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


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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Valley of the Sun Release Quintessence Pt. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 3rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Valley of the Sun

Whatever brand of headache you’re working with today — be it work, family, life, hangover, bangover, undercaffeination, overcaffeination, general existential dread, etc. — Valley of the Sun offer Quintessence Pt. 1, the first half of their upcoming self-released LP, as the way out from under it. Recorded not one full month ago, these five new tracks find the long-running Ohoian heavy rockers led by guitarist/vocalist Ryan Ferrier operating as a trio with Chris Sweeney on bass/keys (also some guitar) and Johnny Kathman on drums (also also some guitar), and releasing in DIY fashion as the follow-up to The Chariot (review here), released in 2022 on Fuzzorama Records and Ripple Music.

Ferrier, Sweeney and Kathman pull back on some of the desert-hued thrust that might come to mind if you heard The Chariot or their preceding LPs with “Graviton,” and “Where’s This Place I Roam?” highlights a moodier atmosphere, but “Palus Somni” is as characteristic — quintessential? — Valley of the Sun as you could hope to hear, and as Pt. 1 is only half the story they’re telling, I’ll be all-ears for the rest whenever it might arrive.

They’re already confirmed for a return to Europe this October to play Keep it Low Festival in Munich, and I’m pretty sure there’s more touring to be announced shortly, so keep an eye out. In the meantime, album info and such goes like this, and physical-edition preorders are up now:

Valley of the Sun Quintessence Pt 1

Inspired by the total solar eclipse which took place on day 1 of recording (April 8, 2024), Quintessence marks a return to the three-piece format for Valley of the Sun. With massive, sub-octave guitars, thundering bass, and a backbone of rock-solid drumming, the album is a bit of a departure from previous efforts, but long-time fans of the band will still find all the riffs, melodies, and soaring vocals that they’ve come to expect from VOTS over its previous four LP’s.

Releases July 25, 2024.

Quintessence Pt. 1 tracklisting:
1. Terra Luna Sol 04:25
2. Graviton 06:30
3. Where’s This Place I Roam? 04:35
4. The Late Heavy Bombardment 04:18
5. Palus Somni 04:58

Produced, mixed, and mastered by John Naclerio at Nada Recording Studio in Montgomery, New York.
Artwork by Jarrod Warf.

Valley of the Sun are:
Ryan Ferrier – guitars and vocals
Chris Sweeney – bass, keys, and additional guitars
Johnny Kathman – drums, percussion, and additional guitars
(Additional guitars on Where’s This Place I Roam? by Pete Koretzky)


Valley of the Sun, Quintessence (2024)

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Frayle Sign to Napalm Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Cheers to Cleveland, Ohio’s Frayle on getting picked up by Napalm Records for the release of their next album. It was kind of a matter of time for them to be signed by one or the other of the larger metal-world imprints. Kind of inevitable, huh? Frayle have been upward trajectory since the word go, a career-minded act with a defined aesthetic and a fresh-ish take on familiar ideas. They can appeal across subgenres in a way not a lot of doom-adjacent anything ever could.

Frayle‘s latest album, Skin & Sorrow came out in 2022 through Aqualamb and Lay Bare Recordings — both what I’d consider to be labels of marked taste — and while I don’t know if a reissue is in the works and the focus here seems to be on moving forward with new stuff, you wouldn’t blame them if one showed up.

The PR wire, making it official:

frayle (photo by Damian Eduardos)

FRAYLE Signs Worldwide Contract with Napalm Records

New Music Expected in 2024!

Fast-rising American doom outfit FRAYLE have officially joined forces with Napalm Records, signing a worldwide contract with the premier Austrian rock and metal empire.

Cleveland, Ohio’s FRAYLE crept onto the scene after forming in 2018, helmed by original members Sean Bilovecky (guitars) and Gwyn Strang (vocals). Since then, the band has been lauded by fans and media critics alike, merging the heaviness of occult-driven doom and blackgaze with Strang’s distinctively eerie vocal stylings. FRAYLE has since expanded into a four piece, welcoming drummer Jon Vinson and bassist Jason Knotek to the fold, allowing the band to fully realize their “lullabies over chaos” musical vision. Noted first by Revolver Magazine as a band to watch in 2023, and then again by Knotfest for the coming year, the band continues to invigorate their already buzzing sway on the scene. Following gloomy performances in Europe and the United States at festivals such as Damnation, Desertfest, Soul Crusher, Gloomnar, Post Fest and Inkcarceration, FRAYLE vows to enrapture audiences with new music in 2024.

FRAYLE says about the signing:
“We are thrilled to be joining the incredible team at Napalm Records. Napalm has always been the label that artists strive to be a part of and we are honored to bring our unique blend of heavy witch gloom to their impressive roster.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to say we are extremely fortunate to be part of the Oracle Management family, and are grateful for them helping us realize our goal of signing to Napalm Records. It was Oracle’s existing relationship with Napalm that helped to seal the deal. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Sebastian Muench, Senior A&R at Napalm Records, adds:
“FRAYLE have been enchanting their fans with their unique way of interpreting doom metal since 2017. Their artistic vision and past live performances have fascinated us and enticed us to work together as partners on the next step in the band’s career. I can guarantee that the new studio album will be simply amazing!”

Stay tuned for more FRAYLE news coming soon!

Gwyn Strang: Vocals
Sean Bilovecky: Guitar
Jason Knotek: Bass
Jon Vinson: Drums


Frayle, Skin & Sorrow (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Maggot Heart, Catatonic Suns, Sacri Suoni, Nova Doll, Howl at the Sky, Fin del Mundo, Bloody Butterflies, Solar Sons, Mosara, Jupiter

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Wednesday, huh? I took the dog for a walk this morning. We do that. I’ve been setting the alarm for five but getting up before — it’s still better than waking up at 4AM, which is a hard way to live unless you can go to bed at like 8 on the dot, which I can’t really anymore because kid’s bedtime, school, and so on — and taking Tilly for a walk around the block and up the big hill to start the day. Weather permitting, we do that walk three times a day and she does pretty well. This morning she didn’t want to leave the Greenie she’d been working on and so resisted at first, but got on board eventually.

In addition to physical movement being tied to emotional wellbeing — not something I’m always willing to admit applies to myself, but almost always true; I also get hangry or at least more easily overwhelmed when I’m hungry, which I always am because I have like seven eating disorders and am generally a wreck of a person — the dog doesn’t say much and it’s pretty early and dark out when we go, so I get a quiet moment out under the moon going around the block looking up at Venus, Jupiter, a few stars we can see through the suburban light pollution of the nearby thoroughfares. We go up part of the big hill, have done the full thing a couple times, but she’s only just three-plus months, so not yet really. But we’re working on it, and despite Silly Tilly’s fears otherwise, her treat was right where we left it on the rug when we got back. And she got to eat leaves, so, bonus.

There are minutes in your day. You can find them. You can do it. I’m not trying to be saccharine or to bullshit you. Life is short and most of it is really, really difficult, so take whatever solace you can get however you can get it. Let’s talk about records.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Maggot Heart, Hunger

maggot heart hunger

This is Maggot Heart‘s third record and they’re still a surprise. It can be jarring sometimes to encounter something that edges so close to unique within the underground sphere, but the Berlin outfit founded/fronted by Linnéa Olsson (ex-The Oath, ex-Grave Pleasures, ex-Sonic Ritual) offer bleak and subversively feminine post-punk informed by black metal on Hunger, and as she, bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusson (ex-In Solitude, etc.), unfurl eight tracks of arthouse aggro and aesthetic burn, one can draw lines just as easily with “Nil by Mouth” or the later “Looking Back at You” to mid-’70s coke-strung New York poetic no wave and the modern European dark progressive set to which Maggot Heart have diligently contributed over the last half decade. The horn sounds on “LBD” are a nice touch, and “Archer” puts that to work in some folk-doom context, but in the tension of “Concrete Soup” or the avant garde setting out across the three minutes of the leadoff semi-title-track “Scandinavian Hunger,” Maggot Heart demonstrate their ability to knock the listener off balance as a first step toward reorienting them to the atmosphere the band have honed in these songs, slightly goth on “This Shadow,” bombastic in the middle and end of “Parasite,” each piece set to its own purpose adding some aspect to the whole. You wouldn’t call it easy listening, but the challenge is part of the fun.

Maggot Heart on Instagram

Svart Records website

Rapid Eye Records on Bandcamp

Catatonic Suns, Catatonic Suns

Catatonic Suns Catatonic Suns

Adjacent to New Psych Philly with their homebase in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and with a self-titled collection that runs between the shoegazing shine of “Deadzone,” the full-fuzz brunt of “Slack” or “Inside Out,” the three-minute linear build of “Fell Off” made epic by its melody, and the hooky indie sway of advance single “Be as One,” the trio Catatonic Suns make a quick turnaround from their 2022 sophomore LP, Saudade, for the lysergic realization and apparent declaration of this eight tracks/31 minutes. With most cuts punkishly short and able to saunter into the noise-coated jangle of “Failsafe” or the wash of “Sublunary” — speaking of post-punk — Catatonic Suns eventually land at closer “No Stranger,” which tops eight minutes and comprises a not-insignificant percentage of the total runtime. And no, they aren’t the first heavy psych band to have shorter songs up front and a big finale, but the swirling layered triumph of “No Stranger” carries a breadth in its immersive early verses, mellow, sitar-laced midsection jam and noise-caked finish and comes across very much as what Catatonic Suns has been building toward all the while. The same might be true of the band, for all I know — it seems to be the longest piece they’ve written to-date — but either way, put them on the ‘Catatonic Voyage’ tour with Sun Voyager for two months crisscrossing the US and never look back. Big sound, and after three full-lengths, significant potential.

Catatonic Suns on Instagram

Agitated Records website

Sacri Suoni, Sacred is Not Divine

Sacri Suoni Sacred is Not Divine

Densely weighted in tone, brash in its impact and heavy, heavy, heavy in atmosphere, Sacri Suoni‘s second album together and first under their new moniker (they used to be called Stoned Monkey; kudos on the change), Sacred is Not Divine positions itself as a cosmic doom thesis and an exploration of the reaches and impacts to be found through collaborative jamming. Four songs make it — “Doom Perspection of the Astral Frequency 0-1” (8:15), “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” (10:28), “Cult of Abysmus” (13:15) and “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” (8:02) — and as heavy has they are (have I mentioned that yet?) there is dynamic at play as well in the YOB-ish noodles and strums at the start of “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” or in “Cult of Abysmus” around the 10-minute mark, or in the opener’s long fade, but make no mistake, the mission here is heft and space and the Milano outfit have both in ready supply. I think “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” has maybe three riffs? Might be two, but either way, it’s enough. The character in this material is defined by its weight, but there are three dimensions to their style and all are represented. If you listen on headphones, try really hard not to pulverize your brain in the process.

Sacri Suoni on Facebook

Zanns Records website

Nova Doll, Denaturing

nova doll denaturing

Earthy enough in tone and their slower rolling moments to earn an earliest-Acid King comparison, Barrie, Ontario’s Nova Doll are nonetheless prone to shifting into bits of aggro punk, as in “Waydown” or “Dead Before I Knew It,” the latter of which closes their debut album, Denaturing, the very title of the thing loaded with context beyond its biochemical interpretations. That is, if Nova Doll are pissed, fair enough. “California Sunshine” arrives in the first half of the seven-song/29-minute long-player, with rhythm kept on the toms, open drones and a vastness that speaks at least to some tertiary affect of desert rock on their sound. Psychedelia comes through in different forms amid the crunch of a song like “Mabon,” or “California Sunshine,” and the bassy centerpiece near-title-track feels willfully earthbound — not complaining; they’re that much stronger for changing it up — but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Casey Cuff, bassist Sean Alten and drummer Daniel Allen ride that groove in “Denaturation” like they already know the big spaceout in “Light Her Up” is coming. And they probably did, given the apparent care put into what is sometimes a harsh presentation and the variety they bring around the central buzz that seems to underscore the songs. Grown-up punk, still growing, but their sound is defined and malleable in its noisy approach on their first full-length, and that’s only encouraging.

Nova Doll on Instagram

Tarantula Tapes website

Black Throne Productions website

Howl at the Sky, In Line for the End Times

Howl at the Sky In Line for the End Times

With their self-released debut album, In Line for the End Times, hard-driving single-guitar four-piece Howl at the Sky enter the field with 12 songs and a CD-era-esque 55-minute run that filters through a summary of decades of heavy rock and roll influences. From their native state of Ohio alone, bands like Valley of the Sun and Lo-Pan, or Tummler and Red Giant a generation ago — these and others purveying straight-ahead heavy rock light on tricks and big on drive. More metal in their riffy underpinnings than some, certainly less than others, they foster hooks whether it’s a three-minute groover like “Stink Eye” and opener “Our Lady of the Knives” or the more spacious “Dry as a Bone” and the penultimate “Black Lung,” which has a bit more patience in its sway than the C.O.C.-circa-’91 “The Beast With No Eyes” and modernize ’70s vibes in the traditions of acts one might find on labels like Ripple or Small Stone. That is, rock dudes, rockin’. Vocalist Scott Wherle bears some likeness to We’re All Gonna Die‘s Jim Healey early on, but both are working from a classic heavy rock and metal foundation, and Wherle has a distinguishing, fervent push behind him in guitarist Mike Shope, bassist Scot “With One ‘T'” Fithen and drummer John Sims. For as long as these guys are together, I wouldn’t expect too many radical departures from what they do here. Once a band has its songwriting down like this, it’s really more just about letting grow on its own over time rather than forcing something, and the sense they give in listening is they know that too.

Howl at the Sky on Facebook

Howl at the Sky on Bandcamp

Fin del Mundo, Todo Va Hacia el Mar

Fin del Mundo Todo Va Hacia el Mar

The first two four-song EPs by Buenos Aires psych/post-rock four-piece Fin del Mundo — guitarist/vocalist Lucia Masnatta, guitarist Julieta Heredia, bassist Julieta Limia, drummer/backing vocalist Yanina Silva — wander peacefully through a dreamy apocalypse compiled together chronologically as Todo Va Hacia el Mar, the band’s Spinda Records first long-player. From “La Noche” through “El Fin del Mundo,” what had been a 2020 self-titled, the tones are serene and the melodies drift without getting lost or meandering too far from the songs’ central structure, though that last of them reaches broader and heavier ground, resonance intact. The second EP, 2022’s La Ciudad Que Dejamos, the LP’s side B, has more force behind its rhythms and creates a wash in “El Próximo Verano” to preface its gang-vocal moment, while closer “El Incendio” takes the Sonic Youth-style indie of the earlier material and fosters more complex melodicism around it and builds tension into a decisive but not overblown resolution. It’s 34 minutes long and even between its two halves there’s obvious growth on the part of the band being showcased. Their next long-player will be like a second debut, and I’ll be curious how they take on a full-length format having that intention in the first place for the material.

Fin del Mundo on Facebook

Spinda Records website

Bloody Butterflies, Mutations and Transformations

Bloody Butterflies Mutations and Transformations

A pandemic-born project (and in some ways, aren’t we all?), the two-piece instrumentalist unit Bloody Butterflies — that’s guitarist/bassist Jon Howard (Hordes) and drummer August Elliott (No Skull) — released their first album, Polymorphic, in 2020 and emerge with a follow-up in the seven tracks/27 minutes of the on-theme Mutations and Transformations, letting the riffs do their storytelling on cuts like “Toilet Spider” and “Frandor Rat,” the latter of which may or may not be in homage to a rat living near the Kroger on the east side of Lansing. The sound is punker raw and as well it should be. That aforementioned ratsong has some lumber to its procession, but in the bassy “Fritzi” that follows, the bright flashes of cymbal in opener “BB Theme” (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) and the noisy declaration of post-doom stomp before the feedback at the end of “Wormhole” consumes all and the record ends, they find plenty of ways to stage off monochromatism. Actually, what I suspect is they’re having fun. At least that’s what it sounds like, in a very particular way. Fair enough. It would be cool to have some clever lesson learned from the pandemic or something like that, but no, sometimes terrible shit just happens. Cool for these two getting a band out of it. Take the wins you can get.

Bloody Butterflies on Facebook

Bloody Butterflies on Bandcamp

Solar Sons, Another Dimension

solar sons another dimension

Whilst prone to NWOBHM tapping twists of guitar in the leads of “Alien Hunter,” “Quicksilver Trail,” etc. and burling up strains of ’90s metal and a modern heavy sub-burl that adds nuance to its melodies, Solar Sons‘ fifth album, Another Dimension, arrives at its ambitions organically. The Dundee, Scotland, everybody-sings three-piece of bassist/lead vocalist Rory Lee, guitarist/vocalist Danny Lee and drummer/vocalist Pete Garrow embark with purpose on a narrative structure spread across the nine songs/62 minutes of the release that unveils more of its progressive doom character as it unfolds its storyline about a satellite sent to learn everything it can about the universe and return to save a dying Earth — science-fiction with a likeness to the Voyager probes; “The Voyage” here makes a triumph of its keyboard-backed second-half solo — presumably with alien knowledge. It’s not a minor undertaking in either theme or the actual listening time, but hell’s bells if Another Dimension doesn’t draw you in. Something in the character has me feeling like I can’t tell if it’s metal or rock or prog and yes I very much like that about it. Plenty of room for them to be all three, I guess, in these songs. They finish with the swing and shred and stomp of “Deep Inside the Mountain,” so I’ll just assume everything works out cool for homo sapiens in the long run, conveniently ignoring the fact that doing so is what got us into such a mess in the first place.

Solar Sons on Facebook

Solar Sons on Bandcamp

Mosara, Amena

mosara amena

A 5:50 single to answer back to last year’s second long-player, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets (review here), the latest from Mosara — which is actually an older track given some reworking, vocals and ambience, reportedly — is “Amena,” which immediately inflicts the cruelty of its thud only as a seeming preface for the Conan-like grueling-ultradoom-battery-with-shouts-cutting-through about to take place. A slow, noise-coated roll unfolds ahead of the largely indecipherable verse, and when that’s done, a cymbal seems to get hit extra hard as though to let everyone know it’s time to really dig in. It is both rawer in its harshness and thicker in tone than the last album, so it puts forth the interesting question of what a third Mosara full-length might bring atmospherically to the mix with their deepening, distorted roil. As it stands, “Amena” is both a steamroller of riff and a meditation, holding back only for as long as it takes to slam into the next measure, with its sludge growing more and more hypnotic as it slogs through the song’s midsection toward the inevitable seeming end of feedback and drone. Noisy band getting noisier. I’m on board.

Mosara on Facebook

Mosara on Bandcamp

Jupiter, Uinumas

Jupiter Uinumas

Jupiter‘s Uinumas is a complex half-hour-plus that comprises their fourth full-length, running seven songs — that’s six plus the penultimate title-track, which is a psych-jazzy interlude — as cuts like “Lumerians” and “Relentless” at the outset see the Finnish trio reestablish their their-own-wavelength take on heavy and progressive sounds classic and new. It’s not so much about crazy structures or 75-minute-long songs or indulgent noodling — though there’s a bit of that owing to the nature of the work, if nothing else — but just how much Jupiter make the aural space they inhabit their own, the way “After You” pushes into its early wash, or the later “On Mirror Plane” (so that’s it!) spaces out and then seems to align itself around the bassline for a forward shuffle sprint, or the way that closer “Slumberjack’s Wrath” chugs through until it’s time for the blowout, which is built up past three minutes in and caps with shimmer that borders on the overwhelming. An intricate but recognizable approach, Jupiter‘s more oddball aspects and general cerebrality might put off some listeners, but as dug in as Jupiter are on Uinumas, on significantly doubts they were shooting for mass appeal anyhow. Who the hell would want that anyway? Bunch of money and people sweating everything you do. Yuck.

Jupiter on Facebook

Jupiter on Bandcamp

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Black Moon Cult to Release “Supernova” Single Oct. 27; Touring Midwest w/ Mirror Queen

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

black moon cult

It’s about a month’s wait for the new single from Black Moon Cult, which is called “Supernova,” actually arrives on Oct. 27. If you don’t feel like sitting tight for that long and, say, now is more your speed, you’ll be interested to find out that the eight-minute track (it takes a minute or two to get going; give it time) recently featured as track number 63 on Weedian‘s Trip to Ohio compilation, and thus is streaming now. To support the upcoming issue-proper, Black Moon Cult have been tapped to tour alongside Mirror Queen in the Midwest in late-Oct./early-Nov., just as the track hits.

The song is a full front-to-back procession though, builds some cosmic energy before it blows off the gas and dust cloud and starts making helium from hydrogen and all that. I’m kind of assuming there will be an album next year, but I realize in re-reading the info below that it doesn’t actually say that anywhere. So it goes. It’ll be here when it’s here. The song’s here now.

“And so say we all, ‘Tap into America!'” (polite applause and clinking glasses ensue):

black moon cult fall tour

From heavy-psych rockers BLACK MOON CULT, comes the pummeling new single “SUPERNOVA!” An exercise in progressive space rock, “SUPERNOVA” features hypnotizing, fuzz-laden stoner riffage, corrosive psychedelic vocal stylings and synth work that calls back to the glory days of ’70s prog rock. For fans of Truckfighters and Fu Manchu, “SUPERNOVA” drops October 27th in collaboration with Tee Pee Records.

Mirror Queen tour with Black Moon Cult Oct/Nov 2023

New York City’s hard rocking psych-proggers Mirror Queen are embarking across the Midwest this fall with Black Moon Cult. Led by a talented young guitarist in up-and-comer Kaleb Riser, the Toledo trio will have just issued the digital single “Supernova” via Tee Pee, whilst MQ are taking a break from mixing a new album to continue slinging songs from last year’s “Inviolate” LP.

10.29 Howard’s Club Bowling Green OH
10.30 Buzzbin Akron OH
10.31 Dead City/Halo Live Sandusky OH
11.01 Black Circle Brewing Indianapolis IN
11.02 Livewire Lounge Chicago IL
11.03 McAlpine Meadery Beach City OH
11.04 The Mothership Mansfield OH

Black Moon Cult:
Kaleb Riser- Guitar/Synth/Vox
Kevin Lewis- Bass/Synth/Vox
Evan Scott- Drums



Black Moon Cult, “Supernova”

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Alex Perekrest of Red Giant

Posted in Questionnaire on July 26th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Alex Perekrest of Red Giant

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Alex Perekrest of Red Giant

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I WANT to exist as a craftsman of riffage. THAT’S my goal. It’s my heart’s desire to be that. What I am is what’s happening along the twisted way.

This shit started probably like a lot of other folks. Teenage nonsense. And Soundgarden.

Describe your first musical memory.

I truly believed that The Beatles were tiny creatures living inside my sister’s 8 track/bedside table(#128514#). And KISS…

Describe your best musical memory to date.

We did this crazy space rock festival with Hawkwind sometime in the ’90s. At the end of the weekend, Hawkwind is climaxing with “Brainstorm” and the shit builds and builds and then STOPS! The lights come on and one kid in the center of the crowd puts his arms up and screams “YEAAAAHHHH!” And everyone explodes!!! Euphoric…. And seeing Sleep in ’93 with Nik Turner.. And Kyuss on my 21st birthday…. And singing for fucking MONSTER MAGNET…. I could write a book… (#128514#)(#128514#)

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I kinda stopped believing in God in my teens. And then believed again in my late 20s.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Progression implies time. Time implies age. As an artist progresses, time passes. And the situations that arise in life color the shit the artist does. So the race is to get your realest shit to the finish line before you die… I guess death is where it leads. All roads lead to Rome(#128514#)

How do you define success?


What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Any Star Wars movie after Return of the Jedi.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

The Black Rig.. Yep! Amps. I want more amps…

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To bring joy and to heal. To make a beautiful thing.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Peace on Earth.


Red Giant, Dysfunctional Majesty (2010)

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Quarterly Review: Bongzilla, Trevor’s Head, Vorder, Inherus, Sonic Moon, Slow Wake, The Fierce and the Dead, Mud Spencer, Kita, Embargo

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Well here we are, at last. A couple weeks ago I looked at my calendar and ended up pushing this Quarterly Review to mid-July instead of the end of June, and it’s been hanging over my head in the interim to such a degree that I added two days to it to cover another 20 records. I’m sure it could be more. The amount of music is infinite. It just keeps going.

I’ll assume you know the deal, but here it is anyhow: 10 records per day, for seven days — Monday through Friday, plus Monday and Tuesday in this case — for a total of 70 reviews. Links and audio provided to the extent possible, and hopefully we all find some killer new music we didn’t know about before, or if we did know about it, just to enjoy. That doesn’t seem so crazy, right?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Bongzilla, Dab City

Bongzilla Dab City

None higher. Following extensive touring before and (to the extent possible) after the release of their 2021 album, Weedsconsin (review here), Madison, WI, canna-worship crust sludge-launchers Bongzilla return with Dab City, proffering the harsh and the mellow as only they seem to be able to do, even among their ’90s-born original-era sludge brethren. As second track “King of Weed” demonstrates, Bongzilla are aurally dank unto themselves, both in the scathing vocals of bassist Mike “Muleboy” Makela and the layered guitar of Jeff “Spanky” Schultz and the slow-swinging groove shoving all that weighted tone forward in Mike “Magma” Henry‘s drums. Through the seven tracks and 56 minutes of dense jams like those in the opening title-cut or the 13-minute “Cannonbong (The Ballad of Burnt Reynolds as Lamented by Dixie Dave Collins” (yes, from Weedeater) or the gloriously languid finale “American Pot,” the shorter instrumental “C.A.R.T.S.,” or in the relatively uptempo nodders “Hippie Stick” and “Diamonds and Flower,” Bongzilla underscore the if-you-get-it-then-you-get-it nature of their work, at once extreme in its bite and soothing in atmosphere, uncompromising in purpose. I’m not going to tell you to get bombed out of your gourd and listen, but they almost certainly did while making it, and Dab City is nothing if not an invitation to that party.

Bongzilla on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Trevor’s Head, A View From Below

Trevor's Head A View From Below

Adventures await as Redhill, UK, three-piece Trevor’s Head — guitarist/vocalist Roger Atkins, bassist/vocalist/synthesist Aaron Strachan (also kalimba), drummer/flutist/vocalist/synthesist Matt Ainsworth (also Mellotron) — signal a willfully open and progressive creativity through the heavy psych and grunge melodies of lead track “Call of the Deep” before the Primus-gone-fuzz-prog chug of “Under My Skin” and the somehow-English-pastoral “Grape Fang” balances on its multi-part harmonies and loose-feeling movement, side A trading between shorter and longer songs to end with the seven-minute, violin-inclusive folk-then-fuzz-folk highlight “Elio” before “Rumspringa” brings the proceedings to ground as only cowbell might. As relatively straight-ahead as the trio get there or in the more pointedly aggressive shover “A True Gentleman” on the other side of the Tool-ish noodling and eat-this-riff of “What Got Stuck” (answer: the thrashy gallop before the final widdly-widdly solo, in my head), they never want for complexity, and as much as it encapsulates in its depth of arrangement and linear course, closer “Don’t Make Me Ask” represents the band perhaps even more in looking forward rather than back on what was just accomplished, building on what 2018’s Soma Holiday (review here) hinted at stylistically and mindfully evolving their sound.

Trevor’s Head on Facebook

APF Records website


Vorder, False Haven

Vorder False Haven

Born in the ’90s as Amend, turned more extreme as V and now perhaps beginning a new era as Vorder — pronounced “vee-order” — the Dalarna, Sweden, unit return with a new rhythm section behind founding guitarists Jonas Gryth (also Unhealer) and Andreas Baier (also Besvärjelsen, Afgrund, and so on) featuring bassist Marcus Mackä Lindqvist (Blodskam, Lýsis) and drummer Daniel Liljekvist (ex-Katatonia, In Mourning, Grand Cadaver, etc.) on drums, the invigorated four-piece greet a dark dawn with due presence on False Haven, bringing Baier‘s Besvärjelsen bandmate Lea Amling Alazam for guest vocals on “The Few Remaining Lights,” which seems to be consumed after its melodic opening into a lurching and organ-laced midsection like Entombed after the Isis-esque ambience of post-apocalyptic mourning in “Introspective” and “Beyond the Horizon of Life.” Beauty and darkness are not new themes for Vorder, even if False Haven is their first release under the name, and even in the bleak ‘n’ roll of the title-track there’s still room for hope if you define hope as tambourine. Which you probably should. The penultimate “Judgement Awaits” interrupts floating post-doom with vital shove and 10:32 finale “Come Undone” provides a resonant melodic answer to “The Few Remaining Lights” while paying off the album as a whole in patience, heft and fullness. Vorder use microgenres like a polyglot might switch languages, but what’s expressed from the entirety of the work is utterly their own, whatever name they use.

Vorder on Facebook

Suicide Records website


Inherus, Beholden

inherus beholden

Multi-instrumentalist Beth Gladding (also of Forlesen, Botanist, Lotus Thief, etc.) shares vocal duties in New York’s Inherus with bassist Anthony DiBlasi (ex-Witchkiss) and fellow guitarist/synthesist Brian Harrigan (Grid, Swallow the Ocean), and the harsh/clean dynamic puts emphasis on the various textures presented throughout the band’s debut album. Completed by drummer Andrew Vogt (Lotus Thief, Swallow the Ocean), Inherus reach toward SubRosan melancholy on “Forgotten Kingdom,” which begins the hour-flat/six-track 2LP, and they follow with harmonies and grandeur to spare on “One More Fire” (something in that melody reminds me of Indigo Girls and I’m noting it because I can’t get my head away from it; not complaining) and “The Dagger,” which resolves in Amenra-style squibble and lurch without giving up its emotional depth. “Oh Brother” crushes enough to make one wonder where the line truly is between metal and post-metal, and the setup for closer “Lie to the Angels” in the drone-plus piece “Obliterated in the Face of the Gods” telegraphs the intensity to follow if not the progginess of that particular chug or the scope of what follows. Vogt signals the arrival at the album’s crescendo with stately but fast double-kick, and if you’re wondering who gets the last word, it’s feedback. Beholden may prove formative as Inherus move forward, but what their first full-length lays out as their stylistic range is at least as impressive as it is ambitious. Hope for more to come.

Inherus on Facebook

Hypnotic Dirge Records store


Sonic Moon, Return Without Any Memory

sonic moon return without any memory

Even in the second half of “Tying Up the Noose” as it leads into “Give it Time” — which is about as speedy as Sonic Moon get on their Olde Magick Records-delivered first LP, Return Without Any Memory — they’re in no particular hurry. The overarching languid pace across the Aarhus five-piece’s 41-minute/seven-tracker — which reuses only the title-track from 2019’s Usually I Don’t Care for Flowers EP — makes it hypnotic even in its most active moments, but whether it’s the Denmarkana acoustic moodiness of centerpiece “Through the Snow,” the steady nod of “Head Under the River” later or the post-All Them Witches psych-blues conveyed in opener “The Waters,” Sonic Moon are able to conjure landscapes from fuzzed tonality that could just as easily have been put to use for traditional doom as psych-leaning heavy rock, uniting the songs through that same fuzz and the melody of the vocals as “Head Under the River” spaces out ahead of its slowdown or “Hear Me Now” eschews the huge finish in favor of a more unassuming, gentler letting go, indicative of the thoughtfulness behind their craft and their presentation of the material. Familiar enough on paper and admirably, unpretentiously itself, the self-recorded Return Without Any Memory discovers its niche and comes across as being right at home in it. A welcome debut.

Sonic Moon on Facebook

Olde Magick Records on Bandcamp


Slow Wake, Falling Fathoms

slow wake falling fathoms

With cosmic doom via YOB meeting with progressive heavy rock à la Elder or Louisiana rollers Forming the Void and an undercurrent of metal besides in the chug and double-kick of “Controlled Burn,” Cleveland’s Slow Wake make their full-length debut culling together songs their 2022 Falling Fathoms EP and adding the prior-standalone “Black Stars” for 12 minutes’ worth of good measure at the end. The dense and jangly tones at the start of the title-track (where it’s specifically “Marrow”-y) or “In Waves” earlier on seem to draw more directly from Mike Scheidt‘s style of play, but “Relief” builds from its post-rocking outset to grow furious over its first few minutes headed toward a payoff that’s melody as much as crunch. “Black Stars” indulges a bit more psychedelic repetition, which could be a sign of things to come or just how it worked out on that longer track, but Slow Wake lay claim to significant breadth regardless, and have the structural complexity to work in longer forms without losing themselves either in jams or filler. With a strong sense of its goals, Falling Fathoms puts Slow Wake on a self-aware trajectory of growth in modern prog-heavy style. That is, they know what they’re doing and they know why. To show that alone on a first record makes it a win. Their going further lets you know to keep an eye out for next time as well.

Slow Wake on Facebook

Argonauta Records store


The Fierce and the Dead, News From the Invisible World

The Fierce and the Dead News From the Invisible World

Unearthing a bit of earlier-Queens of the Stone Age compression fuzz in the start-stop riff of “Shake the Jar” is not even scratching the surface as regards textures put to use by British progressive heavies The Fierce and the Dead on their fourth album, News From the Invisible World. Comprised of eight songs varied in mood and textures around a central ethic clearly intent on not sounding any more like anyone else than it has to, the collection is the first release from the band to feature vocals. Those are handled ably by bassist Kev Feazey, but it’s telling as to the all-in nature of the band that, in using singing for the first time, they employ no fewer than six guest vocalists, mostly but not exclusively on opener/intro “The Start.” From there, it’s a wild course through keyboard/synth-fed atmospheres on pieces like the Phil Collins-gone-heavy “Photogenic Love” and its side-B-capping counterpart “Nostalgia Now,” which ends like friendlier Godflesh, astrojazz experimentalism on “Non-Player,” and plenty of fuzz in “Golden Thread,” “Wonderful,” “What a Time to Be Alive,” and so on, though where a song starts is not necessarily where it’s going to end up. Given Feazey‘s apparent comfort with the task before him, it’s a wonder they didn’t make this shift earlier, but they do well in making up for lost time.

The Fierce and the Dead on Facebook

Spencer Park Music on Facebook


Mud Spencer, Kliwon

mud spencer Kliwon

Kliwon is the second offering from Indonesia-based meditative psych exploration unit Mud Spencer to be released through Argonauta Records after 2022’s Fuzz Soup (review here), and its four component songs find France-born multi-instrumentalist Rodolphe Bellugue (also Proots, Bedhunter, etc.) constructing material of marked presence and fluidity. Opener “Suzzanna” is halfway through its nine minutes before the drums start. “Ratu Kidul” is 16 minutes of mindful breathing (musically speaking) as shimmering guitar melody pokes out from underneath the surrounding ethereal wash, darker in tone but more than just bleak. Of course “Dead on the Heavy Funk” reminds of Mr. Bungle as it metal-chugs and energetically weirds out. And the just under 16-minute “Jasmin Eater” closes out with organ and righteous fuzz bass peppered with flourish details on guitar and languid drumming, becoming heavier and consuming as it moves toward the tempo kick that’s the apex of the album. Through these diverse tracks, an intimate psychedelic persona emerges, even without vocals, and Mud Spencer continues to look inward for expanses to be conveyed before doing precisely that.

Mud Spencer on Facebook

Argonauta Records store


Kita, Tyhjiö

kita Tyhjio

It would seem that in the interim between 2021’s Ocean of Acid EP and this five-song/41-minute debut full-length, Tyhjiö, Finnish psychedelic death-doomers Kita traded English lyrics for those in their native Finnish. No, I don’t speak it, but that hardly matters in the chant-like chorus of the title-track or the swirling pummel that surrounds as the band invent their own microgenre, metal-rooted and metal in affect, but laced with synth and able to veer into lysergic guitar atmospherics in the 10-minute opener “Kivi Puhuu” or the acoustic-led (actually it’s bass-led, but still) midsection leading to the triumphant chorus of bookending closer “Ataraksia,” uniting disparate ideas through strength of craft, tonal and structural coherence, and, apparently, sheer will. The title-track, “Torajyvä” and “Kärpässilmät,” with the centerpiece cut as the shortest, make for a pyramid-style presentation (broader around its base), but Kita are defined by what they do, drawing extremity from countrymen like Swallow the Sun or Amorphis, among others, and turning it into something of their own. Striking in the true sense of: it feels like being punched. But punched while you hang out on the astral plane.

Kita on Facebook

Kita on Bandcamp


Embargo, High Seas

embargo high seas

Greek fuzz alert! Heavy rocking three-piece Embargo hail from Thessaloniki with their first long-player, High Seas, using winding aspects of progressive metal to create tension in the starts and stops of “Billow,” “EAT” and “Candy” as spoken verses in the latter and “Alanna Finch” draw a line between the moody noise rock of Helmet, the grunge it informed, and the heavy rock that emerged (in part) from that. Running 10 tracks and 44 minutes, High Seas is quick in marking out the smoothness of its low tonality, and it veers into and out of what one might consider aggression in terms of style, “with 22 22” thoughtfully composed and sharply pointed in kind, one of several instrumentals to offset some of the gruffer stretches or a more patient melodic highlight like “Draupner,” which does little to hide its affinity for Soundgarden and is only correct to showcase it. They also finish sans-vocals in the title-track, and there’s almost a letting-loose sense to “High Seas” itself, shaking out some shuffle in the first half before peaking in the second. Greece is among Europe’s most packed and vibrant undergrounds, and with High Seas, Embargo begin to carve their place within it.

Embargo on Facebook

Embargo on Bandcamp


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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Balmer from Hiram-Maxim

Posted in Questionnaire on May 17th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Balmer of Hiram-Maxim

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Balmer from Hiram-Maxim

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

My dating profile says “Piercer by day; Keytar demon by night”, which is pretty accurate but also a little too specific. In reality, I just can’t help but apply a reeeaaal thick layer of my personality to whatever I can get my hands on. Sometimes it’s a musical thing or a silly lil outfit. Sometimes I’m literally smearing fake blood on the bathroom mirror. It’s like I’m just out here walkin around with sticky fingers touchin everything, makin it sticky (or in some cases, bloody). I’ve been this way since I was beamed onto this planet; these things are almost compulsive for me. But to be more specific, I’ve been playin music for about 18 years, prop-making and special FX makeup for about 10, and piercing for 3 years and I came to do them because I… felt like it?

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was growin up, it was still pretty uncommon for people to have a decent stereo setup in their homes. Most-a my friends were still rockin battery-operated boomboxes. My father (who probably considered himself an audiophile, but was more like the shoulda-left-the-fringe-jacket-back-in-the-80s, mullet-wearin type) had a pretty decent set of speakers in the living room, so I spent my whole childhood believing his favorite 90’s/early 2000’s nu-metal bands were, like, GOD-tier compared to the other music I was hearin on whatever shitty speakers I’d heard it on. These days the phones in our pockets probably have better speakers than the ones my dad garbage-picked, and it turns out there’s a whole universe of music better than nu-metal. No offense nu-metal fans.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I’m happy to say that I have experienced many a musical high in my life. It’s a dragon I think all musical humans are familiar with chasing. I have a recent favorite from a drag show here in Cleveland: Intermission had just ended and the host was gettin everybody geared up for the second half of the show. However, when the next performer was called… they didn’t show up. Time to stall. The host called on me in the audience and asked what song I’d do if I were performing next. I scanned my drag playlist in my head and called out “I dunno, probably something by Oingo Boingo”. Without skipping a beat, the DJ called up “Weird Science” and the crowd parted around me, more or less insisting that I dance. So I did. Surrounded by all my beautiful queer friends. Being showered in dollar bills. Dancing to a song I didn’t write at a show I wasn’t meant to perform at. Funny thing is that song has been on my drag playlist for ages, but I’ve never performed it because the lyrics are too tricky.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I was wonderin if I was gonna make it thru this questionnaire without talkin about being trans. Here we go: My journey on the yellow brick road of queerness has not been a linear one. I know today that I exist in the gray area in between/adjacent to the L and G and B and all the other letters, but that wasn’t always so clear to me. Every time I learned somethin more about who I wasn’t, I’d be that much more desperate to declare who I was. So I tried on a whole lotta titles, claimed numerous sexualities n genders, and ultimately wound up “coming out” as about a million things before I found a few that felt right. This meant admitting I was wrong about myself over n over, but it’s also what lead me to be the most authentic version of myself I’ve known to date.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I feel like progress (particularly in creative pursuits) can be quite elusive. Sometimes it’s a one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind-a ordeal. Sometimes it just leads ya in circles and brings ya right back to where ya started. So I guess I’d say artistic progression can lead just about anywhere but also nowhere over and over. If you’re lucky, the trip’s enjoyable more often than it sucks.

How do you define success?

Success in creative endeavors is pretty tough to define. Presenting something to other humans and receiving positive feedback can be considered a success. Creating something that communicates exactly the message you wanted to? Sure. I know there are a lotta humans out there that quantify success in dollars as well. At the end of the day, I feel like artistic pursuits rarely reward us for our efforts, so it’s important to loosely interpret words like “success” and allow one’s self as many victories as possible.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I feel like this one has the potential to be really grim, so I’m gonna keep it light. My first apartment was across the street from where my mom lived. I woke up one mornin (Mother’s Day? Easter?) n thought it might be cute to bring my pet rabbits over to the house to say hi. Anyway I throw on a pair of slippers n head across the street with these bunnies up under each of my arms like two little footballs. I go inside. I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now: my stepdad’s fucking my mom. And I’m just standin in the doorway, horrified, with these two rabbits. They too lost their innocence that day. Definitely wish I hadn’t seen that.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’ve always wanted to buy a house so I can build a bunch-a tunnels n passages between the rooms for my cats to run around in. Y’know, like little bridges n stuff.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

For me, art is a verb that describes all the ways in which I feel compelled to appease my own personal Mental Health Gods. It’s a way to open up my skull n let the bees out, y’know? Playin a lil song always gives me a good brain squeeze, but sometimes (a lot of the time), stickin a rusty nail in a barbie doll’s temple gets the job done. It’s all artful and it all serves the function of making sense of the messy emotions we all deal with.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Honestly I’m just lookin forward to corndogs and funnel cakes at the drive-in next spring.



Hiram-Maxim, Colder (2023)

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