Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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

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


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

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

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

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Deadpeach, The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

Deadpeach The Cosmic Haze and the Human Race

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

Deadpeach on Facebook

Deadpeach website

SÂVER, From Ember and Rust

SAVER From Ember and Rust

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

SÂVER on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

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

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

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

Ruben Romano on Facebook

Ruben Romano on Bandcamp

Kosmodrom, Welcome to Reality

Kosmodrom Welcome to Reality

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

Kosmodrom on Facebook

Kosmodrom on Bandcamp

The Endless, The Endless

the endless the endless

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

The Endless on Facebook

The Endless on Bandcamp

Our Maddest Edges, Peculiar Spells

Our Maddest Edges Peculiar Spells

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

Jeff Conner on Bandcamp

Saint Omen, Death Unto My Enemy

saint omen death unto my enemy

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

Saint Omen on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records store

Samsara Joyride, The Subtle and the Dense

samsara joyride the subtle and the dense

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

Samsara Joyride on Facebook

Samsara Joyride on Bandcamp

That Ship Has Sailed, Kingdom of Nothing

that ship has sailed kingdom of nothing

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

That Ship Has Sailed on Instagram

That Ship Has Sailed on Bandcamp

Spiral Guru, Silenced Voices

Spiral Guru Silenced Voices

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

Spiral Guru on Facebook

Spiral Guru on Bandcamp

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Sugar Horse Sign to Pelagic Records; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

The 17-minute title-track of Sugar Horse‘s new, single-song EP, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico — yes, that’s a real place — is my first exposure to the Bristol, UK, four-piece troupe who are newly signed to Pelagic Records. I’d imagine that the manner in which I was flattened by the transition from its ambient outset into righteously slow, scream-topped post-sludge nod is just about the ideal. Bipolar in the sense of working from one extreme to another, Sugar Horse at least on this one extended song can crush and rip and tear or recede into a kind of textural contemplation, as they do moving toward the EP’s middle with grand melodic vocals sweeping in circa 7:30 to carry the listener into the next open expanse.

By 8:20, they’ve snapped back to a harsher reality with a long-scream metalcore breakdown like it’s 2002 and I’m about to give myself a concussion, and the thread continues from there. They’re loud, they’re quiet, they’re droning, they’re pummeling. Following the noisy guitar assault circa 12 minutes (love that bassline beneath), the held scream signals the start of a decay-to-drone at around 12:30, and still Sugar Horse aren’t finished. Five minutes of drone? Total washout? Considering the amount of ground covered, they’d be within their rights, but no. That wash makes its presence felt for about three minutes before right at about 15:20 they drop a skyscraper of distortion onto your unsuspecting (or maybe now suspecting) ears and slow-push that increasingly noisy final movement into the fadeout.

Sugar Horse have been at it since at least 2016 and their 2021 debut, The Live Long After, has an eight-minute song called “Dadcore World Cup” that has strings on it, so clearly I have homework to do. A bunch of short releases out as well, and they kind of rule. They’ll be good labelmates for SÂVER from Norway, and speaking of labelmates, they’ve got dates with LLNN coming up. While I dig further, here’s the latest from the PR wire:

sugar horse

Doomgaze quartet Sugar Horse sign with Pelagic Records, announce tour with LLNN

The monolithically heavy UK quartet Sugar Horse have signed with Pelagic Records, and announced a February 2024 tour supporting labelmates LLNN.

Dates as follows:

Feb 03: UK, London Boston Music Room
Feb 04: FR, Paris Glazart
Feb 05: CH, Lucerne Sedel
Feb 06: AT, Vienna Chelsea
Feb 07: PL, Krakow Kamienna12
Feb 08: PL, Warsaw Hydrozagadka
Feb 09: PL, Wroclaw Lacznik
Feb 10: CZ, Prague Kasarna Karlin
Feb 11: DE, Berlin Urban Spree

The news follows the release of the Bristolians’ mighty new EP Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico (3rd November, Fat Dracula Records/distributed by Metal Blade Records in US).

Order and stream Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico here: https://li.sten.to/Consequences

An epic achievement, Truth… is, in signature Sugar Horse style, one single long song: a meditation and exploration of everything the note A has to offer.

Sugar Horse comment on the new single: “This section kind of feels like stepping into the eye of a particularly lengthy storm. It’s a short reprieve where we break everything down before climbing back up that staircase again. Lyrically it describes the catharsis of art. You can take in any pain, hurt and bullshit from day to day like, then use it to generate something positive and beautiful. There’s something I find unbelievably beautiful in that kind of genesis. It’s probably the closest I come to any kind of religious thought. You take hell and turn it into heaven.”

Telling the story of Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, the band state: “It’s frequently been difficult for us, as a band, to limit ourselves to “normal” pop song lengths and structures….as evidenced in pretty much all of our releases to date. From time to time we feel the need to loose the ropes that bind us and let our Long & Tedious flag fly freely. Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico is the result of said untethering.

“We’ve always found the idea of exploring a single note over long stretches of time interesting and this song is that idea taken to an extreme logical conclusion. It’s an exploration of the note A in all its possible variations.”

Sugar Horse have recently toured with post-rock luminaries 65daysofstatic across Europe, as well as dates with Pianos Become The Teeth, Liturgy, Chat Pile and an appearance at ArcTanGent festival.

Sugar Horse are:
Ashley Tubb (Vocals/Guitar)
Jake Healy (Baritone Guitar, Keyboards)
Chris Howarth (Bass)
Martin Savage (Drums)



Sugar Horse, “Truth or Consequences, New Mexico” (2023)

Sugar Horse, “III Consequences” visualizer

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Quarterly Review: Astrosaur, Kvasir, Bloodshot, Tons, Mothman & The Thunderbirds vs. World Eaters, Deer Lord, IO Audio Recordings, Bong Voyage, Sun Years, Daevar

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

There was some pretty good stuff this week, I gotta say. Feels self-congratulatory to be like, ‘hey good job slating reviews, me!’ but there it is. I don’t regret hearing anything I have thus far into the Winter 2023 Quarterly Review, and sometimes that’s not the case by the time we get to Friday.

Of course, there’s another week to go here as well. We’ll pick it back up on Monday with another 10 records and proceed from there. If you’ve been following along, I hope you’ve found something you dig as well.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #41-50:

Astrosaur, Portals


This is what happens when you have virtuoso players writing songs rather than paeans to their own virtuosity. Led by founding guitarist Eirik Kråkenes, with drummer Jonathan Eikum (also Taiga Woods) and bassist Steinar Glas (also Einar Stray Orchestra), Astrosaur are blindingly progressive on their third full-length, Portals (on Pelagic), operating with post-metallic atmospheres as a backdrop for stunning instrumental turns, builds and crashes, willful repetition and the defiant denial of same. There’s more scope in the intro “Opening” than on some entire albums, and what “Black Hole Earth” begins from there is a dizzying array of sometimes cosmic sometimes earthborn riffing, twisting bass and mindfully restless drums. “The Deluge” hitting into that chase after four minutes in, that seemingly chaotic swirling noise suddenly stopping “Reptile Empire” and the false start to the 23-minute epic “Eternal Return” — these details and many besides give the overarching weight of Portals at its heaviest a corresponding depth, and when coupled with the guitar’s ability to coast overhead, they are genuinely three-dimension in their sound. You’d be right to want to hear Portals for “Eternal Return” alone, but there’s so much more to it than that.

Astrosaur on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp


Kvasir, Sagittarius A* Star

Kvasir Sagittarius A Star

Kvasir‘s Sagittarius A* Star is named for the black hole at the center of the galaxy, and the 21-minute single-song EP is the follow-up to their 2021 debut album, 4 (review here), a dug-in proto-metallic exploration composed in movements that flow together as a whole organic work. The Portland-based four-piece of guitarists Christopher Lee (also vocals) and Gabriel Langston, bassist Greg Traw and Jay Erbe work on either side between traditional metal and heavy rock riffing, inhabiting both here as “Sagittarius A* Star” launches into its initial verses over the first four minutes, a solo emerging after 5:30 to set the pattern that will hold for the remaining three-fourths of the song. A slowdown takes hold about a minute later and grooves until at about nine minutes in when the bass comes forward and things get funkier. The vocals return at about 11:30 to complement a galloping riff that’s fleshed out until just after the 14-minute mark, when a jazzier instrumental movement begins and the band makes it known they’re going out and not coming back, the swaying finish with more insistent guitar, first interjecting then satisfyingly joining that sway, capping with a (still plotted) jammier feel. If that’s the Milky Way succumbing to ultragravity and being torn apart molecule by molecule en route to physics-defying oblivion, then fair enough. Worse ways to go, certainly.

Kvasir on Facebook

Kvasir on Bandcamp


Bloodshot, Sins of the Father

Bloodshot Sins of the Father

Though the leadoff Sins of the Father gets reminds of circa-’90s noise metal like Nailbomb, Marylander four-piece Bloodshot lean more into a hardcore-informed take on heavy rock with their aggressively-purposed debut album. Comprised of vocalist Jared Winegardner, guitarist Tom Stacey, bassist Joe Ruthvin (ex-Earthride) and drummer JB Matson (ex-War Injun, organizer of Maryland Doom Fest, etc.), the band push to one side or the other throughout, as on the more rocking “Zero Humility” and the subsequent metallic barker “Uncivil War,” the mid-period Megadeth-style riffer “Beaten Into Rebellion,” the brooding-into-chugging closing title-track and “Fyre,” which I’m pretty sure just wants to kick my ass. The 10-track entirety of the album, in fact, seems to hold to that same mentality, and there’s a sense of trying to recapture something that’s been lost that feels inherently conservative in its theme — “Faded Natives,” “Visions of Yesterday,” the speedier “Worn and Torn,” and so on — but gruff though it is, Sins of the Father offers a pissed-off-for-reasons take on heavy that’s likewise intense and methodical. That is to say, they know what they’re doing as they punch you in the throat.

Bloodshot on Facebook

Half Beast Records on Bandcamp

Nervous Breakdown Records store


Tons, Hashension

Tons Hashension

A second release through Heavy Psych Sounds and Tons‘ third full-length overall, Hashension wears its love of all things cannabian on its crusty stoner sludge sleeve throughout its six-track/39-minute run, begun with the riffnotic “Dope Dealer Scum” before “A Hash Day’s Night” introduces the throatripper vocals and backing growls and a more heads-down, speedier tempo that hits into a mosh of a slowdown. “Slowly We Pot” — a play on Obituary‘s Slowly We Rot — to go along with the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd (and Gummo) titular references — follows in a spirit as angry as one imagines Bongzilla might be if someone un-freed their weed. Yes, “Hempathy for the Devil” and “Ummagummo” precede the sample-topped slamming march of “Hashended,” and lo, the well-baked extreme sludge they’ve wrought rumbles and thuds its way out, not so much gnashing in the way of “A Hash Day’s Night” or the roll after the midpoint in “Ummagummo” — though the lyrics there seem to be pure weed-worship — but lumbering in such a way as to ensure the point gets across anyhow. I’m not going to tell you you should be stoned listening to it, because I don’t know, maybe you’re driving or something, but I doubt Tons would argue if you brought some edibles to the gig. Enough to share, perhaps.

Tons on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds store


Mothman & the Thunderbirds vs. World Eaters, Split

Mothman and the Thunderbirds vs World Eaters Split

In the battle of Philly solo-project Mothman and the Thunderbirds vs. Ontario-based duo World Eaters, the numbers may be on the side of the latter, but each act offers something of its own on their shared 18-minute EP. Presenting two tracks from each band, the outing puts Mothman and the Thunderbirds‘ “Rusty Shackleton” and “Nephilim” up front, the latter particularly reinforcing the Devin Townsend influence on the part of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Alex Parkinson, while “Flash of Green” and “The Siege” from World Eaters — drummer Winter Stomp and guitarist/bassist/vocalist/synthesist David Gupta — present an atmospheric death metal, more than raw bludgeoning, but definitely that as well. As a sampler platter for both bands, there’s more time to get to know World Eaters since their songs are markedly longer, but the contrast from one to the other and the progression into the mire of “The Siege” gives the split an overlaid personality, almost a narrative, and the melodies in Parkinson‘s two cuts have a lingering presence over the masterful decay that follows in World Eater‘s material. One way or the other, these are both relatively upstart projects and their will toward progression is clear, as pummeling as its form may be. Right on.

Mothman & The Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

World Eaters on Bandcamp


Deer Lord, Dark Matter Pt. 1

Deer Lord Dark Matter Pt 1

Preceded by the two-song single Witches Brew/Psychedelic Roadkill, the six-song/24-minute Dark Matter Pt. 1 is short but feels nonetheless like a debut album from Sonoma County, California (try the cabernet), three-piece Deer Lord, who present adventures like getting stoned with witches on a mountaintop, riding free with an out-on-bail “Hippie Girl” in the backseat of presumably some kind of roadster, going down the proverbial highway and, at last, welcoming you to “Planet Earth” after calling out and casting off any and all “Ego” along the way. It is a modern take on stonerized heavy, starting off with “Witches Brew” as the opener/longest track (immediate points) with a languid flow and psychedelic underpinnings that flesh out even amid the apex soloing of “Planet Earth” or the fervent push of the earlier “Ride Away,” that tempo hitting a wall with the intro of “Ego” (don’t worry, it takes off) so as to support the argument in favor of Dark Matter Pt. 1 as an admittedly brief full-length, the component tracks working off each other to enhance the entirety. The elements beneath are familiar enough, but Deer Lord put an encouraging spin of their own on it, and especially as their debut, it’s hard to imagine some label or other won’t get on board, if not for pressing this, then maybe Pt. 2 to come. Perhaps both?

Deer Lord on Facebook

Deer Lord on Bandcamp


IO Audio Recordings, Awaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK

IO Audio Recordings Awaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK

Compiling two 2022 EPs into a single LP and releasing through a microcosm of underground imprints in various terrestrial locales, IO Audio RecordingsAwaiting the Elliptical Drift & VVK is my first exposure to the Orange, CA, out-there-in-space unit, and from the blower kosmiche rocking “Awaiting the Elliptical Drift” to the sitar meditation “Luminous Suspension,” and the hazy wash of “Sunrise and Overdrive” (that’s side A) to the experimentalist consumption of “VVK” and “Gramanita” rounding out with its heartbeat rhythm giving over to a hardly-flatlined drone after shuffling cool and bassy and fuzzy with jangly jam strum overtop, I tell you in all sincerity it won’t be my last. There’s a broad cross-section stylistically, which suits a compilation mindset, but I get the feeling that if you called it an album instead, the situation would be much the same thanks to an underlying conceptualism and the adventuring purpose beneath the open-structured fluidity. That’s just fine, as IO Audio Recordings‘ sundry transformations only enhance the anything-that-works-goes and shelf-your-expectations listening experience. Not that there’s no tension in their groovy approach, but the abiding sensibility advises an open mind and maybe a couple deep breaths in and out before you take it on. But then definitely take it on. If you need me, I’ll be spending money I don’t have on Bandcamp.

Weird Beard Records store

Fuzzed Up and Astromoon Records on Bandcamp

We Here & Now on Bandcamp

Ramble Records on Bandcamp

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp


Bong Voyage, Feverlung

Bong Voyage Feverlung

While “bong” in a band name usually connotes dense sludge in my head, Oslo four-piece Bong Voyage defy that stereotype with their Dec. 2022-released second single, “Feverlung” — the first single was October’s “Buzzed Aldrin” — and no, the song isn’t about the pandemic, it’s about getting high. The six-minute rocker hoists jammy flourish mostly in its second half, in a break that, in turn, shifts into uptempo semi-space rock post-Slift pulsations atop a progression that, while I’ll readily admit it sounds little like the song on the whole still puts me in mind of Kyuss‘ “Odyssey” in its vocal patterning and melody. That ending is a step outward from the solidified early verses, which are more straight ahead heavy rock in the vein of Freedom Hawk or a less-directly-Ozzy take on Sheavy, and while one listening for them to bring it back around to the initial riff will find that they don’t, the band’s time isn’t necessarily misspent in terms of serving the song by letting it push beyond exospheric traps. They won’t catch me by surprise next time aesthetically, and it wouldn’t be a shock to find Bong Voyage in among the subset of up and coming heavy rockers that’s put Norway on the underground radar so much these last couple years. Either way, I’ll look forward to more here.

Bong Voyage on Facebook

Bong Voyage on Bandcamp


Sun Years, Sun Years (Demo)

IMGSun years demo

In its early going, Sun Years‘ “Codex” stagger-sludges like Eyehategod with guitarist Dalton Huskin‘s shouty echoing vocals on top, but as it moves into its second half, there’s a pickup in tempo and a bit of swirling lead guitar emerges in the 4:37 song’s closing stretch as Asechiah Bogdan (ex-Windhand, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy) makes his presence felt. Alongside bassist Buddy Bryant and drummer Erik Larson (once-and-again guitarist for Alabama Thunderpussy, drummer of Avail, Omen Stones, ex-Backwoods Payback, the list goes on), Bogdan and Huskin explore mellower and more melodic reaches the subsequent “Teeth Like Stars,” still holding some of their demo’s lead track’s urgency as a weighted riff takes hold in trade with the relatively subdued verse. That’s a back and forth they’ll do again, moving the second time from the more weighted progression into a solo and build into a return of the harsher vocals, some double-kick drumming and a last shove that lasts until everything drops out except one guitar and that riffs for a few seconds before being cut off mid-measure. Well, that’s a band with more dynamic in their first two tracks than some have in their entire careers, so I guess it’s safe to say it’ll be worth following the Richmond, Virginia, foursome to see where they end up next time out.

Sun Years on Bandcamp

Minimum Wage Recording on Facebook


Daevar, Delirious Rites

Daevar Delirious Rites Cover

Recorded by Jan Oberg (Grin, Slowshine, EarthShip) at Hidden Planet Studio in Berlin, Daevar‘s five-track/32-minute 2023 debut album, Delirious Rites, arrives likewise through Oberg‘s imprint The Lasting Dose Records and finds the man himself sitting in for guest vocals on the 10-minute “Leviathan” alongside the band’s own bassist/vocalist Pardis Latif, who leads the band from the depths of the rhythm section’s lurch on the gradually unfolding Windhand-vibing leadoff “Slowshine,” the particularly Monolordian “Bloody Fingers” with Caspar Orfgen‘s guitar howling over a marching riff, and “Leila” where Moritz Ermen Bausch‘s drums offer a welcoming grounding to Electric Wizardly nod and swirl. Thus, by the time his spot in the aforementioned “Leviathan” rolls (and I do mean rolls) around, just ahead of closer “Yellow Queen,” the layers of growling and screaming he adds to the procession are a standout shift well placed to play off the atmosphere established by the previous tracks. Shortest at 5:10, “Yellow Queen” lumbers through more ethereal doom and hints at a psychedelic current that might continue to develop in a midsection drifting break that builds back into the catchy plod from whence it came. Not necessarily innovative at this point — they’re a new band — but they seem to know what they want in terms of sound and style, and that only ever bodes well.

Daevar on Facebook

The Lasting Dose Records on Bandcamp


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Quarterly Review: White Hills, Dystopian Future Movies, Basalt Shrine, Psychonaut, Robot God, Aawks, Smokes of Krakatau, Carrier Wave, Stash, Lightsucker

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

quarterly-review-winter 2023

In many ways, this is my favorite kind of Quarterly Review day. I always place things more or less as I get them, and let the days fill up randomly, but there are different types that come out of that. Some are heavier on riffs, some (looking at you, Monday) are more about atmosphere, and some are all over the place. That’s this. There’s no getting in a word rut — “what’s another way to say ‘loud and fuzzy?'” — when the releases in question don’t sound like each other.

As we move past the halfway point of the first week of this double-wide Quarterly Review, 100 total acts/offerings to be covered, that kind of thing is much appreciated on my end. Keeps the mind limber, as it were. Let’s roll.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #21-30:

White Hills, The Revenge of Heads on Fire

white hills the revenge of heads on fire

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — goes that White Hills stumbled on an old hard drive with 2007’s Heads on Fire‘s recording files on it, recovered them, and decided it was time to flesh out the original album some 15 years after the fact, releasing The Revenge of Heads on Fire through their own Heads on Fire Records imprint in fashion truer to the record’s original concept. Who would argue? Long-established freaks as they are, can’t White Hills basically do whatever the hell they want and it’ll be at the very least interesting? Sure enough, the 11-song starburster they’ve summoned out of the ether of memory is lysergic and druggy and sprawling through Dave W. and Ego Sensation‘s particular corner of heavy psychedelia and space rocks, “Visions of the Past, Present and Future” sounding no less vital for the passing of years as they’re still on a high temporal shift, riding a cosmic ribbon that puts “Speed Toilet” where “Revenge of Speed Toilet” once was in reverse sequeling and is satisfyingly head-spinning whether or not you ever heard the original. That is to say, context is nifty, but having your brain melted is better, and White Hills might screw around an awful lot, but they’re definitely not screwing around. You heard me.

White Hills on Facebook

White Hills on Bandcamp


Dystopian Future Movies, War of the Ether

dystopian future movies war of the ether

Weaving into and out of spoken word storytelling and lumbering riffy largesse, nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “She Up From the Drombán Hill” has a richly atmospheric impact on what follows throughout Dystopian Future Movies‘ self-issued third album, War of the Ether, the residual feedback cutting to silence ahead of a soft beginning for “Critical Mass” as guitarist/vocalist Caroline Cawley pairs foreboding ambience with noise rocking payoffs, joined by her Church of the Cosmic Skull bandmate Bill Fisher on bass/drums and Rafe Dunn on guitar for eight songs that owe some of their root to ’90s-era alt heavy but have grown into something of their own, as demonstrated in the willfully overwhelming apex of “The Walls of Filth and Toil” or the dare-a-hook ending of the probably-about-social-media “The Veneer” just prior. The LP runs deeper as it unfurls, each song setting forth on its own quiet start save for the more direct “License of Their Lies” and offering grim but thoughtful craft for a vision of dark heavy rock true both to the band’s mission and the album’s troubled spirit. Closer “A Decent Class of Girl” rolls through volume swells in what feels like a complement to “She Up From the Drombán Hill,” but its bookending wash only highlights the distance the audience has traveled alongside Cawley and company. Engrossing.

Dystopian Future Movies on Facebook

Dystopian Future Movies store


Basalt Shrine, From Fiery Tongues

Basalt Shrine From Fiery Tongues

Though in part defined by the tectonic megasludge of “In the Dirt’s Embrace,” Filipino four-piece Basalt Shrine are no more beholden to that on From Fiery Tongues than they are the prior opening drone “Thawed Slag Blood,” the post-metallic soundscaping of the title-track, the open-spaced minimalism of closer “The Barren Aftermath” or the angular chug at the finish of centerpiece “Adorned for Loathing Pigs.” Through these five songs, the Manila-based outfit plunge into the darker, denser and more extreme regions of sludgy stylizations, and as they’ve apparently drawn the notice of US-based Electric Talon Records and sundry Euro imprints, safe to say the secret is out. Fair enough. The band guide “From Fiery Tongues,” song and album, with an entrancing churn that is as much about expression as impact, and the care they take in doing so — even at their heaviest and nastiest — isn’t to be understated, and especially as their debut, their ambition manifests itself in varied ways nearly all of which bode well for coming together as the crux of an innovative style. Not predicting anything, but while From Fiery Tongues doesn’t necessarily ring out with a hopeful viewpoint for the world at large, one can only listen to it and be optimistic about the prospects for the band themselves.

Basalt Shrine on Facebook

Electric Talon Records store


Psychonaut, Violate Consensus Reality

Psychonaut Violate Consensus Reality

Post-metallic in its atmosphere, there’s no discounting the intensity Belgium trio Psychonaut radiate on their second album, Violate Consensus Reality (on Pelagic). The prog-metal noodling of “All Your Gods Have Gone” and the singing-turns-to-screaming methodology on the prior opener “A Storm Approaching” begin the 52-minute eight-tracker with a fervency that affects everything that comes after, and as “Age of Separation” builds into its full push ahead of the title-track, which holds tension in its first half and shows why in its second, a halfway-there culmination before the ambient and melodic “Hope” turns momentarily from some of the harsher insistence before it, a summary/epilogue for the first platter of the 2LP release. The subsequent “Interbeing” is black metal reimagined as modern prog — flashes of Enslaved or Amorphis more than The Ocean or Mastodon, and no complaints — and the procession from “Hope” through “Interbeing” means that the onslaught of “A Pacifist’s Guide to Violence,” all slam and controlled plunder, is an apex of its own before the more sprawling, 12-minute capper “Towards the Edge,” which brings guest appearances from BrutusStefanie Mannaerts and the most esteemed frontman in European post-metal, Colin H. van Eeckhout of Amenra, whose band Psychonaut admirably avoid sounding just like. That’s not often the case these days.

Psychonaut on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp


Robot God, Worlds Collide

robot god worlds collide

If you’re making your way through this post, skimming for something that looks interesting, don’t discount Sydney, Australia’s Robot God on account of their kinda-generic moniker. After solidifying — moltenifying? — their approach to longform-fuzz on their 2020 debut, Silver Buddha Dreaming, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Raff Iacurto, bassist/vocalist Matt Allen and drummer Tim Pritchard offer the four tracks of their sophomore LP, Worlds Collide, through Kozmik Artifactz in an apparent spirit of resonance, drawing familiar aspects of desert-style heavy rock out over songs that feel exploratory even as they’re born of recognizable elements. “Sleepwalking” (11:25) sets a broad landscape and the melody over the chugger riff in the second half of “Ready to Launch” (the shortest inclusion at 7:03) floats above it smoothly, while “Boogie Man” (11:24) pushes over the edge of the world and proceeds to (purposefully) tumble loosely downward in tempo from there, and the closing title-track (11:00) departs from its early verses along a jammier course, still plotted, but clearly open to the odd bit of happy-accidentalism. It’s a niche that seems difficult to occupy, and a difficult balance to strike between hooking the listener with a riff and spacing out, but Robot God mostly avoid the one-or-the-other trap and create something of their own from both sides; reminiscent of… wait for it… worlds colliding. Don’t skip it.

Robot God on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store


AAWKS, Heavy on the Cosmic

AAWKS Heavy on the Cosmic

Released in June 2022 and given a late-in-the-year vinyl issue seemingly on the strength of popular demand alone, AAWKS‘ debut full-length, Heavy on the Cosmic sets itself forth with the immersive, densely-fuzzed nodder riff and stoned vocal of longest track (immediate points) “Beyond the Sun,” which finds start-with-longest-song complement on side B’s “Electric Traveller” (rare double points). Indeed there’s plenty to dig about the eight-song outing, from the boogie in “Sunshine Apparitions,” the abiding vibe of languid grunge and effects-laced chicanery that pervade the crashouts of “The Woods” to the memorable, slow hook-craft of “All is Fine.” Over on side B, the momentum early in “Electric Traveller” rams headfirst into its own slowdown, while “Space City” reinforces the no-joke tonality and Elephant Tree-style heavy/melodic blend before the penultimate mostly-instrumental “Star Collider” resolves itself like Floor at half-speed and closer “Peeling Away” lives up to its title with a departure of psychedelic soloing and final off-we-go loops. The word-of-mouth hype around AAWKS was and is significant, and the Ontario-based four-piece tender three-dimensional sound to justify it, the record too brief at 39 minutes to actually let the listener get lost while providing multiple opportunities for headphone escapism. A significant first LP.

AAWKS on Facebook

AAWKS on Bandcamp


Smokes of Krakatau, Smokes of Krakatau

Smokes of Krakatau Smokes of Krakatau

The core methodology of Polish trio Smokes of Krakatau across their self-titled debut seems to be to entrance their audience and then blindside them with a riffy punch upside the head. Can’t argue if it works, which it does, right from the gradual unfurling of 10-minute instrumental opener “Absence of Light” before the chunky-style riff of “GrassHopper” lumbers into the album’s first vocals, delivered with a burl that reminds of earlier Clutch. There are two more extended tracks tucked away at the end — “Septic” (10:07) and “Kombajn Bizon” (11:37) — but before they get there, “GrassHopper” begins a movement across four songs that brings the band to arguably their most straightforward piece of all, the four-minute “Carousel,” as though the ambient side of their persona was being drained out only to return amid the monolithic lumber that pays off the build in “Septic.” It’s a fascinating whole-album progression, but it works and it flows right unto the bluesy reach of “Kombajn Bizon,” which coalesces around a duly massive lurch in its last minutes. It’s a simplification to call them ‘stoner doom,’ but that’s what they are nonetheless, though the manner in which they present their material is as distinguishing a factor as that material itself in the listening experience. The band are not done growing, but if you let their songs carry you, you won’t regret going where they lead.

Smokes of Krakatau on Facebook

Smokes of Krakatau on Bandcamp


Carrier Wave, Carrier Wave

Carrier Wave self-titled

Is it the riff-filled land that awaits, or the outer arms of the galaxy itself? Maybe a bit of both on Bellingham, Washington-based trio Carrier Wave‘s four-song self-titled debut, which operates with a reverence for the heft of its own making that reminds of early YOB without trying to ape either Mike Scheidt‘s vocal or riffing style. That works greatly to the benefit of three-piece — guitarist/vocalist James Myers, bassist/vocalist Taber Wilmot, drummer Joe Rude — who allow some raucousness to transfuse in “Skyhammer” (shortest song at 6:53) while surrounding that still-consuming breadth with opener “Cosmic Man” (14:01), “Monolithic Memories” (11:19) and the subsequent finale “Evening Star” (10:38), a quiet guitar start to the lead-and-longest track (immediate points) barely hinting at the deep tonal dive about to take place. Tempo? Mostly slow. Space? Mostly dark and vast. Ritual? Vital, loud and awaiting your attendance. There’s crush and presence and open space, surges, ebbs, flows and ties between earth and ether that not every band can or would be willing to make, and much to Carrier Wave‘s credit, at 42 minutes, they engage a kind of worldmaking through sound that’s psychedelic even as it builds solid walls of repetitive riffing. Not nasty. Welcoming, and welcome in itself accordingly.

Carrier Wave on Facebook

Carrier Wave on Bandcamp


Stash, Through Rose Coloured Glasses

Stash Through Rose Coloured Glasses

With mixing/mastering by Chris Fielding (Conan, etc.), the self-released first full-length from Tel Aviv’s Stash wants nothing for a hard-landing thud of a sound across its nine songs/45 minutes. Through Rose Coloured Glasses has a kind of inherent cynicism about it, thanks to the title and corresponding David Paul Seymour cover art, and its burl — which goes over the top in centerpiece “No Real” — is palpable to a defining degree. There’s a sense of what might’ve happened if C.O.C. had come from metal instead of punk rock, but one way or the other, Stash‘s grooves remain mostly throttled save for the early going of the penultimate “Rebirth.” The shove is marked and physical, and the tonal purpose isn’t so much to engulf the listener with weight as to act as the force pushing through from one song to the next, each one — “Suits and Ties,” “Lie” and certainly the opener “Invite the Devil for a Drink” — inciting a sense of movement, speaking to American Southern heavy without becoming entirely adherent to it, finding its own expression through roiling, chugging brashness. But there’s little happenstance in it — another byproduct of a metallic foundation — and Stash stay almost wholly clearheaded while they crash through your wall and proceed to break all the shit in your house, sonically speaking.

Stash on Facebook

Stash on Bandcamp


Lightsucker, Stonemoon

Lightsucker Stonemoon

Though it opens serene enough with birdsong and acoustic guitar on “Intro(vert,” the bulk of Lightsucker‘s second LP, Stonemoon is more given to a tumult of heavy motion, drawing together elements of atmospheric sludge and doom with shifts between heavy rock groove and harder-landing heft. And in “Pick Your God,” a little bit of death metal. An amalgam, then. So be it. The current that unites the Finnish four-piece’s material across Stonemoon is unhinged sludge rock that, in “Lie,” “Land of the Dead” and the swinging “Mob Psychosis” reminds of some of Church of Misery‘s shotgun-blues chaos, but as the careening “Guayota” and the deceptively steady push of “Justify” behind the madman vocals demonstrate, Lightsucker‘s ambitions aren’t so simply encapsulated. So much the better for the listening experience of the 35-minute/eight-song entirety, as from “Intro(vert)” through the suitably pointy snare hits of instrumental closer “Stalagmites,” Lightsucker remain notably unpredictable as they throw elbows and wreak havoc from one song to the next, the ruined debris of genre strewn about behind as if to leave a trail for you to follow after, which, if you can actually keep up with their changes, you might just do.

Lightsucker on Facebook

Lightsucker on Bandcamp


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Sâver Premiere “Shot Put” Video From Split EP with Frøkedal

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on November 24th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Saver frokedal split ep

On Dec. 2, Pelagic Records will release the new split EP between Norwegian outfits Sâver and Frøkedal. History — namely Sâver‘s 2021 split LP with Belgium’s Psychonaut (review here) — teaches us that when the Oslo-based post-sludge trio team up with somebody, it’s not an accident, and the emphasis on breadth as regards this two-song offering is not misplaced. Each party has chosen a track of the other’s and pushed themselves outside the limits of expectation in order to present it across a 10″ vinyl.

Frøkedal, née Anne Lise Frøkedal issued the song “Shot-Put” on 2021’s Flora full-length, working with full-band backing under the banner of Frøkedal & Family. In her original version, neofolk and organic drones set a richly atmospheric backdrop for her confident and organic vocal layering. Sâver approach it as an opportunity to expand their sonic palette by redirecting their own style toward loyalty to the original track. They turn strings to synth, and the feeling is somewhat more minimalist, with floating melodic drone behind the clean-sung verses and a sense of broadening Frøkedal‘s piece that extends beyond just the increase in runtime. The song becomes a wash mindfully, but even in its last residual synth reaches retains its sense of purpose and patience.

Brought into Frøkedal‘s hands, Sâver‘s “I, Vanish” becomes a harmonic meditation reminiscent instrumentally somewhat of a quiet stretch on NeurosisA Sun That Never Sets, but the vocals and string sounds direct its transportive sensibilities elsewhere. Not entirely earthy but definitely born on this planet, “I, Vanish” — which originally appeared on Sâver‘s 2019 debut LP, They Came With Sunlight (review here) — reaches a stirring vocal crescendo before hitting the four-minute mark and retains some of its original lurch thereafter, but is duly transformed from something crushing into a vibrancy no less immersive. In the context of this release, each artist branching beyond themselves, Frøkedal‘s interpretation of “I, Vanish” is no less bold than that of Sâver taking on “Shot-Put.”

Sâver‘s “Shot-Put” is premiering in the video below, followed by copious PR wire background — without narrative, we are but beasts; also with it — and I’ve also included the streams at the bottom of this post of Flora and They Came With Sunlight, neither of which you will regret digging into if you haven’t before, and each of which offers its own kind of encompassing welcome to the listener, even if in one case that means hitting you in the head with a hammer. Still counts.

Please enjoy:

Sâver, “Shot-Put” official video

“Shot Put” is taken from Frøkedal / Sâver’s upcoming Split EP. Out Dec 2 via Pelagic Records.

Video credits: Glenn Marshal

Norway is home to many genre-bending artists and its music scene has been an explorative playground for fans of transcendental music. We are happy to present a unique collaboration between two remarkable Norwegian acts who each represent two far ends of an intriguing spectrum.

Frøkedal is a popular folk singer-songwriter whose haunting vocals have scored the music of various acclaimed bands over the past decade. The members of Sâver are veterans of the Norwegian heavy scene. Having toured all over the world playing renowned festivals like Roadburn and Psycho Las Vegas, they now fill and orchestrate the gap between eerie softness and furious anger as a three-piece atmospheric sludge metal ensemble.

This split 10” sees each of these artists present a song from the respective other artist’s back catalogue, finding a transcendental middle ground between the other artist’s musical realm and their own sphere.

Commenting on the beginning of her own musical career, Frøkedal notes: “Because everyone has a computer these days there’s no limit to how many times you can multi-track. I [was] sick of that. I hoped to go the other way – to remove as much as I could and be left with a beating heart.”

Remarkably, Sâver have done just that in their execution of Frøkedal’s track «Shot-Put», turning down their guitars to give space to clean vocals and laying bare the synths that are an integral part of their sound. Driven by deep drones and soft layered vocals, the Homeric simile of a meeting at the shot put becomes even more compelling, turning the folksy original into a haunting ambient rock opus. In turn, Frøkedal lays bare the heart of «I Vanish» from Sâver’s debut LP in a gently swaying but bewitching folk version.

In a world somewhere between the triple harmony magic of The Staves and the polyphonic madness of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, Anne Lise conjures the unsettling path towards obliteration.

Many things can be said about the way these songs sound and even about how they transcend the originals in some ways, but the true beauty of this EP lies in the way both Frøkedal and Sâver incline towards each other to find a middle ground that is yet unexplored in their respective careers. Coming together, they prove that beauty is found in the eye of the beholder, but transcendence is found in the eye of the storm!

Frøkedal, Flora (2021)

Sâver, They Came With Sunlight (2019)

SÂVER on Facebook

SÂVER on Instagram

SÂVER on Bandcamp

Frøkedal on Instagram

Frøkedal on Facebook

Frøkedal on Bandcamp

Pelagic Records website

Pelagic Records on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Instagram

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: James Farwell of Bison B.C.

Posted in Questionnaire on July 29th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

James Farwell of Bison

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: James Farwell of Bison B.C.

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

“I write songs for sad people to be sad”. That’s a quote from my son, George. Pretty much sums it up. I am constantly pulling myself back together with the songs I write.

Describe your first musical memory.

Watching the video for “Dancing With Tears in my Eyes”, creating my own feelings about love and death as I hid under my blankets.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Watching Chi Pig hanging from the rafters at the Cauldron in Winnipeg (’88?)

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

When we decided to leave a big label.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Poverty. Solitude. Smaller rooms. Happiness.

How do you define success?

Success? There is no success. My children are inheriting a dying world. Success would be a time machine.

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

A man bleeding and wanting to die with his dog standing by his side.

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

A book of poetry. I’ve always loved poetry. Song lyrics can be poetry, but they are more put together as a puzzle, fit to the music that inspired them. Poetry is inspired by silence and the rage within. Art that has no origin, it simply has always existed.

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

To make welcome new feelings that may be alien or jarring.

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

A summer of bike rides with my sons, George and Charlie.



Bison, You Are Not the Ocean, You Are the Patient (2017)

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Psychonaut Announce Violate Consensus Reality Out Oct. 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Belgian psychonauts Psychonaut (wait. what?) will issue their new full-length, Violate Consensus Reality, on Oct. 28 through Pelagic Records, and with that, I’ll turn you over to the new streaming track, “Interbeing.”

What, no wax poetry about the band’s psychedelic progressive metal? No comparisons to other acts that either aren’t relevant or just make no sense to anyone other than myself? No hyperbole about the potential for what the first single means for the rest of the album?

No. Fuck it. Sometimes the song is enough.

From the PR wire:

PSYCHONAUT Photo by Gert Stockmans

PSYCHONAUT To Release Violate Consensus Reality Full-Length Via Pelagic Records October 28th; “Interbeing” Video Now Playing

Belgium-based progressive post-metal trio PSYCHONAUT will release their Violate Consensus Reality full-length on October 28th via Pelagic Records. In advance of the record’s release, today the band unveils first single “Interbeing,” out now on all streaming platforms.

“Interbeing” is a perfect example of how PSYCHONAUT can embody their subject matter through sound and dynamics. Rather than hiding a mediocre melody behind a big climax, the trio from Mechelen first embodies the moment, before blowing it up to larger-than-life proportions. Similar to classic hard rock tracks like “Achilles Last Stand” or “Immigrant Song,” every note feels devoted to the revelation of a new civilization rooted in mindful co-existence — an enlightening addition to progressive metal.

View PSYCHONAUT’s “Interbeing” video HERE. Stream/download the track HERE.

Stay tuned for more info on Violate Consensus Reality including track listing, additional singles, and preorders to be unveiled in the coming weeks.



Psychonaut, “Interbeing”

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