Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Insect Ark, Heath, The Cosmic Dead, The Watchers, Juke Cove, Laurel Canyon, Tet, Aidan Baker, Trap Ratt

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Good morning and heavy riffs. Today is day 7 of the Quarterly Review. It’s already been a lot, but there are still 30 more releases to cover over the next three days, so I assure you at some point I’ll have that nervous breakdown that’s been ticking away in the back of my brain. A blast as always, which I mean both sincerely and sarcastically, somehow.

But when we’re done, 100 releases will have been covered, and I get a medal sent to me whenever that happens from the UN’s Stoner Rock Commission on Such Things, so I’ll look forward to that. In the meantime, we’re off.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Ufomammut, Hidden

ufomammut hidden

Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2024, and as they always have, they do so by looking and moving forward. Hidden is the 10th LP in their catalog, the second to feature drummer Levre — who made his debut on 2022’s Fenice (review here) alongside bassist/vocalist Urlo and guitarist Poia (both also keyboards) — and it was preceded by last year’s Crookhead EP (review here), the 10-minute title-track of which is repurposed as the opener here. A singular, signature blend of heft and synth-based atmospherics, Ufomammut roll fluidly through the six-tracker check-in, and follow on from Fenice in sounding refreshed while digging into their core stylistic purposes. “Spidher” brings extra tonal crush around its open verse, and “Mausoleum” has plenty of that as well but is less condensed and hypnotic in its atmospheric midsection, Ufomammut paying attention to details while basking in an overarching largesse. The penultimate “Leeched” was the lead single for good reason, and the four-minute “Soulost” closes with a particularly psychedelic exploration of texture and drone with the drums keeping it moving. 25 years later and there’s still new things to discover. I hear the universe is like that.

Ufomammut website

Supernatural Cat website

Neurot Recordings website

Insect Ark, Raw Blood Singing

insect ark raw blood singing

Considering some of the places Dana Schechter has taken Insect Ark over the project’s to-date duration, most of Raw Blood Singing might at times feel daringly straightforward, but that’s hardly a detriment to the material itself. Songs like “The Hands” bring together rhythmic tension and melodic breadth, as soundscapes of drone, low end chug and the drumming of Tim Wyskida (also Khanate, Blind Idiot God) cast a morose, encompassing atmospheric vision. And rest assured, while “The Frozen Lake” lumbers through its seven minutes of depressive post-sludge — shades of The Book of Knots at their heaviest, but still darker — and “Psychological Jackal” grows likewise harsher and horrific, the experimentalist urge continues to resonate; the difference is it’s being set to serve the purposes of the songs themselves in “Youth Body Swayed” or “Cleaven Hearted,” which slogs like death-doom with a strum cutting through to replace vocals, whereas the outro “Ascension” highlights the noise on its own. It is a bleak, consuming course presented over Raw Blood Singing‘s 45 minutes, but there’s solace in the catharsis as well.

Insect Ark website

Debemur Murti Productions website

Heath, Isaak’s Marble

Heath Isaak's Marble

Laced through with harmonica and organic vibes, Netherlands-based five-piece Heath make their full-length debut with the four extended tracks of Isaak’s Marble, reveling in duly expansive jams keyed for vibrancy and a live sound. They are somewhat the band-between as regards microgenres, with a style that can be traced on the opening title-cut to heavy ’70s funk-boogie-via-prog-rock, and the harmonica plays a role there before spacing out with echo over top of the psychedelia beginning of “Wondrous Wetlands.” The wetlands in question, incidentally, might just be the guitar tone, but that haze clears a bit as the band saunters into a light shuffle jam before the harder-hitting build into a crescendo that sounds unhinged but is in fact quite under control as it turns back to a softshoe-ready groove with organ, keys, harmonica, guitar all twisting around with the bass and drums. Sitar and vocal harmonies give the shorter-at-six-minutes “Strawberry Girl” a ’60s psych-pop sunshine, but the undercurrent is consistent with the two songs before as Heath highlight the shroomier side of their pastoralism, ahead of side B capper “Valley of the Sun” transitioning out of that momentary soundscape with clear-eyed guitar and flute leading to an angular progression grounded by snare and a guitar solo after the verse that leads the shift into the final build. They’re not done, of course, as they bring it all to a rousing end and some leftover noise; subdued in the actual-departing, but still resonant in momentum and potential. These guys might just be onto something.

Heath website

Suburban Records store

The Cosmic Dead, Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead, releasing through Heavy Psych Sounds, count Infinite Peaks as their ninth LP since 2011. I’ll take them at their word since between live offerings, splits, collections and whatnot, it’s hard sometimes to know what’s an album. Similarly, when immersed in the 23-minute cosmic sprawl of “Navigator #9,” it can become difficult to understand where you stop and the universe around you begins. Rising quickly to a steady, organ-inclusive roll, the Glaswegian instrumental psilocybinists conjure depth like few of their jam-prone ilk and remain entrancing as “Navigator #9” shifts into its more languid, less-consuming middle movement ahead of the resurgent finish. Over on side B, “Space Mountain” (20:02) is a bit more drastic in the ends it swaps between — a little noisier and faster up front, followed by a zazzy-jazzy push with fiddle and effects giving over to start-stop bass and due urgency in the drums complemented by fuzz like they just got in a room and this happened before the skronky apex and unearthly comedown resolve in a final stretch of drone. Ninth record or 15th, whatever. Their mastery of interstellar heavy exploration is palpable regardless of time, place or circumstance. Infinite Peaks glimpses at that dimensional makeup.

The Cosmic Dead website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

The Watchers, Nyctophilia

The Watchers Nyctophilia

Perhaps telegraphing some of their second long-player’s darker intentions in the cover art and the title Nyctophilia — a condition whereby you’re happier and more comfortable in darkness — if not the choice of Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Death Angel, etc.) to produce, San Francisco’s The Watchers are nonetheless a heavy rock and roll band. What’s shifted in relation to their 2018 debut, Black Abyss (review here), is the angle of approach they take in getting there. What hasn’t changed is the strength of songwriting at their foundation or the hitting-all-their-marks professionalism of their execution, whether it’s Tim Narducci bringing a classic reach to the vocals of “Garden Tomb” or the precise muting in his and Jeremy Von Epp‘s guitars and Chris Lombardo‘s bass on “Haunt You When I’m Dead” and Nick Benigno‘s declarative kickdrum stomping through the shred of “They Have No God.” The material lands harder without giving up its capital-‘h’ Heavy, which is an accomplishment in itself, but The Watchers set a high standard last time out and Nyctophilia lives up to that while pursuing its own semi-divergent ends.

The Watchers on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Juke Cove, Tempest

juke cove tempest

Leipzig’s Juke Cove follow a progressive course across eight songs and 44 minutes of Tempest, between nodding riffs of marked density and varying degrees of immediacy, whether it’s the might-just-turn-around-on-you “Hypnosis” early on or the shove with which the duly brief penultimate piece “Burst” takes off after the weighted crash of and ending stoner-rock janga-janga riff of “Glow” and precedes the also-massive “Xanadu” in the closing position, capping with a fuzzy solo because why not. From opener “The Path” into the bombast of “Hypnosis” and the look-what-we-can-make-riffs-do “Wait,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz Pietrzela, bassist/vocalist Dima Ogorodnov and drummer Maxim Balobin mine aural individualism from familiar-enough genre elements, shaping material of character that benefits from the scope wrought in tone and production. Much to its credit, Tempest feels unforced in speaking to various sides of its persona, and no matter where a given song might go — the watery finish of “Wait” or the space-blues drift that emerges out of psych-leaning noise rock on “Confined,” for example — Juke Cove steer with care and heart alike and are all the more able to bring their audience with them as a result. Very cool, and no, I’m not calling them pricks when I say that.

Juke Cove on Facebook

Juke Cove on Bandcamp

Laurel Canyon, East Side EP

laurel canyon east side

A little more than a year out from their impressive self-titled debut LP (review here), Philly three-piece Laurel Canyon — guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nicholas Gillespie, guitarist/vocalist Serg Cereja, drummer Dylan DePice — offer the East Side three-songer to follow-up on the weighted proto-grunge vibes therein. “East Side” itself, at two and a half minutes, is a little more punk in that as it aligns for a forward push in the chorus between its swaggering verses, while “Garden of Eden” is more directly Nirvana-schooled in making its well-crafted melody sound like something that just tumbled out of somebody’s mouth, pure happenstance, and “Untitled” gets more aggressive in its second half, topping a momentary slowdown/nod with shouts before they let it fall apart at the end. This procession takes place in under 10 minutes and by the time you feel like you’ve got a handle on it, they’re done, which is probably how it should be. East Side isn’t Laurel Canyon‘s first short release, and they’re clearly comfortable in the format, bolstering the in-your-face-itude of their style with a get-in-and-get-out ethic correspondingly righteous in its rawness.

Laurel Canyon on Facebook

Agitated Records website

Tet, Tet

tet tet

If you hadn’t yet come around to thinking of Poland among Europe’s prime underground hotspots, Tet offer their four-song/45-minute self-titled debut for your (re-)consideration. With its lyrics and titles in Polish, Tet draws on the modern heavy prog influence of Elder in some of the 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points), “Srebro i antracyt,” but neither that nor “Dom w cieniu gruszy,” which follows, stays entirely in one place for the duration, and the lush melody that coincides with the unfolding of “Wiosna” is Tet‘s own in more than just language; that is to say, there’s more to distinguish them from their influences than the syllabic. Each inclusion adds complexity to the story their songs are telling, and as closer “Włóczykije” gradually moves from its dronescape by bringing in the drums unveiling the instrumentalist build already underway, Tet carve a niche for themselves in one of the continent’s most crowded scenes. I wonder if they’ve opened for Weedpecker. They could. Or Belzebong, for that matter. Either way, it will be worth looking out for how they expand on these ideas next time around.

Tet linktr.ee

Tet on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker, Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

aidan baker Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

Aidan Baker, also of Nadja, aligns the eight pieces of what I think is still his newest outing — oh wait, nope; this came out in Feb. and in March he had an hour-long drone two-songer out; go figure/glad I checked — to represent the truism of the title Everything is Like Always Until it is Not, and arranges the tracks so that the earlier post-shoegaze in “Everything” or “Like” can be a preface for the more directly drone-based “It” “Is” later on. And yes, there are two songs called “Is.” Does it matter? Definitely not while Baker‘s evocations are actually being heard. Free-jazz drums — not generally known for a grounding effect — do some work in terms of giving all the float that surrounds them a terrestrial aspect, but if you know Baker‘s work either through his solo stuff, Nadja or sundry other collaborations, I probably don’t need to tell you that the 47 minutes of Everything is Like Always Until it is Not fall into the “not like always” category as a defining feature, whether it’s “Until” manifesting tonal heft in waves of static cut through by tom-to-snare-to-cymbal splashes or “Not” seeming unwilling to give itself over to its own flow. I imagine a certain restlessness is how Aidan Baker‘s music happens in the first place. You get smaller encapsulations of that here, if not more traditional accessibility.

Aidan Baker on Facebook

Cruel Nature Recordings on Bandcamp

Trap Ratt, Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Trap Ratt Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Based in the arguable capitol of the Doom Capitol region — Frederick, Maryland — the three-piece Trap Ratt arrive in superbly raw style with the four-song/33-minute Tribus Rattus Mortuus, the last of which, aptly-titled “IV,” features Tim Otis (High Noon Kahuna, Admiral Browning, etc.), who also mixed and mastered, guesting on noise while Charlie Chaplin’s soliloquy from 1940’s The Dictator takes the place of the tortured barebones shouts that accompany the plod of 13-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Sacred Skunk,” seemingly whenever they feel like it. That includes the chugging part before the feedback gets caustic near the song’s end, by the way. “Thieving From the Grieving” — which may or may not have been made up on the spot — repurposes Stooges-style riffing as the foundation for its own decay into noise, and if from anything I’ve said so far about the album you might expect “Take the Gun” to not be accordingly harsh, Trap Ratt have a word and eight minutes of disaffected exploration they’d like to share with you. It’s not every record you could say benefits aesthetically from being recorded live in the band’s rehearsal space, but yes, Tribus Rattus Mortuus most definitely does.

Trap Ratt on Facebook

Trap Ratt on Bandcamp

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High Noon Kahuna Premiere “Good Night God Bless” From This Place is Haunted

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 9th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

high noon kahuna this place is haunted

Maryland genre destroyers High Noon Kahuna will loose their second album, This Place is Haunted, on the unknowing ether May 17 with the 25-years-strong backing of Crucial Blast behind them. And as their debut, 2022’s Killing Spree (review here), willfully united the disparate worlds of black metal and surf rock, it seems only fitting that the 12-song/54-minute follow-up should go someplace else. Based in Maryland’s doom capitol, Frederick (home to Maryland Doom Fest, where the trio will celebrate this release on June 23) the pedigreed three-piece of vocalist/bass-VI-ist Paul Cogle, guitarist Tim Otis (also backing and other vocals throughout) and drummer Brian Goad present a sound that feels simultaneously broader and more solidified than on the first record, touching on a darker, heavier post-punk at the outset with “Atomic Sunset” that meets its semi-goth vibe and Otis‘ first lead vocal head-on with a wash of noise at the end, before “Lamborghini” — the first of three sub-three-minute instrumentals spread throughout the tracklisting, each with its own character, with the bassy stonerjazz meander of “The Devil’s Lettuce” and the thicker noise-rock riffing of “Midnight Moon” offsetting/bolstering some of the stylistic turns surrounding and giving preface to side B’s outward push in the drifting “Flaming Dagger” and the echoes emerging from the crashing void of seven-minute finale “Et Ita Factum Est” — redirects toward a more straight-ahead, riffer charge.

Returning producer Kevin Bernsten at Developing Nations Studio in Baltimore does well in not so much corralling High Noon Kahuna‘s various whims and impulses, but in highlighting the multifaceted dynamic and tonality that draws their material together. That is to say, while This Place is Haunted doesn’t linger in any particular aural locale for too long and with 12 cuts included there’s no shortage of jumping around from place to place — to wit, “Prehistoric Love Letter” picking up after “Lamborghini” with Torche-style uptempo heavy rock reimagined as Chesapeake emo/post-hardcore with shared vocals from Otis and Cogle and the subsequent “Good Night God Bless” (premiering below) burning the ground with feedback before slamming into its densely-weighted roll with shouts cutting through, angular twists of effects and whatever else that is, and a bombast that gives over to residual noise, drone and buried voice(s) to lead into the aforementioned addled sway of “The Devil’s Lettuce”; or, you know, the rest of the thing — when taken as a whole, in a single dose, the album’s cohesion comes in part from its willingness to be itself apart from outside expectation, the imaginary limits of style, and, in the true spirit of Maryland’s doom underground, the direction of trend.

“Brand New Day” finds a Josh Homme-style vocal topping more gothic-ish proceedings, this time led by Cogle‘s bass, and leads one to wonder if it and “Atomic Sunset” aren’t intended to be complements; i.e., the morning of the next day. Certainly “Good Night God Bless,” “Midnight Moon,” and “Tumbleweed Nightmare” could be read into this theme as well, and given the nature of the project, that they aren’t necessarily in linear go-to-bed-dream-and-wake-up order hardly matters. That doesn’t account for cuts like “Sidewalk Assassin” though, with its alarm of feedback screech and tense intro drumming unfolding into a barrage of low noise riffing and shouting that turns to more spacious and less voluminous fare before it’s done without letting go of that tension, or the amalgam of chug-punk and atmospherics that arrive with “Mystical Shit,” which follows.

high noon kahuna

The lesson there, perhaps, is that it’s a mistake in the first place to try and find rules where for the most part there aren’t any, and that High Noon Kahuna‘s sundry divergences throughout This Place is Haunted are most of all linked by the fact that it’s all part of the band’s overarching scope. And as in the best of scenarios, it works because they make it work in pieces that aren’t trying to be defined as weird or outside this or that common ‘heavy’ expectation so much as they are a realization of the personalities behind the songwriting. A good bit of instrumental chemistry and breadth of production don’t hurt either, and This Place is Haunted benefits from those as well.

Airy in the high end, storytelling in its lyric and dense in its bassy fluidity, “Tumbleweed Nightmare” comes apart at the crunching staticky finish to give a fresh start to “Flaming Dagger,” which feels at least part-improvised around its core bassline — Otis is on a journey here — before the wash of guitar gradually consumes the bass and drums in the mix, leading to another noisy end that lets “Et Ita Factum Est” stand on its own. Fair enough. The closer’s title translates from Latin as “And So it Was Done,” and it is correspondingly declarative in the execution, from the pattern-setting onset to the howls of guitars that bookend the cacophony and lost-in-space echoing voice calling out (in Latin, though it’s hard to tell) near the end of its middle third.

The drums are first to depart as Cogle holds to the progression he set at the beginning and Otis channels animalian feedback, but soon the bass is gone as well and High Noon Kahuna cap with a suitable wall of amplified residual drone. It’s not as harsh as it could be, in terms of the noise offered elsewhere on This Place is Haunted, but I wouldn’t call it a gentle goodbye either. Like the rest of what surrounds, it is a moment defined mostly by being the band’s own. This is doubly impressive when one considers that two years ago their debut set a largely different context for its own definition.

As to what that means for High Noon Kahuna going forward — the question being if they’ve found ‘their sound’ in the reaches here or if whatever they do next will embark on another stylistic course — it would be useless, stupid, and not the least in the spirit of This Place is Haunted to speculate. Given what they do here and what Killing Spree wrought, they’re somewhat less madcap than they were two years ago, but that has clearly allowed them to find poise in the control over what for many bands would be a chaos either too encompassing to wield or result in something outright unlistenable.

This Place is Haunted doesn’t bow to notions of accessibility, but it does leave room for the listener to find a place for themselves in the world the trio are making. Sometimes it even feels safe there after a while, in that maybe-ghost-ridden fray, which makes the procession across these songs all the more special to behold for those who can meet the band on their own, deeply individualized level.

“Good Night God Bless” premieres below, followed by more background, the invite to a Bandcamp listening party next week, live dates and such from the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

High Noon Kahuna, “Good Night God Bless” track premiere

High Noon Kahuna is a power trio of veteran heavy musicians from Frederick, Maryland, with Tim Otis on guitar (Admiral Browning), Brian Goad on Drums (Internal Void / The Larrys / Nagato), and Paul Cogle on Bass VI and Vocals (Black Blizzard / Vox Populi / Nagato / Slagstorm). These three gents have known each other for years and have always supported each other in their respective bands.

High Noon Kahuna is back in 2024 to present their second album, This Place is Haunted. This collection of songs captures the raw vibe of their last album, Killing Spree, while expanding on the band’s diverse corners of influence. Spanning the genre sphere across Surf, Western, Deathrock, Noiserock, Punk, and Psych, these songs show HNK at their most aggressive… as well as most ethereal, spacey, and gothic.

All the songs on the album came from unrestricted jamming over the last 20 months. In fact, the very first notes and beats the three members ever played together was an instantly exciting song that is captured on this album (Brand New Day). In that time, the band has toured and played many shows, continuing to hone their unhinged live performances. This Place is Haunted is an evolution of the unique HNK sound and sees them at new creative heights.

Before entering the studio, roughly 80% of the songs were solidified, and most were played out live; the other 20% were based on free-form jams in the HNK archive and re-created on-the-fly, pseudo improv style. The band partnered with Kevin Bernsten and Developing Nations for recording, as they did with Killing Spree. His studio provided a vibe that sparked their creativity and gave them freedom to work at another level. Working with Kevin on this album was a creatively liberating experience; his knowledge, gear, recording space, and ear allowed the band to get wild.

Final mastering for This Place Is Haunted was completed by the ever-inventive James Plotkin at Plotkin Works. The album’s stirring cover art was created by HNK’s own drummer, Brian Goad.

The album is set for release on May 17th, 2024, on CD, cassette, and digital (vinyl TBA).

This Place Is Haunted – Tracklist:
01. Atomic Sunset
02. Lamborghini
03. Prehistoric Love Letter
04. Good Night God Bless
05. The Devil’s Lettuce
06. Brand New Day
07. Midnight Moon
08. Sidewalk Assassin
09. Mystical Shit
10. Tumbleweed Nightmare
11. Flaming Dagger
12. Et Ita Factum Est

Crucial Blast just announced a listening party for This Place Is Haunted:

The event is scheduled for:
Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 7:00 PM EDT

RSVP: https://crucialblast.bandcamp.com/merch/high-noon-kahuna-this-place-is-haunted-listening-party

Come and join Crucial Blast and the members of MD/WV noise rock / occult desert rock / phantasmagorical psychedelic punk power-trio HIGH NOON KAHUNA as we hang out next Wednesday (7pm EST) and listen to the upcoming full-length album “This Place Is Haunted”. We will all be in the chat, and would love to hear from you and blab with ya! We will also be doing an online raffle + trivia question for free HIGH NOON KAHUNA shirts and copies of the new album, only for participants in the listening party chat. Come and get it!

Upcoming Live Dates:
May 23 – Asheville, NC @ The Odd
May 24 – Richmond, VA @ Another Round
May 25 – Staunton, VA @ The Brick
May 26 – Lexington, KY @ Green Lantern
May 28 – Washington, DC @ The Pie Shop
Jun. 23 – Frederick, MD @ MARYLAND DOOM FEST (Local Release Party)

High Noon Kahuna:
Tim Otis: Guitar / Vocals
Brian Goad: Drums
Paul Cogle: Bass / Vocals

High Noon Kahuna, This Place is Haunted (2024)

High Noon Kahuna linktr.ee

High Noon Kahuna on Bandcamp

High Noon Kahuna on Instagram

High Noon Kahuna on Facebook

Crucial Blast linktr.ee

Crucial Blast on Bandcamp

Crucial Blast website

Crucial Blast on Facebook

Crucial Blast on Instagram

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Friday Full-Length: Iron Man, I Have Returned

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 26th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Iron Man‘s fourth album, I Have Returned (review here), was released 15 years ago this week, on April 25, 2009. It came out through Shadow Kingdom Records, which over the next couple years would also stand behind reissues of the quintessential Maryland doomers’ LP catalog up to that point — namely 1993’s Black Night (discussed herereissue review here), 1994’s The Passage (discussed here) and 1999’s Generation Void (reissue review here) — and its arrival was all the more ceremonious with the decade’s split between records.

Of course the truth is more complex than Iron Man returning and putting out a record called I Have Returned to mark the occasion — founding guitarist and principle songwriter “Iron” Alfred Morris III had brought the band back in the mid-aughts and released two live albums (both recorded in Cincinnati) and an EP, Submission, in 2007 — and though 10 years from one record to the next should be well long enough to build anticipation among fans, they were never a ‘hype’ kind of band.

I was about 12 at the time and can’t claim to have been aware/on board when their first two records landed through the venerable German label Hellhound Records, which dug into the Maryland doomsphere in the ’90s to unearth outfits like UnorthodoxThe ObsessedIron ManWretchedRevelationInternal Void and Vortex of Insanity — along with Count RavenPigmy Love CircusLost BreedSaint Vitus and plenty of others from elsewhere; their catalog is a lost trove of doomers’ doom dying for loyalist reissue — but for me and I think a generation of underground-heavy heads who would come up in the next few years, I Have Returned marked a new beginning.

Perhaps it was less that for Morris. When I asked him in a 2009 interview here how things were different after 10 years, doing a new record and bringing out a revamped lineup with vocalist Joe Donnelly, bassist Louis Strachan (Life Beyond, Wretched, now Spiral Grave), and drummer Dex Dexter (who had played in Force with Morris, pre-Iron Man), he said simply: “Nothing has changed much.”

Fair enough, and on a few levels that was almost certainly true. Morris had started Force, from which Iron Man sprang initially as a Black Sabbath tribute act, in 1976, and he would continue with Iron Man for the rest of his life until his passing in 2018 at the age of 60, after a long decline in health that had left him legally blind and largely unable to tour. For him, maybe, it was so much a part of himself that it wasn’t a big deal, iron man i have returned wasn’t a “comeback,” because as long as he existed so did the band, even if they hadn’t done an album in however long. To an extent, he was Iron Man.

And while I won’t discount the punch of Strachan‘s bass as “Burn the Sky” starts I Have Returned at a decent clip with Donnelly — a more technical Ozzy-style singer who had done Sabbath tributes as well, and something of a comedian on stage — riding the coursing groove in the verse, the coordinating efforts of their manager Michael Lindenauer (who gets an Executive Producer credit), or anyone else’s work throughout, Iron Man was forever rooted in the riffs. And in this regard, in his riffs, Morris was a poet. The production of Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (so many, from Unorthodox and Sixty Watt Shaman to Foghound and Borracho) gives each instrument its space, and while the ethic the band always followed was light on flourish in a way that became a tenet of ‘Maryland doom’ as a style, hooky second cut “Run From the Light” was damn near stately in its dense distortion as Morris‘ guitar set the pattern for the lyrics that turned Trouble on their head, and whether it’s the march of the memorable title-track or “Curse the Ages (Curse Me),” the speedier chug of “Blind-Sighted Forward Spiral” and the shredding finale “Among the Filth and Slime,” the dug-in lumber of “Sodden With Sin” or the standalone acoustic strum-and-pluck of the interlude “Days of Olde,” in tone, tempo and delivery, Morris‘ work distinguished Iron Man as ever sure of their purpose, never having forgotten where they were coming from.

It’s not a perfect record, even before you take on the sleazy lyrics of “Gomorrah Gold” — recommend you don’t, actually — but its love of classic metal and of course doom still resonate in the hard-hitting tension of “Among the Filth and Slime” as well as the more atmospheric nod of “Fallen Angel” just before it, and in “Run From the Light” and “I Have Returned,” “Burn the Sky” and “Curse the Ages (Curse Me),” etc., Iron Man declared themselves within and beyond the bounds of the fertile Maryland underground. Further, it was the point at which they started to get a modicum of the respect they’d long since deserved.

Strachan held the bassist position for the remainder of Iron Man‘s career, but Donnelly was out of the band and replaced by “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun (now Spiral Grave, solo, etc.) on vocals before 2011’s self-released 2011’s Dominance EP (review here), and Jason “Mot” Waldmann (also now Spiral Grave) would take over on drums circa 2012, in time to be part of the final Iron Man long-player, 2013’s South of the Earth (review here), also helmed by Marchand and issued via Rise Above Records in an era that saw Lee Dorrian (CathedralWith the Dead, etc.) standing behind landmark albums from the likes of Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsGhostBlood Ceremony and others.

When Iron Man got picked up by Rise Above, it brought them to another level entirely. They would travel abroad to play a Rise Above anniversary party and other shows like the Castle of Doom Festival in Italy where the 2021 live album Hail to the Riff (on Argonauta) was recorded, and while they’ll probably always be undervalued to some degree, that it turned out to be their final run is bittersweet in hindsight because at least Morris had the chance to experience some of the impact of his work in and on the doom genre. I Have Returned set that in motion.

And in a move that remains both duly respectful and respectfully classy, after Morris‘ death, CalhounStrachan and Waldmann put the band to rest as well, moving on to Spiral Grave and carrying the legacy forward in new ways while telling their own story as well.

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

Most of this week was dedicated in my head to returning from, processing and thinking through the trip to Roadburn last week and weekend, and that’s how it played out. Thanks to the unending kindness of The Patient Mrs., coming home wasn’t nearly as overwhelming as it might’ve been, and while I wouldn’t say The Pecan took it easy on me — she had darted in the parking lot of the airport and had to be picked up and put in the car to leave, at which point comes the hitting and biting; she wanted to keep riding the people-mover after however many laps back and forth; transitions are always her hardest moments — we’ve done a lot of good reading this week, both about Zelda and not, and I think maybe she missed me a little bit. Not that such a thing would ever be said outright, mind you.

Specifically in terms of The Obelisk, it was a catchup week in which I didn’t get caught up, so maybe not the most successful, but neither was it the most ambitious, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t drop the ball on anything I was actually on the hook to post. A couple album announcements — Lord Buffalo spring to mind first — and tours for Greenleaf/Slomosa and Dopelord/Red Sun should’ve gone up and didn’t, but hopefully I’ll get there. I’m surviving, in the meantime, and the world continues to spin.

Where I’ve really been lacking is in email. I’ve got a backlog from the contact form of things to check out in addition to relevant press releases and contacts about this and that. Messenger has been a bit better but I’m behind on that too (also less comes in). But I’ve found that with the limited time and brainpower I have in a given morning/early afternoon, I need to be writing if I want to get done what I want to get done. Not saying interpersonal communication isn’t part of that — I’m not on a total blackout or anything, just not keeping up the way I should — but if I have the time to write, then I’m going to do all I can to put myself in a position where I’m writing.

This thankfully also leaves me little time for questions like, “Is this crazy?” or “Does this matter to anyone but me?” or “Is this how I should be spending my days?,” which I’m not sure are any help in the asking. Being someone who writes about music, a reviewer or, in my loftiest of self-assessments, a critic, I’m used to a certain amount of condescension, generally from other creative-types based on their own insecurities. How much I want to feed into that cycle, I’ve never been sure. With the proliferation of other blogs and here-listen-to-this algorithms, what do I really add to anything by stressing out about news posts?

I’m not ready to hang up the site, emotionally or practically. I don’t have another outlet, for example. Nowhere to go at this point. But “I just want to write” has become only one of the processes involved in The Obelisk, and I need to look at that. I am not a content-provider. I do not want to pose out for social media, or do reaction videos instead of reviews. Does that make the work I do here out of date and/or irrelevant? Maybe.

These are vague thoughts presented in vague terms, so I’ll be concrete and say this: someday this will end. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I’m 42 years old, and when The Obelisk started I wasn’t yet 30. I’ve dedicated 15 of the years of a life that in the best of cases is probably more than halfway over to this thing, and I’m comfortable thinking of it as my life’s work in terms of writing and reaching an audience. I’m happy with what it’s become, the generally respectful tone in which it’s spoken about, and that it’s spoken about at all. Every now and then, someone on the internet says something very nice about my work. I feel fortunate to have that as my situation. It is not something I take for granted. Thank you for reading, in other words. I’ll leave the discussion at that, which is what I most want to say anyhow.

This weekend we’re headed to Legoland, which I expect will be a total shitshow, but one of a familiar sort, and probably that will be the big event. I have two liner notes projects coming due at the same time, so my big plans to review Brume and DVNE and do three track/album premieres besides next week might prove too much, but I’ll do my best to dig into as much as I can, same as ever. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you enjoy the time. Have fun, be safe, hydrate and all that. It’s a hard world to live in, but there’s music too.

FRM.

The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

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The Obelisk merch

 

 

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Darsombra Premiere “Shelter in Place” Video; European Tour Starts This Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

darsombra shelter in place video

Darsombra released their plague-chronicle 2LP Dumesday Book (review here) last August — Crucial Blast has a double-tape out as of March — and, well, maybe it’s time to start thinking of the go-forth-from-Maryland two-piece as more of a longform art project than a band. If they were more pretentious, less inclined to roam and had more money, they’d probably be able to cast themselves as ‘arthouse,’ but the fact is their work isn’t really meant for gallery walls or any other kind. It’s too open in itself to be so contained. Free-drone.

From the sirens of “Call the Doctor (Pandemonium Mix)” and the chants of “Everything is Canceled,” from the drumless guitar prog and oddball vocals repeating the title of “Gibbet Lore” as it comes to a head to the serene reaches where the near-18 minutes of “Azimuth” end up, there’s not much that feels off limits to the duo of Ann Everton and Brian Daniloski. Synthesized, organic, programmed or pulsed, the material is defined in part by the whims it chooses to follow, and while that can at times lead to a kind of willful disjointedness — because not everything connects and not everything is supposed to; you’re not in an ’80s sitcom — Dumesday Book is an encompassing memoir of a time that at least many would rather forget than learn from. They’re not much for percussion and never have been, but neither do pieces like the empty-space strum and blown-out preach of “Plague Times” or the foreboding reprise “Still Canceled” lack movement. As they do, Darsombra are just tracing the patterns of their own math.

I won’t lie to you and say it isn’t helpful having a stated and discernible theme to latch onto in listening to Dumesday Book — the tracks themselves more ‘of the time’ than ‘about’ it — but their keys-and-guitar-based explorations have rarely been unwelcoming in the past, at least to those able to let go of expecting things like verses and choruses in their music. As regards the video premiering below for opening track “Shelter in Place,” the visual fluidity of movement of wind through the dark fabric that becomes ghostly, cosmic, colorized, and so on, is somewhat ironic given the title’s inherent stillness, but I’m not sure that isn’t the idea or that the spectral figure reminiscent of Death itself isn’t the story of the covid pandemic arriving at the shores of humanity’s collective helplessness at the outset of this downhill decade. And you know what? It’s Darsombra, so it’s also okay to not be sure. Not like they’re judging.

Everton and Daniloski begin their next European tour at Roadburn 2024 this Friday, and they’ll hook up with Stinking Lizaveta for the UK portion of the run to hit Desertfest London after playing the anniversary party for Exile on Mainstream in Germany. They’re abroad through the end of May and into June, and it likely won’t be long before they announce the next month-plus tour after this one because that’s how it goes with Darsombra‘s have-noise-will-travel nomadic tendencies. No coincidence that comes paired with such a resonant sense of sonic adventurousness.

“Shelter in Place,” at just three minutes, is the opening to the world portrayed throughout Dumesday Book. On its own, it provides a sample of Darsombra‘s aural dimensionality without necessarily encapsulating the whole. It leads you in, in other words.

Please enjoy:

Darsombra, “Shelter in Place” video premiere

Music by Darsombra
Video directed and edited by Ann Everton
Camera work by Brian Daniloski

“Shelter In Place” is the first track on Darsombra’s 2023 double album, “Dumesday Book”, available at darsombra.com.

Shot on location at Assateague Island, USA. No ponies were harmed in the making of this film.

The latest video from Dumesday Book arrives with “Shelter In Place,” the album’s opening track. “Shelter In Place” is an ominous, majestic introduction to the album’s uncertain journey of the deep range of human emotions characteristic during plague times. The track is quaking, vast, and full of portent; the video, filmed and edited by Everton, gives the tsunami of precarious fear a doleful, baleful visage. Welcome to the trip.

Dumesday Book is available on CD, 2xLP, and digitally on DARSOMBRA’s Pnictogen Records. Physical formats include a twelve-page booklet, a sticker, and a download code with access to bonus material.

Place orders at the band’s webshop HERE: https://www.darsombra.com/

Bandcamp orders HERE: https://darsombra.bandcamp.com/album/dumesday-book

Additionally, Crucial Blast just released the record in a limited double-cassette box set, available HERE: https://crucialblast.bandcamp.com/album/dumesday-book

This week, DARSOMBRA will make their return to the Roadburn Festival alongside The Jesus And Mary Chain, Chelsea Wolfe, Khanate, Blood Incantation, and dozens more. Roadburn is followed by shows across Germany, Poland, Holland, and Belgium, on their way to play Exile On Mainstream 25 Festival dates in both Berlin and Leipzig – the 25th anniversary of the diverse label for which DARSOMBRA is an alumni act – with Ostinato, A Whisper In The Noise, Caspar Brötzmann Massaker, Conny Ochs, and many others also on the four-day/two-city bill.

In the wake of EOM25, they’ll join up with their allies Stinking Lizaveta for shows across the UK, including Desertfest London with Godflesh, Suicidal Tendencies, Ufomammut, Bongripper, Acid King, Monolord, and many more. DARSOMBRA will then make their live debut in Ireland, playing three shows across the country. See all confirmed dates below and watch for additional tour dates for the Summer and Fall months to be announced.

DARSOMBRA Tour Dates:
4/19/2024 Roadburn Festival – Tilburg, NL
4/24/2024 Kunstverein Hintere Cramergasse e.V – Nuremberg, DE
4/25/2024 Kalambur – Wroclaw, PL
4/26/2024 Lot Chmiela – Poznan, PL
4/27/2024 Awaria – Krakow, PL
4/28/2024 Mlodsza Siostra – Warsaw, PL
5/03/2024 Het Alternatief – Nijmegen, NL
5/05/2024 De Loft – Herent, BE
5/09/2024 Exile On Mainstream 25 Fest – Berlin, DE
5/10/2024 Exile On Mainstream 25 Fest – Leipzig, DE
5/14/2024 The Gryphon – Bristol, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/16/2024 Puzzle Hall Inn – Sowerby Bridge, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/17/2024 The Cellar – Cardigan, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/19/2024 Desertfest – London, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/22/2024 The Lubber Fiend – Newcastle, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/23/2024 BLOC – Glasgow, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/24/2024 St. Vincent’s Chapel – Edinburgh, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/25/2024 Tooth & Claw – Inverness, UK w/ Stinking Lizaveta
5/30/2024 Coughlan’s – Cork, IE
5/31/2024 Kasbah/Dolan’s – Limerick, IE
6/01/2024 Saturday Anseo – Dublin, IE

Darsombra, Dumesday Book (2023)

Darsombra on Facebook

Darsombra on Instagram

Darsombra on Bandcamp

Darsombra website

Pnictogen Records on Instagram

Crucial Blast on Facebook

Crucial Blast on Instagram

Crucial Blast website

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

Posted in Questionnaire on April 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions inteded to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Tim Otis of High Noon Kahuna

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

Make sounds with the intention of accentuating, enhancing, or supporting other sounds around me. It all happened very organically. In high school I played guitar… a lot. Then I became very interested in drumming and started jamming on drums about 5 years later. It was a very organic transition from drumming by myself, to free-form jamming (mostly with Matt LeGrow and our brothers), then those free-form jams evolved into Admiral Browning.

About nine years ago I got back into guitar big time. Revisiting old riffs I had, learning new stuff. Exploring tones, pedals, amps, different pickups and stuff like that. Started jamming on guitar with a neighbor who drummed, shortly Paul joined us on Wednesday nights to jam. It was also very organic, we never “constructed” a song as much as we honed free-form jams into songs.

Describe your first musical memory.

My zeroth musical memory is piano lessons as a young kid, I remember not liking my piano teacher at all. Hahah! Beyond that, mom and dad played guitar, bass, banjo, piano and sang at church, so I had early access to instruments, PA systems and microphones. I have several memories of playing with this stuff, learning about it, and singing in musicals as a young person in church. However my favorite thing to do in those days was to hear Rick Dees weekly top forty. I would rush to the radio on Sunday nights when it
aired. It was the highlight of my week as a young kid. Not only tracking where my favorite artists were on the charts (Duran Duran) but I was equally fascinated by some of the side stories Rick would share when introducing a song or band.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

This is a recent one! Our latest High Noon Kahuna recording with Kevin Bernstein at Developing Nations! We went in with about 80% of the songs fully-baked, done, and dusted. We had sketches and rough drafts of the other 20 percent with enough time booked to fully explore and experiment in the studio. It was liberating and wonderful! Out of this freedom we created what I think is one of the coolest tracks on the new album, “Tumbleweed Nightmare.”

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Drumming showed me my limits were mental. When I was at my physical limit, the riffs and music drove me to push past those limits. I can run or workout with weights or kickbox or kayak or ride uphill on a bike, but nothing on earth pushes me to my limit and enables me to break past my limits like drumming and more importantly, being a collaborator in the musical sounds of the band.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Betterment! With any form of art, it starts small, and sometimes it starts bad. As we learn and grow while practicing, our art becomes better. Every time we practice our art is a chance to improve.

How do you define success?

Success, to me, is being happy with yourself, your surroundings, the people in your life, and your work. Society always dangles the carrot in front of us, there will always be something we don’t have. Being motivated and driven enough to keep working hard every single day and on days when the motivation isn’t there, having resiliency to push through the items that need doing, that’s how I’m able to feel successful at the end of the day.

As far as a band setting goes, there are thousands of micro-to-macro successes. Celebrating each one of those can manifest more. Things like, inventing a new part for a song, having a good practice jam, playing a fun show, a successful recording session. Each of these are rewarding and should be seen as successes.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

The bathroom at the Springwater Supper Club & Lounge in Nashville Tennessee. Love that place, many of my good friends have worked there and booked shows there. Have played several amazing shows there and attended some awesome parties and shows there. But, wow that bathroom was bad! All the things you’d expect from a punk-rock bathroom. Few rival it, however the bathroom at the Meatlocker in Montclair New Jersey and the bathroom at the Milestone in Charlotte North Carolina were contenders.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I think everyone who is a true music fan/nerd has developing tastes. I’m thankful that I’ve never reached the end of my musical journey as a fan of music. I’m also thankful for my friends over the years who have showed me new music. As my tastes and preferences evolve I’m thankful that new ideas emerge regularly that challenge my own musical abilities and push me beyond my limits.

As far as non-musical creations, I’ve been getting back into drawing, lettering and calligraphy. There are a few ideas here that I’m working on creating.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

Expression. Art allows us to convey our attitudes and emotions on different levels. Art can be beautiful, art can be brutal, art can be beautifully brutal or brutally beautiful. I’m thankful for the ability to express these emotions in ways that resonate in ways beyond just talking about them.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

I’ve been watching every werewolf movie I can find since last Halloween, there are roughly 70 on my list. I look forward to seeing them all. (Suggestions and recommendations welcome!) Some upcoming tattoo work I’m getting. Spending some fun summer time with my wife, hounds, and mother nature.

https://linktr.ee/highnoonkahuna
https://highnoonkahuna.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/highnoonkahuna/
https://www.facebook.com/HighNoonKahuna/

https://linktr.ee/crucial_blast
http://www.crucialblast.bandcamp.com
http://www.crucialblast.net
http://www.facebook.com/CrucialBlast
https://www.instagram.com/crucial_blast/

High Noon Kahuna, This Place is Haunted (2024)

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Grim Reefer Fest 2024 Finalizes Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Some light shuffling in the final lineup of Grim Reefer Fest 2024 — which is set for April 27 at The Ottobar in Baltimore, Maryland — as Yatra step out and Weed Coughin step in alongside new adds Telekinetic Yeti and Left Lane Cruiser, who’ll head out together a couple weeks later on tour supporting John Garcia (info here), but the final shape of the bill is massive one way or the other. Weedeater are at the top, in the megastoned headliner position that Bongzilla filled last year (review here), and from the crushing grim realities of Foehammer through Black Lung‘s atmospheric progressivism, Telekinetic Yeti‘s dense riffy counterpoint, Leather Lung‘s party sludge and house-band Haze Mage, you can get sense of some of how the day might flow. With High Leaf, Weed CoughinLeft Lane Cruiser and Bleak Shore completing the 10-band roster, it is absolutely packed.

But so was last year, and you know, I had time to drive south from NJ for the three-plus hours to Baltimore and still get to The Ottobar before the bands started at 3PM, and after crashing out for the night with local friends, I headed home early the next morning before any likely traffic. Easy peasy. The all-dayer — a single-day festival — isn’t something you see all the time in the US, but with a ticket at $40 you’re literally paying $4 per band you’ll get to see and when it’s done, you still have a weekend day to get yourself back to wherever you need to be. The vibe at Grim Reefer Fest was casual as one would hope, and if it sounds like I’m trying to figure a way to make the trip again even though I’ll have just gotten back from other travels earlier that same week, you’re absolutely right, I am.

With good reason, as you can see:

grim reefer fest 2024 final lineup

The full lineup for GRF 2024 is here! Join us as we return to the legendary Ottobar in Baltimore Maryland with some of the best heavy bands around including Weedeater, Telekinetic Yeti, BLACK LUNG, Left Lane Cruiser, Haze Mage, and more!

Once again, the amazing Golden Grillz food truck will be parked outside all day and night to take care of all of your munchie needs!

Tickets are now available here: https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/62386586

Poster by John DeCampos aka @ghost_bat_

Facebook event: https://fb.me/e/4LgCZ1iCo

https://www.facebook.com/GrimReeferFest
https://www.instagram.com/grimreeferfest/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3BL9lkMWbIC2qaqWZ4LH8g
https://www.grimreeferfest.com/

Weed Coughin, Other Worldly (2022)

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High Noon Kahuna Sign to Crucial Blast; This Place is Haunted Out May 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Please know that I’m sincere when I tell you High Noon Kahuna signing to Crucial Blast for their now-announced second long-player, This Place is Haunted, is heartwarming. The label has been supporting the weirder end of underground weird for 25 years now, and in their snagging High Noon Kahuna — whose 2022 debut, Killing Spree (review here), drew together seemingly disparate ends within heavy rock, black metal, surf, jazz and doom — I’m reminded of their long history with noisy bands who didn’t quite fit a mold otherwise, be it Jumbo’s Killcrane or Totimoshi around the turn of the century, Across Tundras, Weedeater, the split between Floor and their offshoot Dove, etc., or bands like Cultic and Gnaw Their Tongues in more recent years. Not every imprint, new or old, has a broad enough background to get what a band like High Noon Kahuna are going for.

Based in Frederick, Maryland, High Noon Kahuna will indeed be at Maryland Doom Fest 2024 this June (info here) for their first appearance, and a May 17 release means This Place is Haunted will be out before they even get there. They’re playing live in the meantime, of course. The other night they were in Martinsburg, West Virginia, for a set that was filmed (credit to Phebography, I think?) that you can watch in its entirety at the bottom of this post.

I’ll hope to have more to come closer to the release, but here’s what’s out there now from socials:

high noon kahuna (Photo by Tigran Kapinos Photography)

HIGH NOON KAHUNA This Place Is Haunted CD / CS / DL (VINYL TBA) – OUT MAY 17, 2024

Crucial Blast is stoked to announce that we are joining forces with longtime friends HIGH NOON KAHUNA on the release of their second album, This Place Is Haunted.

Harder, darker, but also brimming with haunting melody, the Maryland band features former members of Internal Void, Vox Populi and Admiral Browning, executing an incredibly infectious mix of classic noise rock and psychedelic crunch. The twelve songs on Haunted are on a whole new level from the band; this rumbling riff-beast brilliantly evokes everything from pummeling Am Rep abrasion, soaring Hawkwindian space rock, haunting post-punk, Dick Dale-on-acid licks, doses of massive doom-laden crush, and even wisps of classic Morricone moodiness and some hammering QOTSA-esque groove.

Easily one of the most unique bands ever to emerge from the DC/MD area, KAHUNA is weirder, heavier, and catchier than ever before, and C-BLAST is incredibly excited to bring this banger to your ears.

This Place Is Haunted will be released May 17th, 2024.

Stay tuned for the first single from the album, coming in early March!

High Noon Kahuna is:
Tim Otis: guitar (Admiral Browning)
Brian Goad: Drums (Internal Void / The Larrys)
Paul Cogle: Bass VI and Vocals (Black Blizzard)

https://linktr.ee/highnoonkahuna
https://highnoonkahuna.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/highnoonkahuna/
https://www.facebook.com/HighNoonKahuna/

https://linktr.ee/crucial_blast
http://www.crucialblast.bandcamp.com
http://www.crucialblast.net
http://www.facebook.com/CrucialBlast
https://www.instagram.com/crucial_blast/

High Noon Kahuna, Live in Martinsburg, WV, March 2, 2024

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Quarterly Review: Deadpeach, SÂVER, Ruben Romano, Kosmodrom, The Endless, Our Maddest Edges, Saint Omen, Samsara Joyride, That Ship Has Sailed, Spiral Guru

Posted in Reviews on February 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Welcome to Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. If you’ve been here before — and I do this at least four times a year, so maybe you have and maybe you haven’t — I’m glad you’re back, and if not, I’m glad you’re here at all. These things are always an undertaking, and in a vacuum, I’m pretty sure busting out 10 shorter reviews per day would be a reasonably efficient process. I don’t live in a vacuum. I live vacuuming.

Metaphorically, at least. Looking around the room, it’s pretty obvious ‘vacuum life’ is intermittent.

Today we hit the halfway mark of this standard-operating-procedure QR, and we’ll get to 30 of the 50 releases to be covered by the time Friday is done or die trying, as that’s also the general policy. As always, I hope you find something in this batch of 10 that you dig. Doesn’t have to be any more of a thing than that. Doesn’t need to change your life, just maybe take the moment you’re in and make it a little better.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Deadpeach, The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

Deadpeach The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

A new full-length from Italian cosmic fuzz rockers Deadpeach doesn’t come along every day. Though the four-piece here comprised of guitarist/vocalist Giovanni Giovannini, guitarist Daniele Bartoli, bassist Mrsteveman and drummer Federico Tebaldi trace their beginnings back to 1993, the seven-song/37-minute exploration The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race is just their fourth full-length in that span of 31 years, following behind 2013’s Aurum (review here), though they haven’t been completely absent in that time, with the 2019 unplugged offering Waiting for Federico session (review here), 2022’s Live at Sidro Club, etc. But whether it’s the howling-into-the-void guitar over the methodical toms in the experimental-vibing closer “Loop (Set the Control to Mother Earth),” the mellower intro of “Madras” that leads both to chunky-style chug and the parade of classic-heavy buzz that is “Motor Peach,” what most comes through is the freedom of the band to do what they want in the psychedelic sphere. “Man on the Hill (The Fisherman and the Farmer)” tells its tale with blues rock swing while the subsequent “Cerchio” resolves Beatlesian with bouncy string and horn sounds and is its own realization at the center of the procession before the languid roll of “Monday” (so it goes) picks up its tempo later on. A mostly lo-fi recording still creates an atmosphere, and Deadpeach represent who they are in the weirdo space grunge of “Rust,” toying with influences from a desert that’s surely somewhere on another planet before “Loop (Set the Controls for Mother Earth)” turns repetition into mantra. They might be underrated forever, but Deadpeach only phase into our dimension intermittently and it’s worth appreciating them while they’re here.

Deadpeach on Facebook

Deadpeach website

SÂVER, From Ember and Rust

SAVER From Ember and Rust

In or out of post-metal and the aggressive end of atmospheric sludge, there are few bands currently active who deliver with the visceral force of Oslo’s SÂVER. From Ember and Rust is the second LP from the three-piece of Ole Ulvik Rokseth (guitar), Markus Støle (drums) and Ole Christian Helstad (bass/vocals), and while it signals growth in the synthy meditation worked into “I, Evaporate” after the lead-with-nod opener “Formless,” and the intentionally overwhelming djent chug that pays off the penultimate “The Object,” it is the consuming nature of the 43-minute entirety that is most striking, dynamic in its sprawl and thoughtful in arrangement both within and between its songs — the way the drone starts “Eliminate Distance” and returns to lull the listener momentarily out of consciousness before the bassy start of centerpiece “Ember and Rust” prompts a return ahead of its daring and successful clean vocal foray. That’s a departure, contextually speaking, but noteworthy even as “Primal One” lumbersmashes anything resembling hope to teeny tiny bits, leaving room in its seven minutes to catchy its breath amid grooving proggy chug and bringing back the melodic singing. As much as they revel in the caustic, there’s serenity in the catharsis of “All in Disarray” at the album’s conclusion, and as much as SÂVER are destructive, they’re cognizant of the world they’re building as part of that.

SÂVER on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Ruben Romano, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile

Ruben Romano The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile

Departing from the heavy psychedelic blues rock proffered by his main outfit The Freeks, multi-instrumentalist and elsewhere-vocalist Ruben Romano — who also drummed for Fu Manchu and Nebula in their initial incarnations — digs into Western aural themes on his cumbersomely-titled solo debut, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile. To be clear, there is no movie called Twenty Graves Per Mile (yet), and the twice-over-imaginary nature of the concept lets Romano meander a bit in pieces like “Sweet Dream Cowboy” and “Ode to Fallen Oxen,” the latter of which tops its rambling groove with a line of delay twang, while “Chuck Wagon Sorrow” shimmers with outward simplicity with a sneaky depth to its mix (to wit, the space in “Not Any More”). At 10 songs and 27 minutes, the collection isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘feature length,’ but as it hearkens back to the outset with “Load the Wagon (Reprise)” bookending the opener, it is likewise cohesive in style and creative in arrangement, with Romano bringing in various shakers, mouth harp, effects and so on to create his ‘soundtrack’ with a classic Western feel and the inevitable lysergic current. Not as indie or desert chic as Spindrift, who work from a similar idea, but organic and just-came-in-covered-with-dust folkish just the same. If the movie existed, I’d be interested to know which of these tracks would play in the saloon.

Ruben Romano on Facebook

Ruben Romano on Bandcamp

Kosmodrom, Welcome to Reality

Kosmodrom Welcome to Reality

With the seven-minute “Earth Blues” left off the vinyl for want of room, German heavy psychedelic instrumentalists Kosmodrom put a color filter on existence with Welcome to Reality as much as on the cover, shimmering in “Dazed in Space” with a King Buffalo‘ed resonance such that the later, crunchier fuzz roll of “Evil Knievel” feels like a departure. While the three-piece are no doubt rooted in jams, Welcome to Reality presents finished works, following a clear plot in the 10-minute “Quintfrequenz” and the gradual build across the first couple minutes of “Landstreicher” — an intent that comes more into focus a short while later on “Novembersong” — before “Earth Blues” brings a big, pointed slowdown. They cap with “OM,” which probably isn’t named after the band but can be said to give hints in their direction if you want to count its use of ride cymbal at the core of its own build, and which in its last 40 seconds still manages to find another level of heft apparently kept in reserve all along. Well played. As their first LP since 2018, Welcome to Reality feels a bit like it’s reintroducing the band, and in listening, seems most of all to encourage the listener to look at the world around them in a different, maybe more hopeful way.

Kosmodrom on Facebook

Kosmodrom on Bandcamp

The Endless, The Endless

the endless the endless

Heads experienced in post-metal will be able to pick out elements like the Russian Circles gallop in The Endless‘ “Riven” or the Isis-style break the Edmonton-based instrumental unit veers into on “Shadows/Wolves” at the center of their self-titled debut, but as “The Hadeon Eon” — the title of which references the planet’s earliest and most volatile geological era — subtly invites the listener to consider, this is the band’s first recorded output. Formed in 2019, derailed and reconstructed post-pandemic, the four-piece of guitarists Teddy Palmer and Eddy Keyes, bassist James Palmer and drummer Jarred Muir are coherent in their stylistic intent, but not so committed to genre tenets as to forego the sweeter pleasure of the standalone guitar at the start of the nine-minute “Reflection,” soon enough subsumed though it is by the spacious lurch that follows. There and throughout, the band follow a course somewhere between post-metal and atmospheric sludge, and the punch of low end in “Future Archives,” the volume trades between loud and quiet stretches bring a sense of the ephemeral as well as the ethereal, adding character without sacrificing impact in the contrast. Their lack of pretense will be an asset as they continue to develop.

The Endless on Facebook

The Endless on Bandcamp

Our Maddest Edges, Peculiar Spells

Our Maddest Edges Peculiar Spells

Kudos if you can keep up with the shifts wrought from track to track on Our Maddest Edges‘ apparent first long-player, Peculiar Spells, as the Baltimorean solo-project spearheaded by Jeff Conner sets out on a journey of genuine eclecticism, bringing The Beatles and Queens of the Stone Age stylistically together and also featuring one of the several included duets on “Swirl Cone,” some grunge strum in “Hella Fucky” after the remake-your-life spoken/ambient intro “Thoughts Can Change,” a choral burst at the beginning of the spoken-word-over-jazz “Slugs,” which of course seems to be about screwing, as well as the string-laced acoustic-led sentimentality on “Red Giant,” the Casio beat behind the bright guitar plucks of “Frozen Season,” the full-tone riffs around which “I Ain’t Done” and “St. Lascivious” are built, and the sax included with the boogie of “The Totalitarian Tiptoe,” just for a few examples of the places its 12 component tracks go in their readily-consumable 37-minute runtime. Along with Conner are a reported 17 guests appearing throughout, among them Stefanie Zaenker (ex-Caustic Casanova). Info is sparse on the band and Conner‘s work more broadly, but his history in the punkish Eat Your Neighbors accounts for some of the post-hardcore at root here, and his own vocals (as opposed to those of the seven other singers appearing) seem to come from somewhere similar. Relatively quick listen, but not a minor undertaking.

Jeff Conner on Bandcamp

Saint Omen, Death Unto My Enemy

saint omen death unto my enemy

Rolling out with the ambient intro before beginning its semi-Electric Wizardly slog in “Taken by the Black,” Death Unto My Enemy is the 2023 debut from New York City’s Saint Omen. Issued by Forbidden Place Records, its gritty nod holds together even as “Evolution of the Demon” threatens to fall apart, samples filling out the spaces not occupied by vocals, communicating themes dark, violent, and occult in pieces like the catchy-despite-its-harsher-vocal “Destroyer” or the dark swirl of “Sinners Crawl.” Feeling darker as it moves through its 10 songs, it saves a particular grim experimentalism for closer “Descent,” but by the time Death Unto My Enemy gets there, surely your mind and soul have already been poisoned and reaped, respectively, by “The Seventh Gate,” “The Black Mass” and the penultimate title-track, that deeper down is the only place left to go. So that’s where you go; a humming abyss of anti-noise. Manhattan has never been a epicenter of cultish doom, but Saint Omen‘s abiding death worship and bleakness — looking at you, “Sleepness” — shift between dramaturge and dug-in lumber, and the balance is only intriguing for the rawness with which it is delivered, harsher in its purpose than sound, but still plenty harsh in sound.

Saint Omen on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records store

Samsara Joyride, The Subtle and the Dense

samsara joyride the subtle and the dense

The psychedelic aspects of Samsara Joyride‘s The Subtle and the Dense feel somewhat compartmentalized, but that’s not necessarily a detriment to the songs, as the solo that tops the drearily moderated tempo of “Too Many Preachers” or the pastoral tones that accompany the bluesier spirit of “Who Tells the Story” emphasize. The Austrian outfit’s second full-length, The Subtle and the Dense seems aware of its varied persona, but whether it’s the swaggering stops of “No One is Free” calling to mind Child or the sax and guest vocals that mark such a turn with “Safe and Sound” at the end, Samsara Joyride are firm in their belief that because something is bluesy or classic doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be simple. From the layer of acoustic guitar worked into opener “I Won’t Sign Pt. 1” — their first album also had a two-parter, the second one follows directly here as track two — to the gang chorus worked in amid the atmospheric reach of “Sliver,” Samsara Joyride communicate a progressive take on traditionalist aesthetics, managing as few in this end of the heavy music realm ever do to avoid burly masculine caricature in the process. For that alone, easily worth the time to listen.

Samsara Joyride on Facebook

Samsara Joyride on Bandcamp

That Ship Has Sailed, Kingdom of Nothing

that ship has sailed kingdom of nothing

Like a check-in from some alternate-universe version of Fu Manchu who stuck closer to their beginnings in punk and hardcore, Californian heavy noise rockers That Ship Has Sailed tap volatility and riffy groove alike through the five songs of their Kingdom of Nothing EP, with an admirable lack of bullshit included within that net-zero assessment amid the physical push of riffs like “One-Legged Dog” or “Iron Eagle II” when the drums go to half-time behind the guitar and bass. It’s not all turn-of-the-century disaffection and ‘members of’ taglines though as “Iron Eagle II” sludges through its finish and “I Am, Yeah” becomes an inadvertent anthem for those who’ve never quite been able to keep their shit together, “Sweet Journey” becomes a melodic highlight while fostering the heaviest crash, and “Ready to Go” hits like a prequel to Nebula‘s trip down the stoner rock highway. Catchy in spite of its outward fuckall (or at least fuckmost), Kingdom of Nothing is more relatable than friendly or accessible, which feels about right. It’s cool guys. I never got my shit together either.

That Ship Has Sailed on Instagram

That Ship Has Sailed on Bandcamp

Spiral Guru, Silenced Voices

Spiral Guru Silenced Voices

The fourth EP in the 10-year history of Brazi’s Spiral Guru, who also released their Void long-player in 2019 and the “The Fantastic Hollow Man” single in 2021, Silenced Voices is distinguished immediately by the vocal command and range of Andrea Ruocco, and I’d suspect that if you’re already familiar with the band, you probably know that. Ruocco‘s voice, in its almost operatic use of breath to reach higher notes, carries some element of melodic metal’s grandeur, but Samuel Pedrosa‘s fuzz riffing and the fluid roll of bassist José Ribeiro and drummer Alexandre H.G. Garcia on the title-track avoid that trap readily, ending up somewhere between blues, psych, and ’70s swing on “Caves and Graves” but kept modern in the atmosphere fostered by Pedrosa‘s lead guitar. Another high-quality South American band ignored by the gringo-dude-dominant underground of Europe and the US? Probably, but I’m guilty too a decade after Spiral Guru‘s start, so all I can say is I’m doing my best out here. This band should probably be on Nuclear Blast by now. Stick around for “The Cabin Man” and you’d best be ready to dance.

Spiral Guru on Facebook

Spiral Guru on Bandcamp

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