Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses: Tune in, Shut up, Freak Out

Posted in Reviews on September 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision for the masses

From cosmic fuckery to interstellar shove-blues, Ecstatic Vision‘s For the Masses is a space-weirdo dreamboat of wash-creation and spacial anomaly. You know that video where the bullet hits the watermelon in super-slow-motion and the whole back end of the thing explodes and it’s a glorious, sticky mess even though the bullet itself has already traveled through and gone? Ecstatic Vision are the bullet and space rock is the watermelon. For the Masses is the Philly-based psych rockers’ third album and second release through Heavy Psych Sounds behind the 2018 covers EP, Under the Influence (discussed here), and they the four-piece would seem to have blown the doors off their own approach, which was already fairly open across their two prior albums, 2017’s Raw Rock Fury (review here) and 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), both released through Relapse. It is their first long-player with Ricky Kulp on drums — though he appeared on the EP last year as well — and he joins founding guitarist/vocalist/etc.-ist Doug Sabolik and bassist Michael Field Connor as well as guitarist/saxophonist/flutist Kevin Nickles, who played on the first record as a guest and soon signed on as a full-fledged member, as they direct themselves into the further reaches of way gone, seeming to find new echelons of obliteration en route.

Effects swirl, synth and the periodic bursts of sax obscure echo-drenched vocals, but the motorik rhythmic drive is unmistakable, even behind the penultimate “The Magic Touch,” the entirety of which feels like it was being recorded with the mics set up across the room from where it was being played. Three longer pieces, “Shut up and Drive” (7:14), “Yuppie Sacrifice” (8:05) and closer “Grasping the Void” (7:11) help define the seven-track/35-minute offering, but even that definition they provide is loose in the spirit of earliest Monster Magnet doing their best stoned-biker Hawkwind, and For the Masses retains a volatility of spirit that doesn’t so much take the time to earn the right to go where it pleases by establishing rules and then defying them as just cut out the middle man and do whatever the fuck it wants. There is no substitute for efficiency in this regard.

If those who decry heavy rock and roll’s redundant riffs and ready-for-pasture aesthetic can’t hear the capital-‘n’ New bleeding through Ecstatic Vision‘s work here, the problem isn’t with the riffs. With the fading-in percussive intro “Sage Wisdom” launching with an initial two minutes of swirl, For the Masses begins with an immediately off-kilter feel. A wave of synth and blown-out sample take forward position then disappear as the percussion stops and the drone fades into the start of “Shut up and Drive,” the swirl and fuzz-bass of which are righteous from the outset. Laced with solos and tripped-out echo on the vocals, more percussion and not at all the last hypnotic groove they’ll offer, it’s as much a lead-in as it is a lead-out for your brain, which the band seem to be actively working to melt down and, presumably, reshape into a gaudy gold chain.

ecstatic vision

The guitar howls and winds and the bass and drums hold on lockdown even in the takeoff of the song’s later reaches, which are consuming before they’re also consumed, ending, of course, with an upward current of synth and turn to the far-back, already-gone “Yuppie Sacrifice,” the distance of which lends a mellow vibe to what isn’t actually at all a mellow progression, For the Masses‘ longest track enforcing its mania through hand-drums and keyboard undulations even before the drums snap into a ranting verse. The second half of the song? Straight-up past-the-point-of-no-return-oh-was-there-a-point-we-passed-oh-well-whatever fuckall jam that’s mesmerizing and turns to the all-drive cosmic punk thrust of “Like a Freak,” with Sabolik‘s sneer and squeal more central in the mix and a runtime cut by more than half to lend a further sense of urgency. Somehow they still manage to find room to completely blow it out, as one would hope, frankly, for a song called “Like a Freak,” and their hurry-up-and-drop-acid-style throb isn’t done yet.

But first, a bit of jazz. Yes, the sax comes into play on the subsequent two-minute title-track — and they’re into side B now and ready to get even weirder — and that lends a free-jazz improv style to keyboard insistence and grunted-out spoken vocals, manic drumming and whatever else would seem to have shown up that day. It is space rock drawn to its logical maximum, purposefully un-prog and all the more thoughtful for that. A slower line of synth at the beginning of “The Magic Touch” signals a shift to some chill, but it’s still got plenty of movement as Ecstatic Vision dare their listenership to keep up with them as they chase this or that theoretical impossibility. The importance of Connor‘s bass in “The Magic Touch,” as in “Shut up and Drive,” isn’t to be discounted, as it gives heft and a grounding complement to the float and reach of the guitar and keyboards, with the drums and percussion ranging beyond this or that convention. In its final measures, the guitar comes forward to hammer home the central riff, but it’s the bass that’s been doing so all along, and it proves crucial as well in “Grasping the Void,” which reads as much like a mission statement for For the Masses as any kind of description of what the song is actually up to.

Guitar emerges at about 90 seconds in to drive the turn to the verse, which is anthemic in a kind of anti-hero vein, soaking wet with effects and piloting farther out of the known universe. Is there a last guitar solo to bid farewell as Ecstatic Vision exit galaxy stage left? Why hell yes, there most certainly is, and a quick wash of synth thereafter draws down quickly to end the record in a sudden-seeming cut to silence that makes one wonder if perhaps they found that void after all. Seems it’s the place to be, and fair enough. Ecstatic Vision have never been short on attitude, and they aren’t here either, but what feels different about For the Masses is that they’re using the studio itself and the mix as instruments and toying with atmosphere as well as with effects and arrangement elements. These experiments work, and tie gorgeously to those being done with the songs themselves in structure and execution, making For the Masses sound all the more like what Ecstatic Vision have been trying to capture all along.

Ecstatic Vision, Sonic Praise (2019)

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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High Reeper & Crypt Trip Announce Fall European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

high reeper (Photo Drew Wiedemann)

crypt trip

Crypt Trip and High Reeper both toured Europe this past Spring, the former in March/April and the latter in April/May. Crypt Trip played RoadburnHigh Reeper played Desertfest in London. The way I see the dates, the US-based Heavy Psych Sounds labelmates missed each other by all of five days in terms of intercontinental travel, and as apparently both acts left some unfinished business abroad, it seems only reasonable they’d head back over in good company. They’ll both take part in their label’s festival in Rome, Italy, and Innsbruck, Austria, as well as Desertfest Belgium and a host of other sweet-looking gigs, and because the astounding coincidences keep piling up, they both go supporting killer 2019 releases, as High Reeper‘s Higher Reeper (review here) and Crypt Trip‘s Haze County (review here) both came out this Spring. Go figure.

Still some dates TBA in the UK (that’s the new “Anarchy in the UK,” btw) here, so keep an eye out, but here’s what’s been announced:

high reeper crypt trip tour

*** HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP European Fall Tour 2019 ***

We are so happy to present a very special combo tour. Our beloved HIGH REEPER and Crypt Trip will smash Europe together this Fall playing in Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria and UK. A lot of single shows but also great festivals such as Desertfest Belgium, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest // Roma and Heavy Psych Sounds Fest IBK | Conan, Black Rainbows, more !!!

HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP EU Fall Tour 2019

11.10.2019 IT Pescara-Scumm
12.10.2019 IT Roma-Traffic, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
13.10.2019 IT Cecina- Fuzz n Roll, Ritmi
14.10.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
15.10.2019 IT Trieste-El Covo De Jameson
16.10.2019 SL Ljubljana-Channel Zero
18.10.2019 DE Siegen-Freak Sabbath Vol 5
19.10.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record Shop
20.10.2019 BE Antwerp-Desertfest Belgium
21.10.2019 FR Lille
22.10.2019 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet
23.10.2019 FR Toulouse-Usine a Musique
24.10.2019 SP Bilbao-Satelite T
25.10.2019 SP Aviles-Factoria Cultural
26.10.2019 SP Madrid-Wurlitzer Ballroom
27.10.2019 PT Porto-Barracuda
28.10.2019 PT Lisbon-Sabotage Club
30.10.2019 SP Barcelona-Rocksound
31.10.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’or
01.11.2019 AT Innsbruck-PMK Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
02.11.2019 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk
04.11.2019 AT Koln-MTC*
05.11.2019 UK*
06.11.2019 UK*
07.11.2019 UK*
08.11.2019 UK Bristol*
09.11.2019 UK London-Black Heart*

HIGH REEPER ONLY*

HIGH REEPER are:
Zach Tomas – Vocals
Shane Trimble – Bass
Pat Dealy – Guitars
Andrew Price – Guitars
Justin Di Pinto – Drums

CRYPT TRIP are:
Ryan Lee – Vocals, Guitar
Sam Bryant – Bass
Cameron Martin – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/HIGHREEPER/
https://highreeper.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CryptTrip/
https://crypttrip.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/

High Reeper, Higher Reeper (2019)

Crypt Trip, Haze Country (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Black Lung, Giant Dwarf, Land Mammal, Skunk, Silver Devil, Sky Burial, Wizzerd, Ian Blurton, Cosmic Fall

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Got my laptop back. Turned out the guy had to give me a new hard drive entirely, clone all my data on it, and scrap the other drive. I’m sure if I took it to another technician they’d have said something completely different, either for better or worse, but it was $165 and I got my computer back, working, in a day, so I can’t really complain. Worth the money, obviously, even though it was $40 more than the estimate. I assume that was a mix of “new hard drive” and “this is the last thing I’m doing before a four-day weekend.” Either way, totally legit. Bit of stress on my part, but what’s a Quarterly Review without it?

This ends the week, but there’s still one more batch of 10 reviews to go on Monday, so I won’t delay further, except to say more to come.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo

elizabeth colour wheel nocebo

A rare level of triumph for a first album, Elizabeth Colour Wheel‘s aesthetic scope and patience of craft on Nocebo result in a genre-spanning post-noise rock that maintains an atmospheric heft whether loud or quiet at any given moment, and a sense of unpredictability that feels born out of a genuinely forward-thinking songwriting process. It is dark, emotionally resonant, beautiful and crushing across its eight songs and 47 minutes, as the Philadelphia five-piece ebb and flow instrumentally behind a standout vocal performance that reminds of Julie Christmas circa Battle of Mice on “Life of a Flower” but is ultimately more controlled and all the more lethal for that. Bouts of extremity pop up at unexpected times and the songs flow into each other so as to make all of Nocebo feel like a single, multi-hued work, which it just might be as it moves into ambience between “Hide Behind (Emmett’s Song)” and “Bedrest” before exploding to life again in “34th” and transitioning directly into the cacophonous apex that comes with closer “Head Home.” One of the best debuts of 2019, if not the best.

Elizabeth Colour Wheel on Thee Facebooks

The Flenser on Bandcamp

 

Black Lung, Ancients

black lung ancients

Ancients is the third full-length from Baltimore’s Black Lung, whose heavy blues rock takes a moodier approach from the outset of “Mother of the Sun” onward, following an organ-led roll in that opener that calls to mind All Them Witches circa Lightning at the Door and following 2016’s See the Enemy (review here) with an even firmer grasp on their overarching intent. The title-track is shorter at 3:10 and offers some post-rock flourish in the guitar amid its otherwise straight-ahead push, but there’s a tonal depth to add atmosphere to whatever moves they’re making at the time, “The Seeker” and “Voices” rounding out side A with relatively grounded swing and traditionalist shuffle but still catching attention through pace and presentation alike. That holds true as “Gone” drifts into psychedelic jamming at the start of side B, and the chunkier “Badlands,” the dramatic “Vultures” and the controlled wash of “Dead Man Blues” take the listener into some unnamed desert without a map or exit strategy. It’s a pleasure to get lost as Ancients plays through, and Black Lung remain a well-kept secret of the East Coast underground.

Black Lung on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Noisolution website

 

Giant Dwarf, Giant Dwarf

Giant Dwarf Giant Dwarf

This just fucking rules, and I feel no need to couch my critique in any more flowery language than that. Driving, fuzzy heavy rock topped with post-Homme melodies that doesn’t sacrifice impact for attitude, the self-released, self-titled debut from Perth, Australia’s Giant Dwarf is a sans-pretense 35 minutes of groove done right. They may be playing to genre, fine, but from the cover art on down, they’re doing so with a sense of personality and a readiness to bring an individual sensibility to their sound. I dig it. Summery tones, rampant vocal melodies in layers, solid rhythmic foundation beneath. The fact that it’s the five-piece’s first album makes me look less for some kind of stylistic nuance, but it’s there to be heard anyway in “Disco Void” and the bouncing end of “High Tide Blues,” and in surrounding cuts like “Repeat After Defeat” and “Strange Wool,” Giant Dwarf set to the task before them with due vitality, imagining Songs for the Deaf with Fu Manchu tonality in “Kepler.” No big surprise, but yeah, it definitely works. Someone should be beating down the door to sign this band.

Giant Dwarf on Thee Facebooks

Giant Dwarf on Bandcamp

 

Land Mammal, Land Mammal

land mammal land mammal

Land Mammal‘s debut outing is a 14-minute, proof-of-concept four-songer EP with clarity of presentation and telegraphed intent. Marked out by the Robert Plant-style vocal heroics of Kinsley August, the band makes the most of a bluesy atmosphere behind him, with Will Weise on wah-ready guitar, Phillip PJ Soapsmith on bass, Stephen Smith on drums and True Turner on keys. On opener “Dark with Rain” and closer “Better Days,” they find a pastoral vibe that draws from ’90s alternative, thinking Blind Melon particularly in the finale, but “Earth Made Free” takes a bluesier angle and “Drippin’ Slow” is not shy about nor ashamed of its danceability, as its lyrics demonstrate. For all the crispness of the production, Land Mammal still manage to sound relatively natural, which is all the more encouraging in terms of moving forward, but it’ll be interesting to hear how they flesh out their sound over the course of a full-length, since even as an EP, this self-titled is short. They have songwriting, performance and production on their side, however, so something tells me they’ll be just fine.

Land Mammal on Thee Facebooks

Land Mammal on Bandcamp

 

Skunk, Strange Vibration

skunk strange vibration

Even before they get to the ultra-“N.I.B.” patterning of second track “Stand in the Sun,” Skunk‘s Sabbathian loyalties are well established, and they continue on that line, through the “War Pigs”-ness of “Goblin Orgy” (though I’ll give them bonus points for that title), and the slower “A National Acrobat” roll of “The Black Crown,” and while that’s not the only influence under which Skunk are working — clearly — it’s arguably the most forward. They’ve been on a traditional path since 2015’s mission-statement EP, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here), and as Strange Vibration is their second album behind 2017’s Doubleblind (review here), they’ve only come more into focus in terms of what they’re doing overall. They throw a bit of swagger into “Evil Eye Gone Blind” and “Star Power” toward the end of the record — more Blackmore or Leslie West than Iommi — but keep the hooks center through it all, and cap with a welcome bit of layered melody on “The Cobra’s Kiss.” Based in Oakland, they don’t quite fit in with the Californian boogie scene to the south, but standing out only seems to suit Strange Vibration all the more.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp

 

Silver Devil, Paralyzed

Silver Devil Paralyzed

Like countrymen outfits in Vokonis or to a somewhat lesser degree Cities of Mars, Gävle-based riffers Silver Devil tap into Sleep as a core influence and work outward from there. In the case of their second album, Paralyzed (on Ozium Records), they work far out indeed, bringing a sonic largesse to bear through plus-sized tonality and distorted vocals casting echoes across a wide chasm of the mix. “Rivers” or the later, slower-rolling “Octopus” rightfully present this as an individual take, and it ends up being that one way or the other, with the atmosphere becoming essential to the character of the material. There are some driving moments that call to mind later Dozer — or newer Greenleaf, if you prefer — such as the centerpiece “No Man Traveller,” but the periodic bouts of post-rock bring complexity to that assessment as well, though in the face of the galloping crescendo of “The Grand Trick,” complexity is a secondary concern to the outright righteousness with which Silver Devil take familiar elements and reshape them into something that sounds fresh and engaging. That’s basically the story of the whole record, come to think of it.

Silver Devil on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records website

 

Sky Burial, Sokushinbutsu

sky burial Sokushinbutsu

Comprised of guitarist/vocalist/engineer Vessel 2 and drummer/vocalist Vessel 1 (also ex-Mühr), Sky Burial release their debut EP, Sokushinbutsu, through Break Free Records, and with it issue two songs of densely-weighted riff and crash, captured raw and live-sounding with an edge of visceral sludge thanks to the harsh vocals laid overtop. The prevailing spirit is as much doom as it is crust throughout “Return to Sender” (8:53) and the 10:38 title-track — the word translating from Japanese to “instant Buddha” — and as “Sokushinbutsu” kicks the tempo of the leadoff into higher gear, the release becomes a wash of blown-out tone with shouts cutting through that’s very obviously meant to be as brutal as it absolutely is. They slow down eventually, then slow down more, then slow down more — you see where this is going — until eventually the feedback seems to consume them and everything else, and the low rumble of guitar gives way to noise and biting vocalizations. As beginnings go, Sokushinbutsu is willfully wretched and animalistic, a manifested sonic nihilism that immediately stinks of death.

Sky Burial on Thee Facebooks

Break Free Records on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd, Wizzerd

wizzerd st

One finds Montana’s Wizzerd born of a similar Upper Midwestern next-gen take on classic heavy as that of acts like Bison Machine and Midas. Their Cursed Tongue Records-delivered self-titled debut album gives a strong showing of this foundation, less boogie-based than some, with just an edge of heavy metal to the riffing and vocals that seems to derive not directly from doom, but definitely from some ’80s metal stylizations. Coupled with ’70s and ’90s heavy rocks, it’s a readily accessible blend throughout the nine-song/51-minute LP, but a will toward the epic comes through in theme as well as the general mood of the riffs, and even in the drift of “Wizard” that’s apparent. Taken in kind with the fuzzblaster “Wraith,” the winding motion of the eponymous closer and with the lumbering crash of “Warrior” earlier, the five-piece’s sound shows potential to distinguish itself further in the future through taking on fantasy subject matter lyrically as well as playing to wall-sized grooves across the board, even in the speedy first half of “Phoenix,” with its surprising crash into the wall of its own momentum.

Wizzerd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Ian Blurton, Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

The core of Ian Blurton‘s Signals Through the Flames is in tight, sharply-executed heavy rockers like “Seven Bells” and “Days Will Remain,” classic in their root but not overly derivative, smartly and efficiently composed and performed. The Toronto-based Blurton has been making and producing music for over three decades in various guises and incarnations, and with these nine songs, he brings into focus a songcraft that is more than enough to carry song like “Nothing Left to Lose” and opener “Eye of the Needle,” which bookends with the 6:55 “Into Dust,” the closer arriving after a final salvo with the Scorpionic strut of “Kick out the Lights” and the forward-thrust-into-ether of “Night of the Black Goat.” If this was what Ghost had ended up sounding like, I’d have been cool with that. Blurton‘s years of experience surely come into play in this work, a kind of debut under his own name and/or that of Ian Blurton’s Future Now, but the songs come through as fresh regardless and “The March of Mars” grabs attention not with pedigree, but simply by virtue of its own riff, which is exactly how it should be. It’s subtle in its variety, but those willing to give it a repeat listen or two will find even more reward for doing so.

Ian Blurton on Thee Facebooks

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall, Lackland

Cosmic Fall Lackland

“Lackland” is the first new material Berlin three-piece Cosmic Fall have produced since last year’s In Search of Space (review here) album, which is only surprising given the frequency with which they once jammed out a record every couple of months. The lone 8:32 track is a fitting reminder of the potency in the lineup of guitarist Marcin Morawski, bassist Klaus Friedrich and drummer Daniel Sax, and listening to the Earthless-style shred in Morawski‘s guitar, one hopes it won’t be another year before they come around again. As it stands, they make the eight minutes speed by with volcanic fervor and an improvised sensibility that feels natural despite the song’s ultimately linear trajectory. Could be a one-off, could be a precursor to a new album. I’d prefer the latter, obviously, but I’ll take what I can get, and if that’s “Lackland,” then so be it.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

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Crypt Sermon Announce The Ruins of Fading Light out Sept. 13; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

crypt sermon

The message of Crypt Sermon‘s new streaming track is clear, and to put it as one might in a text: ‘epic doom or GTFO.’ The track is called “Key of Solomon,” and it’s the second cut on the Philadelphia doomers’ sophomore full-length, The Ruins of Fading Light, which is set to release Sept. 13 through Dark Descent Records. Their likewise righteous 2015 debut, Out of the Garden (review here), came out via the same label, and it was a highlight of that year in doom. I’d expect no less of their follow-up outing, particularly given what I’m hearing in “Key of Solomon,” and so I’ll look forward to hearing the album in its entirety when the time comes. What’s that you say? The time is now? Okay, I’ll go put it on. That’s what I was hoping would happen.

Doooom. That’s doom with four ‘o’s. That’s what Crypt Sermon play. It’s one more even than three.

From the PR wire:

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

CRYPT SERMON’s ‘The Ruins of Fading Light’ Arriving September 13 on Dark Descent Records

CRYPT SERMON return with their highly anticipated new album, The Ruins of Fading Light, September 13 on Dark Descent Records. Album track “Key of Solomon” is now streaming.

A follow up to 2015’s critically acclaimed debut Out of the Garden, The Ruins of Fading Light is a collection of existential meditations set to the backdrop of looming, apocryphal vestiges from a lost dark age. The lyrics explore the limits of faith and family, life and loss, strength and pride. Between thundering riffs and plaintive acoustic moments, the music explores new territories on the landscape of epic doom and heavy metal. Still, one message echos as CRYPT SERMON march onward, “We’re doomed.”

The Ruins of Fading Light was again recorded, mixed, and mastered by Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Eternal Champion, Sumerlands, and more) at Creep Records. Album art comes courtesy of vocalist Brooks Wilson.

Regarding “Key of Solomon,” vocalist Brooks Wilson comments, “We live in a time where the practices of science and magic serve distinctly different purposes. This was not always the case. The Italian Renaissance was an age where science and magic intertwined; summoning rituals connected exorcists to esoteric revelations. ‘Key of Solomon’ refers to a pseudepigraphical text of the same name.”

Track List

1 The Ninth Templar (Black Candle Flame)
2 Key of Solomon
3 Our Reverend’s Grave
4 Epochal Vestiges
5 Christ is Dead
6 The Snake Handler
7 Oath of Exile
8 Enslave The Heathens
9 Beneath The Torchfire Glare
10 The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon is:
Brooks Wilson (vocals)
Steve Jannson (guitars)
James Lipczynski (guitars)
Frank Chin (bass)
Enrique Sagarnaga (drums)

facebook.com/CryptSermon/
cryptsermon.bandcamp.com/
instagram.com/cryptsermon/
darkdescentrecords.com
facebook.com/darkdescentrecords
darkdescentrecords.bandcamp.com

Crypt Sermon, “Key of Solomon”

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Quarterly Review: Salem’s Bend, Motorpsycho, Sigils, Lord Dying, Sunn O))), Crimson Heat, Molior Superum, Moros, Glitter Wizard, Gourd

Posted in Reviews on July 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Today is Tuesday, I’m pretty sure, and hey, that’s nifty. I thought yesterday kicked off the Summer 2019 Quarterly Review really well, and any time I get through one of these without my head caving in on itself, I feel like that’s a victory, so yeah. Now we wade even deeper into what will ultimately be a 60-review plunge, with another 10 offerings of various stripes and takes on heavy. Some higher profile stuff in here, which is fine, I guess, but most of it is pretty recent, so if there’s something you haven’t heard yet, I hope you find something you dig, as always.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Salem’s Bend, Supercluster

salems bend supercluster

This is the sound of a band who’ve figured it out. Salem’s Bend have taken retroist boogie and modern tonalism, production and melody and turned it into something of their own. Supercluster (on Ripple) follows the Los Angeles trio of guitarist/vocalist Bobby Parker, bassist/vocalist Kevin Schofield and drummer Zach Huling‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), and with an uptick in the complexity of songwriting overall and particularly in the arrangements of dual-vocals, it is a marked step forward palpable as much in the hook of “Ride the Night” — and if you’re gonna call a song that, you better bring it — as the heavy crash ending “Heavenly Manna” and the languid, lucidly dreaming groove in “Infinite Horizon,” which appears ahead of the acoustic hidden track “Beltaine Chant.” That won’t be the last time these guys unplug, but whether it’s the raw Zeppelin vibe of “Show Me the Witch” or the crunching low-end nod of “Thinking Evil” or the leadoff thrust in “Spaceduster,” the message is clear that Salem’s Bend have arrived.

Salem’s Bend on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music webstore

 

Motorpsycho, The Crucible

motorpsycho the crucible

The latest in Motorpsycho‘s nigh-on-impossible-to-chart and ever-growing discography is The Crucible, issued through Stickman Records, and taking some of the heavy rock push of 2017’s The Tower (review here) and stretching out to more willfully progressive execution across three increasingly extended tracks. Running from shortest to longest, the album begins with “Psychotzar” (8:44) which resolves itself in maddening turns after fleshing through an energetic beginning, and rounds out side A with the 11-minute “Lux Aeterna,” with vocal harmonies and mellotron building into a graceful swell of volume before a headspinner solo and jam take hold, break to near-silence and finish in a burst of directly earliest-King Crimson majesty. This all before the 20:51, side B-consuming title-track crashes in with immediate tension and plays back and forth at releasing that through a course that is rife with melody and an emphasis on the mastery of Motorpsycho over their sound and direction. Onto the list of the year’s best records it goes.

Motorpsycho on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

 

Sigils, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves

Sigils You Built the Altar You Lit the Leaves

Hypnotic and immersive heavy post-rock and metal becomes the genre tag well enough, but what New York’s Sigils do on their markedly impressive self-recorded, self-released debut album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves, is more soulful and emotive than “post-” anything generally conveys. With four tracks/38 minutes best taken as a whole, single listening experience, the band offer resonant depths of tone and vocal echoes centered around airy but still weighted guitar and consuming rhythms brought to bear with the patience of an organic Jesu. The ultimate triumph is in the melody and payoff of 13-plus-minute closer “The Wicked, the Cloaked,” which seems to manifest the haunting sensibility that “Samhain” and “Ritual” advocate on side A, but neither will I discount the chug of the prior “Faceless” or the underlying churn in those two leadoff tracks. Especially as a first album, You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves casts a sonic identity for itself that is striking and sees the band already beginning to push themselves forward. One hopes they continue to do so.

Sigils on Thee Facebooks

Sigils on Bandcamp

 

Lord Dying, Mysterium Tremendum

Lord Dying Mysterium Tremendum

Following 2015’s Poisoned Altars (review here), subsequent years of touring and a jump from Relapse to eOne Metal, Lord Dying‘s Mysterium Tremendum is enough of a stylistic melting pot that the best thing to do is call it progressive and just let it roll. Comprised of 11 tracks themed around death and the afterlife, the record takes the Portland, Oregon, outfit’s prior death-doom ways and expands them to incorporate an array of styles and melodies, like a vocoder-less Cynic or even Atheist, but more focused on the songs themselves. It’s being widely hailed as one of 2019’s best metal releases, and honestly I can’t speak to that because who the hell knows what “metal” even means, but it sees Lord Dying pull off a major sonic leap and if this is the direction they’re headed from now on, then I guess “metal” is going to be whatever the hell they want. So there. Expect to see a lot of Lord Dying t-shirts around in the years to come.

Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks

eOne Heavy on Thee Facebooks

 

Sunn O))), Life Metal

sunn life metal

The core of Sunn O)))‘s sound — that is, the drone-riffed tonality of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley, has proven amorphous enough over the last two decades to either be orchestral, minimalist, impossibly bleak, or now, something brighter. The Steve Albini-recorded Life Metal is one of two purported Sunn O))) releases slated for this year, and it follows behind 2015’s Kannon (review here) in manifesting their project in a new way. It is 68 minutes long, comprised of four tracks — the first, “Between Sleipnir’s Breaths,” is notable for the inclusion of vocals from Hildur Guðnadóttir; the rest is instrumental — and while one wonders how much is the power of suggestion amid their colorful artwork and titular presentation, “life” as opposed to death metal, etc., their resonance throughout “Aurora” (19:07) and “Novae” (25:24) strips away much of the flourish that has engulfed Sunn O))) in their post-maturity years and reminds of the power at their center. They chose the right producer.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crimson Heat, Crimson Heat

Crimson Heat Crimson Heat

With a handful of tracks of dirt-coated Sabbathian doom rock, Crimson Heat make their debut with a self-titled demo/EP in no small part defined by its lack of pretense. I’d buy the tape at the show. You’d buy the tape at the show. The download is free. Clearly this is a band figuring out what they want to do and trying to catch a few ears, but the sound is right on. Notable as well for the participation of Sam Marsh of Sinister Haze, tracks like “At My Door” blend Tee Pee Records-style skate vibes with darker traditionalist crunch, and the subsequent acoustic interlude “Firewood” indeed adds a bit of burning-stove smell to the procession ahead of doomed shuffler finale “Deep Red.” They might be new, but from the nod of “Premonition” and the double-layered guitar of “Fortune Teller,” they very clearly know where they’re coming from. What they do with that from here will tell the tale, but for now, selling the tape at the show isn’t nothing. Guess they better get on pressing some up.

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Heat on Bandcamp

 

Molior Superum, As Time Slowly Passes By…

Molior Superum As Time Slowly Passes By

The boogie runs strong in Molior Superum‘s first album in seven years, As Time Slowly Passes By… (on H42 Records), the title of which might just hint at the distance between their two full-lengths. Their debut was Into the Sun (discussed here) in 2012, and they answered that with 2014’s Electric Escapism (review here), but for a band who sound so energized on cuts like “Att Födas Rostig” and “Through Valleys of Wonder,” the time differential from one record to the next is curious. Still, no question the Swedish four-piece make the most of the 36 minutes they present on their sophomore offering, realizing classic vibes and fuzz tones through modern production that recalls the likes of GraveyardJeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus and even, on “Into the Grey,” Demon Head‘s doomier fare, with an overarching bluesy sensibility that remains exciting even in moments like the hypnotic midsection build of centerpiece “Divinity Blues.” Even the closing soft-guitar title-track has movement. They sound hungry in a way that suggests maybe it won’t be another seven years before a third LP arrives.

Molior Superum on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

 

Moros, Weapon

moros weapon

Just because Philly is leading the Eastern Seaboard in terms of psychedelic charge, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the guttersludge extremity of a unit like Moros. The destructive three-piece’s first full-length, Weapon (on Hidden Deity Records), is vicious in its bite and downright nasty in its groove, abrasive from the static intro “(Vortexwound)” onward through “We Don’t Deserve Death” and “Devil Worshipper,” which recalls slower Napalm Death in its riff but is met with a harsh scream as well as shouts. The brutality continues through “Wizard of Loneliness” and into the outright pummel of “Death Nebula,” such that the locked-in nodder groove in the second half of “Every Day is Worse Than the Last” feels almost like a lifeboat, though there’s little salvation on offer in the closing title-track, which fades out on a noisy note in much the same way it faded in. Filthy, mean and heavy. The crust is real and it is thick.

Moros on Thee Facebooks

Hidden Deity Records website

 

Glitter Wizard, Opera Villains

glitter wizard opera villains

I was enticed to dig further into Glitter Wizard‘s Opera Villains (on Heavy Psych Sounds) by the recent video for opener “A Spell So Evil” (posted here), and it’s not a choice I regret. The San Fran-based weirdo collective are putting on a show, no doubt, but the quality of their songwriting on “The Toxic Lady” and the punkish underpinning of “Dead Man’s Wax,” etc., puts them in a classic rocking no man’s land in which they absolutely revel. The laser-strewn drama of “March of the Red Cloaks” and the organ- and flute-laced swing of “Hall of the Oyster King” embrace the grandiose in brazen fashion, and thereby make it that much easier for the listener to join them on this wavelength that is so thoroughly their own. Closer “Warm Blood” taps prog-of-old pomposity in its largesse while the earlier “Fear of the Dark” seems to do the same thing with just an acoustic guitar and some vocal harmonies. A record that knew exactly what it wanted to be and then became that thing. Awesome.

Glitter Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Gourd, Moldering Aberrations

gourd moldering aberrations

Ambient darkness is inflicted with only the cruelest of spirit throughout Gourd‘s Moldering Aberrations EP, the Irish two-piece alternating minimalist spaciousness with gurgling drone intensity, the extremity of which doesn’t so much come through in pummel or drive, but in the swell of volume and its contrast with the emptiness surrounding. Also the growls. Three tracks are offered up like monuments to pain, and through “Befoulment,” “Mycelium” and the title-track, they conjure a heft of atmosphere as much as one of low end, the claustrophobic feeling of their craft coming through even in the relatively peaceful opening of the last song. That peace, of course, isn’t so much moment of respite as it is precursor to the next plunge, and either way, Gourd work in grueling fashion over 23 minutes to dismantle consciousness and expectation with a grim, distortion-fueled chaos from which there seems to be no escape, until the rumble and noise leave “Moldering Aberrations” and there’s just residual hum and a cymbal crash left. Madness.

Gourd on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Monk Records on Bandcamp

 

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Stinking Lizaveta Premiere Rehearsal Recording “The Odor of Corruption”

Posted in audiObelisk on June 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Stinking Lizaveta

The other morning, just after The Pecan went down for a nap, I got a message through thee social medias from Yanni Papadopoulos of Philadelphia’s Stinking Lizaveta. Now, we’ve never really been in touch, maybe an email here and there around releases or something like that, or I may have said an awkward hello at a gig at some point in the last 15 years, but it’s not like we talk. Nothing against the guy, he seems very nice, and his band certainly rules, but they’ve always had publicity representation, so that’s how it’s gone. Fair enough.

So this note comes over, and it says — direct quote, cut and paste — “Hi JJ, this is Yanni from Stinking Lizaveta, just found a forgotten track we recorded at a practice that kind of encapsulates everything I’m going for in heavy music. Can I send it to you?”

Honestly, what the hell am I going to say to that? “No?” “Don’t send it over?”

Here’s a guy who’s been kicking around in one of the ultra-underground’s most creative bands for well over 20 years, turning heavy rock into jazz and heavy jazz into rock, and he’s saying he’s got a song that brings to life everything he’s going for in heavy music? Come on. Of course send it over. Hook it to my veins and give it to me in an IV.

For anyone to say something like that out of the blue to essentially a stranger is not nothing. But especially for someone whose creativity has been so broadly manifest over his band’s tenure — their last album was 2017’s Journey to the Underworld (review here) on Translation Loss — and someone who does not strike me as being particularly given to hyperbole, I had to hear what that sounded like. Had to.

The track is indeed a rehearsal room recording that’s been given the title “The Odor of Corruption” as taken from a chapter in The Brothers Karamazov, and it was captured in 2018. Those familiar with Stinking Lizaveta‘s work — the lineup is Yanni, upright electric bassist Alexi Papadopoulos and drummer Cheshire Agusta — will find its four-minute run less manic than the instrumentalists can be at their most chaotic, but still with plenty of dynamic on display. A creeping initial guitar line trades into and subsequently out of a soulful solo, rising and falling and rising again into a crescendo that fades out, balancing atmosphere and mood against raw impact in Agusta‘s drums and the slow progression on which it all rests.

In addition to having to hear it, I had to know what it was about “The Odor of Corruption” that particularly stood out to Papadopoulos and made him get in touch in the first place. What is it that the song encapsulates? I asked him for an answer and you can see what he had to say under the player below, on which I’m proud to host the premiere of the song.

Please enjoy it:

Yanni Papadopoulos on “The Odor of Corruption”:

I was poring over some old music files and in a folder labeled “Stinking Liz ideas” and I found this track. The recording is from a rehearsal, done in a basement, with two live mics in the room running into the computer. We do this from time to time just to make sure we don’t forget things. Well, in this case we forgot all about this song. I put my ears to it and started to think, “This is what I’m going for in heavy music.” It’s funny how hard it is to appreciate your own work. Sometimes it will take me years to listen to my own band’s record, and it’s always best when it happens by accident.

I’m calling the song “The Odor of Corruption.” The title comes from a chapter in The Brothers Karamazov in which a young Alyosha anxiously waits to see if the body of his mentor, the good and wise Father Zosima, will rot after his death, or will remain pure and be declared saintly. The body starts to stink, as dead bodies do. Sorry, we are all mortal.

This track reminds me that a mission of Stinking Lizaveta has always been to be as present as possible in our music. I was talking to a fellow musician backstage at a gig recently and said, “I just hope to play reliable versions of our songs tonight.” He responded, “Isn’t that all anyone hopes for?” To which I replied, “Well, sometimes I hope for a little bit of magic too.” I enjoy good musicianship, but rock is about inspiration rather than technical perfection. Our band has found a place where we demand more than just mechanics from each other. It’s not always possible to access that real beyond the material world, but it is paradise when you do open that portal for yourselves and the audience.

Stinking Lizaveta on Thee Facebooks

Stinking Lizaveta website

Stinking Lizaveta on Bandcamp

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Ecstatic Vision Announce New Album For the Masses out Sept. 20 on Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision

Already confirmed for the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in Austria and having just played the edition that was a rotating package tour on the West Coast of the US, Philadelphia cosmic whatever-rockers Ecstatic Vision have re-signed to the label behind it all — Heavy Psych Sounds — for the release of their new album, For the Masses, on Sept. 20. One assumes a Fall European tour announcement is forthcoming as well, as they’re also confirmed for Keep it Low in Munich, so they seem a likely candidate for a run around that.

In the meantime, presales also start today for a reissue of their first album, 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), so in addition to the new record, there’s a little something for those either who are new to the band, or who want an excuse for multiple copies of that debut, which, frankly, is understandable.

The PR wire has details for it all, care of the label:

ecstatic vision for the masses

ECSTATIC VISION is re-signing with Heavy Psych Sounds Records for a brand NEW ALBUM and the reissue of SONIC PRAISE!!!

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS RECORDS is proud to welcome back one of best US heavy psych bands, the mighty ECSTATIC VISION !!

Heavy Psych Sounds will release the band’s new album and also a reissue of the legendary debut release Sonic Praise.

Rising powerhouse label HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS is proud to have extended a worldwide deal with psychedelic rock grandmasters ECSTATIC VISION! 2019 will see the Philadelphia Heavy Psych quartet (regarded as the second coming of vintage Hawkwind) not only reissue the pathbreaking debut album, Sonic Praise, but also returns with their brand new album For The Masses!

Says the band: “We are very pleased to announce that we have signed a deal with Heavy Psych Sounds for a new record coming out this fall! After meeting all the HPS guys on our countless European tours, we appreciate their passion for our little corner in the world of modern music. We think they will be good teammates as we carve our unique path across the globe fufilling our destiny as Psychedelic Pirates from Philly. See youse on the road!“

For The Masses is set to be released on September 20th 2019, while Ecstatic Vision’s re-release of Sonic Praise will be available as a re-mastered version on September 6th. Today Ecstatic Vision are sharing with us the cover artwork and tracklist For The Masses, which is now available to pre-order in various VINYL and CD formats at THIS LOCATION!

For The Masses tracklisting:
1. Sage Wisdom
2. Shut up and Drive
3. Yuppie Sacrifice
4. Like a Freak
5. For the Masses
6. The Magic Touch
7. Grasping the Void

ECSTATIC VISION is
Doug Sabolik
Michael Field Connor
Kevin Nickles
Ricky Kulp

https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticvision
https://twitter.com/ecstaticvision_
https://www.instagram.com/ecstaticvision
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury (2017)

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Ecstatic Vision Finish Work on New Album; Touring with Heavy Temple

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision

New stuff from Ecstatic Vision is a win. Their next record — it’ll be their third LP — is reportedly in the can, and that’s awfully nifty, so I’d expect news about it, oh, say, about three minutes after this post goes live. Just so I can still be behind as I am in posting these tour dates. I try to keep up. And fail. Consistently. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see who’ll be handling the release for the upcoming offering from the Philadelphia psych forerunners, since Heavy Psych Sounds put out their 2018 Under the Influence EP (discussed here), and their two records to-date, 2017’s Raw Rock Fury (review here) and 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), came out on Relapse. Could be either of those or of course someone else. I have a hard time imagining anyone wouldn’t want to get in on putting out their stuff.

For what it’s worth, Heavy Psych Sounds is presenting the tour, and Ecstatic Vision will play the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest out on the West Coast. They’ll also be back in Europe this Fall for Keep it Low in Munich, and they’ll presumably have more dates TBA around that. So, more to come. I’ll try to keep up.

For now, here’s this from the PR wire:

ecstatic vision tour

Ecstatic Vision Announces U.S. Tour Dates

Philly Krautrock Crew Gears Up for Album Number Three with 15 City Spring Live Trek

Philadelphia heavy psych band Ecstatic Vision has announced a spring U.S. headlining tour. The dangerous live group, known for its hybrid sound that merges the sound and style of ’70s rock acts like Hawkwind, Can and MC5 with the feel and flow of Afrobeat artists such as Fela Kuti and Africa 70, will launch the two week trek on May 2 in Baltimore, MD. Support on the Ecstatic Vision tour will be provided by fellow Philadelphians Heavy Temple.

As part of the 15 city tour, Ecstatic Vision will perform live as part of the recently-announced Heavy Psych Sounds Fests, a celebration of the Italian underground rock label of the same name to which the group is signed. Ecstatic Vision will join labelmates Mothership, Duel, Crypt Trip and more on both May 10 in Fort Worth, TX and May 11 in Austin, TX. For more details on these HPS Fest shows, visit these locations.

Ecstatic Vision is touring in support of its EP of space / zam rock covers, ‘Under the Influence’ (2018), its 2015 debut album, ‘Sonic Praise’, and the band’s ballsy experimentation into Detroit rock meets white noise, ‘Raw Rock Fury’ (2017). Ecstatic Vision recently completed work on its as-yet-untitled new album, and is expected to debut some of its new songs live over the course of the upcoming tour.

“”We are stoked to get back on the road to play live at places we haven’t been in a long time, and with a new record in the can,” says vocalist / guitarist Doug Sabolick. “Yes you heard right! Expect news on our new LP soon as well. See you at the shows!”

Ecstatic Vision tour dates:
May 2 Baltimore, MD The Metro Gallery *
May 3 Richmond, VA Wonderland RVA
May 4 Raleigh, NC The Pour House Music Hall
May 5 Asheville, NC The Odditorium
May 6 Charlotte, NC The Milestone Club
May 7 Columbia, SC Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse
May 9 Memphis, TN Growlers
May 10 Fort Worth, TX Lola’s
May 11 Austin, TX The Lost Well
May 12 Denton, TX Andy’s Bar
May 14 St. Louis, MO Fubar
May 15 Nashville, TN The East Room
May 16 Johnson City, TN The Hideaway
May 17 Washington, DC The Pinch *
May 18 Harrisonburg, VA The Golden Pony *
* = No Heavy Temple

Ecstatic Vision is:
Doug Sabolick (vocals / guitar)
Michael Field Connor (bass)
Kevin Nickles (saxophone)
Ricky Culp (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticvision
https://twitter.com/ecstaticvision_
https://www.instagram.com/ecstaticvision

Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence (2018)

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