Friday Full-Length: Genghis Tron, Board Up the House

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

In hindsight, it was a pretty quick run, but the reverberations thereof continue to ripple out. It’s hard to describe the sheer joy it was to hear Genghis Tron‘s 2005 Cloak of Love EP when Crucial Blast put it out. It caught my eye because it was recorded by Colin Marston, whose work I knew through Behold… the Arctopus!, and through five songs in not much more than 12 minutes, it turned the idea of only-super-severe grindcore on its head with programmed drums and dance beats amid frenetic guitar and brutal screams. It was heavy, pummeling, and an unashamed good time. I was fortunate enough to see the Poughkeepsie-based then-trio live at the time — I think they were touring with Pig Destroyer? — and already a fan, I was made one again.

Relapse picked them up for their first album, 2006’s Dead Mountain Mouth, and its inevitable follow-up, 2008’s Board Up the House. I remember being somewhat underwhelmed by the debut LP, ultimately. Some of the experimentalism they showed in trying to draw together the two sides of their approach left me cold, and I think maybe my head was just elsewhere. Board Up the House would be their swansong, and the hype for it was massive, which especially at that point was a huge turnoff for me. Maybe the novelty had faded. Whatever it was, I didn’t give the record its due, and with the announcement that founding keyboardist/programmer Michael Sochynsky and founding guitarist/programmer Hamilton Jordan had reformed the band after a decade to release a new album called Dream Weapon (info here) in March — still through Relapse — and especially after listening to the title-track of said comebacker, it was clearly time to break out the 2008 album to see how it’s held up.

Beautifully.

Some 13 years after the fact, I’m not sure extreme music has caught up to Genghis Tron yet, and songs like the opening title-cut and “Things Don’t Look Good,” “I Won’t Come Back Alive,” the intricately-timed “Colony Collapse” and the final run it leads to are nothing short of brilliant, bringing together industrial, grind, technical prowess and sheer ferocity all the while maintaining an unmistakable sonic persona through a variety of moods, tempo changes and periodic excursions into big payoff riffs. If I missed the effect of a song like Cloak of Love‘s “Ride the Steambolt” on the first album, well, “The Feast” accomplishes much the same blend of EDM and grind, while still moving the methodology forward in under two minutes’ runtime. Genghis Tron Board Up the HouseWith 11 tracks, it turns blinding ragers and sprinting, slicing precision upside down and barely stops to look back at the faces its melted in the process. “Endless Teeth”‘s sudden departure into dream-glitch. The mini-New Wave dance party set to hip-hop beat in “Recursion.” The foreshadow of slowdown in “City on a Hill” that in itself answers the pre-mosh section of “Things Don’t Look Good.” The use of melodic vocals alongside the screams and barks of then-vocalist Mookie Singerman.

And as almost a separate entity of its own, the final fun — I guess it’s just side B of the 11-song/43-minute offering, but really it’s when “Colony Collapse” picks up from “The Whips Blow Back” — makes Board Up the House all the more worthy of the plaudits heaped on it at the time. Between the industrialized apocalypse of “Colony Collapse,” “The Feast” bringing The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s vocalist Greg Puciato in for a guest spot, the bizarre, bagpipe-esque manipulations of “Ergot” and the 10-minute what-if-GenghisTron-but-doom finale of “Relief” — complete with near-harmony on the vocals — it’s no less a dizzying array than Genghis Tron put together throughout the release, but it stands out nonetheless and feels placed on the album specifically to do so. The opening tension of beats and keyboard surges in “Board Up the House,” the song, feel far away despite having occurred only about half an hour ago, and even as “Relief” is indeed a moment to exhale, Genghis Tron still find it in them to shred expectation and create an absolute wash of heavy that’s no less colorful than anything that surrounds.

Simply put, the album is astonishing, and it very much remains that. Genghis Tron have already put word out that Dream Weapon will be different, and the track they chose to stream bears that out. If we’re thinking purely in terms of Relapse Records bands for comparison, it’s more Torche than The Dillinger Escape Plan, and bringing in new singer Tony Wolski and a live drummer in Nick Yacyshyn, known for his work in Sumac and Baptists.

Inevitably, that change — having a person behind a kit — will be a big one in itself, and from just that first single, Wolski‘s melodic vocals in place of Mookie Singerman‘s off-the-rails screaming as a defining aspect will likewise present a turn. But frankly, fair enough. I’m not the same person I was 13 years ago, or 10, or five. It seems unreasonable to expect Genghis Tron — a band who had the impact they did precisely because they were so god damned forward thinking — to return and pretend like no time has passed whatsoever. I don’t know what their next album will bring — I haven’t heard it yet — but hell’s bells I’m looking forward to finding out.

I know this one is a little outside-genre for what one typically might expect around these parts. Who cares? 12 years later, I’m kind of over not writing about something I’m interested in writing about for whatever reason. If you dig Board Up the House, all the better. If not and you’ve read this far anyway, thanks for reading. If you ignored this post altogether, you’ll probably notice how all lives involved have gone on. That’s about where I’m at.

But really, even on the cusp of Genghis Tron showing a different side of their sound — I wonder if Sochynsky and Jordan felt they’d pushed this as far as it could go here — Board Up the House remains strikingly relevant and brazen in its individuality of  purpose. As always, I hope you enjoy, but if you can’t find something here to dig into, it’s pretty much your own loss.

Thanks for reading.

I had a tooth removed yesterday. I’d never had an extraction before, but following what would be the fourth and final root canal on the back molar — number 30, however those things are counted — I felt like maybe it was time to get rid of the damn thing and have an implant put in. Not like there were any nerves left anyway, and I know that because there was a raging infection in my mouth for the entire plague-addled stretch of 2020 and I only knew it because every now and then I had to drain pus out of a fistula in my gumline. Yes, disgusting.

All the more so because as the oral surgeon — younger than me — unceremoniously yanked the offending number 30 from my mouth, I could smell that same rot and know that there was a hole in the bone of my mouth that needed to be patched up using some collagen and tiny pellets that I can only assume harden like so much Play-Doh over time into a passable facsimile for the piece of missing necrotized skeleton. A childhood of sugary drinks come home to roost. In my defense, I was born before science was invented.

It hurt like a motherfucker. Good luck explaining that to The Pecan, who was like, “Use your jaw to read me Daniel Tiger Chooses to Be Kind while you bleed, fucker!” for the early part of the afternoon. They gave me Tylenol with codeine, to which I was like, “What do I have the sniffles?,” but alas my pharmacist was all business. The good news was there’s a decent leftover amount of Oxycodone around from various procedures, and that it gets thusly hoarded for specific reasons like this. Soon enough I was still in pain but not nearly so bothered by it. The Pecan went down for a nap — which he didn’t actually take, but quiet time in his room is good for everyone — and I read a bit and worked on some other stuff.

Specifically, I’ve decided to bring back The Obelisk Questionnaire and send it around much like the Days of ‘Rona feature last year — actually I suspect I’ll have a lot of the same people answering; my reach is only so far — but I’ll handle sending that out this weekend and hopefully get responses back soon and start posting thereafter. Having people send their own pictures with the Days of ‘Rona thing was the best idea I ever had. I will continue that policy as much as I am able.

Hopefully doing that allows me to give a shout to a bunch of stuff I might not have room for otherwise in a way separate from even the Quarterly Review. I’m just trying to put this outlet to as effective use as possible.

Like all great choices, this decision was made while under the influence of narcotic painkillers. We’ll see how it goes.

Today is The Patient Mrs.’ birthday, and without giving it away, it’s a big one. Happy birthday to the love of my life, whose existence makes not just my life possible, but has a genuine net-positive on the planet, which in my view can be said of maybe three people when all things are factored in. Certainly not something I’d say about myself. In any case, having been together since 1997, I am in continuous and daily awe of the human being who has so generously chosen to spend her life in my company. Thank you, baby. I am fortunate she’s so stubborn in admitting a mistake or I’d have been out on my ass a long time ago.

Years ago, a pact was made that we would buy a boat by… this age that she reaches today, and we got in just under the wire. A used 1985 Somethingorother, complete with trailer. We’re having the trailer hitch put on the car as I write this so we can take the boat up to Connecticut tomorrow ahead of the wintry mix that’s supposed to hit New Jersey on Sunday. It’s not a luxury liner by any stretch, but it’s got a motor, and my understanding is the motor works, and the interior is rad. When The Patient Mrs. first showed it to me, I asked if it had a tape player. We weren’t sure from the pictures, and the thing was winter-wrapped when we actually went to see it, so I’ve still got my fingers crossed.

I would call it impulsive, considering the layoff notice she’s already gotten from her job owing to the pandemic, but hell, sometimes you set a goal and attain it at the expense of both your meager savings and practicality. It’s only an impulse if you don’t count the last 10 years we’ve been talking about it.

Needless to say, I expect one or both of our cars to die at any moment.

If you have a second and care to wish The Patient Mrs. a happy birthday, I know I’d appreciate it and if she has a chance to read this, she might as well. Thanks either way for reading and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Back on Monday for a whole other bunch of stuff. Don’t forget to hydrate in the meantime.

FRM.

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Genghis Tron to Release Dream Weapon March 26; Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

13 years and a singer and drummer later, Genghis Tron return with a new album. Their last record was 2008’s Board up the House, and they reemerge from hiatus as guitarist Hamilton Jordan and keyboardist Michael Sochynsky are joined by Tony Wolksi and Sumac‘s Nick Yacyshyn on drums. You bet your ass that makes a difference on “Dream Weapon,” the title-track of Genghis Tron‘s impending third long-player, out March 26 in a renewed collaboration with Relapse Records. You’ll hear more vocal melody than I think the band has ever employed in the new track, and yes, live drums to go with what would seem also to be programmed beats. Don’t expect to get a handle on everything happening your first time through. That’s just not how Genghis Tron have ever operated.

For reference, in addition to the video for “Dream Weapon” below — watch out if you’re sensitive to strobe/herky-jerky cuts — I’ve included the Bandcamp stream of Board up the House. Interestingly, their 2006 debut, Dead Mountain Mouth and their 2005 EP, Cloak of Love, don’t seem to be streaming officially anywhere. They’re on YouTube if you’re up for the minimal digging required.

I shared the “Dream Weapon” video on Thee Facebooks the other day, but here’s info from the PR wire:

genghis tron dream weapon art by trevor naud

GENGHIS TRON ANNOUNCE DREAM WEAPON; FIRST NEW FULL-LENGTH IN 13 YEARS

Share “Dream Weapon” Music Video

Dream Weapon is out March 26, 2021

Pre-Order & Watch “Dream Weapon” HERE: https://orcd.co/genghistrondw

GENGHIS TRON make their return with their highly anticipated new album, Dream Weapon! The band’s first new studio outing in over a decade, GENGHIS TRON’s Hamilton Jordan and Michael Sochynsky are now joined by two new collaborators: vocalist Tony Wolski and Sumac/Baptists drummer Nick Yacyshyn.

Together, the lineup perfects the unique mix of extreme rock and electronic music GENGHIS TRON has pioneered over their storied career. A melding of hypnotic rhythms and densely layered synth soundscapes, Dream Weapon was recorded and produced alongside long-time collaborator Kurt Ballou at God City Studio in Salem, Massachusetts, with additional production and engineering by Ben Chisolm (Chelsea Wolfe) JJ Heath (Rain City Recorders) and was mastered by Heba Kadry.

Watch GENGHIS TRON’s new “Dream Weapon” music video, directed by Mount Emult (Dying Fetus, The Pixies) AT THIS LOCATION.

Dream Weapon is out March 26, 2021 on CD/LP/Digital. Physical pre-orders via Relapse.com are available HERE. Digital Downloads/Streaming are available HERE.

GENGHIS TRON recently reissued their two full-length albums Board Up The House & Dead Mountain Mouth on vinyl for the first time in over 10 years. Orders are available at http://relapse.com/genghis-tron.

Artwork by Trevor Naud

Dream Weapon Tracklist:
Exit Perfect Mind
Pyrocene
Dream Weapon
Desert Stairs
Alone In The Heart Of The Light
Ritual Circle
Single Black Point
Great Mother

Lyrically and conceptually, Dream Weapon picks up where Board Up The House left off.

“That album’s closing track, ‘Relief,’ was about how humans have become a burden to the planet, and how Earth will endure long after we’re gone,” Hamilton Jordan explains. “There is sadness at the end, but some relief—and beauty—too. Dream Weapon is, loosely, an album-length meditation on that theme.”

From the ethereal, almost robotic vocal phrasings accompanying the industrial attack of “Pyrocene,” to the chaotic, pulse-pounding drumming acrobatics and cyclical guitar patterns in the album’s triumphant title track, Dream Weapon is not just a nod to GENGHIS TRON’s celebrated past as a metal/progressive/experimental outfit. The new album redefines what these genres, sounds, and musical elements can achieve. Dream Weapon is a record that captures GENGHIS TRON at a matured, focused state; the ebbs and flows of the album are just as hard-hitting as they are dreamy, soaring, and meditative.

Seasoned GENGHIS TRON listeners will find Dream Weapon to be both excitingly fresh and reassuringly familiar. “Though it sounds a bit different than our previous albums, I don’t think we approached Dream Weapon any differently than the others,” Jordan explains. “Michael and I take years to write and trade demos, with about 80% of our ideas landing on the cutting-room floor. Once we have a rough song idea we both like, we write dozens of drafts of a song over months before we end up with a final demo.”

“I think one difference in our approach for this album was that we had a strong sense from the outset of what kind of vibe we wanted to create,” Sochynsky adds. “Something more cohesive, meditative and hypnotic.”

Through the album’s inventiveness and rejuvenated approach, Dream Weapon marks another bold step forward in the wildly creative career of GENGHIS TRON, and cements the band’s legacy of groundbreaking, genre-defying innovation.

https://www.facebook.com/GenghisTron/
https://www.instagram.com/genghis.tron/
https://twitter.com/GenghisTronBand
https://genghistron.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Genghis Tron, “Dream Weapon” official video

Genghis Tron, Board up the House

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Video Interview: Esben Willems of Monolord & Berserk Studio

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on January 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

monolord

Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord released their two-songer single I’m Staying Home on Jan. 14, pairing the title-track with a live version of “Bastard Son” recorded at Freak Valley Festival in 2019. A couple days ago, the band posted a minute-long clip of them in the studio — literally just a riff — as they started working on their fifth full-length.

The thing about Monolord is this: Monolord is no accident. From their 2013 debut, Empress Rising (discussed here), through an immediate barrage of tours, from releasing through RidingEasy to signing to Relapse ahead of 2019’s album of the year, No Comfort (review here), the band has been focused and working according to a plan. And the plan has largely worked, as you can hear in the influence Monolord have had, their own sonic progression, and the fact that across four records in six years they’ve made themselves indispensable among the post-social media generation of heavy. Whether you’re a fan or not, their impact is undeniable.

So what happens when the mother of all wrenches gets thrown in the gears of Monolord-in-progress? On the precipice of recording their fifth album — and for the first time in his own recently-acquired Berserk Studio — I talked with drummer Esben Willems about what it’s been like for the past year as the best laid plans have largely evaporated. He, guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger (who released a solo album last year on RidingEasy) and bassist Mika Häkki have by now begun the process of getting sounds and working on the album, but the chance to talk about writing, putting together the studio, working remotely with other bands to mix and master releases — not to mention just the weirdness of having something positive like buying a studio happen while the world is falling apart — was much appreciated. His choice in t-shirt, as ever, was fitting.

I don’t know what the rest of 2021 will bring for Monolord beyond, presumably, the fifth album release (summer? fall?), but with the single out, the teaser clip, and work begun, I was grateful for the opportunity to chat and you’ll find the video below.

Please enjoy:

Monolord Interview with Esben Willems, Jan. 20, 2021

Monolord‘s I’m Staying Home single is out through Relapse Records now and can be streamed here:

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

Monolord, Fifth Album Teaser

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Instagram

Monolord on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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Friday Full-Length: Red Fang, Murder the Mountains

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Obviously part of revisiting any album is listening to it, but with Murder the Mountains (review here), it almost seems unnecessary because the songs are so memorable. “Wires.” “Into the Eye.” “Number Thirteen” — which I’ll put forward as a candidate for the best song Red Fang have ever written. And even if you don’t remember “Hank is Dead” or “Throw Up” by their title alone, if you heard the Portland, Oregon, band’s second full-length when it was released in 2011 as their first LP for Relapse Records, chances are within the first five seconds it’ll come back. 10 tracks, 41 minutes. It’s not a flawless album by any means, but even its warts become a strength and a part of the band’s overarching personality.

It was a big deal when bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam, guitarist/vocalist Maurice Bryan Giles, guitarist David Sullivan and drummer John Sherman signed to Relapse. Their 2009 self-titled (discussed here) had come out through Sargent House and received mass attention owing to the proto-virality of the video for “Prehistoric Dog,” which was kind of a Black Sabbath Black Sabbath-declarative moment for Pacific Northwest heavy and/or what might’ve been called “party doom” but was really just heavy rock made by a next generation of grown up punks and metallers. That Red Fang had both — punks and metallers, that is — made them all the more a standout.

It was also a big deal when they recorded Murder the Mountains with Chris Funk of The Decemberists, thereby forcing a legion of soon-to-be-beardos to find out who The Decemberists were and maybe, just maybe, listen to a song or two. Funk played some guitar on the album too, and there were guests on organ and percussion, etc., but what still comes through in revisiting these years later is the strength of the songs themselves. Red Fang‘s deceptively clever vocal swaps between Giles and Beam would become a signature element of their work, but the clarity with which the former’s caveman grunts announce the band’s arrival after the intro crashes of opener “Malverde” are still an effective slap from a band said to be working in a pop sphere. That they’d back that song with the ultra-catchy, uptempo swing of “Wires,” led vocally by Beam‘s more melodic approach, gives the yet-unconverted listener a more complete picture of what Red Fang have to offer throughout, while at the same time essentially shoving that red fang murder the mountainssame listener deeper into the album, as the shorter “Hank is Dead” careens into “Dirt Wizard”‘s brash punk and the side A-capping chug of “Throw Up” with post-Queens of the Stone Age solo fuzz answering “Hank is Dead” at the outset even as the midtempo stomp speaks of heavier intentions ahead of the chorus, infectious to the last.

“Painted Parade” is about as close as the band comes to pure heavy punk, and that’s plenty close, and Beam leads that charge much as Giles fronted “Malverde” — the band finding ways to do something different without veering too far from their central purpose in terms of songwriting. Like “Wires” answered “Malverde,” “Number Thirteen” backs “Painted Parade” with a call and response in its chorus with Beam and Giles back and forth, but the marching verse is as much a hook, and the later touch of harmony on the third verse is nothing less than a defining moment. For me, it’s the whole key to the album. They shift into the speedier break with Giles taking the lead vocally and move through the guitar solo, surge back into a winding progression and build it to a head, and then it’s not some huge riff that puts “Number Thirteen” over the top, it’s the melody. Gorgeously mixed by Vance Powell, the energy of that movement is a showcase for just how graceful Red Fang are at their best; and just to drive the point home, they finish with another chorus.

Momentum, so much a strength throughout Murder the Mountains, is maintained through “Into the Eye,” and “The Undertow” not only highlights the bass tone that’s added weight all along to the barrage of righteous riffs, but broadens the scope of the record with a more languid tempo and melody; never doomed, but a purposeful comedown, and well placed ahead of the finale with effects noise bringing a few hypnotic seconds before “Human Herd” smacks its way in. A grungy verse into a surge of a chorus that only gets more surging feels like and is a victory lap on the band’s part, and though subsequent reissues (like the one streaming above) of Murder the Mountains have included bonus tracks “Over the Edge,” “Through” and “Pawn Everything,” I tend to prefer the original ending, the subtle touch of tambourine in the chorus of “Human Herd,” the way Beam‘s reach in those last lines, then the cold cut to silence. It all brings into near-perfect summary just how efficient Red Fang‘s work has been the whole time.

Precious few seconds are wasted throughout, and yet the band’s abiding personality is dudes-having-a-good-time. Songs are heavy but lighthearted and now and then bright-toned, guzzling PBR but executing with a clearheaded class. It was an album that set the band on tour for years and established them as the leaders of a wave of Portland/PNW heavy that’s abated some the last two years or so but still provides reliable listens on the regular. Red Fang themselves, as noted, hit the road hard, touring with Saint Vitus in 2011 (review here) and going to Europe in 2012. In 2013, they released Whales and Leeches (review here), toured toured toured, did a few other short releases, a Scion A/V EP (remember those?), toured toured toured, a one-off here and there, fests and whatnot into 2016’s Only Ghosts (review here), which remains their latest full-length. They of course toured toured toured to support it, and periodic singles have followed since — the latest, “Stereo Nucleosis” (posted here), came out in July 2020 — but a stretch coming on five years between LPs is easily the longest of their career.

Whatever may come or not from Red Fang in the next couple years, they’ve become statesmen of Portland heavy and of American heavy rock in general, and their contributions in craft and attitude alike continue to resonate, influencing style and substance alike. This album sounds no less vital today than it did nearly a decade ago when it was first released.

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

Oh hi. Didn’t see you there. It’s 6:30 in the morning. The Pecan’s been sleeping past 7 (!) or at least not really getting out bed until then — he’s already stirring — so I let myself sleep until 5, which has felt like a gift the last couple days. I got up yesterday and managed to put together all of today’s posts — this one aside — before even getting him for breakfast. A boon in these days when preschool remains virtual. Which is, by the way, a fucking disaster.

He stayed with his aunt and grandmother on The Patient Mrs.’ side for an overnight last week. The Patient Mrs. and I, of course, spent the entire day sitting on the couch watching Star Trek. I shit you not, and it was glorious. You think I’m just not mentioning the sex, but no. No sex, just Trek. A pure and necessary headfirst dive into restorative boredom. I might, might have showered. I can’t remember just now. But anyway, in trying to convince The Pecan to lay down and go to sleep and then watching as he held out and sat up until, at last, he literally toppled over into unconsciousness, The Patient Mrs.’ sister sent a text remarking on his “astonishing willpower.” That has become a kind of running joke this week as regards behavioral issues.

Astonishing willpower as he continues to bite himself when asked to color his school calendar. Yes, we’re consulting with a behaviorist. With occupational therapy, with speech therapy (he’s boomed in language, but some of his frustrations are language-related; plus it’s a way to get him more socialization so we take whatever services we can get). Coordinating with the school — he’s in early pre-K to do this work. But yes, astonishing willpower.

An ambulance just went by in the dark, one blinking light, obviously keeping it quiet. Wonder if they’re cutting through the neighborhood or making a stop here. 4,000 people died yesterday. Knew we were creeping up on that. I keep an eye.

And hey, angry white people tried to overthrow the US government this week in a move that everyone saw coming including the police, who let it happen. Made for good tv. Gotta give that to whatshisname.

Well, kid’s up. I should go get him. Breakfast, grocery shopping, then virtual school, then I have a tele-health appointment with a psychiatrist to talk about my meds, which I am nervous about I guess. Like do I need to get on Zoom and perform depression for you? Must I manifest my diagnosis to legitimize it, sit on my back legs to beg for pills so I can go a day without thinking of obliterating myself? Yeah let’s do that. Sweet.

We’ll see how it goes. If I can make it through without being confrontational, I’ll call that a win.

New Gimme show today, 5PM. The Pecan does a guest spot in the voice track. Look out for it. He has fun.

Next week is booked front-to-back. Couple good reviews, couple premieres, all that stuff. Trying to set up a video interview with Kadavar. We’ll see how that goes too.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hydrate. Wear your mask over your nose. All that stuff.

New year, same FRM.

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Quarterly Review: -(16)-, BoneHawk, DÖ, Howling Giant & Sergeant Thunderhoof, Chimney Creeps, Kingnomad, Shores of Null, The Device, Domo, Early Moods

Posted in Reviews on December 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

I just decided how long this Quarterly Review is actually going to be. It’s seven days, then I’ll do my year-end list and the poll results on New Year’s Eve and Day, respectively. That’s the plan. Though honestly, I might pick up after that weekend and continue QR-style for that next week. There’s a lot more to cover, I think. The amount of releases this year has been pretty insane and completely overwhelming. I’ve tried to keep up as best I can and clearly have failed in that regard or I probably wouldn’t be so swamped now. So it goes. One way or the other, I don’t think a lot of emails are getting answered for the next two weeks, though I’ll try to keep up with that too.

But anyhow, that’s what’s up. Here’s Day II (because this is the QR where I do Roman numerals for absolutely no reason).

Quarterly Review #11-20:

16, Dream Squasher

16 Dream Squasher

The fourth long-player since 16‘s studio return with 2009’s Bridges to Burn, the 10-track Dream Squasher begins with tales of love for kid and dog, respectively. The latter might be the sweetest lyrics I’ve ever read for something that’s still bludgeoning sludge — said dog also gets a mention amid the ultra-lumbering chug and samples of “Acid Tongue” — and it’s worth mentioning that as the Cali intensity institution nears 30 years since their start in 1991, they’re branching out in theme and craft alike, as the melody of the organ-laced “Sadlands” shows. There’s even some harmonica in “Agora (Killed by a Mountain Lion),” though it’s soon enough swallowed by pummel and the violent punk of “Ride the Waves” follows. “Summer of ’96” plays off Bryan Adams for another bit of familial love, while closing duo “Screw Unto Others” and “Kissing the Choir Boy” indict capitalist and religious figureheads in succession amid weighted plod and seething anger, the band oddly in their element in this meld of ups, downs and slaughter.

16 on Thee Facebooks

16 at Relapse Records

 

BoneHawk, Iron Mountain

bonehawk iron mountain

Kalamazoo four-piece BoneHawk make an awaited follow-up to their 2014 debut, Albino Rhino (discussed here), in the form of Iron Mountain, thereby reminding listeners why it’s been awaited in the first place. Solid, dual-guitar, newer-school post-The Sword heavy rock. Second cut “Summit Fever” reminds a bit of Valley of the Sun and Freedom Hawk, but neither is a bad echelon of acts to stand among, and the open melodies of the subsequent title-track and the later “Fire Lake” do much to distinguish BoneHawk along the way. The winding lead lines of centerpiece “Wildfire” offer due drama in their apex, and “Thunder Child” and “Future Mind” are both catchy enough to keep momentum rolling into the eight-minute closer “Lake of the Clouds,” which caps with due breadth and, yes, is the second song on the record about a lake. That’s how they do in Michigan and that’s just fine.

BoneHawk on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

DÖ, Black Hole Mass

do black hole mass

follow the Valborg example of lumbering barking extremity into a cosmic abyss on their Black Hole Mass three-songer, emitting charred roll like it’s interstellar background radiation and still managing to give an underlying sense of structure to proceedings vast and encompassing. “Gravity Sacrifice” and “Plasma “Psalm” are right on in their teeth-grinding shove, but it’s the 10-minute finale “Radiation Blessing” that steals my heart with its trippy break in the middle, sample, drifting guitar and all, as the Finnish trio build gradually back up to a massive march all the more effective for the atmosphere they’ve constructed around it. Construction, as it happens, is the underlying strength of Black Hole Mass, since it’s the firm sense of structure beneath their songs that allows them to so ably engage their dark matter metal over the course of these 22 minutes, but it’s done so smoothly one hardly thinks about it while listening. Instead, the best thing to do is go along for the ride, brief as it is, or at least bow head in appreciation to the ceremony as it trods across rigid stylistic dogma.

DÖ on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Howling Giant & Sergeant Thunderhoof, Turned to Stone Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa

turned to stone chapter 2 howling giant sergeant thunderhoof

Let this be a lesson to, well, everyone. This is how you do a conceptual split. Two bands getting together around a central idea — in this case, Tennessee’s Howling Giant and UK’s Sergeant Thunderhoof — both composing single tracks long enough to consume a vinyl side and expanding their reach not only to work with each other but further their own progressive sonic ideologies. Ripple Music‘s Turned to Stone split series is going to have a tough one to top in Masamune & Muramasa, as Howling Giant utterly shine in “Masamune” and the rougher-hewn tonality of Sergeant Thunderhoof‘s “Maramasa” makes an exceptional complement. Running about 41 minutes, the release is a journey through dynamic, with each act pushing their songwriting beyond prior limits in order to meet the occasion head-on and in grand fashion. They do, and the split easily stands among the best of 2020’s short releases as a result. If you want to hear where heavy rock is going, look no further.

Howling Giant on Thee Facebooks

Sergeant Thunderhoof on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Chimney Creeps, Nosedive

chimney creeps nosedive

Punkish shouts over dense noise rock tones, New York trio Chimney Creeps make their full-length debut with Nosedive, which they’ve self-released on vinyl. The album runs through seven tracks, and once it gets through the straight-ahead heavy punk of “March of the Creeps” and “Head in the Sand” at the outset, the palette begins to broaden in the fuzzy and gruff “Unholy Cow,” with the deceptively catchy “Splinter” following. “Creeper” and “Satisfied” before it are longer and accordingly more atmospheric, with a truck-backing-up sample at the start of “Creeper” that would seem to remind listeners just where the band’s sound has put them: out back, around the loading dock. Fair enough as “Diving Line” wraps in accordingly workmanlike fashion, the vocals cutting through clearly as they have all the while, prominent in the mix in a way that asks for balance. “Bright” I believe is the word an engineer might use, but the vocals stand out, is the bottom line, and thereby assure that the aggressive stance of the band comes across as more than a put-on.

Chimney Creeps on Thee Facebooks

Chimney Creeps on Bandcamp

 

Kingnomad, Sagan Om Rymden

Kingnomad - Sagan Om Rymden

Kingnomad‘s third album, Sagan Om Rymden certainly wants nothing for scope or ambition, setting its progressive tone with still-hooky opener “Omniverse,” before unfurling the more patient chug in “Small Beginnings” and taking on such weighted (anti-)matter as “Multiverse” and “The Creation Hymn” and “The Unanswered Question” later on. Along the way, the Swedish troupe nod at Ghost-style melodicism, Graveyard-ish heavy blues boogie — in “The Omega Experiment,” no less — progressive, psychedelic and heavy rocks and no less than the cosmos itself, as the Carl Sagan reference in the record’s title seems to inform the space-based mythology expressed and solidified within the songs. Even the acoustic-led interlude-plus “The Fermi Paradox” finds room to harmonize vocals and prove a massive step forward for the band. 2018’s The Great Nothing (review here) and 2017’s debut, Mapping the Inner Void (review here), were each more accomplished than the last, but Sagan Om Rymden is just a different level. It puts Kingnomad in a different class of band.

Kingnomad on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)

Shores of Null Beyond the Shores On Death and Dying

By the time Shores of Null are nine minutes into the single 38-minute track that makes up their third album, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying), they would seem to have unveiled at least four of the five vocalists who appear throughout the proceedings, with the band’s own Davide Straccione joined by Swallow the Sun‘s Mikko Kotamäki as well as Thomas A.G. Jensen (Saturnus), Martina Lesley Guidi (of Rome’s Traffic Club) and Elisabetta Marchetti (INNO). There are guests on violin, piano and double-bass as well, so the very least one might say is that Shores of Null aren’t kidding around when they’re talking about this record in a sense of being ‘beyond’ themselves. The journey isn’t hindered so much as bolstered by the ambition, however, and the core five-piece maintain a steady presence throughout, serving collectively as the uniting factor as “Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)” moves through its portrayal of the stages of grief in according movements of songcraft, gorgeously-arranged and richly composed as they are as they head toward the final storm. In what’s been an exceptional year for death-doom, Shores of Null still stand out for the work they’ve done.

Shores of Null on Thee Facebooks

Spikerot Records website

 

The Device, Tribute Album

the device tribute album

Tectonic sludge has become a mainstay in Polish heavy, and The Device, about whom precious little is known other than they’re very, very, very heavy when they want to be, add welcome atmospherics to the lumbering weedian procession. “Rise of the Device” begins the 47-minute Tribute Album in crushing form, but “Ritual” and the first minute or so of “BongOver” space out with droney minimalism, before the latter track — the centerpiece of the five-songer and only cut under six minutes long at 2:42 — explodes in consuming lurch. “Indica” plays out this structure again over a longer stretch, capping with birdsong and whispers and noise after quiet guitar and hypnotic, weighted riffing have played back and forth, but it’s in the 23-minute closer “Exhale” that the band finds their purpose, a live-sounding final jam picking up after a long droning stretch to finish the record with a groove that, indeed, feels like a release in the playing and the hearing. Someone’s speaking at the end but the words are obscured by echo, and to be sure, The Device have gotten their point across by then anyhow. The stark divisions between loud and quiet on Tribute Album are interesting, as well as what the band might do to cover the in-between going forward.

Galactic SmokeHouse Records on Thee Facebooks

The Device on Bandcamp

 

Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2

Domo Domonautas Vol 2

Spanish progressive heavy psychedelic semi-instrumentalists Domo follow late-2019’s Domonautas Vol. 1 (review here) with a four-song second installment, and Domonautas Vol. 2 answers its predecessor back with the jazz-into-doom of “Avasaxa” (7:43) and the meditation in “Dolmen” (13:50) on side A, and the quick intro-to-the-intro “El Altar” (2:06) and the 15-minute “Vientohalcón” on side B, each piece working with its own sense of motion and its own feeling of progression from one movement to the next, never rushed, never overly patient, but smooth and organic in execution even in its most active or heaviest stretches. The two most extended pieces offer particular joys, but neither should one discount the quirky rhythm at the outset of “Avasaxa” or the dramatic turn it makes just before five minutes in from meandering guitar noodling to plodding riffery, if only because it sounds like Domo are having so much fun catching the listener off guard. Exactly as they should be.

Domo on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Early Moods, Spellbound

early moods spellbound

Doom be thy name. Or, I guess Early Moods be thy name, but doom definitely be thy game. The Los Angeles four-piece make their debut with the 26-minute Spellbound, and I suppose it’s an EP, but the raw Pentagram worship on display in the opening title-track and the Sabbath-ism that ensues flows easy and comes through with enough sincerity of purpose that if the band wanted to call it a full-length, one could hardly argue. Guitar heads will note the unbridled scorch of the solos throughout — centerpiece “Isolated” moves from one into a slow-Slayer riff that’s somehow also Candlemass, which is a feat in itself — while “Desire” rumbles with low-end distortion that calls to mind Entombed even as the vocals over top are almost pure Witchcraft. They save the most engaging melody for the finale “Living Hell,” but even that’s plenty grim and suited to its accompanying dirt-caked feel. Rough in production, but not lacking clarity, Spellbound entices and hints at things to come, but has a barebones appeal all its own as well.

Early Moods on Thee Facebooks

Dying Victims Productions website

 

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Amenra Sign to Relapse Records; New Album out Next Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Curious how inevitable this feels. Belgian post-metal touchstones Amenra have set the genre standard by which Europe abides. Their pervasive aesthetic sensibility, balance of ambience and extreme sonic aggression and heft, can be heard across an entire swath of acts working largely in their strobe-pumping wake. I’ve never been the biggest Amenra fan in the world — something about their unwillingness to break their own rules continues to leave me cold — but one would have to be a fool not to acknowledge the impact they’ve had or to respect the force they represent when they take the stage.

Earlier this month, I assume for Bandcamp Friday, they released a collection of demo material for what became 2017’s Mass VI, and you’ll find that streaming below. In addition to their signing to Relapse, where they join recent acquisitions Temple of Void and the likes of Monolord, you’ll also find word below of a new album coming next year. One will expect that to arrive with no shortage of anticipation behind it.

From the PR wire:

amenra

AMENRA SIGN TO RELAPSE RECORDS; NEW FULL-LENGTH ALBUM COMING 2021

Relapse Records is proud to announce the signing of Belgium’s AMENRA! Formed in 1999, the critically acclaimed band have since captivated audiences through their raw, ethereal, sonic energy, both live and in the studio. AMENRA’s monstrous live performances and cinematic albums have earned them a cult following. Touring the world over, the band has played some of the most prestigious festivals in Europe and North America. AMENRA will release a highly anticipated new album in 2021. Stay tuned for more information in the near future.

Regarding the signing, AMENRA comments:

“We are thrilled to announce that from now on we will be signed to Relapse records. A haven to a lot of our friends, and now to us as well. We are looking forward to work with this more than capable team, and are eager to see where it will lead us. Our new record will see its first light mid 2021. Ever onwards.”

AMENRA Is:
Colin H. Van Eeckhout – Vocals
Mathieu Vandekerckhove – Guitars
Bjorn Lebon – Drums
Lennart Bossu – Guitars
Tim De Gieter – Bass

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, The Cradle: Demos (2020)

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Temple of Void Sign to Relapse for Fourth LP Next Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Shit, that’s cool. Good for Temple of Void. Hell, good for Relapse. Good match all around, really. And if tours can ever happen again, all the better. Previously hooked up with Shadow Kingdom Records, Detroit deathbringers Temple of Void released their prescient-in-title third album, The World That Was (review here), this past March. Their follow-up will be their Relapse Records debut, which for a band like this is pretty much living the dream. Can’t say they haven’t earned it, either. Their take on death metal and doom fluidly tips the balance to one side or another to serve songs that are inventive even as they don genre tropes, and the band revel in past glories even as they make them their own. Congrats and kudos all around.

You like good news? I do. Here’s some from the PR wire:

temple of void (Photo by Marvin Shaouni)

TEMPLE OF VOID Sign To Relapse Records; New Album Coming 2021

Relapse Records is proud to announce the signing of Detroit, MI based death/doom legion TEMPLE OF VOID. Temple of Void are currently writing their Relapse Records debut, their 4th full length, set to be released in 2021. Stay tuned for more information in the near future.

Regarding the signing, TEMPLE OF VOID Comments:

“The pandemic may have stopped us playing shows, but it can’t stop us writing a new record. We’ve been hard at work ever since lockdown started, crafting new songs and exploring new ways to expand and hone our signature sound. Never a band to write the same album twice, our debut for Relapse will both be familiar and new all at the same time. Echoes of the past will meet with glimpses into the future. Each record we write stands on the shoulders of the prior albums, and this is no different. We’re beyond fucking excited to get into the studio next year and track this beast.”

TEMPLE OF VOID have reverberated across the underground upon the releases of their 2014 full length “Of Terror and the Supernatural”, 2017’s critically acclaimed “Lords of Death”, and their most recent album, “The World that Was”.

“The World that Was” sold out of its first pressing before it was released, speaking to the support from death metal maniacs worldwide. Featuring incredible musical collaborations and artwork that pushed their cosmic atmosphere into new dimensions, “The World That Was” marked a new step in the band’s forward-thinking path, highlighting them as a contender for the year’s best in extreme music.

Now, with their signing to Relapse Records, TEMPLE OF VOID embark once again upon a voyage beyond death, beyond doom, and beyond the ultimate!

TEMPLE OF VOID Is:
Michael Erdody – Vocals
Don Durr – Guitar
Jason Pearce – Drums
Alex Awn – Guitar
Brent Satterly –Bass

https://templeofvoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TempleOfVoid
https://www.instagram.com/templeofvoid/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Temple of Void, The World That Was (2020)

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Album Review: Valkyrie, Fear

Posted in Reviews on August 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Valkyrie Fear

Valkyrie have been a band in waiting for a long time. Founded circa 2002 in Harrisonburg, Virginia, by brothers Jake and Pete Adams — both on guitar/vocals — the band made their self-titled debut (discussed here) in 2006 and followed it with Man of Two Visions (discussed here) in 2008. Both records readily ingratiated them to the Chesapeake heavy underground, and as Harrisonburg is located farther west, out in the Shenandoah Valley just east of the Monongahela National Forest, the organic feel of their sound in those early days seemed especially well earned and was a distinguishing factor from the harder disillusioned edge of working class D.C. doom. Valkyrie took a back seat as Pete Adams joined Baroness in 2008 and set about full-time touring/recording, etc., but they signed to Relapse Records ahead of 2015’s Shadows (review here) and with that awaited third outing gave listeners a reminder of the dynamic between the two brothers that helped make them such a distinct outfit in the first place.

With Alan Fary (Earthling) on bass and Warren Hawkins drumming as a returning rhythm section, the four-piece set about Fear as the first Valkyrie long-player to arrive following the end of Pete‘s tenure in the aforementioned Baroness — he still plays in Samhain and Razors in the Night, so far as I know — and a decidedly mature dual-guitar take on heavy rock worthy of Valkyrie‘s near 20 years as a group. The album runs a manageable eight tracks/43 minutes and represents its questioning/exploring mortality well visually with its cover, songs like the opener “Feeling So Low,” “Afraid to Live,” “Fear and Sacrifice” and “The Choice” taking a contemplative and somewhat wistful position that suits the natural sound of Valkyrie‘s particular take on doom rock and brings out a new kind of resonance within their work as well as highlights the human spirit that’s made them so resonant over the longer term — because while they’ve never hit the road for two months at a time or put out records on a regular 18-month cycle, each Valkyrie LP brims with a sincerity and heart all its own, Fear included.

On first hearing, a given listener might be struck by the roll of “Feeling So Low” at the outset, and how, with Jake Adams‘ vocals patterned over the kind of bounding riff as they are, Valkyrie reminds of earlier Kadavar, but actually what’s coming through are the roots in classic heavy rock that have always been central to their efforts. If Fear is Valkyrie laying claim to that aspect of their sound, one would be hard-pressed to think of a better unit to stand as inheritor of the foundation set by the likes of Pentagram in the mid-Atlantic region of the US. That’s not the kind of thing a band is likely to purposefully decide as they’re writing a song, but putting “Feeling So Low” at the beginning of Fear does more than just start the record with a quality hook and the first of many, many, many guitar solos — it establishes the atmosphere and context from which the rest of the songs will branch out.

Valkyrie

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that Valkyrie can structure a fluid LP, as they’ve certainly done it before, but in pairing “Feeling So Low” and “Afraid to Live” — the longest inclusion at 6:45 — right next to each other, the band bring their audience with them readily and present a deceptive immersion in side A of the release while remaining largely grounded in terms of structure and songwriting. Likewise, it should shock nobody who’s heard them before that the guitar work is stellar, but as ever, credit has to go to Hawkins and Fary in the rhythm section has holding down the sleek groove of “Feeling So Low” or third track “Loveblind” and keeping the Adams brothers in check when it comes time to launch into the next lead. Fary, who delves into more extreme territory with Earthling, plays with well enough class to hold his own against the higher-end strings, and Hawkins — who’s been with the band since at least 2008 — skillfully changes drum patterns to feed the energy behind solos, not only in “Loveblind” but all across Fear, his chemistry with the two guitarists well evident in the fluidity and swing of his technique. Valkyrie are, to put it another way, more than just a guitar band.

Side A rolls to its finish with “The Choice,” a nodding groove taking hold with the arrival of the verse peppered with leads that emerge as the foundation for a rousing final charge, and the semi-title-track “Fear and Sacrifice” begins side B with a more progressive turn that hints at some of the departures to come. Again, classic form, but it’s still well in line with where Valkyrie have been up to that point, and even as the guitars intertwine with an added touch of intricacy to the between-verses noodling, there’s the solid rock foundation beneath. A quick moment of quiet precedes the launch of a second solo section building on the first, and that carries “Fear and Sacrifice” to its finish ahead of the closing salvo in “Brings You Down,” “Evil Eye” and “Exasperator,” each of which gets successively shorter as they move to round out the album.

That’s an interesting, almost humble, choice on the part of the band, but it coincides as well with an uptick in sonic breadth, as “Brings You Down” taps more mellow blues vibes before taking off as it does, while “Evil Eye” might be the best hook Valkyrie has ever written — a shimmering proto-metal highlight somewhat buried on the album but that serves well in its position as a last energy charge before the instrumental “Exasperator” closes. The guitars again weave themselves together in a way that echoes “Fear and Sacrifice” and some of Fear‘s other classic-heavy-prog flourishes, but the pastoralism in their work remains firm and, as it has only ever done, makes Valkyrie an all the more distinguished and engaging band. They’ve been underrated for over 15 years, and, well, they’ll probably continue to be underrated for as long as they go — such is in the finest tradition of mid-Atlantic heavy — but for those who give Fear a chance to sink in, the rewards are three-dimensional, and in performance and craft, Valkyrie offer their most complete work to-date.

Valkyrie, Fear (2020)

Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks

Valkyrie on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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