Friday Full-Length: Psychedelic Source Records, This is Psychedelic Source Records

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

If at any point in the last seven or so years since Psychedelic Source Records started putting releases up on their Bandcamp page, there’s probably not much more to say about the seven-jam collection This is Psychedelic Source Records that came out earlier this month than, “Yeah, pretty much.”

Based in Páty, Hungary — about 40 minutes west of Budapest by train — and featuring a rotating cast of artists, bands and one-offs like this may or may not be, Psychedelic Source Records is more a collective than a record label, bringing together groups like Pilot Voyager, River Flows ReverseSatorinaut and a slew of others under one banner with the apparent central ethic of creative freedom. Sometimes there are songs, sometimes it’s an improv session, a couple times it’s just been founding spearhead Bence Ambrus noodling around in his garden. The framework is about as open as you can get, and the sounds range from expansive acid-folk to heavy psych exploration, and it’s all captured with a feel that only adds to the organic vibes. Releases don’t come with months of hype — though every now and then I’ll get to do a premiere for something they’re putting out, and that’s fun; I’ve got one booked for April 12 — and aren’t always pressed physically, but if you find value in the musical stream of consciousness, it is an open world waiting for you to immerse.

This Is… runs 92 minutes and was posted March 11 accompanied by the simple explanation, “Long time no see jam session, set up accidently two days ago.” So it was recorded March 9. I suppose what you’re hearing is technically a reissue, since at some point in the 18 days since it went live, Ambrus went back and reworked the mix, saying, “update: previous mix was little shitty so i redid it sorry.” Fair enough.

As you might’ve already guessed, the abiding spirit here is casual. Ambrus plays bass and guitar and is joined by Krisztina Benus on keyboard, Ákos Karancz on guitar, Barna Bartos on bass and Máté Varga on drums. I don’t know how much editing or actual mixing was done to what was recorded at the ‘accidental’ session — I love that idea; like, “oops, we just made a record”; the very heart of spontaneity — but the resultant flow within and between the pieces is hypnotic, and a cut like “Bum Bumm” (19:04) comes across as almost surprising itself as it evolves from its drone-backed psych ambience into a more active dub progression, as though the swirling mist solidified and decided to mellow-dance for a while. The guitar gets louder, Psychedelic Source Records This Is Psychedelic Source Recordsbut volume isn’t really the driving consideration anywhere on This Is…, which is more about the space being created and the conversation between the players presented with as-it-happened sincerity.

One can hear the glittering shimmer of guitar in “Sow Your Seeds and Be Patient” (14:09) or the wisps at the outset of “River Styx” (15:23) just prior and float along with the gentle-but-not-inactive rhythm in a semi-hypnotic state — from the subtle build-up of opener “Jamship” (8:15) onward, there’s room to dwell in the sounds being made, and not just because it’s feature-length in runtime — but there are nuances of character to be found too if you’re paying attention, shifts in tone as “Jamship” ends its course with resonant melodic drift and the drums start “Gentle Human Transform” (14:36) which comes to feel more surf-leaning in the reaches of guitar, or the centerpiece “River Styx” redirects from its quick fade-in to free/acid jazz-style searching in its midsection, the group finding their way into a slower, evocative wistfulness before they’re finished in a way that may or may not have been anticipated going in. That is to say, the sense in hearing it is that this check-in jam assemblage are also surprised to find out where they end up. That’s not an easy thing to convey on any kind of recording, even in the outer territories of improv psych, and it feels natural here. It’s part of what ties This Is… together, though I’ll admit that for something so broad and malleable in structure, that idea of ‘tied together’ is more about not interrupting the aforementioned flow.

And in preserving that easy-feeling course throughout while allowing each of its processions to embark and develop on its own terms, This Is… could hardly do more to encapsulate what is readable as the central ethic behind Psychedelic Source Records, which is to foster creativity without restraint. To that I might also add that the just-a-thing-we-did-on-Saturday-here-it-is presentation also speaks to this ethic. It’s a thing, to be sure. It exists. But it’s not a thing in the sense of being any kind of drag, or anybody’s job, or feeling like it’s a hassle somewhere along the line — perhaps notwithstanding Ambrus‘ noted remix after the fact. It’s low-key, agreeable, inviting psychedelia, no less expansive for being so inviting as “Sow Your Seeds and Be Patient” meanders around its guitar as it approaches the six-minute mark or capper “A Mermaid Found a Swimming Lad” echoes the surfy strum of “Gentle Human Transform” before resolving in twistier notes that wouldn’t feel out of place played on a sitar. These aspects also represent Psychedelic Source Records, giving a loose definition or vague shape to an intention, but not losing its freeform character to that.

If you think of art as a declaration of self, This is Psychedelic Source Records makes a fitting summary of what this group was all about on this day during these jams. It is not trying to be a part of any scene other than itself, or to end up on somebody’s chart, or be ‘content’ for some jerk-ass blogger like me to share on social media. It is honest rather than perfect, and while one acknowledges that authenticity is a myth in all cases and nothing can ever be objectively enacted or received because simply by that it becomes a part of human subjectivity — oh I could go on about this; I won’t — there’s no mistaking the ring of truth in these captured moments. And even if both moments and truth are fleeting, well, so is everything. Live in it while you can, if you can.

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

Yesterday was a wreck of lost time. I overslept by 45 minutes — woke up with my phone on my chest having apparently shut off the alarm and left it there at 5AM — and never got back on track. A Costco trip that was going to be today and a chasedown of Siggi’s Vanilla Yogurt (4% milkfat, not the 0%) — which is one of like two and a half things The Pecan will eat at this point — later, it was after noon and I was back on the couch trying to pound out that Early Moods review and today’s other posts. I apparently didn’t get enough of that done before needing to go pick up The Pecan at school, which is effectively the end of my writing time most days, and that’s a thing I know because I was up all night thinking about finishing the shit I’d left incomplete.

As Orange Goblin (who should be announcing a new album any day now, I hope) once said, “Some you win, some you lose.”

This weekend is Easter, which we don’t really celebrate as anything more than candy and egg-coloring — yay, pagan fertility rites! — but still have to show up for. Tomorrow we drive north to color the aforementioned eggs. Sunday is a brunch that, honestly, I’m just kind of relieved to not be hosting. From there, next week is The Pecan’s Spring Break, so she’ll be home Monday to Friday. I don’t really know how that’ll play out yet. The Patient Mrs. has work, and a lot depends on the weather. If we can go outside, we will, in other words. She’s got a half-day camp-ish-thing Monday to Wednesday (the kid), and so that’ll be my work time on those days, and the rest I’ll just have to sort as I live through it. The biggest surprise of the entire thing is that I’m not doing something completely life-eating like a Quarterly Review or some such. It seems almost out of character.

I have a couple video premieres — Borer, The Vulcan Itch — and I want to review the Craneium record that I’m super-late with and the Viaje a 800 reissue that I’m not super-late with, but we’ll see how it goes. I was also supposed to send questions for a Viaje a 800 email interview that I haven’t done yet. I always find that nerve-racking, asking artists to talk about their work without the benefit of vocal inflection. You never know how somebody is going to read what you say when you’re asking them about something so personal. “So, your art does this. How’s that make you feel?” seems like not the best conversation option, but there’s a language barrier in this case too, so I get it. And I’ll get there.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to. Have fun, watch your head, all that. If you’re celebrating, remember to enjoy it because that’s what a celebration is. I’m talking to myself there, to be sure, but don’t doubt that you’re also included. In any case, thanks again for reading.


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Meditar Stream Debut Album [Atmospheric Soundscapes] in Full; Out Tomorrow

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 14th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

meditar atmospheric soundscapes

The drumming at the outset of “As Unity Creating,” the cinematic backing drone and the arrival of the flute all bring a sense of ceremony to Meditar‘s debut release, [Atmospheric Soundscapes]. Throughout the next 39 minutes the Hungarian outfit — whose name and all titles are stylized lowercase in post-rock tradition: meditar, [atmospheric soundscapes], as though capital letters might be an imposition on such a gently immersive listening experience — spread frequencies like they’re körözött at the behest of Psychedelic Source Records and duly reinforce the serenity of those early moments in “As Unity Creating.” Understand, there’s no rug-pull here. Meditar isn’t about to “get heavy.” The closest thing to riffing is probably the flute, so no, it’s not the kind of thing that shows up around here all the time, but the music reaches out in a way that resonates on a psychedelic level without giving up its clarity in the face of ethereal resonance. It can surround you, and if that feels heavy in your head, so be it.

Headphones are just about mandatory to properly listen as [Atmospheric Soundscapes] shifts back and forth between passive and active stretches, fluid movements where the drum — yes, singular; it’s a Middle Eastern tar drum, noted for being wider than it is deep — comes forward in “Transformation of Materials” after the flute leads through “Sound of Zodiacs.” The course of the album also happens across trades between longer and shorter pieces — “As Unity Creating,” perhaps the experiment that became the impetus for what follows, is both opener and longest track (immediate points) — at least until the final pairing of the single-drone pull of “Atomparts” and closer “Symbols,” which has its own subtle changes around the sporadic drum hits and quiet castoff, both of which are left to answer the duly molten “Earth’s Magma,” the guitar effects of which seem to leave a burn at 5:25, but that nonetheless shimmers. If it were the noise heard in the cosmic background radiation leftover from the Big Bang, maybe humans wouldn’t need an entirely new cosmological model of the universe quite so desperately as we do.

But wherever, whenever, whyever and however its evocations put you, the fact is that that’s success on the part of this project. Comprised of guitarist/pedalboardist (and yes, I’m giving credit for pedals separately due to the proportion of the role they seem to play) Ákos Karancz, flutist Marci Havlik and Krisztián Megyeri on the thumps that do so much to ground and make accessible the entire proceedings, Meditar happened at the seeming whim of producer Bence Ambrus, who managed the logistics of remote recording for the other players — none of whom are strangers to the Psychedelic Source Records sphere of influence; having taken part in releases by Pilot VoyagerRiver Flows ReverseSatorinaut, Nagyk​ö​rű Sessions and more — and edited the final release together from the parts sent in, before the trio even knew what they were making. From a label and collective who’ve done so much in the vein of jam-based, often-improv psychedelia, Meditar are a different incarnation of the same spirit. If you told me [Atmospheric Soundscapes] was done live, I’d have no choice but to believe you as the howling guitar rings its clarion to form the centerpiece “Dreamstates.”

What’s preserved in that process is the spontaneity. I don’t know how much of [Atmospheric Soundscapes] was improvised by MegyeriHavlik and Karancz, but some of the music in these songs isn’t really the kind you can write. There are no lyrics or vocals as far as I can discern (the mix goes deep and I won’t vouch for their not being something hidden), and they’re not required for the album’s obviously-self-aware-or-they-would’ve-called-the-band-something-else meditative intentions. To be the thing it is, it could only have happened the way it did, and as you make your way through, I’ll suggest you take that thought and extrapolate it in any direction you want. I don’t think we’ve done guided meditation before. Start with closed eyes and deep breaths. The big slowdown.

It might not happen all at once, but maybe as you sit and put your ponderings alongside those of Meditar as expressed through these songs, you’ll find a little peace you didn’t know was missing. Or maybe it’ll miss. Maybe the world’s moving too fast today. Maybe you’ll hear “As Unity Creating” — which they were, even if not physically together at the time — and toss it off. Not everything will resonate with everyone, and while [Atmospheric Soundscapes] isn’t challenging in the sense of being in any way caustic or harsh, traditional pop structures and (most) rock impulses have been put aside for the moment in favor of this somehow invigorating display of open creativity and absorbing sound.

[Atmospheric Soundscapes] can be streamed in its entirely below, followed by comment from all involved parties and more info.

Please enjoy:

meditar, [atmospheric soundscapes] album premiere

Bence Ambrus on [atmospheric soundscapes]:

Krisztián bought this tar drum because his baby was born and he had to leave his drumkit for a few months. i asked him to record something to me for an ambient session in 110bpm. then i asked Marci to record some flute at home, and Ákos too. When i had the takes, i edited and mixed the release at home. they didn’t know what would come out of it. I didn’t give any direction, only the bpm and the tunekey. the flute and the guitar are used as they are, and the tar drum i edited on them a little bit.

Krisztián Megyeri on [atmospheric soundscapes]:

As a fresh father, I had to leave my thundering drum set and our basement for a while, our temple of freedom, where we had countless sonic adventures. Now it’s time for the warmth of home, listening to the whispers of the blood marked goatskin after my own blood fell asleep.

Marci Havlik on [atmospheric soundscapes]:

To be honest, I thought Bence would sample my playing, take small bits and repeat them like you do in electronic music. Instead he used everything I sent just the way I recorded it. Had I known, I would have played better! “Ever since I started playing folk music, it was clear to me how deep one can go on a mental journey through these melodies. However it was my first time explicitly playing meditative music with folk instruments. I tried to embody the ancient truths of folk through authentic flute techniques, which affect the conscious and the subconscious simultaneously.

Ákos Karancz on [atmospheric soundscapes]:

Meditar is over positive or negative emotional state. It is the calm simplicity of existence. These moments are rare but when I sat down to play the guitar it happened in that precious mindset. I did not expect to achieve anything beyond playing something. It was sometime after 4 o’clock. Already in the dark at winter when time seems endless. This is meditar. Meditar is presence.

Order link:

1. as unity creating (8:59)
2. sound of zodiacs (3:23)
3. transformation of materials (8:07)
4. dreamstates (3:20)
5. earth’s magma (8:03)
6. atomparts (4:54)
7. symbols (3:13)

meditar are:
Ákos Karancz: guitar, fx, coverart
Krisztián Megyeri: tar drum
Marci Havlik: flute
Bence Ambrus: editing, mixing, mastering

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Band in the Pit Stream Goda LP in Full; Out Sunday

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


On Oct. 15, which is this Sunday, Hungarian lumber-psych instrumentalists Band in the Pit will release their new album, the four-song Goda, through Psychedelic Source and Para Hobo Records. Why the odd-day release? Maybe just to remind us that these things are completely arbitrary. Maybe they had the day free and a regular Friday appointment. In any case, I assure you the date is not nearly important enough to warrant the four sentences I’ve now dedicated to it. If you want to skip ahead to the player and stream it,

The album runs four songs and three stages, by which I mean that the tracklisting — “Phalaris” (9:48), “Mantle” (11:16), “Goda” (6:38) and “Relight” (5:09) — is patterned through the first two longer pieces such that the shorter title-track and closer act like the reinforcement hypnotic suggestion to make sure you stay entranced. Recorded in 2021, Goda follows 2019’s two-song LP, Durée, and is their sixth full-length overall in the last decade-plus, the trio of guitarist Szabolcs Késmárky, bassist Vilmos Schneider and drummer Norman Prókai continuing to work with László Válik on the mix/master in Budapest and seeming to reside somewhere in terms of method between j-a-m heavy jamming and heavier-toned riffing.

The key is repetition. For as steady in their delivery and patient as they are nestling into their parts and residing there, Band in the Pit begin Goda already in progress — a crash into a new measure, as though the jam was already underway and you just teleported into the studio where it’s being recorded, presumably live (note: I actually don’t know how it was done, but listening, it’s hard to imagine another way). “Phalaris” evolves gradually over its nearly-10 minutes, has space for a right-on-fuzz guitar solo, and so on, but keeps its central rhythm consistent throughout. This means that even as the three-piece pass the seven-minute mark and the stately low end is met by a current of more scorching effects noise, the listener remains encased within the underlying groove. The wash? It’s just something that happens out there somewhere. It comes and goes and the noise is eventually the last thing to go as the song draws down, but it’s not that it was a contest and noise won over march. That march will own the day.

On a first listen, one new to the band — as I have no qualms admitting I am — might be a few minutes into “Mantle” before understanding what’s going on here. Like some of Earth‘s interpretations of drone, Band in the Pit build mantras from nod. Clear in its strum, Késmárky‘s guitar comes to the forefront of the mix and seems to lead the parade with Schneider and Prókai on board. At its root, it might be a heavy stoner riff not out of place on a record rife with Sleep worship, but as one might in a rehearsal space introducing a riff to a band and subsequently feeling out where it goes, “Mantle” suitably taps into the jam beneath what in many other circumstances becomes a part of a structured song. This band in the pitwillfully repetitive take and the raw character of the material overall become defining features, and between “Phalaris” and “Mantle,” more than half of Goda‘s 32-minute runtime is accounted for. As substance goes, it is not misplaced or misused.

Chemistry in the songs should be taken as a given. Band in the Pit probably wouldn’t exist at this point, never mind this record, if they didn’t enjoy being in the room together, and that comes through as they move deeper into the second half of “Mantle” and the procession starts to sort of playfully unravel, noise entering ahead of a fade that brings the crash-in of “Goda” to mirror that of “Phalaris” earlier. “Goda” is the start of side B and it hammers through a heavier riff than either of side A’s cuts boasted, departing at about two and a half minutes in for a ’90s noise howl of a brief solo before realigning around crashes. And I’m not sure if it’s actually something other than the guitar, bass or drums being beaten on, or maybe an echo or effect, but there’s an almost metallic ting as they circle around that same part.

There’s a slight but notable change after about four minutes into “Goda” where the strum opens a bit while the bass and drums, again, hold the foundation, and I swear to you that if they had someone screaming obscurities overtop about the Gemenc Forest would be some of the best progressive black metal you’d hear in 2023. As it stands, they ride the movement to a sudden stop and a dirtier guitar tone begins “Relight,” soon smoothly joined by the rhythm section. The spell of “Goda” is hardly broken by the closer, and Band in the Pit remain true to their purpose — that is, they find where they want to be and stay there in terms of a central chug — before shifting into weightier, noisier duggery to finish. By the time they’re done, they’re quiet again, capping with a quiet drone of residual noise, but they balance that moment of whole-album revelry with the calming affect of their repetitions.

If you can move your neck to nod, you can get down. Band in the Pit aren’t so much laying out a challenge with Goda as inviting the listener to dig in alongside the band. Because the hypnosis cast in “Phalaris” no doubt works both ways; the driver is also on board, if you get what I’m saying. That going-together sensibility further bolsters the immersive aspects of Goda, but if you find yourself feeling lost in listening, rest assured that the ground is still there under your feet and the path you and they are on remains ahead of you.

Please enjoy:

Vinyl preorder:

As heavy mountains sing.

Important to support the band directly at (they do merch combo, and lower prices)

Music written and performed by Band In The Pit.
Recorded in 2021 at L.V. Studio – Budapest – H.
Released in 2023 by Psychedelic Source Records and Para Hobo Records.

Releases October 15, 2023.

Mix and master – László Válik
Original artwork – Anna Kiss
Editing – Viktor Juhász-D

Drums – Norman Prókai
Guitar – Szabolcs Késmárky
Bass – Vilmos Schneider

Band in the Pit, Live at SzimplaRocks

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Quarterly Review: Yakuza, Lotus Thrones, Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, High Priest, MiR, Hiram-Maxim, The Heavy Co., The Cimmerian, Nepaal, Hope Hole

Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Coming at you live and direct from the Wegmans pharmacy counter where I’m waiting to pick up some pinkeye drops for my kid, who stayed home from half-day pre-k on Monday because the Quarterly Review isn’t complicated enough on its own. It was my diagnosis that called off the bus, later confirmed over telehealth, so at least I wasn’t wrong and shot my own day. I know this shit doesn’t matter to anyone — it’ll barely matter to me in half an hour — but, well, I don’t think I’ve ever written while waiting for a prescription before and I’m just stoned enough to think it might be fun to do so now.

Of course, by the time I’m writing the reviews below — tomorrow morning, as it happens — this scrip will have long since been ready and retrieved. But a moment to live through, just the same.

We hit halfway today. Hope your week’s been good so far. Mine’s kind of a mixed bag apart from the music, which has been pretty cool.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Yakuza, Sutra

Yakuza sutra

Since it would be impossible anyway to encapsulate the scope of Yakuza‘s Sutra — the Chicago-based progressive psych-metal outfit led by vocalist/saxophonist Bruce Lamont, with Matt McClelland on guitar/backing vocals, Jerome Marshall on bass and James Staffel on drums/percussion — from the transcendental churn of “2is1” to the deadpan tension build in and noise rock payoff in “Embers,” the sax-scorch bass-punch metallurgical crunch of “Into Forever” and the deceptively bright finish of “Never the Less,” and so on, let’s do a Q&A. They still might grind at any moment? Yup, see “Burn Before Reading.” They still on a wavelength of their own? Oh most definitely; see “Echoes From the Sky,” “Capricorn Rising,” etc. Still underrated? Yup. It’s been 11 years since they released Beyul (review here). Still ahead of their time? Yes. Like anti-genre pioneers John Zorn or Peter Brötzmann turned heavy and metal, or like Virus or Voivod with their specific kind of if-you-know-you-know, cult-following-worthy individualist creativity, Yakuza weave through the consuming 53-minute procession of Sutra with a sensibility that isn’t otherworldly because it’s psychedelic or drenched in effects (though it might also be those things at any given moment), but because they sound like they come from another planet. A welcome return from an outfit genuinely driven toward the unique and a meld of styles beyond metal and/or jazz. And they’ve got a fitting home on Svart. I know it’s been over a decade, but I hope these dudes get old in this band.

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Svart Records website


Lotus Thrones, The Heretic Souvenir

Lotus Thrones The Heretic Souvenir

The second offering from Philadelphia multi-instrumentalist Heath Rave (Altars of the Moon, former drums in Wolvhammer, etc.) under the banner of Lotus Thrones, the seven-song/38-minute The Heretic Souvenir (on Disorder and Seeing Red) draws its individual pieces across an aural divide by means of a stark atmosphere, the post-plague-and-the-plague-is-capitalism skulking groove of “B0T0XDR0NE$” emblematic both of perspective and of willingness to throw a saxophone overtop if the mood’s right (by Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, no less), which it is. At the outset, “Gore Orphanage” is more of an onslaught, and “Alpha Centauri” has room for both a mathy chug and goth-rocking shove, the latter enhanced by Rave‘s low-register vocals. Following the Genghis Tron-esque glitch-grind of 1:16 centerpiece “Glassed,” the three-and-a-half-minute “Roses” ups the goth factor significantly, delving into twisted Type O Negative-style pulls and punk-rooted forward thrust in a highlight reportedly about Rave‘s kid, which is nice (not sarcastic), before making the jump into “Autumn of the Heretic Souvenir,” which melds Americana and low-key dub at the start of its 11-minute run before shifting into concrete sludge chug and encompassing trades between atmospheric melody and outright crush until a shift eight minutes in brings stand(mostly)alone keys backed by channel-swapping electronic noise as a setup for the final surge’s particularly declarative riff. That makes the alt-jazz instrumental “Nautilus” something of an afterthought, but not out of place in terms of its noir ambience that’s also somehow indebted to Nine Inch Nails. There’s a cough near the end. See if you can hear it.

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Seeing Red Records store

Disorder Recordings website


Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, Doom Sessions Vol. 7


Realized at the formidable behest of Heavy Psych Sounds, the seventh installment of the Doom Sessions series (Vol. 8 is already out) brings together Sweden’s strongly cinematic sludge-doomers Endtime with fire-crackling North Carolinian woods-doomers Cosmic Reaper. With two songs from the former and three from the latter, the balance winds up with more of an EP feel from Cosmic Reaper and like a single with an intro from Endtime, who dedicate the first couple of minutes of “Tunnel of Life” to a keyboard intro that’s very likely a soundtrack reference I just don’t know because I’m horror-ignorant before getting down to riff-rumble-roll business on the righteously slow-raging seven minutes of “Beyond the Black Void.” Cosmic Reaper, meanwhile, have three cuts, with harmonized guitars entering “Sundowner” en route to a languid and melodic nod verse, a solo later answering the VHS atmosphere of Endtime before “Dead and Loving It” and “King of Kings” cult-doom their way into oblivion, the latter picking up a bit of momentum as it pushes near the eight-minute mark. It’s a little uneven, considering, but Doom Sessions Vol. 7 provides a showcase for two of Heavy Psych Sounds‘ up-and-coming acts, and that’s pretty clearly the point. If it leads to listeners checking out their albums after hearing it, mission accomplished.

Endtime on Facebook

Cosmic Reaper on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


High Priest, Invocation

High Priest Invocation

Don’t skip this because of High Priest‘s generic-stoner-rock name. The Chicago four-piece of bassist/vocalist Justin Valentino, guitarists Pete Grossmann and John Regan and drummer Dan Polak make an awaited full-length debut with Invocation on Magnetic Eye Records, and if the label’s endorsement isn’t enough, I’ll tell you the eight-song/44-minute long-player is rife with thoughtful construction, melody and heft. Through the opening title-track and into the lumber, sweep and boogie of “Divinity,” they incorporate metal with the two guitars and some of the vocal patterning, but aren’t beholden to that anymore than to heavy rock, and far from unipolar, “Ceremony” gives a professional fullness of sound that “Cosmic Key” ups immediately to round out side A before “Down in the Park” hints toward heavygaze without actually tipping over, “Universe” finds the swing buried under that monolithic fuzz, “Conjure” offers a bluesier but still huge-sounding take and 7:40 closer “Heaven” layers a chorus of self-harmonizing Valentinos to underscore the point of how much the vocals add to the band. Which is a lot. What’s lost in pointing that out is just how densely weighted their backdrop is, and the nuance High Priest bring to their arrangements throughout, but whether you want to dig into that or just learn the words and sing along, you can’t lose.

High Priest on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store


MiR, Season Unknown

mir season unknown

Its catharsis laced in every stretch of the skin-peeling tremolo and echoing screams of “Altar of Liar,” Season Unknown arrives as the first release from Poland’s MiR, a directly-blackened spinoff of heavy psych rockers Spaceslug, whose guitarist/vocalist Bartosz Janik and bassist/vocalist Jan Rutka feature along with guitarist Michał Zieleniewski (71tonman) and drummer Krzystof Kamisiński (Burning Hands). The relationship to Janik and Rutka‘s other (main?) band is sonically tenuous, though Spaceslug‘s Kamil Ziółkowski also guests on vocals, making it all the more appropriate that MiR stands as a different project. Ripping and progressive in kind, cuts like “Lost in Vision” and the blastbeaten severity of “Ashen” are an in-genre rampage, and while “Sum of All Mourn” is singularly engrossing in its groove, the penultimate “Yesterday Rotten” comes through as willfully stripped to its essential components until its drifting finish, which is fair enough ahead of the more expansive closer “Illusive Loss of Inner Frame,” which incorporates trades between all-out gnash and atmospheric contemplations. I won’t profess to be an expert on black metal, but as a sidestep, Season Unknown is both respectfully bold and clearly schooled in what it wants to be.

MiR on Facebook

MiR on Bandcamp


Hiram-Maxim, Colder

Hiram-Maxim Colder

Recorded by esteemed producer Martin Bisi (Swans, Sonic Youth, Unsane, etc.) in 2021-’22, Colder is Hiram-Maxim‘s third full-length, with hints of Angels of Light amid the sneering heaviness of “Bathed in Blood” after opener/longest track (immediate points) “Alpha” lays out the bleak atmosphere in which what follows will reside. “Undone” gets pretty close to laying on the floor, while “It Feels Good” very pointedly doesn’t for its three minutes of dug-in cafe woe, from out of which “Hive Mind” emerges with keys and drums forward in a moody verse before the post-punk urgency takes more complete hold en route to a finish of manipulated noise. As one would have to expect, “Shock Cock” is a rocker at heart, and the lead-in from the drone/experimental spoken word of “Time Lost Time” holds as a backdrop so that its Stooges-style comedown heavy is duly weirded out. Is that a theremin? Possibly. They cap by building a wall of malevolence and contempt with “Sick to Death” in under three minutes, resolving in a furious assault of kitchen-sink volume, that, yes, recedes, but is resonant enough to leave scratches on your arm. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t extreme music just because some dude isn’t singing about killing some lady or quoting a medical dictionary. Colder could just as easily have been called ‘Volcanic.’

Hiram-Maxim on Facebook

Wax Mage Records on Facebook


The Heavy Co., Brain Dead

The Heavy Co Brain Dead

Seeming always to be ready with a friendly, easy nod, Lafayette/Indianapolis, Indiana’s The Heavy Co. return with “Brain Dead” as a follow-up single to late-2022’s “God Damn, Jimmy.” The current four-piece incarnation of the band — guitarist/vocalist Ian Daniel, guitarist Jeff Kaleth, bassist Eric Bruce and drummer TR McCully — seem to be refocused from some of the group’s late-’10s departures, elements of outlaw country set aside in favor of a rolling riff with shades of familiar boogie in the start-stops beneath its solo section, a catchy but largely unassuming chorus, and a theme that, indeed, is about getting high. In one form or another, The Heavy Co. have been at it for most of the last 15 years, and in a little over four minutes they demonstrate where they want their emphasis to be — a loose, jammy feel held over from the riffout that probably birthed the song in the first place coinciding with the structure of the verses and chorus and a lack of pretense that is no less a defining aspect than the aforementioned riff. They know what they’re doing, so let ’em roll on. I don’t know if the singles are ahead of an album release or not, but whatever shows up whenever it does, The Heavy Co. are reliable in my mind and this is right in their current wheelhouse.

The Heavy Co. on Facebook

The Heavy Co. on Bandcamp


The Cimmerian, Sword & Sorcery Vol. I

the cimmerian sword and sorcery vol i

The intervening year since L.A.’s The Cimmerian made their debut with Thrice Majestic (review here) seems to have made the trio even more pummeling, as their Sword & Sorcery Vol. I two-songer finds them incorporating death and extreme metal for a feel like a combined-era Entombed on leadoff “Suffer No Guilt” which is a credit to bassist Nicolas Rocha‘s vocal burl as well as the intensity of riff from David Gein (ex-The Scimitar) and corresponding thrash gallop in David Morales‘ drumming. The subsequent “Inanna Rising” is slower, with a more open nod in its rhythm, but no less threatening, with fluid rolls of double-kick pushing the verse forward amid the growls and an effective scream, a sample of something (everything?) burning, and a kick in pace before the solo about halfway into the track’s 7:53. If The Cimmerian are growing more metal, and it seems they are, then the aggression suits them as the finish of “Inanna Rising” attests, and the thickness of sludge carried over in their tonality assures that the force of their impact is more than superficial.

The Cimmerian on Facebook

The Cimmerian on Bandcamp


Nepaal, Protoaeolianism

Nepaal Protoaeolianism

Released as an offering from the amorphous Hungarian collective Psychedelic Source Records, the three-song Protoaeolianism arrives under the moniker of Nepaal — also stylized as :nepaal, with the colon — finding mainstay Bence Ambrus on guitar with Krisztina Benus on keys, Dávid Strausz on bass, Krisztián Megyeri on drums and Marci Bíró on effects/synth for captured-in-the-moment improvisations of increasing reach as space and psych and krautrocks comingle with hypnotic pulsations on “Innoxial Talent Parade” (9:54), the centerpiece “Brahman Sleeps 432 Billion Years” (19:14) and “Ineffable Minor States” (13:44), each of which has its arc of departure, journey and arrival, forming a multi-stage narrative voyage that’s as lush as the liquefied tones and sundry whatever-that-was noises. “Ineffable Minor States” is so serene in its just-guitar start that the first time I heard it I thought the song had cut off, but no. They’re just taking their time, and why shouldn’t they? And why shouldn’t we all take some time to pause, engage mindfully with our surroundings, experience or senses one at a time, the things we see, hear, touch, taste, smell? Maybe Protoaeolianism — instrumental for the duration — is a call to that. Maybe it’s just some jams from jammers and I shouldn’t read anything else into it. Here then, as in all things, you choose your own adventure. I’m glad to be the one to tell you this is an adventure worth taking.

Psychedelic Source Records on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp


Hope Hole, Beautiful Doom

Hope Hole Beautiful Doom

There is much to dig into on the second full-length from Toledo, Ohio, duo Hope Hole — the returning parties of Matt Snyder and Mike Mulholland — who offer eight originals and a centerpiece cover of The Cure‘s “Sinking” that’s not even close to being the saddest thing on the record, titled Beautiful Doom presumably in honor of the music itself. Leadoff “Spirits on the Radio” makes me nostalgic for a keyboard-laced goth glory day that never happened while also tapping some of mid-period Anathema‘s abiding downer soul, seeming to speak to itself as much as the audience with repetitions of “You reap what you sew.” Some Godflesh surfaces in “600 Years,” and they’re resolute in the melancholy of “Common Sense” until the chugging starts, like a dirtier, underproduced Crippled Black Phoenix. Rolling with deceptive momentum, the title-track could be acoustic until it starts with the solo and electronic beats later before shifting into the piano, beats, drift guitar, and so on of “Sinking.” “Chopping Me” could be an entire band’s sound but it’s barely a quarter of what Hope Hole have to say in terms of aesthetic two records deep. “Mutant Dynamo” duly punks its arthouse sludge and shreds a self-aware over-the-top solo in the vein of Brendan Small, while “Pyrokinetic” revives earlier goth swing with a gruff biker exterior (I’d watch that movie) and a moment of spinning weirdo triumph at the end, almost happy to be burned, where the seven-minute finale “Cities of Gold” returns to beats over its gradual guitar start, emerging with chanting vocals to become its own declaration of progressive intent. Beautiful Doom ends with a steady march rather than the expected blowout, having built its gorgeous decay out of the same rotten Midwestern ground as the debut — 2021’s Death Can Change (review here) — but moved unquestionably forward from it.

Hope Hole on Facebook

Hope Hole on Bandcamp


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Full Album Premiere & Review: River Flows Reverse, The Homing Bird’s Trace

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 14th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Hungarian psychedelic collective-within-a-collective River Flows Reverse release their second album, The Homing Bird’s Trace, this week through Psychedelic Source Records. The story of its making, which I’ve included below so you can read it from the point of view of the band rather than have me re-tell it, is a winding path that feels both true to life and true to the spirit of the music they create, which is open, pastoral, welcoming, vibrant, at times hypnotic, at times (righteously) confusing, and able at a moment’s notice to conjure coherent gorgeousness out of what feels like an ether of mellow-psych improvisation and exploration.

The project is one of many under the banner of Psychedelic Source Records, which is both a label pressing releases and promoting them digitally and kind of the tent under which various jam sessions take place. River Flows Reverse issued their debut, When River Flows Reverse (review here), in early 2021 (vinyl arrived later), and with it bid the world jó reggelt kívánok across a 2LP’s worth of material that finds answer and expansion on the 45 minutes of The Homing Bird’s Trace, which even in longer pieces like “Seconds” (7:50) and “Birds” (10:46) feels more song-based while maintaining the free-flowing spirit of arrangement makes it and made its predecessor so engaging. Built out of improvisational elements, there is a soft poetry to instrumental stretches like opener “Demons,” where sitar and banjo and zither complement vocals, keys, guitar, bass, drums, etc., and amid the sitar drone and hum of “Black Lake,” they touch on ’60s acidism in a way that both stands out from its surroundings and melts into them.

Players come and go, with drummer Tibor Kovács and multi-instrumentalist Bence Ambrus (who also runs Psychedelic Source) as the only two parties featured on every song. Because of this, it might seem like The Homing Bird’s Trace is somewhat opaque, but by the time “Demons” is 15 seconds into its sub-five-minute run, there’s no shortage of light shining through.

Whatever context rests beneath the surface of these artists’ history with each other through various forms and incarnations, River Flows Reverse invites you along with its headphone-worthy meditative wanderings, which are folk as much as jazz while still born of rock and roll — a bit of rumble at the start of centerpiece “Kingdom” tells the tale and goes a long way, even though the song is ultimately more about the vocal melody, provided by Krisztina Benus (also of Lemurian Folk Songs) as one of several highlight performances — and come across as wholly committed to the process of planting creative whims to see what gardens can grow atop a drum progression. From this, “Birds” seems to emerge as an entire world of its own, reshaping itself across its 10 minutes as part raga, part post-rock, subtle prog and ambient shades making themselves known in the keyboard and drums soon answered in the shimmer at the start of the penultimate “Karnevál III.”

So it goes. For as varied as the actual songs themselves are, with the trumpet showing up at the start of aptly-named second-track-on-second-record “Seconds” followed soon by flute and closer “Shadows” distinguished by its lysergic melancholy and the switch that brings Lőrinc Sántha back in on whispery vocals — there’s a kind of pulled guitar note at 1:52; still a smile on offer somewhere — amid the pitter-patter of ride cymbal taps, there is no lack of fluidity. And, given the fact that The Homing Bird’s Trace wound up as a River Flows Reverse album at all — because if they wanted to call it something else, one imagines they simply would — they would seem to know it.

These songs share a sense of reverence for the organic with When River Flows Reverse, as well as a unity through disunion; the effect of broadening the audience’s expectations by doing what feels right. It is a simple idea and something very, very few songwriters can accomplish. I have no doubt some of this material was edited together, that maybe more than one take of vocals or guitar was required to properly capture what they were going for, and if that’s the case at all, I don’t think it makes the strummy flourish of “Black Lake” any less authentic.

Whether it’s Sántha‘s vocal there or the noodling lead work of Dávid Nagy over Ambrus‘ cyclical sitar drone, or Iván Eln seeming to complete the thought on lead guitar in the finale — though it’s drums and banjo that have the last word; somehow fitting — The Homing Bird’s Trace is singly beautiful. It trusts the listener to weave through whatever disparate aspects might be perceived and to find its heart in the melody and the vibe, both of which await with arms wide. Structures exist but are duly vague, verses come as recitations, and the immersion of the entirety seems to encourage mindfulness even as it is otherworldly, moving. If you are willing to follow, River Flows Reverse will serve not so much to lead as to allow you to join in their own journey, to be a part and participant in the experience of this material as it happened. If one thinks of records as capturing moments, either as they happened or moments of creativity in a broader sense, The Homing Bird’s Trace is one fortunately preserved.

It would be truly silly and not at all in keeping with the soul of this music to try and predict when, if, or how River Flows Reverse might continue on from here. Even thinking about a future collection of songs — which might already exist for all I know — feels somewhat cheap in terms of looking at The Homing Bird’s Trace. Instead, let’s take a breath and be present in the present, here for the expansiveness on offer right now, leaving the rest to work itself out as it will or won’t. If what we have is today, The Homing Bird’s Trace would seem to argue in favor of taking it in as much as possible, and while I don’t necessarily agree with every position being taken in the statement on the project below, the resonance and character of this collection remain vital and sure to bring comfort where it is needed.

You’ll find the album streaming in full on the player below. Years from now, I will be proud to have hosted it.

River Flows Reverse

River Flows Reverse – The Homing Bird’s Trace (2022)


Recorded in Páty track by track, soon after the birth of Olívia.

It all started with a seedy yet friendly practice space on the Buda side, named after Miki, the underground cult hero. This is where Bence and Lőrinc (of the band Indeed) met. And as this venue was a true melting pot for musicians, jam sessions took place and the band Lemurian Folk Songs was formed, which Krisztina joined as singer. Ákos was also a regular at the venue and joined the community. However, to everyone’s dismay, Miki’s had to close down. So its musicians and bands began a wandering round town to find new places to practice and chill at. It was at one of these new venues (another old factory complex) where Ivan and Tibor entered the scene (both from the band Contremarque). Lemurian Folk Songs and Contremarque had lots of joint gigs. This led to Tibor drumming on Bence’s solo projects. Ákos also returned with his ambient postrock – showcasing his talent at a garden party – dazzling even the birds.

Volume I of the LP When River Flows Reverse was recorded haphazardly as musicians came and went, in a dank shanty in the very same garden during the global pandemic. Dávid, the guitarist of the jam-trio Slight Layers, Predictions hooked up with the gang in a psychedelic practice space-complex in Bajza Street, on the Pest side. Márton and Bence are childhood friends, having formed their first band in fourth grade. Nico is the trumpeter from the French band Hold Station. The other trumpeter, Miklós was recorded by accident while mixing another album. The song Homing Bird’s Trace (excepting the drums) was recorded during a pause of dogs barking and a baby crying, as it was during this time that Olivia – Krisztina and Bence’s daughter – was born.

The whole album is an edited, building improvisation with the drums serving as the foundation. None of the songs manifested before they left the instruments and recorded. The general mood of the release shifts slowly from glad to sad as a true mirror of our times gloomy reality. Truth be told, this is not depressing music. Depression is a new-age bullshit for boring, blinkered people. Nature is not sad, mountains don’t cry, the Sun isn’t melancholic. Sure, it can be cold and freaking scary alone in a rainy forest but the forest itself doesn’t feel depressed. Humans with souls folded by demons are the ones who have turned away from nature. But birds will keep on homing until the very end, rivers still run till they run dry, and lakes’ depths are truly the deepest black.

Mainly produced by Bence Ambrus and the Psychedelic Source Records crew.

1 – Demons
Tibor Kovács – drums
Krisztina Benus – vocals, keys
Bence Ambrus – guitar, noises, sitar, bass, lyrics, banjo
Iván Eln – guitar
Márton Havlik – Zither

2 – Seconds
Tibor Kovács – drums
Krisztina Benus – vocals, keys
Bence Ambrus – guitar, mandoline, bass, lyrics
Iván Eln – solo guitar
Márton Havlik – folk flute
Nico Delmas – trumpet

3 – Black Lake
Tibor Kovács – drums
Krisztina Benus – keys
Lőrinc Sántha- vocals, lyrics
Bence Ambrus – guitar, sitar, bass
Dávid Nagy – solo guitar

4 – Kingdom
Tibor Kovács – drums
Krisztina Benus – vocals, keys
Bence Ambrus – guitar, bass, lyrics
Dávid Nagy- solo guitar

5 – Birds
Miklós Kerner – trumpet
Krisztina Benus – vocal
Tibor Kovács – drums
Bence Ambrus – sitar, bass, lyrics
Ákos Karancz – ambient guitar
Dávid Nagy – noise guitar, slight solo
Márton Havlik – folk flute

6 – Karnevál III
Tibor Kovács – drums
Bence Ambrus – bass, slide guitar
Ákos Karancz – ambient guitar
Iván eln – solo guitar

7 – Shadows
Tibor Kovács – drums
Lőrinc Sántha – vocals, lyrics
Bence Ambrus – fingerpicking guitar, bass, banjo, slide guitar
Iván Eln – solo guitar

Psychedelic Source Records on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Sons of Alpha Centauri, Doctors of Space, River Flows Reverse, Kite, Starless, Wolves in the Throne Room, Oak, Deep Tomb, Grieving, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Today we pass the halfway point of the Fall 2021 Quarterly Review. It’s mostly been a pleasure cruise, to be honest, and there’s plenty more good stuff today to come. That always makes it easier. Still worth marking the halfway point though as we move inexorably toward 70 releases by next Tuesday. Right now, I just wish my kid would take a nap. He won’t.

That’s my afternoon, I guess. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Sons of Alpha Centauri, Push

sons of alpha centauri push

Never ones to tread identical ground, UK outfit Sons of Alpha Centauri collaborate with Far/Onelinedrawing vocalist Jonah Matranga and Will Haven drummer Mitch Wheeler on Push, their material given relatively straight-ahead structural purpose to suit. I’m a fan of Sons of Alpha Centauri and their willingness to toss out various rulebooks on their way to individualized expression. Will Push be the record of theirs I reach for in the years to come? Nope. I’ve tried and tried and tried to get on board, but post-hardcore/emo has never been my thing and I respect Sons of Alpha Centauri too much to pretend otherwise. I admire the ethic that created the album. Deeply. But of the various Sons of Alpha Centauri collaborations — with the likes JK Broadrick of Godflesh or Gary Arce of Yawning Man — I feel a little left out in the cold by these tracks. No worries though. It’s Sons of Alpha Centauri. I’ll catch the next one. In the meantime, it’s comforting knowing they’re doing their own thing as always, regardless of how it manifests.

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Facebook

Exile on Mainstream Records website


Doctors of Space, Studio Session July 2021

Doctors of Space Studio Session July 2021

The programmed drums do an amazing amount to bring a sense of form to Doctors of Space‘s ultra-exploratory jamming. The Portugal-based duo combining the efforts of guitarist/programmer Martin Weaver (best known for his work in Wicked Lady) and synthesist/keyboardist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective (and many others) have been issuing jams by the month during a time largely void of live performances, and their get-together on July 30 resulted in seven pieces, four of which make up the 62 minutes of Studio Session July 2021. It’s hard to pick a highlight between the mellower, almost jazzy flow and cosmic wash of the 19-minute “Nighthawk,” and the more urgent setting out that “They Are Listening” provides, the more definitively space-rocking “Spirit Catcher” closing and “Bombsheller” with what feels like layers upon layers of swirl with keyboard lines cutting through, capping with a mellotron chorus, but any one of them is a worthy pick, and that’s a good problem to have.

Doctors of Space on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website


River Flows Reverse, When River Flows Reverse

River Flows Reverse When River Flows Reverse

In its readiness to go wherever the spirit of its eight included pieces lead, as well as in its openness of arrangement and folkish foundation, River Flows Reverse‘s first offering, the semi-eponymous When River Flows Reverse, reminds of Montibus Communitas. That is a compliment I don’t give lightly or often. The hour-long 2LP sees issue as part of the Psychedelic Source Records collective — Bence Ambrus and company — and with members of Indeed, Lemurian Folk Songs, Hold Station, on vocals and trumpet and banjo, etc., and a variety of instruments handled by Ambrus himself, the record is serene and hypnotic in kind, finding an outbound pastoralism that is physical as much as it’s swirling in mid-air. “Oriental Western” taps 16 Horsepower on the shoulder, but it’s in a meditation like “At the Gates of the Perennial” or the decidedly unraging “Rain it Rages” that the Hungarian outfit most seem to find themselves even as they get willfully lost in what they’re doing. Beautiful.

Psychedelic Source Records on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp


Kite, Currents

kite currents

Even amid the lumbering noise rock extremity of the penultimate “Heroin,” Kite manage to work in a willfully lunkheaded Melvins riff. Cheers to the Oslo bashers-of-face on that. The second long-player from the Oslo-based trio featuring members of Sâver, Dunderbeist, Stonegard and others sets out in moody form with “Idle Lights” building to a maddening tension that “Turbulence” hits with a brick. Though not void of atmosphere or complexity in its construction, the bulk of Currents is harsh, a punishment derived from sludge-thickened post-hardcore evidenced by “Ravines” stomping into the has-clean-vocals centerpiece title-track, but it’s also clear the band are having fun. Closer “Unveering Static” brings back the non-screaming shouts, but it’s the earlier longest track “Infernal Trails” that perhaps most readily encapsulates their work, variable in tempo, building and crashing, chaotic and raging and lowbrow enough to be artsy, but still given an underpinning of heft to match any and all aggression.

KITE on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records webstore


Starless, Hope is Leaving You

Starless Hope is Leaving You

A sophomore full-length from the Chicago-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jessie Ambriz and Jon Slusher, bassist/vocalist Alan Strathmann and drummer/vocalist Quinn Curren, StarlessHope is Leaving You runs a melancholy gambit from the prog-metal aggression of “Pendulum” to “Forest” reimagining Alice in Chains as a post-rock band, to soaring escapist pastoralia in “Devils,” to the patient psychedelic unfurling of “Citizen,” all the while remaining heavy of one sort or another; sonic, emotional, whatever it might be. Both. Cellist Alison Chesley (Helen Money) guests on “Forest” and the devolves-into-chaotic-noise closer “Hunting With Fire,” and Sanford Parker produced, but the band’s greatest strengths are the band itself. Hope is Leaving You isn’t going to be the feel-good hit of anyone’s summer in terms of general mood or atmosphere, but it’s the kind of release that’s going to hit a particular nerve with some who take it on, and I think I might be one of them.

Starless on Facebook

Starless on Bandcamp


Wolves in the Throne Room, Primordial Arcana

wolves in the throne room primordial arcana

Some 15 years on from their landmark first album, Olympia, Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room make their debut on Relapse Records with duly organic stateliness on Primordial Arcana, bringing their particular and massively influential vision of American black metal to bear across tracks mostly shorter than those of 2017’s Thrice Woven (review here) — exceptions to every rule: the triumphant 10-minute “Masters of Rain and Storm” — as drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Aaron Weaver, guitarist/vocalist Nathan Weaver, guitarist/vocalist Kody Keyworth and guest bassist/vocalist Galen Baudhuin readily draw together ripping blasts with cavernous synth, acoustic guitar, percussion and whatever the hell else they want across eight songs and 49 minutes (that includes the ambient bonus track “Skyclad Passage,” which follows the also-ambient closer “Eostre”) for an immersive aesthetic victory lap that’s all the more resonant for being the first time they’ve entirely produced themselves. One hopes and suspects it won’t be the last. Their sixth or seventh LP depending on what one counts, Primordial Arcana sounds like the beginning of a new era for them.

Wolves in the Throne Room on Facebook

Relapse Records website


Oak, Fin

oak fin

London heavy rockers Oak perhaps ultimately did themselves a disservice by not putting out a full-length during their time together. Fin, like the end screen of a fancy movie, arrives as their swansong EP, their fourth overall in the last six years, and is made up mostly of two five-plus-minute tracks in “Beyond…” and “Broken King,” with the minute-long intro “Bells” at the start. With the soaring chorus of “Beyond…” led by vocalist Andy Valiant with the backing of bassist/mellotronist Richard Morgan and guitarist/synthesist Kevin Germain and the shove of Alex De La Cour‘s drums at their foundation, the clarity of production by Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse (Green Lung, Terminal Cheesecake, etc.) and the gang shouts that rouse the finish of “Broken King,” Oak end their run sounding very much like a band who had more to say. If their breakup really is permanent, they leave a lot of potential on the proverbial table.

Oak on Facebook

Oak on Bandcamp


Deep Tomb, Deep Tomb

Deep Tomb Deep Tomb

By the time Los Angeles’ Deep Tomb get into the stomp of the 12-minute finishing track on their four-song/29-minute self-titled, they’ve already well demonstrated their propensity for scathing, harsh sludge. Opener “Colossus” has some percussion later in its seven minutes that sounds like something falling down stairs — maybe those are just the toms? — but it and the subsequent “Ascension From the Devoured Realm” aren’t exactly shy about where they’re coming from in their pummel and fuckall, and even though “Endless Power Through Breathless Sleep” starts out mellow and ends minimalist, in between it sounds like a they’re trying to use amps to remove limbs. And how much of “Lord of Misery” is song and how much is noisy chaos anyway? I don’t know. Where’s the line from one to the other? When does the madness end? And what’s left when it does? The broken glass from tube amps and soured everything.

Deep Tomb on Facebook

King of the Monsters Records webstore


Grieving, Songs for the Weary

Grieving Songs for the Weary

A band that, sooner or later, somebody’s going to refer to as “heavyweights.” Perhaps it’s happened already. Justifiably, in any case, given the significant heft Poland’s Grieving bring to their riff-led fare on their first LP, built on a foundation of traditionalist doom but not necessarily eschewing modern methods in favor thereof throughout its six component tracks — the three-piece of vocalist Wojciech Kaluza, guitarist/bassist/synthesist Artur Ruminski and drummer Bartosz Licholap are willfully Sabbathian even in the shuffle of “This Godless Chapel” but neither are they shy about engaging more psychedelic spaces on “Foreboding of a Great Ruin,” however grounding the clear-headed melodies of the vocals might be, and the riff at the core of the hard-hitting “A Crow Funeral” would in another context be no less at home on a desert rock record. Especially as their debut, Songs for the Weary sounds anything but.

Grieving on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

Godz ov War Productions webstore


Djinn, Meandering Soul

Djiin Meandering Soul

Heavy blues is at the core of Djiin‘s second album, Meandering Soul, but the Rennes, France, four-piece meet it head-on with both deeper weight and broader atmospherics, and lead vocalist Chloé Panhaleux owes as much to grunge as to post-The Doors brooding, her voice admirably organic even unto cracking in “Red Desert.” With the backing of guitarist Tom Penaguin, bassist Charlélie Pailhes and drummer Allan Guyomard, Djiin are no less at home in the creeping lounge guitar stretches of “Warmth of Death” than in the bursts of volume in opener “Black Circus” or the what-the-hell-just-happened-to-this-song prog jam out that caps the erstwhile punk of finale “Waxdoll.” Clearly, Djiin go where they want, when they want, from the folkish harmonies of “The Void” to the far-less-hinged crushing aggro “White Valley,” each piece offering something of its own on the way while feeding into the immersion of the whole.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website


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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Bence Ambrus of River Flows Reverse, Lemurian Folk Songs & Psychedelic Source Records

Posted in Questionnaire on September 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

bence ambrus

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: Bence Ambrus of River Flows Reverse, Lemurian Folk Songs & Psychedelic Source Records

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

I’m a simple semi-musician, who is not talented and diligent enough to live from music. This why I started to collect talented musicians from surrounding bands. I organize jam sessions, where all tunes are recorded. I also play on guitar or bass most of the times. When I work I’m a gardener, so in winter times I do my own projects, like River Flows Reverse and the project under my name. In these days I spend hours in a small dirty shed outside the house, surrounded with funny toy-instruments, boar skulls, candles, banjos and a big picture of Alvin Lee.

Describe your first musical memory.

I was 5-6 years old and my father brought me a Mickey Mouse cap for some children’s day or what, then took me to a gig of his friends in next town. I don’t remember the music, but the Mickey-cap, yes, and that I really liked the blues.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I have a lot, almost all are best. I loved the times when around 2015 we lived on the coasts and hills of Andalusia with my girl Kriszti and my dingo Rozi. We played Western-style street music with a guitar and a mandolin, when we had enough gold we continued to walk through. If we made more, we bought ticket to the ferry to Canarian Islands. Then we continued there. It was even the best time in my life. Cave dwelling, busking, spending time stoned only outside in the mountains and seacoast.

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

It’s always being tested when you look around in the music business and see the bands, shitty pop stars, radio programs, and realize that, this is really the level what the people need, and you are just a freak with false thinking and feelings, and the real music is there in the TV and radio and giant festivals.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully not back in the ’80s haha.

How do you define success?

If you see there are people who really appreciate and like your work. If there is one guy who says he loved the gig, or if someone who send you an email from the Philippines, that your music has changed his or her life etc. Or when some label ask you if they can print your music to vinyls. These things are enough satisfying for me.

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

If you travel on foot with no money, etc., you can see the real face of the world. The most beautiful coasts and mountains, communities, but the other side too. For example, if looking for hidden places to sleep around cities where are less possible that the police or a thief will alarm you, you can find the places where those people used to meet or hide who don’t want you to see them. Suppressed souls on the edge of society. Perverts, prostitutes, killers, thieves. I have seen cabins built by caines with bloody condoms thrown around, 17 year old heroinists who just wanted to have fun in Barcelona, then they stucked on speed and ketamin living in a bush. But the worst thing to see is the youngsters of today (I’m 29). I really feel like 90 percent of them don’t have any sense of life. Only cellphones, Instagram stupid talking taking light drugs. Respect to the exceptions.

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

To build a worldwide organization to help poor, and talented musicians with good taste. Organize tours, vinyl releases gigs on the beach like Duna Jam, make small festivals. To give this to someone to work with, and then build my own roadhouse style studio-bar-laboratory by a big lake surrounded big olden pine trees, no neighbours. And just live with the loveds and the banjo.

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

To realize and manifest spiritual contents, projecting symbols of the sub and superconscious. Help the dying soul. This was the original basis of alchemy not to make material gold. To slowly create a symbol from yourself, a vertical quintessence of all arts in the world. This why I really like the original alchemist art, so concrete and straightforward. For me this old knowledge turned into the music of eternal soul. For example an Øresund or Tia Carrera or Causa Sui jam session is real art, fills more this expression then a million-dollar modern copper statue, etc.

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

Of course a yellow ’79 Corvette.

Psychedelic Source Records, Nagykör? Sessions (2021)

Bence Ambrus, Gardenside Ambient Sessions I (2021)

River Flows Reverse, When River Flows Reverse (2021)

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos (2020)

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Quarterly Review: Sonic Flower, Demon Head, Rakta & Deafkids, Timo Ellis, Heavy Feather, Slow Draw, Pilot Voyager, The Ginger Faye Bakers, Neromega, Tung

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Friday morning and the Spring 2021 Quarterly Review draws to a close. It’s been a good one, and though there are probably enough albums on my desktop to make it go another few days, better to quit while I’m ahead in terms of not-being-so-tired-I’m-angry-at-everything-I’m-hearing. In any case, as always, I hope you found something here you enjoy. I have been pleasantly surprised on more than a few occasions, especially by debuts.

We wrap with more cool stuff today and since I’m on borrowed time as it is, let me not delay.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sonic Flower, Rides Again

sonic flower rides again

Like Church of Misery‘s groove but feel kind of icky with all those songs about serial killers? Legit. Say hello to Tatsu Mikami‘s Sonic Flower. Once upon a 2003, the band brought all the boogie and none of the slaughter of Tatsu‘s now-legendary Sabbathian doom rock outfit to a self-titled debut (reissue review here), and Rides Again is the lost follow-up from 2005, unearthed like so many of the early ’70s forsaken classics that clearly inspired it. With covers of The Meters and Graham Central Station, Sonic Flower makes their funky intentions plain as day, and the blowout drums and full-on fuzz they bring to those cuts as well as the five originals on the short-but-satisfying 28-minute offering is a win academically and for casual fans alike. You ain’t gonna hear “Jungle Cruise” or their take on “Earthquake” and come out complaining, is what I’m saying. This is the kind of record that makes you buy more records.

Sonic Flower on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp


Demon Head, Viscera

demon head viscera

With Viscera, Copenhagen’s Demon Head make their debut on Metal Blade Records. It is their fourth album overall, the follow-up to 2019’s Hellfire Ocean Void (review here), and it continues the five-piece’s enduring exploration of darker places. Dramatic vocals recount grim narratives over backing instrumentals that are less doom at the outset with “Tooth and Nail” and “The Feline Smile” than goth, and atmospheric pieces like “Arrows” and “The Lupine Choir” and “A Long, Groaning Descent” and “Wreath” and certainly the closer “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” further the impression that Viscera, though its title conjures raw guts, is instead an elaborate entirety — if perhaps one of raw guts — and meant to be taken in its 36-minute whole. Demon Head make that LP-friendly runtime a progression down into reaches they’d not until this point gone, tapping sadness for its inherent beauty.

Demon Head on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website


Rakta & Deafkids, Live at Sesc Pompeia

Rakta Deafkids Live at Sesc Pompeia

Next time someone asks you what the future sounds like, you’ll have a good answer for them. Combined into a six-piece band, Brazilian outfits Rakta and Deafkids harness ambience and space-punk thrust into a sound that is born of a past that hasn’t yet happened. Their Live at Sesc Pompeia LP follows on from a 2019 two-songer, but it’s in the live performance that the spirit of this unity really shines through, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Miragem” through the semi-industrialized effects swirl of “Templo do Caos,” into the blower-noise dance party “Sigilo,” the weirdo-chug-jam of “Forma” and the space rock breakout “Flor de Pele” and the percussed buzz and echoing howls of “Espirais,” they are equal parts encompassing and singular. It is not to be ignored, and though there are moments that border on unlistenable, you can hear from the wailing crowd at the end that to be in that room was to witness something special. As a document of that, Live at Sesc Pompeia feels like history in the making.

Rakta on Thee Facebooks

Deafkids on Thee Facebooks

Rapid Eye Records website


Timo Ellis, Death is Everywhere

Timo Ellis Death is Everywhere

A madcap, weighted-but-anti-genre sensibility comes to life in supernova-experimentalist fashion throughout the four songs of Timo EllisDeath is Everywhere. The lockdown-era EP from Ellis (Netherlands, Yoko Ono, Cibo Matto, on and on) makes post-modern shenanigans out of apocalypses inner and outer, and from lines like “this bridal shower is bumming me out” in the unabashedly hooky “Vampire Rodeo” to “the earth will still breathe fire without you!” in “Left Without an Answer,” the stakes are high despite the flittering-in-appreciation-of-the-absurd mood of the tracks themselves. The title-track and “Evolve or Die” blend sonic heft and the experimental pop movement that “Vampire Rodeo” sets forth — the third cut is positively manic and maniacally positive — while “Left Without an Answer” almost can’t help but be consuming as it rolls into a long fade leaving intertwining vocals lines as the last to go, telling the listener to “learn to say goodbye” without making it easy. Won’t be for everyone, doesn’t want to be. Is expression for itself. Feels genuine in that, and admirable.

Timo Ellis on Thee Facebooks

Timo Ellis on Bandcamp


Heavy Feather, Mountain of Sugar

heavy feather mountain of sugar

With not-at-all-subtle nods to Humble Pie and Ennio Morricone in its opening tracks, Heavy Feather‘s second LP, Mountain of Sugar, has boogie to spare. No time is wasted on the 38-minute/11-track follow-up to 2019’s Débris & Rubble (review here), and true to the record’s title, it’s pretty sweet. The collection pits retro mindset against modern fullness in its harmonica-laced, duly-fuzzed title-track, and goes full-Fleetwood on “Come We Can Go” heading into a side B that brings a highlight in the soft-touch-stomp of “Rubble and Debris” and an earned bit of Southern-styled turn in “Sometimes I Feel” that makes a fitting companion to all the bluesy vibes throughout, particularly those of the mellow “Let it Shine” earlier. The Stockholm outfit knew what they were doing last time out too, but you can hear their process being refined throughout Mountain of Sugar, and even its most purposefully familiar aspects come across with a sense of will and playfulness.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks


Slow Draw, Yellow & Gray

slow draw yellow and gray

Don’t tell him I told you so, but Slow Draw is starting to sound an awful lot like a band. What began as a drone/soundscaping project from Stone Machine Electric drummer/noisemaker Mark Kitchens has sprouted percussive roots of its own on Yellow & Gray, and as Kitchens explores textures of psychedelic funk, mellow heavy and even a bit of ’70s proggy homage in “Sylvia” ahead of the readily Beck-ian jam “Turntable” and acousti-drone closer “A Slow Move,” the band-vibe is rampant. I’m going to call Yellow & Gray a full-length despite the fact that it’s 24 minutes long because its eight songs inhabit so many different spaces between them, but however you want to tag it, it demonstrates the burgeoning depth of Kitchens‘ project and how it’s grown in perhaps unanticipated ways. If this is what he’s been doing in isolation — as much as Texas ever shuttered for the pandemic — his time has not been wasted.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp


Pilot Voyager, Nuclear Candy Bar

plot voyager nuclear candy bar

Freak! Out! The 66-minute Nuclear Candy Bar from Hungarian psychedelicists Pilot Voyager might end mostly drifting with the 27-minute “23:61,” but much of the four tracks prior to that finale are fuzz-on-go-go-go-out-out-out heavy jams, full in tone and improv spirit however planned their course may or may not actually be. To say the least, “Fuzziness” lives up to its name, as guitarist/founder Ákos Karancz — joined by bassist Bence Ambrus (who also mastered) and drummers Krisztián Megyeri and István Baumgartner (the latter only on the closer) — uses a relatively earthbound chug as a launchpad for further space/krautrocking bliss, culminating in a scorching cacophony that’s the shortest piece on the record at just under seven minutes. If you make it past the molten heat of the penultimate title-track, there’s no turning away from “23:61,” as the first minute of that next day pulls you in from the outset, a full-length flow all unto itself. More more more, yes yes yes. Alright you get the point.

Pilot Voyager on Thee Facebooks

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp


The Ginger Faye Bakers, Camaro

the ginger faye bakers camaro

Sit with The Ginger Faye BakersCamaro EP for a little bit. Don’t just listen to the first track, or even the second, third or fourth, on their own, but take a few minutes to put it all together. Won’t take long, the thing’s only 17 minutes long, and in so doing you’ll emerge with a more complex picture of who they are as a band. Yeah, you hear the opening title-cut and think early-Queens of the Stone Age-style desert riffing, maybe with a touch of we’re-actually-from-the-Northeast tonal thickness, but the garage-heavy of “The Creeps” feels self-aware in its Uncle Acid-style swing, and as the trio move through the swinging “The Master” and “Satan’s Helpers,” the last song drawing effectively from all sides, the totality of the release becomes all the more sinister for the relatively straight-ahead beginning just a short time earlier. Might be a listen or two before it sinks in, but they’ve found a niche for themselves here and one hopes they continue to follow where their impulses lead them.

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Thee Facebooks

The Ginger Faye Bakers on Bandcamp


Neromega, Nero Omega

Neromega Nero Omega

If you’re not yet keeping an eye on Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, Rome’s Neromega are a fervent argument for doing so. The initials-only cultish five-piece are Italian as much in their style of doom as they are in geography, and across their four-song Nero Omega debut EP, they run horror organ and classic heavy rock grooves alongside each other while nodding subtly at more extreme fare like the death ‘n’ roll rumble in closer “Un Posto” or the dirt-coated low end that caps “Pugnale Ardore,” the drifting psych only moments ago quickly forgotten in favor of renewed shuffle. Eight-minute opener “Solitudine,” might be the highlight as well as the longest inclusion on the 24-minute first-showing, but it’s by no means the sum total of what the band have on offer, as they saunter through giallo, psychedelia, doom, heavy riffs and who knows what else to come, they strike an immediately individual atmospheric presence even while actively toying with familiar sounds. The EP is cohesive enough to make me wonder what their initials are.

Neromega on Thee Facebooks

Helter Skelter Productions website


Tung, Bleak


Some of the made-even-bigger-by-echo vocals from guitarist Craig Kasamis might remind of Maurice Bryan Giles from Red Fang, but Ventura, California’s Tung are up chasing down a different kind of party on 2020’s Bleak, though Kasamis, guitarist David Briceno (since replaced by Bill Bensen), bassist Nick Minasian and drummer Rob Dean have a strong current of West Coast noise rock in what they’re doing as well in “Runaway,” a lurcher like “Spit” later on or the run-till-it-crashes finisher “Fallen Crown,” which the only song apart from the bookending opener “Succession Hand” to have a title longer than a single word. Still, Tung have their own, less pop-minded take on brashness, and this debut album leaves the bruises behind to demonstrate its born-from-hardcore lineage. Their according lack of frills makes Bleak all the more effective at getting its point across, and while they’d probably tell you their sound is nothing fancy, it’s fancy enough to stomp all over your ears for about half an hour, and that’s as fancy as it needs to be. Easy to dig even in its more aggressive moments.

Tung on Thee Facebooks

Plain Disguise Records website


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