Quarterly Review: King Woman, Mythic Sunship, Morningstar Delirium, Lunar Funeral, Satánico Pandemonium, Van Groover, Sergio Ch., Achachak, Rise Up Dead Man, Atomic Vulture

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Hey, how was your weekend? You won’t be surprised to learn mine was full of tunes, which I mark as a win. While we’re marking wins, let’s put one down for wrapping up the longest Quarterly Review to-date in a full 11 days today. 110 releases. I started on July 5 — a lifetime ago. It’s now July 19, and I’ve encountered a sick kid and wife, busted laptop, oral surgery, and more riffs than I could ever hope to count along the way. Ups, downs, all-arounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

This day was added kind of on an impulse, and the point I’m looking to emphasize is that you can spend two full weeks reviewing 10 albums a day and still there’s more to be had. I’ve learned over time you’re never going to hear everything — not even close — and that no matter how deep you dig, there’s more to find. I’m sure if I didn’t have other stuff scheduled I could fill out the entirety of this week and then some with 10 records a day. As it stands, let’s not have this Quarterly Review run into the next one at the end of September/beginning of October. Time to get my life back a little bit, such as it is.

Quarterly Review #101-110:

King Woman, Celestial Blues

king woman celestial blues

After the (earned) fanfare surrounding King Woman‘s 2017 debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, expectations for the sophomore outing, Celestial Blues, are significant. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Esfandiari meets these head-on in heavy and atmospheric fashion on tracks like the opening title-cut and “Morning Star,” the more cacophonous “Coil” and duly punishing “Psychic Wound.” Blues? Yes, in places. Celestial? In theme, in its confrontation with dogma, sure. Even more than these, though, Celestial Blues taps into an affecting weight of ambience, such that even the broad string sounds of “Golgotha” feel heavy, and whether a given stretch is loud or quiet, subdued like the first half of “Entwined” or raging like the second, right into the minimalist “Paradise Lost” that finishes, the sense of burden being purposefully conveyed is palpable in the listening experience. No doubt the plaudits will be or are already manifold and superlative, but the work stands up.

King Woman on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Mythic Sunship, Wildfire

Mythic Sunship Wildfire

Mythic Sunship are a hopeful vision for the future of progressive psychedelic music. Their fifth album and first for Tee Pee Records, Wildfire offers five tracks/45 minutes that alternates between ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime via emitted subspace wavelengths of shredding guitar, sax-led freakouts, shimmer to the point of blindness, peaceful drift and who the hell knows what else is going on en route from one to the other. Because as much as the Copenhagen outfit might jump from one stretch to the next, their fluidity is huge all along the course of Wildfire, which is fortunate because that’s probably the only thing stopping the record from actually melting. Instrumental as ever, I’m not sure if there’s a narrative arc playing out — certainly one can read one between “Maelstrom,” “Olympia,” “Landfall,” “Redwood Grove” and “Going Up” — and if that’s the intention, it maybe pulls back from that “hopeful vision” idea somewhat, at least in theme, if not aesthetic. In any case, the gorgeousness, the electrified vitality in what Mythic Sunship do, continues to distinguish them from their peers, which is a list that is only growing shorter with each passing LP.

Mythic Sunship on Facebook

Tee Pee Records website

 

Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium

Morningstar Delirium Morningstar Delirium

I said I was going to preorder this tape and I’m glad I did. Morningstar Delirium‘s half-hour/four-song debut offering is somewhere between an EP and an album — immersive enough to be the latter certainly in its soothing, brooding exploration of sonic textures, not at all tethered to a sonic weight in the dark industrial “Blood on the Fixture” and even less so in the initial minutes of “Silent Travelers,” but not entirely avoiding one either, as in the second half of that latter track some more sinister beats surface for a time. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists/vocalist Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought, BleakHeart) and Clayton Cushman (The Flight of Sleipnir), the isolation-era project feeds into that lockdown atmosphere in moments droning and surging, “Where Are You Going” giving an experimentalist edge with its early loops and later stretch of ethereal slide guitar (or what sounds like it), while closer “A Plea for the Stars” fulfills the promise of its vocalists with a doomed melody in its midsection that’s answered back late, topping an instrumental progression like the isolated weepy guitar of classic goth metal over patiently built layers of dark-tinted wash. Alternating between shorter and longer tracks, the promise in Morningstar Delirium resides in the hope they’ll continue to push farther and farther along these lines of emotional and aural resonance.

Morningstar Delirium on Instagram

Morningstar Delirium on Bandcamp

 

Lunar Funeral, Road to Siberia

lunar funeral road to siberia

Somewhere between spacious goth and garage doom, Russia’s Lunar Funeral find their own stylistic ground to inhabit on their second album, Road to Siberia. The two-piece offer grim lysergics to start the affair on “Introduce” before plunging into “The Thrill,” which bookends with the also-11-minute closer “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” and gracefully avoids going full-freakout enough to bring back the verse progression near the end. Right on. Between the two extended pieces, the swinging progression of “25th Hour” trades brooding for strut — or at least brooding strut — with the snare doing its damnedest by the midsection to emulate handclaps could be there if they could find a way not to be fun. “25th Hour” hits into a wash late and “Black Bones” answers with dark boogie and a genuine nod later, finishing with noise en route to the spacious eight-minute “Silence,” which finds roll eventually, but holds to its engaging sense of depth in so doing, the abiding weirdness of the proceedings enhanced by the subtle masterplan behind it. Airy guitar work winding atop the bassline makes the penultimate “Your Fear is Giving Me Fear” a highlight, but the willful trudge of “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” is an all-too-suitable finish in style and atmosphere, not quite drawing it all together, but pushing it off a cliff instead.

Lunar Funeral on Facebook

Helter Skelter Productions / Regain Records on Bandcamp

 

Satánico Pandemonium, Espectrofilia

satanico pandemonium espectrofilia

Sludge and narcosadistic doom infest the six-track Espectrofilia from Mexico City four-piece Satánico Pandemonium, who call it an EP despite its topping 40 minutes in length. I don’t know, guys. Electric Wizard are a touchstone to the rollout of “Parábola del Juez Perverso,” which lumbers out behind opener “El Que Reside Dentro” and seems to come apart about two minutes in, only to pick up and keep going. Fucking a. Horror, exploitation, nodding riffs, raw vibes — Satánico Pandemonium have it all and then some, and if there’s any doubt Espectrofilia is worthy of pressing to a 12″ platter, like 2020’s Culto Suicida before it, whether they call it a full-length or not, the downward plunge of the title-track into the grim boogie of “Panteonera” and the consuming, bass-led closer “La Muerte del Sol” should put them to rest with due prejudice. The spirit of execution here is even meaner than the sound, and that malevolence of intent comes through front-to-back.

Satánico Pandemonium on Facebook

Satánico Pandemonium on Bandcamp

 

Van Groover, Honk if Parts Fall Off

Van Groover Honk if Parts Fall Off

Kudos to Van Groover on their know-thyself tagline: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we let it roll.” The German trio’s 10-track/51-minute debut, Honk if Parts Fall Off, hits its marks in the post-Truckfighters sphere of uptempo heavy fuzz/stoner rock, injecting a heaping dose of smoke-scented burl from the outset with “Not Guilty” and keeping the push going through “Bison Blues” and “Streetfood” and “Jetstream” before “Godeater” takes a darker point of view and “Roadrunner” takes a moment to catch its breath before reigniting the forward motion. Sandwiched between that and the seven-minute “Bad Monkey” is an interlude of quieter bluesy strum called “Big Sucker” that ends with a rickity-sounding vehicle — something tells me it’s a van — starts and “Bad Monkey” kicks into its verse immediately, rolling stoned all the while even in its quiet middle stretch before “HeXXXenhammer” and the lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-then-the-riff-hits “Quietness” finish out. Given the stated ambitions, it’s hard not to take Honk if Parts Fall Off as it comes. Van Groover aren’t hurting anybody except apparently one or two people in the opener and maybe elsewhere in the lyrics. Stoner rock for stoner rockers.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp

 

Sergio Ch., Koi

Sergio Ch Koi

There is not much to which Buenos Aires-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Chotsourian, aka Sergio Ch., is a stranger at this point. In a career that has spanned more than a quarter-century, he’s dipped hands in experimentalist folk and drone, rock, metal, punk, goth and more in varying prolific combinations of them. Koi, his latest full-length, still finds new ground to explore, however, in bringing not only the use of programmed drum beats behind some of the material, but collaborations with his own children, Isabel Ch., who contributes vocals on the closing Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” which was also previously released as a single, and Rafael “Raffa” Ch., who provides a brief but standout moment just before with a swirling, effects-laced rap tucked away at the end of the 11-minute “El Gran Chaparral.” If these are sentimental inclusions on Chotsourian‘s part, they’re a minor indulgence to make, and along with the English-language “NY City Blues,” the partial-translation of “Hurt” into Spanish is a welcome twist among others like “Tic Tac,” which blend electronic beats and spacious guitar in a way that feels like a foreshadow of burgeoning interests and things to come.

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp

 

Achachak, High Mountain

Achachak High Mountain

Less than a year removed from their debut full-length, At the Bottom of the Sea, Croatian five-piece Achachak return with the geological-opposite follow-up, High Mountain. With cuts like “Bong Goddess,” “Maui Waui,” they leave little to doubt as to where they’re coming from, but the stoner-for-stoners’-sake attitude doesn’t necessarily account either for the drifty psych of “Biggest Wave” or the earlier nod-out in “Lonewolf,” the screams in the opening title-track or the follow-that-riff iron-manliness of “”Mr. SM,” let alone the social bent to the lyrics in the QOTSA-style “Lesson” once it takes off — interesting to find them delving into the political given the somewhat regrettable inner-sleeve art — but the overarching vibe is still of a band not taking itself too seriously, and the songwriting is structured enough to support the shifts in style and mood. The fuzz is strong with them, and closer “Cozy Night” builds on the languid turn in “Biggest Wave” with an apparently self-aware moody turn. For having reportedly been at it since 1999, two full-lengths and a few others EPs isn’t a ton as regards discography, but maybe now they’re looking to make up for lost time.

Achachak on Facebook

Achachak on Bandcamp

 

Rise Up, Dead Man, Rise Up, Dead Man

Rise Up Dead Man Rise Up Dead Man

It’s almost counterintuitive to think so, but what you see is what you get with mostly-instrumentalist South African western/psych folk duo Rise Up, Dead Man‘s self-titled debut. To wit, the “Bells of Awakening” at the outset, indeed, are bells. “The Summoning,” which follows, hypnotizes with guitar and various other elements, and then, yes, the eponymous “Rise Up, Dead Man,” is a call to raise the departed. I don’t know if “Stolen Song” is stolen, but it sure is familiar. Things get more ethereal as multi-instrumentalists Duncan Park (guitar, vocals, pennywhistle, obraphone, bells, singing bowl) and William Randles (guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonium, violin, bells, singing bowl) through the serenity of “The Wind in the Well” and the summertime trip to Hobbiton that the pennywhistle in “Everything that Rises Must Converge” offers, which is complemented in suitably wistful fashion on closer “Sickly Meadow.” There’s some sorting out of aesthetic to be done here, but as the follow-up just to an improv demo released earlier this year, the drive and attention to detail in the arrangements makes their potential feel all the more significant, even before you get to the expressive nature of the songs or the nuanced style in which they so organically reside.

Rise Up, Dead Man on Facebook

Rise Up, Dead Man on Bandcamp

 

Atomic Vulture , Moving Through Silence

Atomic Vulture Moving Through Silence

Yeah, that whole “silence” thing doesn’t last too long on Moving Through Silence. The 51-minute debut long-player from Brugge, Belgium, instrumentalists Atomic Vulture isn’t through opener “Eclipse” before owing a significant sonic debt to Kyuss‘ “Thumb,” but given the way the record proceeds into “Mashika Deathride” and “Coaxium,” one suspects Karma to Burn are even more of an influence for guitarist Pascal David, bassist Kris Hoornaert and drummer Jens Van Hollebeke, and though they move through some slower, more atmospheric stretch on “Cosmic Dance” and later more extended pieces like “Spinning the Titans” (9:02) and closer “Astral Dream,” touching on prog particularly in the second half of the latter, they’re never completely removed from that abiding feel of get-down-to-business, as demonstrated on the roll of “Intergalactic Takeoff” and the willful landing on earth that the penultimate “Space Rat” brings in between “Spinning the Titans” and “Astral Dream,” emphasizing the sense of their being a mission underway, even if the mission is Atomic Vulture‘s discovery of place within genre.

Atomic Vulture on Facebook

Polderrecords on Bandcamp

 

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King Woman Release Celestial Blues July 30

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

king woman (Photo by Nedda Afsari)

I missed out on King Woman‘s debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, which Relapse released in 2017, but if the new video for “Morning Star” underscores anything, it’s the urgency of not making the same mistake twice and letting the new album, Celestial Blues, likewise slip. I don’t support or condone smoking cigarettes — that shit’ll kill you — but the song’s got atmospheric depth like it’s tossing you in the basement pit and telling you it puts the lotion on its skin, and all the while it still maintains a melodic presence through Kris Esfandiari‘s vocals. Guess I’ll dig back to the first record ahead of the second one. That takes care of my afternoon, and that’ll do nicely, thank you very much.

Preorders are up and all that stuff, and there are some live dates of varying vagueness below, all courtesy of the PR wire:

king woman celestial blues

KING WOMAN’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SOPHOMORE ALBUM, CELESTIAL BLUES, ARRIVES JULY 30 VIA RELAPSE RECORDS

PRE-ORDER: bit.ly/kingwomancb

WATCH “MORNING STAR” NOW

LIVE PERFORMANCES CONFIRMED FOR LOS ANGELES, BROOKLYN & OAKLAND

King Woman, the outfit featuring songwriter, producer, vocalist Kris Esfandiari, return with their eagerly-awaited sophomore album, Celestial Blues (July 30, Relapse Records).

News of the album arrives with a raw, one-take performance “Morning Star” (https://youtu.be/tk-rxh1xmKs), which was directed by Muted Widows.

“Creating this album has brought me great peace and closure,” says Esfandiari of Celestial Blues. “Grateful to finally share it with all of you.”

Celestial Blues was recorded in Oakland, California by GRAMMY-nominated engineer Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Amenra, Oathbreaker). The band is rounded out by drummer Joseph Raygoza and guitar player Peter Arensdorf. Visual collaborations featured in the album packaging were created by Nedda Afsari, Collin Fletcher, and Jamie Parkhurst.

Album pre-orders, including limited-edition vinyl and merch, are available now. Physical pre-orders are available via Relapse’s webstore (bit.ly/kingwomancb), while digital downloads and streaming links can be found here: (orcd.co/kingwomancb).

Celestial Blues tracklist:
Celestial Blues
Morning Star
Boghz
Golgotha
Coil
Entwined
Psychic Wound
Ruse
Paradise Lost

King Woman has confirmed a series of performances in support of the new album. Tickets and VIP Fan Club passes are on-sale this Friday, June 4 at 10 am pacific.

July 30 Los Angeles, CA Lodge Room
July 31 Los Angeles, CA Lodge Room

October 15 Brooklyn, NY TBA
October 16 Brooklyn, NY TBA
October 17 Brooklyn, NY TBA

October 29 Oakland, CA Starline
October 30 Oakland, CA Starline
October 31 Oakland, CA Starline (covers show)

Kingwoman.band
Kingwoman.bandcamp.com
Facebook.com/kngwmn
Instagram.com/kngwmn
Twitter.com/kngwmn
www.relapse.com
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King Woman, “Morning Star” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Saviours, Warship EP

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

More than any other single release, SavioursWarship to me epitomizes the generational changeover that began to take place around the mid-2000s in heavy music. Released in 2005 through Level Plane Records, it ran only three songs — “Circle of Servants’ Bodies,” “Christ Hunt” and “Satanic Scriptures” — and was raw to a point of scathing, and yet clearly had its underpinning in heavy rock and doom. More than anything else, it was brash. This was not a humble arrival of a band looking to make their mark. “Circle of Servants’ Bodies” thuds and crashes in with drums, and lumbers its start into the sort of riff that would become the staple diet of a next league of heavy rock and rollers. Saviours had all the swagger of punks who didn’t know what they were doing and an inimitable ferocity born of youth. It’s not that Saviours were the only band out there coming up — it was, as noted, a generational changeover — but Warship was singular in its arrogance.

Who were these kids from Oakland? What right did they have to come out nowhere and play metal like that? Was it even metal? How could it not be?

The gatekeeping at the time was rampant: “Hipster metal.” I dug Saviours but there were plenty of their ilk that seemed to sell it too hard, to posture as though to carry forth a lack of cred, the style over substance. Intervening years would inevitably weed many out, but even by then the rise of other acts to prominence was largely unstoppable. If you’re reading this, you likely don’t need me to narrate the history for you, but the era of heavy rock in which we now exist — the Age of Bandcamp? what else to call it? — set itself forth in the wake of bands like Saviours as its leading ambassadors, eventually rising to take the place of many of the soon-to-be-aged-out statesmen that accused the hipsters of not knowing how to riff because their hair was parted differently or they drank PBR knowing they could afford better.

None of that ever mattered and it certainly doesn’t now. History is written by the victors and the hipsters were right. Just listen to the screams on “Circle of Servants’ Bodies,” the way they seem to gurgle up from the cleaner shouts. You can almost hear the band gnashing its collective teeth. And “Circle of Servants’ Bodies” is the longest and most complex track on Warship. At just over four minutes. Neither “Christ Hunt” nor “Satanic Scriptures” hits three, thrashing and bashing theirsaviours warship way through their brief run like the EP is in a hurry to end so the band can get on with the next round of slaughter. Comprised then (I think) of guitarist/vocalist Austin Barber, guitarist Tyler Morris, bassist Cyrus Comiskey — who had also done time in Man’s Ruin Records veterans Drunk Horse a few years earlier — and drummer Scott Batiste (now also in Ides of Gemini), Saviours proved that the genre distinctions of the past weren’t going to cut it and that the lines between metal and rock, thrash and punk and heavy and not were just more stuff to be stomped on their way by.

The first time I recall seeing Saviours was at a record store in Austin, Texas, that was a converted house off the beaten path of Sixth Street and its various celebrations during SXSW. I’m pretty sure it was 2005 because I wound up walking away with a poster of the Warship artwork and they didn’t play for all that long. It was daytime, and they were essentially in a living room, filled with wood bins of CDs, and they were so fucking loud. Stupid loud. Painful volume. I don’t remember what songs they played — I’d assume EP tracks and maybe something that wound up on their 2006 debut LP, Crucifire — but holy crap did the floor shake. Vicious intent, and true to the EP’s title, they seemed to bring the pun on “worship” and a ship of war to life. Unless you were a well-adjusted individual who somehow happened into the room on your way to work or wherever it is well-adjusted people are en route to, I cannot see a way you would’ve left that show not being a fan of the band.

Looking back at the archive, it’s apparently been five years since I last wrote about the band, reviewing (late) their 2015 album, Palace of Vision (review here). They toured to support that record alongside Corrosion of ConformityBrant Bjork and Mothership, but haven’t been heard from much in the years since. Palace of Vision was their fourth LP, behind 2011’s Death’s Procession, 2009’s Into Abaddon and the aforementioned Crucifire. The last time I saw them was with Clutch in 2012 (review here), and I remember them favorably. In the pantheon of shows I didn’t see for various reasons over the years, I’m sure there are plenty of Saviours gigs I can feel punk rock guilt for not attending.

Righteous as it was and remains, Warship didn’t necessarily represent the band that Saviours wanted to be or became. Even by the time they got the first record out, still on Level Plane, before signing to Kemado and eventually Listenable, their sound was evolving in a cleaner direction that allowed for the refinement that would take place over the better part of the next decade. Their affinity for heavy metal never dissipated, however, and by the time they got around to Palace of Vision, their command of their songwriting and sonic intent. Production from Billy Anderson never hurts either.

I don’t know what’s up with Saviours now, if they’re still “active” in terms of putting new stuff together or if they’ll return after the pandemic wanes or what. Maybe they ran their course. That happens, and with so much of everything in flux, you won’t find me speculating. They could announce a new record tomorrow, or never. Either way, Warship still stands as a testament to the moment of its arrival, and its urgency continues to ring true in understated accomplishment.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Most of the week was spent in a daze, to be honest. Last weekend was recovery from the hospital stay with The Pecan and his fractured skull. He was off from (pre-)school on Monday and back on Tuesday. We got a note from one of the aides in his class that he refused to hold the railing on his way off the bus and didn’t want to hold hands either. “Could you please do something about this?” was the gist of the thing. Yeah, let me get right on that. Maybe if I could do something about it, my three year old wouldn’t have fractured his fucking skull.

We did not hear anything else about it, but from what I saw putting him on the bus, he continued to flat out refuse the railing. Dude comes by stubborn as honestly as he possibly could.

He’s got his follow-up with the neurosurgeon today. We kept him out of school basically so I could give him a bath beforehand and not put him in a panic when I went to pick him up early for the appointment. He gets so set in routines, and sometimes it’s good to mess with that — you need to, otherwise you’ve got this kid running your house with toddler logic and fascist intensity — but for something like this, where he’s clearly trying all week to process what happened to him, I’d rather just have him miss the day of tracing letters, which he does at home anyway, than upset him by showing up where I don’t belong. Just trust me when I say that it makes sense for him and would be a big deal, even though it seems like nothing.

I’m writing this as he’s in the bath, playing with himself in the carefree manner of a human without inhibitions. I got up at six and worked on the above, took a break for breakfast with him and then went back to it for a little bit before throwing him in the tub. Minus the throwing. He’s in good spirits today, which is a relief. Most of yesterday was rough, and the day before, as he’s been working back and forth between rounds of Tylenol.

It’s hard to remember he was in the pediatric ICU last weekend until I look at his chest and still see the outlines of the stickies they put on to monitor his vitals. Those will come off eventually. And the bruise from his IV. That’ll go away too.

Today I get my second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. That’s at 4:33. I need to photocopy my insurance and drivers license and fill out some form. Whatever.

I’m already looking forward to next week, a couple good records I’ll be reviewing: specifically Genghis Tron and Greenleaf. Mars Red Sky are doing a stream today and there’s the Stoner one tomorrow and I’m looking forward to both, despite the drama surrounding the latter.

New Gimme show today 5PM Eastern. It’s a good one.

Between that, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch for Roadburn Redux and impending PostWax liner note projects, I’m feeling suitably overwhelmed. I’ve also uploaded vocals for a third song with the new project that seems to be taking shape. The second one came back and turned out way, way better than I thought I’d would given the poorly recorded raw tracks I sent over. Might be a band? Might need a name? Something organic. I don’t know.

I wish you a great and safe weekend. Hydrate. Watch your head. All that fun stuff. Back on Monday, and thanks for reading.

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Cardinal Wyrm Stream Devotionals in Full; Album out Friday

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

cardinal wyrm

Oakland, California’s Cardinal Wyrm will release their fourth full-length, Devotionals, this Friday, Dec. 11. And like its certifiably badass Kim Holm cover art, the independently-issued follow-up to 2016’s Cast Away Souls finds the trio at the entryway of some unknown dungeon, fire and demons filling the sky. And not the kind of dungeon where synth happens either. The kind of dungeon with random-encounter battles and quickly depleting health points. The kind of dungeon in which there inexplicably dwells some kind of octopus monster and if you don’t figure out that its weakness is lightning spells, you’re boned no matter how much you’ve been grinding on the low-yield imps or slimes outside in the forest. Radness ensues, with swinging battle axe, leaping dragoons and, indeed, flashes of elemental magic.

More than a decade on from their inception, Cardinal Wyrm are a band perhaps even more diverse than their pedigree, which includes the deathly likes of Vastum, post-whathaveyou outfit Terebellum and undervalued trad metallers Hammers of Misfortune, among others. Devotionals, as it would, has its paean moments to old gods of metal and otherwise, but instrumentally, there’s such a strong sense of self throughout the eight-track/50-minute run of the LP that they could’ve just as easily called the album ‘iconoclasm.’ Extreme metal intertwines with sludge riffing (“The Abbess”), doom with aggressive hardcore chug (“Selimesh”), deathly growls play off declarative proclamations in “Canticle,” and above all, Devotionals becomes an album of ideas and narrative. The further you cardinal wyrmgo, the deeper you are into the world it makes, and as vocalist/drummer Pranjal Tiwari, bassist/vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf and guitarist Nathan A. Verrill push through the initial punkish breakout of “Gannet” at the outset and into “Mrityunjaya,” the just-wait-for-the-explosion-it’s-coming “Imposter” and “Selimesh” on side A, already the notion of the album as a journey is palpable and only becomes more so across the second half of the LP as the more extreme aspects are brought to bear.

A strange thing happens when one encounters Devotionals in repeat fashion. Usually with records, the more you hear, the more you know, but Cardinal Wyrm manage to answer engagement with nuance, and there always seems to be something else to hear. That might not seem to be the case on a first listen. One might put it on, be like, “Okay, trad metal, bit of doom, punk, and so on,” and go about the day — and if that’s how you listen to music the first time through, I feel you — but even as the guitar solo rises up in the back end of “Canticle” only to be consumed by howls, or “Abbess” gallops into a wall o’ chug, “Nightmarchers” indulges Candlemassian grandiosity while also coating it in grit and closer “Do We Have Another Battle Left in Us?” offers a questioning self-assessment of the band that of course speaks to much, much more as well in this most confusing and terrible of years, Cardinal Wyrm find persona in grim intricacy, tearing limbs off different microgenres to construct a monster of their own.

My only regret in streaming the album ahead of its release on Friday is not asking permission to post the full lyric sheet, because the words — some more discernible than others in the actual hearing — deserve to be read as well as listened to. Alas. Perhaps you’ll consider this a cue to dig further on your own into the considerable and deeply appreciated text that Tiwari offers below. I know everybody’s busy, but one can hope, and it holds true of Cardinal Wyrm‘s Devotionals that the more you’re willing to put into it, the more you’re going to get out when you ultimately emerge from that dungeon.

Please enjoy:

Pranjal Tiwari on Devotionals:

“Devotionals” was a labor of love. We’re all immensely proud of these songs and put a lot of work into getting them just right. It’s been a somewhat hard road to releasing this album, we pretty much had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves, with no support from labels or anything. At times it really felt like we were crazy, that we were the only people in the world that believed in this record, like some mad group of preachers ranting on a street corner while the world walked past bemused. Add to that the whole saga of physical, mental, and financial turmoil that we’ve all experienced in 2020, it’s pretty much been a shitshow all around. Now that the album is finally seeing the light of day, I think it’s perfect that we chose the title “Devotionals.” It takes something extra to keep going through times like this, it takes an almost fanatical devotion to keep walking a path that can seem both pointless and hopeless. In that sense, it’s also perfect that we put this album out ourselves, because I think that sort of fanatical devotion I’ve described is exactly what fuels the DIY spirit and the independent music scene that we’ve all been a part of for so many years.

There seems to be a lot of talk about whether this record is “doom” or not, even among people who have enjoyed the album. My response is, who cares? This is a Cardinal Wyrm record – and I absolutely think what you’re hearing on “Devotionals” is the culmination of the Cardinal Wyrm sound. For starters, all three of us had a hand in writing and shaping every song on this record at the practice space, it’s our most collaborative album to date. But beyond that, I think you can really hear the sound of a band that loves playing together, and whose members had an absolute blast recording these songs. I think that energy and that spirit shines through. For me, arguing about what category to shoehorn this album into is about as boring as you can get, I’d rather people just take the time to listen to it with an open mind and absorb it for what it is – after that you can call it whatever you like.

Lyrically and thematically, ‘Devotionals’ also goes back to storytelling, telling stories has always been a big thing for us. Every song on this album tells a story, tapping into various strands of mythology both old and new. The opener ‘Gannet’ is about being out of place in the world and the paranoia and anxiety that instills, about being intimately controlled by the all-knowing and negative voices in your head. The track ‘Imposter’ is a story about casting a shadow that has a life of its own, the darkness that stares at you from the other side of the mirror.

Other tracks on the album are more literal in their storytelling. ‘Mrityunjaya’, for example, the title means ‘death conqueror’ in Hindi or Sanskrit, and it’s a term associated with the story of Karna from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Karna is such a great and evocative character, rejected at birth by those who should have raised him and cared for him, but realizing his life’s potential through loyalty and love to those who took him in, eventually fighting against his blood relatives to defend his chosen family. The song isn’t a literal retelling of the tale, it’s only very loosely based on Karna, sort of reimagining him as a stray wolf that finds a pack to run with. Probably because we all love rescue dogs so much.

The tracks ‘Canticle’ and ‘Abbess’ are both stories about false promises. ‘Canticle’ is the age-old tale of meeting the devil at the crossroads, told from the point of view of the devil making the listener an offer. ‘Abbess’ is a similar tale from the point of view of the one taking the bargain, a story about being seduced by a mirage, and made to do terrible things by the fear of being forgotten.

The final song on the album, “Do We Have Another Battle Left In Us?” is both a question and a rallying cry. Old friends gather and raise drinks to remember the trials they’ve shared and overcome. They toast to all they have loved and lost and those that remain. On the horizon, the enemy recoups their forces and presses forward. Our friends stand, lay hands on their weapons and wonder if they still have the strength to draw them again. “I think right now in the world, everyone is tired, physically and mentally, especially after the year that 2020 has been, and faced with a future that seems so hopeless. It’s a genuine question at this point – can we, do we want to keep going? It’s terrifying, but also thrilling to face that head on, and to forge your own path into the future.

There’s a lot going on musically too. I think the riffs are more intricate and the song structures are tighter than on previous albums. The overall feel is one of shorter and more driving bursts, and I wouldn’t say the whole thing is FAST, but it feels just a little bit faster than before. As one of the lines in the track “Nightmarchers” proclaims, “this beast has a bite.””

CARDINAL WYRM is embodied by lead vocalist/drummer Pranjal Tiwari (S.C.R.A.M.), bassist/vocalist Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Terebellum, Hammers Of Misfortune, Fyrhtu), and guitarist/vocalist Nathan A. Verrill (Terebellum, Fyrhtu). The follow-up to their Cast Away Souls album, released via Svart Records in 2016, Devotionals can be described as heavy, intricate, driving, progressive, and genre-bending music that seeks to tell a story.

Devotionals was recorded and mixed by Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios (Necrot, Vastum, Brainoil) and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Obituary, Sunn O))), Vastum). The record features striking cover artwork by Kim Holm, photography by Michael Thorn and Amy Oshit, and layout/design by Shelby Lermo.

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Cardinal Wyrm Stream “Nightmarchers”; Devotionals LP out Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

cardinal wyrm (Photo by Michael Thorn)

Doom and metal! Cardinal Wyrm will do the self-release thing with their upcoming fourth LP, set to arrive Dec. 11. Given the title Devotionals, the impending outing is given its first official airing with the track “Nightmarchers” that you can hear below, and yes, it is doom, and yes, it is metal. I haven’t had the chance to dig into the rest of the record yet, but will do so and report back accordingly, even as the release date fast approaches. Note that it’s a tape and digital-only offering. Bold move, doomers. I like it.

Maybe they’re waiting for someone else to pick it up on vinyl — certainly the Kim Holm cover art warrants the larger presentation — but either way, for those chasing down the digital, it should be easy enough to find. For example, the links below.

Dig it:

cardinal wyrm

CARDINAL WYRM: Oakland Doom Metal Trio With Members Of Vastum, Terebellum, And More To Release Fourth Album, Devotionals; “Nightmarchers” Streaming + Preorders Posted

Long-running Oakland, California-based doom metal band CARDINAL WYRM is preparing to release their fourth album, Devotionals, on December 11th. Alongside the album’s details, cover art, and preorders, the song “Nightmarchers” has been made available for streaming.

CARDINAL WYRM’s Devotionals can be described as heavy, intricate, driving, progressive, and genre bending music that seeks to tell a story. The album features Pranjal Tiwari (S.C.R.A.M.) on drums and lead vocals, Nathan A. Verrill (Terebellum, Fyrhtu) on guitars and backing vocals, and Leila Abdul-Rauf (Vastum, Terebellum, Hammers Of Misfortune, Fyrhtu) playing bass and providing additional vocals.

The follow-up to their Svart Records-released 2016 album Cast Away Souls, CARDINAL WYRM’s Devotionals was recorded and mixed by Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios (Necrot, Vastum, Brainoil) and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege (Obituary, Sunn O))), Vastum). The album is completed with cover artwork by Kim Holm, photography by Michael Thorn and Amy Oshit, and layout/design by Shelby Lermo.

CARDINAL WYRM will self-release Devotionals on cassette and across all digital service providers on December 11th. Find preorder options HERE and watch for a vinyl edition likely early next year.

Devotionals Track Listing:
1. Gannet
2. Mrityunjaya
3. Imposter
4. Selimesh
5. Canticle
6. Abbess
7. Nightmarchers
8. Do We Have Another Battle Left In Us?

With this release, “We wanted to go back to our DIY roots,” says drummer and vocalist Pranjal Tiwari. “One of the reasons we liked the title Devotionals is because it evokes that DIY spirit. This is a collection of songs for the faithful, for our community of people devoted to staying independent, to creating the music and art that we want, in our own spaces, and growing in our ability to channel from deep within. It often feels like we share a devotion to something that seems hopeless and is constantly under attack. But at the root of it all, there’s a fanatical belief in pulling off what other people think is impossible, and we wanted to go back and draw from that in making this album.”

CARDINAL WYRM:
Leila Abdul-Rauf – bass, vocals
Pranjal Tiwari – drums, lead vocals, lyrics
Nathan A. Verrill – guitars, vocals

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Cardinal Wyrm, Devotionals (2020)

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War Cloud to Release Chain Gang Two-Songer Sept. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Lest they be accused of taking the rest of the year off after putting out May’s Earhammer Sessions (review here) live-in-studio affair, Oakland heavy metal rockers War Cloud have a new two-song EP out next month called Chain Gang. The release, once again through Ripple Music, brings together a track written immediately following their European tour — which would seem to have been a transformative experience for them as a band, considering they recorded Earhammer Sessions as a means of building off the energy of that tour as well — and a track tracked by Steve “Thee Slayer Hippy” Hanford, whose posthumous tribute to Blue Öyster Cult is also seeing release soon through Ripple and in which War Cloud are also talking part. Presumably the two were recorded at the same time, but I guess one never knows.

The PR wire brought art and details about Chain Gang thusly:

war cloud chain gang ep

Prolific Rapid-Fire Metallers WAR CLOUD Drop Energized “Chain Gang” EP

Searing 2-song blast channels the band’s furious power ahead of expected new album in 2021

Quickly becoming one of Ripple Music’s most prolific bands, War Cloud returns just a few months behind their high-octane Earhammer Sessions with the two-song Chain Gang EP.

The title track was written in Vigone, Italy during a few days off after their last European tour while staying at a recording/rehearsal space called Positive Music. Says singer/guitarist Alex Wein:

“Positive Music is a secluded spot. No distractions. This was the first time we actually got to write as an entire band, with the current lineup, so there’s a lot of energy between all the members. We kept sharing riffs, lyrics, and bands we were vibe’n on the entire tour. You could feel a song shaping through all our conversations. After playing a show one night in Vigone, we went to the town’s local hangout bar and started coming up with a melody for the tune. We wanted this song to express how we’ve grown as a band: Dirty, raw, and heavy. Bad boys who don’t care. The opening line is a tribute to one of the bands favorite songwriters, Lemmy Kilmister. “Judge says I’m guilty of being born / the only thing I did was what I want” That’s our way of way of saying fuck it.”

The second song is a cover of a Rock Goddess song. Recorded in the summer of 2019 in an old empty house in the woods outside of Portland, Oregon by Thee Slayer Hippy, Steve Hanford, and mixed/mastered by Nocturnal Media in Louisville, Kentucky, this burst of metal godliness features guest vocals by Janiece Gonzalez of San Francisco’s Wild Eyes.

Chain Gang will be released on digital formats from Ripple Music on September 25th.

WAR CLOUD:
Alex Wein – Vocals/Guitar
Nick Burks – Guitar
Joaquin Ridgell – Drums
Sam Harman – Bass

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War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Katatonia, Marmalade Knives, King Witch, Glass Parallels, Thems That Wait, Sojourner, Udyat, Bismarck, Gral Brothers, Astral Glide

Posted in Reviews on July 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Welcome to the penultimate day of the Summer 2020 Quarterly Review. I can only speak for myself, but I know it’s been a crazy couple months on this end, and I imagine whatever end you’re on — unless and probably even if you have a lot of money — it’s been the same there as well. Yet, it was no problem compiling 50 records to review this week, so if there’s a lesson to be taken from it all, it would seem to be that art persists. We may still be painting on cave walls when it comes to the arc of human evolution, but at least that’s something.

Have a great day and listen to great music.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Katatonia, City Burials

katatonia city burials

Like their contemporaries in My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost, the latter-day period of work from Sweden’s Katatonia veers back toward some measure of direct heaviness, as City Burials showcases in cuts like “Rein,” “Heart Set to Divide” and “Behind the Blood,” but more than either of those others mentioned, the Stockholm outfit refuse to forsake the melody and progressivism they’ve undertaken with their sound in the name of doing so. By the time they get to “Untrodden” at the end of the album’s 50-minute/11-song run, they’ve run a gamut from dark electronica to progressive-styled doom and back again, and with the founding duo of guitarist Anders Nyström and vocalist Jonas Renkse at the helm of the songwriting, they are definitive in their approach and richly emotive; a melancholy that is as identifiable in their songs as it is in the bands working under their influence. Their first work in four years, City Burials is an assurance that Katatonia are in firm ownership and command of all aspects of their sound. As they approach their 30th year, they continue to move forward. That’s a special band.

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Peaceville Records website

 

Marmalade Knives, Amnesia

marmalade knives amnesia

Boasting production, mixing and percussion from The Golden GrassAdam Kriney, Marmalade Knives‘ debut album, Amnesia, is a delight of freaky-but-not-overblown heavy psychedelia. Oh, it’s headed far, far out, but as the opening narration and the later drones of second cut “Rivuleting” make plain, they might push, but they’re not trying to shove, if you know what I mean. The buzz in “Best-Laid Plans” doesn’t undercut the warmth of the improvised-seeming solo, and likewise, “Rebel Coryell” is a mellow drifter that caps side A with a graceful sense of wandering the soundscape of its own making. The vibe gets spacey on “Xayante,” and “Ez-Ra” touches on a funkier swing before seeming to evolve into light as one does, and the 10-minute “Astrology Domine” caps with noise and a jammed out feel that underscores the outbound mood of the proceedings as a whole. Some of the pieces feel like snippets cut from longer jams, and they may or may not be just that, but though it was recorded in three separate locations, Amnesia draws together well and flows easily, inviting the listener to do the same.

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Electric Valley Records webstore

 

King Witch, Body of Light

king witch body of light

Edinburgh’s King Witch toe the line between classic metal and doom, but whatever you want to call them, just make sure you don’t leave out the word “epic.” The sweeping solo and soaring vocals on the opening title-track set the stage on their second LP, the hour-long Body of Light, and as much mastery as the band showed on their 2018 debut, Under the Mountain (review here), vocalist Laura Donnelly, guitarist Jamie Gilchrist, bassist Rory Lee and drummer Lyle Brown lay righteous waste to lofty expectations and bask in grandiosity on “Of Rock and Stone” and the linear-moving “Solstice I – She Burns,” the payoff of which is a high point of the album in its layered shred. Pieces like “Witches Mark” and “Order From Chaos” act as confirmation of their Euro-fest-ready fist-pumpery, and closer “Beyond the Black Gate” brings some atmosphere before its own headbang-worthy crescendo. Body of Light is a reminder of why you wanted to be metal in the first place.

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Listenable Records on Bandcamp

 

Glass Parallels, Aisle of Light

Glass Parallels Aisle of Light

Eminently listenable and repeat-worthy, Glass Parallels‘ debut LP, Aisle of Light, nonetheless maintains an experimentalist flair. The solo-project of Justin Pinkerton (Golden Void, Futuropaco), covers a swath of ground from acid folk to psych-funk to soul vibes, at times bordering on shoegaze but seeming to find more expressive energy in centerpiece “Asphyxiate” and the airy capper “Blood and Battlegrounds” than any sonic portrayal of apathy would warrant. United by keys, pervasive guitar weirdness and Pinkerton‘s at-times-falsetto vocals, usually coated in reverb as they are, Aisle of Light brings deceptive depth for being a one-man production. Its production is spacious but still raw enough to give the drums an earthy sound as they anchor the synth-laden “March and April,” which is probably fortunate since otherwise the song would be liable to float off and not return. One way or another, the songs stand out too much to really be hypnotic, but they’re certainly fun to follow.

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Thems That Wait, Stonework

thems that wait stonework

Stonework is the self-aware debut full-length from Portland, Maine, trio Thems That Wait, and it shoulders itself between clenched-teeth metallic aggression and heavier fuzz rock. They’re not the first to tread such ground and they know it, but “Sidekick” effectively captures Scissorfight-style groove, and “Kick Out” is brash enough in its 1:56 to cover an entire record’s worth of burl. Interludes “Digout” and “Vastcular” provide a moment to catch your breath, which is appreciated, but when what they come back with is the sure-fisted “Paragon” or a song like “Shitrograde,” it really is just a moment. They close with “Xmortis,” which seems to reference Evil Dead II in its lyrics, which is as good as anything else, but from “Sleepie Hollow” onward, guitarist/vocalist Craig Garland, bassist Mat Patterson and drummer Branden Clements find their place in the dudely swing-and-strike of riffs, crash and snarl, and they do so with a purely Northeastern attitude. This is the kind of show you might get kicked at.

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Sojourner, Premonitions

sojourner premonitions

Complexity extends to all levels of Sojourner‘s third album and Napalm Records debut, Premonitions, in that not only does the band present eight tracks and 56 minutes of progressive and sprawling progressive black metal, varied in craft and given a folkish undercurrent by Chloe Bray‘s vocals and tin whistle, but also the sheer fact that the five-piece outfit made the album in at least five different countries. Recording remotely in Sweden, New Zealand, Scotland and Italy, they mixed/mastered in Norway, and though one cringes at the thought of the logistical nightmare that might’ve presented, Sojourner‘s resultant material is lush and encompassing, a tapestry of blackened sounds peppered with clean and harsh singing — Emilio Crespo handles the screams — keyboards, and intricate rhythms behind sprawling progressions of guitar. At the center of the record, “Talas” and “Fatal Frame” (the shortest song and the longest) make an especially effective pair one into the other, varied in their method but brought together by viciously heavy apexes. The greatest weight, though, might be reserved for closer “The Event Horizon,” which plods where it might otherwise charge and brings a due sense of largesse to the finale.

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Napalm Records website

 

Udyat, Oro

udyat oro

The order of the day is sprawl on Udyat‘s recorded-live sophomore LP, Oro, as the Argentinian outfit cast a wide berth over heavy rock and terrestrial psych, the 13-minute “Sangre de Oro” following shorter opener “Los Picos de Luz Eterna” (practically an intro at a bit over six minutes) with a gritty flourish to contrast the tonal warmth that returns with the melodic trance-induction at the start of “Los últimos.” That song — the centerpiece of the five-track outing — tops 15 minutes and makes its way into a swell of fuzz with according patience, proceeding through a second stage of lumbering plod before a stretch of noise wash leads pack to the stomp. The subsequent “Después de los Pasos, el Camino Muere” is more ferocious by its end and works in some similar ground, and closer “Nacimiento” seems to loose itself in a faster midsection before returning to its midtempo roll. Oro borders on cosmic doom with its psychedelic underpinnings and quiet stretches, but its movement feels ultimately more like walking than floating, if that makes any sense.

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Bismarck, Oneiromancer

Bismarck Oneiromancer

To anyone who might suggest that extreme metal cannot also be forward-thinking, Bismarck submit the thoughtful bludgeon of Oneiromancer, a five-song/35-minute aesthetic blend that draws from doom, death, hardcore and sundry other metals, while keeping its identity in check through taut rhythm and atmospheric departures. Following the chants of opening intro “Tahaghghogh Resalat,” the Chris Fielding-produced follow-up to Bismarck‘s 2018 debut, Urkraft (review here), showcases an approach likewise pummeling and dynamic, weighted in ambience and thud alike. “Oneiromancer” itself starts with blastbeats and a plundering intensity before breaking into a more open midsection, but “The Seer” is absolutely massive. Despite being shorter than either the title-track or “Hara,” both of which top nine minutes, and closer “Khthon” underscores the blood-boiling tension cast throughout with one last consuming plod. Fucking raging. Fucking awesome. Pure sonic catharsis. Salvation through obliteration. If these are dreams being divined as the title hints, the mind is a limitless and terrifying place. Which, yes.

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The Gral Brothers, Caravan East

gral brothers caravan east

I won’t say it’s seamless or intended to be, but as Albuquerque, New Mexico, two-piece The Gral Brothers make their initial move on Caravan East between cinematic Americana and industrial brood, samples of dialogue on “Cactus Man” and violin in the seven-minute soundscaper “In Die Pizzeria” seem to draw together both a wistfulness and a paranoia of the landlocked. Too odd to fall in line with the Morricone-worship of Cali’s Spindrift, “Crowbar” brings Spaghetti West and desert dub together with a confidence that makes it seem like a given pairing despite the outwardly eerie vibes and highly individualized take, and “Santa Sleeves” is beautiful to its last, even if the lone bell jingle is a bit much, while “Silva Lanes” pushes even further than did “Circuit City” into mechanized experimental noisemaking. They end with the birdsong-inclusive “Ode to Marge,” leaving one to wonder whether it’s sentiment or cynicism being expressed. Either way, it’s being expressed in a way not quite like anything else, which is an accomplishment all on its own.

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Desert Records on Bandcamp

 

Astral Glide, Flamingo Graphics

astral glide flamingo graphics

When you’re at the show and the set ends, Flamingo Graphics is the CD you go buy at the merch table. It’s as simple as that. Recorded this past March over the course of two days, the debut album from Floridian foursome Astral Glide is raw to the point of being barebones, bootleg room-mic style, but the songwriting and straightforward purposes of the group shine through. They’re able to shift structures and mood enough to keep things from being too staid, but they’re never far off from the next heavy landing, as “Devastation” and the closer “Forever” show in their respective payoffs, that latter going all out with a scream at the end, answering back to the several others that show up periodically. While their greatest strength is in the mid-paced shove of rockers like “Space Machine” and “Scarlett” and the speedier “Workhorse,” there are hints of broader intentions on Flamingo Graphics, though they too are raw at this point. Very much a debut, but still one you pick up when the band finishes playing. You might not even wait until the end of the show. Meet them back at the table, and so on.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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