Bell Witch Announce Massive Eight-Week European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

This will be one of two times that at least some of these dates will be posted, as happens from time to time on a run that features more than one killer band with stuff to talk about, but to look at the spread of touring to be taken on by Seattle’s Bell Witch, I’ll just say that there are a lot of ways to say a band is tight, like they’re friends, chosen-family, etc., but making it publicly known that you’re willing to spend upwards of eight weeks in another human being’s close company, in any situation let alone crisscrossing Europe on tour, is a particularly resonant one.

Bell Witch found new grandiose lows in last year’s Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (review here), and now that I think about it, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that at some point on such a tour the inevitable follow-up might manifest. On the other hand maybe they’re just going to go and I don’t know anything, as usual. Flailing at guesses. Rampant speculation.

But it’s an event either way. Check it out:

Bell Witch full euro tour

In March we embark on an 8 week odyssey across Europe. From the frostbitten North to the Hellenic land of myths in the South, the Emerald Isle to the Balkan states we’re playing many cities for the first time ever…

Along the way we’ll be joined for stretches by friends old & new in FVNERALS, Knoll, Esoteric, Thantifaxath & The Keening. We’re excited to share the stage with bands who bring something truly unique & powerful to their music.

Tickets are on sale now from

We can’t wait to see new & familiar faces alike.

28 – Dresden, DE – Chemiefabrik *
29 – Bremen, DE – Lagerhaus *
30 – Copenhagen, DK – Alice CPH *
31 – Oslo, NO – Inferno Fest
1 – Göteborg, SE – Musikens Hus *
2 – Aarhus, DK – Radar *
4 – Oberhausen, DE – Ebertbad *
5 – Diksmuide, BE – 4AD *
6 – Brighton, UK – The Arch ^
7 – Bristol UK – Exchange ^
9 – Dublin, IE – Academy 2
10 – Limerick, IE – Dolan
12 – Glasgow, UK – Room 2 ^
13 – Manchester, UK – Rebellion ^
14 – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club ^
15 – London, UK – The Dome ^ +
16 – Namur, BE – Belvedere
17 – Eindhoven, NL – Effenaar
19 – Tours, FR – Le Temps Machine
20 – Paris, FR – Petit Bain =
21 – Nantes, FR – Le Ferrailleur =
22 – Toulouse, FR – Le Rex =
23 – Portugalete, ES – Groove #
24 – Barroselas, PT – SWR Fest
26 – Madrid, ES – Nazca #
27 – Barcelona, ES – Sala Upload #
28 – Grenoble, FR – Le Ciel #
29 – Martigny, CH – Caves Du Manoir #
30 – Luzern, CH – Sedel #
2 – Wien, AT – Arena #
3 – Budapest, HU – A38 #
4 – Zagreb, HR – AKC Attack #
6 – Sofia, BG – Club Singles #
7 – Istanbul, TR – Babylon #
9 – Thessalonki, GR – Eightball Club #
10 – Athens, GR – Temple #
11 – Larissa, GR – Skyland #
13 – Caserta, IT – Lizard #
14 – Pescara, IT – Scumm #
15 – Ravenna, IT – Bronson #
16 – Treviso, IT – Altroquando #
17 – Linz, AT – STWST #
18 – Brno, CZ – Kabinet Muz #
^ with Knoll
+ with Esoteric
= with Thantifaxath
# with The Keening

Bell Witch is Bassist Dylan Desmond and Drummer Jesse Shreibman.

Bell Witch, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate (2023)

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Grey Skies Fallen Sign to Profound Lore; Molded by Broken Hands Out March 8; Video Posted

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

grey skies fallen

I haven’t always thought of Grey Skies Fallen as a ‘fit’ with what’s covered around here generally in the past, as they kind of skirt the line where doom and metal intersect and the latter takes off in its sharper-pointed direction, where doom, I guess, skulks into a corner and feels bad about itself? That sounds about right. Regardless, kudos to the emotionally-steamrolled New York four-piece on signing with Profound Lore Records for the release of their sixth album, Molded by Broken Hands, which is up now for preorder ahead of a March 8 release and introduced to listeners by the video for “Knowing That You’re There,” which is below.

The album boasts production by Colin Marston, who should at this point probably be given some kind of grant for the work he does, and a mix by the returning Dan Swanö, who also set the balances for the band’s 2020 album, Cold Dead Hands, and, you know, a goodly percentage of the scope Swedish death metal more broadly.

The PR wire offered the following:

GREY SKIES FALLEN Molded By Broken Hands

GREY SKIES FALLEN: New York Doom Metal Act Signs With Profound Lore Records For March Release Of Molded By Broken Hands LP; “Knowing That You’re There” Video/Single And Preorders Issued

Profound Lore Records announces the label’s first release of 2024, welcoming long-running New York City-based doomed dark metal veterans GREY SKIES FALLEN. The band’s first release for the label, Molded By Broken Hands, will be released March 8th, and today, a video for the lead single “Knowing That You’re There” has been issued alongside preorders and more.

GREY SKIES FALLEN’s sixth full-length album, Molded By Broken Hands sees the contingent offering their most triumphant work yet. This album carries that feeling of the underappreciated and underrated dark metal scene that was culminating in the US during the late 1990s, an era where the band grew from, while helping to signal a new resurgence of doomy dark metal artistry currently building. Through soaring, emotionally searing melodies, glorious epic harmonics, and with an overall conquering aura, Molded By Broken Hands will finally deliver the recognition GREY SKIES FALLEN is worthy of.

Molded By Broken Hands was recorded and engineered at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves (Krallice, Gorguts, Artificial Brain) by Colin Marston who also performed keyboards on the songs “No Place For Sorrow” and “I Can Hear Your Voice.” The album was mixed and mastered by legendary Swedish producer Dan Swanö (Opeth, Edge Of Sanity, Bloodbath) and completed with artwork and design by Travis Smith (Opeth, Death, Katatonia). The release date of Molded By Broken Hands also coincides with the 25th anniversary of GREY SKIES FALLEN’s debut album, The Fate Of Angels.

The lead single from Molded By Broken Hands, “Knowing That You’re There,” arrives through a video created and directed by friend and former bandmate Craig Rossi. Founding guitarist/vocalist Rick Habeeb states, “Sometimes in life, those that we care about the most are fighting a silent internal battle. This song is about helping guide someone through those dark times. Imagery in the video conveys these emotions and ties them together nicely with the lyrics.”

GREY SKIES FALLEN’s “Knowing That You’re There” video is now playing, and the song is now streaming on all digital platforms.

Molded By Broken Hands will be released on LP, CD, and digital formats on March 8th. Find preorders, merch, and more at THIS LOCATION:

Watch for the band to post announcements for special live performances and more supporting the album to post over the months ahead.

Molded By Broken Hands Track Listing:
1. A Twisted Place In Time
2. Molded By Broken Hands
3. No Place For Sorrow
4. I Can Hear Your Voice
5. Cracks In Time
6. Save Us
7. Knowing That You’re There

Rick Habeeb – Guitar, Vocals
Joe D’angelo – Guitar
Tom Anderer – Bass
Sal Gregory – Drums

Grey Skies Fallen, “Knowing That You’re There” official video

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Quarterly Review: Weite, Mizmor, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Sarkh, Spiritual Void, The River, Froglord, Weedevil & Electric Cult, Dr. Space, Ruiner

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


Welcome back to the Summer 2023 Quarterly Review. I hope you enjoyed the weekend. Today we dig in on the penultimate — somehow my using the word “penultimate” became a running gag for me in Quarterly Reviews; I don’t know how or why, but I think it’s funny — round of 10 albums and tomorrow we’ll close out as we hit the total of 70. Could easily have kept it going through the week, but so it goes. I’ll have more QR in September or October, I’m not sure yet which. It’s a pretty busy Fall.

Today’s a wild mix and that’s what I was hoping for. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Weite, Assemblage

weite assemblage

Founded by bassist Ingwer Boysen (also High Fighter) as an offshoot of the live incarnation of Delving, of which he’s part, Weite release the instrumental Assemblage as a semi-improv-sounding collection of marked progressive fluidity. With Delving and Elder‘s Nick DiSalvo and Mike Risberg in the lineup along with Ben Lubin (Lawns), the story goes that the four-piece got to the studio with nothing/very little, spent a few days writing and recording with the venerable Richard Behrens helming, and Assemblage‘s four component pieces are what came out of it. The album begins with the nine-minutes-each pair of the zazzy-jazzy mover “Neuland,” while “Entzündet” grows somewhat more open, a lead guitar refrain like built around drum-backed drone and keys, swelling in piano-inclusive volume like Crippled Black Phoenix, darker prog shifting into a wash and more freaked-out psych rock. I’m not sure those are real drums on “Rope,” or if they are I’d love to know how the snare was treated, but the song’s a groover just the same, and the 14-minute “Murmuration” is where the styles unite under an umbrella of warm tonality and low key but somehow cordial atmosphere. If these guys want to get together every couple years into perpetuity and bang out a record like this, that’d be fine.

Weite on Facebook

Stickman Records store


Mizmor, Prosaic

Mizmor Prosaic

The fourth album from Portland, Oregon’s Mizmor — the solo-project of multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, vocalist, etc.-ist A.L.N. — arrives riding a tsunami of hype and delivers on the band’s long-stated promise of ‘wholly doomed black metal.’ With consuming distortion at its heart from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Only an Expanse” onward, the record recalls the promise of American black metal as looser in its to-tenet conformity than the bulk of Europe’s adherents — of course these are generalizations and I’m no expert — by contrasting it rhythmically with doom, which instead of fully releasing the tension amassed by the scream-topped tremolo riffing just makes it sound more miserable. Doom! “No Place to Arrive” is admirably thick, like noisy YOB on charred ambience, and “Anything But” draws those two sides together in more concise and driving style, vicious and brutal until it cuts in the last minute to quiet minimalism that makes the slam-in crush of 13-minute closer “Acceptance” all the more punishing, with plenty of time left for trades between all-out thrust and grueling plod. Hard to call which side wins the day — and that’s to Mizmor‘s credit, ultimately — but by the end of “Acceptance,” the raging gnash has collapsed into a caldera of harsh sludge, and it no longer matters. In context, that’s a success.

Mizmor on Facebook

Profound Lore Records store


The Whims of the Great Magnet, Same New

The Whims of the Great Magnet Same New

With a couple quick drum taps and a clearheaded strum that invokes the impossible nostalgia of Bruce Springsteen via ’90s alt rock, Netherlands-based The Whims of the Great Magnet strolls casually into “Same New,” the project’s first outing since 2021’s Share My Sun EP. Working in a post-grunge style seems to suit Sander Haagmans, formerly the bassist of Sungrazer and, for a bit, The Machine, as he single-track/double-tracks through the song’s initial verse and blossoms melodically in the chorus, dwelling in an atmosphere sun-coated enough that Haagmans‘ calls it “your new summer soundtrack.” Not arguing, if a one-track soundtrack is a little short. After a second verse/chorus trade, some acoustic weaves in at the end to underscore the laid back feel, and as it moves into the last minute, “Same New” brings back the hook not to drive it into your head — it’s catchy enough that such things aren’t necessary — but to speak to a traditional structure born out of classic rock. It does this organically, with moderate tempo and a warm, engaging spirit that, indeed, evokes the ideal images of the stated season and will no doubt prove comforting even removed from such long, hot and sunny days.

The Whims of the Great Magnet on Facebook

The Whims of the Great Magnet on Bandcamp


Sarkh, Helios


German instrumentalists Sarkh follow their 2020 full-length, Kaskade, with the four-song/31-minute Helios EP, issued through Worst Bassist Records. As with that album, the short-ish offering has a current of progressive metal to coincide with its heavier post-rock affect; “Zyklon” leading off with due charge before the title-track finds stretches of Yawning Man-esque drift, particularly as it builds toward a hard-hitting crescendo in its second half. Chiaroscuro, then. Working shortest to longest in runtime, the procession continues with “Kanagawa” making stark volume trades, growing ferocious but not uncontrolled in its louder moments, the late low end particularly satisfying as it plays off the guitar in the final push, a sudden stop giving 11-minute closer “Cape Wrath” due space to flesh out its middle-ground hypothesis after some initial intensity, the trio of guitarist Ralph Brachtendorf, bassist Falko Schneider and drummer Johannes Dose rearing back to let the EP end with a wash but dropping the payoff with about a minute left to let the guitar finish on its own. Germany, the world, and the universe: none of it is short on instrumental heavy bands, but the purposeful aesthetic mash of Sarkh‘s sound is distinguishing and Helios showcases it well to make the argument.

Sarkh on Facebook

Worst Bassist Records store


Spiritual Void, Wayfare

spiritual void wayfare

A 2LP second long-player from mostly-traditionalist doom metallers Spiritual Void, Wayfare seems immediately geared toward surpassing their 2017 debut, White Mountain, in opening with “Beyond the White Mountain.” With a stretch of harsher vocals to go along with the cleaner-sung verses through its 8:48 and the metal-of-eld wail that meets the crescendo before the nodding final verse, they might’ve done it. The subsequent “Die Alone” (11:48) recalls Candlemass and Death without losing the nod of its rhythm, and “Old” (12:33) reaffirms the position, taking Hellhound Records-style methodologies of European trad doom and pulling them across longer-form structures. Following “Dungeon of Nerthus” (10:24) the shorter “Wandering Doom” (5:31) chugs with a swing that feels schooled by Reverend Bizarre, while “Wandersmann” (13:11) tolls a mournful bell at its outset as though to let you know that the warm-up is over and now it’s time to really doom out. So be it. At a little over an hour long, Wayfare is no minor undertaking, but for what they’re doing stylistically, it shouldn’t be. Morose without melodrama, Wayfare sees Spiritual Void continuing to find their niche in doom, and rest assured, it’s on the doomier end. Of doom.

Spiritual Void on Facebook

Journey’s End Records store


The River, A Hollow Full of Hope

THE RIVER A Hollow Full of Hope

Even when The River make the trade of tossing out the aural weight of doom — the heavy guitar and bass, the expansive largesse, and so on — they keep the underlying structure. The nod. At least mostly. To explain: the long-running UK four-piece — vocalist Jenny Newton, guitarist Christian Leitch (formerly of 40 Watt Sun), bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — offer a folkish interpretation of doom and a doomed folk on their fourth long-player, the five-song/40-minute A Hollow Full of Hope taking the acoustic prioritizing of a song like “Open” from 2019’s Vessels into White Tides (review here) and bringing it to the stylistic fore on songs like the graceful opener “Fading,” the lightly electric “Tiny Ticking Clocks” rife with strings and gorgeous self-harmonizing from Newton set to an utterly doomed march, or the four-minute instrumental closer “Hollowful,” which is more than an outro if not a completely built song in relation to the preceding pieces. Melodic, flowing, intentional in arrangement, meter, melody. Sad. Beautiful. “Exits” (9:56) and “A Vignette” (10:26) — also the two longest cuts, though not by a ton — are where one finds that heft and the other side of the doom-folk/folk-doom divide, though it is admirable how thin they make that line. Marked progression. This album will take them past their 25th anniversary, and they greet it hitting a stride. That’s an occasion worth celebrating.

The River on Facebook

Cavernous Records store


Froglord, Sons of Froglord

Froglord Sons of Froglord

Sons of Froglord is the fourth full-length in three years from UK amphibian conceptualist storytellers Froglord, and there’s just about no way they’re not making fun of space rock on “Road Raisin.” “Collapse” grows burly in its hook in the vein of a more rumbling Clutch — and oh, the shenanigans abound! — and there’s a kind of ever-present undercurrent sludgy threat in the more forward push of the glorious anthem to the inanity of career life in “Wednesday” (it doesn’t materialize, but there is a tambourine on “A Swamp of My Own,” so that’s something), but the bulk of the latest chapter in the Froglord tale delivers ’70s-by-way-of-’10s classic heavy blues rock, distinct in its willingness to go elsewhere from and around the boogie swing of “Wizard Gonk” and the fuzzy shuffling foundation of “Garden” at the outset and pull from different eras and subsets of heavy to serve their purposes. “Froglady” is on that beat. On it. And the way “A Swamp of My Own” opens to its chorus is a stirring reminder of the difference drumming can make in elevating a band. After a quick “Closing Ceremony,” they tack on a presumably-not-narrative-related-but-fitting-anyway cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Born on the Bayou,” which complements a crash-laced highlight like “The Sage” well and seems to say a bit about where Froglord are coming from as well, i.e., the swamp.

Froglord on Facebook

Froglord on Bandcamp


Weedevil & Electric Cult, Cult of Devil Sounds

weedevil electric cult cult of devil sounds

Released digitally with the backing of Abraxas and on CD through Smolder Brains Records, the Cult of Devil Sounds split EP offers two new tracks each from São Paulo, Brazil’s Weedevil and Veraruz, Mexico’s Electric Cult. The former take the A side and fade in on the guitar line “Darkness Inside” with due drama, gradually unfurling the seven-minute doom roller that’s ostensibly working around Electric Wizard-style riffing, but has its own persona in tone, atmosphere and the vocals of Maureen McGee, who makes her first appearance here with the band. The swagger of “Burn It” follows, somewhat speedier and sharper in delivery, with a scorcher solo in its back half, witchy proclamations and satisfying slowdown at the end. Weedevil. All boxes ticked, no question. Check. Electric Cult are rawer in production and revel in that, bringing “Rising From Hell” and “Esoteric Madness” with a more uptempo, rock-ish swing, but moving through sludge and doom by the time the seven minutes of the first of those is done. “Rising From Hell” finishes with ambient guitar, then feedback, which “Esoteric Madness” cuts off to begin with bass; a clever turn. Quickly “Esoteric Madness” grows dark from its outset, pushing into harsh vocals over a slogging march that turns harder-driving with ’70s-via-ChurchofMisery hard-boogie rounding out. That faster finish is a contrast to Weedevil‘s ending slow, and complements it accordingly. An enticing sampler from both.

Weedevil on Facebook

Electric Cult on Facebook

Abraxas on Instagram


Dr. Space, Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals

Dr Space Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals

When I read some article about how the James Webb Space Telescope has looked billions of years into the past chasing down ancient light and seen further toward the creation of the universe than humankind ever before has, I look at some video or other, I should be hearing Dr. Space. I don’t know if the Portugal-based solo artist, synthesist, bandleader, Renaissance man Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, etc.) has been in touch with the European Space Agency (ESA) or what their response has been, but even with its organ solo and stated watery purpose, amid sundry pulsations it’s safe to assume the 20-minute title-track “Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals” is happening with an orchestra of semi-robot aliens on, indeed, some impossibly distant exoplanet. Heller has long dwelt at the heart of psychedelic improv and the three pieces across the 39 minutes of Suite for Orchestra of Marine Mammals recall classic krautrock ambience while remaining purposefully exploratory. “Going for the Nun” pairs church organ with keyboard before shimmering into proto-techno blips and bloops recalling the Space Age that should’ve had humans on Mars by now, while the relatively brief capper “No Space for Time” — perhaps titled to note the limitations of the vinyl format — still finds room in its six minutes to work in two stages, with introductory chimes shifting toward more kosmiche synth travels yet farther out.

Dr. Space on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Ruiner, The Book of Patience

Ruiner The Book of Patience

The debut from Santa Fe-based solo drone project Ruiner — aka Zac Hogan, also of Dysphotic, ex-Drought — is admirable in its commitment to itself. Hogan unveils the outfit with The Book of Patience (on Desert Records), an 80-minute, mostly-single-note piece called “Liber Patientiae,” which if you’re up on your Latin, you know is the title of the album as well. With a willfully glacial pace that could just as easily be a parody of the style — there is definitely an element of ‘is this for real?’ in the listening process, but yeah, it seems to be — “Liber Patientiae” evolves over its time, growing noisier as it approaches 55 or so minutes, the distortion growing more fervent over the better part of the final 25, the linear trajectory underscoring the idea that there’s a plan at work all along coinciding with the experimental nature of the work. What that plan might manifest from here is secondary to the “Liber Patientiae” as a meditative experience. On headphones, alone, it becomes an inward journey. In a crowded room, at least at the outset it’s almost a melodic white noise, maybe a little tense, but stretched out and changing but somehow still solid and singular, making the adage that ‘what you put into it is what you get out’ especially true in this case. And as it’s a giant wall of noise, it goes without saying that not everybody will be up for getting on board, but it’s difficult to imagine the opaque nature of the work is news to Hogan, who clearly is searching for resonance on his own wavelength.

Ruiner on Facebook

Desert Records store


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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch, Plainride, Benthic Realm, Cervus, Unsafe Space Garden, Neon Burton, Thousand Vision Mist, New Dawn Fades, Aton Five, Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Welcome to day two of the Summer 2023 Quarterly Review. Yesterday was a genuine hoot — I didn’t realize I had packed it so full of bands’ debut albums, and not repeating myself in noting that in the reviews was a challenge — but blah blah words words later we’re back at it today for round two of seven total.

As I write this, my house is newly emerged from an early morning tornado warning and sundry severe weather alerts, flooding, wind, etc., with that. In my weather head-canon, tornados don’t happen here — because they never used to — but one hit like two towns over a week or so ago, so I guess anything’s possible. My greater concern would be flooding or downed trees or branches damaging the house. I laughed with The Patient Mrs. that of course a tornado would come right after we did the kitchen floor and put the sink back.

We got The Pecan up to experience and be normalized into this brave new world of climate horror. We didn’t go to the basement, but it probably won’t be the last time we talk about whether or not we need to do so. Yes, planet Earth will take care of itself. It will do this by removing the problematic infection over a sustained period of time. Only trouble is humans are the infection.

So anyway, happy Tuesday. Let’s talk about some records.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Bell Witch, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate

bell witch future's shadow part 1 the clandestine gate

Cumbersome in its title and duly stately as it unfurls 83 minutes of Billy Anderson-recorded slow-motion death-doom soul destroy/rebuild, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate is not the first longform single-song work from Seattle’s Bell Witch, but the core duo of drummer/vocalist Jesse Shreibman and bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond found their path on 2017’s landmark Mirror Reaper (review here) and have set themselves to the work of expanding on that already encompassing scope. Moving from its organ intro through willfully lurching, chant-topped initial verses, the piece breaks circa 24 minutes to minimalist near-silence, building itself back up until it seems to blossom fully at around 45 minutes in, but it breaks to organ, rises again, and ultimately seems to not so much to collapse as to be let go into its last eight minutes of melancholy standalone bass. Knowing this is only the first part of a trilogy makes Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate feel even huger and more opaque, but while its unrelenting atmospheric bleakness will be listenable for a small percentage of the general populace, there’s no question Bell Witch are continuing to push the limits of what they do. Loud or quiet, they are consuming. One should expect no less in the next installment.

Bell Witch on Facebook

Profound Lore Records website


Plainride, Plainride

plainride self titled

Some records are self-titled because the band can’t think of a name. Plainride‘s Plainride is more declarative. Self-released ahead of a Ripple Music issue to accord with timing as the German trio did a Spring support stint with Corrosion of Conformity, the 10-song outing engages with funk, blues rock, metal, prog and on and on and on, and feels specifically geared toward waking up any and all who hear it. The horns blasting in “Fire in the Sky” are a clear signal of that, though one should also allow for the mellowing of “Wanderer,” the interlude “You Wanna…” the acoustic noodler “Siebengebirge,” or the ballady closer “The Lilies” as a corresponding display of dynamic. But the energy is there in “Hello, Operator,” “Ritual” — which reminds of Gozu in its soulful vocals — and through the longer “Shepherd” and the subsequent regrounding in the penultimate “Hour of the Mûmakil,” and it is that kick-in-the-pants sensibility that most defines Plainride as a realization on the part of the band. They sound driven, hungry, expansive and professional, and they greet their audience with a full-on “welcome to the show” mindset, then proceed to try to shake loose the rules of genre from within. Not a minor ambition, but Plainride succeed in letting craft lead the charge in their battle against mediocrity. They don’t universally hit their marks — not that rock and roll ever did or necessarily should — but they take actual chances here and are all the more invigorating for that.

Plainride on Facebook

Ripple Music store


Benthic Realm, Vessel

Benthic Realm Vessel

Massachusetts doomers Benthic Realm offer their awaited first full-length with Vessel, and the hour-long 2LP is broad and crushing enough to justify the wait. It’s been five years since 2018’s We Will Not Bow (review here), and the three-piece of bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave, ex-Curse the Son, etc.), guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) conjure worthy expanse with a metallic foundation, Van Guilder likewise effective in a deathly scream and melodic delivery as “Traitors Among Us” quickly affirms, and the band shifting smoothly between the lurch of “Summon the Tide” and speedier processions like “Course Correct,” the title-track or the penultimate “What Lies Beneath,” the album ultimately more defined by mood and the epic nature of Benthic Realm‘s craft than a showcase of tempo on either side. That is, regardless of pace, they deliver with force throughout the album, and while it might be a couple years delayed, it stands readily among the best debuts of 2023.

Benthic Realm on Facebook

Benthic Realm on Bandcamp


Cervus, Shifting Sands

Cervus Shifting Sands

Cervus follow 2022’s impressive single “Cycles” (posted here) with the three-song EP Shifting Sands, and the Amsterdam heavy psych unit use the occasion to continue to build a range around their mellow-grooving foundation. Beginning quiet and languid and exploratory on “Nirvana Dunes,” which bursts to voluminous life after its midpoint but retains its fluidity, the five-piece of guitarists Jan Woudenberg and Dennis de Bruin, bassist Tom Mourik, keyboardist/guitarist Ton van Rijswijk and drummer Rogier Henkelman saving extra push for middle cut “Tempest,” reminding some of how The Machine are able to turn from heavy jams to more structured riffy shove. That track, shorter at 3:43, is a delightful bit of raucousness that answers the more straightforward fare on 2021’s Ignis EP while setting up a direct transition into “Eternal Shadow,” which builds walls of organ-laced fuzz roll that go out and don’t come back, ending the 16-minute outing in such a way as to make it feel more like a mini-album. They touch no ground here that feels uncertain for them, but that’s only a positive sign as they perhaps work toward making their debut LP. Whether that’s coming or not, Shifting Sands is no less engaging a mini-trip for its brevity.

Cervus on Facebook

Cervus on Bandcamp


Unsafe Space Garden, Where’s the Ground?

Unsafe Space Garden Where's the Ground

On their third album, Where’s the Ground?, Portuguese experimentalists Unsafe Space Garden tackle heavy existentialist questions as only those truly willing to embrace the absurd could hope to do. From the almost-Jackson 5 casual saunter of “Grown-Ups!” — and by the way, all titles are punctuated and stylized all-caps — to the willfully overwhelming prog-metal play of “Pum Pum Pum Pum Ta Ta” later on, Unsafe Space Garden find and frame emotional and psychological breakthroughs through the ridiculous misery of human existence while also managing to remind of what a band can truly accomplish when they’re willing to throw genre expectations out the window. With shades throughout of punk, prog, indie, sludge, pop new and old, post-rock, jazz, and on and on, they are admirably individual, and unwilling to be anything other than who they are stylistically at the risk of derailing their own work, which — again, admirably — they don’t. Switching between English and Portuguese lyrics, they challenge the audience to approach with an open mind and sympathy for one another since once we were all just kids picking our noses on the same ground. Where’s the ground now? I’m not 100 percent, but I think it might be everywhere if we’re ready to see it, to be on it. Supreme weirdo manifestation; a little manic in vibe, but not without hope.

Unsafe Space Garden on Instagram

gig.ROCKS on Bandcamp


Neon Burton, Take a Ride


Guitarist/vocalist Henning Schmerer reportedly self-recorded and mixed and played all instruments himself for Neon Burton‘s third full-length, Take a Ride. The band was a trio circa 2021’s Mighty Mondeo, and might still be one, but with programmed drums behind him, Schmerer digs in alone across these space-themed six songs/46 minutes. The material keeps the central duality of Neon Burton‘s work to-date in pairing airy heavy psychedelia with bouts of denser riffing, rougher-edged verses and choruses offsetting the entrancing jams, resulting in a sound that draws a line between the two but is able to move between them freely. “Mother Ship” starts the record quiet but grows across its seven minutes to Truckfighters-esque fuzzy swing, and “I Run,” which follows, unveils the harder-landing aspect of the band’s character. The transitions are unforced and feel like a natural dynamic in the material, but even the jammiest parts would have to be thought out beforehand to be recorded with just one person, so perhaps Take a Ride‘s most standout achievement — see also: tone, melody, groove — is in overcoming the solo nature of its making to sound as much like a full band as it does in the 10-minute “Orbit” or the crescendo of “Disconnect” that rumbles into the sample-topped ambient-plus-funky meander at the start of instrumental closer “Wormhole,” which dares a bit of proggier-leaning chug on the way to its thickened, nodding culmination.

Neon Burton on Facebook

Neon Burton on Bandcamp


Thousand Vision Mist, Depths of Oblivion

Thousand Vision Mist Depths of Oblivion

Though pedigreed in a Maryland doom scene that deeply prides itself on traditionalism, Laurel, MD, trio Thousand Vision Mist mark out a progressive path forward with their second full-length, Depths of Oblivion, the eight songs/35 minutes of which seem to owe as much to avant metal as to doom and/or heavy rock. Opener “Sands of Time” imagines what might’ve been if Virus had been raised in the Chesapeake Watershed, while “Citadel of Green” relishes its organically ’70s-style groove with an intricacy of interpretation so as to let Thousand Vision Mist come across as respectful of the past but not hindered by it creatively. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon (ex-Life Beyond, Indestroy, etc.), bassist/backing vocalist Tony Comulada (War Injun, Outside Truth, etc.) and drummer Chris Sebastian (ex-Retribution), the band delves into the pastoral on “Love, the Destroyer” and the sunshine-till-the-fuzz-hits-then-still-awesome “Thunderbird Blue,” while “Battle for Yesterday” filters grunge nostalgia through their own complexity and capper “Reversal of Misfortune” moves from its initial riffiness — perhaps in conversation with “We Flew Too High” at the start of what would be side B — into sharper shred with an unshakable rhythmic foundation beneath. I didn’t know what to expect so long after 2018’s Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow (review here), which was impressive, but there’s no level on which Thousand Vision Mist haven’t outdone themselves with Depths of Oblivion.

Thousand Vision Mist on Facebook

Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp


New Dawn Fades, Forever

New Dawn Fades Forever

Founded and fronted by vocalist George Chamberlin (Ritual Earth), the named-for-a-JoyDivision-tune New Dawn Fades make their initial public offering with the three-songer Forever, which at 15 minutes long doesn’t come close to the title but makes its point well before it’s through all the same. In “True Till Death,” they update a vibe somewhere between C.O.C.‘s Blind and a less-Southern version of Nola-era Down, while “This Night Has Closed My Eyes” adds some Kyuss flair in Chamberlin‘s vocal and the concluding “New Moon” reinforces the argument with a four-minute parade of swing and chug, Sabbath-bred if not Sabbath-worshiping. If the band — whose lineup seems to have changed since this was recorded at least in the drums — are going to take on a full-length next, they’ll want to shake things up, maybe an interlude, etc., but as a short outing and even more as their first, they don’t necessarily need to shock with off-the-wall style. Instead, Forever portrays New Dawn Fades as having a clear grasp on what they want to do and the songwriting command to make it happen. Wherever they go from here, it’ll be worth keeping eyes and ears open.

New Dawn Fades on Facebook

New Dawn Fades on Bandcamp


Aton Five, Aton Five

aton five self titled

According to the band, Aton Five‘s mostly-instrumental self-titled sophomore full-length was recorded between 2019 and 2022, and that three-year span would seem to have allowed for the Moscow-based four-piece to deep-dive into the five pieces that comprise it, so that the guitar and organ answering each other on “Danse Macabre” and the mathy angularity that underscores much of the second half of “Naked Void” exist as fully envisioned versions of themselves, even before you get to the 22-minute “Lethe,” which closes. With the soothing “Clepsydra” in its middle as the only track under eight minutes long, Aton Five have plenty of time to develop and build outward from the headspinning proffered by “Alienation” at the album’s start and in the bassy jabs and departure into and through clearheaded drift-metal (didn’t know it existed, but there it is), the work they’ve put into the material is obvious and no less multifaceted than are the songs, “Alienation” resolving in a combination of sweeps and sprints, each of which resonates with purpose. That one might say the same of each of the three parts that make up “Lethe” should signal the depth of consideration in the entirety of the release. I know there was a plague on, but maybe Aton Five benefitted as well from having the time to focus as they so plainly did. Whether you try to keep up with the turns or sit back and let the band go where they will, Aton Five, the album, feels like the kind of record that might’ve ended up somewhere other than where the band first thought it would, but is stronger for having made the journey to the finished product.

Aton Five on Facebook

Aton Five on Bandcamp


Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes, In a Sandbox Full of Suns

Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes In a Sandbox Full of Suns

Their second LP behind 2020’s Everwill, the five-song In a Sandbox Full of Suns finds German four-piece Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes fully switched on in heavy jam fashion, cuts like “Love Story” and “In a Sandbox Full of Suns” — both of which top 11 minutes — fleshed out with improv-sounding guitar and vocals over ultra-fluid rhythms, blending classic heavy blues rock and prog with hints and only hints of vintage-ism and letting the variety in their approach show itself in the four-minute centerpiece “Dead Urban Desert” and the suitably cosmic atmosphere to which they depart in closer “Time and Space.” Leadoff “Coffee Style” is rife with attitude, but wahs itself into an Eastern-inflected lead progression after the midpoint and before turning back to the verse, holding its relaxed but not lazy feel all the while. It is a natural brand of psychedelia that results throughout — an enticing sound between sounds; the proverbial ‘not-lost wandering’ in musical form — as Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes don’t try to hypnotize with effects or synth, etc., but prove willing to take a walk into the unknown when the mood hits. It doesn’t always, but they make the most of their opportunities regardless, and if “Dead Urban Desert” is the exception, its placement as the centerpiece tells you it’s not there by accident.

Giants Dwarfs and Black Holes on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records store


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Dreadnought Announce 10th Anniversary Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Colorado progressive black metal/doom/whatever outfit Dreadnought followed the 2022 release of their latest album, The Endless (review here), with coast-to-coast US tour, and in addition to celebrating that record — indeed a worthy cause — the band will mark their 10th anniversary with this jaunt along the West Coast and the Midwest, what one might think of as the Rocky Mountain circuit instead of the Appalachian circuit. In any case, I’ll happily tell you from experience that if they’re in a place where you either are or are going to be, that’s a gig worth attending. Not only are they stylistically unto themselves at this point, but they destroy live and a catalog-spanning set sounds like even more of a good time.

If you heard The Endless and you’re down with Dreadnought‘s particular take, then you’ve probably got all the info you need to move onto the list of dates, so I won’t keep you. If you didn’t hear the record though, I’ll remind you as a friend that you have nothing to lose by checking it out on the player at the bottom of this post. Worst that happens is it’s not your thing and you go listen to something else. Best that happens, I guess, is you end up going to a show. It’s pretty rad when that happens.

From the PR wire:

Dreadnought tour


Denver, progressive metal outfit DREADNOUGHT are set to co-headline their TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY TOUR with crust, black-sludge band Immortal Bird hailing from Chicago IL, with support from Seattle-based atmospheric black metal 5 piece Izthmi. Although this is DREADNOUGHT’S first tour since their August, 2022 full length release of critically acclaimed album “The Endless”, (Profound Lore) expect to hear songs from their full catalog.

About the tour, DREADNOUGHT vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Kelly Schilling shares:

“This year marks the decade anniversary of our first album release! To celebrate, we will be performing material that spans our entire discography, from ‘Lifewoven’ through ‘The Endless’.”

Full list of tour dates can be found below.

7/20 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive *
7/21 Salt Lake City, UT @ Aces High Saloon *
7/22 Las Vegas, NV @ Dive Bar *
7/24 Long Beach, CA @ Supply & Demand *
7/25 Albany, CA @ Ivy Room *
7/26 Crescent City, CA @ Enoteca *
7/27 Portland, OR @ High Water Mark *
7/28 Vancouver, B.C. @ Wise Hall
7/29 Seattle, WA @ Belltown Yacht Club *
7/31 Bozeman, MT @ Labor Temple
8/2 Des Moines, IA @ Lefty’s
8/3 Minneapolis, MN @ Mortimer’s +
8/4 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club +
8/5 St Louis, MO @ Red Flag +
8/6 Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle (matinee) +
8/7 Lexington, KY @ Green Lantern +
8/8 Asheville, NC @ Fleetwood’s +
8/9 Atlanta, GA @ Bogg’s Social +
8/11 Houston, TX @ Black Magic Social Club

* with Izthmi as support
+ with Immortal Bird co-headline

More dates are TBA

Dreadnought, The Endless (2022)

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Bell Witch Announce New Album Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate Released This Friday; Playing in Full at Roadburn

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

bell witch

Well obviously they’re playing it in full at Roadburn. They’re Bell Witch. It’s Roadburn. Put it in your calendar under ‘duh’ and thank your lucky stars you’re there to see it if you’re going to be. Bell Witch, who had the collab with Aerial Ruin (review here) out in 2020 but whose last LP-proper was 2017’s wrenchingly brilliant Mirror Reaper (review here), will release their new album, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, on Friday ahead of physical pressings in June through Profound Lore. Presumably doing digital ahead of time is so that people going to see that set at Roadburn can, you know, maybe listen ahead of time if so inclined and have some idea of what they’re getting into.

About that? 85-minute single-song from Bell Witch? That’s likely to be a big ‘yes’ from anyone who was subsumed into the listening experience of Mirror Reaper, myself included. Sad to say I won’t get to see that set at Roadburn, but I’ll look forward to hearing the record and whatever sequels the Seattle duo might have planned for it when they come along. Figure this should set Bell Witch up for albums until, what, maybe 2030? The god damned future, that is.

From the PR wire:

bell witch future's shadow part 1 the clandestine gate





For more than a decade, the renowned Pacific Northwestern doom metal band Bell Witch has sent tides surging over the seawalls of the song form, unraveling conventional expectations about the ways music stations itself in time to absorb a listener’s attention. Rather than seek catharsis, the duo’s songs heave themselves through time at a glacial pace, staving off resolution in favor of a trancelike capsule eternity. Invoking both boundlessness and claustrophobia in the same charged gesture, Bell Witch cultivates a sense of time outside of time, an oasis inside an increasingly frenetic media culture.

Today they announce new album, Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate. Like 2017’s lauded Mirror Reaper, The Clandestine Gate is a single 83-minute track — a composition that pulses and breathes on a filmic timeframe. It constitutes the first chapter in a planned triptych of longform albums, collectively called Future’s Shadow.

“Eventually, the end of the last album will be looped around to the first to make a circle,” says bassist Dylan Desmond of the triptych. “It can be continuously looped, like a day cycle. This would be dawn. The next one would be noon. The following one would be sundown, with dawn and sundown both having something of night.”

While traces of organ and synthesizer hovered over Mirror Reaper and Bell Witch’s 2020 collaboration with Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Volume 1, The Clandestine Gate drew those instruments closer to the center of its compositions. “We started experimenting with letting more of the elements shine on their own,” says drummer Jesse Shreibman. The band reunited with their longtime producer Billy Anderson as they began negotiating these new compositional weights. The record begins with an eight-minute organ passage that builds slowly, like the susurrations of dawn, before Desmond’s distortion-choked bass cleaves it open. Throughout their new material, Shreibman and Desmond also took the opportunity to implement new vocal strategies. “I wanted the vocals to be more active, rather than being on top of the soundscape,” notes Shreibman. On The Clandestine Gate, Bell Witch’s twinned voices build off of the chantlike textures of previous records while steering toward more developed melodic lines, structured harmonies, and rhythmic death metal growls.

The expansive scale of Future’s Shadow gave Bell Witch more leeway to plumb themes that have long percolated throughout their work. The concept of eternal return — that time doesn’t end and death doesn’t punctuate life, but both go on forever in an infinite loop no one can remember — inflected the development of The Clandestine Gate after Desmond encountered the idea in Nietzche’s book The Gay Science. The glacially paced films of 20th century Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky similarly supplied a framework for the movements of The Clandestine Gate and Future’s Shadow as a whole. Simple actions — carrying a candle across a room, tossing a metal nut into an overgrown field — carry life-and-death weight, a strategy echoed in Bell Witch’s suspension of minimal melodies across planetary expanses.

The immense gravity of a work like The Clandestine Gate allows these ideas to simmer in a way that feels profoundly and somatically intuitive — not just a philosophical exercise, but an embodied truth. By slowing down both their creative process and the tempo of the music itself, Bell Witch digs even deeper into their long standing focus: the way life spills on inside its minuscule container, both eternal and fleeting, a chord that echoes without resolution. As both the beginning and end of the Future’s Shadow triptych, The Clandestine Gate opens a new chapter in Bell Witch’s macroscopic minimalism: the start of a yawning orbit around an increasingly massive core.

Today Bell Witch have also announced an exclusive, one-off performance in which they will perform Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate in full this Friday, April 21 on the main stage at renowned Dutch festival Roadburn in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Desmond tells, “We have always had incredible experiences at Roadburn and cannot think of a better place for the live debut of our new record. We can’t wait to return to their stage on Friday for the premiere performance of ‘The Clandestine Gate.’” For more info, go here:

Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate sees its release across all digital retailers on Friday, April 21 and physical (CD, Cassette, Vinyl) on June 9 via Profound Lore.

Bell Witch is Bassist Dylan Desmond and Drummer Jesse Shreibman.

Bell Witch, ‘The Making of Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate‘ teaser

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Friday Full-Length: SubRosa, More Constant Than the Gods

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

SubRosa aren’t two and a half minutes into the 14-minute “The Usher” on More Constant Than the Gods before they’ve set an atmosphere of intricacy, tension, beauty and sadness. That opener and longest track (immediate points) consumes, explodes, recedes, surges, rolls, runs and flies. It begins with Rebecca Vernon (also guitar) having a duet with Death as played by Jason McFarland and is likewise gorgeous and raw, and then it’s gone, though the poetry of the lyrics continues even after the wash of echoing guitar and strings, the long stretch of stomping hits in the middle and the melancholy melodicism that follows at around seven and a half-minutes in; the payoff in the quiet verse beginning “You’re more constant than the stars…” as the vocals build, adding harmonies in the third of four lines, the last of which is the title-line of the album: “You’re more constant than the gods/Because sometimes when we call they don’t answer at all.” Then, explosion again. Melodic wash, Death returns (I hear that’ll happen), and they ride the descent into a last few minutes of oblivion, getting noisier as they go with violin scathe before the immediate nodding lumber of “Ghosts of a Dead Empire” (11:05) answers back how much the universe mourns our various passings.

Released in 2013 as the band’s second outing through Profound Lore and their third album overall, More Constant Than the Gods was a moment of arrival for the Salt Lake City band. Andy Patterson, who had engineered (and played harmonica on) 2011’s No Help for the Mighty Ones (review here), joined the band as drummer in 2012, and alongside Vernon, bassist Christian Creek (bassists; they had a few), violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton and violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack — also cello on “Ghosts of a Dead Empire” and closer “No Safe Harbor” — proved to be an essential component to the lineup.

The cymbal taps behind that “More constant…” verse in “The Usher” is all you need for an example there, let alone the scope of the recording itself (Magnus “Devo” Andersson mixed and mastered) or the smooth punctuation given the elephantine start of “Ghosts of a Dead Empire,” which has room in its breadth for that as well as the plucked strings behind the chorus that feels so particularly American in its context for the word “slavery,” as well as deep-mixed growls behind the forward melody, guest guitar spot by Bill Frost, and an abiding nod as the cello sounds like a war horn, strings growing airier in the subsequent verse to herald a break to come. Distortion and rising violin notes stretch into the second half until it breaks out at 8:09 and unfolds its crashing realization, resonant in multiple regards.

Comparatively, “Cosey Mo” (7:31) is straightforward and hooky with its promises to dig up every unmarked grave searching for the title character, SubRosa More Constant Than the Godsbut the atmosphere so central to the first two more extended pieces remains and the arrangements are consistent, emphasizing the malleability of SubRosa‘s approach. That underlying Americana in “Ghosts of a Dead Empire” is there in “Cosey Mo” as well; it has a folkish underpinning in its lyrical use of second-person address, but at the same time, it echoes the punk defiance in the verses of “The Usher,” where “Fat of the Ram” (12:18) takes hold, opening with distorted strum and dual vocals specifically placing the proceedings in Salt Lake City (“city by a dead lake”), with some creepy whispers worked into the background before it takes off at around three minutes in with more of a rhythmic push, unfolding.

Shouts, crashes, more whispers, ripping, tearing, existentially brutal, the standout line “There’s no shelter for me in the halls of the righteous” pure in its declaration. It’s not quite a chorus like in “Cosey Mo,” but it comes around again and is welcome next time too amid so much tumult — the song seems twice to fall down a flight of stairs, as regards transitions — and when that stops shortly before the seven-minute mark and they go to ground on standalone guitar and vocals, building gradually, patiently back to a launch point, the over the next two-plus minutes, the harmony is no less spine-shiver than the eventual sway of the heavy return and crescendo that caps.

Transitional noise, a drone and some static, leads out of “Fat of the Ram” and into “Affliction” (9:49), with a siren of guitar at its start and subsequent slog, almost otherworldly in its initial doomed march. The pace picks up after the first verse — the lyrics again tapped into folk balladry; a mournful mother speaking of a cruel husband in the first three verses before the song switches to a more analytical perspective with “There is a darkness born out of time…” in the second half — but the cymbal wash feels especially prevalent.

The song almost breaks in two pieces with feedback bridging the divide, and the post-midpoint adrenaline rush is willfully contrasted with calming strings like someone telling you it’s okay when you know it isn’t and your blood won’t stop boiling and your brain feels like it’s on fire with your own misery and there’s nowhere else to put it but into the air in hopes of getting it out of you. Before hitting eight minutes, it evens out back to the verse plod with the siren guitar behind, the last lines a prayer for death that alludes back to “The Usher” with enough subtlety to call it “mercy” instead of “death” that’s being wished for. If you don’t believe art can be moving, or you don’t know what emotional labor is, here you go.

Piano begins “No Safe Harbor,” with complement from flute by April Clayton and clarinet by David Payne, and the drumless finale of More Constant Than the Gods ends the record by using those keys for rhythm as well as melody behind a vocal highlight, not so much leaving open space where heft and stomp might otherwise be but changing how that space is used while holding to the atmosphere that’s been cast over the album as a whole. VernonPendleton and Pack are together singing by the time the first half is done, and though the threat of heaviness is paid off at 6:41 with the arrival of dense, open-strummed guitar — again declarative, but differently so — and flute setting up a finish relatively subdued (ha) considering some of the surroundings but no less encompassing for that, coming apart around violin and some tapped something-or-other that’s the final element to go, contemplative even as it bounces into nothingness.

I missed More Constant Than the Gods when it was released. I have reasons — excuses, really — for that (I moved, the transition at the time between physical and digital promos, the hype around it, etc.), but the bottom line is the same. The album turns 10 years old in September and was a breakthrough moment for SubRosa that would lead to 2016’s swansong For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), which I’ll still put against anything you want to sit next to it as one of the best records of its decade. In light of the band’s dissolution in 2019, the victorious return of PendletonPack, Patterson and later-bassist Levi Hanna in The Otolith for 2022’s best debut album, Folium Limina (review here), the launch of a new exploration that would represent, and the prospect of Vernon‘s The Keening still to manifest, I’m almost glad I hadn’t really dug into this to write about it until now.

It seems like cheating to know how the story ends, maybe, but, well, I feel like hearing these songs with the ears I have today lets me appreciate them more than I might have 10 years ago — I’d probably have said the same thing 10 years ago about listening in the dawn of my 20s, mind you, and been right about that too — which one might read as testament to the power of the release itself to flourish with age. I read it that way, at least.

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

It’s 5:40AM now. I’ve woken up early enough all week that the thought of sleeping until the alarm goes off at 4AM feels “late,” and I feel like the tradeoff, generally speaking, is in not feeling rushed while I’m writing. That doesn’t account for The Pecan coming downstairs at 5:15 this morning as though shot out of a cannon — the ADHD diagnosis standard is “driven, as if by a motor,” which has become a running gag around the house; emphasis there on ‘running’ — but as expected he’s willing to sit still long enough to eat his regular morning yogurt when Sesame Street is on.

He goes through phases with tv, wants to watch one show or two — right now it’s this and Bluey, which is obnoxious and encourages imitation of its obnoxiousness, but well written and, in the third season, feels as much for parents as kids — but I’m going to be sad when he’s eventually done with Elmo and Cookie Monster and company. I feel like there isn’t enough open advocacy for kindness in children’s media. Everything is the casual violence and franchise indoctrination of Spider-Man or the copaganda of Paw Patrol, both produced to sell toys like so many of the shows I grew up watching. I still miss Peep & The Big Wide World as well. PBS is a fucking treasure and if it had half the funding of the US military there’s no question the world would be a better, kinder place. Alas.

In any case, I finished the above while he plotzed around the living room, making probably enough noise to wake The Patient Mrs. in bed if she wasn’t already up, and that’s how it goes. Yesterday he almost made it to 6AM, and that felt pretty glorious.

He continues to enjoy Tae Kwon Do, this week got a ‘star card’ for being the best in class and he was so excited he ran and jumped in my arms while Master Acevedo, who runs the place and is great with kids, was still talking about what great concentration and attention he had showed. I could live 400 years if I could remember the look on his face of delight, pride, expressive happiness where he’s so often reserved in the sprit of his mother, me, his cousins, etc. I guess we’re not the best at feeling feelings, any of us. I’m pretty good at being miserable, if that counts?

Today is Bandcamp Friday, and there’s a ton of stuff out as a result. If you’re looking for things to spend money on, the playlist for today’s The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal might be a good way to go. That airs at 5PM at

I expect to be in the chat, hopefully stoned as the day rolls into the evening after The Pecan has had dinner and we move toward winding down, so if you’re there, please say hi and I’ll awkwardly say hi back and thanks for listening, etc. It goes like that these days.

Dude is draped across my lap now, smoothed out some after going to the bathroom and having his yogurt, and that’s fine. This is all pretty standard. He’s growing. Yesterday was his last day at speech therapy, which was also emotional, and he did pretty well not beating me up as a result of said emotions, which he generally processes through physicality. Excitement is literally running in circles, and so on.

This week had a couple genuinely awesome records. Sandrider and Stoned Jesus will be in my top 30. Next week has more. Monday is a Child review, and I’m streaming the REZN album in full on Tuesday. Santo Rostro after that and a combined premiere for the Duel and The Atomic Bitchwax live records Heavy Psych Sounds is putting out on Thursday, a cool video from High Noon Kahuna on Friday, and a couple fun announcements along the way. I feel like the site is in a decent place right now, rolling along. I’m overwhelmed, but glad to be writing about what I’m writing about most of the time, and that’s pretty much the standard I go by. If you’re going to be busy, being busy with good music is the way to go. Wednesday this week was frustrating since I kind of meandered away from getting the things done that I needed to, but yesterday I got back on track. The challenge is part of the appeal. Also we’re hanging cabinets in the kitchen. I’ve been enjoying going swimming in the mornings and trying to be mindful of not being psychotic or self-punishing about it as I always am about exercise. Life proceeds.

On that note, and as Mr. Noodle learns what a conga drum is and the episode from season 40 draws close to its finish, I’ll leave it there. I hope you have a great and safe weekend and I hope to see you back on Monday if not before in the Gimme chat. Either way, have fun, be safe, and thanks as always for reading. All the best, and no, I don’t mean that passive-aggressively.


The Obelisk Collective on Facebook

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Quarterly Review: Black Math Horseman, Baker ja Lehtisalo, Chrome Ghost, Wölfhead, Godzilla in the Kitchen, Onhou, Fuzzerati, Afghan Haze, Massirraytorr, Tona

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-winter 2023

Not to get too mathy or anything — stay with me, folks — but today is the day the Winter 2023 Quarterly Review passes the three-quarter mark on its way to 80 of the total 100 releases to be covered. And some of those are full-lengths, some are EPs, some are new, one yesterday was almost a year old. That happens. The idea here, one way or the other, is personal discovery. I hope you’ve found something thus far worth digging into, something that really hits you. And if not, you’ve still got 30 releases — 10 each today, tomorrow, Friday — to come, so don’t give up yet. We proceed…

Winter 2023 Quarterly Review #71-80:

Black Math Horseman, Black Math Horseman

Black math Horseman self titled

Though long foretold by the prophets of such things, the return of Black Math Horseman with 2022’s self-titled, live-recorded-in-2019 EP some 13 years after their 2009 debut full-length, Wyllt (discussed here, interview here), helped set heavy post-rock in motion, is still a surprise. The tension in the guitars of Ian Barry (who also handled recording/mixing) and Bryan Tulao in the eponymous opener is maddening, a tumult topped by the vocals of Sera Timms (who here shares bass duties with Rex Elle), and given thunder by drummer Sasha Popovic, and as part of a salvo of three cuts all seven minutes or longer, it marks the beginning of a more intense extraction of the atmospheric approach to heavy songcraft that made their past work such a landmark, with the crashes of “Cypher” and the strummy sway of “The Bough” following ahead of shorter, even-driftier closer “Cypber.” There’s a big part of me that wishes Black Math Horseman was a full-length, but an even bigger part is happy to take what it can get and hope it’s not another decade-plus before they follow it with something more. Not to be greedy, but in 2009 this band had a lot more to say and all this time later that still feels like the case and their sound still feels like it’s reaching into the unknown.

Black Math Horseman on Facebook

Profound Lore Records store


Baker Ja Lehtisalo, Crocodile Tears

Baker Ja Lehtisalo Crocodile Tears

The names here should be enough. It’s Aidan Baker from heavy drone experimentalist institution Nadja ja (‘and’ in Finnish) Jussi Lehtisalo from prog-of-all masters Circle, collaborating and sharing guitar, bass, vocal and drum programming duties — Lehtisalo would seem also to add the keyboards that give the the titular neon to centerpiece “Neon Splashing (From Your Eyes)” — on a 53-minute song cycle, running a broad spectrum between open-space post-industrial drone and more traditional smoky, melancholic, heady pop. Closer “Racing After Midnight” blends darker whispers with dreamy keyboard lines before moving into avant techno, not quite in answer to “I Wanna Be Your Bête Noire” earlier, but not quite not, and inevitably the 14-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “(And I Want Your Perfect) Crocodile Tears” is a defining stretch in terms of ambience and setting the contextual backdrop for what follows, its howling guitar layered with drum machine churn in a way that’s analogous to Jesu in style but not form, the wash that emerges in the synth and guitar there seeming likewise to be the suddenly-there alt-reality New Wave destination of the more languid meander of “Face/Off.” The amalgam of beauty and crush is enough to make one hope this isn’t Baker and Lehtisalo‘s last get together, but if it is, they made something worth preserving. By which I mean to say you might want to pick up the CD.

Jussi Lehtisalo on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker website

Ektro Records website

Broken Spine Productions on Bandcamp


Chrome Ghost, House of Falling Ash

Chrome Ghost House of Falling Ash

While their crux is no less in the dreamy, sometimes minimalist, melodic parts and ambient stretches of their longer-form songs and the interludes “In the Tall Grass” and “Bloom (Reprise),” the outright crush of Sacramento’s Chrome Ghost on their third record, House of Falling Ash (on Seeing Red), is not to be understated, whether that’s the lumber-chug of 14-minute opener “Rose in Bloom” or the bookending 13-minute closing title-track’s cacophonous wash, through which the trio remain coherent enough to roll out clean as they give the record its growl-topped sludge metal finish. Continuing the band’s clearly-ain’t-broke collaboration with producer Pat Hills, the six-song/50-minute offering boasts guest appearances from him on guitar, as well as vocals from Eva Rose (ex-CHRCH) on “Furnace,” likewise consuming loud or quiet, punishing or spacious, Oakland-based ambient guitarist Yseulde in the lengthy, minimalist midsection of “Where Black Dogs Dream,” setting up the weighted and melodic finish there, with Brume‘s Susie McMullin joining on vocals to add to the breadth. There’s a lot happening throughout, loud/quiet trades, experimental flourish, some pedal steel from Hills, but guitarist/vocalist Jake Kilgore (also keys), bassist Joe Cooper and drummer Jacob Hurst give House of Falling Ash a solid underpinning of atmospheric sludge and post-metal, and the work is all the more expressive and (intermittently) gorgeous for it.

Chrome Ghost on Facebook

Seeing Red Records store


Wölfhead, Blood Full Moon

Wölfhead Blood Full Moon

Straight-ahead, metal-informed, organ-inclusive classic heavy rock is the order of the day on Wölfhead‘s second album, Blood Full Moon, which is the Barclona-based four-piece’s first offering since their 2011 self-titled debut and is released through Discos Macarras, Música Hibrida and Iron Matron Records. An abiding impression of the 11-song offering comes as the band — who filled out their well-pedigreed core lineup of vocalist Ivan Arrieta, guitarists Josue Olmo and Javi Félez, and drummer Pep Carabante with session players David Saavedra (bass) and Albert Recolons (keys) — present rippers like the Motörhead (no real surprise, considering) via Orange Goblin rocker “Funeral Hearse” as the tail end of a raucous opening salvo, or the later “Mother of the Clan,” but from there the proceedings get more complex, with the classic doom roll of “Rame Tep” or the Jerry Cantrell-esque moody twang of “Everlasting Outlaw,” while “Eternal Stone Mountain” blends keyboard grandiosity and midtempo hookmaking in a way that should bring knowing nods from Green Lung fans, while “The Munsters” is, yes, a take on the theme from the tv show, and closer “El Llop a Dins” takes an airier, sans-drums and more open feel, highlighting melody rather than an overblown finish that, had they gone that route, would have been well earned.

Wölfhead on Facebook

Discos Macarras website

Música Hibrida website

Iron Matron Records store


Godzilla in the Kitchen, Exodus

godzilla in the kitchen exodus

Issued through Argonauta Records, Exodus‘ seven inclusions are situated so that their titles read as a sentence: “Is,” “The Future of Mankind,” “Forced By,” “The King of Monsters,” “Because,” “Everything That Has Been Given,” “Will Be Taken Away.” Thus Leipzig, Germany, instrumentalists Godzilla in the Kitchen‘s second album is immediately evocative, even before “Is” actually introduces the rest of what follows across three minutes of progressively minded heavy rock — parts calling to mind Pelican duking it out with Karma to Burn — that give way to the longest cut and an obvious focal point, “The Future of Mankind,” which reimagines the bass punch from Rage Against the Machine‘s “Killing in the Name Of” as fodder for an odd-timed expanse of Tool-ish progressive heavy, semi-psych lead work coming and going around more direct riffing. The dynamic finds sprawl in “Because” and highlights desert-style underpinnings in the fading lead lines of “Everything That Has Been Given” before the warmer contemplation of “Will Be Taken” caps with due substance. Their use of Godzilla — not named in the songs, but in the band’s moniker, and usually considered the “king of monsters” — as a metaphor for climate change is inventive, but even that feels secondary to the instrumental exploration itself here. They may be mourning for what’s been lost, but they do so with a vigor that, almost inadvertently, can’t help but feel hopeful.

Godzilla in the Kitchen on Facebook

Argonauta Records website


Onhou, Monument

Onhou Monument

Megalurching post-sludgers Onhou leave a crater with the four-song Monument, released by Lay Bare Recordings and Tartarus Records and comprising four songs and a 41-minute run that’s crushing in atmosphere as much as the raw tonal heft or the bellowing vocals that offset the even harsher screams. Leadoff “When on High” (8:19) is the shortest cut and lumbers toward a viciously noisy payoff and last stretch of even-slower chug and layered extreme screams/shouts, while “Null” (10:39) is unremittingly dark, less about loud/quiet tradeoffs though there still are some, but with depths enough to bury that line of organ and seeming to reference Neurosis‘ “Reach,” and “Below” (11:55) sandwiches an ambient beginning and standalone keyboard finish around post-metallic crunch and not so much a mournfulness as the lizard-brain feeling of loss prior to mourning; that naked sense of something not there that should be, mood-wise. Sure enough, “Ruins” (11:03) continues this bleak revelry, rising to a nod in its first couple minutes, breaking, returning in nastier fashion and rolling through a crescendo finish that makes the subsequent residual feedback feel like a mercy which, to be sure, it is not. If you think you’re up to it, you might be, or you might find yourself consumed. One way or the other, Onhou plod forward with little regard for the devastation surrounding. As it should be.

Onhou on Facebook

Lay Bare Recordings website

Tartarus Records on Bandcamp


Fuzzerati, Zwo

Fuzzerati Zwo

Less meditative than some of Germany’s instrumental heavy psych set, Bremen’s Fuzzerati explore drifting heavy psychedelic soundscapes on their 47-minute second album, Zwo, further distinguishing themselves in longform pieces like “Claus to Hedge” (13:01) and closer “Lago” (13:34) with hints of floaty post-rock without ever actually becoming so not-there as to be shoegazing. “Lago” and “Claus to Hedge” also have harder-hitting moments of more twisting, pushing fuzz — the bass in the second half of “Claus to Hedge” is a highlight — where even at its loudest, the seven-minute “Transmission” is more about dream than reality, with a long ambient finish that gives way to the similarly-minded ethereal launch of “Spacewalk,” which soon enough turns to somewhat ironically terrestrial riffing and is the most active inclusion on the record. For that, and more generally for the fluidity of the album as a whole, Fuzzerati‘s sophomore outing feels dug in and complete, bordering on the jazziness of someone like Causa Sui, but ultimately no more of their ilk than of My Sleeping Karma‘s or Colour Haze‘s, and I find that without a ready-made box to put them in — much as “instrumental heavy psych” isn’t a box — it’s a more satisfying experience to just go where the three-piece lead, to explore as they do, breathe with the material. Yeah, that’ll do nicely, thanks.

Fuzzerati on Facebook

Fuzzerati on Bandcamp


Afghan Haze, Hallucinations of a Heretic

Afghan Haze Hallucinations of a Heretic

At least seemingly in part a lyrical narrative about a demon killing an infant Jesus and then going to hell to rip the wings off angels and so on — it’s fun to play pretend — Afghan Haze‘s Hallucinations of a Heretic feels born of the same extreme-metal-plus-heavy-rock impulse that once produced Entombed‘s To Ride Shoot Straight and Speak the Truth, and yeah, that’s a compliment. The bashing of skulls starts with “Satan Ripper” after the Church of Misery-style serial murderer intro “Pushing up Daisies,” and though “Hellijuana” has more of a stomp than a shove, the dudely-violence is right there all the same. “Occupants (Of the Underworld)” adds speed to the proceedings for an effect like High on Fire born out of death metal instead of thrash, and though the following closer “Gin Whore” (another serial killer there) seems to depart from the story being told, its sludge is plenty consistent with the aural assault being meted out by the Connecticut four-piece, omnidirectional in its disdain and ready at a measure’s notice to throw kicks and punches at whosoever should stand in its way, as heard in that burner part of “Gin Whore” and the all-bludgeon culmination of “Occupants (Of the Underworld).” This shit does not want to be your friend.

Afghan Haze on Facebook

Afghan Haze on Bandcamp


Massirraytorr, Twincussion

Massirraytorr Twincussion

My only wish here is that I could get a lyric sheet for the Britpsych-style banger that is “Costco Get Fucked.” Otherwise, I’m fully on board with Canadian trio Massirraytorr‘s debut LP, Twincussion — which, like the band’s name, is also styled all-caps, and reasonably so since the music does seem to be shouting, regardless of volume or what the vocals are actually up to in that deep-running-but-somehow-punk lysergic swamp of a mix. “Porno Clown” is garage raw. Nah, rawer. And “Bong 4” struts like if krautrock had learned about fuckall, the layer of effects biting on purpose ahead of the next rhythmic push. In these, as well as leadoff “Calvin in the Woods” and the penultimate noisefest “Fear Garden,” Massirraytorr feel duly experimentalist, but perhaps without the pretension that designation might imply. That is to say, fucking around is how they’re finding out how the songs go. That gives shades of punk like the earliest, earliest, earliest Monster Magnet, or The Heads, or Chrome, or, or, or, I don’t know fuck you. It’s wild times out here in your brain, where even the gravity slingshot of “The Juice” feels like a relatively straightforward moment to use as a landmark before the next outward acceleration. Good luck with it, kids. Remember to trail a string so you can find your way back.

Massirraytorr on Bandcamp

NoiseAgonyMayhem website


Tona, Tona

Tona tona

Serbian five-piece Tona make their self-titled second LP with a 10-song collection that’s less a hodgepodge and more a melting pot of different styles coming together to serve the needs of a given song. “Sharks” is a rock tempo with a thrash riff. “Napoleon Complex Dog” is blues via hardcore punk. Opener “Skate Zen” takes a riff that sounds like White Zombie and sets it against skate rock and Megadeth at the same time. The seven-minute “Flashing Lights” turns progadelic ahead of the dual-guitar strut showoff “Shooter” and the willful contrast of the slogging, boozy closer “Just a Sip of It.” But as all-over-the-place as Tona‘s Tona is, it’s to the credit of their songwriting that they’re able to hold it together and emerge with a cohesive style from these elements, some of which are counterintuitively combined. They make it work, in other words, and even the Serbian-language “Atreid” gets its point across (all the more upon translation) with its careening, tonally weighted punk. Chock full of attitude, riffs, and unexpected turns, Tona‘s second long-player and first since 2008 gives them any number of directions in which to flourish as they move forward, and shows an energy that feels born from and for the stage.

Tona on Facebook

Tona on Bandcamp


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