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: AAWKS & Aiwass, Surya Kris Peters, Evert Snyman, Book of Wyrms, Burning Sister, Gévaudan, Oxblood Forge, High Brian, Búho Ermitaño, Octonaut

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

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Last day, this one. And probably a good thing so that I can go back to doing just about anything else beyond (incredibly) basic motor function and feeling like I need to start the next day’s QR writeups. I’m already thinking of maybe a week in December and a week or two in January, just to try to keep up with stuff, but I’m of two minds about it.

Does the Quarterly Review actually help anyone find music? It helps me, I know, because it’s 50 records that I’m basically forcing myself to dig into, and that exposes me to more and more and more all the time, and gives me an outlet for stuff I wouldn’t otherwise have mental or temporal space to cover, so I know I get something out of it. Do you?

Honest answers are welcome in the comments. If it’s a no, that helps me as well.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

AAWKS & Aiwass, The Eastern Scrolls

AAWKS & Aiwass The Eastern Scrolls

Late on their 2022 self-titled debut (review here), Canadian upstart heavy fuzzers AAWKS took a decisive plunge into greater tonal densities, and “1831,” which is their side-consuming 14:30 contribution to the The Eastern Scrolls split LP with Arizona mostly-solo-project Aiwass, feels built directly off that impulse. It is, in other words, very heavy. Cosmically spaced with harsher vocals early that remind of stonerkings Sons of Otis and only more blowout from there as they roll forth into slog, noise, a stop, ambient guitar and string melodies and drum thud behind vocals, subdued psych atmosphere and backmasked sampling near the finish. Aiwass, led by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Blake Carrera and now on the cusp of releasing a second full-length, The Falling (review here), give the 13:00 “The Unholy Books” a stately, post-metallic presence, as much about the existential affirmations and the melody applied to the lyrics as it moves into the drumless midsection as either the earlier Grayceon-esque pulled notes of guitar (thinking specifically “War’s End” from 2011’s All We Destroy, but there the melody is cello) into it or the engrossing heft that emerges late in the piece, though it does bookend with a guitar comedown. Reportedly based around the life of theosophy co-founder and cult figure Madame Helena Blavatsky, it can either be embraced on that level or taken on simply as a showcase of two up and coming bands, each with their own complementary sound. However you want to go, it’s easily among the best splits I’ve heard in 2023.

AAWKS on Facebook

Aiwass on Facebook

Black Throne Productions store

Surya Kris Peters, Strange New World

Surya Kris Peters Strange New World

The lines between projects are blurring for Surya Kris Peters, otherwise known as Chris Peters, currently based in Brazil where he has the solo-project Fuzz Sagrado following on from his time in the now-defunct German trio Samsara Blues Experiment. Strange New World is part of a busy 2023/busy last few years for Peters, who in 2023 alone has issued a live album from his former band (review here) and a second self-recorded studio LP from Fuzz Sagrado, titled Luz e Sombra (review here). And in Fuzz Sagrado, Peters has returned to the guitar as a central instrument after a few years of putting his focus on keys and synths with Surya Kris Peters as the appointed outlet for it. Well, the Fuzz Sagrado had some keys and the 11-song/52-minute Strange New World wants nothing for guitar either as Peters reveals a headbanger youth in the let-loose guitar of “False Prophet,” offers soothing and textured vibes of a synthesized beat in “Sleep Meditation in Times of War” (Europe still pretty clearly in mind) and the acoustic/electric blend that’s expanded upon in “Nada Brahma Nada.” Active runs of synth, bouncing from note to note with an almost zither-esque feel in “A Beautiful Exile (Pt. 1)” and the later “A Beautiful Exile (Part 2)” set a theme that parts of other pieces follow, but in the drones of “Past Interference” and the ’80s New Wave prog of the bonus track “Slightly Too Late,” Peters reminds that the heart of the project is in exploration, and so it is still very much its own thing.

Fuzz Sagrado on Facebook

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Evert Snyman, All Killer Filler

evert snyman all killer filler

A covers record can be a unique opportunity for an artist to convey something about themselves to fans, and while I consider Evert Snyman‘s 12-track/38-minute classic pop-rock excursion All Killer Filler to be worth it for his take on Smashing Pumpkins‘ “Zero” alone, there is no mistaking the show of persona in the choice to open with The Stooges‘ iconic “Search and Destroy” and back it cheekily with silly bounce of Paul McCartney‘s almost tragically catchy “Temporary Secretary.” That pairing alone is informative if you’re looking to learn something about the South African-based songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer. See also “The Piña Colada Song.” The ’90s feature mightily, as they would, with tunes by Pixies, Blur, Frank Black, The Breeders and Mark Lanegan (also the aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins), but whether it’s the fuzz of The Breeders’ 1:45 “I Just Wanna Get Along,” the sincere acoustic take on The Beatles “I Will” — which might as well be a second McCartney solo cut, but whatever; you’ll note Frank Black and Pixies appearing separately as well — or the gospel edge brought to Tom Waits‘ “Jesus Gonna Be Here,” Snyman internalizes this material, almost builds it from the ground up, loyal in some ways and not in others, but resonant in its respect for the source material without trying to copy, say, Foo Fighters, note for note on “The Colour and the Shape.” If it’s filler en route to Snyman‘s next original collection, fine. Dude takes on Mark Lanegan without it sounding like a put on. Mark Lanegan himself could barely do that.

Evert Snyman on Facebook

Mongrel Records website

Book of Wyrms, Storm Warning

book of wyrms storm warning

Virginian heavy doom rockers Book of Wyrms have proved readily in the past that they don’t need all that long to set up a vibe, and the standalone single “Storm Warning” reinforces that position with four-plus minutes of solid delivery of craft. Vocalist/synthesist Sarah Moore Lindsey, bassist Jay “Jake” Lindsey and drummer Kyle Lewis and guitarist Bobby Hufnell (also Druglord) — the latter two would seem to have switched instruments since last year’s single “Sodapop Glacier” (premiered here) — but whatever is actually being played by whoever, the song is a structurally concise but atmospheric groover, with a riff twisting around the hook and the keyboard lending dimension to the mix as it rests beneath the guitar and bass. They released their third album, Occult New Age (review here), in 2021, so they’re by no means late on a follow-up, and I don’t know either when this song was recorded — before, after or during that process — but it’s a sharp-sounding track from a band whose style has grown only  more theirs with time. I have high expectations for Book of Wyrms‘ next record — I had high expectations for the last one, which were met — and especially taken together, “Storm Warning” and “Sodapop Glacier” show both the malleable nature of the band’s aesthetic, the range that has grown in their sound and the live performance that is at their collective core.

Book of Wyrms on Facebook

Desert Records store

Burning Sister, Get Your Head Right

burning sister get your head right

Following on from their declarative 2022 debut, Mile High Downer Rock (review here), Denver trio Burning Sister — bassist/vocalist Steve Miller (also synth), guitarist Nathan Rorabaugh and drummer Alison Salutz — bring four originals and the Mudhoney cover “When Tomorrow Comes” (premiered here) together as Get Your Head Right, a 29-minute EP, beginning with the hypnotic nod groove and biting leads of “Fadeout” (also released as a single) and the slower, heavy psych F-U-Z-Z of “Barbiturate Lizard,” the keyboard-inclusive languid roll of which, even after the pace picks up, tells me how right I was to dig that album. The centerpiece title-track is faster and a little more forward tonally, more grounded, but carries over the vocal echo and finds itself in noisier crashes and chugs before giving over to the 7:58 “Looking Through Me,” which continues the relatively terrestrial vibe over until the wall falls off the spaceship in the middle of the track and everyone gets sucked into the vacuum — don’t worry, the synthesizer mourns us after — just before the noted cover quietly takes hold to close out with spacious heavygaze cavern echo that swells all the way up to become a blowout in the vein of the original. It’s a story that’s been told before, of a band actively growing, coming into their sound, figuring out who they are from one initial release to the next. Burning Sister haven’t finished that process yet, but I like where this seems to be headed. Namely into psych-fuzz oblivion and cosmic dust. So yeah, right on.

Burning Sister on Facebook

Burning Sister on Bandcamp

Gévaudan, Umbra

Gévaudan UMBRA

Informed by Pallbearer, Warning, or perhaps others in the sphere of emotive doom, UK troupe Gévaudan scale up from 2019’s Iter (review here) with the single-song, 43:11 Umbra, their second album. Impressive enough for its sheer ambition, the execution on the extended titular piece is both complex and organic, parts flowing naturally from one to the other around lumbering rhythms for the first 13 minutes or so before a crashout to a quick fade brings the next movement of quiet and droning psychedelia. They dwell for a time in a subtle-then-not-subtle build before exploding back to full-bore tone at 18:50 and carrying through a succession of epic, dramatic ebbs and flows, such that when the keyboard surges to the forefront of the mix in seeming battle with the pulled notes of guitar, the ensuing roll/march is a realization. They do break to quiet again, this time piano and voice, and doom mournfully into a fade that, at the end of a 43-minute song tells you the band could’ve probably kept going had they so desired. So much the better. Between this and Iter, Gévaudan have made a for-real-life statement about who they are as a band and their progressive ambitions. Do not make the mistake of thinking they’re done evolving.

Gévaudan on Facebook

Meuse Music Records website

Oxblood Forge, Cult of Oblivion

Oxblood Forge Cult of Oblivion

In some of the harsher vocals and thrashy riffing of Cult of Oblivion‘s opening title-track, Massachusetts’ Oxblood Forge remind a bit of some of the earliest Shadows Fall‘s definitively New Englander take on hardcore-informed metal. The Boston-based double-guitar five-piece speed up the telltale chug of “Children of the Grave” on “Upon the Altar” and find raw sludge scathe on “Cleanse With Fire” ahead of finishing off the four-song/18-minute EP with the rush into “Mask of Satan,” which echoes the thrash of “Cult of Oblivion” itself and finds vocalist Ken McKay pushing his voice higher in clean register than one can recall on prior releases, their most recent LP being 2021’s Decimator (review here). But that record was produced for a different kind of impact than Cult of Oblivion, and the aggression driving the new material is enhanced by the roughness of its presentation. These guys have been at it a while now, and clearly they’re not in it for trends, or to be some huge band touring for seven months at a clip. But their love of heavy metal is evident in everything they do, and it comes through here in every blow to the head they mete out.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

High Brian, Five, Six, Seven

High Brian Five Six Seven

The titular rhythmic counting in Austrian heavy-prog quirk rockers High Brian‘s Five, Six, Seven (on StoneFree Records, of course) doesn’t take long to arrive, finding its way into second cut “Is it True” after the mild careening of “All There Is” opens their third full-length, and that’s maybe eight minutes into the 40-minute record, but it doesn’t get less gleefully weird from there as the band take off into the bassy meditation of “The End” before tossing out angular headspinner riffs in succession and rolling through what feels like a history of krautrock’s willful anti-normality written into the apocalypse it would seemingly have to be. “The End” is the longest track at 8:50, and it presumably closes side A, which means side B is when it’s time to party as the triplet chug of “The Omni” reinforces the energetic start of “All There Is” with madcap fervor and “Stone Came Up” can’t decide whether it’s raw-toned biker rock or spaced out lysergic idolatry, so it decides to become an open jam complete people talking “in the crowd.” This leaves the penultimate “Our First Car” to deliver one last shove into the art-rock volatility of closer “Oil Into the Fire,” where High Brian play one more round of can-you-follow-where-this-is-going before ending with a gentle cymbal wash like nothing ever happened. Note, to the best of my knowledge, there are not bongos on every track, as the cover art heralds. But perhaps spiritually. Spiritual bongos.

High Brian on Facebook

StoneFree Records website

Búho Ermitaño, Implosiones

Búho Ermitaño Implosiones

Shimmering, gorgeous and richly informed in melody and rhythm by South American folk, Búho Ermitaño‘s Implosiones revels in pastoralia in opener “Herbie” before “Expolosiones” takes off past its midpoint into heavy post-rock float and progressive urgency that in itself is more dynamic than many bands even still is only a small fraction of the encompassing range of sounds at work throughout these seven songs. ’60s psych twists into the guitar solo in the back half of “Explosiones” before space rock key/synth wash finishes — yes, it’s like that — and only then does the serene guitar and, birdsong and synth-drone of “Preludio” announce the arrival of centerpiece “Ingravita,” which begins acoustic and even as it climbs all the way up to its crescendo maintains its peaceful undercurrent so that when it returns at the end it seems to be home again at the finish. The subsequent “Buarabino” is more about physical movement in its rhythm, cumbia roots perhaps showing through, but leaves the ground for its second half of multidirectional resonances offered like ’70s prog that tells you it’s from another planet. But no, cosmic as they get in the keys of “Entre los Cerros,” Búho Ermitaño are of and for the Earth — you can hear it in every groove and sun-on-water guitar melody — and when the bowl chimes to start finale “Renacer,” the procession that ensues en route to the final drone is an affirmation both of the course they’ve taken in sound and whatever it is in your life that’s led you to hear it. Records like this never get hype. They should. They are loved nonetheless.

Búho Ermitaño on Facebook

Buh Records on Bandcamp

Octonaut, Intergalactic Tales of a Wandering Cephalopod

Octonaut Intergalactic Tales of a Wandering Cephalopod

In concept or manifestation, one would not call Octonaut‘s 54-minute shenanigans-prone debut album Intergalactic Tales of a Wandering Cephalopod a minor undertaking. On any level one might want to approach it — taking on the two-minute feedbackscape of “…—…” (up on your morse code?) or the 11-minute tale-teller-complete-with-digression-about-black-holes “Octonaut” or any of their fun-with-fuzz-and-prog-metal-and-psychedelia points in between — it is a lot, and there is a lot going on, but it’s also wonderfully brazen. It’s completely over the top and knows it. It doesn’t want to behave. It doesn’t want to just be another stoner band. It’s throwing everything out in the open and seeing what works, and as Octonaut move forward, ideally, they’ll take the lessons of a song like the mellow linear builder “Hypnotic Jungle” or nine-minute capper “Rainbow Muffler Camel” (like they’re throwing darts at words) with its intermittent manic fits and the somehow inevitable finish of blown-out static noise. As much stoner as it is prog, it’s also not really either, but this is good news because there are few better places for an act so clearly bent on individualism as Octonaut are to begin than in between genres. One hopes they dwell there for the duration.

Octonaut on Facebook

Octonaut’s Linktr.ee

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Album Review: Rito Verdugo, Kamikaze Boom

Posted in Reviews on August 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

rito verdugo kamikaze boom

Between scorched-earth boogie and classic heavy rock, just the tiniest undercurrent of sludge-punk impulse, and South American folk-prog — and that’s just on “Ritual por la Eternidad” — Rito Verdugo‘s second full-length, Kamikaze Boom, lives up to its title when it comes to intensity. Much of the eight-song/34-minute Necio Records long-player finds the Peruvian four-piece bashing away with speed and impressive control, following their four-song 2020 EP, Post-Primatus (review here), and 2018’s Cosmos long-player with a collection that’s no less about breadth than rush when taken in balance.

Songs like the opener “El Despertar,” “Apocalyptus” and the later “Viento Divino” careen around deceptively thick riffing, the middle of them head-spinning in the vein of modern prog metal, but as the title-track departs its sprint in favor of a jazzier buildup, twists and turns with purpose while helping to build the momentum that carries Rito Verdugo from one end of the outing to the other, it is brash in the doing but backed by enough chops in terms of technique to pull it off. They’re the kind of band other bands watch on stage and either hate or admit to being impressed by.

Comprised of guitarists Rodrigo Chávez (also vocals) and Alvaro Gonzales del Valle, bassist Carlos del Castillo and drummer Luis Rodríguez, they aren’t rushed so much in the execution — that is, the album doesn’t sound cheap or unconsidered — but in the tempos of the material itself, they play heavy and they play fast. Particularly coming after the EP, which was made during covid lockdown, it is a full-sounding, linear listening experience. Each song will leave individual bruises, sure, but the album is meant to be taken as a whole, front to back, as presented.

And realizing that underscores the intention behind the entire affair, which in combination with the roughness of some of the fuzz — as “El Despertar” bulls in the china shop of riff rock at the start of the record, it does so with a tonal thickness and character that wouldn’t have been out of place coming from mid-’90s C.O.C. — and while Peru and greater South America generally have a rich history of heavy and underground music scenes, doom, stoner, psych, garage and the like, Rito Verdugo seem to be going too fast to care one way or the other about where they fit stylistically. That suits the songs well too, as “Kamikaze Boom” almost can’t help take some influence from surf in its lead guitar spacing out circa three minutes — just before the break — and noodling in that break with vocals overtop like ‘here’s this peaceful moment isn’t it nice’ with only the drums foretelling the slam back to speed that’s about to take place.

rito verdugo

The title-track and others benefit widely from what comes through as a relatively open creative process, not just to weirdo sounds outside the heavy norm — there actually isn’t a lot of experimentalism as regards arrangements; guitars, bass, drums, vocals; there aren’t even keyboards — but to exploring where a given part actually wants to go, as in the galloping verse of “Ataque Shimpu,” with the falsetto vocal from Chávez like his voice is trying to dance on top of the angular progression it’s topping. Fuzzy, hooky, all-go, “Ataque Shimpu” picks up from the still-rousing but slower “Apocalyptus,” which puts the vocals forward in its first half amid dizzying turns that would make The Atomic Bitchwax proud and ends with a crash sample that might be from Contra or something else of the 8-bit era, maybe Atari rather than NES. I don’t know, but that brief split lets “Ataque Shimpu” begin its shuffle with a clear head and chorus push, fading at its conclusion into “Ritual por la Eternidad,” which is the longest inclusion at 5:36, the fifth of eight tracks, and the first time Rito Verdugo genuinely slow down on the record.

Airy notes of guitar strum out beneath an initial layered verse, the nod rising in volume behind as the open verse solidifies into the chorus — in Spanish like the rest but easier to follow when it’s slower — turning back to make a melodic highlight of the second verse before a shout marks the transition into the gallop that takes hold for the remainder of the track. It was not quite half a song, then, that the speed was set aside. It’s not much, but it’s enough to call it dynamic, especially — again — when taking on the album in its entirety. “Viento Divino” breezes in with hints of NWOBHM in its guitar intro that stretches into a nod before sprawling out echoing layers of verse lyrics, bursting, bouncing and pivoting to a degree that must have been overwhelming even in the making since they shift into a quieter midsection before the shout-topped onslaught in the second half leads to the quiet finish, which feels long on a song that’s under four minutes, but is important in what it brings to the atmosphere of Kamikaze Boom, so much emphasis otherwise placed on the explosiveness of the songs.

To wit, the penultimate “Vagabundo” answers “Viento Divino” with gusto and full fuzz, nestling into a comfortable groove that on many albums would still count as fast, and injecting a bit more fun into the proceedings ahead of the bikerism that closes with “Aplastando a las Ratas,” one last barnburner to get the point across that Rito Verdugo really hate that barn. Where “Vagabundo” had shades of cosmic acceleration commonly attributed to an influence from Slift or King Gizzard, the finale makes that charge more terrestrial, building up to its speed-at-night verse riff with classic metal poise and riding that riff headfirst (helmet on; please listen responsibly) into a section of last solo shred that caps with a sudden stop.

Because I guess when you’ve torn ass around for the last half-hour plus, maybe the big rock finish becomes superfluous. Fair enough as Rito Verdugo leave nothing unsaid or wanting by the time they’re done, letting the physicality of spirit of their work stand for itself. Which it does. And then it runs around in circles for a few minutes — purposefully, mind you — because it needs the sensory engagement. They’re not speed rock, that’s a different thing. But speed is a major asset across Kamikaze Boom, and put to riotous use.

Rito Verdugo, Kamikaze Boom (2023)

Rito Verdugo on Facebook

Rito Verdugo on Instagram

Rito Verdugo on Bandcamp

Necio Records on Facebook

Necio Records on Instagram

Necio Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Jason Simon, Smoke, Rifle, Mother of Graves, Swarm, Baardvader, Love Gang, Astral Magic, Thank You Lord for Satan, Druid Stone

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

quarterly-review-winter 2023

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you come in. What’s going on? Not much. You? Well, you see, it’s just another 10 records for the Quarterly Review, you know how it goes. Yup, day seven. That’s up to 70 records, and it’ll keep going for the rest of this week. Have I mentioned yet I was thinking about adding an 11th day? What can I say, some cool stuff has come along this last week and a half since I’ve been doing this. Better now than in a couple months, maybe. Anyway, make yourself comfortable. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #61-70:

Jason Simon, Hindsight 2020

Jason Simon Hindsight 2020

What this sweetly melodic and delicately arranged 2022 collection lacks in marketing — the title Hindsight 2020 is accurate in that that’s when it was mostly recorded, but ‘let’s remember an awful time’ is hardly a way to pitch an audience on a vinyl — but as Jason Simon (also Dead Meadow) languidly meanders through covers of Tom Petty (“Crawling Back to You” becomes ethereal post-rock), Jody Reynolds & Bobbie Gentry, The Gun Club, Jackson C. Frank, Bert Jansch and John Prine, the latter of whom passed away after contracting covid-19, without the lockdown from which this record probably wouldn’t exist as it does. Probably not a coincidence. On banjo for three peppered-in originals starting with a relaxed mood-setting intro, as well as guitar, vocals, Moog, bass, Juno-60, and mandolin throughout, Simon and a few companions dig into these folk roots, making them his own and creating a whole-album flow for what might in less capable hands be a hodgepodge of competing influences. As it stands, by the time the melancholy strum of “October” takes hold, Simon has long since succeeded in creating a vibe that rightly has “Ghosts Gather Now” as its centerpiece, pulling as it does from these spirits to make something of its own. 2020 sucked; nobody’s arguing. But at least in hindsight something beautiful can come out of it.

Jason Simon on Bandcamp

Piaptk store


Smoke, Groupthink

Smoke Groupthink

Virginian trio Smoke cast an eye toward the trailblazing heavy psych of Sungrazer on “Temple” from their early 2022 debut album, guitarist Dalton handling the melodic vocals that will soon enough grow throatier in their passionate delivery, but even more than this, Groupthink sees the band — Dalton, guitarist Ben and drummer Alex; first names only — digging full-on into turn-of-the-century-style nodding heavy, shades of Man’s Ruin-era classics from the likes of Acid King, maybe even some of Sons of Otis‘ bombed-out largesse, showing themselves filtered through a next-generational execution, varied enough so as not to be single-minded in idolatry as “Davidian” picks up energy in its late solo, the 18-minute “One Eyed King” earns its lumbering payoff and lines of floating guitar, “The Supplication of Flame” arrives based around acoustic guitar forward in the mix ahead of the electrics (at least at first) and closer “Telah” basks in a righteous stomp that underscores the point. At 58 minutes, Groupthink isn’t a minor undertaking, but it is one of 2022’s most impressive debut albums and laced with potential for what may develop in their sound. It is stronger in craft than one might initially think, and has to be to hold up all that heft in its fuzz.

Smoke on Facebook

Smoke on Bandcamp


Rifle, Repossessed

Rifle Repossessed

Not so much ’70s-style retroism as tapping into a kind of raw, ’90s heavy rock vision — Nebula, Monster Magnet, as well as Peru and greater South America’s own storied history of fuzzmaking — Rifle‘s Repossessed is relatively rough in its production, but as in the best of cases, that becomes a part of its appeal as the Lima-based three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Alejandro Suni, guitarist Magno Mendoza and drummer Cesar Araujo ride their riffs down the highway and into a fog of tonal buzz, fervent, butt-sized low end and druggy, outsider vibes. “The Thrill is Back” struts coated in road dirt as it is, and that thrill is found likewise in the scorch-psych of “Demon Djinn” and the earlier blowout “Fiend” that follows opener “Seven Thousand Demons” and sets a bluesy lyrical foundation so that six-minute finale “Spirit Rise” seems to offer some sense of realization or, if not that, then at least acceptance of this well-baked way of life. As the band’s first release, this late-2022 seven-song/32-minute offering feels ready to be pressed up on vinyl by some discerning purveyor, if not for the underlying desert rock drive of “Madness” then surely for the swing in “Sonic Rage,” and it’s one of those records that isn’t going to speak to everyone, but is going to hit just right for some others, dug as it is into a niche between what’s come before and its own encapsulation of a red-eyed stoner future.

Rifle on Instagram

Rifle on Bandcamp


Mother of Graves, Where the Shadows Adorn

Mother of Graves Where the Shadows Adorn

If there should be any doubt that Indianapolis’ Mother of Graves are schooled in the sound they’re shooting for, let the fact that Dan Swanö (Katatonia, Opeth, on into infinity) mastered the recording/mix by the band’s own Ben Sandman make it clear where their particular angle on melancholic death-doom is coming from in its grim, wintry soul-dance. Where the Shadows Adorn follows 2020’s likewise-dead-on debut, In Somber Dreams (discussed here), but the stately, poised rollout of a song like “Rain” and the subdued sections before “Of Solitude and Stone” enters its last push, has all the hallmarks of forward growth in songwriting as well as in confidence on the part of the band. Front to back, Where the Shadows Adorn is deathly in its consumption, a fresh interpretation of a moment in history when the likes of Katatonia especially but also acts like My Dying Bride and others of the Peaceville ilk were considered on the extreme end of metal despite their sometimes-grueling tempos. The question remains whether this is where Mother of Graves will reside for the duration or if, like their influences, their depressive streak will grow more melodic with age. As it stands, adorned in shadow, their emotional and atmospheric weight is darkly majestic.

Mother of Graves on Facebook

Wise Blood Records site


Swarm, Swarm

swarm swarm

This self-titled four-songer is the first release from Helsinki, Finland’s Swarm, and though it’s billed as an EP, its 28 minutes are wrought with a substantial flow and unifying melodic complexity due both to the depth of vocal complementary arrangements between singer Hilja Vedenpää and guitarist Panu Willman, as well as the intertwining of Willman and Einari Toiviainen‘s guitars atop the rolling grooves of Leo Lehtonen‘s bass and Dani Paajanen‘s drumming; the whole band operating together with a sense of purpose that goes beyond the standard ‘riff out and see what happens’ beginning of so many bands. A line of rhythmic notes atop the riff in “Nevermore” around five minutes is emblematic of the flourish the band brings to the release, and one would note the grungier float in “There Again,” and the moodier acoustics of “Frail” and the more full-on duet in the verses of closer “We Should Know” — never mind the pre-fade chug that caps or the consuming heft offsetting those verses — as further distinguishing factors. Self-released in June 2022, Swarm‘s Swarm carries the air of a precursor, and though it’s not known yet to precisely what, the note to keep eyes and ears open is well received. To put it another way, they sound very much like they know what they want to be and to accomplish as a group. If they’re heading into a debut album next, they’re ready to take on the task.

Swarm on Facebook

918 Records on Facebook


Baardvader, Foolish Fires

baardvader foolish fires

The self-titled-era Alice in Chains-style vocals on Baardvader‘s second LP, Foolish Fires, make them a ready standout from the slew of up and coming European heavy rollers, but the Den Haag trio have a distinct blend of crunch in their tone and atmosphere surrounding that make a song such as “Understand” memorable for more than just the pleading repetitions of its title in the hook. Opener “Pray” sets a hard-hitting fluidity in motion and “Illuminate” answers back as it caps side A with (dat) bass and airy guitar in an open soundscape soon to be filled with a wall o’ fuzz and more dug-in grunge spirit. As they make their way toward the louder, vocally-layered, highlight-solo finish that the 10-minutes “Echoes” provides, there’s some trace of The Machine‘s noisier affinity in their tones on “Blinded Out,” including the solo, and “Prolong Eternity” culminates with intensity leading into the already-noted closer, but “Echoes” has the throatier shouts — like “Illuminate” before it — to back its case as the destination for where they’ve been headed all along, and works to send Foolish Fires out as a triumphant demonstration of Baardvader‘s appeal, which is relatively straightforward considering how much they nod along the way, their sound sharing grunge’s ability to be aggressive without being metal, heavy without being aggressive, and something of their own that still rings familiar. They’re just beginning to realize their potential, and this record is an important step in that process.

Baardvader on Facebook

Baardvader on Bandcamp


Love Gang, Meanstreak

Love Gang Meanstreak

Rest easy, you’re in capable hands. And even if you didn’t hear Love Gang‘s 2020 debut, Dead Man’s Game (review here), the fact that the Denver four-piece went down to Austin, Texas, to record with Gian Ortiz of Amplified Heat producing tells you what you need to know about their boogie on Meanstreak. And what you need to know is largely that you want to hear it. As one might expect, ’70s vibes pervade the eight-tracker, which puts the guitars forward and de-emphasizes some of the organ and flute one might’ve encountered on their first LP, saving it for side B’s “Shake This Feelin’,” the six-minute stretchout “Headed Down to Mexico,” and the closing “Fade Away,” where it ties together with the thrust of earlier cuts like the circuitous “Blinded by Fear” (not an At the Gates cover, though that would be fun), or “Deathride” and the title-track, which shove shove shove as the opening pair so “Bad News” can complete the barnburning salvo. Tucked away before the finale is “Same Ol’ Blues,” a harmonica-laced acoustic cut dug out of your cool uncle’s record collection so that some day, if you’re lucky, some shitbird younger relation of yours may come along and find it here in your own record collection, thus perpetuating the cycle of boogie into perpetuity. Humanity should be so lucky.

Love Gang on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds store


Astral Magic, We Are Stardust

Astral Magic We Are Stardust

The first and probably not last Astral Magic release of 2023, We Are Stardust, finds project-spearhead Santtu Laakso — songwriting, synth, bass, vocals, mixing, cover art, etc. — working mostly in solo fashion. Jonathan Segel of Camper Van Beethoven/Øresund Space Collective adds guitar and violin (he also mastered the recording), and Samuli Sailo plays guitar on “Drop It,” but the 11-song/60-minute space rocker bears the hallmarks of Laakso‘s Hawkwindian craft, the songs rife with layers of synth and effects behind the forward vocals, programmed drums behind bolstering the krautrock feel. There’s a mellower jam like “Bottled Up Inside,” which puts the guitar solo where voice(s) might otherwise be, and “Out in the Cold” touches loosely on Pink Floyd without giving over entirely to that impulse or meandering too far from its central progression, letting the swirling “Lost Planet” and “Violet Sky” finish with a return to the kosmiche of the opening title-track and “The Simulacra,” which feels almost like a return to ground after the proto-New Wave-y “They Walk Among Us,” though “ground” should be considered on relative terms there because by most standards, Astral Magic start, end, and remain sonically in the farther far out.

Astral Magic on Facebook

Astral Magic on Bandcamp


Thank You Lord for Satan, Thank You Lord for Satan

Thank You Lord for Satan Self-titled

Self-recorded exploratory songcraft is writ large across the Buh Records self-titled debut from Thank You Lord for Satan — the Lima, Peru, two-piece of Paloma La Hoz (ex-Mitad Humana) and Henry Gates (Resplandor) — and the effect throughout the born-during-pandemic-lockdown eight-song offering is a kind of poised intimacy, artsy and performative as La Hoz handles most of but not all the lead vocals with Gates joining in, as on the moody shoegazer “Wet Morning” ahead of the pointedly Badalamenti-esque “Before EQ1.” Opener “A Million Songs Ago” is a rocker, and “Wet Morning” too in at least its including drums, but that’s only a piece of what Thank You Lord for Satan are digging into, as “Isolation” feels duly empty and religious and “Conversations al Amanecer” and “When We Dance” has a kind of electronic-inflected pop-psych at its core, willfully contrasting the folkish “Sad Song” (with Gates‘ lead vocal) and “Devine Destiny,” a side B counterpart to “Isolation” that reveals the hidden structure beneath all this go-wherever-ism, or at very least ends the album on a suitably contemplative note, some electronic snare-ish sound there rising in the mix before being cast off into the ether with the rest of everything.

Thank You Lord for Satan on Facebook

Buh Records on Bandcamp


Druid Stone, The Corpse Vanishes

Druid Stone The Corpse Vanishes

Consider this less a review of The Corpse Vanishes, which is but a single Dec. 2022 three-songer among a glut of releases — including at least one more recent — from Herndon, Virginia’s Druid Stone available through their Bandcamp. The ethic of the band, as led by guitarist Demeter Capsalis, would seem to be as bootleg as possible. Shows are recorded and presented barebones. Rehearsal room demos like “The Corpse Vanishes” and “Night of the Living Dead” — which jams its way into “What Child is This” — here are as raw as raw gets, and in the 20-minute included jam on Electric Wizard‘s “Mother of Serpents,” which was recorded live on Dec. 2 and issued four days later, the power goes out for about three of the first five minutes and Capsalis, who has already explained that most of the band had other stuff to do and that’s why he’s jamming with two friends for the full set, has to keep it going on stage banter alone. Most bands would never release that kind of thing. I respect the shit out of it. Not just because I dig bootlegs — though I do — but because in this age of infinite everything, why not release everything? Don’t you know the fucking planet’s dying? Why the hell would you keep secrets? Who has time for that? Fuck it. Put it all out there. Absolutely. Whether you dig into The Corpse Vanishes or any other of the slew, you might just find that whatever you listen to afterward seems unnecessarily polished. And maybe it is.

Druid Stone on Facebook

Druid Stone on Bandcamp


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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Marcos Coifman from Reino Ermitaño, La Garúa, Necromongo and More

Posted in Questionnaire on December 28th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Marcos Coifman Reino Ermitaño

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: Marcos Coifman from Reino Ermitaño, La Garúa, Necromongo and More

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

Concerning music… In short, I am a heavy rock bass player and I sing a bit too, but there’s more to it. I am not a gifted instrumentalist, and never did quite practice long enough to become a truly good one, like anything within earshot of a session musician, I’m just Ok good at what I do. I studied some musical theory a couple of times in my life but I didn’t stick with it for very long, my relationship with music has always been instinctual. I don’t claim this a s a point of pride, mind you, but rather to state that my main interest has mostly always been composing, writing songs, lyrics and melodies. Perhaps I have some talent there. I don’t think I’m a gifted arrange-maker either; I’ve often relied on talented guitarists for that: bridges and solos, getting from point A to point B and C and whatnot. What I love to create is mostly a structure of riffs and build its relationship with a vocal melody counterpart. The meat of a song.

I was brought up drawing and painting and always believed that was going to be my main path. I suppose it still is, I am a visual artist, a painter. Reason I mention this is because to me the creative process in writing songs is not too different from the one in painting: I follow what I call the pleasure principle… it begins with an emotion, which I hone into and follow and try to express as best I can through lines and color or through sounds and words. It is important to me that it starts from there, from within, where there is something that exists, that is felt, something you can follow and recognize, something you feel, when the sounds you make hit the mark and resound with that emotion. Surely one can pick up an instrument and fiddle or begin drawing and doodling and start from there, but when I do that the result feels like a study, like practice, not like art. If there’s no inner feeling going on, driving you, nothing that yearns to break out from the unconscious I’d rather not do anything, really… whenever I’ve tried, I’ve been bored with the result. It doesn’t really matter where it takes you so long as it’s genuine and I try to not manipulate what’s going on too much into pre-concepted forms, as I believe sticking to the genuine, true emotion or story or whatever’s going on inside you and letting it flow naturally is paramount to the whole process.

Describe your first musical memory.

I came into music at an early age – it was always around in my house when I was little, my mom used to play the Beatles, classical and Hispanic music constantly – but I came into the heavy around 12 or so and was hooked on metal… this is around the mid-eighties, so from Maiden to Metallica to Slayer and on to heavier things didn’t take long. But I do remember being a very small kid, like maybe 5, listening to 45’s in the old, large old-timey Telefunken stereo my grandparents had (which I still have and use). Had a favorite record too, even if I used to constantly draw shit on it and my very kind grand mom had to replace it a couple of times. This was it, in all it’s 60’s Gypsy Argentinian Nueva Ola Pop glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjyRUeML6nc

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Hmm… Ok, first I want to say that from the whole musical process, including touring, playing gigs and festivals and releasing records, out of everything, I think the part which has constantly pumped me full of pure pleasure the most is that time when the song that has been gestating in your brain for quite a while and which you’ve gone over acoustically with your bandmates sounds at full blast for the first time in the practice space… it’s just fucking brilliant. And the cool thing is you get to re-experience that high as you keep making music, never gets old.

That said… seeing Black Sabbath reunited (WITH Bill Ward, mind you) in 1999 felt like a full circle amazing experience to me. Just something I didn’t hope to see and just made me completely happy at the time. But there have been many, many highlights. Playing with Reino Ermitaño in Germany’s Doom Shall Rise certainly was one, what a cool gig and people.

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

You know, I can’t really say I’ve had that experience, that I remember. I might forget, but I feel I’ve always done what I wanted to do. Artistically, musically I, we, any band I’ve been in, we never did the slightest thing to please anyone but ourselves, so I have no “almost sold out, but stuck to our guns” stories, heh. I don’t even think I firmly hold any belief, to be honest. I just do me and free and fuck the rest. Respectfully.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Well, with the right stimulus it can lead to greatness, can’t it? If your art knows nothing but struggle, I suppose it depends on how your head works and what your circumstances in life are, but it surely can be hard to feed your art and keep growing and not get bogged down… but in the right time and place, hey… Black Sabbath, Hendrix, The Beatles, what have you… of course an insane amount of talent was there, but also the world conspired to allow them to nurture it into peak heights. Sabotage, Physical Graffiti… would those records have been written without the bands’ previous success and support? Probably not, I think.

In any case, even without financial success, even without peers, art can progress and lead to a sense of fulfillment that is not unlike a spiritual or religious high. And that is success in and of itself.

How do you define success?

Sticking to music and art in general… as I said in the previous question, to me success comes with the completion of a project you are content with, one which truly makes you feel fulfilled. That is the core. And then there’s success… I would feel successful enough to live only of my art, with no material worries, as any artist would, perhaps. But that can be a tall order in this world. In any case I’ve never had ambition for Rock and Roll stardom or art history books. The respect of my peers and the love by people who dig the work we’ve done in our small doom niche around the world has been fulfilling to me.

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

Cheesus, that’s a hard one… I live in Peru, there’s a lot of ghastly sights we’ve seen. I once unintentionally stepped on a hand after a car bomb blew up some blocks from my house in the eighties. And truly, it doesn’t matter where you are, the world has horror enough for all of us. Can’t think of a particular nightmare at the moment that was so traumatizing I wish I could erase, though… while I do have some regrets in life, I don’t really wish to unsee or unlive any of it. It doesn’t work that way for me.

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

I am in the process of making the guts of what will become a record with my new band, illwind. I wanna’ make that very badly. Gods willing, it will happen soon. Other than that, I hope there’s still a whole universe of unsettling dreams for me to paint that I have yet to discover.

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

Connection. For sure. Above and beyond all, art is about connecting. It is about connecting with yourself and the regions beyond your consciousness that you can only access in dreams. It’s about connecting with other people through a language richer, and more profound than words as we normally use them – poetry excluded. It can be about connecting with the spiritual or an upper (or lower) plane, as religions or psychedelics do or attempt to. We are still very small, see? This language we use and these senses and the society we’ve built for us are great (yes I know, bear with me, I’m aware of the shit as well) but through art we can reach into a deeper form of connection of the self, of the senses, we can shed our everyday husk for a while and touch something soul-moving. That’s it.

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

Travelling. Fucking hell, how do I miss that. It’s been a while. Hopefully soon.





Reino Ermita​ñ​o, Reino Ermita​ñ​o (2019 reissue)

La Garúa, Panza de burro thunder blues (2013)

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Quarterly Review: Yatra, Sula Bassana, Garden of Worm, Orthodox, Matus, Shrooms Circle, Goatriders, Arthur Brown, Green Sky Accident, Pure Land Stars

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Oh hello. I didn’t see you there. What, this? Oh, this is just me hanging out about to review 100 records in 10 days’ time. Yup, it’s another double-wide Quarterly Review, and I’m telling myself that no, this isn’t just how life is now, that two full weeks of 10 reviews per day isn’t business as usual, but there’s an exceptional amount of music out there right now, and no, this isn’t even close to all of it. But I’m doing my best to keep up and this is what that looks like.

The bottom line is the same as always and I’ll give it to you up front and waste no more time: I hope you enjoy the music here and find something to love.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #01-10:

Yatra, Born into Chaos

yatra born into chaos

The partnership between Chesapeake extremists Yatra and producer Noel Mueller continues to bear fruit on the band’s fourth album and first for Prosthetic Records. Their descent from thick, nasty sludge into death metal is complete, and songs like “Terminate by the Sword” and “Terrorizer” have enough force behind them to become signature pieces. The trio of Dana Helmuth (guitar/vocals), Maria Geisbert (bass) and Sean Lafferty (drums, also Grave Bathers) have yet to sound so utterly ferocious, and as each of their offerings has pushed further into the tearing-flesh-like-paper and rot-stenched realms of metal, Born into Chaos brings the maddening intensity of “Wrath of the Warmaster” and the Incantation-worthy chug of closer “Tormentation,” with massive chug, twisting angularity and brain-melting blasts amid the unipolar throatripper screams from Helmuth (reminds at times of Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved), by now a familiar rasp that underscores the various violences taking place within the eight included tracks. I bet they get even meaner next time,. That’s just how Yatra do. But it’ll be a challenge.

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Sula Bassana, Nostalgia

Sula Bassana Nostalgia

Part of the fun of a new Sula Bassana release is not knowing what you’re going to get, and Nostalgia, which is built from material recorded between 2013-’18 and finished between 2019-’21, is full of surprises. The heavy space grunge of lead cut “Real Life,” which along with its side A companion “We Will Make It” actually features vocals from Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt himself (!), is the first here but not the last. That song beefs up early Radiohead drudgery, and “We Will Make It” is like what happens when space rock actually gets to space, dark in a way but expansive and gorgeous. Side B is instrumental, but the mellotron in “Nostalgia” — how could a track called “Nostalgia” not have mellotron? — goes a long way in terms of atmosphere, and the 10-minute “Wurmloch” puts its well-schooled krautrockism to use amid melodic drone before the one-man-jam turns into a freakout rager (again: !), and the outright beautiful finisher “Mellotraum” turns modern heavy post-rock on its head, stays cohesive despite all the noise and haze and underscores the mastery Schmidt has developed in his last two decades of aural exploration. One wonders to what this sonic turn might lead timed so close to his departure from Electric Moon and building a Sula live band, but either way, more of this, please. Please.

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Garden of Worm, Endless Garden

Garden of Worm Endless Garden

Continuing a streak of working with highly-respected imprints, Finland’s Garden of Worm release their third album, the eight-song/43-minute Endless Garden, through Nasoni Records after two prior LPs through Shadow Kingdom and Svart, respectively. There have been lineup changes since 2015’s Idle Stones (review here), but the band’s classically progressive aspects have never shone through more. The patient unfolding of “White Ship” alone is evidence for this, never mind everything else that surrounds, and though the earlier “Name of Lost Love” and the closer “In the Absence of Memory” nod to vintage doom and the nine-minute penultimate “Sleepy Trees” basks in a raw, mellow Floydian melody, the core of the Tampere outfit remains their unpredictability and the fact that you never quite know where you’re going until you’re there. Looking at you, “Autumn Song,” with that extended flute-or-what-ever-it-is intro before the multi-layered folk-doom vocal kicks in. For over a decade now, Garden of Worm have been a well kept secret, and honestly, that kind of works for the vibe they cast here; like you were walking through the forest and stumbled into another world. Good luck getting back.

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Orthodox, Proceed

orthodox proceed

Untethered by genre and as unorthodox as ever, Sevilla, Spain, weirdo doom heroes Orthodox return with Proceed after four years in the ether, and the output is duly dug into its own reality of ritualism born more of creation than horror-worship across the six included songs. “Arendrot” carries some shade from past dronings, and certainly the opener before it is oddball enough, with its angular riffing and later, Iberian-folk-derived solo, but there’s a straigter-forward aspect to Proceed as well, the vocals lending a character of noise rock and less outwardly experimentalist fare. “Rabid God” brings that forward with due intensity before the hi-hat-shimmy-meets-cave-lumber-doom “Starve” and the lurching/ambient doomjazz “The Son, the Sword, the Bread” set up the 10-minute closer “The Long Defeat,” which assures the discomforted that at least at some point when they were kids Orthodox listened to metal. Righteously individual, their work isn’t for everyone, and it’s by no means free of indulgence, but in 42 minutes, Orthodox once again stretch the limits of what doom means in a way that most bands wouldn’t dare even if they wanted to, and if you can’t respect that, then I’ve got nothing for you.

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Matus, Espejismos II

Matus Espejismos II

Fifty years from now, some brave archivalist soul is going to reissue the entire catalog of Lima, Peru’s Matus and blow minds far and wide. A follow-up to 2013’s Espejismos (review here), Espejismos II brings theremin-laced vintage Sabbath rock vibes across its early movements, going so far as to present “Umbral / Niebla de Neón” in mono, while the minute-and-a-half-long “Los Ojos de Vermargar (Early Version)” is pure fuzz and the organ-laced “Hada Morgana (Early Instrumental Mix)” — that and “Umbra; / Niebla de Neón” appeared in ‘finished versions on 2015’s Claroscuro (review here); “Summerland” dates back to 2010’s M​á​s Allá Del Sol Poniente (review here), so yes, time has lost all meaning — moves into the handclap-and-maybe-farfisa-organ “Canción para Nuada,” one of several remixes with rerecorded drums. “Rocky Black” is an experiment in sound collage, and “Misquamacus” blends acoustic intricacy and distorted threat, while capper “Adiós Afallenau (Version)” returns the theremin for a two-minute walk before letting go to a long stretch of silence and some secret-track-style closing cymbals. The best thing you can do with Matus is just listen. It’s its own thing, it always has been, and the experimental edge brought to classic heavy rock is best taken on with as open a mind as possible. Let it go where it wants to go and the rewards will be plenty. And maybe in another five decades everyone will get it.

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Shrooms Circle, The Constant Descent

Shrooms Circle The Constant Descent

Offset by interludes like the classical-minded “Aversion” or the bass-led “Reprobation,” or even the build-up intro “S.Z.,” the ritual doom nod of Swiss five-piece Shrooms Circle‘s The Constant Descent is made all the more vital through the various keys at work across its span, whether it’s organ or mellotron amid the lumbering weight of the riffs. “Perpetual Decay” and its companion interlude “Amorphous” dare a bit of beauty, and that goes far in adding context and scope to the already massive sounding “The Unreachable Spiral” and the subtle vocal layering in “The Constant Descent.” Someone in this band likes early Type O Negative, and that’s just fine. Perhaps most of all, the 11-song/48-minute The Constant Descent is dynamic enough so that no matter where a given song starts, the listener doesn’t immediately know where it’s going to end up, and taking that in combination with the command shown throughout “Demotion,” “Perpetual Decay,” the eight-minute “Core Breakdown” and the another-step-huger finale “Stagnant Tide,” Shrooms Circle‘s second album offers atmosphere and craft not geared toward hooking the audience with catchy songwriting so much as immersing them in the mood and murk in which the band seem to reside. If Coven happened for the first time today, they might sound like this.

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Goatriders, Traveler

Goatriders Traveler

I’m gonna tell you straight out: Don’t write this shit off because Goatriders is a goofy band name or because the cover art for their second album, Traveler, is #vanlife carrot gnomes listening to a tape player on a hillside (which is awesome, by the way). There’s more going on with the Linköping four-piece than the superficialities make it seem. “Unscathed” imagines what might have happened if Stubb and Hexvssel crossed paths on that same hill, and the album careens back and forth smoothly between longer and shorter pieces across 50 engrossing minutes; nature-worshiping, low-key dooming and subtly genre-melding all the while. Then they go garage on “The Garden,” the album seeming to get rawer in tone as it proceeds toward “Witches Walk” and the a capella finish in “Coven,” which even that they can’t resist blowing out at the end. With the hypnotic tom work and repeat riffing of the instrumental “Elephant Bird” at its center and the shouted culminations of “Goat Head Nebula” and “Unscathed,” the urgent ritualizing of “Snakemother” and the deceptive poise at the outset with “Atomic Sunlight,” Traveler finds truth in its off-kilter presentation. You don’t get Ozium, Majestic Mountain and Evil Noise on board by accident. Familiar as it is and drawing from multiple sides, I’m hard-pressed to think of someone doing exactly what Goatriders do, and that should be taken as a compliment.

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Arthur Brown, Long Long Road

Arthur Brown Long Long Road

At the tender age of 80, bizarrist legend Arthur Brown — the god of hellfire, as the cover art immediately reminds — presents Long Long Road to a new generation of listeners. His first album under his own name in a decade — The Crazy World of Arthur Brown released Gypsy Voodoo (can you still say that?) in 2019 — and written and performed in collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Rik Patten, songs like “Going Down” revisit classic pageantry in organ and horns and the righteous lyrical proclamations of the man himself, while “I Like Games” toys with blues vibes in slide acoustic, kick drum thud and harmonica sleazenanigans, while the organ-and-electric “The Blues and Messing Round” studs with class and “Long Long Road” reminds that “The future’s open/The past is due/In this moment/Where everything that comes is new,” a hopeful message before “Once I Had Illusions (Part 2)” picks up where its earlier companion-piece left off in a manner that’s both lush and contemplative, more than a showpiece for Brown‘s storytelling and still somehow that. His legacy will forever be tied to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown‘s late-1960s freakery, but Long Long Road is the work of an undimmed creative spirit and still bolder than 90 percent of rock bands will ever dare to be.

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Green Sky Accident, Daytime TV

Green Sky Accident Daytime TV

Ultimately, whether one ends up calling Green Sky Accident‘s Daytime TV progressive psychedelia, heavier post-rock or some other carved-out microgenre, the reality of the 10-song/50-minute Apollon Records release is intricate enough to justify the designation. Richly melodic and unafraid to shimmer brightly, cuts like “Point of No Return” and the later dancer “Finding Failure” are sweet in mood and free largely of the pretense of indie rock, though “Insert Coin” and the penultimate piano interlude “Lid” are certainly well dug-in, but “Sensible Scenes,” opener “Faded Memories,” closer “While We Lasted” and the ending of “Screams at Night” aren’t lacking either for movement or tonal presence, and that results in an impression more about range underscored by songwriting and melody than any kind of tonal or stylistic showcase. The Bergen, Norway, four-piece are, in other words, on their own trip. And as much float as they bring forth, “In Vain” reimagines heavy metal as a brightly expressive terrestrial entity, a thing to be made and remade according to the band’s own purpose for it, and the title-track similarly balances intensity with a soothing affect. I guess this is what alt rock sounds like in 2022. Could be far worse, and indeed, it presents an ‘other’ vision from the bulk of what surrounds it even in an underground milieu. On a personal level, I can’t decide if I like it, and I kind of like that about it.

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Pure Land Stars, Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

Pure Land Stars Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

With members of Cali psych-of-all explorers White Manna at their core, Pure Land Stars begin a series called ‘Altered States’ that’s a collaboration between Centripetal Force and Cardinal Fuzz Records, and if you’re thinking that that’s going to mean it’s way far out there, you’re probably not thinking far enough. Kosmiche drones and ambient foreboding in “Flotsam” and “3rd Grace” make the acoustic strum of “Mountains are Mountains” seem like a terrestrial touch-down, while “Chime the Kettle” portrays a semi-industrial nature-worship jazz, and “Jetsam” unfolds like a sunrise but if the sun suddenly came up one day and was blue. “Lavendar Crowd” (sic) turns the experimentalism percussive, but it’s that experimentalism at the project’s core, whether that’s manifest in the nigh-on-cinematic “Dr. Hillarious” (sic) or the engulf-you-now eight-minute closer “Eyes Like a Green Ceiling,” which is about as far from the keyboardy kratrock of “Flotsam” as the guitar effects and improvised sounding soloing of “Jetsam” a few tracks earlier. Cohesive? Sure. But in its own dimension. I don’t know if Pure Land Stars is a ‘band’ or a one-off, but they give ‘Altered States’ a rousing start that more than lives up to the name. Take a breath first. Maybe a drink of water. Then dive in.

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Friday Full-Length: We Here Now, The Chikipunk Years

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

It’s not an easy record. And you should know that the version above isn’t the whole thing. We Here Now‘s The Chikipunk Years (discussed here), issued in 2019 through Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Homemade Gifts Music runs 10 tracks on its physical editions; LP, CD, tape. The digital version, which I bought from Bandcamp ahead of writing this with Obelisk merch money — thank you for your support — has seven tracks, leaving out “Angelus Novus,” “Parambulation” and “Clearings.” The stream from the same page is only four songs, and I’m pretty sure that’s the version on YouTube you’ll find that only runs 10 minutes as opposed to the complete album’s 32 minutes. It’s a problem I solved by going upstairs and getting the CD, but if you listen above, know you’re getting a sampler rather than the entirety. ‘Friday Full-Length’ indeed.

The Chikipunk Years came up this week as Elektrohasch — the long-running imprint helmed by Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek — announced it was basically shutting down for everything other than that band’s own releases and reissues of past work. A genuine bummer, but well within Koglek‘s rights. What was We Here Now‘s debut and seems like it probably won’t get a follow-up anytime soon (I wouldn’t mind being wrong) was mentioned specifically as an example of an outing the label thought was great that didn’t meet with customers’ desires: “With my last new artists – We Here Now, Public Animal, Carpet, Saturnia… – my taste apparently didn‘t meet yours. That especially such a great, stylistically independent album like We Here Now, The Chikipunk Years — a group apart from the usual European/North American origin — was sold just 60 times made me think.”

That number 60 made me think too, honestly, and it seemed like a fitting occasion to revisit The Chikipunk Years and find out what happened. In terms of sales, well, the band operated under the group moniker of Un Chiquitino, which is another word for ‘Chikipunk,’ which itself is slang for Latin and South American kids trying to sell gum to rich gringo tourists. A pretty obscure reference, maybe, and the gap-toothed smiling kid on the front cover is adorable, but god damn teeth are gross. There’s that little flap of the top gums sticking out there and even looking at it makes my skin crawl. Nothing against the kid, of course, just my own hangup, but still. I feel like I’m about to fall into that space and be lost forever.

Even if that’s not a barrier to entry, the music itself across the 10 tracks is wildly dense. Also just wild. And it’s easy to get the appeal that hooked Koglek on it to start with, since the songs take fuzz and psychedelic rocks and blends it with West African and South American rhythms, dub sampling and cumbia-style psych, classic rock — “Planes of Inmanence” near the record’s middle sounds like if The Beatles made Revolver in the Andes; not a complaint — and more besides. You could sit andWe Here Now The Chikipunk Years pick apart the snare shuffle alone in post-intro leadoff “Gathering and Separation” for a month, let alone the intended-to-move percussion that surrounds, and one song later, “Angelus Novus” arrives a completely drumless stretch of mellow guitar and keys.

We Here Now was an almost maddeningly inventive outfit. Comprised of Pedro “Sozinho” Salvador from Brazil’s Necro, Queen Elephantine‘s Indrayudh Shome who I believe was operating out of the Northeast US at the time (don’t quote me on that; dude gets around), and Peruvian drummer Panchito Fr. Sofista, whose mere association with Montibus Communitas makes him the stuff of legend in my mind, they were perhaps ahead of their time in functioning remotely, but in the reality of bands promoting their own work on social media, ‘It’s been two weeks since we released this album what’s your favorite song?’ etc.-style engagement, there was none of that. Not every act does that, and not every act needs to or wants to pander, which I can understand, but some definitely do, and I doubt it would happen if it didn’t at least push some sales.

The record is also a lot of fun, mind you. That sample about perfection in “Gathering and Separation” right before the solo is humorous and perfectly timed. The insistent fuzz shuffle of “Frontiers and Determinations” on side B, the dizzying for-a-walkness of the penultimate “Parambulation” and the subsequent, also-instrumental closer “Clearings” are both impressive in the doing on the part of the band and engaging in their intricacy. The Chikipunk Years challenges the listener to keep up with it, but makes that process a joy from the 95-second “Sojourns” onward. It is entirely cohesive within itself and yet a song like “Dukkha” knows no real microgenre boundaries, drawing from across a multifaceted sonic experientialism and creating something new from it.

Isn’t that the ideal? So, 60 copies? Maybe some records are destined to be cult favorites, and for being clean in its tone and delivery, clear in its exploratory purpose and progressive and thoughtful in its construction, The Chikipunk Years is nonetheless a head-spinner, and that doesn’t necessarily make it more accessible to a mass listenership. It’s also worth noting that in 2019, the similarly-named Los Angeles-based troupe Here Lies Man had released two albums, and worked in a more grounded aesthetic pursuing Afrobeat and heavy vibes in a way that some of We Here Now‘s material also seemed to do, with more promotion and touring behind them. So maybe We Here Now just kind of got lost in the shuffle.

The makings of a future classic? The kind of album that’ll be reissued in another 20 years and leave its audience scratching its collective head as to why it wasn’t huge at the time? Maybe. Who knows? It may go down as the last non-Colour Haze record on Elektrohasch — I don’t know that either, mind you —  and that alone is a legacy worthy of the kind of trivia contest that happens basically nowhere, but given that The Chikipunk Years is so much in its own sphere aesthetically and so dug into its intent, it’s a process of meeting the band where they are rather than the kind of situation where they come to you. That’s the challenge. The thing that apparently remains undiscovered about We Here Now‘s lone offering to-date is how much it’s completely worth that effort.

It’s 5:23AM. I just put up the first post of the day, which this will follow in a few hours, and the kid’s been down here since 4:55AM. The Patient Mrs. has been away since Wednesday at a conference and will be back I think tomorrow night after he goes to bed. He misses her and was expressing it yesterday after school by being a complete asshole. Can’t imagine where he possibly ever learned to do that.

Ups and downs, then. Big fucking change.

I found out this week that Creem Magazine is cutting out digital columns as part of a ‘restructuring’ happening apparently across the board. That’s a bit of money I’ll miss. Since the piece I turned in about King Buffalo didn’t make it into the print issue either, I’m kind of assuming that means my association with whatever Creem becomes is over. Nice while it lasted, but I’ve been a part of magazine rollouts and refreshes before and that’s how it goes. Everybody’s very excited at the start and then the reality becomes something different. I’m sure the t-shirts are selling well though. Anyway, I’ve got one more Creem column and that’s it. Back to my corner of the internet I go, grateful for the opportunity I had and probably blew.

I guess that sucks. I could go on but frankly see no point in it. All the best to Creem and sincere thanks to Fred Pessaro for bringing me on board.

Still got the Gimme show though. That’s 5PM Eastern today: http://gimmemetal.com. Thanks if you listen.

Burnt out, tired of bullshit. So perfect time for a Quarterly Review, right? That starts next week. 100 records again. Could easily be 150, but won’t be.

Alright, that’s my last plug. I’ll actually get started on that QR today and over the weekend in the maybe-an-hour-if-I’m-lucky that wakong up at 4AM buys me before the kid is awake, so will be around. I hope you have a great and safe weekend.

Thanks for reading. FRM.

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Friday Full-Length: Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

If you know this one, you already know. If you don’t, take a breath before you get introduced. Then take another. And another. Be aware of those breaths.

The meditative nature of the sounds is writ large across Montibus Communitas‘ The Pilgrim to the Absolute, the 2014 second-ish-and-what-do-numbers-matter-when-we-have-the-cosmos-as-our-playground full-length from the Lima, Peru, exploratory collective. It’s a record of multiple paths. You can be the pilgrim, decked out in travel gear, walking stick and headphones, making your way every step through the six-song/43-minute progression, from “The Pilgrim Under Stars” at the outset to “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” itself at the finish, the ‘Absolute’ itself providing both the pilgrim’s destination and the next path you can take. You can be the absolute. You can leave the details to the details, revel in the nighttime crickets and moving percussion of “The Pilgrim at the Shrine,” violin and drums reverbed out in distant what-did-I-take-and-how-much fashion as the music begins to shift about three minutes in, and spread mind-presence like pouring water in the memories of “The Pilgrim to the Source of Love and Life” and the droning resolution in “The Pilgrim and the Light Masters” and the concluding title-track. Closed eyes, you don’t have to see your steps because you know it doesn’t matter, if you slip you’ll just fly.

Or I guess you can be you, and that’s also fine.

There aren’t lyrics — so don’t expect any — but to call The Pilgrim to the Absolute anything but narrative does it an injustice. The titles, with “…Under Stars,” “…to the Woods,” “…at the Shrine,” and so on providing clear stages of the pilgrim’s journey toward what seems to be some kind of resonant oneness. And whether you listen like you’re the one doing the going or like you’re the destination, or even like you’re one of the light masters in “The Pilgrim to the Light Masters,” what ultimately matters is your willingness to give The Pilgrim to the Absolute the attention it deserves. It is not always easy. Somewhat ironically, this is not driving music. It’s very definitely an on-foot pilgrimage, sonically speaking.

But it’s also a ceremony in itself, and you can hear that in the experimentalism, the realization of “The Pilgrim to the Source of Love and Life” and the ethereality that ties the entire album together, one piece into the next. There’s gorgeous melodic shimmer, but it’s always in interaction with sounds from the natural world, and of all the dream-acid music one might encounter using birdsong to its atmospheric advantage, I’ve never heard a group do it with montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolutethe same kind of character as Montibus Communitas do here, or come out with the same kind of moment-capture in the end result.

The three longer-form chapters, or stages, or levels, or whatever you might want to call them, help give The Pilgrim to the Absolute its shape. And they’re arranged shortest-to-longest in themselves. That’s the aforementioned opener, “The Pilgrim Under Stars” (8:22), the vinyl side-A closer “The Pilgrim at the Shrine” (10:14), and the side B finale “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” (13:46). They are the stops along the way, though it’s noteworthy that the last of them is “…to the Absolute” rather than “at” it, which would seem to imply another journey being undertaken.

To that end, there’s a fair amount about Montibus Communitas and The Pilgrim to the Absolute that’s still not really out there to know. For example, why they never made a follow-up to this record. And also who they were. I know there was some common membership between Montibus Communitas and the multi-national collective We Here Now, who put their The Chikipunk Years (discussed here) album in 2019 through Elektrohasch, but that’s about as much as I have to go on. The Pilgrim to the Absolute didn’t come out of nowhere, of course — it was issued through Beyond Beyond is Beyond after being self-released by the band — and it’s certainly not a thing I “discovered” in some kind of aesthetic colonialist fashion. All of the work the band did (that I know of) was between 2011 and 2014 — kind of hard to know where studio releases end and live ones begin, but again, whatever — and so far as I know, The Pilgrim to the Absolute is the last of it.

You can insert your own story here about the band having transcended to the plane of existence portrayed in their music if you want — say what you (I) will about echo and reverb and dreams and alternate dimensions, there’s a constant human presence in these songs — but one way or another, they’re not the first or last to make their way into something really special sound-wise and then not be heard from again in the same form. Sometimes that makes a record like this more special for the time it captures in the first place.

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

The day isn’t really over, huh? Maryland Doom Fest is set to announce its lineup at 8PM, and I’ve still got to get that post ready as well as some other stuff that I hope to have up before this. We’ll see if that happens.

I was away for part of this week, Tuesday into yesterday evening, house/dog-sitting for The Patient Mrs.’ mother and sister in Connecticut. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Clutch at Starland Ballroom anyway, what with the amount of people who’d be there, but it was convenient to have another valid excuse to give myself, if parenting an unvaccinated kid wasn’t enough of one. Someday they’ll have a shot for the under-five set. I hope he’s not seven by the time they get there.

But who cares, right? I hear omicron isn’t that bad, and so what if it’s like half a mil cases per day. Haven’t you ever heard of a bad cold season? Mask this, big government!

Quite an age we live in.

On that note, Happy New Year 2022. The Patient Mrs. and I discussed last night how we would ring it in and it was mutually decided we’d watch Star Trek on the couch and then go to bed, probably before 9PM. With the bulk of the day ahead of me, I’ll say I’m looking very much forward to it.

Whatever you’re up to, be safe and have fun. On Monday the poll results will go up. Tuesday I think is a premiere? I gotta look. I’m going to try to review the new Earthless though after that, or whenever the next open day is. I’ll check the notes and get back to you, or, more likely, not get back to you and just post what I can when I can, because these days that’s about as much time as I have. To wit, I’m writing this now on my phone while The Pecan paints rocks from a craft kit he just got. Week later he’s still getting Xmas payout. Pretty impressive.

In any case, don’t forget to hydrate and watch your head. I’ll be back with more on Monday and so on into the great unknown of January.

Thanks again for reading. Please buy a t-shirt and/or some sweatpants so I can invariably spend the money on whoever is closing out next week’s Bandcamp. Ha.


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