Friday Full-Length: Lamp of the Universe, Heru

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

 

On a pretty regular basis around here I speak about patience in songwriting as an asset on the part of bands and artists. I can think of few the world over who offer a master class in this idea on the level of Craig Williamson‘s Lamp of the Universe. The Hamilton, New Zealand-based one-man project has been more or less ongoing for the last 20 years, with a stream of regular output that has resulted in no fewer than 11 full-lengths, as well as — in just the last five years — splits with Kanoi (review here), Trip Hill and Krautzone (review here). Some work has veered into crafting a full-band sound as Williamson has come to split time over the course of this decade between creating with Lamp of the Universe and as part of the heavier-rocking cosmic trio Arc of Ascent, but Lamp of the Universe is always just him working in layers of sitar, guitar, synth, percussion, vocals, and a host of other instrumentation in order to create a psychedelic acid-folk immersion like nothing else I’ve experienced. From his 2001 debut, The Cosmic Union (discussed here) through earlier 2019’s Align in the Fourth Dimension (review here), his work has never wavered from its central purpose in exploring the self, the universe, and of course, how the two might be brought together through sound.

And when it comes to patience, one can point to any number of offerings from Lamp of the Universe as an example. Even when Williamson isn’t explicitly working in longer-form songwriting, he’s not exactly writing three-minute pop songs, but Heru is a special case. Released in 2005 on a limited CDR through Barl Fire and reissued in 2007 through Astral Projection — yes, Williamson‘s imprint — Heru is comprised of seven numbered parts that spread out as a single longform piece over the course of 61 minutes. It begins with a single sitar drone and that ends up being the bed for nearly the entire outing, and as each “Part” enters, “Part 1,” “Part 2,” “Part 3,” and so on, a different element is introduced or there’s some subtle shift in the flow. “Part 3” brings a fade-in of plucked sitar notes amid that drone and obscure voice swirl. “Part 5” seems to have cymbals washing in the farthest, deepest reaches of its mix. “Part 1” is the longest track at 12:20 (immediate points), but it’s really not until “Part 2” that the proceedings get underway.

But even when they do, it’s with patience as no less of a defining factor than that undercurrent of sitar woven across the whole thing. As the Lamp of the Universe Herusynthesizer/theremin/whatever-it-is begins to add to the liquefaction of consciousness on display, it becomes not just about doing one thing for a while over a loop and then moving on, adding one instrument on top of another, but of letting the song “Heru” become what it needs to be. It’s a different kind of communication between an artist and their work. I’m not saying urgency doesn’t have a place or isn’t admirable in its own right, or that something needs to be slow or fast to be either urgent or patient — there are patient three-minute pop songs, to use the earlier example — but most often, this seems to be something that’s either inherently understood by a songwriter or group or not. Maybe it’s dependent on the personalities of those doing the making. I don’t know. But the grace with which Williamson unfurls Heru is only enhanced by the fact that it feels so remarkably unforced, and its hypnotic aspect comes through as all the more sincere. As the band’s third album, it followed The Cosmic Union and 2002’s Echo in Light, which together made something of a holy duality, and it was surprising both in the three-year delay before its arrival and in the form it took when it came around.

One hates to use the word “straightforward” in this context, but to this point, Lamp of the Universe had at least had more of a structure to its root songwriting, and Heru left that behind and then some. There are vocals on Heru, in the later reaches of “Part 6” and then “Part 7,” when things get more active on this relative scale, but no discernible verses as such. Instead, they are obscure chants overwhelmed by electric guitar volume swells, synthesizer noise, various effects, and so on. It’s in “Part 7” that the most radical shift happens, and it’s the departure of that drone, the arrival of more upfront drumming, bass and guitar in jammy fashion. Of course it’s not like there’s a three-piece in a room together vibing out since it’s just Williamson on his own, but he presents a plausible facsimile of a trio hitting it in mellow style and brings Heru to an end on a long fade of drumming and bass that in turn gets swallowed by a swell of drone and hand-percussion — something of an epilogue for the offering as a whole; “Part 7.9,” maybe, since it’s so close to the end.

However one might want to consider that final movement, it’s a showing of symmetry on the part of Lamp of the Universe that highlights the mentality of the entire offering in terms of knowing where it’s heading and how it will ultimately piece together, making it seem all the more like a masterwork. Williamson has done numerous extended pieces since, from tracks on 2006’s From the Mystic Rays of Astrological Light the two-song Arc of Ascent outing in 2007 — of which I just bought a cassette on Discogs; why do these Friday Full-Length posts so often cost me money? — to the 22-minute space ritual “Doors of Perception” from the split with Krautzone in 2014, but Heru remains a standout in his discography as Lamp of the Universe and is something of a landmark out there in the galaxial vastness for how far his exploration has taken him to-date. I wouldn’t at all put it past him to do another single-song full-length — Align in the Fourth Dimension seemed to go in the other direction, but 2016’s Hidden Knowledge (review here) was bookended by tracks 13 and 14 minutes long, so you never know — but even if he gets there at some point, that does nothing to lessen the accomplishment of Heru in terms of its patience and its reach. It’s not going to be for everybody, but those who let themselves go with it will be all the more rewarded.

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

Shortly after 6. Yesterday wasn’t so bad. First blood draw after The Pecan’s 2-year-old checkup at the doctor. They want to test him for lead because the house we moved into was built in the ’50s and his level was high when we lived in MA. I have no doubt there were lead pipes in MA. Working-class area shit on and screwed over by cheap builders? Yeah, that sounds about right? And here? Well, it’s what used to be middle-class, but still old enough that it’s not unreasonable to think the pipes in this house are lead. Some of the paint is, I think. I don’t know. It’s North Jersey. Something’s gonna fuck you up and give you cancer.

But he was okay yesterday. Rest of the week was hard. We’re in the grind of a tough first semester at The Patient Mrs.’ new job at William Paterson. They’re talking about the faculty going on strike or something? I bet that shit’s a lot easier to consider when you’ve got tenure. Guess we’ll see how it goes.

Pecan’s up. Hang on…

Alright, one chill diaper-change later he’s in with The Patient Mrs. for the time being. Fine.

This weekend is the Magnetic Eye Day of Doom nine-bander at Saint Vitus Bar. Woof that’s a lot of bands. Nine, to be exact. I’m DJ’ing the pre-party, which means I’ll be putting together a playlist today I guess, and then since I’ll have my laptop anyway I’ll probably just writeup the bands while I’m at the show. I don’t know if I’ll also have time to sort through photos there, so it might not be a live live-blog, but even if I get the text part done, put pictures together on Sunday and post on Monday, that’s a load off my mind for the weekend. We’ll see if I can pull it off.

The timing’s important because I’m also streaming the full new Devil to Pay record on Monday and I want to give it its due. So I’ll be reviewing that before I leave the house tomorrow morning to go to Brooklyn. Tuesday the poll for the best albums of the decade goes up, as well as a track premiere from the new Iguana record. Wednesday is doubled-up again with a Brume premiere — their record’s so good — and a Very Paranoia premiere, some ’70s punk-ish stuff on Who Can You Trust? Records, then Thursday I have a Lemurian Folk Songs review slated but I might honestly just skip it and fill out the day with other stuff, and then Friday is a Kamchatka track premiere. So yeah, busy. Busy busy busy.

And to go with that, The Toddlerian in all his glorious volatility. He’s mad. Why? Wrong question.

But anyway. Quick merch update: I’ve seen the new site that’s in progress. It’ll be run through Made in Brooklyn directly. Should be live next week I hope? There will be Obelisk sweatpants. I will purchase a pair. And wear them. In public. Whether or not you do the same is of course between you and your higher power, whoever/whatever that may be.

That’s enough out of me. If you’re at Vitus tomorrow — and you should be, what with Domkraft and Elephant Tree and Horsehunter and all — say hi. I may or may not be the guy in tye-dye pants, depending on how much laundry I get done today. Camera and cosmic backpack (and laptop) either way though, so yeah. That’s me. I’m old.

Have a great and safe weekend, whatever your plans. Forum, radio, merch.

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Earth Tongue Premiere “Probing the New Reality” Video; Australian & New Zealand Shows Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

earth tongue

Recently enough back from a tour of Europe and already confirmed for a return to that continent in Spring 2020 for an appearance at Desertfest Berlin with presumably more dates to follow, the Wellington, New Zealand-based duo Earth Tongue released their debut album, Floating Being, this past summer through Stolen Body Records, and if their name is somewhat easy to overlook, their sound certainly isn’t. While rife with a heavy fuzz in the opening salvo of “Microscopic God” and “Probing the New Reality,” setting the tone both, well, tonally, and in terms of the album’s sci-fi we’re-all-robots-ish post-New Wave thematic that will soon come to further fruition, there are pop and electro showcases that take hold as the maddeningly catchy and surprisingly aggressive “Hidden Entrance” comes in to unveil a secret Nine Inch Nails influence — shh! don’t tell anybody! — before “Unseen Tormentor” finds a new echelon of vocal righteousness from the two-piece of Gussie Larkin and Ezra Simons, arranging in layers and setting up a duet dynamic that can be switched on and off that only adds character to the proceedings as the rest of the record plays out in chic and effective fashion.

Centerpiece “Astonishing Comet” builds on the sci-fi vibe while “The Well of Pristine Order” digs into deeper-mixed fuzz and melody while setting a forward push of snare for added proto-punk urgency. It’s got a hook, but the greater impression is the riff that Earth Tongue Floating Beingresolves itself in the second half, and like much of the half-hour-long LP, it’s over quick and on to “Portable Shrine,” which takes a bit more of a patient roll, but still refuses to waste any of its time, underscoring the tightness of Earth Tongue‘s craft and the unflappable nature of their sound, that fuzz and an earliest-Kadavar-style compression in the drums providing an excellent backdrop for the voices of Simons and Larkin. Floating Being caps with its two longest tracks in “The Dome” (3:52) and “Sentient Sediment” (5:21), with a winding course in the former hitting into a wall of more swinging starts and stops marked by standout drums and even more standout harmonies en route to fuzzo-blivion. It’s awesome. And “Sentient Sediment” backs it up with an almost post-rocking drift initially before finding its core riff around midway through and even slowing down to more of a nod by the time its five-plus minutes are up — a surprising and broad finale for a record that’s spent so much effort on being so efficient, but damned if it doesn’t work for them.

Earth Tongue will tour Australia and New Zealand in November and December, and once again, they’ll be back in Europe come Spring at least for Desertfest and likely more, so keep an eye out. Somehow I doubt this is the last we’ll be hearing from them. In the meantime, the video for “Probing the New Reality” is rife with charm and premiering below. I advise you to do the right thing and dig in accordingly.

Have fun:

Earth Tongue, “Probing the New Reality” official video premiere

Take a trip into Earth Tongue’s astonishing universe in their new music video for ‘Probing the New Reality’. Delicately balancing all-out pop hooks with mind-frying riff action, the New Zealand two-piece take stoner-pop to a new level in this track. ‘Probing the New Reality’ is the third single off their debut album ‘Floating Being’, released in June this year via Bristol-based label Stolen Body.

While killing time in Berlin between tours, Earth Tongue conceptualised and self-directed the video, alongside Alan Waddingham whose work includes music videos for GUM, Princess Chelsea and LarzRanda. The footage, shot on 33mm film stock was brought to life by animator Neirin Best, who has created videos for names such as The Pixies and Jane Weaver. The music video release follows a successful European tour, where Earth Tongue appeared at festivals from the UK to Poland alongside bands such as Monolord and Radio Moscow.

Created by Earth Tongue and Alan Waddingham
Director of Photography – Alan Waddingham
Animation – Neirin Best
Additional Animation – Ezra Simons
Edit – Ezra Simons
Assistance and BTS Photography – Joel Thomas

EARTH TONGUE AUSTRALIAN TOUR:
Friday 29th November – Adelaide, Wundenberg’s Recording Studios
Saturday 30th November – Melbourne, Sunburn Festival The Tote
Sunday 1st December – Sydney, The Vanguard Supported by Numidia & HEV?

Earth Tongue New Zealand tour:
6/12 – Wellington, SAN FRAN
7/12 – Auckland, WHAMMY
13/12 – Christchurch, DARKROOM
14/12 – DUNEDIN, THE COOK

The band consists of two human beings – Gussie Larkin and Ezra Simons.

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Beastwars, IV: Searching for the Light in Your Time of Dying

Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

beastwars iv

Beastwars were done after their third album, The Death of All Things (review here), in 2016. The Wellington, New Zealand, four-piece issued that as the final installment of a trilogy following 2013’s Blood Becomes Fire (review here) and a 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and thereby rounded out an unfuckwithable course run over a five years that seemed to take them too soon. They were there, they were epic, they were gone. It wasn’t until vocalist Matt Hyde, whose guttural sneer is second to none, in sludge or otherwise, underwent cancer treatment in 2017 that the prospect of a fourth long-player — whether an epilogue or a new beginning, I don’t know — was broached. From the always-stunning Nick Keller artwork through the massive crunching groove that rolls through “This Mortal Decay” courtesy of returning guitarist Clayton Anderson, bassist James Woods and drummer Nathan “Nato” Hickey, the eight-song/37-minute IV is very much a Beastwars album.

Its impact is hued from heavy and noise rocks, brought to bear with a progressive metal sense of grandeur particularly in lead lines like that of “Storms of Mars,” “This Mortal Decay,” “Omens” and “Sound of the Grave,” and its rhythmic plunder is still sludge despite a coherence of purpose both rare for the genre and consistent throughout Beastwars‘ studio work. More perhaps than anything they’ve done before, IV centers around the context of its making and the lyrical processing borne out from Hyde‘s confronting his mortality in a very real way before eventually entering remission, as opener “Raise the Sword,” “Wolves and Prey” and “Storms of Mars” would seem to couch personal experience in metaphor, but in truth, they’re pretty up front about what’s happening in them, as the lines in the leadoff go, “Breathe long/Breathe wise/Don’t fall/Raise the sword.” Maybe without knowing the situation around which the album came together, one might just think it’s a story about a battle on a hillside or something, but once one knows what’s really going on, the relation of what Hyde went through existentially and literally is fairly direct. Beastwars have never been a band to shirk confrontation.

Each side of IV begins with its longest track (double points), as “Raise the Sword” and “Omens” set the stage for their respective halves of the tracklisting, the former with its unmitigated largesse and the latter with a broader range that continues to play out across the subsequent pieces. Throughout, Beastwars‘ efficiency of songwriting and hard-hit pummel is well intact, as Hickey shows early on in his snare battery and Woods in the punch of chugging bass that coincides. The initial salvo very much establishes Beastwars‘ core approach, with a sampled speech from 1985’s The Quiet Earth included in the 6:40 “Raise the Sword” for maximum dramatic effect ahead of a feedback-soaked transition into the apex and the faster and immediate push of “Wolves and Prey.” Tense in the guitar and bass and as powerful as the band have ever sounded in the complete affect, the second track rolls out relatively quick but is still well in line atmospherically with “Raise the Sword” before it, and the same applies to “Storms of Mars” after, with its slower, nod-ready pace and punctuating drums behind Hyde‘s maddening snarl, an almost punkish thrust taking hold at around 2:45 to signal the shift into a cacophony as pure as anything I’ve ever heard from them, Anderson‘s guitar cutting through with a moment-of-clarity solo even as the track readies to cut out all the instruments behind the lines, “You can never get away/From your mortal decay.”

beastwars

Short of setting a treatment diary to verse, I’m not sure how much more direct IV could be in its subject matter. It does not make for easy listening — particularly if you’ve ever dealt with or dealt with a loved one in similar circumstances, which I think counts basically everybody on the planet — but the directness extends to IV‘s overarching purpose of expression as well, a very real catharsis playing out amid all this tumult and questioning. I don’t know what the deal was with Beastwars‘ breakup following The Death of All Things — seems fair to speculate they knew it was coming at least on some level, given that title — but they obviously came back together united around a purpose, and IV manifests that palpably for the listener.

Perhaps all the more so in its final four tracks, as “Omens” indeed proves to foreshadow a wider sonic reach with highlight guitar work and a fierce emotionality that will soon enough come to fruition on the raw highlight of the penultimate “The Traveller” after the bass-led turmoil of “Sound of the Grave” unfolds in a three-and-a-half-minute linear build that comes on in brooding fashion and ends up in a wash of noise. Unlike “Omens,” which retains a subtle hook throughout its 5:41, “Sound of the Grave” feels more about the tooth-pull/gut-punch resonance that stays heavy even when the band reels back for a final shove heading into the last minute. A sudden stop brings on “The Traveller,” which is gorgeous and flayed with far back vocals over atmospheric guitar at its start and building forward from there also in a linear way, but with an infusion of avant guitar melody and lyrics from Hyde that seem to evoke an out-of-body experience, blessing travelers and homes and, ultimately “…this world that we all must leave.” In a universe of many kinds of heavy, I don’t think there is one meaning of the word to which that doesn’t apply.

Still, it’s not until the piano starts in “Like Dried Blood” that one fully realizes just how far Beastwars have taken the thread since “Wolves and Prey,” and as the finale plays out over its 4:40, it is more culmination than summation, but still righteously weighted in its last movement, using the crush that the band have always so ably wielded for maximum emphasis before cutting with a quick jolt of feedback and amp noise — a cold end that feels no less intentional than every bit of facing death that’s happened before. I won’t profess to know if Beastwars‘ reunion/reignition is an ongoing thing — if they’ll do a fifth record or what — but IV doesn’t strike me as having such considerations. That is, certainly Hyde and company have plenty to say, but these songs are more about their own urgency than about longterm band plans. It’s not a record they made to go on tour with. It’s a record they made because life is fucking precious and sometimes you come to realize what matters to you and what you need are the same thing. As such, it is all the more essential it be engaged in the present. Because it is.

Beastwars, IV (2019)

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Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension: Finding Inner Space

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Lamp of the Universe Align in the Fourth Dimension

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hamilton, New Zealand-based multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson founding Lamp of the Universe as his primary solo outlet. At the time, he was best known as the guitarist of underrated pre-social-media heavy psychedelic rockers Datura, but in the years since, in addition to founding the trio Arc of Ascent at the dawn of this decade, he’s become a guru of mantra psych, acid folk and, of late, effects-swirling cosmic serenity. Lamp of the Universe is still identifiable from its 1999 debut, The Cosmic Union (review here), not the least because of Williamson‘s enduring penchant for sitar and his vocal style, but as one might hope over the course of 11 albums, the scope has increased for Lamp of the Universe, and the latest full-length for Sulatron Records, Align in the Fourth Dimension, puts emphasis on inward and outward exploration, with Williamson blending guitar and keys, percussion and voice, and always a lush and languid sense of melody that finds songs like “Light Receiver” and the later “Absolution Through Your Third Eye” poised and thoughtful works of assured execution.

Really, the same could be said of the eight-track/46-minute release as a whole. It’s the work of someone who has long since mastered the form but continues to refine processes naturally over time while keeping a central creative identity, shamanic in this case, but not at all overwrought or cartoonish. In some ways, Align in the Fourth Dimension, particularly in its acoustic-led side-closing tracks “New Forms” on side A and “Seasons of Love” on side B, calls back directly to the beginnings of the project in terms of the atmosphere created, somehow minimalist and spacious at the same time, but Williamson‘s arrangements have fleshed out. Layers of effects or keys/synth of various stripes give Lamp of the Universe a broader range, and even though opener “Visitors” is among the shortest inclusions at 4:39 — the CD-only penultimate cut “Call from Beyond” is the only one shorter, by a full minute — the context its backing waves of modular synth undulations and solar wind, eventual string-mellotron drama and slow-delivered vocal lend to the beginnings of Align in the Fourth Dimension is resonant enough to affect everything that follows. This, of course, is precisely the idea.

I don’t know at what point Williamson bought the organ that features so prominently on second track “Rite of Spheres” — seems to me it was a few albums ago — but it was the right choice. Still, it’s the drums that really make the difference. Williamson will generally employ some manner of percussion, but it’s not always a traditional drum set. Cymbals and snare and kick drum with quick fills maybe on a floor tom (?) give “Rite of Spheres” its pervasive sense of movement beneath the organ line and watery vocal. The drums are far back in the mix until the three-minute mark, when they come forward following a cymbal sweep and propel and electric guitar solo that puts even further emphasis on the full-band feel before the last fadeout leads to “Light Receiver.” With just a shaker for percussion, “Light Receiver” is a wash of melody in mellotron and guitar and sitar, etc., with an especially memorable chorus that holds to the rhythmic style of delivery one has come to expect from Lamp of the Universe, and it comes paired with the ultra-immersive “New Forms,” which feels more linear in its execution, but is gorgeously hypnotic while answering back the ambient spirit of the opener at the same time.

lamp of the universe

It’s by no means still, but the intertwining of acoustic guitar, soft eBow-sounding electric and effects, along with a purposeful-seeming lack of percussion, seems only to make it all the more gracefully fluid. As noted, it’s how the first half of Align in the Fourth Dimension ends, and the subsequent “The Leaving” begins side B with a likewise peaceful spirit, acoustic strum, vocals and organ flowing easily over the early going of the song only to turn more dramatic past the three-minute mark with the arrival of a fuzzy plugged-in solo, distant cymbal splash and general uptick of energy. It’s the organ and acoustic guitar though that hold sway when all is done, and “The Leaving” goes smoothly into “Absolution Through the Third Eye,” which sees the return of hand percussion and sitar along with a backing drone filling out the mix ahead of an echoing electric guitar lead that’s a subtle highlight of the album in its entirety not so much for what’s played as how it’s presented so seamlessly with its surroundings. The verse returns after with all the more a sense of drift, and makes its way eventually out, leaving “Call from Beyond” to push as far into minimalism as Lamp of the Universe will go.

Obviously, a big part of the appeal for Lamp of the Universe as an ongoing entity is Williamson‘s skill at varying arrangements for his material and his tack as a multi-instrumentalist. Working mostly alone if not always entirely alone, he’s able to bring either breadth of scope or deep-running intimacy to his craft in a way that is continually engrossing. With “Call from Beyond,” it’s the latter. Just him and his acoustic guitar. A bit of echo, but it seems to be mostly a single layer throughout, and I’d be surprised if at least the basic performance track wasn’t done live. As a “bonus” to the CD, it’s a standout, and placed well ahead of the finale and longest inclusion, “Seasons of Love,” which at 8:49 conjures a reach entirely its own with percussion, synth, acoustic guitar, more eBow, harmonized vocals and a flow unto itself that nonetheless makes a fitting conclusion to Align in the Fourth Dimension as a whole.

There is a linear flow that ties together Williamson‘s output as Lamp of the Universe that one can trace back across the last two decades, and for an ongoing project like this, it can be intimidating for a new listener to dig in. The age-old “where to start” dilemma. That’s fair. With 11 albums, who the hell knows. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t matter. And even less here than with many others. The overarching style and sound of Lamp of the Universe is welcoming enough that whether Align in the Fourth Dimension is someone’s first experience or they bought Heru from Williamson on MySpace in 2005, it isn’t going to make a difference. It’s about cosmic freedom — certainly not about to play the elitist. So, while time is often thought of as the fourth dimension and Williamson here aligns with it in a way that evokes a sense of infinity beyond what a human might conceive, I’ll just note that now would be as good a moment as one could ask for to get on board.

Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension (2019)

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Beastwars to Release IV June 28; Lyric Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

beastwars

I didn’t expect another Beastwars record after their third, The Death of All Things (review here), seemed to come accompanied by a contentious breakup. But obviously situations change and after a cancer scare on the part of vocalist Matt Hyde, the devastating New Zealand sludge rockers are back with IV in June, and they’re streaming a lyric video for one of the tracks now. Those familiar with the four-piece’s prior work will be glad (and perhaps terrified) to hear their sense of unmitigated sonic largesse remains undiminished, and as one gets ready to dig into the album, it’s fully with the expectation of being crushed from multiple angles.

“Omens,” of course, bodes well in that regard.

This from the PR wire:

beastwars iv

BEASTWARS RETURN: New Zealand Heavyweights Revisit The Riff with New Album | Release Video for ‘Omens’ Single

New album chronicles vocalist Matt Hyde’s battle with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma – “The fear of death is enough to make you want to live”

Beastwars’ IV is released 28th June 2019 on Destroy Records

Pre-order the album Big Cartel / Bandcamp

Returning in 2019 with what will undoubtedly become one of this year’s most revelatory releases, IV, the fourth installment in Beastwars’ canon is life affirming in more ways than one.

So heavy and heavily admired around the world, New Zealand’s legendary metallers are back this June with a new lease of life – quite literally – following vocalist Matt Hyde’s recovery from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. After undergoing six months of treatment in 2016 he is now in remission and today the band announces their long-awaited return, along with the release of their first single in three years, ‘Omens’.

Shaped by Hyde’s recent experiences through his diagnosis and subsequent treatment, he was given an opportunity to look into the abyss, beyond life as we know it. “Throughout the treatment I was numb,” he explains. “It’s interesting to have the ability to confront that, to confront the void, to confront the idea of mortality. I didn’t make peace with it either.”

The experience and loneliness in isolation of treatment gave Hyde plenty to consider. Life, friendships and relationships, especially with his then ten-year-old daughter resulted in a record that leaves nothing unsaid. “I was lucky that I had music to express what had happened to me,” Hyde says. “A lot of people don’t have that. I was very lucky that we could make a record. I took the time to process it and turned it into something else.”

In 2011, Beastwars released their self-titled debut to critical acclaim and in doing so transformed New Zealand’s metal landscape forever. Reviewers celebrated the album’s, slow-burning blend of lysergic and premonitory metal and compared the band to Kyuss, Neurosis and Godflesh, while hinting at influences as diverse as The Jesus Lizard, Black Sabbath, and in Hyde’s ‘avant-grunt’, Celtic Frost.

Two years on from their internationally acclaimed debut, Beastwars returned in 2013 with Blood Becomes Fire, delivering ten songs that retained the strength and psychedelic power of their first while presenting a kinetic evolution in vision. Closing the post-apocalyptic trilogy, 2016’s The Death Of All Things signalled the long overdue arrival of one of metal’s best-kept secrets, out from under and ready to take on the world full tilt.

To celebrate the band’s fearless return to the fold, Beastwars will tour New Zealand and Australia in June/July (see below) and perform at the Dead of Winter Festival in Brisbane.

IV, the new album from Beastwars will be released on Friday 28th June 2019 and can be pre-ordered on limited edition vinyl, cassette, CD at http://www.beastwars.bigcartel.com. It will also be available across all digital stores and streaming platforms at http://ffm.to/beastwarsIV.

IV ALBUM RELEASE TOUR
With special guest Witchskull (AUS)
28/6 – San Fran Wellington
29/6 – Galatos – Auckland
5/7 – Blue Smoke – Christchurch*
6/7 – The Cook – Dunedin*
11/7 – Crowbar – Sydney (w. Potion)
12/7 – The Gershwin Room – Melbourne (w. Dr. Colossus + Droid)
13/7 – Dead of Winter Festival – Brisbane*
*Dates without Witchskull

TRACK LISTING:
1. Raise the Sword
2. Wolves and Prey
3. Storms of Mars
4. This Mortal Decay
5. Omens
6. Sound of the Grave
7. The Traveller
8. Like Dried Blood

BEASTWARS:
Clayton Anderson – Guitar
Nathan Hickey – Drums
Matt Hyde – Vocals
James Woods – Bass

Produced by Beastwars and James Goldsmith
Recorded by James Goldsmith at The Blue Barn, Wellington, NZ
Mixed by Andrew Schneider at Acre Sound, New York, USA
Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Portland, USA
Artwork by Nick Keller (www.nickkellerart.com)

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https://beastwars.bandcamp.com/
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Beastwars, “Omens” lyric video

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Quarterly Review: Stuck in Motion, AVER, Massa, Alastor, Seid, Moab, Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Into Orbit, Super Thief, Absent

Posted in Reviews on March 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Let the games begin! The rules are the same: 10 albums per day, this time for a total of 60 between today and next Monday. It’s the Quarterly Review. Think of it like a breakfast buffet with an unending supply of pancakes except the pancakes are riffs and there’s only one dude cooking them and he’s really tired all the time and complains, complains, complains. Maybe not the best analogy. Still, it’s gonna be a ton of stuff, but there are some very, very cool records included, so please keep your eyes and your mind open for what’s coming, because you might find something here you really dig. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Stuck in Motion, Stuck in Motion

stuck in motion self-titled

The classic style cover art of Swedish trio Stuck in Motion‘s self-titled debut tells much of the story. It’s sweet-toned vintage-style soul rock, informed by Graveyard to some degree, but more aligned to retroism. The songs are bluesy and natural and not especially long, but have vibe for weeks, as demonstrated on the six-minute longest-track “Dreams of Flying,” or the flute-laden closer “Eken.” What the picture doesn’t tell you is the heavy use of clavinet in the band’s sound and just how much the vintage electric piano adds to what songs like “Slingrar” with its ultra-fluid shifts in tempo, or the sax-drenched penultimate cut “Orientalisk.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Max Kinnbo, drummer Gustaf Björkman and bassist/vocalist/clavinetist Adrian Norén, Stuck in Motion‘s debut successfully basks in a mellow psychedelic blues atmosphere and shows a patience for songwriting that bodes remarkably well. It should not be overlooked because you think you’re tired of vintage-style rock.

Stuck in Motion on Thee Facebooks

Stuck in Motion on Bandcamp

 

AVER, Orbis Majora

aver orbis majora

Following up their 2015 sophomore outing, Nadir (review here), which led to them getting picked up by Ripple Music, Australia’s AVER return with the progressive shove of Orbis Majora, five songs in 50 minutes of thoughtfully composed heavy progadelica, and while it’s not all so serious — closer “Hemp Fandango” well earns its title via a shuffling stonerly groove — opener “Feeding the Sun” and the subsequent “Disorder” set a mood of careful craftsmanship in longform pieces. The album’s peak might be in the 13-minute “Unanswered Prayers,” which culls together an extended linear build that’s equal parts immersive and gorgeous, but the rest of the album hardly lacks for depth or clarity of purpose. An underlying message from the Sydney four-piece would seem to be that they’re going to continue growing, even after more than a decade, because it’s not so much that they’re feeling their way toward their sound, but willfully pushing themselves to refine those parameters.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Massa, Walls

massa walls

Flourish of keys adds nuance to Massa‘s moody, heavy post-rock style, the Rotterdam-based trio bringing an atmosphere to their second EP, Walls, across five tracks and 26 minutes marked by periodic samples from cinema and a sense of scope that seems to be born of an experimental impulse but not presented as the experiment itself. That is, they take the “let’s try this!” impulse and make a song out of it, as the chunky rhythm of instrumental centerpiece “Expedition” or the melodies in the prior “#8” show. Before finishing with the crash-into-push of the relatively brief “Intermassa,” the eight-minute “The Federal” complements winding guitar with organ to affect an engaging spirit somewhere between classic and futurist heavy, with the drums holding together proceedings that would seem to convey all the chaos of that temporal paradox. Perhaps it was opener “Shiva” that set this creator/destroyer tone, but either way, Massa bask in it and find a grim sense of identity thereby.

Massa on Thee Facebooks

Massa on Bandcamp

 

Alastor, Slave to the Grave

alastor slave to the grave

The first full-length from Swedish doomplodders Alastor and their debut on RidingEasy Records, late 2018’s Slave to the Grave is the four-piece’s most expansive offering yet in sonic scope as well as runtime. Following the 2017 EPs Blood on Satan’s Claw (review here) and Black Magic (review here), the seven-song/56-minute offering holds true to the murk-toned cultism and dense low-end rumble of the prior offerings, but the melodic resonance and sense of updating the aesthetic of traditional doom is palpable throughout the roller “Your Lives are Worthless,” while the later acoustic-led “Gone” speaks to a folkish influence that suits them surprisingly well given the heft that surrounds. They make an obvious focal point of 17-minute closer “Spider of My Love,” which though they’ve worked in longer forms before, is easily the grandest accomplishment they’ve yet unfurled. One might easily say the same applies to Slave to the Grave as a whole. Those who miss The Wounded Kings should take particular note of their trajectory.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Seid, Weltschmerz, Baby!

seid-weltschmerz_baby-web

If Norwegian space-psych outfit Seid are feeling weary of the world, the way they show it in Weltschmerz, Baby! is by simply leaving it behind, substituting for reality a cosmic starscape of effects and synth, the odd sample and vaguely Hawkwindian etherealism. The centerpiece title-track is a banger along those lines, a swell of rhythmic intensity born out of the finale of the prior “Satan i Blodet” and the mellow, flowing “Trollmannens Hytte” before that, but the highlight might be the subsequent “Coyoteman,” which drifts into dream-prog led by echoing layers of guitar and eventually given over to a fading strain of noise that “Moloch vs. Gud” picks up with percussive purpose and flows directly into the closer “Mir (Drogarna Börjar Värka),” rife with ’70s astro-bounce and a long fadeout that’s less about the record ending and more about leaving the galaxy behind. Starting out at a decent clip with “Haukøye,” Weltschmerz, Baby! is all about the journey and a trip well worth taking.

Seid on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records website

 

Moab, Trough

moab trough

A good record tinged by the tragic loss of drummer Erik Herzog during the recording and finished by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis and bassist Joe Fuentes, the 10-track/39-minute Trough demonstrates completely just how much Moab have been underrated since their 2011 debut, Ab Ovo (discussed here), and across the 2014 follow-up, Billow (review here), as they bring a West Coast noise-infused pulse to heavy rock drive on “All Automatons” and meet an enduring punker spirit face first with “Medieval Moan,” all the while presenting a clear head for songcraft amid deep-running tones and melodies. “The Will is Weak” makes perhaps the greatest impact in terms of heft, but heft is by no means all Moab have to offer. With the very real possibility this will be their final record, it is a worthy homage to their fallen comrade and a showcase of their strengths that’s bound someday to get the attention it deserves whenever some clever label decides to reissue it as a lost classic.

Moab on Thee Facebooks

Moab on Bandcamp

 

Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Split

primitive man unearthly trance split

Well of course it’s a massive wash of doomed and hate-filled noise! What were you expecting, sunshine and puppies? Colorado’s Primitive Man and Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance team up to compare misanthropic bona fides across seven tracks of blistering extremity that do Relapse Records proud. Starting with the collaborative intro “Merging,” the onslaught truly commences with Primitive Man’s 10-minute “Naked” and sinks into an abyss with the instrumental noisefest “Love Under Will,” which gradually makes its way into a swell of abrasive drone. Unearthly Trance, meanwhile, proffer immediate destructiveness with the churning “Mechanism Error” and make “Triumph” dark enough to live up to its most malevolent interpretations, while “Reverse the Day” makes me wonder what people who heard Godflesh in the ’80s must’ve thought of it and the six-minute finishing move “418” answers back to Primitive Man‘s droned-out anti-structure with a consuming void of fuckall depth. It’s like the two bands cut open their veins and recorded the disaffection that spilled out.

Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks

Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Into Orbit, Shifter

Into Orbit Shifter

Progressive New Zealander two-piece Into OrbitPaul Stewart on guitar and Ian Moir on drums — offer up the single Shifter as the answer to their 2017 sophomore long-player, Unearthing. The Wellington instrumentalists did likewise leading into that album with a single that later showed up as part of a broader tracklist, so it may be that they’ve got another release already in the works, but either way, the 5:50 standalone track finds them dug into a full band sound with layered or looped guitar standing tall over the mid-paced drumming, affecting an emotion-driven atmosphere as much as the cerebral nature of its craft. Beginning with a thick chug, it works into more melodic spaciousness as it heads toward and through its midsection, lead guitar kicking in with harmony lines joining soon after as the two-piece build back up to a bigger finish. Whatever their plans, Into Orbit make it clear that just because something is prog doesn’t mean it needs to be staid or lack expressiveness.

Into Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Into Orbit on Bandcamp

 

Super Thief, Eating Alone in My Car

super thief eating alone in my car

Noise-punk intensity pervades Eating Alone in My Car, the not-quite-not-an-LP from Austin four-piece Super Thief. They call it an album, and that’s good enough for me, especially since at about 20 minutes there isn’t much more I’d ask of the thing that it doesn’t deliver, whether it’s the furious out-of-mindness of minute-long highlight “Woodchipper” or the poli-sci critique of that sandwiches the offering with opener “Gone Country” immediately taking a nihilist anti-stance while closer “You Play it Like a Joke but I Know You Really Mean It” — which consumes nearly half the total runtime at 9:32 — seems to run up the walls unable to stick to the “smoke ’em if you got ’em” point of view of the earlier cut. That’s how the bastards keep you running in circles, but at least Super Thief know where to direct the frustration. “Six Months Blind” and the title-track have a more personal take, but are still worth a read lyrically as much as a listen, as the rhythm of the words only adds to the striking personality of the material.

Super Thief on Thee Facebooks

Learning Curve Records website

 

Absent, Towards the Void

absent towards the void

Recorded in 2016, released on CD in 2018 and snagged by Cursed Tongue Records for a vinyl pressing, Absent‘s Towards the Void casts a shimmering plunge of cavernous doom, with swirling post-Electric Wizard guitar and echoing vocals adding to the spaciousness of its four component tracks as the Brasilia-based trio conjure atmospheric breadth to go along with their weighted lurch in opener “Ophidian Womb.” With tracks arranged shortest to longest between eight and a half and 11 minutes, “Semen Prayer,” “Funeral Sun” and “Urine” follow suit from the opener in terms of overall approach, but “Funeral Sun” speeds things up for a stretch while “Urine” lures the listener downward with a subdued opening leading to more filth-caked distortion and degenerate noise, capping with feedback because at that point what the hell matters anyway? Little question in listening why this one’s been making the rounds for over a year now. It will likely continue to do so for some time to come.

Absent on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

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Arc of Ascent & Zone Six, Split LP: Seeds in Hyperspace

Posted in Reviews on December 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

arc of ascent zone six split

Among the releases one might encounter and consider a no-brainer, a split LP that finds Arc of Ascent and Zone Six sharing room has to be among the easiest of duh-inducers. “Wait, you mean you’re going to pair up New Zealand cosmic metaphysical rock with German prog-infused space stoner jams? It’ll never work! It’s too crazy!” Except it’s not. At all. It’s brilliant. And it does absolutely work. Headspin Records is the imprint no-doubt-proudly standing behind the vinyl pressing, and if I hadn’t already posted my list of the year’s best short releases — which it would count as because it’s a split, i.e. basically an EP from each band — surely Arc of Ascent and Zone Six‘s combined efforts would’ve earned a place thereupon. Running 45 minutes with two extended cuts from Arc of Ascent and one even-more extended piece from Zone Six, it’s the kind of release that I consider writing about doing myself a favor because it means I get to listen to it a bunch of times.

For Arc of Ascent, their “Black Seed” and “Serpents 25” stand in as their first offering since marking their return from hiatus with 2017’s Realms of the Metaphysical (review here), and both songs bear the hallmarks of craft belonging to bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson. Also known for his work as the acid-drenched one-man outfit Lamp of the Universe, Williamson brings a fervent, crunching progression to “Black Seed” set to the riffs from guitarist Matt Cole-Baker and the roll of drummer Mark McGeady, who made his first appearance with the band on the last record but seems to have had no trouble fitting in with their spacious and spacey style. “Black Seed” checks in at 12:08 and “Serpents 25” — think of the number 25 as two snakes intertwined, with their heads facing apart from each other — at 11:13, so there’s plenty of time to go exploring, and the three-piece do precisely that while also pushing closer to Williamson‘s work with Lamp of the Universe than they’ve ever done before on the latter track.

As a fan of the band, I’d consider that in itself enough of a forehead-slapper to seek it out, but even for those unfamiliar with Arc of Ascent or Lamp of the Universe or Williamson‘s prior outfit, Datura, the spiritualism of the riffing in “Black Seed” and the push into psychedelic liquidity of “Serpents 25” are enough to make for a rousing introduction to their expanding scope. I’m not sure the origins of the songs in terms of when they were recorded, but it’s possible they were originally intended for a split with The Re-Stoned, and either way, the first of them immediately shows its hook, stomp and nodder groove. It’s quick into the verse and chorus, and while of course it takes its time as a 12-minute song inherently will, the band never really departs from the central structure, such that the maddening heft and crash that emerges in “Black Seed”‘s second half is still cognizant of where it came from.

They don’t go so far as to return to the verse or chorus at the end, but neither do they need to, having not veered so far from them in the first place. To contrast, “Serpents 25” is a reinterpretation of “Master of the Serpents” from the band’s debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), driven by acoustics, hand percussion and Eastern inflection of melody. There is a “plugged” guitar solo that picks up in waves shortly before the midpoint, but even then, the song maintains its peaceful vibe as it cycles through and back to the chorus en route to further acoustic/electric exploration and a finish of sitar. If you told me it was just Williamson handling the instruments, I’d have to believe it — it’s certainly within the range of what he’s done on his own before — but there’s also a fuller sound to the production of “Serpents 25” that fits with “Black Seed” before it and Arc of Ascent‘s work on the whole. It is not, in other words, a three-way split by any other name — although names come into some further curiosity as Zone Six consume the entirety of side B with the 21:52 sprawl of “Hyperspace Overdrive.”

The long-running, on and off-again krautwash purveyors here feature guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and apparently-sans-alias drummer Pablo Carneval — otherwise known as the current lineup of Electric Moon. When Zone Six released the live album Live Spring 2017 (review here), they had Rainer Neeff on guitar and Schmidt on drums, so whatever brought the change about, “Hyperspace Overdrive” is essentially Electric Moon playing Zone Six. If that’s not enough to make your head explode, then surely the song itself will. It is a patient, effects-laced space rock wash, all thrust as it bounds out of the atmosphere in the first half — sampled countdown included — before reaching a point of blissful drift in its second movement and returning to ground with even greater velocity and gravity before an ending of leftover thruster burn finishes out.

Energy-wise, it is more active than much of what Electric Moon might produce under that banner, but there’s little mistaking Sula Bassana on guitar and Lulu on bass, the depths and reaches cast by their swirling effects and rhythms. Whatever band you want to call it, “Hyperspace Overdrive” is next-level Hawkwindian, a massive interstellar reach that pushes distortion the way asteroids slam into each other and splinter off in multiple directions. The better part of the last four minutes is dedicated to the ending, which holds out effects drone and a long string of kosmiche minimalism. At the end, the audience departs the wormhole and is somehow back where it started, out of phase with what’s normally thought of as spacetime, but otherwise uninjured. As a fan as well of Zone Six and of the players comprising this incarnation thereof, there’s absolutely nothing more one might ask of its molten flow or turned-on mindset.

Like I said at the outset, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a pairing that works on paper and a pairing that works on a platter. I’ll be interested to see what Zone Six do from here and who’s involved, and Williamson will have a new Lamp of the Universe release out early in 2019 on Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint, so this is by no means the last collaboration between these players/entities. Will we ever get to the point where Williamson sits in with either Zone Six or Electric Moon for a jam? I guess that’s the big question left to answer by this split, but either way, even on opposite sides of the vinyl, Arc of Ascent and Zone Six have no trouble working toward parallel ends.

Arc of Ascent on Bandcamp

Arc of Ascent on Thee Facebooks

Zone Six on Thee Facebooks

Zone Six on Bandcamp

Headspin Records website

Headspin Records on Thee Facebooks

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Review & Track Premiere: Shallow Grave, Threshold Between Worlds

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Shallow Grave Threshold Between Worlds

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘The Horrendous Abyss’ from Shallow Grave’s Threshold Between Worlds. Album is out Oct. 31 on Sludgelord Records, Cursed Monk Records, Black Voodoo Records and Minor Label.]

All that happens in the first 30 seconds of Shallow Grave‘s second album, Threshold Between Worlds, is a fade-in of an introductory riff, and yet even that seems crushing. The Auckland four-piece made 55-minute their self-titled debut (review here) in 2013 via Astral Projection, and while they’ve trimmed the runtime down to an LP-ready 38 minutes for four songs, the sense of impact remains a major concern. Mostly, I’d think, for seismologists. It is not long after that fade-in that Shallow Grave begin the 10-minute “The Horrendous Abyss” in earnest, with a buzzsaw tone worthy of namedrops like Beast in the Field and Swarm of the Lotus from guitarists Tim Leth (also vocals) and Mike Rothwell, furious low end distortion from bassist Brent Bidlake and an almost noise-rocking rhythm from drummer James Bakker, who succeeds in pushing deeper into “The Horrendous Abyss” while cutting through the mire with a snare that seems to hit with no less of a thud than the toms.

Largesse is the order of business, and business is lethal, but in “The Horrendous Abyss” and onward through “Garden of Blood” (9:41) and side B’s “Master of Cruel” (13:11) and “Threshold Between Worlds” (5:31), the band craft an atmosphere of chaotic churn, marked by vicious noise and, for all the madness unfolding, a feeling that the worst violence is still being held back. To wit, “The Horrendous Abyss,” in its eighth minute, pulls back to minimalist guitar notes, but even these are backed with windy drones, giving all the more a feeling of being alone somewhere in the wild. Presumably, we’ve arrived at the titular locale. That’s actually how the track ends, fading out to let the faster start of “Garden of Blood” come on to stomp itself between the line of sludge and brutalist noise. An angularity of rhythm emerges, and Leth‘s largely indecipherable vocals call to mind Tomas Lindberg in their rasp, but the primary impression thanks to a consistency of tone is still one of lumber, and Shallow Grave take due time to revel in it.

And who would argue? The foreboding is palpable early in “Garden of Blood,” as it was throughout “The Horrendous Abyss,” and before it hits the 2:30 mark, “Garden of Blood” slows its pace to a crawl and lurches-out for the next minute, growing an increasing wash of noise as its march leads toward an inevitable decay, drums cutting out just prior to four minutes in and the volume receding to let an airy guitar take hold momentarily before a momentum of riff picks up — exactly the source of the two band-comparisons above, neither of which one is inclined to make lightly — and shoves forward through the next several minutes, once again increasing in wash before the vocals return, caked in echo and even less human/humane for that. It may not be a horrendous abyss, as the first song was, but neither is it a relaxing beach-day getaway.

shallow grave (photo by Damian McDonnell)

Instead, it is an apex of pummel that reveals the second movement in “Garden of Blood” for the linear build it’s been all along, cleverly concealed by the surrounding onslaught. The last two minutes of “Garden of Blood” are given to a noisy, mechanical-seeming drone that fades out to conclude side A and prepare the ground for “Master of Cruel,” which in effect is the closing argument Shallow Grave will make here. A swell of low distortion provides a bed for the drums to come forward in the mix — bit of a role reversal there, since it’s been the drums anchoring the proceedings all along throughout “The Horrendous Abyss” and “Garden of Blood” — before an impressive and extended scream from Leth brings with it a surge of guitar.

By the time they’re past three minutes deep, the drums are gone entirely, and is the guitar, as they recede completely to a drone as the foundation for a line of standalone guitar soon enough met with cymbal wash. Just when you might think you have them figured out and that they’re starting another forward build in the vein of the preceding cut, instead of making their way through with deceptive patience, they thrust ahead all at once into a huge-sounding plod, brutally delivered before evening out to a steady hi-hat-punctuated roll. They are not yet, it’s worth noting, at the midpoint of “Master of Cruel,” the title of which would seem to betray its ambitions.

That steadying transition leads to a push-pull nod that will consume much of the second half of the track, as the vocals show up amid a proceeding decrease in tempo and increase in noise. By the time they’re 11 minutes deep, the direction is set and telegraphed to the listener: once more into the morass. Undulations of harsh frequencies mark the noisy finish, less about feedback directly than one might think, but still working on another long fade into a drone that shifts directly into the shorter closing title-track, which executes a tonal deathblow in a midsection surrounded on either side by noise. The effectiveness of those elements isn’t to be understated. Drones in the transitions, long fades, etc. — these are the things that help craft the atmosphere that winds up playing such a significant role in the effect of Threshold Between Worlds on the listener.

I won’t take away from the force of their delivery or the intensity of their heaviest moments — how could I? — but it’s the ambient factors that let Shallow Grave‘s sophomore release become more than just a very heavy sludge record and really begin to find its own personality in terms of style. And that personality may be psychopathic, but that still counts. With a half-decade between their debut and Threshold Between Worlds, it doesn’t seem fair to anticipate a follow-up anytime soon from Shallow Grave, but when/if it does happen that they put out a third release, one might expect them to continue to toy with this balance, as it seems so crucial to their purposes overall. At the same time, to think at all of Threshold Between Worlds, it feels less safe making predictions of any sort for what might come. Other than darkness, which most certainly is lurking on the horizon for all.

Shallow Grave on Thee Facebooks

Shallow Grave on Bandcamp

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp

Black Voodoo Records on Bandcamp

Minor Label website

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