Quarterly Review: Geezer, Spaceslug, Expo Seventy, Boss Keloid, Bong-Ra, Zebu, Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, LáGoon, Maha Sohona, The Bad Sugar Rush

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

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Oh my breaking heart as we move into day seven of the Summer 2021 Quarterly Review and I am reminded that the wages of hubris are feeling like a dumbass later. I was loading up my laptop on Saturday — so pleased with how ahead-of-the-game I was able to stay all last week — when the thing decided it was gonna give itself some time off one way or the other.

I dropped it for repair about 20 minutes before the guy I’ve come to trust was closing shop. He said he’d be in touch on Monday. Needless to say, I’m on my backup cheapie Chromebook, reviewing off Bandcamp streams, eagerly awaiting that call which I can only hope has come in by the time this is posted. I’ll keep you in the loop, of course, but putting together the reviews for yesterday? That was not pretty.

I expressly thank The Patient Mrs., through whom all things are possible.

Onward.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Geezer, Solstice

Geezer Solstice

Geezer‘s ambition could hardly be clearer in their 17-minute “Solstice” jam. It was the Solstice — Winter 2020, to be specific — and the Kingston, New York, trio jammed. Guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington (who doesn’t sing on the track) added some dreamy synth after the fact, and the affect is all the more hypnotic for it. Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota are no strangers to exploratory fare, as they showed on 2020’s righteous Groovy (review here), and as a Bandcamp Friday-era stopgap offering, “Solstice” brings a sampling of who they are in the rehearsal space, willing to be heavy, willing to not, ready to go where the music leads them. If Geezer wanted to do a whole full-length like this, I wouldn’t fight them, so you most definitely will not find me arguing against a digital single either. With jams this tasty, you take what you can get.

Geezer on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Spaceslug, The Event Horizon

spaceslug the event horizon

Issued less as a stopgap, which a digital-only single might normally be, than as a response to the band having lost gear in a practice space flood, the 8:52 single-song outing The Event Horizon was recorded at the same time as Spaceslug‘s late 2020 EP The Leftovers (review here) and in a way acts to bridge the melancholy beyond-genre push of that release with the more weighted, spacious roll that has typified the Polish outfit’s work to-date — their latest full-length was 2019’s Reign of the Orion (review here), and they recently finished a new one. So perhaps “The Event Horizon,” with its hypnotically languid rhythm and concluding drift, is a stopgap after all, but between helping the band recoup their losses and thinking of what might be coming next, it’s an exciting if not-unalloyed listening experience, and the three-piece move deeper into a signature sound even as they continue to bring the definition of what that means to new places.

Spaceslug on Thee Facebooks

Spaceslug on Bandcamp

 

Expo Seventy, Evolution

Expo Seventy Evolution

Creating sometimes-scorching, droning psychedelic soundtracks to all your favorite classic sci-fi films that never existed, Kansas City’s Expo Seventy offer a call to worship for freaks and converted heads on their new album, Evolution. Still headed by guitarist James Wright as on late-2016’s America Here and Now Sessions (review here), the band offer new glories celestial and terrestrial instrumental chemistry throughout the six tracks (seven on the CD) of Evolution, lumbering away on “Echoes of Ether” only after floating in brass-section antigrav conditions on “The Slow Death of Tomorrow.” Can you hang? You’ll know one way or the other as the culminating duo “Second Vision, First Sight” and “First Vision, Second Sight” are done with you, having altered dimensions so thoroughly that the ethereal will either come to feel like home or you will simply have melted. In any case, lash yourself to it. Own that shit.

Expo Seventy on Facebook

Essence Music on Bandcamp

 

Boss Keloid, Family the Smiling Thrush

boss kelod family the smiling thrush

Peak-era Faith No More reborn in progressive heavy fuzz? What stoner rock might’ve been if it went to college instead of spending all that time hanging around talking about old cars? I don’t know where UK four-piece Boss Keloid ultimately stand on their admirable fifth LP, Family the Smiling Thrush — the follow-up to 2018’s also-well-received Melted on the Inch (review here) — but they most certainly stand on their own. Across seven tracks, the band careen, crash, lumber, rush and ponder — lyrics no less worth a close read than any other component — and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Orang of Noyn” on, they make it abundantly clear that their style’s unpredictability is an asset, and that just because you might not know where they’re going next doesn’t mean they don’t. Melodic, complex and cerebral, there’s still a human presence here, a sense of a plan unfolding, that makes the album seem all the more masterful.

Boss Keloid on Facebook

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Bong-Ra, Antediluvian

BONG-RA Antediluvian

Though it’s ultimately less electric-kool-aid than endless-churning-abyss-with-psychdelic-saxophone-screaming-up-at-you-like-free-jazz-trapped-in-the-downward-tonal-spiral, Bong-Ra‘s four-tracker Antediluvian is duly experimentalist in being born out of the mind of Jason Köhnen, whose work on this project not only extends more than 20 years, but who has been a part of landmark Dutch outfits like Celestial Season, The Kilmanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, among scores of others. The procession on this full-length, originally released in 2018 through Svart Lava, is wild times indeed, but immersive despite feeling at times like a litmus for how much you can take, with Köhnen‘s bass/keys/etc. and Balazs Pandi‘s drums meeting with Colin Webster‘s saxophone and Chloe Herrington‘s bassoon, willfully plodding through long-ish form improv-seeming movements of atmospheric heft creation.

Jason Köhnen website

Tartarus Records store

 

Zebu, Reek of the Parvenu

zebu reek of the parvenu

A coherent and forceful debut full-length, Reek of the Parvenu quickly shows the metallic undercurrent from Athens-based four-piece Zebu on opener “The Setting Dust,” and pushes from there in groove metal fashion, taking some impulses from heavy rock but holding largely to a central aggressive stance and tension in the rhythm that is a backdrop even as the later “Nature of Failure” breaks from its chugging shove for a quieter stretch. That is to say, the next punch is always coming, and Zebu‘s blows are effectively delivered — looking at you, “Burden” — though some of the slower, sludgier cuts like “Our Shame” or the doomier finale “The City” bring a welcome atmosphere to go with the coinciding burl. I’m not sure if “People Under the Stairs” wants to kick my ass or crack a beer, but the songwriting is air tight and the thrashy threat only contributes to the immediacy of the release on the whole. They’re not screwing around.

Zebu on Facebook

Zebu on Bandcamp

 

Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Polaris

Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel Polaris

It’s been 11 years since France’s Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel debuted with Soundtrack From the Motion Picture (review here), an engaging, kind of silly play on stoner rock and B-movie tropes. Beneath that, however, it was also a concept album, and the band — who now seem to prefer LDDSM for a moniker — still work from that foundation on their fourth full-length, Polaris. The difference scope and sonic maturity. Rife with vocal harmonies and progressive flourish, the 10-track answer to 2016’s Human Collapse (review here) smoothly shifts between the patient and the urgent, the intimate and the grand — and that’s in the first two minutes of “Blue Giant” alone — finding their way into a proggy post-heavy rock that’s too clearheaded to be psychedelic, but that balances the crunch of “Horizon” with a sense of the otherworldly just the same.

Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

 

LáGoon, Skullactic Visions

LáGoon skullactic visions

With their fourth long-player, guitarist/vocalist Anthony Gaglia and drummer Brady Maurer of Portland, Oregon’s LáGoon welcome bassist Kenny Combs to the fold and dive as a trio — their first three-piece outing was last year’s Father of Death EP — headfirst into murky riffing and heady heavy rock, made all the more spacious through cavern echo and the garage doom vocals Gaglia brings on the title-track, as well as the synth that surfaces on the subsequent interlude “Buried” and elsewhere throughout. The earlier “Beyond the Trees” is particularly bleak and otherworldly, but I won’t take away from the further-down procession of “Hill Bomb” and “The Slow Down” into “Final Ride,” the last of which closes out with scummer doom that’s familiar but distinct enough to be their own. There are moments on Skullactic Visions where, for as much as they could sound like Electric Wizard given the ingredients, I’m all the gladder they don’t.

LaGoon on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Maha Sohona, Endless Searcher

Maha Sohona endless searcher

Maha Sohona‘s second album comes some seven years after their self-titled debut, but who cares about time when you’ve got your headphones on and you’re surrounded by the richness of tone on offer throughout Endless Searcher‘s five rolling tracks? Heavy and laid back, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Johan Bernhardtson, bassist Thomas Hedlund and drummer David Lundsten finding some kinship with Polish three-piece Spaceslug in their post-Sungrazer blend of weight and flow, a jam like “Luftslot” nodding and conjuring depth even as it soars. Can’t argue with the quicker push of “A Black Star” or the purposefully straightforward “Scavengers” (where the title-line is delivered) but some of the mellow moments in opener “Leaves” and especially the building instrumental finisher “Orbit X” are even more satisfying for how effectively they move you place to place almost without your realizing it. I’ve got nothing for you if you can’t dig this vibe.

Maha Sohona on Facebook

Made of Stone Recordings on Bandcamp

 

The Bad Sugar Rush, Liar/Push Me

The Bad Sugar Rush Liar Push Me

Keen observers will recognize The Bad Sugar Rush vocalist René Hofmann from his work with Wight, but the work here alongside guitarist Josko Joke-Tovic, bassist Minyeong Fischer and drummer Peter Zettl is distinct from that other unit here, even as the Humble Pie-esque “Push Me” and semi-sleeze “Liar” both have some shade of funk to their procession. Both cuts circa four minutes makes for a suitable debut 7″ with respected purveyor H42 Records doing the honors, and the results are an encouragingly catchy display of what a first full-length might accomplish when and however such a thing emerges. There’s classic heavy rock as the foundation, but more than outright ’70s worship — though some of that too — it’s the organic feel of the songs that leaves an impression on the listener, though the background singers on “Push Me” don’t hurt in that regard, certainly. An auspicious and intriguind first showing.

The Bad Sugar Rush on Facebook

H42 Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Spelljammer, The Black Heart Death Cult, Shogun, Nadja, Shroud of Vulture, Towards Atlantis Lights, ASTRAL CONstruct, TarLung, Wizzerd & Merlin, Seum

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

We proceed onward, into this ever-growing swath of typos, lineup corrections made after posting, and riffs — more riffs! — that is the Quarterly Review. Today is Day Four and I’m feeling good. Not to say there isn’t some manner of exhaustion, but the music has been killer — today is particularly awesome — and that makes life much, much, much better as I’ve already said. I hope you’ve found one or two or 10 records so far that you’ve really dug. I know I’ve added a few to my best of 2021 list, including stuff right here. So yeah, we roll on.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip

spelljammer abyssal trip

To envision an expanse, and to crush it. Stockholm three-piece Spelljammer return five years after Ancient of Days (review here), with an all-the-more-massive second long-player through RidingEasy, turning their front-cover astronaut around to face the audience head on and offering 43 minutes/six tracks of encompassing largesse, topping 10 minutes in the title-track and “Silent Rift,” both on side B with the interlude “Peregrine” between them, after the three side A rollers, “Bellwether,” “Lake” and “Among the Holy” have tripped out outward and downward into an atmospheric plunge that is a joy to take feeling specifically geared as an invite to the converted. We are here, come worship with us. Also get crushed. Spelljammer records may not happen all the time, but you won’t be through “Bellwether” before you’re saying it was worth the wait.

Spelljammer on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras

The Black Heart Death Cult Sonic Mantras

A deceptively graceful second LP from Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras pulls together an eight-song/45-minute run that unfolds bookended by “Goodbye Gatwick Blues” (8:59) and “Sonic Dhoom” (9:47) and in between ebbs and flows across shorter pieces that maximize their flow in whether shoegazing, heavygazing, blissing out, or whatever we’re calling it this week on “The Sun Inside” and “One Way Through,” or finding their way to a particularly deadened meadow on “Trees,” or tripping the light hypnotic on “Dark Waves” just ahead of the closer. “Cold Fields” churns urgently in its 2:28 but remains spacious, and everywhere The Black Heart Death Cult go, they remain liquefied in their sound, like a seemingly amorphous thing that nonetheless manages to hold its shape despite outside conditions. Whatever form they take, then, they are themselves, and Sonic Mantras emphasizes how yet-underappreciated they are in emerging from the ever-busy Aussie underground.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

 

Shogun, Tetra

Shogun Tetra

Tetra is the third long-player from Milwaukee’s Shogun, and in addition to the 10-minute “Delta,” which marries blues gargle with YOB slow-gallop before jamming out across its 10-minute span, it brings straight-shooter fuzz rockers like “Gravitas,” the someone-in-this-band-listened-to-Megadeth-in-the-’90s-and-that’s-okay beginnings of “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary” and likewise crunch of “Axiom” later, but also the quiet classic progressive rock of “Gone Forever,” and the more patient coming together of psychedelia and harder-hitting movement on closer “Maximum Ray.” Somewhat undercut by a not-raw-but-not-bursting-with-life production, pieces like “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary,” which gives over to a sweeter stretch of guitar in its second movement, and “Vertex/Universal Pain Center,” which in its back end brings around that YOB influence again and puts it to good use, are outwardly complex enough to put the lie to the evenhandedness of the recording. There’s more going on in Tetra than it first seems, and the more you listen, the more you find.

Shogun on Facebook

Shogun on Bandcamp

 

Nadja, Luminous Rot

Nadja Luminous Rot

Keeping up with Nadja has proven nigh on impossible over the better part of the last two decades, as the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto duo have issued over 25 albums in 19 years, plus splits and live offerings and digital singles and oh my goodness I do believe I have the vapors that’s a lot of Nadja. For those of us who flit in and out like the dilletantes we ultimately are, Luminous Rot‘s aligning Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff with Southern Lord makes it an easy landmark, but really most of what the six-cut/48-minute long-player does is offer a reminder of the vital experimentalism the lazy are missing in the first place. The consuming, swelling drone of “Cuts on Your Hands,” blown-out sub-industrialism of “Starres,” hook of the title-track and careful-what-you-wish-for anchor riff of “Fruiting Bodies” — these and the noisily churning closer “Dark Inclusions” are a fervent argument in Nadja‘s favor as being more than a sometimes-check-in kind of band, and for immediately digging into the 43-minute single-song album Seemannsgarn, which they released earlier this year. So much space and nothing to lose.

Nadja on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Shroud of Vulture, Upon a Throne of Jackals

shroud of vulture upon a throne of jackals

Welcome to punishment as a primary consideration. Indianapolis death-doom four-piece hold back the truly crawling fare until “Perverted Reflection,” which is track three of the total seven on their debut full-length, Upon a Throne of Jackals, but by then the extremity has already shown its unrepentant face across the buried-alive “Final Spasms of the Drowned” and the oldschool death metal of “The Altar.” Centerpiece “Invert Every Throne” calls to mind Conan in its nod, but Shroud of Vulture are more about rawness than sheer largesse in tone, and their prone-to-blasting style gives them an edge there and in “Halo of Tarnished Light,” which follows. The closing pair of “Concealing Rabid Laughter” and “Stone Coffin of Existence” both top seven minutes and offset grueling tension with grueling release, but it’s the stench of decay that so much defines Upon a Throne of Jackals, as though somebody rebuilt Sunlight Studio brick for brick in Hoosier Country. Compelling and filthy in kind.

Shroud of Vulture on Facebook

Wise Blood Records website

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Towards Atlantis Lights, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Towards Atlantis Lights When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Ultra-grueling, dramatic death-doom tragedies permeate the second full-length, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun, from UK-based four-piece Towards Atlantis Lights, with vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou and guitarist Ivan Zara at the heart of the compositions while bassist Riccardo Veronese and drummer Ivano Olivieri assure the impact that coincides with the cavernous procession matches in scope. The follow-up to 2018’s Dust of Aeons (review here), this six-track collection fosters classicism and modern apocalyptic vibes alike, and whether raging or morose, its dirge atmosphere remains firm and uncompromised. Heavy lumber for heavy hearts. The kind of doom that doesn’t look up. That doesn’t mean it’s not massive in scope — it is, even more than the first record — just that nearly everything it sees is downward. If there’s hope, it is a vague thing, lost to periphery. So be it.

Towards Atlantis Lights on Facebook

Kostas Panagiotou on Bandcamp

 

ASTRAL CONstruct, Tales of Cosmic Journeys

ASTRAL CONstruct Tales of Cosmic Journeys

It has been said on multiple occasions that “space is the place.” The curiously-capitalized Colorado outfit ASTRAL CONstruct would seem to live by this ethic on their debut album, Tales of Cosmic Journeys, unfurling as they do eight flowing progressions of instrumental slow-CGI-of-the-planets pieces that are more plotted in their course than jams, but feel built from jams just the same. Raw in its production and mix, and mastered by Kent Stump of Wo Fat, there’s enough atmosphere to let the lead guitar breathe, certainly, and to sustain life in general even on “Jettisoned Adrift in the Space Debris,” and the image evoked by “Hand Against the Solar Winds” feels particularly inspired given that song’s languid roll. The record starts and ends in cryogenic sleep, and if upon waking we’re transported to another place and another time, who knows what wonders we might see along the way. ASTRAL CONstruct‘s exploration would seem to be just beginning here, but their “Cosmos Perspective” is engaging just the same.

ASTRAL CONstruct on Instagram

ASTRAL CONstruct on Bandcamp

 

TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vienna-based sludgedrivers TarLung were last heard from with 2017’s Beyond the Black Pyramid (discussed here), and Architect continues the progression laid out there in melding vocal extremity and heavy-but-not-too-heavy-to-move riffing. It might seem like a fine line to draw, and it is, and that only makes songs like “Widow’s Bane” and “Horses of Plague” all the more nuanced as their deathly growls and severe atmospheres mesh with what in another context might just be stoner rock groove. Carcass circa the criminally undervalued Swansong, Six Feet Under. TarLung manage to find a place in stoner sludge that isn’t just Bongzilla worship, or Bongripper worship, or Bong worship. I’m not sure it’s worship at all, frankly, and I like that about it as the closing title-track slow-moshes my brain into goo.

TarLung on Facebook

TarLung on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd & Merlin, Turned to Stone Chapter III

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

Somewhere in the great mystical expanse between Kalispell, Montana, and Kansas City, Missouri, two practicioners of the riffly dark arts meet on a field of battle. Wizzerd come packing the 19-minute acoustic-into-heavy-prog-into-sitar-laced-jam-out “We Are,” as if to encompass that declaration in all its scope, while Merlin answer back with the organ-led “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” (21:51), all chug and lumber until it’s time for weirdo progressive fusion reggae and an ensuing Purple-tinged psych expansion. Who wins? I don’t know. Ripple Music in releasing it in the first place, I guess. Continuing the label’s influential split series(es), Turned to Stone Chapter III pushes well over the top in the purposes of both acts involved, and in that, it’s maybe less of a battle than two purveyors joining forces to weave some kind of Meteo down on the heads of all who might take them on. If you’ve think you’ve got the gift, they seem only too ready to test that out.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Merlin on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Seum, Winterized

Seum Winterized

“Life Grinder” begins with a sample: “I don’t know if you need all that bass,” and the answer, “Oh, you need all that bass.” That’s already after “Sea Sick Six” has revealed the Montreal-based trio’s sans-guitar extremist sludge roll, and the three-piece seem only too happy to keep up the theme. Vocals are harsh, biting, grating, purposeful in their fuckall, and the whole 28-minute affair of Winterized is cathartic aural violence, except perhaps the interllude “666,” which is a quiet moment between “Broken Bones” and “Black Snail Volcano,” which finally seems to just explode in its outright aggression, nod notwithstanding. A slowed down Ramones cover — reinventing “Pet Sematary” as “Red Sematary” — has a layer of spoken chanting vocals layered in and closes out, but the skin has been peeled so far back by then and Seum have doused so much salt onto the wounds that even Bongzilla might cringe. The low-end-only approach only makes it more punishing and more punk rock at the same time. Fucking mean.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp

 

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Wizzerd and Merlin Unite for Turned to Stone Chapter 3 Split LP

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

The Merlin track sampled below is a righteous indictment of the tropes of stoner doom, ultimately making its way into the chorus of “I see why/Stoner doom must die.” It’s a good hook, and I don’t know about you, but I want to hear where the rest of that goes over the ensuing 15 minutes, let alone what Wizzerd might try to do to combat it. Indeed, the third installment of Ripple‘s Turned to Stone split series is tagged as Wizzerd vs. Merlin, so as the two mystical-minded riffers come together to release the LP this July, one can only imagine the horrors and wonders that await. It’ll be fun. You like fun, right? I’ve never tried it myself, but I hear good things.

And I guess by that I mean I hear this Merlin snippet. Listen to the lyrics.

Whatever. Here’s the PR wire info you’re here for anyway:

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

RIPPLE MUSIC: ‘Turned To Stone Chapter III’ details and first track unveiled!

Ripple Music is proud to unveil details for the third chapter of their ‘Turned To Stone’ split series, with yet another riffalicious collaboration! To meet expectations that followed an intense meme war on social media, US heavy psych and doom units WIZZERD and MERLIN will issue a 40-minute split LP entitled ‘Turned To Stone Chapter III: Wizzerd vs Merlin’ this July 16th on Ripple Music. Stream a snippet of Merlin’s mind-bending song right now!

In Chapter III of Ripple Music’s ambitious ‘Turned to Stone’ series, a mythic musical battle unfolds between two wielders of the magical arts: WIZZERD and MERLIN. With each band contributing a full LP side, taking the form of one massive and masterful track, which band will triumph and take the mantle of Master Mage? It is now time to lift a part of the veil, and lend your eager ears to Kansas City doom slingers MERLIN’s own acid-drenched and shapeshifting sound with an appalling snippet of their 20-minute masterpiece “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure”.

MERLIN about this epic contribution: “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure was made while the pandemic raged on; band members came and went and all of our jobs became wildly unpredictable. Writing this song in the spring/summer of 2020 was the only thing preventing us from going on a hiatus. It gave our new lineup the challenge and jump-start we needed to embrace the future sound of the band. Plus we needed to write a song that Wizzerd couldn’t top even if they tried.”

WIZZERD outbid: “Fans across the globe have been asking, ‘Who will win the great meme war?’, ‘Why does Merlin think they have anything on Wizzerd?’ and ‘Will this ever end?’, and thanks to the fine folks at Ripple Music, we can finally settle this heated debate once and for all. Merlin think that they’re hot stuff, but really it’s all just a meme game. When it comes to the music, can they make it where it really counts? Grab yourself a chili dog and listen to find out who the real winner is. (Hint: it’s Wizzerd).”

The ‘Turned to Stone Chapter III: Wizzerd vs Merlin’ album will be issued on July 16th via Ripple Music, and available to preorder now on:
– Magma Edition Galaxy Vinyl LP (gleaming yellow vinyl w/ deep purple and black splatter)
– Bedrock Edition Splatter Vinyl LP (magic-ale colored)
– Digital

Side A – Wizzerd “We Are” (18:55)
Side B – Merlin “Merlin’s Bizzare Adventure” (21:51)

https://www.facebook.com/wizzerddoom
https://www.instagram.com/wizzerddoom/
https://wizzerd.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MERLIN666/
https://www.instagram.com/merlin_doooooom/
https://merlin666.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Days of Rona: Martin Bush of Hyborian

Posted in Features on April 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

hyborian martin bush

Days of Rona: Martin Bush of Hyborian (Kansas City, Missouri)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

We had to postpone our album release show, and festival and tour plans for the spring are obviously cancelled. We are all healthy and hale, but bored out of our minds being isolated at home.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

We are under a shelter at home order here in Kansas City, with no real end in sight. Basically only essential businesses can operate, and everyone is supposed to stay in their houses unless leaving is absolutely necessary.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Everything here is pretty much at a standstill. Venues are all closed, restaurants and bars are all closed, everything but grocery stores and hospitals are pretty much closed. It has definitely had a huge effect on the music community here.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

As soon as this is all over, expect to see us on tour A LOT. I never thought the freedom to play shows was something that could be taken away from us, but once we can again we will definitely not take it for granted. See you on the road soon!

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

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Review: Spacetrucker & Mr. Bison, Turned to Stone Chapter 1 – Enter Galactic Wasteland Split

Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Turned to Stone Chapter 1 Spacetrucker Mr Bison

On a level of ambition, a series of split releases is second perhaps only to a series of compilations in terms of the massive amount of work that is involved in coordination. Most ‘Vol. 1’-type outings do not get to ‘Vol. 2.’ An exception to this rule was Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy, which, though its title wanted for generational context (the heavy ’10s were at least the third coming), was a deeply admirable 10-installment series that brought bands into the Ripple fold who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten the exposure while staying tied together through artwork as well as the titular presentation. It allowed the label to expand its reach and had a curated, carefully-picked sensibility behind it.

Those 10 offerings were not haphazard. Ripple would hope to bring the same mindset to Turned to Stone, a new series that essentially picks up where The Second Coming of Heavy left off. I guess they’re gluttons for punishment when it comes to logistics? There’s no end-figure stated for Turned to Stone so far as I know — that is, they haven’t said “10 and done” as they did with the prior series — but however far it ends up going, its first installment, the full and somewhat cumbersome title of which is Ripple Music Presents: Turned to Stone Chapter 1 – Mr. Bison & Spacetrucker: Enter Galactic Wasteland, already crosses continental borders in bringing together its component acts.

From Pisa, Italy, come the trio Mr. Bison, whose moniker continues to immediately touch of Gen-X nostalgia for the lost hours of my youth playing Street Fighter II, and from St. Louis, Missouri, the three-piece Spacetrucker, whose three tracks run across side B in deceptively atmospheric fashion. The two bands are complementary in some ways, contrasting in others, but one suspects that’s the idea, and like most landscapes described as a wasteland, one finds the LP’s 38-minute run not at all void of life, but a vital ecosystem of heavy rock and roll that helps to demonstrate just how multifaceted the genre has become.

Mr. Bison don’t make it through the seven-minute “The Grace of Time” before they break out the organ and work in elements of psychedelia and classic prog — and that’s just fine. There are shades of Golden Void in the dramatic arrival of organ amid the guitar, bass and drums, but I wouldn’t call the all-Matteo lineup of guitarist/vocalists Matteo Barsacchi and Matteo Sciocchetto and drummer Matteo D’Ignazi overly derivative. Rather, the drift they inject into moments like the opening stretches of “The Stranger” and “Oracle Prophecy,” which builds as it moves forward, receding in the middle only to surge again at the conclusion in not-unforeseeable but still exciting and progressive fashion.

Their 2018 album, Holy Oak (review here), was like-minded in its somewhat deceptive approach, appearing simpler on the surface than it actually was, and as Barsacchi and Sciocchetto arrange vocals here, layering solos and effects all the while to create a sense of swirl as “Oracle Prophecy” comes to a head, the impression is that the band have obviously continued to solidify and become more assured of their approach. This creative next step is, of course, the ideal, though I don’t actually know how long ago the songs were recorded.

Either way, that Mr. Bison would leave one feeling like the band is making forward progress is, indeed, forward progress, and as their three inclusions are longer than those of Spacetrucker by about four minutes, running 21 minutes, their time only seems to be well-spent in setting up an atmosphere and flow. Listening digitally, this flow is immediately, strikingly contrasted by the shift in production value to Spacetrucker‘s three tracks, which are rawer and more directly fuzz-driven. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Owen, bassist/vocalist Rob Wagoner and drummer/multipadder Del Toro present a ready charge in the five-and-a-half-minute “Nosedive,” eschewing the proggier aspects of their side A counterparts in favor of a more direct attack.

That’s not to say that “Nosedive” or the subsequent instrumental “Distant Earth,” which is the longest track on the release at 7:56, don’t have a sense of atmosphere, just that said atmosphere is more based around the sheer punch of what they do. And when the low-end on “Distant Earth” kicks in there’s no shortage of punch to be had. “Distant Earth” resolves itself in some prog-metal-style chugging completed by a chiming bell, and then moves into a solo before rounding out in similar rhythmic terrain, an impressive more-than-jam that’s fluid if less sonically lush than some of what appeared on the split’s first half. Spacetrucker round out with the shorter “King Cheeto,” an early-Fu Manchu-style fuzz punker that revives some of the more aggressive thrust of “Nosedive” and finishes in a satisfying rush of noise and cut momentum. If that’s what being turned to stone sounds like, then so be it.

In terms of what ties the two bands together, aside from the basic umbrella of “heavy” that is horoscope-vague enough to be applicable on all counts, there’s an undercurrent of stylistic depth shared by Spacetrucker and Mr. Bison that comes through in different contexts, but is there just the same. Spacetrucker are not unaffected by Truckfighters-esque energy, but like Mr. Bison before them, they seem to be engaged in the project of internalizing their influences in order to craft their own sound from them.

In that case, the sheer thrust and rawness of production works for them, standing them out from Mr. Bison and adding to their own take, which doesn’t necessarily shy away from aggression. As Ripple Music stares down the prospect of this new series, one wonders just what will emerge from Turned to Stone. Standing astride The Second Coming of Heavy helped the label become among the foremost purveyors of American underground heavy rock and found them increasingly branching out in aesthetic. If Turned to Stone furthers that mission, it can only be considered a worthy cause.

[Clarification: The digital version of the release lists Mr. Bison as the first band, where on vinyl it’s Spacetrucker on side A. Apologies for any confusion this causes.]

Spacetrucker & Mr. Bison, Turned to Stone Chapter 1 – Enter Galactic Wasteland (2020)

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Hyborian Stream “Planet Destructor”; Volume II Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

hyborian

Some pretty significant gallop in the new streaming track from Hyborian, which is serving as the lead single of their sci-fi-apocalypse-end-of-the-universe-cycle-of-rebirth themed new record. Given its narrative and the tie-in novel guitarist/vocalist Martin Bush penned to go along with it, the title Volume II for the record seems kind of understated, but fair enough either way. The song, for example, is called “Planet Destructor,” and that would appear to convey some more of the severity of the subject at hand. One way or the other, though, they get the point across, and if that’s what the end of all things sounds like, it’s surprisingly precise for an unraveling. I’ll take it.

Hyborian make their way east to play Grim Reefer Fest in Baltimore on April 18, and before they do that, they’ll play the release show timed to the album coming out on March 20 at The Riot Room in their hometown of Kansas City.

Details for those and the single can be found below via the PR wire. It’s easily the most metal thing I’ve heard today:

hyborian vol ii

HYBORIAN Reveal New Album Details, Release First Single

Progressive sludge metal outfit HYBORIAN will release their sophomore effort, aptly titled ‘Volume II,’ on March 20, 2020! In conjunction with the album announcement, HYBORIAN have released the first single from this monstrous effort, “Planet Destructor.”

The conceptual record picks up where their debut record left off and is accompanied by a 224-page sci-fi novel, ‘The Traveller,’ which was penned entirely by HYBORIAN guitarist/vocalist Martin Bush.

A summary of the book is as follows:
“The universe is filled with beginnings. Life springs anew in a constant cycle of birth and rebirth, billions upon billions of beginnings, intrinsically linked, each influencing the beginnings that will come after. Every ending is in and of itself a new beginning; what once was, by the very act of ending, becomes the beginning of what is to follow. This particular beginning begins at the end; the end of everything. The universe is dying. It is in the final stages of passing out of existence, which is a beginning as well, the beginning of what comes after. The cycle continues, cascading in an unending series of births and deaths, all linked, each one shaped by the beginnings that preceded it.

“The universe is dying, but it will begin again.”

To celebrate the release, HYBORIAN will be performing an album release show on March 20 at The Riot Room in their hometown of Kansas City, MO, in which they will be supported by label-mates THE LION’S DAUGHTER. The event will be sponsored by 98.9 FM.

HYBORIAN live:
03/20: Kansas City, MO @ The Riot Room (w/ THE LION’S DAUGHTER)
04/18: Baltimore, MD @ Grim Reefer Fest

Track-list:
1. Driven by Hunger (05:11)
2. Stormbound (04:18)
3. Sanctuary (05:28)
4. Planet Destructor (04:40)
5. The Entity (03:55)
6. Expanse (03:40)
7. Portal (04:43)
8. In the Hall of the Travellers (08:10)
Total: 40:10s

‘Volume II’ is available for pre-order HERE.

HYBORIAN Line-up:
Martin Bush – Guitar, Vocals
Ryan Bates – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Justin Rippeto – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Hyborian, “Planet Destructor”

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Hyborian Announce November Tour Dates; Volume II Due Early 2020

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hyborian

Kansas City-based progressive heavy rockers/metallers Hyborian are set to release their new album, Volume II — their 19th record, obviously — through Season of Mist early next year, and to herald its arrival, they have a novel written by guitarist/vocalist Martin Bush telling the story more or less of the universe dying and being reborn, because if you’re going to have a narrative, go big. No doubt the riffs on the upcoming LP will do likewise when they land. In the meantime, the band will tour next month including a stop at Saint Vitus Bar that will be presented by Ode to Doom and this very site as a matinee show ahead of Monolord taking the stage that night. Godmaker are playing too. My position is you go to the venue and make a full day of it in Brooklyn. Your own fest! I don’t know what more you could ask for.

The PR wire has the info you need, and I’ll have more about that show probably next week:

hyborian tour

HYBORIAN Announce November U.S. Tour Dates

Heavy metal riff machine HYBORIAN have announced a run of headlining U.S. tour dates for this November, in which they will be supported by Migrator. Preceded by a set at Harvest of Doom Fest on October 19 in Lawrence, KS, the tour will officially kick off on November 14 in St. Louis, MO and will conclude on November 22 in Lincoln, NE. More dates TBA! The full itinerary is as follows:

HYBORIAN (w/ Migrator):
10/19: Lawrence, KS @ Harvest of Doom Fest
11/14: St Louis, MO @ Fubar*
11/15: Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewing
11/16: Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
11/17: Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar (Matinee Show)
11/18: Philadelphia, PA @ MilkBoy
11/19: Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
11/20: Columbus, OH @ Cafe Bourbon Street
11/21: Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
11/22: Lincoln, NE @ 1867 Bar
11/24: TBA
*No Migrator

HYBORIAN have previously released the first edition of their original new book, ‘The Traveller – A Hyborian Tale,’ which was written and illustrated by vocalist/guitarist Martin Bush. The 224 page sci-fi tale has been written as a companion piece for the band’s upcoming conceptual full-length, ‘Volume II,’ which is due in early 2020. The book is available now and can be purchased HERE.

Author Martin Bush further explains, “For our next record, we decided that we wanted to expound upon the concepts we introduced with ‘Volume I.’ The Traveller (the cloaked figure on the cover of ‘Volume I’) was a central figure in the mythos we were building, so for this album we wanted to focus more on who/what The Traveller is. The more we talked about it as a band, the more involved the ideas became, until there was just way too much to be able to cram it into an album’s worth of song lyrics. Over most of 2018, we were touring pretty nonstop, but I was finding time here and there to start putting all those ideas down on paper. Eventually, we had a book, which tells the same story as our upcoming full-length ‘Volume II,’ just in much, much more detail. It’s basically an origin story for The Traveller, set in the very last days of existence. The story focuses on a father and son, who, as far as we know, are the last humans alive, and their struggles to survive as the universe crumbles around them.”

HYBORIAN Line-up:
Martin Bush – Guitar, Vocals
Ryan Bates – Guitar, Vocals
Justin Rippeto – Drums
Anthony Diale – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/HyborianRock/
https://hyborianrock.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Hyborian, Volume I (2017)

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Quarterly Review: High on Fire, Ruff Majik, Merlin, Workshed, E-L-R, Sibyl, Golden Legacy, Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Burden Limbs, El Supremo

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Another day, another batch of 10 reviews on the march to 50 by the end of the week. Will we make it? Yeah, probably. I mean, I think there was once when I had to skip a day or something but even then I made up for it and there’s never been an instance where the Quarterly Review fell apart. The one quarter I decided to nix it (was it last year?) I made up for it by doing 100 reviews instead of 50 the next time out, so we got there eventually. It being Tuesday, the end of the week looks far off, but indeed we’ll ge there eventually, and there’s a lot of good music between now and then, so let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

High on Fire, Bat Salad

high on fire bat salad

A limited vinyl EP released as part of Record Store Day 2019, High on Fire‘s Bat Salad comprises three songs: an original instrumental and two covers, one of Celtic Frost and one of Bad Brains. And I won’t take away from the “Rat Salad” Sabbath-does-blues-jazz-jam-except-it’s-HighonFire-so-it-sounds-nasty-as-hell spirit of “Bat Salad” at all, but the real highlight here is hearing Matt Pike‘s gravel-throated vocals take on “Into Crypts of Rays.” Celtic Frost have always been a central factor in what High on Fire were doing stylistically, so to have the band take them on directly seems long in the making. They approach Bad Brains‘ “Don’t Bother Me” with due reverence as well, careening through an intense three-minute burst of energy with the grit and underlying precision one has come to expect from these singular masters. Soon enough, bands will be covering High on Fire with the same spirit of fan homage. Doubly notable for being founding drummer Des Kensel‘s last recorded appearance alongside Pike and bassist Jeff Matz in the band.

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Ruff Majik, Tårn

ruff majik tarn

Guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist Jimmy Glass and drummer Ben Manchino return with Tårn, Ruff Majik‘s second album on a quick turnaround from their 2018 debut, Seasons (review here). Aligned with Lay Bare Recordings for the vinyl release, the deceptively quick and even more deceptively complex seven-track/36-minute offering finds Ruff Majik digging into dirt-caked tonality and classically punkish sneer in Holiday‘s vocals. There are moments where they sound like Queens of the Stone Age (“Speed Hippie”) and moments where they sound like Black Flag (parts of opener “Schizophrenic”), but as a roller like “Heretically Happy” or the earlier post-Zeppelin stoner sneak of “Gloom & Tomb” show, Ruff Majik are perhaps most interested in sounding like themselves. They’re gleeful as they toy with doomed vibes on closer “Seasoning the Witch,” and the seven-minute “I’ll Dig the Grave” earlier thrills with changes drawn together by a pervasive and righteous groove. With Tårn, Ruff Majik have found their wavelength, and it suits them.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Merlin, The Mortal

merlin the mortal

Be it heretofore established that sax-laced Kansas City psych-doomers Merlin don’t give a fuck. They don’t give a fuck what you expect, they don’t give a fuck what everyone else is doing, they don’t give a fuck if they meme the crap out of their own band. They’ve got their thing and they’re doing it. And you know what? They’re right. The Mortal is their fifth full-length in six years, following as a sequel to early-2018’s The Wizard (review here), and with flourish galore in arrangements of organ, sax, flute, percussion, accordion, trumpet, etc., alongside the foundation of songcraft that comes through the guitar, bass, drums and always-theatrical vocals of Jordan Knorr, the band recount tales along a dark-magical mystery tour of gorgeously flowing and still-weighted psychedelic plunder. They have become a buried treasure of weirdo/geek rock, and whether it’s the peaceful drift of “Ashen Lake” or the cacophonous heavy riffing of “Basilisk,” the stage-setting prog of “Towerfall” or the consuming swell that carries out the apex of closer “The Mortal Suite” — King Crimson chase and all — Merlin‘s work has never sounded so masterful. Will there be a third installment in the tale? Nothing quite like a trilogy.

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Workshed, Workshed

workshed workshed

They’ve since added a third party in bassist Helen Storer (Fireball Ministry, among others), but Workshed‘s self-titled Rise Above Records debut LP was recorded as the duo of guitarist/vocalist Adam Lehan and drummer Mark Wharton. More than a quarter-century ago, both Lehan and Wharton played on Cathedral‘s pivotal first two albums, but in Workshed, and certainly there are some shades of doom on a stomper like “Anthropophobic” here, but the bulk of Workshed‘s nine-song/47-minute first offering is given to post-Entombed buzzsaw noise sludge, riffs crunched one into the next in an aggro, punk-rooted fashion that rife with a sense of willful punishment that comes through in sheer impact from front to back. Vocals call to mind Tom G. Warrior immediately and are suited to the social commentary of “If This is How it Is” and “This City Has Fallen,” while the grueling march of “A Spirit in Exile” leaves room for some atmosphere to eek through, which it does. They trash out in centerpiece “On Sticks of Wood” and chug their into a last fade on closer “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way,” but by then they’ve long since made their statement and left a trail of destruction behind them. Would they have been signed to Rise Above without the Cathedral connection? Probably not. Does the album earn their place? Absolutely.

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Rise Above Records website

 

E-L-R, Mænad

e-l-r maenad

With their first full-length, Mænad, Swiss post-metallers E-L-R cart a gorgeous and textured course through patient and progressive songweaving that lends itself to hypnosis through its churning rhythm as much as its overarching melodies seem to evoke other worlds. It is not without its sense of challenge and certainly plenty heavy in its tone and groove — at least where it wants to be — but it’s also rich and provides a level of depth to its mix that should have others in the genre asking how they did it. A transitional drone at the end of “Devotee” brings about the 10-minute “Above the Mountains There is Light” and a long contemplation begins, working from the ground up on a pilgrim’s path to the eventual payoff. The resonance there is something unto itself, but even as “Ambrosia,” “Lunar Nights” and “The Wild Shore” find the stylistic footing that opener “Glancing Limbs” and “Devotee” seemed to hint at earlier, E-L-R maintain both an ambient sprawl and a consuming sense of passion that makes their work here all the more thrilling. This is a debut, following only a single 2018 demo that had two of the same tracks. What that tells me is look out for this band, because this kind of potential doesn’t come along every day and when it does, you want to be there for the follow-up. The impeccable taste of Prophecy Productions pays dividends once again.

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Prophecy Productions website

 

Sibyl, The Magic Isn’t Real

sibyl the magic isn't real

Otherworldly doom rock marked by echoing vocals oozing out from deep in the mix and gotta-hear-it bass tone complemented by choice riffage and a fervent thud in the drums, even if the aesthetic of Richmond’s Sibyl is familiar enough, there’s plenty to dig about their debut EP — what one might’ve called a “demo” in eras past — The Magic Isn’t Real. The stylistic elephant in the room is RVA’s own Windhand, but Sibyl take a more psychedelic path to heavy oblivion, and with four tracks in the range of four to five minutes, The Magic Isn’t Real comes across as well focused in its songwriting despite the ethereal touches in the actual sound. Cool vibe, and as they work some noisy shuffle into “Spinning Webs,” they show themselves as being less restricted than otherwise might be the case if they were purely committed to doomed drudgery. I’ll give bonus points as well for naming the penultimate track “Sexpionage,” just on principle, but it’s in stretches like the subdued creeper opening of “Blood Moon” and the engrossing, still-somehow-moving wash of “Pendulums” that Sibyl really showcase their intention.

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Golden Legacy, Golden Legacy II

golden legacy golden legacy ii

London heavy noise duo Golden Legacy offer five tracks and 23 minutes of anti-genre, adrenaline rock to follow-up their 2016 self-titled EP. There’s a strong undercurrent of modern punk and indie to their sound, which is what gets them the “anti-genre” consideration, but it’s the energy of their delivery carrying them one way or the other as they drive through the harsh snare of “Cut and Crash” following the chunkier tone of opener “Moon” and just before centerpiece “Dirty Mouth” finds its way into grunge-style howling beastliness. Comprised of drummer/vocalist Lorena Cachito and guitarist Yanni Georgiou, the two-piece find winning momentum in “Salvation,” while closer “Thirsty” opens with a mellow drum progression gradually joined by the guitar and builds into more progressive and dramatic movement, casting off some of the rawness of the songs before it in favor of more complex fare. It still manages to soar at the end, though, and that seems to be what counts. They might be rawer now than they’ll eventually turn out, but that suits most of what they’re doing in adding to the emotionality on display in Cachito‘s vocals.

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Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Coven of the Ultra-Riff

saint karloff devils witches coven of the ultra-riff

Alright, look. I don’t even think I have the full thing, but whatever. Saint Karloff and Devil’s Witches came together to release the Coven of the Ultra-Riff split — it can be so hard to find the right coven for your family; have you considered the Ultra-Riff? — and they each play an original track and then they cover each other’s songs and then Saint Karloff introduce the progression of “Supervixen (Electric Return)” and Devil’s Witches take up the mantle and run with it on “Supervixen (Acoustic Return),” so yeah, it’s pretty awesome and kind of all over the place but whatever. Get your head around it and get on board with whatever version you can grab. Vinyl came out through Majestic Mountain Records and tapes were through Stoner Witch Records and I’m fairly certain it’s all sold out already and probably stupid expensive on Discogs, but do what you need to do, because this is what Sabbath worship in the year 2019 is supposed to sound like. It’s bombed out of its gourd and has long since dropped out of life. It’s exactly where and what it wants to be.

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Stoner Witch Records BigCartel store

 

Burden Limbs, There is No Escape

burden limbs there is no escape

I’m not going to pretend to have the grounding in post-hardcore to toss off the influences under which Burden Limbs are working, but to listen to the blast of noise in “How Many Times Must I Reset” and the near-industrial wash of noise they conjure in the subsequent “Hypochondriac,” it’s clear they’re working under one influence anyway. There is No Escape (released through Glasshouse Records) runs 24 minutes and carries four songs, but in that time the band around founding figurehead and guitarist/vocalist Chad Murray manage to challenge themselves and the listener alike to keep up with their turns and emotional resonance. Murray is joined by two bassists, another guitarist, keyboards/synth and drums, so yes, there’s something of a busy feel to it, but even echoing cavernous as they are, the vocals seem to draw the songs together around a central presence and add a human core to the proceedings that only makes them all the more affecting as would seem to be the intent.

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El Supremo, Clarity Through Distortion

El Supremo Clarity Through Distortion

Sometimes these things take a while, but El Supremo was formed by now-ex-Egypt bassist Chad Heille has a solo-project and released a self-titled demo in 2008, to which Clarity Through Distortion is the follow-up full-length. Now joined by guitarist Neil Stein (also ex-Egypt, and who also played some on the demo) and organist Chris Gould as well as bassist Cam Dewald who came aboard after the album’s completion, the instrumentalist full-band incarnation of El Supremo waste no time diving into dead-on tonal and riffy righteousness, taking classic heavy cues and running with them in modern production richness, sounding clear but natural as a jam like “Moanin’ & Groanin'” turns into a shuffler as it moves into its second half, or the mellow sway of the 14-minute “Supercell” at last runs head-on into the lumbering motion that will carry it through to the end. I don’t know how much clarity — at least of the existential sort I think they mean in the title — they might’ve found by the time the bluesy “Lotus Throne” rolls over into the shreddy “Outro” that caps, but if the method is distortion, they’ve certainly got that part down.

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