Quarterly Review: Samsara Blues Experiment, Restless Spirit, Stepmother, Pilot Voyager, Northern Liberties, Nyxora, Old Goat Smoke, Van Groover, Hotel Lucifer, Megalith Levitation

Posted in Reviews on October 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

I broke my wife’s phone yesterday. What a mess. I was cleaning the counter or doing some shit and our spare butter dish — as opposed to the regular one, which was already out — was sitting near the edge of the top of the microwave, from where I bumped it so that the ceramic corner apparently went right through the screen hard enough that in addition to shattering it there’s a big black spot and yes a new phone has been ordered. In the meantime, she can’t type the letter ‘e’ and, well, I have to hand it to Le Creuset on the sturdy construction of their butter dishes. Technology succumbing to the brute force of a harder blunt object and gravity.

Certainly do wish that hadn’t happened. What does it have to do with riffs, or music at all, or really anything? Who cares. I’m about to review 10 records today. I can talk about whatever the hell I want.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Samsara Blues Experiment, Rock Hard in Concert

samsara blues experiment rock hard in concert

10 years after releasing 2013’s Live at Rockpalast (review here), and nearly three after they put out their 2021 swansong studio LP, End of Forever (review here), German heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment offer the 80-minute live 2LP Rock Hard in Concert, and while it’s not their first live album, it gives a broader overview of the band from front to (apparent) back during their time together, as songs opening salvo of “Center of the Sun,” “Singata Mystic Queen” and “For the Lost Souls” from 2010’s debut, Long-Distance Trip (review here), melds in the set with “One With the Universe” and “Vipassana” from 2017’s One With the Universe (review here), End of Forever‘s own title-track and “Massive Passive,” and “Hangin’ on a Wire” from 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) to become a fan-piece that nonetheless engages in sound and presentation. If you were there, it’s likely must-own. For the rest of us, who maybe did or didn’t see the band during their time — glad to say I did — it’s a reminder of how immersive they could be, especially in longer-form material, and how much influence they had on the last decade-plus of jam-based heavy psych in Europe. Recorded in 2018 at a special gig for Germany’s Rock Hard magazine, Rock Hard in Concert follows behind 2022’s Demos & Rarities (review here) in the band’s posthumous catalog, and it may or may not be Samsara Blues Experiment‘s final non-reissue release. Whether it is or not, it summarizes their run gorgeously and puts a light on the chemistry of the trio that led them through so many winding aural paths.

Samsara Blues Experiment on Facebook

World in Sound Records website

Restless Spirit, Afterimage

Restless Spirit Afterimage

Sounding modern and full and in opening cut “Marrow” almost like the fuzz is about to swallow the rest of the song, Restless Spirit step forward with their third long-player, Afterimage, and establish a new level of craft for themselves. In 2021, the Long Island heavy/doom rock trio offered Blood of the Old Gods (review here), and their guitar-led energetic surges continue here in Afterimage riffers like the chug-nod “Shadow Command” and “Of Spirit and Form,” which seems to account for the underlying metallic edge of the band’s execution with its sharper turns. Their first album for Magnetic Eye Records, its eight tracks fit smoothly into the label’s roster, which at its baseline might be said to foster modern heavy styles with a particular ear for songwriting and melody, and Restless Spirit dig into “All Furies” like High on Fire galloping into a wall of Slayer records, only to follow with the 1:45 instrumental reset “Brutalized,” which is somehow weightier. They touch on the ethereal with the guitar in “The Fatalist,” but the vocals are more post-hardcore and have a grounding effect, and after starting with outright crush, “Hell’s Grasp” offers respite in progressive flourish and midtempo meandering before resuming the double-plus-huge roll and pointed riff and noodly offsets, the huge hook coming back in a way that makes me miss doing a radio show. “Hell’s Grasp” is the longest piece on the collection at 6:25, but “From the Dust Returned” closes, mindful of the atmospherics that have been at work all along and no less huge, but clearly saving a last push for, well, last. I’ll be interested in how it holds up over the long term, but Magnetic Eye has become one of the US’ most essential labels in heavy music and releases like this are exactly why.

Restless Spirit on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Stepmother, Planet Brutalicon

stepmother planet brutalicon

When did Graham Clise from Witch Lecherous Gaze, etc. — dude used to be in Uphill Battle; I remember that band — move to Australia? Doesn’t matter. It happened and Stepmother is the raw, garage-ish fuzz rock outfit the now-Melbourne-residing Clise has established, with Rob Muinos on bass and vocals and Sam Rains on drums. With Clise on guitar/vocals peppering hard-strummed riffs with bouts of shred and various dirtier coatings, the 12-tracker goes north of four minutes one time for “Do You Believe,” already by then having found its proto-Misfits bent in the catchy “Scream for Death.” But whether they’re buzz-overdosing “Waiting for the Axe” or digging into the comedown in “Signed DC” ahead of the surf-informed rager of a finale “Gusano,” Planet Brutalicon is a debut that presents fresh ideas taking on known stylistic elements. And it’s not a showcase for Clise‘s instrumental prowess on a technical level or anything — he’s not trying to put on a clinic — but from the sound of his guitar to the noises he gets from it in “The Game” (that middle part, ultra-fuzz) and at the end of “Stalingrad,” it is very much a guitar-centered offering. No complaints there whatsoever.

Stepmother on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

Pilot Voyager, The Structure is Still Under Construction

Pilot Voyager The Structure is Still Under Construction

WARNING: Users who take even a small dose of Pilot Voyager‘s The Structure is Still Under Construction may find themselves experiencing euphoria, or adrift, as though on some serene ocean under the warm green sky of impossibly refracted light. The ethereal drones and melodic textures of the 46-minute single-song LP may cause side effects like: momentary flashes of inner peace, the quieting of your brain that you’ve been seeking your whole life without knowing it, calm. Also nausea, but that’s probably just something you ate. Talk to your doctor about whether this extended work from the Hungarian collective Psychedelic Source Records (szia!) is right for you, and if it is, make sure to consume responsibly. Headphones required (not included or covered by insurance). Do not be afraid as “The Structure is Still Under Construction” leaves the water behind to float upward in its midsection, finally resolving in intertwining drones, vague sampled speech echoing far off somewhere — ugh, the real world — and birdsong someplace in the mix. Go with it. This is why you got the prescription in the first place. Decades of aural research and artistic movement and progression have led you and the Budapesti outfit to this moment. Do not operate heavy machinery. Ever. In fact, find an empty field, take off your pants and run around for a while until you get out of breath. Then drink cool water and giggle. This could be you. Your life.

Pilot Voyager on Facebook

Psychedelic Source Records on Bandcamp

Northern Liberties, Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe

northern liberties Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe

Philadelphia has become the East Coast US’ hotbed for heavy psychedelia, which must be interesting for Northern Liberties, who started out more than two decades ago. The trio’s self-released, 10-song/41-minute Self-Dissolving Abandoned Universe — maybe their eighth album, if my count is right — with venerated producer Steve Albini, so one might count ‘instant-Gen-X-cred’ and ‘recognizably-muddy-toms’ among their goals. I wasn’t completely sold on the offering until “Infusorian Hymnal” started to dig a little further into the genuinely weird after opener “The Plot Thickens” and the subsequent “Drowned Out” laid forth the crunch of the tones and gave hints of the structures beneath the noise. “Crucible” follows up the raw shove of “Star Spangled Corpse” by expanding the palette toward space rock and an unhinged psych-noise shove that the somehow-still-Hawkwindian volatility of “The Awaited” moves away from while the finale “Song of the Sole Survivor” calls back to the folkish vocal melody in “Ghosts of Ghosts,” if in echoing and particularly addled fashion. Momentum serves the three-piece well throughout, though they seem to have no trouble interrupting themselves (can relate), and turning to follow a disparate impulse. Distractable heavy? Yeah, except bands like that usually don’t last two decades. Let’s say maybe their own kind of oddball, semi-spaced band who aren’t afraid to screw around in the studio, find what they like, and keep it. And whatever else you want to say about Albini-tracked drums, “Hold on to the Darkness” has a heavier tone to its snare than most guitars do to whole LPs. Whatever works, and it does.

Northern Liberties website

Northern Liberties on Bandcamp

Nyxora, “Good Night, Ophelia”

Nyxora Good Night Ophelia

“Good Night, Ophelia” is the first single from the forthcoming debut full-length from semi-goth Portland, Oregon, heavy rock four-piece Nyxora. There are worse opening shots to fire than a Hamlet reference, I suppose, and if one regards Ophelia’s character as an innocent driven to suicide by gender-based oppression, then her lack of agency is nothing if not continually relevant. Nonetheless, for NyxoraVox on, well, vox, guitarist E.Wrath, bassist Luke and drummer Weatherman — she pairs with dark-boogie riff recorded for edge with Witch Mountain‘s Rob Wrong at his Wrong Way Studio. There are some similarities between Nyxora and Wrong‘s own outfit — I double-checked it wasn’t Uta Plotkin singing some of the higher-reaching lines of “Good Night, Ophelia,” which is a definite compliment — but I get the sense that fuller atmosphere of Nyxora‘s first LP isn’t necessarily encapsulated in this one three-and-a-half-minute song. That is, I’m thinking at some point on the album, Nyxora will get more morose than they are here. Or maybe not. Either way, “Good Night, Ophelia” is an enticing teaser from a group who seem ready to dig their niche when the album is released, I’ll assume in 2024 though one never knows.

Nyxora on Facebook

Nyxora on Bandcamp

Old Goat Smoke, Demo

Old Goat Smoke Demo

I hate to do it, but I’m calling bullshit right now on Sydney, Australia’s Old Goat Smoke. Sorry gents. To be sure, your Bongzilla-crusty, ultra-stoned, Church of Misery-esque-in-its-madcap-vocal-wails, goat weed metal is only a pleasure to behold. But that’s the problem. How’re you gonna write a song called “Old Goat Smoke” and not post the lyrics? I shudder to think of the weed puns I’m missing. Fortunately, it’s not too late for the newcomer band to correct the mistake before the entire project is derailed. In that eponymous one of three total tracks included, Old Goat Smoke cast themselves in the mold of the despondent and disaffected. “Return to Dirt” shifts fluidly in and out of screams and harsher fare while radioactive-dirt tonality infects the guitar and bass that have already challenged the drums to cut through their morass. So that there’s no risk of the point not being made, they cap this initial public offering with “The Great Hate,” and eight-and-a-half-minute treatise on feedback and raw scathe that’s likewise a show of future nastiness to manifest. Quit your job, do all the drugs you can find, engage the permanent fuck-off. Old Goat Smoke may not have ‘bong’ in their moniker, but that’s about all they’re missing. And those lyrics, I guess, though by the time the 20 minutes of Demo have expired, they’ve made their caustic point regardless.

Old Goat Smoke on Facebook

Old Goat Smoke on Bandcamp

Van Groover, Back From the Shop

Van Groover Back From the Shop

German transport-themed heavy rock and rollers Van Groover — as in, one who grooves in or with vans — made a charming debut with 2021’s Honk if Parts Fall Off (review here), and the follow-up five-song EP, Back From the Shop, makes no attempt to fix what isn’t broken. That would seem to put it at odds with the mechanic speaking in the intro “Hill Willy’s Chop Shop,” who runs through a litany of issues fixed, goes on long enough to hypnotize and then swaps in body parts and so on. From there, the motor works, and Van Groover hit the gas through 21 minutes of smells-like-octane riffing and storytelling. In “A-38″ — the reference being to the size of a sheet of paper in Europe; equivalent but not the same as the US’ 8.5″ x 11” — they either get arrested, which would seem to be the ending of “The Bandit” just before,” or are at the DMV, I can’t quite tell, but it doesn’t matter one you meet “The Grizz.” The closer has an urgency to its push that doesn’t quite sound like I’d imagine being torn apart by a bear to feel, but the Lebowski-paraphrased penultimate line, “Some days you get eaten by the bear, some days the bear eats you,” underscores Van Groover‘s for-the-converted approach, speaking to the subculture from within. Possibly while driving. Does look like a nice van, though. The kind you might write a song or two about.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp

Hotel Lucifer, Hotel Lucifer

Hotel Lucifer Hotel Lucifer

Facts-wise, there’s not much more I can tell you about Hotel Lucifer than you might glean from looking at the New York four-piece’s Bandcamp page. Their self-released and self-titled debut runs 43 minutes and eight tracks, and its somewhat bleak, not-obligated-to-heavy-tonalism course takes several violent thematic turns, including (I think.) in opener “Room 222,” where Katie‘s vocals seem to talk about raping god. This, “Murderer,” “Torquemada,” “The Ultimate Price,” “Picking Your Eyes Out” and 12-minute horror noisefest closer “Beheaded” — only the classic metaller “Training the Beast” and the three-minute acoustic-backed psychedelic voice showcase “Echidna” seem to restrain the brutaller impulses, and I’m not sure about that either. With Jimmy on guitar, Muriel playing bass and Ed on drums, Hotel Lucifer are defined in no small part by the whispers, rasps and croons that mark their verses and choruses, but that becomes an effective means to convey character and mood along with the instrumental ambience behind, and so Hotel Lucifer find this strange, almost willfully off-putting cultish individualism, and it’s not hooks keeping your attention so much as the desire to figure it out, to learn more about just what the hell is going on on this record. I’ll wish you good luck with that as I continue my efforts along similar lines.

Hotel Lucifer on Bandcamp

Megalith Levitation, Obscure Fire

Megalith Levitation Obscure Fire

Its five songs broken into two sections along lines of “Obscure Fire” pairing with “Of Silence” and “Descending” leading to “Into the Depths” with “Of Eternal Doom” answering the question that didn’t even really need to be asked about which depths the Russian stoner sludge rollers were talking about. The Sleep-worshiping three-piece of guitarist/vocalist SAA, bassist KKV and drummer PAN — whose credits are worth reading in the band’s own words — lumber with purpose as they make that final statement, each side of Obscure Fire working shortest to longest beginning with the howling guitar and drum thud of the title-track at nine minutes as opposed to the 10 of “Of Silence.” At two minutes, “Descending” is barely more than feedback and tortured gurgles, so yes, very much a fit with the concrete-toned plod of the subsequent “Into the Depths” as the band skirt the line between ultra-stoner metal and cavernous atmospheric sludge without necessarily committing to one or the other. That position favors them, but after a certain point of being bludgeoned with huge riffs and slow-nodding, deeply-weighted churn, your skull is going to be goo either way. The route Megalith Levitation take to get you there is where the weed is, aurally speaking.

Megalith Levitation on Facebook

Addicted Label on Bandcamp

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Restless Spirit Post “Marrow” Video; Afterimage Out Oct. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

restless spirit

Long Island doom rockers Restless Spirit signed to Magnetic Eye Records earlier this year, and their first new release for the label — which also reissued their 2021 album, Blood of the Old Gods (review here) — will be their third full-length, Afterimage. Set for release on Oct. 6, Afterimage opens with its lead single in “Marrow,” and no, it’s not a YOB cover. Instead, the five-plus-minute original — video’s at the bottom of the post; have at it — reminds that part of the appeal of Restless Spirit is how solidified their approach seems while residing in between different styles.

They’re part doom, part metal, part rock, atmospherically rich, melodically engaging, and at the same time hard to pin down as any single microniche. They are, in other words, complex. But not just that either, because as “Marrow” demonstrates, they are confident, strong in their stylistic position, and they write songs like they know what they want them to be. Restless Spirit have been confirmed for Ripplefest Texas in September, and will tour the West Coast thereafter to herald the album’s coming. Dates for that run and other shows can be found below, along with the album info, preorder link and so on.

From the PR wire:

Restless Spirit Afterimage

RESTLESS SPIRIT unleash first video single and details of new album

Preorder link: http://lnk.spkr.media/afterimage

Long Island sludge metal trio RESTLESS SPIRIT have released the video single ‘Marrow’ as the first outtake from their forthcoming third album “Afterimage”. The new full-length is scheduled for release on October 6, 2023.

RESTLESS SPIRIT comment: “The opening track ‘Marrow’ truly comes from the heart and sets the theme for the entire album”, guitarist and singer Paul Aloisio writes. “This song is about watching someone that you love at the end of their life. It’s about the bargaining, the pleading, the denial… all those stages of grief. Although the song deals with desperation, it is also an acknowledgement of a bitter truth. We think everyone can relate to this song, because while maybe you haven’t had to experience these feelings yet, reality is, eventually you will. I’ve never had the courage to be so open through my music before, and I won’t lie and say that it wasn’t terrifying to do so. Yet our hope is that it can resonate with anyone struggling through an experience like this.”

In the case of RESTLESS SPIRIT, the band name says it all, and in more than just one way. Their third album, “Afterimage”, embodies the East Coast trio’s aim of never wanting to sound exactly like before. Long Island deep-fried guitars meet pounding rhythms and emotionally raw vocals. Where the predecessor “Blood of the Old Gods” (2021) sometimes ushered the listener into twisted complexity, “Afterimage” delivers short, sharp shocks that hit straight home.

Lyrically, “Afterimage” is also born out of a restless spirit. Driven by tragedy and personal loss, singer and guitarist Paul Aloisio has put his heart and soul into the album. Confronted with a choice to deal with his pain in a healthy way or go down a destructive path, the singer and guitarist opted for the former but months later found his words to be prophetic for doing the latter. Deciding that artistry requires honesty, Alosio wanted to share his experience as a message to others in similar situations that they’re not alone in their despair. “Afterimage” might well be read as a cautionary tale.

Embarking on their musical journey very early in life, the band’s core of Aloisio and bassist Marc Morello met the summer before Kindergarten and grew up discovering music side by side. Channeling influences like BLACK SABBATH, TYPE O NEGATIVE, and THE SWORD and incorporating aggressive modern metal, unabashed stoner-doom pummeling, energetic changes, and stirring, earnest vocals, their band was finally christened RESTLESS SPIRIT in 2019. Their debut full-length “Lord of the New Depression” (2019) fit equally well into the stoner, doom, and sludge molds, while on “Blood of the Old Gods”, the three-piece developed a more varied, melodic approach with added complexity.

Discontent at being sometimes labelled ‘progressive’, RESTLESS SPIRIT, true contrarians that they are, avoided overly-long songs and excessive ornamentation on “Afterimage”, intentionally eliminating anything that might distract from the new album’s direct, crushing immediacy.

On the live front, the Long Island band has undertaken several tours in support of “Blood of the Old Gods” and shared stages with the likes of CROWBAR, THE OBSESSED and CANNIBAL CORPSE. They will return to the road in winter 2023/24 to present “Afterimage”.

With “Afterimage”, RESTLESS SPIRIT deliver a massive punch to the gut that actually feels damn great once the initial pain subsides.

1. Marrow
2. Shadow Command
3. Of Spirit and Form
4. All Furies
1. Brutalized
2. The Fatalist
3. Hell’s Grasp
4. From the Dust Returned

Guest musicians
Scott “Wino” Weinrich – guitars on ‘The Fatalist’
Mike Hill – vocals on ‘Shadow Command’

Recording by John Forrestal at The Animal Farm, Flemington, NJ USA
Mix & mastering by Jonathan Nuñez at Sound Artillery Studios, Miami, FL, USA
Cover Art by Luca “Solomacello” Martinelli
Layout by Marc Christoforidis

25 AUG 2023 Masapequa, NY (US) VFW Hall
30 AUG 2023 Brooklyn, NY (US) St Vitus
01 SEP 2023 Montague, MA (US) RPM Fest
19 SEP 2023 Memphis, TN (US) Hi-Tone Cafe
21 SEP 2023 Austin TX (US) RippleFest Texas
25 SEP 2023 Mesa, AZ (US) Nile Underground
26 SEP 2023 Los Angeles, CA (US) Knuckleheads
27 SEP 2023 Sacramento, CA (US) Cafe Colonial
28 SEP 2023 Springfield, OR (US) The Spot
29 SEP 2023 Portland, OR (US) Highwatermark
30 SEP 2023 Seattle, WA (US) Funhouse
01 OCT 2023 Bellingham, WA (US) The Shakedown
29 OCT 2023 Amityville, NY (US) Amityville Music Hall

Paul Aloisio – guitar, vocals
Jon Gusman – drums
Marc Morello – bass



Restless Spirit, “Marrow” official video

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Ripplefest Texas 2023: Complete Lineup Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

I don’t feel the need to even really say anything here. The lineup speaks for itself. And those who go to this year’s RippleFest Texas will also speak of it, for years, probably in a similar way people now talk about having been at this or that Emissions From the Monolith when that was going on in Ohio. The stuff of legend, in other words. Yeah, you can put on a fest and try to make it cool and fun, or you can do something like this and make it the highlight of everybody who attends’ year.

Kudos to Lick of My Spoon Productions and Ripple Music on a job well done. This will be something special. Bands have been leaked out one at a time at intermittent daily intervals, but the final lineup is out as of today, and it’s stunning. A blend of generations, a reach from on end of the country to the other, and a swath of the heavy underground all rallied in one place for a few days, pre- and after-parties included. Fucking a. If you’re attending, count yourself lucky.

As seen on socials:

Ripplefest Texas 2023

Here it is! The full lineup for RippleFest Texas #3! This will be one for the ages with a stacked lineup and lots of special treats in between. Get your tickets now!

Amazing art by @1horsetown

* playing the Pre-Party
+ playing the Afterparty

King Buffalo, Acid King, Brant Bjork Trio, Sasquatch, Wo-Fat, Fatso Jetson, Mondo Generator, Unida, The Well+, The Atomic Bitchwax, Telekinetic Yeti*, Duel, Forming the Void, Hippie Death Cult, High Desert Queen*, Avon, War Cloud, Rubber Snake Charmers, Spirit Mother+, Kind, Nick Oliveri, Thunder Horse, Royal Sons+, Restless Spirit*, (Big) Pig, Fostermother, Dead Feathers+, Rainbows Are Free, Warlung*, Sun Voyager, Red Mesa, Dunes, Tia Carrera+, Mr. Plow, The Heroine*, Michael Rudolph Cummings, The Absurd+, GoodEye*, Red Beard Wall, God Damn Good Time Band+

Plus a “Legends of the Desert and Friends” jam session to close out Saturday night!

And as always, the visuals by The Mad Alchemist Liquid Light Show

All-Access passes are SOLD OUT! All we have left are 2 Day Passes and Pre/Afterparty tickets available. Many more bands to be announced! Get your tickets now before the full lineup is revealed and the ticket price goes up!

FESTIVAL TIX: https://bit.ly/faroutxripplefest
PREPARTY TIX: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ripplefest-texas-pre-party-tickets-548171905927
AFTERPARTY TIX: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ripplefest-texas-afterparty-tickets-548185095377
FB EVENT: https://www.facebook.com/events/1351567998746933/



King Buffalo, “Regenerator” live at Sonic Whip 2023

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Restless Spirit Sign to Magnetic Eye Records; Blood of the Old Gods to Be Reissued

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

After arriving late in 2021 through Lifesblood Records, the sophomore LP from New York trio Restless Spirit, Blood of the Old Gods (review here), will now see release through Magnetic Eye Records, thereby positioning the band as East Coast labelmates to the likes of Caustic CasanovaRuby the HatchetHeavy TempleLeather Lung, and so on. The band have reportedly set to work on a follow-up third album, and while I haven’t seen word that their prior outing, 2019’s Lord of the New Depression (review here), will likewise be reissued, revisiting Blood of the Old Gods in wider distribution, hopefully at a time of year not so traditionally inactive, will only do it and the band good.

Kudos to them and to Magnetic Eye on the pickup. This came through the other day and has been waiting patiently on the PR wire since. Note the live shows set for the next couple months:

restless spirit

RESTLESS SPIRIT sign with Magnetic Eye Records

RESTLESS SPIRIT have signed a deal with Magnetic Eye Records, joining the label as its first and hottest signing of the year. The driving sludge-prog trio from New York join Magnetic Eye on the heels of self-releasing their acclaimed second album “Blood of the Old Gods” in late 2021, and are already at work on new material for the label, as well as a preparing for a worldwide reissue of their latest offering.

RESTLESS SPIRIT comment: “When we started Restless Spirit, we decided that we were not going to compromise”, writes guitarist and vocalist Paul Aloisio. “We would do things our way and follow our vision completely on our own until we found our match in a label that we truly feel understands us. We are happy to announce that we have found exactly that in Magnetic Eye Records. We appreciate the laser focus they have for finding original and eclectic artists, and we feel honored to now be counted among them. As for the first order of business, they will be releasing our latest album “Blood of the Old Gods” worldwide, giving it the treatment that we believe it deserves. We are immensely thankful to Jadd and Magnetic Eye for seeing the potential in this album and taking us on. Writing has already started on the next record that we will be releasing through the label, and we are determined to make it even heavier and more exciting than anything that we have done thus far. Our vision is as focused as ever, so get ready!”

Jadd Shickler welcomes RESTLESS SPIRIT: “This label was founded and built into what it is today in New York, and there’s a vibe to Restless Spirit that grabbed us immediately”, tells the Magnetic Eye director. “Besides writing songs with massive hooks and tons of energy, these guys are driven and capable as hell, and nothing gets a label more interested than a band who hardly seems to need a label. These guys have been making serious headway on their own, from putting out killer music to getting out on tour, and we can hardly wait to see what they do when we put the weight of our experience and resources behind their single-minded focus. We are immensely pleased to welcome RESTLESS SPIRIT to our roster!”

Magnetic Eye will reissue RESTLESS SPIRIT’s latest album “Blood of the Old Gods” in new CD and vinyl editions later in 2022, giving the impressive release worldwide distribution for the first time.

RESTLESS SPIRIT have announced a fresh set of US dates in support of “Blood of the Old Gods”. Among some one off shows, the trio will also support TOMBS and CLOAK in April and ACID WITCH in May. Please see below for a complete list of currently announced shows.

26 MAR 2022 Amityville, NY (US) Amityville Music Hall +Extinction AD
05 APR 2022 Providence, RI (US) Dusk +Tombs + Cloak
06 APR 2022 Philadelphia, PA (US) Silk City +Tombs + Cloak
07 APR 2022 Baltimore, MD (US) Metro Gallery +Tombs + Cloak
08 APR 2022 Winston Salem, NC (US) Break Time +Tombs + Cloak
09 APR 2022 Greenville, SC (US) Radio Room +Tombs + Cloak
10 APR 2022 Atlanta, GA (US) Boggs +Tombs + Cloak
16 APR 2022 Brooklyn, NY (US) Kingsland +Evoken +Tombs
09 May 2022 Chicago, IL (US) Reggie’s +Acid Witch
10 May 2022 St Louis, MO (US) Red Flag +Acid Witch
11 May 2022 Oklahoma City, OK (US) Oil Room +Acid Witch
12 May 2022 Tulsa, OK (US) Whittier Bar
13 May 2022 Ft Worth, TX (US) Ridglea Lounge
14 May 2022 New Orleans, LA (US) Santos +Acid Witch
15 May 2022 Nashville, TN (US) Springwater +Acid Witch
20 May 2022 Richmond, VA (US) The Camel, Big Takeover Fest
25 May 2022 Brooklyn, NY (US) Elsewhere Zone One +SOM

Paul Aloisio – Vocals, Guitars
Jon Gusman – Drums
Marc Morello – Bass


Restless Spirit, Blood of the Old Gods (2021)

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Restless Spirit Stream Blood of the Old Gods in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Restless Spirit (Photo by Wyatt Terwilliger)

Tomorrow marks the release date for Restless Spirit‘s second full-length, Blood of the Old Gods. It is the follow-up to the Long Island-based trio’s 2019 debut, Lord of the New Depression, and it brings guitarist/vocalist Paul Aloisio, bassist Marc Morello and drummer Jon Gusman into conversation with its titular deities, channeling 38 minutes of vibes drawing from the likes of Black Sabbath and Type O Negative, building on a foundation of weighted doom rock that, from “Judgement and Exile” onward, is big on tone and groove alike. Aloisio‘s vocal approach, laced with echo as it is, will ring familiar as a source (acknowledged by the band) of that Type O Negative comparison, but there’s more happening melodically and instrumentally throughout than just that one thing. With each half of the album given its own intro — opener “The Betrayer” and tracklist-centerpiece “The Reclaimer,” respectively — Blood of the Old Gods touches on a progressive vision of doom that seems to be too unpretentious to call itself progressive. That suits me just fine.

“Judgement and Exile” and the subsequent “Crooked Timber of Humanity” are duly brash — the latter shorter and more directly riff-based than the former — and to coincide with the largesse is a Restless Spirit Blood of the Old Godsspaciousness that comes through the lead work as much as the nod that fills it. Restless Spirit‘s dynamic is locked in, and the sound of Blood of the Old Gods feels purposeful throughout the seven included songs, but neither are they interested in doing the same thing all the time, and that’s no less true in the noisy “The Reclaimer” answering the sweeter acoustics of “The Betrayer” than the metallic chug of “Cascade Immolator” seeming to hit even harder than did “Crooked Timber of Humanity” earlier, while also upping the tempo in its first moments. That sense of mounting intensity is a thread woven throughout Blood of the Old Gods — at least one of those gods played thrash — but it’s worth noting how modern the hook of the title-track feels, not just compared to “Crooked Timber of Humanity” with its blend of acoustic and electrics in its midsection and so on, but in its impact and presence alike, it’s right on the line between metal and doom, and draws from a varied (checkered?) past in a range of styles, the last acoustic stretch reminiscent of mid-period Opeth without sticking around long enough to overstate the point.

Same could be said of Blood of the Old Gods as a whole, but they reserve the most fitting summary of their aesthetic and to-this-point progression for the eight-minute capper “Haunted,” which twists around its guitar line with a sense of confrontation that’s as true to New York as was that rat dragging a slice of pizza, but is more methodical in its presentation and how it unfolds, layers of guitar finding expression in a soaring solo section as the track approaches the six-minute mark, thoughtful in its construction but still exciting in the delivery enough to elicit a “fucking a” when they bring it to a head and move into the final minute’s ending section, crashing out with a lumbering stomp that at last rumbles and feedbacks into a quick fade. It is apparent in listening to Blood of the Old Gods what Restless Spirit are building for themselves in terms of sound, and coming off of Lord of the New Depression, the refinement that’s underway in their approach feels on the verge of the next stage of its realization. That is to say, the accomplishments of this sophomore long-player may in time serve just as much as the ground from which they move forward for a third. Potential, even manifest in what they craft here, remains significant.

It’s my pleasure to host the album stream on the day before the release. Find it below, followed by words from the band, and please enjoy.

Restless Spirit on Blood of the Old Gods:

BLOOD OF THE OLD GODS, our second full length, was written in rapid fire succession over the course of a single month. The album came together organically – nothing felt forced or strained. While our previous full length LORD OF THE NEW DEPRESSION is by no means a “bad” album, we felt that it did not fully represent the sound of the band. On BLOOD, it was decided that if we were going to compromise or do anything we weren’t fully satisfied with, we weren’t going to do it at all. No second album, no more EPs, no more band. In essence, this record saved Restless Spirit.

Lyrically, the album follows the central character of The Betrayer. It is a concept album focused around the idea of going against the status quo and defying a society built around gratification through excess, manipulation, and deception. The realization that your heroes, your friends, your family can sometimes be the worst perpetrators of the things you despise.. It relates the struggle of simply doing what you feel is right, and while we are told that this is an easy task, it simply is not always true. This world is due for a change – as destructive as the path forward may be.

Musically, we looked to the past for inspiration. Black Sabbath, of course, and to a large degree Led Zeppelin IV. Their use of acoustics and those huge, natural sounding drums, along with the power of the vocals and the strength of the electric guitar on that album is unmatched. As always, the haunting reverb and ambience of Type O Negative’s entire discography was a huge influence for us.

Recorded and mixed by Evan Perini at Shellshock Audio
Mastered by Bill Henderson at Azimuth
Layout by Marc Christoforidis
Released by Lifesblood Records

Paul Aloisio – Vocals, Guitars
Jon Gusman – Drums
Marc Morello – Bass

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website


Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

Asthma Castle on Thee Facebooks

Hellmistress Records website


The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp


Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

Bask on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist on Bandcamp


Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

Faerie Ring on Thee Facebooks

King Volume Records on Bandcamp


Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

Desert Sands on Thee Facebooks

A Recordings on Thee Facebooks


Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

Cavalcade on Thee Facebooks

Cavalcade on Bandcamp


Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

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Restless Spirit on Bandcamp


Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

Children of the Sün on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks


Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Off the Record Label BigCartel store


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