Quarterly Review: Paradise Lost, Alastor, Zahn, Greynbownes, Treebeard, Estrada Orchestra, Vestamaran, Low Flying Hawks, La Maquinaria del Sueño, Ananda Mida

Posted in Reviews on July 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

The days grow long, but the Quarterly Review presses onward. I didn’t know when I put this thing together that in addition to having had oral surgery on Monday — rod in for a dental implant, needs a crown after it heals but so far no infection; penciling it as a win — this second week of 10 reviews per day would bring my laptop breaking and a toddler too sick to go to camp for three hours in the morning. If you’re a fan of understatement, I’ll tell you last week was easier to make happen.

Nevertheless, we persist, you and I. I don’t know if, when I get my computer back, it will even have all of these records on the desktop or if the hard-drive-bed-shitting that seems to have taken place will erase that along with such inconsequentials as years of writing and photos of The Pecan dating back to his birth, but hey, that desktop space was getting cleared one way or the other. You know what? I don’t want to think about it.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Paradise Lost, At the Mill

Paradise Lost At the Mill

If Paradise Lost are trying to hold onto some sense of momentum, who can blame them? How many acts who’ve been around for 33 years continue to foster the kind of quality the Yorkshire outfit brought to 2020’s studio outing, Obsidian (review here)? Like, four? Maybe? So if they want to put out two live records in the span of three months — At the Mill follows March’s Gothic: Live at Roadburn 2016, also on Nuclear Blast — one isn’t inclined to hold a grudge, and even less so given the 16-song setlist they offer up in what was the captured audio from a livestream last Fall, spanning the bulk of their career and including requisite highlights from ’90s-era landmarks Gothic and Icon as well as Obsidian features “Fall From Grace,” “Ghosts” and “Darker Thoughts,” which opened the studio LP but makes a rousing finisher for At the Mill.

Paradise Lost on Facebook

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Alastor, Onwards and Downwards

alastor onwards and downwards

The second long-player from Sweden’s Alastor is a surprising but welcome sonic turn, pulling back from the grimness of 2018’s Slave to the Grave (review here) in favor of an approach still murky and thick in its bottom end, but sharper in its songwriting focus and bolder melodically right from the outset on “The Killer in My Skull.” They depart from the central roll for an acoustic stretch in “Pipsvängen” after “Nightmare Trip” opens side B and just before the nine-minute title-track lumbers out its descent into the deranged, but even there the four-piece hold the line of obvious attention to songcraft, instrumental and vocal phrasing, and presentation of their sound. Likewise, the spacious nod on “Lost and Never Found” caps with a shorter and likewise undeniable groove, more Sabbath than the Queens of the Stone Age rush of “Death Cult” earlier, but with zero dip in quality. This takes them to a different level in my mind.

Alastor on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

Zahn, Zahn

Zahn Zahn

Its noise-rock angularity and tonal bite isn’t going to be for everyone, but there’s something about Zahn‘s unwillingness to cooperate, their unwillingness to sit still, that makes their self-titled debut a joy of a run. Based in Berlin and comprised of Felix Gebhard (Einstürzende Neubauten keyboards) as well as drummer Nic Stockmann and bassist Chris Breuer (both of HEADS.), the eight-tracker shimmers on “Tseudo,” punkjazzes on lead cut “Zerrung,” goes full krautrock drone to end side A on “Gyhum” and still has more weirdness to offer on the two-minute sunshine burst of “Schranck,” “Lochsonne Schwarz,” “Aykroyd” and finale “Staub,” all of which tie together in one way or another around a concept of using space-in-mix and aural crush while staying loway to the central pattern of the drums. “Aykroyd” is brazen in showing the teeth of its guitar work, and that’s a pretty solid encapsulation of Zahn‘s attitude across the board. They’re going for it. You can take the ride if you want, but they’re going either way.

Zahn on Facebook

Crazysane Records website

 

Greynbownes, Bones and Flowers

Greynbownes bones and flowers

Bones and Flowers is a welcome return from Czech Republic-based heavy rockers Greynbownes, who made their debut with 2018’s Grey Rainbow From Bones (review here), and sees the trio foster a progressive heavy flourish prone to Doors-y explosive vocal brooding tempered with Elder-style patience in the guitar lines and rhythmic fluidity while there continues to be both an underlying aggressive crunch and a sense of Truckfighters-ish energy in “Dream Seller,” some blues there and in “Dog’s Eyes” and opener “Wolves” besides, and a willful exploratory push on “Burned by the Sun and Swallowed by the Sea,” which serves as a worthy centerpiece ahead of the rush that comprises much of “Long Way Down.” Further growth is evident in the spaciousness of “Flowers,” and “Star” feels like it’s ending the record with due ceremony in its largesse and character in its presentation.

Greynbownes on Facebook

Greynbownes on Bandcamp

 

Treebeard, Nostalgia

Treebeard Nostalgia

One can’t argue with Melbourne heavy post-rockers Treebeard‘s impulse to take the material from their prior two EPs, 2018’s Of Hamelin and 2019’s Pastoral, and put it together as a single full-length, but Nostalgia goes further in that they actually re-recorded, and in the case of a track like “The Ratchatcher,” partially reworked the songs. That makes the resultant eight-song offering all the more cohesive and, in relation to the prior versions, emphasizes the growth the band has undertaken in the last few years, keeping elements of weight and atmosphere but delivering their material with a sense of purpose, whether a give stretch of “8×0” is loud or quiet. Nostalgia effectively pulls the listener into its world, duly wistful on “Pollen” or “Dear Magdalena,” with samples adding to the breadth and helping to convey the sense of contemplation and melodic character. Above all things, resonance. Emotional and sonic.

Treebeard on Facebook

Treebeard on Bandcamp

 

Estrada Orchestra, Playground

Estrada Orchestra Playground

Estonian five-piece Estrada Orchestra recorded Playground on Nov. 21, 2020, and while I’m not 100 percent sure of the circumstances in which such a recording took place, it seems entirely possible given the breadth of their textures and the lonely ambience that unfurls across the 22-minute A-side “Playground Part 1” and the gradual manner in which it makes its way toward psychedelic kraut-drone-jazz there and in the more “active” “Playground Part 2 & 3” — the last part chills out again, and one speaks on very relative terms there — it’s entirely possible no one else was around. Either way, headphone-ready atmosphere persists across the Sulatron-issued LP, a lushness waiting to be closely considered and engaged that works outside of common structures despite having an underlying current of forward motion. Estrada Orchestra, who’ve been in operation for the better part of a decade and for whom Playground is their fifth full-length, are clearly just working in their own dimension of time. It suits them.

Estrada Orchestra on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Vestamaran, Bungalow Rex

Vestamaran Bungalow Rex

Even in the sometimes blinding sunshine of Vestamaran‘s debut album, Bungalow Rex, there is room for shades of folk and classic progressive rock throughout the summery 10-tracker, which makes easygoing vibes sound easy in a way that’s actually really difficult to pull off without sounding forced. And much to Vestamaran‘s credit, they don’t. Their songs are structured, composed, engaging and sometimes catchy, but decidedly unhurried, unflinchingly melodic and for all their piano and subtle rhythmic intricacy, mostly pretense-free. Even the snare sound on “Grustak” feels warm. Cuts like “Risky Pigeon” and “Cutest Offender” are playful, and “Solitude” and closer “Only for You” perhaps a bit moodier, but Vestamaran are never much removed from that central warmth of their delivery, and the abiding spirit of Bungalow Rex is sweet and affecting. This is a record that probably won’t get much hype but will sit with dedicated audience for more than just a passing listen. A record that earns loyalty. I look forward to more.

Vestamaran on Facebook

Apollon Records website

 

Low Flying Hawks, Fuyu

low flying hawks fuyu

Three records in, to call what Low Flying Hawks do “heavygaze” feels cheap. Such a tag neither encompasses the post-rock elements in the lush space of “Monster,” the cinematic flourish of “Darklands,” nor the black-metal-meets-desert-crunch-riffing-in-space at the end of “Caustic Wing” or the meditative, post-Om cavern-delia in the first half of closer “Nightrider,” never mind the synthy, screamy turn of Fuyu‘s title-track at the halfway point. Three records in, the band refuse to let either themselves or their listenership get too comfortable, either in heavy groove or march or atmosphere, and three records in, they’re willfully toying with style and bending the aspects of genre to their will. There are stretches of Fuyu that, in keeping with the rest of what the band do, border on overthought, but the further they go into their own progressive nuance, the more they seem to discover they want to do. Fuyu reportedly wraps a trilogy, but if what they do next comes out sounding wildly different, you’d have to give them points for consistency.

Low Flying Hawks on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

 

La Maquinaria del Sueño, Rituales de los Alucinados

la maquinaria del sueno rituales de los alucinados

Cult poetry on “Enterrado en la Oscuridad,” garage rock boogie “Ayahuasca” and classic, almost-surf shuffle are the first impressions Mexico City’s La Maquinaria del Sueño make on their debut full-length, Rituales de los Alucinados, and the three-piece only benefit from the push-pull in different directions as the seven-song LP plays out, jamming into the semi-ethereal on “Maldad Eléctrica” only to tip hat to ’60s weirdo jangle on “Mujer Cabeza de Cuervo.” Guitars scorch throughout atop swinging grooves in power trio fashion, and despite the differences in tone between them, “Enterré mis Dientes en el Desierto” and “Ángel de Fuego” both manage to make their way into a right on haze of heavy fuzz ahead of the motoring finisher “La Ninfa del Agua,” which underscores the live feel of the entire procession with its big crashout ending and overarching vitality. Listening to the chemistry between these players, it’s not a surprise they’ve been a band for the better part of a decade, and man, they make their riffs dance. Not revolutionary, but cool enough not to care.

La Maquinaria del Sueño on Facebook

LSDR Records on Bandcamp

 

Ananda Mida, Karnak

Ananda Mida Karnak

A three-tracker EP issued through drummer Max Ear‘s (also of OJM) own Go Down Records, Karnak features an instrumental take on a previously-vocalized cut — “Anulios,” from 2018’s Anodnatius (review here) — an eight-minute live jam with Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man sitting in on guitar, and a live version of the Conny Ochs-fronted “The Pilot,” which opened 2019’s Cathodnatius, the cover of which continues to haunt one’s dreams, and which finds the German singer-songwriter channeling his inner David Byrne in fascinating ways. An odds-and-ends release, maybe, but each of these songs is worth the minimal price of admission on its own, never mind topped as they are together with the much-less-horrifying art. If this is a reminder to listen to Anada Mida, it’s a happy one.

Ananda Mida on Facebook

Go Down Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: Spelljammer, The Black Heart Death Cult, Shogun, Nadja, Shroud of Vulture, Towards Atlantis Lights, ASTRAL CONstruct, TarLung, Wizzerd & Merlin, Seum

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

We proceed onward, into this ever-growing swath of typos, lineup corrections made after posting, and riffs — more riffs! — that is the Quarterly Review. Today is Day Four and I’m feeling good. Not to say there isn’t some manner of exhaustion, but the music has been killer — today is particularly awesome — and that makes life much, much, much better as I’ve already said. I hope you’ve found one or two or 10 records so far that you’ve really dug. I know I’ve added a few to my best of 2021 list, including stuff right here. So yeah, we roll on.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip

spelljammer abyssal trip

To envision an expanse, and to crush it. Stockholm three-piece Spelljammer return five years after Ancient of Days (review here), with an all-the-more-massive second long-player through RidingEasy, turning their front-cover astronaut around to face the audience head on and offering 43 minutes/six tracks of encompassing largesse, topping 10 minutes in the title-track and “Silent Rift,” both on side B with the interlude “Peregrine” between them, after the three side A rollers, “Bellwether,” “Lake” and “Among the Holy” have tripped out outward and downward into an atmospheric plunge that is a joy to take feeling specifically geared as an invite to the converted. We are here, come worship with us. Also get crushed. Spelljammer records may not happen all the time, but you won’t be through “Bellwether” before you’re saying it was worth the wait.

Spelljammer on Facebook

RidingEasy Records website

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras

The Black Heart Death Cult Sonic Mantras

A deceptively graceful second LP from Melbourne’s The Black Heart Death Cult, Sonic Mantras pulls together an eight-song/45-minute run that unfolds bookended by “Goodbye Gatwick Blues” (8:59) and “Sonic Dhoom” (9:47) and in between ebbs and flows across shorter pieces that maximize their flow in whether shoegazing, heavygazing, blissing out, or whatever we’re calling it this week on “The Sun Inside” and “One Way Through,” or finding their way to a particularly deadened meadow on “Trees,” or tripping the light hypnotic on “Dark Waves” just ahead of the closer. “Cold Fields” churns urgently in its 2:28 but remains spacious, and everywhere The Black Heart Death Cult go, they remain liquefied in their sound, like a seemingly amorphous thing that nonetheless manages to hold its shape despite outside conditions. Whatever form they take, then, they are themselves, and Sonic Mantras emphasizes how yet-underappreciated they are in emerging from the ever-busy Aussie underground.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

 

Shogun, Tetra

Shogun Tetra

Tetra is the third long-player from Milwaukee’s Shogun, and in addition to the 10-minute “Delta,” which marries blues gargle with YOB slow-gallop before jamming out across its 10-minute span, it brings straight-shooter fuzz rockers like “Gravitas,” the someone-in-this-band-listened-to-Megadeth-in-the-’90s-and-that’s-okay beginnings of “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary” and likewise crunch of “Axiom” later, but also the quiet classic progressive rock of “Gone Forever,” and the more patient coming together of psychedelia and harder-hitting movement on closer “Maximum Ray.” Somewhat undercut by a not-raw-but-not-bursting-with-life production, pieces like “Buddha’s Palm/Aviary,” which gives over to a sweeter stretch of guitar in its second movement, and “Vertex/Universal Pain Center,” which in its back end brings around that YOB influence again and puts it to good use, are outwardly complex enough to put the lie to the evenhandedness of the recording. There’s more going on in Tetra than it first seems, and the more you listen, the more you find.

Shogun on Facebook

Shogun on Bandcamp

 

Nadja, Luminous Rot

Nadja Luminous Rot

Keeping up with Nadja has proven nigh on impossible over the better part of the last two decades, as the Berlin-by-way-of-Toronto duo have issued over 25 albums in 19 years, plus splits and live offerings and digital singles and oh my goodness I do believe I have the vapors that’s a lot of Nadja. For those of us who flit in and out like the dilletantes we ultimately are, Luminous Rot‘s aligning Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff with Southern Lord makes it an easy landmark, but really most of what the six-cut/48-minute long-player does is offer a reminder of the vital experimentalism the lazy are missing in the first place. The consuming, swelling drone of “Cuts on Your Hands,” blown-out sub-industrialism of “Starres,” hook of the title-track and careful-what-you-wish-for anchor riff of “Fruiting Bodies” — these and the noisily churning closer “Dark Inclusions” are a fervent argument in Nadja‘s favor as being more than a sometimes-check-in kind of band, and for immediately digging into the 43-minute single-song album Seemannsgarn, which they released earlier this year. So much space and nothing to lose.

Nadja on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Shroud of Vulture, Upon a Throne of Jackals

shroud of vulture upon a throne of jackals

Welcome to punishment as a primary consideration. Indianapolis death-doom four-piece hold back the truly crawling fare until “Perverted Reflection,” which is track three of the total seven on their debut full-length, Upon a Throne of Jackals, but by then the extremity has already shown its unrepentant face across the buried-alive “Final Spasms of the Drowned” and the oldschool death metal of “The Altar.” Centerpiece “Invert Every Throne” calls to mind Conan in its nod, but Shroud of Vulture are more about rawness than sheer largesse in tone, and their prone-to-blasting style gives them an edge there and in “Halo of Tarnished Light,” which follows. The closing pair of “Concealing Rabid Laughter” and “Stone Coffin of Existence” both top seven minutes and offset grueling tension with grueling release, but it’s the stench of decay that so much defines Upon a Throne of Jackals, as though somebody rebuilt Sunlight Studio brick for brick in Hoosier Country. Compelling and filthy in kind.

Shroud of Vulture on Facebook

Wise Blood Records website

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Towards Atlantis Lights, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Towards Atlantis Lights When the Ashes Devoured the Sun

Ultra-grueling, dramatic death-doom tragedies permeate the second full-length, When the Ashes Devoured the Sun, from UK-based four-piece Towards Atlantis Lights, with vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou and guitarist Ivan Zara at the heart of the compositions while bassist Riccardo Veronese and drummer Ivano Olivieri assure the impact that coincides with the cavernous procession matches in scope. The follow-up to 2018’s Dust of Aeons (review here), this six-track collection fosters classicism and modern apocalyptic vibes alike, and whether raging or morose, its dirge atmosphere remains firm and uncompromised. Heavy lumber for heavy hearts. The kind of doom that doesn’t look up. That doesn’t mean it’s not massive in scope — it is, even more than the first record — just that nearly everything it sees is downward. If there’s hope, it is a vague thing, lost to periphery. So be it.

Towards Atlantis Lights on Facebook

Kostas Panagiotou on Bandcamp

 

ASTRAL CONstruct, Tales of Cosmic Journeys

ASTRAL CONstruct Tales of Cosmic Journeys

It has been said on multiple occasions that “space is the place.” The curiously-capitalized Colorado outfit ASTRAL CONstruct would seem to live by this ethic on their debut album, Tales of Cosmic Journeys, unfurling as they do eight flowing progressions of instrumental slow-CGI-of-the-planets pieces that are more plotted in their course than jams, but feel built from jams just the same. Raw in its production and mix, and mastered by Kent Stump of Wo Fat, there’s enough atmosphere to let the lead guitar breathe, certainly, and to sustain life in general even on “Jettisoned Adrift in the Space Debris,” and the image evoked by “Hand Against the Solar Winds” feels particularly inspired given that song’s languid roll. The record starts and ends in cryogenic sleep, and if upon waking we’re transported to another place and another time, who knows what wonders we might see along the way. ASTRAL CONstruct‘s exploration would seem to be just beginning here, but their “Cosmos Perspective” is engaging just the same.

ASTRAL CONstruct on Instagram

ASTRAL CONstruct on Bandcamp

 

TarLung, Architect

TarLung Architect

Vienna-based sludgedrivers TarLung were last heard from with 2017’s Beyond the Black Pyramid (discussed here), and Architect continues the progression laid out there in melding vocal extremity and heavy-but-not-too-heavy-to-move riffing. It might seem like a fine line to draw, and it is, and that only makes songs like “Widow’s Bane” and “Horses of Plague” all the more nuanced as their deathly growls and severe atmospheres mesh with what in another context might just be stoner rock groove. Carcass circa the criminally undervalued Swansong, Six Feet Under. TarLung manage to find a place in stoner sludge that isn’t just Bongzilla worship, or Bongripper worship, or Bong worship. I’m not sure it’s worship at all, frankly, and I like that about it as the closing title-track slow-moshes my brain into goo.

TarLung on Facebook

TarLung on Bandcamp

 

Wizzerd & Merlin, Turned to Stone Chapter III

ripple music turned to stone chapter iii wizzerd vs merlin

Somewhere in the great mystical expanse between Kalispell, Montana, and Kansas City, Missouri, two practicioners of the riffly dark arts meet on a field of battle. Wizzerd come packing the 19-minute acoustic-into-heavy-prog-into-sitar-laced-jam-out “We Are,” as if to encompass that declaration in all its scope, while Merlin answer back with the organ-led “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure” (21:51), all chug and lumber until it’s time for weirdo progressive fusion reggae and an ensuing Purple-tinged psych expansion. Who wins? I don’t know. Ripple Music in releasing it in the first place, I guess. Continuing the label’s influential split series(es), Turned to Stone Chapter III pushes well over the top in the purposes of both acts involved, and in that, it’s maybe less of a battle than two purveyors joining forces to weave some kind of Meteo down on the heads of all who might take them on. If you’ve think you’ve got the gift, they seem only too ready to test that out.

Wizzerd on Facebook

Merlin on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Seum, Winterized

Seum Winterized

“Life Grinder” begins with a sample: “I don’t know if you need all that bass,” and the answer, “Oh, you need all that bass.” That’s already after “Sea Sick Six” has revealed the Montreal-based trio’s sans-guitar extremist sludge roll, and the three-piece seem only too happy to keep up the theme. Vocals are harsh, biting, grating, purposeful in their fuckall, and the whole 28-minute affair of Winterized is cathartic aural violence, except perhaps the interllude “666,” which is a quiet moment between “Broken Bones” and “Black Snail Volcano,” which finally seems to just explode in its outright aggression, nod notwithstanding. A slowed down Ramones cover — reinventing “Pet Sematary” as “Red Sematary” — has a layer of spoken chanting vocals layered in and closes out, but the skin has been peeled so far back by then and Seum have doused so much salt onto the wounds that even Bongzilla might cringe. The low-end-only approach only makes it more punishing and more punk rock at the same time. Fucking mean.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp

 

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Deathchant Premiere “Black Dirt” Video; Waste out Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

deathchant

Los Angeles rockers Deathchant release their second album, Waste, today on RidingEasy Records. As a follow-up to their 2019 self-titled debut, which came out through King Volume Records and Kozmik Artifactz — kudos to the band on their associations to-date; these are good backings to have — it is a seven-track outing full of arguments in its own favor. Be it the dirtied up proto-thrash of “Holy Roller” or the manner in which opener “Rails” — let’s assume they’re big fans of locomotive infrastructure — evolves from and devolves to psychedelic noise, galloping and bouncing in between like it ain’t no thing because in the end the universe gonna eat us all up anyhow, so here’s a hook while we can, the four-piece led by guitarist/vocalist T.J. Lemieux (who’s also worked with the revitalized Psychedelic Speed Freaks) bring cassette worthy skate-vibes to “Black Dirt” without saying a word about it, and after unleashing their inner Buzzo later in “Holy Roller,” they make a centerpiece of “Gallows,” with John Belino joining Lemieux in winding lead work — count bassist George Camacho in as well, at least at the start — while Colin Fahrner brings the propulsion on drums. Shove, shove, shove. Move forward. There’s no time to… what’s the word again?

“Waste” — which follows “Gallows” in leading off side B — answers back to “Holy Roller” in its metallic bite and mastery of urgency-born-of-stretched-noise duality, and “Plague” is a Lizzyian victory lap of harmonized lead guitar set to a backdrop of modern West deathchant wasteCoast stonerism, echoed shouts calling to mind Saviours, Red Fang and any number of others who, if you invited them to your house, would probably wreck up the place, apologize for doing so, and then keep doing it. Like “Rails” before it, “Waste” also gives itself over to noise, this time harsher feedback from which “Plague” bursts, and its own crashout comes with a shorter stretch of noise in front of closer “Maker.”

I don’t know if those elements are what Lemieux is talking about in emphasizing the band’s reliance on improv — there’s no shortage of live feel throughout, and if some of these solos and stuff like that were off the cuff, that’s easy enough to believe — but Deathchant largely hold to the basic tenets of verse/chorus across Waste, and even in the instrumental finale, there’s a sense of plot to the procession of movements. Whether that’s made up at the time it was recorded or not, it exists, and it’s to the band’s credit that one way or the other their material comes with a sense of the spontaneous along with perhaps more considered elements, even if that consideration came in overdubs afterward.

That’s a question of process, and while we’re giving credit to Deathchant on presentation, it’s worth including that the actual listening process of Waste invites precious little consideration of how it’s made beyond any dude-how’d-they-get-that-tone musings. This is heavy rock and roll, classic edged and coated in grit, no pretense, touching on metal but not hewn to aggro tenets. Not so much playing to style as stylistically playing. Fucking cool, man. If Deathchant were on the fest, you’d want to show up. They’ve got a killer half-hour set right here, and they only sound willing to bash you over the head with it if called upon to do so.

Right on.

“Black Dirt” video premieres below.

Deathchant, “Black Dirt” official video premiere

Waste will be available on LP, CD and download on June 25th, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Though you wouldn’t be able to tell by the concise structures and well-crafted songs, a lot of Deathchant’s music is improvised, both in the studio and live. That’s not to suggest their songs are jammy — they’re very tightly organized compositions. But the four musicians have that special musical telepathy that allows them to keep the song structures open-ended.

“Improv is a huge thing for us and always has been,” singer/guitarist T.J. Lemieux says. “The musical freedom to look at the other dudes in the band and be able to take things wherever we want to go is magical. I like the feel of flying off the hinges.”

Likewise, the band itself is similarly amorphous in its membership. “We run the band with an open door. No lineup is definitive,” Lemieux explains. On Waste, the lineup is: Lemieux, George Camacho on bass, Colin Fahrner on drums, and John Belino on second guitar.

Waste was recorded live in a rented cabin in the mountains of Big Bear, CA. “We packed a big-ass van and set up in the living room and kitchen,” Lemieux says. “Tracked it live, with overdubs after.” The whole album was recorded over two separate weekends, engineered by Steve Schroeder, who also recorded the band’s 2019 self-titled debut album.

Artist: Deathchant
Album: Waste
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: June 25, 2021
01. Rails
02. Black Dirt
03. Holy Roller
04. Gallows
05. Waste
06. Plague
07. Maker

Deathchant on Bandcamp

Deathchant on Instagram

RidingEasy Records website

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Alastor Announce Onwards and Downwards out May 28; Stream “Death Cult”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 17th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

alastor

Doomly Swedish four-piece Alastor will issue their sophomore full-length, Onwards and Downwards, on May 28 through RidingEasy Records. To go with that announcement, they’re streaming the track “Death Cult,” to which I’ve listened all of once and already have the hook stuck in my head. It is four and a half minutes I will not regret and serves notice of a cohesion in the band’s sound that even their 2018 debut, Slave to the Grave (review here), hadn’t quite locked in. There’s even a line of piano, which is the source I think of the PR wire’s Queens of the Stone Age comparison below, reminiscent of “Go With the Flow” from Songs for the Deaf. Certainly Alastor build a rush of momentum throughout the new track that does justice to that line drawn.

Worth noting that they recorded Onwards and Downwards with Joona Hassinen (also of Year of the Goat), who mixed and mastered the last album, at Studio Underjord in Norrköping, which is well established in capturing heavy sounds for the likes of SkraeckoedlanDomkraftHazemazeMaidaVale and others.

Track follows the info, as ever. Preorders are up. Dig it:

alastor onwards and downwards

Alastor share first single from forthcoming album

Swedish rock band Alastor share the first single from their forthcoming album Onwards and Downwards.

Excelsior! It’s the hail of yore that one should go ever onward and upward. And so, fittingly Onwards and Downwards is the occultist Swedish band Alastor’s clever call to arms… and also a reflection of our collective dark state of mind these days.

“If our last album Slave to the Grave were about death, this record is more about madness,” says guitarist Hampus Sandell. “You can look at the whole record as one person’s gradual slip into insanity. An ongoing nightmare without end. It also sums up the state of the world around us as this year has clearly shown.”

Alastor is heavy doom rock for the wicked and depraved. Drenched in heavy, distorted darkness and steeped in occult horror that will make your skin crawl and ears cry sweet tears of blood, the band is revitalized in 2021 with meticulously crafted songs and new drummer Jim Nordström bringing a hard-hitting and precise energy.

“It’s a more focused record but at the same time it’s more personal and naked. More raw emotion and pain,” Hampus says. The band recorded the album with the help of Joona Hassinen of Studio Underjord, who has helped with mixing since their ”Blood on Satan’s Claw” EP in 2017. Christoffer Karlsson of The Dahmers also assisted with overdubs and encouraged the band to demo the material early on, aiding in the album’s more deliberate and tighter feel.

From the first note of opener “The Killer In My Skull” the guitars are far thicker and out front than ever, and Nordström pummels the snare and kick like a young Dave Grohl. Bassist/vocalist Robin Arnryd’s chorus-drenched voice soars above it all like a one-man choir, at times harmonizing beautifully with shimmering Hammond organ notes. Nary a moment is wasted on the droning navel-gazing of lesser bands. Particularly, the driving anthem “Death Cult” which sounds like it would fit comfortably on QOTSA’s Songs For The Deaf, though there’s considerably more heft here. The title track pays its due to the Devil’s tritone in a marvelously woven framework of intertwining melodies befitting the album’s theme of descent into madness.

The quartet released its epic 3-song debut album Black Magic in early 2017 via Twin Earth Records, followed by the 2-track “Blood On Satan’s Claw” EP on Halloween the same year. Joining forces with RidingEasy Records in 2018, Alastor summoned the 7-track hateful gospel Slave To The Grave, which was packed with dynamic twists and turns, and funereal girth. It was met with considerable praise, setting the stage for the band’s greatest step onward (and upward… or downward, depending on your preferences.)

Onwards and Downwards will be available on LP, CD and download on May 28th, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Tracklisting:
01. The Killer In My Skull
02. Dead Things In Jars
03. Death Cult
04. Nightmare Trip
05. Pipsvängen
06. Onwards and Downwards
07. Lost and Never Found

facebook.com/alastordoom
alastordoom.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecords.com

Alastor, “Death Cult”

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Album Review: Here Lies Man, Ritual Divination

Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

here lies man ritual divination

Ritual Divination is billed as the fourth full-length from Los Angeles outfit Here Lies Man. The release it follows is 2019’s No Ground to Walk Upon (review here), which at 26 minutes was shorter than either of their first two albums — 2017’s self-titled debut (review here) and 2018’s You Will Know Nothing (review here) — and at the time billed as an EP. This is bookkeeping, but Ritual Divination is the fourth Here Lies Man album and not the third, it only brings into emphasis the dilemma facing the band at this stage in their development. That is, for founding guitarist/vocalist Marcos Garcia (aka Chico Mann) and drummer Geoff Mann, as well as bassist JP Maramba and keyboardist Doug Organ, the central innovation of their work has always been conceptual. Here Lies Man‘s project began with the intention of bringing together classic-style heavy rock and proto-metallic riffs and tones with Afrobeat-derived rhythms and percussion. It has worked and continues to work well for them, but Ritual Divination brings them face-first up against the question of what comes next? When you’ve started out from such an individualized point, what can you do to maintain not just your own interest, but that of your listenership as well?

My understanding, limited at the best of times, is that the vinyl edition of Ritual Divination leaves off the tracks “Can’t Kill It,” “Run Away Children,” “I Wander,” “You Would Not See From Heaven” (a highlight) and “Cutting Through the Tether,” all of which are listed on the digital version, the latter closing. Okay. Entirely possible that the band or RidingEasy Records, which has put out everything they’ve done to-date, didn’t want to do a 2LP pressing the first time out. But as it stands, the ‘complete’ Ritual Divination runs 15 songs and 60 minutes long, more than doubling No Ground to Walk Upon and easily surpassing the first two records as well. Glut of inspiration? Certainly possible, and if so, good for them. But it also goes to answer the question above of what a band can do when their central innovation has already been accomplished. In the case of Here Lies Man, their restless snare, post-Black Sabbath riffs, clavinet and psychedelic undertones sound like a signature in songs like “Collector of Vanities” and “Underland,” even as they work in new and more complex ideas. So that’s what you do. You refine what you’ve done before.

You bring new textures to an insistent groove like “Night Comes.” You open the record with its trip-doomiest inclusion “In These Dreams,” which flows into the landmark that is “I Told You (You Shall Die),” the two of them making for an immersion effect clearly intentional on the part of the band since they’re the two longest songs on the vinyl — on the download, “Cutting Through the Tether” bookends at 5:26; I’m not sure how many songs are actually on the CD but of course the full hour would fit — and you shift from there into a series of flowing nods, from the relative brevity of the 2:29 “Underland” into the national acrobatics of “What You See” and the shuffle and swirl that arrives in “Can’t Kill It,” a deceptive fullness of wash playing out above all that movement of rhythm. As one would expect from Here Lies Man, most of their songs are in the three-to-four-minute range, but individual tracks stand out on Ritual Divination in ways they haven’t before, whether it’s the crunch of guitar in “Run Away Children” or the boogie-mastery of “I Wander,” and even amid a collection that resides on the other side of what one commonly things of unmanageable in terms of runtime, pieces find a way to distinguish themselves.

here lies man (Photo by Anna Azarov)-2000

And taken as a whole, that’s what Ritual Divination does as well — it finds a way to stand out. It doesn’t throw out the accomplishments Here Lies Man have made over the last several years as they’ve dug into their niche of heavy rock. It digs deeper. It is the tightest assemblage they’ve had in terms of structure, and yet the songs still feel spacious and even when hurried in tempo, hurried with a purpose rather than feeling haphazard in construction or underexplored in terms of craft. Ritual Divination isn’t deceptive in its atmosphere — it’s all right there for you to hear, and they make it as plain as they can for the audience by putting the two longer songs at the fore — but the band’s concept has always been somewhat heady and it remains so. How versed in Afrobeat is the average listener of heavy rock and roll? I haven’t taken a survey to find out, and maybe at this point it doesn’t matter, since (apparently) four records deep into their tenure, it’s entirely possible to put on centerpiece “Night Comes” or the subsequent side B run of “Come Inside,” “Collector of Vanities,” “Disappointed” and “You Would Not See From Heaven” and just go where Here Lies Man take you.

Certainly the band have earned that trust at this point, and ultimately, if one looks at Ritual Divination in context of their overarching progression, the shifts it represents in approach — notably, they recorded as a four-piece for the first time — and the tweaks to their sound and style aren’t all that different from how another group might grow naturally and explore new ideas from album to album. It’s just the starting point that’s different, and so as Here Lies Man dig deeper into that claim they’ve staked in terms of aesthetic, they’re all the more identifiable for the work they’ve put in. But throw all that out for a second and what you end up with on Ritual Divination is still arguably the band’s strongest collection of tracks, and by the time you get down to “The Fates Have Won” and “Out Goes the Night” ahead of the drifting-away-but-still-snare-anchored “Cutting Through the Tether,” that’s what’s going to matter more. Ritual Divination does not reinvent what doesn’t need reinventing. It demonstrates the longer arc of creative development and direction one hopes the band will continue to take. They remain unto themselves in sound and style.

Here Lies Man website

Here Lies Man on Thee Facebooks

Here Lies Man on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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Spelljammer Announce New LP Abyssal Trip out Feb. 26; Post “Lake”

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Oh hello feedback. Oh hello drums. Oh hello pummeling riff. Oh hello Spelljammer. It’s been a while. Indeed, half a decade has gone by since the Stockholm-based heft hefters released Ancient of Days (review here) in October 2015, their debut album, though to listen to the crush they foster in the seven-minute “Lake,” which is the first audio to be unveiled from the forthcoming second LP, Abyssal Trip, it hardly feels like a day. The three-piece will release Abyssal Trip — as in, “a trip to the abyss”; one can only assume they’re speaking in terms of tone — on Feb. 26, which is just far away enough to think that the world might be on some course toward restoration of ‘life as we knew it,’ though even saying that makes me fear the alternative, as I suspect it will into perpetuity.

Whatever reality greets it upon its arrival, the world needs more crushing riffs, and Spelljammer seem only too pleased to provide. You can read the PR wire info below — and you should, because information is good, knowledge is power and all that — and check out “Lake” at the bottom of this post because I genuinely believe it’ll make your day better.

Album preorders are up through RidingEasy Records, and the link is right on the other side of the cover art:

spelljammer abyssal trip

SPELLJAMMER (RidingEasy Records) first single from first new album in 5 years

Pre-orders: https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product/spelljammer-abyssal-trip/

“The vastness of everything is something that I think about a lot,” says Spelljammer bassist/vocalist Niklas Olsson. And it certainly shows in both the expansive, sludgy sounds and contemplative lyrics of the Stockholm, Sweden based trio. Following a 5-year break between their previous album, Ancient of Days — perhaps fittingly spent pondering said vastness — Spelljammer is back with an album that perfectly bridges the band’s earlier desert rock leanings and their later massive, slow-burning riffs.

Abyssal Trip (note: carefully re-read that album title) takes its moniker from the perpetually dark, cold, oxygen-free zone at the bottom of the ocean. The 6-song, 44-minute album fittingly embodies that bleak realm with rumbling, oozing guitars intercut with dramatic melodic interludes. The songs take their time to unfurl, making them even more hypnotic. Likewise, the lyrics take a poetic approach to establishing the sonic scenery.

“The lyrical themes we address, like the ultimate doom of man, and the search and longing for new and better worlds, are still there,” Olsson says. “The concept of something undiscovered out there in vast emptiness is pretty much always present.”

The recording process for Abyssal Trip differs from previous releases in that the band — guitarist Robert Sörling, drummer Jonatan Rimsbo and Olsson — opted to capture the performances while holed up in the mental bathysphere of a house in the countryside near Stockholm. “The songs benefitted from the relaxed environment of being away from everything,” Olsson explains. Indeed, the album sounds confident and meticulously arranged, afforded by the band’s isolation. Sörling mixed the album and it was mastered by Monolord drummer Esben Willems at Berserk Audio.

Album opener “Bellwether” begins dramatically with a very slow, nearly minute-long fade in of rumbling distortion setting the stage for heavily distorted bass and guitar plucking out the lugubrious riff for another minute and a half before the drums begin, and likewise equally as long before vocals gurgle to the surface. “Lake” abruptly shifts gears, opening with an unusually fast gallop before rupturing into thundering doom that soon drops into a clean-tone Middle Eastern melodic breakdown. The title track serves as the album centerpiece, opening with ominous film dialogue about blood sacrifice that launches into pummeling, detuned guitars rumbling over gut-punching drums and howling vocals hearkening to the proto-sludge of Pink Floyd’s “The Nile Song.” The dynamic relents briefly for a slow building clean guitar melody before all instruments lock into a jerking riff topped off by a trilling Iommi style lead. Throughout, Abyssal Trip is, just like its title suggests, an epic tour through desolate zones which yields much to discover.

Abyssal Trip will be available everywhere on LP, CD and download on February 26th, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Artist: Spelljammer
Album: Abyssal Trip
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: February 26, 2021

01. Bellwether (6:38)
02. Lake (7:04)
03. Among The Holy (6:18)
04. Abyssal Trip (10:38)
05. Peregrine (2:22)
06. Silent Rift (10:09)

Spelljammer are:
Niklas Olsson: bass/vocals
Robert Sörling: guitar
Jonatan Rimsbo: drums

spelljammer.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/Spelljammer
ridingeasyrecords.com

Spelljammer, “Lake”

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Blackwater Holylight Finish Recording New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Blackwater Holylight have a new record in the can, and if you’ve spent the better part of your day, week, month, etc., doomscrolling various endtimes scenarios of escalating culture-war-as-actual-war, climate crisis, rampant plague, and so on, this might just be enough to hang your hat on for a little bit. 2019’S Veils of Winter (review here) was easily among the most repeat-listenable offerings of that so-long-ago-now year, and the fact that the Portland-based heavy psych rockers have returned to work with engineer Dylan White bodes well, even as they also brought in A.L.N. of Mizmor to produce.

What the hell, something to look forward to. I’m still pretty bitter about not getting to catch Blackwater Holylight for what would’ve been the first time in my beloved Garden State on their game-called-on-account-of-pandemic tour with All Them Witches, but at least it’s good to know they were writing songs this year. You may also likely note in the studio picture below that synthesist Sarah Mckenna is very, very pregnant. The band noted in an earlier post she’s at nine months, so cheers on that and here’s hoping the studio had someplace comfortable to sit.

Obviously I haven’t seen a release plan or even a title for what will be Blackwater Holylight‘s third album, presumably for RidingEasy Records, but when I do I’ll let you know. In the meantime, if you want to take the opportunity to pay Veils of Winter a revisit, it’s as good a time as any and the Bandcamp stream follows here.

The band’s Instagram post was short and sweet and went like this:

blackwater holylight in studio

That’s a wrap! Was such a pleasure working with @whollydoomedblackmetal and @glasswavs… fucking dream team, dream family, we are bursting! Excited to share with you all soon.

https://www.facebook.com/blackwaterholylight/
instagram.com/blackwaterholylight
blackwaterholylight.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter (2019)

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Here Lies Man Announce Ritual Divination out Jan. 22; “I Told You (You Shall Die)” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

If I’m extraordinarily lucky, I’ll have the new single from Here Lies Man stuck in my head for the rest of the day. “I Told You (You Shall Die)” is a righteous lead cut from Jan. 2021’s Ritual Divination, which is the follow-up to 2019’s No Ground to Walk Upon EP (review here). As ever for the L.A.-based outfit, their sound brings niche cultism to Afrobeat-shuffling proto-metal, psychedelic flourishes of key and guitar set to dance to a rhythm that’s all their own in a heavy context. One does not necessarily expect a single track to speak for an entire Here Lies Man release at this point, since they’ve proven multiple times over on their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) and 2018 sophomore full-length, You Will Know Nothing (review here), that they’re able to veer in multiple directions without losing their footing in terms of craft, but I’ll say that the forward riff in “I Told You (You Shall Die)” is likewise welcome and doomed as a first impression. And the solo scorches.

This band is a treasure.

Ritual Divination is out Jan. 22 on RidingEasy. “I Told You (You Shall Die)” is streaming at the bottom of this post.

Art and info from the PR wire follows:

here lies man ritual divination

Here Lies Man – Ritual Divination – Jan. 22

Los Angles, CA quartet Here Lies Man announce their forthcoming fourth album Ritual Divination today and share the lead single “I Told You (You Shall Die)” via YouTube, Bandcamp and Spotify.

Four albums in, the convenient and generalized catchphrase for Here Lies Man’s erudite sound — if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat — might seem a little played out. But Ritual Divination is perhaps the best rendering of the idea so far. Particularly on the Sabbath side of the equation: The guitars are heavier and more blues based than before, but the ancient rhythmic formula of the clave remains a constant.

“Musically it’s an opening up more to traditional rock elements,” says vocalist/guitarist/cofounder Marcos Garcia, who also plays guitar in Antibalas. “It’s always been our intention to explore. And, as we travelled deeper into this musical landscape, new features revealed themselves.”

The L.A. based band comprised of Antibalas members have toured relentlessly following their breakout 2017 self-titled debut. Their second album, You Will Know Nothing and an EP, Animal Noises, both followed in 2018. Third album No Ground To Walk Upon emerged in August 2019. All of them were crafted by Garcia and cofounder/drummer Geoff Mann (former Antibalas drummer and son of jazz musician Herbie Mann) in their L.A. studio between tours. Ritual Divination is their first album recorded as the full 4-piece band, including bassist JP Maramba and keyboardist Doug Organ.

Ritual Divination continues with an ongoing concept of HLM playing the soundtrack to an imaginary movie, with each song being a scene. “It’s an inward psychedelic journey, the album is the trip,” Garcia says. “The intention and purpose of the music is to create a sonic ritual to lift the veil of inner space and divine the true nature of reality.”

Likewise, musically and sonically, the album is self-reflexive. “On this album the feel changes within a song,” Garcia says. “Whereas before each song was meant to induce a trancelike state, now more of the songs have their own arc built in.” Similarly, the guitar sounds themselves herein eschew the fuzz pedals of previous recordings, going for the directness of pure amp overdrive and distortion using an interconnected rig of 4 amplifiers. And, here, the well-versed live band is able to record as a unit, giving it much more of a live and dynamic feel.

“We’re very conscious of how the rhythms service the riffs,” Garcia explains. “Tony Iommi’s (Black Sabbath) innovation was to make the riff the organizing principle of a song. We are taking that same approach but employing a different organizing principle: For Iommi it was the blues, for us it comes directly from Africa.”

Ritual Divination will be available on LP, CD and download on January 22nd, 2021 via RidingEasy Records.

Artist: Here Lies Man
Album: Ritual Divination
Record Label: RidingEasy Records
Release date: January 22nd, 2021

01. In These Dreams
02. I Told You (You Shall Die)
03. Underland
04. What You See
05. Can’t Kill It
06. Run Away Children
07. I Wander
08. Night Comes
09. Come Inside
10. Collector of Vanities
11. Disappointed
12. You Would Not See From Heaven

hereliesman.com
facebook.com/hereliesman
hereliesman.bandcamp.com
ridingeasyrecs.com

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