Album Review: Ungraven & Slomatics, Split

Posted in Reviews on March 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

ungraven slomatics split cover sfw

Eons ago, when the world was bright and new and everything beautiful and nothing hurt except endless war and economic disparity — circa 2011, in other words — Head of Crom Records issued a split between Conan and Slomatics (review here). At the time, Conan‘s founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis very much positioned the offering as a showcase of the drive toward sonic largesse his own band adapted in some measure from the Belfast-based Slomatics, and no doubt it was a first encounter for many listeners with the bass-less-but-still-unbelievably-heavy-and-sci-fi-prone Northern Irish trio.

What fascinates about this new split between Slomatics and Ungraven — on Davis‘ own Black Bow Records, with mastering by James Plotkin and cover art by Ryan Lesser — is that it’s Slomatics who are the “bigger” band. The three-piece of  drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey and guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens went on a tear throughout the rest of the 2010s, offering four full-lengths in 2012’s A Hocht (discussed here), 2014’s Estron (review here), 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and 2019’s Canyons (review here), as well as a handful of splits, adding to a foundation of earlier work much of which has seen reissue through Black BowUngraven, meanwhile, began as a solo-project from Davis in 2018 and released its first studio recording in 2019’s Language of Longing, basking in a industrial-informed ’90s noise metal crunch à la Nailbomb, etc. from Earache Records around 1995 and what nobody wants to admit was the peak era of Sepultura.

Following some more demos and a March 2020 live-studio release that features all three of the tracks included here, Ungraven — now Davis alongside bassist Dave Ryley of Fudge Tunnel and Tuskar drummer Tyler Hodges — come to their own split with Slomatics not just as the newer band (because in fact Slomatics weren’t newer when they did the split with Conan), but as the group being presented in a more introductory fashion. As I understand it, this is their first recording as a full trio. So say a friendly hi to Ungraven. They’ve come to pummel your skull. Neat!

And some of the aspects with which they choose to do so will ring familiar. Davis‘ tone and shout are signature and largely inimitable, and with production by his Conan bandmate Chris Fielding at Foel Studio, there’s no doubt a certain level of comfort even as Ungraven embark on clearing their own creative path. Which is precisely what they’re doing in “Defeat the Object,” “Onwards She Rides to Certain Death” and “Blackened Gates of Eternity,” and for all the in-context elements they might share with Conan via Davis‘ basic approach, Ungraven leave behind much of the doomier, slow-lumbering plod that’s such a staple in Conan‘s work. Comparisons between the two may be inevitable, at least at this point, but there’s grounds for contrast as well and it comes from the structure of the riffs, the central charge around them rhythmically, and the fact that “Onwards She Rides to Certain Death” barely tops three minutes and gets its job done.

Ungraven Slomatics split

It’s a question of balance, then, as well of course as the personalities and styles of the other players involved. Ungraven are rawer than Conan at this stage, and the noisy aspect of their sound comes through despite the thickness of the low end through which it cuts, but the work here isn’t so far removed from Conan‘s earlier fare that longtime fans will be totally alienated or anything like that, particularly through “Defeat the Object,” while the run of “Onwards She Rides to Certain Death” and the tense crush of “Blackened Gates of Eternity” — which doesn’t so much release at the end as simply arrive at an even more excruciating place — push further into individualized expression. Perhaps, for all the bombast, leading with “Defeat the Object” is Davis‘ way of easing listeners into the brutal modus of the new band.

Working at Start Together Studio with Rocky O’ReillySlomatics‘ three tracks, “Kaan,” “Proto Hag” and “Monitors” each bring something of their own to the proceedings. With “Kaan,” it’s sheer lumber. There’s a volume dip at least on the digital version of the release between Ungraven and Slomatics‘ sides — I can’t speak to the actual vinyl — but if the answer is “turn it up,” that was probably going to be the answer anyway. “Kaan” superplods through the molassesy bulk of its 5:43 run, with atmospheric vocals layered in a kind of line-for-line call and response until, at last, CouzensMajury and Harvey cap with thudding toms and transitional samples into the shorter and catchier “Proto Hag,” which doubles as a trad-doom-soaring showcase for its vocals even as it remains duly thick in its roll, synth adding melody in its final chorus. Harvey is audibly pushing his voice in the last lines, and it adds to the intensity of that apex.

The concluding “Monitors” might be the highlight of the entire release, with a melancholy tempo and open feeling strum in the guitars that serves as bed for likewise downtrodden verse lines. It begins and ends with drones, and departs in its midsection for some atmospherics as well, but the effectiveness of the track overall comes from how draws together and exemplifies Slomatics‘ take on the whole. The two bands inarguably have some factors in common, but they’re telling different stories here, and while impulse with splits is always to compare one to the other — fair enough — the manner in which Ungraven and Slomatics arrive in succession is more complementary than contrasted.

An intervening decade and Ungraven and Conan being different bands precludes this split from being a direct sequel to the 2011 Black Bow offering, but there are spiritual elements shared between that release and this one, the stated friendship between Davis and Slomatics, the latter band’s continued output through the label, and so on. Sonically, there was little danger the pairing wasn’t going to make sense, and it does make sense, showing Slomatics in a place of refining their central methodology even as Ungraven seek out to claim theirs, both of which just happen to be heavy as all hell. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

Ungraven, Split with Slomatics (2021)

Slomatics, Split with Ungraven (2021)

Ungraven on Thee Facebooks

Ungraven on Instagram

Ungraven BigCartel store

Ungraven on Bandcamp

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Slomatics on Bandcamp

Slomatics website

Black Bow Records BigCartel store

Black Bow Records on Bandcamp

Black Bow Records on Thee Facebooks

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Elder Druid Sign to Interstellar Smoke Records; New Album Later This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Heartfelt best wishes to Jacek Trepko of Polish imprint Interstellar Smoke Records, who the other day posted to social media a few genuinely horrifying pictures of the twisted metal clump that used to be his automobile before it was in the kind of crash from which one is lucky to be carried away, let alone walk. Trepko was in the hospital at the time but noted recovery under way, and of course I hope that that’s exactly how it proceeds.

The news isn’t all awful, however, as the label has picked up Elder Druid out of Belfast, Northern Ireland. The band’s second album, Golgotha (review here), was released in early 2020, and it seems that Interstellar Smoke will put out the follow-up sometime later in 2021. Of course that’s subject as everything is to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so who the hell knows anything about anything — if that even needs to be said at this point — but on the most basic level, it’s cool to see a band who’ve been working hard get noticed for that and have someone behind them to press a record. Whenever it might show up.

Elder Druid announced the signing and then followed up with a few words about Trepko‘s auto accident. You’ll find their words below:

ELDER DRUID

ELDER DRUID SIGN TO INTERSTELLAR SMOKE RECORDS

We’re delighted to announce that we have signed a record deal with Polish stoner/doom label Interstellar Smoke Records.

We’ll be releasing album #3 on vinyl through the label later this year. Very exciting times ahead. Many thanks to Jacek Trepko.

After announcing that we had signed to Interstellar Smoke Records yesterday, we woke up to the news that Jacek had been involved in a serious car crash.

His car was destroyed, a lot of records were damaged and he was very lucky to make it out alive.

If anyone would like to help the guy out, head over to the Big Cartel page below and pick up some vinyl from the other bands on the roster:
https://interstellarsmokerecords.bigcartel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/elderdruidband
https://elderdruid.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.instagram.com/elderdruidband
https://www.facebook.com/Interstellar-Smoke-Records-101687381255396/
https://interstellarsmokerecords.bigcartel.com/

Elder Druid, Golgotha (2020)

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Nomadic Rituals Premiere “Them” Video; Tides out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Nomadic Rituals

Look. I don’t know the cats from Belfast trio Nomadic Rituals at all. I was fortunate enough to see the band in Dublin in 2017 (review here), but it’s not like we hung out after the show or anything. Point is, for all I know, baritone guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter (also synth), bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth could be absolute sweethearts — really nice guys. But their sound is nasty as fuck.

Crushing, wrenching, slow-motion-grinding atmospheric sludge is writ all across the feels-longer-than 45 minutes of their third full-length, Tides, released earlier this month through respected Irish purveyor Cursed Monk Records. The follow-up to 2017’s likewise gruesome Marking the Day (review here), the six-song Tides gives the listener hints in how to approach it in how it leads off. While it begins with an initial onslaught of noise meant to symbolize the ‘launch’ in the title of opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cassini-Huygens Part 1 (The Launch),” what builds up over the next few minutes from there is gradual, recalling some of We Lost the Sea‘s Challenger-themed post-rock, if in immediately heavier fashion.Nomadic Rituals Tides Shortly before three and a half minutes in, however, the switch is flipped and the thicker chug arrives, followed shortly thereafter by the harsh, barking vocals that will pervade much of what follows, adding to the extremity of the band’s approach overall.

But it’s in the pairing of “Cassini-Huygens Part 1 (The Launch)” and the subsequent “Cassini-Huygens Part 2 (Last Transmission)” that Tides tells you how to read it. Of course it splits in half to accommodate vinyl with three songs on two sides, but if you’re listening, say, digitally, it also functions as three sets of two songs each. You get the “Cassini-Huygens” duology named for the mission to study Saturn, and you get “Them” and Tumulus” paired, the one ending in silence, the other picking up from it, and you get the slow-building “Moving Towards Total Disorganization” feeding into closer “The Burden” — more than just an intro, but certainly complementary in how it rolls out, ending quiet and giving way to the more immediate low-end pulsations of the finale. Nomadic Rituals by no means go out of their way to make moves toward accessibility — even unto the depths of “The Burden,” they are ferocious, shifting between angular churn and sample-laced noise, only to end with scathing layers of feedback — but with a different understanding of how Tides might be intended to work, the perspective shifts accordingly, and the immersion that is so well enacted by the songs becomes even more vital.

However you go through Tides, one should be aware of the undertow that comes with the trio’s lumbering oscillations. That is to say, the album is one that does not blink as it pulls the listener into its sphere, at once broad and spacious and crushing and freezing the way one thinks of vacuum affecting lungs; gorgeous and destructive in kind.

You’ll find the Bandcamp stream of the full release down toward the bottom of the post, and I’m thrilled to host the premiere of the video for “Them” below.

However you approach, please enjoy:

Nomadic Rituals, “Them” official video premiere

Nomadic Rituals are a heavy 3-piece Sludge/Doom band from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Formed in July 2012 by Craig Carson, Peter Hunter, and Mark Smyth, the band started writing and gigging, when they released 3 self-recorded tracks that became their demo “DFWG”. This was followed up with the recording of a full-length album in late March 2013 with Niall Doran at Start Together Studios, Belfast. Released in September of that year, “Holy Giants” garnered a number of very positive reviews.

Gigging continued after release of the album, and the increasing attention received by the band opened up opportunities for shows further afield. Writing also continued, and the band returned to Start Together Studios to work with Niall Doran on the recording of “The Great Dying”. This was released in late February 2015 as a split 12″ vinyl along with fellow local Doom band Tome.

Further gigging and a lengthy period of writing followed, after which the band returned to Start Together Studio to record their second full length album ‘Marking the Day’ in late March 2016. As with the first two releases, the artwork and packaging for the new album was created, designed and screen printed by the band themselves. ‘Marking the Day’ was released in February 2017.once again to critical acclaim.

After several gigs in countries such as Denmark, Norway and Lithuania the band return with their third album ‘Tides’ which was released on CD, Cassette, and Digital Download on the 8th of January 2021 through Cursed Monk Records.

Craig Carson – Bass Guitar / Vocals
Peter Hunter – Baritone Guitar / Vocals / Synth
Mark Smyth – Drums / Percussion

Nomadic Rituals, Tides (2021)

Nomadic Rituals on Thee Facebooks

Nomadic Rituals on Instagram

Nomadic Rituals on Bandcamp

Nomadic Rituals website

Cursed Monk Records website

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp

Cursed Monk Records on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Monk Records on Instagram

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Ungraven & Slomatics Split Available to Preorder

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

Anyone remember that time Conan and Slomatics put out a split? Hell’s bells, I do. Nearly 10 years later, preorders are up for what one might think of as a kind of semi-sequel — at least an extension of the franchise — which brings together the aforementioned Slomatics with Conan vocalist/guitarist Jon Davis‘ second band, Ungraven. Three songs from each unit are featured, and the release will be in March through Davis’ label, Black Bow Records, just like last time out.

And hey, I know it was 10 years ago, so if you didn’t hear it, don’t feel like you’re lagging behind. I’m not trying to be Johnny Groundfloor with either of these bands, because I ain’t, but two points: first, you should still be looking forward to the new split, and second, it’s not at all too late to stream the other.

I’ve included offerings from Ungraven and Slomatics here if you want to use that as your gateway. However you go there’s no wrong answer.

Have at it:

Ungraven Slomatics split

UNGRAVEN / SLOMATICS SPLIT

Preorder: https://blackbowrecords.bigcartel.com/product/ungraven-slomatics-split

Split release between Ungraven and Slomatics. Ungraven arrive on vinyl for the first time following their early ‘drum machine’ demos and now the lineup includes David Ryley of FUDGE TUNNEL on bass and Tyler Hodges of TUSKAR on drums. Jon Davis (CONAN) fronts the band and is the founding member. SLOMATICS are of course well known to all fans of heavy music, stunning shows at Roadburn, Psycho Las Vegas and many other festivals, combined with SOLID releases across all platforms have cemented the Belfast 3 piece in heavy music lore, a crown they have worn since 2004.

Available in two colours ‘starburst’ and ‘green/black’ – on a single sleeve pressing, 300 copies of each colour printed.

Track List

Side A
UNGRAVEN
Defeat The Object 05:20
Onwards She Rides To A Certain Death 03:06
Blackened Gates of Eternity 04:56

Side B
SLOMATICS
Kaän 05:43
Proto Hag 04:30
Monitors 07:16

Distributed from our base in Netherlands.
STOCK EXPECTED MID / LATE FEB. RELEASE DATE 5th MARCH 2021.

NB….. Tracked shipping provided with all orders.

Art by Ryan Lesser
Ungraven produced by Chris Fielding at Foel Studio.
Slomatics produced at Start Together Studio.

https://www.facebook.com/ungraven/
https://www.instagram.com/thisisungraven/
https://ungraven.bigcartel.com/
https://ungraven.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Slomatics-196382747053529/
https://slomatics.bandcamp.com/
http://slomatics.com/

https://blackbowrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://blackbowrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Black-Bow-Records-565275456841866/

Ungraven, Language of Longing (2019)

Slomatics, Canyons (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Witchcraft, The Wizar’d, Sail, Frank Sabbath, Scream of the Butterfly, Slow Draw, Baleful Creed, Surya Kris Peters, Slow Phase, Rocky Mtn Roller

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Day Three is always special when it comes to Quarterly Reviews because it’s where we hit and pass the halfway point on the way to covering 50 albums by Friday. This edition hasn’t been unpleasant at all — I’ve screened this stuff pretty hard, so I feel well prepared — but it still requires some doing to make it all come together. Basically a week’s worth. Ha.

If you haven’t found anything yet that speaks to you, I hope that changes either today, tomorrow or Friday.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Witchcraft, Black Metal

witchcraft black metal

Four years ago, Witchcraft frontman/founder Magnus Pelander released a solo album under his own name called Time (review here) as a quick complement to the band’s own 2016 offering, Nucleus (review here). Pelander‘s Time was his first solo outing since a 2010 four-song EP that, for a long time, seemed like a one-off. Now, with Black Metal, Witchcraft strips down to its barest essentials — Pelander‘s voice and guitar — and he is the only performer on the seven-track/33-minute LP. Style-wise, it’s mostly sad, intimate folk, as Pelander begins with “Elegantly Expressed Depression” and tells the stories of “A Boy and a Girl,” “Sad People,” and even the key-inclusive “Sad Dog” before “Take Him Away” closes out with a bluesy guitar figure that features twice but is surrounded by a space that seems to use silence as much as music as a tool of its downer presentation. The title, obviously tongue-in-cheek, is clearly nonetheless a reference to depression, and while Pelander‘s performance is gorgeous and honest, it’s also very clearly held down by a massive emotional weight. So too, then, is the album.

Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast webstore

 

The Wizar’d, Subterranean Exile

the wizar'd subterranean exile

Making their debut on Cruz Del Sur Music, Australia’s The Wizar’d return from the doomliest of gutters with Subterranean Exile, opening the album with the title-track’s take on capital-‘c’ Classic doom and the pre-NWOBHM-ism of Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General, and, duh, Black Sabbath. In just 35 minutes, the four-piece make the most of their raw but epic vibes, using the means of the masters to showcase their own songwriting. This is doom metal at its most traditional, with two guitars intertwining riffs and leads on “Master of the Night” and the catchy “Long Live the Dead,” but there’s a dungeon-style spirit to the solo in that track — or maybe that’s just build off of the prior interlude “Ecstatic Visions Held Within the Monastic Tower” — that sets up the speedier run of “Evil in My Heart” ahead of the seven-minute finale “Dark Fortress.” As one might hope, they cap with due lumber and ceremony befitting an LP so thoroughly, so entirely doomed, and while perhaps it will be seven years before they do another full-length, it doesn’t matter. The Wizar’d stopped time a long time ago.

The Wizar’d on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Sail, Mannequin

Sail Mannequin

A follow-up to their later-2019 single “Starve,” the three-song Mannequin release from UK progressive metallers Sail is essentially a single as well. It begins with the ‘regular’ version of the track, which careens through its sub-five minutes with a standout hook and the dual melodic vocals of guitarists Tim Kazer and Charlie Dowzell. This is followed by “Mannequin [Synthwave Remix],” which lives up to its name, and brings bassist Kynan Scott to the fore on synth, replacing the drums of Tom Coles with electronic beats and the guitars with keyboards. The chorus works remarkably well. As fluidly as “Mannequin” fed into the subsequent remix, so too does “Mannequin [Synthwave Remix]” move directly into “Mannequin [Director’s Cut],” which ranges past the seven-minute mark and comes across rawer than the opening version. Clearly Sail knew they could get some mileage out of “Mannequin,” and they weren’t wrong. They make the most of the 16-minute occasion and keep listeners guessing where they might be headed coming off of 2017’s Slumbersong LP. Easy win.

Sail on Thee Facebooks

Sail on Bandcamp

 

Frank Sabbath, Compendium

Frank Sabbath Compendium

They’re not kidding with that title. Frank Sabbath‘s Compendium covers four years of studio work — basic improvisations done in 2016 plus overdubs over time — and the resulting freakout is over an hour and a half long. Its 14 component pieces run a gamut of psychedelic meandering, loud, quiet, fast, slow, spacey, earthy, whatever you’re looking for, there’s time for it all. The French trio were plenty weird already on 2017’s Are You Waiting? (review here), but the scales are tipped here in the extended “La Petite Course à Vélo” (11:16) and “Bermuda Cruise” (17:21) alone, never mind on the Middle Eastern surf of “Le Coucous” or the hopping bass and wah of “Gallus Crackus” and “L’Oeufou.” The band has issued live material in the past, and whatever they do, it’s pretty jammy, but Compendium specifically highlights this aspect of their sound, shoving it in front of the listener and daring them to take it on. If you’re mind’s not open, it might be by the time you’re done.

Frank Sabbath on Thee Facebooks

Frank Sabbath on Bandcamp

 

Scream of the Butterfly, Birth Death Repeat

scream of the butterfly birth death repeat

Scream of the Butterfly made a raucous debut in with 2017’s Ignition (review here), and Birth Death Repeat stays the course of bringing Hammond organ to the proceedings of melodically arranged ’90s-style heavy rock, resulting in a cross-decade feel marked by sharp tones and consistency of craft that’s evident in the taut executions of “The Devil is by My Side” and “Higher Place” before the more moderately-paced “Desert Song” takes hold and thickens out the tones accordingly. ‘Desert,’ as it were, is certainly an influence throughout, as the opener’s main riff feels Kyuss-derived and the later “Driven” has a fervent energy behind it as well. The latter is well-placed following the ballad “Soul Giver,” the mellower title-track interlude, and the funky but not nearly as propulsive “Turned to Stone.” They’ll soon close out with the bluesy “I’ve Seen it Coming,” but before they do, “Room Without Walls” brings some marked solo shred and a grungier riff that scuffs up the band’s collective boot nicely, emphasizing that the record itself is less mundane than it might at first appear or the title might lead one to believe.

Scream of the Butterfly on Thee Facebooks

Scream of the Butterfly on Bandcamp

 

Slow Draw, Gallo

Slow Draw Gallo

From minimalist drone to experimental folk, Slow Draw‘s Gallo sets a wide-open context for itself from the outset, a quick voice clip and the churning drone of “Phase 2” leading into the relatively straightforward “No Words” — to which there are, naturally, lyrics. Comprised solely of Mark Kitchens, also known for drumming in the duo Stone Machine Electric, Slow Draw might be called an experimentalist vehicle, but that doesn’t make Gallo any less satisfying. “No Words” and “Falling Far” and the just-acoustic-and-voice closer “End to That” serve as landmarks along the way, touching ground periodically as pieces like the strumming “Harvey’s Chair” and the droned-out “Industrial Aged” play off each other and “Angelo” — homage to Badalamenti, perhaps — the minimal “A Conflict” and “Tumoil” [sic] and “Playground” tip the balance to one side or another, the penultimate krautdrone of “Phase 1” unveiling perhaps what further manipulation turned into “Phase 2” earlier in the proceedings. At 33 minutes, Gallo feels careful not to overstay its welcome, and it doesn’t.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Baleful Creed, The Lowdown

baleful creed the lowdown

Belfast’s Baleful Creed present a crisp 10 tracks of well-composed, straightforward, doom-tinged heavy rock and roll — they call it ‘doom blues boogie,’ and fair enough — with their third long-player, The Lowdown. They’re not pretending to be anything they’re not and offering their sounds to the listener not in some grand statement of aesthetic accomplishment, and not as a showcase of whatever amps they purchased to make their sound, but instead simply for what they are: songs. Crafted, honed, thought-out and brought to bear with vitality and purpose to give the band the best representation possible. Front-to-back, The Lowdown sounds not necessarily overthought, but professional enough to be called “cared about,” and whether it’s the memorable opening with “Mr. Grim” or the ’90s C.O.C. idolatry of “Tramalamapam” or the strong ending salvo of “End Game,” with its inclusion of piano, the mostly-subdued but swaggering “Line of Trouble” and the organ-topped closer “Southgate of Heaven,” Baleful Creed never veer too far from the central purpose of their priority on songwriting, and neither do they need to.

Baleful Creed on Thee Facebooks

Baleful Creed on Bandcamp

 

Surya Kris Peters, O Jardim Sagrado

Surya Kris Peters O Jardim Sagrado

Though he’s still best known as the frontman of Samsara Blues Experiment, Christian Peters — aka Surya Kris Peters — has become a prolific solo artist as well. The vinyl-ready eight songs/37 minutes of O Jardim Sagrado meet him in his element, bringing together psychedelia, drone and synthesizer/keyboard effects to convey various moods and ideas. As with most of the work done under the Surya Kris moniker, he doesn’t add vocals, but the album wants nothing for expression just the same, whether it’s the Bouzouki on “Endless Green” or the guest contribution of voice from Monika Saint-Oktobre on the encompassing 11-minute title-track, which would be perfect for a dance hall if dance halls were also religious ceremonies. Experiments and explorations like “Celestial Bolero” and “Saudade” bring electric guitar leads and Mellotron-laced wistfulness, respectively, while after the title-cut, the proggy techno of “Blue Nebula” gives way to what might otherwise be a boogie riff on closer “Southern Sunrise.” Peters always seems to find a way to catch the listener off guard. Maybe himself too.

Surya Kris Peters on Thee Facebooks

Surya Kris Peters on Bandcamp

 

Slow Phase, Slow Phase

slow phase slow phase

A strong if raw debut from Oakland three-piece Slow Phase, this 39-minute eight-tracker presents straight-ahead classic American heavy rock and roll in the style of acts like a less garage The Brought Low, a looser-knit Sasquatch or any number of bands operating under the Ripple Music banner. Less burly than some, more punk than others, the power trio includes guitarist Dmitri Mavra of Skunk, as well as vocalist/bassist Anthony Pulsipher of Spidermeow and vocalist/drummer Richard Stuverud, the rhythm section adding to the blues spirit and spiraling manic jangle of “Blood Circle.” Opener “Starlight” was previously issued as a teaser single for the album, and stands up to its position here, with the eponymous “Slow Phase” backing its strength of hook. “Psychedelic Man” meanders in its lead section, as it should, and the catchy “Silver Fuzz” sets up the riotous “Midnight Sun” and “No Time” to lead into the electric piano of “Let’s Do it Again (For the First Time),” which I’d kind of take as a goof were it not for the righteous jam that finishes it, referencing “Highway Star” during its fadeout. Some organizing to do, but they obviously know what they’re shooting for.

Slow Phase on Thee Facebooks

Slow Phase on Bandcamp

 

Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller

rocky mtn roller rocky mtn roller

This band might actually be more cohesive than they want to be. A double-guitar four-piece from Asheville, North Carolina, with a connection to cult heroes Lecherous Gaze via six-stringer Zach Blackwell — joined in the band by guitarist Ruby Roberts, bassist Luke Whitlatch and drummer Alex Cabrera — they’re playing to a certain notion of brashness as an ideal, but while the vocals have a drunk-fuckall stoner edge, the construction of the songs underlying is unremittingly sound on this initial EP. “Monster” opens with a welcome hook and “When I’m a Pile” sounds classic-tinged enough to be a heavy ’70s nod, but isn’t so easily placed to a specific band as to be called derivative. The longest of the four cuts at 5:30, “Bald Faced Hornet” boasts some sting in its snare sound, but the Southern heavy push at its core makes those dueling solos in the second half all the more appropriate, and closing out, “She Ran Off with the Dealer” has both charm and Thin Lizzy groove, which would basically be enough on their own to get me on board. A brazen and blazing candidate for Tee Pee Records‘ digital annex, if someone else doesn’t snag them first.

Rocky Mtn Roller on Thee Facebooks

Rocky Mtn Roller on Bandcamp

 

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Days of Rona: Jake Wallace of Elder Druid

Posted in Features on May 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

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

elder druid jake wallace

Days of Rona: Jake Wallace of Elder Druid (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

How have you been you dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

As a band, we initially did a livestream from our rehearsal space on the 20th March, just before full lockdown came into play in the UK so that was the last time we were all together. It was cool knowing that so many people were sitting at home watching us jam out and within a few days, we had 6k views on the video so we were pretty happy and surprised with that. We’ve all been playing our respective instruments at home and writing bits and pieces but we always need to play together in the room to make it all gel. That has always been the formula.

We got our first ever batch of vinyl at the start of April so that was a bit frustrating as it was probably the worst time to end up with boxes and boxes of records, with no gigs to play and no merch tables to lay them on. We had a few festivals cancelled, as well as main support for Stoned Jesus & Conan on their respective Irish tours. Really shitty luck but everyone is in the same boat so we can’t let it get to us.

Personally I’ve just been buying/listening to a load of new records and playing games on my PS4. Luckily, I’ve been in lockdown with my girlfriend so it’s great to have each other’s company during all of this.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From the government response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

Honestly, Belfast seems to be heeding the advice a lot better than other parts of the UK. Northern Ireland has had the least deaths out of the 4 nations in the UK so I guess that’s something. There’s definitely a lot less people on the streets and it’s a weird ghostly atmosphere in the city centre with all the shops/bars etc. being closed. Our local bar/metal venue Voodoo has launched a funding page to help support them through the crisis so hopefully the guys can pull through unscathed as we’ve played more shows there than anywhere else and it’d be devastating to lose somewhere like that.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I think it has been very encouraging to see most of the music community trying to support each other as everyone is being hurt in one way or another. Most notably, I really loved the fact that Bandcamp waived their fees on the first Friday of the month to allow artists to earn that little bit more. It’s a great gesture and it really encourages fans to spend, especially with it being straight after payday. At the same time, I’ve seen a lot of bands profiteering off the pandemic and selling masks etc. at extortionate prices and I don’t agree with that at all, especially when they’re just an accessory and not actually useful in stopping the spread of the virus.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

We’d love everyone to know that we’re gonna be working to reschedule all the shows that have been cancelled over the next few months, as well as booking new shows for later in the year and next year, all being well. I’d say we’ve learned that paying rent for a rehearsal space that we can’t use really sucks and if we’re ever getting a vinyl order in the future, we’ll make sure and do our research on the world’s vulnerability to pandemics and the likes.

If anyone wants to support us by picking up our latest album ‘Golgotha’, it’s available on vinyl/CD/digital over on our Bandcamp page, as well as loads of new shirt designs. Your support is greatly appreciated.

https://www.facebook.com/elderdruidband
https://elderdruid.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.instagram.com/elderdruidband

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Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

Ocean Chief on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records store

 

Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

Barnabus on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Relics store

 

Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

Helen Money on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records store

 

Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

Elder Druid on Thee Facebooks

Elder Druid on Bandcamp

 

Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

Mindcrawler on Thee Facebook

Mindcrawler on Bandcamp

 

Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

Temple of Void on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records store

 

Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

Lunar Swamp on Bandcamp

 

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes on Thee Facebooks

Retro Vox Records on Bandcamp

 

Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

Emile on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store

 

Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

Saturno Groove on Thee Facebooks

LSDR Records store

 

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Elder Druid Announce European Tour; New Video Posted; Album out Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ELDER DRUID

Later this week, Northern Irish sludgebringers Elder Druid will issue their second full-length album, Golgotha. I’ve heard it. It’s a beast, and what’s more, it sees Elder Druid beginning to manifest their potential in terms of tone and general aggression level, starting to show themselves as willing, able and actively trying to branch out from their root influences. Also it’s very, very heavy. So all the way around, it’s a 39-minute win of a pummeler.

They’ll play a couple shows this weekend in Belfast and Dublin to mark the release, and then next month, they head out on their first European tour, with gigs in Belgium, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. It’s five dates, so yes, very much an initial incursion, but I’ve seen tours go much longer and not cover as much ground, so there you go. All the best to them, safe travels, lock the van and all that stuff.

In case an album release and tour announcement weren’t enough for you — the internet be greedy — the five-piece also have a new video for the instrumental track “Sentinel” from the new record. At a little over three minutes, it’s the shortest cut on the outing, and it doesn’t have Gregg McDowell‘s varying sludge-metal gutturalisms over top, but it should still give you some idea of where Elder Druid are coming from atmospherically and in terms of their general approach. Enough to whet your appetite ahead of Friday, anyhow.

From the social medias:

elder druid tour

ELDER DRUID – EUROPEAN TOUR 2020

Delighted to finally announce we’ll be going on our first European tour in February 2020, celebrating the release of our new album ‘Golgotha’, due out on 17.01.2020.

We’ll be doing shows across Belgium, Germany and Poland on this tour and the dates are as follows:

12.02 • GHENT, BELGIUM Kinky Star
w/ Welcome to Holyland

13.02 • BERLIN, GERMANY Toast Hawaii
w/ Witch Ritual

14.02 • DRESDEN, GERMANY Eichenkranz
w/ Swan Valley Heights, Morbus Kinski

15.02 • KATOWICE, POLAND Drzwi Zwane Koniem
Fellowship of the Riff Vol. 6 w/ Fish Basket, Plaster Cast, Hermopolis, Raskolnikow

16.02 • OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC Galerie Nibiru
Klubovna Jeden Tag

Cheers to all the promoters and venues who have helped us organise these shows and to all the absolutely killer bands we have playing with us. The final show will be announced in the coming days. We can’t wait. Cheers to the guys at Galactic SmokeHouse for helping complete the tour dates. Legends.

PRE-ORDER ‘GOLGOTHA’ NOW: https://elderdruidband.bandcamp.com/album/golgotha

Elder Druid is:
Gregg McDowell – Vocals,
Jake Wallace – Guitar,
Mikey Scott – Guitar,
Dale Hughes – Bass,
Brien Gillen – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/elderdruidband
https://elderdruid.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.instagram.com/elderdruidband

Elder Druid, “Sentinel” official video

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