes, mindful of the atmospherics that have been at work all along and no less huge, but clearly saving a last push for, well, last. I’ll be interested in how it holds up over the long term, but Magnetic Eye has become one of the US’ most essential labels in heavy music and releases like this are exactly why.

Restless Spirit on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Stepmother, Planet Brutalicon

stepmother planet brutalicon

When did Graham Clise from Witch Lecherous Gaze, etc. — dude used to be in Uphill Battle; I remember that band — move to Australia? Doesn’t matter. It happened and Stepmother is the raw, garage-ish fuzz rock outfit the now-Melbourne-residing Clise has established, with Rob Muinos on bass and vocals and Sam Rains on drums. With Clise on guitar/vocals peppering hard-strummed riffs with bouts of shred and various dirtier coatings, the 12-tracker goes north of four minutes one time for “Do You Believe,” already by then having found its proto-Misfits bent in the catchy “Scream for Death.” But whether they’re buzz-overdosing “Waiting for the Axe” or digging into the comedown in “Signed DC” ahead of the surf-informed rager of a finale “Gusano,” Planet Brutalicon is a debut that presents fresh ideas taking on known stylistic elements. And it’s not a showcase for Clise‘s instrumental prowess on a technical level or anything — he’s not trying to put on a clinic — but from the sound of his guitar to the noises he gets from it in “The Game” (that middle part, ultra-fuzz) and at the end of “Stalingrad,” it is very much a guitar-centered offering. No complaints there whatsoever.

Stepmother on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

Pilot Voyager, The Structure is Still Under Construction

Pilot Voyager The Structure is Still Under Construction

WARNING: Users who take even a small dose of Pilot Voyager‘s The Structure is Still Under Construction may find themselves experiencing euphoria, or adrift, as though on some serene ocean under the warm green sky of impossibly refracted light. The ethereal drones and melodic textures of the 46-minute single-song LP may cause side effects like: momentary flashes of inner peace, the quieting of your brain that you’ve been seeking your whole life without knowing it, calm. Also nausea, but that’s probably just something you ate. Talk to your doctor about whether this extended work from the Hungarian collective Psychedelic Source Records (szia!) is right for you, and if it is, make sure to consume responsibly. Headphones required (not included or covered by insurance). Do not be afraid as “The Structure is Still Under Construction” leaves the water behind to float upward in its midsection, finally resolving in intertwining drones, vague sampled speech echoing far off somewhere — ugh, the real world — and birdsong someplace in the mix. Go with it. This is why you got the prescription in the first place. Decades of aural research and artistic movement and progression have led you and the Budapesti outfit to this moment. Do not operate heavy machinery. Ever. In fact, find an empty field, take off your pants and run around for a while until you get out of breath. Then drink cool water and giggle. This could be you. Your life.

Pilot Voyager on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

Northern Liberties, Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe

northern liberties Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe

Philadelphia has become the East Coast US’ hotbed for heavy psychedelia, which must be interesting for Northern Liberties, who started out more than two decades ago. The trio’s self-released, 10-song/41-minute Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe — maybe their eighth album, if my count is right — with venerated producer Steve Albini, so one might count ‘instant-Gen-X-cred’ and ‘recognizably-muddy-toms’ among their goals. I wasn’t completely sold on the offering until “Infusorian Hymnal” started to dig a little further into the genuinely weird after opener “The Plot Thickens” and the subsequent “Drowned Out” laid forth the crunch of the tones and gave hints of the structures beneath the noise. “Crucible” follows up the raw shove of “Star Spangled Corpse” by expanding the palette toward space rock and an unhinged psych-noise shove that the somehow-still-Hawkwindian volatility of “The Awaited” moves away from while the finale “Song of the Sole Survivor” calls back to the folkish vocal melody in “Ghosts of Ghosts,” if in echoing and particularly addled fashion. Momentum serves the three-piece well throughout, though they seem to have no trouble interrupting themselves (can relate), and turning to follow a disparate impulse. Distractable heavy? Yeah, except bands like that usually don’t last two decades. Let’s say maybe their own kind of oddball, semi-spaced band who aren’t afraid to screw around in the studio, find what they like, and keep it. And whatever else you want to say about Albini-tracked drums, “Hold on to the Darkness” has a heavier tone to its snare than most guitars do to whole LPs. Whatever works, and it does.

Northern Liberties website

Northern Liberties on Bandcamp

Nyxora, “Good Night, Ophelia”

Nyxora Good Night Ophelia

“Good Night, Ophelia” is the first single from the forthcoming debut full-length from semi-goth Portland, Oregon, heavy rock four-piece Nyxora. There are worse opening shots to fire than a Hamlet reference, I suppose, and if one regards Ophelia’s character as an innocent driven to suicide by gender-based oppression, then her lack of agency is nothing if not continually relevant. Nonetheless, for NyxoraVox on, well, vox, guitarist E.Wrath, bassist Luke and drummer Weatherman — she pairs with dark-boogie riff recorded for edge with Witch Mountain‘s Rob Wrong at his Wrong Way Studio. There are some similarities between Nyxora and Wrong‘s own outfit — I double-checked it wasn’t Uta Plotkin singing some of the higher-reaching lines of “Good Night, Ophelia,” which is a definite compliment — but I get the sense that fuller atmosphere of Nyxora‘s first LP isn’t necessarily encapsulated in this one three-and-a-half-minute song. That is, I’m thinking at some point on the album, Nyxora will get more morose than they are here. Or maybe not. Either way, “Good Night, Ophelia” is an enticing teaser from a group who seem ready to dig their niche when the album is released, I’ll assume in 2024 though one never knows.

Nyxora on Facebook

Nyxora on Bandcamp

Old Goat Smoke, Demo

Old Goat Smoke Demo

I hate to do it, but I’m calling bullshit right now on Sydney, Australia’s Old Goat Smoke. Sorry gents. To be sure, your Bongzilla-crusty, ultra-stoned, Church of Misery-esque-in-its-madcap-vocal-wails, goat weed metal is only a pleasure to behold. But that’s the problem. How’re you gonna write a song called “Old Goat Smoke” and not post the lyrics? I shudder to think of the weed puns I’m missing. Fortunately, it’s not too late for the newcomer band to correct the mistake before the entire project is derailed. In that eponymous one of three total tracks included, Old Goat Smoke cast themselves in the mold of the despondent and disaffected. “Return to Dirt” shifts fluidly in and out of screams and harsher fare while radioactive-dirt tonality infects the guitar and bass that have already challenged the drums to cut through their morass. So that there’s no risk of the point not being made, they cap this initial public offering with “The Great Hate,” and eight-and-a-half-minute treatise on feedback and raw scathe that’s likewise a show of future nastiness to manifest. Quit your job, do all the drugs you can find, engage the permanent fuck-off. Old Goat Smoke may not have ‘bong’ in their moniker, but that’s about all they’re missing. And those lyrics, I guess, though by the time the 20 minutes of Demo have expired, they’ve made their caustic point regardless.

Old Goat Smoke on Facebook

Old Goat Smoke on Bandcamp

Van Groover, Back From the Shop

Van Groover Back From the Shop

German transport-themed heavy rock and rollers Van Groover — as in, one who grooves in or with vans — made a charming debut with 2021’s Honk if Parts Fall Off (review here), and the follow-up five-song EP, Back From the Shop, makes no attempt to fix what isn’t broken. That would seem to put it at odds with the mechanic speaking in the intro “Hill Willy’s Chop Shop,” who runs through a litany of issues fixed, goes on long enough to hypnotize and then swaps in body parts and so on. From there, the motor works, and Van Groover hit the gas through 21 minutes of smells-like-octane riffing and storytelling. In “A-38″ — the reference being to the size of a sheet of paper in Europe; equivalent but not the same as the US’ 8.5″ x 11” — they either get arrested, which would seem to be the ending of “The Bandit” just before,” or are at the DMV, I can’t quite tell, but it doesn’t matter one you meet “The Grizz.” The closer has an urgency to its push that doesn’t quite sound like I’d imagine being torn apart by a bear to feel, but the Lebowski-paraphrased penultimate line, “Some days you get eaten by the bear, some days the bear eats you,” underscores Van Groover‘s for-the-converted approach, speaking to the subculture from within. Possibly while driving. Does look like a nice van, though. The kind you might write a song or two about.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp

Hotel Lucifer, Hotel Lucifer

Hotel Lucifer Hotel Lucifer

Facts-wise, there’s not much more I can tell you about Hotel Lucifer than you might glean from looking at the New York four-piece’s Bandcamp page. Their self-released and self-titled debut runs 43 minutes and eight tracks, and its somewhat bleak, not-obligated-to-heavy-tonalism course takes several violent thematic turns, including (I think.) in opener “Room 222,” where Katie‘s vocals seem to talk about raping god. This, “Murderer,” “Torquemada,” “The Ultimate Price,” “Picking Your Eyes Out” and 12-minute horror noisefest closer “Beheaded” — only the classic metaller “Training the Beast” and the three-minute acoustic-backed psychedelic voice showcase “Echidna” seem to restrain the brutaller impulses, and I’m not sure about that either. With Jimmy on guitar, Muriel playing bass and Ed on drums, Hotel Lucifer are defined in no small part by the whispers, rasps and croons that mark their verses and choruses, but that becomes an effective means to convey character and mood along with the instrumental ambience behind, and so Hotel Lucifer find this strange, almost willfully off-putting cultish individualism, and it’s not hooks keeping your attention so much as the desire to figure it out, to learn more about just what the hell is going on on this record. I’ll wish you good luck with that as I continue my efforts along similar lines.

Hotel Lucifer on Bandcamp

Megalith Levitation, Obscure Fire

Megalith Levitation Obscure Fire

Its five songs broken into two sections along lines of “Obscure Fire” pairing with “Of Silence” and “Descending” leading to “Into the Depths” with “Of Eternal Doom” answering the question that didn’t even really need to be asked about which depths the Russian stoner sludge rollers were talking about. The Sleep-worshiping three-piece of guitarist/vocalist SAA, bassist KKV and drummer PAN — whose credits are worth reading in the band’s own words — lumber with purpose as they make that final statement, each side of Obscure Fire working shortest to longest beginning with the howling guitar and drum thud of the title-track at nine minutes as opposed to the 10 of “Of Silence.” At two minutes, “Descending” is barely more than feedback and tortured gurgles, so yes, very much a fit with the concrete-toned plod of the subsequent “Into the Depths” as the band skirt the line between ultra-stoner metal and cavernous atmospheric sludge without necessarily committing to one or the other. That position favors them, but after a certain point of being bludgeoned with huge riffs and slow-nodding, deeply-weighted churn, your skull is going to be goo either way. The route Megalith Levitation take to get you there is where the weed is, aurally speaking.

Megalith Levitation on Facebook

Addicted Label on Bandcamp

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Restless Spirit Post “Marrow” Video; Afterimage Out Oct. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

restless spirit

Long Island doom rockers Restless Spirit signed to Magnetic Eye Records earlier this year, and their first new release for the label — which also reissued their 2021 album, Blood of the Old Gods (review here) — will be their third full-length, Afterimage. Set for release on Oct. 6, Afterimage opens with its lead single in “Marrow,” and no, it’s not a YOB cover. Instead, the five-plus-minute original — video’s at the bottom of the post; have at it — reminds that part of the appeal of Restless Spirit is how solidified their approach seems while residing in between different styles.

They’re part doom, part metal, part rock, atmospherically rich, melodically engaging, and at the same time hard to pin down as any single microniche. They are, in other words, complex. But not just that either, because as “Marrow” demonstrates, they are confident, strong in their stylistic position, and they write songs like they know what they want them to be. Restless Spirit have been confirmed for Ripplefest Texas in September, and will tour the West Coast thereafter to herald the album’s coming. Dates for that run and other shows can be found below, along with the album info, preorder link and so on.

From the PR wire:

Restless Spirit Afterimage

RESTLESS SPIRIT unleash first video single and details of new album

Preorder link: http://lnk.spkr.media/afterimage

Long Island sludge metal trio RESTLESS SPIRIT have released the video single ‘Marrow’ as the first outtake from their forthcoming third album “Afterimage”. The new full-length is scheduled for release on October 6, 2023.

RESTLESS SPIRIT comment: “The opening track ‘Marrow’ truly comes from the heart and sets the theme for the entire album”, guitarist and singer Paul Aloisio writes. “This song is about watching someone that you love at the end of their life. It’s about the bargaining, the pleading, the denial… all those stages of grief. Although the song deals with desperation, it is also an acknowledgement of a bitter truth. We think everyone can relate to this song, because while maybe you haven’t had to experience these feelings yet, reality is, eventually you will. I’ve never had the courage to be so open through my music before, and I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t terrifying to do so. Yet our hope is that it can resonate with anyone struggling through an experience like this.”

In the case of RESTLESS SPIRIT, the band name says it all, and in more than just one way. Their third album, “Afterimage”, embodies the East Coast trio’s aim of never wanting to sound exactly like before. Long Island deep-fried guitars meet pounding rhythms and emotionally raw vocals. Where the predecessor “Blood of the Old Gods” (2021) sometimes ushered the listener into twisted complexity, “Afterimage” delivers short, sharp shocks that hit straight home.

Lyrically, “Afterimage” is also born out of a restless spirit. Driven by tragedy and personal loss, singer and guitarist Paul Aloisio has put his heart and soul into the album. Confronted with a choice to deal with his pain in a healthy way or go down a destructive path, the singer and guitarist opted for the former but months later found his words to be prophetic for doing the latter. Deciding that artistry requires honesty, Alosio wanted to share his experience as a message to others in similar situations that they’re not alone in their despair. “Afterimage” might well be read as a cautionary tale.

Embarking on their musical journey very early in life, the band’s core of Aloisio and bassist Marc Morello met the summer before Kindergarten and grew up discovering music side by side. Channeling influences like BLACK SABBATH, TYPE O NEGATIVE, and THE SWORD and incorporating aggressive modern metal, unabashed stoner-doom pummeling, energetic changes, and stirring, earnest vocals, their band was finally christened RESTLESS SPIRIT in 2019. Their debut full-length “Lord of the New Depression” (2019) fit equally well into the stoner, doom, and sludge molds, while on “Blood of the Old Gods”, the three-piece developed a more varied, melodic approach with added complexity.

Discontent at being sometimes labelled ‘progressive’, RESTLESS SPIRIT, true contrarians that they are, avoided overly-long songs and excessive ornamentation on “Afterimage”, intentionally eliminating anything that might distract from the new album’s direct, crushing immediacy.

On the live front, the Long Island band has undertaken several tours in support of “Blood of the Old Gods” and shared stages with the likes of CROWBAR, THE OBSESSED and CANNIBAL CORPSE. They will return to the road in winter 2023/24 to present “Afterimage”.

With “Afterimage”, RESTLESS SPIRIT deliver a massive punch to the gut that actually feels damn great once the initial pain subsides.

1. Marrow
2. Shadow Command
3. Of Spirit and Form
4. All Furies
1. Brutalized
2. The Fatalist
3. Hell’s Grasp
4. From the Dust Returned

Guest musicians
Scott “Wino” Weinrich – guitars on ‘The Fatalist’
Mike Hill – vocals on ‘Shadow Command’

Recording by John Forrestal at The Animal Farm, Flemington, NJ USA
Mix & mastering by Jonathan Nuñez at Sound Artillery Studios, Miami, FL, USA
Cover Art by Luca “Solomacello” Martinelli
Layout by Marc Christoforidis

25 AUG 2023 Masapequa, NY (US) VFW Hall
30 AUG 2023 Brooklyn, NY (US) St Vitus
01 SEP 2023 Montague, MA (US) RPM Fest
19 SEP 2023 Memphis, TN (US) Hi-Tone Cafe
21 SEP 2023 Austin TX (US) RippleFest Texas
25 SEP 2023 Mesa, AZ (US) Nile Underground
26 SEP 2023 Los Angeles, CA (US) Knuckleheads
27 SEP 2023 Sacramento, CA (US) Cafe Colonial
28 SEP 2023 Springfield, OR (US) The Spot
29 SEP 2023 Portland, OR (US) Highwatermark
30 SEP 2023 Seattle, WA (US) Funhouse
01 OCT 2023 Bellingham, WA (US) The Shakedown
29 OCT 2023 Amityville, NY (US) Amityville Music Hall

Paul Aloisio – guitar, vocals
Jon Gusman – drums
Marc Morello – bass



Restless Spirit, “Marrow” official video

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Indus Valley Kings Sign to Black Doomba Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Cheers to Long Island’s Indus Valley Kings on signing with Black Doomba Records to release their third long-player at some point in the unknowable future. The band, whose sophomore outing was 2022’s done-thick-and-hooky Origin (review here), don’t have a release date set or anything, and I don’t know if they’ve even recorded or started writing or what for the next record, but if it’s on the strength of Origin and the preceding 2021 self-titled that they got picked up, you won’t hear me argue. Melodic, unpretentious heavy rock is nearly always welcome in my earbuds, and only more so with that bassline tucked into the midsection of “…And the Dead Shall Rise,” never mind the boogie and/or roll that ensue from there.

Album news will come when it comes — what’re you, in a hurry? — but in the meantime, the trio have live dates set throughout Spring and Summer. They hit Maryland Doom Fest in 2022 and they’ll play the Long Island Doom, Sludge & Metal Festival on April 29, as well as dates around the Eastern Seaboard and an Ohio weekender in May, keeping company with Sons of Ghidorah.

Those dates, the text signing announcement, and the video signing announcement follow here in blue, as culled from social media:

indus valley kings

Black Doomba Records is proud to announce signing the amazing Indus Valley Kings !

Please check out their first two albums. We’ll be thrilled and honored to released their 3rd full album when they’re ready.

Says the band: “We are elated to announce we’ve signed with Black Doomba Records! Tommy Stewart has been in our corner since he first heard our band and we are looking forward to releasing a killer 3rd album on his prosperous and ever-evolving label!”

More about:

From Long Island, New York, Indus Valley Kings offer their heavy, down-tuned music to rock the souls of a modern civilization. They’re often compared to Kyuss, Corrosion of Conformity, and 70’s era Black Sabbath.

Upcoming shows 2023!

April 1 – The Kennel at West York Inn – York, PA w/ Weed Coughin, Almost Honest, Wrath of Typhon
April 21 – The Depot – Baltimore, MD w/ /High Leaf, Mangog, The Crows Eye
April 29 – Long Island Doom, Sludge & Metal Festival 2023 – Bethpage, NY
May 5 – Westside Bowl – Youngstown, OH w/ Sons of Ghidorah
May 6 – Buzzbin – Canton, OH w/ Sons of Ghidorah
July 15 – 3rd Annual River Jam – Falling Waters, WV

More shows TBA!

Indus Valley Kings are:
Billy Fridrich – lead and rhythm guitars, lead vocals
Jonathan Lesley Habers – bass, vocals
Dan Lofaro – drums



Indus Valley Kings, Black Doomba Records signing announcement

Indus Valley Kings, Origin (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Fu Manchu, Valborg, Sons of Arrakis, Voidward, Indus Valley Kings, Randy Holden, The Gray Goo, Acid Rooster, BongBongBeerWizards, Mosara

Posted in Reviews on September 20th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Day two of the Fall 2022 Quarterly Review brings a fresh batch of 10 releases en route to the total 100 by next Friday. Some of this is brand new, some of it is older, some of it is doom, some is rock, some is BongBongBeerWizards, and so on. Sometimes these things get weird, and I guess that’s where it’s at for me these days, but you’re going to find plenty of ground to latch onto despite that. Wherever you end up, I hope you’re digging this so far half as much as I am. Much love as always as we dive back in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 2

Fu Manchu Fu 30 part 2

Like everyone’s everything in the era, Fu Manchu‘s 30th anniversary celebration didn’t go as planned, but with their Fu30 Pt. 2 three-songer, they give 2020’s Fu30 Pt. 1 EP (posted here) the sequel its title implied and present two originals and one cover in keeping with that prior release’s format. Tracked in 2021, “Strange Plan” and the start-stop-riffed “Low Road” are quintessential works of Fu fuzz, so SoCal they’re practically in Baja, and bolstered by the kinds of grooves that have held the band in good stead with listeners throughout these three-plus decades. “Strange Plan” is more aggressive in its shove, but perhaps not so confrontational as the cover of Surf Punks‘ 1980 B-side “My Wave,” a quaint bit of surferly gatekeeping with the lines, “Go back to the Valley/And don’t come back,” in its chorus. As they will with their covers, the four-piece from San Clemente bring the song into their own sound rather than chase down trying to sound like Reagan-era punk, and that too is a method well proven on the part of the band. If you ever believed heavy rock and roll could be classic, Fu Manchu are that, and for experienced heads who’ve heard them through the years as they’ve tried different production styles, Fu30 Pt. 2 finds an effective middle ground between impact and mellow groove.

Fu Manchu on Facebook

At the Dojo Records website


Valborg, Der Alte

Valborg Der Alte

Not so much a pendulum as a giant slaughterhouse blade swinging from one side to the other like some kind of horrific grandfather clock, Valborg pull out all the industrial/keyboard elements from their sound and strip down their songwriting about as far as it will go on Der Alte, the 13-track follow-up to 2019’s Zentrum (review here) and their eighth album overall since 2009. Accordingly, the bone-cruncher pummel in cuts like “Kommando aus der Zukunft” and the shout-punky centerpiece “Hektor” is furious and raw. I’m not going to say I hope they never bring back the other aspects of their sound, but it’s hard not to appreciate the directness of the approach on Der Alte, on which only the title-track crosses the four-minute mark in runtime (it has a 30 second intro; such self-indulgence!), and their sound is still resoundingly their own in tone and the throaty harsh vocals on “Saturn Eros Xenomorph” and “Hoehle Hoelle” and the rest across the album’s intense, largely-furious-but-still-not-lacking-atmosphere span. If it was another band, you might call it death metal. As it stands, Der Alte is just Valborg, distilled to their purest and meanest form.

Valborg on Facebook

Prophecy Productions webstore


Sons of Arrakis, Volume I

Sons of Arrakis Volume I

2022 is probably a good year to put out a record based around Frank Herbert’s Dune universe (the Duniverse?), what with the gargantuan feature film last year and another one coming at some point as blah blah franchise everything, but Montreal four-piece Sons of Arrakis have had at least some of the songs on Volume I in the works for the better part of four years, guitarists Frédéric Couture (also vocals) and Francis Duchesne (also keys) handling recording for the eight-song/30-minute outing with Vick Trigger on bass and Eliot Landry on drums locking in tight grooves pushing all that sci-fi and fuzz along at a pace that one only wishes the movie had shared. I’ve never read Dune, which is only relevant information here because Volume I doesn’t leave me feeling out of the loop as “Temple of the Desert” locks in quintessential stoner rock janga-janga shuffle and “Lonesome Preacher” culminates in twisty fuzz that should well please fans of Valley of the Sun before bleeding directly and smoothly into the melodic highlight “Abomination” in a way that, to me at least, bodes better for their longer term potential than whatever happenstance novelty of subject matter surrounds. There’s plenty of Dune out there if they want to stick to the theme, but songwriting like this could be about brushing your teeth and it’d still work.

Sons of Arrakis on Facebook

Sons of Arrakis on Instagram


Voidward, Voidward

voidward voidward

Voidward‘s self-titled full-length debut lands some nine years after the Durham, North Carolina, trio’s 2013 Knives EP, and accordingly features nearly a decade’s worth of difference in sound, casting off longer-form post-black metal duggery in favor of more riff-based explorations. Still at least partially metallic in its roots, as opener “Apologize” makes plain and the immediate nodder roll of “Wolves” backs up, the eight-song/47-minute outing is distinguished by the clean, floating vocal approach of guitarist Greg Sheriff, who almost reminds of Dave Heumann from Arbouretum, though no doubt other listeners will hear other influences, and yes that’s a compliment. Joined by bassist/backing vocalist Alec Ferrell — harmonies persist on “Wolves” and elsewhere — and drummer Noah Kessler, Sheriff brings just a hint of char to the tone of “Oblivion,” but the blend of classic heavy rock and metal throughout points Voidward to someplace semi-psychedelic but nonetheless richly ambient, and even the most straightforward inclusion, arguably “Chemicals” though closer “Cobalt” has plenty of punch as well, is rich in its execution. They even thrash a bit on “Horses,” so as long as it’s not another nine years before they do anything else, they sound like they can go wherever they want. Rare for a debut.

Voidward on Facebook

Clearly Records on Bandcamp


Indus Valley Kings, Origin

Indus Valley Kings Origin

The second long-player from Long Island, New York’s Indus Valley Kings, Origin brings together nine songs across an expansive 55 minutes, and sees the trio working from a relatively straightforward heavy rock foundation toward more complex purposes, whether that’s the spacious guitar stretch-out of “A Cold Wind” or the tell-tale chug in the second half of centerpiece “Dark Side of the Sun.” They effectively shift back and forth between lengthier guitar-led jams and more straight-up verses and choruses, but structure is never left too far behind to pick up again as need be, and the confidence behind their play comes through amid a relatively barebones production style, the rush of the penultimate “Drowned” providing a later surge in answer to the more breadth-minded unfurling of “Demon Beast” and the bluesy “Mohenjo Daro.” So maybe they’re not actually from the Indus Valley. Fine. I’ll take the Ripple-esque have-riffs-have-shred-ready-to-roll “Hell to Pay” wherever it’s coming from, and the swing of the earlier “…And the Dead Shall Rise” doesn’t so much dogwhistle its penchant for classic heavy as serve it to the listener on a platter. If we’re picking favorites, I might take “A Cold Wind,” but there’s plenty to dig on one way or the other, and Origin issues invitations early and often for listeners to get on board.

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Indus Valley Kings on Bandcamp


Randy Holden, Population III

randy holden population iii

Clearly whoever said there were no second chances in rock and roll just hadn’t lived long enough. After reissuing one-upon-a-time Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden‘s largely-lost classic Population II (discussed here) for its 50th anniversary in 2020, RidingEasy Records offers Holden‘s sequel in Population III. And is it the work for which Holden will be remembered? No. But it is six songs and 57 minutes of Holden‘s craft, guitar playing, vocals and groove, and, well, that feels like something worth treasuring. Holden was in his 60s when he and Randy Pratt (also of Cactus) began to put together Population III, and for the 21-minute “Land of the Sun” alone, the album’s release a decade later is more than welcome both from an archival standpoint and in the actual listening experience, and as “Swamp Stomp” reminds how much of the ‘Comedown Era’s birth of heavy rock was born of blues influence, “Money’s Talkin'” tears into its solo with a genuine sense of catharsis. Holden may never get his due among the various ‘guitar gods’ of lore, but if Population III exposes more ears to his work and legacy, so much the better.

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RidingEasy Records store


The Gray Goo, 1943

The Gray Goo 1943

Gleefully oddball Montana three-piece The Gray Goo remind my East Coast ears a bit of one-time Brooklynites Eggnogg for their ability to bring together funk and heavy/sometimes-psychedelic rock, but that’s not by any means the extent of what they offer with their debut album, 1943, which given the level of shenanigans in 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Bicycle Day” alone, I’m going to guess is named after the NES game. In any case, from “Bicycle Day” on down through the closing “Cop Punk,” the pandemic-born outfit find escape in right-right-right-on nods and bass tone, partially stonerized but casting off expectation with an aplomb that manifests in the maybe-throwing-an-elbow noise of “Problem Child,” and the somehow-sleek rehearsal-space funk of “Launch” and “The Comedown,” which arrives ahead of “Shakes and Spins” — a love song, of sorts, with fluid tempo changes and a Primus influence buried in there somewhere — and pulls itself out of the ultra-’90s jam just in time for a last plodding hook. Wrapping with the 1:31 noise interlude “Goo” and the aforementioned “Cop Punk,” which gets the prize lyrically even with the competition surrounding, 1943 is going right on my list of 2022’s best debut albums with a hope for more mischief to come.

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Acid Rooster, Ad Astra

acid rooster ad astra

Oh, sweet serenity. Maybe if we all had been in that German garden on the day in summer 2020 when Acid Rooster reportedly performed the two extended jams that comprise Ad Astra — “Zu den Sternen” (22:28) and “Phasenschieber” (23:12) — at least some of us might’ve gotten the message and the assurance so desperately needed at the time that things were going to be okay. And that would’ve been nice even if not necessarily the truth. But as it stands, Ad Astra documents that secret outdoor showcase on the part of the band, unfolding with improvised grace across its longform pieces, hopeful in spirit and plenty loud by the time they get there but never fully departing from a hopeful sensibility, some vague notion of a better day to come. Even in the wholesale drone immersion of “Phasenschieber,” with the drums of “Zu den Sternen” seemingly disappeared into that lush ether, I want to close my eyes and be in that place and time, to have lived this moment. Impossible, right? Couldn’t have happened. And yet some were there, or so I’m told. The rest of us have the LP, and that’s not nothing considering how evocative this music is, but the sheer aural therapy of that moment must have been a powerful experience indeed. Hard not to feel lucky even getting a glimpse.

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BongBongBeerWizards, Ampire

BongBongBeerWizards Ampire

A sophomore full-length from the Dortmund trio of guitarist/synthesist Bong Travolta, bassist/vocalist Reib Asnah and (introducing) drummer/vocalist Chill Collins — collectively operating as BongBongBeerWizardsAmpire is a call to worship for Weed and Loud alike, made up of three tracks arranged longest to shortest (immediate points) and lit by sacred rumble of spacious stoner doom. Plod as god. Tonal tectonics. This is not about innovation, but celebrating noise and lumber for the catharsis they can be when so summoned. Willfully repetitive, primitive and uncooperative, there’s some debt of mindset to the likes of Poland’s Belzebong or the largesse of half-speed Slomatics/Conan/Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, but again, if you come into the 23-minute leadoff “Choirs and Masses” expecting genre-shaping originality, you’ve already fucked up. Get crushed instead. Put it on loud and be consumed. It won’t work for everybody, but it’s not supposed to. But if you’re the sort of head crusty enough to appreciate the synth-laced hypnotic finish of “Unison” or the destructive mastery of “Slumber,” you’re gonna shit a brick when the riffs come around. They’re not the only church in town, but it’s just the right kind of fun for melting your brains with volume.

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Mosara, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets

Mosara Only the Dead Know Our Secrets

Any way you want to cut it with Mosara‘s second album, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets, the root word you’re looking for is “heavy.” You’d say, “Oh, well ‘Magissa’ has elements of early-to-mid-aughts sludge and doom at work with a raw presentation in its cymbal splash and shouted vocals.” Or you’d say, “‘The Permanence of Isolation’ arrives at a chugging resolution after a deceptively intricate intro,” or “the acoustic beginning of ‘Zion’s Eyes’ leads to a massive, engaging nod that shows thoughtfulness of construction in its later intertwining of lead guitar lines.” Or that the closing title-track flips the structure to end quiet after an especially tortured stretch of nonetheless-ambient sludge. All that’s true, but you know what it rounds out to when you take away the blah blah blah? It’s fucking heavy. Whatever angle you’re approaching from — mood, tone, songwriting, performance — it’s fucking heavy. Sometimes there’s just no other way, no better way, to say it. Mosara‘s 2021 self-titled debut (review here) was too. It’s just how it is. I bet their next one will be as well, or at very least I hope so. If you’re old enough to recall Twingiant, there’s members of that band here, but even if not, what you need to know is that Only the Dead Know Our Secrets is fucking heavy. So there.

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Quarterly Review: Enslaved, Milana & Bisonte, Leeds Point, Ocultum, Cruel Curses, Green Hog, Adliga, Buffalo Tombs, BroodMother, King Bastard

Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Doing things a little differently this time. Yes, it’s still 10 records per day for a total of 50 between today and Friday, but with the utter glut — glutter! — of releases coming out and recently released, I’m doubling up on the Winter Quarterly Review and will be putting together another week of 50 records for January, after the holidays and all the year-end hullabaloo. So it’s 50 now and 50 later. I’ve never done it that way before, and I reserve the right to completely change my mind after this week, but as of right this second, that’s where I’m at. Talk to me again on Friday.

I guess we’d better get started, either way.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Enslaved, Caravans to the Outer Worlds

enslaved caravans to the outer worlds

With a relatively brief 18-minute excursion that pushes yet-deeper into their particular brand of progressive extreme metal, Norway’s Enslaved continue to walk the increasingly melodic and decreasingly genre-dependent path in following-up 2020’s Utgard (review here). Their affinity for krautrock experimentalism is well established but has never been so forwardly presented as on “Intermezzo I – Lönnlig. Gudlig.,” and the thrust of the opening title-track sets Caravan to the Outer Worlds off with a due sense of motion later complemented by the keyboard-heavy “Ruun II – The Epitaph,” an apparent 15-years-later sequel to the title-cut from 2006’s Ruun (discussed here). Rounding out with “Intermezzo II – The Navigator,” with its almost-motorik space-but-still-somehow-Norwegian-space rock vibe, Enslaved‘s short offering for 2021 demonstrates plainly that they can be whatever and do whatever the hell they want. 30 years from their beginning, they keep growing. Such bands are likewise rare and precious.

Enslaved on Facebook

Nuclear Blast website


Bisonte & Milana, Mallorca Stoner Vol. 1 Split

bisonte milana mallorca stoner vol 1

It’s not quite what-you-see-is-what-you-get, but the Discos Macarras split Mallorca Stoner Vol. 1 that brings together two tracks each from Spanish outfits Bisonte — also written Bis·nte — and Milana certainly lays out its mission in representing the Mediterranean island’s heavy underground, and Bisonte aren’t through the nine-minute doomer “Unbalanced” before I’m curious just how many volumes the label might be able to put together from Mallorcan acts. Nonetheless, Bisonte‘s wizardly march on “Involuntary Act” flows organically around its downtrodden vibe, and in the more psychedelic “White Buffalo” and burl-lumbering “Forest Tale,” Milana work even quicker to acquit themselves well with an underlying current of noise. However much of a scene there may or may not be in Mallorca, Mallorca Stoner Vol. 1 is a welcome means through which to begin exploring both these acts more and others with whom they might share local stages. One will await Vol. 2 with interest.

Bisonte on Facebook

Milana on Instagram

Discos Macarras website


Leeds Point, Mother of Eternity

Leeds Point Mother of Eternity

New York’s Leeds Point seem on a doomed course with their Mother of Eternity EP on the opener “High Strangeness,” but they shake it up late with some cowbell boogie, and “The Summoning” further deepens the plot with layered in acoustics and a more lush melody as the trio builds out from their basic guitar-bass-drums configuration. Likewise, the shorter “Long Way Down” is a more straight-ahead ’70s rocker, and the closing title-track meets its initial prog rock melody first with driving riffs and later with more angularity and harsher barking vocals… before bringing it all back around at the end. With Eternal Black out of commission, NYC needs someone to champion traditional doom, but that’s not who these Long Islanders are. Their sound — set forth on their debut full-length some seven years ago; their most recent prior outing was 2019’s Equinox Blues (review here) — is more purposefully diverse. If they’re championing anything here, it’s their individuality. And that suits them.

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Ocultum, Residue

ocultum residue

The second full-length from Santiago, Chile’s Ocultum, Residue, was first issued by the band independently in 2019. Picked up for a vinyl release through Interstellar Smoke Records, the four-song/49-minute long-player (bong)rips into filthy-fuzz doom and scabbed-over sludge, the lumbering coming in one longform nod after another in “The Acid Road” and “Residue” itself — which might be the most densely-toned inclusion of the bunch, but it hardly matters when the 16-minute “Ascending With the Fumes of the Dead” and the 12-minute “Reflections on Repulsiveness” and you’re either on board with Ocultum‘s periodically-deathly-always-fucked style by then or you’ve probably been so grossed out that you’ve gone and gotten yourself a job, decided you were never really so misanthropic to start with, and that what you thought was the inner scum of your existential makeup was just you needing to have lunch or take a shower or some shit. Meanwhile, Ocultum are over here shrooming up and worshiping decay. Different league entirely. Even the quietest moments of Residue are heavy. There’s just no escape from it.

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Interstellar Smoke Records store


Cruel Curses, Fables, Folklore & Other Assorted Fever Dreams

Cruel Curses Fables Folklore and Other Assorted Fever Dreams

If Tampa, Florida, heavy progressive rockers Cruel Curses decided to approach their third full-length, Fables, Folklore & Other Assorted Fever Dreams, with the goal of writing the entire album as a single-song, well, they did that. Though cumbersome in its title, “Fables, Folklore & Other Assorted Fever Dreams” is 36 minutes of linear-charted fare, twisting through parts both hard-hitting and airy, acoustic and electric and probably what could’ve been different songs if otherwise broken up in some places. Does it really matter? Nah. The finished piece, which is a departure from the four-piece and an impressive achievement in itself, makes its point with prog’s affection for funk propelling as many of its parts as metal’s more aggressive shred. Yet, Fables, Folklore & Other Assorted Fever Dreams does not merely trade between quiet and loud parts so much as fluidly bring the listener along its ebbs and flows, and though not without its element of self-indulgence, the album earns its swagger.

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Green Hog Band, Devil’s Luck

green hog devils luck

Give me the raw swing, echoing gurgles and unabashed fuzz of Green Hog‘s “Luck of the Devil” any day of the week. The Brooklynite trio released their Dogs From Hell full-length last year and follow it with the also-sung-entirely-in-Russian sophomore outing, not without its sense of ambience in “Dark Territory” and “Desert King,” the biker-in-space instrumental capper “Ric Moto,” but perhaps even more about the impact of its crashes than the spaces being created. Whatever definition of the word you might want to apply, Devil’s Luck is fucking heavy. And grim, to boot. Still, one could only call “Long Smoke” some kind of stoner rock, even if it is an especially crusty take thereupon, and the novelty of gurgled-out vocals sung in another language, complemented by samples in classic sludgy fashion, isn’t to be understated. If my man’s voice can hold out for a whole set, these guys must put on a killer show.

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Adliga, Vobrazy

Adliga Vobrazy

There are a few different plot threads one might follow along as Vobrazy weaves through its six component tracks, but the debut full-length from Belarusian five-piece bring their varied fare together around a central idea of progressive, metallic doom. Sometimes that manifests as a post-metallic chug as one hears in “Apošni raz,” which leads off, or it can be the growls and black-metal-squibblies-gone-airy of the early going in “Žyvy.” Such shifting arrangements in vocals (in Belarusian) between guitarist Uladzimir Burylau and singer Kate Sidelova add to the unpredictable nature of the band, but there’s no question that melody wins the day, and given how Vobrazy plays out across its 41 minutes, one gets the feeling that the extremity of “Naščadkam” and the more-patient-before-they-hit-the-payoff closer “Bol na sercy” do not coexist by happenstance. The band — completed by guitarist Ignat Pomazkov, bassist Roman Petrashkevich and drummer Artem Voronko — are not light on ambition, aesthetically-speaking, but I like the fact that I have zero guess what their next record will sound like.

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Adliga on Bandcamp


Buffalo Tombs, Two

Buffalo Tombs Two

While not barebones by any means, with solos aplenty and variety in their tempos readily established between the first two cuts “Slow Wisdom Coming” and “Hot Girl Summer,” there’s still something about Buffalo Tombs‘ aptly-titled second long-player, Two, that comes across as wholly unpretentious, not trying to overstate its own argument or draw the audience away from the riffs and grooves central to its purpose. Wholesome, if not always humble. The six-songer is done in under half an hour, so if you wanted to call it an EP, you could, but even as Eric Stuart brings in a bit of synth for “Dream Breather” and “The Beheading of John the Baptist” in its later percussion-meet-drift-out finish, the Denver instrumentalists maintain a straightforward underpinning, with Stuart‘s guitar/keys/bass met with Joshua Lafferty‘s basslines and Patrick Haga‘s drumming in easily-digested-but-not-earth-shattering fashion, the low end hitting a particular note of righteousness in rolling out “Al Khidr” without being too showy in doing so. I’d be interested to hear them explore their psychedelic side further, but there’s plenty of vibe here in the meantime.

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Buffalo Tombs on Bandcamp


BroodMother, The Third Eye

BroodMother The Third Eye

Though understated in the fullness of its production, BroodMother‘s The Third Eye EP leaves little doubt as to where the Worcester, UK, five-piece are coming from after having issued their first album, Sin, Myth, Power, in 2019. Jay Clark, who produced that outing, drums on and mixed this one, and its four songs readily serve as a sampler for an audience to be introduced to the band’s take on heavy rock and roll. “Spiritual Shakedown” and “Killing for Company” are midtempo riffers, with the latter touching slightly on Acrimony-style hookmaking and chug, while “(The Ballad of) Anti-Matter Man” gets trippy in its intro and shuffles into an apex in its second half before finishing mellow, and closer “The Trick of the Journey” hints toward ’90s crunch but marries it to a bluesier stretch of lead solo guitar. Still, it’s rock and roll, however you want to cut it — straight-up but not lifeless — and BroodMother proudly carry its banner.

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King Bastard, It Came From the Void

King Bastard - It Came From The Void art HD

From the almost-if-not-entirely-instrumental unfolding of “From Hell to Horizon” and “Kelper-452B” to the black metal vocals on “Psychosis (In a Vacuum),” the harsh sax of “Black Hole Viscera” and the drone-laden 10-minute finisher “Succumb to the Void,” the debut full-length from Stony Brook, New York’s King Bastard, It Came From the Void, seems wilfully bent toward disorienting those who’d dare to take it on. The breadth and spaciousness of its “From Hell to Horizon” isn’t to be understated — neither the percussion chill in its midsection — but the weight that corresponds there and in “Kelper-452B” and through “Bury the Survivors/Ashes to Ashes,” with its Aliens samples and dug-in-its-own-head proggy chaos is no less a factor in making the album as striking a first impression as it is. Jammy, heavy psych, black metal, doom, sludge — you could call King Bastard any of these and not be wrong, but it’s in how fluidly they unite them that their potential shines through.

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Restless Spirit Stream Blood of the Old Gods in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Restless Spirit (Photo by Wyatt Terwilliger)

Tomorrow marks the release date for Restless Spirit‘s second full-length, Blood of the Old Gods. It is the follow-up to the Long Island-based trio’s 2019 debut, Lord of the New Depression, and it brings guitarist/vocalist Paul Aloisio, bassist Marc Morello and drummer Jon Gusman into conversation with its titular deities, channeling 38 minutes of vibes drawing from the likes of Black Sabbath and Type O Negative, building on a foundation of weighted doom rock that, from “Judgement and Exile” onward, is big on tone and groove alike. Aloisio‘s vocal approach, laced with echo as it is, will ring familiar as a source (acknowledged by the band) of that Type O Negative comparison, but there’s more happening melodically and instrumentally throughout than just that one thing. With each half of the album given its own intro — opener “The Betrayer” and tracklist-centerpiece “The Reclaimer,” respectively — Blood of the Old Gods touches on a progressive vision of doom that seems to be too unpretentious to call itself progressive. That suits me just fine.

“Judgement and Exile” and the subsequent “Crooked Timber of Humanity” are duly brash — the latter shorter and more directly riff-based than the former — and to coincide with the largesse is a Restless Spirit Blood of the Old Godsspaciousness that comes through the lead work as much as the nod that fills it. Restless Spirit‘s dynamic is locked in, and the sound of Blood of the Old Gods feels purposeful throughout the seven included songs, but neither are they interested in doing the same thing all the time, and that’s no less true in the noisy “The Reclaimer” answering the sweeter acoustics of “The Betrayer” than the metallic chug of “Cascade Immolator” seeming to hit even harder than did “Crooked Timber of Humanity” earlier, while also upping the tempo in its first moments. That sense of mounting intensity is a thread woven throughout Blood of the Old Gods — at least one of those gods played thrash — but it’s worth noting how modern the hook of the title-track feels, not just compared to “Crooked Timber of Humanity” with its blend of acoustic and electrics in its midsection and so on, but in its impact and presence alike, it’s right on the line between metal and doom, and draws from a varied (checkered?) past in a range of styles, the last acoustic stretch reminiscent of mid-period Opeth without sticking around long enough to overstate the point.

Same could be said of Blood of the Old Gods as a whole, but they reserve the most fitting summary of their aesthetic and to-this-point progression for the eight-minute capper “Haunted,” which twists around its guitar line with a sense of confrontation that’s as true to New York as was that rat dragging a slice of pizza, but is more methodical in its presentation and how it unfolds, layers of guitar finding expression in a soaring solo section as the track approaches the six-minute mark, thoughtful in its construction but still exciting in the delivery enough to elicit a “fucking a” when they bring it to a head and move into the final minute’s ending section, crashing out with a lumbering stomp that at last rumbles and feedbacks into a quick fade. It is apparent in listening to Blood of the Old Gods what Restless Spirit are building for themselves in terms of sound, and coming off of Lord of the New Depression, the refinement that’s underway in their approach feels on the verge of the next stage of its realization. That is to say, the accomplishments of this sophomore long-player may in time serve just as much as the ground from which they move forward for a third. Potential, even manifest in what they craft here, remains significant.

It’s my pleasure to host the album stream on the day before the release. Find it below, followed by words from the band, and please enjoy.

Restless Spirit on Blood of the Old Gods:

BLOOD OF THE OLD GODS, our second full length, was written in rapid fire succession over the course of a single month. The album came together organically – nothing felt forced or strained. While our previous full length LORD OF THE NEW DEPRESSION is by no means a “bad” album, we felt that it did not fully represent the sound of the band. On BLOOD, it was decided that if we were going to compromise or do anything we weren’t fully satisfied with, we weren’t going to do it at all. No second album, no more EPs, no more band. In essence, this record saved Restless Spirit.

Lyrically, the album follows the central character of The Betrayer. It is a concept album focused around the idea of going against the status quo and defying a society built around gratification through excess, manipulation, and deception. The realization that your heroes, your friends, your family can sometimes be the worst perpetrators of the things you despise.. It relates the struggle of simply doing what you feel is right, and while we are told that this is an easy task, it simply is not always true. This world is due for a change – as destructive as the path forward may be.

Musically, we looked to the past for inspiration. Black Sabbath, of course, and to a large degree Led Zeppelin IV. Their use of acoustics and those huge, natural sounding drums, along with the power of the vocals and the strength of the electric guitar on that album is unmatched. As always, the haunting reverb and ambience of Type O Negative’s entire discography was a huge influence for us.

Recorded and mixed by Evan Perini at Shellshock Audio
Mastered by Bill Henderson at Azimuth
Layout by Marc Christoforidis
Released by Lifesblood Records

Paul Aloisio – Vocals, Guitars
Jon Gusman – Drums
Marc Morello – Bass

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Video Interview: Stephen Flam of Göden on Continuing Winter’s Legacy, Pushing Beyond Darkness

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on August 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Göden stephen flam

Punishingly heavy and bleak in its atmospheric density to a point of being oblique, Göden‘s years-in-the-making debut album, Beyond Darkness (review here), arrived amid the somehow-fitting chaos of Spring 2020 through respected purveyors Svart Records. The band, led by guitarist/songwriter Stephan Flam, has been intended since the outset — really, since before the outset — to function as a spiritual successor to Flam‘s prior unit, New York death-doom trailblazers Winter, and the truth of the matter is Göden is simply on another level altogether. Yes, Flam is joined by former Winter keyboardist Tony Pinnisi, who doubles as narrator for the eight spoken interludes — dubbed “Manifestations” — spread across the 2LP, but with an array of drummers and fellow guitarists, violinist Margaret Murphy and vocalist Vas Kallas (best known for her work as a founding member of industrialists Hanzel und Gretyl), the entire scope of the project is different.

Beyond Darkness is an encompassing, engrossing, massive narrative slab of extreme doom, telling the story of humanity’s hubris and downfall in the face of an uncaring universe. It is not easy listening or reading, and in line with the amount of composition and effort that’s gone into its realization is the awareness and forcefulness of its purpose. These songs, as Flam tells it from his home studio in the interview below, push nearly as far back as 30 years to Winter‘s landmark 1990 full-length, Into Darkness (discussed here), and I can remember running into Flam at Roadburn 2011 (review here) when he was there to play the Main Stage with Winter and having him talk about the next phase of the project. In the vein of Triptykon modernizing and expanding on the skeleton that was Celtic Frost, so too does Göden flesh out the devastating possibilities of what could’ve been into what is.

And, of course, what still might be.

Because there is more Göden in the works, continuing the storyline of Beyond Darkness, which ends at a point of death-as-rebirth. Flam is guarded in talking about what might be in store sound-wise, but the basic template for what one might expect is there in the first album, waiting to swallow you entirely for its brazenly grandiose 76-minute span. Heavy like collapsing buildings, it is.

Flam talks past, present and future in the video chat that follows.

Please enjoy:

Göden, Interview with Stephen Flam, Aug. 10, 2021

Göden‘s Beyond Darkness is out now on all formats through Svart Records. More info at the links.

Göden, Beyond Darkness (2020)

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Göden website

Svart Records on Facebook

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Svart Records website

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Cactus to Release New LP Tightrope April 2

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


New Cactus should be bluesy. The album, titled Tightrope and due out April 2 through Cleopatra Records, is the first from the long-running, been-through-many-iterations-but-is-this-now-and-hey-that’s-cool classic ’70s heavy rockers. No doubt there’s some primo boogie and and they’ve got a few choice covers to boot, and right on for the Jim McCarty guest spot as drummer Carmine Appice leads the band from behind the kid. It’s been six years since the band issued their most recent LP, Black Dawn, and while that’s by no means the longest stretch of their career, it’s significant just the same and it’ll be interesting to hear what they came up with during lockdown.

That PR wire has album details and preorder info:

cactus tightrope


‘70s classic rock legends Cactus came to be known as The American Led Zeppelin, a moniker they owned by virtue of their explosive blues rock stylings, subdued yet undeniably brilliant musicianship, not to mention their energetic and vivacious stage presence which made them a staple of arena rock venues around the globe. Now the band have returned with a smashing new album called Tightrope that strikes a delicate balance between powerful, driving rockers and more complex, heady album tracks. Still led by iconic drummer Carmine Appice alongside long-time members Jimmy Kunes on vocals and Randy Pratt on harmonica, Tightrope is according to Appice “one of the best Cactus albums we’ve ever done. From playing to production and songs, we really took a step up!” They are joined by new lead guitarist/vocalist Paul Warren (ex-Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker) and James Caputo on bass. Tightrope will also give long-time Cactus fans a reason to cheer as it includes special guest appearances from original Cactus guitarist Jim McCarty and singer Phil Naro!

Tightrope will be available on digipak CD, a deluxe 2LP set with a gatefold jacket and colored vinyl, and of course digital platforms everywhere starting April 2 courtesy of Cleopatra Records!

Order the album: https://orcd.co/cactus_tightrope

Track List:
1. Tightrope
2. Papa Was A Rolling Stone
3. All Shook Up
4. Poison In Paradise
5. Third Time Gone
6. Shake That Thing
7. Primitive Touch
8. Preaching Woman Man Blues
9. Elevation
10. Suite 1 & 2: Everlong, All The Madmen
11. Headed For A Fall
12. Wear It Out


Cactus, “Evil” live in 2012

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