Quarterly Review: King Woman, Mythic Sunship, Morningstar Delirium, Lunar Funeral, Satánico Pandemonium, Van Groover, Sergio Ch., Achachak, Rise Up Dead Man, Atomic Vulture

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Hey, how was your weekend? You won’t be surprised to learn mine was full of tunes, which I mark as a win. While we’re marking wins, let’s put one down for wrapping up the longest Quarterly Review to-date in a full 11 days today. 110 releases. I started on July 5 — a lifetime ago. It’s now July 19, and I’ve encountered a sick kid and wife, busted laptop, oral surgery, and more riffs than I could ever hope to count along the way. Ups, downs, all-arounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

This day was added kind of on an impulse, and the point I’m looking to emphasize is that you can spend two full weeks reviewing 10 albums a day and still there’s more to be had. I’ve learned over time you’re never going to hear everything — not even close — and that no matter how deep you dig, there’s more to find. I’m sure if I didn’t have other stuff scheduled I could fill out the entirety of this week and then some with 10 records a day. As it stands, let’s not have this Quarterly Review run into the next one at the end of September/beginning of October. Time to get my life back a little bit, such as it is.

Quarterly Review #101-110:

King Woman, Celestial Blues

king woman celestial blues

After the (earned) fanfare surrounding King Woman‘s 2017 debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, expectations for the sophomore outing, Celestial Blues, are significant. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Esfandiari meets these head-on in heavy and atmospheric fashion on tracks like the opening title-cut and “Morning Star,” the more cacophonous “Coil” and duly punishing “Psychic Wound.” Blues? Yes, in places. Celestial? In theme, in its confrontation with dogma, sure. Even more than these, though, Celestial Blues taps into an affecting weight of ambience, such that even the broad string sounds of “Golgotha” feel heavy, and whether a given stretch is loud or quiet, subdued like the first half of “Entwined” or raging like the second, right into the minimalist “Paradise Lost” that finishes, the sense of burden being purposefully conveyed is palpable in the listening experience. No doubt the plaudits will be or are already manifold and superlative, but the work stands up.

King Woman on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Mythic Sunship, Wildfire

Mythic Sunship Wildfire

Mythic Sunship are a hopeful vision for the future of progressive psychedelic music. Their fifth album and first for Tee Pee Records, Wildfire offers five tracks/45 minutes that alternates between ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime via emitted subspace wavelengths of shredding guitar, sax-led freakouts, shimmer to the point of blindness, peaceful drift and who the hell knows what else is going on en route from one to the other. Because as much as the Copenhagen outfit might jump from one stretch to the next, their fluidity is huge all along the course of Wildfire, which is fortunate because that’s probably the only thing stopping the record from actually melting. Instrumental as ever, I’m not sure if there’s a narrative arc playing out — certainly one can read one between “Maelstrom,” “Olympia,” “Landfall,” “Redwood Grove” and “Going Up” — and if that’s the intention, it maybe pulls back from that “hopeful vision” idea somewhat, at least in theme, if not aesthetic. In any case, the gorgeousness, the electrified vitality in what Mythic Sunship do, continues to distinguish them from their peers, which is a list that is only growing shorter with each passing LP.

Mythic Sunship on Facebook

Tee Pee Records website

 

Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium

Morningstar Delirium Morningstar Delirium

I said I was going to preorder this tape and I’m glad I did. Morningstar Delirium‘s half-hour/four-song debut offering is somewhere between an EP and an album — immersive enough to be the latter certainly in its soothing, brooding exploration of sonic textures, not at all tethered to a sonic weight in the dark industrial “Blood on the Fixture” and even less so in the initial minutes of “Silent Travelers,” but not entirely avoiding one either, as in the second half of that latter track some more sinister beats surface for a time. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists/vocalist Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought, BleakHeart) and Clayton Cushman (The Flight of Sleipnir), the isolation-era project feeds into that lockdown atmosphere in moments droning and surging, “Where Are You Going” giving an experimentalist edge with its early loops and later stretch of ethereal slide guitar (or what sounds like it), while closer “A Plea for the Stars” fulfills the promise of its vocalists with a doomed melody in its midsection that’s answered back late, topping an instrumental progression like the isolated weepy guitar of classic goth metal over patiently built layers of dark-tinted wash. Alternating between shorter and longer tracks, the promise in Morningstar Delirium resides in the hope they’ll continue to push farther and farther along these lines of emotional and aural resonance.

Morningstar Delirium on Instagram

Morningstar Delirium on Bandcamp

 

Lunar Funeral, Road to Siberia

lunar funeral road to siberia

Somewhere between spacious goth and garage doom, Russia’s Lunar Funeral find their own stylistic ground to inhabit on their second album, Road to Siberia. The two-piece offer grim lysergics to start the affair on “Introduce” before plunging into “The Thrill,” which bookends with the also-11-minute closer “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” and gracefully avoids going full-freakout enough to bring back the verse progression near the end. Right on. Between the two extended pieces, the swinging progression of “25th Hour” trades brooding for strut — or at least brooding strut — with the snare doing its damnedest by the midsection to emulate handclaps could be there if they could find a way not to be fun. “25th Hour” hits into a wash late and “Black Bones” answers with dark boogie and a genuine nod later, finishing with noise en route to the spacious eight-minute “Silence,” which finds roll eventually, but holds to its engaging sense of depth in so doing, the abiding weirdness of the proceedings enhanced by the subtle masterplan behind it. Airy guitar work winding atop the bassline makes the penultimate “Your Fear is Giving Me Fear” a highlight, but the willful trudge of “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” is an all-too-suitable finish in style and atmosphere, not quite drawing it all together, but pushing it off a cliff instead.

Lunar Funeral on Facebook

Helter Skelter Productions / Regain Records on Bandcamp

 

Satánico Pandemonium, Espectrofilia

satanico pandemonium espectrofilia

Sludge and narcosadistic doom infest the six-track Espectrofilia from Mexico City four-piece Satánico Pandemonium, who call it an EP despite its topping 40 minutes in length. I don’t know, guys. Electric Wizard are a touchstone to the rollout of “Parábola del Juez Perverso,” which lumbers out behind opener “El Que Reside Dentro” and seems to come apart about two minutes in, only to pick up and keep going. Fucking a. Horror, exploitation, nodding riffs, raw vibes — Satánico Pandemonium have it all and then some, and if there’s any doubt Espectrofilia is worthy of pressing to a 12″ platter, like 2020’s Culto Suicida before it, whether they call it a full-length or not, the downward plunge of the title-track into the grim boogie of “Panteonera” and the consuming, bass-led closer “La Muerte del Sol” should put them to rest with due prejudice. The spirit of execution here is even meaner than the sound, and that malevolence of intent comes through front-to-back.

Satánico Pandemonium on Facebook

Satánico Pandemonium on Bandcamp

 

Van Groover, Honk if Parts Fall Off

Van Groover Honk if Parts Fall Off

Kudos to Van Groover on their know-thyself tagline: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we let it roll.” The German trio’s 10-track/51-minute debut, Honk if Parts Fall Off, hits its marks in the post-Truckfighters sphere of uptempo heavy fuzz/stoner rock, injecting a heaping dose of smoke-scented burl from the outset with “Not Guilty” and keeping the push going through “Bison Blues” and “Streetfood” and “Jetstream” before “Godeater” takes a darker point of view and “Roadrunner” takes a moment to catch its breath before reigniting the forward motion. Sandwiched between that and the seven-minute “Bad Monkey” is an interlude of quieter bluesy strum called “Big Sucker” that ends with a rickity-sounding vehicle — something tells me it’s a van — starts and “Bad Monkey” kicks into its verse immediately, rolling stoned all the while even in its quiet middle stretch before “HeXXXenhammer” and the lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-then-the-riff-hits “Quietness” finish out. Given the stated ambitions, it’s hard not to take Honk if Parts Fall Off as it comes. Van Groover aren’t hurting anybody except apparently one or two people in the opener and maybe elsewhere in the lyrics. Stoner rock for stoner rockers.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp

 

Sergio Ch., Koi

Sergio Ch Koi

There is not much to which Buenos Aires-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Chotsourian, aka Sergio Ch., is a stranger at this point. In a career that has spanned more than a quarter-century, he’s dipped hands in experimentalist folk and drone, rock, metal, punk, goth and more in varying prolific combinations of them. Koi, his latest full-length, still finds new ground to explore, however, in bringing not only the use of programmed drum beats behind some of the material, but collaborations with his own children, Isabel Ch., who contributes vocals on the closing Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” which was also previously released as a single, and Rafael “Raffa” Ch., who provides a brief but standout moment just before with a swirling, effects-laced rap tucked away at the end of the 11-minute “El Gran Chaparral.” If these are sentimental inclusions on Chotsourian‘s part, they’re a minor indulgence to make, and along with the English-language “NY City Blues,” the partial-translation of “Hurt” into Spanish is a welcome twist among others like “Tic Tac,” which blend electronic beats and spacious guitar in a way that feels like a foreshadow of burgeoning interests and things to come.

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp

 

Achachak, High Mountain

Achachak High Mountain

Less than a year removed from their debut full-length, At the Bottom of the Sea, Croatian five-piece Achachak return with the geological-opposite follow-up, High Mountain. With cuts like “Bong Goddess,” “Maui Waui,” they leave little to doubt as to where they’re coming from, but the stoner-for-stoners’-sake attitude doesn’t necessarily account either for the drifty psych of “Biggest Wave” or the earlier nod-out in “Lonewolf,” the screams in the opening title-track or the follow-that-riff iron-manliness of “”Mr. SM,” let alone the social bent to the lyrics in the QOTSA-style “Lesson” once it takes off — interesting to find them delving into the political given the somewhat regrettable inner-sleeve art — but the overarching vibe is still of a band not taking itself too seriously, and the songwriting is structured enough to support the shifts in style and mood. The fuzz is strong with them, and closer “Cozy Night” builds on the languid turn in “Biggest Wave” with an apparently self-aware moody turn. For having reportedly been at it since 1999, two full-lengths and a few others EPs isn’t a ton as regards discography, but maybe now they’re looking to make up for lost time.

Achachak on Facebook

Achachak on Bandcamp

 

Rise Up, Dead Man, Rise Up, Dead Man

Rise Up Dead Man Rise Up Dead Man

It’s almost counterintuitive to think so, but what you see is what you get with mostly-instrumentalist South African western/psych folk duo Rise Up, Dead Man‘s self-titled debut. To wit, the “Bells of Awakening” at the outset, indeed, are bells. “The Summoning,” which follows, hypnotizes with guitar and various other elements, and then, yes, the eponymous “Rise Up, Dead Man,” is a call to raise the departed. I don’t know if “Stolen Song” is stolen, but it sure is familiar. Things get more ethereal as multi-instrumentalists Duncan Park (guitar, vocals, pennywhistle, obraphone, bells, singing bowl) and William Randles (guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonium, violin, bells, singing bowl) through the serenity of “The Wind in the Well” and the summertime trip to Hobbiton that the pennywhistle in “Everything that Rises Must Converge” offers, which is complemented in suitably wistful fashion on closer “Sickly Meadow.” There’s some sorting out of aesthetic to be done here, but as the follow-up just to an improv demo released earlier this year, the drive and attention to detail in the arrangements makes their potential feel all the more significant, even before you get to the expressive nature of the songs or the nuanced style in which they so organically reside.

Rise Up, Dead Man on Facebook

Rise Up, Dead Man on Bandcamp

 

Atomic Vulture , Moving Through Silence

Atomic Vulture Moving Through Silence

Yeah, that whole “silence” thing doesn’t last too long on Moving Through Silence. The 51-minute debut long-player from Brugge, Belgium, instrumentalists Atomic Vulture isn’t through opener “Eclipse” before owing a significant sonic debt to Kyuss‘ “Thumb,” but given the way the record proceeds into “Mashika Deathride” and “Coaxium,” one suspects Karma to Burn are even more of an influence for guitarist Pascal David, bassist Kris Hoornaert and drummer Jens Van Hollebeke, and though they move through some slower, more atmospheric stretch on “Cosmic Dance” and later more extended pieces like “Spinning the Titans” (9:02) and closer “Astral Dream,” touching on prog particularly in the second half of the latter, they’re never completely removed from that abiding feel of get-down-to-business, as demonstrated on the roll of “Intergalactic Takeoff” and the willful landing on earth that the penultimate “Space Rat” brings in between “Spinning the Titans” and “Astral Dream,” emphasizing the sense of their being a mission underway, even if the mission is Atomic Vulture‘s discovery of place within genre.

Atomic Vulture on Facebook

Polderrecords on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Amenra, Liquid Sound Company, Iceburn, Gods and Punks, Vouna, Heathen Rites, Unimother 27, Oxblood Forge, Wall, Boozewa

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You’ll have to forgive me, what the hell day is it? The url says this is day eight, so I guess that’s Wednesday. Fine. That’s as good as any. It’s all just 10 more records to my brain at this point, and that’s fine. I’ve got it all lined up. As of me writing this, I still haven’t heard about my busted-ass laptop that went in for repair last Saturday, and that’s a bummer, but I’m hoping that any minute now the phone is going to show the call coming in and I’ll just keep staring at it until that happens and I’m sure that will be awesome for my already brutalized productivity.

My backup laptop — because yes, I have one and will gladly argue with you that it’s necessary citing this week as an example — is a cheapie Chromebook. The nicest thing I can say about it is it’s red. The meanest thing I can say about it is that I had to change the search button to a caps lock and even that doesn’t respond fast enough to my typing, so I’m constantly capitalizing the wrong letters. If you don’t think that’s infuriating, congratulations on whatever existence has allowed you to live this long without ever needing to use a keyboard. “Hello computer,” and all that.

Enough kvetching. Too much to do.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Amenra, De Doorn

Amenra De Doorn

I’ve made no secret over the last however long of not being the biggest Amenra fan in the universe. Honestly, it’s not even about the Belgian band themseves — live, they’re undeniable — but the plaudits around them are no less suffocating than their crushing riffs at their heaviest moments. Still, as De Doorn marks their first offering through Relapse Records, finds them departing from their Mass numbered series of albums and working in their native Flemish for the first time, and brings Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker into the songs to offer melodic counterpoint to Colin H. van Eeckhout‘s nothing-if-not-identifiable screams, the invitations to get on board are manifold. This is a band with rules. They have set their own rules, and even in pushing outside them as they do here, much of their ideology and sonic persona is maintained. Part of that identity is being forward thinking, and that surfaces on De Doorn in parts ambient and quiet, but there’s always a part of me that feels like Amenra are playing it safe, even as they’re working within parameters they’ve helped define for a generation of European post-metal working directly in their wake. The post-apocalyptic breadth they harness in these tracks will only continue to win them converts. Maybe I’ll be one of them. That would be fun. It’s nice to belong, you know?

Amenra on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Liquid Sound Company, Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul

Liquid sound company psychoactive songs for the psoul

A quarter-century after their founding, Arlington, Texas, heavy psych rockers Liquid Sound Company still burn and melt along the lysergic path of classic ’60s acid rock, beefier in tone but no less purposeful in their drift on Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul. They’re turning into custard on “Blacklight Corridor” and they can tell you don’t understand on “Who Put All of Those Things in Your Hair?,” and all the while their psych rock digs deeper into the cosmic pulse, founding guitarist John Perez (also Solitude Aeturnus) unable to resist bringing a bit of shred to “And to Your Left… Neptune” — unless that’s Mark Cook‘s warr guitar — even as “Mahayuga” answers back to the Middle Eastern inflection of “Blacklight Corridor” earlier on. Capping with the mellow jam “Laila Was Here,” Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul is a loving paean to the resonant energies of expanded minds and flowing effects, but “Cosmic Liquid Love” is still a heavy rollout, and even the shimmering “I Feel You” is informed by that underlying sense of heft. Nonetheless, it’s an acid invitation worth the RSVP.

Liquid Sound Company on Facebook

Liquid Sound Company on Bandcamp

 

Iceburn, Asclepius

iceburn asclepius

Flying snakes, crawling birds, two tracks each over 17 minutes long, the first Iceburn release in 20 years is an all-in affair from the outset. As someone coming to the band via Gentry Densley‘s work in Eagle Twin, there are recognizable elements in tone, themes and vocals, but with fellow founders Joseph “Chubba” Smith on drums and James Holder on guitar, as well as bassist Cache Tolman (who’s Johnny Comelately since he originally joined in 1991, I guess), the atmosphere conjured by the four-piece is consuming and spacious in its own way, and their willingness to go where the song guides them on side A’s “Healing the Ouroboros,” right up to the long-fading drone end after so much lumbering skronk and incantations before, and side B’s “Dahlia Rides the Firebird,” with its pervasive soloing, gallop and veer into earth-as-cosmos terradelia, the return of Iceburn — if in fact that’s what this is — makes its own ceremony across Asclepius, sounding newly inspired rather than like a rehash.

Iceburn on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Gods & Punks, The Sounds of the Universe

gods and punks the sounds of the universe

As regards ambition, Gods & Punks‘ fourth LP, The Sounds of the Universe, wants for nothing. The Rio De Janeiro heavy psych rockers herein wrap what they’ve dubbed their ‘Voyager’ series, culminating the work they’ve done since their first EP — album opener “Eye in the Sky” is a remake — while tying together the progressive, heavy and cosmic aspects of their sound in a single collection of songs. In context, it’s a fair amount to take in, but a track like “Black Apples” has a riffy standout appeal regardless of its place in the band’s canon, and whether it’s the classic punch of “The TUSK” or the suitably patient expansion of “Universe,” the five-piece don’t neglect songwriting for narrative purpose. That is to say, whether or not you’ve heard 2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) or any of their other prior material, you’re still likely to be pulled in by “Gravity” and “Dimensionaut” and the rest of what surrounds. The only question is where do they go from here? What’s outside the universe?

Gods & Punks on Facebok

Abraxas on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Vouna, Atropos

vouna atropos

Released (appropriately) by Profound Lore, Vouna‘s second full-length Atropos is a work of marked depth and unforced grandeur. After nine-minute opener “Highest Mountain” establishes to emotional/aural tone, Atropos is comprised mostly of three extended pieces in “Vanish” (15:34), “Grey Sky” (14:08) and closer “What Once Was” (15:11) with the two-minute “What Once Was (Reprise)” leading into the final duo. “Vanish” finds Vouna — aka Olympia, Washington-based Yianna Bekris — bringing in textures of harp and violin to answer the lap steel and harp on “Highest Mountain,” and features a harsh guest vocal from Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Nathan Weaver, but it’s in the consuming wash at the finish of “Grey Sky” and in the melodic vocal layers cutting through as the first half of “What Once Was” culminates ahead of the break into mournful doom and synth that Vouna most shines, bridging styles in a way so organic as to be utterly consuming and keeping resonance as the most sought target, right unto the piano line that tops the last crescend, answering back the very beginning of “Highest Mountain.” Not a record that comes along every day.

Vouna on Facebook

Profound Lore website

 

Heathen Rites, Heritage

heathen rites heritage

One gets the sense in listening that for Mikael Monks, the Burning Saviours founder working under the moniker of Heathen Rites for the first time, the idea of Heritage for which the album is titled is as much about doom itself as the Scandinavian folk elements that surface in “Gleipner” or in the brief, bird-song and mountain-echo-laced finish “Kulning,” not to mention the Judas Priest-style triumphalism of the penultimate “The Sons of the North” just before. Classic doom is writ large across Heritage, from the bassline of “Autumn” tapping into “Heaven and Hell” to the flowing culmination of “Midnight Sun” and the soaring guitar apex in “Here Comes the Night.” In the US, many of these ideas of “northern” heritage, runes, or even heathenism have been coopted as expressions of white supremacy. It’s worth remembering that for some people it’s actually culture. Monks pairs that with his chosen culture — i.e. doom — in intriguing ways here that one hopes he’ll continue to explore.

Heathen Rites on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Unimother 27, Presente Incoerente

Unimother 27 Presente Incoerente

Some things in life you just have to accept that you’re never going to fully understand. The mostly-solo-project Unimother 27 from Italy’s Piero Ranalli is one of those things. Ranalli has been riding his own wavelength in krautrock and classic progressive stylizations mixed with psychedelic freakout weirdness going on 15 years now, experimenting all the while, and you don’t have to fully comprehend the hey-man-is-this-jazz bass bouncing under “L’incontro tra Phallos e Mater Coelestis” to just roll with it, so just roll with it and know that wherever you’re heading, there’s a plan at work, even if the plan is to not have a plan. Mr. Fist‘s drums tether the synth and drifting initial guitar of “Abraxas…il Dio Difficile da Conoscere” and serve a function as much necessary as grooving, but one way or the other, you’re headed to “Systema Munditotius,” where forward and backward are the same thing and the only trajectory discernible is “out there.” So go. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Unimother 27 on Facebook

Pineal Gland Lab website

 

Oxblood Forge, Decimator

Oxblood Forge Decimator

Not, not, not a coincidence that Massachusetts four-piece Oxblood Forge — vocalist Ken Mackay, guitarist Robb Lioy, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer/keyboardist Erik Fraünfeltër — include an Angel Witch cover on their third long-player, Decimator, as even before they get around to the penultimate “Sorcerers,” the NWOBHM is a defining influence throughout the proceedings, be it the “hey hey hey!” chanting of “Mortal Salience” or the death riders owning the night on opener “Into the Abyss” or the sheer Maidenry met with doom tinge on “Screams From Silence.” Mackay‘s voice, high in the mix, adds a tinge of grit, but Decimator isn’t trying to get one over on anyone. This blue collar worship for classic metal presented in a manner that could only be as full-on as it is for it to work at all. No irony, no khakis, no bullshit.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

Wall, Vol. 2

wall vol 2

They keep this up, they’re going to have a real band on their hands. Desert Storm/The Grand Mal bandmates and twin brothers Ryan Cole (guitar/bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) began Wall as a largely-instrumental quarantine project in 2020, issuing a self-titled EP (review here) on APF Records. Vol. 2 follows on the quick with five more cuts of unbridled groove, including a take on Karma to Burn‘s “Nineteen” that, if it needs to be said, serves as homage to Will Mecum, who passed away earlier this year. That song fits right in with a cruncher like “Avalanche” or “Speed Freak,” or even “The Tusk,” which also boasts a bit of layered guitar harmonies, feeling out new ground there and in the acousti-handclap-blues of “Falling From the Edge of Nowhere.” The fact that Wall have live dates booked — alongside The Grand Mal, no less — speaks further to their real-bandness, but Vol. 2 hardly leaves any doubt as it is.

Wall on Facebook

APF Records website

 

Boozewa, Deb

Boozewa Deb

The second self-recorded outing from Pennsylvania trio Boozewa, Deb, offers two songs to follow-up on Feb. 2021’s First Contact (review here) demo, keeping an abidingly raw, we-did-this-at-home feel — this time they sent the results to Tad Doyle for mastering — while pushing their sound demonstrably forward with “Deb” bringing bassist Jessica Baker to the fore vocally alongside drummer Mike Cummings. Guitarist Rylan Caspar contributes in that regard as well, and the results are admirably grunge-coated heavy rock and roll that let enough clarity through to establish a hook, while the shorter “Now. Stop.” edges toward a bit more lumber in its groove, at least until they punk it out with some shouts at the finish. Splitting hairs? You betcha. Maybe they’re just writing songs. The results are there waiting to be dug either way.

Boozewa on Instagram

Boozewa on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Amorphis, Am Universum

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’m begging you, just listen to this record. Please. For me. For you. Just listen.

Am Universum, the fifth album by Finland’s Amorphis, turns 20 this year. It was released through Relapse Records on April 3, 2001, so the date’s already passed. As the follow-up to 1999’s Tuonela (discussed here), it found the band progressing further into traditional rock melodies tinged with Finnish folk elements and drives inherited from their journey through death metal. Vocalist Pasi Koskinen still throws in a couple growls if you listen for them, but from Santeri Kallio‘s keys to the guitar nuance from Eso Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari that unfurls in opener “Alone,” there’s no question that by this point Amorphis had largely left such extremity behind.

They did so organically, but boldly, over the course of their prior outings — 1992’s The Karelian Isthmus, coupled with the 1993 Privilege of Evil EP, 1994’s pivotal Tales From the Thousand Lakes, 1996’s even-more-pivotal Elegy, ’97’s My Kantele EP and the aforementioned Tuonela — their sense of progression never faltered, and it by no means stopped with Am Universum either. But, 10 years out from their first demo, Am Universum‘s 10-song/50-minute run marked a special moment in what was becoming the band’s signature blend of elements, and I don’t know that they’ve to-date ever written a stronger collection of tracks. Some songs are memorable. Once you get these into your head, they’re unforgettable.

Am Universum is a riding-a-bike album. Once you put it on, it’s like you never left. Multi-stage choruses in run rampant throughout, and as “Alone” introduces tones, melodies, the richness in Niclas Etelävuori‘s bass (he had replaced Olli-Pekka Laine, who’d soon come back) and the push of Pekka Kasari‘s drums (again, Jan Rechberger would return to the band in short order), the spectrum of colors offered only grows across cuts like “Goddess (of the Sad Man),” “The Night is Over” and “Shatters Within,” the band bringing structural variety along with a range of expression and an overarching flow that continues as the record progresses through the hard-riffed/well-organed “Crimson Wave,” “Drifting Memories” — one of several tracks to feature echo-lacedAmorphis Am Universum saxophone, but one on which it’s particularly well used — into the victory lap of “Forever More,” the gorgeous, melancholic semi-acoustic standout of “Veil of Sin,” and the closing duo, “Captured State,” which returns to some of the heavier hookmaking of the early cuts, and “Grieve Stricken Heart,” which is the first song since “Alone” to top six minutes and a beyond effective summation of the record’s many strengths in craft and aesthetic.

It’s hard with Amorphis — even harder than spelling “isthmus” — because especially up to this point in their career, every album really was an era. They had gone from raw death metal to the innovative use of instrumentation and themes from Finnish folk music, basing songs on the Kalevala, and so on, and they did so largely at a time before the internet really spread into people’s lives. So listeners lived with these albums in a different way. Even Relapse wasn’t the metal-major, whatever that means, it is now circa 1994 — indeed records like those Amorphis produced helped make them one. But the point is there are loyalists to each of those offerings listed above, and in that regard, Am Universum doesn’t get nearly enough credit for what the band managed to accomplish across its span.

Please. Just listen to it. I wouldn’t ask you if I didn’t think it was something you should hear.

On its face, it’s kind of unassuming. Two six-minute tracks bookending a bunch of others around four and five minutes long, pretty consistent, and the art? 20 years later and I’m still not sure what’s going on there, but I can tell you that its muted colors don’t come close to representing either the vast soundscape or the emotional breadth that comes across in the listening experience. In context it makes sense. This was, ostensibly, a metal band putting out a melodic heavy prog rock record. There had to be a certain amount of, “what the hell do we do with this?” going on, because especially coming out of death metal, and especially walking the sonic path that Amorphis were across genres, almost defining them as they went — folk metal is still a thing — it had never happened before. Am Universum pushed across boundaries and challenged the band to become something almost entirely different than they were when they started, and even crazier, pulled it off. I never have, but I’d love to talk to Matt Jacobson from Relapse about this album, if only to say thanks for taking the chance on putting it out.

Amorphis, true to their name, would continue to change. In 2003/2004, they offered Far From the Sun, as their first outing for Nuclear Blast, which stripped their songwriting down further into melodic heavy rock and would prove to be Koskinen‘s last album with the band; he has gone on to contribute to a number of outfits, among them MannhaiShape of Despair, Ajattara and so on. His replacement, Tomi Joutsen (also Hallatar and a bunch of others), made a distinguished first impression on 2006’s Eclipse (I saw them at BB King’s in Manhattan on that tour; it was the day I got back from SXSW that year; I was tired, they were great) and has gone on to be a reliable frontman presence for the group across the better part of two decades’ worth of releases, the band ultimately finding a line between melody and harder hitting fare that is no less their own for the influence it’s had over European metal in general.

In 2021, the band released Live at Helsinki Ice Hall, and Holopainen has a solo-ish album out under the moniker Silver Lake by Esa Holopainen on which he collaborates with different singers, so there’s plenty more to dig into after this. Amorphis‘ latest studio outing was 2018’s Queen of Time (review here), which demonstrated just how much the band’s sound has come to encompass over their now 30 years, and how distinctive their work is across the greater sphere of heavy music, metal or otherwise.

Please, just listen.

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

Man, nobody’s gonna give a shit. I know it. Amorphis is one of those bands I write about because I love them and no one cares. Amorphis, Anathema, Swallow the Sun, etc. I’ve got a whole list. Let the record show I did it for me anyway, despite the begging aspect. That’s mostly me trying to convince Mike H. and a few others it’ll make their day better.

Lot going on this weekend, but somewhere in there I’m going to find time to review the Fatso Jetson/All Souls stream. I think that might be the last livestream review I do, at least of pandemic-era stuff. Shows are starting up again this Fall, it’s looking like, and barring disaster, it’ll be possible to see bands in-person rather than onscreen. I don’t think livestreams are going to completely disappear, so I’m not gonna say I’ll never do another one, period, but for now, unless something really amazing comes up — more ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ etc. — I feel like maybe this is a good one to go out on.

Weird week. The Pecan is out of the boot post-legbreak, and that’s good. He’s still favoring the leg a bit, but it’s only been a few weeks. He’s running again, so that’s good, and I took him to the playground down the way yesterday and he played hard like a three year old who hasn’t been to the playground in the better part of a month, so that was good to see. He saw the moon while he was on the swings and got all excited: “It’s a crescent moon!” If I could live a thousand years, I’d hope never to forget it.

But the week is over, which is good, I think. No school next week, which is going to be a crunch. Summer break, huh? Okay. Camp starts after the July 4 holiday, so that’s about two and a half weeks he’s home. There you go. If you’re wondering, that’s why I didn’t answer your email. I’ll be lucky if I have time to shower twice.

I made Facebook group for The Obelisk this week. It’s here if you want to check it out: http://www.facebook.com/groups/theobeliskcollective/

So far it’s a lot of people introducing themselves and their projects, but that’s to be expected, I think. And the whole point of the thing is to share music, so that’s reasonable. You could argue I did the same thing by starting it in the first place.

So yes, needless to say I’ll be phasing out this blog in the next couple weeks to focus on The Obelisk as a purely social media-based entity.

No. Of course not. Not that I’m so attached to WordPress — though apparently I am — but I’ve yet to find a social media interface that holds a candle to AOL 3.0. Or maybe I’m just nostalgic. I can still hear my 28k baud modem screeching in my head, about to get knocked offline when someone picks up the phone. Charged by the minute. Madness.

What a time to be alive.

But that’s enough whatnot. I plug along. I did some good reading this week, nothing too challenging, but it feels good for the brain. I hope you’re well and stay that way. Have fun, be safe, watch your head, hydrate. Gotta hydrate. So important.

No Gimme show today, but next week’s is the first part of a two-parter Neurosis deep-dive. It’s gonna be awesome.

FRM.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

 

 

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The Obsessed and The Skull Announce Co-Headlining Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Hot damn, The Obsessed and The Skull, co-headlining at what could’ve easily been dubbed the ‘Champions of Doom Tour’ but sadly was not. Neither are expected to have a new record out by the end of July — The Skull‘s The Endless Road Turns Dark (review here) came out in 2018, and The Obsessed released the bootleg-style Live at Big Dipper (review here) last year — but hell, at least they’re both getting out. The dates arrive with a stopover for The Obsessed‘s Wino to play a solo set at Ripplefest Texas 2021, and there are a couple shows where the two bands part ways for the night.

You’ll also note on Aug. 1 they have matinee and evening shows in Indianapolis and Louisville. That’s about an hour and 45 minutes down I-65 from one town to the other. Oldschool in more than just sound here, it would seem.

The PR wire brought dates and I didn’t even have to type them out myself! Amazing:

the obsessed the skull tour

THE OBSESSED And THE SKULL: Doom Rock Icons Announce US Co-Headlining Tour; Tickets On Sale Now!

THE OBSESSED and THE SKULL will join forces for a US co-headlining tour this Summer. Set to commence July 29th in Cleveland, Ohio, the doom rock caravan will wind its way through nearly two-dozen cities, drawing to a close on August 16th in Rochester, New York. Tickets are on sale now. See all confirmed dates below.

THE OBSESSED/THE SKULL:
7/29/2021 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH **
7/30/2021 Club Garibaldi – Milwaukee WI
7/31/2021 Cobra Lounge – Chicago IL
8/01/2021 Black Circle – Indianapolis, IN (matinee show)
8/01/2021 Diamond Pub – Louisville, KY (evening show)
8/02/2021 Brickyard Bar – Knoxville, TN
8/03/2021 Growlers – Memphis, TN
8/04/2021 George’s Majestic – Fayetteville, AR
8/05/2021 Bears – Shreveport, LA
8/06/2021 Division Brewery/Grrowl – Arlington, TX
8/07/2021 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX ##
8/07/2021 Ripple Fest @ Texas Ski Ranch – New Braunfels, TX ^^
8/08/2021 Lost Well – Austin, TX
8/09/2021 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX **
8/10/2021 Freetown Boom Boom Room – Lafayette, LA **
8/10/2021 Santos – New Orleans, LA ##
8/11/2021 The Earl – Atlanta, GA
8/12/2021 Pour House – Raleigh, NC
8/13/2021 Cafe 611 – Frederick, MD
8/14/2021 GoldSounds – Brooklyn, NY
8/15/2021 Alchemy – Providence, RI
8/16/2021 Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY
** THE OBSESSED only
## THE SKULL only
^^ WINO Solo

[poster by Gary Mader]

https://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://twitter.com/theskullusa
http://theskullusa.com/
https://teepeerecords.com/

The Obsessed, Sacred (2017)

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

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Monolord Announce European Touring with Blackwater Holylight

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

monolord (Photo by Sally Patti)

Aside from the fact that they’ve toured together before, both put out records through RidingEasy, and are awesome, something else Monolord and Blackwater Holylight have in common is that I’m eagerly anticipating new album announcements from both. The Swedish trio recently tracked their fifth record for release hopefully later this year on Relapse, while Blackwater Holylight‘s impending third LP — to be released again through RidingEasy — has as I understand it been in the can for a while now. One can’t begrudge either outfit some delay until touring can happen, but if this return-to-road-in-style 23-shows-in-24-nights run is anything to go by, I’d expect they’ll both have something to promote by the time they head out.

I’d love to see the Oberhausen show. That mix of inevitable stage-rust and catharsis happening at the same time. I feel like it might not be the best gig either band ever plays, but it’s bound to be a show that no one there ever forgets. And I feel like I’m pretty familiar with the European circuit at this point, but in cities like Aarau and Annecy are places less familiar, so good for the bands and Doomstar Bookings bringing good stuff to the masses in a variety of spots.

The venue in Manchester, UK, is different from what’s on the poster, but you’ll see that reflected in the dates typed out below, transcribed probably incorrectly by yours truly. Check with your local providers, folks.

From the social media:

monolord tour

Monolord & Blackwater Holylight Europe 2021 Tour

Here we go, finally! We’re stoked to announce that we’ll be on the European roads this fall with Blackwater Holylight.

Tickets are on sale Monday June 14. What show will you bring a friend to? We can’t wait to meet you in person.

Monolord w/ Blackwater Holylight
Europe 2021:
18/11 DE Oberhausen Kuttempel
19/11 NL Utrecht DB’s
20/11 NL Nijmegen Doornroosje
21/11 BE Antwerp Zappa
22/11 UK Bristol Exchange
23/11 UK Glasgow Stereo
24/11 UK London Underworld
25/11 UK Manchester Soup
26/11 FR Dunkerque 4 Ecluses
27/11 FR Paris Petit Bain
28/11 FR Toulouse Rex
30/11 SP Madrid Caracol
01/12 SP Barcelona Boveda
02/12 FR Annecy Brise Glace
03/12 CH Aarau Kiff
04/12 AT Vienna Arena
05/12 DE Dresden Chemiefabrik
06/12 DE Berlin Zukunft am Ostkreuz
07/12 DE Hamburg Bahnhof St. Pauli
08/12 DK Copenhagen Stengade
09/12 SE Gothenburg Pustervik
10/12 SE Stockholm Debaser Strand
11/12 SE Malmo Babel
12/12 NO Oslo Youngs

Monolord are:
Thomas V Jäger – Guitars & vocals
Esben Willems – Drums
Mika Häkki – Bass

monolord.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/MonolordSweden
monolord.com
http://relapse.com
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords/

Monolord, I’m Staying Home b/w Bastard Son (2021)

Monolord, Fifth Album Teaser

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Red Fang Announce US Tour Dates; Arrows out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

red fang (Photo by James Rexroad)

Got an album, got a couple videos, got a beer, got a whole bunch of tour dates — it would seem that Portland, Oregon’s Red Fang haven’t missed a beat for all the tumult and chaos the last year-plus has wrought. The four-piece release Arrows today through Relapse Records and they’ll set out this Fall to support it, hitting both coasts, spots in between and even Alaska. The latter is one of the few places — presumably on the planet — they haven’t yet been in the last decade-plus, so kudos to them for ticking that box. Try the salmon, don’t feed the bears.

Of course, they’ll be at Psycho Las Vegas in August as well, and they’ll support All Them Witches in that band’s native Nashville on Halloween. That sounds more like a celebration of life than a concert, frankly.

Dates and all the whatnot came down the PR wire:

red fang tour

RED FANG ANNOUNCE U.S. TOUR

ARROWS ARRIVES THIS FRIDAY VIA RELAPSE RECORDS

PRE-ORDERS: http://bit.ly/redfangarrows

RED FANG X WAYFINDER BEER AVAILABLE JUNE 4

Red Fang, who release their eagerly-awaited new album Arrows (Relapse Records) arrives this Friday, have announced a U.S. tour that sees the Portland-based band trek across the continent, including the group’s first Alaskan performance.

“It’ll be two years in the waiting, but we’re finally hitting the road in October! If we don’t stop pinching ourselves we’re gonna draw blood,” guitar player Bryan Giles enthusiastically shares. “I’m so happy to announce that Starcrawler, Here Lies Man and Warish are joining us on this epic tour! It’s gonna be a barn burner from start to finish with this line-up for sure. I can’t wait to play tunes off our new album on stage for the first time and see old friends and new, so please come join the celebration with us! Long live LIVE!!!”

Tickets for the month-long outing are also available this Friday, June 4, at 10 am local time. Starcrawler opens on all headlining dates (except Alaska), with Here Lies Man (Oct. 15 to Oct. 27) and Warish (Oct. 29 to Nov. 18) rounding out the bill. Previously announced performances include Aug. 21 at Psycho Las Vegas, Sept. 26 at Louder Than Life, and a special Halloween show with All The Witches at the fabled Ryman Auditorium.

Red Fang tour dates:

August 21 Las Vegas, NV Psycho Las Vegas *
September 26 Louisville, KY Louder Than Life Festival *
October 15 Tacoma, WA Sabertooth @ Spanish Ballroom
October 16 Portland, OR Sabertooth @ Crystal Ballroom
October 17 Eugene, OR Sessions Music Hall
October 19 TBA
October 20 TBA
October 21 TBA
October 22 TBA
October 23 Tucson, AZ 191 Toole
October 25 Dallas, TX Granada Theater
October 26 Houston, TX Secret Group
October 27 Austin, TX Empire Control Room & Garage
October 29 Atlanta, GA Terminal West
October 30 Birmingham, AL Saturn
October 31 Nashville, TN The Ryman Auditorium **
November 2 Washington, DC Black Cat
November 3 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
November 4 Brooklyn, NY Warsaw
November 5 New Haven, CT Toad’s Place
November 6 Cambridge, MA The Sinclair
November 8 Pittsburgh, PA Spirit Hall
November 10 Detroit, MI El Club
November 11 Chicago, IL Metro
November 12 St. Paul, MN Amsterdam
November 13 Madison, WI Majestic Theatre
November 15 Denver, CO Bluebird Theater
November 16 Boulder, CO Fox Theatre
November 17 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall
November 18 Boise, ID The Olympic
November 20 Anchorage, AK Koot’s ***

* Previously announced
** w/All Them Witches (previously announced)
*** Different support acts to be announced

Red Fang is Aaron Beam (bass/vocals/guitar/keyboards), Bryan Giles (guitar/vocals), John Sherman (drums) and David Sullivan (guitars).

www.redfang.net
www.facebook.com/redfangband
www.instagram.com/redfangband
http://redfang.bandcamp.com
www.relapse.com
relapserecords.bandcamp.com

Red Fang, Arrows (2021)

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King Woman Release Celestial Blues July 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

king woman (Photo by Nedda Afsari)

I missed out on King Woman‘s debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, which Relapse released in 2017, but if the new video for “Morning Star” underscores anything, it’s the urgency of not making the same mistake twice and letting the new album, Celestial Blues, likewise slip. I don’t support or condone smoking cigarettes — that shit’ll kill you — but the song’s got atmospheric depth like it’s tossing you in the basement pit and telling you it puts the lotion on its skin, and all the while it still maintains a melodic presence through Kris Esfandiari‘s vocals. Guess I’ll dig back to the first record ahead of the second one. That takes care of my afternoon, and that’ll do nicely, thank you very much.

Preorders are up and all that stuff, and there are some live dates of varying vagueness below, all courtesy of the PR wire:

king woman celestial blues

KING WOMAN’S HIGHLY ANTICIPATED SOPHOMORE ALBUM, CELESTIAL BLUES, ARRIVES JULY 30 VIA RELAPSE RECORDS

PRE-ORDER: bit.ly/kingwomancb

WATCH “MORNING STAR” NOW

LIVE PERFORMANCES CONFIRMED FOR LOS ANGELES, BROOKLYN & OAKLAND

King Woman, the outfit featuring songwriter, producer, vocalist Kris Esfandiari, return with their eagerly-awaited sophomore album, Celestial Blues (July 30, Relapse Records).

News of the album arrives with a raw, one-take performance “Morning Star” (https://youtu.be/tk-rxh1xmKs), which was directed by Muted Widows.

“Creating this album has brought me great peace and closure,” says Esfandiari of Celestial Blues. “Grateful to finally share it with all of you.”

Celestial Blues was recorded in Oakland, California by GRAMMY-nominated engineer Jack Shirley (Deafheaven, Amenra, Oathbreaker). The band is rounded out by drummer Joseph Raygoza and guitar player Peter Arensdorf. Visual collaborations featured in the album packaging were created by Nedda Afsari, Collin Fletcher, and Jamie Parkhurst.

Album pre-orders, including limited-edition vinyl and merch, are available now. Physical pre-orders are available via Relapse’s webstore (bit.ly/kingwomancb), while digital downloads and streaming links can be found here: (orcd.co/kingwomancb).

Celestial Blues tracklist:
Celestial Blues
Morning Star
Boghz
Golgotha
Coil
Entwined
Psychic Wound
Ruse
Paradise Lost

King Woman has confirmed a series of performances in support of the new album. Tickets and VIP Fan Club passes are on-sale this Friday, June 4 at 10 am pacific.

July 30 Los Angeles, CA Lodge Room
July 31 Los Angeles, CA Lodge Room

October 15 Brooklyn, NY TBA
October 16 Brooklyn, NY TBA
October 17 Brooklyn, NY TBA

October 29 Oakland, CA Starline
October 30 Oakland, CA Starline
October 31 Oakland, CA Starline (covers show)

Kingwoman.band
Kingwoman.bandcamp.com
Facebook.com/kngwmn
Instagram.com/kngwmn
Twitter.com/kngwmn
www.relapse.com
relapserecords.bandcamp.com

King Woman, “Morning Star” official video

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Amenra to Release De Doorn June 25; “De Evenmens” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

amenra

Belgian post-metal forerunners Amenra will release their first offering for Relapse Records, titled De Doorn, next month. They’ve got a video up now for “De Evenmens” that you can see at the bottom of this post and witness all its black-and-white and screamy, then not screamy, then definitely screamy again shifting, the band as heavy on atmosphere as they are on heavy as they are on contemplation. “De Evenmens” is one of five tracks on the upcoming outing, which is the follow-up to Amenra‘s 2017 LP, Mass VI, and at the very least it shows they haven’t lost their edge of extremity or the consuming lurch that has led to their becoming one of Europe’s foremost purveyors of the style. They got a thing. They do it well.

Album info follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

amenra de doorn

AMENRA announce their Relapse Records full-length debut De Doorn coming June 25th! Watch AMENRA’s official “De Evenmens” music video, directed by Dehn Sora

AMENRA vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout comments:

“We are only here for a split second in history. This song is about finding the answer within the question, man’s search for his place here on earth. A journey of sorrow with mere moments of beauty and happiness and this all in relation to his or her fellowman. To accept what is. Our brother Dehn Sora sculpted the digital world where Everman dwells, protected by its thorns, wounded by the others. Sacrificing blood of gold.”

CHVE

De Doorn is out June 25 on Deluxe 2xLP/2xLP/CD/CS/Digital. Physical pre-orders via Relapse.com are available HERE. Digital Downloads/Streaming HERE. A super limited, one time press features gold foil stamping printed on jackets and are available exclusively through Relapse.com and at band live performances.

De Doorn Tracklist:

Ogentroost
De Dood In Bloei
De Evenmens
Het Gloren
Voor Immer

AMENRA Tour Dates:
May 22 Grauzone Festival (Acoustic Stream Concert)
July 2+3 Openluchttheater De Goffert, Nijmegen i.s.m. Doornroosje
Sept 4 Paaspop, Schijndel
Sept 21 Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht

AMENRA Is:
Colin H. van Eeckhout – Lead Vocals
Mathieu Vandekeckhove – Guitar
Bjorn J. Lebon – Percussion
Lennart Bossu – Guitar
Tim De Gieter – Guitar
Caro Tanghe – Backup Vocals

Recorded by Tim De Gieter at Much Luv Studio, Lembeke BE
Mastered by Frank Arkright, Abbey Road Studio, London UK

www.ritualofra.com
https://amenra.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/amenra_official/
www.facebook.com/churchofra
https://twitter.com/churchofra
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Amenra, “De Evenmens” official video

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