Live Review: Neurosis, Bell Witch & Deafkids in Brooklyn, 08.11.19

Posted in Reviews on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Neurosis (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen two shows now at Brooklyn Steel, and the other one was Sleep, so needless to say I’m developing something of a crush on the massive warehouse-space-turned-venue, from its nearby public parking to the balcony space where one might, if the band is loud enough, feel the floor shake just a little bit. Needless to say, at both shows I’ve seen there, that particular phenomenon has occurred.

Three-band touring bill on a Sunday night: Brazil’s Deafkids, Seattle duo Bell Witch and post-metal’s own lawgivers, Neurosis — originally from Oakland but now more spread out along the West Coast and inland — headlining. I was interested to see Deafkids, having missed them at Roadburn earlier in the year, and Bell Witch have yet to disappoint anytime I’ve caught a set, but it was the thought of Neurosis in that room that got me out from under my grandfather’s pine tree and into Brooklyn for the show, rocking out to Sunday evening NPR all the way.

It was a relatively early start for Deafkids, but the three-piece from São Paulo made the most of their time and then some. Their sound is broad and encompassing enough that you can basically hear whatever you want to in it. Punk, psychedelia, organic techno, prog brilliance and space-garage rawness, experimentalism and barebones anti-craft, heavy riffs and pounding rhythms, modern disaffection and futurist ethereality — it’s all there. And at the same time, it’s jazz. Deafkids are the shape of jazz to come. I hadn’t realized. To me it like peak-era Ministry and most-lysergic Monster Magnet got together and decided hooks were for the weak, but again, you could hear anything in what they were doing.

Their 2019 full-length, Metaprogramação — which Neurosis released through their own Neurot Recordings imprint — is likewise stylistically ranging, but live, the effect was brilliant, most especially in the drums, which not only held together the effects wash when they wanted to, but through repetition became part of the overarching churn as offered by the guitar and bass. They were not a super-happy-funtime experience, but they were engrossing, demanding and earning attention from front to back for a set that felt short when it was over.

I heard someone say afterward that Bell Witch were playing a single song from their new album, as in, post-Mirror Reaper (review here), but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been wrong before, but from the gradual pickup to the way they rolled in linear fashion through their final crashes and receded, it seemed to be a piece culled from that 83-minute 2017 single-song outing — might’ve just been the first half of it; the “As Above” portion of the 2CD release — with drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond dug into the mournful weight of that album’s spacious emotionalism. Crushing they were, either way, but I was kind of shaking my head when they were done, wondering if I had been incorrect the whole time about what I was hearing. But no, I wasn’t.

Should they actually be moving past Mirror Reaper, they’ve got their work cut out for them in following it, but one might’ve said the same when they put out Four Phantoms (review here) in 2015, and in fact many did, so there. The darkness they conjure is luscious even at its most minimal, and though they didn’t have Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge to add vocals as he does on the studio version of “Mirror Reaper,” or the time to play the thing in its rather considerable entirety, they delivered a set that was as open as it was claustrophobic, excruciating in its patience but still vital in expression. They had a hard task preceding Neurosis on a Sunday night in Brooklyn, but they more than admirably faced that challenge.

Neurosis opened with the title-track of 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets (discussed here), and I decided about halfway through the song that if they walked off the stage after it without saying a word to the crowd, it still would’ve been worth the drive from NJ. Nearly 35 years on from their inception, Neurosis are the best live band I’ve ever seen. Their shows are on a different wavelength entirely from most acts, and when you go see Neurosis, whether it is your first time or your umpteenth time, it is reasonable to go in with high expectations. I found myself with eyes closed, earplugs mostly out for “End of the Harvest,” from 1999’s Times of Grace, which was the penultimate inclusion in the set and as deep into their discography as they went, but it was “Bending Light” and “Reach” from 2016’s Fires Within Fires (review here) that wound up making the greatest impression on me.

Entirely possible it was a mood thing, or the circumstance of where I was standing, but I seemed to hear more nuance in the guitars of Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly, more psychedelia in how they wove in with Noah Landis‘ ultra-crucial keys and samples, and of course with the weight of bassist Dave Edwardson and the intricate drumming of Jason Roeder, the raw impact of their heaviest moments did indeed shake the floor of Brooklyn Steel‘s balcony. “At the Well” and “Given to the Rising,” “To the Wind” and “My Heart for Deliverance” were certainly more than welcome, but I decided I needed a visit with Fires Within Fires, from which “A Shadow Memory” was also aired, its blend of atmospheric guitar and swinging crunch further encouraging the refresher. Was that album Neurosis‘ way of blending the punk of their roots with a forward-looking psych churn? Did I know it at the time? Was there something I missed, so caught up in the fact of their 30th anniversary? I wonder now.

A bit of homework, maybe, but before Neurosis sent the Sunday night crowd packing, they finished out with “Stones from the Sky,” the closer of A Sun that Never Sets, which was, as ever, a behemoth in its execution. Roeder seemed to change up his drums at the end, opening up the beat just a little bit as the song descended into chaos, and the effect was to make the sudden cut to silence all the more stark. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Neurosis do an encore, but I stood around for a while anyway, hoping they might decide on a whim to come out and roll through “Locust Star” just for the hell of it. No dice, but no complaints either.

In the leadup to this show, I was thinking about the first time I saw Neurosis, at the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia in 2004. They didn’t really tour at the time, but they were heralding the release of the just-recently-reissued Neurosis & Jarboe collaboration, as well as that’s year’s The Eye of Every Storm (review here). It was the kind of night that changes your perspective on live music. Having had that experience 15 years ago and been fortunate enough to see Neurosis multiple times over since, as they’ve returned to the road more regularly, I had a pretty good sense of what I was going into at Brooklyn Steel. They still managed to exceed expectation. May they go forever doing precisely that.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Magnetic Eye Records Announces Label Showcase with Horsehunter, Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clearly, Magnetic Eye Records is not into half-measures. Any label can put together a tribute. When Magnetic Eye does it, it’s two sprawling collections of bands playing homage to landmark albums and artists’ greatest hits. Any label can put together a showcase. When Magnetic Eye does it, they fly in three international acts, from Australia, the UK and Sweden, to round out the bill. Do you have any idea how insane that is?

It’s quite insane.

They’ve got a Kickstarter up now, as they will, and as rewards for backers they’re letting you preorder which set you’d like to have the recorded version of, because of course they’re also recording the sets. Seriously?

To do otherwise would be a half-measure.

They’re calling it ‘The Day of Doom,’ and in addition to HorsehunterElephant Tree, and Domkraft, they’ll have SummonerLeather LungGhastly SoundHigh PriestCaustic Casanova and These Beasts on the bill. Nine bands at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Nov. 2.

Quite insane. Just enough to work:

magnetic eye showcase banner

MAGNETIC EYE RECORDS presents its first ever live label showcase at the legendary Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn this November 2nd!

Check out the Kickstarter to help us make the Day of Doom truly epic and get in on the exclusive live album releases from MER’s flagship bands.

Sure, it’s summer right now, but have you looked around? Seas are rising, animal populations are shrinking, Scott Stapp has a new album, dogs and cats are living together… it’s mass hysteria.

Not the types to fly in the face of impending Armageddon, Magnetic Eye thought we’d expedite the end times by officially declaring our own DAY OF DOOM on November 2nd of this year as the date of our first-ever live label showcase.

Where?

The Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York. Where the hell else?

Who?

No less than nine crushing Magnetic Eye roster bands, headlined by our four flagship acts that have helped shape and define the core of the MER sound:

Summoner
Horsehunter
Domkraft
Elephant Tree

What does this mean for you?

Two things:

1. If you’re anywhere near the New York area (or even if you’re not), you’re going to want to make the pilgrimage to this show. With our biggest and heaviest acts flying in from all over the world, it’s probably no stretch to say we have no idea when or if this will ever happen again. Tickets will be on sale soon directly via the Saint Vitus Bar, and we’ll of course let you know where to get them.

2. Whether you can make this incredible convergence in person or not, you can share in the experience. Magnetic Eye will be recording the four headline bands at Day of Doom for an exclusive set of live album releases, and you can support helping get the bands here for the event and reserve your live records now by jumping on board the Kickstarter for the project at this location.

Look, we’d love to have all of you there with us. But we know it’s not possible for some to make the trip, and we understand. Hell, it wasn’t possible for most of us to attend Woodstock, but at least we have the soundtrack, right?

Check out our Kickstarter now to lock down your exclusive editions of Elephant Tree, Domkraft, Summoner and Horsehunter Live at the Day of Doom New York. It’s going to be absolutely unforgettable. And thanks to these records, you’ll always remember.

http://store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Leather Lung, Lonesome, On’ry & Evil (2019)

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Weird Owl Premiere “Diamond Mist” Video; New Album Wet Telepathy Available to Preorder

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on July 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The new Weird Owl full-length, Wet Telepathy, has been given a Sept. 20 release date through Little Cloud Records — preorders are up now, if you’re the think-ahead type — and I can hardly think of a better time than the end of summer for its shimmering orange psychedelic haze. As the nights begin to turn cool in respite from the humidity of the Northeast, to have Weird Owl belting out live-in-the-moment jams like “Phantom Physician,” “Death Necklace” and the garagedelic “Diamond Mist” — the video for which is premiering at the bottom of this post — will be nothing but welcome, as the Brooklynite outfit follow 2017’s Bubblegum Brainwaves (review here) with a likewise expanded-mind melodic wash, all “far out, man” and not a bummer in the bunch, even the 90-second organ stretch “Headless Horsemen” and the closer “Let Each Man Decompose (At His Own Speed),” which takes Help!-era Beatles — that tambourine is a tell — to dreamier places only after the more fully-fuzzed “Nailed to the Ceiling” has run your grunge childhood through a lysergic spin cycle. You put in white sheets. They came out tie-dye. So it goes.

That’s how these cats do, and they do it well and they’ve been doing it long enough at this point that their sense of space is immediate. Returning once again to the studio with Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil means their adventure happens in familiar climes, and in some ways, Wet Telepathy feels like a strong, more song-minded sequel to Bubblegum Brainwaves, but as the maybe-sitar and definitely-keyboards of “P.U.M.P.” roll out crumbling mountain landscapes, it’s as much a fresh vibe as it is a classic one, and Weird Owl invite the listener to their wavelength at the same time they make a compelling case to undertake the journey. All I’m saying is that if you feel like maybe your blood just got awesome, it’s probably working.

Wet Telepathy is out Sept. 20. You’ll find the video for “Diamond Mist” below, but here’s art and info first, courtesy of the PR wire:

weird owl wet telepathy

Weird Owl – Wet Telepathy

New album out 9/20/19 on Little Cloud Records.

NYC psych rock veterans Weird Owl are set to release Wet Telepathy, their seventh studio album, on September 20, 2019 on Little Cloud Records. Taking off from the psychedelic yet concise songwriting established on 2017’s Bubblegum Brainwaves, this new album showcases the unpredictable and idiosyncratic nature of the band’s musical output. Songs about phantoms, psychic demons, bad trips and time travel all find a home in the off-kilter and slightly wobbly sci-fi universe created by Weird Owl. Wet Telepathy marks the fourth consecutive record on which the band has partnered with Jeffrey Berner (Psychic TV) in the role of engineer, mixer and producer. Together they have achieved a vision that is totally unlike any other band in the contemporary psych rock scene.

Preorder here: https://littlecloudrec.com/collections/frontpage/products/weird-owl-wet-telepathy-pre-order

Recorded, mixed and produced by Jeffrey Berner at Galuminum Foil, Brooklyn, NY.
Mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering.
Artwork by Killer Acid.

Since releasing their debut album in 2007, Weird Owl have firmly cemented their place in the international psychedelic underground. Championed by none other than legendary Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe (who released two of the band’s albums on his personal label). One of the band’s tunes, “White Hidden Fire”, has been viewed on YouTube over 2.6 million times at the time of writing. Weird Owl have performed at such renowned festivals as Austin Psych Fest, Eindhoven Psych Fest (Netherlands) and The Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (UK).

https://weirdowl.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Weird.owl.ny/
http://www.weirdowl.net/
https://soundcloud.com/weird-owl
https://www.facebook.com/littlecloudrecords
https://www.instagram.com/littlecloudrecords
https://littlecloudrec.com/

Weird Owl, “Diamond Mist” official video premiere

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Exit Interview: The Mad Doctors Call it Quits

Posted in Features on July 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the mad doctors

Playing with and off conventions of punk, surf, heavy rock and more besides, New York trio The Mad Doctors have been a sort of gleeful anomaly. In the release info for what will serve as their final (as much as anything is final in rock and roll) release, the EP R.I.P., they use the word “weirdoid,” and I love that, because not only does it push “weirdo” to 11, but it has fun in the process, and from where I sit, that’s what the band have been about this whole time. They call it quits leaving behind a too-short discography of short releases, splits and the 2016 full-length, No Waves, Just Sharks (review here), and an aesthetic that seemed just to be finding its joy in the strange nuance of their songwriting, but their doing so hints that perhaps the point all along was the search, not the find. In any case, they were a good band. So it goes.

R.I.P. serves as vital emphasis on that point particularly; one more fuzz blowout from guitarist/vocalist Seth Applebaum, bassist Joshua Park and drummer Greg Hanson, who earlier this year also issued the Fuck Sean Hannity digital single, thereby earning a 1UP’s worth of charm points. I’ve done exit interviews before once or twice. A band breaking up can be a contentious thing, and as I’m not really into hearing dudes rag on each other or dig into “band drama,” it’s not something I always want to chase down, but with The Mad Doctors, that doesn’t seem to have been what did it. They just seem like they’re ready to move on. There are new projects in the works and they decided to put things to rest with the five songs on R.I.P. and some last shows. It’s hard not to respect that, and after a run that goes back to 2013’s Fuzz Tonic EP, they’ve well earned the victory lap. So here are the dates:

The Mad Doctors last shows:
Wed 7/17 – Brooklyn @ Windjammer
Thur 7/18 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Gooskies
Fri 7/19 – Ft. Wayne, IN @ The Brass Rail
Sa 7/20 – Detroit, MI @ Beaconsfield House
Su 7/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reed’s
Mon 7/22 – Cincinnati, OH @ The Hub
Tu 7/23 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
Wed 7/24 – Richmond, VA @ Cary St. Cafe
Th 7/25 – Harrisonburg, VA @ Lon Lon Ranch
Fri 7/26 – Washington, DC @ The Pie Shop
Sa 7/27 – Baltimore, MD @ Mercury Theater

I’ll say this about them: I never knew what a given offering from The Mad Doctors would offer — and that’s still true on R.I.P. — but I knew it would be a good time. I’m glad they had the awareness to pull the plug before it stopped being one.

Enjoy the interview and all the best to Applebaum, Park and Hanson on current and future projects:

The Mad Doctors – Exit Interview

Okay, so what happened? Why end The Mad Doctors?

Nothing happened, really. Creative projects just have ends. We were able to feel it coming and thought it was best to try to make the best of it and have some fun before we put it to bed. It’s better to have it end naturally rather than keep it going just for the hell of it. We had an amazing run – our adult lives are in many ways defined by it, we have made so many of our closest friends through it, we have seen so many places we otherwise wouldn’t have. And now it’s time to see where else the road goes.

When did you first start to feel like things with the band were drawing to a close? Obviously you’re still in it, but did it become the band you wanted it to be?

It has been about a year, maybe a little longer. It was mostly a lack of inspiration to write new material. It kind of felt like we had explored all the things we were excited about sonically that made sense with this band. Around this time, we had a few meetings to try to get the creative juices flowing again and see what we hadn’t tried (one of these attempts turned into “Aggro”) but most of the time, it ended with lukewarm tunes that just didn’t fit us. Sonic interests had changed, tastes had changed and we just felt like it was time to figure out a good way to put it to bed. So we came up with the idea of doing one more record and another tour to support it, a few goodbye shows and end on a high note.

Did you know as the new EP was coming together that this was it?

Yeah — we went into the recording process with the plan for it to be the last release. Thankfully we all still love each other and playing in the band is still a lot of fun so giving it some time wasn’t a problem at all but we have been sitting on the news and it’s exciting to be able to do it one more time.

You’ve toured, played fests, recorded albums, splits, the whole thing. What are you leaving undone?

Really, the only thing we wanted but haven’t done is tour internationally. It’s a bit of a bummer but we all have jobs and commitments to things locally so an international tour just wasn’t in the cards but we definitely wish it had! We had talked about Europe, Australia, Asia – we have had some good love from around the world – just good excuses to travel and see new places – which is always how we viewed touring in the first place. For another band, I suppose!

Best memory — live, in the studio, whatever. What specific moment will you look back on most fondly?

I mean, it’s impossible to pick one memory but when pressed, I definitely think one of the more magical moments was something that happened on a recent tour. We were playing a basement in Harrisonburg, VA that only had one light – a standing lamp that our friend (Jake from Illiterate Light) was whipping around, giving us a “light show.” Well, in the middle of one of the songs, he accidentally broke the bulb and we finished the song in darkness. Honestly, not the first time we have played in total darkness for one reason or another but after the song, we asked someone to turn another light on and we were told there wasn’t another light to turn on. So Jake turns on the flashlight on his phone and five or six more people in the front row take the cue and do the same so we finished the set by iPhone light and it was a moment that was totally awesome.

What lessons will you take from your time in The Mad Doctors as you move forward?

We learned all of the ropes in The Mad Doctors. Everything. How to book shows, how to book tours, how to not fight with band members, how to talk to each other, how to keep out of each others’ hair on the road, how to not take a bad show as a sign that your band totally sucks, how to embrace the moments of pure magic, how to maintain relationships in close quarters, how to play our instruments. It’s immense how much we have all taken from this band.

What’s next for you guys? Any new bands or projects in the works?

Always lots of stuff! Seth and Josh are doing Seth’s psychedelic soul band Ghost Funk Orchestra, who is doing quite well (and has a new LP coming out in August called ‘A Song For Paul’), Greg is in another garage punk band called Lumps, who is working on their second LP, Greg and Seth have a recording project called Power Children that’s like revved-up biker rock as well as their super-sometimes (like they play once a year) surf punk band The Fucktons, and Josh is always working on his solo drone/sludge project Sludge Judy (which Seth plays drums in). So – yeah, we’re definitely not done making music together in other forms and we’re all keeping active and happy with lots of music!

The projects:
https://ghostfunkorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/a-song-for-paul-2
https://soundcloud.com/ghostloadsound/power-children-night-time-is-the-fight-time
https://thefucktons.bandcamp.com/album/spring-cleaning
https://sludgejudy.bandcamp.com/

Seriously though, reunion tour in a year?

Who knows? Honestly, we’re not saying we’re never going to play again but this is the end of the band playing consistently, especially for the time being. Maybe we’ll have inspiration and write more songs and pick up the mantle again. But until then, we’re going to have a few more bangers and give our necks and heads a rest…

The Mad Doctors, “Shit Hawks at Blood Beach” official video

The Mad Doctors on Bandcamp

The Mad Doctors on Thee Facebooks

R.I.P. tape preorder

King Pizza Records website

King Pizza Records on Thee Facebooks

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Insect Ark Announce Lineup Change; Touring with Oranssi Pazuzu

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

INSECT ARK

I seem to recall Insect Ark went on tour a couple years ago with Aluk Todolo, and was out before that with Aidan Baker and has toured with Locrian as well, so with the news that the Brooklynite outfit will join Oranssi Pazuzu for an East Coast run this Fall comes further confirmation that Dana Schechter has good taste. Schechter is once again the lone figure as well as the spearhead of the project, having parted ways recently with Ashley Spungin following the release last year of the well received Marrow Hymns (discussed here). A follow-up to that record is in the works, and it should be interesting to hear how Schechter being on her own again affects the sound. She’s never had any trouble harnessing a dynamic between minimalist ambience and outright crush, so yeah. One expects she’ll be fine.

Tour dates follow. These will be good shows:

oranssi pazuzu insect ark tour

INSECT ARK: Instrumental Noise/Doom Project Confirms North American Live Takeover Supporting Oranssi Pazuzu

Instrumental noise/doom project INSECT ARK will support Finland’s Oranssi Pazuzu on a North American fall tour. The journey will begin on October 10th in Chicago, Illinois and run through October 19th in Atlanta, Georgia with additional INSECT ARK performances to be announced in the weeks to come. See confirmed dates below.

INSECT ARK w/ Oranssi Pazuzu:
10/10/2019 Reggies – Chicago, IL
10/11/2019 El Club – Detroit, MI
10/12/2019 Velvet Underground – Toronto, ON
10/13/2019 Le Ritz – Montreal, QC
10/14/2019 Sonia – Boston, MA
10/15/2019 Le Poisson Rouge – New York, NY
10/16/2019 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
10/17/2019 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
10/18/2019 Kings – Raleigh, NC (late show)
10/19/2019 529 – Atlanta, GA

Formed in late 2011 in New York City, INSECT ARK is the solo project of Dana Schechter (bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers). An alluring fusion of horror-?lm soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream.

A busy 2018 included the release of a full-length LP Marrow Hymns on Profound Lore Records, European and North American tours, a recording residency at modular synth mecca EMS Stockholm, and fest appearances at Roadburn, Basilica Soundscape, Northwest Terror Fest, and more. Now in Summer 2019, the composing of a new album is almost complete with heavy touring in fall 2019 and spring 2020 for the US and Europe scheduled.

From its inception, INSECT ARK has been about creating music that transports, both physically, and psychologically. Schechter made three solo INSECT ARK records (Collapsar 7″, Long Arms 10″, Portal/Well LP). In 2015, drummer/analog electronics builder Ashley Spungin joined the project, and together they made 2018’s Marrow Hymns and toured extensively as a duo/band.

As of July 2019, INSECT ARK returns to the primary model of Schechter working as a solo artist, with live and studio collaborations on a per-project basis. Bridging the gap between experimentation and song form, a heavy focus is on composition, but INSECT ARK is still very much a live experience, with emphasis on live instrumentation of bass, lap steel, drums and synths, using intricate live analog looping techniques to achieve a monster “wall of sound” with only one or two people on stage.

A mind-bending animated video piece accompanies live shows – also made by Schechter, who works as a video artist in the film business – completing the experience to envelop and crush the senses.

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, Marrow Hymns (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Salem’s Bend, Motorpsycho, Sigils, Lord Dying, Sunn O))), Crimson Heat, Molior Superum, Moros, Glitter Wizard, Gourd

Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Today is Tuesday, I’m pretty sure, and hey, that’s nifty. I thought yesterday kicked off the Summer 2019 Quarterly Review really well, and any time I get through one of these without my head caving in on itself, I feel like that’s a victory, so yeah. Now we wade even deeper into what will ultimately be a 60-review plunge, with another 10 offerings of various stripes and takes on heavy. Some higher profile stuff in here, which is fine, I guess, but most of it is pretty recent, so if there’s something you haven’t heard yet, I hope you find something you dig, as always.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Salem’s Bend, Supercluster

salems bend supercluster

This is the sound of a band who’ve figured it out. Salem’s Bend have taken retroist boogie and modern tonalism, production and melody and turned it into something of their own. Supercluster (on Ripple) follows the Los Angeles trio of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Parker, bassist/vocalist Kevin Schofield and drummer Zach Huling‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), and with an uptick in the complexity of songwriting overall and particularly in the arrangements of dual-vocals, it is a marked step forward palpable as much in the hook of “Ride the Night” — and if you’re gonna call a song that, you better bring it — as the heavy crash ending “Heavenly Manna” and the languid, lucidly dreaming groove in “Infinite Horizon,” which appears ahead of the acoustic hidden track “Beltaine Chant.” That won’t be the last time these guys unplug, but whether it’s the raw Zeppelin vibe of “Show Me the Witch” or the crunching low-end nod of “Thinking Evil” or the leadoff thrust in “Spaceduster,” the message is clear that Salem’s Bend have arrived.

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music webstore

 

Motorpsycho, The Crucible

motorpsycho the crucible

The latest in Motorpsycho‘s nigh-on-impossible-to-chart and ever-growing discography is The Crucible, issued through Stickman Records, and taking some of the heavy rock push of 2017’s The Tower (review here) and stretching out to more willfully progressive execution across three increasingly extended tracks. Running from shortest to longest, the album begins with “Psychotzar” (8:44) which resolves itself in maddening turns after fleshing through an energetic beginning, and rounds out side A with the 11-minute “Lux Aeterna,” with vocal harmonies and mellotron building into a graceful swell of volume before a headspinner solo and jam take hold, break to near-silence and finish in a burst of directly earliest-King Crimson majesty. This all before the 20:51, side B-consuming title-track crashes in with immediate tension and plays back and forth at releasing that through a course that is rife with melody and an emphasis on the mastery of Motorpsycho over their sound and direction. Onto the list of the year’s best records it goes.

Motorpsycho on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Sigils, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves

Sigils You Built the Altar You Lit the Leaves

Hypnotic and immersive heavy post-rock and metal becomes the genre tag well enough, but what New York’s Sigils do on their markedly impressive self-recorded, self-released debut album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves, is more soulful and emotive than “post-” anything generally conveys. With four tracks/38 minutes best taken as a whole, single listening experience, the band offer resonant depths of tone and vocal echoes centered around airy but still weighted guitar and consuming rhythms brought to bear with the patience of an organic Jesu. The ultimate triumph is in the melody and payoff of 13-plus-minute closer “The Wicked, the Cloaked,” which seems to manifest the haunting sensibility that “Samhain” and “Ritual” advocate on side A, but neither will I discount the chug of the prior “Faceless” or the underlying churn in those two leadoff tracks. Especially as a first album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves casts a sonic identity for itself that is striking and sees the band already beginning to push themselves forward. One hopes they continue to do so.

Sigils on Thee Facebooks

Sigils on Bandcamp

 

Lord Dying, Mysterium Tremendum

Lord Dying Mysterium Tremendum

Following 2015’s Poisoned Altars (review here), subsequent years of touring and a jump from Relapse to eOne Metal, Lord Dying‘s Mysterium Tremendum is enough of a stylistic melting pot that the best thing to do is call it progressive and just let it roll. Comprised of 11 tracks themed around death and the afterlife, the record takes the Portland, Oregon, outfit’s prior death-doom ways and expands them to incorporate an array of styles and melodies, like a vocoder-less Cynic or even Atheist, but more focused on the songs themselves. It’s being widely hailed as one of 2019’s best metal releases, and honestly I can’t speak to that because who the hell knows what “metal” even means, but it sees Lord Dying pull off a major sonic leap and if this is the direction they’re headed from now on, then I guess “metal” is going to be whatever the hell they want. So there. Expect to see a lot of Lord Dying t-shirts around in the years to come.

Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Sunn O))), Life Metal

sunn life metal

The core of Sunn O)))‘s sound — that is, the drone-riffed tonality of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, has proven amorphous enough over the last two decades to either be orchestral, minimalist, impossibly bleak, or now, something brighter. The Steve Albini-recorded Life Metal is one of two purported Sunn O))) releases slated for this year, and it follows behind 2015’s Kannon (review here) in manifesting their project in a new way. It is 68 minutes long, comprised of four tracks — the first, “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths,” is notable for the inclusion of vocals from Hildur Guðnadóttir; the rest is instrumental — and while one wonders how much is the power of suggestion amid their colorful artwork and titular presentation, “life” as opposed to death metal, etc., their resonance throughout “Aurora” (19:07) and “Novae” (25:24) strips away much of the flourish that has engulfed Sunn O))) in their post-maturity years and reminds of the power at their center. They chose the right producer.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crimson Heat, Crimson Heat

Crimson Heat Crimson Heat

With a handful of tracks of dirt-coated Sabbathian doom rock, Crimson Heat make their debut with a self-titled demo/EP in no small part defined by its lack of pretense. I’d buy the tape at the show. You’d buy the tape at the show. The download is free. Clearly this is a band figuring out what they want to do and trying to catch a few ears, but the sound is right on. Notable as well for the participation of Sam Marsh of Sinister Haze, tracks like “At My Door” blend Tee Pee Records-style skate vibes with darker traditionalist crunch, and the subsequent acoustic interlude “Firewood” indeed adds a bit of burning-stove smell to the procession ahead of doomed shuffler finale “Deep Red.” They might be new, but from the nod of “Premonition” and the double-layered guitar of “Fortune Teller,” they very clearly know where they’re coming from. What they do with that from here will tell the tale, but for now, selling the tape at the show isn’t nothing. Guess they better get on pressing some up.

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Heat on Bandcamp

 

Molior Superum, As Time Slowly Passes By…

Molior Superum As Time Slowly Passes By

The boogie runs strong in Molior Superum‘s first album in seven years, As Time Slowly Passes By… (on H42 Records), the title of which might just hint at the distance between their two full-lengths. Their debut was Into the Sun (discussed here) in 2012, and they answered that with 2014’s Electric Escapism (review here), but for a band who sound so energized on cuts like “Att Födas Rostig” and “Through Valleys of Wonder,” the time differential from one record to the next is curious. Still, no question the Swedish four-piece make the most of the 36 minutes they present on their sophomore offering, realizing classic vibes and fuzz tones through modern production that recalls the likes of GraveyardJeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus and even, on “Into the Grey,” Demon Head‘s doomier fare, with an overarching bluesy sensibility that remains exciting even in moments like the hypnotic midsection build of centerpiece “Divinity Blues.” Even the closing soft-guitar title-track has movement. They sound hungry in a way that suggests maybe it won’t be another seven years before a third LP arrives.

Molior Superum on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

 

Moros, Weapon

moros weapon

Just because Philly is leading the Eastern Seaboard in terms of psychedelic charge, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the guttersludge extremity of a unit like Moros. The destructive three-piece’s first full-length, Weapon (on Hidden Deity Records), is vicious in its bite and downright nasty in its groove, abrasive from the static intro “(Vortexwound)” onward through “We Don’t Deserve Death” and “Devil Worshipper,” which recalls slower Napalm Death in its riff but is met with a harsh scream as well as shouts. The brutality continues through “Wizard of Loneliness” and into the outright pummel of “Death Nebula,” such that the locked-in nodder groove in the second half of “Every Day is Worse Than the Last” feels almost like a lifeboat, though there’s little salvation on offer in the closing title-track, which fades out on a noisy note in much the same way it faded in. Filthy, mean and heavy. The crust is real and it is thick.

Moros on Thee Facebooks

Hidden Deity Records website

 

Glitter Wizard, Opera Villains

glitter wizard opera villains

I was enticed to dig further into Glitter Wizard‘s Opera Villains (on Heavy Psych Sounds) by the recent video for opener “A Spell So Evil” (posted here), and it’s not a choice I regret. The San Fran-based weirdo collective are putting on a show, no doubt, but the quality of their songwriting on “The Toxic Lady” and the punkish underpinning of “Dead Man’s Wax,” etc., puts them in a classic rocking no man’s land in which they absolutely revel. The laser-strewn drama of “March of the Red Cloaks” and the organ- and flute-laced swing of “Hall of the Oyster King” embrace the grandiose in brazen fashion, and thereby make it that much easier for the listener to join them on this wavelength that is so thoroughly their own. Closer “Warm Blood” taps prog-of-old pomposity in its largesse while the earlier “Fear of the Dark” seems to do the same thing with just an acoustic guitar and some vocal harmonies. A record that knew exactly what it wanted to be and then became that thing. Awesome.

Glitter Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Gourd, Moldering Aberrations

gourd moldering aberrations

Ambient darkness is inflicted with only the cruelest of spirit throughout Gourd‘s Moldering Aberrations EP, the Irish two-piece alternating minimalist spaciousness with gurgling drone intensity, the extremity of which doesn’t so much come through in pummel or drive, but in the swell of volume and its contrast with the emptiness surrounding. Also the growls. Three tracks are offered up like monuments to pain, and through “Befoulment,” “Mycelium” and the title-track, they conjure a heft of atmosphere as much as one of low end, the claustrophobic feeling of their craft coming through even in the relatively peaceful opening of the last song. That peace, of course, isn’t so much moment of respite as it is precursor to the next plunge, and either way, Gourd work in grueling fashion over 23 minutes to dismantle consciousness and expectation with a grim, distortion-fueled chaos from which there seems to be no escape, until the rumble and noise leave “Moldering Aberrations” and there’s just residual hum and a cymbal crash left. Madness.

Gourd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Earth, Heilung, Thronehammer, Smear, Deadbird, Grass, Prana Crafter, Vago Sagrado, Gin Lady, Oven

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

quarterly-review

Deep breath. And… here we go.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. You probably know the drill by now, but just in case, here’s what’s up: starting today and through next Monday, I’ll be reviewing 10 records per day for a total of 60. I’ve done this every three months (or so) for the better part of the last five years, each one with at least 50 releases included. Some are big bands, some are new bands, some are releases are new, some older. It’s a mix of styles and notoriety, and that’s exactly the intent. It’s a ton of stuff, but that’s also the intent, and the corresponding hope is that somewhere in all of it there’s something for everyone.

I’ll check in each day at the top with what usually turns out to be a “hot damn I’m exhausted, but this is worth it”-kind of update, but otherwise, if we’re all on board, let’s just get to it. First batch below, more to come.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

Finding post-Southern Lord refuge with Sargent House in similar fashion to Boris, Earth seem to act in direct response to 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (review here) with the 10-track/62-minute Full Upon Her Burning Lips, stripping their approach down to its two essential components: Dylan Carlson‘s guitar and Adrienne Davies‘ drums. The former adds bass as well, and the latter some off-kit percussion, but that’s about as far as they go in the extended meditation on their core modus — even the straightforward photo on the cover tells the story — psychedelic and brooding and still-spacious as the music is. Gone are folk strings or vocals, and so on, and instead, they foster immersion through not-quite minimalist nod and roll, Carlson‘s guitar soundscaping atop Davies‘ slow, steady pulse. It’s not nearly so novel as the last time out, but timed to the 30th anniversary of the band, it’s a reminder that if you like Earth, this dynamic is ultimately why.

Earth on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Heilung, Futha

heilung futha

It might seem like an incongruity that something so based in traditionalism conceptually would also turn into experimentalist Viking jazz, but I defy you to hear “Galgadr,” the 10-minute opener of Heilung‘s third full-length, Futha (on Season of Mist), and call it something else. Cuts like the memorable and melodic “Norupo” and the would-be-techno-but-I-think-they’re-actually-just-beating-on-wood “Svanrand,” which, like “Vapnatak” before it, is rife with the sounds of battle, but it’s in the longer pieces, “Othan,” 14-minute closer “Hamrer Hippyer,” and even the eight-plus-minute “Elivgar” and “Elddansurin” that precede it, that Heilung‘s dramas really unfold. Led by the essential presence of vocalist Maria Franz — who could hardly be more suited to the stated theme of calling to feminine power — Heilung careen through folk and narrative and full cultural immersion across 73 minutes, and craft something willfully forward thinking from the history it embellishes.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Thronehammer, Usurper of the Oaken Throne

thronehammer usurper of the oaken throne

The reliable taste of Church Within Records strikes again in picking up Thronehammer‘s first full-length, Usurper of the Oaken Throne. The project is a dark and warmaking epic mega-doom working mostly in longform material — it’s six tracks/78 minutes, so yeah — conjured in collaboration by the trio of vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham (Lucifer’s Chalice, etc.), guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Bootsy West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and drummer/bassist Tim Schmidt (Seamount), that hits with a massive impact from 17-minute opener “Behind the Wall of Frost” into “Conquered and Erased” (11:24) and “Warhorn” (19:12), making for an opening salvo that’s a full-length unto itself and a beast of doomed grandeur that balances extremity with clearheaded presentation. They simplify the proceedings a bit for “Svarte Skyer” and the eponymous “Thronehammmer,” but are clearly in their element for the 15-minute closing title-track, which rounds out one of the best doom debuts I’ve heard so far this year with due heft and ceremony.

Thronehammer on Thee Facebooks

Church Within Records on Bandcamp

 

Smear, A Band Called Shmear

Smear A Band Called Shmear

Smear‘s live-recorded A Band Called Shmear EP is basically the equivalent of that dude getting dragged out of the outdoor concert for being at the bottom of the puffing clouds of smoke going, “Come on man, I’m not hurting anybody!” And by that I mean it’s awesome. The Eugene, Oregon, four-piece get down on some psychedelic reefer madness tapped into weirdo anti-genre tendencies that come to fruition in the verses of “Guns of Brixton” after the drifting freaker “Old Town.” The whole thing runs an extra-manageable 21 minutes, and six of that are dedicated to the fuzzed jam “Zombie” — tinged in its early going with a reggae groove — so Smear make it easy to follow their outward path, whether it’s the surf-with-no-water “Weigh” at the outset or “Quicksand,” which hints at more complex melodic tendencies almost in spite of itself. You like vibe, right? These cats have plenty to go around, and they deliver it with an absolute lack of pretense. Whatever they do next, I hope they also record it live, because it clearly works.

Smear on Thee Facebooks

Smear on Bandcamp

 

Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

One hesitates to speculate on the future of a band who’ve just taken 10 years to put out an album, but Deadbird sound vital on their awaited third full-length: III: The Forest Within the Tree (arrived late 2018 through 20 Buck Spin), and with a revamped lineup that includes Rwake vocalist Chris Terry and Rwake/The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley as well as bassist Jeff Morgan, guitarist Jay Minish and founders Phillip (drums) and Chuck (guitar) Schaaf and Alan Short — all of whom contribute vocals — Deadbird emerge from the ether with a stunningly cohesive and varied outing of post-sludge, tinged Southern in its humid tonality but still very much geared toward heft and, certainly more than I recall of their past work, melody. In just 38 minutes they push the listener into this dank world of their creation, and seem to find just as much release in experiments “11:34” and “Ending” as in the crashes of “Brought Low” or “Heyday.” Are they really back? Hell if I know, but these songs are enough to make me hope so.

Deadbird on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Grass, Fresh Grass

grass fresh grass

Brooklyn four-piece Grass released a live recording in 2017, but the late-2018 EP Fresh Grass marks their studio debut, and it comprises five tracks digging into the traditions of heavy rock with edges derived from the likes of Clutch, Orange Goblin, maybe a bit of Kyuss and modern bluesier practitioners as well in cuts like “Black Clouds” — the lone holdover from one release to the next — and the swaggering “Runaway,” which veers into vocal layering in its second half in a way that seems to portend things to come, while the centerpiece “Fire” and closer “Easy Rider” roll out in post=’70s fashion a kind of rawer modern take. Their sound is nascent, but there’s potential in their swing and the hook of opener “My Wall.” Fresh Grass is the band searching for their place within a heavy rock style. I hear nothing on it to make me think they won’t find it, and if they were opening the show, you’d probably want to show up early.

Grass on Thee Facebooks

Grass on Bandcamp

 

Prana Crafter, MindStreamBlessing

Prana Crafter MindStreamBlessing

Reissued on vinyl through Cardinal Fuzz with two bonus tracks, Prana Crafter‘s 2017 offering, MindStreamBlessing, originally saw release through Eidolon Records and finds the Washington-based solo artist Will Sol oozing through acid folk and psychedelic traditions, instrumentally constructing a shimmer that seems ready for the platter edition it’s been granted. Songs like “As the Weather Commands” and “Bardo Nectar” are experiments in their waves of meandering guitar, effects and keys, while “Mycellial Morphohum” adapts cosmic ecology to minimal spaciousness and vague spoken word. Some part of me misses vocals in the earthy “FingersFlowThroughOldSkolRiver,” but that might just also be the part of me that’s hearing Lamp of the Universe or Six Organs of Admittance influences. The interwoven layers of “Prajna Pines,” on the other hand, seem fine without; bluesy as the lead guitar line is, there’s no doubting the song’s expressive delivery, though one could easily say the same of the krautrock loops and keys and reverb-drenched solo of “Luminous Clouds.”

Prana Crafter on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Vago Sagrado, Vol. III

vago sagrado vol iii

Heavy post-rockers Vago Sagrado set a peaceful atmosphere with “K is Kool,” the opening track of their third album, Vol. III, that is hard to resist. They’ll soon enough pump in contrast via the foreboding low end of “La Pieza Oscura,” but the feeling of purposeful drift in the guitar remains resonant, even as the drums and vocals take on a kind of punkish feel. The mix is one that the Chilean three-piece seem to delight in, reveling in tonal adventurousness in the quiet/loud tradeoff of “Fire (In Your Head)” and the New Wave shuffle of “Sundown” before “Centinela” kicks off side B with the kind of groove that Queens of the Stone Age fans have been missing for the last 15 years. Things get far out in “Listen & Obey,” but Vago Sagrado never completely lose their sense of direction, and that only makes the proceedings more engaging as the hypnotic “One More Time with Feeling” leads into the nine-minute closer “Mekong,” wherein the wash teased all along comes to fruition.

Vago Sagrado on Thee Facebooks

Vago Sagrado on Bandcamp

 

Gin Lady, Tall Sun Crooked Moon

gin lady tall sun crooked moon

I’m more than happy to credit Sweden’s Gin Lady for the gorgeous ’70s country rock harmonies that emanate from their fourth album, Tall Sun Crooked Moon (on Kozmik Artifactz), from the mission-statement opener “Everyone is Love” onward, but I think it’s also worth highlighting that the 10-track outing also features the warmest snare drum sound I’ve heard maybe since the self-titled Kadavar LP. The Swedish four-piece have nailed their sound down to that level of detail, and as they touch on twang boogie in “Always Gold” or find bluesy Abbey Roadian deliverance in the more riff-led chorus of “Gentle Bird,” their aesthetic is palpable but does not trump the straight-ahead appeal of their songwriting. The closing duo of “The Rock We All Push” and the piano-soother “Tell it Like it Is” are the only two tracks to push past five minutes long, but by then the mood is well set and if they wanted to keep going, I have a hard time imagining they’d meet with complaints. Serenity abounds.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Oven, Couch Lock

oven couch lock

For an EP called Couch Lock — i.e., when you’re too stoned to even stand up — there’s an awful lot of movement on Oven‘s debut release, from the punk thrust of “Get It” to the arrogant sleaze of “Go James” and even the drums in “This Time.” And the nine-minute “Dark Matter” is basically space rock, so yeah, hardly locked to the couch there, but okay. The five-tracker is raw in its production as would seem to suit the Pennsylvania trio, but they still get their point across in terms of attitude, and a closing cover of Nebula‘s “To the Center” seems only to reinforce the notion. One imagines that any basement where they unleash that and the nod that culminates “Dark Matter” just before it would have to be professionally dehumidified afterward to get the dankness out, and an overarching sense of stoner shenanigans only adds to the good times that so much of East Coast-ish psych misses the point on. They’re having fun. You should too.

Oven on Bandcamp

Oven on Thee Facebooks

 

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Dead Satellites Set July 26 Release for Debut EP Burst

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Let’s assume that if a band goes ahead and names their debut EP after you, you’ve probably gotten the job done as a recording engineer. So it is with Burst, the first four-songer outing from Dead Satellites. The duo splintered off from Brooklyn’s Matte Black recorded the darkly spacious offering with Charles Burst at Studio G and, sure enough, decided to title it in his honor. Can’t argue with the sentiment — the thing sounds great — but it’s not something you run into all that often. It probably should be. There’d be a lot of records out there called Anderson, I guess.

In any case, Burst is out July 26 and will be available from the band. They’ve got the first two tracks streaming now in the form of “42,” with its immediacy of post-metallic riffing (indeed, it’s their “Stones from the Sky” moment) and the more sprawling “Beyond the Sun / Last Transmission,” and between the two, you can get a pretty good picture of where they’re coming from, though of course “Name_” and “El Guapo” have a few more tricks up their sleeve as well.

Cool stuff from a new band. That’s my favorite kind of story. Here’s the release announcement:

Dead Satellites Burst

Dead Satellites was born out of the love for playing live music. The duo had been hammering out riffs in the heavy NYC underground music scene since 2010. Most notably in the heavy psychedelic doom leaning power trio, Matte Black. Fidel Vazquez on drums and Matt McAlpin on Guitars/Vocals. The pair found themselves wanting to create something new and immediate as the band was finishing up the recently completed Matte Black album, “Psyche”. They accepted a gig supporting Lacey Spacecake before putting together a new set from scratch in a few weeks time. A few months later they went into Studio G to record with Seaside Lounge engineer, Charles Burst.

“Everything was tracked quickly in sequential order. The drums sounded fantastic in the live room and most songs were captured on the first or second take.” Matt remembers, “It was liberating and exciting session. Everything felt alive and the drums sounded huge. Charles really did an amazing job capturing the energy and feeling of our live performances.”

Dead Satellites “Burst” will be self released on Friday, July 26th.

Tracklisting:
1. 42
2. Beyond the Sun / Last Transmission
3. Name_
4. El Guapo

Dead Satellites are:
Idel Vazquez – drums
Matthew McAlpin – guitars + vocals

https://deadsatellitesmusic.bandcamp.com

Dead Satellites, Burst (2019)

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