Quarterly Review: Elara Sunstreak Band, Lost Breed, T.G. Olson, Acid Reich, White Powder, Hellish Form, Mosara, Tombstunner, Moanhand, Appalooza

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Second week, locked in and ready to roll. The message of today is that the Quarterly Review goes where it wants when it wants. If I’m steering this ship at all, it’s in only the most passive of ways. I hope you had a good weekend. I hope you spent it listening to killer music. I hope you managed to get all your reviews done. Ha.

So much good stuff to come this week. I’m looking forward to diving into it. And you know what? I did end up adding the extra day, so the Summer 2021 QR will go 11 days instead of 10, bringing it to 110 releases covered. Pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve ever gone.

Better get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Elara Sunstreak Band, Vostok I

Elara Vostok 1

True, Elara Sunstreak Band‘s second album and first for Sulatron Records, dubbed Vostok 1, is not a minor ask at four songs and 72 minutes. But by the time you’re through the 19:44 opener/longest track (immediate points) “Nexus,” the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, drummer Martin Wieland and guitarist/sitarist/synthesist Felix Schmidt have set their course outward and they continue to surprise along the way, from the shimmering Elder-style progressive guitar work in the title-track to the guest vocals of Felix Seyboth nodding at Blind Melon in the crescendo of sitar-laced closer “Orange October.” Even “On a Drink With Jim” manages to thrill with its blend of the terrestrial with the spacious, let alone its Doors homage as hinted in its title. These nuances meld with an overarching hypnosis to create a satisfying depth of presentation on the part of Elara Sunstreak Band, and it becomes all the more a far out journey worth taking.

Elara Sunstreak Band on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lost Breed, Speak No Evil

Lost Breed Speak No Evil

Classic doom metal from experienced practicioners of the art. Speak No Evil is kind of a curious release. Vinyl only as yet, and self-released by the band, it answers back to the group’s initial Hellhound Records run in the 1990s and also their 1989 Wino Daze demo that featured Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals around the same time he left Saint Vitus and restarted The Obsessed. Weinrich appears on vocals and lead guitar throughout the first half of Speak No Evil, fronting the catchy opener “My Way Out” as well as “Thrift Store Girl,” “Cradle to the Grave” and the double-kick-laced “Doom,” which is nothing if not aptly-titled, while guitarist Pat Lydon sings on “Snakebite,” the less outwardly political “Wake the Dead,” “Siren Song” and “Stalker,” the pairing of which feels intentional. One might think the two sides/two-frontmen thing would make the release uneven, or the fact that it was recorded across two coasts, but nah, it’s doom either way and these guys know what they’re doing. Don’t sweat it. Do hope it gets a wider release.

Lost Breed on Facebook

Pat Lydon on YouTube

 

T.G. Olson, T.G. Olson

T.G. Olson T.G. Olson

Though it’s been a minute as he’s reprioritized Across Tundras, embarked on other projects, relocated to Iowa, farmed, and so on, T.G. Olson has still put out enough records under his own name that to have one arrive as a self-titled is significant in itself. Sure enough and somewhat ironically for someone who’s done so much him-and-guitar work in the past, the nonetheless-unassuming 35-minute eight-tracker features more personnel and broader arrangements than one might expect. That’s hardly a detriment, as even the layers of voice on “Steal a Day” come through as benefitting from the attention to detail, and the harmonica-inclusive twang of “Scythe” has its blues all the more emphasized for the clarity of its strum, while closer “Downer Town” invites a singalong. Personnel varies throughout, but the contibutions of Abigail Lily O’Hara (vocals), Ben Schriever (guitar, bass) and Caleb R.K. Williams (synth, guitar, banjo) — all of whom feature in the latest incarnation of Across Tundras as well — aren’t to be understated, as identifiable as Olson‘s songcraft is at the core of this material.

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

 

Acid Reich, Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

Acid Reich Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

John McBain, Tim Cronin and Dave Wyndorf — in Dog of Mystery together at the time — would go on to form Monster Magnet a short time after, seemingly on a whim, Acid Reich‘s freakout Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest was put to tape in their rehearsal space as one of a number of “fake” weirdo projects. Listening to these five tracks, including likewise irreverent takes on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Amazing Grace,” the feel here is like an acid psych treasure trove of Jersey Shore fuckery. Joining the trio were Ripping Corpse‘s Shaune Kelley and Joe Paone of hellSausage, and by their own admission, the audio’s a mess. It’s an archival tape dug up from 1989 — if you’re thinking you’re getting high fidelity, you’re missing at least one of the points of putting it out in the first place. Laced with acid culture samples that may or may not have been added after the fact, this is the first official release this material has ever gotten, and it’s nasty, raw, demo fare that, if it wasn’t so blown into the cosmos you’d call it punk rock. If that doesn’t sound right on to you, it’s probably your loss.

Guerssen Records on Bandcamp

Guerssen Records website

 

White Powder, Blue Dream

white powder blue dream

Based in Austin, Texas, and operatin as the four-piece of guitarist Jason Morales (also Tia Carrera), bassist Win Wallace, keyboardist Ezra Reynolds and drummer Jeff Swanson, White Powder recorded their whoa-this-shit-is-awesome mostly-instrumentalist debut LP, Blue Dream in 2014 and only now is it being at last pressed to vinyl. Given their chosen moniker, the 46-minute/nine-song session is perhaps surprisingly laid back, with the keys/synth and guitar coming together in mellow-prog style atop not-entirely-languid-but-not-overly-insistent grooves; all parties seeming geared toward immersion as much of self as for their listenership, be it in the piano of “Connemara” or the later fuzzer “Rula Jabreal,” where ripplng organ lines top the popping-snare rhythmic tension until the guitar pushes it over the edge of volume swell and wash. Some classic heavy for good measure in “Alice Walker,” but Blue Dream works best taken in its entirety, and listening to it that way, one only hopes they manage to do another in seven years or so. Or seven months. That’d work too. Extra points for the sleek-as-hell soul vocals in the Steely Dan cover “Dirty Work” on side B.

White Powder on Spotify

White Powder on Bandcamp

 

Hellish Form, Remains

Hellish Form Remains

Quarantine-era cross-country duo Hellish Form earn a Khanate comparison on their debut release, Remains, for their sheer unwillingness to pull back from the grueling, punishing tension they create in the slowly unfolding opener/longest track (immediate points) “Your Grave Becomes a Garden.” The dirge is so much forward that it makes the post-Bell Witch lead guitar mourning feel like an afterthought, and the screaming, echoing vocals shared between multi-instrumentalists Willow Ryan (Body Void) and Jacob Lee — who both recorded their parts at home — are a harsh reminder of the existential chaos serving as the background to these songs’ making. “Ache” is shorter and puts synth more forward, and “Shadows with Teeth” thicker and nastier if that’s possible, but through them and the 10-minute finale “Another World,” the feeling of dread, fear, and loss is palpable, and Remains is a fitting name for a record that feels so much like an aftermath.

Hellish Form on Facebook

Translation Loss Records website

 

Mosara, Mosara

Mosara Mosara

Mosara emerge from Phoenix, Arizona, with a sound that just as easily could’ve come down from the mountains as out of the desert, and that’s by no means a complaint. Big riffs promulgate their eight-song self-titled debut LP, and they bring forth aggro sludge undertones alongside lumbering rollout, rawly-captured in the recording but not lacking presence for that, as the mounted chug of “Cypher” demonstrates. Is it heavy enough to crash your hard drive? I’m not trying to lay blame on Mosara‘s riffs or anyone else’s, but apparently there’s only so much assault modern technology can take before falling victim. We’ll call that computer a sacrifice to the eight-minute “Earth God,” its crashing drums and deceptively spacious mix creating a cavernous largesse in spite of the barebones vibe that persists across the span, “Clay and Iron” and “Majestik XII” establishing the atmosphere early but not the full sonic reach of the band, whose plunge is made all the deeper by the High on Fire-style drive of “Oumuamua.” Doesn’t have to be a revolution to fuck you up.

Mosara on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Tombstunner, Call to the Void

Tombstunner Call to the Void

I don’t know if Grand Rapids, Michigan, yet has an officially designated “scourge,” but I’d be happy to see Tombstunner end up with the title. The band’s debut album, Call to the Void, reminds at once of fellow sneering Midwestern chicanery-bringers Bloodcow and also of early ’90s, Blind-era C.O.C., their tones refusing to give themselves over to one side or the other of the argument between metal and heavy rock. Marked out by considered and sometimes willfully clever lyrics, the record strikes with plenty of groove — plenty of “strike,” for that matter — and not an ounce of pretense on pieces like “ASH” or the later “Contempt’s Concrete,” which touches on harsher fare, but again, isn’t really keen to leave its rock foundation behind. They probably make the right choice in that. Eight-minute capper “The Last Ride” is catchy and weighted in kind, seeming to pack as much as possible into its finale as though to let there be no uncertainty the band has more to say. Fair enough. There’s growing to be done, but Call to the Void‘s untamed sensibility is ultimately a strength, not a weakness.

Tombstunner on Facebook

Tombstunner on Bandcamp

 

Moanhand, Present Serpent

moanhand present serpent

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good scream. Moscow-based Roman Filatov has one. The lone figure behind Moanhand can growl, and unlike many harsher metal vocalists, he can also sing, and does so readily across his band’s first album, Present Serpent, but god damn, that’s a good scream. Enviable. Comprised of six tracks, Present Serpent is as progressive as it is extreme, as doom as it is any number of other microgenres, and despite the formidable and varied nature of his performances throught — second track “The Charmthrower” has more scope than many bands do in an entire career arc — he does not fail to put songwriting first ahead of either technique or impact. Present Serpent will not hit a nerve with everyone, but the lumbering “Raw Blessings” and the atmosludge metal of finisher “The Boomering of Serpents,” calling back to opener “Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)” in semi-blackened throb, just leaves me wondering why the hell not. On the level of Moanhand‘s forward potential alone — never mind any of the actual songs — it is a staggering debut.

Moanhand on Facebook

Moanhand on Bandcamp

 

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies

appalooza-the-holy-of-holies-cover

The percussion nuance and guitar lick nodding at Morricone in opener “Storm” amid all the post-Alice in Chains vocal arrangements should be a signal of the reach France’s Appalooza bring to their second LP and Ripple debut, The Holy of Holies. To wit, the subsequent “Snake Charmer” is off and careening almost immediately on its own path, and it’s commendable on the band’s part that where they go on the burlier “Reincarnation” and the more spacious “Nazareth” and the centerpiece “Conquest” — which starts out particularly hard-hitting and by the time it’s done is given over to standalone acoustic guitar without sounding disjointed in getting there — remains so seemingly even-handed in its delivery. Their material is considered, then. It proves no less so through the brash/tense “Azazael,” the desert-but-not “Distress” and “Thousand Years After,” which is a melodic highlight even among the many other surrounding. Tasked with summarizing, closer “Canis Majoris” answers “Conquest” with melancholy and heft, its ending satisfying in an emotional context in additing to being a well earned sonic payoff.

Appalooza on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

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Starified Premiere “What If” Live Performance Video

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

starified

What is it about a singing drummer that manages to be so gosh darn impressive? I’m not knocking singing guitarists or singing bassists, or singers, for that matter, but maybe it’s just the anomalous aspect. You don’t see a singing drummer every day, and even less often one who can really deliver melodies alongside the pattern of their drumming. I can think of a couple if I sit hard enough and try, but Vadim Ambartsumian of Starified deserves a place on that still-comparatively-short list for sure. The Starified drummer and lead vocalist is backed by guitarist Yuriy Berezovik on “What If” from the band’s Ripple-issued second album, Fat Hits (review here), which arrived amid the tumult of January with all the comforts of an okay-it’s-time-to-rock-and-roll-now heart worn on the three-piece’s collective sleeve.

Based in Moscow and completed by Dmitri Shurpakov on bass, Starified eschew most microgenre niche-picking in favor of a more straightforward heavy rock approach, with songwriting, melody and groove acting coherently together in order to get their sonic point across. The video premiering below for the aforementioned “What If” seems to have been captured live in the studio, and though the audio is produced — that is to say, you’re not hearing an unmixed, bootleg-style song; unless these guys are just that smooth, in which case they should do everything live all the time forever and save themselves and their recording engineers a lot of studio hours — the crispness of sound is unquestionably part of the band’s aesthetic. They use it to the song’s advantage, furthering the notion that the song is what it’s all about in the first place, which, once you hear the chorus, is a notion with which you’ll likely agree. And a good cause, at that.

I won’t keep you, but if you missed Fat Hits in your start-of-the-year winter hunkerdown, you get a solid four-minute sampler of the energy Starified bring to what they do here, and as far as endorsements go, that’s the one to heed.

Please enjoy:

Starified, “What If” official video premiere

New album ‘Fat Hits’ out now on Ripple Music: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/fat-hits

With infectious hooks, knockout clean vocals from drummer Vadim Ambartsumian and an unabashed nod to late 90s heavy, the Moscow heavy trio takes no prisoner and conjures up an irresistible FM aura, having you hooked all throughout its 41 minutes of straight-up, energetic and headbang-inducing heavy.

Video production by LAPAKOTA (http://instagram.com/lapakota.prod?)
Audio production by Artem Shcherbakov

Starified are:
Vadim Ambartsumian – vocals, drums
Yuriy Berezovik – guitars
Dmitri Shurpakov – bass guitar

Starified on Thee Facebooks

Starified on Instagram

Starified on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Moanhand to Release Present Serpent June 18; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 13th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

moanhand

Righteously produced and full in its arrangement, the one-man outfit Moanhand‘s album-opener and advance-single “Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)” speaks well of the cross-genre heavy extremity to come. Devin Townsend-style proggy melodies swapped with vicious screams over fuzz-toned riffing? Yeah, I’m on board for that, thank you very much. Given what he’s doing in this first cut, I wouldn’t expect one song to speak for everything multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Roman Filatov is bringing to the record, but it makes an enticing lead-in for sure, and dude very clearly has his hands in multiple styles, which he brings together with marked fluidity. Might be a sleeper in terms of hype — too extreme for some, not enough for others — but I wouldn’t be surprised if Present Serpent turned a few heads. Some people like that in-between stuff. I count myself as one.

The PR wire brings details and the ever-crucial preorder link:

moanhand present serpent

MOANHAND /// Moscow-based Multi-Instrumentalist to Release Diverse Underground Debut this June

Present Serpent by Moanhand is released 18th June 2021 on Burning Shine

Preorders: https://linktr.ee/moanhand

Hailing from Moscow, musician/songwriter Roman Filatov is the one-man intermediary of rising metal behemoth, Moanhand.

Created in 2016 as a vehicle for Filatov to flex his musical muscle and classically tempered mind, he has since gone on to produce an imposing catalogue in recent years. Always under the radar and autonomous-in-action, his talents have culminated most recently in the release of Plague Sessions, an EP recorded live at Pentagram House Studio, in 2019. But 2021 will see the arrival of his biggest project yet.

“I’ve always tried to avoid putting myself into boxes when making music,” explains Filatov. “Present Serpent is definitely a hybrid of genres. It’s not just a doom, sludge or stoner album. There are a lot of different influences from black/death metal, post-metal, classical and even pop music. It’s as melodic as it is brutal.”

Written, arranged, performed and programmed by Filatov himself, there’s no question that as an album, Present Serpent is the apex of an almighty creative offering, and a truly dynamic piece of work that demands your attention.

Present Serpent will be officially released on 18th June 2021 on Burning Shine. New single ‘Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)’ is out now and can be streamed below.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)
2. The Charmthrower
3. Nightwings
4. Endless Embrace
5. Raw Blessings
6. The Boomerang of Serpents

https://www.facebook.com/moanhandband/
https://www.instagram.com/moanhandburns/
https://moanhand.bandcamp.com/

Moanhand, “Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)”

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Starified Premiere “Don Loco” Video; Fat Hits Coming Jan. 15

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Starified band 2020

Moscow-based heavy rockers Starified were part of a recent glut of pickups by Ripple Music, and they’ll make their debut on the label Jan. 15 with their third album overall, Fat Hits. The LP runs 10 tracks/41 minutes and is being given its first public airing today with a premiere of the band’s video for “Don Loco.”

Upon its arrival in a great unknowable future, Fat Hits will serve as the follow-up to Starified‘s 2018 outing through CSBR RecordsFeathers, which found the band restructured from the five-piece they were on their debut to a trio, with just guitarist Yuriy Berezovik and bassist Dmitri Shurpakov carried over from the original lineup on the prior 2017 self-titled debut. The newcomer in this pared down version of the group for Feathers was lead vocalist/drummer Vadim Ambartsumian, and he continues to make an impression Starified Fat Hitsas Starified strip away excess from their songwriting and refine their material in songs like “Wider Lane,” “An Ode to Tenacious D” and indeed “Don Loco” to an accessible blend of heavy and hard rock drawing from an array of influences modern and otherwise. There’s some glam in “An Ode to Tenacious D,” and yes, I mean that, but the later “Pick a Fight” delves into atmospherics for its verses before returning to ground for a breakout chorus.

Their songs are energetic, at times aggressive in that later-’90s grunge-is-over-what-do-we-do-now kind of way, as on “Saraton,” and while the penultimate “Noah” seems to show some patience in its rollout — at least until the screaming starts — the finale “Same Old River” is unabashed in its commercial readiness in a way that “Wider Lane” earlier hints toward. Does Russia have rock radio? If so, Starified have a single. A few, actually.

From the opening bruiser “Scapegoat” through “Don Loco” — the cinematic clip for which you can see below — and the sans-frills structures of “What If” and “Anti-Rebel,” Fat Hits is clean and sharp in its production and holds its purpose in the songcraft, but isn’t to be taken lightly in terms of performance. Less “a drummer who sings” than both a drummer and a vocalist, Ambartsumian casts a significant presence and is forward in the mix, but he, Berezovik and Shurpakov are all pretty clearly on the same page when it comes to knowing what they want their sound to do, and that would seem to be to engage as many ears as possible.

Like it says in the headline, Jan. 15 is the due date for Fat Hits. Think of the “Don Loco” video as a preview in the meantime.

And please enjoy:

Starified, “Don Loco” official video premiere

STARIFIED (hard rock, stoner, progressive) – a Moscow based power-trio with a singing drummer (est. 2017). The band members call themselves students of the old-school rock masters: from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to Foo Fighters and Jack White. Their shows are known for mad expression and glamourous entourage. STARIFIED has already had two Russian tours, a European tour, lots of shows in their hometown – Moscow, released two LP’s, a number of live videos, produced their official music video and they keep on working on the new material.

Starified are:
Vadim Ambartsumian – vocals, drums
Yuriy Berezovik – guitars
Dmitri Shurpakov – bass guitar

Starified on Thee Facebooks

Starified on Instagram

Starified on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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IL Announce Tour Dates in England; New EP Void Shape Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Moscow-based four-piece IL recently issued their latest two-song EP, Void Shape, and it’s a pummeler. Comprised of just two songs, it nonetheless tops 18 minutes in length and is chock full of screamy sludge malevolence, ultra-oppressive atmospherics and a pervasive sense that all is not, in fact, going to be okay, but that perhaps instead we’ll all simply freeze and/or burn to death depending on presumably a number of wrong choices made along the way. Hence “Coldness” and “Flame” positioned back to back on the release, the one noisier than the other, and a brutalism winding through both as a uniting factor and simple statement of intent on the part of the band. Extremity takes any number of shapes, and IL‘s sound proves likewise malleable.

The band have two full-lengths and a swath of splits and other short releases available to dig into at their Bandcamp page, so if you’re looking to demolish your good mood, they’re well up to the task. They’ll head to the UK in March to do a few dates in England, including Dreadfest with a bunch of like-minded destroyers.

PR wire has it thusly:

il

From the icy tundras of Russia come IL – who will be embarking on their first UK tour in a couple of month’s time in association with Holy Spider Promotions.

Grim, trve sludge from Moscow, the band supported Conan on their recent Moscow date and released Void Shape last week via their Bandcamp.

The band have five dates in England, including an appearance at Dreadfest in Leeds alongside Wormrot, Rotten Sound and many more big names.

With plenty of releases under their belt already and a punishing live show, England is in for a deliciously dark treat.

March 22nd – The Dev, London
23rd – The Harley, Sheffield
24th – Temple of Boom (Dreadfest), Leeds
25th – Trillians, Newcastle
26th – The Square Centre, Nottingham

IL is:
Vlad – guitar/vocals
Nikolay – bass
Anton – drums
Andrey – guitar

ildoom.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/ildoomband
instagram.com/ildoomband

IL, Void Shape (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Glanville, Destroyer of Light, The Re-Stoned, Ruff Majik, Soldat Hans, High Priestess, Weed Demon, Desert Storm, Ancient Altar, Black Box Warning

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

So Day 1’s done and it’s time to move on to Day 2. Feeling stressed and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff still to be done? Why yes, I am. Thanks for asking. In the past, I used to handle the Quarterly Review well ahead of time. It’s always a lot to get through, but the week before, I’d be setting up back ends, chasing down links and Bandcamp players, starting reviews, etc., so that when it came time, all I had to do was the writing and plug it all into a post and I was set.

There was some prep-work done this past weekend, but especially this time, with my old laptop having been stolen in May, it’s all been way more jazz-improv. I was still adding releases as of last Friday, and writing beforehand? Shit. With the baby having just figured out how to climb? Not bloody likely. Accordingly, here we are, with much to do.

It’ll get done. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet, and if I took an extra day to get there, I’m under no delusion that anyone else would care. So there you go. Let’s hit it for Day 2:

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Glanville, First Blood

glanville first blood

First Blood is the aptly-titled five-song debut EP from Glanville, a newcomer dual-guitar outfit with established players Philip Michel (The Earwix) on lead and Christopher West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb, etc.) on rhythm, Wight’s Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on bass and René Hofmann on vocals, and Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire) on drums. Based in Germany and the UK, the group present 23 minutes of material on their first outing, drawing from the guitar-led likes of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest to capture early metal and present it with a heavy rocking soulfulness and modern production. The most raucous of the cuts might be centerpiece “Durga the Great,” but neither “God is Dead” nor “Dancing on Fire” before nor “Demons” and “Time to Go” after want for action, and especially the latter builds to a furious head to close out the release. Hofmann as a standalone singer wants for nothing in range or approach, and the band behind him obviously build on their collective experience to dig into a stylistic nuance rarely executed with such confidence. They’ve found a place willfully between and are working to make it theirs. Can’t ask for more than that.

Glanville on Thee Facebooks

Glanville on Bandcamp

 

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless

destroyer of light hopeless

Having just recently signed to Argonauta Records for a new album in 2019, Austin doomers Destroyer of Light follow their 2017 long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here), with a further auditory assault in the lumbering Hopeless. Psychedelic and yet still somehow traditional doom lingers in the brain after “Nyx” and “Drowned” have finished – the latter with an Alan Watts sample discussing alcoholism – and the band moves into demos for Chamber of Horrors cuts “Into the Smoke,” “Lux Crusher” and “Buried Alive.” Between the two previously unreleased songs and those three demos, Hopeless pushes to 39 minutes, but it’s probably still fair to call it an EP because of the makeup. Either way, from the miserable plod of “Nyx,” in which each chug in the riff cycle seems to count another woe, to the rolling nod early and surprising melody late in “Drowned,” Hopeless is anything but. Anticipation was already pretty high for Destroyer of Light’s next record after the last one, but all Hopeless does is show further depth of approach and more cleverly-wielded atmospheric murk. And the more it sounds like there’s no escape, the more Destroyer of Light seem to be in their element.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Stories of the Astral Lizard

the re-stonEd stories of the astral lizard

The inevitable question is “Why a lizard?” and if you make it four minutes into 11-minute opener “Fractal Panorama” and don’t have your answer, go back ad start over. Moscow heavy psych instrumentalists The Re-Stoned intend the reptile as a spirit guide for their new outing Stories of the Astral Lizard (on Oak Island Records), which follows quickly behind their late-2017 offering, Chronoclasm (review here), and given the ultra-patient desert vibes in the opener, the acoustic-laced folk-prog of “Mental Print for Free,” the languid meander of “A Companion from the Outside,” the swirling sprawl of the 16-minute “Two Astral Projections” and the final cowpoke drift of “The Heather Carnival,” one might indeed just find a lizard sunning its belly amid all the atmospheric evocations and hallucinatory vibes. I’ll take “Two Astral Projections” as the highlight, but mostly because the extra length allows the band to really dig in, but really the whole album feeds together gorgeously and is a new level of achievement when it comes to atmosphere for The Re-Stoned, who were already underappreciated and find themselves only more so now.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Seasons

Ruff Majik Seasons

Right on fuzz, right on groove, right on vibe – there isn’t much else one might say about Ruff Majik’s Seasons (on Rock Freaks Records and Forbidden Place Records) beyond “right on.” Heavy rock with twists of psychedelia, the Pretoria, South Africa, three-piece of Johni Holliday, Jimi Glass and Benni Manchino make their home on the lines of various subgenres, but wherever they go, the proceedings remain decisively heavy. To wit, a cut like “Breathing Ghosts” or the later “Birds Stole My Eyes” might dig into shuffle boogie or extreme-metal-derived thrust, but there’s a chemistry between the members and a resonant looseness that ties the material together, and as the last 14 of the total 66 minutes are dedicated to “Asleep in the Leaves,” there’s plenty of progressive weirdness in which to bask, one song moving through the next such that neither “Hanami Sakura (And the Ritual Suicide” nor the semi-doom-plodding “The Deep Blue” nor the funky twists of “Tar Black Blood” come across as predictable. Seasons might take a few listens to sink in, but it’s easily worth that effort.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Ruff Majik at Rock Freaks Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Soldat Hans, Es Taut

SOLDAT HANS ES TAUT-750

Hyperbole-worthy post-ism from Switzerland’s Soldat Hans makes their sophomore outing, Es Taut – on Wolves and Vibrancy Records as a 2LP – a forward thinking highlight. As rich in atmosphere as Crippled Black Phoenix and as lethal as Converge or Neurosis or anyone else you might dare to put next to them, the six-piece made their debut with 2014’s Dress Rehearsal (review here) and served notice of their cross-genre ambitiousness. Es Taut finds them four years later outclassing themselves and most of the rest of the planet across three extended tracks – “Story of the Flood” (26:15), “Schoner Zerbirst, Part I” (8:03) and “Schoner Zerbirst, Part II” (18:56) – that sprawl out with a confidence, poise and abrasion that is nothing short of masterful. Es Taut may be a case of a band outdoing their forebears, but whatever their legacy becomes and however many people take notice, Soldat Hans singlehandedly breathe life into the form of post-metal and prove utterly vital in so doing, not only making it their own, but pushing forward into something new in ambience and heft. This is what a band sounds like while making themselves indispensable.

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Wolves and Vibrancy Records website

 

High Priestess, High Priestess

high priestess high priestess

Calling to order a nod that’s immersive from the opening strains of leadoff/longest-track “Firefly” (still immediate points), Los Angeles trio High Priestess build out the psych-doom ritualizing of their 2017 demo (review here) to make their self-titled full-length debut through Ripple Music. The difference between the demo and the album in terms of what’s included comes down to artwork and the track “Take the Blame,” which adds its bell-of-the-ride swing between the atmosphere and melodic focus of “Banshee” and the spacious roller “Mother Forgive Me.” Potential is writ large throughout from guitarist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins, as it was on their demo, and even the harsh growls/screams on “Despise” seem to have found their place within the proceedings. As they wrap with the guitar-led jam of “Earth Dive,” High Priestess put the finishing touch on what’s hands-down one of 2018’s best debut albums and offer a reminder that as much potential as there is in their sound for future development, the accomplishments here are considerable unto themselves.

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Ripple Music website

 

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages

weed demon astrological passages

Four tracks of gurgling riffy plunder pervade Astrological Passages, the 41-minute – longer if you get the digital version or the tape/CD, which includes the 7:24 “Dominion of Oblivion” – debut album from Columbus, Ohio’s Weed Demon. Delivered on vinyl through Electric Valley Records, the nodder/plodder carves out a cave for itself within a mountain of tonally thick stoner metal riffing, infusing a sense of sludge with shouted and growled vocals from guitarists Andy and Brian and bassist Jordan – only drummer Chris doesn’t get a mic – and an overarching sense of bludgeoning that’s Sleep-derived if not Sleep-adjacent in terms of its actual sound. Nasty? Why, yes it is, but as “Sigil of the Black Moon” heads toward the midpoint of its 10-minute run, the repetitive groove assault makes the band’s intention plain: worship weed, worship riff. They get faster on “Primordial Genocide” and even sneak a bit of speed in amidst the crawl before the banjo takes hold in the second half of 12-minute closer “Jettisoned” – more Americana sludge please; thank you – but they never lose sight of their mission, and it’s the uniting factor that makes their debut hit like the brick to the head that it is.

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Electric Valley Records website

 

Desert Storm, Sentinels

desert storm sentinels

With Sentinels, Oxford, UK, five-piece Desert Storm pass a decade since making their self-titled debut in 2008. They followed that with 2010’s Forked Tongues (review here), 2013’s Horizontal Life and 2014’s Omniscient (review here), and though they had a single out in 2014 on H42 Records as a split with Suns of Thunder (review here) in 2016, Sentinels is their first outing on APF Records and their first long-player in four years. Burl has always been an important factor in what they do, and the High on Fire-meets-Orange Goblin slamming of “The Brawl” backs that up, but Desert Storm have left much of the hyper-dudeliness behind in favor of a more complex approach, and while Sentinels isn’t a minor undertaking at 10 songs and 51 minutes, longer cuts like “Kingdom of Horns” and “Convulsion” demonstrate the maturity they’ve brought to bear, even as the one-two punch of “Drifter”  and “The Extrovert” offer swinging-fist hooks and beard-worthy chug that assures any and all testosterone quotas are met.

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Ancient Altar, Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras

ancient altar cosmic purge foie gras

Based in Los Angeles, Ancient AltarScott Carlson (bass/vocals), Barry Kavener (guitar/vocals), Jesse Boldt (guitar) and Etay Levy (drums) – were last heard from on 2015’s dug-in atmosludger Dead Earth (review here), and they return lo these several years later with the two-tracker Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras, pushing into more extreme crush-of-riff with an abandon that’s anything but reckless. On the contrary, there’s some clear development in the 10-minute “Cosmic Purge” and 13-minute “Foie Gras,” rolling out oppressive grooves with blended screams/shouts and cleaner vocals. As with the last album, a drive toward individuality is central here, and Ancient Altar get there in tone while bringing forth a sense of scope to a sound so regularly thought of as closed off or off-putting in general. In its early going, “Foie Gras” hypnotizes with echoing melody and spaciousness only to resolve itself in a deeply weighted dirge march, furthering the pummel of “Cosmic Purge” itself. I don’t know if the EP – on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records, CD on Transcendental Void Records – will lead toward another album or not, but the sense of progression in Ancient Altar’s style is right there waiting to be heard, so here’s hoping.

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Black Box Warning, Attendre la Mort

black box warning attendre la mort

Listen to it on headphones and the kickdrum on Black Box Warning’s Attendre la Mort is downright painful. Next-level blown-out aggro pulsations. Brutal in a physical sense. The rest of the band doesn’t follow far behind in that regard. Riffs are viscous and violent in noise rock tradition, but denser in their tone despite some underlying punkishness, and the vocals are likewise distorted and abrasive. The five-song/23-minute EP’s title translates to “Waiting for Death,” and each of the tracks is a dose: Opener “5 mg” is followed by “4 mg,” “1 mg,” “2 mg” and “3 mg.” Unsurprisingly, pills are a theme, particularly on “4 mg,” and the sense of violent threat is clear in “2 mg” and 3 mg,” which boast lines like, “Watch them all scream/Watch your enemy bleeded,” and “You are the pig/I am the butcher,” respectively. Between the lyrical and the general aural cruelty, the dis-ease is consuming and unmitigated, sludge becoming a slow-motion grindcore, and that’s clearly the point. Not stabbing, but gouging.

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Quarterly Review: All Them Witches, Anthroprophh, Orphan Gears, The Watchers, Grajo, Mythic Sunship, Empress, Monads, Nest, Redneck Spaceship

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Well, we’ve reached the end of the week if not the end of the Quarterly Review itself. That’s right: after hemming and hawing all week and going back and forth in my silly little brain, I’ve decided to extend this edition to a sixth day, which will be Monday. That means 60 reviews in six days, not 50 in five. Honestly, I could probably keep going for three or four more beyond that if I had the time or inclination, and I may get there someday, but I’m definitely not there now.

But hey, there have been a couple comments left along the way, so thanks for that. I appreciate you taking the time to read if you have. Here’s the last for the week and we’ll pick back up on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

All Them Witches, Lost and Found EP

all them witches lost and found ep

If Nashville four-piece All Them Witches put together the free-download Lost and Found EP simply as a means of getting their take on the folk song “Hares on the Mountain” out there, it was worth it. In the hands of vocalist/bassist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Rhodes specialist/violinist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler, the traditional tune becomes a wide open dronescape, bristling and vague like memory itself. It’s beautiful and a little confusing in just the right way, and it comes accompanied on the short release by the Fleetwood Mac cover “Before the Beginning,” an even-more-subdued take on “Call Me Star” from 2015’s New West Records debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), and a dub redux of “Open Passageways” – called, of course, “Dub Passageways” – from the same album. Might be a stopgap between full-lengths, but still, at 18 minutes, it’d make a more than worthy 10” release if they were looking for something new for the merch table.

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Anthroprophh, Omegaville

anthroprophh omegaville

Next time you feel like, “Hey man, I’m so freaked out and weird and wow man whatever blah blah,” just take a second to remember you live in a dimension where dudes from The Heads have side-projects. Paul Allen and Anthroprophh – his trio with Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb, otherwise known as the duo Big Naturals – are a freaked out freakout’s freakout. The stuff of psychedelic mania. And that’s only on the first disc of the 2CD Omegavlle (Rocket Recordings). By the time they get around to the three-song second disc and dig into extended trips like “Omegaille/THOTHB” (14:48) and the subsequent finale, “Journey out of Omegaville and into the…” (20:57), they’re so far gone into noise and captured, manipulated audio that who the hell knows where we’ve ended up? At 88 minutes, the limits of manageability are long left behind, but to get some of the Velvet Underground-in-space vibes of “Maschine” in trade for undertaking the undertaking it’s well worth letting go of the rigidity of things like time, place, etc.

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Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Orphan Gears, Rat Race

orphan gears rat race

I’m pretty sure Orphan Gears used the Super Mario Bros. font for their logo on the cover of their latest EP, Rat Race, and for that, they should be saluted. The gritty-riffing semi-punker London four-piece offer five tracks and 20 minutes of workaday, boozy grooves, blowing off steam after putting in a shift at this or that crappy job. They are null as regards pretense, and ask little more of their audience than perhaps a beer from the stage or whatever else might be on the menu that night. They share initials, but unlike much of the London underground, they share little ultimately with Orange Goblin in terms of style, despite the shuffle of “Tough Luck, BJ” or the harmonica at the end of “Bitch-Slapped Blues,” and by the time they get to the classic strut of the title-track, they seem to be dug into AC/DC-style groove in the verse while blending in modern heavy rock impulses around it. They clearly save their best for last.

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The Watchers, Black Abyss

the watchers black abyss

An immediately cogent, professional debut full-length is about what you’d expect from The Watchers, the San Francisco four-piece with members of SpiralArms, Orchid and Black Gates in their ranks, particularly after their prior EP, Sabbath Highway (review here), but that doesn’t stop the songwriting from impressing across the eight-song long-player, Black Abyss (on Ripple Music). The band’s presentation is crisp and pro-shop all the way through, from the soloing on “Oklahoma Black Magic” to the keyboard-laced TonyMartin-era-Sabbathism-meets-tambourine of “Suffer Fool” later on, and with the opening salvo of the title-track and “Alien Lust” right behind it, The Watchers set a quick expectation for hooks and a high standard of delivery that, thankfully, they show no hesitation in living up to for the duration, the chug-and-roll finale “Seven Tenets” satisfies in mood and efficiency, departing into airy guitar meditation and making its way back for a suitably rocking sendoff. Dudes know what they’re doing, where they’re headed and how they want to get there. All the listener needs to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Grajo, Slowgod II

grajo slowgod ii

A sequel to their 2015 full-length, Slowgod II (on Underground Legends Records, Spinda Records and DHU Records), sees Córdoba-based four-piece Grajo dug into a deep-toned psychedelic doom. There are flashes of Eastern influence on “Malmuerta,” with frontwoman Liz crooning over the minor-key guitar noodling of Josef, the forward motion in Félix’s drums and the heft of Pistolo’s bass. That dynamic works across Slowgod II, from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Altares” through its closing eight-minute counterpart “Malstrom,” which moves from early crunch through spacious volume swells in its middle only to regain composure and offer a heavy post-rock payoff that, somehow, still isn’t that atmospherically removed from the swinging “Horror and Pleasure” right before it or the similarly speedier “Queen Cobra” that follows “Altares” at the outset. Definitely one for the converted, Grajo deliver tones thick enough to stand on and engaging melodicism without falling into any real traps of sonic redundancy, varying their pace effectively and conjuring consuming plod on “ER” while still holding to that notion of breadth that seems to unite all their material here.

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DHU Records webstore

 

Mythic Sunship, Upheaval

mythic sunship upheaval

It just so happens this is exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. After releasing their Land Between Rivers (review here) LP through El Paraiso Records last year, the Copenhagen four-piece of Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Andersen and Rasmus “Cleaver” Christensen, collectively known as Mythic Sunship, return with four more slabs of exploratory bliss on Upheaval. Either completely or partially improvised, “Tectonic Beach” (12:42), “Aether Flux” (10:55), “Cosmic Rupture” (6:44) and “Into Oblivion” (13:56) flow together like the work of masters, and with shades of patient space rock at their core, the tracks are infused with life even beyond the spontaneity of their creation. Heavy jams. Heavy, spacy jams. Molten. Swirling. Badass. Even the shorter and more forward “Cosmic Rupture” is headed out of the atmosphere, and when they come around to the noisy payoff deep in “Into Oblivion,” it’s abundantly clear they’re not joking around when it comes to the title. You can get onboard with Mythic Sunship, or you can miss out. Bands like this separate the hip from the squares.

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El Paraiso Records webstore

 

Empress, Reminiscence

Empress reminiscence

Those who miss the days when Mastodon or Baroness howled their shouts into a landscape of crunching tonal largesse might do well to dig into what Vancouver, British Columbia’s Empress have to offer on their late-2017 debut EP, Reminiscence. The 27-minute five-tracker isn’t without its sense of melody – there’s plenty of room in eight-minute second cut “Immer” – but guitarist/vocalist Peter Sacco, bassist Brenden Gunn and drummer Chris Doyle make their primary impression via the impact of their material, and as they swap back and forth between shorter tracks and longer ones, a sense of structural playfulness results that moves through the bass openings of “Baptizer” (2:50) and “They Speak Like Trees” (9:27) into the ambient guitar finisher “Dawn,” and the feeling is that, like their stylistic forebears in at the time what was thought of as a new take on sludge metal, Empress will only grow more progressive as they move forward from this first outing. One hopes they hold firm to the tectonic weight they present here that so many others seem to have given up along the way.

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Empress on Bandcamp

 

Monads, IVIIV

monads iviiv

Released some six years after Monads’ 2011 debut, Intellectus Iudicat Veritatem, the Aesthetic Death Records-issued IVIIV was, according to the Belgian five-piece’s own accounting, in the works for most of that time in one way or another. One might say, therefore, that its creation does justice to the glacial pace of some of its slowest moments, the crawling death-doom extremity of pieces like “To a Bloodstained Shore,” or the lurch before the gallop takes hold in “Your Wounds Were My Temple.” At four songs and 50 minutes, IVIIV is indicative enough of the style, but Monads legitimately showcase a persona of their own in and out of those genre confines, the melancholic atmosphere and expanded arrangement elements (piano, etc.) of 15-minute closer “The Despair of an Aeon” creatively used if familiar, and the smoothness of the transitions in opener “Leviathan as My Lament” setting a tone of scope as well as downward emotional trajectory. Not sure I’d count on a quick turnaround for a follow-up, but if half a decade from now a new Monads record surfaces, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for.

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Aestehetic Death Records website

 

Nest, Metempsychosis

nest metempsychosis

Rolling from its untitled intro through its untitled outro through a barrage of charred-black, bludgeoning sludge extremity, the debut album from Lexington, Kentucky’s Nest, Metempsychosis (on Sludgelord Records), refers in its title to a transmigration of the soul, an inheritance almost as much as reincarnation. The band may be talking about themselves or they may be working on a theme throughout the record’s seven proper tracks, I don’t know, but if the idea is destruction and rebirth, they certainly sound more interested in the former. Songs like “Heretic” seethe and scour, while the lumbering and spacious closer “Life’s Grief,” capping with abrasive noise, would seem to be a mission statement in itself. Individual pieces like “Jewel of Iniquity” and the preceding atmosphere-into-mega-crush “Diving into the Entrails of Sheep” – of course the centerpiece of the tracklisting – are shorter unto themselves, but like everything else that surrounds, they feed into an overarching ambience of disgust and chaos.

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Redneck Spaceship, Grand Marshal Ape

redneck spaceship grand marshall ape

There are some issues as regards the balance of the mix pushing the vocals forward ahead of the guitar to work out, but Moscow’s Redneck Spaceship impress all the same with the intent and execution of their late-2017 self-released debut, Grand Marshal Ape. In riffs and songcraft, their influences stem from the classic days of stoner rock, but from opener “The Sands of Dakar” and the later “That Sounds Nuts,” one gets a vibe of underlying punk influence, while the twang in harmonized highlight “On the Roadside” and slide guitar of “Maverick” lends a Southern, bluesy swing that the penultimate “Enchained” answers back later ahead of the sample-laden psychedelic jam-out closer, “Antariksh,” which strikes as a far cry from the ultra-straightforward presentation earlier on “Empty Pockets,” but speaks to an immediate scope in Redneck Spaceship’s sound. One hopes they continue to meld elements as they progress beyond Grand Marshal Ape and bridge the gap between one side of their moniker and the other.

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Quarterly Review: Wolves in the Throne Room, Gravy Jones, Marmora, Mouth, Les Lekin, Leather Lung, Torso, Jim Healey, Daxma, The Re-Stoned

Posted in Reviews on January 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review continues today with day two of five. I don’t mind telling you — in fact I’m pretty happy to tell you — that this one’s all over the place. Black metal, post-metal, singer-songwriter stuff, psych jams, heavy rock. I feel like I’ve had to go to great pains not to use the word “weird” like 17 times. But I guess that’s what’s doing it for me these days. The universe has plenty of riffs. All the better when they start doing something different or new or even just a little strange. I think, anyhow. Alright, enough lollygagging. Time to dive in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Wolves in the Throne Room, Thrice Woven

wolves in the throne room thrice woven

True, it’s something of a cliché when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room to think of their work as “an awaited return,” and perhaps that speaks to the level of anticipation with which their outings are greeted generally. Nonetheless, Thrice Woven arrives via the band’s own Artemisia Records six years after Celestial Lineage, their last proper full-length, and three after its companion, Celestite (review here), so the five-track/42-minute offering from the USBM innovators is legitimately due. The Washington-based troupe’s black-metal-of-the-land remains heavily focused on atmosphere, with a sharp, experimental-feeling turn to ambience and melody in opener “Born from the Serpent’s Eye” and the later drone interlude “Mother Owl, Father Ocean” that precedes the rampaging closer “Fires Roar in the Palace of the Moon,” which caps Thrice Woven with a long fade into the sound of rolling waves. Between them, “The Old Ones are with Us” casts a vision of blackened folk-doom that seems to pull off what Agalloch was always aiming for, and centerpiece “Angrboda” blasts through an early wash before splitting near the midsection to minimalism and rebuilding itself on a slow march. 15 years on from their beginning, Wolves in the Throne Room still sound like no one else, and continue to push themselves forward creatively.

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Artemisia Records on Bandcamp

 

Gravy Jones, Funeral Pyre

gravy jones funeral pyre

It’s a crazy world into which Gravy Jones invite their listeners on their self-issued debut full-length, Funeral Pyre, and the fire they bring is born of a molten classic psychedelic rock underpinned by low end weight and further distinguished by its use of organ and proto-metallic vocal proclamations. Opener and longest track (immediate points) “Heavens Bliss” tops 10 minutes in its weirdo roll, and subsequent cuts “The Burning of the Witch” and “It Came from the Sea” do little to dispel the off-center vibe, the former dug into rawer NWOBHM-ism and the latter, the centerpiece of the five-tracker, beaming in from some kind of alt-universe Deep Purple idolatry to lead into the particularly doomed “Gilgamesh” and the shuffle-into-noisefest onslaught of the closing title-track. All told it’s 41 minutes of bizarre excursion that’s deceptively cohesive and feels like the start of a longer-term sonic exploration. Whether or not Gravy Jones even out sound-wise or hold to such an unhinged vibe, they definitely pique interest here.

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Marmora, Criterion

marmora criterion

Criterion – yes, like the collection – is the debut EP from Chicago four-piece Marmora, who released a single in 2013 before the core brotherly trio of Zaid (guitar), Alejandro (bass) and Ulysses (drums) Salazar hooked up with vocalist/guitarist/synthesist Allan Cardenas in 2015. The three-tracker that has resulted begins with its title-cut, which thrusts forth a wash of heavy post-rock that makes an impression in weight as much as space before turning to the more grounded, propulsive, aggressive and punkishly noise-caked “Apathy” and closer “Flowers in Your Garden,” which turns traditional heavy rock riffery on its head with frenetic drum work and rhythmic turns that feel born of modern progressive metal. Significant as the crunch factor and aggro pulsations are, Criterion isn’t at all without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and though there isn’t much tying these three tracks together, for a first EP, there doesn’t need to be. Let that come later. For now, the boot to the ass is enough.

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Mouth, Live ’71

mouth live 71

Perhaps in part as a holdover between their 2017 second album, Vortex (review here), and the impending Floating to be issued in 2018, German progressive retroists Mouth offer Live ’71. No, it was not actually recorded in 1971. Nor, to my knowledge, was it recorded in 2071 and sent back in time in a slingshot maneuver around the sun. It’s just a play on the raw, captured-from-the-stage sound of the 55-minute set, which opens at a 19-minute sprawl with “Vortex” itself and only deep-dives further from there, whether it’s into the keyboard throb of “Parade,” the nuanced twists of “Into the Light” or the more straightforward riffing of “On the Boat.” There’s room for all this scope and the stomp of “Master Volume Voice” in a Mouth set, it would seem, and if Live ’71 is indeed a stopgap, it’s one that shows off the individualized personality of the long-running band who seem to still be exploring even as they approach the 20-year mark.

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Les Lekin, Died with Fear

les lekin died with fear

A second full-length from Austrian heavy psych trio Les Lekin, Died with Fear is perhaps more threatening in its title than in its overall aesthetic. The four inclusions on the 43-minute follow-up to 2014’s All Black Rainbow Moon (review here) set their mission not necessarily in conveying terror or some overarching sense of darkness – though low end is a major factor throughout – as in cosmic hypnosis born of repetition and chemistry-fueled heavy psychedelic progressivism. Well at home in the extended and atmospheric “Orca” (10:41), “Inert” (10:21), “Vast” (8:59) and “Morph” (13:34), the three-piece of guitarist Peter G., bassist Beat B. and drummer Kerstin W. recorded live and in so doing held fast to what feels very much like a natural and developing dynamic between them, their material all the more fluid for it but carrying more of a sense of craft than most might expect from a release that, ostensibly, is based around jams. Sweeping and switched-on in kind, Died with Fear turns out to be remarkably vibrant for something under a banner so grim.

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Leather Lung, Lost in Temptation

leather lung lost in temptation

Oh, they’re mad about it, to be sure. I’m not sure what ‘it’ ultimately is, but whatever, it’s got Leather Lung good and pissed off. Still, the Boston-based onslaught specialists’ debut full-length, Lost in Temptation, has more to its cacophony than sheer violence, and though that intelligence is somewhat undercut by the hey-check-it-out-it’s-cartoon-tits-and-also-because-snakes-are-like-wieners cover art, the marriage between fuckall noise intensity on “Gin and Chronic” and trades between growl-topped thrust and more open and melodic plod on “Shadow of the Scythe” and upbeat rock on “Momentum of Misfortune.” Put it in your “go figure” file that the closer “Destination: Void,” which is marked as an outro, is the longest inclusion on the 28-minute offering, but by then due pummel has been served throughout pieces like “Deaf Adder” and “Freak Flag” amid the willful stoner idolatry of “The Spice Melange,” so there’s texture in the assault as well. Yeah though, that cover. Woof.

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Torso, Limbs

torso limbs

I won’t deny the strength of approach Austria’s Torso demonstrate across Limbs, their StoneFree Records debut LP, in the straightforward structures of songs like “Meaning Existence” or “Mirror of My Mind” or “Skinny and Bony” and the semi-acoustic penultimate grown-up-grunge alternarocker “Down the Highway,” but it’s hard to listen to the nine-minute spread of “Red Moon” in the midsection of the album and not come away from its patient psychedelic execution thinking of it as a highlight. Shades of post-rock and moodier fare make themselves known in “Come Closer” and the righteously melodic “Ride Up,” and closer “Voices” delivers a resounding payoff, but it’s “Red Moon” that summarizes the atmospheric and emotional scope with which Torso are working and most draws together the various elements at play into a cohesive singularity. One hopes it’s a model they’ll follow going forward, but neither should doing so necessarily draw away from the songwriting prowess they show here. It’s a balance that, having been struck, feels ready to be manipulated.

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StoneFree Records website

 

Jim Healey, Just a Minute More

jim healey just a minute more

Companioned immediately by a digital release of the demos on which it’s based, including four other songs that didn’t make the cut of the final, studio-recorded EP, Jim Healey’s Just a Minute More conveys its sense of longing in the title and moves quickly to stake its place in a long-running canon of singer-songwriterisms. Healey, known for fronting metal and heavy rock acts like We’re all Gonna Die, Black Thai, Set Fire, etc., could easily come across as a case of dual personality in the sweetly, unabashedly sentimental, acoustic-based opener “The Road” or the more-plugged-in “You and I” at the outset, but in the fuzzed-out centerpiece “Swamp Thing,” the emotionally weighted memorable hook of “Faced,” and the piano-topped payoff of closer “Burn Up,” the 18-minute EP unfurls a sense of variety and a full-band sound that sets the project Jim Healey on its own course even apart from the man himself. Some of those other demos aren’t too bad either. Just saying.

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Daxma, The Head Which Becomes the Skull

daxma-the-head-which-becomes-the-skull

Signed to Magnetic Eye for the release, Oakland post-metal five-piece Daxma answer the ambition of their half-hour single-song 2016 debut EP, The Nowhere of Shangri-La, with the even-fuller-length The Head Which Becomes the Skull, demonstrating a clear intent toward sonic patience and ambient reach that balances subtle builds and crashes with engaging immersiveness and nod. Three of the six total inclusions top 10 minutes, and within opener “Birth” (10:53), “Abandoning All Hope” (11:34) and the penultimate “Our Lives Will be Erased by the Shifting Sands of the Desert” (13:42), one finds significant breadth, but not to be discounted either are the roll of “Wanderings/Beneath the Sky,” the avant feel of the closing title-track or even the 80-second drone interlude “Aufheben,” which like all that surrounds it, feeds into a consuming ambience that undercuts the notion of The Head Which Becomes the Skull as a debut album for its purposefulness and evocative soundscaping.

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The Re-Stoned, Chronoclasm

the re-stoned chronoclasm

For their first new outing since they revisited their debut EP in 2016 with Reptiles Return (review here), Moscow instrumentalists The Re-Stoned cast forth Chronoclasm, a six-track long-player of new material recorded over 2015 and 2016 that ties together its near-hour-long runtime with a consistency of guitarist Ilya Lipkin’s lead tone and a steady interweaving of acoustic elements. “Human Without Body,” “Save Me Under the Emerald Glass,” “Psychedelic Soya Barbecue” and the title-track seem to have some nuance of countrified swing to their groove, but it’s lysergic swirl that ultimately rules the day throughout Chronoclasm, Yaroslav Shevchenko’s drums keeping the material grounded around Lipkin’s guitar and Vladimir Kislyakov’s bass. The trio are joined on percussion by Evgeniy Tkachev on percussion for the CD bonus track “Quartz Crystals,” which picks up from the quiet end of “Chronoclasm” itself and feels like a nine-minute improve extension of its serene mood, adding further progressive sensibility to an already wide scope.

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