Quarterly Review: Bongripper, Destroyer of Light, Castle Rat, Temple of the Fuzz Witch, State of Non Return, Thief, Ravens, Spacedrifter, Collyn McCoy, Misleading

Posted in Reviews on May 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

I wouldn’t say we’re in the home stretch yet, but this 100-release Quarterly Review is more than three-quarters done after today, so I guess it’s debatable. In any case, we proceed. I hope you’ve enjoyed what’s been on offer so far. Yesterday was a little manic, but I got there. Today, tomorrow, I expect much the same. The order of things, as that one Jem’Hadar liked to say.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Bongripper, Empty

BONGRIPPER empty

Eight albums and the emergence of a microgenre cast partly in their image later, it would take a lot for Chicago ultra-crush instrumentalists Bongripper to surprise their listenership, at least as regards their basic approach. If you think that’s a bad thing, fine, but I’d put the 66 minutes of Empty forward to argue otherwise. Six years after 2018’s two-song LP Terminal (review here) — with a live record and single between — the four new songs of Empty dare to sneakily convey a hopeful message in the concave tracklisting: “Nothing” (20:40), “Remains’ (12:04), “Forever” (12:43), “Empty” (21:24). That message might be what’s expressed in the echoing post-metallic lead guitar on the finale and the organ on the prior “Forever,” or, frankly, it might not. Because in the great, lumbering, riffy morass that is their sound, there’s room for multiple interpretations as well as largesse enough to accommodate the odd skyscraper, so take it as you will. Just because you might go into it with some idea of what’s coming doesn’t mean you won’t get flattened.

Bongripper on Facebook

Bongripper BigCartel store

Destroyer of Light, Degradation Years

destroyer of light degradation years

My general policy as regards “last” records is to never say never until everybody’s holograms have been deleted, but the seven songs and 39 minutes of Degradation Years represent an ending for Destroyer of Light just the same, and the Austin-based troupe end as they began, which is by not being the band people expected them to be. Their previous long-player, 2022’s Panic (review here), dug into atmospheric doom in engrossing fashion, and Degradation Years presents not-at-all-their-first pivot, with post-punk atmospherics and ’90s-alt melodies on “Waiting for the End” and heavy drift on “Perception of Time.” “Failure” is duly sad, where the shorter, riffier “Blind Faith” shreds and careens heading into its verse, and the nine-minute “Where I Cannot Follow” gives Pallbearer‘s emotive crux a look on the way to its airy tremolo finish. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca has a couple other nascent projects going, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen and drummer Kelly Turner are in Slumbering Sun, and Mike Swarbrick who plays bass here is in Cortége, but Destroyer of Light always stood on their own, and they never stopped growing across their 12-year run. Job well done.

Destroyer of Light on Facebook

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

Castle Rat, Into the Realm

castle rat into the realm

If you take away the on-stage theatricality, the medieval/horror fetish play, and all the hype, what you’re left with on Castle Rat‘s first album, Into the Realm is a solid collection of raw, classic-styled doom rock able to account for the Doors-y guitar in the quiet strum of the gets-heavy-later “Cry for Me” as well as the shrieks of “Fresh Fur” and opener “Dagger Dragger,” the nod and chug of “Nightblood” and the proto-metal of “Feed the Dream” via three interludes spaced out across its brief 32-minute stretch. Of course, taking away the drama, the sex, and aesthetic cultistry is missing part of the point of the band in the first place, but what I’m saying is that Into the Realm has more going for it than the fact that the band are young and good looking, willing to writhe, and thus marketable. They could haunt Brooklyn basements for the next 15-20 years or go tour with Ghost tomorrow, I honestly have no clue about their ambitions or goals in that regard, but their songs present a strong stylistic vision in accord with their overarching persona, resonating with a fresh generational take and potential progression. That’s enough on its own to make Into the Realm one of the year’s most notable debuts.

Castle Rat on Instagram

King Volume Records store

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Apotheosis

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Apotheosis

With their third full-length and first for Ripple Music, Detroit trio Temple of the Fuzz Witch — guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner (also synth), bassist Joe Peet and drummer Taylor Christian — follow their 2020 offering, Red Tide (review here), with a somewhat revamped imagining of who they are. Apotheosis — as high as you can get — introduces layers of harsh vocals and charred vibes amid the consuming lumber of its tonality, still cultish in atmosphere but heavier in its ritualizing and darker. The screams work, and songs like “Nephilim” benefit from Bruner‘s ability to shift from clean to harsh vocals there and across the nine-songer’s 39 minutes, and while there’s plenty of slog, a faster song like “Bow Down” stands out all the more from the grim, somehow-purple mist in which even the spacious midsection of “Raze” seems to reside. The bottom line is if you think you knew who they were or you judged them as a bong-metal tossoff because of their silly name, you’re already missing out. If you’re cool with that, fair enough. It’s not my job to sell you records anyway.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Facebook

Ripple Music website

State of Non Return, White Ink

State of Non Return White Ink

Among the final releases for Trepanation Recordings, White Ink is the years-in-the-making first LP from Bologna, Italy’s State of Non Return — and if you’re hearing a dogwhistle in their moniker for meditative fare because that’s also the name of an Om song, you’re neither entirely correct or incorrect. From the succession of the three circa-nine-minutes-each cuts “Catharsis,” “Vertigo” and “White Ink,” the trio harness a thoughtful take on brooding desert nod, with “Vertigo” boasting some more aggro-tinged shouts ahead of the chug in its middle building on the spoken word of the opener, and the intro to the title-track building into a roll of tempered distortion that offers due payoff in its sharp-edged leads and hypnotic repetitions, to the 15-minute finale “Pendulum” that offers due back and forth between minimal spaces and full-on voluminosity before taking off on an extended linear build to end, the focus is more on atmosphere than spiritual contemplation, and State of Non Return find individualism in moody contemplation and the tension-release of their heaviest moments. Some bands grow into their own sound over time. State of Non Return, who got together in 2016, seem to have spent at least some of that span of years since doing the legwork ahead of this release.

State of Non Return on Facebook

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

Thief, Bleed, Memory

thief bleed memory

Writing and recording as a solo artist under the banner of Thief — there’s a band for stage purposes — Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dylan Neal (also Botanist) pulls back from the ’90s-attitudinal industrial and nü-metal flirtations of 2021’s The 16 Deaths of My Master (review here) and reroutes the purpose toward more emotive atmospheric ends. Sure, “Dead Coyote Dreams” still sneaks out of its house to smoke cigarettes at night, and that’s cool forever and you know it, but with an urgent beat behind it, “Cinderland” opens to a wash that is encompassing in ways Thief had little interest in being three years ago, despite working with largely similar elements blending electronica, synth, and organic instrumentation. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — holds that Neal‘s father’s onset of dementia inspired the turn, and that’s certainly reason enough if you need a reason, but if there’s processing taking place over the 12 inclusions and 44 minutes that Bleed, Memory spans, along with its allusions to James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, etc., that does not at all make the work feel anymore lost than it’s intended to be in the post-techno of “Paramnesia” or the wub-and-shimmer of “To Whom it May Concern” that rounds out. I’ll allow that being of a certain age might make it more relatable.

Thief on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Ravens, Ravens

ravens ravens

New Jersey’s Ravens mark their first public offering with this seven-song self-titled debut, spacious in its vocal echo and ostensibly led by riffs though that doesn’t necessarily mean the guitar is foremost in the mix throughout. The guitar/drum duo of Zack Kurland (Green Dragon, ex-Sweet Diesel, etc.) and drummer Chris Daly (Texas is the ReasonResurrection, etc.) emerges out of the trio Altered States with grounded rhythmic purpose beneath the atmospheric tones and vocal melodies, touching on pop in “Get On, Get On” while “New Speedway Boogie” struts with thicker tone and a less shoegazing intent than the likes of “To Whom You Were Born,” the languid “Miscommunication” and “Revolution 0,” though that two-minute piece ends with a Misfits-y vocal, so nothing is so black and white stylistically — a notion underscored as closer “Amen” builds from its All Them Witches-swaying meanderings to a full, driving wah-scorched wash to end off. Where they might be headed next, I have no idea, but if you can get on board with this one, the songs refuse to be sublimated to fit genre, and there are fewer more encouraging starts than that.

Ravens on Instagram

Ravens on Bandcamp

Spacedrifter, When the Colors Fade

Spacedrifter When the Colors Fade

Each of the 10 songs on Spacedrifter‘s first full-length, When the Colors Fade, works from its own intention, whether it’s the frenetic MondoGenerator thrust of “(Radio Edit)” or the touch of boogie in opener “Dwell,” but grunge and desert rock are at the root of much the proceedings, as the earliest-QOTSA fuzz of “Buried in Stone” will attest. But the scope of the whole is richer in hearing than on paper, and shifts like the layered vocal melodies in “Have a Girl” or the loose bluesy swing of the penultimate “NFOB,” the band’s willingness to let a part breathe without dwelling too long on any single idea, results in a balance that speaks to the open sensibilities of turn-of-the-century era European heavy without being a retread of those bands either. Comprised of bassist/vocalist/producer Olle Söderberg, drummer/vocalist Isac Löfgren guitarist/vocalist Adam Hante and guitarist John Söderberg, Spacedrifter‘s songwriting feels and organic in its scope and how it communes with the time before the “rules” of various microgenres were set, and is low-key refreshing not like an album you’re gonna hear a ton of hyperbole about, but one that’s going to stay with you longer than its 39 minutes, especially after you let it sink in over a couple listens. So yeah, I’m saying don’t be surprised when it’s on my year-end debuts list, blah blah whatever, but also watch out for how their sound develops from here.

Spacedrifter on Facebook

Spacedrifter on Bandcamp

Collyn McCoy, Night of the Bastard Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Collyn McCoy Night of the Bastard Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Assembled across varied movements of synthesizer ranging from half-a-minute to a bit under four minutes long, the score for the indie horror film Night of the Bastard finds L.A.’s Collyn McCoy (also of Circle of Sighs, bassist for Unida, etc.) performing under his experimental-and-then-some electronic alias Nyte Vypr, and if that doesn’t telegraph weirdness to come, well, you can just take my word for it that it should. I can’t claim to have seen the movie, which is reportedly available hither and yon in the clusterfuck that is the modern streamscape, but ’80s horror plays a big role in pieces like “Shards and Splinters” and the opening “Night of the Bastard” itself, while “If We Only Had Car Keys” and “Get Out” feel even more specifically John Carpenter in their beat and keyboard handclaps. Closer “The Sorceress” is pointedly terrifying, but “Turtle Feed” follows a drone and piano line to more peaceful ends that come across as far, far away from the foreboding soundscape of “Go Fuck Yourself.” Remember that part where I said it was going to get weird? It does, and it’s clearly supposed to, so mark it another win for McCoy‘s divergent CV.

Collyn McCoy website

Collyn McCoy on Bandcamp

Misleading, Face the Psych

Misleading Face the Psych

I hate to be that guy, but while Face the Psych is the third long-player from Portugal’s Misleading, it’s my first time hearing them, so I can’t help but feel like it’s worth noting that, in fact, they’re not that misleading at all. They tell you to face the psych and then, across seven cosmos-burning tracks and 54 minutes in an alternate dimension, you face it. Spoiler: it’s fucking rad. While largely avoiding the trap of oh-so-happening-right-now space metal, Misleading are perfectly willing to let themselves be carried where the flow of “Tutte le Nove Vite” takes them — church organ righteousness, bassy shuffle, jams that run in gravitational circles, and so on — and to shove and be shoved by the insistence of “Cheating Death” a short while later. The centerpiece “Spazio Nascoto” thickens up stonerized swing after a long intro of synth drone, and 12-minute capper “Egregore” feels like the entire song, not just the guitar and bass, has been put through the wah pedal. As likely to make you punchdrunk as entranced, willfully unhinged, and raw despite filling all the reaches of its mix and then some, it’s not so much misleading as leading-astray as you suddenly realize an hour later you’ve quit your job and dropped out of life, ne’er to be seen, heard from or hounded by debt collectors again. Congrats on that, by the way.

Misleading on Facebook

Misleading on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Saturnalia Temple, Dool, Abrams, Pia Isa, Wretched Kingdom, Lake Lake, Gnarwhal, Bongfoot, Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Djiin

Posted in Reviews on May 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

The-Obelisk-Quarterly-Review

Today is Wednesday, the day we hit and pass the halfway mark for this week, which is a quarter of the way through the entirety of this 100-release Quarterly Review. Do you need to know that? Not really, but it’s useful for me to keep track of how much I’m doing sometimes, which is why I count in the first place. 100 records isn’t nothing, you know. Or 10 for that matter. Or one. I don’t know.

A little more variety here, which is always good, but I’ve got momentum behind me after yesterday and I don’t want to delay diving in, so off we go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Saturnalia Temple, Paradigm Call

saturnalia temple paradigm call

For the band’s fourth album, Paradigm Call, founding Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Eriksson leads the newcomer rhythm section of drummer Pelle Åhman and bassist Gottfrid Åhman through eight abyss-plundering tracks across 48 minutes of roiling tonal mud distinguished by its aural stickiness and Eriksson‘s readily identifiable vocal gurgle. The methodology hasn’t changed much since 2020’s Gravity (review here) in terms of downward pull, but the title-track’s solo is sharp enough to cut through the mire, and while it’s no less harsh for doing so, “Among the Ruins” explores a faster tempo while staying in line with the all-brown psychedelic swirl around it, brought to fruition in the backwards-sounding loops of closer “Kaivalya” after the declarative thud of side B standout “Empty Chalice.” They just keep finding new depths. It’s impressive. Also a little horrifying.

Saturnalia Temple on Facebook

Listenable Records website

Dool, The Shape of Fluidity

dool the shape of fluidity

It’s easy to respect a band so unwilling to be boxed by genre, and Rotterdam’s Dool put the righteous aural outsiderness that’s typified their sound since 2017’s Here Now There Then (review here) to meta-level use on their third long-player for Prophecy Productions, The Shape of Fluidity. Darkly progressive, rich in atmosphere, broad in range and mix, heavy-but-not-beholden-to-tone in presentation, encompassing but sneaky-catchy in pieces like opener “Venus in Flames,” the flowing title-track, and the in-fact-quite-heavy “Hermagorgon,” the record harnesses declarations and triumphs around guitarist/vocalist Raven van Dorst‘s stated lyrical thematic around gender-nonbinaryism, turning struggle and confusion into clarity of expressive purpose in the breakout “Self-Dissect” and resolving with furious culmination in “The Hand of Creation” with due boldness. Given some of the hateful, violent rhetoric around gender-everything in the modern age, the bravery of DoolVan Dorst alongside guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr, bassist JB van der Wal and drummer Vincent Kreyder — in confronting that head-on with these narratives is admirable, but it’s still the songs themselves that make The Shape of Fluidity one of 2024’s best albums.

Dool on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Abrams, Blue City

abrams blue city

After releasing 2022’s In the Dark (review here) on Small Stone, Denver heavy rockers Abrams align to Blues Funeral Recordings for their fifth album in a productive, also-touring nine years, the 10-track/42-minute Blue City. Production by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Converge, etc.) at GodCity Studio assures no lack of impact as “Fire Waltz” reaffirms the tonal density of the riffs that the Zach Amster-led four-piece nonetheless made dance in opener “Tomorrow,” while the rolling “Death Om” and the momentary skyward ascent in “Etherol” — a shimmering preface to the chug-underscored mellowness of “Narc” later — lay out some of the dynamic that’s emerged in their sound along with the rampant post-hardcore melodies that come through in Amster and Graham Zander‘s guitars, capable either of meting out hard-landing riffs to coincide with the bass of Taylor Iversen (also vocals) and Ryan DeWitt‘s drumming, or unfurling sections of float like those noted above en route to tying it all together with the closing “Blue City.” Relatively short runtimes and straightforward-feeling structures mask the stylistic nuance of the actual material — nothing new there for Abrams; they’re largely undervalued — and the band continue to reside in between-microgenre spaces as they await the coming of history which will inevitably prove they were right all along.

Abrams on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Pia Isa, Burning Time

pia isa burning time

Superlynx bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen made her solo debut under the Pia Isa moniker with 2022’s Distorted Chants (review here), and in addition to announcing the SoftSun collaboration she’ll undertake alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce (who also appeared on her record), in 2024, she offers the three-song Burning Time EP, with a cover of Radiohead‘s “Burn the Witch” backed by two originals, “Treasure” and “Nothing Can Turn it Back.” With drumming by her Superlynx bandmate Ole Teigen (who also recorded), “Burn the Witch” becomes a lumbering forward march, ethereal in melody but not necessarily cultish, while “Treasure” digs into repetitive plod led by the low end and “Nothing Can Turn it Black” brings the guitar forward but is most striking in the break that brings the dual-layered vocals forward near the midpoint. The songs are leftovers from the LP, but if you liked the LP, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Pia Isa on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Wretched Kingdom, Wretched Kingdom

Wretched Kingdom Wretched Kingdom

A late-2023 initial public offering from Houston’s Wretched Kingdom, their self-titled EP presents a somewhat less outwardly joyous take on the notion of “Texas desert rock” than that offered by, as an example, Austin’s High Desert Queen, but the metallic riffing that underscores “Dreamcrusher” goes farther back in its foundations than whatever similarity to Kyuss one might find in the vocals or speedier riffy shove of “Smoke and Mirrors.” Sharp-cornered in tone, opener “Torn and Frayed” gets underway with metered purpose as well, and while the more open-feeling “Too Close to the Sun” begins similar to “You Can’t Save Me” — the strut that ensues in the latter distinguishes — the push in its second half comes after riding a steady groove into a duly bluesy solo. There’s nothing in the material to take you out of the flow between the six component cuts, and even closer “Deviation” tells you it’s about to do something different as it works from its mellower outset into a rigorous payoff. With the understanding that most first-EPs of this nature are demos by another name and (as here) more professional sound, Wretched Kingdom‘s Wretched Kingdom asks little in terms of indulgence and rewards generously when encountered at higher volumes. Asking more would be ridiculous.

Wretched Kingdom on Facebook

Wretched Kingdom on Bandcamp

Lake Lake, Proxy Joy

lake lake proxy joy

Like earlier Clutch born out of shenanigans-prone punk, Youngstown, Ohio’s Lake Lake are tight within the swinging context of a song like “The Boy Who Bit Me,” which is the second of the self-released Proxy Joy‘s six inclusions. Brash in tone and the gutted-out shouty vocals, offsetting its harder shoving moments with groovy back-throttles in songs that could still largely be called straightforward, the quirk and throaty delivery of “Blue Jerk” and the bluesier-minded “Viking Vietnam” paying off the tension in the verses of “Comfort Keepers” and the build toward that leadoff’s chorus want nothing for personality or chemistry, and as casual as the style is on paper, the arrangements are coordinated and as “Heavy Lord” finds a more melodic vocal and “Coyote” — the longest song here at 5:01 — leaves on a brash highlight note, the party they’re having is by no means unconsidered. But it is a party, and those who have dancing shoes would be well advised to keep them on hand, just in case.

Lake Lake on Facebook

Lake Lake on Bandcamp

Gnarwhal, Altered States

Gnarwhal Altered States

Modern in the angularity of its riffing, spacious in the echoes of its tones and vocals, and encompassing enough in sound to be called progressive within a heavy context, Altered States follows Canadian four-piece Gnarwhal‘s 2023 self-titled debut full-length with four songs that effectively bring together atmosphere and impact in the six-minute “The War Nothing More” — big build in the second half leading to more immediate, on-beat finish serving as a ready instance of same — with twists that feel derived of the MastoBaroness school rhythmically and up-front vocal melodies that give cohesion to the darker vibe of “From Her Hands” after displaying a grungier blowout in “Tides.” The terrain through which they ebb and flow, amass and release tension, soar and crash, etc., is familiar if somewhat intangible, and that becomes an asset as the concluding “Altered States” channels the energy coursing through its verses in the first half into the airy payoff solo that ends. I didn’t hear the full-length last year. Listening to what Gnarwhal are doing in these tracks in terms of breadth and crunch, I feel like I missed out. You might also consider being prepared to want to hear more upon engaging.

Gnarwhal on Facebook

Gnarwhal on Bandcamp

Bongfoot, Help! The Humans..

bongfoot help the humans

Help the humans? No. Help! The Humans…, and here as in so many of life’s contexts, punctuation matters. Digging into a heavy, character-filled and charging punkish sound they call “Appalachian thrash,” Boone, North Carolina, three-piece Bongfoot are suitably over-the-top as they explore what it means to be American in the current age, couching discussions of wealth inequality, climate crisis, corporatocracy, capitalist exploitation, the insecurity at root in toxic masculinity and more besides. With clever, hooky lyrics that are a total blast despite being tragic in the subject matter and a pace of execution well outside what one might think is bong metal going in because of the band’s name, Bongfoot vigorously kick ass from opener “End Times” through the galloping end of “Amazon Death Factory/Spacefoot” and the untitled mountain ramble that follows as an outro. Along the way, they intermittently toy with country twang, doom, and hardcore punk, and offer a prayer to the titular volcano of “Krakatoa” to save at least the rest of the world if not humanity. It’s quite a time to be alive. Listening, that is. As for the real-world version of the real world, it’s less fun and more existentially and financially draining, which makes Help! The Humans… all the more a win for its defiance and charm. Even with the bonus tracks, I’ll take more of this anytime they’re ready with it.

Bongfoot on Facebook

Bongfoot on Bandcamp

Thomas Greenwood & The Talismans, Ateş

Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans Ateş

It’s interesting, because you can’t really say that Thomas Greenwood and the Talismans‘ second LP, Ateş isn’t neo-psychedelia, but the eight tracks and 38 minutes of the record itself warrant enunciating what that means. Where much of 2020s-era neo-psych is actually space rock with thicker tones (shh! it’s a secret!), what Greenwood — AKA Thomas Mascheroni, also of Bergamo, Italy’s Humulus) brings to sounds like the swaying, organ-laced “Sleepwalker” and the resonant spaciousness in the soloing of “Mystic Sunday Morning” is more kin to the neo-psych movement that began in the 1990s, which itself was a reinterpretation of the genre’s pop-rock origins in the 1960s. Is this nitpicking? Not when you hear the title-track infusing its Middle Eastern-leaning groove with a heroic dose of wah or the friendly shimmer of “I Do Not” that feels extrapolated from garage rock but is most definitely not that thing and the post-Beatles bop of “Sunhouse.” It’s an individual (if inherently familiar) take that unifies the varied arrangements of the acidic “When We Die” and the cosmic vibe of “All the Lines” (okay, so there’s a little bit of space boogie too), resolving in the Doors-y lumber of “Crack” to broaden the scope even further and blur past timelines into an optimistic future.

Thomas Greenwood and The Talismans on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Djiin, Mirrors

djiin mirrors

As direct as some of its push is and as immediate as “Fish” is opening the album right into the first verse, the course that harp-laced French heavy progressive rockers Djiin take on their third album, Mirrors, ultimately more varied, winding and satisfying as its five-track run gives over to the nine-minute “Mirrors” and uses its time to explore more pointedly atmospheric reaches before a weighted crescendo that precedes the somehow-fluidity in the off-time early stretch of centerpiece “In the Aura of My Own Sadness,” its verses topped with spoken word and offset by note-for-note melodic conversation between the vocals and guitar. Rest assured, they build “In the Aura of My Own Sadness” to its own crushing end, while taking a more decisively psychedelic approach to get there, and thereby set up “Blind” with its trades from open-spaces held to pattern by the drums and a pair of nigh-on-caustic noise rock onslaughts before 13-minute capstone “Iron Monsters” unfolds a full instrumental linear movement before getting even heavier, as if to underscore the notion that Djiin can go wherever the hell they want and make it work as a song. Point taken.

Djiin on Facebook

Klonosphere Records website

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The Well and Year of the Cobra Touring This Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

So here’s what happened. All of a sudden, toward the end of last week or whenever it was, a bunch of cool bands started to announce they were touring with other cool bands. Package tours are a long-held tradition, especially for times when money’s tight in various spots around the world, and a decent way for acts to sometimes share road expenses as well as give club crowds more reason to leave the house. Whether it’s Greenleaf and Slomosa or Dopelord and Red Sun Atacama in Europe, Mars Red Sky and Howling Giant or — the subject at hand — Austin, Texas, trio The Well and Seattle duo Year of the Cobra; none of these sounds like anything other than a killer night in the making.

But for The Well and Year of the Cobra, there are a bunch of other shows both bands are playing in addition to those they’ll do together, with the former heading to Tennessee later in August for Muddy Roots and the latter with a few dates in the Pacific Northwest in early June, and so on. There wasn’t one general announcement for the tour that I found on socials, so I took the dates that were posted by each band, the Branca Studio art that accompanied, and I decided rather than try to parse out who’s where for one broader list, to just have them as they are.

The Well‘s dates are under the band’s name, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra, whose new album I think is recorded — another announcement to wait for — and will hopefully be out in the coming months. Both their latest LP and The Well‘s were in 2019, so if you said they’re due, fair enough. Do I honestly believe I needed to tell you about organizing two posts into this single one? No. But I did anyway, because that’s how it is when you’re neurotic. Now you know.

From social media as noted:

the well year of the cobra art

THE WELL

YOU KNOW WE CANT STAY AWAY FOR LONG! STOKED TO HIT THE ROAD WITH @yearofthecobra THIS SUMMER!

More dates to come; here’s a teaser with some killer artwork by the goat @branca_studio

7.19 – Tulsa, OK – Mercury Lounge
7.20 – OKC, OK – Blue Note Lounge
7.21 – KC, MO – recordBar
7.22 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry (18+)
7.23 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle*
7.24 – Youngstown, OH – Westside Bowl* (all ages)
7.25 – Albany, NY – Fuze Box*
7.26 – Providence, RI – Alchemy (all ages)
7.27 – Manchester, NH – Jewel Music Venue*
7.28 – NY, NY – The Bowery Electric*
7.29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie*
7.30 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506* (all ages)
8.4 – Dallas, TX – Ruins*
8.6 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock*
8.7 – LA, CA – Permanent Records*
8.8 – Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar*
8.9 – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial*
8.10 – SF, CA – Kilowatt Bar*
8.31 – Cookeville, TN – Muddy Roots Festival
* – w/ Year of the Cobra

YEAR OF THE COBRA

Yo! Excited to announce our US tour with @thewellband. More dates coming soon, but for now…we feast!!!

6.1 – Bellingham, WA – The Shakedown
6.2 – Vancouver, BC – The Cobalt Cabaret
6.9 – Portland, OR – Polaris Hall
7.20 – Libby, MT – Montvana Festival
7.23 – Chicago, IL – The Empty Bottle*
7.24 – Youngstown, OH – Westside Bowl* (all ages)
7.25 – Albany, NY – Fuze Box*
7.27 – Manchester, NH – Jewel Music Venue*
7.28 – NY, NY – The Bowery Electric*
7.29 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie*
7.30 – Chapel Hill, NC – Local 506* (all ages)
8.2 – Lafayette, LA – Freetown Boom Boom Room*
8.4 – Dallas, TX – Ruins*
8.6 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock*
8.7 – LA, CA – Permanent Records*
8.8 – Long Beach, CA – Alex’s Bar*
8.9 – Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial*
8.10 – SF, CA – Kilowatt Bar*
8.11 – Santa Cruz – Moe’s Alley*
*w/The Well

http://www.facebook.com/thewellband
https://www.instagram.com/thewellband/
http://thewellaustin.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/ridingeasyrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/easyriderrecord/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

https://www.facebook.com/yearofthecobraband/
https://www.instagram.com/yearofthecobra/
https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/
https://en.prophecy.de/

The Well, Death and Consolation (2019)

Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust (2019)

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DOOL to Release The Shape of Fluidity April 19; “Hermagorgon” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

DOOL

As one would, I expected the new Dool single to be heavy, but it’s nonetheless heavier than I expected it to be, and I’m not complaining. The darkly-progressive Netherlands outfit fronted by Raven van Dorst had a live record out last year that I completely whiffed on because I suck at this, and their last studio LP was 2020’s Summerland (review here). If you heard that at all, you know that one song doesn’t necessarily tell the tale of a whole offering, and no doubt that’s true of “Hermagorgon” as relates to the impending The Shape of Fluidity too, but at least the new track lets you know the spaces the band are working in, and it opens the discussion of the breaking-out-of-gender-binaries-as-a-concept theme, as laid out by the PR wire below.

Dool‘s sound is so dug in, and given the weight of tone here I’m not sure mass appeal would be possible, but there’s definitely a conversation happening with pop and broader culture in sound as well as with modern atmospheric heavy and the Dutch tradition of innovation in same.

One way or the other, I’ll hope to review this one when the time comes. For now:

dool the shape of fluidity

DOOL announce new album “The Shape of Fluidity” and release lyric video single ‘Hermagorgon’

Preorder link: http://lnk.spkr.media/dool-fluidity

DOOL are now unveiling the lyric video ‘Hermagorgon’ as the first single taken from their forthcoming third full-length “The Shape of Fluidity”. The new album is scheduled for release on April 19, 2024.

DOOL comment: “As one of the first songs that we had woven together for ‘The Shape of Fluidity’, ‘Hermagorgon’ gave us a very clear direction on where we wanted to go musically”, singer Raven van Dorst explains. “The track is about reclaiming space, breaking out of binary constraints, and facing the world head on. This is something that everyone can relate to one way or another. However, this is one of the most personal songs on the album. It describes the internal journey that I’ve gone through over the past few years. The song also displays the birth of the collective songwriting spirit on which this whole album is based, as well as producer Magnus Lindberg’s unique craftsmanship. We’ve been waiting a long time to share this with you.”

Tracklist
1. Venus in Flames
2. Self-Dissect
3. The Shape of Fluidity
4. Currents
5. Evil in You
6. House of a Thousand Dreams
7. Hermagorgon
8. Hymn for a Memory Lost
9. The Hand of Creation

Everything flows, nothing ever stays the same. This notion of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus applies to all of us as life itself is in a constant state of change. The same can be said about the third studio album of the fast-rising Dutch rock band DOOL.

Aptly entitled “The Shape of Fluidity” there is not just musical innovation but the full-length revolves around themes of personal change, physical change, psychological change, and the ever-changing world around us. DOOL and particularly singer and guitarist Raven van Dorst ask questions: How does change affect us? How do we keep being ourselves in a world that is so incredibly demanding and aggressive towards the individual? We must be as fluid as water to navigate ourselves through this ocean of possibilities and uncertainties – and make peace with chaos and impermanence.

Musically, DOOL continue on the path laid out on the two previous studio recordings of heartfelt rock music with added metal elements, while displaying a maturity and focus in songwriting that has grown out of experience. “The Shape of Fluidity” exhibits an eclectic yet seamless amalgamation of progressive and post-rock as well as doom and heavy metal in combination with an inherent catchiness and a dynamic backdrop.

What sets this album apart from its predecessors is the collective endeavour that went into it with the combined forces of songwriting trio Raven, and guitarists Nick Polak and Omar Iskandr. In the rhythm section, bass player JB van der Wal has been joined by the abundant creativity of new drummer Vincent Kreyder. On the technical side of the production, the outstanding engineering and mixing skills of Magnus Lindberg (CULT OF LUNA, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, TRIBULATION) and the excellent mastering by Ted Jensen (AC/DC, TALKING HEADS, MUSE, GHOST) have created the perfect crisp and transparent as well powerful sound for “The Shape of Fluidity”.

It is hardly surprising that the theme of the album that pitches the concept of identity against the backdrop of a world in constant flux connects the album’s lyrics to the biography of lead vocalist Raven. Born intersex, doctors at the time assumed that they could surgically determine which kind of life the infant should lead and decided that the child should be a girl. This has led to a life full of soul searching, fighting taboos and breaking boundaries, until recently Raven decided to reclaim that which others have tried so hard to take away from them, and finally embrace their hermaphroditic nature.

This much more personal approach than before does by no means become self-centred. The lyrics of “The Shape of Fluidity” can easily be read as universal stories about finding oneself, swimming against the stream, and facing the world head on. We are all affected by questions of change and identity, but it is only legitimate and natural that art also reflects the artists as well as the world around them.

The band derived the name DOOL from the Dutch word for ‘wandering’. When their debut album “Here Now, There Then” was released in 2017, it became an instant success. Their fresh and wild rock and metal sound received “Album of the Month” titles in the renowned German magazines Metal Hammer and Rock Hard as well as the “Best Debut Album 2017” award from the former, while Vice (US), Aardschok (NL), and De Volkskrant (NL) happily chimed in with heaping praise on the young Dutch band.

DOOL also established a reputation as an excellent live act that loves to rock stages around the world. They have meanwhile played several tours and often in sold-out venues and performed at all the main festivals such as Wacken Open Air (DE), Graspop (BE), Hellfest (FR), Metal Days (SL), Lowlands (NL), Fortarock (NL), Wave Gotik Treffen (DE), Rock Hard Festival (DE), Stoned from the Underground (DE), Metalitalia Festival (IT), and North of the Wall (UK) among many others.

With their sophomore full-length “Summerland” released in 2020, DOOL successfully exceeded the already sky-high expectations and scored even more “Album of the Month” awards in German Rock Hard (10/10) and Sonic Seducer magazines as well as #2 soundcheck positions in Metal.de, Metal Hammer (DE) and another #1 in the Polish edition – with a pile glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Having been barred from extensive touring due to the global pandemic, DOOL were finally able to play shows again in front of sold out houses and decided to release the live album “Visions of Summerland” as a gift for their huge following that had patiently waited for the band’s return to the stages.

Last but not least, it is well worth to note the cover art, which completes the Gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of all arts) of “The Shape of Fluidity”, by physically embodying the concept. Renowned French artist Valnoir (Metastazis) has created a semi-transparent flag through hardening a liquid in a metamorphosis by reducing temperature, which is shown on the cover. Imagery, lyrics, and music all flow together and pose questions about identity, freedom, life, and the will to change things that hold more than just one finger straight at the pulse of the Zeitgeist – but without ever pointing or raising it.

With “The Shape of Fluidity”, DOOL offer so much more than just damn cool music. These extra dimensions of depth and meaning are all part of their unique appeal and come out clearly on the new album. May all those who wander gather under the fluid flag of DOOL!

Release date: April 19, 2024
Style: Dark Rock
Label: Prophecy Productions
Review impact date: March 25, 2024

“The Shape of Fluidity” is available as a 36-page hardcover CD artbook, Gatefold ltd. crystal clear vinyl LP, Gatefold black vinyl LP, and as a Digipak CD.

Recording by Magnus Lindberg & JB van der Wal at DAFT Studios, Malmedy (BE)
Mixed by Magnus Lindberg at Redmount Studios, Stockholm (SE)
Mastering by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound, Nashville (US)
Artwork & Layout by Valnoir (Metastazis)

Line-up:
Raven van Dorst – vocals, guitar
Nick Polak – guitar
Omar Iskandr – guitar
Vincent Kreyder – drums
JB van der Wal – bass guitar

https://www.facebook.com/allthosewhowanderaredool/
https://www.instagram.com/allthosewhowanderaredool/
https://dool-nl.bandcamp.com/
http://allthosewhowanderaredool.com/
http://www.allthosewhowanderaredool.bigcartel.com/

https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions
https://www.instagram.com/prophecypro/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/

DOOL, “Hermagorgon” official video

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E-L-R Touring with Sylvaine and Wolves in the Throne Room

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Good band. E-L-R have two tours lined up for this Spring. The first is underway now and it’s alongside Sylvaine, and the second is next month with Wolves in the Throne Room. The Swiss trio aren’t exactly black metal, but listening to last year’s Vexier (review here), you can hear where they’d fit on a bill. But they could just as easily be out with doom bands, or post-metal, or (not heavy) post-rock, or whathaveyou, and their material would apply. That’s a strength resulting from the amorphous style in which they work, drawing seemingly divergent elements together and turning dug-in intensity into a soundscape of its own, let alone any of their actually-intended-to-be-atmospheric parts.

If that’s not enough to get you to listen to Vexier — which, let’s face it, is the point here; you’ll either go to a show or you won’t — it was released on Prophecy Productions. That’s an automatic call to hear it, as far as I’m concerned. Probably should’ve led with that, actually. If only to save some time.

E-L-R have fest dates after these tours, including Prophecy Fest in Germany this September, and hopefully they’ll be back out in the Fall as well. After Vexier and the prior 2019 debut, Mænad (review here), I’ve got high hopes for their third record, but I’m not about to tell them to rush it. This kind of thing, it’s almost better if they let it happen organically. If that means it’s 2025 or 2026, I’ll take it. It’s been about a full year since it came out and I still feel like I’m getting to know Vexier, though that may just be a perpetual thing. We’ll see I guess.

From the PR wire:

E-L-R

E-L-R on tour with Sylvaine and Wolves in the Throne Room

Doomgaze shooting stars E-L-R are about to embark on their first of two European tours. The Swiss trio will accompany Norwegian artist Kathrine Shepard a.k.a. Sylvaine in the south of Europe throughout March, and afterwards share stages with American black metal unit Wolves in the Throne Room in April. In addition to those tours, E-L-R have announced further shows and festival performances including Voidfest and Prophecy Fest in Germany for later this year.

Please find all currently confirmed dates below.

E-L-R comment: “We can hardly wait until the tour with our friends from Sylvaine will begin, although it will happen in only a few days now”, states bass player and vocalist I.R. on behalf of the trio. “There are more shows to come this year and we sincerely hope to meet you all on the road for at least one of them!”

E-L-R will be touring in support of their current album “Vexier”. Vexier buy link: http://lnk.spkr.media/elr-vexier

E-L-R Live
06 MAR 2023 Düdingen (CH) Bad Bonn +Sylvaine
07 MAR 2023 Marseille (FR) Le Molotov +Sylvaine
08 MAR 2023 Toulouse (FR) Connexion +Sylvaine
09 MAR 2023 Barcelona (ES) Bóveda +Sylvaine
10 MAR 2023 Madrid (ES) Wurlitzer Ballroom +Sylvaine
11 MAR 2023 Lisboa (PT) LAV Lisboa ao Vivo +Sylvaine
12 MAR 2023 Porto (PT) Hard Club +Sylvaine
31 MAR 2023 Salzburg (AT) Rockhouse Bar +Karg +Lûs + Ancst
08 APR 2023 Göteborg (SE) Brewhouse +Wolves in the Throne Room
09 APR 2023 Aarhus (DK) Voxhall +Wolves in the Throne Room
11 APR 2023 Stockholm (SE) Slaktkyrkan +Wolves in the Throne Room
12 APR 2023 Malmö (SE) KB +Wolves in the Throne Room
13 APR 2023 Berlin (DE) Lido +Wolves in the Throne Room
14 APR 2023 Dresden (DE) Chemiefabrik +Wolves in the Throne Room
15 APR 2023 Wiesbaden (DE) Kesselhaus +Wolves in the Throne Room
16 APR 2023 Münster (DE) Sputnikhalle +Wolves in the Throne Room
17 APR 2023 München (DE) Backstage +Wolves in the Throne Room
18 APR 2023 Winterthur (CH) Gaswerk +Wolves in the Throne Room
19 APR 2023 Karlsruhe (DE) Stadtmitte +Wolves in the Throne Room
17 Mai 2023 Aarau (CH) KIFF +Crowbar
11 AUG 2023 Regensburg (DE) Void Fest
7-9 SEP 2023 Balve (DE) Prophecy Fest

Line-up
S.M. – guitar, vocals
I.R. – bass, vocals
M.K. – drums

www.facebook.com/elrhaze
www.instagram.com/elr_band
www.e-l-r.band

https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions
https://www.instagram.com/prophecypro/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/

E-L-R, Vexier (2022)

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Quarterly Review: Fu Manchu, Valborg, Sons of Arrakis, Voidward, Indus Valley Kings, Randy Holden, The Gray Goo, Acid Rooster, BongBongBeerWizards, Mosara

Posted in Reviews on September 20th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day two of the Fall 2022 Quarterly Review brings a fresh batch of 10 releases en route to the total 100 by next Friday. Some of this is brand new, some of it is older, some of it is doom, some is rock, some is BongBongBeerWizards, and so on. Sometimes these things get weird, and I guess that’s where it’s at for me these days, but you’re going to find plenty of ground to latch onto despite that. Wherever you end up, I hope you’re digging this so far half as much as I am. Much love as always as we dive back in.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 2

Fu Manchu Fu 30 part 2

Like everyone’s everything in the era, Fu Manchu‘s 30th anniversary celebration didn’t go as planned, but with their Fu30 Pt. 2 three-songer, they give 2020’s Fu30 Pt. 1 EP (posted here) the sequel its title implied and present two originals and one cover in keeping with that prior release’s format. Tracked in 2021, “Strange Plan” and the start-stop-riffed “Low Road” are quintessential works of Fu fuzz, so SoCal they’re practically in Baja, and bolstered by the kinds of grooves that have held the band in good stead with listeners throughout these three-plus decades. “Strange Plan” is more aggressive in its shove, but perhaps not so confrontational as the cover of Surf Punks‘ 1980 B-side “My Wave,” a quaint bit of surferly gatekeeping with the lines, “Go back to the Valley/And don’t come back,” in its chorus. As they will with their covers, the four-piece from San Clemente bring the song into their own sound rather than chase down trying to sound like Reagan-era punk, and that too is a method well proven on the part of the band. If you ever believed heavy rock and roll could be classic, Fu Manchu are that, and for experienced heads who’ve heard them through the years as they’ve tried different production styles, Fu30 Pt. 2 finds an effective middle ground between impact and mellow groove.

Fu Manchu on Facebook

At the Dojo Records website

 

Valborg, Der Alte

Valborg Der Alte

Not so much a pendulum as a giant slaughterhouse blade swinging from one side to the other like some kind of horrific grandfather clock, Valborg pull out all the industrial/keyboard elements from their sound and strip down their songwriting about as far as it will go on Der Alte, the 13-track follow-up to 2019’s Zentrum (review here) and their eighth album overall since 2009. Accordingly, the bone-cruncher pummel in cuts like “Kommando aus der Zukunft” and the shout-punky centerpiece “Hektor” is furious and raw. I’m not going to say I hope they never bring back the other aspects of their sound, but it’s hard not to appreciate the directness of the approach on Der Alte, on which only the title-track crosses the four-minute mark in runtime (it has a 30 second intro; such self-indulgence!), and their sound is still resoundingly their own in tone and the throaty harsh vocals on “Saturn Eros Xenomorph” and “Hoehle Hoelle” and the rest across the album’s intense, largely-furious-but-still-not-lacking-atmosphere span. If it was another band, you might call it death metal. As it stands, Der Alte is just Valborg, distilled to their purest and meanest form.

Valborg on Facebook

Prophecy Productions webstore

 

Sons of Arrakis, Volume I

Sons of Arrakis Volume I

2022 is probably a good year to put out a record based around Frank Herbert’s Dune universe (the Duniverse?), what with the gargantuan feature film last year and another one coming at some point as blah blah franchise everything, but Montreal four-piece Sons of Arrakis have had at least some of the songs on Volume I in the works for the better part of four years, guitarists Frédéric Couture (also vocals) and Francis Duchesne (also keys) handling recording for the eight-song/30-minute outing with Vick Trigger on bass and Eliot Landry on drums locking in tight grooves pushing all that sci-fi and fuzz along at a pace that one only wishes the movie had shared. I’ve never read Dune, which is only relevant information here because Volume I doesn’t leave me feeling out of the loop as “Temple of the Desert” locks in quintessential stoner rock janga-janga shuffle and “Lonesome Preacher” culminates in twisty fuzz that should well please fans of Valley of the Sun before bleeding directly and smoothly into the melodic highlight “Abomination” in a way that, to me at least, bodes better for their longer term potential than whatever happenstance novelty of subject matter surrounds. There’s plenty of Dune out there if they want to stick to the theme, but songwriting like this could be about brushing your teeth and it’d still work.

Sons of Arrakis on Facebook

Sons of Arrakis on Instagram

 

Voidward, Voidward

voidward voidward

Voidward‘s self-titled full-length debut lands some nine years after the Durham, North Carolina, trio’s 2013 Knives EP, and accordingly features nearly a decade’s worth of difference in sound, casting off longer-form post-black metal duggery in favor of more riff-based explorations. Still at least partially metallic in its roots, as opener “Apologize” makes plain and the immediate nodder roll of “Wolves” backs up, the eight-song/47-minute outing is distinguished by the clean, floating vocal approach of guitarist Greg Sheriff, who almost reminds of Dave Heumann from Arbouretum, though no doubt other listeners will hear other influences, and yes that’s a compliment. Joined by bassist/backing vocalist Alec Ferrell — harmonies persist on “Wolves” and elsewhere — and drummer Noah Kessler, Sheriff brings just a hint of char to the tone of “Oblivion,” but the blend of classic heavy rock and metal throughout points Voidward to someplace semi-psychedelic but nonetheless richly ambient, and even the most straightforward inclusion, arguably “Chemicals” though closer “Cobalt” has plenty of punch as well, is rich in its execution. They even thrash a bit on “Horses,” so as long as it’s not another nine years before they do anything else, they sound like they can go wherever they want. Rare for a debut.

Voidward on Facebook

Clearly Records on Bandcamp

 

Indus Valley Kings, Origin

Indus Valley Kings Origin

The second long-player from Long Island, New York’s Indus Valley Kings, Origin brings together nine songs across an expansive 55 minutes, and sees the trio working from a relatively straightforward heavy rock foundation toward more complex purposes, whether that’s the spacious guitar stretch-out of “A Cold Wind” or the tell-tale chug in the second half of centerpiece “Dark Side of the Sun.” They effectively shift back and forth between lengthier guitar-led jams and more straight-up verses and choruses, but structure is never left too far behind to pick up again as need be, and the confidence behind their play comes through amid a relatively barebones production style, the rush of the penultimate “Drowned” providing a later surge in answer to the more breadth-minded unfurling of “Demon Beast” and the bluesy “Mohenjo Daro.” So maybe they’re not actually from the Indus Valley. Fine. I’ll take the Ripple-esque have-riffs-have-shred-ready-to-roll “Hell to Pay” wherever it’s coming from, and the swing of the earlier “…And the Dead Shall Rise” doesn’t so much dogwhistle its penchant for classic heavy as serve it to the listener on a platter. If we’re picking favorites, I might take “A Cold Wind,” but there’s plenty to dig on one way or the other, and Origin issues invitations early and often for listeners to get on board.

Indus Valley Kings on Facebook

Indus Valley Kings on Bandcamp

 

Randy Holden, Population III

randy holden population iii

Clearly whoever said there were no second chances in rock and roll just hadn’t lived long enough. After reissuing one-upon-a-time Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden‘s largely-lost classic Population II (discussed here) for its 50th anniversary in 2020, RidingEasy Records offers Holden‘s sequel in Population III. And is it the work for which Holden will be remembered? No. But it is six songs and 57 minutes of Holden‘s craft, guitar playing, vocals and groove, and, well, that feels like something worth treasuring. Holden was in his 60s when he and Randy Pratt (also of Cactus) began to put together Population III, and for the 21-minute “Land of the Sun” alone, the album’s release a decade later is more than welcome both from an archival standpoint and in the actual listening experience, and as “Swamp Stomp” reminds how much of the ‘Comedown Era’s birth of heavy rock was born of blues influence, “Money’s Talkin'” tears into its solo with a genuine sense of catharsis. Holden may never get his due among the various ‘guitar gods’ of lore, but if Population III exposes more ears to his work and legacy, so much the better.

Randy Holden on Facebook

RidingEasy Records store

 

The Gray Goo, 1943

The Gray Goo 1943

Gleefully oddball Montana three-piece The Gray Goo remind my East Coast ears a bit of one-time Brooklynites Eggnogg for their ability to bring together funk and heavy/sometimes-psychedelic rock, but that’s not by any means the extent of what they offer with their debut album, 1943, which given the level of shenanigans in 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Bicycle Day” alone, I’m going to guess is named after the NES game. In any case, from “Bicycle Day” on down through the closing “Cop Punk,” the pandemic-born outfit find escape in right-right-right-on nods and bass tone, partially stonerized but casting off expectation with an aplomb that manifests in the maybe-throwing-an-elbow noise of “Problem Child,” and the somehow-sleek rehearsal-space funk of “Launch” and “The Comedown,” which arrives ahead of “Shakes and Spins” — a love song, of sorts, with fluid tempo changes and a Primus influence buried in there somewhere — and pulls itself out of the ultra-’90s jam just in time for a last plodding hook. Wrapping with the 1:31 noise interlude “Goo” and the aforementioned “Cop Punk,” which gets the prize lyrically even with the competition surrounding, 1943 is going right on my list of 2022’s best debut albums with a hope for more mischief to come.

The Gray Goo on Facebook

The Gray Goo on Bandcamp

 

Acid Rooster, Ad Astra

acid rooster ad astra

Oh, sweet serenity. Maybe if we all had been in that German garden on the day in summer 2020 when Acid Rooster reportedly performed the two extended jams that comprise Ad Astra — “Zu den Sternen” (22:28) and “Phasenschieber” (23:12) — at least some of us might’ve gotten the message and the assurance so desperately needed at the time that things were going to be okay. And that would’ve been nice even if not necessarily the truth. But as it stands, Ad Astra documents that secret outdoor showcase on the part of the band, unfolding with improvised grace across its longform pieces, hopeful in spirit and plenty loud by the time they get there but never fully departing from a hopeful sensibility, some vague notion of a better day to come. Even in the wholesale drone immersion of “Phasenschieber,” with the drums of “Zu den Sternen” seemingly disappeared into that lush ether, I want to close my eyes and be in that place and time, to have lived this moment. Impossible, right? Couldn’t have happened. And yet some were there, or so I’m told. The rest of us have the LP, and that’s not nothing considering how evocative this music is, but the sheer aural therapy of that moment must have been a powerful experience indeed. Hard not to feel lucky even getting a glimpse.

Acid Rooster on Facebook

Sunhair Music store

Cardinal Fuzz store

Little Cloud Records store

 

BongBongBeerWizards, Ampire

BongBongBeerWizards Ampire

A sophomore full-length from the Dortmund trio of guitarist/synthesist Bong Travolta, bassist/vocalist Reib Asnah and (introducing) drummer/vocalist Chill Collins — collectively operating as BongBongBeerWizardsAmpire is a call to worship for Weed and Loud alike, made up of three tracks arranged longest to shortest (immediate points) and lit by sacred rumble of spacious stoner doom. Plod as god. Tonal tectonics. This is not about innovation, but celebrating noise and lumber for the catharsis they can be when so summoned. Willfully repetitive, primitive and uncooperative, there’s some debt of mindset to the likes of Poland’s Belzebong or the largesse of half-speed Slomatics/Conan/Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, but again, if you come into the 23-minute leadoff “Choirs and Masses” expecting genre-shaping originality, you’ve already fucked up. Get crushed instead. Put it on loud and be consumed. It won’t work for everybody, but it’s not supposed to. But if you’re the sort of head crusty enough to appreciate the synth-laced hypnotic finish of “Unison” or the destructive mastery of “Slumber,” you’re gonna shit a brick when the riffs come around. They’re not the only church in town, but it’s just the right kind of fun for melting your brains with volume.

BongBongBeerWizards on Facebook

BongBongBeerWizards on Bandcamp

 

Mosara, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets

Mosara Only the Dead Know Our Secrets

Any way you want to cut it with Mosara‘s second album, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets, the root word you’re looking for is “heavy.” You’d say, “Oh, well ‘Magissa’ has elements of early-to-mid-aughts sludge and doom at work with a raw presentation in its cymbal splash and shouted vocals.” Or you’d say, “‘The Permanence of Isolation’ arrives at a chugging resolution after a deceptively intricate intro,” or “the acoustic beginning of ‘Zion’s Eyes’ leads to a massive, engaging nod that shows thoughtfulness of construction in its later intertwining of lead guitar lines.” Or that the closing title-track flips the structure to end quiet after an especially tortured stretch of nonetheless-ambient sludge. All that’s true, but you know what it rounds out to when you take away the blah blah blah? It’s fucking heavy. Whatever angle you’re approaching from — mood, tone, songwriting, performance — it’s fucking heavy. Sometimes there’s just no other way, no better way, to say it. Mosara‘s 2021 self-titled debut (review here) was too. It’s just how it is. I bet their next one will be as well, or at very least I hope so. If you’re old enough to recall Twingiant, there’s members of that band here, but even if not, what you need to know is that Only the Dead Know Our Secrets is fucking heavy. So there.

Mosara on Facebook

Mosara on Bandcamp

 

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

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

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

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

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

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #01-10:

Yatra, Born into Chaos

yatra born into chaos

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

Yatra on Facebook

Prosthetic Records store

 

Sula Bassana, Nostalgia

Sula Bassana Nostalgia

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

Sula Bassana on Facebook

Sulatron Records store

 

Garden of Worm, Endless Garden

Garden of Worm Endless Garden

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

Garden of Worm on Facebook

Nasoni Records site

 

Orthodox, Proceed

orthodox proceed

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

Orthodox on Facebook

Alone Records store

 

Matus, Espejismos II

Matus Espejismos II

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

Matus on Facebook

Espíritus Inmundos on Facebook

 

Shrooms Circle, The Constant Descent

Shrooms Circle The Constant Descent

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

Shrooms Circle on Facebook

DHU Records store

 

Goatriders, Traveler

Goatriders Traveler

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

Goatriders on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store

Evil Noise Recordings store

Ozium Records store

 

Arthur Brown, Long Long Road

Arthur Brown Long Long Road

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

Arthur Brown on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Prophecy Productions store

 

Green Sky Accident, Daytime TV

Green Sky Accident Daytime TV

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

Green Sky Accident on Facebook

Apollon Records store

 

Pure Land Stars, Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

Pure Land Stars Trembling Under the Spectral Bodies

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

Pure Land Stars on Bandcamp

Centripetal Force Records store

Cardinal Fuzz Records store

 

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Gospelheim Sign to Prophecy Productions; Debut Album Ritual and Repetition Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 15th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

No word on a release date yet, but this is a band I knew nothing about before today and now I’ve got a record to look forward to thanks as ever to the diligent efforts of the PR wire and the always-reliable taste of Prophecy Productions. I’m not trying to blow smoke up the label’s ass. I mean that. There aren’t a ton of imprints out there whose offerings I’ll check out sight unseen, but if Prophecy is endorsing it, there’s always a reason why. So it goes with the sound of Gospelheim and its fluid crossing of genre barriers. Their debut album, apparently recorded in 2020, is called Ritual and Repetition, and while I don’t know if it’ll arrive this year or next, at least now I know to keep an eye out for such a thing. I’ll take that for today.

The PR wire brings the band’s “Into Smithereens” video and the signing announcement, which follows:

gospelheim

GOSPELHEIM ink deal with Prophecy Productions

GOSPELHEIM have signed a multi-album deal with Prophecy Productions. The heavy British dark rock four-piece will release their debut full-length via the label.

GOSPELHEIM comment: “We are proud to announce that we have signed with Prophecy Productions”, singer and guitarist Ricardo writes. “We are thrilled to be working with a label that understands our sound and vision and we are very much looking forward to sharing our gospels with each and everyone of you!”

GOSPELHEIM are an occult dark rock band formed by singer and guitarist Ricardo and bass-player and vocalist Coco in Manchester in 2020 amidst the wake of the world coming to a standstill. The core duo was inspired by the morality of the human condition, silent era horror movies, and the transformations of concepts of good and evil.

Incorporating elements of black and post-metal, GOSPELHEIM thrive on thought-provoking lyrics and disturbing sounds. The line-up was completed with the addition of a second guitarist and a drummer: Jordan and Rob.

In early November 2020, GOSPELHEIM recorded their debut album “Ritual and Repetition” at No Studio in Manchester with Joe “Doctor” Clayton. A video single of the track ‘Into Smithereens’ was filmed by Forshaw Media. The clip was well received by critics and fans alike. Despite adverse circumstances, the band managed to perform a first live show at Factory 251 in Manchester in September 2021.

Currently, GOSPELHEIM are preparing for the release of their first album via the label.

Line-up
Ricardo – guitar, vocals
Coco – bass, vocals
Jordan – guitar
Rob – drums

https://www.facebook.com/gospelheim
https://www.instagram.com/gospelheimofficial

https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions
https://www.instagram.com/prophecypro/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/

Gospelheim, “Into Smithereens” official video

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