Quarterly Review: The Vintage Caravan, Oslo Tapes, Filthy Hippies, Dunbarrow, Djinn, Shevils, Paralyzed, Black Spirit Crown, Intraveineuse, Void Tripper

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Day Three. The kinds of material covered have varied, but it’s been pretty good so far, which as you can probably imagine makes this whole process much, much easier. Today would traditionally be hump day, where we hit and surpass the halfway mark, but since this is a double-size Quarterly Review, we’re only a quarter of the way there. Still a long way to go, but I’ve got decent momentum in my head at this point and I’ve taken steps not to make the workload crushing on any given day (this mostly involved working last weekend, thanks to The Patient Mrs. for the extra time), so I’m not feeling overly rushed either. Which is welcome.

In that spirit, let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Vintage Caravan, Monuments

the vintage caravan monuments

To every sorrowful head who bemoans the state of rock and roll as being dead, who misses big songs, bands unafraid to groove, to engage their audience, to change things up and stay anchored to a vital spirit of the live experience, the answer is The Vintage Caravan. Monuments is the Icelandic trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Gateways (review here) and it opens with a righteous four-song mission-statement salvo from “Whispers” to “Dark Times” before mellowing out in “This One’s for You” and diving into the eight-minute centerpiece “Forgotten” — later answered by the more subdued but likewise proggy closer “Clarity” — before the hard-hitting shuffle renews on side B with “Sharp Teeth,” “Hell” and “Torn in Two” try to outdo each other in has-the-most-swagger and “Said & Done” sneaks in ahead of the finale to walk away with that particular title. Suitably enough. Momentum is almost a detriment to the proceedings, since the songs are worth individual attention, but among the classic tenets here is leave-’em-wanting-more, and The Vintage Caravan do, no question.

The Vintage Caravan on Facebook

Napalm Records website

 

Oslo Tapes, ØR

Oslo Tapes ØR

First thing to note? Oslo Tapes are not from Oslo. Or Trondheim, for that matter. Founded by Marco Campitelli in Italy, the band is a work of homage and exploration of ideas born out of a trip to Oslo — blessings and peace upon the narrative — and ØR, which is Norwegian for “confusing,” is their third album. It arrives loaded with textures from electro-krautrock and ’70s space modernized through to-day’s post-heavy, a breathy delivery from Campitelli giving a song like “Kosmik Feels” an almost goth-wave presence while the harder-landing “Bodø Dakar,” which follows, shifts with pointed rhythm into a textured percussion jam in its second half, with ethereal keys still behind. The shimmering psychedelia of “Norwegian Dream” comes paired with “Exotic Dreams” late in the record’s eight-track procession, and while the latter emphasizes Oslo Tapes‘ can-go-anywhere sensibility with horn sounds and vague, drumless motion, the hard dance in closer “Obsession is the Mother of All” really seems to be the moment of summary here. That must’ve been some trip.

Oslo Tapes on Facebook

Pelagic Records on Bandcamp

 

Filthy Hippies, Departures

filthy hippies departures

Clocking in at 15 tracks and 77 minutes of deeply varied cosmic fuckery, from the motorik push of “Your Are the Sun” to the ’90s Britgaze stylizations of “Mystified” to the twanging central guitar figure of “The Air is Poison” and onward into the blowout kosmiche echo “Sweet Dreams and Nicotine” and chic the-underground-is-actually-made-of-velvet “Like a Halo” ahead of the Hawkwind-on-ludes “I’m Buggin’ Out,” Filthy HippiesDepartures at very least gets points for having the right title. Departs from everything. Reality, itself, you. The whole nine. The good news is the places it goes have a unifying element of grunge laziness woven throughout them, like Filthy Hippies just rolled out of bed and this material just happened — and maybe that’s how it went — and the journey they make, whistling as they go on “Among the Wire” and ending up in the wistful wash of “Empty Spaces” is a joy to follow. Heady. More purposeful than it’s letting on. Not a minor investment, but not a minor reward either.

Filthy Hippies on Facebook

Mongrel Records website

 

Dunbarrow, III

Dunbarrow III

Long since in command of their aesthetic, Norway’s Dunbarrow embark on III, their third long-player, with a full realization of their purpose. Recorded by the five-piece in Spring 2020 and left to gestate for a year’s time, it’s having been unearthed is suitable to the classic doom vibe wrought throughout the eight tracks, but Dunbarrow‘s sound is more vintage in structure than production at this point, and the shifting balance between ‘then’ and ‘now’ in what they do imagines what might’ve been if self-titled era Witchcraft had retained its loyalty to the tenets of Sabbath/Pentagram while continuing to grow its songcraft, such that “Worms of Winter” both is and is decidedly not “Snowblind,” while “Lost Forever” embarks on its own roll and “Turn in Your Grave” makes for an organ-laced folkish highlight, fitting in its cult atmosphere and setting up the rawer finish in “Turns to Dust.” This is who Dunbarrow are, and what they do, they do exceedingly well.

Dunbarrow on Facebook

Blues for the Red Sun Records on Facebook

 

Djinn, Transmission

Djinn Transmission

The year is 2076. The world’s first Whole Earth parliament has come together to bask in the document Transmission, originating in Gothenburg, Sweden, at the behest of an entity known only as Djinn and respected purveyor Rocket Recordings. It is believed that in fact Transmission and its eight component freak jazz psychedelia tracks were not written at the time of their first release some 55 years earlier, but, as scholars have come to theorize after more than a half-century of rigorous, consistent study, it is a relic of another dimension. Someplace out of place, some time out of time as humanity knows it. So it is that “Creators of Creation” views all from an outsider’s eagle eye, and “Urm the Mad” squees its urgency as if to herald the serenity of “Love Divine” to come, voices echoing up through the surcosmic rift through which Djinn sent along this Transmission. What was their purpose? Why make contact? And what is time for such creatures? Are they us? Are we them? Are we alone? Are we “Orpheus?” Wars have been fought over easier questions.

Djinn on Bandcamp

Rocket Recordings website

 

Shevils, Miracle of the Sun

shevils miracle of the sun

Their third album, ShevilsMiracle of the Sun renews the band’s collaboration with producer Marcus Forsgren, which obviously given the sound of the record, was not broken. With a tidy 10 songs in 32 minutes, the Oslo-based four-piece deliver a loyal reading of heavy hardcore riffing minus much of the chestbeating or dudely pretense that one might otherwise encounter. They’ve got it nailed, and the break as “Monsters on TV” squibblies out is a forceful but pleasant turn, especially backed by the pure noise rock of “Scandinavian Death Star.” The band plays back and forth between heft and motion throughout, offering plenty of both in “Wet Soaking Wet” and “Ride the Flashes,” hitting hard but doing more than just hitting at the same time. Topped with fervent shouts, Shevils feels urgent in manner that to my ears recalls West Coast US fare like Akimbo, but is nonetheless the band’s own, ranging into broader soundscapes on “No More You” and anti-shred on “It Never Ends,” the only two cuts here over four minutes long. No time to screw around.

Shevils on Facebook

Shevils on Bandcamp

 

Paralyzed, Paralyzed

paralyzed paralyzed

If they haven’t been yet — and they may have — it’s entirely likely that by the time I’m done writing this sentence some record label or other will have picked up Paralyzed to release their self-titled debut album on vinyl. The Bamberg, Germany-based four-piece bring classic heavy metal thunder to still-Sabbathian doom rock, casting their lot in with the devil early on “Lucifer’s Road (My Baby and Me),” which feels like as much a statement of aesthetic purpose as it does a righteous biker riff. It’s by no means the sum-total of what’s on offer in a more extended piece like “Prophets” or side B’s rumble-and-roll-plus-wah-equals-doom “Mother’s Only Son,” but the brash fare they bring to light on “Green Eyes” and the post-lizard king-turns-Purple spirit of “Golden Days” tie in well with the toss-your-hair-in-the-wind, how’d-that-hole-get-in-my-jeans spirit of the release on the whole. They start instrumental with the eponymous “Paralyzed,” but vocals are a focus point, and as they round out with the rawer “Parallel,” their command of ’70s heavy is all the more evident. They signed yet? Give it another minute, if not.

Paralyzed on Facebook

Paralyzed on Bandcamp

 

Black Spirit Crown, Gravity

Black Spirit Crown Gravity

Admittedly, I’m late to the party on Black Spirit Crown‘s 2020 debut full-length, Gravity, but as one will when in orbit, it’s easy to be pulled in by the record. The Ohio-based two-piece of Dan Simone (vocals, guitar, theremin, dulcimer) and Chris Martin (vocals, keys & programming, bass) — plus guitar spots from Joe Fortunato (Doomstress, ex-Venomin James) — flourish over longform progressive heavy rock pieces like “Doomstar” and “Orb,” both over eight minutes, and the 21:10 closing title-track, which well earns having the album named after it for its consuming balance between aural weight, darkness of atmosphere and tone, and breadth. Before the last several minutes give way to droning noise, “Gravity” counterbalances the metallic underpinning of “Saga” and the rush of the penultimate “Teutates,” its patience singular even among the other longer cuts, balanced in alternating fashion with the shorter. Peppered-in growls make the proceedings less predictable on the whole, and feel like one more strength working in favor of these complex compositions.

Black Spirit Crown on Facebook

Black Spirit Crown on Bandcamp

 

Intraveineuse, Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome

intraveineuse chronicles of an inevitable outcome

Parisian instrumentalists Intraveineuse make a strong statement with their 32-minute/single-song debut EP, Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome, the feeling of aftermath — regret? — permeating the goth-doom atmosphere coming through in tectonically-dense riffs as well as the piano that offsets them. France would seem to have a post-Type O Negative standard-bearer in Hangman’s Chair, but to discount Intraveineuse on that basis is to miss out on the flowing, immersive progression the band emit on this already-sold-out tape, working in three distinct movements to find their own place within the style, building momentum gradually until the last payoff cuts itself short, as if to emphasize there’s more to come. Hopefully, anyhow. EP or LP, debuts with this kind of scope are rare and not to be overlooked, and though there are stretches where one can hear where vocals might go, Intraveineuse ably steer “Chronicles of an Inevitable Outcome” through its various parts with natural-sounding fluidity.

Intraveineuse website

Intraveineuse on Bandcamp

 

Void Tripper, Dopefiend

Void Tripper Dopefiend

Grim, gritty and ghastly, Void Tripper is the debut full-length from Brazil’s Void Tripper, comprised of five tracks marked by the shared/alternating vocals of guitarists Mário Fonteles and Anastácio Júnior. The former gurlges on opener “Devil’s Reject” while the latter complements with a cleaner take on the subsequent “Burning Woods,” setting up the back and forth that plays out in the remaining three tracks, “Hollow,” “Satan & Drugs” and “Comatose.” With the lumbering bass and drums of Jonatas Monte and Gabriel Mota, respectively, as the thickened foundation beneath the riffs, there are shades throughout of Electric Wizard and other acts to be heard, but it’s Sabbath-worshiping sludge one way or the other, and Void Tripper willingly head into that void with a dense fog preceding them and a bleak mood that does nothing if it doesn’t feel suited to our times. Riffy disaffection writ large. You wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but you’d nod the fuck out.

Void Tripper on Facebook

Abraxas on Facebook

 

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Friday Full-Length: Mammatus, Mammatus

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Let’s step out of time for a little bit. We’ll all take a collective breath, close our eyes, and imagine ourselves walking on a long path. It’s a long path lined with trees that leads to a beach and at the beach we’re totally alone. You can see planets up in the sky like big smiling faces and imagine the people there waving to you, far away. Far, far away. Distant, but big. You walk up and feel the change from the path to the sand under your feet, the looseness of the ground. There’s a breeze, because of course there is, and the sound of the water and the smell of salt and that ambient wetness that comes from being near the ocean. It feels like the place life came from, and it is.

We’re there and we’re all alone and it doesn’t matter because there are as many realities as we need to make these things happen and each one we inhabit is our own and we’re all there on this beach and we open our eyes and look out at the water. There’s however many suns you want, and the planets, and life, and water. Now imagine you’re there all by yourself and you realize you have something in your hand, and what is it?

You look down at your hand, right or left, maybe both, and you see you’re holding this lump. What is it? Oh wait, that’s bullshit. You remember now. You’re holding all your own bullshit. Look at that lump of bullshit. It’s been hanging out and festering and finally you got tired of all your own bullshit and you decided to take it for a walk and lose it once and for all. You take that lump of bullshit and you throw it as hard and as high as you can over the water and it sails like who knew bullshit could fly? But there it goes and it’s kind of fun to watch that big old lump of bullshit go higher and higher over the water until finally the arc crests and it starts to head down, far out and deep, past the continental shelf into the darker recesses of this infinite sea, and it’s so far gone by then that you don’t hear the splash but you still see it and then it’s done. All your bullshit, you just threw it away.

Maybe we all wash our hands in that sparkling water, salty but clean, and sit down for a while and just breathe in and out and tilt our heads back and close our eyes and feel the sun on our face. Maybe that’s what we do because there’s no more bullshit weighing us down and everything is beautiful around us and we don’t even have to look to know it, it’s just there and we can breathe it in and feel it in our lungs, feel the lungs take the oxygen out of the air and pump it through our blood, alone on this beach, the planets and suns and stars whatever all above, visible, shining impossibly, whatever. We’re all there, alone, breathing, living, no bullshit.

You open your eyes and look to either side of you. Maybe you’ve never felt this kind of freedom before, but now, your shoulders hanging natural and your breath coming easy, it’s there. You’re there. Everyone’s there. Nobody’s around.

mammatus self titledSanta Cruz, California’s Mammatus released their self-titled debut in 2006 through Holy MountainRocket Recordings and Leaf Hound Records, three labels the names of which alone should speak to the record’s essential nature. Comprised only of four songs, the record begins with “The Righteous Path Through the Forest of Old” (9:23) and moves through “The Outer Rim” (5:09) en route to “Dragon of the Deep Part One” (8:23) and “Dragon of the Deep Part Two” (22:12), the journey taking place enough of a preface for what’s become known as neo-psych that it renders the designation laughable. It’s not neo-anything. It’s out-of-time.

Comprised then of guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Emmert, drummer Aaron Emmert and bassist Chris Freels, with Zachery Patten and Mike Donofrio recording, Mammatus‘ initial explorations have become and well should be the stuff of cult psych legend. This record, its movement and progression between its songs, the way it sounds like one long stretch, a molten 45-minute flow broken into parts but united in its purpose and immersion just the same, is the stuff of should-be-worshiped-as-classic scorch. From the opening surf-in-space strum of “The Righteous Path Through the Forest of Old” through the bullshit-swallowing noisier reaches in the midsection breakdown of “Dragon of the Deep Part Two,” there is nothing so appropriate in the hearing of the album but to let go and trust the band to take you where they will because they’re going anyway.

Here we are, some 15 years after the fact and Mammatus‘ first still feels like it’s rolling through cosmic outer reaches inside the head. You want to call it hyperbole, fine. Your loss. This is an album for communion; both a preach to the converted and a call to convert. In the patient swirls of “The Outer Rim” there so much space tucked into just five minutes, and then “Dragon of the Deep Part One” adds even more feedback, overlapping feedback, before it launches into its own ultra-lysergic jam. What an album. What a band. Hot damn.

And you know “Dragon of the Deep Part Two” comes back from those open spaces in its middle. They bring it around to this massive fuzzy crunch, kick the slow wah and groove out huge in a before-Sleep-got-back-together paean to the power of rolling tone up and sharing the ensuing smoke. It’s all gorgeous and it all comes apart and gives way to noise like the universe spreading too wide and whoops, there goes the molecules that make up matter, cell walls breaking down and all that and what difference does it make anyhow we’ll just get another universe there are so many.

MammatusMammatus. Live and breathe.

Thanks for reading. Hydrate. Watch your head. Have a great and safe weekend.

FRM.

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Friday Full-Length: Hills, Master Sleeps

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Much like the elusive Theory of Everything in physics, with Hills‘ universal psychedelic premise is underlined by almost unaccountable gravity. Released in 2011 through Intergalactic Tactics and Transubstans Records following a 2009 self-titled debut, Master Sleeps basks these 10 years later in its breadth of influence and establishes its aesthetic on a per-track basis, presenting two vinyl sides of resonant, spaced-out intergalactic fare with an awakened nature that’s nothing if not contradictory to the title. It’s a record about which much was said at the time by the in-the-know-telligencia, and that’s cool, because it’s cool, and, hey man, cool, but any and all past hype aside — it’s amazing how the years turn these things into wisps of recollection; the fervent talking-up of records fading to echoes even as attention spans are criticized for their shortness; hypocrites to a hyperlink, everyone — it’s a cool record and to deny it is to deny oneself the pleasure of a 35-minute, mostly instrumental outward journey of jams and in-on-it-early-next-gen heavy psych. Suffice it to say, if this shit was due in June instead of a decade gone, you’d still see as much desperate preening of feathers in order to curry its vaunted favor. And fair enough.

I have the CD, which was the Transubstans version, that I apparently picked up later in 2011, but I’ll be damned if Master Sleeps doesn’t hold up. It was ahead of the game on vinyl structuring, presaging the larger-platter-as-format-of-record (pun absolutely intended) explosion by a year or two, and each of its two sides brought three tracks in a nearly even break of structure to what seems to be utterly fluid throughout the listening experience, opener “Rise Again” and closer “Death Shall Come” creating a loop from one to the other that feels all the more geared to encourage multiple listens in a kind of sonic reincarnation. Accordingly, the more you hear Master Sleeps, the more you hear in it. First? Swirl. “Rise Again” fuzzes and unfolds a careening spaciousness that calls out early space rock and psych drift with shoegaze vocals buried in the mix à la The Heads where you wonder if anything’s really being said or you’re just imagining it and does it really matter anyway. I don’t know.

True to the band’s moniker, the air gets thinner the higher you climb, both into “Rise Again” and across side A and B as a whole, ascending from longer tracks to shorter toward the middle of the record — hills master sleepsthe two shortest cuts, “Claras Vaggvisa” and “The Vessel,” close side A and open side B, respectively — then longer again at the finish. In case, the sick hypnosis of “Rise Again” holds firm even as Hills wander elsewhere, “Bring Me Sand” tapping Mideast scales and rhythmic patterns in classic fashion, a marked turn from the preceding opener but that’s the point. There’s a heavier burst in the middle — watch out for it — but they’re never so volatile as to lose control, and the far-off-ness of “Claras Vaggvisa,” which an organ line as its most forward factor backed by some quieter but foreboding tom hits and vague, manipulated voice echoes, is intentionally drifting and atmospheric and, yes, weird. Delightfully, delightfully weird. Weird as means and end both, but golly that’s fun.

Even more when “The Vessel” kicks into action, bringing that organ up in volume and putting a reignited kosmiche thrust behind it, the drums still having a chance to swing as they nonetheless push forward amid the channel-shifting, amorphous-sounding guitars. Next time someone asks you what “molten” sounds like, it sounds like Hills playing “The Vessel” on Master Sleeps. There’s a sample there, who knows what, but the point is the jam, and the jam sounds like they took a regular song and melted it into so much lysergic goo. True, they find some shape in the second half, coalescing around a dreamy guitar figure to cap, but the breaking-down-of-elements had to come first. The finish in “The Vessel” makes a suitably right-on lead-in for the soft-boogie drum foundation of “Master Sleeps” itself. Guitars, bass, organ all follow the bounce those drums lay out, grooving casual-like through the initial section of the longest piece of the album that shares its name, and as they jam through, they seem to acknowledge the funk they’re making — a bit of cowbell here, a bit of wah there, some easy-soul vocals, all very deep in the procession, all very spacey, very improv-feeling. And yeah, this sounds like what’s next, still. A band and a record out of time, maybe, leaving everybody else to chase their warp trail around the other side of the planet where some trap or other is set but our sensors can’t get a reading, Cap’n.

That’s right. It’s the kind of record that might make you lapse into fan-fic. No regrets. There’s nothing missing from “Master Sleeps,” and for those Stateside, one might find its inherent swagger similar to the always-off-the-cuff musings of Endless Boogie, but there’s a personality at work here too, and the band are having fun exploring almost in spite of themselves. Thus the drones and chants of “Death Shall Come” arrive to put not just a memento mori on the party they just incited, but an end to the LP as a whole, a patient unfurling across the song’s first half leading to a surprise of a crash about three minutes in as guitars intertwine in loosely mystical fashion and the dirge truly comes together, hitting an apex still somewhat undersold but nothing less than it needs to be to highlight just how individual each part of Master Sleeps is and likewise just how intensely the pieces feed the whole.

Rocket Recordings picked up Master Sleeps in 2013 and likewise stood behind the band’s 2015 outing, Frid, and their 2017 Alive at Roadburn LP, captured the year before at the festival where I’d been lucky enough to see them (review here). The band aren’t so much active at this point, but Rocket has newly issued a debut outing from psych-jazz outfit Djinn, which boasts membership from Hills and sibling purveyors Goat. And that’s not nothing, as you can hear on Bandcamp.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Distractible, so the internet is probably the worst place for me to be. So it goes. Those eight-year-old SNL clips aren’t gonna watch themselves when I should be writing.

This week… was a thing that happened? I guess the highlight was when I talked to Genghis Tron and they weren’t jerks. I really like that record. Stick around in the interview long enough and you’ll hear me tell them it’s my album of the year so far, and it is. I know there’s a lot to come from some big names, but it’s a high standard just the same, and they’ve set it, and yeah, it’s just always a relief to talk to someone you haven’t interviewed before (actually I’m not 100 percent that I never interviewed them back in the day, but close enough) and they don’t ruin the record by being a dick. That hasn’t happened to me in a while, for which I’m thankful.

Next week I’m doing a cool thing. On Monday. I’m already kind of nervous about it. I’m also interviewing Tommi Holappa from Greenleaf in a couple hours — also quite cool — and I’m kinda nervous about that too, but I know damn well already he’s a good guy based on copious past experience, so no actual worries there other than the usual I’m-talking-to-a-human-being type. Need to send him the Zoom link. I’ll get there.

But the cool thing Monday. Can’t talk about it. Very cool though. Hoping to post about it Tuesday, but timing might be weird, so it may be Wednesday before I get there. So Monday looks like a Snail album review with a video premiere — hey that’s pretty cool too! — and then Tuesday will either be Cool Thing or the Greenleaf interview, and Wednesday is whichever of those two didn’t run on Tuesday. I’ve also got two premieres lined up for Thursday and one for Friday, so the week’s spoken for in its entirety, and that takes us through the end of April. Time both drags and flies. Nothing makes any sense.

Far out.

The Pecan starts tee-ball tomorrow for the first time. We bought him a glove last week, then this week we bought him a glove he can actually squeeze closed, though he hasn’t quite worked out the mechanism of doing so yet. That kid fucking hates me. Oof. Rough week. Everything’s a fight. Everything. The Patient Mrs. comes down the stairs and it’s like he flips a switch and is good to go. She goes back to work and he’s back to whining and bitching about fucking everything. All week. Dude does not believe in union breaks. I’m hoping it’s a phase but I’ve seen zero evidence to-date that it might be. To wit, I couldn’t stand my father pretty much from the outset and now he’s dead, so there you go. Find me a point to anything.

I’d like to record some vocals this weekend for nascent-project, but I’m not sure I’ll get the chance. The weekends lately are the worst. I end up with less time than the weekdays because there’s no preschool in the morning. What a wreck. Sundays are awful, and I still refuse to do anything on Saturday because god damn, give me a day, but then I spend half of Saturday thinking about all the crap I need to get through on Sunday and it’s just a waste anyway and then Sunday’s still a pain in the ass. I guess if you have two kids, or, god forbid, more, you just cancel the rest of your life and that’s what you do. One kid, there’s still some semblance of an existence beyond that kid, so you’re kind of struggling to keep yourself sane. Or you’re negligent as fuck, and certainly there’s an appeal to that as well.

I don’t know anything. I’d like to write a book of essays about it and call it Daddy Issues, but I’m sure that’s taken.

I’ll go shower. That will help.

Have a great and safe weekend. Hydrate, watch your head, all that fun stuff. Back Monday.

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Quarterly Review: Horisont, Ahab, Rrrags, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Earthbong, Rito Verdugo, Death the Leveller, Marrowfields, Dätcha Mandala, Numidia

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Well, I’m starting an hour later than I did yesterday, so that’s maybe not the most encouraging beginning I could think of, but screw it, I’m here, got music on, got fingers on keys, so I guess we’re underway. Yesterday was remarkably easy, even by Quarterly Review standards. I’ve been doing this long enough at this point — five-plus years — that I approach it with a reasonable amount of confidence it’ll get done barring some unforeseen disaster.

But yesterday was a breeze. What does today hold? In the words of Mrs. Wagner from fourth grade homeroom, “see me after.”

Ready, set, go.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Horisont, Sudden Death

horisont sudden death

With a hefty dose of piano up front and keys throughout, Gothenburg traditionalist heavy rockers Horisont push retro-ism into full-on arena status. Moving past some of the sci-fi aspects of 2017’s About Time, Sudden Death comprises 13 tracks and an hour’s runtime, so rest assured, there’s room for everything, including the sax on “Into the Night,” the circa-’77 rock drama in the midsection of the eight-minute “Archeopteryx in Flight,” and the comparatively straightforward seeming bounce of “Sail On.” With cocaine-era production style, Sudden Death is beyond the earlier-’70s vintage mindset of the band’s earliest work, and songs like “Standing Here” and the penultimate proto-metaller “Reign of Madness” stake a claim on the later era, but the post-Queen melody of “Revolution” at the outset and the acoustic swing in “Free Riding” that follows set a lighthearted tone, and as always seems to be the case with Horisont, there’s nothing that comes across as more important than the songwriting.

Horisont on Thee Facebooks

Century Media website

 

Ahab, Live Prey

ahab live prey

Scourge of the seven seas that German nautically-themed funeral doomers Ahab are, Live Prey is their first live album and it finds them some five years removed from their last studio LP, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (review here). For a band who in the past has worked at a steady three-year pace, maybe it was time for something, anything to make its way to public ears. Fair enough, and in five tracks and 63 minutes, Live Prey spans all the way back to 2006’s Call of the Wretched Sea with “Ahab’s Oath” and presents all but two of that debut’s songs, beginning with the trilogy “Below the Sun,” “The Pacific” and “Old Thunder” and switching the order of “Ahab’s Oath” and “The Hunt” from how they originally appeared on the first record to end with the foreboding sounds of waves rolling accompanied by minimal keyboards. It’s massively heavy, of course — so was Call of the Wretched Sea — and whatever their reason for not including any other album’s material, at least they’ve included anything.

Ahab on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records website

 

Rrrags, High Protein

rrrags high protein

Let’s assume the title High Protein might refer to the fact that Dutch/Belgian power trio Rrrags have ‘trimmed the fat’ from the eight songs that comprise their 33-minute sophomore LP. It’s easy enough to believe listening to a cut like “Messin'” or the subsequent “Sad Sanity,” which between the two of them are about as long as the 5:14 opener “The Fridge” just before. But while High Protein has movers and groovers galore in those tracks and the fuzzier “Sugarcube” — the tone of which might remind that guitarist Ron Van Herpen is in Astrosoniq — the stomping “Demons Dancing” and the strutter “Hellfire,” there’s live-DeepPurple-style breadth on the eight-minute “Dark is the Day” and closer “Window” bookends “The Fridge” in length while mellowing out and giving drummer/vocalist Rob Martin a rest (he’s earned it by then) while bassist Rob Zim and Van Herpen carry the finale. If thinking of it as a sleeper hit helps you get on board, so be it, but Rrrags‘ second album is of unmitigated class and straight-up killer performance. It is not one to be overlooked.

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Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Viscerals

pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs viscerals

There’s stoner roll and doomed crash in “New Body,” drone-laced spoken-word experimentalism in “Blood and Butter,” and post-punk angular whathaveyou as “Halloween Bolson” plays out its nine-minute stretch, but Viscerals — the third or fourth Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album, depending on what you count — seems to be at its most satisfying in blowout freak-psych moments like opener “Reducer” and “Rubbernecker,” which follows, while the kinda-metal of “World Crust”‘s central riff stumbles willfully and teases coming apart before circling back, and “Crazy in Blood” and closer “Hell’s Teeth” are more straight-up heavy rock. It’s a fairly wide arc the UK outfit spread from one end of the record to the other — and they’re brash enough to pull it off, to be sure — but with the hype machine so fervently behind them, I have a hard time knowing whether I’m actually just left flat by the record itself or all the hyperbole-set-on-fire that’s surrounded the band for the last couple years. Viscerals gets to the heart of the matter, sure enough, but then what?

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Earthbong, Bong Rites

Earthbong Bong Rites

Kiel, Germany’s Earthbong answer the stoner-sludge extremity of their 2018 debut, One Earth One Bong (review here), with, well, more stoner-sludge extremity. What, you thought they’d go prog? Forget it. You get three songs. Opener “Goddamn High” and “Weedcult Today” top 15 minutes each, and closer “Monk’s Blood” hits half an hour. Do the quick math yourself on that and you’ll understand just how much Earthbong have been looking forward to bashing you over the head with riffs. “Weedcult Today” is more agonizingly slow than “Goddamn High,” at least at the beginning, but it builds up and rolls into a pace that, come to think of it, is still probably slower than most, and of course “Monk’s Blood” is an epic undertaking right up to its last five minutes of noise. It could’ve been an album on its own. But seriously, if you think Earthbong give a shit, you’re way off base. This is tone, riff and weed worship and everything else is at best a secondary concern. Spend an hour at mass and see if you don’t come out converted.

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Earthbong on Bandcamp

 

Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus

rito verdugo post-primatus

No doubt that at some future time shortly after the entire world has moved on from the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a glut of releases comprised of material written during the lockdown. Peruvian four-piece Rito Verdugo are ahead of the game, then, with their Post-Primatus four-song EP. Issued digitally as the name-your-price follow-up to their also-name-your-price 2018 debut, Cosmos, it sets a 14-minute run from its shortest cut to its longest, shifting from the trippy “Misterio” into fuzz rockers “Monte Gorila” (which distills Earthless vibes to just over three minutes) and “Lo Subnormal” en route to the rawer garage psychedelia of “Inhumación,” which replaces its vocals with stretches of lead guitar that do more than just fill the spaces verses might otherwise be and instead add to the breadth of the release as a whole. Safe to assume Rito Verdugo didn’t plan on spending any amount of time this year staying home to avoid getting a plague, but at least they were able to use the time productively to give listeners a quick sample of where they’re at sound-wise coming off the first album. Whenever and however it shows up, I’ll look forward to what they do next.

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Rito Verdugo on Bandcamp

 

Death the Leveller, II

Death the Leveller II

Signed to Cruz Del Sur Music as part of that label’s expanding foray into traditionalist doom (see also: Pale Divine, The Wizar’d, Apostle of Solitude, etc.), Dublin’s Death the Leveller present an emotionally driven four tracks on their 38-minute label debut, the counterintuitively titled II. Listed as their first full-length, it’s about the same length as their debut “EP,” 2017’s I, but more important is the comfort and patience the band shows with working in longer-form material, opener “The Hunt Eternal,” “The Golden Bough” and closer “The Crossing” making an impression at over nine minutes apiece — “The Golden Bough” tops 12 — while “So They May Face the Sun” runs a mere 7:37 and is perhaps the most unhurried of the bunch, playing out with a cinematic sweep of guitar melody and another showcase for the significant presence of frontman Denis Dowling, who’s high in the mix at times but earns that forward position with a suitably standout performance across the record’s span.

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Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Marrowfields, Metamorphoses

marrowfields metamorphoses

It isn’t surprising to learn that the members of Fall River, Massachusetts, five-piece Marrowfields come from something of an array of underground styles, some of them pushing into more extreme terrain, because the five songs of their debut full-length, Metamorphoses, do likewise. With founding guitarist/main-songwriter Brandon Green at the helm as producer as well, there’s a suitably inward-looking feel to the material, but coinciding with its rich atmospheres are flashes of blastbeats, death metal chug, double-kick and backing growls behind the cleaner melodic vocals that keep Marrowfields distinct from entirely traditionalist doom. It is a niche into which they fit well on this first long-player, and across the five songs/52 minutes of Metamorphoses, they indeed shapeshift between genre elements in order to best serve the purposes of the material, calling to mind Argus in the progressive early stretch of centerpiece “Birth of the Liberator” while tapping Paradise Lost chug and ambience before the blasts kick in on closer “Dragged to the World Below.” Will be interesting to see which way their — or Green‘s, as it were — focus ultimately lies, but there isn’t one aesthetic nuance misused here.

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Black Lion Records on Bandcamp

 

Dätcha Mandala, Hara

datcha mandala hara

Dätcha Mandala present a strong opening salvo of rockers on Hara, their second album for MRS Red Sound, before turning over to all-out tambourine-and-harp blues on “Missing Blues.” From there, they could go basically anywhere they want, and they do, leading with piano on “Morning Song,” doing wrist-cramp-chug-into-disco-hop in “Sick Machine” and meeting hand-percussion with space rocking vibes on “Moha.” They’ve already come a long way from the somewhat misleading ’70s heavy of opener “Stick it Out,” “Mother God” and “Who You Are,” but the sonic turns that continue with the harder-edged “Eht Bup,” the ’70s balladry of “Tit’s,” an unabashed bit o’ twang on “On the Road” and full-on fuzz into a noise freakout on closer “Pavot.” Just what the hell is going on with Hara? Anything Dätcha Mandala so desire, it would seem. They have the energy to back it up, but if you see them labeled as any one microgenre or another, keep in mind that inevitably that’s only part of the story and the whole thing is much weirder than they might be letting on. No complaints with that.

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MRS Red Sound

 

Numidia, Numidia

Numidia Numidia

If you’ve got voices in your band that can harmonize like guitarists James Draper, Shane Linfoot and Mike Zoias, I’m not entirely sure what would lead you to start your debut record with a four-minute instrumental, but one way or another, Sydney, Australia’s Numidia — completed by bassist/keyboardist Alex Raffaelli and drummer Nathan McMahon — find worthy manners in which to spend their time. Their first collection takes an exploratory approach to progressive heavy rock, seeming to feel its way through components strung together effectively while staying centered around the guitars. Yes, three of them. Psychedelia plays a strong role in later pieces “Red Hymn” and the folky “Te Waka,” but if the eponymous “Numidia” is a mission statement on the part of the five-piece, it’s one cast in a prog mentality pushed forward with poise to suit. Side A capper “A Million Martyrs” would seem to draw the different sides together, but it’s no minor task for it to do so, and there’s little sign in these songs that Numidia won’t grow more expansive as time goes on.

Numidia on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs to Release Viscerals April 3; Playing SXSW & More

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

pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs

I guess I missed it when UK spacepunks Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs became a big deal after 2018’s King of Cowards, but hey, that’s cool. Good for them. I don’t think there are many who’d tell you they didn’t earn it, or at least not for reasons beyond their own bitterness. That’s part of the thing though.

Their new album, Viscerals, is due in April with vinyl through Rocket Recordings. They’ll be at SXSW before that, also making a stop at Brooklyn’s famed Saint Vitus Bar before that, as one will. Neat. Go get ’em, dudes.

Art and info from the trusty PR wire:

pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs viscerals

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM VISCERALS

True to form, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs have left the wiser of us aware that they are no band to be messed with. In the seven years since this band’s inception, the powerful primal charge at their heart has been amplified far beyond the realms of their original imagination. What’s more, no one has been more taken aback by this transformation than the band itself.

This culminated recently at a sold-out show at London’s renowned former fleapit Scala. “That was the first gig where we were properly smacked with a feeling that something had shifted,” reflects vocalist Matt Baty. “Something big and bold and positive. I felt quite overwhelmed with emotion at one point during that show. I’m not sure anyone paid to see me cry onstage, but I was close.”

This upward trajectory has done nothing to make the Newcastle-based quintet complacent, however, as they’ve used the cumulative force behind them as fuel for their most ambitious and hard-hitting record yet.

Viscerals, their third proper release, is an enormous leap forward in confidence, adventure, and sheer intensity even from their 2018 breakthrough King Of Cowards. Incisive in its riff-driven attack, infectiously catchy in its songcraft, and more intrepid than ever in its experimental approach, Viscerals is the sound of a leaner, more vicious Pigsx7, and one with their controls set way beyond the pulverizing one-riff workouts of their early days.

Watch the video for the fearsome opener “Reducer,” which has a battle cry of “Ego kills everything” that brings a philosophical bent to its Sabbathian abjection, here.

“This is the first taste of our new album Viscerals,” the band says. “It’s called ‘Reducer’ and it has a very strong flavor. It’s one of the songs that came together quickest during the writing process. It’s immediate and unruly and has that cathartic edge we seek out from the music we make together. It’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun to play live. Let’s rock.”

Elsewhere “Rubbernecker” may be the most melodious ditty this band has yet attempted, redolent of the debauched swagger of Jane’s Addiction.

Meanwhile, the sinister sound-collage of “Blood And Butter” delves into jarring abstraction anew, “New Body” countenances a bracing Melvins-and-Sonic-Youth demolition derby, and, perhaps most memorably of all, the perverse banger “Crazy In Blood” marries MBV-ish guitar curlicues in its verses to a raise-your-fists chorus worthy of Twisted Sister or Turbonegro.

Yet Pigsx7 have effortlessly broadened their horizons and dealt with all these new avenues without sacrificing one iota of their trademark eccentricity and the personality of this band has never been stronger.

“We’re a peculiar bunch of people — a precarious balance of passion, intensity and the absurd,” notes Baty. Indeed, locked into a tight deadline in the studio, the band were forced to rally forces and to throw everything they had into it, and created as concise and powerful a statement as could be summoned forth. “We booked dates in Sam’s studio before we’d written 80% of the album,” reveals guitarist Adam Ian Sykes. “We definitely thrive under pressure. It’s stressful but that stress seems to manifest itself in a positive way.”

Yet, for all that, this record is the most far-reaching yet and its ability to get down to the nitty-gritty of the human condition is implicit from its title outwards. “Viscerals is reflection of many things I guess,” says guitarist Sam Grant, whose Blank Studios was the venue in question for the band, the rogues’ gallery of which is completed by bassist John-Michael Hedley and drummer Christopher Morley. “It’s the internal; it’s our health and physicality; it’s bodily and unseen; it’s essence that forgoes intellect; and it’s not a real word.”

“At times it feels like we’re on a playground roundabout and there’s a fanatical group of people pushing it to turn faster,” reckons Baty. “Then when it’s at peak speed, they all jump on too and for just a few minutes, we all feel liberated, together.”

Such is the relentless momentum of this unique and ever-porcine outfit; hedonists of the grittiest and most life-affirming ride in the land, and still the hungriest animals at the rock trough.

VISCERALS TRACK LISTING:
“Reducer”
“Rubbernecker”
“New Body”
“Blood And Butter”
“World Crust”
“Crazy In Blood”
“Halloween Bolson”
“Hell’s Teeth”

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS TOUR DATES:
3/13 — St. Vitus — Brooklyn, NY
3/15 — Moroccan Lounge — Los Angeles, CA
3/16-3/20 — SXSW — Austin, TX

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are:
Matt Baty (Vocals)
Sam Grant (Guitar)
Adam Ian Sykes (Guitar)
Christopher Morley (Drums)
John-Michael Hedley (Bass)

https://www.facebook.com/PigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigs/
https://www.instagram.com/Pigsx7/
https://www.pigsx7.com/
https://rocketrecordings.bandcamp.com/
http://rocketrecordings.blogspot.co.uk/

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, “Reducer” official video

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Centrum, För Meditation: Like a Mirror

Posted in Reviews on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

centrum for meditation

The album begins with a field recording of a busy street in India. Horns honk, cars whiz past. People speak. A bike bell chimes. Then the drone of “Vid Floden” begins and the essential message of Centrum‘s debut album, För Meditation, becomes clear in the feeling of leaving the world behind in search of a higher plane of consciousness. Or unconsciousness. Or of those parts of the mind that don’t have a name yet. Released through Rocket Recordings and Svensk Psych Aften, the four-track outing is a quick-enough session at 37 minutes; an unassuming single LP with two longer tracks bookending two shorter ones that unfolds graceful contemplative psychedelia worthy of its title. Across “Vid Floden” (11:02), “Sjön” (8:39), “Stjärnor” (05:14), and “Som En Spegel” (12:12), the lineup-less Swedish outfit whose members reportedly also take part in Weary Nous and rightfully acclaimed jam-lords Hills elicit a vibe that borders on the conceptual in its underlying purpose.

They have backward voices chanting at the outset of “Sjön” and a particularly effective use of strings and a classic wah solo laid overtop in “Stjärnor” and an apex of chanting following the flute-led procession of “Som En Spegel,” but wherever they go or whatever elements a given piece might introduce, the feeling of exploration and mind expansion is never far off. They never lose the serenity that “Vid Floden” seems to find once it floats away from the harsh reality of its outset, or maybe it’s finding the music in that cacophony and unearthing it for the listener. Either way, on the most basic level of setting a mood, Centrum‘s amalgam of ritual bells, drone, percussion and eventual turn to a slow march of drums and an emergent line of guitar or bass is hypnotic in the extreme and designed to be exactly that. The repetitive nature of the material is purposeful, and though there are some jarring moments like the sudden cut at the end of “Vid Floden,” by the time that opener’s 11 minutes are done, the effect of Centrum‘s intent is thoroughly felt. They called it För Meditation. It’s for meditation. This should not be shocking.

There is a subtle ambition in the arrangements, from the aforementioned strings and flutes and drones to the way in which “Sjön” seems to use an effects-laced sitar early in its second half and end with strings and a vague sample once its march is done. But everything in it counts. Nothing is without purpose. And in part because most of För Meditation moves at such a slow tempo, at no point does it sound maximalist or like Centrum just decided to throw something or other together with the guitar and drums. I wouldn’t call it overly careful in a way that detracts from the organic vibe of its sound overall, but there’s clearly care put into when pieces enter and exit, how a movement plays out with the core progression maintained beneath, and even the way in which the bell of the ride cymbal is hit in “Sjön” feels willful. That För Meditation could exist in such a way and still be so outwardly serene in its overarching affect should be a contradiction, but it just isn’t. That’s it.

Nothing that comes or goes, from that sample at the start to the last rising drone of “Som En Spegel” that seems to snap the listener back to reality, interrupts the flow of the material, be it instrument or the vocals that come forward in “Sjön” and “Stjärnor” after being relatively buried in “Vid Floden.” That serves as another example of the gentle manner in which the album unfurls as a whole work, and it’s telling that as Centrum reach their deepest point in “Som En Spegel,” they also wait until more than six and a half of the song’s total 12 minutes have passed in order to start the first verse. It’s a triumph of an alternative vision — the deep-breathing rhythm of a mind not at all clear but that still comes across that way even if just for a little while. Go, peacefully.

centrum

One could sit and debate the merits of escapism endlessly, but För Meditation only shows this kind of running in circles for the folly it is. While the band would hardly be the first psychedelic act to appropriate influences from traditional Indian music in melody, rhythm and arrangement to add spiritual flair to their material, Centrum make this melding a defining aspect and engage a conversation musically that stands well outside the bounds of “we played a rock song and put a sitar on it.” In truth, much of what one needs to know about För Meditation going into it is right there in the title. Like Om or some of Lamp of the Universe‘s work, Centrum‘s purpose is to evoke a state that’s apart from what one might think of as the crunch of modern existence.

Even in “Stjärnor,” which comes through like a brief summation of the greater mass of För Meditation, leaving its verses behind for the already-noted mesh of drone, strings and guitar, there’s the feeling of removing oneself from chaos, and the deeper one engages with the songs, the more that’s the case. It is itself a meditation on meditation, and whether the listener is formulating a personal relationship with the cosmos or just a personal relationship with the self — much as there’s a difference from the human perspective — the discovery feels genuine.

I wondered in listening for the first time if at the end of “Som En Spegel” Centrum might return to that initial sample from the start of “Vid Floden.” The two longer tracks bookend the album in a way that speaks to symmetry, and after departing the jarring realities of day-on-street, it seemed only fair to be redeposited there at the finish. They don’t. There are bells in the final moments of “Som En Spegel” before the drone takes hold, but it’s not from passing bikes, and ultimately, that seems no less purposeful than the initial departure. It’s not about just going back to where you came from, but about doing so with new or at very least changed sight, and clearly the last drone that swells and cuts off works on the part of Centrum to show faith in the listener’s ability to do that on their own. They have, to that point, provided sure direction.

With so little information on who Centrum are or their longterm plans, it’s hard to know in what context För Meditation arrives, whether it’s meant to be a first full-length from an ongoing project or it’s simply a one-off side gig from players otherwise spoken for. Right now, it doesn’t matter. It’s a beautiful expression, and it’s one of the best first albums you’ll hear in 2019. That’s enough.

Centrum, För Meditation (2019)

Centrum on Bandcamp

Rocket Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Rocket Recordings website

Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

Svensk Psych Aften on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: CHRCH, Bongripper, King Chiefs, Bonnacons of Doom, Boar, June Bug, Tired Lord, Bert, Zen Bison, Wheel in the Sky

Posted in Reviews on July 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

You know the deal by now, I’m sure: 50 reviews this week between now and Friday, in batches of 10 per day. It’s an unholy amount of music, but those who really dig in always seem to find something cool within a Quarterly Review. Frankly, with this much to choose from, I’d certainly hope so. I’m not going to delay at all, except to say thanks in advance for coming along on this one. It’s got some core-heavy and some-not-really-core-heavy stuff all bundled next to each other, so yeah, your patience is appreciated. Okay. No time like the present. Let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

CHRCH, Light Will Consume Us All

chrch light will consume us all

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the songs are long. Blah blah blah it’s heavy as whatever kind of construction equipment you could want to name. What’s even more striking about Los Angeles doomers CHRCH’s Neurot Recordings debut, Light Will Consume Us All, is the sense of atmosphere. The follow-up to 2015’s massively well-received Unanswered Hymns (review here) is comprised of three songs presented in descending time order from opener/longest track (immediate points) “Infinite” (20:41) to centerpiece “Portals” (14:50) and closer “Aether” (9:29) and it finds CHRCH refining the unremitting patience of their rollout, so that even when “Aether” explodes in its second half to charred blastbeating and abrasive screams, the ambience is still dense enough to feel it in one’s lungs. CHRCH keep up this level of progression and soon enough someone’s going to call them post-something or other. As it stands, their second album builds righteously on the achievements of their debut, and is a revelation in its bleakness.

CHRCH on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings website

 

Bongripper, Terminal

bongripper terminal

Pressed up as ever in DIY fashion, Bongripper’s Terminal presents two gargantuan slabs – one per vinyl side – that only seem to highlight the strengths in the Chicago instrumentalists’ approach. The tones are huge, the grooves nodding, the impact of each kick drum forceful. Repetition is central, that feeling of aural mass and destructiveness, but neither is Terminal – comprised of “Slow” (25:11) and “Death” (18:15) – lacking a sense of atmosphere. After 21 minutes of grueling pummel, “Slow” devolves into droning layers of noise wash and quiet guitar to finish out, and “Death” seems to hold onto an echoing lead in its closing minutes that accomplishes much the same thing in broadening the atmosphere overall. I don’t know if the two songs were composed to fit together –the titles would hint yes – but they invariably do, and as “Death” unleashes a more insistent punch before turning to a post-YOB gallop, it reconfirms Bongripper’s worship-worthy place in the stoner doom milieu, how their sound can be so familiar in its threat and yet so much their own.

Bongripper on Bandcamp

Bongripper webstore

 

King Chiefs, Blue Sonnet

King Chiefs Blue Sonnet

Born as Chiefs ahead of their 2015 debut album, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), Arizona-based four-piece King Chiefs make their own first outing in the form of the easily-digestible desert rocker Blue Sonnet (on Roosevelt Row and Cursed Tongue Records), comprised of 10 tracks running just under 40 minutes of older-school laid back heavy, swinging easy on cuts like “Surely Never” and “Drifter” while still finding some Helmeted aggressive edge in the riffs of “Slug” and “Walk the Plank.” The overarching focus is on songwriting, however, and King Chiefs hone in cleverly on ‘90s-era desert rock’s post-grunge sensibility, so that their material seems ready for an alternative radio that no longer exists. Such as it is, they do just fine without, and hooks pervade the two-guitar outfit’s material in natural and memorable fashion all the way to five-and-a-half-minute closer “Shrine of the Beholder,” which embraces some broader textures without losing the structural focus that serves so well on the songs before it.

King Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Roosevelt Row Records website

Cursed Tongue Records website

 

Bonnacons of Doom, Bonnacons of Doom

bonnacons of doom bonnacons of doom

Heavy psychedelic experimentalism pervades the Rocket Recordings-issued self-titled debut album from Liverpool collective Bonnacons of Doom, rife with tripout ritualism and exploration of sound as it is, all chasing light and getting freaky in any sense you want to read it. Five tracks, each a voyage unto itself – even the bass-fuzzy push of shortest cut “Rhizome” (5:55) is cosmos-bound – feed into the larger weirdness at play that culminates in the undulating grooves of “Plantae” (8:39), which is perhaps the most solidified cut in terms of choruses, verses, etc., but still a molten, headphone-worthy freakout that pushes the limits of psychedelia and still holds itself together. If the album was a to-do list, it would read as follows: “Eat mushrooms. Get naked. Dance around. Repeat.” Whether you do or don’t is ultimately up to you, but Bonnacons of Doom make a pretty convincing argument in favor, and I don’t generally consider myself much of a dancer. Among the most individualized psych debuts I’ve heard in a long time.

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Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Boar, Poseidon

Boar Poseidon

Poseidon, at six songs and 39 minutes, is the second long-player from Finnish four-piece Boar. Released on vinyl with no shortage of backing — Lost Pilgrims Records, Dissonant Society, Impure Muzik, S.K.O.D., Rämekuukkeli-levyt – it hurls forth a High on Fire-informed vision of noise rock on its opening title-track only to take on a slower roll in the subsequent “Shahar’s Son” and dig into massive crashing on “12.” Using echo to add a sense of depth all the while, they scream in tradeoffs à la Akimbo and boogie in “Featherless” and seem to find a post-metallic moment on “Dark Skies” before closing with the alternately brooding and scathing “Totally out of This World,” the song sort of falling apart into the feedback and noise that ends the album. There’s a persistent sense of violence happening, but it’s as much inward as outward, and though some of Boar’s most effective moments are in that rawness, there’s something to be said for the contemplation at the outset of “Shahar’s Son” and “12” as well.

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Boar on Bandcamp

 

June Bug, A Thousand Days

June bug A Thousand Days

Seemingly unrestrained by genre, the Lille, France-based duo June BugJune on vocals and multiple instruments and Beryl on backing vocals and multiple instruments – dig into some post-punk nudge on early cut “Reasons” from their debut album, A Thousand Days (Atypeek Music) after the folkish melodies of opener “Now,” but whether it’s the fuzzy indie vibes of “Freaks” or the harmonies, electronics and acoustic guitar of “Let it Rest,” or the keyboard-handclaps, lower tones and poppish instrumental hook of centerpiece “Mama,” there’s plenty of variety throughout. What ties the differing vibes and richly nuanced approach together is the vocals, which are mostly subdued and at times hyper-stylized, but never seem to fail to keep melodicism as their central operating method. That remains true on the subdued “Does it Matter” and the beat-laden “Silenced” at the album’s finish and brings everything together with an overarching sense of joy that holds firm despite shifts in mood and approach, making the complete front-to-back listen as satisfying as it might seem all over the place.

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Atypeek Music website

 

Tired Lord, Demo

tired lord demo

Released by the band last year, the four-song Demo by San Francisco outfit Tired Lord has been picked up for an official cassette issue through From Corners Unknown Records and will reportedly be the only release from the black metal/sludge genre-benders. Presumably that means they broke up, rather than just refuse to ever record again, though the latter possibility intrigues as well and would be meta-black metal. Spearheaded by guitarist Bryce Olson, Tired Lord effectively bring a thickness of tone to charred riffing, and a balance between screams and growls brings a cast of general extremity to the material. So I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to regret their dissolution and wish they’d do a proper release. Fair enough for the brutal chug in “Serpent’s Ascent” and the 7:51 closer “Astaroth,” which one wouldn’t mind hearing fleshed out from their current form. Failing that, one of the 30 tape copies pressed of Demo seems like decent consolation. At least while they’re there for the getting and before Tired Lord go gleefully into that black metal demo tape ether where so many seem to dwell.

From Corners Unknown Records on Thee Facebooks

From Corners Unknown Records website

 

BerT, Relics from Time Zero

bert relics from time zero

Lansing, Michigan, trio BerT – bassist Phil Clark and brothers Ryan (guitar) and Rael (drums) Andrews – broke up. They even put out a posthumous rare tracks release in 2017’s The Lost Toes (review here), so what’s left? Well, another album, of course. Intended as a sequel to the sci-fi narrative of the never-released long-player Return to the Electric Church, the five-track/35-minute Relics from Time Zero is unfinished, sans vocals where they might otherwise be, and basically a look at what might’ve been had the band not dissolved. For those prior-exposed to the once-prolific heavy rock bizarros, some of the proceedings will seem familiar: riffs are plentiful and fluid in their tempo changes from driving rock to droned-out stomp, and there seems to be about 1.5 of them in the four-minute “In the Cave of the Batqueen,” so but for the fact that it’s not done, I’d just about call it business as usual for BerT. I know they’re done and all, but I still wouldn’t mind hearing these songs with some lyrics, let alone the record this one was intended to follow-up. Either way, even defunct, BerT remain on their own wavelength.

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BerT on Bandcamp

 

Zen Bison, Krautrocker

zen bison krautrocker

Classic-style heavy rock riffing pervades opener “Blow My Mind” (5:47) and the subsequent “Backseat Lovers” (5:15) – somewhere between Stubb and Radio Moscow — on Zen Bison’s debut LP, Krautrocker, but as the five-track/42-minute self-release moves into the 11-minute title-track, guitarist/vocalist Philipp Ott, bassist Steffen Fischer and drummer Martin Konopka – joined by organist Hans Kirschner and percussionist Bobby Müller –move into deeper-grooving and more psychedelic fare. That turn suits the mostly-live-recorded outfit well on the longer instrumental piece, and that leads to a side B with the likewise-sans-vocals “La Madrugada” (9:56) and the closing cover of Don Nix’s blues rocker “Going Down” (10:24), jammed out at the end in its middle and end with quick return to the chorus between. There isn’t much on Krautrocker one might actually consider krautrock in the traditional sense, but there’s certainly plenty of rock to go around on the impressive and varied first offering from the Rostock trio.

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Zen Bison on Bandcamp

 

Wheel in the Sky, Beyond the Pale

wheel in the sky beyond the pale

From opener “Rivers of Dust” onward, Wheel in the Sky’s second album, Beyond the Pale (on The Sign Records), proffers classy and classic digs, informed by a heavy ‘70s uptempo spirit on its title-track and moving into more complex volume and arrangement shifts in “Burn Babylon Burn” (video premiere here) and a poppy, goth-informed hook on “The Only Dead Girl in the City,” all the while held together through a quality of songwriting that even the band’s 2015 debut, Heading for the Night (review here), seemed to hint toward. It’s a mover, to be sure, but Wheel in the Sky execute their material with poise and a sense of clear intention, and no matter where they seem to go, their tonality and natural production assures the listener has an easy time tagging along. Might be a sleeper for some, but there are going to be people who really, really dig this album, and I’ve got no argument with them.

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The Sign Records website

 

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Quarterly Review: All Them Witches, Anthroprophh, Orphan Gears, The Watchers, Grajo, Mythic Sunship, Empress, Monads, Nest, Redneck Spaceship

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Well, we’ve reached the end of the week if not the end of the Quarterly Review itself. That’s right: after hemming and hawing all week and going back and forth in my silly little brain, I’ve decided to extend this edition to a sixth day, which will be Monday. That means 60 reviews in six days, not 50 in five. Honestly, I could probably keep going for three or four more beyond that if I had the time or inclination, and I may get there someday, but I’m definitely not there now.

But hey, there have been a couple comments left along the way, so thanks for that. I appreciate you taking the time to read if you have. Here’s the last for the week and we’ll pick back up on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

All Them Witches, Lost and Found EP

all them witches lost and found ep

If Nashville four-piece All Them Witches put together the free-download Lost and Found EP simply as a means of getting their take on the folk song “Hares on the Mountain” out there, it was worth it. In the hands of vocalist/bassist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Rhodes specialist/violinist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler, the traditional tune becomes a wide open dronescape, bristling and vague like memory itself. It’s beautiful and a little confusing in just the right way, and it comes accompanied on the short release by the Fleetwood Mac cover “Before the Beginning,” an even-more-subdued take on “Call Me Star” from 2015’s New West Records debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), and a dub redux of “Open Passageways” – called, of course, “Dub Passageways” – from the same album. Might be a stopgap between full-lengths, but still, at 18 minutes, it’d make a more than worthy 10” release if they were looking for something new for the merch table.

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All Them Witches on Bandcamp

 

Anthroprophh, Omegaville

anthroprophh omegaville

Next time you feel like, “Hey man, I’m so freaked out and weird and wow man whatever blah blah,” just take a second to remember you live in a dimension where dudes from The Heads have side-projects. Paul Allen and Anthroprophh – his trio with Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb, otherwise known as the duo Big Naturals – are a freaked out freakout’s freakout. The stuff of psychedelic mania. And that’s only on the first disc of the 2CD Omegavlle (Rocket Recordings). By the time they get around to the three-song second disc and dig into extended trips like “Omegaille/THOTHB” (14:48) and the subsequent finale, “Journey out of Omegaville and into the…” (20:57), they’re so far gone into noise and captured, manipulated audio that who the hell knows where we’ve ended up? At 88 minutes, the limits of manageability are long left behind, but to get some of the Velvet Underground-in-space vibes of “Maschine” in trade for undertaking the undertaking it’s well worth letting go of the rigidity of things like time, place, etc.

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Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Orphan Gears, Rat Race

orphan gears rat race

I’m pretty sure Orphan Gears used the Super Mario Bros. font for their logo on the cover of their latest EP, Rat Race, and for that, they should be saluted. The gritty-riffing semi-punker London four-piece offer five tracks and 20 minutes of workaday, boozy grooves, blowing off steam after putting in a shift at this or that crappy job. They are null as regards pretense, and ask little more of their audience than perhaps a beer from the stage or whatever else might be on the menu that night. They share initials, but unlike much of the London underground, they share little ultimately with Orange Goblin in terms of style, despite the shuffle of “Tough Luck, BJ” or the harmonica at the end of “Bitch-Slapped Blues,” and by the time they get to the classic strut of the title-track, they seem to be dug into AC/DC-style groove in the verse while blending in modern heavy rock impulses around it. They clearly save their best for last.

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Orphan Gears on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Black Abyss

the watchers black abyss

An immediately cogent, professional debut full-length is about what you’d expect from The Watchers, the San Francisco four-piece with members of SpiralArms, Orchid and Black Gates in their ranks, particularly after their prior EP, Sabbath Highway (review here), but that doesn’t stop the songwriting from impressing across the eight-song long-player, Black Abyss (on Ripple Music). The band’s presentation is crisp and pro-shop all the way through, from the soloing on “Oklahoma Black Magic” to the keyboard-laced TonyMartin-era-Sabbathism-meets-tambourine of “Suffer Fool” later on, and with the opening salvo of the title-track and “Alien Lust” right behind it, The Watchers set a quick expectation for hooks and a high standard of delivery that, thankfully, they show no hesitation in living up to for the duration, the chug-and-roll finale “Seven Tenets” satisfies in mood and efficiency, departing into airy guitar meditation and making its way back for a suitably rocking sendoff. Dudes know what they’re doing, where they’re headed and how they want to get there. All the listener needs to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Grajo, Slowgod II

grajo slowgod ii

A sequel to their 2015 full-length, Slowgod II (on Underground Legends Records, Spinda Records and DHU Records), sees Córdoba-based four-piece Grajo dug into a deep-toned psychedelic doom. There are flashes of Eastern influence on “Malmuerta,” with frontwoman Liz crooning over the minor-key guitar noodling of Josef, the forward motion in Félix’s drums and the heft of Pistolo’s bass. That dynamic works across Slowgod II, from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Altares” through its closing eight-minute counterpart “Malstrom,” which moves from early crunch through spacious volume swells in its middle only to regain composure and offer a heavy post-rock payoff that, somehow, still isn’t that atmospherically removed from the swinging “Horror and Pleasure” right before it or the similarly speedier “Queen Cobra” that follows “Altares” at the outset. Definitely one for the converted, Grajo deliver tones thick enough to stand on and engaging melodicism without falling into any real traps of sonic redundancy, varying their pace effectively and conjuring consuming plod on “ER” while still holding to that notion of breadth that seems to unite all their material here.

Grajo on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

Mythic Sunship, Upheaval

mythic sunship upheaval

It just so happens this is exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. After releasing their Land Between Rivers (review here) LP through El Paraiso Records last year, the Copenhagen four-piece of Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Andersen and Rasmus “Cleaver” Christensen, collectively known as Mythic Sunship, return with four more slabs of exploratory bliss on Upheaval. Either completely or partially improvised, “Tectonic Beach” (12:42), “Aether Flux” (10:55), “Cosmic Rupture” (6:44) and “Into Oblivion” (13:56) flow together like the work of masters, and with shades of patient space rock at their core, the tracks are infused with life even beyond the spontaneity of their creation. Heavy jams. Heavy, spacy jams. Molten. Swirling. Badass. Even the shorter and more forward “Cosmic Rupture” is headed out of the atmosphere, and when they come around to the noisy payoff deep in “Into Oblivion,” it’s abundantly clear they’re not joking around when it comes to the title. You can get onboard with Mythic Sunship, or you can miss out. Bands like this separate the hip from the squares.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records webstore

 

Empress, Reminiscence

Empress reminiscence

Those who miss the days when Mastodon or Baroness howled their shouts into a landscape of crunching tonal largesse might do well to dig into what Vancouver, British Columbia’s Empress have to offer on their late-2017 debut EP, Reminiscence. The 27-minute five-tracker isn’t without its sense of melody – there’s plenty of room in eight-minute second cut “Immer” – but guitarist/vocalist Peter Sacco, bassist Brenden Gunn and drummer Chris Doyle make their primary impression via the impact of their material, and as they swap back and forth between shorter tracks and longer ones, a sense of structural playfulness results that moves through the bass openings of “Baptizer” (2:50) and “They Speak Like Trees” (9:27) into the ambient guitar finisher “Dawn,” and the feeling is that, like their stylistic forebears in at the time what was thought of as a new take on sludge metal, Empress will only grow more progressive as they move forward from this first outing. One hopes they hold firm to the tectonic weight they present here that so many others seem to have given up along the way.

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Empress on Bandcamp

 

Monads, IVIIV

monads iviiv

Released some six years after Monads’ 2011 debut, Intellectus Iudicat Veritatem, the Aesthetic Death Records-issued IVIIV was, according to the Belgian five-piece’s own accounting, in the works for most of that time in one way or another. One might say, therefore, that its creation does justice to the glacial pace of some of its slowest moments, the crawling death-doom extremity of pieces like “To a Bloodstained Shore,” or the lurch before the gallop takes hold in “Your Wounds Were My Temple.” At four songs and 50 minutes, IVIIV is indicative enough of the style, but Monads legitimately showcase a persona of their own in and out of those genre confines, the melancholic atmosphere and expanded arrangement elements (piano, etc.) of 15-minute closer “The Despair of an Aeon” creatively used if familiar, and the smoothness of the transitions in opener “Leviathan as My Lament” setting a tone of scope as well as downward emotional trajectory. Not sure I’d count on a quick turnaround for a follow-up, but if half a decade from now a new Monads record surfaces, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for.

Monads on Thee Facebooks

Aestehetic Death Records website

 

Nest, Metempsychosis

nest metempsychosis

Rolling from its untitled intro through its untitled outro through a barrage of charred-black, bludgeoning sludge extremity, the debut album from Lexington, Kentucky’s Nest, Metempsychosis (on Sludgelord Records), refers in its title to a transmigration of the soul, an inheritance almost as much as reincarnation. The band may be talking about themselves or they may be working on a theme throughout the record’s seven proper tracks, I don’t know, but if the idea is destruction and rebirth, they certainly sound more interested in the former. Songs like “Heretic” seethe and scour, while the lumbering and spacious closer “Life’s Grief,” capping with abrasive noise, would seem to be a mission statement in itself. Individual pieces like “Jewel of Iniquity” and the preceding atmosphere-into-mega-crush “Diving into the Entrails of Sheep” – of course the centerpiece of the tracklisting – are shorter unto themselves, but like everything else that surrounds, they feed into an overarching ambience of disgust and chaos.

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Sludgelord Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Redneck Spaceship, Grand Marshal Ape

redneck spaceship grand marshall ape

There are some issues as regards the balance of the mix pushing the vocals forward ahead of the guitar to work out, but Moscow’s Redneck Spaceship impress all the same with the intent and execution of their late-2017 self-released debut, Grand Marshal Ape. In riffs and songcraft, their influences stem from the classic days of stoner rock, but from opener “The Sands of Dakar” and the later “That Sounds Nuts,” one gets a vibe of underlying punk influence, while the twang in harmonized highlight “On the Roadside” and slide guitar of “Maverick” lends a Southern, bluesy swing that the penultimate “Enchained” answers back later ahead of the sample-laden psychedelic jam-out closer, “Antariksh,” which strikes as a far cry from the ultra-straightforward presentation earlier on “Empty Pockets,” but speaks to an immediate scope in Redneck Spaceship’s sound. One hopes they continue to meld elements as they progress beyond Grand Marshal Ape and bridge the gap between one side of their moniker and the other.

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Redneck Spaceship on Bandcamp

 

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