Quarterly Review: Ufomammut, Insect Ark, Heath, The Cosmic Dead, The Watchers, Juke Cove, Laurel Canyon, Tet, Aidan Baker, Trap Ratt

Posted in Reviews on May 21st, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Good morning and heavy riffs. Today is day 7 of the Quarterly Review. It’s already been a lot, but there are still 30 more releases to cover over the next three days, so I assure you at some point I’ll have that nervous breakdown that’s been ticking away in the back of my brain. A blast as always, which I mean both sincerely and sarcastically, somehow.

But when we’re done, 100 releases will have been covered, and I get a medal sent to me whenever that happens from the UN’s Stoner Rock Commission on Such Things, so I’ll look forward to that. In the meantime, we’re off.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Ufomammut, Hidden

ufomammut hidden

Italian cosmic doomers Ufomammut celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2024, and as they always have, they do so by looking and moving forward. Hidden is the 10th LP in their catalog, the second to feature drummer Levre — who made his debut on 2022’s Fenice (review here) alongside bassist/vocalist Urlo and guitarist Poia (both also keyboards) — and it was preceded by last year’s Crookhead EP (review here), the 10-minute title-track of which is repurposed as the opener here. A singular, signature blend of heft and synth-based atmospherics, Ufomammut roll fluidly through the six-tracker check-in, and follow on from Fenice in sounding refreshed while digging into their core stylistic purposes. “Spidher” brings extra tonal crush around its open verse, and “Mausoleum” has plenty of that as well but is less condensed and hypnotic in its atmospheric midsection, Ufomammut paying attention to details while basking in an overarching largesse. The penultimate “Leeched” was the lead single for good reason, and the four-minute “Soulost” closes with a particularly psychedelic exploration of texture and drone with the drums keeping it moving. 25 years later and there’s still new things to discover. I hear the universe is like that.

Ufomammut website

Supernatural Cat website

Neurot Recordings website

Insect Ark, Raw Blood Singing

insect ark raw blood singing

Considering some of the places Dana Schechter has taken Insect Ark over the project’s to-date duration, most of Raw Blood Singing might at times feel daringly straightforward, but that’s hardly a detriment to the material itself. Songs like “The Hands” bring together rhythmic tension and melodic breadth, as soundscapes of drone, low end chug and the drumming of Tim Wyskida (also Khanate, Blind Idiot God) cast a morose, encompassing atmospheric vision. And rest assured, while “The Frozen Lake” lumbers through its seven minutes of depressive post-sludge — shades of The Book of Knots at their heaviest, but still darker — and “Psychological Jackal” grows likewise harsher and horrific, the experimentalist urge continues to resonate; the difference is it’s being set to serve the purposes of the songs themselves in “Youth Body Swayed” or “Cleaven Hearted,” which slogs like death-doom with a strum cutting through to replace vocals, whereas the outro “Ascension” highlights the noise on its own. It is a bleak, consuming course presented over Raw Blood Singing‘s 45 minutes, but there’s solace in the catharsis as well.

Insect Ark website

Debemur Murti Productions website

Heath, Isaak’s Marble

Heath Isaak's Marble

Laced through with harmonica and organic vibes, Netherlands-based five-piece Heath make their full-length debut with the four extended tracks of Isaak’s Marble, reveling in duly expansive jams keyed for vibrancy and a live sound. They are somewhat the band-between as regards microgenres, with a style that can be traced on the opening title-cut to heavy ’70s funk-boogie-via-prog-rock, and the harmonica plays a role there before spacing out with echo over top of the psychedelia beginning of “Wondrous Wetlands.” The wetlands in question, incidentally, might just be the guitar tone, but that haze clears a bit as the band saunters into a light shuffle jam before the harder-hitting build into a crescendo that sounds unhinged but is in fact quite under control as it turns back to a softshoe-ready groove with organ, keys, harmonica, guitar all twisting around with the bass and drums. Sitar and vocal harmonies give the shorter-at-six-minutes “Strawberry Girl” a ’60s psych-pop sunshine, but the undercurrent is consistent with the two songs before as Heath highlight the shroomier side of their pastoralism, ahead of side B capper “Valley of the Sun” transitioning out of that momentary soundscape with clear-eyed guitar and flute leading to an angular progression grounded by snare and a guitar solo after the verse that leads the shift into the final build. They’re not done, of course, as they bring it all to a rousing end and some leftover noise; subdued in the actual-departing, but still resonant in momentum and potential. These guys might just be onto something.

Heath website

Suburban Records store

The Cosmic Dead, Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead Infinite Peaks

The Cosmic Dead, releasing through Heavy Psych Sounds, count Infinite Peaks as their ninth LP since 2011. I’ll take them at their word since between live offerings, splits, collections and whatnot, it’s hard sometimes to know what’s an album. Similarly, when immersed in the 23-minute cosmic sprawl of “Navigator #9,” it can become difficult to understand where you stop and the universe around you begins. Rising quickly to a steady, organ-inclusive roll, the Glaswegian instrumental psilocybinists conjure depth like few of their jam-prone ilk and remain entrancing as “Navigator #9” shifts into its more languid, less-consuming middle movement ahead of the resurgent finish. Over on side B, “Space Mountain” (20:02) is a bit more drastic in the ends it swaps between — a little noisier and faster up front, followed by a zazzy-jazzy push with fiddle and effects giving over to start-stop bass and due urgency in the drums complemented by fuzz like they just got in a room and this happened before the skronky apex and unearthly comedown resolve in a final stretch of drone. Ninth record or 15th, whatever. Their mastery of interstellar heavy exploration is palpable regardless of time, place or circumstance. Infinite Peaks glimpses at that dimensional makeup.

The Cosmic Dead website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

The Watchers, Nyctophilia

The Watchers Nyctophilia

Perhaps telegraphing some of their second long-player’s darker intentions in the cover art and the title Nyctophilia — a condition whereby you’re happier and more comfortable in darkness — if not the choice of Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne, Death Angel, etc.) to produce, San Francisco’s The Watchers are nonetheless a heavy rock and roll band. What’s shifted in relation to their 2018 debut, Black Abyss (review here), is the angle of approach they take in getting there. What hasn’t changed is the strength of songwriting at their foundation or the hitting-all-their-marks professionalism of their execution, whether it’s Tim Narducci bringing a classic reach to the vocals of “Garden Tomb” or the precise muting in his and Jeremy Von Epp‘s guitars and Chris Lombardo‘s bass on “Haunt You When I’m Dead” and Nick Benigno‘s declarative kickdrum stomping through the shred of “They Have No God.” The material lands harder without giving up its capital-‘h’ Heavy, which is an accomplishment in itself, but The Watchers set a high standard last time out and Nyctophilia lives up to that while pursuing its own semi-divergent ends.

The Watchers on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Juke Cove, Tempest

juke cove tempest

Leipzig’s Juke Cove follow a progressive course across eight songs and 44 minutes of Tempest, between nodding riffs of marked density and varying degrees of immediacy, whether it’s the might-just-turn-around-on-you “Hypnosis” early on or the shove with which the duly brief penultimate piece “Burst” takes off after the weighted crash of and ending stoner-rock janga-janga riff of “Glow” and precedes the also-massive “Xanadu” in the closing position, capping with a fuzzy solo because why not. From opener “The Path” into the bombast of “Hypnosis” and the look-what-we-can-make-riffs-do “Wait,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mateusz Pietrzela, bassist/vocalist Dima Ogorodnov and drummer Maxim Balobin mine aural individualism from familiar-enough genre elements, shaping material of character that benefits from the scope wrought in tone and production. Much to its credit, Tempest feels unforced in speaking to various sides of its persona, and no matter where a given song might go — the watery finish of “Wait” or the space-blues drift that emerges out of psych-leaning noise rock on “Confined,” for example — Juke Cove steer with care and heart alike and are all the more able to bring their audience with them as a result. Very cool, and no, I’m not calling them pricks when I say that.

Juke Cove on Facebook

Juke Cove on Bandcamp

Laurel Canyon, East Side EP

laurel canyon east side

A little more than a year out from their impressive self-titled debut LP (review here), Philly three-piece Laurel Canyon — guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nicholas Gillespie, guitarist/vocalist Serg Cereja, drummer Dylan DePice — offer the East Side three-songer to follow-up on the weighted proto-grunge vibes therein. “East Side” itself, at two and a half minutes, is a little more punk in that as it aligns for a forward push in the chorus between its swaggering verses, while “Garden of Eden” is more directly Nirvana-schooled in making its well-crafted melody sound like something that just tumbled out of somebody’s mouth, pure happenstance, and “Untitled” gets more aggressive in its second half, topping a momentary slowdown/nod with shouts before they let it fall apart at the end. This procession takes place in under 10 minutes and by the time you feel like you’ve got a handle on it, they’re done, which is probably how it should be. East Side isn’t Laurel Canyon‘s first short release, and they’re clearly comfortable in the format, bolstering the in-your-face-itude of their style with a get-in-and-get-out ethic correspondingly righteous in its rawness.

Laurel Canyon on Facebook

Agitated Records website

Tet, Tet

tet tet

If you hadn’t yet come around to thinking of Poland among Europe’s prime underground hotspots, Tet offer their four-song/45-minute self-titled debut for your (re-)consideration. With its lyrics and titles in Polish, Tet draws on the modern heavy prog influence of Elder in some of the 12-minute opener/longest track (immediate points), “Srebro i antracyt,” but neither that nor “Dom w cieniu gruszy,” which follows, stays entirely in one place for the duration, and the lush melody that coincides with the unfolding of “Wiosna” is Tet‘s own in more than just language; that is to say, there’s more to distinguish them from their influences than the syllabic. Each inclusion adds complexity to the story their songs are telling, and as closer “Włóczykije” gradually moves from its dronescape by bringing in the drums unveiling the instrumentalist build already underway, Tet carve a niche for themselves in one of the continent’s most crowded scenes. I wonder if they’ve opened for Weedpecker. They could. Or Belzebong, for that matter. Either way, it will be worth looking out for how they expand on these ideas next time around.

Tet linktr.ee

Tet on Bandcamp

Aidan Baker, Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

aidan baker Everything is Like Always Until it is Not

Aidan Baker, also of Nadja, aligns the eight pieces of what I think is still his newest outing — oh wait, nope; this came out in Feb. and in March he had an hour-long drone two-songer out; go figure/glad I checked — to represent the truism of the title Everything is Like Always Until it is Not, and arranges the tracks so that the earlier post-shoegaze in “Everything” or “Like” can be a preface for the more directly drone-based “It” “Is” later on. And yes, there are two songs called “Is.” Does it matter? Definitely not while Baker‘s evocations are actually being heard. Free-jazz drums — not generally known for a grounding effect — do some work in terms of giving all the float that surrounds them a terrestrial aspect, but if you know Baker‘s work either through his solo stuff, Nadja or sundry other collaborations, I probably don’t need to tell you that the 47 minutes of Everything is Like Always Until it is Not fall into the “not like always” category as a defining feature, whether it’s “Until” manifesting tonal heft in waves of static cut through by tom-to-snare-to-cymbal splashes or “Not” seeming unwilling to give itself over to its own flow. I imagine a certain restlessness is how Aidan Baker‘s music happens in the first place. You get smaller encapsulations of that here, if not more traditional accessibility.

Aidan Baker on Facebook

Cruel Nature Recordings on Bandcamp

Trap Ratt, Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Trap Ratt Tribus Rattus Mortuus

Based in the arguable capitol of the Doom Capitol region — Frederick, Maryland — the three-piece Trap Ratt arrive in superbly raw style with the four-song/33-minute Tribus Rattus Mortuus, the last of which, aptly-titled “IV,” features Tim Otis (High Noon Kahuna, Admiral Browning, etc.), who also mixed and mastered, guesting on noise while Charlie Chaplin’s soliloquy from 1940’s The Dictator takes the place of the tortured barebones shouts that accompany the plod of 13-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “The Sacred Skunk,” seemingly whenever they feel like it. That includes the chugging part before the feedback gets caustic near the song’s end, by the way. “Thieving From the Grieving” — which may or may not have been made up on the spot — repurposes Stooges-style riffing as the foundation for its own decay into noise, and if from anything I’ve said so far about the album you might expect “Take the Gun” to not be accordingly harsh, Trap Ratt have a word and eight minutes of disaffected exploration they’d like to share with you. It’s not every record you could say benefits aesthetically from being recorded live in the band’s rehearsal space, but yes, Tribus Rattus Mortuus most definitely does.

Trap Ratt on Facebook

Trap Ratt on Bandcamp

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Sword of Damocles Festival Announces Inaugural Lineup with Mars Red Sky, Yuri Gagarin & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 5th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

This is deeply admirable work, especially as a first edition. Sword of Damocles is a new festival taking place Oct. 19, 2024, in Glasgow, Scotland. An all-dayer, also with a pre-show the night before, so it doesn’t seem impossible they might expand at some point, but you gotta get through the first one first.

To do so, the DIY-style fest has put together a seven-band lineup with six of the included acts — Yuri Gagarin, Wet Cactus, Maha Sohona, Five the Hierophant, The Lunar Effect and Troy the Band — making their Scottish debuts, while the seventh is headliner Mars Red Sky, who’ll perform with special guest Helen Ferguson (aka Queen of the Meadow) who was so much a part of what made their Dawn of the Dusk LP (review here) such a highlight late last year.

An immediate sense of curation, a breadth of styles covered, and a show that Scotland has never seen before, all in one package. The ambition is noteworthy, but even more, it looks like it’s going to be a great time for those who make it out. May it be the first of many to come:

sword of damocles festival 2024 poster

Tickets: https://damoclesfest.com/tickets/

From the centre of Glasgow, SoD is bringing 7 of the best stoner/alt rock bands to your door, Saturday, October 19th.

Featuring an incredible line-up with Mars Red Sky (plus special guest Helen Ferguson of Queen of the Meadow) headlining the Saturday night, accompanied by Yuri Gagarin, Wet Cactus, Maha Sohona, Five The Hierophant, The Lunar Effect, and Troy The Band. Six of whom are performing in Scotland for the very first time, welcome to the Sword of Damocles.

Independently run, underground at heart, Sword of Damocles offers a new experience to the Glasgow music scene.

Featuring an array alternative acts, from stoner rock to avant-garde, we hope to offer a little something to everyone who’s in Glasgow, and is in to all things heavy!

Expect stoner, psych, and desert vibes as these incredible acts come to grace the stage at Glasgow’s iconic Classic Grand.

Mars Red Sky (excl. set)
Yuri Gagarin (SCO debut)
Wet Cactus (SCO debut – excl. set)
Maha Sohona (UK debut)
Five The Hierophant (SCO debut)
The Lunar Effect (SCO debut)
Troy The Band (SCO debut)

1x Adult Ticket – £49 + payment fees
Ticket price on the door: TBD
(Pre-Show: Info coming soon)

Artwork credits: Gravelord Deathworks – Arts & Designs


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The Cosmic Dead Announce Infinite Peaks Out April 12; Premiere “Space Mountain Part I: Desert Djilo”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

the cosmic dead

I was pretty stoked last week when word came through that Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead had signed to Heavy Psych Sounds for their next record, and at that point I didn’t even know the album announcement would be here. Turns out the LP-to-come is called Infinite Peaks, and it’s got at least one entire-side-consuming jam, from which the video-premiering-below “Space Mountain Part I: Desert Djilo” has been carved out as an initial single.

A longer-form modus isn’t new for The Cosmic Dead, for whom Infinite Peaks serves as their ninth full-length as noted by the PR wire below. The band’s most recent outing, 2021’s split with Giöbia, The Intergalactic Connection – Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace (review here), also came out on Heavy Psych Sounds, so it’s not the first time the band and label have worked together, and by adding the Scottish space racers to their roster, the Italian imprint only further cements its position at the forefront of heavy consciousness within and beyond Europe’s borders.

And if I told you “Space Mountain Part I: Desert Djilo” was a scorcher, would you believe it? How could you not? The Cosmic Dead‘s contribution to the Giöbia split was the 19-minute “Crater Creator,” and it doesn’t take them long to nestle into a groove on the new single, with threads of cosmic synth coursing along with the central outward nod; vibes and tones heavy, aimed at the sun, launch’d. There’s a lot of space rocking this and that out there right now. What distinguishes The Cosmic Dead from the glut of chic cosmic whatnot is the low end. It’s where heavy lives, and where bass is an afterthought in so much psych as there’s barely room on stage with guitar pedal boards the size of neighborhoods, The Cosmic Dead have always been able to hone a sound with float as well as heft. They’re heavier.

That’s what I’m hearing in “Space Mountain Part I: Desert Dijlo,” anyhow, and five years after 2019’s Scottish Space Race (review here), I’m glad for the reminder of what I thought was so badass about these guys to start with. The track is six minutes long, so more than a teaser, but you can still expect to be left hanging as the segment of the longer jam cuts out. The band comments on the piece under the player below, where you’ll also find the ever-crucial preorder links.


The Cosmic Dead, “Space Mountain Part I: Desert Djilo” video premiere

The Cosmic Dead Infinite Peaks

THE COSMIC DEAD – New album “Infinite Peaks” out April 12 on Heavy Psych Sounds

“Infinite Peaks” is the long awaited ninth full length album from tumultuous Glaswegian astral travellers The Cosmic Dead. The album features two extended incantations recorded and mixed at Glasgow’s 16 Ohm Recording Studio. About the new single: “‘Desert Djilo’ is the opening section of our 20-minute instrumental track ‘Space Mountain’, completely improvised and recorded live in the studio, it was in itself part of a larger jam. This is a jam within a jam, synth follows bass follows drums follows fiddle. The sound of the radioactive desert.”

ALBUM PRESALE: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

USA PRESALE: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop-usa.htm

The Cosmic Dead is:
Omar Aborida – Bass, Guitars, Wah
Tommy Duffin – Drums, Wah
Calum Calderwood – Fiddle, Wah
Luigi Pasquini – Synthesizer, Wah

The Cosmic Dead on Facebook

The Cosmic Dead on Instagram

The Cosmic Dead on Bandcamp

The Cosmic Dead website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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The Cosmic Dead Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

After releasing the expansive-of-title-and-sound split LP The Intergalactic Connection – Exploring The Sideral Remote Hyperspace (review here) in 2021 through Heavy Psych Sounds and partnering for that release with their now-labelmates in Italy’s Giöbia, Glasgow heavy psych explorers The Cosmic Dead have made it official with the same label for their next full-length. And I know there’s been a lot happening in space rock the last couple years with your King Gizzards and your Slifts and Pigsx7, etc., but it’s been a half-decade since The Cosmic Dead released their last LP, 2019’s Scottish Space Race (review here), so you might need a refresher on just how righteous their interstellar slop actually is. All good. I’m sure by the time the record shows up — April? late March? — the hype will have us all up to date.

The PR wire hurled this in the direction of my eyeballs a bit ago, and it seemed fitting to share. True to established methodology, Heavy Psych Sounds next week will follow this announcement with the album details and first single:

the cosmic dead

Heavy Psych Sounds to announce THE COSMIC DEAD signing for their upcoming new album !!!

We’re incredibly stoked to announce that the Glasgow space rock band THE COSMIC DEAD is coming back with a brand new album !!!

January 24th


The Cosmic Dead are an amorphous blob of space rock energy hailing from Glasgow, Scotland. Their exploratory compositions often reach levels of sonic destruction through reflective repetition and visceral harmony.

The band has taken many forms since forming in 2010 and has been declared ‘The loudest psychedelic rock band on the planet.” by legendary compere Kozmik Ken. At the base of the current sonic obliteration team is a rhythm section of Tommy Duffin and Omar Aborida, a thunderous and cohesive unit which is then further propelled into the outer realms by Luigi Pasquini providing frantic italo synthesized electronics along with Calum Calderwood’s mind bending, sky-shattering fiddle acrobatics.

The Cosmic Dead is:
Omar Aborida – Bass, Guitars, Wah
Tommy Duffin – Drums, Wah
Calum Calderwood – Fiddle, Wah
Luigi Pasquini – Synthesizer, Wah



Giöbia & The Cosmic Dead, The Intergalactic Connection – Exploring the Sideral Remote Hyperspace (2021)

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Full Album Premiere & Review: Lucid Sins, Dancing in the Dark

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 26th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Lucid Sins Dancing in the Dark

Glasgow duo Lucid Sins — joined in the cause by a host of friends and collaborators — release their third album, Dancing in the Dark, this week through Totem Cat Records. Deeply informed by classic progressive rock, with more than a flash of Canterbury folk in “Sanctuary Stone” but a broad enough scope that when the two-piece of multi-instrumentalists Andreas Jönsson (lead vocals, guitar bass, organ, synth) and Ruaraidh Sanachan (backing vocals) jam out with returning collaborator Stuart Coleman on sax at the end of closer “Catch the Wild,” indeed they seem to have done just that, but more to the point it’s not out of place. The record begins with “Jack of Diamonds” and within two minutes is basking in dappled sunshine through leaves of classic, organic melody.

Through the entirety of its 10 songs and 37 minutes — which you can and probably should hear premiering on the player below — Lucid SinsDancing in the Dark unfurls (sometimes not) subtle breadth and craft a sound that’s heavy at its root but that can grow expansive enough to account for the harpsichord of “In the Woods (The Drifter),” which follows the storytelling of “Jack of Diamonds” with an outright promotion of a naturalist ethos; the character of The Drifter is, you guessed it, in the woods. “Some call him crazy and some call him weird/But his is a life without burden or fear/So spare him your pity, for he carries no shame/And who is the lord of his own domain if not he who lives free as the wind and the rain?” And the lines in the fadeout, “In the woods/Life is good,” reinforce the message. Still light-touch and ’70s warm in tone, “The Dance” blends acoustic and electric guitar, leaving room for handclap flourish in its shuffle, lush vocals over top, and the party continues in “Take Me With You,” which brings Dunbarrow‘s Espen Anderson in for a duet and Coleman again on organ.

Shifts in arrangement and guests coming and going are part of the personality of Dancing in the Dark, but by no means are they the substance of it. The above-quoted lyrics from “In the Woods (The Drifter)” lay out a position and perspective against modernity, and the aesthetic follows through on that, but somehow Lucid Sins aren’t retro. Production might have something to do with that, but what they seem to envision across Dancing in the Dark is a malleable heavy folk, inherently progressive rather than consciously showy in terms of technique, and in “Take Me With You” they push about as far into rhythmic urgency as they’ll go, and it’s not so much that it’s faster than “The Dance” just before — “The Dance,” by the way, is the best gothic post-punk boogie I’ve ever heard from an ostensibly psychedelic folk-prog Scottish two-piece; admittedly not a lot of competition, and yes, that’s a compliment — which makes it exceptionally well positioned to lead into the soft guitar harmonies and all-in folk cultism of presumed side A capper “Sanctuary Stone.”

Multi-media artist and experimentalist Hanna Tuulikki contributes the first of two guest vocal spots to “Sanctuary Stone,” taking on the lead role with backing from Jönsson to mark Dancing in the Dark‘s turning point. On the most basic, superficial level, at this point the listener has had “The Dance,” and side B will bring “A Call in the Dark” to fulfill the title’s promise. While remaining consistent in tone — in other words, it’s still the same record — Lucid Sins lean into proto-doom through “A Call in the Dark” while nonetheless bouncing almost maddeningly LUCID SINSthrough repetitions of “A call in the dark/A call in the darkness” like some woodland satyr about to cast a spell to make your face fall off.

A brooding, creeping riff matches the lyrical narrative, and the song almost seems to be teasing as it moves through the catchy-if-intentionally-disorienting hook. Though it has plenty of stops as it loops around, “A Call in the Dark” gives over to the organ melancholy and watery verse vocals of “The Toll,” a quiet dirge that rises in the chorus and recedes again from there. “The Toll” is the shortest cut on Dancing in the Dark at 2:55, and one can’t help but wonder if we’re meeting the same character from “In the Woods (The Drifter),” whose potential unceremonious end is marked by, yes, a bell, and the final lines, “He’s frozen and his eyes are turning blind/He starts to stumble and he falls/The final words that no one will recall/Now lying still without the strength to crawl.”

It’s not a minor jump from there to the handclaps in the second half of “From the Bough,” but side B centerpiece is a masterclass in how to sound angular without being inaccessible, proto-doom in form and progressive in construction. With shades of some of earlier Hexvessel‘s stately delivery and folkish base, organ or synth runs alongside the guitar and gives some melodic shimmer to the distortion, mixed for complement rather than contrast. When that song — which is kind of a dance, if we’re being honest — finishes, the penultimate “The Raven’s Eye” marks the return of Tuulikki, this time sharing a duet with Jönsson over a languid procession of contemplative heavy folk. With the relative blowout still to come in “Catch the Wild,” Lucid Sins can afford to really dig into “The Raven’s Eye,” and they seem to do just that, with what starts as a richly arranged waltz shifting toward chime-inclusive soothing psych-rock. They drop out for a last verse, Jönsson alone at first, then with Tuulikki and organ as they gently let go.

As they have been all along, the band remains clever, classy and thoughtful in “Catch the Wild,” setting out with an acoustic/electric guitar blend and cycles through medieval-ish intro twists before smoothing out and suggesting someone open a window. Like in “From the Bough,” there’s tension in the groove of “Catch the Wild” pulling the listener forward through the measures of the verse, and there’s a chorus that takes hold just once before they’re into the instrumental ending, sax and all, but the entire five-minute span (the longest inclusion here) is about the linear trajectory more than anything, and Lucid Sins seem to be finding their way back to the bit of swagger in “Jack of Diamonds” as they wrap “Catch the Wild.” Fitting somehow for the record to follow a full-circle trajectory as so much of it feels rounded at the edges and it derives the bulk of its heaviness not from tonal manipulation, but atmosphere, then mood, and yes, the lyrics throughout, which should be considered an essential facet of engaging the whole of Dancing in the Dark‘s almost counterintuitively vibrant realization. The album is gorgeous the way moss on wood can be art.

Please enjoy:

LUCID SINS “Dancing In The Dark” Out October 27th on Totem Cat Records

The story goes as follows… You stumble through the forest. Alone and far from home. All paths have returned you to this place. Lost in a world of green. Hidden in the dark. As the light fades you glimpse flickering flame and catch the scent of smoke. In a tiny clearing, shadows cast by a dying fire take human-esque forms. Leaning in for warmth, they share ten tales of hope and betrayal, magic and madness, love and death. Whispered words mingle with distant memories, and as the fire grows higher, your sense of self is scorched and burned. One by one now, the figures begin to dance and spin as occult psychedelic sounds drift through the trees. Caught in the maelstrom, suspended high in a swirling mesh of leaves and perception, you release your grip on space and time… On the forest floor, stirred by dawn, you try to make sense of the mist within your mind. To recall where you have been. To know who you once were. Around a glowing fire, deep in the woods, LUCID SINS are Dancing In The Dark… Will you dance with them?

1. Jack Of Diamonds
2. In The Woods (The Drifter)
3. The Dance
4. Take Me With You
5. Sanctuary Stone
6. A Call In The Dark
7. The Toll
8. From The Bough
9. The Raven’s Eye
10. Catch The Wild

LUCID SINS on “Dancing in the Dark”
Andreas Jönsson – Vocals, guitars, bass, organ, synthesizer
Ruaraidh Sanachan – Drums, bass, percussion, organ, mellotron, recorder, backing vocals

with guests
Espen Andersen, Vocals (track 3)
Stuart Coleman, Hammond Organ (track 3)
Hanna Tuulikki, Vocals (tracks 5 & 9)
Alex Ward, Clarinet (track 10)
+++ Cover art by David V. D’Andrea

Lucid Sins, “Jack of Diamonds” official video

Lucid Sins on Facebook

Lucid Sins on Instagram

Lucid Sins on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Maggot Heart, Catatonic Suns, Sacri Suoni, Nova Doll, Howl at the Sky, Fin del Mundo, Bloody Butterflies, Solar Sons, Mosara, Jupiter

Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

Wednesday, huh? I took the dog for a walk this morning. We do that. I’ve been setting the alarm for five but getting up before — it’s still better than waking up at 4AM, which is a hard way to live unless you can go to bed at like 8 on the dot, which I can’t really anymore because kid’s bedtime, school, and so on — and taking Tilly for a walk around the block and up the big hill to start the day. Weather permitting, we do that walk three times a day and she does pretty well. This morning she didn’t want to leave the Greenie she’d been working on and so resisted at first, but got on board eventually.

In addition to physical movement being tied to emotional wellbeing — not something I’m always willing to admit applies to myself, but almost always true; I also get hangry or at least more easily overwhelmed when I’m hungry, which I always am because I have like seven eating disorders and am generally a wreck of a person — the dog doesn’t say much and it’s pretty early and dark out when we go, so I get a quiet moment out under the moon going around the block looking up at Venus, Jupiter, a few stars we can see through the suburban light pollution of the nearby thoroughfares. We go up part of the big hill, have done the full thing a couple times, but she’s only just three-plus months, so not yet really. But we’re working on it, and despite Silly Tilly’s fears otherwise, her treat was right where we left it on the rug when we got back. And she got to eat leaves, so, bonus.

There are minutes in your day. You can find them. You can do it. I’m not trying to be saccharine or to bullshit you. Life is short and most of it is really, really difficult, so take whatever solace you can get however you can get it. Let’s talk about records.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Maggot Heart, Hunger

maggot heart hunger

This is Maggot Heart‘s third record and they’re still a surprise. It can be jarring sometimes to encounter something that edges so close to unique within the underground sphere, but the Berlin outfit founded/fronted by Linnéa Olsson (ex-The Oath, ex-Grave Pleasures, ex-Sonic Ritual) offer bleak and subversively feminine post-punk informed by black metal on Hunger, and as she, bassist Olivia Airey and drummer Uno Bruniusson (ex-In Solitude, etc.), unfurl eight tracks of arthouse aggro and aesthetic burn, one can draw lines just as easily with “Nil by Mouth” or the later “Looking Back at You” to mid-’70s coke-strung New York poetic no wave and the modern European dark progressive set to which Maggot Heart have diligently contributed over the last half decade. The horn sounds on “LBD” are a nice touch, and “Archer” puts that to work in some folk-doom context, but in the tension of “Concrete Soup” or the avant garde setting out across the three minutes of the leadoff semi-title-track “Scandinavian Hunger,” Maggot Heart demonstrate their ability to knock the listener off balance as a first step toward reorienting them to the atmosphere the band have honed in these songs, slightly goth on “This Shadow,” bombastic in the middle and end of “Parasite,” each piece set to its own purpose adding some aspect to the whole. You wouldn’t call it easy listening, but the challenge is part of the fun.

Maggot Heart on Instagram

Svart Records website

Rapid Eye Records on Bandcamp

Catatonic Suns, Catatonic Suns

Catatonic Suns Catatonic Suns

Adjacent to New Psych Philly with their homebase in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and with a self-titled collection that runs between the shoegazing shine of “Deadzone,” the full-fuzz brunt of “Slack” or “Inside Out,” the three-minute linear build of “Fell Off” made epic by its melody, and the hooky indie sway of advance single “Be as One,” the trio Catatonic Suns make a quick turnaround from their 2022 sophomore LP, Saudade, for the lysergic realization and apparent declaration of this eight tracks/31 minutes. With most cuts punkishly short and able to saunter into the noise-coated jangle of “Failsafe” or the wash of “Sublunary” — speaking of post-punk — Catatonic Suns eventually land at closer “No Stranger,” which tops eight minutes and comprises a not-insignificant percentage of the total runtime. And no, they aren’t the first heavy psych band to have shorter songs up front and a big finale, but the swirling layered triumph of “No Stranger” carries a breadth in its immersive early verses, mellow, sitar-laced midsection jam and noise-caked finish and comes across very much as what Catatonic Suns has been building toward all the while. The same might be true of the band, for all I know — it seems to be the longest piece they’ve written to-date — but either way, put them on the ‘Catatonic Voyage’ tour with Sun Voyager for two months crisscrossing the US and never look back. Big sound, and after three full-lengths, significant potential.

Catatonic Suns on Instagram

Agitated Records website

Sacri Suoni, Sacred is Not Divine

Sacri Suoni Sacred is Not Divine

Densely weighted in tone, brash in its impact and heavy, heavy, heavy in atmosphere, Sacri Suoni‘s second album together and first under their new moniker (they used to be called Stoned Monkey; kudos on the change), Sacred is Not Divine positions itself as a cosmic doom thesis and an exploration of the reaches and impacts to be found through collaborative jamming. Four songs make it — “Doom Perspection of the Astral Frequency 0-1” (8:15), “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” (10:28), “Cult of Abysmus” (13:15) and “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” (8:02) — and as heavy has they are (have I mentioned that yet?) there is dynamic at play as well in the YOB-ish noodles and strums at the start of “Six Scalps for Six Sounds” or in “Cult of Abysmus” around the 10-minute mark, or in the opener’s long fade, but make no mistake, the mission here is heft and space and the Milano outfit have both in ready supply. I think “Plutomb, Engraved in Reality” has maybe three riffs? Might be two, but either way, it’s enough. The character in this material is defined by its weight, but there are three dimensions to their style and all are represented. If you listen on headphones, try really hard not to pulverize your brain in the process.

Sacri Suoni on Facebook

Zanns Records website

Nova Doll, Denaturing

nova doll denaturing

Earthy enough in tone and their slower rolling moments to earn an earliest-Acid King comparison, Barrie, Ontario’s Nova Doll are nonetheless prone to shifting into bits of aggro punk, as in “Waydown” or “Dead Before I Knew It,” the latter of which closes their debut album, Denaturing, the very title of the thing loaded with context beyond its biochemical interpretations. That is, if Nova Doll are pissed, fair enough. “California Sunshine” arrives in the first half of the seven-song/29-minute long-player, with rhythm kept on the toms, open drones and a vastness that speaks at least to some tertiary affect of desert rock on their sound. Psychedelia comes through in different forms amid the crunch of a song like “Mabon,” or “California Sunshine,” and the bassy centerpiece near-title-track feels willfully earthbound — not complaining; they’re that much stronger for changing it up — but the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Casey Cuff, bassist Sean Alten and drummer Daniel Allen ride that groove in “Denaturation” like they already know the big spaceout in “Light Her Up” is coming. And they probably did, given the apparent care put into what is sometimes a harsh presentation and the variety they bring around the central buzz that seems to underscore the songs. Grown-up punk, still growing, but their sound is defined and malleable in its noisy approach on their first full-length, and that’s only encouraging.

Nova Doll on Instagram

Tarantula Tapes website

Black Throne Productions website

Howl at the Sky, In Line for the End Times

Howl at the Sky In Line for the End Times

With their self-released debut album, In Line for the End Times, hard-driving single-guitar four-piece Howl at the Sky enter the field with 12 songs and a CD-era-esque 55-minute run that filters through a summary of decades of heavy rock and roll influences. From their native state of Ohio alone, bands like Valley of the Sun and Lo-Pan, or Tummler and Red Giant a generation ago — these and others purveying straight-ahead heavy rock light on tricks and big on drive. More metal in their riffy underpinnings than some, certainly less than others, they foster hooks whether it’s a three-minute groover like “Stink Eye” and opener “Our Lady of the Knives” or the more spacious “Dry as a Bone” and the penultimate “Black Lung,” which has a bit more patience in its sway than the C.O.C.-circa-’91 “The Beast With No Eyes” and modernize ’70s vibes in the traditions of acts one might find on labels like Ripple or Small Stone. That is, rock dudes, rockin’. Vocalist Scott Wherle bears some likeness to We’re All Gonna Die‘s Jim Healey early on, but both are working from a classic heavy rock and metal foundation, and Wherle has a distinguishing, fervent push behind him in guitarist Mike Shope, bassist Scot “With One ‘T'” Fithen and drummer John Sims. For as long as these guys are together, I wouldn’t expect too many radical departures from what they do here. Once a band has its songwriting down like this, it’s really more just about letting grow on its own over time rather than forcing something, and the sense they give in listening is they know that too.

Howl at the Sky on Facebook

Howl at the Sky on Bandcamp

Fin del Mundo, Todo Va Hacia el Mar

Fin del Mundo Todo Va Hacia el Mar

The first two four-song EPs by Buenos Aires psych/post-rock four-piece Fin del Mundo — guitarist/vocalist Lucia Masnatta, guitarist Julieta Heredia, bassist Julieta Limia, drummer/backing vocalist Yanina Silva — wander peacefully through a dreamy apocalypse compiled together chronologically as Todo Va Hacia el Mar, the band’s Spinda Records first long-player. From “La Noche” through “El Fin del Mundo,” what had been a 2020 self-titled, the tones are serene and the melodies drift without getting lost or meandering too far from the songs’ central structure, though that last of them reaches broader and heavier ground, resonance intact. The second EP, 2022’s La Ciudad Que Dejamos, the LP’s side B, has more force behind its rhythms and creates a wash in “El Próximo Verano” to preface its gang-vocal moment, while closer “El Incendio” takes the Sonic Youth-style indie of the earlier material and fosters more complex melodicism around it and builds tension into a decisive but not overblown resolution. It’s 34 minutes long and even between its two halves there’s obvious growth on the part of the band being showcased. Their next long-player will be like a second debut, and I’ll be curious how they take on a full-length format having that intention in the first place for the material.

Fin del Mundo on Facebook

Spinda Records website

Bloody Butterflies, Mutations and Transformations

Bloody Butterflies Mutations and Transformations

A pandemic-born project (and in some ways, aren’t we all?), the two-piece instrumentalist unit Bloody Butterflies — that’s guitarist/bassist Jon Howard (Hordes) and drummer August Elliott (No Skull) — released their first album, Polymorphic, in 2020 and emerge with a follow-up in the seven tracks/27 minutes of the on-theme Mutations and Transformations, letting the riffs do their storytelling on cuts like “Toilet Spider” and “Frandor Rat,” the latter of which may or may not be in homage to a rat living near the Kroger on the east side of Lansing. The sound is punker raw and as well it should be. That aforementioned ratsong has some lumber to its procession, but in the bassy “Fritzi” that follows, the bright flashes of cymbal in opener “BB Theme” (also the longest inclusion; immediate points) and the noisy declaration of post-doom stomp before the feedback at the end of “Wormhole” consumes all and the record ends, they find plenty of ways to stage off monochromatism. Actually, what I suspect is they’re having fun. At least that’s what it sounds like, in a very particular way. Fair enough. It would be cool to have some clever lesson learned from the pandemic or something like that, but no, sometimes terrible shit just happens. Cool for these two getting a band out of it. Take the wins you can get.

Bloody Butterflies on Facebook

Bloody Butterflies on Bandcamp

Solar Sons, Another Dimension

solar sons another dimension

Whilst prone to NWOBHM tapping twists of guitar in the leads of “Alien Hunter,” “Quicksilver Trail,” etc. and burling up strains of ’90s metal and a modern heavy sub-burl that adds nuance to its melodies, Solar Sons‘ fifth album, Another Dimension, arrives at its ambitions organically. The Dundee, Scotland, everybody-sings three-piece of bassist/lead vocalist Rory Lee, guitarist/vocalist Danny Lee and drummer/vocalist Pete Garrow embark with purpose on a narrative structure spread across the nine songs/62 minutes of the release that unveils more of its progressive doom character as it unfolds its storyline about a satellite sent to learn everything it can about the universe and return to save a dying Earth — science-fiction with a likeness to the Voyager probes; “The Voyage” here makes a triumph of its keyboard-backed second-half solo — presumably with alien knowledge. It’s not a minor undertaking in either theme or the actual listening time, but hell’s bells if Another Dimension doesn’t draw you in. Something in the character has me feeling like I can’t tell if it’s metal or rock or prog and yes I very much like that about it. Plenty of room for them to be all three, I guess, in these songs. They finish with the swing and shred and stomp of “Deep Inside the Mountain,” so I’ll just assume everything works out cool for homo sapiens in the long run, conveniently ignoring the fact that doing so is what got us into such a mess in the first place.

Solar Sons on Facebook

Solar Sons on Bandcamp

Mosara, Amena

mosara amena

A 5:50 single to answer back to last year’s second long-player, Only the Dead Know Our Secrets (review here), the latest from Mosara — which is actually an older track given some reworking, vocals and ambience, reportedly — is “Amena,” which immediately inflicts the cruelty of its thud only as a seeming preface for the Conan-like grueling-ultradoom-battery-with-shouts-cutting-through about to take place. A slow, noise-coated roll unfolds ahead of the largely indecipherable verse, and when that’s done, a cymbal seems to get hit extra hard as though to let everyone know it’s time to really dig in. It is both rawer in its harshness and thicker in tone than the last album, so it puts forth the interesting question of what a third Mosara full-length might bring atmospherically to the mix with their deepening, distorted roil. As it stands, “Amena” is both a steamroller of riff and a meditation, holding back only for as long as it takes to slam into the next measure, with its sludge growing more and more hypnotic as it slogs through the song’s midsection toward the inevitable seeming end of feedback and drone. Noisy band getting noisier. I’m on board.

Mosara on Facebook

Mosara on Bandcamp

Jupiter, Uinumas

Jupiter Uinumas

Jupiter‘s Uinumas is a complex half-hour-plus that comprises their fourth full-length, running seven songs — that’s six plus the penultimate title-track, which is a psych-jazzy interlude — as cuts like “Lumerians” and “Relentless” at the outset see the Finnish trio reestablish their their-own-wavelength take on heavy and progressive sounds classic and new. It’s not so much about crazy structures or 75-minute-long songs or indulgent noodling — though there’s a bit of that owing to the nature of the work, if nothing else — but just how much Jupiter make the aural space they inhabit their own, the way “After You” pushes into its early wash, or the later “On Mirror Plane” (so that’s it!) spaces out and then seems to align itself around the bassline for a forward shuffle sprint, or the way that closer “Slumberjack’s Wrath” chugs through until it’s time for the blowout, which is built up past three minutes in and caps with shimmer that borders on the overwhelming. An intricate but recognizable approach, Jupiter‘s more oddball aspects and general cerebrality might put off some listeners, but as dug in as Jupiter are on Uinumas, on significantly doubts they were shooting for mass appeal anyhow. Who the hell would want that anyway? Bunch of money and people sweating everything you do. Yuck.

Jupiter on Facebook

Jupiter on Bandcamp

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Lucid Sins to Release Dancing in the Dark Oct. 27; UK Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Inherently classy but admirably unpretentious for what could easily fall down a stone staircase of self-indulgence, Lucid Sins have posted the opening track from their new album, Dancing in the Dark, bringing together vintage heavy and progressive rock sounds with an underlying folk influence. The Glasgow duo issued their second LP, Cursed! (review here), in 2021, and like that album, the Oct. 27 release will arrive with the backing of Totem Cat Records. You can hear the lush melody and almost soothing groove of “Jack of Diamonds” in the video below.

The PR wire sent the album art — by David V. D’Andrea, no less; speaking of classy — and info along, including dates for a UK tour that Lucid Sins will undertake starting Oct. 14 in Aberdeen.

Arcane knowledge follows:

Lucid Sins Dancing in the Dark

Glasgow 70s psych rockers LUCID SINS share debut single off new album “Dancing in the Dark” on Totem Cat Records; UK shows announced!

Scotland’s 70s occult rock goldsmiths LUCID SINS return with their third full-length “Dancing In the Dark” this October 27th on Totem Cat Records with a first single premiering exclusively on It’s Psychedelic Baby Magazine. The band also just announced a string of UK fall dates including shows with Nebula and Hey Colossus.

From the moment Glasgow’s own 70s rock masters LUCID SINS catch your ear, you know you are in for a long-haul adventure: driven by their own wizardry and prodigious mastery of all instruments, the duo of Ruaraidh Sanachan and Andreas Johnsson bewitches you from the get-go. While their 2021 sophomore album “Cursed” presented an intoxicating and unwaveringly prog-oriented brew of proto-rock that sat firmly between Blue Öyster Cult and The Doors, their third album flips a brand new page of their sonic grimoire.

A collaborative effort of interconnected souls, “Dancing In The Dark” summons the talents of various guest musicians to form a fluid and melody-driven story where occult rock meets folk and proto-doom in a hypnotic swirl of riffs and keys carried by Jonsson’s compelling poetry. Firmly rooted in the 60s and 70s sound, LUCID SINS manages to uplift spirits while dragging you once again in the occult, meeting the boundary-free creativity of their contemporaries Witchcraft, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats to the more seamless lightheartedness of Fairport Convention.

The story goes as follows… You stumble through the forest. Alone and far from home. All paths have returned you to this place. Lost in a world of green. Hidden in the dark. As the light fades you glimpse flickering flame and catch the scent of smoke. In a tiny clearing, shadows cast by a dying fire take human-esque forms. Leaning in for warmth, they share ten tales of hope and betrayal, magic and madness, love and death. Whispered words mingle with distant memories, and as the fire grows higher, your sense of self is scorched and burned. One by one now, the figures begin to dance and spin as occult psychedelic sounds drift through the trees. Caught in the maelstrom, suspended high in a swirling mesh of leaves and perception, you release your grip on space and time… On the forest floor, stirred by dawn, you try to make sense of the mist within your mind. To recall where you have been. To know who you once were. Around a glowing fire, deep in the woods, LUCID SINS are Dancing In The Dark… Will you dance with them?

LUCID SINS on tour:
October 14th – Aberdeen, The Rusty Nail
October 15th – Glasgow, Ivory Blacks (w/ Nebula)
October 18th – Leeds, Fox and Newt
October 19th – London, Helgi’s
October 20th – Sheffield, Lughole (w/ Heavy Sentence, Parish)
October 21st – Newcastle, Lubber Fiend (w/ Hey Colossus)

LUCID SINS “Dancing In The Dark”
Out October 27th on Totem Cat Records

Andreas Jonsson – Vocals, guitars, bass, organ, synthesizer
Ruaraidh Sanachan – Drums, bass, percussion, organ, mellotron, recorder, backing vocals
+++ Album guests: Espen Andersen, Stuart Coleman, Hanna Tuulikki, Alex Ward
+++ Cover art by David V. D’Andrea

Andreas Jonsson & Ruaraidh Sanachan



Lucid Sins, “Jack of Diamonds” official video

Lucid Sins, Cursed! (2021)

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Quarterly Review: Signo Rojo, Tribunal, Bong Corleone, Old Spirit, Los Acidos, JAGGU, Falling Floors, Warp, Halo Noose, Dope Skum

Posted in Reviews on April 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Welcome to day three of the Spring 2023 Quarterly Review. Traditionally, this is where the halfway point is hit, like that spot on the wall in the Lincoln Tunnel where it says New York on the one side and New Jersey on the other. That’s not the case today — though it still applies as far as this week goes — since this particular QR runs seven days, but one way or the other, I’m glad you’re here. There’s been an absolutely overwhelming amount of stuff so far and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, so don’t let me keep you, except maybe to say that if you’re actually reading as well as browsing Bandcamp (or whoever) players, it is appreciated. Thanks for reading, to put it another way.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Signo Rojo, There Was a Hole Here

signo rojo there was a hole here

As lead/longest track — yes, immediate points — “Enough Rope” shifts between modern semi-melodic heavy burl post-Baroness to acoustic-tinged flourish to rolling shout-topped post-hardcore on the way back to its soaring chorus, yes, it’s fair to say Sweden’s Signo Rojo establish a broad swath of sounds on their third full-length, There Was a Hole Here. Later they grow more massive and twisting on “What Love is There,” while “Also-Ran” finds the bass managing to punch through the wall of guitar around it (not complaining) and the concluding “BotFly” lets its lead guitar soar over a crescendo that’s almost post-metal, so they want nothing for variety, but whether it’s “The World Inside” with its progressive chug or the more swaying title-track, the songs are united by tone in the guitars of Elias Mellberg and Ola Bäckström, the shouty vocals of bassist Jonas Nilsson adding aggressive edge, and the drums of Pontus Svensson reinforcing the underlying structures and movements. Self-recorded, mixed by Johan Blomström and mastered by Jack Endino for name-brand recognition, There Was a Hole Here is angles and thrown-elbows, but not disjointed. Tumultuous, they power through and find themselves unbruised while having left a few behind them.

Signo Rojo on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store


Tribunal, The Weight of Remembrance

Tribunal The Weight Of Remembrance

Stunning first album. Vancouver’s Tribunal — the core duo of cellist/bassist/vocalist Soren Mourne and guitarist/vocalist Etienne Flinn, working on their first record, The Weight of Remembrance, with Julia Geaman on drums on the seven-song/47-minute sprawl of bleak, goth-informed death-doom — resound with purpose between the atmosphere and the dramaturge of their material. “Apathy’s Keep” (Magdalena Wienski on additional drums) alone would tell you they’re a band with a keen sense of what they want to accomplish stylistically, but the patience in execution necessary from the My Dying Bride-esque back and forth shifts between harsh and clean vocals on opener “Initiation” to the grim, full-toned breadth of the 12-minute finale “The Path,” on which Mourne‘s severity reminds of Finland’s Mansion, and yes that’s a compliment, while Flinn finds new depths from which to gurgle out his harsh screaming. The semi-titular piano interlude “Remembrance” is well-placed at the end of side A to make one nostalgic for some lost romance that never happened, and the stop-chug of “A World Beyond Shadow” seem to speak to SubRosa‘s declarative majesty as well as the more extreme spirit of Paradise Lost circa ’91-’92, Tribunal crossing eras and intentions with an organic meld that hints there and in “Without Answer” or the airy cello of “Of Creeping Moss and Crumbled Stone” earlier at even grander and perhaps more orchestral things to come while serving as one of 2023’s best debuts in the interim. Like finding your great grandmother’s wedding dress, picking it up out of the box and having the dried-out fabric and lace crumble in your hands. Sad and necessary.

Tribunal on Facebook

20 Buck Spin website


Bong Corleone, Bong Corleone

Bong Corleone Bong Corleone

From whence came Finland’s Bong Corleone? Well, from Finland, I guess, but that hardly answers the question on planetary terms. Information is sparse and social media presence is nil from the psychedelic-stoner-doom explorers, who string synth lines through four mostly-extended pieces on this self-titled, self-released, seemingly self-actualized argument for dropping out of life and you know the rest. Second cut “Gathering” (8:34) sees lead guitar step in for where vocals might otherwise be, but there and in the prior leadoff “Chemical Messenger” (9:15), synthesizer plays a prominent role that’s been compared rightly to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, though “Gathering” departs in for a midsection meander-jam that lets itself have and be more fun before crashing back around to the roll. As it invariably would, “Astrovan” (6:18) shoves faster, but the synth stays overtop along with some floating guitar, and the sense of control remains strong even in the second half’s splurge and slowdown, shifting with ambient drone and residual amp hum into 11-minute closer “Offering,” which rounds out with a sample, what might be a bong rip, and a density of fuzz that apparently Bong Corleone have been keeping in their collective pocket all the while, crushing and stomping before turning to more progressive exploration later. It’s a substantial enough release at 35 minutes that the band might — like MWWB before them — regret the silly name, but even if they never follow it with anything, the immersion factor in these four songs shouldn’t be discounted. May they (if in fact it’s more than one person) never reveal a lineup.

Bong Corleone on Bandcamp


Old Spirit, Burning in Heaven

Old Spirit Burning in Heaven

This second full-length from Wisconsin-based solo-project Old Spirit — formed and executed at the behest of Jason Hartman (Vanishing Kids, sometimes Jex Thoth) — Burning in Heaven feels at home in contradictions, whether it’s the image provoked by the title or in the songs themselves, be it the CelticFrost-on-MonsterMagnet‘s-pills “Dim Aura” or the electro Queens of the Stone Age shuffle in “Ash,” or the Candlemass-meets-Chrome succession of “Fallacy,” or the keyboard and guitar interlude “When the Spirit Slips Away.” The title-track opens and has an oldschool ripper solo late, but there’s so much going on at any given moment that it’s one more element thrown in the mix as much as a precursor to the later reaches of “Angel Blood” — a Slayer nod, or two, perhaps? — which precedes the emergent wash of “Bleak Chapel” and the devolution undertaken from song to drone that gives over to closer “In Dismay,” which seems all set in its garage-goth doom rollout until the tempo kick brings it and the record to a place of duly dug-in progressive psych-metal oddness. Fitting end to a record clearly meant to go wherever the hell it wants and on which the rawness of the production becomes a uniting factor across otherwise willfully disparate material, skirting the danger that it all might collapse on itself while proselytizing individualist fuckall; Luciferian without being outright Satanic.

Old Spirit on Bandcamp

Bright as Night Records on Facebook


Los Acidos, Stereolalo

Los Acidos Stereolalo

Argentina’s Los Acidos return after reissuing 2016’s self-titled debut (review here) in 2020 through Necio Records with Stereolalo, putting emphasis on welcoming listeners from the outset with the opening title-track and “Ascensor,” which are the two longest cuts on the record (double points) and function as world-builders in terms of establishing the acoustic/electric blend and melodic flourish with which much of the 50-minute outing functions. Like everything, the blend is molten and malleable, as shorter pieces like “Atardecer” or side B’s build-to-boogie “Madre” and the keyboard-backed psych-funk verses of “Atenas” show, and they resist the temptation to really blow it out as they otherwise might even in those first two tracks; the church organ seeming to keep the penultimate “Interior” in line before “Buscando el Mar” calls out ’60s psych on guitar with a slow-careening progression from whatever kind of keyboard that is, ending almost folkish, having said what they want to say in the way they want to say it. Light in atmosphere, there nonetheless are deceptive depths from which the songs seem to swim upward.

Los Acidos on Facebook

Los Acidos on Bandcamp


JAGGU, Rites for the Damned

jaggu rites for the damned

Rites for the Damned offers the kind of aesthetic sprawl that can only be summarized in vague catchall tags like ‘progressive,’ with the adventurous and ambitious Norwegian outfit JAGGU threatening extremity on “Carnage” at the beginning of the eight-song/40-minute LP while instead taking the angularity and thrust and through “Earth Murder” fostering an element of noise rock that feeds its aggression into “Mindgap” before the six-minutes-each pair of “Electric Blood” and “Lenina Ave.” further reveal the breadth, hooks permeating the amalgam of heavy styles being bent and reshaped to suit the band’s expressive will, the latter building from acoustic-inclusive post-metallic balladry into a solo that seems to spread far and wide as it draws the listener deeper into side B’s reaches, the dizzying start of “Enthralled,” post-black-metal-but-still-metal “Marching Stride” — more of a run, actually — and the prog-thrash finale “God to be Through” that caps not to bring it all together, but to celebrate the variations encountered along the course and highlight the skill with which JAGGU have been guiding the proceedings all along, unsettled in their approach on this second record in such a way as to speak to perpetual growth rather than their being the kind of band who’ll find a niche and stagnate.

JAGGU on Facebook

Evil Noise Recordings store


Falling Floors, Falling Floors

Falling Floors self-titled

Escapist and jam-based-but-not-just-jamming psychedelia pervades the self-titled debut from UK trio Falling Floors, who add variety amid the already-varied krautrock in the later reaches of opener “Infinite Switch,” the lockdown slog of “Flawed Theme,” the tambourine-infused hard strums of “Ridiculous Man” and the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Elusive and Unstable Nature of Truth,” which is organ-inclusive bombast early and drone later, with three numbered interludes, furthering the notion of these works being carved out of experiments. A malleable songwriting process and a raw, seemingly live recording make Falling Floors‘ seven-song run come across as formative, but the rougher edges are part of the aesthetic, and ultimately bolster the overarching impression that the band — guitarist/vocalist Rob Herian, bassist/organist Harry Wheeler and drummer/percussionist Colin Greenwood — can and just might go wherever the hell they want. And they do, in that extended finisher and elsewhere throughout, capturing an exploratory moment of creation in willfully unrefined fashion, loose but not unhinged and seemingly as curious in the making as in the result. I don’t know that a band can do this kind of adventuring twice — invariably any second album is informed by the experience of making the first — but Falling Floors make a resounding argument for wanting to find out in these shared discoveries.

Falling Floors on Instagram

Riot Season Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp


Warp, Bound by Gravity

Warp Bound by Gravity

Spacing out from a fuzzy foundation like Earthless taking on The Sword — with a bit of Tool in the second-half leads of eight-minute second track “The Hunger” — Israeli trio Warp make their Nasoni Records label debut with their sophomore full-length, Bound by Gravity, putting due languid slog into “Your Fascist Pigs are Back” while finding stonerized salvation in “Dirigibles” ahead of the more melodic and more doomed title-track, which Sabbath-blues-boogies right into its shout-topped sludge slowdown before the bounce and swing of “Impeachment Abdication” readily counteracts. “The Present” unfolds with hints of Melvins while “Head of the Eye” rides a linear groove into a winding midsection that resolves in a standout chorus and capper “I Don’t Want to Be Remembered” is a vocal highlight — guitarist Itai Alzaradel, bassist Sefi Akrish and drummer Mor Harpazi all contribute in that regard at some juncture or another — and a reaffirmation of the gonna-roll-until-we-don’t mindset on the part of the band, ending cold after shifting into a faster chug like the song’s about to take off again. That’d be a hell of a way to start their next record and we’ll see if they get there. Pointedly of-genre, Warp bring exploratory craft to a foundation of tonal heft and ask few indulgences on the listener’s part. Big fuzz gonna make some friends among the converted.

Warp on Facebook

Nasoni Records store


Halo Noose, Magical Flight

halo noose magical flight

Leading off with its spacebound title-track, Halo Noose‘s debut album, Magical Flight, finds the Scottish solo-outfit plumbing the outer reaches of fuzz-drenched acid rock, coming through like an actually-produced version of Monster Magnet‘s demo era in its roughed-up Hawkwind-via-Stooges pastiche, “Cinnamon Garden” edging toward Eastern idolatry without going full-sitar while “Fire” engages with a stretched-out feel over its slow, maybe-programmed drums and centerpiece “When You Feel it Babe” tops near-motorik push with watery vocals like a less punk Nebula or some of what Black Rainbows might conjure. “Kaliedoscopica” is based largely around a single riff and it’s a masterclass in wah at its 4:20 runtime, leading into the last outward leaps of “Rollercoasting Your Mind” and the forward-and-backwards “Slow Motion” which isn’t actually much slower than anything else here and thus reminds that time is a construct easily subverted by lysergics, fading out with surprising gentleness to return the listener to a crueler reality after a consuming half-hour’s escape. Right on.

Halo Noose on Facebook

Ramble Records store

Echodelick Records on Bandcamp

The Acid Test Recordings store


Dope Skum, Gutter South

Dope Skum Gutter South

If you’d look at the name and the fact that the trio hail from Tennessee and think you’re probably in for some caustic Southern sludge, you’re part right. Dope Skum on their second EP, the 17-minute Gutter South, embrace the tonal heft and chugging approach of the harder end of sludge riffing, but rather than weedian throatrippers, a cleaner vocal style pervades from guitarist Cody Landress-Gibson across opener “Folk Magic,” the banjo-laced “Interlude,” “Feast of Snakes,” “Belly Lint” and the punkier-until-its-slowdown finish of “The Cycle,” and the difference between a shout and a scream is considerable in the impressions made throughout. Bassist Todd Garrett and drummer Scott Keil complete the three-piece and together they harness a feel that’s true to that nasty aural history while branching into something different therefrom, genuinely sounding like a new generation’s interpretation of what Southern heavy was 15-20 years ago. More over, they would seem to be conscious of doing it. Their first EP, 2021’s Tanasi, was more barebones in its production, and there’s still development to be done, but it will be interesting to hear how they manifest across a first long-player when the time comes, as Gutter South underscores potential in its songwriting and persona as well as defiance of aesthetic expectation.

Dope Skum on Facebook

Dope Skum on Bandcamp


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