Quarterly Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Dopethrone, Anandammide, Tigers on Opium, Bill Fisher, Ascia, Cloud of Souls, Deaf Wolf, Alber Jupiter, Cleen

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


It is an age of plenty as regards the underground. Between bands being able to form with members on different continents, to being able to record basically anything anywhere anywhen, the barriers have never been lower. I heard an all-AI stoner rock record the other day. It wasn’t great, but did it need to be?

The point is there’s gotta be a reason so many people are doing the thing, and a reason it happens just about everywhere, more than just working/middle class disaffection and/or dadstalgia. There’s a lot of documentary research about bands, but so far I don’t think anyone’s done a study, book, bio-doc, whatever about the proliferation of heavy sounds across geographies and cultures. No, that won’t be me. “Face made for radio,” as the fellow once said, and little time to write a book. But perhaps some riff-loving anthropologist will get there one day — get everywhere, that is — and explore it with artists and fans. Maybe that’s you.

Happy Thursday.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Nell’ Ora Blu

uncle acid and the deadbeats nell ora blu

My favorite part of the press release for Uncle Acid‘s Nell’ Ora Blu was when founding guitarist/vocalist and apparent-auteur Kevin Starrs said, “I know something like this might have limited appeal, but who cares?” Though it was initially billed as an instrumental record and in fact features Starrs‘ trademark creeper vocal melodies in a few of its 19 tracks, the early “Giustizia di Strada/Lavora Fino Alla Morte” and pretty-UncleAcidic-feeling “La Vipera,” and the later march of the seven-minute “Pomeriggio di Novembre Nel Parco – Occhi Che Osservano,” catchy and still obscure enough in its psychedelia to fit, and “Solo la Morte Ti Ammanetta,” though most of the words throughout are spoken — genre cinephiles will recognize the names Edwige French and Franco Nero; there’s a lot of talking on the phone, all in Italian — as Starrs pays homage to giallo stylization in soundtracking an imaginary film. It’s true to an extent about the limited appeal, but this isn’t the first time Uncle Acid have chosen against expanding their commercial reach either, and while I imagine the effect is somewhat different if you speak Italian, Starrs‘ songwriting has never been so open or multifaceted in mood. Nell’ Ora Blu isn’t the studio follow-up to 2018’s Wasteland (review here) one might have expected, but it takes some of those aspects and builds a whole world out of them. They should tour it and do a live soundtrack, but then I guess someone would also have to make the movie.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Facebook

Rise Above Records website

Dopethrone, Broke Sabbath

Dopethrone Broke Sabbath

If “fuck you” were a band, it might be Dopethrone. With six new tracks spread across a sample-laced (pretty sure Joe Don Baker is in there somewhere; maybe “Truckstop Warlock?”) and mostly-crushing-of-spirit-and-tone 39 minutes, the crusty Montreal trio of guitarist/vocalist Vince, bassist Vyk and drummer Shawn pound at the door of your wellness with their scum-sludge extremity, living up to their reputation in gnash and nastiness for the duration. The penultimate “Uniworse” brings in Weedeater‘s “Dixie” Dave Collins for a guest spot, but by the time they get there, the three-piece have already bludgeoned your bones with album-centerpiece “Shlaghammer” and loosed the grueling breadth of “Rock Slock,” so really, Collins is the gravy on the pill-based bottom-hitting binge. From opening single “Life Kills You” through the final punishing moments of “Sultans of Sins” — presumably a side B mirror in terms of heft to “Slaghammer” — and the choice Billy Madison sample that follows, Dopethrone offer a singular unkindness of purpose. I feel like I need a shower.

Dopethrone on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

Anandammide, Eura


Where even the melancholy progression of “Song of Greed” is marked by the gorgeousness of its dual-vocal melody and flowing arrangement of strings, guitar, and strings, Eura is the second full-length and Sulatron Records label-debut for Parisian psych-folkies Anandammide. At the core of the diverse arrangements is songwriter Michele Moschini (vocals, synth, organ, guitar, drums), who brings purposefully Canterburyian pastoralia together with prog rock tendencies on “Phantom Limb” and the title-track while maintaining the light-touch gentility of the start of “Carmilla,” the later flow between “Lullaby No. 2” and “Dream No. 1,” or the gracefully undrummed “I Am a Flower,” with synth and strings side-by-side. Though somewhat mournful in its subject matter, Eura is filled with life and longing, and the way the lyrics of “Phantom Limb” feel out of place in the world suits the aural anachronism and the escapist drive that seems to manifest in “The Orange Flood.” Patient, immersive, and lovely, it sees ruin and would give solace.

Anandammide on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

Tigers on Opium, Psychodrama

tigers on opium psychodrama

An awaited first full-length from Portland, Oregon’s Tigers on Opium, the 10-song/44-minute Psychodrama builds on the semi-sleazed accomplishments of the four-piece’s prior EPs while presenting a refreshingly varied sound. The album begins as “Ride or Die” unfolds with Juan Carlos Caceres‘ vocals echoing in layers over quiet guitar — more of an intro, it is reprised to deliver the title line as a post-finale epilogue — and directly dives into garage-doom strut with “Black Mass” before a Styx reference worked into “Diabolique” makes for an immediate, plus-charm highlight. The parade doesn’t stop there. The Nirvana-ish beginning of “Retrovertigo” soft-boogies and drifts into Jerry Cantrell-style melody backed by handclaps, while Thin Lizzy leads show up in “Sky Below My Feet” and the more desert rocking “Paradise Lost” ahead of the farther-back, open swing and push of “Radioactive” giving over to “Wall of Silence”‘s ’70s singer-songwriterism, communing with the “Ride or Die” bookend but expanded in its arrangement; capper-caper “Separation of the Mind” paying it all off like Queens of the Stone Age finding the Big Riff and making it dance, too. On vocals, guitar and keys, Caceres is a big presence in the persona, but don’t let that undercut the contributions of guitarist Jeanot Lewis-Rolland, bassist Charles Hodge or drummer Nate Wright, all of whom also sing. As complex in intent as Psychodrama is, its underlying cohesion requires everybody to be on board, and as they are, the resulting songs supersede expectation and comprise one of 2024’s best debut albums.

Tigers on Opium on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Bill Fisher, How to Think Like a Billionaire

Bill Fisher How To Think Like A Billionaire

Self-identifying as “yacht doom,” How to Think Like a Billionaire is the third solo full-length from Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s Bill Fisher, and while “Consume the Heart” and “Yell of the Ringman” tinge toward darkness and, in the case of the latter, a pointedly doomly plog, what the “yacht” translates to is a swath of ’80s-pop keyboard sounds and piano rock accompanying Fisher‘s guitar, vocals, bass and drums, a song like “Xanadu” sending up tech-culture hubris after “Ride On, Unicorn” has given a faux-encouraging push in its chorus, rhyming “Ride on, unicorn” with “In the valley of Silicon.” Elsewhere, “Overview Effect” brings the cover to life in imagining the apocalypse from the comfort of a private spaceship, while “Lead Us Into Fire” idolizes a lack of accountability in self-harmonizing layers with the thud that complements “Intranaut” deeper in the mix and the sense that, if you were a big enough asshole and on enough cocaine, it might just be possible Fisher means it when he sings in praise of capitalist hyperexploitation. A satire much needed and a perspective to be valued, if likely not by venture capital.

Bill Fisher on Facebook

Bill Fisher website

Ascia, The Wandering Warrior

ascia the wandering warrior

While one could liken the echo-born space that coincides with the gallop of opening cut “Greenland” to any number of other outfits, and the concluding title-track branches out both in terms of tempo and melodic reach, Ascia‘s debut long-player, The Wandering Warrior follows on from the project’s demoes in counting earliest High on Fire as a defining influence. Fair enough, since the aforementioned two are both the most recent included here and the only songs not culled from the three prior demos issued by Fabrizio Monni (also Black Capricorn) under the Ascia name. With the languid fluidity and impact of “Mother of the Wendol” and the outright thrust of “Blood Bridge Battle,” “Ruins of War” and “Dhul Qarnayn” set next to the bombastic crash ‘n’ riff of “Serpent of Fire,” Monni has no trouble harnessing a flow from the repurposed, remastered material, and picking and choosing from among three shorter releases lets him portray Ascia‘s range in a new light. That may not be able to happen in the same way next time around (or it could), but for those who did or didn’t catch the demos, The Wandering Warrior summarizes well the band’s progression to this point and gives hope for more to come.

Ascia on Bandcamp

Perpetual Eclipse Productions store

Cloud of Souls, A Constant State of Flux

Cloud of Souls A Constant State of Flux

Indianapolis-based solo-project Cloud of Souls — aka Chris Latta (ex-Spirit Division, Lavaborne, etc.) — diverges from the progressive metallurgy of 2023’s A Fate Decided (review here) in favor of a more generally subdued, contemplative presentation. Beginning with its title-track, the five-song/36-minute outing marks out the spaces it will occupy and seems to dwell there as the individual cuts play out, whether that’s “A Constant State of Flux” holding to its piano-and-voice, the melancholic procession of the nine-minute “Better Than I Was,” or the sax that accompanies the downerism of the penultimate “Love to Forgive Wish to Forget.” Each song brings something different either in instrumentation or vibe — “Homewrecker Blues” harmonizes en route to a momentary tempo pickup laced with organ, closer “Break Down the Door” offers hope in its later guitar and crash, etc. — but it can be a fine line when conveying monotony or low-key depressivism, and there are times where A Constant State of Flux feels stuck in its own verses, despite Latta‘s strength of craft and the band’s exploratory nature.

Cloud of Souls on Facebook

Cloud of Souls on Bandcamp

Deaf Wolf, Not Today, Satan

Deaf Wolf Not Today Satan

Not Today, Satan, in either its 52-minute runtime or in the range of its songcraft around a central influence from Queens of the Stone Age circa 2002-2005, is not a minor undertaking. The ambitious debut full-length from Berlin trio Deaf Wolf — guitarist/vocalist Christian Rottstock (also theremin on “Silence is Golden”), bassist/vocalist Hagen Walther and Alexander Dümont on drums and other percussion — adds periodic lead-vocal tradeoffs between Rottstock and Walther to further broaden the scope of the material, with (I believe) the latter handling the declarations of “Survivor” and the gurgle-voice on “S.M.T.P.” and “Beast in Me,” which arrive in succession before “The End” closes with emphasis on self-awareness. The earlier “Sulphur” becomes a standout for its locked-in groove, fuzz tones and balanced mix, while “See You in Hell” finds its own direction and potential in strut and fullness of sound. There’s room to refine some of what’s being attempted, but Not Today, Satan sets Deaf Wolf off to an encouraging start.

Deaf Wolf on Facebook

Deaf Wolf on Bandcamp

Alber Jupiter, Puis Vient la Nuit

Alber Jupiter Puis Vient la Nuit

Five years on from their also-newly-reissued 2019 debut, We Are Just Floating in Space, French instrumentalist heavy space rock two-piece Alber Jupiter — bassist Nicolas Terroitin, drummer Jonathan Sonney, and both of them on what would seem to be all the synth until Steven Michel guests in that regard on “Captain Captain” and the title-track — make a cosmic return with Puis Vient la Nuit, the bulk of which is unfurled through four cuts between seven and 10 minutes long after a droning buildup in “Intro.” If you’re waiting for the Slift comparison somewhat inevitable these days anywhere near the words “French” and “space,” keep waiting. There’s some shuffle in the groove of “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Captain Captain” before it departs for a final minute-plus of residual cosmic background, sure, but the gradual way “Pas de Bol Pour Peter” hits its midpoint apex and the wash brought to fruition in “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Puis Vient la Nuit” itself is digging in on a different kind of vibe, almost cinematic in its vocal-less drama, broad in dynamic and encompassing on headphones as it gracefully sweeps into the farther reaches of far out, slow in escape velocity but with depth in three dimensions. It is a journey not to be missed.

Alber Jupiter on Facebook

Foundrage Label on Bandcamp

Up in Her Room Records on Bandcamp

Araki Records on Bandcamp

Cleen, Excursion

cleen excursion

There’s something of a narrative happening in at least most of the 10 tracks of Cleen‘s impressive debut album, Excursion, as the character speaking in the lyrics drifts through space and eventually meets a perhaps gruesome end, but by the time they’re closing with “A Means to an End” (get it?), the Flint, Michigan, trio of guitarist/vocalist Patrick, bassist Cooley and drummer Jordan are content to leave it at, “I just wanna worship satan and go the fuck to sleep.” Not arguing. Their sound boasts an oozing cosmic ethereality that might remind a given listener of Rezn here and there, but in the post-grunge-meets-post-punk-oh-and-there’s-a-scream movement of “No One Remembers but You,” the punkier shove in the first half of “Year of the Reaper,” the dirt-fuzz jangle of “Aroya” and the sheer heft of “Menticidal Betrayal,” “Sultane of Sand” and “Fatal Blow,” Cleen blend elements in a manner that’s modern but well on its way to being their own in addition to being a nodding clarion for the converted.

Cleen on Facebook

Electric Desert Records website


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Quarterly Review: Nebula, Mountain of Misery, Page Williams Turner, Almost Honest, Buzzard, Mt. Echo, Friends of Hell, Red Sun, Wolff & Borgaard, Semuta

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Legend has it that a long time ago, thousands of years ago, before even the founding of the Kingdom of New Jersey itself, there was a man who attempted a two-week, 100-album Quarterly Review. He truly believed and was known to say to his goodlady wife, “Sure, I can do 100 releases in 10 days. That should be fine,” but lo, the gods did smite him for his hubris.

His punishment? That very same Quarterly Review.

Like the best of mythology, the lesson here is don’t be a dumbass and do things like 100-record Quarterly Reviews. Clearly this is a lesson I haven’t learned. Welcome to the next two weeks. Sorry for the typos. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Nebula, Livewired in Europe

Nebula Livewired in Europe

A busy 2023 continued on from a busy 2022 for SoCal heavy rockers Nebula as they supported their seventh album, Transmission From Mothership Earth (review here), and as filthy as was founding guitarist Eddie Glass‘ fuzz on that record, the nine-track (12 on the CD) Livewired in Europe pushes even further into the rawer stoner punk that’s always been at root in their sound. They hit Europe twice in 2023, in Spring and Fall, and in the lumbering sway of “Giant,” the drawl of “Messiah,” the Luciferian wink of that song and “Man’s Best Friend” earlier in the set, and the righteous urgency of what’s listed in the promo as “Down the Mother Fuckin’ Highway” or the shred-charged roll of “Warzone Speedwolf” in the bonus cuts, with bassist Ranch Sironi backing Glass on vocals and Mike Amster wailing away on drums — he’s the glue that never sounds stuck — they document the mania of post-rebirth Nebula as chaotic and forceful in kind, which is precisely what one would most hope for at the start of the gig. It’s not their first live outing, and hopefully it’s not the last either.

Nebula on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Mountain of Misery, The Land

mountain of misery the land

The self-recording/self-releasing Kamil Ziółkowski offers his second solo LP with The Land, following in short order from last Fall’s In Roundness (review here) and the two-songer issued a month after. At six songs and 35 minutes, The Land further distinguishes Mountain of Misery stylistically from Ziółkowski‘s main outfit, Spaceslug. Yes, the two bands share a penchant for textured tones and depth of mix (Haldor Grunberg at Satanic Audio mixed and mastered), and the slow-delivered melodic ‘gaze-style vocals are recognizable, but “The ’90s” puts Nirvana through this somewhat murky, hypnotic filter, and before its shimmering drone caps the album, on closer “Back Again,” the multi-instrumentalist/vocalist reminds a bit of Eddie Vedder. Seekers of nod will find plenty in “Awesome Burn” and the slightly harder-hitting “High Above the Mount” — desert rock in its second half, but on another planet’s desert — while the succession of “Path of Sound” and “Come on Down” feel specifically set to more post-rocking objectives; the plot and riffs likewise thickened. Most of all, it sounds like Mountain of Misery is digging in for a longer-term songwriting exploration, and quickly, and The Land only makes me more excited to find out where it’s headed.

Mountain of Misery on Facebook

Electric Witch Mountain Recordings on Facebook

Page Williams Turner, Page Williams Turner

page williams turner self titled

The named-for-their-names trio Page Williams Turner is comprised of electronicist/mixer Michael Page (Sky Burial, many others), drummer/percussionist Robert Williams (of the harshly brilliant Nightstick) and saxophonist Nik Turner (formerly Hawkwind, et al), and the single piece broken into two sides on their Opposite Records self-titled debut is a duly experimentalist, mic-up-and-go extreme take on free psychedelic jazz, drone, industrial noisemaking, and time-what-is-time-signature manipulation. “Rorrim I” is drawn cinematically into an unstable wormhole circa its 14th minute, and teases serenity before the listener is eaten by a giant spider in some kind of unknowable ritual, and while “Rorrim II” feels less manic on average, its cycles, ebbs and flows remain wildly unpredictable. That’s the point, of course. If the combination of personnel and/or elements seems really, really weird on paper, you’re on the right track. This kind of thing will never be for everybody, but those who can get on its level will find it transportive. If that’s you, safe travels.

Page Williams Turner at Opposite Records Bandcamp

Opposite Records website

Almost Honest, The Hex of Penn’s Woods

almost honest the hex of penn's woods

The spoken intro welcoming the listener to “the greatest and last show of your lives” at the head of the chugging “Mortician Magician” is a little over the top considering the straightforward vibe of much of what follows on the 10 tracks of 2023’s The Hex of Penn’s Woods from Pennsylvania-based heavy rockers Almost Honest, but whether it’s the banjo early or the cowbell later in “Haunted Hunter,” the post-Fu Manchu riffing and gang shouts of “Alien Spiders,” “Ballad of a Mayfly”‘s whistling, the organ in “Amish Hex” (video premiere here), the harmonies of “Colony of Fire,” a bit of sax on “Where the Quakers Dwell,” that quirk in the opener, the funk wrought throughout by Garrett Spangler‘s bass and Quinten Spangler‘s drumming, the metal-rooted intertwining of Shayne Reed and David Kopp‘s guitars or the structural solidity beneath all of it, the band give aural character to coincide with the regionalist themes based on their Pennsylvania Dutch, foothill-Appalachian surroundings, and they dare to make their third album’s 44 minutes fun in addition to thoughtful in its craft.

Almost Honest on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Buzzard, Doom Folk

buzzard doom folk

Based in Western Massachusetts, Buzzard is the solo-project of Christopher Thomas Elliott, and the title of his debut album, Doom Folk, describes his particular intention. As the 12-song/44-minute outing unfolds from the eponymous “Buzzard” at its outset (even that feels like a Sabbathian dogwhistle), the blend of acoustic and electric guitar forms the heart of the arrangements, but more than that, it’s doom and folk, stylistically, that are coming together. What makes it work is that Elliott avoids the trap of 2010s-ish neo-folk posturing as a songwriter, and while there’s a ready supply of apocalyptic mood in the lyrical storytelling and abundant amplified distortion put to dynamic use, the folk he’s speaking to is more traditional. Not lacking intricacy in their percussion, arrangements or melodies, you could nonetheless learn these songs and sing them. “Death Metal in America” alone makes it worth the price of admission, let alone the stellar “Lucifer Rise,” but the sweet foreboding and build of the subsequent “Harvester of Souls” gets even closer to Buzzard‘s intention in bringing together the two sides to manifest a kind of heavy that is immediately and impressively its own. Doom Folk on.

Buzzard on Facebook

Buzzard on Bandcamp

Mt. Echo, Cometh

mt echo cometh

Mt. Echo begin their third full-length primed for resonance with the expansive, patiently wrought “Veil of Unhunger,” leading with their longest track (immediate points) as a way of bringing the listener into the record’s mostly instrumental course with a shimmer of post-rock and later-emerging density of tone. The Nijmegen trio’s follow-up to 2022’s Electric Empire (review here) plays out across a breadth that extends beyond the 44-minute runtime and does more in its pieces than flow smoothly between its loud/quiet tradeoffs. “Round and Round Goes the Crown” brings a guest appearance from Oh Hazar guitarist/vocalist Stefan Kollee that pushes the band into a kind of darker, thoroughly Dutch heavy prog, but even that shift is made smoother by the spoken part on “Brutiful Your Heart” just before, and not necessarily out of line with how “Set at Rest” answers the opener, or the rumble, nod and wash that cap with “If I May.” The overarching sense of growth is palpable, but the songs express more atmospherically than just the band pushing themselves.

Mt. Echo on Facebook

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

Friends of Hell, God Damned You to Hell

friends of hell god damned you to hell

They’re probably to raw and dug into Satanic cultistry to agree, but with Per “Hellbutcher” Gustavsson (Nifelheim) on vocals, guitarists Beelzeebubth (Mystifier, etc.) and Nikolas “Sprits” Moutafis (Mirror, etc.), bassist Taneli Jarva (Impaled Nazarene, etc.) and drummer Tasos Danazoglou (Mirror, ex-Electric Wizard, etc.) in the lineup for second LP God Damned You to Hell, it’s probably safe to call Friends of Hell a supergroup. Such considerations ultimately have little to do with how the rolling proto-NWOBHM triumphs of “Bringer of Evil” and “Arcane Macabre” play out, but it explains the current of extremity in their purposes that comes through at the start with the title-track and the severity that surrounds in the layering of “Ave Satanatas” as they journey into the underworld to finish with the eight-minute “All the Colors of the Dark.” You’re either going to buy the backpatch or shrug and not get it, and that seems like it’s probably fine with them.

Friends of Hell on Instagram

Rise Above Records website

Red Sun, From Sunset to Dawn

Red Sun From Sunset to Dawn

Not to be confused with France’s Red Sun Atacama, Italian prog-heavy psych instrumentalists Red Sun mark their 10th anniversary with the release of their third album, From Sunset to Dawn, and run a thread of doom through the keyboardy “The Sunset Turns Purple” and “The Shape of Night” on side A to manifest ‘sunset’ while side B unfolds with airier guitar in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and “Towards the End of Darkness” en route to the raga-leaning “The New Sun,” but as much as there is to be said for the power of suggestion and narrative titling, it’s the music itself that realizes the progression described in the name of the album. With a clear influence from My Sleeping Karma in “The Coldness of the New Moon” and the blend of organic hand-percussion and digitized melody in “The New Sun,” Red Sun immerse the listener in the procession from the intro “Where Once Was Light” (mirrored by “Intempesto” at the start of side B) onward, with each song serving as a chapter in the linear concept and story.

Red Sun on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Wolff & Borgaard, Destroyer

wolff and borgaard destroyer

Cinematic enough in sheer sound and the corresponding intensity of mood to warrant the visual collaboration with Kai Lietzke that accompanies the audio release, the collaboration between Hamburg electronic experimentalist Peter Wolff (Downfall of Gaia) and vocalist Jens Borgaard (Knifefight!, solo) moves between minimalist soundscaping and more consuming, weighted purposes. Moments like the beginning of “Transmit” might leave one waiting for when the Katatonia song is going to kick in, but Wolff & Borgaard engage on their own level as each of the nine pieces follows its own poetic course, able to be caustic like the culmination of “Observe” or to bring the penultimate “Extol” to silence gradually before “Reaper” bursts to life with clearly intentional contrast. I heard this or that streaming service is making a Blade Runner 2099 tv series. Sounds like a terrible idea, but it might just be watchable if Wolff & Borgaard get to do the score with a similar evocations of software and soul.

Peter Wolff on Facebook

My Proud Mountain website

Semuta, Glacial Erratic

Semuta Glacial Erratic

The Portland, Oregon, two-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Benjamin Caragol (ex-Burials) and drummer Ben Stoller (currently also Simple Forms, Dark Numbers, ex-Vanishing Kids) do much to ingratiate themselves both to the crowded underground of which their hometown is an epicenter, and to the broader sphere of heavy-progressivism in modern doom and sludge. Across the five tracks of their self-released for now debut full-length, Glacial Erratic, the pair offer a panacea of heavy sounds, angular in the urgency of “Toeing the Line,” which opens, or the later thud of “Selective Memory” (the latter of which also appeared on their 2020 self-titled EP), which seem more kin to Baroness or Elder crashes and twists of “A Distant Light” or the interplay of ambience, roll, and sharpness of execution that’s been held in reserve for the nine-minute “Wounds at the Stem” as they leave off. Melody, particularly in Caragol‘s vocals, is crucial in tying the material together, and part of what gives Semuta such apparent potential, but they seem already to have figured out a lot about who they want to be musically. All of which is to say don’t be surprised when this one shows up on the list of 2024’s best debut albums come December.

Semuta on Facebook

Semuta on Bandcamp

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White Dog Post “F.D.I.C.”; New Album Double Dog Dare Out April 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

white dog

If you want a sense of some of the changes in White Dog‘s sound as the Austin-based ’70s-style heavy rockers make ready to unfurl their second full-length, Double Dog Dare, on April 5 with the backing of respected purveyor Rise Above Records, you don’t need to look far. The cover art is below. Check that logo. Then go ahead and dip back to their 2020 self-titled debut (review here) and take a look at that one — to make that easier, click here to pop out the image (click again to close) — then go ahead and listen to “F.D.I.C.,” streaming at the bottom of this post. Definitely some departure from the boogie and a bit of Southern-ish pastoralism in the melody of the new single, and the aesthetic of the new cover bears that out. Perhaps a little more ’74 than ’71, but then, time marches on.

A partially revamped lineup brings Jake LaTouf to the lead vocal role and Oscar Favian to keyboard, but personnel is only part of the shift being discussed here, and southbound seems like it might be just one of the directions Double Dog Dare ultimately heads. I don’t know about you, but I look forward to hearing this band do a radio jingle. They’re west of the Mississippi River, so I assume the call letters start with ‘K.’

The PR wire puts it all together:

white dog double dog dare

Texan Rockers WHITE DOG Drop New Single “F.D.I.C.”

New Album ‘Double Dog Dare’ Out April 5th via Rise Above Records

Pre-Order HERE: https://riseaboverecords.com/product/double-dog-dare/

Texan rockers WHITE DOG share “F.D.I.C.” the first single from their upcoming new album ‘Double Dog Dare’ which is due out on April 5th via Rise Above Records.

Returning after three years with their second studio album, ‘Double Dog Dare’, WHITE DOG has been reveling in a state of creative flux and is poised to share their revelations with the world.

“To say that we’ve gone through some changes in the last three years would be an understatement,” says drummer John Amoss. “After the release of our debut album, we had to make some tough decisions, one of them being the decision to replace our friend and original frontman, Joe Sterling. We also knew that we wanted to add organ and keyboards permanently. It took a long time to find the right players but finally, enter the new kids, our singer Jake LaTouf and Oscar Favian on keys.”

Recorded over a period of eight days at Stuart Sikes Audio (with engineer Andrew McCalla) in Austin, ‘Double Dog Dare’ takes all of their debut album’s deftly assembled ingredients and allows them to fly free, liberated from expectation. At times mellower than its predecessor, at others strident and ferocious, these new songs showcase WHITE DOG’s organic development, with elements of everything from wistful southern rock to crusty-eyed jazz rock finding a place. Somehow even more fluid and fiery than before, this band is growing and expanding before our ears.

“We learned a lot from recording our first record,” says John. “I’d say the biggest difference this go-round was that we were more focused and aware in the creative process. Early on we agreed that we wanted to add elements of southern music to the mix while still maintaining the core of our original sound. I’d be lying if I said everything just fell into place easily! We put our hearts and souls into these tunes. So in the end we felt like we were going into the studio with a solid group of songs.”

From thrilling, souled-out opener “Holy Smokes” to the gritty country rock of “Glenn’s Tune” and the meandering psych-prog blowout of album centerpiece “Frozen Shadows”, ‘Double Dog Dare’ is alive with great ideas and heartfelt authenticity. With a settled and refreshed line-up of Amoss, his guitarist brother Carl, bassist Rex Pape, guitarist Clemente De Hoyos, new vocalist Jake LaTouf, and keyboard maestro Oscar Favian, WHITE DOG have transcended their original ethos and have become an even richer and more addictive proposition. Both avowedly true to the bone and blessed with a gift for mischief, they have made an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with the classic records that inspired it, while also bringing the Texans’ uniquely skewed view of the world to the party.

“The subject matter of these songs is pretty eclectic, to be honest” notes John. “Let’s see… there’s a song about a bank heist and another one about the Vietnam War. Then there’s one about draining an old lake! ‘Glenn’s Tune’ is about Rex’s late father. Hell, we even did a radio jingle. So yeah we are kinda all over the place ha ha ha!”

‘Double Dog Dare’ Track List:
1) Holy Smokes
2) Double Dog Dare
3) F.D.I.C.
4) Glenn’s Tune
5) A Message From Our Sponsor
6) Frozen Shadows
7) Lady of Mars
8) Prelude
9) The Last ‘Dam’ Song

Still unique and rocking with abandon, WHITE DOG has undergone upheavals and transformations, and ‘Double Dog Dare’ is the scintillating result. Now free to peddle their incendiary wares, they will return to the stage with their strongest material to date, and a newfound enthusiasm for giving The Riff the respect and imagination it deserves.

“The plan right now is to get on the road as much as possible in 2024,” John states. “The touring that we have done has yielded really good results but there’s a whole world out there that we would like to see! What better way to do it than playing music with your buds? Currently, we are way beyond ready to release this puppy and to tour, tour, tour! We are always writing and evolving as people and as a band. Who knows exactly what tomorrow will bring? What we do know is that we love each other like brothers and we love making music together.”

White Dog are:
Carl Amoss – guitar
John Amoss – drums
Oscar Favian – keys
Clemente De Hoyos – guitar
Jake LaTouf – vocals
Rex Pape – bass



White Dog, “F.D.I.C.”

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats to Release Nell’ Ora Blu May 10

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

uncle acid and the deadbeats (Photo by Karin Hunt)

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats will release the instrumental conceptual soundtrack LP Nell’ Ora Blu on May 10 through Rise Above Records. It’s their first studio LP of any sort since 2018’s Wasteland (review here) and manifests the threat made when the UK garage doom innovators released their live album, Slaughter on First Avenue (review here), in 2023.

It isn’t the band’s first foray into atmospheres inspired by vintage Italian cinema, but at least on paper it’s inarguably the deepest they’ve gone in exploring it. Described by the PR wire below as instrumental save for voiceovers by Edwige French (All the Colors of the Dark and scores of others) and Franco Nero (he was Django in that crucial series of westerns and has appeared in over 150 movies, among them Die Hard 2), it’s an immediate departure for a band whose harmonies and hooks have always been a huge part of their approach. No doubt that’s the idea.

I’ll expect not to expect what I’m expecting, then, and you might want to do likewise, but I don’t think Uncle Acid getting weird and cinematic is going to hurt consider that’s another huge part of what they’ve always done. Lean this way, lean that way. Six years after their last record, it feels like a big shift, but it makes its own kind of sense.

The PR wire has it like this:

uncle acid and the deadbeats nell ora blu

UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS Announce New Album ‘Nell’ Ora Blu’ Out May 10th via Rise Above Records

Pre-Orders Available Soon!

Poised to stand out as the most radical album of UNCLE ACID & THE DEABEATS’ storied career, ‘Nell’ Ora Blu’ is a true tour-de-force of dramatic ingenuity. Inspired by the dark, mysterious, and often bloody Italian Giallo film scene, Kevin Starrs took a detour and created his own storyboard to play along with and the result is a beautiful and suspense-filled instrumental soundtrack…for a non-existent film.

Devoted fans will undoubtedly recognize the UNCLE ACID fingerprints here but this startling left-turn will also present a formidable challenge to even the most open-minded riff-heads. Like a tense and bewildering fever dream, ‘Nell’ Ora Blu’ is a vivid, lysergic excursion like no other.

“I know something like this might have limited appeal, but who cares?” says Starrs. “Most of what we do has a limited appeal anyway! It’s just a real mix of different styles that I like. There are no singles or ‘hits’. Instead, it all just flows along one thing into the next. You can think of it like blood seeping from a wound. It’s continuous. By the end of it, you’re left exhausted. It’s hard work for the listener. We don’t do easy listening!”

Unusual guest stars such as giants of the Italian film underground, Edwige Fenech and Franco Nero, present exclusive dialogue interspersed between tracks, contributing to a unique listening experience that throbs and shrieks with horrific intent.

Starrs explains: “It’s a tribute to 70s Italian cinema. It’s a story about people who decide to take the law into their own hands. Things get pretty dark straight away and of course, it doesn’t end well for anyone. It has elements of grimy poliziotteschi (Italian crime/action films) and classic Giallo (Italian cinema’s revered horror/sexploitation movement). Once I decided to do everything in Italian, I made a list of actors that I wanted. Franco Nero and Edwige Fenech were the first names I thought of. Two legends that had never been paired together before. I contacted their agents and both actors were interested in the idea, so we set it up from there.”

Having completed the project and been exhilarated by its creation, Starrs now has tentative plans to bring some of this incredible music to the morbid masses. What started as simply a new UNCLE ACID project, has evolved into a true project of passion bringing together the wonderful worlds of music and film in one dark, enthralling soundtrack for a film we can only wish to be actually watching.

‘Nell’ Ora Blu’ Track List:
1) Il Sole Sorge Sempre
2) Giustizia di Strada – Lavora Fino alla Morte
3) La Vipera
4) Vendetta (Tema)
5) La Bara Resterà Chiusa
6) Cocktail Party
7) Il Tesoro di Sardegna
8) Nell’ Ora Blu
9) Il Chiamante Silenzioso
10) Tortura al Telefono
11) Pomeriggio di Novembre Nel Parco – Occhi che Osservano
12) Il Retorno del Chiamante Silenzioso
13) Solo la Morte to Ammanetta
14) Il Gatto Morto
15) Guidando Veloce Verso la Campagna
16) L’Omicidio
17) Resti Umani
18) Sorge Anche il Sole
19) Ritorno All’Oscurità

‘Nell’ Ora Blu’ will be available on Vinyl as a double LP, CD, and for digital download on May 10, 2024, via Rise Above Records. Pre-orders will be available soon.



Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Dead Eyes of London”

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Quarterly Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Graveyard, Hexvessel, Godsground, Sleep Maps, Dread Spire, Mairu, Throe, Blind River, Rifftree

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

It’s been quite a morning. Got up at five, went back to sleep until six, took the dog out, lazily poured myself a coffee — the smell is like wood bark and bitter mud, so yes, the dark roast — and got down to set up this Quarterly Review. Not rushed, not at all overwhelmed by press releases about new albums or the fact that I’ve got 50 records I’m writing about this week, or any of it. Didn’t last, that stress-free sit-down — one of the hazards of being perfectly willing to be distracted at a moment’s notice is that that might happen — but it was nice while it did. And hey, the Quarterly Review is set up and ready to roll with 50 records between now and Friday. Let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Slaughter on First Avenue

uncle acid and the deadbeats slaughter on first avenue

Recorded over two nights at First Avenue in Minneapolis sandwiching the pandemic in 2019 and 2022, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ 14-song/85-minute live album, Slaughter on First Avenue, is about as clean as you’re ever likely to hear the band sound. And the Rise Above-issued 2LP spans the garage doom innovators’ career, from “Dead Eyes of London” from 2010’s Vol. 1 (reissue review here) to “I See Through You” from 2018’s Wasteland (review here), with all the “Death’s Door” and “Thirteen Candles” and “Desert Ceremony” and “I’ll Cut You Down” you can handle, the addled and murderous bringers of melody and fuzz clear-eyed and methodical, professional, in their delivery. It sounds worked on, like, in the studio, the way oldschool live albums might’ve been. I don’t know that it was, don’t have a problem with that if it was, just noting that the sheer sound here is fantastic, whether it’s the separation between the two guitars and keys and each other, the distinction of the vocals, or the way even the snare drum seems to hit in kind with the vintage aspects of Uncle Acid‘s general production style. They clearly enjoy the crowd response to the older tunes like “I’ll Cut You Down” and “Death’s Door,” and well they should. Slaughter on First Avenue isn’t a new full-length, though they say one will eventually happen, but it’s a representation of their material in a new way for listeners, cleaner than their last two studio records, and a ceremony (or two) worth preserving.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Facebook

Rise Above Records website

Graveyard, 6

graveyard 6

Swedish retro soul rock forerunners Graveyard are on their way to being legends if they aren’t legends yet. Headliners at the absolute least, and the influence they had in the heavy ’10s on classic heavy as a style and boogie rock in particular can’t be discounted. Comprised of nine cuts, 6 is Graveyard‘s first offering of this decade, following behind 2018’s Peace (review here), and it continues their dual-trajectory in pairing together the slow, troubled-love woes emotionality of “Breathe In, Breathe Out,” “Sad Song” on which guitarist Joakim Nilsson relinquishes lead vocals, the early going of “Bright Lights,” and opener “Godnatt” — Swedish for “good night,” which the band tried to say in 2016 but it didn’t stick — setting up turns to shove in “Twice” and “Just a Drop” while “I Follow You,” closer “Rampant Fields” or the highlight “Just a Drop” finding some territory between the two ends. The bottom line here is it’s not the record I was hoping Graveyard would make, leaning slow and morose whereas when you could break out a groove like “Just a Drop” seemingly at will, why wouldn’t you? But that I even had those hopes tells you the caliber band they are, and whatever the tracks actually do, there’s no questioning them as songwriters. But the world could use some good times swagger, if only a half-hour of escapism, and Graveyard are perhaps too sincere to deliver. Fair enough.

Graveyard on Facebook

Nuclear Blast website

Hexvessel, Polar Veil

hexvessel polar veil

The thing about Hexvessel that has been revealed over time is that each record is its own context. Grown out from the black metal history of UK-born/Helsinki-residing songwriter Mat “Kvohst” McNerney, the band returns to that fertile ground somewhat on the eight-song Polar Veil, applying veteran confidence to post-blackened genre transgressions. Songs like “A Cabin in Montana” and “Older Than the Gods” have some less-warlike Primordial vibes between the epic melodies and tremolo echoes, but in both the speedy intensity of “Eternal Meadow” and the later ethereally-doomed gruel of “Ring,” Hexvessel are distinctly themselves doing this thing. That is, they’re not changing who they are to suit the style they want to play — even the per-song stylistic shifts of 2016’s When We Are Death (review here) were their own, so that’s not necessarily new — but a departure from the dark progressive folk of 2020’s Kindred as McNerney, bassist Ville Hakonen, drummer Jukka Rämänen and pianist/keyboardist Kimmo Helén (also strings) welcome a curated-seeming selection of a few guest appearances spread across the release, always keeping mindful of ambience and mood however raging the tempest around them might be.

Hexvessel on Facebook

Svart Records website

Godsground, A Bewildered Mind

Godsground A Bewildered Mind

Bookended by its two longest songs in “Drink Some More” (8:44) and closer “Letter Full of Wine” (9:17), Munich-based troupe Godsground offer seven songs with their 47-minute third long-player, working quickly to bask in post-Alice in Chains melodies surrounded by a warmth of tone that could just as easily be derived from hometown heroes in Colour Haze as the likes of Sungrazer or anyone else, but there’s more happening in the sound than just that. The melodies reach out and the songs develop on paths so that “Balance” is a straight-up desert rocker where seven-minute centerpiece “Into the Butter” sounds readier to get weird. They are well at home in longer forms, flashing a bit of metal in teh later solo of the penultimate “Non Reflecting Mirror,” but the overarching focus on vocal melody grounds the material in its lyrics, and that helps stabilize some of the more out-there aspects. With the roller fuzz of “A Game of Light” and side B’s flow-into-push “Flood” finding space between all-out go and the longer songs’ willingness to dwell in parts, Godsground emerge from the collection with a varied style around a genre center that’s maybe delighted not to pick a side when it comes to playing toward this or that niche. There’s some undercurrent of doom — though I’ll admit the artwork had me looking for it — but Godsground are more coherent than bewildered, and their material unfolds with intent to immerse rather than commiserate.

Godsground Linktr.ee

Godsground on Bandcamp

Sleep Maps, Reclaim Chaos

sleep maps reclaim chaos

Ambition abounds on Sleep MapsReclaim Chaos, as the once-NYC-based duo of multi-instrumentalist Ben Kaplan and vocalist David Kegg — finds somebody that writes you riffs like “Second Generation” and scream your ass off for them — bring textures of progressive metal, death metal, metal metal to the proceedings with their established post-whathaveyou modus. Would it be a surprise if I said it made them a less predictable band? I hope not. With attention to detail bolstered my a mix from Matt Bayles (Isis, Sandrider, etc.), the open spaces of “The Good Engineer” resonate in their layered vocals and drone, while “You Want What I Cannot Give” pummels, “In the Sun, In the Moon” brings the wash forward and capper “Kill the World” is duly still in conveying an apparent aftermath rather than the actual slaughter of the planet, which of course happened over a longer timeframe. All of this, and a good deal more, make Reclaim Chaos a heady feast — and that’s before you get to the ’00-era electronica of “Double Blind” — but in their reclamation, Sleep Maps execute with care and make a point about the malleability of style as much as about their own progression, though it seems to be the latter fueling them. Self-motivated, willful artistic progression is not often so starkly recognizable.

Sleep Maps website

Lost Future Records website

Dread Spire, Endless Empire

Dread Spire Endless Empire EP

A reminder of the glories amid the horrors of our age: Dread Spire‘s Endless Empire — am I the only one who finds it a little awkward when band and release names rhyme? — probably wouldn’t exist without the democratization of recording processes that’s happened over the last 15-20 years. It’s a demo, essentially, from the bass/drum — that’s Richie Rehal and Erol Kavvas — Cali-set instrumentalist two-piece, and with about 13 minutes of sans BS riffing, they make a case via a linear procession of crunch riffing and uptempo, semi-metal precision. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — holds that they got together during the pandemic, and the raw form and clearly-manifest catharsis in the material is all the backing they need. More barebones than complex, this first offering wants nothing for audio fidelity and gives Rehal and Kavvas a beginning from which to build in any and all directions they might choose. The joy of collaboration and the need to find an expressive outlet are the best motivations one could ask, and that’s very obviously what’s at work here.

Dread Spire on Instagram

Dread Spire on Bandcamp

Mairu, Sol Cultus

MAIRU Sol Cultus

A roiling post-metallic churn abides the slow tempos of “Torch Bearer” at the outset of Mairu‘s debut full-length, Sol Cultus, and it is but one ingredient of the Liverpool-based outfit’s atmospheric plunge. Across eight tracks and 49 minutes, the double-guitar four-piece of Alan Caulton and Ant Hurlock (both guitar/vocals), Dan Hunt (bass/vocals) and Ben Davis (drums/synth) — working apparently pretty closely over a period of apparently four years with Tom Dring, who produced, engineered, mixed, mastered and contributed saxophone, ebow, piano and additional synth — remind in their spaciousness of that time Red Sparowes taught the world, instrumentally, to sing. But with harsh and melodic vocals mixed, bouts of thrashier riffing dealt with prejudice, and the barely-there ambience of “Inter Alia” and “Per Alia” to persuade the listener toward headphones, the very-sludged finish of “Wild Darkened Eyes” and the 10-minute sprawl of “Rite of Embers” lumbering to its distorted gut-clench of a crescendo chug ahead of the album’s comedown finish, there’s depth and personality to the material even as Mairu look outside of verse/chorus confines to make their statement. Their second outing behind a 2019 EP, and again, apparently in the works on some level since then, it’s explorational, but less in the sense of the band figuring out who they want to be than as a stylistic tenet they’ve internalized as their own.

Mairu on Facebook

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

Throe, O Enterro das Marés

Throe O Enterro das Mares

At first in “Hope Shines in the Autumn Light,” Brazilian instrumentalist heavy post-rockers Throe remind of nothing so much as the robots-with-feelings mechanized-but-resonant plod of Justin K. Broadrick‘s Jesu, but as the 14-minute leadoff from the apparently-mostly-solo-project’s three-song EP, O Enterro das Marés (one assumes the title is some derivation of being ‘buried at sea’), plays through, it shifts into a more massive galaxial nod and then shortly before the nine-minute mark to a stretch of hypnotic beat-less melody before resolving itself somewhere in the middle. This three-part structure gives over to the Godfleshier “Bleed Alike” (6:33), which nods accordingly until unveiling its caustic end about 30 seconds before the song is done, and “Renascente” (7:59), in which keys/synth and wistful guitar lead a single linear build together as the band gradually and with admirable patience move from their initial drone to the introduction of the ‘drums’ and through the layers of melody that emerge and are more the point of the thing itself than the actual swell of volume taking place at the same time. When it opens at about five minutes in, “Renascente” is legitimately beautiful, an echoing waterfall of tonality that seems to dance to the gravity pulling it down. The guitar is last to go, which tells you something about how the songs are written, but with three songs and three different intentions, Throe make a varied statement uniform most of all in how complete each piece of it feels.

Throe on Instagram

Abraxas Produtora on Instagram

Blind River, Bones for the Skeleton Thief

Blind River Bones for the Skeleton Thief

Well guess what? They called the first track “Punkstarter,” and so it is. Starts off the album with a bit of punk. Blind River‘s third LP, Bones for the Skeleton Thief corrals 10 tracks from the UK traditionalist heavy rock outfit, who even on the likewise insistent “Primal Urges” maintain some sense of control. Vocalist Harry Armstrong (ex-Hangnail, now also bassist of Orange Goblin) belts out “Second Hand Soul” like he’s giving John Garcia a run for his pounds sterling, and is still able to rein it in enough to not seem out of place on the more subdued verses of “Skeleton Thief,” while the boogie of “Unwind” is its own party. Wherever they go, be it the barroom punkabilly of “Snake Oil” or the Southern-tinged twang of closer “Bad God,” the five-piece — Armstrong, guitarist Chris Charles and Dan Edwards, bassist William Hughes and drummer Mark Sharpless — hold to a central ethic of straight-ahead drive, and where clearly the intended message is that Blind River know what the fuck they’re doing and that if you end up at a show you might get your ass handed to you, turns out that’s exactly the message received. Showed up, kicked ass, done in under 40 minutes. If that’s not a high enough standard for you in a band recording live, that’s not Blind River‘s fault.

Blind River on Facebook

Blind River on Bandcamp

Rifftree, Noise Worship

Rifftree Noise Worship

Rifftree of life. Rifftree‘s fuzz is so righteously dense, I want to get seeds from it — because let’s face it, riffs are deciduous and hibernate in winter — and plant a forest in my backyard. The band formed half a decade ago and Noise Worship is the bass-and-drums duo’s second EP, but whatever. In six songs and 26 minutes, they work hard on living up to the title they gave the release, and their schooling in the genre is obvious in Sleepery of “Amplifier Pyramid” or the low-rumbling sludge of “Brown Flower,” the subsequent “Farewell” growing like fungus out of its quieter start and “Brakeless” not needing them because it was slow enough anyhow. “Fuzzed” — another standard met — ups the pace and complements with spacey grunge mumbles and harshes out later, and that gives the three-minute titular closer “Noise Worship” all the lead-in it needs for its showcase of feedback and amplifier noise. Look. If you’re thinking it’s gonna be some stylistic revolution in the making, look at the friggin’ cover. Listen to the songs. This isn’t innovation, it’s celebration, and Rifftree‘s complete lack of pretense is what makes Noise Worship the utter fucking joy that it is. Stoner. Rock. Stick that in your microgenre rolodex.

Rifftree on Facebook

Rifftree on Bandcamp

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Church of Misery Announces Fumiya Hattori as Full-Time Guitarist

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Church of Misery‘s current lineup — if there is one — is the stuff fire-emoji splurges are made of. I saw them less than a month ago at SonicBlast in Portugal (review here), so no, I’m not just basing that assessment on the record. Though, if I were, the work of Japanese doom rock legend, bassist and auteur Tatsu Mikami in riffcraft there would probably be enough for the statement to stand. The very definition of ‘on fire,’ or perhaps it would be more thematically appropriate to describe them as: killer.

Guitarist Fumiya Hattori, also in Tatsu‘s Sonic Flower side-project and visibly the youngest member of Church of Misery, is a huge part of why. I’ll allow that having Tatsu‘s riffs to work from is for sure a leg-up in that, but the character in his solos and what he brings to the material in his style, sitting right in the pocket on those Sabbath-worship grooves, new and old — that is, not only on Born Under a Mad Sign (review here), which is his first appearance with the band — is not to be understated.

He’s a special player, not the least because he’ll continue to grow. And yeah, Church of Misery run through personnel on the regular — even in in the post making it official with FumiyaTatsu notes they’re looking for singers and drummers — so it may or may not be forever, but hopefully his will be a career to follow. A player like that will always find someone in need of their services.

Here’s that post from Tatsu:


Fumiya Hattori (Sonic Flower) has joined Church of Misery as a guitarist.

After Sonic Flower’s new recording and Church of Misery’s two European tours, Fumiya Hattori (Gt.) has become an official member of Church of Misery.

<<< Vocalist, drummer wanted >>>

Vocalist and drummer are active with the cooperation of support members, so we are still looking for vocalists and drummers.

Those who have an understanding of this kind of music and can lead a life centered around a band, including overseas tours. Practice in the city. Cannot be shared with other bands. The drummer is male or female. It doesn’t matter whether you recommend yourself or others.

If you are interested, please contact the Gmail posted on the website.



Church of Misery, “Freeway Madness Boogie”

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Friday Full-Length: Electric Wizard, Black Masses

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 7th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Dorset stoner doom magnates Electric Wizard released Black Masses (review here) on Nov. 1, 2010, through Rise Above Records, and their mere doing so was something of an event. The by-then-already-long-running band had undergone a sea change in 2007’s Witchcult Today (discussed here) that resulted in an emerging new generation of listenership timed well with the beginning of the spread of mobile internet, the explosion of mobile social media, and so on.

And with Black Masses, the UK outfit led by founding guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn continued to leave behind their sludgier, rawer beginnings in favor of a swirling and dark psychedelic doom rock, Oborn‘s sneering voice calling out to Satan in the opening track “Black Mass,” “Hear me Lucifer/Black mass, black mass/Take me higher, higher/Black mass, black mass,” in a one-man chant that would become a landmark in their career. That song, and this record in combination with the one before it, helped set the stage for the stoner-doom delve into cultism of the heavy ’10s, happening before the ascent of bands like Uncle Acid and GhostMonolord, etc., but informing and influencing those and countless other acts along the way. It was a record that wound up being as ‘important’ as it was catchy and listenable, and those things don’t always coincide.

While pushing deeper into the atmosphere of threat and VHS horror and remaining always very, very stoned in sound, Electric Wizard — then comprised of Oborn, guitarist Liz Buckingham (ex-13), bassist Tas Danazoglou (now of Mirror, Friends of Hell, etc.) and drummer Shaun Rutter — offered eight songs across a dank, willfully lo-fi 59-minute 2LP, and brought listeners with them on their journey through various miseries and terrors.

It was also a direct sequel to Witchcult Today in that many of the Black Masses songs spoke directly to the record before, whether it was “Satyr IX” on Black Masses taking up the mantle of “Saturnine,” which closed Witchcult Today, or Black Masses‘ eight-plus-minute noisefest closer “Crypt of Drugula” answering “Satanic Rites of Drugula” from Witchcult Today. Certainly, Electric Wizard had long since been making references to horror flicks and various occult texts all along, but to turn that pastiche inward was a fresh take, and their doing so helped reinforce their own cult following. If you knew, you knew. I interviewed Oborn in 2011 and he had this to say about it:

It’s not always conscious at first, but the references slip themselves in. We’ve createelectric wizard black massesd a few of our own elements anyway – “Drugula” and stuff like that, and “We Hate You.” It’s easy to become self-referential at this point – we’ve got seven albums for fuck’s sake. Not many bands do that, to a degree. It’s inevitable, possibly. I’ve hopefully created a sort of iconography for Electric Wizard. That’s more important than the band sometimes, than the lineup or the instruments (laughs). 

That iconography, the drugs, the murder, the grueling chug of “Night Child” as it turns through another chorus, and Oborn‘s vocal delivery — able to convey melody while still sounding like an embodiment of ‘fuck it’ as a defining life course — there and elsewhere helped to make Black Masses a pivotal outing for Electric Wizard, sealing their place among the UK’s foremost riff purveyors of their generation and setting them out on a years-long cycle of touring and festival appearances. Shit, Jus Oborn curated Roadburn in 2013. It was quite a time to be alive.

To be nasty without sounding nasty in a caustic sense. Yes, Black Masses was still pretty barebones in sound, and that’s something Electric Wizard would continue to foster on 2014’s Time to Die (review here) and 2017’s Wizard Bloody Wizard (review here), but that rawness becomes the world the songs inhabit. It is an atmosphere suited to the material, an aesthetic choice. Instead of going bigger after the success of Witchcult Today as many other acts might’ve done, Electric Wizard dug in, and working with Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, conjured a scathing and molten sound. Would “Venus in Furs” have the same effect if its strut and layered-on midsection solo didn’t come across so rough? Maybe, I don’t know. But the point is it works as it is, and with the production as an asset.

Plus, the songs. Whatever else Black Masses is or however one might feel about Electric Wizard generally, the album is a parade of memorable hooks and riffs. The lead cut was already mentioned but it’s worth underscoring “Black Mass” as a brutal earworm. And from “Venus in Furs” through the Mellotron-laced “Night Child,” through “Patterns of Evil” and the slow unfolding of the especially-wretched “Satyr IX” with a procession that would seem to inform Uncle Acid‘s “Valley of the Dolls” a few years later, followed by the speedier churn of “Turn Off Your Mind” and the coming apart of “Scorpio Curse” which declares the world dead and gives over eventually to the drones and noise that hypnotize in “Crypt of Drugula.” It is a full-album linear flow, and it lasts even through the purposefully unpleasant morass — there are drums deep in there, you know — of “Crypt of Drugula” at the finish, individual pieces adding to the whole each in their turn, the band standing over all of it, swaying, probably high.

Black Masses captures the ideal form of what it is. It is defined in part by Witchcult Today in theme and style, but it also demonstrated how to internalize a self-influence and use one’s past work as a springboard for the next thing. If you believe in due, Electric Wizard are due for another full-length with Wizard Bloody Wizard turning six later this year, and it would suit them to drop a record with no notice — thud, there you go — as well as for a stylistic shift like the one that took them to where they were in 2010. I don’t know if that’s possible, or what they’d be going for in their first album of the 2020s, but to be sure, their place waits for them. Perennial demand for fest appearances and other live shows is probably a decent way to fill the interim.

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

Oof. I guess I made it to the end of the week. We got back from Connecticut on Monday morning. Last weekend’s memorial-service-and-wedding one-two punch between Saturday and Sunday certainly kicked my ass, and kind of defined the start of this week still. Tired as shit, in other words. Continuously.

We also had a window put in in the kitchen after doing the floors last week, and so the house was all taken apart and covered in dust and it was blazing hot and all the more overwhelming for that. As if the sensory input from that and a visit with friends on Tuesday wasn’t enough — and for The Pecan especially, it wasn’t — we went to Six Flags, which was just called Great Adventure when I was a kid, on Wednesday, and it was sunny and sweaty and I told The Patient Mrs. that one of the rollercoasters shifted a kidney so that now I have two on the same side, and so on. It was a lot. After a lot. With a lot happening otherwise.

Thus I took a couple lighter days at the start of the week. I said I intended to do so on social media — this week was one of a couple this summer with no camp for the kid, so it was full-on, all-go, all the time — and got a bunch of nice answers from people who probably thought I was taking more of a break than I intended, but honestly, not reviewing anything until Wednesday and doing two or three posts a day for a few days was a break for me in terms of time, and with the July 4 holiday it wasn’t even that unreasonable to do. It’s weird that I feel guilty and anxious about having done it. A federal fucking holiday.


We’re not in CT this weekend — it took us four and a half hours to get up there last Friday; we just don’t have it in us again at this point — but we’ll be working more on the kitchen with cabinets and maybe installing the sink and so forth. Whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Watch your head, drink all the water, tell someone you love them. Back Monday with more.


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Album Review: Church of Misery, Born Under a Mad Sign

Posted in Reviews on June 23rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Church of Misery Born Under a Mad Sign

It’s taken Church of Misery seven years to release Born Under a Mad Sign, their seventh album, and it has seven tracks, so perhaps mad signs abound on the seminal Japanese doom rockers’ latest LP for Rise Above Records. The band, led as ever by bassist Tatsu Mikami — who belongs in the conversation with the likes of Matt Pike and Leif Edling when it comes to Iommic inheritors — will cross the 30-year mark on the back of this 54-minute onslaught, which remains true to their modus of writing songs about serial killers and other cult figures.

In the past it’s been Ted Bundy and Aileen Wuornos coupled with a Cactus cover — that was 2004’s The Second Coming, by the way — here it’s Fritz Haarmann (as seen on the cover), H.H. Holmes and Haystacks Balboa‘s “Spoiler” being covered, so perhaps over time Tatsu has had to dig a little past the obvious in terms of people to write about and bands to cover, even if the essential formula remains consistent. The same could be said of the riffs, and make no mistake, the riffs are central both on Born Under a Mad Sign and throughout Church of Misery‘s catalog. While there’s plenty of the up-front Black Sabbath sludge boogie for which Church of Misery are so widely and so correctly lauded, Born Under a Mad Sign also stretches out in terms of jams and solos in a way that the band’s most recent album, 2016’s recorded-in-America And Then There Were None (review here) was less interested in doing.

Not particularly surprising since, Tatsu aside, the band is working with a completely different lineup. This too is part of how Church of Misery operate, with members coming and going over a course of decades and serving pretty much at Tatsu‘s say-so until the don’t. This collection brings back vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda, who sang on Church of Misery‘s 2003 split with Acrimony, the recorded-in-1996-released-in-2007 Vol. 1 (reissue review here), and who featured on the 2022 offering Me and My Bell Bottom Blues (review here) from Tatsu‘s Sonic Flower side-project last year.

Kazuhiro is a big piece of what makes Born Under a Mad Sign work so well. To hear his guttural squeal amid the roll of closer “Butcher Baker (Robert Hansen),” like if Satan decided to stop teaching guitar and just play and sing the blues himself, or his rasps from under the lumbering tonal chaos of centerpiece “Murder Castle Blues (H.H. Holmes),” he is as organic a fit in terms of personality as Tatsu‘s lyrics have ever had, and in listening, I find I’m perfectly happy to not know the words save for picking up a few things here and there, as on the opener “Beltway Sniper (John Allen Muhammad),” which in addition to being one of the album’s upper-tier ass-kickers is interesting for crossing a line between someone who’s a serial killer and a mass murder. The difference, as I understand it, is serial killers go one at a time. Does this mean Church of Misery would write songs about mass shooters? And what response would they get to, say, a song about Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or Uvalde? Is that a line they would cross? Is there a line they wouldn’t?

church of misery

One’s own sensibilities and interests will invariably inform opinions on what’s discussed and how throughout this or any other Church of Misery work, and it seems silly to feign moral pearl-clutching for something they’ve been doing almost since their start, but the chance the band take in exploring more modern murder in its various forms, particularly at the level they’re doing it, is that someone from outside the underground in which they reside will notice and call them out on the generally horrific nature of their themes. I’m not saying that will happen with Born Under a Mad Sign, though it could since people are still alive who remember David Koresh or the Beltway Sniper, but Church of Misery have trod this ground before and gotten away with it so there’s nothing to say they can’t again. All I’m saying is with riffs this good, they run the risk of being heard.

Even more endemic to the personality of the record is the guitar work of Yukito Okazaki, whose bluesy pulls in the second-half solo of “Beltway Sniper (John Allen Muhammad)” and the density of the subsequent chug set a high standard that the songs that follow thankfully meet. With Toshiaki Umemura on drums, a(nother) new incarnation of Church of Misery is complete, and they sound extra vicious in so much of Born Under a Mad Sign, whether it’s the make-a-nasty-face nod of “Most Evil (Fritz Haarmann)” or the wah-complemented shove and shout of “Freeway Madness Boogie (Randy Kraft),” the groove loose and the danger of coming apart high as the band nonetheless hold it together as of course they would.

“Most Evil (Fritz Haarmann)” tops 10 minutes and “Freeway Madness Boogie (Randy Kraft)” is one of the shorter cuts on the 2LP at 6:16 — the shortest is “Spoiler,” the aforementioned Haystacks Balboa cover — but both are unabashed riff-fests, and the same holds true throughout. Church of Misery know who they are, what they want to be, and how they want to sound, and Tatsu, as the perceived auteur of that, could fairly be called a visionary. Listening through the swelling roll in the verse of “Murder Castle Blues (H.H. Holmes),” or the way in which “Come and Get Me Sucker (David Koresh)” picks up from the sample of its titular cult leader opining to this or that news organization about Americans arming themselves as a political position to unveil the full threat of its bassline and riff before the blowout verse actually takes hold ahead of the made-for-the-stage shout-along chorus delivering the title line, Tatsu‘s vision comes through clearly.

This is the underlying message of Born Under a Mad Sign, and of Church of Misery circa 2023 more broadly — that the group in whatever form it takes is beholden to Tatsu‘s will, and steered by his direction and whims. They end with “Butcher Baker (Robert Hansen)” and wah-drench the middle before going back to the verse and chorus before jamming out, but even as madcap as the song gets, Kazuhiro comes back on for a final verse to end out, because whatever else Church of Misery are, whoever else they are, as they approach the 30th year of their tenure, they are songwriters. Tatsu is a songwriter. They just make it sound like they’re completely out of control, and the methodical, almost ritualized nature of what they do is perhaps an even greater tie to their subject matter. They are masters of what they do. Wherever you sit on the scale of interest in serial killers or murder more generally, their mastery on display is something to appreciate.

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