Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Insect Ark, Heath, The Cosmic Dead, The Watchers, Juke Cove, Laurel Canyon, Tet, Aidan Baker, Trap Ratt

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Good morning and heavy riffs. Today is day 7 of the Quarterly Review. It’s already been a lot, but there are still 30 more releases to cover over the next three days, so I assure you at some point I’ll have that nervous breakdown that’s been ticking away in the back of my brain. A blast as always, which I mean both sincerely and sarcastically, somehow.

But when we’re done, 100 releases will have been covered, and I get a medal sent to me whenever that happens from the UN’s Stoner Rock Commission on Such Things, so I’ll look forward to that. In the meantime, we’re off.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Ufomammut, Hidden

ufomammut hidden

Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2024, and as they always have, they do so by looking and moving forward. Hidden is the 10th LP in their catalog, the second to feature drummer Levre — who made his debut on 2022’s Fenice (review here) alongside bassist/vocalist Urlo and guitarist Poia (both also keyboards) — and it was preceded by last year’s Crookhead EP (review here), the 10-minute title-track of which is repurposed as the opener here. A singular, signature blend of heft and synth-based atmospherics, Ufomammut roll fluidly through the six-tracker check-in, and follow on from Fenice in sounding refreshed while digging into their core stylistic purposes. “Spidher” brings extra tonal crush around its open verse, and “Mausoleum” has plenty of that as well but is less condensed and hypnotic in its atmospheric midsection, Ufomammut paying attention to details while basking in an overarching largesse. The penultimate “Leeched” was the lead single for good reason, and the four-minute “Soulost” closes with a particularly psychedelic exploration of texture and drone with the drums keeping it moving. 25 years later and there’s still new things to discover. I hear the universe is like that.

Ufomammut website

Supernatural Cat website

Neurot Recordings website

Insect Ark, Raw Blood Singing

insect ark raw blood singing

Considering some of the places Dana Schechter has taken Insect Ark over the project’s to-date duration, most of Raw Blood Singing might at times feel daringly straightforward, but that’s hardly a detriment to the material itself. Songs like “The Hands” bring together rhythmic tension and melodic breadth, as soundscapes of drone, low end chug and the drumming of Tim Wyskida (also Khanate, Blind Idiot God) cast a morose, encompassing atmospheric vision. And rest assured, while “The Frozen Lake” lumbers through its seven minutes of depressive post-sludge — shades of The Book of Knots at their heaviest, but still darker — and “Psychological Jackal” grows likewise harsher and horrific, the experimentalist urge continues to resonate; the difference is it’s being set to serve the purposes of the songs themselves in “Youth Body Swayed” or “Cleaven Hearted,” which slogs like death-doom with a strum cutting through to replace vocals, whereas the outro “Ascension” highlights the noise on its own. It is a bleak, consuming course presented over Raw Blood Singing‘s 45 minutes, but there’s solace in the catharsis as well.

Insect Ark website

Debemur Murti Productions website

Heath, Isaak’s Marble

Heath Isaak's Marble

Laced through with harmonica and organic vibes, Netherlands-based five-piece Heath make their full-length debut with the four extended tracks of Isaak’s Marble, reveling in duly expansive jams keyed for vibrancy and a live sound. They are somewhat the band-between as regards microgenres, with a style that can be traced on the opening title-cut to heavy ’70s funk-boogie-via-prog-rock, and the harmonica plays a role there before spacing out with echo over top of the psychedelia beginning of “Wondrous Wetlands.” The wetlands in question, incidentally, might just be the guitar tone, but that haze clears a bit as the band saunters into a light shuffle jam before the harder-hitting build into a crescendo that sounds unhinged but is in fact quite under control as it turns back to a softshoe-ready groove with organ, keys, harmonica, guitar all twisting around with the bass and drums. Sitar and vocal harmonies give the shorter-at-six-minutes “Strawberry Girl” a ’60s psych-pop sunshine, but the undercurrent is consistent with the two songs before as Heath highlight the shroomier side of their pastoralism, ahead of side B capper “Valley of the Sun” transitioning out of that momentary soundscape with clear-eyed guitar and flute leading to an angular progression grounded by snare and a guitar solo after the verse that leads the shift into the final build. They’re not done, of course, as they bring it all to a rousing end and some leftover noise; subdued in the actual-departing, but still resonant in momentum and potential. These guys might just be onto something.

Heath website

Suburban Records store

The Cosmic Dead, Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead, releasing through Heavy Psych Sounds, count Infinite Peaks as their ninth LP since 2011. I’ll take them at their word since between live offerings, splits, collections and whatnot, it’s hard sometimes to know what’s an album. Similarly, when immersed in the 23-minute cosmic sprawl of “Navigator #9,” it can become difficult to understand where you stop and the universe around you begins. Rising quickly to a steady, organ-inclusive roll, the Glaswegian instrumental psilocybinists conjure depth like few of their jam-prone ilk and remain entrancing as “Navigator #9” shifts into its more languid, less-consuming middle movement ahead of the resurgent finish. Over on side B, “Space Mountain” (20:02) is a bit more drastic in the ends it swaps between — a little noisier and faster up front, followed by a zazzy-jazzy push with fiddle and effects giving over to start-stop bass and due urgency in the drums complemented by fuzz like they just got in a room and this happened before the skronky apex and unearthly comedown resolve in a final stretch of drone. Ninth record or 15th, whatever. Their mastery of interstellar heavy exploration is palpable regardless of time, place or circumstance. Infinite Peaks glimpses at that dimensional makeup.

The Cosmic Dead website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

The Watchers, Nyctophilia

The Watchers Nyctophilia

Perhaps telegraphing some of their second long-player’s darker intentions in the cover art and the title Nyctophilia — a condition whereby you’re happier and more comfortable in darkness — if not the choice of Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Death Angel, etc.) to produce, San Francisco’s The Watchers are nonetheless a heavy rock and roll band. What’s shifted in relation to their 2018 debut, Black Abyss (review here), is the angle of approach they take in getting there. What hasn’t changed is the strength of songwriting at their foundation or the hitting-all-their-marks professionalism of their execution, whether it’s Tim Narducci bringing a classic reach to the vocals of “Garden Tomb” or the precise muting in his and Jeremy Von Epp‘s guitars and Chris Lombardo‘s bass on “Haunt You When I’m Dead” and Nick Benigno‘s declarative kickdrum stomping through the shred of “They Have No God.” The material lands harder without giving up its capital-‘h’ Heavy, which is an accomplishment in itself, but The Watchers set a high standard last time out and Nyctophilia lives up to that while pursuing its own semi-divergent ends.

The Watchers on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Juke Cove, Tempest

juke cove tempest

Leipzig’s Juke Cove follow a progressive course across eight songs and 44 minutes of Tempest, between nodding riffs of marked density and varying degrees of immediacy, whether it’s the might-just-turn-around-on-you “Hypnosis” early on or the shove with which the duly brief penultimate piece “Burst” takes off after the weighted crash of and ending stoner-rock janga-janga riff of “Glow” and precedes the also-massive “Xanadu” in the closing position, capping with a fuzzy solo because why not. From opener “The Path” into the bombast of “Hypnosis” and the look-what-we-can-make-riffs-do “Wait,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz Pietrzela, bassist/vocalist Dima Ogorodnov and drummer Maxim Balobin mine aural individualism from familiar-enough genre elements, shaping material of character that benefits from the scope wrought in tone and production. Much to its credit, Tempest feels unforced in speaking to various sides of its persona, and no matter where a given song might go — the watery finish of “Wait” or the space-blues drift that emerges out of psych-leaning noise rock on “Confined,” for example — Juke Cove steer with care and heart alike and are all the more able to bring their audience with them as a result. Very cool, and no, I’m not calling them pricks when I say that.

Juke Cove on Facebook

Juke Cove on Bandcamp

Laurel Canyon, East Side EP

laurel canyon east side

A little more than a year out from their impressive self-titled debut LP (review here), Philly three-piece Laurel Canyon — guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nicholas Gillespie, guitarist/vocalist Serg Cereja, drummer Dylan DePice — offer the East Side three-songer to follow-up on the weighted proto-grunge vibes therein. “East Side” itself, at two and a half minutes, is a little more punk in that as it aligns for a forward push in the chorus between its swaggering verses, while “Garden of Eden” is more directly Nirvana-schooled in making its well-crafted melody sound like something that just tumbled out of somebody’s mouth, pure happenstance, and “Untitled” gets more aggressive in its second half, topping a momentary slowdown/nod with shouts before they let it fall apart at the end. This procession takes place in under 10 minutes and by the time you feel like you’ve got a handle on it, they’re done, which is probably how it should be. East Side isn’t Laurel Canyon‘s first short release, and they’re clearly comfortable in the format, bolstering the in-your-face-itude of their style with a get-in-and-get-out ethic correspondingly righteous in its rawness.

Laurel Canyon on Facebook

Agitated Records website

Tet, Tet

tet tet

If you hadn’t yet come around to thinking of Poland among Europe’s prime underground hotspots, Tet offer their four-song/45-minute self-titled debut for your (re-)consideration. With its lyrics and titles in Polish, Tet draws on the modern heavy prog influence of Elder in some of the 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points), “Srebro i antracyt,” but neither that nor “Dom w cieniu gruszy,” which follows, stays entirely in one place for the duration, and the lush melody that coincides with the unfolding of “Wiosna” is Tet‘s own in more than just language; that is to say, there’s more to distinguish them from their influences than the syllabic. Each inclusion adds complexity to the story their songs are telling, and as closer “Włóczykije” gradually moves from its dronescape by bringing in the drums unveiling the instrumentalist build already underway, Tet carve a niche for themselves in one of the continent’s most crowded scenes. I wonder if they’ve opened for Weedpecker. They could. Or Belzebong, for that matter. Either way, it will be worth looking out for how they expand on these ideas next time around.

Tet linktr.ee

Tet on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker, Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

aidan baker Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

Aidan Baker, also of Nadja, aligns the eight pieces of what I think is still his newest outing — oh wait, nope; this came out in Feb. and in March he had an hour-long drone two-songer out; go figure/glad I checked — to represent the truism of the title Everything is Like Always Until it is Not, and arranges the tracks so that the earlier post-shoegaze in “Everything” or “Like” can be a preface for the more directly drone-based “It” “Is” later on. And yes, there are two songs called “Is.” Does it matter? Definitely not while Baker‘s evocations are actually being heard. Free-jazz drums — not generally known for a grounding effect — do some work in terms of giving all the float that surrounds them a terrestrial aspect, but if you know Baker‘s work either through his solo stuff, Nadja or sundry other collaborations, I probably don’t need to tell you that the 47 minutes of Everything is Like Always Until it is Not fall into the “not like always” category as a defining feature, whether it’s “Until” manifesting tonal heft in waves of static cut through by tom-to-snare-to-cymbal splashes or “Not” seeming unwilling to give itself over to its own flow. I imagine a certain restlessness is how Aidan Baker‘s music happens in the first place. You get smaller encapsulations of that here, if not more traditional accessibility.

Aidan Baker on Facebook

Cruel Nature Recordings on Bandcamp

Trap Ratt, Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Trap Ratt Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Based in the arguable capitol of the Doom Capitol region — Frederick, Maryland — the three-piece Trap Ratt arrive in superbly raw style with the four-song/33-minute Tribus Rattus Mortuus, the last of which, aptly-titled “IV,” features Tim Otis (High Noon Kahuna, Admiral Browning, etc.), who also mixed and mastered, guesting on noise while Charlie Chaplin’s soliloquy from 1940’s The Dictator takes the place of the tortured barebones shouts that accompany the plod of 13-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Sacred Skunk,” seemingly whenever they feel like it. That includes the chugging part before the feedback gets caustic near the song’s end, by the way. “Thieving From the Grieving” — which may or may not have been made up on the spot — repurposes Stooges-style riffing as the foundation for its own decay into noise, and if from anything I’ve said so far about the album you might expect “Take the Gun” to not be accordingly harsh, Trap Ratt have a word and eight minutes of disaffected exploration they’d like to share with you. It’s not every record you could say benefits aesthetically from being recorded live in the band’s rehearsal space, but yes, Tribus Rattus Mortuus most definitely does.

Trap Ratt on Facebook

Trap Ratt on Bandcamp

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Oldest Sea Announce Tour with Aerial Ruin and More Live Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

There are a couple different sets of shows included below, so make sure you keep that in mind as you peruse live dates for Oldest Sea that are set to take place between basically now and July. First, Samantha Marandola will embark on a solo run in Colorado in New Mexico with Denver’s Allison Lorenzen, and in June, the full band will go a Midwestern/East Coast tour in the company of Portland, Oregon’s Aerial Ruin — but have a hometown-adjacent Philadelphia gig with Tribunal, Mares of Thrace and Hiroe slotted for before they go — and their two dates in Boston and D.C. with Have a Nice Life are similarly preceded by a Philly show, this one alongside Wailin Storms and Husbandry. Lest you doubt the pushing-against-genre-barriers intentions of their late-2023 debut, A Birdsong, a Ghost (review here), which, if you heard it, you probably weren’t anyway.

Well received as A Birdsong, a Ghost has been since its release on Darkest Records last December, it’s encouraging to see the band branching out regionally and beyond live. If you aren’t in a place/position to catch them at any of the dates that follow, keep an eye out. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Dig it:

oldest sea and aerial ruin tour poster sq

Says Samantha Marandola, “Erik (Aerial Ruin) and I have been tossing around the idea of touring for nearly two years, and to see it materialize is really exciting. With the exception of Philadelphia, we in Oldest Sea have never played these cities before, and I think it’s been seven or eight years since Aerial Ruin has played this region.”

All OS tour dates listed below:

Oldest Sea SOLO tour with Allison Lorenzen:

5/21 – Santa Fe, NM @ Ghost
5/22 – Taos, NM @ Revolt Gallery Courtyard
5/23 – Trinidad, CO @ Spirit Ditch
5/24 – Colorado Springs, CO – @ What’s Left Records w/ Midwife
5/25 – Denver, CO – @ Squirm Gallery
5/26 – Florence, CO – @ Desert Reef Hot Spring

OS + Aerial Ruin tour:

6/20 – Wheeling, WV @Waterfront Hall
6/21 – Akron, OH @ Buzzbin
6/22 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Brillobox
6/23 – Detroit, MI @ Parts and Labor
6/24 – Cleveland, OH @ No Class
6/25 – Baltimore, MD @ Undercroft
6/26 – York, PA @ The Kennel
6/27 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Meadow (Oldest Sea SOLO performance)

Have a Nice Life tour:

7/19 – Washington DC @ The Howard
7/21 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club

Philly Dates:

6/12 – @ PhilaMOCA w Tribunal, Mares of Thrace and Hiroe
7/12 – @ Milkboy w Wailin Storms and Husbandry

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https://oldestsea1.bandcamp.com/
https://linktr.ee/Oldestsea

https://darkestrecords.bandcamp.com/

Oldest Sea, “Sacred Destruction” official video

Oldest Sea, A Birdsong, A Ghost (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Nebula, Mountain of Misery, Page Williams Turner, Almost Honest, Buzzard, Mt. Echo, Friends of Hell, Red Sun, Wolff & Borgaard, Semuta

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Legend has it that a long time ago, thousands of years ago, before even the founding of the Kingdom of New Jersey itself, there was a man who attempted a two-week, 100-album Quarterly Review. He truly believed and was known to say to his goodlady wife, “Sure, I can do 100 releases in 10 days. That should be fine,” but lo, the gods did smite him for his hubris.

His punishment? That very same Quarterly Review.

Like the best of mythology, the lesson here is don’t be a dumbass and do things like 100-record Quarterly Reviews. Clearly this is a lesson I haven’t learned. Welcome to the next two weeks. Sorry for the typos. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Nebula, Livewired in Europe

Nebula Livewired in Europe

A busy 2023 continued on from a busy 2022 for SoCal heavy rockers Nebula as they supported their seventh album, Transmission From Mothership Earth (review here), and as filthy as was founding guitarist Eddie Glass‘ fuzz on that record, the nine-track (12 on the CD) Livewired in Europe pushes even further into the rawer stoner punk that’s always been at root in their sound. They hit Europe twice in 2023, in Spring and Fall, and in the lumbering sway of “Giant,” the drawl of “Messiah,” the Luciferian wink of that song and “Man’s Best Friend” earlier in the set, and the righteous urgency of what’s listed in the promo as “Down the Mother Fuckin’ Highway” or the shred-charged roll of “Warzone Speedwolf” in the bonus cuts, with bassist Ranch Sironi backing Glass on vocals and Mike Amster wailing away on drums — he’s the glue that never sounds stuck — they document the mania of post-rebirth Nebula as chaotic and forceful in kind, which is precisely what one would most hope for at the start of the gig. It’s not their first live outing, and hopefully it’s not the last either.

Nebula on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Mountain of Misery, The Land

mountain of misery the land

The self-recording/self-releasing Kamil Ziółkowski offers his second solo LP with The Land, following in short order from last Fall’s In Roundness (review here) and the two-songer issued a month after. At six songs and 35 minutes, The Land further distinguishes Mountain of Misery stylistically from Ziółkowski‘s main outfit, Spaceslug. Yes, the two bands share a penchant for textured tones and depth of mix (Haldor Grunberg at Satanic Audio mixed and mastered), and the slow-delivered melodic ‘gaze-style vocals are recognizable, but “The ’90s” puts Nirvana through this somewhat murky, hypnotic filter, and before its shimmering drone caps the album, on closer “Back Again,” the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist reminds a bit of Eddie Vedder. Seekers of nod will find plenty in “Awesome Burn” and the slightly harder-hitting “High Above the Mount” — desert rock in its second half, but on another planet’s desert — while the succession of “Path of Sound” and “Come on Down” feel specifically set to more post-rocking objectives; the plot and riffs likewise thickened. Most of all, it sounds like Mountain of Misery is digging in for a longer-term songwriting exploration, and quickly, and The Land only makes me more excited to find out where it’s headed.

Mountain of Misery on Facebook

Electric Witch Mountain Recordings on Facebook

Page Williams Turner, Page Williams Turner

page williams turner self titled

The named-for-their-names trio Page Williams Turner is comprised of electronicist/mixer Michael Page (Sky Burial, many others), drummer/percussionist Robert Williams (of the harshly brilliant Nightstick) and saxophonist Nik Turner (formerly Hawkwind, et al), and the single piece broken into two sides on their Opposite Records self-titled debut is a duly experimentalist, mic-up-and-go extreme take on free psychedelic jazz, drone, industrial noisemaking, and time-what-is-time-signature manipulation. “Rorrim I” is drawn cinematically into an unstable wormhole circa its 14th minute, and teases serenity before the listener is eaten by a giant spider in some kind of unknowable ritual, and while “Rorrim II” feels less manic on average, its cycles, ebbs and flows remain wildly unpredictable. That’s the point, of course. If the combination of personnel and/or elements seems really, really weird on paper, you’re on the right track. This kind of thing will never be for everybody, but those who can get on its level will find it transportive. If that’s you, safe travels.

Page Williams Turner at Opposite Records Bandcamp

Opposite Records website

Almost Honest, The Hex of Penn’s Woods

almost honest the hex of penn's woods

The spoken intro welcoming the listener to “the greatest and last show of your lives” at the head of the chugging “Mortician Magician” is a little over the top considering the straightforward vibe of much of what follows on the 10 tracks of 2023’s The Hex of Penn’s Woods from Pennsylvania-based heavy rockers Almost Honest, but whether it’s the banjo early or the cowbell later in “Haunted Hunter,” the post-Fu Manchu riffing and gang shouts of “Alien Spiders,” “Ballad of a Mayfly”‘s whistling, the organ in “Amish Hex” (video premiere here), the harmonies of “Colony of Fire,” a bit of sax on “Where the Quakers Dwell,” that quirk in the opener, the funk wrought throughout by Garrett Spangler‘s bass and Quinten Spangler‘s drumming, the metal-rooted intertwining of Shayne Reed and David Kopp‘s guitars or the structural solidity beneath all of it, the band give aural character to coincide with the regionalist themes based on their Pennsylvania Dutch, foothill-Appalachian surroundings, and they dare to make their third album’s 44 minutes fun in addition to thoughtful in its craft.

Almost Honest on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Buzzard, Doom Folk

buzzard doom folk

Based in Western Massachusetts, Buzzard is the solo-project of Christopher Thomas Elliott, and the title of his debut album, Doom Folk, describes his particular intention. As the 12-song/44-minute outing unfolds from the eponymous “Buzzard” at its outset (even that feels like a Sabbathian dogwhistle), the blend of acoustic and electric guitar forms the heart of the arrangements, but more than that, it’s doom and folk, stylistically, that are coming together. What makes it work is that Elliott avoids the trap of 2010s-ish neo-folk posturing as a songwriter, and while there’s a ready supply of apocalyptic mood in the lyrical storytelling and abundant amplified distortion put to dynamic use, the folk he’s speaking to is more traditional. Not lacking intricacy in their percussion, arrangements or melodies, you could nonetheless learn these songs and sing them. “Death Metal in America” alone makes it worth the price of admission, let alone the stellar “Lucifer Rise,” but the sweet foreboding and build of the subsequent “Harvester of Souls” gets even closer to Buzzard‘s intention in bringing together the two sides to manifest a kind of heavy that is immediately and impressively its own. Doom Folk on.

Buzzard on Facebook

Buzzard on Bandcamp

Mt. Echo, Cometh

mt echo cometh

Mt. Echo begin their third full-length primed for resonance with the expansive, patiently wrought “Veil of Unhunger,” leading with their longest track (immediate points) as a way of bringing the listener into the record’s mostly instrumental course with a shimmer of post-rock and later-emerging density of tone. The Nijmegen trio’s follow-up to 2022’s Electric Empire (review here) plays out across a breadth that extends beyond the 44-minute runtime and does more in its pieces than flow smoothly between its loud/quiet tradeoffs. “Round and Round Goes the Crown” brings a guest appearance from Oh Hazar guitarist/vocalist Stefan Kollee that pushes the band into a kind of darker, thoroughly Dutch heavy prog, but even that shift is made smoother by the spoken part on “Brutiful Your Heart” just before, and not necessarily out of line with how “Set at Rest” answers the opener, or the rumble, nod and wash that cap with “If I May.” The overarching sense of growth is palpable, but the songs express more atmospherically than just the band pushing themselves.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

Friends of Hell, God Damned You to Hell

friends of hell god damned you to hell

They’re probably to raw and dug into Satanic cultistry to agree, but with Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson (Nifelheim) on vocals, guitarists Beelzeebubth (Mystifier, etc.) and Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis (Mirror, etc.), bassist Taneli Jarva (Impaled Nazarene, etc.) and drummer Tasos Danazoglou (Mirror, ex-Electric Wizard, etc.) in the lineup for second LP God Damned You to Hell, it’s probably safe to call Friends of Hell a supergroup. Such considerations ultimately have little to do with how the rolling proto-NWOBHM triumphs of “Bringer of Evil” and “Arcane Macabre” play out, but it explains the current of extremity in their purposes that comes through at the start with the title-track and the severity that surrounds in the layering of “Ave Satanatas” as they journey into the underworld to finish with the eight-minute “All the Colors of the Dark.” You’re either going to buy the backpatch or shrug and not get it, and that seems like it’s probably fine with them.

Friends of Hell on Instagram

Rise Above Records website

Red Sun, From Sunset to Dawn

Red Sun From Sunset to Dawn

Not to be confused with France’s Red Sun Atacama, Italian prog-heavy psych instrumentalists Red Sun mark their 10th anniversary with the release of their third album, From Sunset to Dawn, and run a thread of doom through the keyboardy “The Sunset Turns Purple” and “The Shape of Night” on side A to manifest ‘sunset’ while side B unfolds with airier guitar in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and “Towards the End of Darkness” en route to the raga-leaning “The New Sun,” but as much as there is to be said for the power of suggestion and narrative titling, it’s the music itself that realizes the progression described in the name of the album. With a clear influence from My Sleeping Karma in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and the blend of organic hand-percussion and digitized melody in “The New Sun,” Red Sun immerse the listener in the procession from the intro “Where Once Was Light” (mirrored by “Intempesto” at the start of side B) onward, with each song serving as a chapter in the linear concept and story.

Red Sun on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Wolff & Borgaard, Destroyer

wolff and borgaard destroyer

Cinematic enough in sheer sound and the corresponding intensity of mood to warrant the visual collaboration with Kai Lietzke that accompanies the audio release, the collaboration between Hamburg electronic experimentalist Peter Wolff (Downfall of Gaia) and vocalist Jens Borgaard (Knifefight!, solo) moves between minimalist soundscaping and more consuming, weighted purposes. Moments like the beginning of “Transmit” might leave one waiting for when the Katatonia song is going to kick in, but Wolff & Borgaard engage on their own level as each of the nine pieces follows its own poetic course, able to be caustic like the culmination of “Observe” or to bring the penultimate “Extol” to silence gradually before “Reaper” bursts to life with clearly intentional contrast. I heard this or that streaming service is making a Blade Runner 2099 tv series. Sounds like a terrible idea, but it might just be watchable if Wolff & Borgaard get to do the score with a similar evocations of software and soul.

Peter Wolff on Facebook

My Proud Mountain website

Semuta, Glacial Erratic

Semuta Glacial Erratic

The Portland, Oregon, two-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol (ex-Burials) and drummer Ben Stoller (currently also Simple Forms, Dark Numbers, ex-Vanishing Kids) do much to ingratiate themselves both to the crowded underground of which their hometown is an epicenter, and to the broader sphere of heavy-progressivism in modern doom and sludge. Across the five tracks of their self-released for now debut full-length, Glacial Erratic, the pair offer a panacea of heavy sounds, angular in the urgency of “Toeing the Line,” which opens, or the later thud of “Selective Memory” (the latter of which also appeared on their 2020 self-titled EP), which seem more kin to Baroness or Elder crashes and twists of “A Distant Light” or the interplay of ambience, roll, and sharpness of execution that’s been held in reserve for the nine-minute “Wounds at the Stem” as they leave off. Melody, particularly in Caragol‘s vocals, is crucial in tying the material together, and part of what gives Semuta such apparent potential, but they seem already to have figured out a lot about who they want to be musically. All of which is to say don’t be surprised when this one shows up on the list of 2024’s best debut albums come December.

Semuta on Facebook

Semuta on Bandcamp

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Stinking Lizaveta Post “Serpent Underfoot” Video; UK and Germany Shows Start May 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Stinking Lizaveta (Photo by John Singletary)

What’re you gonna do, not take fewer than three minutes out of your busy day to watch Stinking Lizaveta‘s new video for “Serpent Underfoot?” Would be highly inadvisable. The Philly doomjazz-forebear instrumentalists and perennial weirdoheroes head abroad next week to begin a stint of UK shows in the likewise-expanded-of-mind two-piece Darsombra, and after that, they’ll hit the continent-proper for a handful of German stops, including — wait for it — Freak Valley Festival, where I’m pleased the trio’s path and my own will cross again. In addition to that, though, they’ve got a date in Jena, a stop at Sankt Pieschen in Dresden and two shows in Berlin, the second of which will put them in the company of Acid Mothers Temple. If you’re gonna go, make it count.

Video info and live dates (which I know were also posted here) follow, along with the stream of Stinking Lizaveta‘s 2023 LP, Anthems and Phantoms (review here), which you’re probably going to want after that “Serpent Underfoot” clip. Enjoy:

Stinking Lizaveta shows

STINKING LIZAVETA – SERPENT UNDERFOOT – From our album ANTHEMS AND PHANTOMS.

The audio is from the album, the video was taken from several live performances during the 2023 tour. Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe to stay up-to-date on new releases.

“Serpent Underfoot” on all streaming services:

• Stinking Lizaveta – Serpent Underfoot

Order “Anthems and Phantoms”:
https://srarecords.com/shop/sra/stinking-lizaveta-anthems-and-phantoms/

Music by: Stinking Lizaveta
Video compilation by: Peter Wilder
Footage is from the Stinking Lizaveta 2023 Summer tour

Stinking Lizaveta live:
14 MAY – Bristol ENGLAND @ The Gryphon *
16 MAY – Sowerby Bridge ENGLAND @ Puzzle Hall Inn *
17 MAY – Cardigan WALES @ The Cellar *
19 MAY – London ENGLAND @ Desertfest London *
22 MAY – Newcastle ENGLAND @ The Lubber Fiend *
23 MAY – Glasgow SCOTLAND @ Bloc *
24 MAY – Edinburgh SCOTLAND @ St. Vincent’s Chapel *
25 MAY – Inverness SCOTLAND @ Tooth & Claw *
27 MAY – Jena GERMANY @ Cafe Wagner
28 MAY – Berlin GERMANY @ Schokoladen
31 MAY – Netphen GERMANY @ Freak Valley Festival
1 JUNE – Dresden GERMANY @ Sankt Pieschen Festival
4 JUNE – Berlin GERMANY @ Neue Zukunft w/ Acid Mothers Temple
* w/ Darsombra

Stinking Lizaveta is Yanni Papadopoulos on guitar, Alexi Papadopoulos on upright electric bass, and Cheshire Agusta on drums.

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http://www.stinkinglizaveta.com/
https://stinkinglizaveta.bandcamp.com

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Stinking Lizaveta, “Serpent Underfoot” official video

Stinking Lizaveta, Anthems and Phantoms (2023)

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Heavy Temple Announce Coast-to-Coast ‘Nation of Heathens’ US Tour w/ Valley of the Sun Supporting

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

Heavy Temple

You can’t look at the extensive list of dates below and not accuse Heavy Temple of slacking, to say the least of it. The Philadelphia trio will be out for six-plus weeks on this coast-to-coast US headlining tour, which I think is the longest single stretch they’ve yet undertaken, though I wouldn’t swear to it. In any case, it is a striking amount of shows, and in a time where a lot of bands break up the States into East or West Coast runs and cover the spaces between, Heavy Temple signal a righteous diving-in here.

They go in support of one of 2024’s best LPs, Garden of Heathens (review here), their second record through Magnetic Eye and built on a similarly all-in ethic as regards both craft and bombast. Note as well that support will come from also-no-strangers-to-the-road Valley of the Sun from Ohio, who are currently streaming the first half of and taking preorders for their forthcoming Quintessence LP (info here) ahead of releasing the second part and physical versions in the coming months. I hope they have ’em to bring on the tour.

And by “the tour” I mean this one. Behold:

Heavy Temple tour

The Nation of Heathens tour kicks off July 18th! We’re super stoked to have @valleyofthesunband with us on all these dates, and we’ll be joined by some other friends along the way. See dates below! 👇👇👇

7/17 – Boston, MA @ Mideast Upstairs
7/18 – New York, NY @ Kingsland
7/19 – Clifton, NJ @ Dingbats
7/20 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
7/21 – Youngstown, OH @ Westside Bowl
7/24 – Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups
7/25 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary
7/26 – Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle
7/27 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Music Joint
7/28 – Milwaukee, WI @ Club Garibaldi
7/30 – Minneapolis, MN @ Turf Club
7/31 – Iowa City, IA @ Wildwood
8/1 – Lincoln, NE @ 1867 Bar
8/2 – Denver, CO @ HQ Denver
8/3 – Salt Lake, UT @ Ace High Saloon
8/4 – Boise, ID @ Shredder
8/7 – Seattle, WA @ Sub Station
8/8 – Portland, OR @ Dantes
8/9 – San Fran, CA @ DNA Lounge
8/10 – Anaheim, CA @ The Parish (HOB)
8/11 – San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
8/13 – Las Vegas, NV @ Usual Place
8/14 – Phoenix, AZ @ Underground
8/15 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister Bar
8/16 – El Paso, TX @ Rock House
8/17 – Dallas, TX @ Three Links
8/18 – Austin, TX @ The Lost Well
8/21 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
8/22 – Houston, TX @ Secret Group
8/23 – Lafayette, LA @ Freetown Boom Boom
8/24 – New Orleans, LA @ Santos Bar
8/25 – Pensacola, FL @ The Handlebar
8/27 – Jacksonville, FL @ Underbelly
8/28 – Orlando, Fl @ Wills Pub
8/29 – Tampa, FL @ Orpheum
8/30 – Atlanta, GA @ Boggs Social & Supply
8/31 – Richmond, VA @ The Camel
🐍🍎

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com

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Heavy Temple, Garden of Heathens (2024)

Valley of the Sun, Quintessence (2024)

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Album Review: Heavy Temple, Garden of Heathens

Posted in Reviews on April 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Heavy Temple Garden of Heathens

Absolute ripper. You wouldn’t have called Heavy Temple timid as a band on their 2021 debut, Lupi Amoris (review here), but Garden of Heathens is confident in its stride from the first clarion riff in leadoff “Extreme Indifference to Life” and throw-elbows brash through the head-spinning, double-kick-propelled instrumental thrash finish in “Psychomanteum”; less about playing to style than doing what feels right in the songs, dynamic, heavy, and charged. Now more than a decade on from their start, the Philadelphia trio led by bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk with Baron Lycan on drums and, here, Lord Paisley making his final appearance on guitar — Christian Lopez (also Sun Voyager) has stepped into the role — present a clear vision of who they are across eight songs and 45 minutes brimming with attitude, righteous intent, groove and swagger as they bounce back and forth between longer and shorter cuts, building momentum fast and never quite letting it go even in the later reaches of the near-nine-minute “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies)” with its abundant layers of shred, emphatic physical push and willfully noisy apex.

Maybe you’ve seen them on stage in the last couple years. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, that’s the likely origin point of the urgency they offer to underpin whatever a given piece might be doing, as with “Hiraeth” following the declarative hook and roll (actually there’s some double-kick there too, and elsewhere; don’t be scared) of the opener with an internalized worship that brings together Queens of the Stone Age and Slayer, or the tension wrought in the three minutes comprising the ambient, hypnotic “In the Garden of Heathens,” marked by cymbal wash and guest cello from John Forrestal, who also produced at The Animal Farm in the idyllic countryside of Flemington, New Jersey. That semi-title-track is the only real comedown provided, and the breather is all the more appreciated in complementing “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies)” as the band make ready to topple the gatekept walls of metal in the penultimate “Jesus Wept,” hitting hard with a heroic dose of lead guitar and a scorch that by that point in Garden of Heathens has already left no shortage of blisters.

But if ‘over the top’ is where it’s at — and no, you’re not wrong if you’re picturing Sylvester Stallone arm wrestling in the 1987 movie of the same name — then Heavy Temple are at home in the excess, and what most brings the material on Garden of Heathens together is the fuckall fury and tightness of their execution. The proverbial band on fire, as demonstrated through the seven minutes of “Divine Indiscretion” as it courses fluidly through a twisting verse and a chorus that only grows more melodic with the additional vocal layer the second time through. Nighthawk‘s increased command-of-instrument as a singer is given due punctuation by the stomping, headbang-worthy riff and solo from Paisley that follow said verse/chorus as they gallop into the song’s midsection, toy with a flash of ’70s Motörheadular shuffle and stop to give the crowd — whatever, wherever, whoever — a chance to shout back in response before the noise wash circa 4:30 brings it to a standalone, maybe-part-improv Hendrix meander backed by a layer of effects that soon enough rises to earth-consuming proportion before the shred goes full-Iommi and they turn back to the central riff for a fast, loud, big, big, big crash to end.

Heavy Temple photo by Crystal Engel Mama Moon

Movement, a heavy immediacy in the songwriting, has been wheelhouse for Heavy Temple since their 2014 self-titled EP (review here) and has carried them through multiple lineup changes, but with Garden of Heathens, they are sharper and more focused than they’ve yet been on record. While the strut is still there in “Hiraeth” and the not-actually-slow-but-still-a-nod “House of Warship,” some of the funk that rested beneath the fuzzy surface of their earlier work has been traded out in favor of more direct intensity. Given the unenviable positioning between “Divine Indiscretion” and “Snake Oil (And Other Remedies),” “House of Warship” announces itself with a standalone harmonized vocal sweep joined shortly by creeper guitar, and gets bombastic as Lycan‘s drums give pulse to the dug-in riff, while Nighthawk gets theatrical in the multi-layered hook and pushes to higher notes in the song’s consuming midsection. Ready to noiseblast at a moment’s notice, they make “House of Warship” a highlight, touching on doom and toying with goth and metal in ways that make the careful balances in their approach sound as organic as they likely are. To me, it most sounds like Heavy Temple stepping forward creatively and bending genre to their increasingly individualized purposes.

Because it’s loud regardless of actual volume, because it varies tempos, departs and returns, shoves, swings, bobs and weaves, and ultimately because it has so much energy behind its delivery, Garden of Heathens reveals more of its complexities on repeat listens, whether that’s the okay-here-we-go transition into the shredding finish of “Extreme Indifference to Life” or the High on Fire-informed push in “Jesus Wept.” The finer details are worth it, to put it mildly, as is the raw force with which the tracks land, each contributing something of its own to the broadened scope of the entirety. That they choose to end with “Psychomanteum,” the fastest and most brazen attack, teasing a slowdown but finishing with a suitable defiance of expectation both in style and lack of vocals, sends the message (expedited) that Heavy Temple aren’t done. It may or may not hint at future dives into thrash and other more aggressive styles to be melded with their weighted tones, but at a certain point it’s moot to speculate since, aside from whatever progression or whims may manifest, their next release will invariably present some shift in dynamic as a result of the personnel change.

That too is part of the story of Heavy Temple and Garden of Heathens, but the bloodlust in these songs isn’t out of the blue, and one can only hope remains as much a piece of who they will become as it is of who they are today. Few and far between on this wretched earth are bands who can inhabit both the wrecking ball and the afterparty dancing atop the rubble. Now mosh, ye pagans.

Heavy Temple, Garden of Heathens (2024)

Heavy Temple on Facebook

Heavy Temple on Instagram

Heavy Temple on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records store

Magnetic Eye Records website

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Magnetic Eye Records on Instagram

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Crypt Sermon: New LP The Stygian Rose Out June 14; Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

crypt sermon (Photo by Scott Kinkade)

Crypt Sermon dance all over the border between classic doom and trad metal, and accordingly there are times where I feel like they’re more of a fit here than others, but listening to the push of melody in their new single “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” and the tonal density of the groove alongside Brooks Wilson‘s gutted-out vocals, I’m less concerned with the lines betwixt microgenres than I am the realized nature of what the Philadelphia troupe are doing in the song itself.

Their new album is called The Stygian Rose, was produced by Arthur Rizk, who also engineered and did most of the mixing for 2019’s The Ruins of Fading Light (review here), will be out June 14 through Dark Descent Records, and is being heralded alongside some bona fide landmarks in the PR wire announcement below, but if you’d see the names dropped and bristle at the hyperbole, I’ll point out that I think they’re less talking about hit records than moments where the bands in question figured out who they were and what they wanted to be. If that’s what’s unfolding in “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” — and I have no reason to think it isn’t after listening — then the arrival of their third long-player is all the more something to look forward to.

No shortage of blue text below, and here I’ll reiterate my general philosophy that learning what artists and those promoting them are saying about their own work is crucial to creating an understanding of it — it’s why I cut and paste press releases in a different color rather than try to fool you into believing those are my ideas via paraphrase — but I’ll advise you head down to the bottom first and hit play on the “Heavy Lies the Crown of Bone” video for accompaniment to your perusal, as well as motivating to dive deeper into where they’re coming from.

Off you go, then:

crypt sermon the stygian rose

Crypt Sermon Unveil Details for New Album, The Stygian Rose

Out June 14 on Dark Descent Records. // Watch the stunning music video for first single “Heavy is the Crown of Bone.”

Pre-order here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

Black Sabbath changed the world we know and love with Paranoid. Candlemass defined their career with Ancient Dreams. Pantera were four albums in before they heavily shifted paradigms on Cowboys from Hell. And Mayhem weren’t even a band when De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas slithered into metaldom’s cellar. Now, Crypt Sermon stand at their crossroads with The Stygian Rose, out June 14 on Dark Descent. It’s their time—the culmination of their journey.

Featuring guitarist Steve Jansson (Daeva, Unrest), vocalist Brooks Wilson (Unrest), drummer Enrique Sagarnaga (Daeva, The Silver), guitarist Frank Chin (Daeva), bassist Matt Knox (Horrendous, The Silver), and keyboardist Tanner Anderson (Obsequiae, Majesties), the Philadelphia-based sextet parlayed their time away into a grander, more mysterious Crypt Sermon. The interflow of doom and heavy metals underpins The Stygian Rose, but these boundaries are effortlessly transcended. “We feel unrestrained now,” Wilson says. “We thought, if the word ‘epic’ in doom metal means anything, it’s without constraint. What’s more vast than being unconstrained?” Sagarnaga continues, “There’s a lot of variety on the album, and I think that’s not just because we get bored easily—which we do, actually—but rather this is who we are.”

From the commanding rhythm of “Heavy is the Crown of Bone”— which premieres today alongside a ravishing music video by The C.O.I.N..— Crypt Sermon brandish their musical and conceptual prowess. The song thunders in on cloven hoof before giving way to Crypt Sermon’s muscular doom and stomp.

Singer Brooks Wilson shares, “This song follows our unnamed protagonist summon an entity from ‘The Ars Goetia’ as he seeks sacred consummation with the Divine Feminine. We were happy to work with The C.O.I.N. in achieving our concept, adding a visual element to our music that incorporates much of the esoteric symbolism embedded in ‘The Stygian Rose.'”

The songwriting for The Stygian Rose started in late 2022. Sagarnaga says, “This is the most prepared our band has been, especially going into the studio. It’s about respect for each other’s time. We were more patient with one another regarding how we expressed musical ideas. We committed to practicing on a regular schedule—that was important. And as we get older, we hopefully have become better musicians. ‘The Stygian Rose’ is also the longest time we’ve had with Arthur Rizk in the studio. Every little detail you hear in the final result of the record is very deliberate.”

The Stygian Rose tracklist:
1. Glimmers in the Underworld
2. Thunder (Perfect Mind)
3. Down in the Hollow
4. Heavy is the Crown of Bone
5. Scrying Orb
6. The Stygian Rose

Crypt Sermon tracked The Stygian Rose at Redwoods in Philadelphia. Arthur Rizk produced, mixed, and mastered, and Aidan Elias (Blood Incantation, Wayfarer) engineered. Since the band and Rizk had previous history, they dialed in sounds quickly and got to work. In contrast to the sporadic two-month process of their last album, The Ruins of Fading Light, Crypt Sermon had just over a week to capture their The Stygian Rose. “We knew we wanted an aggressive sound,” says Wilson. “‘The Stygian Rose’ has way more depth than anything we’ve done before.”

The Stygian Rose follows a character inspired by Paschal Beverly Randolf, an early American spiritualist and sex magician. In The Stygian Rose, the unnamed character seeks to reconnect with his now maybe dead, definitely lost (though intentionally left vague) idealized female, embodying the Sophia/Shakti/Persephone divine wisdom/feminine concept. This lost love is believed to be waiting for him, calling for him from ‘the hollow.’ Conceived by Wilson, the protagonist’s harrowing jaunt starts with album opener “Glimmers in the Underworld” and ends naturally with the title track. The story, as unfurled in the lyrics, is directly connected to the album’s artwork and booklet, painstakingly painted and illustrated by Wilson. Clearly, The Stygian Rose and its lyrical and artistic regalia were thought through from the onset.

“I didn’t want to feel burdened by heavy metal tropes,” reveals Wilson. “I wanted to be able to use them but not be bound by them.” Jansson continues, “We wanted The Stygian Rose to scratch a lot of itches that aren’t being scratched. That’s my goal when I make music. I want to make things that I don’t hear other people doing or at least don’t hear others doing all in one package. I agree, it also has to have staying power and replay value. That addictive feeling you had when you listened to records as a teenager.”

The Stygian Rose showcases Crypt Sermon’s mastery of dark and heavy metal— dive in and experience its rich rewards. Pre-order here: https://www.darkdescentrecords.com/shop/

Crypt Sermon, record release shows:
June 14 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
June 15 Washington, DC @ Pie Shop

Produced, mixed, and mastered by Arthur Rizk at Redwoods Studio in Philadelphia, PA
Engineered by Aidan Elias
Photos by Scott Kinkade
Art by Brooks Wilson

Lineup:
Brooks Wilson (Vocals)
Steve Jannson (Lead Guitar)
Frank Chin (Rhythm Guitar)
Matt Knox (Bass Guitar)
Tanner Anderson (Synths)
Enrique Sagarnaga (Drums)

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cryptsermon.bandcamp.com/

darkdescentrecords.com
facebook.com/darkdescentrecords
darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com

Crypt Sermon, The Stygian Rose (2024)

Crypt Sermon, “Heavy is the Crown of Bone” official video

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