Quarterly Review: Lord Dying, Black Glow, Cracked Machine, Per Wiberg, Swell O, Cower, HORSEN3CK, Troll Teeth, Black Ocean’s Edge, SONS OF ZÖKU

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


A word about the image above. ‘AI art’ has become a thing people argue about on the internet. Like everything. Fine. I made the above image with a prompt through whatever Microsoft is calling its bot this week and got what I wanted. I didn’t have to talk to anyone or pay anyone in anything more than the personal data you compromise every time you use the internet for anything, and it was done. I could never draw, but when I finished, I felt like I’d at least taken part in some way in making this thing. And telling a computer what to make and seeing what it gets right and wrong is fascinating. You might feel a bit like you’re painting with words, which as someone who could never draw but could construct a sentence, I can appreciate.

I’m a big supporter of human creativity, and yes, corporations who already hold creative professionals — writers, editors, graphic designers, etc. — in such outward contempt will be only too happy to replace them with robots. I was there when magazines died; I know how that goes. But instead of being reactionaries and calling for never-gonna-happen-anyway bans, isn’t it maybe worth acknowledging that there’s no going back in time, that AI art isn’t going anywhere, and that it might just have valid creative uses? I don’t feel like I need to defend myself for making or using the image above, but I did try to get a human artist first and it didn’t work out. In the hard reality of limited minutes, how much should I really chase when there’s an easier way to get what I want? And how much can people be expected to live up to that shifting moral obligation in the long term?

The future will laugh at us, inevitably, either way. And fair enough with the world we’re leaving them.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Lord Dying, Clandestine Transcendence

Lord Dying Clandestine Transcendence

While bearing the tonal force of their roots in doom, Portland’s Lord Dying have nonetheless willfully become a crucial purveyor of forward-thinking death metal, driven by extremity but refusing to subdue its own impulses to fit with genre. At 12 songs and an hour’s runtime, Clandestine Transcendence neither is nor is supposed to be a minor undertaking, but with a melodic declaration in “Unto Becoming” that’ll elicit knowing nods from Virus fans and a mentality of creative reach that’s worthy of comparison to EnslavedLord Dying showcase mastery of the style the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Erik Olson, guitarist Chris Evans, bassist/vocalist Alyssa Maucere and drummer Kevin Swartz explored with vigilance on 2019’s Mysterium Tremendum (review here), and an ability to depart from aggression without losing their intensity or impact on “Dancing on the Emptiness” or in the payoff of “Break in the Clouds (In the Darkness of Our Minds).” They may be headed toward too-weird-for-everybody megaprogmetal ultimately, but the challenges-to-stylistic-homogeny of their material are only part of what gives Clandestine Transcendence its crux, and in fostering the call-and-response onslaught of “Facing the Incomprehensible” alongside the epic reach of “A Bond Broken by Death,” they cast their own mold as unique within or without of the heavy underground sphere.

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MNRK Heavy website

Black Glow, Black Glow

black glow black glow

The late-2023 self-titled debut from Black Glow marks a new beginning for Monterrey, Mexico, guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Gina Rios, formerly of Spacegoat, and something of a creative redirect, taking on a sound that is less indebted to boogie and classic doom but that has clearly learned the lessons of its influences. Also credited with producing (Victor “KB” Velazquez recorded, mixed and mastered, which doesn’t invalidate the credit), Rios is a strong enough performer to carry the five-song EP/short-LP on her own, but thankfully bassist Oscar Saucedo and drummer Octavio Diliegros bring tonal fullness to the breadth of atmosphere in the rolling closer “Obscured Jail,” reaching past seven minutes with fluidity that adds to Black Glow‘s aspects of purpose and craft, which are significant despite being the band’s first outing. As a vehicle for Rios‘ songwriting, Black Glow sound immediately like they can evolve in ways Spacegoat likely couldn’t or wouldn’t have, and that prospect is all the more enticing with the accomplishments displayed here.

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Black Glow on Bandcamp

Cracked Machine, Wormwood

Cracked Machine Wormwood

Between the leadoff of “Into the Chronosphere” and “The Glowing Sea,” “Return to Antares,” “Burning Mountain” and “Desert Haze,” UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine aren’t short on destinations for the journey that is their fourth full-length, Wormwood, but with more angular texturing on “Eigenstate” and the blend of tonal float — yes, even the bass — and terrestrial groove wrought in the closing title-track, the band manage to emphasize plot as well as a sense of freedom endemic to jam-born heavy psychedelia. That is to say, as second cut “Song of Artemis” gives brooding reply to the energetic “Into the Chronosphere,” which is loosely krautrocky in its dug-in feel and exploratory as part of that, they are not trying to pretend this material just happened. Layers of effects and a purposeful reach between its low and high ends in the solo of “The Glowing Sea” — with the drums holding the two together, as one would hope — and subsequent section of standalone guitar as the start of a linear build that spreads wide sonically rather than overpowering with volume speaks to a dynamic that’s about more than just loud or quiet, and the keyboard holding notes in the culmination of “Burning Mountain” is nothing if not purposeful in its shimmering resonance. They may be headed all over the place, but I think that’s just a sign Cracked Machine know how to get there.

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Per Wiberg, The Serpent’s Here

PER WIBERG The Serpent's Here cover

Currently also of Kamchatka and Spiritual Beggars and maybe Switchblade, the career arc of Per Wiberg (also ex-Opeth, live work and/or studio contributions for Candlemass, Grand Magus, Arch Enemy, mostly on keys or organ) varies widely in style within a heavy sphere, and it should be no surprise that his solo work is likewise multifaceted. Following on from 2021’s EP, All Is Well In the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out (review here), the six-song and 41-minute (seven/47 with the bonus track Warrior Soul cover “The Losers”) finds cohesion in a thread of progressive styles that allows Wiberg to explore what might be a Gary Numan influence in the verses of “The Serpent’s Here” itself while emerging with a heavy, catchy and melodic chorus marked by a driving riff. The eight-minute “Blackguards Stand Silent” works in movements across a structural departure as the rhythm section of Mikael Tuominen (Kungens Män) and drummer Tor Sjödén (Viagra Boys) get a subtle workout, and “He Just Disappeared” pushes into the cinematic on a patient line of drone, a contemplative departure after the melancholic piano of “This House is Someone Else’s Now” that allows “Follow the Unknown” to cap the album-proper with a return to the full-band feel and a pointed grace of keys and synth, clearly working to its creator’s own high standard.

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Despotz Records website

Swell O, Morning Haze

Swell O Morning Haze

Bremen, Germany’s Swell O released their apparently-recorded-in-a-day debut album, Morning Haze, in Feb. 2023 and followed with a vinyl release this past Fall on Clostridium Records, and if there’s anything clouding their vision as regards songwriting, it didn’t make it onto the record. Proffering solid, engaging, festival-ready desert-style heavy rock, “Hitchhiker” sweeps down the open highway of its own riff while “Black Cat” tips hat to Fu Manchu, the title-track veers into pop-punkish uptempoism in a way “Shine Through” contrasts with less shove and more ambience. The seven-minute “Summit” extrapolates a lean toward the psychedelic from Kyussian foundations, but the crux on Morning Haze is straightforward and aware of where it wants its songs to be aesthetically. It’s not a revolution in that regard, but it’s not supposed to be, and for all its in-genre loyalism, Morning Haze demonstrates an emergent persona in the modernized ’90s fuzz-crunch semi-blowout of “Venom” at the end, which wraps a salvo that started with “Hitchhiker” and lets Swell O make the most of their over-quickly 31-minute first LP.

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Clostridium Records store

Cower, Celestial Devastation

cower celestial devastation

Accounting for everything from goth to post-hardcore to the churn of Godflesh in an encompassing interpretation of post-punk, London outfit Cower could fill this space with pedigree alone and manage to nonetheless make a distinct impression across the nine songs of Celestial Devastation. Organic and sad on “We Need to Have the Talk,” inorganic and sad on “Hard-Coded in the Souls of Men,” electronic anti-chic before the guitar surge in “Buffeted by Solar Winds,” and bringing fresh perspective to Kataonia-style depressive metal in “Aging Stallions,” it’s a album that willfully shirks genre — a few of them, actually — in service to its songs, as between the software-driven title-track and the downer-New-Wave-as-doom centerpiece “Deathless and Free,” Cower embark on an apparent critique of tech as integrated into current life (though I can’t find a lyric sheet) and approach from seemingly divergent angles without losing track of the larger picture of the LP’s atmosphere. Celestial Devastation is the second album from the trio, comprised of Tom Lacey, Wayne Adams (who also produced, as he will) and Gareth Thomas. Expect them to continue to define and refine this style as they move forward, and expect it to become even more their own than it is here. A band like this, if they last, almost can’t help but grow.

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HORSEN3CK, Heavy Spells

horsen3ck heavy spells

Boston’s HORSEN3CK, who’ve gone all-caps and traded their second ‘e’ for a ‘3’ since unveiling the included-here “Something’s Broken” as a debut standalone single this January, make a rousing four-song statement of intent even as the lineup shifts from piece to piece around the core duo of Tim Catz and Jeremy Hemond, best known together for their work as the rhythm section of Roadsaw. With their maybe-not-right-now bandmate Ian Ross adding guitar to “Something’s Broken” and a different lead vocalist on each song, Heavy Spells has inherent variety even before “Haunted Heart” exalts its darker mood with pulls reminiscent of Alice in Chains‘ “Frogs.” With Catz taking a turn on vocals, “Golden Ghost” is punk under its surface class, and though “Haunted Heart” grows in its crescendo, its greater impact is in the vibe, which is richer for the shift in approach. “Thirst” rounds out with a particular brashness, but nowhere HORSEN3CK go feels even vaguely out of their reach. Alright guys. Concept proved, now go do a full-length. When they do, I’ll be intrigued to see if the lineup solidifies.

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Troll Teeth, Sluagh Vol. 1

troll teeth sluagh vol. 1

New Jersey doom rockers Troll Teeth‘s stated goal with Sluagh Vol. 1 was to find a sound the character of which would be defined in part by its rawer, retro-styled recording. The resultant four-song outing, which was their second EP of 2023 behind Underground Vol. 1, doesn’t actually veer into vintage-style ’70s worship, but lives up to the premise just the same in its abiding rawness. “3 Shots for a 6 Shooter” brings a Queens of the Stone Age-style vocal melody over an instrumental that’s meaner than anything that band ever put to tape, while nine-minute opener “1,000 Ton Brick” feels very clearly titled in honor of its own roll. It might be the heaviest stretch on the EP but for the rumbling low distortion spliced in among the psychedelic unfolding of 16-minute closer “Purgatory,” which submerges the listener in its course after “Here Lies” seems to build and build and build through the entirety of its still-hooky execution. With its title referencing the original name of the band and a focus on older material, the rougher presentation suits the songs, though it’s not like there’s a pristine “1,000 Ton Brick” out there to compare it to. Whether there will be at Sluagh Vol. 2 at any point, I don’t know, but even the intentionality of realizing his material in the recording process argues in favor of future revisits.

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Black Ocean’s Edge, Call of the Sirens

black ocean's edge (Photo by Matija Kasalo)

Celebrating their own dark side in the opener “Wicked Voice,” German heavy rockers Black Ocean’s Edge keep the proceedings relatively friendly on Call of the Sirens, their debut long-player behind 2022’s Dive Deep EP, at least as regards accessibility and the catchiness of their craft. Vibrant and consistent in tone, the Ulm four-piece find room for the classic rock of “Leather ‘n’ Velvet” and the that-might-be-actual-flute-laced prog-psych payoff of “Lion in a Cage” between the second two of the three parts that comprise the title-track, which departs from the heavy blues rock of “Drift” or “Cold Black Water,” which is the centerpiece and longest inclusion at 7:43 and sets its classic-heavy influences to work with a forward-looking perspective. At 42 minutes and nine tracks, Call of the Sirens feels professional in how it reaches out to its audience, and it leaves little to doubt from Black Ocean’s Edge as regards songwriting, production or style. They may refine and sharpen their approach over time, and with these songs as where they’re coming from, they’ll be in that much better position to hit the ears of the converted.

Note: this album is out in April and I couldn’t find cover art. Band photo above is by Matija Kasalo.

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sons of zoku endless

If an album could ask you, musically, why you’re in such a hurry — and not like hurrying to work, really in a hurry, like in how you live — the mellow psych and acid folk proffered by Adelaide, Australia’s SONS OF ZÖKU on their second full-length, ËNDL​Ë​SS, might just be doing that. Don’t take that to mean the album is still or staid though, because they’re not through “Moonlight” after the intro before the bass gets funky behind all that serene melody, and when you’re worshiping the sun that’s all the more reason to dance by the moon. Harmonies resonate in “Earth Chant” (and all around) atop initially quiet guitar noodling, and the adventures in arrangement continue in the various chimes and percussion instruments, the touch of Easternism in “Kuhnoo” and the keyboard-fueled melodic payoff to the pastoralism of “Hunters.” With flute and a rhythmic delivery to its group vocal, “O Saber” borders on the tribal, while “Yumi” digs on cosmic prog insistence in a way that calls to mind the underappreciated Death Hawks and finds its way in a concluding instrumental stretch that doesn’t lose its spontaneous feel despite being more cogent than improv generally comes across. “Lonesome Tale” is a melancholy-vibe-reprise centered around acoustic guitar and “Nu Poeme” gives a sense of grandeur that is unto itself without going much past four minutes in the doing. Such triumphs are rare more broadly but become almost commonplace as SONS OF ZÖKU set their own context with a sound harnessing the inspiration of decades directing itself toward an optimistic future.

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Friday Full-Length: REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 22nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

This was a PostWax release. The vinyl subscription service put forth by Blues Funeral Recordings has produced a string of stellar, genuinely special records in its second volume — Acid King were my pick for album of the year this year, and Dozer and Dopelord, which were in my top 10, both came out in PostWax editions; deluxe vinyl, exclusive tracks, artwork and layout that’s so gorgeous I don’t even want to touch it with my greasy fingers, etc. — and as with all of them, I was fortunate enough to do liner notes for this special collaboration between Chicago fog rockers REZN and Mexico City conceptual plodders Vinnum Sabbathi, titled Silent Future.

I always feel a little weird when it comes to covering PostWax stuff here on the site, and that’s precisely because I also work behind the scenes (in a limited but capacity, of course) on the releases as well, and I was compensated monetarily for doing that writing. I say so every time, but even with full disclosure I’m not trying to give an impression I’m doing promo. It’s not my job to sell you records. But the stuff is undeniable at this point, and what, I’m going to let 2023 end without talking about the exploratory textures of Silent Future, the album’s narrative foundation and the meld of climate anxiety, cosmic pulse and futurism that makes it such a hypnotically immersive listening experience? Come on.

REZN also had their fourth long-player, Solace (review here), out this year, but Silent Future is its own thing and has its own intention. For the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams (also lyrics), synthesist/saxophonist/flutist Spencer Ouellette, bassist Phil Cangelosi and drummer Patrick Dunn (who also had the monumental task of mixing), it was a self-recorded affair, done late in 2021 DIY in their own spot, and their basic tracks were sent to Vinnum Sabbathi — the lineup of guitarist/synthesist Juan Tamayo, effects specialist Roman Tamayo, bassist Samuel Lopez and Gerardo Arias on drums and lead guitar, with more guitar from Victor “KB” Velazquez — who also wrote the script for the storytelling monologue in intro “Born into Catatonia” and the likewise keyboardy side B complement, “Clusters,” delivered by the voice of Manuel Wohlrab, also of Yanos and Zone Six in Germany.

So, multinational, multicontinental collaboration across seven songs and a somehow-digestible 32 minutes of progressive, soulful, and at times very, very heavy music. While the record isrezn vinnum sabbathi silent future patient in the subdued flow it sets up as “Born into Catatonia” shifts into “Unknown Ancestor” (the continuing monologue also helps), the sense of texture is immediate and is a luminescent drone that hints at a feeling of discovery. On some level, that’s what’s happening throughout Silent Future as Vinnum Sabbathi and REZN reveal to themselves and to their respective audiences alike — and let’s assume there’s crossover there, because genre — what happens when they fuse their methodologies. I talked to both bands about this release (granted it was a while ago) to do the liner notes, and I’m still not sure anyone knew going into it what would come out, or how they possibly could, but that adventurous spirit is to be commended and I honestly believe the world is a better place with the crushing roll that emerges in “Unknown Ancestor” than without it, never mind the rest of the slow-swirling and entrancing sway that surrounds, periodically channeling high impact in low gravity.

If you’re a synthesist or keyboardist in a heavy band, there’s plenty to learn here in the work of Ouellette and the Tamayo brothers (who I met this year in Germany and are sweethearts), from the New Age-y throb in behind the deceptively catchy hook of “The Cultigen” meditating lyrically as it does on a black chrysanthemum before the lumber-chuck of centerpiece “Hypersurreal” brings back Wohlrab with talk about multisensory alien contact and a verse that’s quiet but tense in its rhythm in no small part because of the riff that just receded. It comes back, that riff, of course, as McWilliams swaps to a more projected voice for another memorable, this-time-belted-out chorus, “Parallel universe/Parallel universe/The eye reflects itself/Into another realm/Am I the writer or the character?” before the verse repeats in a building cycle.

And when that cycle hits its payoff, the synth/effects are right there as well, and so even at its apex-heaviest, Silent Future remains true to its mood. “Clusters” fades in from silence as a reset, but both “Morphing” and the finale “Obliterating Mists” dig into the procession, and whether or not it was intentional, the two become a representative mini-monolith for the LP as a whole, with earworms revealed through multiple visits to their temporal dimension and a culmination in the latter that rises and ebbs with a fluidity and poise that emphasizes the consciousness at the center of the haze. There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series where the cartoon-Enterprise gets trapped in a giant thinking cloud. Listening to Silent Future kind of feels like that, or at least one imagines.

But either angle you want to take it from — whether it’s the creative bravery and ego-eschew of the collaboration in the first place or the righteousness of the end result in the material itself — Silent Future is a standout release for 2023 (and beyond) and I didn’t want to let the year end without some proper recognition of that. It’s not the kind of offering every band or pairing of bands could make, and it’s not a pairing that is immediately intuitive because Vinnum Sabbathi and REZN have so much in common in sound, but what they do share is an openness to new ideas and ways of working, and the success of that in these songs I think is inarguable once you hear it.

Which I hope you do. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jadd Shickler of Blues FuneralMagnetic Eye Records, for making me a footnote part of the PostWax thing in the first place. Dude had the year of a lifetime between those two labels, and it was only because he made it happen.

Please enjoy, and once again, thank you for reading. I appreciate your time and attention. If you can go with this one, do. I admit it’s not the most intuitive of releases, but that’s also part of what makes it special. Might take a couple listens to sink in, but trust, and let it do its thing, and you’ll be set. Safe travels, wherever it takes you.

Monday is Xmas. Happy Xmas if you celebrate. We do, in our pointedly secular fashion, and accordingly I’m taking Monday (which is the weekend’s writing) and Tuesday (which is Monday’s writing) off. I’m going to do my damnedest not to post at all in that time, but if there’s something I feel warrants immediacy — and anything can happen, of course — I’ll roll with it. Let us not forget that Lemmy was born on Dec. 24, died Dec. 27 and that he, more than the favorite fanfic of hateful/genocidal psychopaths and state-sponsored rape cabals, is the true reason for the season.

When I pick up Wednesday, it’ll probably also be pretty mellow. The Pecan is off from school next week and I’m sure that’ll be busy because, well, yes. We’re about to undertake the process of remaking bedtime — current system’s effectiveness has expired; a necessary pivot — and I expect that will result in a few bumpy nights. Almost always the case when transitioning from one thing to the other. Certainly was the story of my summer and fall.

To that. While I am not thrilled to know that my six-year-old goes to school every day on medication, I cannot deny the clear shift said meds have wrought in her day-to-day. I would not call her ‘easy’ or ‘easygoing’ as a personality-type — there is much she has learned from me, including how to be a prick, and there are times where she’s a few grades ahead of kindergarten in that regard — but from what I think everybody who observes her has seen, and that’s the rest of our family, her teacher, aide, other aide at school and therapist, we’ve had movement in a better direction. Between the wreck that was this summer’s kicked-out-of-camp marathon, the stress of her transition (which also has allowed a flourishing not to be denied; I’ve heard reports of another trans kindergartener on the planet, but The Patient Mrs. and I are already joking about the book we’ll write some day), and getting her to a point of being able to get through a school day without hurting someone else or herself is progress visible even in the trenches. By which I mean her mother and I can see it. She remains willful, just flat out ignores me when I ask her to do something most of the time and is ready with an argument for why one should fuck off on a daily if not hourly basis — less when she’s hungry — but she’s growing and she’s strong, which is a thing she is going to very much need to be.

That progress doesn’t mean I didn’t basically chase her back to bed at 10PM last night, but as I said, different methods are being put in place. She might get to sleep with the puppy. We’ll see. The Patient Mrs. is the spearhead of that project; I’ll confess reticence and a general lack of desire to clean up dog piss in my kid’s bed, on her floor, or really anywhere else. We’ve got a good thing going with the crate at night, and the dog is only six months old. I could go on and logic logic logic myself through this. Build reasoned arguments to never say out loud. Lay out a grand case. Clutch once told us “you can’t stop progress,” and so here I am, rolling with it to the limited extent I am able, even as my brain has that catch-fire feeling thinking about getting up at 5AM or earlier, going upstairs to get the dog out of her room, waking her up and then having to both deal with the dog needing to go out and the kid who just might want to tag along with as little light on as possible, as quiet as possible, and then try to sit down and write. A million ways to go wrong, fewer to go right.

Whatever you’re feeling anxious about, I wish you relief. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I’ll be back on Wednesday (I can hold off! I can do it!) with maybe a Dr. Space review or something else fun and more of the ol’ blah blah blah. Thanks for reading it.


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Demons My Friends Premiere “Inner Slay”; Demons Seem to Gather Out Sept. 8

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Based in Austin, Texas, and Mexico City, heavy rocking three-piece Demons My Friends make their full-length debut on Sept. 8 through Gravitoyd Heavy Music with Demons Seem to Gather. The band have been trickling out singles leading up to the release for nearly a year, and as a singe “Inner Slay” (premiering below) follows behind “Ghosts of You,” “Bring the Night,” the closer “We Are the Resistance” and the hooky side B leadoff “Make Them Pay,” so it’s probably safe to say they’re looking to grab attention of an underground listenership, otherwise maybe five singles (so far) from your first record probably isn’t the way you’re going to go.

Taking some cues in atmosphere on “We Are the Resistance,” the crunch of “Fire Mountain” and in the ’90s creep of guitar in verse of “Your Bones” prior from Alice in Chains, the trio bring ideas together from modern emotive doom à la Pallbearer on “Inner Slay,” a broad vocal hook assuring that the vocal stands up to the riffing on display throughout, opener “The Tower Falls” having started out on solid ground rhythm-wise but found room in the mix for an Elephant Tree-style harmony in opener “The Tower Falls” before the start-stop angularity of “Bring the Night” — the chorus delivering the album’s title line — hinting at the metallic underpinning of the project while also sounding more derived from ’00s era punk and post-hardcore. Thus it is that Demons My Friends — guitarist/vocalist Pablo Anton, bassist/vocalist Lu Salinas, drummer Tarro Martinez — stave off the threat of doing just one thing, and instead lay out a creative reach that one expects they’ll continue to refine as they move forward.

Demons My Friends Demons Seem to GatherWhile the eight-song/36-minute offering is varied in its approach, the band are consistent in tone and their willingness to veer toward more doomed ends, “Inner Slay” serving as a ready example leading into “Ghosts of You,” which caps side A and pushes further along similar lines, with a central progression to its back half that touches almost on commercial hard rock without losing its foundation in heavy riffing. The production of Duel‘s Jeff Henson assures that fullness of sound and gives the melodic complexity of some of the arrangements — looking at you, chorus-over-solo in “Fire Mountain” — a dimensionality it would otherwise run the risk of lacking, but while Demons My Friends is a new exploration and Demons Seem to Gather is a debut album from a band who as the narrative tells us (blessings and peace upon it) jammed before they were really together, the experience of the players involved assures they’re not flailing in the end product.

Instead, songwriting is at the core of Demons My Friends‘ approach, and whatever original riff-blocks these pieces were carved from, they have been shaped with care and thought, which is something that even the lines topping the apex of “We Are the Resistance” bear out, the band purposefully meeting the largesse of that moment head-on, even as they’re still unfolding it. The proverbial encouraging beginning? Yeah, pretty much. The kind of record you might see five singles released from. It’ll be interesting to hear as Demons My Friends plunge further into the places between rock and doom, the classic and modern and in-between. But one of Demons Seem to Gather‘s strengths is that it knows the field is wide open and it stakes a number of stylistic claims. Maybe they’re settling in for a longer-term evolution, thinking ahead an album, two albums, three. Some bands do that, and if Demons My Friends go that route and build on this backdrop, they’re starting out working from a high standard of craft.

PR wire info follows the player below, on which “Inner Slay” premieres. Please enjoy:

Demons My Friends is an unlikely collaboration between members of Mexican alt-metal band QBO and Washington, DC desert rockers Fellowcraft. The stoner/doom metal trio — Lu Salinas (bass/vocals), Tarro Martinez (drums), Pablo Anton (guitar/vocals)—embarked on their creative endeavor via an impromptu recording session at the SXSW music festival in Austin, TX in 2022 and have consummated the relationship with an upcoming full-length titled Demons Seem to Gather.

Demons Seem to Gather was recorded, mixed and produced by Jeff Henson at Red Nova Ranch, Austin, TX. It was mastered by Alberto de Icaza. It’s set for release on September 8 on vinyl, CD and digitally via Gravitoyd Heavy Music. In the meantime you can stream the band’s singles on all digital platforms

01. The Tower Falls
02. Bring The Night
03. Inner Slay
04. Ghosts of You
05. Make Them Pay
06. Fire Mountain
07. Your Bones
08. We Are The Resistance

Shows coming up for Demons My Friends:
October 20th at Valhalla (Austin TX)
October 21st at Black Magic Social Club (Houston TX)

Demons My Friends is:
Pablo Anton – guitar/vox
Lu Salinas – Bass/vox
Tarro – Drums

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Quarterly Review: Weite, Mizmor, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Sarkh, Spiritual Void, The River, Froglord, Weedevil & Electric Cult, Dr. Space, Ruiner

Posted in Reviews on July 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Welcome back to the Summer 2023 Quarterly Review. I hope you enjoyed the weekend. Today we dig in on the penultimate — somehow my using the word “penultimate” became a running gag for me in Quarterly Reviews; I don’t know how or why, but I think it’s funny — round of 10 albums and tomorrow we’ll close out as we hit the total of 70. Could easily have kept it going through the week, but so it goes. I’ll have more QR in September or October, I’m not sure yet which. It’s a pretty busy Fall.

Today’s a wild mix and that’s what I was hoping for. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Weite, Assemblage

weite assemblage

Founded by bassist Ingwer Boysen (also High Fighter) as an offshoot of the live incarnation of Delving, of which he’s part, Weite release the instrumental Assemblage as a semi-improv-sounding collection of marked progressive fluidity. With Delving and Elder‘s Nick DiSalvo and Mike Risberg in the lineup along with Ben Lubin (Lawns), the story goes that the four-piece got to the studio with nothing/very little, spent a few days writing and recording with the venerable Richard Behrens helming, and Assemblage‘s four component pieces are what came out of it. The album begins with the nine-minutes-each pair of the zazzy-jazzy mover “Neuland,” while “Entzündet” grows somewhat more open, a lead guitar refrain like built around drum-backed drone and keys, swelling in piano-inclusive volume like Crippled Black Phoenix, darker prog shifting into a wash and more freaked-out psych rock. I’m not sure those are real drums on “Rope,” or if they are I’d love to know how the snare was treated, but the song’s a groover just the same, and the 14-minute “Murmuration” is where the styles unite under an umbrella of warm tonality and low key but somehow cordial atmosphere. If these guys want to get together every couple years into perpetuity and bang out a record like this, that’d be fine.

Weite on Facebook

Stickman Records store


Mizmor, Prosaic

Mizmor Prosaic

The fourth album from Portland, Oregon’s Mizmor — the solo-project of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, vocalist, etc.-ist A.L.N. — arrives riding a tsunami of hype and delivers on the band’s long-stated promise of ‘wholly doomed black metal.’ With consuming distortion at its heart from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Only an Expanse” onward, the record recalls the promise of American black metal as looser in its to-tenet conformity than the bulk of Europe’s adherents — of course these are generalizations and I’m no expert — by contrasting it rhythmically with doom, which instead of fully releasing the tension amassed by the scream-topped tremolo riffing just makes it sound more miserable. Doom! “No Place to Arrive” is admirably thick, like noisy YOB on charred ambience, and “Anything But” draws those two sides together in more concise and driving style, vicious and brutal until it cuts in the last minute to quiet minimalism that makes the slam-in crush of 13-minute closer “Acceptance” all the more punishing, with plenty of time left for trades between all-out thrust and grueling plod. Hard to call which side wins the day — and that’s to Mizmor‘s credit, ultimately — but by the end of “Acceptance,” the raging gnash has collapsed into a caldera of harsh sludge, and it no longer matters. In context, that’s a success.

Mizmor on Facebook

Profound Lore Records store


The Whims of the Great Magnet, Same New

The Whims of the Great Magnet Same New

With a couple quick drum taps and a clearheaded strum that invokes the impossible nostalgia of Bruce Springsteen via ’90s alt rock, Netherlands-based The Whims of the Great Magnet strolls casually into “Same New,” the project’s first outing since 2021’s Share My Sun EP. Working in a post-grunge style seems to suit Sander Haagmans, formerly the bassist of Sungrazer and, for a bit, The Machine, as he single-track/double-tracks through the song’s initial verse and blossoms melodically in the chorus, dwelling in an atmosphere sun-coated enough that Haagmans‘ calls it “your new summer soundtrack.” Not arguing, if a one-track soundtrack is a little short. After a second verse/chorus trade, some acoustic weaves in at the end to underscore the laid back feel, and as it moves into the last minute, “Same New” brings back the hook not to drive it into your head — it’s catchy enough that such things aren’t necessary — but to speak to a traditional structure born out of classic rock. It does this organically, with moderate tempo and a warm, engaging spirit that, indeed, evokes the ideal images of the stated season and will no doubt prove comforting even removed from such long, hot and sunny days.

The Whims of the Great Magnet on Facebook

The Whims of the Great Magnet on Bandcamp


Sarkh, Helios


German instrumentalists Sarkh follow their 2020 full-length, Kaskade, with the four-song/31-minute Helios EP, issued through Worst Bassist Records. As with that album, the short-ish offering has a current of progressive metal to coincide with its heavier post-rock affect; “Zyklon” leading off with due charge before the title-track finds stretches of Yawning Man-esque drift, particularly as it builds toward a hard-hitting crescendo in its second half. Chiaroscuro, then. Working shortest to longest in runtime, the procession continues with “Kanagawa” making stark volume trades, growing ferocious but not uncontrolled in its louder moments, the late low end particularly satisfying as it plays off the guitar in the final push, a sudden stop giving 11-minute closer “Cape Wrath” due space to flesh out its middle-ground hypothesis after some initial intensity, the trio of guitarist Ralph Brachtendorf, bassist Falko Schneider and drummer Johannes Dose rearing back to let the EP end with a wash but dropping the payoff with about a minute left to let the guitar finish on its own. Germany, the world, and the universe: none of it is short on instrumental heavy bands, but the purposeful aesthetic mash of Sarkh‘s sound is distinguishing and Helios showcases it well to make the argument.

Sarkh on Facebook

Worst Bassist Records store


Spiritual Void, Wayfare

spiritual void wayfare

A 2LP second long-player from mostly-traditionalist doom metallers Spiritual Void, Wayfare seems immediately geared toward surpassing their 2017 debut, White Mountain, in opening with “Beyond the White Mountain.” With a stretch of harsher vocals to go along with the cleaner-sung verses through its 8:48 and the metal-of-eld wail that meets the crescendo before the nodding final verse, they might’ve done it. The subsequent “Die Alone” (11:48) recalls Candlemass and Death without losing the nod of its rhythm, and “Old” (12:33) reaffirms the position, taking Hellhound Records-style methodologies of European trad doom and pulling them across longer-form structures. Following “Dungeon of Nerthus” (10:24) the shorter “Wandering Doom” (5:31) chugs with a swing that feels schooled by Reverend Bizarre, while “Wandersmann” (13:11) tolls a mournful bell at its outset as though to let you know that the warm-up is over and now it’s time to really doom out. So be it. At a little over an hour long, Wayfare is no minor undertaking, but for what they’re doing stylistically, it shouldn’t be. Morose without melodrama, Wayfare sees Spiritual Void continuing to find their niche in doom, and rest assured, it’s on the doomier end. Of doom.

Spiritual Void on Facebook

Journey’s End Records store


The River, A Hollow Full of Hope

THE RIVER A Hollow Full of Hope

Even when The River make the trade of tossing out the aural weight of doom — the heavy guitar and bass, the expansive largesse, and so on — they keep the underlying structure. The nod. At least mostly. To explain: the long-running UK four-piece — vocalist Jenny Newton, guitarist Christian Leitch (formerly of 40 Watt Sun), bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — offer a folkish interpretation of doom and a doomed folk on their fourth long-player, the five-song/40-minute A Hollow Full of Hope taking the acoustic prioritizing of a song like “Open” from 2019’s Vessels into White Tides (review here) and bringing it to the stylistic fore on songs like the graceful opener “Fading,” the lightly electric “Tiny Ticking Clocks” rife with strings and gorgeous self-harmonizing from Newton set to an utterly doomed march, or the four-minute instrumental closer “Hollowful,” which is more than an outro if not a completely built song in relation to the preceding pieces. Melodic, flowing, intentional in arrangement, meter, melody. Sad. Beautiful. “Exits” (9:56) and “A Vignette” (10:26) — also the two longest cuts, though not by a ton — are where one finds that heft and the other side of the doom-folk/folk-doom divide, though it is admirable how thin they make that line. Marked progression. This album will take them past their 25th anniversary, and they greet it hitting a stride. That’s an occasion worth celebrating.

The River on Facebook

Cavernous Records store


Froglord, Sons of Froglord

Froglord Sons of Froglord

Sons of Froglord is the fourth full-length in three years from UK amphibian conceptualist storytellers Froglord, and there’s just about no way they’re not making fun of space rock on “Road Raisin.” “Collapse” grows burly in its hook in the vein of a more rumbling Clutch — and oh, the shenanigans abound! — and there’s a kind of ever-present undercurrent sludgy threat in the more forward push of the glorious anthem to the inanity of career life in “Wednesday” (it doesn’t materialize, but there is a tambourine on “A Swamp of My Own,” so that’s something), but the bulk of the latest chapter in the Froglord tale delivers ’70s-by-way-of-’10s classic heavy blues rock, distinct in its willingness to go elsewhere from and around the boogie swing of “Wizard Gonk” and the fuzzy shuffling foundation of “Garden” at the outset and pull from different eras and subsets of heavy to serve their purposes. “Froglady” is on that beat. On it. And the way “A Swamp of My Own” opens to its chorus is a stirring reminder of the difference drumming can make in elevating a band. After a quick “Closing Ceremony,” they tack on a presumably-not-narrative-related-but-fitting-anyway cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Born on the Bayou,” which complements a crash-laced highlight like “The Sage” well and seems to say a bit about where Froglord are coming from as well, i.e., the swamp.

Froglord on Facebook

Froglord on Bandcamp


Weedevil & Electric Cult, Cult of Devil Sounds

weedevil electric cult cult of devil sounds

Released digitally with the backing of Abraxas and on CD through Smolder Brains Records, the Cult of Devil Sounds split EP offers two new tracks each from São Paulo, Brazil’s Weedevil and Veraruz, Mexico’s Electric Cult. The former take the A side and fade in on the guitar line “Darkness Inside” with due drama, gradually unfurling the seven-minute doom roller that’s ostensibly working around Electric Wizard-style riffing, but has its own persona in tone, atmosphere and the vocals of Maureen McGee, who makes her first appearance here with the band. The swagger of “Burn It” follows, somewhat speedier and sharper in delivery, with a scorcher solo in its back half, witchy proclamations and satisfying slowdown at the end. Weedevil. All boxes ticked, no question. Check. Electric Cult are rawer in production and revel in that, bringing “Rising From Hell” and “Esoteric Madness” with a more uptempo, rock-ish swing, but moving through sludge and doom by the time the seven minutes of the first of those is done. “Rising From Hell” finishes with ambient guitar, then feedback, which “Esoteric Madness” cuts off to begin with bass; a clever turn. Quickly “Esoteric Madness” grows dark from its outset, pushing into harsh vocals over a slogging march that turns harder-driving with ’70s-via-ChurchofMisery hard-boogie rounding out. That faster finish is a contrast to Weedevil‘s ending slow, and complements it accordingly. An enticing sampler from both.

Weedevil on Facebook

Electric Cult on Facebook

Abraxas on Instagram


Dr. Space, Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals

Dr Space Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals

When I read some article about how the James Webb Space Telescope has looked billions of years into the past chasing down ancient light and seen further toward the creation of the universe than humankind ever before has, I look at some video or other, I should be hearing Dr. Space. I don’t know if the Portugal-based solo artist, synthesist, bandleader, Renaissance man Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, etc.) has been in touch with the European Space Agency (ESA) or what their response has been, but even with its organ solo and stated watery purpose, amid sundry pulsations it’s safe to assume the 20-minute title-track “Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals” is happening with an orchestra of semi-robot aliens on, indeed, some impossibly distant exoplanet. Heller has long dwelt at the heart of psychedelic improv and the three pieces across the 39 minutes of Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals recall classic krautrock ambience while remaining purposefully exploratory. “Going for the Nun” pairs church organ with keyboard before shimmering into proto-techno blips and bloops recalling the Space Age that should’ve had humans on Mars by now, while the relatively brief capper “No Space for Time” — perhaps titled to note the limitations of the vinyl format — still finds room in its six minutes to work in two stages, with introductory chimes shifting toward more kosmiche synth travels yet farther out.

Dr. Space on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Ruiner, The Book of Patience

Ruiner The Book of Patience

The debut from Santa Fe-based solo drone project Ruiner — aka Zac Hogan, also of Dysphotic, ex-Drought — is admirable in its commitment to itself. Hogan unveils the outfit with The Book of Patience (on Desert Records), an 80-minute, mostly-single-note piece called “Liber Patientiae,” which if you’re up on your Latin, you know is the title of the album as well. With a willfully glacial pace that could just as easily be a parody of the style — there is definitely an element of ‘is this for real?’ in the listening process, but yeah, it seems to be — “Liber Patientiae” evolves over its time, growing noisier as it approaches 55 or so minutes, the distortion growing more fervent over the better part of the final 25, the linear trajectory underscoring the idea that there’s a plan at work all along coinciding with the experimental nature of the work. What that plan might manifest from here is secondary to the “Liber Patientiae” as a meditative experience. On headphones, alone, it becomes an inward journey. In a crowded room, at least at the outset it’s almost a melodic white noise, maybe a little tense, but stretched out and changing but somehow still solid and singular, making the adage that ‘what you put into it is what you get out’ especially true in this case. And as it’s a giant wall of noise, it goes without saying that not everybody will be up for getting on board, but it’s difficult to imagine the opaque nature of the work is news to Hogan, who clearly is searching for resonance on his own wavelength.

Ruiner on Facebook

Desert Records store


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REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi Unite for Silent Future LP out Aug. 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Okay, this is super-complicated, so stay with me. It’s REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi together.

Okay, so maybe not actually that complicated. One might throw darts at band names on a wall for eternity and never come up with pairing the Chicago and Mexico City-based outfits for a split, let alone a collaborative LP, both bands working together on a single batch of songs in a one-time megaband, but every now and then actual-reality has a way of offering surprises and this was one of those. I was fortunate enough to do the liner notes for the release, to talk to the bands and get the story behind what they’re going for, how it came together, and so on, and if you’re a PostWax subscriber and up for some reading, that’s a thing that exists. The downloads of the album, which is called Silent Future, have gone out to PostWax folks — I know because I got mine — and the keys to getting into it are atmosphere and expanse. Do not approach with set expectations, do open your mind to immersive heavy psychedelic possibilities.

The non-PostWax general release for Silent Future is Aug. 11 and they’re streaming the centerpiece “Hypersurreal” now. The PR wire has preorder links and more background:

rezn vinnum sabbathi silent future

REZN and VINNUM SABBATHI to release collaborative album “Silent Future” on August 11th via Blues Funeral Recordings; stream first single!

Blues Funeral Recordings present the next chapter of their acclaimed PostWax series, with a fully collaborative album between Chicago avant-garde doom outfit REZN and Mexico City instrumental cosmic metallers Vinnum Sabbathi. “Silent Future” will be released worldwide on August 11th, with preorders and the first single available right now!

Listen to REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi’s new track “Hypersurreal”: https://lnk.to/hypersurreal

On Silent Future, Chicago atmospheric psych-doom outfit REZN teams up with Mexico City cosmic conceptualists Vinnum Sabbathi for a true union of heavy exploration. Allowing themselves a fluid, open canvas to experiment, members of both bands contribute equally to create an album of lush, hypnotic and frequently megalithic ambiance, yielding an utterly cohesive trip into the riff-drenched astral reaches.

About this collaborative album, REZN comments: “Ever since we played a show in Mexico City with Vinnum Sabbathi, we knew we wanted to find an opportunity to incorporate their cinematic style within the REZN soundscape. The Postwax creative concept helped guide us into making an album that stands out from the rest of our catalog, which was a really refreshing challenge for us. After the songwriting flowed freely, we intentionally left space so we could collaborate together on each song and explore the many shades of psychological cosmic horror.”

Vinnum Sabbathi adds: “We feel honored to be part of the Postwax series with this special collaboration with our Friends Rezn, the creation of “Silent Future” gave us the opportunity of experimenting with new ways of composing and recording, but also adding our own touch to the concept with the use of samples and this is very well represented in the first single “Hypersurreal”.

The fluidity with which REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi collaborate is unlikely, yet inarguable. Strong nuclear forces conjoin sections as alternatingly ethereal as celestial light and dense as a black hole collapse. Ultimately, the endeavor is never limited to being one thing for long, any more than it is limited to being the work of a single band. More than a listening experience, Silent Future’s vitality extends beyond the aural. This is the work of two groups pushing themselves further than they’ve gone before, each answering the other’s question of how far they can ultimately go. As heavy as Silent Future gets, as distant as it may range, one cannot regard this righteously thick, molten-tempo journey into the unknown as anything but breathtaking.

“Silent Future” will be released worldwide on August 11th in various vinyl formats, limited digipak CD and digital. The ultra-limited deluxe vinyl edition will be shipped in June to PostWax Vol. II subscribers. Preorders are available now on Blues Funeral Recordings.

Out August 11th on Blues Funeral Recordings
Preorder now on BFR website – https://www.bluesfuneral.com/search?q=silent+future
Bandcamp – https://rezzzn.bandcamp.com/album/silent-future
EU store – https://en.bluesfuneral.spkr.media/en/Artists/REZN-and-Vinnum-Sabbathi/REZN-and-Vinnum-Sabbathi-Silent-Future.html

1. Born Into Catatonia
2. Unknown Ancestor
3. The Cultigen
4. Hypersurreal
5. Clusters
7. Morphing
8. Obliterating Mists

Album lineup:
Gerardo Arias: Drums, Percussion, Lead Guitars
Phil Cangelosi: Bass
Patrick Dunn: Drums
Samuel Lopez: Bass
Rob McWilliams: Guitars, Vocals
Spencer Ouellette: Synths, Sax, Flute
Juan Tamayo: Heavy guitars, Synths
Roman Tamayo: Additional FX
Victor “KB” Velazquez: Additional Guitars
Manuel Wohlrab: Spoken Word




REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Siena Root, Los Mundos, Minnesota Pete Campbell, North Sea Noise Collective, Sins of Magnus, Nine Altars, The Freqs, Lord Mountain, Black Air, Bong Coffin

Posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


If you missed yesterday, be advised, it’s not too late. If you miss today, be advised as well that tomorrow’s not too late. One of the things I enjoy most about the Quarterly Review is that it puts the lie to the idea that everything on the internet has to be so fucking immediate. Like if you didn’t hear some release two days before it actually came out, somehow a week, a month, a year later, you’ve irreparably missed it.

That isn’t true in the slightest, and if you want proof, I’m behind on shit ALL. THE. TIME. and nine times out of 10, it just doesn’t matter. I’ll grant that plenty of music is urgent and being in that moment when something really cool is released can be super-exciting — not taking away from that — but hell’s bells, you can sit for the rest of your life and still find cool shit you’ve never heard that was released half a century ago, let alone in January. My advice is calm down and enjoy the tunes; and yes, I’m absolutely speaking to myself as much as to you.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Siena Root, Revelation

siena root revelation

What might be their eighth LP, depending on what counts as what, Revelation is the second from Siena Root to feature vocalist/organist Zubaida Solid up front alongside seemingly-now-lone guitarist Johan Borgström (also vocals) and the consistent foundation provided by the rhythm section of bassist Sam Riffer (also some vocals) and drummer Love “Billy” Forsberg. Speaking a bit to their own history, the long-running Swedish classic heavy rockers inject a bit of sitar (by Stian Grimstad) and hand-percussion into “Leaving the City,” but the 11-song/46-minute offering is defined in no small part by a bluesy feel, and Solid‘s vocal performance brings that aspect to “Leaving the City” as well, even if the sonic focus for Siena Root is more about classic prog and blues rock of hooky inclusions like the organ-and-guitar grooving opener “Coincidence and Fate” and the gently funky “Fighting Gravity,” or even the touch of folkish jazz in “Winter Solstice,” though the sitar does return on side B’s “Madukhauns” ahead of the organ/vocal showcase closer “Keeper of the Flame,” which calls back to the earlier “Dalecarlia Stroll” with a melancholy Deep Purple could never quite master and a swinging payoff that serves as just one final way in which Siena Root once more demonstrate they are pure class in terms of execution.

Siena Root on Facebook

Atomic Fire Records website


Los Mundos, Eco del Universo

los mundos eco del universo

The latest and (again) maybe-eighth full-length to arrive within the last 10 years from Monterrey, Mexico’s Los Mundos, Eco del Universo is an immersive dreamboat of mellow psychedelia, with just enough rock to not be pure drift on a song like “Hanna,” but still an element of shoegaze to bring the cool kids on board. Effects gracefully channel-swap alongside languid vocals (in Spanish, duh) with a melodicism that feels casual but is not unconsidered either in that song or the later “Rocas,” which meets Western-tinged fuzz with a combination of voices from bassist/keyboardist Luis Ángel Martínez, guitarist/synthesist/sitarist Alejandro Elizondo and/or drummer Ricardo Antúnez as the band is completed by guitarist/keyboardist/sitarist Raúl González. Yes, they have two sitarists; they need both, as well as all the keyboards, and the modular synth, and the rest of it. All of it. Because no matter what arrangement elements are put to use in the material, the songs on Eco del Universo just seem to absorb it all into one fluid approach, and if by the time the hum-drone and maybe-gong in the first minute of opener “Las Venas del Cielo” unfolds into the gently moody and gorgeous ’60s-psych pop that follows you don’t agree, go back and try again. Space temples, music engines in the quirky pop bounce of “Gente del Espacio,” the shape of air defined amid semi-krautrock experimentalism in “La Forma del Aire”; esta es la música para los lugares más allá. Vamos todos.

Los Mundos on Facebook

The Acid Test Recordings store


Minnesota Pete Campbell, Me, Myself & I

Minnesota Pete Campbell Me Myself and I

Well, you see, sometimes there’s a global pandemic and even the most thoroughly-banded of artists starts thinking about a solo record. Not to make light of either the plague or the decision or the result experience from “Minnesota” Pete Campbell (drummer of Pentagram, Place of Skulls, In~Graved, VulgarriGygax, Sixty Watt Shaman for a hot minute, guitarist of The Mighty Nimbus, etc.), but he kind of left himself open to it with putting “Lockdown Blues” and the generally personal nature of the songs on, Me, Myself and I, his first solo album in a career of more than two decades. The nine-song/46-minute riffy splurge is filled with love songs seemingly directed at family in pieces like “Lightbringer,” “You’re My Angel,” the eight-minute “Swimming in Layla’s Hair,” the two-minute “Uryah vs. Elmo,” so humanity and humility are part of the general vibe along with the semi-Southern grooves, easy-rolling heavy blues swing, acoustic/electric blend in the four-minute purposeful sans-singing meander of “Midnight Dreamin’,” and so on. Five of the nine inclusions feature Campbell on vocals, and are mixed for atmosphere in such a way as to make me believe he doesn’t think much of himself as a singer — there’s some yarl, but he’s better than he gives himself credit for on both the more uptempo and brash “Starlight” and the mellow-Dimebag-style “Whispers of Autumn,” which closes — but there’s a feeling-it-out sensibility to the tracks that only makes the gratitude being expressed (either lyrically or not) come through as more sincere. Heck man, do another.

Minnesota Pete Campbell on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz website


North Sea Noise Collective, Roudons

North Sea Noise Collective Roudons

Based in the Netherlands, North Sea Noise Collective — sometimes also written as Northsea Noise Collective — includes vocals for the first time amid the experimental ambient drones of the four pieces on the self-released Roudons, which are reinterpretations of Frisian rockers Reboelje, weirdo-everythingist Arnold de Boer and doom legends Saint Vitus. The latter, a take on the signature piece “Born Too Late” re-titled “Dit Doarp” (‘this village’ in English), is loosely recognizable in its progression, but North Sea Noise Collective deep-dives into the elasticity of music, stretching limits of where a song begins and ends conceptually. Modular synth hums, ebbs and flows throughout “Wat moatte wy dwaan as wy gjin jild hawwe,” which follows opener “Skepper fan de skepper” and immerses further in open spaces crafted through minimalist sonic architecture, the vocals chanting like paeans to the songs themselves. It should probably go without saying that Roudons isn’t going to resonate with all listeners in the same way, but universal accessibility is pretty clearly low on the album’s priority list, and for as dug-in as Roudons is, that’s right where it should be.

North Sea Noise Collective on Facebook

North Sea Noise Collective on Bandcamp


Sins of Magnus, Secrets of the Cosmos

Sins of Magnus Secrets of the Cosmos

Philly merchants Sins of Magnus offer their fourth album in the 12 songs/48 minutes of Secrets of the Cosmos, and while said secrets may or may not actually be included in the record’s not-insignificant span, I’ll say that I’ve yet to find the level of volume that’s too loud for the record to take. And maybe that’s the big secret after all. In any case, the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Eric Early, guitarist/vocalist Rich Sutcliffe and drummer Sean Young tap classic heavy rock vibes and aim them on a straight-line road to riffy push. There’s room for some atmosphere and guest vocal spots on the punkier closing pair “Mother Knows Best” and “Is Anybody There?” but the grooves up front are more laid back and chunkier-style, where “Not as Advertised,” “Workhorse,” “Let’s Play a Game” and “No Sanctuary” likewise get punkier, contrasting that metal stretch in “Stoking the Flames” earlier on In any case, they’re more unpretentious than they are anything else, and that suits just fine since there’s more than enough ‘changing it up’ happening around the core heavy riffs and mean-muggin’ vibes. It’s not the most elaborate production ever put to tape, but the punker back half of the record is more effective for that, and they get their point across anyhow.

Sins of Magnus on Instagram

Sins of Magnus on Bandcamp


Nine Altars, The Eternal Penance

Nine Altars The Eternal Penance

Steeped in the arcane traditions of classic doom metal, Nine Altars emerge from the UK with their three-song/33-minute debut full-length, The Eternal Penance, leading with the title-track’s 13-minute metal-of-eld rollout as drummer/vocalist Kat Gillham (also Thronehammer, Lucifer’s Chalice, Enshroudment, etc.), guitarists Charlie Wesley (also also Enshroudment, Lucifer’s Chalice) and Nicolete Burbach and bassist Jamie Thomas roll with distinction into “The Fragility of Existence” (11:58), which starts reasonably slow and then makes that seem fast by comparison before picking up the pace again in the final third ahead of the more trad-NWOBHM idolatry of “Salvation Lost” (8:27). Any way they go, they’re speaking to metal born no later than 1984, and somehow for a band on their first record with two songs north of 11 minutes, they don’t come across as overly indulgent, instead borrowing what elements they want from what came before them and applying them to their longform works with fluidity of purpose and confident melodicism, Gillham‘s vocal command vital to the execution despite largely following the guitar, which of course is also straight out of the classic metal playbook. Horns, fists, whatever. Raise ’em high in the name of howling all-doom.

Nine Altars on Facebook

Good Mourning Records website

Journey’s End Records website


The Freqs, Poachers

The Freqs Poachers

Fuzzblasting their way out of Salem, Massachusetts, with an initial public offering of six cuts that one might legitimately call “high octane” and not feel like a complete tool, The Freqs are a relatively new presence in the Boston/adjacent heavy underground, but they keep kicking ass like this and someone’s gonna notice. Hell, I’m sure someone has. They’re in and out in 27 minutes, so Poachers is an EP, but if it was a debut album, it’d be one of the best I’ve heard in this busy first half of 2023. Fine. So it goes on a different list. The get-off-your-ass-and-move effect of “Powetrippin'” remains the same, and even in the quiet outset of the subsequent “Asphalt Rivers,” it’s plain the breakout is coming, which, satisfyingly, it does. “Sludge Rats” decelerates some, certainly compared to opener “Poacher Gets the Tusk,” but is proportionately huge-sounding in making that tradeoff, especially near the end, and “Chase Fire, Caught Smoke” rips itself open ahead of the more aggressive punches thrown in the finale “Witch,” all swagger and impact and frenetic energy as it is. Fucking a. They end noisy and crowd-chanting, leaving one wanting both a first-LP and to see this band live, which as far as debut EPs go is most likely mission accomplished. It’s a burner. Don’t skip out on it because they didn’t name the band something more generic-stoner.

The Freqs on Facebook

The Freqs on Bandcamp


Lord Mountain, The Oath

Lord Mountain The Oath

Doomer nod, proto-metallic duggery and post-NWOBHM flourish come together with heavy rock tonality and groove throughout Lord Mountain‘s bullshit-free recorded-in-2020/2021 debut album, issued through King Volume as the follow-up to a likewise-righteous-but-there-was-less-of-it 2016 self-titled EP (review here) and other odds and ends. Like a West Coast Magic Circle, they’ve got their pagan altars built and their generals out witchfinding, but the production is bright in Pat Moore‘s snare cutting through the guitars of Jesse Swanson (also vocals and primary songwriting) and Sean Serrano, and Andy Chism‘s bass, working against trad-metal cliché, is very much in the mix figuratively, literally, and thankfully. The chugs and winding of “The Last Crossing” flow smoothly into the mourning solo in the song’s second half, and the doom they proffer in “Serpent Temple” and the ultra-Dio Sabbath concluding title-track just might make you a believer if you weren’t one. It’s a record you probably didn’t know you were waiting for, and all the more so when you realize “The Oath” is “Four Horsemen”/”Mechanix” played slower. Awesome.

Lord Mountain on Facebook

King Volume Records store

Kozmik Artifactz store


Black Air, Impending Bloom

Black Air Impending Bloom

Opener “The Air at Night Smells Different” digs into HEX-era Earth‘s melancholic Americana instrumentalism and threat-underscored grayscale, but “Fog Works,” which follows, turns that around as guitarist Florian Karg moves to keys and dares to add both progressivism and melody to coincide with that existential downtrodding. Fellow guitarist Philipp Seiler, standup-bassist Stephan Leeb and drummer Marian Waibl complete the four-piece, and Impending Bloom is their first long-player as Black Air. They ultimately keep that post-Earth spirit in the seven-minute title-track, but sneak in a more active stretch after four minutes in, not so much paying off a build — that’s still to come in “A New-Found Calm” — = as reminding there’s life in the wide spaces being conjured. The penultimate “The Language of Rocks and Roots” emphasizes soul in the guitar’s swelling and receding volume, while closer “Array of Lights,” even in its heaviest part, seems to rest more comfortably on its bassline. In establishing a style, the Vienna-based outfit come through as familiar at least on a superficial listen, but there’s budding individuality in these songs, and so their debut might just be a herald of blossoming to come.

Black Air on Instagram

Black Air on Bandcamp


Bong Coffin, The End Beyond Doubt

Bong Coffin The End Beyond Doubt

Oh yeah, you over it? You tired of the bongslaught of six or seven dozen megasludge bands out there with ‘bong’ in their name trying to outdo each other in cannabinoid content on Bandcamp every week? Fine. I don’t care. You go be too cool. I’ll pop on “Ganjalf” and follow the smoke to oh wait what was I saying again? Fuck it. With some Dune worked in for good measure, Adelaide, Australia’s Bong Coffin build a sludge for the blacklands on “Worthy of Mordor” and shy away not a bit from the more caustic end their genre to slash through their largesse of riff like the raw blade of an uruk-hai shredding some unsuspecting villager who doesn’t even realize the evil overtaking the land. They move a bit on “Messiah” and “Shaitan” and threaten a similar shove in “Nightmare,” but it’s the gonna-read-Lovecraft-when-done-with-Tolkien screams and crow-call rasp of “Träskkungen” that gets the prize on Bong Coffin‘s debut for me, so radly wretched and sunless as it is. Extreme stoner? Caustic sludge? The doom of mellows harshed? You call it whatever fucking genre you want — or better, don’t, with your too-cool ass — and I’ll march to the obsidian temple (that riff is about my pace these days) to break my skull open and bleed out the remnants of my brain on that ancient stone.

Bong Coffin on Facebook

Bong Coffin on Bandcamp


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Vinnum Sabbathi Announce UK & European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Little bit of housekeeping here. One has been waiting not all that patiently for Mexico City heavy psych crunchers Vinnum Sabbathi — who’ll go in the esteemed company of Terror Cósmico — to announce the tour that will draw a line between their appearances at Astral Festival in Bristol, UK, Desertfest London 2023 and Sonic Whip 2023 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. This is it as it stands now.

There are some TBA dates as you can see, and if you can help out, maybe in Germany or Austria, Belgium, etc., please take this as your personal invitation to do so, but in addition to the festival lineups — all three of which are beautiful, each in their own special way — the band(s) will meet up with Son of Boar and others in the UK and Little Lucid Moments in Belgium, with others to be announced. It’s a solid run, and should provide Vinnum Sabbathi ample ground to make rumble as they go. As I expect they did last time they were on European shores, they’re gonna make a lot of friends on this tour.

Dates follow as posted on social media:

Vinnum Sabbathi euro tour

Vinnum Sabbathi – EUROPEAN TOUR 2023

After 6 years from that memorable first landing, we’re finally coming back to the old continent, this time sharing the road with our brothers Terror Cósmico and playing 3 superb festivals: Astral Festival in our beloved Bristol, the legendary Desertfest London & Sonic Whip!

We can’t wait to see old friends and meet a lot of new ones on this tour, we really hope to see you in a nearby show, please help us spread the word!

Endless thanks to everyone involved on the tour so far and of course to everyone who has supported the band all these years, this is only possible because of you.

Poster artwork by @yasinviolet

Presented by Stolen Body Records LSDR Records Doomed and Stoned Latinoamérical Tamayo Amp

(We’ll share any show updates as soon as possible)

INFO: Astral Festival VIII 2023
TICKETS: https://www.astralfestival.com/tickets

Wharf Chambers (INFO TBA)



INFO: Desertfest London 2023
TICKETS: https://www.desertfest.co.uk/

INFO: Sonic Whip 2023
TICKETS: https://www.doornroosje.nl/festival/sonic-whip/

Café Molotov (INFO TBA)

INFO: Vinnum Sabbathi (MX) + Terror Cósmico (MX) + Little Lucid Moments @ La Zone

10 MAY – TBA

Bar 227 (INFO TBA)

12 MAY – TBA




Vinnum Sabbathi, Live at Channel 666 (2022)

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Roman Tamayo of Vinnum Sabbathi, LSDR Records & Doomed and Stoned Latinoamerica

Posted in Questionnaire on February 16th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Roman Tamayo of Vinnum Sabbathi & LSDR Records

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended 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: Roman Tamayo of Vinnum Sabbathi, LSDR Records & Doomed and Stoned Latinoamerica

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

Hola, my name is Roman Tamayo from Mexico.

I feel so honored to be here, I´m a big fan of The Obelisk, thanks JJ for all your support to the scene.

Well, I play synth and samples in the band Vinnum Sabbathi, I run the record label LSDR Records and I’m the main editor of Doomed and Stoned Latinoamerica (website, radio show, etc.).

My brother Juan (Vinnum Sabbathi & Fumata) and I grew up in the outskirts of Mexico, a place commonly charged with violence, poverty and lack of services. In this semi-urban area, most people listen rancheras (kind of tex-mex music), reggaeton and just a few classic rock.

Well, 15 years ago Stoner Rock was a very underground genre around here, even the people who listen rock didn´t have any clue about Kyuss, Nebula, or Monster Magnet. I discovered these sounds thanks to the journalist Iván Nieblas (Stoner Rock Mexico).
One day I bought a magazine and I saw names such as Los Natas, Kyuss, and Nebula. It took me some time with the prehistoric internet I had, but I found some songs from these bands and my world changed, I felt a strong connection, I knew that all these bands were special and I finally found part of my identity.

Describe your first musical memory.

Music was not a big deal at home, usually my parents and uncles listened to traditional racheras like Los Tigres del Norte (they are amazing btw). I got involved in rock when my mom bought me a rock compilation CD and I discovered Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.

When I studied High School, my friends started to show me records and I discovered bands like Pantera, The Doors, Slayer and Judas Priest. Suddenly I started to buy more magazines and found tons of amazing bands. I became a music junkie, I quickly jumped from The Rolling Stones to NIN.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Ohhh man, there is a lot, especially with Vinnum Sabbathi.

Touring over Europe for the very first time was a beautiful experience: we played at Sonic Blast in Portugal and met some of our heroes there. I remember that when we played, Philip from Colour Haze was there, I was in shock. Also, that year we went to Freak Valley which was the paradise.
Probably another special memory is when we received our first release on vinyl, for a small band from Mexico that was a big deal.
Finally, thanks to Doomed and Stoned I’ve had the chance to interview a lot of my favorite bands, that´s a blessing. I feel so honored and happy to live in this golden era of heavy rock.

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

Well, as I said we have grown up in a violent area, walking during the night in the hood is a challenge, you don´t know if you will be back home safe. That kind of stuff makes you strong somehow.
As a band probably the major challenge has been when we started to live in different cities and realized that we don´t have the same chances to play and tour as in the past. I think at this point the best is to enjoy the shows and have fun with my friends.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Art helps to heal and transform lives, if your work doesn´t have an effect on the people who follows you in a positive way, you are doing something wrong in my opinion.
I’m proud that with Vinnum Sabbathi we try to share, in a way, science topics to people through the music. I like stoner-doom clichés, but we need just one Electric Wizard.

How do you define success?

Success is not about money or fame; success is to know that your work can transform lives in a positive way. Is to realize that we are humans and if we support each other, we can create a community and be part of a positive chance to achieve a peaceful life.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
People killed by cartels and kidnappings.

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

I love horror movies, so I would love to create a soundtrack for a fictional horror movie.

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

Personally, art is the one of the purest things humans can create.

In this economical system, you can buy-sell anything, even paintings, music, poems, etc.

But, the way that each piece of art makes you feel, that does not have a price. Art is the way to express our feelings, beliefs and thoughts, if your work does not have these elements, it’s a completely different thing.

And as I said previously, I think art heals and transforms lives.

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

I work in a NGO called Habitat for Humanity, that´s my real job.

We are focused to build homes and sustainable projects in indigenous communities, basically we work with disadvantaged families.

I would love to see my country with more equality, more emphatic.

I would love to see more and more people working together for a better world, people should stop being selfish and care more for others.



Vinnum Sabbathi, Live at Channel 666 (2022)

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