Pia Isa to Release Dissolve June 28; Title-Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Equal parts moody and melodic, the new Pia Isa single bodes well for Dissolve, which is the second solo-ish full-length from Norwegian heavy singer-songwriter Pia Isaksen, also bassist and vocalist for Superlynx, and since it’s the title-track of the album as the first piece unveiled, somehow that’s so much the better. If you have headphones, I’d say that might be your best bet to let some of the psychedelic nuance of the guitar — and bass! — and the intricacy of the layers of her voice shine through, as well as the post-grunge moodiness, though that’s certainly resonant through speakers as well. Her first record under the Pia Isa banner, Distorted Chants (review here), came out in 2022, also on Argonauta, and worked in similar textures, but it seems likely that “Dissolve” was chosen to represent Dissolve as the lead single in part because you can hear growth in terms of arrangement and flourish elements along with the core fluid groove and melody. Sounds cool, in other words.

Also kind of sad, but this too is part of the thing. There’s a mention for it below, but in addition to having put out her Burning Time EP (review here) earlier this year, Isaksen also recently announced the advent of SoftSun, building on her prior collaboration with guitarist Gary Arce (Yawning Man, etc.), who appeared on “Trauma” (video premiere here) from Distorted Chants, as well as drummer Dan Joeright, who doubles as producer at Gatos Trail Recording Studio in Yucca Valley, California. No idea when anything’s coming out from that three-piece, but don’t forget Superlynx had their own LP, 4 10 (review here), out just this past Fall. So, you know, plenty going on one way or the other, if you’re looking to keep up.

Speaking of keeping up, this news came through like last week and I’m still getting caught up. Recall that at no point in the last 15-plus years did I say I was any good at this.

From the PR wire:

Pia Isa Dissolve

Heavy Psych Dronegazer PIA ISA Unveil “Dissolve” Full Album Details; First Single Out Now

Norwegian psychedelic drone rocker PIA ISA, also known as a member of Superlynx, is set to release a new full-length album titled ‘Dissolve’ on June 28th via Argonauta Records on vinyl.

“The new album feels like a further walk on the path I started with my first solo album but with a few different turns. This time I worked more with layers of vocal harmonies and gave my old dark sounding acoustic nylon guitar some space among the heavy distorted guitars. I am super stoked to have Gary Arce once again laying his stunning guitar tones on most of the songs and about Ole Teigen’s brilliant drums and sound work. Dissolvement is a recurring theme on the album, but so is the idea of reassembling the pieces back together in new and different ways.” – says Pia.

Today is also the day Pia Isa presents the title track in the form of a lyric video, now available.

Pia about the single: “The first single Dissolve is the title track and I guess it tries to capture the feeling of falling apart but also holding on to the pieces of your- self for when the time comes that you feel able to start putting them back together. Knowing that they won’t fit the same way they used to, but maybe a different way could be even better. Musically I wanted the song to catch a heavy sad feeling but also a lot of hopefulness.“

“Dissolve” album tracklisting and cover art are as follows:
Side A:
1. Transform
2. Into the Fire
3. Dissolve
4. One Above Ten Below
Side B:
5. New Light
6. Emerald
7. Tide
8. Drown or Float

On the new album Pia has worked more with layers of vocal harmonies and has given an old dark sounding nylon acoustic guitar more space in her massive distorted soundscape. In addition to singing she plays bass, riff guitars and minimalistic guitar leads while Gary Arce (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Big Scenic Nowhere, Ten East etc) plays additional guitar melodies on six of the album’s eight songs. The drums are played by Ole Teigen (Superlynx etc) who also record- ed, mixed and produced the album with Pia co producing at Crowtown Recordings.

Pia’s lyrics are always personal and honest. She wrote Dissolve at a time where a lot of major things in her own life, but also in the world, changed, were uncertain and seemed to dissolve. Dissolvement is a recurring theme in the songs, but so is the idea of moulding things back together in a new form. As Pia often writes what she needs to hear herself, and needs to tell herself, in her lyrics she wonders if there are others out there needing to hear similar things. On this album she is trying to create hope that no matter how scary major changes and the unknown is it can also be an opportunity for new and better ways and ideas.

In addition to her solo project Pia has spent a decade playing bass and doing vocals in heavy psych band Superlynx and recently started the new project SoftSun with Gary Arce and Dan Joeright (Earth Moon Earth, The Rentals etc).

For more info:
https://linktr.ee/piaisa_distortedchants

http://www.facebook.com/piaisamusic
http://www.instagram.com/piaisamusic
https://piaisa.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/argonuatarecords
www.instagram.com/argonautarecords
www.argonautarecords.com

Pia Isa, “Dissolve” lyric video

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Quarterly Review: Pelican, My Dying Bride, Masonic Wave, Bismarck, Sun Moon Holy Cult, Daily Thompson, Mooch, The Pleasure Dome, Slump, Green Hog Band

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Welcome back to the Quarterly Review. Good weekend? Restful? Did you get out and see some stuff? Did you loaf and hang out on the couch? There are advantages to either, to be sure. Friday night I watched my daughter (and a literal 40 other performers, no fewer than four of whom sang and/or danced to the same Taylor Swift song) do stand-up comedy telling math jokes at her elementary school variety show. She’s in kindergarten, she likes math, and she killed. Nice little moment for her, if one that came as part of a long evening generally.

The idea this week is the same as last week: 50 releases covered across five days. Put the two weeks together and the Spring 2024 Quarterly Review — which I’m pretty sure is what I called the one in March as well; who cares? — runs 100 strong. I’ll be traveling, some with family, some on my own, for a bit in the coming months, so this is a little bit my way of clearing my slate before that all happens, but it’s always satisfying to dig into so much and get a feel for what different acts are doing, try and convey some of that as directly as I can. If you’re reading, thanks. If this is the first you’re seeing of it and you want to see more, you can either scroll down or click here.

Either way, off we go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Adrift/Tending the Embers

pelican adrift tending the embers

Chicago (mostly-)instrumentalist stalwarts Pelican haven’t necessarily been silent since 2019’s Nighttime Stories (review here), with a digital live release in Spring 2020, catalog reissues on Thrill Jockey, a couple in-the-know covers posted and shows hither and yon, but the stated reason for the two-songer EP Adrift/Tending the Embers is to raise funds ahead of recording what will be their seventh album in a career now spanning more than 20 years. In addition to that being a cause worth supporting — they’re on the second pressing; 200 blue tapes — the two new original tracks “Adrift” (5:48) and “Tending the Embers” (4:26) reintroduce guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec as a studio presence alongside guitarist Trevor Shelley de Brauw, bassist Bryan Herweg and drummer Larry Herweg. Recorded by the esteemed Sanford Parker, neither cut ranges too far conceptually from the band’s central modus bringing together heavy groove with lighter/brighter reach of guitar, but come across like a tight, more concise encapsulation of earlier accomplishments. There’s a certain amount of comfort in that as they surf the crunching, somehow-noise-rock-inspired riff of “Adrift,” sounding refreshed in their purpose in a way that one hopes they can carry into making the intended LP.

Pelican website

Pelican on Bandcamp

My Dying Bride, A Mortal Binding

My Dying Bride A Mortal Binding

Something of a harsher take on A Mortal Binding, which is the 15th full-length from UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride, as well as their second for Nuclear Blast behind 2020’s lush The Ghost of Orion (review here. The seven-song/55-minute offering from the masters of misery derives its character in no small part from the front-mixed vocals of Aaron Stainthorpe, who from opener “Her Dominion” onward, switches between his morose semi-spoken approach, woeful as ever, and dry-throated harsher barks. And that the leadoff is all-screams feels like a purposeful choice as that rasp returns in the second half of “The 2nd of Three Bells,” the 11-minute “The Apocalyptist,” “A Starving Heart” and the ending section of closer “Crushed Embers.” I don’t know when the last time a My Dying Bride LP sounded so roiling, but it’s been a minute. The duly morose riffing of founding guitarist Andrew Craighan unites this outwardly nastier aspect with the more melodic “Thornwyck Hymn,” “Unthroned Creed” and the rest that isn’t throatripper-topped, but with returning producer Mark Mynett, the band has clearly honed in on a more stripped-down, still-room-for-violin approach, and it works in just about everything but the drums, which sound triggered/programmed in the way of modern metal. It remains easy to get caught in the band’s wretched sweep, and I’ll note that it’s a rare act who can surprise you 15 records later.

My Dying Bride website

Nuclear Blast webstore

Masonic Wave, Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave Masonic Wave

Masonic Wave‘s self-titled debut is the first public offering from the Chicago-based five-piece with Bruce Lamont (Yakuza, Corrections House, Led Zeppelin II, etc.) on vocals, and though “Justify the Cling” has a kind of darker intensity in its brooding first-half ambience, what that build and much besides throughout the eight-song offering leads to is a weighted take on post-hardcore that earlier pieces “Bully” and “Tent City” present in duly confrontational style before “Idle Hands” (the longest inclusion at just under eight minutes) digs into a similar explore-till-we-find-the-payoff ideology and “Julia” gnashes through noise-rock teethkicking. Some of the edge-of-the-next-outburst restlessness cast by Lamont, guitarists Scott Spidale and Sean Hulet, bassist Fritz Doreza and drummer Clayton DeMuth reminds of Chat Pile‘s arthouse disillusion, but “Nuzzle Up” has a cyclical crunch given breadth through the vocal melody and the sax amid the multiple angles and sharp corners of the penultimate “Mountains of Labor” are a clue to further weirdness to come before “Bamboozler” closes with heads-down urgency before subtly branching into a more spacious if still pointedly unrelaxed culmination. No clue where it might all be headed, but that’s part of the appeal as Masonic Wave‘s Sanford Parker-produced 39 minutes play out, the songs engaging almost in spite of themselves.

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Masonic Wave on Bandcamp

Bismarck, Vourukasha

BISMARCK VOURUKASHA

There are shades of latter-day Conan (whose producer/former bassist Chris Fielding mixed here) in the vocal trades and mega-toned gallop of opening track “Sky Father,” which Bismarck expand upon with the more pointedly post-metallic “Echoes,” shifting from the lurching ultracrush into a mellower midsection before the blastbeaten crescendo gives over to rumble and the hand-percussion-backed whispers of the intro to “Kigal.” Their first for Dark Essence, the six-song/35-minute Vourukasha follows 2020’s Oneiromancer (review here) and feels poised in its various transitions between consuming aural heft and leaving that same space in the mix open for comparatively minimal exploration. “Kigal” takes on a Middle Eastern lean and stays unshouted/growled for its five-plus minutes — a choice that both works and feels purposeful — but the foreboding drone of interlude “The Tree of All Seeds” comes to a noisy head as if to warn of the drop about to take place in the title-track, which flows through its initial movement with an emergent float of guitar that leads into its own ambient middle ahead of an engrossing, duly massive slowdown/payoff worthy of as much volume as it can be given. Wrapping with the nine-minute “Ocean Dweller,” they summarize what precedes on Vourukasha while shifting the structure as an extended, vocal-inclusive-at-the-front soundscape bookends around one more huge, slow-marching, consciousness-flattening procession. Extremity refined.

Bismarck on Facebook

Dark Essence Records website

Sun Moon Holy Cult, Sun Moon Holy Cult

Sun Moon Holy Cult Sun Moon Holy Cult

That fact that Sun Moon Holy Cult exist on paper as a band based in Tokyo playing a Sabbath-boogie-worshiping, riff-led take on heavy rock with a song like “I Cut Your Throat” leading off their self-titled debut makes a Church of Misery comparison somewhat inevitable, but the psych jamming around the wah-bass shuffle of “Out of the Dark,” longer-form structures, the vocal melodies and the Sleep-style march of “Savoordoom” that grows trippier as it delves further into its 13 minutes distinguish the newcomer four-piece of vocalist Hakuka, guitarist Ryu, bassist Ame and drummer Bato across the four-song LP’s 40 minutes. Issued through Captured Records and SloomWeep Productions, Sun Moon Holy Cult brings due bombast amid the roll of “Mystic River” as well, hitting its marks stylistically while showcasing the promise of a band with a clear idea of what they want their songs to do and perhaps how they want to grow over time. If this is to be the foundation of that growth, watch out.

Sun Moon Holy Cult on Instagram

Captured Records website

SloomWeep Productions on Bandcamp

Daily Thompson, Chuparosa

Daily Thompson Chuparosa

Dortmund, Germany’s Daily Thompson made their way to Port Orchard, Washington, to record Chuparosa with Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed at the helm, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Zaremba, bassist/vocalist Mercedes Lalakakis and drummer/vocalist Thorsten Stratmann bring a duly West Coast spirit to “I’m Free Tonight” and the grunge-informed roll of “Diamond Waves” and the verses of “Raindancer.” The former launches the 36-minute outing with a pointedly Fu Manchuian vibe, but the start-stops, fluid roll and interplay of vocals from Zaremba and Lalakakis lets “Pizza Boy” move in its own direction, and the brooding acoustic start of “Diamond Waves” and more languid wash of riff in the chorus look elsewhere in ’90s alternativism for their basis. The penultimate “Ghost Bird” brings in cigar-box guitar and dares some twang amid all the fuzz, but as “Raindancer” has already branched out with its quieter bassy midsection build and final desert-hued thrust, the album can accommodate such a shift without any trouble. The title-track trades between wistful grunge verses and a fuller-nodding hook, from which the three-piece take off for the bridge, thankfully returning to the chorus in Chuparosa‘s big finish. The manner in which the whole thing brims with purpose makes it seem like Daily Thompson knew exactly what they were going for in terms of sound, so I guess you could say it was probably worth the trip.

Daily Thompson on Facebook

Noisolution website

Mooch, Visions

mooch visions

Kicking off with the markedly Graveyardian “Hangtime,” Mooch ultimately aren’t content to dwell solely in a heavy-blues-boogie sphere on Visions, their third LP and quick follow-up to 2023’s Hounds. Bluesy as the vibe is from which the Montreal trio set out, the subsequent “Morning Prayer” meanders through wah-strum open spaces early onto to delve into jangly classic-prog strum later, while “Intention” backs its drawling vocal melody with nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and hand percussion. Divergence continues to be the order of the day throughout the 41-minute eight-songer, with “New Door” shifting from its sleepy initial movement into an even quieter stretch of Doors-meets-Stones-y melody before the bass leads into its livelier solo section with just a tinge of Latin rhythm and “Together” giving more push behind a feel harkening back to the opener but that grows quiet and melodically expansive in its second half. This sets up the moodier vibe of “Vision” and gives the roll of “You Wouldn’t Know” an effective backdrop for its acoustic/electric blend and harmonized vocals, delivered patiently enough to let the lap steel slide into the arrangement easily before the brighter-toned “Reflections” caps with a tinge of modern heavy post-rock. What’s tying it together? Something intangible. Momentum. Flow. Maybe just the confidence to do it? I don’t know, but as subdued as they get, they never lose their momentum, and as much movement as their is, they never seem to lose their balance. Visions might not reveal its full scope the first time through, but subsequent listens bring due reward.

Mooch on Facebook

Mooch on Bandcamp

The Pleasure Dome, Liminal Space

The Pleasure Dome Liminal Space EP

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that guitarist/vocalist Bobby Spender recruited bassist Loz Fancourt and drummer Harry Flowers after The Pleasure Dome‘s prior rhythm section left, ahead of putting together the varied 16 minutes of the Liminal Space EP. For what it’s worth, the revamped Bristol, UK, trio don’t sound any more haphazard than they want to in the loose-swinging sections of “Shoulder to Cry On” that offset the fuller shove of the chorus, or the punk-rooted alt-rock brashness of “The Duke Part II (Friends & Enemies),” and the blastbeat-inclusive tension of “Your Fucking Smile” that precedes the folk-blues finger-plucking of “Sugar.” Disjointed? Kind of, but that also feels like the point. Closer “Suicide” works around acoustic guitar and feels sincere in the lines, “Suicide, suicide/I’ve been there before/I’ve been there before/On your own/So hold on,” and the profession of love that resolves it, and while that’s at some remove from the bitter spirit of the first two post-intro tracks, Liminal Space makes its own kind of sense with the sans-effects voice of Spender at its core.

The Pleasure Dome on Facebook

Hound Gawd! Records website

Slump, Dust

Slump Dust EP

A solid four-songer from Birmingham’s Slump, who are fronted by guitarist Matt Noble (also Alunah), with drummer David Kabbouri Lara and bassist Ben Myles backing the riff-led material with punch in “Buried” after the careening hook of “Dust” opens with classic scorch in its solo and before the slower and more sludged “Kneel” gets down to its own screamier business and “Vultures” rounds out with a midtempo stomp early but nods to what seems like it’s going to be a more morose finish until the drum solo takes off toward the big-crash finish. As was the case on Slump‘s 2023 split with At War With the Sun, the feel across Dust is that of a nascent band — Slump got together in 2018, but this is their most substantial standalone release to-date — figuring out what they want to do. The ideas are there, and the volatility at which “Kneel” hints will hopefully continue to serve them well as they explore spaces between metal and heavy rock, classic and modern styles. A progression underway toward any number of potential avenues.

Slump on Facebook

Slump on Bandcamp

Green Hog Band, Fuzz Realm

Green Hog Band Fuzz Realm

What dwells in Green Hog Band‘s Fuzz Realm? If you said “fuzz,” go ahead and get yourself a cookie (the judges also would’ve accepted “riffs” and “heavy vibes, dude”), but for those unfamiliar with the New Yorker trio’s methodology, there’s more to it than tone as guitarist/producer Mike Vivisector, bassist/vocalist Ivan Antipov and drummer Ronan Berry continue to carve out their niche of lo-fi stoner buzz marked by harsh, gurgly vocals in the vein of Attila Csihar, various samples, organ sounds and dug-in fuckall. “Escape on the Wheels” swings and chugs instrumentally, and “In the Mist of the Bong” has lyrics in English, so there’s no lack of variety despite the overarching pervasiveness of misanthropy. That mood is further cast in the closing salvo of the low-slung “Morning Dew” and left-open “Phantom,” both of which are instrumental save for some spoken lines in the latter, as the prevailing sense is that they were going to maybe put some verses on there but decided screw it and went back to their cave (presumably somewhere in Queens) instead, because up yours anyhow. 46 minutes of crust-stoned “up yours anyhow,” then.

Green Hog Band on Facebook

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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Desertfest Oslo 2024 Completes Lineup and Announces Day Splits

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Over the last several weeks, the inaugural Desertfest Oslo has piece-by-piece announced the remainder of the lineup for May 10 and 11, and the list is substantial. Wolves in the Throne Room, Weedpecker, Kadabra, Steak, Crippled Black Phoenix, Earth Tongue, Apostle of Solitude, Orsak:Oslo, Margarita Witch Cult, REZN, Bongzilla and Slomosa joined the bill one at a time, broadening the scope exponentially in terms of style from searing black metal thrust to sad post-goth to stoner rock of progressive and willfully unprogressive strains and outright ambience, older and newer bands, and geographical range. It’s kind of stunning how commonplace this standard has become for the Desertfest brand over the last decade-plus.

Tickets for each day are also on sale now — in case, what you want to see Acid King and not REZN? it’s okay, I’m not judging; I know people have lives and things to do — but it’s pretty clear looking at the full roster of who’ll play that Desertfest Oslo 2024 is all-in on the thing. And with KadavarMonolordCrippled Black Phoenix and Eyehategod headlining, they’ll rely on a multifaceted draw from the top down through the entire lineup. This feels both like a festival brand reaching into new territory and new collaborations — which it is, absolutely — and a righteous start to what could become a staple of the Spring touring circuit. Do I really need to go on about Norway’s underground boom? Probably not when a hand-picked selection of those responsible are present below to remind you.

Bottom line here is I look forward to seeing how this unfolds even from a distance, but whatever Desertfest Oslo does in the longer term, this is a monster. Behold:

desertfest oslo 2024 final poster

Finally the day splits are here!

As well as day splits we’ve also made single day tickets available from february 29th.

See you may!

Find single day tickets and festivaltickets here: https://www.ticketmaster.no/artist/desertfest-oslo-billetter/1277694

Full lineup:

Friday:
KADAVAR
Monolord
Wolves In The Throne Room
Acid King
Slomosa
Weedpecker
Håndgemeng
Orsak:Oslo
Kadabra
Earth Tongue
Bismarck
Karavan
Superlynx

Saturday:
CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX
Brant Bjork
EYEHATEGOD
REZN
The Devil And The Almighty Blues
Bongzilla
Full Earth
Margarita Witch Cult
Steak
Agabas
Saint Karloff
Apostle of Solitude
Suncraft

https://www.facebook.com/desertfestoslo
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_oslo
https://www.desertfest.no/

Slomosa, “Rice”

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Gjenferd Premiere “Starless”; Self-Titled Debut out May 10

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

gjenferd starless

Norway’s heavy renaissance continues with the May 10 release of Gjenferd‘s self-titled debut on Apollon Records. To be sure, youth is on Gjenferd‘s side as they unfurl “Starless” (premiering below) as the first single from the upcoming six-track LP, but with hints in “High Octane” of upstanding countrymen heavy rock preservationists Spidergawd, a thread of organ running throughout that is more than just mix-filler or complementary happenstance following the guitar pattern, and what seems like a clear idea of the kind of band they want to be, it’s a noteworthy arrival for more than just the harmonies and ’70s-prog-classicism-gone-rockin’ in the culmination of “Restless Nights,” the sweeping chorus in “Burning Soil” or the way the lead guitar in “Beneath the Wave” surges to the fore ahead of the jammier reach (still plotted but maybe part-improv) in “All That Remains is Haze,” though certainly all of those help.

There’s vintage worship happening, but not enough to push aside the breadth of the Hans Uhre production or the mix/master by now-of-Enslaved‘s Iver Sandøy. That speaks to the idea of the band knowing what they’re about as noted above, and in terms of the actual listening experience, I think you can hear in the seven minutes of “Starless” how they take advantage of modern tonal largesse to coincide with their root melodicism. I don’t think anyone’s claiming to have invented space here or trying to pretend they’ve invented a wholly new style, but neither is there want of personality or freshness of approach in the songs. If I tell you ‘heads up’ on the record and invite you to dig into the single, know that I’m trying to make your day better and think there’s a good chance this’ll do it. A bit of Rhodes dreaminess is good for the soul anyhow.

Please enjoy:

gjenferd (Photo by Vegard Ekberg)

Gjenferd is a brand new band from Bergen (but formed in Kristiansand), Norway, inspired by heavy rock’s childhood when hammond organs and walls with guitar amplifiers dominated the stages. Long nights of lager, noise, obscure 70s records and rigging of way too heavy Fender Rhodes have resulted in an album that is a sonic explosion of tenacious and hard-hitting riffs, electric noise and idiotically catchy vocal harmonies.

On 1 March, the band will release the album’s first single “Starless”.

The band consists of members from, among others, Kryptograf, Edvard Borneo and Metusalem.

gjenferd self titledRecorded by: Hans Uhre
Mix and master by: Iver Sandøy
Artwork and layout: Robert Høyem
Recorded at Grisehuset (Odderøya)

Gjenferd er:
Vegard Bachmann Strand – Gitar og vokal
Jakob Særvoll – Keyboard og vokal
Samuel Robson Gardner – Bass
Sivert Kleiven Larsen – Trommer

Photo by Vegard Ekberg.

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61556612214668
https://www.instagram.com/gjenferdband/
https://gjenferdbergen.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/bergenapollonrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/apollonrecords/
https://apollonrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://apollonrecords.no

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Quarterly Review: Deadpeach, SÂVER, Ruben Romano, Kosmodrom, The Endless, Our Maddest Edges, Saint Omen, Samsara Joyride, That Ship Has Sailed, Spiral Guru

Posted in Reviews on February 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Welcome to Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. If you’ve been here before — and I do this at least four times a year, so maybe you have and maybe you haven’t — I’m glad you’re back, and if not, I’m glad you’re here at all. These things are always an undertaking, and in a vacuum, I’m pretty sure busting out 10 shorter reviews per day would be a reasonably efficient process. I don’t live in a vacuum. I live vacuuming.

Metaphorically, at least. Looking around the room, it’s pretty obvious ‘vacuum life’ is intermittent.

Today we hit the halfway mark of this standard-operating-procedure QR, and we’ll get to 30 of the 50 releases to be covered by the time Friday is done or die trying, as that’s also the general policy. As always, I hope you find something in this batch of 10 that you dig. Doesn’t have to be any more of a thing than that. Doesn’t need to change your life, just maybe take the moment you’re in and make it a little better.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Deadpeach, The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

Deadpeach The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

A new full-length from Italian cosmic fuzz rockers Deadpeach doesn’t come along every day. Though the four-piece here comprised of guitarist/vocalist Giovanni Giovannini, guitarist Daniele Bartoli, bassist Mrsteveman and drummer Federico Tebaldi trace their beginnings back to 1993, the seven-song/37-minute exploration The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race is just their fourth full-length in that span of 31 years, following behind 2013’s Aurum (review here), though they haven’t been completely absent in that time, with the 2019 unplugged offering Waiting for Federico session (review here), 2022’s Live at Sidro Club, etc. But whether it’s the howling-into-the-void guitar over the methodical toms in the experimental-vibing closer “Loop (Set the Control to Mother Earth),” the mellower intro of “Madras” that leads both to chunky-style chug and the parade of classic-heavy buzz that is “Motor Peach,” what most comes through is the freedom of the band to do what they want in the psychedelic sphere. “Man on the Hill (The Fisherman and the Farmer)” tells its tale with blues rock swing while the subsequent “Cerchio” resolves Beatlesian with bouncy string and horn sounds and is its own realization at the center of the procession before the languid roll of “Monday” (so it goes) picks up its tempo later on. A mostly lo-fi recording still creates an atmosphere, and Deadpeach represent who they are in the weirdo space grunge of “Rust,” toying with influences from a desert that’s surely somewhere on another planet before “Loop (Set the Controls for Mother Earth)” turns repetition into mantra. They might be underrated forever, but Deadpeach only phase into our dimension intermittently and it’s worth appreciating them while they’re here.

Deadpeach on Facebook

Deadpeach website

SÂVER, From Ember and Rust

SAVER From Ember and Rust

In or out of post-metal and the aggressive end of atmospheric sludge, there are few bands currently active who deliver with the visceral force of Oslo’s SÂVER. From Ember and Rust is the second LP from the three-piece of Ole Ulvik Rokseth (guitar), Markus Støle (drums) and Ole Christian Helstad (bass/vocals), and while it signals growth in the synthy meditation worked into “I, Evaporate” after the lead-with-nod opener “Formless,” and the intentionally overwhelming djent chug that pays off the penultimate “The Object,” it is the consuming nature of the 43-minute entirety that is most striking, dynamic in its sprawl and thoughtful in arrangement both within and between its songs — the way the drone starts “Eliminate Distance” and returns to lull the listener momentarily out of consciousness before the bassy start of centerpiece “Ember and Rust” prompts a return ahead of its daring and successful clean vocal foray. That’s a departure, contextually speaking, but noteworthy even as “Primal One” lumbersmashes anything resembling hope to teeny tiny bits, leaving room in its seven minutes to catchy its breath amid grooving proggy chug and bringing back the melodic singing. As much as they revel in the caustic, there’s serenity in the catharsis of “All in Disarray” at the album’s conclusion, and as much as SÂVER are destructive, they’re cognizant of the world they’re building as part of that.

SÂVER on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Ruben Romano, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile

Ruben Romano The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile

Departing from the heavy psychedelic blues rock proffered by his main outfit The Freeks, multi-instrumentalist and elsewhere-vocalist Ruben Romano — who also drummed for Fu Manchu and Nebula in their initial incarnations — digs into Western aural themes on his cumbersomely-titled solo debut, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile. To be clear, there is no movie called Twenty Graves Per Mile (yet), and the twice-over-imaginary nature of the concept lets Romano meander a bit in pieces like “Sweet Dream Cowboy” and “Ode to Fallen Oxen,” the latter of which tops its rambling groove with a line of delay twang, while “Chuck Wagon Sorrow” shimmers with outward simplicity with a sneaky depth to its mix (to wit, the space in “Not Any More”). At 10 songs and 27 minutes, the collection isn’t exactly what you’d call ‘feature length,’ but as it hearkens back to the outset with “Load the Wagon (Reprise)” bookending the opener, it is likewise cohesive in style and creative in arrangement, with Romano bringing in various shakers, mouth harp, effects and so on to create his ‘soundtrack’ with a classic Western feel and the inevitable lysergic current. Not as indie or desert chic as Spindrift, who work from a similar idea, but organic and just-came-in-covered-with-dust folkish just the same. If the movie existed, I’d be interested to know which of these tracks would play in the saloon.

Ruben Romano on Facebook

Ruben Romano on Bandcamp

Kosmodrom, Welcome to Reality

Kosmodrom Welcome to Reality

With the seven-minute “Earth Blues” left off the vinyl for want of room, German heavy psychedelic instrumentalists Kosmodrom put a color filter on existence with Welcome to Reality as much as on the cover, shimmering in “Dazed in Space” with a King Buffalo‘ed resonance such that the later, crunchier fuzz roll of “Evil Knievel” feels like a departure. While the three-piece are no doubt rooted in jams, Welcome to Reality presents finished works, following a clear plot in the 10-minute “Quintfrequenz” and the gradual build across the first couple minutes of “Landstreicher” — an intent that comes more into focus a short while later on “Novembersong” — before “Earth Blues” brings a big, pointed slowdown. They cap with “OM,” which probably isn’t named after the band but can be said to give hints in their direction if you want to count its use of ride cymbal at the core of its own build, and which in its last 40 seconds still manages to find another level of heft apparently kept in reserve all along. Well played. As their first LP since 2018, Welcome to Reality feels a bit like it’s reintroducing the band, and in listening, seems most of all to encourage the listener to look at the world around them in a different, maybe more hopeful way.

Kosmodrom on Facebook

Kosmodrom on Bandcamp

The Endless, The Endless

the endless the endless

Heads experienced in post-metal will be able to pick out elements like the Russian Circles gallop in The Endless‘ “Riven” or the Isis-style break the Edmonton-based instrumental unit veers into on “Shadows/Wolves” at the center of their self-titled debut, but as “The Hadeon Eon” — the title of which references the planet’s earliest and most volatile geological era — subtly invites the listener to consider, this is the band’s first recorded output. Formed in 2019, derailed and reconstructed post-pandemic, the four-piece of guitarists Teddy Palmer and Eddy Keyes, bassist James Palmer and drummer Jarred Muir are coherent in their stylistic intent, but not so committed to genre tenets as to forego the sweeter pleasure of the standalone guitar at the start of the nine-minute “Reflection,” soon enough subsumed though it is by the spacious lurch that follows. There and throughout, the band follow a course somewhere between post-metal and atmospheric sludge, and the punch of low end in “Future Archives,” the volume trades between loud and quiet stretches bring a sense of the ephemeral as well as the ethereal, adding character without sacrificing impact in the contrast. Their lack of pretense will be an asset as they continue to develop.

The Endless on Facebook

The Endless on Bandcamp

Our Maddest Edges, Peculiar Spells

Our Maddest Edges Peculiar Spells

Kudos if you can keep up with the shifts wrought from track to track on Our Maddest Edges‘ apparent first long-player, Peculiar Spells, as the Baltimorean solo-project spearheaded by Jeff Conner sets out on a journey of genuine eclecticism, bringing The Beatles and Queens of the Stone Age stylistically together and also featuring one of the several included duets on “Swirl Cone,” some grunge strum in “Hella Fucky” after the remake-your-life spoken/ambient intro “Thoughts Can Change,” a choral burst at the beginning of the spoken-word-over-jazz “Slugs,” which of course seems to be about screwing, as well as the string-laced acoustic-led sentimentality on “Red Giant,” the Casio beat behind the bright guitar plucks of “Frozen Season,” the full-tone riffs around which “I Ain’t Done” and “St. Lascivious” are built, and the sax included with the boogie of “The Totalitarian Tiptoe,” just for a few examples of the places its 12 component tracks go in their readily-consumable 37-minute runtime. Along with Conner are a reported 17 guests appearing throughout, among them Stefanie Zaenker (ex-Caustic Casanova). Info is sparse on the band and Conner‘s work more broadly, but his history in the punkish Eat Your Neighbors accounts for some of the post-hardcore at root here, and his own vocals (as opposed to those of the seven other singers appearing) seem to come from somewhere similar. Relatively quick listen, but not a minor undertaking.

Jeff Conner on Bandcamp

Saint Omen, Death Unto My Enemy

saint omen death unto my enemy

Rolling out with the ambient intro before beginning its semi-Electric Wizardly slog in “Taken by the Black,” Death Unto My Enemy is the 2023 debut from New York City’s Saint Omen. Issued by Forbidden Place Records, its gritty nod holds together even as “Evolution of the Demon” threatens to fall apart, samples filling out the spaces not occupied by vocals, communicating themes dark, violent, and occult in pieces like the catchy-despite-its-harsher-vocal “Destroyer” or the dark swirl of “Sinners Crawl.” Feeling darker as it moves through its 10 songs, it saves a particular grim experimentalism for closer “Descent,” but by the time Death Unto My Enemy gets there, surely your mind and soul have already been poisoned and reaped, respectively, by “The Seventh Gate,” “The Black Mass” and the penultimate title-track, that deeper down is the only place left to go. So that’s where you go; a humming abyss of anti-noise. Manhattan has never been a epicenter of cultish doom, but Saint Omen‘s abiding death worship and bleakness — looking at you, “Sleepness” — shift between dramaturge and dug-in lumber, and the balance is only intriguing for the rawness with which it is delivered, harsher in its purpose than sound, but still plenty harsh in sound.

Saint Omen on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records store

Samsara Joyride, The Subtle and the Dense

samsara joyride the subtle and the dense

The psychedelic aspects of Samsara Joyride‘s The Subtle and the Dense feel somewhat compartmentalized, but that’s not necessarily a detriment to the songs, as the solo that tops the drearily moderated tempo of “Too Many Preachers” or the pastoral tones that accompany the bluesier spirit of “Who Tells the Story” emphasize. The Austrian outfit’s second full-length, The Subtle and the Dense seems aware of its varied persona, but whether it’s the swaggering stops of “No One is Free” calling to mind Child or the sax and guest vocals that mark such a turn with “Safe and Sound” at the end, Samsara Joyride are firm in their belief that because something is bluesy or classic doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be simple. From the layer of acoustic guitar worked into opener “I Won’t Sign Pt. 1” — their first album also had a two-parter, the second one follows directly here as track two — to the gang chorus worked in amid the atmospheric reach of “Sliver,” Samsara Joyride communicate a progressive take on traditionalist aesthetics, managing as few in this end of the heavy music realm ever do to avoid burly masculine caricature in the process. For that alone, easily worth the time to listen.

Samsara Joyride on Facebook

Samsara Joyride on Bandcamp

That Ship Has Sailed, Kingdom of Nothing

that ship has sailed kingdom of nothing

Like a check-in from some alternate-universe version of Fu Manchu who stuck closer to their beginnings in punk and hardcore, Californian heavy noise rockers That Ship Has Sailed tap volatility and riffy groove alike through the five songs of their Kingdom of Nothing EP, with an admirable lack of bullshit included within that net-zero assessment amid the physical push of riffs like “One-Legged Dog” or “Iron Eagle II” when the drums go to half-time behind the guitar and bass. It’s not all turn-of-the-century disaffection and ‘members of’ taglines though as “Iron Eagle II” sludges through its finish and “I Am, Yeah” becomes an inadvertent anthem for those who’ve never quite been able to keep their shit together, “Sweet Journey” becomes a melodic highlight while fostering the heaviest crash, and “Ready to Go” hits like a prequel to Nebula‘s trip down the stoner rock highway. Catchy in spite of its outward fuckall (or at least fuckmost), Kingdom of Nothing is more relatable than friendly or accessible, which feels about right. It’s cool guys. I never got my shit together either.

That Ship Has Sailed on Instagram

That Ship Has Sailed on Bandcamp

Spiral Guru, Silenced Voices

Spiral Guru Silenced Voices

The fourth EP in the 10-year history of Brazi’s Spiral Guru, who also released their Void long-player in 2019 and the “The Fantastic Hollow Man” single in 2021, Silenced Voices is distinguished immediately by the vocal command and range of Andrea Ruocco, and I’d suspect that if you’re already familiar with the band, you probably know that. Ruocco‘s voice, in its almost operatic use of breath to reach higher notes, carries some element of melodic metal’s grandeur, but Samuel Pedrosa‘s fuzz riffing and the fluid roll of bassist José Ribeiro and drummer Alexandre H.G. Garcia on the title-track avoid that trap readily, ending up somewhere between blues, psych, and ’70s swing on “Caves and Graves” but kept modern in the atmosphere fostered by Pedrosa‘s lead guitar. Another high-quality South American band ignored by the gringo-dude-dominant underground of Europe and the US? Probably, but I’m guilty too a decade after Spiral Guru‘s start, so all I can say is I’m doing my best out here. This band should probably be on Nuclear Blast by now. Stick around for “The Cabin Man” and you’d best be ready to dance.

Spiral Guru on Facebook

Spiral Guru on Bandcamp

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Full Earth Premiere “Echo Tears”; Cloud Sculptors Out March 15

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

FULL EARTH Cloud Sculptors

Norwegian progressive instrumentalists Full Earth will make their full-length debut with the 2LP Cloud Scuptors on March 15. The Oslo-based outfit release through respected purveyor Stickman Records, which makes them labelmates to Elder, Iron Jinn and King Buffalo — Stickman is also the ancestral home of Norwegian prog dispensers Motorpsycho, which will be relevant shortly — and like each of those outfits, Full Earth have their own take on a progressive heavy ideology. To call it expansive is to say the least of it.

There’s been a palpable buzz around Full Earth, and reasonably so. With the three members of Kanaan all involved — guitarist Ask Vatn Strøm, bassist Eskild Myrvoll, and drummer/project spearhead Ingvald André Vassbø — alongside bassist Simen Wie and organist/synthesist Øystein Aadland, the five-piece seemed to be immediately embraced as part of that band’s ongoing momentum. Before a song was released, let alone word of Cloud Sculptors or more details about the project’s prog-honoring, sometimes-longform, deeply methodical approach, the band were popping up on festival bills for Spring 2024, and indeed, they’ll be at Desertfest in Oslo and Berlin as well as Roadburn, with Freak Valley in Germany this June and Down the Hill in Belgium in August and probably tours hither and yon as well.

The actual arrival of the album, then, is anticipated. Full Earth meet that electric undercurrent with a massive glut of headspinning prog and other atmospheric and purposeful explorations. The bulk of Cloud Sculptors‘ feature-length 85 minute runtime resides in its most extended pieces: opener “Full Earth Pt. I – Emanation” and the title-track for a 40-minute one-two pairing at the start of the record. This initial impression, the runs of keyboard notes alongside sustained distortion and feedback around 14 minutes into the leadoff, or the bounce of organ that sweetly starts “Cloud Sculptors” hinting at some of the vintage-synthery both of the largely-melancholy-in-the-Lake-era-King-Crimson-tradition “The Collective Unconscious” (18:37) and the exploratory “Echo Tears,” which premieres below.

You would be hard-pressed to find someone less qualified than I to discuss the work of Daniel Lopatin or probably any number of the other krautrock and classic prog influences under which Full Earth are operating, but what you really need to know in listening to the album is everything’s under control. Yeah, Full Earth are kind of doing for krautrock and the headier end of kosmiche what Earthless did for classic heavy in cherrypicking stylistic aspects and blowing them out to epic proportion while staying conscious enough to actually guide the listener. But it’s that last part that’s the most important, because what most affects the listening experience is the skill with which Full Earth execute these pieces.full earth echo tears

I won’t pretend that “Full Earth Pt. I – Emanation” or its closing counterpart “Full Earth PT. II – Disintegration,” “The Collective Unconscious” or “Cloud Sculptors” itself aren’t overwhelming. They absolutely are and I think that’s the point; operating under the “put it out now and let them spend the next six years picking it apart” ethic, and indeed Cloud Sculptors might be densely packed enough at its most intense to provide fodder for a long-term deep-dive (if they do more records, I expect the phrase “long term deep dive” to come up again as a summation of their career arc), while remaining dynamic in the starts-peaceful “Full Earth Pt. II – Disintegration” and “Weltgeist,” which makes me want to put on a lounge jacket and make a documentary about space with all the latest science 1976 has to offer, speaking in clear, Saganian tones about the mysteries of the universe while Full Earth remind that at its heart all of the cosmos is math.

It is rare that a debut album comes with such a sense of mastery, and Cloud Sculptors has purpose to match. Each song, each change, a little swap in the drums or on keys in that all-in immersive rollout at the start, is in its place and keyed to bring as much to the proceedings as possible. They’re willing to reside in parts, as a band with 20-minute songs had better be, but cognizant of the listener’s place in and interaction with the material. Songs unfold in movements, ideas fluidly melding with graceful performances, a marked heft in reserve for when it’s needed, and guide the listener through Cloud Sculptors‘ otherwise staggeringly complex path. They might be pairing the half-time drums and what sounds like double-time guitar on “The Collective Unconscious” or making aural references that at very least I’ll probably never get, but you can also put on the album and Full Earth, through the music itself, act as a guide to get you safely from one end to the other. So while it’s a lot to take on, you can also roll with it as Full Earth quickly earn a trust that can’t be faked.

In talking about “Echo Tears” under the player below, Vassbø talks about using instruments “to their full extent.” That’s a classic prog phrase and mentality. He’s pushing himself and the instrument(s) as part of the same drive, trying to “get as much out” of the drums, organ, whatever it might be. Keep that in mind as you listen to “Echo Tears,” which is drumless and comparatively minimal next to “The Collective Unconscious” before or “Full Earth Pt. II – Disintegration” after. Because it doesn’t just have to mean playing fast, or making a part as busy as it can be, but utilizing a given instrument as a tool of emotive expression or sonic exploration, as seems to be the case with this track. And no, “Echo Tears” doesn’t represent the whole crux of Cloud Sculptors‘ 85 minutes — how could it? — in terms of basic sound, but as you listen to the track, know that Full Earth‘s ability to carry the listener through its atmospheric contemplations absolutely does.

The potential here is vast, and it’s difficult not to think of what Full Earth might accomplish in the future based on their achievements here, but worth staying in the moment as you listen.

As always, I hope you enjoy:

Full Earth, “Echo Tears’ track premiere

Full Earth (Photo by Thea Grant)

Echo Tears is the second single from the up and coming experimental rock band Full Earth’s debut album, Cloud Sculptors. Album preorders launch Feb. 9 via www.stickman-records.com.

The tune is one out of two shorter organ-compositions from the album that are more inspired by electronic and modernist classical music. The song is an echo-jam for Full Earth’s combo-organs in the style of Oneohtrix Point Never’s early releases, and an attempt to adapt this cosmic style for fluttery organs. The French band Heldon and Laurie Spiegels Expanding Universe are two other important references. The organ-arpeggios, recorded by Øystein Aadland and Ingvald Vassbø in their rehearsal space, feels like they are levitating and circling freely in the air. One goes into a trance and the insisting and repetitive music grows continuously. In a mechanical but analog way, always towards an ecstatic vision. Echo Tears is exploring another edge of the Full Earth-universe than the band’s first single Cloud Sculptors did, and shows how wide and multicoloured the bands’ pallet at times can be.

Says Ingvald Vassbø: «A few years ago, I was totally in love with the early and cosmic synth-works of Daniel Lopatin, and listened to it almost every night before going to sleep. It was a really fun process to let myself be inspired by that music, make some kind of echo-jam in that vein and record it together with Øystein in our rehearsal space. We got really inspired, and I really feel that we managed to utilize our instruments, my Terry Riley-organ, Øystein’s Farfisa and our tape-echo to their full extent.»

Cloud Sculptors tracklisting:
1. Full Earth Pt. I – Emanation (21:06)
2. Cloud Sculptors (20:05)
3. Weltgeist (6:08)
4. The Collective Unconscious (18:37)
5. Echo Tears (5:36)
6. Full Earth Pt. II – Disintegration (13:46)

The fantastic “Echo Tears” artwork is made by Sunniva Hårstad
Pre save: https://bfan.link/echo-tears

Full Earth live:
18.04 – @rare_guitar Münster 🇩🇪
19.04 – Magazine 4 Brüssel 🇧🇪
20.04 – @roadburnfest , Tilburg 🇳🇱
22.04 – @le3pieces , Rouen 🇫🇷
23.04 – @linternational_paris Paris 🇫🇷
24.04 – Venue tbc, Köln 🇩🇪
25.04 – @trauma_marburg Marburg 🇩🇪
26.04 – Freaques de la Musique, Bremen 🇩🇪
27.04 – @husetkbh , København 🇩🇰
10.05 – @sonic_whip , Nijmegen 🇳🇱
11.05 – @desertfest_oslo 🇳🇴
23.05 – @gjovikkinoogscene 🇳🇴
24.05 – @lokal.trhm , Trondheim 🇳🇴
26.05 – @desertfest_berlin 🇩🇪
29.05 – Blauer Salon/Hausbar, Tübingen 🇩🇪
30.05 – @freakvalleyfestival Netphen 🇩🇪
30.05 – Posten, Odense 🇩🇰
31.05 – @esbjerg_fuzztival l 🇩🇰
31.08 – @downthehillfestival Rilaar 🇧🇪

Full Earth are:
Øystein Aadland – farfisa organ, yamaha yc30 organ, mellotron, synthesizer
Ask Vatn Strøm – guitars
Simen Wie – electric bass, additional guitar
Eskild Myrvoll – additional guitar, korg MS-20 synthesizer, noise
Ingvald Vassbø – drums, yamaha yc30 organ

Full Earth, Cloud Sculptors (2024)

Full Earth on Facebook

Full Earth on Instagram

Full Earth on Bandcamp

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Facebook

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Enslaved Announce Deluxe Edition of Heimdal w/ Extra Tracks

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I’ll not waste your time recounting the various glories of Enslaved‘s early-2023 outing, Heimdal (review here), because holy crap, we’ve arrived at the next stage of the covering-Enslaved-on-The-Obelisk running gag, wherein although I never really get much response when I write about the band — I assume because they’re not Electric Wizard, which is a standard that few bands will ever meet; just one comes to mind — I now assume you’re actually as huge a fan as I am. Sweet, right? I know!

As such, a deluxe edition of Heimdal from the Bergen, Norway-based progenitors of progressive black metal, which includes their ‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ live recording, the new track “Gangandi” that you can see the visualizer for — it’s got more scope in its first three minutes than some bands have in their career, but you know that — at the bottom of this post, and a couple alternate versions of songs from teh record with Jo Quail on cello. Mark it a win for fans like you and I.

The release is out March 1, which puts it in time for the band’s upcoming European and UK tour, though I don’t know how you sell digital releases at the merch table. I’m sure there’s a way. It’s the future. You can always spend money here.

From the PR wire:

enslaved heimdal deluxe edition

ENSLAVED | announce ‘Heimdal (Deluxe)’ digital album + release single/visualizer ‘Gangandi’

One year ago, Norway’s trailblazing cosmic voyagers, Enslaved, released their latest avant-garde creation titled Heimdal. To commemorate the studio album’s first year of existence, the band are proud to announce the Heimdal (Deluxe) digital album, set to be released on March 1st 2024 via Nuclear Blast Records.

Heimdal (Deluxe) will include the studio album in full, as well as bonus track ‘Gangandi’, alternative versions of two album tracks ‘Congelia’ and ‘Forest Dweller’, both featuring sublime performances from renowned cellist Jo Quail, plus the entirety of ‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ – Enslaved’s stunning 2022 streaming event featuring fellow psychedelic Norwegian prog band Shaman Elephant.

Today, the band have released their deeply mesmerising track ‘Gangandi’ as a preview to the deluxe digital album, which is accompanied by a visualizer.

Vocalist/bassist Grutle Kjellson commented,

“Gangandi was the last song we made before the recording sessions for Heimdal took place. I remember Ivar driving down to my place from Bergen on a Friday night to play a demo for a new song for me, and I went like, “Daaaaamn, this is something else!” I absolutely loved it, but at the same time, I sensed that it was a little bit to the left of the rest of the material. When I started to figure out what to sing over it, I ended up writing a poem in cross rhyme in archaic western Norwegian, which even separated the whole effort even further away from the rest of the material.

So, ultimately, we ended up not including it on the album, other than as a bonus track on the most “exclusive” and limited vinyl versions.

That said, that doesn’t mean that we don’t enjoy the song! Quite the contrary! We love this odd little hybrid of folk rock, early Mayhem, and King Crimson! It just ended up being the weird cousin of the rest of the songs. Kind of like Enslaved itself as a matter of fact.”

PRE-SAVE HEIMDAL (DELUXE): https://enslaved.bfan.link/heimdal-deluxe.ema
LISTEN TO TRACK ‘GANGANDI’: https://enslaved.bfan.link/gangandi.ema

Enslaved’s latest studio album Heimdal (released March 2023) is both a departure and a communion with roots forged over three decades ago in the turbulent birth throes of Norway’s black metal scene. It’s a record that points towards new beginnings, and a dawn that’s on the other side of the apex of the land. A psychedelic journey through arcane Norse folklore, connecting with one’s ancient ancestors and our future selves.

‘The Otherworldly Big Band Experience’ was an Enslaved show like none other, their biggest, boldest project to date – a colossal, kaleidoscopic stage show featuring a stellar setlist covering their career, both past and present. Including some tracks never previously performed live.

Enslaved will be touring the UK and Europe in March 2024. The 16-date run will take the band across 10 different countries, with support coming from British post-hardcore quartet Svalbard and US metallers Wayfarer.

Tickets are on-sale now from https://enslaved.no/

ENSLAVED – UK + EUROPEAN TOUR 2024
w/ Svalbard + Wayfarer
06/03 – UK London, Islington Assembly Hall
07/03 – UK Leeds, Brudenell Social Club
08/03 – UK Manchester, Club Academy
09/03 – UK Glasgow, Slay
10/03 – IE Dublin, Opium
12/03 – NL Helmond, Cacaofabriek
13/03 – FR Paris, La Machine
14/03 – CH Geneva, PTR/l’Usine
15/03 – FR Montpellier, Victoire 2
16/03 – IT Milan, Legend
18/03 – CZ Prague, Futurum
19/03 – AT Vienna, Szene
21/03 – DE Cologne, Club Volta
22/03 – DE Leipzig, Taubchenthal
23/03 – DE Berlin, Hole44
24/03 – PL Warsaw, Proxima

Enslaved have also been announced for some festivals in 2024:

31/07-03/08 NO Beyond The Gates, Bergen
11/08 UK Bloodstock Festival, Derby
14/08-17/08 DE Summer Breeze, Dinkelsbühl
16/11-17/11 MX Mexico Metal Fest, Mexico City

Enslaved are:
Ivar Bjørnson | guitars
Grutle Kjellson | vocals
Arve ‘Ice Dale’ Isdal | guitar
Håkon Vinje | keyboards, clean vocals
Iver Sandøy | drums

http://www.facebook.com/enslaved
https://www.instagram.com/enslavedofficial
http://www.enslaved.no/

http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://instagram.com/nuclearblastusa

Enslaved, “Gangandi” official visualizer

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